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November 7, 2002

Guns in New Hampshire
Posted by Teresa at 11:56 PM *

As I mentioned two posts back, this past week I was visiting my friends Nancy and Elric in Auburn, New Hampshire. On Sunday night—which is Ladies’ Night at the Manchester Firing Line Range—Nancy and I, accompanied by Jim Macdonald, went and made a lot of holes in defenseless paper targets. (Pictures! We got pictures!) (And here are some pictures of Nancy and Jim).

The Colt .45 pistol was fine, and so was the AR-15 Sporter (though a little too hair-triggered, IMO); but the one I liked the very best of all was the 1928 Thompson Submachine Gun—that’s the Navy model, with the (relatively) reduced rate of fire when you’re on full automatic. That thing is one nice piece of design and engineering. It just feels good, like an IBM Selectric or my Honda Civic.

(Aiiiiiieeeeee! Flee, puny humans! It’s a liberal with a tommy gun!)

I mention this because it was fun, and cool; and also because I’m tired of hearing about how all liberals want to outlaw guns. Plenty of ‘em don’t. It’s not my place to say how Nancy or Jim voted in this recent election or any other, but let’s just say we assort well.

Personally, I think a lot of the liberals who want to ban firearms don’t have much ideological basis for it. It’s more that they aren’t familiar with guns, so they find them frightening and alien.

You have to admit, guns are naturally scary objects. After the first time I fired the Colt .45, I had to flip on the safety and carefully lay the thing down, then lean against a nearby wall a few seconds until the faintness passed. Biiiiiiiiiiig noise. Lots of power. A kick that tells you you’re holding a controlled explosion in your hand. Woo. And then I picked it back up, flipped off the safety, and fired a bunch more shots.

Any sane person’s going to be wary of guns. But if you’ve never handled one, and you don’t know anyone who does, they’re just plain frightening. Basically, I figure guns are like gays: They seem a lot more sinister and threatening until you get to know a few; and once you have one in the house, you can get downright defensive about them.

Then there’s the NRA. You know, those guys are no help at all. If I were a conniving right-wing strategist, I’d funnel lots of money to the NRA because their spokesmen are always coming off like such dangerous loonies. I’ve never known one single non-gun-using person who was persuaded by listening to the NRA that there’s such a thing as sane, reasonable gun ownership and use. Instead, they stampede in the opposite direction, which causes sane, reasonable gun owners to stampede rightward, and next thing you know there’s a culture war going on between people who otherwise would be sympathetically inclined.

My feeling on this issue is that next time I’m in Manchester, I want to try out a shotgun, even if it knocks me over backward. I understand the sound makes a Colt .45 sound like a popgun.

(Public Notice: Anybody who comes along and posts stupid gnu-control flaming boilerplate in my Comments section will find out about my magic powers to Edit and Delete. I don’t mind being disagreed with, but I hate being bored. Say something new or suffer the consequences. You have been warned.)
Comments on Guns in New Hampshire:
#1 ::: Andrew Boucher ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 12:13 AM:

No problem with guns - some of my best friends, etc. But do you think that before someone can own a gun, he or she should get a license? And that there should be different categories (rifles, handguns, machine guns), just as a car's driving license doesn't mean you can get behind the wheel of a truck?

#2 ::: Adam ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 12:15 AM:

"...Anybody who comes along and posts stupid gnu-control flaming boilerplate in my Comments section..."

WHAT'S ALL THIS TALK ABOUT GNU CONTROL?

--Emily Littella

#3 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 12:22 AM:

I'm a little surprised you coped with the 1911 as well as you did. That's a large pistol, and I remember you with smallish hands.

The AR series has light triggers, nature of the breed. They're designed to throw lead downrange. I'm not a big fan of them, or of the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO round as a whole, but they are effective (as the recent Virgina/Maryland events demonstrate.)

The tommy gun? I never liked, but I've only fired the cheaper M1A1 models. The earlier Navy model may be better, but the front grip handle is a bad idea -- you're clearly holding the thing too long, and you can't lock your left arm in, which is why your grouping is heading from lower right to upper left. The M1A1's stock, rather than grip, would have let you get a better hold on the weapon.

(Fun, weren't it?)

#4 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 12:41 AM:

I read Thompson gun and immediately think of Warren Zevon, even though that's likely the wrong model.

On our honeymoon, Jo and I were invited to stay at Chris Bunch's for the night. Being peaceable Canadians and all, the vast amount of weaponry was a bit of a shock. Jo gave me many looks throughout the night, mostly of the "What the hell have you gotten me into?" category. But she tried out Karen's new laser sight on the pistol (aimed it at the pillow), and left the next day feeling pretty comfortable. Not that she'll ever hold a gun again, but still...

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 12:44 AM:

My hands are indeed small, which is why I'm holding the pistol with both hands parallel, instead of with my left hand underneath like I should. That's a seven-pound trigger.

Yes, I'm holding the tommy gun too long; or rather, I'm too short. I did wonder why I had so much trouble correcting rightwards.

Darn straight it was fun. You should see some of the stuff they have for rent there. There was one piece up on the wall that I successfully identified to Nancy and Jim by saying "the one that looks like it was designed by Chuck Jones."

#6 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 12:56 AM:

Hands parallel is *correct*, no shame there. You were just going to get a nasty bit from the hammer if it was an 1911, rather than the 1911A. The 1911A does have a fairly heavy trigger -- it has to, otherwise, you end up with a sear disengagment, and you're suddenly firing full auto. Oops.

Your not too short. The Tommy is too long. You have to be just so to fire a M1928 properly. (This is why the M1A1 had a stock, rather than a forward handgrip, it fits many more people.)

#7 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 01:07 AM:

I just reread Ken MacLeod's The Star Fraction, which features a custom-built gun-computer hybrid. Imagine the discussions if such things were in regular production?

#8 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 02:51 AM:

GNU control is what Microsoft wants to do to Open Source, or when ESR and RMS throttle one another at a public gathering. :)

I went to see "Bowling for Columbine" last week, and while it was erratic, Moore did have an interesting thread in there. "It's not the guns, it's the culture."

Avran, what would ESR do if he found a Trotskite AI in his gun... (scratches goatee thoughtfuly)

#9 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 03:12 AM:

Oooh. Tasty crunchy essay. Nice. Permission to link, ma'am?

#10 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 07:23 AM:

I have also had the opportunity to fire some guns owned by a friend. I found that it strengthened my position on gun control, because I was now sure that I understood the reality of guns.

It's a seductive pleasure. It could be quite addictive. It was my own enjoyment of firing them that scared me.

Also, I was able to experience a reality with my own eyes: big guns (I think it was some kind of AR-15 I shot at those pumpkins) don't make neat little holes in things; they blow them apart.

I do have to say, I no longer think handguns should be banned outright. (I never thought hunting rifles should.) I've always been a registration/limitation guy, not an outright banner.

I hope this is gnu enough. (I insist on gnu control. Large wild animals, albeit vegetarian ones, even with cloven hooves, must NOT be allowed to run unchecked through our city streets.)

#11 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 09:00 AM:

Teresa,
You continue to amaze me. Do you think there's any chance we can set up a shooting room at the next Boskone??

I used to be a member of a shooting club on the south shore, back when I was single and irresponsible. Christopher's point about the scariness of guns is well taken. But I think it's good to be at least exposed to them so that you are at least not petrified by the sight of one and can learn how to handle one--even if only to keep it safe.

I used to have a .22 French Ap-85, which looked sort of like an AK-47. But it jammed all the time. I bought it mostly for the look and for use as a prop in some indie movie projects. When I took it at last to my home town police station to get rid of it, one of the sergeants there looked it over (rather longingly I thought) and finally offered me fifty bucks for it. Thus my brief history as an arms dealer....

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 09:06 AM:

Elise, permission to link is never required; but if it were, you would certainly have it.

Chris, you're right about the pumpkins. Jim tells me that the .45 Colt has a 98% kill rate if you hit someone with it. Shooting at soda cans makes a good demo for why this is so. The operative term here is "hydrostatic shock"; the principle is that water doesn't compress. If you shoot at empty soda cans, you just put not-altogether-untidy holes through them. If you fill them with water, though, the "exit wound" rips out the side of the can.

I'd like driving a lot less if people didn't have to register their cars, have them inspected for basic functionality, and demonstrate their driving proficiency and knowledge of the traffic laws before being allowed out on the road.

Erik, The reason I didn't wind up with train tracks on my uppermost hand is that I'm small enough to still have clearance when I've got both hands parallel. This is as opposed to the person who was teaching me, who has hands so big that he could disguise them with finger puppets and suborn Alaskan king crabs. He favors having your non-trigger hand palm-up, supporting the gun.

Firing full auto with a Colt .45 would be darned useless, unless you want to make holes in the ceiling.

Derryl, I've watched British visitors come face-to-face with guns. They were visibly rattled by the experience.

More on all this in a bit.

#13 ::: Sigrid Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 09:56 AM:

I found trap shooting to be entirely to my taste. Something about swinging the barrel of the shotgun across the sky tracking the target is, um, satisfying.

#14 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 10:00 AM:

I used to find guns scary, but after 20 years of living in a house with guns, none of which ever attacked me, I am no longer blindly phobic. I still don't like them.

#15 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 10:20 AM:

Avram: I am reminded of the "loquacious lasers, Smith and Wesson", from Phil Foglio's Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire.

#16 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 11:29 AM:

A shooting range story and then a comment:

I don't remember when the John Wayne Commerorative Colt .45 came out, but a one-time friend (who had only just gotten into owning guns and began buying them left and right) purchased one and off we went to the range. He drank quite a bit in those days (and through the decade following) and the range had, a mere 30 feet away, a bar...you get the picture. Well, he proceeded to let a fellow shooter fire off some rounds. When the pistol was returned, he made the horrific mistake of assuming his buddy had fired all the bullets in the barrel, then, to accompany a story that goes with the pistol, began cocking the hammer back through the four clicks that allegedly stand for C-o-l-t...and then it fired, scaring the living pis out of all of us. He basically did nothing more than exclaim in a somewhat slurred voice "Oh, shit!" and his fellow shooters at the range just looked at him in total shock. He was allowed to maintain his membership in the hunting and fishing club and, was told, that he was resposible for another errant discharge sometime after that. Scary stuff.

Though I am referred to as the Liberal (the only one) amongst my aquaintences, I have always believed gun ownership is perfectly acceptable (with proper precautions, obviously) and that carry-permits should legally be made more accessible to responsible citizens (how resposible you think the afore-mentioned person is i'll leave for you to decide). I am definitely leery, however, of the legal allowability of someone to sell their collection of, say, fifty handguns to anyone who has the cash...background check be damned. Can't see why a resourceful, intelligent nation like ours cannot have gun ownership hand-in-hand with a techno. system of tracing guns used in crimes.

#17 ::: Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 11:34 AM:

I'll admit to having been knee-jerk anti gun until a friend took me to a firing range for my birthday. My feelings on gun control have been conflicted ever since. And being conflicted is, possibly, a necessary step toward developing an educated, considered, and defensible position.

Love the Clint Eastwood shawl, Teresa.

#18 ::: Jack Womack ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 12:30 PM:

Back in 1977, as I was preparing to move to NY, a fellow I knew said "you know, if you're going to live up there, you're going to have to know how to handle a piece."

We went out to his place; his parents owned one of the smaller horse farms just outside Lexington. It was a beautiful late summer day.

I'd never seen his gun room. He had, it seemed to me at the time, one of everything. We could step directly outside and walk a short distance across a patio to a non-horse-filled field. We did so repeatedly, as he thought I should try firing every gun he owned just to get a feel for them, to see which one I thought could be best used on the more obstreperous members of the NY populace.

Fired a .22, a .38, a Colt .45, a Magnum (just like in Dirty Harry, yes); several different rifles -- no Mannlicher-Carcanos on hand but he owned pretty much everything else that was available at the time.

And, while he had no Tommy guns (or anything else automatic) I did get to fire a nice big shotgun. Don't miss it next time, Teresa. It makes a hell of a racket and I had a bruise on my shoulder for a week after, but it's well worth it. We were shooting at cans, and my friend placed a Coke can on top of a wooden fence railing -- the usual length of 3/4 inch board, firmly secured between two upright posts. I pulled the triggers. KABOOM. Wasn't knocked down but definitely went back on my heels, somewhat. No more can? Indeed -- no more can, no more board!

That's firepower.

#19 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 01:28 PM:

Yeah, I too used to be of the opinion they should all be banned. I'm still uncomfortable with the easy availability of the very dangerous tools. However my first husband owned guns and took me shooting. Apparently, I'm a natural. I hit the target first time and quickly became a better shot than he was. With hand guns that is; I wasn't worth shit with a long gun. My reaction to the Colt 45 was much like Teresa's and anyway the grip's too big for my hand. The 9mm Browning however, ah, what a lovely gun. A well-made gun is every bit as beautiful as any other well-made tool or machine. Jordin and I don't currently own guns, though I considered it on various occasions when he was gone so much. But if that gun thing happens at Boskone, count me it. I haven't fired one in years but I'd love to see if I can still hit a target.

MKK

#20 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 01:31 PM:

PS: Teresa--have you cut your hair? Or is it just bundled out of the way?

MKK

#21 ::: Rick Keir ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 02:18 PM:

Well, I'm a liberal, and I like to shoot guns (I am a good enough shot that I was on my high school's rifle team)...but I'd ban them in an instant, if for no other reason than the persistant political antics of the NRA that have prevented us from even trying any lesser tactic at controlling guns. Witness the post 9/11 Ashcroft protection of gun records from being looked at for links to terrorists, one of the few privacy protections this administration seems to recognize, along with Dick Cheney's contacts with energy lobbyists.

I have grown progressively more anti-gun over the last 20 years, and virtually all of this can be attributed to the actions of the NRA.

#22 ::: Alexa ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 02:20 PM:

Followed the link from Elise...

I would say I have mixed feelings on gun control - I can see both sides of the argument. They have a seductive appeal which worries me, but I can also see the argument that they are good for self-defense. FTR, I'm european(british), I've used small bore rifles for sport and semi and automatic rifles in military training; never fired a handgun.

But what worries me the most is the lack of control, especially of handguns and automatics, that I see in America. I guess I would advocate a driving style license (hell, maybe compulsory third-party and theft insurance too), and car style registration of guns, including test-fires.

#23 ::: bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 02:46 PM:

Having grown up in the gun culture, as it were, I find this blog entry and comment thread very interesting.

I've long sense come to grips, intellectually, with the fact that not everyone got a .22 when they were seven because the BB gun they got when they were five wasn't reliably stopping the hares that were supplementing the family table. (This really happened to me.)

Emotionally, however, I've never understood why people get so exited about guns.

I begin to suspect I have consistently underestimated the emotional power of unfamiliarity.

#24 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 04:21 PM:

Y'know, I continue to think that the terms of this debate are peculiar.

Shooting is, for a lot of people, fun. Driving is, for a lot of people, fun.

That doesn't mean they make a good analogy for each other; I would argue that they make a terrible analogy for each other, becuase the kinds of choice involved are very different.

Driving is about where you are, what kind of job you have, what kind of economy you live in, and how geographically distributed your social network can be and still share food on a not-inherently-a-special-occasion basis.

Guns are about why kind of fun you like to have, what you can hunt effectively, and whether or not you have a particular class of choices if you are assaulted. (Gun ownership *DOES NOT* confer political choice or political security in an industrial or post industrial culture.)

These things are not closely related in any way.

The common element -- you can hurt people with your car; you can hurt people with your gun -- is kinda bogus, too, since in an industrial culture there is this vastness of ways to be stupid or malicious and hurt someone.

What is used commonly and casually people stop thinking about as dangerous, as any number of incidents with lawnmowers, forks in toasters, and barbecue lighter fluid ought to demonstrate.

I don't think it makes any sense to license firearms, since there is no logistical practicality to it as an anti-crime measure. (Lots of guns already in circulation, lots of guns used in crimes known to have come from the local police force, no way to effectively suppress the existing black markets in firearms; as an anti-crime measure, it's pretty much useless.)

The problem isn't a weapon, anyway; it's the person. I've taught people to shoot I wouldn't willing give two chopsticks at the same time, and I've been entirely relaxed around people who can centre-of-mass man sized targets at a kilometer over iron sights (It may have helped that I was one of those people at the time.) This is the real problem with the debate in the US and elsewhere, I think; the issues are really trusting your neighbours and , and the rhetoric being about hardware obfusticates that.

Me, I learned firearm safety at five, and how to shoot at seven; I've used up many thousands of rounds of Her Majesty's ammunition, and haven't been shooting myself in years. I am not anything recognizeable on a US political spectrum as a liberal, though I've been known to vote for them. The people I've been scared of when they have firearms have primarly being uniformed agents of the US government, oddly enough. I really, really dislike confisticatory laws.

Oh, and I found the pictures charming.

#25 ::: Nancy C. Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 04:56 PM:

It was a delight to take you there, T., and have two editors and one author all shooting. It seemed ... apropos somehow.

Next time, definitely the shotgun. I wish they have shot, not just slugs, but it should be interesting all the same.

#26 ::: Chip Hitchcock ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 06:42 PM:

Graydon -- you say there are people you have trained who you wouldn't trust with two chopsticks. My question would be why you trained them -- did you think you could make them behave more responsibly?

It's true the analogy between guns and cars falls down, but IMO not for the reasons you describe. Most cars are tools, or tool-hybrids (e.g., the MR2 my boss commutes in); most guns are toys (as Teresa's essay demonstrates), meaning they should be more liable to regulation. (I don't have figures for how many hunters eat what they kill -- but how many of them actually spend less money getting the meat than if they bought it at the supermarket?) The notion that having a gun gives you a choice when assaulted is usually false; it works if (a) you're lucky enough to get a stupid mugger who points a knife at you from three feet away and (b) you've practiced enough not just with the gun (which can be fun) but with dire situations (which isn't, from what I've seen of such practice).

The variation on the propaganda saying "guns don't kill people" is slightly more plausible. But, as several people have already commented here, the people who most want guns strike many of the rest of us as dangerous, and not just because they have sufficiently little wit to believe NRA propaganda about registration leading to confiscation.

Guns are power, and we all know what Lord Acton said about power. (I suppose "seductive" is a nicer word than "corrupting".)

And the notion that there's no point in control because of the number of guns out there is just as corrupting as the notion that there's no point in voting (which Teresa has dispatched effectively). It's not a cure-all, and I have no more respect for the few people who claim it is than I do for the many who claim that guns are generally effective self-defense -- but control, and severe control of the more destructive toys, is a start.

(No, I haven't been to a modern range. OTOH, I was excessively fond of amusement-park shooting ranges when young, and disappointed when pellet guns started replacing .22's -- but I was a lot younger then.)

#27 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 07:36 PM:

Lord Acton was *wrong* about power.

The idea that he was right is at the root of a great deal of the evils of the 20th century, since no one is really *looking* for good ways to use power.

You're making a moral argument that says, basically, anything dangerous and not obviously economically useful should be strongly controlled to prevent misuse.

I am not sympathetic to this argument for three reasons.

Firstly, I think moral arguments have no place in public policy; only arguments which have quantifiable benefits should have a place there.
(No firearms control scheme has ever reduced gun crime. So they have a *huge* barrier to being percieved as an effective pragmatic solution.)

Secondly, you're prosposing to accept a reasoning that arbitrarily restricts choice to what is consensus-useful *AND* consensus-non-threatening; the historical record for such public policies is dismal, in large part because beneficial economic change is nearly always intially threatening and actually threatening to those economically dislocated. It's the same argument that concludes that monopolies like Qualcom are a good thing.

Thirdly, by the logic you've advanced, you want to ban *me*.

(I was teaching those people to shoot because that was what was on the training syllabus for that day, and among Her Majesty's Servants, one needs a better reason than 'I think this guy is unstable' to alter the training syllabus.)

#28 ::: Paul Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 08:06 PM:

Count me in the seemingly-large collection of liberals who want gun control but are learning more about it. I still have not shot one, but a few months ago a dear friend showed me her collection and that in and of itself softened my jerking knee.

Part of the problem with the NRA/anti-NRA dipole is that folks like me who don't have direct, tactile experince with guns pick one side or the other. There is lots of middle ground here, clearly.

(Bummer: all the good gnu-control jokes were taken already!)

#29 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 08:38 PM:

Graydon writes,

What is used commonly and casually people stop thinking about as dangerous, as any number of incidents with lawnmowers, forks in toasters, and barbecue lighter fluid ought to demonstrate.

This is true, and is what makes me uncomfortable with some of Teresa's remarks:

It's more that they aren't familiar with guns, so they find them frightening and alien. ... They seem a lot more sinister and threatening until you get to know a few; and once you have one in the house, you can get downright defensive about them.

#30 ::: Clark Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 10:05 PM:

Shouldn't tommy gun be Tommy gun?

#31 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 10:25 PM:

Clark: well, technically. But don't you know that any usage employed by Teresa is ipso facto correct? Why, the OED guys check their usage notes by reading this weblog!

Ave Editrix Mundi. :-)

#32 ::: Clark Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2002, 11:58 PM:

No real quarrel with the usage but good writing will never persuade me the Blish lock was "one nice piece of design and engineering" granted that removing it improved the design. Liberal or conservative I expect folks to support the notion that "The goal of GNU was to give users freedom" Richard Stallman - wonder why more don't?

#33 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 05:32 AM:

I won't grant that removing the Blish lock improved the design, unless you call a decrease in accuracy and range an "improvement."

#34 ::: Tim Frayser ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 09:34 AM:

You got to fire a Thompson, you lucky duck! At Conestoga this past summer, we took a bunch of the guests out to a firing range. Everybody got to fire an assortment of interesting weapons. The trip was so popular we're doing it again next year!

#35 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 10:54 AM:

To Graydon:

My favorite analogy is between gun rights and abortion rights: the reason both are such heated topics is that they're both about letting individuals make life and death choices.

Thanks for the rant about why governments shouldn't be allowed to restrict things that people don't "need".

#36 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 11:11 AM:

Nancy:
Individuals make life and death choices all the time. Most people aren't comfortable thinking of it like that, though.

I am not objecting to governments restricting choice in the general case; I'm objecting to doing it on a basis of 'this is capable of having a bad outcome'. Which is what you said, only I'm uncomfortable with getting 'need' into the argument at all.

Simon Shoedecker:
There's a wide country between "commonly and casually" and "not familiar"; Teresa is talking about having something stop being strange, not about having it become the unmarked state in her life.

There are people who are casual about firearms; even in unfortunate cultural circumstances, this is rare, becuase you have to be really stupid not to notice that you can hurt yourself with this. Kinda like chainsaws that way.

#37 ::: John Thacker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 12:30 PM:

Now, I can perfectly well see how the NRA undoubtedly turns off people. Yet, it's true that in many other English-speaking countries, gun-control has proceeded much further. Their shooting organizations are much more moderate in tone than the NRA-- and have constantly lost. One could argue culture, but I'm not sure that Australia, for example, started out much differently on this issue.

Perhaps it has to do with the Parliamentary system being less democratic in general? Is it a similar situation to how the death penalty got banned in many Western countries, despite majority support for its legality?

#38 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 12:57 PM:

Graydon: Sure, there's a difference, and I'm not expecting to see Teresa casually waving a gun around at sf conventions.

But there is a danger to which your remarks point (and despite the implication of your latest comment, you see it as a real danger, or you wouldn't have mentioned it the first time). And that is the road I see Teresa as taking the first steps down. Where Teresa sees herself as moving from fear to a sensible attitude, I see her as moving from sensible fear to a casual comfort level - if not as casual as the toaster-zappers you describe, then way too casual for comfort.

That may be a heavy burden to put on her remarks, but I've seen too many gun-owners - responsible gun-owners, who keep their guns locked up - who nevertheless talk as if guns aren't dangerous if you know how to use them.

Guys, a gun is a machine for killing people. It's dangerous. It's really, really dangerous.

I use dangerous tools myself. I drive cars. I cook, and use really sharp knives. I am very, very careful with these things. I don't wave them around, and I don't talk as if I would.

#39 ::: Kevin Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 01:22 PM:

Greetings. I came to this site from Instapundit, drawn by this quote: "Basically, I figure guns are like gays: They seem a lot more sinister and threatening until you get to know a few; and once you have one in the house, you can get downright defensive about them." Excellent! May I borrow that?

As a member of the much-maligned NRA, I'd like to make a few comments, but first both essays written by Graydon, especially the one beginning with "Lord Acton was *wrong*!" very much represent the position of most members of the NRA. Are there really scary fringe elements in the NRA? Certainly there are. Many of them also belong to the GOA (Gun Owners of America) who think the NRA compromises too much.

Since Graydon did such an excellent job all I feel necessary to add is this: Alexa wrote "But what worries me the most is the lack of control, especially of handguns and automatics, that I see in America. I guess I would advocate a driving style license (hell, maybe compulsory third-party and theft insurance too), and car style registration of guns, including test-fires." Alexa being a Brit, doesn't this strike any of the rest of you as ironic? England licensed and registered all long guns and handguns (the legally owned ones, anyway), banned full-auto weapons about 1935, banned semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns in 1986, and banned all handguns in 1996 - using the licensing and registration system that they assured the populace was going to make them 'safer.' And it hasn't made them any safer. Now Australia is following in the same footsteps. Doesn't anyone learn from experience?

The difference between America and the rest of the world is the Second Amendment to our Constitution. The English Bill of Rights assured that the "subjects which are protestants, may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law." Now, in any court in the British Commonwealth the subjects of the Crown are told that there are no weapons legally suitable for their defense, unless they're in the hands of govermnent officers. As far back as 1803, St. George Tucker in his law review text _American Blackstone_ wrote: "In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorise the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty."

So here since the late 50's there has been a concerted effort to convince the public that the right of individuals to possess arms is not what is protected by the Second Amendment. Yes, the NRA is considered extreme by many, but one of the few things Barry Goldwater ever said that I agree with is "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

We oppose licensing and registration not because it will inevitably lead to confiscation, but because the probabililty is too high, and disarming a law-abiding public without disarming the criminals (which is all that can be accomplished) is the exact wrong thing to do. Also, attempting licensing and registration here would make the current fiasco in Canada look like a little-league game.

#40 ::: Jeff Paulsen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 01:48 PM:

I'm a gun owner, and I'd just like to chime in. Chip says above: The notion that having a gun gives you a choice when assaulted is usually false; it works if (a) you're lucky enough to get a stupid mugger who points a knife at you from three feet away and (b) you've practiced enough not just with the gun (which can be fun) but with dire situations (which isn't, from what I've seen of such practice).

I've been assaulted many times, sometimes with a gun on me, and sometimes not, sometimes on the street, and sometimes in home invasions. The simple fact is that having a gun in those situations is very, very much preferable to not having a gun. Yes, strenuous training for dire straits is helpful and unpleasant, but it is not strictly speaking necessary, especially in a home invasion situation.

As someone who has been there and done that, trust me, folks: defensive gun use is real and effective, particularly when compared to the alternative.

A gun is a machine for killing people, as Simon says. You can be placed, by other people, unexpectedly, in situations where you may need to kill someone, or at least be ready and willing to. When this happens, you want a gun. Kung fu won't cut it when you're outnumbered, injured, undertrained, old, or weak. Pepper spray is often a good choice, but it is not always enough.

Gun safety is ABSOLUTELY critical. There are four rules to remember always: all guns are always treated as if loaded. never let the gun point at anything you are unwilling to destroy. make sure of your target, and what is beyond it. finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

To secure a gun at home, use a gun safe with a simplex-type lock. Bolt it to the wall or the floor. This is secure enough to keep your guns away from children, will slow down burglars, and still allows you to get to your gun quickly when you need it. When there are people in your bedroom punching your wife in the face, you'll wish you'd kept the gun under your pillow instead of in a safe, but that's a damned if you do, damned if you don't.

On the political side, I oppose wholeheartedly any regulation that could later be used in a confiscatory way. I don't mind licensing gun OWNERS for public carry, for example, but I could not abide having them list their guns. I think that background checks are good, but that waiting periods are bad. I think that the NICS system presently used for background checks is needlessly slow, expensive, inaccurate, and too much like registration, and instead I support BIDS, a faster, cheaper, more accurate system that cannot be used to create a gun registry.

I think the NRA gets a bad rap. They pushed for the national background check system, they wrote the armor-piercing handgun bullet ban, they've pushed hard for strict enforcement of federal gun laws in the form of Project Exile. They have allowed their image to be dictated by their opponents. If you want a real no-compromise 100% pro-gun-at-any-price lobbying group, look at Gun Owners of America or Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.

#41 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 02:01 PM:

Kevin Baker:
"in any court in the British Commonwealth the subjects of the Crown are told that there are no weapons legally suitable for their defense"

This is pretty much completely wrong, irrespective of the degree to which various of the Commonwealth governments have confisticatory policies about weapons.

I think you're also incorrect about the 2nd ammendent, which has no legal standing in the US since your Supreme Court refuses to rule on it. There are large cultural differences, most notably a lack of national myths about overthrowing the government by force of arms.

Simon:
When I said 'what is used commonly and casually', that is precisely what I meant.

This does not happen with firearms to people who aren't line infantry in war zones. It doesn't even happen under frontier conditions -- none of which continue to exist anywhere on Earth -- or for people who are professional hunters.

It *does* happen with cars, toasters, arc welders, chain saws, and compressed gasses, plus all the other interesting increases in capability which come with an industrial civilization.


And, again, I reject the legitimacy of the argument from safety *without factual demonstration that the threat to life or health is of pressing concern*.

It's pretty much impossible to make this demonstration.

Even in those areas where there is a disproportionate amount of mayhem committed with firearms, the just response is not to impose measures calculated to a naive worst-case on an entire citizenry, for one, and for two, anything but the most naive analysis makes it clear that this violence is the product of social policies agressively promoted and pursued across the entire spectrum of American political representation.

I don't accept the argument from Constitutional ammendment, either; it is very foolish to treat one's Ur-law as though all the choice that is available to your society is the choice that existed when the ur-laws were first written.

I would have a lot more respect from the NRA if they campaigned for an end to the War on Drugs as a way to reduce firearm violence.

#42 ::: Anarchus ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 02:10 PM:

Teresa:

You're right about the hydrostatic pressure and the pumpkin, but a little off the mark with the .45 comment. It's the muzzle velocity that creates the hydrostatic shock wave, not the size of the bullet. It's SOP in lots of basic training for instructors to pop holes in a watermelon with a kid's .22, then pick up an M-16 firing .223 ammo and on the first shot the pumpkin explodes. Actually firing M-16s was weird for me 'cause my dad's pellet gun had a similar kick . . . .

Couple of thoughts on the pro-gun and anti-gun forces. First, as seductive as the idea of banning all guns (or handguns) might be, in practice it's entirely unworkable. Just look at illegal drugs, for example. Any broad societal attempt to ban guns will only succeed in disarming the law-abiding citizenry. Making guns illegal won't get rid of them any more than outlawing marijuana or methamphetamine illegal got rid of those drugs.

Second, assume you did pass and enforce a ban on handguns. What would happen? Fortunately, there IS real-time evidence because Britain banned all handguns after the Dunblane massacre in 1996.

Joyce Lee Malcome of Harvard has done a lot of research into the results, and now ENGLAND HAS MORE VIOLENT CRIME PER CAPITA THAN AMERICA. I personally think the underestimates the influence of third world immigration on British rates of violent crime, but the conclusion is still very clear. Good stuff may be found here:

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/MALGUN.html

#43 ::: Jeff Paulsen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 02:31 PM:

I just looked at the pictures - I think it's awesome that you have an INDOOR range that lets you use rifles, and Class III stuff.

#44 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 02:38 PM:
#46 ::: Rossz ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 03:22 PM:

Oops, thought you were in the UK. I see now you are in Canada. My basic argument still applies, however.

#47 ::: Stephen M. St. Onge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 03:33 PM:
#48 ::: Anarchus ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 03:40 PM:

PS: I have a friend who spent time in prison for a serious offense. One of his cellmates was a former pimp who was locked up for fatally bludgeoning two of his hookers. Seems there was a huge dispute, so to get even with their pimp the hookers killed his pet doggie and put it in the freezer. Eventually he came home, missed the dog and found it in the freezer (after a hint or two, I'd guess). So, the angry pimp beat the two hookers to death with the frozen carcass.

And my friend now claims, "when frozen dogs are outlawed, only outlaws will have frozen dogs . . . :

#49 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 03:47 PM:

>> But what worries me the most is the lack of control, especially of handguns and automatics

Automatics were essentially banned in the US in 1934. It didn't do any good, but

The recent furor is over guns that LOOK like automatics.

#50 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 03:52 PM:

>> I would have a lot more respect from the NRA if they campaigned for an end to the War on Drugs as a way to reduce firearm violence.

Why is the war on drugs the NRA's responsibility?

#51 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 05:17 PM:

Stephen says: Actually, guns only blow up rigid containers filled with liquid.

Human heads, for example?

Do you seriously believe that, if you fired guns regularly, you'd have an uncontrollable desire to shoot people with them. If so, why?

Hmm, you don't know me, so you don't know what urges I have (my close friends stay out of the kitchen when I'm chopping veggies). But no, not an uncontrollable urge. But if people can have guns without some check for competence and against a homicidal nature, then people who are incompetent and/or homicidal will be among those who have guns.

You have a point about gnu control, but what if they required to wear diapers and stay on a leash?
If only their owners can open the lock on the diaper, maybe. But I still think they should be registered and gene-tagged, so we can always tell which gnu was used in which crime, and who owns it, should the need arise. And if your gnu fertilizes someone's lawn because of your neglect, no more gnu license for you!

#52 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 05:47 PM:

Clark, Christopher, my usage is not ipso facto correct. It's probably a Tommy gun. I've been going through a years-long spell of being irritated by capitalization. I may get over it, like I got over my irritation at three dots vs. four.

Hmmm. Suddenly (or so it seems to me), there are fiftysomething comments in this discussion. I hope everyone's been behaving. Here I go to look...

#53 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 06:12 PM:

Simon, of course guns are dangerous. I can't imagine losing track of that fact.

You should see me using a circular saw. I get everything set up, plug in the saw, take a deep breath, make my cut, turn off the saw, and unplug the saw again -- because if I'm not using it right now, I don't want it to be possible to switch it on.

The society in which I live puts heavy controls on some of the drugs that are prescribed for narcolepsy. When those are in my lineup, my life gets significantly more complicated and difficult. I've thought about this a lot while browsing in hardware stores. If I go to buy quick-setting concrete or a bottle of muriatic acid or some of 3M's more exciting aerosol adhesives, nobody ever asks me whether I know what I'm doing.

I enjoy blowing things up. I really do. It's great. But I don't do it very often, because there aren't many legit opportunities to do so, and I don't know enough to do it safely on my own.

Why did I go fire guns in Manchester? It was fun. It was cool. I was with a couple of friends who wanted to do it. Also Nancy and I, being professional editors, wanted to find out more about guns. They're forever turning up in fiction, and we like to get things right. Also, because I don't like having there be a class of objects in my world that are somehow more real, or less real, than other objects of comparable nature.

#54 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 06:22 PM:

Some trimming has occurred. I apologize for not getting in here earlier in the day to do maintenance on an ongoing basis.

If I seriously disliked your post and the spirit in which it was posted, it went away. If I thought it was honest but regrettable, its text went away -- and I'm open to the possibility that I was wrong. Get me even halfway convinced and I'll put it back.

I like conversation. I've heard most of the loud arguments, intelligent and otherwise. The loud ones here weren't dumb, and I have nothing against them per se. But there are interesting things to be said about guns and American life that don't get said because nobody can hear them over the background noise.

#55 ::: Drew Kelley ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 07:51 PM:

How very lucky you are to have been in the "live free or die" state to experience firearms for the first time. Here in the "golden state" we aren't allowed to even think about Tommy Guns, let alone firing one down at the local range. As a Firearms Dealer (FFL and all the local stuff too), I would say to those who think that there are no controls on firearm acquisition: go out to your local gun store and try to buy a handgun, then tell me how easy it was. As to the common car versus gun licensing comparison: You don't need a license to BUY a car, only to drive it on public roads. To Her Majesty's Servent: The Supreme Court has addressed the 2nd Ammendment several times, and there is no support in their work for the "state militia" theory of ownership. In fact, in several opinions, the 2nd has been specifically included in listings of specific, individual rights noted in the Bill Of Rights. As an NRA Life Member, I sometimes find the group too accomodating, and sometimes too strident. But, we don't agree with everything in our lives all the time, do we?

#56 ::: flinch ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 07:59 PM:

The NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) really isn't structured to try and convince those on the fence to be pro-RKBA, since its' main goal is to act as a lobbying force for gun-owners. From my point of view, I think it's better for the NRA to be feared as a political force, rather than liked.

Really, the two groups you should try and contact would be the National Shooting Sports Foundation (www.nssf.org), which offers a program specifically for non-shooting writers/journalists and the Pink Pistols (www.pinkpistols.org), which is a group of gay and lesbian gun-owners.

(aside: the PP's have encountered more hostility from the gay/lesbian community than the shooting community. If you shoot, most people don't give a rats' ass about your race, sex, political party, or sexual orientation.)

If you do plan to shoot a shotgun, try to shoot light trap loads out of a gas-operated semi-auto. Launching a 12-gauge slug out of a pump is a memorably painful experience.

#57 ::: Kevin Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 08:52 PM:

To Graydon:

"...in any court in the British Commonwealth the subjects of the Crown are told that there are no weapons legally suitable for their defense"

"This is pretty much completely wrong, irrespective of the degree to which various of the Commonwealth governments have confisticatory policies about weapons."

I may have overstated, but it is the fact in England and Wales, and certainly seems to be going that way in Australia. What are the rules concerning self-defense with a weapon in Scotland and Northern Ireland? So, completely wrong? I think not.

"I think you're also incorrect about the 2nd ammendent, which has no legal standing in the US since your Supreme Court refuses to rule on it. There are large cultural differences, most notably a lack of national myths about overthrowing the government by force of arms."

Well, yes, since the 1939 U.S. v Miller case, the Supreme Court has dodged the bullet, so to speak. However, the most recent decision of an appeals court having to do with the Second Amendment has made it plain that the right is considered an individual one, and the Supreme Court did not overturn. Now the problem is to get the Supreme Court to concur, and further, to incorporate the Second Amendment under the protections of the 14th's "priviledges and immunities" clause.

I wouldn't say that the Second has "no legal standing." We're hopeful.

"I don't accept the argument from Constitutional ammendment, either; it is very foolish to treat one's Ur-law as though all the choice that is available to your society is the choice that existed when the ur-laws were first written."

There we disagree rather violently (pun intended.) The "ur-law" of the Constitution is the framework our society is built upon. It is the concept that we government of law, rather than a government of men. Yours seems to be the argument of a "living Constitution," to be "interpreted" as society changes. Um, no. That's not how it works. The Constitution has built into it a mechanism to change it as required. That mechanism is cumbersome and difficult - for a reason. Since its acceptance (along with the original 10 amendments,) we've modified that framework seventeen times. We freed the slaves, ensured equal rights to all citizens (or at least tried,) extended franchise to women and those 18 and older, outlawed alcohol (very similar to the "war on (some) drugs" and the war on guns), repealed that prohibition, and so on. So far, we've made one, possibly two mistakes using that mechanism.

If we allow ourselves to "interpret" what the Second Amendment means based on modern exigencies, then the entire structure is open to similar reinterpretation. If that's the case, it is no longer a framework, but a house of cards waiting for collapse. The Constitution must be interpreted based on its original intent. If it no longer addresses the modern facts, we can amend it. But to ignore the original intent simply because it's inconvenient risks disaster.

"I would have a lot more respect from the NRA if they campaigned for an end to the War on Drugs as a way to reduce firearm violence."

So would I, but it is an overwhelmingly conservative organization. There is a slowly building conservative movement to end the War on Drugs, but "slow" is the critical word. For the time being, I'll be happy if the NRA simply opposes each and every new "commonsense" gun control law. My position is "this far, no further" until the Second Amendment is legally recognized and defined by the Supreme Court.


#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 09:30 PM:

Drew, I grew up in Arizona, where it's only illegal to carry a concealed weapon, and you check your piece at the front desk of your hotel.

Flinch, what do you mean by the NRA acting as "a lobbying force for gun-owners"? I mean, who's it lobbying? Is it just legislators? Because if any of its efforts are meant to influence members of the general public who didn't start out having an opinion one way or the other, Rick Keir's reaction (vide supra) has been pretty typical.

John Farrell, I wouldn't bet a nickel on our chances of setting up a shooting area at Boskone. Hotels are so twitchy about activities that might damage the rooms that you usually can't get them to let you do an airbrush demo. But wouldn't it be fun to do it in the heart of Boston?

#59 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 09:36 PM:

Jack, Graydon, deeply appreciated. As always.

#60 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 10:37 PM:

Teresa said Clark, Christopher, my usage is not ipso facto correct.

I wuz teeeeeeezing!

#61 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2002, 11:16 PM:

Teresa, I'd forgotten that you are narcoleptic. I don't know how severe your case is, but if necessary I trust there was someone around to watch out for you while you were shooting.

And likewise when you use concrete or aerosol adhesive (both potentially deadly, but much less dangerous than guns). It's good that you don't get stopped from using these things, but after all there are warning labels on almost everything these days.

I understand your reasons for trying shooting, but still - as comfortable with guns as with gays? I was comfortable around gays from the minute I discovered I was around gays, but I don't think I'm comfortable around guns (or gnus), and I think I prefer it that way. It's safer.

Graydon wrote, 'used commonly and casually' ... does not happen with firearms to people who aren't line infantry in war zones.

Mike Royko is no longer around to write stories about gunowners who shoot their toes off, who are accidentally shot by their dogs, etc. But it still happens, and your confidence that no fools treat guns the way some fools treat toasters, arc welders, etc., seems to me entirely misplaced.

Kevin Paulsen: I have seen before your argument that having a gun is advisable, rather than inadvisable, for the victim of a holdup. I am wondering - in a purely practical sense - how much skill with a gun is needed in that situation to ensure 1) that your skill at wielding the gun exceeds the mugger's skill in getting it away from you, whether he is armed or not; 2) that, if you do need to shoot it, no innocent person is likely to be hurt. Also I wonder if psychological studies of armed robbers exist to show that being confronted by a gun does not make him more likely to shoot first.

#62 ::: Jeff Paulsen ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 12:06 AM:

Simon: I assume you are talking to me above, and that Kevin is a typo for Jeff.

You have to be very, very, good at disarming someone to avoid being shot by them in the process. In practice, when you draw a gun, people run from you. If they don't, fire the gun at them, and they run from you, or fall down.

I have no data on your second question, but remember that most assaults occur where there are not a whole lot of bystanders. Also, unintended damage caused by overpenetration (shooting through your attacker or a wall and hitting someone else) can be reduced by using special bullets, like the Glaser Safety Slug. Most features of bullets that reduce overpenetration also increase the transfer of energy from the bullet to the target - which is to say, they are more lethal.

It has been my experience that armed robbers will change their selection of victim if they suspect their first choice might be packing.

#63 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 12:30 AM:

>> But if people can have guns without some check for competence and against a homicidal nature, then people who are incompetent and/or homicidal will be among those who have guns.

True, but irrelevant.

The relevant question is whether law can disarm the homicidal. (The incompetent are irrelevant. Yes, I know the accident stats.)

The answer appears to be "no". We see that in both experience with such laws AND the fact that guns are not particularly magic so the drug war experience is relevant.

That being the case, the question becomes "is there some benefit to disarming the non-homicidal." Again, the answer appears to be "no".

#64 ::: flinch ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 01:14 AM:

The NRA acts on behalf of gunowners, basically rewarding politicians for pro-RKBA stances, and punishing those who don't back the official position.

It's a special interest group that operates much like any other. It's feared because it can generate a hellacious amount of mail, money, and votes (yes, gun-nuts do read the paper, follow the issues, and can show up in droves at the polling place).

I see Rick's point, but the problem is more of perception, rather than policy.

Gun-control groups need a certain level of uncertainty to succeed.

The general message is: "We don't have enough laws," which is usually followed by some sort of hysterical silliness ("It's easier to buy an Evil Baby Killing Uberblaster than a pint of milk"). Most people outside of the gun culture have no idea of the insane number of laws and paperwork that has to be dealt with when buying a gun.

To the non-shooter, it sounds common-sense when Sarah Brady talks about Evil Cop Killer Bullets(tm) and how they have no place in society.

The problem was that the definition was so broad as to encompass almost every hunting caliber.

Most bullet-resistant vests were NEVER designed to stop rifle rounds. Most cops wear vests rated against pistol rounds; the rifle-grade armor is bulky and heavy, and only used during high-risk operations (SWAT, mainly). Even the lowly 22LR can punch right through a Level II/IIa vest.

If the definition says, "penetrates body armor," every hunter just got stuck with a flintlock.

The NRA, naturally, fought like hell against it. Of course, that position sounds absolutely insane. Eventually, the bill was reworded with the help of the NRA to only include handgun bullets made of tungsten, depleted uranium, or other ultra-dense material that would zip right through commonly used body armor.

The NRA is always in a defensive position, simply because most people don't have the experience or knowledge to separate the useful gun laws (very few) from the stupid ones (most of them). The NRA has to explain the boring, technical aspects, while the gun-control groups can toss out their sound bites ("Ban assault weapons.")

Hopefully, this makes some sort of sense.

#65 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 05:55 AM:

It would be great fun to do it in the heart of Boston - the land of Bartley-Fox and the Lifetime Firearms Identification Card that is valid for 4 years only and currently costs only $25 -"To make inexpensive guns impossible to get is to say that you're putting a money test on getting a gun. It's racism in its worst form." says one NRA Board Memeber but that has not been enough and Boston proper has even more odd and silly laws in which the locals seem to have great faith. Indeed this discussion leads me to believe that where guns are concerned people prefer arguing about whose revelation is correct, what is behind the veil, to passing through the veil or looking at the fruits which at least in this case is quite easily done. I wonder if I am alone in this group in knowing that I can put my hand on a gun even as I type?

#66 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 10:47 AM:

I wouldn't know, Clark. Do crossbows count?

I'll agree that gun discussions tend to devolve into arguments about whose revelation is correct. That's why I've been writing and asking about personal experiences. There are profound differences in the ways people talk about their own experiences of guns. I find that very interesting in its own right; also in the ways it correlates with their opinions about guns and public policy.

Hmmm. I just figured out why I felt moved to post one of my favorite bits of George Fox last night.

#67 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 11:55 AM:

Jeff (sorry, I must have forgotten your name while scrolling down to write my previous reply) Paulsen wrote,

You have to be very, very, good at disarming someone to avoid being shot by them in the process.

And how much role does the coolness and skill of the gun-wielder play in this? I have no experience with guns, but I find my skill in handling anything diminishes sharply under extreme stress, and I would guess the rare experience of confronting a robber with a gun would cause extreme stress.

I realize that movies are not a good guide to reality. But a cool-headed person taking a gun away from a non-cool person happens frequently in movies, and I've not seen this scenario in lists of Improbable Movie Gun Events, such as "6-shooters that never need to be reloaded" or "People getting shot, getting up and running away" or "22s with the knock-down power of cannons" or many others.

Another scenario, probably more common than the first: the gun-owner is probably not constantly carrying the gun around as a concealed, or unconcealed, weapon. Gun safety advocates are constantly saying, keep your guns locked up. So: you're at home, a robber breaks into your house. How likely is it that you can get the gun before the robber gets you? (Again, under conditions of extreme stress: you're probably fumbling with the lock.) Or if the gun is not locked up, but not on your person constantly, how likely is it that the robber (possibly previously unarmed) will grab the gun before you do? Or, if he burgles the house while you're away, that he'll just steal the gun?

In practice, when you draw a gun, people run from you.

This is a real scenario, not a movie one: 1) Police spot fugitive. 2) Police draw guns on fugitive. Does fugitive run away? No. 3) Fugitive draws gun on police, fires it, and misses. 4) Police shoot fugitive, kill him instantly.

This happens all the time. I read newspaper reports regularly. It's almost predictable.

It has been my experience that armed robbers will change their selection of victim if they suspect their first choice might be packing.

That's another one I wonder about. A person of your general persuasion once proudly announced to me that her father's store, once a regular site of hold-ups, had not had a single hold-up after he bought a gun. And I asked, how did he get the word around to the criminal community that he had one? I never got an answer to that. Maybe he carried it conspicuously. Maybe he got a sticker for his window akin to a burglar alarm sticker. Maybe he took out an ad in the Criminal Times. Maybe he just told all suspicious-looking customers, "Hey, did you know I have a gun?" I don't know.

#68 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 01:10 PM:

Clark asked: "I wonder if I am alone in this group in knowing that I can put my hand on a gun even as I type?"

Perhaps. I'd have to stand up and walk to the other side of the room to put my hand on a firearm.

#69 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 01:26 PM:

Kevin:
"...in any court in the British Commonwealth the subjects of the Crown are told that there are no weapons legally suitable for their defense"

Graydon replied:
"This is pretty much completely wrong, irrespective of the degree to
which various of the Commonwealth governments have confiscatory policies about weapons."

Kevin again:
I may have overstated, but it is the fact in England and Wales, and certainly seems to be going that way in Australia. What are the rules
concerning self-defense with a weapon in Scotland and Northern Ireland? So, completely wrong? I think not.

Those aren't members of the Commonwealth, that's the United Kingdom, which is a single member of the Commonwealth.

Australia has banned handguns pretty thoroughly; they have certainly not banned long arms, and your right of self defense there (last I
looked) and your right of self defense in Canada (I'm quite sure) have a least sufficient means test in it if it gets in front of a court,
but one is emphatically *not* forbidden to use weapons is self defense.

And, you know, the Commonwealth includes a huge chunk of Africa, India and so on; it's very hard to generalize about the laws in a hundred-odd countries which range in size from 'flyspeck' to 'immense'.

Kevin:
I wouldn't say that the Second has "no legal standing." We're hopeful.

If you can't get a court to rule on the basis of it, it's not a right.

Me:
"I don't accept the argument from Constitutional amendment, either; it is very foolish to treat one's Ur-law as though all the choice that
is available to your society is the choice that existed when the ur-laws were first written."

Kevin:
If we allow ourselves to "interpret" what the Second Amendment means based on modern exigencies, then the entire structure is open to
similar reinterpretation.

The entire structure *has* been reinterpreted; the interstate commerce clause was *not* intended as the basis for the powers of the Federal gov't you've got! The Framers' take on the First Amendment would have thrown out any constraint on the private use of cryptography,
too. There are a lot more examples.

There's an argument that the universal suffrage amendments are doing the right thing by being formal amendments, when the majority of the
Framers hated and feared warm body democracy -- which is why they used republican forms -- but there is also the argument that you can't do
something quite that radical and pretend that it doesn't affect the rest of the structure, so that the other amendements *now* mean is
different. Which is certainly what eventually happened with the 14th Amendment.

Kevin:
If that's the case, it is no longer a framework, but a house of cards waiting for collapse.

Which is pretty much what it's doing in terms of personal freedoms, and has been for some time, no? Some subset of said person freedoms
being what you are complaining about?

Kevin:
The Constitution must be interpreted based on its original intent. If it no longer addresses the modern facts, we can amend it. But to
ignore the original intent simply because it's inconvenient risks disaster.

It's not just facts; it's scope of choice. There are bunches of things about which your Framers *can't* have had intent, because they
had no idea such a thing could be done; everyone acknowledges this.

What everyone does not acknowledge is that the number of ways in which society can be (and actually is observed to be) organized has gone up, too. An argument which ignores this or dismisses this is obviously off in Theory, where everything works.

Simon:
Graydon wrote, 'used commonly and casually' ... does not happen with firearms to people who aren't line infantry in war zones.

Mike Royko is no longer around to write stories about gun owners who shoot their toes off, who are accidentally shot by their dogs, etc.
But it still happens, and your confidence that no fools treat guns the way some fools treat toasters, arc welders, etc., seems to me entirely misplaced.

People do stupid things with guns. The stupid things people do with guns are often related to treated them as a high-mana object
_incompetently_. (I can't recall an incident in which this *wasn't* the case; I'm not saying that there aren't any, but I can't recall
one. Even the drunken morons out taking 'sound shots' in deer season are doing that.)

Teaching people to shoot involves dealing with this; severe nervousness often results for no very good reason. Which is why teaching people to shoot properly generally involves lots and lots and lots of familiarization before any shooting happens, what with calm being essential to shooting effectively and all.

So the general fix for the 'high mana object' part is to make guns not *be* high-mana objects; this involves having people clean them in
large numbers when young and impressionable, even more than it involves having them fire them.

There are cultural changes which involve most people not having that experience, starting about forty years ago, and that does have
something to do with the current gun control movement.

Also, the _frequency_ with which people do stupid things with guns is way, way less than the frequency with which they do stupid things with power tools, motor vehicles, and flamable liquids.

I think this is why.

There's a principle in cybernetics -- the old kind, not the digital computer kind -- which says 'the purpose of a system is what that
system does'; this gets ignored around firearms. The DCRA shoots that involve a bunch of people getting together for a weekend to compete
are *for* that; Teresa's going to a range and finding out that, hey, these things are fun was *for* that -- and that _range_ is *for* that,
too.

Looked at proportionately, there's a better argument that cars are *for* killing people than that firearms are. (I think any such argument is bogus, btw.)

Put slightly differently, a capability isn't immoral; a use of the capability may or may not be, but being able to is not itself morally
meaningful. (How you got that way might be, but having the ability is as morally meaningful as having green hair.)

#70 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 02:33 PM:

>> Again, under conditions of extreme stress: you're probably fumbling with the lock.

Interestingly enough, they design locks for precisely this purpose. They open when you stick your hand in. Not to mention the fact that lots of people don't live with children, so it's perfectly reasonable for them to have a gun available that is not locked up.

Also, you're assuming that the homeowner has absolutely no warning, that the intruder suddenly appears in the same room. I'm sure that that happens, but the more common case involves "Did you hear that? Let's call the police."

After you call the police, what do you do?

#71 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 02:37 PM:

>> It has been my experience that armed robbers will change their selection of victim if they suspect their first choice might be packing.

> That's another one I wonder about.

Well, we can always do a relevant test.

If you put "this house is a gun-free zone" sign on your door/in front of your house, do you think that you increase or decrease the odds that you'll have an unwelcome intruder?

In the US, about half of all dwellings contain a gun, so such a sign changes the odds from 50-50 to "would this person lie to me?".

#72 ::: Kevin Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 03:11 PM:

Graydon!

Absolutely outstanding response! (And I'm not used to those!) Yes, I was aware that England and Wales is considered a single entity - where defending yourself with a weapon is likely to get you jailed. You didn't comment on Scotland or N. Ireland, I noted. Australia has not yet banned handguns but is about to.

"If you can't get a court to rule on the basis of it, it's not a right."

A point I've tried repeatedly to get many on the gun-rights side to understand. We've had a recent victory with the U.S. v Emerson ruling of last year, but it was not all we had hoped. There are now cases in lower courts we have hopes for, and seeing that the administration is making mouth-noises in support of an individual right - specifically the Justice Department - and seeing that the House, Senate, and Whitehouse are all Republican controlled, there is some hope that the judicial system may follow suit. It took us over 50 years to get to this point. There is no reason to believe that the steps back from the edge of the slippery slope will occur much faster.

"The entire structure *has* been reinterpreted; the interstate commerce clause was *not* intended as the basis for the powers of the Federal gov't you've got!

Precisely! So few people understand that. The Constitution has been hacked away at for 226 years, and the damage seems to be accelerating. Especially the infringements on the 4th and 5th Amendments (and now the 1st) in the name of the "War on (some) Drugs," and now the "War on Terror." Many of us, however, have chosen the attack on the 2nd Amendment as the "line in the sand," that "subset of person(al) freedoms" being a critical one, in our view. (Not that the others are not critical, but the Second leaves very little "wiggle room" when it comes to upholding our enumerated individual rights.) The Second Amendment, to us, is a crystal-clear dividing line between those in government who trust the citizenry (whom they supposedly work for) and those who wish to rule over us.

"...but there is also the argument that you can't do something quite that radical and pretend that it doesn't affect the rest of the structure, so that the other amendements *now* mean is different. Which is certainly what eventually happened with the 14th Amendment."

Hmm... I'm not quite sure I follow you here. Indulge me if I misinterpreted your meaning. Do subsequent Amendments alter the structure of the Constitution? Yes, of course they do. Did the 14th Amendment significantly alter the intention of the Constitution? Absolutely. Was it intentional? Absolutely. Was that intent followed by the States and by the Courts immediately following its passage? Absolutely not. The 14th Amendment is probably the most significant alteration of the design of our government in history - it radically expanded the power of the Federal government over the states - in large part that was what the Civil War was about. The 14th Amendment codified it. It also, for good or bad, gave enormous power to the federal judiciary.

That power has been used to "interpret" the Bill of Rights in ways that would probably leave the Founders whirling in their crypts, but being a nation based in law we've abided by those interpretations and not risen up in violent rebellion over them. Instead, those of us who are politically active have worked to get many of those interpretations reversed. Thus the ACLU in defense of nine of the first ten Amendments, and the NRA for the one the ACLU disdains. We've not been entirely successful, but we are, as I've said, hopeful.

"It's not just facts; it's scope of choice. There are bunches of things about which your Framers *can't* have had intent, because they
had no idea such a thing could be done; everyone acknowledges this."

However, because they "had no idea such a thing could be done" does not mean that the fundamental groundrules cannot be used to address these new things. Case-in-point: the question of civilian ownership of fully-automatic weapons. Certainly the Founders had no idea such weapons could exist, but it is apparent from their writings that the intent of the Second Amendment was to ensure that the People were never denied arms suitable for military use. Many may argue that the 1934 National Firearms Act didn't deny the People this right, but in point of fact, many states and localities DO. The 1994 "Assault Weapons Ban" was another attempt to restrict "weapons of military usefulness" from the People - on a Federal scale. Many of us consider these laws unconstitutional - and still abide by them while hoping to overturn.

"What everyone does not acknowledge is that the number of ways in which society can be (and actually is observed to be) organized has gone up, too. An argument which ignores this or dismisses this is obviously off in Theory, where everything works." I'm not sure what relevance this observation has to this discussion. Care to expound on it?

"...a capability isn't immoral; a use of the capability may or may not be, but being able to is not itself morally meaningful."

An apochryphal story making the rounds recounts an interview between a journalist and the operator of a summer camp. The camp operator lists the various activities available to the young campers, and included in this list is rifle marksmanship. The journalist is aghast at this news. In a properly indignant tone, she admonishes the camp operator that he is "equipping the children to be murderers," to which he responds: "You're 'equipped' to be a prostitute. Does that make you one?"

I've always liked that story.

#73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 03:46 PM:

I have an idea -- at Boskone, why not organize an expedition to the Manchester shooting range? It's about an hour north of the hotel.

#74 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 04:19 PM:

Simon wrote: "This is a real scenario, not a movie one: 1) Police spot fugitive. 2) Police draw guns on fugitive. Does fugitive run away? No. 3) Fugitive draws gun on police, fires it, and misses. 4) Police shoot fugitive, kill him instantly.

This happens all the time. I read newspaper reports regularly. It's almost predictable."

And how often does it happen that the fugitive sees the cops with their guns drawn and either flees or surrenders? Without that knowledge, you really can't draw a conclusion from those newspaper reports. (Not that I particularly believe that cops are great shots -- remember Bruce Springsteen's "41 Shots" and the events that inspired it? -- or that most fugitives in that case die instantly.)

#75 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 04:30 PM:

Mmmmm. I bet you'd like shooting replica historic weapons, like Revolutionary muzzle-loaders and Civil War rifles. Really quite amazing, the technical changes between the two!

Which, I suppose, brings up one of my big bitches about so much rhetoric in this area; there is some really aggravating rewriting of history. The militia did not win the Revolution. The Framers did not have the rifles of the Civil War in mind when they wrote the second amendment. Personal self-defense with a muzzle loader would be quite a dicey proposition.

#76 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 05:29 PM:

>> The Framers did not have the rifles of the Civil War in mind when they wrote the second amendment.

I'd be much more impressed with this argument if it was ever used for any other bit of technology.

BTW - The Framers actually did know about repeating firearms because such firearms existed at least as early as the 1600s.

>> Personal self-defense with a muzzle loader would be quite a dicey proposition.

Huh? Folks used muzzle loaders for self-defense before cartridges were invented.

Of course, self-defense is always a dicey proposition; you might lose. Then again, no-defense is also dicey - someone who's said that your life is worth less to him than the unknown contents of your wallet doesn't value your life very much.

However, having an option that you can choose not to use is much better than not having an option that you need.

#77 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 06:07 PM:

So far as I know crossbows do not fall under the firearms laws but are specifically not legal to take game. Nice to contemplate a Con that is not weapons free - though of course I have been amused by the hall costume that includes a one piece hilt and scabbard to avoid the peace tie on a blade when I know the bearer is big on Kendo - or the wizard's staff that passes for a Bo or ..... More generally I wonder if folks who just moved from say California where possession (word of art) of a sword cane is a mandatory 1 year in jail to say Washington State where such blades are essentially unregulated (actual use as a weapon is) feel they have taken a great risk.

#78 ::: ClarkEMyers ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 06:25 PM:

Contradictions and paradoxes invariably appear given fine enough granularity - Garands for instance are easier to buy and much cheaper in Canada than in the United States (in the U.S. get yours from CMP while you still can) - still the late word from the U.K. (Beeb Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 16:51 GMT) speaks to me of the situation there:
Blair points to airgun crackdown
"Incidents involving air weapons are rising
Tony Blair has given a clear hint that legislation for airguns may be included in next week's Queen Speech as part of a major crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
....
We are looking at the whole issue of the licensing of airguns
Tony Blair
Such guns should be licensed and kept under lock and key
Judge Peter Fox QC
............
The prime minister told the House of Commons the government had "something to announce" on the issue, "in the next period of time".
....
Downing Street has already declared war on anti-social behaviour such as fly posting, dropping chewing gum and graffiti.

#79 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 07:46 PM:

Andy Freeman, "Folks used muzzle loaders for self-defense before cartridges were invented." Are you referring to personal self-defense, here? Could you give an example, please? It's difficult for me to see how a weapon which takes a well-drilled solider 20 seconds to load and fire could be used for personal self-defense; by the time you'd gotten the dern thing loaded, you'd be run through. A flintlock is unreliable at best (I've read that bandits preferred to carry an extra pistol, in case of misfires), it fails if wet, and it becomes even more dangerously unreliable if left loaded. Do you have a reliable primary source citation, or secondary source cite which cites its primary sources for the personal use of either flintlock muskets or pistols in self-defense? Something which indicates it might be something to rely on, rather than something which might in rare circumstances be useful?

#80 ::: Kevin Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 08:56 PM:

Randolph:

That's a question I would submit to Clayton Cramer: clayton@claytoncramer.com

I'm sure he could answer it, in detail.

#81 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2002, 11:31 PM:

1. Okay, so how many people here can walk across the room and put their hand on a Martini-Henry?

2. Yes, Kevin. Graydon is like that.

3.
BULLWINKLE: Hey Rocky, watch me pull the intentions of the Framers of the Constitution out of my hat!"
ROCKY: Again? But that trick never works.
BULLWINKLE: This time for sure! (Reaches into hat, pulls out head of Randolph Fritz.)
HEAD OF RANDOLPH FRITZ: Gronk!
ROCKY: And now here's something we hope you'll really like!
(cue music, cut to commercial)

#82 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 01:24 AM:

Shooting during Boskone: I was going to suggest that we go early on Sunday, but the place doesn't open until noon. Driving up Saturday afternoon to catch Jim after he gets out of his paramedic classes would work if there weren't a Tor party that night. Other times have other problems. Got any ideas?

#83 ::: ClarkEMyers ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 01:41 AM:

Quickfire technique was five shots a minute - see e.g. the discussion surrounding Ferguson's innovations - A leather cover sometimes called a calf leg was commonly used to keep the powder dry.For typical discussions where there might be room to argue about the personal vs. the group see e.g.:

de Hass, Dr. Willis. History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of Western Virginia.
Hardesty. The History of Gilmer County.
McWhorter, Lucullus V. The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia.
Withers, Alexander Scott. Chronicles of Border Warfare.

Certainly individuals used personal weapons as individuals rather than part of a fireteam throughout the time and place
From Muzzleblasts:

One of the last accounts we have of Jesse Hughes' remarkable abilities and talent is contained, once again, in McWhorter's The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia (pp. 206 and 207). This heart-pounding incident took place in 1793, and reads like a fight scene from The Last of the Mohicans:

"The following fall, the Indians killed and devoured a cow that belonged to Jesse Hughes. They carried away with them the bell that the cow wore. One afternoon they rattled this bell on the mountainside above the fort. Some said to Jesse that his cow was coming home. He knew, however that she had been killed, and he replied that he would 'make the bell ring for something the next morning'. That night he hid himself on the mountain where he had heard the bell ringing that afternoon. As soon as it was light enough to see to shoot he heard the bell once again, and he cautiously made his way in the direction of the sound. Having gone but a short distance, he discovered two Indians, one large, one smaller in size. The big Indian was standing with his gun raised, ready for instant use, and the smaller one was going about on his hands and knees, with the bell on his neck, rattling it like a cow would if grazing in the woods. Hughes shot the big Indian and the small one ran. Jesse dropped his gun, grabbed the one belonging to the dead Indian and pursuing the other Indian, soon came up with him and shot him. The gun Hughes had taken from the fallen Indian was discovered as belonging to Benjamin Carpenter (killed by the same two Indians that spring) and it along with the powder horn and shot pouch were returned to the Carpenters." See also Foxfire V for stories and how to

#84 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 01:59 AM:

Another way of looking at the framing of discussion here is to consider that some, myself for one, are willing to argue at a much finer level of granularity than we have knowledge to support. In other areas we might acknowledge ignorance and even seek real experts. For instance in Glory Season David Brin acknowledges input on the biology from a W.S.U. veterinary couple - folks who have been willing to shoot in defence of their sheep too. Yet in another place Brin suggests SF what if stories ought to address such things as the driver's license model of licensing gun owners and shooters with no suggestion that the Illinois FOID card the FID mentioned above and other such have a real current track record. Restrictions be they based on revelation or common sense - the "this time for sure" model of the slippery slope - seem to be advocated in ignorance of the record. Folks argue for the vague driver's license analogy rather than acknowledge the failed specifics in Illinois and Massachusets and advocate some refinement that addresses those failures.

#85 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 04:45 AM:

>> Folks used muzzle loaders for self-defense before cartridges were invented." Are you referring to personal self-defense, here? Could you give an example, please?

You mean like naming ancestors who killed/drove off an attacker?

The "early frontier" literature is filled with such accounts. Bellesiles claimed otherwise, which is one of the things that brought him to Cramer's attention.

>> It's difficult for me to see how a weapon which takes a well-drilled solider 20 seconds to load and fire could be used for personal self-defense; by the time you'd gotten the dern thing loaded, you'd be run through.

So what? Surely Fritz isn't assuming:
(1) that you only need self defense when all of your guns are necessarily unloaded; and
(2) that "complete and immediate surprise" is the only situation where self-defense is appropriate.

(2) is clearly false. People often have some advance notice that they're about to be a situation where they might need effective self-defense. Why assume that they wouldn't use this time to do something relevant?[A]

Fritz seems to be assuming (1).

>> A flintlock is unreliable at best (I've read that bandits preferred to carry an extra pistol, in case of misfires), it fails if wet, and it becomes even more dangerously unreliable if left loaded.

"fails if wet" - Why is Fritz assuming that they wouldn't use somewhat effective counter-measures?[B]

"dangerously unreliable if left unloaded" assumes that it's been left loaded for "a while". One might reasonable prep the gun before going into a situation where self-defense might be needed.[A]

While it is true that no gun guarantees personal safety, the relevant question is whether having a gun is an option that increases the odds of survival. Flintlocks do; they're clearly better than the alternatives available to those folks.

In other words, I should have replied to:
>> Personal self-defense with a muzzle loader would be quite a dicey proposition.

with

So what? Personal self-defense without a muzzle loader is an even dicier proposition. In other words, I'd much rather have a muzzle loader that might fail than nothing, or even a knife. (Yes, there are things that I'd rather have than a muzzle loader, but they weren't available back then.)

[A] I lock my car doors before driving near "bad neighborhoods". Folks in the 1700s were capable of analogous reasoning.

[B] It would be just as reasonable to point out that muzzle loaders fail if primed with salt....


#86 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 08:12 AM:

She was able to see plainly that something was by the window, but what it was she could not plainly discern, in consequence of the lights she had in the room. A few moments, however, sufficed to settle that mystery, for the window was opened and a figure stood before her.

One glance, one terrified glance, in which her whole soul was concentrated, sufficed to shew her who and what the figure was. There was a tall, gaunt form -- there was the faded ancient apparel -- the lustrous metallic-looking eyes -- its half-opened mouth, exhibiting tusk-like teeth! It was -- yes, it was -- the vampyre!

It stood for a moment gazing at her, and then in the hideous way it had attempted before to speak, it apparently endeavoured to utter some words which it could not make articulate to human ears. The pistols lay before Flora. Mechanically she raised one, and pointed it at the figure. It advanced a step, and then she pulled the trigger.

A stunning report followed. There was a loud cry of pain, and the vampyre fled. The smoke and confusion that was incidental to the spot prevented her from seeing if the figure walked or ran away. She thought he heard a crashing sound among the plants outside the window, as if it had fallen, but she did not feel quite sure.

It was no effort of any reflection, but a purely mechanical movement, that made her raise the other pistol, and discharge that likewise in the direction the vampyre had taken. Then casting the weapon away, she rose, and made a frantic rush from the room.

-- Varney, the Vampyre; or, The Feast of Blood (1845)
Excerpt from Chapter IX


#87 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 10:51 AM:

"Shooting during Boskone: I was going to suggest that we go early on Sunday, but the place doesn't open until noon. Driving up Saturday afternoon to catch Jim after he gets out of his paramedic classes would work if there weren't a Tor party that night. Other times have other problems. Got any ideas"

We'll probably get in Thursday. What about first thing Friday morning?

MKK

#88 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 01:55 PM:

I have no idea what Andy Freeman means by locks that "open when you stick your hand in." And his other comment to me doesn't address my question at all, which was not "Would robbers be less likely to rob you if they knew you have a gun?" but "How does one communicate to potential robbers that one has acquired a gun?" (Without waiting for them to try and rob you, of course.)

Sorry, but once replies have descended to this level of hostile ridicule, I have to bow out of the conversation.

You folks who want to go shooting at Boskone, have fun. I won't be there. You folks who keep your guns out and handy because you don't have children, I hope no children visit you either.

#89 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 03:24 PM:

>> I have no idea what Andy Freeman means by locks that "open when you stick your hand in."

I mean pretty much exactly what I wrote. There are locking boxes, designed and sold for this purpose, that open when the authorized person sticks his hand through an opening. In other words, someone can get to a locked-up gun in the time it takes to reach for said gun.

I don't know why Shoedecker characterized my reply as "ridicule".

>> "How does one communicate to potential robbers that one has acquired a gun?"

There are lots of ways that one might provide that information. A suspicious bulge is one. An idle comment is another. Heck - during the robbery, a simple statement is often timely.

Shoemaker seems suspicious of the idea that thugs avoid with-gun targets. The relevant research, including surveys, found that his suspicion unwarranted. Thugs don't seem to like getting shot much more than the rest of us.

#90 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 03:46 PM:

>> You folks who keep your guns out and handy because you don't have children, I hope no children visit you either.

The modern house, even those where said children reside, has lots of dangers for unsupervised children.

The actual injury/death stats show that guns aren't all that close to the top of the list. Perhaps that's because gun owners behave far more responsibly than Shoedecker implies. Or, maybe it's because folks are way too sloppy with other things. (I suspect both causes are factors.)

#91 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 04:32 PM:

Oh, not again. A couple of times lately I've tried to post comments here and had my text disappear. Let me see if I can recover it ...

Drat. No such luck.

Here's the gist of the lost comments. Mind, that message was much better written.

First, Clark, I've been helping run conventions off and on for a couple of decades now, and there are reasons why their weapons policies are broad, simple, and inclusive. Bill Bowers put this one best: "If you make rules, fans will find exceptions to them. If you make too many rules, they'll go out of their way to do it."

Do there have to be weapons policies? Yes. You probably already know the story about the guys at a convention in the DC area. I'll cite one other: The guy who was walking around at a Norwescon with a long, sharp, unscabbarded sword thrust through his belt. It stuck out behind him like a scorpion's tail, and scribed a toddler-level circle in the air every time he turned. I had a word with him. Took a while to get the idea across. I can deal with the loss of certain costuming possibilities better than I can deal with trauma cases at conventions.

There's nothing wrong per se with policies against fly posting (i.e. hardcopy spam), graffiti, and the improper disposal of used chewing gum. The presence or absence of those street-level markers makes a lot of difference in the way people behave. The social contract is more strongly in force in an ungraffiti'd subway car.

I refuse to comment on or take responsibility for David Brin's thought processes.

Simon, you're getting a bit flustery. Is there any way I can get you to think it possible that we're not just being negligent? There are differences of opinion in this discussion, but there's also a lot of worldly experience and technical expertise. And wouldn't you rather live in a world where otherwise reasonable-seeming people like me, or Jim, or Graydon, don't just randomly and inexplicably do crazy things with firearms?

#92 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 04:46 PM:

Andy Freeman writes, "The 'early frontier' literature is filled with such accounts." Is there, then, a review of that literature which evaluates its credibility, and the frequency of the events recounted? Or is there a credible period source that did that job? The same question applies with even greater force to the hypothetical case of going prepared to an expected attack--how often did it actually happen?

This may sound like wiffle-waffle, but consider: reading our newspapers, one would think most of us here in the USA we are constantly at risk of personal violence, and yet (except in certain areas and social groups) in actuality such violence is rare. Our fiction, like Varney, is intensely violent, yet our day-to-day lives are largely not. Period accounts without evaluation prove very little.

Returning to period weapons, it seems worth emphasizing what I didn't quite say the last time: that a weapon which fails randomly, and is likely to fail during rain is not something I'd want to use as a first defense, and keeping a muzzle-loader safely ready to fire is a lot of work; it's not like it can just be left loaded like a modern pistol. In a situation where I had warning and an extra weapon (or even better a friend to ask along), sure, but for surprise attacks I'd infinitely prefer a staff, or a knife in close-in combat.

Beyond that, it sounds like a look at some of Cramer's data is in order, when I find time.

#93 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 05:30 PM:

Don't mean to inject Brin as a personality but as a concrete example familiar to but removed from this discussion. Anecdotal evidence seems to be terribly popular here except when it goes against revelation in which case a mere single example does not suffice for an existence proof (what then does?)- perfectly possible to fill in another name and example to make the same point - that despite Manuscript Found In a Chinese Fortune Cookie writers don't know it all outside their own worlds and neither does anybody else. But we think we do. Real life is not a MUD and communication with the game runner is pretty uncertain from where I sit. Another rephrasing or reframing or whatever might make sense - people suggest universal rules of specific application taking their own experience and ideas as universal. Be happy to introduce you to a Quaker Freedom Rider who in the 1960's discovered a certain comfort from a host family including strong men armed and ready to do violence on their own and the Yankee's behalf - didn't change his own views but it reduced his missionary in some areas and not at all in others. Backing off from the specifics of banning say Winchester Black Talon but not Remington Golden Saber to the sort of higher level of abstraction where experience really is equal might produce more light and less heat - that is rules for weapons in real life might be more like weapons at a Con than some here acknowledge.

#94 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 05:41 PM:

Never have been able to understand the impulse to run a convention bigger than say Moscon at its best. Sort of the Ed Parker school of weapons control worked there for a long time - of course some of the folks learned it from Ed Parker - in the fullness of time Moscon died as all things must and the zombie has been quite unhealthy - such things happen.
Weapons seem to me to fail either haphazardly or according to Murphy's law rather than randomly but that is a rant for another day. Screw barrel pistols were almost by definition not loaded on demand. See the Don Davis/ Mel Tappan writings for flintlocks (using French agates of course) as survivalists tools - or just sing Leslie Fish on black powder and alcohol - I have faith in my revelation!

#95 ::: ClarkEMyers ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 05:55 PM:

Oh, in addition to Foxfire Five for some hands on about blackpowder firearms and their use in America for something more from the era and a different place, see also Diderot's Encyclopedia many think of it as written to be authoritative and to be accepted hence credible and not readily or obviously false to experience of the time.

#96 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 06:12 PM:

What in the world is "personal self-defense"?

Is that any use of firearms other than by an organized army, and outside of prearranged events like duels, such that the user is not an unjust aggressor?

It strikes me as intuitively obvious that people started using firearms for personal self-defense about thirty seconds after the creation of the first firearm that could be carried and used by a single person.

It further strikes me that there is no other possible use for the such weapons as the Deringer, yet we know that Deringers existed.

#97 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 06:15 PM:

>> Andy Freeman writes, "The 'early frontier' literature is filled with such accounts." Is there, then, a review of that literature which evaluates its credibility, and the frequency of the events recounted?

I didn't write "fictional literature"....

Maybe they lied, but if that's the argument, I want to see the supporting evidence.

>> The same question applies with even greater force to the hypothetical case of going prepared to an expected attack--how often did it actually happen?

I lock my car doors every time I go near a bad neighborhood. Also, I note that 911 isn't all that useful if all attacks were complete surprises.

Yet, it's hard to believe that folks in the 1700s might take extra precautions when they thought that they'd be in extra danger....

Or, maybe they hadn't developed a sense of danger....

>> that a weapon which fails randomly,

The failures aren't random....

>> and is likely to fail during rain is not something I'd want to use as a first defense

If it was up to me, there'd be no reason for me to have any lines of defense. However, utopia, like perfection, is not an option.

>> keeping a muzzle-loader safely ready to fire is a lot of work;

And, it continues to be unnecessary to get the majority of the benefit. There are various states of readiness.

>> In a situation where I had warning and an extra weapon (or even better a friend to ask along)

You hear someone trying to break in, or you notice someone tailing you, etc....

There are scads of situations where you've got time, what's at hand, and that's it. (The utility of unavailable options continues to be irrelevant.)

>> but for surprise attacks I'd infinitely prefer a staff, or a knife in close-in combat.

I prefer ninjas.

#98 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 06:34 PM:

I'm a bit confused. If muzzle loaders weren't useful, why did they have them? (Yes, one might have both guns and knives - or even combinations of the two, and a long gun is a stiff pole.)

Or, is the argument that they're useful for some things, but completely useless for self-defense? (Ninja's aside, paper-fans satisfy that description, but what other weapons do?)

I'm still waiting to hear why technology is relevant to the second amendment when it isn't relevant to the first.

#99 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 07:30 PM:

Tag!

Congratulations, everyone; this is the first time one of the comments sections in my weblog has hit three digits.

#100 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 07:52 PM:

Muzzle loaders were useful for military purposes. They were deadly when they hit (which wasn't often), it was relatively easy to train people to use them, and it didn't matter if some of the muskets in a volley misfired (which usually happenned.) Muskets also covered the battlefield in smoke (smokless powder was invented in 1880 or so), ensuring that bows--or anything which could be aimed--were useless after the first volleys. (Soldiers of the period were discouraged from aiming muskets.) Brown Bess was as much polearm as firearm; it was 46" long and could be equipped with a bayonet.

It's a far cry from what a series of innovations in design and manufacturing made of rifles by the Civil War; a Civil War rifle was very close to a modern rifle, save only that it still used smoking powder.

In terms of understanding the intent of the Framers, it seems important to remember that the idea of sleeping with a loaded gun at the ready was the act of a desperate man, a fool, or a madman. Their idea of personal self-defense was necessarily very different from ours and, in fact, what I've read of what little they wrote about the second amendment was largely about the militia. Although--I think--English Common Law did recognize a limited right to personal firearms ownership and this may have been in the Framers minds, my limited research did not find them writing about it very much.

#101 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 07:56 PM:

Randolph, some of my ancestors did that, and they weren't notable lunatics.

#102 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 08:01 PM:

Teresa wrote,

And wouldn't you rather live in a world where otherwise reasonable-seeming people like me, or Jim, or Graydon, don't just randomly and inexplicably do crazy things with firearms?

Well, yes, now that you mention it, I would. Quite a bit.

#103 ::: Kevin Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2002, 10:06 PM:

Randoph:

You really need to read more history. You are aware, I hope, that Arming America has been thoroughly discredited? Not just the probate data?

Muzzle-loading muskets weren't accurate, but muzzle-loading rifles were, and still are. The difference was the speed in loading. The smoothbore musket loads faster, and together with its inherent inaccuracy lead to massed volley fire. And even with the massive clouds of smoke, volley fire (which is essentially, "point it in the general direction of the enemy and let fly") tends to hit something when the target is a mass of flesh standing shoulder-to-shoulder in ranks three or more deep.

Rifles are slow to load because the projectile must be forced into the rifling and all the way down to the breech. It's not easy. But a muzzle-loading rifle is quite accurate by aimed fire. One thing the British detested about Americans is that our militia seldom stood toe-to-toe and slugged it out in proper form. Instead they sniped from behind cover at ranges the Brown Bess couldn't reach.

The standard Civil War musket wasn't much advanced past the Revolutionary War musket. Most were smoothbores, and firing a "buck-n-ball" load (one standard musket ball and three buckshot) was the biggest improvement for the standard-armed footsoldier. The rifleman got the minie9-ball, which increased his rate of fire because it was much easier to load, but still as accurate. (I'll skip the engineering pre9cis.) Yes, the technology had marched on, but the military moved quite slowly. By the end of the war, the technology had progressed a long way, and a lot of it was in the hands of the troops.

Sleeping with a loaded gun was not the "act of a madman" when one was out travelling. NOT having a firearm ready to go was the irrational position. You never knew if food, predator, or criminal was around. "Better to have and not need, than need and not have." If your weapon misfired, it still made an effective club. Most travellers had more than one weapon in that event.

#104 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 12:20 AM:

>> Their idea of personal self-defense was necessarily very different from ours and,

Huh? The idea of personal self-defense is and has always been personal survival.

It is true that they felt very differently about professional police than we do. They felt that such folk were largely useless and generally corrupt.

>> in fact, what I've read of what little they wrote about the second amendment was largely about the militia.

That's true, but that's mostly because they couldn't conceive of a govt that interfered with personal self-defense.

Of course, their notion of militia had nothing to do with the National Guard (created in the mid 1800s) or other govt organizations.

And, yes, some of the founders felt that a select militia (read professional army) was superior, but none of them thought that the 2nd amendment had anything to do with such an organization.

#105 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 12:41 AM:

>> In terms of understanding the intent of the Framers, it seems important to remember that the idea of sleeping with a loaded gun at the ready was the act of a desperate man, a fool, or a madman.

Not only doesn't that "fact" have anything to do with understanding "intent", it's wrong in essential details.

It's important to remember that there are at least two "loaded" states for muzzle-loaders.

A gun with powder and a ball is reasonably safe and can safely stay in that condition for days, if not significantly longer. (A museum recently found out that some of its guns had been in that condition for dozens to 200 years.) With the priming hole covered (and yes, they did have plugs and covers), such a gun is even reasonably waterproof.

It's only when they're primed that things get "interesting". Compared to the rest of the process, priming is relatively fast.

In other words, it's quite safe to sleep with a "mostly loaded" muzzle-loader.

Moreover, even if it wasn't, why would that have anything to do with the "intent" of the Framers?

BTW - Breech loading small arms were not unknown in the 1790s; a British force used them during the American Revolution. (Some early cannon in the late 1500s were breech-loaders. Muzzle-loading cannon more popular because they were stronger before folks figured out good mechanisms, but ....)

The paper cartridge, versions of which work for muzzle loaders, was invented in the late 1500s.

#106 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 01:28 AM:

Yes, I agree with all those comments. Well, except--nit!--that some Civil War muskets were rifled; I'm not sure they even used the term "rifle" the way we do. (An abridged version of the US Army's American Military History is available here.) Most of my information in this area comes from military and technological history--Bellesiles, I agree, is not credible. Discouragingly, there appears to have been almost no social history of weapons in the USA written, which would be of great value in this discussion.

Returning to the subject at hand, I don't see that these make that much difference to the my basic argument; the Framers weren't thinking about firearms they way we do, because their firearms were different and their attitudes about personal defense were different. The Second Amendment has never been reinterpreted to account for all the history between its writing and our times. I think rewriting history to make it sound like the Framer's ideas were similar to ours is a damn poor way to start, however!

#107 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 01:49 AM:

Oof! I have to qualify that; Andy Freeman slipped in with two posts while I was writing, and I don't agree with them. Briefly, then:

  1. The problems with a long-loaded flintlock come when one tries to use it! It may misfire, possibly dangerously.
  2. The Framer's idea of militia definitely did have a lot to do with what we want to call "government"--see Mahon's History of the Militia and the National Guard, or just review the various militia acts.
  3. "Couldn't conceive of a government that interfered with personal self-defense?" Dear gods, the more conservative of the Federalists, who wanted to set up an aristocracy? Of course they could. By the standards of most Federalists, most of our conservatives would probably seem like flaming radicals.
  4. I think you're right about police, though.

#108 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 09:08 AM:

Randolph:

You wrote: "I'm not sure they even used the term "rifle" the way we do."

I'm fascinated. What did Civil War era people mean by the word "rifle"? What do we mean by the word now?

Compare and contrast. Be specific. Use examples.

#109 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 12:43 PM:

Well of course they didn't use the term rifle the way we do, they used it with proper distinction between rifle and carbine - just kidding folks, see e.g. the puff and exageration used in merchandising the Spencer - an early example of a weapon described as being effective in terms that seem to scare people today - tip folks, if it doesn't have a milled dustcover it isn't an AK-47, though it may be an AK.

#110 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 01:02 PM:

>> The Framer's idea of militia definitely did have a lot to do with what we want to call "government"

Fritz is playing on the fact that "militia" had two usages. One, the "select militia" was a govt organization, akin to an army.

However, we were discussing the 2nd amendment, where the word "select" never appears. Militia unmodified was well-understood in the 1790s to be an armed citizenry that.

Yes, the 2nd actually uses the phrase "well-regulated militia". However, "well-regulated" does not imply govt involvement - it is a statement of competence and effectiveness. (Which makes sense, a competent and effective militia is useful for defending a free state.)

Those of us old enough to remember mechanical clocks might also remember the name of the mechanism used to adjust how fast they ran. Yup, it's a "regulator".

Regulated is also a term of art in firearms. Regulation is the process of adjusting a multiple barrel firearm so that the barrels shoot to the appropriate aiming point, usually the same point for all barrels. A regulated firearm is one that has undergone this process.

And, the term "well regulated militia" has other contemporary usage that makes it clear that it s independent of govt control.

#111 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 01:10 PM:

>> "--see Mahon's History of the Militia and the National Guard, or just review the various militia acts.

Yes, do. (Cramer's done a fair amount of work showing what the militia acts actually did.)

You'll find that the early militia acts strongly encouraged private ownership.

You'll also find that they required imposed some duties on all suitable citizens. (Such as requiring ownership absent good excuse.)

What you won't find is anything like "if we let you belong to certain govt organizations, you can have a gun".

You'll find that various govt organizations did transition into national guard units.

You'll find that the national guard is a branch of the US army. The only interesting distinguishing characteristics is that its soldiers can have day jobs and that its command is frequently delegated to state governors. However, as Dukakis found when Reagan decided to send units from MA to Nicaragua to build airports, that delegation is discretionary. (The president has significant powers of delegation.)

You'll find that the US Govt holds title to the guns.

You'll also find that the National Guard was formed around the time of the Civil War, so it's rather absurd to argue that it has anything to do with the 2nd, which was ratified decades earlier.

#112 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 01:27 PM:

>> The problems with a long-loaded flintlock come when one tries to use it! It may misfire, possibly dangerously.

Okay, so now Fritz has abandoned the "it's risky to have available for self-defense" argument in favor of "it's always risky".

I am curious as to Fritz' actual knowledge of the quantitative risks of flintlocks and why he thinks that his evaluation is superior to that of the folks who actually had to live with their decision.

Yes, there is some level of risk, just as there us with modern guns, yet the folks who had them obviously felt that the risk was worth the benefits.

And, those folks were quite common. As near as anyone can honestly tell, almost everyone who could afford one (and who wasn't legally forbidden, which was a small group), did. And, guns were reasonably affordable so the fraction that did is rather overwhelming.

Yes, flintlocks are more dangerous to the firer than modern guns. That makes modern guns even more appropriate, and we already know that flintlocks were appropriate enough that the founders protected their ownership with an amendment....

I'm always looking for any evidence showing that the 2nd was ratified as something other than an individual right. (Hamilton's comments that the individual right wasn't enough, that the US would need an army, isn't such evidence.)

#113 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 01:34 PM:

>> "Couldn't conceive of a government that interfered with personal self-defense?" Dear gods, the more conservative of the Federalists, who wanted to set up an aristocracy?

So what? An aristocracy is not inconsistent with a right for folks to defend themselves against criminal attack.

#114 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 02:29 PM:

Is it formally in any FAQ as a corollary to Godwin's Law that when the 2nd Amendment is brought up rational discussion is over?

Or perhaps that applies when this general subject comes up?

If the Kares or anybody else around Puget Sound want to practice with small or large handguns something could be worked out. I have a 6mm Rem with a shortened stock for smaller people as well.

#115 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2002, 06:17 PM:

I have an idea -- at Boskone, why not organize an expedition to the Manchester shooting range? It's about an hour north of the hotel.

gee whiz, I've sure missed a lot of stuff here over the past weekend in Montreal.

The Braintree Rifle and Pistol range is just 15 minutes south of Boston. Unfortunately, I'm no longer a member....

I don't suppose anyone here...??


#116 ::: Kevin Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2002, 10:11 AM:

Clark Meyers wrote: "Is it formally in any FAQ as a corollary to Godwin's Law that when the 2nd Amendment is brought up rational discussion is over?"

No, rational discussion isn't over, but the signal-to-noise ratio drops significantly.

#117 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2002, 11:15 AM:

Bringing up the Constitution is seldom a constructive move. Bringing up the intent behind the Constitution is a maneuver that falls somewhere between doing close analyses of religious texts, and claiming the lurkers support you in e-mail

#118 ::: Kevin Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2002, 07:11 PM:

Teresa wrote: "Bringing up the Constitution is seldom a constructive move."

Au contraire, mon ami! Discussing it, and the intent behind it is important. The school system doesn't really teach it anymore, so public discourse on it is critical. Rights are what the majority of a society believes they are. The fight over the last fifty years has been to change what "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" means in the minds of the general public, and in turn the minds of the judiciary.

The meaning of those words went unchallenged for over a hundred years after passage. There was some question over just who the people were, but not what the words meant.

The problem is, there's a large number of people who want to radically change what the words mean, and an equally large number intent on restoring the intent, widened to meet modern reality - as we've done with most all of the other "rights of the people."

That scares the hell out of some people.

So we've got to discuss it, low signal-to-noise ratio notwithstanding.

#119 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 02:12 AM:

"Bringing up the intent behind the Constitution is a maneuver that falls somewhere between doing close analyses of religious texts, and claiming the lurkers support you in e-mail"

Ghost lurkers, hmmm.

Anyhow, I'm posting briefly to let everyone know that an old friend has convinced of the error of my ways, and that I was wrong about the use of flintlocks in self defense--they were used for personal self-defense in the period, and there are reliable citations that say so.

There is too much here to answer point by point on my current schedule; I'm going to offer some bits from my previous Usenet writings on the militia. There are even some references, if anyone really wants to know more. And this is too damn long.

  1. On the "well-regulated" militia:

    Andrew Fletcher in the late 17th century used the term well-regulated militia in the sense of one regulated by regulations, so the claim that that sense of the word didn't exist is wrong. This is what I wrote about him the last time I went over this ground, slightly edited:

    It seems to me likely that the Framers drew very heavily on Fletcher, though I am not certain of it--an expert in the period would know. The phrase, "well-regulated militia" appears in his text and it may be the first use of it; it is the oldest use I am aware of. (However, it may not be the first.) Here we have someone who would indeed arm each man. He would also draft each man at the age of 22. If they have the money they would be required to support themselves for two years of militia training; if not, they would be supported for a year 'at the expense of the public.' Once released from this draft they are to meet every week to practice for four hours, and a week each summer. One can see in this the antecedents of actual US militia practices. However, one thing is also very clear: this is a man who advocates a substantial social obligation to go along with the right to keep and bear arms.

  2. On the personal RKBA: "English common law included a right to keep arms; however it was a limited right, and subject to regulation under what were usually called game laws." The source for this is Cottrol's excellent book, which I've cited below--sorry, don't have a more specific cite.
  3. Washington, on the militia. Quoted and with a comment by Mahon.
    "They come in," [Washington] wrote, "you cannot tell how, go you cannot tell when, and act you cannot tell where, consume your provisions, exhaust your stores, and leave you at last at a critical moment." Yet it was the militia, however unreliable, that saw his army through 1775.
  4. Intent of the second amendment. This was my second shot at this, and it leaves more open than it settles. I think we will have to create moral high ground in this area, if we really want it.
    I think it likely the text of the Second was carefully chosen to provide a compromise acceptable in the political space of the time--the Second Convention could not grant a strong personal RKBA because of opposition from the conservative Federalists and the pacifist Quakers, nor could it deny one because of opposition from the liberal Federalists and the anti-Federalists. Militias and an RKBA being inseparable in the thinking of the time, the Framers wrote a Second Amendment they could agree on, bequeathing their dispute to later generations.
Andy Freeman, where did you find your information on militias? I don't think much of the source.

References:

  1. Cite: Fletcher, Andrew. *A discourse of government with relation to
    militias,* 1698. Collected in *Selected political writings and speeches / Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun* edited by David Daiches. Edinburgh : Scottish Academic Press, 1979.

  • Cottrol, editor. *Gun control and the Constitution : sources and explorations on the Second Amendment*, 1994.
  • Mahon, John K. History of the militia and the National Guard. New York : London : Macmillan ; Collier Macmillan, c1983.

  • #120 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 10:19 AM:

    Kevin, I didn't say the Constitution, and intent of the framers of the Constitution, aren't important. I was talking about tendencies in online argument, and I'll stand by my opinions.

    Setting out to discuss the Constitution is one thing. It can be done well or bady. It's another thing to invoke the Constitution in the midst of some other argument. I freely admit that it can be done well, bringing illumination to a muddled discussion; but that's not what usually happens. Some people know a great deal about the Constitution, and some know next to nothing; but how often do you meet a person who doesn't have opinions about it?

    I was speaking even more carefully when I said:

    Bringing up the intent behind the Constitution is a maneuver that falls somewhere between doing close analyses of religious texts, and claiming the lurkers support you in e-mail.
    Plot it along a single line. At one end, a person who's discussing the intentions of the framers of the Constitution might be doing a painstaking, scholarly analysis, drawing on the large, diverse, and sometimes refractory body of evidence available to us.

    At the other end of that line, a person might be carelessly and ignorantly invoking the framers' intentions in support of a failing argument, much as untalented Usenet flamers will sometimes claim they're getting heaps of supportive e-mail from the lurkers in that newsgroup.

    I hold that in informal online discussions, all comments about the intentions of the framers of the Constitution will fall somewhere between those two points.

    I further observe that when people who are unacquainted with each other are writing at short length, and when the framers' intentions are a side issue in a discussion of some other subject, it's often not immediately apparent exactly where along that line a given comment belongs.

    Trouble ensues.

    #121 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 10:55 AM:

    I'm always amazed at the energy with which people pursue the well-worn paths of the gun debate. I don't think I've heard anything I haven't heard before in 10 years or more. The sheer irrational emotionalism involved in the debate troubles me. I've seen Molly Ivins, normally a funny and sharp columnist, present an argument against gun control, and then conclude that it proved the need for gun control; it was the oddest thing. If the pro-gun people sound a little more rational, I think it is only because the statistics are on their side, not because they are making any more real sense. Their own responses are as deep-seated and irrational as the other side.

    The presidential election, and then the gubenatorial election here in Minnesota made me realize that in real political terms, we are forced to choose between guns and abortion. Surprisingly unsurprising, the men I know chose guns and the women I know chose abortion. When pressed last night, my boyfriend said that, if forced to choose in a tight race between a strong anti-abortion, pro-gun candidate and a strong pro-choice, anti-gun candidate, he would vote third party. He simply cannot vote for someone who is opposed to the right to bear arms.

    This shocked me. What he is saying is that his right to bear arms is as intimate and important to him as my right to control my body is to me. Maybe a little bit more so, because it's his body. One always feels a bit more possessive about oneself. Does he see guns as an exemplar of self-defense, and self-defense as an issue about one's physical self? I think he must.

    In the next year, Minnesota is likely to end up with a "right to carry law" and a 24 hour waiting period for abortions. This depresses me. I think it's a terrible deal. I don't care about the "right to carry" law all that much. Knock yourself out, guys. However, the 24 hour waiting period is one more roadblock for poor or desperate women. It is also offensively paternalistic, but let that go.

    No one I know, on either side of this, likes having to make the choice between guns and abortion. Do the gun control groups really help the democrats that much? From where I am, which is admittedly not representative of the political body as a whole, there are a lot of votes to pick up for a candidate who is pro-gun and pro-choice. It's one of the reasons people voted for Jesse Ventura, for heavens sake.

    (Teresa, if I've just lit a powder keg in your blog, I'm really sorry.)

    #122 ::: Ralph Phelan ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 12:38 PM:

    Randolph:

    "the Framers weren't thinking about firearms they way we do, because their firearms were different and their attitudes about personal defense were different. "

    Damn strait about their attitudes about personal defense. I doubt they could have even conceived of the notion of someone being prosecuted for murder because they shot a burglar in their own home.

    #123 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 02:32 PM:

    When you start talking about the intent of the Framers, you get into weird ground. The Framers did not intend people to have a protected right to have AR-15s. They did not intend to exclude AR-15s, either. I would venture to say that none of them (except maybe Franklin) could even have imagined an AR-15.

    If you're going to claim that we're only talking about the kinds of "arms" they knew about, then we're talking strictly about weapons that were available by 1789. If we're going to claim that all arms are protected, why not HEAVY arms? Why not STRATEGIC arms?

    Doesn't it allow me to have explosives in my house, and bear them around in my Ryder truck? How about live artillery shells? (Even the 1789 test won't get rid of them: the "bombs bursting in air" were probably things we don't want citizens keeping in city apartments.)

    I would say it's obvious we don't want to include those. And also that the Framers didn't think of everything. So someone has to apply some kind of reasonableness test. In our society, the courts (ultimately, alas, our Republican Supreme Court) get to do that, because as Donald Kingsbury once put it, "The Law is not what is written, but what is read."

    In my personal opinion we also don't want to live in a society where only the government has guns, especially given the current sorry state of our government. But we have to draw the line somewhere, and the Framers didn't do it for us.

    #124 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 03:47 PM:

    Chris, as I remarked, I don't think the Framers agreed on what was allowed. Probably, somewhere, there were anti-Federalists who would have thought explosives were just fine, thanks.

    Explosives are used in building and contractors have easy access to them. I think you are allowed to have explosives in your house. Fairly destructive explosives can be made from most inorganic nitrogen compounds, which means ammonia and some fertilizers. You can make chlorine from common household chemicals, too, which is a pretty nasty gaseous toxin. I don't think there's any law against artillery shells, either.

    There are strict regulations on the ownersihp of fully-automatic weapons. There are laws against private armies and, as far as I know, have been since before the forming of the USA. (Although before the Civil War, on the frontier, it was, I think, fairly common for militias to be organized informally. Which may to be where the idea there was a right to do such things comes from.)

    I dunno. I think we have a violence problem, rather than a gun problem. Terrorism may create a gun problem, though--firearms are easily available to terrorists operating in the USA. It will be interesting (for certain values of interesting) to see our right-wing extremists try to figure out how to deal with this conflict between their two ideals.

    #125 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 04:13 PM:

    Few things are obvious. FREX it is not obvious we don't want to include "those" in right to own - with the possible exception of those of us who strongly support selective enforcement (cf. Thoreau's notion that the law ought to be portable and understandable, something to carry under one's arm {on the way to jail as a war protester perhaps - war of 1848 that is})- in fact, in order to cover the rioter who has not yet assembled a Molotov Cocktail but is carrying gasoline, rags and bottles (legislative history), possession of components is mostly against Federal statute law for everybody, not just for rioters (first catch your rioter) but we mostly all have them just the same. Some say the N.Y. Sullivan Act (gun grabbing) was written to outlaw something everyone did so as to permit selective enforcement against an enemies list.

    Seems to me some folks here are suggesting that IFF a Legislature doesn't do what they want the Courts are obliged to and on both sides of some issues. Given a Republic if we can keep it - why then Take Back Your Government - there is a reason it is called the Bill of Rights.

    Personal anecdote of a discussion on this subject - I was talking to Al Menard in the Menard Building of the University of Idaho College of Law about the English Bill of Rights guaranteeing Protestants personal arms "suitable to their condition" and he said and I agreed all the resources of that library were insufficient for us to answer a simple question. AKICIF but we are not going to answer such questions here either. That's one reason the NRA is a single issue block, just like say Alcoholics Anonymous, embracing people who disagree on other issues.

    #126 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 09:24 PM:

    It's okay, Lydy. I figure the increasing time it takes the comments window to load will eventually impose a limit on the thread.

    Amen to your comments about the well-worn ruts of the gun control argument; and yet there were moments here when it was new. Getting people to talk about the diversity their personal experience of guns, instead of going at each other with the standard nerf-halberds of theoretical policy discussion, was turning up some interesting material.

    I need to get on the PA and make a general announcement now.


    *****************
    * ANNOUNCEMENT *
    *****************

    If anyone starts arguing purely about abortion, as opposed to abortion as one of several interdependent issues that rile up the electorate, I will use the Virtual Red Pencil of Doom on their posts. I have spoken.

    #127 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 09:49 PM:

    You may right, Christopher, except insofar as every poor shnook who's ever had a dozen guys coming at him at once has passionately wished he had something like an AR-15.

    Beth Meacham has an interesting theory about the Second Amendment. She says it's clear that the amendment is talking about the right of citizens to take up arms in a military context, in order to defend their freedom.

    This, she says, does not guarantee the right to bear arms for the purpose of individual self-defense, since you're not a militia and you're not defending the security of your free state. Neither does it guarantee the right to bear small arms like handguns, since they have no practical military use.

    However, she continues, it does secure to the citizens the right to keep and bear arms that are militarily effectual, such as assault rifles, machine guns, bazookas, and rocket launchers.

    She also thinks it's arguable that if you read it correctly, the Second Amendment requires rather than allows the citizenry to do this.

    #128 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 11:51 PM:

    >> Andy Freeman, where did you find your information on militias? I don't think much of the source.

    First the sentence, then the trial.

    Interestingly enough, Fletcher is one of my sources, and Fritz' quote makes my point.

    I note also that the 2nd doesn't say that the militia has any right. It says that a certain kind of militia is required, therefore PEOPLE have a right.

    Of course, there's rarely anything new in gun control arguments, so I'll use this message to respond to Fritz' response to the above distinction.

    Fritz wouldn't make that response if a right that he valued was expressed in the form of the 2nd amendment. We can see this by analyzing a variation where we stipulate a point that Fritz likes (even though it's wrong).

    "Well-educated civil servants being necessary to good govt, the right of the people to have and read books shall not be infringed."

    He'd never argue that such an amendment would allow any restriction on book ownership, even books printed by high-speed four-color presses. Heck - he'd even find that it protected everyone's right to own a high-speed four-color press, something that was clearly beyond the framer's imagination. (Repeaters and even automatics weren't, because they'd seen them.)

    #129 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2002, 11:59 PM:

    >> Washington, on the militia. Quoted and with a comment by Mahon.

    >> "They come in," [Washington] wrote, "you cannot tell how, go you cannot tell when, and act you cannot tell where, consume your provisions, exhaust your stores, and leave you at last at a critical moment." Yet it was the militia, however unreliable, that saw his army through 1775.

    While this passage does demonstrate that "the militia" is not an organization under govt control and it tells us that Washington doesn't much like the militia, it doesn't tell us that the 2nd isn't about a militia.

    Maybe an analogy would help. Suppose that there was a proposal to license drivers for some good purpose. Various people might reasonably point out that such a system might not accomplish said good purpose. Nevertheless, the proposal, if it became law, would require licensing.

    Folks who continued to object to licensing could use that failure as part of their argument to repeal said law, but that failure would not be a defense for those convicted of violating it.

    In other words, we're still waiting for Fritz to find anyone in the 1790s who thought that the 2nd was something other than an individual right. It's not enough to find folks who said "it will never work".


    #130 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 12:13 AM:

    >> However, the 24 hour waiting period is one more roadblock for poor or desperate women. It is also offensively paternalistic, but let that go.

    I agree. However, 24 hours is nothing. In CA, it's 15 days.

    What? We weren't talking about a waiting period for gun buyers?

    (No, there's no "background check" reason for a waiting period and yes, a delay can have horrible consequences.)

    #131 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 02:47 AM:

    "While this passage does demonstrate that 'the militia' is not an organization under govt control"

    Actually, no, what it reflects is that the militia of the time didn't obey its obligations. Even when it did so, the term of service was only 90 days. So far as I know, militia service has, when the militia is operating, always been an obligation, even back to the times of the fyrd. In fact, in the pre-Civil War period we've been discussing, it was often a resented obligation, managing, from the viewpoint of objectors, to combine the worse characteristics of conscription and taxation.

    If you have evidence to the contrary, bring it forth!

    #132 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 02:50 AM:

    Oh, and it seems worth adding that nowhere in this entire argument, have I taken a position about gun control, except to hint that it might be the wrong solution to a problem of violence.

    Revising history for political purposes, on the other hand...

    #133 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 02:58 AM:

    "Damn strait about [the Framers] attitudes about personal defense. I doubt they could have even conceived of the notion of someone being prosecuted for murder because they shot a burglar in their own home."

    Even the pacifists? I was surprised to find, when I researched this about six years ago, that there were a fair number of them, though I'm not sure what their role in Framing the constitution was. "The Framers" were a varied group, with varied goals.

    #134 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 03:23 AM:

    "In other words, we're still waiting for Fritz to find anyone in the 1790s who thought that the 2nd was something other than an individual right."

    Alexander Hamilton, author of many of the Federalist papers. Quite the elitist, as I understand him, and I think it unlikely he would support arming the rabble. That goes for most of the more conservative Federalists, and yet many of them voted for it. And, b'golly, here's something on the web that gives Madison's original proposal for the Bill of Rights, with an additional
    clause
    in the Second Amendment. "...but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person." Sure looks like he was thinking of a militia obligation.

    When I looked--and I did do a fair bit of reading--I was astonished that I couldn't find anyone who thought that there was an individual right. All the published discussion I read was about the militia, and how to provide a safely controllable military for a democracy. I had to go to essays on English common law (in Cottrol) to find that there once was such a right, and I infer that there were probably people at the time of the passing of the Bill of Rights who did think it was important.

    I'm not in particular sympathy with Hamilton's elitism, though.

    #135 ::: Kevin Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 11:30 AM:

    (Continuing to beat a dead horse:)

    Randolph Fritz wrote: "When I looked--and I did do a fair bit of reading--I was astonished that I couldn't find anyone who thought that there was an individual right. All the published discussion I read was about the militia, and how to provide a safely controllable military for a democracy."

    In those discussions, who was supposed to provide the arms?

    I imagine you also didn't find anybody who thought there wasn't an individual right. I doubt severely that the right was discussed. You are correct - the Second Amendment isn't about self-defense or hunting, it's about the militia, and it's based on the belief that the populace must be armed so that a useful militia can be formed. That's why "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

    Hunting and self-defense were a given.

    #136 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 12:34 PM:

    Teresa writes: You may right, Christopher, except insofar as every poor shnook who's ever had a dozen guys coming at him at once has passionately wished he had something like an AR-15.

    Hmm, not sure which part of my post that's in response to. I wasn't taking the position that people shouldn't be allowed to own AR-15s. And I'm sure people could already imagine guns that would fire over and over, but I still think they would have blenched at a demo of an AR-15, just as we would at a Goa'uld Hand Device.

    I think I maybe agree with Beth Meacham.

    And selective enforcement of law is something no democracy can tolerate; indeed if selective enforcement is broadly tolerated a police state becomes inevitable - at least when the laws are against universal practices. When they aren't, the police state is merely extremely likely.

    #137 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 02:23 PM:

    Clark said:
    If the Kares or anybody else around Puget Sound want to practice with small or large handguns something could be worked out. I have a 6mm Rem with a shortened stock for smaller people as well.

    Oh, I only just saw this (This past week has been far more interesting than you want to know about.) Thank you very much for the invitation, but... Um part of the interesting week is that the permanent move to Seattle, which was settled in August has suddenly come unstuck. We'll still be spending a fair amount of time here, but I am, once again, unsure how much, when, etc. If you want details, or to arrange shooting, email me.

    John F: You've been to Montreal too? Waah. Why is everyone going to Montreal but me? Oh, well. I got to see Jo anyway. And if a shooting thing happens at Boskone and I don't get to go, there will be Repercussions. (Meet me in the bar for martinis?)

    #138 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 02:52 PM:

    Me:
    >> "While this passage does demonstrate that 'the militia' is not an organization under govt control"

    Fritz:
    >> Actually, no, what it reflects is that the militia of the time didn't obey its obligations.

    That's simply not true. Washington was complaining that they weren't obligated to do as he wanted. If they'd been obligated, he'd have had recourse. He's complaining that they weren't so he didn't.

    #139 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 02:57 PM:

    Me:
    >> "In other words, we're still waiting for Fritz to find anyone in the 1790s who thought that the 2nd was something other than an individual right."

    >> Alexander Hamilton, author of many of the Federalist papers. Quite the elitist, as I understand him, and I think it unlikely he would support arming the rabble.

    As I wrote, there's plenty of evidence showing that Hamilton did think that relying on the militia was a bad idea.

    Yet, there's no evidence showing that he thought that the 2nd didn't protect an individual right.

    #140 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 03:04 PM:

    >> "...but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person." Sure looks like he was thinking of a militia obligation.

    The existence of a military obligation (I note that the US can draft folks even though that particular clause is NOT in the constitution) does not show that a "right of the people" is not an individual right.

    And, to the extent that that clause might have been construed as a limitation, I note that it was removed....

    I'm still waiting to hear why the meaning of "people" depends on whether guns are involved. Then again, Fritz won't be the first person to duck the "right of the people to keep and read books" amendment.

    #141 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 03:15 PM:

    >> When I looked--and I did do a fair bit of reading--I was astonished that I couldn't find anyone who thought that there was an individual right.

    So, did Fritz miss all the stuff about "the people shall be armed", and so on or does he think that "the people" can be armed without arming any individuals?

    I note that the Constitution uses "people" and "persons" in other places and no one seems to think that those aren't references to individuals acting alone or in concert.

    Maybe Fritz will tell us. Who can peacefully assemble? Who is "to be secure"? Who can be held without a warrant absent special circumstances? Whose rights are reserved or not to be denied or disparaged?

    #142 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 03:23 PM:

    >> And I'm sure people could already imagine guns that would fire over and over, but I still think they would have blenched at a demo of an AR-15

    Why? The plastic stock? The small bullets?

    #143 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 04:12 PM:

    "Neither does it guarantee the right to bear small arms like handguns, since they have no practical military use." See e.g. Soldiers for the Truth on the web where there is an extended discussion of handguns and other issue and personal weapons by folks some of whom are arguably talking from personal experience - if you don't have time to read Hack's books look at his (audited) list of awards before reading what he says about the M9 - if no military use then write your congress critters about the semi-custom handguns the MEU is getting, and try the H&K M23 Socom at a range sometime (personally I think it's too big for a handgun and fills the carbine role but I like the greasegun as a carbine from an early attachment so what do I know)

    Meanwhile anybody on this list can think of an old man in California who got a sword cane from his wife 40 years ago (think of the poker game story) and thus is liable to a mandatory year in jail in CA - good reason to live in Seattle - and explain why this makes any of us better off? Watch any letter openers in your briefcase if you go to Boston, they criminalize double edged knives there - feel safer? Why is my or any gun a threat? Folks actually make Phosgene at home by mistake fairly often, possession of components to combine nitrogen and iodine to eventually make a lovely UW purple cloud a crime?

    I repeat both Foxfire V and Diderot's Encyclopedia have full how to do it directions. Or just tape wires to a flashbulb and drop it down a hole closed at one end, follow with blackpowder, wad, fishing sinkers and other weights, wad, point and fire the flashbulb.

    Mostly I'd like to hear a case for any current law or proposal actually doing any good - or a real case for a tipping point where the accumulated restrictions will tip over into doing some good.

    #144 ::: ClarkEMyers ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 04:23 PM:

    Consider the riot or mutiny control duckfoot style multi-barrel pistols, turn barrel flintlocks, volley guns and roman candle style guns and figure the folks who could afford them or had seen the elephant had a good conception of how nice it would be to have multiple shots. I don't have references handy on harmonica guns for dates.

    Notice too that given targets aimed fire trumps full auto most every time, Alvin York claimed to have stopped a squad bayonet charge with his pistol carefully aimed - the appeal of going ratatattat is very real but not necessarily the optimal technique - on the other hand I knew a guy who toured Europe with other like minded young at the time men and who dearly loved his Thompson - I think that might be my preference over an M16 for close quarter combat - though I like very much the notion of the new USMC one heavy barrel scope sighted per squad for the rifle role .

    #145 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 08:22 PM:

    Mary Kay,

    You've been to Montreal too? Waah. Why is everyone going to Montreal but me? Oh, well. I got to see Jo anyway. And if a shooting thing happens at Boskone and I don't get to go, there will be Repercussions. (Meet me in the bar for martinis?)

    It's not as exciting as it sounds (meaning, not the city proper); went to visit my wife's family. But I do love driving up through the flat farmlands.

    Hey, martinis at Boskone sounds good to me!

    #146 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 08:59 PM:

    "Yet, there's no evidence showing that he thought that the 2nd didn't protect an individual right." What a fascinating idea. He never said it did, therefore it proves that it went without saying.

    "As I wrote, there's plenty of evidence showing that Hamilton did think that relying on the militia was a bad idea." Yes. He would much have preferred a select militia; he said so in Federalist Paper 29.

    Anyone who wants to know Hamilton's published opinion on the militia can read it here. For the rest, I am abandoning this line of discussion; I do not see how it is possible to conduct a meaningful discussion with people who claim that a lack of evidence constitutes proof.

    Randolph, concerned about the blue chimera that's creeping up from behind

    #147 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 09:08 PM:

    Kevin Baker, "In those discussions [of the militia in the then-new USA], who was supposed to provide the arms?"

    Well, wasn't that the question, now? Despite all the noble sentiment about the milita at the time of the constitutional convention, no level of government was willing to fund the dern thing, once the constitution had been ratified. Firearms of the period were relatively expensive--they were after all handmade out of expensive wrought iron. There were many people who regarded the requirement as a heavy tax.

    #148 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 09:22 PM:

    "What he is saying is that his right to bear arms is as intimate and important to him as my right to control my body is to me. Maybe a little bit more so, because it's his body. One always feels a bit more possessive about oneself. Does he see guns as an exemplar of self-defense, and self-defense as an issue about one's physical self? I think he must."

    As a culture, we have a big and very odd psychological issue here. Most crime--you may know this--is property crime, and firearms seldom make a difference to property crimes against individuals, since they mostly occur when the property owner isn't around. The men who perceive the greatest threat of personal violence are largely in the social groups least at risk (young black men are probably an exception, and women of any social group have a relatively high risk of domestic violence.) And yet these same people are so convinced of a threat to their persons that they feel they need firearms to defend themselves, and are willing to sacrifice all manner of freedoms to have them.

    Hunh?

    I do not trust this thinking, no, not at all.

    #149 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 09:41 PM:

    >> Most crime--you may know this--is property crime, and firearms seldom make a difference to property crimes against individuals, since they mostly occur when the property owner isn't around.

    And gun ownership has nothing to do with what crimes criminals choose to commit, right?

    Except, that Wright found that the criminals themselves said that it did. Maybe they were wrong.

    Let's do an experiment. Those who feels that general and unknown gun ownership in the community provides no benefit will put up signs indicating that their residence is gun-free.

    If they're correct, these signs will not increase their risks. In fact, by indicating that certain valuable objects are not present, the signs may even decrease their risks.

    What do you say Fritz. Will you put up a sign?

    #150 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2002, 10:00 PM:

    Me:
    >> Yet, there's no evidence showing that he thought that the 2nd didn't protect an individual right.

    Fritz:
    >> What a fascinating idea. He never said it did, therefore it proves that it went without saying.

    Nice straw man. Let's review what the challenge that Fritz is ducking.

    Fritz claims that "the people" in the 2nd amendment, unlike EVERY OTHER use of that term in the US Constitution, is not a reference to individuals.

    If he's right, surely there's some supporting evidence showing that "the people" in the 2nd is different.

    I'll wait. After all, it can't be the case that the difference is guns. Right?

    Or, maybe Fritz wants to argue that "Well-educated civil servants, being necessary to good govt, the right of the people to have and read books shall not be infringed." isn't an individual right either.... (Note that that rewrite stipulates one of Fritz positions.)

    #151 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2002, 02:43 AM:

    "...and are willing to sacrifice all manner of freedoms to have them."

    Can you name one or two of those freedoms?

    #152 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2002, 03:20 PM:

    I wrote "...and are willing to sacrifice all manner of freedoms to have them." And James MacDonald asks "Can you name one or two of those freedoms?"

    Sure. Control over one's own body is the obvious one, since an example has just been given. The legal decisions which protect abortion rights are based in control over one's own body, and, if that is to be ignored, we are subject to all manner of abuses, invasion of medical privacy being the most immediately obvious.

    #153 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2002, 03:31 PM:

    Me: And I'm sure people could already imagine guns that would fire over and over, but I still think they would have blenched at a demo of an AR-15.

    Andy Freeman: Why? The plastic stock? The small bullets?

    The sheer death-dealing ability of the weapon. Think how long it took one guy with any gun then available to kill ten people, even if they couldn't get away or fight back. With an AR-15 it might take you twenty seconds, if you're slow and careful.

    That's not to say they wouldn't WANT it; that would depend on exactly who the test subject was. But they'd be shocked at first. That's all I'm saying.

    #154 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2002, 03:51 PM:

    Andy Freeman: "Fritz claims that "the people" in the 2nd amendment, unlike EVERY OTHER use of that term in the US Constitution, is not a reference to individuals."

    I'm going to use this as a jumping off point, since I want to make a few concluding remarks on this subject and--I never said that. My specific response to that claim is that "bear arms" in the second amendment most likely bears the sense of "bear arms" in the service of the militia obligation--to make it illegal to have a select militia, in other words. That seems to tally with the Framers published words and what I know of the concerns of the time. It also tallies with most previous legal decisions on such matters.

    Now, the big point I want to make is that deciding what someone said, when in fact they never said or meant it, is every bit as sloppy argumentation as anything in Bellesiles. The argument that "no historical evidence" means "it went without saying" is beyond anything Bellesiles ever claimed; however sloppy he was, he at least looked at and cited primary-source documents, most of which can be identified--it is very much to his discredit that some cannot be.

    This kind of argument persuades only the already convinced and, while some gun-rights advocates wish these these arguments held sway in court, I think they--I think you, Andy Freeman--would find that a judiciary persuaded by such poor argument would be monstrously unjust, making decisions based on prejudice, invalid argument, or personal connection.

    To take an immediate example, a judiciary subject to such argument might be persuaded by a prosecutor to abrogate the right to a fair trial on the grounds that a person which the prosecutor accused of being a terrorist has no rights as a citizen. Or might, for instance, be persuaded to abrogate the right of control over ones own body to allow for drug testing or prevention of abortion.

    Actual examples, I regret to say.

    I don't want to live under such a judiciary. I don't think any of our gun advocates here do, either. And I wish our gun advocates would stop supporting people who want a pliable judiciary--yes, I mean the pro-business, religious extremist, and radical nationalist groups which support the current administration, and who are probably going to be appointing many judges in the next two years. Such a victory would, for me, come at too high a price. For those of you who support such, you will have judge to cost as it comes due.

    #155 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2002, 05:40 PM:

    "In the next year, Minnesota is likely to end up with a "right to carry law" and a 24 hour waiting period for abortions. This depresses me. I think it's a terrible deal," Lydy writes.

    Me, too, sorta, except compared with the alternative. It's a fairly serious pothole, but hardly a roadblock for most folks, particularly women in the metro (although it's much, much worse for those who don't have close access to a full-service clinic) -- as compared with what all folks in the metro area have to go through to get the best means to defend themselves -- but it's regrettable.

    Bad trade for the women of Otter Tail county, though -- those who want permits already can have them for the asking, and now those who need abortions will get to spend a couple of days driving back and forth. Which sucks.

    It was, though, eminently predictable. It's perhaps not quite as simple as the Metrocrats having the choice of stopping shall-issue or waiting periods, but it's close to that, I think. (The CCRN folks made it eminently clear that the only issue they/we were interested in, per se, were gun issues, despite the personal politics of people like Joe Olson -- endorsements in fact went to pro-choice DFLers who were pro-gun; there just weren't any such candidates in the metro area, at all.)

    I think a much better deal would have been to get the former without the latter, and there's lots of folks who would have voted Democratic if we could have gotten that. (I'm not one; I wouldn't have voted for Roger Moe under any circumstances.) Came pretty close last year -- if just one Senate DFLer had switched sides on the carry law, it would have passed, and ghu knows, people like me were calling up DFL senators and telling them that the gun issue was going to cost the DFL a lot of votes.

    In good news, I think there's a fair chance that the Republicans will overplay the waiting period law and end up with the waiting period thrown out. That's about the only chance -- I don't think there's going to be a pro-choice majority in all three of the MN house, senate, and governor's office for a long, long time.

    That said, I think Roe v. Wade is safe for the foreseeable future. Probably.

    #156 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2002, 10:25 AM:

    >> The sheer death-dealing ability of the weapon. Think how long it took one guy with any gun then available to kill ten people, even if they couldn't get away or fight back.

    A couple of shots, or roughly 2-5 seconds.

    I know that the standard image of 1790s firearms is a cute little Daniel Boone muzzle-loader, but they actually had some rather fearsome weapons designed for dealing with crowds.

    One of them, the ducks foot pistol, has been mentioned in this thread. This little monster has three or more barrels. One end of these barrels is at a common point, so their charges all go off at the same time. The other ends are all separated so the bullets go out in/cover a 20-30 degree arc.

    Note that this is actually faster than anything one can do with an AR-15 as the AR requires re-aiming between targets.

    There were long arms with even more capability.

    I've mentioned early repeaters - most aren't quick-reloading like the AR-15, but they were designed for rapid fire.

    #157 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2002, 10:46 AM:

    Me:
    >> Andy Freeman: "Fritz claims that "the people" in the 2nd amendment, unlike EVERY OTHER use of that term in the US Constitution, is not a reference to individuals."

    Fritz:
    >> I'm going to use this as a jumping off point, since I want to make a few concluding remarks on this subject and--I never said that.

    Fritz has argued that the 2nd doesn't protect an individual right. When I asked for anyone who thought in the 1790s, he answered.

    >> Alexander Hamilton, author of many of the Federalist papers.

    (It turned out that Hamilton didn't, but ....)

    >> My specific response to that claim is that "bear arms" in the second amendment most likely bears the sense of "bear arms" in the service of the militia obligation--to make it illegal to have a select militia, in other words.

    Huh? The second makes govt armies (that's what a select militia is) illegal? Wowsers.

    I note that Fritz continues to duck "the people".

    As far as "sound legal reasoning" goes, perhaps Fritz will tell us whether Roe v Wade is an example.

    As for his suggestion that one of the differences between "right" and "left" is that the former relies on unsound legal reasoning while the latter relies on sound legal reasoning....

    >> And I wish our gun advocates would stop supporting people who want a pliable judiciary

    Ah yes, I think that the 2nd is an individual right so Fritz knows the rest of my politics.

    Perhaps Fritz will tell us my position on:
    (1) The drug war
    (2) Abortion
    (3) Asset forfeiture
    (4) Free speech
    (5) Pornography
    (7) Health care
    (8) Taxation


    Me - I don't rely on such correlations. For example, I was surprised to read that Fritz finds many of Roosevelt's war time actions abhorent.

    #158 ::: Andy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2002, 10:56 AM:

    Fritz has suggested that the court decisions and good research regarding the 2nd reject the individual rights interpretation.

    Interestingly enough, most of the actual Supreme court decisions embrace the individual rights interpretation. See Miller.

    There are decisions saying that armed groups of trade unionists can be banned and that there's no second amendment protection when the Klan decides to disarm Negroes. (It was during this time that the term "saturday night special" was invented, as a slogan for a gun control campaign aimed at darkies.)

    As far as academia goes, even Tribe has gone with the individual rights approach. The collective rights camp has been reduced to ad hominem.

    #159 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2002, 11:08 AM:

    Miller is, regardless of how you come down on the result, demonstrably a bad case -- one of the premises of the judgment is that a short-barrelled shotgun is not a useful military weapon. (This would be a surprise to anybody who has ever heard of a "trench gun", or can google for it.)

    That said -- and while I very much support the ongoing litigation to establish the 2nd Amendment as an individual right -- it seems to me that technical discussions of the Constitution are just that: legalistic questions that may or may not be binding on a court in theory or practice.

    I think it makes much more sense, when discussing rights issues, to discuss them as rights issues, rather than legal ones. YMMV, of course.

    #160 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2002, 03:54 PM:

    Hello, Joel. Fancy meeting you here.

    #161 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2002, 12:39 PM:

    Nah; I'm pretty plain, all in all. :)

    #162 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2002, 12:46 PM:

    Getting back to the top of this, yup, the first time one handles a firearm tends to be pretty intimidating. That's obviously -- to me, anyway -- more feature than bug. What's distressing is how many people totally lose that intimidated feeling, about the way they do with cars. (I don't think it much matters how one feels as long as one follows the safe-handling rules.)

    An occasional reminder is a good thing. I had one down at the range just about a year ago. I'd miscounted the number of rounds in my .45 Super (all knowledge and abilities are contained in fandom; Tom Castonguay had done the modification), and thought that the hammer had locked back without the slide locking back. I pointed the gun downrange to click it on the empty chamber --

    Wham.

    Adrenaline is interesting stuff.

    #163 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2002, 03:38 PM:

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing - there is good analysis and history with motorcycles (and general aviation) where the mistakes of no longer neophyte not yet expert over-confidence are quite visible at given mileage or logged hours.

    Personally I don't allow myself to be covered by anybody's muzzle, gunshop, gunshow or hunter safety course but to some degree that may be my own responsibility. On the other hand I know when the cylinders are open, the bolts are out and everybody is standing away from the tables and we all go downrange to paste. On the grippping hand, I have no memory that getting my mother's 22 (single shot Savage Stevens Favorite)in first grade was especially intimidating. Mixed feelings may include being disappointed that the pet handload didn't penetrate better after a negligent discharge in the home.

    On the subject of folks dieing quickly in flintlock days folks might remember the tale - repeated in Starship Troopers - of wiping out 4 levels of command in the blink of an eye. Everybody knew it happened, easier with case and chain and grape and grazing fire from cannon of course.

    #164 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2002, 03:46 PM:

    Sure. I don't think of a gun lying on a table with the bolt/cylinder visibly open and nobody next to it as a gun, myself. (Ditto for my preferred way to handle an unloaded revolver to show it to somebody -- cylinder swung out and my fingers wrapped around the topstrap. It's not just that it can't go bang in that situation -- and it can't -- but more that it's immediately and intuitively obvious that it can't.)

    Seguing back to another, vaguely related issue, it's come out that at least one of Paul Wellstone's pilots had a felony conviction -- not a big deal; it was for mail fraud, not air piracy or flying drunk or anything of the sort -- and padded his claimed hours, which may very well be a big deal, for any number of reasons.

    #165 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2002, 02:09 AM:

    Randolph Fritz writes:

    I wrote "...and are willing to sacrifice all manner of freedoms to have them." And James MacDonald asks "Can you name one or two of those freedoms?"

    Sure. Control over one's own body is the obvious one, since an example has just been given. The legal decisions which protect abortion rights are based in control over one's own body, and, if that is to be ignored, we are subject to all manner of abuses, invasion of medical privacy being the most immediately obvious.

    ===

    I repeat the question.

    Could you please try to answer it?

    Which exact freedoms does one give up in order to own a firearm? Be specific. Use examples.

    You made a statement. Back it up.

    To quote your entire paragraph: "As a culture, we have a big and very odd psychological issue here. Most crime--you may know this--is property crime, and firearms seldom make a difference to property crimes against individuals, since they mostly occur when the property owner isn't around. The men who perceive the greatest threat of personal violence are largely in the social groups least at risk (young black men are probably an exception, and women of any social group have a relatively high risk of domestic violence.) And yet these same people are so convinced of a threat to their persons that they feel they need firearms to defend themselves, and are willing to sacrifice all manner of freedoms to have them."

    Okay. Give one or two examples. I'm waiting.

    I'm also waiting for replies to my other direct questions.

    BTW, I spelled my name correctly in every single one of my posts. Could you please try to do the same when replying to me?

    #166 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2002, 09:51 AM:

    Hold it. I can't immediately remember where I've seen them, but I know I've seen the same stats that Randolph had in mind when he said:

    As a culture, we have a big and very odd psychological issue here. Most crime--you may know this--is property crime, and firearms seldom make a difference to property crimes against individuals, since they mostly occur when the property owner isn't around. The men who perceive the greatest threat of personal violence are largely in the social groups least at risk (young black men are probably an exception, and women of any social group have a relatively high risk of domestic violence.) And yet these same people are so convinced of a threat to their persons that they feel they need firearms to defend themselves, and are willing to sacrifice all manner of freedoms to have them.
    I regret his last dozen words because I can't make out what he means by them, and because they've distracted everyone from the rest of his statement.

    This is a true thing. The guys who perceive themselves as being most at risk of violence are in the demographic group least likely to meet with it. Their wives have more cause to fear it than they do; and the Urban Youth they regard with such suspicion are much more likely to be on the receiving end of violence.

    This is not to say that individuals in that demographic group are never threatened with violence. It can happen to anyone. What's interesting to me is that they're the ones who make the most noise about how they need guns to defend themselves.

    I want to understand this. It's much more interesting than yetanother rehash of the Second Amendment (though I'll admit, the rehash here has been more interesting than most).

    #167 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2002, 10:52 AM:

    "This is a true thing. The guys who perceive themselves as being most at risk of violence are in the demographic group least likely to meet with it."

    Sure. But they're not in the demographic group that's utterly unfree of any threat of violence, since that group doesn't exist. For the married ones, sure, their wives are at more risk -- and, unsurprisingly, most of the gun nuts I know encourage (with varying degrees of social skills) their wives/daughters/and SOs to at least familiarize themselves with guns. (In many cases, it doesn't take much encouragement at all -- I can think of three middle class white guys in the gun rights group I'm a member of who were initially dragged in, with varying amounts of kicking and screaming, by their wives. One of the wives is a nurse who would strongly prefer not to be arrested for the gun she now illegally carries in her purse -- or hand -- to and from the parking ramp.)

    I'm not sure that the concern about a threat has a whole lot to do with statistics. September 11th was, statistically, a blip, for example, in terms of body count; drunk drivers claimed an order of magnitude more lives than terrorism in 2001, and 2001 was the record year for terrorist murders on US soil. (I'm not criticizing those folks who think of terrorism as more of a threat than drunk drivers, as statistically silly as it is -- I'm one of them, after all.)

    I know several women who live in the Twin Cities who worry about the 24-hour waiting period for abortions, although the risk of them being unable to come up with bus/taxi money and a couple of extra hours to go down to PP and fill out some paperwork are basically zero. (The real problem of the waiting period, rights issues aside -- not that they should be -- is for those women who live great distances from the nearest full-service clinic, and would have to arrange to be absent for two or three or four days, rather than just one. In Minneapolis, an early abortion is a matter of a few hours, door to door; even now, it's a matter of at least a dozen hours for a woman in Fargo, if I remember correctly about there being no closer full-service-clinic to them than the Twin Cities. Add waiting periods, and you at least triple that time, making the possibility of discretion that much less likely, financial issues aside.)

    As to your comments about Urban Youths being more at risk, absolutely and utterly true. Impoverished black people living in inner cities (not quite the same set, but close enough) are *the* most threatened with violence, both professional and amateur, than any demographic group -- except for impoverished felons.

    Through no particular coincidence, David Gross, one of the leading lights in the MN carry reform movement, is pushing very hard for low-to-zero carry permit fees. It's not just generosity -- David's a lawyer, and could easily afford a grand a year for his own permit -- but a sense that the guy who is likely to try to jump David in a downtown parking lot has more than likely perped on impoverished inner city folks before, and for his own self-interest, he'd prefer that the matter be handled before it lands on his back, and he's paying attention to the statistics about the effects that the issuance of permits has on violent crime, county-wide.

    Nor, for that matter, is it accidental that even the much-hated NRA opposed "Saturday Night Special" laws, although I've never met an NRA member who consider carrying cheap piece of potmetal when a really good low-cost handgun could be had for $150 or less.

    ("Handled" doesn't necessarily mean "the perp shot dead", necessarily -- if he switches to nonviolent crime or moves to Chicago, that handles the problem for me. If one judges gun-rights laws by the number of perps properly shot at all, much less killed, they have a vanishingly small effect.)

    The Nokomis Bandits who paid a visit on Felicia and me just over eleven years ago had, not atypically, started their collective career in poor, black sections of north Minneapolis before they took their show on the road.

    #168 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2002, 11:15 AM:

    As a culture, we have a big and very odd psychological issue here. Most crime--you may know this--is property crime, and firearms seldom make a difference to property crimes against individuals, since they mostly occur when the property owner isn't around. The men who perceive the greatest threat of personal violence are largely in the social groups least at risk (young black men are probably an exception, and women of any social group have a relatively high risk of domestic violence.) And yet these same people are so convinced of a threat to their persons that they feel they need firearms to defend themselves, and are willing to sacrifice all manner of freedoms to have them.

    I have to say I'm with Jim Macdonald here. There seems to me to be a logical disconnect between the first three sentences of that paragraph and the concluding sentence -- and in particular the final clause of the concluding sentence, which gives the effect of having come whizzing into the discussion from somewhere well off of the rhetorical playing field.

    Matters are not signally helped by the later response to the question of exactly which rights are being sacrificed by advocates of gun ownership: Control over one's own body is the obvious one, since an example has just been given. The legal decisions which protect abortion rights are based in control over one's own body, and, if that is to be ignored, we are subject to all manner of abuses, invasion of medical privacy being the most immediately obvious. As far as I can tell, that's the answer to another question entirely -- possibly, "what rights are being given up in order to oppose abortion", or possibly some other question I'm unable to intuit from the text as given, but certainly not the question which Jim Macdonald actually asked.

    #169 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2002, 10:45 PM:

    "This is a true thing. The guys who perceive themselves as being most at risk of violence are in the demographic group least likely to meet with it."


    Has this been established as true? Are the people least likely to face violence actually those who perceive themselves as being most at risk? Is it possible that inner-city males feel far more at risk of violence than upper-middle-class suburbanites, but don't have the funds to afford to publish slick magazines, hire high-profile spokespersons and lobbyists, or buy TV time? Is this apparent contradiction merely an artifact of economic opportunity?

    I'm reminded of the study that showed that the people who watched the most television were most fearful of being on the receiving end of violence. Clear evidence that violence on TV warps one's perspective, right? Then it turned out that the people who watch the most television are elderly folks who live in decaying inner cities.

    #170 ::: ClarkEMyers ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2002, 12:33 AM:

    The anecdotal stuff I have seen about live fast love hard die young does not describe NRA life members - rather what I have seen implies a greater association between expecting a good life and being willing to do violence to others in preservation of that lifestyle. Notice that Mas Ayoob has suggested carrying something like throw down money weighted with a book of matches or whatever as something to use before the front sight press - leave $100 in bills in the family silver chest - don't have to back that up with a gun, though of course he does and advises others how to do that too.

    Maybe NRA Endowment members care the most and have feelings, perhaps falsely, of efficacy in dealing with interpersonal conflicts. Or perhaps as a class there is a small chance, but as individuals these "conservatives" were "liberals" who got mugged?

    That is the folks I've noted reported in the press as expecting to be dead or in jail soon mostly were the people who statistically are most likely to be dead or in jail - they may well be carrying but not advocates of the Second Amendment.

    Likely enough in following the election returns a Court is following the electorate - there does seem to be a change in popular opinion on the 2nd Amendment since Berger's Parade Magazine piece and the lawyers getting the press are in line with popular opinion - sadly perhaps there is more to learn about that angle following the link here to the Volokh Conspiracy and mousing around that site that reading unwarranted assertions followed by flat denial -

    I'd like to hear more about NRA turnoffs - and dangerous loonies? One of Niven's Laws is that no cause is so noble it won't attract fuggheads, why do hoplophobes stampede in the opposite direction rather than inquire as to the facts?

    #171 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2002, 02:07 AM:

    Briefly, I'm drowning under a pile of work (the never to be sufficiently damned Building Enclosure class is eating my brain) so I haven't been able to research and think out responses to any of the comments. See you all in a few days if this discussion is still alive.

    #172 ::: Max ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2002, 09:59 AM:

    You skirted an important issue: guns have an an aesthetic in and of themselves (like fine tools, especially machine tools)that anti-gun folks do not seem to be able to fathom - possibly because they are never exposed to them. Like the anti-tobacco nazis, the anti-gun lobby immediately get hysterical and logical discourse becomes impossible.

    I don't have any guns - yet, but there is a tribe of machine tools squatting in the basement of my house.

    #173 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2002, 11:03 AM:

    As to NRA turnoffs, sure. I think people like David Gross and Joe Olson make a better case than any of the NRA spokesmen do -- particularly LaPierre, who really isn't very adept at all. (I'm not talking policy here; I'm talking about the ability to handle both fair and unfair debating techniques. LaPierre, when handed a laundry list of accusations, never fails to try to handle them all, rather than focussing on just one, or deconstructing some of the, err, inexactitudes.) Ted Nugent is much better.

    But David and Joe were kicked off the board for being insufficiently accomodationist, and Nugent is horribly underused.

    As to dangerous loonies, probably. Testing for lack of looniness is no more part of joining the NRA than the Worldcon, after all.

    #174 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2002, 04:47 PM:

    I hope these are not too late (and I have tried to read all the available posts so as to avoid needless duplication)

    Some background. I am in the National Guard, have a large percentage of police personell in my unit (local to three-letter types) have been shooting since I was five (and am envious of your indoor rifle range with Class III experience. If I'd known it was there I would have made a special trip to fire the tommy-gun (which as a nick-name for the Thompson Sub-machine Gun seems just fine to me with the lower case. I seem to recall many a memoir from WW2 which was tommy-gun).


    Simon Shoedecker

    "This is a real scenario, not a movie one: 1) Police spot fugitive. 2) Police draw guns on fugitive. Does fugitive run away? No. 3) Fugitive draws gun on police, fires it, and misses. 4) Police shoot fugitive, kill him instantly.

    This happens all the time. I read newspaper reports regularly. It's almost predictable."

    Not as predictable as one thinks. First, the guy who has the gun out first usually has an edge. Second, the police are notoriously bad shots. How many times does one read of cops emptying clips and only hitting the suspect once or twice. Oftimes this is more than one cop.


    As to the issue of a gun preventing assault. 1: criminals look for soft targets (this is why people are told to walk easily, head erect, eyes active) and having a gun usually makes one feel less vulnerable. 2: If one knows what to look for a gun is not as hard as one might think to spot. One is rarely CERTAIN, but the if one sees what might be a gun (and the need to get at it limits the places/ways in which it can be carried) and is planning to do a mugging, the urge to mug that person passes.

    ----

    There have been comments about stress. Yes, it greatly affects ability. The one time I have had to point a loaded firearm at someone I was terrified. I couldn't get the first round into the chamber, and had to let it be ejected. But once I got the thing loaded, and placed the sights on the person, training took over, and I could start to think again.
    So, if one is going to carry, one should practice all the things that go with using the weapon. This includes thinking about the situations in which one is willing to draw.

    Randolph Fritz comments on the Muzzle-loader as a weapon of self-defense.

    First, at the beginning he asks for examples. When given those examples he then asks how many such there are. This seems less than fair. Asked and answered.

    As for the effectiveness of them: They are not as reliable as a modern firearm, but then a horse is not as swift, nor as easy to maintain as a modern car. Both worked well at the time, and if one wishes to take the time and effort to learn to use them, they still work well today.

    As for the innacuuracy of them: Military arms were far less accurate than civil arms. This from long (and hard) use, as well as the method of use (mass fire). Even at that they were quite reliable out to 50-100 yards. Much of the innacuuracy seems to have come from an unwillingness of troops to actually aim at people (see, "On War and Killing").


    The polearm aspect of the musket was one of practicality. When only 15 seconds from the enemy, and therefore only risking one, or at most two, exchange of fire, rushing in to cause disorder (and so not only win the day, but reduce casualties) is the best of tactics.
    Given the abilities of cavalry, and a horses unwillingness to charge a line of bayonnetted rifles, as a defense they were more useful.

    But both of those only really apply to the massed use of muskets.

    Kevin Baker writes "Rifles are slow to load because the projectile must be forced into the rifling and all the way down to the breech. It's not easy. But a muzzle-loading rifle is quite accurate by aimed fire. One thing the British detested about Americans is that our militia seldom stood toe-to-toe and slugged it out in proper form. Instead they sniped from behind cover at ranges the Brown Bess couldn't reach."

    This is, in fact, more myth than fact. The majority of the engagements between the British and the Rebels were stand up fights. Certainly all of the militarily significant ones were.


    I'd have to say I am in the very comfortable camp when it comes to dealing with weapons. I started shooting at such an early age that they are in some ways less intimidating than a car, because they are (barring major malfunction) completely under my control.

    I've had one accidental discharge. I was at the range, shooting a .357; single action. I rested my finger a little heavy on the triger when coming down to target. The large group of holes in the ceiling did not make me feel any better about adding to them.

    I am not certain how to explain my atraction to shooting. I suspect it is like some people's attraction to golf. The only real competition I have is my past performance. That, at need, I can use it to kill things is a benny, but not the reason I like to shoot.

    Most interesting to me is the reaction I get from teaching people to handle firearms. It seems to parallel Theresa's experience. Trepidation, a sense in some people's mind that they cannot manage to do it (or that it will blow up in their face, come nowhere near the target, the recoil will hurt, etc.) and the first shot causes a slight glow. A sene of accomplishment, and loss of mystery.

    For some that leads to mystique.

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