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December 5, 2007

Keep Your Head Down
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:10 PM * 610 comments

As many as five people have been shot at a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska; police are searching for a gunman, CNN affiliates report.

That’s all there is right now.

In honor of the election season, though, I’ll make some predictions about the perp, when he’s caught. I bet that (a) he isn’t an illegal immigrant, (b) his name isn’t Mohammed, (c) he isn’t associated in any way with foreign terrorists, and (d) throwing out the entire Bill of Rights (except the Second Amendment) wouldn’t have stopped him.

Now some advice: If you hear gunshots in a public place and they’re nearby, seek cover and concealment. Stay there until uniformed police officers tell you it’s safe to move. If they’re distant, get moving in the opposite direction, provided you can do so safely.

Oh, yes: If someone you don’t know calls you by name, make yourself one with the pavement.

Definitions:
Cover: something that bullets won’t penetrate. Solid walls, sandbags, engine blocks.
Concealment: Bullets will go through them, but they hide you from view. Interior walls, bushes, auto doors.


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Comments on Keep Your Head Down:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 04:36 PM:

MSNBC:

"The shooting apparently happened as President Bush was leaving Omaha, where he attended a fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Mike Johanns."

I suppose Omaha should feel lucky that an airstrike wasn't called in, just in case.

#2 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 04:47 PM:

I suppose Omaha should feel lucky that an airstrike wasn't called in, just in case.

With SAC right there, too!

#3 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 04:56 PM:

Why is it important to take cover when someone unknown calls your name? I'm not familiar enough with this sort of situation to figure it out.

#4 ::: Alberto ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Diatryma @ #3:

It could be that disgruntled guy in accounting you don't know, but thinks you're the bane of his existence. That is, just because you don't know them, does mean they don't know you--and are gunning for you.

Erring on the side of paranoia in a situation like the one described above seems entirely reasonable to me.

#5 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:09 PM:

And since suicide-by-riot-squad looks like a growth industry these days, train kids old enough to be away from their parents in all of the above. Including how to spot a "safe" adult during and after an attack.

Because "don't talk to strangers" could end up being deadly.

Think of it as a new sort of "fire" drill.

#6 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:16 PM:

They're saying now as many as nine dead, including the shooter.

#7 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:20 PM:

Thanks, Alberto; that was what I was thinking, but I wasn't sure. Paranoia is certainly reasonable.

#8 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:38 PM:

It's a hideous tactical situation. You don't know anything. The person shooting could be trying to make a ruckus and get killed (suicide by cop), in which case he'll be more likely to shoot at random than aiming carefully at people; or he could be trying to kill as many people as possible, in which case he'll shoot anybody he sees; or he could be after one or a few specific people, in which case he'll shoot them plus probably anybody who seems like a threat.

In addition to specific aimed shots, there's the question of where the random shots and the misses go.

"Cover" is always best, since it protects you in both cases. "Concealment" generally prevents his aiming shots at you, but does nothing against the random shots and misses.

Standing behind a pillar can be better than lying on the floor, in that less of you is visible especially from medium to far distances.

Looking out from your cover obviously renders your eye (and hence much of your head) vulnerable, plus it's movement (which draws the eye). Not knowing what's going on can be fatal. As I say, it's a really horrid tactical situation.

Getting out has a lot to recommend it.

Remember, if you encounter police officers, that they don't instantly know that you're not the shooter. If you are a carry-permit holder and are armed, of course this is about 500 times more critical (I hope your carry permit training covered this sort of issue).

#9 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:48 PM:

Jim,
how does the advice that "the kill zone is narrow, so get out of it" (paraphrased) fit?

Thats a paraphrase of what you said about bombing type situations, yes?

#10 ::: Loei Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 05:59 PM:

If you encounter police during the above situation, keep your hands in plain sight, and move slowly.

#11 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 06:00 PM:

If you encounter police during the above situation, keep your hands in plain sight, and move slowly.

#12 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 06:08 PM:

The kill zone is narrow.

If you're in it ... get out of it. If it's a bomb or gas situation, going to ground isn't an option. If it's an armed assault, going to ground will be an option. Keep your head.

The words about making oneself one with the pavement come as a direct quote from a Navy SEAL of my acquaintance. See me in person for more on this.

#13 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 07:50 PM:

as jim said, car doors count as concealment.
if you were thinking they might count as cover, a trip to the box o' truth will correct that. (google it).
they did a segment on cars--handgun rounds all went through a car door with ease, and rifle rounds went through both sides of the car.
when you see people crouching behind car doors in a fire-fight? they may have a good reason, but cover ain't it.

#14 ::: mazianni ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 08:02 PM:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/05/AR2007120501868.html?nav=rss_email/components

Washington Post is reporting the shooter was a 20 year old named Robert Hawkins (not Mohammed), and that he left a suicide note. Eyewitnesses describe him as having a military style haircut, a black backpack and a camouflage vest.

Fingers will be pointed at rock music and video games in 3...2...1...

#15 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 08:46 PM:

The kill zone is narrow, deep; and fluid.

Narrow, because a single shooter has a limited field of view.

Deep, because so long as he has ammo, it persists.

Fluid because he can move.

Jim's SEAL friend is right, dirt is better than not, prone is (as a rule) better than not. If you are thinking of making a break for it... prone is less useful. Crouched behind a planter is better there, vertical behind a pillar is not to be sneered at.

In all sorts of things like this being as aware as possible of what's going on is paramount. If the shooter is coming toward you... how is he coming toward you. The shooter at Lyubi's (Texas, 20 years ago) walked through the place shooting people as they lay on the floor trying to hide. If that's happening, the sooner you make your move the better.

Look for cover/concealment and make a break for it. Crossing movement is better than straight away. Short is better than far. Better to run a ways, and flop, than to go balls out for the door.

I could go on, but that's probably too much for now.

#16 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 09:17 PM:

The fact that car doors are not cover is made obvious by the practice of pouring concrete into them (something a friend's moonshiner relatives did). This is not to make the car heavier, I assure you!

#17 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 09:31 PM:

Of course, any time you spend worrying about being killed in one of these guy-goes-mad-and-kills-everybody sprees, would be better spent leaping out of your chair and running in place until you're out of breath. You are somewhere around a million times as likely to die of a heart attack than in a massacre, and the exercise does some good.

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:05 PM:

I do three to six miles per day.

Also: time spent being aware of your surroundings is never wasted.

#19 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:19 PM:

mjfgates: Yep. Mass shootings and terrorist attacks are several orders of magnitude less likely to get you than drunk drivers and heart attacks. This is the problem with pretty much all proposed solutions to these attacks--they're so rare that almost anything you do will have much bigger costs than it ever does good.

#20 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:19 PM:

mjfgates @17: Yes, it makes sense to deal with your higher risks first. I already wear a seatbelt when I travel by automobile or airplane (subways don't have seatbelts), and have never smoked a cigarette in my life. That doesn't mean I shouldn't think about other possible health or safety issues during those boring sessions on the exercise bike, which I only convince myself to do by having something to read and giving myself a reward afterwards. The reward is that I get to play on the weight machines.

#21 ::: jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Also: time spent being aware of your surroundings is never wasted.

Unless you're in Charlotte, North Carolina. </bitter>

#22 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:24 PM:

mjfgates: Respectfully, I disagree.

There is no way, in the US to avoid news, of such things; and handwringingly stupid news at that, which tells you (for days) all about it and makes it seem as though it might happen at any moment, in any place (which is true, but trivial).

Yes, the odds of such a thing happening are small. The odds of lots of things happening are small. Being aware of what one can do, in the odd, and very-off, chance it happens to you is a good thing.

It reduces the uncertainty. And, God forbid one happened to be in that mall in Omaha, one has some semblance of preparation, which reduces the odds of freezing up, or worse, just blindly panicking.

Is it likely? No.

Is a huge earthquake, in my lifetime likely? No.

What about a tsunami rushing 2 miles inland? No.

But being ready for it, and the aftermath (in such ways as one can be ready) isn't foolish.

#23 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2007, 10:43 PM:

If you have to move under fire, it's up, three running steps, and drop to the next good cover. You're not going deep for a pass into the endzone. Three is the magic number. Four is pushing it. Five is straight out. If you're up and someone's shooting towards your vicinity (but not waiting for you to jack in the box into your next move), by the count of three, you'll drop and hear bullets whiz over your head. You might make four if your lucky. Five voids all warranties.

Oh, and before you get up, figure out where you're going to go to next. Then start running and start counting.

The cadence in your head will be: up, one, two, three, drop. ... up, one, two, three, drop. If you get into a groove, you'll start looking ahead to the second point of cover while you're up and running to your first.

#24 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:00 AM:

How awful. It seems like a certain percentage of suicides feel the need to take other people with them. Imagine if instead of having another national freakout over guns, violent videogames, or mall security, we put that energy into seriously studying the problem of suicide, and finding a solution.

I don't mean to imply I'm not for gun control, because I am. I just wonder if that issue is obscuring something deeper.

#25 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:00 AM:

mjfgates, #17: This falls under my rubric of "expect the normal, but be prepared for the weird". There are dozens of more-or-less unlikely scenarios for which I have a Basic Plan in my head that I review from time to time. I don't expect any of them to happen, but I'm sure the people in that mall weren't expecting what happened to them either. If you wind up on the short end of the odds, having thought about it is MUCH better than not having thought about it.

#26 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:19 AM:

The US Census website says there were 47,835 malls and shopping centers in the US in 2005 ("increased by approximately 10,000 since 1990").

Say that one in twenty (guess) of those is a "real" enclosed mall rather than a strip mall or smaller. That's still well over 2000.

There have been what, fewer than a dozen mall mass shooting incidents[1]? I can't imagine there have been 20, making it less than 1% chance that any given mall has had one.

(The scary part about this stat is that two of them are in malls I've spent significant time in: the Tacoma Mall and Salt Lake City's Trolley Square.)

[1] To leave "gang A sees member of gang B and opens fire" incidents out of it, though those are still not anything I'd want to be around during.

#27 ::: Elizabeth Bear ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:37 AM:

According to my recent research, the FBI's current recommendation in school shootings is *against* shelter-in-place, FWIW.

The word from the Bureau these days is get the hell out, any way you can. They call them "sitting ducks" for a reason.

#28 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:44 AM:

NBC Nightly News said he'd been fired by McDonald's the day before and wanted to go out with a show.

#29 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:57 AM:

From the report I found on our ABC about it (Australian media) it appears the shooter was a disgruntled former McDonald's worker, who decided he was going to go out with a bang. Literally - suicide by cop, with the added joy of getting his honour guard in hell up to a decent amount. Selfish bastard.

My sympathies to the friends and families of all of those killed in the incident - including the shooter.

#30 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 03:20 AM:

Seems like Mr Hawkins wanted to be famous. This is not a definition of 'fame' I recognise.

#31 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 03:27 AM:

But as Jim hinted, if you imagine an identical situation - a vulnerable not-quite-adult who's been fired by McDonald's, gets depressed, wans to go out with a show and shoots up a mall - where the shooter is called Mohammed. What would happen? Today the media would be ranting about Islamic terrorism, and DHS would be asking for (and getting) $billions to put make-work security-theatre into every one of those 47,835 malls.
Instead, because the shooter is called Robert, nothing at all will be done: except for the few families whose lives have just been devastated, the nation will shrug and turn the page, just like last time and all the other times.

#32 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 07:01 AM:

Christopher #26: Yeah, I've spent some time in Trolley Square, too, which makes this kind of story creepier.

Terry/Lee: I'm certainly not against having an idea what to do in weird but bad situations. I like posts like this. But most proposed changes in law or society to prevent them will probably cost more than they benefit.

Mary #24: It seems like we already spend a fair bit on depression and other mental problems, at least in the sense of lots of research into drugs to treat them. I'm all for finding better treatments, but I wonder how much we can do.

#33 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 08:04 AM:

My belief is that the front-line doctors--the ones who routinely see you or I, beed better eduction about psychiatric problems and their treatment. And not the sort of "use this pill!" advertising. There's also specific problems with the system in the USA; not just who pays but the way the War on Drugs affects available medication.

The problem is that some drugs for condition A can also benefit condition B, even without the formality of approval, and there's a mental model of "side-effects" which can let such warning signs be dismissed or explained away.

I know. We're unusual people, able to find documents from reputable sources that raise awkward questions. And it's so frustrating when tha drug manufacturer's own warnings seem to be dismissed. It's annoying when the FDA or the BMJ are given no more status as a reliable source than is Wikipedia.

Amd. when I see the BMJ reporting how drug companies try to distract Doctors from trials which show their product kills more people than the drug it replaces, I get a bit angry. Did my mother nearly die because some Doctor got a promotional notebook and pen?

#34 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 09:00 AM:

Trauma is the leading cause of death for Americans ages one through forty-four. After that, it's heart disease and cancer, with trauma as a strong third.

When I heard of this incident, though, I thought back to Tom Tancredo's speech when he came to Colebrook. Remember, he's the one who's been airing the commercial with the Islamic terrorist blowing up a mall in the USA.

Tancredo said that the FBI had reliable intelligence that Islamic terrorists were planning attacks on three malls in the USA this Christmas season.

I'm betting that Tancredo's full of it.

And I thought of Ann Coulter saying that you have to stop and search the brown people because they're the terrorists.

Not in America they aren't.

#35 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 09:16 AM:

Such attacks may be rare, but I have been shot at twice, and that's int he relatively peaceful Netherlands, where guns are probably an order of magnitude more rare than in the US.

#36 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 09:41 AM:

1. The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) link with mass murder has not been fully explained.

In the early days of Prozac, there was such an incident. The relatives of the victims sued (the gunman was on Prozac) and lost.

I know enough about the SSRIs to know that we really have no idea about all the effects on behaviour of changing your neurochemistry in that way. Their use exploded so quickly, because of an apparently lower side effect profile than their predecessors (the tricyclics and the monamine oxidase inhibitors MAOIs) and, cynically, because they have become such a huge stream of profits for pharma cos, that we don't know the full side effect spectrum.

A certain number of mass murder cases have occurred (including, I believe, VA Tech) where the assassin was on an antidepressant (SSRI). Correlation or causation? We don't know. And of course each SSRI is idiosynchratic: Prozac is not Seroxat etc.

2. We are getting towards the Israel world. Where every shopping mall has armed guards (searching bags on the way in in the Israeli case).

South Africa, probably the most violent country in the world that does not have a formal civil war (ie excluding Somalia, Congo, Iraq, etc.) is also in that stage. So too I believe is Brasil.

If there are 40,000 shopping malls in the USA, and each needs an average of 3 armed guards 16 hours a day 7 days a week, then that is 1092 guard-days per mall per year, or about 4.333 man years. So say 160,000 armed guards at 252 working days a year each.

Say we double that to provide a similar level of security in schools and colleges.

That's doable. Easier in Israel, and South Africa of old, because you had so many men around with military training. Carrying a 12-gauge or a H&K submachine pistol around whilst wearing an Army-strength Kevlar jacket isn't the same as the guy in McDonalds with a .38 on his hip.

balanced against that would be the accidental shootings resulting.

3. I'm a militant gun control person. But in the US that is just not practical: there's already far too many guns out there. It's not even practical, I suspect, to talk about doing away with 'military type' rifles-- you can't really distinguish them from hunting rifles. Or even heavy calibre semi-automatic pistols, like the VA Tech shooter used.

So does 'permit to carry' do anything?

Should we all (when visiting the US) arm ourselves?

Can a 'freely constituted militia' of such people guard schools, shopping malls etc. safely?

Against terrorist organisations, it only needs to be probabilistic. If there is a 20% chance, say, that your flight has an armed civilian on it, the chances of a 9-11 are much reduced. Ditto putative gunmen attacking the Mall of the America-- say 7 gunmen with AK47s and grenades. Say there are 20,000 people in M of A on a normal Thursday evening. Then 20 or 30 with guns is going to complicate the plan immeasurably.

We might call this the 'Flight 93 Defence'.

However the security risks and complexities for local law enforcement are large. The press says the response time to the Nebraska shootings was 6 minutes, longer than usual-- that's pretty fast, even so.

Maybe the solution is that CWPs have to wear a certain set of clothing or hat, to ID themselves. Longer term, we could use an RFID tag, so the police gun would flash an error light if they point it at a CWP holder.

This opens up the risk that the assailants disguise themselves as CWP holders, or that the mad gunman is a CWP holder. You'd certainly need to have stringent background checks.

Although the risks of these sorts of events are very low, we may be evolving towards the world where we consider these sorts of measures.

I keep thinking of that scene in Total Recall, where to get on the mass transit system you have to be screened for guns.

And as Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Security constantly warns us, the focus of terrorist (or madman) attack will simply shift.

#37 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 09:48 AM:

2 Lance Weber

I think that SAC has been replaced by 'Strat Command' (USSTRATCOM).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Air_Command#History

18 Jim McDonald

The etiology of these events seems to be changing. There seems to be increased selection by the perpetrators of situations where they can lock doors, etc, to maximise the death toll a la VA Tech, and Columbine also I believe.

So therefore issues re situational awareness.

In 'The Tipping Point' Malcolm Gladwell talks about the suicide cults amongst Polynesian adolescents-- a serious and well-documented problem.

It's undoubtedly true that there are mass phenomena: apparently light plane crashes go up after a major plane crash.

So possibly that is what we are seeing here, with recent mass shootings. One deviant trips, and dies in a blaze of glory, and others are inspired by his actions.

(AFAIK there has never been a female mass murderer. Female serial killers are rare enough, and usually in the thrall of a dominant male character (Paul Bernardo and Karen Homulka, and the Yorkshire Moors murderer here).

I suppose we could count the growing trend towards female suicide bombers (Tamil first, then Chechnyan, now Arab) as female mass murderers, but the motivations of suicide bombers are different-- many seem psychologically quite healthy, even in an enlightened, quasi-religious state. Perhaps closer analogies to the female members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang and other terrorist organisations.

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:16 AM:

Martyn Taylor #30: I call it the Herostratus syndrome.

#39 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:34 AM:

About three one morning, on my way home from the casino in El Paso, Texas, I stopped off at a Diamond Shamrock for some gas. I heard a loud noise, whipped my head to that side and saw what I remember as a stocky, glassy-eyed, shiny-faced skinhead, dressed all in black, firing a handgun in the general direction of the desert behind the station. Everyone scattered. I hightailed it for the dumpster on the other side of the Diamond Shamrock and hid behind it. Not sure if a dumpster is good cover but it was concealment until he started wandering around. Instead, things quieted down and when I poked my head out he was long gone. I never heard or read anything in the news about what had just happened; the clerk inside the store seemed to take it all in stride.

James at 34 (boy, TV isn't what it used to be): If the FBI claimed to have reliable intelligence about such attacks, I'm sure it's similar to the "unspecific threats" against banking institutions and the like that HS used to warn us about in its early days; at the very best, "intelligence" gained through waterboarding and its like.

#40 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Very few female mass murderers of the "spree" variety, but one I remember from just after I moved to California is Brenda Spencer. Most female mass murderers kill their own children, but there are instances (some fairly recent of women deciding to go out in a blaze of "glory".

#41 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Martin @ 35:

I have been somewhat lucky a few times (deciding to head to pub B instead of the originally planned pub A, where there was a gang shooting an hour later; that sort of thing) in Stockholm.

However, I don't think gun ownership is noticeably lower in Sweden than it is in the US (on average 0.3 licensed firearms per Swedish citizen, most of those are rifles and shotguns).

#42 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:33 AM:

Just yesterday someone planted a fake bomb in part of the medical school here at UCSD.

I never go into the medical complex, but I was briefly right on the other side of the street from the evacuated area; it looked all very orderly and sensible, people were calm, there were cops standing around chatting.

The linked article talks about administrative sluggishness in responding to the threat, which does not surprise me at all (although I think it is unfair to assume they should have closed the med school based on phoned-in threats; perhaps there was good reason to think they were idle). But geez, don't make people stand around for hours.

#43 ::: leva@firefox.org ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:46 AM:

On the subject of, "Being aware of your surroundings ..."

My very first job was as a cashier at an airport parking lot. I was a dumb teenager, but I was a dumb teenager who spent a chunk of my childhood in a rough neighborhood.

We had a customer "find" a woman's purse on one of the shuttles. The lot manager spotted him walking off with the woman's purse, and intercepted him. The lot manager wanted to take the purse to the airport and have the woman paged. The customer who "found" the purse claimed he was going to, "call the cops once he got home."

The manager was playing hero and everyone else was standing around staring. The customer was being belligerant, angry, arms-waving, in-your-face rude. Just out-and-out unbalanced-acting.

This belligerant, angry man was also OPENLY carrying a handgun on a holster on his belt. And he kept dropping his hand to it while arguing with the manager. Granted, this is Arizona, but most people who carry around here carry concealed, legally or not. Anyone who's carrying a gun openly in the city, without a very good reason, I would assume is either an aggressive nut looking for a fight, a very scared nut looking to frighten people off, or a cop. And this was no cop.

I took one look at his body language, coupled by where he kept putting that hand, and made myself very scarce. I called the police from the rent-a-car place next door. When the police arrived, the belligerant man was gone and the manager had apparently physically taken the purse from him.

Said manager announced he would write me up for scramming and calling the police because I "overreacted." He claimed he could have handled the guy if he'd gotten violent and that I should have stuck around and helped the other customers.

I pointed out the man HAD A GUN.

The manager gave me a completely blank look. He'd been arguing with a belligerant, angry, irrational-acting man presumably trying to steal a purse, who had been caught in the act, and who had a gun, and who had been resting a hand on said gun ... and had never noticed the gun. And the way the guy had his hand on that gun was definitely drawing attention to it. It wasn't just a "putting my hand where it's comfortable" thing, it was an, "I'm putting my hand here so I can draw this if I need to," type thing. Like, fingers closing around the grip, arm tense.

Astoundingly, no one else had noticed the gun either. (Probably four or five witnesses.) Not the other customers, not the shuttle driver.

I still can't believe they were so unaware that they did not even look at the man's hands. (I mean, one of the first rules if you're dealing with someone potentially hostile is to make sure they don't have something in their hands that they can stab, shoot, or brain you with.)

-- Leva

#44 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:09 PM:

Bruce Schnier has a similar bomb-threat item on his blog today.

Comments yieldedthis bomb detonation simulator
integrated with Google maps.

Just dial in your chosen location and yield.

HYDESim maps overpressure radii generated by a ground-level detonation; these radii are an indicator of structural damage to buildings. No other effects, such as thermal damage or fallout levels, are included in this tool. Note that the displayed rings are "idealized"; that is, no account is taken of terrain, urban density, ground type, weather conditions, and so on.
The data used in HYDESim are based on information found in "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons", 3rd Edition, by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan.
#45 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:13 PM:

Oh, and one more bit, for the curious:Emergency responders use the Department of Transportation's Emergency Response Guidebook[1] for determining evacuation distances. Guide entry 112[2] deals with unknown explosive (113[3] deals with wetted TNT specifically) and recommends an initial evacuation of 1/2 mile with a note that fragments can travel a mile or more. A mile is recommended for a rail car or trailer involved in a fire with suspected heavily encased explosives.

[1] http://hazmat.dot.gov/pubs/erg/gydebook.htm

[2] http://hazmat.dot.gov/pubs/erg/g112.pdf

[3] http://hazmat.dot.gov/pubs/erg/g113.pdf


Posted by: RK at December 6, 2007 09:56 AM

#46 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:15 PM:

Fragano @ #38, that's a very interesting reference. Who were we talking about? I wish.

As for female serial killers - not mass murderers - the UK's very own Beverley Allitt has today been told she will stay in jail for 30 years, and that self harming because of a putated Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy won't get her out any earlier.

#47 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:25 PM:

41 Ingvar

I believe the US is at over 1 gun per person.

From memory, there are something like over 150m handguns in the US, let alone shotguns and rifles.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/people/features/ihavearightto/four_b/casestudy_art29.shtml

The BBC website article implies only 60m Americans own guns. However I believe the number of owners to be much, much higher-- perhaps 50% of American households.

Handguns are, of course, disproportionately used in crimes over rifles and shotguns. In fact there was a Frontline episode a few years ago 'Ring of Fire' about how a disproportionate number of handgun crimes were committed with the products of a small group of manufacturers in a valley in Los Angeles: basically cheap, automatic (semi auto) 'Saturday Night Specials'.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/guns/ring/

Heh, in Ystad, Inspector Wallender doesn't even always carry his gun ;-).

#48 ::: lalouve ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Terry # 22
I'm with you on preparedness - my personal motto is, 'I might never need this knowledge or skill. But if I ever need it, I'm either ready or dead.'

#49 ::: Stu Savory ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Only in America . . .

#50 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 12:58 PM:

You know, I know quite a few people who own guns, including handguns, and very few of them are in the habit of carrying them around most of the time, even when they have a concealed-carry permit.
Guns (and their ammunition) are heavy. Because they are, in fact, a strong potential danger, when you have them with you, you do have to make sure they are carried securely. There are plenty of places you can't take them. (There are plenty of places you wouldn't want to take them, for that matter.) I realize the volume of talk coming from the "Can't cross the street without my gun" sector of the US population is pretty loud, but trust me, they are a distinct minority.

The number of Americans who'd be appalled at the thought of schlepping a gun through a mall, holiday season or otherwise, is a lot higher than the number of Americans who wouldn't dream of going to the mall without one. If we all took guns to the mall, we'd be killing each other over the parking places near the entrances, and this remains a rare occurrence. In some cases, we'd be having shoot-outs over who got the last shopping cart. We're not.

When you look at figures on the number of guns in the US, keep in mind that they are distributed quite unevenly among the population.

#51 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 01:03 PM:

One argument I've heard against serious gun control is that if it were attempted in the US, people would be making guns in garage machine shops. Is this at all reasonable, or would small enterprise guns be too hard to make compared to the huge number of guns already available?

So far as situational awareness goes, I tend not to be especially good at it--I've gradually ground down my spaciness as sort of a hobby, but I suspect I haven't gotten all that far with the project. Any suggestions for me or the general public?

#52 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 01:22 PM:

albatross, #32: Agreed, but I think we're talking at cross purposes. My response and Terry's were both to someone who appeared to be saying, "The odds against this ever happening to you are infinitesimal, so why even think about it?" -- which isn't the same thing at all as what you say here.

#53 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Valuethinker @ #37:
Female serial killers are rare enough, and usually in the thrall of a dominant male character (Paul Bernardo and Karen Homulka,

Karla Homolka. It's not entirely clear to me that Bernardo was the killer, though - he was a nasty serial rapist before they hooked up, but the murders happened only when she joined in the fun. (And she was a very enthusiastic participant; there were videos.) Invisible Darkness strongly suggests that she was the actual killer and that the plea bargain that has her now out on the streets and Bernardo put away for life was disastrously wrong. Abuse victim or complete psychopath, it's hard to say.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 01:39 PM:

Martyn Taylor #45: That was Herodotus's take too.

#55 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 01:40 PM:

#50 - For situational awareness in this community? Try reading each person's story or placing them as a character in the current setting - might even write the story.

Zip guns are made on the street by untrained labor. See Foxfire 5 for how guns were made in America long ago under conditions relatively primitive by today's standards.

Atlanta used to have, and maybe still does, a large framed exhibit of working guns made in jail.

The simplest basic gun all home made is a capped pipe loaded with black powder, wad and shot fired by a flashbulb run down from the muzzle end with wires sticking out. Finding a flashbulb is the hardest thing - it can often be fired by static electricity.

The next step up is a capped pipe with hole drilled and tapped for a glow plug. The glow plug can fire either black powder (see Fox Fire 5 or Diderot's Encyclopedia) or a cartridge. See the Phillipine Guerilla gun for a shotgun.

I suspect brand identity in the market would result in more guns coming over the border than being made in garage machine shops but sure small enterprise guns are easier to make than to establish in the market place.

Rumor has it guns are a fashion accessory in mod and rocker parts of England - hence the conversions of replicas so the conversion looks like the pistol fancied rather than the easier and cheaper zip gun.

Don't overlook supine as an alternative to prone that may offer a better view depending.

#49 - If we all took guns to the mall, we'd be killing each other over the parking places near the entrances .... How do you know?

#56 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Clark, that was partly snark and partly a wild-assed guess based on the behavior exhibited by my fello-citizens during the annual hilday shopping frenzy. Mall parking lots get to be pretty scary then--and not because of the risk of being mugged.

#57 ::: kristin b ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 03:06 PM:

De-lurking briefly--this just reminded me of an incident we had out here a month or so ago. Some people out walking on a hiking trail, and shots were fired. And fired. And fired some more, for about an hour. Due to some jurisdictional issues (and apparent skepticism/indifference on the part of 911 operators), the folks trapped on the trail were left to their own devices.

No one killed or injured, although the potential was certainly present. And of course, since no police arrived until the incident was long over, the shooter(s) haven't been caught. The 911 operators have been "disciplined", although no one will say what that discipline entails.

What the lesson or takeaway from all this is, I have yet to discern. I just know I won't be biking on that trail anytime soon.

#58 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 04:06 PM:

mjfgates: Taking care of one's health and being prepared for unlikely, but possible, catastrophes are not mutually exclusive.

And given that my father survived a shoot-out at the hospital where he works (stuffed himself and his patient under a desk with a modesty panel) last year, I'm not inclined to take thinking about what to do if there's a shooter around as a waste of time.

#59 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 04:38 PM:

I remember the first time there was a major drive to take "Saturday Night Specials" out of circulation and off the market.

It resulted in higher firearms casualty rates.

Reason being: the older, cheap models flat didn't work. As in, wouldn't propel a round down-range. Firing pins that crimped over when struck by the hammer and so on. The weapons that replaced them were better constructed and more reliable, hence the greater destruction.

(I live in a state with very liberal firearms laws. Anyone can get one. I know lots of people who own one or more firearms. But the only folks I know who carry them on a day-to-day basis are uniformed law enforcement officers. This is a good thing.)

#60 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Stu @ 48 Only in America . . .

I wish that were so. One of the defining moments in my dad's life, and not in a good way, was being trapped at Australia Post the day someone went crazy and shot up two floors of personnel, for reasons noone ever understood. He spent the rest of his life, except the last days of his last illness, being scared.

He made us think about, and talk about, what we'd do in a similar situation - I think it gave him a degree of comfort to know that whatever we chose to do, our minds would not be the terrible blank that his was in the situation. We could do something. He couldn't do anything - he was too astounded.

#61 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Certainly not only in America. We've had two of the world's worst mass shootings right here in Australia. As vian says, nobody knows what caused it, in either case. They just went mad with a gun, or in the Port Arthur case, guns.

I hope that the gun controls put into place after the last atrocity will prevent people as deeply crazy as this from getting guns capable of that. Or at least, when they wake up one morning feeling brisk and energetic, and decide on the spur of the moment to go out and kill lots and lots of strangers, it will be difficult for them to succeed. I hope.

#62 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 08:21 PM:

Only think Howard ever did right, in my opinion. The gun controls he instituted after the Port Arthur shootings do seem to have made a difference. There have been gang-related shootings, which are awful, and use guns which have been obtained illegally, but there have not been cases of people using legally obtained firearms to institute a massacre. Progress, of a sort.

You might argue (actually, on this blog, you probably wouldn't, but some might) guns don't kill people, people kill people, but people with guns kill way more people than other people.

#63 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 10:57 PM:

Clark, #54: If we all took guns to the mall, we'd be killing each other over the parking places near the entrances .... How do you know?

Two words: road rage.

To elaborate, there's plenty of research pointing to the "anonymity effect" of being in a car as one of the things that leads to aggressive behavior while driving. There's a well-documented subset of those aggressive drivers who will pull out a gun and take potshots at another driver who's irritated them. The competition for close-in parking spaces at a mall, especially during the holiday shopping season, is nasty and brutal; I've narrowly avoided being run down (as a pedestrian) on multiple occasions when someone was so intent on getting THEIR parking space that they weren't noticing anything else. Add guns to that mix, and I don't want to contemplate the results.

#64 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:02 PM:

Valuethinker, #36, the shooter at VA Tech got the guns because Virginia law only required the central database be notified (and then the gunstore owners) when someone went into a psych unit. Not when they were told to go and nobody followed through, which is what happened at Tech. The laws are being changed. (Hmmm, I spent a week in a psych unit. I wasn't supposed to be there, and the doctor who put me there got fired, but I wonder if I'm barred from having a gun?)

Martyn, #45, that would be Munchausen's Syndrome. The "by proxy" is when they hurt someone else -- usually a child -- to get attention.

#65 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:22 PM:

It's still December 6th both here and in Montréal, so I will just repost this from James Nicoll:

December 6th, 1989
Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968), civil engineering student.
Hélène Colgan (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968), chemical engineering student.
Maud Haviernick (b. 1960), materials engineering student.
Maryse Laganière (b. 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department.
Maryse Leclair (b. 1966), materials engineering student.
Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961), mechanical engineering student.
Michèle Richard (b. 1968), materials engineering student.
Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte (b. 1969), materials engineering student.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958), nursing student.

#66 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:26 PM:

How to instill some SA in yourself?

Oddly enough I've taught this. It's easier than one thinks.

Pick something. Preferably something one can see regularly, isn't too hard to spot and not overwhelmingly common. For those who live in a city, a color of car is good. Lets say you choose beige.

Now, start counting the number of beige cars you see in a given hour. Increase this to two hours.

After a while you will see them all the time.

After a week or so (one must be diligent) add another feature. Make of car is pretty good. Make it beige Volvos. When that's tooled up, make it something else (say light blue Mercedes coupes).

That's the basic skill. Being able to see things.

Then you have to decide what things you care about, e.g. I happen (for various reasons) to care about people who have guns. The first thing I do when I see a cop is eyeball to see if he/she is right or left handed (it's really easy, the nightstick goes on the off-hand side. Nightstick on the left, gun on the right).

That way, should something really crazy go down, I know which way the cop is going to be moving, and where the muzzle is likely to swing.

Lots of years dealing with that, and it's so automatic I don't really notice it; until something odd happens (or I see something stupid, like a mixed pair [left/right handed] keeping the gun hands centerlined to themselves. It was most obvious recently when a pair on Segways was like that).

Things like body language, concealed carry (harder to spot, and most often a case of... I'm pretty sure X is packing, than "I know X is packing) and the like take more practice, but watching how people move (terraces/window seats in cafes are good for this) will make it easier to spot.

In an urban setting the thing to look for is the person who is acting abnormal for the neighborhood. They might be unbalanced. They might be lost. Follow up will give you a better idea.

It's like hearing the odd ping, listening to it on the way home, and then deciding to take the care to the mechanic or not.

#67 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:27 PM:

I really appreciate Jim's "what to do if" advice. I hope that I will never have a chance to use any of it, but I also hope that if I ever do, I will remember it.

#68 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Marilee @63 -- I too spent a week in a psych unit; in my case it was intentional on my part and voluntary, and I could at least theoretically have left any time. I wonder if I would now have trouble getting a gun? As it happens, I have no desire for one, but it doesn't seem quite right that voluntarily seeking medical care may have cost me at least an arguable constitutional right. Worse, I can easily see it leading some people who do care about guns in non-theoretical ways from not seeking care they should have. And yet...

#69 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 12:02 AM:

Here's how I hope it works:

Instead of doing the insanity defense *after* something goes wrong, do it before. If there is reason to believe you are not in your right mind, you have to have a current evaluation by a qualified medical professional before you can buy or carry a gun.

I'm sure I've introduced problems by simplifying that so much, but it seems reasonable on the surface, at least.

#70 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 01:10 AM:

Clark,

If we all took guns to the mall, we'd be killing each other over the parking places near the entrances ....

How do you know?

Because historically speaking, phrases like "large numbers of weapons smuggled across the border" have an anti-precedence for occurring just prior to phrases like "And widespread peace broke out.".

That's why.

#71 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 05:50 AM:

52 Susan

The profile of Paul Bernardo is so close to that of many sexual criminals, who begin with violent rape and move on to murder, that it's hard for me to credence that he was innocent. I think, if we could find all of his rape victims, we might find 1 or 2 dead ones, as well.

Myra Hindly comes to mind (Moors murders) as a woman clearly under the thrall of her partner. Ditto the West woman (Fred West in Gloucestershire, and at least 19 murders of young women down the years).

Karen Homolka I don't know (excuse my Ukrainian transliterations ;-). The plea bargain was a mistake, in the sense that the police house search was incompetent (they found the video behind the light fitting, and apparently that is one of the first places you look when doing a house search).

49 fidelio

The situation I describe is true of modern South Africa. You don't drive anywhere (as a white, middle class person) without a gun. You just don't. And yes that increases the risk of getting shot randomly.

I remember a flatmate's brother, who was mouthing off someone in a bar. The guy pulled a gun, put it to his head, and pulled the trigger-- fortunately the chamber was empty.

Israel I believe is getting that way too, although the armed people are mostly (wholly?) soldiers, policemen and off duty soldiers. But certainly most people probably have guns at home (guessing there).

We are getting into the land of Heinlein's 'Door into Summer'. His guess is that the genetic result would be a politer population. Colour me sceptical.

50 re home made guns

I'm not sure about home made weapons, which strike me as beyond the abilities of the average gun owner, but it's essentially irrelevant. The US has porous borders, and 200 million domestic weapons (plus). The guns would flow in, and the domestic supply would meet needs for decades.

The New York City precedent says that stop and search can be used to reduce street crime, by arresting concealed weapons holders (knives as much as guns). But New York has several times the density of policemen of most American cities, and is geographically concentrated: they used to wait at transit stops and stop suspects. You couldn't do that on American freeways.

60 Dave Luckett

We've had at least 2 mass shootings. Hungerford (where the cops diverted motorists *into the path* of the shooter) and Dunblane (14 children killed). Whether the subsequent gun laws have helped I don't know: cheap Eastern European pistols and converted replica guns are apparently awash on the streets, and we've had a number of gang shootings in London this year.

However we haven't had any more mass shootings, touch wood.

The Omaha shooter apparently had an AK47. It's hard to understand from the outside why a civilised country allows its citizens to possess weapons like that*: they're not particularly good for hunting, and they aren't really a self defence weapon (vs. a 12 gauge or a hand gun). If he'd had an ordinary hunting rifle, he might have had a chance to kill fewer people.

However I don't see the US changing on this point any time soon. Even if say, a terrorist group did use AK47s that they bought commercially (as I understand the law, they could only buy a semi-automatic version, and converting it to full auto is a serious piece of gunsmithing). They would buy them at a gun show, I would think, as again as I understand US law, ordinary gun checks don't apply at gun shows. The IRA used to use Armalites (civilian M16s) so acquired from the US market (although at least some were also stolen from National Guard arsenals).

"Friends of Eddie Coyle" by George V. Higgins remains my point of contact with the US gun trade (the Robert Mitchum movie ain't bad, either), although it is over 30 years old, now.

www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/george-v-higgins/friends-of-eddie-coyle.htm

worth it for the language alone (Boston Irish).

* I believe also Finland does, a legacy of the civilian defence force. Don't know about other European countries, although Germany certainly not.

#72 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 07:08 AM:

70 - Valuethinker -
50 re home made guns
I'm not sure about home made weapons, which strike me as beyond the abilities of the average gun owner, but it's essentially irrelevant. The US has porous borders, and 200 million domestic weapons (plus). The guns would flow in, and the domestic supply would meet needs for decades.

Average gun owner in the US? Probably. Average criminal enterprise more sophisticated than four teenagers stealing cars? No. Lots of drill presses in the US, lots of hobbiest engineers and mechanics of various sorts, and enough of them have questionable ethics (or other reasons) to make sure that criminal enterprises will have access to firearms even if someone managed to do a door-to-door search and seizure (without triggering open revolt, that is), and managed to actually secure the US's impossible-to-close coastlines and borders.

The New York City precedent says that stop and search can be used to reduce street crime, by arresting concealed weapons holders (knives as much as guns). But New York has several times the density of policemen of most American cities, and is geographically concentrated: they used to wait at transit stops and stop suspects. You couldn't do that on American freeways.

NYC also has some of the most stringent gun laws in the US (Chicago and Washington DC may be the only cities with worse), to the point where if you pull someone over and they have a pistol, nine-times-out-of-ten they are doing something illegal (if only just carrying an illegal firearm).

The Omaha shooter apparently had an AK47. It's hard to understand from the outside why a civilised country allows its citizens to possess weapons like that*: they're not particularly good for hunting, and they aren't really a self defence weapon (vs. a 12 gauge or a hand gun). If he'd had an ordinary hunting rifle, he might have had a chance to kill fewer people.

Or he might have laid down in a truck bed at the edge of the mall and sniped a couple of dozen before being discovered, likely killing more of them (instead of injuring), and possibly killing some police as well.

However I don't see the US changing on this point any time soon. Even if say, a terrorist group did use AK47s that they bought commercially (as I understand the law, they could only buy a semi-automatic version, and converting it to full auto is a serious piece of gunsmithing). They would buy them at a gun show, I would think, as again as I understand US law, ordinary gun checks don't apply at gun shows. The IRA used to use Armalites (civilian M16s) so acquired from the US market (although at least some were also stolen from National Guard arsenals).

Firearms purchased from FFL license holders must go through the NICS instant background check process, and documented with a form 4473 (stored at the dealer's place of business). Personal sales at gun shows (or anywhere else) are not subject to those provisions, although some personal sales do do a NICS check (some dealers will run one, charging twenty bucks or so per call), and most will at least check to make sure the buyer is legit for purchasing in that state (checking for a pistol permit in NYS, for example).

NFA (National Firearms Act) weapons - fully-automatic weapons, explosive devices, weapons of "curious or non-military nature" (sawed-off shotguns, cane guns, pen guns and other disguised or hidden weapons) and the like are subject to pretty tight scrutiny* by the BATFE. There is a transfer stamp ($200 per device), and you have to go through several hoops before you can purchase them - if the State laws even allow it (NYS does not allow private ownership of NFA devices at all).

The chances of terrorists (foreign or domestic) purchasing such devices legitimately in the US are slim to nil - beyond the level of scrutiny involved in such transactions, no new fully-auto firearms have been imported or produced for the civilian market since 1986, and the weapons in circulation routinely sell for thousands of dollars each. The black market would be a much easier source for such weapons.

*Some would say abusively so, given the marginal nature of their criminal usage in the US - there have been something like two uses of legally-held FA weapons in the US in the commission of a crime in the last forty years, and one of them was a police officer's H&K MP-5.

#73 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 07:18 AM:

Valuethinker @ 70: We are getting into the land of Heinlein's 'Door into Summer'. His guess is that the genetic result would be a politer population. Colour me sceptical.
I think you mean Beyond This Horizon. It's been a while since I have read either but I seem to remember Beyond being about shooting for politeness and Door being about time travel and cats.

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 08:10 AM:

Scott @ 71
sawed-off shotguns

Which include shot pistols, too. My father jumped through the hoops to get one of those - antique, at that - registered. His father had gotten it during the Depression as payment of a milk bill. The hoops included a photograph and his military serial number - you have to understand, my father was 75 years old when he started the process on the registration!

#75 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 08:56 AM:

PJ Evans @ 73 -
Scott @ 71
sawed-off shotguns
Which include shot pistols, too. My father jumped through the hoops to get one of those - antique, at that - registered. His father had gotten it during the Depression as payment of a milk bill. The hoops included a photograph and his military serial number - you have to understand, my father was 75 years old when he started the process on the registration!

Yeah, it's not a fast or easy process - especially if it's a "discovered" firearm (where it's been in possession for a long time, but not registered as an NFA because of lack of knowledge, whatever).

(Shot pistols, AIR, count as sawed-off shotguns - the exception is .410 bore, which is the same diameter as .45 colt revolver, leading to some pistols that are chambered to be fired in either caliber (which means very long chambers, and usually a revolver action, as the .410 bore casing is a couple of inches longer than the .45 colt revolver casing. As long as they have a rifled barrel, they count as a pistol, not a shotgun.

#76 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:45 AM:

Re shot and pistols: There is an ugly (with a capital UG) revolver, five shots, in 45/70.

The thing kicks, so I am told, like a mule on steroids. When loaded with .410 shotgun rounds, it's much more manageable.

#77 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:55 AM:

Scott @ 74
It was a .410 shot pistol (a 'horse pistol', as it was called in my family).

#78 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:10 AM:

Valuethinker @36: A theory explaining the Prozac "connection to mass murder" (and also a Prozac "connection to suicide") is that the antidepressant has lifted serotonin levels enough so that the patient now has the emotional energy to do what (s)he had been brooding about but had been too depressed to actually do. The underlying dysfunctional behavior patterns are still present and need therapeutic monitoring and aid to be resolved. Personally, I've found that if you take a high enough daily dose of that stuff it can act as a stimulant and tip one over into a manic state.

#79 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 11:57 AM:

There's a few different revolvers that shoot .410 bore - Magnum Research does one in .45-70/.410 (which I have only seen pictures of, but it is ugly). I can easily imagine it being a wristbreaker with .45-70, however - that's a brutal round for any pistol. Taurus makes a similar revolver, AIR.

Another company made the Thunder-5, which I have actually held (but did not get a chance to shoot). It's chambered in .45LC/.410, with a real stubby barrel. To call it "point heavy" would be an understatement - it's practically all cylinder. I don't think they're in production any more.

#80 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 01:01 PM:

Notice however that handguns are quite common in certain circles without ensuing mayhem just as they are quite common in other circles that do shoot each other.

Every black woman in my mother's reasonably upper class - upper middle class for the Brits reading - social circle (google my name and Emory if you care what circles) in Atlanta/Decatur carried a handgun in purse and/or glove box (jockey box for you Northwesterners) without shooting anyone at the mall parking lot or otherwise. It just wasn't done.

Neither Sportsman's Warehouse nor Cabela's report shootouts in the parking lot - they do ask that folks either keep it concealed or stop at the service desk.

For those who care here is Michael Bane (host of the Outdoor Channel show SHOOTING GALLERY) on stealth living:
...stealth living a fundamental survival skill. It wasn't that I slavish imitated the dress and mores of wherever I was...rather I focused on being invisible. I spent time observing people and making note of what stood out to me. Then I consciously tried to eliminate those "flags."
.....
I've talked and written about how my goal in concealed carry is to have nothing on me that stands out.

Curiously enough it made me very nervous to shop in a Safeway in Renton with lots of Swat dressed off-duty police guards standing around like men in black pajamas with guns - long ago I shopped at a supermarket in the Back of the Yards (Chicago) that belonged to a Muslim based organization and was guarded by Fruit of Islam - grocery carry out might be by an armed guard in a Blazer and tie - much less threatening to me.

I do wonder why folks who value precision in language in general don't distinguish AK-47 (milled dustcover etc.) from AK-M and others.

#81 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 01:38 PM:


Valuethinker:


The New York City precedent says that stop and search can be used to reduce street crime, by arresting concealed weapons holders (knives as much as guns). But New York has several times the density of policemen of most American cities, and is geographically concentrated: they used to wait at transit stops and stop suspects. You couldn't do that on American freeways.


Scott:


NYC also has some of the most stringent gun laws in the US (Chicago and Washington DC may be the only cities with worse), to the point where if you pull someone over and they have a pistol, nine-times-out-of-ten they are doing something illegal (if only just carrying an illegal firearm).


Scott. That's actually an argument in favour of gun control, if you follow your own logic.

Make guns very illegal, and then when you pull someone over with a gun, they are likely to be a criminal.

Valuethinker:


The Omaha shooter apparently had an AK47. It's hard to understand from the outside why a civilised country allows its citizens to possess weapons like that*: they're not particularly good for hunting, and they aren't really a self defence weapon (vs. a 12 gauge or a hand gun). If he'd had an ordinary hunting rifle, he might have had a chance to kill fewer people.

Scott:

Or he might have laid down in a truck bed at the edge of the mall and sniped a couple of dozen before being discovered, likely killing more of them (instead of injuring), and possibly killing some police as well.

Again your logic has undercut your own argument.

Or I don't understand the point you are trying to make?

You are essentially arguing

'if we prevent people like this from having access to those kind of weapons, they will commit worse crimes with other weapons'

This is very unlikely to be true. Our 19 year old kid with a Kalashnikov is replaced by our 19 year old kid with a Remington who is a super sniper?

But because he had the Kalashnikov, he did the dumb thing and went into the shopping mall, and only managed to kill 9?

Apply the same argument at VA Tech. Psycho with 2 semi auto pistols is replaced by the Texas Tower sniper?

As I said I don't think gun control is going to happen in the US. But then, I said that about universal healthcare. And I never thought the US would get bogged down in another guerilla war in Asia.

The interesting thing about the USA, for such a fundamentally conservative country, (much more so than Europe in many ways), is that some psychic switch can click, and lo', the country turns on a dime.

#82 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 03:16 PM:

Valuethinker@ 80
Scott. That's actually an argument in favour of gun control, if you follow your own logic.

Make guns very illegal, and then when you pull someone over with a gun, they are likely to be a criminal.

Except that, as you note, it doesn't actually work without a very dense police presence - which is barely possible in NYC (and in fact, most police in NYC would note that while they can make an impact, they cannot actually remove the threat of illegal guns in NYC at present density and enforcement patterns), and all but impossible in most US cities without creating a de facto police state*.

Again your logic has undercut your own argument.

Or I don't understand the point you are trying to make? You are essentially arguing - 'if we prevent people like this from having access to those kind of weapons, they will commit worse crimes with other weapons'

Something very like that, actually.

This is very unlikely to be true. Our 19 year old kid with a Kalashnikov is replaced by our 19 year old kid with a Remington who is a super sniper?

He really doesn't need to be all that good a sniper, actually. Hunting rifles with scopes are plenty accurate, and much more lethal on a per-shot basis than a Kalashnikov is likely to be, even at range.

And depending on his upbringing, at nineteen he might not be a trained sniper - but could have been hunting white tail deer for upwards of six years (depending on the state).

But because he had the Kalashnikov, he did the dumb thing and went into the shopping mall, and only managed to kill 9?

Yes. Thank goodness.

Apply the same argument at VA Tech. Psycho with 2 semi auto pistols is replaced by the Texas Tower sniper?

hmm... Imagine the havoc he could have wreaked with a pair of pump-action shotguns and two-three bandoleers of ammunition.

And the Texas Tower sniper happened. It's not inconceivable that someone could choose to do it again.

I find it very fortunate that people who are going to run amok usually choose very poor ways of actually inflicting casualties. If more of them used energy-dense methods (like explosives, gasoline, or just running over people with a very large truck), more of these amok times would be deadlier.

The worst mass murders in US history (exempting acts of war or near-genocide) were committed not with guns, but with explosives, vehicles, or (in one case) chains with padlocks, and cans of gasoline.

The best situation is that these kinds of things never happen - that people are given the insecurity management tools (to steal a phrase from Graydon) to deal with their issues, or at least to get help when they feel they cannot. I would very much prefer that our society not generate people who turn into human pressure cookers, building up steam until they explode, taking everyone around them out when they go.

Failing that, I would much rather amok runs be committed with inefficient tools than with truly efficient ones like stolen gas tankers, panel trucks filled with ANFO and a stick of dynamite, and the like.

I think we would be much better served, as a society, looking into the root causes of some of these problems - whether it be "why are guys going bonkers, grabbing some weapons, and running down to the local mass of people to go whack-whack until he's shot down like a dog in the street" or "how do we deal with the fact that illegal industries have no methods of problem-solving other than violence and/or the threat of violence."

Getting rid of the tools they use just leads to substitution - I don't think there are dozens of people sitting and simmering, going "if only I had a gun, I'd show them all." - the thought process, from what I can tell, doesn't work that way.

As I said I don't think gun control is going to happen in the US. But then, I said that about universal healthcare. And I never thought the US would get bogged down in another guerrilla war in Asia.

The percentages of people who support universal healthcare in the US - for purely pragmatic as well as more "socially conscious" reasons - is much, much higher than the percentages of people who support Great Britain (let alone Japan) levels of gun control - and relatively few people in that discussion are willing to go to jail, let alone support violent uprising, over it.

*Whether or not a completely disarmed population could be classified as a police state anyways would be a completely different - and much more contentious - question.

#83 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 03:43 PM:

Valuethinker @ #70:
The profile of Paul Bernardo is so close to that of many sexual criminals, who begin with violent rape and move on to murder, that it's hard for me to credence that he was innocent. I think, if we could find all of his rape victims, we might find 1 or 2 dead ones, as well.

I'm not arguing that he was innocent; clearly he was a rapist and kidnapper and at minimum an accessory to murder. I'm quite happy he's behind bars forever. But the picture of Karla as an innocent victim of abuse seems like a bit of a stretch. Anyone whose idea of an appropriate Christmas surprise present for her boyfriend is to steal drugs from work, drug her little sister senseless, and present her as a ready-to-rape surprise is deeply sick. (Her sister died from, if I recall correctly, aspirated vomit due to the drugs during/after being raped by Paul. Karla got two whole years for her part in this.)

Karen Homolka I don't know (excuse my Ukrainian transliterations ;-). The plea bargain was a mistake, in the sense that the police house search was incompetent (they found the video behind the light fitting, and apparently that is one of the first places you look when doing a house search).

Yeah, and by missing the videos they missed tons of evidence showing her as an enthusiastic participant in all of the rape and abuse. Who exactly did the killings (which were not videotaped) came down to a he-said, she-said issue. And I am far from convinced that it was Paul, or Paul alone.

#84 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 05:10 PM:

Scott

I have to say I think that's an amazing line of argument.

That we should be glad our next Hungerford killer has access to the civilian versions of military automatic rifles, because that way he can't do something really dangerous. That we should be glad that Thomas Hamilton only had automatic handguns to kill 15 kids in Dunblane, because he might have done something really dangerous with a petrol tanker otherwise.

I don't find that logically credible in the least.

Wild suppositions about a 19 year old kid who raked a shopping centre in Omaha, having been more dangerous if only he had had a Remington hunting rifle, but actually we are really glad that all he had was a Kalashnikov?

On your other point:

I actually think most of these guys do lose the plot, grab what is handy, and go off to kill people. The Columbine killers didn't have access to dynamite, so they cobbled together bombs which didn't work.

On the healthcare point, or the gun control point, it isn't that the one is more popular than the other, or more likely, or what the polls say.

It's that the political ground can move that swiftly. The impossible becomes conceivable.

I don't see it, but I was simply commenting about the ability of the US zeitgeist to change quite suddenly, to turn on a dime.

#85 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 06:24 PM:

valuethinker,

Israel I believe is getting that way too, although the armed people are mostly (wholly?) soldiers, policemen and off duty soldiers. But certainly most people probably have guns at home (guessing there).

after living in israel four years, i would be surprised if most people have guns at home. the only ones i knew who did were soldiers, or lived over the green line (i don't know many of the latter, but i would assume the ones i met do have guns at home).

i don't know that non-political violent crime is higher in israel. (although i think domestic violence may be a bit higher than western averages, & i've heard that attributed to militarism.) (anecdotally, i was sexually assaulted on the street several times in israel, & my sister was, once, more seriously. we were able to get away, though, because in none of the incidents did the attacker have a weapon. so that's a data point both for & against, maybe.)

#86 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 08:48 PM:

Valuethinker @ 83 -
Wild suppositions about a 19 year old kid who raked a shopping centre in Omaha, having been more dangerous if only he had had a Remington hunting rifle, but actually we are really glad that all he had was a Kalashnikov?

Glad?

No.

Relieved, maybe, in the "it could have been a lot worse."

Bombs, accelerants, and vehicles just plain can kill more people than guns do. Jack Gilbert Graham killed 44 with a dynamite bomb on an airplane. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 with a panel truck full of ANFO. David Burke killed 43 by crashing a BAe 146-200 into the Santa Lucia mountains. Julio Gonzalez killed 87 people in the Happy Land Social club with gasoline and a lit match. 9/11 killed almost three thousand.

Obviously, the best situation is for no murders of any sort, let alone mass murders. Failing that, I'd prefer that amok murderers (as opposed to those incited by a direct relationship - "crimes of passion", murders over economic transactions, etc.) fixate on the least deadly tools available to them, instead of those that will actually do the most damage when they choose to go out in a blaze of glory.

I actually think most of these guys do lose the plot, grab what is handy, and go off to kill people. The Columbine killers didn't have access to dynamite, so they cobbled together bombs which didn't work.

Your previous statements are presumably based in part around this assumption - that amok killers just go off the rails, grab the nearest deadly implement, and go whackity-whack on whomever they come across until they realize what they've done and blow their brains out, or they force someone else (usually a cop) to do it for them.

This is, unfortunately, not the case.

1927, Bath Michigan. Andrew Kehoe killed his wife and set fire to his farm. While fire crews were responding to the scene, he detonated a large stockpile of pyrotol and dynamite under the north wing of the local school, killing many within. When others gathered around the disaster, he drove up and detonated a second fragmentation bomb in his truck, killing himself, the school superintendent, and several others. Rescuers found an additional stockpile - five hundred pounds or so - of pyrotol and dynamite under the south wing of the school, which had failed to detonate. The whole plan took almost half a year to enact, including purchasing and laying in nearly a ton of pyrotol and dynamite. He killed 45, and injured 58.

1964 - Cologne, Germany. Walter Seifert, armed with a lance, and a flamethrower built out of a converted insecticide sprayer, attacked a Catholic elementary school in Volkhovener, a suburb of Volkhoven. He killed 11 people.

1994 - Hollywood, Northern Ireland. Garnet Bell, armed with a flamethrower, attacks students taking A-Level examinations, injuring 6.

The list of mass murder attacks that involved at least some planning - rather than simply berking out and killing everyone in the way - goes on and on - the Clock Tower shooting in Austin. Columbine involved accumulating weapons, building explosive devices, etc. Seung-Hui Cho had to wait a month between handgun purchases.

It should be noted there are several Columbine-style mass murders that have been foiled, some of which could have been much worse than Columbine or Virginia Tech. (one, at DeAnza college in Cupertino, included highly sophisticated explosive devices, and plans on where to place them). Again, many of these involve substantial amounts of planning and acquisition before being enacted.

Sometimes people just go off the rails, grab whatever is handiest, and start killing people. But often there is at least some level of planning and development that goes in to these episodes - they are not simply the result of an immediate psychotic break. These are the ones that are really dangerous.

The solution, again, is to figure out why half-a-dozen people or so a year go off the rails, and start killing randomly, and then work towards ameliorating as many of those reasons as possible, minimizing the impact of the rest, and setting up resources and training so that the next generation will have the tools to deal with their problems - and personal integrity and incentive to step up and ask for help when they can't deal with their problems on their own.

#87 ::: Katherine ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:34 PM:

Switzerland also has a heavily armed civilian population, and considers compulsory military service one of the guarantors of Swiss neutrality. I don't know to what extent guns are carried in public places, rather than stored at home.

A friend of mine was at the Tacoma Mall the day of (though not during) the shooting. His wife has been freaking out ever since: he's an Army Ranger, and she figures he would have run toward the shots instead of away.

Most gun owners are pretty much like most ordinary citizens (in the US, they mostly *are* ordinary citizens): if someone starts shooting in a public place, they won't have any idea what to do and could easily do as much harm as good. (Would you rather avoid one random shooter, or two?) And, as someone else pointed out, most gun owners don't actually carry their guns with them most of the time. Someone nervous enough about his surroundings that he feels the need to go armed may not be hugely reliable in a crisis.

#88 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2007, 10:46 PM:

Todd Larason, #67, oh, I don't want a gun. I'm just curious if that week made me ineligible.

#89 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 12:21 AM:

I have this terrible feeling that glory suicides are going to be increasing since media pretty much underwrite them. More vermin are going to choose going out on the evening news, fame and attention in death preferred over just hanging ones self in the bathroom.

#90 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 01:30 AM:

That mass murder cannot be made impossible is not an argument for not making it as hard as practicable, nor is it an argument for not closing down as many of the means as possible.

#91 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:05 AM:

Scott Taylor (#85): David Burke took a gun on board the plane, shooting his ex-boss, the pilots, and then himself. I doubt he would have been able to bring the plane down if he'd been unarmed.

#92 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 03:07 AM:

The Hungerford and Dunblane massacres in the UK, and the responses, suggest to me that the system in the UK didn't work and hasn't been fixed.

In both cases, the killers were exhibiting unusual behaviour which, if they had been in the process of applying for a Firearms Certificate, would probably have prevented them lawfully obtaining guns. They were not what the law describes as suitable persons. It is alleged that reports were made to the Police Forces responsible, but nothing was done.

In both cases, the politicians banned the types of weapons used, which raises the issue of some Olympic shooting sports being illegal in the UK.

In both cases, there was no positive effect on the use of these classes of weapon for killing people. The post-Hungerford ban, on semi-automatic rifles, couldn't really be expected to reduce criminal use: the criminal use was already incredibly rare. The post-Dunblane ban on handguns only affected those possessed according to law. The criminals didn't use such guns anyway.

So in the UK we have a strict system of control that failed to recognise potential murderers, and which does nothing to affect the pool of weapons available for criminal use. The control system may be blocking access by some unstable people, but the level of official paranoia is such that Police forearms officers have been called out in response to military exercises were armed soldiers have been deploying surface-to-air missiles.

There are elements of the British system which still make sense, but it has been abused. Part of that abuse comes from its origin in post-WW1 fear of communist revolution. It's a system intended to keep guns out of the hands og the hoi polloi who were now trained soldiers, and none too happy about the suppsed "Land fit for heroes".

It probably did some good, but maybe only by accident.

Doing good by accident isn't something we want from legislators.

#93 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 03:13 AM:

(...don'tdoitdon'tdoitdon'tdoit...)

Police forearms officers

Is there no right to bare arms in the UK?

(...shouldn'thavedoneitshouldn'thavedoneit...)

#94 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 01:33 PM:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

This year the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the Second Amendment; the hope of the concerned parties is that the Supremes will settle the question of whether the intent there is to preserve the rights of individuals OR the right of the states/federal government to maintain militias.

(My apologies to all if I have misconstrued or misstated the question.)

#95 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Clark,

Notice however that handguns are quite common in certain circles without ensuing mayhem

fidelio's hypothetical was that we all took guns to the mall, not just your upper middle class friends from "certain circles", but everyone. You didn't disprove fidelio; you changed the setting to argue that restricting the access to firearms for people who aren't in "certain circles" would result in safer mall parking lots. And on that point, we agree. You have just forwarded one of the basic ideas supporting gun control laws.

#96 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Shartly after the Virginia Tech shootings, I ran across a thread where people were posting ideas for what to do if you were in such a situation. For example, it turned out that one professor had barricaded the door when he heard the shots— he and his students survived simply because the shooter turned to easier targets. A couple of ideas that came out of the thread were:

1) Arm yourself with whatever you can. Even a text book can be a missile.
2) Shooters tend to display some of the automatic assumptions that everyone makes— if you stand in front of the door, he may shoot through the door, but if you stand next to the door, he probably won't shoot through the wall. (Weird little data point discussion surrounding that one.)
3. Shooters lead with the gun— stand by the door, armed with a broomstick, and the moment the gun comes through, whack it down.

IOW, if you are in a trapped situation where flight is not applicable, start thinking fight because it's your best chance. Flight is usually the better option.

#97 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Toni, #93: on the Supreme Court deciding a Second Amendment case.

Nothing Good Will Come Of This.

#98 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 02:56 PM:

#94 - Nice to know that one of the basic ideas supporting gun control laws is class control.

I've often wondered why nobody has arranged for several pounds of mercury to boil in the school they just dropped out of. Obs SF - the defense of Dorsai. That's much harder to avoid by keeping the head down.

I'd worry much more about sick buildings (especially energy controlled such that mold and mildew grow wild) than about sick shooters.

Picky point - I wish folks would define sniper as they use it in these discussions as opposed to the modern designated marksman or simply marksman usage. I suspect most people would notice a Ghilli suit at the mall - have to hang sandwich boards for a movie to be ignored.

Notice the Texas Tower incident was in fact ameliorated by guns (long arms) in the hands of citizens. Northfield Minnesotta was better off for guns in the hands of the general population when Jesse James came calling.

#99 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 03:45 PM:

Clark,

Gun control is based in part on the idea that some people shouldn't have guns. The question is simply where to draw the line. You conveniently drew it at your middle class circle, which gave you reason to expect less chaos than if guns were dispensed via bubblegum machines at the mall. At no point have you disproved fidelio's prediction about universal firearm distribution in mall parking lots. Instead, you keep changing the parameters.

fidelio predicted what would happen if everyone at the mall had a gun. You question fidelio's prediction. You countered with how in certain circles some people can have a gun and not have chaos. I pointed out that doesn't disprove fidelio's scenario. Now you talk about how in the Old Wild West some people were better off with guns when an outlaw came to town. The question would be whether the Old West had a statistically better crime rate, and whether one can compare the Old West circumstances (smaller towns, fewer people, horses instead of cars, a surprising lack of malls) to anything occurring in America today.

#100 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Clark 97: I've often wondered why nobody has arranged for several pounds of mercury to boil in the school they just dropped out of. Obs SF - the defense of Dorsai. That's much harder to avoid by keeping the head down.

Because it doesn't give the kind of visceral satisfaction that shooting a gun gives. And most of these people (the ones I'm aware of, anyway) have already chosen to die themselves. Setting a bomb for later just doesn't cut it. They want to see people bleed, and they want to go out in a blaze of something-or-other, not do LWOP for mass murder.

Besides, someone has to be pretty unhinged to go off like this. They aren't terrorists; they're crazy people. Rational solutions won't occur to them.

Also, large quantities of metallic mercury are harder to get than guns.

#101 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:05 PM:

onceamarine, #98: A surprising and little-known datum about the "Wild West" is that many of the frontier towns had fairly strict gun-control laws, of the "when you come into town, check your gun with the sheriff's office" variety. They knew from bitter experience what happens when you have random people with guns in a relatively well-populated area, and they weren't having any of that shit.

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:09 PM:

ethan @92:

Don't think for a minute that that went unnoticed.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:18 PM:

We need laws for gum control.

#104 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:21 PM:

Serge @102:
We need laws for gum control.

Oh, I don't know. Such laws tend to be fairly toothless.

#105 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Serge #102: Wouldn't that increase the number of brushes with the law?

#106 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:32 PM:

At a slight tangent to the inevitable round-robin about gun-control laws – given that guns aren't going to disappear anytime soon, and neither will amok gunmen – if you get stuck in one of these situations and the person next to you gets hit, are there appropriate first aid measures you can take if the victim isn't obviously dead? I have a vague idea that putting pressure on a wound might be a good idea, but I don't know how effective that might be for a deep wound. Other than that, what can I do until the first responders arrive? (Keeping my head down, we'll take as a given.)

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:41 PM:

abi... Fragano... That's a load of bullet.

#108 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Nel C @105:

Your attention is drawn to Trauma and You, Part One: The Basics. Be warned that reading it may cause faintness, difficulty breathing or vegetarianism.

The key paragraph on external bleeding (search the page for C is Circulation) goes like this:

- o0o -

How to control external bleeding: put the heel of your hand against the bleeding spot and press, hard. Take the cleanest cloth you can find and press it onto the bleeding place. If it soaks through, put on another cloth and press, hard. Keep adding cloth and pressing, hard, until the bleeding stops, or, if that doesn’t work, in addition to pressure, raise the bleeding spot above the patient’s heart. (Be aware of where the patient’s heart is, particularly if he’s lying on a slope.) If that still doesn’t work, find a pressure point (anywhere an artery passes next to a bone, where you can feel the pulse) between the injury and the heart, and press there.

- o0o -

In context, ensure that you are not risking your own life in doing this. Keep in your cover or concealment if at all possible.

#109 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 04:55 PM:

abi #101: No...no! Don't use the spamzapper on me, please!

#110 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:01 PM:

ethan @108:

...nor yet throw you in the briar patch?

#111 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Serge #106: I find that attitude carious.

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Abi... Is there an agonizer booth in the HamsterCave for the likes of ethan?

#113 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Serge,

If you think I know, you are making some very large assumptions about the way that things are labeled in here. I spent several hours trying to get my tea hot in something that turned out to be an orrery*.

And I'm still dealing with the contents of what I thought were inkwells. Has anyone seen the butterfly net? A few of them haven't Rorschached yet. Maybe I could get them back inside and put the stoppers in again.

-----
* This turned out to be fortuitous. They weren't tea leaves either.

#114 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Abi @107: I smite my forehead; of course Jim McDonald's emergency medicine posts would cover this.

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Abi @ 112... You know, it sounds more and more like backstage at Making Light is like Girl Genius, only scarier. Try not to zap yourself, you'd look strange with a Bride of Frankenstein hairdo.

#116 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 06:01 PM:

Clark, 97: No amelioration would have been needed if the crazy man hadn't had the long guns in the first place.

#117 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 06:03 PM:

Valuethinker@70:

It was Beyond This Horizon. For a long time, I thought "An armed society is a polite society" was from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, but it isn't, though a similar idea is expressed there.

In any case, in Beyond This Horizon, the armed people do not create a polite society--it's a bullying society, and I've wondered if Heinlein actually believed the line about an armed society at the time, or if he thought it's the kind of nonsense people will say to support their customs.

In Moon, it actually is a polite society, and Heinlein may have believed weapons contribute to courtesy by then.

One of the news reports said that most of the people who died in the mall shooting were people who worked there, and suggested that it's more of a habit to stay at your post. Perhaps it's a good idea to especially think about what you'll do if an emergency happens at work.

#118 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 08:11 PM:

#99 Also, large quantities of metallic mercury are harder to get than guns.

May well be, just as Red Phosphorus gets high school chemistry teachers arrested as meth cooks according to press reports of scientifically impossible lab actions. But I doubt it.

This from Dwyer Instruments (dot com)
A-130 1/2 pound bottle mercury, triple distilled, 13.6 sp. gr. $54.50 Normally Stocked Add to Cart Add a UK to the site and the price is pounds 25.90. But banning guns and pocket knives will make people safe.

Time was mercury USP was readily available over the counter no questions asked for cash for use in Dwyer and other brand manometers see any HVAC shop or instrument lab. I had an interesting argument with a paper pusher at a nuclear facility about such a manometer as a primary not a secondary standard once.

#115 - obs sf - Dies the Fire and so many others but short of alien space bats it comes down to some have and some don't and Ghod bless the child whose got his own.

Various:
Indeed yes in the old west there were strong class distinctions about who could carry see e.g. Dredd Scott. But notice that the wild west wasn't. The last year we lived in Chicago while my wife (deceased) was at the U. of Chi there were as many folks shot dead within a block of our home as in any of the Kansas cowtowns during the cattle drives - a total of 5 achieved only once in Dodge and once in Ellsworth.

As for today - for fond memories of the halcyon days in AZ for so many here - see e.g.:
A town sick of crime
With closest deputy 60 miles away, residents fend for themselves
Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic [http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/1206aguila1206.html]
Dec. 6, 2007 12:00 AM

AGUILA - Jim Ross lifted his coat slightly behind the restaurant counter, revealing a 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol in a holster.

"I'm not going to be a victim without somebody having a bullet in their (rear)," said the owner of Coyote Flats Cafe on U.S. 60. "We're going to take this town back."

Jim and his wife, Dorene, are not the only folks packing heat in this backwater community 25 miles west of Wickenburg.
....
Their angst and anger climaxed Monday when about 200 people jammed into the Aguila community center to vent at Maricopa County sheriff's Capt. Scott Penrose.

For two hours, they shared crime stories and warned that Aguila citizens are going to start shooting people in defense of their homes and businesses.
....

As for the helping your neighbor most everybody today is familiar with the use of sanitary napkins and such but I gather immediate use of bandages with clotting agents is discouraged? Anybody comment on drawbacks beyond price? Pocket or purse kits with clotting agent bandages aren't dirt cheap but cheap enough.

#119 ::: Robert Prior ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 08:48 PM:

Mary @24: I don't mean to imply I'm not for gun control, because I am. I just wonder if that issue is obscuring something deeper.

It might be instructive to compare the US and Canada, back before Canada had gun control. Murder rate in the US was 10 times that in Canada. For that matter, during the Klondike Gold Rush American miners that were violent in Alaska behaved themselves in the Yukon.

I'd strongly suspect a cultural difference between the two countries accounts for the discrepancy (and by extension the greater murder rate in the US compared to other Western countries as well). Possibly the greater emphasis on individualism in the US, but that's a speculation only, as my knowledge of US culture is too superficial to draw conclusions.

#120 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 09:05 PM:

Robert Prior, it's absolutely not your fault that every time I see your name I think of the character Prior Robert from Ellis Peters' Cadfael books.

#121 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 09:52 PM:

118 - Not so much a difference between the two countries - crossing the border headed south - say from Vancouver BC doesn't lead to a more violent country full of tropical passions - but an issue of composition. It's not hard to pair like communities north and south of the border where the rate of violence in the US is no higher and often lower than in Canada.

The successors to the Scotch-Irish are more likely natural killers; though I am by no means saying mean killers. See e.g. the Wright Rossi report for a very well documented finding that gun violence in the United States is pretty much proportional to Southern ethnicities and not much else.

That is as the Vermont/New Hampshire comparison suggests it's not laws that make the difference or Vermont and New Hampshire would be much more different.

Again when I was in Chicago the then Uptown community - shuttle migrants of the "by day I make I make the cars by night I make the bars" variety - was the most violent and potentially deadly.

And again a clue for situational awareness perhaps or perhaps not?

#122 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 11:33 PM:

Re what to do for the wounded. I carry a couple of field dressings in my bags (computer, camera, walkabout:non computer). I say a couple because that give me one to use on someone else.

Clark: I suspect (apart from cost) the reason fewer people carry such (not even looing to the keflex self-clotters) is the same reason posts about what to do are needed; people don't think they will ever be at the side of the road helping someone who's just decided to use the saftey rail at the offramp to remove the battery from their car.

I want some of the Israeli bandages I saw last spring. One-handed application, and they go from simple dressing to tourniquet, as needed.

#123 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2007, 11:50 PM:

#117: Aside from price, the disadvantages of the various clotting agents is that they don't work.

In the case of the bandages impregnated with clotting agents, your best bet is to cut 'em open and extract the agent, put it into the wound, and use direct pressure. For the others, hope that you didn't pick the variety that heats up to 180° F. In any case, to be useful at all they have to be combined with strong direct pressure.

#105: What to do for gunshot wounds? I'll probably get more into this in Trauma and You, Part 4: The Squishy Bits(coming soon!) but in the meantime, as noted, stop the bleeding with direct pressure.

The cops have a mnemonic: Call A CAB.

That is, Call for backup, check the Area, then Circulation, Airway, Breathing.

The reason you go circulation first is that what's going to kill the guy with a gunshot wound is the pumping arterial spray. Fix that first. You have perhaps as much as four minutes to get to airway, and perhaps as little as thirty seconds to get the bleeding controlled.

So: call 911 first. Get help rolling. Then check the area to make sure it's safe. You don't do anyone any good if you're lying beside the first guy, with a gunshot wound of your own. Then control major bleeding, open the airway, and make sure he's breathing.

Except through-and-through wounds to extremities, use full spinal precautions when moving the patient.

And that's pretty much it.

(NOTE: PHTLS (PreHospital Trauma Life Support) 6th edition is teaching to go directly to tourniquet for major bleeding from extremities when direct pressure doesn't work -- skip elevation and pressure points. That isn't in my local protocols, and I have to follow my local protocols. You ... make up your own mind.)

#124 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 12:03 AM:

Nancy, #116, I believe that "An armed society is a polite society" was originally one of Samuel Colt's marketing lines, as are some of the other widely-heard pro-gun lines.

#125 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 05:02 AM:

I wonder if mobility of labor is a factor in the US.

At one extreme, people in poor situations see others leaving the area, and feel trapped because they don't see themselves able to move.

And at the other, it reduces the sense of community.

#126 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 06:31 AM:

One of the abiding characteristics of the Australian workforce is mobility. There is, it's true, a reluctance to move to the deep north or off the coast permanently, but otherwise, people move to other States or cities at the drop of a hat.

I am told - I can't say whether it's true or not - that the British workforce is far less so: that unemployment remains concentrated in the north of Britain, as it has for a century now, but that northerners are less likely to shift.

#127 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 07:14 AM:

Randolph Fritz @123: [..] "An armed society is a polite society" [..]

I knew a guy with an interesting history, who once claimed: "The nice thing about a police state, is that everyone is polite. They are polite, because no one knows who the secret police are".

I suppose the exception would be the secret police, who would have no reason to be polite.

#128 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:17 AM:

Clark, 120: Did you just tell me that my family and I are "natural killers"? You wouldn't say that about African-Americans born in the South, so why is it OK to say it about whites?

#129 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:58 AM:

#123 ::: Randolph Fritz:

Do you have a source? A fast googling turns up "God Created Men But Sam Colt Made 'em Equal", "Be Not Afraid Of Any Man No Matter What His Size. When Danger Threatens Call On Me And I Will Equalize" (sounds like a Burma Shave ad), and "Smith and Wesson or a COLT always beat four aces" (this one probably isn't originated by Colt), but nothing for "An armed society is a polite society" that's earlier than Heinlein.

It rather surprises me that Heinlein's "Politics is the only game for adults" (Double Star never caught on.

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:06 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 128... "Politics is the only game for adults"

I wonder if Heinlein would revise that one if he were alive to see who's currently nominally in charge in the White House.

#131 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:49 AM:

TexAnne, if I were you I would avoid Joe Bageant's "Deer Hunting with Jesus" like the plague. He's got some hard things to say about the Scots-Irish in the USA. And he's one himself, and proud of it.

#132 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Serge #129:

The context of that comment was that the current Prime Minister (there was a different name, but that was the office) was either a gangster or a stooge for gangsters, and RAH surely didn't care for a lot of the politicians in office in the US, so I suspect he'd keep the sentiment.

I just reread the book. Why was Heinlein so much better when he was straightjacketed by rules about sex in books for teenage boys? Was it just that he was sharper then before his health declined? Or did he really benefit from censorship?

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:09 AM:

albatross @ 131... I stand corrected. As for restrictions making some people better storytellers... I wouldn't know about Heinlein, having read very few of his stories, but your comment makes me think of Hitchcock who, in It Takes A Thief, found clever ways around the restrictions, by having Cary Grant and Grace Kelly exchange double entendres while, in the background, fireworks are shooting up into the night sky.

#134 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:13 AM:

Dave #130:

Thomas Sowell's _Black Rednecks and White Liberals_ covers some similar ground, kind of following up on Sowell's lifelong interest in how culture and history affects people for generations after they've moved away from the source of that culture. A thread of argument he makes is that a lot of what is now the culture of American blacks was borrowed from Scots-Irish in the South, and retained long after the Scots-Irish had mostly lost that culture.

More broadly, he sees outcomes of different ethnic groups as largely being the result of the culture they started out with--pointing out stuff like the fact that Germans, Irish, Italians, Japanese, Chinese, and Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, all wound up emigrating to many different countries, and ended up in much the same occupations and economic positions in each country, even generations later. He's written some really fascinating books along these lines. (It's important to distinguish his newspaper columns, which are pure partisan hackery these days, from his books, which are pretty thoughtful.)

#135 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:31 AM:

TexAnne,127,
Try
Insult, Aggression, and the Southern Culture of Honor: An "Experimental Ethnography" by Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle and Schwarz.

Highlights include:
Compared with northerners-who were relatively unaffected by the insult-southerners were (a) more likely to think their masculine reputation was threatened, (b) more upset (as shown by a rise in cortisol levels), (c) more physiologically primed for aggression (as shown by a rise in testosterone levels), (d) more cognitively primed for aggression, and (e) more likely to engage in aggressive and dominant behavior. Findings highlight the insult-aggression cycle in cultures of honor, in which insults diminish a man's reputation and he tries to restore his status by aggressive or violent behavior.

Short version: controlling for all other factors, white people in small towns in the South kill each other more often than in other regions, probably due to a "culture of honor."

#136 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:42 AM:

TexAnne@127: Yep. That's what they're saying, all right. But with bibliographic references, so that we know we aren't supposed to take it personally.

#137 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:57 AM:

I'd also add to those books Albion's Seed, which does get into the lingering cultural effects, although it says the Scots-Irish are in the back-country, the hills and the hollows. The plantation-based society was more cavalier/west of England culture, with its ideas of honor and proper behavior (or improper behavior; look at William Byrd's diaries).

#138 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:58 AM:

TexAnne @ 127... I thought it was comic-book fans who are natural-born killers - at least according to most of the law & order TV series.

#139 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:03 AM:

Clark,

the Scotch-Irish are more likely natural killers

In the US military, universal firearm distribution results in fatal live fire training accidents, incidents of friendly fire, collateral damage, and even the rare attrocity committed by military personel against innocent people. And this from an organization that is highly trained, highly disciplined in the use of weapons. The police occasionally make the news for shooting an innocent man who was reaching for his wallet or doing nothing at all. Again, trained and disciplined people with firearms.

Yet in fidelio's scenario of universal firearm distribution among all civilians at a shopping mall, the idea that someone might shoot someone else over a parking spot evades you. You doubt it. You demand proof. And you counter not with tales from your own experience or statistically sound national studies, but with tales of your mother's upper class social circle of women friends, with tales of how some town defended themselves against Jesse James back in 1880, and finally with odd comments about the scotch-irish and natural born killers.

You have stunned me into submission, sir. I surrender the field to you.

#140 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 03:10 PM:

TexAnne: They're saying either that you're natural-born killers, or that you are hopelessly warped by your early upbringing. Unlike them--they'd never use force to keep the notionally "dangerous" groups under control.

Statistically, it would be surprising if there wasn't a geographic subgroup of a population that didn't have a higher than average rate of violent crime. That doesn't necessarily mean that there's a particular cause of that higher number. Anyone who's half-competent with statistics would be surprised if every family that had an even number of children had the same number of boys as girls, and no family had a difference greater than one. That doesn't mean it makes sense to look for the "cause" of someone having three daughters and no sons, or four sons and one daughter.

(It's possible that there are cultural factors other than poverty and desperation that lead to higher rates of violent crime. But I'd want evidence beyond correlation, and in the meantime, fighting poverty has enough other advantages that it's a good place to start.)

#141 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 04:19 PM:

#127 - Because as a generalization it's true. Don't suppose I would hesitate to say it about any particular group where I thought something to be true. Facts make better premises than wishes.

Obs fantasy lit related: Sam Clemens blaming the American Civil War on the influence of Sir. Walter Scott on the Southern psyche and presumed noble causes.

#138 - distribution is not universal! - though as you should remember Ted Williams was noted for distinguishing between what he was and what his assigned duty was.

On the other hand I don't think the organization (? query some fallacy of composition there taking US Military as the organization) is highly trained and highly disciplined in the use of weapons. They weren't when the NRA was founded; they weren't when Lones Wigger was bucking for a Marksmanship Command with him as the obvious choice to head it and though it's been many years since I had personal observation I doubt it's universally true the organization taken as a whole is highly trained and highly disciplined today.

On the subject of police taken as a global to be highly trained and disciplined by definition - I'll bow to Mas Ayoob and others who say the Abner Diallou shooting was mistaken but rightous - but here's one http://www.newsok.com/article/3120381/ for the highly trained and disciplined crowd:
NORMAN (AP) - Second-degree manslaughter charges will be filed against two Noble police officers involved in the accidental fatal shooting of a 5-year-old boy, a district attorney said Friday.

Austin Gabriel Haley was killed Aug. 3 after one of the officers fired his .40-caliber handgun at a snake in a birdhouse outside a home in Noble. The boy was standing at a dock at a pond near the house when he was hit. FWIW the snake wasn't even poisonous.

As for the scenario of universal firearm distribution among all civilians at a shopping mall, the idea that someone might [not] shoot someone else over a parking spot evades you . Some times and some places when on opening day of deer season pretty nearly everybody at shopping areas really did have a gun or two.

You want a personal observation? I've seen roadhouse style bars where pretty nearly every pickup parked in the lot had rifles in the rack and windows rolled down and no shootings - nobody even stole another person's rifle. Then again there have been shootings in Chicago and other cities (with no guns allowed) over parking places on the street - especially parking places cleared of snow. I don't know that anybody will or won't shoot anybody else over a parking place or anything else. Do you?

I gather then that currently replacing general use first aid kits simply to add clotting agent bandages isn't a wise use of funds?

I see comments like this around:
The 4x4in HemCon are indeed very expensinve, but this will be mitigated by different size offerings in 2x2in and 2x4in respectively running in the 29 to 60 dollar range. The military is getting the HemCon in numbers, so the 4x4 dressing is unlikely to go down in price anytime soon.

The main diffference in HemCon and Celox vs Quikclot is the mechanism of operation.

Quikclot works by absorption and the rapid accumulation of platelets and clotting factors. It had a side effect of exothermic reaction as a result of the interaction between the blood and Zeolite. The newer stuff works much the same, but with exo temp ranging around 105F as opposed to the 140F perviosly noted.

Hemcon and Celox operate much the same way using a very sticky shrimp chitosan protein to assist in the clotting factor. The result is a more gelatinized clot that does not have the same level of irrigation requirement to debride the wound of the clotted material as Quiklot does.

There is a strong tendency to much more sophisticated first aid gear for anybody with a gun even plain clothes or civilian which I took to mean it really works but maybe not yet? I do see folks claiming the bandage provides more and better control.

I also see high praise for the Israeli bandage - I don't know why Terry doesn't have some if he wants some - perhaps a group buy for the fluorsphere?

I think Mr. Heinlein needed a tone it down editing (Campbell may have been in too much agreement with the writers he developed from before Heinlein to Dr. Pournelle) - the unexpurgated Puppet Masters added nothing to the book for me and I had read it enough when new and since that I think I could have blue penciled all the insertions.


#142 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 04:24 PM:

#139 - It's possible that there are cultural factors other than poverty and desperation that lead to higher rates of violent crime.

It's certain that at a bare minimum there are cultural factors in addition to poverty and desperation that lead to higher rates of violent crime. See e.g. Sowell again. Further just as there is a revolution of rising expectations so there is an observed second generation effect of rising prosperity associated with rising violent crime.

#143 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 04:42 PM:

To everyone who gave me chapter and verse about how my ethnic group is intrinsically more violent than everybody else's: Thanks ever so, but that's not really what I was asking. I'm asking why y'all are OK with saying "Persons of Scotch-Irish descent are natural killers" when I am certain that no one here would say "Persons of African descent are natural killers." Or (dare I go there? yes)-- "Persons of Arabic descent have a 'culture of honor' that make them natural killers."

#144 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 04:58 PM:

I'm sorry TexAnne, I wasn't intending a personal insult. (I wasn't intending an insult towards the Scots-Irish, either, I just thought the research interesting.)

#145 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Guys,

Remember how we had a little recent trouble over the works of Richard Burton, or was it the Matter of Britain? Please don't tell me that this discussion of Gnu Central*, or the Gin Contrail† is going to go the same way.

So could we stop playing with matches near the powder keg now?

I think, in particular, that the term "natural killers" applied an ethnic group is pretty inflammatory. Some of the subsequent comments have talked about the distribution of violence among certain cultural and geographical groups in the US. Those are verifiable facts.

But the idea that this arises from some ethnic tendency toward violence is a conclusion, not a fact.

-----
* it's where the open source guys hang out
† a drink almost, but not entirely, unlike a Gibson

#146 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 05:45 PM:

Abi @ 144... Thanks for stepping in.

#147 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 06:32 PM:

Midori: Thank you.

Abi: Thank you, too.

#148 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 07:59 PM:

Why exclude the second amendment? I think that is the one whose protection is most relevent here. One good, brave citizen with a conceiled carry permit could've ended this with potentially only the death of the gunman.

It's sad that today we are counciled to run away and hide and wait for the professionals to come (always too late, it seems) when one crazy person decides to become famous. People were going to get killed that day unless somebody stood up to that man, and it's callous to implicitly suggest that those that died simply didn't "take cover" proficiently enough.

Of course, if we had a magic button that would remove all guns from existence, I'd be the first to press it, even though I'm a libertarian. But it will always be easy for people to get guns, regardless of how ever many laws are put on the books. Exactly what legal punishment will perturb the actions of a person bent on killing themselves?

#149 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:00 PM:

I didn't mean to imply that I agreed with Bageant. I apologise for giving that impression. For what it's worth, I think the bow is drawn too long.

Bageant may be wrong to argue that a good deal of the situation of that particular demographic is caused by ancestry and inherited culture, but he describes that situation very well indeed. It may not be reasonable to trace it back to the seventeenth century and the displacement of Calvinist Scots borderers to Ulster and thence to America, but he nevertheless points out an anomaly that needs explaining.

Someone has to explain the weird combination: working poor, reamed by predatory capitalism, who don't complete high school, who spend their lives locked into debt in horrible jobs, who die young of preventable causes without health care, and yet who are extreme conservatives, delivering to the the Republican party its most reliable voting block. Someone has to explain the combination of magical worldview, fundamentalist Calvinism, truculent belligerence, territoriality amounting almost to tribalism, disdain for education, loathing for government and yet reactionary conservatism that characterises an entire subculture.

The only possible routes out of their situation - education and government action - are the very things that they despise the most. They'll vote for anyone who can be made to sound like them and against anyone who doesn't. It doesn't seem to matter a hoot to them that the liberals they revile so much might try to alleviate their poverty, while the people they vote for have remorselessly ground them down further, dismantled any social safety net, furiously exported their jobs, opened an uncrossable gulf between the classes, and gloated about doing it.

These things are inexplicable to someone outside the US. Sure, there are working poor in Australia, but they vote Labor. Boy, do they vote Labor. They know where their interest lies. Why don't Bageant's people?

#150 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:04 PM:

Gunman opens fire at Colorado megachurch

A black-clad man armed with a rifle opened fire at a Colorado Springs, Colorado, megachurch Sunday afternoon, police say. It was not immediately known whether the shootings were related to an earlier shooting at a missionary center in Arvada, about 70 miles away.
#151 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:07 PM:

Jonathan (#147): One good, brave citizen with a conceiled carry permit could've ended this with potentially only the death of the gunman.

It didn't work out that way in the Tacoma Mall shooting.

#152 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:22 PM:

Dave Luckett, 148: Thank you. #148 makes a lot more sense, given what else I've seen you post here. I have some ideas, but I'm not fit for intelligent discussion ATM.

And Midori--having thought about it some more, I think that what happened was that you posted a shiny piece of research, and I misunderstood it as a reply to my comment about "my family and I? really?" Please don't stop sharing nifty finds like that; on any other day, I would have been as interested as you.

#153 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Dave Lucket@148:
These things are inexplicable to someone outside the US. Sure, there are working poor in Australia, but they vote Labor. Boy, do they vote Labor. They know where their interest lies. Why don't Bageant's people?

Just to hazard a guess -- because they don't much feel like making common cause with people who think that they're too stupid to know what's good for them, and who can't be bothered to hide the fact that they think it. And -- oh, yeah -- who don't know any better than to insult their kinfolk to their faces.

(Seriously. That one's important. I may think that all my relatives are hopeless rednecks and reactionary troglodytes, but that doesn't mean anybody else is allowed to say that. Nobody but me is allowed to kick my dog.)

#154 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:38 PM:

Nancy, #128: sorry--no cite and I don't remember where I saw that; it would take some serious research to pin it down. That said, it does sound like one of Colt's lines.

#155 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:50 PM:

Clark, I have not responded to you further because I don't believe it would be proftable to do so. For one thing, the issue of gun ownership and the related issues of gun-related violence, and perceptions of gun-related violence are such a hot-button topic for you that a balanced discussion is difficult--your defensive screens are set to such a high gain that all your reactions on this topic are a little too intense for that. For example, you still haven't responded to my noting that part of what I wrote was snark. If you can't manage to recognize that and allow for it, we're just going to butt heads.

Part of the reason I posted what I did was because I could see, especially shaping up in comments from MLers outside the US, the old "All the Americans have guns and there are so many of them, no wonder this happens" meme, which is one I'm rather tired of. For one thing, a lot of us don't have guns. For another, as you (among others) have noted, it's not the guns; it's the attitude that permits their use so casually and thoughtlessly--and that's not a general attitude among Americans, whether they own guns or not.

I do feel social attitude if the big thing that shapes how we feel about gun use--and that isn't something we can connect to ethnic group, region of the country, economic level, or anything else. My suspicion is that it's a small-group thing--a feeling shaped partly by family attitudes, and partly by our immediate peer groups before any other parts of society.

I, too, have seen the parking lot full of truck belonging to deer hunters--and the prevailing social attitude, among most of these hunters, was that those guns were tools, and not to be used on one's fellow-humans except in the direst and most dreadful of circumstances. And you don't mess with another man's (or woman's) tools. I've also seen the bars with signs prominently displayed, stating plainly that firearms (and other weapons) were not permitted (often by state law, and not just the whim of the owner). Sometimes the patrons were too polite and responsible for these to be more than a legal necessity, and sometimes all it's meant is that the shooting doesn't start until the idiots can get outside to their vehicles.

The ladies you mentioned in Atlanta, with guns in their gloveboxes, are strongly socialized against using those weapons casually. The problem we face is figuring out how such socialization works, and how to help people who are more vulnerable to the temptation to resort to the gun (and other forms of violence) in order to express their personal distress and fears monitor their feelings and deal with them better.

My basic position on gun ownership is that there are people I'd trust to own a thousand of them, and others I wouldn't even trust to handle one for sixty seconds.

I'm not going to discuss this issue with you any further. You are unlikely to change any of your opinions and reactions, which I'm sure you didn't arrive at casually (or, for the sake of working some snark in here, discover in a box of Crackerjacks). I'm not going to change mine, either, including the tendency to resort to sarcasm as a way of expressing general (and specific) aggravation and irritation.


#156 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 08:51 PM:

TexAnne, you're arguing with someone who's been known to say "in principle I have little or no problem with selling guns out of vending machines in high school cafeterias." (Read back in that thread...I was trying to find a gun-rights-absolutist position too extreme for Clark, and failed. There is no such thing.)

Doing so wastes your time and...well, since we've been quoting Heinlein I'm sure you can fill in the rest.

(I'm part Irish on both sides, and I think Clark is a natural killer who has inherited it from whatever ethnic group(s) he belongs to. Obviously his insistence on his absolute right to have a gun at all times in all environments can stem from nothing other than his genetically-programmed wish to kill someone someday.)

#157 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:06 PM:

Xopher: (boggling) I didn't know that. I don't generally hang out in the Large-Animal Anti-Stampede threads* because I get quite enough in my local fishwrap's editorial pages.** Thanks for the warning.

*well, they're always about gnu control, right?
**Grq Ahtrag every Sunday. I love how rot13 makes his caveman nature obvious. Also, oh my GAWD I miss Molly Ivins.

#158 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:07 PM:

TexAnne, 151,
And Midori--having thought about it some more, I think that what happened was that you posted a shiny piece of research, and I misunderstood it as a reply to my comment about "my family and I? really?" Please don't stop sharing nifty finds like that; on any other day, I would have been as interested as you.
Thank you, that's very kind. I was pretty embarrassed when I re-read the context and figured out how much I'd made an ass of myself.

#159 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:10 PM:

#147: Jonathan

Welcome to Making Light!

You say:

"Why exclude the second amendment? I think that is the one whose protection is most relevent here."

I'm nothing if not obliging! Okay, if you want it that way, the Bush administration can throw out the Second Amendment too!

How would that have made things better?

#160 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:15 PM:

Midori--I say "Uh, that didn't come out right..." on a weekly basis. Let's go talk about how weird our cats (or other small animal companions) are instead.

#161 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:17 PM:

Abi @ 144... don't tell me that this discussion of Gnu Central*, or the Gin Contrail† is going to go the same way

Much to my relief, I have seen nobody clamoring for pun control.

#162 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:23 PM:

...or for plum entrails

#163 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:23 PM:

...or for bum wrinkles

#164 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:24 PM:

...or for thumb nails

#165 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:27 PM:

Hey! I'm in favor of thumbnails! Anyone who wants my thumbnails will have to pry them off my cold, dead...um, thumbs.

#166 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:29 PM:

Serge #160: I, for one, am very much in favour of gin control.

#167 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:35 PM:

Fragano, 165: So am I. Uncontrolled gins lead to awful tangles in one's cotton.

#168 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:40 PM:

Me too. I quit when the same person goes gin five times in a row. It's just pointless to keep playing if they're always going to win.

#169 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:41 PM:

What about churned victuals?

#170 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:50 PM:

Serge 168: What about churned victuals?

BARF!

#171 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:54 PM:

Fragano @ 165 -
Serge #160: I, for one, am very much in favour of gin control.

Djinn control? Absolutely in favor of it. Imagine if the wrong person got ahold of one - all that power tied up in services, and three wishes besides? yeeesh....

#172 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:54 PM:

Texanne @142:

I am certain that no one here would say "Persons of African descent are natural killers."

I would be hesitant to say that only because I know that not everybody agrees with the Out of Africa hypothesis.

Seriously, has there ever been any human group that has given up killing for more than a handful of generations? Okay, Quakers, I'll grant, but besides them?

#173 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 09:58 PM:

If we aren't careful about maintaining some semblance of gin control, awful things happen. Wood alcohol gets into the mix; people use fake juniper flavoring instead of real juniper berries; I could go on, but I think the conclusions are obvious: Without some control of gin, the martini as we know it (to say nothing of the Tom Collins, the gin and tonic, and countless other beloved beverages) will be a thing of the past. I appeal to you, fellow denizens of the fluorosphere--without gin control, we'll all have to drink other stuff, and if this results in a rye shortage, it's up to those who opposed gin control to explain that to PNH.

The non-drinkers among you may laugh and shrug, and say this doesn't matter to you, but this is short-sighted and foolish.

#174 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:17 PM:

#158: James

Second post, actually. First one got disemvoweled. (Switched to using just first name to protect my precious online identity.)

I'm suggesting that the reasons people rightfully criticize Bush for his abuse of the constitution also apply to the Second amendment which you seem more than willing to see go. Taking away the right of citizens to own guns doesn't solve our problems any more than taking away habeus corpus makes us safer from terrorism.

I like the second amendment because it empowers good, honest people, not because I particularly think guns are great. Would that we could put them back in pandora's box. But we can't, and so it only seems to add insult to injury to disarm ourselves with gun control.

For example, I note that the Virginia Tech shooting occurred in probably the only place in all of Virginia where a significant percentage of the people are not armed. Outside the campus, the rest of the state allows concealed carry, and a relatively large percentage of citizens avail themselves of it. In fact, it's likely at least a few of the people in the VT building that day had guns at home which they weren't allowed to have on campus.

I also note that Omaha, until last year, was one of the few places in Nebraska where concealed carry was not allowed. And even now they are hard to get in Omaha. I suspect had the shooter tried this in a mall in Lincoln, he might have died a lot sooner.

#175 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Nancy @116: One of the news reports said that most of the people who died in the mall shooting were people who worked there, and suggested that it's more of a habit to stay at your post. Perhaps it's a good idea to especially think about what you'll do if an emergency happens at work.

An guy walked into our Houston office once and shot his ex-girlfriend. We learned this from a colleague who was phoning in from under his desk.

Jonathan @ 147: One good, brave citizen with a conceiled carry permit could've ended this with potentially only the death of the gunman.

Although history shows the good, brave citizen is as likely to end up paralyzed for life.

Here's a scenario: Citizen 1 hears a gunshot in the mall. Citizen 1 draws his weapon and starts looking around for a gunman. Meanwhile, Citizen 2, having heard a gunshot, draws his weapon and starts looking around for a gunman...

And so on.

#176 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:02 PM:

Jonathan @ 173: I'm suggesting that the reasons people rightfully criticize Bush for his abuse of the constitution also apply to the Second amendment which you seem more than willing to see go. Taking away the right of citizens to own guns doesn't solve our problems any more than taking away habeus corpus makes us safer from terrorism.

Funny thing: the Second Amendment doesn't say anything about the right of citizens to own guns.

#177 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2007, 11:54 PM:

Dave, #148: There's pretty much a one-word answer to that, and the word is RELIGION. They won't vote for liberals because the liberals are UnGodly and support things like Legal Abortion and Real Sex Education and Legal Pornography. And that consideration overrides everything else, because their religion also teaches them that submission to worldly travails will be rewarded when they reach Heaven.

The Republicans figured out how to exploit that a generation or two back, and have been doing so mercilessly ever since because it gives them that essential, reliable voting bloc. You may notice that nothing is ever actually DONE toward seriously and permanently eliminating the key issues (abortion, pornography, teenage pregnancy, etc.) and in fact some of the things that are done have been proven over and over again to make the problem worse. ("Abstinence-Only" sex ed, etc.) This is no accident, because it keeps that carrot dangling out there for the right-wing rhetoric to exploit. If they ever actually eliminated one of the reliable hot-button issues, then they'd have to concoct a new one.

Jonathan, #173: This is a common argument from Libertarians, and what it generally implies is a worldview that thinks of your life as a thriller movie. The hero always wins out in the end because that's the way it's supposed to happen, and everyone can always tell the White Hats from the Black Hats.

Real life is much messier than that. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that you, The Hero, were in that mall with your trusty concealed weapon; and that when the shooting started you happened to be in a place from which you had (1) a clear, reasonably close line-of-sight angle to take out the gunman; (2) enough cover that he wouldn't see you and shoot you first; and (3) NO BYSTANDERS in a position to be endangered by either your missed shot or a rebound. Let's also assume that you are sufficiently well-trained not to be rattled by the situation, and skilled enough to make your first shot count... because if you fail to take him out with one shot, now you're in a firefight and YOU will end up killing people too.

Okay, The Hero has saved the day by shooting the Bad Guy! And now... the security guards with guns come around the corner and see him lying dead and you with a gun in your hand. Are they likely to give you a chance to explain, or are they going to shoot first and ask questions later?

You can play Rambo in your own imagination as much as you like. But I damn well don't want you endangering MY life by pretending you can play Rambo for real. You're not living in a movie, dude.


#178 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:14 AM:

Lee, I concur, but it seems to me that the set of attitudes you are describing as religion - quite rightly - is a feature of this demographic which is hardly found outside it. This inclines me to believe that it is an artefact of the culture, and thus an effect, not a cause.

What is it about this culture that takes ideas at best peripheral to mainstream Christianity, or even Protestantism, and elevates them like this? Abortion, homosexuality, pornography, fornication, yes, the Churches disapproved, and preached against them sometimes, but they pretty much always included a hefty dose of removing the log from your own eye first, and never considered them as more than side issues. By what process did the suppression of these things become elevated to the first rank of religious duty, above humility, peace, justice, charity and the love of God?

I think the culture made that process. What I'd like to understand is what caused it to make it.

#179 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 03:22 AM:

Jonathan #173:

I'm suggesting that the reasons people rightfully criticize Bush for his abuse of the constitution also apply to the Second amendment which you seem more than willing to see go.


Which I seem more than willing to see go? I specifically stated, way back in the main post: "(d) throwing out the entire Bill of Rights (except the Second Amendment) wouldn’t have stopped him."

How does that work out to my wanting to see the 2nd amendment go? If you're disagreeing with me, it's you, not I, who want to see the 2nd amendment go the way of the 1st, 4th, and 5th.

#180 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:03 AM:

Richard Brandt @ 175 -
Funny thing: the Second Amendment doesn't say anything about the right of citizens to own guns.

You're not really going to try using the "collective duty" argument, are you?

#181 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:20 AM:

TexAnne #166: That can be awkward at crucial moments.

#182 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:21 AM:

Xopher #167: Hmm. I hadn't figured you for a rummy... (Running like hell...)

#183 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:21 AM:

I can clarify a whole slew of Constitutional ambiguities for everyone, but I'll need permanent dictatorial powers in order to do so. Ok?

#184 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:22 AM:

fidelio #172: Gin control is especially important, some he might say, when it comes to the Gibson.

#185 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:24 AM:

Jim: As someone else pointed out, "religion".

I am far from a "gun control nut" (as I see the phrase, the right of the people to keep and bear" as granting an individual right), and I understood you to mean that leaving only the 2nd amendment hadn't prevented the Omaha shooting.

I also happen to think that arming everyone is a bad idea. I live with guns, have slept with a rifle in my sleeping bag, and with fidelio, I think some people are fit to have anything they please, and others ought not be allowed so much as a cap gun.

How to separate the wheat from the chaff (which Clark says he's willing to do, in theory, but never seems to have any metric for practice), is the question.

Were I armed when something like that happened... I'd probably lay low, see where the fire was coming from and try to plan a course of action that didn't get me killed.

I don't think (based on experience) I'd freeze. I know I'd not stand up and start blazing. Pistol to longarm takes more than a wee bit of luck.

Because, contrary to the movies, shooting at people who shoot back is non-trivial, and pistols aren't the most accurate of things. Yeah, I qualify expert with them. That means 37 times out of 40 I hit a 3/4 sillouhuette at ranges up too 45 feet.

Doesn't make me terribly sanguine about trying to pop a guy forty yards away with a rifle.

#186 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:49 AM:

We need bow control. How else to end the cycle of violins?

#187 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:30 AM:

Serge @ 185
We need bow control. How else to end the cycle of violins?

Obviously, we need more sax.

After all, we were told to make love, not (Art of) War

#188 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:47 AM:

#184 Terry: Doesn't make me terribly sanguine about trying to pop a guy forty yards away with a rifle.

I think the guys who are proposing the Concealed Carry solution are fantasizing that they would be standing five feet behind the shooter and he wouldn't notice them.

#189 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:11 AM:

NelC @171: Seriously, has there ever been any human group that has given up killing for more than a handful of generations? Okay, Quakers, I'll grant, but besides them?

Jains, for another. I've heard it is an upper-class religion; some practitioners were said to employ people to sweep the path ahead of them, lest they step on a bug.

Compassion for all life, human and non-human, is central to Jainism. Human life is valued as a unique, rare opportunity to reach enlightenment. To kill any person, no matter what crime they committed, is considered unimaginably abhorrent.
#190 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 10:24 AM:

Serge #185: May I say that I find that suggestion somewhat bass?

#191 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:44 AM:

The news from these parts is that the Arvada mission shooter, who may well be the same as the New Life Church shooter, opened fire on the Arvada missionaries after they refused him shelter in their dormitory. (The mission also has an ofice in the New Life Church here in the Springs.)

Your worst nightmare: a homeless guy with a gun.

(As if the New Life Church hasn't been through enough lately.)

Lee @ 176: The Republicans figured out how to exploit that a generation or two back, and have been doing so mercilessly ever since because it gives them that essential, reliable voting bloc. You may notice that nothing is ever actually DONE toward seriously and permanently eliminating the key issues (abortion, pornography, teenage pregnancy, etc.) and in fact some of the things that are done have been proven over and over again to make the problem worse. ("Abstinence-Only" sex ed, etc.) This is no accident, because it keeps that carrot dangling out there for the right-wing rhetoric to exploit. If they ever actually eliminated one of the reliable hot-button issues, then they'd have to concoct a new one.

Which is where, I assume, Gay Marriage comes in. This seems to have been the swing issue in the 2004 election, all right. (It's not exactly news that the GOP makes empty promises on social issues to rake in the votes, and only actually accomplishes anything on the financial issues that benefit the tiny monied minority to whom they actually feel indebted.)

Scott @ 179: You're not really going to try using the "collective duty" argument, are you?

It's not up to me. But I will note that the Second Amendment doesn't include the words "citizens" or "own." I'm just sayin'.

#192 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:48 AM:

D'oh! Forgot the biggie: It doesn't mention the word "guns," either.

#193 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:55 AM:

Richard @ 191

It does mention 'arms', which is more general as a term, I think, since it would also include swords and pikes and other edged and pointy things.

(I'll also add that it never says anything about the right to have your vote actually counted after you cast your ballot. They left a lot of stuff implied.)

#194 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 12:49 PM:

#190 ::: Richard Brandt :::

Your worst nightmare: a homeless guy with a gun.

My worst nightmare is a well-housed, well-paid government where I'm living that doesn't like me.

#195 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Jim, #187: That's part of the "life is a thriller movie" mindset too.

#196 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:06 PM:

P.J. It was more general, it says People. The implication (from other uses in the Constitution, say the 4th Amendment The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,) is that more than just citizens are allowed to keep and bear arms.

#197 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:18 PM:

192: is there much of a lobby in the US for the right to carry swords? I could sort of get behind that. Very difficult to rob a bank at sword point. Also, no risk of criminals accidentally stabbing a passerby rather than their competitor in the unregulated pharmaceutical business.

#198 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:18 PM:

Terry K @ 195

They were lawyers (we tend to forget that); what they said was carefully worded. What they would have said about assault rifles I don't know.

I'd bet that a lot of city dwellers then didn't have firearms, but the farmers probably would have had them, for pot-shooting if nothing else.

#199 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:22 PM:

On the subject of homeless guys/historically impoverished groups/whatever with guns, a line from a folk song, slightly revised:

Some rob kill you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.

Forget wars of choice and lack of access to healthcare, because Oooh! Look! Shiny! Man with gun!

(I am ambivalent about the Gin Contrail, but I am pretty clear on where the balance of power lies with even the broadest application of the Second Amendment.)

#200 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Richard @ 174-175:

Yeah, everybody's a constitutional scholar when it comes to the 2nd amendment. It's badly written, and I have no idea what it means, either, but fortunately courts have largely found that it does involve an individual right, so that is, for all intents and purposes, what it means.

And the strawman about everybody shooting everybody if there are relaxed gun laws is a very tired one that holds no water. Vermont (yes, that Vermont) has the most liberal gun laws in the entire world. You can just go buy a handgun and keep in in your pocket without asking anybody. If you've ever been to Vermont, chances are you walked right by somebody carrying and didn't know it. And yet it's not a bloodbath. You know what is? Washington, DC, home of the most strict gun control laws in the nation.

I'm not dumb enough to suggest that this proves gun control is good or bad, but it does indicate that it's a small, very unimportant part of the equation. We are far better off trying to solve the underlying problems leading to violence than we are to be infringing on people's freedoms.

#201 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:29 PM:

James @ 178:

"d) throwing out the entire Bill of Rights (except the Second Amendment) wouldn’t have stopped him"

Sorry, I read that as saying that you felt throwing out the second amendment actually might've stopped him.

#202 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Jonathan: No, the courts haven't, "largely found," that.

The only real support for the absolutely individual right is the recent Circuit Cout decision re DC.

In the main the holdings of the Circuits, and the supremes, is that a collective right to own weapons is devolved to the people as discrete parts of the whole.

Even the ruling in Miller v. Texas on sawed-off shotguns is about the military aspects of the weapon; making it plain (though at present usually confused) that sportmanship/pleasure werent the function of the 2nd Amendment, but rather one's ability to particpate in a militia.

Not personal defense, not bagging supper; killing people, that killing to be part of an organized group, subordinate to (at the very least local) gov't control.

There is a lot of secondary (and predicate) understanding about using those weapons to keep the gov't in line/overthrow it (at desperate need) but the general trend of jurisprudence (as opposed to legislation) has been that the right is collective.

#203 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Jonathan @ 199: I'm just guessing that there are other differences between Vermont and the Districty of Columbia that are a factor here.

#204 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:11 PM:

James @ 187:

"I think the guys who are proposing the Concealed Carry solution are fantasizing that they would be standing five feet behind the shooter and he wouldn't notice them."

That's not fair. Let's say there were an off duty cop standing within sight of this guy as he unpacked his rifle. You have no problem believing that the cop might manage to do what is needed and take the guy out. Nobody would feel the need to point out that if there were two cops, they'd just shoot each other and 16 other people in range. But we're so conditioned to think of the government as our protector that I suggest a citizen might be capable of the same, and all of a sudden it's a crazy idea. Cops may be more trained, but they are not superhuman and aren't tested under fire. In the end, we all have survival instincts, and people do amazing things when confronted with death. The problem is, when we're all disarmed, the only thing to do is run and hope you're faster than the person next to you. That's not the attitude of a society that's going to flourish well into the future. Sad that we've gone from chivalry to men cowering in dressing rooms while women and children are being shot.

#205 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Terry #201 and others:

I suppose I find the "what did the writers of the 2nd amendment mean" argument pretty uninteresting, since it's absolutely clear that laws and court decisions use that stuff for support, but never for illumination or, God forbid, to contradict their policy preferences. Also, the arguments I usually see for the 2nd amendment imply that everyone ought to be able to get access to military weapons, up to and including nukes. I'm sure I don't want nukes or nerve gas or stingers or RPGs sold in the Wal Mart. (At that point, I've already determined what I am, and am just dickering over the price, right?)

Richard #202 and Jonathan #199:

It's clearly true that many groups in which everyone is carrying a gnu are very peaceful, shootouts are nonexistent, etc. It's also clear that the laws that make sense in rural Idaho or small town Missouri may not work out in Chicago or DC, for whatever reason. We all acknowledge this in areas like pollution laws and laws about public nuisance, for example. Perhaps the reason bigger cities deal differently with gnus than small towns and rural areas is because widespread gnu ownership/availability just scales oddly? Perhaps, in the spirit of federalism, this is an issue that could be handled locally, at the city, county, or state level, rather than having some single decision pushed through for the whole nation?

#206 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Maybe it's just me, but this thread's current subject makes me glad there are no groan-control laws otherwise I'd be in jail right now.

#207 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Terry: There aren't many cases where the amendment has been directly challenged in the supreme court (only a few a century) but there are countless cases where the second amendment was construed by lower courts as an individual right (i.e. in criminal cases, not in contests of legislation). Of course that could change with one supreme court ruling. I'm just saying that as it is now, it's generally treated as an individual right.

#208 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:23 PM:

184 - How to separate the wheat from the chaff (which Clark says he's willing to do, in theory, but never seems to have any metric for practice), is the question

Quite right, more precisely I'd say pending such a metric that I'm willing to accept (and reserving very much the right to reject such metrics as Dredd Scott suggested for what is only dicta and not a holding on the right but still...) I'm unwilling and I don't see a proven metric on the horizon.

Consider the metrics implied here:The Supreme Court has ruled that the government may limit free speech in the name of goals such as ending discrimination, ensuring social harmony, or promoting gender equality. It also has ruled that the benefits of limiting hate speech and promoting equality are sufficient to outweigh the freedom of speech clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is the country's bill of rights incorporated in the country's constitution.

Stealing a notion from somebody's sig - anybody remember whose? - some people are so persuaded their notion of the good is so in line with the universe as to surely lead in the direction of paradise - some of us see rather a slippery slope. Spartan notions of weapons control pretty much meant only state sanctioned haphazard killings took place - want that system?

#209 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:27 PM:

Richard @ 202: "I'm just guessing that there are other differences between Vermont and the Districty of Columbia that are a factor here."

Exactly. So why are those differences only relevent when I'm suggesting gun control laws are pointless and not worth the infringement on people's freedom? When people suggest gun control laws, they are happy to cite situations where the statistics work out conveniently for them, e.g. crime stats between US and Europe, and I doubt you feel compelled to point out the obvious demographic differences between the two.

I'm just saying gun control laws are uncorrelated with crime. They neither help nor hurt significantly. Basically, people will do what they will, and if you're going to kill somebody, it seems obvious that you're not exactly going to worry about making sure the paperwork on your handgun is in order. We seem to be on the same page that gun control isn't a major factor. So if you agree with that, why would you spend any effort trying to take away a freedom that means a lot to some people?

#210 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 02:59 PM:

#203: Jonathan

That's not fair. Let's say there were an off duty cop standing within sight of this guy as he unpacked his rifle. You have no problem believing that the cop might manage to do what is needed and take the guy out.

When did I suggest that an off-duty cop (probably carrying a .38 with a two-inch barrel) would be able to do anything useful if he was just "within sight"? Unless he was five feet behind the shooter, and unnoticed, he'd have a hard time being anything more than just another target. Don't assume what it is that I'd "have no problem" with.

I suppose I could bring up cases of blue-on-blue shootings when two off-duty cops hauled iron, or when an off-duty cop pulled his piece and the uniformed response arrived....

Or how about cases of off-duty cops shooting innocent/unarmed folks? Would those be helpful?

Listen, my friend: In a stand-up fight between a guy with a rifle and a guy with a pistol, the guy with the rifle wins.

"I'd be a hero!" is a common Libertarian fantasy. Fantasies are great until you have to bring them into contact with reality.

#211 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 03:11 PM:

#199: Jonathan

If you've ever been to Vermont, chances are you walked right by somebody carrying and didn't know it.

I just had lunch in Vermont (yes, that Vermont) and the place had a sign on the door saying that state law forbid anyone bringing a firearm onto the premises.

How about that?

If you'd ever been to Vermont chances are you didn't walk past anyone other than a uniformed law enforcement officer carrying a firearm. (Unless it's hunting season, that is. Then all you have to do is look for the orange hats.)

Remember: Firearms are heavy, bulky, expensive, require regular maintenance, require a great deal of practice to be used effectively, and useless on a day-to-day basis.


#212 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 03:17 PM:
It's clearly true that many groups in which everyone is carrying a gnu are very peaceful

That's because if they're not peaceful, they get into fights over licenses.

#213 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 04:13 PM:

Jonathan @208-- I'm just saying gun control laws are uncorrelated with crime. They neither help nor hurt significantly. Basically, people will do what they will, and if you're going to kill somebody, it seems obvious that you're not exactly going to worry about making sure the paperwork on your handgun is in order. We seem to be on the same page that gun control isn't a major factor. So if you agree with that, why would you spend any effort trying to take away a freedom that means a lot to some people?

One problem with statistical claims such as "gun control laws are uncorrelated with crime" is that we can never know how many people weren't killed or injured in a moment of anger because a gun wasn't readily available. Not to mention all the suicides that weren't carried out or the accidents that could have been caused by children discovering unsecured weapons. But based on the suicides and accidents that do occur, we know that availability constitutes a risk. There are many reasons to regulate weapons besides crime prevention (and the devil in that is famously in the details).

And seriously, Jonathan -- if you want to open doors for me, fine, but please don't feel you have to act chivalrously with a gun on my account. I don't know you, but I'm seeing you as the Average Citizen you posited in #203, and believe me, you are downplaying the value of training and practice way too much.

#214 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 04:57 PM:

Debbie #212:

Actually, I think in the US, gnu control is correlated with crime, in the sense that higher crime rate places tend to have gnu control. But there isn't much evidence I've seen that the direction of causation was less gnus->less crime.

I think there have been some natural experiments (boundary years when the law changed one way or another), and my impression is that gnu control broadly doesn't have much impact on crime rate in those places, but I'll admit I haven't researched this in depth. Also, this is a place where partisans on both sides seem very willing to tie their statistics into knots to get them to say the right thing. And most everyone ties logic in knots to get the right answers, as well. Places with guns/concealed carry/etc. are all shootout-a-ramas (except that there are plenty of such places that are quite safe), the second amendment is the one thing standing between us and a police state (except that countries like the UK, Canada, and Germany that have strict gun control aren't obviously closer to being police states than the US), etc.

#215 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 05:00 PM:

c/less crime/more crime/

#216 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 05:08 PM:

It's been a long time since Turner Classic Movies has shown The Gnus of Navarone.

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 05:13 PM:

Jim @ 209... In a stand-up fight between a guy with a rifle and a guy with a pistol, the guy with the rifle wins.

"There will be no epistolary riffling in my library, young man."

#218 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 05:41 PM:

Lee @176: They won't vote for liberals because the liberals are UnGodly and support things like Legal Abortion and Real Sex Education and Legal Pornography. And that consideration overrides everything else, because their religion also teaches them that submission to worldly travails will be rewarded when they reach Heaven. The Republicans figured out how to exploit that a generation or two back, and have been doing so mercilessly ever since because it gives them that essential, reliable voting bloc.

IIRC the sex-based issues are a relatively new (~1980s?) twist on the GOP's "Southern Strategy", which was founded on exploiting white resentment about the 1960s' civil rights legislation (cf. Reagan's choice of Philadelphia, Mississippi as the venue to launch his presidential bid with a speech about "states' rights").

Conversely, the heavenly reward for virtue has been rescheduled a bit by the resurgence of Prosperity Theology via "The Book of Jabez" and other multimedia franchises.

#219 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 05:51 PM:

Jonathan, #203: Sad that we've gone from chivalry to men cowering in dressing rooms while women and children are being shot.

Oh yeah, that's the Ramboland fantasy, all right. He's the Real Man, the Big Brave Hero who's going to save all us helpless Little Women and Children from a Dreadful Fate.

I said it upthread and I'll say it again. You can daydream about that (and jerk off to it) as much as you like, but don't you DARE risk MY life by trying to play it out for real. I'll take my own chances, because a starry-eyed "Life Is A Movie" idiot in the mix isn't going to do a thing but make the situation worse.

#220 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 06:50 PM:

#213 albatross: ..Actually, I think in the US, gnu control is correlated with crime..

Gnu control is knowing enough Lisp to make Emacs play hangman.

#221 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:36 PM:

I come from a gun owning and gun collecting family. Over the past couple of decades, the result of gun ownership has been a number of burglaries where only guns were stolen. A cousin with a carry permit face ended up handcuffed and face down on the pavement at a roadblock because he was driving a pick up similar to one reported in an Amber Alert and wearing a holstered hand gun.

The one time a gun was pulled in "protection of home and family," the stranger curled up on family couch turned out to be a teenager with alcohol poisoning whose friends had dropped him in the cow pasture as a "joke" and who had blundered into the house (after one of my cousin's young sons forgot to lock the front door after letting the dog in) thinking it was his own.

I'm with Buffy on the subject: "Those things never do any good."

#222 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 07:41 PM:

JESR, that's kind of how my family is. There are two safes in the basement, one guns, one mostly ammo. Dad may have told my brother a combination, but I don't think so. The guns are not for home protection, they are not for hunting, they are for making big steel plates go DING. I have a pretty strong sense of gun-space vs non-gun-space, and my brother's is different; since he got a pistol for his birthday last year we have some, ah, issues. I think Freudian jokes are in order for this next visit home.

#223 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:05 PM:

JESR 220: Was anyone hurt?

And I think you left out some quote marks:

...a teenager with alcohol poisoning whose "friends" had dropped him in the cow pasture as a "joke" and who...
Stories like that make me have to keep repeating "Prohibition didn't work...prohibition didn't work" under my breath.

#224 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:15 PM:

Xopher, the cousin holding the gun- who stopped drinking when he was still underage- didn't shoot; wanted, more than anything, not to have a reason to shoot; and when the kid woke up sobbing "please don't shoot, please don't shoot," well, that's what he has bad dreams about, now. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't sleep at all if he'd pulled the trigger.

(You're right about the quotation marks).

Diatryma, the gun safes are pretty much universal in the family, now, but there's still a number of weapons out in the illegal economy. Of course, several of those are single-shot black powder long guns, not the weapon of choice for mall shooters.

#225 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 08:42 PM:

JESR, thanks be to the Lords of Peace that your cousin was so reluctant. He sounds like a good person.

#226 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Jonathan,

Cops may be more trained, but they are not superhuman and aren't tested under fire. In the end, we all have survival instincts, and people do amazing things when confronted with death.

Only someone without any training would so foolishly downplay the importance of training. And only a fool would imply that survival instincts make everyone equal under fire. Of course everyone has survival instincts. When confronted with death, people panic. And that panic is exactly the thing that endless training is meant to help you deal with.

Sad that we've gone from chivalry to men cowering in dressing rooms

What's sad is that you don't know what you're talking about, and its painfully obvious to folks who do. If you hear shots fired in a mall, this is what the professionals are telling you: keep your head down and get out as quickly as possible.

In a deadly situation, your Hollywood-based "survival instincts" to engage the attacker will likely get you or some innocent bystander killed.

#227 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 10:13 PM:

#203,
Chivalry was not about independent testosterone fuel moron tactics it was about service to your liege. The protect women and children thing is romantic fiction. Now if your liege was a moron that's another matter.

#228 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 10:33 PM:

Chivalry was about owning a horse.

#229 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 10:46 PM:

#227

And showing up when your lord (whichever one it was, because you might have several) needed a man with a horse. And probably some other useful bits of equipment.

(I'm still trying to understand ownership/service measured in knights - how do you figure a fractional knight, for one thing? There are a lot listed as n and a half knights.)

#230 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:13 PM:

P J Evans, for instance there could have been an accident with the sharp-edged metal bit that was meant to protect your groin, and then you'd only be half a knight.

#231 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:17 PM:

Well, land that was originally held by knight's-service changed hands over time, or parts of it did. The new tenants still had to do the knight's service for the portion they held, so they might hire one (or divvy up with neighbours) or they might pay the money direct to the lord, so that the lord could hire them. In fact, medieval kings actually preferred the latter, because armies are notoriously loyal to their direct paymasters. This was called "scutage" - shield money - and it was the common method of doing knight's service by the start of the twelfth century in England.

As late as 1800, I believe, one landowner who still held a knight's fee by ancient title showed up at the tax office mounted in armour and volunteered to do his service in the actual terms stipulated in his Deed. Measures were, as Mr Vulture says, taken.

Even nunneries - which often acquired lands from the dowries of the daughters of knightly families that entered them - could technically do knight's service. Of course, they usually paid money instead, but there are records of nunneries actually hiring knights themselves, which gave rise to *cough* inappropriate and scurrilous comment.

#232 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:26 PM:

Then there was Roland Le Farteur, who held a castle in fee simple, with his duty being to attend the king and, every year on New Year's day, give a jump, a whistle, and a fart.

#233 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:33 PM:

It's all down to the complexification of knighthood after 1066, when the guys on horses settled down and became country squires, and "Hey, you, c'mere and hit this other guy for me" became "Hey, you, give me money so I can hire it done". Or alternatively, "Whatever you say, boss" became "Let me help you out my way".

The knightly obligations got attached to the possession of Station, ie. land, rather than the people - "give me £20 worth of knighthood" rather than "abandon your family to go on campaign with me, oh, and bring your sons along too". So therefore it was transferrable and divisible.

(Not going to weigh in on gain control, being both British and a Quaker and therefore entirely predictable on the subject.)

#234 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2007, 11:38 PM:

PJ #228: I guess that's what the really sharp swords were for....

TW #226: I feel certain that chivalry involved a lot of stupid testosterone fueled moron tactics.

MJF Gates #219:
(defun flamewar
(if disemvoweler-p (post gnu-ctrl-argument)
(post barton-argument)))

Or something. My lisping days are long behind me, though perhaps one day someone will be giving my son my old, dusty parentheses.[1]

[1] Classical reference.

#235 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:15 AM:

Sam Kelly #232:

Hey, with the holiday season upon us, I think a discussion of gain control would be quite helpful. Drop carbs in favor of eating nothing but Christmas turkey and ham? One hour on the treadmill per spoonful of dressing? A bit of Saturnalia style binge and purge?

Remember, if pot bellies are outlawed, only outlaws will have pot bellies.

#236 ::: Sue Krinard ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:16 AM:

TW @ 226...if your liege was a moron that's another matter

I think the French word for 'liege' is 'lige'. No matter what, the French word 'liège' is 'cork' in English.

"My cork, you are a moron."

#237 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:18 AM:

Argh! I did it again! #235 was mine, not Sue's. So sue me.

#238 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:21 AM:

James:

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia: "Two states, Vermont[2] and Alaska[3], allow a non-felon aged 16 or 21, respectively, to carry without requiring a permit as a fundamental right." I have no idea what you're talking about with regard to that one sign you saw, and I'm guessing you don't either.

Second, you seem to have a lot of theories about what it takes to operate a gun for a guy who's so against them. I love the idea of a guy who hates guns but knows exactly where one would have to be standing and at what range to have reasonable success with a handgun against a rifle. (And by the way, I think in such close quarters a hand gun beats a rifle. It takes a lot longer to aim a rifle, and anybody who spends any time at a range can hit a torso quite reliably with a handgun at 50 feet. And people who own guns legally do tend to learn how to use them well. Back before I moved to the People's Republic of Cambridge, I used to spend two weekends a month at the range.)

Finally, to the rest:

It's true that none of us really knows what we or somebody else would do, but that also means you don't get to write off the idea that some might rise to the occasion. I was unlucky enough be in the wrong place during a gang shooting in Dorchester, MA last year (picking up my Little Brother). One gang member across the street saw another rival (who was standing about 30 feet from me) and began shooting at him. The guy near me pulled out a gun and started shooting back, then ran out of ammo and ran off. So, apparently a low life thug can at least figure out how to defend himself when need be. (Fortunately, gang members don't tend to take shooting classes, and shoot like the guys in the movies without sighting. They both missed each other, despite 14 rounds being fired.)

For the record, my experience was mixed as to people's theories here about what one's reaction would be. I found that while I didn't think well in the sitation (I should've taken cover behind my car's engine block, but that didn't occur to me until too late) I also wasn't overcome with emotion or panic as my mind was entirely preoccupied with trying to process the strangeness of the situation. Had I a gun, I'm sure I wouldn't have used it (nor would it have been appropriate since I wasn't being targeted and was just in the wrong place) but neither would I have started shooting randomly in a panic. But had the guy I was standing next to me had any presence of mind (or remaining ammo) he might have shot me (standard practice, I'm told, to witnesses of gang shootings). And while I have no idea what I would've done (my money is on nothing) I'd rather die because of my own inaction than because of some do-gooder in the MA state legislature who thinks all problems can be solved if we only outlaw the right things.

Anyway, this is all ridiculous. I can't believe I'm engaging arguments by people who are suggesting it's nearly impossible to defend oneself with a gun. History is full of normal people defending themselves with guns. The NRA, always good with PR, publishes about a dozen stories each month of people successfuly defending themselves with guns (and yes, they are referenced to actual newspaper reports). Countries have been defended and governments overthrown by citizens with guns. The idea that it doesn't happen is pure ideological pap of the cheapest kind. The honest debate is over whether or not such positive uses overweigh the benefits to banning guns.

#239 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:28 AM:

I'm beginning to feel like I am trapped in that B-movie of the 1950s, World Without End.

#240 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:31 AM:

My problems with gain control are quite the reverse. And you can have my carbs when you pry them from my cold dead cutlery.

#241 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:40 AM:

Jonathan: You mistake me. You also mistake the roles of the courts, and what those decisions mean. In the main, the decisions have all said the right to own a gun is a collective right, excercised by individual action (which is why the recent circuit court averring it to be an individual right was so suprising, and controversial).

The Supremes, for their own reasons, have, by and large, refused to hear the question. That means the lower court rulings (most of which uphold the rights of communities to restrict access to guns) stand. By their silence the Supremes have said those interpretations are correct.

As for cops not shooting each other/shooting only the bad guys...

Amadou Diallo. Four cops, more than forty rounds, at a guy who wasn' shooting back, was trapped in a doorway and less than 20 feet away. Most of the rounds missed him. In the situation you posit, where are those rounds going?

In Los Angeles, back in the mid-eighties, two cops, one suspect (later known to be unarmed) in an open space, again less than 25 feet away. 30+ rounds fired (both cops reloaded). The guy was hit less than half a dozen times.

Where would those rounds go?

Those were guys who train. Who are supposed to be versed in what to do, and they; in much better situations than your special pleading (and I, for one don't want a cop to pop someone who is taking something, "suspicious" out of a bag, jacket, etc.) missed with most of those shots, and at in much better circumstances than are likely to prevail in a shooting like this.

That cop who is, "right behind him" is going to tell him to freeze, and be reaching for his gun when the guy shoots him, unless he decides to shoot first and ask questions later.

Goody, a win for everyone.

It's not that I dislike guns. I've been shooting for more than 35 years now. I work with guns. Have been in places where guns were ubiquitous. The reason people didn't shoot each other had nothing to do with having guns, and everything to do with the culture in which we lived/live (there are a lot of guns right here, right now).

But when someone gets out of the box, and loses it... it gets a lot more ugly, a lot more quickly, and the bad guy usually ends up arrested, not dead. Because, absent seeing the thing start, no-one knows who the good guys are, and so they don't shoot at random.

That is the advantage of training. Without training... I'd hate to be in the mall you describe, with even so many as one in a hundred people packing heat, because a shooting will become a shootout, and people with pistols miss, even when other people aren't shooting at them.

Which is about all I have to say on the subject, not least because to go on would probably bother abi, and I've walked that sort of road here once this lifetime, and don't want to cause more pain to people.

#242 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:43 AM:

"onceamarine" :

In a deadly situation, your Hollywood-based "survival instincts" to engage the attacker will likely get you or some innocent bystander killed.

Yeah, good point. Better let the gunman take care of killing the bystanders. I'm not talking about not running if you have a way out. The people that were killed were trapped in stores, and the gunman killed them one by one like animals. So, in a situation like that, what's to lose by me or my coworkers having a gun? Between the potential indignity of my friend missing and killing me and the certainty of an honorable death as a gun control supporter to the end, I think it's an easy choice. As liberals, aren't we supposed to support the idea of the power of individuals? Isn't it elitist to say that only a certain class is capable and trustworthy of wielding guns? I'm not saying it's not a tremendous responsibility, I'm saying that I trust the vast majority of people to take it seriously. Most people are good, and I'd feel more comfortable if they were on more even ground, firepower-wise, with the bad guys.

#243 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:48 AM:

Ah, I see much of the problem... lack of situational awareness.

Jim, nor I, nor JESR, nor any number of people who hold view on guns; the application of, with which you disagree, have the views on guns which you ascribe to us.

It seems, from looking at the things you say in response to arguments not made, that you think we are gun banners, destroyers, haters.

What we are is quite different. That we disagree with an absolutist position (and think the justifications in use here are, at best, fantastical) doesn't make us what you think us.

And so, good day.

#244 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:04 AM:

#237 Jonathan:

I have no idea what you're talking about with regard to that one sign you saw, and I'm guessing you don't either.

Right, you don't know what the sign meant. But you're wrong on your guess.

BTW, quoting Wikipedia as a source just gets you laughed at around here.

Second, you seem to have a lot of theories about what it takes to operate a gun for a guy who's so against them.

Second, who in the heck says I'm against guns? Besides you, that is. Where are you getting that nonsense?

I know what I'm talking about. I earned that knowledge the hard way. I'm right up front on my background and experiences. You're ... who? And you base your expertise on ... what? Wikipedia?

And what a quaint little story you posted about your own experience in Dorchester. Had you read my post beforehand, is it possible that you'd have done something smart like get under cover?

Isn't it true that you froze up? And isn't it likely that, had you pulled a weapon, you'd be dead, injured, or in jail right now?

I'm going to make a few predictions about that shooting incident you witnessed: None of the participants were illegal immigrants. None of them were named Mohammed. None of them had ties to foreign terrorist organizations. And, even if the entire Bill of Rights (including the Second Amendment -- happy now?) had been canceled, it still would have gone down exactly the way you witnessed it.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, get under cover immediately and get out of the area as soon as you can do so safely. (Why cover? Because stray shots, and by your account there were over a dozen of them, don't care about concealment. Don't worry about the bullet with your name on it: worry about the one labeled 'to whom it may concern.')

#245 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:15 AM:

Terry:

I will concede pretty much completely on the legal issue. Clearly I have more reading to do on the subtlely of the legal issue, as I don't entirely understand the nuance of a collective right exercised by individual action.

But your arguments and anecdotes showing the potential for huge messups by cops in similar situations can be turned around. If the cops are so bad, either one must conclude that NOBODY except criminals should have guns, or average citizens might do no worse.

The idea that people generally can't figure out what happened unless they were there from the beginning is also quite fair to say, but also has a flip side. Doesn't it suggest that those best able to deal with it are the citizens unlucky enough to be trapped near the gunman? The way it is now, the cops really can't come in (for reasons you well articulated) until the madman is out of ammo. That's why so many people were killed over such a long period in Virginia Tech. The cops just had to wait until the shooting stopped.

I just can't fathom how these shootings could possibly turn out any worse if more citizens were armed. Nobody in their right mind who could escape would stay. Not even the cops run towards shots. To suggest the whole mall would turn into the OK corral is a bit of a strawman. But those trapped and facing near certain death should at least have a chance to defend themselves and their peers. Maybe they would just panic, as others have suggested. Fine, same outcome. But it's really tenuous to suggest that things could possibly have turned out worse if, say, a few of the professors locking in the building at Virginia Tech had been packing.

Anyway, sorry if I've helped overextend the thread, but I think the gun control issue is inevitable here, and interesting to discuss. I don't usually get to talk to intelligent, well-spoken people strongly pro gun control (though I understand you're not neccesarily so) and from what I've seen, you guys don't have a lot of NRA members stop by here who are trying for an honest debate.

#246 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:22 AM:

Lee #218:

To connect back to an earlier point, I suspect a lot of the "if only there had been a gun-toting civilian there" discussion amounts to wanting to have an answer to senseless or horrible tragedies. If only he hadn't been able to get a gun, or Masad Ayoob had been shopping in that mall that day, or an armed security guard had shot him as soon as he pulled the gun, or someone had realized he was nuts and locked him up, or.... And any of those might conceivably lead to policies to prevent some future tragedies. But there will be tragedies in any civilization we can build, with any set of laws and policies and customs we can make. None of those if onlies give you a reliable way to prevent this kind of tragedy 100% of the time (if only because cops and criminals and soldiers still have guns even when they're illegal for normal citizens), and all of them are likely to have large non-obvious costs to implement. Because these things are so rare, the costs are likely to be much higher than the benefits, for almost anything we could do. (Or anything that wasn't a net win on other grounds, anyway.)

#247 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:36 AM:

Jonathan,

I love the idea of a guy who hates guns but knows exactly where one would have to be standing and at what range to have reasonable success with a handgun against a rifle.

When I was in the marine corps, I operated everything from m16's, m60's, SAW's, colt 45's, 9mm's, hand grenades, grenade launchers, heavy machine guns, and more. I think I know enough about handguns and rifles to know that you don't know what you're talking about other than what you've seen in a movie. That's the politest way I can say it: You don't know what you're talking about.

And it's not that I hate guns. It's that they are complex and dangerous tools that can save lives or take innocent lives. You are acting like someone who read an article in Popular Mechanics about neurosurgery and now you think you can do neurosurgery. Not only that, but you're advocating that everyone should be prepared to do neurosurgery because, gosh, it would save lives, and gosh who wouldn't want to save lives? And anyone who says that you're unqualified, or who says that it's far more complicated than you lay out, you attack in your still simplistic view that, gosh, they must not want to save lives.

It's far more dangerous and complicated than you describe. And you continue to oversimplify even after being told by several people who know better.

#248 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:47 AM:

Jonathan, to Jim: Second, you seem to have a lot of theories about what it takes to operate a gun for a guy who's so against them. I love the idea of a guy who hates guns but knows exactly where one would have to be standing and at what range to have reasonable success with a handgun against a rifle.

*brings popcorn*

#249 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:53 AM:

Jonathan,

Yeah, good point. Better let the gunman take care of killing the bystanders.

Twice now, once for Clark and once for you, I have sailed into the Heart of Darkness and found Colonel Kurtz to be certifiable. You don't know what you're talking about, and you talk about it with absolute certainty. All I gotta say is if you ever end up doing something foolish and stupid with a firearm, I only hope that you don't get any innocent people killed. And I know, you can't imagine that possibility, but that's what makes you dangerous.

#250 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:58 AM:

Terry:

When I suggest people be able to choose whether or not to arm themselves, and that some situations might turn out better were people so armed, it may be wrong, but it's not absolutism.


James:

Stating that people laugh at Wikipedia is fine. They probably should, in fact. But people also laugh at a guy trying to cover up being wrong by mocking the source. It's not like Vermont laws are a matter of contention among anybody, James. Happy to find links to their official statutes if you don't believe me.

Since you state you know what you're talking about: what *are* your qualifications over me as an armed crisis consultant, James? I couldn't find them anywhere. When I want a tip on a good guy to hire to airbrush an 18th century schooner on the cover of my next novel, I'll come to you as an authority. :-) But I think we're all probably on a fairly equal footing on the debate about whether or not an armed citizenry is good or bad for society. Without more specifics on what you did in the Navy, I don't know why you feel compelled to engage in proof by intimidation.

But there is one thing on which I suspect we can all agree: this IS becoming pointless. I've intruded on on odd sort of clique. I won't make this mistake a third time "around here." I'll let you all return to the business of being correct.

And I'm sure you're ultimately right. As hopeless as somebody with weeks of handgun self-defense training would inevitably be in a real situation, I'm sure if the proverbial scat hits the fan, I each of us will remember your sage post and do exactly the right thing.

#251 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:02 AM:

I'd like to invite everyone's attention to an earlier Making Light post, Dealing with guns. Particularly to Old Jarhead's comments on amateurs and guns. It's to the point.

#252 ::: Hector Owen ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Eyewitness tells of the end of the church shootings in Colorado: Vet lauds female guard who felled gunman. Includes links to video interviews with the guard (unpaid, plainclothes, volunteer, parishioner) and others. The impression I get from this is that the church schedules permit-holding parishioners like greeters or members of the altar guild, so as to make sure that there are always some present. According to the witness, two other guards could have fired, but did not.

#253 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:06 AM:

Since you state you know what you're talking about: what *are* your qualifications over me as an armed crisis consultant, James?

You. Are. Unbelievable.

When I said you don't know what you're talking about, I didn't think it possible to overestimate that measure. But this drops the bar three whole notches.

#254 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:30 AM:

And it's not that I hate guns. It's that they are complex and dangerous tools that can save lives or take innocent lives. You are acting like someone who read an article in Popular Mechanics about neurosurgery and now you think you can do neurosurgery...

It's far more dangerous and complicated than you describe. And you continue to oversimplify even after being told by several people who know better.

Just as I have, admittedly, made the mistake of overstating the position of many of you, and incorrectly assumed you are antigun, I think you're also selling me a bit short.

I have no illusions about how horrible combat would be. My argument isn't one of bravado, which I have no right to, but of pragmatism. My logical guess, based on copius examples of people successfuly confronting criminals in their homes is that it's not an unreasonable conclusion that people can successfuly defend themselves when pushed into a corner, and that any chance is better than no chance. But I repeat myself, and apparently you find fault somewhere in my line of thought. Fair enough.

Now, instead of beating me over the head with your experience, why not try to give me an example from it? As a marine you knew some of the hardest people on earth. If I read you correctly, it's not that you think a well trained person with a firearm couldn't have helped, but that without such training, things would be far worse. Is this based your your having fired lots of guns, or from having served in combat? (I've probably fired as many rounds from an M16 as a newly minted marine has, so I'm guessing this isn't really about exposure to guns.)

If you said, for example, that you've seen marines hit combat for the first time and the vast majority of them freeze and/or shoot their friends, I couldn't possibly argue with that. I'd thank you (quite sincerely) for disabusing me, and I'm sure other's would benefit from hearing it, too. So, whatever it is that you experienced that leads you to be so certain I'm out of my mind, I would appreciate it if you expounded upon it more than just saying I'm a fool.

Believe it or not, you are quite wrong if you think I'm not completely willing to change my mind. And given that you're a marine, I'm certainly willing to give you most of the benefit of the doubt. But given that I also know combat-tested WWII veterans who share my opinion, I'll need something more than "you have no idea what you're talking about." Being inexperienced does not make it impossible to be right, it just makes it involve more luck.

#255 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:31 AM:

The above was addressed to onceamarine. Sorry for forgetting that crucial part.

#256 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:33 AM:

Without more specifics on what you did in the Navy, I don't know why you feel compelled to engage in proof by intimidation.

Proof by intimidation? Anything you say, sport:

Various schools, including but not limited to Shipboard Self Defense School and Jungle School. Emergency Action Team, USS Savannah. Landing Party Officer, USS Plymouth Rock. Gunnery Officer, USS Plymouth Rock (included duties: Emergency Alert Team, Backup Alert Force). Weapons Officer, US Naval Station Panama Canal (included duties: Range Officer). Combat Craft Unit, US Naval Station Panama Canal. Pistol and Rifle ribbons.

Look, I'll tell you why the Northwoods restaurant had a sign on the door saying No Firearms. It's because they serve alcohol. Vermont allows concealed carry -- except in all the places where you aren't allowed to carry. By state law. That includes banks and post offices and schools and restaurants and lots of other places that normal people visit on a normal day. That's why not too many Vermonters wander around with pistols under their coats. It gets in the way of living their normal lives, and that's without even considering that firearms are bulky, expensive, heavy, labor intensive, and useless day-to-day).

Oh, yeah. You might have noticed that I'm a volunteer EMT. My first week in EMS was the week of the Drega shootings. Tell me again about how wonderful guns are. Tell me again about how pistols beat rifles. Tell me again about that lovely armed society you imagine.

Oh, and don't look up Drega on Wikipedia. The source for that article is a whacko Libertarian book. It diverges from reality early and never returns.

But people also laugh at a guy trying to cover up being wrong by mocking the source.

When I'm wrong I'll let you know. Go look up Vermont's state laws. I'll wait.

#257 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:46 AM:

Thanks for posting that, Hector. Here's an excerpt:


Larry Bourbonnais, a combat-tested Vietnam veteran, said it was the bravest thing he's ever seen.

Bourbonnais, who was among those shot by a gunman Sunday at New Life Church, watched as a security guard, a woman later identified as Jeanne Assam, calmly returned fire and killed the shooter...

Bourbonnais asked Assam, a volunteer security guard with the church, how she remained so calm and focused. [Emphasis mine.]


I'll leave it to you all to figure out how this is possible despite James' extensive experience indicating otherwise. Apparently many people in Colorado owe their lives to the fact that Ms. Assam is not a regular reader here.

#258 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:56 AM:

I'll leave it to you all to figure out how this is possible despite James' extensive experience indicating otherwise.

An armed security officer, on duty, using authorized force while carrying out her duties somehow contradicts anything I've said?

My goodness, Jonathan, what's the lesson here?

Oh -- and you may notice that the shooter wasn't an illegal immigrant, he wasn't named Mohammed, he didn't have any ties to foreign terrorist organizations, and throwing out the Bill of Rights (with or without the Second Amendment, your choice) wouldn't have made a difference in anything that went down.

#259 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:17 AM:

Oh yeah -- in the Jeanne Assam case: two out of three armed guards on scene simply froze. The confrontation was handgun v. handgun. Assam had extensive training (ex-Minneapolis police officer) and had initially taken cover.

How about that expertise, eh, Jonathan? Pretty much bears out everything I've said, straight down the line.

How are you coming on looking up Vermont's state laws?

#260 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:30 AM:

James:

I have no idea why you waited several posts to start posting actual information instead of rhetoric, but when I'm wrong, I'm wrong. I thought you were arguing that Vermont does not have concealed carry. I didn't catch that you were trying to point out it doesn't work everywhere and thus most people probably don't avail themselves of it. I don't entirely agree with your unfounded conclusion (my friend who carries just locks his piece in his car when he goes into a prohibited building, but carries everywhere he's lawfully allowed to without exception). But your point is taken. I don't exactly have a scientific survey of my own.

I have tremendous respect for vets, and while I have to admit I admire your experience, and can't imagine what shipboard life must've been like during wartime, I still don't see why I should believe your opinion. When I was talking about proof by intimidation, I was suggesting that actual examples from your experience might be more relevent than throwing your resume in my face. Do I get to win the argument if I can find a higher ranked vet with a purple heart who agrees with me? (If so, I can end this easily by giving you my father in law's number.)

Do you, for example, have any examples of shootings being made worse by failed attempts by victims attempting to defend themselves with their own guns? Examples of armed people doing nothing are not valid, because that's equivalent to the null hypothesis (neither helped nor hurt).

I did not, actually, notice that you were an EMT. I'm sorry you had to see the aftermath of that god awful mess, and I can imagine that it gave you a visceral revulsion to what guns can do that I just don't have. But what if guns in the hands of more sane people could've stopped it? I found this excerpt from a report on the web:

Dennis Joos, 50, editor of the local Colebrook News and Sentinel, worked in the office next door. Unarmed, he ran out and tackled Drega. Drega walked about 15 feet with Joos still clutching him around the legs, advising the editor to "Mind your own (expletive) business," according to reporter Claire Knapper of the local weekly. Joos did not let go. Drega shot Joos in the spine. He died.

Now, what if Joos had a CCL? He obviously had the requisite balls to use it to good effect. Maybe you would've had less to clean up had Joos been convinced of the unfortunate necessity of guns at a more convenient time than the moment a bullet ripped through his back?

I'm not sure I'm right. I'm really not. Maybe more relaxed gun ownership laws and more unform acceptance of them would have unintended consequences and things would get worse. I feel pretty strongly about it, but I would love to be proven wrong, because life would be a bit easier if I didn't feel obligated to defend myself and my wife by owning a gun. As an admitted coward, it's one thing I'd really love to have the government do for me.

But when I see what people have done to defend themeselves, I feel that I should at least have it as an option, even if it's one that I'll probably chicken out of anyway should it come down to it. Shouldn't we at least aspire to be courageous and defend ourselves and those with us should we be unlucky enough to be in such a situation? Even if we are admitedly likely to fail at it? Again, I'm not talking about Rambo. I'm talking about desperate situations with little hope of excape.

Anyway, I apologize for crossing the line and becoming rude. I felt that I was getting ad hominum attacks from a few of you at once that were undeserved and uninitiated.

#261 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:51 AM:

Now, what if Joos had a CCL? He obviously had the requisite balls to use it to good effect.

Dennis Joos was my friend. His wife was a fan of my writing. He was also an ex-Franciscan seminarian. He was noted for catching spiders and releasing them alive outside. There was no way that he would have killed another man, even if carrying pistols was mandated by law for everyone.

The information you quote is inaccurate. Drega did not shoot Dennis in the spine. (Drega shot Vickie in the spine.) Instead, Drega shot him multiple times in the chest. He died in the ambulance on the way up to the hospital.

The first two men who died in that incident were armed police officers who tried to take on a rifleman when all they had were pistols.

Keep a handgun in your home if you must. But be aware that the odds are better that you'll shoot your wife with it than that you'll shoot an intruder in defense of your wife.

#262 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:56 AM:

If you said, for example, that you've seen marines hit combat for the first time and the vast majority of them freeze and/or shoot their friends

Vast majority? Jesus, how many innocent people are you willing to have killed in accidental shootings just so you can be armed for that one time in your life you're in the mall when the sniper comes in shooting? That's what we were talking about, right? Arming the entire civilian populace to protect us from the rare nutbar sniper.

In one of your first posts, you dismissed the importance of training and imply that everyone is an equal under fire, that police training is practically irrelevant since we all have "survival instincts". And your first several posts kept harping about the right to bear arms, how an armed populace would stop tragedies like the sniper, how it would be better to have a generally armed populace to fight these nutbars, how it is cowardice to *not* be armed. How only cowards would try to enact any sort of gun control law. The slippery slope that anyone who supports any kind of gun control must want to completely disarm every person in the country. And all of this from you without a single acknowledgement of what can go wrong when you use a firearm, or when you arm the general population and tell them training isn't important.

That isn't pragmatism, that's idealism. You came in preaching an idealism about firearms being the answer, that pretty much anyone could use one without consequence, that widespread armament would have no possible negative consequences, advocating that everyone should pick one up, that training wasn't important, and that instinct would be enough when the bullets start flying. And telling people to get a weapon without being straight about the negatives as well as the positives, without telling them they need to be willing to train regularly on their weapon, that they need to understand they are taking other people's lives into their hands when they fire a gun, advocating for guns while playing up their good while playing down their bad, is irresponsible.

I have no problem with people carrying a firearm who are willing to bear the responsibility of carrying a firearm, willing to train themselves regularly, able to recognize their limits, and able to recognize the limits of what a gun will accomplish.

But that wasn't anything like how you came into this thread.

#263 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:58 AM:

People vary, a lot.

I wouldn't expect an armed security guard to stay as controlled as Jeanne Assam appears to have done. It seems a bit creepy. But even in armies, with all the training, you'll have soldiers whose only use in battles is as bullet catchers, and others who will stay focused, and do more with one bullet than some will do with a whole clip.

And Jonathan seems to totally miss the imnplication of what he quotes.

Larry Bourbonnais, a combat-tested Vietnam veteran, which means somebody who knows what it feels like to be in combat, is impressed by what he saw. He sees it as something exceptional.

(To be honest, from the full description, it sounds as crazy a series of actions as what got my Grandfather his Military Medal.)

#264 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:17 AM:

FWIW, Vickie had a concealed carry permit.

#265 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:22 AM:

James:

How about that expertise, eh, Jonathan? Pretty much bears out everything I've said, straight down the line.

Well, then maybe you need to be reminded of what you said:

When did I suggest that an off-duty cop (probably carrying a .38 with a two-inch barrel) would be able to do anything useful if he was just "within sight"? Unless he was five feet behind the shooter, and unnoticed, he'd have a hard time being anything more than just another target. Don't assume what it is that I'd "have no problem" with.

I suppose I could bring up cases of blue-on-blue shootings when two off-duty cops hauled iron, or when an off-duty cop pulled his piece and the uniformed response arrived....

Or how about cases of off-duty cops shooting innocent/unarmed folks? Would those be helpful?

Listen, my friend: In a stand-up fight between a guy with a rifle and a guy with a pistol, the guy with the rifle wins.

So that would be wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong for those keeping score at home. And that's pretty much all you've said to me, besides "you have no idea what you're talking about."

But to your point about her training: You're right. I was far too blaze about suggesting people should be generally armed without regard to training. I regret being so simplistic, and I would personally not respect somebody who carried but didn't avail themselves of all the classes they could take. So, I will certainly admit my initial postings had a lot more redmeat than balance.

#266 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:42 AM:

So, let's talk about chivalry. The popular sense will do, though I'm very much enjoying the asides from people who actually understand the historical context. That "tough man protects the women and children with his big weapon" bit, how does that work out for women like me? I'm fat, mouthy, and reasonably incompetent at gender and class presentation. Even assuming that the "chivalrous" men are all excellent marksmen and unshakeable in a crisis like their fantasy images of themselves, somehow I'm not feeling safer here.

Oh, and I have friends who are named Mohammed, or who look a bit like the sort of people likely to be named Mohammed. I'm not thinking that increased numbers of "libertarian" civilians carrying guns to emphasize their political views is going to make my friends safer either.

#267 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:44 AM:

onceamarine:

Let's be very cynical, and assume that a group of 40 people trapped with a shooter in an academic building are all carrying and they all start shooting, each with a 10% chance of hitting the bad guy, and with a 50% chance of hitting another student. I don't how you do the math on that (actually, I do, but it's irrelevent) but no matter how you do it, the expected survival rate will be somewhat greater than zero. Letting the guy just walk around picking people off under desks has an expected survival rate of 0 with a standard deviation of 0.

So the counter argument to that is: "What happens the other 10000 days when nobody crazy is shooting?" And you'd have a damn good point where I simply have to weakly appeal to my faith in people and their ability to rise to responsibility.

But yeah, looking back on my initial postings, I'm a little embarassed. I can see why I came across badly. I overread the positions of many of you, and I did myself a disservice by overarguing points that aren't really crucial to my position. For example, I do think it would be better if gun laws were incredibly liberal and training were not required. I think people who weren't trained would just do nothing and it's better to err on the side of freedom. But it's not really a critical battle line for me, despite my rhetoric. I think Colorado's laws are fine: they require CCL holders to take classes and a waiting period and background check. And I would never argue (and didn't mean to) that it would not be ideal if everybody trained. I don't know how much it really matters (based on empirical evidence that some people have nerves and others just don't, regardless of training) but I know it can't hurt, and you should at least have the muscle memory to know how to draw without shooting your own left hand.

Anyway, I'm sorry about how I came across, because it doesn't seem I really disagree with you very strongly on the parts where we differ.

#268 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:02 AM:

Dave:

And Jonathan seems to totally miss the imnplication of what he quotes.

I see your point, but it's a bit too subtle. The guy just said he was impressed. You're reading too much into what he said. To throw out my argument because of the courage percentile the guard falls into based on a subtextual reading of a witness quote is a bit too much English on the ball. I'd suggest you may be grasping a bit and had no clear shot.

Why try so hard so hard to prove this woman is a freakish anomoly? Unless you have evidence that people who do not have such courage under fire will cause problems if they have guns (which they didn't in this case) then here rarity is only lamentable, but not material.

#269 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:06 AM:

Individ-ewe-al - mostly, chivalry seems to work (for women, children, and small pacifist men like me) along the lines of 'do what the hero tells you and don't rock the boat'.

The (ability to carry a, or membership in the class that is supposed to carry a,) weapon, and the presumption that it's useful, seems somehow to give them the idea that they get to decide what should happen.

#270 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:33 AM:

So that would be wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong for those keeping score at home. And that's pretty much all you've said to me, besides "you have no idea what you're talking about."

Actually you meant to say right, right, right, and right. For those keeping score, as you say, at home.

To give you a little something to think about, here's Why Are We Killing Ourselves: A Look at Accidental Shootings of Police Officers by Police Officers

Accidental shootings occur in law enforcement training and real-life situations at an alarming frequency. There is a direct correlation between training standards, safety protocol and operational performance. Recent deaths of police officers at the hands fellow police officers prompted the author to investigate the prevalence of this situation. The results of this investigation are not only disturbing, but shocking and elicit the following questions:

* Why are we killing ourselves?
* How do we ensure safe and effective training?

Prior to answering these questions, an understanding of the dilemma we face must be achieved. First the obvious, law enforcement officers carry firearms and handle them on a regular basis. SWAT officers and range personnel are even more prone to accidental discharges because of the sheer frequency that results from their weapons handling, training and operational requirements.

What is even more disturbing than the pervasiveness of improper firearms safety, is the fact that most law enforcement training is devoid of safety standards and is unrelated to operational requirements. All law enforcement training must be conducted with established safety guidelines and be a realistic portrayal of operational requirements. In addition, training should be designed to prepare and test officers in their individual and in the case of SWAT officers, team responsibilities.

The article continues from there. It was written in 2005; more recently perhaps the best-known case is the FBI shootout where one agent shot and killed another during a bank robbery response in New Jersey.

FBI Agent at Bank Robbery May Have Shot Colleague

An FBI agent may have accidentally shot and killed a fellow agent yesterday while trying to arrest suspected bank robbers in a quiet central New Jersey town, a bureau spokesman said.

The story continues.

Here's one from New York: an off-duty police officer pursuing a man with a gun got shot by another officer.

Officer Is Shot in Queens, Probably by Fellow Officer

An off-duty officer of the New York City Police Department was slightly wounded last night by a bullet that was probably fired by a housing officer, the police said, apparently marking the second incident in six weeks in which officers in the city have shot their own comrades.

The wounded officer, Angelo Angelico, 27, suffered a deep graze wound to the head and was conscious when he was taken to New York Hospital Medical Center in Queens, said Sgt. John McCluskey, a police spokesman.

The story continues.

I've said a number of other things to you, which are also right. They're still posted. And still right. Now consider your own words. Still posted, and still wrong. I don't need to go over them again.

Letting the guy just walk around picking people off under desks has an expected survival rate of 0 with a standard deviation of 0.

There's something wrong with either your assumptions or your math, chum. You're modeling your hypothetical on the Virginia Tech event, right? The survival rate was a lot higher than zero. Same at Littleton. Same anywhere real that you care to name. So you're wrong on that one, too.

Last word of advice to you, because I don't actually wish you ill: If you hear gunshots take cover. Even if you have a machinegun strapped to your back. Really. Don't try to understand why this is the right decision. Just do it.

If you don't believe me ask your father-in-law. He'll back me up on this.

You'll thank me later.

#271 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:55 AM:

"View All By" is such a useful tool for getting a feel for the people hereabouts.

It doesn't even crash the server because the web page gets too large, but I wouldn't do it on dial-up.

#272 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:35 AM:

An off-duty cop, a plainclothes cop, and a uniformed cop, in New York City:

On Aug. 22, a plainclothes transit officer, Desmond Robinson, was shot four times by an off-duty New York Police Department officer, Peter Del-Debbio, in a case of mistaken identity in a subway station on the East Side of Manhattan. Officer Del-Debbio was also shot, by another transit officer. Some witnesses contend that both men failed to identify themselves as officers.

Imagine how much better it would have turned out if there had been fifty civilians carrying concealed handguns on that subway platform, all of them clear-eyed freedom-loving libertarians eager to be heroes.

#273 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 07:24 AM:

(note bene, for those who are keeping score... this isn't about controlling gnus, it's the popcorn event induced by the aforementioned lack of SA).

Jonathon. As you mistated... Jim did provide information, you just failed to notice it until he had to repeat it.

The guard was 1: trained, 2: operating pistol to pistol, 3: at close range in, so far as I can tell, an enclosed space. All of which go to support Jim, onceamarine and myself.

As for my qualifications, I'm a combat vet, OIF 1. I've been shot at (more than just in the course of the present mess-in-potamia). I have 35 years of trigger time, and like onceamarine on everything from dinky pistols to stuff that blows the front half of a tank out the back half. US, Russian, and several other (the SA80A2, FN-FAL, and G-3, etc.).

I teach marksmanship. Am a unit armorer (relevant in that it makes me really aware of what can go wrong with one's toys).

I am not against gun ownership. I am against the indiscrimanate presence of guns, for all the reasons you've given.

My anecdotes about cops are on point, because they show that the level of training required for John Q. Public to be the sort of hero you think will just rise up, talismanically when everyone is allowed to carry guns around; ain't a gonna happen.

I go to the range (joint civil and police) I see the people working on their (static) marksmanship. I know that the average person isn't going to spend that much money to get that good. Why? Because they don't. There are millions of guns in LA (statistical certainty... 15 million people, the average [for the nation] is one in three, asume that city dwellers are less prone to have them, but that thos who do are more prone to collect and the rough guess {which is SWAG} is about 1 million gun owners) but there aren't enough ranges for 1/10th that many to shoot. QED, the average gun owner isn't willing to put in the time.

You say Jim is making an "appeal to authority" (in the lexicon of logical fallacy that seems to be the closest I can come to, "proof by intimidation"), but you keep making argument of misdirection. When the question of rifle in an open space is presented, you counter with home defense.

That's a whole 'nother beast. The average person is not steeled to killing people. A guy doing a B&E is nervous to start with; they usually run when someone confronts them. Further the static person has the advantage, even over the armed intruder (see Massad Ayoob, and the results of cops doing entry drills, with simunitions. When the guys inside stayed put, 80 percent of the cops died, most without getting a shot off).

So dealing with a house-breaker (who is most likely to have a pistol, in his pocket; because he got a bag for loot in his hand) is a completey different thing from a guy who is actually shooting at people; with a rifle.

Let's be very cynical, and assume that a group of 40 people trapped with a shooter in an academic building are all carrying and they all start shooting, each with a 10% chance of hitting the bad guy, and with a 50% chance of hitting another student. I don't how you do the math on that (actually, I do, but it's irrelevent) but no matter how you do it, the expected survival rate will be somewhat greater than zero. Letting the guy just walk around picking people off under desks has an expected survival rate of 0 with a standard deviation of 0.

Except that 1: we have a recent example of that not being the case (V. Tech was much like that, and people got out, the kill rate was far less than 1:1), and 2: you are changing the playing field again. One can draft all the perfect hypotheticals, with cleverly constraining a priori you like. Those are not the same as

A guy, in an open space, with a rifle (which isn't the example you keep quoting, that was pistol to pistol in a close space).

But you keep trying:

I see your point, but it's a bit too subtle. The guy just said he was impressed. You're reading too much into what he said. To throw out my argument because of the courage percentile the guard falls into based on a subtextual reading of a witness quote is a bit too much English on the ball. I'd suggest you may be grasping a bit and had no clear shot.

So, you dismiss Jim, because you don't think his expertise applies. You dismiss the idea of context to someone who has the sort of expertise you want Jim to testify to, because "it's too subtle." Now we're moving goalposts.

She's not a "freakish anomaly" (which is back in the overstatement area you say you are sorry to have started in...). She's a few deviations away from the standard you say you want (liberal carry laws, with some training).

#274 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 07:54 AM:

That's one of the great things about Making Light: the fact that there are so many actual authorities around here with a wide, eclectic range of skills.

#275 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:06 AM:

(Leaving the whole Jonathan thing in more capable hands and returning to previous topic:)

Wow, as soon as I quit following this thread everyone's all up on my ancestors and/or geographical area of origin and residence.

Thanks, TexAnne and abi.

BTW, want to hear how the guy threatened to shoot my dad for gathering catalpa worms? And how my dad wouldn't back down because (according to him) the tree they were on was in the public right-of-way?

Or the guy in my current hometown who took a potshot at his ex-wife in a Hardee's parking lot, killed a 7-year-old girl, and told the jury he was real sorry he'd missed?

Or my elderly relative with early dementia who woke up in the middle of the night and started scrambling for his pistol to "shoot Kaiser Bill"?

I think I've already told y'all the one where 4-year-old me found the pistol in the visiting relative's purse on top of the refrigerator and decided to try it out.

IOW: yeah, a lot of Southerners of Scots/Irish descent have a thing for guns and are somewhat logic-impaired when their "honor" is threatened. But neither biology nor culture is destiny. I don't own a gun, I don't want a gun, and I'm pretty sure at least two lives have been saved because there's not a gun in my house.

#276 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:14 AM:

I always assumed "an armed society is a polite society" was a piece of wry black humour. Isn't it? This phrase has been coming back to me recently, juxtaposing itself with stories of cops being... overzealous.. at traffic stops. Any level of violent reaction is (quite reasonably) justified by something like "you never know which driver will be the one to pull out a gun and kill you". That society is only polite to the degree it's paranoid and hair-triggered.

#277 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:37 AM:

Jonathan @ upthread:

"gone from chivalry to men cowering" ... "Isn't it elitist to say that only a certain class is capable and trustworthy of wielding guns?"

Chivalry was *all about* a certain class having trusts and rights that common folk don't get a whiff of. This held whether your referring to Ye Olde Chivalry or Old Southern Gentlemen or any other form of chivalry I've heard about.

By the way, thank you for staying around and discussing, and for copping to flaws in your arguments. I'm pretty impressed. You probably picked this up on your own but if it still needs to be said: The anti-gun nut you're wanting to argue with? That'd be me. The people you are arguing with? They're the ones who convinced me not all pro-gun people were dangerous idiots, and that many of them had much more basis for their opinions than I*. It might not hurt to lose some of your knee-jerk respect for vets, and to try to respect their arguments more. (James in particular you might read more carefully. He's being very precise, but his comments seem to trigger adverse responses for you before you unpack his meaning.)

* Regulars: No, you didn't see me in those discussions, I was lurking. And yes, I confess I am still a little annoyed at you all for being so convincing, honestly. I'm sure I'll soon remember why we need to be disarmed for our own good, and why arguments from evidence are no match for coffeeshop theory. When I do, I'll be sure and let you know ;)

#278 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:44 AM:

Jonathan @ #259:
life would be a bit easier if I didn't feel obligated to defend myself and my wife by owning a gun.

What is it with the sexism thing with you?

Why doesn't your wife have her own gun for protection? Why isn't it her responsibility to defend herself and you with the gun?

You're providing lots of ammo to support the idea that guns are a phallic substitute.

#279 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:46 AM:

myrthe #275:

I think it's wry and somewhat tongue in cheek, but no more than Niven and Pournelle's "Think of it in evolution in action."

#280 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:07 AM:

Susan, myrthe, Sam Kelly: between making my comment and reading how the thread has developed since then, I came upon a rather interesting essay on an aspect of pro gun rhetoric that isn't often discussed overtly. Chivalry is very much about reinforcing the power of the "right sort" of people.

Jonathan and others, I hope you'll also look at that link. If you read carefully you will see that O'Danu is herself an enthusiastic gun user (hint: like our gracious hostess) and has directly relevant experience of dealing with dangerously violent people in a civilian context.

#281 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:32 AM:

Chivalry was (and generally still is, under the hood somewhere, but we're talking back in the bright beginning, here) two things; a way to combine heroic germanic warband conduct rules with Christianity, and a way for all these upper-class warriors to live together in very close quarters (much of the innovation required to build your classic High Medieval castle was social) without killing each other.

Either way, and in all its mutated descent, it's heavily tied into self image.

And, like everything else attached to self image (with the possible exception of a burning desire to be judged effective by some regularly measured peer-reviewed standard), it doesn't have anything much to do with the realm of facts or functional effectiveness.

One of the core ways in which that's true is that pretty much anything in the way of a chivalric code of conduct -- the rules the armed males of the dominant culture use to avoid killing one another gratuitously, when being an armed male is a core part of the cultural/self identity -- tends to discount fear, in "worthy people know not fear" sorts of ways.

Thing is, fear makes you stupid. Probably because a ground ape that dithers about the right thing to do has fewer progeny than one that does something right away, even the sub-optimal something, but for whatever reason, fear will make you stupid, for inescapable biochemical reasons.

The only fix for this is constant, realistic -- meaning that some of the time you have to be stressed enough that the fear-makes-you-stupid reaction is happening -- practice; this gives you some hope that you will then do the right thing when actually frightened.

In the absence of that kind of drilling, people do whatever comes into their monkey brain when scared. If they're doing this with a gun, it isn't generally -- statistically, occasional individual good outcomes notwithstanding -- going to be better in outcome than if they don't have a gun.

You ever tried to control a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds on a range? Even with absolutely rigid ritualized rules, it's no joke from a safety and control mechanism standpoint. And those kids are calm and rational compared to someone who thinks they're at immediate risk of being shot dead.

#282 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:46 AM:

Defend the right to bear armadillos!

#283 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:57 AM:

Serge, anyone bearing armadillos is clearly guilty, in a self-incriminating kind of way, of having engaged nine months earlier in some activity condemned in many states.

Oh, wrong "bear". Sorry. Carry on.

#284 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:09 AM:

We need croon-control laws.

"Mister Sinatra, please step away from the microphone, very slowly."

#285 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Out of curiosity, have any of the firearms-trained people here seen the "Ghost Machine" episode of Torchwood, in which Gwen is given weapons training? Am I correct in thinking that it might be better described as "modified weapons training", where "modified" applies to the training and translates to "insanely wrong in several fundamental ways"? (I'd have thought that hands-on training would have been preceded by a bit of a lecture about stuff like not waving a loaded weapon in the instructor's face, for example.)

#286 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:25 AM:

I too am in favour of tough gnu control laws. "No gnus" is good news, I say.

#287 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:27 AM:

Jonathan @266:
For example, I do think it would be better if gun laws were incredibly liberal and training were not required. I think people who weren't trained would just do nothing and it's better to err on the side of freedom.

What was that again? I think people who weren't trained would just do nothing?

I think you have an unrealistic idea about people.

First of all, people don't "just do nothing". Some people panic, some people keep clear heads. Many of them do the best they can with what they have. Someone not certified in CPR will still try to save a stranger. Would be searchers turn up at every wilderness rescue, many of them without the correct equipment or clothing. People who can barely swim jump into rivers to rescue lost children. I can easily see how an untrained person with a firearm might decide to intervene, figuring an amateur solution is better than no solution at all.

Secondly, the very people who most need training in firearms - the overconfident, the unafraid, are the ones least likely to get it. They'll reckon they're trained enough because they've potted a few Coke cans off a log somewhere, maybe played an FPS or two.

But it's not really a critical battle line for me, despite my rhetoric.

I see that, and I'm not actually picking on it as though it's your main point. But it demonstrates a certain unreality in your mental model of the world. Others in the thread have used words like "Hollywood-based", but I don't think that's quite fair. I simply think you are oversimplifying people.

Unfortunately, you have been then making decisions based on that imperfect model. Sometimes they're political decisions - I'm sure you views on guns influence your voting, for instance. Sometimes they're tacical choices, like coming into a discussion with guns blazing, on an early and imperfect understanding of who is where and what side they're on*.

Anyway, I'm sorry about how I came across, because it doesn't seem I really disagree with you very strongly on the parts where we differ.

That takes a lot of courage to say in a fractious discussion. Thank you for saying it.

We're sorry how you came across too, because I think this conversation could have been much pleasanter otherwise. I think there are some significant disagreements, but I think they are actually more about human - human relationships than human - gun relationships†.

-----
* the analogy to a firefight is deliberate here
† to the extent that the two can be separated at all

#288 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:44 AM:

Serge #283: That must have been when he decided that 'Here's to You, Mrs Robinson' was the kind of song perfectly suited for his talents.

#289 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:50 AM:

ajay, I've never understood that phrase. Does it mean that not getting news is good news, or that the news that you will get sometime in the future is going to be bad news?

#290 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:55 AM:

Nancy Mittens... In my line of work (computer programming), it usually means that nothing is going wrong otherwise the phone would be ringing off the hook. Unless the phone line is dead.

#291 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Fragano @ 287... Is it on the same level as William Shatner singing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"? (And yes, I did see a rendition of it on YouTube starring Lucy van Pelt.)

#292 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:59 AM:

#117 - Of course, if we had a magic button that would remove all guns from existence, I'd be the first to press it, even though I'm a libertarian.

Arrow includes the notion that a proper social welfare function excludes a unilateral decision maker in his Nobel prize winning dissertation.

Heaven and Hell are both absolute dictatorships - I know which one I'd expect from an earthly dictator of any stripe.

It's not so much that I love guns as it is that I actually expect the right to be left alone and to be able to enforce a request to leave me alone.

(that is I deny the notion that since all rights are derived from society, society alone has plenary power to confer and deny rights without objection - rather all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; when it comes to alienating these rights by the whims of others I object)

- I actually lived a somewhat tripwire existence for a while; what I laughingly call my unabomber lifestyle - and I would extend to others the right to be left alone as well.

An armed society is a polite society ought to be read backwards. The notion presupposes a society. It is an easy observation that adding guns to a mess doesn't make it more polite; cites left as an exercise for the reader. Given a polite society folks will be left alone in the exercise of their rights.

If I'm around at Denver Worldcon - and the creek don't rise - I'll furnish some interesting guns and ammunition for any of the flurosphere also in Denver who want to try a few guns in the woods. Starting with a Hammerli gas pistol and a Colt Service Ace .22 conversion for folks who want to start off light. A chance to see some Lou Alessi leather and such for folks who might care about such things.

#293 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:03 PM:

I didn't realize you'd served in the Canal Zone, Jim. That's where my parents met. My mom worked for a shipping company based in New Orleans, and my dad was in the army, doing radiation safety on the ship that was a floating nuclear power plant. Small world!

#294 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:18 PM:

EClaire @ 292... My mom worked for a shipping company based in New Orleans, and my dad was in the army, doing radiation safety on the ship that was a floating nuclear power plant.

Then this guy showed up.

#295 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:22 PM:

#280 You ever tried to control a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds on a range? Even with absolutely rigid ritualized rules, it's no joke from a safety and control mechanism standpoint. And those kids are calm and rational compared to someone who thinks they're at immediate risk of being shot dead.

Oddly enough I have and there were no problems at all. We started Hunter Safety Class by handing out dowels with one end painted red and motivated students - speaking of chivalry no Peer of the Round Table ever cared more about keeping the good opinion of his peers and the instructor team - to teach muzzle discipline for extended periods including perhaps boring lecture and repetition. As I frequently observe the sole criterion for passing was would the instructor hunt with the child in the party and the answer was too often sooner the child than the parent.

But I take your point and agree.

Performance degrades with adrenalin injections alone in the absence of any unusual fear and tension - add fear and tension and performance degrades more. Jim Cerillo writes a good deal about selecting a gunfighter and IMHO it's all true.

obs SF Mr. Heinlein read and enjoyed Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm who in fiction met and was chosen by the same criteria.

I've known folks who refrained from shooting when I would have shot - when I made that comment to one in particular - I did some work for the defense team so I had a view of the events from that side - he said he'd had half a dozen times when the writeup would have been rightous shooting but he didn't put on the uniform to shoot people - and he retired early nervous when the meth explosion put him into repeated gun fights in beautiful rural America (he had all the skills but not the mindset). I've known a real old time gun fighter as well - who oddly enough could quell a few fights on the one riot one ranger principle without actually shooting. But even though some are hired as door kickers and given guns and some are hired as aremed peacemakers and mediators and given guns I don't know how to divide the sheep and the goats so I don't think anybody else does either. Certainly I've never seen a sheep and goat divider on this earth I trusted.

#296 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:48 PM:

Jonathon writes, at 244 I just can't fathom how these shootings could possibly turn out any worse if more citizens were armed.

I've trained myself, after years of being smacked down by reality, when tempted to start a statement with some variation on "I can't imagine," to remember that my imagination is small and feeble compared to the mighty perversity of things in general.

Bullets have to end up somewhere. The more of them there are in a confined and uncontrolled situation, the more bad results are possible.

#297 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Let's be very cynical, and assume that a group of 40 people trapped with a shooter in an academic building are all carrying and they all start shooting, each with a 10% chance of hitting the bad guy, and with a 50% chance of hitting another student. I don't how you do the math on that (actually, I do, but it's irrelevent) but no matter how you do it, the expected survival rate will be somewhat greater than zero. Letting the guy just walk around picking people off under desks has an expected survival rate of 0 with a standard deviation of 0.

Let's be very cynical and further assume that the good-guy clear-eyed libertarians don't know who the shooter is or how many shooters there are when the event starts. And let's assume that none of those clear-eyed freedom-loving libertarians wisely decide to take cover or even more wisely decide to leave the scene. Let's assume that they all decide to be real chivalrous heroes and take matters into their own hands and save lives.

What happens?

There isn't a ref to blow a whistle and say "You won!" when someone finally nails the original insane shooter.

I'll bet that the gunfire continues, as clear-eyed freedom-loving Libertarians, heroes one and all, see people with firearms in hand shooting at them, and return fire.

When does the shooting stop? When they all run out of ammo, or when the police arrive and snipers pick them off?

Or let's go back to the last national-news-making time when we had a shooter who actually was named Mohammed: John Allen Muhammad, and John Lee Malvo, the Beltway Snipers. (Neither one, as it turns out, were illegal immigrants, nor did they have ties to foreign terrorist organizations, and burning the Bill of Rights (with the exception of any one amendment of your choice) and scattering its ashes over the ocean wouldn't have slowed them down).

Let's pick one particular incident from that event: October 14, when a woman was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Falls Church, Virginia. Virginia, we're told, is one of those nice liberal Concealed Carry states. Now let's hypothesize that everyone in the Home Depot, and everyone in the parking lot, was carrying a concealed weapon. They're all clear-eyed, freedom-loving libertarians who aren't going to rely on the authorities to protect them. Let's further hypothesize that in that same parking lot there's a guy sitting in a white van (remember, at the time the police were looking for a white van in connection with the shootings).

What happens now? Particularly if the guy in the white van gets out with his legal weapon in his hand (because he, too, is a clear-eyed freedom-loving libertarian who isn't going to wait for the police to come and rescue him from an insane shooter).

How about it? How do the next five minutes go?

#298 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 12:59 PM:

Serge #290: Sinatra just had the wrong voice for the song. It sounded completely incongruous.

#299 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:11 PM:

Just out of curiosity, if we had our gun-owner's paradise where citizens were allowed to pack heat, how many would choose to do so? If you were so permitted, how often would you remember to put on your shoulder holster and slip in the Glock or the Beretta? If you made a habit out of doing that, how many others would do so? When was the last time you tested yourself at the range?

I would say most people out there simply do not want to pack a gun along with their cell phone, wallet, purse, what have you. It's something else to remember, and the consequences of failing to secure it, or of losing it, are a lot higher than a misplaced cell phone.

Even if gun ownership was highly liberalized, I don't think people, in general, want to be armed. One of the expectations of civilization is that it should be civilized.

#300 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:12 PM:

Apropos of peoples reaction to violence and gun battles, last week I read "On COmbat", by Dave Grossman and Loren Christiansen. I thought it well written and it makes many important points about how people react differently, and wrongly, to the stress of combat. Even well trained policemen will fail to shoot, or do things wrong. So poorly or untrained members of the public will fuck it up even more, that is absolutely guaranteed, especially with what is now known about the physiological response of combat stress.

#301 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:16 PM:

James MacDonald @ 296 -
[blah]

Terry, earlier -
One can draft all the perfect hypotheticals, with cleverly constraining a priori you like.

This swings both ways, James. Yr xmpls r s ldcrs, nlkly, nd, frnkly, nsltng, s hs r.

Just so you know.

#302 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:23 PM:

"Help me, Abi-wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."

#303 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Scott @ 300

What, the examples from real life? Or the ones that are hypothetical, based on Jonathan's claims?

I'll take James and Terry over you and Jonathan, because I know that they know what they're talking about.

#304 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:27 PM:

Serge @ 293 - Well, no, but I was told it looked much different when we went back in 2003. For their 25th anniversary we took a cruise that went through the canal, and took our day off in Panama to go exploring. We saw my mom's old apartment, and drove past what used to be my dad's barracks. I was glad to see the places they had talked about, but I suspect they would have been happier to keep the memory of how it used to be.

#305 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:33 PM:

EClaire @ 303... I suspect they would have been happier to keep the memory of how it used to be

That's usually the way it is, yeah.

#306 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:36 PM:

PJ Evans

With all respect - and there's plenty - I haven't got time or inclination (at the immediate moment - let me get home) to plug in my qualifications. They aren't as extensive as Terry or James', but they aren't insignificant (imho) either.

I'm not complaining about the real ones - some of which I'm already familiar with. I'm talking about the "everyone is armed to the teeth, totally lacking in anything resembling common sense, totally bloodthirsty, jacked up on enough Mountain Dew to kill the entire staff of Bungie, and utterly incapable of determining right from wrong, or any kind of tactical sense" strawmen tht h hs bn thrwng bt wth n lcrty tht wld - dd nt hv prr xprnc wth hs pstn n gns - ld m t thnk tht hs pnn n gn cntrl ws prtty frmly "cmpltly fr t, bn thm ll".

Oh, and, of course, they are all "libertarians" which immediately and completely means "lacking in any sense of morals, sense, judgment, or intellect".

You also have no idea what side of the discussion - or shading of it, since it is by no means a binary discussion - I am on.

#307 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:41 PM:

#300: Scott Taylor

This swings both ways, James. Your examples are as ludicrous, unlikely, and, frankly, insulting, as his are.

Thanks, Scott. You noticed! My hypotheticals were intended to be frankly insulting.

#308 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Scott @305:

Thank you for clarifying what you meant, because your unsupported comment that Jim's examples were "ludicrous, unlikely and, frankly, insulting" was unconvincing to say the least.

However, leaving aside the "clear-eyed, freedom-loving libertarians" characterization, I think Jim's points need to be addressed by anyone who thinks that the solution to one gunman is more gunmen. What do you do to reduce collateral damage, shootings of innocent suspects, and the other people carrying guns? Is that acceptable collateral damage, and will the courts agree*? Or, if you think it won't happen, why not?

However, I also think a lot of people in this thread are posting while angry. This is generally not a good idea. The discussion can wait while everyone cools down.

-----
* perhaps gun owners should have liability insurance to pay for the lawsuits that would follow an accidental shooting?

#309 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:58 PM:

#288 ::: Nancy C. Mittens

[Re: "No news is good news"] Does it mean that not getting news is good news, or that the news that you will get sometime in the future is going to be bad news?

It can be an explanation for not checking in with chronic worriers every half hour. The ones who prefer to agonize that my sister had been going to pick up gloves at That Mall at That Store at That Time rather than that her meeting ran long and she went back to work instead. This was at Creighton University Hospital, so she got the aftermath of Security and camera crews crowding the halls.

Thread-crossing: it was also one of the original motivations for getting "Vial of Life" information on a bright pink card in the plastic bag with vehicle registration/proof of insurance.

#310 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Terry:

Yes, you are right, I have not been consistent in my examples. In my defense, it was because I never got the impression those arguing against me were not limiting *their* arguments to the specific situation of an open space. In the mall shooting, my understanding is that many of the victims were trapped in the closes spaces of the store and running for cover was not an option. It wasn't, for all intents and purposes, an open space for them. But your point is well taken; I am guilty as charged.

What I don't understand is how so much criticism can be leveled at me as being self-evidently wrong, given that this is such a hard topic on which to find good hard data. The common counterargument to my thesis that people keep using is the notion that everybody will start shooting everybody. But there's conflicting evidence, at best, for that, and most of it is from police shootings, which only serves my argument that we're better of relying on people than police.

It's irrational to assume people will start shooting anybody with a gun. Those who are close enough to be in danger will know who the gunman is. Those far away will do the human thing and escape. But it's hard for me to defend myself against the shifting argument whereby people exist in the quantum superposition of simultaneously shooting everything and also frozen in fear. And apparently when a bullet is fired by a crazed gunman, the general concensus around here is that it will fall harmlessly if all take the advice to find cover. But if a bullet is fired by one of those misguided libertarians, then, oh, "those bullets have to go somewhere!" I can't win! (I know you didn't specifically say that, Terry.)

My argument about the zero survival rate was admittedly sloppy. It's beyond rescue.

I think the shifting argument syndrome has been going around. Originally James said even an undercover cop would have to be inexactly the right place to be effective, and if there were other undercover cops, they are all likely to shoot each other. None of those predictions came to fruition in the Colorado case, and yet you agree that he was right on the money. (I was wrong about the rifle issue, though. Sorry about that James. I owe you a point back.)

Anyway, either I mistook people's original position, or we've all clarified and modified our positions at this point, because in truth I can't really argue too much with the long version of your rebuttal to my original statements. Originally I thought that you were all much more extreme in your views, but I think that was because I came across so extreme in mine.

I certainly can't prove that my optimism about people with regard to gun freedom is well founded. And for the record, I didn't mean to imply I wanted everybody to have guns, I want every law abiding citizen who WANTS a gun to have one. (As a libertarian, it would be a bit odd for me to suggest we force people to carry.) My theory is that anybody who has the mindset to want to own one is highly likely to be responsible and an asset. I understand many of you take exception to that, and you may be right. I'm willing to table that one.

FWIW, I've learned quite a bit from this discussion, especially your posts and the links James has put up.

#311 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:00 PM:

Scott --

That "totally lacking in common sense" thing you're complaining about being a strawman?

Some of it is (to my reading) Jim doing reductio ad absurdum on the "citizen defense" thing, but, well, some of it is how people flung into a firefight with inadequate (inadequate includes "no") psych prep actually behave, to wit, in incredibly stupid ways they are unable to explain afterwards.

It's not even a question of "freezing"; it's a question of not actually thinking. (The mechanisms of considered thought are extremely fragile, and in states of real fear, your spine will take over.)

I have an aggressive response to stress; I don't freeze, but (as per an incident in my misspent youth; I hope I'm a bit less tightly wound these days) if truly frightened, I was perfectly willing to fight a bear with my bare hands.

"Stupid" won't cover that, not even spread very thin.

That's in someone who had already been in serious (=potentially lethal) fights between people, had been taught how to shoot passably well, and had no expectation of safety whatsoever. (Still don't. Still turn off lights before opening doors, too.)

But it was a pleasant fall day, I was enjoying the walk, and I had no expectation of any significant threat. (I will note that my reaction to bears when they weren't a surprise has been very different.)

So, no psych prep = stupid response. More or less by definition, idiot in a public place opening fire = no psych prep possible. There will be a whole great many stupid responses.

Part of what Jim is (I think) trying to point out is that the whole narrative of "citizen response" in contrafactual and unhelpful. This question of psychological preparation is part of why.

#312 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:04 PM:

#298: Steve

Just out of curiosity, if we had our gun-owner's paradise where citizens were allowed to pack heat, how many would choose to do so?

Very few. Weapons are (as I've noted many times for all that the clear-eyed freedom-loving libertarians have ignored it), heavy, bulky, expensive, and useless day-to-day.

I wish one of the clear-eyed freedom-loving libertarians would ask me what my actual opinions are about firearm ownership, and the laws governing same.

I live in a state where I could walk 200 feet down the street to the nearest gun store and (by showing my driver's license to prove that I live here and that I'm over 21, and after waiting three days because of federal law) buy any pistol or revolver I cared to have (and could afford). If I wanted a long gun I'd only have to be 18 to buy anything my heart desired.

I like that situation just fine.

Now why doesn't one of those clear-eyed freedom-loving libertarians ask me if I personally own any firearms? The answer is, yes, of course I do. What do you think I am, some kind of gun-hater?

Now, clear-eyed freedom-loving libertarian, ask me if I carry one with me everywhere I go.

What, are you nuts? They're expensive, bulky, heavy, and useless on a day-to-day basis. Carrying one with you just means you have to clean it, which is a fiddly, messy, and time-consuming process.

#313 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:04 PM:

I lived in the DC area when the Beltway Snipers were on their spree. The first kill happened at the Shoppers five minutes from our apartment, where we got our groceries; one of the others happened at the shopping center up the road, where we were frequent visitors as well.

I don't know if it's even possible to convey what life was like in that area during that time. But just try to imagine being a foot-and-rail commuter and knowing that some psychopath is gleefully picking off strangers for the hell of it; imagine going to any parking lot, anywhere, to buy food or gasoline or to pick up your spouse from night classes, knowing that death could be waiting for you on that monster's whim, hoping like hell you've set your affairs sufficiently in order. (BTW, you know how many white vans there are on the roads between DC and Wheaton, MD? A fuckload.)

Got all that? There you are, an average working stiff, not a Jim Macdonald or a Terry Karney; and you're not in a firefight, just living for days on end with constant, sick-making paranoia that all you have to do is step out of the wrong door at the wrong time and you're another tally mark on a kill record.*

Now put a gun in your hands, just because you can. Does that make things better or worse?

I wished for a lot of things during those weeks in October, but a six-gun on my hip (or a Colt in my waistband, if you like) was not on the list. If I have a soul, I would stake it on the certainty that it would not have improved my life then even a little.

Which should not be taken in any way to mean that I'm saying all guns everywhere should be outlawed, or that I don't think anyone is up to the responsibility of carrying one. It's just that this is the kind of pespective that, when a Jim Macdonald or a Terry Karney (IOW, exactly the sort of person I'd trust in a moment to be responsible with a firearm in a crisis) says "If you're under fire, dive for cover, get out if you can, and don't be a damn hero" - makes me take them seriously.

*Yes, I know anything can always happen at any time anyway, even without human malice to make the odds even worse. I'm also aware that people all over the world live under those conditions all the time. Let us assume, safely, that neither of those true things make any difference in the psychology of the situation as outlined.

#314 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:09 PM:

#272, Terry (in Germany)

...stuff that blows the front half of a tank out the back half.

Now's as good a time as any to pipe up and say that I really, really love that description of the tank-killing device. Nice turn of phrase.

#315 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:11 PM:

Jonathan #309: "my argument that we're better of relying on people than police"

If you truly, honestly believe that a lack of training is better than police training, I think this argument is pointless.

Also, re: the Colorado case: maybe I'm wildly misreading, but that wasn't an undercover cop - that was an on-duty, uniformed security guard with prior police training. The uniform alone reverses the situation.

#316 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Scott Taylor: I have to take Jim's word for it he meant to be insulting, but I don't see the hypotheticals as all that insulting, honestly.

One of the, functional, differences between the two sets is the constraints. Jim's don't have the handy limiters (gunman in a closed room with nowhere for the victims to go is the one which jumps out at me as the thing to which I was referring).

I've been in free fires zones. I've seen people shoot at their friends. That was when the friends were a lot easier to ID than they would be in a mall-type shooting.

As abi asks, where to the missed rounds go?

How does one tell friend from foe.

I know this, if I'm ever in the position to be carrying in such a situation; and I decide taking a shot is a reasonable/needful thing, the thing I will do as soon as the shooting is over (assuming I am still among the quick) is drop the gun and lie flat on my face, waiting to be arrested.

Because it's about the only way I see myself getting out of it alive (which is the whole point of the excercise).

If I see two guys with guns... I'll leave mine in the holster; no matter what because I have no way to know which one is the bad guy. Yeah, I might be able, if I abandon the idea of keeping my head down, to figure it out by looking at how they target people, but if they are both just hosing away (and based on what I've seen of pistol shooters, that's about what I'd expect to see) then screw it. I'll try to count on them paying more attention to each other than to me and mine and do my best to hustle my ass right out o' Dodge.

Jim's hypotheticals are based on the position Jonathan is arguing for, lots of guns and people willing to use them in situations like the Omaha Mall.

Are they reductio ad absurdem?, a little. But (IMO) Jonathan's position is a trifle absurd, so a bit of reductio may be in order.

#317 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Susan:

What is it with the sexism thing with you?

You don't know my wife, and all you know about me is my position on guns. I'd love it if my wife wanted to own a gun. I've often offered to take her shooting. She's very liberal, and would like to see guns completely outlawed. As you imagine, a lot of eye rolling occurs in my house on both sides.

#318 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Jeremy:

Ys, y'v prtty mch msrd vrythng.

#319 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Oh, that's helpful.

#320 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:31 PM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy: I wish to comment on what you said (with minor edits, for clairity):

I don't know if it's even possible to convey what life was like in that area during that time. But just try to imagine being a foot-and-rail commuter and knowing that some psychopath is gleefully picking off strangers for the hell of it; imagine going to any parking lot, anywhere, to buy food or gasoline or to pick up your spouse from night classes, knowing that death could be waiting for you on that monster's whim, hoping like hell you've set your affairs sufficiently in order.

Got all that? There you are, an average working stiff, and you're not in a firefight, just living for days on end with constant, sick-making paranoia that all you have to do is step out of the wrong door at the wrong time and you're another tally mark on a kill record.

You have just described what living in a war zone is like. There are some scaling issues, but that grinding fear is the most salient point about combat zones. Live with it long enough and it's a sort of baseline. You start to not notice the low-grade everyday fear and only get ramped up when something is out of the ordinary.

It's hard on the system. Losing that sense of fear is weird too (when I got to Walter Reed, I was real twitchy. I only relaxed when I was in a room I could lock, or saw someone in desert cammies. I did some self-medicating. I am told it took me somewhere near six months to come back to some semblance of normal, and I will never be who I was before. Fandom saved my relationship, if not my life, but I digress).

You have my sympathy.

As for Jim, or me, being in some way special, well we are. Not so much because we are cut from different cloth, but because we've had the chance to take our own measure. Most people are blessed with quiet enough lives that this doesn't come to pass, in this context.

R.M. Koske: Thanks. I needed someway to convey the level of oomph. Mind you, seeing a self-propelled howizter which has shat a V-16 diesel engine 15 ft. out it's ass, well it's sobering, and I've never been allowed to pull the trigger on a tank main gun.

#321 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:34 PM:

More to the point - other than the comment above, I can't find a single reference to the fact that the guard was NOT in uniform. I read the two articles and watched the interview - am I missing something?

#322 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:35 PM:

Jonathan #309:

Originally James said even an undercover cop would have to be inexactly the right place to be effective, and if there were other undercover cops, they are all likely to shoot each other.

First, it's true, even an undercover cop would have to be in exactly the right place. Nothing you've show has come close to demonstrating anything different.

Next, I never said or implied that if there were other undercover cops that they're all likely to shoot each other. Although that exact thing has happened in the real world, more than once.

Please notice, in the Colorado case, all of the security officers on scene knew exactly who the other security officers were, and knew where their comrades were standing -- they were in positions dictated by a written security plan developed by the church.

As you may have guessed, I've utterly run out of patience with your sloppy thinking, and I ran out of it several posts back.

But there's conflicting evidence, at best, for that, and most of it is from police shootings, which only serves my argument that we're better of relying on people than police.

Oh. My. Ghod.

Someday just Google on the phrase "accidental shooting."

My theory is that anybody who has the mindset to want to own one is highly likely to be responsible and an asset.

Like those two gangbangers down in Dorchester, right?

Just in case you need to know what to do if the pistol someone has stuck in his waistband accidentally discharges: Control the bleeding with direct pressure. Ensure an open airway. Provide high-volume oxygen by non-rebreather mask. Be ready to assist ventilations if necessary. Keep the patient warm. Establish two large-bore IVs of normal saline running wide open to keep systolic blood pressure above 90. Transport the patient to the nearest appropriate facility.

#323 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Just as a point of reference here, to compare the real world to that of certain television shows which shall remain nameless (and one of whose stars is currently doing time for a second-offense DUI), when they're filming shows that involve simulated explosions and gunshots, they notify everyone in the area beforehand.

Now imagine what might happen if everyone were armed, and they didn't post those notices.

(Oh, yes. There's also a school a couple of blocks up the side street, and lots of apartments and town houses across from the filming area. And buses on the main street going by.)

#324 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:52 PM:

Jonathan 309: And apparently when a bullet is fired by a crazed gunman, the general concensus around here is that it will fall harmlessly if all take the advice to find cover. But if a bullet is fired by one of those misguided libertarians, then, oh, "those bullets have to go somewhere!" I can't win!

No, a bullet fired by a crazed gunman will hit the cover if everyone's managed to make it behind cover. It may also ricochet and hit people anyway, but it's less likely.

A bullet fired by a misguided libertarian could go anywhere. If everyone's behind cover (with respect to the libertarian) it will probably hit the cover (as above).

With a lone gunman in a single location, anything qualifying as cover that is between him and you in a straight line will suffice. But posit multiple lone gunmen shooters, even if some are nominally on your side, and you're not in cover unless you're in cover with respect to each of them—which could mean you need cover from ALL directions.

The ricochet geometry becomes chaotic very quickly, too.

Mind you, cover is never ENOUGH. That's why Jim says that if the uniforms are distant, you should try to figure out how to get away.

My theory is that anybody who has the mindset to want to own one is highly likely to be responsible and an asset. I understand many of you take exception to that, and you may be right. I'm willing to table that one.

I'm glad you're willing to table that, but I think it's the key to the disagreement here. I don't recognize the species you're talking about here, where wanting to own a gun correlates with being responsible and an asset. In my experience only a tiny subset of would-be gun owners fall into that overlap. Most think it's a magic talisman, conferring safety, heroism, and/or invulnerability. Some of the people I've heard say "If only I had a gun" would make your blood run cold.

A young friend of mine recently attempted suicide by swallowing all his grandmother's Ambien™. Fortunately the lethal dose of Ambien™ is VERY high, and he just slept for 12 hours, which he desperately needed.

Had there been a gun in the house (and he's MUCH smarter than his parents (one source of his unhappiness); they aren't capable of creating security he can't defeat) I would be mourning him now.

I'm actually glad you have such faith in humanity. I don't share it, and I'm afraid the world we live in is the one I see, not the one you see. It's a vision of a better world, but not one we can get to if we believe we're already in it.

#325 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 02:54 PM:

Jonathan @ #316:
What I have noticed about you is that you have more than once referred to gun ownership in a gender-related (and bordering on homophobic) way, which makes me wonder how you consciously or otherwise perceive the relationship between your "manhood" and gun ownership.

(And don't make any assumptions about gun ownership and my family and why I (or they) do or do not own 'em; you don't have the background to understand.)

#326 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:00 PM:

Xopher @ 323... A bullet fired by a misguided librarian could go anywhere?

#327 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:02 PM:

Serge 325: Yes, and it takes people longer to realize the shooting has started, because they use silencers.

#328 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Serge @ 325, sure, once they've thrown out the card catalog the possibilities are endless.

#329 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:06 PM:

Xopher @ 326... And, when people realize what's going on, they must take cover.

#330 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Xopher, I'm glad your friend is okay, for whatever definition applies.

#331 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Conan the Librarian doesn't worry about guns, as long as his steel ruler is strapped to his waist.

#332 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:12 PM:

Jonathan #309: My theory is that anybody who has the mindset to want to own one [a gun] is highly likely to be responsible and an asset.

Land sakes, no.

I live in a southern state with gun laws about as liberal as Macdonald's place of residence. Gun shows are a monthly, if not biweekly experience in the general area of the city where I live. There are legal guns, illegal guns, "discovered" guns all over the place here. There are people who fit your "ideal" profile; people who have no more understanding of the weapon they own than which way around the bullets are supposed to go in; people who can not only assemble their own ammunition, or modify their own weapons, but can build them. There's no guarantee, given relaxed gun laws, that the people who own them will be the sort of people you envision. That's a charming fantasy. Relaxed gun laws mean that lots of people will be able to have guns. Some of them will even be people who, techically, aren't supposed to have them because they're convicted felons--but were able to talk their buddy or borther-in-law into buying one for them legally, if they didn't resort to a black-market piece.

Relaxed gun laws (or minimal gun laws, or no gun laws) DO NOT MEAN gun owners will be responsible, well-trained individuals. There is no connection between the two things, except in your fond, optimistic wishes. One does not automatically lead to another.


There are ways to encourage gun owners to be responsible people. They all require effort, and not wishful thinking, which is all your words here have demonstrated to me so far.

It's very easy to be romantic about guns and gun ownership, from both the pro- and anti- positions. Romanticism does not usually lead to good policy. You might want to stop and think very carefully, before you post anything else at all on this topic, that all the people posting here with extensive experience with and exposure to the use of firearms have strong opinions in favor of the value of good training, and aren't in love with the idea of untrained or poorly-trained gun owners. In fact, it's highly likely that some or all of them have experience with what happens when gun owners aren't well-trained and well-socialized.
You might also want to note that most of these people (James Macdonald, Graydon, Terry Karney, onceamarine, and Clark Myers, among others) are not anti-gun ownership, and are, for the most part, gun owners. They just aren't gun romantics.

#333 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:16 PM:

Serge @328:
And, when people realize what's going on, they must take cover.

Dude, if you take a cover, the librarian is going to do more than simply shoot you. Even taking a dust jacket is a hanging offence.

#334 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:28 PM:

abi, 332: Dude, if you take a cover, the librarian is going to do more than simply shoot you. Even taking a dust jacket is a hanging offence.

ObFirefly: "You are hereby rebound by law..."

#335 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:34 PM:

Terry Karney:
You have just described what living in a war zone is like. There are some scaling issues, but that grinding fear is the most salient point about combat zones. Live with it long enough and it's a sort of baseline. You start to not notice the low-grade everyday fear and only get ramped up when something is out of the ordinary.

Yeah, that occurred to me while I was writing it, which was why I footnoted it. And the scaling issues are significant; I only had to live with the certain knowledge of one enemy, rather than, like, a whole population. Which is where my own imagination fails in being able to comprehend what life under those conditions is like, except "awful beyond belief." And our ordeal, as it happened, was over pretty quickly. I'm aware of how fortunate I am in that, in the big-picture view.

I've known other people who spent time under those circumstances, good people I'd trust my life with, but who did cruel and terrible things under that pressure and don't talk about it much. It's not good for human beings on any scale, really. I'm aware of how blessed I am to not have had my measure tested in the same way, simply because I've seen what it can do to people, even good people, who have had to know just what it is they're made of. Which is why I'm skeptical, to put it gently, of claims that we'd have fewer of these tragedies if we all just got a little more comfortable with weapons.

Polite society, my pasty nerd arse.

#336 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Jonathan: Postulate a mall shooting spree. Postulate an armed citizen, an assistant manager of a store in the mall, who's in a position to respond.

Now go ask this guy how it'll turn out. I'll give you a hint: "He said he has no movement in his left leg and only 10 percent normal movement in his right. He isn't sure if he'll ever walk again, though he's hopeful and determined to do so."

"Brendan McKown said Monday he feared that if he had taken a shot at the man firing into the crowds, he might have only caused other shoppers to get struck by bullets."

It seems to me that someone who was actually in that situation might know more about what it's like than you, me, Terry, or James.

#337 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:37 PM:

Just before the battle, mother,
I was drinking mountain dew.
When I saw the Rebels marching
To the rear I quickly flew.
Where the stragglers were a-flying,
Thinking of our homes and wives--
'Twas not the Rebs we feared, dear mother,
But for our own dear precious lives.

Farewell, mother, for you'll never
See my name among the slain
For if I only can skedaddle
Dear mother, I'll come home again.

I hear the trumpet sounding, mother,
My heart is eager for the fray.
I guess I'll get behind some cover,
Then, mother, I will be okay.
Discretion's the better part of valor,
At least, I've often heard you say,
And he who loves his life, dear mother,
Won't fight if he can run away.

Farewell, mother, for you'll never
See my name among the slain
For if I only can skedaddle
Dear mother, I'll come home again.

Trad parody.

Tune: Just Before the Battle, Mother

#338 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:37 PM:

TexAnne @ 333... You have the right to remain silent. In fact, I insist upon it.

#339 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:40 PM:

I'm sharing the casual and flippant remarks about death-dealing librarians with my sister, y'all. I do hope you can get along without reference assistance and interlibrary loan for a while for a while, and that you don't have any outstanding fines or overdue books, because she's likely to invoke guild rules on you.

Trust me, you don't really want to know what sort of armament the bookmobiles have.

#340 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:40 PM:

James:

Repeat "Oh my god" a million times and your argument is no better nor mine any worse. Accuse me a sloppy thinking, and yours gets no cleaner. You made some very definite statements about just how perfect the situation would have to be for a trained person to effectively use a gun. You actually had specific distances in there (five feet, and behind). And you pointed out the danger of other trained people in the area with a gun. Now you backtrack and point out how this church shooting supports exactly what you said. Anybody who can read can clearly see you overstated your case, at least based on the outcome of the Colorado church shootin. So you go back and retroactively condition your statements on the trained gun holders not having previously assigned positions. Ok, fine, you win.

And for godsake, the gang bangers were not legal gun owners. They were likely convicted felons, in fact. And they still performed better under fire than you insinuate most people would. Had they even one day of training, I'm sure the world would have two less gang members. I know it seems odd to posit a gang shooting as a "pro" for liberal gun ownership, but I'm simply using it as a counterexample to your statement that people are incapable of reacting appropriately. You have to admit that the second banger at least reacted appropriately! Had he a better stance, he would've won. Had he no gun, he might've died.

I will confess to sloppy reasoning here, but I think you and I are probably up at the top of the list on that. Terry, for example, may be on your side but he's in no way your peer when it comes to argument. You seemed more intent on winning a pissing contest than in finding the truth. My position has been modified as a result of some of the valid points raised here, and I can admit that. You seem more intent on never having to concede a point.

When you need them to be, the police are highly and effectively trained. The next minute, they are also bumbling trigger happy fools. Pick a thesis, James. In your argument, training is at once neccesary, and also nearly pointless given the huge odds in favor of the gunman. I'm willing to concede that I was wrong when I said training wouldn't matter much. Heck, my own experience with the gangbangers shooting like morons shows that.

And I said that the evidence that show police will only make a mess of the place is mixed, and to the extent that it shows they will make a mess it's an argument for people taking care of things. It was meant to be an ad absurdum argument. Nobody here thinks police are worse than citizens in handling a situation like this. I was trying to point out the fallacy of going so far as to say even the police will make matters worse, because that only leaves you with (a) we handle shootings by just waiting for the shooter to run out of ammo or (b) people might as well act as police. Both conclusions are ludicrous, so you at least have to give on the notion that some amount of resistive force can help and that everybody, police included, taking cover isn't right. And then that opens you to the grey possibility that maybe trained citizens might do ok.

If you constantly attach the worst conditions to my arguments, neither of us will get anything out of the debate. You have to be willing to try to understand the other person. I've tried to understand what you are saying, and not just focus on trying to make petty rhetorical snipes. And I agree with a lot of what you say.

Anyway, I'm done, too. As I said, I've actually learned a lot, and as a result I am definitely less sure about my feelings on concealed carry. I still think home defense is an appropriate case, but my opinion has been changed on the idea of universal CCL.

And I apologize for mischaracterizing you as an anti-gun zealot. I think you mistake me for a true believer with a capital L. I don't envision any libertarian utopia. Those are words put in my mouth. My argument was one of degrees, that more universal gun ownership might save some net lives. If I didn't come across that way initial, my fault. But I've rectified that and yet you keep placing the same tired strawmen at my feet.

Anyway, I'm not even sure what your position is anymore except that I'm entirely wrong on mine.

#341 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:44 PM:

I often get the feeling that the Citizen Gunfight scenario, where a well-armed and prepared individual overcomes the communal threat, has aspects of Mary Sue (or, more commonly, Gary Stu) fiction. Certainly, many of the tellers clearly picture the gun in their own hands, and somehow it all coming out right as a result.

Like Mary Sue stories, these narratives exist for a reason. The crazed gunman type of episode is most horrifying because the targets are powerless. It makes us conscious of the vulnerability of our daily lives, and that's an uneasy thought. We wrestle with such uncomfortable thoughts in the bounds of narrative all the time; this is not unique.

Really, who among us hasn't wondered if there was some way these events could have turned out better? Even Jim's original post is an attempt to tackle that powerlessness, to suggest a course of action so the people reading this are a little more prepared, a little more likely to survive such a scenario.

I'm not saying that the idea has legs, but it might be useful to reply to suggestions of armed citizens as an effective deterrent with compassion as well as passion. We're all anxious together.

#342 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Jonathan, I don't think spraying lead all over a city street counts as an "appropriate response." Abi keeps asking, and you haven't answered, "Where did those bullets go?"

Taking cover and getting the hell out of the way seems like a response much less likely to kill innocent civilians.

#343 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:51 PM:

Abi @ 340... Well said. As usual.

#344 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:51 PM:

Susan:

What I have noticed about you is that you have more than once referred to gun ownership in a gender-related (and bordering on homophobic) way, which makes me wonder how you consciously or otherwise perceive the relationship between your "manhood" and gun ownership.

Wow. I just flashed back to the political science classes at Swarthmore and the womyn telling my future wife that she was "oppressed by the phalocentric hegemony" even though she didn't know it. Most of those women are probably off wasting their time on the net accusing strangers of homophobia just like you, while my wife is a professor at Harvard. Who's the more effective feminist between the two of you? Stick your theories back in your PhD thesis where they belong.

#345 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Jonathan,

That was over the line. Back it down now.

#346 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 03:59 PM:

fidelio:

Excellent points. Ok, I think your nails were the last in the coffin of my optimism regarding gun owners. I have to admit that I was probably extrapolating way too much from the gun owners I know, and that's dangerous. I'd even go so far as to say that maybe Colorado is right to require some training hoops, as opposed to the way Vermont does it.

#347 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:05 PM:

Most inappropriate, Jonathan.

#348 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:08 PM:

Jonathan:
Guess I struck a nerve there, eh? Let's address your little issues:
(1) I didn't go to Swarthmore or any other woman's school
(2) I don't have a PhD, though if I did it would be all about the sexist dead white male stuff I study
(3) I haven't met your wife (fortunately, I turned down Harvard), so I can't judge her feminism in general, but she doesn't seem to have made much of an impact at home judging from your psychological issues around women and guns.
(4) Calling out sexism and borderline homophobia on the net may be a waste of time, but someone's got to do it so people with your issues don't go unchallenged

Thanks for making my point so helpfully with your stereotypical reaction!

#349 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:11 PM:

abi:

That was over the line. Back it down now.

Fair enough. Susan, I apologize. I overreacted and take it back. And yes, I think the question of how and to what extent were are responsible for our own defense is tied to the question of manhood, for men, and to womenhood for women. And you're way off the mark with your accusation of homophobia. I don't know where you got that, so I don't even know how to respond to that.

#350 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:16 PM:

Whoops. Swarthmore isn't a woman's college. I was thinking of Bryn Mawr by way of "woman's college in that PA academic collective". My bad!

#351 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:27 PM:

Susan:

Yes, you struck a nerve. Flatter yourself all you want with regard to what you think that means, but maybe I was just annoyed at some smug ad hominum attack. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar... That's actually the first time I can remember being accused of homophobia, but not nearly the first time I've run into somebody acting like you (usually towards women, ironically) given the unfortunate amount of time I've spent in hanging around the ivory towers. So I probably do have a nerve about it, actually.

But you're absolutely right: the most appropriate response to your troll would've been to just ignore you.

#352 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:29 PM:

The coroner in the Colorado shootings case has ruled that the gunman (after having been hit multiple times by the security guard's bullets) killed himself with a single shot.

Possible, I'll grant.
Likely: I don't think so.

#353 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Jonathan -- Susan isn't the only one who's noticed the quasi-sexual language in several of your posts, hence my comment upthread about you jerking off to your Ramboland fantasy. Dropping immediately into "goddamnmanhatingfeministbitch" attack mode when it's pointed out to you only reinforces the perception that there's something hinky going on there between the gun thing and your feelings about sexuality.

Perhaps you should step back from this thread for a day or so. You've acknowledged that you're having to re-evaluate some of your long-held opinions about universal armament, and IME that's the sort of thing that can take a day or two to process. Trying to continue the discussion while the re-evaluation is in process is (again IME) rarely productive.

#354 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:33 PM:

TexAnne #333: For that one you need to be brought to book.

#355 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:36 PM:

Fragano, 353: Is being brought to Book* like having a come-to-Jesus chat?

*special hell, here I come.

#356 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Jonathan, as someone without a dog in this fight; if you are getting angry, it's probably best to take a break.

Susan's response wasn't out of line, given that you made at least as many assumptions in the post you apologised for.

#357 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:40 PM:

Jonathan #343: Ye gods and small fishes! You need to relax and pull your head from your rectum.

#358 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Jonathan:
I strongly suggest you go back and read my post @ #324. Read for comprehension this time. Do not remove words (like "bordering on") so that you can overrreact to what you want to pretend I said. Notice that the comment was phrased in a wondering sort of way, not as an attack, so that you can stop falsely calling it an attack. Try to actually stick to the topic instead of dicksizing academics (but do try that on Patrick someday; I want to sell tickets.) Learn the meaning of "ad hominem" so you can use it correctly. Learn the meaning of "troll", ditto.

More than anything else, your reaction to that post (so knee-jerk that you weren't even addressing what I said, but apparently responding to a bad experience in women's studies when you were in college) makes my point for me. You didn't just respond, you made a very specifically gendered attack that shows a whole lot of underlying hostility toward women and defensiveness about your masculinity which pretty much fits with the sexism expressed in your previous posts (which I note has not been an element in the posting by any of the other gun owners on this thread.)

#359 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Knock it off, Jonathan.

#360 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Jonathan,

I second Lee's (and third Terry's) suggestion. I think you need to walk around with some of the things that have been said here (both by others and by you) for a while.

You've said your piece, and some of it has come across fairly well. You've heard a few things that may be of interest. You've shown some class and courage in your ability to apologize when required.

Don't lose your temper and screw it all up now.

#361 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:43 PM:

Jonathan:

I believe that in the past, you thought you were safe. Then scary incidents like the Beltway Sniper(s) and Virginia Tech shootings came along, and you realized -- with considerable shock -- that it was still possible for a crazy person with a gun to kill you. It was an intolerable thought. You've responded by coming up with this fantasy scenario where, if the police aren't going to keep you perfectly safe, someone else will: your fellow citizens, armed to the teeth.

How I know it's a fantasy: you said, "My theory is that anybody who has the mindset to want to own [a gun] is highly likely to be responsible and an asset." There's a huge amount of data, going all the way down to the folklore level, that contradicts that notion. Gun owners aren't all irresponsible, but no way does the desire to own one automatically correlate with the mindset and situational judgement needed to use one responsibly.

Also: the greater the social pressure to carry a gun, the greater the odds that any given person carrying a gun is going to be bad at using it. I think you'd know that if we were discussing any other technologies or practices.

So, you're not talking about the use of firearms in the real world. The fact is, your scenario would make you massively less safe. It does have one thing to recommend it, though: it hasn't yet been proved untrue. You haven't yet had to watch CNN-all-day-coverage news about some appalling number of handgun-toting citizens who were killed in circumstances where they were helpless to defend themselves.

You're still not safe. Even if everyone is armed, you're still not safe.

Here are some useful facts:

1. Humans are only really good at defending themselves against attackers who are in front of them. You can be shot from any angle of the full 360. You can be shot by people who are lying on the ground, or firing through basement windows. You can be shot by people who are firing from upper windows or from roofs. You can be shot from a moving car, or motorcycle, or bicycle.

2. Humans have lousy directional hearing, and gunshots echo all over the place. Sound won't reliably tell you where the shots are coming from.

3. You can't shoot back if you're shot from concealment: venetian blinds, ventilation louvers, lace curtains, shrubbery, et cetera ad infinitum. All it takes is for someone to be standing a relatively dark area and you to be standing in a relatively bright one. (See Graydon, above, on turning out the lights before opening a door.)

4. In a crowded shooting situation, everyone is going to be a distraction. They'll be screaming, moving in all directions, pulling objects out of their pockets that might be small guns or large cellphones, et cetera (again) ad infinitum. You won't be able to tell what's happening.

5. Emergency situations don't usually faze me. (I can call witnesses on that one.) I tell you truly: the moment you're in a situation where someone has drawn a gun, you're slingshotted, hard, into a different universe. So is everyone else around you.

Terry and Jim both have significant combat experience. In addition, one of the many hats Jim wore in the Navy was "small arms instructor." Others in this thread have their own experience. Near as I can tell, everyone here who has first-hand experience with flying lead is disagreeing with you. They're not telling you that guns are evil. They're telling you that guns won't do what you think they will.

Guns won't keep you safe.

Statistically, what will make you safer is a good police force, and well-trained gun owners. But guns per se won't keep you safe.

#362 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Jonathan, you're just not paying attention. Jim is saying that even being highly trained professionals, cops often shoot innocent and/or unarmed people, or each other.

If you eat all the right foods, avoid all the important vices, and do all the right activities to maximize health, guess what? You'll still die eventually. Does that make all that stuff useless?

Police, with all their training, still have "friendly-fire" incidents. Armed citizens, having less-to-no training, will have MORE. And there are (at least potentially) a lot more of them than of police.

Susan 349: Hmm, the equation of More == Mawr I can see. But does that mean that Swarth == Bryn?

#363 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:45 PM:

TexAnne #354: That's one way of looking at it!

#364 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Jonathan (#348): I think the question of how and to what extent were are responsible for our own defense is tied to the question of manhood, for men, and to womenhood for women.

What's wrong with 'personhood'? Are you trying to say that men and women necessarily approach self-defense in different ways? And let it be noted, for the record, that that is not an answer to the question about defending other people.

Let it also be noted that the idea of someone else choosing to defend me with an offensive weapon makes me even more unhappy than the idea of doing so myself.

#365 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:48 PM:

Jonathan, one of the reasons scams like the Spanish Prisoner and the 419/Nigerian letter e-mails work is the naive assumption "People everywhere are like me and therefore trustworthy."

I'm glad you are ready to take a long, serious look about some of your naive assumptions about gun use and gun ownership. Carefully examining the reasons why we have the opinions we hold, and asking whether or not there's good support for them or if they're just the result of a strong emotional reaction is one of the steps to wisdom. I don't enjoy the process much myself, and I can understand why a lot of people are reluctant to expose themselves to themselves (so to speak), but I've always been the better for dragging myself through it.

#366 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:50 PM:

Xopher:
Hmm, the equation of More == Mawr I can see. But does that mean that Swarth == Bryn?

I wish I had such a clever excuse. I was just being teh space cadet.

(And now I am thinking, wait, there is some clever linguistic pun here that I am missing and will feel very stupid about when I go off to find out what "bryn" means.)

#367 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:52 PM:

TNH #360: I concur. It's been my experience that possession of a gun causes some people to confuse a tool designed to make holes in things at a distance with the Magic Wand of Absolute Power and Invulnerability. One man I know was bludgeoned to death as a result (when the number of people you have just annoyed is greater than the number of bullets in your gun bad things can happen to you).

More often than not, I suspect, people think of having a gun as being in control. It's not, and in a chaotic situation it can make things far worse.

#368 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:53 PM:

susan,

wait, there is some clever linguistic pun here that I am missing and will feel very stupid about when I go off to find out what "bryn" means.

well, a "swarthy complexion" sometimes means brown. which sounds like bryn, at least.

#369 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:56 PM:

Sam, 363: Thank you. That's just what I would have said if I were a polite, even-tempered person.

#370 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 04:57 PM:

Susan:

I'm done with the sexism discussion. I regret responding to begin with.

#371 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:04 PM:

fidelio #338: Trust me, you don't really want to know what sort of armament the bookmobiles have.

I assume that all the SF-reading librarians here have read Sean McMullen's _Souls in the Great Machine_? Librarians fight duels.

#372 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Jonathan, 369: So you'll accept a bunch of men saying that you're wrong--but you won't accept a bunch of women saying that you could be wrong? Hmm.

I wish to suggest that your wife might be resisting guns-to-defend-the-home because she doesn't like the idea of your being imprisoned for murder.

#373 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Corollary to my suggestion that Jonathan might want to take a little while away from the thread is my request that people not sit around and toss comments at him*.

Just sayin'.

-----
* particularly the ones with the ring pins removed

#374 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:16 PM:

miriam:
"Bryn" seems to mean "hill", so I think I'm safe from missing something obvious. So we're left with "swarthy more" = "brown mawr" or somesuch. Nah.

The posters here always make me wonder if I'm missing some exceedingly clever witticisms that I'm just not equipped to understand, but in this case I think it's pure paranoia.

#375 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Teresa:

Thanks for your very well-reasoned post. It was especially astute in your estimation of the origins of all of this for me: A lot of this comes from the fact that I was living in Golden at the time of the Columbine shootings. I saw so many people die while the police stood outside. So, I gravitated towards the idea that one cannot rely on the government to protect one's self. Not out of anti-government mentality, but just because they can't be everywhere.

But as you, and others have pointed out, civilian ownership of guns is messier in practice than I was making it out to be. I do respect the opinions of those of you whose seen actually shooting situations, and that weighs heavily against some of the preconceptions I had about the success rate of people defending themselves with guns. (My opinion suffers from source bias given the people I hang out with and the stuff I choose to read, one of the reasons I appreciate this debate.)

You've certainly all convinced me of two things: (1) I shouldn't even think for a second about personally carrying unless I've taken sufficient training to have the right psychological basis to handle the responsibility (or find out I just don't and can't have it). Shooting thousands of practice rounds probably isn't enough. (2) It's possible that no amount of training would be enough and as much as I hate to think it, our safety is really a function of the fact that there aren't too many homicidal nuts out there, not that we can really protect ourselves from them. This latter one I'm not sure about, but it's not even idea that I had prior to this debate.

What is your opinion on a handgun as a form of defense in the home, Teresa? Do you think a well trained individual will better or worsen the odds? I know this calls for speculation, but I just want your personal opinion as a data point.

Anyway, I will take the advice to process this all a bit, and appreciate the discussion.

#376 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Thank you, Abi.

#377 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:21 PM:

What to do if you've blown your dick off with your legal concealed handgun:

Nothing. Lie there.

What the responders should do:

Control bleeding, treat for shock, transport. If you can find the amputated part, wrap it in a clean dressing, place it in a plastic bag, and place the bag on ice. Label the bag with the patient's name and date of birth. Transport the amputated part in the same ambulance if possible. However, do not delay transport in order to look for a missing piece.

#378 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:28 PM:

I think Jonathan's comment at 374 is exceedingly gracious and civil and that everyone (including me) should lay off him for the time being.

Not that abi saying it shouldn't be enough.

#379 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Susan 373: I feel that way all the time.

I thought of some puns about Swarthmore's changing student body, but they were all too icky to mention.

Others, like connecting English 'dun' with Irish 'dun' and working 'bryn' (as 'brown') in there somehow, were too linguistically obscure and/or nonsensical to be funny to anyone but me.

#380 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Sam:

What's wrong with 'personhood'?

What if you don't self-identify as a person, but think you're a squirrel? It happens. I didn't think I had to resort to mealymouthed politically correct speech with this crowd. Feel free to read it however you want.

#381 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Jonathan:

I have some thoughts on the issues you ask about.

Training: Good training helps. No training will tell you what you will do in the actual moment. Paintball is about as good as it gets, and it's a piss-poor substitute.

Handguns for home defense... not so much. Better than shotguns, far better than rifles, but not good.

Do you have kids? If so, give it up. Lock them in a place you can't easily get to (like a finger-code safe inside a gunsafe).

Why do I say this? Because kids get into things. Teenagers are balls of emotion, and lack the restraints of experience.

They do things like slip out, and then discover they need to break in to avoid being caught out. Sleepy in the middle of the night, and someone falls over the rug, breaks the lamp and you think it's someone trying to make off with the family silver.

That equation has some ugly solutions.

To use a gun for home defense requires training, not just yourself, but everyone in the house. You need a plan of retreat, so everyone is in the same place. You need codes, so you can communicate in the emergency.

And it has to be automatic.

My preferred home defense weapon is a rapier, with no edge, but a point. It good in close quarters, intimidating as all get out and CAN'T kill someone before I ID them. If I have to, I can run someone through. If pounding them will subdue the, I can do that. If they take it away from me, I know that only the point is going to open me up (if he pounds me on the skull it might kill me, but hey, if it weren't useful, it wouldn't be useful).

Yeah, it takes training, but it's training you can do at home. It's training which doesn't require battle drills for the whole family.

Most of all, it as a very good failure mode; it doesn't kill people easily.

#382 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Xopher @ #377:
Actually, I think Jonathan still owes me several apologies for his irrational and sexist attacks, outright lies about what I said, and accusation of trolling. But I'm not exactly holding my breath on getting them. Being gracious and civil to the blog owner (fancy that!) isn't actually the same as apologizing to the person to whom he was rude.

#383 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:41 PM:

TexAnne #371: There is an alternative interpretation possible. It has to do with avoiding temptation.

#384 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:42 PM:

Jonathan: Then I suggest 'beinghood'. But then to be egalitarian you have to allow for 'nothingnesshood' too.

And 'hood' is only one kind of headwear, and then the head is only one part of the body, and it doesn't even stop at 'nothingnessbodypartwear' but spirals into chaos very rapidly.

Given the sensitivities of the earlier discussion, I think I'd better mention that the above is only playing, and not intended to be taken at all seriously by anyone.

#385 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Terry Karney @ 380... Do you have kids? If so, give it up. Lock them in a place you can't easily get to

Aren't there laws against for doing that to kids?

#386 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Terry Karney @ 380... Do you have kids? If so, give it up. Lock them in a place you can't easily get to

Aren't there laws against doing that to kids?

#387 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:46 PM:

Jonathan: Again, with no dog in that fight:

Re man/personhood. Given the context (context is very important... not meaning to offend, but your failing to notice the context in which Jim raised the Drega shooting is probably why he is as upset as he seems to be), and the connotations of manhood (recall the sidebar conversation on chivalry; which you caused with the comment about men cowering), the use of manhood (which isn't a neutral term, even to me, who is old enough that, man/he as the defaults for person don't cause any general unease) is problematic.

It being almost midnight, and I on duty in the morning, this is probably my last comment before I retire, so if I don't respond for 12 -14 hours, that's why.

#388 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Susan 381: Patience.

#389 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:51 PM:

Xopher: like I said, not holding my breath.

But I am wondering if the bingo game has a category for a sequence like this:

1. sexist comment, followed by
2. a response pointing this out, followed by
3. avoidance of responding to the actual substance of the response in favor of
4. an attack on the "politically correct" or "womyn" or whatever the bogeyman is

'cause I'm seeing this pattern here...

#390 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:52 PM:

Terry Karney @ 386... Good night. Say, are you sure you can't make it to that ML gathering next Tuesday? You'll regret it for the rest of your life if you don't show up.

#391 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Jonathan, for local (that is, native to ML) observations on gun ownership and use, including the "gun for home defense" issue, see this thread. The single most important part in it is the first thing, which quotes a comment from another thread by oldjarhead. It may not answer all of your questions; it may only give you more of them, in fact, but it has some good and thoughtful stuff in it.


#392 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:02 PM:

Serge: Family functions demand my presence in the south.

There are lots of things I already regret, adding one more missed dinner isn't going to be the death of me.

Next time.

#393 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:11 PM:

Terry Karney @ 391... Of course missing a dinner won't be the death of you. Have a good time with your family.

#394 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:20 PM:

01JAN07

19-year-old dies after accidental shooting

Horseplay with a loaded handgun led to the death of a 19-year-old man New Year’s Eve near Holly Hill. The Volusia County Sheriff' Office was notified of the incident at approximately 11:59 p.m. and rushed to the scene at 1229 Derbyshire Road. They found the victim, John Debella Jr., dead inside on a couch with a gunshot wound to his head. Sean Page was also inside and admitted to deputies that he had accidentally shot his friend.

Investigators interviewed Page and other witnesses and determined that Page had recently purchased a .45 caliber handgun and was carrying it in a holster throughout the evening of the shooting. Witnesses said that Page had pulled the gun out several times and pointed it at others, including Debella, in jest. Page told investigators that each time he had done so, he checked to make sure the gun was not loaded and was safe. He also said that he and his friends often joke around with weapons, and that he is on active duty in the U.S. Army and has had weapons training and experience.

At approximately 11:50 p.m. Page pulled the gun from its holster and pointed it at Debella's temple. According to witnesses, Debella played along and adjusted the gun himself so that it pointed at his forehead. Page had his finger on the trigger and said that Debella's movement nudged Page's finger, causing the weapon to fire. Page said that he didn' know the gun was loaded at the time of the shooting. Page, 20, was charged with manslaughter and transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach.


#395 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:27 PM:

#393 -
What a pair of idiots! I feel sorry for their families and mildly sorry for the surviving idiot who will have to live with the knowledge that he killed his friend by stupidity, but this also strikes me as evolution in action. I don't own a gun, have never taken a gun safety course, and haven't even used one since long-ago marksmanship contests at summer camp, but even I know that (1) you don't point a gun at someone and (2) you always act as if it were loaded (just in case some bullets have magically migrated in), from which (1) naturally follows.

#396 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:27 PM:

TeXAnne:

I don't know who's a women or a man here, except for those people whose username makes it obvious, and I've been happy to be corrected by too many people to remember who is a man or a woman. I'm glad you're keeping track for me, though I think maybe you're reading the patterns you want to see based on my sex.

I've already said I regret the bravado with which I started this, and it was misguided. I never brought it up again, and it should be clear I don't care who owns a gun, man or women. My main factual example was the woman who defended the CO chuch, in fact. Like anybody, I'm sure I'm not entirely without issue on the nature of sex and gender, but here you are mostly succeeding at betraying your own, not mine.

#397 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:36 PM:

Jonathan @ #395:
While you're happy to be corrected, unless your wife's had a promotion not reflected on Harvard's website, you might want to keep in mind that in academia an Instructor is not a Professor. I think the polite term would be "non-faculty appointment." Might be important in your future life.

If she has had that promotion, congrats to her, and Harvard really should work on keeping its site up to date. If not, you're falsely representing her job, which doesn't exactly fill one with confidence about your arguments.

#398 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:39 PM:

Susan:

I did apologize (#348), and it was sincere (I probably should've put it in a separate post with your name at the top, though). I don't mind doing so again:

I am truly sorry that I overreacted and crossed the line by making a meanspirited personal attack. You didn't deserve it, nor was it proportional to what you said to me, and I wish I could take back what I said.

#399 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:46 PM:

I think there was a cross-posting problem up above there. Jonathan was creating his apology post as Susan was writing her rebuttal to his original offending post; he then reacted to her rebuttal, negating his apology, which he has now replaced.

#400 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 06:54 PM:

Susan:

Was writing my previous post and missed your last one. My wife has three appointments. I suspect you found the one at the school of public health or Brandeis. Her main gig is as a prof at one of the medical school hospitals. I can't find her web page for that, either. Maybe she's lying to me! (I have seen her office, so I know she works there.) But to be complete in my disclosure: pretty much everybody doing research at the medical school with a PhD can apply to be a professor and it usually goes through if they have any grants, from what I understand, which is why I suspect Harvard doesn't even report med school prof numbers when they cite their statistics about professors. Anyway, it doesn't matter, since I was only using the fact to be a dick. I'm sure she'd be pissed at me for using her as a rhetorical device, especially in an argument she'd take the other side on.

#401 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 07:14 PM:

Susan, it's a good moment to wait.

#402 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 07:42 PM:

Jonathan-

Your 399 could be a good stopping point.

I say this because you seem like an interesting person who could contribute nifty and shiny comments at other times and in other threads, but after a pause, after a breather, and not here.

As I see it, your apology at 399 is missing the spiky undertone you had upthread, and that's a good sign that it isn't you, it's the you+topic that overheated. With the cooling trend comes, again, a good time to pause.

We've all been in your situation, especially but not limited to the 7 deadly topics of conversation*. A bunch of diverse and smart people** talking about a contentious issue that hooks onto a very recent news event can easily move into a pointed argument in the best of circumstances***.

(If anyone says they haven't done this- I don't believe you and/or your dose of anxiolytic could be lowered. I bet even the Dalai Lama has gone there, and on a topic as substantial as "who was most influential in the Beatles?" or the like.)

i.e. as how I put it in another thread, we've all had that little switch that links our amygdala to a conversation set off, where we end up in an "argument with a spouse where one of you was ready to stay somewhere else that night, but you would never be able to explain to your friends and family exactly why [Abraham Lincoln's philosophy / annuals vs. perennials / topic] was worth the battle."

For example, not long ago I kept going in a thread even though Xopher, whose opinion I respect and trust, was telling me I'd already moved into amygdala land. Or the time when I lost sleep (literally) over one prickly response to something I'd written, even though wise people were telling me- correctly- that it was nothing.

Because I've been there- we've all been there- I'm suggesting you press the pause button for a couple of days.

--------
* Abortion, 2nd Amendment/guns, Iraq, Religion, Last Night's Game, It's a Wonderful Life v. Miracle on 34th Street, Kierkegaardian v. Sartrean Existentialism.

** multiple countries, political parties, ages, professions, poetic specialties, etc...

*** which, online, I think this is.

#403 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Jonathan,

It's possible that no amount of training would be enough and as much as I hate to think it, our safety is really a function of the
fact that there aren't too many homicidal nuts out there, not that we can really protect ourselves from them.

There is a lot of wisdom packed into that sentence that puts you years ahead of many a person.

#404 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:08 PM:

Xopher, #361: If you eat all the right foods, avoid all the important vices, and do all the right activities to maximize health, guess what? You'll still die eventually.

Not to mention that if you lost the genetic dieroll, you may still fall down dead of heart attack or stroke in your mid-50s. But is that a reason to say, "Oh, the hell with being healthy, I'm going to eat/drink/smoke whatever I want and sit in front of the TV all day"? Obviously not, any more than the chance that you may be in a fatal automobile wreck despite driving safely is a reason to run red lights.

Jonathan, #374: Congratulations. That took brains and guts, and I respect both.

Now, at #379: What's wrong with 'personhood'?... I didn't think I had to resort to mealymouthed politically correct speech with this crowd.

Something you may not have consciously noticed yet is that precision of language matters to this crowd, and as a result we tend to be more sensitive to nuance than some other online fora. Insistence that "manhood" and "womanhood" be addressed separately -- particularly in combination with the dismissal of "personhood" as "mealymouthed PC" -- suggests that you might have some issues with seeing women as people. We don't yet know you well enough to figure out if this is a Major Issue or just your personal idiom, and all we have to go on are the words on the screen.

There are several lively discussions on less emotionally-loaded topics going on in the most recent Open Thread. Would you care to drop by and see if any of them catch your interest?


#405 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:45 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 401... It's a Wonderful Life v. Miracle on 34th Street

Yeah... Let's start a fight over that. And are you refering to the original version of 34th, or the TV remake with Sebastian Cabot, or the big-screen thing from 10 years ago with Richard Attenborough?

#406 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 08:55 PM:

34th, original, with the little girl from Rotterdam. Never seen Wonderful Life, never felt the need save for a few cultural references. But the little girl from Rotterdam? That's Christmas right there.

#407 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:00 PM:

James Macdonald and others may have items to add to this list, but here's a start.

This is what you can do to make sure your home is safe:

Make sure there is a telephone in your principal sleeping area which you can reach easily, late at night, in the dark. If you rely on a cell phone for this, make sure you keep it charged and in that room at night, so that it's available to you when you need it.

Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, with good batteries replaced on schedule. (I suspect more people die or are injured as a result of these problems than as the result of home invasions.)

Make sure you have good locks on the doors and use them.

Work out family emergency plans for different contingencies, and make sure everyone knows what their role in it is. If you have small children, make sure they understand that hiding is not a safe thing to do if the house is on fire. Make sure that everyone know the number for your local emergency services provider, and when and how to handle a call, as appropriate for their age.

If you feel, after considering where you live and other factors, that it would help, invest in a home security system, and make sure that (like the locks) you use it regularly and that every one in the house is familiar with how it works.

Having a handgun may make you feel safer, but it's not a guarantee of protection, as many can attest, and it's no help when it comes to many of the things we all need to worry about when it comes to home safety.

#408 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:05 PM:

Serge at 404, yes, let's. I hate both of them. My favorite Christmas movie is A Christmas Carol. I like the George C. Scott version and I also very much like the one starring Jean-Luc Picard, oops, I mean Patrick Stewart, as Scrooge.

I think all the Chipmunks should be trapped, garroted, and their pelts made into hats. Or perhaps poisoned. By Bart Simpson.

#409 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 09:34 PM:

Lizzy L @ 407... I hate both of them

Just when we thought the war zone had calmed down...

Seriously, I like them both, but Wonderful is my favorite of the two, partly because it made me able to say "I love you" after someone had broken my heart.

#410 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Lee 403: That was actually my point.

I'm indifferent to MO34S, and as for IAWL...well, I really want one of those t-shirts that says "Jump, George, JUMP!!"

My favorite Christmas movie is The Lion In Winter, in part because it's NOT about Christmas, though it takes place then, and in part because it reminds me that even a wildly dysfunctional family has love--twisted, stunted, but detectable.

#411 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:31 PM:

One of my favorite Christmas movies is Love, Actually. Sweet, sad, joyous, all in one.

#412 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:38 PM:

Susan @394

They're not idiots, at least, not by this account. Young, yes. Unwise, yes. Wise 19-year-olds are rare enough to provoke news stories when one is sighted. Those guys were perfectly normal.

Guns are fascinating. They have all these little bits to twiddle. They have to be loaded, which means more bits to fool with. They go bang! and do it with gunpowder, and that smells and sounds like fireworks and fireworks are way cool. If you hit what you aim at, other people clap and cheer. It takes a few more years' living than nineteen to settle for less noisy ways of impressing your friends.

One very unlucky lad was showing off, one even more unlucky lad was playing along, and now it's all a real mess. But they weren't neither of them any more boneheaded than the average person their age, or several years to either side. They could, both of them, easily be one of my nephews.

#413 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:56 PM:

Xopher @409: ooooh, I love Lion in Winter. Tops as a Christmas movie. Though my favourite is actually Fargo. No idea why, don't really want to speculate. :)

#414 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 10:56 PM:

Xopher @ 409... "Jump, George, JUMP!!"

Grumblegrumblegrumble...

#415 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:03 PM:

Oh, I had forgotten Love Actually. It's up there, yeah. But everyone shows it as a Valentine's movie, which completely misses the point. It's not perfect, but it has a lot going on.

#416 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:08 PM:

My favorite Christmas movie is The Ref.

#417 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:19 PM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy, #312, I still live in the DC area and I wasn't afraid of the snipers at all. I was at much more risk of a fatal car accident than I was of being shot. I live about seven minutes from one of the shootings (the one the media always says was in Manassas, but is actually out in Prince William County). It didn't keep me from running errands in that area. I'm not saying I'm amazingly brave; I just relied on probabilities.

Jeremy Preacher,, #320, I saw the guard wearing a uniform while she was being interviewed.

My favorite serious Christmas Movie is Holiday Inn from which White Christmas was derived. But every year I make sure I watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

#418 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:26 PM:

Marilee @ 416... Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

With a very young Pia Zadora as a Martian kid. Ever seen the MST3K version of the film?

#419 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Okay. Bona fides, primarily since A.J asked (and not intending to heat the topic up again, now that it's basically cooled down).

I am ex-Army Reserve, but not combat trained nor a combat veteran (I was in tactical Signal, and mustered out before GW1). I have been squeezing (never pull, never yank, never jerk... squeeeze) triggers since I was nine or ten (which means twenty-nine or thirty years), and first held a firearm (unloaded, no bolt) when I was six or seven, I have fired weapons ranging from .22LR purse pistols to squad support weapons (including M2HBs and M-60s, and "anti-tank" rockets that weren't quite of the "make the front part of the tank evacuate out the back part" scale, but would put paid to almost everything less well-protected than a tank - and could kill a tank if lucky). I've been on the same firing range as self-propelled howitzers, Abrams, and other heavy metal, and seen what they do to their targeets.

I have "owned" firearms (actually purchased by parental units, but "mine" in that they were my responsibility to shoot, clean, care for, etc.) since age 12, and owned as in bought myself or been given since reaching adulthood, with a break when I was living as a boarder in a house that had children, and no meaningful way to secure firearms safely. I had access to the family guns for most of my teen years (and, in all honesty, this may have saved me from committing suicide during my troubled teen years).

I have been shot at (or maybe shot around, since I don't *think* the one idiot was shooting specifically at me at the time, at least in one instance - in the other, I was ducking, weaving, and running too fucking fast to ascertain if they were bad shots, just Really Angry, or pointing at someone else). I have been in situations where my advice to the guy I was riding with was "We are leaving. Now. Even a gas leak that bad, it's not worth our lives*". We came back half an hour later, after the police had dealt with the irate dude who was "damn-all sure we weren't gunna cut his damnass gas off!" and his friends. I've no interest in being shot at again, and damn little to no interest in having to shoot anyone else.

My personal opinion is that gun ownership is an individual right, delineated (but not granted) by the Constitution. The Second Amendment is neither more nor less important than the other nine members of the Bill of Rights - they work together as a team, and weakening any of them weakens all of them.

As for carry - I currently do not have a pistol permit** in NYS, in part because of lack of incentive (the process is not involved in terms of training, which I wouldn't mind, but rather in terms of bureaucratic rigamarole) and because, frankly, since I stopped working security (many moons ago), I haven't felt the need - I am rarely in situations where I've felt it necessary or desirable, and the guns I would feel comfortable carrying regularly (mostly the various S&W small frame revolvers - not a big fan of full-size revolvers, but small ones are nice for concealed carry) are well out of my discretionary spending range.

This does not mean I'm against the idea of concealed carry. I am against indiscriminate carry, and rather glad that, for most people, handguns are too heavy, awkward, expensive, etc. to routinely carry. I wish that training was more readily available for those who want to avail themselves of it.

I think that people who are thinking of carrying need to evaluate what they are intending to do, why they intend to do it, how they intend to go about it, and how they are going to ensure that what they are doing is actually going to increase*** their personal safety. In some cases, it might. In other cases, it won't. Too many variables for anyone on a message board to give a pat answer to the question. In the end, nobody will know for certain unless and until they are facing a situation where it becomes important - and then they will either be alive, alive and crippled (mentally and/or physically) or dead.

Is a gun going to be useful in any particular situation? Complex question, and one that ends up generating stupid hypotheticals that are usually - if nothing else - insulting to the intelligence of everyone around the question. Sometimes a gun in the right hands, at the right time, will save lives. Sometimes it costs them. Other times, it wasn't actually useful, or harmful - just there.

What is the percentage? I dunno - and I don't think anyone else here does either. Anecdote is not the singular of data, and much of the actual research - on both sides of the equation, although I'm more prone to call the HCI (or whatever they are calling themselves these days) "fucking liars" instead of just liars (in the case of the NRA) - is of dubious quality and questionable methods, and there is plenty of hypocrisy, self-deception ,and various -isms on both sides of the fence as well.

On the training front, I think there are a lot of things that need to be covered in school that aren't currently - basic leadership (and when to lead, when to follow, and when to say "fuck yall, I'm out"), conflict resolution and de-escalation, personal management skills, etc. I would not be remorse at seeing basic firearm safety and handling available in schools - a firearm is not so much of a magic wand when its workings and action are something you are intimately familiar with, having broken down and cleaned the damn thing a couple of hundred times. But this would be difficult to implement (to say the least), especially in our current educational system.

I don't want everyone packing heat. I wouldn't mind if a few more dedicated, well-trained folks who weren't police or security guards were, and I'd prefer it if our society went more out of its way to encourage people who were dedicated to get the training and skills, and less out of its way to discourage everyone (including the dedicated and skilled) from carrying. The trick is figuring out the blend of training, certification (without strong potential for abuse), and social controls to make this possible.

My problem with mandatory training and (especially) safety/accuracy certification systems is that they can be very easily turned in to de-facto disarmament systems - make the qualification fee too much, make the re-up period too often, make the certification level too high, offer too few slots at too remote a location - and with the right set of qualifiers, you can rig it so only the very wealthy and dedicated (or their bodyguards) can afford to have firearms. (This does not mean that I don't think that people should train extensively if they are going to carry - and if I do, I certainly intend to - but rather that I place little faith in any government - and especially the current one - to act in a trustworthy matter in this - or many other - matters).

*I have also been in a situation where I'm glad there wasn't any resistance, because it would have been worth our lives - save for the whole "gunfire will ignite this house full of natural gas and flatten a good portion of this block anyways" - we could smell it from the curb when we drove up.

**Pretty much by default, in the State - NOT City - of New York, a pistol permit is a carry permit, unless the Judge that signs the permit adds qualifiers to it - some do, many in Upstate don't, others simply won't sign pistol permits at all - the state is a May Issue, not Must Issue state.

***Not ensure - guns are not magic wands, and they no more ensure your safety than fire extinguishers, first aid kits, AEDs, smoke detectors, deadbolts, 911 on rapid dial, security systems, big dogs, clean living, good diet, pet ninjas, or a winning smile and charming personality will. In the end, you can do everything right, and still die anyways, simply because Mala Fortuna smiled on you, or because Bona Fortuna smiled on the other side.

#420 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2007, 11:46 PM:

err = A.J. = P J (Evans).

Sorry about that.

#421 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:47 AM:

Many years ago a British company called Nu-Swift used to sell fire extinguishers with the advertising concept that the first twenty minutes of a fire, you were on your own.

The first question to come from that is whether or not a fire extinguisher is big enough to be useful.

The second (and harder to fix) is whether you know how to use it.

Many years ago, when he was working at Leeds University, they put my brother through a training course. Do it right, and an extinguisher can put out a surprisingly large fire.

In those days, back on the farm, we burned crop waste in the field, maybe 10 acres at a time. Apparently, the instructor noticed John didn't react to the training fire in the way the other students did. As John put it, it was a tiny fire.

Anyway, there's a lot of stuff in common. Guns or fires, people react differently depending on their experience. Training makes a difference. And the wrong choices can get you killed.

The big risk with house fires is that something burning in a closed room can lead to a room filled with very hot, toxic, combustible, gas, short on oxygen, and ready to explode when you open the door. It's too late for a fire extinguisher to make any difference.

#422 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 03:09 AM:

Jonathan at 379: What if you don't self-identify as a person, but think you're a squirrel? It happens. I didn't think I had to resort to mealymouthed politically correct speech with this crowd. Feel free to read it however you want.

Yum, nuts!

It's obvious my last comment hit a trigger, so I apologise for my irritation when I posted it. You've shown enough sense in your last few posts that I'm sure you didn't consciously mean the assumptions that go with 'manhood' and 'womanhood', but as Terry pointed out at #386 it's a complex sort of subject, and I'll try to unpack them a bit. (Personal disclaimer here: Sapir-Whorf FTW.)

Traditionally, 'manhood' carries all sorts of connotations about virility, aggression, stepping up to take leadership roles, a long day's work doing Manly things, and then kicking back with a beer to watch the football. The thing is - I'm almost none of those things. I like kittens and babies and painting and dancing, and I'd far rather watch the stove than watch the football. (I'll take the beer, but only if it's the good stuff.) If I want to know I'm a man, I just have to look down, so the casual link between the XY chromosomes and all the social obligations and privileges irks me.

All this goes double for women, of course, but with the minor difference that the consequences are usually a bit more serious for women who step outside their assigned gender roles, and it's even more of a prickly subject for most women because of that.

I'm probably unusual in that my response to the whole social tarballing around the 'male' and 'female' concepts is to deny that they matter much, admittedly. (Though that's also a gendered reaction. Femaleness seems to matter more to women, in general, than maleness does to men. Male privilege means being able to ignore male privilege.)

#423 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 03:44 AM:

Kathryn@401: One thing about the Net is that we can have these discussions over the course of a few days, and they burn themselves out and they're over. I've heard stories from Teresa about fannish wars done via fanzines -- imagine having that prickly feeling, wondering "Has someone said something horrible to or about me?" every time you go to your mailbox, for weeks or months on end. No wonder people were driven out of fandom!

#424 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 03:54 AM:

My favorite Christmas movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas, by a country mile.

#425 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:03 AM:

Sam:

At the risk of opening another can:

What you wrote wasn't rude at all and thus there is no need to apologize. Your comment did come off as a slightly officious and patronizing, which is why I responded sarcastically, but there was nothing wrong with what you said. The funny thing is that I originally wrote "personhood" and then rolled my eyes at myself for being so liberal-arts-collegey and rewrote it as I did. I was trying to write it in a "normal" way but I misjudged normality around here.

When I talk to myself, I always say "person" as in "is this the kind of person you want to be, Jonathan?" I'm not a very stereotypical man, either. I never played much sports, would rather read or play the piano than go outside, and am very shy and never advocate for myself over others at work like manly men should.

Having said that, I'm guessing you'd be hard pressed to find two women who would've stayed up all night in an internet pissing match as James and I did. Testosterone really exists, and it does seem to have potential side effects. So I don't think men and women are the same, statistically, but they differ as groups in ways that are far too complicated for me to ever comprehend, and it's frankly not even worth trying, in my mind. The only thing that matters is how you treat people as individuals. Aggregate statistics and properties of groups are only of interest to academics and actuaries.

#426 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:12 AM:

my favourite christmas movie is about a boy. i was more than half tempted to put it on tonight when i threw my chanukah dinner party for the in-laws (so i did finally have my (homemade!) latkes & jelly donuts, in the last hours of the last day of chanukah...) tonight, but then mike put on the earth hd documentary series, & you can't turn that off.

my favourite christmas carol (cross threads!) is the muppets'. there's nothing in any other version (although, ok, the bill murray one is the only other one i've seen) that can stand up next to marley & marley's song.

#427 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:13 AM:

Jonathan,

I think that the fire in the thread has burned out for the moment. I doubt you're at risk of reigniting it, particularly not with such a genial comment as that.

Looking around the ashes and clinkers in the cool light of morning (for me, in Amsterdam; if you're on the East Coast, why are you awake at this hour?), I think you did very well. I hope you'll stay around and comment more.

One thing I was wondering. Do you, by any chance, write poetry?

#428 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:28 AM:

Sam Kelly, #421: All this goes double for women, of course, but with the minor difference that the consequences are usually a bit more serious for women who step outside their assigned gender roles, and it's even more of a prickly subject for most women because of that... (Femaleness seems to matter more to women, in general, than maleness does to men. Male privilege means being able to ignore male privilege.)

I'm not sure I agree with this. On the one hand, it's much easier for women to do many things which are associated with men[1] than it is for men to do many things which are associated with women[2]. Which is not to say that sexism doesn't happen, just that it happens in both directions, and from where I sit, it looks as though men often get it worse when they try to step outside their culturally-assigned roles.

On the other hand, I also notice that for a lot of men, masculinity seems to be a very fragile thing indeed -- easily punctured by any hint of difference from the prevailing male norm (which varies between cultures, and to some extent between social groups within cultures). I don't see that pattern so much in adult women, although I know a fair amount of it still goes on during the school years.

All this very much in my personal experience and observation, of course; YMMV.

[1] Dress in man-tailored clothing, hold many kinds of leadership roles, own businesses, etc.
[2] Wear skirts/kilts, wear their hair long, be the primary childcare provider or homemaker, etc.

#429 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:44 AM:

Jonathan - No cans there, at least not as far as I'm concerned!

Can't disagree with your last sentence, either, except that the Madness of Crowds is fascinating.

Lee at 427: Mm, I agree that there are problems for some men. On the other hand, I've never observed them, and I've had hair down to my shoulderblades for the last couple of years, so MM does V and is unrepresentative. But we rarely get locked into the home, beaten, or any of the other things that still happen to uppity women in some social groups.

Masculinity being fragile... to what extent is this different from general self-confidence for them, I wonder?

#430 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:46 AM:

abi:

I've tried my hand at poetry at times, but I've always felt uneasy about it. I'm usually not sure what to do with a poem I'm reading, so I figure I'd make a lousy poet. The physicist Paul Dirac had an amusing quote: "In science one tries to tell somebody, in as simple and clear a way as possible, something they don't already know. But in poetry it's the exact opposite." (I'm reciting that from memory, so it's probably not a perfect quote.)

#431 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 06:55 AM:

Jonathan: Groups matter to people, because (and this goes to that collective properties, practised by individuals), social norms are group rules, which individuals violate at their peril.

I'm with abi, all in all you did a very good job of holding your own in a subject which has caused some really ugly brawls, with some modicum of lasting; I don't want to say ill-will, but certainly expectation of response.

The firestorm you probably felt yourself in the middle of comes from a lot of group dynamic. I don't know how much of SF fandom you know, but that comment about conversations lasting for ages in the mailbox, it's true. Imagine, if you will, a being part of such a free-for-all when the lag time is weeks, and the dichotomous posts (as with you and Susan) can be months in the making. It was, at times, hella-vicious.

Given that you don't know any of the players, and caught a whole lot of hidden expertise; which we understand about each other (so that I don't cringe when someone compares me to a paragon of coolness under fire; much) you were; given the absolute lack of group sympathy to your position, going to be taken to task, and were almost guaranteed to make some gaffes.

You didn't (in the main) lose your cool. I can't say enough how much that helps. It kept things from really going off the rails. That you defended your position, and changed it (with good grace) and saw how the people with whom you were arguing might misundertand you/could, reasonably, accuse you of not comparing apples to apples is incredibly rare.

We (who don't always live up to the expectation) value that.

We also have brawls, some of them trvial, some not.

Enough pontificating, since abi asked, and you answered, try dropping some poetry, doggerel, verse or haiku (heck, go for the gusto and compose a sonnet) in an open thread.

Lee: The things I see you mentioning as being harder for men than women, are because they call privelege into question. So long as someone doesn't challenge privilege, they can do a lot. Someone who is outisde the bounds of privilege can be ignored when they flaut it (hence the "Eccentric" Dukes, et al.).

A woman in slacks is challenging privilege. Less so than 40 years ago, and much less so than 100 years ago.

A man in a skirt isn't so much testing privilege, as tossing it aside. He is wearing the garb of the unprivileged, and that means his privilege is either so special that he can ignore it; or that it has to be accorded visible power.

Which undercuts the idea of privilege (i.e. it just is, there is nothing special going on).

I don't think I expressed as well, in the written word, the Platonic issue which is living as a concept in my mind, but there you go.

#432 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 07:02 AM:

Jonathan: I have to disagree with the quotation (and I am sure you caught the gist of it).

In poetry (this is just me talking) one is trying to distill something, to an essence.

It requires concision, condensation, expansion and all sorts of other things.

The tools for that are simile, metaphor, analogy and a host of tools, tropes and clichés which have accreted over time (some of which are relicts of people studying Greek... hence the arcane terms for stress patterns which English only vaguely has, trochees and anapests, etc.).

I find that, for a language I only mostly know (which is to say; to varying degrees of mostly, French and Russian, with some hints of German and Spanish) poetry is more apprehensible than fiction.

Because the compact between writer and reader is that evocative phrases will be used, emotion will be condesnsed, with the idea that one feels it, instead of thinks it.

Idiom and colloquialism stump me, all the time, in non-native fiction, but in poetry I expect to be led down such paths, and so the idiosyncratic turn of phrase doesn't trip me up.

And now we have gone from how to not get dead in a shooting, to the quirks of poetry, welcome to Making Light.

#433 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 07:03 AM:

Everyone is so mellow now, I'm almost afraid to post this.

But, in this morning's newspaper, a story about a policeman who didn't shoot.

It is a story of praise for the well-trained officer.

#434 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 07:19 AM:

Terry #430:

If your identity rests on something like "I'm a (real) man," then anything that threatens that identity is a major problem. Young men are often backed into doing really dumb things to prove themselves men, in this sense. There's probably a parallel for women, but I don't know what it is.

The identity here has two parts: Do you believe yourself a man, and do others believe you a man. Both end up as very powerful levers to make you do stuff. Someone (Xopher?) brought this up a while back, discussing how many political tactics drew on this dynamic.

#435 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 08:41 AM:

Jonathan @#424: I've known two grown women who nearly came to blows--at a party, no less--over whether a bliaut was made in one piece or two. Tenacity in argument is well represented over here on the distaff side as well. (Testosterone may still be implicated, as females have it too!)

Terry @ #430: Or to put it another way: from the POV of male privilege, a woman 'acting like a man' is 'aping her betters'--tacitly acknowledging that men are better than woman. A man 'acting like a woman' is challenging the whole norm and is therefore to be viewed with contempt and/or fear.

#436 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 08:53 AM:

#431, Terry (in Germany)-

And now we have gone from how to not get dead in a shooting, to the quirks of poetry, welcome to Making Light.

Yup, that's why I don't avoid the volatile threads. Sometimes it doesn't happen, but when it does, it is an amazing thing to see.

#437 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 09:03 AM:

Lila #434: And yet, at other times, the opposite outcomes happen--the woman acting too manly gets slapped down, while the fancy-dressing "dandy" of a man is just fine. And many rather overtly sexist societies have exceptional women who end up holding a lot of power in a way that's usually reserved for men. And many societies with strong gender roles also have some very powerful women within their roles.

I suspect that trying to fit a single simple model to all the different ways power and gender roles interact is pretty hopeless.

#438 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 09:10 AM:

On the one hand, it's much easier for women to do many things which are associated with men[1] than it is for men to do many things which are associated with women[2].
[2] Wear skirts/kilts, wear their hair long, be the primary childcare provider or homemaker, etc.

Speak for yourself, Sassenach.

#439 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 09:14 AM:

albatross @ 433... Young men are often backed into doing really dumb things to prove themselves men

And some of those men not so young? Did you ever see the movie The Big Country? Throughout the movie, Charlton Heston's character constantly questions the masculinity of Gregory Peck's character, seeing cowardice in someone who knows his own self and is content with it. Eventually, they do have a fight, and it goes on and on because they are equally matched, until Peck suggests that he's had enough if Heston has had enough. In the end though, it's Peck who wins, by asking a simple question.

"Tell me Leech, what did we prove?"

#440 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 09:35 AM:

My favorite Christmas movie is The Lion In Winter

Mine's probably Die Hard, which is also close to the Platonic ideal action movie.

#441 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 09:39 AM:

Marilee, back at 416: Rationally and logically, I knew the odds were in my favor. The lizard brain is harder to convince, though. That's what terrorism is - a means of making people irrationally afraid in spite of all the good reasons not to be. It's sort of the dark shadow of lottery psychology: somebody's number is likely to come up soon, and who's to say it won't be you?

In re. the gender discussion, which I'm not smart enough to stay out of either: If you really think women having knock-down drag-out steel cage grudge matches is an unusual thing, I invite you to spend some time surfing 'round the feminist blogosphere, where the debate over, say, high heels all by itself would make the flames of this thread seem like unto a quite modest campfire beside a towering inferno. (This should not be taken as a disparagement of feminists, in whose number I include myself, only as an observation that smart and strong-willed people digging in their heels over deeply-held convictions doesn't require a johnson any more than, well, firing a gun does.)

#442 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 09:42 AM:

One of my favorite Christmas/winter movies? The Day The Earth Froze

#443 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 10:10 AM:

albatross @ #436: true. A lot of other factors come into play, such as the status/wealth/family connections of the person in question. And of course, the surrounding culture. To take a random example, the high school my daughter now attends is vastly more accepting of individual differences than the middle school she used to attend--in the same system, and only a few miles away. (Part of this is simply the difference between middle school and high school, I'm sure.)

#444 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 11:22 AM:

Terry:

In poetry (this is just me talking) one is trying to distill something, to an essence.

I take it you don't read the New Yorker. :-) Maybe I'm reading the wrong stuff, but most contemporary poetry comes across to me a like a John Cage symphony. A lot of shreaks and whistles, and in the end more heat than light.

Joking aside, I liked your take on what poetry is, and appreciated your words of encouragement.

#445 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Ok -- this came up earlier in the thread, and I'm curious. Why is a shotgun not a good form of home defense?

WRT shotguns, several years ago when the Federal office I work for was relocating, one of the potential buildings was in a "bad neighborhood." Our investigators, who do carry guns, were saying if the office ended up there they were going to issue ME a weapon.

I asked, "What sort of gun?" and the agent from Kentucky said, "Sawed-off shotgun." The others nod. My reply, "Those aren't legal."

Lead investigator replies, "For private citizens, that's true -- but in this case, you aren't a private citizen. If it should become necessary, we'll see that you get the training you need to be able to use it."

I was happy the investigators thought I merited that level of trust, but I am exceedingly grateful that it wasn't necessary.

#446 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 11:47 AM:

albatross:

Young men are often backed into doing really dumb things to prove themselves men, in this sense. There's probably a parallel for women, but I don't know what it is.

These days, in certain circles, women are feeling a lot of the same pressures of having a career as man typically have had, with the unfair added burden of feeling they are letting down an entire movement if they decide they just want to be mothers. I know more than few women laboring in careers they couldn't give two shits about who truly long to me mothers. There are others who have both, and regret the time they don't spend with their children while they are at the widget factory. And there are full-time mothers who feel they are looked down upon by their working friends. And, of course, there are lots of very happy women in all those situations, too, but my point was that group identity politics usually results in constraints and expectations on people that may be at odds with their individual nature. That's why I dislike it so.

As you pointed out, "manhood" was often used as leverage against men (probably how they get men to show up for wars, for example) and now that women have more choices for how they will live their lives, various sets of expectations have cropped up (and are presently doing battle) for how they should use that choice.

#447 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Lori Coulson @ 444 -
Ok -- this came up earlier in the thread, and I'm curious. Why is a shotgun not a good form of home defense?

Shotguns have a few problems for home defense -

1 - Overpenetration - The Box O Truth did a check on penetration of various shotgun rounds against wallboard. The conclusion was that unless you were the Third Little Piggy, shotgun rounds fired in the home - any likely to have any effect on an intruder, anyways - were also likely to seriously overpenetrate the walls, putting pellets into other rooms at unknown trajectories. (Slugs appear to overpenetrate like crazy as well, but they don't appear to break up, and keep going in the same general direction as fired).

2 - length. Not much of a problem if you're going to be doing a static defense (get under concealment*, hide everyone behind you, and dial 911 with the shotgun pointing at the door), the length of the average shotgun works against you - it's harder to maneuver in the tight confines of home hallways, easier to grab as you come through a doorway, etc.

3 - mythology. Some of the mythology "pump-action being racked = death" might work for you - sometimes. Against someone who knows what they are doing, while you're racking, they're aiming and shooting, because you just told them where you are. The mythology of "you don't even need to aim" is just plain wrong, however - unless you have a sawed-off shotgun, your pattern won't spread meaningfully in the distances involved in most homes (even McMansions) - you'll be hitting them with essentially a really large slug of lead.

*very few people have substantial amounts of hard cover in their homes.

#448 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 12:11 PM:

Jonathan @443:

We don't go in much for modern poetry on Making Light, except in the strictest of chronological definitions*. None of the regular poets does blank verse†, and pretty much everything doesn't just rhyme but also scans.

The default poetic form is the sonnet, but we see plenty of villanelles, pantoums, limericks, ballades, and haiku.

I find, when I'm trying to write something, that it can either work as prose or as a poem. It depends if I want my reader to consider the facts intellectually, or engage with the emotional content from another angle.

-----
* modern in the sense of written recently
† unless you count rewrites of "This is just to say" by William Carlos Williams

#449 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 12:27 PM:

abi, "This is Just to Say" isn't in blank verse. It's in free verse. Blank verse is in the same meter as a sonnet, but without rhymes, and with no set number of lines.

Jonathan, ML poetry doesn't tend to be like modern academic poetry. We like rhymes and meter and stuff.

#450 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Terry:

Sorry, I missed this:

Groups matter to people, because (and this goes to that collective properties, practised by individuals), social norms are group rules, which individuals violate at their peril.

I don't see how me rejecting the notion that groups can and should be analyzed as anthropomorphic entities is incompatible with the idea that we have rules that apply to groups. The latter is at least a well defined problem, as the mathematicians would say. The former is quixotic and only causes trouble. Ask Larry Summers, who lost his career over asking a stupid question, the answer to which wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference to any individual or changed the way any individuals should be treated.

Let me give you an example. If social scientists found out that people above 6' tall tend do be less intelligent than those below, should a tall guy start to feel bad about himself? Of course not. He is as smart as he was the day before the study. Maybe he just moved up a few standard deviations in some arbitrary peer grouping, but that's it. And if I'm hiring somebody, it would be wrong to use their height to judge their intelligence, not to mention bad for my business to eliminate all the smart tall people from potential consideration.

Group statistics are bad news. Right after the lawyers, we should shoot* all the social scientists who grace us with such grenades as "men are better at spatial reasoning problems than women." What the hell am I supposed to do with THAT piece of information? Pat myself on the back for being an affiliate of the winning spatial reasoning team, or feel even worse about myself that I can't do spatial reasoning problems? And if another study comes out that finds white people are worse than black people at spatial reasoning, then I'm really confused as to what to do with all this information.

And here's the kicker: It's a mathematical certainty that if they did enough studies, every single one of us would find ourselves on both the good and the bad end of every possible statistic depending on which of our infinitely many potential group affiliations is chosen for the study. So, like I said, I've stopped worrying about these questions.

*Trying to keep on thread topic.

#451 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 12:42 PM:

abi:

We don't go in much for modern poetry on Making Light, except in the strictest of chronological definitions*. None of the regular poets does blank verse†, and pretty much everything doesn't just rhyme but also scans.

Well, then you're my kind of people! I thought I would get laughed at if I said I enjoyed Robert Frost and the occasional dirty limerick. Admittedly, my reaction against poetry snobbery (as epitomized by the inscrutable verse in the New Yorker) has caused me to write off poetry as an art form, perhaps to my detriment.

#452 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 12:50 PM:

abi, FWIW, I do in fact write both bank verse and free verse, just not here. (For much the same reason that I don't take my pulpy urban fantasy stories to the local litfic writing group.)

#453 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 12:54 PM:

abi, an aside re poetry:

I do write blank verse, and have for decades, but the social pressure for rhyming poetry keeps me from posting anything here (well, that and the fact that I haven't written anything new for a while).

#454 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 12:56 PM:

#446, Scott Taylor -

Very informative, because my husband had been told in a self-defense class* almost exactly the opposite. That it was ideal because penetration wasn't an issue, because aiming wasn't an issue, and that no matter what language you speak, you know that the racking sound means "I've got a gun, go away."

*I don't remember the instructor's credentials, but we were sufficiently impressed with them that we took his word for it.

#455 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Dan 451: I do in fact write both bank verse and free verse

Where bank verse is the kind you can sell, and free verse you just give away?

#456 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:07 PM:

I was in the parking lot when this happened last night -- off-duty police officer working security in a local supermarket, stabbed and badly injured. Did't see the stabbing, but the perp nearly ran into me and I got a good description. I did get to see a lot of blood while waiting to be interviewed. I understand the victim was wearing her ballistic vest, was stabbed 7-8 times, lost quite a lot of blood. Lots of places the vests don't cover, including some major arteries. She did not draw her weapon, which probably saved lives in the crowded supermarket. Inevitably, people who weren't there bluster: "Well, I would have shot the guy!" No one who was there, nor any of the police, opined that it would have been a good idea to fire a gun in a crowded store while grappling with a large, crazed, knife-wielding assailant. Also, I want to congratulate the customers who broke up the fight and who chased the perp across the parking lot, across a busy 4-lane street, across another parking lot, and cornered him before he could get into a residential neighborhood.

#457 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:07 PM:

Thanks Scott -- that makes sense.

Hmm, hard cover in the house...maybe the refrigerator? How good are brick walls at stopping bullets? I hope I never have to find out for real.

Ah, so THAT'S the advantage of a sawed-off shotgun. (Can you tell that the only weapons I've ever fired are handguns?)

#458 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:16 PM:

Xopher, in my case I'm afraid "bank verse" is what gets written in a melancholy little notebook while sitting under melancholy trees down on the riverbank. Not that teenage exposure to Byron and Keats had any adverse effect on me, or anything.

(Stupid typos. That'll teach me to be snarky at the new mod.)

#459 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:16 PM:

There was a pamphlet put out at the start of WW2, by the British government, called "Your Home As An Air-Raid Shelter" (more or less) which described how to pick the best-protected place in a British house (well, brick-built houses from the previous couple of centuries.)

What I recall was that it needed about 4 layers of brick to stop a rifle bullet. The bigger problem was blast damage to the house structure.

Brick is heavy, which is some help, but the wall is very suceptible to shearing along the mortar courses.

Of course, if your worry is blast rather than bullets the sort of guns useful for home defence are likely to have the FLAK designation, and not be all that pocketable.

#460 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:16 PM:

Ballistic vests in general aren't too good at stopping knives. You can get other vests that'll (mostly) stop knives, but they aren't too good at stopping bullets.

(There is no sure defense against a man with a knife, though using a chair lion-tamer fashion has its advantages.)

#461 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Scott, 446: I think you'll find that most denizens of the Fluorosphere have huge amounts of hardcovers in their homes. Unless they're running out of shelf space, in which they'll have substantial amounts of paperbacks.

What? Hard cover?

Never mind.

#462 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:36 PM:

#446: Scott

*very few people have substantial amounts of hard cover in their homes.

Maybe if you have a cast-iron bathtub....

There was a movie, Muholland Falls, a few years back. At one point the Good Guys are in a house which is attacked by some gentlemen with a tripod-mounted machine gun. Our heroes protect themselves by turning a table on its side and crouching behind the table top.

Don't try this at home, kids. Unless you've got a tabletop made of out of an old steam boiler, machine gun rounds will go in one side and out the other (as well as going in one side and out the other of the house).

#463 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:43 PM:

WRT to shotguns: (this is my opinion, backed by others of a like mind. It is by no means canonic as there are those [whom I consider to be daft] who advocate for them).

Long guns are harder to keep control of, and if you are moving from point A to point B, you have to either lead with them, or keep them out of action. In either case they are very hard to use in close, because one has to be at least the distance from trigger to muzzle to use them.

Shotguns, contrary to popular myth need to be aimed. At 30 feet the spread on a modified chose (which is to say, middling) is less than 5 inches. Yeah, that’s a significantly larger true-center with which to work, but with 00 buck you have to get a fair chunk of those balls into the target to be sure of knocking him down.

The sound of racking one will do one of two things, make him run away, or make him draw his weapon. One is a good outcome, the other.... not so much. He knows you are armed, you don’t. He knows you have a weapon not meant for close quarters. All in all, this is one time (assuming arguendo that one knows one is dealing with a bad guy) when having the other guy not know things is in your interest.

They are loud. I’ve fired high-powered weapons in an enclosed space. Even with hearing protection is was stunning. Put earplugs in, and a large part of your awareness goes out the window.

They go through things. That same lack of spread (which is what makes them so deadly. Those small balls take separate paths through the body of whatever living thing they hit) means they plow through lots of things, like interior walls and exterior doors.

The neighbors make take offense to having the car blown full of holes. The cops make do the same if it’s the neighbors.

If one has to have a gun for home defense, spend the bucks to get Glaser Safety slugs. Follow a couple of those with a couple of rounds of really fast FMJ. That loadout is meant to deal with someone who is wearing a vest and so can ignore Glasers to the chest. They may not penetrate, but they will knock him on his keister, and you can rush him.

All of this requires that one train, and do so realistically. If you expect to be shooting in the dark, practice in the dark. Learn to walk around your house without the lights on, and not looking at things, while carrying a glass of water. Move quickly, and don’t spill the water.

That said, one of the pistols discussed above, which will feed a .410 shotgun shell, will give you some of the advantages of the myth (lots of spread, won't go through walls. I've not see one of those with a barrel of more than 4", so the blastwave is going to push the pellets around.

Not as likely to kill people, and most folks are not mentally prepped to get shot, so even a little pain (immediately subsequent to a loud bang and a lot of orange light) is likely to sidetrack them.

And a .45 Long Colt will probably put paid to them if that fails (it's grim, but guns in this hypothetical are for killing people, and sugar coating it strike me as less than kind).

I still recommend a good Aikido dojo; and a stick, but the training still applies.

Re vests, and stabbing. Like the armor fields in Dune, vests are good at stopping fast moving impacts. Less so for knives.

True story. Kid came to some social event we were having, with his brand-new bullet-proof vest (this was ca. 1990). Dared people to stab him. We refused, told him he was a loon. He was going on about the wonders of kevlar. I forget who it was who told the kid to take it off, and then took his knife (a short little fixed blade Schrade, about 3” long, and shaped like an Allosaur’s tooth. I recall because I later bought one much like it. Very hand for all sorts of things), and nailed to a tree.


#464 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:43 PM:

Where home defense is concerned... Does a baseball bat have a great psychological impact, besides the old-fashioned physical impact? I also wonder about my gladius.

#465 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 01:46 PM:

In Shards of Honor, I think, a character says that she'd rather have a nonlethal weapon than a lethal one, because she's not going to use the lethal one. That's how I'd feel about being told to have a shotgun at work-- "Um, no, because there is no way in hell I am pulling the trigger on that thing."
I've spent a few minutes now contemplating my apartment and its walls. Not a whole lot of surviving going on if someone decides to shoot through it. I'm having trouble thinking of somewhere I could potentially stash the cat (as if the Catina could be stashed).

#466 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:00 PM:

RM Koske @ 453 -
Very informative, because my husband had been told in a self-defense class* almost exactly the opposite. That it was ideal because penetration wasn't an issue, because aiming wasn't an issue, and that no matter what language you speak, you know that the racking sound means "I've got a gun, go away."

It's a very pervasive (and persuasive) meme, and, as with most memes (at least the ones not involving funi tokking cats and other 4CHAN specialties) has a germ of truth to it - some burglars will run when they hear a pump-action racked - but they will also run at almost any other loud sound (loud dogs, a sudden crash they didn't cause, etc.)

Shotgun pellet patterns do spread - but not much in the distances typically found in most people's homes. Shotgun pellets don't have great penetration - after they've traveled some distance and slowed down.

It's not that what they are saying is actually wrong - just deceptively inaccurate, at the ranges involved.

#467 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Lee, 427,

On the other hand, I also notice that for a lot of men, masculinity seems to be a very fragile thing indeed -- easily punctured by any hint of difference from the prevailing male norm

If you are interested in this, some of the group-behavior primate studies are pretty interesting. The "lies-for-engineers" version goes like this: Alpha males, natural leaders run the group. Beta males, wanna-be leaders, try to run the group, fail, and die of stress related diseases. Gamma males pretty much don't give damn about being in control and just do their own thing. Any similarity between this and the Internet Entrepreneur / Middle-Micro-Manager / Code Guru is purely coincidental.*

Anyway, in this model, the fragile masculinity men are the Betas.

*paging Bruce Cohen! What do you think of this?

#468 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Many years ago, when the Enfield Arsenal still had its own standard weights and measures which were not quite the same as those used in the rest of the Empire, there was a standard, numerical rating for bullet penetration which was applied to the firearms issues to Her Majesty's Servants.

For rifles -- you didn't think this was a standard standard, did you? -- this number was the number of one inch thick white pine boards (all clamped together in a big frame) the bullet penetrated before it stopped when fired at a range of 100 yards from the front face of the frame.

The number for the hardpoint .303 round used in the #4 rifle (what's generally referred to as the "Lee-Enfield rifle") was a hundred and twenty something.

That's ten feet of pine boards.

That's relatively typical performance for rifle ammunition.

Actual cast iron bathtubs shatter easily; one good whack with a sledge will do it, I don't see why a bullet wouldn't give similar results. Modern mild steel and enamel versions won't likely shatter, but there will be a neat round hole.

There isn't much in a standard frame house that is going to provide cover from inside the house. (If the fire is coming from outside the house, basement. There's all that dirt around the foundation.)

#469 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Diatryma @ 464

Stashing of cats in an emergency. Pillow slips, tied off, corner to corner rather than like a sack. If you're home, you most likely have one handy, they localize the cat, allow it to breathe and be transported quickly, and they can be stuffed into a cat carrier along with the cat if it turns out you have more time. The cat will not be happy and some bleeding is likely involved on your part, but it's an emergencies only solution. Corollary, if this is part of your plan, it is good to have at least as many pillows on the bed as you have cats, as it's one cat, one sack, with very few exceptions.

#470 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:20 PM:

James @ 461 -
There was a movie, Muholland Falls, a few years back. At one point the Good Guys are in a house which is attacked by some gentlemen with a tripod-mounted machine gun. Our heroes protect themselves by turning a table on its side and crouching behind the table top.

This is remarkably common in most broadcast media - mistaking concealment for cover.

(apparently GI-Joe lasers can be stopped by anything heavier than a leaf - unless it's battle armor - for example).

#471 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:27 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 456 -
Thanks Scott -- that makes sense.

Hmm, hard cover in the house...maybe the refrigerator? How good are brick walls at stopping bullets? I hope I never have to find out for real.

The refrigerator would count as hard cover only if you bought a Rache Bartmoss armored fridge special - and since they won't be around for another few years, you might just as well stay in the TARDIS you used to bring it home....

Ah, so THAT'S the advantage of a sawed-off shotgun. (Can you tell that the only weapons I've ever fired are handguns?)

Yeah, scatterguns like that have two advantages - they are pretty concealable, and they throw shot like crazy. The problem is they have almost no effective range (shot pattern spreads too fast), and the police take a really, really dim view of people walking around with them....

#472 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:35 PM:

Re blank verse vs free verse: I stand* corrected.

And I should have said "None of the regular poets does blank verse onsite". The reasons for this are complex, unstated, and possibly nonexistent. I don't post blank verse partly because I don't write it.

And, straying briefly to the topic at hand, I concluded long ago that I have no possessions in my house that I would kill for. And it's been some time since I've lived anywhere where the people of the house would be in danger from outside, so the question of gun ownership for home defense - even if I were still in the States - is a slam-dunk no.

-----
* well, sit corrected, but you know what I mean.

#473 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Jonathan: Re "modern veres" I could go into a long disquisition on what I think the Romantics, Walt Whitman and the change in "voice" from generic; and nonce, to Inner, has done to the world of poetry.

I will say that I think even the unreadable stuff which passes current in this day and age is trying to distill information: I just happen to think the information it's trying to distill is largely irrelevant to me.

#474 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Scott Taylor @ 470... The refrigerator would count as hard cover only if you bought a Rache Bartmoss armored fridge special - and since they won't be around for another few years, you might just as well stay in the TARDIS you used to bring it home....

I wouldn't bet on that either. After all, the last season shown in America ended with the prow of the Titanic sticking prominently inside the TARDIS.

#475 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 02:56 PM:

Half the fun of poetry is making the words jump through hoops. I like fun rhythms and rhymes. I like the structure. Free or even blank verse is too close to prose for me; most of it reads like an essay written with a two-year-old mashing the enter key.

Thanks for the tip, Kelly; that'll be useful in a jump bag situation.

#476 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Diatryma.. The idea of trying to bag a cat in an emergency situation reminds me of the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice. The good guys are invading the bad guys's lair. Lots of explosions and shooting. Meanwhile Blofeld's kitty is going totally crazy, furiously digging its claws into Baldie's forearm.

#477 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Terry Karney, 472,
Jonathan: Re "modern veres" I could go into a long disquisition on what I think the Romantics, Walt Whitman and the change in "voice" from generic; and nonce, to Inner, has done to the world of poetry.

Well, I'd be interested in finding out what happened to the world of poetry. It's looks like it went from being a common art to being an exclusive one, but it's not clear to me why.

Maybe I assume too much, but I have the feeling that in the time of Poe*, there wasn't nearly as much structural difference between pop-culture poetry and high-art poetry. Did the notion of "pop-culture" exist then, or is that a post WWII idea itself? Am I even talking about something that people here recognize?

It seems as though the technical characteristics of poetry that are really outwardly obvious (rhyme, meter, alliteration) enjoy an active retirement in rock, rap, and hymnody, but that people writing poetry for one another, casually, has disappeared.

*for example.

#478 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Midori, I think that's happened in a lot of arts. Between the ability to share things through the internet and the (perhaps connected) belief that if you can do something well, you do it professionally, the poet, the painter, the musician have disappeared from some circles. Not all, certainly not all, but we tend to get our art from nonlocal sources, just like our food.

This does lead to interesting compliments-- "You should have a store on the internet!" when faced with an anemone hat, for example.

#479 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:08 PM:

Diatryma, 477,
(perhaps connected) belief that if you can do something well, you do it professionally
That's another interesting concept. I've noticed a certain amount of all or nothing thinking about expertise in the United States*. For example: either you are "talented" and math is easy, or you suck and "math is hard". It doesn't seem like there is a middle ground.

*I'm mostly from the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes region of the U.S., and I assume that this attitude is local to the U.S. I wonder what abi or Charlie Stross think?

#480 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:29 PM:

Today as I've wandered the house*, I've been contemplating "cover" and metal household objects. There aren't all that many of the latter.

Office: side panels to the desktop computers- 1mm thick. Metal file cabinet.
TV room: cases for the vcr and dvd players.
kitchen: oven door, various pots and pans.
garage: set of folding metal chairs, a few random other things, and the bulky washer and dryer.

The chairs are the only largish portable metal objects. They could be put together into a childhood fort like shape next to the washing machine**. That's about it.

But today's not the day for worrying about panic rooms. Today's a day to worry about earthquakes, now that they've found two of three major faultlines here may be connected. Unjoy.

--------
* mostly putting things on top of other things.

** although that's right by the gas-powered hot water heater.

#481 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Today as I've wandered the house*, I've been contemplating "cover" and metal household objects. There aren't all that many of the latter.

Office: side panels to the desktop computers- 1mm thick. Metal file cabinet.
TV room: cases for the vcr and dvd players.
kitchen: oven door, various pots and pans.
garage: set of folding metal chairs, a few random other things, and the bulky washer and dryer.

The chairs are the only largish portable metal objects. They could be put together into a childhood fort like shape next to the washing machine**. That's about it.

But today's not the day for worrying about panic rooms. Today's a day to worry about earthquakes, now that they've found two of three major faultlines here may be connected. Unjoy.

--------
* mostly putting things on top of other things.

** although that's right by the gas-powered hot water heater.

#482 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Dan, #440: ...smart and strong-willed people digging in their heels over deeply-held convictions doesn't require a johnson any more than, well, firing a gun does.

Well put!

Jonathan, #443: You're definitely reading the wrong stuff. One of the main reasons that poetry is in such ill repute in much of our society is that modern poets have deliberately discarded most of the things people have always read poetry for. So now, people who want to write bardic poetry, poetry that actually touches people, poetry that people want to hear and will remember... don't become poets. Instead, they become songwriters or rappers. We had a longish discussion about this a few months back, and many of the examples posted were truly outstanding, but almost none of them would have been acknowledged as "poetry" by professionally-published poets. Worse yet, that attitude has gotten entrenched into the academic culture, and students who want to write genuine poetry are strongly discouraged from doing so.

Remember what happened to movies during the late 60s and most of the 70s? "Art cinema" nearly killed Hollywood, because it was taken as an article of faith that big adventure epics were outdated and passe. Then "Star Wars" came along, proved them wrong, and almost singlehandedly resurrected the industry. Modern poetry is in that same state, and there hasn't been an equivalent to "Star Wars" yet.

TexAnne, #460:
"Dear Sir or Madam, I've read your book,
But right now all I can do is look.
So many great things come out every year,
But I don't have money, so I've got to be a paperback buyer --
Paperback buyer!"

Scott, #465: I also wonder how much of that meme is movie-derived. After all, in the movies, that is how a pump-action works; the problem occurs when you take movie-mythology into the real world and don't have writers to smooth things out any more.

Diatryma, #474: Like many people, I wrote free-verse as a teenager. Sometime in college, I discovered the challenges of rhyme and meter and never looked back.

Any schmuck can write free verse, and a lot of them do. But to make it not sound like it was written by some schmuck*... that takes more skill than I have, and why should I bother trying to acquire it when I can do much better already in other forms?

* I'll confess, I've seen a couple of free-verse things that did what poetry is supposed to do. This was one of them. But they stand out so precisely because they're very rare.

#483 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 06:39 PM:

I took Marksmanship in college! I'm a Texas certified safe hunter!

Hector @251: Eyewitness tells of the end of the church shootings in Colorado: Vet lauds female guard who felled gunman. Includes links to video interviews with the guard (unpaid, plainclothes, volunteer, parishioner) and others. The impression I get from this is that the church schedules permit-holding parishioners like greeters or members of the altar guild, so as to make sure that there are always some present. According to the witness, two other guards could have fired, but did not.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that the New Life Church volunteer security guard, Jeanne Assam, was a former Minneapolis police officer and had served as a parole officer for six months earlier this year. Fun fact: She was feeling weak the morning of the shooting because she'd been fasting for three days.

It has since been determined that although Assam hit the shooter four times--twice in the legs, once in the wrist, and a superficial chest wound from a bullet that might have been deflected off his assault rifle--he fired the fatal shot into his own head from one of two handguns he was carrying. Assam's still considered quite the hero, however, since the shooter walked into the church carrying 1,000 extra rounds of ammunition.

Now it turns out the shooter was peeved over having been turned down by Youth With A Mission. One can hardly fathom what aspects of his character led YWAM to assume he was unfit for missionary work.

Other churches in this city have volunteer security, and others are considering armed guards, a difficult choice for an organization that wants to be welcoming to strangers. Pastor Doug Olsen at Woodmen Valley Chapel says he rushed to the altar when he saw a woman unexpectedly approaching it during the service.

"Immediately I was there," he told the Gazette. "In that case it was pretty easy; she just wanted to come up and kneel in prayer. But you never know."

Jonathan @ 259: Do you, for example, have any examples of shootings being made worse by failed attempts by victims attempting to defend themselves with their own guns?

"For the second time this year, a legally armed citizen armed with a pistol faced a crazed gunman armed with a rifle and did not prevail." From The Sight, which continues with a lengthy tactical analysis of both situations.

My theory is that anybody who has the mindset to want to own one is highly likely to be responsible and an asset.

Oh. Like cars.

My favorite home gun owner: The late Terry Kath.

Michelle and I browsed the derringers in a gun shop once.

"Awwww," she said, "I want a cute little gun."

"Awwww," I replied. "So you can give me a cute little wound."

Serge @ 463: "Where home defense is concerned... Does a baseball bat have a great psychological impact, besides the old-fashioned physical impact?"

I hope so. At home there's a Louisville slugger with my name on it. After the break-in I used to sleep with it under my futon.

#484 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 07:31 PM:

Lee, I confess I have a bad reaction to the "any schmuck can write free verse" idea that assumes it's a lazy method (which I realize was not what you were saying up there). My parallel upthread to genre writing was deliberate; free verse's detractors sound an awful lot to me like the people who say that skiffy is dumb because, hey, you can just make up anything you want. The fact that there's a lot of crap modern poetry out there shouldn't be a reflection on its possibilities any more than the bulk of the slushpile ought to define our view of specfic.

I love rhyme and meter, mind, and I'm coming from the perspective of someone who was told as a teenager that my poetry would be pretty good if I ever managed to pull myself out of the 19th century and quit worrying about all that rhyme-and-scansion silliness. (That this came from the same people who thought my fiction would improve with a few less monsters didn't register at the time.) I merely dislike the whiff of triumphalism no matter what direction it comes from, and have never been able to understand why love and admiration of one sort of thing always has to come at the expense of something different.

#485 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 07:34 PM:

Lee: you've got an inherently biased sample and Sturgeon's Law. Your analysis also assumes that there is a `genuine' poetry, and that poetry you don't like isn't genuine.

It also fails to account for people like Baxter, but let's leave that be.

There's a stanza from a Tom Leonard poem, who I'm sure you'd denounce as not a genuine poet, which (for me) manages to do all the things you want poetry to do,

I hereby sentence you
tay six munths hard labour
doon nthi poetry section
uv yir local library
coontn thi fuckin metaphors

and also handily leads on to the fact that Leonard has his own theories as to the fall of Western Civilisation (Poetry Department). One thing, from the point of view of the non-Liffey type, that they do is highlight the fact that what you're treating as a monolithic ivory tower is, in fact, a whole bunch of castles, deeply suspicious of all the others.

#486 ::: Hector Owen ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 07:50 PM:

Lee, # 480: Thank you for that link! I may have to blog it, it's that good. And what you said about poetry in your reply to Jonathan, definitely. Lord Byron was the Jim Morrison of his era. (Though Byron was a better writer.)

Richard Brandt, #481: You seem to be addressing me, but there is so much tone-of-voice in your post that I can't tell what you really mean to be saying.

Dan Layman-Kennedy, #482: "there's a lot of crap modern poetry out there" No kidding! An interesting blog post on this topic, with some pretty good poems in comments. (The writer is an unaffiliated Discordian, so watch out for the fnords.)

#487 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 08:18 PM:

Hector Owen: I'm sorry, but the post you linked to is exactly the sort of nasty bullying snobbery I was talking about upthread, and evidence that even a Discordian can be a complete asshole given a little encouragement. The fact that what you quoted is all you've chosen to focus on in my previous post leads me to consider the possibility that you've put some effort into missing my point entirely.

The fuck. Why do smart people find it so necessary to go on at such length about the stuff they don't like? Isn't it sufficient to say "this isn't my thing" and get the hell on with your life?

Also: What Keir said.

#488 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 08:47 PM:

Keir, 483,
re: poetry and the fall of Western Civilization

Great is the insight on academia as multiple castles, not one ivory tower.

That said, why does the doing of poetry, the performing of poetry, and the reading of poetry (mostly) live only in academia? (see above comment for caveats) How did it get professionalized to the point of being academicized?

#489 ::: Hector Owen ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy, #485: Well all right then, I'll take you off the guest list for the next dinner party with Dorothy Parker!

#491 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 09:03 PM:

Richard:

"For the second time this year, a legally armed citizen armed with a pistol faced a crazed gunman armed with a rifle and did not prevail." From The Sight, which continues with a lengthy tactical analysis of both situations.

Acknowledging that there are many many examples to be found of people who pulled guns and it got them killed, I don't know if these examples are great ones. In the first case, the guy walked across the street to engage this madman. I was more asking about a situation where you are under mortal threat and decide to pull a gun. This guy pulled the libertarian fantasy routine that was rightly dismissed pretty early on.

In the second case, the guy pulled a gun, yelled at the dude with the rifle, and then decided THAT would be the moment in his life to suddenly a become a pacifist. Well, I've already conceded that I was off the mark on the training and mentality issue, and that certainly backs that up.

Regardless, I think one of the biggest mistakes I made in the previous imbroglio was letting it turn into an anecdote war. There are always examples to be found that, as singular events, will prove anyone's position.

#492 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Midori: I dunno. I don't even know if most poetry ever did enjoy a mass audience.

My parsimonious explanation would be that most poetry was never very big, and you only remember the popular poets of the past, leading to sample bias.

But I really don't know.

#493 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 10:48 PM:

Dan, #482: I must confess that my "any schmuck" comment was primarily directed at my own teenaged efforts. Nonetheless, I stand by my opinion that to write effective free verse -- something that doesn't sound like taking a paragraph of prose and inserting random line-breaks -- takes considerable skill, and that many of the people who do write such verse have not progressed beyond the random-line-break stage. Would you agree with me that, while not all people who write free verse are lazy, people who want to write poetry with little effort tend to gravitate to free verse?

Keir, #483: Your analysis also assumes that there is a 'genuine' poetry, and that poetry you don't like isn't genuine.

Fair cop. I'll withdraw "genuine"; that was a poor choice of words. Re-worded: students who want to write any kind of poetry that's not in the currently-admired style are strongly discouraged from doing so. Better?

I'll also note that the professors who do that are doing exactly what you accused me of doing: issuing a fiat that only the kind of poetry THEY like is worthwhile.

#494 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 10:53 PM:

Jonathan 489: There are always examples to be found that, as singular events, will prove anyone's position.

This is called the "person who" fallacy. Much used in politics; Ted Bundy is the classic example.

#495 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2007, 10:56 PM:

Xopher #492:

Jonathan 489: There are always examples to be found that, as singular events, will prove anyone's position.

That's why I try to present general principles.

#496 ::: Terry (still in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 12:01 AM:

To gloss (because I am stealing a few minutes after my shower, before I go back to my cot).

The romantics made it all about the inner life of the author. This (and it's purely my opinion)changed the focus of the authorial voice in poetry. Now we try to read the author's "meaning" (in some existential reflection of inner soul burtsing forth) into every poem.

Was Shakespeare writing about some specific dark haired lady? Or was it a commission piece for someone else to read to her, or was it just some off the cuff ramblings on the subject? We can debate that still, but if someone today writes such a group of sonnets, the assumption is has to be some inner struggle being worked out on the page.

That's the first thing.

Then we have Walt Whitman (whom I adore) and his damned free versey stuff. He made it look easy.

Throw in a touch of Dada, and "anyone can be an artist" and there are no rules (because most people don't see the craft in e.e. cummings, or Whitman) and all of a sudden the sodden emotional trash of everyone's life becomes, Ta-Da, "poetry."

And they worked hard on it, so it must be "Art."

Yes, there has always been a lot of signal to noise, but now a large body of the population thinks all the noise is really signal (largely because we are taught in school that poetry is hard, and deep and "meaningful" when we also ought to be taught it's fun, and lighthearted and whimiscal."

Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
That the small rain down can rain?

Oh! that I were in my lovers' arms,
And I in my bed again.

Ok, back to bed.

#497 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 12:12 AM:

TexAnne @ #460 - I have missed you.

#498 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Lee: Would you agree with me that, while not all people who write free verse are lazy, people who want to write poetry with little effort tend to gravitate to free verse?

Oh, sure, absolutely. Just as (to wring the last juice out of my extended and probably tortured parallel) people who want to write fantasy without working too hard at it do bargain-basement Tolkien ripoffs, or try and write up their D&D campaigns. That's where most of us start in any case; sometimes the seed of something truly wonderful, or at least pretty good, gets planted in that soil anyway.

(If I'm being completely honest, I'd choose lousy, lazy free verse over lousy rhyme-and-meter any day; if nothing else, it's probably easier to make a good free-verse poet out of a bad one than it is to pull good formal verse out of someone with no natural sense of scansion or no ear for when a couplet is made of syrupy cliche. But anyway.)

I should add, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I have a certain amount of knee-jerk sympathy for crap art, just because it's more than most people attempt. Sometimes crap art is a gateway for good stuff, or at least better stuff; sometimes it isn't and that's okay too, because I think the act of creation (even if what's created isn't especially good) betters the world more often than not.

AND I also think there's even value in the prose-with-line-breaks stuff; the right sense of pace and rhythm and drama can transform a dull paragraph into something special. Knowing where to break it is its own skill, and I'm fascinated by the process of small changes that illuminates and transforms a work into something else.

(I'm similarly inclined to be sympathetic to the kind of minimalist abstract art that gets dismissed with "That's just paint splotches/colored rectangles/pieces of sheet metal! I could've done that!" - to which I tend to reply, okay, but you didn't, and the odds are it isn't really as easy as it looks, any more than you can actually sound like the Sex Pistols just by turning up the amp and beating the hell out of your instruments. But I do applaud anyone who says "I could do that too!" and then does, or tries, even if their efforts produce less than wonderful results.)

Anyway, you'll get no argument at all from me that really good free verse takes as much skill, albeit in a different direction, as any other kind of poetry. We may not be in agreement on what the really good stuff is, but that's to be expected. And I'll certainly agree that anyone who advocates a One True Way of anything in art needs a big old kick in the butt.

#499 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 01:06 AM:

Dan L-K #496: ...

...

OK, I can't come up with anything to add.

What he said.

(I haven't been following the poetry subthread very closely, because--and here comes the shocking admission, and sorry, abi, you know I love you, but--poetry's not really my bag, so when I say "What he said," I don't mean to be taking part in that particular discussion. I just very very much agree with what Dan's saying about art in general--in fact, I've often been known to use exactly the same "OK, you could have done it, maybe, but you didn't" argument. Um...that's all.)

(When I enclose an entire paragraph in parentheses, it becomes very difficult to punctuate all of my usual awkward parenthetical meanderings.)

#500 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 06:04 AM:

On the subject of bullet penetration, I distinctly recall the childrens book "The machine gunners" by Robert Westall, the childrne get hold of a machine gun from a downed german bomber. At one point they fire a burst, and it goes through a wall or two, well over a mile away. As a teenager, I think I thought "I want one of those", and the book was rather accurate in many of its depictions.

Then there was a Desmond bagley thriller where the hero at the end has a hunting rifle and a lot of ammo, and basically shoots straight through a wooden house repeatedly, until the bad guys are dealt with.

Reading stuff like that tended to make me rather respectful of guns. Being in the UK, that is about all the exposure I got to them, except some 0.22 at school, which has its own shooting range.

#501 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 08:53 AM:

#480, Lee -

One of the main reasons that poetry is in such ill repute in much of our society is that modern poets have deliberately discarded most of the things people have always read poetry for.

That really seems important to me (to my situation, at least.) I don't read lots of poetry right now, but I go through phases where I read more and choose poems to memorize. I've been a bit ashamed for my strong preference for poems that rhyme.* I don't never read non-rhyming poems, but more rhyming poems make it through my "I like that" filter than non-rhyming.

I feel a little better about the preference now.

*I'm betting that all the poems that I like have a strong meter, rhyme or not. Now I'm gonna have to go check.

#502 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 09:16 AM:

Tania, 495: Aw, thanks!

#503 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 11:14 AM:

I don't think that poetry used to be separated from everyday people, though. There are just great quantities of it that didn't make the academics' cut, and are ignored (rightly or wrongly).

I've seen pdfs of needlework magazines from the teens and twenties, and before, and they often have poems in them, mixed in with short stories.

UMass's press has a book out, Words for the Hour, which, judging from their description, contains examples of the newspaper poetry of the American Civil War.

#504 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 11:23 AM:

I would object less to poetry in the magazines I read if it weren't so uniformly bad.

It's bad enough in the pagan-oriented ones; when you get to the new "Faerie Magazine" poetry, you could choke on the twee. Which is one of the reasons I don't read that one anymore.

#505 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 11:50 AM:

On the subject of poetry, addressed partly to ethan but also to the general discussion:

It's possible that the fact that I write sonnets could be seen as some sort of position on the validity of one school of poetry over another. It isn't. It's just that the things that cause me to want to write the stuff seem to fall into 14-line structured chunks.

I write what I write, but I am content with the idea that some people see the line breaks and skip the comment. This isn't English class; there's no required reading.

There is also a degree to which the sonnet structure is an independent pleasure, like sudoku or cryptic crosswords. That's why I did one for my last test completion report at my old job.

My view of amateur poetry is like my view of live music, or original art. I'd rather have a mediocre original painting than a reproduction of a masterwork on my wall. I'd rather hear someone sing live than a better singer on a CD. And I love poems written for the present, even if they are not destined to last for the ages.

#506 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 12:01 PM:

The nineteenth-century newspapers, from the samples I've seen, printed a lot of poetry (not necessarily good by any standard). Also they printed jokes, some of which are still funny. (They were a major source of entertainment in many households, even before comic strips.)

#507 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 12:11 PM:

My local newspaper (Die Rheinische Post, based in Düsseldorf), publishes a fair bit of poetry at various times of the year. At the moment they're printing a poem a day for Advent, mostly German lyricists. It's pretty neat. German newspapers in general also publish serialized novels.

(No one should extrapolate from this and think that average Germans pepper their everyday speech, written or otherwise, with poetry.)

#508 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 12:28 PM:

Abi #504 - "That's why I did one for my last test completion report at my old job."

I love, adore, and revere my QA testers, but if I got a bug report in sonnet form, I think I'd have to propose. That's AWESOME.

(I also work in the sort of industry where I'd probably post it on the front page of the website and turn it into a PR triumph, but I don't do this *entirely* for fun.)

#509 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 12:48 PM:

Bang bang bang bang bang!
Cover? Concealment? Hide? Run?
Should have read Jim's post!

(Note: Yes, silly poetry is allowed here.)

#510 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 12:54 PM:

abi #503 and others:

It seems like a lot of people don't have much sense of meter in poetry. I've noticed a lot of childrens books which rhyme but don't scan in various places, which always strikes me as odd. I've seen other stuff that's made me think that most folks around me just don't notice it. (Like, a lot of folks reading childrens' books with some kind of rhythm to them seem to not put that into their reading.) I'm not sure why, and maybe I'm just getting a biased sample or something.

For some reason, my boys both really like books with a strong rhythm. Chicka-chicka-boom-boom and most Sandra Boynton books are big favorites (though the 6 year old is now mostly reading stuff on his own), as well as Dr. Seuss.

#511 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 01:03 PM:

midori #478:

Yes, I've noticed this, too (I grew up in the midwest, and now live in the DC area).

The weird thing is, we tolerate a huge amount of really low-quality entertainment by TV, but often have little tolerance for amateur singing, art, etc.

The funny part of your math comment is that I am good at math, compared to most people, and yet I'm often dealing with friends and coworkers who are much better at it than I am. I don't think this is uncommon, since a couple of the mathematicians I work with have expressed something like that same idea to me.

IMO, one of the worst moves you can make is to define yourself as not good at X, rather than as not having studied much about X. Sometimes, you want to become good at X, and that definition kind of stands in your way somehow. At least, it does for me.

#512 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Not that there aren't problems with letting yourself become too interested in math.

#513 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Jeremy Preacher @506:
Actually, the sonnet was hidden, disguised as a slightly labored paragraph (considering the way many of the techies there wrote, it wasn't even conspicuously awkward). See the note about it that I posted here.

And I'm taken, but thanks for the compliment. ;)

albatross @508:
Meter in kids' books is strange. We have one where every other page reads smoothly. The alternation is more jarring than having nothing scan.

Rhythm is one reason The Gruffalo works so well. It not only follows classic fairy tale rules, but the whole book has a simple, unstrained meter that makes it pleasant to read aloud.

#514 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Wow. Not only is it lovely, but true, too - I'm sending that to my QA lead. She'll love it :)

#515 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 02:45 PM:

albatross, #508: I wonder if that's related to the general inability of many people to read with expression? The notion of prose as a written notation of speech seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way; if you listen to a random sampling of people reading aloud from a book, you'll be amazed at how many of them (even those who are well-educated) drone along in a monotone, never putting in the nuances of speech that ought to be there. My partner's daughter always got the good parts for class readings because she was generally the only person in the class who didn't read in a monotone.

And now that makes me wonder further... do the people who read in a monotone actually "hear" the words that way in their head when they read?

#516 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 03:12 PM:

Lee @ 513: I suspect many of them do hear a monotone in their head. The amount of people who read aloud in a monotone seems roughly proportional to the amount of people who say they don't like reading. If that's how their brain interprets what they read, no wonder they think it's boring and tedious.

#517 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Lee, those are excellent questions. I have no answers, mind you, but some musings.

First, it would make more sense (to me) if people tended to read more expressively. We are hardwired for speech communication, and speech has been the mode of preserving information over generations for far longer than the written word.* You would think that expression would come more naturally -- or does self-consciousness interfere?

*usually rhythmically, for ease of memorization. Greek, Aramaic, Old Norse....

#518 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 03:18 PM:

I read too fast to process the text verbally, so I don't read out loud very well. I read a lot, though, and it seems to sound just fine in my head...

#519 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Jeremy (516): Are you sure you're not me? ;)

#520 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Hmm, good question. Can one ever be sure?

#521 ::: Terry (still in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 04:41 PM:

A friend of mine (the "idiot child of the family, graduated UCLA at 19, with a double majaor in Math and Middle English) did a final exam in sonnet form and did the last couplet as a comment that he was running out of space.

I like playing with form. I'm woefully out of practice, and never was any good at sonnets. Mostly I would build a nonce form and keep within it.

Now I recall what I wanted to reply to:

(I'm similarly inclined to be sympathetic to the kind of minimalist abstract art that gets dismissed with "That's just paint splotches/colored rectangles/pieces of sheet metal! I could've done that!" - to which I tend to reply, okay, but you didn't, and the odds are it isn't really as easy as it looks, any more than you can actually sound like the Sex Pistols just by turning up the amp and beating the hell out of your instruments. But I do applaud anyone who says "I could do that too!" and then does, or tries, even if their efforts produce less than wonderful results.)

Hear! Hear! I am not against the attempts at art. I like them. I've gone to many a friends recital, attended more than a few jam sessions and taken part in lots of impromtu singing, storytelling and the like.

I mislike people who take what is rough-hewn (or just plain ill-wrought) and complain that it's art, when people reject it; because they labored long on it.

I also, as a photographer have to contend with the, widespread, idea that anyone can do what I do. Or that the difference between themselves and me is the equipment. I've been known to be slightly snippy when someone makes the comparison to me.

"Here you go. Use my camera, and we'll compare."

Craft counts. Today I got to watch a glassblower in; damn I forget, it was the town other than Eschenbach, I'll look at the bag later. The shop lets people try their hand. Four Euro and you can take a stab at the pipe. You will get to take something home, but it won't be as subtle as the guy who spends all day doing it.

The difference between me and most people is that I spend every day thinking about photography (at least a little). When I'm working it colors everything I look at. I know the grammar of it, the way the light can fool the sensor, and how to work/play with it.

When someone thinks that just sloshing a bunch of emotional ideas onto the page is the same as making a poem, well I disagree.

#522 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Terry, #519: I am not against the attempts at art. I like them. I've gone to many a friends recital, attended more than a few jam sessions and taken part in lots of impromptu singing, storytelling and the like. I mislike people who take what is rough-hewn (or just plain ill-wrought) and complain that it's art, when people reject it; because they labored long on it.

Exactly so. There are two quotations that I love, which express slightly different angles on this sentiment:

1) "Yes, they laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." - Carl Sagan

2) "The fact that no one understands you does NOT make you an Artist." - unknown


#523 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Hector @ 484: Richard Brandt, #481: You seem to be addressing me, but there is so much tone-of-voice in your post that I can't tell what you really mean to be saying.

Not saying anything so much as reporting. There was tone?

Jonathan @ 489: Regardless, I think one of the biggest mistakes I made in the previous imbroglio was letting it turn into an anecdote war. There are always examples to be found that, as singular events, will prove anyone's position.

Probably why it's always a bad idea to challenge someone: "Oh yeah? Can you find me one example where..."

#524 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 05:46 PM:

under the longer sign we learn to speak
those matters that will justify our art
to find in every soul the better part
of all the good things that a mind might seek
we learn the beauty hidden by the bleak
and lowering sky beneath which swallows dart
there’s still a sight here to rejoice the heart
as on the narrow road the cartwheels creak
no sound of bell across the mountain dale
to tell the time or warn us from our sleep
but hope of something that will make us bright
the law of life is not the finest tale
although the clouds across the evening creep
there is fine promise of calm in the night

#525 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Lee @ 520...Would you object to my posting that Sagan quote on my blog, with a comment that you brought it to our attention?

#526 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 07:08 PM:

abi #503: I write what I write, but I am content with the idea that some people see the line breaks and skip the comment.

I don't so much skip the poetry as scan it, which I suppose in some ways is pretty much the same thing, but I do try to get at least a vague grasp of the content. Something in my brain has a great deal of trouble with poetry (of any kind, rhymed or unrhymed), and if I try to read it as closely as I read prose it will literally take me about as long to process a line as it does for me to process maybe half a page to a full page of prose. I don't know why this is.

Lee #513: And now that makes me wonder further... do the people who read in a monotone actually "hear" the words that way in their head when they read?

I read out loud in a monotone and stumble over words like it's going out of style, and I can't even use the Jeremy Preacher-Mary Aileen "I read too fast!" excuse, because I don't read all that fast (probably slightly faster than the average person, but much slower than the average Fluorospheridian). For me, reading out loud and reading to myself are two very different things.

#527 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 07:36 PM:

I think liking to read and reading in a monotone may be a practice thing. Kids, when they're just learning to read, are not terribly expressive. Some of them will be reinforced and read more, so they read faster-- which means that when they're reading aloud, they can spend some time reading silently and some figuring out how to express it. If you read more slowly, you take all the time to read it. No one wants to take more time than necessary while reading aloud.

#528 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Terry, I think you and I are largely in agreement, though I do think rough-hewn stuff is art too; but I'm partial to the Scott McCloud definition of art, i.e., "anything that doesn't directly address a human survival need," but I realize that's too generous for most people. Where I draw the line is that just because it's nominally art, and just because you worked hard on it, doesn't mean it's worthy of anyone in particular's attention.

That's a bitter pill, and the fact that I am myself an enthusiastic amateur and dilettante, producing a variety of works not worthy of anyone in particular's attention, is no doubt what makes me so ready to cheerlead on the behalf of enthusiastic amateurs everywhere.

It's a fine line to walk. My late grandfather was a potter by trade, and if you want to talk craft, he had it like no one else I've ever known. Clay in his hands was poetry (and he'd get up every morning and turn out a couple dozen mugs before breakfast, all the same, and it was still poetry), and he had a gift for glazes that was art and science in equal measure. His stuff has spoiled me for almost everyone else's pottery - partly, yeah, because it's what I grew up with, but also because it really is that good. He spent his life perfecting what he did, and he burned bright, but he burned out hard too. All of which makes me the more convinced that it's not fair to act like the weekend potter with a table at the ren faire isn't a legitimate artist too even if they don't have the depth of craft of a Ray Gallucci. I wouldn't wish his life on anyone who didn't choose it with eyes fully open, and it's not fair to ask that everyone be an obsessive-compulsive genius before you take them seriously.

Now, obviously, there's a great deal of room on the spectrum between a life dedicated to your art and making something in a night class for the first time. Most of what we come in contact with falls somewhere in the middle. It's just that knowing what is necessary to get anywhere near the far end makes me kindly disposed to dabblers. (And again, it's self-preservation as much as anything else; I have to believe that amateur effort is worthy work, or I'd take a hammer to my left hand every time I listened to Discipline.)

#529 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 09:21 PM:

A few random thoughts on the arts questions going around:

—It's true that experimental art can be a refuge for the lazy; it's also a refuge for those who are very much the opposite, who are driven by the need to realize their vision at any cost. You can call Harry Partch a lot of things, but "lazy" isn't one of them.

What's less obvious is that traditional forms can be a refuge for the lazy of a different sort: those willing to settle for mere tidiness and the security of knowing that they can't be faulted for doing things "wrong."*

I've committed both these lazinesses at one time or another (though of course never again), and consider them equally deadly.

—Objecting to amateur artists is just as wrong as objecting to amateur athletes. Aside from the benefits to the amateurs themselves, a nation of Sunday painters and parlor pianists is going to have better artists and better audiences.

*Not to mention those who merely ape the superficial aspects of the craft; I'm thinking in particular of one artist GoH, who condemned "modern art" in the program book and called for a return to the virtues of the Old Masters, but whose paintings, for all their atelier gloss, showed that he couldn't draw a lick.

#530 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 09:27 PM:

I should add that, to complicate matters, laziness can sometimes be a virtue. For example, when I saw Michael Whelan's sketches, I liked them much better than his paintings, which seem overworked and a bit lifeless to me.

#531 ::: Hector Owen ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 10:50 PM:

Tim Walters, #527: Objecting to amateur artists is just as wrong as objecting to amateur athletes. Aside from the benefits to the amateurs themselves, a nation of Sunday painters and parlor pianists is going to have better artists and better audiences. Hear, hear! As a music teacher, I am personally involved in enabling such amateurs. People who do it for love, from the etymology. But -- who objected to amateur artists? What I was referring to in the "crap modern poetry" thing upthread was not amateur poetry, but vacuous poetry produced by academics with paid positions, who must publish or perish, and having not much to say, publish a lot of stuff of dubious merit. Which then, because it is produced by "professional poets," becomes a standard; which then may lead some of the gifted amateurs to think that they are doing it wrong, and consequently lose the view of their own guiding vision. Which means that the work that could have been their best, is never produced at all, and that's a loss for everyone. Fortunately, there's no worrying about that around here. If anyone is counting votes in favor of a Making Light poetry anthology, count this as another "aye."

#532 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Ethan #524:

I think it may just be the realization that reading to yourself and reading aloud are different things, the same way working through a problem for yourself and writing it up for a paper and writing and delivering a presentation on the result are three completely different skills.

#533 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Serge, #523: Sure, go ahead. You might want to Google around a bit; I think there's another sentence on the front that I cut off, something about "people laughing at you isn't proof that you're a genius".

Dan, #526: That sounds a lot like the way I feel about filk. I've sat in a lot of filkrooms and heard a LOT of really awful singing (and sometimes have had to unobtrusively slip away because I just couldn't deal with it any more) -- but I never want for those people not to be welcome in the filkroom.

...the weekend potter with a table at the ren faire

I don't know what RenFaires you've been going to, but around here I guarantee that if they have a booth at the RenFaire, they're not weekend hobbyists! Faire booths are expensive; non-professionals don't stand a chance of making any money.

#534 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 11:09 PM:

They say
that free verse
is effete -- easy --
a bit academic.

They say
that rhyming and
meter give you
populist rigour,

But I think many the rhyming twin
Does also richly deserve the bin.

#535 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Tim Walters: What you said.

(I know all those words. Why couldn't I have put them together like that?)

Lee: I'm sure you're right about Faire craftsfolk; chalk it up to further evidence of my perception being skewed by my background - not because the work is at all lacking, but just because I'm looking for an unfairly arbitrary something-else.

#536 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:32 AM:

Hector Owen @ 529: who objected to amateur artists?

I was responding to Dan's post celebrating amateurism, and didn't look upthread to remind myself of what had previously been said, so maybe nobody here. However, they're out there. I recently had an online conversation with someone who thought musicial amateurism was bad because "most people suck at music." When I asked if he'd considered that they might suck less (by his standards) if raised in a culture that didn't do so much to encourage people to leave music to the professionals, he never responded.

What I was referring to in the "crap modern poetry" thing upthread was not amateur poetry, but vacuous poetry produced by academics with paid positions, who must publish or perish, and having not much to say, publish a lot of stuff of dubious merit. Which then, because it is produced by "professional poets," becomes a standard; which then may lead some of the gifted amateurs to think that they are doing it wrong, and consequently lose the view of their own guiding vision. Which means that the work that could have been their best, is never produced at all, and that's a loss for everyone.

That would certainly be a shame, but from my limited exposure to poetry slams, NPR segments, etc. it seems that free verse is more popular than metric/rhymed verse among the general public, so I'm not sure academia can take the blame for any discouragement of rhyme that happens. As far as a more general pull toward vacuousness, I don't really know enough to say.

Dan Layman-Kennedy @ 533: (I know all those words. Why couldn't I have put them together like that?)

You're very kind, but I don't see that you have any reason for envy...

#537 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:49 AM:

Serge, #417, no, there's an MST3K version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians? It's hard to imagine it being more than the actual movie!

Richard Brandt, #481, YWAM said they wouldn't put him up for the night. He wasn't wanting to be a missionary.

#538 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:55 AM:

Lee at 513: I honestly don't think that they hear it at all. Text goes from page to mouth in one undifferentiated stream, and the brain scans the meaning but not the execution.

I've had years of performance training, in three different ways - brought up in a theatre family, where nobody gets away with not learning to project, then a few years as a Pony Club instructor. If you can make yourself heard over a hundred yards of rainy, windy Welsh hillside without breaking your throat, you're doing well.

Then I had honest-to-goodness performance poetry training, including a week-long residential course with Adrian Mitchell and Liz Lochhead. That was just as amazing an experience as it sounds.

Performing is just like any other art, though, in that the biggest secret is not in learning to do things but in learning to see things. To look at what you've written or drawn, the sounds and rhythms you make, the way you convey the words, and see what's really there rather than what you expect to be there or what you think you just did.

That's my secret; there are others.

#539 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 04:22 AM:

In Southwark, (not a University -
A babylon of alestake, bearpit, stew)
The Globe presented Shakespeare, and what drew
The brawling groundlings was his poetry.
All Athens came to hear verse tragedy
No graduate wrote. The rowdy benches grew
Silent for Homer, or Aneiron, who
Apparently had left without degree.

But things are better now. One passes through
The gates of academe, one mounts the wall
Around, and adds a careful stone or two,
To please the garrison. It is the few
Within that count. They like it thick and tall -
It keeps the mob out, who don't count at all.

#540 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 07:05 AM:

Poetry works (mostly) by evocation
when the thing works at all, for someone
by the each, in the way of words
and known things heaped together.

Read for shape and mass of minims
and you shall not see the banners
nor the morning, half the heart-shadow
woken through a speaking voice.

#541 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 07:16 AM:

Dave Luckett #537: Nicely done.

#542 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 07:23 AM:

Marilee @ 535... Yes, there's an MST3K version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I think it even was released on DVD in a set that also included MST3K's version of that Mexican movie where Santa Claus battles Lucifer. No, that one didn't have Santo the Wrestler and Defeater of Aliens.

#543 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 07:25 AM:

Lee @ 531... "people laughing at you isn't proof that you're a genius"

Sounds like something from Phil Foglio's fertile mind. Or like an office inspirational thingie.

#544 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 07:56 AM:

When I had to read out loud back in school, I read in a monotone. It wasn't because I couldn't "hear" the expressive voice in my head; it was because I'm pathologically shy and was desperately embarrassed.

#545 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 08:33 AM:

Terry's comment #519 -

I also, as a photographer have to contend with the, widespread, idea that anyone can do what I do. Or that the difference between themselves and me is the equipment. I've been known to be slightly snippy when someone makes the comparison to me.

"Here you go. Use my camera, and we'll compare."

...

The difference between me and most people is that I spend every day thinking about photography (at least a little). When I'm working it colors everything I look at. I know the grammar of it, the way the light can fool the sensor, and how to work/play with it.

And Tim Walters comment #534 -

I recently had an online conversation with someone who thought musicial amateurism was bad because "most people suck at music." When I asked if he'd considered that they might suck less (by his standards) if raised in a culture that didn't do so much to encourage people to leave music to the professionals, he never responded.

combine to make me wonder if we're not in for a really fabulous flowering of photography.

Digital cameras mean that the cost barrier to practicing photography has gotten a lot lower. I'm not afraid to shoot fifteen photos of my knitting to get something I'm satisfied with, because there's no developing and no wait to look at them. I'll never be an artist in photography, but I am better than I was. Flickr and similar sites are keeping photography something that people do as a hobby, while at the same time allowing us to see real artistry in action.

I bet you *do* get a lot of "Oh, I could do that," Terry. Which sucks. At the same time, it might be a positive sign that photography is a popular art form, in the "of the people" sense of the phrase. I want there to be a space where people think, "I could learn to do that," while simultaneously recognizing the skill involved when they see it done well.

Or is that impossible?

#546 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 08:43 AM:

Sam Kelly: Performing is just like any other art, though, in that the biggest secret is not in learning to do things but in learning to see things.

Yes yes yes yes yes. Nine-tenths of the art of "acting" is training yourself to behave like a human being under profoundly artificial circumstances. This includes developing both the awareness of how humans in the world actually behave, and the self-awareness to be able to understand when that isn't what you're doing. (Need I even point out that writing fiction is much the same?)

Dave Luckett and Graydon both: Hurrah! What a fine and lovely brace of verses to start off the morning with, and they complement each other nicely. Well done.

#547 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 08:58 AM:

R. M. Koske, I think you've nailed something that gets missed in silly thought experiments of the "Waht of Shakespeare had had a word processor?" variety. It isn't that technology makes anyone better at their art, it's that it can make passionate amateurs less afraid to fail. If I write a story that needs massive editing, I haven't wasted a whole afternoon plus the paper retyping it from scratch with the revisions (and hoping I don't add a new screwup this time around) - I just open up my document and make the changes. If I record some music and the take sounds awful, I can just delete the track and do it over without having wasted tape and money at some studio. Neither scenario guarantees that I'm not going to end up with something dreadful anyway, but navigating the learning curve is a lot less intimidating when the tools at hand leave you free to experiment, with no loss to the artist except the time it takes.

#548 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 09:19 AM:

Dan at 545, seconded, seconded, seconded. I like photography. I have a pretty good camera-- I asked for one for Christmas some years ago, thinking I'd get something like Dad's old Minolta that I could play around with. It's rather more automatic than that, but it's still a good camera.
Except it's film.
And I don't want to get a digital camera before I've earned it-- doesn't make sense, but I feel like I should use this camera up or something. A small digital camera feels like a step down, even though it's not; I like big cameras with lenses. If I could magically make my camera into a digital one (and find the lens cap, which I think disappeared a while ago) I would take a lot more pictures. Mostly of the cat.

#549 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 09:27 AM:

Lee @ 532... Done. I found the full quote, along with many others on the subject of laughter at http://workinghumor.com/quotes/laughter.shtml

"The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." - Ben Franklin

#550 ::: Terry (about to leave Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 12:24 PM:

So many things, rich and full of meaning.

Dan Layman-KennedyTerry, I think you and I are largely in agreement, though I do think rough-hewn stuff is art too; but I'm partial to the Scott McCloud definition of art, i.e., "anything that doesn't directly address a human survival need,"

I'll agree to that. Part of the problem in talking about "art", "amateur" and how they relate is that they mean to many things to each of us, and often they are applied differently to different things by the same person.

One of Rostler's Rules is, "Quantity of effort doesn't equal quality of product".

This cuts both ways. I can labor for ages on a drawing. It will still be crude and lifeless.

Bill could take a marker, and "scribble" on a bread plate and it would be glorious(a friend of mine still has the bread plate).

What I mislike is actually the idea that "art" is somehow removed from life. That lots of labor makes something somehow inherently valuable, because the intent of the person who made it was artistic.

I make a lot of crappy (by my lights) photos. They might be, "artistic", at some level they are even art. But they aren't really any good.

One of the things I note about those who care about craft, is they are critical. Of their own work, and of others work.

Example I stopped into a shop in Regensburg today, looking to see if he had any interesting film. On the way out I noticed the portraits on the walls. They were good. In the window was a really good "high-key" nude. Not just decent, and not just worth hanging in the window because a naked body draws attention. This was an artful shot.

So I went back in and talked about it, and the others; I really liked the B&W high portrait of the pregnant woman behind the counter, which I'd not noticed before. She was draped in some clingform material, which ran diagonally from her bust down to her butt, and followed the exact shape of her stomach.

Ask me what I think of a picture and I am not likely to tell you whether or not I like it, but rather how it works for me. My liking it is meaningless, when it comes to talking about what it does.

R. M. Koske: Digital changes the bar. The cost to get started is variable (and a film body can be cheaper than an "equivalent" digital one). As you say, the cost, per frame, is less.

But one is trading money for time. I shot about 8,000 pictures in Galapagos. I've still not done more than cursory look at all of them. Used to be I took the film to the lab, dropped it off and came back to find it all printed/mounted. I looked at the shots, decided what I wanted to have blown up, went back to the lab, talked to my printer; showed where I wanted the crop, discussed color balance, and paper choices and left.

Come back a couple of days later and it's all done.

Now I have to do all of that myself. It takes as much time to download the camera as dropping off the film (more actually, if I'm not filling the drive). Looking at the images takes more time (they have to load from thumbnail to be reviewed in detail). I have to do the printing, and the ajdusting (this isn't any different from B&W, but I don't print my own color... I shoot slides and have a good printer).

Then I have to choose the paper, choose the color space, set the white point, and print.

In theory I save money; because I don't have to pay as much per print. But I have a lot of costs I have to amortise. A box of Museum Parchment (11x17) is $65. If I am printing one image, well the "profit" is lost. What value my time? How much cost for the ink?, the printer?

Those are costs I now have to bear, directly.

Add the cost of equipment (which isn't new, but the cost of cameras has gone up. Used to be a day's work was worth about 1 body. Now... a pro-body costs $3,500-5,000 [for "35mm"] and the day rate isn't much more than the $500 it was 20 years ago (these days, in a major market, the day rate is $500-1,000).

The gallery takes 50 percent and people wonder why an 8x10 costs $250.

But I digress.

Newsweek has an article this week about the "death" of photography. I think that's patent nonsense. Digital (despite all the things I just listed) is cheaper to shoot than film. That, by itself, increases the talent pool.

There's a quotation, attributed to Harlan, that the first million words are crap. The same sort of thing is true of film. My first job (selling books at B. Dalton) saw 1/3 of my income stay in the store, 1/3 to personal expenses, and 1/3rd to film/lenses.

If I had been shooting digital, well the last third would have bought more equipment, instead of film. One can shoot tons.

To get better, one has to shoot tons; and throw away tons. Digital makes the first easy. The second takes a bit of self-critical effort.

To go and seek outside feedback... that (as with everything) takes courage. I have to admit, I often think of where I'm going, and take a portfolio with me. I always tremble when I drag it out. Esp. if there is someone there whom I know to work in a visual medium.

But if I keep it to myself, I don't think it counts as art either. Art has to be shared.

I think I've run out of steam.

#551 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 12:34 PM:

Another data point on photography (which I "do", but only really for my own pleasure).

My sister got heavily into darkroom work a few years ago. She needed a good 35mm camera, and my parents lent her their Canon (don't know spec, sorry), which they bought in the late 1960's. It's purely mechanical, and I expect it will be usable until they stop making 35mm film.

By contrast, we are onto our third "good" digital camera, because once the light sensors go, the camera is gone. You can spend ages recoloring all the dead pixels, of course, but after a while it's as much painting as photography.

(I use my camera phone, which is surprisingly good at the sort of close-up plant photos I enjoy taking. But I make no pretensions to art in my pictures.)

#552 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Wesley at 542: Oh, dear, yes, enforced reading-out-loud at school is a blight and a pain. I can hardly blame anyone for doing as little as they can possibly get away with in that situation, but it's like reading classics is for so many people - because they were forced to, they hate them ever since.

Whereas if you don't enjoy what you're doing, you're never going to be really good at it. Do what thou wilt.

Dan at 544: Isn't it just! One of the hardest tasks when directing amateurs is to Stop Them Bloody Acting All The Time. There's a lot to be said for 'speak up and don't bump into the furniture'.

Terry at 548: But if I keep it to myself, I don't think it counts as art either. Art has to be shared. Utterly true. I'm scared enough of people seeing mine, and I see so many flaws in it compared to the real artists I know - but it would be just as dishonest of me not to make it available as it would not to make art in the first place.

#553 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Wow, Terry, there's a lot involved in professional photography that I didn't realize!

I'm surprised it takes so long to download the images, but for me it would take a half-hour or more to drop off film.* Maybe it took you less time? Or is it just that your images are so high-res that the download takes a long time? Do you need to babysit the computer for the process? I can see that dropping off film takes the same amount of time no matter how many images you took, where downloading is going to take longer for bigger shoots.

I was really thinking of the much lower-level amateur stuff, like my father used to do. Shoot the film, get it developed, and look at it. Do it again and try to do it better. Digital makes that loads more accessable so people are more likely to get hooked into going further toward what you're doing. I think.

And I definitely agree that photography is far from dead. The craftsman-skill of knowing f-stops and shutter speeds is getting further away from the amateur's experience, but dead? Hardly.

*This is why I keep finding undeveloped rolls of it around the house.

#554 ::: Pirate ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Scott @ 446

Fascinating piece on penetration. It's been a while since I've owned a shotgun, but I seem to remember there being something on the order of 3/4-strength loads available. Memory is telling me that they're designed for police use (with overpenetration in mind). Would love to see how those shells stood up to the box.

And since Lexica & I live in the Bay Area, and since I saw what happened to New Orleans, I'm looking into keeping a Remington 870 as part of our preparedness kit in case a devastating earthquake hits and Oakland goes "down the K-Hole."

Re: baseball bats

Cold Steel ("The world's strongest, sharpest knives") makes an injection-molded polypropelene baseball bat called the Brooklyn Smasher (and her little sister, crusher).* The advantages include:

-Nigh indestructible. won't split, shatter, crack, dent, rot or otherwise become useless. And taping up a wood baseball bat to keep it from splintering often automatically makes it a weapon in the eyes of law-enforcement.

-If you swing and miss with aluminum bats, hit something hard and you get a massive tuning fork vibrating in your arms while you're trying to defend yourself.

All of this is avoided with the polypropelene bats. (And for you Last of the Mohicans fans out there, Cold Steel also make a ball-headed war club and gunstock war club in polypropelene. WANT!)

Here's a PDF of an article on the evolution of the "Brooklyn Girls". And don't forget Marc MacYoung's book on the subject, Pool Cues, Beer Bottles & Baseball Bats: Animal's Guide to Improvised Weapons for Self-Defense and Survival.

Actually, I'm a huge fan of Marc MacYoung's entire site, No Nonsense Self-Defense dot Com. Much wisdom to be had.

#555 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Mmm.
More thoughts on academia and art poetry. If Sturgeon's Law applies inside the walls of academia, then whenever an artform lives both inside and outside the protected zone, the popular version is going to seem to be "better", due to the law of large numbers.

So we end up with people griping about how there's all this great genre stuff versus all this boring literary junk*, but really, it's that there are so many more genre books printed. So in a given year, there may be 100-150 ripping yarns you can't put down, and perhaps 30 that are mindbogglinly awesome. Meanwhile, there may be only 30 really compelling literary novels in a given year, with perhaps 1 to 3 that are mindbogglingly awesome.

I pulled these figures out of the air, and I'm not thinking purely of numbers of books defined as "different titles", nor as "total quantity printed", but both weighted together, to represent the chance that I, as a purchaser, will stumble across a given book.

*I actually think this has more to do with being forced to read the most depressing possible bits of good modern literature in Middle & High school. I mean, come on, 1984, the Outsiders, the Pearl, Glass Menagerie, Lord of the Flies, etc. That's supposed to get people excited about reading? Pshaw!

#556 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:33 PM:

#545, Dan Layman-Kennedy -
I really hadn't thought about how it applies to writing and music (and film and drawing...) but you're right, it is true for many arts isn't it?

#546, Diatryma - I know that "need to use it up" feeling!

I keep thinking I want an digital SLR (which is what I'm assuming you mean by "big cameras with lenses") but what would I do with it? Pictures of the cat, pictures of my knitting. The other thing I take pictures of is stuff I see while I'm out, and the camera I have is already nearly too big to carry with me everywhere for that. An SLR would really be foolishness for me. I think I want it just because that's what my father had.

I probably wouldn't take pictures at all if my husband hadn't spontaneously bought us both rather nice digital cameras one day.

#557 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:38 PM:

Could it be argued that digital and other automatic cameras (my idea of 'automatic' is 'doesn't have all the fiddly bits of Dad's half-broken Minolta) improve photo composition at the expense of knowing the fiddly bits?

When I think of what I went through to get my Costa Rica and Peru pictures (too many of Machu Picchu, not enough tiny details) I want to do the entire trip again with a good digital camera and a whole lot of storage. I took about seven hundred pictures, got them developed but didn't get digital copies (I balked at spending an additional two dollars a roll and instead spent a week at a school scanner), and now... there are things I could have done to make the weird and washed-out pictures better, or the night pictures (I kept *trying* but I don't know my camera very well), or the double exposure with a kinkajou and Rita.
My sister has a digital camera and takes a lot of pictures of herself. She doesn't mess around with anything but the most basic processing-- this picture shall be kaleidoscoped! this one sepia-toned!-- but she's learned a lot about setting up interesting pictures. She does favor the Myspace "I look so skinny!" shot, though.

#558 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:39 PM:

#552, midori -
*I actually think this has more to do with being forced to read the most depressing possible bits of good modern literature in Middle & High school. I mean, come on, 1984, the Outsiders, the Pearl, Glass Menagerie, Lord of the Flies, etc. That's supposed to get people excited about reading? Pshaw!

I think that's why so many people think they don't like Shakespeare, too. In my entire school career, I was never in an English class that taught a comedy. Tragedy in the ninth grade. Tragedy in the tenth grade. Eleven, twelve, freshman in college...I didn't realize that I liked Shakespeare until I stumbled on a comedy on PBS one day.

I've always wondered if they teach only tragedies because it is easier to elide over the dirty bits in them.

(And wow, can you tell it is slow at work today? I'll shut up now and let someone else talk!)

#559 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:49 PM:

I am an amateur photographer. I take pictures mostly of my family, pets and garden with the occasional vacation shots.

Proudest moment? When I took some negatives in to have photos blown up for my office cubicle, and the lady handing me the finished prints (18 x 20) said, "These are gorgeous -- are you a professional photographer?" (Or maybe it was just good customer relations on her part!)

A while later a family friend was taking a photography course, and came over to practice taking pictures of animals. Two hours later, I show her some of my shots of the subjects, and she asks, "How did you get them to pose?"

I then explained that I didn't, I just kept the camera loaded and nearby at all times.

Oh, and for the three good shots mentioned in the first tale, the rest of the rolls were nothing special. (Oh, and chasing rainbows with a camera is a real exercise in frustration.)

#560 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 01:51 PM:

Diatryma, 546,

I've used both digital and film, and if I was going to use a camera to get better at doing photography, I'd use a digital one, even a bad digital one. I used to worry about dropping the camera. I used to carry around the case. I used to wonder if I was going to run out of film. I used to run out of film! I used to run out of money to develop the film, or to buy more. I used to have half a roll of 100 speed in the camera when I knew I was going to need to switch to 800 speed, and agonize over switching it.

My digital camera fits in my pocket, so I take it everywhere. Now I take a lot of pictures, and I get feedback immediately about whether I nailed the composition or flubbed it.

Film cameras are really really good for high quality, low grain pictures compared to digital cameras of the same price*. I try to make sure I have a loaded film camera for those special (but predictable) moments (stuff with kids) that only come around once in a lifetime).

But I depend on my cheap digital camera to teach me how to make better pictures.

*blah blah blah technical stuff blah blah blah it depends on x blah blah blah

#561 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 02:01 PM:

Midori, #552: I have a long-held hypothesis that part of the problem with high-school English classes is that we expect these kids to be able to have adult-level perspectives on books. We shove books at them which have deep personal and philosophical meanings to someone age 30 or 40 or 50, when they aren't even 20 yet and simply don't have the life-experience to "get" that meaning. Worse yet, we don't even look for ways to relate the meaning to something the kids would understand. (For example, when my high-school class read "The Crucible", no one ever drew any parallels to student cliquishness and bullying.)

I was lucky enough to be able to grasp some of the concepts in the books we read. But you'll never catch me reading another John Steinbeck book in my life, because he had nothing to say to me and said it badly.

#562 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 02:57 PM:

R. M. Koske @ 555: The biggest reason Julius Caesar has been a tiresome staple of public-school curricula for frickin' ever is that it has almost no dirty jokes in it. Srsly.

Terry @ 548: I'm of two minds on the subject of whether or not I need to like something as a meaningful measure of it. On the one hand, a critical vocabulary is a worthy thing, and understanding how craft works is a much better toolset for determining why something is unsatisfying than just saying "Well, that sure sucked." And a deep enough understanding of it is a useful thing in being able to find worth in something even if it doesn't appeal on an aesthetic level.

BUT, I also feel very strongly that Art was not invented so that only artists (or art critics) could enjoy and appreciate it. And I think there's a tendency in fandom especially, with this patchwork community of weird geniuses full of esoteric expertise that it is, to pick everything apart until it isn't fun for anyone anymore. (I know that there are plenty of times as a lurker around some of these discussions that I feel like my mutant power is the ability to love imperfect things with boundless enthusiasm.) I do think that a certain depth of knowledge can itself be a handicap, if what it's doing is creating a false dichotomy between what's good and works and what's "right."

I have a friend who's an amateur photographer, whose technique is the functional equivalent of throwing paint at the canvas; she's told me that several shots I admired were the result of literally holding up the camera without looking. They'd probably make you, or another serious photographer, nuts in what they're not doing, but I love them, and I'm not convinced I ought to think myself wrong to do so.

Similarly, to take an example somewhat more removed, a lot of Mike Mignola's figures are technically wrong; he puts faces and bodies together in ways that don't reflect real-world physiognomy (and I'm talking about his human characters, obviously, and not his bona fide monsters), not to mention that he throws on those famous shadows of his where he thinks they ought to go rather than where they really would with those shapes and that lighting. And it doesn't matter, because he makes it work anyway - but I can imagine a fine-arts student doing a lot of grumbling about it, while missing the point of what he's doing.

And I just learned that, apparently, Ian Anderson played the flute "wrong" for most of his career; does that really make the solo in "My God" any less breathtaking?

#563 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 03:51 PM:

I decided, when I started bookbinding, that I would not pursue the goal of becoming an artist. I wanted to become a craftsman. It is still my goal. If people think my books are art, fantastic. I'm happy that they like them, and use that term to explain their liking.

It's one of the ways I deal with seeing the flaws in everything I make. (The other way is to tell myself that others don't see the flaws, and repeat it till I'm too bored to worry.)

However, I have recently discovered the joy of teaching. As a teacher, I still have to be able to see the flaws in my students' work. How else can I tell them how to fix them? But I still love the books they make with a ridiculous passion.

#564 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 05:00 PM:

Poetry and Photography in an ex rather heated thread, I love ML.

I'm a semi serious hobby photographer and I've been without my Digital SLR and lenses for almost 2 months now. It hurts. I've even started dreaming that I had my camera back and could take photos again (camera and lenses went missing in a bag, long story) I'm getting a new digital SLR soon though, fortunately.

I confess I get very irritated at times at the "Your camera takes very nice pictures" comments when I get them. I'm the one taking the pictures, the camera is a tool I use.

I'd guess probably around 70% of the photos I take are of my cat. Is that a problem? I don't think so, it makes me happy and I have some fantastic cat photos out of my efforts.

As for poetry and meter. I'm Icelandic and there are very strong structured alliteration traditions still alive in that culture. So much so that even when I watched the musical "Cats" subtitled back home, the guy making the subtitles had put in structured alliteration into the translated lines even, when sometimes, it changed the meaning slightly.

For me meter and alliteration is more pleasing to the ear than rhyme, it's not an either or though, far from it but I have realised that the gut feeling of oh yes that's nice when I hear poetry usually is stronger with properly alliterated poetry with rhythm that scans well.

I don't mean alliteration all over the place, over alliterated stuff isn't "correct" either (not the way I was taught it anyway).

#565 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 05:08 PM:

Marilee @ 535: Via KRDO-TV, a statement from Youth With A Mission:

The statement said that Murray was "briefly a student at the YWAM Arvada training centre in 2002."

"Murray did not complete the lecture phase of his Discipleship Training School, nor did he participate in the field assignment," the statement said. "The program directors felt that issues with his health made it inappropriate for him to do so. Murray left the Arvada training center and no one at the facility recalls that he has made any other visits or had any communication with the center since that time."

#566 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Walt Whitman notwithstanding, imho the two biggest blows to poetry as popular entertainment were recorded and broadcast audio media. (No doubt there were similar gripes about the printing press and the invention(s) of writing, wrt no longer requiring full reliance on the oral tradition and losing the associated powers of memory as well as dynamic mutability-- once a song or story is written down and used as a static general reference for future performance, its genetic drift is nearly halted, as it were.)

Until then, people who wanted relatively sedentary entertainment mostly had to provide it for themselves: playing musical instruments, singing, reciting poetry. After that, they only had to turn on a gadget and adjust it properly. For that matter, istr a suggestion somewhere that the ubiquity of audiovisual media was causing the development of a "postliterate" culture in which reading is seldom required and generally resented as a distasteful duty when it is.

(Second/thirdhand anecdotal conversation, overheard: "I need to buy a gift for Bob, but I don't know what to get." "How about a book?" "No, he already has one.")

#567 ::: Terry (about to leave Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 07:36 PM:

Diatryama: Could it be argued that digital and other automatic cameras (my idea of 'automatic' is 'doesn't have all the fiddly bits of Dad's half-broken Minolta) improve photo composition at the expense of knowing the fiddly bits?

I don't think (in the long run) one needs to understand the things the fiddly bits do to get the pictures one wants.


Dan Layman-Kennedy:

Terry @ 548: I'm of two minds on the subject of whether or not I need to like something as a meaningful measure of it. On the one hand, a critical vocabulary is a worthy thing, and understanding how craft works is a much better toolset for determining why something is unsatisfying than just saying "Well, that sure sucked." And a deep enough understanding of it is a useful thing in being able to find worth in something even if it doesn't appeal on an aesthetic level.

There are two things going on. Do I like it? Does it, "work"? Those two questions are independant of each other.

There are a lot of picture I hate, which are technically competent. The elements are well constructed and the contrasts fall into harmonious relations, the lines lead to things of interest, there isn't any distracting clutter, etc.

And there are photos I love, which are just horrendous; in a techincal sense.

But (unless you happen to like exactly what I like) telling you I like/dislike them is a dead end. If I say, "this line leads to a visual dead end because the details are lost in a muddy haze of indistinct shadows" you can look at it, and decide how you feel about it. You can then agree (which is as it should be :), or not. If not you can explain to me what you see in the photo to justify that use of the line/shadows (etc.).

I have a friend who's an amateur photographer, whose technique is the functional equivalent of throwing paint at the canvas; she's told me that several shots I admired were the result of literally holding up the camera without looking. They'd probably make you, or another serious photographer, nuts in what they're not doing, but I love them, and I'm not convinced I ought to think myself wrong to do so.

I am sure there are some "serious" photographers who would say that. They are foolish. If it works, then she's doing it right. One of the most famous of war-photographs was shot by Robert Capa in the Spanish Civil War, and he said he did exactly that... held the camera up and shot the photo while hiding in a ditch.

What works, works, and talking about craft is detailing what works.


Sica:

I confess I get very irritated at times at the "Your camera takes very nice pictures" comments when I get them. I'm the one taking the pictures, the camera is a tool I use.

Before I got a digital camera, I agreed. But there are things my camers does better than others. In the "old days (when we had to smear colloidal albumin onto sheets of glass) the equipment was irrelevant. A camera was a box which corraled light, and film was the medium which trapped it.

If you wanted a fine grained, ultra green, you used Fuji Velvia 50, for a finer grained, less green, the Velvia 100. If you wanted more contrast, with rosy cheeks and a more orange glow, Kodachrome 64, etc.

Not so anymore. My camera sets a lot of the "film" qualities. I, as an editor, can resolve some of the rest (and some of it takes a lot of resolving. I have to make at least three, different, B&W conversion layers to make a decent B&W print from a digital image), but grain, some of the contrast (that which is caused/lost by the lens) tonal range, clarity, color balance, noise, "grain" etc., are now part of the box.

I have a 4.1 mp camera. It takes better pictures than some contemporary cameras, to it, which had 8-12 mp. That not a small part of why I bought it.

But, all things being equal, the artist makes the art.


#569 ::: Terry (about to leave Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 07:49 PM:

Julie L: re the "post literate" culture. See, "The Disappearance of Childhood", IIRC Niel Postman.

#570 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 08:42 PM:

What works, works, and talking about craft is detailing what works.

A-freakin'-men.

I've been quoting Elizabeth Bear's advice on craft for a while now, to anyone who will listen: There are no rules, only techniques that work and ones that don't, and which is which depends entirely on context.

That's actually a lot harder in practice, in the long run, than a cut-and-dried "You must never do X," but there it is.

#571 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 09:54 PM:

#548: One of the things I note about those who care about craft, is they are critical. Of their own work, and of others work. [...]

To get better, one has to shoot tons; and throw away tons.

The challenge comes when the critical impulse interferes with the need to practice. I have a terrible time motivating myself to do the things I've always believed I enjoy--this despite having no problem motivating myself at my job. I've come to realize that I fear producing crap; I can't stand knowing I've created another terrible drawing, or more inane writing. So I procrastinate, and my skills fall even farther behind.

I need to make peace with my own ineptitude before I can make myself less inept.

#572 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 10:32 PM:

Wesley, a very wise teacher once pointed out to me that failure -- or "producing crap," which is a variation of it -- is part of learning; a necessary part, a natural part, and should therefore be experienced with compassion, not feared or shunned. Our culture does not understand or support this, but it is true. We "fail" in order that we may learn, and failure is, in fact, not failure at all.

#573 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2007, 11:46 PM:

More tales from the annals of the Armed Citizen:

Shots Fired After Mansfield Man Passes Gas

#574 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 12:19 AM:

Richard Brandt, #562, I hadn't heard that. Apparently it was YWAM in both places. I wonder what makes the difference between taking revenge and just being an atheist. (I'm 23 days behind on the WashPost and they probably talked about it on inner pages that I'm not skimming in the mornings.)

#575 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 12:48 AM:

Lizzy 569: In other words, "anything worth doing is worth doing badly." Which does not in ANY way contradict the more commonly-known proverb!

#576 ::: Jonathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 12:49 AM:

James #570:

You aren't trying to bait me, are you, James?

#577 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 06:58 AM:

Terry@548 says:

people wonder why an 8x10 costs $250.
My birth father flew out to San Francisco to play with me in the NABC just past. There's a landscape photographer named Michael Kenna whose work he truly loves, and it happens that Kenna's main US gallery is located quite near the hotel where the bridge events were. He went there three times; I went with him for one of them.

They had silver gelatin prints. About half a dozen were on one wall, a few more on another wall...and dozens more in drawers. Nearly all at 8x8, square and quite small.

Pricing: The photos are produced in runs of, if memory serves, 250. They start at $1500...and as the run sells, the price goes up, until you reach the ones that are nearly sold out, and they cost $7000.

Jon had them take photos of four of the prints so that he could show them to his wife. (He's been married long enough to know not to spend four figures of money unilaterally. :-)

For myself, I could see that the guy was really good, but I wouldn't even consider spending that kind of money.

The staff at the gallery were very friendly and obliging. I suspect they were either pleased to meet a genuine fan, or suspected us of casing the joint for a robbery.

#578 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 04:26 PM:

Xopher @ 572:

I've also tried to... internalize? ... "The perfect is the enemy of the good." I've still got a lot of the "do it right or don't do it at all" upbringing I'm trying to overcome. (My self-descriptive one-liner: "It's tough being Superwoman's daughter.")

#579 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 05:44 PM:

458 Dave Bell

The London terraced house (brick) was about the worst place to be in an air raid you could imagine.

Brick *fragments* (and of course a brick house, with no wood frame, collapses very easily). It fragments and turns into a really nasty form of projectile.

The 2 Air Raid shelters that were rapidly deployed were

- the one under the dining room table (steel netting that you let down. Name escapes me

- The Anderson Shelter (named after the Minister in question?). A concrete shelled shelter, covered in brick to improve blast resistance

Neither was much use in a direct hit, but the Anderson was pretty good against fragments etc. They removed one in the garden next door last winter: it took 6 Poles with jackhammers a week to demolish the thing, the concrete had settled that much.

The Government massively overestimated the likely casualties from Luftwaffe bombing before the war:

- they assumed bombers could not be defended against, because they were too fast. The Spitfire and Hurricane proved them wrong

- they assumed the Germans would drop poison gas (but they didn't know about nerve gas, a German invention)

- their calculations on bomb damage were quite frankly wrong. I think they based their data on Guernica, rather than on a prepared civilian populace. Guernica was jammed with refugees and was bombed in the middle of the day, not the night.

Also they didn't factor in the fact that bombs drop in 'sticks' and if the first bomb in the stick kills you or destroys your home, the second one can't kill you again or destroy your home again.

The British government ordered 1 million grave markers for casualties of bombing, in advance of the Munich Crisis-- a revealing factor, perhaps, in why Chamberlain backed down. In practice, from memory, the Blitz killed about 50,000 civilians.

The only times bombing ever reached its intended level of killing were:

- Coventry firestorm
- Hamburg firestorm and the other ones achieved (Dresden in particular)
- Tokyo and the other Japanese cities (which were made of wood, and the attack was specially designed and tested by Lemay on a mock Japanese town, to maximise civilian casualties via napalm)

#580 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 06:16 PM:

What digital cameras allow you to do is take zillions of photos for very little cost, delete the crap, and save the stuff that happens to be good.

Now, given that, knowledge of depth of field, exposure, and composition don't hurt. It allows you to increase the proportion of good stuff to crap. It also helps if you actually know what is crap.

#581 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2007, 08:32 PM:

That's not quite true about bombing -- by the end of the Second World War, Bomber Command in Europe could erase cities from the map pretty effectively and routinely, especially when operating in support of Allied troops.

What was really important was advances in targeting. The Thousand Bomber raids relied on accurate navigation which the Germans never effectively developed.

#582 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2007, 06:49 PM:

#568, Wesley -
The challenge comes when the critical impulse interferes with the need to practice.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes to the whole post. And knowing that we all need to produce that certain amount of crap doesn't actually help the paralysis. I run up against this problem to varying degrees in sewing, drawing, writing, and learning new physical skills. Finding the right mind hack to convince myself that my practice doesn't have to be good but is still worth doing is an ongoing process. Nothing has worked twice. It is maddening.

I am right there with you.

#583 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2007, 04:25 AM:

Cops raid wrong house. Homeowner thinks they're home invaders and shoots at them with rifle.

news article

#584 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2007, 10:36 AM:

Sonnovabitch: I had a comment which was eaten.


Re the fiddly bits. I screwed that up, I meant to say I don't think one can become a decent photographer without knowing what the fiddly bits do. One can let the machine run them most of the time, but one has to know the effects one is getting.

David Goldfarb: I like Kenna's work, but I think them overpriced (he usually does short runs, which is some excuse, and he is good, but still. And his agents do some odd things [his price isn't a constant, as the run comes closer to selling out, the price goes up. I'd be tempted, if I wanted one of his pieces, to buy two and sell the second in a year or so, and; effectively, reduce my cost).

The "silver gelatin" is a piece of flim-flam. Gelatin printing is the default form of negative/positive photos (but is sounds better than "black and white print".

If he were messing about with something arcane, and really difficult, like dye-transfer, then the prices would be more in line. But once the initial work of figuring out the print is done, then the next 1-∞ is just mechanical reproduction; and making sure the chemistry is fresh.

So he's selling name. If he can do it (and he can) power to him, sort of. I happen to think making things available to more people is better than not. I also happen to think his prints don't look (even with the numinous whites he gets) all that hard to make, so I'm not as inclined to give him the benefit of tricky work in printing out to make up the difference between a $300 8x8 and a $7,000.

Ctein, with his incredible photos of lava in Hawaii wasn't asking more than 5-10,000 dollars, and he was doing large, dye-transfer prints (if you ever want to take up a collection to show you love me... you know what to get).

#585 ::: xrqu ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 02:51 AM:

light is evil. the lights on my modem keep flashing for no reason. and i've been photographed by secret police. i say we should move earth away from the sun and ban electricity.

#586 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 05:18 AM:

Light is evil. Shiny, shiny evil.

I will save you from your evil. Send me all of your light and I will keep it in a safe place.

#587 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 06:11 AM:

"But once the initial work of figuring out the print is done, then the next 1-∞ is just mechanical reproduction; and making sure the chemistry is fresh."

Ansel Adams once said that the negative is the score and the print is the performance. So I don't think it's quite that simple. It's more true with inkjet technology, but even there there's a certain amount of craftsmanship.

#588 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 07:07 AM:

abi@583: But surely more will just get made?

#589 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 12:24 PM:

In case anyone besides me and Tracie is following the case in #455, the officer (Sgt. Courtney Gale) is stable and in an induced coma; she's had several surgeries and is on dialysis. She would have bled to death (severed femoral artery) but for first aid from a bystander who happened to be an ER nurse and the fact that the hospital is right next door to the shopping center. The alleged assailant has a history of paranoid schizophrenia, violence, and institutionalization followed by refusal to take his meds once released.

The USVI isn't the only place that ends up using jails in place of mental hospitals.

Local news coverage here and here (requires registration).

#590 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 07:21 PM:

I see in the news that there's another mall shooter:

5 dead in strip mall shooting; gunman at large

I hereby predict that when the perp is caught, we will learn that (a) he isn’t an illegal immigrant, (b) his name isn’t Mohammed, (c) he isn’t associated in any way with foreign terrorists, and (d) throwing out the entire Bill of Rights (except the Second Amendment) wouldn’t have stopped him.

#591 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 09:28 PM:

Randolph: I missed this, somehow, in the course of Christmas.

One of the interesting things about digital is that we don't have negatives anymore. We have prints from positives.

Part of the art of photography, in the past, was reading the negative, and then massaging the positive out of it. I'm out of practice, but I can still do it. Not as well as when they were almost the same as a positive, but still not strange and arcane.

The rest of it... printing is less difficult than it was. Get a calibrated monitor/printer and what you see is what you get. All the editing is done before printing.

In the darkroom it's different. The negative is potential, but the print is actual. A pull here, a dodge, there, pre-flashing to salvage a difficult problem of contrast, all those things were tools one used. It was interpretation, the difference between Previn, and Bernstein doing Beethoven's Fifth.

Same score, radically different performances.

I don't think that's as much the case anymore.

#593 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2011, 06:18 AM:

Irrelevant to the thread, no posting history, commercial link. Even before we get to the tone and language, it's already out the door.

Tot ziens, Utrecht Loodgieter. Of beter, tot nooit; ik wil je niet meer zien.

#594 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2012, 12:28 PM:

Police: All Empire State shooting victims were wounded by officers

Because a) It's really easy to miss your target with a handgun, and b) the round still goes somewhere.

#595 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2012, 12:46 PM:

Also: The original shooter wasn't an illegal immigrant, his name wasn't Mohammed, he wasn't associated in any way with foreign terrorism, and throwing out the entire Bill of Rights (except the Second Amendment) wouldn't have stopped him.

#596 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2012, 01:05 PM:

In fact they announced almost right away that there was no connection to terrorism, before they even released his name.

If he had been of Middle Eastern descent, they would have taken weeks to make that determination.

#597 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2012, 04:09 PM:

And he got the weapon legally in Florida, which underscores what NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been saying: this problem needs to be addressed at a national level. Closing state borders is a crazy idea, and it's the only alternative.

Also, I heard that the NRA came out with their usual knee-jerk bullshit, which is that this wouldn't have happened if more people were armed. Obviously (to anyone but them) there would have been more wounded in this situation.

(That article's title is wrong, of course: the first victim was shot by Johnson, not police.)

#599 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 05:12 PM:

I see, on re-reading this thread, that I never explained to poor hapless Jonathan why I picked "five feet" and "behind."

Here's the deal: In real-life gunfight situations, time and again, it's been found that when the range between the people is six feet or more, the odds are greater than 50% that the shooter will miss. I gave the hypothetical Libertarian Hero a range of five feet so he'd at least have an even chance of hitting a man-sized target. It really doesn't matter how much time the Libertarian Hero spent at the range banging away at paper targets at forty feet: Real life is different. In real life you're moving, the target is moving, and you have about a gallon of adrenaline pumping through you.

The most dangerous place to be in a gunfight is one story above and forty degrees off the line between the two belligerents.

As to why behind: If you're in front you're dead. I've already said that in a fight between a man with a rifle and a man with a pistol, the man with the pistol loses. This is if everything else is equal. But everything else isn't equal. The mall shooter not only can pull the trigger but has shone himself willing to pull the trigger, and has already decided to do so.

The hypothetical armed civilian can pull the trigger, but as to being willing to do so, see the WWII study Men Against Fire by S.L.A. Marshall. He found, and this has been backed up repeatedly in other studies, retrospectives across continents and across centuries, that between eighty and eighty-five percent of soldiers in front-line combat do not actually shoot at another person. This despite being highly trained, heavily armed, under orders to do so, having an unquestionable legal right to do so, and being personally in mortal peril where their own safety depends on doing so. See Hope on the Battlefield et endless cetera.

The last item is having already decided to shoot. This is a time consideration. There you are in the mall, the only thought in your head what model of flat-screen TV you want as you stroll to Best Buy. The bad guy is already pulling his trigger. It takes you a moment -- or two -- to notice what's going on, decide what to do, then do it. That reaction time is all working against you if you're in front of the shooter. Unless you're Wild Bill Hickok and you're okay with the idea of shooting your friends and the occasional innocent bystander by mistake, it's good that you take that moment to stop and think. Except it'll get you killed.

Incidentally, Wild Bill Hickok himself was killed by a guy who was standing five feet behind him.

#600 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 07:03 PM:

This is just a hypothesis, but I wonder whether an armed populace would discourage mass shootings, not because someone would shoot the shooter immediately, but because shooters seem to have a fantasy of killing helpless people.

If a shooter wanted to start with a gunfight, they'd attack a police station.

#601 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2012, 07:36 PM:

Actually, Nancy, I don't think so.

I don't think that the mass shooters want to start a gunfight; I think that they want to cause pain at the place where they received pain, at places that are important to them. The classic is the workplace shooter who turns up to kill the boss who fired him, plus as many other people as possible. The mall shooters go to the mall for the same reason the zombies did in Dawn of the Dead (the original; the remake sucked).

The school shooters attack the schools that are important to them. They were students there, or something else connects them strongly to that particular school.

I would look at the geo-location of the sites.

So far as I recall no one who has been involved in a spree killing has had strong attachments to a police station.

#602 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2013, 08:33 PM:

Police wound 2 bystanders in shooting near Times Square"

(CNN) -- New York police have brought a variety of charges against the "emotionally disturbed" man they say triggered a police shooting near Times Square that wounded two bystanders.

Officers fired three shots at 35-year-old Glenn Broadnax in the Saturday night confrontation a block west of the famous tourist district, hitting two women on a nearby corner in the process, a police statement said Sunday. Broadnax was walking into traffic in front of the Port Authority bus terminal, apparently trying to be hit by cars, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

The take-away from this that, even for people with formal firearms training, hitting a particular man-sized target with a pistol is hard to do. Also, the rounds that miss have to go somewhere.

For the clear-eyed gun-supporting Libertarians who think that because you can't hit your intended target therefore no one is in danger at all, sorry, guys, not true. That round is going somewhere. You may not know which of 800 possible innocent bystanders in the crowd you may hit, but you can sure as fudge hit one of them. Or two of them. Or more. Depends on how many rounds you fire.

As Murphy's Laws of Combat state: Don't worry about the bullet with your name on it. Worry about the one marked "To whom it may concern."

If you hear gunfire, make yourself one with the pavement.

#603 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2013, 08:55 PM:

Why the hell were they even shooting at him? Someone who wanders into traffic isn't ordinarily that type of threat.

Oh, I see. FINGER PISTOL. Well, that entirely justifies it.

Idiot cops.

#605 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2013, 10:00 PM:

John A., #604: From the article:
Police say officers were responding to a 911 call placed by a woman who said someone she didn't know was knocking on her front door. ... Police later found his wrecked car and say it’s likely he was looking for help from the person who had called 911.

This is a whole series of interlocking tragedies. First, that "a stranger knocking on your front door" is now considered a threat worth calling 911 about. Next, that so many police officers are so trigger-happy that they'll shoot pretty much anyone who draws their negative attention, for any reason or none at all. Third, that having a wreck and looking for help at a nearby house has become a death sentence.

Now in all honesty, I have to admit that I'm moderately hostile about people who knock on my door for no apparent reason. But that's not because I think they're going to break in and rape and kill me, it's because I think they're likely to be either salesmen or scammers (not that I consider there to be much difference between the two, if they're knocking on doors). And if I'm really feeling antisocial, I don't answer the door. Calling 911 wouldn't happen unless they did something to escalate.

I can't help thinking that our gun-saturated culture has something to do with all of those changes.

#606 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2013, 10:10 PM:

When I got mugged in Alva, Oklahoma all those years ago, I got away by running into a wheat field. Then I followed the nearest light to a farmhouse. I yelled and yelled and asked for help, and finally yelled that if no one was home, I'd have to try to get in the house. (I wasn't that badly injured--one knocked-out tooth--but I was sixteen and didn't know.) They finally acknowledged my presence by telling me to lie down till the sheriff got there or they'd use the shotgun.

It's a shame I couldn't see what kind of farm equipment they used. It's a very good chance my dad sold it to them.

#608 ::: OtterB sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2014, 11:06 AM:

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