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January 9, 2011

All of my opinions about the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
Posted by Patrick at 06:45 PM * 347 comments

(1) She’s my parents’ congressperson. They’re active members of the Oro Valley Democratic Club. They share multiple mutual friends with her.

(2) The picture of me and Teresa at the bottom of our little-read home page? It was taken by my mother in a park that’s a block away from where the shooting happened.

(3) The way things are now, my parents seriously wonder whether they ever want to attend another public political meeting. Talking to them yesterday afternoon, I didn’t have anything encouraging or reassuring to say.

Good posts on this subject: John Scalzi. Digby.

Comments on All of my opinions about the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ):
#1 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 06:52 PM:

Yes, I've seen a number of websites (left and right) postulate that the era of easy access to Congressional reps is over. Neither side thinks that's a good thing.

#2 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 06:57 PM:

I'm still reeling from the news, and I have no close personal connection to it at all. I'm sure that every senator and representative is going to have to think very, very carefully about easy-access public events, and that can't be a good thing for democracy.

#3 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 07:24 PM:

I hope this doesn't have a chilling effect. It doesn't have to. People still fly on airplanes and work at post offices.

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 07:57 PM:

I've attended public political meetings in Jamaica, a country where one of my MPs (i.e., the elected representatives of the constituencies where I lived) was obliged to defend himself with a sidearm, at a meeting that came under attack, and another was shot to death. I don't think that reducing accessibility is the solution. It makes no sense to give in to fear, especially when one fact that appears to shine out in this case is that the murderous idiot in this case was overcome by people who showed decency and courage.

#5 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 08:10 PM:

Absolutely it's going to have the effect of further isolating our representatives from us. Dammit.

I only heard about the shooting this morning (Sunday) and by the time I read the headlines and turned on the TV, Congresscritters were talking about better protecting themselves.

For what it's worth, as a longtime Tucsonan (though I have actually lived in Phoenix longer than I lived in Tucson), I have shopped and worked in that shopping center so I know it very well. Which makes the whole thing closer to home than usual for me.

#6 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 08:20 PM:

Patrick, I somehow doubt that what you've posted is "all (your) opinions" on the subject. They're really useful bits of background information that go a long way towards showing us how your opinions are formed, and I'm glad to read them.

I'm merely pointing kindly to the idea that you're not using your usual precision of language, so I expect your opinions are much stronger than what you've just stated here. Which are facts, and the reports of others' emotional states, rather than opinions in se.

#7 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 08:31 PM:

Since there are no comments enabled on Digby's column, I'll respond to it here.

Regarding Trent Franks: I live in the Phoenix corner of his mostly-farmland, but oh so gerrymandered district. He and his staff are completely out of touch with reality, as my several interactions with his office have shown.

Here's hoping that redistricting moves me the hell out of his district into a new district, ad we elect someone with a brain.

Anyway, nothing in the Digby coulmn regarding Franks surprises me.

Final note in Digby's column:

Update: If they succeed in forcing Sheriff Dupnik to resign because he told the truth, we are well and truly fucked, my friends.
Well, yes we would be.

However, last time I checked, Clarence Dupnik was as popular in Pima County as Arpaio is here in Maricopa County. But Dupnik is a much better law-enforcement officer. I rather doubt he'll be made to resign over his comments. They will, however, be used against him in the next election.

#8 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 08:47 PM:
The way things are now, my parents seriously wonder whether they ever want to attend another public political meeting.

Terrorists 1, Citizens 0. Dammit.

#9 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 08:54 PM:

It seems a friend of a friend is related to Giffords. My folks, two of my sisters, and my nephews all live in Tuscon.

The world is smaller than it seems, for all that it is larger than we realise.

And yeah, I think this will make it harder to do business with my reps, esp. as I tend to have at least one piece of cutlery on me all the time.

#10 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 10:11 PM:

i despair.

I already thought the world has gone insane, with the extreme pandering to a stoopid candidate from alaska and etc.

This whole thing just makes me want to stop doing anything for the public good, including voting, because we obviously dan't stop the stoopid. ARRRGH

#11 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 10:37 PM:

I don't know if it is a reassuring thing to say, but I'd say that attending public events is no less dangerous today than it was a week ago. Or just going to the mall, the courthouse, or just living. According to Wikipedia there have been five members of congress killed while in office and seven wounded including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. It would seem being near a congressperson is probably less dangerous than standing near a president, all else being equal.

I don't say this to pooh-pooh fears. It is normal and rational to fear that this could be the start of a trend of assassination, but I am hopeful that it is not. I think the militias and fringe types will get a lot more scrutiny to see if there really was a second person involved or who or what inspired this young man to this gruesome act. I think that if there really are wider problems brewing we, as a country, will be able to deal with them and if we do not let fear rule us we can overcome them.

#12 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 09:29 AM:

It not only happened in my hometown, it happened in the shopping center where we bought groceries. I wasn't there but I can locate the spot within about twenty feet.

Meanwhile last time I was in Great Falls we were sitting in a coffee shop when Sen. Max Baucus appeared for some flesh-pressing.

What boggles me is that this guy wasn't locked away a lot earlier, like when a college professor kept looking back over his shoulder at this guy when writing on the blackboard-- just in case.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 09:45 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @ 10... I already thought the world has gone insane

It hasn't gone insane. It always was, but it used to be more difficult for the truly dangerous to cause so much harm.

#14 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 09:55 AM:

The thought that "someone should have locked him up earlier" disturbs me a bit; up to the time he pulled out his gun and shot Giffords, he had not done anything to warrant such actions against him. He did get arrested for illegal drug use, but other than that, he was a typical introverted teen looking for some kind of identity.

Was he mentally disturbed? Probably so, but how do we identify and provide treatment to those needing it? Treatment is voluntary except in the more extreme cases; should everyone be required to visit a psychiatrist annually just to make sure they aren't psychotic?

I understand what some here are saying, but I don't see how it's possible to detect these types of personalities without forcing everyone into mandatory psychiatric screening sessions.

#15 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 10:50 AM:

re 14: Well, YMMV, but if you believe this Wash. Post article (more here) he was scaring the bejeezus out of people at Pima Community College to the point of being removed from a class and eventually made to withdraw from the college. He was not just a typical introverted teen.

#16 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:11 AM:

Serge #13:

You mean, like some wacko throwing a bomb that triggers a huge war? Or some nobody with a pistol killing the president and changing history?

#17 ::: Dave Luckett sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:25 AM:

All that I have been able to access about Loughner is that he was incoherently and incandescently angry about something. What that something was, we will probably never know, in the sense of being able to define it. He was himself incapable of stating it in any terms that approach rationality.

There was no way to identify him. There are tens of millions like him. He was in the Texas Book Depository, and at the Lorraine Motel, and the Dakota, and the Murragh Building, and Port Arthur, and Dunblaine. You find his shadow across the internet. He's everywhere.

What do you do about him? You put him away. You care for the wounded, pray for the dead, grieve with the grieving. You treat him justly, because the alternative is to let his justice rule. You treat him with mercy, because the alternative is to be merciless. You weep. Then you go on. And the last of these is the hardest.

Easy for me to say. My thoughts go with America. May she be what she always was.

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:36 AM:

albatross @ 16... True, but please note that I said it's becoming more difficult, not that it never happened. Had wackos of the 19th Century had access to a jetliner, they would have become more noticeable. As it was, there were enough empty spots in the world that they could disappear. Or they could join various govt-sponsored genocides and/or conquests.

#19 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:47 AM:

C.Wingate #15,

Yes, he was disruptive. Yes, he was creeping people out in the classroom. But, show me where he was behaving to the point he needed involuntary psychiatric examinations performed on him. Apparently the instructor didn't feel threatened enough from him until he began ranting about his 1st Amendment rights, weeks after he began behaving like this.

I'm not defending anything he's done. I am saying that all the comments about "doing something" are now being made in Monday Morning Quarterbacking mode. It's always easy to see warning signs after the fact; the tough part is seeing them BEFORE the fact. In my opinion, what he did in the past didn't qualify for the kind of examination and incarceration some here have advocated. If you can point to some action he performed that would qualify, please do so.

#20 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 12:31 PM:

Gun control, anyone? Apparently, even after all the red flags raised by Loughner's algebra teacher, prior arrests, strange behavior, etc., he was still able to walk into a sporting goods store and purchase a glock... using his own name?

#21 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 12:57 PM:

John L@14, 19: I, too, am disturbed about the idea of violating a person's basic civil rights based on what seems to me to be relatively mild disruptive behavior.

What percentage of people with a drug arrest (and I stand solidly in opposition to the war on some drugs) and a bit of trouble in a classroom are actually dangerous?

Just what level of conformity should we be enforcing with the power of the state?

How seriously do we take the ability of our psychologists to determine if a person actually poses a danger to others? And just how long are we willing to lock people up for on the basis of a psychologist's opinion?

People are looking, obviously, for safety. But what most of the proposals they're making will buy them is, I think, Franklin's "a little temporary security". And the cost of seriously pursuing those proposals would be the nastiest, most pitiless, police state yet developed, where even the suspicion of psychological deviation would lead to forced treatment or incarceration.

#22 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 12:59 PM:

re 19: There's a spectrum of threatening behavior and of course we can differ both as to where the line should be drawn and whether this guy is on one side or the other of whatever line might be drawn. Right now this guy looks a lot like Seung-Hui Cho: simply radiating evidence of dangerous psychological disturbance.

#23 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 01:39 PM:

And yet, he aced a philosophy class he was taking at the same time as the math class. If you spoke with his instructor or fellow students in that class, do you think they would call him "creepy" or "disruptive"?

It's clear Loughron was mentally disturbed, to the point where he acted on whatever stimulus that aimed him at the Congresswoman.

Does walking around outside a classroom, writing strange phrases on tests, yelling about 1st Amendment rights in a math class, or having a big smile one day constitute "sufficient evidence to be involuntarily incarcerated for mental evaluations"? Simply "radiating" some kind of psychological bad karma isn't good enough for me to go that far.

#24 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 02:03 PM:

According to an article in today's USA Today, a security guard had to be stationed in the math class based on the teacher's fears for his safety.

Again, this is *before* he purchased a gun at the local sporting goods store. Obviously, locking someone up for strange/borderline dangerous behavior is impossible, but is getting him on some sort of "no gun purchase" list completely unreasonable?

#25 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 02:21 PM:

Scalzi's wrong about there being no narrative to Loughner's ideology, but I was, too, until I began looking deeper. Loughner needed a therapist, but his delusions took their shape from people like Jared Taylor, David Icke, Alex Jones, Lyndon LaRouche, Glenn Beck, and David Wynn Miller. All the apparently disconnected pieces are there: gold standard, grammar control, the second constitution... The only part that's unclear is whether he was antisemitic. Some of those folks are, and some aren't.

As for the calls for civility, I share the wish for politer discourse, but the calls are worrisome, too. It's too easy to use civility as an excuse for silencing.

#26 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 02:24 PM:

Oh, I should add that while I strongly disagreed with Giffords' blue dog politics, I voted for her. She belongs to a friend's synagogue. The whole business involves my community, and it sickens me enormously.

Part of what sickens me is that our governor, Jan Brewer, has a psychologically troubled son, yet she cut millions from AZ's mental health care budget.

#27 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 02:50 PM:

DanR@24: Obviously, locking someone up for strange/borderline dangerous behavior is impossible, but is getting him on some sort of "no gun purchase" list completely unreasonable?

The problem is setting up criteria for such a list that will make it both useful for catching poeple like Loughner and Cho but still prevent it being used for politically/personally motivated attacks (like the Terrorist No Fly List, which lists everyone with a name that even sounds suspicious, including nuns and children). I personally wouldn't trust the current administration to set such a thing up, mainly because it would be hijacked but Tea Baggers in Congress and turned into a "compromise" list that effectively duplicates all the worlst problems of the No Fly List.

#28 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 03:13 PM:


I agree that the hypothetical "no gun" list might be controversial/political were it based on subjective criteria, but something as simple as prior arrests/convictions could have prevented this particular purchase.

That is not to say the ex-convict should be denied his God-given right to semi-automatic weaponry. It might be as simple as implementing a two-year probationary period after the arrest... or else some kind of accredited psychological evaluation/course to release someone.

#29 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 03:36 PM:

Will Shetterly @ 27: Can you or anyone else clue me in on the stuff about 'grammar control'? (It sounds as though he's claiming that copy-editors are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. It's also giving me a whole new view of the phrase 'grammar Nazi'.)

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 03:42 PM:

will shetetrly @ 25... I share the wish for politer discourse, but the calls are worrisome, too. It's too easy to use civility as an excuse for silencing

...which definitely isn't what's going on here.

#31 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 03:52 PM:

Something as simple as prior arrests/convictions could have prevented this particular purchase.

Well, you're already forbidden from buying a gun if you've ever had a felony conviction, or a conviction for some misdemeanors (I know domestic violence, not sure about others).

I'm thinking that prior arrests would be problematic, because the police have a great deal of discretion in who they arrest.

#32 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 04:02 PM:

praisegod barebones @29:

From what I've pieced together from several news stories, it seems that the shooter believed that the US government was doing some sort of brain washing through education.

He seemed to have had a grudge against Gifford because she failed to answer a question he asked at an earlier political event. The question? "What is government if words have no meaning?"

I have no idea how to answer that one, so I can understand if the Congresswoman couldn't do so. I'm not sure any answer she could have given would have satisfied this man.

His other fears seemed to revolve around "currency" and a claim that most US citizens were "illiterate." He seems to have used words the way the Catepillar does in Alice.

#33 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 04:04 PM:

praisegods barebones @ #29, Here's an explanation of the grammar fixation which may or may not be accurate. It's a better theory than any other I've seen so far.

#34 ::: SR Chalup ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 04:19 PM:

Dear G-d, it sounds like this grammar thing is a Pet Semetary version of Bandlerian and/or Chomskyan theories of transformational grammar.

Without buying into any of the Loughner or Wynn Miller rhetoric and ideals, I can say that I do believe there are ways that teaching a certain type of deep structure can influence thinking. What I don't believe is that there is any particular group, including the US Government, that is with-it enough to attempt to do this on a concerted scale.

If I had kids, though, I'd definitely be looking at textbooks to see what kind of presumptive ideologies were afforded by the combination of grammar, word choices, illustrations, etc. Look at Dick, Jane, Spot, and Puff, and their white-picketed front yard. Sure didn't look like MY living situation!

#35 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 04:23 PM:

re the purchase of a firearm.

Any felony conviction precludes one (unless it has been removed by pardon).

Domestic violence misdemeanor convictions preclude one.

Those are both supposed to be in the mandatory DoJ check made when one attempts to purchase a firearm.

18 U.S.C. § 922(n) also prohibits anyone under indictment or information for an offense punishable my more than one year is prohibited from obtaining a firearm by interstate commerce. As this is a boilerplate question on the AFT form for purchase I suspect the caselaw holds that almost all firearms purchases are interstate in nature. Answering a disqualifying question falsely is a felony.

I know that in Calif., a "firearms" offense, even if a misdemeanor will also preclude one from a firearms purchase.

#36 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 05:14 PM:

As an actual weird, crazy person with one of the 'scary' disorders, who sometimes strikes people as disturbing (and yet hasn't harmed anyone and doesn't ever intend to), may I ask people to edge away from the dangerous == crazy line I see the conversation tapdancing on? Phrases like 'radiating evidence of dangerous psychological disturbance' and 'Obviously, locking someone up for strange/borderline dangerous behavior is impossible, but is getting him on some sort of "no gun purchase" list completely unreasonable?' are making me feel very, very othered.

It takes more than being mentally ill or coming across as disturbing to go shooting a bunch of people -- like being a total asshole. Most crazy people aren't total assholes, and it'd be nice if everyone would keep that in mind. It'd also be nice if you'd talk about us a little more like fellow human beings and a little less like interesting and frightening animals.

Please understand I don't ask this lightly. It's very hard for me to speak up about it at all. I realize I'm just a lurker, but I read ML almost every day and it's vastly upsetting to suddenly feel this unwelcome.

#37 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 05:21 PM:

Serge, I know no one is calling for silencing here, but it's happening on the left. The wackiest example has to be this:

Hillary Clinton made a comment that I found a bit creepy: "The extremists and their voices, the crazy voices that sometimes get on the TV, that's not who we are, that's not who you are, and what we have to do is get through that and make it clear that that doesn't represent either American or Arab ideas or opinions." Remember that on issues like taxing the rich, the "crazy voices that sometimes get on the TV" are the majority of the population. The first way to control debate is to control the terms of the debate.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 05:43 PM:

will shetterly @ 37... art at which the 21st Century's previous Administration excelled. ("If you oppose the PATRIOT Act, then you are unpatriotic.")

#39 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 06:03 PM:

Renatus @ 36: Thank you for having the courage to post this. You're right, neither "weird" nor "crazy" are the same thing as "dangerous".

#40 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 06:47 PM:

Generally in the US the standard for being barred from purchasing or owning firearms is if you have ever been involuntarily held for observation, or would have been involuntarily held if it were not for their consent. One of my housemates is schizophrenic & is responding very well to medication, all things considered, but is permanently barred from owning a firearm by both California and Federal law. California ban only requires a 72-hour hold to have been placed, while the feds want a more serious hold.

#41 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 07:03 PM:

I've seen a lot of people jumping on previously expressed bandwagons (toxic political dialogue, gun control, the other side being harbringers of evil). None of this is more than reflexive thoughtlessness. The guy did what he did because he was nuts, and there will always be someone out there who is nuts.

Guns have been a security problems since, oh, kings started worrying about pistols being brought into their presence in the sixteenth century. That's not going to change.

People who don't care if they survive are always going to be hard to stop. That's not going to change.

Sometimes freedom has bad consequences. I'd still rather live in freedom than not.

#42 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 07:04 PM:

Renatus, I hope my quoting Clinton didn't contribute to your concern. I'd like to think everyone here knows that people with mental health issues are far more likely to be victims than victimizers. When I mentioned Brewer cutting Arizona's mental health budget by 37 million, I meant to imply that I was outraged for the sake of the folks who would have made direct use of those services.

You'll find there are plenty of brain crips in this community. I experienced fairly severe depression when I was suffering from a B12 deficiency, and I would never claim to meet any standard of normalcy now.

#43 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 07:09 PM:

Serge, Obama extended the Patriot Act this year, so I'd say the responsibility for it is now bipartisan. But I completely agree with your interpretation of what its name was intended to do.

#44 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 07:24 PM:

dcb @ #39, thanks.

Tony @ #41, I find your comment hilarious (in an "if I don't laugh I'll cry" sort of way) coming after mine. It's not only othering, it's sloppy thinking.

Will @ #42, no worries.

#45 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 07:35 PM:

will shetterly (# 42)

I don't think that the Brewer's having a son with mental-health issues appears anywhere in her mindset about cutting services, except as protective cover -- I don't think that *she* has to worry about his getting a shortfall in services, either from an insurance or a direct-pay consideration.

#46 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 07:43 PM:

Renatus @ 36: Hear, hear.

#47 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 08:20 PM:

Renatus @44: I'm using "crazy" in a much narrower sense, I think, than you are. There's definitely a line between "mentally ill in some way crazy" and "violent, dangerous to others crazy". My apologies.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 08:35 PM:

will shetterly @ 43... Ah, what can I say but what I've said before, which is that I expect politicians to disappoint me? Still, I'll take a disappointing Democratic politician over one from the Other Side. Yes, I am very partisan.

#49 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 08:53 PM:

For background to David Wynn Miller see this (hilarous) account of his misadventures in Australia on Language log. Also a posting there from a few hours ago pointing out that there is as yet no actual known connection between Loughner and Miller. Though who knows what will turn up tomorrow.

Miller's brand of bollocks is strangely annoying for reasons I can't quite fathom. After all there are plenty of poets and comedians whose language is as mangled. And some very unfortunate but harmless people with unusual neurological damage of the sort Oliver Sacks writes about. Perhaps its because there seems to be an underlying nastiness to it. Or maybe that's me reading between the lines. Its its certainly not possible to read much *in* the lines.

#50 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 10:20 PM:

Tony Zbaraschuk @41, there's more than a little irony in your dismissal of other people's opinions as "reflexive thoughtlessness" and "jumping on previously expressed bandwagons" in a comment that otherwise consists entirely of you reciting of things you've clearly decided long ago, expressed in shop-worn formulas and ritual phrases.

This isn't to say that I disagree with your opinions about gun rights. Or that I agree with them. I'm just saying: People who disagree with you have probably put at least as much thought into their opinions as you have. Probably more, if your writing here is an indication.

Do better.

#51 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 10:31 PM:

Renatus @36 :

Please don't feel unwelcome or 'othered' because of anything I said... I'm more of a lurker than you, and certainly I don't speak for the rest of the community.

I agree with you that there is an important distinction to be made between "mentally unstable" and "total asshole." It is that very distinction that needs to be taken into account at the gun register of your local Wal-Mart.

The specifics in the Loughton case are as follows:

1) Previous arrest for non-violent drug possession. Should this be forgivable in terms of allowing purchase a firearm? Probably, but would it hurt to put up a red flag on the record? Not really.

2) Expelled, or asked to leave school, due to dangerous/disturbing behavior, and teachers fearing for their safety. Should this alone be enough to ban the student from owning a weapon? No, but should it raise another flag? Maybe.

What I'm suggesting is that someone looking to buy a gun should have to go through a more arduous process than currently in place.

Look, it takes three or four months to get a building permit. Experts, officials, bureaucrats, and committees pore over the construction drawings and do their best to put the builder through the ringer... Is he licensed? Does he have the proper insurance? What are his cost estimates? All in the name of public safety.

Why not make a gun purchaser go through similar screening?

#52 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 10:47 PM:

32: The answer is "What is the colour of things in the dark?"1 But I suppose that's hard to toss off at a political Q&A.

1from C. S. Lewis: the Zen Years

#53 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 10:53 PM:

C Wingate @51, I'd go with "If words have no meaning, how am I supposed to understand your question, much less answer it?"

#54 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 10:54 PM:

re 33: The "he's a leftist" talking point is making the rounds of Libertaria (e.g. here in Lew Rockwell).

#55 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:23 PM:

DanR@50: For one thing, we know a LOT more about what makes buildings stand up than we do about what makes people go on killing sprees.

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:30 PM:

Once again, folks, please check the preview when you go to post your comments. If a link is greyed out, that means that it's malformed and won't work as a link, and also that your entire comment will be held for moderation (since malformed links are one of the telltale signs of Spam).

We release 'em as soon as we notice 'em, but we can't fix the links (the URL you were trying to link to is gone, it's how MT does things). And your post will be farther up the list of comments, where it's less likely to be noticed and draw comments of its own.

#57 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:24 AM:

Terry Karney #35: an offense punishable my more than one year is prohibited from obtaining a firearm by interstate commerce

Ah, so that's probably a reason why there are "year-and-a-day sentences.

#58 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:30 AM:

Earl Cooley @57 -- it's not just firearms sales for that: there are several prohibitions that trigger on the "more than one year" level, I'm sure.

#59 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:35 AM:

The break is, by and large, one year, and less, is a misdemeanor, and one goes to jail.

More than one year (year and a day) is a felony, and one goes to prison.

#60 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:20 AM:

DanR @ #51 writes: Look, it takes three or four months to get a building permit....Why not make a gun purchaser go through similar screening?

If I decide that I need a gun to defend myself because of some situation that crops up, I probably need one within hours or, at most, days, not weeks or months.

If it'll take months, maybe I should start now, even though I don't need a gun now.

#61 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:34 AM:

@James D. Macdonald: "Once again, folks, please check the preview when you go to post your comments. If a link is greyed out, that means that it's malformed and won't work as a link"

Whoops. I thought I had - I followed my links in preview and got the pages I intended to see. Apologies. I wonder what went wrong.

The pages are still where they were so I'll see if I can write the URLs in clear if anyone wants to read them (Language Log is usually worth reading)

Their original account of David Wynn Miller in Australia, "All words have 900 definitions?" is at And yesterday's "Did Loughner read Miller?" is (They think there is no real evidence so far)

#62 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:38 AM:

DanR at #51:
"Expelled, or asked to leave school, due to dangerous/disturbing behavior, and teachers fearing for their safety. Should this alone be enough to ban the student from owning a weapon? No, but should it raise another flag? Maybe."

Okay, how about if a person's been banned from school or workplace, until a psychiatric exam declares them harmless (or mostly harmless), more than once?

Twice? Is that enough?

Three times? Is that enough?

Even if they've never been arrested or convicted of any crime? What would be enough to put them on a "no-guns" list?

(Yes, it's a serious question.)

#63 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:07 AM:

I want to know what kind of "situation" might "crop up" that could cause Niall McAuley, or anyone else not engaged as law-enforcement or military personnel, to "need" to purchase--"within hours or, at most, days"--a firearm capable of firing thirty bullets in seven to fifteen seconds. Is Niall planning on getting into a private firefight that requires that kind of rate of fire? Is there some imaginable threat to Niall that requires the deployment (without delay!) of a weapon of such broadband lethality, but which isn't important enough to require the involvenment of law enforcement? More to the point, is there some reason that everyone within fifty miles of Niall doesn't have an immediate and legitimate right to know that Niall now has operational control of this machine designed for nothing other than the rapid slaughter of multiple human beings?

Honest to God, I've spent years being very lukewarm about "gun control" and very sympathetic to defenders of private gun ownership, but I really am finding this hard to understand. People who talk like Niall McAuley in comment #60, above, seem to be assuming that owning one or more these killing machines will somehow defend them from harm, as if with sufficient skill they could shoot away the incoming bullets. It is not my understanding that this is generally the case.

And as for "freedom," the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that a society that treats gun ownership as Arizona now does, making it trivially easy for the Jared Lee Loughners of the world to obtain enough firepower to take over a small country, is not a "free" society but rather a terrified one. Much has been made of the creepiness of government making more and more arbitrary decisions about who is and isn't acceptably, normatively sane. I agree. I really wonder why, instead of getting government further into such a vexed business, we can't possibly simply make it a bit harder for anyone to impulsively buy a weapon like this.

#64 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:10 AM:

Tony @ 47: I'm using "crazy" in a much narrower sense, I think, than you are. There's definitely a line between "mentally ill in some way crazy" and "violent, dangerous to others crazy". My apologies.

So I'm not like those people over there, am I? Yes, well.

This isn't about the gun issue. I'm selfish and far more concerned over the very real othering in speech and thought of people like me that's happening here and all over, right now.

It sounds like you're imagining some bright and clear line between 'sick but mostly harmless' 'dangerous hairtrigger scaryperson'. There isn't one. It's a gradient, and not a smooth one -- the shading-into dips and jags depending on all sorts of factors. I ought to know; I have bipolar disorder, and prior to medication, my illness was rapidly shading into dangerous territory. I can't say I didn't want to hurt anyone, because at times I very much did -- mixed state rages had little room for caring or sense or anything but burning, blistering anger at anything that hurt or irritated me.

I don't have the luxury of painting Loughner as one of those scary crazy people because without medication I would become one of them. What makes me different may be that I trained myself to give myself constant reminders of other people's basic humanity, to challenge my bigotries, to ask myself, "How would you feel if...?" I forced myself to have empathy even when it was the last thing I wanted to do.

So no. Loughner is not just a 'nut', which looks more and more to me to be shorthand for incomprehensible and monstrous. He's more comprehensible than many people seem to want to think. To paint him as some frightening creature that isn't quite human, as I've seen here, is a failure of empathy.

Please stop.

#65 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:21 AM:

Renatus, thanks for that. You're right that it's wrong--and also a mistake--to "paint [Loughner] as some frightening creature that isn't quite human." "Human" most definitely includes people like Loughner.

Where I demur is that I think it's legitimate to say that Loughner is frightening. We are frightened by certain kinds of behavior--for good reason. It's good, when experiencing that, to remember that any of us is also capable of being the frightening one. Life is complicated and none of us have a lock on some assured state of normative "sanity." Humility is never wrong.

#66 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:22 AM:

Bruce @62:

I'm not sure what the ideal threshold would be to put someone on the "no-gun" list, but I'd rather see that border shifted a bit more toward the realm of caution. That said, I don't think being thrown over to one side of such a list should necessarily be an irreversible edict. Questionable prospects might be compelled to take some sort of standardized evaluation to get themselves off.

Again, denying anyone deadly firearms is a sticky proposition. Any law would have to dance around notions of discrimination, second amendment considerations, etc. I'm just saying it might be better patrolled, or at least as tightly monitored as the issuance of driver's licenses or building permits.

As it stands, gun sales seem to me only a shade more regulated than fishing permits.

#67 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:35 AM: obtain enough firepower to take over a small country...

I happen to know, of my own direct knowledge, that a year's supply of ammunition for the entire Bolivian Marine Corps fits in the bed of a small pickup truck.

#68 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:44 AM:

"I happen to know, of my own direct knowledge, that a year's supply of ammunition for the entire Bolivian Marine Corps fits in the bed of a small pickup truck."

Well, that would follow, since Bolivia entirely lacks a seacoast.

Although perhaps they do need a contigent of Marines to prevent foreigners from stealing public signs adjacent to two of the world's most embarrassingly-named lakes...

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:46 AM:

Patrick @ 68... two of the world's most embarrassingly-named lakes

Dare we ask?

Meanwhile, over at Lake Veronica...

#70 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:59 AM:

Serge, a quick Google suggests Lake Titicaca and Lake Poopoo.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:02 AM:

Lila @ 70... How could I forget Titicaca, which sounds even more embarassing in French, what with 'ti' being a slangy version of 'petit', which means small?

#72 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:15 AM:

While Bolivia was cruelly robbed of its seacoast in the War of the Pacific (1879)-1884), they still have a Marine Corps. The words "Forget, hell" translate well into Spanish.

#73 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:34 AM:

Patrick #63 - for at least 5 years that I can recall, a nearly friend of mine has been saying that an armed society is a scared (or frightened) society. This may have had something to do with visitng New York from the UK and running into the cultural differences between the countries, as well as some people who were entirely happy to show that they had lethal weapons on their person. He's trained in martial arts for years, been a bouncer and other things, including mental health nurse, and I suspect would suggest that it is only rational to be scared in situations involving guns.

#74 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:01 AM:

Generally speaking, any society where a significant number of people choose to carry weapons is by definition an uncivilized society. One of the main points of civilization is that you shouldn't have to carry a freaking pocket cannon.

#75 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:04 AM:

If there is no reason why people need handguns, or in particular Glocks with 30 round magazines, by all means ban them, if that'll help.

If people do from time to time need handguns for legal purposes (like self defense), do they always get three months notice?

Recognizing a legitimate right to buy a gun for self-defense is a bit pointless if someone with a need to buy a gun for self-defense can't do it in time to actually defend themselves.

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:13 AM:

Speaking of self defense ... if you have something above three nano-seconds notice, three months is as good as three minutes.

#77 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:19 AM:

Niall, 75: In my home state, "guns for self-defense" is often construed to mean "shooting a would-be burglar in the back as he's running away and not being prosecuted, or if prosecuted being found not guilty." You will forgive my twitchiness on the subject, I am sure.

#78 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:21 AM:

Niall @75, perhaps my imagination isn't far-reaching enough, but the first, most obvious situation that comes to mind for "need a handgun, FAST" is the type of situation where you're encouraged to get a restraining order: someone is stalking you, and you have reason to believe they have violent intentions towards you.

I am not suggesting that, in such a situation, the recipient of threats should rely entirely on the restraining order. I'm pretty well convinced that all a restraining order does is to create a paper trail in the event that violence DOES happen, so that the police and the courts can't say "we had NO IDEA zie would do this," and so that appropriate punishment can more easily be meted out.

What I AM suggesting is that, in such a situation, if the threatened party chooses to arm themselves (which might be a Very Good Idea), that, if they choose a gun rather than pepper spray or mace, that a six-shot revolver is entirely adequate to the purpose. A confrontation lending itself to armed defense is likely to take place at close quarters, and if you can't stop an attacker from attacking at just-out-of-arm's-reach (because you don't want the attacker to be able to grab you) with six shots at your disposal, you probably aren't going to get to use the next 24.

Mass zombie-attack scenarios, while certainly lending themselves to the 30-shot magazine solution, are a little more implausible, and, in any case, if the zombies attack, you're probably not going to be bothering with permits if you make it to the gun shop.

#79 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:36 AM:

A 9 mil semi-auto is not a very effective anti-zombie weapon, no matter how long the magazine is.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:54 AM:

Steve C @ 74...

Pocket canons?
I say go for ballistic missels!

#81 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:59 AM:

Minnesota has provisions for a person getting an "emergency" permit to carry. If somebody unexpectedly starts getting credible death threats, for example, there's a provision for them to get their permit in less than 30 days. The sort of thing that would trigger that bit of the law is the sort of thing where I might say somebody "suddenly needed" a gun.

The other kind of "suddenly needing" a gun doesn't leave time to go to the store, of course.

Restraining orders are notoriously ineffective at actually preventing violence. This shouldn't surprise anybody -- the violence is already quite illegal, so adding violation of a restraining order to the charges is not going to impress much of anybody.

In general I would give a person surprised by an intruder in their own home every benefit of the doubt in judging what they did to defend themselves. Apparently juries in Texas and elsewhere mostly agree with me.

The sort of bad example we liked to throw at people in carry permit classes were things like this: That half-dressed adolescent male in the upstairs hall of your house at three in the morning may be your daughter's boyfriend. Yes, you told her not to bring him home, but she has legal standing to invite him into the house even so. If you shoot him without his offering any threat, it will NOT go well for you in court. Not to mention probably complicating your relationship with your daughter. (The version of the Minnesota carry permit course I taught, basically the AACFI version, spent most of its time trying to get people to understand how much trouble they could get into through inappropriately shooting somebody, and what the law thought about "appropriate" vs. "inappropriate". Reasonably in immediate fear of death or great bodily harm, reluctant participant, etc.)

#82 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:04 PM:

Niall @79, I agree; in case of zombie attack, I'm throwing in with my friends with the large defensible house, and their plan is to put me up on the roof with a long gun, because I'm relatively small and light and will cause the least strain on the shingles, and my distance vision is decent due to LASIK, so I'm not at risk of losing my eyeglasses up there.

However, leaving aside the zombie attacks, did you have in mind any other situations besides "threatening stalker" that could cause an otherwise unarmed person to need a gun FAST? Does the situation lend itself particularly to handgun vs. long gun, or large-magazine semi-auto vs. revolver? Because I'm very sympathetic to the idea that someone targeted by a stalker might need a handgun FAST, and that it might be best to let them buy it with a fairly cursory background check.

Would it need more than the sort of "running their license" that a cop does in five minutes at a traffic stop to see if they had outstanding warrants for arrest, or prior convictions? I've been stopped for traffic violations, and I had a background check when I worked for the census. The traffic stuff comes up quickly. The census check took a couple of weeks, but I have no idea if that was due to complexity or due to the sheer volume of checks they had to do all at once. What's the mechanism?

Could there be an expedited form if, say, you go to the police, start the process for a restraining order (which goes through the courts and thus is not immediate) and then, if you tell the police "I also want a gun," they run your name, clear you, and you take that to the gun shop? Who will then sell you a gun, and put you through a couple of hours of safety training before you get to walk out the door?

There's got to be some balance between "I seriously think this guy may try to break down my door tonight and kill me and/or my kids, I want a gun" and "felons should not have guns, and nobody should get to have one without basic safety training." A couple of hours of training really isn't enough, but it's at least a start.

And I do think the damage in the recent shooting would have been lessened if he'd run out of ammo sooner.

#83 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:11 PM:

A pilot has to go through additional training if he or she wants to fly complex, high-powered aircraft, or multi-engine planes. I don't see why the same principle can't be applied to firearms.

You get a basic proficiency check if you're buying a rifle or shotgun, additional training if you want a handgun, and still more training if you want a semi-automatic high-capacity gun. And more stringent background checks as well.

#84 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:14 PM:

My assumption is that anyone who's trying to kill me will probably shoot me in the back, if they have any sense at all. But then, given my previous experience with handguns, I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would choose to own one.

#85 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:15 PM:

ddb @ 81:

The sort of bad example we liked to throw at people in carry permit classes were things like this: That half-dressed adolescent male in the upstairs hall of your house at three in the morning may be your daughter's boyfriend. Yes, you told her not to bring him home, but she has legal standing to invite him into the house even so. If you shoot him without his offering any threat, it will NOT go well for you in court.

Exactly this happened up in northwest Arkansas recently. The boy is paralyzed for life. I lost track of the father's case.

Patrick @ 63:

And as for "freedom," the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that a society that treats gun ownership as Arizona now does, making it trivially easy for the Jared Lee Loughners of the world to obtain enough firepower to take over a small country, is not a "free" society but rather a terrified one.

The "Congress on Your Corner" events, I have read, are a response to the Tea Party riots at congressional town halls. Now these events may be replaced by--what? It's a knife straight into the ability of citizens to speak with their representatives.

You know what it reminds me of? The tactics of the Closers from John Barnes' Timeline Wars.

#86 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:19 PM:

A credible death threat is the situation I was thinking of. Here in Ireland, threats from the IRA, UVF or similar have been the only reason private citizens have been licensed to carry handguns in my lifetime (apart from an unimportant exception from 2004-2008).

#87 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:21 PM:

ddb@81: Unfortunately, the only cases I've seen were ones in which the homeowners never had an intruder within the house, and actually stepped outside to shoot the young man in the back as he walked away from the house, after failing to get help from the freaked-out spouse. This was Baton Rouge LA in 1994.

The other major case in Baton Rouge was the father of a child who'd been molested; he took his gun with him on a drive of several hours, then shot the arrested suspect (not even convicted, only a suspect on his way to be arraigned) in front of television cameras and police officers. The DA declined to prosecute.

I grew up in a small town about 60 miles north of New York City, full of hunters and not too terribly far from a river port city that was known to be a drug network hub. Even so, we managed to have only two gun-related murders in 60+ years, and they were more than 40 years apart. Very few people in town carry handguns, and no one seems to want any carry permits. They even disbanded the town police force about 10 years ago; the county sheriff patrols come through instead.

Handguns are not a panacea for the ills of society, and having expedited gun permits for "extraordinary reasons" does not fill me with pleasure. I'd rather have a trained person who knows how to use a handgun get a permit following a background check than have someone who may have a legitimate reason to be scared but doesn't know how to use a gun.

Speaking as a woman who lives alone, I don't feel the need to have even a shotgun to defend myself. I have the most powerful weapon right here, and I've got two large dogs. I've studied martial arts, and I've willingly gone towards the roaring lions with my little syringe.

When the zombie apocalypse comes, I'll make myself a flamethrower. I hear those are very effective even at some distance.

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:29 PM:

Ginger @ 87... I've willingly gone towards the roaring lions with my little syringe

So 's why MGM's lion roared.

#89 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:30 PM:

Should read...

So that's why MGM's lion roared.

#90 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:30 PM:

Mike Royko, the late Chicago Tribune columnist, had a gun-owner of the year award that he handed out. One year, the winner was a fellow who woke up in the middle of the night, and said he saw something moving near the foot of his bed. He reached for his handy .22 pistol, took careful aim, and shot the tip of his penis off. There was nothing in the room.

Can't blame him, right. There wasn't a warning label on the gun that said, "DON'T AIM GUN BETWEEN YOUR FEET WHILE LYING ON YOUR BACK. SEVERE INJURY TO YOUR TALLYWHACKER MAY RESULT."

#91 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:35 PM:

Rikibeth@82: Seems to me the both clever and responsible thing to do would be to get a gun, and training, as early as you can (at age 21, currently, for a handgun). This avoids the complications of having to adapt to a gun in your life at the same time you're dealing with other disruptions and stressors, and makes certain kinds of delays and road-blocks less troublesome. And gives you a lot more time to practice before you might need it. I'd be happy to include it in the highschool curriculum, like driving.

However, lots of people seem to be against owning guns (at least as a choice for themselves), and then change their minds when a Situation comes up, which leaves them in the position of needing to deal with it in a hurry.

Despite how little training most civilians have with their guns, they seem to have a higher hit percentage than the police do in gunfights. It's pretty remarkable. (I suspect that it's because a lot of police consider their handgun training to be a formality to get past, and quite a few civilians who carry handguns for self-defense take it pretty seriously and actually have more training than many cops.)

The feds run an "instant background check" system for gun purchases; the gun dealer calls in, and gets an immediate answer. It's not as thorough as an FBI complete background check, but it's also a LOT cheaper. (It's also terribly difficult to get errors corrected in.)

While Loughner got his gun through legal channels, blocking that route wouldn't necessarily have blocked him or others from getting one. Given that one is planning to commit multiple murders, I don't think most people would balk at buying a gun illegally.

Revolvers are much fatter than semi-autos, and correspondingly more difficult / uncomfortable to conceal. Most revolvers that people actually carry are 5-shot, not 6 (the cylinder is the maximum width). They also have much heavier triggers (there's more mechanical stuff linked to the trigger stroke, including turning the cylinder). I tend to recommend revolvers for most civilians anyway, but it's a minority opinion in the RKBA community.

Mass shootings are tragic, but they're also very rare (as measured by deaths per 100,000 like everything else). Meanwhile, civilians shoot attackers a few times a day (I see that many aggregated from the media, and I believe the aggregation doesn't get all the reported cases, and I believe that not all the cases are reported), and in surveys say they've defended themselves at rates of around a million times a year (middle hundred thousands to low millions depending on the survey; this counts cases where they didn't have to shoot, is based on self-reporting, and may be based on misunderstanding the situation they were in). I don't want to lose the more common good in an attempt to stop the rare bad.

#92 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:39 PM:

In most social cases, there are a lot of things obviously on one side of the line or the other... but it would be a mistake to assume that just because night and day exist, therefore twilight is inconceivable. Things move, lines are broad -- and any adjustment in the measuring method just gives rise to different sets of problems.

It's not easy, and I'm sorry for my language above.

#93 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:43 PM:

Ginger@87: Handguns are not a panacea for the ills of society I agree very strongly with that. But, IMHO, they're also not a symptom of a deep disease in society. In every human society ever, there have always been people who put short-term self-interest strongly above any social contract, or who have very poor impulse control, and individuals have always needed to protect themselves. The handgun is the best tool so far developed for that task.

They're just a tool.

I believe that your choice of flamethrower for the zombie apocalypse is one of the very best available.

#94 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:02 PM:

Ginger, ddb: The question about flamethrowers vs. zombies is whether they're the sort of zombies who're STOPPED by fire, or whether they can only be dropped by headshots and fire will just keep them coming at you except now they're ON FIRE, and the flamethrower is better to get rid of the dropped zombies.

I asked a friend who possibly spends too much time thinking about these things his opinion of the 9mm, semi-auto, 30-shot magazine handgun as an anti-zombie weapon. He thought it had some merit but recommended carrying a .22 pistol and .22 rifle with bipod which took the same ammo, to give you choice of range and lighten your load. Apparently accuracy and velocity are more important when dropping zombies than weight.

#95 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:22 PM:

...oh dear. Should not have brought the subject up with my friend. Am getting my inbox crowded with detailed zombie escape plans including suggested modifications to the car, and a bug-out packing list. Did I mention he possibly spends too much time thinking about this?

#96 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:25 PM:

Can I just say how much the gun control from a zombie apocalypse perspective fills me with glee? Because how much heat is diffused by the discussion of flaming zombies? And yet the real debate can continue with so much less acrimony because everyone remembers to laugh. So thank you, commentariat, for another episode of "Why I Love it Here."

#97 ::: Bobbi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:33 PM:

Another good post:
Let's Get This Straight

Which begins:

[Trigger warning for violent rhetoric of many different stripes.]

Both sides are, in fact, not "just as bad," when it comes to institutionally sanctioned violent and eliminationist rhetoric.

#98 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:35 PM:

.22 ammo is certainly a LOT lighter per round. (Cheaper, too.) .22 semi-autos tend to be less reliable, though (because of the rimmed cartridge; creates complexities in the magazine), and I'd think reliability was at a premium in a zombie apocalypse.

You'll certainly need near and far defenses, and common ammo has a lot of logistic benefits.

I don't know enough about zombie biology to really debate what would stop them best. Is it a lot different from ordinary live humans? Must be at least in some ways, I suppose.

A 30-round magazine in something like a Glock is very inconvenient, because it sticks out the bottom of the grip about half-way. Changes the shape of the weapon completely, and makes many standard carry positions not very practical. Heavy, too. But for zombies, the large capacity may be pretty important. (The Glock 18 is the full-auto version of the 17, and might be VERY desirable in a zombie-wave attack. However, it'll empty a 30-round magazine in 0.14 seconds if you just hold the trigger back -- in fact you'd have to be rather precise on the trigger to NOT empty the magazine right away. The Glock standard mag I'm familiar with for the model 18 is 37 rounds, but that's not enough bigger than 30 to make much difference in time.)

#99 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:53 PM:

Zombie defense: 8 gauge, double-barrel sawed-off whippet gun, with zombie shot rounds.

Backup weapon: Thompson/Center Encore break-open single shot .600 Nitro Express pistol (for the oversize zombies especially). Packs a punch but has a relatively slow rate of fire.

Final line of defense: dual-wield pistol-whipping with the above.

#100 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:57 PM:

Sitting in front of the computer thinking about how I might secure my house and person against the Attack of the Flaming Zombies.

Large water barrels come to mind...

Possibly on the roof.

#101 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:19 PM:

Well, given my own situation, if I had a violent stalker, I'd go for Mace/pepper spray, and perhaps a taser or other stun weapon, because I'm one of those crazy people along with Renatus, and if I kept a gun in my house, I suspect that over the long run, the person to whom I'd pose the most danger is myself. Hell, until my housemate developed stomach problems that caused the doctor to strongly recommend staying away from NSAIDs for first-line pain relief, I balked at keeping significant quantities of Tylenol in the house, because I know far too well how easily you can kill yourself with a large bottle of the stuff.

I have some interest in firing guns at targets the way Teresa described in her post about the Tommy gun, but if I ever pursue that as a hobby, I'd rather the guns stay at the firing range, and not within easy reach.

I can haz Barryaran/Betan stunner?

#102 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:19 PM:

I want to back up to Renatus's comments, and Patrick's concurrence, and say "Right on."

Part of the problem is spillover from living in such a credential-oriented society. But a lot of the time, the labels useful in technical situations are not just useless but actively misleading in general life. Like casual uses of "crazy".

Very few people are actually as scared by mental illness, neurochemical impairment, and the like as they think they are, at least when it comes to dealing with strangers. Mostly because we don't actually know most other people's medical dossiers. What we have is behavior. This guy is responding in ways that don't seem to connect to anything the rest of us are saying, and that's confusing and worrisome. This guy is showing extreme anger in response to every minor setback, and that's scary. This guy is incomprehensible and boiling over, and that's confusing and scary. And it's not any more or less scary depending on the particular causes of his behavior, not when it's time to have to deal with him or to work out a way of not dealing with him.

More phenomenological language is really very often our friend when it's time to understand the world and deal with it.

#103 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:25 PM:

Earl Cooley III@99: Yes, I've always thought of the shotgun as the anti-zombie weapon. Though I might go for the rather smaller 12-gauge -- and a 30-round drum magazine. I think rate of fire is pretty important against zombie wave attacks.

I don't think I'd want to shoot that .600 Nitro Express pistol single-handed. Or double-handed either. I've shot .45 MAX and .44 Magnum and .458 Casull in pistols, and that's not my upper limit, but your suggestion is a WHOLE LOT beyond those.

But in general, what you need to survive the situation suddenly seems a lot more reasonable (not too heavy, not too much recoil, etc.) when you're actually in the situation.

However, I'm not sure we have a good handle on zombie biology. Rikkibeth@94 is getting advice from an expert who favors .22. He and you are, in my eyes, equal experts on this, and you don't seem to be agreeing yet.

#104 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:29 PM:

What's the general opinion for close range/hand to hand defense against zombies? Chainsaw? Edged Weapon? Fast car and lead boots?

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:35 PM:

Against vampires, I recommend holy water balloons.

#106 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:42 PM:

Close-quarters zombie attacks are a very different matter than ranged ones. Among the things I don't want to happen:
- reloading, or even cocking
- running out of ammo/fuel (so not a chainsaw for me)
- getting my weapon stuck in an opponent

My general tendency is to prefer the club class* of weapon to the sword class. So ready alternatives would be a bat from your favorite sport†, a shovel‡, or a 2x4 or equivalent. I'd be less prone to grab a machete even if I had one around this house.

Given time to prepare, I'd probably go for a mace.

Of course, most of these smashing weapons tire one out pretty quickly. By the time you're into close-quarters fighting, you'd better have a limited supply of opponents or a helicopter approaching at speed.

* as it were
† Want a flamewar? try baseball vs cricket. Gun control, eat your heart out.
‡ Rakes are less effective implements of destruction in this context

#107 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:44 PM:

I think that, when planning for zombies, you have to go with the most pessimal assumption; that way, if you're wrong, you're still going to be able to deal with them. Thus, plan for fast-moving zombies that can only be put out of action by destroying the brain and that never starve to (actual) death or rot. I don't think you have to worry about intelligence, at least, since smart zombies are very rare in the literature.

I don't know enough about guns or ammo to have an opinion. For close-up, I'd go with something polearm-like, because with zombies you want "close up" to be as relative a term as you can make it.

#108 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:47 PM:

My plan during a zombie attack is to be the hero, so I'll know I'll win in the end -- or, at least, be the last one killed.

But I don't want to be the hero's sidekick. That's like having a target pasted on your head and a sign that says "GUD BRANES HERE!"

#109 ::: Mark_Wales ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:53 PM:

Serge @105

My favourite strategies against vampires are these, from Adam Roberts...

#110 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:57 PM:

Mark Wales @ 109... I wonder about the efficacy of garlic butter.

#111 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:00 PM:

What is necessary for them to turn me into a zombie? Does that happen only if they kill me? Or does one tiny little drop of zombie blood landing on my suffice? Makes a HUGE difference in choice of weapons. (I don't think I've ever watched or read any classic zombie fiction, so I don't know even the old baseline rules.)

abi@106: To quote Lord Peter, "A bullet can go anywhere, but a sword pretty much has to go somewhere."

The quarterstaff may be the best of the "club" class of weapon (that's Willy Garvin's opinion, and who am I to argue with him?) -- at least if you started your 10 years of serious practice early enough.

However, if destroying the head is the required outcome, you're committing to a really SERIOUSLY energetic fight to choose the club class. Given the "destroy the head" requirement, I guess a flail might be the choice.

I think cavalry might be the way to go. Light cavalry, with a 30-30 rifle in a scabbard, a revolver or two, and a cavalry saber. The high mobility could be VERY important, and the saber is designed to avoid getting stuck (it's embarrassing to find yourself suddenly lying on the ground in the midst of the people you just hacked on as you rode past, and all their friends).

#112 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:01 PM:

"Guns for self defense" has always struck me as one of those laughable euphemisms, especially when applied, as it often is, to automatic weapons. It usually has it's roots in a heroic fantasy where the gun owner is the last sane man, defending his compound from the nefarious government agents come to take his life and liberty. As if you could effectively fend off a SWAT team/fascist death squad if only you had a machine gun and enough bullets.

Sorry to dash your dreams of reenacting Rambo, gun nuts. But if the Gov gets it in mind to take you by force, your collection of automatic weapons "for self defense" will be about as useful as a raincoat in a hurricane. Especially now that law enforcement is starting to implement agony beams active denial systems that can turn you into a whimpering puddle on your living room floor without even opening the front door.

#113 ::: Mark_Wales ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:05 PM:

Serge @110,

Ah yes -- may stop the pointy-teethed ones getting too close if one ate enough of it. Could exhale heavily while waiting for the rain to start... :-)

#114 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:06 PM:

Rikibeth @ 101: Tylenol/paracetamol/acetaminophen. I too am reluctant to have much of that in the house. While writing up a case report on paractamol (acetaminophen) poisoning in a cat, I worked out the lowest known lethal dose for someone of my bodyweight (106 pounds, or thereabouts). Works out as just eight tablets taken at one time. Now, admittedly, I'd have to be unlucky to be one of the people for whom that was actually the lethal dose, but still... And they put it in various OTC cold remedies, which people might take alongside the tablets - and most people don't bother reading the small print and... /hobbyhorse

#115 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:12 PM:

Serge@105: We could repurpose what cat-owners refer to as the "god bottle". Fill your normal spray-bottle with holy water! One in each hand!

Or step up to a super-soaker.

Or have a priest fly in a fire-fighting scoop plane, and bless the load after they pick it up. Then dump it on the zombies.

#116 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:17 PM:

What is necessary for them to turn me into a zombie? Does that happen only if they kill me? Or does one tiny little drop of zombie blood landing on my suffice? Makes a HUGE difference in choice of weapons. (I don't think I've ever watched or read any classic zombie fiction, so I don't know even the old baseline rules.)

The general rule is "death, or zombie fluids getting into your system".

In several of the classics, what starts the zombie invasion is that dead people just start walkin'. Doesn't matter how you die; a minute or two after death, you begin shuffling and seeking brains. Later, the idea was added that if a zombie bites you, even if you don't die right then you're screwed; it takes longer, but eventually the Virus kills you, and you revert to "all dead people become zombies".

In the fairly recent 28 Days Later, one person is zombied by having infected blood splash into their eye; since it's a mucus membrane, infection proceeds apace.

I know of no sources where zombie blood on unbroken skin is a source of infection, but there might be an obscure source in which that's the case.

#117 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:21 PM:

(responding to DanR at #66)

The reason I said it was a serious question (in my comment at #62) is that I'm a guy who had to get psychiatric clearances three times before being allowed to come back to work, back when I was working for the Postal Service.

I rarely get angry in public, but when I do, I tend to get VERY ANGRY and VERY LOUD about it. That happened twice in my postal career, and both times I ended up off-work for a while.

(The third time? I'm not sure that one should count, because I didn't lose my temper. I just collapsed at work, after months of intense intimidation and harassment by a particularly toxic Toxic Boss*, and ended up leaving work in an ambulance. But the Postal Service treated it as if I'd gone psycho and wouldn't let me go back to work until another psychiatric clearance... and dragged their feet on the paperwork so that I had to spend three months worth of my sick leave before getting back**.)

But if you want a Poster Boy for a "Keep This Guy Away From Guns" campaign, a lot of people would probably consider me a potential candidate.

There's more I could say. But I'll save it for another post. Or not.

*A former gangbanger, bragged about it, and treated his employees like he was still in that street gang. The supporting statement to the grievance*** I filed against him was forty single-spaced pages long and over 17,000 words. Upper management took appropriate action afterwards; they promoted him. NOT THAT I'M BITTER ABOUT IT OR ANYTHING, Y'KNOW.


***Which Postal management fought and delayed for five friggin' years. And when the greivance was finally ruled on, and the harassment acknowledged, that supervisor... got a letter put in his file stating that harassment had taken place. That was all. Which letter he probably framed, put on the wall of his office, and bragged about. NOT THAT I'M BITTER....

#118 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:23 PM:

Keith Kisser@112: Some chance is better than none. And you don't seem to have much understanding of the effectiveness of guerilla techniques (despite the US being worked over by them repeatedly in our foreign adventures).

Contrary to your post, the government isn't the main thing I think I might need to defend myself against. Individuals or small groups operating on their own are a more common threat currently in the USA.

I can't tell if you're deliberately furthering the confusion between "fully automatic" and auto-loading weapons, or just ignorant, or what. Relatively few civilians own fully-automatic weapons (I have to get to friends of friends to find any). Auto-loading weapons are among the most common for target shooting, plinking, and hunting, as well as self-defense.

You also seem to be overstating the effectiveness of ADS (at least based on some quick research). Sounds like you can just roll out of the beam, and that simple (and thin) electromagnetic shielding is effective against it. Sounds much more like a crowd-dispersing weapon than a siege-ending weapon. (And in fact my house is built of cement layered on expanded-metal mesh; that might provide significant protection right there.)

And, finally, your post seems rather disrespectful of people who disagree with you.

#119 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:24 PM:

Obviously, locking someone up for strange/borderline dangerous behavior is impossible, but is getting him on some sort of "no gun purchase" list completely unreasonable?

You know the joke about how economists have predicted ten of the last five recessions? Scary behavior has the same problem, but much worse. People acting scary in some vague way have predicted ~10,000 of the last three shooting incidents. Well, ok, I made up the numbers. But you get the point. Scary behavior with no murderous rampage is *way* more common than scary behavior followed by murderous rampage. And this remains true even if you replace the vague "scary" with more precise (but probably equally arbitrary) definitions of mental illness.

And it's not clear that there even *is* a difference at a given point in time between "people who can act kinda scary, but won't hurt anyone in the future" and "people who can act kinda scary, and will kill 6 people and wound 14 in the future" -- the difference might depend on the circumstances they encounter in the future, so a Minority Report-style preemptive law enforcement couldn't exist without actual precognition.

On the other hand, one of the circumstances they *have* to encounter to do *this much* damage is possession of an automatic firearm, which suggests to me that they should be banned. The Framers can hardly even be said to have breech-loaders or cartridge ammunition in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment (IIRC), let alone automatic weapons. Anyone who wants to carry a muzzle-loading musket or a brace of matchlock pistols should perhaps be permitted to (in most public places or with the consent of property owners), but there's simply no more reason to extend that principle to extended-magazine Glocks than there is to extend it to rocket launchers or tanks or cruise missiles.

On the other hand, the Framers didn't have the Internet in mind when they wrote the First Amendment, either, and I wouldn't want to see it not extended to cover new technology. So it's complicated.

#120 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:24 PM:

When discussing zombie hordes, it is important to recognize there's two types of zombies. There's the classic slow moving, shambling, near mindless ones, and the more energetic, vicious and semi-intelligent ones. The first ones you can outrun if you need to, such as if you've run out of ammo.

The other type you can't outrun, but they seem to be less resistant to damage. Either way, being bitten by a zombie (and surviving) appears to be the fastest method to being turned into one.

#121 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:26 PM:

Further clarification from my zombie expert: his suggestions were tailored to me, and assuming a mobile escape on foot. He has a decent amount of faith in my hand-eye coordination, and knows I'm small and ought to travel light, therefore he optimized for accurate headshots and mobility.

In a defensible, stationary location, he still emphasizes accuracy over stopping power, but acknowledges that if you haven't got time to drop the zombies one by one with accurate headshots, using something heavy enough and with enough sheer volume of shot to blow the zombies into pieces small enough to not have independent mobility is a reasonable option. Then you'd CERTAINLY want a flamethrower for mop-up.

But yeah. Headshots, or tiny pieces, in thy mercy.

#122 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:27 PM:

Carrie S@116: Thanks! That seems to make goggles pretty important, as well as maintaining skin integrity, if you ever get engaged close-quarters with zombies. All the ways to kill them one-on-one seem to involve spreading zombie fluids rather...enthusiastically. (Which is a big advantage to burning, if you can manage it for big groups.)

#123 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:30 PM:

chris@119: Are you using "automatic weapon" in the military sense or the media sense? Most weapons used for target shooting, plinking, and hunting are "automatic weapons" in the media sense (what's really called "semi-automatic" or "auto-loading").

#124 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:40 PM:


Yep, this is the same problem as comes up with terrorism and profiling (racial and otherwise). Terrorists and mass-shooters are both incredibly rare, so to a first approximation, *everyone* your profiling algorithm leads you to arrest, involuntarily commit, bar from owning guns, bar from using the internet, expel from school, etc., will be someone who would never have carried out any kind of attack.

#125 ::: Annalee Rockwood ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:43 PM:

I have to respectfully disagree with the prevailing opinion about the most effective weapons in a zombie apocalypse. My top two choices would be sunflowers and lava traps.

If you build the lava trap correctly, you get a one-hit zombie killer which will preserve their loot and carry it right into your base for you. Which means, pretty much, free gunpowder, and the occasional record for the jukebox.

I say this with no intended disrespect to the original subject of the post. I'm just out of spoons where that's concerned right now.

#126 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:54 PM:

Can zombies swim? It's always seemed to me that a moat would be a pretty good passive defense against zombies. Or maybe setting up shop on an island in the middle of a lake.

When I think about zombies, I think of some kind of virus or parasite that interferes with brain function, but also makes them insensitive to pain. They eat and are always hungry, so presumably they need nutrition. In stories I've seen, they aren't smart enough to use tools or plan ahead, so it seems like they'll have very hard time dealing with a cold winter--though maybe they'll just go dormant until things warm up again.

I'm thinking like a hard-SF person, though, not a horror person. I want to know how the biology works. I keep thinking of some parastic organism that turns an otherwise individualistic species into a eusocial species--that gives you the observed behavior of zombies not attacking each other, and staying in packs. (I think there are eusocial mammals that have evolved to lose most pain sensitivity in their skin, so you could kind-of imagine this in a handwavy way.)

Assuming their biology works, some virus isn't going to entirely rewrite their bodies' operations from top to bottom to make an optimal monster. Instead, they'll be capable of freezing to death, dying from bleeding, etc., but extremely resistant to pain, not at all afraid, and maybe pretty good at healing up or ignoring injury.

#127 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:54 PM:

Richard Kadrey has some intelligent zombies in his latest Sandman Slim novel, Kill the Dead. And some interesting thoughts on the whole zombie mythos, encased in a story that I wish I could channel Joe Bob Briggs to review. I'll still say "Check it out," though -- I thought it worth picking up in hardback, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a fast read.

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:54 PM:

Annalee @ 125... I'm just out of spoons

May I suggest a hand-crank runcible gun that shoots sporks?

#129 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 03:59 PM:

Serge #128:

Enter the Blue Raja.

The Raja has the ability to throw any silverware accurately as a tool or weapon, but refuses to throw knives, claiming that "you can't try and stop a crime by committing an even worse one."

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:03 PM:

Soon Lee @ 129... Bowling balls can also be quite efficient.

#131 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:04 PM:

We† used to joke that super-calibre pistols like the .600 Nitro Express were actually an escape system - spread your legs, aim 45° down, and the recoil throws you over the adjacent wall.

† the "long-range paper punch club", who on Monday and Wednesday were the Hart House Archery Club and Tuesday and Thursday the Hart Hour Rifle Club at U of T circa 1977-1982.

#132 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:12 PM:

albatross: You might want to check out The Zombie Survival Guide and its associated book World War Z.

The rules for zombies there, as I recall them: A virus, transmitted by fluid contact, that kills the infected over the course of a day or so, turning them into zombies in the process. It causes zombification only in humans; other animals just die. This includes the organisms responsible for decay, so they don't rot. They can't swim, but they don't require air so they can walk on the bottom of bodies of water for any distance (thus, a moat is not a defense). Freezing stops them only until they thaw. They don't appear to need to eat, and can't digest anything anyway. They don't heal, so any injury is permanent. The only way to stop one is to destroy its brain. On the upside, severed body parts can't continue to act.

Zombies are slow, stupid and highly aggressive; they move in packs and are attracted to the sound other zombies make upon spotting prey.

#133 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:14 PM:

#128 and #129 remind me of the old UK Wizard comic characters

‘The Wolf of Kabul' and his native servant Chung who battered anyone and everyone with his ‘Clicky-ba' (an old blood-stained cricket bat bound with copper and brass wire).

That would be in the "club" class, yes. A classic UK policeman's truncheon, which is lignum vitae, wielded vigorously can also be damaging to the brain. (As in, grey matter on the macadam.)

As to the need for eye protection, I once got a truly wicked case of pink-eye from getting nasal mucous (my own) in the eye. Disgusting and painful, too.

#134 ::: Annalee Rockwood ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:46 PM:

I seem to recall that in traditional zombie lore, zombies cannot cross running water such as a river or stream, even by means of a bridge. It's a hard stop, kind of like entering a house uninvited for vampires. So if you're dealing with that kind of zombie, a moat will do it. You just need to worry about siege at that point. (But if you've taken up Abi's sprout-growing habit, you'll have a cheap and accessible source of chow).

Newer zombie lore just has them walk on the bottom to cross.

I'm telling you though: sunflowers. I pity the zombie that tries to take on my sunflowers.

#135 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:50 PM:

Annalee Rockwood@134: Okay, okay; I'll bite. Why sunflowers? Maybe Niven's Slaver sunflowers?

#136 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:55 PM:

It's awfully hard to walk on the bottom of a body of water when one has (as humans do) a slight positive bouyancy. And zombies don't have enough brain power to think of carrying heavy enough stuff to keep them sunk (weight belts of lead, rolls of quarters for the video games, and the like).

#137 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:03 PM:

Murdoch TV--network of zombies.

#138 ::: Annalee Rockwood ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:07 PM:

ddb@135: Sunflowers keep zombies off the lawn.

Technically they're more support than firepower, but behind ever good peashooter and wall-nut, there's a sunflower.

#139 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:10 PM:

Keith Kisser #112:

I knew a chap once who believed that a .38 S&W was a kind of magical device that rendered him invulnerable. My father, when he discovered that said idiot was driving my school bus, made me take another (at great inconvenience).

Why do I call him an idiot? He discovered that far from being a magical device, it contained six bullets (then five, then four &c.) and was beaten to death with five bullets still in the chamber.

#140 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:17 PM:

"A silver stake? A crucifix? What, did you think we haven't tried everything before? We've shot him, stabbed him, clubbed him, sprayed him with holy water, staked him through the heart, and STILL he lives! Do you understand? No-one knows how to kill Dracula!"
"Well, I could have used that information a little earlier."

#141 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:27 PM:

The thing about zombie shot is that you need to learn how to hand-load the rounds, so that you can customize them as needed. Different zombies have different weaknesses. For example, if Snakeweed (Spud Flynn's arch-enemy) became a zombie by drinking too much Tiger Bone at one sitting, you'd need to add malachite chips to the zombie shot load to deal with him.

#142 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:34 PM:

Zombies are attracted to the sounds other feeding/hungry zombies make? I didn't know that!

* Sits up *

I think I need to patent the ACME General Purpose Zombie Trap.

It's a shipping container (truck mountable, for moving it around) with a revolving door at one end. Above the door, there are some loudspeakers that play zombie noises. Behind it there's a conveyor belt with a tripwire at the end, and a powered guillotine, or maybe a bunch of circular saws. (For added head-destruction purposes: a brisk dip in a liquid nitrogen vat, followed by a trip-hammer.)

You'd need a continuous supply of refuse skips to remove the waste product from the other end, of course.

All running to the tune of Powerhouse.

#143 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 06:08 PM:

Efficient zombie suppression probably requires something belt-fed.

As seen here.

#144 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 06:27 PM:


Keith Kisser@112: Some chance is better than none. And you don't seem to have much understanding of the effectiveness of guerilla techniques (despite the US being worked over by them repeatedly in our foreign adventures).

Contrary to your post, the government isn't the main thing I think I might need to defend myself against. Individuals or small groups operating on their own are a more common threat currently in the USA.

Oh, so it's Red Dawn you're reenacting, not Rambo. I stand corrected.

Though I'm still a bit foggy on exactly who these guerrilla bands attacking inside the continental US would be (Unitarian Jihad perhaps?) and why, if they were to start popping up, it would fall to random citizens to lock and load, rather than the National Guard.

Do please explain. I'm clearly ill-informed and genuinely curious.

#145 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 06:50 PM:

For a while I was dating (well...cyberdating) someone who was diagnosed (incorrectly, as it later turned out) a paranoid schizophrenic. When I complained that a previous BF of mine was "crazy," he said "I'm crazy too." I replied "No, you're mentally ill. I can deal with mentally ill. He was crazy."

I realize this is still on the wrong side of the mentally-ill community, but when I call someone crazy I usually mean they've chosen to be irrational (as my prior BF had). In that sense, mentally-ill people (of whom I am one, having suffered from depression my entire adult life*) deserve my empathy, whereas crazy people deserve my contempt.

That said, I will try to avoid that usage, now that my attention has been drawn to the problem.

I heard a psychiatrist on the radio today saying that people with psychoses (which he characterized as the most extreme form of mental illness) are five times as likely to commit an act of violence as the general population...bringing their probability up to 5%. He emphasized that that means that 95% of psychotics never become violent, and other groups of mentally-ill folks are even less likely to be.

I would also like to point out that the lack of the health services which all civilized countries provide to their people synergizes perniciously with the social stigma of mental illness to prevent people from seeking help even when they know they need it. I can't afford a shrink right now, and my depression sometimes keeps me from getting out of bed all day. In addition, if you have free mental health services, it becomes more defensible for a judge to require someone to seek help.

So: keep voting as far left as you can find, and if you're mentally ill, come out! (If your situation makes it possible and safe.) The shame will never go away unless we stop being ashamed.
*Yes, I know this is a mild and low-stigma form of mental illness, but it's mental illness nonetheless.

#146 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 06:50 PM:

Keith Kisser -- your Unitarian Jihad link fails. Better pointer?

#147 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 06:52 PM:

Not at all a good idea. You know what always happens with ACME products. One minute you'll be happily setting up to stop a plague of carnivorous zombie roadrunners, and the next minute you're staggering out of the container trying to simultaneously hold the slices of your body together and sweep up the shattered pieces of your head for reassembly.

#148 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 06:53 PM:

@123: I had in mind the "keeps firing until you release the trigger or run out of ammo" sense, but the argument that the Framers couldn't have had it in mind (or considered the downsides of widespread private ownership) because it didn't exist applies to both, I think.

Nobody carries out a mass shooting with muzzle-loading weapons with loose-loaded propellant. The time between shots would let the victims flee, or tackle you, or both. Some people would commit a murder anyway, of course, but they would commit *a* murder, or maybe two, not 6 or 19.

#149 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 06:54 PM:

Xopher@145: I would also like to point out that the lack of the health services which all civilized countries provide to their people synergizes perniciously with the social stigma of mental illness to prevent people from seeking help even when they know they need it.

YES YES YES. I've made (elsewhere I think) the point about inadequate health care possibly playing a role in the USAs high rate of spree shootings. I hadn't found the point about the synergy, which is a valuable addition.

#150 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 07:01 PM:

Reasons I choose a flame thrower:

Flames sterilize everything -- as in "destroy all organisms including spores". Boiling would work, too, but it's a little more difficult to produce and control steam safely.

As the flames destroy the zombie's body, they are spreading by themselves to the other zombies. Can bullets, shells, arrows, or other projectiles fling themselves? Self-propagating weapon for the win.

Flames will identify the site at night, and provide lighting for your improved aim. Not that you need great aim with a flamethrower, and having shaky arms is a feature instead of a bug.

Even if this type of zombie is relatively resistant, the hottest flames will cook the brain, rendering (pun intended) it inoperable. Zombie death may be slow, but it will be inevitable, as long as one has a hot enough flame.

I think I'll set up camp at the propane company's tanks.

#151 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 07:04 PM:

Speaking simultaneously to the zombie and founding fathers portions of the discussion: Is there some flaw in canister or grape shot for zombie perimeter defense? Particularly if you move to a new-fangled breech-loading gun or similar. Of course, this will only work well against zombies that become ineffective when their moving parts are all detached.

#152 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 07:16 PM:

chris@148: On the other hand, without modern handguns, three muggers will take you down pretty much 100% of the time, even if you're healthy and strong. And 5 rounds is none too many for three opponents, possibly armed.

Best arguments for various interpretations of the second amendment is an area for current legal experts -- because it's a matter of convincing the courts. Like many others, I'm in favor of free speech rules applying beyond in-person speeches and hand-set type, and I think it's clear that the IDEA of communication, and the means to carry it out, are what's supposed to be protected in the first amendment (the reference to the "press" is metaphorical). Similarly, the prohibition against establishing a religion applies even to religions that didn't exist at the time. Any other interpretation seems absurd to me.

The question of what policy on personal self-defense, and the tools for it, would best serve a modern liberal democracy, or even our current tottering remnants of same, is a more interesting question. It's probably too hot for too many people to be productively discussed in this public a venue, though. And it is my impression that the owners of this particular venue do not want a big discussion of the topic here.

Civilians don't at all commonly legally possess automatic (in the full sense, which you said you had intended) firearms. In particular, I'm aware of no crimes of violence committed by civilians with legally-owned fully automatic weapons since 1934; there are probably a couple of exceptions somewhere, but it's clearly not a big problem. News organizations routinely use terminology that confuses people and gives the impression that machine-guns are common. They report enough crimes and enough gun-control debates that at this point I'm not able to believe that they're all just accidents; I think they're deliberately spreading disinformation.

We already have very very strict guns laws at the federal and state level; thousands of them. So many that it's sometimes impossible to do perfectly sensible, routine things (like moving legally owned weapons from one residence to another) legally (New Jersey has some insane laws, in particular). Owning guns is far and away the most dangerous thing I do -- very minor mistakes can make me a federal felon with mandatory sentences of 5 and ten years without parole for various minor oversights; like driving through the Post Office parking lot to use the mail drop, instead of using the one directly on the street.

#153 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 07:21 PM:

The problem with the flamethrower is that you're basically carrying, well, a controlled bonfire on your back.

Which means that things like bullets tend to turn you into char, rather than zombie food.

Which is fine if you're on your own, but if you have others with you, and we know you can't count on *everybody* not panicking and keeping good downline discipline,...

(yes, I know, the dangers from self-immolation were much lower than Hollywood makes out. Most of the problem was that the user was exposed and obviously carrying a flamethrower. NotAProblem with Zombies)

I've always thought the best appropriate weapon for a zombie infestation is a good wine, beautiful music, a razor and a bathtub. But I do have a weird attitude to life, and no fear of death (and a massive fear of disfigurement). I would want to at least have that control of my life.

#154 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 07:42 PM:

Mycroft W @ 153: "Aim towards the flames, man!"

#155 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 07:42 PM:

@ddb - #91 - "I don't want to lose the more common good in an attempt to stop the rare bad."

DDB, although I thank you for acknowledging that the Government is not the main threat to everyday citizens (supported by the happy existence of so many non-gun-owning Western nations), I gotta call bullshit on this one... to make the bad "rare" by limiting it to mass shootings, is extremely misleading. You are totally discounting the tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries caused by handguns every year. This is the real "bad" that the common good just cannot compare to.

The "need" for handguns for self-defense is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't see massive calls for concealed/open carry in those industrialized nations which ban the sale and ownership of handguns. Nor do I see that robbery, rape and murder rates in nations like Canada or England are higher than ours for lack of these self-defense guns. In fact, we still have the highest violent crime rate in the G8. If their populations do not need arming, than why does ours?

Let me answer that. We need guns for self-defense because the bad guys have them. So to make us safe from handguns (and the increasingly popular assault weapons), we need to get them out of the hands of criminals, and opposed to filling our own holsters.

The key to getting guns out of the hands of criminals is to get rid of them. Period. The vast majority of guns used illegally in the USA were originally purchased quite legally, either by the future shooter, or by an upright citizen whose gun was stolen later on, or by someone (or a chain of someones) who then resold it to the criminal who eventually shoots someone (or a chain of someones). Instead of furthering the arms race by encouraging early gun ownership, why not just rid of them?

Disarming the population would starve the illegal market. Creating penalties for gun use, and enforcement policies similar to the European nations will make it much harder to gain illegal guns once all the formerly legal ones are gone, and make criminals less eager to use them if they still have them.

Yes, it will take a long, LONG time to empty this country of handguns and assault weapons, but you need to start somewhere, and encouraging more gun ownership of a wider variety of arms is going the wrong direction. The first steps would be to reinstate the complete ban on the sale of large capacity magazines and assault weapons, and the closing of the gun show loophole for gun purchase.

#156 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 08:17 PM:

On gun control, just to make sure everyone is working from the same fact-set.

In the US:
To buy a gun from a dealer you must pass a background check, through the federal NICS system. ATF form 4473 (PDF) is the form filled out, and has plenty of details.

You can't legally buy or possess a gun if you have been convicted of a felony, or of domestic violence, or if you are subject to a restraining order.

You can't legally buy or possess a gun if you have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, or otherwise judged mentally incompetent.

The NICS system will usually flag as ineligible anyone who tries to buy a firearm and doesn't pass the above criteria.

Fully automatic weapons are very tightly regulated, and have been since 1934; you need a Treasury permit, which costs several hundred dollars (IIRC $2000 in the mid-90's), and you need to have inspected, secure storage and undergo a full background check. Law enforcement can search your premises at any time to ensure that you still possess the weapon and are storing it safely.

The "Assault Weapons Ban" forbade new manufacture and importation of magazines with more than 10-round capacity, and of guns with particular cosmetic features. It was still legal to buy and sell pre-ban guns and magazines, and they were easily available.

The so-called "gun show loophole" has nothing to do with gun shows; it applies to sales by private individuals anywhere, and dealers need to follow the same rules at gun shows that they follow everywhere else.

All the above are federal regulations; most states have additional regulations.

#157 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 08:55 PM:

VictorS@151: Canister should work excellently against zombies. There is the basic problem of the small kill zone (head only), but that's a problem for anything except individual aimed fire. And a live functional zombie with no arms and no legs is less of a threat, at least, since it moves more slowly.

I think we're still missing bits of basic biology. Either they stop working when all the blood gets out, or else the biology is really drastically different from ours (probably basically magical).

#158 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:02 PM:

The US gun proliferation is not solely within its own borders: U.S. Guns Blamed For Fueling Violence In Mexico.

#159 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:11 PM:

Linkmeister@158: Widely debunked; plus just lately the ATF has been caught "walking" AR-15s over into Mexico and turning them over. In fact, the weapons most widely associated with Mexican drug lords are not available to civilians in the USA, so they could not possibly be coming out of the US civilian market.

Most of the weapons are most probably bought from, or stolen from, the Mexican military.

#160 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:14 PM:

It's pretty useless to argue the biology of zombies. Just agree on what set of rules you're going by and go from there.

#161 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:25 PM:

edward oleander@155: Very briefly, international comparisons of anything like this are very difficult. Japan has a much higher suicide rate than the US. Britain had a lower murder rate than we did before they outlawed handguns, too. Big changes in laws in Britain and Australia have not lead to significant changes in crime rates -- in fact generally the crime rate continued to increase, to the point where my side tends to claim those experiments as supporting us. Studies of crime rates across changes in laws in the USA show either no effect, or possibly a slight movement of crime away from places where civilians have guns.

Certainly the numbers do not support any benefits of "gun control". I tend to think they support the opposite.

Criminal organizations that routinely move tons of contraband around the world will have no trouble getting themselves guns if they want them. In lots of countries, they casually buy guns (illegally) from the military, or raid armories for them. For that matter, guns (especially full-auto guns that fire from an open bolt; the classic "sub-machinegun" designs) are easily made in a highschool metal shop or basement workshop.

I believe that getting rid of guns is a pipe dream.

But suppose you succeeded. What would you have then? You'd have the young and strong preying on the old and weak with a lot fewer checks than you do now, that's what you'd have. The handgun is the best tool yet invented for self-defense. Telling people that they can't defend themselves, or at least can't use the good tool, makes them dependent and fearful; it's terribly bad for society.

I said briefly, so that's a great plenty.

#162 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:26 PM:

Xopher@160: Well, yes; that's what I mean, the hypothetical biology of the fictional zombies we're discussing. I've never watched zombie films, so I don't have any idea what the "basic" rules people may assume are; I had to ask.

#163 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:27 PM:

Patrick: At the risk of seeming contentious: Any semi-automatic pistol can, in theory, attain the rate of fire at this shooting. The question is, are there clips which will hold that many rounds, and reliably feed them.

The answer is, for many which happen to have military/police markets (such as the Browning High Power, designed in 1919, and still in production: it has a 21 round clip with a "snail" formation). Mostly the extra weight is a hindrance, and the functionality of such hardware is usually problematic. All in all I have no real problem with such extended magazines being banned. I am not quite so sanguine about things like Calif.'s making the standard 14 round clips a felony, so that one has to have specially made, for the Calif. market clips for pistols and, in some cases, completely different rifles, not capable of removable clips.

I agree that the ability to impulse buy a gun (esp. for, "defense") is a bad idea. I don't have any problem with background checks, waiting periods, etc. I am ambivalent about every sort of psychiatric evaluation being grounds for permanent barring of the ownership of a firearm. In part because I know of a lot of things which have similar potential for intentional harm (if less commonly the ability to be so quickly used to such effect). Should someone who has been suicidal be barred from all operation of a motor vehicle?

It's hard, because the good of cars is seen as worth the price. Well, even with the ability of the Loughners of the country to do things like this, the actual numbers of such killings don't match the number of deaths on the roads. I do think the ability to get guns on short notice, is almost never really important. After that I am really conflicted, in part because I enjoy shooting, and so have a vested interest in not losing the ability to continue.

I also have a very different relationship to guns than most people; given how long I was in the Army.

Kieth Kisser: I think you aren't quite right. The long-arm, in the hands of non-gov't actors has pretty much tied up, even stopped, some pretty serious first-world armies.

Viet-nam, Afghanistan (First, the USSR, and now NATO), Iraq, Chechnya, all places armies with tanks, machine guns, helicopters, etc. have failed to eradicate the people hostile to them. I reccomend "The Gun" by Chivers as a perspective piece on the subject (the weapon in question is the AK family of arms, most commonly thought of as the AK-47, even though actual AK-47s are, at this point, pretty rare as they were superseded in short order, but I digress)

Renatus: I hope I've not crossed that line. If I have it was not my intent. I've been trying to avoid it. I'd like to point out that it's not just people like Renatus. It's people like me, who are otherwise sane. If, god forbid, I were to, "snap", I'd be a pretty scary sort. I'll admit to haveing had fleeting ideations of suicide. In those moments of thinking how easy it would be to swerve the bike into the oncoming semi it wasn't so much my desire to live (that, after all was feeling a bit nebulous) but the sense of other people. People in places like Making Light, who would saddened, angry, hurt, as well as the people I know more directly.

But that wasn't really the thing which kept me from having more than a fleeting moment... It was always the truck driver. How would the person who flattened me feel? How would the person running the train, or the bus, or the truck deal with it. What, even worse, would the families of that person do if I was to end up killing their loved one/friend in the wreck.

That's the one that gets me, when I am having dark moments of atavisticly destructive thought. I could kill someone. For them it would be the end. Off to oblivion, or the afterlife. But what of the people who survived them? The one's who would grieve and wonder why.

If I were to lose that empathy... if any of us were to lose it (and it's not as hard as all that, trust me), we'd be a hair's breadth from being just like Loughner.

Patrick: re Bolivia, and Marines: Bolivia has a small piece of seacoast. They used to have a right of way/corridor to it, but they pissed off Colombia, who took that away from them, though I am told the actual beach inaccesible, is still Bolivian property, and Colombia has a fence around it. Then again, the US Marine Corps predates the Navy, so...

ddb: @ 152: chris@148: On the other hand, without modern handguns, three muggers will take you down pretty much 100% of the time, even if you're healthy and strong. And 5 rounds is none too many for three opponents, possibly armed. Um.... no. Three muggers will take you down, almost always, even if you have a gun; at least if they have done any planning. Start to clear a firearm and I, if I am close enough to you to be initiating a mugging, will do you a serious, if not fatal injury. I will certainly be on your gun arm with whatever weapon I have. Put me in a pack and you have just guaranteed, pretty much, that you are severely injured, and we are now armed. I say this having been in your physical presence. Muggers are not stupid. They won't attack someone they think to be a hard target. Yes, some of them (perhaps most, but I don't really think so) will count on mere numbers, and lack the will to respond to a vigorous defense, but IMO, and experience, the gun isn't the leveler you present it to be in the situation you describe (and I'll add, I have some doubts about the aggregations you referred to above: one they are self-limiting, unless you have as efficient an algorithm for collecting data on failed uses of guns in self-defense, and there is a strong potential for confirmatin bias, not least because I find the 1 million successful defenses a year to imply a much larger rate of violent crime than the statistics seem to support).

#164 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:32 PM:

#156 - "The "Assault Weapons Ban" forbade new manufacture and importation of magazines with more than 10-round capacity, and of guns with particular cosmetic features. It was still legal to buy and sell pre-ban guns and magazines, and they were easily available."

Very true. The 2nd step of that particular program would be to extend it to assault guns and goodies not covered in the initial ban. The ultimate goal would be to eventually ban handguns as well.

"The so-called "gun show loophole" has nothing to do with gun shows; it applies to sales by private individuals anywhere, and dealers need to follow the same rules at gun shows that they follow everywhere else."

Making this about dealers is a Strawman. It's called the gun show loophole for very good reason. Gun shows are the best venue at which to employ the loophole. Trade shows in any industry are designed to enhance Free-market efficiency. But in THIS industry, it allows lethality to flow into the wrong hands far too easily.

Closing the loophole, and forcing ALL hand/assault gun (and related accessories like the long clips) resellers to meet the same standards dealers are held to would reach far beyond gun shows themselves. I consider that just fine, and a good first step in eliminating such sales altogether.

More specifics on the Loophole, and why it needs closing, can be found here

#165 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:35 PM:

Rikibeth: I'd say (as a practical matter) that a revolver is not the best choice. They are bulkier, and take more force to operate. A derringer, pretty good for your scenario. After that a small automatic. I realise this flies in the face of a lot of "Conventional Wisdom" but modern autos aren't any less reliable than revolvers, and the training/practice required to deal with the longer, and heavier, trigger pull is about the same as that required to deal with typical automatic pistol malfunctions (I mistyped that as, "pistil"). A PPK, by way of example, is smaller than almost every (practical) revolver, has the energy of .38 SPL. and has a clip of seven rounds.

All in all (as I have said before, here and elsewhere) firearms are a very limited tool. They are (IMO) not a good resort for personal defense, a last resort (after clubs and swords) for home defense and far too likely to be used in ways which the shooter didn't intend, because the time frame in which the commitment to action has to be made, is really fucking short, and the effect of a mistake is really fucking drastic. (BTW, if you ever want to go shooting, and happen to be in my neck of the woods, just let me know).

All in all, even if an intruder has a gun, unless killing you with it is the intent, s/he is probably carrying it as a security blanket and a really gung-ho wading in with a club is going to so unsettle them that the gun never clears the pocket/holster.

Rikibeth: How, when the musculature is burning/falling apart, can they continue to attack? The real problem with the flamthrowers (God it's depressing how much I know about this shit) is that the sort you'd need requires high pressure, to get the flaming-goo far enough away, and the failures tend to be both catastrophic, dramatic and fatal to the operator.

Ginger: Mycroft W @ 153: "Aim towards the flames, man!" The problem is the flames start a couple of feet from the operator's hands.

Trenches and fougas is my plan.

ddb: I can't imagine a Glock on full-auto being any more controllable than the snailtail Browning, and that is... to put it mildly... completely uncontrollable. Aim the first shot center mass, hope the second shot is head high and let go.

Earl Cooley III: 600 Nitro Express pistol? Yeah it's going to be slow to reload... from having to turn around and figure out where it landed after every shot.

Eric: Close in combat with a zombie? No. Not. Don' wanna go there. If I have to... baseball bat. I want to smash them in the head, break legs, etc. (though there is something to be said for the WW1 styles of entrenching tool, which have both smashing and chopping qualities)
I don't think the flail, as mentioned by ddb is all that useful. It's really energy intensive to use, does a lot of damage but is awkward, takes training and the recovery time from a successful blow is pretty slow (because all the rest mass of the flail has to be recovered, and then accellerated again). However, if working in pairs/triads, chain weapons, like manikri might be a good compromise, one person to entangle the zombie, someone else to smash them.
But really, no. Retire, set up barricades (trenches if possible) and continue to engage at a distance.

I'd say, if I were looking at area denial... .22 is Ok, but I'd probably opt for .223, more range, more impact. Maybe make a gatling gun, or two, in a large caliber, slow caliber (45-70) and use the .223 to stop the ones who get past the beaten zone of the gatlings.

Carrie S: How do they get to the bottom of the body of water? Bodies float (even those who are less than surface bouyant, like myself, have to actively work to stay on the bottom of so shallow a body of water as 6 feet).

#166 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:57 PM:


I find something deeply offensive about you trying to turn this discussion into a joke. What happened in Arizona... this tragic event... has cut directly into the vital organs of America's power structure. And drawn blood. This post is not something to be taken lightly.

Having said that, wouldn't it be best to have an airtight suit of some sort, along with a long, electrified whip? Or would the battery pack be too cumbersome?

And another thing... whoever tried to turn this into a gun control debate is a complete dolt. Do better, dumbass.

#167 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 09:57 PM:

Tom Whitmore @146:

Oops. Try this one. Unitarian Jihad.

#168 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:09 PM:


I'm finding your sneering, dismissive tone a bit grating. Is it possible for you to have this discussion without the assumption that anyone who disagrees with you is am obvious idiot?

#169 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:11 PM:

I remember when my father decided to register the shot pistol he'd inherited, it took two trips to the local sheriff's department, fingerprints, a photograph, and a background check (including his military serial number).
It's a single-shot weapon, but under the law (and the BATF regs), it's considered a sawed-off shotgun.

#170 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:19 PM:

DanR, I have to disagree. I think the issue of gun control is hugely relevant to this case. Gun control may be futile, or evil, or a panacea, but the one thing it isn't is irrelevant.

Unless you're doing an ironic riff somehow, like the rest of your post. If so, I don't get it.

#171 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:25 PM:

Dan R: I find something offensive in the way you dealt with this.

Then again, I belong to several groups where really black humor is the order of the day; it keeps one from going mad.

Is the situation which sparked this funny? No. But, and this is the important part, neither Rikibeth, nor anyone else who joined in the Zombie Apocalypse subthread (which includes abi... whom I count as about clued in to appropriate interactions on touchy subjects as anyone I know, and certainly the best of the local moderators IMO, but I digress) did it to make light of the terrible thing that happened.

They did it because they needed an outlet, some sort of catharsis for the rage, anger, and frustration that comes from seeing things like this and feeling helpless to prevent it.

Me... I took a hand at making a comparison (if one runs the numbers for Oro Valley [though a different local to the one I got my more firsthand information from says that's not, perhaps, the best place to us) and the casualties, it's about the same as 1/2 of That Tuesday in Manhattan.

I then talked about the rhetoric which helped make this the way in which the shooter acted out.

I got a left-Libertarian who came in and misrepresented another comment to accuse us of blaming Sarah Palin.

With that sort of reaction to my attempts to be constructive... I needed a way to vent my grief and frustration, and this was a really good one, esp. as it seems to be having a moderating effect on a subthread which always has the potential to turn septic, and that in a hurry.

#172 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:33 PM:

Terry @165:

All in all, even if an intruder has a gun, unless killing you with it is the intent, s/he is probably carrying it as a security blanket and a really gung-ho wading in with a club is going to so unsettle them that the gun never clears the pocket/holster.

That's pretty much why the only situation where I can envision myself wanting a gun, barring zombie apocalypses, is that of a violent stalker -- someone I seriously believe wants to hurt or kill me. I figure that a crowbar or a baseball bat will probably discourage a random intruder who's just after the electronics. I will never forget the story a co-worker told me, about how he wound up with a conviction for "home invasion" -- the scare crime of the moment in my area, after a particularly vicious one perpetrated upon the Pettit family. He said, "My friend and I broke in, sure, and we were after the TV and all that -- but we had NO IDEA anyone was home! As soon as we heard voices, we bugged out of there! I think we were more scared than they were!"

As for muggers, my strategy is just "give them the wallet." I have also noticed that when I'm wearing my leather "motorcycle" jacket (the classic style, it's really not as safe for riding as modern fabric-plus-armor) with all the rock band buttons on it, I get a lot less unwelcome attention generally -- I truly believe it's protective coloration and makes me look like a harder target.

And, once you move to Jersey City, I'll be within a reasonable road trip of your neck of the woods, so I may take you up on that! I'll need training from complete novice up.

#173 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:35 PM:

Terry Karney@152: I don't think the accounts of survivors of muggings (which is most victims) really support your view of muggers. You're MUCH more dangerous than the accounts make them generally sound; you may not appreciate how much.

I absolutely agree that a planned ambush by skilled attackers at 3:1 is fairly hopeless to defend against; luckily most muggings don't rise to that level, and most muggers aren't actually very good.

I'm not sure I care about failed gun defenses. I care about situations where having the gun made things worse, but that's a different set (not entirely disjoint, probably). And even harder to study; I haven't seen any attempts, even. Failed defenses are just another crime, not that different.

Those numbers are somewhat old, so there were around 4 million violent crimes in the USA then. Those numbers include robberies, and I believe a lot of robberies go unreported. A lot of smaller, previous, studies by a wide range of people came to similar numbers. The 1994 DoJ study came to similar conclusions (despite being widely believed to have been intended to refute Kleck). This looks to me to be well-established; people seem to be going on to try the next level of detail, rather than replicating this level yet again.

#174 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:44 PM:

DanR: I apologize if I've come across as too frivolous. It wasn't my intention. I was trying to address the question of when, if ever, I might feel the need for a weapon as fierce as the one Loughner used in his attack -- and, being the lifelong speculative fiction enthusiast that I am, the only answer I could come up with was "zombie attack."

As this is a group of like-minded speculative fiction enthusiasts, well... it grew.

But I do think that discussing the technical requirements of a zombie attack serves to point out the contrast between "situations where someone might want to use heavy weaponry" and "most of the rest of the time," as well as the tension-relieving benefits others have mentioned.

#175 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 10:44 PM:

Terry Karney@165: The PPK is a classic; but you can get .40S&W in a smaller package with something like the Kahr MK40, which is much better than .380.

There've been huge advances in small carry guns in the last couple of decades. One source is probably an unintended consequence of the magazine size limit (on sales of new guns and magazines), and another is probably widespread civilian carry.

But, as a result, I can get a .380 smaller and lighter than most mouse-gun .22s of the 1980s, and a .40S&W smaller than the .380s of the earlier era.

#176 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:00 PM:

ddb: Looking at the chart I linked to I see a total of 1.3 million violent crimes, but... I'll be generous and use your figure of 4 million violent crimes; So you are telling us, based on your comment @98 that roughly one million successful defenses a year take place, that roughly roughly one in four crimes is stopped by a citizen with a gun?

I don't buy it.

If I go with the numbers in that chart, the stats are even less credible, almost 1:2.

#177 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:02 PM:


I dug back through the thread, read it carefully, and would like to retract that last bit of that last comment, when I called the person who brought gun control into this a dumbass. Perhaps that was too strong a word. Dolt still stands, however.


No, I was only kidding. Of course I approve of making light (tangentially of course) of even the most jarring events. It's what we're here for, most likely.

#178 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:03 PM:

Terry @#165: Well, under the WWZ mythology, zombies don't float anymore. Something about the zombie virus makes them no longer buoyant.

#179 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:10 PM:

ddb: I don't think I want something in 40 S&W in a smaller package, certainly not as a first gun obtained by someone who is 1: not going to be skilled, and 2: is in fear of some very specific sorts of threat.

I think .380 to be at the lower end of practical, but there are a lot of positive traits to the round/platform. It's reliable. It's easy to shoot.

It's much less likely to be the cause of flinch; overpenetrate, etc. In the circumstance I was talking to Rikibeth about, the larger rounds/smaller frame strike me a bad fit.

Not as bad as TC in .600 Nitro, but still not ideal. If one is in the specific situation described, one needs a weapon one can become competent to manage, not be afraid of, and willing to use; all in a couple of days.

As I said, I am going against the conventional wisdom, but I think the conventional wisdom has some blind spots, based on the proponents being 1: really familiar with firearms and 2: colored by decades of dogmatic arguments about "stopping power" and the like.

I'm, looking at the actual psychological effect on the threatened person to having that level of lethal force at hand, and the shock of being shot on the person who justified the sort short permitting you were talking about.

That sort of person is, generally, of the mind the victim won't fight back, finding out they will is a shock. Being shot is a different shock. I've read a number of accounts of people who were shot in non-life threatening ways, who; from the unexpectedness of being hit (in particular a cop who was hit with a .22, through and through flesh wound) and died of clinical shock.

Give someone a weapon they don't think they can control, and the odds of them successfully using it go way down.

#180 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:10 PM:

DanR: Having gone back to the beginning of the thread and found the post that begins with "Gun control, anyone?" I now see your point. I hadn't remembered who it was who brought it up.

Still, I don't think he's necessarily a dolt. A Very Silly Person, for sure. His most recent posts demonstrate that much.

#181 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:13 PM:

DanR: I seem to have misread you. If I did, I apologise. That was not a good response to any attempt to be light-hearted.

#182 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:15 PM:

Rikibeth: Feel free. I've taught a number of complete novices to shoot, and improved I can't count how many non-novices (I spent... twelve years? in the Army as a shooting coach).

I can certainly teach you good basics for pistol and rifle, though I am much better with a rifle than a pistol; mostly because I spend more time handling them.

#183 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 11:42 PM:

I think I've coped somewhat by writing poetry.

#184 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 12:14 AM:

I, too, Earl:

A sergeant told me once, back in the day,
That firearms have a curious property:
They kill. Perhaps they kill you, maybe me,
Or maybe it's somebody far away
Just minding their own business. You might say
The weapon's mad. It doesn't care, you see.
It simply kills. An accident? Maybe.
It doesn't care. It does it anyway.

So treat it like it's mad. Like it'll try
To kill you for no reason, or for sport.
As if it loads itself, just on the sly,
So it can kill you, or a passer-by,
Or anyone at all. It's mad. It ought
To be locked up. Too right. Dead set, I thought.

#185 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 12:27 AM:

As a sidenote, recall some time back when there was a lot of heat here on the subject of what to do in such a situation (Jim and I arguing the the thing to do was, by and large, to hit the deck)?

The thing which made so much heat was someone coming in to say it would all have ended better if there were more citizens with guns, so shooters like this could be stopped.

That almost happened, the wrong way at the shooting in Arizona.

It seems there was a young man there (aged 24) had his pistol in his pocket, he cleared the safety and came around the corner, where he saw a man with a gun.

He pointed his pistol and told him to drop the gun, at which point he slammed him to the wall.

It wasn't the shooter he did this to, but the man who had disarmed him. Thank his lucky stars he didn't pull the vigilante card and just plug the guy with the gun.

He has no training, save his dad. He has a moderate amount of common sense... the pistol was in his pocket when he came around the corner because he didn't want to be mistaken for a second shooter.

That's the problem the "more guns" advocates have to solve. I don't think they can.

#186 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 12:27 AM:

FINALLY, a soundbite description of the current Republican strategy:

"Here's an interesting term. It's 'stochastic terrorism'. It means using the mass media to incite violence by 'lone wolves.'" -- David Gerrold

#187 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 01:40 AM:

ddb @ #159, why do you say the claim American guns are being shipped to Mexico has been debunked, when as recently as Dec 14 of last year:

Although U.S. officials say they have recently seized more than 10,000 weapons headed for Mexico, Mexican authorities say more work needs to be done to stem the flow, including better use of a gun-tracing program known as eTrace.

#188 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 02:04 AM:

More about stochastic terrorism.

Remember when people first became aware of "stalking" as a pattern of behavior? And there was no recourse for the victim, because the perp wasn't doing anything that was specifically illegal -- until it was too late. It took an entire new set of laws before anything could even begin to be done about that.

This is the same sort of thing. These people have figured out how to game the system, and they will continue to do it until the system recognizes the pattern.

#189 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 03:39 AM:

ddb @ 161 "Telling people that they can't defend themselves, or at least can't use the good tool, makes them dependent and fearful; it's terribly bad for society." I, for one, am not "dependent and fearful" because I cannot use a gun to defend myself. In fact, I (one data point, I know) feel a lot safer and less fearful for knowing there are not many guns on our (British) streets. Personally, I don't see any way in which the absence of handguns in the general population has been "terribly bad for society" in the society I live in.

#190 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 04:02 AM:

Tom @136: Are you sure zombies would be buoyant enough to float? I'd think they would not be as buoyant as living people, because a) their lungs probably aren't air-filled and b) they're colder, therefore slightly denser. When corpses float, it's largely due to trapped gas from decomposition - but zombies are likely already past that stage, being too raggedy to trap any gas. Also, many zombies are still wearing clothes and shoes which will help to weigh them down a bit.

#191 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 06:52 AM:

On Salon, psychiatrist discusses a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I will call it a duck until somebody tells me it's really a chicken in disguise. Is there any chance it's not schizophrenia? Sure, but I'll give you 100 to 1 odds."

#192 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 08:38 AM:

ddb@135:I was picturing Slaver Sunflowers also. I think a good patch of those around your house would be quite effective at zombie control during the day.

#193 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 08:40 AM:

Charlie@142:I like it. Just make sure the paths to the trap aren't ones you would normally encounter.

#194 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 09:27 AM:

In honor of Terry's (caught) misspelling @165--

Why was the bee afraid of the flower?

She'd heard it had a pistil. /Serge

I'm sorry; it was too hard to resist that one.

#195 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 09:32 AM:

C. Wingate @191

I don't find it easy to believe the psychiatrist when he says the political rhetoric is a "red herring". It occurs to me that this rhetoric is just the sort of talk which could influence a choice of target. If he's trying to say that the victims could have as easily have been neighbors or college classmates, I can go with that, but what nudged Loughner to pick the target he did?

#196 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 09:42 AM:

The first question is what evidence we have that nasty violent political rhetoric pushes anyone over the edge or redirects their targets? The second is, assuming such evidence exists, what can we do about it?

#197 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 10:17 AM:

What evidence do we have that advertising sells soap?

#198 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 10:20 AM:

If soap is made illegal, we'll have to tolerate this scent.

#199 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 10:30 AM:

At a minimum, using violent imagery and metaphors in a situation in which people are actually being shot and killed is in extremely bad taste.

Also, as has been mentioned before, if it's okay for our politicians and talk radio hosts to use language like this, why isn't it okay for Muslim clerics?

#200 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 10:36 AM:

What evidence do we have that violent video games and the lobby scene from the Matrix encourage mass-shootings? Do we need evidence for that stuff, or should we just go on the assumption that those things are somehow to blame?

It's surely plausible that violent political rhetoric and first-person shooters are driving people over the edge and giving them a direction when they do so. Hell, maybe it's plausible that heavy metal music or black trenchcoats are doing so. But how do you know whether any of those things are true? Mass shootings are extraordinarily rare events, so it's not like it's easy to trace the causality of them--inherently, the guy who shot up the office, post office, political rally, Army base, etc., was subjected to the same corrosive political and social and media culture as millions of other people who did nothing nastier than call people names.

To be clear, I'm thinking specifically of lone attackers or very small groups (like the DC snipers), not organized terrorist groups or partisan thugs bashing heads for the cause--both of those seem quite different from the discussion of pushing extreme outliers toward violence.

#201 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 10:37 AM:

re 195: On one level I see your point but it also seems to me that (a) paranoia is going to naturally gravitate towards politicians regardless of rhetoric, and (b) I'm dubious of the merits of talking about influences in the context of insanity, as if they should work in any way that makes some sort of sense.

#202 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 10:52 AM:

The stochastic terrorism link is interesting. Again, how would we determine whether his model is correct or not? It's plausible, I rather suspect it's basically right, and he gives anecdotes that support it. But that's not the same as strong evidence.

For example, what does the whole population of lone wolf terrorists/mass shooters look like? What does their reading material look like, in general? What can you actually learn from that, since we don't know starting out which way causality runs here. (It wouldn't be too surprising to me if violent, unbalanced people were drawn to particular sorts of media.)

The reason that's important is that without asking that kind of question, it's easy to remember only the anecdotes that support your starting belief.

#203 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 10:52 AM:

Stochastic terrorism--shoot off enough bullets in a densely populated areas and there are going to be "random" deaths from it.

Hagar and Ishmael's exile were due to Ishmael "making sport" in a fashion comparable to Murdoch TV's hatemongering. Abraham and Sarah did not what Ishmael's antisocial behavior influencing Isaac as a horrendous example to copy.

#204 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 11:28 AM:

Terry Karney #163: Bolivia lost its coast to Chile, not Colombia, in the War of the Pacific. It would have required moving Ecuador and Peru for Colombia to be involved.

#205 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 12:30 PM:

Heh, go away for a while and the thread gets infested with zombies.

Patrick @ #65: I agree completely.

Tony @ #92: Thank you.

Bruce @ #102: Right on back at you! Yes, exactly that.

Xopher @ #145: I would also like to point out that the lack of the health services which all civilized countries provide to their people synergizes perniciously with the social stigma of mental illness to prevent people from seeking help even when they know they need it.

SO TRUE. I knew I needed help for years, but finding help that wouldn't make me feel worse and I could afford wasn't happening. It wasn't until I moved overseas that I could afford to seek help -- and even here in Finland, I had to fight to see an actual psychiatrist and get an actual diagnosis, as public health's view on anything psychological is 'It's depression until you give up, have to be institutionalized, or browbeat us into actually trying to diagnose you,' which very nearly killed me first.

Terry @ #163: You haven't crossed that line. In fact, your posts often impress me with how much empathy and understanding you show in them.

C. Wingate @ #201: (b) I'm dubious of the merits of talking about influences in the context of insanity, as if they should work in any way that makes some sort of sense.

Oh for... didn't we just leave this party?

Crazy people and their actions aren't random and opaque phenomena. Mental illness (even paranoid schizophrenia!) doesn't operate on random numbers and nonsense. It isn't 24/7 crazed babbling and delusions. Us crazy people are still a part of this world and still affected by it, and often affected more strongly because our mental filters and processing doesn't work properly.

#206 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 12:39 PM:

I don't know that I'll buy the shrinks diagnosis. It's not that I don't think it possible, it's that I doubt he's had a chance to personally examine the subject.

As to the questions of rhetoric, and it's harms... I'm willing to be open minded on it, but I am going to demand those who are spouting it be consistent, and not say that it's harmless when they do it, but Evil, (with a capital E, etc.) when it's coming from "The Left", Hollywood, Muslims, etc.

Either they think it works, or they don't. I refuse to let them argue both sides.

I also think the LGM piece on what rhetoric really is, and how it works, is relevant. One is trying to motivate people. At that level I think a politician making statements is going to be more affective than ads for soap.

Both try to change behavior, but the mindset of the people who encounter the attempt is not the same, and so the way they respond to it is different.

#207 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 01:01 PM:

One thing that is often not made clear by medical professionals is that being "crazy" does not equal being dysfunctional. Mental illness, like physical illness, can be treated with appropriate therapy. It's only when the mentally ill person (or physically ill person) loses the ability to function within society that we see an increased risk of violence from that person. Someone with that kind of diagnosis who is under appropriate medical care is not any more likely to commit a crime than the neuro-typical temporarily-abled person.

The metaphor I would use is the fire tetrahedron -- without all of the required factors, there is no fire. We need fuel, oxygen, heat and the uninhibited chain reaction. Stop any one of these, and you've prevented a fire. In humans with or without mental illness, a violent crime depends on some sort of similar combination. Poverty, lack of medical care, anger, a precipitating event, poor social skills or a lack of empathy, the political environment --- I'm sure we could all think of things that are likely to contribute. Mental illness is not a major factor; it's a supporting factor -- if someone has a condition in which their ability to make certain judgments becomes impaired, then they are likely to act -- just as anyone who drinks alcohol to excess, and alcohol is known to be a major factor in many crimes/acts of violence. In fact, I am more inclined to prevent drunks from getting their hands on weapons than to stigmatize people with mental illnesses.

#208 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 01:20 PM:

Hob @190: In what passes for truth in hypothetical circumstances like a zombie attack, it actually doesn't matter whether they sink or float -- water isn't a serious obstacle if they aren't breathing. The same motions that shamble them forward slowly on land will shamble them forward in water, floating or sunk. To say they can't swim is about the same as to say they can't run. There's clearly a tropism towards warm human brains, and they'll keep doing the motions that lead them in that direction. That's what I realize after some thinking about it. I still say they'd float, or at least have a high enough buoyancy that their shambling motions on the bottom of the water would be much less efficient than their motions on land: but in either case, bodies of water wouldn't really stop them.

Beck and colleagues clearly believe that advertising works (or at least the people who buy ads on their shows do) -- and as Terry points out, it's not consistent to think that and think that their rhetoric doesn't incite people to malicious action. Particularly since advertising is so inextricably a part of the "free markets" various people on the Right espouse, in their current form.

#209 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 01:27 PM:

If violent or hateful political rhetoric can lead to actual crimes and killing, then what about violent video games or movies and TV?

#210 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 01:39 PM:

I think the primary difference between this sort of political rhetoric and violent games/video is the direct, real human objects of the rhetoric. Games and videos increase the probability of violence in general; political rhetoric increases the probability of violence toward specific people. Kind of like the difference between a public service announcement and an advertisement for Coke.

#211 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 01:46 PM:

Which leads me to the thought-experiment of what national reaction would be to a first-person shooter game which involved getting through security in order to kill (level 1) a random liberal, ... (level n) a congressional representative, (level n+1) a senator, ... up to the ultimate level of the President. I expect anyone who put out such a game would find themselves persona non grata in all sorts of places, including prisons.

#212 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 01:57 PM:

Muggers, zombies, guns: I'm behind.

Arguing that people should only have the things they "need" is popular when they're things you don't, yourself, want. [this is also popular in sustainable energy.] Very few car owners argue that nobody needs more than a 34 HP car. Almost all my actual computing needs could be met by a 486/66. And so forth. I took a class and learned to shoot a pistol so I'd have an idea of what I'm talking about and I pretty much concluded that semi-automatics are just much better equipment than revolvers. 30 rounds seems like a whole lot to me, but I do not, myself, want a pistol. I can't judge.

As far as goading heavily-armed individuals, I'm not in favor of it. I don't really know how to stop it, except by doing things like boycotting advertisers, but I'm not in favor of it.

As far as muggings: You can't guarantee competence in your muggers, but you can't guarantee incompetence either. Mostly I think of them as the young and strong preying on the old and weak, but that may have something to do with my grandmother (art dealer in NYC until her death at age 93) getting mugged three or four times in the 70's and 80's. I don't know the percentage of criminals that take guns in stride these days. "Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun" (by Geoffrey Canada) seemed to indicate that people from bad neighborhoods are experts on guns these days, but I gave away my copy. (The only line I remember right now is "Would you carry a knife to school?" "What am I, going to stab the bullet?" )

On zombies: nobody's suggested my option. I have an unfinished attic with one of those pull-down staircases. I seriously doubt that, if I pulled the cord up with me, any zombie or zombies could solve that puzzle. Hopefully I'd have time to stock it with food, water, canopener, sleeping bag, and whatever other obvious things I"m forgetting. Firepower and mobility-wise, I'd probably go with SUV first, shotgun second, hammer third (because I'm good with a hammer and I suspect that counts for a lot more than the theoretical advantages of a chainsaw or something.)

#213 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 02:00 PM:

Niall @75,
Rikibeth @ 78

Why a gun? For basic self defense in bad situations, a gun is the least effective tool -- unless you've actively trained in how to use it, maintain it and fire it at something other than paper targets.

Also, there is no guarantee that the person threatening you will not take it and use it on you.

The best defense is situational awareness up to and including weapons of opportunity. You don't have to kill your stalker (or whomever is threatening you) you just have to stall them or evade them long enough for help to arrive. Or present yourself as difficult enough target that they back down/off and go away.

James @ 76 is right about the three nano-second notice. I once dealt with an abusive boyfriend using nothing more than my voice and a pointing finger. (My roommate at the time had unfortunate taste in men.) Our whole confrontation (his and mine) lasted maybe two minutes and ended when I reached for the phone to call the police. His and the roommate's fight had been slowly escalating over a 5-6 hour period before it got really nasty really quickly.

He was gone for good from the roommate's (and my) life that same night.

#214 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 02:10 PM:

@209 [and above]; well, the obvious answer is that both can do that, because everything potentially affects everything, and things that appear designed to incite certain reactions probably are, and may well succeed, cf the entire professions of sales, marketing and advertising, already alluded to.

The notion that there is a certain set of cultural and behavioral stimuli in which our societies have invested billions of dollars, because people can be made to respond to them, and a whole other set to which we also give great attention, but to the influence of which people are somehow 'immune', is so obviously bogus on a moment's reflection that that is really all it needs.

#215 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 02:24 PM:

#200 albatross
When a crime is a near carbon-copy of something in a game, on TV, or in print, that tend to demonstrate that it's NOT "random"

Psychological studies done indicate that violence on TV and games in fiction tends to be less copied, when the consequences involve -consequences- where the criminals committing violence crimes get captured and punished for their misdeeds. Violence which does not effect "adverse" outcomes to the perpetrator, results in desensitivization and internalizing of values that violence is socially acceptable.

#216 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 02:29 PM:

aaaaaaand Sarah Palin is now accusing the Left of "blood libel" for blaming the Arizona shootings on her "crosshairs" surveyor's marks map

**headdesk** **headdesk** **headdesk**

#217 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 02:32 PM:

albatross @ 200: Well, unfortunately, copycat behaviour does occur. For example, it's been known (more than once), after Equus has been shown somewhere (play or film), for one or more horses in the area to be found with their eye gouged out, shortly thereafter.

#218 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 02:43 PM:

re 205: You are inferring a position that is a vast overstatement of what I intended. Also, speaking as someone who has spent quite a lot of time in the tails of the mental health bell curve, I'm not convinced that one pattern of mental illness is necessarily a good model for another. Finally (and I know it's not your word, but the point to be made fits into the whole of what I'm about to say) the coinage "neuro-typical" conceals a different truth: not that we're all well, but that we're all unwell-- or to put it in other perhaps more neutral terms, we are all prone to engaging in thinking which, worked through rigorously, is faulty.

There's an awful lot of room between "random" and orderly thinking. Maybe that realm in the middle is not opaque, but the whole reason it is identified as disordered is that it fails to follow the patterns outlined by the rules; therefore trying to follow those rules in analyzing the disorder is a least questionable.

Coupled to that are our own prejudices. We are people who want to believe that words are powerful; the notion that the rhetoric of metaphorical violence leads to actual violence is appealing. And I think that perhaps the most positive emotion directed here at the likes of Sarah Palin is disdain. That Loughner's acts were propelled by Palin's rhetoric is therefore doubly tempting.

re 206: He emphasizes that his "diagnosis" is necessarily tentative.

The harm in the Palinite rhetoric is more proximate than the off chance that it will move someone to pick up their gun and pull the trigger. The harm is that, in a political system which is heavily powered by compromise, it gives the message that one cannot deal with the opposition because they are Evil. The result is extremism when the government can move, but lots of paralysis because it cannot, all too often.

#219 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 02:51 PM:

dcb @ 217: That should have been "eyes" (plural).

#220 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 03:11 PM:

Terry Karney @ 165

One of my brothers was in the Army. During a training session (war game) he did the "rain of bullets" on a series of stationary targets with a weapon on full automatic since no one was around to see him violate his training. As I recall he only got one "hit". After that, he returned to the "one short burst, aimed" method of firing.

#221 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 03:30 PM:

So, is there a Zombie Jump Bag link somewhere on Making Light?

#222 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 03:38 PM:

"Blood libel"

Just as people were begining to accept that her and her friends probably have nothing to do with this looney shooter, Palin comes out with this. This looks like monomania. Its all about her. The news stories had actually started to turn away from her, people were begining to accept that she and the teabaggers probably had no connection to these events, but instead of being grateful for that, keeping her head down and moving on, she opened her mouth (or some other suitable orifice) and stuck a foot right in it, playing a synthetic martyr card to try to draw attention back to herself. As if she always has to be the story, she has to be the victim, and not the dead and the dying.

Either that of maybe she really is mind-dribbleingly stupid.

#223 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 04:05 PM:

Ken Brown @222--I would say she is both stupid and utterly self-absorbed.

These are not mutually exclusive states.

#224 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 04:31 PM:

Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds) injected the "blood libel" phrase into the shootings coverage on Monday in a column for the WSJ. I suspect Palin's speechwriters lifted it from him.

As I say here, I'm not surprised people working for her are that stupid; I'm a little surprised that a law professor at Tennessee would so blithely throw it into the mix.

#225 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 04:35 PM:

#216 Lila
#222 Ken

Who are feeding the Pln-monster-mouth the cue cards? Are her corporate backers setting her up as scapegoat red herring while they tighten the control the exert over what seems to essentially be an ELECTED junta??!!!

"Blood libel" is not a casual familiar pop culture term, Pln coming up with it on her own seem unlikely.

#226 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 04:47 PM:

Victoria @ #220

There's an amusing tale of something similar in one of Dean A. Grennell's gun books. He was an aerial gunnery instructor during WW2, and the tale involved an entire class on the range with .30 Browning machine guns. The order to fire had not been given when a coyote appeared at one end of the backstop and started sauntering across...

The entire class took aim and fired a burst....

The coyote appeared out of the dust cloud moving rather faster...

Lather, rinse, repeat until 6,000 rounds have been fired and the completely unscathed coyote has disappeared out of the other end of the range at about 200 knots and stopped somewhere in the next state.

#227 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 05:01 PM:

C. Wingate @ #218 : I admit, I'm baffled how you got that long and tangled tangent from amounted to, "No, you're still dehumanizing mentally ill people by claiming them to be incomprehensible, so please stop."

Maybe that realm in the middle is not opaque, but the whole reason it is identified as disordered is that it fails to follow the patterns outlined by the rules; therefore trying to follow those rules in analyzing the disorder is a least questionable.

-- Is ridiculous. It's another way of saying, 'We can't understand this, therefore we can't possibly hope to understand this.' If someone's behavior/thinking doesn't follow the what we think of as the rules, then one watches and notes their behaviors to discover the patterns that are there. You know, basic science.

I knew a paranoid schizophrenic woman some years back. She was unmedicated and had been for some time. The things she believed varied from the police monitoring her with the antennas on their cars to worrying over young women living with young men being abused. Her beliefs were clearly disconnected from the right then-and-there, but they were consistent and had an internal structure that only varied when it was added to, much like how a mentally healthy person's beliefs expand with new information. I could also extrapolate, from her particular concerns and obsessions, things in her past (influences and experiences) that very likely had an influence on her delusions then.

Her behavior and actions were bizarre, but they were not random or ultimately incomprehensible.

To restate my point: Mentally ill people, even very seriously mentally ill people, aren't incomprehensible or opaque or uninfluenced by the world around them, and to state or imply such, as you seem to have, is dehumanizing, and I find that personally hurtful.

We are people who want to believe that words are powerful

Boggle. Words are our primary form* of communication -- how could they be anything but powerful?

* YMMV a bit; substitute 'one of the primary forms' should it suit you better.

#228 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 05:37 PM:

Renatus@227 & previous: I'm far from an expert on schizophrenics or psychopaths (my friends tend towards clinical depression and/or AD[H]D more, with some bipolar sauce). But your own descriptions and complaints about other people's statements suggest to me that they generally do not fully participate in consensus reality (and that's entirely consistent with what I think I know about those conditions).

You say that one can generally work with an individual with those disorders and start to figure out their world and their logic, and that again is consistent with what I think I know on the topic.

That still leaves a big problem relevant to public policy decisions, and to security planning, I think. We don't know the variety of semi-private worlds they're living in out there, and so we have little idea how various things in the real world will interact with each of those semi-private worlds. From this point of view (and we don't have anything beyond speculation that Loughner is schizophrenic or any other particular diagnosis; but it's still the example on the table) they remain unpredictable in a way significantly stronger than people without those conditions are unpredictable in mass. (Harry Seldon was an optimist, but people are fairly predictable in large groups in a lot of ways.)

I think it's this kind of issue that people are thinking of when we talk about "crazy people" doing any random thing unpredictably. While I accept your objections to the language (and the version I just wrote there is also an over-statement even in its own terms), I think there's a core of valid issue that people are trying to address there. I don't know good language to talk about it, without using the forms you legitimately object to, but I think there's something there to be talked about.

(I'm trying not to believe everything I read in Thomas Harris novels, and use the things I learned from psych textbooks and decently authoritative non-fiction instead, but I may well have slipped here and there.)

#229 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 05:38 PM:

Palin reminds me of a small child who overhears her parents discussing something complex and starts repeating the words, unknowingly airing dirty laundry. Unfortunately, "daddy" in this analogy (Prof. Rynolds) likes to pepper his discussions with anti-Semitic hate speech.

And I realize that this analogy infantilizes Palin, but sweet and sour Jesus on a stick! What competent adult sees "Blood Libel" in a speech and doesn't think, "maybe I shouldn't say that," or "My speechwriter needs a talking to." Nope. Let's just read any old thing that appears on the teleprompter. Sarah Palin: Ron Burgundy's twin sister.

Or maybe it's just that this is one of the more clear cut cases of sufficiently advanced incompetence being indistinguishable from malice?

Neither answer is at all satisfying when confronted by this level of cretinous depravity.

#230 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 05:52 PM:

#224 linkmeister

I suspect Pln's promoters/funders/sponsors fed her some equivalent of cue cards with buzz phrases to insert with that being one of them. She's looking more and more like an mutated supersize version of an astroturfer--a paid shill, given content and payment to go forth and like a male frog, ejaculate disgusting messes everywhere because there might be something impregnable....

Is it Occam's Razor which denotes that the simplest theory which match the conditions observed, is probably the correct one?
a) Pln gets lots of media promotion (promotion in the sense that
a1) she's constantly getting free space clips with her on them,
a2)she's got a TV show on cable;
a3) her daughter was someone who lacking extraordinary talent of any apparent sort and lacking any "merit" other than being the daughter of a made-media-personality mother (*) none the less was put into a starring role on "Dancing with the Stars' and kept on the show to the finals despite mediocre performances--and the show was used as a forum promoting her mother in than merely the quick ten second clips showing family which even highly talented competitors' parents get)
without any apparent merit for it on her part
b) Commercial TV does NOT put people on and show them unless someone is paying either or both for "product placement" directly and/or because there is significant payment or expectation of a high return on investment otherwise (advertisers and/or other sponsors paying directly or indirectly, and/or editorial directive on the part of the station owners/network/producers... consider the Sinclair Broadcasting Network's editorial fiats and biases, for example, and consider the Washington Times, which financially is a below breakeven proposition, the Unification Church pays the difference between the paper's expenses and the revenue from advertisers and people who buy copies of the paper).
c) Pln's academic credentials are pathetic, to the point of being laughable were she not such a Media Personality so heavily promoted.
d) Her cognizance is at best mediocre.
e) She comes accompanied by scandals ranging from e1) allegations of fraud and incompetence and self-enrichment as mayor and then governmor, to
e2)hypocrisy regarding moral turpitude over
e2a) premarital coitus (birthdate of her first child in less than the time for a fullterm pregnancy from the marriage date(
e2b) extrmarital sexual affairs (allegations of an affair between her and an ex-business partner of her husband's)
e2c) calls for "abstinence" (her eldest daughter got pregnant as an unmarried minor child, family values?!!!)
e2d) childrearing and irresponsible pharmaeutical uses and underage drinking/acohol use/abuse and restricted substances use/abuse [allegations with substantiation on webpages showing Bristol Palin and the biological father of her child boozing it up despite being years below 21, the legal alcohol drinking age, allegations of the oldest son being a user/abuse of "recreational drugs" banned for recreational use even for full legal adults and of him being a troublemaker offered a choice of jail or military enlistment]
f] Her cognizance over matters domestic and foreign are pathetic, for example she has persistently confused countries on the banned-for-US-citizens-to-travel-to-on-US-flag-carrier countries such as North Korea with countries allied with the USA
g) She and her family have traveled to Canada to exploit the Canadian healthcare system rather than pay the prices demanded for healthcare via the bloated high-priced middlemen-enrich insurance-based system in the USA, yet objects to changes to the US healthcare system to make it more financially efficent and less expensive for people to receive healthcare --as opposed to maximally profitable for parasitical insurance companies and 25% profit margin pharmaeutical companies and million-dollar-salary insurance executives and healthcare providers executives.

Why is this person, as is nn Cltre and ln Dnnlly trotted out perniciously?! It seems to me, to be cause the media are being PAID or -ordered- by their financial sponsors and corporate executives, to do so.

#231 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 06:22 PM:

re 227: Because you're throwing around that word "dehumanizing" without warrant. It is not dehumanizing of another person to not understand their thinking or actions.

The key phrase in Dave Bell's response in #195 is "what nudged Loughner to pick the target he did". One could argue that this phrase is dehumanizing in that it takes Loughner's volition out of the picture, converting him into a psychological object at the mercy of outside forces. The flip side is that humans have an all-too-overpowering urge to make sense of things. The psychiatrist's point is that Loughner could have seized upon another target, and avoided making the national news because his victim would have been among the non-notables rather than politicians who can be fit into a thesis about political rhetoric. Almost nothing is incomprehensible to humans, but a very great part of that comprehension is spurious.

#232 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 06:30 PM:

re 230: A much simpler explanation: outrage sells. The Democrats having set themselves up as the keepers of upper middle propriety, the Republicans can get endless mileage off of this by being loud and a little coarse and saying things that offend the sensibilities of of the MSM keepers. It attracts reader/viewers, so the MSM is quite willing to go along.

#233 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 06:47 PM:

Cadbury Moose@226

Obviously the class was just doing their best Imperial Storm Trooper imitation...


#234 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 06:51 PM:

dcb, #189: Precisely. The problem here is not just guns, but the widespread availability thereof. The solution is not to keep adding more and more guns and thereby increasing the overall paranoia level about them -- that's terribly bad for society by any measure -- it's to reduce the easy availability of guns while simultaneously making the penalty for using a gun in the commission of a crime severe enough that the average street hood will think twice and then leave his illegally-gotten gun at home.

The fewer guns in circulation, the less people are going to be paranoid about them. How hard is that to understand?

Ton, #208: Good point. There's a clear argument to be made that the drumbeat of eliminationist rhetoric is in fact a form of advertising; it's just meant to sell a worldview rather than a product per se. But there's an awful lot of money to be made by selling that worldview.

Steve, #209: The important difference between political rhetoric and movies/TV/video games is that the latter are fictional and clearly presented as such. Unless you're willing to argue that the population en masse has completely lost the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy, that attempted parallel won't fly. However, the political rhetoric is part of the real world; moreover, it's being presented in such a way as to deliberately blur the borders of acceptable behavior. That's a real-world problem.

Renatus, #227: Would it be reasonable to say that, while the behavior of a mentally-ill person may seem incomprehensible from the outside, it generally adheres fairly closely to a consistent internal narrative? Because if so, one of Suzette Haden Elgin's standard rules for communicating would seem to apply: rather than assuming that what the person just said isn't true, assume that it is true and then try to imagine what it could be true of. IOW, try to understand the internal narrative which produced this statement instead of just dismissing it out of hand because it doesn't match your internal narrative.

#235 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 07:00 PM:

Win the world's tiniest violin solo, or equivalent no-prize, for the most far-fetched self-pitying historical metaphor. This contest idea comes courtesy of Randal Milholland, who gave us

I got pants for Christmas. I guess the store was out of plague-ridden blankets.
I was a dick to my waitress last night and I didn't get a soda refill. Did we learn nothing from the Apartheid?
My first hack is
We've got to drive to work in the snow? Who do they think they are, Napoleon?
but I think the Fluorosphere can do better.

#236 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 07:05 PM:

Dan Hoey @235:

John Scalzi has the Palin Equivalency filter.

#237 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 07:20 PM:

Michael I @ 233...

"Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise."
- Obi-wan Kenobi after seeing the Jawa's wrecked tank.

#238 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 07:45 PM:

Cadbury Moose @ 226...

"If you can't do it with one bullet, don't do it at all."
- Allan Quatermain

#239 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 07:51 PM:

ddb @ 103:

I don't think I'd want to shoot that .600 Nitro Express pistol single-handed. Or double-handed either. I've shot .45 MAX and .44 Magnum and .458 Casull in pistols, and that's not my upper limit, but your suggestion is a WHOLE LOT beyond those.

You need the Tars Tarkus Special, designed specifically for four-handed firing.

#240 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 08:26 PM:

Bb>Bruce Cohen @ 239... the Tars Tarkus Special

Emerson, Lake & Palmer gave a concert on Mars?

#241 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 09:33 PM:

"Ah, that was the greatest shot I've ever seen."
"The worst! I was aiming at the horse."
- The Magnificent Seven

#242 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 09:34 PM:

The whole dog-and-pony show trailing off this event is sickeningly reminiscent of a scene from Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle (about an apple pickers' strike in the 30's). After one of the "Party" men gets shot, Mac builds up a stage so he can simultaneously display the corpse and proselytize to the enraged workers.

All you need to get the masses energized, he explains, is the smell of a little fresh blood. Allocution will take you the rest of the way.

#243 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 09:44 PM:

C. Wingate: I think the objection isn't to "we don't understand why he did it" but the idea that we can never understand, "them".

I also take issue with the idea that a seed crystal (i.e. "nudge") in a saturated solution (someones extreme mental disorder) is imputing a lack of all volition.

If someone is inclined to violent acting out the surrounding environment will have some influence on how the act out. That's saying they wouldn't have acted in that general way, but rather that the wouldn't have chosen to go after blacks if they hadn't been reading a lot of KKK literature, or Arabs if they'd been reading LGF, or homosexual "supporters" if they'd been steeped in the idea of Westboro.

Start conditions matter.

#244 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 10:20 PM:

re fully automatic fire: It's not as potent as people think, at hitting things.

I've done a lot of shooting. I can put 61 rounds (three clips, with two reloads) downrange in something like a minute of aimed fire.

90 percent of those will be in a 1 foot circle at 75 feet (aimed is a term of art in this context).

Same range, with short bursts (3-6 rounds) I'm lucky to get ten percent of them into that 1 foot circle.

That doesn't mean automatic weapons aren't good in a fight, it just means one has to know what sort of fight one is in. Give me a clear field of fire, all the ammo I can use, and a large target (say 1,000 guys crossing a 100 yard patch of entanglements and shell holes) and I can pretty much stop the enemy.

Give me smaller targets, ones I need to aim at, and I can't do that. The hit rates I mentioned, were at static targets. If they are moving my percentage of round on target drops a lot.

Real wold example. The Northridge Bank Robbery. Two guys, body armor and AKs (as I recall, Chinese AKMs, modified to be full-auto capable), and more ammo than they were able to use.

I have no idea how many rounds they went through, in a target rich environment. But they hit damn-all. It didn't help the AK is a lousy gun in terms of accuracy. The muzzle rise is pretty notable, even in the AKM (in the actual AK-47 it was even worse).

What automatic weapons are good for (and no one had figured out by WW1, largely because the few times they had been used in force on force battles the side which had them lost; and the reports of the few occasions in which they were well deployed were lost in the overall idea of them having failed to win the war, but I digress), is denying an opponent the ability to maneuver.

One uses them to lay down a "base of fire" which allows people who have non-automatic weapons to get into place and actually hit people.

Semi-autos won't really do that. The ability to put enough lead on target to make the enemy stay put is as much psychological as it is actual. A steady "thump---thump---thump----thump--thump" is a nuisance but one has the sense it's avoidable (though only a fool is likely to stick his head up to take a long look around.

A "pu-pu-pu-pu-pup... pu-pu-pu-pu--pu-pup... pu-pu-pu-up-pup" in the same time frame as the above thumps is much more prone to make one hunker down, which allows someone else to flank and shoot the person so hunkered.

This has proved a great advantage in open-field paintball. I can teach that drill, and paintball guns have no recoil to speak of.... they can be fired at hellishly high rates.

The trade off is speed/accuracy. You can't really have both.

#245 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 02:09 AM:

C. Wingate: "I don't seem able to make sense of a lot of schizophrenic mental maps of the world." isn't dehumanizing. "They are incomprehensible" is, as well as being foolishly arrogant coming on the heels of multiple folks talking about how they do, in practice, understand how people with schizophrenia - and other mental illnesses - perceive and respond to the world. It is a human thing to admit one's own limits; it is an alienating, othering thing to insist that no human can actually make sense of another human of a particular kind.

As a side note, I'd like to note that various things have kept me in contact with a fair number of transgendered folks, who are as a group something like eight times more likely to be murdered than the population at large, and through links from them periodically look at trans perspectives on this and that. I notice that even those who are personally proficient with firearms and prefer to carry don't seem to feel that much would approve if more trans people (and, presumably, more of any kind of people likely to be attacked) carried a lot. They talk about it as a personal thing, not as part of a potentially useful general response to the problem of aggression.

I find this broad consensus interesting. Out trans people know about as much as anyone about the risks of being seen as a good target. If they don't think that carrying concealed - or carrying openly, for that matter - would likely improve the safety of good targets, I'm willing to take that seriously. They could all be wrong, but I'd want to see it worked out, and not just assume it because folks in other, much lower-risk groups, feel otherwise.

#246 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 06:36 AM:

re 245/243: I only used the word "incomprehensible" once, and not in anything resembling the statement that Renatus and now others are trying to force upon me. I do not accept the principle that the schizophrenic are flatly incomprehensible; what I am saying is that there is reason to be skeptical of claims of comprehension.

Look at it this way: here I am, and I have been reading Renatus's arguments in this, and I come upon a psychiatrist who opines that trying to draw a line from violent rhetoric to Loughner's choice of target is pointless. OK, well, the sense I get here is that there is a model of Loughner's schizophrenic thinking which people are highly loathe to give up: it has now reappeared in this "saturated solution" model, and earlier it was the "nudge" model. Hidden in this is a rather substantial claim of how volition works, but in particular it's still a mechanical picture. Well, that's a bad model for "normal" people, whose thinking is ostensibly well-ordered, so how does it get to be a good model here?

What I'm arguing for is skepticism, not denial. I am reading a social expectation here that I should accept Renatus's claims of understanding and reject those of the psychiatrist, in part because the latter is denying that this aspect is comprehensible, but also perhaps for some other reason. What I have to go on is my own experience that comprehension is easy to come by and that humans can make a pattern out of anything, even noise; and I have my experience with the disordered thinking of "normal" people, which is defies real comprehension all too often. That's what leads me to a position of skepticism. I do not wish to deny Renatus's claim that the thinking of the woman he knew had an internal consistency: I can't tell one way or the other. But the discussion point here is the disordering between that how-ever-broken system and external reality, and given that this is precisely the point where defect is being identified in the first place, and given how hard it is to assess this connection anyway, it seems to me that skepticism is in order.

And Bruce, once again you've stuck me with a statement I didn't make. What I actually said, more or less, was that the mechanistic models of how someone like Loughner comes to kill another are dehumanizing, a claim that has nothing to do with your version of my thoughts. The model behind the models is the thought/hope that we can limit the mad behavior by controlling the madman's surroundings. But behind that is the pressure to understand me within a particular framework; it is instructive how often I have to repeat that I didn't say something that someone has attributed to me here, as though others and not myself are the oracle of my thoughts. My experience is not that others are absolutely or even largely incomprehensible, but that a lot of claims of understanding do not pan out in the end, and that claims of motivation are among those most likely to offend in this regard. Respecting the humanity of others requires attempt at understanding, but it also requires a lot of acceptance that one does not understand them.

#247 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 07:14 AM:

On Palin and 'blood libel' passim.

From what is very much an outsider's perspective (or indeed, two outsider's perspectives), Abi's characterisation of Geert Wilders as an interent troll (or rather, of applying the rhetorical techniques of internet trolling to poltiics) strikes me as being applicable in this case as well.

Renatus also passim

Thank you very much for your comment at 36, and also for coming back to the same point when necessary. (I think that a lot of us - certainly including me - have some habits of thought and speech that we're not always aware of, and that we ought to do better with.) Repetition does - eventually- help.

Lee @ 234 responding to Renatus @ 227

I don't know what Renatus would say; but having dealt with someone in my close family with a condition similar to Renatus's - I think there's something right about that.

That said - it's supposed to be characteristic of delusions (as a psychiatric term of art)that they are astonishingly resistant to counter-evidence. (and my own experience of dealing with a deluded individual bore this out). So communication in such cases is not necessarily simply a matter of someone having arrived at a bizarre and self-supporting system of beliefs.

#248 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 07:20 AM:

D'oh. Garbled again. That last sentence should have read

So communication in such cases is not necessarily simply a matter of understanding and coping with someone's having arrived at a bizarre and self-supporting system of beliefs.

#249 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 08:28 AM:

Re: real world vs. perceived world:

CNN ran a story linking Loughner to lucid dreams.

#250 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 09:02 AM:

Lucid dreams make you kill people? Well that's me stuffed then.

Except that the point about lucid dreaming is that you *know* you are dreaming and you don't confuse it with reality. So you are "in charge" and can sometimes make things happen, and if not you can usually choose to wake up, and if not that, at least you know its not real so its less scary. Which is, pretty much, how I dream. I'd reckon its the opposite of a problem.

#251 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 09:18 AM:

Ken @250:

I think CNN was careful enough to say that lucid dreaming was not, in itself, dangerous. The article does imply, however, that if one goes too far, i.e. becomes unable to distinguish dreams from reality, it might lead him to believe there are no "real" consequences to his actions.

Loughner aside, I found the link to the Lucidity institute intriguing, particularly the page on how to remember your dreams.

#252 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 01:44 PM:

You don't have to attend public meetings to be at risk. You don't even have to be in Arizona.

#253 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 02:08 PM:

James D. Macdonald#76

Speaking of self defense ... if you have something above three nano-seconds notice, three months is as good as three minutes.

Having lurked around Making Light for a little while, I've seen simple assertions in the style of this comment from Jim before and it just clicked what it reminded me of. In my head, at least, I see an expert aikidoka taking up a stance: relaxed, straightforward, presenting only the point they would like you to grab, without fluff or distractions.

And I know exactly what happens when you attack exactly where an expert aikidoka wants you to :D

#254 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 03:42 PM:

ddb @ #228: That still leaves a big problem relevant to public policy decisions, and to security planning, I think.

I agree. I'm afraid I don't have any ideas there aside from encouraging people to remember that everyone is human and deserving of empathy, no matter how bizarre their thinking, and that helping those who have mental illnesses -- actively helping and supporting and following up on, unlike the non-system in place right now -- can prevent a lot of problems before they start.

C. Wingate @ #231/246: One could argue that this phrase is dehumanizing in that it takes Loughner's volition out of the picture, converting him into a psychological object at the mercy of outside forces.

One could, and then I'd be left wondering why, exactly, one ignored the obvious nuances in favor for rushing to an extreme.

Terry @ #243 and Bruce @ #245 covered what I'd unpack about the matter, but as you appear to be objecting to that --

Remember that my objection was to your assertion that I'm dubious of the merits of talking about influences in the context of insanity, as if they should work in any way that makes some sort of sense and continued assertions that outside influences could not have influenced Loughner. My reading of that statement was that mentally ill people are incomprehensible, and/or outside influences have no obvious or understandable bearing on the thoughts and actions of the mentally ill.

No, you didn't use the word incomprehensible. That was my word for my understanding of what you said. If I misunderstood, it would have been far more effective to clarify that, rather than replying as if I had understood but was only disagreeing, then getting upset four replies later for others responding under the same understanding I'd reached.

I must point out I have not said one word about what and how much influence anything has had on Loughner. I'm not a psychiatrist and I refuse to play armchair shrink as a sport. Even if I were one, I certainly wouldn't be tacky enough to try to diagnose over the internet with what jumbled information is available. (Ahem.)

Lee @ #231: Would it be reasonable to say that, while the behavior of a mentally-ill person may seem incomprehensible from the outside, it generally adheres fairly closely to a consistent internal narrative?

Yes, that's it exactly!

praisegod barebones @ #247: Thank you very much for your comment at 36, and also for coming back to the same point when necessary. (I think that a lot of us - certainly including me - have some habits of thought and speech that we're not always aware of, and that we ought to do better with.) Repetition does - eventually- help.

I'm glad to have been of some small enlightenment. (I try to be patient because I understand all too well about habits of thought that benefit from careful monitoring and repetition of something to counter them.)

So communication in such cases is not necessarily simply a matter of understanding and coping with someone's having arrived at a bizarre and self-supporting system of beliefs.

Very true. I hope I didn't give the impression that I think if we just try to understand seemingly delusional/delusional people everything will be better. Unraveling and understanding is only one step.

#255 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 04:43 PM:


Very true. I hope I didn't give the impression that I think if we just try to understand seemingly delusional/delusional people everything will be better. Unraveling and understanding is only one step.

No, you didn't, and I didn't mean to attribute that thought to you: I intended it just to be a qualification of my agreement with (my understanding of) the point Lee was making.

#256 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 06:17 PM:

praisegod barebones @ #255: Ah, okay! I understand now.

#257 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 06:45 PM:

C Wingate: I only used the word "incomprehensible" once, and not in anything resembling the statement that Renatus and now others are trying to force upon me. I do not accept the principle that the schizophrenic are flatly incomprehensible; what I am saying is that there is reason to be skeptical of claims of comprehension.

I'll grant you only used the word incomprehensible once,but you did say:
m dubious of the merits of talking about influences in the context of insanity, as if they should work in any way that makes some sort of sense,",which boils down to an idea that there is no way to comprehend the possible influence of environment on the mentally disturbed... in short any motive they might have is incomprehensible.

You also said you didn't like the nudge/saturated solution model (I don't agree they are different, and since I introduced the latter to expand the former I think I am on tolerably firm ground when I say that), so let me try a larger analogy.

If I am not hungry, I am not likely to go looking for food.

If I am moderately hungry I will probably look for something to eat. I will also probably be tolerably discriminating in what I choose to eat.

If I am really hungry I will probably stop at the first place I come to and order something.

If I am starving I may go heading for the nearest place I know/have heard has food.

If we map that to political moods, someone who isn't dissastified with the status quo is may be active politically, but they are probably not going to be more than moderately passionate about it (barring something they see as a credible threat to the status quo they may even be pretty apathetic).

The second case is those who are worried about the status quo, or see some flaws in it. They will be moderately active.

The third case is those who are strongly partisan. For whatever reason they see some serious threat to the status quo, or a strong deviation from the way things ought to be. They may even be violent.

The last case is, in this model, those who are unbalanced. Their sense of things not being as they ought to be is at a variance with reality which makes them unpredictable. I think someone who is so strongly out of touch with the world as it is will latch onto the thing which has the loudest drumbeat; or happens to be at the perceived apex of a system. In the early '70s I would expect them to have been attacking Republican figures, because the Vietnam War, and gov't reaction to it was the big thing in the news/political landscape.

In the '90s I'd have expected them to be attacking Democratic figures, because the drumbeat was anti-Clinton.

In the '00s I'd have expected them to be attacking Muslims/Liberals.

And right now, I'd expect to see them attacking Democrats.

In all of those periods I'd expect them (irrespective of left/right) to be attacking gov't buildings/agencies, because we have a long tradition of saying the gov't is, by existing, an oppressive entity.

So no, I don't think the reactions of the mentally ill can't be, loosely, understood, from the context of the tone of the political rhetoric.
I'm rejecting the psychiatrist for the same reason I rejected Sen. Frist telling me that Terri Schiavo was going to recover. He's not done an actual evaluation, and the terms he's using are such that they make it easy to just dismiss the shooting as, "guy goes crazy", which make it possible to ignore the toxic sludge that's passing for discourse.

#258 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 06:51 PM:

There seem to be a few things getting tangled up here regarding gun ownership and use, so I'll try and lay out some ideas.
Here in the UK, they've tightened gun laws up considerably in the last 25 years or so, mainly as a knee jerk reaction to massacres carried out by legal gun owners. The point being to prevent people who happened to own guns legally going a bit bonkers and killing people with them. That finer point seemed to be lost amidst the reporting and in general by the politicians themselves, and the impression I retain from the news etc was that guns were the problem.

Meanwhile, criminals have access to guns without any hassle, always have, always will have short of telepathic mutant police officers on patrol. But I can't think of any massacres carried out using illegal weapons, because your average criminal has other things to worry about like profit margin and cost of shooting people, which includes being shot by the police later or a long time in prison. Being on a small crowded island helps a great deal in these things, since people can't just dissappear over into the next state 500 miles away. In fact a great deal of crime seems to be carried out by people within certain social neighbourhoods on each other, so what use is shooting people you see every day?

Why there havn't been more massacres by people who could get guns from criminals by spending a little money I don't know. Maybe there is a general distinction between the criminal mindset and the mindset of someone who wants to carry out a massacre. Either way, reducing the incidence of and power of guns amongst the apparently non-criminal populace seems to help in reducing massacres, whether you ban the guns or restrict access to them. Were I to want a licence for a gun, I'd have to show good reason and there's lots of other hoops to jump through. Therefore, if you want one or two people dead, it's much easier to just run them down with your car, as has been done.
Being armed in the UK is not seen as necessary in order to protect yourself. There may be muggers out there with guns, but oddly enough they don't pull the gun out 50 feet away and walk towards you, they pull it out under your nose and stick you up with it there and then. There are some police officers who want routine arming, but my understanding is that the majority do not, and as far as I can see some of the problems the police have come from simply undermanning, e.g. 4 people to cover a town centre on a friday night, and guns are not necessary to deal with that.

Wheras in the USA, due to a different culture and geography, owning guns is necessary both for everyday living in hunting etc, and since the society is, to put it bluntly, badly traumatised, people feel the need to be armed against their fellow men, or rather, wolves. Or maybe the arming came before the breakdown of society. But I was under the impression that Canada had high rates of gun ownership but much lower rate of killing people with them.
So ultimately, although restricting gun's is a useful tool, it isn't the whole answer. I see it as coming back down to your society. If you could make it socially unacceptable to run around with a gun in public, jail people who shoot other people in the back, deal with the crime that people seem to be so afraid of (or maybe deal with their perception of crime), then I imagine things will get better.

#259 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 06:54 PM:

I had a dream last night (I swear this is relevant; I'm just going to trust this community to get it).

There was some sort of disease epidemic. The set design for this dream was strictly Hollywood: everywhere I went was $FAMOUS_PUBLIC_PLACE filled with steel cots with thin mattresses, containing afflicted people moaning under sheets.

In addition to the many sick people, people were going missing during the epidemic. I think I was vaguely attributing that to social disorder, but I don't have a clear memory of that part.

Finally I saw a person who was very sick indeed, moaning louder than anyone in fever. She or he arched hir back and vanished. The sheet settled damply to the bed.

There was a nurse standing by. She said "No one believes me, but when they're really sick, they vanish. If they get well they come back, but sometimes they're gone for good." She knew this because she'd had the disease herself and recovered.

#260 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 10:11 PM:

Xopher @259
Have you read "The Dreaming Earth" by John Brunner? Your dream sounds like the movie version, not that anyone has made a movie of it, to the best of my knowledge.

#261 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 11:00 PM:

Guthrie-- my experience of the UK is that people there are still afraid, and the lack of guns doesn't really stop that. There are calls to ban pointy knives to stop 'knife crime'. That includes kitchen knives. The terrorists still have guns, but they don't use them as much as they used to, because they just use 'devices' instead. (While I was last there, I think there was a grenade in a policeman's yard, a pipe bomb, and an unspecified device that shut down the main road from Dublin to Belfast for a day or so around Newry. That was less than two weeks worth.)

#262 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 11:24 PM:

Guthrie@258: I'd heard somewhere that Canada has more guns per capita than the States, but a check on Wikipedia says no, the States has about 90 guns per 100 residents, whereas Canada has only 31.5 per 100. This number may be distorted in a number of ways, ranging from how the guns are counted (the States produce a lot more guns than Canada does, so is unsold inventory part of the numbers?) to the unbalancing caused by some collectors with large collections vs. large numbers of people with no guns at all. Also, it says nothing about the ratio of handguns to longarms.

The death rates are where things look interesting. Per 100,000 people, the United States had 15.22 deaths in 1993, whereas Canada had 4.78 in 1992 (I'm comparing by the closest equivalent years, here.) Which looks like the States have three times the number of guns, and also three times the number of deaths, than Canada.

The next columns say more, though. Breaking the raw number down, the States suffer 7.07 homocides, 7.35 suicides, and 0.59 unintentional deaths, whereas Canada suffers 0.76 homicides, 3.72 suicides, and 0.22 unintentional deaths.

That looks to me to be about the same number of unintentional deaths per gun, a few more suicides per gun in Canada, and a LOT more homicides per gun in the States.

Why is there this difference in homicide rates? Canada and the US share a continent, a language, and a large amount of culture, including pop culture like TV and movies, video games, and even some Wild West history. It's had mass shootings, too, such as the Polytechnique killings, the Taber shootings, and the Mayerthorpe killings.

I've heard a theory regarding the 'right to bear arms' translating into an urge to use one's arms, but that seems a bit facile to me. Another theory runs that our fictional 'lone hero against the world' storylines, as in vigilante justice, may also be factors.

I have to admit, anecdotally speaking and considering only the yahoos I'm related to, the latter seems more likely. This is depressing, though, because I like that kind of fiction, and the only guns I've ever shot were squirt pistols. (I did load one with old perfume once, though. My target deserved it. I think he agreed, too, because he was giggling for days afterward.)

Hmm... I may have figured a partial answer. I can stop at a squirt pistol and a lone target. Someone like Loughner can't, or won't. (But that just takes us back to 'Why?' again....)

#263 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 11:27 PM:

Magenta 260: No, never read it.

#264 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 12:03 AM:

Xopher @ 259:
"It's not paranoia if it's true." "It's not true if there's no evidence beyond your fever dreams."
I just bumped into that after reading your dream and it was weird. Plate. Shrimp. Plate of shrimp.

#265 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 05:44 AM:

Eric #261 - I kind of forgot about the IRA etc. They come under the illegal guns thing, but generally seem to have realised that bombs are a quicker and safer way of killing people.
The thing about knives is that they are easily available, cheap, and deadly even when you don't mean to kill. They are generally the most popular thing used to kill other people, far surpassing guns.

The fear thing is tricky - some of it is definitely down to the media drumbeat of crime reporting and lurid details and so on. But there is also a geographical spread to it as well, if you live in a nice area there really isn't much crime to worry about, whereas if you live in a more downmarket one, things get a bit worse. I just don't find that we have the level of paranoia that seems present in the USA, judging by the claimed reasons for having a gun and carrying it around.

Renee #262 - ok, that's interesting. I've seen the CAnada has a lot of guns thing around a lot. So it still looks like having guns around means they get used more? Which rather matches the prevalence of knives in UK murders - if you banned knices and all food came pre-chopped etc, I'm sure the murder rate from knives would fall.

Magenta #260 has beaten me to the ob. Brunner, but there's another that feels relevant. "The Jagged orbit", which features an arms company exploiting the fractured nature of American society to sell arms to everyone who is afraid of their neighbour. To the extent that it becomes sensible for people to murder their neighbour before they can afford the top of the range offensive systems sold by the arms company.

#266 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 04:57 PM:

guthrie #265: The thing about knives is that they are easily available, cheap, and deadly even when you don't mean to kill. They are generally the most popular thing used to kill other people, far surpassing guns.

Certainly not the case in America. A recent CDC report on violent deaths had 66% of homicides by firearms, 12% by sharp instrument, 6% by blunt instrument, 3% each for suffocation and feet/fists, and less than 1% each for a variety of other methods.

#267 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 05:31 PM:

Terry, a look through Wikipedia's List of assassinated American politicians doesn't disclose any such pattern. The list isn't very long, to begin with: the 12th most recent entry is RFK. So I threw in List of assassinated people: United States, which adds a few more, some abortion doctors but mostly reprisal killings by foreign agents. By and large the assassins can be identified as having specific and coherent personal grievances with the victims. The spree killers cannot be so readily analyzed (if for no other than they tend to die before they can be interrogated) but I don't see a rhetorical pattern there either. In any case we are talking about a minuscule fraction of murders (9/11 being the substantial exception): if you believe the statistic of 1,600 murders by schizophrenics a year, there simply isn't much data here. This study doesn't mention anything like your thesis.

I understand your unwillingness to accept the "diagnosis" proffered by the psychiatrist, and he issues the same caution himself. On the other hand I think his expertise as an analyst of Loughner's ranting should be given some credence. And I have to say that I fail to see any reason why I shouldn't take a professional's word on a general observation about schizophrenic behavior over a layman's contrary views. You've put forth a testable hypothesis, and to the degree that I can put it to the test it seems to me that his explanation fits the facts better.

#268 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 05:49 PM:

eric @ 261: my experience of the UK is that people there are still afraid, and the lack of guns doesn't really stop that. As I said back @189 in response to ddb@ 161, no I'm not afraid due to not having access to a gun; and having access to guns - and knowing that other people had ready access to guns - would not make me less afraid, it would make me more afraid.

I was recently in contact with someone who lives in a very rough area. She never said anything like "oh, I wish I had a gun so I could defend myself - that would make me feel so much safer." As indicated by guthrie @265, it just doesn't appear to be part of the mindset here.

#269 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 08:03 PM:

albatross @ 196: "The first question is what evidence we have that nasty violent political rhetoric pushes anyone over the edge or redirects their targets?"

For me, the only sensible reply to that is: "How violent is the rhetoric in question?" I think once people have gotten on the radio and are listing off names of people to kill, clearly the rhetoric is nasty enough to play a causal role in the ensuing violence. So it's a question of degree, isn't it? How nasty is nasty enough to lead to violence?

Scott Roeder has, as it turns out, a history of mental illness. (I was surprised by that, because my impression was that this case was fairly well agreed-upon as an ideologically-motivated killing--or is that just my ignorance talking?) Nonetheless, I don't think talking about the role extremism played in shaping his life's trajectory is fruitless. His ex-wife doesn't think so:

[on how her husband became radicalized] "It was about 1991-92 when he basically couldn't cope with everyday life. He couldn't make ends meet, he couldn't pay the bills and didn't know why he couldn't do that. And someone told him that if he didn't pay his federal taxes, if those taxes were left in his check, he could make ends meet. And then he started investigating that and someone told him that it wasn't ratified properly in the Constitution, that it was illegal. And he went from there and got into the anti-government, got into the militia, got into the Freeman, and along those lines anti-abortion issues came up and he started becoming very religious in the sense that he finally — he was reading the Bible. But then, after we were divorced, his religion took on a whole new right wing of itself."

There are a lot of factors at play here: mental illness, economic hardship, and extreme rhetoric to name three. None of them is a complete explanation, and none of them are irrelevant. Nonetheless, I don't think it's particularly difficult to see how rhetoric comparing Tiller to Mengele, and describing the murder of abortion providers as justifiable homocide encouraged Roeder's actions, and I feel on solid ground when I say that people like David Leach are morally culpable for Tiller's murder.

So the question I'm left with is, on the spectrum of violent rhetoric, with bin Laden and Roeder describing one end and a "We'll crush them on election day"-style metaphor on the other, where does the rhetoric become morally culpable? On which side of that line does the Tea Party's rhetoric stand?

#270 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 08:21 PM:

C Wingate: You are misunderstanding what I did not say that large numbers of people engaged in attacks on given political targets. I said that in the late '60s I would have expected the Loughners of the world (i.e. those people who are acting out, and subject to external influences on their targets) to have chosen different targets.

In short, I am favoring a combination of factors, and I am not willing to accept the hypothesis that the mentally ill are completely opaque to both the world around them, and to understanding.

Is it a limited sample? Yes, in terms of those who have snapped to the point of going around shooting people. I don't know how many of the people I encounter who are ranting about X,Y,Z aren't in that group, and just not coherent/solvent enough to take arms against what they see as their demons.

I think heresiarch's comment is trenchant, and follows my general thinking fairly closely.

Different example, one of scale: If a Charles Manson were to have someone in their near presence, and that person were unbalance, and the Manson figure said, "this person is your enemy, they need to be killed," would we say there was no possibility of influence?

Not likely. So the question isn't, "can it happen?" but rather at what level of ubiquity does it need to be present in the awareness of the person who is unbalanced to become a further destabilising factor. Jim Jones convinced apparently sane people to kill their children, then themselves.

Radio Rwanda incited genocide.

Why is the Republican Noise Machine somehow exempt from so much as examination?

#271 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 08:32 PM:

Ginger@87: Unfortunately, the only cases I've seen were ones in which the homeowners never had an intruder within the house, and actually stepped outside to shoot the young man in the back as he walked away from the house, after failing to get help from the freaked-out spouse. This was Baton Rouge LA in 1994.

Another one from Baton Rouge was the 16-year-old Japanese student who didn't understand "Freeze!" in 1992. I don't think he was shot in the back, though.

It's still generally included in high-school English vocabulary books over here, just in case.

#272 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2011, 02:13 PM:

More information on Jared Loughner's mindset: Apparently he was really into Zeitgeist, an "OMG the impending global government is gonna microchip our brainz" conspiracy theory documentary. He also liked Loose Change, a 9/11 Truther documentary, so he partook of the crazy anti-government rhetoric of both ends of the spectrum. Only 9/11 Truthers don't have their own TV channel.

#273 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2011, 09:46 AM:

Oh, BTW, the Secret Service funded a study of assassins back in the 1990s; some of the work was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Forensic Sciences under the unlovely title "Assassination in the United States: An Operational Study of Recent Assassins, Attackers, and Near-Lethal Approachers." See the National Threat Assessment Center web site.

#274 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 05:13 AM:

A PPK, by way of example, is smaller than almost every (practical) revolver, has the energy of .38 SPL. and has a clip of seven rounds.

James Bond wouldn't be seen with anything else.

#275 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 10:47 AM:

Renee @262 - Canada has much more restrictive laws, and generally they are federal, applying everywhere. Even longguns are registered (although the current gov't is trying to pull the teeth on that.) Since the 70's we've needed a Firearms Acquisition Certificate, later replaced, and you have to show paperwork to buy ammunition. Most handguns are restricted weapons.

#276 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 10:51 AM:

#259, #260 - was that a re-title of "The Stardroppers"?

#277 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 12:54 PM:

Henry Troup #276 - That doesn't sound like The Stardroppers - I'm building up a nice collection of Brunner, and stardroppers involves not an epidemic, but a radio receiver like device.

#278 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 01:52 PM:

Henry Troup @276: The similarity you're remembering is that when people get it "right" in they return, because having arrived in space they work out how to get back, quickly. Those that don't work this out very rapidly, don't come back.

The Dreaming Earth is a totally different story, about an overcrowded Earth in which people are becoming addicted to a drug and then bodily disappearing. Plot spoiler follows: (orvat fhogyl naq frpergyl rapbhentrq ol gur HA gb orpbzr nqqvpgrq gb n qeht juvpu nyybjf gurz gb fbzrubj "rzvtengr" (obqvyl) gb nabgure cynarg).

#279 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2011, 07:22 PM:

DanR, #251: Anecdote time. First off, I've had some incredibly real-feeling dreams. As in, any dream feels real while I'm in it, but usually once I wake up I know it was a dream. I've had dreams where after I woke up I had to ask someone whether or not such-and-such had happened, because the dream felt like a real-life memory. That's scary.

Secondly, in at least one of those dreams, I did something which I would not ordinarily have done (cheating on my then-husband) because my dream-mind was thinking, "It's okay, you can do this because it's only a dream and nobody will really be hurt or upset." Pretty much what's described as the first step in lucid dreaming.

Thirdly... not so long after the previous experience I took in a friend whose SO had thrown him out of the house. What I didn't realize at the time was that he was exhibiting a LOT of the canonical symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. What made me throw him out was the day we got into a conversation in which (among many other things not relevant here) he told me that he knew I wasn't real, that nothing around him was real, that it was all an illusion-spell cast by the person who had imprisoned his soul, and that all of the previous 4 years had been an illusion and it was really still 1993.

This guy had, on one or two occasions, made sexual overtures to me, but had taken being turned down with good grace. BUT... I realized that if he honestly believed that the "me" he was talking to was just a dream-character, there was nothing to stop him from using the same sort of dream-logic I'd experienced to justify raping me. It was okay, he could do it because it was only a dream, I wouldn't really be hurt. I freaked, grabbed my purse and RAN out of the house, didn't go back until I could have someone else with me, and made him move out that night. Maybe I was doing him an injustice, but it was a chance I wasn't willing to take.

If Loughner was having that kind of blurring of dream and reality, then he's a danger to everyone around him.

PGBB, #255: Agreed. Understanding by itself is not enough, but without that, any attempt at communication is destined to fail. Understanding is only the starting point.

#280 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 04:17 AM:

Ginger @ 207 - "In fact, I am more inclined to prevent drunks from getting their hands on weapons than to stigmatize people with mental illnesses."

From someone who deals with both (most often in the same person) on a daily basis, I most heartily agree!

C. Wingate @ various - As far as trusting laymen vs. professionals, let me give you my own experience on the matter of understanding those with mental illness. It doesn't map perfectly to the Arizona situation, so YMMV. Take from it what you will...

I'm the senior nurse at an inner-city detox. Roughly 75% of the chronic alcoholics we deal with on a regular basis also have mental illness diagnoses (as do I). Psychology, and the understanding of how a mental illness resonates throughout a personality, and how alcohol affects that resonance, are not nebulous textbook subjects for me. The safety of 50+ staff and patients depends on the nurses' ability to "read" a patient's threat level. This includes predicting whether or not (and it's "not" in all but the rarest of cases) a person's particular symptoms that are consistent with a diagnosis of a particular mental illness are likely to contribute to (notice I didn't say "cause") unstable behavior. We're good at it. I've never had a serious injury to myself or another on one of my shifts. This must mean that such things are subject to a fairly high degree of understanding.

Aside from agreeing with Ginger's post above, I have also found myself nodding along with everything Renatus and Terry have been posting.

Even if the source of a mental illness is not understood, understanding the immediate thought process is almost always possible because of the mere fact that People Are People, sharing common emotions, common needs (at all of Maslow's levels), and common goals/desires. It can be more challenging if a person is experiencing a crisis, but even then there is enough commonality to allow enough of the person's needs to be met that undesirable outcomes are avoided in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases.

One anecdote that I hope illustrates the point: Once at the county hospital, I was asked to guest-lead a group therapy session on a locked ward. I was told by a woman who had already accused me of wanting to eat her organs and denying her permission to beam up to the Enterprise, that I had no WAY of understanding her and the others. I asked her, "Do you know what the difference is between me and you is?" After getting no response, I took the keys to the unit out of my pocket and said, "I have these." She burst out laughing and, three weeks and some med changes later, I helped her move into her own apartment.

#281 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 04:34 AM:

Alex @ 274 - "James Bond wouldn't be seen with anything else."

I seem to remember that Bond spent an entire movie avoiding the new (at the time) Walther PPK and having to be pried away from his beloved Beretta...

@Terry - Someday, before I'm successful at having them banned, I'd love to test-drive a .600 Nitro...

#282 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 10:33 AM:

edward oleander@281: James Bond is perhaps the best-known fictional proponent of small-calibre weapons and superb shooting skills. Bond is forced to upgrade a bit by his boss after failing to put somebody down at a key point, isn't he?

Modesty Blaise is of course another; though her calibre of choice, the .32ACP, is a touch more powerful than Bond's choice (the .25). She doesn't have a boss, so she doesn't have this problem :-) .

One of the things I appreciate about the Modesty Blaise books (they're by Peter O'Donnell, in case anybody who cares doesn't already know) is that we get told stories and even catch glimpses of her and Willy practicing very very hard to learn and maintain their insane level of skills. (I think they're still unrealistic, but the message is at least "they work super-hard to be this good" rather than "they're just this good").

#283 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 11:39 AM:

heresiarch #269:

What we have right now are anecdotes that point in a particular direction for some subset of mass-shootings. Most mass-shootings, as I understand it, have a plausible motive, since they involve people personally known to the shooter--usually an ex-wife, coworkers, or classmates. These are still wildly irrational actions, but they can be mapped onto emotions that most people have felt, and so we can kind-of treat them as having a normal motive, even when we recognize that the specific action was nuts.

A few mass shootings have a political tinge to them. Tiller's murderer is one example (though he only shot the target of his obsession, not a couple dozen bystanders), the guy who shot up Fort Hood is another, and the most recent mass-shooter is a third. Other mass-shootings seem like they have little or no political content, even if the shooters make some politics-associated rants in their diaries or whatever--for example, the Columbine and Virginia Tech and Trolley Square shootings, as well as countless office and home shootings, look very different.

What's not clear at all to me is how much political rhetoric affects the subset that has an apparent political tinge. Alex #214 said this, which seems all wrong to me:

The notion that there is a certain set of cultural and behavioral stimuli in which our societies have invested billions of dollars, because people can be made to respond to them, and a whole other set to which we also give great attention, but to the influence of which people are somehow 'immune', is so obviously bogus on a moment's reflection that that is really all it needs.

The extreme violent political rhetoric toward Americans (as opposed to foreigners) is not remotely engaging that multi-billion-dollar persuasion apparatus[0]. Instead, it's a tiny subset of what you see in media--something you might hear from Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, something you might hear in an excerpted quote from a Sarah Palin speech[1]. Even the great majority of what's on Fox News isn't especially inflamatory, though it's often misleading or just flat false. (Unfortunately, that's also true for other news stations. 24 hour news stations are a force for evil in the world, IMO.)

Now, the ability to self-select your media environment makes it easy to saturate yourself in violent, inflamatory rhetoric of any kind. It sounds a little like some of these guys may have been doing that. I don't know how to untangle cause from effect here, but it's pretty clear that the existence of extreme voices on the internet or in print is a really, really different sort of issue than the use of violent rhetoric by mainstream politicians.

With nothing more than a browser, a net connection, and patience, you can surround yourself 24/7 with coming race war rhetoric, or clash of cultures with the Islamofacists rhetoric, or Christian Dominionists are coming to enslave us rhetoric, or Orwellian police state is just around the corner rhetoric. You can find 24/7 worth of outrages involving your favorite demon--abortion, animal cruelty, big government, Islam, the Jews, the blacks, the whites, the Chinese, the Fed, the banks, big corporations, the cops. So you can probably amplify your obsession that way, until you're ready to do whatever nastiness. But that's not about anything like mainstream rhetoric, so trying to link it to a mainstream political party looks more like a tactical PR move than like an attempt to understand the world. And it's not fixable short of serious censorship on the net. Haven't most of us here gotten pretty damned mad after saturating ourselves on news of US torture, for example? To get rid of the ability to saturate yourself in enraging imagery and stories, you'll get rid of Greenwald and Balko and Horton and a large fraction of real news coverage.

So, I'm at the point of thinking first of all that the use of violent political rhetoric by mainstream politicians and networks may or may not have much to do with mass-shooters. Perhaps it's obvious to others here[3], but it looks like a plausible hypothesis that is far from having been demonstrated, to me. And second, to the extent that the existence of violent political rhetoric on the internet, far from the mainstream, is more of a cause of these crimes, I don't see any way to fix that where the cure wouldn't be much worse than the disease.

[0] Note that this persuasion apparatus isn't all that impressive even when fully engaged. An awful lot of people have managed to resist this multi-billion dollar persuasion apparatus w.r.t. drug use, smoking, driving drunk, and domestic violence, for example.

[1] Disclaimer: I haven't listened to Rush Limbaugh for probably a decade now, and have never listened to/watched Glenn Beck. So I don't really even know for sure that they're engaging in especially nasty, violent rhetoric. But that's the claim I've often heard.

#284 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 11:46 AM:

Lost Footnote:

[3] It seems to me that how convincing this hypothesis is depends a great deal on who's being implicated by it. Change the facts around a little, so that the case became a club for Republicans to use to beat Democrats with, and I expect that a large fraction of the people here would change their positions. That's not because the people here are stupid or dishonest, it's because tribalism makes you stupid.

For example, if tomorrow some guy shoots Gov Brewer in Arizona, and it turns out he's been writing screeds about how Arizona's immigration law is evil and racist and the first step toward a police state, what will that be evidence of?

#285 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 12:40 PM:

It's always seemed to me that Martin Bryant, who killed thirty-five people with an SLR and a magazine-fed shotgun at Port Arthur in Tasmania in 1991(?), should have been the subject of very close academic attention - but I haven't been able to find anything about any first-hand clinical study of him.

Was there a pattern to him? He was found fit to plead to the multiple charges of murder, has refused all forms of therapy and has not co-operated with attempts at counselling, simply remaining silent. It appears that he has said nothing whatsoever that has shed any light on his motive or trigger. He remains in prison, and will never be released.

If he suffers from any form of mental disorder, nobody can do more than take wild guesses at it. The evidence before the court was that his IQ is in the low 70's, but that he was aware of what he was doing, and the consequences. He has never given any useful information about why he did it. The best guess seems to be that he doesn't know.

Well, neither do I. Forgive me, but I very badly would like to know.

#286 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 01:26 PM:

Dave Luckett@285: Well, if he's refusing to talk to people, there are limits to what can be done studying him. And I do approve of very strict limits on forcing prisoners to cooperate with researchers.

One could have researched his background and actions before the event a lot, of course. Not as easily as today (though I wonder if investigators today skimp on the dull boots-on-the-ground investigations in favor of chasing what can be found on the Internet?).

While I'm sensitive to the issues with declaring "crazy people are incomprehensible", and aware that you haven't claimed that he's crazy -- people, in general, are sometimes pretty incomprehensible, crazy or not. Quite possibly he doesn't know why he did it; and in colloquial non-technical terms, that would make him crazy to me.

I have to say that, if I knew I'd done something like that, and had no idea why, I might very well welcome therapy; I'd want to know! (Though, in prison, I wouldn't have to worry too much that I'd do it again, at least).

The very fact of knowing I'd done something like that, and not knowing why, might end up making me crazy in the end, even if I wasn't to begin with. I would, um, strongly prefer not to have to deal with that set of issues myself.

#287 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 01:39 PM:

Dave Luckett @385 -- that must be a different meaning of SLR than I'm familiar with. The picture may be mightier than the sword, but it's seldom fatal in that way.

#288 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 01:40 PM:

(that would be 285, not 385 -- I'm not quite that prescient.

#289 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 01:43 PM:

Tom Whitmore@287: It's the UK version of the Belgian FN FAL select fire battle rifle, the L1A1 SLR. ("Self-Loading Rifle"; which presumably means it was named when the military still remembered bolt-action rifles.)

#290 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 02:57 PM:

Just to amplify on #289, the SLR/L1A1 replaced the Lee-Enfield, and it's semi-automatic only, unlike the FN FAL. The blueprints are also in inches, but this apparently is not the reason why many parts will not interchange. There are many design differences.

#291 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 03:15 PM:

#287 - I have an elderly Pentax camera, and it would make a fair bludgeon. It's mostly metal.

BTW, the Canadian Armed Forces have Canadian Rangers, a northern reserve. They still are issued the Lee-Enfield. Officially, now for subsistence. It does better in very cold weather (likely with appropriate lubrication.)

BTW, it was -25C yesterday in Ottawa, -33C in nearby Renfrew and CFB Petawawa. Neither of those is Arctic cold.

#292 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 03:18 PM:

Dave Bell@290: Wikipedia, where I grabbed that description, did say "selective fire", which means it supports a full-auto-mode. But they could be wrong. If you've got a good source for semi-auto only, you could fix the Wikipedia article. (Or I could, if you'll pass on the source.) And if you don't have a good source but are sure, I'm inclined to remember it your way; this seems to be an area you know about.

#293 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 03:30 PM:

Dave Bell@290: And now, going back and reading the W description again, I see how to read it entirely compatibly with your description. Sorry for the temporary confusion!

#294 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 04:35 PM:

Rikibeth @101: I'm one of those crazy people along with Renatus

Don't do that. I already get you two confused, because your IDs look so similar at a glance:


Well, okay. Rikibeth has more ascenders. But still....

#295 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 04:45 PM:


I'm still occasionally jarred by dcb/ddb confusion. The two of them have different enough voices and topics and ideas that if I somehow misread the name, it's easy to find myself having a moment of surprise/confusion there.

#296 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 05:03 PM:

albatross @126: extremely resistant to pain, not at all afraid, and maybe pretty good at healing up or ignoring injury.

Seems like rabies would be a good model to start with.

#297 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 05:22 PM:

Ginger @150: Flames sterilize everything -- as in "destroy all organisms including spores".

Um...Heat sterilize everything.

I seem to recall that open cremation (i.e., burning on a pyre, as opposed to a crematorium) is specifically disrecommended for things like rabies. Tissue and fluids can be aerosolized without getting hot enough to sterilize, and then the particles are lofted by the heat-induced convection currents, depositing active and potentially infectious particles some distance away from the fire. (I.e., you don't want to be downwind.)

#298 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2011, 06:37 PM:

Albatross # 283 - I read this and thought it might be relevant to your concerns with politics and shootings:

A list of what we could generically call right wing violence (racism, anti-government action with a background in "patriotism", anti-abortion) which seems to suggest there is something going on in these parts of society. Of course, I guess these folks fall outside mainstream political society. But I would have thought that mainstream actions and rhetoric affect the edges, by increasing the number of people who think that violent actions are acceptable.

#299 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 12:11 AM:

albatross @ 283: "These are still wildly irrational actions, but they can be mapped onto emotions that most people have felt, and so we can kind-of treat them as having a normal motive, even when we recognize that the specific action was nuts."

I balk at your implication that politics isn't a "normal" motive: politics motivates people to all sorts of things, from spending hours going door to door to hanging out with certain people and not others, from doing the recycling to picking a neighborhood to live in. Shooting people for political reasons isn't any crazier than shooting them because you just got fired. Politics is normal human behavior.

"What's not clear at all to me is how much political rhetoric affects the subset that has an apparent political tinge."

I don't think it's terribly clear either. That's what I was trying to get at @ 269: what are the criteria that separate rhetoric that leads to violence (which manifestly exists) and rhetoric which doesn't (which also clearly exists).

"But that's not about anything like mainstream rhetoric, so trying to link it to a mainstream political party looks more like a tactical PR move than like an attempt to understand the world."

Well, precisely the claim that we're making is that that's not true: that violent, eliminationist rhetoric is increasingly mainstream. It's not synonymous with Fox, talk radio or the Parties, Republican and/or Tea, but the divide between the fringe elements and the mainstream are narrowing. This isn't to say that every Tea Partier is seconds away from violent action, or even that there's a majority in favor of violence--but the same could be said of the anti-abortion movement, and yet they've produced bombers and shooters aplenty.* But, as the anti-abortion example shows, willingness to commit violence is never evenly distributed throughout a group; there's a gradient between the hot beating heart of crazy and the casual believers on the edge. But what's the relationship between them? Are the mainstream members a moderating influence on the radicals, or are they cheerleading?

What worries me isn't really whether Sarah Palin tweeted a map with gunsights on it; what worries me is that that is what she's saying out where I can see it. How much more radical is the rhetoric in conversations within the Tea Party? And crucially, are the not-violent members of the various groups acting to minimize the slide towards greater acceptance of violence, or giving it a wink and a nudge? Everything I can see from the Tea Party and the right-wing makes me think they're cheering the crazier among them on.

* I guess I just assumed before, but do you think political rhetoric played a role in the Tiller shooting?

#300 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2011, 11:37 AM:

Heresiarch @299:* I guess I just assumed before, but do you think political rhetoric played a role in the Tiller shooting?

One of Fox News talking heads (O'Reilly?) used to put up pictures of Dr. Tiller captioned "Tiller the Killer." While Fox didn't actively advocate that Tiller be murdered, I believe they fostered an attitude in their target population that did encourage the assassin.

Fox will of course deny all accountability...

#301 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 01:25 PM:

We know that words have power. Reading down this thread, I had a couple questions or quibbles about certain words that keep popping up in the discussion...

I agree deeply with Renatus' noting that 'crazy', 'insane', or 'mentally ill' not only don't stop one from being human or comprehensible, but also don't map well onto 'violent and dangerous and a threat we should be doing something about'. We've got at least a couple frequent commenters who are dangerous people - but who don't like being violent and don't do violence commonly (or indeed unless it seems needed and there's no other real choice), and I also note that being a violent person doesn't necessarily intersect with "dangerous" either, though there's a good bit of overlap.

So... instead of marvelling at how crazy or mentally ill the guy appeared, should people instead be marvelling at how his appearance and actions and preferences pointed towards violence and potential danger? Should people be calling him "vidang" instead of "nuts" or 'crazy'? Should there be a word for people who are threats in a violent and dangerous manner, rather than trying to imply it from 'insane' or 'off his meds' or 'has read Mein Kampf' or 'looks like one of those terrorists'? And if there should ... is there a good way to get it spread into the media's and general public's awareness as a meme?

My other question is about guns, and specifically about how in the world anyone manages to describe them as a weapon of 'defense'. You can't parry a bullet with your rifle, and you won't be shooting down someone else's bullet with your own; your gun usually won't stop a knife thrust, unless you're lucky or very good and can hit the knife directly. A gun won't defend against a baseball bat or iron bar, does nothing against poison, and you won't be cutting a strangling rope with a well-placed shot unless you're a stunt double. And guns can't stop words at all (see thesis sentence...).

A gun's not a shield or a parrying or blocking weapon; it's not a DEFENSE. It's an OFFENSIVE weapon. You use it to injure, maim, or kill; you display it or mention it to threaten. Having one isn't going to help you unless either you're prepared to use it, and thus go on the offensive, or unless the people it's helping you against can be scared off by displays or threats (in which case a nice sharp knife USUALLY would serve the same purpose, right?). Increasing the amount of guns available makes it easier for people who want to go on the offense to do so (and having multiple-quick-shot ones available increases the speed and amount of said offense pretty proportionately) ... but doesn't raise how easy it is for people to DEFEND themselves almost at all. (If you've brought a gun and someone else shoots you despite any threatening and posturing and shooting YOU'RE doing, it might hit your gun and bounce off. But that's about it.) And also makes mis-aimed offense more easy.

So it grinds softly on me when I read people saying that guns are needed for self-defense, that guns are defensive weapons, and the like. They're not - they're offensive weapons. You can own one to counterattack with, to preemptively attack with, to threaten attack with, etc. ... but you aren't getting one to be a shield against attack. I know, as above, that we here don't have much influence on how the outside world speaks about things - but could we try to avoid the 'guns are a defense' way of speaking in here, at least?


#302 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 04:30 PM:

David DeLaney@301: Your weapons classification doesn't relate much to real-world fights. Mostly, serious encounters (ones that are likely to go until one participant is unable to continue) take considerable time, and nobody is instantly disabled.

In that context, a powerful weapon you can deploy even after taking some damage is extremely valuable for self-defense.

That's why the handgun has been the first-choice defensive weapon from the time they became cheap enough for the middle class to own one.

One of the biggest benefits of the gun is that it takes less practice. If somebody has decided to be a predator (or is being raised as one), then they'll practice combat for thousands and thousands of hours, either formally or informally. It takes a LOT of practice to build up the physical skills, stamina, and the proper reactions to succeed in a muscle-powered fight.

As somebody who doesn't want to be involved in fights, I'd really prefer not to have to spend that much of my life preparing for fights. And even if I'm prepared, the predator has the advantage of choosing the time and place; and the population of predators tends to be young and strong, while I'm getting older at about the usual rate.

Thus, my choice of defensive weapon is the handgun. It won't protect me from injury in the initial attack, it doesn't shield me from anything (yes, besides the extremely unlikely possibility of a bullet, knife, or whatever hitting the gun rather than me and being deflected). However, if I remain conscious and able to move my arms (one will do) after the initial attack, I still have a decent shot (sorry) at surviving the fight. In my opinion, this is the best tradeoff available to me. I'd prefer a magic shield that keeps all danger safely away from me, but I don't know where I can buy that.

#303 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 07:04 PM:

ddb@302: But that's still not _defense_. That's _offense_. You're attempting to kill X before X kills you; that's duelling offensives. You're attempting to have an offense that can take down X { faster than X's can take you down / after X's fails to take you down / by surprise before or after X's offense hits you }. It's not a DEFENSIVE weapon, and you're not doing any sort of self-DEFENSE with it. You exhibiting that you have one as a threat to use it is even an offensive move.

Short version: if it's usable as a defensive weapon, then there are ways to use it ONLY as a defensive weapon. Firing it at someone is offensive, not defensive. What else can you do with it but fire it, or threaten to fire it, that qualifies it as defensive?

(Other short version: "if I have it, I can kill him before he kills me" is in no way self-DEFENSE.)


#304 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 07:29 PM:

David Delaney@301: There are no weapons that meet your definition. You are trying to force your conclusion by forcing your definition, which is contrary to standard usage, into the discussion.

There is absolutely no question, in many hundreds of years of common law and, more recently, statute law, that "killing him before he can kill me" can be self defense -- the necessary conditions including your reasonably believing that "he" intends to kill you.

#305 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 07:32 PM:

That's because truly defensive equipment isn't called a "weapon." Kevlar vests are purely defensive.

#306 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 07:36 PM:

Xopher@305: There's something to that. Even shields, while actual fighters trained in them used them as weapons occasionally, aren't viewed as weapons by much of anybody.

People don't seem to be entirely sure who actually said "The best defense is a good offense", but lots of people seem to agree with the sentiment.

#307 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 07:53 PM:

There's a common delusion that anything that sounds good is true. People don't realize they believe it, and deny it if you put it in those terms, but they do believe it. They believe anything that rhymes is true, too: how else explain the popularity of "If they did the crime they should do the time," an asinine statement right-wing people often parrot about juvenile offenders.

The term 'weapon' is a difficult one. It's both too vague and too specific.

Use the term 'arms', though, and it's clear that things like shields and armor are included. In fact, 'arm' as a verb means to put on armor as well as pick up weapons.

#308 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 08:11 PM:

David Delaney: I have to agree with ddb, the way you have phrased things are such that no one who does anything more than keep from being harmed is being defensive.

If I pick up a shield, and, after blocking, parrying and dodging, smash the person who is trying to kill me with it, your terms mean I was acting with an, "offensive" weapon, as soon as I decided to stop letting the other fellow control the encounter.

Xopher is right, the term in play is, "arms". I have any number of arms, and some of them are purely defensive (armor, of various sorts).

Being the sort of person I am (one of those of whom I think you were speaking) I have pondered just how useful the armored epaulettes of my motorcycle jacket would be as a tool to knock the wind out of someone (that goes to the mindset issue ddb was speaking of). I don't think that makes my jacket an offensive weapon, but your use of the word does so make it.

It's basically a "no true scotsman" argument.

#309 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 09:16 PM:

Jacque, #297: You definitely don't want to be downwind from a fire if there's any chance that dried poison ivy is part of the fuel. Someone I knew had that happen to him, and wound up in the hospital -- the urushiol is carried on the smoke particles and ends up inside the lungs. Not Fun.

Lori, #300: Also, these things don't happen in a vacuum. Do you think anyone who looked at those pictures on O'Reilly didn't remember all the talk from Operation Rescue about "justifiable homicide"? The terrorists learned from what happened in that case, and are now carefully stopping just short of the sort of actions that brought down OR, like a little kid who's been told not to touch his sister and so keeps poking the air half an inch from her skin. But it's the same tactic -- keep pushing the meme until someone takes them up on it. There's no way to predict who will do it or exactly what form it will take, but that someone will is a given, and they know it, and that's what they count on. Stochastic terrorism.

#310 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2011, 11:01 PM:

304/305/306/308 - Apologies, I appear not to have been clear in what I was trying to say. I wasn't saying "there are weapons that are purely defensive and they're in common use" - though, with the amount of SF fans here I'm sure we could come up with something. And I wasn't trying to say "a weapon is offensive unless it can ONLY be used for defense". Rather, I was trying to say "Many weapons / martial arts / etc. _have_ some ways to be used in defense, and some in offense - and possibly some unrelated to fighting at all.".

A sword can block another sword's swing, as well as stab or slice. (And can be an inefficient axe or hatchet.) Martial arts styles include defensive moves as well as offensive ones. Ropes and whips have a multitude of noncombat uses. Etc.

Shields can be used offensively, correct (and some are designed so that's a good part of their use). They're usually defensive but can be offensive too.

What I'm asking is, what does a gun do that counts as _defense_? (Some other weapons have this interesting issue too - cannons, rocket launchers, and variants on guns; grenades; landmines, if you look at them right...) I'm not saying "it can't be a defense of any sort if it has any offense at all included" - I'm asking 'what does it do that IS defense?'.

And when I ask that I usually get back answers that don't seem to have tracked my question, "Well, you can go on the offense with it against someone before they do so to you, or can attack them with it while they're reloading or not looking, or can use visibility of it or threatening with it to make them not attack in the first place...". How does owning, or having, or brandishing, a gun, _defend_ you in a fight?

(I do know of one possible answer, but it has its own drawback included - "The Georgia Patrol was a-making its rounds, so he fired a shot just to flag them down, and a big-bellied sheriff (sp?) grabbed his gun and said 'Why'd ya do it?'"...)

Short version of the reply: What are the _defensive_ modes of the gun, that allow it to come at all under "self-defense"? I -know- "self-defense" includes offensive moves, ways to kill or disable attackers, and the like... but as I understand it it's first and foremost about defense - avoiding the fight if possible, immobilizing, yelling for help/calling 911, ways to block attacks and flummox attackers.

I have also heard "The best defense is a good offense", which is a good example of trying to redefine the question; yes, getting your attacker disabled or otherwise out of the fight fast DOES end the fight, but if "defense" = "ability to end the fight" then somehow we're using it wrong.

Does what I'm asking make any sense? What can you do with the gun that counts as defending yourself, not as "Well, I defended myself by attacking the other guy"? Compare this with other weapons in your heads... I'm not looking for a purely defensive weapon. I'm looking for a reason to say the gun's not a purely _offensive_ weapon, somehow.


#311 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2011, 01:08 AM:

David Delaney: I see a false dilemma.

Apart from defensive arms, I don't think there is a whole lot of difference between a sword, and a pistol.

Yes, I can parry, bind, even disarm with a sword. That's all in the interest of making it possible to kill/injure/maim the other person.

The visible nature of the sword may serve as a deterrent, but once it's out, the point is to hurt the other person with it.

Oddly enough, a lot, "offensive" arms serve this function too. The primary use of automatic weapons is to suppress the enemy, and so pin them to a specific location; while keeping their attention focused on the machine gun so as to allow other people to flank them and so kill/capture them.

Land Mines are designed to keep the enemy from entering an area: they do it by killing anyone who comes into contact with them.

Offense and defense are the uses to which a thing is put, not a fundamental aspect of the thing itself, because offense/defense are states of mind.

#312 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2011, 02:15 AM:

Mmm. All right, thank y'all for attempting to explain. Somewhere on my end something's missing, so that not only don't I understand correctly, but I don't understand how to ask the question(s) I want so they make sense to people who do.

I'll file this away again - it's not a major peeve, and I have whole mental boxes full of stuff that grinds softly when I come across it, but which doesn't seem to bother most people. (It's not gradually wearing me away into a normal-person-shaped blob, as far as I can tell...) Thank you-plural for your times!


#313 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2011, 11:02 AM:

David DeLaney@310: Possibly there are some issues of levels here? At the micro level, I recognize the idea of parries being defensive and lunges being offensive. At the next level up, though, I can parry a certain way hoping to draw a particular riposte which I'm then prepared to score off of with a stop-thrust; so the "parry", a defensive move, sometimes gets chosen and implemented as part of a basically offensive plan. (When I say "I can" above, I'm lying; I haven't fenced in decades.) In fact, I try to avoid categorizing tactical choices as "offensive" vs. "defensive", because I think it makes me too predictable.

In terms of ethics (I don't know if that's relevant to your concerns, but it frequently is in discussions of offense vs. defense), once it's been established that deadly force is allowable, I don't care about the tools. And if deadly force isn't allowable, then again I don't care about the tools; kicking a guy to death (feet and boots aren't "weapons", eh?) is no better than chopping him up with a sword, or shooting him. I don't find the choice of tool at the micro level relevant to the ethical analysis, which is what I mostly care about (that and the tactical analysis).

#314 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 01:06 AM:

ddb @313: I think you can get to David's underlying issue by asking, "Can you defend yourself against an attack without harming your opponent?" With fists or a knife, you can block or parry. With a gun, the only thing you can do to stop an attacker is shoot them.

I suspect your disconnect (there's a better word but I can't remember it) with him is because you think that an attacker is fair game, and there's no need to avoid harming them. Which is reasonable, to be sure - but not wishing to harm even an attacker is also reasonable. If deadly force is allowable, then by all means the gun is perfect for the job. David's position seems to be that he wants to avoid the attack with the minimum possible amount of force, and there's no "minimal force" setting on a gun. Either you're not willing to kill someone, so you don't use a gun, or you are, and you shoot them.

I THINK I've thought this all the way through, but if you see any unfair assumptions or "step 3: magic!", please let me know.

#315 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 02:00 AM:

Shadowsong @314 -- but a gun is a better blunt instrument than a knife (think of the uses of an unloaded gun for defense -- does being loaded remove them?). If you're allowing a knife as defensive, then I think a gun has to count as one just as much.

#316 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 02:07 AM:

Tom Whitmore @315: Good call. Gun is marginally better than hand at parrying an edged weapon, and it's perfectly safe to point an unloaded gun at someone, for psychological purposes. Maybe that's the sort of thing that David was looking for when he asked about defensive capabilities?

#317 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 04:17 AM:

shadowsong: A knife isn't something (Tommy Lee Jones and Steven Seagal in the battleship highjacking movie notwithstanding) one can parry with.

It's only combative use is to hack, slash, or stab one's opponent. So it, from a value standpoint, is directly equal to a gun in this equation.

#318 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 04:53 AM:

Terry @317: another good point. i had substituted it for "sword" as an edged weapon one might actually face, but i forgot everything i learned about the difference between sword fights and dagger fights when i did so.

#319 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 05:12 AM:

I reckon the key to the defensive aspect of weapons is that they're a plausible threat.

Was reading some Modesty Blaise strips recently: she uses a Kongo, which isn't an obvious weapon. I can't see how that could even be used a defensive weapon, in the sense of deterring a fight. Willie Garvin with a quarterstaff: that might stop a fight without violence.

There's a lot of stuff in those strips which could be called fanciful, and there's some gender bias in how people might react to those two examples—does a woman need something that's more obviously a weapon—but I think the basic point holds. If your opponent doesn't recognise a weapon as a weapon, they're not going to back down at the sight of it.

#320 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 09:12 AM:

This makes me think of the stunner vs nerve disruptor in the Miles Vorkosigan stories. The stunner will stop the other guy, but won't scare him into not attacking you. The nerve disruptor scares the hell out of most everybody. OTOH, you won't hesitate to use the stunner, where most people will hesitate to use a nerve disruptor.

#321 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 09:36 AM:

Shadowsong @ #314, I think the ability to stop someone without hurting them (much) is my favorite thing about martial arts. My other favorite thing about martial arts is that you're far less likely to injure or kill a bystander than you are with a gun.

OTOH, there are situations in which it is by no means "perfectly safe to point an unloaded gun at someone." There are scenarios where that will get you killed.

#322 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 12:05 PM:

albatross @320

And now there's a Taser to stop bears.

"Try throwing a zucchini, Ranger Smith."

#323 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 01:27 PM:

What people have said about parrying with knives. Even in fiction, the answer to "what happens at the end of a knife fight?" mostly remains "the ambulance comes to take the winner to the hospital."

All other things being equal, I'd prefer to defend myself without harming my opponent. But I'm not willing to take much increased risk to myself in order to achieve that goal; it's a relatively low-priority goal at that point.

On the time-scale of a serious fight, and under the circumstances of a possibly deadly encounter (huge adrenaline dump, does all sorts of things to your body and brain, probably disrupting fine muscle control, possibly inducing tunnel vision, lots of other stuff; really a mess), I can't count on doing anything fancy. Like, trained police and FBI agents have been filmed clicking away with an empty gun, not noticing that it's empty.

If I have a gun, I can delay deploying it; I can start the encounter hand-to-hand, and only resort to the gun if I'm losing. But it's much much more dangerous to do so; I could be disabled before I can deploy the gun. It's even fairly likely. Whereas, if I deploy it early enough, the attacker can choose to back off. (To be legal, I can't threaten deadly force until I'm reasonably in immediate fear of death or great bodily harm; plus some other conditions. In Minnesota; details differ somewhat, though not tremendously, from state to state.)

Threatening deadly force when you're not prepared or able to back it up is a serious mistake, usually. It escalates things. Pointing an empty gun at somebody falls into that category. Sometimes they'll just run off, which has to count as a win, though.

Basically -- you can't defend yourself from an attack without harming your opponent. Not with any reliability. There is no known way to render a human being unconscious safely; even in an operating theater, with an expert anesthesiologist and emergency equipment and support staff, a percentage of people die from the anesthesia. Anything else is much worse; certainly hitting people in the head is.

And the best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second-best, so much as the worst -- who could quite likely be your attacker.

An unloaded gun is an expensive and badly-designed club. However, if all you've got is a club, even a badly-designed one is better than nothing.

#324 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 01:28 PM:

One of the reasons I prefer long cutlery to firearms indoors is the greater number of options one has.

But that depends on training/practice. A baseball bat, in that circumstance probably has more deterrent effect; and moreso than a pistol, because it's more visible.

#325 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 02:45 PM:

#324 - this lead me to the description of the Sandbar Fight where Bowie and his eponymous cutlery became prominent. Pistols, loaded and unloaded, a sword cane, and more than one knife were used. The reported results are interesting (truth may be stranger than fiction here.)

#326 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 02:52 PM:

ddb #323: Threatening deadly force when you're not prepared or able to back it up...

... is also known as bluffing. Given the stakes, it's not too smart... unless that really is "all you've got" (and no option for retreat).

Looking around my house, I note I've got the usual cutlery in the kitchen, and a bit of pepper spray, but I'm notably short on clublike things. Probably the closest I've got are a fire extinguisher and potentially-filled steel water bottles, both of them distinctly clumsy. (Spraying the extinguisher might be a better option.) Guns are not a good option for me, for reasons already mentioned by several other posters.

#327 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 03:10 PM:

Home security: A quarter-staff inside every exteral door and a walking stick inside each bedroom door.

Alarm system: One Chihuahua and one Sheltie.

No guns until I have time/money for practice at a range, and a good gun safe.

#328 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 03:15 PM:

I have a baseball bat by the door. And Kira the Belgian shepherd.

I've occasionally thought about making an enhanced bat. Drill some holes through it, at various angles, and thread through carriage bolts. Another hole near the handle, for a lanyard.

But, you know, I live and work in a really safe area, and am firmly of the opinion that flashy weapons are a sign of being a dickhead.

#329 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 05:04 PM:

Addendum: I do have a couple of wooden hiking staves, but those are light enough that I doubt their utility as bashing weapons.

#330 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 05:39 PM:

I was really having a hard time thinking of David Bowie in a knife fight.

/me looks around house. I think, despite the number of edged kitchen implements and gardening tools, I'd go with a fireplace poker or fire extinguisher. Or the 2.5million candlepower flashlight.

#331 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 07:44 PM:

I know how to kill someone with just a stick. I found the stick I used to learn this in my closet the other day. There's also an iron pipe in there, but it's chiefly useful as a piece of exercise equipment (which is why I have it).

I didn't learn to kill someone with just a stick on purpose. I learned how to "kill" someone with a rattan "sword" when they're wearing real steel armor on their head. The force of such a blow on an unarmored head is enough to kill most people, even with rattan. That's why we wore the steel padded inside with closed-cell foam, so that when you take a real whack on the noggin you know to fall down and play dead...and if someone hits you too hard, that means you have a headache, not a concussion.

I was told early on not to hit so hard in practice, that I was exceeding "killing blow" force and that people would rather save the bruising for real tournaments, thank you. The fact that I learned to swing so hard so quickly means it's pretty easy to learn.

I haven't practiced in a really long time, but I'm pretty sure I could cause a potential assailant some serious pain...but I'd never go for a head blow on an unarmored opponent. No matter what they're trying to do to me, that's the stuff of nightmare.

As for guns, I have the same attitude toward them that Cordelia Naismith has toward nerve disruptors: I might as well not have it, I'd be so reluctant to use it.

#332 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 11:14 PM:

Stefan Jones: Don't enhance the bat. Not only does it increase the odds of maiming or killing someone (which isn't to be done lightly... see the thread with Old Jarhead on amateurs and guns which talks about it), but the legal exposure resulting from it is not something you want to risk.

Grabbing a bat is one thing. Tricking one out to make it into a weapon, and one meant to inflict grave bodily harm is another. A prosecutor could easily decide that crossed the line from self-defense to manslaughter.

#333 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 11:33 PM:

I remember what I was trying to think of in relation to the "defensive" vs. "offensive" distinction.

I read in some source on traditional Japanese budo (maybe in Musashi? not sure) that a distinction between the sword and and the spear is that the sword allows you to disarm someone and take him prisoner, whereas the spear does not. (The author clearly assumed it goes without saying that you are a master swordsman.) Similarly, the motivation for the invention of the manriki-gusari (fighting chain) as I recall was for elite samurai to be able to defend the emperor's palace by disarming an attacker, taking him prisoner, or if necessary killing him without shedding blood, which was forbidden on sacred ground. That doesn't make it a non-lethal weapon by any means, it simply means there are some non-lethal ways to use it.

While it's not the same, I think it's somewhat akin to the distinction David Delaney was trying to make.

#334 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 05:58 AM:

In some zombie apocalypse preparedness literature I read a while back, they recommended aluminum over wooden baseball bats: they said they were less likely to break when used in that fashion.

#335 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 09:08 AM:

Terry: thanks for the link to Old Jarhead; I've been meaning to re-read that.

#336 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 10:19 AM:

Maneuvering, and especially swinging, things much bigger than a handgun (bats, boken, cane, and so forth) indoors is often an issue. A full quarterstaff seems fairly impractical in 3-foot corridors with 8-foot ceilings. In the firearms community there's a faction that opposes shotguns and rifles for indoor self-defense because they're unwieldy to maneuver and harder to retain than handguns.

Terry Karney@332: The bat is a deadly weapon on its own, isn't it? (probably depends on jurisdiction) If so, the enhancement has no legal significance that I can see. Still might have a philosophical significance to the jury, of course. If you could legally display a gun or a sword (threat of deadly force) I don't see even an enhanced bat as being worse.

There are huge debates, as I'm sure you know, about ammunition. Has anybody actually bagged an example yet of somebody getting in extra trouble for using a hot handload instead of commercial ammunition? People warn against it all the time as exposing you to legal risk, but last I checked nobody could show any actual increased risk anybody had experienced.

#337 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 10:29 AM:

Lori Coulson@327: Sounds sensible to me. While I'll argue some (in appropriate venues) with people who seem to me to be not considering firearms for reasons that don't hold up, I always strongly encourage suitable secure storage, and going well past "the training that comes in the box" (I'm an NRA-certified instructor and I used to teach Minnesota carry-permit courses).

My security guns are in push-button combination lock boxes lag-bolted to studs in the walls (one of the walls I built myself, and that one has a 2x6 for the box to attach to), or in a holster on my person (if I've been carrying outside home, or intend to, I keep on carrying inside; I'm mostly too lazy to bother getting something out just to carry inside, though). I have a security box in the bedroom for pistols I carry frequently, and a big gun-safe in the back storage room for stuff with lower accessibility needs (or bigger stuff). We also have a security system, and we set it (the perimeter sensors) even when people are home. We also have four adults living there, and people up and in and out at all hours; anybody waiting for all the occupants not to be home, or at least all asleep at once, would move on to some other target.

The cats don't count as part of the security system, I don't think.

#338 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 12:08 PM:

Old Jarhead brings up my concerns:
- ...I would have been confronting my little girl with a .357 in my hand, and
- ...a private place and vomit until you don’t think you will ever be able to stand up straight again.

And, this being Canada (and several other things including my age, sex, social status, non-work activities, and generations since immigration), the fact that I am eminently attackable doesn't make me concerned about personal safety beyond "if they're attacking, you've already lost" (i.e. awareness of my surroundings, lock doors, know where my out is,...) especially to the point of carrying/owning a gun.

For my home, really, almost all people who would want to break in want stuff, and don't want people. Strangely enough, a gun is stuff (even in a secure-setup gunsafe, which I bet fewer than 10% of gun owners (that 10% includes, clearly, ddb) have, suitable tools will allow removal of the whole safe, for later access. Of course, even fewer burglars will carry those tools (unless the victim proudly displays a sign saying "guns here, just wait for us to go to work")), and doesn't do anything useful unless there's a person holding it. I can replace stuff.

I should have something for the person who wants violence; I have no idea what, though. I would want something that doesn't look screamingly worth stealing, though.

Please note: these are my practical reasons for my decision (there are spiritual reasons, but for this discussion, they're irrelevant); others are in *very* different situations, with *very* different histories, and will make *very* different decisions.

Also note: no matter what my own feelings/ideas are, I am finding the discussions about "what solution is correct for 'Person X''s situation", from experts in various appropriate fields, fascinating.

#339 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 12:23 PM:

eric @330: I was going to refer you to David Bowie's fixed pupil, but Google suggests that was a punch and an unfortunately-placed fingernail, not a knife.

#340 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 01:09 PM:

Ok, this is Scotland, but my dad (30 years in the police) recomends spraying WD40 into someones eyes. Legitimate to have around, non-lethal, but hurts a lot.

#341 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 01:22 PM:

On another thread in another discussion forum, it was suggested that a Zombie Jack LaLanne would be really, really formidable.

#342 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 04:24 PM:

Mycroft @338: The security chest for carry pistols not being carried is the least-secure bit of my setup; it'll either get replaced, or at least fastened down well at a future upgrade.

The boxes on the walls you might well be able to get off with a big pry-bar in just a few minutes (dual 3/8" lag-bolts into studs or better), or get open with the same pry-bar (16-gauge steel, I believe; more than 1" overlap of lid down the sides). I haven't tried, it'd trash the walls pretty badly.

The big safe plus contents are over 500 lbs, so getting them out of the house is non-trivial. They'll eventually be fastened down, but really, that's the lowest priority gun security upgrade.

I'm fairly confident they won't use my guns against me on the same trip, but it's entirely possible they could get things out of the house, and then open them at their leisure. We do, as I say, have a security system, limiting the time they can safely spend in the house, and essentially NEVER leave the house empty (one third-shift worker, one random-shift worker, one and a half hermits, and me; there's some overlap).

#343 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 05:38 PM:

As I said, you're one of those who actually both has a gunsafe, *and* secures it appropriately. And almost certainly doesn't have a "This property protected by Smith & Wesson" sticker on the front window. Appropriately intelligent, in other words.

Also interesting that, with all of that securing, "it's entirely possible they could get things out of the house" (with the exception of the 500# safe - I agree that's pretty unlikely, even if you kept the Crown Jewels in there).

One of my reasons - and again, it's only my reasons - for not being a firearm owner is that if they break into my place and steal my most fenceable possessions, the most likely way someone can kill someone else with them is 9.8 m/(s*s). I would hate to be responsible for being the (unwilling) conduit from the legal to the illegal world for the weapon that murdered someone.

#344 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 06:15 PM:

No, not debunked:

U.S.: Gun raids show cartels at work in Arizona

'Straw buyers' amass hundreds of assault rifles, federal officials say

Federal officials say they have new evidence that Mexico's most violent drug cartels are exploiting U.S. guns laws to acquire massive quantities of assault rifles and other firearms for use in their war against the Mexican government.

In an early morning round-up in Arizona, law enforcement agents Tuesday arrested 20 people who are accused of illegally buying hundreds of AK-47s and other firearms at U.S. gun stores. The defendants allegedly acted as "straw purchasers," falsely declaring on federal forms they were purchasing the weapons for themselves, rather than their real clients: the Sinaloa Cartel and other Mexican drug trafficking organizations across the border, the officials said.

#345 ::: Terry Karney warns about squicky details of gunshots in the last half of this comment ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 02:35 PM:

ddb: re the bat: Murder vs. manslaughter is an issue of intent. Which is why modifying a bat so that it's only real purpose is mayhem or death is a real risk when the prosecutor is deciding what, if any, charges to prefer.

I can't speak to the issue of personal handloads in the +P +PP range, but Massad Ayoob says the money on frangibles is well worth the effort, should you ever have to use them, because (in those cases where hiring an expert witness on the subject has been done) they have been an asset to the defense, in showing the shooter was concerned about the past target effect of the bullets.

I.e. buy spending the (last time I checked, I am sure the price has gone up) $3.00 US per round they cost, so as to have a bullet which can't leave the house in a manner dangerous to others the intent of the round has been successfully depicted as reducing harm to others; and the far greater lethality has been seen as incidental.

They also have, so it seems, some effect against vests, because they burst, and so are likely to cause, minor, injury to the chin/face/arms, of the person so equipped. This puts the Glaser style of round (IMO) a bit ahead of some of the other frangible styles, because of the delayed-sabot nature of the round.

But one has to be willing to spend the money to have some, and the money to test-bed some; so a single load of six, probably requires buying at least 18, and I'd recommend 24: 18 to shoot in six sets of three, to get a feel for the way they work, and then six to keep in the weapon.

Being something of am anal sort... I'd then ask someone (or get a loading bench, and do it myself) to make some ball rounds with the same behavior... and then dedicate a gun to shooting nothing but that configuration, so my muscle memory doesn't defeat the testbed practice.

So, were I do decide on a "defense gun" I'd be looking at a several hundred, to a thousand, dollar investment.

Since I don't think the benefits outweigh the risks, I'll stick to clubs and swords.

#346 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 03:11 PM:

Terry Karney@345: Manslaughter vs. murder is only relevant at later stages -- and if you screw up (well, are found to have screwed up). If I use lethal force in legitimate self-defense, the issue never arises.

For a semi-auto, I'd pick a rather higher number of rounds to use for practice before certifying the gun for that round -- making the $3/round cost more of a problem.

And Ayoob has had some pretty quirky things to say about ammunition over the years, particularly on this topic. I've been following people asking for even one court case to back up his position for more than a decade now, and so far, nothing that stands up to examination.

#347 ::: Xopher Halftongue sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2014, 10:33 PM:


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