Jay Bullock (3-0)

Drucilla B. Blood (0-1)

Current Battle: Election 2004






Keep dinosaurs extinct, help The Chairman upgrade his PI computer:


Dan Champion (1-0)

Vinod Valloppillil (1-1)


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Mike Pridemore
(BB #1)
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(BB #3)
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Pineapple Girl of Politics at Pineapple Girl
Ralph Stefan of Ralph's Garage
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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Battle Arms - Challenger - Closing Argument

I hate to point this out but Mr. Valloppillil is literally chasing his own tail. As he accurately points out, I am taking a straight line while he is taking a rather tortuous circuit around the issue at hand. I would have pointed this out to him sooner but I had too much fun watching him go around in circles.

In one breath, he wants us to believe that there aren’t enough guns in urban areas to properly protect citizens. In the next breath, he’s citing statistics that show that 30% of all blacks own guns. In one breath he’s claiming that high crime rates in the Washington DC are due to handguns not being available and in the next breath he’s telling us how they are easily obtained in the surrounding areas. In one breath he’s talking about how the CDC would agree that gun ownership does not correlate to high crime but when you follow the link, it says there is “insufficient evidence” to say one way or another. In the next breath, he ignores a study that shows that licensing and registration helps keep handguns out of criminals’ hands and does lower crime. I don’t know what to say about this tortured logic but I can’t jump through the hoops of contradiction that he does.

My opponent claims that other countries have high rates of gun ownership but he continually denies the reality of this document that shows these guns aren’t handguns but long guns. He would prefer we not make the distinction for obvious reasons. He’ll talk about how there aren’t any parts of the country that have a low number of guns and a low crime rate. What he fails to point out is that there are no parts of the country that aren’t flooded with guns. He might as well start looking for a Yeti or the Big Foot. He drills us down into large urban areas and by his own admission, they are areas that are surrounded by liberal gun laws that allow the importation of cheap handguns. I am supposed to believe that California has “MEDIUM” guns when I posted a source that showed that Californians purchased 169,469 handguns in 2002. If that is “MEDIUM”, I hate to see what his definition of “HIGH” is. Not to be deterred, he points out that tax rates may have risen in my chart about handgun proliferation when in fact the chart was based on tax revenues. It shows the wholesale value of handguns from 1955 to 1993 based on excise tax. We could probably find out how many cheap handguns are being dumped on America but the gun industry isn’t saying. I guess it is all that transparency they have in their industry. This is an industry that sold over a half of a billion dollars worth of handguns in 1993 at the wholesale level. The profits are massive.

He will talk about the culture of fear and violence in America and it might as well be written on a slab of stone and delivered by Moses for all he’s concerned. His take on the issue is that this is the culture and nothing can be done about it. I point out to him that there are laws and regulations that this society can implement which will combat this culture of fear and violence. My opponent rebuts with silence.

He talks about sovereignty and I point out to him that even owners of swimming pools have to abide by rules and regulations. You are past sovereignty when you place a swimming pool in a backyard with a neighborhood full of kids and you provide no barriers to prevent those children from wandering into your pool. In the same manner, 341,000 stolen guns each year represent a significant threat to law-abiding citizens throughout the country and transcends personal sovereignty. It is beyond obvious that these people aren’t protecting themselves, they are arming criminals. Until 1993, you probably had more government regulations regarding swimming pools than you did handguns. Yet today, the gun industry has opposed every effort to license, register and make handguns safer. My opponent rebuts with silence.

The CDC and any number of government agencies are mystified by the reduction of crime in the mid-1990’s. I point out that the "Brady Bill" was enacted during this time and the government finally got tough with gun registration and licensing. They are all amazed and I produced a study as to why we saw this reduction in crime. My opponent rebuts with silence.

That is enough of my opponent’s failed logic. In my opening statement I talked about the handgun culture that was created in the 1950’s and 1960’s. By romanticizing the handgun in movies, television, books and magazines, the American public was sold a bill of goods. We eagerly snapped up handguns and the love affair began. I then presented to you the results of this love affair. Rising crime rates coupled with death and murder on a massive scale. In my first rebuttal, I demonstrated that no matter how well intentioned the gun owner, guns were being stolen from their owners at an incredible rate. In my second rebuttal I demonstrated how the gun industry is big business and they have no intention of dealing with the safety issues regarding handguns.

The pro-gun lobby is well funded and clearly ruthless. There are huge profits at stake. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of what civil society is all about. We must stand up to the culture of fear and violence that so many mouthpieces in society are trying to shout from the rooftops. Proponents of this fear and violence, both witting and unwitting, are winning this discussion. We must, as a society take a sobering look at where we are heading. When the police must raid civilian gun stores to fight criminals, it is clear that we have crossed the line as a society.

There are better methods that we can cultivate as a society for self-defense and personal sovereignty. I beg all of you to think long and hard about what can be done to take handguns and assault weapons out of criminals’ hands and restore order to this society. We have bombarded you with statistics but you should not lose sight of the tens of thousands of people who die from handguns. They are real people and the blood that flows is red, just like yours and mine.

I would like to thank the Chairman for the opportunity to debate this issue. It has been a tremendously enjoyable experience for me. I would also like to thank all the great people who read this blog. You folks make it all worthwhile and I was energized by all your comments, both pro and con.

Thank you,
Ralph Stefan

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Battle Arms - Iron Blogger Libertarian - Second Rebuttal

Whoa - looks like I lit a firestorm. If I offended, I certainly didn't mean to. If I presented an incorrect stat, I did so out of honest intentions. If I led this nation into war based on faulty intel...errr that's someone else.

Crime, Culture & Race

Now, I recognize that issues of Culture and even moreso Race are "3rd Rail" issues ("touch 'em and die!"). There's a mighty tendency to take any statement on these issues and extrapolate them in the most negative light possible. Given the tortured & continuing history of these topics in our nation, you've gotta exhibit some care on these topics before hitting "Publish".

A (the?) core of the challenger's case is the impact of guns on crime. He draws a straight line from guns whereas I take a rather large detour into the criminal & the culture he swims in. It's one thing to refute correlations (later), but it's more prescriptive to also introduce culture as an alt theory. In fact, I often believe that for many, it's a very deep seated reluctance to criticize culture (aside from the majority / dominant one, of course) that makes, or more accurately, requires demonizing guns instead.

For example, on Japan, the Challenger argues -
One can argue that Japanese culture is at the core of their lower crime rates. I agree and I would also like to point out that their gun control laws are a reflection of that culture.
Everything we're discussing is multivariate. The real question is what is the dominant, causal factor in low Japanese crime - it's Culture. Gun bans, as the challenger seems to accept, are at best a second order contributor towards the crime rate. But you can't make that causal connection between the 2 without first going through culture.

Similarly, when the US's non-gun murder rate is still higher than many other country's overall murder rate - there's clearly culture rather than guns at work.

Blacks & Guns

The point of the (controversial, terse) Black homicide & gun ownership numbers was precisely captured when the challenger said they indicated a particular type of -
large urban and poor areas
The high gun / low crime in N. Dakota vs. low gun / high crime in black communities is precisely because of cultural differences between Fargo and South Central LA. I have every confidence that individuals in S.C. LA can experience Fargo-like crime rates if some aspect of that culture carried over (and perhaps Fargo would become more interesting if it imbibed other parts of SC LA culture).

The larger point is echoed in the challenger's opening statement -
Homicide is the number one cause of death for young black males age 15 to 24.
Contrary to saying "black people aren’t worth as much" - the source I cited & argument I'm making is that that Blacks need to do *more* to defend themselves - the government sure isn't doing it! -
Blacks are also heavily represented in California and in those Northeast and Midwest states which, like California, deny citizens their right to bear arms. Thus criminals in black neighborhoods can usually be confident of not meeting armed resistance from the law-abiding citizenry. This safe working environment emboldens criminals to commit more crimes.

But that is only half the problem.In the absence of self-defense, the moderating influence on crime must come from the police. Unfortunately, the way police crack down on crime – by cracking down on all kinds of minor infractions, looking for excuses to search people, being suspicious of everyone who looks suspicious – is a great irritant to the law-abiding citizens.
The lethal combo of black victimization & offense rates frankly requires the detente of guns more than many white communities. In fact, many argue that gun control started with the goal of unilaterally disarming blacks. Alas with devastating effects within the Black community - T. Shakur, Esq -
And they say It's the white man I should fear But, it's my own kind Doin' all the killin' here
The Statistics Game

Lesson for the next time around, when playing with statistics & gun control, it's impossible to get only partially pregnant.

For example, The challenger discusses US crime trends w.r.t. guns -
If handguns reduce crime, there should be a reduction in crime as we armed ourselves throughout the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. Instead, as handguns threaded there way into society, we can see rising crime. We see that as crime went from under 2,000 incidents in 1960 to 6,000 in 1993, handgun manufacturing turned into big business.
Leaving aside that the challenger is measuring tax receipts rather than total guns in circulation (perhaps tax rates went up?), his statistics STOP in the early 90s. What happened afterwards? Let's look at this some stats-

1970-1990


1990-2004



More guns, less crime? Not necessarily, but there are many cases where gun ownership does NOT correlate to high violent crime. Something the CDC would agree with -
A report published by the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday found no conclusive evidence that gun control laws help to prevent violent crime, suicides and accidental injuries in the United States.
A smattering of comparisons across Nations, Stations, and Cities (My apologies - this was originally a nice, readable table but I'm having trouble getting blogspot to accept HTLM tables) -

NATIONS

Switzerland

Sweden

    GUNS:Zero
    CRIME: Low


Finland
    GUNS: High
    CRIME: Low (identical to Sweden)

UK

Israel
  • GUNS:High
  • CRIME: Low

Australia


New Zealand

Canada

  • GUNS: Medium (lower than US, higher than Europe)
  • CRIME: Low

How about a few states?


Vermont

California

Texas


An exercise for the reader - It wasn't too hard to find states that had all combos of high/low gun ownership and high/low crime rate EXCEPT low crime rate AND low guns. Suggestions?

Done with states? How about cities?

Washington, DC (560K pop)

San Francisco (700K Population)

Austin, TX (600K Population)


What's crazy is that while Washington DC has a near handgun ban and the nation's worst crime rate, the surrounding communities (Reston, Arlington, etc.) have among the most lax gun laws in the country and very low crime rates.

Back to the Basics

Back to Self Defense ;-). The challenger asks -
My opponent keeps going back to the intrinsically violent nature of man. I pointed out to him in my first rebuttal that the issue is moot in my opinion because even if he could prove that we are intrinsically violent (he can‘t), it would make little sense to arm our citizens to the teeth with weapons that can cause death at the twitch of a finger.
I might not have signposted the argument well enough - lemme try to summarize the past couple thousand words of screed - Achance meeting b/t an individual and a potential aggressor can unfold thusly -
Our Interaction Options
  1. nonviolently - Great when this happens but we can't expect it 100% of the time given human violence stats from everyone from Hobbes to Steven Pinker. (earlier referred to this as the "false choice")
  2. sometimes violently, both unarmed, then the stronger person or the one who can handle more pain wins. Pity the weak, women, and the elderly in such a world ("the PCP felon" "a world like the UK")
  3. sometimes violently, only he is armed, then he wins ("outlaw guns, then only outlaws have guns"; "a world like Russia"; Washington DC)
  4. sometimes violently, he may be armed BUT he's afraid I may be too, he's often deterred from both major and minor crime ("is it worth getting shot over a car?" ; the diff b/t "homicide rate" and "violent crime rate"; "domestic detente")
  5. sometimes violently, we're both armed, he engages, I've got perhaps a 50/50 chance (the "bad rather than worse" situation)


Maybe I should've structured my opening statement this way? Next time. In any case, folks like the challenger who seek a gun ban think we're choosing between #1 and [#3, #5]. Thus the reason I spent so much time arguing #1 & human nature. Even if you believe that #2 is a desirable situation (I don't; "UK vs US violent crime stats"), you've got to chart a path to get there that avoids a long, deadly stay-over in #3 (given our >230M existing guns, global trade, etc.).

#4 is the realistic ideal cuz it's the Nash Equilibrium & because it avoids confrontation altogether - and yet this is the hardest case to quantify (the various DGU stats) - and hence why judging this topic purely based on dueling stats so flawed.

Less Than Lethal Weapons

I have no trouble with Tazers, sockguns, etc. But until they have all the portability (sock gun vs. pistol?), storage (can a tazer stay in a glove compartment for 5 yrs?), utility (if I miss on first shot with a tazer, do I have 8 more rounds in the clip?), etc. they simply aren't wholesale replacements for guns...

Perhaps the tech will catch up and address these issues, but until then, if he's got a gun, I don't want to be limited to a tazer.

Sovereign Individuals & Swimming Pools

The Challenger -
I find my opponents comparisons of the gun industry to the swimming pool industry as somewhat disingenuous.. The sole function of a handgun is to harm another person.
Just to be clear - I wasn't comparing swimming pools as a whole to guns. I used swimming pools to illustrate the otherwise abstract concept of Individual Sovereignty. Specifically - why don't we engage in society-wide, utilitarian cost/benefit assessment of pools? The benefits are thoroughly ethereal (fun &; frolic in the sun?) while the costs are dramatic and clear (1000 dead kids!). The reason we don't ban them is because, as a free republic, we use sovereignty rather than social utilitarianism for most decisions. We allow adults to make up their own minds regardless of whether "we" think we know what's better for them.

The Challenger's real issue is, instead "the sole function of a handgun is to harm another person". But if human nature is violent, and I can't rely on anyone else, why shouldn't I exercise sovereignty to move out of the pits of Option #2 / #3?

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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Battle Arms - Second Rebuttal - Challenger

In my first rebuttal I purposely attempted to inject some humor and brevity into the discussion for the sake of making my submission more readable as I realize this is part of the scoring system. After reading the racist and intellectually dishonest screed that my opponent submitted as his first rebuttal, I have an extremely bad taste in my mouth and I doubt you will find any humor in this rebuttal. For this I do not apologize as I find this more a matter of principle and the judges can penalize accordingly.

-Racism

First off, I would like to address the racist aspects of IBL’s post. My opponent keeps going back to the intrinsically violent nature of man. I pointed out to him in my first rebuttal that the issue is moot in my opinion because even if he could prove that we are intrinsically violent (he can‘t), it would make little sense to arm our citizens to the teeth with weapons that can cause death at the twitch of a finger. This does not deter him and he points out that there is a society of people who are less violent and who experience far less crime then we do. This would seem a contradiction to his contention that people are intrinsically violent. His only choice at this point is to point out that they are unnatural. I suppose he would want us to believe that the Japanese are actually a race of space aliens and we should ignore them in terms of the human experience. What really sticks in my craw is this little bit of racist demagoguery: “a culture whose prize assets are conformity and submission”.

Japanese culture is extremely complex and to attempt to dismiss it with a wave of the hand and a racist claim of “conformity and submission” is both wrong and dishonest. The Japanese prize group solidarity. In America, we might call this teamwork. In a country that is an island with limited resources, it is easy to understand why this is so. In addition, respect and honor play a major role in Japanese society. I can’t view any of these traits as negative and there have been numerous times in my life where I have desired that both others and myself behave with more respect and honor.

With that in mind, let us compare the crime rates of the United States and Japan. Japan reported fewer than 2,300 crimes per 100,000 people in 2002. The United States reported 4,118.8 serious crimes per 100,000 people in 2002. In terms of homicide rates, Japan has 1.10 homicides per 100,000 people in 2000 compared to the United States that reported 5.64 in the same year on the same chart. It should be noted that these are overall homicide rates and not just gun homicide rates.

Finally, what I find extremely repugnant is the fact that my opponent somehow takes satisfaction in the fact that we are successfully exporting our culture of violence and fear to the teenagers of Japan. It’s only a matter of time.

One can argue that Japanese culture is at the core of their lower crime rates. I agree and I would also like to point out that their gun control laws are a reflection of that culture.

If this wasn’t bad enough, my opponent pulls the race card out yet again:


Homicide Offender Rate/100,000 by Race in US (2000):
3.4 - White

25.8 - Black

3.2 - Other
...if you remove homicides committed by blacks, you get a US
homicide rate of only 2.6/100,000, lower than Germany (3.27) and France
(3.91)

There are number problems with this racist point. The first being, if we “sliced” statistics for other countries like he’s doing for the United States, you could drop the homicide rate for any of the countries he has listed. Just exclude crime in large urban and poor areas of any country and you can create the same effect for that country. This points up to the first of a number of statistical ploys he uses which demonstrate the tremendous amount of intellectual dishonesty he used in his post. Secondly, there is some implied value system where black people aren’t worth as much as a white citizen. Who cares if we have a high homicide rate as long as black people are getting killed? I find this implication truly repugnant. Third, he claims that France has a homicide rate of 3.91 people per 100,000 residents and Germany has a homicide rate of 3.27 in 2000. He cites a blog for the source and when you follow the link that the blog sites as the source, you receive the following error message:


“The International Crime Statistics are only available to authorised police
users.”

Let’s look at his other source for homicide statistics. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice, the homicide rates for France and Germany in 2001 were 1.78 and 1.05 respectively and in 2002 they were 1.88 and 1.11. These numbers are significantly lower than the 3.4 homicides per 100,000 that my opponent cites for “white America”. This is one example of the distortions and errors that can be found in his rebuttal. This leads us to a rebuttal on some of his other statistics.

-Intellectual Dishonesty

The statistical points I made in my first two posts were aimed at presenting the reality of guns and crime in the United States. You didn’t have to “slice” the data to get at the conclusions. What I see in my opponent’s rebuttal is the constant bombardment of deception to spin statistics to point to his conclusion. I would describe this as intellectual dishonesty and I can’t really say what his motivations are. With that said, let me tackle some of his other deceptions he uses above and beyond the “white America” statistic.


Here, admittedly at the extreme, the world might look like Russia which has an
ostensible handgun ban but possesses a murder rate 5x the US's
.
Unfortunately, what IBL fails to point out is that after the fall of the Soviet Union, anarchy exists throughout Russia and there is a general state of lawlessness. Russia may have gun laws but there is no one there to enforce them.

Cultural differences aside, let us use a culture that is most similar to our own as a source of comparison. That would be England. If you use the opponent’s own source, we find that homicide rates are significantly lower in England at 2.01 per 100,000 compared to 3.4 for white America.

My opponent claims the following:
Canada has a relatively high gun ownership rate (21M Guns / 30M people)
but a
much lower crime rate.

According to the Justice Department Canada, the US has three times the number of guns per capita. Furthermore, if one looks at the make up of those guns, one finds that the number of handguns in Canada and Israel paled in comparison to the United States. If you go to page 5 of this document, one can see that in 1988, Canada and Israel had very few handguns compared to the United States. The U.S. tallied over 56 million handguns while Canada had 595,000 and Israel had 171,448.

Rather than comparing countries, we can look exclusively at our own crime data. If handguns reduce crime, there should be a reduction in crime as we armed ourselves throughout the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. Instead, as handguns threaded there way into society, we can see rising crime. We see that as crime went from under 2,000 incidents in 1960 to 6,000 in 1993, handgun manufacturing turned into big business.

Wholesale Value of Firearms Manufactured in the United States as Estimated From
Federal Excise Tax (in millions) [16]
Year Handguns Other Guns
1955 9 ............... n/a
1965 28 ............ n/a
1975 125 .......... n/a
1985 251 .......... 444
1987 253 .......... 383
1989 382 .......... 444
1991 422 .......... 456
1993 538 .......... 547

9 million dollars worth of handguns were sold in 1955 as compared to 538 million in 1993. As the handgun industry grew, the crime rate rose.

Counting defensive gun uses (DGU) is hard - how do we tally "crimes that didn't
occur?" Nevertheless, estimates range from the almost laughably high
2.5M DGU's a year down to a more believable 100,000 DGU's a year.

Clearly, even the low estimate dwarfs the
11,000 firearm homicides cited
by the challenger.

Once again, my opponent’s distortions are obvious. He somehow assumes that each defensive use of a gun somehow prevented a homicide. This is clearly not the case.

An armed society is not an anarchy

I’ll provide a definition of anarchy here. This brazen bank robbery in North Hollywood should alarm anyone. These criminals wounded ten police officers and three civilians. The shooting went on for over 2 hours and the police could only subdue these criminals by raiding local gun shops for weaponry and ammunition. I ask you, what is wrong with this picture?

- The Gun Industry Out of Control

I find my opponents comparisons of the gun industry to the swimming pool industry as somewhat disingenuous. Much like the comparisons to the automobile, it doesn’t really hold any weight. The sole function of a handgun is to harm another person. Furthermore, if you start shooting a handgun, it is probably a good idea to shoot to kill. This would be true for both law-abiding citizens as well as criminals. Thus, the handgun when properly used has the sole purpose of killing people. Pools and automobiles have different purposes and I hope we can all agree on that.

Swimming pools can be dangerous. Needless to say, there is a push for barrier laws and it would be my hope that the swimming pool industry is not supporting an anti-barrier campaign. Surely barriers increase the cost of swimming pools but I would find it extremely unethical if the swimming pool industry mounted a campaign against this effort based on potential lost profits. Unfortunately, much like the auto industry opposed air bags, the gun industry has made a concerted effort to thwart legislation like the “Brady Bill” and any other efforts to make handguns safer. Whether it is “smart gun” technology, “gun fingerprint” technology or the banning of armor piercing bullets, the gun industry has opposed it. Laws that require the licensing and registration of handguns have been opposed even though they take handguns out of criminal’s hands as evidenced by this study. It’s a game of subterfuge and lies all maintained to protect profits.

Computerized toys have become commonplace yet the gun industry somehow finds it impossible to integrate a computer chip into a handgun so that only the owner can fire it. Amazing isn’t it? They oppose “gun fingerprinting” based on the fact that so many guns are stolen, it would be of little use. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if a gun can only be fired by the owner, stolen handguns have little value. At that point, gun fingerprinting becomes a valuable tool in the prosecution of crime.

If the gun industry continues to dump cheap handguns on society, I don’t see how we have any other choice but to ban them. They clearly have no concern for the safety of citizens so we are left with no alternative.

- Self-defense

People have the right to defend themselves and I will not argue that point. There are a number of mechanisms through which this can be achieved. They range from cans of mace and pepper spray to newer technologies like stun guns, air tasers and super sock guns. Of course, the handgun industry would prefer that these devices be banned and not developed in favor of their lethal forms of self-defense.

I believe that through the use of technology and the elimination of handguns, we can take the handgun out of the criminal’s hand and make this country safer. I feel that licensing and registration was an excellent start and we need to continue the effort to remove handguns from our society. I find the gun industry’s continued efforts to profit on the death of 11,000 people each year to be both unethical and immoral.

Sincerely,
Ralph Stefan


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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Battle Arms - First Rebuttal - Iron Blogger Libertarian

The Challenger presents the classic arguments against an armed populace - murders, accidents, suicides, etc. are no doubt horrible costs. But the question isn't "are there costs?" - there certainly are - but rather "are these costs justified?"

My core argument is that individuals have the need & right to self defense to protect their life / liberty / property within society.

1) Human nature is central to the debate

Ralph argues that this is out of scope -

While I find these propositions quite interesting, I feel they are better suited for a theological or philosophical discussion as opposed to a political discussion on gun laws. I certainly have my opinions regarding the inherent nature of man but this certainly isn’t the time or place to discuss them.
Unfortunately, this issue goes to the heart of whether there's violence modulo arms. Madison famously observed -
What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?
Questions of what can, can't and must be regulated begin with a strong theory of what men would do heeding purely their own interests and impulses. Violence is classically the first issue that introduces governance - it's literally what makes life nasty, brutish, and short.

Human nature is central because it forces us ask - however pithy the phrase - whether guns or people create violence. The answer has profound policy implications.

The challenger does implictly possess such a theory - that human violence can be directly reduced by targetting arms. In essence, that arms are no good other than to incite or exacerbate violence.

2) Human nature causes violence, not guns

Far from being the scientific quackery the challenger contends, there are strong, well-accepted results which indicate, alas, that Violence is a fact of life - regardless of the presence of arms.

culture and socialization play important roles in encouraging violence... [but] ignoring the powerful biological and evolutionary forces at work is "the single most useless--and dangerous--approach one could take in trying to explain human violence."
We're stuck with this stuff folks. In certain powerful social conditions, you can escape it temporarily - for ex., Japan -
Of course, many societies have far lower [crime & violence] numbers. Japan is a fine example. I'm sure if the United States had 2000 years of a culture whose prize assets are conformity and submission then our numbers would be a lot lower. Alas, we are not that society. Thank God, we are not that society.
Until we create these conditions here, or genetic engineering directly eliminates this violence, we're left with the unpleasant tension of domestic detente. Those outliers who escape the socialized suppression of violence are, in the end, held in line by the threat of reciprocal violence from either cops prosecuting on behalf of victims or their fellow citizens refusing to become victims in the first place.

We likely agree that, for better and for worse, American society allows and even encourages all sorts of outliers. The Japanese will have to take a more aggressive stance towards crime as their youth begin to encourage more outliers.

3) Given human nature, the challenger presents false choices

The challenger's rhetoric asks judges to choose between -

  1. A non-violent society created by removing guns
  2. A violent society with guns
Let's be clear, I WANT to live in the first world. His arguments emotionally resonate and there's a certain satisfaction from blaming gun vendors rather than something as squishy as human nature -
It is a culture of fear that must be created in order to sell more guns. The more that people fear, the more guns they can sell.
In a society that admonishes "be all that you can be", "do what feels right", and encourages "self-esteem" over "repression," there's a fundamental dissonance from arguing "fear humans (sometimes)."

Unfortunately, we're faced with a "bad vs. worse" situation where the options actually are -

  1. A violent society which tries to remove guns
  2. A violent society with guns
Depending on government's effectiveness, the first option at best removes the equalizing aspect of guns in phyiscal confrontation. The strong can once again physically abuse the weak (rape, assault, robbery, etc. and eventually murder by other means - knives, bats, wet noodles, etc.) until the cops show up. The overall violent crime rate in the UK - cited below - gives us some idea of what this world might look like. One small vignette from across the pond-
"My wife woke up screaming and then I woke up. The man then ran downstairs and went out through the kitchen door." Mr Caeiro, who is 5ft 6ins, rang 999 to report the break-in and was told by police that because the intruder was no-longer believed to be in the house they would be there in 15 to 30 minutes...I opened the back door ... then this man attacked me with a metal bar. "He hit me on the shoulder and I was knocked back into the kitchen. The door opened and the man tried to come inside.
At worst, given the over 200M guns in circulation, and to use a pithy phrase, only the outlaws will have guns. Here, admittedly at the extreme, the world might look like Russia which has an ostensible handgun ban but possesses a murder rate 5x the US's. The armed criminal amidst unarmed, law-abiding individuals is literally a kid in a candy store.

4) An armed society is not an anarchy

The challenger argues an armed citizenry destroys the rule of law -

By advocating and encouraging citizens to own handguns and assault weapons, we are implicitly encouraging them to be judge, jury and executioner. What place does this have in a civil society? They have a term for this. It is called anarchy...Guns designed to kill people have no place in civil society.
Based on the challenger's sources, there are already some 233M guns within the US. 40% of US households possess. And yet, we're far from being an anarchy and true vigilanteism is an absurdly rare phenomena. The reason? It's well understood that the only legitimate gun use against a person is in self-defense - a basic "gun law" that a 5 yr old can derive. Shooting someone outside of self-defense carries rather stiff penalties - anecdotally, gun owners are far more likely to "lock 'em up & throw away the key" for gun crimes than non-gun-owners.

5) Culture determines crime rate, not guns

I wanted to avoid the statistics game but, mea culpa, I invited it by citing my own. Sigh. Few things drag down a debate like dueling & constantly reinterpreted statistics. Nevertheless, let me take a few moments to hack up the challengers attempts to connect the gun rate directly to the crime rate -

  • British Crime Rates - The challenger cites radically lower gun crime rates in Britain vs. the US. However, when merely measuring gun crime, there's a certain tautology that a society with theoretically zero guns will have fewer gun crimes. Although there's a point to be made that gun crimes still exist in the UK, the real story, however, is overall violent crime rates -
    Twenty-six percent of English citizens -- roughly one-quarter of the population -- have been victimized by violent crime. Australia led the list with more than 30 percent of its population victimized.

    The United States didn't even make the "top 10" list of industrialized nations whose citizens were victimized by crime.

    The percentage of the population that suffered "contact crime" in England and Wales was 3.6 percent, compared with 1.9 percent in the United States and 0.4 percent in Japan.
    The British example instead demonstrates that the risk of disproportionate response is useful for reducing even non-mortal crimes like rape, assault & robbery.
  • High Gun Rate EU Nations -- These nations have crime rates similar to their low gun rate neighbors -
    The Swiss, New Zealanders and Finns all own guns as frequently as Americans, yet in 1995 Switzerland had a murder rate 40% lower than Germany's, and New Zealand had one lower than Australia's. Finland and Sweden have very different gun ownership rates, but very similar murder rates. Israel, with a higher gun ownership rate than the U.S., has a murder rate 40% below Canada's.


  • Canada has a relatively high gun ownership rate (21M Guns / 30M people) but a much lower crime rate.

  • Registration vs. Fewer Guns -- The Time Magazine article the challenger cites as proof that "gun control" discusses registration rather than limits to the number of guns in circulation. Citing registration is ambiguous because it *does* implicitly acknowledge that there are useful, legitimate reasons for an armed citizenry - certainly not the big picture argument the challenger sought.

  • Intra-US differences -- even within the US, socio-economic conditions within different communities create vast differences in violence & gun ownership. Slicing geographically, you could look at some northern states -
    States such as Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Montana, where gun ownership is at least twice what it is in Canada, have murder rates as low as one-half that in the provinces which are their immediate neighbours.
    Slicing ethnically (and rather controversially...) -
    Homicide Offender Rate/100,000 by Race in US (2000):

    3.4 - White
    25.8 - Black
    3.2 - Other

    ...if you remove homicides committed by blacks, you get a US homicide rate of only 2.6/100,000, lower than Germany (3.27) and France (3.91)

    And yet, Blacks own fewer guns than whites -
    Despite being victimized by crime at several times the rate of whites, only 30 percent of black adults own guns, compared to 43 percent of whites.
6) Defensive gun use is a real phenomena

My case is fundamentally based on guns being used defensively. Since we've opened the stats Pandora's Box, it's probably time to provide one here.

Counting defensive gun uses (DGU) is hard - how do we tally "crimes that didn't occur?" Nevertheless, estimates range from the almost laughably high 2.5M DGU's a year down to a more believable 100,000 DGU's a year.

Clearly, even the low estimate dwarfs the 11,000 firearm homicides cited by the challenger.

7) Social utilitarianism is not the final decision rule

The dueling statistics debate above can quickly fall into the trap of utilitarian decision making sidestepping the important factor of Individual Sovereignty.

Let me explain by example - if there are "too many" swimming pool accidents (1000 children killed annually!), do we ban swimming pools? Statistically, the 8M pools in the US have the same mortality rate (1K/8M = 0.013%) as firearms (30K/230M = 0.013%). To make the comparison more true, leave out homicides / suicides which likely aren't factors in pool deaths & focus just on gun accidents (~800/yr) --> you're literally safer from accidents with a gun in the house than a pool in the backyard!

Clearly, noone advocates a ban on swimming pools by somehow computing the "good" from pool ownership and weighing it against the bad. We instead trust individual adults to manage these risks and make their own personal cost/benefit analysis about pools - despite 1000 of them every year making a poor choice with heart-wrenching results. Why do we allow this? Because they are adults. Sovereign adults.

Similarly, from the standpoint of a single sovereign individual, given -

  • the intractable violence in human nature
  • killing or the threat thereof sometimes providing the only defense & having a powerful effect even on non-mortal crimes
  • the state being neither physically capable NOR legally required to serve you in the moment of need
  • tools (arms / guns) which can be effectively employed by any individual
Why shouldn't I have the choice of providing my own, personal, last line of defense regardless of how others may have screwed up theirs?
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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Battle Arms - First Rebuttal - Challenger

I must say that my opponent’s opening statement wasn’t quite what I expected. It certainly doesn’t contain all the usual talking points that I am used to encountering when I discuss this issue. I would have been the last person to think I’d be debating the “inherently violent nature of man” in a discussion on gun control. Seeing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was a real eye popper. He would have made my life easier had he gone with the standard pro-gun spiel. Although his post required added scrutiny on my part, in the final analysis, his creative arguments are as flawed as those found in the standard pro-gun spiel. For this I am relieved. With that in mind, let us proceed to his points.

1. Violence is an intrinsic part of human nature

That’s certainly a mouthful. We might as well discuss the inherent goodness of man. While I find these propositions quite interesting, I feel they are better suited for a theological or philosophical discussion as opposed to a political discussion on gun laws. I certainly have my opinions regarding the inherent nature of man but this certainly isn’t the time or place to discuss them. Nonetheless, anyone who claims to have scientifically proven the intrinsic violent nature of man or the inherent goodness of man is probably practicing junk science.

If I accept Pinker’s assertion that all people are seething volcanoes underneath their cool exteriors, it makes little sense to work towards arming all these people with inventions that allow them to inflict serious physical harm on themselves or other people with the twitch of a finger. Even if I believe that all men are inherently good, it still makes little sense to arm our citizens to the teeth. They are both non-sequiturs.

2. In some cases, violence can only be countered with reciprocal violence


Perhaps even more than unheeded, appeals to intellect & reason may go
unheard altogether as when dealing with the proverbial
Moro
tribesman
or PCP-crazed felon -

You know, when I start seeing Moro tribesmen walking down the street or a PCP-crazed felon on the loose, I’ll be the first guy to buy a gun with the proper stopping power. I mean really. All those gangs of marauding people looking to fulfill their physiological needs are a real menace to society. This whole line of argument is both absurd and points the heart of the pro-gun methodology. It is a culture of fear that must be created in order to sell more guns. The more that people fear, the more guns they can sell. How does one get past the safety needs in Maslow’s hierarchy when they live in perpetual fear? As the Kinks say, paranoia the destroyer.

I’m not that concerned about Moro tribesmen, PCP-crazed felons or people seeking to fulfill physiological needs. Teenage boys armed to the teeth concern me. It really is time to disarm.


This risk of reciprocal violence provides the basis of our entire criminal
justice system via the theory of deterrence.

This is why our society goes to great lengths to fund and support a justice system and at the same time makes great efforts to eschew vigilante justice. Furthermore, when I followed your link for deterrence, I missed the words “reciprocal violence”.

3. Even disproportionate reciprocal violence has social value

I’d imagine that the ayatollahs and mullahs would agree with you. We really need to start chopping off the hands of kids who shoplift. That’ll send out a message. I didn’t even know that stealing a car was a violent crime but then, that’s how far gone this argument is to begin with. A couple of weeks ago, I caught some kids toilet papering my trees. You reckon I should of pulled out my mythical Glock and fired a few shots in the air or should I have plugged them in the back as they ran away when I turned the porch light on? This “two eyes for an eye lash and your upper molars for an incisor” is based on what religion or ideology? I’m really curious. There are plenty of ways we could reduce crime significantly that involve inhumane and extreme methods. My question to you is: would you want to live in that society?

An authority no less than John Lott offers us statistics that armed citizens reduce crime? I honestly think those statistics aren’t worth the disk space they reside on. The man is a barking moonbat. You can find some quotes of his over here. Allow me to cherry pick.

In the wake of the March 1998 schoolyard ambush of children by children in
Jonesboro, Arkansas, Lott voiced his strong support for arming teachers and
other school personnel against gun-toting juveniles. Lott argues, "Allowing
teachers and other law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns in schools
would not only make it easier to stop shootings in progress, it could also help
deter shootings from ever occurring."---"The Real Lesson of the School
Shootings," The Wall Street Journal, March 27, 1998.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! AAAAH! SOCK PUPPETS! ~best Homer Simpson voice~

Lott has given himself seventeen five-star reviews using various techniques to
conceal that he was the author. He's also written concealed negative reviews of
books whose authors he didn't like. (For example, after Michelle Malkin's column
denouncing him (see above), he gave her book a one-star review.) He has posed as
another person and posted defenses of himself on discussion groups, going so far
as to say things like "[Lott] was the best professor I ever had."
When confronted by the Washington Post, Lott responded "I probably shouldn't have done it -- I know I shouldn't have done it -- but it's hard to think of any big
advantage I got except to be able to comment fictitiously," said Lott.
But the very next day Lott started up again under a different sock puppet. He later
went so far as to have one puppet disagree with things he posted as another
puppet!
THAT’S NOT ALL FOLKS! It appears that some of his data has coding errors. There also appears to be missing survey data. The list is endless with this guy. I have to stop now because I am starting to sound like an infomercial. Needless to say, anything Lott says and any statistic he provides needs to be taken with a truck load of salt.

Not to worry though. There are reliable studies that we can use to properly ascertain the effectiveness of gun control. A Time magazine article describes a study from John Hopkins University that shows that gun control decreases gun crime. Who woulda thunk it?
It sounds like a no-brainer, but like any new information in the battle over gun
control, it’s bound to ruffle a few feathers: Registration and licensing
requirements deter criminals from buying guns. That latest bit of data in the
gun control debate, courtesy of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the
Johns Hopkins University, indicates that stricter guidelines for gun purchases
mean fewer firearms end up in the hands of criminals. States with the lowest
incidence of criminal gun activity are those with both licensing and
registration guidelines. And the best results of all, according to the Hopkins
study, come in states surrounded by other states with similarly tough gun laws,
so that criminals can’t simply slip over state lines to replenish their
supplies.

4. Individuals can be / are trusted to use this violence appropriately

By advocating and encouraging citizens to own handguns and assault weapons, we are implicitly encouraging them to be judge, jury and executioner. What place does this have in a civil society? They have a term for this. It is called anarchy. This is not an issue of trust but it is an issue of law, order, justice and civil society. I trust you to own and properly maintain a double-barreled shotgun. Guns designed to kill people have no place in civil society. I might as well complain about my lack of rights to carry around a bazooka in Times Square.

5. Government can NOT be trusted with a monopoly on necessary violence

Now, there are a hundred macro-political reasons why this may be the case
(historically, the Nazi's, Stalinists, Saddam's, etc. all started in one way or
another with a true monopoly on instruments of violence).

This is laughable. The pro-gun guy will always talk about his need for self-defense. Suddenly, when you hit point five, he’s not talking about self-defense. He’s now talking about how he can’t overthrow the government without his Saturday Night Special. I don’t know what to say to you guys other than you should make do with your long guns and pitchforks when you storm the gates of the White House. If you bring enough torches, you might be able to also round up Edward Scissorhands and Frankenstein when you corner George W. Bush on the White House roof.

What gun control laws did the brown shirts implement during their beer hall days? What gun control laws were in place when Saddam held power? Last I looked, instead of a chicken in every pot, Iraq had an AK-47 in every hand.
he jumped up next to me, jabbed some blunt metal object into my ribs /
armpit and said "Give me your money!"...it thrust home the message that YOU are your own last line of defense.

I had previously read your account of that robbery attempt. I was extremely glad to hear that you escaped serious injury.

No matter how well intentioned the gun owner, guns are stolen. From 1987 to 1992, there were an average of 341,000 firearm thefts per year. Over half of the firearms stolen were handguns. You would think that with all the security afforded by these firearms, owners could hold onto them at a higher rate. Unfortunately, that is not the case. When people own guns, criminals steal them. When criminals steal them, gun crime occurs.

Surely my opponent doesn’t view modern day England and Japan as fascist states. If one compares the statistics for homicides and suicides between these countries and ours, the numbers are startling. Both England and Japan prohibit handguns. Gun homicide rates for Japan are .03 per 100,000 people. In England it is .007 per 100,000 people. This compares with the United States that registers 62.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Surely these numbers are cause for serious pause.

This country needs to belly up to this problem. This is truly a great American tragedy.

Respectfully submitted,
Ralph Stefan

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Monday, August 16, 2004

Battle Arms - Iron Blogger Libertarian - Opening Arguments

The ultimate goal of arms is for the individual to defend himself, his rights, and his property against other individuals through the credible threat of mortal force. This is a very complex topic so I'll expend some effort here to crisply articulate a small number of core points and avoid the statistical barrage that characterizes so many gun debates.

1. Violence is an intrinsic part of human nature

Perhaps the first and most important issue in this debate is on the origins of violence. No less a body than the UN has felt the need to take a stance on this crucial question -

The Seville Statement on Violence was drafted by an international committee of 20 scholars at the 6 th International Colloquium on Brain and Aggression held at the University of Seville, Spain, in May 1986, with support from the Spanish Commission for UNESCO. The Statement's purpose is to dispel the widespread belief that human beings are inevitably disposed to war as a result of innate, biologically determined aggressive traits.
One thing I'll credit the UN with - once you start with this premise, much of their philosophy becomes rather internally consistent. The problem, alas, is that this well-intentioned Statement is nevertheless fundamentally inconsistent with actual scientific research. I'll cite perhaps the preeminent brain researcher of our time - Steven Pinker-
The noble savage [myth] has been refuted by studies of hunter-gatherers and societies more generally that show how violence and warfare are a human universal...if you do the numbers and count the bodies, two deaths in a band of 50 people are much bigger than the September 11th casualties in a society our size.

Careful studies show that hunter-gatherers are dead serious about war. They make weapons as destructive as their ingenuity permits. And if they can get away with it, they massacre every man, woman, and child. In our own society, which is far more peaceful than the native groups, if you ask people whether they have ever fantasized about killing someone, anywhere from 70 percent to 90 percent of the men and about 40 percent to 60 percent of women say that they have.

...There are also parts of the brain that seem associated with violence and outbursts. We know this partly because of accidents or operations through which certain portions of some people's brains were removed. Some sort of inhibitory brake was removed, and the individuals became more prone to violence.

And it's precisely that restraint - our ability to NOT act on these universal impulses which folks like Pinker cite as perhaps the crowning achievement of Civilized society. Our institutions, culture, and society writ large provide this brake. (In some macabrely humorous data, researchers have recently determined that humans are most violent immediately prior to this socialization - at the tender age of 2 yrs old. Luckily for us, their physical abilities aren't quite up to par with their intentions. ;-)

The prognosis - until human beings themselves can be reengineered, the propensity for mortal violence will continue to be a Tragic fact of life. Our times may be modern but our base nature dates back to the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation - a thoroughly violent time & place. No matter how successful our particular social tools have become, the continued existance of crime & war provides prima facie proof that they are far from perfect or universal throughout the world.

2. In some cases, violence can only be countered with reciprocal violence

Because the violence we eventually face targets the base of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - it can only be dealt with at a similar level - reciprocal mortal violence. Appeals towards the greater good from more cooperative behavior can go unheeded -

Game theory does show that cooperation is better than non-cooperation. However, this theory is based on the assumption that all parties will cooperate. Enter into the formula a non-cooperating entity and the players will lose something. It matters little if the entity is an evil non cooperating player or a predatory animal.
Perhaps even more than unheeded, appeals to intellect & reason may go unheard altogether as when dealing with the proverbial Moro tribesman or PCP-crazed felon -
...physiological factors may actually play a relatively minor role in achieving rapid incapacitation. Barring central nervous system hits, there is no physiological reason for an individual to be incapacitated by even a fatal wound, until blood loss is sufficient to drop blood pressure and/or the brain is deprived of oxygen.

...Strong will, survival instinct, or sheer emotion such as rage or hate can keep a grievously injured individual fighting, as is common on the battlefield and in the street. The effects of chemicals can be powerful stimuli preventing incapacitation. Adrenaline alone can be sufficient to keep a mortally wounded adversary functioning. Stimulants, anesthetics, pain killers, or tranquilizers can all prevent incapacitation by suppressing pain, awareness of the injury, or eliminating any concerns over the injury. Drugs such as cocaine, PCP, and heroin are disassociative in nature.

This risk of reciprocal violence provides the basis of our entire criminal justice system via the theory of deterrence.

3. Even disproportionate reciprocal violence has social value

There is tremendous social benefit from the aggressor worrying that his target may behave in a disproportionate manner. This point transforms the question from the defender asking "does a kid trying to steal a car deserve to get shot?", into the kid asking himself "is it worth risking getting shot to steal this car?" The troubling "mental transaction cost" burden of these heavy and unpleasant questions should be borne as much as possible by the transgressor rather than the victim. This follows the economically optimizing maxim that cost should be borne as close as possible to the activity in question.

Empirically, John Lott provides some of the concrete data about the power of deterrence in some of these circumstances -

For each additional year that a concealed handgun law is in effect the murder rate declines by 3 percent, rape by 2 percent, and robberies by over 2 percent.
The threat of mortal reciprocal violence, even in these (arguably) non-mortal crimes (rape & robbery) had a beneficial deterrent effect and reduced overall crime rate. Even though Captain Kirk's phasers had "kill" & "stun" settings, it was to his & his crews' benefit that he never told an tentacled enemy what it was set on before brandishing the weapon.

The first 3 points lay out the case for the inevitability of mortal violence& its use as a social tool - the next 2 points argue why they must be broadly vested.

4. Individuals can be / are trusted to use this violence appropriately

American society - and ultimately the entire classical liberal experiment - begins with the assumption that these types of decisions and this type of power ultimately reside within the individual and are very carefully pruned by the government. There are a million treatises by authors famous and infamous on this point but I'll point instead at a favorite essay by the blogosphere Right Wing poet laureate, Bill Whittle -

We trust the people. We fought wars and lost untold husbands and brothers and sons because of this single most basic belief: Trust the people. Trust them with freedom. Trust them to spend their own money. Trust them to do the right thing. Trust them to defend themselves. To the degree that government can help, great - but TRUST THE PEOPLE.

...Here is my dry-eyed, cold-hearted, sad conclusion: I believe that the freedom, convenience and economic viability provided by the automobile is worth the 40,000 lives we lose to automotive deaths each year --- a number made more horrible by the fact that perhaps 40% are related to drunk driving and therefore preventable.

By the same calculation, I accept that the freedoms entrusted to the people of the United States is worth the 11,000 lives we lose to gun violence each year.

When push comes to shove, and for the NET rather than ABSOLUTE better, we trust individuals with the power to apply mortal, reciprocal violence. We TRUST them with decisions about their own self defense in the face of such threats. We have a web of rules (which roughly boil down to "don't initiate violence") surrounding this power and luckily, human beings are able to rise to the occasion. For example, John Lott notes one particular case rather relevant to point #3 -
During state legislative hearings on concealed-handgun laws, possibly the most commonly raised concern involved fears that armed citizens would attack each other in the heat of the moment following car accidents. The evidence shows that such fears are unfounded. Despite millions of people licensed to carry concealed handguns and many states having these laws for decades, there has only been one case where a person with a permit used a gun after a traffic accident and even in that one case it was in self-defense.
5. Government can NOT be trusted with a monopoly on necessary violence

Now, there are a hundred macro-political reasons why this may be the case (historically, the Nazi's, Stalinists, Saddam's, etc. all started in one way or another with a true monopoly on instruments of violence). BUT, I'm going to open my case with a micro-social case near and dear to me - the government simply can't apply force in time -

he jumped up next to me, jabbed some blunt metal object into my ribs / armpit and said "Give me your money!"...it thrust home the message that YOU are your own last line of defense. While I was impressed with what was probably a 2-3 minute response time from SFPD, the essential plotline for the entire encounter was nevertheless determined in less than 10 seconds.
A government which could react within the 10 seconds to be relevant here would probably require every 5th man on the street be on its payroll as a Law Enforcement Officer - not a world I'd want to live in.
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Battle Arms - Opening Argument - Challenger

As I look down into my lap and eye the glistening 7.32 inch barrel of my Glock .357 Magnum, I can only ponder where to begin. I guess the first thing to say is that I am honored by the invitation to debate in this fine forum and I thank the Chairman for the opportunity. This is an extremely important issue for our society and I hope I can do it justice.

The primary purpose of handguns and assault weapons is to kill people. I find it alarming that such inventions have threaded their way into our society in such a thorough and deadly manner. As the deaths continue, I feel it is important to work towards laws which restrict and ban the possession these weapons. We are a society that is literally drowning in guns. Towards these ends, I would first like to do a brief history of handguns. I would then like to present to you how we as citizens of this fine republic have been programmed to view handguns in a positive way. I then hope to show you how far gone we are with this love affair of handguns. Finally, I hope to examine the real costs of such a love affair in terms of lost lives as well as economic damage.

The primary purpose of a handgun is to kill other people. Here’s the earliest gun I could find. It was termed a hand gonne and its primary purpose was to shoot a charging knight. You can go through the evolution of handguns from the hand gonne to percussion cap and it is all about killing people. As about.com notes, the percussion cap had “a devastating effect in the U.S. Civil War”. With the invention of the revolver, a new and improved killing machine was developed. Sam Colt’s invention allowed firing without reloading and as the Colt website proclaims:

"Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal."
This is indeed the case if one desires the streets of our country to be a battlefield. In fact, I think we did an excellent job of fulfilling Sam Colt’s vision. It should be duly noted that Colt struggled until he found his niche market, the U.S. Ordnance Department.

Who doesn’t like a good gunfight? We glorified the old west in books, magazines and movies. Those were real individualists and there is nothing better than a loner with a handgun. The handgun is the ultimate symbol of both personal security and autonomy. In an insecure and fearful country, who could ask for more than a handgun? Hollywood knew it had a winner on its hands with handguns. With westerns losing their appeal, Hollywood turned its attention to more modern handgun themed movies. No movie in the history of Hollywood did more for the handgun than the movie Dirty Harry. This led to vigilante handgun films like Death Wish. Are you afraid and fearful? Buy a gun and do a little vigilante justice. The handgun made its way into the American psyche big time in the early 1970’s and there was no turning back. As we nestled up to guns, gun crime went up significantly. From the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s, gun crimes went from 329,232 in 1984 to 581,697 in 1993.

What was the reality in the old west? Gun fighting wasn't really all that common:

Gun fighting peaked in the 1870s: Six fights in TX and KS in 1870, 22 in 1871,
13 in 1872, 27 in 1873, 14 in 1874, 13 in 1875, 22 in 1876, 21 in 1877, 36 in
1878, 14 in 1879. In the 1880s: 25 in 1880, 27 in 1881, 15 in 1882, 9 in 1883,
17 in 1884, 7 each in 1885-6, 20 in 1887, 10 in 1888, and nine in 1889. 1895-96
were bad years, 19 fights in each, but then it began to taper off.

These numbers pale when compared with the 581,697 gun crimes we had in 1993. For all you NRA folks out there, put your gun away before visiting this link. Those aren’t real shots being fired. There wasn’t a whole lot of face-to-face gun shooting. This would be for good reasons. It doesn’t take a whole lot of brains to figure out what the odds were in a face-to-face shooting. Instead, handguns played a major role in bushwhackings, ambushes and assorted shootings where the victim had no chance of defense. This properly mirrors what we experience today. If only they had cars in the old west? I guess we are all victims of the in-house drive-by. There is real irony in the fact that Clint Eastwood, a man who made his fortune making westerns and modern day handgun movies would come full circle and act and direct in a movie like the Unforgiven. I think it properly puts into perspective what killing people is all about.

When something smells rotten, I always follow the money trail. Lo and behold, the handgun business is big business. In 1995, there were over 233 million firearms in the United States. The pile of handguns keeps getting higher as cheap handguns are widely available today. In 2002, Californians alone purchased 169,469 handguns. Dumping cheap handguns on America is big business. Hundreds of thousands of cheap handguns are produced and sold each year and the profits are huge. Their right to dump these handguns on America is upheld by a well-funded lobby that spent 3.7 million dollars in the 2000 election cycle to back candidates who support their cause. Their opponents spent $394,000 for the same election period. It is no small wonder that gun control has gone off the radar while conceal and carry permits are on the rise.

Guns are really cool. In my humble opinion, they rate right up there with M-80's. I experienced no small amount of joy blowing up model cars and assorted stuff as a kid. Who can resist throwing an M-80 into a sewer and see it make a huge sewage splash and hear it reverberate throughout the neighborhood? Guns, like M-80’s make a loud noise and you can shoot stuff up. Unfortunately, when you peel away the boyish destruction, you are left with a path of devastation. In 2001, there were 29,573 firearm related deaths with 11,348 of those deaths the result of homicide. Homicide is the number one cause of death for young black males age 15 to 24. In 1996, roughly 96,000 people received gunshot wounds with roughly a third of them being fatal. There were 357,822 gun crimes in 2002. This is clearly an epidemic. The social, economic and human costs are massive.

There is no small list of specific incidents involving guns and assault weapons that have taken a grave toll on our citizenry. Attacks in schools, trains, or any other place people work or gather are well documented.

Statistics from the ATF show that half of all guns used in crimes are legally purchased. One can only wonder how this industry continues to thrive given their path of mayhem and destruction. Careful examination of the powerful gun lobby reveals the reality. The millions of dollars the gun lobby uses to pay off our representatives and legislators make them literally untouchable. The government is falling over itself to provide immunity to gun manufacturers. If only the cigarette industry had greased more palms? The gun lobby is brutal. They oppose all measures to use technology to make guns safer. They oppose technology to “fingerprint” weapons. They oppose efforts to ban armor piercing ammunition. One can only wonder what their justification$ are.

Given the massive amount of violence and death, we have made progress. James Brady, White House press secretary for Ronald Reagan was severely injured and crippled in an assassination attempt on then President Ronald Reagan. His wife Sarah mounted a tremendous campaign to bring gun control to the forefront of political debate. In a stunning victory, the "Brady Bill" was enacted in 1994. The bill required outlandish requirements like gun licensing and background checks. It originally provided for a five-day background check but that has since become obsolete thanks to a computerized FBI system. As you view my statistics above, please note the precipitous drop in gun crime that coincides with enactment of this bill. We need to continue this effort and work towards a general ban of weapons that have no primary use other than to kill people. That said, I have no problem issuing conceal and carry permits to people who actually have a real need to carry a weapon. This would include situations where people must carry large amounts of money in high crime areas. The process to obtain such permits must be vigorous and thorough.

I fully understand the cries to carry weapons. My question is, where do we draw the line? If someone tells me about his need to own assault weapons, I am certain that there will be another person who claims his need to carry hand grenades. From this, we have someone who desires to possess a rocket propelled grenade launcher. I personally draw the line at the utility of the weapon. Weapons with the primary purpose of killing people should be banned. They have no place in civil society. That said there is much cognitive dissonance in regards to this point of view. When such matters arise, I generally reach into my personal experiences to properly evaluate the situation. In my case, it doesn’t leave any doubt in my mind.

- My grandfather was shot in the head and killed with a handgun that was concealed when the murderers entered his store.
- My brother was shot in the chest by a group of 16-year-old kids who had a handgun. His mistake was to walk down the street at night. The young robbers shot him after they determined that he had no money on his person. They took his jacket off him before they shot him. The bullet missed his heart by less than an inch and he walks around with a piece of lead in his chest today.
- I knew a guy who made the mistake of getting out of his car in a road rage incident. He was shot dead on the spot with a handgun.
- I knew a guy who was having mental problems and he got his hands on $20 .22 caliber pistol and shot himself in the heart.

All of the people who pulled the triggers in the above scenarios used less physical effort than would be required to open a jar of pickles.

I don’t want to live in a war zone. I don’t want my kids to live in a war zone. I’ll be happy to carry a gun when the government deems it necessary that I fight in a war. Short of that, I think civil society deserves better than what the laws are offering today. For people who desire to carry guns in public, I recommend they go to Iraq where the gun laws are quite liberal.

Best regards,
Ralph Stefan

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Battle Affirmative Action - Verdict

Necessity forces me to post the Verdict without first posting Judges' Comments. Due to extreme emergencies in my life, today, and the late scores (understandable) from a few Judges, I just don't have the time to go through all the comments and reformat them for publication here, right now. If the Judges wish to post them on their sites, great. If they choose to email them to all interested parties, wonderful. I can't do them right now.

This Battle was very impressive on both sides - my Iron Blogger had a very strong debut against a Challenger who is, arguably, our toughest, yet (sorry, Dan).

And now, the Verdict.
A hard-fought Battle to the very end, both Combatants making powerful cases for their respective side. Challenger Bryan S bringing the heat, but new Iron Blogger Green shows she's more than capable of filling her position.

Who takes it? Whose spleen vents supreme?

Challenger Bryan S of Arguing With Signposts

It's The Challenger! Let's take a look at the scores.

Judge Pineapple Girl scores it 65-56 for the Iron Blogger
Judge Patton scores it 62-56 for the Iron Blogger
Judge Jheka scores it 75-62 for The Challenger
And Judge CDT Michael scores it 82-69 for The Challenger

A split decision on part lines 2 Left to 2 Right, The Challenger sqeaks it out on an 11 point difference. Down to the wire, another tight Battle! Congratulations to our second Challenger to get the win against an Iron Blogger!

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Twelfth Battle

This week our Challenger is one of our own - an Iron Blog Judge, commentor and now Challenger, Ralph Stefan is one of those rare breed of true Centrists. He shares ideology with both parties and just as often, neither party, his positions ranging from Left to Right. I am pleased to have him as our Challenger this week, and look forward to the Battle.

Iron Blogger Libertarian, Vinod Valloppillil, you have been challenged to the ideological battlefield. May you once again stand strong and uphold the honor of the Iron Bloggers.

If memory serves me right, the Libertarian party believes in a return to the core basics of the Constitution - and that would include the Second Ammendment in its purest form. Too many arguments have been fought over gun control, assault weapons and the like. What I want to get to is the true, beating, bleeding heart of the matter. The Topic for the Battle is this:

The Purpose Of Arms

Why do we have them, and what purpose do guns serve in our society in modern times? Should they only be used for hunting? For self-defense? Is gun collecting a legitimate reason to allow gun ownership? At their core, are guns nothing more than a tool for killing, and if so, do we need them? Let us see what our Combatants have to say.

Allez debate!

(NOTE: Scores are not all in for Battle Affirmative Action. The Judges' Comments and Verdict will be posted as soon as possible.)

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Blitz Battle Winners
Chris in NH (BB #2)
Big Dan (BB #6)
Former Challengers
Jimmie Bisse Jr. of The Sundries Shack
Chris of World Inquiry
Dean Esmay of Dean's World
Big Dan of God In The Machine
Owen of Boots and Sabers
Frank LoPinto of Cool Blue Blog
Bryan S of Arguing With Signposts
Ralph Stefan of Ralph's Garage
Former Iron Bloggers
Rosemary Esmay (2-1)


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