Sunday, December 16, 2012

Echoes of Gunfire

An echoposter posted this cartoon on facebook in the wake of the Sandy Hook murders.  This was an exercise in echostopping ... and I think it was effective.  But I think it is ripe for analysis.  One thing that struck me ... this other commenter (echoer) is not concerned at all with actually arguing a point.  Again and again, he completely avoids it.  I know they tend to short-circuit actual discussion and try to pre-empt it, but I was completely blown away by this guy's pit-bull like grip on the tactic.  He had nothing else.

What really blew me away -- and probably shouldn't have, was that this was personal to him.  It was about him, "beating" me in an argument.  If I present a supporting argument from someone else, it doesn't count.  He's not arguing with that guy.  He's arguing with meTruth?  Doesn't matter.

update:  initial reports I read sounded like he left the rifle in the trunk and only used handguns.  A more recent report says he used his .223 rifle as well.

philmon Could it be that there were no tyrants overthrown because they knew they shouldn't bother to try? 2nd Amendment Mission #1 accomplished.

There are no "solutions" in life. Only tradeoffs.

echoposter Ill gladly trade some reasonable restrictions on firearm sale, ownership and possession for the murder rate in the rest of the civilized world.

philmon "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. " - Ben Franklin

We already have reasonable restrictions on firearms sales.

And of course, murder rates depend on how you count them, and different countries count them differently. And there are other ways to murder. Just because someone didn't use a gun doesn't make it any less a murder.

Half of our murder rate is gang on gang. These people aren't stopped by laws saying what they can and can't do. These people aren't obeying current drug laws, robbery laws, drug laws, gun purchasing laws ... why would anyone think they follow additional gun laws?

And these mass murders by crazy people? Always happen in "gun free" zones. Why? They know they will meet no deadly force, and it's pretty much all about the psychological power trip for them.

Arm teachers. Israel does it. Works pretty well. Encourage conceal and carry.

echoposter Since people break laws, should we therefore have no laws? Or do we simply need better laws?

echoer "The Tree of Liberty must be frequently watered with the blood of Patriots and Kindergarteners." Thanks for the rhetoric.

echoer The solution to obesity deaths is to eat more food. The solution to alcohol related deaths is to drink more alcohol. The solution to gun deaths is more guns. Someday everyone will realize how empty and pointless that argument really is.

echoer I am sure Ben Franklin could conceive of the day when any lunatic could arm himself for war and then go slaughter 20 children as they sat in a classroom two weeks before Christmas Eve. But I suppose if that's the cornerstone if your argument, then good luck to you....

echoer ...and again, thanks for the rhetoric.

philmon If by "better" laws you mean further restricting the essential liberties of law-abiding citizens with perhaps noble intent but to no further end, then no, absolutely not.

I would think that what Ben Franklin couldn't envision is one in which law abiding citizens would be deprived of options for defending against lunatics -- and lunatics we have always had. There was nothing in 1776 that would stop a man from going into a school and shooting 20 children. But it didn't happen to my knowledge.

But today's perhaps well-meaning gun laws let a person so inclined KNOW that the likelihood of him being able to accomplish his mission before he meets any life-threatening resistance is essentially zilch.

Of course, Ben Franklin's quote, while it carries a good deal of truth is not the cornerstone of my argument, because it isn't an argument, it's a statement which distills the truth of the larger argument behind it. The larger argument behind it doesn't have a lot of feel-good-ism to it, but it is the cold truth and it must be considered.

I can't put it any better than Bill Whittle put it years ago. It's not sexy. It won't fit on a bumpersticker. But here it is.

"This, to my mind, is the fundamental difference between the Europeans and the U.S.: 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.

We as a nation suffer an appalling number of handgun-related deaths each year -- perhaps 11,000 of them. The number is not important; each is a personal tragedy and those lives can never be replaced.

If we attempt to reduce this horrible number by banning handguns, we are taking away the property of a person who has broken no laws, by a government whose legitimacy is determined by a document that specifically allows that property, namely guns.

Destroy that trust by punishing the innocent, by pulling a plank from the Bill of Rights, and the contract between the government and the people falls apart. Once the Second Amendment goes, the First will soon follow, because if some unelected elite determines that the people can't be trusted with dangerous guns, then it's just a matter of time until they decide they can't be trusted with dangerous ideas, either. Dangerous ideas have killed many millions more people than dangerous handguns -- listen to the voices from the Gulag, the death camps, and all the blood-soaked killing fields through history.

The Framers, in their wisdom, put the 2nd Amendment there to give teeth to the revolutionary, unheard-of idea that the power rests with We The People. They did not depend on good will or promises. They made sure that when push came to shove, we'd be the ones doing the pushing and shoving, not the folks in Washington. And by the way, gun rights supporters are frequently mocked when they say it deters foreign invasion -- after all, come on, grow up, be realistic: Who's nuts enough to invade America? Exactly. It's unthinkable. Good. 2nd Amendment Mission 1 accomplished.

But back to the undeniable domestic cost: when confronted with the idea of banning handguns to reduce this horrible toll, many handgun defenders are tempted to point to the numbers killed on the highways each year -- perhaps four times that number -- and ask why we don't ban cars as well.

The logical response is that bans on travel -- cars, airplanes, etc. -- are a false analogy compared to banning guns, because cars have a clear benefit while guns don't do anything other than kill what they are aimed at.

While that is exactly true, I think it misses the point, which to me is simply this: we'd never ban automobile travel to avoid thousands of highway deaths. It's clearly not worth it in both economic and personal freedom terms. We choose, reluctantly, and with many a lost loved one in mind, to keep on driving.

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 are therefore preventable.

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

I wish I could make both those numbers go away. I will support any reasonable campaign to make them as low as possible.

But understand this: 11,000 handgun deaths a year, over four years is very roughly 50,000 killed. In Nazi Germany, an unarmed population was unable to resist the abduction and murder of 6,000,000 people in a similar period: a number 120 times higher. Throw in the midnight murders of the Soviets, the Chinese, the various and sundry African and South American genocides and purges and political assassinations and that number grows to many hundreds, if not several thousand times more killings in unarmed populations.

Visualize this to fully appreciate the point. Imagine the Superbowl. Every player on the field is a handgun victim. All the people in the stands are the victims who were unable to resist with handguns. Those are historical facts. "

echoer Wow. I've never felt so persuaded! Thanks philmon! That dry-eyed, cold-hearted, sad conclusion is exactly what the nation needs on this particular Sunday morning.

echoer PS, Where did you get your awesome book of quotes?

philmon Yes, because shallow, dismissive sarcasm is surely the solution to serious problems.

philmon And "book" of quotes? Depends on the quote.

It's simple.

I read.

A lot.

echoer No, shallow dismissive sarcasm is surely the solution to smug, self-important people who are ready to condescend to others while patting themselves on the back for their erudition. I use it. A lot.

echoer And you started it, so nyaaah.

echoposter We have to play nice

echoer echoposter is right. Peace, philmon.

echoer By the way, here is a link to the names, faces, and life stories (some of the stories aren't very long, you'll be astonished to learn) of some of the most recent 11000 or so people you don't mind sacrificing for your 'liberty.'  (posts link to story about victims)

philmon Where?

And any particular part of the "rhetoric" you have a specific challenge to? Or is this just more, "if I can label it, I can dismiss it"?

echoer Or don't read it, I really don't care.

echoer "if I can label it, I can dismiss it"? Like you did with sarcasm a bit earlier? Hoisted by one's own petard, eh? One last point I would make--your willingness to sacrifice 11000 lives or more through gun violence: Do those sacrifices include the people in your photo albums? To the ones whose pictures are in your wallet? Would that sacrifice include echoposter and his family? Or me and mine? Anybody but you and yours? Are you really defending an ideal, or just your own hide?

echoposter We don't ban automobile travel. I haven't heard anyone suggest banning handguns, either. We regulate automobiles. You have to be old enough. You have to prove your understanding of relevant law. You have to demonstrate competence. You have to carry insurance to protect the interests of others, should something go wrong. You have to register your ownership. You have to have a license. None of these are giant hurdles. The huge majority of Americans over 16 possess an operator's license and own or have convenient access to automobiles, despite all those regulations.

echoposter As far as drug laws, I'm generally inclined to legalize at least marijuana and cocaine. I think laws banning those drugs are as ineffective and destructive as prohibition was 90 years ago. Bad laws are those that are difficult and expensive to enforce, to which people are largely non-compliant. People do speed, but most people don't commit egregious violations. And police don't often write tickets for 63 mph in a 55 mph zone.

philmon Well echoer, your sarcasm addressed nothing that was said, and added nothing to the conversation other than an attempt to dismiss any argument without addressing it. But since you don't care to read the other side of arguments anyway, I suppose you suffer from willful ignorance.

If you think for a second that I haven't seen the faces and names of the kids and the quick thinking young teacher and felt deep pangs of sorrow sympathy for them and their families, you're sorely mistaken. I find it extremely disturbing as any mentally healthy human being would. If you think I'm "dismissing" their deaths, you've missed the point. But of course you've missed the point because you don't bother to read something you have decided ahead of time you disagree with.

Life isn't a bumper sticker. There is evil in the world. Always has been. Always will be. There are things we can do to mitigate a lot of its effects, but each remedy comes with a cost, and many remedies merely shift the cost to things that are harder to connect. There are people who have studied and thought long and hard about these things. And many of them disagree with your opinion and have thoughtful arguments as to why they believe what they do.

So far, all I've seen from you is ridicule and derision. These tools are used to avoid engaging in any sort of meaningful discussion - in fact, they are typically used to pre-empt any discussion whatsoever.

echoposter is smarter than that. We disagree on lots of stuff, but at least he has actual concrete ideas.

philmon If you haven't heard of anyone suggesting we ban handguns, you should pay more attention. Short of banning them, however, we've made it nearly impossible, certainly completely impractical, for any law-abiding citizen to legally carry one through the course of a normal day due to restrictions on where you can and can't (legally) have one on you. On the other hand, criminals do not care whether or not they can legally carry one wherever they want to carry one. So all you end up doing is leaving the law-abiding citizen unarmed making the criminal's monopoly on force all but certain. The criminals are very aware of this, and use it to their advantage.

Before buying each firearm I own, whether at a store or at a gun show, I am subject to a criminal background check, which I pass with flying colors every time. I'm all for that, and we have it. (Criminals have no compunction to obtaining firearms illegally, though).

I actually wouldn't mind, in fact, I'd be in strong favor of general firearm safety and the laws concerning their legal use being taught to everyone whether you ever own one or not, because this *is*, in fact, serious business. I have taken such courses. I do prefer that the law treat us as responsible adults, and expect responsible behavior in return.

Nonetheless, some will be irresponsible, and the most effective way of dealing with them is to have responsible adults on the premises deal with their threats in real time, since the police can't be everywhere.

So we agree on education. There!

Sounds like we agree on drug laws in general as well.

To severely curtail these mass shootings at schools, I would encourage the arming of teachers. I know people in this day and age recoil at the idea -- "a gun in the school" ... but the gun won't leap out of the teacher's holster and start shooting people. Do you believe teachers love the kids they teach? I do. Look at Vicki Soto.

Now imagine how different things would likely have been if Vicki had had a 9mm glock on her.

Imagine if the killer who went there to basically shoot fish in a barrel had known that a lot of teachers were armed.

He likely never would have shown up. It would have ruined the power trip. But if he did show up and find Vicki Soto in an empty classroom where she had hidden the kids in lockers looking down the sights of her sidearm at him - his spree would not have lasted as long as it did. It would shut it down as no law ever could. And Ms. Soto might be alive today. She would at least have had a fighting chance.

Licensing and registration ... these are contentious mainly because once such lists are made, they are invariably used down the road to disarm citizens, which removes an essential liberty and a plank in the balance of power. For the reasons Mr. Whittle laid out above, I'm against it. But education? Education I'm all for.

echoer Thanks philmon. The slaughter of innnocents revolts me, and people who write them off as 'unfortunate statistics" fill me with disgust. Arming teachers is a stupid idea--most rational people I know abhor the idea of guns around their children. Israel does not do it. Some Israeli teachers may carry arms, but the nation does not do it. But you're right--maybe if an armed teacher had been able to intercede, then there would have been 12? 10? What number of children would you find acceptable?

echoer Any citation of the numbers of people killed by automobiles is a false equivalency. I didn't bring it up; you did.

echoer At no time did I turn this into a discussion of handguns; you did.

echoer And comparing handgun deaths in this country to the slaughter of the Holocaust is the stupidest thing you have said today.

echoer Right after your cool Superbowl analogy.

echoer This nut walked into a schoolhouse and shot 26 people. Most of them were shot between six and eleven times.

And he did it in seconds. If you think all is right with the world and that your 'sound reasoning' passes for meaningful discussion, then I guess that's your little red wagon.

echoer You may respond if you wish, but I am finished here. Good night.

philmon Ok. I don't recall anyone saying all is right with the world ... as a matter of fact, I specifically recall saying that all will never be right with the world, and that there are tradeoffs to any mitigation you wish to try which must be considered.

No number of dead children is acceptable. 12 is better than 28, I hope you would agree. But there they will be regardless of whatever well-meaning legislation you pass, making it still more certain that children will be unprotected, and make attractive targets for disturbed individuals looking for a body count.

The holocaust occurred in an unarmed population, as did the rest of the cited mass murders of millions, even 10s of millions of people. It's completely relevant. As a matter of fact, it is of utmost importance. There lie the bodies of 11,000 people in a ditch in an armed society. There lie tens of millions of bodies in an unarmed one. Your choice isn't 28 or zero. It would be awesome if it were, but it is not.

The arguments against handguns are basically the same as the arguments against any firearms. Bill happened to be talking about handguns, but the principles still apply.

Especially since our recent shooter used .... not "assault rifles" .... but ...handguns. Also completely relevant.

But hey, kudos for at least going back and reading it. I'm proud of you.

philmon Heh, as to where I "started" the dismissive sarcasm ... I think perhaps you and I have a different understanding of the meaning of the word "started". I addressed your dismissive sarcasm with dismissive sarcasm. Tit for tat, I suppose.

I see that echoer thinks my arguments are "stupid", but makes no attempt at addressing how -- I suppose because he, as he said, doesn't bother to read them, and then -- that isn't enough, he makes up "my" arguments and derides them. ("The Tree of Liberty must be frequently watered with the blood of Patriots and Kindergarteners." WTH? I missed that little gem.)

This is the state of political discourse in the country today. "I'm right and you're stupid."

Damn. We have a lot of work to do.

philmon One also wonders what echoer's stance on spending more money to get out of debt would be given his aversion to counter-intuitive propositions. But I can wager a good guess.

Of course, the bottom line is spending more money doesn't deter more spending, more alcohol doesn't deter more drinking, more food doesn't deter more eating ... but more guns in the population does deter the illegitimate use of them.

echoer I owe you a sincere apology. Upon careful perusal of your earlier posts, I see that the one in which you made your points didn't contain any original thoughts. I thought that the first paragraph after you introduced someone named Bill Whittle was the entirety of Mr. Whittle's remarks, and that the rest were your original contribution to the discussion. Turns out--I was wrong. The REST of the post is also a cut and paste job. It seems that my sarcasm should be directed at somebody named Whittle. It wasn't your supercool Superbowl analogy, or your silly and stupid comparison to the Holocaust (the cliche of all political discussion), nor was it your false automobile equivalency--those arguments are all someone else's. You aren't the one who is wrong--Bill Whittle is! I'll try harder next time.

echoer Nitey nite!

philmon Yes, everything after I introduced Bill was, indeed, Bill Whittle's words.

The fact that they were not my words, or as you say, "any original thoughts" does not negate the fact that they are, in fact, thoughts, and thoughts with which I agree. Again, you merely attempt to dismiss them by deriding them as "unoriginal".

And it's clear you think that the parallel between murders by gun and automobile deaths is "false" ... but "false" is a declaration, not an argument. You'll have to back that up to actually make an argument.

My guess ... and I admit it's a guess, but I'm pretty sure of it, is that you think it is "false" because automobiles provide a benefit to society, while guns do not. Even if that were true, though, the fact remains that 40,000 people die as a result of automobiles every year, and they are just as innocent and just as dead as those 11,000 killed by guns. And you're apparently groovy with that, since you think I'm groovy with the 11,000 gun victims and you're not for banning cars.

Where we disagree is over the benefit of personal weapons to a society where the people have the power to fight back, whether against a criminal or to deter tyrants.

Your "argument"?

It's "false". I've presented lots of original thought here. You? Contempt, derision, slander ... just about everything except anything like an argument ... and especially no proposed remedies.

But we do know, thanks to you, that mine, are, as you say, "stupid".

echoer No, not yours--they are Bill Whittle's stupid thoughts.

echoer You want remedies? Let's talk about mental health issues. Let's talk about the gun fetish. Let's talk about the Golden Calf that no one want to discuss. Let's talk about responsible gun ownership. Let's talk about reasonable laws that keep guns out of the hands of people that are too unstable to have access to firearms. Let's talk about why this happened, instead of What If or If Only scenarios. I would be happy to share, but not with Bill Whittle. Or anyone else for that matter.

philmon The original source may be different, but your "argument" remains the same.

echoer Yes, and my beef's with Bill Whittle, not philmon.

philmon You mean "if only" scenarios like "if only we could keep guns out of the hands of people that are too unstable to have access to firearms"?

I see you're willing to "talk about" a lot of things ... but still no actual ideas about WHAT to do and how it would be effective. But only with people you agree with.

philmon And to consider the unintended consequences.

echoer You're right, philmon. You win, philmon. The undisputed master of the debate, philmon. Bye, philmon.


mkfreeberg said...

Ah, yes. The ol' "You'll never convince me of your viewpoint, so you might as well save time and come around to mine" argument. Very persuasive.

tim said...


And to think in just a mere four days we're seeing this idiot logic come to fruition.

Dick's, Cheaper than Dirt (was just about to order from them too)...who will it be tomorrow?...and the day after? month?...

"Must do something" evidently includes the nonsensical.