pageok
pageok
pageok
"Guns and Violence: The English Experience"

That's the title of Joyce Malcolm's excellent book on the history of gun control in Great Britain. Paul Gallant, Joanne Eisen, and I review it for a forthcoming symposium issue of George Mason's Journal of Law, Economics & Policy. The review is available in PDF and HTML.

Mark Deming (mail):
A very interesting review. I'd love to hear Richard M Daley try to argue against the statistical evidence. His political machine is on a mission to strip guns from law abiding citizens in Chicago and surrounding Cook County.
6.13.2006 1:17am
Questioner:
Mark Deming: "A very interesting review. I'd love to hear Richard M Daley try to argue against the statistical evidence. His political machine is on a mission to strip guns from law abiding citizens in Chicago and surrounding Cook County."

Except, of course, for him and his friends...(assuming, for the sake of argument, he and his friends are law-abiding.)
6.13.2006 1:42am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Except, of course, for him and his friends...(assuming, for the sake of argument, he and his friends are law-abiding.)

Someone really needs to expose and broadcast the class and wealth angle of the gun control movement. And emphasize it over and over again. It's not "gun control", it's "gun control for the law-abiding poor and middle class who don't have connections".
6.13.2006 2:16am
A Zarkov (mail):
I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
6.13.2006 2:47am
Brett A. Thomas (mail) (www):
Is there any data available past 2001 or so? Everything I've read on this topic focuses on the jump in violent crime from the ban in '98 until 2001. But, what happened, after? I read about this statistics jump initially several years ago. I've heard nothing about subsequent statistics. What's happened, since?
6.13.2006 3:03am
Bob The Lawyer:
I can't comment on the book, but the review reads more like a polemic than an academic paper. Handguns have in recent times always been tightly controlled in the UK, and were very rarely able to be used in self defence. So the argument that there is a casual link between the abolition of handguns in the UK and the rise in violent crime is difficult to accept.

The comments about self defence also seem shallow, and ripped from the pages of UK tabloids rather than on the basis of any legal analysis. You'd never realise from the article that you have a right to use reasonable force in defence of property or self, and where a claim of self defence has been rejected it is because the jury refused to accept that the force was reasonable.

There is a genuine debate to be had about the reasons for the rise in violent crime, but there's not much sign of it in this article.
6.13.2006 3:39am
Kevin P. (mail):

You'd never realise from the article that you have a right to use reasonable force in defence of property or self, and where a claim of self defence has been rejected it is because the jury refused to accept that the force was reasonable.


Ah, but the rub is precisely the word "reasonable". Without any change in the actual laws allowing self defense, the police and criminal justice system have been taking an increasingly narrow view of the word "reasonable", thus making the right of self defense increasingly restricted.
6.13.2006 4:16am
Splunge (mail):
Wasn't there supposed to be a surge in the number of innocent tourists savagely gunned down by trigger-happy locals after Florida passed a law saying you do not have to even try to back away from a confrontation, even outside your home, before using deadly force? I must have missed it.
6.13.2006 4:45am
LDF (mail) (www):
Thanks for a very interesting review! Excellent post.
6.13.2006 5:16am
Paul S (mail):
Well, I'm sure there is a real argument, and there is no doubt that gun-control policy here has tended to react to "scares", but it doesn't look like a balanced review to me.

Consider this, for instance:

Technically, self-defense is still legal in Great Britain, but in practice, any act of self-defense is subject to a prosecutor's second-guessing of what is "reasonable."

Of course, it is not a question of a prosecutor second guessing what is "reasonable". It's a jury question. Before conviction, the jury would have to be sure that the defendant used unreasonable force. The defense is not just technically available, it is practically available. And so far as "second-guessing" is concerned, how else could the defence possible work? Nobody is going to permit a defence which is not restricted to the use of "reasonable force", and no sensible criminal justice system is going to allow a person who has killed someone to escape conviction simply by claiming that he used reasonable force. That claim is going to have to be tested.

Now maybe English juries take a meaner view of what is reasonable than American juries. And maybe that is a bad thing. But it surely has nothing to do with the legislative policy relating to guns.

There's a raft of other problems. For instance:

In 2006, burglary was essentially decriminalized, by a new government policy to merely give a "caution" (an official warning) to first time burglars who have been apprehended

This has been discussed here before. It turned out that the policy relates only to commercial premises. Now you may agree or disagree with that, but it's a significant restriction on the policy which careful and balanced scholarship would have noticed (and it depends on other factors being present too).

There are so many other problems with the use of data here. For instance, reading the comments

guns began flooding into Great Britain from the international black market (especially from eastern Europe and from China), driven by the demands of the country's rapidly developing criminal gun-culture.

might suggest rampant gun crime. But that is not what the statistics show. They do show that the suppression of handguns has not been effective in preventing gun crime. But it remains very low. this report cited in the review shows that crimes involving weapons running at lowish numbers (in the 6000-10,000 figure per year). With such small underlying figures, quite small numerical changes produce quite big percentage swings. The latest statistics, referred to below, show an increase in firearms offences to just under 11,000. That is an increase, which is bad. But a balanced view from a gun-control perspective would still need to compare it with the US figure which appears to be 366,840 (here, assuming that figure for "violent crime" in Table 10 includes figures for rape, robbery and assault).

The statistics are no doubt hard to analyse, and I am not suggesting that the comparison I have set out proves that the UK approach is "better". But a balanced report would surely have to take account of facts such as those, and that in the US a weapon is used in 22% of violent crime, including 46% or robberies, and 55% of homicides (source) whereas in the UK a weapon is used in 8.5% of homicides, 4% of robberies and 3% of "serious incidents of violence against the person" according to Home Office statistics here. It would also have to take account of the fact that those latest statistics show violent crime falling, on the most reliable estimates, from a high in 1995 (though on some measures they seem to be rising, probably due to changes in reporting and recording which make comparison difficult). Details are in the report I linked to.

Or consider this. Guns are used in the UK in a tiny minority of burglaries (0.04% of all recorded burglaries). Now maybe arming householders would deter burglary; but it might also probably increase the use of firearms by criminals. Domestic burglary rates are falling in the UK (as the Home Office statistics cited above show). The statistics powerfully demonstrate that the main deterred to burglary is window-locks! Burglary rates seem to be quite comparable in the UK and the US: in 2003, Household Burglary rates in the US were 29.8 per 1000 households (2.98%) (source ) whereas the Home Office statistics for the UK show them at 2.7% (a figure which includes attempts). These figures hardly provide strong support for the theory that UK property crime is running rampant as a result of the absence of firearms in the hands of householders.

In short, this does not seem to be a balanced or a scholarly review. While rightly condemning legislation based on "scares", it constantly references tabloid reports of precisely that sort of story, painting a grotesquely inaccurate picture of armed gangs of children roaming the streets, and does not begin to grapple with the complex reality.
6.13.2006 8:22am
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
My mini review:

Malcolm's book claims crime has gone up in the UK, when it has actually gone down. Malcolm fabricates quotes to make it appear that there is no right to self-defence in the UK when in fact there is.

Malcolm gets the history, the criminology and the law wrong. A dreadful book.
6.13.2006 9:25am
Paul S (mail):
For those who are interested, the ambit of the defence of self-defence in English law is accurately summarised in this Law Commission Report at paragraph 4.6, as follows (citations omitted):

The basis of the present common law of self-defence is that D has a complete defence to a charge of assault (of whatever seriousness, including murder) if two requirements are met. The first is that D performs the external element of such an offence in defence of himself or herself, or another, from what he perceives as an actual or imminent unlawful assault. The second is that the steps that he takes are reasonable in the circumstances as D believes them to be. Thus, D is to be judged on the facts as he or she believes them to be. The question of whether the force used was reasonable in those circumstances is, however, an objective one to be answered by the jury. The tests were succinctly described in Owino as "a person may use such force as is [objectively] reasonable in the circumstances as he [subjectively] believes them to be."

If the force used is more than is objectively reasonable in the circumstances as D believed them to be, then D will not be able to successfully use the defence of self-defence. This is so even if D believed that the force deployed was
reasonable.


The questions (a) what were the facts as D believed them to be? and (b) was the degree of force reasonable given those facts? are jury questions.

The Law Commission is an official law review body, presided over by a High Court judge and a number of Commissioners drawn from academia and practice. The Commission also considered complaints that the law was insufficiently favourable to householders (paragraph 4.19):

As we have indicated in Part 3, there is a strongly held view among many members of the public that the law is wrongly balanced as between householders and intruders. We think that much of that public anxiety is based on a misunderstanding of the present state of the law, contributed to by incomplete understanding of certain notorious cases. We accept, however, that the law should provide explicitly for a partial defence to a charge to murder where a person of ordinary tolerance and self-restraint acts in fear of serious physical violence to himself or another. We acknowledge that such a person, though genuinely acting in fear, might not always act "reasonably" so as to attract the full defence of self-defence. In such a case, we conclude, he or she should not be convicted of murder but should receive a conviction which reflects his or her lesser degree of culpability. The law of self-defence should not be a case of "all or
nothing".


It is a pity to see a view based on "misunderstanding of the ... law" and "incomplete understanding of certain notorious cases" put forward in scholarly work as a measured assessment of English law.
6.13.2006 9:53am
Freder Frederson (mail):
This was written by an hysterical gun-rights advocate who has no understanding of British history, culture, or people; or the very real problems with crime Britain is experiencing. Like John Lott, they try to use one factor (private ownership of firearms) to explain 600 years of history. To do this they distort statistics by equating violent crime with violent gun crime, property crime with violent crime, and simple cherry picking of statistics and hyperbolic headlines to "prove" their theory (or should I say demonstrate their preconceived notions).

I doubt the authors have ever even been to Britain. If they had, they would have experienced first hand how ridiculously inaccurate their description of the crime situation in Britain is.

I imagine they are nothing but shills for the NRA, which is fighting the UN agreement to put limits on the private ownership of firearms.
6.13.2006 10:53am
Jeek:
I doubt the authors have ever even been to Britain. If they had, they would have experienced first hand how ridiculously inaccurate their description of the crime situation in Britain is.

Oh yeah, you definitely need to visit someplace personally in order to interpret statistics correctly. After I spent 15 years in the US without incident, I went to England for 2 weeks and was immediately a victim of a crime, but I wouldn't say that "first hand experience" gave me any real insight into comparative crime rates.
6.13.2006 11:10am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Oh yeah, you definitely need to visit someplace personally in order to interpret statistics correctly.

There analysis went well beyond interpreting statistics, they analyzed the British culture and psyche and imply that the British people are being misled by their leaders into being compliant patsies for roving bands of armed thugs while the mostly unarmed police stand by in their silly hats and help old ladies cross the street. And if anyone so much as lifts a finger in self-defense, the government throws them in jail (which of course are empty, except for innocent citizens, because the government refuses to prosecute "real" criminals).
6.13.2006 11:23am
Freder Frederson (mail):
And the U.S. experienced a 2.5% jump in violent crime in 2005 including a 9% rise in the murder rate in Phoenix and 23% in Houston, two extremely gun-friendly towns, while gun-hating NYC is once again the safest big city in the country.
6.13.2006 11:39am
AppSocRes (mail):
The critics of this review rely on trend data from the British Crime Survey (BCS) rather than data on police reports of crimes. There are pitfalls in using data from victimization surveys; particularly for establishing trends. There is a whole literature on this regarding rapes as repoorted in the USA's NCVS vs the FBI's UCR/NIBRS. The critics also fail seem to fail to realize that there are very significant differences among the USA, England and Wales, and Scotland in how crimes are reported and recorded and crime statistics are published. The technical issues relating to international comparisons of crime statistics (particularly trends) are complex. For those who are interested, James Lynch, 1995, "Crime in international perspective", pages 11-38 in James Q. Wilson and Joan Petersilia, Editors 1995, Crime, Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, San Francisco, is a slightly dated but reasonable analysis.

Speaking as someone with a little knowledge in this area (I teach courses in criminology at the university level), I think it is very safe to say that the trend for rates of violent crime in England and Wales and Scotland has been significantly upwards for over a decade, the rates of violent crimes in these countries now appear to exceed US rates for some types of violent crimes, and some of the rises in violent crime within the UK do appear to relate in some causal fashion with increasing restrictions on the lawful private possession and use of firearms.
6.13.2006 11:48am
Paul S (mail):
Besides which the analysis of statistics is not adequate. For instance, there is (as I noted above) an important problem with recent crime statistics.

There are two measures: the British Crime Survey (based on interviews and sampling) and the recorded crime figures (based on reports).

These have been moving in different directions. The BCS figures show violent crime falling since 1995. The Police Recorded Crime figures show it rising, with a very sharp jump in 1998. The sharp jump can clearly be accounted for by a change in counting rules, which had previously led to crimes of common assault and harrassment going unrecorded. But one still has to explain subsequent rises. In short one still has to decide: which set of statistics paints the correct picture? Is crime rising or falling?

There are good reasons to believe that the increases in reported crime figures are due to increases in reporting and the accuracy of record-keeping. Moreover, it is generally supposed that the BCS figures (based on a properly random sample and aiming to capture all crime) will be more accurate than the police figures, which are skewed by patterns of reporting. So the correct conclusion is probably that violent crime has been falling, not rising.

Now a responsible analysis could conceivably prefer to report an upward trend. But it is clearly irresponsible to report that trend without even identifying the evidence to the contrary, and explaining why it should be discounted. And a particularly strong health-warning needs to be attached to any comparison between reported violent crime in years up to 1997/98 and that in subsequent years because the change in reporting methodology produced what looks, on the headline figures, to be a vast but completely misleading jump.

Instead, the review refers without question to Britain's "modern crime wave" (which probably does not exist), to Home Office figures showing "violent crime in Great Britain ... rising" and gives the general impression of a breakdown in law and order on a wide scale. Those statements cannot fairly be made simply as statements of fact based on statistics. One would have at least to grapple with the strong statistical evidence the other way. The review does not so much as suggest that there is such evidence.
6.13.2006 11:48am
byomtov (mail):
Tim Lambert's cites make a convincing case that Malcolm is plain wrong, and that Kopel at best was careless in taking her claims at face value.


[DK: As usual, the post on gun policy issues draws a widely varying set of responses. A few responses to the responses: the campaign to reform the self-defense laws is not led by "tabloids." It's led by The Telegraph, which is a broadsheet. It's true that, on paper, Britain's self-defense law appears reasonable; the problem is in the application. Similar (but not as severe) problems in the application of some American state laws have been one of the reasons behind reform of some American state self-defense laws. That's a point which would have been nice to elaborate in the article, but we were constrained by a 3,900 word limit. We also would have liked to go into much more depth to address some of the statistical issues of the type raised by Paul S and by Tim Lambert. Briefly put, we believe that there is an endemic problem in Britain with government falsification of crime data, a problem we have written about elsewhere. (http://www.davekopel.com/NRO/2000/Fear-in-Britain.htm). Given that the United Nations has labeled Scotland the most violent developed nation in the world, we are confident that our overall picture of a worsening British crime problem is correct. We never claimed that that handgun ban directly caused the rise in crime, except to the extent that it was symptomatic of a much broader government policy of cracking down on the law-abiding. Thanks to Paul S for pointing out that only commercial, not residential, burglary has been decriminalized; we will fix that before the final article is published. Before final publication, we will re-read all the comments carefully, and consider whether there are other changes we should make.


Unfortunately, the commenter who uses the pseudonym "Freder Frederson" (a character from the movie "Metropolis") continues his pattern of low-quality invective. For the record, I've been to England twice in the last several years, have written a book on Great Britain published by an academic press ("Gun Control in Great Britain"), correspond with a variety of British experts in gun policy, and have relatives living in England, including one of top rifle competitors in the nation.]
6.13.2006 11:50am
Freder Frederson (mail):
some of the rises in violent crime within the UK do appear to relate in some causal fashion with increasing restrictions on the lawful private possession and use of firearms.

This is absolute nonsense. Even before the almost total ban on the possession of firearms in the home, gun control laws in Britain, gun ownership among the general populace was so low, and the concept of using guns for self defense so alien to the British people, that the ban would have had very little impact on the vast majority of citizens. Having a handgun in the house for self-defense was already illegal for almost all citizens.

I remember being in England and listening to a radio debate about whether armored car drivers should be "armed". I was thinking to myself, "this is insane, why are they debating the arming of security guards when most police don't even carry guns". Then I realized they were discussing "arming" them with nightsticks.
6.13.2006 12:18pm
Hysterical Gun-Rights Advocate:
This was written by an hysterical gun-rights advocate

Is there any other kind?
6.13.2006 12:35pm
Kevin P. (mail):

Freder Frederson:
And the U.S. experienced a 2.5% jump in violent crime in 2005 including a 9% rise in the murder rate in Phoenix and 23% in Houston, two extremely gun-friendly towns...

I noticed you left out the part about the crime rate jumping in Houston right after Hurricane Katrina and the large number of evacuees it produced.

You will probably accuse me of being a racist for pointing this out.
6.13.2006 12:38pm
Gordo:
Let's assume that Joyce Malcolm's thesis is correct - crime in Britain has gone up because private citizens cannot own guns. Or let's even assume that there is no correlcation between restricting private gun ownership and crime rates.

This doesn't answer the question as to why we can't have mandatory registration of all guns and mandatory training for all citizens wishing to own a firearm. The NRA and other gun rights absolutists would have us believe that it's all or nothing. That's not true.
6.13.2006 12:43pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
I noticed you left out the part about the crime rate jumping in Houston right after Hurricane Katrina and the large number of evacuees it produced.

Okay, so the murder rate jumped in Houston when there was a significant influx of residents from the city with the highest murder rate in 2004 (New Orleans), also a very gun friendly city in a state with the highest murder rate in the country which is also very tough on criminals. It is still uncertain how much of the crime was imported from New Orleans although a disproportionate amount of the victims of Houston's crime wave were evacuees. We (because I live in New Orleans) have more people serving life without parole--there isn't any other kind in Louisiana, in fact we don't have a parole system at all--(in absolute numbers, not even adjusted for population) than any other state and our death row is busting at the gills.
6.13.2006 12:50pm
EricK:
This doesn't answer the question as to why we can't have mandatory registration of all guns and mandatory training for all citizens wishing to own a firearm. The NRA and other gun rights absolutists would have us believe that it's all or nothing. That's not true.


Mandatory registration leads to the government taking away firearms. That lesson was learned after Katrina.
6.13.2006 12:55pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Unfortunately, the commenter who uses the pseudonym "Freder Frederson" (a character from the movie "Metropolis") continues his pattern of low-quality invective.

I'm glad you are familiar with your German expressionist cinema.

Low quality invective, huh? Better than low quality and shoddy "research" that draws unwarranted conclusions and distorts statistics and sprinkles in a few alarmist headlines to advance a political agenda.

You never claimed that the handgun ban directly caused a rise in crime? Gee, I guess you never said it directly, but I defy anyone to read your article and come away from it not convinced that that is exactly what you implied.

Oh and what perfidy, your opponents say the "tabloids" in England are leading the charge to reform the self defense laws. They are liars, liars I say! The effort is led by the Telegraph, which is a broadsheet!

You should be so careful in your article.
6.13.2006 1:02pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Mandatory registration leads to the government taking away firearms. That lesson was learned after Katrina.

And how is that. There is and was no mandatory registration of firearms in New Orleans, before or after Katrina.

There was a half-assed attempt to take guns away from private citizens under the emergency orders in place after the storm. The state legislature is currently debating whether to prohibit future attempts. If martial law (which it never was after Katrina) were declared, I doubt that such emergency measures would be found to be unconstitutional.
6.13.2006 1:07pm
Houston Lawyer:
We Houston residents have noticed the increase in crime as well. In inquired at my favorite gun range last week about the availability of a concealed carry class (which is required to get a license to carry a handgun) and he said that they had plenty of classes, but that they were booked solid for about the next 45 days. Looks like people are arming themselves about as fast as they legally can. Even here you have to be pre-approved to exercise your constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
6.13.2006 1:18pm
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
Dave Kopel claims that the problem is the application of the law in the UK. I looked at that as well, and he's wrong.

He's correct that the number of crimes recorded by police are vulnerable to manipulation. That's why it's better to rely on the British Crime Survey. Which shows that crime has declined.
6.13.2006 1:20pm
EricK:
They tried to take firearms away. Registration will make them that more effective.
6.13.2006 1:23pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Even here you have to be pre-approved to exercise your constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Join the "well regulated militia". I know how much you gun-rights advocates hate the first thirteen words of the second amendment and would rather pretend they don't exist or explain them away as a "dependent clause" or some aberrent trick of the English language that doesn't mean what it plainly says.

The Army is taking lawyers up to age 42 without a waiver and older than that on a case by case basis.
6.13.2006 1:24pm
EricK:
If martial law (which it never was after Katrina) were declared, I doubt that such emergency measures would be found to be unconstitutional.


If martial law was declared then that is when I would need my firearms the most. I firmly believe in my right to self-defense, and the right of others to defend themselves.
6.13.2006 1:26pm
Kevin P. (mail):

Tim Lambert:
Dave Kopel claims that the problem is the application of the law in the UK. I looked at that as well, and he's wrong.


Of course, Kevin Baker provides the other side to the story.
6.13.2006 1:42pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
If martial law was declared then that is when I would need my firearms the most.

Obviously you don't understand the implications of martial law. When the military imposes martial law, they are in charge and your right to self-defense goes out the window along with most of your other rights. The only rights you have are the ones the military grants you.
6.13.2006 1:43pm
Kevin P. (mail):

Dave Kopel:
A few responses to the responses: the campaign to reform the self-defense laws is not led by "tabloids." It's led by The Telegraph, which is a broadsheet.



Freder Frederson:
Oh and what perfidy, your opponents say the "tabloids" in England are leading the charge to reform the self defense laws. They are liars, liars I say! The effort is led by the Telegraph, which is a broadsheet!


Settle down Freder, your hysteria is showing.
6.13.2006 1:45pm
Kevin P. (mail):

Freder Frederson:
Join the "well regulated militia". I know how much you gun-rights advocates hate the first thirteen words of the second amendment and would rather pretend they don't exist or explain them away as a "dependent clause" or some aberrent trick of the English language that doesn't mean what it plainly says.


Our gracious host, Eugene Volokh himself, has written about the preamble to the Second Amendment here:
The Commonplace Second Amendment

Freder will no doubt attempt to dismiss this serious and thoughtful study in his usual glib and dismissive fashion. That doesn't bother me, since Freder is ultimately conning himself. However, if you are reading this and are genuinely curious about why the Second Amendment has a preamble and what it might mean, and if you have a naive belief that the words of the Constitution and the laws have some plain meaning that should be obeyed, then you might want to check the link out.
6.13.2006 1:50pm
EricK:
Obviously you don't understand the implications of martial law. When the military imposes martial law, they are in charge and your right to self-defense goes out the window along with most of your other rights. The only rights you have are the ones the military grants you.

I fully understand what martial law means. If the situation is bad enough for the military to enforce martial law then law abiding citizens will need the means to defend themselves.

Freder could you explain why I (or anyone else) do not have the right to defend myself with the same amount of force that I am being threatened with?
6.13.2006 2:00pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Settle down Freder, your hysteria is showing.

My hysteria, what about Dave's? First, he writes this long article about how gun control laws in England have caused a rampant crime wave, now he says "I never said that". Funny, that appears to be the entire thesis of his article.

He also brings up irrelevant points to try and discredit his opponents (the Telegraph is a broadsheet, not a tabloid). I'm not even sure why he pointed out that my pseudonym is taken from Metropolis (my favorite movie btw). Does he think I will soften my criticism of his shoddy research if I think he is a fan of 1920's German Expressionist Science Fiction films too?
6.13.2006 2:00pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Freder could you explain why I (or anyone else) do not have the right to defend myself with the same amount of force that I am being threatened with?

Could you point to one post where I said or implied any such thing?
6.13.2006 2:02pm
EricK:

Could you point to one post where I said or implied any such thing?

Unless I have your position wrong, you are against conceal and carry laws, and you are for strict gun control measures. Which implies I do not have the right to defend myself with the same level of force being used against me.
6.13.2006 2:09pm
Houston Lawyer:
As an adult male, I am already part of the militia, as commonly understood. If I were to join the Army, I still couldn't legally carry a gun in Texas without the required permit. People should stop pretending that the Second Amendment doesn't create an individual right to keep and bear arms. Especially those who believe that the same document protects all number of unenumerated rights not supported by either text or history.
6.13.2006 2:16pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Unless I have your position wrong, you are against conceal and carry laws, and you are for strict gun control measures. Which implies I do not have the right to defend myself with the same level of force being used against me.

Well, I am for strict registration of firearms, but not for the confiscation of guns. I think you are fooling yourself if you really think having a gun in your house or on your person makes you safer and there is absolutely no empirical evidence demonstrating "more guns mean less crime". In fact, since most (about 90%) homes are burglarized when they are vacant, the gun you bought to defend your home is much more likely to end up being sold to a criminal than used to defend your family. I am adamantly opposed to conceal carry again because I don't think it makes anyone safer and just encourages reckless behavior (e.g., "I'm going to walk down this dark alley because I'm carrying and I'm just daring someone to fuck with me") and the possibility of mistaking innocent behavior as a threat.
6.13.2006 2:38pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
As an adult male, I am already part of the militia, as commonly understood.

As commonly understood if you wear buckskin to work, make your own candles, milk the cows before you ride your horse to work, submit your briefs handwritten with a quill pen, and just learned about that newfangled invention that will revolutionize cotton processing, the cotton gin.
6.13.2006 2:43pm
Houston Lawyer:
And radio, tv, cable, satellite and the internet don't constitute the press either, in your line of thinking.
6.13.2006 2:53pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Houston Lawyer,

Even if I accept your dubious assertion that it is "commonly understood" you are part of the militia, it seems to me that at the very least "well-regulated" could include knowing who the members of the militia are and what kind of firearms they could bring to bear in defense of the state, as that is the stated purpose of the well regulated militia in the second amendment.
6.13.2006 3:03pm
EricK:

I think you are fooling yourself if you really think having a gun in your house or on your person makes you safer


Fooling myself? Having a gun in the house has in fact made me safer!
6.13.2006 3:04pm
te (mail):
"I think you are fooling yourself if you really think having a gun in your house or on your person makes you safer"

Talk about good timing - last night my dog's whining woke me up at 3:34. I noticed flashes of light on the wall coming in through the window. I looked out the window and saw 2 guys with flashlights in my (fenced) backyard near the door to the back of my apartment building.

I called 911, grabbed by Sig out of the safe and went downstairs. The guys were still there - I couldn't tell what they were doing. So I waited. Called 911 again. Went back to look down and now there were 3 guys - or maybe I hadn't seen the 3rd before since he didn't have a flash light. At 3:55 the cops ring my front doorbell and I let them in and direct them to the backyard.

As it turns out, my three visitors had been playing hackey sack on the roof an an adjacent building when they kicked the sack into my yard and it seemed like a good idea to them to come down and jump over my fence and look for it in the middle of the night. Two of them were pretty stoned, so I can see why it must have seemed like the thing to do.

Three points to make her. It took the cops 21 minutes to get to my house and I am 8 1/2 blocks from the nearest police station. When the cops arrived, they couldn't get to where the trouble was without me opening the door. Yes, they could have broken it down but if something was going on inside the house that would take more time. Finally, I appreciate the work that the cops do - and maybe this is because I had 20 minutes to get used to the situation - but when they went charging into the back yard with guns drawn, they seems alot more nervous and agitated than I was. I thought one of the guys who just could not follow simple instructions, was going to get popped.

So this won't be in the paper today and no my Sig didn't save my life, but let me tell you it was very comforting to hold that hunk of metal while I waited for the cops to show up.
6.13.2006 3:32pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Gordo writes:


This doesn't answer the question as to why we can't have mandatory registration of all guns and mandatory training for all citizens wishing to own a firearm. The NRA and other gun rights absolutists would have us believe that it's all or nothing. That's not true.
What, pray tell, are you expecting mandatory registration and mandatory training to accomplish?

The Supreme Court has already ruled that those who may not legally own a gun may not be punished for failure to register, because this is a violation of the Fifth Amendment right against forced self-incrimination. The only people that can be punished for failing to register are those who can lawfully possess a firearm--in short, the people who seldom misuse a gun.

Furthermore, registration is not a very successful method of solving crimes because if a criminal leaves a gun at the scene of a crime, it is usually because the criminal is being wheeled out on a gurney. Even then, criminals aren't required to register their guns. What good does it do to know that Mr. Jones was the last registered owner of a gun, when Mr. Smith stole the gun from Mr. Jones before committing a burglary?

Now, if guns were complex devices, and there was a widespread problem with gun accidents, I might be more sympathetic to the mandatory training idea. But gun accidents are pretty scarce--about 1200 a year in the U.S., about half of which are hunting accidents (and most states have hunter safety requirements right now for a license), and many of the remaining accidents involve alcohol, minors, and "cleaning accidents" that read suspiciously often like covered up suicides.

The problem of guns in America isn't accidents. It is suicides, then murders. Accidents are typically 5% or less of gun deaths, and there's no reason to think that mandatory training is going to make much of a difference in the gun accident rate.
6.13.2006 3:39pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Freder Frederson writes:


Join the "well regulated militia". I know how much you gun-rights advocates hate the first thirteen words of the second amendment and would rather pretend they don't exist or explain them away as a "dependent clause" or some aberrent trick of the English language that doesn't mean what it plainly says.
Oddly enough, until a Harvard Law Review paper around 1900, no one pretended that the first clause limited the second clause. There is one nineteenth century decision that argues that the "right to keep and bear arms" isn't an individual right. Even decisions that justify various restrictive gun control laws admit that the right is individual, even if the primary purpose of the right was to allow the population to rise up for a collective purpose--overthrow of the government.

The Second Amendment assumed an individual right for the same reason that the Framers assumed a right to breathe. Read Blackstone's Commentaries on this subject.
6.13.2006 3:42pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Freder Frederson writes:


I am adamantly opposed to conceal carry again because I don't think it makes anyone safer and just encourages reckless behavior (e.g., "I'm going to walk down this dark alley because I'm carrying and I'm just daring someone to fuck with me") and the possibility of mistaking innocent behavior as a threat.
I used to worry about this, too. But guess what? Washington State has had a "shall-issue" concealed weapon permit law since 1961. Florida since 1987. A majority of American states now have such laws. Even people that warned vigorously about how dangerous this was going to be, like District Attorney Johnny Holmes of Harris County, Texas, have admitted that they were wrong--the expected crisis didn't develop. The average American who is qualified for a concealed weapon permit (adult, no felony convictions, no recent violent misdemeanor convictions, no mental health lockups) is a surprisingly calm and sensible person.

You trust people to drive cars--and they are far more dangerous than guns.
6.13.2006 3:45pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Fred Federson writes:


As an adult male, I am already part of the militia, as commonly understood.

As commonly understood if you wear buckskin to work, make your own candles, milk the cows before you ride your horse to work, submit your briefs handwritten with a quill pen, and just learned about that newfangled invention that will revolutionize cotton processing, the cotton gin.
Mr. Frederson: do you bother to learn anything about the subject before you start making a fool of yourself? Current federal law, 10 USC 311, defines all male U.S. citizens, or those who have applied for citizenship, between 17 and 45, as members of the unorganized militia.
6.13.2006 3:50pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Feder Frederson writes:


I doubt the authors have ever even been to Britain. If they had, they would have experienced first hand how ridiculously inaccurate their description of the crime situation in Britain is.
I visited Britain in 1999. I was startled by the crime paranoia of the place. In London, I was having to talk to Underground employees through bulletproof glass. In small towns, motels front desks had bulletproof glass shutters (although not generally in use at the hour we were checking in). I saw things that I had never seen in America--like alarm systems to protect building scaffolding from being stolen. I saw something that I had never seen in America until after 9/11--police officers carrying full auto weapons in an airport.
6.13.2006 3:56pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
As it turns out, my three visitors had been playing hackey sack on the roof an an adjacent building when they kicked the sack into my yard and it seemed like a good idea to them to come down and jump over my fence and look for it in the middle of the night. Two of them were pretty stoned, so I can see why it must have seemed like the thing to do.

So this is your "Armed Citizen" story? Three stoners looking for their hacky sack? My God, talk about rampant criminality and hardened criminals in your neighborhood.

Our gracious host, Eugene Volokh himself, has written about the preamble to the Second Amendment here:
The Commonplace Second Amendment


Actually, that is exactly the article I was alluding to with my snide remark as someone referred me to it in earlier post. I read it and was underwhelmed. Eugene tries to make the first thirteen words of the amendment disappear like magic. But the fact remains that those ugly words are there. If the founders didn't want them, they could have easily left them out, as many state constitutions do where there is indeed an unambiguous individual right to keep and bear arms. Analyzing the vagaries of sentence structure of 18th century English doesn't make the words go away.
6.13.2006 4:16pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Current federal law, 10 USC 311, defines all male U.S. citizens, or those who have applied for citizenship, between 17 and 45, as members of the unorganized militia.

And how long has that meaningless little gem been floating around the USC?
6.13.2006 4:18pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
As it turns out, my three visitors had been playing hackey sack on the roof an an adjacent building when they kicked the sack into my yard and it seemed like a good idea to them to come down and jump over my fence and look for it in the middle of the night. Two of them were pretty stoned, so I can see why it must have seemed like the thing to do.

You know, as I think about this, I guess this is the huge difference between the mentality of the gun owning populace and us non-gunowners. Because I read your story and I think about what I would have done in a similar situation. Your first response to people stumbling around in your backyard late at night was to grab your gun and call the cops. I would have watched them for a while and then probably yelled from a window, "what the hell are you doing in my yard?" I'm sure the response would have been something along the lines of "hey man, we're looking for our hacky sack". I would have said, "come back and look for it in the morning". End of problem, no police, no guns. No automatic assumption my life was in danger.
6.13.2006 4:27pm
Kevin P. (mail):

Freder Frederson:
And how long has that meaningless little gem been floating around the USC?

Out of curiosity, Freder, what other parts of our Constitution and laws do you find meaningless and inconvenient?

Seriously.
6.13.2006 4:33pm
Kevin P. (mail):

Freder Frederson:
I would have watched them for a while and then probably yelled from a window, "what the hell are you doing in my yard?" I'm sure the response would have been something along the lines of "hey man, we're looking for our hacky sack". I would have said, "come back and look for it in the morning".


It's cool that you can predict the future, especially late at night in the dark.

Any hot stock tips for tomorrow?
6.13.2006 4:36pm
EricK:

I would have watched them for a while and then probably yelled from a window, "what the hell are you doing in my yard?" I'm sure the response would have been something along the lines of "hey man, we're looking for our hacky sack". I would have said, "come back and look for it in the morning". End of problem, no police, no guns.


Freder, what if it wasn't 3 kids looking for a hacky sack, and was a convicted felon in your backyard instead?
Do you really think your approach would have worked?
6.13.2006 4:44pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Out of curiosity, Freder, what other parts of our Constitution and laws do you find meaningless and inconvenient?

Well, don't tell anyone, but prior to becoming a U.S. citizen I never carried my green card.

The point is that its kind of silly for there to be a law declaring all males between 17 and 45 to be members of the militia. There is absolutely no practical impact of such a law. It is meaningless.
6.13.2006 4:49pm
Medis:
As an aside, my own personal review of the various studies and arguments has suggested to me that if gun laws in the U.S. have any effect at all on violent crime rates (once all the other factors are controlled for), the effect is likely very small, and we have no real idea what direction it goes.

And this discussion about Britain suggests to me the same thing--if there is any effect at all by variations in gun laws on British crime rates, it is likely small, and we have no idea what direction it goes.

Accordingly, and as I have argued here before, the only notable effect I could see from gun regulations might be an instrumentality effect, particularly in cases of deliberate attacks that are not necessarily specifically intended to be fatal (eg, bar fights, felony murders, and so on). And in light of the likely resistance to total gun bans in many locales, such regulations would likely have to be fairly limited in scope.
6.13.2006 4:54pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
As an aside, my own personal review of the various studies and arguments has suggested to me that if gun laws in the U.S. have any effect at all on violent crime rates (once all the other factors are controlled for), the effect is likely very small, and we have no real idea what direction it goes.

Actually, what the statistics do show is that the wide ownership of guns, either legally or illegally (and remember, most illegally purchased guns were originally manufactured and introduced into commerce legally) prevalence of guns in society leads to more serious injuries and deaths from crimes of passion. Contrary to what the NRA would have you believe, most people who are killed with guns are criminals themselves, and most victims of gun violence know their attacker. Being assaulted by a stranger is the exception, not the rule. The Times Picayune did a survey of the murder victims in New Orleans in 2004 (when we had the number one murder rate in the country) and found that over 80% of the murder victims already had arrests for serious felonies and many of the other victims were witnesses to other murders or caught in the crossfire between criminals.

Of the remaining victims of gun violence, you will find some victims of traditional crimes, but most are going to be the same old sad stories of drunken arguments that turn violent, domestic violence, cheating spouses, or the normal escalation of petty disagreements that end up in someone getting shot. When I grew up in Chicago, it seemed like a winter didn't go by that someone didn't get shot arguing over a parking space on the street that they had cleared of snow.
6.13.2006 5:10pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


Current federal law, 10 USC 311, defines all male U.S. citizens, or those who have applied for citizenship, between 17 and 45, as members of the unorganized militia.



And how long has that meaningless little gem been floating around the USC?
About half the time that the "well-regulated militia" part of the Second Amendment has been.

It turns out that as late as World War II, governors called out the unorganized militia to patrol beaches for Japanese infiltrators. Most states have similar provisions. California law allows the governor to call up the unorganized militia in the even of invasion or insurrection.
6.13.2006 5:26pm
Splunge (mail):
The Times Picayune did a survey of the murder victims in New Orleans in 2004...and found that over 80% of the murder victims already had arrests for serious felonies

So you're saying gun ownership by criminals tends to eliminate the criminals, because they mostly slaughter each other? Cool.
6.13.2006 5:32pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Fred Federson continues his pontificating without facts:

Actually, what the statistics do show is that the wide ownership of guns, either legally or illegally (and remember, most illegally purchased guns were originally manufactured and introduced into commerce legally) prevalence of guns in society leads to more serious injuries and deaths from crimes of passion.
Care to give a citation for that claim?

By the way, BATF studied illegal guns seized in New York City some years back, and almost half of them were stolen at the factory, or in transit to wholesalers or retailers. Since about 1/3 of all guns made in the U.S. are made for government agencies, it seems unlikely that banning private ownership would significantly impact these stolen guns from entering illegal commerce.

Contrary to what the NRA would have you believe, most people who are killed with guns are criminals themselves, and most victims of gun violence know their attacker.
So why are you so concerned about guns? Concern for criminals?

I find your claim unpersuasive. Please provide a citation.

Being assaulted by a stranger is the exception, not the rule.
Sure it is. But the consequences of the exceptions are pretty serious. I've been robbed before (unarmed). I've been threatened by a robber who either had gun, or was simulating it well. One friend was knocked to the ground and kicked until they broke her jaw. She didn't fight when these guys grabbed her purse; they just beat her up because it was fun. One couple I know were broken in on by a gang of complete strangers, who raped her, and beat him pretty badly. Another couple I knew was headed down the same path, and they stabbed the husband seven times. He was lucky to survive.

Reality is really ugly. It doesn't match your fantasy.

The Times Picayune did a survey of the murder victims in New Orleans in 2004 (when we had the number one murder rate in the country) and found that over 80% of the murder victims already had arrests for serious felonies and many of the other victims were witnesses to other murders or caught in the crossfire between criminals.
And New Orleans is typical of the United States.

Of the remaining victims of gun violence, you will find some victims of traditional crimes, but most are going to be the same old sad stories of drunken arguments that turn violent, domestic violence, cheating spouses, or the normal escalation of petty disagreements that end up in someone getting shot.
I suggest that you read my Civilan Gun Self-Defense Blog, where me and my friends link to news reports around the U.S. of lawful defensive uses of firearms. It is rare for a day to pass without one, sometimes two news reports. On occasion, these are indeed criminals or low-lifes shooting in self-defense at other criminals—but a lot more commonly (perhaps because the news media don't much care about criminals shooting criminals), these are perfectly respectable people defending themselves. Like this article from Victoria, Texas. Or this article from Fort Smith, Arkansas. Or this incident from Baltimore, Maryland.
When I grew up in Chicago, it seemed like a winter didn't go by that someone didn't get shot arguing over a parking space on the street that they had cleared of snow.
You mean, in gun control heaven Chicago?
6.13.2006 5:42pm
Freder Crow:
Well, I am for strict registration of firearms, but not for the confiscation of guns.


I don't think it should be illegal for negroes to vote.

But there should be srict regulations, like poll-taxes and literacy tests.

And if those requirements have the same effect as an outright ban...
6.13.2006 5:48pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Medis writes:


As an aside, my own personal review of the various studies and arguments has suggested to me that if gun laws in the U.S. have any effect at all on violent crime rates (once all the other factors are controlled for), the effect is likely very small, and we have no real idea what direction it goes.

And this discussion about Britain suggests to me the same thing--if there is any effect at all by variations in gun laws on British crime rates, it is likely small, and we have no idea what direction it goes.
Most relatively minor changes in gun control laws are probably close to zero in their effect. Colin Greenwood's study suggests that the restrictions on pistols and rifles that came out of the Firearms Act 1920 had no impact on crime rates, and that the restrictions on shotguns from 1967 onward increased violent crime rates. This isn't surprising; as long as you could lawfully possess a shotgun in your home, a burglar would have to wonder about the risks of breaking into an occupied dwelling.

At the far ends of the gun control spectrum there is likely to be significant effects. For example, complete laissez-faire would probably increase gun deaths somewhat, because our current system attempts to disarm convicted felons and the mentally ill. It isn't completely effective at it, but it doesn't have to be. If even 15% of those who are not trusted with guns can't get them, then that's 15% of criminals who may have to switch to other weapons. Where I lived in California, we had a kidnapping and murder for hire committed with a crossbow. I presume that this odd choice of weapon wasn't because the killers had just wandered in from the 13th century.

On the other hand, the other extreme, such as Britain, where gun ownership is severely restricted, take away all deterrent effect of gun ownership, especially in one's home, where many Britons now live in great fear.
6.13.2006 5:51pm
Medis:
Freder,

Just to be clear on terms, I am distinguishing violent crime rates from what happens when a violent crime occurs.

So, I would suggest that you have just further fleshed out my category of "cases of deliberate attacks that are not necessarily specifically intended to be fatal (eg, bar fights, felony murders, and so on)," to also include many crimes of passion, domestic violence, escalating disagreements, and so on. In that sense, I'm not aware of any evidence that gun laws have a notable effect on the rate at which such violent altercations occur (although please let me know otherwise).

But what I was suggesting is that guns can also have an "instrumentality effect", meaning that when violence breaks out in this sort of scenario, it is likely to be more harmful if guns are involved (including an increased fatality rate, but also more incidents of serious injuries such as paralysis, loss of limbs and organs, and so on). In that sense, reducing the prevalence of guns could in fact reduce the harm caused by, say, crimes of passion, without actually changing the overall rate of crimes of passion (although perhaps more manslaughter cases would end up mere assaults).

But my final thought was that I am not sure that in many--or perhaps even any--locales in the US, it would be effective to try to ban guns entirely. As an alternative, however, one could regulate guns to make them less harmful in the sort of scenarios under consideration. For example, just a caliber restriction would do a lot to increase the harm caused by guns on a per shot basis, and these sorts of altercations tend to be limited to one shot--unless, of course, the gun easily or automatically fires many shots in quick succession, which might give rise to another sensible regulation. And so on.

These sorts of regulations would not prevent people from having guns for whatever purpose they deemed desirable (self-protection, resisting tyrants, just because they are cool, etc.). But they might do something to reduce some of the harm caused by guns in these sorts of situations.
6.13.2006 5:56pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
You mean, in gun control heaven Chicago?

This was back in the days before Chicago was gun control heaven.

I find your claim unpersuasive. Please provide a citation.

Here you go. And I find it funny that you ask me for citations when you make ridiculous and exaggerated assertions about the level of crime paranoia in England and unsupported assertions about the number of firearms stolen from manufacturers (1/3 of all guns used in crime, there are some very serious security breaches at gun manufacturers if that is anywhere near the correct number).
6.13.2006 6:03pm
Medis:
Clayton,

It is possible that very large nationwide differences in gun laws can have an effect on crime rates, but I haven't seen much actual evidence to that effect. One problem is that it is very difficult (really, impossible) to control for all the other factors when you are trying to compare crime rates between countries. For example, as noted by another poster above, apparently there is a high correlation in Britain between home burglaries and the lack of window locks. So, for all we know the lack of locks on windows is a far bigger factor in home burglary rates than the lack of guns under pillows.
6.13.2006 6:28pm
Gordo:
The argument that registration leads to confiscation is a valid policy argument, but it is bogus as constitutional law.

If a right exists to bear arms, any governmental attempt to eliminate that right is unconstitutional. If no right exists, then the issue of requiring registration is not a constitutional one to begin with.

As for the efficacy of registration (as opposed to conficscation) in reducing crimes and gun accidents - does anyone seriously argue that registration of motor vehicles and licensing of drivers has no impact on traffic safety?
6.13.2006 6:33pm
Medis:
Freder,

In my 4:56pm post, I used "increase" where I meant "decrease" (probably obvious from context, but still).
6.13.2006 6:34pm
Gordo:
As for the negligible impact of existing gun control laws, they are fatally flawed in two respects:

1. They aren't universal across the U.S. A gun can be easily transferred across a state line.

2. They do not include mandatory training, such as we require before we issue someone a driver's license.
6.13.2006 6:36pm
Medis:
Gordo,

I can see a reasonable argument for training requirements. But I think any attempt at a nationwide ban on guns would be even less successful than Prohibition.
6.13.2006 7:24pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
The other potential benefit from banning convicted felons from owning guns is that this can be an additional charge when they are caught again. The present Administration seems a bit more zeleous that its predecessor about adding in this sort of charge, and the result seems to be that repeat felons being caught with guns are going away for longer periods of time - arguably getting this sort of recidivist off the streets even longer. Also, as this policy gets known, it may slightly reduce the number of repeat felons who do use guns.
6.13.2006 8:19pm
Splunge (mail):
Gee, I have an idea. Instead of merely banning guns, why don't we ban all killing instruments, including bombs and swords? Better still, why don't we ban the act of illegal killing itself, no matter what instruments or methods are used to do it. Then we could set up government agencies in every county and town, charged with hunting down people who violate the ban, fund them to the tune of $billions a year, and set draconian penalties -- up to and including execution -- for violators. Wouldn't that be much more effective than a halfway measure like banning guns?
6.13.2006 8:24pm
Kevin Baker (mail) (www):
Gordo wrote: "If a right exists to bear arms, any governmental attempt to eliminate that right is unconstitutional."

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that no such right exists. The Fifth Circuit has decided that the right does exist, and is an individual one, but is of uncertain scope. The Supreme Court has let both decisions stand.

I happen to live in the Ninth Circuit. I can read the Constitution and other historical documents. I know that the judges of the Ninth Circuit are wrong. But the government has eliminated that right, with one decision, for something like a third of the population of the country. If the government decides that I can no longer possess the weapons I own, they're more than welcome to come take them.

But I don't recommend it.
6.13.2006 9:07pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Gosh, Freder, your story sure does seem to change; from green card and naturalized citizen, to a child of early 60s Chicago; from one second hand incident of (non ) road rage with a gun, to regular s for parking spots.

No wonder your affection for a fictional nom-de-board.
6.13.2006 9:56pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Gosh, Freder, your story sure does seem to change; from green card and naturalized citizen, to a child of early 60s Chicago; from one second hand incident of (non ) road rage with a gun, to regular s for parking spots.

My parents moved to the U.S. from England in 1963, when I was two years, old. I grew up in Cleveland (until 1971) when my father was transferred to Chicago, where I remained (suburbs actually) until I left college in 1984. I don't think Chicago passed their stringent gun control laws until the late 1980's.

I did not become a U.S. citizen until 1990. My parents actually returned to England in 1981 when I was in college, where they continue to live along with one of my two brothers. The other one lives in Florida

I have spent most of my post-college years in the South or damn close to it (Atlanta, Alexandria, VA, and now New Orleans) except for two years in Germany, one back in Chicago and five in Kansas City (and Missouri may or may not be the south depending on your perspective).

Anything about that story you find implausable?

Any other gaps in
6.13.2006 11:09pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Jesus Christ, your life story is more deadly boring than Dirty Harrys 44 magnum.
6.14.2006 12:29am
therut:
Why would the registration of cars have anything to do with accidents and death by cars? I thought cars were registered so they could be taxed (gotta know who has them and owns them to tax them). Does anyone think that the little test I took at age 14 has anything to do with whether I drive safely. I dont think so.. But it sure brings revenue in to the State and cops get to know who to ticket for speeding. But did it help me drive safely. NO. Practicing with my parents did. I amazes me anyone would think that registration and licensing or testing has anything to do with how someone drives. I think a 9 y/o could pass the driving test that is if they can read and recognize road signs.
6.14.2006 12:57am
Kevin P. (mail):
These posts inevitably bring up the comparisons between firearms and automobile ownership. Now the comparison is not quite accurate, because driving an automobile on a public road is not a protected constitutional right. Be that as it may, a comprehensive comparison of current firearm and automobile laws in the United States is available from David Kopel:

Taking It to the Streets - Reason Magazine
6.14.2006 2:37am
Medis:
Splunge,

I agree that it makes little sense to regulate guns as a way of trying to reduce pre-mediated killings.

So, I think the case for gun regulation, if it exists at all, has to be made on the basis of violent situations where the resulting death (or serious injury) is not pre-mediated. But that is actually a pretty broad category, and in those situations, it might well make sense to attempt to reduce the prevalence of particularly deadly weapons, even on top of our other criminal penalties.

Interestingly, this argument somewhat assumes less-than-perfectly rational and knowledgable actors, because otherwise sufficiently high criminal penalties for cases in which violence resulted in death or serious injury should be enough to deter people from risking such penalties by using guns in violent acts. But again, many situations (bar fights, domestic violence, violent crimes of passion, violent acts committed during the course of felonies) do in fact commonly involve actors who are not likely to be making perfectly rational decisions on the spot.
6.14.2006 9:00am
juris_imprudent (mail):
Freder-

Chicago imposed it's first restriction on handguns (i.e. registration) in 1968 (same year as the federal GCA), and froze ownership in 1982. So you never lived there when guns were "freely available" (at least in the sense of legally available sans restrictions). Illinois did not then, nor does it currently, have a shall-issue concealed carry law - so any of your unsubstantiated anecdotes from your youth on that topic are moot (at best).

You continually assume that most gun owners are but an eye twitch away from becoming killers - yet you point out a newspaper article that correctly indicates that by far, most s occur in a 'criminal milieu'. We have more s in this country WITHOUT firearms then the total that occur in England; and in the socio-economic segment with the most s, more non-firearms then in the majority population WITH firearms. It is that larger segment of the population that is MORE likely to OWN firearms. Are you getting the picture yet?

We have a "crime problem" in this country largely because our criminal justice system is constitutionally stacked in favor of the accused. Only dopey liberals believe that you can have a benefit like that (assuming one understands the benefit that is) with NO cost; the cost we incur is repeat (and escalating) offenses, including . If you find that so disagreeable, then by all means vote with your feet.
6.14.2006 3:43pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Medis-

So, I think the case for gun regulation, if it exists at all, has to be made on the basis of violent situations where the resulting death (or serious injury) is not pre-mediated.

You've just eliminated some 90% of deaths due to firearms. Do you really think going after the remaining 10% is fruitful?

If we really want to reduce deaths due to guns in this country we need, first and foremost, to do something that reduces suicide. Is everyone up for California's aborted attempt to impose annual mental health check-ups?

As for the incidents you believe to be prevalent (and presumably amongst otherwise law-abiding citizens), it is pretty clear that you are talking about people who are likely to have a criminal justice history and who aren't (as you noted) the sharpest tools in the shed.
6.14.2006 4:13pm
Medis:
juris_imprudent,

You say: "You've just eliminated some 90% of deaths due to firearms. Do you really think going after the remaining 10% is fruitful?"

I actually don't think the percentage of gun fatalities (and other serious injuries) affected matters. In other words, if we can't do anything about 90% of gun-related harm, but can do something about the remaining 10% on a cost-effective basis, then why not?

Of course, the real issue would be whether we can actually do anything even in that 10% of cases, and whether what we could do would be cost-effective. Hence my repeated qualifiers with respect to even these cases.

You also say:

"As for the incidents you believe to be prevalent (and presumably amongst otherwise law-abiding citizens), it is pretty clear that you are talking about people who are likely to have a criminal justice history and who aren't (as you noted) the sharpest tools in the shed."

I actually have no idea what the total demographics of people involved in these situations would be, and it could certainly vary by subcategory (eg, I would expect that the percentage of people with felony criminal histories to be relatively high among those committing felony murders, but maybe not so much in cases involving crimes of passion).

But I am curious as to why you think this is relevant. Are you suggesting that we should not consider fatalities and serious injuries a problem if they involve such people? Or are you suggesting that we might have means of regulating only these people, but not others? Or something else?
6.14.2006 4:50pm
Gordo:
Kevin P:

Kopel's argument is of straw-man quality. A regulation of guns similar to automobiles doesn't mean a regulation of guns EXACTLY as we regulate automobiles. There would be differences in regulation due to the basic differences of the two products.

As for one specific item, a machine gun is not comparable to a high powered Porsche - a machine gun is comparable to a Sherman Tank. People aren't allowed to own and drive Sherman Tanks on city streets (at least I don't think so :).
6.14.2006 5:23pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Gordo-

Actually you can own a tank (but not the ordnance). It would be difficult to make it "street legal" indeed, but you do occasionally see military surplus vehicles cruising by.

The point about the Porsche though stands - and by the reasoning of gun controllers "no one needs" that kind of power. It isn't a straw-man at all - it points to the lack of logic that pervades the gun control world. I was particularly amused by the point about cars that look like fast cars, but aren't (analogous to "assault weapons").

What of course this really means is that gun-control-freaks don't want to treat guns like cars - they really want much more restrictive rules and are dissembling about their true purpose. Odd how that dovetails into the abuse of the word "reasonable".
6.14.2006 6:44pm
Gordo:
juris_imprudent:

Kopel's point about "assault weapons" is one of the few in the article with merit, independently of any comparison with automobiles.
6.14.2006 6:48pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Medis-

I am a bit skeptical that any gun control measure could be so narrowly tailored as to impact that 10% while being cost effective and not burdensome on the 99+% of gun owners that were not at risk to begin with.

but maybe not so much in cases involving crimes of passion

Contrary to popular belief, and what Hollywood wishes were true, the crime of passion by a heretofore law-abiding citizen is just extremely rare (and thus newsworthy). I think it safe to put these below the annual number of accidental gun deaths. Start with the FBI research that show only 1 in 9 homicides involves "intimates", and then start factoring out the repeat/escalating DV incidents, drug/alcohol abuse, etc.

Are you suggesting that we should not consider fatalities and serious injuries a problem if they involve such people?

If one criminal kills another, I think it a public service (though still a crime), particularly if they remove themselves from the gene pool prior to procreation a la the Darwin Award nominees (another group of people that should not be saved from themselves).
6.14.2006 6:57pm
Medis:
juris_imprudent,

You say; "I am a bit skeptical that any gun control measure could be so narrowly tailored as to impact that 10% while being cost effective and not burdensome on the 99+% of gun owners that were not at risk to begin with."

I'm not saying instrumentality regulations would have to be explicitly tailored to such cases. I just think such regulations are not likely to be effective outside of those cases. And I agree that an instrumentality regulation would likely involve some sort of burden on many gun owners (eg, the ones who would prefer guns with attributes not allowed by the regulations), but that is not necessarily an overwhelming burden, particularly considering that they could still have guns.

You also say: "Start with the FBI research that show only 1 in 9 homicides involves 'intimates', and then start factoring out the repeat/escalating DV incidents, drug/alcohol abuse, etc."

One minor point: you also need to include serious injuries, not just homicides, since both could be subject to an instrumentality effect.

But anyway, I was referring to criminal histories. You seem to be referring to prior law-breaking of any sort, regardless of whether it results in a criminal history (although alcohol abuse is not necessarily illegal, so I'm not sure why you included it). So, you are now using a different set of filters than I was. But as I said, I don't really know the demographics, and don't think thet are particularly relevant (see below).

Finally, you say: "If one criminal kills another, I think it a public service (though still a crime), particularly if they remove themselves from the gene pool prior to procreation a la the Darwin Award nominees (another group of people that should not be saved from themselves)."

I'm not sure if you are serious, but I would point out a couple things. First, you are effectively advocating a death sentence for all crimes, no matter what the character of the crime, and no matter whether the person has already been punished under the law. Personally, I don't think that is just.

Second, I also don't think that illegal violence, even as applied to criminals, generally provides a "public service". Murders and serious assaults tend to impose lots of negative externalities. So, society has an interest in deterring violence, even violence directed at people who may not be our best citizens.
6.14.2006 7:44pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Medis-

but that is not necessarily an overwhelming burden

Since you haven't elaborated, I think such a judgement is a bit premature. It may be, or it may not; I'd certainly want to know if my ox was being gored before I agree. ;-)

I was referring to criminal histories. You seem to be referring to prior law-breaking of any sort

I was thinking of the risk factors identified (and then ignored) by Kellermann.

Remember we were talking about "crime of passion", I would have to assume as portrayed on TV, etc. where a 'normal' person just 'snaps'. This is unlikely, and I don't see how you realistically prevent rare events.

First, you are effectively advocating a death sentence for all crimes, no matter what the character of the crime, and no matter whether the person has already been punished under the law.

No I am not. A death sentence is an act of law; an incident resulting in death is not. I tend to disfavor capital punishment as a matter of fact. But, if in the course of criminal conduct, a criminal is killed, I'm not all busted up about it. Consider it an occupational hazard (and perhaps let OSHA deal with it).
6.14.2006 8:11pm
Medis:
juris_imprudent,

On the issue of burdens, I don't see how we are disagreeing. I say "not necessarily", you say "may or may not be", but these are just different ways of saying the same thing.

On Kellerman--I think it is very important to understand that I am not suggesting anything along the lines that gun ownership increases the frequency of something like crimes of passion. Again, my basic conclusion is that the frequency of these events has little to do with gun regulations, and that gun regulations will indeed be unlikely to "prevent" such events.

Again, I am suggesting a very different line of reasoning: that when such violent events occur, the actual harm that occurs depend in part on the nature of the weapons involved (down to and including using our own bodies as weapons). And I have noted that one doesn't even need to try to reduce the number of events involving guns in order to address these "instrumentality effects". That is because some guns are more harmful in these situations than others, so merely changing the distribution of guns involved can change the average harm.

Finally, you say: "A death sentence is an act of law; an incident resulting in death is not. I tend to disfavor capital punishment as a matter of fact. But, if in the course of criminal conduct, a criminal is killed, I'm not all busted up about it. Consider it an occupational hazard (and perhaps let OSHA deal with it)."

You are changing issues again, and in two notable ways.

First, we were talking about whether the injured person had a criminal history, but now you are shifting to injuries during the course of criminal conduct itself. My original point was that insofar as you viewed the fact that a person had a criminal history as grounds for calling their murder a "public service", that was tantamount to approving a death sentence as punishment for this prior bad act. And insofar as you endorse private parties carrying out this "public service", as opposed to the state, I think it makes your argument worse, not better.

As an aside, I don't know what percentage of gun-related fatalities and serious injuries occur while the injured party is actually committing a crime. But I suspect it is much lower than the percentage of such incidents where the injured party merely has a criminal history.

Second, as noted, you originally claimed that the murder in question would be a "public service", but now you are simply arguing it is a risk that a person may have voluntarily accepted by choosing to engage in criminal conduct. But even on that more limited claim, it remains true that violent crimes impose negative externalities, and in that sense the direct victim is not the only party bearing this risk.

Honestly, though, I suspect you are not being serious.
6.15.2006 1:32am
Splunge (mail):
I think the case for gun regulation, if it exists at all, has to be made on the basis of violent situations where the resulting death (or serious injury) is not pre-meditated.

Medis, it's an interesting argument, but not, for me, convincing. I don't think a serious number of murders are committed by people who are so irrational they can only be prevented by not having a gun in their hand. If they're that crazed, they'll do murder anyway, with whatever weapon happens to be on hand, or their bare hands. That's how it was done in the millenia before guns, after all, and there is little doubt that murder rates in previous centuries, long before there were guns, exceed murder rates in the present.

I am more likely to believe that people do make rational decisions in these cases, but that the assumptions that underly those decisions are fatally flawed. That is, they (falsely) think that they can get away with it or that they don't care about the consequences. Indeed, I suggest the main reason murder rates have declined in the past several centuries is that the first assumption is now simply harder to make. In essence, it's harder now than it was in 1820 to fool yourself into thinking you'll get away with it.

Curiously the converse is probably true about the second assumption. Since people today have far less experience of lesser violence -- even schoolchildren are rarely physically beaten these days, and my son has had to put up with almost none of the casual schoolyard violence I experienced 30 years ago -- people also have less experience of regret for violent decisions and unforeseen consequences. It is perhaps easier now than in 1820 to fool yourself into thinking you won't care about the consequences if you kill someone who angers you.

In any event, it's probably the case that I'm unconvinced by your argument just because I see people differently. I think they behave best in the long run when you push onto them as much responsibility as possible. Good decision-making, like any skill, gets better with practise, and rusts with disuse. If I want my daughter to manage her money better, I don't oversee her every little decision, so that she never makes a bad one. Similarly, if I want the citizens of my country to learn to handle the power of each other's lives responsibly, I don't micromanage their decisions about it.

Will some bad decisions nevertheless be made, and some lives cruelly lost? Yup. Can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. The future of the tribe is always more important than the lives of any small number of individuals.
6.15.2006 3:22am
Medis:
Splunge,

You say: "I don't think a serious number of murders are committed by people who are so irrational they can only be prevented by not having a gun in their hand. If they're that crazed, they'll do murder anyway, with whatever weapon happens to be on hand, or their bare hands."

As an aside, I must again remind you that I'm not talking about trying to take the gun out of people's hands. I'm talking about what sort of gun they will actually have in their hands when the incident occurs.

Anyway, I think you are wrong on the facts, although we may be having a definitional problem. There are large categories of homicides--unlawful killings--in which the killing is not premeditated. These crimes are given different names in different jurisdictions, but one of the general terms is usually "manslaughter". Another such category is "felony murder", which requires no intent to kill, and there are also "reckless homicide" and "negligent homicide", and so on. And if you are implying that there isn't a serious number of homicides that fall into these categories, I think you are wrong.

And I think your own scenario suggests why. Suppose someone gets "crazed" and wants to hurt another person. So, they start physically assaulting the other person, but they haven't actually formed the specific intent to kill the other person (or the specific intent to paralyze them, or to destroy an organ, or so on). They just want to hurt that other person, by whatever means available.

In your version of the scenario, we are looking at what will happen if either a gun or merely fists are available (keep in mind that this is not my version). I think it is quite clear that if a gun is available, it is much more likely that this assault will result in a homicide (or a serious injury) than if only fists are available. And that is because a gun is a much more effective means (by design, of course) of causing bodily harm than fists. To put the point simply, if a "crazed" person is assaulting you, in most cases I think you would much rather they be assaulting you with their fists than with a gun.

As an aside, of course it is possible to kill a person with your fists. But usually, unless you know what you are doing, it is typically hard work and takes a lot of time, and there is no guarantee of success if they are capable of fighting back. So, I agree that if someone is highly motivated to kill another person, and they remain sufficiently motivated over a long enough period of time to plan, then the availability or lack thereof of guns is unlikely to matter much. But even in cases where the person wants to kill the other person, if that intention is only fleeting, and if they only have their fists immediately available, I think it is obvious that they are much more likely to fail.

And my point is that all this is equally true with respect to what kind of gun is involved. Certain guns are much more harmful on a per shot basis than others, and with certain guns it is much easier to shoot someone multiple times in a very brief time, and so on. And I might note that many of these scenarios tend to involve just one brief gun incident.

So, to summarize, the basic idea is that not all violent assaults leading to homicides are pre-meditated murders (and similarly, not all violent assaults leading to serious injury involve pre-meditated serious injury). And while I agree that gun regulations are unlikely to change the frequency of violent assaults, it is entirely possible that gun regulations could reduce the average harm caused during violent assaults. And that could be true even without changing the number of violent assaults which involve guns (ie, without taking guns out of people's hands).

Finally, I agree that it is generally preferably to give people more personal responsibility rather than less. But there are obviously limits. For example, presumably you did not hand your daughter a live grenade when she was young, and tell her to go outside and learn how to use it responsibly. And you would not accept someone doing that with one of your daughter's friends, which resulted in your daughter being killed or seriously injured, and subsequently declare that your daughter was merely a "broken egg" made into an "omelet".

So, general principles and analogies like this don't really help us decide the right balance to achieve in these situations. That is because we know we place limits on these principles, and therefore the question becomes finding the right limits.
6.15.2006 9:48am
juris_imprudent (mail):
Medis-

That is because some guns are more harmful in these situations than others

And you accuse me of not being serious?

OK, I was being very flippant, but I don't get the humor or the point of the above - some guns are worse then others?

BTW, I was introduced to the "PSK" (public service killing) through a Wash DC homicide detective - which is how they characterized the [often unsolved] s of known bad guys.
6.15.2006 12:33pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Medis-

Ah, the crux of your argument: "it is entirely possible that gun regulations could reduce the average harm caused during violent assaults." Based on some guns being worse then others.

In a word, no. Unless your intent is to ban all center-fire guns (and just leave .22s). The Brits tried that you know.
6.15.2006 12:38pm
Medis:
juris_imprudent,

I don't understand your skepticism. For example, by design, some guns are more harmful than others on a per shot basis. You can ask Dirty Harry, but there is also plenty of medical research on the subject. It is also a matter of simple physics--the more energy the slug delivers to the body, the more damage it will do as a first order approximation (other things like tumbling, slug shape and composition, and so on, contribute as well). And kinetic energy is simply a function (1/2 mv^2) of the mass and velocity of the slug.

And if you look, say, at just different handguns at close range, there is a very significant difference in kinetic energy. For example, a .25 auto is 66 ft-lbs, a .38 special is 242 ft-lbs, a .45 auto is 411 ft-lbs, a .357 magnum is 583 ft-lbs, and a .44 magnum is 1036 ft-lbs. In that sense, you very much would rather get shot by someone with a .38 special than by someone with a .44 magnum--as Dirty Harry was telling you.

Similarly, obviously the more times you are shot, the worse the bodily damage. So, the easier the gun makes it to shoot a person many times in a short period of time, perhaps with a single trigger pull, the worse for the person being shot. So, firing mechanism is another relevant factor in the harmfulness of guns.

Of course, even assuming we wanted to regulate the harmfulness of guns, where exactly to draw the necessary lines would be a different question. Caliber and firing mechanism would be just some of the relevant factors, and we would also have to consider the costs of various possible regulations, including enforcement costs. Those would likely push back against some of our harmfulness factors, insofar as people likely would not want to be constrained to only the least harmful (and least cool) guns.

So, I strongly suspect that limiting handguns to the .22 caliber would indeed be a bad idea due to prohibitive enforcement costs. But a .38 special is generally perceived as a more "serious" gun, so maybe we could draw the line there. Or not ... it depends on this complicated balancing of opposing factors.

Incidentally, we already have such instrumentality regulations in all sorts of areas. For example, consider explosives. The more powerful the explosive, the more restrictive the regulations. And this is true ranging from snap-pops right up to hydrogen bombs.
6.15.2006 1:34pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Medis-

In that sense, you very much would rather get shot by someone with a .38 special than by someone with a .44 magnum--as Dirty Harry was telling you.

I'd much rather not be shot at, at all! However, even here you are not as categorical as you suppose - I would rather be shot at by someone with bad aim and a .44 then a well placed .22!

So, the easier the gun makes it to shoot a person many times in a short period of time, perhaps with a single trigger pull, the worse for the person being shot.

Yet again on the assumption that the shooter is proficient enough to keep the gun on target for the additional shots. That bespeaks a proficiency that is the problem more then the caliber or rapidity of fire itself.

So, firing mechanism is another relevant factor in the harmfulness of guns.

And yet this has never been a distinguishing characteristic in any gun control with which I am familiar; most pertinently with regard to "assault weapons".

By the way, the fastest 12 shots ever fired from a handgun were not from a semi-auto, but from a revolver (including the reload) by an exceptionally skilled shooter. All on target to boot.

Incidentally, we already have such instrumentality regulations in all sorts of areas.

But not with that most abused creation - the internal combustion engine. I'll accept the instrumentality argument when Corvettes and such ilk are forever removed from our streets. ;-)
6.16.2006 3:33am
Medis:
juris_imprudent,

I don't think I was describing any of these considerations as "categorical". Indeed, I explicitly noted that these were just some of the prominent "factors" among many. And, of course, the attributes of the shooter would indeed be relevant, as well as the circumstances of the shooting, and so on.

But none of that implies that regulating these factors would have no impact on AVERAGE harm, which is all I claimed (that "it is entirely possible that gun regulations could reduce the average harm caused during violent assaults"). In short, to get a change in the average harm, you just need a positive correlation, not a perfect correlation.

Incidentally, I am well aware that the so-called assault weapon ban did not live up to its name in substance, and that in general gun regulations do not restrict themselves to these sorts of instrumentality effects. But I'm not trying to defend gun regulations in general--indeed, I've expressed my own skepticism about a number of the supposed benefits of gun regulations (such as that ownership of guns correlates with crime rates), and my own concern about the costs (such as enforcement in the face of widespread resistance).

But I see no reason to be entirely "pro-gun" or entirely "anti-gun", nor to join any particular camp of such folks. In fact, I don't see guns as special at all--they are just another product to me, in the broad category of products that can be used in both beneficial and harmful ways.

Finally, on that note: cars, of course, are indeed heavily regulated on "instrumentality" grounds. You may object to the lines that are drawn, but the Corvettes you see on the street are required to be "street legal", which includes all sorts of safety features and restrictions. So, if you do in fact think that, say, it is OK to require that cars have working brakes up to a certain specification, you are already on board with instrumentality regulations.
6.16.2006 12:32pm