Armed and dangerous

The man who threatened to kill Sen. Patty Murray is the holder of a concealed-carry permit.

One strong argument for “shall-issue” laws making it easier to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon is that the people who go through the process seem to be a remarkably law-abiding bunch, committing only a handful of crimes of violence. (The parallel movement toward “stand your ground” rules somewhat weakens that argument by making it lawful to blow someone away if you think, even unreasonably, that he might be threatening you; in that circumstance, there may be a death, but not crime of violence.)

That argument is slightly weaker, and the gun-control argument slightly stronger, after today’s revelation that a concealed-carry-permit holder in the State of Washington made a series of anonymous telephone calls threatening the life of Sen. Patty Murray for her vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. Yes, you can make threatening calls with or without a concealed-carry permit, but clearly a system that lets someone crazy enough to do that have such a permit isn’t as tight as you’d like it to be.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

21 thoughts on “Armed and dangerous”

  1. Can't argue with that: You'd like such a system to be absolutely perfect. Good enough is, however, good enough.

  2. … and a system that lets a violent teabagger pack conceled heat is good enough for Brett, dagnabbit.

  3. The man has a Second Amendment right to bear arms, which means a single shot flintlock musket. Original intent, you know.

  4. I think Brett's right. The guy after all was arrested before he did anything but spout obscene threats. If the Democrats try to beef up Federal gun controls, that plays right into Republican tactics. Lots of law-abiding, decent people out there who love their guns.

  5. To be fair, I doubt that the CC screens have been adequately updated to screen for Obama Derangement Syndrome as of yet.

  6. The only way to construct a system which has zero false positives, is to construct one which has 100% false negatives. That many of you would view this as a feature, rather than a bug, is the only reason you take seriously the idea that a single failure is reason enough to damn this policy, and dismiss as meaningless the fact that CCW permitees have a lower wrongful shooting rate than the police.

    Your irrationality on the subject is on display again. Would you reason thus about any practice you didn't despise?

  7. Jakob, if I thought I were among pro-gun fetishists here, I'd say the same thing. But I'm not.

    The thrust of Mark's piece is that the guy who threatened Senator Murray is an anomaly among permitted concealed carriers. There are the two points of fact on which our discussion turns.

    However, passing from discussion on the web to life as I live it, what damages me in my daily political life here in Arkansaw is culturally-fueled anti-gun fetishism. There are probably a hundred different questions before the federal government more important to the people of my state than handgun control, until the right wing punches this joy buzzer we've handed them.

  8. "The thrust of Mark’s piece is that the guy who threatened Senator Murray is an anomaly among permitted concealed carriers."

    The thrust of it is, the guy is an anomaly, and even an anomaly is too much. Otherwise, why complain that a system which produces a wrongful shooting rate lower than the police somehow let through somebody who subsequently made a threatening phone call? How much tighter do you want the system to be, Mark? How much more law abiding than the police do CCW permitees have to be, to make you happy? Ten times? A hundred times?

    It's your joy buzzer, folks. You can't complain about gun owners caring about this right, when you're no less obsessive. At least bitter gun clingers are obsessive about their own activities, you obsess about other people's.

  9. Brett, I think you're arguing against a straw man here. From reading his book, I understand (unless I don't) that Mark and I are more or less in agreement that handgun bans are ineffective in stopping crime and not particularly good policy. Here's one piece of very public, non-ignorable evidence that suggests otherwise, and Mark has noted it as an anomaly.

    What else do you want? Note: Ignoring evidence against ones own arguments is not an option.

  10. dismiss as meaningless the fact that CCW permitees have a lower wrongful shooting rate than the police.

    Actually, it is meaningless. It's nonsense.

    Do permit holders routinely carry their guns all day? How often does a permit holder find himself in a situation where shooting is even a remote possibility?

    Police work may not be quite as portrayed in the movies, but surely the average cop is in such a situation many many times more often than a civilian permit holder.

  11. Bernard, we're talking percentages here. Of the occasions where people get shot, by police, and by permit holders, the police are more likely to have shot the wrong person. This is NOT an indication that we're being unreasonably lax about handing out concealed carry permits.

    Mark is complaining about an incident which, baring "Minority Report" type precognition, no system of concealed carry permitting could have prevented. Ok, he doesn't want to ban handguns. He just doesn't want people carrying them, and is groping for an excuse to make it harder.

  12. Brett, without trying to read the mind either of Mark or of the Founders, and without addressing the legalisms involved, the emotional valence of the pro-gun position quite mystifies me. In a civilized society why would any sane person want to carry a handgun with them all day long? I can understand having a gun for home defense (though it's less clear why that weapon should be a handgun), and I can perhaps understand carrying a handgun for special occasions or circumstances – dropping cash off at the bank, occasional trips to dodgy areas, cab drivers, etcetera. But the idea that the guy next to me at Starbucks has an emotional need to be packing lethal force seems to tell me a lot of scary things about that guy's mental state, and very few things about Starbucks.

    I mean, I know I've let a sheltered life, but somehow I've managed to make it a few decades without ever even witnessing a genuine threatening situation other than car accidents – and on the occasions when I've heard of threatening situations it was very far from clear that they would have been improved by a participant fumbling around for a gun after they had already been threatened by a mugger or in the middle of a less one-sided and more complex confrontation. Nor for that matter do I want a bunch of people wandering around fondling their firearms so they will be ready and won't have to fumble for them.

  13. My stated position is in favor of shall-issue laws. That position is based on my reading of the data.

    A news story came up that wasn't consistent with my stated view, and I thought I owed it to my readers to point that out.

    I'm sorry Brett finds intellectual honesty offensive. He's not alone.

  14. Brett,

    Sorry, I misunderstood what you were saying. That makes more sense, but I still want to give the comparison some thought.

  15. Ok, Mark, I've thought about this overnight, and while I still think the post betrays a certain irrational attitude, I seems I've been guilty of something I often complain about: "Autocompleting" what you're saying according to what I've come to expect from people in your political camp, and then reacting to what I've attributed to you, and not what you said.

    Sorry about that, I apologize.

  16. "But the idea that the guy next to me at Starbucks has an emotional need to be packing lethal force seems to tell me a lot of scary things about that guy’s mental state, and very few things about Starbucks."

    It suggests scary things to you. But, again, given the stats on behavior of concealed carry permit holders, and the reasonable assumption that scary mental states ought to lead to scary behavior, we've got pretty substantial evidence that what it's suggesting to you just isn't true. Heck, given the stats, I think we'd be on safer ground attributing scary motives to people deciding to join the police.

    Is this really all that different from the reasoning of the militia movement?

    1. The RKBA is to allow the population to resist oppression in extremity. (The insurrectionist theory of the 2nd amendment; Understandably unpopular with office holders, but with plenty of historical basis.)

    2. A lot of politicians want to get rid of the RKBA.


    3. They plan to oppress us, and are just setting the stage before they get down to it.


    4. It's important to prepare to fight that oppression they've got planned.

    You've got more in common with the Michigan Militia than you realized. 😉

  17. Brett, in fairness to the authorities whose motives you question, even if most permit holders are angels the conditions that allow them to exist create a culture awash in guns, including illegal ones.

  18. But there's nothing wrong with a culture awash in guns. You don't like guns, but objectively, a culture awash in guns can be a very nice place to live. Or a hell-hole, depending on factors rather independent of the guns…

    And there's no particular reason to suppose that cracking down on legal guns prevents criminals from getting them illegally. It just doesn't work that way. Not for heroin, not for Rugers.

  19. What I'm saying, in case I was unclear:

    You've got places in this country that are awash in guns, and are so safe that you don't bother locking your door.

    You've got places in this country that are awash in guns, and are so dangerous mothers put their children to sleep in the bathtub, so a stray bullet won't hit them.

    That being the case, "awash in guns" ain't the variable driving whether these places are good or bad places to live.

    WHO owns the guns might well be one of those variables, and efforts to disarm ordinary folks drive that variable in the wrong direction.

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