Packing heat

As Mark notes, permit-holding (concealed or open-carry) gun owners hardly ever shoot anyone.   This is one reason the issue is fairly far down my list of insomnia bait.  Almost everyone is armed with a deadly weapon a lot of the time anyway, and almost no-one up and runs down people with his car. Violent gun crimes seem to be almost entirely committed by unlicensed gun possessors, which means the folks who can legally pack heat don’t do anything with it.

What I don’t understand (echoing a commenter on Mark’s post)  is why more than a tiny number of eccentric people would want to carry more than a pound and a half of metal they will never actually use even to brandish, much less to shoot someone (and if all you intend to do is threaten, a plastic fake is cheaper and less burdensome to carry around).  Hardware that might be useful, I understand: a laptop, a flashlight, a Swiss Army knife with everything, a bottle of Marie Sharp’s chili sauce, even a crescent wrench and a couple of screwdrivers – but a firearm?

Take one to the range or the field where you’ll actually fire it, spend an evening cleaning it and reading catalogs thinking about how just one size larger would be heaven, these I can understand.  But carry around, to Starbucks and the laundromat? It’s like putting a paper yellow pages in your briefcase, or a timing light just in case you come across a car that needs tuning.  A handgun is really a considerable piece of freight,  granted that  I resent my cellphone and my fairly small laptop, and constantly prune my key ring of doodads I can do without.

Are there people out there who had to submit to an armed mugger once and expect to get the drop on the next one? I don’t see how that’s a reasonable expectation unless one walks around with the gun drawn, or has made daily life an exercise in constant alertness  appropriate to a stroll into an Afghan village,  punctuated with constant quick-draw practice that cuts into stuff that actually makes life worth living, like coaching little league or grilling ribs in the back yard for your friends.  Is it good for picking up girls? Better than an iPod full of really cool music (or a guitar and being able to play it)?  My experience is that women generally don’t like guns, but perhaps there are a lot like Bonnie Parker and I don’t move in the right circles.  (I know there are women who like to carry guns, but they are very few and I don’t think there’s a meme of getting hotter guys because you have a Glock in your purse. )

I don’t care enough about this to do actual research, though I hope for enlightening comments, but wanting to schlep something as useless as a handgun everywhere and then actually doing it is one of life’s little mysteries for me.  Go figure.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

54 thoughts on “Packing heat”

  1. At least in theory, it's deterrence against potential robbers and the like, who might size you up and decide, "Huh, do I really want to risk getting shot at, or should I just go looking for another victim?". You don't expect to use it – it's like how the US has had nuclear weapons, but doesn't really expect (or at least hopes) that it won't have to use them soon.

  2. Speaking from zero experience:

    First: you could say the same thing about commuting in a Hummer. It must cause trouble in a dozen simple practical situations—parking, passing, refueling, buying tires, helping your grandmother ascend into the passenger seat, etc.—but you get the ego-boost of imagining yourself to be action-movie material. Apparently people value that macho image enough to tolerate the impracticalities.

    Second: it's the misleading vividness fallacy. Some people have an exaggerated *perception* of the incidence of random violent crime, and I suspect that that perception is at work every time they walk into a convenience store ("one across town was robbed yesterday, it was on the news") or drive through a city center ("This is a bad part of town, aren't there carjackings here sometimes?") or whatever. For the same reason, I'd expect that gun-toters are also "tough-on-crime" voters.

  3. I suspect that most gun permit holders don't actually pack their weapons most of the time, either.

    For most it comes down to either principle and/or peace of mind.

    It's like people who take martial arts classes for self-defense. Your chances of actually being in a situation where knowing some martial arts will materially affect the outcome of a confrontation are pretty slim, too. But many people find having that skill a comfort as they go about their lives. I don;t see the harm.

  4. Speaking as someone that had a CCW permit in the past:

    I seldom carried. If I was going to the range I carried. There is a bit of convenience in not having to keep it locked away and unloaded. I also carried occasionally if I had a large sum of cash on my person (eg buying a used car).

    I didn't see it as necessary very often and as I said it was a seldom thing. Permit was mostly for convenience of not being in illegal possession of a loaded weapon.

  5. The open carry phenomenon is teaparty shock ware.

    They open carry for visual effect, and visual effect only.

    Much like doing yourself up like a goth or dying your hair orange.

    The question shouldn't be: Why does "teabags for brains" haul unnecessary lead around?

    The better question is: Why does "teabags for brains" feel compelled to make such a visual statement?

    There will be many answers to that latter question.

    For various reasons I won't get into here my answer is this:

    Because he is angry that he has a black president who is so much better educated and well-spoken than himself.

    Barack Obama drives the "white-right" crazy.

    Thus the visual statement of carrying pistols around to vent their impotent rage.

  6. An impious thought intrudes: maybe some of these folks have read Robert Heinlein's "Beyond This Horizon," in which the society supposedly functions as a civil one _because_ everyone is heeled (if I misremember this, I apologize: I read the book nearly three decades ago and never went back to it). The bad-attitude old lefty inside me wonders: would the Tea Partiers keep a civil tongue in their collective (tho' never collectivist!) head if they thought that the sane folks were also carrying?

  7. Well, I don't put much stock in novels as sources for political thought, one reason I ignore Ayn Rand. I don't see any evidence that openly carrying weapons necessarily improves the civil discourse. I think Somalia is effectively an "Open Carry" state, for example.

    The fact is that there are places with well-armed populations that are very peaceful and equally well-armed places wracked with violence. There are barely armed populations that are preyed upon violently and others equally disarmed that are very safe.

    Guns are a factor, but only one factor, in societal violence and likely one of the lesser ones.

  8. I think BM and Seth Owen nail all the major points (Seth alludes to but doesn't really focus on the "matter of principle" reason: someone who has no particular desire to carry a weapon around but thinks the right to do so is important to the fabric of a free society; he might get a permit as purely a political statement).

    I'll also point out that most people wildly over-weight some real risks (stranger kidnapping) and wildly under-weight others (car accidents). I have several friends who are probably overly paranoid about hygiene or about freeway driving (which is actually safer than in-city driving), and inconvenience themselves taking major precautions; I'm not surprised there are people who feel the same way about muggings.

  9. Seth,

    If you miss fiction as a source for political thought, then you miss two of the three great right-wing propagandists of the day: Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein are, along with Milton Friedman, responsible for much of the mess we're in. (I say this as a card-carrying Heinlein fanatic who especially loves his early, pre-loonietarian, darn-near-socialist work.)

    In particular, Heinlein is responsible for popularizing the slogan "An armed society is a polite society." I'm not sure if that exact quote comes from Beyond This Horizon (one of my favorites of his books for other reasons), but it is most certainly one of the primary points the novel makes, both in narrative and in dialogue.

  10. It has been said that the trouble with americans is we have movies running in our heads*. If that is so and with the prevalence of action dramas this may go a long way to explaining the irrational compultion to carry a loaded gun. That and it's comforting resemblance to a ceratain body part.

    In all my years of walking around in any rough neigborhood I pleased I can't recall ever feeling that I wanted a gun for security. The few people I've known who have owned pistols are guys who's judgement in matters of life and death I would not like to depend upon, particularly when they're drunk.

    *I confess to having any number of movies running in my head but mostly comedies.

  11. Well, for one thing, in most states having a concealed carry permit functions as having pre-qualified on the background checks, so that you find buying a gun much more convenient: You're at a gun show 150 miles from home, you see this gun you've just got to buy, and the feds have shut down the NICS for 'maintainance' again, stopping all the background checks. (Kind of like they don't shut down the traffic control system for maintainance during the holiday traffic rush; Just part of the petty harassment we're used to.) Doesn't effect YOU, though.

    For another, if you're transporting a firearm, the rules are much less strict about making sure it's inaccessible during the drive, if you've got the permit.

    Third, if you don't have the permit, and you're open carrying for any reason, (Back when I lived in rural Michigan, we occasionally had feral dog problems.) if your jacket swings across your holster you're in technical violation of the law if you don't have the permit. And cops who'll seize on the excuse to cause you trouble aren't as rare as they should be. Cops who'll just flat out LIE about it, because they're against people carrying guns, aren't unheard of.

    For these reasons, and others, concealed carry permits would probably be less popular if we weren't still suffering under a lot of petty and not so petty restrictions enacted by people who just don't like guns, and who wanted to cause trouble for people who do.

    Fourth, even people who live in safe areas do, on rare occasions, travel someplace less safe. Sometimes unplanned, if a traffic problem forces you off the expressway. I've wound up in places the police don't venture except in force, that way, on trips which theoretically should have been quite safe.

    And, fifth, if gun owners exaggerate the utility of going armed, gun opponents downplay it. Concealed firearms DO get used with fair frequency, and when they do, it's not usually for something a crescent wrench would help with.

    Sixth, the fact that criminals can't tell who is armed around them contributes to a sort of 'herd immunity' to crime, rather like vaccination. So carrying is, from that perspective, the act of a good citizen, not just a selfish act.

    But, to be honest, "I can, and if it pisses off people like you so much the better!" is a big part of it for many people, I would suspect. A good enough reason, given that concealed carry reform hasn't caused problems even in states that hand out the permits like prizes in a box of crackerjacks, or even let people do it without permits.

  12. Brett, when you say, "I’ve wound up in places the police don’t venture except in force", I wonder what some of those places are. I've strolled Cabrini Green, East St. Louis at night, Oakland at night, much of Detroit (some time ago), and so on, armed only with an appearance of being more hassle than empty pockets are worth.* I'm curious what you find to be some of those places.

    And I appreciated your acknowledgment that one factor (among many) driving carriers is nose-thumbing. I've engaged in a certain amount of that over the years and understand the urge. I also understand why it's symbolically important to them. It's not all that different from other subcultures in society who feel the need to fly their flag.

    Now, the herd immunity argument? My reaction to knowing there are armed people around me is to feel fear. It's a rational feeling which pushes me to try to spot the guns** and think about what to do if they do something dangerous with that weapon. I'm not sure but what my increased stress (times millions) isn't more harm than the herd immunity does good.

    *Mugged? Why, yes, once, when I was seventeen, in Alva, Oklahoma. Nice little town, all things taken into consideration. Also where I first heard a Muzak version of Bob Dylan.

    **Open carry has a virtue here, because I know who to knock in the head if I desperately need a gun. Here I am thinking like the Heinlein of Tunnel in the Sky rather than the one of Red Planet.)

  13. John, I once got diverted on a drive back from Metro airport into some of the worst parts of Detroit, including a street where one of my cousins stopped for a streetlight, and got carjacked. (Amazing, isn't it: All those burned out houses still there after 30 years, right on Michigan avenue!) I'd call that more than moderately dangerous. I used to pick up some things for my employer in some of the rougher areas of Flint, too.

    The herd immunity argument is that criminals have a rational basis for fearing that any victim they might chose is armed, or that a passerby might come to that victim's defense, if they know some fraction of the population is carrying concealed weapons. It's the same reasoning which explains why American burglars break into houses when they believe nobody is there, while British burglars deliberately break in when people are present, so they can direct them to the loot. I undoubtedly leads to some substitution into forms of crime which don't involve direct confrontation with the victim, but that's good, isn't it?

    You, of course, fear people carrying concealed weapons, but in your case it's more in the nature of a phobia, since you've got no rational reason to suppose the people around you who are armed are actually going to attack you. In short, the problem is in YOUR head, not theirs.

  14. I'd like to see a dose-response curve on Brett's herd immunity argument: if victims might be armed, it's risky to mug – but if they're most likely armed the mugger starts more violently to compensate.

  15. Because, of course, muggers don't have the option of going into another line of work? One would assume that, as the rate of victims being armed rose, the probability of any given mugging being a violent attack instead of a simple threat would rise, yes. While the total number of muggings that probability applied to would fall. It's something of an empirical question what the 'dose-response' curve would look like. The point, anyway, is that it's not irrational to think that by packing heat, you're actually being a good citizen.

    I'd agree that there could be some point at which the percentage of the population going about armed passed the point of diminishing returns, and actually became counter-productive. I'd merely argue that, given the actual statistics we have on the behavior of people with concealed carry permits, we're a heck of a long way from that point. Even the couple of states that let people carry concealed without a permit have encountered no particular problems. I'd speculate, and that's all it is, that concealed carry IS rather like vaccination, in that we'd have to actively push people to carry concealed, to get anywhere near the optimal rate.

  16. Brett,

    My fear of armed people around me is a rational fear, based on capability rather than intent.

    I own guns (my dad's old rifles and shotgun and my own rifle). I work on a team which is awash in guns and have only turned down one visit to the firing range with them (as I couldn't find hearing protection small enough for my then-tiny daughter, who I plan to teach to handle guns safely). Guns themselves don't worry me. They seldom fire themselves.

    And when I hold a loaded gun, I am intimately conscious of the fact that I could kill several of the people in the room with me before I was stopped.

    Not that I intend to, but that I could. It's the objective capability that matters.

  17. Brett,

    As a British resident I would be interested in seeing any evidence of your implicit claim at 4:21 that British burglaries more commonly take the form of a burglar breaking in, entering and forcing the resident(s) to reveal where the loot is. My perception is that most British burglaries are committed by unarmed drug addicts and lowlifes who scarper when confronted by a healthy adult. I have several acquaintances who have been burgled, but none who have seen a burglar. Also, I don't think a couple of anecdotes would count as evidenc. I know that there have been a couple of very high profile robberies of this sort of the past couple of years in the UK, involving torture/murder, but I thought they were high profile owing to their rarity. I suspect a good search would also reveal a number of such crimes in the US over the past year. Some statistics would be genuinely interesting, though, if you have links to them

  18. Another factor, related to some of Brett's, is people who know they will occasionally do something where carrying is sensible, and have a permit for those times. A former employer would be an example: he owned several low-income housing units (maybe a total of 20 apartments) and carried when he collected rent. In the three years I knew him, he was hassled once by some young men with baseball bats–just demonstrating that he was armed was enough to convince them to leave.

    Based solely on my observation, I'd say that less than 10% of CCW permit-holders carry even once a week. They keep a gun in their vehicle, and carry it when there's some particular reason to do so.

  19. Brett:

    ¨American burglars break into houses when they believe nobody is there, while British burglars deliberately break in when people are present, so they can direct them to the loot.¨

    Any evidence for this, or is it just a conservative talking point? The Home Office´s last report from the British Crime Survey… doesn´t address the question directly. A burglary with violence would presumably be classified as a robbery. Since total survey burglaries in 2008/9 (last reported year) were 744,000, and total robberies of all kinds (including street muggings, robberies from shops and gas stations, etc) were 272,000, the claim is very unlikely on the face of it. What did happen was a high-profile case a few years ago of a householder killing a burglar and being charged with homicide, to the ire of the Tory press, but insignificant for the overall pattern.

  20. I thought that British burglars knock on the door and announce themselves as encyclopedia salesmen, but maybe I have it backwards.

  21. I live in Newark, been mugged twice, and had a man murdered in my driveway. (Otherwise, the town is nice.)

    I don't carry, and don't want to carry. I'm not a fearful guy, and am happy with the size of my penis.

  22. Marcel:

    My wife got mugged once. She beat the mugger up. She likes to walk through the park (Newark has a nice park), and occasionally meets the odd criminal. But she goes accompanied by our little Miss Fluffy, who is no larger than your average ten-year old child. No problems with the criminals.

    If you want deterrence, get a German Shepherd. Not only do they deter better than a gun, they lick your nose, as well. Guns are only more useful if you're into fantasies of violence.

  23. If people permitted legally to carry are not hurting anyone, why the hell are you complaining? So what if I want have extra weight around my waist? It is my choice. You just destroyed one of the foundations of gun control: People can not be trusted with firearms. Apparently they can.

    The arrogance of some people to assume that I will turn into a raging lunatic is astounding. Future crimes? "Guns are only more useful if you're into fantasies of violence." Sorry! I didn't realize that subconsciously my mind was awash in bloodlust.

    Again, I ask, if CCW permit holders are not violent, why do you put them down? Does your "e-penis" become bigger that you're arguing against the so called gun-nuts?

  24. "My fear of armed people around me is a rational fear, based on capability rather than intent."

    Oh? Then you're rationally scared spitless whenever you're driving on a road without a concrete divider? Drivers in the oncoming lane, after all, are capable of swerving into your path… Must be terrified at the possibility of the Air Force dropping a nuke on your town, too. They're certainly capable of it.

    No, it's not rational to ignore intent. The capability to kill and maim is with us always, only somebody chained to a wall or paralyzed lacks it. Intent is all that keeps us alive.

  25. Guns are closer to bike helmets than yellow pages or timing lights. You keep one on your person to save your life (and, unlike bike helmets, the lives of those around you) in the event that you might, God forbid, have to use it to do so.

    Lots of people wear helmets when they ride bicycles or motorcycles, they are big and heavy and clumsy; and one could make the argument that only fools go without them. Only a tiny fraction of the people who use helmets actually ever need them to save their lives. I myself have been riding BMX bikes in skateparks, on half pipes, and on city streets for 27 years and I have NEVER needed one to protect my noggan, despite having broken bones dozens of times and crashed far too many times to count*.

    I have actually lived in the Middle East, in Riyadh actually, where the events portrayed in the film "The Kingdom" took place. I of course did not carry a gun there, but I did carry a knife. I also lived 13 years near some "bad areas" in a major US city, most of that time I did not carry a gun and in that time I had guns pulled on me twice. Thankfully since I have started to carry most of the time (not at work) nothing like that has happened. My wife, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Chicago, also carries. We both train weekly and we are both confident that we can "get the drop" on the next asshole that decides to foolishly place themselves at the wrong end of a "terminal force" scenario. There is a lot more to CCW than buying a gun, holster, and license; there are thousands of rounds of ammunition, careful self assessment, and a lot of psychological preparation involved as well.

    Gun ownership is tiered, to own and to carry are two radically different things.

    *Disclaimer, I spent most of that 27 years not wearing helmets… it wasn't until I got married and witnessed a few severe wrecks that I started using one.

  26. It is kindof like buying a lottery ticket, isn't it? If you don't buy a lottery ticket, you can fantasize with what you'd do with the winnings. If you buy a ticket, you've got the same odds, but the fantasy gets that much more vivid, because it _could_ happen.

    If you are carrying your gun, you might get to be the hero in an action movie. The odds of that happening are about the same as if you aren't carrying your gun, but the fantasy is more vivid, because it _could_ happen.

  27. HotelCoralEssex:you're right on the money with your closing comment: ownership and carrying are two radically different things. I owned several, used to carry–until I changed locales and occupations, and didn't need to to any more. Packing a sholem (with a nod to Michael Chabon) is nothing I would do for fun or for demonstrating my rights and powers as a citizen; voting takes care of that nicely. I target shoot, hunt sporadically, still enjoy Heinlein and don't worry about the lack of manhood that not going around heeled implies.

    JoeS: Good identification of the most effexctive day-to-day deterrent. Ours is an Airedale who looks and sounds like Death on the march. Much better for child-watching than a Colt.

  28. Brett, that's a fair start, though (again based on personal experience) if 'violent crime' includes drunken brawling – and the linked article suggests that it does – then I'm not surprised that Britain is the most violent crime-ridden society. In my experience drunken fights are an endemic plague throughout the UK. It doesn't say much about the incidence of house robberies.

    I do wonder what large-scale introduction of concealed handguns would do to the 'drunken brawl' dynamic – an increase in natural caution regarding unprovoked assaults on others might result, but on the other hand I daren't imagine what the drunken idiots populating UK town centres most evenings could do if given heavier weaponry than a bottle…

  29. I'm one of those eccentrics who does pack daily without fail. I'm part of a subset of even that bunch that packs a relatively big piece, a full-size 357Mag revolver weighing over two and a half pounds. I live in Arizona where the laws allow both open carry and concealed. I carry "almost completely concealed" – every once in a while that sucker will poke a bit out from under my jacket but in contrast to, say, TX or FL where open-carry is banned, I'm still OK. Yes, I have the permit, passed the background check and training ($180 total). I've been carrying for five years now, ever since leaving California where this class of permit exists but is rare. Sheriffs and police chiefs in California have "discretion" over who they issue to and the sheriffs esp. are notorious for selling them for campaign contributions. In AZ like most states, you have to pass objective standards instead of subjective.

    When asked why I carry, my flippant answer is "to get my 180 bucks worth"…but let me tell you the real reason.

    Back in California in 1997, I stepped onto a subway car (BART in Oakland) in which four lunatics were kicking and stomping a guy flat on his belly trying to cover up while bleeding from a scalp wound. I pushed all four off – I'm a big guy, 6'4" and around 280lbs. I yelled "it's over" repeatedly. The victim jumped to his feet, ran to the next car back and as I found out later, passed out. I backed up to cover his retreat and then stopped, "plugging the gap" to the car behind me.

    That's when two of the assailants started waving the claw hammers I'd missed spotting in the initial rush – one of which was dripping blood.

    I put my hand on a folding knife at my belt…didn't draw yet but made it damned obvious I was going to if they closed in. They screamed and yelled some but then backed off – BARELY. They were caught, too…turns out the victim was completely innocent and he shook my hand in the DA's pre-trial conference where we met next.

    I could have died that day. Easily.

    In 20 years of adult life in California packing a knife daily, I had to reach for it three times. Twice it was actually in defense of another (the incident above and a dog attack later), once against a mugger who ran off. It's not possible for me to stand around watching somebody get killed…it's just not in me to do so. I realize that's in most people, in fact when I walked onto that train over a dozen people were standing around watching. Given that I'm that type of person, it would be insane not to pack…and given my 3-for-3 record so far for "chase-offs" in which a weapon wasn't actually used to draw blood, if I'm going to pack then hell, make it a cannon, make 'em absolutely wet their pants and run away. Beat 'em psychologically instead of with bullets unless the latter is absolutely necessary. This isn't about bluffing. It's about making the threat evaporate so fast I don't even have time to pull the trigger before all that's left is the sound of rapidly retreating feet :).

    I have not had to test this with a gun yet and I sincerely hope I never even have to pull it. If I do, I hope I never have to shoot. But either is better than watching somebody get murdered right in front of me or getting killed myself. I believe that being strapped gives us at least the option of acting like responsible, functional citizens. We can stop violence if absolutely necessary (NOT punish – we're not cops) and we can complain to cops about problems in our community without being terrified of retribution from criminals.

    Joe S. from Newark seems to think that his helplessness against assault against his person or anybody else's around him makes him morally superior. I disagree. I happen to think that the Jews who died in Hitler's gas chambers were not in fact morally superior to the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto who died racking up an impressive body count of dead Nazi, and held the Ghetto longer than the nation of Poland held the whole country.

    Deliberate helplessness isn't "morally courageous". It's simple cowardice of a type that infects our society and enables violence.

    Jim March

  30. Some people think of a gun like they do their homeowner's insurance. It's expensive and it's not likely they are ever going to need it, but the cost of not having it if they are one of the few unlucky ones could be devastating.

    I know a guy who has a permit and always carries a gun concealed in his briefcase. He's a former career military guy, he's comfortable with guns and enjoys periodic target practice and the gun maybe adds 15% to the weight of his briefcase. He lives in a place where the chance of being mugged is essentially zero but he feels it's worth carrying because someday he might be in a place where some nut opens fire on a crowd of people and if that happens he'll be in a position to take that guy out. He knows it's very unlikely that will ever happen to him, but his thought is that if enough people do the same, we'll all be safer.

  31. Brett: In the linked article in the tabloid Daily Mail:

    ¨The figures, compiled by the Tories, are considered the most accurate and up-to-date available.¨

    That is, ¨Data, handpicked by the Tory party to put the Labour government in a bad light, put the government in a bad light.¨

    What makes you think the data on violent crime, including domestic violence and hooliganism as well as the drunken brawling already mentioned, are likely to be comparable across cultures? Which European countries have a crime victim survey as good as the BCS? Homicide is traditionally the most reliable indicator, and it is of course much, much higher in the US than anywhere in Europe.

  32. ctrl + f only turned up 2 hits for "penis".

    Joel S.: I’m not a fearful guy, and am happy with the size of my penis.

    B Kim: Does your “e-penis” become bigger that you’re arguing against the so called gun-nuts?

    Kind of surprising. I thing a lot of this just has to do with gender anxiety, specifically in relation to virility compensation. That gun becomes such a powerful symbol for the angry man's psychological narrative. Very revanchist. The gun is basically a statement of maximum security. How could you not then see it as a compensation device for maximum insecurity?

  33. As a musician who every week loads $20k+ worth of gear into my vehicle in sketchy alleyways @ 3am, it was only prudent to get a CCW. My gun stays in a locked briefcase except during load in/load out.

  34. Violence is a product of culture. Different subcultures in both the US and Europe (and everywhere else for that matter) experience vastly different levels of violence.

    In the US, the most violent culture by FAR is the "inner city hip-hop culture". Call it whatever else you want; "black culture" doesn't quite fit because the real subculture afflicted includes, fr'instance, Eminem (white) and excludes Bill Cosby (black).

    That aside, it does contain a very high percentage of black membership and it shows in the murder rates. Last time I checked around 2002, the US-DOJ's stats say that for every murder in which the race of the murderer is known, 55% of the time the killer is black. And that's been steady for some time now. Blacks make up only 15% of the US population. Exclude those and US murder rates drop to right near the middle of the European murder range, maybe a bit high in the list but not on top.

    Let's look at it two more ways: yet again, 2002 data, Vermont had six murders. Washington DC had over 250. Total population of each is about the same. DC had at that time the strictest gun control in the US, Vermont had the least – you don't need a CCW permit to legally pack concealed there. (Same now, and Alaska has joined them in that, Arizona probably will soon.) Now either this difference is due to race or culture – I believe strongly that the issue is cultural and I am 100% in favor of anybody being able to score a CCW permit like mine if they can pass the background check and training same as I did, regardless of their race.

    One more look. If you took Wayne County Michigan (containing Detroit) and gave it to Canada, the per-capita murder rates between the US and Canada would more or less equalize, further highlighting how densely concentrated the violence patterns in the US really are.

    The good news is that Michigan's murder rates have been dropping since their implementation of an equitable CCW permit system in 2001; by 2004 their murder rate dropped below Ohio's for the first time in 40 years. Ohio's reaction? They put in a CCW permit system. (Note: there was more going on in Ohio – a 2003 OH Supreme Court ruling supported the legality of open carry. Delighted gunnies strapped up and went on marches around and around the various state and local capitol buildings in a heavily armed completely peaceful manner and helped "annoy" the passage of the CCW program – but the total success of the MI program of 2001 helped a lot.)

    There's a reason my side is winning this debate nationally, and why Obama (who had a major track record as a gun-grabber in the Illinois legislature) hasn't dared push gun control in office.

  35. Heinlein is responsible for popularizing the slogan “An armed society is a polite society.”

    The attraction of this idea puzzles me. Is rudeness, even unintentional, reasonably punished by shooting the offender? Does everyone has to try to be excessively polite to avoid being shot? I don't want to live where failing to conform to social custom, or vehemently disagreeing with someone, can get you shot. For that matter, I don't want to live where cutting someone off in traffic or elbowing them aside in a crowd, or being noisy in a movie, is a capital offense.

    Also, it seems to me that a fair amount of rudeness is good for society. Free expression is often impolite, or seen as such by those who disagree with what ever is being expressed.

  36. Well this certainly is a spirited debate. Glad I stopped back. Sure seem to be enough Dirty Harry fantasies to go a way to confirming my earlier point about we americans having movies running in our heads.

    Lock'n'load baby!

  37. Quoting:

    >>The attraction of this idea puzzles me. Is rudeness, even unintentional, reasonably punished by shooting the offender?<<

    Back in 1788 in the US, the answer to that was "yes". They took dueling seriously.

    Now, that's not AT ALL something I'm in favor of. BUT, it also explains why there was no remedy built into the structure of the US for situations like the Phelps maniacs ("God Hates Fags") protesting funerals. There was an attempt to sue them for emotional distress on that point, and so far it's failed in court. And as disgusting as that cult is, the courts have a point: we don't want the state in the business of censoring speech, even "speech" as foul as that bunch of freaks constituting the worst thing to come out of Kansas EVER.

    In 1788 or so, the adult males of the Phelps clan would be long since dead or disgraced. That was considered a better private remedy than a government powerful enough control speech of even that sort. And if you think about it, they had a point.

    So now we have to confront the problem of what to do about grossly impolite lunatics of that sort WITHOUT resorting to dueling. And honestly, I don't have any answers.

    If you read letters from that time between people who were known to have disliked each other, the extremely formal politeness comes through loud and clear. It permeates all their writing and continued to do so through the Civil War period and later, coming unglued only in the 20th Century. Dueling was uncommon enough by the 1870s or so that Mark Twain's level of sarcasm still allowed him to die of natural causes – remember, as a newspaperman most of what he's written isn't in common circulation and was often WAY more "pointed" than anything Jon Stewart comes up with today.

    Culturally we've gotten away from dueling but not without some costs…the "Reverend" (and former Al Gore campaign coordinator) Fred Phelps and his sick clan being Exhibit A.

  38. "Sure seem to be enough Dirty Harry fantasies to go a way to confirming my earlier point about we americans having movies running in our heads."

    For me it's Weird Al music videos. Had "Eat it!" running through my head, while feeding my 18 month old.

  39. Brett, when you say, in reference to my fear around armed people, "No, it’s not rational to ignore intent," I agree. What I said was that my fear was based on capability. (Okay, that and the fight-or-flight reflex.) Once I get over the initial shock, intent comes into play and I relax considerably (usually). Seldom completely, though.

    I got that shock today, coming back to my office after lunch, and finding two plainclothes policemen walking toward me. I saw the gun first, tensed, saw a badge, and relaxed, a bit.

    The military plans based on capability rather than intent. Violence being their business, I feel I'm on solid ground.

    I also wanted, belatedly, to thank you for identifying some of the places where you've felt in need of a gun. I would question your characterization of them as "places the police don’t venture except in force". I haven't been to that part of Michigan in some time, though, and perhaps things have changed.

  40. "Once I get over the initial shock, intent comes into play and I relax considerably (usually). Seldom completely, though."

    Eh, you just need to get some beta blockers, and spend some time at the range, and that gut reaction will extinguish fast enough.

  41. I think it's similar to the old rule in the Navy (Rank times IQ is a constant) — dick caliber + handgun caliber is a constant.

  42. My experience has been that people who pack do so because they enjoy it. Which I do find kinda weird (mostly for reasons of practicality), but they cause no harm, and the practice may actually offer utility in a blue moon. Some will admit that it's more of an eccentricity than anything else. I point out that if one must carry a seldom used chunk of metal, it's MUCH more practical to carry a pipe wrench than a pistol. The average person may randomly find a need for a pipe wrench many more times in life than a pistol. Yet, what kind of weirdo (other than a plumber) carries a pipe wrench on his person just in case?

    If one ventures where police won't go, I can understand the advantage of packing. However, it seems much wiser to avoid such places altogether. A pistol may be an equalizer, but it is not a guarantee, and avoiding conflict seems a more sound practice than venturing where one expects it. Even if one lives in an area with high rates of crime, it is much safer to just move than to tempt fate. A firearm brings some peace of mind, but not nearly as much as a safer locale.

    This isn't an argument against guns or gun ownership. Just an observation about carrying a gun on one's person regularly. I wouldn't mind doing it myself (because I like guns), except I already carry all kinds of crap that I'd just as soon shed were it not for the necessity of use.

  43. Jim March:

    Your analysis looks flawed. Place like Los Angeles and New York City have experienced dramatic drops in violent crime and neither place is friendly to concealed or open carry. However, when you say that culture matters, I do think you're on to something. Perhaps it's the case that criminal culture in MI is different than L.A. and NYC. But if that is true, then liberalized CCW/open carry laws are effective, except in places where they are not.

  44. JMG: you make dick jokes to try and confront your own cowardice.

    I'm well aware that the odds of ME being attacked with deadly force are low, although it did happen once – mugger in San Francisco with a large wrench, fled at knife-point (mine) in…1993 I think.

    But add in the odds of anybody in my sight getting attacked with deadly force? Odds just went up. I've seen that twice now, did something about it both times.

    Now, if you're the sort who wouldn't do anything about it anyways, that's on you. I'm not wired that way. Please understand, I have NO problem watching a criminal run off once the violence is over – I'm not a vigilante. But I can't watch somebody die right in front of me. I can't – armed or otherwise. So I'd be a damned fool to walk out of the house unarmed.

    Is anybody here seriously trying to link that to having a small dick?

  45. Shecky: if you compare the population of the "violent areas" to "not-near-as-bad" areas in Michigan with a similar ratio in, say, California, they're pretty comparable. In both states the murders are very highly concentrated in a few urban areas – in MI it's Detroit and Flint and a few other "rust-belt" towns where industry failed, in California it's parts of LA County such as Compton and in the SF Bay Area it's former shipping areas like West Oakland, Richmond, Pittsburg (spelled differently than the one back east), Hunter's Point district of SF, etc.

    In both cases the violent zones are places where blue-collar jobs were set aside for blacks and then those jobs vanished before the civil rights reforms allowed them to get jobs in other industries, a major clue as to the real cause of the violence.

    One of these "hot-spots" in California is particularly interesting to me. East Palo Alto is an exception: the "black jobs" there weren't low-grade industrial or shipping. "EPA" was the bedroom community for the hoards of black servants who once did most of the scutwork at Stanford University and various mansions in Palo Alto. First disaster was in the 1950s: the business community in EPA didn't want to be in "darky-town" so they got themselves annexed by neighboring Menlo Park. Then at some point in the '60s as those went "Liberal" it became unfashionable to have all those black servants – so they fired 'em all. Lacking either a business or residential tax base and with rampant poverty and welfare (and let's not forget welfare laws that broke up existing families and prevented the formation of new ones) EPA decayed.

    Then the third disaster hit in the mid to late 1980s…crack cocaine. EPA was at the junction of several major freeways and became a major distribution point. Around 1988 give or take a year it hit the number one per-capita murder capital of the US, period. 42 murders in one year – and it wasn't a big town.

    OK. So there's a ton of reasons for societal violence that have nothing to do with guns.

    The question remains: if places with high violence levels like Miami (obtained CCW access in 1987 and in some of the more dangerous areas hit a CCW issuance rate of up to 15%), Detroit (CCW access starting 2001), etc. could handle an influx of permitholders and not blow the hell up, why would you suspect LA or NYC couldn't cope?

    Seriously? I believe people can handle that responsibility, esp. if they've passed a background check and training. Regardless of race. But "gun nuts" like me get dismissed as racist. Really?

    I'm doing a project with some guys from New York right now. Project lead is a great guy, but a pretty typical Liberal New York Jew. We've talked about guns; I've explained what the Arizona rules are: open carry with no permit needed, concealed with a permit anybody not a criminal can get. And for some reason, he thinks that would work just fine in AZ (since it obviously IS working) but if that was put in place in New York City it would scare the piss out of him, as he freely admits. But then he himself can't figure out why. He thinks New Yorkers are overall more educated, more Liberal, more likely to be Democrats and thinks most Arizonans are a bunch of right-wind Christian Conservatives who are mostly spellbound by Glenn Beck, and in part he's right (although as a full-on Libertarian I'm sure as hell not!).

    But then he stops and can't figure out why he more or less trusts us "desert rednecks" with arms when he doesn't trust his own neighbors. He DOES feel that way but even he can't figure it out – it doesn't make any sense to either one of us.

    The piece he's missing, the part he doesn't have a gut-level feel for, is that ordinary people don't kill. Really. We're social critters, we're not wired to kill. In fact, circa WW2 and prior this was a huge problem: the vast majority of soldiers on the battlefield would not actually point a rifle at an enemy and pull the trigger. They'd do one or the other, but not both. Starting in the Korean War the US figured that out and did special training to overcome it and by Vietnam the process was more advanced. And it worked. But at a cost: massively screwed up vets at a far higher rate than, say, WW2.

    Murders in the US today are committed by dedicated criminals with long records before they get to that point. There are exceptions, and those exceptions usually make the national news. But the most common type of killing, basically "criminal versus criminal" is so common as fleas it's not widely reported. And this also isn't the story told by pop culture, which tells us ordinary people "snap" and kill. Hey, makes a great story, but it's such a tiny fraction of the 20,000 or so murders a year that they're hardly worth worrying about.

    You know what else hardly ever happens? Murders by the mentally ill. "Everybody knows" somebody bipolar and "off their meds" could kill at any time, right? Yeah, BS. Total BS. The mentally ill don't commit murders at a rate much higher than the general population if at all. Go ask any shrink. But wow, it makes SUCH good cinema to show a "Hanibal Lector" type or worse, right?

    Note: suicide is a separate issue! It's not even linked to poverty much…and it's for damnsure not linked to gun access. Suicide rates in both Japan and England are double the US rate, with almost no guns involved. At one point the gun-grabbers loved reports from Canada that new laws limiting youth access to guns reduced the "firearms suicide rate" among youth. Great. What they didn't mention is that the suicide rate itself in the same age bracket didn't change. I guess if you're a lobbyist for the Brady Campaign or whatever it's something to rejoice when a kid jumps off a 10-story building instead of uses a shotgun? To me, it means the underlying issue wasn't fixed, was it?

    And that's the key. Violence is a problem that has to be confronted inside the human mind; within cultures, within communities. That's not easy. Banning guns for a while looked like a much easier alternative…a way to "look like you care about violence" if you're a politician without actually doing anything that might insult constituents. It's easier to say "ban guns!" than it is to say "stop breeding like rabbits at age 15 while stoned all day!"

    Except banning guns hasn't worked worth a damn. It's now a dying concept, thank the deity of your choice.

    Comedy note: right-wing "Christocrats" with guns are such a common cliche here in AZ, I went out of my way to make it obvious that's not me…even if I had to learn leatherwork:


  46. "I point out that if one must carry a seldom used chunk of metal, it’s MUCH more practical to carry a pipe wrench than a pistol. The average person may randomly find a need for a pipe wrench many more times in life than a pistol."

    While that's true, the average person is far, far more likely to find themselves in a situation where a pistol would save somebody's life, than one where a crescent wrench would. Broken plumbing just isn't typically all that threatening, and I can't recall ever being attacked by a grease trap while walking down the street. I suspect that if it happened at all frequently, it would make the news.

  47. "Is anybody here seriously trying to link that to having a small dick?"

    Yeah, it's called compensation, look it up. Sells a lot of sports cars too.

  48. It's called insulting your political opponents. It makes you feel better without persuading anyone.

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