Playing with guns

To misquote Harold Hill’s line “I count the hours I spent with a gun in my hand as golden” overstates the situation greatly, but before I got bored with them, I played with firearms, and here are some of the things I shot at and one I didn’t:

I never in my life imagined it would be amusing to do this:

It’s necessary training for people whose jobs require that they be able to literally shoot people, and I want them to be good at it when circumstances so demand.  The ones I have known didn’t enjoy the fact or drool at the prospect.

Many amusements abstract killing other people into a game to a greater or lesser degree : chess, paintball fights, fencing; none of them activates my disgust center. Increasingly realistic computer games are another story, and I’d classify them with this unspeakable public behavior of a presidential candidate. Especially one who prattles about the value of every life and wallows in his devotion to a religion that condemns the death penalty. Never mind “pretend it’s Obama,”  those silhouettes are pretending to be people, as a tin can or concentric circles do not.

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.

51 thoughts on “Playing with guns”

  1. …and wallows in his devotion to a religion that condemns the death penalty.

    This is the number 2 item on my list for where the Democratic party needs to go: Reclaim Jesus and Christianity.
    Is it not stunning that Democrats have allowed Republicans to co-opt Jesus, and make an asshole out of him that hates poor people?

    The Dems need to become the “party of Jesus’ values”.
    I suspect even atheists can see some value in that framing…

    How to do this?
    President Obama, VP Biden, Sec. of State Clinton should visit different churches every Sunday across America…
    Make it a tour. Get the media involved…
    And for Christ’s sake, start talking about Jesus’ values.
    Or put another way: For the love of God, save Jesus from the Republicans.

    [Side note: I recently finished Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And if Stowe really caused that great big war as Lincoln famously quoted, here is why:
    She takes the Christian nation to task for being so unchristian. That’s her overarching theme. The entire press of her book. She is utterly relentless that way.
    So I am arguing the same thing here anew: Sticking it to old people and poor people is not the stuff of a Christian nation.]

    1. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mohandas K Gandhi

        1. Certainly,

          I always liked this one….a little further back in time, but quite appropriate today:

          from: Seneca the Younger 4 b.c.- 65 a.d.

          “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

    2. Considering GOP voter demographics, the Republican party is about the old sticking it to the poor above almost everything else.

      Their record at trying but failing to take away benefits for the old is vastly exceeded by their successes at taking away benefits for everyone else.

  2. What did the squirrel do to you? 🙁

    (And yes, I know the saying that squirrels are bushy-tailed rats with better PR; I’d still imagine that there are better ways for pest control.)

      1. I’ve often tasted the “wine” of “friends.” Same with squirrel. My brother is a hunter, and also a pretty damn good cook, but his squirrel stew is squirrelly at best.

        OTOH, his venison isn’t half bad. Mmmmm, picadillo!

        Which kind of goes to Katja’s point. Shooting is a poor method of controlling squirrels–those psychopathic killers called “cats” are far more effective. But shooting works fine on those enormous cockroaches with good PR called “deer.”

        1. Try it chicken-fried with mashed potatoes and squirrel gravy. Get an Ozark hillbilly to cook it up for you. Yum!

          I’m not sure what kind of “cat” you’d use to control squirrels. Most housecats are no match for a squirrel.

          1. My two seven pound toy poodles have never caught a squirrel. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have any idea what to do with if if they did catch one.

            But when they spot one at the bird feeder they run out their little doggie door to the feeder and bark their fool heads off, chasing the squirrel back across the fence to the neighbor’s yard, and protecting the food for the benefit of the birds.

            Don’t need to kill ’em; just control ’em.

    1. Well, we all know how it going to go anyway, don’t we?

      Brett will say that justified homicides of paper targets with human outlines on them, is a good and expected result, and anyone disagreeing has to prove those homicides are not justified in the opinion of the group of his choice. Almost everyone will reflexively challenge him. He will answer a few points obliquely in order to repeat his talking points. Matt will plead with him to at least show some sort of sympathy about the fate of the victim. Brett will express token sympathy but say that doesn’t matter anyway and then gloat that his side dominates this particular front in the culture war.

      1. A few days later Brett will dig up a report sourced from Fox news that says an unidentified John Doe witness claims to have seen the paper target relentlessly and mercilessly beating the crap out of the poor defenseless-without-a-gun shooter, a big man who was reportedly frantically screaming for help like a little girl at the time just before the fatal shooting. This confirms earlier reports from the shooter’s lawyer claiming that the shooter, whose neighborhood-watch heroism — particularly in reporting suspicious-looking paper targets marauding the gated community he protects and serves — is well-known to local 911 dispatchers, had suffered a broken nose and laceration on the back of his head that “should have required stitches” from the life-threatening altercation that preceded the shooting.

        Case closed. Detective Bellmore solves another one that had all those dumb libruls fooled.

        1. You say that as though being sourced from Fox News was sufficient to dismiss the account. Handy, that, not having to pay attention to any news sources that would actually want to tell you about things that you didn’t want to know.

          1. You say that as though being sourced from Fox News was sufficient to dismiss how unlikely the uncorroborated anonymous claims in story actually sound.

            Your accusation doesn’t hold up. I have criticized that report on the basis of the credibility of anonymous accounts and the unlikeliness of it’s claims, as well as the dubiousness of it’s single source. That it happens to be Fox doesn’t matter as much as that Fox is the only source a google search turns up for this claim. All the non-Fox sites I’ve come across cite the Fox report as the source. I’ve demonstrated that I’ve paid plenty of attention to all available sources of information on the matter that I’ve come across.

  3. Brett will say that “It’s necessary training for people whose jobs require that they be able to literally shoot people,” reveals some interesting and contested premises, which go a long way towards explaining some of the cultural battles in this country.

    And note that, since paper targets aren’t alive, you can’t homicide them, justifiably or otherwise.

      1. you have to understand that, despite how funny some of brett’s comments are (intentionally or unintentionally), his sense of humor and understanding of common literary devices seems surprisingly limited. if you’re going to use a lot of metaphor and humor be prepared to explain it thoroughly.

        1. Oh, I do have a sense of humor; I am, after all, the reason people at my former employer “do it for the fish”.

          Rather, I dislike attempts to use humor and metaphor to bypass logic and reason. Precision in language is critical to clear thinking. So my sense of humor gets put on hold the moment I sense an effort to make a policy point.

          1. If you want to be precise, you may want to go back to grade school and learn the difference between nouns and verbs.

          2. i never claimed you had no sense of humor, merely that your sense of humor as well as your understanding of common literary devices is severely limited as demonstrated by your own statements over many months here at this blog. sometimes your awareness seem so limited as to fail the turing test. i’m sorry if stating it that way offends you but there is no other way to describe your posts on occasion.

    1. well damn, there goes my invasion plan.

      ps – reply fail – you need to work on your targeting.

  4. Saying “pretend it’s Obama” in the presence of the Secret Service seems like a really bad move.

  5. As someone who both practices and teaches with silhouette targets, I take issue with the premise.
    Saying that police or soldiers should practice defensive shooting techniques ignores the many tens of millions of people who have or carry a firearm for defensive purposes. (Over 5% of the entire population of Washington state have concealed carry licenses, for example).

    Defensive shooting is a specific skill, quite unlike precision target shooting. It uses specific exercises and uses specific target areas that are best represented by a silhouette target.

    The current brouhaha in Florida notwithstanding, it’s estimated that guns are lawfully used for defensive purposes hundreds of thousands of times each year in the United states. Since the author doesn’t seem to be a hoplophobe, I have difficulty grasping what the big deal is over the type of target he was shooting at. Unless he’s a pacifist, in which case he shouldn’t be defending the police or soldiers shooting at silhouette targets either.

    Why do I carry a defensive firearm? Because a police officer won’t fit in my pocket.

    1. anybody who rides public transit as much as I is not very at ease if many of my fellow passengers are armed. I know how crazy many of them are, and the thought that some of them feel like they have a police officer in their pockets does not reassure me.
      defensive or not.

      1. Concealed carry policy is hardly one size fits all. My county (Mendocino) has fewer than 100,000 residents, but is only 500 square miles smaller than Los Angeles County. In the vast majority of my county, police services are at least thirty minutes away; in parts, these services can be an hour and a half away. Because of this, gun ownership – and even concealed carry permits – are simply a way of life in my county.

    2. “Since the author doesn’t seem to be a hoplophobe, I have difficulty grasping what the big deal is over the type of target he was shooting at. Unless he’s a pacifist, in which case he shouldn’t be defending the police or soldiers shooting at silhouette targets either.”

      I don’t think it’s fear of guns, precisely, although some of the weird attitudes common to those folks appear to have rubbed off on him. It’s something else.

      Every once in a while you’ll see liberals quoting Max Weber about the definition of the “state”: “That entity which possesses a delegatable monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.” Generally with little evidence of being aware that definition is both strongly contested, and essentially foreign to the basis on which OUR state was founded.

      From that perspective, there’s just something wrong with the individual preparing themselves to use physical force. Physical force is the state’s. It may occasionally extend the use of it as a privilege to individuals, but it’s the state’s.

      From that perspective, training for the use of physical force, in the individual, is bizarrely presumptuous. Kind of like that kid you you let cut across your lawn settling down to pave a walkway across it…

      If you argue with liberals long enough, you’ll find that they’re full of contested premises like this, that drive their thinking at a fundamental level, but which they generally don’t stop to realize ARE contested. The state having a monopoly on force, collective guilt for the acts of prior generations, that sort of thing.

      1. Liberals are not the only ones with ‘contested premises’. The word you are looking for is ‘humans’.

  6. “anybody who rides public transit as much as I is not very at ease if many of my fellow passengers are armed. I know how crazy many of them are, and the thought that some of them feel like they have a police officer in their pockets does not reassure me.
    defensive or not.”

    First of all, let me reassure you. I shoot substantially better than ANY police agency of which I’m aware require of their officers. I also have a vastly more thorough grasp of use of force laws than any beat cop I’ve ever met. -I’ve been doing this for well over 20 years and as a trainer have had many interactions with Law Enforcement, so yes, I DO actually know what I’m talking about.

    “How crazy many of us are?” Care to cite some statistics? Some numbers? some ACTUAL FACTS?

    Licensed concealed carry permit holders are the most law abiding group in the country. We are substantially less likely than any other group, including law enforcement, to be convicted of a felony, for example.

    Let me shake your little urban mythos for you. If I intend to do you harm, I don’t need a gun to do it. a hammer, a knife, or a screw-driver will do the job. If, on the other hand, I only wish to defend myself (or maybe YOU) there is one tool that beats all others. That is the tool I choose to use. It’s a gun.

    I’ve carried a gun lawfully for more than 20 years. I’ve trained hundreds of people in the lawful use of firearms. I’ve worked with people in law enforcement on THEIR training regimens.

    If there’s one group of people on your BART train that you DON’T need to fear, it’s the lawful concealed carry license holders.

    Your comment exhibits volumes of misplaced fear of an inanimate object. There is a name for people with your particular neurosis: Hoplophobe: “A person with an irrational fear of firearms.”

    There are millions of people with conceal carry weapons licenses in the United States. Every year you read of one or two doing something they shouldn’t be doing. Find me another group that does as well. And for what it’s worth, MY state has a lot lower rate of violent crime than California. And we have virtually no restrictions on firearms ownership beyond the federally mandated set and have a significant rate of CCW licensees. Somehow we have avoided blood in the streets since 1958 when we became the first SHALL ISSUE state in the country. How is your gun control working for preventing violent crime in California? -Not so well, according to the numbers.

    1. just as everyone who is issued a liscence to drive is not automatically competent to do so safely, so with concealed carry permits. you have an understanding and proficiency with your guns that is unusual. the problem with guns, compared to the other deadly weapons you listed, is that a person with a gun can end the lives of a lot of people with very little physical effort or very much time. a person with a hammer can also kill a lot of people but it takes a lot more effort to do so. that’s why, for those who are truly afraid of firearms, your mentioning those other weapons really doesn’t matter much.

      after going through the concealed carry training in my state, i felt it should have been more extensive. then again, even the most highly trained police or military have sometimes shown poor judgement also. most of the people i know are gun owners, including myself, and most of those are respectful not fearful. still, i’ve known several people who are as stupid with their firearms as a drunk getting behind the wheel. and if your honest, you probably know some people like that too.

      the problem comes back to perceptions. right after a school shooting mass opinion thinks that schools are dangerous places but statistics repeatedly bear out the fact that schools are some of the safest places a child can be.

    2. Too funny:

      Bill bases an argument on an anecdote regarding his marvelous gun wielding self:

      First of all, let me reassure you. I shoot substantially better than ANY police agency of which I’m aware require of their officers. I also have a vastly more thorough grasp of use of force laws than any beat cop I’ve ever met. -I’ve been doing this for well over 20 years and as a trainer have had many interactions with Law Enforcement, so yes, I DO actually know what I’m talking about.

      Then quickly follows up his anecdote with a call to be countered by statistics:

      “How crazy many of us are?” Care to cite some statistics? Some numbers? some ACTUAL FACTS?

      Old boy…
      You might shoot straight, but you don’t think straight.

    3. Actually, cocksure know-it-alls like you are just the kind I do fear. Quite sure of yourself, and very free to brag about it.
      Your boasting does not reassure anybody.

  7. “just as everyone who is issued a liscence to drive is not automatically competent to do so safely, so with concealed carry permits. you have an understanding and proficiency with your guns “That is unusual. the problem with guns, compared to the other deadly weapons you listed, is that a person with a gun can end the lives of a lot of people with very little physical effort or very much time. a person with a hammer can also kill a lot of people but it takes a lot more effort to do so. that’s why, for those who are truly afraid of firearms, your mentioning those other weapons really doesn’t matter much.

    After going through the concealed carry training in my state, i felt it should have been more extensive. then again, even the most highly trained police or military have sometimes shown poor judgement also. most of the people i know are gun owners, including myself, and most of those are respectful not fearful. still, i’ve known several people who are as stupid with their firearms as a drunk getting behind the wheel. and if your honest, you probably know some people like that too.

    The problem comes back to perceptions. right after a school shooting mass opinion thinks that schools are dangerous places but statistics repeatedly bear out the fact that schools are some of the safest places a child can be.”

    Which comes full circle to: Do guns in the hands of lawfully armed people make us more, or less safe?

    There is ZERO evidence that guns in those people’s hands make us LESS safe. there is pretty convincing evidence pointing towards them making us MORE safe. For every idiot like the current brouhahsa in florida I can point you to a hundred cases of a citizen using their gun in self defense that was absolutely legit.

    Look at crime stats of the states with the most restrictive laws on the books. They are all, without exception, higher than the average of states with fewer restrictions.

    The 2005 FBI report to congress states quite clearly that the average number of rounds fired had nothing to do with magazine size, for instance.

    There is a certain group in this country with an irrational fear of firearms. This we already know.

    The facts speak for themselves. And only “facts” made up from whole cloth, totally un peer-reviewed, call them false.

    1. Look at crime stats of the states with the most restrictive laws on the books. They are all, without exception, higher than the average of states with fewer restrictions.

      O RLY? Because according to http://www.census.gov/statab/ranks/rank21.html, there are a lot of shall-issue CCW states that have higher violent crime rates than some no issue states. (e.g., South Carolina has a violent crime rate higher than that of Iliinois, Massachusetts or New York, the three bêtes noires of gun control.) You sure you don’t want “in general” rather than “without exception?”

    2. phil gets to an objection i had. your use of the term “without exception” is not a good choice of words because if you disaggregate the crime stats you will find states with rigorous gun laws with lower crime rates than some with fewer restrictions.

      i have two questions for you–

      1. can you explain the difference to me between respect of firearms and an irrational fear of them?

      2. how do we keep firearms out of the hands of the reckless and unsafe without impinging on the rights of those who are careful and safe?

      1. What about the difference between irrational fear of firearms, and rational fear of folks carrying them?

    3. There is a certain group in this country with an irrational fear of other countries like Iran possessing nuclear weapons. This we already know.

  8. Speaking of statistics, Bill says a few posts above, “it’s estimated that guns are lawfully used for defensive purposes hundreds of thousands of times each year in the United States.” Where is that estimate from? Does that mean that guns are drawn, or fired, or referred to, for defensive purposes? Against people, or against animals, or against things that go bump in the night but are not seen? It sounds like a completely made-up number to me, even in a country of 300 million people with a staggeringly large number of them armed (compared to any other country in the world.)

    1. Note the weasel phrasing – “It’s estimated” – which removes any agency for doing the estimation.
      The number itself points to a 1 in 1000 Americans use a gun defensively every year.

Comments are closed.