Monday, December 31, 2012

Godwin's Law

Long-time correspondent Wm. Adams has, somewhat tonguely-in-cheek, invoked Godwin's Law, in regard to the immediately preceding post on assault rifles and gun legislation, pointing out that there weren't any references to sport until the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Godwin's Law, for those of you who don't know, is the result of thread-rot in online discussion whereupon the subject at hand eventually winds up being compared to something or somebody in Nazi Germany. 

Sometimes the thread doesn't get very far, and when it comes to gun control, two exchanges are usually enough. I believe all of our recent presidents have been compared to Hitler, as have various senators, congressfolk, and secretaries of state, and as often as not, unfavorably ...

I spoke in the follow-up exchanges to that post about laws changing, and a few examples pop to mind. I confess I didn't know the full extent of these, but the weakness of memory can be supplemented by research, so ...

The Harrison Act of 1914 made it difficult for Granny to get her heroin-based cough-syrup. This was because a significant portion of the population was addicted to over-the-counter opiates, which were mostly unregulated. People died routinely from contaminated or inconsistent dosages of such tonics.

In 1915, authorities ran down Typhoid Mary for the second time. Mary, who worked as a cook, was an asymptomatic carrier of the Typhus bug, and where she worked, people got sick and many died. When she refused to quit doing it, she was isolated until her death in 1938. Total violation of her civil rights under today's laws, but consider the situation: If you refuse to stop doing things that are demonstrably killing people, does not the government have a duty to prevent this?

(Of course, allowing the sales of tobacco, even supporting it with subsidies is absolutely hypocritical, but nobody accuses Our Government of consistent thinking.)

In 1934, the feds regulated machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. If you are willing to jump through the hoops, you can still have these, but jump you must, or pay the consequences.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the Public Health Service Act of 1944, these addressed similar medical and health issues. Hundreds of people dropping dead from adulterated medicines, going blind from bad booze or patent syrup, this is generally considered a no-no, and thus they were regulated. As have been all kinds of food producers, vitamin makers, even raw milk sales. 

Yes, yes, if you want to jump off a building and kill yourself, that's your business, as long as you don't land on somebody else when you do it, but if you feed something to your child and it kills him and you knew that was a good possibility, then you need to be brought to task for it. I'm not talking about a nanny state, I'm talking about protecting those who can't protect themselves here.

OSHA, 1970, because workplace injuries and deaths were shrugged off as part of the job.

You hear that Larry fell into the scrap grinder? 

Yeah, too, bad. His wife selling his car?

The Chicago Tylenol Murders in 1982 changed the way all kinds of things were packaged, double-sealed the tops on everything from OTC medications, to Catsup, to bleach. How, I wonder, does one adulterate bleach to make it more deadly to drink? And federal laws were enacted to make tampering with packaging a crime. I, for one, really hate the guy who poisoned those people, because it made life just a little harder–but a little safer–for most of us. 

One may disagree with any or all regulations like these, of course. The let-the-market-regulate-itself argument rears its simplistic head: Well, if cough syrup is killing people, then don't buy that brand! They'll go out of business! Sure, but maybe after they kill your family, and is that a price you want to pay? Not me. I don't want to get an injection of a steroid supposed to make me better and wind up dead of some fungal brain infection nobody had ever seen before and couldn't do squat about. 

My point is, that laws come and go, and while some are bad, some aren't perceived as such by a majority, so those will tend to stay in force. If that attitude changes, eventually the law will shift to reflect it. Alcohol was banned, but it's back. Marijuana was banned, but it's coming back. 

Missionary position only was once the law in a lot of places. Seriously. Going down on your spouse? A felony. Being gay got you sent away.

And there have been laws regulating what kind of hardware John Q. Citizen can own and carry, local, state, and federal, for a long time, and there will continue to be. When the murder rate surpasses the automobile accident rate? Something is really wrong. We are broken, we need to be fixed.

Those of you who would wish all regulations on anything into the cornfield are in a small minority, and you might win a battle or two, but you are going to lose the war. 

More gun laws are coming, you can bet the farm on that. Might not be today or tomorrow, but down the road. If you can't see that, go visit your optometrist. While the U.S. might not ever be Japan or England, there will be more regulations. Where you choose to stand and fight against such regulations is up to you, but if you are going to the mat, consider how best to spend that energy. 

Will they solve the problem they want to solve? No. But gun laws are on the table.

So, pick your place to stand, and remember that He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day. 

Yes, the full-bore anti-gun crowd wants to melt them all down into quiché pans, and yes, they will whittle away at guns a bit at a time. But going to cold-dead-hands for civilianized assault rifles and high-capacity magazines doesn't give you parity with the United States military in any way, shape, or form, and if that's where you choose to make your last ditch?

You are going to be lacking support from the majority. 

What was it Bob Dylan said in Subterranean Homesick Blues

You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.


John said...

Steve, you're probably right. We're likely just this side of a lot of back-patting and self-congratulation that the evil 10+ round magazines and deadly cosmetic rifle enhancements are out of the hands of responsible citizens. Except they won't be.

Nothing that our government will do will have the slightest impact on the people they say they're trying to keep from obtaining these weapons. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

This is the point of the whole debate that I find the most frustrating. They just can't seem to get it through their heads that a) bans don't work, and b) that someone committed to doing maximum damage is not going to be deterred by a law or a restraining order when they can simply steal what they're after or get it on a street corner from somebody who did.

Or will adopt other methods. Last time I looked, there was no discussion about banning diesel fuel and fertilizer...

Any new bans and restrictions will only handcuff the people who are not the problem. But I've given up any hope that our elected officials will ever actually address the people who are.

Steve Perry said...

Feel-good legislation has always been with us. Can't seem to address the problem, so you pass a measure that sounds as if it tries.

Serious criminals always find a way past, and the reason laws work is that most people voluntarily obey them.

When most people stop obeying them, they get changed. That's how democracy works, at least in theory. You don't pass a law nobody wants and you can't enforce.

But I understand it. One wants to do SOMEthing in the face of evil and lunacy, and while complex problems are almost never solved with easy solutions, the urge is powerful. Nobody sane wants to see a room full of second graders slaughtered. And an armed guard in every school is a band-aid, not gonna happen, and anybody with half a brain knows it.

I've banged into this for years, and it seems to me that you need a full court press across the board. Education, training, you have to change our cowboy culture, and that won't be easy. And yes, gun-control is going to have to be a part of it, but it's not nearly enough by itself.

Civilized people wouldn't need guns. Neither would they need laws to prevent them having them, because they wouldn't go out and fucking *shoot* each other. We have a long way to go to get to civilized.

What I see is that some things are easier to defend than others. Keeping grampaw's old lever-action .22 or 30-30, or the Luger he brought back from the war is still something a lot of folks can resonate with.

The truth is, the black rifle in civilian life is *not* a need, but a want. If you really believe the zombie apocalypse is coming, you ought not to have access to butter knives, much less black rifles. And while you should be able to get what you want as long as it doesn't hurt anybody else, it has never worked that way.

The high-cap magazine and ARs are going down first. Because they are easy targets.

Not a matter of "if," but "when," and how I know this is that I'm not willing to sacrifice all guns for the ones that are, by and large, indefensible as necessities for civilians.

If somebody is going to take something away, then better it should be something only a few will miss, and not most of us. Sorry, but that's my hit on how the wind is blowing.

Most guys who own ARs are men, hardcore gun folks, and I suspect more than a few of them have this idle fantasy that tends toward Red Dawn floating around in their heads. They won't ever shoot anybody, most of 'em. They are mostly law-abiding citizens. But there are a lot of laws with which I disagree and I obey them anyhow.

I have to tell you, when I'm out walking my little dogs and somebody comes from the other direction with a pitbull on a leash, I want them very carefully. Not all such dogs will go for mine, but they were bred to be dog fighters. You don't hear much about somebody's pomeranian getting loose and killing one of the neighborhood children. And if somebody is willing to die to keep his AR, that makes me a lot more nervous than a pitbull on a leash.

You don't always get what you want. Life is unfair.

AF1 said...

If they pass stricter gun laws in the end then so be it, but in the meantime it's worth uniting with other like minded folk and putting up a fight.

Steve Perry said...

Absolutely. But some times, you can see that a battle is lost, and when that happens, you need to retrench. All or nothing might not be the best choice.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Good post. It is good to see a reasoned argument/discussion of the subject, there are few enough...

William Adams said...

Steve Perry wrote:
>Civilized people wouldn't need guns.

Because, of course, wild and rabid animals stop at the city limits sign (a black bear was recently trapped by game commission at a cemetery in between my home and the grocery store less than a mile away).

Gun control doesn't suddenly take every rabid animal out of existence.

Decreased hunting and trapping has resulted in predators like coyotes spreading back in to areas where they hadn't been seen in decades --- and there are also intentional efforts to re-introduce wolves (which is a good idea).

The largest Kodiak Bear ever killed was shot by a woman who was protecting her sled dog team.

Things which should be done:

- gun safety training in schools --- shooting is the only academic sport to _never_ have had an injury in the U.S., so there's no reason for it not to be included in every school. This would include how to safely store firearms and mental health considerations.

- shall issue for concealed weapons for honest citizens, w/ privacy protection for such registration lists --- full reciprocity between states mandated at the federal level.

- mental health professionals and police taking the safety of the mentally ill and the people around them seriously and acting on such issues w/ celerity.

- similar efficiency for domestic abuse restraining orders.

Attempts to actually ban things are going to run up against the problem of a magazine being nothing but a metal box w/ a bit of spring steel in it and a few other simple parts, or it being simple to make a firearm w/ some plumbing fitting and other bits from the hardware store. See Haiti for how this sort of thing plays out.

Travis said...

"When the murder rate surpasses the automobile accident rate? Something is really wrong. We are broken, we need to be fixed."

In fact though there is no surpassing here. Both deaths from MVA and Homicide have decreased; it's just that one decreased more then the other to the extent that the rank order shifted.

So in fact we are doing something really right (which appears to be a function of auto safety features more then human behaviour, but still).

Also, to be technical the statistics aren't for "murder" they are for "Homicide" . There is some non-zero number of those that are totally righteous self-defense cases.

Steve Perry said...

Always exceptions, and my point about not needing guns mostly stands if we get civilized. We have bears and cougars and coyotes in the woods here, too, but most of us don't interact with them. One supposes that a civilized society would have control of its world. That is a long ways off.

If you live in the wilds, it's a different story. I wouldn't bet that your rifle or shotgun or even handguns in such circumstances are about to go away.

In our world, the old man who finds himself facing a trio of muggers might need Sam Colt's equalizer.

He doesn't need an assault rifle for the bear or the boys, or a weapon so close most of us can't tell the difference by looking. He might want it, but we all know the difference between "want" and "need."

You know the story of the newbie to Alaska who asks the old local what kind of handgun he should get. Doesn't matter, the old guy says, just be sure to file the front sight off. Oh, why is that? So it won't hurt so bad when the bear takes it away and shoves it up your ass ...

Funny, but not true. I've shot a handgun that will drop a brown bear dead in its tracks with one round. If I wanted one, I could buy and carry it, and chances are it will be way down the list of those going away any time soon. Five-shots, a revolver.

And yes, passing a rule that outlaws poisoned bullets is kind of silly, because it is the hand that holds the weapon that needs education; still, some kind of regulation is coming, and being outraged and self-righteous isn't going to stop it. There are already a slew of laws about who can own what, and they aren't going away. The idea that the citizens of the United States are going to be able to take down a repressive government with assault weapons? Really? Does anybody here really believe that?

I agree that training and education are paramount, but they won't stop the crazies. Requiring that you keep personal hardware not directly under your control locked up might help, and since most serious gun folk already do this, wouldn't be much of a hardship.

I would have concealed carry licenses require demonstrated expertise, but then valid anywhere, and a federal license would do this. A lot of things can help.

As for the "murder" versus "homicide" stat, you are correct, no argument; however, it is nitpicky and doesn't address the crux of the matter: There are nine countries with higher homicide rates by firearm than the U.S. Being in the top ten here is not a victory, especially when it comes to classrooms of small children. I don't have the breakdown, but I'd bet that the murder rate is proportionate.

One can be logical and correct in one's arguments about contentious issues -- abortion, the death-penalty, gun-control -- and not sway the other side at all. Hot-button issues are like that.

The Constitution is not absolute, never has been. Can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater and call it free speech. Can't go out for a duel and then claim self-defense. And can't use the 2nd to demand the right to keep Stinger missiles because you get waked up by a passenger jet that annoys you.

If you want to fight to the death to keep your AR-15 and a fifty-round magazine, go ahead. If you believe that it must be all or nothing, fine. I don't. And I think I represent a lot of shooters who can feel which way the wind is blowing, and who realize there is a time to fight and a time to run away to maybe fight another day.

Travis said...

"As for the "murder" versus "homicide" stat, you are correct, no argument; however, it is nitpicky and doesn't address the crux of the matter:"

Wouldn't we have to know what the numbers ARE before we can say it's nitpicky?

For instance, based on headlines I'd say locally we are running at roughly a third of all homicides, and almost all of the shootings, being LEO. That's freaking huge!... if accurate.

It's entirely possible that my perception from news isn't accurate. Maybe I'm not registering or recollecting all stories equally. Maybe it is accurate but just a statistical blip and will be skewed the other direction next year and average out. Or maybe the good guys really are winning that many deadly force encounters. It is a fact that Homicides are down in total, no matter how horrible the recent mass shootings. It's also a fact that some amount of those homicides are LEO and citizen self-defense but noone in the media wants to address that. (In fact the media usually include suicides in their 'gun deaths' numbers) But when public policy debate amounts to "Oh my god I saw this horrific headline and have no idea of any real facts but I want this headline solved" there is a serious problem in our country, and it ain't the guns.

On the other hand- I do kind of agree that "something is coming no matter what" and the mitigate the damge is more important then trying to prevent it completely.

Oh- and in point of fact the Constitution IS absolute, IE "Congress shall make no law". The relevant legal inquiry isn't "can it be infringed" or "is there a counter balancing concern" but rather "is it covered in the protections?" A classic example would be libel and slander- it's not that free speech can be prohibited IF it is libel or slander but rather that libel and slander ARE NOT part of the right of free speech. Which arguably is just semantics but, well, semantics are what lawyers do!

Steve Perry said...

Hmm. So the numbers for traffic deaths and shootings are both coming down. Which is good, but given the billions of car trips every day, if the time comes when more folks die from guns than from auto accidents, then I maintain that something is seriously wrong with the way we live.

This doesn't seem, oh, I don't know, insane?

Are we talking about how many rat hairs or turds should be allowed in our hot dogs?

Is it that way anywhere else in the (relatively) civilized world First World? Lot more folks die in say, El Salvador or Swaziland or even Mexico percentage-wise from guns, but then again, they don't have nearly as many cars to skew it the other way. If everybody in Mexico or El Salvador had wheels, you don't think those numbers would be a lot different?

If thirty people are dying each day from gunfire in the U.S., which is the latest figure I've seen, it's way too many, whether they be from murders, suicides, accidents, or anything but justifiable self-defense.

A naked kid stoned on acid bouncing up and down on the roof of a car who gets shot by local LEOs doesn't really qualify as justifiable in my book. I support the thin blue line generally, but we have had a lot of folks cooked in these parts for DWB, or twitching funny at the wrong time.

The founding fathers might have intended that the Constitution be absolute, but c'mon, it hasn't worked out that way. Constitutional amendments and SCOTUS have gone places ole Ben and Tom and George never in their wildest dreams considered.

Say it ain't so?

Of course, you say, that's built into the system, but it's dancing around the reality. The intent of the Constitution gets altered by The Nine all the time, and now and then, amended by the Congress.

Lawyers parse language, as do writers, but past a certain point, it starts to look like smoke and mirrors, and you get that "Yeah, right!" look from people who might not know the precise place to split that infinitive but who know bullshit when they hear it.

Some of that starts out with, "Well, technically speaking ..."

When somebody cries foul because a semi-automatic AR-15 isn't technically an assault rifle? That's nitpicky. You know it, I know it, and it insults the intelligence of anybody bright enough to spark two neurons at each other.

True? Yes. Bullshit? Absolutely.

It is not the argument to be making. I'm a shooter and it irritates me. You have a school full of murdered children, and somebody is offering hardware technicalities? No. It won't do.

Any simple and easy solution isn't going to do the trick, I understand that. I also understand that people want to take steps, even if they won't necessarily get us where we want to go. Is it better to stand still than to risk a misstep? Sometimes. Doesn't stop people from doing it.

Won't this time, either.

I'm over here yelling, "The Redcoats are coming!" and I'm hearing a lot of "Well, you know, they shouldn't be doing that!"

It ain't about "should," folks. It's about "are ..."

Travis said...

True 'nuff.

Good analogy.

Don Hilliard said...

Steve - Speaking as an owner of several guns, a very good pistol shot and an average rifle nail it. Except for this (and I direct this rhetorically rather than personally): parse it how you will, point out misplaced commas as you will, redefine '"militia" from the archaic to the modern as you will - I do not and never will see where the term "well-regulated" can be ignored in this discussion.

In and of itself, that phrase makes implicit (if not explicit) that the Federal and/or State governments have the power to regulate the bearers of arms amongst the citizenry. Not to bar without cause, not to ban absolutely - but to regulate..

Steve Perry said...

Wonderful document, our Constitution. But remember it was written by mostly rich white men who owned slaves, and who were mostly dead and gone a century before women got the federal right to vote. Things change, and there was no way a lot of those changes could have been anticipated and addressed even in the broadest theory.

The courts and legislature and the executive branches try to interpret what they think the founding fathers would have wanted, but the founding fathers were men, not gods, and their intent is not something to be graven in stone and worshipped. You have to remember who they were and the time in which they lived, and whatever they wanted or though was right? Then is not now.

The road to hell is always paved with good intentions.