Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dog shoots man

Rule Three of the Four Gun Safety Rules states, "Keep your paws off the trigger until your sights are on the target." Or something to that effect.

This news story from Sebring, Florida says that a fellow's dog stepped on a pistol that was on the floor of his truck, the gun discharged and the bullet hit the man in the leg.

On the floor of his truck? That is an unusual way to carry a pistol. It created a situation that violated Rule Two. The shootee "thought the gun was unloaded," so I'm going to have to score this one as a violation of Rule One and Rule Two for the gun's owner, and a Rule Three violation for his dog.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The wisdom of Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden explains that you don't need an AR-15. If someone tries to come into your house, simply step out on your balcony and fire your double barrel shotgun.

This seems to me to be out of touch. Many home owners prefer the AR-15 or similar rifles because rifles of modern design have several outstanding qualities for home defense. The shotgun's two shots are plainly an inadequate supply, since most shots fired in gunfights miss. In a home invasion by multiple bandits, thirty shots may be none too many, because most of those shots will miss, and because not all assailants are felled by a single hit.

No, Joe, the AR-15 with its 30 round standard capacity magazine is a perfectly good weapon for home defense, and much better in the real world than a double barrel bird gun. Besides, not everyone has a balcony.

The AR and comparable designs have become the de facto standard for defense rifles for honest and peaceable citizens, and with good reason. Such rifles are suitable for the job and other choices now on the market are less suitable. The factual errors in Mr. Biden's claims are several. You may indeed need 30 rounds. The AR-15 is very easy to shoot well, an outstanding feature of the design, due to its ergonomic control layout, straight line stock and light recoil. It kicks much less than a 12 gauge. At short range the shotgun does indeed need to be aimed, because its pellets have not spread out much. In short, the arch superiority of Biden's opinion is not backed by knowledge, but is of a piece with the rest of the high handed sneering we have heard from the left in this debate. The superior tone is not warranted because his facts are wrong. This carelessness about facts has characterized, throughout, the left's part in the debate.

Furthermore the tactic he recommends is no good. Firing warning shots is a generally poor idea. One of the problems with firing warning shots: Once you have fired both barrels from your Biden gun, your gun is empty and your assailants know where you are. They may shoot you. Not warning shots, but shots at you personally. There is also the chance that your warning shots may cause damage to something or someone you did not intend, somewhere downrange. Many police departments forbid their officers to fire warning shots. Here is a pretty good article about what's wrong with warning shots, written by a professional. You would be better advised to take the professional's advice than Biden's.

There is something a little disturbing in Biden's line of talk, beyond its utter fatuousness. Oppressive regimes have historically been less restrictive on shotgun ownership than on other firearms, because you can do a good deal with shotguns in the line of pot hunting and pest control, which serve the state's interests, but not much against a government armed with rifles. I doubt that this point was in Mr. Biden's mind, but there is a general sense or presumption among the anti-gun crowd that shotguns are good and other guns are bad, or at least that shotguns are less bad, and it is okay to shoot skeet and things, with guns like the President's.

One of the things that very much bothered the British Home Guard after Dunkirk was that the commonest firearm among them was the double barrel shotgun, and threatening them over the channel were hordes with rifles and machine guns. They certainly had every reason to be concerned! I would feel at least some of the same concern using a double barrel against the weapons of America's gang criminals. That seems to me an essential point in this debate and one the left greets with silence. If the purposes of the Second Amendment are to be honored, the citizen needs something like parity with the arms borne by the potential threats.

H/T to Daniel Halper at the Weekly Standard blog for surfacing the video:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What is the real reason?

It is clear that most of the gun control proposals flying around Washington will do nothing to curb gun violence. What they will do is impede the exercise of a constitutional right, as it is now exercised by millions of peaceable citizens. It may be offered that the new proposals would not infringe the right too much. But they would infringe it to the extent that we would be less free afterward than we were before: Our choices and our privacy would be reduced.

It is reasonable to ask what the legislation's purpose is. The pretext is not the purpose. Previous bans and registration schemes have not done what was advertised. They have often worked opposite their stated intent, making citizens less safe not more.

So what is the value of such legislation? Let us grant that progressives are not stupid. They can look at Chicago or D.C., places where the Second Amendment has been infringed, and see that it hasn't worked well at all. They are not such fools as to be taken in by their own rhetoric. They keep repeating it, though. What is the real purpose they have in view?

The simplest explanation is not always the right one, but it is usually the best place to start. The Obama left has rejected the thinking in back of the Second Amendment. They see no value in it; they do not like it and mistrust it. That the power of violence is not the monopoly of the state is an idea they find disturbing. In their worldview the state is to be all-powerful. That the citizens could forcibly resist the government is an alien, disquieting idea. Like other things they disapprove, they wish to legislate it away.

That, at least, is the simple explanation. It rests upon the observation that the liberal attitude toward government is essentially worshipful. Leftists have historically been antagonistic toward religion because it draws awe and obedience away from the state. They want the state to be all in all, without superiors or rivals in calling men to obedience.

So also with arms. They want the monopoly. Mao said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." In an essential way he was right; the power to coerce others rather than persuade them rests on violence, in the end. Government cannot reign supreme so long as the people retain the power to oppose it with guns of their own.  Do you have a better explanation?

An afterthought: The morning after I wrote this, I recalled that Alan Greenspan long ago made a similar case about 'statist' opposition to the gold standard. Gold money gets in the way of government power, so instinctively people dislike it who think government power should be unopposed. Read it here: . A quote:
Stripped of its academic jargon, the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes. A substantial part of the confiscation is effected by taxation. But the welfare statists were quick to recognize that if they wished to retain political power, the amount of taxation had to be limited and they had to resort to programs of massive deficit spending. . . 
A pocketful of gold pieces gives the citizen immunity from arbitrary re-valuation of his money, so it gives him a degree of economic independence when the politicians play the fiat money game.

There are doubtless other examples of the mindset that opposes freedom's instruments, such as guns and gold, on the basis that these stand counter to limitless government power. It might be interesting to consider such examples under a common heading, such as "things you hate if you love big government."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The 40% Fabrication

As recently as this afternoon, CNN was repeating the canard that 40% of gun sales elude the present background check system. The number has been rather effectively challenged elsewhere in the media, but that makes no difference. Many media outlets still, as CNN does, uncritically repeat the 40% number just as if the claim had raised no questions.

The number is a very old one, and though the situation has changed and the number is obsolete, it has been bandied for so many years by gun control agitators that it is now something like received truth to the anti-gun contingent.

There is a good sound critique of the imaginary statistic in the National Review Online.   Among other red flags there is this:

The dubious statistic of guns that avoided background checks — which is actually 36 percent — comes from a small 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, very early in the Clinton administration. Most of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks in early 1994.
If that alone didn't make the number invalid, the federal survey simply asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer...
...John Lott, the author of several landmark studies on the real-world impact of gun control, has concluded that if you take out transfers of guns either between FFLs or between family members, the remaining number of transfers falls to about 10 percent. Those were the numbers from two decades ago. “We don’t know the precise number today, but it is hard to believe that it is above single digits,” he told me.

Even the traditionally anti-gun  Washington Post chokes a bit on the claim:

In other words, rather than being 30 to 40 percent (the original estimate of the range) or “up to 40 percent” (Obama’s words), gun purchases without background checks amounted to 14 to 22 percent. And since the survey sample is so small, that means the results have a survey caveat: plus or minus six percentage points. 
Moreover, as we noted before, the survey was taken in late 1994, eight months after the Brady law went into effect, and the questions were asked about gun purchases in the previous two years. So some of the answers concerned gun purchases that took place in a pre-Brady environment.

After trying very hard, administration-friendly Polti-Fact could rate the claim only half true. That piece quotes one of the originators of the 40% number:

We asked Philip Cook, a Duke University professor who co-authored the study, if he thinks that 40 percent estimate -- which is now more than 15 years old -- is still a current, reliable estimate of secondary market gun sales.

"The answer is I have no idea," Cook said. "This survey was done almost 20 years ago. … It’s clear there are a lot of transactions that are not through dealers. How many, we’re not really clear on it. … We would say it’s a very old number.""

It is frustrating that despite all the readily available material that casts doubt on the 40%  number, that number is still being bandied freely by the "legitimate media" that the the administration is counting on to put its gun control ideas over the top.

When you support your case on false or misleading claims, it means you don't have much of a case.

The logic of gun free zones

Making the rounds on the Internet:

Gun-free zones viewed from the other side of the law:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Introducing the New Truth

I've written previously about Western culture's dual inheritance, moral reasoning from the Bible and logical reasoning from classical philosophy, especially the proto-science of the ancient Greeks, which later became natural philosophy and then turned into modern science. The two together form a rich patrimony. We did not always make the best use of it, but still achieved many things that were remarkable.

We are now in the process of replacing both reason and faith. One of the replacements is Expedient Truth. This is the stuff you know is true because it serves the Cause. The corollary is that you know you are to disbelieve ideas and evidence that do not support the Cause. What cause? That varies.

The other replacement is Relative Truth. These are the things that are true for you and not for me. Your truth, not necessarily my truth. Truths like this differ from Expedient Truth in an important way. Relative Truth is of no use if you want to convince me to do something I do not want to do. By the same token, when I explain the reason why you should do something, or stop doing something, that's only my truth, not your truth. Who am I to impose my truth-concept on you, after all?

The same limitation does not exist for Expedient Truth. There you only need to convince me that the Cause is right and I am then supposed to assent to anything, no matter how preposterous, that would be helpful to the cause. If I don't think the polar bears are in any particular trouble, or I do think that the world warmed up substantially in the medieval era and then cooled, that isn't simply a matter of my truth, I'm a "global warming denier." I must want the earth to die! Expedient Truth is for compelling belief or obedience and Relative Truth is for escaping both.

Expedient Truth inverts the classical logical ideal. Rather than observing the facts and framing your opinions on that basis, you first frame your opinions and then select your facts. You support your position with shame and ridicule directed against naysayers. Relative Truth is an attempt to relegate all non-Expedient truths to the status of matters of taste, about which no meaningful disputes can occur. This certainly simplifies discourse. It is now a matter of parroting insults about those who disagree with you (Expedient Truth) while ignoring the substance of what they say (Relative Truth).

I do not think these new truths will prove worthy replacements for the truths we had before. They will not lead to moral or material progress. They seem directionless in the long term, tending to random changes in thinking with changing political fashions and far too easily steered by propaganda. When science becomes agenda driven it no longer goes its own way, advancing as it lists when new facts are found out. When morality is merely a matter of taste and private judgment, meaningful moral dialog must cease: There is no common ground for discussion.

If these new truths are indeed truth as some perceive it, there is little the rest of us can do about it. We can warn the people who think this way but that is only our truth. We can critique their reasoning and its outcomes, but if we do that we are global denier misogynist homophobe racist racist racist nativist speciesist reactionary running dogs of capitalist imperialist expansionist colonialist aggressionism--or something. Anyway they will not say anything nice about us.

No: When people are convinced by the new truths, the only thing that dissuades them is disaster. Disaster reliably follows upon abandoning a stable basis for moral and practical judgement. Sometimes not even that does the job. There are still some Russians who long for the good old days. If you were supposed to have an opinion you were issued one.

Safety Rule Four in SoCal: The affair of the blue trucks

Rule Four of the Four Rules of Gun Safety requires that you "Be sure of your target and what is beyond your target."

Police of Los Angeles and Torrance, California appear not to know that one. They have shot up two different blue trucks that resemble the truck of a suspect they are seeking, a suspect who has them very much on edge. Neither was the right truck. Two innocents were wounded in one of the trucks. No one was hit in the other. The point is, of course, that being sure of your target includes making sure you have the right one. Being on the lookout for a blue pickup is not an open season to shoot up any blue pickup that comes along. The callous disregard for the public's safety disturbs me.

The L.A. Times story offers the following:

Two women who were shot by Los Angeles police in Torrance early Thursday during a massive manhunt for an ex-LAPD officer were delivering newspapers, sources said.
The women, shot in the 19500 block of Redbeam Avenue, were taken to area hospitals, Torrance police Lt. Devin Chase said...
A second shooting, involving Torrance police officers, occurred about 5:45 a.m. at Flagler Lane and Beryl Street in Torrance. No injuries were reported in that incident.
Chase said that in both instances police came across vehicles they thought were similar to the one Dorner [the suspect] is believed to be driving. Neither vehicle was Dorner's.
"Now it appears neither of them are directly related," Chase said. "In both of them, officers believed they were at the time."

Not directly related? Not related at all, that I can see, beyond being vaguely the same sort of vehicle as the one sought. The Times let the above remarks pass without comment, as if they were natural and reasonable things to say. What I hear in them is an utter breakdown of firing discipline that makes me very uneasy about how cops view public safety, as opposed to perceived threats to their own safety. If you live in southern California and drive a blue pickup, it might be a good idea to take the bus until the cops catch the guy they are looking for. The suspect's truck is a Nissan. The cops' shooting score so far is one Toyota and one Honda.

Update: Police later found the suspect's truck, abandoned and set afire. You might want to wait a while for word of that to get around to all of the cops, before you venture onto the streets in a blue truck.

Of course I understand why the cops are on edge about this suspect. It appears that he has killed three people, one of them a cop, and has promised to kill more cops. He has also wounded two cops. The suspect is a former cop himself. Serious as the situation is, though, that does not justify disregard for basic gun safety on public streets.

Be sure of your target and what is beyond your target.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Yes, gun control really gets this crazy

Consider the UK: Handgun ban and turn-in, ban on modern rifles and almost no right recognized to defend yourself. Or consider D.C.'s ban on handguns (since overturned). The cartoon is funny because it seems far fetched to the point of absurdity, but to some people, in some places, it isn't all that funny. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 3, 1913, a date which will live in infamy

A hundred years ago the 16th Amendment was ratified, a horrible mistake.

The Sixteenth Amendment removed the U.S. Constitution's built in limit on taxation. Now taxation could be limitless and government growth boundless. The mechanism that enforced founders' ideas about limited government was taken away. A hundred years later: What limited government!? We have bureaucrats everywhere with big thick books of rules for all occasions.

Government has grown so costly and burdensome that it is a drag on the economy. It keeps getting bigger, more costly, more intrusive, and we inevitably become less free as a result. The people's economic independence is what the 16th Amendment took away. There is now a direct pipeline from your paycheck to the bureaucrats in Washington. What is more sinister, an increasing number of Americans receive more from the government than ever they contributed, or ever will. They will always vote for the gravy train.

The present-day growth of government and its programs is not sustainable. It is an upward graph forever, and you know those always end badly. You know the story of the goose and the golden eggs. Well, this is like that.

It is is wild-eyed radical talk, but we need to begin the process to repeal the 16th Amendment. Government cannot do much mischief if it is constrained to a small set of essential tasks and limited in its funding so that it can do no more. Limited government? Enumerated powers? Up with the Tenth Amendment, down with the Sixteenth? Who is with me on this crazy, radical plan?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

School gunman shot by faculty member

Story here:

The details are still sketchy. What we know so far is that a basketball coach and two of his players were accosted and threatened with a gun. At this point the canny coach produced a pistol and shot both the assailants. Apparently the coach has a CCW ticket and is a police reservist. The bad guys pulled a gun on the wrong guy!

Another serving of crow fricassee, please, for all the journalists, so called, who couldn't wait to demean and denigrate those calling for armed guards at school.

But it ain't about machine guns!

A number of citizens think that the "assault weapons" bill has to do with machine guns. The media outlets are doing nothing to dispel that disinformation. In fact, machine guns and military destructive devices such as cannons and grenades and so on have been very strictly regulated since 1934. The supreme court's Heller decision left the door open for restrictions of the kind. Arms, for the purposes of the Second Amendment, are the sorts of things an individual might reasonably use in personal defense.

Here is--and I suppose it is funny in a snide sort of way--a cartoon suggesting that automatic weapons--machine guns--are legal and by implication need to be banned. Some of the weapons shown are entirely unavailable to private citizens. Some are mechanically operated, not automatic. Notice the revolver and the lupara. Some are ordinary pistols. The implication, of course, is that the USA is awash in deadly machine guns, which is not the case.

So sallies like the above exist in the fact free zone where the NRA wants you to have machine guns. This trend in argument has popped up repeatedly in the recent broad national conversation. This is a letter to the editor that appeared in the Las Vegas Sun:

A thought about weapons, legality
William Bacon, Las Vegas 
Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Where do we draw the line? When are they going to let me buy a shoulder-fired rocket launcher? A well-regulated militia needs shoulder-fired rocket launchers and fully automatic .50-caliber machine guns. It’s my right under the Second Amendment. When will those liberals in Washington understand that rocket launchers don’t bring down 747s; people do. Right, NRA?

Of course all that is twaddle, in light of existing law and precedent. The letter writer's attempt to be snide falls rather flat when you take into account that America already has a vast array of gun control laws that already amount to strict control of the kinds of weapons named. Such weaponry is in no way the matter under discussion in the gun control debate. It is not similar enough to be a useful comparison. What is at issue is outlawing a now-legal style of rifle that is little used by criminals but is just great for home defense or the purposes in view when the Second Amendment was framed. I find it odd, not to say suspicious, that the guns the leftists seek to ban are those that would be most useful in an insurrection, and which rarely figure in criminal activity.

Once again, when I see so many bad arguments being offered for more gun control laws, I conclude that there is a scarcity of good reasons. Remember, children, no good ever comes of a lie.

Addendum: Here's someone who still doesn't get it:

Write your congresscritters. There's an app for that.

Two apps, actually. There may be more like them but these are the one's I've found. You tell the apps where you live and they generate letters to the appropriate officials. The letters politely but clearly state opposition to the wrongheaded anti-gun legislation now being discussed by the Congress.

From Ruger:

From S&W:

We have some voices on our side in D.C., even in the Senate. What writing letters does for you is to make it easier for wobbling congresscritters to wobble over to our side, and support stances like this well articulated précis by Senator Ted Cruz: