Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Guns, David Brin and Meeting Your Heroes in Person(sort of)

I Love David Brin's works, both fiction and nonfiction. I've read nearly all the fiction, and some of the non-fiction. When I read Sundiver and encountered the idea of Uplift for the first time, it blew my flippin mind. In the cavity in my brain that the uplift explosion left, I found all sorts of other interesting ideas growing. I love reading an author, where not only do I feel entertained but also more intelligent after having read their books.

 Reading nirs blog posts as they come out forms one of the high points of my week. I usually agree with most of what ne says, and despite my disagreements I still feel smarter after having read nirs post.

 I Love Guns. I love looking at them, shooting them, smelling cordite and lead vapor at the range, and seeing a reasonably dense cluster of holes in the paper I just peppered with copper clad lead. I love that I live in a country, and state where the government authorities trust me to carry a concealed gun to protect myself and others. I love that I can just do it, that I can practice the right enshrined in the Constitution as the 2nd Amendment without having some bureaucratic ninny putting my name in some database.

I work in IT, I have worked for the federal government in the Air Force. I know the special kind of idiots that don't know shit about shit, but still can't be fired for not doing their damn job. If the government puts information in a database they are going to loose that info, give it away to the wrong people, or show it to the whole bloody world. At best they might accidentally delete it.

Anyway, I love that in my state I can take the training that I know I need to carry a gun from the best people I can afford, instead of some instructor with questionable qualifications at a gun range trying to shove too much information into too many brains in too short a time. Brains possibly contaminated with too much cordite and lead vapor.

It makes me feel like an adult, that the state government trusts me and it's other citizens to carry a concealed weapon and generally not do something stupid with it. Naturally there will always be problems - Law number one of The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, nuff said. But the fact is that most of us are adults, we generally get along. My state has nearly 3 million people in it, and last year less than 100 of them were murdered by someone who should have known better. Naturally all those murders were tragic for the families of the victims and the perpetrators, but <100 out of 3 million seems like the vast majority of us are acting like responsible adults, even with around 80k or so of us running around with guns on our persons.

Even before "Constitutional Carry", we've had concealed carry for a number of years, and our murder rate hasn't skyrocketed, nor has our violent crime soared into the liberal gun hate fantasy land. If we had a murder by someone one with a conceal carry endorsement I couldn't find it - and my Google-fu is pretty strong.

Imagine my chagrin at bickering with David Brin about guns, well... people using guns to defend other people, who might be trying to shoot a bunch of other people at the time. Well... the idea of perhaps only potential people doing that. Not exactly the kind of introduction to a conversation with David Brin I had imagined before this week. Certainly more uncomfortable and confusing than, "Hi David, I love your work".

So Ooops. Not going to rehash the whole conversation, but in Guns vs Cameras -which are "equalizers" that can prevent tragedy?  David said that "...it's worth noting that in not a single case has the perpetrator been brought down by an armed civilian bystander... not once. Ever.". While I enjoyed with and agreed with much of what ne said in that post, that statement floored me.

I frequently feel the urge to comment on things on the internet, but I nearly always refrain because what does it really accomplish? Having read David's blog for a while, I know that unlike many other blogs David has active conversations with many of the commenters on his posts, and they are generally convivial. So I really, really felt the need to comment. That absolute "not once. Ever." really bugged me, cause it seemed to devalue the valuable, if accidental heroics of quite a few people over the years.Indirectly, it seemed to devalue the very idea of carrying a concealed gun for the purposes of defending oneself and others.

So I posted some counter-examples, clumsily, and I think we eventually came to a grudging agreement that maybe some people with guns may have shot some other people with guns, who might have been about to shoot a whole bunch of other people without guns, for generally no good reason.
Nor did that conversation and conclusion really help him get the comments moving in the direction ne wanted.

I don't think either one of us felt very satisfied with this conclusion. I know I wasn't - but I also know that under no conditions can I imagine a satisfactory study of these kinds of events. No way, no how will a social scientist manage to show that conclusively shows that x number of people definitely stopped y number of mass murders by using a gun on the culprit in progress. Or less likely, the reverse.

It's an impossible task. I mean if some guy walks up to a firehouse and whips out nirs gun shoots up a couple of cars and then realize he's picked a firehouse where a bunch of the firemen have concealed weapon permits - is that a mass shooting prevented? or the plot to a bad high school film class project?

I do think the ample cases of armed civilians stopping other violent crime indicates that with more armed citizens we'd see a larger response of armed civilians in the case of an active shooter. Depending on the location, the gun free zones do seem to self-select themselves for potential active shooter targets a little more than you'd expect randomly. In those areas you'll find less civilians carrying.

I only posted the most recent ones this year in my comments to David. A search on the internet will pretty quickly show there are several like that from year to year each just as clear or fuzzy as the ones this year. Does that prove that armed civilians stop active shooters? I think so, but not as clearly or as definitively as I'd like.

More importantly, that conversation with David didn't get to my biggest gripe about news on mass shootings. These incidents in total seem like a tiny problem that gets blown all out of proportion to the overall problem of violent crime in the US - mass shootings make good grist for the 24/7 news grind. At least now that the news has to make it's own money. Unfortunately that gives the newscritters a disincentive to avoid using the mass murderers names - or anything else they can do to sensationalize these stories.

The day to day incidents should capture our attention more than the mass murders. Sure the events where three or more people get killed (to use the FBI's arbitrary line), represent a terrible cluster of pain for the surviving victims, and victims' families; but those numbers pale in comparison to the full catalog of our collective malfeasance to each other each year: 1,165,383 acts of violence last year, including 14,249 murders. Those points of pain deserve just as much of our attention as the few d>3 clusters that occur each year. They probably deserve more of our attention - they represent more clearly our predicament.

Those folks conflating the mass murders committed by firearms with another tiny part of the rest of each years violence, i.e. the talkers about mass shootings instead of mass murders or mass killings - surely have their hearts in the right place, but they help downplay the overall problem. They just add to the bullshit grist on the 24x7 news cycle.

So does the overall reaction to these mass killings. It's certainly more fun to twattle on Twitter or fatualize on Facebook about these killings. More grist, instead of thinking about how to solve the massive problems we keep turning away from. The root cause of the majority of these killings.

Poverty and violence together describe a strange loop of reciprocating horror. The million plus events of violence pale in comparison to the billions of tiny losses of freedom, dignity, and happiness to those stuck in poverty. Especially since the responsible culprits consist of few handfuls of families which have encouraged politicians to create the current massive income inequality and increasing poverty. Simply, so they can play with all the damn pennies.

I don't see what good either more guns or more cameras will do to help with that. But, maybe this conception of the problem just makes it feel too unassailable.

These families only have power to increase income equality because we've let them with this Citizens United bullshit, along with other bullshit we let our politicians do like gerrymandering. I think of all the candidates for President this campaign season (yet to be), Larry Lessig seems like the only one with a valid plan. A simple plan, a doable plan, and one the overly monied will do everything they can to derail. In fact here's the Washington Post completely missing the point of nirs campaign. Or maybe they're part of the PsyOps, the overly monied have already begin. Who knows.

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