Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

Monday, January 30, 2006

I'm Officially Ambivalent About This One.

First, the story, as reported in the L.A. Times (so take it with the appropriately-sized grain of salt):
Pistol-Packing Granny Kills Granddaughter's Ex-Husband
By Mai Tran and Christopher Goffard, Times Staff Writers

The 81-year-old woman accused of fatally shooting her granddaughter's ex-husband admitted to the killing in an interview today.

In comments to the Los Angeles Times at the county jail, Jeane E. Allen confessed to gunning down 26-year-old Alex L. Reyes outside her Lake Forest home.

She said that after he showed up at the family's home over the weekend, she walked inside, grabbed a handgun she had recently cleaned and fired at him.

Allen said she then called 911 and told the dispatcher: "I just shot a pedophile."

No child abuse charges have ever been filed against Reyes and he denied similar accusations during his divorce from Leslie Bieg, 24, his former wife who is Allen’s granddaughter.

Reyes, who lived in Brea, came to Allen's home Saturday morning to pick up his 18-month-old child for a supervised visitation. The court-appointed monitor had not yet arrived, authorities said, and it was not known why supervision was required.

Reyes was speaking to his former wife when, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said, Allen shot him in the head and thigh. He died at the hospital the next day.

Reyes' family defended him today. "He was a good father. He was a good brother. He was a good son," said Reyes' father, Gilbert.

He said his son had just graduated from the Fullerton College police academy and that he wanted to be a police officer.

Allen, now the jail's oldest inmate, is 5 feet tall with dyed-blond hair, thick glasses and long, carefully maintained blue acrylic nails. Her hands shook as she recounted her acrimonious history with Reyes. She said she doesn’t regret shooting him. She said it was the only way to protect her great-grandson.

During the interview today, Allen said she never shared with police her accusations of abuse, which are alleged in a thick court file stemming from custody proceedings over the boy.

Larry Fancher, the La Habra attorney who represented Reyes during the custody dispute, said that as part of a court stipulation, Reyes allowed himself to be examined by mental health experts, including a doctor who specialized in sex crimes.

He said experts gave Reyes a series of tests, including a polygraph, to determine his fitness as a parent. Fancher said the results of the first series were inconclusive, but a second series was favorable to him.

"The findings did not support the allegations made by the grandmother and the mother," said Fancher, who had planned to call the experts on Reyes’ behalf when the custody case went to trial in March. Reyes hoped to win unsupervised visits with his son.

Allen told The Times she shot Reyes after he asked her for a letter of apology.

The grandmother is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on murder charges Tuesday.

Some neighbors described Allen as a pleasant woman, while others said she could be cranky and cursed. One neighbor, a former Marine, said that last week Allen brought him her .38-caliber Smith & Wesson and asked him to make sure it was in working order.
So, from appearances Ms. Allen was convinced that her grand-daughter's ex-husband was abusing her great-grandson, that the authorities would do nothing about it, and she therefore planned and carried out the deliberate premeditated murder of said ex.

This is the definition of vigilante justice - "taking the law into your own hands."

And here is why I'm ambivalent about it: "She said it was the only way to protect her great-grandson." I have little doubt, given the minimal information in this story, that she believed that. I think she looked at her great-grandson, and decided that spending her few remaining years in prison was a better option than having her great-grandson suffer more years of abuse until - just maybe - the findings did support the allegations. But by then, how much damage would have been done?

Perhaps Alex L. Reyes wasn't a pedophile, and wasn't abusing his own son. I don't know. I wasn't there. But Ms. Allen and her grand-daughter were much closer to the situation than either I or the State, and Ms. Allen apparently believed to the point where she was willing to commit murder, and then accept the consequences for it. She had given up on the State as a solution to her family's problem. Perhaps she'd heard of the recent Vermont case where Judge Edward Cashman sentenced pedophile Mark Hulett to sixty days in jail for repeatedly molesting a neighbor's daughter over the course of four years. The judge recently changed the sentence - under pressure - to 3-10 years, but I can't imagine something like that would be comforting to Ms. Allen.

So she decided to be judge, jury, and executioner - and then accept whatever punishment society decided she deserved.

This killing is one of the consequences of retaining one's sovereignty while belonging to a polity. YOU accept responsibility for your own protection, and the protection of your family. YOU decide when the rules of the State should no longer be abided by because the State has failed to protect your rights. YOU retain the ability to make decisions like Ms. Allen made - and then, instead of making like an outlaw and running for the hills, you stand and take your punishment - under the laws of that same State. Individual sovereignty can be a difficult thing. It's much easier to give up your power and submit to the chains of the State. Usually those chains are light enough that you don't notice them, but when confronted with a situation like this one, they carry the weight of the world.

When you are sovereign, those chains don't exist - but your decisions can carry that same weight.

This is a perfect example of what jury trials are for, and why jury nullification exists. I wasn't there. I don't know the facts. Perhaps he was a loving father, her grand-daughter is a bitch and a chip off the old bag, and great-gramma just hated his guts. I hope a grand-jury hearing will ask these questions, and if it comes to trial the facts will come out.

But if there's sufficient reason to believe Reyes was a pedophile, and the State failed to protect her great-grandson, I'd vote to acquit.

The Motivational Poster Meme.

I've got to get in on this. There's a hilarious thread running at AR15.com, mostly insider jokes, but not all of them. Anyway, someone discovered the "Motivational Poster Generator" and since then board posters and bloggers have been having a field day. I decided I'd generate a few of my own:





That's Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burghardt, if you didn't know.



I do a lot of "KABOOM!" pics here. That one I know was an overcharge.

And last, (and most tasteless):

The Big Lie.

On the way in to work this morning, the 7:30 NPR news played this quote from John "I Served in Vietnam" Kerry:
Confirming Judge Alito to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court would have irreversible consequences that are already defined if Senators will take the time to measure them.

In my judgment, it will take the country backwards on critical issues.
Really? Irreversible consequences?

But isn't what Kerry (and the Left in general) is afraid of is the reversal of eighty years of leftward movement by the Court?

Hugh Hewitt interviews "The Smart Guys" - USC professor Erwin Chemerinsky from the Left, and Chapman University law professor John Eastman from the Right, weekly. On Wednesday, June 8, 2005 the topic was Janice Rogers Brown's appointment to the DC Circuit, and this exchange was transcribed over at Radioblogger:
John Eastman: You know, I mean, it's just so preposterous, I don't even know where to begin. The reason Chuck Schumer is so upset about this, is Justice Brown is the kind of judge who will, you know, adhere to the Constitution. And when the members of the legislature, even the exalted Chuck Schumer hismelf, want to take actions that is not authorized by the Constitution, she'll be willing to stand up and do her duty, and strike it down. That's not an arrogance, that's what the judges are there for, to adhere to the Constitution, and not to let the legislature roll over them and do whatever they want. You know, it really is preposterous. We've turned this upside down. The judges that do exactly what they're supposed to do are demonized, and those that take a powder and let the legislature get away with every abuse, every extension of power imaginable, are touted at the cocktail circuit.

Erwin Chemerinsky: I think what Senator Schumer is saying, and is absolutely right, is that Janice Rogers Brown's repeated statements that she believes that the New Deal programs like social security are unconstitutional, is truly a radical view. That's not a judge who wants to uphold the Constitution. That's a judge who wants to shred the last eighty years of American Constitutional law. Janice Rogers Brown saying she believes that the Bill of Rights should not apply to the states, would undo the last seventy years of Constitutional law. That's not a judge who wants to follow the law. That's a judge who wants to make the law in her own radical, conservative views.

John Eastman: Hang on, here, because Erwin...there's a wonderfully subtle change in your phraseology that demonstrates what's going on here. You said she won't follow the Constitution, and then you said it's because she won't follow the last seventy or eighty years of Constitutional law. What happened seventy or eighty years ago that changed the Constitution? There was not a single amendment at issue in the 1930's that changed the Constitution. Some radical, federal programs were pushed through. Some radical judges, under pressure, finally signed on them, and the notion that we can't question that unconstitutional action that occurred in the 1930's, and somehow that defending that unconstitutionality is adherent to the rule of law, is rather extraordinary. There are scholars on left and right that have understood that what went on in the 1930's was...had no basis in Constitutional law, or in the letter of the Constitution itself.
They're not afraid of "irreversible change." They're afraid of reversal of their changes. And, typically, they won't come out and say that.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Strongly Recommended Reads.

Two recent pieces I cannot recommend strongly enough:

Gerard Van Der Leun's The Voice of the Neuter is Heard Throughout the Land, and Robert Godwin's The Pathetic Last Children of Nietzsche's Pitiable Last Men. Read them in order. Read them carefully. And be prepared to think about them pretty hard.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Questions from the Audience?

In a comment to my second "Chocolate Rivers" post, commenter "homeboy" asked a number of good questions. Can't learn if you don't ask. However, instead of leaving the questions as an exercise for the student, I figured I'd go ahead and see if I could satisfy him.

1. With improvements in medical technology and access (cell phones), are comparisons with past homicide numbers meaningful?

Well, I guess we'd need to look at homicide rates and try to compare to wounding data. The wounding data is kind of hard to come by. Or, perhaps, homicide to attempted homicide, though that normally doesn't break out by weapon. First, as far as homicide rates are concerned, there's this chart for rates from 1900 through 2000:
that shows the rate varying widely. In 1993 the rate was 10.1 per hundred thousand population. In 2000 the rate was 6.1. In 2004 it was 5.5. Prior to 1910? Perhaps the data-gathering wasn't up to the standards of today?

However, there's this fascinating graph:
that shows that non-fatal firearm related crime has also been on a steep decline since 1993 - even though, according to that Clinton-era Whitehouse press release, almost two million new handguns enter circulation each year. And remember, a lot of those new guns are what the Violence Policy Center and its ilk term "Pocket Rockets" - more powerful, higher capacity handguns:
Pocket rockets are a prime example of how the firearms industry has exploited increased lethality—greater killing power—over the last several decades to boost sales in its saturated markets.
But note something - the VPC states in that year 2000 report:
The industry has heavily promoted pocket rockets in connection with a wave of new or revised state laws that permit licensed persons to carry concealed firearms.
When did these "new or revised state laws" start? In 1987 with the passage of Florida's "shall issue" law. In 1990 there were only 15 "shall-issue" states. In 1995 there were 27. In 2000 there were 30. After 1993, what does the homicide rate do? It declines. From 10.0 in 1990, to 8.7 in 1995 to 6.1 in 2000, to 5.5 in 2004, all while literally millions of these guns with supposedly "increased lethality - greater killing power" have entered the market. If the hypothesis is that "improvements in medical technology" are responsible for a decrease in homicide rates - the implication being that more people are getting shot, but surviving the experience - then that theory is shot to hell (pun intended) by this data.

Fewer people are getting shot. Fewer people are getting shot at. And there are more guns in private hands each and every year.

You'll note that the chart in the VPC report:
ends in 1997. I guess they didn't want to include data for 1998 and 1999, since it contradicted their premise, and the data since then continues to do so.

2. It seems more honest to compare attempted murder rates since the survival rate is much higher now; is there statistical data available, or can it be estimated?

Well, perhaps the survival rate is "much higher now," but compared to when? The survival rate in 1950, or the survival rate in 1993? Or is the "increased lethality" of modern guns offsetting the advances in medical technology? I don't know, but it appears that, at least since the mid-90's, the actual incidences of gun violence have been declining - even though there are more and more guns in circulation, and - if you want to believe the VPC - those guns have "greater killing power."

The fact of the matter is, violent crime is down - tremendously. Look at this chart:
From a peak in 1993 of 12.0 aggravated assaults per 100,000 population declined to 4.3 in 2004.

More guns have not meant more violent, more deadly crime. But that doesn't stop the gun-grabbers from preaching the gospel of "more guns = more gun violence" every chance they get.

3. Is the data available to remove the suicide and domestic violence effects from the statistics used to claim that handguns in a home lead to higher homicide rates, and if so, what is the result?

Not that I've seen. Not that the National Academies of Science has seen either, according to their recent report. That data just doesn't exist. Just for the record, I don't believe that "handguns in the home" do lead to higher homicide rates.

4. Since we incarcerate at much higher rates than even 20 years ago, what effect is this having on who is committing the bulk of homicides?

Apparently not much. According to this graph:
the decrease in homicide rates has been primarily a decrease in homicide by handgun, and according to this graph,
the spike in homicides was primarily committed by young men in the 18-24 age range. And their victims? The same age group:
This suggests to me at least that part of the reason that homicide rates have declined is that the criminally-inclined youth have done a bang-up job (so to speak) of killing themselves off. It's not a matter of incarcerating them, it's a matter of burying them.

5. If we're incarcerating so many people, but we're still having a problem with homicide, what is it we're not doing right? Is there a high recindivism rate, or are new criminals arising to fill the some niche, or are we just incarcerating the wrong people?

Well, that's if you consider a homicide rate of 5.5 per hundred-thousand "a problem." We're a violent society. The rate we have now is pretty damned low, historically. It's down tremendously from a decade ago, but you couldn't tell that by the rhetoric coming out of the gun-grabber, er, gun-control, um, gun-safety groups today. Certainly everyone would like to see it lower, but at what other cost to society? As you noted, we've already got a helluva lot of people in prison.

6. If it's a high recidivism rate, is it because prison time insufficient deterent, or is the percentage of perpetrators actually punished too low to matter?

Could it be that prison (other than keeping violent criminals separated from the population) doesn't actually deter? I don't know.

7. How much of the homicide rate is caused by the "war on drugs" making narco-trafficing so lucrative?

Well, it would appear that the majority of homicides are related to drugs. Look at this graph:
This graph trends up, and mostly for "gang related" - read "inner-city drug wars."

UPDATE, 1/27: Reader Earl Harding notes in a comment that the graph above is not saying what I'm attributing to it. He's quite correct. My error. However, a little additional research and I found this:
In an analysis of New York City's homicides in 1988, Paul Goldstein and his colleagues concluded that 74 percent of drug-related homicides were related to the black market drug trade and not drug use. For instance, the leading crack-related homicide cause was shown to be territorial disputes between rival dealers, and not crack-induced violence or violence (predatory thieving) to obtain money for crack purchases.
Small data point, but I think one that could be easily extrapolated. A Columbia University report stated:
In New York City, drug-related violence contributed to sharp increase in homicides beginning in 1985, peaking at a record rate in 1991. Estimates from police and injury surveillance systems suggest that over half the homicides in these years were drug related, often associated with drug market transactions. These record homicide rates led to intensive street-level law enforcement efforts beginning in 1987, resulting in unprecedented rates of drug arrests and sharp increases in the state prison population.
Still, that's only New York.

The normally reliable GunCite reports:
  • Indianapolis/Marion County - Homicide review conducted from 1997 thru mid-1998. Victims and suspects were chronic offenders.
    Among homicide suspects:
    • 75% had either an adult or juvenile criminal record.
    • An average of 3.7 adult arrests.
    • Those with a prior record averaged 6 adult arrests and 5.5 juvenile arrests.
    Among homicide victims:
    • 63% had adult or juvenile criminal records.
    • An average of 4.6 adult arrests.
    • Those with a prior record averaged 8 adult arrests and 4.5 juvenile arrests.
    • For the 206 suspects and victims:
      • 1600 total arrests
      • 500 arrests for violent crimes
      • 800 convictions
    • 53% of homicide incidents were drug-related.
  • Minneapolis - Data was analyzed from January 1994 through May 1997. Nearly 45 percent of all homicides appeared to be gang related. More than 40 percent of gang members who were homicide victims or suspects had been on probation and 76.8 percent had arrest histories prior to the homicide incidents, with an average of 9.5 arrests. Suspects and arrestees had 7.4 prior arrests and victims had 7.5 prior arrests.
Draw your own conclusions.

End of Update.

8. What are the demographics of homicide victims and perpetrators; do we have an urban, suburban or rural problem; do we have a poverty problem; or is it a wide spread social problem; or is it predominately racial/predjudical problem; or is it largely caused by the drug war?

And here's the question the gun-grabber organizations stay as far away from as they can possibly manage: who's killing, and who's dying? Look at these graphs, and pay particular attention to the scales:


It's young, black, urban males. They make up the overwhelming majority of the victims and the perpetrators.

As I detailed in a post from 2003:
I have found the Centers for Disease Control WISQARS Fatal Injury Report tool quite helpful, so I'll use it again. The latest data is for 2000, so let's see what it says.

Total homicides: 16,765.
Total population: 275,264,999.
National homicide rate: 6.09/100,000 (Higher than the FBI's 5.50)
Black homicide victims: 7,867 - Proportion: 46.9%, in agreement with FBI data.
Rate per 100,000: 22.28 - Considerably lower than the FBI says.
Other homicide victims: 8,898 - Proportion: 53.1%
Rate per 100,000: 3.7 - Again, considerably lower than the FBI says, but the ratio of 6:1 does agree with FBI numbers.

Now, if the U.S. had an overall homicide rate of 3.7/100,000 the total number of homicides in 2000 would have been 10,185. The total number of homicides for the black demographic: 1,306. A reduction of 6,561.

Another nice feature of the WISQUARS tool:

Number of firearm related homicides, all ages, all races, both sexes: 10,801
(36% of the total homicides - 5,964 people, were killed without a firearm, for a non-firearm homicide rate of 2.17/100,000.)
Number of black victims of homicide by firearm: 5,699 (53% of all homicide victims by firearm)
Number of black male victims between 15 and 35 years of age: 4,528 (79% of the total black victims of homicide by firearm, 42% of all victims)
Number of all other male victims between 15 and 35 years of age: 3,274 (30% of all homicide victims by firearm)
Number of black male victims between 15 and 35 that died by firearm: 4,343 (84% of the black male victims, 40% of the gunshot homicides.)
Number of all other male victims between 15 and 35 that died by firearm: 2,402 (73% of the white male victims - close enough to parity.)
And note, 62% of all gunshot homicide victims are males between 15 and 35 years of age.

The homicide by firearm rate for males between 15 and 35? Seventeen per hundred-thousand population.

So, does this prove anything? No. But it suggests, and pretty strongly. It suggests that the homicide by firearm problem is concentrated in a small, identifiable group. It suggests that homicide is heavily concentrated in the overall black demographic, and especially in young black men. And it suggests that instead of pursuing wholesale gun control laws that affect everybody, we ought to be pursuing policies that directly address that problem, because "gun control" doesn't. And it isn't a case of whites killing blacks, either. The fact is, it's blacks killing other blacks in disproportionate numbers, and it's largely restricted to urban (read "gang-related") violence. See these Bureau of Justice Statistic charts showing the trends in homicide by race of offender and victim. Read this LA Times article to get some kind of feeling for the problem, or this USA Today piece. Money quote, from the second piece:
"Between 1976 and 1999, 94% of black murder victims were killed by other African-Americans. Nearly two-thirds of black homicides were drug related."
Homicide is an epidemic in the young black male demographic. If it were a communicable disease, we'd be wearing ribbons and spending money on drug research. Instead we're banning "assault weapons" and trying to pass licensing and registration laws that this very demographic is going to ignore. (See: England, gun bans, "Yardies", etc.) And the public health organizations and independent groups are trying to treat firearms as if they were the disease vector.
(Hopefully, all those links still work.)

What I've never understood is that we know that the majority of homicide is concentrated in a very small, easily identifiable population, why are we trying to attack it by regulating guns? Instead, I've come to the conclusion that "gun control" isn't about reducing crime. It's about disarming the law-abiding populace.

I hope that helped answer your questions. Now, go and do some research for yourself.

(All graphs with the exception of the VPC one are from the Bureau of Justice Statistics web page.)

UPDATE: This post generated some commentary. A related post, with links, is here: Culture
So NOW Jack Cluth Knows What a Sam Browne Belt Looks Like?

And represents?

Jack Cluth runs the Lefty blog People's Republic of Seabrook. I first became aware of Jack when, long ago, he commented on the Kalashnikitty t-shirts that an AR15.com member was making, and the "boys" version that I rendered:
I'm no defender of assault weapons, but even I have a sense of humor, and this graphic IS very well done.

--

Hey, it's only a t-shirt.
I didn't read all that much of his site, but I thought at the time, "here's someone with at least a sense of humor."

The next time I encountered Jack was when he hosted the Carnival of the Vanities #122. My entry that week was the technical opus Why Ballistic Fingerprinting Doesn't (and Won't) Work. Jack's comment:
I’m hardly a gun advocate, but it’s tough to argue with an argument this detailed and well-constructed.
OK, that's fair, and pretty generous of him.

Now, I'd not paid much attention to Jack since then, but for some reason last December, I clicked on over to his site and read a few posts, and got to one that made my blood boil. Jack and I traded some comments over it. On top of that, Jack posted shortly afterward a "cartoon" of Tom DeLay behind bars with a shirtless prison guard behind him. My comment at the time:
In true compassionate, inclusive, diversity-embracing Leftist style, Jack's most recent post suggests that he's in favor of the homosexual rape of prisoners by prison guards. So long as the rape victim is a Republican.

But his side deserves to be in charge.
Jack took exception to that, too.

Jack was so perturbed by my criticism, he named me one of his "Wingnut of the Year" winners.
Rather than attempt to engage in a reasoned, intelligent debate, Baker for some reason seems to think that I actually care what he thinks of me. Better to be thought a troll and a fool than to spread your ignorance and narrow-mindedness all over your weblog and remove all doubt, eh?
We traded comments in that one, too.

Today's post, however, goes back to that Tom DeLay "cartoon" - the one that Jack insisted I was misreading because I was a "wingnut."

One of Jack's defenders wrote:
Kevin, I see a guy in the background. Visored cap, blue jeans, no shirt.

No gun. No badge. No icons of authority. Built like a lot of cons who’ve done some time with more access to the weight room than the law library.

So he’s another guy behind bars with DeLay.

Big fat hairy deal.
My reply:
“No gun. No badge. No icons of authority.”

Check the cap. It’s a military uniform cap, with a badge dead center. And that strap across his chest? That’s part of what’s called a Sam Browne Belt, part of a police or military uniform.

Denial is not a river in Egypt.
Read this post by Jack, put up just yesterday: They'll be easy to spot...they'll be the ones wearing the starched brown shirts and the Sam Browne belts. Apparently Jack knows what a Sam Browne belt represents now.

And apparently he doesn't like being reminded of it. He seems to have removed my comment to that effect at his post.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Instapundit's Right!.

This quiz does work:

I'm a Porsche 911!


You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology.
You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and
prestige - you're one of the elite, and you know it.


Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

I've been a major fan of the 911 for a long time, and I seriously lust after the current model.

I just don't have a spare $90k (or more) for one.

Life is so unfair.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Good Books.

Sorry about the lack of posting. I noted a couple of entries ago that I'm a bit burned out. There has been a lot recently to write about, but damned little enthusiasm for actually doing the writing, and since blogging is a hobby and not a paying gig, slacking off only costs me traffic and comments.

Instead, I've been reading. (And working. Work has been hectic.)

Now, I've noted before that I tend to read a lot, and for the last few months my reading has been largely of the non-fiction persuasion. For example, I recently finished James Webb's Born Fighting, Theodore Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom and Our Culture, What's Left of It, also The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, and Conversations with Eric Sevareid (out of print) for two interviews Sevareid did with Hoffer in the 1960's. Currently on the headboard I have David McCullough's 1776 and David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed. This stuff is interesting, but it's not exactly entertaining. In fact, sometimes it's a bit of a slog.

I needed entertaining.

Now, I'm a major fan of The General series by David Drake and S.M. Stirling. I re-read the five-volume series about once a year. I found out that while Drake wrote the outline, Stirling actually wrote the novels. Stirling also wrote another major favorite, the Nantucket alternate-history trilogy; Island in the Sea of Time, Against the Tide of Years and On the Oceans of Eternity. When I found out that he'd penned a companion novel to the series, Dies the Fire, I knew I'd have to read it, though I managed to hold off until it came out in paperback. (The next book in that series, The Protector's War is now out in hardback. It'll have to wait.)

Glenn Reynolds has been touting new author John Scalzi's first book, Old Man's War pretty heavily, and the critics have been comparing Scalzi to Heinlein - favorably. Since Heinlein is one of my favorite authors, I had to get that, too.

Finally, I've heard much, and all of it good, concerning Steven Pressfield's novel about the battle of Thermopylae, Gates of Fire. This book is on the Marine Corps Commandant's Reading List for Corporals & Sergeants, and it is also mandatory reading for officers of the Deuce-Four, the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry of the U.S. Army. According to Michael Yon, Leutenant-Colonel Erik Kurilla, the commanding officer, gives a copy of this book to every officer in the outfit. I cannot imagine a higher recommendation than that.

So week before last I stopped by the local Barnes & Noble, only to discover that they had none of these titles in stock. So I placed an on-line order for them. Two came in on Tuesday, the last on Thursday.

Boy, they were GOOD!

I read Dies the Fire first. If you can get past the premise (I read somewhere that if the author thinks that what he's writing about might actually happen, it's Science Fiction, if not, it's Fantasy) I think most people who read (and like) this blog will enjoy Dies the Fire. It's a "what if?" novel - what if the laws of physics suddenly changed, and we were thrown back to a Dark Ages level of technology? Not even steam power works any more. No electronics, no internal-combustion engines, no firearms. Good read.

Second, I read Scalzi's Old Man's War - described by Cory Doctorow as "It's Starship Troopers without the lectures." (I liked the lectures!) "It's The Forever War with better sex. It's funny, it's sad, and it's true." And that's an accurate assessment. Strongly recommended.

Finally, I read Gates of Fire. It arrived Thursday, but I wasn't able to start on it until after I finished Old Man's War. That was Saturday night, a couple of hours before I went to bed. I'll admit I struggled a bit with the Greek names at first, but I got a couple of chapters in before I just couldn't hold my eyes open any more - and that's not a commentary on the prose. Sunday I finally made a trip to the range - first time in literally months - and I took the book with me. On the way back I stopped for lunch and started reading where I left off, right about noon. When I got home, I went right back to reading.

I just finished it, minutes before I started writing this post. It's 440 pages long. I read about a page and a half a minute. You do the math, but I took no more breaks than I could avoid.

If you've ever asked yourself, "Why do our soldiers fight?" - READ THIS BOOK.

Oh, and Fûz? I now understand why you named your blog WeckUpToThees!. Good choice.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Gunny Burghardt (and EOD) Gets His Due.

I've reported twice before on Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burghardt, first when he became justly famous for his titanium-testicled act of defiance, and then again when he returned to duty after recuperating from his injuries. (The Gunny even commented on the first post!) Now Stars & Stripes has an excellent article profiling Gunnery Sgt. Burghardt, and he deserves it. Excerpt:
Burghardt earned the Bronze Star for disabling 64 roadside bombs and destroying more than 1,500 pieces of ordnance during his second Iraq tour.

But he and his fellow explosive ordnance disposal technicians do not always beat the bomb-makers and planters.

Already, five EOD technicians Burghardt has worked with have been killed, the most recent death occurring three weeks ago when the technician sunk his knife into a dirt berm and activated the pressure switch on a buried bomb.

“Pink mist,” Burghardt said gravely, using the term familiar to Marines to describe the aftermath of a person being blown up.
Where do they find these men?

Apparently Along with the Chocolate Rivers come Rainbow Skies and Gumdrop Smiles, too!

I might as well label this as "Part II" of And There Will Be Chocolate Rivers and Fluffy Bunnies. I should subtitle it But Nobody Wants to Take Your Guns Away! too.

They are getting desperate, aren't they? In today's Washington Post comes (anonymously) a near repeat of San Francisco Chronicle writer Kevin Fagin's recent gun confiscation paean "And That's the Trouble: The gun debate, personalized," which I fisked last week. One shot (so to speak) from the left coast, and now one from the right. Today's bit of utopic mendacity is entitled Killing Made Easy. Let us fisk:
WITH PITIFULLY little notice paid, another rash of year-end homicide statistics points up the madness of this country's fascination with handguns. The domestic arms race continues full tilt. More kids are taking handguns to school in Maryland and Virginia, according to a report by The Post's Daniel de Vise, and one big, sorry reason is that more than a few of them are responding to a perceived threat of violence in their midst. Murders by handguns continue to rock Prince George's County and the District with a vengeance.
Really? Prince George's County and the District? Where gun control is far more strict than anywhere in neighboring (and much less crime-ridden) Virginia? (Or pretty much anywhere else in the country?) Say it ain't so!

But this situation is obviously a gun control problem, not a cultural problem, right? It's so much easier to decide that inanimate objects are the cause than it is to face up to the fact that children feel threatened and that children are willing to commit lethal violence - without guns, too. Nope. Blaming the guns is far easier.
Three Maryland jurisdictions -- Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George's -- accounted for more than half of all school weapons incidents (the statistics include knives) in the state.
Ever looked at what it takes to legally buy a gun in Maryland? And keep it? That's the state where Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. on October 20, 1999 in a press release "outlined the first step toward making Maryland the first state in the nation to outlaw handgun ownership except in very limited circumstances" with his manifesto, A Farewell to Arms (a 65-page PDF file).

He's still Attorney General. Apparently the plan isn't going all that well, at least at disarming the criminally inclined. Color me surprised.
Prince George's tallied 533 weapon suspensions in 2004-05, up 74 percent from 306 in 1999-2000. But the prevalence of weapons in the schools is only one reflection of the regional scene and that of the nation as a whole. Police in most jurisdictions report that the majority of killings occur after two men argue and one or both pull out guns.

There's an obvious thread here that members of Congress choose not to see: The all-too-free flow of handguns, a warped way of life that cows presidents and members of Congress who ought to recognize that the availability of handguns is murderous.
There you go: the availability of handguns is "murderous." You read it in the Washington Post so it must be true, right? The fact that the editorial is unsigned gives it that much more validity! It couldn't be a "warped way of life" practiced by the victims and assailants, could it?

No, of course not. It's the guns. It must be the guns!
The problem is that Americans own 65 million handguns and the only effective safety measure would be a ban on these made-for-murder weapons.
(Emphasis mine, of course.) Really? You're WAY behind, whoever you are. The number was 65 million in 1994. According to the federal Office of Justice Programs 1997 Annual Report:
In 1994, 44 million Americans owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns.
The homicide rate in 1994 was 9.6/100,000 population. However, each and every year we add more handguns to the total in private hands. It's that "availability" problem, you see. According to a White House press release from February 4, 2000:
Handguns Account for Nearly Half of All New Gun Sales – About 2 Million Per Year. Fifty years ago, handguns represented only one out of every 10 new gun sales. Now they account for more than four out of 10.
Being generous and estimating a mere 1.5 million per year, since 1994 we've added (carry the one...) over sixteen million new handguns into circulation. Not 65 million, but 81 million handguns or more are currently in circulation. We can trust .gov statistics, right?

The most recent homicide rate information? Still on its decline from the 1993 peak, homicide reached a new low of 5.5/100,000 in 2004 according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.

So, would you please explain how, if "the availability of handguns is murderous," the addition of at least sixteen million handguns - an increase of about twenty-five percent - resulted in a reduction in homicides nationally - of over 42%?

Unless, of course, your premise is entirely in error.

Nah, couldn't be. You're a journalist.
As writer Jenny Price noted in a Dec. 25 op-ed in The Post, only 160 of the 12,000 guns used to kill people every year are employed in legitimate self-defense; guns in the home are used seven times more often for homicide than for self-defense.
If you want to define "self-defense" as strictly "putting the bad guy six feet under." Most of us in the real world, (that is, not journalism-school graduates) define "self-defense" as "stopping an attack" or "preventing a crime." The death of the perpetrator is not required. Go peruse Clayton Cramer's self-defense blog for a long list of successful (and a few not-so-successful) defensive gun uses where, amazingly, nobody died! Or, even better, read the ones where a perpetrator died, but their intended victims survived! Especially the ones where the perpetrator didn't use a gun, since (also according to the FBI) only about 18% of violent crime involves a firearm.

Unsurprisingly, there are no stories from the Washington Post listed on Clayton's site at this time. (Or probably ever, for that matter.)

While the actual number of legitimate defensive gun uses is a hotly argued topic, I'd estimate that it's somewhere around a half-million a year. The lowest estimate anywhere comes from the government (surprise!) In 1994 (before many states enacted "shall-issue" concealed-carry laws) the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in a little-publicized blurb of a report, Guns and Crime: Handgun Victimization, Firearm Self-Defense, and Firearm Theft concluded:
On average in 1987-92 about 83,000 crime victims per year used a firearm to defend themselves or their property.
Personally, I think that number is tremendously low, but still, that's 227 defensive gun uses a DAY - not exactly the 160 annually that "writer Jenny Price" (and the anonymous author of this op-ed) would like you to walk away believing. And that's - at a minimum - almost seven times more defensive gun uses than criminal homicides. Interesting numerical coincidence, no?

Still, not inclined to let mere facts get in the way, the piece continues:
Lawmakers know all this and know as well that handguns -- however exalted they seem to be in America -- should not be in general circulation. Political long shot that it may be, a national ban on the general manufacture, sale and ownership of handguns ought be enacted.
Just like they did in Britain! But, the author admits:
It would not pacify kids or adults with violent tendencies, and it might not curb general criminal activity markedly. But it might well save thousands of lives.
It might? Based on what evidence? The National Academy of Sciences issued a 328-page report in 2004 based on 253 journal articles, 43 government publications, 99 books, a survey of 80 different gun-control laws and some of its own independent study. The report said the panel could find no link between gun control laws and lower rates of crime, firearms violence or even accidents with guns. This duplicates a 324 page study published in 1983 titled Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America. Twenty years more data, and still no evidence that "gun control" has any effect on gun violence. (I reviewed both of these reports back in December, 2004 in Evidence of Absence. Read the last couple of paragraphs of that.)

And Britain serves as a marvelous example of the futility of a handgun ban. Save lives? Can anyone demonstrate that Britain - where all legally owned handguns were registered, so they knew who to take them from - has saved a single life by banning and confiscating all of those legally owned firearms? Hardly, since homicide by handgun has been increasing there since the ban.

In an effort to appease the "sport shooters," we get this:
Handgun exceptions could be made for federal, state and local law enforcement and military agencies; collectors of antique firearms; federally licensed handgun sporting clubs with certain safety procedures; security guard services; and licensed dealers, importers or manufacturers that are determined to be meeting those needs.
What part of "shall not be infringed" don't you understand? Don't you think the burden of proof that such a ban would be effective is on YOU if you want to violate a fundamental enumerated right? How about trying to pass a Constitutional amendment? No, that's too hard. The populace is obviously stupid, since the NRA can dupe them into opposing gun control, but not stupid enough to be duped into giving up their guns.

Stupid Americans.
Such a bill was proposed more than a decade ago by Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.), who has since died.
A man who might be surprised to learn that our homicide rate has declined by nearly half in that decade, while the total number of handguns has gone up by over sixteen million, don't you think?
"I hear people say it's a radical proposal," he said then. "Well, I think to have the current situation is radical. No other country has anything like it."
Britain does. Enacted in 1996. Pretty radical. Didn't help. So we should repeat their failure here? Expand on that failure?
He described slaughter by handguns as killing in record numbers, threatening education and pushing the high costs of education even higher. So what's new today?
What's new? Sixteen million more handguns, 42% less homicide. Chafee introduced his "Public Health and Safety Act of 1993" in September of that year. In 1993 only sixteen states had "shall-issue" concealed carry laws on the books, and only Vermont allowed concealed-carry with no permit. In 2006 there are 35 states that have "shall-issue" concealed carry, and Alaska has adopted "Vermont carry." That's new, too.

But with all the evidence against you, you still won't stop flogging that equine corpse.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Today's "Honey-do" List:.
1. Pick up a birthday card for my sister.

2. Get a gift for her too.

3. Get a birthday gift for a family friend (we're having a combo-b'day meal this evening.)

4. Go through all the paperback books and decide what we're keeping. (We're paring down due to lack of space. We're paring down a lot.)

5. And I quote: "Get all the shit out of the kitchen." (Lots of boxes and assorted crap from the remodel.)

6. Go to the dump. (With all the crap from the kitchen and garage.)

7. Wash clothes. (I think she's joking here. She hates the way I do laundry.)

8. And I quote: "Clean the back yard before 2008."

9. Get the Mustang back in the garage. (Note that this comes after "Clean the back yard before 2008." The Mustang - not in running condition - has been parked in the driveway for the last ten weeks, under a car cover.)

10. Get rid of the trees. (In the back yard. Don't ask.)

11. Be nice to your wife. (She's being funny again. I think.)

12. Get all of the gun sh!t out of the garage. (Again, note that this comes after that 2008 deadline. Hmmm.....)
I'm supposed to sign the list.

I'm afraid.

I'm very afraid.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Here's a Meme for You.

Also recently found at Irons in the Fire was a piece on What got my attention on gun control laws. Firehand says:
(O)ne day Dad and I went to the range. Didn't get to go often at that time, so it was an occasion. Handguns only that time, Dad's sidearm and a .22 revolver (side note: I was in my early 30's before I fired a semi-auto pistol). Great fun was had, and then it hit.

I was lining up a shot when the aforementioned Truth walked up behind me with a 2x4 and swung. There were people out there who would never let us do this again! They'd take the .22, and Dad wouldn't be able to let me shoot his .357! I'd never be allowed to own a pistol, and if I had kids someday, I wouldn't be allowed to teach them to shoot them! Hell, if those people had their way, we wouldn't be allowed to own ANY firearm!!!

It's kind of hard to overstate how strong a shock this was. I'd known it intellectually, but not in my gut where it counted. I knew it now, and it scared me. And then it made me mad.
Like Firehand, I'd been aware of the war on guns for a while, but hadn't really paid that much attention. I was still in the mode of "what I know is general knowledge," and really didn't understand how bad the propaganda war had gotten. After all, everybody I knew thought about guns pretty much the way I did - they're tools, and our access to them is guaranteed by the Constitution.

Then I met my wife-to-be. She's a native Okinawan, brought here when she was nine years old. Her step-father is retired Air Force, and not a shooter (though he owns a couple of guns). All she knew about guns and gun owners she learned from the media.

Hoo boy. Once I understood just how effectively the media was working to demonize guns and gun owners, I got mad.

So, here's a question for all you gunbloggers out there: What was it that pressed your button?

Paging Mr. Fagin, Mr. Kevin Fagin...

After my fisk of Kevin Fagin's San Francisco Chronicle op-ed of a couple of days ago, I find a link to a related piece at Pro-Gun Progressive, a site I was previously unaware of, via Firehand of Irons in the Fire (who I really need to read more often.) It's about comparing the murder rate in the U.S. against other nations. Excerpt:
(I)f you unpack the other half of the anti-gunners' "America is too violent compared to the rest of the world" argument, you might be surprised to learn that they’re not right there either.

--

Not only is the US ranked behind 23 other countries, there are several EU and CIS nations that have higher murder rates than we do. So much for the idea that violence in the US is somehow a uniquely American pandemic. While I certainly don’t mean to make light of the fact that the US has a violence problem, I do intend to confront head-on the fanciful notion that we’re violent because we have guns and the rest of the world carries on a hunkey-dorey existence thanks to the absence of objects that fire projectiles.
Which is precisely the argument Mr. Fagin was making. It's a good short piece with good links. Wish I'd seen it a couple of days ago.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I WANT This For My Office Wall!.

I've linked to Despair.com before, but this is a new "demotivational poster" I want to get my hands on!:

That's outstanding! Give the rest of the product line a look. It's hilarious!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Feelings.

Just received this via email. I don't care if it's apocryphal, I like it:
While interviewing an anonymous Marine scout sniper on his sniper skills, a Reuters News agent asked him what he felt when shooting members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The Marine shrugged and replied, "Recoil."

Edited to add that appropriate image, thanks to Roger at Curmudgeonly & Skeptical.

Need a Laugh?.

I do. Sitting here waiting for the counter top installers to show up, I come across this amusing post at The High Road, SHTF=Squirrel Hiding in The Furnace? Give it a read. Try not to laugh out loud if you're at work.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

And There Will Be Chocolate Rivers, and Fluffy Bunnies...

I'll be honest with you, I'm about burned out. I now fully understand Toren Smith's reason for pulling the plug on The Safety Valve. It's fatigue. The idiotarians never give up. Shine the light of fact on them, and they may scurry away like cockroaches, or they might just stand and stare like deer into headlights, but you can't get through to them. Their vision of utopia precludes any attempt to make them face reality, up to and including a severe beating about the head and shoulders with a ClueBat. It's exhausting. Especially when they're paid to be idiotarians, and we in the real world have to earn a living and refute them on our own time.

I've been wanting to write an essay on reproductive rates in societies for about a week, inspired by Mark Steyn's recent piece "It's the Demographics, Stupid," but burnout has prevented me from doing so. It's a hard piece. It needs lots of thought and research, and I just haven't been up to it. But refuting idiotarian op-eds? That's pretty much a no-brainer (though time consuming). The problem is, they never stop, and there's only so much time available. But I found one today courtesy of KeepAndBearArms.com that I couldn't pass over. From the San Francisco Chronicle (where better?) comes this classic piece of utopian bilge, "And That's the Trouble: The gun debate, personalized", by Chronicle writer Kevin Fagin. Let us begin:
My first real memory of a gun is from when I was 8, standing in a Nevada salt flat with my mother leaning over my right shoulder, folding my hand around the oh-so-smooth butt of a .22-caliber revolver. It was the gun she always kept under the car seat.

I squeezed off a shot at a rusty soda can 30 feet away, and the explosion in my ear and puff of sand alongside the can sent a shiver right to my toes.

"You'll get it, don't worry. You need to learn how to shoot this,'' my mother said, patting my head. "You never know how you might need it someday.''

She was right. I did learn how to shoot, and I did need a gun someday ... several somedays. And I came to respect the way a gun could save my life.
So, your mother gave you, at age eight, a useful skill. A skill that you've actually used.
I also came to hate guns for the ways they have just as easily, just as coldly, unthinkingly, devastated life around me and come close to ending my own life time and again.
Um, what? Guns have "coldly, unthinkingly, devastated life around" you? Well, guns are cold (unless recently fired) and unthinking, but they are also inanimate objects, not voodoo talismans. In case you hadn't noticed, someone needs to operate the gun, unless it loads itself, aims itself, and pulls the trigger itself.

First problem, Mr. Fagin: your hatred is (typically) misdirected. Like a lot of people, you blame the tool because it's easier than trying blaming the person. Blaming the person requires you to accept that people are responsible for their actions - even you, yourself. Personal responsibility is scary, for some.

Let's continue and see more examples of Mr. Fagin's denial of this annoying little piece of reality:
And I've come to believe guns have no logical, meaningful place in the lives of most ordinary people.
I've come to believe differently. What makes your belief more valid than mine? You're paid to write and I'm an amateur? You're a journalism school graduate and I only have a Professional Engineer license? How does that work, exactly?
There are plenty of Americans who have had the same relationship with this deadly little dealer of instant death. You could say the same thing about the country as a whole. It's a dysfunctional relationship, and there's not even a remotely easy way to fix it.
No, there's not. Especially if you keep blaming the gun for the problem, and not the shooter. That's never going to get you anywhere. There's dysfunction, all right, but it isn't in the machines, it's in a tiny percentage of the users. So of course, we should take guns away from all the users, right? No?
I'm not talking here about guns in the context of casual can-plinking, or deer hunting, both of which are plenty of fun (Bambi lovers, chill) and don't threaten anything if done right. I'm talking about the stuff that makes America the Wild West barbarian outpost which people from other countries shake their heads about. I mean the real gun stuff that happens when you're staring life in the face, not being chauffeured to Congress past the rabble so you can blather Second Amendment platitudes and cash your NRA lobby checks.
Ah, yes. A literary three-fer. The obligatory "Wild West" reference (See Ravenwood's Law), a shot (pun intended) at the eeeeevil NRA, plus a genuflection to the "shooting sports" crowd to dissuade them from thinking that their guns might be at risk. Oh no! This, of course, after having stated that "guns have no logical, meaningful place in the lives of most ordinary people." What, the unspoken message is that "recreational shooters" aren't "ordinary people"? That they're somehow a special class? An elite not held to societal norms?

Anybody besides me see the dissimulation here?

Apparently the majority of British recreational shooters never did. Too late now.
Let me elaborate.
Please do. Should be fascinating.
One relative of mine was blown away when he and his brother played stick-em-up in the family barn; they didn't know the shotgun was loaded.
And whose fault was that? Your mother taught you to shoot a .22 revolver - for defensive purposes, no less - at age eight. Did she teach you the four simple rules of gun safety at the same time?
  1. All guns are always loaded!
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy!
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target!
  4. Always be sure of your target, and what's behind it!
Why did no one teach these four simple rules to your relative's brother? Why did they treat a shotgun as a toy? Why is that relative's death the fault of the gun and not the fault of the brother, or the adult the gun belonged to? Here's another case of blaming the object and not the actor.
Another was nearly blasted in half when a robber shot him through his front door.
And the robber (and I assume murderer, since "nearly blasted in half" would suggest a fatal wound) bears no responsibility for loading, aiming, and shooting the gun? It's the gun's fault?
A cousin lost use of her arm for years after being shot in the Marin County Courthouse shootout of 1970; the judge's head was blown off as he sat next to her.
Who loaded, aimed, and pulled the trigger of that gun?
Those were the things I experienced, but didn't see. Other times guns cut closer.

In college in San Jose, I had to chase off attackers with a Luger 9mm semiautomatic when I lived alongside two warring gangs that promised to rub me out for telling the cops they shot holes in my windows and ripped off my car tires and gas.
So, your mother's training was useful, no? You had a gun, you defended yourself with that gun, and you didn't shoot anyone. ("Chase off" implies no one was hit, does it not?) What, your gun was defective? Were you a lousy shot? Or were you a responsible person, properly exercising your rights and responsibilities?
Years later, I had to replace that long-lost Luger with a .25-caliber semiautomatic when I was a young police reporter on a small-town newspaper and got a drug dealer mad at me.

I'd written a story about how this coke pusher kept squirming out of charges because the witnesses against him disappeared with each case. He told me to stop writing about him. When I gave him my Journalism 101 lecture about the First Amendment and wrote again, he stomped into my newspaper office.

"You're dead, f -- ,'' he said, jamming his face close to mine. His rapsheet already included a juvenile sentence for murder and two assault convictions with knives and a shotgun. The local police commander shook his head when I asked what he could do to protect me. "Better get a gun, son,'' he said.
What?!? The drug dealer had an assault conviction for (mis)using a knife? And another for (mis)using a shotgun? And the police didn't tell you to "let the professionals handle it - you're not qualified"? I'm shocked, I tell you! Shocked!
My dad's .25 was under my pillow the next night, after I'd spent the afternoon blasting at targets. At 2 a.m. someone came slamming on my door, and I sat in the living room with the gun pointed straight ahead, screaming, "'Bring it on, f -- !'' at the door. Whoever was outside screamed back, "You're dead!'' I yelled back again; this went on awhile, and then he went away.
Another successful defensive gun use. Again no one was injured. And you used your Second Amendment right to bear arms in defense of yourself and the state to protect your First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Interesting how that works, isn't it?

Did either of these defensive gun uses get reported in your newspaper? Just curious.

By the way, good thing the drug dealer didn't hurl a Molotov cocktail through your living room window, wasn't it? Once with a knife, once with a shotgun, arson would have made a trifecta. I suppose then you'd have blamed the manufacturer of the bottle, the beverage maker who originally filled it, the gasoline retailer, the refiner, and the textile maker who made the rag used as the wick? The drug dealer would, of course, bear no responsibility for the act itself. That is your thinking, is it not?
No doubt: I would have fired.
Good thing you didn't. A .25 probably would have just pissed him off. He'd have likely come back with that Molotov.
Just as I might have in other situations over the years when gangsters I was trying to interview stuck pistols in my guts or to my head, or when my wife was robbed at gunpoint in Berkeley.
Berkeley? That bastion of the Liberal Left? It's inconceivable! You need to deal with a better class of people.
And that's the trouble.

If none of us had had guns -- most particularly, those handy little handguns -- all these confrontations would have simply involved yelling, fists or perhaps knives.
Really? Other weapons would be better than guns, like, fr'instance, knives? Well, knives are contact-distance weapons, but I'd rather be able to dissuade someone from out of reach. I'm not particularly fast - bad knee - so running really isn't an option for me. I'm 43, overweight and out of shape (well, round is a shape), so I'm not going to be faster or stronger than, say, an fit twenty-year old mugger. Or one hyped up on Meth. I probably wouldn't have an advantage over him in a scuffle, and I certainly wouldn't if he were armed with the ubiquitous "blunt instrument" like a piece of rebar or a baseball bat and my only weapons were foul language and my fists. And if you think I want to stand and trade knife-strokes with him, you're out of your freakin' mind.

Still, I'm a pretty big guy. I have a major advantage over a 5'-nothing 99-lb. woman in the same situation. At least I have a chance to overpower an attacker.

But we're both in the same boat if there's more than one attacker. We lose. With a pistol, however, we have at least a chance.
In Great Britain, about 150 people die by handgun every year. In the U.S.? It's about 29,000. I've lived in both places, and let me tell you, your radar for -- and encounters with -- danger are so drastically reduced across the water that they are nonexistent by comparison.
Really? Is that so? You've lived there, so you're an expert?

First, Great Britain has never had a high homicide rate, even before 1920 when our two nations shared identical gun control laws - that is, none. Their homicide rate has traditionally been about 5% of ours, by all methods, including firearms.

I'm not going to check Mr. Fagin's assertion that "about 150 people die by handgun every year" in Great Britain, I'm just going to point out to him that all handguns are BANNED in Great Britain, the ban went into effect in 1996, and since the ban was implemented the number of people dying by handgun wound has trended up. According to a 2003 BBC report, the number of crimes committed with handguns there has doubled since the ban.

Boy, that was effective, huh?

Here's a handy little graph from the BBC that shows gun crimes in England & Wales since 1982:

"Gun crime" has quadrupled since 1981. Most of it (58%) is committed with handguns. They hope it's levelling out, but nobody really knows yet.

It's utopic as hell to say "if none of us had guns," but that little "150 people die by handguns every year" admission indicates that isn't going to happen, ever. What Great Britain has done since 1920 in a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy, is to disarm its victim pool. It hasn't done a thing to its criminal pool. That's gotten larger and more violent.

While violent crime in America has been on a roller coaster, it has for the last eleven years been on a steep decline. This decline has included the crime of homicide. At the same time, the number of guns in circulation, including "those handy little handguns" has been going up here by a few million a year. Moreover, the number of states with "shall issue" concealed-carry laws has reached 35, and two states have no permit requirements for concealed carry at all. In each of these states, allowing responsible people to carry guns for self-defense has not resulted in "blood in the streets" and a revival of the "Wild West." Violent crime has gone down, in some cases faster than in neighboring states that don't allow concealed-carry. So much for blaming the guns.

Meanwhile, in Great Britain violent crime has been climbing dramatically since about 1955, while the number of (legally owned) guns has been increasing only slightly, and handguns have been made illegal. Somehow that decline hasn't affected gun availability to the criminal class. In 2002 the Telegraph reported that gun crime had tripled in already crime-ridden London, and had skyrocketed in other cities as well.
The number of people robbed of personal property at gunpoint rose by 53 per cent in the Metropolitan Police area between April and November last year, compared to the same period in 2000, a rise from 435 victims to 667.

London and other inner city areas, including Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham, have increasingly suffered from gun crime, mostly perpetrated by young men and fuelled by rows in the lucrative crack-cocaine market.

Police chiefs now fear that a younger generation of street criminals will graduate from stealing mobile phones at knifepoint to using guns to commit street robberies.

The two trends have already overlapped in the Metropolitan area. As well as the increase in gun-point muggings, aggravated burglaries involving guns rose from 101 in April to November 2000 to 153 in the period last year.

Senior officers at Scotland Yard and in a number of inner city forces fear that indiscriminate gun violence will increase as school-age thugs grow up to copy their elders and carry the kind of weapons previously seen in gangland warfare.

Some have suggested that Britain is witnessing the kind of cocaine-fuelled violence which surfaced in America in the 1980s. Cocaine, particularly from the Jamaican connection, now floods into Britain, generating violence and providing a ready source of crack.

Ballistics experts warn that firearms are now cheap and easily available. The discharge of guns in non-gangland crimes, such as muggings, is still relatively rare.
Apparently, Mr. Fagin, you didn't live in any of those areas.

So, they've got a lot of guns, but they're unlikely to actually pull the trigger. But how many guns do they have? Hard to say, but one estimate is at least three million on the black market. That's a lot for a country with a population of about 55 million.

There's that problem again: blame the gun, or blame the criminal? They've got the guns, they use the guns in crimes, but they rarely pull the trigger.

So is it the gun, or the gunner?
Absolutely, if you're a law-abiding citizen and some predator is pointing a barrel at you, you want a barrel of your own to end the argument. But as plain as the blood on the floor every day in America, that's a perpetual tit-for-tat that will always be awful.
Mr. Fagin, it beats the alternative of being unarmed against predators. You make the mistake of lumping violent but protective in with violent and predatory. You see only violent. You seem to believe that A) disarming us will disarm them, and B) disarming them will make them less dangerous. Your only evidence of this is a comparison to Great Britain, which has never had a high homicide rate, regardless of weapons.

One more time, with feeling: That comparison isn't valid.
The only way to fix this hideously dysfunctional relationship we in this country have with guns is to treat it like you would any other: End it before you wind up murdered.

Nobody's saying this will be easy. The important things never are.
So let me get this straight: The law-abiding gun owners should "end our dysfunctional relationship" with guns "before (we) end up murdered." Right. Disarming ourselves will protect us.

Worked for Great Britain, right? Oh, wait....

Would you have given up that Luger? That .25 Automatic? Would that have made you safer?

What you're asking is for the responsible people to disarm. Britain's done that to its population, and it hasn't made them safer. Clayton Cramer has an excellent piece illustrating the failure of that approach in his essay "The Failure of British Gun Control" (a PDF file, six pages.) Excerpt:
In the period 1981-96, as American crime rates fell, British crime rates rose. Britain now has higher rates of robbery, assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft than the United States.

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By 1995, England & Wales had 1.4 times the robbery rate of the U.S.; more than twice the assault rate of the U.S.; and nearly double the U.S. burglary rate.
He's got all the footnotes and reference. Things there have not improved since 1995. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Mr. Fagin, you might have lived there, but I'm going to assume you lived in the crime equivalent of Fargo, North Dakota. The crime was there, you just weren't exposed to it. No one bashed you over the head for your cell phone, a relatively common crime in London. No armed gangs invaded your home - a "hot burglary," a much more common occurence in Great Britain than in the U.S. You were neither victim of or witness to a physical assault by a gang of "hoodies" who would record the "happy slapping" attack on a cell-phone camera for replay on the internet.

Good for you. But don't tell me how much safer Great Britain is. Your chances of getting shot dead there are much lower. Your chances of being a violent crime victim are much greater.

And don't make me go into the demographics of murder victims here. I don't have that kind of time.

But given your personal experience, you want all of us to embrace your utopic vision of a gun-free world and disarm.

Here's an idea: The criminals and idiots go first. Then we "casual can-plinking, or deer hunting" sport shooters won't have to, will we?

Your mother apparently had a firm grasp on reality. What the hell happened to you?

(This piece burned 3.5 hours. And could still stand some editing.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

You MUST READ Mark Steyn.

It's the Demography, Stupid: The real reason the West is in danger of extinction.

Read it all.

Twice.

UPDATE: Read James Lileks's elaboration on Steyn's piece, too.

Quote of the Week.

Read this first. It gives context.
The reason that people can't be trusted with drugs without stringent controls, is that they'll take them, injure themselves, then sue the drug company, the doctor, his practice, the pharmacist, and the pharmacy, and win multi-million-dollar judgements from juries that are just as ignorant as they are.

Basically, we have a choice. We can set up OUR ENTIRE CULTURE to function on personal responsibility, or we can base it on protecting people from their own stupidity. You can't have it both ways.
Found here. Obviously, I'm on the "personal responsibility" side of the argument.

Hat tip, Instapundit.

Still on hiatus.