Tag Archives: gun control

Just So We’re Clear…


…Senate Democrats explicitly want expanded power to disarm law-abiding people. Lots of them. And it’s not hard to see how such power could be used to disarm political dissidents. We are no longer in the territory of “slippery slope” arguments.

What else can we infer from these politicians’ claims that if whatever gun confiscation measure they are currently trying to pass were in effect the Orlando shooting would have been prevented when the FBI had already interviewed the shooter twice and deemed him not to be a threat? Despite my skepticism of the FBI’s ability to perform law enforcement competently, I believe that they are right the vast majority of the time when they consider a suspect not to be a threat. After all, they have to fabricate terrorist plots in order to entrap terror suspects. So how could this legislation proposed by these senators have prevented the Orlando shooter from obtaining a gun (setting aside the issue of the efficacy of legal prohibitions in actually eradicating the availability of the prohibited item)?

The only answer is that it would have to cast a wide net that automatically excludes law-abiding people from owning a gun without any due process, necessarily including a huge number of false positives. How else could such legislation have excluded the Orlando shooter? They would have to define risk factors and make an algorithm to decide who loses their right to carry a firearm that would override decision-making by human beings in the FBI, as this case makes clear.

Furthermore, it does not take much imagination to see how such power could be used to punish/disarm political opponents and dissidents. By designating a “terrorist watch list” and making it so that those on this list are legally unable to own a gun, the federal government can disarm anyone it chooses. Do a web search of the words “Bundy” and “terrorist” and notice how many news outlets accused Cliven Bundy of being a terrorist and that, perhaps more importantly, Senator Harry Reid accused Bundy’s supporters of being terrorists. This stretches the definition of “terrorism” so far as to mean whatever the federal government wants it to mean – that is, anyone showing resistance to the will of the federal government.

Thus, I think it’s unreasonable to discount the fears of those concerned about how far the federal government will reach into people’s gun safes under the ostensible justification of public safety. Ultimately, the politicians have little to lose in terms of their own safety if they are wrong about the effects of civilian disarmament on violence – they are extremely privileged and have armed agents of the state at their beck and call regardless. And, more crucially, the effect of such expanded powers for the federal government is to take away individuals’ ability to protect themselves from the state, as demonstrated in the Bundy case.


How is Gun Control like Keynesianism?


packin keynesBack when I was in a class about criminal justice statistics, the professor asked the class whether theories or facts were more important. Most of the class responded that facts are more important because theories can be wrong; facts are facts.

“No,” said the professor, “if all you have is a bunch of facts and no theory, then you can’t explain social phenomena.” In criminology, there are a lot of statistics, such as the fact that the US has the world’s largest incarceration rate of about 762 incarcerated per 100,000 population. If you have no theory of why this is the case, then you don’t have much basis for explaining why an alternative policy would reduce the incarceration rate (unless, of course, it’s simply to let everyone out, but I think you get my point). So, theories are supposed to explain causal factors that lead to the facts and statistics we have.

Another important quality for a theory to have is that it be possible to disprove it. I believe that Keynesianism, as presented by proponents like Paul Krugman, fails in this regard, particularly fiscal stimulus. Despite the fact that the Japanese and US governments have spent trillions in stimulus packages, they both have economies that haven’t fully recovered and still have high unemployment numbers. Yet Krugman always seems able to rebuke any doubts cast on his theory by saying, “The stimulus wasn’t big enough,” or “Without the stimulus, things would have been worse.” Essentially, it’s not possible to disprove these statements empirically: we don’t have a time machine to go back and try a stimulus that Krugman would declare big enough, or to go back and take the stimulus away and see what happens. Thus, Krugman and his theory always have an escape plan.

Similarly, it seems that the theory behind advocacy of gun control is also non-disprovable. Think about the shootings that gun control advocates use as reasons why there should be more gun control measures: the Aurora theater, Sandy Hook Elementary, Tuscon, Columbine, etc. Almost all of them (with the exception of the shooting in Arizona), occurred in an area where no guns at all are allowed or concealed carry is prohibited. Indeed, had anyone shot back at the shooter in the Aurora theater, he or she would have been guilty of a felony. And yet largely the policy response to these incidents is not “Gun control totally failed to prevent these situations,” but that there isn’t enough gun control.

So my question is this: what exactly would it take, or what would have to happen, for a gun control advocate to say, “Hmm…I guess gun control doesn’t decrease violence.” It is my suspicion that anything short of full civilian disarmament (or maybe they’ll let you have a muzzle-loader or two) would not be enough; any shooting incident still occurring would be evidence that further gun control is needed.