Category Archives: Rational Thinkers

Old, but good: If the First Amendment was treated like the Second

If the first amendment was treated like the second amendment…

Any speech using 10 or more foreign words would be a felony.
(Firearm law 922(r) restricting 10 or more foreign gun parts from the 1989 import ban)

Anyone convicted of a felony or convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse or assault is not allowed freedom of speech or religion and must rely on the government to provide speech and religion for them.
(1968 gun control act)

Any speech or religions that are done in a scary tone or feel are banned.  Any assembly that looks scary is banned.
(1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban that went after mostly cosmetic features)

Before engaging in new free speech you must pass an instant background check by a government authorized free speech dealer.  Sorry, if your name is like someone else prohibited from speech and religion, it is up to you to prove you’re not that person.
(NICS instant background check and Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993)

Any speech or work with more than 10 sentences per page is forbidden, any peaceable assembly with more than 10 people is also banned.
(Hi-Capacity Magazine bans in the Assault Weapon Ban and in many states to this day)

‘Freedom of Speech’ was only meant to be applicable to movable type presses.  The founding fathers didn’t foresee television, radio, photographs, telephones, film, or the internet.
(The idea that the 2nd amendment only applies to muskets)

You cannot exercise free speech or religion on federal property or at a school.
(Section 930. Title 18, United States Code and the Gun Free School Zone Act of 1990)

Any religions, peaceable assemblies, camera, computer, telephone or free speech enabling device made before 1986 is available to use by the general public.  Any made after 1986 is only available to law enforcement.
(Closing of the NFA machine gun registry in 1986 by Regan with the Firearms Owner’s Protection Act)

A legal Polaroid camera from 1972 is now worth over $10,000 because you can’t get any new ones after 1986.  Sure you can get an illegal one, but you risk a 10-20 year felony conviction if caught.
(Market effects of the 1986 registry closure)

You can follow any religion, read any book, talk about whatever you like AFTER you pay a $200 tax to the government and pass a background check.  If you decide to buy more books, try another religion, or talk about something else, you must pay another $200 and go through another lengthy background check.
(National Firearm Act of 1934)

You CANNOT have free speech no matter what in Washington DC, it has been this way since 1977.
(Washington DC handgun ban)

Concealing free speech/religion is only permissible in some states and only after you have spent $100 and attended a state mandated course on how to speak/worship properly.  Though in some states you can’t conceal or display your speech or religion at all outside of your home.
(Conceal Carry Legislation and open carry laws)

You cannot have free speech if you are under 18 and you can’t worship anything until you are 21.
(Age restrictions on buying long guns and handguns)

If you wish to exchange free speech with a citizen in another state you must involve a government sanctioned free speech dealer to ensure they are allowed that type of free speech in their state.
(1968 Gun Control Act which mandates a FFL be needed for interstate gun purchases and transfers)

If the first amendment was treated like the second

Pro-click: “The Political Philosophy Of Guns – Would America Really Be A Better Society Without Them?”

Came across this last night:

America’s decades long national argument about gun control is not a normal political debate about addressing policy to problems but about what kind of politics to have. It is fundamentally about how citizens should relate to each other and the state, and that makes it a matter of political philosophy, Politics with a capital P. That in turn explains why the debate has gone on so long without resolution and the division and frustration it inspires.

Of course it is up to Americans to decide what kind of society they should have, not philosophers, and certainly not foreign ones like me. Indeed, part of my argument is that even this most fundamental question must be decided politically, by the people, and not by appeal to the special authority of sacred constitutional principles or social science or even philosophy. Philosophers’ pronouncements of truth and rightness have no special authority over politics, nor should they. What philosophical analysis can do is offer new perspective and argumentative resources by which a political debate such as this one might be improved from its toxic stalemate.

I know what you are thinking.  This is going to be a long winded argument about how guns are bad.  WRONG!

So what does my philosophical perspective come down to? First a diagnosis. Both sides of the gun control debate know they are right. But only one side recognises it as a fundamentally philosophical dispute. The other has systematically evaded the real debate about values in favour of the faux objectivity of a statistical public health argument [See Hunt for a discussion of what the gun control debate is actually about]. Second some positive advice. The advocates of gun control need to take the political philosophy of the gun rights movement seriously and show that a society without guns is a better society not that it is a safer one.

It only gets better from there:

I’m going to have to be blunt. Gun control advocates rely excessively on a public health case that is not only much weaker than they believe it to be but also crowds out the kind of arguments that might actually win over their opponents. Their confidence that they are on the right side of history has blinded them to the fact that they have chosen to fight on the wrong ground. They keep harping on about guns killing people. As if guns were like cigarettes, and as if the numbers were big enough to matter

Guns are an excellent killing technology. They are extremely good at transforming an intention to kill into its achievement. However, that doesn’t mean that they are a particularly significant cause of death; only a particularly exciting one.The idea that forcibly removing guns from citizens would reduce death rates in any appreciable degree is a triumph of moral indignation over statistics. America is not 43rd in the world for life-expectancy because it kills so many people with guns, but, principally, because of the social gradient in health that follows from its shameful levels of socio-economic inequality [1].

Let’s go into this a little more.

We hear a lot about the large number of deaths caused by guns in America, around 33,000 per year. This sounds like a big number. But understanding whether a number is big enough to matter requires considering it in context. 2.6 million Americans die every year [CDC] [2]. Gun deaths represent just over 1% of deaths, and two thirds of those are suicides. From a public health perspective, many other causes of death seem much more deserving of our worry, and also more likely to yield to government intervention.

So happy to see someone else making the same arguments I’ve been using for years.  This one addresses a plethora of typical arguments: Guns vs Cars, Suicide, Mass Shootings, etc.  I have to disagree with the author’s “Your gun isn’t going to stop the military” argument for reasons outlined in previous posts, but you can’t have everything.

Long, but good read: “The Rifle on the Wall: A Left Argument for Gun Rights”

The next time your left leaning friends decide to lecture you about how you are a terrible gun fetishist, feel free to refer to this well written piece:

Thomas Sowell’s take on the President’s speech: “On Gun Control, Obama Is Showman In Chief”

Those of you who read this blog should be familiar with my use of the term “security theater” and how most gun control proposals are little more than soundbites.   Thomas Sowell, noted economist, wrote an article covering yesterday’s Presidential address and reminded me of the flip side; political theater.

Those who have been marveling at Donald Trump’s political showmanship were given a reminder of who is the top showman of them all, when President Obama went on television to make a pitch for his unilateral actions to restrict gun sales and make a more general case for tighter gun-control laws.

It was beautifully choreographed, like a great ballet, and performed with consummate skill and understated eloquence.

First of all, the scene was set with a room full of people who have lost loved ones to gun violence. A father whose son had been gunned down made a long introduction before the president showed up, walked down the aisle and up onto the stage to growing applause.

As political theater, it put Donald Trump’s rantings in the shade.

As for the substance of what Obama said, there was very little substance, and much of it false, but one of the signs of great artistry was that the presentation overshadowed the substance.

None of the things proposed by the president is likely to reduce gun violence. Like other restrictions on people’s ability to defend themselves, or to deter attacks by showing that they are armed, these new restrictions can cost more lives on net balance.

I’m always glad to read when my point of view is the same as others that I respect.

People who are prepared to defy the laws against murder are not very likely to be stopped by laws against guns. Only law-abiding citizens are likely to be stopped by gun-control laws, and to become sitting ducks.

As for facts and statistics, the only ones likely to be mentioned by gun-control zealots, including the media, are those on how many people were killed by guns. How many lives were saved by guns will never make it through the ideological filters of the media, the political establishment or our educational institutions.

Yet factual data on how many threats or attacks were deterred in a given year by displaying a firearm have long been available. Seldom is it necessary to actually pull the trigger to get some thug or criminal to back off and go elsewhere, often in some haste.

Are the only lives that matter those that are lost, usually because there is no gun immediately available to protect them, but not the lives saved because they did have a gun at hand to protect them?

Gun-control zealots seem especially opposed to people being allowed to carry their guns concealed. But concealed weapons protect not only those who carry them, but also to some extent those who do not, because criminals have no way of knowing in advance who does and does not have a gun.

Muggings and rapes become much more dangerous activities for criminals where many law-abiding people are allowed to carry concealed guns. It can take a lot of the fun out of being a thug.

Obama said that we are the only “advanced” nation with so much gun violence. But there are a number of countries with higher murder rates than ours and stronger gun-control laws. But that leaves the definition of “advanced” to Obama — and makes for clever political theater.

Damn straight.  Thank you Dr. Sowell, for seeing through the bullshit.

Reason asks why Democrats have difficulty with math when it comes to firearms

I love Reason’s articles so very, very much.  I can always count on them to be levelheaded when it comes to this topic:

This week, in an editorial titled “Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Gun Violence,” The New York Times noted that “less than 5 percent of gun homicides between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people with diagnoses of mental illness.” The week before last, in a front-page editorial titled “End the Gun Epidemic in America,” the Times urged Congress to ban “the slightly modified combat rifles used in California,” a.k.a. “assault weapons” (although the rifles used in the San Bernardino massacre did not qualify for that label under California law). FBI data indicate that rifles in general, which include many guns that are not considered “assault weapons,” were used in about 2 percent of homicides (and 3 percent of gun homicides) last year.

Why does the Times understand percentages when it comes to people with psychiatric diagnoses but not when it comes to people with guns? Probably because fear and loathing of firearms prevent its editorialists from thinking straight. But in light of these numbers, it seems quite unlikely that a ban on so-called assault weapons—even if it somehow eliminated the millions of “assault weapons” already in circulation, and even if murderers did not simply switch to other, equally lethal guns—would have a noticeable impact on gun violence, let alone that it would “end the gun epidemic in America.”

Why isn’t anyone else pointing out the double standards?  Why is it ok to paint gun owners with the broadest brush possible and use guilt-by-association tactics to imply we’re all mass murderers or borderline psychotics, while every effort is made to diminish any similar claims about other groups?

It’s shameful, but at least they are blatant.

Volokh explains “Why are gun rights supporters worried about bans on so-called assault weapons?”

Here Is a good article from Eugene Volokh.

But, some say, if assault weapons are so similar to other guns, what’s the big deal about banning them? Just like the minority of criminals that uses assault weapons can switch to the other guns (an argument that the bans will be futile), so law-abiding citizens can do the same (an argument that the bans won’t harm lawful self-defense). Why get so upset about it?

Let me offer a few explanations for why gun rights supporters are indeed so worried — you can agree with them or disagree with them, but I hope you at least conclude that they are plausible.

1. To begin with, some gun rights supporters just think that people should be free to choose what devices they own — whether self-defense devices or any other devices — unless there’s a very strong reason for restricting that liberty. If you think that a ban would save thousands of lives, that may qualify as a strong reason; but if you think that a ban would be ineffectual, then you can oppose it on basic liberty grounds.

While I understand the merits of this line of thought, compelling government interest (under strict scrutiny) is something that should always be viewed with suspicion and then only grudgingly given into after a thoroughly convincing argument.

2. Beyond this, as I’ve noted over the last two days — see the Violence Policy Center post and the Charles Krauthammer post — some supporters of gun bans have argued in favor of assault weapons bans precisely because they can help lead to broader bans (such as bans on handguns). If some of your opponents think a restriction is good because it will lead to something much broader, you might be forgiven for taking them at their word.

For many, point 2 is a major concern: we know the Slippery Slope is something that exists and not just a fallacy used to dismiss criticism.

3. Moreover, consider the political question as dynamic, rather than static. People are worried about mass shootings, or street crime, or whatever else. Many people say, “We’ve got to do something — let’s ban assault weapons.” Critics argue, “Assault weapons bans won’t do any good.” The response: “We’ve got to do something!” And then an assault weapons ban is enacted.

But mass shootings will keep on happening. Even assault weapons ban supporters agree with that; many mass shooters already use guns other than assault weapons, and even those who prefer those weapons will either keep getting them or will switch to other, comparably deadly, weapons. Assault weapons ban supporters believe that assault weapons bans will do a bit of good, not that they’ll eliminate or even vastly reduce mass shooting deaths. Assault weapons ban opponents believe the bans won’t reduce mass shooting deaths at all. No-one thinks the bans will solve the mass shooting problem.

We’ve seen this in California and New York, both of which continually have tightened restrictions with no end in sight.


The “US vs Developed World” fallacy

Gun control argument #102937: “The US has the highest gun death rate in the developed world!!!!”

Before someone even finishes the opening sentence of this argument, you know this is dubious science because they’ve already admitted they’ve cherry picked the data.

Much of the political thinking about violence in the United States comes from unfavorable comparisons between the United States and a series of cherry-picked countries with lower murder rates and with fewer guns per capita. We’ve all seen it many times. The United States, with a murder rate of approximately 5 per 100,000 is compared to a variety of Western and Central European countries (also sometimes Japan) with murder rates often below 1 per 100,000. This is, in turn, supposed to fill Americans with a sense of shame and illustrate that the United States should be regarded as some sort of pariah nation because of its murder rate.

Note, however, that these comparisons always employ a carefully selected list of countries, most of which are very unlike the United States. They are  countries that were settled long ago by the dominant ethnic group, they are ethnically non-diverse today, they are frequently very small countries (such as Norway, with a population of 5 million) with very locally based democracies (again, unlike the US with an immense population and far fewer representatives in government per voter). Politically, historically, and demographically, the US has little in common with Europe or Japan.

What I find particularly interesting about this article is that it mentions the issues with GDP comparisons:

Few people who repeat this mantra have any standard in their heads of what exactly is the “developed” world. They just repeat the phrase because they have learned to do so. They never acknowledge that when factors beyond per capita GDP are considered, it makes little sense to claim Sweden should be compared to the US, but not Argentina.  Such assertions ignore immense differences in culture, size, politics, history, demographics, or ethnic diversity. Comparisons with mono-ethnic Asian countries like Japan and Korea make even less sense.

And some blatantly dishonest nonsense from antigun editors with axes to grind who use OECD:

[M]any who use the “developed country” moniker often use the OECD members countries as a de facto list of the “true” developed countries. Of course, membership in the OECD is highly political and hardly based on any objective economic or cultural criteria.

But if you’re familiar with the OECD, you’ll immediately notice a problem with the list Fisher uses. Mexico is an OECD country. So why is Mexico not in this graph? Well, it’s pretty apparent that Mexico was left off the list because to do so would interfere with the point Fisher is trying to make. After all, Mexico — in spite of much more restrictive gun laws — has a murder rate many times larger than the US.

But Fisher has what he thinks is a good excuse for his manipulation here.  According to Fisher, the omission is because Mexico “has about triple the U.S. rate due in large part to the ongoing drug war.”

Oh, so every country that has drug war deaths is exempt? Well, then I guess we have to remove the US from the list.