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From: (J.D. Baldwin)
Newsgroups: alt.obituaries,uk.people.dead,talk.politics.guns
Subject: Re: Handgun Murders (you get the last say)
Date: 13 Aug 1999 17:32:26 GMT

In article <>,
Brian <> wrote [quotes re-arranged a bit]:
> Tell you what, this is getting really off-topic here.
> You get the last say.....

Hey, that's my line.

Nevertheless, I'll take it, just to clarify a couple of points where I
believe you have (as is common) misunderstood a few of the
characteristics of US "gun culture."  I've sent the followups to
talk.politics.guns, where you may or may not be interested in heading
to see what others there have to say.  With the exception of the
lethal nature of guns and their use as a tool to precipitate an
obituary, it's certainly no longer relevant in the obituaries

> > You want to prohibit the carrying of knives in the street?  Think
> > carefully before you answer.  (How will anyone ever get a knife home
> > after buying it?)
> Obviously, a knife being found in a store's bag with a receipt
> suggests the person is carrying it home. No problem.

"Obviously" to you and me, but not so "obvious" to a cop who wants to
cause trouble for someone he just doesn't like.  You don't really
think laws restricting possession of knives take such exceptions into
account in the statute, do you?  Indeed, overbroad laws are commonly
and grossly abused in just this manner, and weapons laws are the most
overbroad ones on the books.

> > > If a thing with a lethal capability is to hand when a conflict
> > > arises it may well be used in an attempt to resolve that
> > > conflict. In fact it's logical that it will be.
> >
> > You make it sound like that's a problem.  If you object to having
> > conflicts resolved with deadly weapons, then presumably your desired
> > weapons ban includes the police?
> If you'd followed my previous posts you would see that the point I'm
> making is that the real danger is from volatile people with a sense of
> injustice being more likely to react lethally in the heat of the
> moment simply because they *can* if they're carry a weapon.

This is a myth.  It simply doesn't happen, at least not to a
statistically significant degree.  See below.

> I *would* prefer it if the police did not carry guns as a matter of
> course, as I do think they may shoot first and ask questions later
> *in some circumstances* if they do.

Since US experience has shown that private citizens who choose to arm
themselves in public (the legal ones, anyway) are *more* competent
than the police, as measured both by "false positives" (shooting the
innocent) and "true positives" (shooting the guilty), then I presume
you have no more or less objection to legalizing ("legalising," if you
prefer) the carrying of weapons by any law-abiding citizen?

> > > If every weapon owner claims "it's for my defence", then from what?
> >
> > Do you really think the only weapon in the world capable of inflicting
> > grave bodily harm is a gun?
> Of course not. But a gun gives a particular sense of personal
> security because it can be used at a distance. I think that leads
> people carrying a gun to believe *they* will "win" any confrontation
> when in fact all it does is raise the stakes.

Actually, I can tell you from personal experience and from reading
numerous accounts of others that carrying a gun has a profound calming
effect.  Example:  I'm one of those "Type A" drivers who gets incredibly
steamed, right to the blood-vessel-rupturing point when other drivers
impede my progress in the left lane.  I have been known to indulge in
silent fantasies of releasing a Maverick missile to clear the passing
lane for those who want to travel a little faster than 55.

However, on occasions when I've actually been armed (yes, legally --
more about this below), the fact that I actually have the means to
kill another human being, as you put it, "at a distance" enters my
mind and has an immediate sobering effect.  I settle down, accept
the situation and think no more, even vaguely about "fixing" the
idiot who is keeping me from moving along at my desired speed.

This is a lot more common than you think.  Yes, I can prove it:

If what you say were true, then states with liberal concealed carry
policies would actually see incidents of "road rage" turning into
gunplay.  It. Simply. Does. Not. Happen.  Period.  You could look
it up.

Oh, there are probably one or two incidents per decade where something
like this actually takes place.  In a nation of 270,000,000 people,
that's still a "zero," statistically speaking.

The only incident I can think off at the moment where an argument on
the street turned into gunplay was a year or two ago when two Michigan
State Capitol Police officers fought over something, and drew their
weapons and started blasting away at each other.  Again, the police
misuse their weapons (not just guns) in the face of provocation *far*
more often than do law-abiding citizens.

A similar story could be told about full-auto rifles ("machine guns,"
if you like).  They've been legal in most US states, once you get the
appropriate federal tax stamp, pretty well forever.  How often are
legally possessed full-auto weapons used in crimes?  Exactly ONCE
since the 1934 NFA (the Act that imposed the special tax and other
paperwork requirements).  By -- you guessed it -- a police officer.

Yet "machine guns" and more ordinary semi-auto rifles with a few
cosmetic military features (e.g., bayonet lug, pistol grip) are often
demonized by politicians and the media as some sort of "only a
criminal would want one" weapon.  (As the owner of such a weapon,
which I cherish, I object to the characterization.)

> > Personally, I'm the kind of guy who's just mean enough to bring a
> > gun to a knife fight.  There are lots of easily available deadly
> > weapons out there, and people who are prepared to use them either to
> > steal from me or just for the fun of hurting/killing me or my
> > family.  I would like to be able to meet such threats, in the
> > unlikely event one should arise.  I don't want to be on an "equal"
> > footing with such a thug.
> I understand your point of view, and have sympathy with it. I have
> *no* problem with anyone using force adequate to resist an
> attack. Clear enough?

Not clear, sorry.  Your statement is like saying, "I don't mind people
exercising the right to vote -- all I want to do is lock them in their
houses during election day!"  If you deny someone the means to
exercise a right, you have denied him that right.

> My argument here has been based on people using *un*reasonable force
> with a deadly weapon to resolve the kind of dispute (like "he/she's
> in my **** parking space", for example) where a little negotiation
> time could still get a reasonable resolution to the problem and
> *both* parties live to go home to the family afterwards.

It bears repeating:  your scenario simply doesn't play out among
citizens who carry concealed arms legally in public.  Police officers,
on the other hand, quite frequently misuse deadly force.  Personally,
I'd disarm them *first* if I were going to disarm anyone.

> > > I don't see us English coming back to reclaim the USA in the
> > > foreseeable future. And the Russkies have a lot to occupy them at the
> > > moment.
> >
> > Me, neither.  I'm a lot more likely to be murdered by law enforcement
> > who have the wrong address on their warrant than by a hostile foreign
> > army invading the US.  So?
> So let's ignore my points on an invasion. They weren't meant too seriously.
> I think you would agree that the chance of the cops rushing in and
> smearing you all over the wall is pretty unlikely too, especially if
> you were just standing or sitting there looking surprised and could
> not reach for "a piece" when they flattened your front door.

Unlikely, yes.  I'm even willing to call it "zero" in the
aforementioned statistical sense.  However, the trends are quite
disturbing.  "No knock" warrants are becoming easier to get and a lot
more common.  Accountability for law enforcement officers who abuse
their authority has never been real strong, but these days it's pretty
much non-existent unless you're fortunate enough to get the media to
take an interest in your case.  (And iffy even then.)

> > > The only thing a weapon owner can reasonably claim he/she has a
> > > weapon for is to defend him/herself from someone else with a weapon.
> >
> > Or from someone else without a weapon.
> Really?

Oh, yes, really.  Proof by example:

Me:  24, male, 6'6", 260 lbs., mean as a snake, perhaps just out of prison.

You: 52, female, 5'2", 105 lbs., personality disposition irrelevant.

I decide I would like to rape you.

SCENARIO I:  neither of us is armed.
RESULT:  You get raped.  Then whatever else I feel like.

SCENARIO II:  I am unarmed; you are armed with a bat or a knife.
RESULT:  Almost certainly you get raped.  Then beaten or stabbed with
         your own "weapon."

SCENARIO III:  I am unarmed, or armed with a non-firearm; you are armed
               with a handgun, which you produce.
RESULT:  "Hey, lady, you just misunderstood me.  I'm leaving now.  You
         have a nice day."

"But, wait," I hear you ask, "what about SCENARIO IV where the thug
has a firearm?"  Well, in that scenario the outcome is dreadfully
uncertain, but two points:

1. Laws against firearms ownership have a serious disadvantage in that
they disram only the law-abiding.

2. If both parties have firearms, the potential victim is still a hell
of a lot better off than if only the potential aggressor has one.

> >  Or from animals.
> In a city or "the great outdoors"? I can see a good argument for
> having a weapon out in the wild if the local wildlife poses a serious
> threat. Some punks in a city are hardly in the same league, but I have
> said I have no problem with adequate force being used in self defence.

I've done a lot of hiking; I've come into close contact with some
fairly dangerous creatures (bears, snakes, sharks, even elephants) in
the wild.  The ONLY times I have ever felt seriously threatened by an
animal were by an enormous rat I encountered in Chicago, and by dogs
kept as pets by irresponsible assholes in suburban housing

Still, this is a minor point for most of us.

> >  Or for the historic, collectible value of the artifact.
> Fine, but it doesn't need to be loaded to be effectively displayed,
> does it?  This is a case where innocent people (often the owner, or
> one of the owner's kids) can get killed because a loaded firearm is a
> relatively high-risk item in terms of accidental discharges.

A loaded firearm, in fact, presents almost zero risk of accidental
discharge if handled properly.  The presence of small children changes
some of the necessary precautions, of course.

A few ("few" when measured against the population at large) children
die every year from obtaining unsupervised access to firearms.  In
nearly every such case, a parent was negligent.  In the vast majority
of cases, the kids were not raised to be familiar with and to respect

A US network news program recently did an experiment where they left
some real (unloaded) guns lying around in a day care center.  The kids
from houses without guns picked them up and began pointing them at the
other kids and "playing" shooting games.

The kids from houses where guns were owned immediately ran out to find
an adult to tell them there was a gun present.

> >  Or for the sport of shooting.
> Sure, no problem.

Well, no problem unless of course you're prevented by law from owning
the implement of the sport.

> >  Or for the sport of hunting.
> If you like.

I don't like, personally.  I don't hunt.  But I don't have a problem
with those who do.  Ditto the above, anyway.

> >  Or for the purpose of gathering food via same.
> Yup, fine. I've done it too (not that that matters too much).

Not to you, and not to me.  But there are more people than you might
think in the US who positively depend on hunting for their sustenance.

> > Or because they just like exercising their civil rights.
> This is where we disagree. I think that a civil right which was
> established and valid in a time and situation where there was a real
> and imminent threat from a would-be occupying power deserves
> re-examination and change when that threat is no longer present.

There's *always* a "threat."  Right now it's not from a foreign power,
of course, and I wouldn't characterize the US government as the sort
of despotic one that needs to be resisted by force of arms.  Not by a
long shot.

But who are you, or me, to say what things will be like in 100 years?
Or even 50?  As with any right, once you give up firearms ownership,
it's gone FOREVER.  And with it, any realistic check on the conduct of
the domestic government, should democratic institutions fail.

To me, it goes far beyond a civil right.  It's a *natural* right, and
even amending the Constitution won't affect the underlying right.  The
reasoning is very simple and straightforward:

1. You have a right to exist.

2. You, therefore, have the right to defend yourself.

3. Therefore, you have the right to possess and carry an effective
means of self-defense.

> >  Owning a weapon may be a little more expensive than voting, but
> > then it's a few million times as likely to do you some actual
> > *good.*
> The trouble is, as long as a firearm is acceptable in a society for
> resolving conflicts a lot of people are going to get killed over
> trivial matters.
> You think that's an acceptable price. I don't.

Why do you think it's an acceptable price for the police to carry
weapons?  They kill a lot more innocents than do law-abiding citizens
with privately owned firarms.  A LOT.

And anyway this is pure myth.  If "a lot of people" were getting
killed (wrongly, that is) by legally possessed firearms, you'd be
hearing about the wholesale slaughter in states with reasonable
concealed carry laws like Washington, Maine and Vermont when armed
citizens were shooting one another over parking spaces and traffic
disputes and such.  But it simply doesn't happen.

Furthermore, if you were correct, highly restrictive states like
California, New York and DC would be peaceful oases in the sea of
violence and carnage.  Yet it hasn't worked out that way.

> Third time, I don't have any problem with using reasonable force,
> including the use of a firearm, to resist the sort of attack you
> describe.
> Maybe we can find common ground on some places where carrying a
> firearm should not be allowed. Shopping malls? Office blocks? In
> vehicles (other than in a locked compartment)?

I have carried a firearm in all of those places, and so have a lot of
my friends.  If you have an effective means of ensuring that potential
attackers will forego their hobbies in shopping malls, office blocks
and on the public roads, I'm listening.

Otherwise, no, that's not common ground.  If I have the right to exist
in my home, and by extension the right to defend myself there, why
should that natural/human/civil right cease to be in force just
because I choose to go in a shopping mall?

> Or do you really feel that threatened that you feel you need to
> *always* carry a shooter? Just interested to hear.

I don't carry these days, as I stupidly moved to a backward state that
doesn't trust its citizenry.  (The same state where the two Capitol
Police officers blazed away at each other.)  This situation won't be
rectified soon, but it will be rectified.

I carried fairly often back when I lived in a civilized state
(Washington).  Did I constantly feel threatened?  No.

Do you constantly feel threatened by fire in your home?  No?  Do
you keep the batteries in your smoke detector fresh?  If so, why?

I hope the analogy helps you understand the mindset.  When I carried,
it wasn't because I expected trouble, it was because I came to the
rational conclusion that trouble has a way of coming about when you
*don't* expect it.

Usually, the weapon stayed in my car, but not always.  If I had to
travel to an unfamiliar area of Seattle or Tacoma (especially Tacoma),
it went along with me.

> I'm not some "bleeding heart liberal" and I'm not totally anti-gun.

I haven't concluded that.  You're far more rational than the usual
idiots I encounter on talk.politics.guns.  In fact, t.p.g. used to be
a lot of fun and kind of stimulating.  Nowadays, the anti-gun position
is espoused by a few kooks who aren't capable of debating above the
sophistication level of the average second-grader.  "Is too!  Is not!"

> It just looks weird from my perspective that some people are so
> ready to resort to the level of extreme violence that they do in
> other societies [compared] to the one I'm used to over apparently
> little things.

I hope I've inferred your meaning correctly with the word I've added.

Yes, your society (the UK) is less violent than the US.  This has
nothing to do with the availability of guns, or not directly, anyway.

The US non-firearm homicide rate exceeds the UK *total* homicide rate.

Now, unless you think that guns are emitting evil mind rays that cause
people who don't even own them to go out and kill, then the "guns"
argument simply doesn't explain the difference.

I don't think you think that, so obviously that's not the explanation.
I happen to think it's due to a wide range of cultural factors,
probably not all of which can even be determined.  But it's pretty
self-evident that access to guns isn't causing violence in and of

There exists very solid evidence (just short of what I'd call "proof")
that letting law-abiding citizens arm themselves reduces the incidence
of violent crime.  If you think about it, that's a pretty intuitive
 From the catapult of J.D. Baldwin  |+| "If anyone disagrees with anything I
   _,_    Finger |+| say, I am quite prepared not only to
 _|70|___:::)=}-  for PGP public    |+| retract it, but also to deny under
 \      /         key information.  |+| oath that I ever said it." --T. Lehrer

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