Saturday, January 15, 2011

Results From My Open Invitation

In my last post, I invited the pro-gun side and those "on the fence" to please make suggestions that they feel would reduce gun-related violence.  I believe that starting from your perspective will help me focus on solutions that might appeal to moderates and help the two sides agree on a way to help the problem.  I'm very happy with the response.  Thank you very much for leaving comments.  It is only through open conversation that we can at least understand one another, and, just maybe, find some common ground.

Not everyone took me seriously.  A few think of my honest request as some sort of ploy, or see it as some sort of opportunity or "sport" to attack me personally.  HERE, HERE, and HERE are some examples.  It doesn't help your cause to be that way, fellas, just because I have a different philosophy than you.   Yes, the two sides are sometimes worlds apart, but pessimism doesn't solve problems.  Let's bring back respect for each other's opinions.

I only deleted a few comments, due to racist statements, foul language, or personal attacks against me that I couldn't tolerate.  I did leave some that suggested violence or threats ("execute all prisoners" or suggestions that coming to get their guns would lead to a shootout) this time, but not in the future. 

There were 61 comments posted at the time I wrote this new post.  Some of those comments only criticized my statistics, or lectured about how any gun control was bad in some way, or were unrelated replies to prior comments.  But within the rest were 38 actual suggestions about what to do to reduce gun-related deaths or violence in general.  Here's the breakdown, from highest to lowest in terms of popularity (and, yes, I realize my summaries are brief and don't take into account your full suggestions in all cases.  Please don't send me angry comments about that.  I urge readers to go to the original comments to appreciate them fully.):

  • 10 suggested that there was no way the two sides can come together or compromise, and no solution was possible (okay, I know that's not actually a "suggestion to end violence", but I thought it worth mentioning since so many did).
  • 8 suggested ending the drug war/legalizing drugs/releasing prisoners of drug convictions, with the assumption that legalizing drugs would reduce crime and shootings.
  • 4 suggested better enforcement of existing laws.
  • 3 suggested better ID and reporting of mental illness for more thorough background checks.
  • 3 suggested stricter sentencing of repeat offenders.
  • 3 suggested repealing existing gun laws, with the assumption that more guns = safer streets and scared criminals.
  • 2 suggested executing all violent criminals (one suggested the China model).
  • 2 suggested reforming the prison system (such as saving prison only for the violent offenders, or separating repeat offenders from new offenders).
  • 1 suggested "Strengthen the family. Reduce the tax liability for married couples with kids (whatever flavor of marriage). Absentee fathers and poverty are linked to higher crime."
  • 1 suggested focusing on suicide prevention and early ID of potential suicide victims.
  • 1 suggested teaching children from an early age how to use and respect guns (with the assumption that this would lead to less crime or accidents, I assume).
Of course, gun control advocates, such as myself, have many other ideas, often involving additional legislation or education, to reduce gun-related violence, and future posts will focus on those.  But that isn't my goal in this post or the last.  And I know that many of those ideas are very unfavorable to many of you on the pro-gun side.

I'm not going to comment on my thoughts on most of your suggestions at this time.  I just wanted to put the results out there for everyone to see and think about.  Future posts will focus on some of these one-by-one, and have some lively debate.   But there are a couple exceptions that I probably won't blog on in the future:  1) strengthening family values is a very worthy thing to reduce crime rates of any sort, and I agree wholeheartedly.  I'm a family man with good morals, but I'm not sure I'm the best one to make suggestions there.  2) I'm not going to accept the suggestion to execute all violent criminals.  It's against my values to do so, and that of most Americans, and I am against the death penalty anyhow.

I look forward to future debate on these.

Update (1/24/11):  It's interesting to compare these results to the general public.  A Gallup poll released today of over 1000 adults, with an open-ended question, found that the number one reply to the question of how best to reduce mass shootings was (at 24%) "stricter gun control".  I'm guessing the pro-gun folks who responded to this post weren't in that poll!  The second most popular response, at 15%, was better mental health screening:



  1. Baldr,

    If you want to have a civil conversation, then you might want to not distort what your commenters say

    1 suggested strengthening family values (to breed fewer criminals).

    That is a gross distortion of what I said
    and I quote:

    4.) Strengthen the family. Reduce the tax liability for married couples with kids (whatever flavor of marriage). Absentee fathers and poverty are linked to higher crime.

    Do you deny that absentee fathers and poverty are linked to higher crime?

    I also provided a way to reduce absentee fathers in #5.
    Do you deny that welfare checks have negatively impacted marriage rates?

    When you ask for suggestions then basically lie about what is said, you can not consider yourself part of the civil conversation.

  2. My mistake, Bob, not intending to lie. No, I don't doubt the link. I don't know the effect of welfare checks.

  3. Baldr,

    It was a conscious decision for you to state it that way. Nothing in what I said could be construed as "breeding more criminals".

    Whether you doubt the link or not, you deliberately distorted my statement.

    How is that being civil?

  4. Bob, I went back and changed that line to read correctly. No intent to be a distortion, just mis-summarized.

  5. Thanks.

    You didn't say anything about my suggestions.
    Do you see how gun control laws most groups advocate don't address the root cause?

    As long as the causes are still in place, no laws concerning background checks or safe storage are going to be effective.

    When people deal drugs and can make hundreds of thousands or millions, they have incentive to use violence to protect their product or turf.

    removing that high profit motive removes the need to use violence.

    Addressing poverty and education means that more people do not see crime as the only outlet for them.

    And none of those actions infringe on the rights of the law abiding.

    Which makes more sense? Addressing root causes or the tool used in violence?

  6. It will be interesting to see if your politeness, Baldr, will offset the ruder remarks here. It is interesting to note that Bob S. has chosen pick on you for a detail that is likely not important to the overall tenor of the discussion. I don't know, maybe it was. I have found that picking on smaller details is done purposely to detract from the larger issue, which is to stop people from being shot to death. I trust that you are a sincere person and do not have ulterior motives other than to try for some common ground. I hope that your readers will not attack your intent and your integrity. If they do, the "discussion" will not be likely to stay civil.

  7. Joan,

    Really, distorting about the way that I said something is important to the overall tenor.

    Guess I'm not surprised but words have meanings and some of us choose them carefully.

    I'll note that you chose not to address the points I raised in my solutions but to take a jab at me. How does that help the tenor of the conversation?

    Now do you want to talk about solutions or derail the conversation?

    I'll gladly have any discussion you want on my blog -- and guarantee every one of your comments will go through without any being deleted.

    So, come on by. you can talk about my quibbling' over word choices or we can talk about the issues.

    Your choice.

  8. I particularly like when Joan Peterson arbitrarily decides that a detail is "not important." She enjoys pretending that most murders are previously law abiding citizens when anyone who has actually looked at the data sees that most murderers have criminal records. She gets incensed when people contradict her on this point. She thinks it's "rude." Heck, even Connecticut Against Gun Violence reports that

    "All guns start with a legal sale from a licensed dealer. Yet in Connecticut, more than 85 percent of gun crimes are committed by people who cannot legally purchase guns."

    Which end of the problem would you like to handle? Would you like to try to restrict the rights of 300 million Americans, or would you like to go after the very small group of people actually committing the crimes?

    CAGV goes off into the weeds with their suggestions, but when they ask "Where did the gun come from?" they are asking exactly the right question. I applaud them for recognizing reality and trying to match their efforts with that reality.

    Let's focus on criminal control, not gun control.

  9. So let's exclude the death penalty. But how about life internment, and an expectation to work 8 hours a day (min) just like most Americans do?

    Every single case I have read of police officers being killed. It is always by a felon with multiple arrests, multiple violations of possession of weapons.

    If N.J. thinks it prudent to throw a man in prison for 7 yrs on a small technicality without any moral crime committed.

    Should not the deeds of violent felons result in 10x that sentence (ie: 70+ yrs).


    Likewise, my family had a situation with a convicted felon renting our upstairs apartment. We wound up being his third eviction in just over a year. Mind you, evictions take 3-6 months.

    The guy wasn't just a repeat criminal, but a habitual criminal. He didn't go a month without committing a crime. And yet, it was pretty much impossible to get the law to do anything.

    Let's implement more mandatory sentences for real predatory crimes.

  10. Mr. Baldr, I've reposted with a touch more elaboration and comment and a few typo fixes.

    I am very much interested in hearing your response to my suggested solutions.

  11. Greetings. I happened across this thread somewhat by chance, and apparently missed the first call for input.

    Please do forgive me if I do not expect much of consequence to come from this, but here goes anyway.

    Two articles I published a couple of summers ago articulate the basic way of looking at the topic:

    Victim disarmers still sellin' the snake oil

    'Living like that'

    The most significant points, therein, are these:

    - The core issue is not statistical, but moral, and does not lend itself to shades of gray. See here for a well-articulated description of how liberty is either for everybody, or it is for nobody. I am uninterested in statistics; no amount of numerical support is going to suddenly make it okay to enforce the will of a mob upon even a single individual who has not harmed anyone.

    - Anyone who is interested or swayed by statistics must acknowledge the most significant statistic of all, which is: the state is responsible for far more murder, violence, theft, corruption, and generalized aggression than its peasants--by orders of magnitude. In the twentieth century alone, governments murdered more of their own citizens than were accounted for in all of the military wars of the same period. This number is at least in the tens of millions, and some counts place it in the hundreds of millions. To wit: You wanna save "just one life"? I'll start taking you seriously when you disarm the government, completely. Until then, ya sound like a buffoon.

    - And finally, there is the question of history and precedent. Put simply: what, exactly, is it that any new law is going to accomplish, that the thousands of laws that came before it have failed to accomplish? "Gun control" fails to live up to its claims, every time, and those who continue to beat the drum despite this are operating on more the basis of a religious faith than any rational handle on history.

    Some of us would actually like to try something, you know, different, such as removing the state's claim of a monopoly on force. We tried giving 'em everything. All they did was murder some people and prevent others from defending themselves.

    In closing, this more recent article gets right at the point of the "divide" between those who want liberty and those who find a way to rationalize mob rule:

    From the 'Wish I'd Said That' files

    There you go: for your consideration. Again, I don't expect much to come from it; I've encountered the self-proclaimed open-minded for my entire adult life, and the strongest lesson I've learned from that is that people who go to the trouble to make the claim that they are "reasonable", or "open-minded", or "willing to compromise", or any number of other telltale phrases...usually are not at all.

    That's okay. I'm not "reasonable" about this either. "Gun control" is a moral claim on the lives of people who have hurt no one, including me. Nobody should be surprised if its victims treat that claim accordingly.

  12. Hi, Nugun, thanks for the comments.

    That's horrible about the renter!

    Life internment. My first thought, as you guessed at the link you gave, is prison overcrowding would prevent this. I'll continue my comment at your blog....

  13. Mr. Odinson:

    When addressing the issue of "gun violence", I think we can all agree that the central issue should not be the GUN, but the VIOLENCE, because one may exist without the other, but not vice versa.

    Guns, like all other inanimate objects, have no character of their own, neither good nor evil, and must therefore "borrow" character from the human beings who use them. If a machete is used to clear a path, that is "good". If that same machete is used to commit murder, that is "evil." It should be abundantly clear that it is the human being who determines this, through his/her actions.

    Automobiles do an immense amount of "good", by ferrying people about to a degree which was unimaginable a mere century ago. At the same time, they do a FAR greater share of "evil" than firearms, in the form of traffic deaths. And yet, in the case of automobiles, measures to reduce mayhem are focused upon driving behavior, rather than access to automobiles.

    Mind you, in both instances, criminals are, by definition, those who disobey laws. There is, therefore, no reason to believe that criminals will obey any new law, to any greater extent than they have obeyed the over 20,000 existing firearms laws at the federal and state levels.

    If I were to propose any change in firearms laws, it would be this: repeal ALL existing firearms laws, and replace them with one:

    If any person causes any unjustifiable harm to the person or property of another via firearm, in ADDITION TO the penalty for the offense itself, that person shall, upon conviction, immediately and permanently lose his/her right to keep and bear arms, violation of which shall be punishable by death - IMMEDIATELY upon conviction.

    Does that have "teeth" enough for the hoplophobes, or is it just about banning the guns themselves, rather than the harmful USE of them?

  14. Baldr,
    I appreciate your efforts and think that you are doing a fine job of presenting your point of view (PoV) in as neutral a tone as possible.

    One pretty important factor is that the two factions discussing this issue here have different goals.

    japete said in her comment above "I have found that picking on smaller details is done purposely to detract from the larger issue, which is to stop people from being shot to death."

    This succinctly describes the gun control PoV - anything which lowers gun violence is good. Those with this PoV aren't concerned with violence or crime due to other forms of weapons (fists, knives, bats, etc.) only with firearm violence. Many with this PoV are not interested in "getting into the weeds" and really studying the facts, statistics and philosophies ("picking on smaller details").

    Firearms rights advocates are concerned about the overall rate of violence, and believe that widespread access to firearms creates an overall safer culture. They believe that those "smaller details" support their PoV.

    They also have a philosophy that the right of self defense is inalienable and have concerns about combating potential tyranny in the distant future.

    I hope you are successful in keeping the conversation going.

  15. Thank you for this opportunity to have an adult conversation on a very inflamitory subject.

    I agree with a lot of the earlier sugestions on how to reduce gun violence. Here's another which was skirted by "Hank" in his post. If you explore the convictions of a large number of repeat offenders you will find arrests for gun crimes, but you'll see that a large number of those arrests were dropped due to "deals" between the prosecutors and the defending lawyers. This was related to me by multiple State's Attorneys (SA) during a disscusion on the subject of gun laws. As it was related to me, the SAs would throw out the gun charges in order to get a conviction on theft charges. The theft doesn't have mandatory sentencing here in IL as a gun crime does and the defense has learned this trick to save their clients major lockup time. This practice is liked by the senior SA officials because their budgets to prosecute these crimes are limited. Unfortunately, the criminals are not getting the time away from society that they deserve because of this practice. They also don't get the conviction on gun charges which could be used to prove how dangerous of an individual they are to society, something that could be handy for a prosecuter at a later trial. Let's face it, most of these folks are repeat offenders. Why? Because we as a society have shown them that their actions don't have consequences.

    Please, let's actually enforce the laws that are already on the books before we start making more.

    Also, remember,jail is not a deterent. It is a punishment for a crime committed.

  16. When looking for solutions to particular problems, it is important to ask the correct question. Here, I think, the question to ask is how can particular laws relating to certain objects, whose possession and use is delineated in and protected by the Bill of Rights, be modified to prevent criminal abuses of both those objects and laws. (Use of the phrase 'more gun laws' lacks sufficient specificity.) But some better questions are these, "Why do people who do not break the law choose to do so?" Or, "What constrains the law abiding which does not constrain the criminal?" I suggest the answer to the latter for the great majority of us is not fear of consequences but because breaking the law is wrong. This in itself suggests that the right and wrong, zeros and ones choice mad by we regular people is ignored by criminals. (For instance, it would be the simplest thing possible to steal a small chocolate bar without being noticed or caught, especially in winter, what with bulky coats, scarves etc. No one would see me; but it's still wrong, and I don't do it. If this self constraint disappears or was never formed at all when I was a small child, then my behavior will not be self regulated, but predicated upon what I can get away with.) So, if my hypothesizing reasonably conforms to observed evidence, I will ask how can fear of getting caught be turned up to "eleven"? And here I return to my belief that we, as a society are facing a serious moral crisis, as I said in my previous comment.

  17. Sergeant Mac, felons already lose the right to bearing firearms. Stricter sentencing surely could be explored. However, I am not a supporter of the death penalty.

  18. Hank, thank you for your compliment.

    Your comment about focusing on all violence, and not just gun violence, is a common one, and important. Many people have made that comment in these last two posts. But I argue that violence in general is a very amorphous beast, spanning many causes. One might as well be a peace activist. That's a great goal, but I argue that to be realistic we must be more focused. Focusing on the causes of violence is a great goal, and one that resonates well with both sides. To that end I have spent a great deal of my time outside of gun control activism donating and volunteering for organizations like the United Way and Habitat for Humanity, helping to work against poverty, homelessness, and mental health issues. But I feel that it is not enough to focus on the root cause. We must also focus on the primary tool of violent crimes and suicides: guns, and their easy availability to those who would abuse them.

  19. Top Ward, I agree that deals like that certainly look bad. And maybe they are. It's a good argument. Of course, the lawyers and DA's would argue that the ends justify the means (that giving up a stricter conviction for one crime and criminal allows for convictions for worse crimes and criminals). For example, giving a lesser sentence to a murderer allows the ability to get a drug kingpin and guy who commands other murderers off the streets for decades. Is that a worthy thing to do? I say, maybe, if it's the only way. I'm currently on the fence on that one.

  20. Kerry, I agree that morality is a central issue. With the exception of certain mental illnesses, I would say that morality is set by good family values early in life. But what can be done to improve that? Maybe helping families who are struggling, so they are less stressed and better able to focus on such things? As I said to Hank, I have spent time with non-profit organizations that can help with that, and there are some government programs too (though the government-run programs are often scoffed at by strict Conservatives as "socialism").

    But I also argue it isn't enough to focus on that. One must attack crime and suicide from both ends, by limiting the primary tool of committing those acts.

  21. You could wave your hands, eliminating the tools but the evil in men's hearts does not depend upon tools.

  22. I think most of the problem is that the pro-gun side is used to a more closed-minded anti-gun audience.

    Almost every time "common sense" comes up, the laws demanded are nothing of the sort, and usually end up in a request for "compromise", where the pro-gun people get nothing, and the anti-gun groups get about half of what they want.

    That's not compromise, but when the pro-gun people rightly object, they are accused of being unreasonable.

    I believe you were sincere in your request for common ground, but the previous anti-gun people talking on this subject have somewhat poisoned the debate, so that most pro-gun people will instantly assume you want another "compromise" where they get nothing, which may explain a few of the more vitriolic comments.

    I apologise for my lengthy post, and hope this time it's a little more on topic. If you wish, I could try and give a better answer to your request in my next post.

  23. Baldr,
    You lost me. Are you saying that is possible to focus on gun violence, but not possible to focus on overall violence?

    Let's do a thought experiment. In a room with 100 people there is a gun, and one person will be killed with it. 1 death per hundred, 1 "gun death" per hundred. In another room with 100 people there are no guns, just many knives. 2 people will be killed. 2 deaths per hundred, but 0 "gun deaths." which is "safer?"

    Just using "gun deaths" doesn't tell you the total rate or which place is safer.