Which “Gun Culture”?.

In relation to that piece from last Wednesday, I give you a post from Fodder at Ride Fast & Shoot Straight that illustrates the difference between the two “gun cultures.”

Yes, two. Although many people like Mayor Ann Thomas of Haverhill in the UK believe there is only one:

Mayor Ann Thomas said she was “absolutely shocked” at the spate of robberies in Haverhill, but felt it was part of a national increase in gun culture rather than a particular problem in the town itself.

Even England still has two gun cultures:

PUT down those golf clubs and go for your gun: shooting is fast becoming the social networking sport of choice.

A survey of 2,000 companies and 14,000 directors shows that shooting is soaring in popularity. A decade ago, toting a shotgun did not even feature among the most popular recreations listed by company directors. But the survey ranks shooting as the seventh most popular recreation, almost level with gardening.

Anyway, give Fodder’s post a look. It’s perfect visual accompaniment for clueless gun-phobes.

(Sorry about the lack of posting. Very busy, other distractions, etc. More stuff coming. Just maybe not today.)

Anybody Know a Good Source for .30 Carbine Mags?

The only one I’ve found for good-condition GI-issue is J&G Sales out of Phoenix, but $24.95 a pop is pretty pricey. From what I’ve seen, “some surface rust” at some other sites might well mean “looks like a lace curtain.” As I mentioned before, I fully intend to get a CMP M1 Carbine when they start selling them in March, and I’d like to have ten or twelve magazines to go along with it. According to reports, the CMP has rifles, but no magazines to speak of.

OK, I WILL Comment on this “Study”.

Ben from Carnaby Fudge sent me a copy of the Social Science & Medicine report entitled “State-level homicide victimization rates in the US in relation to survey measures of household firearm ownership, 2001-2003” authored by Matthew Miller, David Hemenway, and Deborah Azrael of the Harvard School of Public Health. I’ve perused it. It is your typical statistician’s wet-dream with phrases like “multivariate analysis” and “negative binomial regression models.” I am not a statistician. I admit up front that I don’t follow most of the discussion in the nine-page report, so this is my layman’s understanding of the report’s findings and my commentary on it.

Studies like this tend to do a combination of things. One, they state the blindingly obvious, e.g.:

Consistent with previous work, we found that homicide rates were higher in areas with higher rates of urbanization and resource deprivation; like others we also find that homicide rates are higher in the South.

Two, they draw conclusions, but don’t admit to actually drawing those conclusions:

Our study does not establish a causal relationship between guns and homicide. It is possible that a non-causal relationship explains our findings or that the association we observe might have arisen because individuals in states with historically high homicide rates acquired more guns (than did individuals in low-homicide states), as a defensive response to actual high homicide rates in their communities (i.e. “reverse causation”).

Have to cover all the bases, you know. But this won’t be mentioned in any reports in the press. Third, they tend to not mention anything that doesn’t reinforce the message being pushed: “More Guns = More Gun Crime.” In this case, homicide.

I’ve already had a go-around with Dr. Hemenway, but let me see if I can put this report in a little context. The study covers homicide from 2001-2003. Here’s a DOJ chart showing nationwide homicide rates from 1900-2002:

Click on the image for a link to the source data. Note that after 1994, homicide dropped precipitously. The data shows that in 2002 – the middle of the study period – the national homicide rate was 6.1/100,000 population. That is roughly the same rate we had in 1966, 1947, 1940, and 1913. The fact of the matter is homicide rates vary widely with time. However, the number of guns in circulation over time does one thing and one thing only: It increases.

But the argument put forth by this paper is that it is the level of household firearm ownership that is the critical correlation factor, and according to this report “approximately one in three US household contained firearms”. But if household ownership was the critical factor in homicide rates, then why the tremendous swings from 1900 to the present? And why has the homicide rate in the U.S. declined from 1994 until just last year? Surely Dr. Hemenway et al. don’t expect us to believe that the number of households containing firearms nationwide has decreased each and every year in the past decade? The report states:

Case-control studies suggest that the presence of a gun in the home is a risk factor for homicide in the home, that the risk is higher for women than for men, and that when any family member purchases a handgun all members of the household are at increased risk of homicide victimization.

During the past decade we’ve added a minimum of 30 million new firearms in public hands – at least 10 million of which were handguns. Since 1993 we’ve gone from 21 states with “shall-issue” or unrestricted concealed-carry legislation to 39. We’ve had an influx of “assault weapons” and “pocket rockets” – supposed engines of death and destruction far more lethal than the weapons available in the 60’s.

Yet homicides declined. Non-fatal firearm related crime declined.

But we’re supposed to believe that if you or someone in your household buys a gun, it is somehow the overriding risk factor in the probability of your becoming a victim of homicide. The report doesn’t say that, but that is most certainly how it is being reported:

Study: More Guns Equal More Murders in U.S.

Higher rates of gun ownership correlate with higher homicide rates

Homicide Rates Higher in States with More Guns at Home

Never mind the fact that if you’re not a young black male living in an inner city, your likelihood of dying by homicide (regardless of weapon) is about equal to that of someone living in Europe.

Nope. A gun in the home is the thing to be feared!

Do you understand why this kind of thing pisses me off?

Edited to add: And do I even have to point out that the “study” makes no distinction between criminal murders and justifiable homicides? As the Albuquerque Tribune recently noted, last year 10% of reported homicides there were of a defensive nature. Three were shootings of home intruders – with guns kept in the home one would assume.

UPDATE: Hey, I got quoted (secondhand) by Instapundit! Thanks, Uncle.

The Usual Suspects and More Anti-gun “Research”

Reader Steve Price out of Canada sent me a link to a press release about a new study performed by three researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health. Among the three was our old friend David Hemenway. Steve asked me to fisk the report, but I emailed him back that Jeff at Alphecca had already done a pretty good job of that.

Now I see that Instapundit has commented:

I’m pretty sure that these guys would call anyone who accepted grants from the NRA bought-and-paid-for. But the Joyce Foundation is every bit as biased as the NRA, and has a history of paying for scholarship that would be treated as a scandal if it were engaged in by pro-gun folks.

I find much of the public health literature on guns to be highly biased and deeply untrustworthy. It starts with an agenda, rather obviously, and then constructs “research” to confirm it. In this it resembles far too much of the politicized social science we see today, which explains in part why people are far less persuaded by social science claims than they used to be.

He also links to a Jacob Sullum October 2003 Reason piece for a quote. He could just as well have referenced my three-part exchange with Dr. John D Kelly, IV from last week. Among other things, I cited the same National Academies of Science report, and its conclusion. (Then again, I’m not an accredited journalist like Sullum, but…)

Of course, nothing will affect true-believers like Dr. Kelly, but given the fact that gun owners and gun-rights supporters appear to have found their political voice, I’m relatively secure in believing that the damage such “studies” can do any more has been sharply reduced. Bias is now exposed, and having a doctorate no longer equates to the wearing of a mantle of disinterested impartiality. We know better, now.

Stare Decisis

or: “Go Away, Boy, You’re Bothering Me”

Via Alphecca, Hollis Wayne Fincher has been convicted of possession of an unregistered short-barreled shotgun and two unregistered machine-guns. (Read the comments!)

This is not unexpected. In fact, I’d have been shocked had he not been. Unfortunately, Arkansas is in the 8th Circuit, not the 5th. The 5th Circuit is the one that found (unlike most of the others) that the Second Amendment does protect an individual right to arms – though one of “uncertain scope.” Instead, the 8th Circuit has U.S. v. Nelsen as precedent – a 1988 case that used U.S. v Cruikshank as precedent. Here’s the pertinent quote from Cruikshank:

The right there specified is that of ‘bearing arms for a lawful purpose.’ This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government, leaving the people to look for their protection against any violation by their fellow-citizens of the rights it recognizes…”(My emphasis)

Cruikshank is the 1875 Supreme Court case declaring that the Second Amendment only protects the (pre-existing) right to arms from federal infringement. If the majority of the residents of your state wanted to disarm you (because, in this case, you happened to be black), well that was no business of the Feds!

U.S. v. Nelsen cites Cruikshank for the proposition that “The right there specified is that of ‘bearing arms for a lawful purpose.’ This is not a right granted by the Constitution.” Note that Nelson omits Cruikshank‘s additional language, changing the meaning entirely. Then Nelson was used as precedent in 1992’s U.S. v Hale, a very similar case where (if I recall correctly) the accused walked up to a police station, advised the officers present that he possessed several unregistered fully-automatic weapons and challenged them to arrest him so that he could attempt to fix – through the justice legal system – the travesty that has been building since U.S. v. Cruikshank. The BATF eventually got a warrant and went in to find that, indeed, Mr. Hale had several unregistered fully-automatic weapons. He went to trial.

He lost.

He appealed

He lost.

He appealed to the Supreme Court.

They denied certiorari.

Now Wayne Fincher has lost. And, I believe, he will continue to lose because of stare decisis,

Latin: “to stand by that which is decided.” The principal that the precedent decisions are to be followed by the courts.

To abide or adhere to decided cases. It is a general maxim that when a point has been settled by decision, it forms a precedent which is not afterwards to be departed from.

It is interesting to note that in the Hale decision there was a separate concurrence by Judge Beam, to wit:

I concur in the result reached in Judge John R. Gibson’s opinion in this matter. I agree completely with the portions dealing with Hale’s hearsay and confrontation contentions. I also agree that Hale’s possession of the particular weapons at issue in this case is not protected by the Second Amendment. I disagree, however, that Cases v. United States, 131 F.2d (1st Cir.1942); United States v. Warin, 530 F.2d (6th Cir.1976); United States v. Oakes, 564 F.2d 384 (10th Cir.1977) and United States v. Nelson, 859 F.2d 1318 (8th Cir.1988) properly interpret the Constitution or the Supreme Court’s holding in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S., 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939) insofar as they say that Congress has the power to prohibit an individual from possessing any type of firearm, even when kept for lawful purposes. Judge Gibson’s opinion seems to adopt that premise and with that holding, I disagree. (Emphasis mine.)

Yet footnote 3 of the decision rebukes Judge Beam:

The concurrence flies in the face of stare decisis in arguing that this court did not properly interpret the Second Amendment or Miller in Nelsen, which is consistent with our earlier decisions in Cody and Decker. The concurrence would also flout uniform precedent from other circuits, particularly since Nelsen cites and relies on Oakes and Warin, and Cody on Cases. (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, it doesn’t matter. We’ve changed the law, and we’ll keep changing the law as it suits us. Cruikshank declares that Congress can’t infringe on the right to arms, but by the time we reach Hale in 1992, through stare decisis alone, Congress has that power. Because the courts say it does.

Which reminds me again of my favorite dissent ever written: Judge Alex Kozinski’s dissent to the 9th Circuit’s denial of an en banc rehearing of Silveira v Lockyer:

Judges know very well how to read the Constitution broadly when they are sympathetic to the right being asserted. We have held, without much ado, that “speech, or . . . the press” also means the Internet…and that “persons, houses, papers, and effects” also means public telephone booths….When a particular right comports especially well with our notions of good social policy, we build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases – or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text. But, as the panel amply demonstrates, when we’re none too keen on a particular constitutional guarantee, we can be equally ingenious in burying language that is incontrovertibly there.

It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us. As guardians of the Constitution, we must be consistent in interpreting its provisions. If we adopt a jurisprudence sympathetic to individual rights, we must give broad compass to all constitutional provisions that protect individuals from tyranny. If we take a more statist approach, we must give all such provisions narrow scope. Expanding some to gargantuan proportions while discarding others like a crumpled gum wrapper is not faithfully applying the Constitution; it’s using our power as federal judges to constitutionalize our personal preferences.

And Judge Kleinfeld’s dissent in that same decision was almost as good:

I respectfully dissent from our order denying rehearing en banc. In so doing, I am expressing agreement with my colleague Judge Gould’s special concurrence in Nordyke v. King, and with the Fifth Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Emerson, both taking the position that the Second Amendment secures an individual, and not collective, right to keep and bear arms.

The panel opinion holds that the Second Amendment “imposes no limitation on California’s [or any other state’s] ability to enact legislation regulating or prohibiting the possession or use of firearms” and “does not confer an individual right to own or possess arms.” The panel opinion erases the Second Amendment from our Constitution as effectively as it can, by holding that no individual even has standing to challenge any law restricting firearm possession or use. This means that an individual cannot even get a case into court to raise the question. The panel’s theory is that “the Second Amendment affords only a collective right,” an odd deviation from the individualist philosophy of our Founders. The panel strikes a novel blow in favor of states’ rights, opining that “the amendment was not adopted to afford rights to individuals with respect to private gun ownership or possession,” but was instead “adopted to ensure that effective state militias would be maintained, thus preserving the people’s right to bear arms.” It is not clear from the opinion whom the states would sue or what such a suit would claim were they to try to enforce this right. The panel’s protection of what it calls the “people’s right to bear arms” protects that “right” in the same fictional sense as the “people’s” rights are protected in a “people’s democratic republic.”

Our circuit law regarding the Second Amendment squarely conflicts with that of the Fifth Circuit. It is inconsistent with decisions of the Supreme Court that have construed the Second Amendment and phrases within it. Our circuit has effectively repealed the Second Amendment without the democratic protection of the amendment process, which Article V requires.

Those quotes are just excerpts. Read the whole thing. Both Kozinski and Kleinfeld understand that stare decisis only goes so far, and that the courts of this nation have eviscerated the Second Amendment.

And there is every indication that they will continue to do so. Opinions in favor of the original meaning of the Second Amendment will continue to be dissents, and the courts will not save us.

One final excerpt from Kozinski’s dissent in Lockyer:

My excellent colleagues have forgotten (the) bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed – where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

I’d Exhaust Myself Trying to Fisk This One.

Besides, the commenters have already done a pretty good job anyway.

Check your blood pressure meds and go visit the tattooed, pierced Buddhist who reports on what it’s like to take a CCW class in Kentucky.

Oh, and if you want a drinking game, take a shot at each example of “tolerance” he exhibits.

You’ll be on the floor in no time.

Personal Sovereignty and “Killing Their Asses”.

Yesterday I quoted Tam:

I have no real love for the peccadilloes and strange beliefs of the Right. From politicians with a tenuous grasp of the Constitution to preachers sticking their noses where they don’t belong, I get a twinge of annoyance at least once a day. It remains largely an annoyance, however, as so much of what they hold dear has very little impact on me in my daily life: I don’t gamble, have no desire to marry another woman, and don’t have any children for them to teach that the Earth is flat or that Harry Potter is the tool of the devil. Besides, they generally want to let me keep my guns, so if they get too annoying in the future I figure I can always shoot them.

Today, SayUncle:

What makes me a gun nut?

Not the number of guns I own. For someone who yammers on so much about guns, I probably own considerably less than the average reader here. I own the following: Ruger 10/22, a Walther P22, Kel-Tec 380, an AR in 9mm, Glock 30, an AR in 5.56. I think that’s it. Six firearms. I have a lot on my to buy list but they always get pushed back due to other priorities or whatever. And here lately, I’ve actually sold a couple of firearms. One, because I didn’t care for it and one because I was offered too much to turn it down.

It’s not that I like how they work mechanically or tinkering. I do that with other stuff and I’m not nuts about that. I like to do woodworking but I am not a woodworking nut. And I don’t blog about woodworking.

It’s not hunting. I don’t hunt.

It’s not the zen of target shooting. I zen playing cards, golf, and other activities as well.

So, what is it? I thought about it long and hard. And it’s this simple truth:

If you fuck with me bad enough, I’ll kill your ass.

What both of these quotes illustrate is the concept of personal sovereignty. What is it? Here’s a good definition:

Personal sovereignty is an issue which affects each of us as individuals and as a society, whether we realize it or not. Understanding it can help us to interpret what is going on within us and around us. Increasing it can radically transform our existence.

The word “sovereign” means to be in supreme authority over someone or something, and to be extremely effective and powerful. Therefore, it is usually applied to gods, royalty and governments. We speak of kings and queens as sovereigns (even when they are figureheads), and of the sovereign rights of nations and States.

Personal sovereignty, then, would imply the intrinsic authority and power of an individual to determine his or her own direction and destiny. If that sounds suspiciously like free will, it’s because personal sovereignty and free will are the same thing.

It is, in fact, the polar opposite of statism. It is the thing that statists fear above all – a population that won’t do as it’s told by its betters.

When sovereign individuals in the State of Nature come together to form political community they create a higher law, a governing authority. Again, in political community the rule of law, the state’s monopoly on violence and the state’s internal sovereignty all mean the same thing. The right to be armed outside of the law is the right to individual sovereignty. Individual sovereigns by definition do not consent to be governed, do not give “just powers” to government, do not “quit everyone his Executive Power of the Law of Nature”. They exist in the State of Nature before there is law and government. They still want this government to have the “just powers” to secure the rights they proclaim.

The author of that piece obviously doesn’t grasp the essential difference between America’s founding and that of every other nation on earth – a founding best illustrated by Thomas Jefferson’s comment about Shay’s Rebellion:

A little rebellion now and then is a good thing. … God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

The part that our statist friend just doesn’t get is what Tam, SayUncle, I and most other gun owners grasp intuitively:

Fuck with me bad enough

Or, as Jefferson originally expressed it, far more eloquently:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

What holds true at the wholesale level does as well at the retail.

Statists grasp the inherent logic that statism cannot coexist with a population that has not surrendered its personal sovereignty – a population with the ability and willingness to reject government’s “monopoly on violence” is the keystone of individual rights and personal liberty, as I tried to illustrate in Those Without Swords Can Still Die Upon Them. Statism requires a population that is dependent – upon the state or upon their neighbors. People like those recently illustrated at Kim du Toit’s in No Helping Hand

Recently, four young families moved up here to Washington state after making small fortunes in the California real estate boom. These people are all friends of a friend so I run into them frequently. They are all liberal, but not of the raving moonbat type. None of them are anti-gun, but neither are they much interested in fireams.

Recently I was at a party with these four families present. I was encouraging them to make their own emergency kits and store food. Also, I described my efforts in this area. Once again someone made the “when things get bad we’re coming to your house” statement. This time it was not a joke.

They seemed to believe that I would feed and protect them in dangerous times; almost as if it was my responsibility to do so.

These are people who believe that someone else is responsible for their safety and security. If the state can’t (or won’t), it’s up to their neighbors who have prepared.

This is the essential core of people who support statism: What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is also mine.

Unless you have a a weapon and the willingness to inhibit them from fucking with you bad enough….

Original JSKit/Echo comment thread.

Quote of the Day.

From Tam this morning:

I have no real love for the peccadilloes and strange beliefs of the Right. From politicians with a tenuous grasp of the Constitution to preachers sticking their noses where they don’t belong, I get a twinge of annoyance at least once a day. It remains largely an annoyance, however, as so much of what they hold dear has very little impact on me in my daily life: I don’t gamble, have no desire to marry another woman, and don’t have any children for them to teach that the Earth is flat or that Harry Potter is the tool of the devil. Besides, they generally want to let me keep my guns, so if they get too annoying in the future I figure I can always shoot them.

What she has to say about “the nut-fudge looniness of the left” is just as outstandingly snarky. And accurate. Bikini shots aside, it is this kind of writing that makes hers the first blog I click on in the morning.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get the image of church ladies in semtex underoos out of my mind’s eye.

No, Dear, a National Increase in Gun Crime.

There’s a difference that UK politicians (most politicians, in fact) just can’t seem to get through their heads.

Mayor defends town after three gun raids

A MAYOR is urging people to continue visiting her town and denied it had turned into the “Wild West” after three armed robberies in less than three weeks.

Mayor Ann Thomas said she was “absolutely shocked” at the spate of robberies in Haverhill, but felt it was part of a national increase in gun culture rather than a particular problem in the town itself.

What people like this refuse to understand is that there are two gun cultures. Three, if your society has done what the UK has managed. The first gun culture is the culture of responsible use. Normally this culture includes self-defense, but in the UK they’ve managed to pretty much quash that until almost none of the few remaining licensed gun owners will make a peep in public about defending themselves with a firearm. That gun culture has been eviscerated.

The second gun culture is the predatory one. What politicians refuse to understand is that “gun control” can only destroy the good “gun culture.” The second culture is about power, not responsibility, and “gun control” for them basically means “easier pickings.”

Ann Thomas is one of those people who sees an increase in sport shooting as something ominous – because it means an “increase in gun culture.” She is one who cannot separate “violent and predatory” from “violent but protective.”

So of course she holds elective office.

In an interesting associated note, the Albuquerque Tribune reports in an op-ed that a bit over 10% of the 63 homicides recorded in Albuquerque last year were self-defense. One assumes that they were all shootings, but at least three of the five incidents definitely were. One wonders that if 10% of the homicides were self-defense, how many other incidents of self-defense with a firearm occurred in which no one was shot? And one wonders what Mayor Thomas would think.

(h/t to Front Sight, Press for the informative and interesting links.