Saturday, January 23, 2016

 

Defeating the Essential Purpose

Whenever some anti-gun nut brings up the subject of "smart guns" I'm always reminded of this give and take between the President and George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove:


President Merkin Muffley: And why haven't you radioed the plans countermanding the go-code?
General "Buck" Turgidson: Well, I'm afraid we're unable to communicate with any of the aircraft.
President Merkin Muffley: Why?
General "Buck" Turgidson: As you may recall, sir, one of the provisions of Plan 'R' provides that once the go-code is received, the normal SSB Radios in the aircraft are switched into a special coded device which I believe is designated as CRM-114. Now, in order to prevent the enemy from issuing fake or confusing orders, CRM-114 is designed not to receive at all - unless the message is preceded by the correct three-letter recall code group prefix.
President Merkin Muffley: Then do you mean to tell me, General Turgidson, that you will be unable to recall the aircraft?
General "Buck" Turgidson: That's about the size of it. However, we are plowing through every possible three-letter combination of the code. But since there are 17,000 permutations... it's going to take us about two-and-a-half days to transmit them all.


I know that allowing only our guys radio contact with our bombers attacking the USSR is a sound tactical decision but the movie always made it sound like it was a horrible idea to design a radio not to receive at all. And I guess it is--which is why I always think about this when someone mentions designing a gun not to shoot at all.


The idea behind a smart gun is to have a watch or ring which gives out a very short range signal, which if the gun receives it, allows the gun to work. Eventually they plan to make guns recognize finger prints (or perhaps instantly analyze the DNA of the hand that holds it). But under any circumstances, there has to be a power source (battery) in the gun to recognize the signal, etc. and allow itself to work. And the signal has to be generated (another battery). And the signal has to be recognized. In trials with prototypes, things are not going well.


But I think the problem is not with the technology but with the idea of a gun that only works sometimes. There were here in the US, according to FBI Crime Statistics for 2014, 166,790 aggravated assaults using guns and 8,124 homicides with guns. Since a murder by gun is just an aggravated assault with a gun that results in a fatality, I added the two figures together to get about 175,000 people who faced a person with a gun intent on harming them. That's not a huge number in a nation of 320,000,000, but it was very meaningful to the 175 thousand victims of the gun violence. To those people, the ability to access and use a gun in self defense was probably a valid concern and because each gun assault could kill or maim the victim, that concern was indeed vital.


I don't know how many of those victims were surprised, were at home, had access to a gun, or a dozen different details, but the essential nature of the self defense concern is a loaded gun that will work reliably right freakin' then. The idea that the gun has been designed not to work at all unless something electronic happens is anathema to the vital concern of the victims. It's just a bad idea. It will always be a bad idea no matter what the state of technology regarding smart guns is.


So of course the government will have to mandate their use in order to get us to use them, if they are ever made even marginally reliable. I don't think I'll get one.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

 

Even When He's Conciliatory, Kristof is Still Lying

In a well titled piece recently, Nicholas Kristof ticks off here some very inconvenient facts for those who would take away our civil rights. But there is none so blind as he who will not see, and he who has a template for his anti-gun editorial, from which template he seems incapable of straying. Let me elucidate. Kristoff acknowledges the death knell for additional gun control legislation:
The number of guns in America has increased by more than 50 percent since 1993, and in that same period the gun homicide rate in the United States has dropped by half.
So the number of guns has nothing bad to do with gun violence. Despite a 50% increase in the number of guns, the gun homicide rate has been reduced by half. So what, exactly, is the crisis? But he seems to forget it just a few sentences later.

Move on to open-carry and conceal-carry laws: With some 13 million Americans now licensed to pack a concealed gun, many liberals expected gun battles to be erupting all around us. In fact, the most rigorous analysis suggests that all these gun permits caused neither a drop in crime (as conservatives had predicted) nor a spike in killings (as liberals had expected). Liberals were closer to the truth, for the increase in carrying loaded guns does appear to have led to more aggravated assaults with guns, but the fears were overblown.
Nick, during this period of expanding concealed carry, you just said the gun homicide rate dropped by half. Looks to me like the crime of homicide necessarily then went down. We didn't expect concealed carry to drop the rate of non-violent crimes like embezzlement or tax evasion. But according to Kristof there has been an increase in aggravated assaults with guns. What does the US Justice department say about non-fatal assaults with guns? Well, it says between 1993 and 2011, they declined 70% here (see figure 2). Since 2011, the rate has gone down a little--52.8 per 100,000 in 2012, 50.9 per 100,000 in 2013 and 52.3 per 100,000 in 2014. So he's not being straight with us about a general decline in gun assaults since 1993. They went down by 70% and are still down. Then he has this little nugget of semi-self awareness regarding the recent failure of additional federal gun control legislation.

One reason [for the failure of additional gun legislation] is that liberals often inadvertently antagonize gun owners and empower the National Rifle Association by coming across as supercilious, condescending and spectacularly uninformed about the guns they propose to regulate.
Yeah, the liberals often sound amazing like Kristof. Like when he inflates the supposed crisis by including suicides with gun murders. (Accidents will always happen with any tool, so I follow the safety rules and hope for the best--since 1971, so far so good).

Just since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than all the Americans who died in wars going back to the American Revolution (about 1.45 million vs. 1.4 million). That gun toll includes suicides, murders and accidents, and these days it amounts to 92 bodies a day.

Suicides, which account for 2/3 the toll, are not a problem liberals worry about. They support suicide and help pass laws to allow the helpless to accomplish it by proxy. Without suicides, our armed forces dead are 1.4 million to .45 million gun deaths at home in nearly a half century. Sounds a little less momentous, right?

We spend billions of dollars tackling terrorism, which killed 229 Americans worldwide from 2005 through 2014, according to the State Department. In the same 10 years, including suicides, some 310,000 Americans died from guns.

The number of Americans killed by terrorists is a lot higher for the period 2000 to 2015. But of the 310,000 he focuses on, 200,000 were suicides. Banning guns, as the Australians learned, doesn't stop suicides, it just affects the number of gun suicides. It kinda misses the point of lowering the number of suicides to focus in one method. Even if you ban guns or certain types of guns, the people intent on ending their lives just use a different method. This is the moronic point of Kristof's template, to conflate suicides with gun murders and then pretend that additional gun legislation will lower the suicide rate. Very moronic, and it sounds worse to me every time Kristof repeats it, which is every time he writes supporting gun legislation.

New Harvard research confirms a long-ago finding that 40 percent of firearms in the United States are acquired without a background check. That’s crazy. Why empower criminals to arm themselves?

The Harvard study did nothing of the sort, in fact, it's not out yet. The 40% figure is complete fiction for gun purchases; and for private sales and gifts we have to trust that the legal gun owner won't give or sell his or her gun to a criminal or insane person (just as we trust them to be responsible with firearms in all other respects, which they overwhelmingly are). Regarding the alleged need for additional background check legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, I like the recent Preventative Medicine study that says additional background checks would have no effect on criminals getting guns, as only 3% obtain them through transactions requiring a background check. Then Kristof goes completely inane regarding effective new gun control.

More than 10 percent of murders in the United States, for example, are by intimate partners. The riskiest moment is often after a violent breakup when a woman has won a restraining order against her ex. Prohibiting the subjects of those restraining orders from possessing a gun reduces these murders by 10 percent, one study found.
So the Lautenberg Amendment in 1997 which banned intimate partners from getting a gun if a restraining order has been issued, cut gun homicides by 1%. Forgive me if I'm underwhelmed by the "success" of that legislation. It just seems so small compared to the 49% overall drop in gun homicides over approximately the same period. Here's Kristof's big finish.

In short, let’s get smarter. Let’s make America’s gun battles less ideological and more driven by evidence of what works. If the left can drop the sanctimony, and the right can drop the obstructionism, if instead of wrestling with each other we can grapple with the evidence, we can save thousands of lives a year.
I'm all for being smarter. You first, Nick. What appears to work is more guns, more concealed carry permits so that good guys will have guns to thwart the criminal intent of bad guys with guns. That's an inconvenient fact that Kristof will never admit. It doesn't fit the template

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

 

Obama Triumph


By their works shall you know them.

h/t Eduardo Alvarez

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Monday, January 11, 2016

 

Presidential Promise

A lot of people on the left are making fun of us right thinking people being worried that President Obama wants to confiscate our guns. I think the lefties might be onto something here. We shouldn't worry about Obama confiscating our guns. Why, early in 2009 he said: "If you like your gun, you can keep your gun." So there's that.

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Thursday, January 07, 2016

 

The Pathetic Fallacy

The literary term, Pathetic Fallacy, sounds particularly bad to our ears but the first word of the term, 'pathetic,' doesn't mean miserable and worthy of pity like we think of when we hear that word; it has an older, less harsh meaning. The term itself is a literary device wherein the author attributes human emotions and traits to nature or inanimate objects. Which brings me to E.J. Dionne's editorial today. It's pretty pathetic (modern meaning).

It's about guns. He starts with this criticism of the President's tearful, self aggrandizing speech about guns on Monday:

House Speaker Paul Ryan showed why the Republican far right has such faith in him by declaring that Obama's "words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty." Accusing a president of undermining liberty is a nice way of encouraging those who see him as a dictator.
E.J. then quotes someone from the NRA:

Yet there was the National Rifle Association itself making fun of Obama's actions for being puny. "This is it, really?" said the NRA's Jennifer Baker. "They're not really doing anything." The same NRA put up a frightening online video declaring that Obama is "our biggest threat to national security." So a president who's "not really doing anything" is also a menacing tyrant.
But of course someone could be completely ineffectual in the details of an attempt to be a tyrant and still be a tyrant. I'm thinking of the successful revolutionary in Woody Allen's Bananas. When the guerilla becomes president of the fictional San Marcos he orders that the official language be changed to Swedish and everyone has to change their underwear every half-hour and, so they can check, they have to wear their underwear on the outside. It takes a tyrant to hand down laws without a legislature; even if the tyrant is not doing anything really of a tyrannical nature, just being ineptly silly (Woody ask what's Spanish for straightjacket after witnessing the executive action.)

E.J.'s kind of dim. He continues.

Their favorite ploy is to say that since there are already so many guns out there -- some estimates run to over 300 million -- no particular practical measure will do much of anything to stem the violence.
Not my favorite ploy. Regarding the inutility of additional gun control laws, I ask if the murder statutes don't stop a person from using a gun to murder someone, what makes you think that a lesser law will be obeyed? That's my favorite ploy.

E.J. is right that there are probably more than 300 million guns in civilian hands. Since 1993, when gun murder reached its peak and civilian ownership involved less than 200 Million guns, the private ownership of guns has increased by 50% and the gun murder rate has declined by 49%. Why is there a need for additional gun control laws again?

But as soon as the weapons extremists have said that sane action is useless in the face of so many guns, they turn around and assert that those who support universal background checks and other small steps are secretly in favor of gun confiscation. Wait a minute: In one breath, they are implying, against all their other assertions, that the problem really is too many guns; in the next, they are condemning those who propose any regulations as would-be despots who want to disarm the country -- the only thing their own rhetoric suggests would make a real difference. Welcome to a new philosophical concept: circular illogic.

I have a feeling that E.J. did not excel in logic classes. We don't imply the problem is too many guns. The problem is too many murderers. The guns, being inanimate, don't have any volition. There are no guns that want to kill you. Indeed, they have no emotions whatsoever. Rather than talk about guns as the source of murders we talk about murderers as the source of murders. We do talk about reality (plenty of guns) but our problem with advocates of common sense gun regulation is the essential one for all gun control legislation, namely, only the law abiding will obey gun control laws and we don't need them to do that precisely because they are law abiding and will obey the murder and assault statutes as well.

E.J. ends with exhorting Democrats to take up the cause of more gun control. I'm with him on that because it is a proven loser for Democrat candidates, especially the ones for President. Yeah, come on, you wussies, stand for more gun control! Why take halfway steps? Stand for gun confiscation. That will get you in solid with the voters. I dare you to follow E.J.'s suggestions here. I double dog dare you.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

 

Fun With Math

In a stupid unsigned editorial in the NYT today, Republicans are attacked as fearing gun facts (it's the title of the editorial). Here are some facts:


1. Nearly two thirds of gun deaths in America are suicides, the rest are gun homicides and accidents and many of the gun homicides are justified by self defense.


2. The confiscation and destruction of 1/5 of the guns in Australia in 1996 had no long term effect on the rate of suicide, it merely changed the method of suicide (hanging replaced diminishing gun suicides). The Australian suicide rate surged after the gun confiscation and then declined but by 2012 the rate of suicide was again higher than before the gun confiscation, and still is higher.


3. Since their peak in 1993, gun homicides have declined by 49% here in America.

Now I can do simple math; so in the 22 years since 1993 the rate of gun homicides has fallen 49%, so that's 2.23% per year--on average across differential state rates. Some states have higher gun homicide rates than others and lower gun suicide rates and vice versa. Let's look at the NYT anti-gun screed de jour.


For nearly two decades, Congress has banned needed research on gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week, Congress, doing the bidding of the gun industry, quietly killed a provision in the omnibus spending bill that would have reversed that ban.


Maybe I'm being too literal but doesn't the CDC research and help prevent diseases? And gun violence is in no way a disease, right? So preventing the CDC from wasting time and money researching non diseases is a good thing. Most if not all of the viral diseases are pretty much incurable once you have them, and all doctors do is treat the symptoms until you die or get well. And there are no vaccines for many diseases yet so it's not as if the CDC has nothing else to do.

And of course the legislators who are preventing the CDC from wasting time and money on non-disease projects are not doing what they think is right, they are mere minions of the evil gun industry. Man, the dark side is strong with those corporate entities!


In so doing, it left intact an anti-science smoke screen that has helped the industry and its lobbyists deny and dispute the facts of the gun violence that takes more than 30,000 lives a year.
No one who likes guns or values the Constitution (and amendments thereto) is denying any fact about gun violence. It's the other side which is sloppy with the facts. Like the editorial today. Let me explain: To my thinking, gun violence is an assault by another person using a gun which gun use wounds or kills the person assaulted. But that's only about 11,000 per year and falling or 3.257 per 100,000 which is not much (could be better and it's getting better). So the NYT inflates the gun death numbers with suicides (even though suicide is not a problem the left cares about; they are in fact pro-suicide and work to pass laws to get feeble people help in killing themselves--a prospect we on the right generally find dismaying).


So if you're talking about gun control legislation, which at its core is an attempt to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and crazy people in order to prevent gun murder and assault, adding in the suicide numbers to make the problem seem worse than it is would necessarily be anti-fact. Let me be more blunt. In order to make the problem (actual gun violence) seem worse, the NYT board is lying to us while it calls those against unreasonable gun control "afraid of facts." Hello, pot? This is kettle. You're black.



Perversely, the gun industry claims that research by private and academic interests — which it can’t block — is untrustworthy. Expect that argument to be invoked in reaction to alarming research about the Missouri General Assembly’s repeal eight years ago of background checks for gun buyers that required people to appear in person at the local sheriff’s office.

A study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that in the first six years after the repeal, gun homicides rose within the state by 16 percent, while the national rate declined 11 percent.


The facts are indeed the legislature changed the law slightly (but purchasers from gun dealers, where nearly all gun purchases take place, still required the federal instant background check) and gun violence went up. What's missing from the study is a finding that the change in legislation caused gun violence to rise in Missouri. The guys doing the study warned the people reading it that correlation is not causation. Yet the NYT appears to assume that the study indeed found causation. Liars. It get's worse.


By contrast, it also found that Connecticut, which has maintained its 1995 background check law, registered a 40 percent drop in gun homicides across a decade.


OK, here is where I step in with math so bear with me. From 1995 to today is 20 years. 20 times 2.23% (the rate gun homicide has been dropping on average per year since 1993) is 44.6%. One would expect a 44% drop during this time but the Connecticut rate of gun homicide only dropped by 40% (less than the expected rate), but the NYT falsely holds out this statistic as proof that background checks prevent gun homicide when they do no such thing. Liars.



One study estimated that gun violence annually costs $8.6 billion in direct expenses for emergency and medical care. Wyoming, the state with the highest rate of gun deaths, also has the highest per capita costs for gun violence — about $1,400 per resident per year, which is twice the national average. A new area for investigation is the fact that gun deaths have begun surpassing motor vehicle deaths in some states.


This is utter bullshit. Wyoming has about 570,000 people and a gun homicide rate less than 1 per 100,000. That's not a lot in direct expenses for emergency or medical care for 5 people each year. Certainly not $642,000,000 which is what the NYT says. $1,400 times 570,000 is nearly 2/3 a billion dollars. Complete and utter bullshit. The reason the NYT can say Wyoming has the highest rate of gun deaths is because it has the highest rate of gun suicides in the nation. The rate of all suicides is 23.2 per 100,000 and 80% of those are with guns. But it has one of the lowest gun murder rates. Who's not dealing in facts about Wyoming's problem with gun violence? Nearly everyone has a gun and its gun homicide rate is one of the lowest in the nation. In what way is that fact helpful to the gun haters who want to confiscate your guns, America?



Private research is valuable, but in-depth federal studies are crucial for discovering the full patterns of crime and death fed by the relentless weakening of gun laws in recent decades.


OK, we know that gun legislation has been ever more pro-self-defense in the past 20 years or so. More and more states have relaxed rules against concealed carry while gun ownership has increased by a little over 1/2 (from under 200,000,000 to over 300,000,000). Yet despite "weakened gun laws" and increased gun ownership, the crime of gun homicide has fallen by nearly half. Yeah, let's do a study on those facts and see if there is any causation.


So having failed to mention the precipitous fall in gun homicides in the past two decades, and having dishonestly added gun suicides to the numbers bandied about when gun suicides is not the problem the gun haters are talking about (mass shootings is the current subject, the fact that they are less than 2% of gun homicides is lost on them), does anyone believe the NYT would support a study that could actually find that the so called weakened gun laws have caused a drop in gun homicides?


Wait, who is afraid of the facts, exactly?

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

 

Brief Review of Star Wars VII

It's better than the last 4.


Other than the beneficiaries of the senior citizen actors' initiative, three out of four of the new generation were horribly miscast, although I was glad to see the lead in Attack the Block get a big role.


The one bright spot was the actress who played the Jedi natural, Rey. She was terrific. British, of course.


So two more to go of this ever more irrelevant series. They are merely recycling ideas from the first six, particularly the first two, but at least those movies had some ideas, somewhat silly, to recycle.


I'll still go and see them.

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