Barry Eisler

Sunday, July 22, 2012

No Progress on Gun Violence

Sad these two posts I did after the Virginia Tech shooting are still so timely:

"If the shootings at Virginia Tech catalyzed a more rationale, respectful debate about access to firearms, perhaps some good might emerge from all the horror and loss. Sadly, from what I've seen, the debate remains as sterile as ever, and even more vociferous. Let's see if we can do better here.


"I think the reason gun ownership proponents and gun control proponents vilify each other so much is that each side is blind to the emotional bedrock on which the other side's position is built. If we can identify that bedrock, maybe some mutual respect will emerge. Out of that respect might even grow... sensible compromise?


"Gun control proponents (let's call them GCPs) are most comfortable in environments where there are no guns. Whether such environments can in fact be created is a separate issue; GCPs sense that a society without guns would be safer for everyone. In other words, the core value for GCPs is a safer society, and GCPs are willing to give up their individual right and ability to protect themselves and their family if doing so buys greater safety for society as a whole.


"Gun ownership proponents (let's call them GOPs, no Grand Old Party pun intended) are most comfortable in environments where they feel they can protect themselves. In other words, the core value to which GCPs adhere is..."


Thoughts on Guns


Thoughts on Guns Part 2
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10 Comments:

Blogger Richard Cummings said...

What is behind the easy access to guns, including assault weapons, is the gun lobby and the manufacturers that give lots of money to the NRA. This is a tough nut to crack. A great many in Congress take money from the gun lobby. The Second Amendment is not absolutist. But money talks, as usual. Until opponents of easy access to guns can reach a critical mass and dun Congress interminably, nothing will change. That kind of effort requires a great deal of work with no pay. The Brady Law was great but it is a thing of the past.

Sunday, July 22, 2012 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Travis said...

And the lack of progress continues....

Monday, July 23, 2012 8:45:00 PM  
Blogger John Dollarhide said...

As someone with mental health issues I worry about cookie cutter measures made to ensure that "mentally unstable" (President Obama's words - and, yes, I'm a fan of his) people don't have access to guns. While I have a scary sounding diagnosis (Major Depressive Disorder, Severe and Chronic), I haven't hurt or tried to hurt anyone since I was 11, and that was nearly 30 years ago. My fear is that access to guns will be tied to diagoses, not actions, and people like me will be guilty until proven innocent. As a gun owner AND a liberal, I stand astride a widening crevasse. I support waiting periods, and limited or no access to AP or exploding rounds. While I do not carry anymore, there have been 3 times that carrying a weapon has kept me from being a victim of a crime, and not once did I have to draw my gun. Until criminals don't have guns, I will.

Thursday, July 26, 2012 6:51:00 AM  
Blogger city said...

thanks for sharing.

Monday, July 30, 2012 12:28:00 AM  
Blogger John Dollarhide said...

I suppose that I should clarify my stance a bit. I agree with Mr. Eisler on the vast majority of his points. I also agree that people that are mentally unstable and violent, OR with a high likelihood of violence shouldn't have guns. The trouble begins when we as a society have to implement such a policy - who's to say who is prone to violence? What are the criteria? How do we account for bias on the part of the decision makers? Also, the cookie cutter phrase 'danger to themselves or others' needs to be parsed. Is the person a danger to themselves - to others - to all of the above? This phrase has become a dangerous cliche. Now, Seung-Hui Cho should not have been able to buy guns - there were obvious signs, for years, that something was not quite right about him - but hindsight is 20/20.

Monday, July 30, 2012 6:46:00 AM  
Blogger munchkyn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger munchkyn said...

It's more than a little disingenuous, not to mention condescending, to characterize the basis of "gun ownership proponents" as being emotional. Some of us have quite rational arguments for advocating gun ownership, none of which have anything to do with how we feel. Or are you now going to argue that our Founding Fathers had emotional issues when they wrote the Constitution? Their concern should be the same as all citizens: when the government has all the weapons, what real check on its power remains? In a perfect world, a ballot is all the check or balance a populace needs, but we don't live in that world, yet. I would think a former CIA operative would know this.

What drives these debates after massacres like these is not really a concern over gun ownership. The real question we all ask ourselves is, "What can we do/have done to prevent this?" What we really hate to face is the fact that the answer is usually, "Nothing". The overwhelming majority of these spree killers are not identifiable beforehand. There are no warning signs. If there are, they're so minor that to lock up those displaying them would unlawfully detain thousands of innocent citizens. The bottom line is that we cannot predict these outbursts, that we already restrict access to guns yet these killers manage to get their hands on them, that even if we took away their guns they would use something - bombs, poison gas, arson - to commit these crimes. Life is uncertain and dangerous; it always has been, always will be. We prepare for what we reasonably can, but some events are unpredictable and unpreventable. Reactions like I am seeing now ("Ban guns!" "Make guns more available!") are overreactions, symptoms of our hatred of uncertainty, our attempt to control that which we cannot, ultimately control, and a desperate need to make the world more secure than it ever will be.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Barry Eisler said...

Munchkyn said:
"
It's more than a little disingenuous, not to mention condescending, to characterize the basis of "gun ownership proponents" as being emotional. Some of us have quite rational arguments for advocating gun ownership, none of which have anything to do with how we feel. Or are you now going to argue that our Founding Fathers had emotional issues when they wrote the Constitution?"

Of course they did. They were human, and as for all humans, if you dig deep enough, you'll find that the rational arguments are built on a bedrock of emotion. I think this is as true for the founding fathers as it is for gun ownership proponents as it is for gun control proponents as it is for me, and I don't think I've been either disingenuous or condescending in making what to me is a fairly axiomatic observation.

"[E]ven if we took away their guns they would use something - bombs, poison gas, arson - to commit these crimes."

I don't know why this would be true. As I argued in my post, human motivation isn't binary. Yes, there are situations where you absolutely will or will not engage in a certain act, but much more commonly we will see an increase in a given behavior if we make the behavior easier, and a decrease if we make it more difficult. For this reason, I find the "killers will always find another way argument" unpersuasive. A few killers, perhaps, but we're not trying only to stop the highly motivated -- we're also trying to dissuade the less than completely committed.

You could argue at this point that anyone inclined to kill is by definition unstoppably motivated, but again I think this is simplistic. Some people, if unable to procure a firearm, will find another way. But others, I don't think it's so hard to imagine, will be dissuaded by the difficulties of bomb building and poison making, the uncertainties of arson, etc.

Also, I think you ignore the way technology can encourage certain behaviors, the way (as I argue in my post) cell phones have encouraged public shouting. Guns make mass killing push-button easy. My guess is that this ease will over time and in the aggregate result in more killing. But I don't really know and I could be wrong. Have you read Dave Grossman's book On Killing, though? Thought-provoking and highly recommended.

"Reactions like I am seeing now ("Ban guns!" "Make guns more available!") are overreactions, symptoms of our hatred of uncertainty, our attempt to control that which we cannot, ultimately control, and a desperate need to make the world more secure than it ever will be."

I agree about the basis for some types of overreaction.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 9:18:00 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

America's Dark Shadows: Aurora, Sikhs and Guns -- Michael Vlahos [Prof. at Naval War College]

http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=9709

EXCERPT:

"A nation's character is marked by mysterious patterns, and none is more salient in American life than killing with the gun, says Michael Vlahos, a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He asks this pivotal question: Can the inhuman act of a single person lay bare the neuralgia of an entire people?

"Though painful, this statement cannot be avoided: The gun-massacre of innocents is integral to the American way of life. Call it part of our foundational myth. It is the red reality through which a continent was taken and settled.
"Today, we call an act like the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, or the even more recent one in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, "senseless." Yet, we should face these events as what they really are, a much bigger national tradition. Ritual slaying is everywhere in our American history, especially sacrificial killing with guns.

"Even if we cannot admit this, American exceptionalism is never better illustrated than in ritual human execution. Other cultures have slaughterers. Only we have made ritual killers such a mirror of us. In our history and our cinema, there are a few — like John Brown — we even celebrate.

"Our gun-slinging killing rituals are also dark expressions of a political ethos that surrounds the theology of the citizen's relationship to the state. "Citizen and state" is the most contentious creedal element in national identity, and is itself argued through the symbolic venue of killing with a gun. Pro-gun and anti-gun sectarianism remains the deepest fissure, a split almost, in our national identity today.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger John Mark said...

I recommend Gavin de Becker's book The Gift of Fear (recommended reading listed at the end of a John Rain novel). I know now that violence is indeed predictable - highly predictable - if only we open our eyes. I would be comfortable with a system designed by Mr. de Becker being used to limit who can get their hands (legally) on guns. Again, a determined person can and will circumvent legality, but many people bent on violence will be stymied by such methods.

Thursday, August 30, 2012 5:53:00 AM  

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