Externalities and the Dubious Defenses of Gun Enthusiasts

We featured a post earlier this week by Michael Olenick that argued that the time had arrived to charge gun owners for the true cost of gun ownership, which he reckoned to be plenty high. His suggestion produced a fierce discussion in comments, as well as a peeved claim that this was not a proper topic for this blog.

Aside from the fact that this blog is about whatever I want it to be about, and it’s really about promoting critical thinking, the idea that a discussion of how to deal with gun violence is outside the realm of economics is bollocks. Today, for instance, the Financial Times has an op-ed today arguing for a gun tax for reasons similar to Olenick’s: the deaths in Newtown are an “enough is enough” moment. And the broader reason is that gun trade and gun ownership create what economists call externalities. The classic example is pollution. From Wikipedia:

In economics, an externality, or transaction spillover, is a cost or benefit that is not transmitted through prices[1] or is incurred by a party who was not involved as either a buyer or seller of the goods or services causing the cost or benefit.[2] The cost of an externality is a negative externality, or external cost, while the benefit of an externality is a positive externality, or external benefit.

In the case of both negative and positive externalities, prices in a competitive market do not reflect the full costs or benefits of producing or consuming a product or service. Producers and consumers may neither bear all of the costs nor reap all of the benefits of the economic activity, and too much or too little of the goods will be produced or consumed in terms of overall costs and benefits to society.

For example, manufacturing that causes air pollution imposes costs on the whole society, while fire-proofing a home improves the fire safety of neighbors. If there exist external costs such as pollution, the good will be overproduced by a competitive market, as the producer does not take into account the external costs when producing the good.

There are two approaches to dealing with externalities, namely, prohibition (bans, restrictions, quotas) or taxation. The economics literature even has an established framework for determining which is preferable in a given situation. Andrew Haldane discusses it in his speech The $100 Billion Question, where he treated banking crises as an externality and worked through which remedy was more fitting:

In making these choices [between taxation and prohibition], economists have often drawn on Martin Weitzman’s classic public goods framework from the early 1970s.13 Under this framework, the optimal amount of pollution control is found by equating the marginal social benefits of pollution-control and the marginal private costs of this control. With no uncertainty about either costs or benefits, a policymaker would be indifferent between taxation and restrictions when striking this cost/benefit balance.

In the real world, there is considerable uncertainty about both costs and benefits. Weitzman’s framework tells us how to choose between pollution-control instruments in this setting. If the marginal social benefits foregone of the wrong choice are large, relative to the private costs incurred, then quantitative restrictions are optimal. Why? Because fixing quantities to achieve pollution control, while letting prices vary, does not have large private costs. When the
marginal social benefit curve is steeper than the marginal private cost curve, restrictions dominate.

The results flip when the marginal cost/benefit trade-offs are reversed. If the private costs of the wrong choice are high, relative to the social benefits foregone, fixing these costs through taxation is likely to deliver the better welfare outcome. When the marginal social benefit curve is flatter than the marginal private cost curve, taxation dominates. So the choice of taxation versus prohibition in controlling pollution is ultimately an empirical issue.

For the record, Haldane’s back of the envelope calculation showed that the social costs of financial crises was so high that the too big to fail banks could not begin to pay for it, which meant prohibition, namely restricting their activities, size, and geographic scope, are well warranted courses of action.

In the case of guns, it’s not hard to demonstrate the social costs similarly exceed private benefits. Let’s start with the chart complied by Charles Blow of the New York Times:

What it shows is that the US, with a rate of gun ownership nearly double that of the next highest county, has more gun murders than all other advanced economies combined. And that includes countries with rates of violence (defined as assaults or threats) as high or higher than that of the US. We have 4.3% of the population subjected to actual or threatened violence in the last six months; Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands, the UK and New Zealand range from 4.3% to 5.9%. We had nearly 10,000 gun homicides. They had a grand total of 124, two full orders of magnitude lower. When you adjust for population, the firearm murder rate across these countries is tantamount to 442 for the US. And that’s before you get to the over 73,000 people per year here who are treated for gunshot wounds.

These totals exclude suicides. Of the 85 people who die by gun every day on average in America, 53 are suicides. Now you can argue, correctly, that many would have found a way to do themselves in regardless. But guns lend themselves to impulsive self-harm; the only other route that is as fast and certain is to jump out the window….if you happen to live above the third story level. Hanging, crashing your car, pills, carbon monoxide all take more thought and effort.

Now consider the costs created by workplace and school shootings, beyond the simple loss of life. Schools are spending time and money on defensive measures. Even if the risks are still objectively low, no school official wants to be in the position of having a horrific incident happen in his facility that he might have prevented by taking precautions. But that leads to an increasingly militarized approach, as well as even tighter control over children’s activities, when young people, in my opinion, already suffer from excessive regimentation. Children who are allowed to organize their time are derisively called “free range children,” but I shudder at what the therapy bills of kids who’ve had their parents micro-manage their lives will be like when they are finally responsible for their lives. And irrespective of what you think of modern protective childrearing, the costs of running schools and businesses to protect against the possibility of gun violence filters through to all of us in terms of higher product costs and tax bills.

Against these costs, the arguments made by gun enthusiasts are remarkably unpersuasive. The one that has merit is that many people who live in rural settings hunt, and for some, hunting is an important source of food. But it would not be difficult to devise either taxes or prohibitions around this use.

The other arguments made are defense against crimes and to combat the power of the state. The latter can be dismissed pretty easily; we already HAVE a police state. What exactly have our heavily armed gun enthusiasts done about it? Now that New York City has the seventh largest arm in the world, states and cities are looking at buying drones, and state of the art crowd control technology includes sound weapons and friction-reducing liquids (so if you try moving you can’t get your footing), the time for well armed militias to defend our liberties has come and gone. So let’s deal with the first claim.

Guns ownership is much more a psychological prop than a real defense. Police forces are well aware of the Tueller rule, that an assailant within 21 feet of a policeman can generally get to him before he can pull his gun out and down the attacker:

And remember, you have to have the gun on your person to be able to defend yourself. All of survivalist Nancy Lanza’s guns did her no good. I had a conversation with someone in Texas who was otherwise rational telling me how I needed to own a gun to defend myself, and in the course of his sales pitch, unprodded, he talked about how he did not carry his gun with him which meant he was undefended most of the time. And having a gun at home does not necessarily make you safe at home. Where do you keep it? In the bedside table? So what happens when a bad guy enters through your back door while you are watching TV? So do you have one in every room? Even so, a local version of the Tueller rule operates: you have to get it out and be able to aim before the intruder takes control of the situation. (And that is before you get at the more than offsetting risk, of a gun being used in a family argument or by overly-inquisitive children).

Oh, but the gun fans say, guns still make people safer! Sites like Defensive Gun Use Report (hat tip Timothy F) tally local stories of gun use to thwart crimes. The November total was 87. Um, not a great number, even when you allow for underreporting, particularly since the cases include questionable responses, such as using gun to ward off a flasher and a break-in where the police said the gun use was unwarranted (jewelry store, presumably the merchandise was insured and that’s all the robbers were interested in).

As the inclusion of a flasher demonstrates, it is likely that in many of these cases, a gun was not necessary for an effective response. Let me give you some examples from my tame circle:

• A buddy who likes grungy strip clubs and music venues was accosted by a man with a gun in a bad part of town. He persuaded the perp that anyone who’d wear such a fancy suit openly in that area had to be connected to local organized crime, and they were very good about protecting their own. He got the man so worried about what he had done that he offered my friend money to not talk about the incident.

• Late at night, I was approaching the cash register of a grocery store when two employees grabbed a man with a backpack and wrestled him to the ground. A woman ran into the store and ran back to the front, waving a knife she’d grabbed from the shelves. She was running after the staff with the knife and one retreated to where I stood. I handed him my shooting stick (no, not a gun, a portable seat). They chased her out of the store and beat the shit out of her accomplice. I got my stick back covered in blood. When the police arrived, they seemed remarkably unconcerned about his head injuries.

Very few people I know have experienced real threats, and in those few cases (like a friend who had a man come up behind her as she was unlocking the door to her building or the guy who had the man pull a gun on him) a gun would have been useless, and in my example, a mere bludgeon did trick (I have a second crime busting incident with my trusty shooting stick that I will spare you). So the idea that anything less than a gun is ineffective in warding off crimes is also untrue. And generally, with fewer guns around, it is likely that fewer are in the hands of criminals. Small scale crooks who did have guns would also be less fearful of an armed response and so would be less likely to be armed, and less trigger happy if carrying a weapon.

The record in both the UK and Australia, after strict gun controls were imposed, was that armed violence, murders and successful suicides all fell. Reader reason hoisted this comment from another blog:

It’s worth repeating (and repeating and repeating until it starts to sink in) the example of Australia. In 1996, Australia changed its gun laws following a particularly bad mass shooting: banning assault rifles, severely restricting other types of fire-arms, limiting magazines to five rounds (three for pump-action shotguns, auto-loaders were banned outright). Researchers compared the rate of mass shootings before and after – using fixed criteria, not just what “felt” like a mass-shooting – and found that the rate dropped from one every 18 months before the change, to just one event in the 16 years since the change.

There were no other noticeable changes that might be responsible for the reduction; no reduction in poverty, or improvements in mental health treatment. And judging by other crime rates, there wasn’t a significant change in culture or economics or policing. Hell, even the number of firearms in society recovered within a few years. And the only things that did change, we shared with the US. There was an increase in antidepressant use in Australia, but so too in the US. Video-games violence became more photorealistic, and so too in the US.

It’s such a perfect experiment: Same country. Same culture. Only one major change, gun laws. And one clear result, the virtual elimination of mass shootings.

If you want to reduce the rate of mass shootings in the US by an order of magnitude, Australia can tell you how to do it. But your country won’t like the taste of the medicine.

But that’s not as true as you think. Gun ownership in the US has fallen since 2004, despite an increase in violence-glorifying movies, more frequent mass shootings, and high unemployment. Support among NRA members for measures like background checks and issuing concealed carry permits only to those who have passed safety training courses both poll at 74%; some other proposed restrictions have even higher levels of support.

The irony of the vehement reaction to Olenick’s post is that the measure he proposed, taxation, works when the private costs are high and social costs are low and is actually more gun user friendly than the alternative, prohibition. The tally above suggests strict controls are warranted.

I’d hazard that the real reason we won’t be able to go as far as Australia, which was a gun-lovin’ country that nevertheless imposed draconian restrictions in a very short period of time, isn’t as much the sentiments of the majority of gun users as it is the power of the gun lobby, which mobilizes the extremists among gun owners (NRA has 4 million members out of 70 million gun owners in the US) and corporate sponsors. The defection of formerly NRA-aligned Congressmen in the wake of the Newtown shootings suggests that the views of the silent majority of truly responsible gun owners may finally hold sway.

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  1. Grandparents for gun control

    You identify prohibition and taxation but there is a third way — litigation. Assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons provide no social good and the gun companies ought to be strictly liable for all the harm they cause. That is the only way to get the interests of the industry and their insurers aligned with the public interest in safe sale and use.

    1. John F. Opie

      The problem with such litigation is manifold: first you have the problem that if you extend corporate responsibility to include what purchasers of products may do with those products, you open each and every manufacturer of any goods whatsoever to massive litigation threats that would, effectively, close down the economy. Unless the good itself can be regulated (such as drugs), changes to litigation laws would apply to any good manufactured that can be used for evil: hence knife manufacturers and fertilizer manufacturers would have to carry heavy legal insurance in case someone ever uses a knife to murder someone or transform fertilizer into a bomb. If the good is regulated, it’s a different story, but there’s that 2nd Amendment that says that there is no infringement of that right allowed; second, the only thing this really does is make the lawyers rich and not actually stop people killing each other.

      If punishment is what you want, fine. But I think the point that Yves is making is that a case can be made to get guns out of the hands of everyone in order to ensure that those who want to kill others have a harder time doing so.

      1. Grandparents for gun control

        The laws governing liability for dangerous products can be changed for the gun industry alone if Congress so chooses. Nothing precludes that.

        And it has nothing to do with the Second Amendment unless you read ithat Amendment to guarantee the right to pay less than the full cost of the arms you want to bear.

        1. genauer

          as a long term German sceptic of the high gun ownership rate in the US, but was living in the US for many years, and heard the other side as well,

          I do in fact read the 2nd amendment as the personal right to carry arms, pretty similar to recent SCOTUS rulings.
          I do not remember however reading there about automatic weapons, and that would make a very significant difference, IMHO.

          1. genauer

            I forgot to say:

            to use frivolous law suits to overturn constitutional rights without the defined majorities,

            this is for me the worst possible solution.

          2. Propertius

            Automatic weapons have been strictly regulated in the US since 1934. The sale of any automatic weapon manyfactured after 1986 to civilians is prohibited outright. If you’re going to discuss US gun ownership, at least get your facts straight.

          3. Aquifer

            Prop – for purposes of this discussion, i think your “distinction” is hardly worth making – those “semi” weapons are only “semi” for technical purposes – rather like suggesting that being hit by a “semi” tractor trailer is “nowhere near” as destructive as being hit by a “regular” tractor trailer …

          4. Mac

            I understand that ther have been readings that separate the parts of the 2nd . I think it really does relate to the militia and the keeping of arms.
            Well regulated, comes to mind, loonies like we hav had this year are not well regulated.

          5. jonnnn

            The “problem” with the “assault weapon” argument is the nation’s founders knew what was a semi-automatic assault weapon. They had multi-barrelled derringers (concealed, anyone), pistols, smoothbores, and shatterguns. They also knew about the 1779’s repeating 22-shot, .46 caliber Girandoni Air Rifle – and thought so much of it the Lewis and Clark had at least 1 on “Jefferson’s” expedition. This was an expendition to which Bill of Rights author Madison, the 4th President, immeasurably benefitted.

            The Second Amendment, similar to voting, is a fundamental right. Voting is closely controlled, regulated, and monitored and so could and should be the case for arms ownership, handling, sales, transferrence, and use.

    2. TrueDat

      Assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons provide no social good and the gun companies ought to be strictly liable for all the harm they cause.

      The “social good” they provide is to allow the people that own and use them to feel somehow in control in a world they are afraid of and in which they seem to have no control over. Seriously. That’s why threats to take them away are so very threatening to them, regardless of the overwhelming evidence that assault weapons are threatening to society at large. Talk to one of these people for five minutes and they’ll tell you that. Direct logic and reason is not gonna work to solve this problem. This is a gut level issue.

      1. Jardinero1

        The “social good” that gun control legislation provides is to allow the people that don’t own guns to feel somehow in control in a world they are afraid of and in which they seem to have no control.

        1. SayWhat?

          Except that the pro gun people are still a political majority. Dismissing them with smart-assed retorts will only ensure that they dig in all the harder. Liberals tend to be their own worst enemies politically.

          1. rjs

            guns arent really a liberal vs conservative thing; if there’s a divide, its rural vs urban…or maybe there are several different social subsets, ie, include ghetto & suburban cultures as those with different outlooks…

            ie, there is no one in my rural neighborhood who doesnt own several guns; yet some are as socially liberal as anyone in the city with the same politics…

          2. Min

            Pro gun people may be in the majority in the U. S. However, it seems unlikely that pro assault weapon people are in the majority. Or perhaps even that pro semi-automatc weapon people are in the majority. There is certainly room for regulation.

      2. Aquifer

        Think how much safer they would feel with a small A-bomb in the cellar with a remote – Ha! that 21 feet wouldn’t be such a problem then, would it?

        Oh? Collateral damage, you say? Shucks that doesn’t seem to be problem for USAans …

        1. FrankB

          You don’t seem to comprehend that foolish arguments get you called a fool. Worse, foolish arguments from you let the other side see everyone as a fool. Get real or get lost.

          1. Aquifer

            Yup – those “slippery slopes” slide both ways – as the crooks get more heavily armed, so “must” the cops, as the cope get more heavily armed, so “must” the populace to “protect” itself from both the cops, the crooks and each other, i suppose …

            So where is this voice of “reason” I keep hearing about? Isn’t it time to de-escalate this internal arms race?

            If we all depend on guns for everything, who needs law? Is that where we are headed?

          2. abprosper

            The problem with taxing for externalities is that its not possible to objectively determine the real costs and causes.

            Too much politics gets in the way, some scientist hates private guns and either deliberately or unintentionally reads higher costs into the picture. Occasionally the opposite happens or you could get situations like Gary Kleck (a criminologist BTW)


            who gave us this.

            Kleck conducted a national survey in 1994 (the National Self-Defense Survey) and, extrapolating from the 5,000 households surveyed, estimated that in 1993 there were approximately 2.5 million incidents in which victims used guns for self-protection, an average of 4.75 times per minute for each minute of the year, compared to about four hundred thousand crimes committed by offenders with guns.

            Now there are questions with his methodology but Kleck was not pro gun until the study according to him . This is at best confusing but understand there could equally be questions with other studies.

            Its simply not possible to agree on methodology or to trust anyone on the opposite side of the issue.

            Also the real externalities are not guns but the social situation. The cause is simply in most cases bad parenting (typically one parent households) and/or untreated mental illness.

            The gun did not after all leap off the shelf, load itself and shoot someone. It was a long chain of evens that almost always came from those two sorts. Even as far back as Charles Whitman (the 60’s Tower Sniper) fell into this category since he had a brain tumor and too little help with personal stress

            Gun control of that sort you are proposing, a tax is intensely racist since it impacts the poor and non White far more than the well off

            Now you could make a fact based argument that the bulk of all US killings are committed by committed by the poor especially Non Whites and you’d be factually correct to do so but do you really want to go there?

            I thought not.

            As for armed guards? And so? We already have metal detectors, door locks and cameras in many schools. Why not add a truly effective layer of security? Its not nice and in a deep sense its giving up hope but its a solution that actually has a chance of working in this country. It also has the advantage of having a chance of stopping serious in school violence, student to student.

      3. rjs

        there seems to be a widespread misunderstanding of what a semi-automatic firearm is; any gun that automatically loads the next cartridge after one shot is fired is semi-automatic…you still have to pull the trigger a second time to fire a second bullet…

        1. Kunst

          Yeah, how long does that take? 20 children in Newtown could tell you, or 60+ victims in Norway. The semi- in semi-automatic has no practical meaning.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      This is not a practical solution.

      The cost of entry for pretty simple litigation is $50,000. Any gun related loss would involve hiring expert witnesses, increasing the cost. And the companies on the other side would do everything to run the tab up, so this would easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I doubt the expected damages would be large enough to entice high caliber attorneys to take these cases on a contingency basis.

      And litigation is emotionally draining. That on top of the loss is more than a lot of people could take,

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          There is no such thing as an open and shut case. Lawyers who are honest will tell you litigation is a crapshoot.

          1. Enslavedlikeme

            Propaganda in the wrong hands also kills.

            The tragedy in Newtown happened because of one person’s decision to cause harm and His choice of destruction just happened to be using unsecured firearms in which he got access. PERIOD.

            Every “gun enthusiast” (media speak) as you call them, will tell you that EVERY FIREARM should be un-loaded, locked and secured where they cannot get into the hands of children, fugitives or the mentally challenged. This wasn’t the manufacturers, the NRA, or the gun collectors fault. It was the mothers fault for not securing these firearms.

            I cannot support you Yves and refuse to rally behind anyone’s kneejerk reaction to remove firearms simply because they’ve emotionally fallen for Obama tears or some Woman’s fears promoting that we place even more control in the hand of our Government. This is exactly what our “two party leadership” has been waiting for and Newtown was just the perfect opportunity to stir everyone up in order rally the troops.

            The killings in Newtown or any town are no more tragic or more important than those children the U.S. drones and our “brothers in arms” kill every day. Yes Virginia, it’s our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers that do this deed. The children we kill or disable are called “collateral damage” or if you prefer – “an externality, or transaction spillover” in our global effort to control the world’s resources. And, because we don’t want to be unpopular, talked about or thought of as “unpatriotic” we reluctantly eat our daily dose of USA is #1 crapola that we are fed as we ride upon the anti-terrorist media driven sheepwagon. All for the benefit of the media controlled and Government backed Corporations.

            Our leaders fear the people and that is why they bailed out the banks. I know it, you know it and everyday more and more newly pissed off Americans and Investors throughout the world (the un-armed who must now throw rocks) are awakening to the fact they’ve been screwed by giving in and giving up their freedoms to those in control.

            And, no Yves we are not yet in a Police State just because you say so. You are in fear which is completely understandable, but controlling the liberty of others (exactly what you’ve decided to promote with your “yes, it’s mine and I can do what I want” blog platform) is nothing different than the propaganda the banks have imposed on us all, which I thought you do not support.

            Emotional propaganda can be as deadly as any firearm. People believe that you have done your research and know what you’re talking about. Just like, we believed our brokers, lenders, auditors, political leadership and their bottom feeding lawyers.

            Propaganda in the wrong hands also kills and I take little comfort in your views of the best way to control costs.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Wow. talk about projection.

            1. No, I was not more moved by Newtown, than I am by other tragedies (the media is awash with them, starting with, as other readers mention, murder by drone in the Middle East). in fact, I find the media’s milking this story offensive to the families.

            2. I’m not and never have been “afraid” on a physical front. And you appear to to have bothered to read the post.

            3. However, as much as I don’t like 1., it seems to have galvanized the population that isn’t happy about the prevalence of guns to do something about it.

            4. If you think gun owners can stand up against police forces that are acquiring drones and crowd control toys like sound weapons, you are smoking something very strong.

          3. Aquifer

            Eslm ….

            Hmm, “some Woman’s fears” (whoa, capital W!) ISTM, however that this tragedy happened because some other “Woman”, namely this dude’s mother wasn’t afraid enough – too bad THAT woman wasn’t a bit MORE afraid …

            But a good chunk of the rest of your post seems to fall along the lines of “heh, we kill lots of folks overseas, so what’s the big deal? if we don’t care about them, why should a few more over here bother us, and certainly not to the extent of curtailing our “right” to own and use however we wish these weapons of mini-mass destruction ….”

            Ah – so our leaders fear us? Why, because we own assault weapons? Really? They bailed out the banks because they feared us, huh? If they really feared US they would have taken therm over and put all the schmucks in jail – it’s because they DIDN’T fear us, that they bailed them out – funny, i didn’t see a whole passel of armed to the teeth folks demanding they be bailed out, or even jailed, for that matter ..

            “Controlling the liberty of others” – obviously a big no-no in your book, but we do it all the time in this country in the name of the common good – ISTM that should extend to weapons, as well, perhaps more so to them than to anything else ….

            Understand that until you can allay “Woman’s fears” this issue will keep coming up and quite rationally so – these are rational fears and anyone who has no rational fear is a fool …

            So here’s a suggestion – require a) licenses for all guns, b) liability insurance for all guns – the “bigger” the gun the more the insurance required, c) require that all weapons are constructed such that only the legal owner of the gun can fire them – whether its a fingerprint match, whatever. Start there, then come back and make your argument and see if those rational fears are alleviated …

            Personally, i am quite glad for “Woman’s fears” – IMO they made civilization, what there is of it, possible – watch out for you and yours the day “Woman” ceases to fear for her own ….

          4. Aquifer

            b) in my previous post was a repetition of a suggestion made by someone below – a good one, methinks …

          5. Ivy Mike

            Yves sez: “If you think gun owners can stand up against police forces that are acquiring drones and crowd control toys like sound weapons, you are smoking something very strong.”

            If you think LEOs and/or the military are going to blindly obey orders to annihilate their neighbors who stand by the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, you are smoking something toxic to neurons.

    4. Nicholas Weaver

      “Assault Weapons” are not the problem. Rifles of all stripes may look scary (and all “Assault Rifle” means is ‘scary looking features that don’t increase lethality’), but actually have the most positive externalities, since these are the guns used by hunters (deer kill roughly 200 people a year) and target shooters, but almost never by criminals.

      The problem is handguns: The FBI breakdown.

      In fact, this shows that a miracle ban that would cause ALL rifles to evaporate would be only twice as effective at saving lives as a miracle plague that caused ALL deer to evaporate from the roads. Likewise, more people are murdered by someone beating them to death with bare hands and feet than by rifles!

      If you want gun control that works, focus on pistols. Don’t waste your time attempting to ban “Assault Rifles”, it burns political capital for no actual gain.

      1. Ol' Bill

        Agree up to a point, but it depends on whether your goal is to cut gun homicides, or stop mass shootings. They’re kind of a different animal, in a way: the full horror of recent mass shootings grows partly out of using high-capacity magazines in semiautomatic rifles and pistols, which can be reloaded in an instant, over and over again. If you want to refine the term “assault rifle” to include high-velocity, high-capacity autoloading semiautomatic rifles, fine. (This definition could apply to some non-“assault” rifles as well, I suppose.) But yeah, you’re right about pistols in terms of gun homicides in general.

        As to political capital, my hope is that there’s sufficient political capital to get an organized fact-based look at all the negative externalities of widespread firearms usage, giving due regard for positive ones as well. (And we have a clear imperative here to look at how other countries, e.g. Australia, have handled gun related violence.) But that’s kind of long-run luxury-of-time stuff; immediately, I’d like to see concrete measures considered, like banning certain military-style rounds, high-cap magazines (for both pistols and rifles), and so on.

        1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

          I’ve known deer hunters – and although I think deer are cute, I am aware that hitting one on the road is generally fatal, so I’m glad someone is keeping over population down – but none of these deer hunters I knew ever expected to be surrounded by a couple hundred deer and thought they needed an automatic assault rifle for a huntin’ rifle.

      2. genauer

        thanks for the FBI link,

        it limits significantly my earlier assumption, that removing the “automatic” feature would make a big dent.

        1. Propertius

          One more time: “automatic” weapons have been strictly regulated in the US since the National Firearms Act of 1934. Private citizens have been outright banned from buying any such weapon made since 1986. The relatively few pre-1986 automatic weapons that are legally in private hands are registered, require special licensure to possess, and are frightfully expensive. Since 1934, such weapons have been used in exactly two homicides in the United States, one of which was committed by a police officer. They have never been used in a mass shooting.

      3. scraping_by

        Um, ‘Political Capital’ is a bad metaphor. In the real world, success breeds success. If assault rifles are once again banned, it makes high-capacity handguns easier to restrict, and concealable weapons, and so on.

        The straw man claim that reinstating the AR ban would solve all murders in a little obvious. It would take care of half of the collision of psychotropic meds and efficient killing devices that is making public life more difficult. And the idea that the only solutions allowed are universal solutions is restricted thinking.

        Since the externalities pointed out in the original post include all firearm violence,

        And, yes, there’s such a thing as a definable AR. The assault rifle is a purpose-built killing device, designed for one shooter to kill lots of people. Can anyone honestly pretend shock and disbelief when it’s put to that use?

    5. optimader

      *** companies ought to be strictly liable for all the harm they cause

      *** = auto mafgr

      *** + Drunk Driver in auto + intersecting School Bus = Liability for mfg? ,,, fail

      1. LucyLulu

        Thinking more along the litigation lines, actually this morning after hearing the NRA sales pitch and hopping mad, and how a suit against the NRA might just work for some clever enterprising attorneys representing the families in Newtown against the NRA if they could pull a jury trial.

        The NRA has a long history of using lobbying and coercion to manipulate votes and influence legislation. Some research would likely turn up some that crossed the line from lobbying into bribery. The shooter in Aurora (I think it was him) would have shown up on a mental health watch list had the NRA not fought to have mental health checks not required. The shooter in Newtown has multiple clips with 30 rounds. Is there a legitimate need for 30 round clips outside battle? They also fought against the previous ban against assault weapons and funneled their vast resources into ensuring that those who voted for the ban were defeated in the next election. The NRA keeps a scoring system on all lawmakers. Last Sunday, not a single pro-gun Senator would agree to appear on Meet the Press. When Joe Scarborough tried to line up GOP lawmakers to come on Morning Joe this week, he said they didn’t want to comment until after the NRA had their press conference and they heard what position they were taking.

        Clearly lawmakers are intimidated by the NRA. The NRA uses this power to prevent legislation that might have prevented the Newtown massacre. It’s a stretch but a case might be made for negligent homicide. Even if the odds are low, with 26 victims, and 20 being very cute 6 and 7 years olds, a win could be incredibly lucrative. Even a loss could be a career maker. Yeah, it would be tied up for years, but it might just cool the heels of NRA and their bully tactics. They don’t even represent the majority of their members who are far more sensibly inclined. I suspect that liability has crossed the mind of the NRA, hence holding the news conference. The bizarre nature of the proposal they came up with, OTOH, defies explanation. (Was anybody else expecting LaPierre to next offer to throw in an additional limited offer, for the low, low price of $9.99?) People seem to be getting crazier all the time.

        Maybe I’ve watched too much Law and Order. Jack McCoy would have taken on the NRA. And Adam Schiff would have told Jack he hoped he knew what he was doing.

    6. Propertius

      “Assault rifles” are fully automatic and are already tightly regulated in the US (and have been since 1934).

      As for semiautomatic rifles (even the scary-looking ones), they’re widely used for livestock protection, particularly in rural areas in the West. They may not have an “economic purpose” in NYC, but NYC isn’t the whole country.

      Guns are comparitively low-tech devices. Neither banning nor taxation is going to do much to restrict access to them to someone who is intent on obtaining them for nefarious purposes. They’re too easy to make (any moderately-skilled machinist could do it) or smuggle.

      1. Elliot

        re: Propertius says:
        “As for semiautomatic rifles (even the scary-looking ones), they’re widely used for livestock protection, particularly in rural areas in the West. They may not have an “economic purpose” in NYC, but NYC isn’t the whole country.

        Guns are comparitively low-tech devices. Neither banning nor taxation is going to do much to restrict access to them to someone who is intent on obtaining them for nefarious purposes. They’re too easy to make (any moderately-skilled machinist could do it) or smuggle.”

        Hogwash. Farmers here in the west emphatically do NOT use semi automatic weapons to protect livestock. We just don’t. We use fences, dogs, lights; when those fail, shotguns, rifles. Automated weapons are for the plumbing-challenged of the male persuasion, and not about protecting anything.

        Hogwash II: guns are not easy to make, and not any machinist could do so, and also emphatically, semi-automatic weapons are neither easy nor inexpensive to manufacture. I know black-powder enthuisasts, a rare few of whom actually make guns; it’s not an easily picked up art and even harder to do well.

        1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

          Bravo. As a fellow westerner I was hoping our farmer/ranchers would prefer a good single shot rifle with a scope for shoot’n coyotes. Makes me feel safer when I drive around in my car. Those short barrel scary guns just sort of spray bullets any old direction. Can’t hit a rattlesnake with one of those either.

          As far as automatic weapons being easy to make – our gun mfgs have been failing at the elusive goal of the non-jamming automatic ever since the Vietnam War.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Yes, you’ve touched upon the funny bit. Hunters I know also look down upon enthusiasm for semi automatic weapons as a sign of amateurishness and misplaced macho.

        3. Propertius

          guns are not easy to make, and not any machinist could do so

          For your edification:


          And he’s not the only one who has authored easy-to-follow howto guides to home firearm construction.

          A little internet sleuthing will uncover whole Internet bulletin boards chock-full of people who have machined their own firearms (up to and including the dreaded AR-15) in their basements and garages. The only reason why this isn’t a major cottage industry is that the AR platform is so widely available legally.

  2. alchemist

    Love the critical thinking comment.

    It’s a knee jerk reaction to ban guns. I would like to see some real SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS on the impacts of Perverted and violent hollywood. Culture. Drugs wars. Mental health. presctiption meds. etc to make a good decision.

    I perceive this as being a patriot act type moment after 911 to strip civil liberties away.

    1. TrueDat

      Except for the fact that hardcore conservs and gun nuts despise science as well and would reject any scientific evidence out of hand. Any kind of reasoned scientific approach always comes of as “liberal elitism,” see climate change / global warming.

        1. SayWhat?

          There was a similar piece on NPR yesterday about them blocking the ATF’s release of firearms’ crimes data. They are quite determined, aren’t they?

    2. damian


      And Mr. Keene – President of the NRA – as reported in NYT today:

      “He had a personal motivation: his son had been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for firing a gun at another motorist in a road-rage episode.”

      so his Son should be in an insane asylum and that is the top guy promting guns and you think it is anything but…. guns as the problem?

    3. jrs

      Well if it’s about Hollywoood, how is that not a knee jerk attempt to strip liberties away? Because at that point your talking about freedom of speech (and I mean the real genuine article not fake money-speech. So with that argument you really aren’t coming across as a defender of civil liberties, merely someone obsessed with guns.

  3. par4

    Look at the polls and look at the constitution. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall NOT be infringed.

    1. reprobate

      Polls were cited in the post. Overwhelming majority of the public and NRA members favor controls.

      And to your Second Amendment claim, I liked this commment on the Michael Olenick post. It was from Crazy Horse:

      “The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms- but the intention was in the form of a militia similar to what is present in Switzerland. So let’s allow bolt action rifles for everybody–fine for putting a buck in the freezer but much more difficult to use for slaughtering 6 year old kids. All other guns from Glock pistols to Bushmasters have to have their magazines welded shut so they become single shot weapons. And I’m fine with seizing the houses and monster trucks belonging to violators who scoff at the law.”

      1. FrankRich

        Actually in Switzerland the “militia” is not armed with bolt action rifles. Virtually every adult male of age has a full auto machine gun at their house for “militia” purposes.

        I would happily give up my other guns if I could keep a full auto machine gun provided by the government. Hopefully they throw in a few thousand rounds of ammo for training also!

        1. Ol' Bill

          Frank, if you’re going to retail that particular talking point, you should know that Switzerland arms their population, but does not give them AMMUNITION, which is strictly controlled and without which, all those assault rifles the Swiss are “armed” with are no more deadly than a baseball bat.

          will just add that in my 46 years in NYC I’ve been mugged exactly twice. In neither instance would a gun have been anything but a curse, adding a deadly ingredient to what was otherwise a fairly straightforward financial transaction.

          1. optimader

            In Chicago circa 1970’s, a family friend taught EE classes at IIT which was located in a “ethnic” neighborhood.
            The interaction between muggers and muggees was pretty well codified, and consequently the savvy muggee carried what was called “mugger money”, say $10, in their pocket. When both respected the system the transactions flowed smoothly.

    2. TrueDat

      We’ve been round and round about constitutional interpretations ad nauseum. Bottom line: even accepting your logic, constitutions can be changed. It’s just a piece of paper. It wasn’t divinely handed down from angels above.

      1. hunkerdown

        This. The Constitution is popularly treated as some sort of magical One Ring of infinite power, without quite making the leap to the best course of action being to destroy it and start over.

      2. Propertius

        Certinly true, but not necessarily a good idea. One could certainly make the case that most of the Bill of Rights is a threat to perfect safety and security.

    3. lambert strether

      Sure! And Adam Lanza was the most well regulated militia I’ve seen in a long time!

      * * *

      Personally, I regard Bush v. Gore as the culmination of a coup; Scalia wrote the opinion to get his kind of guys nominated to the Court, period.

      It follows that I don’t regard any decisions of the Court after any Bush nominees ascended to the bench as legitimate; “fruit of the poisonous tree” is not the right phrase, technically, but you know what I mean.

      It follows from that that I don’t regard Scalia’s gun nut decision as legitimate, along with Citizen’s United, the ObamaCare decision, etc.

      A lost cause, no doubt, but mine own.

  4. John F. Opie

    Well, there is also the little matter of the 2nd Amendment. Change that before trying to change anything else: otherwise, the courts may well declare those laws and attempts to change the laws as being unconstitutional. Pass a new Amendment changing the 2nd Amendment to stand for something else, and the law changes. Any other approach is doomed to failure, given that the 2nd Amendment is indeed the law of the land.

        1. Propertius

          Cook County (Chicago) already has strict laws as well

          And 500 homicides so far this year. How’s that working out again?

          1. optimader

            Measurably better than 501, unless of course you unintuitively expect fewer deaths as a result of looser restrictions?

      1. John F. Opie

        Ah, but that is local government, which may pass laws regarding such things as they see fit. The Second Amendment prevents the Federal Government from passing laws that would infringe the right to bear arms. That is why states such as New York, Illinois and Connecticut, as well as DC, may have such laws: the Federal Government may not make such laws without violating the Second Amendment.

        If folks are going to be serious about challenging gun laws, anything done without changing the Second Amendment will, at best, be a local solution. We know that this does not work.

    1. ScottS

      Which well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, do you belong to?

      Outside of the military, no one needs guns. No changes are even necessary to the Constitution, just interpret it the way it’s written.

      1. teresainpa

        simple reading comprehension: because we may need from time to time to form a militia, it’s a good idea for americans to keep and bear arms….. you know, for when the call comes and we need a militia.

        Got it? Change it, but don’t misinterpret it. At the time the constitution was written the guns they had were weapons of war. That is what the founders intended for the people to have.

        1. lambert strether

          When exactly do you need to form those famous militias? Not, I assume, to gun down doctors providing abortions legally, so when? Not NDAA. Not Obama gunning down US citizens with no due process. When do those militias get formed? What’s the, er, trigger?

      2. optimader

        RE:The canard of the well regulated militia

        The term militia (pron.: /mɨˈlɪʃə/),[1] or irregular army, is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens.

        I am unaware presently of any group of citizens that can be accurately characterized as “a military force” (other than of course those citizens in the regular military, and arguably they are no longer “ordinary”,rather, like it or not, they are contractually obliged killers when the veil is stripped away.)

        Indeed all roads lead back to “critical thinking” and consequently eliminating argument by fallacy

  5. Maju

    In strong disagreement: I’d rather see the right to own weapons expanded through the world because, as Mao correctly said: power is in the barrel of a gun, and democracy means “People’s power”, what requires that the People has access to weaponry in order to fence off potential military dictators and other authoritarian abuses. Democracies in which firepower is restricted to the army and police are one step away from totalitarianism.

    As we can see in the data, many states with high gun ownership do not have particularly high rates of armed murder (why not general murder rates, you can kill in many ways, as we all know: most murders here are done with kitchen knives and blunt objects), while the example of Mexico (why no more such examples? Colombia maybe? Honduras?) illustrates well that armed criminality can well happen with low levels of gun ownership.

    It’d be interesting to see more examples and different takes on the problem because I’m quite sure that the reason for school and similar massacres in the USA has more to do with social hyper-competitiveness, which excludes way too many since tender age, than with gun ownership.

    Of course requiring some sort of mental stability certificate in order to own weapons would also be desirable. But making them artifially expensive is a direct attack against this fundamental right of the People (in general, beginning by the lowest echelons of society) to defend themselves and their communities against aggression, foreign or internal. Banning them is the same. Also both would feed the black market.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Go to the back of the line, You didn’t bother reading the post. Your argument fails because, as we pointed out, the US is already a police state. Your Marxist fantasy uprising never happened here and there is no interest in one despite the amusing claims of the gun fans that they own them to take on oppressive government. Way too late for that now. The weaponry and crowd control devices now available to and being purchased by local police forces is well beyond that which mere guns can defeat.

      1. LeeAnne

        then why ban them. your argument seems to be based on propaganda about another tragedy that’s a little too formulaic, unexamined in a court of law like all of these tragedies, including 9/11 where there has never been an invesetigation worthy of respect, and where the heroes had the evidence shipped far far away before any any forensics could be performed. Recent tragadies follow the same formula.

        A tragedy: an opportunity for more legislation limiting the rights of Americans

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          You clearly have not read the post. The arguments in it are not based on Newtown. It demonstrates the high social cost of gun violence. All you have done in comments is raise straw men or make arguments that were already rebutted above.

          You are accumulating troll points rapidly. I don’t have tolerance for people who argue in bad faith, and you did that in the previous post on gun violence as well.

          1. Jardinero1

            I don’t accept social costs as an argument. If someone is killed with a gun, it doesn’t follow ipso facto that society is burdened. Maybe the cost to society is less without the victim.

          2. Jardinero1

            When considering externalities, you have to take a balance sheet approach and weigh all the externalities. As a hypothetical, if a career criminal recidivist is shot and killed; is society better or worse off? By what amount?

          3. Jardinero1

            Here’s another one: if an unwed pregnant women who will spend her life on government assistance is murdered with a gun by her boyfriend, is the social cost net plus or net minus. What if she murders her boyfriend who is engaged in criminal activity.

            To know the true social costs of gun violence, one would have to know the demographic makeup of the victims. For all we know most victims of gun violence may be a net drain while living and a net gain while dead.

          4. Jardinero1

            One more: Say a citigroup exec who had a big hand in the bailouts is walking home to his manhattan apartment with a bag of caviar, cheese and crackers and he is murdered whilst the perp gets away scot free with the groceries; is the social cost of the crimes positive or negative?

          5. hunkerdown

            @Jardinero1, fine work in identifying that missing balance. But if you seek to calculate a global net cost of absolute prohibition of individuals owning firearms, you don’t get to stop at identifying a few hypotheticals. As you yourself volunteered, you have to identify *all* the hypotheticals, or at least those that have a significantly different net effect on society. Having done that, you then need to figure net costs and probabilities of each situation. Keep weighing — you’re not even close to done yet.

            Also, the United States, being born an aristocracy and for all but a brief period still effectively operating as such, does not regard as infringement an individual’s inability to pay to exercise some right, or the duty to pay a tax or user fee or perform some other action as a condition of exercising that right.

          6. Aquifer

            Jar – you’re serious? Really? Good lord, you ARE Dexter, with an MBA …

            Lordy, I’d hate to cross paths with you in a dark alley, especially if i had on my raggedy ole winter coat ….

          7. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

            If the Joker hadn’t killed Bruce Wayne’s mum and daddy, we never would have got Batman and Gothem City would still be a crime ridden hellhole!!!!!

      2. Eureka Springs

        So this particular aspect of gun owners has been remarkable peaceful (so far) therefore this data must be dismissed? I find that silly as asking everyone to think the likelyhood our police state cannot and will not get much, much worse.

        The story a while back of Homeland Security purchasing ordering several hundred rounds of just one caliber bullet…. if and when they start pointing those at our well armed populace… the vast majority of gun owners like me who do believe they should only be used as a last resrt defensive tool…. will have them at the ready if we refuse this particular aspect of your argument.

        I would also ask you to recall early tea party rallies, people brought guns, did not use them… and the police state treated them with great respect. Peaceful unarmed occupiers were treated with a lot of contempt and violence.

        1. scraping_by

          The tea partiers were human props for the cops’ bosses astroturf anti-taxation campaign.

          The Occupiers were and are a serious threat to those same bosses by pointing out their criminal methods.

          More likely explanation.

      3. Zeke

        Yves, thank you for taking this issue on. I appreciate good anti-gun arguments from individuals I respect. I do however disagree with some of your reasoning.

        I agree that the US is already a police state, however, I can no more stop the accumulation of power by the state then we as a nation can stop China from a massive weapons buildup. The power of an Assault Rifle, is not in preventing the buildup of power but in defending against that USE of that power when the aggressor makes a move against my safety or the safety of my family. Although I speculate; a heavily armed and organized Jewish community in 1930’s Germany would have done nothing to prevent Hitler from coming to power. However, the community would not have been as tempting a target once the legal protections of the people had been stripped. Even if our lawmakers are well meaning, stripping ourselves of firearms only invites the police state to actually mobilize its power on a grander scale, not decrease it.

        1. IF

          “However, the community would not have been as tempting a target once the legal protections of the people had been stripped.”

          Just to clarify, you mean that the hypothetically armed German Jewish community would have been less of a tempting target than those in Poland, France or the Soviet Union that had armies (tanks and airplanes) to defend them? I really like to see private ownership of IEDs and rocket launchers spike in the US because that’s what you’ll need as a baseline these days to fight a tyrannic government.
          But as the FBI table that was quoted above shows one would really have to remove hand guns from society to make a real dent in homicide rates (rifles and explosives are marginal) of this country. And hand guns don’t work too well in an armed conflict (challenging to hunt with pistols as well). So I hope you agree those should be first to go?

          1. Zeke

            “Just to clarify, you mean that the hypothetically armed German Jewish community would have been less of a tempting target than those in Poland, France or the Soviet Union that had armies (tanks and airplanes) to defend them?”

            Yes. A country at Civil War cannot wage war on other countries. A government, mobilizing tanks against its own people would be a defacto Civil War. Germany had nothing to gain from Civil war which is why it pursued a course of propaganda and civil disarmament before waging war on others.

            “I really like to see private ownership of IEDs and rocket launchers spike in the US because that’s what you’ll need as a baseline these days to fight a tyrannic government.

            Maybe, maybe not. Although I am not opposed to private ownership of such weapons, guns are a lever-arm in search of a fulcrum. I want the largest lever possible when moving an object, but large explosive weapons are indiscriminate killers and may do more to destroy the wielder than to further his cause, as much for the tyrannical government as for the oppressed.

            “But as the FBI table that was quoted above shows one would really have to remove hand guns from society to make a real dent in homicide rates (rifles and explosives are marginal) of this country. And hand guns don’t work too well in an armed conflict (challenging to hunt with pistols as well). So I hope you agree those should be first to go?”

            Yes, if the government was truly interested in decreasing gun related deaths, then a move to ban them would be their next logical move, however, I do NOT agree with that action, and note that the government is instead moving to ban assault rifles.

            Your comment about the use of the pistol shows your ignorance in the use of firearms in general. Pistols have always been considered a secondary weapon system on the battlefield; as much a part of infantry issue as a medical kit and therefore indispensable.

          2. Zeke

            The same FBI report above proves my point. See below:

            “We have 4.3% of the population subjected to actual or threatened violence in the last six months; Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands, the UK and New Zealand range from 4.3% to 5.9%.”

            Yves whole arguments attacks “gun violence” which will naturally increase as guns are more available. What her argument does not address, is that our “violence” rate is just as high as, or lower than the other developed nations listed above. The prevalence of guns are not shown to change that rate.

      4. Maju

        Marxist or not (I’m only somewhat Marxist by the way) free peoples can only exist if they can dissuade the military (or whoever controls them) from taking power. That happens in Switzerland for example and happened in my little peasant-bourgeois Basque Country for centuries, since the anti-feudal revolts of the late Roman era.

        A bourgeois free people is IMO not as free as a communist one but whatever the case, it can only be free if it has some ability to counter an authoritarian government. The fact is that, with all its defects, the USA has never got a military junta and you probably owe that at least partly to the right to own weapons.

        Similarly Switzerland has never got a dictatorship and that’s also probably because the people has weapons at home and make up the military as civic duty.

        Of course someone may be able to persuade the people into a lot of crazy destructive ideas, like happened in Yugoslavia (another example of gun ownership and popular militias) but you have at least to persuade them, not just impose with a bunch of mercenary policemen or soldiers.

      5. Propertius

        The weaponry and crowd control devices now available to and being purchased by local police forces is well beyond that which mere guns can defeat.

        You’re probably right about this, although the Taliban and the Viet Cong would beg to differ.

        Still, given that your own local police force rents itself out as a goon squad for the .01%, why would you want to further tilt the balance of power?

        1. LucyLulu

          I would hazard a guess that Vietnam and Afghanistan were as much about the challenging and unfamiliar geography as anything else. There was a stark difference between the US military’s experience with them and say, Libya or Kuwait.

      6. whatever

        You seem to imagine things can’t get worse. While it is true America is impressively bad compared to any other European country, I assure you that things could be worse.

    2. scraping_by

      While it’s a well-used argument, the equation of firearms and freedom doesn’t pan out in the real world.

      The large number of guns in the population’s hands hasn’t deterred mass oppression. The banks have converted our property rights into entries in the databases. Our consent to financial contracts has been converted into bank clerical duties. Our right to due process was bribed out of existence.

      If the banks can’t be intimidated into respecting our rights, how is it possible government will be?

      Guns are a prop for bombast. Loud, empty threats seem somehow less sad when you can hold a gun while hollering.

  6. Ear

    “the time for well armed militias to defend our liberties has come and gone”

    And what evidence do we have that the 2nd Amendment was intended to be a backstop against own-government tyreanny anyway?

    Maju, in what would be an hilarious comment if the reality of gun violence were not so obvious, seems actually to believe that “the People” are in a position to stop authoritarian abuses because they are armed. Good lord, what dangerous ignorance!

    1. Invictus Black

      “The other arguments made are defense against crimes and to combat the power of the state. The latter can be dismissed pretty easily; we already HAVE a police state. What exactly have our heavily armed gun enthusiasts done about it? Now that New York City has the seventh largest arm in the world, states and cities are looking at buying drones, and state of the art crowd control technology includes sound weapons and friction-reducing liquids (so if you try moving you can’t get your footing), the time for well armed militias to defend our liberties has come and gone. So let’s deal with the first claim.”


      While I credit you for even mentioning it, you are not dealing seriously with this argument. These set of facts could lead one to say that we need less gun control- and more destructive weapons for the general public.

      I also disagree that guns are now a completely ineffective resistance tool. For example, since the civil war, the black community has always seen the importance of being armed in order to defend themselves against racists and the police forces. In fact, the armed community patrols of the Black Panther Party in California were what scared Ronald Reagan in to pushing for the countries first gun control law.

      Even with the ultra modern technologies you name, like drones, you could presumably still find the operators and kill them in their homes. You know, if things got to that French Resistance level.

      But all of this falls outside of your liberal viewpoint, where any whiff of the “extreme” has to be fled from. That is the whole trouble with the American left. Though you observe that this is a police state, you can’t even conceive a response beyond “call your senator”.

      If, in the future, dissidents were being dragged off in to the street and shot, do you think it would be better if they were armed, or not? They may be able to at least kill a few of their attackers and slow down the progress of extermination.

      I agree that we can’t throw all our faith in to gun ownership as a resistance to unjust authority, but we DO need to brainstorm methods of resistance. The gun has often symbolized that kind of resistance- is that why liberals despise it so much? Why is the reaction from the American left always to increase the power of the State, rather than brainstorm non-state solutions in their local communities?

      At the end of the day, the gun debate strikes me as a massive distraction from the real problems we’re facing, which is an out of control, corrupt fusion of corporate and government power. Just like the threat of terrorism, mass shootings hijack the human psyches inability to properly analyze risk.

      Anyways, this is my first comment here, and though it’s critical, I’m an avid fan of the blog and really appreciate it. Just trying to add an additional perspective.

      -Invictus Black

  7. LeeAnne

    ‘gun ehtusiasts’ is a prejorative term to begin with. Volume of words does not make a good argument in and of itself; but those accusstomed to academically approvied debate formulas writing for journals and think tanks are trained to think so.
    That has the result of writing to themselves for themselves.

    There’s a constitutional right to bear arms.

    You’ll change your mind when the PolPot/Stlin/Histler wannabes come after you.

    1. TrueDat

      Except for the fact that they are already here (and doing rather well I might add), and the actual physical weapons and threat of violence is only their weapon of last resort, and surely one of their least effective. Propaganda and control of the all pervasive money supply works so much better!

      1. Mary Bess

        For Chris Rock’s take on gun control and negative externalities, watch here:


        How many TV and radio commentators have you heard mention violent TV programs, violent movies, violent video games and police procedural programs on TV as contributing factors to gun violence?

      2. Mary Bess

        As a bright, articulate representative of the National Rifle Association said to my son’s 6th grade class: “When you need a gun, you need it bad.”

        1. LucyLulu

          And where will that gun be? Where were the guns in Aurora and Newtown and the Sikh temple? There was a gun in Tucson IIRC, but the owner was unable to get a clear shot without endangering bystanders. Why do there never seem to be any gunmen intervening in mass killings despite the US having the world’s highest gun ownership rate?

          1. Mary Bess

            Don’t misconstue this quote as support for the NRA representative’s point of view. If you think you need a gun to protect yourself, if you live by the gun, you are more likely to die by it.

    2. craazyman

      The only place a good rack of guns would really help is if you live on your own compound someplace out in the woods.

      And if society degenerates into somethin like Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD.

      If a SWAT team is after you, you might hold them off for half an hour or so, but they’d send in the choppers and you’d be toast. Or they’d set up a seige and wait ’till you ran out of water or food.

      It’s really just bands of crazed lunatics with guns that you’d have some defense against out in the woods by yourself. In the city, I don’t think it would be like that, since everyone is packed together and most people would do better just running around a corner than shooting it out. A gun only works if somebody knows how to use it and so few do.

      It’s true if you’re confronted by a few hoodlums and you’re packing a pistol and you know how to use it and your nerves hold up — then having a handgun is helpful. But most people would do better just to run.

      If it got to a point of a Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot, that would mean society itself at most levels had gone insane. The guns, even assault rifles, wouldn’t really help if you were surrounded by citizen lunatics everywhere you went. It would just be too late by that point, there’d be nowhere to hide even if you won the first shootout. the best solution is to have escaped to another country beforehand.

      I can sympathize with the notion of anti-gun hysteria, since a nutcase can kill with a knife or an icepick or drive their car at 80 mph into a school. Even so, if somebody thinks they’ll successfully defend themselves from the government with a 0.22 Bushmaster and an ammo clip, they probably need psychiatric help themselves. I have not read even one single news story on this school massacre, but from the headlines I couldn’t avoid, it seems like the mother was a little off her rocker to say the least.

      1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

        So true, craazy.

        Alas, the citizenry has already lost the Arms Race. Our police dept here has this mini tank thing – so already we need bazookas and not guns. They used it to evict an alleged pot smoker from my apartment complex here not long ago.

        Back in the good ol’ days serfs with pitchforks had a bit of a chance against a sword swinging knight on a warhorse. I think the ratio that worked was 6 serfs against 1 knight on a warhorse yielded 1 dead knight, 4 dead serfs, and two injured but alive serfs. A ray of hope.

        Not so anymore if the comrades uprise against the local swat team, National Guard, the Army, Air Force, or the big guns of a Navy destroyer in the case of you coastal dwelling comrades.

        Sad, but true.

        1. craazyman

          That doesn’t sound like Sherrif Taylor in Mayberry to me!

          Actually, I could see old Don Knots in the tank on his way to face down the pot smoker. The writers would probably have him run out of gas and block main street, then he’d be embarrased and they’d find out the pot smoker was really smoking oak leaves that smelled like pot.

          It would all end well, somehow.

          The hard part would be writing it so Mayberry has a reason to use the tank for law enforcement. That would be hard. If it were me, I’d say it was something from the state government and i’d be sure it went back to the state government at the end of the episode, with Sherrif Taylor arranging the disposal. hahahahahah

          1. Aquifer

            Well i could see it if Barney cam running in to the station and said “Hey, see what i just got! It was on sale! Ain’t she a beauty! The guy said it’d work great if we had to chase a ‘coon poacher in the swamp out back!”

        2. JTFaraday

          “Back in the good ol’ days serfs with pitchforks had a bit of a chance against a sword swinging knight on a warhorse. I think the ratio that worked was 6 serfs against 1 knight on a warhorse yielded 1 dead knight, 4 dead serfs, and two injured but alive serfs. A ray of hope.”

          Good odds! Unfortunately, they’re still going straight to hell with the other 4, while the knight gets a papal dispensation.

          (God’s work…).

          1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

            In the opinion of the Church back then, knights looked good in angel wings, but peasents – not so much.

      2. jrs

        “If it got to a point of a Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot, that would mean society itself at most levels had gone insane. The guns, even assault rifles, wouldn’t really help if you were surrounded by citizen lunatics everywhere you went. It would just be too late by that point, there’d be nowhere to hide even if you won the first shootout. the best solution is to have escaped to another country beforehand.”

        I take it you’re working on becoming an ex-pat :). There’s a few of us that already think American society itself at most levels has gone insane. And we keep screaming and screaming to try to wake people up about well anything!

  8. Keep us safe

    From the state’s point of view, there’s a compelling positive externality to high-profile gun violence: public acceptance of intrusive policing and new repressive authorities. I’m waiting for the other Newtown shoe to drop: the Cherish America’s Children Act or whatever, greased through Congress at 2 AM, giving local police all kinds of additional Gestapo duties and instituting a dotted-line report to the DNI. After JFK, we got a big Secret Service aggrandizement with interagency implementation. After RFK, we got further Secret Service aggrandizement with wider interagency implementation. After KC, after WTC I, &c., &c. The COOP plans invoked post 9/11 diffuse the government into the population centers, bringing repressive capacity along with them. Public hysteria greases it.

    1. scraping_by

      Between “The War on Drugs” and “The War on Terror” the government has all the pretext they need.

      And they’re using it. The only difference is that the WOD falls hardest on ethnic minorities and young people, the WOT falls hardest on Muslims and taxpayers. In other words, the powerless.

  9. Norman

    All things considered, looking at the rest of the world, the U.S. has had a stable society since its begining. I know, we’ve had civil war, mini uprisings, etc., but we’re also a war nation, especially today. The mindset seems to be fixed, though perhaps it can/will change. But as we wirness on a daily basis, when populations grow, they do become unmanageable without adjustment[s]. This latest incident with firearms, proves a point, as we are once again divided as to a solution. I have one question to ask of all, “where is the uproar to the P.O.T.U.S. ability to wage war in other countries, using both drones, which indiscrimently kill anyone in the target zone-innocent women & children-as well as funding the so called rebel forces, who do the same. Is it O.K. for that to take place, because those humans are of another geographical part of the world, as in out of sight, out of mind? All these so called solutions are nothing more than bandaids for a problem that has deeper mental problems. I might add, with the present economical situation we are undergoing in the country, if the population wasn’t armed to the teeth so to speak, does anyone really believe that we would be able to sit around on our asses writing about this? Food for thought?

    1. scraping_by

      The previous economic disaster, the one my parents and grandparents lived through, wasn’t solved by guns.

      In all the stories of those days, they remembered a lot of sharing and looking out for each other. For example, their supper was normally oatmeal porridge. However, there was always enough made for the neighbors to drop in and have a bowl. They shared out the products of their gardens, helped each other with harvest and canning, shared what clothing they could get hold of.

      Indeed, many of those habits stuck around until the Reagan years. Things changed in the 1980’s.

      I’d assume any future economic collapse would require the same social skills to navigate.

  10. Erik

    About assault weapons: every defense that I’ve seen so far boils down to “but they’re awesome! I use them to relieve stress!” Combine that with explosive rounds, and people (sorry, men) like shooting at watermelons to make them explode. It’s not productive. Some say that they need repeating rounds so that it’s easier to make it into a game – see how many you can hit and then beat that number. That’s not a very strong argument. Certain “games” aren’t legal. You can’t man-hunt! There are reasonable limits.

    More importantly, I’d love to see a solution that limits these types of weapons while also disarming the state. Let’s get everyone back to the level of basic weaponry and let’s get all non-military back to the same. Give the militiamen an fighting chance! The question is what to do with the military. Clearly they can’t be disarmed abroad, but there has to be some way to control it at home…

  11. Brindle

    Excellent post, Yves.

    One thing I have noticed is many gun enthusiasts have an emotional and often fetishistic attachment to firearms.

    Appears that elements of their sexuality get tied up in identity with guns. At my job I work with a crew of gun enthusiasts, primarily hunters, and this dynamic is apparent to me.

    1. JGordon

      Huh, that’s funny. I have noticed myself that whenever some trajedy that’s even tangentially related to guns takes place, the gun grabbers do their utmost to exploit the emotions of the sheep-like populace to get their agenda pushed through.

        1. scraping_by

          Of course not! Put a gun in someone’s hand and they become two foot taller and the fount of all the world’s knowledge.

    2. Propertius

      I wouldn’t know, not personally being a “gun enthusiast”. I’ve never owned a firearm and don’t have any particular desire to. I do however think that, as a law-abiding, mentally-competent adult, it ought to be my choice to make.

      As for fetishism, one has to wonder about those who attribute magical properties to “pistol grips” or “telescoping stocks”(features that, in combination, are sufficient to render an otherwise apparently innocuous device into a death-dealing “assault weapon” under the 1994 ban).

  12. craazyman

    YOu’ll Never Make the Math Work

    to get to the bottom of this, one would have to calculate the boost to GDP from medical services provided to gunshot victims plus the revenue created by follow up medical care to survivors.

    this could be a significant source economic stimulus and employment, certainly for trauma physicians and doctors and doctors assistants.

    How many BMWs and McMansions does this result in? What’s the multiplier effect? Does this filter down to STarbucks Grande Skim Lattes? What does the economy around gun shops do to employment possibilities in the region and to fast food sales? Can the IMF figure this out?

    They have a coffee at STarbucks called a Tall Blonde, that’s what they call their small-sized mild coffee. I find it ebmarrasing to say to the person behind the counter “I’d like a tall blonde with room for some milk”. Jesus, who makes this sh*t up? Why can’t you just say “Small coffee please”. It’s so bad I’ll often just get one from a deli to avoid the embarraassment.

    Economic analysis makes more sense. and that’s not saying much.

    1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

      I’m fairly certain the NRA has economic studies on gun stimulus, not the least effect being to scare the economy into buying more guns.

      On the other hand, I would never walk into a Starbucks and say “I’d like an Iced Tall Blonde”, for fear of being shot by the register gal, or any armed school teachers in the vicinity.

      1. craazyman

        No, seriously, if you tell them you want “A tall blonde with room for some milk” they accept it as a perfectly normal English language sentence that references a menu item — not some salacious notion on your part. hahahah

        If you say “I’d like a small mild coffee please with room for some milk” they look at you like “what?” and they get annoyed.

        I just have to suck it up and play their game, especially at morning rush hour when there’s 10 people waiting to order.

        1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

          I guess it shouldn’t be that hard to get used to after ordering bar drinks like a “screaming orgasm” or a “slippery nipple”.

          Tho you still may run the risk of being shot by a women’s libber, or maybe a jealous dyke chick thinking you are hitting on her girlfriend. Be careful when ordering.

          It’s crazy out there, craazy!

          1. craazyman

            taxing and prohibition are only the beginning of the policy space on this issue.

            consider an MMT approach: the government can print money and simply buy all assault rifles and hand guns. this may be less expensive, in fact, than the law enforcement costs resulting from their existence.

            The government could even pay people not to commit crimes. That may be less expensive, on balance, than paying police to prevent crime, or courts to prosecute crime. At least, it might be a net financial savings. Since most crime is not organized crime and the criminals would rather just hang out if they had the cash.

            The problem would develop that you’d have so many unemployed former cops and lawyers you’d have to start paying them not to commit crimes. What would they do now? Greet people at Wal-Mart?

            After a while, so many people would be paid not to commit crimes that economic production would fall. Who would want to work anymore? Society might then fall apart and crime would soar and there’d be no more cops, courts or lawyers. And the government would have all the guns. I guess you’d have to think this through a little more. It’s never easy when somebody tries to think in economic terms. LOL.

            Nobody would shoot up schools back in the 20th century, for most of it. There were machine guns and guns all over, but nobody shot up schools.

            There are subtle energies here that go un-noted, un-named, un-seen. I would start with Carl Jung and the dude himself, Sir James Frazer and the cigar man Sigmund’s later books, and go from there. It’s a thin trail in the woods.

          2. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

            Why not employ everyone in a gun factory, then have the government buy all the output and drop ship it to a steel plant. The steel plant melts it all down and sells the steel to the gun plant.

            You still need bars for happy hour, so there will be bartender and waitress jobs too!

            Then who knows, maybe the USG finds out there is an export market for guns – then we just ship ’em in and let the locals figure out what to do with ’em. Kinda a refreshing laissez-faire foreign policy, for a change – and we can get back to nursing our slippery nipples.

            You can do stuff like that with MMT!

  13. JGordon

    The best part about this article was that Yves admitted that we live in a police state at the moment. I was happy to see that at least. But being unstable systems it takes a lot of effort and energy to maintain a police state, and they frequently tend to collapse rather suddenly and spectacularly at random intervals, and when that happens a firearm will be pretty useful to have around.

    1. scraping_by

      The Survivalist argument for large personal arsenals has always had a cowboy movie edge to it.

      Out here in the real world, anarchy tends to take people down with starvation through loss of inputs and preventable medical emergencies. Neither of which can be fended off with firearms. It’s far better to have good relations with your neighbors and go for cooperative ventures.

      Elaborations on the guns are defense motif start with cherry-picking and often require ignoring the circumstances.

  14. rob

    I don’t see a gun problem.
    What “problem”, there is is dwarfed by other problems.
    Though I do see those numbers represent america as having a definate “issue” with gun crimes,doctors kill 5 to 10 times the number of people every year, by mistake.50,000 to 100,000 people. That is a number.Are we forcing hospitals to hire crews to constantly clean hospitals, which has shown in experiments to cut infections in half.Are we restricting the wearing of scrubs, to just in hospitals,rather than in subways, to and from work, or in donut shops ?
    While there is a social engineering, authoratarian desire for “every little crumb” to be attended to….gun issues are a symptom of a larger problem.
    Those charts show total numbers of gun deaths.the numbers don’t parse down how or why.
    First, sure people kill people with guns.It happens.Something like newton, is especially a tradgedy, but really just emotionally.36,000 people a year die of the flu.Never mind the number killed in auto accidents.

    the fact is, if any laws are passed to restrict access,Law abiding citizens will still be able to buy them.there are still millions of firearms in existance.No law will keep people who have the intent to do harm, from having and using firearms.Other countries have had prohibitions,historically.This fact alone ,means we are in a different boat.It would be like trying to prohibit firearms in afghanistan.It won’t happen. even if a heavyhanded assault on gun possesion takes place. People will bury them. These are durable goods. They will be able to be kept, no matter what.
    This issue is like the fiscal cliff. Let a centralized gov’t attempt to control, the people, thru the manipulation of an issue.
    Another aspect of those numbers, is desperation.”desperate people do desperate things”.
    How many of those gun crimes were committed by people who were at their financial breaking point?Or way beyond their crash, and living on fumes?
    How many of those people , may have been in a mental heal,th program, if our country weren’t being shaken down by corporateers, who are bankrupting americans and keeping the civic contract of the gov’t seeing to the public good,from being “in the budget”.The federal coffers are being pissed away to the private establishment. which in turn make the states poorer.
    How many people,have health issues, that in turn take the easiest way out, because there is no euthanasia programs, thanks to the religious factions.Dr. kervorkian was trying to help people, and he was jailed for it.
    Obviously, these three points won’t negate the numbers of gun deaths, but they are just examples of the further detail required to really discuss the options we have.

    Then there is the irony, of a country who has caused the violent deaqths of countless of millions of “other” people,being “upset”at the deaths of some of our own.

    Then there is the irony,of a tradgedy in connecticut, where dupont and remington and other gun manufacturers who have historically steered the gun laws and proliferation in this country,to be now, indignant.
    Or the irony, of a country where the gun industry, which(with others) became the defense inustrial complex who takes half of our budget, and inflicts pain like this the world over,to become sensitized to gun violence.

    While ,I don’t deny the larger need for this country to try and become a saner place, gun laws are way down on that list.And considering the real assault by the police state upon the average citizen,now is not the time to take this issue on.
    First we should get the branches of gov’t,to work.After that.maybe.but that is a long way off.
    The real reason americans should keep their guns, is because with the powers that be working to destroy every saftey net and assurance we have, someday, it may be those around you, who you have to protect yourself from.And guns are better for that, than anything else,except sane civic contracts.meaning our communities.And all the things the corporate powers that be are stealing from us,are destroying our communities.That should be priority one.

    Then there was the coincidence of the same day the newton shootings took place, another mentally disturbed man in china, stabbed twenty -two children in a chinese gradeschool.again,because of loss of social saftey nets?

    1. rob

      Specifically, the possibility that any laws are going to help overall numbers,I doubt it.
      Money will go into law enforcement.encroachment on privacy of american citizens.the corrections industrial complex, will suck up more tax dollars.More people will have records and more people will be incarcerated, thus again, reducing productive members of society.
      All of this would be done without doing anything that actually would help save money.It is just an idea,that doesn’t really have a plan.
      If people want to feel better, they can add another hurdle at gun shows or something.This will be akin to people being made to feel better, after 9-11…with creating the dept. of homeland security….billions wasted every year ad infinitum in the new budget, and lots of politicians saying they “did” something…all the while they “do” nothing.

      1. LucyLulu

        The experience of another countries who have prohibited guns would seem to say otherwise. After about 4 years or so, gun violence begins to decline.

        1. rob

          that may well be.I wouldn’t bet on the future.
          I think ,according to the numbers,deaths and gun violence have been going down in this country too,over the past several plus years.
          I don’t know of any countries,where the population and the situations are similar to the united states, where any gun control laws have worked?Which ones are they?
          I also don’t know anybody personally, who would give them up.And not in a “get my gun out of my cold dead fingers” kinda stupidity….just that gov’t has lost absolute credibility with law abiding citizens as well.This is largely just a “I’ll keep my property, you keep yours”,statement.
          My steadfast point is that a prohibition of firearms, would produce the same results as a prohibition on alchohol,on drugs, and on crime ,for that matter.Somebodies “product” is going to go up.Law enforcement budgets and powers. and blackmarket oppurtunities will be met.
          But really, The reason these laws may go forward, will be because the gov’t/state wants power. And this is a convienient time.after all, the needs of the people always fester,until the needs of the state can be served.The blanketing of the airwaves on this subject and the need for gun control, is as thick as it is to call for the need to comprimise and come to an agreement on the fiscal cliff.
          There may be reality in the fact that our society would be benefited by guns not being owned and towed by some people,but my take on this situation is that ,The act of allowing another line on the bill of rights to be deleted, will accustom the population to delete the others that don’t really mean anything anymore.

  15. One Gun Owner

    How about having gun owners purchase liability isurance?

    And I laugh when someone says I need my guns to defend against the Govt. I give the gun enthusiasts 20 maybe 45 seconds when faced with the 101st Airborne.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That is an interesting variant on taxation. The more guns and the nastier, the greater the insurance premiums. And training would lower the cost of insurance, presumably.

  16. Schofield

    On page 175 of their book “The Spirit Level” Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make the valid point that in regard to suicide and homicde it is a matter of whether anger is turned inward or outward. This was highlighted by a dinner party I went to last night where one of the guests said they would never holiday again in Mexico because of the increasing number of homicides due to drug wars making Mexico in their opinion a lawless state. I thought afterwards that many Americans think this but are mostly delusional about lawlessness and gun control. So, for example, you can drop your kids off at elementary school but there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to pick them up later in the day because some mentally disturbed individual has been able to gain access to guns and shot them to death. Even the US Army a highly regulated and disciplined organisation can’t stop a soldier with probable Post-Traumatic Disorder going on the rampage and massacring children and adults in two Afghanistan villages so what chance this can be done in civillian life? It’s delusionary to think so!

  17. Brick

    There are some legitimate uses for guns.
    1) Vermin control on farms.
    2) Culling of wild stock of animals when they get out of control
    3) Police protection
    4) Sport – Target shooting
    5) In the armed forces
    6) Maybe hunting for food.
    When considering gun control you need to consider how easy it is to enforce it. For example the UK, Australia and NewZealand are islands so it is far easier to control importation. Since bearing arms is part of the US constitution I think you need to think a little laterally.

    Is there a reason why a fast acting tranquiliser gun would be less effective in some cases. If you want to shoot as a sport does it matter whether you own the gun or your sport club and does it matter whether it is a low calliber gun which is less harmful.

    If you limit and control ammunition (size and quantity), resort to tranquiliser guns or tazers where you can, make high calibre guns large and cumbersome and ban multi shot guns then a lot of the problems go away. An enterprising gun manufacturer recognising where things are going could capture a significant market by getting ahead of the game.

  18. Tom

    We live in a police state IMO – an overly broad assessment but agree we have headed that direction to far – Cause is fear.
    Most gun owners (that use guns for recreational and hunting purposes) think that the crazy folks who blather on about the need for automatic weapons with huge clips etal. are a bunch of cowardly vapid souls. Again we are back to fear mongering by a bunch of chicken shits blathering on about how exposed to tyranny we all will be if we don’t posses military (high efficiency human kill technology) to fend of the imaginary monster in the closet.
    I can’t remember who said it but, ‘an informed citizenry is the only true defense for a democracy’.

    So, to all you fear-mongering chicken shits who get all brave behind the barrel of an automatic weapon: pull you heads out of your collective asses and participate in appropriate discourse that leads to a more perfect union.

    Fear is the ultimate tyranny.

  19. citalopram

    Thanks for the article Yves. This is much more realistic solution rather than banning outright, which would never happen here.

    Is Obama and Congress listening?

  20. Jeff N

    well written, Yves

    I (gun owner) am fine with a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines (pistol & rifle), but like Nicholas Weaver already said, mass murderers are then going to use semi-auto pistols instead of the assault rifles. we also need to figure out something for that.

    I can also live with a banning on the possession of assault rifles/semi-auto pistols. But I want to know about recouping the cost of any “illegal to possess” items. People should get something for giving these up, yet I don’t really want to reward those people who are loading up on assault rifles (in order to profit after a ban) as we speak.

    1. Ol' Bill

      Sympathetic to what you say, but when I hear the argument “If we ban X, mass-murderers will just use Y”, I think “then we better make damn sure that Y is as troublesome, non-lethal, and hard to mobilize alternative as we can legislate,” the better to lower the body count.

      Glocks and Sigs don’t NEED to hold 13 or 14 shots in their magazines; and civilians don’t NEED them to. Among other possibilities including 7-shot-max on all pistol mags, it might be feasible to engineer in a little slow-me-down mechanism when fitting a fresh magazine into a gun: make the reload process time-consuming enough, and lives might get saved. Idea being, reduce body count in mass shootings as much as possible.

      1. Ol' Bill

        I think that probably should have been,

        “then we better make damn sure that Y is as cumbersome, non-lethal, and hard to mobilize an alternative as we can legislate.”

  21. Ron

    High taxes on ammo,guns is long over due along with banning outright all classes of semi-automatic weapons now available.

  22. Bebob

    It might be worth considering technological advances to reduce gun violence. Eliminating the whole range of the present ballistic nightmare by making it a species soon to be extinct. Think for example of guns that could only be activated by single users. Guns that could be deactivated by authorities is another possibility. Guns tracked by satellite as leaving certain authorized locations. Guns coded to receive authorized smart ammunition. Guns that warned of broken security protocols. These suggestions are offered in hopes of thinking outside the current conflicted debate. At any point in time all the problems of potentially harmful instruments exist in the future. Thinking how we can change the future might require radical steps. Redefining the range of armament technology ahead of private industry and laying down the law hasn’t often been brought up.

  23. damian

    the NRA wants to arm schools for defense – let the armed camps grow:

    post office, schools, malls, starbucks…endless defense when the problem is the presence of guns rifles and pistols in the usa

    people that own guns are fear based decision makers – the are afraid of something due to their own limitations until they act out their fear one at a time

    we are all in the end game for the administration of the country – we have an open air insane asylum in the usa – its a very sick country

    1. citalpram

      The object is to sell lots and lots of guns. The NRA represents gun manufacturers well.

      There are a lot of whores running this country. They would sell their grandma off to slavery for an extra buck.

  24. David Kemnitzer

    I think that Prohibition does not solve social problems, generally speaking (we have ample evidence for this). In the case of guns in the USA, this general truth is reinforced by the huge stock of guns out there already (and the same applies to types of guns, magazines, etc.). An attempt to seize existing guns would fail politically (and probably violate the 5th Amendment); even a concerted and generous buyback policy would be only minimally effective.

    Solution? Chris Rock has the answer — severe controls on AMMUNITION. Restrict the amount of ammo that can be bought. Ban internet or mail sales. Require ID for ammo purchases. Require that a purchaser show a license to buy ammo that is issued only after certifications and background checks.

    At the same time, it IS legitimate to talk about a culture of violence in this country, and its horrific impact on us all. It is a shame that liberals and the left abdicate that discussion in favor of the right.

  25. SHOW ME

    Why would Nancy Lanza buy a .223 caliber Bushmaster rifle?
    Do you think they will ever bother to produce a sales receipt?
    I think that we are being hoodwinked here people.
    And no mention of any prescription drugs that he
    was taking?
    The whole thing just doesn’t add up.

  26. Cardiff Giant

    If we are going to tax ammo, or come up with ways to offset the “costs” of gun ownership, then I assume we will also compensate other nations that are victims of our $60 billion per year arms export business brought to you by the good ole US of A.

  27. Siggy


    Disclosure . . . Don’t own a gun, have no desire. We do live in a quasi Police State; however, taxing gun ownership does have some merit.

    Opinion . . . What happened in Newtown was an obscene failure at the family level and of the mental health system. I’ve not seen any real mention as to what mental health assistance the shooter’s mother sought or had. The order of responsibility, in my view, is the family failed the shooter and the shooter availed himself of guns, given his mental difficulties, that should not have been present. The mother is reported to have gone to extremes in trying to shield her son from social confrontations. Guns are only coincidental in this case. Unfortunately it will be used to conduct the introduction of draconian laws.

    1. Malmo

      It’s silly to suggets draconian gun laws will come from the horrific events at Newtown. Once the dust settles there is a reasonable chance we’ll see backgroung check improvemnents and greater gun show oversights. Other more onerous restrictions could become law, although I doubt that will be the case. Not sure what Obama can do unilaterally, but he does appear to have options at his disposal. Still, he’s likely going to wait until all the facts of Newtown come to light before acting one way or the other, which is the prudent action. Bottom line: I think debate over the subject is needed and very healthy but as Jeffrey Toobin intoned the other night, like it or not the horse is out of the barn and guns aren’t going away in any measurable way once it all shakes out. Plan accordingly.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Please read Mark Ames’ Going Postal. He looked at all of the mass shootings as of that date and found there were pretty much NO patterns among the killers except they were largely (but not all!) men, generally young men. Most were intelligent, from two parent homes, almost never a history of violence or mental health problems. The biggest common element (and this took place in pretty much all the cases) was having been bullied.

      Adam Lanza is unusual in having obvious mental health issues. And even then everyone was shocked that he turned violent.

      1. Up the Ante

        “Adam Lanza is unusual in having obvious mental health issues. And even then everyone was shocked that he turned violent. ”

        It should be rather obvious by now that his family members know more than they are telling.

        In fact, there’s got to be a few fellas in that area that know more than has trickled out, a phenomenon in itself.

        Like some sort of corporate community.

      2. Up the Ante

        “Mark Ames’ Going Postal. He looked at all of the mass shootings as of that date and found there were pretty much NO patterns among the killers .. ”

        That is disingenuous. As others have pointed out THE pattern is they were soft targets.

        The inadvertent saviour of the anti-gun crowd, Adam Lanza, was at the end of the hallway as the police entered. What did he do ? He re-entered one of the classrooms and began chewing up more children. Didn’t fire a shot at the police.

        Are some of ‘Us’ in the anti-gun crowd performing highly similar acts to that of Lanza in the hallway ?

        there ‘ya go

      3. Aquifer

        Well maybe they didn’t actually have mental health problems, but not a small number of them were taking “mental health” drugs …

      4. nobody

        You are wrong, Yves, in describing Adam Lanza as “having obvious mental health issues.”

        At least so far, the stuff we’ve been hearing about him that is causing people to use words like “troubled” or “mentally ill” involves pretty standard, normal features in a lot of autistics.

        “Serious concerns and objections are usually raised when an analogy involving different different life forms is applied to the situation of describing autistics. The spectre of dehumanization, past and current, is invoked by an assumption that any reference, even via analogy, to a different form of life necessarily means a life that is less than or other than human…

        “Scientists in various fields have proposed that autistics teach us about what is fundamentally and uniquely human – because it is this essence of humanity that autistics lack (Bloom, 2004; Hobsoin, 2003; Pinker, 2002; Tomasello et al., 2005). We therefore contend that it is the biased description of autism from a nonautistic standpoint that provides the foundation for the unethical dehumanization of autistics… The use of concepts such as ‘postivive/negative symptoms,’ ‘excesses/deficits,’ ‘spared/impaired,’ etc., to describe autistic behavior and cognition does not result in a description of intrinsic autistic features, but instead creates a concept of autism based entirely on criteria relative and relevant to the functioning of nonautistics. This knowledge in turn represents the scientific foundation for the project of ‘curing,’ preventing, remediating, or otherwise eradicating autism, a project whose ethics remain unexamined and uncriticized. Autistics and nonautistics have responded by promoting an approach of neurodiversity, in which humankind is heterogeneous, and in which autistics should receive the assistance, accomodation and respect they need in order to succeed as autistic people. The recognition and acceptance of human difference, and therefore the humanization of populations previously set aside from humanity, is at the core of neurodiversity, while its opposite, normocentrism, is the root and rationale for dehumanization. Whereas an unbiased, nonethnocentric approach is recommended for the description of non-dominant cultures, there is no scientific counterpart for the starting point of ‘cultural diversity’ that exists in the social science.”

        (pp. 313-14)


  28. mytwosenseworth

    The Newtown shootings (as have many other recent incidents, sadly) once again raises the issue of gun control vs. gun rights. There are legitimate uses for rifles / shotguns / handguns, and 99.9%+ of legal gun owners are responsible folks. I do believe that the Second Amendment enshrines private gun ownership in the Constitution, but of course the exact degree of what that is can be debated. I also believe that assault weapon and oversided ammo clips have no place being held by members of the general public as some kind of unalienable “right”.

    Personally, I do believe we need an armed police presence in schools. Besides the obvious benefit of being a strong deterrent, I believe that young children, especially in urban settings, can see the role of law enforcement in a more positive light than they may see otherwise. Furthermore, it would be a great way to employ veterans of recent wars who have an excellent service record.

    I’m sure there are many people who would grimmace at the suggestion, seeing that it comes from the NRA. To me it seems, even if you take issue with the messenger, a practical solution to a problem that has no easy answers. The number of recent shooting incidents in schools and other public facilities make some sort of “active” defense measures preferrable to “passive” ones (i.e. alarms, lockdowns). It is all about security. If we undergo wildly imaginative scrutiny for “one-in-a-million” possibilities before we board airplanes, this all seems much, much less of a reach to protect our children.

    1. citalopram

      That was written when flintlocks were the technology, so at best you could make the case that flintlocks are Constitutional. Furthermore we have the Nation Gaurd, which is for all practical purposes at well-regulated militia.

      This is about gun fetishism and nothing more. It’s absolute selfishness at the expense of society at large.

      1. mytwosenseworth

        I disagree with you completely. Guns as I describe have totally legitimate uses. Your labeling of those who own guns as being, basically, socially aberrant is ridiculous. Drugs and intoxicants, which seems to be gaining “acceptability”, are far more destructive than personal gun ownership on society as a whole. However, outside of the Mexican border, drug abuse doesn’t tend to create the incendiary tragedies that gun violence does.

        1. citalopram

          Yes, totally legimate uses such as killing things, including people. As the article noted, “defense” is a paranoid best case pipe dream. You did read the article, didn’t you?

          And yes, there are a lot of gun fetishists on the right. You only need to listen to them talk at length and make excuses in order to draw this conclusion.

    2. David Kemnitzer

      There are about 130,000 schools in the USA. One armed guard at each would cost $6.5 Billion if they cost only $50k per. The high school I teach at covers 4 city blocks, has 1 big, one small-ish, and two clusters of small buildings. There is a school in my city that has 15 buildings on 43 acres.

      Why can’t people accept that you cannot arm yourself against danger — you have to take reasonable steps to reduce danger?

  29. charles sereno

    Briefly, I was struck by Yves’ quote from Wikipedia —

    “If there exist external costs such as pollution, the good will be overproduced by a competitive market, as the producer does not take into account the external costs when producing the good.”
    A perfectly logical statement (if one has time to parse it). Also opaque to us proles.
    I want to be clear — I think Flattery should be enshrined as a further Cardinal Sin. I hesitate then to come in praise of Yves. But, should we not relieve her from answering every misunderstood statement with explanations when her efforts would be better employed?

  30. curlydan

    Tax the manufacturers with money, but also tax the users with time–a lot of time for registration, continuing education, child safety, yearly gun checks. “Are guns your #1 hobby or need, then spend the time to show it or you shouldn’t need a gun!” Remember, it’s a “well-regulated” militia not a God given, unabridged right militia.

    Also, use the tax on manufacturers to (1) fund outside produced/directed PSAs reminding us of the tragedies we’ve seen and the names and ages of the victims and (2) compensate victims of homocide. We will never end gun violence until we take a prolonged stand against it. Otherwise, these assaults will continue to be nothing but an occasional blip on the radar.

    1. citalopram

      That would be excellent: unannounced inspections by police and social workers if children are present. Oh, you don’t have your guns stored properly? Huge fine.

  31. Timothy Gawne

    As usual there are many excellent points here. Certainly the idea that a single individual can somehow defend themselves from a hostile government or rampaging gangs if they only have enough guns is silly. Restricting gun ownership for non-rich Americans may well reduce the murder rate, at least a little bit and for a little while. But please consider this:

    Mexico has very strict gun control laws, yet the official per-capita murder rate is at least four times that of the United States. No, most guns used in crimes there do not come from the United States, and even if they did, if it was the mere availability of guns that caused murder the rate should be no greater than in the United States.

    The violence in Mexico – and in so many other places with sky-high murder rates – is clearly NOT due to lack of gun control laws. It is due to other factors, such as crushing poverty, misguided wars on drugs etc. The United States does have a higher murder rate than most other wealthy countries. But it is far far lower than a lot of other places with strict gun control laws. In the long run we need to worry more about becoming impoverished and having a lot of unemployed young men with no realistic prospects…

    I also suggest that, even if we accept that controlling guns is a good thing, we should be worried at how carefully our outrage is being managed. There are, at this time, at least half a dozen things more outrageous than this latest mass shooting, but we don’t pay attention because the NY Times and CNN don’t tell us to. Suppose that the current episode was buried in a brief bit of text on page 37, and never mentioned again. Now suppose that some drone bombing in Afghanistan is picked up on, and 24/7 we are treated to pictures of mangled children, screaming mothers, wall-to-wall pundits demanding to know how this could occur etc.etc. The outrage would be reversed. You can be made to be outraged about anything the rich want you to be outraged about, and to passively accept anything that they want accepted. This is an awesome power for the rich of this country to have and it should worry us.

    I also suggest that, while no individual can successfully defend themselves against a government and only rarely against even individual assailants, there is a kind of herd immunity. There have been times in the history of this country where union organizers were attacked by corporate forces, but they could shoot back and even though they could never take on the regular army, in the long run labor won. Not so in Mexico where striking workers could be gunned down with impunity. (I know, there is more to it than this – Canada doesn’t have the same gun culture and did fine – but still, something to think about). Any individual can be taken out, but a government can only oppress an armed citizenry so far…

  32. genauer

    What started out originally as a way to explain to peace-loving, green, do-gooders Germans the “real” question of gun ownership in the US ….. : – )

    Just hold on for a few sentences!

    In Eastern Germany there were still a real lot of avenue trees in 1990 (reunification). With a few little cars going only 40 mph that was not so much of a problem. But with a lot more larger western cars, capable of going 100 mph, the death rate specifically just for avenue trees was even 5 years(1995) later more than 4 TIMES your current US firearm homicide rate (13 per 100 000 and year, versus the 3.2 US firearm in the picture above).
    http://www.udv.de/uploads/media/praesentation_baumunfall.pdf specifically page 5

    People argued that it is the fault of people driving too fast, too late in the night, maybe drunken, distracted, …… The trees are not responsible …. : – )

    We (in Germany) cut a lot of dangerous trees in the last 15 years,but

    the lethality of Eastern German Avenue trees is still above US guns,

    even after accounting for forest ratios (http://www.medienwerkstatt-online.de/lws_wissen/vorlagen/showcard.php?id=2587&edit=0 which we value a lot in Germany too : – )

    What we have, are 3 different values:

    – Trees
    – Constitutional rights
    – Human lives

    And each of us values them differently. None is absolute, at least for the large majority, but nearly never judgments are done in a conscious way to put relative weight to it, and respecting others to weigh differently.

    To avoid any misunderstandings, I value the human lives more, I was just not interested enough to join some hunting in my US years, and I don’t drive around eastern German avenues, and definitely not drunken : – ) I am as knowledgable, but disinterested as possibly can be : -)

    What I don’t like is the hypocrisy in the majority of arguments, on both sides of the atlantic pond.

      1. genauer

        @ charles,

        definitely not (yet) drunken : – )

        I wondered, how people respond to the avenue tree fact, which somehow doesn’t fit their prejudices / argumentation patterns.

        In Germany it makes most people very unconformatable to realize, that they de facto value trees more than constitutional rights or human lives.

        They usually then try all kinds of cheap, evasive arguments.

        1. hunkerdown

          Is it cheap and evasive to consider trees as a proxy for a commons that conforms to tradition and history, or to not work to extremes for each and every individual life that drives in a way that threatens that commons?

          1. genauer

            not exactly new : – ),

            the evasive action via “proxy for commons”,

            trying to evade the law, the constitution, and of course values,

            and trying to summon the emotions by association.

            Not new at all

  33. J.

    Calling for gun bans is barking up the wrong tree.

    1. Personal fabricators are going to make gun bans a pointless exercise pretty soon. Guns aren’t that hard to make.

    2. Easy availability of illegal drugs implies easy availability of illegal guns. Plus Holder will probably still be providing assault rifles out the back door to his favorite drug dealers, and I’m sure those will be sold on.

    3. People can be murdered with other things than guns.

    The real issue here is a public health problem – there is very little treatment available for people with serious mental illness, especially for the uninsured. Often mentally ill people are not treated at all unless they have done something for which they are jailed. The largest mental health facilities in this country are all county jails. Luckily very few mentally ill people are violent, but this means they are even less likely to receive treatment.

    There is a window for violent mentally ill people in which they are becoming violent, and the family knows bad things are coming, but the ill person hasn’t yet done anything bad enough to go to jail. It is very hard to have someone committed or treated against his/her will if something awful has not happened yet. There is not much the family can do if the ill person is over 18. It sounds like the Sandy Hook murderer was in that stage, like the movie theater murderer earlier this year.

    The movie murderer in particular was probably coherent enough to make a bomb if he had been unable to obtain a gun, since he extensively boobytrapped his apartment. Plus, cars and knives can and have been used for mass murders.

    Fixing the health care issue will be a lot more difficult but ultimately a lot more productive than a gun ban. Plus it would really improve a lot of mentally ill people’s lives.

    1. citalopram

      “There is a window for violent mentally ill people in which they are becoming violent, and the family knows bad things are coming…”

      There is NO test for this. Nancy didn’t have a clue when she was killed. Do you think Adam would be anywhere near those guns if she KNEW he would have done this? We cannot trust people. Some people can snap, and the ease at which they can reach for a gun and start shooting is alarming.

  34. Keenan

    The first functional firearms made from polymers have already been demonstrated. With advances in 3D printing, including printable metal alloys, all manner of printed devices will equal the durability of their counterparts made via machining or casting.



    A “war on 3D printing” will be no more effective than the “war on drugs” or alcohol prohibition.

    1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

      Ah yes. Technology. Or you can buy plastic pistols from China now (for the lazy kooks out there). You can also buy a Chinese knockoff stinger missile (cheap) and shoot down an jetliner with it. So why make ownership of anything illegal? People just buy the stuff anyway? Only outlaws will have stinger missiles?

    2. citalopram

      Reason magazine, now there’s a reliable non-biased source.

      The proof is in the pudding. Let’s see them do it. Of course, they’ll be making grease guns if people can afford one of these babies. Surely the government won’t mind, will they?

      Full autos are here again!

  35. Joe

    Just a quick report on Australia, by an Australian.

    When I was a kid people wandering around the farm with a fully automatic rifle was commonplace. Semi-automatic rifles were the standard. Shotgun blasted signs everywhere too. That has all changed and I don’t really think too many people miss it.

    Couple of points, though. I don’t think it’s effected the ability of criminals to get and use guns– I know this isn’t the issue, but just wanted to mention it. And I think it reflects a more general change in national culture– there are less Australians with that kind of out-doors(y) lifestyle now. Not to mention survivalists and the like.

    1. Propertius

      I don’t think it’s effected the ability of criminals to get and use guns– I know this isn’t the issue, but just wanted to mention it.

      I guess my question is: why isn’t that (at least part of) the issue?

  36. JEHR

    And a note from Canada (with its neo-liberal conservative government): we had a long-gun registry that seemed to be doing what the police forces wanted–to register gun ownership so that when a domestic crisis erupted the police could find out whether or not guns might be involved. The Harper government got rid of that puppy fast, except for the Quebeckers who wanted the information for their own police.

    Gun-ownership must be part of our conservative base.

  37. jsmith

    Take all the fucking guns away.

    If there’s one thing worse than being chained to the insensate terror and fear of the brainwashed American populace it is that said populace also has the tangible means by which to get even more innocent people killed through their stinky, smelly fear and cowardice.

    Isn’t it bad enough that as a citizen that I have to suffer under a fascist bedwetter regiment concerning bascially EVERY aspect of civil life but that I have to also worry about the scary chimeras of the enlarged amygdala crowd in schools, churches, restaurants, bars etc etc?

    Cue some fearful bedwetter who’s gonna tell me I’m a slave, chicken, etc.

    Hey, motherf*ckers, I’m more likely to die from a car accident – I drive everyday – food poisoning – I eat everyday – medical malpractice – I go to the doctor – than getting caught in a super-kewel shootout but do you see any of these f*cking gun-loving idiots screaming till their blue in the face about ANY of the other “killers”?


    Just another day in the coward capital of the world U S f*cking A where rationalization can almost hide even the worst embodiments of terror and insecurity.

    Instead of even thinking about engaging in such tactics as general strikes, work stoppages, boycotts, etc to improve their lot in life coward America instead sits at home thinking that it’s just gotta come down to a Ole Fashioned Shootout for Freedom – trademark – with the nasty government which – here’s a hint – won’t ever happen because if the government has got you all so f*cking scared already that you won’t even consider ideas outside of capitalism to better yourselves then why would they EVER feel the need to bring the real hammer down on you bedwetting fools?

    F*cking pathetic.

    Go ahead and try and rationalize your cowardice and fear away, brainwashed turds, but your guns aren’t doing anything other than – a la reality TV – making you feel like your are particpating in what is left of sh!tass fascist American culture.


    1. jsmith


      And if you of you gun-f*ckers think “Well, I’ve got kids to protect” don’t you think that MAYBE you should have first thought about even bringing kids into a society in which you feel the need to have to carry firearms to protect them?

      Nope, prolly not, effing d*ckwits.

      To any responders, I’m out for the rest of the day so I’m not avoiding you I’m just out doing things in the real world – gasp – without a f*cking gun strapped to my chest.

      Crazy, I know.

  38. Paul Tioxon

    Thank You Yves,
    This is so important. Let me just say that there is more to the issue than meets the eye. When NC becomes the voice of reason and restraint of unlimited gun ownership, and I turn to Forbes for insight about the gun control, well, let’s just say it is a different world today than just a week ago, for all of the wrong reasons.

    It is about the prevalence of guns, the access to guns and the consequences for this society, as it is, with so many guns available. Even with mental illness, video games, etc. if you take guns out of the equation, the death toll drops, the shooting toll drops and the cycle of violence drops as well. I witness the death toll, about 1 day in Philadelphia and the gun shot victims, about 5 a day, some relegated to wheel chairs, breathing devices or other medical equipment to help them live with a destroyed body part. When over 2,000 died in the Twin Towers, the government rushed to turn the whole world upside down and inside out and did even more to radically change the everyday lives of Americans, now subjected to enhanced national security restriction on their persons. But the million who have been murdered with gun violence and the millions of gunshot victims have not received the same hysterical response. To say I have a resentment would be to trivialize. You can say it is possibly the only resentment I share with Mayor Bloomberg.

    The NRA is a marketing organization for the gun manufacturers. They, along with some other groups, promote the enjoyment of shooting, for sport, recreation, hunting. As a result, gun ownership, and the presence of guns, has dramatically increased. From a FORBES ARTICLE about debunking the increase in gun sales due to fear of gun confiscating Obama.

    “Other Gallup polls are even more interesting. The number of women gun owners in America has gone up from 13 percent in 2005 to 23 percent today. Also, the number of Democratic households with firearms in their homes skyrocketed from 30 percent in 2009 to 40 percent today.

    What has been happening is that the NRA, the NSSF and other gun-rights groups have been busy fighting for Second Amendment rights, advocating for participation in the shooting sports, instructing people how to shoot and store firearms safely, working with police officers and the military and doing a myriad of other things. The NRA has also been lobbying, defending the Second Amendment in courtrooms all over the country and growing its membership. As a result, they’ve attracted more Americans to the shooting sports, made the shooting sports safer and helped more people learn to shoot and to defend themselves.

    You can see this reflected in the number of concealed-carry permits. From the mid-1980s to today America has become a mostly “shall-issue” nation with regards to concealed-carry permits. (Shall-issue laws typically prevent local governments from arbitrarily refusing to give permits.) Today 41 states have right-to-carry laws and 38 states have “shall-issue” laws. In fact, a total of 49 states have laws that, to varying degrees, solidify citizens’ right to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit. Only Illinois is without such a provision.”


    There is more to THIS argument, simply, they have worked as a trade group for increasing gun sales. SO as a nation swimming in guns, what else are we swimming in, which added to easy access and millions of weapons turns into a blood bath on a too regular basis? We have bought too many guns, and now, what are the consequences? Well, they are reduced, which is good policy, if we start to reduce the availability as well as the deadly effectiveness for mass murder.
    But, that does not mean that the ancillary issues of criminals and the crazy is at the center of the problem. The central fact is that we are consuming too many guns. Needlessly, because we are being sold with as hard a sell as modern PR can muster. We need gun control, because the conflict of interest in the gun industry and its chief lobbying arm, the NRA, is hiding behind the skirts of noble ideas in the US Constitution.

    This is not a country of military dictatorships, brutal, petty kings. Most of the ridiculous arguments that the 2nd amendment is an absolute sovereign right, that can not abridged at all, flies in the face of that oppression in America comes from heavily armed private associations, and not the government. The Ku Klux Klan was and is still, to a lesser scale, a domestic para military terrorist organization that had to shot out of existence by Federal Police Agencies. I do not fear the government as much as I fear the heavily armed menace of drug mafias operating in my city and throughout America. I fear millions of right wing gun groups who require their membership to maintain stockpiles of bullets and weapons for when the social order breaks down. I don’t fear the government as much as I fear the uncontrolled and heavily armed organized hatred of Americans, who after the most recent presidential election, petition, by the hundreds of thousands to secede from the USofA. I fear the gun manufacturers who make a buck as merchants of death, and are glad to make more, fomenting fear of one another as a possible mortal danger to each others family. I FEAR THE MARKETING OF FEAR OF THE GOVERNMENT AND THE 2ND AMENDMENT AS THE FINAL SOLUTION TO THAT TO THAT FEAR. The people who turn every opinion they disagree with into an existential threat only resolved by them shooting my government and me to pieces is a real fear, as their armed public marches and rallies testify.

    1. AbyNormal

      And Thank You Paul.

      “I don’t fear the government as much as I fear the uncontrolled and heavily armed organized hatred of Americans, who after the most recent presidential election, petition, by the hundreds of thousands to secede from the USofA.”

      Cooler Heads Prevail.

  39. Garrett Pace

    There’s a few of things.

    First: not even Jesse James kept his guns at hand every moment, and it cost him. (I believe the film hews fairly closely to historical accounts of this event.)


    Second: in a “home defense” scenario, the inclination to discharge a firearm in a crowded urb or suburb (with relatives throughout the home and neighbors in every direction) is madness. Even a .22 bullet can kill someone way more than 150 yards away. Unless my house had hallways like Versailles I’d much rather have a baseball bat or knife.

    How these metal projectors have become idolized and ritualized in the US is really amazing.

    But beyond that, this is an interesting issue for bringing out the authority worship that is usually quiescent among readers of this blog.

    It’s making my head spin, kind of.

    1. Swaggering_Fascist

      A baseball bat at ten meters won’t help you against an armed attacker. You are arguing that “there is a possibility someone might get hurt if I use a firearm to defend myself/family therefore I will not take this step.” Your decision puts you at risk of being one of the ten thousand. It is certainly up to you to take this position. But there is no justification to insist on legislation to apply this capitulation to everyone.

      A firearm in the hands of a homeowner who has taken the time to practice with it can be very effective at deterring an attacker. The firearm may not even need to be fired.

      1. Garrett Pace

        I don’t know how big your house is, but there are no ten-meter spaces in mine. Hence my Versailles comment. Other uses are equally dubious. I could not possibly shoot someone just because they were sneaking around outside my house.

        I do not feel safer holding a gun.

        Still, I have nothing against brandishing an empty firearm in front of an assailant. They make handy clubs, too, if it comes to that.

    2. OregonChris

      Every good gun nut loads his firearm with hollowpoints which will flatten on impact and not travel 150 yards after going through a wall.

      1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

        Which is why the geneva convention outlawed hollowpoints. No sense in using safe bullets in war time.

      2. Garrett Pace

        Hollowpoints are just as renowned for their mutilating power, able to tear apart the flesh of the target rather than just passing through it.

        This makes them vastly more dangerous to the intended target, and marginally less dangerous to bystanders.

        Why anyone thinks that’s enough of a panacea, I cannot say.

        1. OregonChris

          The original comment imagines bullets flying through multiple suburban homes in a self-defense situation. I just point out that this is extremely unlikely with the kind of ammunition used by people who own firearms for self-defense.

  40. Kelly

    Just in economic terms do guns add any value other than people are employed to make them? I cant think of anything of lasting value that wide spread gun manufacturing and ownership has added to our economy. Let me know. Arms export, I guess?

    Also, think of all the lost productivity from gun violence. Are those parents ever going to be able to function as well as before the death of their children, the cost to replace those teachers/aids etc. The cost to the surviving children. Can they still use that building?

  41. Aquifer

    Hmm – well seems to me one could make an argument that if one wanted to keep the spirit of “original intent”, one would be allowed to own any arms that were known at the time the amendment was written ….. These were clearly the arms known to the founders and which they were familiar with when they wrote the amendment – any weapon was available to both the army and the populace – i.e. an “even playing field”.

    In that same spirit, why isn’t the argument made, conversely, that to preserve that “intent” of allowing the citizens to defend themselves against a tyrannical gov’t, they should be allowed to own any arms the gov’t is allowed to own? Would i like to see my neighbors with all that heavy duty s**t? Hell no, but it seems to me it would bring into sharp focus the absurdity of insisting on the right to bear arms in defense against “tyranny” in this day and age …

  42. Hugh

    On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in District of Columbia et al v. Heller ruled in the majority opinion written by Antonin Scalia that the 2nd Amendment “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

    The 2nd Amendment reads:

    A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

    Scalia dismissed the first part of the Amendment: “The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause.” This is poppycock. As an “originalist,” Scalia knows that the Framers did not include reference to a “militia” on a whim. The Republic had no large standing army and indeed such an army was seen as dangerous to liberty. The Revolution was, in part, motivated by the abuses of the British army in the years preceding independence. Militias were not meant to completely do away with a standing army. Military men like Washington well understood the value of having a professional officer corps, but militias reduced the need for a larger standing army and also acted as a check upon it. The aspect of militias as a check was resolved 150 years ago in the Civil War.

    It is also important to realize that there is a flow to the Bill of Rights. The amendments are separately enumerated but the concerns in one are often taken up in the following amendment. The threat of military abuses by a standing army is also the subject of the 3rd Amendment in its prohibition of forced quartering of soldiers by civilians in peacetime, and limitation on such quartering, as prescribed by law, even during wartime.

    To understand the 2nd Amendment in its historical context, it must be taken together with the 3rd Amendment and the tension these reflect between the need for a professional army and the need to check (counterbalance) and amplify it (fill out its ranks) with a citizens militia. Now what is interesting in all this is that while the 3rd Amendment reads like the quaint anachronism that it is, the 2nd Amendment has become untethered from its historical context and original social purpose and has become an autonomous, absolute statement of an individual right. Scalia as an originalist knows this and is being purposefully dishonest when he pretends to anything else.

    You see the Framers, if they had wished to recognize an individual right to possess weapons, could easily have done so, but they did not. For them, the right to bear arms was inextricably linked to the social purpose of a militia. This does not mean without a militia, there would have been a prohibition on the ownership of weapons, just that it would not have been a right. And that is, in fact, where we should be, but not where we are, thanks to the Court and Scalia. What we have is an unconstitutional amending of the Constitution. If gun proponents wish to amend the Constitution by striking the first 4 or 13 words of the 2nd Amendment, they are free to do so by pursuing the regular process of Constitutional Amendment. Doing so via Scalia’s sophisms sets a dangerous and unconstitutional precedent.

    Nor does Scalia end there. He can not. Having done away with the restriction contained in the Amendment’s initial phrase, he is left with an unfettered, absolute freedom in its second. So if your neighbor kept a nuke in his or her backyard, or, worse from Justice Scalia’s point of view, it was one of his neighbors, you and he would have no recourse. This makes even him uncomfortable and he immediately backtracks.

    Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.

    In one breath, Scalia declares the right to bear arms an absolute right, and in the next, he says it’s not. This is plain and simply incoherence. First, Scalia asserts an absolute where the plain text, history, and context say there is none. Then, realizing he has asserted too much, he pulls back from it. We are left with this contradiction. Scalia can not both assert and not assert an absolute at the same time. He can not give us an absolute and then place conditions upon it. And if conditions are to be attached, I prefer the one in the black letter of the 2nd Amendment over those Scalia chooses to add on his own. I prefer the Constitution as it is and has been dutifully amended over the mash up Scalia serves up.

    1. Aquifer

      What do you expect – it’s Scalia ….

      After taking a course in Con Law which consisted of reading and analyzing SC cases – I lost a whole lot of respect for the SC – for the most part it seemed rather clear from the tortuosity of some of their decisions, that they started with an idea of how they wanted it to come out and then wrapped their arguments around it …

      Some of the “reasoning” was downright absurd, IMO ….

    2. skippy

      *As an “originalist,” Scalia* – (Hugh) KNOWS… he panders (to his people – idelogs) and protects their privilege. Hell you don’t make it to SCOTUS by helping citizens out… eh… as Rights and Privilege are *accrued*… Gawd – Darwin (bastardized) said so!.. its common sense… snicker…

  43. JB McMunn

    OK. We get it: Something Must Be Done!

    But why are you looking to the same people who have done such a wonderful job of drug interdiction to solve the problem? How’s that working out? How did Prohibition work out?

    The only viable approach is to use a multi-pronged social and commercial strategy like the one that has successfully reduced smoking. I recall a time when lighting up a smoke at the table in a restaurant was normal behavior. You could smoke in a hospital and the hospitals had cigarette machines.

    Things have changed considerably. However, these are social and cultural changes and it took a generation just to move the smokers out to the alleys.

    Nothing can be done as quickly as we’d like, and to put faith in the government to fix it really does meet Einstein’s criterion for insanity. Unfortunately the entity that lost both the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs is also going to lose the War on Guns.

  44. Roger Bigod

    Yves’ analysis is similar to that of a now ancient book, The Cost of Accidents, by Guido Calabresi. He used motorcycles as an example. A safe assumption is that there will be a fairly predictable level of motorcycle accidents. If you do nothing, the injured bear the costs. The non-rider injured are an externality. If you impose tort liability, there’s a incentive for riders to be careful. But the costs of the system are huge, and the results somewhat random. Another possibility is to tax the activity (motorcycle sales, gas) for a fund to recompense the victims. Calabresi liked that one, IIRC, but that wasn’t the point. It was an analytical framework to use in deciding on sensible public policy.

    Not that it matters with the present SCOTUS, but the word “militia” and the well understood meaning of “bear arms” at the time of the Founding only related to an organized military unit at the state level. To “bear arms” isn’t to own a weapon. And it’s not an individual right. It’s a right of the “people”, i.e. the state. So much for original intent.

  45. rjs

    while we certainly should have a national discussion of what kind of controls should be imposed on personal weaponry, i dont like the reactive nature of the discussion around gun control at this time…bouncing your policy decisions off one event tends to lead to bad outcomes…it has the feel that it will likely produce the kind of unexpectedly restrictive results that the creation of the dept of homeland security did after 9-11…

      1. rjs

        the 2nd amendment arguments are hogwash; they were meant for an entirely different situation, ie “well regulated militia”, that doesnt apply today…and we should have had gun control in place decades ago…what i’m objecting to is the possibility of reactive legislation…

        1. teresainpa

          You can’t think of a single instance in which a community might need to create for itself a well regulated militia? I can, but then I have less trust in the civilized behavior of humans than I used to.

  46. Swaggering_Fascist

    The main problem with the second amendment is that it was intentionally written in a way to fool states rights types (anti-federalists) into thinking that the author of the amendment (madison) cared about and would advocate for states continued control of their militias. So the result was an extremely confusing amendment and the only one with a pre-amble. See William Hoagland:

    @ Hugh: you are correct that Scalia had to ignore the preamble to find that the second is an individual right. But if he wanted to find that the second amend was NOT an indiv right, he would have to ignore the main clause that says “the right of the people…” Any judge interpreting the second has a headache to deal with.

    Its hard to argue that “the right of the people” means an indiv right in the first and fourth but not the second.

    Its a f’d up amendment.

    1. Hugh

      In the Bill of Rights, the main distinction is between “citizen” which is not used and all other designations: person, persons, people. This is an acknowledgement of the universal, not absolute, nature of these rights.

      In the Bill of Rights, “people” is used in three senses which overlap. In the 1st and 2nd Amendments, it is a plural of “person” but refers to their collective action

      1st Amendment: “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”

      2nd Amendment: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”

      With regard to the present discussion, the right to bear arms is an individual right granted for a public purpose: the maintenance of a well regulated militia. You lose the public purpose of the militia and you lose the right to bear arms. Similarly, assembly is by its nature a collective and public act. A mob also is a collective, public assembly, but it is not peacable, and so the right is lost. The conditions of the right must be operative for the right to apply.

      In the 4th Amendment, “people” is not used collectively but carries the sense of “each” person.

      4th Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      In the 9th and 10th Amendments, “people” is used in its most general and collective sense.

      9th Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

      10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

      In the 1st and 2nd Amendments, people (individuals) join together to act collectively. In the 4th Amendment, people (individuals) are acted upon individually. In the 9th and 10th Amendments, people (collectively) are the repositories of their unenumerated rights.

  47. Maximilien

    Yves, your reference to guns and suicide is a non-sequitor. Suicide rates in Canada and the US are identical, despite the clear disparity in the availability of guns. In fact, suicides rates are pretty much the same all over the world.


    As an aside, I find it interesting that the earliest mass shooting in the US that I can remember was Charles Whitman in 1966.


    Were there earlier ones? I can’t remember any. If there weren’t, then one has to ask, What has happened to American society in the 45 years since, that mass shootings have become so seemingly common? Was Whitman’s rampage and the on-going Vietnam war more than a coincidence? Does militarization of a society create social problems?

    Because, IMHO, gun violence seems to be merely a symptom (a symptom which needs treatment, of course). There is something deeper—something cultural—going on in your country, of which guns are just an inarticulate expression.

    1. Propertius

      Mass murders in the US peaked in 1929. Mass shootings account for only 10-15% of mass murders in the US – and no, they aren’t a recent phenomenon. The first one recorded in what is now the US was in 1760.

      1. nobody

        Re: “Mass shootings account for only 10-15% of mass murders in the US – and no, they aren’t a recent phenomenon. The first one recorded in what is now the US was in 1760.”

        Do you have any links to evidence on these assertions, particularly the first one?

        1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

          In the 80s in Los Angeles we used to have “freeway shootings”. But they always seemed to miss…so no harm done and no useful data accumulated.

          But had they hit someone, a 200 car crackup would have resulted…but this would be in the car accident data.

          Then they shoot people one at a time almost incessantly, but that is not a “mass shooting” because lots of people are doing it all around town – not just one shooter.

          Hope that sheds some light about what the data may indicate.

          1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

            Also, now and then they would bust a gang “safehouse” and find scores of assault rifles – some of it real military stuff – along with some grenades and even a rocket launcher or two.

            But they hadn’t used the stuff yet, so as passive collectors no useful data was generated.

          2. Propertius

            The worst mass murders in US history were committed with:

            1) box cutters and airplanes
            2) explosives
            3) fertilizer and diesel fuel (as opposed to commercial explosives like dynamite)
            4) gasoline

            No firearms of any sort were involved (except in the case of the Bath Massacre, where the perpetrator used a rifle shot to detonate his final bomb).

          3. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

            And none of the victims could have saved themselves if they had their assault rifle safely tucked away at home where it is supposed to be.

    2. skippy

      If you extend the scope beyond “shootings”, there is ample evidence of mass killings. IMO “shootings” is/are an abrupt event, where as other examples are drawn out ie Jack the Ripper, serial killers, hotels that eat people, criminal organizations (mob, drug, some corporations) et al.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Suicide rates fell in the UK and in Australia after tough gun controls were introduced. It’s not a non-sequitur for the reasons I explained. The more time and effort it takes to kill yourself, the more someone has the opportunity to change his mind, and some do.

  48. Robert Douglas

    Mexico is a country with strict, rigidly enforced gun control laws. Law abiding citizens are completely disarmed. They are defenseless, caught between a corrupted police and army and a criminal element that is armed to the teeth.
    Google “Militarized Police” for images and you will see what the 2nd amendment is meant to allow us to defend our selves against.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, it is not strictly enforced because it has been remarkably easy to bribe government officials in Mexico for DECADES.

      You have to do better than that.

      1. Robert Douglas

        On it’s path to totalitarianism a closing society alway disarms its citizenry. The metastasizing security state should make you want to own a gun if you don’t currently.

          1. Robert Douglas

            I’m sorry is that supposed to mean that I am wrong? Perhaps you should look into the history of gun confiscation. This is not the first civilian disarmament. Americans today are the most surveilled population in history, do you understand that?

          2. skippy

            @Robert Douglas,

            The problem with your line of argument is: any weapon a person can wield has been made redundant – sic. It is as useless as a stone ax vs iron ax. In fact, it can be argued its only aspect is – a – false sense – of security. Hence realistically… the citizens have been disarmed a long time ago, did you not get the memo[?], you cling to a illusion IMO.

            Skippy… you and yours better get a better mental pacifier or better yet… a plan.

  49. JTFaraday


    “The Latest Mass Shooting Occurred While NRA Officials Were Prepping To Go On Stage”


    “At this morning’s D.C. press conference, NRA executive Wayne LaPierre did his best to place a relatively small frame around last week’s tragedy in Newtown, suggesting the deaths of 20 elementary students and six school staff members was a problem mostly about school shootings specifically, and not gun violence in society at large…

    At roughly the same time, however, breaking news out of Pennsylvania about the nation’s latest mass killing offered something of a counter point to his argument. The Altoona Mirror with the details:

    Four people are dead—including the shooter—and three state troopers were injured this morning in a shooting incident in Frankstown Township, Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio said. The gunman and two other men and a woman are all dead, Consiglio said.

    Two troopers were wounded during a shootout with the suspect, Consiglio said. One trooper was hit in his bulletproof vest and another was hit by flying glass when the gunman fired at his state police vehicle. A third trooper was injured in a crash involving the suspect, Consiglio said.”

  50. Max424

    Yves: “I have a second crime busting incident with my trusty shooting stick that I will spare you…”

    Spare me? I hereby swear on my cat Cheezer’s head that I will undergo sleep deprivation until I know all the details of this incident!

    (Sorry, Little Hun. I just performed a ritual, is all. You have yours, we have ours. Now stop shaking your head like I scrambled your delicate feline senses. You’ll be all right)

    Note: A shooting stick, eh? Gotta get me one.

    I’m walking through the park and I see a fellow shooting stick enthusiast and I say, “En garde!” And they know what I’m talking about, and we exchange a few playful parries, then we sit and discuss the relative merits of our seat slash weapons system. Maybe play a game of chess.

    I foresee a club, a most secret club, buried layers deep in the recesses of the underground. I anticipate torchlit ceremonies and a secret liturgy. We will be oh so shrouded in mystery. We are, the untraceable Shooting Stickers, we use only cryptic hand signals to communicate!

    Watch out Big PoliceState, we are armed and dangerous! And covert. Hooo rah!

    Thanks 2nd Amendment.

    1. Max424

      Almost forgot. Regarding peeved claims and proper topics:

      Fuck em. Kick em out. Anybody who wants to censor you should be censored.

      It’s a wide world. Write about whatever the hell you want.*

      Read, study, think…broadly, is my mantra.

      *You got the history thing down, for instance.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Actually, you use them the other way, the heavy end is the seat part, so you use that to gong people. You could crack someone’s head open.

      My apartment in Sydney was one floor above street level. On Friday night I hear an argument between a man and woman. It goes on for way too long, so I move to where I can hear it better and tune in. The woman is pleading with the man to give her her purse out of his car. He is refusing to get it and she is clearly afraid to try retrieving it herself.

      I step out on my terrace. I can see him and his car, I can see only her legs, she’s leaning against my building and partly obscured by an overhang. I yell at him to give her the purse. He swears at me. I call the cops.

      Maybe 15 minutes or a half hour later, no cops. I can still hear the argument. I go to look and I can’t see either of them. This is not good because they had been right by the driveway down to the parking lot underneath my building. That’s closed at night. When they were on the street, they were visible from the nearby busy street, but the side street is pretty deserted at night, and if they went down the driveway, they’d be out of view

      I grabbed my trusty shooting stick and went downstairs.

      He did indeed have her down the driveway backed against the iron grating. I yelled at him to cut it out, I’m a witness. He turns and comes after me. I swing my shooting stick at him. He yells “Fucking crazy bitch” which is just how I want to be perceived. I scream back at him.

      Three guys hear the commotion and come to check it out. They start trying to reason with the guy. He keeps insisting that she’s his girlfriend. One guy tries explaining that that does not mean he owns her. This is clearly a new concept for him.

      At this point, it become evident the guy has locked himself out of his very ratty car. I am now certain there is no way that girl is gonna get her bag from him without getting beaten.

      The cops arrive. I give them my info. They contact me later and want me to testify (I get the impression he got aggressive with them). I was overseas by then but submitted a sworn statement which they used. They tell me afterwards he was prosecuted successfully and did time (how much I don’t know, I assume very short unless he had a prior history).

      1. Max424

        Thanks for filling me in. The toothpicks holding my eyelids open were driving me crazy.

        Plus Max and Giselle proved the worst klieg light operators ever. Instead of shining them directly into my peepers, they couldn’t resist shifting them to the prey animals outside. They’re Gestapo cats with bunny rabbits, all right, but don’t have the concentration levels necessary to properly sleep deprive the Master.

        Yves, in what amounted to a dark alley, attempting to gong an Aussie misogynist with a shooting stick.

        I like it.

      2. charles sereno

        Yves, I place in abeyance my previous concern about which matters you should use your talents to explore. A marvelous urban tale! If it happened at Xmastime, that would be so Dickensian.

  51. HS

    Twenty-six murdered children is certainly traigic, but why do you care? That’s a bad week in east coast inner cities and those murders often aren’t even reported in the local media. Black males in these areas consider themselves lucky to live past 25. Judging by your lack of commentary on this decades old true tragedy, I can see that homicide is acceptable when the right people are killing each other.

    Subtract out the urban drug violence from America’s gun fatalities and the numbers will look very different. Using Australia as a model is absurd–Australia never turned it’s inner cities into a state sanctioned open-air prison designed to segregate its unwanted.

    1. skippy

      “Using Australia as a model is absurd” – HS

      That is changing as we speak… Major up swing in gun related acts, urban, rural, city’s, anywhere the economic pain pin drops.

      Skippy… were behind, but, not unattached to the trajectory. Hence the 20ish years behind saying, which is more like 10ish these days.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve spoken to government officials, and outside the US, Australia is the first place people look for successful policies (Australia is bi-modal, either brilliant or nowhere to be found). And if you deigned to look at the data, it also has a high violent crime/incident rate. And since it records only crimes, and not threats, it is probably closer to the US, properly measured (lots of alcohol induced social violence).

      And I don’t know what you are talking about re American cities. Your point of view is seriously dated. Most American city centers have been gentrified in a major way.

  52. Propertius

    What it shows is that the US, with a rate of gun ownership nearly double that of the next highest county, has more gun murders than all other advanced economies combined.

    Yet firearm homicides in the US dropped from 17,073 to 9,903 between 1993 and 2011, while in the same period the number of firearms in private hands increased from 192 million to over 310 million. This according to the Congressional Research Service report “Gun Control Legislation” (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32842.pdf).

    Clearly the relationship between the two is nowhere near as simple and direct as you imply.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      From the WSJ, sigh, this is killing ME!

      “Emergency-room physicians who treat victims of gunshot and knife attacks say more people survive because of the spread of hospital trauma centers—which specialize in treating severe injuries—the increased use of helicopters to ferry patients, better training of first-responders and lessons gleaned from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

      “Our experience is we are saving many more people we didn’t save even 10 years ago,” said C. William Schwab, director of the Firearm and Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the professor of surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.”


      And, the people often shot in Philadelphia, do not have the means to pay or are already covered by public health care paid for by taxes such as CHIP, Medicare/aid or some other public assistance program:

      …” There’s also the financial drain on the five area trauma centers.

      According to data released by the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the city’s five Level 1 adult and pediatric trauma centers — Temple, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Hahnemann University Hospital, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania — collectively lose an estimated $8 million annually in caring for victims of violence who cannot pay for health care.

      In 2004, for example, 786 Philadelphians were hospitalized for gunshot wounds. About 13 percent of those victims had no insurance at all. A little over a third had Medical Assistance coverage, which reimburses the hospitals about 85 percent of the cost of care. But the hospitals must absorb the remaining 15 percent. Some of these costs are passed on to consumers through increased health-care costs and insurance premiums.

      Except for a slight decrease last year, the numbers of gunshot victims have been climbing since 2004. In 2005, 883 were treated, and in 2006, city trauma wards treated 987 victims.

      Last year, when 977 victims were treated for gunshot wounds, HUP was one of the most active trauma centers, caring for 401 victims.

      “There have been very modest peaks and valleys, but there hasn’t been a big decrease” in the number of gunshot victims over the years, said Dr. Pat Riley, vice chief of trauma and surgical/critical care at HUP. “We don’t know what the cause is, really; just too many conflicts resolved with guns.”

      So many, in fact, that doctors on the battlefields in Iraq have come to Philly to learn better ways to treat the war-wounded.

      “A number of visitors come here to learn how to care for gunshot wounds,” Riley said. “It’s a little sad that my hometown is proving to be an urban battlefield.”


  53. Kunst

    Guns in America are a classic tragedy of the commons, no different than no-limit fishing. We would all be safer without guns, but each individual in isolation can feel safer because he has a gun to “defend himself” in some hypothetical ideal case where he can be the save-the-day hero by shooting the bad guy (never a bystander or family member).

    Bottom line: more guns, more gun deaths. Fewer guns, fewer gun deaths.

    This bullshit about fighting back against tyranical government is to absurd to reply to. Who gave you the right to decide to overthrow the government because you don’t like the election results?

  54. dannyc

    Is there a measure for externalities resulting from bad journalism?

    Take the chart above: why didn’t we see something like it on the front page years ago?

    Why remuneration for whistleblowers should be a given.

    Who failed to see the Housing Bubble?

    What are the externalities resulting from the Grand Betrayal?

    1. Ivy Mike

      danny sez: “externalities resulting from bad journalism”


      They include Bill Clinton’s Rules of Engagement. In 1999 the President decided that the NATO campaign in Serbia would be expanded — changing the rules of engagement by which the US military operates — to include the media and intellectuals who publicly supported the Serbian cause.

      If previously law-abiding (but well-armed) folks who are made criminals and guerrillas in their own country overnight decide to adopt Clinton’s Rules, the anti-Bill-of-Rights intelligensia might want to relocate to Canada as a precaution.

  55. Beppo

    I do not see enough good in giving up rights we still have, to our awful oligarch dominated government. Saying that there has been no uprising when the country has the highest GDP in the world, so there shall never be one, seems a bit premature.

    Something that has contributed to that lack of uprisingis thesuccess fuldisarmament of the most marginalized groups in America. Disarming freedmen was one of the first Jim Crow acts. The big city handgun bans were later versions of same.

    Adding to the cost of firearms, making them very expensive is the defacto way of banning the possesion of guns by poor people. It is the prefered European method.

    “There are no circumstances imaginable, not even victory, under which the proletariat should give up its possession of arms.” — Karl Marx

    ” 4. The whole population shall be armed.” — “The Demands of the Communist Party in Germany”, Marx and Engels

    “the workers must be armed and organized. The arming of the whole proletariat with flintlocks, carbines, guns and ammunition must be put in hand directly” — Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, March 1850

    1. Swaggering_Fascist

      The arguments that we already live in a police state so we therefore should disarm ourselves is the same as saying you should never resist tyranny. I would like to think that American traditions have not been so easily dismantled.

      People need to conclude the opposite. I’m not saying we in fact live in a police state, that is open to debate. But if we do live in one, then we have an absolute moral imperative to arm and if/when the time comes, resist. We need to have some balls if we want to ensure some semblance of democracy for ourselves and descendants.

      Merely posting repeatedly on the internet about how horrible it is that our govt has been hijacked by the financial elite isn’t going to stop the financial elite. Our liberties are in play and can easily be lost. Arming ourselves is not a 100% guarantee (nothing ever is). But arms one day (hopefully the day will never come) may be the only tools we have to prevent the people represented by Bernanke and Geithner and Summers from completing and strangling us with their financial utopia.

      Another running argument here is that Americans are armed but they haven’t done anything to stop the police state; ergo being armed is useless so don’t object to gun control. Uh… if armed americans attacked the police state we would immediately hear hysterical calls for gun control. Its a false argument; please refine it. Americans are just not ready for armed revolt (as Beppo pointed out).

      Finally, there is the argument that the state has superior weaponry so attempting to resist with regular arms is stupid ’cause you ain’t got a chance.’ Tell that to the AK47 carrying Afghans who have the U.S. military on the verge of vacating the country. There are well known tactics and strategies for checking superior forces. The argument that we should surrender our arms because resistance to a well equipped police state is futile is also morally questionable.

      U.S. Libre!

        1. Ivy Mike

          The Soviets lost both a war and the Soviet Union itself thinking like you.

          “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s Founding Fathers.” ~Ronald Wilson Reagan (while introducing the Mujahideen leaders to media on the White House lawn) 1985

          1. skippy

            The hole thing was a set up, the Soviets took the bait.

            Skippy… Quoting Raygun is like quoting Mister Ed…

          2. skippy

            Ivy Mike loves movie heroes and plots, painting anyone whom challenges him with thinking – acting like his mortal enemy by projection… only to become a TV trope…

            Soviet Invasion Of Afghanistan

            Blood spilt and machines destroyed are not the measure of this war. This is our Jihad, we are the mujaheddin and thusly we are invincible, for God is Great!

            On Christmas Day 1979, the USSR launched an invasion of Afghanistan to support the pro-Communist government there against rebels, including Islamic fundamentalists, with the additional aim of forestalling movements of that sort in the Central Asian Soviet republics.

            The net result of this invasion was to kill the already seriously wounded détente and start what became known as the “Second Cold War”. A large scale boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics followed, as well as an embargo on U.S. grain sales to the USSR.

            The United States, Pakistan and some other countries, provided arms to the rebels, known as the muhjahadden, inadvertently creating Al-Qaeda in the process. The Soviets ended up in a Vietnam War-style quagmire.

            The Soviets pulled out in 1989 and, much like the United States in South Vietnam, left behind a government which sustained itself for only a few years before collapsing in 1992. Unlike Vietnam however, the Soviet-backed government in Kabul fought to a successful stalemate until the funding dried up during the Yeltsin presidency. Afghanistan’s civil war continues to this day, as part of The War on Terror.

            This became a rather popular setting for Western media in the 1980s, as for many the proof that the Soviet Union was an Evil Empire was an orphaned girl in a Pakistani refugee camp. This usually led to portrayals of any mujaheddin as noble, heroic underdogs versus said Evil Empire, which can be a bit jarring in light of current events.

            Following the collapse of the USSR, Russian media took a look at one of its darkest hours. There are also plenty of Afghan works set here.


            Skippy… please view the link for embedded links see:


            PS… Ahhh to claim victory whence a thing happens… lay claim to all that was wrought… as it could only have happened in such a manner… wingnut philosophy.

            BTW I worked there in the day and some more later, plus family working for freedom group. You know the hospital across the border patching up freedom fighters – forward OB thingy, etc.

  56. Swaggering_Fascist

    Skippy: the point as you know was to demonstrate that it is possible to resist what seems like an all powerful government machine.

    Anyway – what is wrong with comparisons to afghans?

    1. skippy

      “the point as you know was to demonstrate that it is possible to resist what seems like an all powerful government machine.” – Swaggering_Fascist

      Skip here… all powerful corporate/Wall st front office (via Citizens United + M = vote)… fixed.

      “Anyway – what is wrong with comparisons to afghans?” – Swaggering_Fascist

      Skippy… century’s of environment… preclude it… some data points: how many afghans are committing suicide after countless rotations to a strange country, flitting between the two conflicting reality[s.

      Which one cultivates a drug under the watchful eyes of its occupier and which one goes to jail for consuming it.

      Which one was a fairly cosmopolitan city – agrarianism rural state till it got caught between two lummoxes and things just keep getting worse since the mid 70s… for just being there.

      Which one is feed a constant direct injection to their mental cortex via full immersion MSM advertising – messaging 24/7/365 from birth (see radicalization via US supplied texts for afghans – they can’t escape that pill either – totally).

      PS. this is not the environment of the past, its many magnitudes of order beyond the machinations those organizers… Hell make people fat for profit (manufactured food) and then cut off their SS – Medicare…. because its viewed as profit loss… LMAO

      PSS. Your follow – ME – exhortations… remind me of an old military cartoon.

      BTW… One modern artillery round would make your house go pop… and leave much of the surroundings unaffected, very tight blast radius. Umm…. drones can carry these kinda nasty’s too! Yves shooting stick is a much more reasonable choice than remorseless pieces of metal…

  57. Ivy Mike

    You don’t poke a wolverine with a sharp stick unless you want your balls ripped off.

    How do the edict enforcers expect to impose their will on an armed public without running headlong into The Iron Law of Unintended Consequences, a rather significant externality that you’ve been studiously ignoring?

      1. Ivy Mike

        I’m not a believer in the supernatural, HayZeus or otherwise. Oops, another of Skippy’s ad hominem lies about me disproven.

        But enjoy your mandatory Two Minute Hate, Skippy.

        “The anti-NRA syllogism seems to work this way: (1) Something bad happened; (2) I hate you; so (3) It’s your fault. This sort of reasoning has played out in all sorts of places over the past century, with poor results.”

        ~University of Tennessee law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds

        1. skippy

          I’m anti idiots with rapid fire weapons, the NRA is just a manufactures PR firm – Profit – before – Life – Fear – messaging psych op.

          “I’m not a believer in the supernatural” – Ivy Mike

          You believe in a guns – magic power – to safe guard… shezzzz.

          Ex elite military and merc here… so I’ve got some experience. If you can’t take out a bad guy in your house with a bolt action, shotty, old fashion revolver… your fooked anyway. Target acquisition – sighting in the dark, first timers syndrome, are you even awake before its to late, etc.

          As it is in all these things… your head is the key to survival… the tool is just an extension of it. You can either hit a target in the heat of the moment or not… the amount of ammo or fire rate is inconsequential for personal – home – property protection.

          Skippy… Move to Somalia, parts of Africa or Middle East… you’ll fit right in… but you have to take your lumps too!

          Good night mike.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      I understand Mr Blodget has quite the biz rep, so for the business types that frequent this site, and not the irrational gun nuts, here is a business case emerging for stricter control of guns.


      You know, the law of unintended consequences is not really a law, or a right, it is just the stuff that happens that we don’t know about that happens as a result of a particular course of action. One particular course of action, that now needs a correction, is the right to bear arms. The unintended consequence of the right to bear arms, is that too many guns are available in a society on the scale of 300,000,000. We do not neatly organize each and every person, so that they can experience rights without the intended and now, quite common and disastrous mass shootings and murders that could not be massive without industrial designed weaponry. The military developed these weapons to conduct war. I know, my mother and uncle worked in the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. The arsenal produced over 3 billion or more rounds of ammo, just for WWII. And my uncle, was tasked with rectifying the jamming of the M-16 in the 1960’s. Yea, they knew bullets.

      But the arsenal of democracy has since closed, taken over by the ROI for the merchants of death hedge fund, see CERBUS. The bullets should be under control of the Federal Government for military designed weaponry. Somehow, they did before, and we did not have a military take over of the populace. But, the guns and ammo went privatize, and looky looky drones in the sky, wiretaps on cell phones, and you know the rest…

      1. Ivy Mike

        There are plenty of rational businessmen who are also gun owners. Enough of your irrational false dilemma logical fallacy.

        Unless you want to explain exactly how a Dr. Jeff Fergeson, a physician in the hospital who carried a gun to work, is somehow “irrational.” Care to take a shot and defend your notion?

        Ferguson said he has a concealed weapons permit and he grabbed his gun, which was stored nearby. He stood between the gunman and others as an estimated 20 employees and 30 patients in his offices went down the stairs. Some of the patients were in surgical gowns or partially undressed as they left the building, he said.

        Colorado Springs Gazette | February 28, 2012

        Or would you rather have 50 people the doctor protected dead?

    2. citlalopram

      The authorites are well aware of what will be required when it comes to confiscation. I severly doubt any of these guys have the balls to come out firing on a SWAT team. If they do, they’ll be killed by them. Good riddance.

      By the way, the reason we have SWAT teams now it’s that Charles Whitman decided to climb atop the belltower at the University of Texas and gun down 13 people in cold blood, wounding 32 others. He was mentally ill, and admitted so.

      When anyone can pick up a gun, then you’re going to have a lot of tragedies.

      1. Ivy Mike

        The “authorities” are well aware gun confiscation will never happen, because it would take the mass murder of millions to accomplish.

        And you don’t have the balls to do it yourself, because you’d be dead trying. And, yes, that would be “good riddance” in your parlance. See how that works both ways? At least we know where you stand in tolerance of your law-abiding neighbors, hater.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Australia was a country full of guns, and fond of guns, prior to 1996. It successfully implemented draconian gun controls. It bought guns at decent premiums to their former market value. It made ownership illegal (not sure if the punishment was fines or imprisonment). And it also made ammo pretty much impossible to get.

          So this can be done, your protestations to the contrary.

  58. Ivy Mike


    What other nation proffers such a broad Egalitarian Clause—what academics should have called the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights—in its foundational governmental document?

    Egalitarian dispersal of State power is the intended purpose behind the “right to bear arms.”

    The Americans’ egalitarian sentiments expressed in the Second Amendment issues directly from close contact with the egalitarian, power-sharing Non-State eastern woodlands tribes, as documented in anthropologist Jack Weatherford’s Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America (1992) and Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World (1988) and Jame’s Axtell’s The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America (1986) (especially chapter 13, The White Indians of Colonial America.)

    A good example of that dispersed—egalitarian—power being used against an entrenched, elite hierarchy, is The Battle of Athens (sometimes called the McMinn County War) in August 1946.

    America’s Constitutional Egalitarian Clause coincides with how Christopher Boehm describes the evolution of egalitarianism in his Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior (Harvard University Press, 1999) as a “reverse dominance hierarchy,” that depends on the less powerful to band together “to deliberately dominate their potential master if they wish to remain equal.”

    Thus, anti-2A proposals are as anti-evolutionary as a fundamentalist creationist clinging to literal interpretations of Bible stories.

    1. Hugh

      What a load. Why not call it the Mom and Apple Pie Amendment? Nobody can be against mom and apple pie, right? Or how about the Little Boys and Girls Amendment? Nobody could be against children, could they? Oh wait, after Newtown, maybe we should hold off on that one for a few months. Use it in the spring after all this has fallen out of the news cycle for a while.

      All you are doing is dishing propaganda, and not even very good propaganda at that. All your main points have been debunked repeatedly in the thread or in the post: the meaning and legal history of the amendment, that it enhances personal safety, and that it is a guard against an oppressive government and protects our other rights. Of course, propagandists like you are used to being debunked and so are ever ready to recast and repeat your BS as if it presented new evidence or a new argument. And if that fails and you are either too lazy or pressed for time, there is always outright trollery.

      1. Ivy Mike

        Anthropological facts backed up with scholarly references are the bane to anti-intellectual haters like you.

        1. Hugh

          Trollery. Same tactics I pointed out in my previous comment. Your BS, facts? I am surprised you aren’t calling them divine revelation, or is that next?

          You are defending objects whose only purpose is to kill and maim, and I am the hater? Can you possibly get any more inverted and upside down in your charges and rants, inquiring minds would like to know?

        2. Lambert Strether

          So far as I know, the only politial thing the dispersed power of guns has done is shoot legal abortion providers. NDAA? Drones? End of rule of law? Squat. So please, stop with the rationalizations, Ivy League or now.

          * * *

          Adding, I’m a non-violence advocate, so I’m not saying that gun advocates shoud have done this. Just to point out that looking at their own logic, some sort of action should have kicked in long, long ago.

          1. Beppo

            Lambert, I respect you, but I think you’re missing some obvious examples of this thing you think makes gun ownership for political reasons moot. You can start with the whiskey rebellion and similar uprisings, and slide to the time of armed anarchist mine workers defending themselves from hired pinkerton thugs and national guard murder squads from Colorado to West Virginia. Miners lost almost any large battles, but their organized defense led to the growth and then legalization of unions. Black Panthers defended their communities from predation, and the inner city handgun bans were passed to disarm them.

            If you’d like the people of America to stand up in armed rebellion tomorrow, I’d like you to recall the massive cold war era repression apparatus that was assembled, and the large scale political persecutions that took place during the 20th century. All of this while the standard of living for most people went up and up. Most rebellions don’t happen when people are comfortable. And they don’t happen when people are starving to death. They happen when people are scraping by and realize that things should be better. Americans are finally organizing, and leftist principles are being embraced openly by young people.

            These massacres are awful, but as Mark Ames has pointed out over and over again, they’re about the brutal inequities laid on the public since Carter/Reagan. If those are sorted, massacres will stop. Disarming for this terrible oligarchy seems like a terrible decision.

            A few separate things: I try tell all of my gun owning friends about how awful the NRA is. They are not a real pro gun organization, they are a pro industry, partisan political organization that takes money from people who don’t realize how terrible they are. The NRA’s infamous grades for politicians are the most obvious marker of this open republican hackwork.

            If an anti gun republican is running against a pro gun democrat, you can be certain that democrat will somehow wind up with an F or a D- while the republican will have an A. Democrats get lower grades for the same views as republicans, across the board. The NRA also supported the assault weapons ban, and was silent when George Bush said that he would sign the bill if it was renewed in the senate. The NRA sucks. There are pro 2nd amendment groups that aren’t horribly partisan, but none have the muscle or the cachet.

        3. skippy

          “anti-intellectual haters like you.” – Ivy Mike – As directed to Hugh.

          WOW that’s a close 1st place winnaarr for most baseless comment this blog has seen, that and Ass sex frustration = War. Hugh anti intellectual[?] my ass weeps for your lost years at Ivy.

          Skippy… whats up with the neoliberal / gawdhead rhetorical device of calling your opponent everything – they are – as – a defense?

          Hay I put the razor blade in the apple, gave – sold it to them, but whence it was bitten… they attack us? I didn’t tell them to bite… that’s a freewill – freemarket thingy… shezz.

  59. Ano

    Thanks, Yves. It’s nice to see how engaged your readership is on the issue. If the topic continues to be raised, here are a couple of points I’m curious to see your take (or that of any party present.)
    1: Does anyone have a proposal for how to assess the impact of guns when they are not discharged? How many crimes does the explicit (or implicit, in the case of highly armed populations) threat of a firearm prevent?
    2: What self-defense instruments do we suggest in their stead? Particularly for parties with poor police response times, what would we recommend to a 110 lb. single mother of four after a rash of burglaries?
    3: How can we convince less rational gun owners to actually relinquish their weapons? It seems that the parties who are willing to surrender firearms if they were criminalized are the only ones whom we would be comfortable AS gun owners. In other words, would confiscation actually concentrate gun ownership amongst the…least desirable parties?

    Speaking as no fan of firearms, I just don’t want my own thinking to be limited to well tread question and easy answers.

  60. noflac

    I couldn’t agree with you more Yves. The true cost of owning guns should be part of the price to own one. While the human destruction caused by guns is steep, the environmental damage is also severe. Lead and metals contamination at America’s 30,000 shooting “clubs” is unregulated. Soil and groundwater are at risk, but lead bullets shot from guns are not considered hazardous waste. If that same bullet was shot from a slingshot, it WOULD be considered hazardous waste. The shooting clubs usually destroy the land and then leave it to the taxpayer to clean up. http://noflac.org/

    While the cost in human lives can’t be compared to the environmental damage caused by irresponsible gun owners, it should be considered in the cost of owning a gun.

  61. Sam

    Re:Wow. talk about projection.

    A good argument never resorts to psychological interpretation in lieu of a reasoned argument. You’ve defended yourself. Fine. But your response does not address the post’s content.

  62. Ming

    As a foreigner, I am always surprised by the hysteria such events have on the American public–in contrast, say, to the shooting in Norway not long ago.

    It seems to me that gun ownership is a feature of the land, but that gun control should be not a very urgent topic for the US at this time, all things considered. The US has very serious societal problems which dwarf that of gun control, and which affect a large portion of the globe. For instance, not nearly as much passion, and certainly no effective action, is generated in the face of the American government’s progressive elimination of elementary rights, such as Glenn Greenwald amply discusses, or at another end of the spectrum, Paul Craig Roberts. There is also the daily drone bombing by a monstrous military-industrial complex, the largest purveyor of arms to the rest of the world, torture of government prisoners, the bloody interferences and invasions in the Middle East (who can forget Madeleine Albright’s infamous reply or Falluja?), genital groping by the TSA, abusive arrests for marijuana possession, incredible police brutality even in the case of peaceful demonstrations, an absolutely degenerate mass media, largest world demand for hard drugs, largest incarcerated population (which features torture of prisoners and slave labor), absolutely corrupt financial system (cf. Bill Black), corporate takeover of government, climate control blindness and other ecological stupidities–it just goes on and on. The US problems are truly hydra-headed. The US population also had lots of guns in the 1950’s, but not the same cultural panorama of dissolution and breakdown, not the same children drugged for hyperactivity and “depression.” Not the same absence of mothers and normal homes. Not the same catastrophic public school dis-education. And so on, and on, and on. The US is actually quite a Frakensteinish monster, and too many Americans are passive about it and turn a blind eye towards their own very bad internal condition as the prime cause of their woes, which look to be worsening in an accelerated way. Of course, Americans excel in business and making money and in technical inventiveness (talents that are not very lofty or high on the scale of human values), but not in self-awareness; the culture is essentially barbarous and materialistic, a culture of shoppers and tawdry entertainment. A mixture of 1984 and Brave New World and the frightened Watership Down rabbits.

      1. abprosper

        It doesn’t actually have to be good it only has to be better than the emigrants country for people to move. Given how bad many places are, even the mess that is the US is an improvement.

  63. abprosper

    Yves, the Afghans are holding up well enough against drones and other wunderwaffe, we will be leaving soon enough and the Taliban will be in charge again.

    A hypothetical US resistance has some glaring weaknesses but they also have a great strength. They are right here, have moles in many places maybe enough to turn entire units ,lots of local supporters and most importantly unlike the Afghans live here and can get to the humans giving the orders and their resources and social networks.

    They don’t even have to win really, one little bump these days and the entire global economy implodes.

    That kind of thing, this brittleness scares me, where I live the roads are in poor condition, crowded and every business is on JIT (just in time) a few phone calls or some incidents, or worse regular actual incidents even ones that fail could create a cascade of events that make the current level of suffering seem like an ice cream social.

    Hopefully we won’t end up with this nonsense but Americans can be a bit crazy at times, wise to not start anything.

  64. Sheldon

    Re: Not to mention people still move here from all over the world.

    Of course, this is still the largest economy in the world, and expert in draining the third world of its resources and in ensuring that its corporations will take over their economies thanks to either buying their politicians, or by asassination, or by outright invasion. That leaves a lot of people with no option but to immigrate to where the giant sucking sound emanates: the US and Europe. Moreover, there are, thankfully, a few freedoms still left, but I wouldn’t hold my breath given the pretty obvious thrust of current developments. So I wouldn’t fall back on self-satisfied self-congratulation–as Americans tend to do in order to avoid honest self-examination and the possibility that they might have to defer shopping or tear their eyeballs away from the TV or Facebook and get off their fat backsides to actually do something about these things.

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