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02/18/2008

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Michael Brophy

In the meantime though, we might add some new signage or rules at the 'zones.' Some possibilities: 'Education or death; a decison for the psychotic,' or 'Carry weapons only with legal permission.' Or just eliminate the 'gun-free zones' in public spaces where they may have increased murder. It seems the 'gun-free zones' were a high minded prelude to a rationale introduction of the rules you suggest, a prelude that is encouraging a full scale production only in the true cognescenti.

Mickey

Sorry, but I stopped reading when you ridiculously asserted that most of the guns in America (the number is closer to 250 million, by the way) come from the black market. I suggest you do a bit more research on the subject before you make such inane statements. I leave you with the sage words of a man who truly understood the benefit of firearms for personal protection, and articulated the concept more clearly than I could ever hope to...

"An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it." -- Col. Jeff Cooper

Jack

Getting rid of guns could well be one solution for the lowering of our horrendous levels of gun slaughter as we see in other nations with 20% or less of our homicide rates or even in NYC where that large and diverse city has less gun crime than 192 other cities of over 200,000 population.

But as many posters and the gun activists are quick to point out the rate of gun abuse is very low, ie most gun owners, are not abusing their "right" or "privilege". (depending on what the SC makes of the DC ban)

Much is made of the high RATE of gun and other crime in the "black community", however, we should note that HALF of our prison inmates are "white". Now what is the common denominator that crosses the color line of our prison population? Illiteracy. Rates of literacy in prison are quoted as 30% or lower in a nation, claiming, lit rates of 95% or higher.

Thus, it would seem wise for those who'd rather not feed "gun banners" the fodder of US gun homicide being many times higher than in the "civilized?" nations to use as political leverage it would seem there best shot would be that of improving education and economic opportunity in the "left behind" areas where crime and kill rates are higher than in all but nations engaged in outright civil war.

But ha!! can anyone imagine the NRA set spending their resources and political might in favor of equitable funding for "those" schools? or economic empowerment zones in our areas that are most economically depressed and rife with crime?

Rand

I think the difference between say banning drugs and banning guns is that it's a lot harder to manufacture guns than it is to manufacture drugs, moreover it is harder to hide mass production of guns than it is mass production of guns. Now if a country has surrounding it other countries with extensive gun manufacturers, banning guns would be useless and the gun control methods Becker mentioned would be more desirable. But if the country was somewhat isolated from other gun manufacturing countries, as is the case in many European countries, than simply banning guns might be effective.

arbitraryaardvark

I disagree with Rand that it is much harder to make guns than to make drugs.
In a market economy, we tend to buy things rather than make them ourselves, because of comparative advantage. But when governments (or other coercive structures) inhibit the market, home production becomes desirable, even lucrative. When I was at school, eighth grade boys took metal shop, and learned how to make metal parts. It's not too much of a leap to have a basement machine shop to make a gun. Look at the number of folks you know who build their own computers, or work on their own cars.
Of course, you could take the next steps of banning machine tools, gunsmithing books, and internet connections, but at substantial social costs.
This post has been an interesting exercise in hypothetical argument. Assume guns are a bad rather than a good, and discuss what follows.

SheetWise

We try to control drugs, and we imprison people who violate our drug laws -- and in the prison we find drugs.

Make the controls on guns as strong as you want -- eventually, when guns are hard to get, the criminals will begin importing them.

Of course, they'll have to camouflage them with a couple tons of cocaine in order to get them across the border.

dvan

Apologies in advance for the long comment.

Both the original posts by Professor Becker and Judge Posner and some comments on those posts assume a number of predicates that they do not make explicit. One of those is that there is no rational reason for very many people (or any at all) to own a firearm.

I purchased my first firearm as an adult after my apartment in Evanston, an upscale Chicago suburb, was burglarized while I was asleep. I vaguely remember hearing something that night, but it was not enough to rouse me. Fortunately for me, the burglar or burglars were interested in taking only what they could find in plain site, then departed. At one point during the burglary, he/she/they would have been 8-10 feet from the bed in which I was sleeping.

Understandably, I think, I was very disturbed by this experience and had a hard time feeling comfortable in my home for a long time thereafter. I took the necessary legal steps to acquire a handgun (something that I don’t think would be possible in Evanston or Chicago today) and did so.

I’ve had a loaded gun in my home ever since. I don’t live in Illinois any more and have a concealed-carry permit issued by my state. Sometimes I carry a concealed handgun. There's nothing macho or cultural in my use of guns for self-protection. I use them because I believe they will work if I need them.

I practiced law for many years, including criminal law. I represented criminal defendants and was appointed as a special prosecutor on a few complex criminal cases. During this period, I had regular and extensive contact with law enforcement officers from a variety of different agencies.

Most Americans, fortunately, have never had the experience of confronting a potentially violent criminal. Based upon motion pictures and television shows, most people have a script in their mind about what will happen if they are threatened by a criminal. The script goes something like this.

You are in your home alone or with your children at night. You hear a sound of someone outside, then more sounds that lead you to believe that a person is trying to break into your house. Immediately, you go to the phone and call 911. Your call is answered on the first ring. A reassuring emergency dispatcher quickly acquires all relevant information and informs you that police are on the way. The dispatcher tells you to take your phone with you and lock yourself (and any children that are with you) in a secure bathroom or closet to wait for help. You do this and the dispatcher stays on the line to update you on police progress. Very soon, you hear several cars pull to a stop in front of your house. Shortly thereafter, you hear shouted commands. The dispatcher tells you that the police have captured the criminal, that a police officer will be coming to escort you out of your hiding place and that you’re safe now.

Before we analyze how realistic this scenario is, let me point out that your unspoken assumption is that police will arrive fully-armed. If you’re seriously threatened by a criminal, you want to see men and women with guns turn up as quickly as possible. In the scenario above, if the 911 dispatcher told you that an unarmed officer would coming to your house, at a minimum, you would not be satisfied with the emergency response. If the dispatcher told you that the unarmed officer was a 60-year-old man who was 80 pounds overweight, you would be even less satisfied.

How realistic is the mental scenario you have for the police to save you when a criminal is trying to come into your house? Let me enumerate the ways that things can go wrong.

1. You may not be awake. See #2 below.
2. You may not hear a sound. Most successful burglars or rapists or other home invaders don’t make sounds loud enough for you to hear. Your first indication that a criminal is in the house may be when he/she walks into the room where you are.
3. You may hear some very loud sounds. This means that someone is rapidly breaking through a door or window and doesn’t care if anyone inside hears. It is less likely that this criminal’s intent is to steal something, then quietly leave. A motivated home invader can get into almost any home very quickly.
4. If you hear a small sound, almost certainly you won’t immediately call 911. You don’t want to be the source of a false alarm. You’ll go to check on the sound. It might be a cat or a neighbor doing something innocent. It is very likely that whoever is breaking in will make additional progress while you’re investigating. Certainly, you are much more likely to be near the criminal when they enter the house.
5. You might not be able to make the call. Criminals watch the same TV shows that you do and they don’t want you to call 911. There are lots of ways they can dissuade you from doing so.
6. The 911 dispatcher might not answer right away. Due to budget constraints or politicians who want “more feet on the street,” money to hire additional dispatchers might be what got cut out of this year’s budget. If it’s Saturday night and the town is hopping, it’s very likely that your call won’t be answered on the first ring.
7. The 911 dispatcher might get your information wrong. Sending police to the wrong address is less likely to happen with modern phone systems, but police do go to wrong addresses and dispatchers might miss something else important that you say. You’re not going to be at your most articulate during this call.
8. Now we get to the part you will really not like to think about. The police might not come for a long time. Even a response that seems prompt to the police won’t seem prompt to you if a criminal is walking around your house.

A good average response time for a high-priority 911 call in a major city is 7 minutes. 5 minutes is considered very fast. In December, it was reported that virtually every police officer in Omaha was sent to a large shopping mall in response to numerous 911 calls reporting shooting. The response time was 6 minutes. What was not reported was that any other Omaha 911 calls that were received when everyone was at the mall had response times measured in hours.

How quickly can you walk around and look in every room in your home? Unless you’re Donald Trump, it takes a lot less than 7 minutes. If your criminal looks all around your home shortly after entering, he/she is going to find you before the police arrive. If there are two criminals working together, they’re going to find you even sooner.

9. If nobody opens the door, the police officer might not come into your home right away. If there is a serious criminal in your home, it is extremely dangerous for an officer to enter that home at night, especially without backup. The criminal inside knows where the doors are and can be perfectly positioned to meet the officer with deadly force as soon as the officer enters. The officer has taken an oath promising to uphold the law, but the officer did not promise to get killed entering your home. At Columbine High School, a deputy sheriff was assigned to the school and was sitting in his car right next to the school when he received a direct call for help from a janitor inside the school. No officers entered the school for more than 20 minutes. As we sadly learned at Columbine, a lot can happen in 20 minutes.

I won’t elaborate any further on all the ways the call-911-and-wait scenario can and does go wrong. If I believe that one or more criminals may enter my house uninvited, is it rational for me to believe that the police will insure my safety? If I am a woman with a boyfriend who is stalking me, is it rational for me to believe that the police will arrive in time to enforce the court’s restraining order if the boyfriend is kicking down my apartment door at midnight?

If I believe that I may be endangered by one or more criminals entering my house, is it rational for me to use a firearm to protect myself?

As has been mentioned in another comment, unless prohibited from doing so, law enforcement officers almost universally have one or more loaded firearms in their homes and have instructed their spouses how to use the gun to protect themselves. In my experience, in the woman with the stalking boyfriend situation described above, if the woman has no choice but to stay in her home, virtually all officers will advise the woman to obtain a gun to protect herself, unless it is illegal for her to do so.

If we want people with guns to come and protect us when we are threatened, is it rational for us to own a gun, so we don’t have to wait for such protection?

What does a gun do under these circumstances? I will leave it to Dr. Lott to cite specific studies, but the most common response of a criminal who is confronted with an armed victim is to depart. In most cases, simply showing the gun ends the confrontation. Criminals as a group may not have the best reasoning skills, but most do want to continue living after they complete their crime, so they don’t like to take on someone who is armed.

In a crime that may involve a confrontation with the victim – robbery, assault, rape, etc. – a criminal will typically seek to establish a situation in which the victim can intimidated into submission or can be physically overwhelmed. This is why women and the elderly tend to be overrepresented as victims of this type of crime and why criminals sometimes operate in groups so they can overpower any single victim.

A firearm changes the calculus in these scenarios. A 250 pound criminal may not be able to overcome a 100 pound woman who has a gun without being harmed. A gang of three criminals may calculate that one or more of them will be seriously injured if they try to rob a single victim who is armed.

At least one blog - http://www.claytoncramer.com/gundefenseblog/blogger.html - includes numerous posts concerning civilians who use firearms to protect themselves. It makes for interesting reading.


Renato Medina

Dear Dan from Michigan, I disagree with you in the fact that knife is as much as dangerous as a gun. I think that the gun is more because you can shoot with distance and not being held but with a knife you may be held after atacking the first person.

Anonymous

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Anonymous

Subject: Two questions about gun control
1: There are four reasons that someone would be in favor of gun control. What is your reason?Those reasons are:
Tyrants want to disarm the people to make them fearful and controllable.
Criminals want to disarm the victims to make it safer for themselves from injury and capture.
Ignorant want to protect people from accidents not realizing how many are injured or die from accidents as compared to crime, and especially tyranny.
The unknown to me reason that you will fully explain.

2: Where is the line separating when you would fight for the Constitution and the people on one side and against an insurrection of the people against the Constitution and on the other side or
when you would fight for the Constitution and people on one side and against a tyrannical government acting under color of law on the other side?

Please give your answers to me at gmweber@q.com especially those in favor of gun control.

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