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Knee Jerk Gun Control- Part II


America has a gun problem. We can argue if the guns are a symptom of a crime problem, a cultural problem or a terrorist problem; or if they are a cause.  But we can certainly agree that we would like to reduce violent gun deaths. We can likely agree that we would like to avoid the availability of weapons of any kind to get in the hands of terrorists or the psychotically deranged.

But as a matter of policy it is more productive to properly analyze a problem than to respond emotionally or haphazardly to a tragedy such as Orlando.

Gun critics compare the gun deaths in America to other countries such as in Europe where there is no second amendment and most weapons are unavailable to the public.  But we should understand that such a comparison between a large land mass with 50 states with widely diverse cultures and population to a small homogenous population is of limited use.  There is a diverse range of gun control statutes that vary not only among the states but also differ among communities within the states.  Chicago and Washington, DC have locally restrictive gun laws.

It is far more useful to compare statistics of gun violence among the states.  Police use crime stats to target assets to the location of the problem.  We find that gun violence is concentrated in relatively few areas, mostly large urban areas. When these areas are removed the rate of gun violence for the rest of the country drops considerably, even in areas where the incidence of gun ownership is very high.

Gun rights supporters like to point out that Chicago with strict gun control measures has much higher gun violence that other cities with much less regulation. This is largely irrelevant. What we should ask is if the regulations in Chicago has reduced gun crime from the period before the regulations were instituted. If these regulations have failed to reduce gun violence, then perhaps other solutions in law enforcement should be considered. Blaming the access of guns from neighboring states may explain a few instances but it also points to the futility of only relying on the access to weapons in controlling the problem.

We should also distinguish between the classification of gun crimes. The common gun crime perpetuated by a single criminal is the larger source of deaths, and this can be addressed with restricted access and better background checks, since so many in this category have criminal backgrounds.  There are many laws on the books already to enforce this that are unfortunately poorly enforced.

But the psycho shooters and terrorists pose different threats and requires different solutions.   This may entail profiling in ways that challenge civil libertarians, but such a laws could be tried for a limited period like The Patriot Act, requiring reauthorization by Congress.  This will discourage the abuse of the law by the enforcement agencies.

Stronger straw man laws severely penalizing those who buy for others with known risks can decrease access to dangerous felons, but this can be tricky.  Could you buy a gun for someone as a gift who then shoots someone 5 years later and then be held liable?

Expanded background checks, and licensing gun buyers would also help.

But there are two tactics that will not help.  Relying on the second amendment to avert any restriction is not productive. Nor is the demonization of the second amendment as a 250-year-old relic of the constitution.  Beyond the practical aspects of gun ownership there is something profound about a government that can trust its citizens to be armed.  The government has nothing to fear from its armed citizens, because they rise and fall not from armed insurgency but from the sacredness of the ballot box.

While restricting the sale or availability of certain weapons or high capacity clips may seem productive, the existence of so many of these weapons renders this approach ineffective unless you intend to engage in a massive confiscation of these weapons in all 50 states that are overwhelmingly in the hands of law abiding citizens.  I can not picture agencies that are unable to enforce the existing laws being able to carry out such a task, and I can not imagine the population complying.

Those who call for such confiscation only embolden the opposition who sense that every effort to reduce gun access to anybody is only a step on the slippery slope to confiscation.

Pistols are far more common than assault weapons in gun violence and almost equally deadly. Identifying an assault weapon as such is not as obvious as you may think.  Such weapons are used in a very small per cent of gun deaths; banning then and even confiscating them (if you could) would have minimal effect on gun deaths.

We are emotional creatures and responding emotionally to such tragedies is expected, but it is not the way to enact effective solutions.

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Knee Jerk Gun Control


For my liberal friends who do not understand why  anyone needs an assault rifle or why anyone with basic common sense would object to banning them, allow me to try and explain and offer some other solutions that may actually have some effect.

Fully automatic weapons were banned in 1934. An assault weapon has the same fire power as a traditional looking rifle with a wooden stock.  It fires the same size round and at the same speed. The AR-15 style weapon was used in Vietnam because the older wooden stocks were less durable. Banning assault style weapons is just a ban on a gun that looks evil or military. Those of us who actually own one of these guns understand that your concern is misplaced and, sorry to put it bluntly, smacks of ignorance.

On many of these memes you say that no one wants to take away your guns and then proceed to call for the ban on a certain class of guns you clearly do not understand. You add memes that disagree with the actual second amendment or the current interpretation upheld in the Supreme Court that it means an individual right.  You may be right, but these positions do not logically jive with the first statement that you do not want to take away our guns.

So when you keep posting these memes to ban assault weapons those who disagree react with their memes, and they buy more guns and ammo because they sense that there is an effort underway to take away this ‘right’.

When the Brady Bill was passed in 1993, gun sales went through the roof.  People who never owned a gun bought one when they thought the window was closing.  I bought a couple of high capacity pistols for that very reason.  It included a ban on assault weapons.  There was no discernable drop in gun violence as a result of the bill.

There has been a big increase in gun sales under Obama for similar reasons; the rhetoric of the anti-gun crowd. Sales are particularly robust immediately after a shooting because the left floods us with the same old calls, that makes gun owners fear another ban. I do not deny that the NRA leverages that fear, but you play right into their hands.

Banning the sale of these weapons would have little impact because there are so many already out there in private hands. To effectively impact the availability of them you would have to confiscate the millions of them in private hands. Picture what this would entail.  The public would never stand for it. This reality is why the gun owners do not trust those who claim they do not want to take away your guns. They have been lied to before.

You can reduce the clip size, but the same dynamic applies; you would have to confiscate the millions of high capacity clips in private hands.  If you have ever used one of these weapons you would realize how quickly a clip can be changed. The net effect would be minimal.

The posturing on Facebook and social media after yet another tragedy only emboldens gun rights advocates.   You would be better served to understand the weaponry you want to ban and the many regulations and registrations that are already in effect for a gun buyer.  With that understanding and recognition it would be much easier to actually agree on regulations that may actually work.

For example:

Currently there is a three day waiting period in which the authorities can do a background check.  If the ATF or FBI does not respond in 3 days then the sale is assumed kosher and proceeds.  In many thousands of cases the sale is deemed improper after the sale and the ATF is charged with confiscating the recently purchased fire arm. They rarely do.

If the authorities are too poorly staffed to do the background checks as legislated or to confiscate weapons from those that should have been stopped, then imagine how daunting the task is to confiscate banned weaponry from millions of law abiding gun owners.

Perhaps we need to increase the waiting period to allow the authorities to do a proper check.

Secondly increase the penalties for straw man purchases.  Often criminal gun violators do not buy their own weapons because of the checks already in place. Hold those who buy the weapons for them accountable.

Licensing may be acceptable. I have a concealed carry permit, and it requires an extensive background check. but a license may become acceptable for any firearm purchase. This would also overcome the objection of the loophole at gun shows.

Republicans objected to banning those on a no fly list from buying guns. This has been getting its share of play on the social networks. But being put on the no fly list requires no due process and many are not even aware they have been placed on this list. They rightfully asked what other rights can be denied without due process. That constitution is a pesky document.

But this could be solved with a better run background check system to accomplish the same outcome.

Given the attention that the Orlando shooter had already earned from the FBI, it is hard to conceive that he would have been given greater scrutiny with a background check.  Perhaps it is long past the time to surrender to the politically correct and start profiling aggressively.

One popular video has the President answering a question on PBS from a concerned gun owner.  Obama compared the safety features we built into cars and the impact it has had on reducing traffic fatalities.  The critical difference is that nobody is suggesting that we ban cars, or restricting the horsepower that we are allowed to have under the hood. Yet owning a car has little constitutional protection.

The knee jerked reaction from the left just attracts the same from the right. But with some understanding we should be able to dramatically reduce such tragedies. But I fear the hardened hearts that carry out such acts will require us to take actions that many on the left and the right will find objectionable.  But at least we should take actions that will do more than deliver the short term satisfaction that we did something, no matter how ineffective.

Recommended further reading and viewing

Conservative for Gun Control by Kevin Williamson

The massacre in Orlando is horrifying, but the great majority of our murders are nothing like that. They are the ordinary work of ordinary criminals, who in most cases (more than 90 percent in New York City) already are known to police, as indeed was Omar Mateen. These killers and future killers are on the street committing their crimes because our criminal-justice system, with its vast resources, does not do its job. The police, the prosecutors, the jailers, and the parole-and-probation authorities all must answer for the fact that such a large share of our murders are committed by people already well known to law enforcement.

Charles Cooke expresses his frustration on Morning Joe for those who fail to get specific with suggestions on effective gun control measures, and we see agreement on some proposals.

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The Difference Between Florence Alabama and Florence Italy

Jeff Jacoby climate denier

Inequality in American Life is not as easy to measure as you would think and probably even more difficult to make relevant. The common solutions from the left point more to reducing the wealthy than raising the poor, as if the results will be the same.

While there is a point where inequality can affect social stability it is less relevant than economic growth and income mobility. I contend that the current obsession with inequality is a by product of lousy growth and ineffective growth policies

The big flaw in studying inequality is that it measures  groups, not individuals: individuals rise and fall and display more mobility than groups. America more than any other country celebrates the individuals. How it is measured is also critically important. What years you start and end, what is included in income, whether it is measured pre or after tax, whether transfer payments are included, whether it is adjusted for hours worked, and whether it measures individual or household income can greatly affect the measure of inequality. Not surprising many sources chose a measurement that exaggerates it.

Jeff  Jacoby addresses inequality in   Up and down — but mostly up — the income ladder

The 25th great-grandsons of medieval Florentine shoemakers and wool merchants may still be riding high, but things don’t work that way in America. Here, riches-to-rags stories are not uncommon. When Bhashkar Mazumder, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, examined the earnings of thousands of men born between 1963 and 1968, he discovered that 17 percent of those whose fathers were in the top tenth of the income scale had dropped to the bottom third by the time they were in their late 20s or early 30s. Movement between income groups over the course of a lifetime is the norm for most Americans. The rich often get richer, but plenty of them get poorer, too. Though the top 1 percent makes a popular target, it’s actually a group no one stays in for very long. On the other hand, it’s a group that 11 percent of Americans will reach at some point during their working lives.

Affluence in America is dynamic, and our economic system is biased toward success. But bias isn’t a guarantee. Mobility — up and down — depends to a great degree on the choices that people make for themselves. Individuals who finish high school, marry before having children, don’t engage in criminal activity, and work diligently have a very high likelihood of achieving success. Those who don’t, don’t.

Of course, there are impediments to mobility that are beyond the control of any individual, and that are most likely to hurt those who start out in America’s poorest precincts. Broken public schools, for example. The normalization of single-parent households. Too-easy access to welfare benefits. Counterproductive mandates, like minimum-wage laws and stifling licensing rules. Would that our political demagogues and professional populists put as much effort into dismantling those barriers as they do into demonizing the rich and yapping about inequality.

Yappers notwithstanding, the American Dream is far from dead. This isn’t Florence. No one is locked out of economic success today because of their ancestors’ status long ago. America remains the land of opportunity. Make the most of it.

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Racism Without Racists

from Nicholas Kristof in the New York Time, When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 6

Why do we discriminate? The big factor isn’t overt racism. Rather, it seems to be unconscious bias among whites who believe in equality but act in ways that perpetuate inequality.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, an eminent sociologist, calls this unconscious bias “racism without racists,” and we whites should be less defensive about it. This bias affects blacks as well as whites, and we also have unconscious biases about gender, disability, body size and age. You can explore your own unconscious biases in a free online test, called the implicit association test.

The N.B.A. study caused a furor (the league denied the bias), and a few years later there was a follow-up by the same economists, and the bias had disappeared. It seems that when we humans realize our biases, we can adjust and act in ways that are more fair. As the study’s authors put it, “Awareness reduces racial bias.”

That’s why it’s so important for whites to engage in these uncomfortable discussions of race, because we are (unintentionally) so much a part of the problem. It’s not that we’re evil, but that we’re human. The challenge is to recognize that unconscious bias afflicts us all — but that we just may be able to overcome it if we face it.

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The Class War

from The American Conservative Rob Dreher writes  Trump: Fishtown’s Champion Against Belmont:

The Davos elites of the Democrat and Republican parties didn’t get the teenage daughters of Fishtown pregnant, or didn’t get the Fishtown sons busted for possession or fired from his job for failing a drug test. Those elites didn’t make them stop going to church, or break up their marriage, and don’t tell them to sit on their butts playing video games all day instead of trying to hustle up a living. But those elites did, in many cases, have a lot to do with why they got laid off in their fifties and can’t find work, and why their adult children have to make do with crappy service industry jobs instead of manufacturing jobs that paid well, and on which a family could build a future.

Dreher links to a few other pertinent articles:

from JD Vance in USA Today, Trump speaks for those Bush betrayed

Trump’s voters, instead, wear an almost existential sense of betrayal. He relies onunmarried voters, individuals who rarely attend church services and those without much higher education. Many of these Trump voters have abandoned the faith of their forefathers and myriad social benefits that come with it. Their marriages have failed, and their families have fractured. The factories that moved overseas used to provide not just high-paying jobs, but also a sense of purpose and community. Their kids (and themselves) might be more likely to die from a heroin overdose than any other group in the country.

Cruz’s voters dislike Jeb Bush because he has strayed from conservative orthodoxy. Trump’s voters loathe Jeb Bush because their lives are falling apart, and they blame people like him.

In The Daily Beast Joel Kotkin writes We Now Join the U.S. Class War Already in Progress

The reasons for this opposition are obvious. Progressive policies like higher minimum wages and stricter environmental and labor laws hit small businesses harder than bigger firms, which have the staff and resources to adapt to the regulatory vise. Once seen as the leading, creative edge of the economy, small business has not done well under Obama: For the first time in modern history, more firms (PDF) are going out of business than staying solvent.

But there’s another, more ascendant part of the middle class—highly educated professionals, government workers, and teachers—who have done far better under President Obama. In 2012, professionals generally approved of his regime, according to Gallup, by a 52 to 43 percent margin. These voters have become a critical part of the Democratic coalition; indeed, eight of the nation’s 10 wealthiest counties—including Westchester County in New York, Morris County in New Jersey, and Marin County in California—all went Democratic in 2012.

These middle-income workers increasingly do not work for the private economy; they occupy quasi-public jobs dependent on public dollars rather than private markets. Universities, a core Democratic constituency, have been hiring like mad: Between 1987 and 2011, they added 517,636 administrators and professional employees, or an average of 87 every working day.

This educated and often well credentialed middle class tends toward progressive politics; in fact, university professors have become ever more leftist, outnumbering conservatives six to one. Indeed, those voters with advanced degrees were the only group of whites by education to support Obama in 2012.

In modern America, these people serve largely as a clerisy, hectoring the public and instructing them how to live. A bigger state is not a threat to them, but a boon. No surprise that public unions and academics have emerged as among the largest and most loyal donors to Democrats.

The bulk of this population belongs to what some social scientists call the “precariat,” people who face diminished prospects of achieving middle-class status—a good job, homeownership, some decent retirement. The precariat is made up of a broad variety of jobs that include adjunct professors, freelancers, substitute teachers—essentially any worker without long-term job stability. According to one estimate, at least one-third of the U.S. workforce falls into this category. By 2020, a separate study estimates, more than 40 percent of Americans, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees.

This constituency—notably the white majority—is angry, and with good cause. Between 1998 and 2013, white Americans have seen declines in both their incomes and their life expectancy, with large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse. They have, as one writer notes, “lost the narrative of their lives,” while being widely regarded as a dying species by a media that views them with contempt and ridicule.

In this sense, the flocking by stressed working-class whites to the Trump banner—the New York billionaire won 45 percent of New Hampshire Republican voters who did not attend college—represents a blowback from an increasingly stressed group that tends to attend church less and follow less conventional morality, which is perhaps one reason they prefer the looser Trump to the Bible-thumping Cruz, not to mention the failing Ben Carson.