Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Discussing good public policy

A very common problem in policy debates is conflation of what would be wise policy with what the courts think is permissible under the constitution. After all, the Constitution has been amended many times because 2/3 of both houses of congress and 3/4 of state legislatures thought it was a good idea. Sometimes this happened because the plain language of the constitution was thought to be inadequate or inappropriate -- viz. 13 and 14 -- or because politicians didn't like the way the courts were interpreting it -- viz. 16. So it should be possible for us to have a discussion about what sensible public policy would be on gun ownership and safety without referring to the Second Amendment or what you think it means. That's a separate question. Yes, as a practical matter we might come up against it if we wanted to implement our policies, but we ought to be able to cross that bridge later. 

So a guy entered a supermarket in Atlanta today carrying all of this upon his person:



This image was provided by the police, and you can read a discussion of the incident here. (For some reason the news stories say he had five guns but I count six.) Without referring to the Constitution, do you believe that it is wise to allow people to carry what appears to be a high powered semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun, three semi-automatic pistols, and a revolver, into a grocery store? Please justify your answer. And by the way, the turkeys and hams are already dead.

Answer the question I asked, not some other question.

Extremely bizarre comment: I just got an anonymous comment accusing me of ignoring this guy. You see why I have to moderate comments.


mojrim said...

My answer is "meh." It doesn't really matter how scary that pile looks, you can only use one gun at a time and handguns are more a badge of authority than an actual weapon. During deployments I only carried them on base, preferring extra ammo and a couple grenades when we went for our sunday drives. The real question here is "should anyone be allowed to own that?" because, once they do, there's no practical way to prevent them walking into the grocery so encumbered. Neither is there a reasonable standard to restrict the number of guns someone owns - they are tools with specific uses.

So I must ask: which guns would you forbid to me, and why? Handguns are the real killer, used in all firearm suicides and >90% of firearm murders. Rifles of all kinds (including these black guns) are the weapon in fewer murders than are human hands. Mass shootings, the only place where black guns are criminally used, amount to <0.5% of homicides annually. They are a cause celebre only because they happen to white people in the suburbs, i.e. inside the perimeter they established in the post war era. Even there they don't provide much value to the killer - a 30 round mag provides suppression capacity when the lead is going both directions. Unarmed people in a building fall easily to a handgun with 10 rounds and you can change the magazine much faster.

If you really want to reduce the mortality stats it's handguns you must remove, for cops as well as average citizens. As a side note on constitutional rights, they are also militarily useless...

NB: I think we have to start defining the terms here. That may seem somewhat picayune, but the politicized nature of much of the terminology being thrown about is a major reason gun owners distrust those seeking further regulation. You avoided "assault weapon," for which I am grateful, but the idea that such rifles are high-powered is another sticking point. The 5.56mm//0.223in cartridge used in these weapons is quite anemic, arguably not even a real rifle cartridge, and too weak for hunting in many states.

NB: First responder and WMD are equally propagandistic argle barge.

Cervantes said...

Yes, these are some important points. The mass shootings that get all the media attention are indeed a tiny fraction of firearm deaths and injuries, and handguns are used in most incidents. (The 223 is not the most powerful cartridge, but the bullet travels at high velocity and tumbles when it hits, so these weapons do a lot of damage, but yep, they aren't hunting rifles.)

The guy in Atlanta didn't conceal the rifle, which is why he was arrested before he could do anything. Unfortunately, the Colorado shooter used a modified AR15 with a short barrel, which was apparently concealable. Handguns aren't as accurate as rifles, obviously, and even less so if you're firing in rapid succession. But if you only want to shoot one or two people at close range they'll do the job.

So the question is what would be good public policy regarding these various kinds of weapons?

(Nuclear weapons are WMD, but otherwise the term is indeed grossly abused.)

Cervantes said...

I should add that handguns are also the weapon of choice for suicides.

Woody Peckerwood said...

Your commenter is right. .223 is there because it's CHEAP! Not very "high-powered" at all. Just cheap.

And he's also right about pistols. Hard to use and only good for close range. Must constantly practice with them. Their only grace is they're small and portable. That's why police use them.

mojrim said...

That form accuracy doesn't exist below 50m. In a crowded market a pistol is just as good as an AR-15.

I've burned an enormous amount of glucose and neurotransmitters over the years thinking about this, and the only formula that actually makes a real dent in the death toll is banning handguns, though a shaming campaign similar to drunk driving and cigarettes might help. The usual liberal shibboleths have to be studiously avoided in crafting such a thing: no one believes they personally will commit suicide or murder their wife. The problem is always others and trying to battle that perception is a fool's errand. Cast handguns as the choice of emasculated weaklings, real men use rifles and shotguns. Clips of hot girls laughing at guys' pistols with the obvious implication.

Obviously, some degree of substitution will take place, but not nearly 1:1. Pistols are the weapon of murder because they're portable and concealable. That they are thus omnipresent makes them a catalyst for killing in hot blood: road rage, domestic arguments, confrontations in a parking lot. Their handiness makes them a catalyst for suicide. Rifles and shotguns, however, posess none of these characteristics and thus will not substitute well at all.

Beyond that I don't think it's worth worrying about too much and I'd rather address the real causes of violence, both mass and individual, in america.

Woody Peckerwood said...

Yeah, I can agree.

Part of the solution would be to "tighten up" the national list of unqualified people, i.e. convicted felons, those with adjudicated mental problems, minors, etc. and enforce the existing federal sentencing enhancement laws for crimes committed with a firearms and for those who make straw purchases.

I seem to remember some military list not coordinating with the national list or something where there was no singular database.

Bottom line is there's a LOT that can be done by executive order or memos while waiting on legislation if this administration has the will. Much of the legislation that has been proposed so far only serves political purposes and doesn't do much.

mojrim said...

Sorry, Woody, that's all mythology. The restriction on non-violent felons is entirely racist, a way of disarming black men with the temerity to sell or use drugs. The rest is 3SD distractions from the problem, othering the issue so white suburban women can feel good about themselves without doing, you know, anything uncomfortable.

There is exactly zip-point-shit the executive can do.

Woody Peckerwood said...

"The restriction on non-violent felons is entirely racist, a way of disarming black men with the temerity to sell or use drugs."

That is just bullshit. If violence were the standard of what's a serious crime and transgression against society, then why even have non-violent felonies in the first place? Why aren't they all just misdemeanors?

Make your case and stop relying on 'racism' when you don't have one.

Cervantes said...

I publish this only because it is so ridiculous and egregious. No, "drugs" -- or rather, some drugs -- should be decriminalized. That's what most of us think. It is true that there are other non-violent crimes that are enforced in the reverse racist way, i.e. white collar criminals who steal millions or billions of dollars, or for that matter kill people by peddling dangerous drugs, get away scot free. The prosecution of drug crimes is absolutely racist. White people use illicit drugs at at least the same rate as black people but the vast ajority people who are prosecuted for it are Black or Latino. That's just a plain, hard, cold fact.

mojrim said...

It's bullshit, Woody? Nixon was quite explicit. See Para 10-12