Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What Could Possibly Go Wrong if Everybody Has a Gun?

 
The title of this article is a rip-off of Canadian Cynic [ I mean, what could possibly go wrong?]. That article, in turn, is a response to a provocative article on Halls of Macadamia titled "In Canada, you have to run and hide...".

The story is about certain laws in the USA covered in "Stand Your Ground" bills. Here's a description of the issue from Feb. 2006 in The Christian Science Monitor [Is self-defense law vigilante justice?].
Instead of embracing a citizen's "duty to retreat" in the face of a physical attack, states may be taking cues from the days of lawless frontier towns, where non-deputized Americans were within their rights to hold the bad guys at bay with the threat of deadly force.

First enacted in Florida last year, "Stand Your Ground" bills are now being considered in 21 states including Georgia, according to the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The South Dakota senate approved one just last week.

These new measures would push the boundaries beyond the self-defense measures already on the books. Twelve states already allow citizens to shoot intruders in their homes, and 38 states permit concealed weapons in public places. The "Stand Your Ground" laws would allow people to defend themselves with deadly force even in public places when they perceive a life-threatening situation for themselves or others, and they would not be held accountable in criminal or civil court even if bystanders are injured.

Laws putting more judgment in an individual's hands stem from people's increased concern about crime in their communities. Proponents say it helps shift the debate from gun control to crime control, and that these laws are part of the rugged individualism of Americans.
Yes, folks. This is not a joke. There really are people out there who think that Dodge City was crime free because everyone was armed to the teeth before restrictions on carrying guns were imposed [Only in America] [Should Christians Be Armed?]. After all, what could possible go wrong when you give everyone a hand gun and expect them to serve up vigilante justice?

"These laws send a more general message to society that public spaces belong to the public - and the public will protect [public places] rather than trying to run into the bathroom of the nearest Starbucks and hope the police show up," says David Kopel, director of the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo.

Some critics say such "Wild West" laws are vigilante justice, and commonplace confrontations and more likely turn to violence.
Well, one thing that could go wrong is that innocent people could possibly get hurt. Canadian Cynic points us to this example from the New York Times in 1994 [Judge Awards Damages In Japanese Youth's Death].
A judge today awarded more than $650,000 in damages and funeral costs to the parents of a Japanese exchange student, saying there was "no justification whatsoever" for the killing of the 16-year-old boy who approached a suburban homeowner's door in a Halloween costume almost two years ago....

Mr. Peairs was at home with his family in October of 1992 when the student, Yoshihiro Hattori, and an American companion mistakenly rang his doorbell in search of a Halloween party. Mr. Peairs's wife, Bonnie, answered and, frightened, yelled to her husband to get his gun. Mr. Peairs shot Mr. Hattori dead after warning him to "freeze," a phrase the young man apparently did not understand.
This isn't the only case of this type. The problem with encouraging people to take the law into their own hands is that they tend to act aggressively instead of just running away (or slamming the door). We shouldn't encourage people to use guns to act out their paranoia.


16 comments :

  1. *
    "If everybody has a gun?"

    No inflammatory nonsensical rhetoric there, huh professor?

    Also nice to see you cozying up to noted humanitarian and progressive brown-noser "Canadian Cynic"

    You know... the guy who publicly blasted the mother of a dead Canadian soldier... "Hey Wanda... fuck you and your grief."

    Make sure you check out his greatest hits.

    *

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  2. I think I'll take my chances with the christians, atheists, et al going armed, rather than adopting the European model of calling the nanny state whenever I fill threatened -- especially when it's my feelings that are hurt when I'm "marginalized" and victimized by "hate speech." What wimps. If some of the young men at VTech had manned up and rushed the bastard who was gunning them down, then a lot fewer people would have died. You lefties will accept collateral damage by thugs who create havoc in society, bacause they're, here it is again, marginalized. But oh my god, what horror in the theoretical possibility that an innocent bystander will get hurt by all those gun-toters with some sane legislation to back them up.

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  3. "According to the National Self Defense Survey conducted by Florida State University criminologists in 1994, the rate of Defensive Gun Uses can be projected nationwide to approximately 2.5 million per year -- one Defensive Gun Use every 13 seconds...

    Among 15.7% of gun defenders interviewed nationwide during The National Self Defense Survey, the defender believed that someone "almost certainly" would have died had the gun not been used for protection -- a life saved by a privately held gun about once every 1.3 minutes. (In another 14.2% cases, the defender believed someone "probably" would have died if the gun hadn't been used in defense.)

    In 83.5% of these successful gun defenses, the attacker either threatened or used force first -- disproving the myth that having a gun available for defense wouldn't make any difference.

    In 91.7% of these incidents the defensive use of a gun did not wound or kill the criminal attacker (and the gun defense wouldn't be called "newsworthy" by newspaper or TV news editors).

    In 73.4% of these gun-defense incidents, the attacker was a stranger to the intended victim. (Defenses against a family member or intimate were rare -- well under 10%.) This disproves the myth that a gun kept for defense will most likely be used against a family member or someone you love.

    In over half of these gun defense incidents, the defender was facing two or more attackers -- and three or more attackers in over a quarter of these cases. (No means of defense other than a firearm -- martial arts, pepper spray, or stun guns -- gives a potential victim a decent chance of getting away uninjured when facing multiple attackers.)

    In 79.7% of these gun defenses, the defender used a concealable handgun. A quarter of the gun defenses occured in places away from the defender's home.


    Source: "Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun," by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, in The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, Northwestern University School of Law, Volume 86, Number 1, Fall, 1995"

    http://www.pulpless.com/gunclock/stats.html

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  4. Ian, those are amazing statistics. No wonder the USA is the safest place in the world and crime rates are so low.

    (Not.)

    I'm mostly impressed with the data showing that armed citizens save one life every 1.3 minutes. Do you realize that's 46 lives saved per hour! It's 1107 lives saved every day or 404,307 lives saved every year!!

    Imagine that. In 2006 there were 14,990 people murdered in the USA for a murder rate of about 6 per 100,000. The murder rate would be outrageous if it weren't for all those armed citizens, right?

    Hmmm ... something doesn't seem right. Lots of countries have lower murder rates than the USA and they don't allow their citizens to go around threatening people with guns. I wonder how to explain that? Shouldn't their murder rates be ten times higher?

    Your data also says that in 8.3% of the defensive gun uses the attacker was killed or wounded. That's 207,500 killed or wounded attackers per year. Wow, at that rate it's a wonder there's any criminals left.

    Surprisingly, the FBI data for 2006 reports only 195 cases of justifiable homicide by a private citizen [FBI]. It looks like only about 0.1% of the "defensive uses" in 1994 resulted in death to the attacker. Maybe the average citizen can't shoot straight.

    BTW, I've got some wonderful property in Florida that I can let you have for next to nothing. It's right near water and lots of wildlife. Are you interested?

    I've also got title to a bridge in New York City in case you want something urban.

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  5. It may be a little more subtle.

    All American states have self-defense statutes. In essence you are permitted to resist unlawful force with force. If the unlawful force against you is deadly force, you are permitted to use deadly force in response.

    So the (lawful) option of using deadly force exists only if you are in imminent danger from the use of deadly force against you. Many American jurisdictions qualify this further, by requiring that even if you are in imminent danger from unlawful use of deadly force against you, you cannot use deadly force in response if you can "retreat in complete safety" and thus avoid the threat.

    Many American jurisdictions do not require "retreat" if you are in your home when a threat of deadly force is made against you. This is usually explained by either (or both) that if you are in your home there is nowhere to retreat to, and that homes are special.

    There are comparatively few instances in American jurisprudence when an individual has been convicted for failing to retreat. The "in complete safety" requirement limits this. As a consequence, eliminating the "retreat" rules may not change much.

    None of this precludes debating whether guns are good or bad, or whether self-defense rules are good or bad. (I do wonder, however, about characterizing the latter as "taking the law into your own hands." The self-defense rules exist -- at least in part -- to address situations in which threats are imminent, and therefore resorting to governmental interventions to prevent the harm is not feasible.)

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  6. Surprisingly, the FBI data for 2006 reports only 195 cases of justifiable homicide by a private citizen [FBI]. It looks like only about 0.1% of the "defensive uses" in 1994 resulted in death to the attacker. Maybe the average citizen can't shoot straight.

    Interesting stats, Larry.

    From 2002 to 2006, 900 felons were killed by armed private citizens. Is it better for 900 criminals to be dead or 900 victims of crime?

    Are you saying that if you or another were in immediate danger of injury or death at the hands of a criminal, you would not use a firearm to defend yourself if one were to hand?

    Do you believe there should be a right of self-defence?

    In the UK, for example, you have a legal right to use force to defend yourself but, if you do so, you will have to satisfy a court that your action was reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. The problem is that, also under British law, almost anything that you might use as a means of defending yourself can get you prosecuted for possession of an offensive weapon.

    If the law allows you to defend yourself but denies you any means of doing so, is the right to self-defence an empty promise?

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  7. Ian H Spedding says,

    Interesting stats, Larry.

    Ian, do you still believe the data you posted earlier? Do you believe that there are 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year in the USA? Do you believe that 200,000 attackers per year are killed or wounded by private citizens defending themselves?

    Don't try and change the topic.

    BTW, are you interested in buying my Florida swampland property?

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  8. NC said
    You know... the guy who publicly blasted the mother of a dead Canadian soldier... "Hey Wanda... fuck you and your grief."


    The context he left out:

    In other words, there will be no discussion of whether this entire Afghani adventure was a mistake because, well, that would mean some people died for nothing and, Holy Mother of God, we can't have that, so the deaths will continue into the foreseeable future because admitting that this was a bad move would be, you know, kind of embarrassing for everyone involved, and better to keep killing Canadians than look sheepish, know what I mean?



    And in a breathtaking display of callous unconcern for anyone else's family members, Watkins continues:



    "They deserve your respect. In supporting them, you'll make our loss much easier to bear.''



    With all due respect, Wanda, fuck you and your grief. It's not the job of the rest of Canada to continue to let its soldiers die just so you can sleep better at night. At this point, I don't give a rat's ass about making you feel better for your loss now that I know that the price is other peoples' lives. Fuck you and the politically-motivated, neo-con propaganda train you rode in on.

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  9. For purely ideological reasons, I tend to favor the approach of gun rights rather than gun control. I am unaware of any statistics proving that gun ownership causes crime, much less of any statistics proving that gun control reduces it.

    That said, in response to the anonymous poster (#2): the massacre at Virginia Tech was not caused by political correctness, leftist liberals, or any of that other neocon ubermensch crap. It was caused by a person who was by all accounts severely emotionally disturbed. Mental illness. You know: a medical condition. A TREATABLE medical condition.

    I am saddened and not a little disturbed that you find the best solution to the mass homicide at Virginia Tech would be to arm the other students rather than to improve the quality of the mental health services that would have prevented this tragedy from occurring in the first place. Ignorance is not strength, which is a lesson a lot of us in the U.S. are having to learn very slowly and painfully. I hold out some hope, however naive, that we learn this lesson in time for the 2008 election.

    Even if not, it seems to me that our legal framework is designed around the belief that violence is the option of the last resort, not the preferred response. It would seem that the original authors of the second amendment understood firearms better than many of its adherents today.

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  10. Ian, do you still believe the data you posted earlier? Do you believe that there are 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year in the USA? Do you believe that 200,000 attackers per year are killed or wounded by private citizens defending themselves?

    I will answer your questions.

    I believe that those statistics are on the generous end of the scale. Even so, I also believe that this and other studies show that firearms are used successfully for defensive purposes much more often than anti-gun types like yourself would like to believe.

    This is not to say that I'm in favour of unrestricted ownership. I wouldn't go as far as Kennesaw GA and make it a legal requirement for all householders to own a firearm.

    Guns are dangerous, like cars. They should be licensed, like cars. There should be a mandatory training course which has to be passed before qualifying for a licence, just like cars.

    That done, however, you should be free to use them as you please provided it is within the law and does not recklessly endanger others.

    In spite of what is now the practice in the UK, one legal use should be for self-defence.

    Don't try and change the topic.

    That is the topic or, at least, part of it.

    Now damned well answer my questions.

    BTW, are you interested in buying my Florida swampland property?

    If it would make a good shooting range, I might.

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  11. ian h Spedding says,

    I believe that those statistics are on the generous end of the scale.

    For "statistics" that are likely to be off by at least an order of magnitude, the word "generous" seems a little disingenuous. Nevertheless, I appreciate your honesty. You've conceded more than most gun lovers would concede.

    Even so, I also believe that this and other studies show that firearms are used successfully for defensive purposes much more often than anti-gun types like yourself would like to believe.

    I believe there are probably a significant number of self-defense incidents every year in every country. Just the other day we had a gunfight on the streets of Toronto when some idiot tried to attack rival gang members who were also armed to the teeth.

    But that's not the point. The point is that we shouldn't be encouraging resort to violence under any circumstances. Using guns to "defend" yourself isn't part of the solution, it's part of the problem.

    Those countries that restrict handguns—whose sole purpose in the hands of the average citizen is to commit violent acts— are trying to create a less violent culture. They seem to be relatively successful compared to the USA. Don't you agree that Britain is a less violent country than America?

    Banning handguns does not lead directly to fewer murders. Instead, under the right conditions, it leads to a less violent society. I'm not convinced that those conditions exist in the USA at the present time. They won't exist as long as there are people who advocate meeting violence with violence.

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  12. Larry,

    A gun is a mechanism; it's the wielder who gives the mechanism its purpose. Target shooting is one example of how guns are used without an intent to cause harm.

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  13. mark says,

    A gun is a mechanism; it's the wielder who gives the mechanism its purpose. Target shooting is one example of how guns are used without an intent to cause harm.

    Give me a little credit, Mark. We're not talking about target practice here. I think you know that.

    I don't have a problem with citizens who want to buy special guns for target shooting as long as they keep them locked up in a cabinet at the shooting range.

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  14. I believe there are probably a significant number of self-defense incidents every year in every country. Just the other day we had a gunfight on the streets of Toronto when some idiot tried to attack rival gang members who were also armed to the teeth.

    But that's not the point. The point is that we shouldn't be encouraging resort to violence under any circumstances. Using guns to "defend" yourself isn't part of the solution, it's part of the problem.


    The question you have avoided answering is whether or not you believe there is such a thing as a right to self-defence, something which is not as much of a given as people would like to think.

    If you don't, then disarming the civilian population is morally unobjectionable.

    If you do, then you are bound to allow the use of firearms for defensive purposes. To grant someone the right to defend themselves but deny them the means is a meaningless gesture.

    Of course we should be doing all we can to discourage any resort to violence but, given the facts that no society has been able to elimnate it and that the police have neither the duty nor the resources to protect every individual from it, what other option is there but to defend ourselves.

    Those countries that restrict handguns—whose sole purpose in the hands of the average citizen is to commit violent acts— are trying to create a less violent culture. They seem to be relatively successful compared to the USA. Don't you agree that Britain is a less violent country than America?

    Overall, I would say it is but that is not necessarily anything to do with the availability of guns.

    For example the homicide rate in England and Wales in 1900, when gun ownership was largely unrestricted, was 9.6 per million of population. By 1997, it had risen to 14.1 per million. In fact, the rise in the murder rate coincided with the tightening of restrictions on the private ownership of firearms.

    http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp99/rp99-111.pdf

    What about Switzerland, which has widespread gun ownership but far lower murder and violent crime rates than the US?

    In the US, do you think that gun control would diminish the violence or would it continue unabated until the social and cultural conditions which drive it are addressed?

    Banning handguns does not lead directly to fewer murders. Instead, under the right conditions, it leads to a less violent society. I'm not convinced that those conditions exist in the USA at the present time. They won't exist as long as there are people who advocate meeting violence with violence.

    As a Millian libertarian, I believe that people should have the right to use firearms for sporting or recreational purposes providing it is done in such a way as to minimize the risk to others.

    There are also occasions when the hard reality is that the only alternative to succumbing to violence is, unfortunately, to meet it with violence. Police are armed for that eventuality, dignitaries and celebrities can be escorted by armed bodyguards for the same reason. Why should the ordinary citizen be denied similar defensive measures?

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  15. I'ts long after the fact in regards to this thrad, but i can't believe there are people out there that believe that dis-arming citizens is preferable to allowing criminals to have guns. How stupid is that? Criminals have gun, we KNOW they do. No matter what laws we enact to control guns, criminals ignore them. So, Who better to have a gun? A criminal or a citizen? DUH! To all gun control advocates: If you don't want a gun, you are free to be un-armed. To criminals: Please, don't own a gun(pffft) To everyone else: Now that the criminals gave up being armed, you now have nothing to worry about, right? Right?

    This debate is so retarded it is a joke. When criminals never own guns, its all a perfect world. Cal me when that happens, ok?

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