Monday, December 17, 2012

The 100,000 Year Project Continued

When it comes to long term survival, a nation that kills its babies probably won't last.

Not that I think the US of A is crucial to the 100,000 Year Project - dedicated, I suppose, to the successful commensal solution to the problem of humans and Earth. Far from it. This nation has probably done less towards some type of solution than most, but since I live here, I feel it's my personal responsibility to deal with things here.

Now, this isn't an attempt to be a drama queen about what happened at Newtown, Connecticut. I'll leave the drama queen tactics to the unrestricted gun rights crowd, which seems to be doing a very good job of looking stupid. More on that in a minute.

I think James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly serves us all well by stressing that the long-term problem is not a gun control issue, not a gun rights issue, not a gun ownership issue, not a 2nd Amendment issue.

This is a gun usage issue. This is a public health and safety issue, and should be treated as such.

I could go through the numbers, through all the statistics, to show that this nation is insane, like the number of children killed by gunfire is 25 times higher than the next 20 largest industrial nations combined. Horrifying shit like that. But what the statistics show, worldwide, is that guns don't kill people. Americans do.

I would, however; point out an interesting correlation which Mark Reid has also noticed. Look at gun ownership rates by country. America is Number 1, with 88 guns per 100 people. Next is Yemen, with 50 guns per 100 people. Rounding out the top 10 is Serbia, Switzerland, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Finland, Uruguay, Sweden.

Now look at gun fatalities per country. America is 12th with nine eleven fatalities per one hundred thousand people. Serbia is 20th, with 3.9 fatalities. Yemen, pretty much an ongoing war zone, is barely a tenth that. Switzerland is 16th, with 3.5/100K.  Of the other top ten, only Finland and Sweden make it into the whole numbers. Sure, sure, there are a lots of countries with much higher fatality rates than the US, but the fact is, in comparison with the rest of the developed world, we should more properly be lumped in with the "primitive" nation states such as El Salvador and Swaziland than the OECD countries like Japan, or England, or France.

So, what to do about it? What we know won't work is trying to get rid of guns. Oh, it's true. No guns - no gun deaths. That is a fact that gun rights advocates choose to ignore. But in the US of A, with the 2nd Amendment not going anywhere, as a practical solution, it ain't gonna happen. But I would like to see us use that useless qualifier at the beginning of the 2nd Amendment, you know, the stuff before the comma? Most importantly the phrase "well regulated"?

I would note that the Supreme Court, in its ruling on gun ownership, stated that many "reasonable restrictions" can be put into place that do not violate the 2nd Amendment. I would also note that every single one of these restrictions do not limit the right to bear arms. They merely inconvenience gun owners, because they put restrictions on gun usage. Well, lawmakers, it's time to start slapping those restrictions in place, and with a generous hand, and give up on the empty gestures.

Here's some of my ideas. Taxes. Insurance. Licensing and Training. Stricter gun abuse laws. Gun provenance. A model something along the lines of the way we regulate alcohol and tobacco (and notice Firearms are conveniently lumped in under that agency?).

Taxes. Rather than fees, an annual tax per gun per person to be tied to income, thus making it progressive (and putting to rest the objection that taxation would make guns available only to the rich). I would suggest a fairly high tax percentage, on the order of, say, 2% of income for lower brackets, up to 90% of income for the upper quintile. The rates are open to discussion, but whatever it takes to make gun usage inconvenient is fine with me.

Licensing and Training. It's my opinion, that a citizen with a carry and conceal permit is more dangerous than a criminal, and little better than a rogue cop, and certainly should be held to a higher accountability than the equivalent public servant. A conceal and carry citizen certainly seems to be granted the same authority as a cop, and ought to be held to the same high standards of responsibility. My own personal experiences is that the average American - aside from being a disgusting soft-body in no condition to defend anyone - is not only a terrible shot, but more of a threat to him- or herself and innocent bystanders than to any armed intruders or criminal perpetrators. The insane paranoia we have about imaginary predators and violators of private property does not correspond to the statistics. As such, conceal and carry permit carriers should at least engage in once-a-year police-level pistol examinations, and preferably a live fire exercise (at the owner's cost of course). Should they make it through the training, they get their license renewed for another year. Licensing would also include a hefty fee for background checks, psychological examinations,  random drug testing of all registered owners, examination of threat levels via accessibility through social and familial connections, etc.

Insurance. Car insurance is mandatory in most states, and includes costs for injury to others. I'm sure something equivalent could be offered to gun owners, and I see no reason why most states would not make it mandatory. In fact, I think quite a few insurance companies would be more than happy to offer such a policy - with competitive rates, of course.

Gun abuse laws. Currently there are some strict gun usage laws on the books. I would encourage law-makers to make them even more stringent. It really is a pity that the whole "cruel and unusual" 8th amendment language gets in the way. I don't think that having your genitals removed or mutilated (or limbs, or ears, or eyes, or maybe even a few vital severed nerves) will deter gun crime, but I don't see how such measures could in any way encourage gun use in crimes. I do think the punishments should be as close to insane as the 8th amendment allows.

Gun Provenance. There are any number of items far less harmful than firearms that require an audit trail. Artworks, famous ones at least, have a provenance, a documentation of prior ownership, attached to them. If art, why not guns? If a gun is stolen, doesn't it make sense to have the equivalent of a Lo-jack to track it? If you buy a gun at a gun show, wouldn't you like to know it's not stolen, and possibly used in a homicide? If provenance isn't possible, then how just eliminating or severely restricting gun shows and straw purchases? I can hear howls of protest right now from overgrown babies cut off from their toys. But don't you think it's about time we quit treating guns like toys in America?

You might think I'm being glib about this. I'm not. If gun related fatalities can be reduced by only 10,000 per year, or at least maybe go just one year without any babies being murdered, I don't see how gun owners can object to suffering even the slightest inconveniences.

Gun owners, please avoid using false equivalence arguments such as "cars kill people too". Cars are not designed for the sole purpose of killing things. That's the only purpose for a gun. Please also avoid the combined strawman/excluded middle fallacy about how "prohibition doesn't work". By using this asshole argument, you put stupid ideas into the heads of others that don't need to be there. Also, please avoid the whole "against tyranny" horseshit. It barely passed muster in the 18th century here in the US, and it is completely obsolete in the age of a swarm of unmanned grenade drones with facial recognition software bearing down on your vacuous, gaping slackjawed mug. For further stupid arguments see this link. For even more stupidity, see this link from Volokh.


  1. please avoid the whole "against tyranny" horseshit. It barely passed muster in the 18th century here in the US, and it is completely obsolete in the age of a swarm of unmanned grenade drones with facial recognition software bearing down on your vacuous, gaping slackjawed mug.

    whoa, whoa, whoa, WHOA, WHOA!!!!!

    I was with you right up until you abruptly flew off the rails. Country boys been done had an answer for them drone swarms no matter how high-tech or hectic..., better recognize!

    1. Hm. Uncle Sam says: "I'll pit my A-10 Warthog against your Beretta, citizen! Deal?"

  2. Warthogs are for sovereign adversaries fielding mechanized infantry. Anybody getting a Warthog flown up the wazoo is at the head of a pretty doggone serious militia insurrection on the strength of operating costs alone.

    As for the 3-D printable counterinsurgent drone swarms, well, that's the low-cost vision for keeping peasants in line. I stand by my contention that Bubba and Cooter can solve that equation...,