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rrneck's Journal
rrneck's Journal
January 24, 2013

Nobody has ever

had to defend their life with booze outside of a Jackie Chan movie. And I'm not aware of any national debate on how to further parse the alcoholic content of booze. One can certainly transport alcohol as long as they don't drink and drive. Teaching people to not drink and drive is very like concealed carry laws that teach them how to carry a gun and use it responsibly. Both are attempts to integrate something that is almost as old as the species into the changing reality of modern culture. "Demon rum" is still readily available and those with a propensity to misuse such things have a much wider variety of life destroying substances to choose from today.

It's true that Europe is pretty much "over it" right now when it comes to war. And you're right that it took centuries of conflict for them to reach that point. The twentieth century was arguably the most barbaric hundred years in human history. In that context the mass shootings in the United States, while horrific, aren't even a blip in the cultural forces that would prompt Americans to abandon firearms. And remember, every European power that indulged in the orgy of destruction that was the second world war still has a standing army. And their current economic difficulties may yet see the dissolution of the EU. There is one reality that is as old as the human species - when people get hungry they fight.

But if we stay with the booze analogy (hey, it's beats cars I guess), how would we regulate the alcoholic content of booze so that its effects as a gentle social lubricant still be enjoyed while at the same time disallowing its abuse? Should the alcoholic content of beer be 3.2% or can we allow it to go as high as 7%? It's about time we figured this out since beer may be the worlds oldest fermented beverage. Does that make tequila the assault weapon of booze?

The examples I listed above (guns or abortion or booze or religion or Christmas or same sex marriage) are burning issues not because of their nature but how various groups of people feel about them. They are a few of the current battle lines in the culture wars and have less to do with biology, physics, or chemistry and everything to do with emotion. They are wedge issues that fracture political coalitions on both sides of the aisle to their mutual damage. We may or may not like or dislike one thing or another, but in the end whatever laws we enact to govern them have to make sense in the physical world or they just won't work. You can't tell people how they feel, nor can you legislate their feelings. It's certainly foolish to try to enact laws that are designed to assuage our own feelings. That never works, and history is replete with attempts to do so that resulted in horrible injustices.

This post reminds me of a song just for fun.

The lyrics of the George Thorogood version are especially appropriate.

January 24, 2013

The same world wars that shaped Europe's attitude toward violence

catapulted us to world superpower status and made us rich. And we can thank arms manufacturing for a large part of that success. Guns made our culture and we won't give them up without something to replace them. That's what art is for - to inspire people. Telling people they can't have guns is the same mistake the other side is making. We can't change culture by telling people they can't have something whether it's guns or abortion or booze or religion or Christmas or same sex marriage. And that's doubly true if the something in question is a product in a consumer obsessed society like ours. And that's triply true if the legislation proposed to deny people that popular something won't actually regulate anything but instead just piss them off.

The martial impulse runs through our culture so completely we hardly notice it, and it comes from both sides of the aisle. We're constantly talking about the war on something. If we aren't talking about the war on drugs it's the war on women. Look at what you just wrote.

We had to practically destroy Germany to completely silence its war machine!

That wasn't regulation, that was a war. There are those who would say that it was won by "good guys with guns".

If we want to change our culture, and dog knows this one needs it, we won't do it by telling people to stop. We have to offer them somewhere to go. If we do it right, they will just leave the guns behind and forget about them.

January 24, 2013

The point is

that we are talking about a distinction without a difference. Of the four options listed above numbers 1 (full auto) and 4 (single shot) are useless and unnecessary for anything but esoteric activities that are not really germane to the debate. Items 2 (semi auto) and 3 (manual) are almost indistinguishable when it comes to lethality. A guy with a shotgun like the one in the first video would be perfectly capable of killing a number of people with ease. Twenty dead children is a horrible tragedy. How many fewer dead children would it take to make it not a tragedy?

Given the realities of how guns work, legislation to carefully parse their function any more than it already is will be a failure. Legislation is expensive. It costs money. It costs people a measure of their civil liberties. It costs political capital. We can't afford to support legislation that won't work just because we don't like guns. We have to support laws that will actually serve people, not our own ideology. And when it comes to guns we have to be extra careful because conservatives like them as much as we hate them. We're screwing around with their totem, and that will surely energize them to our disadvantage. They won't hesitate to make us look like idiots to every centrist voter out there because we don't understand two hundred year old technology.

Granted, Americans do seem to be more violent that almost anybody else in the world with indoor plumbing. Our national character is the result of our history, which is as unique to us as other countries cultures are unique to them. Comparing the United States to other countries is an exercise in futility. We have to work with the culture we have, not simply graft the laws we like from other countries on top of it.

Current gun control legislation is a consumer solution to a cultural problem. Americans seem to think that if we can just get the right stuff our lives will be properly adjusted. The corollary to that idea is that if we can just keep people from getting the wrong stuff they won't do the wrong thing. We can't simply shop for just the right legislation the way we shop for just the right carpet. Cultures don't work that way.

Our current cultural problems are more related to the Gilded Age than anything else. The response to those problems was significantly different from the means and methods of identity politics in postwar America.

January 23, 2013

Crafting the legislation is easy. Getting it passed and making it work is the problem.

Nuts and Bolts Gun stuff

Average everyday single person small arms come in four basic rates of fire:

1. Full automatic or burst fire. That means one trigger pull fires more than once.

2. Semi automatic fire. That means one trigger pull makes the gun shoot one time, eject the spent case and chamber another round.
3. "Manual" fire. That means the operator has to manually cycle the action to eject the spent shell case and chamber another round.

4. Single shot. That means the gun will only hold one bullet, which has to be inserted in the chamber by hand each time.

There are videos at the end of this post if you want to check them out.

Public Policy Stuff

It's pretty easy to legislate a bright line between auto and semi auto fire. One trigger pull shoots a lot or one trigger pull shoots once. If you want to legislatively regulate rate of fire downward from there it gets very complicated. It's hard to establish a bright line that will define just how fast the gun will shoot. In bolt, lever, or pump action guns the rate of fire is slowed by the need for the operator to do the work of cycling the action, but with practice any of those guns can be fired at a rate that would be just as devastating as any other for whoever is on the wrong end of one.

The term you just used is the most accurate to describe the legislative objectives surrounding regulating the rate of fire between "manual" and single shot firearms. Cumbersome. You will have to somehow find a way to legislatively mandate the physical manipulation of a gun by the person owning it to slow its rate of fire. How can we possibly write a law to make people move slowly? How can we possibly design a firearm that is designed to be hard to use and expect anyone to buy it?

Now, you may be thinking at this point, "Fine, make them hard to use, we don't need them anyway." It is often said here that guns are made to kill. That is true. That's what they are for. The next question to ask is who are they made to kill? Anybody who owns a gun for self defense, whether they will ever use it or not, expects it to be easy to use. If you're fighting for your life you don't want to have to fight the gun too.

At this point you might be thinking, "But does anyone really need gun x,y,z?" Probably not much right now here in the wealthiest most powerful country in the world, although any Google search will show that people defend themselves with guns every day. But laws stay on the books for a long time. We don't compare a difficult task to an act of congress for nothing. Any law that gets enacted directs the course a culture will take and affects peoples lives, most of which will never cause a media frenzy if the worst happens. Nobody knows what the future may hold for this country or for themselves personally. Unless our legislators can offer each and every voter some guarantee that if they get in trouble someone will be there to save them, nobody is going to sit still for mandating difficult to use safety equipment.

So to answer your first question last - Easy, ban auto-loading firearms and confiscate those already in private hands. What do you think the chances are of that actually happening? What do you think will happen to the career of the politician who proposes such a thing? That's why Feinstein's legislative proposals and all the others like it appear to be so complicated. They're trying to ban guns without admitting it. Unfortunately, everyone's watching so regulating guns out of existence to my mind is a very remote possibility. Unfortunately, there are enough urbanites who never so much as held a firearm who demand something be done. And there are enough legislators who will cook up some sort of byzantine regulation that will look like they're doing anything but feeding red meat to their constituents to get reelected without having to work too hard at it. And even more unfortunately there are enough people who do know enough about guns to make the legislation and the politicians that propose it look blisteringly craven and stupid.

Knowledge is power. The more you know about the issues of the day, the more able you will be to demand intelligent legislation. If we fail to support good legislation our legislators will get voted out of office for being the idiots we demanded they be.

I'm actually a little faster than this, and I haven't been to the range in years.

Fast bolt actions can be designed if there is a market for them.

If you think this guy's skill is beyond a normal person's capability, go to the skate park sometime and watch those kids practice. Anybody can do it if they want to.
January 21, 2013


"Ban this gun and we'll make one just different enough to dodge the law but still able to do the same thing."

Regulating the generic capabilities of the gun are the logical approach to the problem. That's what Feinstein's law is trying to do without admitting it. She wants to make a semi automatic firearm shoot more slowly and the operator to have to reload more often. She's working on two of the big three characteristics: caliber, capacity, and rate of fire.

Since I don't know which guns she wants to specifically ban I can't say for sure, but I am guessing the ones she wants to ban are the ones that can be easily redesigned around her criteria (or that look really scary to her constituents). As for the others, by requiring either a fixed magazine or a ten round limit on the gun, she wants to turn the remaining rifles into single shot guns or as close to it as she can get. And that's just fine, but she needs to come out and admit it. I'm obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer and I can see what's going on, and there are a whole lot of people with a lot bigger bully pulpit who will make her proposals look as underhanded and feckless as they are.

The problem with regulating the function of firearms any more than they already are is that those regulations will be either easy to circumvent or will negatively impact the bulk of the firearms made in the world today. If you want to limit magazine capacity, fine, the bad guy will just bring more magazines to his mass shooting. Those limits won't hinder him at all, but will add bureaucratic headaches to legislators, manufacturers, law enforcement and gun owners at the cost of precious political capital. If you want to regulate rate of fire you have to step down from semi automatic to single shot fire. It's foolish to try to legislate anything in between by making a gun hard to use. Anybody that owns a gun simply won't go for it and they will see it for what it is - an effort to regulate them out of existence.

But let's say she gets her bill passed as is. Handguns and rifles will still be able to shoot ten times rather quickly unless she can ban all semi autos. What do you think the chances are that someone will shoot a bunch of people with post ban guns? Two guns is twenty rounds. The solution to all that complicated legislation is a New York reload. Just bring more guns. How many clusters of dead people is a horrible tragedy? What will that law have accomplished? Fewer mass shooting casualties? Maybe, but it seems that if a goof like me can think his way around the law, a real bad guy won't have any problem. And while keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them is always a good idea, the tighter you make gun laws the more likely you will keep somebody who might legitimately need a gun from getting one, and they will suffer for it. But you won't likely hear about those people in the news, unless our political enemies want to use them to generate political capital for themselves.

January 18, 2013


The combination of the terms background checks and "silver buckshot" raise questions.

Background checks are a great idea but I don't see how they can be enforced without some pretty serious invasions of privacy.

Regulating the transfers of firearms aren't really regulating firearms, they're regulating relationships. If someone buys a gun from a firearms dealer, the buyer and the seller have to satisfy certain criteria to have that kind of relationship. The buyer has to pass a background check, which is to say they have to be a certain kind of person. The seller has to be a certain kind of person as well. That kind of person has to have a brick and mortar facility from which to sell the gun. He also has to give the BATF access to that facility at will to inspect his inventory and his bound book to verify if he has satisfied chain of custody documentation. If you don't compel chain of custody, background checks will be useless.

If we want to compel background checks between everybody we will have to turn every gun owner in the United States into a defacto firearms dealer with all the rights and responsibilities thereto. We will be demanding they have a particular kind of relationship with whomever they transfer the firearm. Demanding people be a certain kind of person before they can have a certain kind of relationship is fine if you are regulating a business relationship, but people have all sorts and kinds of personal relationships which may facilitate or require the transfer of a firearm. And that relationship would have to be documented along with federal access into the brick and mortar facility where it occurs, which in the case of personal relationships would be a private residence. The cultural and political ramifications of such regulation are pretty disturbing.

January 17, 2013

Of course there are limits. And there should be.

There are three overall classes of weapons that relate to the range from which they are deployed and the kind of damage they are designed to do.


State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts. Weapons that are by nature indiscriminate are those that cannot be directed at a military objective or whose effects cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law. The prohibition of such weapons is also supported by the general prohibition of indiscriminate attacks

Hand-to-hand combat (sometimes abbreviated as HTH or H2H) is a lethal or nonlethal physical confrontation between two or more persons at very short range (grappling distance) that does not involve the use of firearms or other distance weapons.[1] While the phrase "hand-to-hand" appears to refer to unarmed combat, the term is generic and may include use of striking weapons used at grappling distance such as knives, sticks, batons, or improvised weapons such as entrenching tools.[1] While the term hand-to-hand combat originally referred principally to engagements by military personnel on the battlefield, it can also refer to any personal physical engagement by two or more combatants, including police officers and civilians.[1]

Between indiscriminate weapons and "melee weapons" are the small arms that one person can carry and use. So one person may carry and use a semi automatic firearm because you have to select your target, point the gun at it and shoot. Full auto machine guns are considered indiscriminate weapons because they can lay down a hail of bullets like a garden hose of fire. Full auto firearms are heavily regulated and rather rare in the United States. "Melee weapons" are also regulated I believe but to a lesser extent. It isn't fashionable to carry a sword or a battle axe to Starbucks, so I guess it isn't much of a problem.

The firearms legal for common civilian use in the United States are further regulated by caliber and size. Common bullet calibers are available to the public in sizes ranging from .17 to .50 inches measured in the diameter of the bullet. Rifles and shotguns are required to be a minimum length which is 16" barrels and 18" barrels respectively.

These distinctions are by no means exclusive of one another. A rifle can be a melee weapon if it used as a club or has a bayonet attached. The distinction between 60 rounds per minute (semi auto) and 800 rounds per minute (full auto) becomes moot if you find yourself on the wrong end of one. A rifle can be shortened so much that it becomes a pistol, and a pistol might become a rifle if a shoulder stock and a longer barrel is attached.

The three distinctions above can only be rough guideline for the regulation of arms. Developments in firearms manufacture and design, strategic and tactical changes in their use, and changes in cultural norms all too often make existing distinctions between one gun and another moot. Further distinctions will be doubly moot because the surrounding technological, tactical, and cultural reasons for their use become significantly more important than the weapons themselves.

Here are some principles I try to keep in mind when it comes to guns.

1. There is no such thing as a benign bullet.
2. It is always wrong to kill, no matter why.
3. Never judge a man with a gun in your hand.
4. The cops can't jump through a rip in the fabric of time.

January 15, 2013

I think the TOS is just fine.

And check out my sig line. I've had it since day one of my membership. We're all just people. I don't hammer away at democrats, I hammer away at ideas, including my own. This place, whatever it is, ain't a comfort zone for me. It's a crucible. So indeed, I may not fit in here and that's just fine. I'm not here to be told how wonderful I am, I'm here to learn.

January 15, 2013

Which Democrats?

People have conflicting interests, especially Democrats. You know, herding cats and all that. Supporting Democrats is not really at issue, but supporting a particular political ideology. Unfortunately, supporting ideology for its own sake doesn't work very well for anyone, especially the political left.

Liberals are supposed to support people, not some product ginned up by an ideology manufacturer who is a member of the 1%. I find it fascinating how easily people will simply pay for an idea and since they feel it is their property defend it tooth and nail even to their own detriment.

We, as good citizens and good people, are supposed to use our beliefs to help others, not hoard them like precious objects. That means they have to work for all people, not just those who agree with us.

January 13, 2013

Look at it from the point of view of the politician.

Politicians tap the worlds oldest natural resource to keep their jobs - human emotion. That's what fuels political parties, it's what fuels political careers, it's what unifies people to action. The more of it you can get, the more you can get done. Some of it is hard to get, some of it is easy to get. Obtaining this resource does not require knowledge or even truth.

So in the case of "assault weapons", if you want to tap a well of emotion and keep it going for a long time, you have to structure your extraction of emotional energy for the long term to make the most of it. So when someone shoots up a school with an "assault weapon" the emotional energy will be easy to tap. Use it by outlawing something that is defined by the emotional response but make sure your legislation won't impact your constituency negatively. That way you get to claim to be doing some good and get reelected. Sooner or later someone will shoot up a school with another kind of semi automatic weapon, and the emotional response will be another easy political score. Continue until you run out of emotional totems to exploit at which time you will have made enough money and contacts to join the ranks of the 1% (if you weren't one already).

All politicians work on this principle. Those with integrity will use the will of the people to make a better world, others will use it to line their pockets. Almost all use some of both. The solution is to have an enlightened electorate that can tell the difference between meaningful legislation and legislation designed to curry favor but actually will do nothing that will damage the political career of the legislator proposing it.

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