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No Sacred Cows—can rationalists remain rational when the issue is gun control?
Posted: 05 September 2009 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 346 ]  
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SkepticX - 05 September 2009 10:20 AM
Billy Shears - 05 September 2009 04:29 AM

It’s because the founding fathers understood something many people today have forgotten—an armed citizenry, alive with the spirit of resistance, may not be able to beat a professional army, but they can make it impossible for the government to govern effectively.  It’s called asymmetric warfare, AKA guerrilla warfare, and it’s been effective since ancient times.  Guerrillas don’t have to beat a professional army, they can win simply by not losing.  And they can make it impossible for a professional army to hold down territory and for a government to govern.

Not only that, but a great deal of a political agenda can be accomplished through PR.

The Davidians were certifiable (or at the very least Koresh was) and they didn’t opt for a survivable tactical defeat because of their bat shit dogmas, but consider the PR they generated. Randy Weaver, a single dude with his family, also comes to mind. Stand offs with the police are another manifestation of this tactic (though not the strategy—most of those who get into a stand off with the cops are into some strictly personal agenda as far as I’m aware). If you’re smart you can effectively use the damn near guaranteed mass-media attention you’ll get to share your agenda with the world.

What’s actually naive is to think the government would actually just casually wipe out a civilian resistance without suffering severe political consequences.

Also, the thinking on this particular large scale issue tends to illustrate a similar detached and distant kind of thinking as the thinking on self-defense, including the equivalent of intellectually dampening weapon fixation (hoplophobia). If you don’t fixate on the weaponry and loose sight of the reasons and motives behind such actions it’s not hard to recognize the true potential utility of effective resistance.

Very true, and again harking back to the Irish War of Independence, the brutal measures employed by the British as they tried to put down the Irish rebellion earned them vehement condemnation throughout the world, as well as among British citizens at home, and even several members of Parliament.  The Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force (popularly called “Black and Tans” because they wore a mixture of midnight blue police, and khaki army uniforms), recruited by the British government and sent to bolster police and army forces fighting the IRA, in particular earned an ugly reputation for brutality.  The Black and Tans were not subject to strict discipline in their early months in Ireland and as a result, they tended to respond brutally to any attacks on their members, and often carried out arbitrary reprisals against the civilian population. In the summer of 1920, the Black and Tans burned and sacked many small towns and villages in Ireland, and the world press accused the British of carrying out the same cruelties they had so stridently accused the Germans of perpetrating in Belgium during WWI.

The reams of bad PR the British got, especially after the “Bloody Sunday” massacre of 14 civilian football spectators at a match in Dublin’s Croke Park, played no small part in pushing the British toward a willingness to negotiate.

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Posted: 05 September 2009 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 347 ]  
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Error duplicate post.

[ Edited: 06 September 2009 08:29 AM by goodgraydrab]
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Posted: 05 September 2009 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 348 ]  
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SkepticX - 04 September 2009 11:25 PM

No ...

I think you’re going over the deep end on this, Byron. You’re starting not to make any sense at all.

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Posted: 05 September 2009 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 349 ]  
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goodgraydrab - 05 September 2009 01:51 PM
SkepticX - 04 September 2009 11:25 PM

No ...

I think you’re going over the deep end on this, Byron. You’re starting not to make any sense at all.

How so? I thought I was pretty clear.

The rest of that initial comment (“No, it’s about avoidable risk vs. inherent or inevitable risk and the fantasy that the latter is the former. It’s like insurance companies that refuse to allow doctors to give a terminal cancer patient too much morphine in order to avoid the potential harm of addiction (more on this below).”) was related to the false sense of security most people have that I posted about before, in this case the fact that there are already far too many guns in the US to address the problem of gun violence effectively through restricting access. That’s not to say there aren’t reasonable restrictions, just that restrictions aren’t going to get the guns out of the hands of the problem children, as I explained later in that post.

What else isn’t tracking for you (and it would help if you could also let me know why)?

[ Edited: 05 September 2009 11:08 AM by SkepticX]
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Posted: 06 September 2009 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 350 ]  
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SkepticX - 05 September 2009 02:51 PM
goodgraydrab - 05 September 2009 01:51 PM
SkepticX - 04 September 2009 11:25 PM

No ...

I think you’re going over the deep end on this, Byron. You’re starting not to make any sense at all.

How so? I thought I was pretty clear.

The rest of that initial comment (“No, it’s about avoidable risk vs. inherent or inevitable risk and the fantasy that the latter is the former. It’s like insurance companies that refuse to allow doctors to give a terminal cancer patient too much morphine in order to avoid the potential harm of addiction (more on this below).”) was related to the false sense of security most people have that I posted about before, in this case the fact that there are already far too many guns in the US to address the problem of gun violence effectively through restricting access. That’s not to say there aren’t reasonable restrictions, just that restrictions aren’t going to get the guns out of the hands of the problem children, as I explained later in that post.

What else isn’t tracking for you (and it would help if you could also let me know why)?

 

SkepticX - 04 September 2009 11:25 PM
goodgraydrab - 04 September 2009 07:41 PM

I think it boils down to what you consider to be acceptable risk. Billy alluded to this a while back.

No, it’s about avoidable risk vs. inherent or inevitable risk and the fantasy that the latter is the former. It’s like insurance companies that refuse to allow doctors to give a terminal cancer patient too much morphine in order to avoid the potential harm of addiction (more on this below).

goodgraydrab - 04 September 2009 07:41 PM

Her observation that the potential for the increase in stolen guns are a legitimate threat due to frequency of occurrence is based on the evidence (as far as I know). I saw where a state or states have passed laws making it mandatory to report their weapon stolen. There is a reason for this, I assume based on the data.

See above ... well, and below.

goodgraydrab - 04 September 2009 07:41 PM

Or that the potential for availability and misuse of guns by mentally unstable people or in crimes of passion is a threat, is also based on fact.

This is special pleading—the illusion that an inherent risk is avoidable. It’s generally an excuse or a rationalization, not a valid argument or basis for policy. We can build nets under bridges and run gun buyers through Brady background checks in order to make the most reasonable stab we can at preventing the mentally unstable from harming themselves and others (can’t do nearly so much about cars or power tools or drugs ... ), but it’s an obvious perfectionist fallacy to argue that this possibility leads to the conclusion that having such a vulnerability makes something a threat to society.

Why? Because you refer to the “special pleadings”, “fantasies, “fallacies” “illusions”, “excuses”, “invalid arguments” of others as if yours are not the same. You cite these things and analogies as if they are indisputably written in stone when they are not.

I can’t argue for M, but I understand risk well enough. There’s only one way to avoid risk ... die. The only thing credible in your morphine example is that you acknowledge insurance companies are running the show.

The whole point is reducing risk, not eliminating it altogether. You argue that the point of one person carrying a gun may reduce a threat to that one person only, by allowing them a chance to defend themselves with a lethal weapon. What about the flip side. Perhaps one less gun in the hands of one more wrong person may save one life also. But according to you, there are already so many guns out there, there is no point in applying restrictions now, or that there are enough restrictions already, or that “more effective restrictions” aren’t possible. Is it also a “perfectionist fallacy” that feeling vulnerability to a criminal with a gun is a threat to you when you probably won’t encounter one in your lifetime, yet you must carry a gun ... just in case?

A better analogy, I think, would be drinking and driving. It is an inherent risk to drive. But the government doesn’t say let’s therefore issue licenses carte blanche, or let’s not tweak the laws to help reduce the number of occurrences of deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers. Though I suppose to you, it’s a “perfectionist fallacy” to recognize that alcohol is a potential threat to society. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be so many laws as to who, when, where, and how much, it may be accessed or consumed. Yet, it remains perfectly legal.

[author=“SkepticX”] “We can ... run gun buyers through Brady background checks in order to make the most reasonable stab we can at preventing the mentally unstable from harming themselves and others…” [My bold]

Your quote supports my contention of acceptable risk. You’ve set your own bar and termed it reasonable. To you, the frequency rate of collateral damage is acceptable as is. And you didn’t touch the point of stolen guns and recent laws in certain state(s) for mandatory reporting. Of course, their doing this was special pleading based on fallacy, right? Allow me to pre-empt your answer and qualify this with, it remains to be seen how effective it is and it may contribute to overall effectiveness in combination with other strategies. In any event, it is a logical policy decision whether you agree with it or not.

While you accuse everyone else of irrationalism, I see you protesting with an unwarranted and unsupportable zeal while at the same time trying to keep too many plates simultaneously spinning on their poles. Whereas before I thought we had much in agreement, now I’m not so sure.

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Posted: 06 September 2009 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 351 ]  
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goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM
SkepticX - 05 September 2009 02:51 PM

This is special pleading—the illusion that an inherent risk is avoidable. It’s generally an excuse or a rationalization, not a valid argument or basis for policy. We can build nets under bridges and run gun buyers through Brady background checks in order to make the most reasonable stab we can at preventing the mentally unstable from harming themselves and others (can’t do nearly so much about cars or power tools or drugs ... ), but it’s an obvious perfectionist fallacy to argue that this possibility leads to the conclusion that having such a vulnerability makes something a threat to society.

Why? Because you refer to the “special pleadings”, “fantasies, “fallacies” “illusions”, “excuses”, “invalid arguments” of others as if yours are not the same.

No, because of the reasons I gave in the explanations and arguments I’ve posted.

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

You cite these things and analogies as if they are indisputably written in stone when they are not.

I presume you accept other arguments you disagree with as simply arguments and not cited “as if they are indisputably written in stone”. Why do you perceive mine this way?

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

The whole point is reducing risk, not eliminating it altogether.

Actually it’s about balancing risk with security and civil liberties (and I remind you, I’ve already stated I think it would be within acceptable legal limits for the right to keep and bear to be restricted to a single, tactical firearm—this isn’t a Kostric et al argument). That was my point. If you set an unrealistic standard reality is never an actual consideration on the table.

For example:
“Someone with a gun is ipso facto a threat because s/he has no ability to ensure that said gun will remain in his/her hands forever.  Or that s\he will never have a mental lapse of control, let’s say drunkeness or mental illness or brain injury.  Or that s/he will perceive a threat where there is none.  And so forth and so on.”  —M is for Malapert

Forever?

Never?

[Future] drunkenness or mental illness or brain injury?

Really?

Do those standards really seem reasonable to you?

There’s also no consideration there, in that statement, for the other side of the equation ... in fact there’s not even any apparent consideration for how the given side of the equation might be (and is) dealt with.

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

You argue that the point of one person carrying a gun may reduce a threat to that one person only, by allowing them a chance to defend themselves with a lethal weapon. What about the flip side. Perhaps one less gun in the hands of one more wrong person may save one life also.

What about the flip side? That’s an obvious issue in the equation—a basic question. What can you tell me about it?

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

But according to you, there are already so many guns out there, there is no point in applying restrictions now, or that there are enough restrictions already, or that “more effective restrictions” aren’t possible.

Well, no, I didn’t argue that at all ... well, maybe the last one, but you’ve cast a pretty wide and haphazardly strewn net there quite frankly, so it’s hard to tell. No point; enough restrictions already; more effective restrictions aren’t possible ... seems like a lot of potential contingencies upon which to ground a complaint. At any rate it certainly seems I’ve argued quite otherwise, even in that very post. But the specific issue at hand here is (or was anyway) assessing the threat that the legal ownership of guns presents. I was arguing that M’s threat assessment and her standards for what defines an unacceptable threat aren’t reasonable.

The biggest problem here is that we have to start with reality in order to develop reasonable opinions about it, and we’re not there yet.

What concrete information are you working with in order to complain that my (actual) position about the US gun stock (i.e. there are far too many guns already in the black market and far too few legal gun owners using them criminally for restricting legal access to be an effective focus for gun violence/gun crime reduction strategies) is unfounded?

Note that I in no way indicated I disagree with reasonably restricting access. I’ve stated several times I agree with the Brady Law, and there are some other responsible measures I think we could take. I’ve also made it clear that I think the Constitution allows for much stronger restrictions than we have now (and that wasn’t a statement that we need more or that we don’t).

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

Is it also a “perfectionist fallacy” that feeling vulnerability to a criminal with a gun is a threat to you when you probably won’t encounter one in your lifetime, yet you must carry a gun ... just in case?

First, I don’t carry a gun—just want to restate that here. But to those who do carry doing so isn’t much of a “con” in a pro vs. con assessment, if at all, so given little or virtually no inconvenience for them, why would they not carry, just in case when it’s “just in case” your life is threatened? It seems your assessment requires a set of premises that those with much at all in the way of experience don’t see as realistic. You presume fear and risk where none effectively exist, and this dramatically skews your assessment. You’ve also limited your consideration (at least according to the above argument) to criminals with guns, but that’s not the only potential threat or use for a gun. I know in some less populated states a lot of people carry guns in the vehicles specifically to deal with animals (also for others the thinking is often even more specifically humane in that some carry a gun in their car because don’t want to hit a deer or something and leave it to suffer on the side of the road). That’s just an example from personal (and secondhand) experience, but I hope the point is clear. You’ve padded the data by eliminating all but one of several legitimate purposes, just like Arthur Kellermann in his Guns in the home: Protection or peril? study in which he came up with the “43 Times Fallacy” (it and its derivations being a bit of “common wisdom” about guns many of us have been socialized to believe/presume). His error is far more egregious of course, because it was published research, and yours is just a post on the interwebs, so it’s reasonable to much more casually toss things like that on the table in here.

We know there’s no perfect option, so what’s really the best balance here?
What are the real risks involved in legal ownership of guns and how do we best address them?
What are the real benefits of legally owning a gun?
How do those factors balance out?

Most gun rights/control advocates heavily unbalance their considerations, and unfortunately both have bad science to support them (much more for gun control types though, because they’re typically a lot more cognizant of the power and value of science whereas gun rights advocates tend to think more in slogans and the imposition of dogma through authority).

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

A better analogy, I think, would be drinking and driving. It is an inherent risk to drive. But the government doesn’t say let’s therefore issue licenses carte blanche, or let’s not tweak the laws to help reduce the number of occurrences of deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers.

First, note that you’ve inverted the equation. You’re talking about licenses issued in order to drive, not to drink (the drinking and gun toting being the potential problems analogized, driving and cruising around in public being the basic living conditions analogized). That’s more of a focus on the driver/drinker/carrier than the substance at issue. It’s a far more reasonable approach, and one that I’ve stated I advocate (licensing). The actual analogous arrangement to the standard issue gun control ideology would be licensing and regulating alcohol in order to reduce drunk driving (again, in order to reduce drunk driving). I would oppose that strategy as obviously flawed (and I point out that doesn’t mean I oppose regulating alcohol consumption or holding brewers and distillers to reasonable quality and safety standards, however—those are two very different things). Your analogy also implies my position is complete non-control of gun ownership, when in fact I presented some of my ideas on gun control measures I support (including the Brady Law).

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM
SkepticX - 05 September 2009 02:51 PM

We can ... run gun buyers through Brady background checks in order to make the most reasonable stab we can at preventing the mentally unstable from harming themselves and others…

[My bold]
Your quote supports my contention of acceptable risk.

Of course it does.

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

You’ve set your own bar and termed it reasonable.

Tentatively and based upon training and experience and reviewing a large body of the research, yes.

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

To you, the frequency rate of collateral damage is acceptable as is.

Not quite my position, but fair enough ... perhaps. Depends upon what you mean by “acceptable”. Are you arguing I think it’s okay, or that I think it’s as low as can be reasonably expected without too much of a compromise on the other side of the equation?

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

And you didn’t touch the point of stolen guns and recent laws in certain state(s) for mandatory reporting. Of course, their doing this was special pleading based on fallacy, right? Allow me to pre-empt your answer and qualify this with, it remains to be seen how effective it is and it may contribute to overall effectiveness in combination with other strategies. In any event, it is a logical policy decision whether you agree with it or not.

I do agree with it though. But it’s not a gun control strategy, it’s just information gathering. Still, that’s exactly what we need at this point. It may produce information useful in formulating effective law enforcement and/or improvements in gun control measures, and it certainly won’t hurt.

Note: the actual issue was M’s post and the idea that it’s reasonable to base gun control measures on the “potential for availability and misuse of guns by mentally unstable people or in crimes of passion is a threat”, not whether it’s reasonable to monitor stolen guns.

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

While you accuse everyone else of irrationalism, I see you protesting with an unwarranted and unsupportable zeal while at the same time trying to keep too many plates simultaneously spinning on their poles.

Well ... sorry, but no, you don’t.

goodgraydrab - 06 September 2009 02:35 PM

Whereas before I thought we had much in agreement, now I’m not so sure.

I think we still probably do. I think we just need to be more careful about the “unchecked” baggage we’re bringing into the discussion (the baggage we may not be a ware of—got to be very careful about what’s there on the page vs. what’s seeping in through our own reactions). I expect it’s a tough arena to parse without being so inclined on top of the other problems that I think are the basis for most of the misunderstandings and cross-talking I’ve mentioned.

[ Edited: 06 September 2009 05:04 PM by SkepticX]
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Posted: 08 September 2009 04:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 352 ]  
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SkepticX - 06 September 2009 06:47 PM

... the specific issue at hand here is (or was anyway) assessing the threat that the legal ownership of guns presents. I was arguing that M’s threat assessment and her standards for what defines an unacceptable threat aren’t reasonable.


I want to note here, that I think M’s position is understandable given her perspective, and that my main point in this topic is to challenge genuine skeptics/rationalists to turn the microscope on their own views without exception—once unexamined or poorly examined views are pointed out, anyway. This seems to be a particularly challenging issue for most liberal types (myself included), and it seems most agnostics/atheists/freethinkers tend to be liberal to some degree or other.

The fundamental difference between True Skeptics™ and others (and especially Faithers—sorry for those who don’t like when I make up words like that ... okay, not really: [VO Eric Cartman] Screw you guys!) ... the fundamental difference between True Skeptics™ and Faithers shows up most when we’re faced with our own dogmatism/socialization—when we’re shown a paradigm for which we’ve formed opinions, particularly strong ones, and yet we haven’t any credible epistemic basis for having done so (philosophical matters/speaking to ideology rather than the way reality works aside).

Faithers cling to their dogmas, often more stridently the more they’re challenged (and often turning and attacking), and True Skeptics™ tend to shake them off and put them under the microscope for a proper examination, understanding and appreciating that their former dogmatic position could be completely wrong ... or right (or making the genuine attempt at least). We’re good at slipping into genuine agnosticism on matters for which evidence (or the lack thereof) gives credible cause for casting our conclusions into doubt—we hold our opinions about the world tentatively and open to review in the light of new evidence.

That’s the main point of this topic, and we’ve seen what I think are some very good examples of both mentalities (guns and violence works well to expose these mentalities in liberals, the drug and religion tend to work well on conservatives).

[ Edited: 08 September 2009 05:12 AM by SkepticX]
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