[This is the addended transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 3 May 2013. I have included an extensive addendum to memorialize the structure of the current gun control debate in our country’s widening ideological schism, and to illustrate key factors in the asymmetric understanding and approach taken by the Left and Right when they meet in a public forum such as was provided by the 1may13 edition of ‘Breaking Bread’ on NCTV. To view this and past episodes go here and search archives with 'Breaking Bread'.]
Last month our community television station NCTV launched Breaking Bread, a new independently produced program airing monthly and available online. Breaking Bread is an hour-long program featuring discussions of national issues and current events. At the start I want to emphasize that the program’s objective is to present and clarify the different perspectives in our socio-political landscape from which people view the issues that “alter and illuminate our times”.
The program will feature co-hosts and guests who as a group will represent a diversity of views and seek to make them understood. And where possible, we will also try to reach some consensus. Therefore Breaking Bread is not intended as a debate but an open, unformatted, and unrehearsed get together wherein the participants offer their own views on the topics discussed.
The program debuted on 5 April during which its five co-hosts were introduced discussing ‘Language and Labels’. You can access the inaugural edition on NCTV’s website at nevadacountytv.org or from this commentary’s transcript posted on my website. The same will be true for all subsequent editions of the program – after all, this is the 21st century.
We recorded the second edition of Breaking Bread, titled ‘The 2nd Amendment and Gun Control’, on 1 May, last Wednesday. The program was co-hosted by Paul Emery, KVMR news director, and me, George Rebane, introduced as “a conservetarian blogger and commentator with a lot of birthdays and, some say, a contentious ideology.”
Joining as guests were Nevada County’s Sheriff Keith Royal, Mr Norm Sauer, a retired lawyer who lectures on constitutional affairs, along with Mr and Mrs Nick and Amanda Wilcox who tragically lost their daughter Laura to gun violence. They are prominent gun control advocates and supporters of the Brady Bill.
In framing the discussion that followed, I reminded viewers that people of the Left, who advocate for stronger gun controls or even confiscation, approach gun ownership from an episodic or topical point of view. Their stated objective is to reduce gun violence, or more specifically, gun deaths. And the statistics they cite, along with descriptions of horrific episodes of murder and mayhem, are designed to grossly simplify the issue, and get the listener to focus on events that everyone wants to prevent, and wishes that had never happened. Liberal academics have identified this common and effective tack of public debate as ‘issues activism’, basically a bottom up approach that the Left uses to induce the desired public opinion.
The Right approaches gun ownership top down through the 2nd Amendment, arguing the intent and writings of the Founders in their drafting of our Constitution. They see the real purpose of grassroots gun ownership as necessary to keep government from going rogue, and if it does, then as a last resort, to launch a successful revolution. This, after all, was the explicit intention left to us in the legacy of our country’s early years. While the Right does admit to the need for some regulation in who gets to own what armaments, it points to history that records tyrannical governments killing their own citizens in the hundreds of millions during the 20th century - all as a matter of intended policy, and not related to wars or combat. Such killing by governments is called democide, which took over 260M lives during the 20th century.
So, of gun violence one must ask, ‘Would you sacrifice ten lives to save 10M lives?’ Yes, of course. Or ‘Would you sacrifice 10M lives to save ten lives?’ Of course not. But for such a trade-off the correct answer for each of us lies somewhere in between, and in the realworld the numbers are never known for certain, but must be estimated using probabilities. For those who don’t understand the role of probabilities in assessing realworld uncertainties, as is required in making public policies, then any reasoned discussion of such policies will be inaccessible to them. Instead, we will hear from them nothing but their emotional outpourings on the matter. But then, reasonable discussion has never been a necessary prelude to legislation or regulation.
My name is Rebane, and I expand on this and related themes on NCTV and on georgerebane.com where the addended transcript of this commentary is posted with relevant links, and where such issues are debated extensively. However these views are not necessarily shared by KVMR. Thank you for listening.
Addendum: The Asymmetry of Information and Tactics in the Gun Control Debate
With this addendum I want to reflect on the experience from taping the second edition of Breaking Bread (BB2) covered in the above transcript of 3may13 KVMR commentary. The experience of that telecast both confirmed and expanded on the asymmetry of information and tactics used by the Left and Right in today’s gun control debate.
The Left (and make no mistake, this is primarily a Right/Left issue, about which more later) immediately hoisted their standard which proclaimed that America’s gun violence has run amok, and reducing gun deaths is the fundamental imperative of new gun control legislation. The ‘30K gun deaths a year’ was re-enshrined as the only and ultimate consideration, and its analysis quickly muddied so as to make the audience lump all the deaths into one category of malicious and preventable acts. (See here for a breakdown of annual gun deaths.) This tack deliberately ignores the historical reduction of the nation's murder rate over the years during which American gun ownership has increased significantly.
The bottom line is that almost two-thirds of annual gun deaths (19,393 in 2010) were suicides, and almost all the rest (11,078 in 2010) were murders. The salient expansions here are that 1) the murders were overwhelmingly perpetrated by criminals on criminals using guns obtained illegally under unenforced existing laws, and 2) removing guns from people bent on suicide overwhelmingly does not prevent a suicide, but only delays it. Suicide is a complex problem that has much deeper roots and requires more comprehensive interventions than just removing the availability of a gun. When this is pointed out, the gun controller argues exactly the opposite, and repeats their simplistic gun removal solution.
A favorite gambit in the debate always involves citing lower gun death statistics from other countries that proscribe broad gun ownership. These comparisons are specious and irrelevant when considered in the context of America’s history, its gun ownership legacy, and our nation’s acknowledged (save by the Left) role as the beneficial global hegemon that it has been since the end of WW2. And even more specious is the Left's claim that "Nobody Wants to Take Your Guns".
If we look at the sinister side of the gun controllers’ agenda, it does indeed fit an historical pattern that ultimately leads to the most stable form of governance yet discovered – tyranny. Our Founders were well versed in history, the philosophy of governance, and the inevitable tendency of governments to become the prime repressors of their own people. After two centuries, their warning voices still ring in our ears.
"I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." George Mason, Co-author of the Second Amendment during Virginia's Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788
"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves …" Richard Henry Lee writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic, Letter XVIII, May, 1788.
"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full posession of them." Zachariah Johnson, Elliot's Debates, vol. 3 "The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution."
"… the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms" Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789, Pg. 2, Col. 2, Article on the Bill of Rights
"And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; …" Samuel Adams quoted in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789, "Propositions submitted to the Convention of this State"
"Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that's good." George Washington, First President of the United States
"The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside … Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them." Thomas Paine
"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them." Richard Henry Lee, American Statesman, 1788
"The great object is that every man be armed." and "Everyone who is able may have a gun." Patrick Henry, American Patriot
"Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?" Patrick Henry, American Patriot
"Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not." Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States
"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that … it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; … " Thomas Jefferson, letter to Justice John Cartwright, June 5, 1824. ME 16:45.
"The best we can help for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed." Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-8
What were they warning us about? Put simply, the tyrannical state through its active policies kills more of its own people than die in all the foreign wars in which it engages. This fact was realized in the 20th century beyond the wildest imaginings of our Founders. Dr RJ Rummel of the University of Hawaii, along with colleagues at other universities, have devoted decades of research into gathering and assembling actual numbers of democide - those who suffered death by their governments.
At 262 million and counting (China’s Cultural Revolution has yet to add more tens of millions to the record) the nearby tally is beyond horrific, and exceeds by five times all the deaths in wars and combat suffered in that century. And all of those 262M were the unarmed citizens of countries where their government had a monopoly on gun ownership. Rummel documented this in his landmark compilation published in a series of essays that concluded with Death by Government (1994, 1995). I have yet to meet a self-claimed knowledgeable liberal who is familiar with this history or of Rummel’s work documenting it.
So what is going on today that gives concerns to so many Americans about the erosion of our liberties? Besides the alarming pace of governments’ overreach through regulations and restrictions, well documented in these pages, we have the statements of our representatives and government lawyers arguing for gun control and confiscation. Their fundamental thesis is that the 2nd Amendment is a misinterpreted paragraph within a dated and now irrelevant document. As cited above, ‘Nobody Wants to Take Your Guns’ is a compilation of how the sinister agenda is being prosecuted today.
What other data do we have of how our government agencies are arming themselves against American citizens beyond any historical levels that have been deemed necessary by local constabularies for keeping the peace? The recent record of purchases of guns and ammunition by our Department of Homeland Security and other agencies is alarming. Added to this is the purchase of over 2,600 urban combat vehicles such as the military’s MRAP which have appeared on several city streets with ‘police’ and ‘rescue’ markings on them (RR started covering this here). This body of evidence is totally ignored in the liberal lamestream media, and sniffed away by gun control advocates as rightwing paranoia.
The news of all this has caused an historical emptying of gun store shelves of inventory in this country; Obama has turned out to be the best gun salesman ever. In addition, the hew and cry from the public about government arming itself against its citizens has risen to a level sufficient for Congress to take an interest in these abnormal purchases and it is now pursuing the matter with DHS.
In response to the Left’s constant chorus of ‘It can’t happen here’, the 2nd Amendment advocates are pointing out how ‘It is already happening here’, and the broad-based grassroots ownership of appropriate firearms is rapidly turning the Founders’ warnings into a timely counsel to counter an existential threat to our way of life. And now we come to the notion of ‘appropriate firearms’ – what are they?
History students recall that our Revolutionary War started with the ‘shot heard round the world’ fired in 1775 at the Battle of Bunker (OK, Breed’s) Hill. That shot was fired by a patriot assembled with hundreds of other who quickly gathered to oppose British troops sent from Boston to, yes, confiscate the colonists’ guns. By that time tensions had built to a level where colonists started creating stores of ball and powder, and muskets (for those who could not afford them) that were located all over the colonies against Parliament’s dictates and to the horror of Loyalists. It was in the defense of such an armory near Lexington that ignited the Revolution.
But those flames of revolution spread only because the patriots were able to resist and give excellent account of themselves when General Gage’s redcoats marched up the hill toward their hastily erected barricades. The patriots were able to accomplish this because each, from above his hearth, could immediately grab and bring to bear a force that was sufficiently on par with what then the local British government of Boston could throw against them. Even the military training and organization added to the ordered ranks of British muskets could not quickly snuff out the spontaneously assembled resistance. The British suffered grievously before finally driving the patriots from the hill, but not before the word got out that when assembled with their own weapons, determined colonists could resist the Crown and inspire their fellow countrymen.
From such inspirational engagements, repeated over the centuries and all over the world, has come an understanding of how we may evaluate the appropriateness of citizen owned and borne firearms. I have gathered this notion under the rubric of ‘Par Force’ – a level of force in private hands that can prevent government from quickly snuffing out dissent before the grievances of the dissenters and the armed occasion of their dissent could be heard by fellow citizens across the land.
Hearing of this, if the citizen multitudes agree that the grievance is legitimate and shared by many/most, then they too can grab their implements of par force, and express solidarity in a manner to increase the volume and sources of the message arising from the countryside. And if government continues to exert, unabated and unchanged, its unresponsive will, then a proper and legitimate revolution may be sparked. Given their experience, our Founders strongly held that the means to revolt should always be held by the people themselves, and never surrendered to any proxy, most certainly not to any agency of their government.
The level of par force is not and need not be such that any small group of fringe dissidents can outgun the local constabulary in an extended engagement. If it turns out that the communicated grievance was judged by fellow citizens not to be legitimate, then the dissidents should and will pay a terrible price. But if it were legitimate, then even dying in a reprise of The Alamo will have served a noble purpose to start a revolt that can preserve the people’s liberty, security, and property (see Bastiat Triangle of Rights). The point of it all is to get the word out that a threshold has been breached, and that these people risked their all to inform their fellow citizens that all other means of redress have failed, and that enough is enough.
(At this point in the discussion I have had liberal friends scoff and say that armed resistance against a modern state is impossible, and a much better way to oppose the current “corporatist government” is through a nationwide general strike. These folks do not understand how hard it is to instigate/coordinate any concurrent nationwide act, let alone a strike by an unarmed people the immediate and lasting impact of which is harm to themselves. The 20th century stands witness to the futility of such attempts.)
But the biggest impact of an abiding par force in the land is that government is constantly reminded of the practical limits of its contemplated actions against the people who are still free and law abiding, and will remain so when legitimately governed. Today they number well over 100 million, and they are all armed with weapons that transcend duck hunting. It is these patriots who impede the elitists’ rush to global collectivism (cf Agenda 21), and these who must first be disarmed.
Lest some worthy think these are the ramblings of a small cohort of deranged lunatics, it is worth taking the temperature of the country regarding how people asses its current course. Little Fairleigh Dickinson University did exactly that last month polling a random sample of 853 of the country’s registered voters (yielding error bounds of +/-3.4% points). The results (here) should be eye-opening to our friends on the Left, and a comforting confirmation to supporters of the 2nd Amendment.
The online news site cnsnews.com summarized the salient part of the poll as follows. “The survey asked whether respondents agreed, disagreed, neither agreed nor disagreed or did not know or refused to respond to the statement: "In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties. … Twenty-nine percent said they agreed, 47 percent said they disagreed, 18 percent said they neither agreed nor disagreed, 5 percent said they were unsure, and 1 percent refused to respond.”
There are over 207M eligible voters in America, of whom over 170M are registered. You do the math. What impresses me is that the number of Americans, who either are contemplating the possibility of armed revolution or are not willing to discount its happening, equals the number who don’t believe that armed revolution “might be necessary … in the next few years”. (emphasis mine)
And in the end we have the two sides, one of which is able to understand, speak to, and analyze the other side’s gun violence numbers – these strive to reduce gun violence to the maximum extent while not diminishing the spirit or letter of the 2nd Amendment as they see the daily advance of government from every quarter. The other side sees only their Holy Grail - the number of annual gun deaths - and does not recognize any of the historical and horrific aspects of government’s monopoly on the possession and use of deadly force. They persist in their moronic mantra, ‘It can’t happen here.’ Nor do they recognize the deeply held beliefs and fears of their fellow Americans, who are dismissed in the tens of millions as paranoid ‘conspiracy theorists’ when they cite visible evidence of what is happening in the country today.
Let me be clear here, these gun controllers whom we meet in the daily round are not the collectivist elites who seek to nudge then herd us into their newly prescribed ‘proper social norms’. No, we see so many of them as the sincere, good-hearted, and well-intentioned people they are, while at the same time they serve as woefully uninformed dupes for those same elites who seek to fundamentally transform America into a centrally planned and controlled socialist state. It can happen here, bet the ranch on it.
[7may13 update] There is so much leftwing propaganda to counter in this area of public policy that it's hard to decide what to include in order for the post not to become encyclopedic on the subject. One area definitely worth noting is the 'invisible effect' of widespread gun ownership in a society (the lamestream has no problem ignoring it). Scholarly estimates range from 800,000 to 2,000,000 violent crime incidents prevented annually by the introduction of a legal gun into the situation. The number of incidents deflected before the happen, because the perp knows there is a high probability that the intended victim is armed, is undoubtedly many times this range.
An indication of this is effect is seen in these FBI aggregate statistics (here) compared with the United Kingdom, which easily expands to countries with even less developed policing resources. You will recall that UK has almost a total ban on private gun ownership, and considers the use of guns for personal defense to be unlawful vigilantism and prosecutes citizens for such acts.
UK is #1 in the world for Violent Crimes - 2034 per 100K people annually.
UK is #2 highest overall Crime Rate in the EU (different from Violent Crimes).
UK overall crime rate is 10,872 per 100K people annually.
US is #1 in world for Gun Ownership - 88 per 100 people.
US is not even in top ten in world for Violent Crimes - 466 per 100K people annually.
US is #28 in the world for Gun Murders - 2.97 per 100K people annually.
US overall crime rate is 3,959 per 100K people annually.
[10may13 update] The Dept of Justice just released another report on gun violence in the 1993-2011 years that corroborates what I have outlined above. (Please download 'Firearm Violence, 1993-2011'.) Significant conclusions are that gun related homicides were down 39%, and non-fatal gun crimes were down 70% in that interval. Also, it turns out that the NRA is right on another statistic, less than 2% of guns used in crimes were originally purchased at those dreadful gun shows. And hand guns have been and continue to be the overwhelming weapon of choice in gun crimes, not long guns and most certainly not what DiFi's impression of an 'assault rifle' is.
The other very significant correlation is that where CCW permits increased, crime rates decreased. And during this time CCW permits have enjoyed a tremendous increase among Americans where their 2nd Amendment rights have not been violated.
The sad part of the days news on the 2nd Amendment rights is that the Pew Trust reports that a majority of Americans believe the exact opposite of these gun crime statistics, and continue to think that gun crimes have been increasing. And from what collection of scumbags do you think that they have gotten those ideas drilled into their critically thinking heads? Exit question - what do you think the lamestream will report on this Dept of Justice report?