Monday, August 6, 2012

Props to someone who wants to listen.

This is a continuation of the last post.  Here, I address a question asked directly to me, on my own Facebook "wall".  The question was this:

Kevin - as usual you put together a very eloquent argument, most of which i could not follow :) question is not one of gun ownership as we have question is why are people allowed to own fully automatic or military grade weapons...? I have a driver's license but am definitely not allowed to drive Indy class, NASCAR or Open wheel class cars as I don't have the skill or knowledge etc...can't the same thing be said about the class of guns we are allowed to own?

I definitely had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach at that.  Not that I didn't have an answer to it--hardly, as will shortly become obvious--but that I didn't want to go and make yet another enemy by both being fully honest and actually answering the question. "M" is a high school friend of mine and until I started using Facebook a few years ago, I hadn't had any contact at all since, oh, about 1988.  But something told me just to play it straight;  after all, I'm living proof that people can actually learn in spite of their education--by my current standards I hardly qualified as a human being back then--and I listened to it.

Here's the first part of the comment stream.  It's reproduced unedited, except for name-scrubbing to protect the friendly.  The original post here is mine, and the question was posed by "M".  "B" is another friend from the same circle and time frame as "M".

B:  Just curious.....who is on what side? Can I answer your question about military grade/ automatic guns?

Me[B], FYI, this began within a comment stream on a different post, so you may not have all the context you need. You should feel free to weigh in if you like; since [M] asked the question far more politely than most people seem to, I intend to respond deliberately and respectfully. But with me, of course, it'll take a few minutes to get there. :-)

B:  What side are you on, Kevin? Pro or against gun (military grade or not)?

B:  Class 3 license are not that easy to get...but attainable as a dealer. Most automatic guns are done in the black market or modified at home (buy parts and apply).

Me:   [M]: entirely beyond the forthcoming direct response to your question, consider a thought experiment. What most jumps out at me with your question is the *language* with which you ask it. The difference in the way we each look at the world is vast, and I would much appreciate your trying this experiment seriously.

Here goes. It's just two questions:

- Do you own yourself? This is not the trivial question that it sounds like. For the purposes of the experiment, what is your answer 1) right now, 2) immediately after reading, and 3) say, a week after cogitating on the concept?

- Which of these truly serves the other: the state, or the individual? Is the reality different than what you have been taught? Again, for the experiment, consider your response 1) now, 2) after reading, and 3) a week after chewing on it.

As further cogitation for both questions, consider these thoughts as well:
(There's a lot more than that available, but this is a decent sampler.)

Again, I'd be curious to see how it might turn out for you.

Me: [M's] questions. Apologies in advance; there's gonna be a reading list, because much has already been said before.

"...why are people allowed to..."

Look, if we are "allowed" to do anything--own one kind of gun but not another, drink pasteurized milk but not raw, drive here but not there, ingest this plant product but get prosecuted for that one, speak this but not that, etc.--then we're not talking about rights, but privileges. Privileges doled out arbitrarily by a master to a servant. This is exactly backward from the intentions of those who wrested independence from just such a controlling master; the US Bill of Rights does not "grant" anything of its own, but rather is a reminder list of several very specific things that the state may not do to individuals.

If you're persuaded by the intentions of the American Founding Fathers, look up the "every terrible implement of the soldier" quote from Tench Coxe, or a fairly broad range of quotes from Jefferson, Mason, and several others. The short answer is: the little people should always, *always* have equal or greater access to weapons than any standing military, lest that grow into a beast that might be used against the populace itself. (Anyone who believes "it can't happen here" is invited to explain Will Grigg's sobering "Rubicon in the Rear-View" series:, or just read the second chapter of Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago" and compare informally against today's newspaper headlines. For the even more inane "certain guns should only go the police or military" argument, see, or a genocide chart such as the one at JPFO: Talismanic incantations of the American Second Amendment are not the point; even a brief look at the history of mass murder makes it pretty clear that if you want to avoid the potential for death by the tens of millions, you disarm the STATE, and empower the plebe.

If you're persuaded by statistical pragmatism, there is also this: attempts to "control" street crime via "gun control" are laughable, and they always have been. (It certainly makes sense, too: the notion that disarming those already inclined to obey the law, as an attempt to deter those who are inclined to ignore laws against murder, is just absurd on its face.) When I first started paying attention, it was stated that there were over twenty thousand gun laws on the books; that was in the early 80s, and even taking into account the most generous reductio for overlaps, similarities, rewrites, jurisdictions, etc., it is authoritative enough to observe that any "gun control" scheme you can imagine has already been tried hundreds or thousands of times...and still here we are, again, watching one man-with-a-gun have his way with a crowd of people disarmed by force of law, policy, or simple cultural conditioning.

What, exactly, is any new law, policy, or cultural conditioning going to accomplish that the thousands of attempts that preceded it have failed to accomplish? "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me...ten thousand times?" The analogy of the battered spouse is really hard to avoid here. Doesn't "this time for sure!" get old after a while?

For me, though, the most compelling argument is moral. If a person has not harmed anyone, nobody--not me, nor you, nor "the most powerful man on earth", nor a ten-billion-strong collective under the most noble banner in the history of man--has the right to deny that person a peaceable choice. Creating "crime" out of the CAPACITY to do wrong has been brilliantly treated by much science fiction (e.g., "The Minority Report") as the creeping, inexorable evil that it is. The very instant that we cede that point, we're on the road to "pre-crime", and it's just a matter of how fast we're jonesin' to get there. (I still do not understand how so many people who can speak that point so eloquently regarding the PATRIOT Act, or the Holocaust, or the War on (Some) Drugs, can so completely fail to see the exact parallel here.)

Some people still insist on the technical, and it is at least instructive to discuss the technical if only to point out that the most rabid EBR (evil black rifle) haters are pure snake oil salesmen (, most of whom have absolutely no idea what they're talking about ( Consider at, the statement by Sugarmann that declares, quite openly, that purposefully deceiving the public about technical matters is the preferred tactic for scoring a political point. Much the same strategy--create deceptive appeals based on emotion rather than objective criteria--drove the modern gun-control movement after it failed to reach its desired goals in the 70s.

So in the end, what's so special about [insert weapon type here]? Nothing, of course. Each plug-in is no different than the last: today it's "assault weapons", before that it was "sniper rifles", before that it was "concealable guns", before that it was "assault weapons" the first time, before that it was "plastic guns", before that it was "Saturday Night Specials" (concealable guns the first time), before that it was mail-order guns, before that it was full-auto guns and short barrels, before that it was guns in the hands of Negroes...even at the time of the American Revolution it was "long-range rifles", albeit the tyrants were British rather than American at that time. It's always been the same thing; the focus on mechanical differences is simply a red herring to follow so that you don't notice that what the disarmers really mean is all weapons held by someone either "unofficial" or other-than-them.

There's nothing exceptionally different about EBRs. Their much-vaunted "rate of fire" can be exceeded by a revolver (just look up Jerry Miculek or Ed McGivern sometime), and their internal mechanics are hardly any different from designs from before the year 1900. They certainly look all gonzo, which frightens some and amuses others (; as a long-time student of the craft of how to shoot I personally consider most of the designs inefficient and silly, but if it's to be a free country, then it's gotta be a free country, and frankly if it perturbs the nanny-staters, then I'll take two.

I could hold court at some length about relative technical merits of a variety of designs (and I suspect by now that you just might believe me on that :-) but you know, none of that would be a matter of public policy. Because that is an idea that is at once irrelevant, absurd, indefensibly evil...and if the rule of law matters, specifically prohibited.

And finally, a general reading list. Anyone who would try and establish a moral authority for forcible disarmament of the peaceable must be able to address the points made in the following stable (as well as the above text and links):

Me[B]: I sure hope the previous clarifies things a bit. :-)

At this point, having sent off that load, I was prepared to have completely alienated [M] and either hear a great deal of nothing, or something lashing back.  But wouldn't you know it, sometimes people offer a marvelous surprise.

M:  awesomeness...good stuff Kevin, give me a few days and I will be back.

M:  BTW...full disclosure, I am not sure where I stand at the moment

P:  Pardon me for intruding into your discussion guys, but I have to say that was an incredible read Kevin. Can you run for office?

M:  no doubt

B:  Kevin, is this a "bazinga" moment for me to read all that : )

B:  Kevin acts like it is beneath him : )

Me[M]: thank you for that. It's easy to make enemies with forceful speech, and I do seem to trend in that direction (I most often say a whole lot of not much, and there is reason for that). Here I took the risk of speaking plainly, and appreciate your trust, regardless of where you end up.

Me[P]:  this is where I alienate the rest of the people in the room. To my way of looking at the world, politics is not the solution to the problem--politics IS the problem.

Run for office? I'd sooner contemplate the short-sword. Given Oppenheimer's definitions of "the political means" and "the economic means", one could reasonably argue that the purest act of aggression one could ever commit would be to vote. (Those who recall me from the CLHS days may note the significant about-face here; it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure it out, but ol' dunderhead here can, in fact, learn. For that humbling reason, too, I tend to be somewhat patient with others who, like me, not only don't get there all at once, but kinda resent being pushed along the way.)

It's heresy, for sure--I make a lot of enemies by outing myself, and am regularly reminded that I "weigh the same as a duck"--but just about fifteen years after arriving at this place, I've seen nothing that would persuade me differently. Nothing.

A few observations in that regard:

And if you're really masochistic, this exchange seems to cover most of it in one place:

Me:  [B]:  "Kevin acts like it is beneath him"

I don't know precisely what you mean by that (who is the Sheldon to whom you refer?) but I sure don't mean to come across that way. I know I have a forceful style in general, and am rather obviously passionate about some topics, and one of my primary goals in saying anything is deliberately to rip through the dangerous airbrushing that people so often apply to topics that really demand plain, direct speech...but it actually quite bothers me when I come across as condescending or elitist. Hell, liberty is a concept that is as fundamentally non-elitist as a concept can be ("liberty is either for everyone, or it is for no one"), and I take a back seat to no one in my fundamental faith in individual human nature.

When I asked my wife about this a while back, she smiled and said "the way that you speak--it's just the way you speak--sometimes hardly permits people an 'in', much less an 'out'. That hurts. If I tried to explain just how hard I try not to needlessly close doors when writing even the simplest things, nobody would believe me--but as she so often is, she may well be right.

Is that the sort of thing you're getting at?

Quite seriously, I would invite that topic. If I do come across that way, what can I do to change it? I'm not in this to hear the sound of my own voice, although with my historically meager readership it might appear that way.

(Hm. On a technical note, I suppose I would say that politics is beneath *everyone*...maybe that's where it can come across that way. :-)

B:  Kevin, of all people, I thought you would watch the BIG BANG THEORY (tv sitcom). The physicist character named Sheldon Cooper in the show explains how the world (including himself) works thru facts…..lots of facts. When explaining (some view it as an insults), he uses facts and figures thru scientific process rather thru political correctness. I am not giving you things to read, here is a link of the show ( can only imagine you may give your own comments to the show : )

I forgot who I was talking to when I asked those questions. Like the character Sheldon, he gives you the answers more than most people can understand/ yourself (no offense). I was quoting some of the terminologies (ie banzinga) from that show without any indication of being pompous.

Yes, we have known each other for many years and no your answers (verbally or written) have never given me any indication of bias or portray as an elitist person or group. Sometimes “NO” is a good answer :- )...especially when reading your lines thru a 1.5x1.5 screen from a cell phone. Like you, Kevin, I prefer not to engage in politics, religion, or cultural can lose many friends thru these discussions. Gun topics are a little different depending how one views it and how it is defined as an automatic and etc.
As for changing your way of, don’t change it for me. I, on the other hand, come out blazing with fire and others view me as a totalitarian…..but that’s another topic by itself ;)

M:  Kevin - for all the years I have known you, no matter the circumstance, you have been nothing if not direct, honest and deliberate (thoughtful and well researched as well). I enjoy an open direct discussion no matter which side of the room you align with. Forceful, educated and honest is a hell of alot better than bombastic blowhardedness in my opinion.

It will be interesting to see if [M] did go through that thought experiment.  It's not a lightweight exercise, and I certainly don't expect a full-blown Rothbardian proto-anarchist to emerge on just that basis.  But I gotta say, this whole episode has reminded me that some people really are willing to listen, and as frustrating as it can get, month over month, trying to reach people who are committed to misunderstanding you, those few who do wish to use their ears make it all worth it.

Now, if I could just gracefully tell these folks that I only became the sort of person they all seemed to think I was, at least ten years after we parted ways...well, then we'd really have something.  :-)

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