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On Metaphors and Violence

[ 1,035 ] December 18, 2012 |

The last couple of days have been a bit challenging for me. Being attacked by a David Horowitz wannabe for saying I wanted to see Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick has led to a world of fun, ranging from a meeting with the Rhode Island State Police last night to people inundating the University of Rhode Island community with warnings of their murderous colleague in their midst.

So to clarify, I want to make it blindingly clear that I did not call for the assassination of Wayne LaPierre. In my world, calling for someone’s head on a stick is a metaphor to hold them responsible for their actions. I think the last time “head on a stick” actually meant murder was sometime around 1450. That anyone would take this seriously as a murder threat is completely absurd. What stinks about it is that it has now involved my family, colleagues, and university. So I’ll apologize to them and to anyone legitimately offended by my metaphor.

If we go to the Urban Dictionary to see how it defines “head on a stick,” there are several options. Some range around medieval violence. But this is the actual definition in use today:

A metaphor describing retaliation or punishment for another’s wrongdoing, or public outrage against an individual or group for the same reason.

After the BP Oil Spill; many Americans would like to see Tony Hayward’s head on a stick, myself included.

This is the obvious definition I was using. Do I want to see Wayne LaPierre punished in the way many of us wanted to see Tony Hayward punished during the BP oil spill or the way many of us wanted to see Dick Cheney punished during the Iraq War. Of course. That would mean real accountability for causing immeasurable harm to families, nations, and/or nature. Do I think the National Rifle Association is culpable for the murders of thousands of people in the United States and Mexico because of the policies they support? Yes. Do I think it is reasonable to call the National Rifle Association a terrorist organization? Although obviously using more than a little hyperbole, yes. It is defensible precisely because the polices they support facilitate the terror unleashed in Newtown, at the Clackamas Town Center, at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, at the theater in Aurora, at Columbine.

And in Springfield.

In 1998, my high school Spanish teacher was killed by her son Kip Kinkel before he went to his own high school and opened fire, killing 2 students and wounded 15. This is personal stuff to me. I will never forget the moment I heard about it. I was driving in east Texas when I stopped to eat. I picked up a paper and saw it. I don’t know what noise I made, but whatever it was it caused everyone in the restaurant to turn and look at me. I just started shaking. I was never a gun guy, but it was a fundamental moment in my political life. So when I see yet another school shooting, I get very angry and emotional. If that occasionally leads to unfortunate language, well there’s the reason.

But let’s also be clear–these people KNOW I am not calling for LaPierre’s assassination. They use language far surpassing anything I would ever say all the time. Here is Glenn Reynolds, so outraged by my intemperate language, asking “can we see some heads roll” over the Benghazi attacks. Does Reynolds literally want to see the head of Susan Rice decapitated from her body? Of course not. It’s a metaphor. I wouldn’t have even looked twice at that line because I know exactly what he means, even if I disagree with him. Not to mention that Reynolds has quite literally called for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. But I am today’s subject of the right-wing Two Minute Hate. Tomorrow it will be some other poor sap. This is all a game to these extremists, seeking to turn the tragedy of Newtown to focus on the real victims here–American white conservative gun owners. The fact that my intemperate language helped give them a lever to try and turn that narrative is unfortunate and I apologize for it. But of course they would have found any number of other people or situations where they would have done the same thing.

And look, if I used violent metaphors, that’s a bad thing. I will admit that at certain moments such language might become part of my vocabulary. But then I’m a product of the same violent culture that makes real discussion about guns virtually impossible in this country. Scholars such as Richard Slotkin and Richard Maxwell Brown have spent whole careers exploring the theme of violence in American history. Others have noted the massive violent underpinnings of the United States ranging from antebellum mobs to lynchings to violence in the popular media. I probably shouldn’t use that language and certainly will be a lot more conscious going forward of not using it again, particularly since it doesn’t help in the battle against actual violence. Violence is a huge societal problem that influences all of us in various ways. Some may use violent metaphors to express their frustrations. Others join organizations that support assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons being in the hands of anyone without any sort of background check or regulation. I’ll leave it to you to decide who is the bigger problem.

Comments (1,035)

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  1. Benjamin says:

    While he’s visiting UrbanDictionary.com, Glenn Reynolds might also consider the definition of penisanus: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=penisanus

  2. Sherm says:

    Just further evidence that these twisted fucks with their infantile gun fetishes care more about their right to bear arms than your freedom of speech, although it is freedom of speech which is our greatest weapon against tyranny, real or imagined.

  3. Jay B. says:

    Obtuse bullshit from the world’s dullest genocidal Law Professor? NO WAY.

    Reynolds can go fuck himself. And I don’t give a shit how he takes that.

  4. I’m sorry you have a boss who combines the worse elements of cowardice and idiocy.

  5. Brad says:

    We have plenty of “real discussion” about guns, and have for a long time. What gives you butthurt is that the gun grabbers lost. Sorry about that.

  6. brewmn says:

    Was her son the one profiled on a Frontline episode? One of the most chilling things I have ever seen on TV.

  7. John says:

    Glenn Reynolds is fucking inexcusable.

  8. mark f says:

    Here is Glenn Reynolds, so outraged by my intemperate language, asking “can we see some heads roll” over the Benghazi attacks. Does Reynolds literally want to see the head of Susan Rice decapitated from her body? Of course not.

    I bet if some senator advocated that she be tried for treason and executed he’d be all for it.

  9. Andrew says:

    I agree that the reaction to “head on a stick” was a bit much. But I’m trying to reconcile this with the outrage I felt about Sarah Palin putting a crosshair over Gabrielle Giffords’ congressional district.

  10. Glenn says:

    Whoa, Erik… did you really get a visit from the RI State Police over this? That’s pretty outrageous.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Some crazy person called the FBI and said I planned to assassinate Wayne LaPierre. Not making this up.

    • Karate Bearfighter says:

      I respect that they came to interview Erik, even though the complaint was obviously ridiculous. It shows they have a policy in place that requires them to respond to every call alleging a threat of violence, and that individual officers don’t have the discretion to ignore complaints they don’t want to deal with.

      • Visitor says:

        I will respect all of this a bit more after I hear of appropriate agencies visiting, say, Glenn Beck for bringing a noose on is show (or do I have the wrong deranged media figure), and visiting the multiple Republican candidates that joked about using Pelosi’s or other Democrats’ images at a shooting range, do I need to go on?

        • Visitor says:

          PS: I should’ve started out w/agreeing with your point, since I do! Sorry if my frustration disguised that.

          Erik L, I may always count as some kinda coopted not-left-enough whatever in your official opinion, but I Do Write Letters. If your Dean or anyone needs any letters, you just let us know, y’hear?

        • Karate Bearfighter says:

          If you’ve read Erik’s description of the meeting in the other post, it’s clear that the troopers thought the call was ridiculous. I’m operating from the assumption that this is so incredibly ridiculous that an agency that responds to this call will also not give its officers discretion to avoid calls in much more common real world situations, like “My ex-boyfriend is outside staring at my house,” or “There are two teenagers fighting in the parking lot,” etc.

          As for the GOP reps and Glenn Beck, are you sure they didn’t get interviewed by police? I know the Secret Service have interviewed Ted Nugent, Jesse Helms, and others under similar circumstances.

      • Rocky Lore says:

        So if someone said the same thing about the President of CAIR or ACLU, would you have said the same thing?

  11. David Mathias says:

    Here is Glenn Reynolds, so outraged by my intemperate language, asking “can we see some heads roll” over the Benghazi attacks. Does Reynolds literally want to see the head of Susan Rice decapitated from her body?

    I thought the link to Reynolds complaining about you is interesting and relates to a lot about right-of-center attitudes to guns. (I tried to post a similar comment in the previous post, but my computer was being difficult, so I will post it here, even if it is not closely related to this post. Apologies.)
    FIRST, there are links to posts about Fast and Furious, which is really changing the subject.
    SECOND, his post describes the past 100 years as being characterized by eliminationism. The past 100 years have included many atrocities, but being specific about the past 100 years is related to a belief in the Golden Age of the Founding Fathers (at least, of that Age is interpreted by Reynolds).
    THIRD, his post links to a post by College Insurrection or something. “Yeah man, our defense of hierarchy makes us dangerous but noble rebels!”

    (Should I be self-indulgent and contrarian? Should I ask if there is any act of violence that you could have tweeted about LaPierre that you could not have insisted was metaphor? Should I ask if you are willing to exercise this same tolerance to people with whom you might disagree? Should I ask you to defend the honor of Mel Gibson for his similar remark about Frank Rich 8 years ago? Or should I just not be inane as you try to live your life? That is the greatest thing that we all do, and it was taken away from those killed in Connecticut too soon.)

    • David Mathias says:

      I know that my “SECOND” item, and to a lesser extent my “THIRD” item are based on inference instead of strict interpretation, but I still think it is interesting that these things were there.

  12. STH says:

    Sigh.

    I personally thought the wording was completely appropriate to the situation and the feelings of many, many people that day (and continuing to today). You were upset and enraged by the senseless tragedy, as any sentient being would be, and your words were appropriate to that. I wish people would direct their outrage to the real violence you were reacting to, rather than the justifiably strong words you used. But I am sorry that it’s caused you some hassle and distress.

  13. Linnaeus says:

    What we’re seeing is an interesting exercise in “political correctness” from the very people who denounce it.

  14. J. Otto Pohl says:

    I am pretty sure that the literal practice of putting decapitated heads on sticks was used long after 1450. I can not think of a lot of instances. But, the one that does spring to mind was the fact that literal heads on sticks was a form of punishment used in the Congo Free State during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I believe Adam Hochshcild’s King Leopold’s Ghost has some photographs of the heads on sticks in it.

  15. Andy says:

    Wayne LaPierre really is receiving death threats. People are calling for his murder. I get being passionate, but suggestions of inciting violence is not how to solve differences. That said, I do believe your “head on a stick” comment really was a metaphor, but coupled with suggesting people be beaten to death for voicing a difference in opinion, I can understand why the hairs on people’s necks are standing up. If you really are an educator, then use your words to change the world. Teach. Avoid the ugliness that, courtesy of your curse-laden tweets, is now associated with you and your university. Cheers to being more responsible with your words.

    • Barry Freed says:

      Cheers to being more responsible with your words.

      You’ve a set of brass ones to say that, what with what happened Friday and all.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      I was going to say something like this, minus the too-easy sanctimony of its tone. The (phony IMO) rightwing outrage over Erik’s words is ridiculous, but there’s value in choosing metaphors that are less violent, even when one is passionate about something. Violent metaphors are not death threats. But we could still do with fewer violent metaphors in our discourse, perhaps especially when one is protesting actual violence in our culture.

      • Richard says:

        I agree. Erik’s comment was clearly protected speech and clearly intended as a metaphor but its just not a wise decision to use violent metaphors when responding to the deaths of thirty first graders.

        • Oh for fuck’s sake, don’t concede an inch to transparent concern trolls. Whether or not it harkens to violent imagery or not, “head on a stick’ is a fucking common expression in modern language, and everyone knows it is not meant to be taken literally anymore than “heads will roll” or “collected their scalp” is. Jesus fuck, if anything this ought to lead to doubling down the push against these fuckwads who are obviously on their heels if this is the best they can come up with.

          • Richard says:

            I agreed with IB, not Andy. I dont think IB is a concern troll. As I said, Erik had every right to say what he said but, as I think he has now said, it wasn’t a particularly well thought out decision to use those exact words in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown massacre.

            And I don’t think its particularly wise to encourage Erik to double down. He’s been visited by the police, had a talk with his dean and received unwelcome emails and perhaps more from a number of unpleasant people. Has this been fun for him? Probably not. He can make the decision on his own what to do now but the post to which we are responding seems intelligent and well-thought out. If he doesn’t want to double down, its his decision.

      • Rocky Lore says:

        Would you have said the same thing is someone demanded the head of the ACLU leader on a stick? No, you Democrats would be demanding terrorism charges!

      • Leeds man says:

        But we could still do with fewer violent metaphors in our discourse

        What discourse?

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          I think it’s better to use fewer violent metaphors. Period. I criticize Ann Coulter for her use of them. I’m willing to criticize Erik for using them, too (though he has a long way to go before he approaches Coulterian levels). I’m sure I’ve used them in the past and will use them again in the future. They’re a pretty common vice in our culture. And I’m happy to have folks call me on it if and when I do.

          All of this, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with the crazy argument (which I suspect that the wingnuts themselves don’t believe) that what Erik said was an incitement to violence, let alone expressed a desire for violence.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            It should also go without saying (though I’ll say it anyway) that, e.g., Ann Coulter’s violent metaphors are being used for fundamentally evil causes, while Erik’s was being used in a good cause. I only point this out because I really don’t want to suggest any equivalence whatsoever, beyond the raw fact that I don’t like violent metaphors, whoever uses them for whatever reason.

    • Gepap says:

      Nothing Loomis said was an incitement to violence and acting like it was is absurd.

      Too bad LGM readers aren’t going to waste the FBI’s time by making complaints against Reynolds every time he says something violent.

    • wengler says:

      Cheers to being more responsible with your words.

      Cheers to be a sanctimonious prick.

  16. Barry Freed says:

    I think the last time “head on a stick” actually meant murder was sometime around 1450.

    It’s like you don’t even watch/read Game of Thrones/SEK’s visual rhetoric posts.

  17. Trollhattan says:

    I am Sparticus! I’d like to see Wayne tossed into a cage with the family members of each Connecticut victim.

  18. [...] 1:22 pm ET: Loomis defends his “head on a stick” comment in a blog post. He mentions in passing that he had “a meeting with the Rhode Island State Police last [...]

  19. Ann Coulter says:

    Typical stupid liberal. If you’d said “It’s too bad Timothy McVeigh didn’t blow up Wayne LaPierre’s house,” everyone would have just laughed and said “Oh, that wacky Erik!”

  20. T. Paine says:

    This makes me so angry I want someone’s head on a stick!



    That’s humor, in case anyone’s confused.

  21. cpinva says:

    i don’t:

    I respect that they came to interview Erik

    they had no legitimate business wasting his time, and the state’s taxpayer’s money. if the FBI thought it was credible, they wouldn’t have dumped it off on the state police.

    mr. loomis, you were under no legal/moral obligation to waste your time with the nice state troopers, you could have told them to take a gigantic 1st & 5th amendment flying leap. if they want to talk to you that badly, they can get a subpoena, and chat with your attorney.

    contact the state ACLU, they’ll be happy to tell the state police to fuck off for you. as it is, you now have grounds for both a federal & state civil suit against the state police, for attempting to violate your civil rights, and threatening you. they will try and dump it back on the FBI, who will also tell them to go fuck themselves.

    last i checked, wayne lapierre isn’t an elected official, and has no more right to “special” treatment than i do. this was an attempt to silence you, by all parties concerned, like a SLAPP suit. don’t fall for it, it’s illegal.

    and andy, cheers for being less of a tortured, flaming asshole, in public. wayne lapierre is receiving death threats is he? too fucking bad for him, couldn’t happen to a bigger douchebag. and that ain’t metaphor. i challenge you to contact the FBI, and accuse me of threatening the dirt bag’s useless excuse for a life, please, do it. it’ll be fun seeing your sorry ass in court, explaining to a judge why you shouldn’t be in jail, for filing false police reports.

      • Richard says:

        Very much disagree on both legal and practical grounds. Fortunately, Erik, although under no obligation to talk to the police, handled this well.

        • Sherm says:

          Yes, he did, and it was probably prudent in light of the heat at the University, but talking to the police voluntarily is generally not a good idea.

          • Richard says:

            Sometimes it is, more often than not it isn’t. In this case, I think it was a good idea. Erik also has his professional standing to consider and I don’t think he wants to be known as a prof who told the cops to fuck off, I don’t want say whether or not I intend to kill Mr. LaPierre.

          • rea says:

            talking to the police voluntarily is generally not a good idea.

            Generally, maybe, but not if the cops are trying to decide whether you are a dangerous lunatic posing a threat to kill someone–then friendly, reasonable cooperation is in order.

    • Rocky Lore says:

      No surprise that Democrats like you support terroristic death threats. What if it were the head of the ACLU that were threatened? Fascist Democrats like you can’t follow your own fucking advice on nonviolence!

      • Njorl says:

        Needs more mouthfoam.

      • olexicon says:

        Okay give us an example of this happening since you seem to be obsessed with head of the ACLU and calling Democrats Fascists and Terrorists

      • backdoor man says:

        and now I know why you have not figured out that I am fucking both your wife and mother

      • JMP says:

        You know, this might have more credibility if not for the facts that a) right-wing terrorists actually have murdered liberals and perceived liberals in recent years; just look at the assassination of the American hero Dr. George Tiller, for example, or the many bombings by Eric Rudolph; while there have been no terrorist killings by liberals in decades; and b) “Fascist Democrats” is a contradiction in modern America since fascist is an extreme conservative ideology.

    • Karate Bearfighter says:

      if the FBI thought it was credible

      That’s the point; the investigating officers didn’t think it was credible, but they apparently didn’t have the discretion to close their file without conducting a 2 minute interview with Erik.

      I don’t think Erik was obligated to talk with them, and he has every right to be angry that his time was wasted; I’m just glad that the decision whether to interview or not was not in the hands of the police. I’m not sure how you create a policy that gives discretion to officers to ignore a complaint about Erik’s metaphorical comment without also giving them discretion to ignore complaints about other, perhaps literal, threats made on social media. Do you really want to give police the discretion to parse words and look for authorial intent when a complaint is made about a threat?

  22. Dwright says:

    Why are you backtracking now cowardly professor? The problem is folks like you, and your blame everything but the real problem mentality. You retweeted a cowardly statement, and you sounded like an idiot in your antigun rants. You and your coward liberal ilk are perpetuating violence, and encouraging real American to arm themselves heavier by the day. Keep it up ignorant left, you are doing a good job selling guns.

  23. You gave them an opening by choosing the words you did, even though they were clearly metaphorical. Now the mouthbeathers and knuckledraggers have something to cluck about.

    I think your clarification is damn classy. If they continue to cluck, it proves their outrage is completely fabricated.

    Can’t fucking believe you were questioned. That is chilling. Seems if anyone should be outraged now, it’s you.

  24. angienc (D) says:

    Ah yes, today “head on a stick” is a metaphor — a metaphor for killing someone that used to not be a metaphor at all, but very literal. See, despite your protests to the contrary and the tragedies & violence that are still with us, our society has actually become LESS violent — we no longer walk around with people’s head on a stick, displaying them at our city gates. . The media, people’s perceptions, have turned everything upside down. Today we tend to believe that the past was an innocent and peaceful time and that it’s only recently that we’ve become violent and evil. There are actually people, Americans, like you Mr. Loomis (a “professor!” for the love of all that is good & holy) who now believe America is some inherently evil, violent, unrestrained, uncivilized society. Compared to what, exactly, I wonder? Certainly not the past and certainly not other present day countries, such as –oh, Syria, for example, heck, not even compared to the UK whose rate of violent crimes is currently higher than ours (rising steadily & ironically enough since their total gun ban in the late 80s).

    You can’t solve problems when your understanding of history and your perceptions of who we are are all backwards. But alas, we’ve entered into the most aggressively ignorant period of human history since the Dark Ages.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      There are actually people, Americans, like you Mr. Loomis (a “professor!” for the love of all that is good & holy) who now believe America is some inherently evil, violent, unrestrained, uncivilized society….But alas, we’ve entered into the most aggressively ignorant period of human history since the Dark Ages.

      This is emerging as the most popular form of wingnut self-parody. It kind of reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s “I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that”…except Tom Lehrer was telling a joke.

      • STH says:

        Wait, I thought we were all going to hell because of the evolution, butt secks, and abortion pills? I thought this was the end times? Now you’re telling me we live in a paradise?

      • angienc (D) says:

        This is emerging as the most popular form of wingnut self-parody.

        I’m not a right winger but I knew those on this blog post would jump to that conclusion (which is why I put my party ID next to my name when I commented here) — but thanks for proving my point on how aggressively ignorant society has gotten –on both the left & the right.

        • Johnny Sack says:

          Like the D next to your name means anything. I have nothing to say in response to your original post, just on your theory of “proving” what your political beliefs are. Not sure why anyone should consider extrinsic information like (D) in your username. It’s about as convincing as, “No offense, but,” or “I’m not racist but.” The content of your comments should and does control what you are perceived as. If you need to add your party affiliation to your username, you have obviously failed.

        • John says:

          Tell me more. What are your feelings on Chappaquiddick?

    • But alas, we’ve entered into the most aggressively ignorant period of human history since the Dark Ages.

      Just an FYI: the Dark Ages were a period when most people went around armed in public, the government officially backed Christianity, women and minorities had no rights, and what schooling existed was done in the homes of the few rich people who could afford it.

      Why you think your dumb little diversion into history is supposed to help you, I’ll never know.

      • Murc says:

        Just an FYI: the Dark Ages were a period when most people went around armed in public,

        This is patently untrue and I wish people would stop saying it.

        While people would often have a knife on them in the Dark Ages, even that was fairly rare, as a well-made knife was an important and valuable tool you wanted to keep track of and avoid using except when necessary, and most of them would be the medieval equivalent of a Swiss army knife, a tool, rather than what we’d think of as a weapon.

        An actual weapon, like a sword or a well-made crossbow or longbow, was a very valuable item that was worth more than most people made in a year. They were only owned by a small segment of the population, and not carried around all the time.

        In fact, some of the most restrictive arms laws in history come out of the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, as the aristocracy passed shitloads of laws forbidding anyone below a certain social station to be armed.

        And on top of that, women were almost NEVER armed, and that’s half the population right there.

        This is right up there with the idea that everyone in the Wild West walked around strapped all the time, and just as annoying to me. No. They didn’t.

    • spencer says:

      Mr. Loomis (a “professor!”

      He might prefer to be addressed as Dr. Loomis, and there’s no need for quotes – he’s a real professor, not a pretend one.

  25. Mark says:

    Erik, I feel it safe to assume that anything I would have to say that could be interpreted as “pro gun” would fall on deaf ears. I am not here to harass you and, further, have no desire to gain admiration and spotlight.

    I have read some of your posts. There are some that I can certainly agree with. Example, anger over the invasion of Iraq. I am right there with you. An illegal, unjustified war pitting the world superpower against a nation without the capacity to repel such an attack.

    You know, however, the US was in a cold war with the USSR for decades. Why did we not just invade that nation and be done with it? The answer is simple. Deterrence. Facing a rival with equal capacity to strike back certainly does have a neutralizing effect.

    The same holds true on a personal level. As I’m sure you are aware, even bullies in school never target someone they perceive able to fight back effectively. Criminals are no different. Much like other predators, they will always seek the weak and defenseless first.

    Yes I own firearms. Yes I am trained in the use of them. And, believe it or not, I hope against hope that I never have to use any of them for their intended purpose. I feel it safe to say that the overwhelming majority of gun-owning, law-abiding citizens feel the same way.

    I suppose in a perfect world guns would not exist at all. However, since they do, I think it foolish to pretend that passing laws to disarm the public at large and leave them vulnerable and unable to defend themselves would only serve to embolden the criminals who are not prone to observing “laws”.

    The school at Newtown is a “gun-free zone”. Did that stop Lanza? Is it possible he thought to himself “Oh, the school is a gun-free zone. Maybe I ought not do this”. Laughable, isn’t it? Exactly how many “gun laws” do you suppose he violated in the conduct of his crime? Did these laws protect the lives of those innocent children? Rather the opposite, I say. If such a law as a “gun-free zone” is so effective, then why isn’t the White House a “gun-free zone”?

    How many people, including those calling for strict gun control laws, if not outright banning of legal ownership of firearms, would be willing to walk around with a sign on their back stating “This is a gun-free person”, or posting a sign on their lawn “This is a gun-free household”?

    The fact is that even people opposed to the private ownership of firearms benefit greatly from the 2nd Amendment simply due to the fact that it is entirely possible that they themselves may, in fact, be armed.

    In closing, in a perfect world, there would be no guns. More correctly, in a perfect world, there would be no killing. However, this is obviously not a perfect world and, further, if the Bible is to be believed, the first murder occurred millenia before the first firearm was even invented. I would have enjoyed nothing more than to be able to tell my own children that life is all cupcakes and rainbows. Instead, they have to learn to defend themselves and the ones they love against any who would perceive a vulnerability and therefore seek their harm as I have done for them. Good day to you sir…

    • The problem with this wanking remains that guns are not really particularly good for the imagined self-defenses uses either, but sure, anyday now someone is going storm your house in broad daylight, you’ll see them before they make their move, and then you’ll blow them away in a hail of bravado that will allow you to get a stiffy for decades to come. Any day now…

      • Jesse Gregg says:

        Your pejorative description of gun owners betrays your mulish thinking on self defense. There are between 1-2.5 million defensive gun use incidents in the U.S. every year. This is where a legal gun owner uses said gun in some manner to defend themselves. Sometimes this requires firing the gun but often simply making known that you have a firearm will cause the criminal to decide he’d rather not pick on someone who can defend themselves.

        I, too, have a license and have firearms and hope to heaven to never have to use them, but I am glad to have them in the event I need to use them in my own defense.

      • Mark says:

        So this is what mature discussion of a subject has become these days? You should be ashamed of yourself…

        • mpowell says:

          Mature discussion would be to note the overwhelming counter example to your claims over in Europe where restrictions on gun control have led to a lower murder rate, lower murder by gun rate and lower murder rate per robbery.

          This has been blindingly obvious for decades. So sorry, someone claiming to want a mature discussion based on the notion that the private ownership of firearms makes anyone safer is pretty silly. First, get the slightest clue what you are talking about and then maybe we can have a conversation.

          • Mark says:

            Are you able to cite the valid references you are basing your claims on?

            • John says:

              Well, there’s this, from Wikipedia. It uses a few different sources, but they’re all footnoted to various international organizations.

              Firearm related deaths in OECD countries, in deaths per 100,000, are as follows:

              1. Mexico 11.14
              2. United States 9.20
              3. Canada 4.78
              4. Switzerland 3.84
              5. Finland 3.64
              6. France 3.00
              7. Austria 2.94
              8. New Zealand 2.66
              9. Estonia 2.54
              10. Slovenia 2.44
              11. Belgium 2.43
              12. Israel 1.86
              13. Luxembourg 1.81
              14. Norway 1.78
              15. Portugal 1.77
              16. Czech Republic 1.76
              17. Slovakia 1.75
              18. Greece 1.50
              19. Sweden 1.47
              20. Denmark 1.45
              21. Italy 1.28
              22. Iceland 1.25
              23. Germany 1.10
              24. Australia 1.05
              25. Ireland 1.03
              26. Hungary 0.85
              27. Spain 0.63
              28. Netherlands 0.46
              29. Poland 0.26
              30. United Kingdom 0.25
              31. South Korea 0.013
              32. Japan 0.07
              33. Chile 0.06 (although this apparently only counts homicides)

              (Turkey’s not listed). So the US is second only to Mexico, which gets all of its illicit guns from the US and is in the midst of a horrendous drug war. And it’s not far behind Mexico.

              Of course, those numbers include a lot of suicides – in most countries, the majority of firearms related deaths are suicides. I guess it’s possible that the availability of guns in the US could make people use guns more for suicides. So, for the sake of argument, let’s look just at homicides. The US doesn’t do much better:

              1. Mexico 10.00
              2. United States 3.70
              3. Israel 0.94
              4. Canada 0.76
              5. Luxembourg 0.60
              6. Greece 0.59
              7. Switzerland 0.52
              8. Portugal 0.48
              9. Italy 0.36
              9. Ireland 0.36
              11. Estonia 0.30
              12. Belgium 0.29
              13. Finland 0.26
              14. France 0.22
              14. Denmark 0.22
              16. Netherlands 0.20
              17. Sweden 0.19
              18. Austria 0.18
              18. Slovakia 0.18
              20. New Zealand 0.17
              21. Spain 0.15
              22. Hungary 0.13
              23. Czech Republic 0.12
              24. Australia 0.09
              25. Germany 0.06
              25. Chile 0.06
              27. Slovenia 0.05
              28. Norway 0.04
              28. United Kingdom 0.04
              28. South Korea 0.04
              31. Poland 0.02
              31. Japan 0.02

              The US has almost 4 times the number of firearms related homicides as the next country on the list, and the only country ahead of it is, again, Mexico, which probably shouldn’t be in the OECD.

      • Mark says:

        Specifically, to Brien. Am I to understand that, when discussing matters of such serious nature, that the one speaking with the most degrading sarcasm is the one who wins? I have no desire to “win”, particularly in an argument with someone I have never met. I merely stated my viewpoint, simple as it is, that people with the perceived ability to mount an effective defense are far less likely to be attacked. If you, sir, decide that you need not concern yourself with your own self defense that’s certainly not my problem. You may well go through life never needing to do so and that would be great. I may go through the rest of mine in the same fashion. But I am not so ignorant as to believe that a foregone conclusion. Perhaps you would be willing to put the “gun-free person” sign on your back?

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      This passage, in a sense, lies at the social heart of the disagreement:

      I suppose in a perfect world guns would not exist at all. However, since they do, I think it foolish to pretend that passing laws to disarm the public at large and leave them vulnerable and unable to defend themselves would only serve to embolden the criminals who are not prone to observing “laws”.

      Too many people in our society believe that the world is divided between good people–who would never commit any act of evil and, with proper training, are more or less incapable of causing harm, even with an assault weapon–and criminals–who are always already evil and intend nothing but harm to “the public at large.”

      This view is an enormous (if implicit) rejection of both optimistic (Locke) and pessimistic (Hobbes) Enlightenment understandings of human nature, which tended to assume that people are generally alike when it comes to their propensity to commit violence.

      And of course lurking behind the category of the (always already) criminal are a series of other categories (race, nationality, religion, class), for which “criminal” is a potent dogwhistle.

      • mpowell says:

        The real problem is that this is a testable hypothesis. And the US gun control regime does not pass the test! Fewer people die from violent crime in 1st world countries that restrict gun ownership compared to the US.

      • Mark says:

        I am admittedly not nearly so high minded as to pretend to understand the whole Locke and Hobbes thing, being a high school dropout with only a GED and a few college courses to my credit. However, I do agree with what I perceive as the gist of the statement being that the word “criminal” is a blanket word to categorize someone as evil always. That was not my intention. The main point I attempted to make is that, since guns do exist, and since no number or severity of laws will change that fact, and since anyone has the capacity to break said laws and obtain a firearm and attempt to do harm to another, then outlawing them is not going to serve to do anything more than to tip the scales in favor of those, “criminal” or not, with the propensity for doing such.

        • If your hypothesis is correct, then whether restricting the ownership of firearms will be beneficial should depend on (1) the extent to which criminals use guns on non-criminals (and a lot of criminals use their guns to settle disputes with other criminals), and (b) what percentage of the population are hard-core criminals prepared to use firearms in their chosen activities. If 75% of the population fall into that latter category, then restricting ownership may not be a good thing. If 7%, then the net effect may well be beneficial.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          It’s simply empirically true that laws can have an impact on the availability of guns. Guns are much more widespread in the U.S. than in most other industrialized democracies. And gun crimes are much more prevalent (as mpowell points out above).

          So you cannot plausibly claim that laws limiting gun ownership have no effect, let alone that they have the perverse effect of increasing crime because “criminals” get guns and “the public at large” does not.

          In a way, rare cases like Newtown are something of a distraction from the more general problem with a gun saturated societies: guns are more likely to be at hand when someone engages in a spur-of-the-moment act of violence, making that act of violence more likely to be deadly; guns frequently wound and kill people accidentally; guns purchased for protection are often used against their owner (actually the first Newtown slaying was an example of this); etc.

      • witless chum says:

        Too many people in our society believe that the world is divided between good people–who would never commit any act of evil and, with proper training, are more or less incapable of causing harm, even with an assault weapon–and criminals–who are always already evil and intend nothing but harm to “the public at large.”

        This is a really good point just generally. People have a very scary other in mind when they say “criminal” but the average criminal doesn’t shoot up school kids at least not on purpose.

        Maybe everyone should be forced to spend some time in felony court and see the parade of mostly sad bastards that march through there on sentencing day in a revolving pattern. A few rare ones seem like real bad news, but most don’t seem more so than an average gathering of dudes. Sad, drunk and druggy, more like.

        • Karate Bearfighter says:

          To build on both of your excellent points, you could hang out in felony court all day, everyday, and you would never see Adam Lanza or Jovan Belcher: Lanza had no record, and Belcher apparently had a single misdemeanor disordely conduct.

          A month ago, if you had asked most of the new commenters whether Jovan Belcher or Adam Lanza should be allowed to carry concealed weapons, they would have told you that both were law-abiding citizens, and that Lanza or Belcher carrying makes everyone safer. Some of them might have even claimed they should be allowed to carry weapons into an elementary school. Now they want to move both men out of their “law abiding citizens who should be allowed to carry” category, without stopping to consider whether these categories have any validity.

    • Jerry Vinokurov says:

      Deterrence. Facing a rival with equal capacity to strike back certainly does have a neutralizing effect.

      The same holds true on a personal level.

      No. No, no, no, no no. This is not how things work. Deterrence does not operate on a personal level the same way that it operates on the level of two large, opposed geopolitical entities like the USSR and USA. Regardless of any other argument whatsoever that you wish to offer in favor of personal gun ownership, this is a thousand times idiotic. It’s like when people compare government spending to personal spending, saying “If I can’t spend more than I take in, how can the government?” You are committing a category error of the grossest kind.

      • Mark says:

        The main point of the comment was the value of deterrence. Perceived strength of an adversary is a deterrent, whether on the international or personal level. That much deserves no further debate. Even school age bullies understand the premise and target those they perceive as weaker and more vulnerable…

        • Deterrence only works if you know in advance that your opponent is likely to be at least as lethal as you are. That was how the Cold War worked (sort of) the USSR and the USA both knew that their opponents could flatten them (literally). With concealed carry being a lot more prevalent than open carry, that is difficult for a gun-toting psycho to evaluate. My guess would be that the pyschos will simply adopt a “law of averages” approach, in which case, it would need a very large percentage of people engaging in concealed carry, or a move towards open carry, for this to be an effective deterrent.

        • Jerry Vinokurov says:

          Yes, it damn well does “deserve further debate,” considering you haven’t presented any evidence that suggests that this deterrence actually operates on a personal level.

        • Even school age bullies understand the premise and target those they perceive as weaker and more vulnerable…

          Actually, that’s not true. I’ve had little bit of anti-bully training, and while the image is of bullies picking on the weaker, no such distinction occurs in the mind of the bully.

          In fact, sometimes a bully will specifically target a child who may not be weaker, but for other differences; race, language, appearance, their friends….the only difference is that a bully may back himself up with friends, or choose a time and place where the other person is defenseless.

          And quite often, a kid who successfully fights back once is continually further assaulted. Life is not like that bully scene in “A Christmas Story”.

    • witless chum says:

      In the real world, most people aren’t real aware of “gun free zones” or whichever. People who are gun enthusiasts are, but the average person is much less so.

      Mass shooters tend to be of differing levels of rationality, but it seems much more likely to me, absent any evidence, that they tend to target places where there are a lot of people, full stop. The Columbine killers, for instance, attacked their school which had a police officer on campus most of the time presumably with the knowledge that he existed.

      And the Newtown mass murderer’s mother appears to been a person who believed in being heavily armed, despite sharing her home with someone who’d reportedly demonstrated mental instability. And she was the first victim, despite that.

      Would this have been prevented if she’d been a less well-armed kindergarten teacher? Maybe. It would have been harder for the guy to acquire his weaponry if it wasn’t right down the hall from his bedroom, but no gun control regime can make it impossible.

      But that isn’t the point. Just because they don’t prevent all drinking and driving doesn’t mean than drunk driving laws are a bad idea. The point of sensible gun control wouldn’t be to deter the mass shooters, who are probably undeterable given that many seem to plan to kill themselves post rampage. It’s to make it harder for them to lay hands on the weapons that make these things possible. Harder, not impossible, because there are no absolutes in life.

      Seems to me that it’s obvious that the fewer guns around, the fewer of these incidents there will be. It won’t ever be none, because the idea that this is what you do when you’re just fucked off at the world has entered our culture, but fewer would be something.

      Personally, I’ve got several long guns and am generally well-school in using them, having grown up in rural Michigan and hunted some. But I’m not under the delusion that they somehow make me safer. Chances are, they’re neutral or negative on that.

      If someone decided to break in and kill my family and I, the chances that I could react fast enough to get my shotgun, load it and shoot them first are very, very low. If nothing else than because I spend a lot of time in our finished basement typing things on the internet and my guns are floor up with both doors leading to the outside in between me and them. Thankfully, the chances that someone will try to do that are extremely low, too.

    • Major Kong says:

      Any moderately proficient burglar is just going to break in when you’re not home.

      Then he has your stuff and your guns.

    • Thlayli says:

      Is it possible he thought to himself “Oh, the school is a gun-free zone. Maybe I ought not do this”. Laughable, isn’t it?

      Is it possible he thought to himself “Where should I go? Oh, the elementary school! It’s a gun-free zone, so nobody will be shooting back.” Isn’t that equally laughable? And yet I hear it from the gun-nuts all the time.

      (BTW, if he wasn’t expecting any return fire, why bother with the Kevlar?)

  26. Joseph Slater says:

    Those people harassing you? I want their heads on sticks.

    Solidarity, brother.

  27. Sly says:

    Just add another hoop that normal people will be expected to jump through just so that gun fetishists can feel more secure about their paranoid delusions, when any rational civilization would simply stick them in a padded cell, lock the door, and be done with it.

  28. DH says:

    IN this modern day and age it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to using metaphors. If a conservative talk show host had stated he wanted the Presidents head on a stick would the defense from the left in light of his right to free speech and understanding of metaphors be supported?

    Look at every aspect of the situation folks. It’s generally not wise to go around calling for anyone’s head on a stick or for anyone to be imprisoned unless they have actually been charged with a crime. This rhetoric from both sides of the aisle has to stop and we have to start thinking and talking with level heads. Mob mentality be it right, left, or even center is still mob mentality.

  29. Matt says:

    I think the last time “head on a stick” actually meant murder was sometime around 1450.

    See, that’s the problem – the modern conservative movement has pretty much reverted to right about that time as well (I’m sure there’s a wingnut out there right now explaining how heliocentrism is a Communist plot) so everything old is new again.

  30. Jim Lynch says:

    Dumb cops. Do they invest that caliber effort into every crackpot allegation? They obviously didn’t think to google your words, or peruse your other writings. If they had, they wouldn’t have wasted your time and taxpayer dollars.

    On top of that, don’t be surprised if you end up on a TSA “no fly” list.

  31. Bobby Thomson says:

    Dude, you fucked up. Stop doubling down.

  32. Chris Bray says:

    The NRA lost in Connecticut, a state that has a strict ban on assault weapons:

    http://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/Chap943.htm#Sec53-202b.htm

    So it’s hard to see how Wayne LaPierre is at fault.

  33. Uncle Kvetch says:

    The NRA lost in Connecticut, a state that has a strict ban on assault weapons:

    http://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/Chap943.htm#Sec53-202b.htm

    So it’s hard to see how Wayne LaPierre is at fault.

    Yes, it’s clearly the fault of whoever forgot to raise the drawbridge over the moat that separates Connecticut from all of its neighbors.

    • Chris Bray says:

      So your explicit argument is that gun bans don’t work because every place in the world is connected to other places where guns are still available.

      • DrDick says:

        Funny how they do not have these problems in Europe and Japan.

          • Ted K says:

            Ah, yes, Anders Brevik. He wanted to use an assault rifle, which almost certainly would have let him kill even more people. Unfortunately for him, assault weapons are illegal in Norway.

            Now, NRA types would explain that the law should’ve made no difference, since obviously he was willing to make an illegal purchase. Oddly, it turns out he couldn’t find anyone to sell him an assault rifle in Norway. He traveled to Prague, where assault rifles are illegal to own or sell but legal to use at shooting ranges, and yet he couldn’t find one there either!

            Thus stymied by gun laws, he returned to Norway and legally purchased two semi-automatic weapons. If Norway’s gun laws had been even more restricted like many other countries in Europe, who knows if he even would have been able to get those.

            • Chris Bray says:

              He killed 77 people, so the restriction on the type of weapon he used doesn’t seem to have helped. The dead were probably not comforted by the fact that they weren’t killed with an “assault” rifle, merely a rifle.

            • Chris Bray says:

              And, I mean, look at the evolution of the argument, here: “DrDick” says they “do not have these kind of problems” in Europe, but then the argument shifts to, well, sure, that guy killed 77 people in the country with the assault weapon ban, but it would have been worse if they didn’t have that ban.

              Strong argument, here: Thanks to Norway’s strict gun laws, they were able to limit the mass killing to just 77 dead children and camp counselors.

              • Sherm says:

                You are confusing isolated events with a systemic problem. We have had more mass shootings in the US this month than Europe has had since the Norway incident.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  And the target shifts again. I responded to the claim that “they do not have these problems” in Europe and Japan — a categorical claim, not a claim about frequency.

                  I agree that we have a more serious and deeply rooted culture of violence.

                • Sherm says:

                  And I am saying that an isolated event is not proof of “these kind of problems.”

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I responded to the claim that “they do not have these problems” in Europe and Japan — a categorical claim, not a claim about frequency.

                  Man, I remember when conservatives were clever enough to understand plurals. Those were the days, my friend, oh yes, those were the days.

              • Ted K says:

                First of all, Norwegian gun laws aren’t very strict. They’re somewhat more restrictive than most US states (and maybe all US states, at least once Heller and McDonald finish shaking out); but they allow a fairly wide variety of rifles, shotguns, and handguns to be sold as long as you claim they’re for hunting or sport shooting and take a couple of classes.

                Second, I think you’re using an overly literal interpretation of “do not have these problems”; the fact is, even corrected for population differences, Europe as a whole and especially European countries which do have very restrictive laws have far fewer shooting deaths and far fewer massacres. The EU contains about 200 million more people than the US and a wide variety of gun laws; how many massacres can you find there over the last, say, 15 years, compared to how many we’ve had since Columbine?

                Third, I’m not sure why you think it’s implausible that Brevik could’ve killed even more people with the fully automatic assault weapon he wanted to buy; do you think he successfully killed every single person he shot at? And if not, do you think that the ability to put out burst or continuous fire would not have helped him at all?

                • Chris Bray says:

                  It’s also possible, without guns, to burn schools or blow them up (as someone did in Bath Township in 1927), or to run down schoolchildren with a car, and Europeans are less likely to do any of that. I don’t think the problem is the instrument; I think the problem is a culture of violence, a culture with very long historical roots. Ban the instrument, the piece of metal, and the culture doesn’t evaporate. Look at something like the Gnaddenhutten massacre — a horrifying act of mass violence, and not accomplished with guns.

                • Sherm says:

                  Shorter Chris Bray: Since we are an inherently violent people, we should have unfettered access to the weapons which allow us to act upon our violent nature.

                • witless chum says:

                  It’s possible to become super proficient in using a sword and commit a mass murder that way. I wonder why most mass murderers to use guns, specifically military-style semiautos with big magazines, rather than studying Renaissance fencing for a decade?

                  If your real argument is that the benefits of widespread gun ownership outweighs the easier availability of mass murder tools to the disturbed, I wish you’d say that and stop playing games.

                • Linnaeus says:

                  It’s also possible, without guns, to burn schools or blow them up (as someone did in Bath Township in 1927),

                  The perpetrator of the Bath School bombing, Andrew Kehoe, had easy access to dynamite (you could get it in hardware stores in the 20s) and surplus WWI-era pyrotol. It’s more difficult to obtain explosives like that now.

              • Leeds man says:

                Are you really that stupid? Look at the statistics, not single incidents. Gun death rates in the US; 9.2 per 100,000. Norway; 1.78 per 100,000.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  First, I haven’t called anyone “stupid,” but have argued calmly and politely. You can’t do that, apparently.

                  Second, I have acknowledged that there is more violence in the U.S. overall, and have offered my proposed explanation for it.

                • Leeds man says:

                  Well good for you Chris. You have calmly and politely peddled your bullshit. Pat yerself on the back.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  Fuck your mother, then, asshole. Better? Dumb fuck coward who hides behind a pseudonym. You’re worthless.

                  Better?

                • Leeds man says:

                  That’s more like it!

                  How would it be brave to use my real name? What would I be risking? Do tell.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  You would be risking public discussion of your ideas and your fact claims, with the possibility of owning what you say and having people be able to look at what you think. God forbid. Keep hiding.

                • Leeds man says:

                  Who’s hiding? I’m right here, with the nym I’ve used for years. How is it less meaningful than “Chris Bray”?

                • wengler says:

                  Chris Bray,

                  You are just peddling the same old bullshit that a lot of people stopped believing in after a guy shot to death 20 first graders.

                  When you want to kill a lot of people, you turn to firearms. They are less restricted than any other killing device, including cars. They are designed to kill people, and they are good at what they do.

                • mark f says:

                  In my name the ‘F’ stands for something rare (more accurately a rare spelling of a somewhat common name), making me almost certainly the only ‘Mark Fxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx’ in the world. Why should I make myself vulnerable to hordes of vindictive losers if I happen to toss out a not-even-really-violent figure of speech at the wrong time?

                • DrDick says:

                  Fuck your mother, then, asshole. Better? Dumb fuck coward who hides behind a pseudonym. You’re worthless.

                  And you are a dickless wonder who hides his insecurities behind a gun and is unwilling to submit to some minor inconvenience or restrictions on his ability to own guns to save lives. May the lord Yahweh damn you and all your line unto the seventh generation.

              • DrDick says:

                One fucking incident? We have had more than that in the last week. The US, in fact leads the developed world in mass killings of this sort, with more than 62 in the last 30 years. That includes 15 of the 25 worst cases in the last 50 years. Number two, Finland, has had two.

      • Ted K says:

        Is your claim that bringing a gun from another country into the United States is no harder than bringing a gun from, say, New Hampshire to Connecticut?

        • Chris Bray says:

          No, but with 300 million guns already in the country, and the emergence of 3D printing technology, I doubt any kind of gun ban will be that meaningful.

          Also, the worst acts of mass murder in the United States haven’t involved guns: 9/11 (boxcutters and airplanes), Oklahoma City (truck full of fertilizer), Bath School Massacre (1927, dynamite). So I don’t believe that banning a particular instrument of violence is likely to eliminate violence.

  34. Chris Bray says:

    The New York Times
    July 25, 1995, Tuesday, Late Edition – Final

    Connecticut Upholds Ban On Weapons

    BYLINE: By GEORGE JUDSON
    SECTION: Section B; Page 1; Column 5;
    DATELINE: STAMFORD, Conn., July 24

    The Connecticut Supreme Court today upheld a state law banning assault weapons, declaring that the State Constitution’s guarantee of the right to bear arms “does not guarantee the right to possess any weapon of the individual’s choosing.”

    The decision, upholding a 1993 law that banned 67 semiautomatic assault weapons by brand name, makes Connecticut the first state with the right of self-defense specified in its Constitution to have an assault-weapons ban pass legal challenge, said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who represented the state in the case.

    [snip]

    The National Rifle Association sharply criticized the Connecticut decision, accusing the court of sacrificing the right to bear arms to “political correctness.”

    “The court, in the most cavalier fashion imaginable, simply ignored the key arguments,” said Tanya K. Metaksa, executive director of the N.R.A. Institute for Legislative Action. “To suggest, as the court did, that being able to own some ‘weapons’ satisfies this right is bogus on its face. That’s tantamount to saying that one enjoys full First Amendment protection, provided you say only certain things.”

    • The guns used in Newtown weren’t covered under that ban.

      This is evidence for making more restrictive gun bans.

      • Chris Bray says:

        Clear proof that gun laws can be passed and enforced without preventing gun violence. Congratulations to the authors of the 1993 Connecticut assault weapon ban: you forced a mass murderer to use different instruments than the ones you named in your statute. Congratulations in advance to the authors of the 2013 federal assault weapon ban, who will accomplish the same thing.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Clear proof that gun laws can be passed and enforced without preventing gun violence.

          Fucking research, how does it work?

          • Chris Bray says:

            Yep, one study regarding one law: all discussion ceases forever. Any gun law is effective at any time and in any setting. You’re a genius.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Yep, one study regarding one law: all discussion ceases forever.

              Here’s another.

              Keep fucking that walrus…

              • Chris Bray says:

                Firing up JSTOR to look for counterexamples….

              • Chris Bray says:

                David McDowall, “Firearm Availability and Homicide Rates in Detroit, 1951-1986,” Social Forces, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Jun., 1991), pp. 1085-1101, which argues for a correlation between growing murder rates and growing rates of gun ownership, nevertheless hangs a bunch of caveats around that claim, because real research often produces complex and ambiguous findings that aren’t useful as gotcha comments at a blog:

                “Recent investigations have produced relatively little evidence that firearm. availability is in fact an important determinant of homicide rates. In perhaps the most extensive studies, Kleck (1979,1984) examined the influence of firearm manufacturing and imports on murder rates in the United States. Kleck’s model allowed for simultaneous causation between homicides and gun density, and it was estimated with time-series data aggregated to the national level. In his first study, based on the years 1947-1973, Kleck (1979) found that increases in firearn production were associated with higher rates of murder. However, a later analysis over a slightly longer period (1947-1978) failed to confirm this relationship (Kleck 1984).

                “Aside from the divergent findings of the two studies, Kleck’s use of national-level data makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions from his results. As Wright, Rossi, and Daly (1983) note, increases in U.S. gun ownership have been disproportionately concentrated in small towns and rural areas, while homicide rates have risen most dramatically in large cities. National-level studies may therefore explain urban homicides with rural guns. A more convincing test would require data from smaller areas than the nation as a whole. A major limitation to conducting research within the United States is that there is little information on firearm density for units smaller than broad regions of the nation. One method of overcoming this problem was proposed by Cook (1979), who developed a measure of gun density that can be used at the city level. Cook’s measure is formed by summing the proportions of suicides and nonfelony homicides that involve guns, on the assumption that these acts are likely to be committed with the weapon most readily available. In support of his measure’s validity, Cook found that the composite was highly correlated with survey reports of firearm ownership aggregated within regions. Using his measure to study robbery in a sample of fifty cities, Cook found that increases in gun density were associated with both a larger fraction of robberies committed with guns and higher rates of robbery-murder. McDowall (1986a) applied the measure to panel data from the same cities and reached similar conclusions after allowing for simultaneous relationships between gun density and robbery. In contrast to Kleck’s work, these results suggest that firearm availability does influence the rate of at least one type of homicide. However, the findings apply only to murders committed during robberies, and they do not allow estimates of the effect of gun density on homicide rates more generally. Indeed, since nonfelony homicides are a component of Cook’s measure, the relationship between firearm density and total homicide rates cannot be studied with his approach.”

                So no, it’s not the case that every study shows that more gun laws will always make the magic unicorns of peace appear.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  So no, it’s not the case that every study shows that more gun laws will always make the magic unicorns of peace appear.

                  Wow, you found two studies that did not draw any firm conclusion, and none at all supporting the idea that guns reduce crime.

                  Well done, my friend. Way to stay grounded with the data.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  Nope, see study below. And I’ll keep going — JSTOR is easy. Thank you for challenging me to do research.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Cool – be sure and let me know when you find a single negative correlation.

              • Chris Bray says:

                Ik-Whan G. Kwon, Bradley Scott, Scott R. Safranski and Muen Bae, “The Effectiveness of Gun Control Laws: Multivariate Statistical Analysis,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Jan., 1997), pp. 41-50:

                “ASTRACT. The purpose of this study is to statistically and empirically evaluate
                the effectiveness of the gun control laws that have been adopted by states and
                municipalities. States are divided into two groups: states with no restrictions as
                to gun use and states with restrictions (e.g., waiting periods, license, etc.). Multiple linear regression models are used to evaluate the relationship between
                the number of gun related deaths in 1990 and sets of determinants which include
                state laws and regulations governing the use of firearms.

                “The study results indicate
                that gun control laws have a very mild effect on the number of gun related deaths while socioeconomic variables such as a state’s poverty level, unemployment rate and alcohol consumption, have significant impact on firearm related
                deaths. These findings suggest that any reduction in resources spent on social programs tied to the Crime Bill may be counter-productive.”

                Man, I never knew the American Journal of Economics and Sociology was a right-wing extremist publication.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  The study results indicate
                  that gun control laws have a very mild effect

                  So, still a positive correlation, albeit a weak one.

                  You aren’t very good at this, are you?

                • Chris Bray says:

                  Well congratulations, then. You favor laws that probably have “a very mild effect.” You got me for sure.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Yes, I’ll gladly take any improvement, even a mild one, in the number of kindergarteners shot dead in spree killings. A regular bleeding fucking heart, I am.

              • Chris Bray says:

                Gary Kleck and Michael Hogan, “National Case-Control Study of Homicide Offending and Gun Ownership,” Social Problems, Vol. 46, No. 2 (May, 1999), pp. 275-293:

                “The estimates in Panel A of Table 3 indicate that the odds of a person with a gun killing are about 1.36 times as high as the odds among persons without a gun, controlling for the other ten variables included in the model. This is only one-fifth as large an association as Kellermann et al. (1993) found with respect to homicide victimization (recalling that 1 represents no association, (2.7-1.0)/(1.36-1.00) = 4.7). Odds ratios smaller than 1.5 are regarded as ‘weak’ in epidemiological case-control studies (Austin et al. 1994:66).”

                Your problem is that you’re an ideologue, and you’ll only allow yourself to notice studies that give you 1.) clear answers 2.) that you like.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  So, still not a single negative correlation?

                • John Protevi says:

                  So it’s a weak positive correlation. That’s what Mal is saying.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  Yes, merely “weak,” disputed, “very mild” correlations. But your mind is Manichean, so you think the choice is all one thing or another.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Yes, merely “weak,” disputed, “very mild” correlations

                  Well, if we look at both what you cited and what I did, we go from weak to strong, but always positive.

                  But do keep fucking this walrus.

              • Chris Bray says:

                Learn to perceive ambiguity and complexity — it’ll make your engagement with reality so much more interesting.

                • John Protevi says:

                  Learn to perceive ambiguity and complexity — it’ll make your engagement with reality so much more interesting.

                  Says the guy who says this

                  So no, it’s not the case that every study shows that more gun laws will always make the magic unicorns of peace appear.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  Of course that’s all I’ve said. I haven’t spent the evening discussing historical scholarship on violence, linking to the text of particular statutes, digging through JSTOR, and giving you the names of particular historians in support of an argument about the causes of violence. Pick one weak sentence that I’ve written, and your mind can protect you from perceiving the rest of what I’ve said.

                • John Protevi says:

                  Pick one weak sentence that I’ve written, and your mind can protect you from perceiving the rest of what I’ve said.

                  Oh, so now *I’m* the one who’s cherrypicking? What about the “gun bans” bit at 3:56 pm? Is that another “weak sentence”? What about your failure to engage DrDick at 5:14 pm, despite challenging us for a positive position? What’s that? More evidence of good faith arguing?

                • Chris Bray says:

                  There are several threads, with seven or eight people arguing on one side and me on the other — what did “DrDick” say at 5:14?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  There are several threads, with seven or eight people arguing on one side and me on the other — what did “DrDick” say at 5:14?

                  Control-F.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  Found it and replied. John Protevi, what do you think of Randolph Roth’s argument about the history of American homicide? What do you think of the article in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology arguing that “gun control laws have a very mild effect on the number of gun related deaths while socioeconomic variables such as a state’s poverty level, unemployment rate and alcohol consumption, have significant impact on firearm related
                  deaths, and what public policy measures do those suggest to you in addition to more restrictive gun laws?”

                • Chris Bray says:

                  I’m going to go give my daughter a bath. Thanks again for the discussion. Again, I think you’ll win this one in the realm of public policy — I think we’ll get new restrictions on gun sales and ownership. And Americans will go on killing each other, but the laws telling them not to will now add more stringent language telling them not to buy the instruments they do it with.

                • John Protevi says:

                  Chris, I think you came bogarting into this thread thinking you’d bullshit your way past us, constantly shifted the goalposts, constructed any number of strawmen, and then congratulated yourself on your JStore mad skillz. But you failed at all that.

                  LET ME PUT IT PLAINLY: NO ONE CLAIMS THAT AN ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN WILL STOP ALL VIOLENCE. WE THINK IT WILL MAKE MASS KILLINGS LESS LIKELY, AS IT HAS DONE ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  John, if you want to call it “bogarting,” that’s fine, and I’ll end the discussion. I thought we were just talking. I think an assault weapons ban will make mass murder somewhat less likely. I think a three-point reduction in unemployment would make violence far less likely, far more infrequent. I think a focus on an object is a choice to look away from causes and focus on instruments of a reality caused by many factors.

                  I’ll stop “bogarting.” Thank you again for the discussion.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  No one was ever willing to notice Randolph Roth, btw. Foremost historian of American violence — ignored.

                  The end.

                • John Protevi says:

                  No one was ever willing to notice Randolph Roth, btw. Foremost historian of American violence — ignored.

                  Oh, FFS. Again with the pretense that you want honest discussion when all you really want is to foist onto us some straw desire about “American violence.” Since all-caps apparently wasn’t enough, I’ll put it in italics too:

                  LET ME PUT IT PLAINLY: NO ONE CLAIMS THAT AN ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN WILL STOP ALL VIOLENCE. WE THINK IT WILL MAKE MASS KILLINGS LESS LIKELY, AS IT HAS DONE ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  Your shrewd mind perceives that the reference to a scholarly monograph titled “American Homicide,” in a discussion about murder in America, is a deflection.

                  I’ve never encountered people who are more stubbornly resistant to actual thought.

                • John Protevi says:

                  Your shrewd mind perceives that the reference to a scholarly monograph titled “American Homicide,” in a discussion about murder in America, is a deflection.

                  It’s only a “discussion about murder in America” in your mind, Chris. It’s a discussion about assault weapons and mass murder. You keep trying to shift the topic. Please don’t do that any more. It’s an insult to the martyrs of Newtown.

  35. Chris Bray says:

    Erik Loomis, argue like a historian. Show cause and connection. Prove through the use of evidence that the NRA is directly responsible for the killings in Newtown. Address the presence of state laws that the NRA opposed, and show factually how the presence of those laws doesn’t matter.

    Or go on with the emotional ranting. Your choice.

    • DrDick says:

      How about you follow your own advice, asshat?

      • Chris Bray says:

        A very careful and thoughtful response, and thank you so much for your seriousness.

        • Scott S. says:

          Malkinites who whine about “careful and thoughtful responses” are hilarious.

          • Chris Bray says:

            I started blogging in 2004 to express my disgust over Michelle Malkin’s “In Defense of Internment.” But you don’t know that, and don’t know if I’m a “Malkinite” or not — you just pulled a baseless insult out of your ass.

            • wengler says:

              You’re a dude that showed up only when the rightwing pounced on Loomis for a day.

              We can assume a lot out of that.

              • spencer says:

                That’s a pretty good start on showing “cause and connection,” which is apparently what Chris Bray The Probable Malkinite is interested in.

              • Chris Bray says:

                You obviously do most of your thinking by guesswork and assumptions. Learn to argue and use evidence.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Learn to argue and use evidence.

                  Pot, I’d like to introduce you to Kettle. That’s Dr. Kettle to you, of course.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  Above, I’ve made an argument about Connecticut state law, and have given you a link to check my claim. I’ve used Nexis to show you an article — with the author, date, and page of original publication — from the NY Times in 1995 showing that the NRA regarded Connecticut’s gun laws as a defeat. I’ve named specific historians and their particular arguments, and gave you a link to Randolph Roth’s book. And you think I haven’t used any evidence.

                  You choose not to see evidence that you don’t like, because you have a weak mind and argue in bad faith.

                  Similarly, I have a decade-old record of publicly criticizing Michelle Malkin, which exists whether or not you or anyone else declare me to be a “Malkinite.” Facts exist. They come from somewhere. They can be examined.

                • DrDick says:

                  Similarly, I have a decade-old record of publicly criticizing Michelle Malkin,

                  And none of us have ever heard of you before or know you from the village fuckwit and we all sincerely wish we could still say that.

    • mark f says:

      As a matter of fact, statistics correlate pretty well: “More guns tend to mean more homicide,” and “states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.”

      Also too, “access to military-style guns can escalate homicides in volatile contexts”; “the [Federal Assault Weapons Ban] expiration led to much larger homicide” and “restrictions are likely to reduce tragic shootouts.”

      • Chris Bray says:

        We also have pretty famous scholarship on the American murder rate….

        http://www.amazon.com/American-Homicide-Randolph-Roth/dp/0674064119

        …that shows rising murder rates “correlated closely with four distinct phenomena: political instability; a loss of government legitimacy; a loss of fellow-feeling among members of society caused by racial, religious, or political antagonism; and a loss of faith in the social hierarchy.”

        I don’t doubt at all that easy access to guns makes murder easier. I do doubt that gun bans will be practically effective, or will seriously change the social and cultural problems that cause violence.

        • John Protevi says:

          jesus christ but this gets tiresome, but no one here is calling for “gun bans.”

          • RedSquareBear says:

            Shhhh! If they gave up responding to what they imagine we’re saying they’d have no arguments left at all. And what fun would that be?

          • Chris Bray says:

            Starting with a metaphorical assault on Wayne LaPierre, then, what is Erik Loomis calling for?

            • DrDick says:

              Reasonable licensing requirements, thorough background checks, limits on the amount of ammunition you can buy, bans on high capacity clips and assault weapons mostly. If you had ever been here before the Anchor Baby Cheerleader called out her flying monkeys, you would know that.

              • Chris Bray says:

                Found it. Background checks are required now — what would constitute a “thorough” background check? Licensing is required now in many contexts, such as concealed carry. What do exactly does this mean? What is an “assault weapon,” and what is a non-assault weapon? Does it feel better to be shot with a non-assault weapon?

                This could be a list of not-unreasonable public policy measures, but it’s mostly a puddle in this form.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Background checks are required now — what would constitute a “thorough” background check?

                  One that eliminates the gun show/private seller loophole.

                  Your other questions have answers that are pretty much just as obvious.

                  Carry on.

                • Chris Bray says:

                  You think people who disobey laws against shooting people will obey laws against buying from a private seller without a background check.

          • Chris Bray says:

            I’ll check back later to find out what you are arguing for, if you can figure it out.

          • JazzBumpa says:

            jesus christ but this gets tiresome, but no one here is calling for “gun bans.”

            But if they did, I’d be all for them.

        • mark f says:

          Now, Joe Carter, he was a real RBI man.

        • Chris Bray says:

          All,

          Thank you for the discussion — I have work to do. I think you’ll get a federal assault weapon ban, and I don’t think it will seriously reduce violence. I do hope I’m wrong. The scholarship of historians like Richard Slotkin, Richard Maxwell Brown, Randolph Roth, Peter Silvers…and many others suggests to me that we have a deeper problem than the presence of a particular physical instrument of violence.

        • bbkf says:

          that shows rising murder rates “correlated closely with four distinct phenomena: political instability; a loss of government legitimacy; a loss of fellow-feeling among members of society caused by racial, religious, or political antagonism; and a loss of faith in the social hierarchy.”

          so we can look forward to rising murder rates thanks to the wingnuts…

  36. James Rossi says:

    Oh, I see. Just a metaphor.

    It’s ok then.

    Was it also a metaphor when you said that someone who thinks teachers should be armed “needs to be beaten to death”?

  37. FLRealist says:

    Next time, instead of wishing for his head on a stick, wish him the job of tending to the body of the murdered child.

    Let him be the one who has to wash the blood off the boy’s skin. Let him be the one who has to comb out the hair, and place a bow perfectly on the girl’s pigtails. Let him be the one to dress the child in clothes possibly bought for Christmas, or a birthday, or for church on Sunday.

    Let him arrange everything just right so the parents, and the siblings, and the grandparents and aunts and uncles can see their baby for the last f#cking time.

    And then let him tell those same people how his guns are so much more important.

    • Leeds man says:

      That’s a beautiful response, FLRealist, but you know that it would be called “politicizing the tragedy”. They don’t know the meaning of shame.

    • Grant says:

      I’ll bet you write greeting cards for Hallmark, eh? If the school principal had been armed there would only be one funeral in Newtown.

      • mark f says:

        “In 2009, ABC’s ’20/20′ demonstrated the problem with a clever experiment. They recruited a dozen or so students, gave them gun training that was more comprehensive than what most states require for concealed carry permits, and then entrusted them with a gun and told them they would have to fend off a shooter later that day. Separating them, they placed each one in a real classroom with other ‘students’ (actually study compatriots). When a gunman burst in and started shooting, each student tried to respond by drawing his or her gun. Every single student failed, including several who had had years of practice shooting guns, and they all got shot (fortunately, it was just paintball bullets in real handguns).”

        Just sayin’.

      • If the school principal had been armed there would only be one funeral in Newtown.

        The mother was armed. How’d that work out for her?

      • FLRealist says:

        Nope, just a mom.

      • spencer says:

        Assuming:

        - She could aim at Lanza before he noticed her;
        - She could keep her wits about her well enough to react calmly to the prospect of actually shooting another human being;
        - She was any good at shooting in the first place; and
        - She aimed at one of the spots where Lanza didn’t have any body armor.

        In other words, you’re a fucking moron who deserves the absolute worst that this life can dish out. And I do so hope you get it.

  38. Mark Percich says:

    Erik:

    I agree with one thing in your apologia about your Wayne LaPierre comments. You really are a sap.

    Mark Percich

  39. Inis Magrath says:

    Erik: You seem confused by the various references to the palate. Wanting to see a “head roll” refers to a raw sushi-type delicacy whereas a “head on a stick” is more of a cooked teriyaki-type dish.

  40. Bangolore Bill says:

    So much anger.

    I have a rifle, a shotgun and two handguns. (:

  41. Bangalore Bill says:

    Sorry. I spelled my fake name incorrectly. It should be Bangalore Bill.

  42. Grant says:

    Love watching Erik Loomis go down in flames….metaphorically. Ignorant liberal twat.

    • Leeds man says:

      Being inundated with the gnat-like attentions of reality-challenged pissants = “Going down in flames”?

      My, but you do think highly of yourselves.

      • RedSquareBear says:

        Of course they do. They’re Internet Tough Guys who know that if they had been there that day things would have been different.

        (There could have been a crossfire, and more bodies!)

  43. Calming Influence says:

    And I wouldn’t mind seeing Grant’s head on a stick…metaphorically. Erik Loomis may have had his life disrupted by ridiculous overreaction by authorities (geeze, that doesn’t sound like a good outcome for limited government advocates, but whatever) but he’s not “going down in flames” even metaphorically. Watch and learn.

  44. [...] Island professor Erik Loomis is defending his angry, violent tweets on the grounds that they were metaphorical. So to clarify, I want to make it blindingly clear that I did not call for the assassination of [...]

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      What’s weird about this is that Erik wasn’t strongly critcizing Palin for her rhetoric, esp. in the sense that Erik is being criticized. He doesn’t say the rhetoric caused the Giffords shooting or that Palin had been calling for her shooting.

      He just said that 1) people were reacting against the rhetoric and 2) she made it worse with the blood libel stuff. That seems consistent with e.g., this post.

  45. Calming Influence says:

    This is no laughing matter: ever since Erik’s “head on a stick” comment, machete sales have gone through the roof.

    • mds says:

      Indeed, who can forget that Democratic congressional candidate who held fundraisers at the machete range while running against one of the Republican members of Congress whom Joe Biden marked with a skull-and-crossbones, or all the liberals who turned up at Republican town halls with sharpened sticks? Violent rhetoric is violent rhetoric, and no larger context, nuance, or history of actual threats and violence can mitigate that.

      • Calming Influence says:

        It’s simply the Law of the Jungle and can’t be argued with: if sticks for putting heads on are outlawed, only outlaws will have sticks for putting heads on.

  46. I Want Some Butts! says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEURsGD0-WQ

    And then they cut off Mav and Goose’s posteriors like St. Agatha’s boobs.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Get ready for more fame, Loomis, word is you’ll be a story on Fox News tonight.

  48. Broken Wingnut Tautology says:

    Guns don’t kill people!

    Guns protect people by killing other people!

    Free speech is a greater threat than guns. Free Speech can hurt people and should be regulated!

    Guns don’t threaten people. People threaten people! With Guns! ERROR…ERROR…REBOOT…

    No law would have prevented Adam Lanza, so the system worked! Just like no law can prevent speeding or drunk driving! No law should be ever changed regarding guns, ever, unless it makes them more accessible and free. But not voting! Voting takes IDs and background checks!

    Loaded guns in elementary schools carried by union thug teachers are a good idea!

    We don’t need to talk about guns, we need to talk about mental health /video games / the cowardly victims / arming teachers / mean liberals / praying to invisible sky wizards / freedom / states’ rights / Glenn Reynold’s sensitive fee-fees / The Founders / movies / The Media / The Mayan Apocalypse. The more we talk about guns, the less free we are!

    If a black gang member / Skeery Muslim / Jack-booted sun-glassed ATF agent did it, it’s TYRANNY!

    If a mentally disturbed white male did it, then it’s FREEEEEEEDOM!!!!

    Stop politicizing the tragedy, and stop pointing out how I politicize the tragedy by demanding your utter obedient silence on the subject of guns and massacres!

    Guns protect you always, just like magical talismans! Unless you go to sleep and your mentally ill son takes your guns and kills you while sleeping. WE NEED CONCEALED CARRY PERMITS INSIDE HOMES!!!

    Citizens with guns can stop massacres! Except massacres are on the rise and there is no evidence of a single case of an armed citizen stopping a massacre! Better luck next time!! H’yuk!

    The more guns we have, the safer we are! Just like Nancy Lanza! She was so safe! It protected her from EVERYTHING, except her own guns! What a coincidence! Killed by your own unsecured weapon! How ironic!

    It should be harder to buy drugs, buy alcohol, buy cigarettes, buy a car, rent a car, get a job, apply to school, apply for a loan, apply for the military, apply for the police, apply to be a firefighter, cross the border, apply for welfare, ask for charity, get healthcare, get insurance, work with the elderly or children, cut hair, teach, file your taxes, vote, apply for housing/apartments, get an internship, or use a metaphor with violent imagery on a blog than it is to buy a gun with unlimited ammunition.

    • Calming Influence says:

      This is some concentrated weapons grade cognitive dissonance – like 48 hours of fox news compressed into 30 seconds; unfortunately it probably reads like Encyclopedia Britannica to some of our right-wing friends here.

  49. Roger says:

    Good luck with tenure, buddy.

  50. mds says:

    Well, I don’t know about arming elementary school students with firearms, but based on this influx from Twitchy et al., arming dimwitted middle school students with internet access certainly enjoys widespread support.

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