On Ignorance

I really need to stay away from reading the comments — particularly Facebook comments — on articles and posting on things about which I know a bit.

Whether it’s the flat earthers that infest the NASA Facebook comments, to suburban housewives who think silencers completely eliminate the sound of gunfire, I can only deal with so much BS in the day.

What takes the cake, though, are those that are saying that the shooting in DC will (or should) somehow be a “Come to Jesus” moment for Congress so it will pass some gun control bills which will make everyone safer. Somehow. For reasons.

On what world would they think that would be the outcome? You have legislators (one of whom had his 10-year-old son at the field), staffers, and others who were the victims of a violent madman. Had it not been for the immediate, decisive action of two armed “good guys”, they all might have helplessly perished in the time it took for the police to arrive…and you expect the lesson they learn from this event is that making more people defenseless against violent criminals will somehow make things better?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I can’t grok that at all. It’s by far the most ignorant thing I’ve read in a long time.

The correct answer is for people to take some goddamn responsibility for their own lives and safety. But that takes effort and thought of Unpleasant Things, so people won’t even consider it.

Sure, members of Congress will likely get some improved security, at least for a while, but us ordinary folks don’t have the luxury of having police or armed bodyguards to protect us. We need to be able to have the means to effectively protect ourselves wherever we are. Anything less —  and especially attempts to curtail what little we have — is simply monstrous.

Tactical Observations

Today’s shooting of Congressional members, staff, police officers, and others in DC (as well as the workplace shooting at a UPS center in San Francisco) prompted me to come out of my frantically-writing-my-PhD-thesis self-imposed eremitism and point out a few observations:

  1. The bad guy starts with the initiative. They choose the time, place, and manner of their attack. Thus, they hold all the cards when the shit hits the fan.
  2. Immediate armed resistance is crucial to taking the initiative away from the bad guy. The Capitol Police officers on protective detail responded immediately and in a coordinated way, were able to suppress the shooter, draw his attention toward them (and away from unarmed, defenseless people), and hold his attention until they were able to neutralize the threat. (“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”)
  3. Being skilled in martial arts or having short-range weapons (e.g. baseball bats) are not bad things in and of themselves, but are essentially useless when the bad guy is armed and out of your immediate reach.
  4. Being unarmed in a gunfight means you lose. You may make it out alive, but that’s a matter of luck.
  5. There’s only two types of people guaranteed to be present at a crime: the perpetrator(s) and the victim(s). Even for an extremely high-priority emergency (bad guy shooting members of Congress in broad daylight, in a public place in the DC metro area), the police are still minutes away. You need to be able to provide for yourself as best you can until they show up and, even then, they need time to evaluate the situation and act.
  6. Cover and concealment are not always available. Still, be constantly aware of where cover and concealment are, and how you can get there from where you are if the need arises.
  7. Hits from a rifle are not always lethal or incapacitating. (I’m curious if the shooter used FMJ ammo. CNN says he had an SKS, but we’ll see if that’s actually the case in the fullness of time.)
  8. Although most shootings involve only a handful of shots, not all are so lucky. You don’t need to be Rambo, but having a spare mag or two won’t hurt.
  9. A gunfight is not likely to be a stand-up, bad-guy-at-7-meters, in-open-view, with-good-lighting type of affair. Train accordingly.
  10. You or others around you may be injured in the course of a gunfight. Train accordingly (e.g. off-hand shooting, shooting while immobilized, etc.) and ensure you’re equipped and trained to effectively provide first aid.
  11. Having good training and good coordination with others (e.g. a partner, family members, etc.) is crucial.
  12. Having a gun is not a magical talisman that will protect you from being shot.
  13. Gun-free zones aren’t. Every UPS facility I’ve visited requires visitors and employees to go through metal detectors and remove anything from their pockets whenever they enter or leave the facility. This didn’t stop the bad guy and didn’t help the victims.
  14. Gun control groups are ghouls.

Quote of the Day

Despite having a ridiculous amount of firearms, Americans kill Americans at a higher rate with methods OTHER THAN A FIREARM than citizens in most European countries do. Think maybe it might be more complex than guns?

Maybe a lack of social safety net, an utterly underfunded mental health system, a culture of violence, a crippling cycle of poverty and lack of options for an underclass of Americans, and the failed war on drugs might have something to do with it.

– User “Statistical”, in a comment on Ars Technica.

You think? No, it clearly must be the guns…

I’m shocked: NPR runs reasonably-balanced article about AR-15s

The media seems to be going into spasms of anti-gun hysteria, all focused on the AR-15. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started claiming that AR-15s are responsible for nails in your tires, cracks in the wall, mosquito bites, and that annoying itch on your nose that only starts once you’ve picked up something heavy.

Imagine my shock when I saw an article at NPR saying, in essence, AR-15s and similar rifles are pretty ordinary, common guns that average people own for normal, non-mass-shooty things.

They seem to love quoting anti-gun UCLA professor Adam Winkler, but even he had this to say:

“These are widely available in gun stores all across America. They’re incredibly popular firearms among hobbyists and gun enthusiasts…They’ve really caught on, just because of their military styling and because of their ease of use and customization. They’re very highly customizable. You can put on your own component parts to it, take things out and easily put new things in. So some people have likened it to the iPhone of guns.”

[…]

Despite its popularity, the AR-15 is not widely used in violent crimes. The rifle’s size makes it difficult to conceal, so most criminals tend to choose something smaller, like a handgun, Winkler says. Even most mass killings are carried out using other types of weapons such as handguns, he says.

Wow. They even quoted the Gun Owners of America website about why people like such guns.

Of course, they couldn’t help quoting the anti-gun tabloid New York Daily News, nor the ambulance-chasing attorney representing Sandy Hook parents in their lawsuit against gun manufacturers, but the bulk of the article is talking about how modern firearms are popular and normal.

Did I roll out of bed and find myself in some sort of bizarro opposite world?

Nobody wants to take for your guns…

…until someone does something bad, they they drop the pretense and start talking about “banning weapons of war”, confiscating them, and instituting more gun control policies that wouldn’t do a thing to prevent criminals from getting or using guns.

So, yeah. They do want to take your guns. Quelle surprise.

Maybe they don’t plan on coming to your house and directly taking them from you now, but they’re willing to play the long game and plan on taking them eventually (particularly with the no-grandfather clauses that don’t let you pass your guns on when you die or the no-sale clauses that prohibit you from selling or transferring your guns to others).

Shooting at gun-free, campus-carry-free UCLA

What appears to have been a tragic murder-suicide took place yesterday at UCLA.  Terrible. I can particularly relate, as I myself am involved in academia, am a father, and am only a few years younger than the victim.

As you likely know, California has some of the strictest gun control in the nation, concealed carry permits are rarely issued in Los Angeles, campus carry is strictly forbidden, and UCLA is a gun-free zone. Once again, it turns out that declaring a place to be “gun-free” doesn’t accomplish anything, since bad people doing bad things will simply ignore those policies. Big surprise.

Instead, the whole campus goes into lockdown only to discover that many of the doors don’t actually lock from the inside. Worse, many of the doors open outwards, making it difficult for the students to barricade them: several news reports show students using electrical cords to tie doors to chairs and tables that are bolted to the floor, using belts to secure hydraulic door closers, etc.

While I applaud the ingenuity of the students solving a problem under pressure, the fact that the doors can’t be locked from the inside is absurd.

Next, some minor criticism of the cops and their response. I don’t mean to armchair quarterback, but, to use a biology reference, the response of the cops seems more along the lines of an allergic reaction rather than a beneficial immune system response. Tons of local and federal (federal agents as first responders at a state university? That seems a bit odd to me.) SWATed-up cops swarmed the campus. They did door-to-door checks of rooms on campus to ensure they were secure, but it seems that they failed to announce themselves as police first, to the terror of students and staff in the rooms who only saw unknown heavily-armed men jiggling door handles trying to get into room. When you have overwhelming force, it can’t hurt to be polite and at least announce yourself as police.

When the police make students line up on their knees with their hands on their heads before being searched and allowed to leave may be practical from a safety standpoint, but it presents a chilling, disturbing image that sits very poorly with me.

Anti-gun folks are already using this incident as an example of the risks of campus carry. On the contrary, this is an example of the folly of gun-free zones and the benefits of campus carry.

One of the commonly-expressed concerns about campus carry is that a student upset about a particular topic or grade will threaten or shoot a professor: it’s clear that this can happen regardless of state, local, or campus rules prohibiting guns on campus or in certain areas, let alone laws against assault, threats, murder, etc. It should be evident that such policies serve only to leave ordinary, non-criminal people defenseless in the face of violent criminals.

Still, carrying is not a panacea: it’s certainly possible for a bad guy with the element of surprise to get the drop on someone, but after that things become much harder for the bad guy if they are intent on causing mass casualties  — instead of potential victims hiding helplessly in rooms, they can arm themselves and present a much more effective defense in the event they’re attacked. Why anyone would be opposed to this is beyond me.

Lastly, anti-gun folks often say that “guns don’t belong on campus”, that somehow the presence of concealed firearms carried by “good guys with guns” will upset some campus-specific qi and make the campus more hostile, and that guns won’t solve anything. If guns in the hands of good guys aren’t a good thing or if guns don’t solve anything, why call for armed police in such a situation? Guns are already present on campus — whether lawfully carried by campus police officers for purposes of good, illegally carried by criminals for nefarious purposes, or by honest-but-technically-law-breaking people unwilling to risk their safety by going unarmed — and barring the occasional act of criminal violence, the academic environment seems to handle it just fine.

This incident should be a call for action in support of campus carry and the removal of useless, dangerous gun-free zones. Call your legislator today.

Pet Issues

Everyone has their own pet political issues that they’re particularly passionate about. My political interests, like my hobbies, are many and varied, but two particularly stand out as critical in my mind:

  • Gun rights.
  • Strong cryptography.

Indeed, crypto rights are something I’ve been passionate about since before I got involved with guns. Those two issues are those that I will not ever agree to compromise on, since I believe both to be fundamental to liberty.

Both topics make great litmus tests to determine how a government regards its citizenry: a government that respects its citizens and treats them as reasonable, honest adults will trust them to be responsible with potentially-dangerous items like firearms and with private (and potentially-dangerous) communications and thoughts that it cannot monitor.

A government that doesn’t, wont.

Without privacy and the ability to defend oneself from threats, how can any individual or civilization survive?

What about you? What issues do you think are critical? Why?

 

LA Times: “Should people on the no-fly list be able to buy guns? Yes.”

The LA Times surprised me by breaking with the President and saying that yes, people listed on the no-fly list shouldn’t have their rights infringed without due process. I’m sure the President, Senators Feinstein and Schumer, and the various gun-control groups aren’t super thrilled.
Full article here.
This paragraph sums up the whole article:

One problem is that the people on the no-fly list (as well as the broader terror watch list from which it is drawn) have not been convicted of doing anything wrong. They are merely suspected of having terror connections. And the United States doesn’t generally punish or penalize people unless and until they have been charged and convicted of a crime. In this case, the government would be infringing on a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution ? and yes, like it or not, the right to buy a gun is a constitutional right according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

They even point out that the majority of people on the list are foreigners who are already prohibited from buying guns legally in the US:

Of those, the vast majority [of people on the list] are noncitizens living overseas; the number of American citizens on the list is believed to be fewer than 10,000 people.
That’s important because federal law already bars gun sales to most people who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents or holders of valid visas, which means the vast majority of the people on the suspected terror list would already be barred from buying a firearm in the U.S. even without Feinstein’s law. That leaves us with about 10,000 American citizens (and some legal residents) who, under the proposed law, would be barred from exercising a constitutional right. That gives us pause.

Of course, just because the LA Times supports due process doesn’t mean they support gun rights. It’s wise to keep?Maxim 29 of the Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries?in mind: “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.”
Supporting gun rights is?a bridge to far for the LA Times, and they still strongly support stuff like bans on popular firearms and other measures. Still, they recognize that, like it or not, people have a right to own guns and so long as that right exists the government shouldn’t infringe on it:

Truthfully, no one should be allowed to buy assault rifles or other military-style firearms, and the country would be better off with much stronger gun control laws for other firearms than exist now. What’s more, this page disagrees with the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling that the 2nd Amendment guarantees an individual the right to own a gun. But that is a recognized right, and we find it dangerous ground to let the government restrict the exercise of a right based on mere suspicion.
[…]
Ending gun violence is critically important, but so is protecting basic civil liberties. Although we agree to the ends here, we object to the means.

Still, it’s better than?sycophantically supporting gun control no matter what, so I’ll take it.