On Mexico

The BBC, like many other new organizations, recently ran an article about the ongoing drug-related violence going on in Mexico.
In the article, a particular quote stood out to me:

Mexico’s gun laws are tight, but in the US it is far easier to get weapons. The Mexican government says lax US gun laws help arm the cartels and fuel the violence.

While US gun laws are far less strict than Mexico, I seriously doubt that the US is responsible for most of the weapons being used by the drug cartels. While I won’t say that US-sourced weapons haven’t been found in Mexico (they clearly have), I’m saying that the bad guys are getting most of their weapons from other sources. The ATF seems to agree.
First off, straw purchasing — where someone buys a gun for a prohibited person, which is illegal — doesn’t scale well. It’s one thing for a gang member to get his girlfriend to buy a gun or two, but it’s a different thing entirely for drug cartels to hire enough straw purchasers in cities all over the country to buy hundreds of thousands of guns and get them over the border without being noticed. It’s made worse when gun stores are routinely out of popular semi-auto guns like AR-15s and AK variants which, the news organizations claim, are the guns being smuggled.
Secondly, why would the cartels risk such high-level detection by straw purchasing from gun shops in the US? US gun dealers are regulated by the ATF, all retail purchasers must undergo FBI background checks, fill out forms, etc. Cars crossing the border are routinely searched for contraband. Seems like a lot of hassle for a marginal gain. It’d be far easier for the cartels to bribe Mexican military members or port authorities to overlook a container or two of smuggled arms than to buy guns — where they’re available — at retail prices in the US.
Thirdly, many of the guns being found in Mexico are machine guns, not their semi-auto lookalikes commonly available in the US. Machine guns are tightly regulated in the US and usually quite expensive. Legal, transferable M16s in the US tend to cost in excess of $12,000 and require both local and federal approval for purchase. Since the registry for privately-owned machine guns was legislatively closed in 1986, the number of legal machine guns has remained constant (or possibly declined slightly, as guns are damaged, destroyed, stolen, etc.). With actual machine guns being so expensive and uncommon, it would be incredibly unwise for the cartels to attempt to smuggle American-owned machine guns into Mexico.
With some skilled machine work, one can convert semi-auto guns into full-auto guns (doing so would be considered making a post-1986 machine gun, and it is generally illegal for private citizens to make or own such a conversion), but again this has problems scaling. Converting a gun or two is plausible, but converting enough guns to arm hundreds of thousands of cartel members? Unlikely, considering the number of machinists and equipment needed to do so.
Fourthly, Mexico has numerous porous borders, whether it’s the large amounts of relatively unpatrolled shoreline or the border with Guatemala. Why would cartels risk detection smuggling arms over the US-Mexico border when they could simply smuggle arms from other sources into the country by land or sea? Bribing a port official to let a container of guns in isn’t that hard, nor is unloading one’s own ships (whether with smaller boats onto a beach somewhere, or into a cove).
Fifthly, the cartels pay a lot more than the Mexican police or military does, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if guns were given or sold to the cartels from police or military armories. Since the US often trades, legally, in arms with Mexican government authorities, this may be why captured guns are being traced back to the US.
Sixthly, there are numerous international arms dealers and nations who would gladly exchange arms for currency. Why risk the wrath of the US government when the cartels could simply buy from a willing foreign government or dealer by the containerload?
Basically, I’m applying Occam’s Razor here: it’s far more simple and plausible that the cartels are getting their guns from the Mexican police and military, from international arms dealers, or from another state (say, Venezuela) than them buying machine guns at vastly inflated prices in the US or straw-purchasing semi-auto guns and then converting them to machine guns.
Unsurprisingly enough, the news media doesn’t consider this (or if they do, they don’t print it), preferring to parrot the same story over and over. The ATF says it isn’t happening. Border Patrol says it isn’t happening. Why, then, does it keep coming up again and again?

Tragic Irony

Over the last day or so, I’ve been having a civil discussion with a gentleman in Germany about violent crime in the US and how — in his opinion — our lack of gun control contributes to said crime.
He went on to say that Germany’s relatively strict gun control makes violent crime much less common than in the US, particularly in the context of school shootings.
Just today, however, there was a tragic school shooting in Germany. In the gentleman’s own words, the shooting “sure takes some wind out of my sail saying those things happen because there are too many guns…”
Dammit. I hate it when things like this happens.

Who watches the watchmen? These guys.

From Reason:

KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana. When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house.
The trap was set and less than 24 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the house only to find KopBuster?s attorney waiting under a system of complex gadgetry and spy cameras that streamed online to the KopBuster?s secret mobile office nearby.
The attorney was handcuffed and later released when eleven KopBuster detectives arrived with the media in tow to question the illegal raid. The police refused to give KopBusters the search warrant affidavit which is suspected to contain the lies regarding the probable cause.

There’s no excuse for the police’s behavior. I’m glad to see that someone is “watching the watchmen”, and hope these cops get slapped hard by a judge.

On Unexpected Knocks

When I first moved into this apartment, I’d open the door whenever anyone knocked. I never used the peephole. In retrospect, this was rather dumb, so I rapidly stopped doing it.
Instead, I’d observe the person at the door through the peephole, position my foot so as to stop the door from opening very far, then open the door far enough to stick my head out and speak with them. My thought was that if someone kicked the door, they’d be stopped by my foot. After thinking about this plan, I realized that I often don’t wear shoes in the apartment, and didn’t want to have my foot crushed if someone tried to kick the door in. Also, I could be surprised, jump, or otherwise move my foot, thus allowing the door to open.
My current plan is that I observe the person through the peephole, and if it’s an obvious “good guy” (my friends, my landlord, etc.), I’ll open the door with no problems. Otherwise, I ask (through the closed and locked door) if I can help them. If I don’t recognize them or if they’re a solicitor*, I politely indicate that they should leave. I find it much easier to dismiss them if I don’t need to make face-to-face contact with them.
If they refuse to leave, or become aggressive (which hasn’t happened yet, thankfully), there are less-polite courses of action, such as calling the police, or racking the shotgun. Since the door remains closed and locked, and they have no idea how many people are in the apartment or where they might be located, I remain in a strong defensive position.
I’m constantly surprised to see how few people use any sort of defensive strategy in their home: the solicitor that stopped by this evening (I politely declined their offer and asked them to leave, all without opening the door) moved on to my neighbor’s apartment, where his knocks were answered immediately by the neighbor opening the door. If the solicitor was, in fact, a robber or had other ill will, the neighbor would be completely unprepared.
Peepholes and door locks exist for a reason. Why people choose to ignore them when someone knocks at the door, I’ll never know.
If I had my own house, I’d probably put a small wi-fi based webcam outside (sheltered from the elements, of course) in a discreet location so I could have a wider field of view than the peephole provides — it would allow me to see if the person was alone or not, and allow me to view the entryway without actually standing right next to the door. An intercom might be handy as well.
* Tip: don’t go knocking on people’s doors after dark. You might also want to avoid the apartment complexes marked “no soliciting”.

Well, that’s not good…

Evidently there’s a lot of Shooty Badness in India today.
Had this happened a week ago, I would have been in full freak-out mode, as my parents just got back from their trip to India and Dubai a few days ago.
Fortunately, my family is safe and accounted for. I grieve for those who were killed, and hope that the situation is able to be resolved with no further violence.

Oh, hell.

Address Gun Violence in Cities: As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn’t have them. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.

From here. As an aside, does it disturb anyone else that there’s already a “change.gov” website for the president-elect?
Hmm, let me see if I can sum things up:

  • Open up gun trace data for political purposes (read: lies), as police already have access to trace data for bona fide law enforcement purposes.
  • Ban on private sale of firearms. (There is no “gun show loophole”.)
  • Mandating “smart guns” that don’t exist and probably won’t work.
  • Banning scary-looking guns, permanently.

That sounds remarkably like the list of talking points at the Brady Campaign.
It looks like all my friends who claimed Obama was a friend of the Second Amendment were wrong. I hate to say “I told you so”, but…well, I told you so.
Look, I agree that violent crime is reprehensible. I agree that violent criminals should have no business owning a gun. I agree that we, as a society need to work to reduce violent crime…but putting these restrictions on law-abiding citizens has no effect on crime. California’s banned the private sale of firearms, and it’s done nothing. There was a ban on scary-looking guns for ten years, and it did nothing.
Rather than pushing for these stupid feel-good measures which have been tried over and over and over (and have inevitably resulted in no change in violent crime rates) and which only affect law-abiding citizens, why not actually try to address the root causes of violent crime?
Update: Hat tip to Sebastian. It was bad form of me to not credit him first.

UA Student Shoots Two Home Invaders

A little after midnight this morning, two men apparently chose to invade the home of a University of Arizona student.
They chose…poorly.
The 23-year-old student was not expecting anyone at that hour, and so armed himself in response to a knock at his door. The guy knocking asked for a person who didn’t live there. The student looked past the guy who was knocking and saw a masked man holding a gun. The student attempted to close the door and retreat into his house, but the men forced their way in, at which point both were shot.
[waits for thunderous applause to die down]
The student has been cooperating with the police, and did not appear to be involved in any sort of criminal activity. Pending any evidence to the contrary, I’m calling this one a “good shoot”. More details as I get them.
Some choice quotes from the article:

Ali Adelmann, a UA sophomore, just moved into the neighborhood this semester and was concerned about what happened.
“It really worries me,” the Phoenix resident said. ?All we can do is keep our doors and windows locked.?

Ali, you are aware that windows are just thin sheets of glass, right? They’re trivial to break. And you need to open your doors and windows at some point. It’s better to have an effective means of protection, like a gun, than simply relying upon a lock.

Jenny Wise also moved into the neighborhood in August. The 19-year-old sophomore said she wasn?t home at the time.
She had gone to a party and upon arriving home around 2 a.m. found her street taped off and flooded with police.
“It?s really the scariest thing,” Wise said. “I?ve lived a sheltered life. This seems like a nice little neighborhood. I don?t know what I would?ve done if two guys tried to get into my house.”

Do you have the means to protect yourself? No? Then things would probably go badly for you.
Tucson is a nice town, but that doesn’t mean that crime doesn’t exist. Maybe you should realize that not all life is like your sheltered upbringing, and that there’s a nasty underbelly to the world. You don’t need to live in fear of it, but recognize that it exists. Being prepared can save your life.
Online comments on the article at the Tucson Citizen were even more na?ve, some implying that because the student owned a gun, that he was somehow involved with criminal acts. Other comments suggested that society is going downhill because more people are choosing to arm themselves.
The moral of the story is this:

  • Having ready access to guns in your house can be a good thing.
  • Having a gun on your person when checking the door can also be a good thing — if you need it, you need it now.
  • Consider getting an intercom or speak through the door rather than opening the door at a late hour.
  • No matter how many police officers were on the beat at the time, they would be unable to help the resident. He had no time to call the police, let alone explain the situation and his location, let alone wait for the police to arrive. The responsibility for his defense was his alone.