Streetwise Professor

February 24, 2018

Why Should We Give More Power to Those Who Presume to Rule But Can’t Even Govern?

Filed under: Guns,Politics — The Profesor 2 @ 11:13 pm

The left has reached new heights in its paroxysms of rage in the aftermath of the Parkland mass school shooting.  But anger and over-the-top virtue signaling fail both on substance and rhetoric.

In terms of substantive policy, the recommendations range from the utterly ineffectual (another symbolic ban on “assault weapons”) to the wildly overinclusive and utterly impractical (“ban all guns” or “ban all semiautomatic weapons”).  Overinclusive (if practical) because they would penalize the vast majority of gun owners who are not mass murderers–or murderers at all.  Impractical because (a) seizing tens of millions of firearms from tens of millions of Americans is an obvious impossibility, and (b) a country that cannot stop the mass importation of opiates, cocaine, and marijuana would never be able to stop gun running either.  The end result would be disarmament of the law abiding, and the empowerment of the criminals.

It is also rather amazing to see people demanding more laws in the face of the clear and systematic failure of every level of law enforcement in the Nikolas Cruz case.  I noted this failure in the hours after the shooting, and the subsequent days have seen an avalanche of new evidence of this systematic failure.

Episodes like Parkland are not due to guns per se, but to the intersection of guns and clearly disturbed individuals like Cruz, who seems to be a classic psychopath who was pegged as a potential school shooter by many who came into contact with him.  The school, social services, local law enforcement, and federal law enforcement observed his aberrant behavior, or were warned of the risk he posed, multiple times, yet did nothing. Repeatedly.

If the “authorities” can’t intervene to stop Nikolas Cruz, who raised more red flags than a Soviet May Day parade, who can they stop? The question answers itself.

Further: why should we expect more from, or grant more power to, the same people and institutions that proved feckless and incompetent in dealing with Cruz (and many other mass shooters before him)? Talk about a triumph of faith over bitter experience.

Yet further: in the face of this evidence of the inability of authorities to protect the citizenry, few things incite more leftist rage than someone who protests against being deprived of the means of self-defense. The more the institutions fail us, the more we are supposed to surrender to them.

Which brings me to the rhetoric. The left does not even attempt to persuade or understand those who hold different views on guns. For all their bleating about The Other, leftists are the passed masters at treating those who have the temerity to disagree with them as an unspeakable Other that is completely beyond the pale. If you object to their demands that you disarm, if you assert your right to self-defense, they label you a Nazi, a child killer.

This may be emotionally satisfying, and a way of bonding with those of like mind, but it is utterly self-defeating as a matter of practical politics.  Have they learned nothing in the two years? Do they really think that reprising memes about “deplorables” and “bitter clingers” is going to advance their political agenda by cowing people into acquiescence and silence? Shouldn’t they have figured out by now that shrieking invectives only galvanizes the opposition, especially given that much of that opposition consists of prickly Jacksonians?

We are constantly told about the need for “conversation” and “dialog”, but what we actually get are lectures and shout-downs.  The natural responses are to tune out or shout back, and to view every gun control proposal as merely a first step towards ultimate confiscation (because that is the only policy that is consistent with the maximalist rhetoric about the evils of guns–and those who own them). The result is that the left fails politically, because it is not a majority that can impose its rule in a democracy, which only stokes its rage to greater heights.

What’s that about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? And these are the Smart People? After all, they constantly tell us so.

Maybe they are smart–but just insane.

The fundamental problem is that a would-be ruling class can’t even govern. This failure is widely understood, which means that demands for more power will produce resistance, rather than submission. This is especially true when the demands are made against the background of as grotesque a failure as could be imagined, as in the tragic case of Nikolas Cruz and the seventeen people he murdered, where “serve and protect” proved to be a sick joke.

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  1. All you need to know about the left and guns:
    ‘The Chávez government banned private gun ownership in 2012.’

    Comment by Mark — February 25, 2018 @ 12:00 am

  2. What’s so tiresome about posts like these is, while cataloging all the imposssibilities demanded by “the left”, you never hear “the right” propose any meaningful solution to this obvious mass shooting problem that only the country seems to have. You’re fine just letting little kids get shot, and never have a solution. We’re going to get a solution and a start on fixing this problem despite donothing ditherers on “the right”

    Comment by Hugh — February 25, 2018 @ 12:22 am

  3. First, gun-ownership regulation is not penalizing, it’s regulation like any other, and correspondingly there are winners and losers. Second, if such regulation is enacted, it can be phased gradually in, and existing owners can be grandfathered. There’s no need for “seizing guns”. If there is no grandfathering provision, there’s no reason why law-abiding citizens cannot hand in their guns to law enforcement. And finally, just because laws can be broken does not mean that these laws should not exist. Does the fact that there is an illegal market in opiates mean that doctors should be free to push opiates on their patients without restrictions?

    Comment by aaa — February 25, 2018 @ 2:19 pm

  4. Hello Streetwise Professor,

    Longtime reader. Love the blog. I have a genuine question for you:

    Do you have any proposed solutions to prevent mass shootings like the one in Parkland from happening?

    Is it all down to no/fewer failures on the part of law enforcement? Do they need to prove their competency before any additional steps are taken?

    I understand you think very few changes or no change in gun control should occur. I generally agree with that, but I think “disturbed” individuals should not be able to purchase guns. Whether mental illness is the right litmus test for this, I don’t know. I actually qualify as mentally ill myself, and to be frank, I would not be upset if I was unable to purchase a gun due to my mental illness. In fact, I already can’t join the military due to my disqualifying mental illness (presumably because I would not be trusted to handle a gun in anything approximating warfare). Also, I’m not well versed in the subject, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the on the merits of “universal background checks” or something approximating it.

    As I get older I find myself wanting to do something about travesties such as the Parkland shooting. I’ve been listening to a good podcast lately called “More Perfect” and they have some pretty interesting discussions and research regarding Supreme Court decisions. Anyway, I find myself wanting to “make a difference” these days and I’m starting to think about how (Thus, why I’m writing now to ask for your thoughts on a related subject to your post).


    Comment by David — February 25, 2018 @ 5:46 pm

  5. The real problem with all these shoot-’em-up types is that they don’t commit socially useful murders, but just bump off a bunch of schoolchildren.

    Comment by dearieme — February 25, 2018 @ 5:54 pm

  6. “…just because laws can be broken does not mean that these laws should not exist. Does the fact that there is an illegal market in opiates mean that doctors should be free to push opiates on their patients without restrictions?” aaa
    Where is the middle ground on what guns and other weapons the average person can legally obtain? I’m not in favor of Assault rifles like the AR-15 being available this easily. Hanging there in the local shop. Restrictions were loosened by Congress on such weapons. Looks like a mistake. Concealed carry – or open carry of guns in public places, college campuses – by civilians scares me. Am I wrong to feel less safe with such gun laws?
    I see some dude with a pistol wandering around some local store. I am leaving the premises.

    Comment by howseth — February 25, 2018 @ 7:14 pm

  7. @aaa

    “there’s no reason why law-abiding citizens cannot hand in their guns” – oh, but there is. This has been tried in 1930s Ukraine, for example, with millions starved to death as a consequence.

    Comment by Ivan — February 26, 2018 @ 8:17 am

  8. Ivan hit the nail on the head. when the commie thugs came in to Ukraine to collective the farms – and they were thugs, picked especially because they were thugs – they conducted searches for all and any kinds of possible weapons. They searched not once, but seven, eight or more times. There was no voluntary handing in of weapons – these were brutal searches.

    Later on, the thugs came for every bit of seed and everything and anything that could possibly pass for food.

    And as Ivan points out – millions died as a result of deliberate, forced starvation.

    That is not the only example in history of people who are left defenseless against “government” being wiped out.

    Comment by elmer — February 26, 2018 @ 10:07 am

  9. There is something else to consider about the Parkland shooting – the deliberate policies put in place in South Florida – “education rather than incarceration.”

    or, more accurately, reducing crime, by not reporting it.

    The PROMISE program. Leading to “school resource officers” not reporting crimes. And to the Parkland shooting.

    Comment by elmer — February 26, 2018 @ 10:13 am

  10. This is a very, very interesting observation – soldiers coming back from WW2 were able to buy M1’s (picture would not paste in):

    Not really going to get into with anybody on this but for what its worth here is some education for you. At the top of this picture is an evil black rifle an XM-15e2. On the bottom is an M1 Carbine. Both can hold 30 round magazines. Both have the same rate of fire. Both are available to the civilian market. One was invented for war to defeat oppressive governments that were murdering millions of defenseless and unarmed citizens. Yes that would be the wooden one.
    The M1 was manufactured in WW2 and millions were made. After the war many of our boys came home with their M1’s and even more were sold to the civilian markets by the CMP for $20 dollars a piece. “My grandfather bought one.”
    So yes evil assault rifles “your terminology not mine” have been around for decades. So here is the question. How did we have thousands upon thousands of men return home from some of the most horrific fighting the world has even seen, have access to the M1 and didnt go around killing innocents? Access? Nope. You could go to Sears and buy an M1. You didnt even have to be 18 to purchase one in the 50’s. To buy a handgun you have to be 21, that didnt change until 1968.
    Well today’s guns have more firepower. Nope, also not true. Ammo cheaper? Hell no. Much, much cheaper in the 40’s and 50’s. So try if you will to take the gun out of the picture and put your focus elsewhere? What has changed?
    Nuclear family under attack. God removed from school. Prayers forbidden. School administrators not allowed to punish kids anymore. Defeat is not allowed, everyone gets a trophy. Teasing is bullying. Girls should not be treated as girls and boys should not be treated as boys. When in doubt administrator drugs. Games where you kill people or cops you get points for. Movies that glorify violence. 15 minutes of fame given out on social media for stupidity.
    Have guns change? Yes, went from wood to black plastic. Has our society changed? What do you think? Ramble over.

    Comment by elmer — February 26, 2018 @ 11:07 am

  11. @Hugh
    The right has three very good solutions to the incidence of murder

    1) Allow law abiding adults to carry firearms in schools. That would change “coach/teacher/janitor dies shielding kids” stories into “coach/teacher/janitor kills murderer who was shooting kids”. Some kids would be killed before anyone could intervene, but the story would be a deterrent to the next crazy person.

    2) Lock up criminals or otherwise crack down on crime. (See Elmer’s links). A fair and speedy trial followed by prompt execution for murderers. Corporal punishment rather than drugs would also help correct behavior at a younger age when it can be dealt with.

    3) This one is from the religious right, but schools need to teach the Christian faith and morality. For nearly 100 years the ACLU and assorted leftists have managed to make atheism or pluralism the official religion of the government schools, which is one reason consistent Christians choose homeschooling or private schools. (Even without the ACLU, private schools would be best to avoid government having to choose what denomination influences the curriculum)

    So yes, the right has solutions. The left just doesn’t like them.

    By the way, I graduated from Virginia Tech the year before the 2007 shooting in my former classrooms. I remember in 2005 or 2004 a student was expelled for carrying, with a license, a concealed handgun on campus. The expulsion was reported in the campus paper. The message to anyone else who might have wanted to be prepared was clear, so it was entirely the school administration’s fault that everyone was defenseless that day. I also fault the moral rot in certain academic departments for not flunking out the shooter three years before the shooting.

    Comment by Jack — February 26, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

  12. @David-

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I have no “solutions” as such–indeed, my professional training leads me to avoid the word, in the sense that “solution” means “make the problem disappear.”

    Again falling back on my professional analytical tools, I like to think of things in terms of opportunity set, and choice from that opportunity set.

    In terms of opportunity set, there are virtually unlimited targets for a mass killer, schools just being one. Malls, churches, movie theaters, outdoor concerts, indoor concerts, sporting events, public parks and on and on and on. It is impossible to secure them all.

    There is evidence (controversial and contested, to be sure) that “gun free zones” are magnets for mass shooters. I would abolish them, and permit those with concealed carry permits to carry pretty much anywhere.

    As an aside, I wrote an oped some years back supporting concealed carry on campus, and was the only member of the University of Houston Faculty Senate to vote against a letter from the Senate to the state legislator opposing concealed carry on campus. (After I gave a statement before the Senate advocating concealed carry on campus, the looks I got were something to behold, let me tell you. Whatever. I stand by it.)

    This would not be a panacea, but through the deterrent effect, and the possibility (though not certainty) of engaging (and hence disabling or distracting) a shooter sooner (e.g., Sutherland Springs), this could reduce the frequency of attempts, and the number of innocent casualties during attacks.

    Insofar as schools in particular are concerned, inasmuch as they are seemingly a particularly attractive target for a certain type of perpetrator (warped teenagers in particular), they could be better secured through limiting access, arming teachers, and armed security–although as Parkland demonstrates, there is no guarantee that even a law enforcement officer will even attempt to counter a shooter.

    Another issue relating to opportunity set is choice of instrument. Yes, guns get the most attention, but those who intend to kill large numbers have other weapons at their disposal. Explosives (e.g., the Tsarnaevs). And especially automobiles/trucks–in the US and especially Europe these have been turned into mass murder weapons. These are not effective in some places where guns are (inside buildings, for instance) but if the goal is to kill large numbers, and the would-be killer is mainly focused on killing generally rather than killing in a particular place or using a particular weapon, raising the cost of using one type of weapon (e.g., guns) would likely just lead to a substitution of another form of instrument (e.g., trucks).

    Insofar as choice along the opportunity set matters, Elmer brings out an important point: the opportunities (targets, availability of weapons) to commit mass murder using firearms haven’t expanded over time. They arguably have contracted. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any correlation between availability of guns in the cross section and the prevalence of mass firearms murder: localities with high gun ownership don’t appear to be disproportionately susceptible (and arguably the reverse is true). What has changed is that more people are choosing to do it.

    This is a complicated issue, and no doubt there are multiple causes, many involving complex social forces, so I won’t pretend to advance a general explanation: given the multiple causes, and the relatively small number of incidents, testing any such explanation is likely to be impossible in any event, making it essentially a non-scientific endeavor.

    I will make a couple of observations though. Most mass murderers in recent years have fallen into two categories: the seriously mentally ill, and terrorists. These are the kind of people making the choice.

    Insofar as terrorists are concerned, they are apparently more likely to use vehicles: Fort Hood, Orlando and San Bernardino involved guns, likely because the intended targets were inside. But I would hypothesize that terrorists are very likely to substitute alternative weapons even if it is more difficult to obtain guns because for them it is mainly the body count that matters.

    Preventing terrorism is obviously challenging, especially for self-starters–although recent experience suggests that virtually all those who commit terrorist acts were known to law enforcement. This would point towards improvements in means to predict an individual’s likelihood of committing a terrorist act. Perhaps AI or other analytical tools could be of use here. But here again experience is sobering: I think the problem is less an inability to identify potential terrorists, than a lack of official will to act on such information (the Fort Hood shooter is a particularly egregious example here). Reducing the inflow of individuals from more terror-prone countries could also help.

    Turning to the mentally ill, well-managed background checks would go a long way, but the current system is horribly managed. Some people who should be in the system–the Sutherland Springs shooter, for example–aren’t because of institutional incompetence. Others who should be in the system–Cruz–aren’t because of the unwillingness or inability of law enforcement and public health officials to identify officially people who are a clear threat to others or themselves.

    Yes, granting unilateral authority to LE or government bureaucrats to identify someone as mentally unfit to own a firearm can definitely be abused. But that problem can be mitigated through granting of some due process, and there are some individuals who are so obviously dangerous (Cruz being one) that they would be disarmed/prevented from buying weapons even under fairly rigorous criteria and procedural safeguards.

    At present the legal obstacles to involuntary commitment are very high. That is problematic if involuntary commitment is necessary to make someone ineligible to buy or own firearms. A barrier for ineligibility short of involuntary commitment, with lower standards of proof, would represent a reasonable trade-off.

    Post-1960s attempts to grant greater rights and protections to those exhibiting aberrant behavior have come at a cost. One of those costs is that more deranged individuals are free to harm others and themselves. This is a broader issue than mass shootings, but I think that a rebalancing is in order, and that such a rebalancing would produce benefits including but not limited to reducing the ability of the mentally unbalanced to commit mass murder.

    Again, this would not be a panacea. The Sandy Hook shooter obtained weapons from his sadly deluded mother (whom he killed). He was never the buyer or owner of record, and so it was unlikely that he would have ever been identified by law enforcement. Stephen Paddock apparently never attracted attention in the way that Cruz or the Sutherland Springs shooter did.

    The measures I suggest would not eliminate the problem of mass murder by terrorists or the mentally ill, or even the problem of mass murder by firearm. But they would likely reduce the problem, and do so in a way that is more practical, effective, and respectful of the rights and preferences of law-abiding individuals than any of the gun control proposals (which range from the symbolic to the draconian) on offer.

    Comment by The Professor — February 26, 2018 @ 7:46 pm

  13. I humbly add one more thing to an eminently logical, coherent discussion by others here.

    It is become blazingly, blindingly apparent that lefties have leaped on the Parkland shooting to try to eliminate the NRA.

    “No tragedy goes to waste,” in other words.

    And it is a cynical use of kids in that effort.

    There is even anti-Trump hysteria from Baba Strident – she owns cloned dogs, after all, so she is well-qualified to speak on any and every subject.

    So she blames – Trump!!!!!!! – for the Parkland shooting. To lefties, that makes sense. To anyone with a head on their shoulders, it is nonsense, of course.

    What – doesn’t everyone own cloned dogs?

    Comment by elmer — February 28, 2018 @ 8:25 am

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