Kids With Nukes

A clever friend suggested that we should be concerned with how media is framing its messages.

How is the discussion framed? Crisis, Crisis, Crisis, Insanity. Immediately you are blasted with a state of emergency. Its essentially all editorial conversation. And if you look at it objectively, the language is very charged, and frankly antagonistic at every turn. So, you keep pumping that message into the head of a person who already believes that there is a crisis. There is a perceived emergency. Eventually one of them is going to go, “well, shit, its my job to do something about it…” and so, you read what that kid had to say. And it was batshit… it reads like some kinda Gen Z Cliffs Notes Turner Diaries. And if you peep around his social media presence, you will find him posting things like wishing Bill O’Reilly a happy retirement, and thanking him for all the Lib tears… seems to me that there is a relationship.” 1

To put that in psychological terms, elicitation of limbic response via increasingly disturbing images can lead to aggressive behavior. 2 We also KNOW that the kind of media that these people are consuming will raise a limbic response, and that most of them are huge consumers of that media. And we know that these media systems are intentionally targeting these individuals and ramping up their anger.

There is research that suggests that where the subject can differentiate the imagery from reality that this is not seen (hence the literature suggesting that video games may not lead to juvenile violence in al cases). However, where the subject cannot differentiate (i.e. where they believe for example that Fox News is “fair and balanced”), we can eventually expect to see much what we see in teens, whose amygdala are impacted developmentally already, and much, much, worse (read mass murders) . Of course, the external objectives of this media also exacerbate feelings of impotency, and promote projection of personal anger over perceived circumstances the individual feels were unfair, allowing the individual to map the one onto the other.

Our responses, from “thoughts and prayers” to a scolding over taking advantage of an unfortunate event involving a single mentally ill individual are old dodges; we certainly are not going to provide increased resources to address mental health nor is it likely that any deity is going to intervene. Cases like these will not be ameliorated until we recognize that gas powered autoload, high capacity magazines, and short barrels have one purpose. And though most of the dying from handguns is the result of suicide, the same is true of handguns.

I would suggest that these people are not “mentally ill” because I think for most purposes that phrase is largely meaningless. I would also suggest that we have seen Cambridge Analytica, by their own admission and through the analysis of others handily manipulate whole segments of the population, and that the methods for accomplishing that are very much the same mechanism by which media like Fox News can manipulate persons who would otherwise manage. In fact I have watched the mechanism work on persons reliant on Medicaid, turning them into raging phobics intent on putting an end the very benefits that were keeping them alive. Are these people weak minded? Well, that are certainly not 3σs, but the key, recent fMRI work suggests, is that they have cognitive filters that do not work (hence the jokes about Republicans being mentally defective). Its not that they are less capable (though some of them obviously are) but that they are more credulous.

Unfortunately, as a society we are committed to the concept of free speech, and even the concept of “hate speech” worries me. What can we do when we recognize that enough people in our society can be manipulated via media to change election results based purely on tweaking their emotional responses? How do we outlaw poison that 30% of the population insists on consuming, lol? We can’t manage booze or heroine, let alone Fox News!

I had put my hope in good schools, but in fact we will never reach student teacher rations or effective enough teacher instruction to do more than keep our thumbs in the dikes. We COULD limit political campaigns, shut down funding to campaigns (free speech issues again), etc. but those with the money are not about to let the voters they control agree to that now, will they?

Of course there are those who swallow Pinker’s claim that society is getting less violent, so why sweat a few mass murders.  Well, not only is Pinker wrong about the data, he is rather callous in suggesting that my neighbor has no real value.  3 And let’s also put to rest the arguments that if someone can blow up a building with fertilizer, why bother with guns. Even BATF and Congress know that is mere foolishness. 4

This is not about “those people” where we obliquely reference some inconsequential demographic of unofrtunates. It’s about the fact that all humans screw up on a regular basis. So many people are killed and maimed by automobiles that we implemented regulations as to both safety AND insurance. There is even a distinct area of the law that deals with dangerous instrumentalities; it’s called strict liability.

There is no rational basis to have millions of weapons w auto load, high cap mags, and short barrels. They are designed for only one purpose, and that purpose is not only unlawful, but seen as immoral by most.

We now know how easy it is to push someone over the edge, and that we have lawful enterprises constantly engaged in doing just that. This second issue is much more fraught than the first as it challenges our ideals about speech. It is not a new problem; orators regularly set off mobs in Rome. But it has gotten to be endemic and the foundations of our polity are now threatened.

Logically one should start with the resolution that toddlers should be allowed to tinker with armed tactical nukes. 5 As one rejects progressive removals from that premise, one is forced to recognize a number of themes which argue for what libertarians might call, well, “liberty”, each of which on close examination can be seen to be elements of a factually insupportable credo.

The inner chimp affords us the altruism of the band, along with the ferocious response to the “other”. As the fore brain competes evolutionarily with the inner chimp, it seems to me that those with limited fore brain functioning outbreed those with fully functioning fore brains, and that bespeaks a Wellsian future…

A bit of roasted Morlock?


 

Orbital Questions

A funny thing about being in a stationary orbit is that on the hand you are moving a zillion miles per hour, while on the other the countervailing forces are keeping you almost stationary while you ever so slowing approach your doom. What an analogy for the arguments about “gun control”…

Mental health? I could just argue it is an oxymoron, but frankly the entire concept of mental health is largely a fiction. After all, what is “health” when you get down to it other than a compromise between a statistic and an aspiration. Forget for a moment the biological aspects of the matter, and consider that virtually all of the DSM requires some element of subjective judgment.

Keeping guns out of the “wrong hands”? 1) There are no wrong hands; all humans of capable of doing something stupid enough to get another killed. It happens on a daily basis. 2) How would you begin to identify the wrong hands because a) yeah, that is the same gambit as the mental health scam, and b) sane today, nuts tomorrow…

Safe schools? Schools are never going to be “safe” because humans are not “safe”. Mandating greater distance (figuratively speaking) between dangerous instrumentalities and humans  is the only way we have made life any safer. But there are two possible measures that could be pursued: building secure classrooms and adopting legislation (see, e.g. Santaella-Tenorio, Julian, Magdalena Cerdá, Andrés Villaveces, and Sandro Galea. “What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?” Epidemiologic Reviews 38, no. 1 (January 1, 2016): 140–57. https://doi.org/10.1093/epirev/mxv012.

Putting more guns in school? Why not arm the kids (http://opinion.alaskapolicy.net/pardonme/?p=94) Good guys with guns? I think you will find that a recent stat being flashed about suggests that police hit their targets 20% of the time in dynamic situations (some reports argue as “high” as 35%, rofl! http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/weekinreview/09baker.html) for people trained to shoot under stress – are you going to exceed the training police officers receive? Likely not, which means that at least 2/3 of the rounds discharged will likely hit someone other than the perpetrator (and in a school, who might that be?) Sounds like a party!!!!!! And securing the gun lockers in a school? Now that sounds like a real gas…

Yeah, I am a teacher, a parent, an owner of class 3 weapons, a registered Republican, and an old lawyer, and the amount of bandwidth on inane rationalizations about our current firearm policies is simply obscene. We require more attention to the ownership of automobiles than we do to firearms (at least we require, half heartedly, a license and insurance, kind of, rofl…..) How about a mandatory strict liability no fault policy in the amount of $2M per firearm that pays off in full without question if anyone is injured in any way as a result of the discharge of a weapon, funds payable to a victims’ trust? Yup, that policy might run you more than your health insurance policy

License and Insure the Shooter, Tax the Firearms

License and Insure the Shooter, Tax the Firearms,

and Do It Through State and Local Governments.

© Allen D. Blume, 2017

During the 2016 political campaign season, virtually any discussion of ending endemic gun violence in the United States was tantamount to touching a subway “third rail;” with the promise of immediate political death to anyone seeking a solution to the problem. In the wake of the militant takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon; the rapidly escalating firearms attacks in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Madison Township, Ohio, and Glendale, Arizona; domestic terrorist assaults on Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and county government workers in San Bernardino, California by “self-actualized” lone wolves, there were more demands to restrict Americans’ access to virtually all types of firearms. As with the slaughter of school children in Connecticut in 2012, Democrats in general, and to a lesser extent, the investment community, questioned the ready availability of such “weapons of mass destruction,” and, predictably called for restricting entire classes of firearms and limiting the availability of large capacity magazines. As expected, too, the Republican Party mouthed prayerful platitudes and offered nothing in the way of solutions to halt the rising body counts in every part of the United States.

Now, twelve months into 2017, following the particularly murderous assaults in Las Vegas, Nevada, with 59 dead and 441 injured; and Sutherland Springs, Texas, with 27 dead and 25 injured, the body counts continue to climb, the intensity of gun attacks are more savage, and the places of their occurrence appear even more randomly dispersed. The high-profile shootings that leave tens of people dead and hundreds more injured are signifiers of our increasing reliance on firearms to “settle scores” real or perceived. The data on places like Las Vegas or Sutherland or the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, obscure other shootings that should be high profile – but are now simply the background noises of a society in turmoil.

Date

Location Killed

Injured

Jan. 16, 2017

Miami, FL 0 8

Jan. 27

Brownsville, TN 0

10

Feb. 12

Caruthersville, MO 1

6

Mar. 26

Cleveland, OH 2

15

Apr. 16

Columbus, OH 0

9

Apr. 30

San Diego, CA 2

6

May 7

Chicago, IL 2

8

May 20

Philadelphia, PA 10

0

May 27

Washington, DC 1

7

May 28

Phenix City, AL 0

12

June 5

Orlando, FL 6

0

June 9

Fort Worth, TX 2 5

June 30

Little Rock, AR 0

25

June 30 The Bronx, NYC 2

6

July 9

Cincinnati, OH 1 8

Aug. 4

Lodge Grass, MT 3

2

Sep. 10 Plano, TX 9

1

Sep. 24

Antioch, TN 1 8
Oct. 22 Lanett, AL 2

7

Nov. 14 Corning, CA 6

12

(Source: Gun Violence Archive, Mass shootings, November 2017) [1]

The increasingly deep and wrathful divisions between those who favor an outright ban on firearms of any sort, and the barely checked threat of violence emanating from extremists in thrall to the National Rifle Association (NRA) guarantees deadlock and stalemate in addressing runaway gun violence in our society.

In the main, social justice liberals seek to address gun violence by mandating federal “one-size-fits-all” solutions that would create enormous and expensive databases on firearms, ammunition, magazines, and the piece-parts of firearms technology; while notably encroaching on the rights of individuals, states and/or communities to police themselves. Clearly, an increased emphasis on background checks is warranted, as evidenced in President Obama’s Executive Order, and increased attention from the Trump White House, requiring that individuals selling firearms at gun shows be licensed dealers and run background checks before selling a firearm to another person. However, the move is, at best, a tentative one and will certainly be tested by gun owner advocacy groups. Further, by seeking to reinstate semiautomatic weapons and magazine bans, Washington will again chase the minutiae of our violence problem to the exclusion of other and more effective solutions.

A careful reading of the Supreme Court decisions in Washington, DC v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) offers a more direct and manageable solution: Mandate licensure and liability insurance for shooters at state and/or local government levels, and levy appropriate taxes on firearms, magazines, ammunition, and other adjunctive technologies.

Just as states regulate driver’s licensing, they can as readily use their existing infrastructure to manage firearms, even to the extent of using the same departments of motor vehicles to provide for licensure and examination. Set by state statute and/or multi-state compacts, controls can be put in place to provide for categories of gun ownership and use that are comparable with existing automobile, motorcycle, or commercial vehicle licensing, and that do not violate constitutional standards for possession and use of firearms. While there would be some initial state and/or local government outlay to set up certified training and testing gun ranges or contract for their services, this approach would obviate the need for expanding the federal bureaucracy on a fool’s errand to track down and enumerate every Picatinny rail, large capacity magazine, or MilSpec round.

Much is made of the so-called abuse of the regulatory power of the state, but taken at its most fundamental, such actions are a legitimate exercise of the policing powers inherent in every social compact. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ often cited prohibition against crying “Fire” in a crowded theater is an example of the state asserting authority over the exercise of our First Amendment rights; and just as it is in the people’s and government’s interest to regulate explosives and hazardous materials, physicians and health care providers, pet and animal welfare, and restaurants and food vendors, state and local government licensure of shooters is well within the purview of that lawful exercise of regulatory authority.

By licensing the gunner instead of the gun, a more direct accountability can be established between the state and the individual, thereby requiring standards of competence and levels of certification that can be subject to periodic review and testing. An added advantage comes in requiring gunners of any level of competency to have insurance consistent with the same legal standard that requires a driver to have motor vehicle insurance. Again, there is no need to create an elaborate infrastructure, as it would be in the financial interests of insurance underwriters to offer policies for shooters that would include indemnification, risk management, and competency testing (i.e., mental health as well as weapons proficiency); and to avoid overlap and bureaucratization as noted earlier, state and local governments can make use of their existing agencies to manage the licensure process. Finally, and particularly for financially strapped governments, the taxes generated can be directed to mental health and violence reduction activities; or their general fund.

The upshot is that while there is a presumption, constitutionally derived, of an individual’s “natural right” to keep, carry, and use weapons in self-defense, it is not a right that comes without expressly stated costs. In short, for an individual to fail to exert prudent control over his or her firearms, the cost could range from insurance premium hikes to outright policy cancellation. An unlawful act by a licensed shooter could nullify the insurance policy and make the perpetrator subject to material and criminal damages, and failure to have insurance would be fundamental grounds to prohibit a gun sale. Further, an unlicensed person in possession of a firearm would be presumptively in violation of state or local law and subject to such fines and penalties as legislatures might impose. Finally, there will be an open policy consideration in whether a state or other jurisdiction can or will “grandfather” firearms owners or provide for incremental imposition of these proposed standards. Imperatively it is time to move the focus of the divisive gun rights/gun control debate off the center stage of national politics, and vest its solutions in the so-called “laboratory of the states.”

Such a process will not eliminate the role of the federal government to oversee regulation of fully automatic and/or exclusively military weapons and explosives, monitoring and enforcing laws against illegal trading in stolen firearms, and maintaining national registers of felons and others not permitted to own or possess guns.

This approach will not completely stop traffic in illegal firearms, nor will it absolutely keep firearms out of the hands of criminals or emotionally unstable individuals; but it will provide a matrix whereby law-abiding citizens are presumptively determined to be acting within the law in the exercise of their Second Amendment rights. An additional benefit can be realized by working through organizations such as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Governors Association (NGA), the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), et al, to develop model legislation that provides for the specifics of any given gun-owning state or community; and acts presumptively in favor of firearms owners who might otherwise be in violation of a federal law because they own a firearm or other item subject to national regulatory controls. By licensing and insuring the gunner, a singularly more powerful means of controlling and compelling lawful behavior can be accomplished at a level well below those federally-based laws that would have to be, in the main, confiscatory.

Predictably, more extreme gun owners will claim government overreach and intrusion into their Second Amendment and/or unstated rights of privacy. The immediate and most absurd comparisons will be made to Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin’s totalitarian gun laws, while conveniently overlooking that during the Vietnam War, virtually every person above a certain age in Communist North Vietnam was armed and instructed to shoot down American aircraft. Far more absurdly will be the argument that by making up lists of licensed shooters, the government will then easily be able to round up licensees. (In a nation of roughly 350 million people, a full third of the population are gun owners, and according to the Geneva, Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey, the leading source of international public information about firearms, the United States has “the best armed civilian population in the world,” with an estimated 270 to 315 million total guns. That’s an average of 89 firearms for every 100 residents. Information courtesy of the Statistic Brain and the Gallup Poll, 2015; and The Blaze, and Cleveland State University, 2013.) The point, of course, is that the likelihood of any such “roundup” borders on the absurd.

Notwithstanding the absurdist attacks from extremists on the right and left of the American political spectrum, by indemnifying lawful gun owners at the closest appropriate level of governance, the effect will strengthen their fundamental rights while concurrently mandating standards of behavior, performance, and competency, and provide a significantly different means to attenuate the frequency and extremity of gun violence in the United States.

-/-

[1] Ed. Note: The table is not scientifically selected or weighted, save only to show relatively large incidents. NO state is missing from the data in the source cited.