Back to the basics

I’ve been debate the pro-rights side on guns for so long that I sometimes forget that it is easy to leave newcomers behind. Tonight was a case in point.


I left the following comment, via Facebook, on a “Think Progress” article entitled “An Aurora Shooting Survivor Makes A Powerful Gun Control Ad:



We had the debate. Your side lied, cheated, and took unfair advantage at every opportunity. But still your side lost. Big time.


You side lost the safety argument and your side lost the legal argument (see the U.S. Supreme Court decisions D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago). You have no arguments left. The conversation was over years ago and all you are doing now is whining about the outcome. Go tell your problems to a therapist because the adults in this conversation aren’t interested in your delusions of relevancy.


Yes. It is recycled from a blog post I made a while back.


A former manager of mine at Microsoft (a really nice guy BTW) responded with:



Joe, If I were to support the idea of a civilian carrying a gun, you’d be one of the few people I would trust with one. Because I think you know what you’re doing. However, I don’t get why the law allows any average Joe (pun intended) who has no f*ing clue — or worse, has dangerous intent — to easily carry one as well. It makes no sense to me.


Okay. Time to get back to the basics. Shyam is a naturalized citizen from Sri Lanka. He doesn’t have the full history of gun control, gun ownership rates, and crime statistics in this country at the tip of his tongue. And probably 99+% of the native citizens don’t either. My original comment presumes too much. So I followed up with the following:



First off, you missed an important concept. The law doesn’t “allow”. The law has relatively few restrictions. Freedom is the default position rather than “allowed” or “granted”.


Getting past that point there are two reasons there are relatively few restrictions: 1) There is no data to indicate it makes the violent crime rate worse; 2) It is a specific enumerated right just as is the right to free speech or freedom of religion even if the speaker/writer has no clue what they are talking about. A case can be made that certain books (Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto as well as certain religious texts come to mind) are responsible for more deaths than private ownership of firearms. Yet we “allow” free speech.


Another way to think of this is that violence against an innocent person is already illegal. Making the possession of a tool that enables such violence illegal is not going to increase the barrier against the more fundamental crime. And furthermore even a complete ban on firearms cannot be expected to be any more effective than a complete ban on certain recreational drugs are now. Which is to say, “Completely ineffective”. But what such restrictions do accomplish is create a black market for such items and nearly completely eliminate any good that can be accomplished by the use of such items. Hence law abiding people who need to defend themselves are prevented from defending themselves with the best tools available while those with criminal intent get full advantage of such tools against disarmed victims.


There. I hope that helps.


Update: Shyam replied a few minutes later:



You had me, up to the point about self defense. I once had a manager at MS who carried around a Rambo knife, for self defense. He even once took it on the plane, on a work trip to Arizona (usability study of some educational software we were building) and San Francisco. Long story short, someone in baggage handling stole his knife .. and he was very uncomfortable being out in the open, walking around sfo that night… we should get lunch sometime. No guns or Rambo knives 🙂


My reply:



I work downtown near Westlake Park. If we are close enough to walk name the time and the place for lunch.


Interesting about self defense being the place that I “lost him”.

7 thoughts on “Back to the basics

  1. One should point out that the reason it was able to be stolen in the first place is because he was DISARMED (read: had to put it in his checked baggage) while on the plane.

  2. Unfortunately, this is one of those topics where, unless the newcomer shares some basic core values and beliefs, there are a lot of foundational ideas that need to be established before any real understanding of the issue can be reached. These include topics such as rights vs. privileges, the supposed intent of a law vs. its actual effects, unintended consequences, the need for self defense (I assume your friend never really thought about the possibility of being a victim of violent crime), and the positive aspects of gun ownership (it seems most people only see the negative and neutral aspects).

    Each of these topics can turn into a fairly lengthy discussion in and of themselves. The fact that some people need to be convinced on nearly all of these points before the futility of gun control begins to become apparent means that their barrier of understanding is high.

  3. It is possible to believe one doesn’t need an umbrella when it rains, for God turned the rain on, so it must be fate. Same thing about self defense, if a tiger jumps you – you are lunch. Don’t fight it… but those are very strange beliefs for anyone that needs to survive to increase.

  4. If you meet him for lunch are you going to disarm as he requests?

  5. Maybe he is being a squeamish pseudo-pacifist?

    You know the type: Doesn’t like violence, but is willing to make an exception for cops using violence to enforce edicts he likes.

  6. @JD, I will be walking from work (I take a bus to work) to lunch with Shyam. My place of employment, with a home office in California, even explicitly bans Leatherman tools if they have a knife. That is all that I wish to say on the topic.

    @Kristophr, I suspect you are correct but I haven’t had that deep of discussion with him. When he was my manager he knew all about the guns and explosives and even that I carried a knife to work. He once asked to borrow my knife (Spyderco Delica) to open a box. No problem.

  7. Yeah; he’ll need a primer course on the American Principles. There is a rather long history behind them, going back at least to Cicero. Well; Moses, if we want to get technical.

    Kevin has an excellent post on “the presumption of liberty” here.

    To paraphrase one good quote from it; “There is the fear that someone, somewhere, is doing something without permission”

    Americans don’t see the world that way. It’s the other way around. There is the fear that some politician, somewhere, is doing something to us without permission, when they’re supposed to protecting our liberty instead. They are our house servants, not our masters. We hold the power, including the power of deadly force. We only lend some portion of our power to them and only for specific, enumerated purposes.

    Those who are afraid of liberty have been lied to for so long that they’ve bought into the notion of government as “running” the society. It is a horrible thing to face, that you’ve been fooled by so deep and terrible a lie, and so it is extremely agitating at first and people will resist facing it head-on. The proof of that is that the person will get angry—Someone genuinely interested in exploring ideas and principles will not get angry.

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