Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
"If she had criminal intent, she would have ignored the laws- criminals often do. That's what makes them criminals. " -- Joan Peterson, Brady Campaign Board of Directors member
So who exactly are those laws meant to affect if criminals ignore them?
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Somewhere with all the turkey and football, please take a minute to think of all those who cannot be with their families today, whether they are on the job driving a snow plow or manning an ambulance, or whether they are far away in a foreign land serving in the military. We especially keep the Haney family in our thoughts tonight.
Chris- those are not my decisions to make. I can't commit to anything unless I have thought it out and discussed with others. I am one person here advocating for common sense. I don't make the laws. Have a nice Thanksgiving.
I find this position of "Hey, I don't make the rules!" interesting, given that she is willing to impose all sorts of other laws on gun owners, and that her organization regularly advocates on behalf of new laws all the time, many of which could be charitably called "optimistic theories to control crime, with little empirical testing to date" at best.
While it is possible that she has genuinely never thought of this sort of idea, or that she was unable to fully understand possible implications, it is clear that Ms. Peterson does not enthusiastically support some sort of "need based" reduced pricing scheme. Based on the conduct of the organization to which she provides corporate governance, I think it is fair to say that Joan Peterson would support any measure which reduces the number of CCW permits issued, including high prices that serve as a barrier to entry to many. If she could crank the price to carry up to $1000 I think she probably would. After all, "common sense" dictates that those types of people don't get their grubby paws on guns... right?
Where have I heard that logic addressed before?
Would you be opposed to a two-tier pricing system? A "full price" permit for most people, and a lower price for lower income individuals? This could be easily made revenue neutral; for example, your state already clears half a million dollars in net profits, and if necessary, prices for full price permits could be raised a bit to subsidize low income permits.
An example would be fishing licenses in Alaska. A typical resident fishing license costs $24 ($62 to include hunting and trapping as well). A license for low income people is offered for the nominal fee of $5.
Here's the requirements to qualify:
"The hunting/trapping/fishing license fee is $5.00 for a resident who is receiving or has received assistance during the preceding six months under any state or federal welfare program to aid the indigent, or has an annual family gross income of less than $8,200 for the year preceding application."
As I mentioned before, there are inexpensive yet safe firearms. HiPoint manufactures handguns made-in-America with a lifetime warranty for <$150; mine functions adequately (they only use 10 round magazines too!). Old police surplus revolvers can often be found inexpensively. Eastern Bloc Makarovs are quite cheap (although I wouldn't be as comfortable about their reliability; the commies weren't know for quality control...).
For $200 you can get a safe firearm and several boxes of ammo for practice and carry. When viewed in that light, a high fee certainly is a barrier to entry! Moreover, that high fee takes money out of an already tight budget, making it harder to afford more practice ammunition, range time, or training classes.
As we've discussed, people who qualify for CCW's are overwhelmingly law abiding when compared to the average citizen. We're not talking about handing out permits to gangbangers with criminal records. We're talking about allowing people with clean records who can meet all the state standards -- retirees on fixed incomes, disabled people who have faced high medical costs, or others who are financially disadvantaged for whatever reason. A study done by UAA found that gun ownership is highly correlated with income; the groups least likely to own firearms (older single women) were also the most likely to be lower income and the most likely to be victimized by crimes. Do you feel that these sorts of individuals would somehow be more prone to commit more crimes if they were able to afford CCW licenses?
I think a two-tier pricing solution is the quick and easy solution to this issue. There is no compromise on criminal background checks, training standards, or any other relevant factors. Does that sound like a reasonable compromise between "free permits for everyone!" and prices that are so high that they form a barrier to entry that disproportionately affects traditionally disadvantaged demographics?
Chris from AK
I can only take it that Joan IS opposed to a two tier pricing system as she refuses to even publish the proposal on her blog. The other option is that despite her claims that she doesn't want to ban guns, or even ban guns in public, that she does not view concealed carry as a right. In which case she is being disingenuous at worst or very unclear at best in her other statements.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Here's the Cliff's notes in case you don't want to wade through the comments thread. By the way, Joan -- if you read this, please start using the "enter" key to create paragraphs. I'm just saying...
Joan Peterson, Brady Campaign Director: "CCW permitees are stone cold killers. Josh Sugarman at the VPC say so, and MSNBC reported on his study so it must be legit."
Me: "Well, actually, the important this is the crime rate. Do CCW permitees commit more or less crime than the average person? If you look at the figures presented by your own state's police, you'll find that they commit many fewer crimes."
Her: "I do not believe your numbers. We do not have enough data to assess this question because the Gun Lobby prohibits the state from collecting data. More permits were revoked than the annual police report states. The cost/benefit equation is up for debate." Of note, however, she did admit, "There is not blood on the streets" (in reference to shall-issue).
Me: "Actually, all that data does exist. Your own state has five years of post-shall issue data, compiled at tax payer expense." I then presented some information on the cost/benefit ratio; basically, to think that CCW permitees in MN committed more crime than was prevented with defensive gun uses, you have to believe that there are <1000 (yes, one thousand) DGUs in the US every year. Even pro-gun control sources give estimates several orders of magnitude greater than one thousand DGUs per annum.
Her: "A CCW permitee might commit a crime."
Me: "The average Minnesotan is 14 times more likely to commit a violent crime than a CCW permitee."
Her: "That is an opinion."
This is where Reasoned Discourse broke out. My final round is posted below because it didn't make it to her blog.
Me: True. However, let's assume the absolute worst case scenario: 100% of the violent crime committed by CCW permit holders in MN would have been stopped had they not had a permit. That is, if they didn't have a legal gun then those assaults and murders would have gone away. How does that stack up against the benefit -- defensive gun usages?"
You: I don't get this point.
Please allow me to try to rephrase my point so that we can reach some sort of effective communication.
The worst case from the point of public policy is that allowing CCW directly caused 14 violent crimes to occur in MN in 2008. That is, if those people had not been issued CCW permits and were not carrying firearms, then they would not have committed assaults (or the one murder).
I think it might be reasonable to argue that some of the crimes might have happened anyways; the individuals might have illegally carried a firearm without a permit, or resorted to a knife, baseball bat, gang, or other mechanism to attack their victims.
However, in the worst case scenario, where the individuals would not have committed crimes had they not been lawfully armed, the CCW law and permit issue process was directly responsible for causing up to 14 violent crimes.
In that case, the law is only justifiable from a point of public safety if we can find 14 or more defensive gun uses (DGUs) that prevent violent crimes. For example, if there were 15 DGU's that prevented assaults, rapes, murders, or robberies, then we have a net gain for society. I would prefer to have 14 violent crimes committed by CCW permit holders than 15 or more violent crimes committed by others. Remember again that one criminal may cause multiple crimes; for example, if a criminal attacks a pair of friends walking home from the movies and rapes them there may be two counts of assault and two counts of rape for a total of four violent crimes (caused by one criminal).
For you to believe that there were not 14 DGU's in MN in 2008, you have to believe that there were fewer than 1000 DGUs in the entire nation in 2008. Or, alternatively, you have to believe that MN is for some reason not representative of the rest of the nation and is particularly unlikely to result in any sort of DGU. Given that even pro-gun control sources cite the number of DGUs in the US as on the order of 100,000, I find the number of 1,000 to be very low.
If you believe that some of those violent crimes by CCW permit holders would have occurred anyways even if they did not hold a valid permit, then you'd need to think that there are only a few hundred DGUs in the US every year.
That means that even after considering the violent crimes committed by CCW holders in MN, there is probably a net benefit for society. Yes, we did see around a dozen more assaults occur; but it is also very likely that many more rapes, robberies, murders, and assaults were prevented. You can look at the 5 years of available data for MN after passing "shall issue" policies and find that the numbers are just about the same every year, so 2008 was not just a fluke. Likewise, you can look at the data over decades in multiple states and find very similar results.
Me: " However, even a cursory look at the data shows that you are much, much safer meeting a CCW permit carrier on the street than any other random Minnesotan"
You: That is an opinion. There are not many gun murders in Minnesota but I don't think you can say you are much much safer meeting a CCW permit carrier than any other random person.
Based on the FBI crime statistics, there are 262.8 incidents of violent crime committed per 100,000 residents. That means there is about a 0.26% that any random MN will be involved in an incident of violent crime over the course of a year. Actually, because one criminal may commit multiple offenses at once, the chance is probably somewhat lower.
Based on your state police statistics, CCW permit holders were involved in 17.5 incidents per 100,000 CCWs. That means that there is about a 0.0175% that a CCW holder will commit an act of violent crime over that year.
That means that a random Minnesotan is 14 times more likely to commit a violent crime than a Minnesotan who has been issued a CCW permit by your state. Again, you can look at the data available over 5 years since shall issue was passed and find that the numbers remain very steady here as well, so 2008 was not an aberration.
Opinions vs. Hypotheses
Let's get out of the realm of opinions. We can use the language of social science to help us here by being very precise with our statements.
HYPOTHESIS #1: CCW Carriers are less likely to commit crimes than average Minnesotans.
HYPOTHESIS #2: CCW carriers are neither more nor less likely to commit crimes than average Minnesotans.
HYPOTHESIS #3: CCW carriers are more likely to commit crimes than average Minnesotans.
The available evidence clearly allows us to reject Hypothesis #3. I believe that most reasonable people would also allows us to reject Hypothesis #2. If you disagree with me on that point, let's rephrase the same statistics in a slightly different way:
"People who do not wear seat belts are 14 times more likely to die in a head on collision than those who do."
True or False: People who wear seatbelts are neither more nor less likely to die in a head-on collision than those who do not.
Based on the data available, we fail to reject Hypothesis #1. Rarely in science can you actually confirm a hypothesis (that's why there are few laws or theorems), but you can fail to reject it. Even if you present a vivid and traumatic story about one "CCW Killer," it still does not change the overall rate that crime occurs, and it does not allow us to reject the Hypothesis.
If you don't like those results, you can supply additional evidence which also rejects Hypothesis #1. Alternatively, you could question the validity of the data that led us to our conclusion. However, to do that, you'd have to argue that the FBI crime statistics and MN law enforcement annual reports are systematically biased in some sort of coherent manner. Finally, you could argue that we have insufficient data to be sure of our results. Given that the pattern observed holds true over many years in many states I find that unlikely.
Luckily, that is why statisticians have developed "confidence levels." I haven't run a significance test on this particular data set because I have both a life and a day job, but others have, and the sorts of results we're talking about are usually found to be significant at the 1% level or greater. That means that there is a 1% chance that the observed trends are due to random chance and a 99% chance that there is actually a relationship.
This simple analysis does not conclusively prove that CCW carriers are actually more law abiding any more than the theory of the big bang proves that is the actual origin of the universe (although it does allow us to reject the two alternative theories). It just means that it is the best hypothesis available to explain the facts at hand. If new data arises then we could reject that theory and start all over again.
CCW permit holders are not the enemy. As we've established -- and both seem to agree -- CCW permit holders are overwhelmingly law abiding citizens compared to the average Joe. They are model citizens in fact! They also are motivated enough on the firearms issue to go through the steps and expense necessary to acquire a permit.
CCW permit holders could be valuable and powerful allies for your ultimate goal of limiting illegal gun crime. However, I feel that your organization is exceedingly hostile to CCW permit holders. I don't understand why. Even you admit that we are not causing the problems. Such hostility doesn't win your organization many friends among law abiding gun owners. It seems like a really bad tactical decision from a political/PR point of view to me.
Monday, November 22, 2010
We need to harness the same pathos for our side. Why don't we run commercials that pimp out victims of violent crime who are willing to say, "If only I had a gun?" Why don't we run full page spreads that talk about women who were going to be raped who did have a gun, and did fight back? Why don't we publicize elderly people who brandish a firearm to scare off a home invader?
We need to force the average person to say, "What if three gang members wanted to gang rape me and rob me? What would I do?"
I don't expect the traditional media to report on it. Maybe we need to buy prime-time air time. Because all the facts in the world are so easily undone by one sad story.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
- Do not submit to a scan. Groping lasts for a few minutes. Pictures are forever. Are you sure that those images aren't being recorded? Are you sure that there's no TSA agent with a camera phone taking pictures?
- Make it clear that I do not approve of the search procedures, even if I am ultimately forced to consent.
- Make the individual TSA agent feel like a child molesting sexual predator dirtbag. A few years ago when Adm Loy (retired) was running the agency I thought that the TSA agents were a step up from the flaky private security people we had. Today, the TSA folks who are "just following orders" have crossed a line, IMHO, and are not just serving their country honorably. I've seen Afghans in a war zone get more considerate and less invasive treatment at the hands of soldiers. To treat American citizens -- including military personnel, the pilots, religious officiants, children, women, etc -- like this is degrading and insulting. I plan on making a point of giving the TSA agents dirty looks, not responding to their polite banter, and telling them straight up that they are bad people. I understand that they are just doing what they are told to do, but at some point, you need to question whether your orders are lawful and appropriate.
- Obtain personal information on the TSA agent. Request their name and employee number. Request to see their identification prior to a search. Write it down. Ask personal, invasive questions. Invade their personal area as much as possible before and while they invade mine.
- Speak out if absurdity is witnessed. If a child is strip searched in front of me I'm not going to avert my eyes and keep my mouth shut. I saw a woman patted down with the new procedures last time I flew and it was degrading. Her husband was clearly embarrassed. I'm hitting my personal tolerance for watching people be treated like criminals with zero reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
My thought: "If you had accidentally brought a pocket knife onto the plane, would it have compelled you to hijack it? Do you have that little self control? Even if you tried, how far do you think you'd get in the post 9/11 age with a pocket knife, you obese POS? You know how fast a dozen of us would jump you and stuff you into an overhead storage bin?" I kept my mouth shut though, as they had their kids with them. Security theater Keeps Us Safe yet again... This is why I have no faith that TSA will get reined in. These people vote and they are the majority. Frequent business travelers deal with 80% of TSA's bullshit but make up a very small percentage of voters. The family that travels once a year for vacation is impressed by the Kobuki dance and Feels Safe.
In other news, I missed my flight in part due to TSA. Apparently they were very upset that I brought a laptop, a portable hard drive full of movies, and a kindle through the checkpoint. That got me selected for extra screening which took about half an hour, which was long enough for Delta to give away my seat (the gate was still open and the flight was boarding when I showed up -- WTF?). While I didn't get groped or full body scanned by the TSA minions, they did go through each and every object in my bag and they wanded me for good measure, even though I didn't set off the metal detector.
I think at this point we don't need to worry about people bringing weapons onto the plane. In the post-9/11 age, do you really think the passengers will tolerate someone hijacking the plane wtih a pocketknife, pair of tweezers, or screwdriver? Even if a bad guy got onto the plane with a handgun, I think the passengers would launch a counterattack, accepting some casualties. One guy with a gun is not going to hold off 200 passengers. Everyone should know that in the post 9/11 world, a hijacked plane is not going to go to some airport where we all bake on the tarmac for a few hours until the negotiators hook up the hijackers with a flight to Cuba and a suitcase full of cash. It is going to be used as a weapon that will kill you and everyone on board. Heck, this was apparent even by the morning of 9/11.
The thing that we should be concerned about is explosives. While passengers and aircrew -- not TSA -- have been responsible for stopping all would-be suicide bombers that made it to the airport since 9/11, a decent explosive device could theoretically be detonated before the passengers have a chance to take the threat out. Even the TSA has admitted that the new screeners won't detect explosives.
I don't know why we don't make greater use of dogs and the sniffer machines which do alert on explosives rather than relying on groping passengers and taking naked pictures of them if the point is to prevent terrorism. Unfortunately, I think the point is more to make Mr. and Mrs. Once A Year Feel Safe, which means security theater, not effective security, is the goal.
John Lott conducts an extensive analysis of nationwide crime rates as well as a survey of the literature to examine a controversial thesis: "Do more guns cause less crime?" After controlling for numerous factors including demographics, crack cocaine usage, police strategies, gun control laws, and many others, Lott finds consistent evidence that "shall issue" concealed carry permits causes statistically significant decreases in violent crime. Interestingly, non-violent crime such as larceny and auto theft increases.
The use of broad statistical evidence from the county and city level is impressive. Also impressive is the sheer scope of the data set, which encompasses many years over much of the country. This is a major improvement of the third edition. The first and to a lesser degree second edition suffered from extremely limited data sets merely because few states had passed right to carry laws.
While the comprehensive statistical analysis is impressive, it is also a vulnerability. The old Mark Twain adage about "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics" comes to mind. I have a basic understanding of statistics, and as I am pursuing a masters in the social sciences I am familiar with basic research methodologies and problems. However, Lott's regression techniques are more complicated than I am personally comfortable replicating. I had to push the "I believe" button on much of the analysis. I also have to put trust in his enormous data set.
As a note, I read this book on my new Amazon Kindle (which is an amazing device for travelers, by the way). One downside of this reader was that the charts were very difficult to read due to small font. This exacerbated the issue with the statistics.
Offsetting these concerns, Lott directly raises issues with the data set and identifies potential bias as well as the possible direction of the bias. He also clearly highlights to what confidence level -- generally 10%, 5%, or 1% -- the findings are statistically significant and freely owns up when the results are not statistically significant. He seems to have controlled for every variable which a critic has proposed and for which decent data is available.
Moreover, he has published his data set and other academics have replicated his findings. Only a handful of researchers have come to opposing conclusions. Lott examines their products to highlight errors they have made in their research. Even to the semi-trained eye like mine, opposing researchers make egregious missteps such as excluding large and arbitrary portions of the data set or using arbitrary and inaccurate regression techniques to create the appearance of trends where none actually exist.
The book got repetitive, merely because the results are so consistent over time and place. However, such completeness is necessary, I think, in a scholarly paper. The most interesting and readable chapters discussed controversies abotu the work. It was depressing to realize that our opponents have been using the same techniques -- ad hominem attacks, magical thinking, media bias, overheated rhetoric -- for decades. As a younger person who has more recently come to the movement, it was troubling to see how long these deceptive practices have been around and how they've influenced public policy. This isn't really so much a criticism of John Lott as the tactics used by our opponents, however.
Lott effectively addresses some criticisms, such as the saw about how his study was funded by Winchester (it wasn't). However, he doesn't bring up and defend his missing data set or sock puppetry.
More Guns, Less Crime is a valuable piece for us to be familiar with. It effectively establishes a compelling case for its thesis. At best, opponents have been able to argue that more guns have no effect on crime. The research effectively dispels the idea that more guns (i.e., "shall issue" permits) causes more crime.
However, I doubt that any anti will ever be persuaded by the data. Facts, data, and reason are irrelevant to many of them. Fence sitters may be persuaded, but the persistent media bias and character assassination of Lott over the last few decades taints him. The media has printed accusatory pieces cribbed from Brady Campaign press releases and then later issued -- but not printed -- retractions. Fence sitters just see the original attack and never see the retraction.
I can tentatively recommend More Guns, Less Crime for the serious advocate. There are some chapters which are very useful to reference. Just don't expect it to automatically win this debate, because when it comes down to it, Gun Control is about fear, emotion, and pathos -- not facts, analysis, or statistics.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The core arguments for banning energy drinks seem to be:
- Energy drinks have caffeine, but are cosmetically different from coffee. You could say they're the assault weapons of caffeinated beverages.
- Energy drinks have a bunch of vitamins and other substances which may not be predictable when they interact with caffeine or other substances in the drink.
- If you drink too many energy drinks mixed with booze you can get alcohol poisoning and die, pass out and drown in your own vomit, or do the other things that happen when you're binge drinking.
The only argument I find even remotely credible is that mixing the supplements with large doses of caffeine causes health problems. The article certainly doesn't have any evidence to assert that; in fact, it lists positive possible health benefits associated with each supplement.
Regarding alcohol... The article points out that if you mix energy drinks with booze, you may not realize that you're getting too drunk because they are sweet (masking the alcohol) and because the caffeine amps you up, decreasing the sedative effect of alcohol. This is bad for The Children (yes, college students are now The Children).
First off, if you don't realize that drinking booze gets you drunk, even if there's a mixer that covers up the taste of the booze, you're retarded; they happen to be strongly correlated. Moreover, anyone that relies on "how they feel" to determine how drunk they are is also retarded. You don't drink and drive because you "feel sober." Just because you downed a bunch of expresso at dessert doesn't erase those two glasses of wine and that brandy with dinner. Anyone who blames the caffeine in an energy drink for masking their intoxication, thus leading them to "unknowingly" DUI would be the same person that blames a rum & coke or thought that downing a mug of coffee could sober them up. That is a problem with the individual, not the beverage.
Of course, Sen Schumer -- a familiar face! -- is a strong proponent. I again am relieved at how fortunate we are that Sen Reid is still the Sen Majority Leader compared to the other possible option. Of note, this article is running on Fox News. It goes to show that "conservative" outlets are not necessarily pro-freedom.
Monday, November 15, 2010
The two issues I see are (1) overtime and (2) benefits. We're paying a lot of overtime every year. However, the overtime is still cheaper than the benefits packages. The average benefits package is something like $35K. So it is better to pay an existing employee $30K in OT than to hire another one. In fact, it may be even better to pay them more than $35K; an existing employee doesn't need to spend time on training and is probably more efficient than a new hire.
So, I think benefits packages cuts to the heart of the matter. There seem to be two main cost drivers for the benefits expenses:
- PERS. The state retirement system is underfunded, so it basically doubles the contributions the city of Anchorage has to make in order to start closing the gap. Until 2005 the plan was a "defined benefit" plan. The liability of PERS/TERS WRT the unfunded defined benefit plans is around $10bn.
- Healthcare costs. As the Mayor stated, "Meantime, projected city health care costs have risen, and will rise by another 22 percent for next year, the administration says. The higher-than-normal increase is partly due to some high-cost claims, and changes due to the federal health care reform law, said the mayor." This isn't just a Republican bashing Obamacare. The Juneau News-Empire reports, "As recently as 10 years ago, the plans were thought to be fully funded, but rising health care costs and new actuarial valuations have revealed deep deficits." A senior State analyst said, "Kreinheder said skyrocketing health care costs have also played a central role in increasing liabilities over the life of the program."
The good news is that we're "only" looking at a $10bn hole in PERS and we're trying to stop digging, unlike other localities. Reforming PERS to a defined contribution system was one key in this regard. The bad news is that oil revenues are declining and that there is no fix to healthcare costs in sight. Obamacare, despite rhetoric to the contrary, was not intended to "bend the cost curve." These costs are unpredictable as far as their rate of growth.
Given that reality, I see why the Sullivan administration is trying to limit the number of bodies on the payroll. With uncontrollable and unpredictable increases in benefits spending for each employee, ponying up for OT is probably better. I'd prefer to pay OT than gamble on healthcare costs remaining static and the state continuing to maintain the current level of cash extraction to shore up PERS.
I'm not sure what the answer is, although I think I've identified the problem. Defined Contribution will go a long way towards making PERS sustainable in the long run but there are still tons of employees on the old system which is deep in the hole. If you think that the city must offer some sort of healthcare plan, with Obamacare there are no inexpensive options anymore. You can't offer a combination of Health Savings Accounts and catastrophic insurance for younger employees anymore, for example.
I don't know if it is possible but it might be best to drop all the health insurance coverage, pay the Obamacare fine, and let the employees fend for themselves on an exchange. Commentators have written about this and it effectively transfers large percentages of healthcare costs from local/state budgets to the federal balance sheet. Not that the feds can afford it either, but hey, hate the game, not the player, right?
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Some interesting findings...
Overall Ownership Rates
Firearm ownership was reported at 71.4 percent in the Mat-Su Borough and 52.6 percent in Anchorage. This difference may not be due to the rural/urban contrast between the two communities. In the Mat-Su Borough, reported gun ownership is higher in the more urbanized areas of Wasilla and Palmer (72.2%) compared to other parts of the Borough (65.9%).Marital Status
In both samples, gun ownership was highest among married respondents (74.5% in the Mat-Su Borough and 57.0% in Anchorage).Socioeconomic Status
The relationship between household income and gun ownership was moderately strong and highly significant (p<.001).The study also found that gun ownership was highly correlated with home ownership and value of the home. It found a non-linear relationship with educational level; the highest ownership levels are at "some college." However, if you control for income level, there is no correlation with education. That is, people are more likely to own guns if they make more money; higher incomes are correlated with higher education levels as well.
Remember, these are all correlations, not causation. The gun ownership rates are also likely underreported. However, they do provide some interesting insights into gun ownership in Southcentral. They also provide good evidence to refute the stereotypes of people like Linoge over at Joe Huffman's blog, who believes "Most of the people writing the posts... . are social lepers who have plenty of time (read: no life) to research BS and carefully craft these misleading posts." Actually, gun owners -- at least in Alaska -- are more likely to be in stable committed relationships and have higher income levels.
Linoge actually runs "Walls of the City." It appears that he was being sarcastic over at Joe's blog. I didn't catch the sarcasm. He's on our side. It is just that the claim he put forward is quite plausible; I've read it so many times from the other side that I didn't investigate the authorship as carefully as I should have.
I was wrong to single him out, jumped to conclusions, and apologize for doing so. Still, it led me to conduct some interesting local research to refute a fairly common stereotype about gun owners!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
To begin, my preferred manner of carry is appendix. Previously, I had been using a bellyband, but the bellyband is too uncomfortable. I couldn't wear it for more than an hour or two at a time. I needed something different. A bit of internet searching lead me to SmartCarry.
Now, SmartCarry is certainly not God's gift to mankind, as some people say. It is, however, exponentially better than the bellyband for me, if only because I can wear it comfortably for a whole day.
The good: As long as you position the waistband of the pants over the grip of the gun, there is no printing. Even in really thin pants. I have a pair of pants that will print chapstick like no tomorrow, but with SmartCarry there is no printing. SmartCarry is also ridiculously comfortable. Comfortable that I am nothing thinking about it 24-7. Comfortable that I can wear it for hours at a time with no issues. Trips to the bathroom are simple, not an ordeal! Additionally, the draw is much, much smoother than the bellyband. Reholstering is also easier. The last thing I can think of is that, due to the placement of the gun, it's very difficult to be "made," either visually or with contact. Face it, it's just not polite to stare at someone's crotch. It's also not appropriate to have lots of crotchal contact when hugging someone (with a few exceptions, and if you're there, I'd recommend having already disclosed that you're packing!). In all seriousness, while using SmartCarry I was sneak-hugged several times - no one noticed.
The bad-ish: SmartCarry works best if you wear pants with a looser crotch. Guys, you probably won't have a problem with this. Girls, you might. I find my dress pants to be loose enough, but my jeans are a little bit of a tight fit. Also, if you are going to do any amount of walking, you need to ensure that you are wearing boxers or something that covers the tops of your thigh, else you will end up with a painful holster-burn!
Overall, SmartCarry works for me. Once I've had a chance to get myself some boxers and some new jeans, I think I will be completely pleased.
I couldn't care less about truth and falsity or causation and correlation, or all that other double talk the pro-gun crowd like so much.MikeB302000
November 12, 2010
What is interesting is that apparently MikeB is a Brit. That cuts Joan Peterson's American voter anti-gun grassroots internet support by about 33%, although I suppose they might let him vote in Chicago.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I have been advised to remove some comments because of their nature and my responses, not because of their nature but because I was advised not to respond to some commenters.I'd lay two to one odds that the leadership at the Brady Campaign is telling her to STFU. She has nothing to gain by engaging with us on her blog. If her goal is activism (i.e. energizing her base), she should just ban comments -- or selectively allow the most boorish through, or even plant some fake ones that make us look like unreasonable retarded neanderthals bent on mayhem and destruction -- rather than allowing pro-RKBA people to make cogent points.
We know she's engaging in limited to moderate censorship. Let's continue the countdown to full out Reasoned Discourse. I bet the Brady Campaign would pull their hair out if they knew one of their Board members was flying solo without carefully vetting statements through the PR machine, and I bet that they would not be too pleased about it...
I agree that at best such crude bombastic language is boorish, rude, and unacceptable for polite company. However, that doesn't mean I think it should be banned. There is a well established body of First Amendment case law which has outlined the boundaries of the exercise of free speech, and guess what -- it is pretty broad! Welcome to America.
In the example that Joan is most worried about, the test required is "imminent lawless action" (Brandenburg). This is the famous "fire in a crowded theater" example. Under this test, the speaker is protected unless their speech is likely to lead to a violation of the law which is both imminent and likely.
So, if there's a tense protest going on outside an abortion clinic and one of the protesters picks up a brick and says, "There's the SOB there! Pick up bricks and kill him!" then it would meet the test. If they put up edgy posters however, then that is probably not inciting imminent lawless action. If they put out a written contract on the doctor then that is conspiracy to commit murder, not a free speech issue.
Likewise, Bill O'Reilly's rather tasteless joke about journalists in Muslim countries being beheaded for their views wasn't particularly funny. However, it was not aimed at inciting imminent lawless action. He didn't say, "Hey, John Smith. Yeah, you, I'm talking to you. Take a knife, go to Milbank's house which is at this address, and cut his cranium off. Yeah, right now, I'm totally serious."
I think this goes to show some of the difference between myself and Joan Peterson. I generally oppose prior restraint. I generally think that the problems associated with liberty -- whether that be freedom of speech, freedom or religion, the right to keep and bear arms -- are worth their costs and downsides. Sure, if the government censored every news program I might not have to listen to Bill O'Reilly's "jokes." But I don't think I'd enjoy living in Cuba, Saudi Arabia, or North Korea very much either. On the other hand, Joan is perfectly willing to adovocate censorship of any speech which she finds offensive, could possibly result in any harm to someone in the future, or is possibly dangerous. For her, the benefits of free speech apparently do not outweigh the costs. And again -- no evidence or facts are required. She presents no evidence that posting radical propaganda is actually successful at mobilizing violent action beyond the pale of normalcy. All that is needed is fear of such action.
Monday, November 8, 2010
O.K. Sean. You will have your evidence and I will have mine, most likely.This is eerily reminiscent of our local Anti-Gun Blogger, who at one point said something alone the lines of, "I've seen the numbers and I don't believe them."
I”m not going to get caught up in a discussion over who can present better statistics. I’ve been there (not on this blog, but elsewhere) and done that. Nobody wins that battle. I just present the facts and let readers (I think there’s more than just you…hahaah) and let people make up their own minds, reminding them that there is a very significant societal cost to the current application of the 2nd Amendment.Editor's Note: Aren't statistics kind of like facts?
The problem is that if you look at the data, it is at best ambiguous and at worst opposes many of their fear-based beliefs. To state that differently, if you operate in a scientific manner, then all you can do is reject or fail to reject a hypothesis. You can never confirm a hypothesis; however, if you fail to reject it enough and find significant supporting evidence it might become a therum or law. Note that there are very few laws in the soft sciences.
You can, however, reject many views. For example, take this hypothesis:
"Guns are used to kill people much more frequently than they are used defensively." The Clinton DOJ estimated this number at 1.5 million times per year. Pro-gun sources estimate it at much higher rates. Guns are used in around 10,000 homicides per year; I only have moderate confidence in that number, but I'm sure you can confirm it with the FBI crime stats and for these purposes we only need an order of magnitude estimate. Even if the DOJ estimate is off by several orders of magnitude, the hypothesis above can be safely rejected.
Some folks like Joe Huffman think that Joan has a mental defect that prevents her from distinguishing truth from falsity. That is possible. However, many otherwise high-functioning individuals hold irrational or non-evidence based beliefs. For example, sometimes professionals or scientists are also creationists.
If the data conflicts with your belief then you only have a few options:
- Change your belief.
- Reject the data for a sound reason. Maybe it is bad data or simply a statistical aberration, for example.
- Reject the data ("there's an evil wizard tricking us") for no observable reason.
- Ignore the data as irrelevant to your faith in your belief.
Now, you might be able to reason with the soft-core supporters or undecided folks. Using evidence and facts might be an effective strategy for some of them. But the hard core zealots? You'll never persuade them with evidence. All you can do is demotivate them so that they give up their activism, attack their credibility so they can no longer mobilize others, and isolate them from both resources and supporters. There's no point in trying to persuade them though. Remember: it is a religion to them. You have as much hope of "converting" Ms. Peterson on this issue as you would of converting Imam Khomeini to Catholocism.
If you live or work on JBER they are worth reviewing. I've heard of people that somehow that it was ok to CCW on base because they had an AK CCW license, or of people who left their firearms in their car while they worked on base. Both are potential federal crimes. Don't do it. Bear spray is probably the best you can do.
Interestingly, it is still against regs for Army personnel to CCW off base. I thought that order got thrown out in 2006. It still applies though, even though criminals both in and outside the military prey on soldiers. Heck, bad soldiers have ignored the rules about firearms on base and killed other soldiers in the barracks. I guess open carry downtown is the only option for Alaskan soldiers.
I compare that to the tenor of the policy at Minot -- which is still not great, but still is better than US Army Alaska's ban on CCW by soldiers off duty.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
My opinion was:
In my opinion, the illegal bait stations were a more egregious crime than killing the wolf. Wolves were open and if Romeo was actually the one that was destroyed (which seems to be still up in the air) it was certainly far too accustomed to people for safety. The only wrongdoing in shooting the wolf was using a .22 rimfire rather than a centerfire, and that regulation is in place to avoid maiming or wounding game. Still, if they acted criminally they should be punished accordingly.Well, justice has been served. The punishment is fairly sizable:
I'm pretty happy with the sentence and it appears that legal procedure was followed, giving the offender his due process. Some might complain about the suspended sentence, but remember, he also forfeited 3 rifles; each of those could easily be worth a grand or more. If he has any sort of run in with the law, that suspended sentence -- waiting coiled like a cobra and ready to strike -- will spring on him with a vengeance.
Park Myers pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking big game by using a rim fire cartridge to take a wolf and unlawful possession of that wolf. The charges stemmed from the same Sept. 22, 2009, incident.
Myers also pleaded guilty to establishing a black bear station to hunt bear using bait or scent lures without an Alaska Department of Fish & Game permit, and two more counts of unlawful possession stemming from May 2009 and May 2010.
Judge Keith Levy sentenced Myers to a total of 330 days in jail, all suspended; $12,500 in fines, $7,500 suspended, for a total of $5,000 due within two years. Myers has additional restitution of $1,100 and must forfeit three rifles and surrender any interest in hides generated in this case. His hunting license is suspended for the duration of his probation.
I still think that the people who felt Romeo the wolf was a cuddly public pet are a little crazy. Then again, the "Friends of Romeo" chapter in Juneau is associated with this organization, apparently. I think that wolves are great wildlife and I like living near them. However, I also think that it can be dangerous for them to live in close proximity to humans AND lose their natural fear of humans. Wolves are not tame pets; they are and should remain wild animals. It is not a bad thing for wolves who are too accustomed to people to be destroyed, and hunting in moderation does an excellent job of persuading wolves to be wary around people.
The APD has a net budget cost of ~$84.5 million. The Anchorage city budget is on the order of $421 million, so the APD is one of the largest chunks out of that budget pie.
Each full time operations division person costs an average of $130,000 after you factor in benefits, equipment, supplies, etc. Thus saving 22 positions is going to cost at least $2,860,000, and possibly more -- much of the driver of the unsustainable costs are "defined benefit" health and pension plans that have unpredictable future costs. For example, in 2010, there was a cool $6 mn "one time" expenditure to the police retirement fund to help make that add up.
So, how do you pay for it?
- RAISE TAXES: Mayor Sullivan has already proposed a hike in the property tax rate ($36 for a $300K property), raising ~$4 million. He could have raised another $11 million by taxing to the maximum allowed cap, increasing taxes by ~$120 more on average Anchorage property owners. Taxing just to get another $4 million for the APD to save those positions would require doubling the proposed tax hike, and that also assumes that the mayor could direct 100% of the tax hike to the APD and that there would be no other costs associated with bringing on new officers. That's probably not likely.
- CUT ELSEWHERE: Where else are you going to cut the city budget? Not counting schools, public safety makes up the biggest individual piece of the budget pie (36% in FY09). The next biggest slice is 26% for Mx and Operations, then 15% for Administration. So you start nickle and diming pretty quickly.
Clearly any cuts to the city budget that DON'T include public safety are unlikely to be substantial enough to cover the shortfall. For example, another visible cut has been to the people mover bus system; people mover only runs on a ~$5 mn budget to start with so you can't slash it by $4 mn to raise cash for the APD without gutting it. Most of the mx and operations costs are pretty fixed; if you start cutting those then there is a predictable and inevitable decay in infrastructure (which is another question; maybe we shouldn't build so many capital projects that have ongoing mx costs...). That means potholes in roads, decaying parks, crumbling libraries.
Even if you break down administration, there aren't too many areas for easy saving. Many of the departments are required by law or politically sensitive. For example, how much support is there for eliminating the Equal Rights Commission and Office of Equal Opportunity? Well, they cost $1 mn... Other administrative functions save money; who do you think is applying for the grant money that gets us more funding from the feds for our APD, or is spearheading the waste/fraud/abuse hunts to try and measure actual costs and returns on investment for city services? If the city were a private charity, admin overhead of 15% would be a good score.
The bottom line is that any serious gap in the budget will obviously immediately draw attention to public safety. You can either make small cuts to public safety, or you have to make massive cuts that gut other programs like eliminating People Mover bus service altogether or cutting the park budget by 25%. That's just the way that the numbers add up in Anchorage.
- DON'T; GET YOUR OWN SECURITY: If Mayor Sullivan taxed to the cap, it would cost $120/year to city residents with average properties. If you are genuinely that worried about personal security, what could that get you over a multi-year span (say, a decade to make the math easy)? I'd argue that either of these give significantly better protection for you as an individual than an extra 4-5 patrol officers on the streets somewhere in Anchorage at any give time (22 divided by three shifts minus time off/holidays).
Personal protection package $1275 (Quality handgun, $500; Multiday training course with AK Tactical, $475 + $200 for ammo; Carry Ammunition, $100).
Property protection package $1200 (Security System for Property: $500 + monitoring fee, better property insurance $60/year)
Also, taxing to the cap doesn't mean that it won't go up again. In fact, I find it highly likely that taxes would be raised again, and again, and again. We all know that oil money is going away as the TAPS output fades so the difference has to be made up somewhere.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Meanwhile, Joan Peterson of Brady Campaign fame posted a link to a domestic abuse situation. In this crime, a "Minneapolis man killed his wife by hitting her with a golf club and then strangling her with an electrical cord. He then methodically drugged his 2 oldest children and killed one by holding his head under water in the bathtub and the other by smothering her with a pillow." No defensive tool, and neither the woman nor the children could resist.
Joan Peterson of the Brady Campaign thinks women are safer without guns. Our local anti-rights activist, Gwen, thinks that only soldiers should be armed. Really? While our local case is a tragedy because it is traumatic to have violence in the family, and while I think it is somewhat likely that the Army's mediocre care of PTSD and other post-deployment issues was a major contributing factor if not the root cause of this chain of events, I think it is better for women to shoot and kill their abusers than to be beaten and strangled before their children are systematically murdered.
Unlike the Brady Campaign, we don't just have emotion-tugging anecdotes, though. Resistance with a firearm is the most effective strategy a woman can follow if assaulted or raped, even more effective and less likely to result in injury or death than passively submitting to the violence. Passing non-discretionary CCW laws (i.e. making it easier to carry handguns) unsurprisingly has a strong negative effect on rape. The broader statistics support our anecdotes.
I don't understand why women like Joan and Gwen want to prevent other women from using the most effective defensive tool they have available to protect themselves from violence.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I expressed my condolences and a sincere hope that her family could enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. I mean, I may disagree with Joan, feel that she has poor rhetorical and logical skills, and generally oppose her political agenda, but that doesn't mean I'm happy that her mom is dying. That's a terrible thing and not something I'd wish on her, political differences aside.
I did point out, in a gently couched phrase, that maybe privacy and discretion might be best, especially at a difficult time. I don't know why you'd want to publically air your family's troubles, honestly. The whole thing reminds me of an older post at Snowflakes about political, personal, and private realms. Families are, in my opinion, personal and/or private affairs -- not public politics. However, invoking your family and your family's experiences as an advocacy effort in a political debate puts them on the table for scrutiny and debate. Sometimes it is just better to keep personal, private affairs... personal and private.
Anyways, that got flushed. Perhaps it would have been better sent as a private email, anyways. Sometimes I think us bloggers can get too cavalier about what we put out there. I try not to involve my personal, private life into this blog -- at least aspects of it I'm not willing to make public! I think that if you are an advocate, anything you put out there can be rightfully examined and picked apart, so don't expose things or people to that scrutiny that you don't want to make part of the debate.
Still, part of me wonders if Joan wants to play the victim -- "Oh, look at the big bad meanie gunnies that harass me and mock my ailing family members!" Posting a considerate, polite comment would not go along with that narrative.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Bangor police officer denied right to vote after refusing to surrender weapon
One of the commenters aptly pointed out that had it been a private citizen (holding a permit, in Maine) carrying, the outcome likely would have been much different.
On one hand, having obviously armed people at polling places reminds me of a Banana Republic sort of situation. Whether it is a group of Black Panthers, angry militia types, or yes, officers of the state, having weapons on display at a polling place can seem especially intimidating. If you pause at my inclusion of the police, how would you feel about voting if there were a half dozen grim-faced white police officers with big dogs standing at the polling place if you were African-American in the deep south during reconstruction? Or if you were voting in New York in the time of "Tammany Hall," where the government was absolutely corrupt and beholden to a partisan political machine? At times, even police can be intimidating and serve partisan -- not public -- interests. Even if the police are honorable, it doesn't exactly inspire faith in democracy to see armed guards at the polls.
On the other hand, I abhor "gun free zones" and think that minimal restrictions should be placed on carrying personal weaponry. Additionally, firearms are a sure method against political violence of larger groups. Since Roman times it has been a time honored tradition to sic mobs on your political opponents or their supporters during "open" elections. Firearms give a minority member a way to immediately deter and if necessary halt such political violence.
This leads me to conclude that absolutely, concealed weapons should be allowed at polling places. Concealed weapons have no chance of intimidating others and confer numerous benefits as far as enhancing public safety, preserving civil liberties, and stopping political violence. While I oppose openly bearing arms -- especially, say, longarms -- I don't necessarily think it should be illegal unless there is an intent and effect of intimidation (yes, this is subjective). It might be in very bad taste to vote with a 1911 strapped to your side or an AR slung over your back -- just as it is in bad taste to show up to certain other events with an openly carried weapon -- but it shouldn't be automatically illegal. It should only be illegal if you cross the line to assault with threatening conduct or demeanor. And while it is a subjective standard, there is always the opportunity to carry concealed.
The other option that immediately comes to mind is the standard "secure, search, and store." That is, the authorities would have an entry control point, secure all personal weapons, search people prior to entry into the facility a la the airport, and then store your weapon while you go vote. Armed security should be on hand. I don't think many people would be fond of taking off their shoes and being groped by poll workers trained at the TSA School of Massage though before casting their ballots.