Friday, January 8, 2016

There Are No Answers, Only Deflection

Try as I might, I cannot get anyone to answer this question.  I've been told its ridiculous, that it will never happen, that it would be impossible, that it would only be possible if the Republicans got a super-majority, etc., etc.

But an answer to the question?  No.  I've tried in twitter, I've tried on blogs about gun control posted by ex-military.  Now I'm trying here.

I want to know.  If the order came down - regardless of the likelihood, regardless of the origin, regardless of the political repercussions, regardless of what sort of government would give such an order, regardless even which fucking country the event happened in - would a military unit come and get your guns if they were LEGALLY entitled to do so?  Or would they balk?


Charles Taylor (Charles Angus) said...

I think that most well organized militaries would carry out that order. I think they'd do terrible things if ordered to do so (not that that's terrible), because they have in the past. When militaries are ordered to round up the (insert ethnic group), they do.

And I think I'd feel OK about getting that order if I was in that military. It's not hurting anyone, and would almost certainly make the country safer. (Also you specified that the military in this case was legally entitled to do so).

Alexis Smolensk said...

Thank you, Charles. That's the first straight answer I've been able to get.

Ozymandias said...

Yes and no.

I'm sorry, Alexis, I'd love to give a more plain and honest answer than that. I feel, however, that the devil's in the details. Given that your question is lacking all the details, I would reject such an order simply because it's unconstitutional. Let me emphasize - given that your question is lacking details, that's my answer.

If you could clarify this hypothetical situation, I think we might get a better answer.

(Naturally, I can only speak for myself...)

Ozymandias said...

I'm sorry, I completely skipped the one detail - that the military was legally allowed to confiscate weapons.

Yes, in that instance, I would follow through with the order.

I think people have a hard time wrapping their heads around the "what-if" scenario. There's likely many reasons for that mental block - not the least of which would be fear. That's probably why you've had such trouble getting any kind of real response.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Take the American example, Ozymandias:

The 2nd Amendment is both confusing in its wording. This wording could be changed through a constitutional challenge or perhaps through clarification by the Supreme Court, if they were willing, which could result in many presently legal practices ending in legality. Secondly, a necessary vote by parties inclined could pass another amendment removing the 2nd amendment, as was done with the 21st Amendment that repealed the 18th Amendment, the prohibition against alcohol.

The circumstances that could lead to either of these actions could conceivably result from tens or hundreds of thousands of people who have lost relatives in mass shootings, convincing millions to support them. It could also be spurred by a mass hysterical reaction to the presence of guns, brought on by a state of terror causing much of the population to live in fear, leading to riots, destruction, widespread vigilante justice and general disorder, forcing a government to react to property loss or fear of social collapse.

I don't understand exactly why this seems so unforeseeable to people. In any case, I am primarily concerned with whether or not gun culture has hit a point in America (in particular, though it might apply to several regions where honor killing is a thing) that the military would actively prefer to topple the government rather than rid the nation of guns.

Alexis Smolensk said...

You got your fix in before I was able to finish answering you, Oz. Only just noticed your second comment now.

I think the difficulty in answering the question is two-fold:

1) from the right, it is a preference to talk about why this would be wrong, wrong, wrong - and why, in detail, it can't happen, should never be allowed to happen, etcetera.

2) from the left, it is a willingness to answer, no, no, no, we're not coming for your guns, no way, no chance, won't happen, we won't let it happen, etcetera.

An excellent example of both sides ignoring (or refusing to address) reality.

Spazalicious Chaos said...

Not in the military, so my opinion is not as valid, but no.

I can not remember who first noted the distinction, but I remember a historian who stated the the sole thing differentiating citizens and serfs is the right to own weapons. Men and women who cannot legally own guns have no rights. Paper may say they do, but paper can and often is rewritten by those who are armed.

Because I know this, and because I understand what people can do to those who cannot defend themselves, I would get shot. Whether it happened as I got caught refusing or sometime later after being on trial for treason is just a matter of luck.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Classic deflection, Spaz. In no way addresses the question. Complete representation of one person's political viewpoint based on a straw man argument (". . . sole thing differentiating citizens and serfs is the right to own weapons"), attributed to a historian who cannot be checked (no name given), whose imaginary opinion is just that, not based on fact.

Serfs had weapons. Often used them in history. Still were serfs.

I don't own a gun. I have lots of rights. Having a gun in my house would not change my present measure of rights. Rights are granted by law and law is granted by general consensus. Guns = rights = null program.

If government takes away my rights, drives me to disagree with government enough to use gun, don't need law saying I'm permitted to use gun to provide myself with excuse. Many gun users right now using guns in non-citizen ways. Would rather these 'citizens' were non-gun-toting serfs.

Typical nonsensical gun rhetoric intended to appeal to emotions and fear to establish nonexistent credibility. Not moved personally. My fear comes from REAL use of ownership to kill citizens, not from FANTASY that government will exploit my lack of ownership.

Issara Booncharoen said...

The question isn't quite as Charles stated, is the army willing to do terrible things if ordered to? (Again not that confiscating guns is a terrible thing in my mind, but it would no doubt be seen as a terrible thing by some US soldiers)
The question would be, is the army willing to do terrible things to its own people if ordered to?

The only example I can think of where this is true and the government and the people aren't in active antagonism is the expulsion of Israeli settlers from some of the settlements. Using that example I would say that an army asked to confiscate the arms of its country would do it, even if everyone involved in the process was reluctant to do it for their own political reasons.

Now if I were an individual soldier who believed that the confiscation was wrong? I'd do it, I;m led to understand that soldiers nowadays, while trained to think and act independently are still trained to strictly stick to the command structure and do what they're told. I imagine we civilians would normally overestimate our ability to overcome that training in situations like this.

kimbo said...

From an Australian's perspective,
If in police or military and ordered to enforce a law to disarm citizens, yes i would do it, even by force if required. And i think Aust military/police would do it also. This is what democracy and laws are about and this is their job.

I'm not a nut of the anti- or pro- gun variety. I grew up around guns, and though not a gun owner at present, i would own some if i had a farm. i think safe gun use and seeing the impact of a firearm is an important part of human education. They are a tool that can be dangerous and fun. But equally, widespread gun ownership in an urban area is just a bad idea. Just look at indiscriminate car ownership its high toll on life and limb.


Matt said...

I'm not in the military.

I am in the banking industry. Often I deal with clients who through fault or circumstance have been charged fees for things like Overdrawing their account. Now, I don't have to physically march in to take that money from those people, in fact, I rarely have to see them face to face, but I am often the person saying that "No, no exception will be made for you. I cannot refund that fee."

Even if those people are poor. Even if those people have lost someone close to them. Even if they are going through a messy divorce or have lost their job. What is worse is that the fee is significant, and charged per overdrawing transaction. A customer can start to spiral and lose so much money in fees they are bound to overdraw again next month. If these people are older, have physical or mental-health issues, or are just financially uneducated they may end up spending hundreds of dollars each month just to keep their money in an institution that is bleeding hundreds of dollars from them each month.

I personally find that practice detestable, but I participate in the system. I do not subvert the system, or refund fees to people I think "have it hard". This is my job. I get paid to do it. I perform the duties expected of me.

If a client does seem polite, and does seem in trouble, I may coach them as to alternate options. Payment plans, account closings, etc. I may even help them appeal to someone with more authority to refund fees. If a client is shitty to me, I don't stick my neck out for them. I even generally take some small satisfaction in the fact that someone who is being shitty to me personally is being financially punished for "being a shitty person."

So, back to the point. If I was in the military, and it was my duty, and the thing I was getting paid for, to legally confiscate guns from citizens, I would absolutely do it. If I was met by enthusiasts and hobbyists who were polite and compliant I would likely advise them on whatever loopholes, licenses, or exceptions they may be able to apply for. If they met me behind barricades with weapons pointed at me I would preserve my life and my job by using the amount of force authorized to take their weapons. I would also probably take an amount of personal satisfaction in injuring some asshole and taking his stupid, deadly toy.

Tim Olson said...

Yes, I would have followed the order. I would not have liked it, but I would have liked Ft. Leavenworth less.

Jeremiah Scott said...

I was in the military and, no, I would not have obeyed that order.

I was on a ballistic missile submarine and me and my shipmates often debated whether we'd comply with the order to launch nuclear weapons if given. I probably would not.

I guess I was not a good service member.

Alexis Smolensk said...

As a reminder, Jeremiah - the opening scene of WarGames from 1983 depicted two personnel who refused to launch a nuclear missile during a supposedly real scenario. The failure of these people was used - in the film - as the excuse for creating an auto-system for firing the missiles.

The scenario is one that was discussed continuously throughout the late 1970s - I remember it coming up in one high school course, years before the release of the film above, telling various stories of persons who failed exercises for being too human. You might compare it to quite a lot of studies that argue most soldiers, even in a fire fight, expend their bullets into the air because they cannot bring themselves to shoot at anyone. So your feelings about that, Jeremiah, only say that you're not alone.

Scarbrow said...

Short version: I would. Duty bound, having orders, etc. Any soldier worth his name and his training would. A soldier refusing to carry forth a valid, direct order has a name: sedition. I know that, and I'm not even a soldier. One would think that years of training should make that process, if something, more automatic.

The only place it *might* be a problem, that I know of? USA. And even then, I would certainly expect the most trained, equipped, etc. army in the world would be able to effortlessly match a bunch of its citizens, no matter how crazily over-armed were they. Political backslash? You bet. However, could any amount of political backslash cause gun nuts to have even more guns that thay currently have?

Zrog (ESR) said...

For the elected body to actually implement such an order, there would have to be enough pressure / sentiment from the people that the government would feel that they could successfully implement such a program. No elected party would consider it if they thought they'd never win an election ever again!

One facet of the situation that hasn't been presented is that IF this were implemented, you, the hypothetical military person, would be ordered by the high command, given several reasons why what you were doing was a good thing, was necessary, was decided upon by your elected leaders, and your job was to help carry out a lawful order that would protect the people. Arguments would be presented to you in a very convincing fashion, it would probably be supported by the media, and you probably wouldn't think about it too much until you were faced by someone you could relate to, who refused to give up their arms. Until that point, I suspect that MOST military would simply obey.

Given that MOST citizens wouldn't resist when confronted by a squad of armed military personnel, I think that successful repetition of the gun-removal activity would "prove" to most military personnel that what they were doing was largely acceptable (or reluctantly accepted), and when they encountered someone who resisted, that person would suddenly become an enemy: "someone unstable who hated government", because it would be so unusual. Military personnel would also react strongly, as trained, to opposition and/or threat of violence, and I suspect that military training would take over in that circumstance, and the aftermath would further deter resistance by those few who thought that maybe someone would make an exception in their case.

Furthermore, If you were in the military, and you chose not to obey an order, you would no longer BE in the military, and your job would be given to someone with the integrity to do what you swore you would do, which, as someone pointed out, is to obey the chain of command. It is likely, given that there was enough political support for the government to implement such a program, that if you disagreed that it would mean you'd probably be in the minority, and your squad-mates probably wouldn't support your disobedience, and you would simply get discharged.

Even in "free countries", this is the way the military works, and has to work. Sure, you can DECIDE not to do something you're ordered to do, but the system then eats you up and spits you out.

Alexis - the problem with this hypothetical question is that Americans aren't in this frame of mind yet, and may never be. The gun-removal solution you're proposing to the problem of "easily accessible lethal weaponry that's causing needless deaths" isn't the problem as most gun-toting Americans see it. Violence is currently attributed to "terrorists, extremists, criminals and the unstable", which the common man must "defend himself against", and also the "ability to protect his rights and freedoms" from all comers. The connection that maybe that deaths are the result of the availability of lethal weapons isn't perceived as the root cause, despite many scary statistics on gun deaths in the US, and the fact that the stats are much lower in countries without prevalent gun ownership.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Excellent points all, Zrog. You understand that getting this sort of answer is the reason I propose these questions in the first place.

Regarding your last paragraph - you're absolutely right, Americans are not in this frame of mind. I disagree with the statement that they may never be. Every shooting, as I've argued before, creates a small, highly incited group of anti-gun or anti-purchase freedom advocates: parents, spouses, siblings and children, particularly the latter, who must now carry the knowledge that mom or dad were randomly executed in a theater when they, the children, were 3, 7, 13, etc, and who now watch the television every other week where other parents are systematically executed below a government that just doesn't care.

Since the executions aren't going to stop, that collection of incited persons is going to grow. This is mathematics, not conjecture. Just as the holocaust and other persecution created the mindset that is the present Jewish perspective that manifests as Isreal, American children are witnessing their own form of holocaust that will produce its own form of hysterical response.

Hysterical responses are absolutist, inflexible, implacable and especially terrifying because they sound REASONABLE. Today violence in America is attributed to terrorists and the like because that is the mainstream media's message, applying only in the financial-framework that owns and operates the media. When "terrorist" applies in the minds of children-come-adults as anyone who has a gun, wants a gun, perceives a gun as harmless, believes that possession is a right, because all those things are balanced by "My father is dead", then "protection of rights" is subverted by an screaming demand for total abstinence.

And that's where you really hit on the bone, Zrog. Excellent there, you snatched the scales from my eyes. Many of those future military soldiers getting the guns are going to be part of that hysterical cadre.

James Clark said...

Maybe. Is that deflection? My experience having been in the US military is that it was made up of a pretty decent cross-section of the population. People with thoughts, ideas, prejudices, fears, ideals and beliefs of their own beyond their training. You can't reasonably take the context of how, when and why the order was given out of this discussion. At the end of the day it depends on how the people following the order feel about it.

If the US government were to enact legislation that made such an act legal in the current political climate, I predict the following:

1. most gun owners would comply with it.
2. holdouts would be disproportionately represented by people who would self-identify as militias.
3. assuming the military and not law enforcement is even involved in this domestic issue, some soldiers would not follow out the order, resulting in judicial and non-judicial punishment for them. In the beginning, whether this makes it impossible for the units as a whole to carry out orders is debatable. I'd predict it does not at first, but eventually will.
4. There would be highly-publicized armed stand-offs(Waco, any one?), inflaming emotions on both sides
5. In the end, the people wanting to keep their guns would win out because they'd be willing to kill and die over it while the people coming to disarm them would not be so willing.

James Clark said...

I should add "criminals" to number 2. I was really only considering people who could be considered "law-abiding" up until this point.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I draw your attention, James, to the amount of surplus military equipment purchased by municipal entities in recent years. I won't draw a conclusion, one way or the other, but there are a lot of heavy armaments out there.

James Clark said...

Please draw a conclusion as I'm not sure what relevance that has to your originally posed question. Are you confusing soldiers and cops or are you saying they're already confused? Are the cops coming for the guns or the soldiers in your scenario? Some cops are vets, too, but the training and role are still very different.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The image above includes the question, "How would that make you feel?"

Here's a survey of police officers regarding gun control.

People above have argued mostly that training would determine the military's response. You made a reference to cops, James. Are we confident about police training at this time? Are we certain that the future "Waco" won't organize itself around some Texas or Missouri county sheriff (as a random example) or town? Is "Waco" a large enough example of potential resistance?

Given the purchase of heavy military equipment by small communities who probably will never have good reason to use it, are we certain it has not been gathered for the day when the American government changes its mind about the 2nd Amendment? This has been a constant, daily talking point threatened by Republicans candidates vying for the presidency.

James Clark said...

So you're saying the armaments are in the hands of the local municipal authorities who are actively resisting with violence or the threat of violence the federal government in its bid to confiscate guns, using, I assume, the army? Cops vs. soldiers instead of cops as soldiers? Do I have that right? I'm not buying any of it, but I'll play along. I think in this case you have a country on the verge of another civil war; a country with enough nuclear bombs to blow the world to hell many times over and that's pretty scary shit. The issue won't be conscientious objecting in the army, it'll be which army does one join?

Thankfully, the whole scenario is also a little nutty and alarmist. One of us is out of touch with everyday life in America. I won't draw any conclusions, I just hope it's not me.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I'm not 'saying' one thing or another. The tools are there. I'm asking questions.

I have been told several times in several different forums now that the whole scenario is nutty and alarmist. If this is the case, then why do so many Americans believe they should vote for Donald Trump or for other Republicans in order to protect their guns? Why are so many people particularly afraid that the Democrats have this intention? Why is it that when the matter of guns used to kill people quickly devolves into an argument about the individual rights of people who have not committed any crimes vs. the fear of people who haven't committed crimes YET? Why is the dialogue Bang Bang Crazy? Why do people call for more guns and bigger guns? Why do people identify gun ownership as something quintessentially American? Why is every proposed law to stop the death of kids seen only in terms of people's personal freedom, people who don't attend school or even live in the same state as the proposed legislation? Why does Congress seem to think gun sales are more important than safety? Why is the NRA such an important entity in American politics? Why is there a mass shooting happening every few weeks in America when it happens nowhere else?

Why is it that the debate itself always boils down to 'someone' being out of touch with a large, amorphous, highly populated and complex entity that, fundamentally, no one can ever really be in touch with?

These are all questions that show that no prediction of the eventual outcome can be 'nutty' or 'alarmist.' A not-inconsiderate dump of private documents on the internet created the Arab Spring, toppled several America-friendly governments, initiated the deaths of four ambassadors in Libya, cemented the hard-line position of Syria, giving an opportunity for the Russians to become more involved in the Middle East, promoted the clout of one measly terrorist group from among hundreds of other terrorist groups and now the constant crying out against the group is seen as the strongest pin in Trump's run for the White House.

I don't think we can safely dismiss anything.

Anyway, I'm just an informed fellow asking questions. Feel whatever you feel, James. I'm not taking a position against you.

Alexis Smolensk said...

"Where it happens no where else" should include the phrase, "in anything like the same time period." There's a big grammatical mistake in the above, too.

While we're on the subject of mass shootings in other countries, I'd also like to know this:

Are there shooters that turn up in dangerous 3rd world places like Zaire or Colombia without political agendas who just seek to kill co-workers, university students or kids? Hm. There was that case in northern Nigeria. Anybody know any others?

James Clark said...

I'm just as depressed and upset over Trump and mass killings as the next sane and compassionate human. I still have faith America will not elect a crazy person, though. I think that rules out any of the Republican candidates if you can take what they say at face value. If not, I need you to calm down and regain your senses. Fleeing to Canada is part of my escape plan should the crazies take over down here, I can't have you guys going all nutty the other way on me. ;-)

At the end of the day we are mostly reasonable people. Reasonable people don't make news copy, though. It's election time, things get crazy. Republican candidates are running their grandmothers over rushing to the right in order to win a nomination and lose an election to what I pray is still a sane constituency. How's this for perspective, Obama and the NRA actually found significant common ground on his executive order. Ignore the NRA's rhetoric, instead look at the things they have said they'd support and what the president called for. It's nothing new.

I don't think local cops have bought armored personnel carriers to defend the rights to keep guns. I think they have them because in the wake of 9-11 a newly formed federal government entity, the Dept. of Homeland Security, was formed and it was flush with cash in unprecedented ways. You have one fiscal year to spend or at least commit your budget here, and if you don't spend it the odds of getting the same amount next year are slim. So you spend. When you are a brand new organization, still forming up, with more money than everybody except maybe the DoD and DoE, you make some mistakes. Lots of them. One early program provided local municiplaities with grant money to beef up infrastructure in the name of Homeland Security. What did that mean? Who knew, but there was cash to be had. Responsible local governments may have bought some marine rescue boats or beefed up their comms infrastructure. Others bought toys to go four-wheeling in. I don't think any of them are planning revolution.

Everybody. Calm. Down. It'll be over in 11 months. :-)

Alexis Smolensk said...

I actually don't think I'm anything but calm, James. I don't have to worry I'm going to be shot if I go see a movie tonight.

I'm rather enjoying the American election. I'm watching the self-destruction of the republican party and high time, too. I don't think there is any chance the dems won't win and I am completely happy with either President Hillary or President Bernie. I like them both. I feel they should be elected as co-Consuls.

You often mistake my passion for hysteria, James. In no way am I feeling the least bit hysterical. Others are, however - and that old saw about "everyone calm down, it will be over with the election" ended when the republican party decided to go to war against Clinton in 1992.

It is always election season in America. It is always combat time. It took Obama 6 years to figure that out. One thing about Hillary, she will have no qualms whatsoever about kicking the Republicans in the teeth as often as necessary. If there is a democrat in the world that has more reason to hate neo-cons, I don't know that person's name.

Jeremiah Scott said...

Without discussing much the reasons I would refuse to participate in a gun grab (mostly, I'm a strict voluntaryist and somewhat of a pacifist--I'm not even sure I would join the military, had I the chance to do it all again) and without getting into an argument framed on tribalism (in my opinion, there is no dumber debate than R vs D), can we at least acknowledge the ACTUAL risk of being shot in a movie theater? The murder rate per capita in the U.S. has been on a precipitous decline for decades and is now 56% lower than in 1980. Consider that there were fewer homicides--to include those inflicted in mass shootings--in the U.S. last year than in 1970 (and WAY fewer than in 1980 or 90), DESPITE the population having increased by over 100,000,000 since that time? Not to mention the fact that the reporting on mass shootings is incredibly overblown. While still tragic, most of the reported "mass shootings" are actually gang violence and not the types of crimes that most people picture when you say mass shooting.

I am not callous toward tragedy. Violence churns my stomach like nothing else. But, despite the congenial tone, it seems to me any time the danger of being shot in a movie theater is seriously invoked that some level of hysteria cannot be denied. I recognize the risks are not mutually exclusive, but it seems to me that, if we truly value keeping our flesh intact, we'd be spending a lot more of our energy talking about how to get our cars piloted by computers than how to get rid of guns. Not only would that be of MUCH (by several orders of magnitude) greater value to our safety, it would also allow us to squeeze in a game session en route to our destination (as you've pointed out!).

Alexis Smolensk said...


This, too, is a deflection - but it's the same one James was promoting so there's no reason not to let you get your swipes in.

I favor a particular political point of view, so I'm "tribal." The murder rate isn't just declining, it's "precipitously" declining (how quickly do the numbers need to drop before they become so described?). Mass shootings are both "tragic" and "overblown." Making an observation about movie theaters shot up in Canada versus those in the States is counted as a "joke" (it wasn't) that is simultaneously "hysterical" in tone.

These tactics are intended not only to minimize the issue but also to minimize discussion of the issue. Why are we even talking about this? Less people died this year than last year, so what the hell? Less people will die next year. Let's talk about something else.

Try as you might, this discussion is not going away. It just isn't. You can't theorize your way out of it, you can't logic your way out, you can't statistic your way out. Next year, ONE PERSON in America will die in some very stupid way from a firearm that could have been controlled. That person may not be your wife, your father, your son. But it will be someone's. Call me hysterical for choosing to point this out. I am nowhere near as hysterical as a man who has lost his son.

One person will die. Whatever you say, that's enough people to make this discussion worthwhile.

Jeremiah Scott said...

I knew it was a deflection. But, as I felt I had already answered the question honestly, I thought I might get away with it.

I've violated probably 3 of the 4 rules and--as I have great respect for your blog--I won't be upset should I be censored. I have the urge to address your rebuttal point-by-point, but I don't want to violate the rules any more egregiously than I already have and I am content for you to dismiss me as a loon and move on. I'm used to it.

But there are two things I'd like to say and if they get me censored, so be it.

An argument that eschews statistics and relies on the "even one" canard and emotional appeal has lost all sense of objectivity and proportion. The statistics are what they are, and I can see no rational reason why they shouldn't be considered. I am suspicious of the motives of anyone--politician, plebe, or pundit--who claims the sky is falling when the weather is actually improving (and my suspicions extend FAR beyond the issue of gun control).

As for me, my conscience forbids me participation in such a venture before we even reach the discussion of statutory efficacy. I do not subscribe to collective guilt or responsibility. Not one person would be made safer because armed men in costumes came and confiscated my firearms (if I owned any--I don't). And I refuse to take upon myself the authority to violently seize my neighbor's property just because I rounded up enough of my buddies to constitute a state and decided that she owns something I think she shouldn't. Authoritarianism is just not for me. And, frankly, if some of the people in this thread are the ones deciding what I should and shouldn't own, then I'd rather hang on to my weapons. Because their enthusiasm for violence in the hypothetical, simply because they donned a costume and swore an oath, is as terrifying to me as any wild murderer.

Scarbrow said...

So long as this discussion is contained in this post, I may even chime again.

Let me first refer Cyanide and Happiness.

Now, after this little bit of good-hearted mockery, a little bit of background. I'm from Spain. Legal gun owners here are just hunters, police officers and the military. Hunters are subjected to extensive background and psychological checkouts before they are allowed to have a license for a single type of gun (which must be, by law, made permanently unusable after the end of the license). The cops have their bullets counted (so little or no malfeasance here), and their guns returned after the end of their career. The soldiers do not carry weapons around unless on maneuvers, on a mission, or as special enforcement when terrorist alert levels are high. May I remind you, we Spaniards had our very own terrorist group until a few years ago, plus we also had our very publicized share of Islamic terrorism. What I mean is, we actually have had some reasons to worry about violence.

Yet Spanish society is almost entirely unarmed, at least when it comes to firearms. The state has the happy monopoly of violence. Even most criminals prefer to not involve themselves with contraband of guns, since it carries both heavier penalties if they are found, and if they should use them. When a lowly thief mugs you (if they bother with trying to menace you, which is, very few times because it's actually more profitable for them to pickpocket, and the mere fact of a menace carries with it threat of jailtime) they will use a knife. If a thief were to simply show a gun, not to mention use it, thing would get very serious, very fast, both in police response and in judicial significance. This means, for the most part, peace. Only gangsters, drug cartels and such bother with so many related problems. And that's, for the most part, because getting your hands on a gun is so frikkin' difficult. You either have to bribe or rob a legal huntsman (and even then, you better take good care on filing off all manners of serial numbers and safeguards that allow guns to be traced back to their owner) or even more difficult, a cop. Or turn to the black market entirely, of course, with the added complexity and cost. And all of this, just to ask for trouble. Mass shootings in Spain? Do not make me laugh. We do have our fair share of problems, but that, thankfully, is not among them.

But no matter how much do you speak about it, it's just, in the broader meaning of the term, a different country. Gun ownership and use, "bang bang crazy" thinking, is a quintessential American feature. Ask around here, anyone they will think Americans are a crazy lot, and their politicians, extremely irresponsible not to pass law after law limiting gun use. Ask at the other side, and it comes a question of in-group thinking. "We are this way", they'll say. And it ends at "from my cold dead hands" territory. Still, even if there is just us foreigners who do it, somebody has to say it, still. If only because we may help to set the default.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I don't know if I'm moderating any comments on this post, Jeremiah. I'm certainly willing to let a long time reader go at me, if that's the motivation.

Labeling a position a "canard" is not an argument. Labeling blog moderation "censorship" is a long-debunked internet issue and fools no one. Moderation is not censorship; it is a responsible site-holder ensuring that the discussion remains meaningful and emotionally moderate.

Please realize that the subject cannot be made objective or proportional. It isn't. There are some human issues - death, health, sexuality, treatment of children, self-respect - that can't be made objective without promoting the exact sort of authoritarianism you say is not for you. Authoritarianism always begins where some human group or entity is made into a convenient object for selective abuse.

There are many instances under the law in which property is appropriately and legally seized on a regular, daily basis, with an understanding that it promotes the general welfare: automobiles, for one, which are routinely seized or denied use of to persons who cannot act safely in accordance with laws of safety that we set up, largely in the last forty years. A car in the wrong hands can result in someone's death. We don't wait for the car owner to actually kill someone with a car before we seize the car or deny the owner the use of it. We arrest the owner when he's drunk, BEFORE someone dies.

People have argued that guns need this same approach. They are routinely shouted down by persons claiming "authoritarianism," "objectivity," "proportion" and "legal property." These arguments are fallacious and do not hold up when looked at in terms of other principles of legal safety, from building standards to parenting.

The law is not a costume. An oath is not a light thing. And as I said before, I have a greater fear of an irresponsible gun owner (or one that hasn't been regulated) than I have about the fantasy of government autocracy.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I am thinking of Spanish films, particularly Pedro Almodovar.

Is there a more macho country in the world than Spain?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Jeremiah, let me hammer that last point home.

If the state can legally take away your children if you cannot prove yourself responsible, they should be legally able to take away your guns.

Scarbrow said...

More macho? Try just about anywhere in South America. Or Mexico. Or Afghanistan. Or just anywhere. Might be that you're speaking with somebody who takes great pride in rationality before macho. Almodovar notwithstanding :)

Anyway, IMHO, being macho is all about asserting your power through violence of some sort. It might be just a display of strength, or outright aggression. Thus, it belongs to less civilized states of being than I want myself to be, and to live in. Tangentially relevant to the matter at hand, by the way. Any place where you still regularly encounter the tribal "honor" concept is sure to be more macho (and more retrograde/less civilized, and -not by chance- overall poorer). That's one of the reasons it's so shocking to find that way of thinking at the heart of the country which is supposedly at the front of the world's social progress.

However, in the extreme that I should challenge somebody to a duel, surely I hope it to be at swordpoint with these pals of mine :)

Jeremiah Scott said...

I didn't mean censorship as a pejorative. I only meant it under the guise of appropriate blog moderation. (I couldn't think of a more suitable term--rejection, perhaps?)

I didn't intend costume to be taken metaphorically, but literally: the uniforms armed people don to help justify their authority over others. And, while I take oaths seriously, I nevertheless shudder when enthusiasm is expressed at violence, even when it is justified as required by an oath.

I appreciate your opinion--particularly its foundation in compassion--and the brief lesson on civics. But I think there's been a misunderstanding, so here's where I put my brand of crazy on full display. My argument isn't legal in nature, but epistemological. I'm not arguing the state doesn't (or couldn't achieve) the legal authority to seize firearms. I'm arguing the state is an illegitimate construct in the first place. And no person has authority over another except in defense (which is never a priori) against aggression--physical or otherwise.

Of course, as a matter of practicality, I don't expect the abolition of government will ever occur. But it is the philosophy in which all of my political views find their root.

Alexis Smolensk said...

No offense intended.

The gun culture is strongest in America in those places that most resemble (in appearance and outlook) Caceras, Badajoz, Soria or Teruel. The backward places you reference. The "heartland" of America, unlike most nations, is not associated with the center of learning, the arts, even the driver of the economy.

You and I will duel, Scarbrow, when we meet. Sherry glasses at three paces.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ah, in that case Jeremiah, I fall back on Cartesianism. I have no evidence that either of us exist.

I do wish we could have extended discussions like this on the subject of gaming.

Scarbrow said...

No offense taken. And sherry duel accepted. You always surprise me when you display knowledge of local features of my place. And I shouldn't, given your encyclopedic knowledge of the world.

BTW, I don't know how's your Spanish (or if a subtitled version has been made available) but if you haven't, you should check out Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

Jeremiah Scott said...

Sounds fascinating! The topic of a future post, perhaps?

Alexis Smolensk said...

My talent for other languages than English is just about zero. For two years I've been banging my head against German on Duolingo, wanting to do nothing more than be able to read or follow it when spoken.

I once took a lot of Latin for university. For a time I could read the sense of things in Spanish, French, Italian. That gift was lost.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Oh, and thank you for the link. I'll see if there's a subtitled version somewhere in the world. I love Pedro Almodovar - High Heels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Kika . . . The Skin I Live In was an incredible presentation of genius, sadly overlooked on this side of the pond. Not a film I generally recommend - disturbs people.

But there is a gun in it, so I suppose it vaguely fits the subject heading.

Jeremiah Scott said...

I have to second the praise for The Skin I Live In. It was disturbing and excellent.

Scarbrow said...

Violence has no need to be enthusiastic. It only has to be effective, needed, and (ideally) proportional and well-directed. I used to consider myself a Pacifist, until I realized that I find that sometimes violence is justified. The full explanation, for me, was Jim Wright's (Stonekettle Station). I cannot find the actual words now, but you can get the gist by reading, for example, Consequences, Dominos (specially the "I'm no pacifist" phrase), and (way more related to the current topic), Bang bang sanity. Also, I like the phrase "The Only Defense Against Evil, Violent People is Good People Who Are More Skilled at Violence" (and keep in mind my previous comments before assigning motives based on the previous citation).

You can certainly find some guns (and assorted weaponry, not always intended-as-such) on the linked movie.

Back to the topic of the blog, having these extended discussions on any subject requires that the involved people feed somehow authoritative on the discussed subject. About gaming, I find really hard to argue any point authoritatively against you. You're much my senior and my master for that. From time to time, I'm able to further a question that I find relevant, pertinent and that you haven't already covered. These occasions are rare. I still keep trying :)

Alexis Smolensk said...

I swear, Scarbrow, I don't know what to say when you say things like that. I guess . . . thank you.

You're quite right. Everyone does feel authoritative about guns.

Issara Booncharoen said...

A little late for the discussion but there's a few things that caught my interest. First, Alexis' point about the growing group of people who have been victims of gun violence and the idea that these experiences will make them anti-gun. I don't see how being on the sharp end of gun violence necessarily leads to one conclusion about why that violence occurred more than another. In fact I would say that having been a victim of gun violence would more likely focus people on the individual case they were harmed by (where it is easier to place the blame on factors other than guns, such as the identity and mental state of the perpetrator) rather than gain a wider statistical view of the situation. Similarly I imagine that having been in a situation where they were shot at and survived might in fact encourage people to arm themselves. This is of course pure conjecture as I haven't been a victim of gun crime, the point is rather that it doesn't necessarily follow that being harmed by a gun happy society doesn't necessarily lead to wishing to remove guns from that society.

Jeremiah's comment about talking about the sky falling in when the weather is improving put me in mind of another analogy. There exist countries where people die from preventable diseases, in most cases the number of people dying from preventable diseases is falling, I very much wish that the number of people dying from preventable diseases was zero. I would also argue that we should do every thing we can to make sure that the rate of people dying from preventable diseases decreases even more dramatically. I encourage people to look at countries where the number of people dying from preventable diseases is negligible to see if any lessons or policies from those places could be applied in those countries where people still died of preventable diseases. I hope those statements make sense, I believe they still make sense if you replace every instance of "preventable diseases" with "being shot". Just because the weather is improving doesn't mean it's sunny.

Lastly, it occurred to me while reading the comments that there is a historical precedent for what Alexis asked about that is so obvious I feel like I'm being stupid and missing something by bringing it up. The last time the US government forcibly deprived people of their property and their rights surrounding that property was after a particular long and bloody war. There's some important things worth noting about that war. First, it did not begin because the federal government attempted to take the property away from those people who rebelled, in my understanding it began because of secession caused by fear that laws would be passed depriving people of their property. The context of secession muddies individual motivations for fighting so it's impossible to say how many people fought for or against slavery but it does provided an historical example of how far groups of people were willing to go in order to maintain their property and rights and how far others were willing to go in order to deprive them of said property and rights. It also offers a pessimistic argument against gradual changes in law towards more gun control which just doesn't suit the desires of the most vocal on each side of the debate.

Johnathan said...

i seem to be a bit late to the party, but i'll weigh in anyway.
combat veteran with the US army, not a part of any political party.
in my experience, most of the soldiers that i served with strongly supported the 2nd amendment as being necessary for a free country. it was also drilled into our heads from training until the day that i left that, while following orders without hesitation is necessary, doing the right and moral thing trumps any order that can be given.
the average foot soldier would protest this order, but ultimately would follow it (unless directed to attack a civilian to confiscate a firearm). however, the commander would do everything in his power to follow the order while NOT following the order, if you get my meaning. if directed to go house to house, there would end up being a lot of houses with "no firearms found in the residence".

Alexis Smolensk said...

Such commanders would not last long, Johnathan.

One thing about gun owners - they want to fire their weapons. It wouldn't be long before an owner was caught with a weapon within days of some commander declaring "no firearms found" - ending in that commander being stripped of command or worse.

I believe that self-interest would ensure that most commanders did not take that risk. Those that did would be steadily culled from the service.