Our love for gun play grows as our trust in ourself wanes. Logical, mad, sad.

Summary:  Polls are our mirrors in which we see who we are and how we’re changing. The new Pew Poll showing our increased trust in gun-play reflects several obvious but grim trends in America. Let’s examine them. Always stare at the news; never ask for the blindfold. {This is the second of today’s posts}

“Well in the first place, an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization.”

— From Beyond this Horizon, a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein (1942). Fun fiction, although quite false.

Americans trust in themselves
The saddest of graphs, from Gallup

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As you see in this graph, each year we have less confidence in ourselves, collectively. So, quite logically, we have less confidence in the officials we elect to run America. That makes us weak (we have power only when acting together), and strengthens those people with the resources and confidence to rule America. Worse, we are losing our ability to clearly see the world — and become more credulous in accepting things told to us by people we trust. This makes us easy to manipulate.

PEW poll on guns

Nowhere is this clearer than with gun rights. We have gone from several generations of moderate regulation to allowing widespread concealed carry to increasing agitation for open carry (something forbidden in most towns in the Wild West). It’s logical, in a mad way, that we’d turn to personal weapons for a sense of control and security (unraveling several centuries of social progress).

The reason we tell ourselves for this confidence in guns range from false to delusional, while the astonishing toll in blood astonishes people in other developed nations (subscribe to Robert Waldman on Twitter for horrific real time reports: @KagroX).

The latest Pew Poll about Americans attitudes about guns makes grim reading. Support for gun regulation has dropped significantly among most groups during the past ten years. Among Black Americans, the group suffering the most from gun violence, belief that guns protect them from crime almost doubled in two years (29% to 54%). It’s “the hair of the dog that bites” them; massive evidence proves this false. See the posts at the end for detailed debunking of the major myths about guns.

This reaching for guns oddly accompanies a long-term decline in the crime rate. The hysteria about 9-11 and Benghazi matches contrasts with our far larger annual death toll from mass shootings.

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On the other hand, our increasing love of guns matches our militarized foreign policy (DoD dwarfs the State Department; the number of our active “battlefields” grows steadily) and militarized police. Perhaps we have become a barbaric violent people, evolving in the opposite direction of other developed nations.

PEW polls of  guns

It’s too soon for the consequences of more guns publicly carried to appear. We can only guess from history; it won’t be pretty. Also, this will create a demand for paramilitary groups. The arrival of the Oath Keepers as vigilante snipers on the rooftops of Ferguson is a harbinger of violence to come. That they were applauded by many people shows that we’ve gone quite mad (no surprise for a people that learns about life and history from Hollywood).

Our esteem for easily carried killing machines is one effect of our falling social cohesion; others will emerge slowly, probably many, varied, and painful.

Two articles with news about guns

(a) Did Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Increase Firearm Homicides?“, Eric Voeten (Assoc Prof Justice, Georgetown U), The Monkey Cage, 17 July 2013 — Conclusion:

So, compared to a group of states that had similar homicide rates prior to 2005 {when the law was signed}, Florida’s homicide rate shot up unusually after 2005 (and in a way that cannot easily be accounted for by observed variables).

(b) On the Decriminalization of Private Violence“, Andrew Kydd (Assoc Prof U WI-Madison), 18 July 2013 — Excerpt:

The United States is now embarked on an unprecedented experiment, in that it is a strong state, fully capable of suppressing private violence, but it is increasingly choosing not to. Freely elected state legislatures are enacting laws to encourage people to own and carry guns. New ‘stand your ground’ and self-defense provisions are being passed and interpreted to make it much easier to kill someone without legal penalty. It is now possible to arm oneself, pursue a stranger in a public place, engage in a confrontation with that person, and then if they throw a punch, possibly in response to one’s own, to shoot them dead with impunity as far as the state is concerned.

By encouraging private armament and weakening the penalties for private violence, the US is entering new territory, as a strong state that no longer chooses to prevent private bloodshed.

An implication of this process that has so far been underappreciated is that as private violence becomes more widespread, it will become increasingly organized, if still on private lines. Fantasists of the libertarian right and the anarchist left alike are prey to the same delusion, that is, that the absence of the state will lead to a paradise for individuals. In fact the absence of the state leads to the tyranny of smaller scale private organizations and the disempowerment of the individual.

"Gunslinger" by alan42
Fun fantasy: “Gunslinger” by alan42

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For More Information

(a)  Click here for a list of mass shootings since 1982.

(b)  About the quiet coup now running in America

(c)  Other posts about guns in America:

  1. The Founders talk to us about guns for a well-regulated militia, 24 July 2012
  2. Another mass killing in America. Watch the reactions on the Right., 17 December 2012
  3. “The right to shoot tyrants, not deer”, 11 January 2013
  4. But Hitler confiscated guns, leaving Germans helpless!, 11 January 2013
  5. Guns do not make us safer. Why is this not obvious?, 14 January 2013
  6. Let’s look at the Second Amendment, cutting through the myths and spin, 15 January 2013
  7. Myth-busting about gun use in the Wild West, 16 January 2013
  8. Second amendment scholarship (using money to reshape America), 19 January 2013
  9. Do guns make us more safe, or less? Let’s look at the research., 23 January 2013
  10. Guns in the wild west: regulated, with no fears about ripping the Constitution, 25 January 2013

Building a great nation

Drop by drop a great people build trust and cohesion. From Stephen Covey’s The Speed of Trust.

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5 Waves of Trust
From Stephen Covey’s “The Speed of Trust”

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18 thoughts on “Our love for gun play grows as our trust in ourself wanes. Logical, mad, sad.

  1. “Well in the first place, an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”
    Much as I was a Heinlein fan in my youth, I don’t see that being nice to somebody because you’re afraid he/she might whip out a hand cannon and erase you is not so much politeness, as craven cowardice.

    1. See @KagroX on Twitter. It happens every week. Bunch of interesting gun play today. I liked the open carry advocate who demonstrated why that is a very bad idea.

      But America is the Land of the Never Learning Folks, so the fun resumes tomorrow (for the living).

    2. Gzuckier,

      Great point!

      I too am a Heinlein fan. But unlike too many fans, I see that many of his stories are quite mad.

      Much like “Tunnel in the Sky”, allowing kids (some in high school) to fight with weapons and no supervision — for a course. You fail by dying. Tough report card for the moms. Quite nuts.

    3. That’s nothing, if you want to read something by Heinlein that is more wacky yet, try “To Sail Beyond the Sunset”.

  2. While I agree for the most part – the white middle class gun movement is fueled in large part by hate, racism, and paranoia – but for other Americans this is not delusion – its just common sense.

    In the Sacramento area, you can get an unregistered handgun for $60. That’s an overwhelming supply of weapons that would be impossible to take off the streets. It can’t be done – especially considering the open border.

    If you call the cops, they are more likely to beat, rape, or kill you than actually help.

    It does not surprise me at all that lower income minorities support gun rights.

  3. Guns will be long needed by law abiding citizens.

    Recent events shows the police standing by while violence is committed. The violence is justified by some and that’s the scary part!

    We need to look at the the failure of the social experiment. Good intentions, but a failure, especially in the inner cities.

    Inner cities schools for the most part have failed. The teachers blame the parents or the lack of money. But that dog no longer hunts.

    Money has been thrown at the schools with little to show for it. Teachers have children eager to learn in the first few years, but there teaching methods fail to teach those who have the most need to learn and the children turn away from education.

    Whatever methods they are using to teach is NOT working and the present system needs a vast overhaul.

    Government social programs almost encourage one parent families, When a two parent family, if nothing else, will double an income of a family and lift them out of poverty.

    Kids having kids even with free birth control, kids raising themselves, drugs, gangs, few job skills, poor reading skills, and revolving door justice (we have all seen stories of a perp found to have been arrested a dozen times).

    Yes, the love affair with guns will continue until the root causes of the real problems in America are addressed. Maybe the next president will have a solution, as this one doesn’t!

    1. Potosky,

      Totally false. Guns in the home raise the likelihood of injury. They don’t reduce it. See the post about this.

      I had a friend — a rich gun nut — who had armed home invaders break in. He grabbed his pistol and came down shooting. One invader dead, one wounded. He was dead, his wife seriously wounded. But his property insurance company avoided a claim!

      He had kids already, so avoided a Darwin Award. He deserved an honorable mention.

      Debates in America are fact free, so these myths circulate unimpeded. It’s why we are exceptional — exceptionally stupid.

    2. It’s not an unusual story. This suggests that you would not recognize much on the average night’s police blotter as reality. There you will find really strange stories.

      I have stories from my days as social worker that might fry your mind. Though nothing unusual for front-line workers (police, fire, emergency room, etc).

    3. Well put. We often hear the false meme, “Guns in the home raise the likelihood of injury. They don’t reduce it.” It’s an error in interpretation known as the ecological fallacy – easy to confuse if you’re not versed in statistics. It’s like saying having a car puts you at risk of drunk driving. Similarly, it’s only a small minority that is at increased risk around guns.

  4. Let me tell you about my pro-gun promise.

    I will purchase the first handgun on the market that has these features; fixed cylinder or no magazine semi-automatic, micro-stamped firing pin, quasi-unique rifling, tagant powder in the ammunition, and smart identification of the user of the firearm. It is left to reader to decide why I believe each feature mentioned is important to me. I will pay up to $5000.00 for this weapon.

    If it has the capability to communicate to the network of things, I would consider more.

    I also promise that I will provide the same to a person that lives in a neighborhood that would need or want such a weapon for self defense.

  5. Corrected version of Heinlein’s absurd quote:

    “Well in the second place, an armed society is a shoot-your-enemy-in-the-back society. Manners as well as morals become irrelevant when one may have to climb into the rocks in the dead of night and dispatch a person who has become inconvenient with a well-aimed shot to the back.”

    Statistics, incidentally, show that this is how most of the fatalities in the Old West died: shot int he back by an unknown assailant.

    …even famous “quick draws” didn’t go the formal route in their gunfights. Why? It was still too risky for a “fast draw” or a “good guy” to lose. Much more frequently than the typical Hollywood face-to-face draw, a cowboy would gun a guy down at the most opportune point. Meaning, if he got a drop on his enemy, if he was unarmed, or even if it meant shooting him in the back.

    Source: “The Truth about Gunfights in the Old West.”

  6. You’re a few days early for the second anniversary of the horrendous Newtown incident which very sadly also demonstrated the extent the resistance to gun controls in the US despite the all those murdered children. Your numbers aren’t surprising, but I think you’ve got the right idea about the heart of the problem which lies in the emphasis of self-empowerment and individualism that disregards the damage that attitude has towards the collective potential of a cooperative society. If you’re interested, I wrote a post further expanding that point-of-view a couple of weeks ago, speaking as a Canadian (a fact that Mr Potosky felt he could be snarky about on one of my comment boards on this issue). http://wp.me/p4PBOt-4a
    Just discovered your blog doing some economic research for work (thanks for directing me to Jonathan Kirshner). Like what you’re doing and looking forward to further exploring your website.

  7. Why can you buy and own a gun without liability insurance? I can’t buy or own a car without it. Why don’t we impose a small tax on ammunition with the revenues used to compensate victims of guns?

    To Joe: Citations for your facts? Or are just pulling this out of some wingnut blog?

    1. Carroll,

      That’s an interesting idea!

      For this I searched for research on the criminal penalties for “accidental” shootings. News accounts sometimes report charges filed, but rarely verdicts and sentences. Research on aggregate results would be illuminating.

      Depending on what the data shows, perhaps the model MADD used would work — getting district attorney’s to more aggressively prosecute these, and judges and juries to levy sentences. It helped criminalize drunk driving, and so reduce its incidence. It might work with gun accidents as well.

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