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Max Habibi
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this sort of thing


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Dave Lenton
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I struggle to understand the motivation behind this kind of attack. What is especially worrying is that the attackers were armed with bats, making it more likely that they had the intention of attacking someone rather then just being caught up in an unplanned fight.

What kind of person carries around a weapon on the street?


There will be glitches in my transition from being a saloon bar sage to a world statesman. - Tony Banks
Gerald Davis
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Originally posted by Dave Lenton:

What kind of person carries around a weapon on the street?


A horrable person.
Stan James
(instanceof Sidekick)
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Oh, come on. If the homeless guy had had a 9 the bats would have been toothpicks. For the record, I completely disagree with what I just said.


A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of the idea. John Ciardi
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
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  34

I read another news story today (which I won't describe, because the subject matter could be inflammatory) which gave me the same feeling. I truly want to believe that people are fundamentally good and want to do right, but sometimes you read something that makes this nearly impossible.


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Marilyn de Queiroz
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  12
They probably figured they could get away with it because nobody would care about a "homeless" person. But murder is murder.


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John Dunn
slicker
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Some people insectify the homeless. After awhile of thinking that way, what might be murder to the rest of us, is merely a good "swat", in their minds. I feel pity for both the victim and the murderers.


"No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does."
Dave Lenton
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Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:
I truly want to believe that people are fundamentally good and want to do right, but sometimes you read something that makes this nearly impossible.
While I don't think that people are fundamentally good (what does "good" mean anyway?), I find it very hard to understand this kind of unwarranted aggression. Maybe these people have a kind of physical damage in their brain causing them to behave in this way. I sincerely hope its (a freak of) nature and not nurture (e.g. not a factor in their upbringing) which has caused it, because otherwise it may be an indicated that society will have a larger number of these kinds of people then we may think.
Vladan Radovanovic
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Notice this paragraph:

There were 105 attacks on homeless in 2004, including 25 deaths, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless. The majority of attackers were young men between the ages of 16 and 25.

I guarantee you that these kids had a blast doing this and were on a natural high when they finished with the beatings. Maybe they were running low on crystal meth and needed to do something about "feeling low"?

I think in order to understand what is going on here, we all need to go back in time and remember the twisted things we, or our friends, used to do when we were that age. The problem is that each generation is doing things at the younger age and is coming up with things that are more and more twisted than the one before. And obviously we are crossing into criminal zone.

When I first moved down here to DC some 5 years ago, I dated some girl who was right out of high school. She was telling me that her friends would have sex just because they were bored. There is a lot of deviated behaviour that the kids display and the world out there doesn't know about.
[ January 16, 2006: Message edited by: Vladan Radovanovic ]
Mapraputa Is
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EFH: I truly want to believe that people are fundamentally good and want to do right, but sometimes you read something that makes this nearly impossible.

Have you read about the Stanford prison experiment? What your "fundamentally good and want to do right" means anyway?


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Michael Ernest
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Posts: 7292

I really can't see this as an attack on the 'homeless,' but an attack on the defenseless. And I can't believe I'm the only person who remembers growing up around bullies.

I recall one guy in particular from high school; scary. Very big, very strong. Played line for the football team, and it just wasn't enough for him to get his aggressions out. In my mind's eye I still only see him with his pupils dilated.

Of the neighborhoods I grew up in, the ones I'd consider most dangerous weren't East Oakland, or Hunter's Point, but upper- to middle-class towns like Larkspur, San Rafael and Lafayette/Orinda. I could only guess why -- like maybe it's easier to keep messed-up kids out of the system. But in my growing up, there was far more to fear from bored suburban boys than anyone else.

That it goes this far in some is sad. Not so sad as counting how many people will view footage of the beating, but sad. If I'm the only one here who has ever seen a teenage boy's eyes go vacant when he talks about killing someone...well, I'll just count myself blessed that I made it this far.
[ January 16, 2006: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]

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Frank Silbermann
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Ernest Friedman-Hill:
I read another news story today (which I won't describe, because the subject matter could be inflammatory) which gave me the same feeling. I truly want to believe that people are fundamentally good and want to do right, but sometimes you read something that makes this nearly impossible
You are trying to generalize about people by cultivating a positive prejudice. Positive prejudice is just as irrational as negative prejudice.

The fact is, there are all types of people in the world -- good, evil, and every level in between. As I see it, humans differ from animals in that whereas animal behavior is mostly hardwired instinct, the human brain allows much more behavior to be configured in mental software. Thus, humans are capable of emulating the life strategies of any number of species, including crocodiles, sharks and rutting bears.

Originally posted by David Lenton:
I struggle to understand the motivation behind this kind of attack.
One motivation might have been sadistic pleasure; there are, have always been, and always will be people like that. Another motivation might have been the desire not to have homeless people around.

Most people don't like having the homeless around -- most of them are alcoholics, drug addicts, and/or mentally ill. But most of us are indoctrinated by our parents to refrain from murder (and many lesser forms of aggression). Some parents are less effective in raising children than others; some children are less receptive than others to these lessons.

David Lenton: What is especially worrying is that the attackers were armed with bats, making it more likely that they had the intention of attacking someone rather then just being caught up in an unplanned fight.
Obviously. Most people who kill do so out of choice. The proportion of killers who simply lack impulse-control is very small. (Even when teens kill during unplanned street brawls, they usually had in mind what they were willing to do in a brawl long before it happened.)

David Lenton:What kind of person carries around a weapon on the street?
Some people carry weapons with the intent of perpetrating aggressive criminal violence; others, not all of whom are paid to do so, carry weapons as a tool for stopping aggressive criminal violence.

A few people have both motivations, but for most "men at arms" the motivation is either one or the other.
Dave Lenton
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
One motivation might have been sadistic pleasure; there are, have always been, and always will be people like that.
I wonder if these people are (physically) mentally damaged in some way. But then again that could be my response to not being able to visualise why someone would find pleasure in it.
But most of us are indoctrinated by our parents to refrain from murder (and many lesser forms of aggression). Some parents are less effective in raising children than others; some children are less receptive than others to these lessons.
This is something which is often understated. People are quick to blame the education system, or the media, for promoting violence, but I suspect that the parenting a person receives as a child is much more of an influence on how violent they are. Maybe someone who is exposed to a lot of violence as a child is more likely to use violence to express themselves as an adult.

Some people carry weapons with the intent of perpetrating aggressive criminal violence; others, not all of whom are paid to do so, carry weapons as a tool for stopping aggressive criminal violence.

A few people have both motivations, but for most "men at arms" the motivation is either one or the other.
Ah, this takes us back to the ever present weapon restriction debates. Is it right to carry a weapon? Does everyone have the right to have a gun? Etc etc.

Personally I think there is no excuse for carrying something like a gun (which has no other purpose but to cause very serious injury), or even own one, unless you are something like a farmer who needs one to protect his sheep. As soon as some people can own one legally, it becomes a lot easier to get hold of one illegally.

In this case it wasn't a gun though, it was (most likely) a baseball bat. Are there laws in the US against carrying around a baseball bat at certain times or in certain places? It must be hard to formulate such a law, because its not just a weapon but a common bit of sports equipment. How do you legally discriminate between people on their way to play a game, and a gang on the lookout for trouble?
Frank Silbermann
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(One motivation might have been sadistic pleasure; there are, have always been, and always will be people like that.)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by Dave Lenton:
I wonder if these people are (physically) mentally damaged in some way. But then again that could be my response to not being able to visualise why someone would find pleasure in it.
I think the question is analogous to asking whether homosexuals are physically damaged in some way. Different people have different tendencies; some of which are more approved than others in any given society.

Certainly, taking pleasure in the infliction of pain and death would have been an adaptive trait for a rider in Genghis Kahn's Mongol horde (no offense to modern-day natives of Mongolia intended). In today's society, it's just one more instinct to suppress.



(But most of us are indoctrinated by our parents to refrain from murder (and many lesser forms of aggression). Some parents are less effective in raising children than others; some children are less receptive than others to these lessons.)
------------------------------------------------------------------
Dave Lenton:
This is something which is often understated. People are quick to blame the education system, or the media, for promoting violence, but I suspect that the parenting a person receives as a child is much more of an influence on how violent they are. Maybe someone who is exposed to a lot of violence as a child is more likely to use violence to express themselves as an adult.
Obviously, a child is going to be more affected by the values of the people he loves or whose love he desires, than by the teachings of strangers and loose acquaintances. The peer group of a status-seeking child is at least as important as his parents; by transitive closure this means that children are indirectly affected by the quality of parenting received by their friends.

For people who are much more violent than their peers (such as these hobo-beaters), the problem is more likely to be their own parents, their own tendencies, and their own choices. Not that their parents necessarily taught violence; sometimes the parents fail to overcome the children's tendencies towards violence simply by not being sufficiently involved in their lives (e.g. absent fathers).


("Why would anyone carry a weapon?" -- "To do a violent crime, or to stop one.")
-------------------
Dave Lenton:
Ah, this takes us back to the ever present weapon restriction debates. Is it right to carry a weapon? Does everyone have the right to have a gun? Etc etc.
It depends upon whether it is ever right to use force, even lethal force, in self-defense. Personally, I see no moral difference between using a gun in self-defense versus summoning a gun-armed policeman to my aid. Any legal distinction is just politics. (If I were forced to leave the U.S., I'd probably first try to take lessons in the use of walking canes as weapons. I'm almost old enough to carry a cane without attracting attention.)

Personally I think there is no excuse for carrying something like a gun (which has no other purpose but to cause very serious injury), or even own one, unless you are something like a farmer who needs one to protect his sheep.
I would agree, if I thought sheep were more deserving of protection than my family and myself, or if I thought that two-legged predators were any less of a problem than the four-legged kind.

As soon as some people can own one legally, it becomes a lot easier to get hold of one illegally.
I'll have to admit that you are right in this. A criminal must put up with inconvenience to get a gun in a society that forbids them. It's like trying to obtain heroin versus, say, cigarettes.

In this case it wasn't a gun though, it was (most likely) a baseball bat. Are there laws in the US against carrying around a baseball bat at certain times or in certain places? It must be hard to formulate such a law, because its not just a weapon but a common bit of sports equipment. How do you legally discriminate between people on their way to play a game, and a gang on the lookout for trouble?
The film was grainy; it looked to me like a rough chunk of wood, but I suppose it could have been a bat. (Probably not a cricket bat; these punks did not look so cosmpolitan or yuppified.)

Most states have laws against carrying clubs; whether a baseball bat counts as a club depends on intent. Intent cannot be proven until after the fact, unfortunately. If your demeanor frightens people, cops might arrest you for disturbing the peace.

No, the police cannot legally discriminate between people on their way to play a game and a gang on the lookout for trouble. That's one of the limitations of police protection, and why many Americans believe that self-protection and the death penalty must also play a role in keeping the peace.
[ January 18, 2006: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]
Dave Lenton
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
It depends upon whether it is ever right to use force, even lethal force, in self-defense.
Its difficult to say. I would agree that its reasonable to use force in defence, but that it should only ever be the minimal amount required to ensure safety, and certainly not deliberately lethal. The problem here is that most people will not have sufficient experience to know if their force will be lethal or not, and in the heat of the moment will not have time to more accurately aim an attack - its in their interests to hit first and worry later.

Personally, I see no moral difference between using a gun in self-defense versus summoning a gun-armed policeman to my aid.
I'd agree that there is little moral difference here, but my opposition to gun ownership goes back to idea that its better to reduce the number of lethal weapons in society rather then encourage them.

The problem is a bit similar to the Prisoners Dilemma. Society in general would benefit if everyone gave up their guns. Even if there were a few criminals who kept theirs, it would be a lot harder for guns to proliferate in the criminal part of society if all guns manufacture and importing was stopped. The Prisoners Dilemma part comes in because no-one wants to be the first one to give up their gun, they're worried about being unprotected while waiting for the rest of society to disarm.

I guess guns are a bit like the Genie - once let out of the bottle its hard to put them back.

No, the police cannot legally discriminate between people on their way to play a game and a gang on the lookout for trouble. That's one of the limitations of police protection, and why many Americans believe that self-protection and the death penalty must also play a role in keeping the peace.
Essentially what you're saying is that because the police aren't able to protect you, you need to protect yourself. This is an understandable position, but I'd argue that this is a situation where the government (being able to use its massive economies of scale) needs to look more into preventing the crime in the first place rather then relying on individuals to put piecemeal protection strategies into place. Perhaps strategies such as increasing tax to invest more in education and policing would help reduce crime, but that's heading off the subject a bit.

the death penalty must also play a role in keeping the peace.
While the issues of guns is contentious, and I can see there are good arguments on both sides, the death penalty is something I absolutely disagree with. The first problem is that it doesn't act as a deterrent to crime. The US does more executing then any other western nation by several degrees of magnitude, but still has very high levels of murder and gun crime, and a very large prison population.

There is a much bigger problem though, and that is the chance of someone being executed when they are innocent. If they are in life imprisonment then there is always the chance of appeal if new evidence comes along, but if they are dead then its a bit hard to reverse the punishment!

As for people who have done really bad crimes, I'm sure that a life time in prison (possible solitary confinement) with no scheduled parole can be just as bad a punishment as a quick death.
[ January 19, 2006: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]
Frank Silbermann
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(Whether it's ever justified to carry a weapon) depends upon whether it is ever right to use force, even lethal force, in self-defense.
---------------------------------
Originally posted by Dave Lenton:
I would agree that its reasonable to use force in defence, but that it should only ever be the minimal amount required to ensure safety, and certainly not deliberately lethal. The problem here is that most people will not have sufficient experience to know if their force will be lethal or not, and in the heat of the moment will not have time to more accurately aim an attack - its in their interests to hit first and worry later.
If the attacker is threatening to use lethal force (e.g. "Your money or your life!") then it really doesn't matter. To minimize the criminal's opportunity to use lethal force one should remove his ability as rapidly as possible. With today's technology, this requires potentially lethal force. That's why (American) cops carry guns and are taught to shoot multiple hollowpoints into the chest of any attacker threatening them with potentially lethal force (unless they are certain they can safely blunt the attack by gentler means).

I would resent the idea that the life of a criminal threatening me with death should be protected. The danger faced by an armed robber should be at least as great as the danger faced by his resisting victim, and ideally it should be much greater.

(Personally, I see no moral difference between using a gun in self-defense versus summoning a gun-armed policeman to my aid.)
----------------------------------
Dave Lenton: ... my opposition to gun ownership goes back to idea that its better to reduce the number of lethal weapons in society rather then encourage them. The problem is a bit similar to the Prisoners Dilemma. Society in general would benefit if everyone gave up their guns. Even if there were a few criminals who kept theirs ...(but) no-one wants to be the first one to give up their gun, they're worried about being unprotected while waiting for the rest of society to disarm.
I disagree with your very premise that society would be better off if there were no guns. Without handguns, too many ordinary people would lack the strength and skill to kill a knife-armed robber. Even a black belt karate master who takes on an untrained man with a knife risks a one-in-ten chance of getting stabbed.

That some criminals would get guns anyway only makes an intolerable situation worse.

(No, the police cannot legally discriminate between people on their way to play a game and a gang on the lookout for trouble. That's one of the limitations of police protection, and why many Americans believe that self-protection and the death penalty must also play a role in keeping the peace.)
----------------------------------
Dave Lenton: Essentially what you're saying is that because the police aren't able to protect you, you need to protect yourself. This is an understandable position, but I'd argue that this is a situation where the government (being able to use its massive economies of scale) needs to look more into preventing the crime in the first place rather then relying on individuals to put piecemeal protection strategies into place ....
The government can do all that while letting people protect themselves. If government strategies proved so successful that America were to go, say, twenty years without a mugging, rape, car-jacking or burglary -- then maybe I'd reconsider the importance of self-protection. But this hasn't happened yet, and governments have known about the crime problem for a long time already.

Self-protection versus policing is analogous to the debate between private enterprise and communism. In both cases -- and for similar reasons -- a mixed solution is best.

The death penalty is less obvious; right now only one in a hundred murderers ever gets put to death, and even then it's after twenty or thirty years on death row. So as a deterrent, it's almost as if America didn't have one. The only thing it's really good for is to give convicted murderers who know they'll be in prison til they die a reason to refrain from murdering guards and other prisoners. Without the death penalty, they'd be untouchable -- there'd be little more you could do to them. (I suppose those on death row behave out of the hope of getting their sentence reduced to living in prison til they die of natural causes.)
[ January 19, 2006: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]
Dave Lenton
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
If the attacker is threatening to use lethal force (e.g. "Your money or your life!") then it really doesn't matter. To minimize the criminal's opportunity to use lethal force one should remove his ability as rapidly as possible. With today's technology, this requires potentially lethal force. That's why (American) cops carry guns and are taught to shoot multiple hollowpoints into the chest of any attacker threatening them with potentially lethal force (unless they are certain they can safely blunt the attack by gentler means).

The last sentence here is the important bit - the degree by which a person is able to protect themselves by deliberately administering a non-lethal injury instead of a lethal one. When someone is in danger, it must be very hard for them to be able to do this. A person who is inexperienced with a gun will just be worried about landing a shot on the attacker rather then choosing where on the attacker.

A person with more experience with a weapon should, if possible, make this choice. To deliberately kill when a non-lethal attack would be equally disarming is not justified. In my opinion everyone's life is of equal value, no matter how much it may be tempting to do someone harm. If its possible to protect yourself without killing someone, then this should always be preferable to killing them. Most of the time this is probably not applicable though, as people probably don't have the time or the ability to choose.

I would resent the idea that the life of a criminal threatening me with death should be protected. The danger faced by an armed robber should be at least as great as the danger faced by his resisting victim, and ideally it should be much greater.
I can see where you're coming from on this, it does seem kind of unfair if the attacker can threaten death if the defender should not. I just happen to think that no-one has the right to take another person's life when there is a reasonable alternative. I think it is ok to kill someone in self defence, but only as a last resort.

I disagree with your very premise that society would be better off if there were no guns. Without handguns, too many ordinary people would lack the strength and skill to kill a knife-armed robber. Even a black belt karate master who takes on an untrained man with a knife risks a one-in-ten chance of getting stabbed.

I'm not sure that gun ownership would largely improve a person's ability to defend themselves. Like you say, f both the defender and the attacker have knives, then the attacker probably has advantage through experience. The same probably applies with guns - I expect that most people who would use a gun in defence will be a lot less able to use them then their attacker. Besides, much violent crime involves several attackers for each defender, and in this situation the weapons used will probably not change the odds of success much.

Moving from a knife vs knife to a gun vs gun situation has not really improved odds in the favour of the defender, but has increased the potential amount of damage that an attacker can do, and the range from which he/she can do it.

What has happened with guns is a bit like what happened between states with nuclear weapons. Once one had them, other wanted them. Now we are in a situation where many states have nukes and don't want to give them up because they would be at a disadvantage in comparison to the others. This doesn't change the fact that the world would be better of without nukes. Its the same with guns - now we have them, people don't want to give them up, but we'd still be better off without any.

I can understand that there are arguments in favour of keeping guns, but every time I see a news story of yet another massacre in a school where a large number of people have been shot, it seems to me that we'd be a lot better off without them. OK, so someone could cause a lot of damage with a knife, but its a lot less then can be caused by a gun.
That some criminals would get guns anyway only makes an intolerable situation worse.
This would be a problem, but it would be less likely that a criminal would get hold of a gun in a society with no legally held private guns then one with them. I would hope that if the number of guns in a society was small enough, it would be possible to rely on the police for protection in a majority of situations.

Maybe my view of guns comes from where I live. I live in a country where gun control laws are very strict. While gun crime is on the increase, and illegally owned guns are more common then before, I have never seen a gun in the hands of anyone who was not a soldier or a policeman (and most of the time even they do not have one). I have never seen a privately owned gun, don't know anyone who owns a gun and have never seen a criminal with a gun, and I live in a part of London with a much higher level of crime then average for the country. Guns simply aren't as much of the culture here as they are in other countries. Some countries see it is a right or a privilege to own a gun, and glorify it in the media and popular culture, where as here it is extremely unusual to own one. Perhaps its a cultural thing why I don't like them!

The government can do all that while letting people protect themselves. If government strategies proved so successful that America were to go, say, twenty years without a mugging, rape, car-jacking or burglary -- then maybe I'd reconsider the importance of self-protection. But this hasn't happened yet, and governments have known about the crime problem for a long time already.

Self-protection versus policing is analogous to the debate between private enterprise and communism. In both cases -- and for similar reasons -- a mixed solution is best.

Perhaps its because the government hasn't been given enough resources or political freedom by the electorate to combat crime. I'm not talking about Big Brother style police states, but more looking into the causes of crime. Poverty is probably the single biggest contributor to the level of crime in an area. If the government was more able to invest in poor areas and improve the local economy there, then crime levels would fall. This would mean higher taxes though, which is never popular.

The government could also invest in schemes such as training people who are released from prison in order to help them get a job (and reducing the chances of re-offending), but often this is seen as unpopular by the electorate. They could also spend more money on reducing illegal drug consumption (which often leads to crime), but this again costs a lot of money.

What I'm getting at is that protection from crime is only half the story - the government needs to look at what turns people to crime in the first place. Combating these causes of crime is often expensive though, meaning governments are unwilling to do it.
The only thing it's really good for is to give convicted murderers who know they'll be in prison til they die a reason to refrain from murdering guards and other prisoners. Without the death penalty, they'd be untouchable -- there'd be little more you could do to them.
It would be difficult to threaten someone who knows that they have life in prison anyway, but perhaps it could be done through things like solitary confinement or some kind of hard labour. This combined with making prison a lot harder on its inmates (I feel that prisons are currently only a little worse then some hotels), could perhaps improve the behaviour of the inmates. They could, for example, be threatened with being sent to a very nasty prison if they misbehave.

Cheers.
Frank Silbermann
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Posts: 1390
Originally posted by Dave Lenton:
The last sentence here is the important bit - the degree by which a person is able to protect themselves by deliberately administering a non-lethal injury instead of a lethal one. When someone is in danger, it must be very hard for them to be able to do this.
Exactly. That's why we must give them some slack when they use lethal force.

A person who is inexperienced with a gun will just be worried about landing a shot on the attacker rather then choosing where on the attacker.
This is true of _anyone_ facing this kind of stress. That's why American police are taught to fire multiple shots to the upper chest. It's the best compromise between hittability (center of mass is best) and likelyhood of stopping the threat quickly (in the brain is best), largely because the chest contains so many large vital organs. That the upper chest is a potentially lethal target is irrelevant.

A person with more experience with a weapon should, if possible, make this choice. To deliberately kill when a non-lethal attack would be equally disarming is not justified.
A peripheral hit would not be equally disarming, and such a target increases the likelihood of stray bullets. Criminals have won brutality lawsuits against the police on the grounds that shooting to wound was evidence that the cop who shot really didn't feel himself to be in such desperate straits after all, and therefore should not have fired at all. In short, police are taught to aim for the center of the upper chest (and then to the head if they suspect the criminal is wearing a bullet-resistant vest); regulations absolutely forbid the firing of warning shots or shooting to wound. The same is taught in training classes for private citizens.

I'm not sure that gun ownership would largely improve a person's ability to defend themselves. Like you say, if both the defender and the attacker have knives, then the attacker probably has advantage through experience. The same probably applies with guns - I expect that most people who would use a gun in defence will be a lot less able to use them then their attacker.
A government that forbids the carry of handguns for self-defense will also forbid the carrying of knives, so the most likely result of a no-gun society is knife-against-nothing. Even if knives are permitted, most criminal attackers are young -- which gives them an advantage with weapons requiring strength and agility. With a handgun, the young and the strong enjoy no such advantage; a criminal is less likely to be intimately familiar with his illegally-acquired gun, or to have benefitted from expert training in a legal facility. It has been argued that a gun makes killing easier, whereas stabbing a person requires greater emotional brutality; if true, then the criminal's brutality would give him a greater advantage in a knife-fight (as compared to a gunfight).

Besides, much violent crime involves several attackers for each defender, and in this situation the weapons used will probably not change the odds of success much.
It is much easier to shoot three gun-armed attackers than to stab three knife-armed attackers, especially when the defender has the element of surprise. (Muggers generally attack only people they assume to be unarmed, and expect compliance.)

...Perhaps its because the government hasn't been given enough resources or political freedom by the electorate to combat crime. ...
In a democracy, if the government doesn't get the resources it needs to eliminate street crime (assuming that this is even possible), that is the will of the people; but I have a right not to be robbed regardless. Whatever the government does and for whatever reasons, _until_ they deliver a crime-free society I have the moral right and duty to protect myself and my family.

In my opinion everyone's life is of equal value, no matter how much it may be tempting to do someone harm. ...
My life and the lives of my loved ones are of greater value to me than are the lives of strangers. I cannot justify that morally, but that's just the way I feel.

And since the robber is free to exercise his right to life simply by not trying to rob people, his right to life is not infringed by the use of lethal force in self-defense. It's like the young man who was knocked to his death while standing on top of a moving train for kicks. No one claims he deserved to die, but he didn't have to do it, and the fact that knuckleheads insist on doing such things in no way obligates us to stop running the trains. That people leap to their deaths does not obligate builders to stop building bridges and tall buildings. That some criminals may choose to risk death rather than give up robbery in no way obligates me to submit to them.

Maybe my view of guns comes from where I live. I live in a country where gun control laws are very strict. While gun crime is on the increase, and illegally owned guns are more common then before, I have never seen a gun in the hands of anyone who was not a soldier or a policeman (and most of the time even they do not have one). I have never seen a privately owned gun, don't know anyone who owns a gun and have never seen a criminal with a gun, and I live in a part of London with a much higher level of crime then average for the country. Guns simply aren't as much of the culture here as they are in other countries. Some countries see it is a right or a privilege to own a gun, and glorify it in the media and popular culture, where as here it is extremely unusual to own one. Perhaps its a cultural thing why I don't like them!
I can understand that. What few Londoners remember, however, is that before 1920 England had virtually no gun control. It was legal to walk into a shop, lay down cash for a military Webley revolver, load it, drop it into your coat pocket, and be on your way. Instead of being armed, policemen carried whistles so that, if necessary, they could summon armed citizens to their aid. Compared with today, England back then had far less crime of all kinds, including murder. None of the incremental gun controls instituted since 1920 resulted in a decrease in robber or murder from the level before the law's enactment.

America's murder rate varies hugely by region, as do gun laws, and there is no meaningful correlation between them. People who choose to commit murder are generally successful sooner or later, regardless of the weapons available to them. I have to admit that the rate of murder between street gangs decreased in New York City when cops began stopping and searching young men on the street in bad neighborhoods on little or no pretext, thereby discouraging criminals from carrying guns about routinely, but the lives of gangsters are not as important to me as the right of good people to go wherever they please whenever they please without having to submit to rapists, carjackers or muggers.
[ January 20, 2006: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]
Dave Lenton
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Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
This is true of _anyone_ facing this kind of stress. That's why American police are taught to fire multiple shots to the upper chest. It's the best compromise between hittability (center of mass is best) and likelyhood of stopping the threat quickly (in the brain is best), largely because the chest contains so many large vital organs. That the upper chest is a potentially lethal target is irrelevant.
I agree. In most cases where a person feels that they are in danger, shooting at the chest is probably justified. Where its different is if the person doing the shooting could feasibly do a non-lethal shot instead. This probably only happens in a very small subset of cases (I doubt most people can confidently shoot that accurately under stress), but if it does happen then its surely better to pick a non-lethal shot over a lethal one.

My life and the lives of my loved ones are of greater value to me than are the lives of strangers. I cannot justify that morally, but that's just the way I feel.


I understand. The problem here is that there are two conflicting priorities. One is towards a person protecting himself and his family. The other is towards the improvement of society. By increasing gun ownership, a person may feel as if they are helping the former - they feel safer. The trouble is that even if it does help a person protect themselves (and I still very much doubt this), it has a large social cost. A society with more guns faces a higher chance of something awful like a school massacre (the like of which we've seen far too many of), and an increasing arms race between defender and attacker.

While pushing for stronger gun control laws may seem to harm a person's chances of defending themselves, I think it would increase the chances of that person's descendents living in a safer society. If I had the choice between living in a gun-free society or one where everyone had a gun, I'd always choose the former.

---

Apologies for the slow reply time - I have spent the last week on a training course being introduced to the wonderful world of Struts!
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1390
Originally posted by Dave Lenton:
I understand. The problem here is that there are two conflicting priorities. One is towards a person protecting himself and his family. The other is towards the improvement of society.
I see no contradiction between the shooting of muggers and the improvement of society. In fact, I suspect many politicians latch onto gun control in the hope of reducing violence without having to improve society. The results have been disappointing.

The trouble is that even if it does help a person protect themselves (and I still very much doubt this),
If it didn't, cops wouldn't be armed. The gun works just as well for people in civilian clothes as for those in uniform.

it has a large social cost. A society with more guns faces a higher chance of something awful like a school massacre (the like of which we've seen far too many of),
In Israel's experience, arming teachers reduces the chance of a school massacre.

and an increasing arms race between defender and attacker.
That has not been America's experience. Criminals here use pretty much the same kinds of guns as criminals in England. When potentials victims are able to arm themselves legally, criminals have tended to react not by upgrading their arms but by switching to less confrontational crimes (e.g. 3am car theft).

I think (pushing for stronger gun control) would increase the chances of that person's descendents living in a safer society. If I had the choice between living in a gun-free society or one where everyone had a gun, I'd always choose the former.
That's a common belief, but one that's not well supported, historically or statistically.
[ January 30, 2006: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]
Ram Bhakt
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Joined: Dec 02, 2005
Posts: 145
OK, so back to Gun Control debate...
A while back we were discussing this and my collegue convinced me that it is better to ban guns by using this argument (in brief):
Ideally, the society should be free of guns, which I do agree to. Therefore, banning guns is a first step towards ideality. That bad people can still get guns is a separate problem (with different solutions) and should not be mixed with this.

At that time, I couldn't think of a resnpose and I conceded the point. However, I still felt that there is something wrong with that. After a couple of months it suddenly struck me. Now that collegue is no more with our company, so I am posting it here:

The issue is of Rights vs Responsibility: By taking away my right to protect myself, the state should also automatically get the responsibility to protect me. Theoretically, this sounds good. Practically, however, this is NEVER (at least in my country) implemented. Before jumping on me, let me explain how and why:

In a simple case, if a robber robs me, the only recourse I have is to go to the police station and enter my FIR (First Information Report, as it is called in India). Technically, the state has failed in its reponsibility to protect me. Now comes the interesting part: If I fail to pay taxes, which is my responsibility towards the state, I am put in the jail, meaning there are consequences. So what are the consequence for the state when it fails to protect me? To say the least, shouldn't I be compensated for my monetory loss, agony, and any other thing? But there is nothing the state will do for me. There are absolutely no direct consequences to the state for failing in this responsibility towards me. Remember, catching the robber and putting him in jail, in no way compensates me.

The bottomline is this: I am ok with giving away my gun if you are willing to compensate me fully for the crimes that I am subjected through. If not, I want my right to protect myself.
[ January 30, 2006: Message edited by: Ram Bhakt ]
Dave Lenton
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Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
I see no contradiction between the shooting of muggers and the improvement of society.
Its certainly improves society if an anti-social person is removed from that society, so shooting a mugger could be seen as a good step. The trouble is that its only a short term step. In the long run, I feel that society is better off without its population owning lethal weapons.

Again, there is an analogy with nukes. The arguments used to support greater gun ownership could be applied to WMD. Just as it could be argued that if an aggressor in society has a weapon then everyone else is better off with one, it could be argued that if an aggressive state has WMD then all the others should have them as well. This is a horrifying case which many people would rightly reject. I think the same thing scales down into the social level as well and that, in the long term, an armed society will be more likely to inflict damage upon itself then a non-armed society.

In fact, I suspect many politicians latch onto gun control in the hope of reducing violence without having to improve society. The results have been disappointing.
Yeah, but then again its a typical example of politicians doing only half the job. "Improving society" is a large and complex task, and gun control is only a part of it. To me its an important part, but it needs to be supported by other things as well (such as educating people against violence).

If it didn't, cops wouldn't be armed. The gun works just as well for people in civilian clothes as for those in uniform.
Most police in the UK aren't armed. There is a specialist armed unit called out for those few crimes involving guns, but for the most part the police do not carry guns. The theory is that if the police were armed then it would encourage more criminals to arm themselves. So far its worked out ok. Sure, there are cases of police being shot, but its very rare.

In Israel's experience, arming teachers reduces the chance of a school massacre
I suspect that Israel is a bit of a statistical anomaly due to its unique political situation. If the number of school shootings per person in the UK is compared with the number if school shootings per person in the US, then there is a stark difference. I can only remember one such shooting in the UK in my lifetime, and it was followed by massive public outcry and new gun control laws. The US (with a population only 6 times the UK) seems to have a school shooting every year.

That's a common belief, but one that's not well supported, historically or statistically
I've seen various stats which argue one side or another of the argument, with both sides being able to (as with most controversial issues) bring out stats which support their view.

Historically its a tricky issue. Gun-less societies are very rare indeed, so its a bit hard to find one to support a study. What's really needed is a collection of societies which have moved from gun-full to gun-less and some in the opposite direction, both of which are quite hard to find.

One side issue that's kind of related to gun control: if it is ok for people to carry guns in public, or to own them at home, would it also be ok for them to own a sword? Or a machine gun? Or a rocket launcher? Would it be ok to walk in the streets with a Kalashnikov, several grenades and a samurai sword? If not, where do we draw the line between a weapon that is reasonable to have and one which is unreasonable?

Cheers.
Dave Lenton
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Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Ram Bhakt:
The bottomline is this: I am ok with giving away my gun if you are willing to compensate me fully for the crimes that I am subjected through. If not, I want my right to protect myself.
This is an interesting argument. While I agree that the state has a responsibility to try to protect its citizens, often the ability to do so is limited by the funds made available to the state by the citizens, and by the level of cooperation that the citizens are willing to make.

OK, so at this point you could say "the state can't protect me because I'm not going to give it enough taxes to do so, so I'd like to have my gun back". The problem with this comes if the gun control laws are a mechanism by which the state is attempting to protect the citizens. The could be attempting to increase protection by removing the number of lethal weapons within that society. Citizens rearming themselves would counteract this mechanism.

As a side note, victims of violent crime in the UK are compensated monetarily by the state. Obviously this is often not compensation enough (no amount of money can compensate for a death, for example), but its interesting to see that some compensation is paid. What this implies in relation to the state's responsibilities could be argued both ways.
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1390
Originally posted by Dave Lenton: Again, there is an analogy with nukes.
I think it's a false analogy. A nuke allows one triggerman to do virtually unlimited destruction. A handgun merely enables ladies, old men, and the rest of us to do what young strong criminals can already do with little more than their bare hands.

"Improving society" is a large and complex task, and gun control is only a part of it.
I don't think gun control is any part of it. Improving society means making people better, not less capable.

Most police in the UK aren't armed. The theory is that if the police were armed then it would encourage more criminals to arm themselves.
The original motivatation of Robert Peel was that posting armed government agents over a disarmed population was a paradigm of feudal tyranny. To ensure that the police remained public servants, they were kept unarmed among an armed general population. When they needed firearms, they were to blow a whistle, thereby summoning armed private citizens to their aid (under the ancient principle of the Hue And Cry).

The new theory makes no sense; given that _some_ cops have guns, why would the existance of additional unarmed cops change the criminals behavior? Indeed, it has no effect on the criminals' behavior. What _did_ create the now-dying criminal culture of not using guns was the old practice of hanging all members of a robbery team whenever one of them killed a policeman. Even though this has not been the practice for 50 years, England has benefitted from the fact that culture changes slowly (though the change has already begun).

If the number of school shootings per person in the UK is compared with the number if school shootings per person in the US, then there is a stark difference.
I don't think the unwillingness of American teachers to defend their pupils justifies forbidding me from protecting myself. In any case, we did not have a problem with school shootings until the media, to promote gun control, gave crazy people ideas by throwing assault weapons in people's faces every night, and gave the first few shooters endless publicity (inciting copy-cat offenses within days).

School shootings were not a problem in the 1950s; therefore the problem is something that has changed since then (which needs to be undone) -- and not the failure to enact an additional change.

What's really needed is a collection of societies which have moved from gun-full to gun-less and some in the opposite direction, both of which are quite hard to find.
Well, I suppose England can compare its murder rate to what it was in the 1950s when gun control was still quite lenient, or to 1910 when there was no gun control at all. Or you could compare the murder rate in Jamaica in 1960 before there was strict gun control versus it's extremely strict laws today. Likewise with Mexico.

Going in the other direction, you could compare the murder rate in pre-British India versus today (thousands of travelers were murdered by Thuggees using garrots).

(under Frank's ideal would it also be OK for people) to own a sword? Or a machine gun? Or a rocket launcher? Would it be ok to walk in the streets with a Kalashnikov, several grenades and a samurai sword? If not, where do we draw the line between a weapon that is reasonable to have and one which is unreasonable?
I would permit trained private citizens in good standing to carry whatever sort of weapons armed police feel the need to carry while on routine patrol. Of course, England is something of an anomaly, in that police don't carry weapons on patrol (only some of those on-call). But this is a practice that even Englishmen now question, due to the growing inablity of unarmed police to keep order without the help of armed citizens and the threat of the noose.


Originally posted by Ram Bhakt:
The bottomline is this: I am ok with giving away my gun if you are willing to compensate me fully for the crimes that I am subjected through. If not, I want my right to protect myself.

Dave Lenton: As a side note, victims of violent crime in the UK are compensated monetarily by the state.
As a tax payer, I would argue that this merely distributes the victimization among a larger number of people, and is therefore unsatisfactory.


Dave Lenton: OK, so at this point you could say "the state can't protect me because I'm not going to give it enough taxes to do so, so I'd like to have my gun back".
Indeed, to protect us the state would have to post armed policemen _everywhere_. Aside from the question of who would protect us from the policemen, I'm NOT willing to give the government enough money to do this. It is far more efficient to have trained, background-checked armed private citizens everywhere (who are free to do PRODUCTIVE work meanwhile). Also, individual citizens protecting themselves are less vulnerable to political pressure from soft-hearted voters -- pressure which has long hampered the effectiveness of police protection (and which will continue to do so no matter how much money we spend on them).

Dave Lenton: The problem with this comes if the gun control laws are a mechanism by which the state is attempting to protect the citizens.
Except that this mechanism isn't good enough, as it does absolutely nothing against violent crimes using lesser weapons or fake guns (which criminals can _easily_ manufacture) -- even if it _did_ succeed in keeping guns from criminals (which it cannot do any moreso than international drug laws can keep heroin and cocaine from criminals).
[ January 31, 2006: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]
Roger Nelson
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Joined: Feb 21, 2002
Posts: 95
I think easier access to guns causes more harm to the society rather than helping an individual to protect himself.
This can be especially observed in cases where guns fall in the hands of kids, or mentally challenged individuals.
And even perfectly sane persons will not hesitate to use a gun during their moment of rage, causing loss of lives which is irreplaceable, only to regret about their actions later on.
I do agree that when the rights of an individual to protect himself effectively are taken away, the society should be more responsible to make sure that the individual does not fall in harms's way, by having quicker response time whenever crimes are commited, and making sure criminals are always prosecuted.
And probably in cases where there is an imminent threat of crime, where the society feels it won't be able to protect an individual effectively, it should allow access to guns to an individual depending on his/her case.
Dave Lenton
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Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
I think it's a false analogy. A nuke allows one triggerman to do virtually unlimited destruction. A handgun merely enables ladies, old men, and the rest of us to do what young strong criminals can already do with little more than their bare hands.
The analogy holds on the level of states. In both situations we have a device which allows an entity to inflict terrible damage upon similar entities. In the case of nukes, the entities in question are states, not people. States without these weapons think that they will be better defended by having them. Similarly there are people without guns who think that they will be better off having a gun if other people do. In both situations a group of entities (the world in the first case, society in the second) will be better off without the weapons at all then in a situation where all of them have them.

I don't think gun control is any part of it. Improving society means making people better, not less capable.
But reducing the ability of some unstable parts of society to kill large numbers of people, and reducing the level of armament within society will improve it. Less capable? If that's less capable of doing a massacre then I'm happy with that being an improvement for society.

The original motivatation of Robert Peel was that posting armed government agents over a disarmed population was a paradigm of feudal tyranny. To ensure that the police remained public servants, they were kept unarmed among an armed general population. When they needed firearms, they were to blow a whistle, thereby summoning armed private citizens to their aid (under the ancient principle of the Hue And Cry).

I'm not sure that armed government agents imply anything like a feudal tyranny.

The idea behind the whistle approach comes from the pre-police situation. Back then there were many groups of private law enforcement groups. When the police were introduced, they would rely on the help of these groups by blowing a whistle. In time the police grew bigger and more able to take over the role of law enforcement. Back then in the pre-radio days, they would also have not been able to call for help, so having a whistle makes sense.

The new theory makes no sense; given that _some_ cops have guns, why would the existance of additional unarmed cops change the criminals behavior? Indeed, it has no effect on the criminals' behavior. What _did_ create the now-dying criminal culture of not using guns was the old practice of hanging all members of a robbery team whenever one of them killed a policeman.
I doubt that hanging police killers makes the slightest bit of difference. The fact that the US executes an awful lot of people, and yet still has massive crime levels (and one of the biggest prison populations in the West) shows that the death penalty isn't really a good deterrent to crime.

I suspect that the growth in gun use in the UK has two main causes - the fact that guns are now much cheaper to import and manufacture then before, and that the growing illegal drug trade has caused various drug gangs to use guns against each other. The vast majority of shootings here are between groups of criminals. This really stresses the need to reduce the ability to manufacture and import guns.

I don't think the unwillingness of American teachers to defend their pupils justifies forbidding me from protecting myself.

But the teachers would not need to have guns themselves if people committing these attacks didn't have them. Surely its no coincidence that more school shootings happen in a country where gun ownership is high? This is too high a price for me to be in favour of gun ownership.

According to this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4636102.stm, the number of people shot in the UK since 2002 is 81. In the same time, 30,242 people were shot in the US. Certainly a number of that 30,000 could have been injured by another weapon if a gun wasn't available to an attacker, but probably not all. There is such a massive difference in the numbers.
In any case, we did not have a problem with school shootings until the media, to promote gun control, gave crazy people ideas by throwing assault weapons in people's faces every night, and gave the first few shooters endless publicity (inciting copy-cat offenses within days).
I agree that the media has played a role in glorifying guns, but then again this is also in a culture which sees no problem with people owning them. Even the constitution (arguably) says that its ok to carry weapons. There seems (and I may be wrong about this) to be a number of people who are proud of owning a weapon and consider it manly, brave or righteous to have a weapon in their house. Perhaps this cultural love affair with guns is a bigger factor in increasing their use. If they were never used, then people wouldn't need them.

I would permit trained private citizens in good standing to carry whatever sort of weapons armed police feel the need to carry while on routine patrol.
This is understandable, but the trouble is that increasing the amount of weapons in a society makes it easier for some to slip into the wrong hands. While we'd be theoretically OK if only people of good standing get hold of the weapons, its very hard to tell which people are "good" and which are not. Even if we can ensure this, sometimes these weapons end up in the possession of dangerous people. This story is a sad example of this.

As a tax payer, I would argue that this merely distributes the victimization among a larger number of people, and is therefore unsatisfactory.
It depends what the purpose of the compensation is. If it is compensation in a similar sense to that awarded in a libel case (as in "X is at fault and should pay Y"), then it doesn't make sense for everyone to pay. The compensation in this case is a bit different though (and probably shouldn't be called "compensation". Essentially its purpose is to financially help someone who is at a disadvantage because of a crime. For example, a person has been injured and is unable to work for a while. The compensation would give them some money to tide them over until they are able to work again. Its more about society helping a victim then the state feeling guilty and paying up because of a failure to protect.


Indeed, to protect us the state would have to post armed policemen _everywhere_. Aside from the question of who would protect us from the policemen, I'm NOT willing to give the government enough money to do this.

Absolutely, this would be a crazy situation - we'd need about a quarter of the population to be police officers! But....
It is far more efficient to have trained, background-checked armed private citizens everywhere (who are free to do PRODUCTIVE work meanwhile).
... I don't think this is the best way to reduce violent crime. Rather then focussing on stopping the causes of crime, it focuses on reacting to the crime when it happens. It also has the side effect of making dangerous weapons more easily available to criminals. A more effective use of resources may be to reduce the causes of crimes, such as poverty, lack of education, re-offending rates for ex-prison inmates etc.

Except that this mechanism isn't good enough, as it does absolutely nothing against violent crimes using lesser weapons or fake guns (which criminals can _easily_ manufacture)
Personally I think its a bit strange that fake guns are allowed, especially when they can be converted into being capable of firing live ammunition - its just not consistent with gun control laws!
[ February 02, 2006: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]
 
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