Comment of the Day: “Who Are You Calling A Nut?” And Other Ethics Issues In The Community College Shooting Aftermath (Continued)”

gunsThere is nothing more welcome, when I am on the road and coping with a malfunctioning laptop, an inexplicably swollen knee and a headache, than a thoughtful, substantive, provocative, long post.  Extradimensional Cephalopod provided just what I needed today, and I am awash with gratitude.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “Who Are You Calling A Nut?” And Other Ethics Issues In The Community College Shooting Aftermath (Continued)”:

[ Washington Post editor Fred ] Hyatt’s forthrightness [ in his op-ed here] and his dedication to societal change that he acknowledges is difficult is definitely refreshing. I would object to the comparison to Australia mostly based on the fact that Australia also has a rather extreme (for the Western world) institution of censorship. I am curious as to what people do if they need to shoot a wild animal, as I understand there are many dangerous animals in Australia.

The paper really takes a turn for the worse when Hyatt tries to tie guns to civil rights. It’s a civil rights issue because black communities are hurt? Let’s explore the logical implication of that statement: The government is oppressing black people by allowing guns to exist? Soft bigotry of low expectations, much? Either that, or he’s using a completely different definition of civil rights from what I’m used to. No, “civil rights” doesn’t mean “good for black people.” Same thing with the family angle: if it’s a family issue, let the family deal with it by having the grownups practice gun safety. The whole point of family issues is that the government doesn’t get involved, so that was a poor choice of words there. Same thing with the mental illness angle, which Jack already covered the absurdity of… thoroughly. Somehow my condolences don’t seem enough.

Now for the heavy ideas: I will address whether we should have guns in this country, because I think that it’s possible to change society if it’s actually a good idea.

Let’s not get mixed up about the big picture: Guns (handguns, at least) are tools made specifically to be able to injure humans. This ability leads to their main function: threatening humans with grievous harm or death in order to change their behavior. People who oppose guns are focused on the terrible occasions when a gun’s ability is actually used. However, the main function is what is important to those who advocate for guns, and even to most of those who misuse them. The power to modify others’ behavior through threats is a double-edged sword, and therefore so is giving up that power. Guns represent a democratization of power, an enforced accountability of the people around you. If they threaten you, you can threaten them back, and vice versa. Mutually-assured destruction existed long before nuclear weapons. The effect of this power on a population depends on the population’s character to begin with. If the majority of a population is selfish, ruthless, and vindictive, everyone else will have to follow suit in order to have a marginally greater chance of protecting themselves, though they will not be very safe anyway. If the majority of a population is caring, honorable, and even-tempered, those who aren’t will face certain repercussions if they threaten others for unacceptable reasons. We’ve seen both of these scenarios play out in the American Old West. As always, the outcome depends on the character of society, and that’s what why cultural engineering is how I will change the world.

Now that we’ve visualized a society with guns, let’s look at one without, ignoring entirely the practicality of attaining it, and ignoring the law, which is ultimately decided by the people. Physical threats and accountability are still possible, but only for criminals, who are slightly less dangerous without guns, and for the government, which has a monopoly on firearms. There is one positive effect here compared with the gun society: criminals have to get creative with their threats, and their gang wars have less collateral damage. On the other hand, people are not likely to feel much safer in a crime-ridden neighborhood simply because nobody has guns. Also, people in a relatively safer area might be less able to defend themselves against crime, especially when they are alone. I’ll admit that the right to self-defense tools seems redundant if you expect the government to defend you. However, the most important argument, I think, in favor of guns, is that at this point in Earth’s history, the government cannot be trusted to act honorably with a monopoly on physical force. It already has monopolies on laws, licensing, justice, and taxation, to name just a few. Color me unimpressed with its track record. In human culture thus far, government officials seem to be unfortunately prone to doing whatever they think can get away with, and it would be inadvisable to let them think they can get away with misusing physical force. I don’t know just how effective it is, and I’m hoping it won’t ever have to be tested, but the right to own guns is and was originally meant to be the ultimate check and balance on the government’s power. That’s why the “fundamental value of our nation” is important and why people consider guns as indispensable as cars. I’m working on giving humans something more powerful than mere weapons, but in the meantime they’ll have to do. As for why other countries don’t feel the need to defend themselves against their own governments, my best guess is that they aren’t as alienated from them. That’s another thing I’ll be working on. Perhaps when humans as a society habitually think of each others’ wellbeing, guns will be completely unnecessary, but until I succeed, they remain useful.

As for the periodic tragedies, I am wondering if I’m the only one here morbid enough to realize just how easily I could kill people around me with no firearms whatsoever, merely because they trust me not to. A pencil here, a cleaning agent there… And yes, an automobile. As Beth said, punishment after a tragedy does nothing to fix the tragedy. However, the fact that people trust each other not to become spontaneously violent (whether or not that trust comes from knowing you could shoot them) is actually what allows society to function. Then again, some of us visualize how we would defend ourselves if other people started attacking, as shown here: There are plenty of tragedies that occur without guns, and I’m betting most of them nowadays go unnoticed except by their communities because they don’t involve guns. The way to avert tragedies, guns or not, is to reach out to people around us, pay attention to them, and show them that they are valued, that they have worth and companionship and the power to make a positive difference. Those who feel trapped in a world they can’t tolerate, who feel they have no power of their own, who feel disconnected from the people around them, are those most inclined to lash out, whether it’s with a gun or with a law. My solution is to help people develop their own power, to both tolerate and change their world. Guns and laws (which are enforced with guns) can protect, but they are not constructive.

Any counterpoints?

28 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Who Are You Calling A Nut?” And Other Ethics Issues In The Community College Shooting Aftermath (Continued)”

  1. Extradimensional Cephalopod, your post is well thought and nicely said. When everyone is behaving ethically, guns are not needed for personal protection from other humans. When everyone is behaving ethically, guns are not an issue at all. I think you’ve integrated well the two fields of argument (some think the issues is guns, others know the true issue is freedom). When we use our freedom “to reach out to people around us, pay attention to them, and show them that they are valued, that they have worth and companionship and the power to make a positive difference”, the existence of guns is irrelevant.

  2. Agreed. If people behaved ethically and morally toward each other, many problems would not exist.


    By the way, how can I become extradimensional? I am would prefer being avian or feline, though, as opposed to a crustacean or cephalopod. Although, being a chondrichthyte has possibilities


    • Nah, you don’t want it. You’re entirely dependent on the goodwill of super-dimensional creatures to maintain the salinity and pH of your brine. God help you if he gets those tentacles on you, though.

    • What theme you use is up to you. My alias came about through feeling alienated from humanity when I was a child, due to seeing aspects of reality that others resisted admitting, and being much more comfortable thinking about underlying principles than most of my peers, while simultaneously being unwilling to tolerate the seemingly arbitrary way the world was put together. Representative of a deeper reality, inimical to this world, difficult for human minds to grasp, survives anything you through at it… you can see where the Cthulhu reference seems appropriate.

      It was only years later that I realized that the reason for my relationship with the world was because I had been honing my skills at perception without practicing any of the other great skills, like communication. Anyone can learn perception, but people who take to it naturally and use little else tend to develop worldviews that diverge from those of other people, even as those independent worldviews make sense of the perception user’s experiences on a deeper level than most people contemplate. Such people tend to be more mentally resilient, because their worldview can make sense of, and therefore cope, with any new experiences. On the other hand, sometimes the way these alienated people cope with their experiences is through wanton violence, when their experiences and imagination have not shown them any better way. All of the above is why my system of mindsets stylistically associates perception with themes of regeneration, evolution, and animal forms, such as my own chosen avatar.

      So yes, you too can learn the mindset of perception (though methinks you’ve probably got a good start). It’s just as important to have other mindsets, though, so that no one mindset dominates your being.

      • I find meditation to be extremely helpful in that regard. I could spend hours describing the many facets of its power, but given the choice of one word, mindfulness would be it. We don’t realize how enslaved we are to a mind that’s carried off in dozens of directions at any given time, like a crazy little monkey on a leash. This leaves us with a great deal less cognitive dexterity than we’re capable of. Meditation quiets the mind; it reels in that monkey and sedates it a little.

      • Thanks for the information. Now it makes perfect sense.

        I, too, began that Lovecraftian journey many years ago but I got sidetracked along the way by Hemingway and Joyce. Lovecraft’s vision is/was as terrifying as Blake’s. Getting lost in that world is not for the faint of heart.

        I will pick up the trail soon, though. I am finishing a book by a fellow named Neal Stephenson called “Anathem”. I am still trying to wrap my mind his world view but it is a struggle. Once I finish it, I have a collection of Lovecraft to read.


      • Eh, the cosmic horror theme doesn’t have to do with reading Lovecraft–it just invokes the similarities between eldritch abominations and myself in our effects on the world and other people, before I learned to interact more constructively. I had to learn to have better communications skills than the average human, and now I can combine those with powerful perception skills, to be able to nurture people’s growth. The goal is to turn the cosmic horror story into a tale of great triumph. The idea reminds me of an anime called Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann which, while rather over the top, is actually a great parable of consciousness.

        As for meditation, it is indeed a very useful aspect of a basic mindset, and one which everyone should learn, but I wouldn’t associate it with perception as much. It’s more of an operation technique: the ability to focus attention on the present moment. It’s an essential part of action, the counterpart to perception.

  3. No counterpoint, EC – just piling-on (I think).

    A human being’s freedom to self-defend against mortal threats is a fundamental right.

    Not all perceived mortal threats actually exist. All humans must simultaneously rely upon each other, and give account to each other (“trust, but verify”), to make sure any perceived mortal threat actually exists.

    Not all _means_ by, through, or with which a human being might act in self-defense against mortal threats are necessarily a fundamental or individual right to possess.

    Nevertheless, where mortal threats do exist, it _should_ be a fundamental individual human right, free of infringement, to possess (or at least, have opportunity to possess) reasonable means of self-defense.

    Where mortal threats to an individual can be reasonably expected, anticipated, or reckoned to include one or more other persons with a gun, the individual right of the threatened (or potentially threatened) individual to possess comparable counterforce capability (to include possession of a gun) should be fundamental, i.e., inviolable.

    There is plenty more I could assert beyond the above, to address the social contract between individuals, and between individuals and their collective self-government.

    But I’ll stop there. Perhaps someone will assert a rights-based counterpoint in favor of collective power forcibly and pre-emptively depriving individuals of self-defense capability (except for those individuals who are in the vested positions of possessing a share of the collective power), despite any real or potential mortal threat.

  4. “The way to avert tragedies, guns or not, is to reach out to people around us, pay attention to them, and show them that they are valued, that they have worth and companionship and the power to make a positive difference. Those who feel trapped in a world they can’t tolerate, who feel they have no power of their own, who feel disconnected from the people around them, are those most inclined to lash out, whether it’s with a gun or with a law.”

    Careful EC, that’s precariously close to suggesting we might actually have to address mental health, and we all know that if America did that, the world might reverse it’s rotation and we’d all go flying off into space.

    Or maybe that’s the point…. Lonely out there?

    Well done.

    • Thanks. Lonely? A bit. More indignant that the world with all its minds and resources hasn’t been able to even address problems that take me half an hour to outline solutions for. Granted, that’s with background knowledge that it took years of dedication to amass, but still. Or, less arrogantly, it takes me a few minutes to rip apart a false dichotomy, yet people have been seriously debating such things for decades on the news.

      It’s not just mental health that we need to address; people still haven’t figured out what’s good for people. The best they can come up with is either “people do just fine on their own” or “good decisions need to be enforced” and the strange thing is that most people will change their answer depending on what issue you ask them about. Of course, they’re both wrong, but thus far I haven’t seen many comprehensive, functional models as to what a person “should” be, though there are many good case studies, and Rudyard Kipling’s “If” is a good guide. So, I decided to come up with my own normative model for how people should be. It’s actionable, but also open-ended, so that as people grow beyond my ability to predict, they’ll be able to deal just fine with the future themselves. Even if it’s not perfect, it will start people in the directions they’ll need to go in to come up with something better.

      Insofar as the cultural movement I’m working on will carry my ideas, will, and mindsets with it, I will be present. To answer Jack’s question on the original comment, I intend for my influence to be felt throughout the entire future of humanity. I’m compiling my ideas to publicize them within the next few months. Good, solid ideas will spread just as quickly as bad ones do, if people can understand and feel positively about them. What happens next, however, depends on how well I can metaphorically hold people’s hands for the first few steps.

    • The problem with discussing mental health is 3 fold:

      1) Just like creating gun laws, often we can catch ourselves attacking the symptoms of the problem and not the cause of the problem itself.

      2) Attacking mental health on tail end seems ripe for false positives. It compels us to ask certain questions and make certain evaluations of behavior to decide if someone is “unstable”. I have a great feeling the questions we ask and the method of evaluation with cause MORE false positives than not, leading to a great deal of pre-crime punishment of otherwise innocent individuals.

      3) The final thing then, is deciding, what CAUSES the mental issues to begin with. Now there’s a discussion to be had. Certainly some of it may be genetic, some may be experiential, most I suspect is contextual and environmental…what has gone into the upbringing in terms of stresses, coping mechanisms, manufactured expectations of life vs realities of life.

      • ” Attacking mental health on tail end seems ripe for false positives” And something tells me that the action threshold would be much, much lower than it currently is for institutionalizing someone for his or her own safety, or that of others. There seems like a logical disconnect here. If you believe someone has a markedly increased potential for violence, why would you want them around children, or driving, or operating power tools?

      • Psychology, psychiatry and medicine have been working on finding the causes of mental illness literally for millennia. Biblically, Jesus was the first psychologist, casting the ‘evil spirits’ out of a young man and into a herd of swine. He was, in effect, curing a mental illness. I think it was a little unfair that he then ran the pigs over a cliff into the sea, but he was a product of his times, and pigs were considered unclean then, as well.

        Seriously, though, we are making progress; we know the cause and are able to significantly treat clinical depression and we are making strides on bi-polar disorder. Admittedly, many “cures” are nothing more than masking of symptoms, but even that is better than overt aggressive acts from a paranoid schizophrenic.

  5. I actually would like to see what the anti-gun people here have to say regarding my perspective. It’s not easy to predict how others will be mistaken, but by the same token, it’s also not easy to predict when I’ve failed to consider important factors and drawn a mistaken or insufficiently nuanced conclusion. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win-win situation whether people agree or disagree with me. If they agree, we’re all on the same page. If I’m wrong, I can’t become right unless someone tries to explain it to me. If I’m right but people don’t agree, I can’t explain my perspective better unless I understand their perspective. The only losing scenario is where everyone agrees and we’re all wrong, and if we discuss things thoroughly we can minimize that possibility.

    • Well of course, if everybody was good, then there’d be no bad people…

      There wouldn’t be need for a lot of things, let alone guns, if everybody was good.

      Unfortunately there ARE bad people

      Those bad people often seek to HARM others.

      Those others, in the right, have every RIGHT to protect themselves from bad people, without having to wait until they are murdered for central authorities to arrive late to stop the bad people.

      The principle is literally that simple.

      I do have a beef with your comment:

      “As for why other countries don’t feel the need to defend themselves against their own governments, my best guess is that they aren’t as alienated from them.”

      I don’t think we feel (though that is changing) alienated from our government either. The flip side could be said, that many nations are TOO comfortable with the potential power their governments can bring to bear. Or they have grown complacent due to the current pause in nascent despots in the western world. Or, in some instances, they are quite comfortable with the DESPOTS they do have or have just given up hope of toppling them.

      • I think that the spirit of resistance is not necessarily innate in all people, and can be “bred” out of them over the course of generations. That’s part of what makes us exceptional. We began our experiment as free, independent, defiant (other than the contemptible Tories) people, and many of us still are. If that’s to survive, though, we need to keep it alive in our kids. This starts with keeping them out of the clutches of left-wing brain mechanics at public schools, and taking the time to teach them about the principles this country was founded on. I’ve actually been teaching mine about the constitution from books aimed at their age group, more or less.

      • “I don’t think we feel (though that is changing) alienated from our government either. ” Well, that is at least one thing we can thank The Obama for. He wasn’t the Great Uniter promised to us from the book of Marx, but he at least made many of us more cognizant of the havoc one man with an axe to grind can cause from that particular seat, and how quickly he can cause it.

    A column from George Skelton on this issue, and my response.

    It is really quite simple: Guns are designed for killing. The more guns there are, the more people get killed.

    That’s not just simple logic. It’s simple fact.

    The same thing have been argued with regards to alcohol- or black people.

    And no other developed nation comes close to us in firearms fatalities. We’re at 10-plus per 100,000 people. One third are homicides, two thirds are suicides.

    I wonder if George Skelton even heard that California has legalized assisted suicide. The state thus declared that suicide is a good thing.

    No, it’s not necessarily true that if people didn’t kill themselves with guns, they’d do it with poison or rope or razors.

    “Firearms are very easy to use,” says Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. “If you shoot yourself with the intent to kill, chances are 80% to 90% you will. Not many people mess that up. But use any other method and the chances of success go way down.”

    Again, California, by law, declared suicide to be a good thing.

    The gun death rate in France is 3 per 100,000 people. In Italy and Germany it’s 1-plus. In Britain, India and Japan, it’s way under 1.

    No mention of Russia, Jamaica, south Africa, or Mexico.

    Of course, no mention of how those other countries grant much more leeway to their police regarding searches and seizures.

    We have, of course, the 2nd Amendment. The Founders didn’t want to maintain a large standing army so they inserted this into the Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” A good copy editor would have deleted that third comma.

    Last time I looked, we had a pretty robust standing army.

    And yet, this standing army does not protect the American people from criminal gun violence.

    Imagine that.

    Of course, Skelton here is completely dishonest about the history of the Second Amendment.

    You can’t buy a firearm unless you show a need for it.”

    In America, the government is supposed to be the party that has to justify their need to restrict the people’s rights, not the other way around.

    Fortunately, California has good gun laws, perhaps the toughest in the nation. We ban the sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds. We have 10-day waiting periods with solid background checks. We require gun-handling tests, among other restrictions.

    But we’re vulnerable to other states on our border, where people can buy weapons willy-nilly at gun shows and cart them into California. Like Chicago, despite its tough gun controls, is vulnerable to downstate Illinois and Indiana. And Washington, D.C., is defenseless against Northern Virginia.

    That’s why we need a nationwide ban on high-capacity magazines — so common in mass shootings — and universal background checks to try to weed out the criminals and crazies.

    Similar arguments were used to justify taking Prohibition nationwide.

    We abandoned Prohibition for some reason. I wonder what it was.

    We also need the Republican-controlled Congress to resume federal funding of gun-violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bowing to the National Rifle Assn., GOP lawmakers cut off the money two decades ago, claiming there was a hidden gun control agenda. Well, maybe such research would result in an acceptable partial cure to the killing epidemic.

    Wintemute is an emergency room physician who was inspired to research gun violence after treating countless shooting victims. He used to receive CDC grants. When they ceased, he spent $1.2 million of his own money to continue his research.

    An emergency room physician has as much expertise on this issue as the issue of the stricture of the core of neutron stars.

    “This is not insoluble,” Wintemute says. “Americans don’t throw up their hands and walk away. They go find the answer. Americans are really good at that.”

    George Skelton also neglects to mention that homicides are at an all-time low since 1993.

    Seriously, why do people use such discredited arguments?

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