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  • Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on September 8th, 2007 (All posts by )

    We are so self-congratulatory about our officially disarmed society, and so dismissive of colonial rednecks, that we have forgotten that within living memory British citizens could buy any gun – rifle, pistol, or machinegun – without any licence. When Dr Watson walked the streets of London with a revolver in his pocket, he was a perfectly ordinary Victorian or Edwardian. Charlotte Brontë recalled that her curate father fastened his watch and pocketed his pistol every morning when he got dressed; Beatrix Potter remarked on a Yorkshire country hotel where only one of the eight or nine guests was not carrying a revolver; in 1909, policemen in Tottenham borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by (and were joined by other armed citizens) when they set off in pursuit of two anarchists unwise enough to attempt an armed robbery. We now are shocked that so many ordinary people should have been carrying guns in the street; the Edwardians were shocked rather by the idea of an armed robbery.

    Richard Munday in The Times

     

    17 Responses to “Quote of the Day”

    1. Lexington Green Says:

      Two books to read on this unfortunate topic are To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right and Guns and Violence: The English Experience, both by Joyce Lee Malcolm.

    2. Libertarianz on Campus » Blog Archive » Guns and drugs Says:

      […] Chicago Boyz link to an insightful piece, “Wouldn’t you feel safer with a gun?” by Richard Munday in the Times: We are so self-congratulatory about our officially disarmed society, and so dismissive of colonial rednecks, that we have forgotten that within living memory British citizens could buy any gun – rifle, pistol, or machinegun – without any licence. When Dr Watson walked the streets of London with a revolver in his pocket, he was a perfectly ordinary Victorian or Edwardian…  in 1909, policemen in Tottenham borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by (and were joined by other armed citizens) when they set off in pursuit of two anarchists unwise enough to attempt an armed robbery. We now are shocked that so many ordinary people should have been carrying guns in the street; the Edwardians were shocked rather by the idea of an armed robbery. If armed crime in London in the years before the First World War amounted to less than 2 per cent of that we suffer today, it was not simply because society then was more stable. Edwardian Britain was rocked by a series of massive strikes in which lives were lost and troops deployed, and suffragette incendiaries, anarchist bombers, Fenians, and the spectre of a revolutionary general strike made Britain then arguably a much more turbulent place than it is today. In that unstable society the impact of the widespread carrying of arms was not inflammatory, it was deterrent of violence. […]

    3. Nathan Zuckerman Says:

      That a condition flourished at some time in the past–say 50 years or so ago–does not mean it should be acceptable today. Example: integrating the American armed services. They were segregated during WWII, in our fight to wipe out Hitler’s racism. The forces were integrated under Truman in 1950. Should we revert?

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      Nathan Zuckerman,

      That a condition flourished at some time in the past–say 50 years or so ago–does not mean it should be acceptable today

      And if anyone had argued that you might have a point.

      The article merely empirically attacked the elitist trope that the widespread availability of guns itself drives violent crime. The historical record clearly demonstrates the opposite. In periods in which ordinary citizens had easy access to guns, violent crime was relatively rare. If the elitist were correct, we would expect to see the opposite pattern.

      The fact that you so quickly made such a specious argument suggest that the article really struck home.

    5. Lexington Green Says:

      The positive effects of widespread private ownership of firearms are widely known facts. This policy was once commonplace, and is now reviving because it works. Mr. Zuckerman chooses to compare advocating readoption of this effective policy to advocating racial segregation, for no reason other than to smear people he disagrees with by some non-existent association.

      Mr. Zuckerman is apparently also historically ignorant about the role that private firearms had in the civil rights movement. Black people acquired guns after World War II, and this made them a lot harder to intimidate. That was the foundation for the peaceful demonstrations — armed citizens who could not be murdered and intimidated at will.

      Thank God for privately owned firearms.

    6. Larry Goldwater Says:

      Guns are readily available in the U.S. and violent crime is rampant.

      How then, does Shannon Love find himself arguing that there is some kind of empirical causative relationship between gun ownership and crime prevention?

      In Japan, gun ownership is virtually nil as is violent crime. I don’t think this proves cause, but it does annihilate the argument that guns are necessary to prevent violent crime.

      What does it tell us that Shannon feels empowered to throw around these kind of assertions that are so easily debunked?

      It tells us that he is a far superior person to me in every way.

      [edited by admin]

    7. Jonathan Says:

      Larry Goldwater, you have it backwards. The false argument is that of gun prohibitionists, who have asserted for decades that violent crime is caused by easy availability of guns, and that the mere presence of guns transforms otherwise-law-abiding people into violent criminals.

      In fact, gun availability is at most a minor factor in violent crime, as indicated by 1) the lack of positive correlation between gun availability and violent-crime rates across different regions of the USA (regions with easiest availability of firearms tend to have the lowest rates of violent crime), 2) the strong correlation between ethnicity and violent-crime rates (e.g., southerners, and northerners of southern origin, have high violent-crime rates as compared to Yankees; Japanese-Americans have crime rates comparable to if not lower than Japanese in Japan) and 3) the fact that most violent crimes are committed by aberrant individuals with histories of irresponsible behavior, crime and violence and not by otherwise-responsible people who flip out.

      The fact that there is little violent crime in Japan does not mean that Japan would become more violent if Japanese were allowed to own guns. Gun ownership is also severely restricted in Brazil, yet Brazil has a much higher murder rate than does the USA. The civilian populations of Israel and Switzerland are armed to the teeth, yet those countries have little violent crime. Cross-cultural snapshots suggest only that culture is a critical variable in much human behavior. The big increase in British violent crime since the 19th Century, and especially in the past few years, is a symptom of serious cultural problems that have nothing to do with gun ownership (which, at the same time, has been increasingly restricted).

    8. Lexington Green Says:

      I remember the first day of my first (and only) statistics class at University of Chicago.

      The Professor told us, if you remember nothing else from this class, remember these two things:

      1. No model no inference.
      2. Correlation is not causation.

      Mr. Goldwater should ponder these things before opining as he does.

    9. Shannon Love Says:

      How then, does Shannon Love find himself arguing that there is some kind of empirical causative relationship between gun ownership and crime prevention?

      I didn’t make that argument. I merely noted that historical evidence presented in the article showed an inverse relationship between gun ownership and violent crime.

      Remember, we are trying to test the hypothesis that easy availability to firearms by law abiding citizens in and off itself drives violent crime. To test the hypothesis we must alter the variable of gun ownership and see how that correlates with levels of violent crime. Since we can’t actually preform a controlled experiment we must rely on analyzing different populations between which gun ownership varies.

      Examining the differences between countries is helpful but we run into the problem of not being able to filter out cultural differences. For example, crime is rampant in Japan but it takes different forms than in the West such as lonesharking that relies not on violence but the threat of shaming (which often lead to suicides) to shake down their victims. Examining the same culture which changes its gun laws over time helps control for these differences.

      The article examined how English laws altered the availability of firearms over the past century and how violent crime had also evolved. In the pre-WWII era English citizens had easy availability to all kinds of firearms and very, very low levels of violent crime (so much so that English police traditionally did not bother to go armed themselves). After WWII, English citizens progressively (no pun intended) lost the right to own firearms and violent crime increased in the same period.

      Clearly, the English example shows that the possession of firearms by responsible citizens does drive violent crime (or gun violence specifically) in the English cultural context. Since English culture arguably the primary root culture for America, their experience may be far more relevant to us than, say, Japan.

    10. david foster Says:

      Many people seem more comfortable with assigning moral agency to *objects* than to *human beings*. A beautiful example of this was offered soon after 9/11, when the idea of arming airline pilots was first mooted, one TV personality said it would make her “nervous” to think of her airline pilot carrying a gun. Evidently, a gun to her is an icon of such negative emotional power that context cannot even be considered. This is not thought at all, just stimulus-response reaction.

    11. subadei Says:

      Consider also the ethnic homogenity in Japan as well as the history, cultural structure and consequent mores. Not to mention the economic traits. It’s an apples to oranges comparison.

    12. Tyouth Says:

      Shannon said: “Clearly, the English example shows that the possession of firearms by responsible citizens does (not) drive violent crime (or gun violence specifically) in the English cultural context. ”

      Well, maybe not very clearly since “the past is another country” (and culture). The same kinds of cultural differentiation between two countries exists between two eras in “one” culture.

      The culture need not change very much to have profound effects on the way people behave in specific areas of their lives. I really don’t think you could draw a strong valid conclusion re. guns “driving crime” or not driving crime from that line. The culture is the driver, as you said; the crime rate and gunownership rate are the fallout.

    13. Larry Goldwater Says:

      Now I get it. Drawing a correlation between low crime and high gun ownership is valid, but drawing a correlation between high gun ownership and high crime or low gun ownership and low crime isn’t.

      Thanks for clearing that up for me guys.

      I’ve never seen or heard anyone argue that guns cause crime. Gun control advocates argue that certain types of firearms facilitate crime.

      The latter claim is certainly debatable, but as one poster has already pointed out, we’re going to have to rely on correlations for evidence.

      These are weak arguments but they are the only arguments I have.

      [edited by admin]

    14. Larry Goldwater Says:

      Actually, it’s not debatable whether some types of firearms facilitate crime.

      Surely, everyone here agrees that pistols make robbery easier. Just as certainly, we can agree that firearms deter crime. So the question is whether the deterrent effect outweighs the facilitation.

      I really am a stupid troll.

      [edited by admin]

    15. Jonathan Says:

      You are still missing the point. The point is that for years gun prohibitionists said that widespread gun possession caused violent crime. They said it all the time. I had many conversations with people who made this assertion as though it were self-evidently true — “But if you had a gun and got mad at your wife you might shoot her” or “People will shoot each other over minor traffic accidents” and so forth. But the data show no positive correlation between increased levels of gun possession and increased violent crime. That means the theory that more guns causes more crime can’t be right. The people arguing for gun bans, not those of us who oppose gun bans, were the ones who asserted correlations and talked about correlation as though correlation implied causation. It is sufficient for us to show that their argument is wrong. We are not obligated to test the validity of the three other alternatives in the correlation matrix.

      As for pistols making robbery easier, that is only true against unarmed victims. If everyone can have a pistol robbery becomes much more difficult. Also, if somehow no one could get hold of firearms, then robbery would become even easier, because any strong man could rob a woman or a weaker man, and any group of a few strong men could rob almost anyone. And of course, without guns criminals use knives, clubs, etc. Only a firearm gives an individual a fighting chance against a group of assailants armed with knives, clubs, etc.

      No one is declining to acknowledge both sides of the cost/benefit equation. We all think that the cost/benefit equation greatly favors widespread civil gun ownership. Obviously there are costs to widespread gun ownership: accidents, guns stolen by criminals, etc. But these costs are far outweighed by the benefit of deterred violent crime. This is what the reputable research (Kleck, Lott) has found, and it’s consistent with the observation that US violent-crime rates have not increased as gun ownership has increased.

    16. Verity Says:

      Tyouth says: “The culture need not change very much to have profound effects on the way people behave in specific areas of their lives. I really don’t think you could draw a strong valid conclusion re. guns “driving crime” or not driving crime from that line. The culture is the driver, as you said; the crime rate and gunownership rate are the fallout.”

      Wrong.

      The terrible massacre of children at Dunblane was a gift from heaven for Tony Blair, who is driven by a one-worlder, pacifist (as long as he and other apparachiks are in charge of a passive population) philosophy. There was absolutely no sane reason to ban guns in Britain – which had such a tiny rate of violence from guns – except social control – meaning, control of the whole society by apparachiks.

      Since Blair’s foul government banned guns, we now have what we never had before – and never even imagined in our two thousand year history – children shooting other children with illegal guns bought with drug money.

    17. Verity Says:

      I lived in Texas, one of the most heavily armed places in the developed world, and felt no fear walking around or, most of the time, in my home. The one time I did get jittery, I got my gun out and put it on my bedside table, knowing that if I shot an intruder dead, no blame would be attached to me. You can kill anyone who steps into your homestead uninvited and are, indeed, encouraged to do so.

      An armed society is a polite society. And,because we’re humans, we want a structured, safe environment, meaning everyone in Texas (bar miscreants) who is armed is your ally. They are legally allowed to carry concealed, which means, from a criminal’s point of view, a mugging, for example, simply isn’t worth the risk. Because even were his victim not armed, other people with an interest in enforcing the prevailing mores, the citizenry, are and would draw their guns and shoot. And in Texas, this would include little old ladies getting their guns out of their purses.

      This makes for a courteous and pleasant society.