Arms, Liberty And Security

Duly Noted

Notions prejudiced by experience.

There is a relationship between “weapons” and “liberty”. That is because “arms” and “liberation” are also linked. The matter fuels debates that reflect semantics, hidden agendas as well as pre-conceptions. Not often enough are the facts discussed. In the writer’s case, the bias is clear. It comes from running in Budapest bearing a pistol with six shots in the magazine with a Soviet T34 tank in pursuit.  If one looks carefully, the legal access to weapons is not singularly an American controversy. However, the debate is defined and skewed by conditions said to be uniquely American.

The apparent concentration on America comes from a distortion that reflects a habit to focus on the US. Globally active American media that do not resist sensationalism enhance this tendency. US newsmakers exploit catastrophes. If a plane goes down, when a train is derailed, or a shooting occurs, then the reporters congregate there. The coverage is extensive even if there is nothing new to tell and the reporter does not know much about what he explains. Therefore, once a tragedy occurs, your correspondent switches from “Seean’en” to other providers. Unfortunately, by catering to the public’s taste if not to the voice of reason, these too began to concentrate on cataclysms.

The foregoing tells why murders get ample coverage - especially when they occur close to hordes of reporters, that is, in the US. Here we should not overlook that the exposure does more than a respond to mayhem. It also serves as a motive that spreads imitable tragedies. Copycats repeat the occurrence for our entertainment. Spectacular deeds guarantee coverage. That attention calls on the scene the imitators whose reason to act is the earlier publicity that promises “fame”. The attention given to bizarre cases mutates into new actions.  Heightened publicity is assured if ideological pre-conceptions find events that fit expectations. Related to these are favored extrapolations that can confirm dogmatic positions.

Most spectacular massacres occur in the US, as the country’s size and the attention she gets guarantee a titillating supply. America represented as a crazed trigger-happy center of wildly firing right-wingers that swing crosses is conceptually fitting. If someone in, let us say Norway, stages a massacre, then it is not the Norwegians who are found guilty of being blood thirsty but the “right wingers” there. That type, we are quickly told, you find mainly in the “red” states of the USA.

Could the relationship between cause and effect be interrupted? Such as by insolently suggesting that, the more effective defense pleas of madness become, the more insane murderers we get. And has anyone noticed that, the more a person tends to plea for the general access to legalized drugs, the more likely, that he will demand the proscription of weapons? Project this in jest upon another matter. Let us assume that we agree that adultery is “bad”. Having done so, we find that it is generally committed on living room couches. Does it follow that preventively all sofas need to be destroyed? (This is not a plea against efforts to keep guns out of the hand of criminals or the deranged).

Interestingly, especially for the many American readers of Duly Noted, is that “taking away their guns” is not a singularly American project. True, most of Western Europe’s normal citizens are already disarmed. However, one of the most “Western “ countries if we consider practiced democracy, long-term independence, economic development and the rule law, is an exception. More than that, the country is and has been literally armed to the teeth. Now, you wonder about which place we are talking. Valid information about Switzerland is as rare as it tends to be distorted.

The Yanks and the Brits can be thankful, because in WW2 they did not have to liberate Switzerland. She is, in part because of her crisis-resistance, an object of ignorance or, worse, of disinformation. To rectify that is not the purpose of this writing. The point that pertains to our topic is that, for generations, the country had an odd system of principled neutrality backed up by a strong military.

Several features of the latter are unusual. Before smiling dismissively, you should consider what follows. The Swiss Army is based on a militia. The national principle - it is strongly resented by the Left - is universal service. After basic training, the citizen is obligated to serve yearly for about two weeks to update his skills. He is also to maintain his marksmanship in his village’s gun club. (That makes target shooting a national sport. As an alien, the writer used to be glad to participate in a local club.)

The force created by mobilization is not only a conventional army but also, prior to that, also an ever-ready militia. The upshot is a well-equipped army and not a rag-tag band of over 600 000 out of a population of 7 million. Off duty, its members take their weapons home. Thereby, SIG assault rifles became a household tool. Through inheritances, the author benefited from the concept of an armed and therefore secure society.

This briefly sketched system is now under attack. Reflecting the change of values that regulate society, there have been cases in which ordnance was misused to commit crimes. The Left’s solution is not to prevent abuse by emphasizing the kind of moral principles that regulate behavior in the private sphere without needing to resort to the state and formal statutes. Much rather, they are for abolishing the military – has it not been unneeded for decades?  Implicitly, the effort expresses the longed for exemption of spoiled kids from service and obedience. Proposing new laws to register and confiscate citizen’s the firearms rounds out the measure.

Earlier, this essay referred to the American reader. With the last paragraph, he will have grasped something regarding the debate that surrounds him. Due to the Second Amendment, the controversy has a special American coloring. However, as shown, the issue does not stop at the water’s edge and has relevance beyond borders.

Confiscating the arms of those that will dutifully surrender them will obviously reduce the amount of weapons to which civilians have access. One needs to believe in the Easter Bunny’s ability to lay eggs to conclude, that such a measure will significantly reduce crime. The alternative to confiscation is to apply existing sanctions against violent crime. However, this “socially insensitive” idea will hardly be supported by the arms-banishers. Crime, they tell us, is the result of inequality. To combat that, taxes must be raised.  Since support will always lag behind rising demands, the discrepancy will be exploited to prove continued “deprivation”. That will take the blame from the criminals that will remain armed and place the guilt on “society.”

who guns the control

Chris Kyle, who is said to be the deadliest sniper in US military history, served four combat tours of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom and elsewhere, and won two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars for bravery, according to his book. He killed more than 160 people.

Now, he has been shot dead at Rough Creek Lodge, located in Glen Rose, Texas.

Probably every gun-swingers kid must now read his book, how fantastic life is when you can kill people.


marcfrans' fruits

- "However, neighboring jurisdictions with more stringent gun control laws do have a much higher crime rate." Interesting. Give us an example.
- "Crime is primarily a matter of (sub)cultural behavior patterns". You're a born sociologue. What do you mean by (sub)?
- I hope you resolve domestic problems.
- I'm not a Hollywood expert, but I only recall Schwarzenegger as 'real' politician, a Republican. Who are the lefties you mention?
- Torture as 'unimportant detail' needs no further comments.
- Crime and borders: the (foolish) enlargement to the east brought a whole new crime-infrastructure to the EU. Transnational crimes are at an all time high, stretching from car robbery to banking. Borders play practically no role, nor are they obstacles. Only massive constructions like the US-Mexican border or the wall between Israel and Palestine, as well as the famous Berlin Wall, marked limits hardly to pass. But who wants that?
- While I 'dance around' statistics of several countries, you provide shallow phrases like 'Apparently, taboos and blinders are back in vogue!' Please, give us your empirical skills!
- When psychos shoot people, it is not only a juridical question, but a question of society's sanity. When psychos can buy guns anywhere, that's a juridical question.

Some corrections

- There is no clear correlation between gun control laws and crime rates among jurisdictions in the US, but there are numerous examples of jurisdictions with stringent laws having much higher crime than others with laxer laws. This is NOT an argument against gun control, far from it, but it does illustrate the primary importance of cultural and/or subcultural behavior patterns.

- If one does not understand the meaning of "subcultural" one better refrain from offering comments on websites.

- Referring to other people's "domestic problems", whether real or imagined ones (as Kappert does unashamedly) is another sign of being small-minded if not childish.

- Hollywood is not the issue. Movie stars parroting political opinions are a common sight. Pretending not to know that Hollywood overwhelmingly parrots leftist opinions is either willful ignorance or dishonesty.

- Continuously misstating other people's words is dishonest too. Torture is not a "detail", but Abu Ghraib is an historical detail (in the specific context of the Iraq war), and Abu Ghraib was not about real "torture" in that context. There was lots of torture in AG under sunni Saddam, and probably again today under Shia Maliki.

- Kappert is unable to distinguish between different purposes of borders. For example, he lumps the US-Mexican border together with the Berlin Wall. Doesn't he know that the former is to keep illegals and drug cartel criminals out, whereas the latter was intended to keep citizens from fleeing? Of course, he 'knows', but it does not fit with his ideological narrative. One wonders what he can understand of numerous other 'borders' in the world? Say between India and Pakistan, or between Israel and Syria, or between Sudan and Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, etc....The border between the US and Canada looks different from the border between the US and Mexico. Do not expect K to understand the reason for that.

- The sentence "Taboos and blinders are back in vogue" is not a "shallow" phrase, but when taken out of context (as K is wont to do) it surely becomes a 'vague' one.

- Indeed, in principle psychos should not be able to buy guns anywhere. The relevant question is: who (and how) can determine who the psychos are? Another important consideration is that many criminals (with guns) are not "psychos". But, let's not complicate matters for the simple mind.

Complicated point

Mr Handlery writes an article to bemoan the sensationalism of the media and to point out that the gun control issue is not just an American issue. In this endeavour he makes a number of subtle points that have totally escaped Kappert's attention. To name but two. Handlery emphasizes the role of the political left in undermining traditional personal values with deleterious (but unintended) consequences for the crime rate.  He also makes the common sense observation that disarming citizens in a crime-prone environment will not reduce crime.   However, it would have been more sensible, in my view, to explicitly recognize that the gun control issue is fundamentally about reconciling two important values, the moral right to self-defense for the individual and the need for domestic security/tranquility of society.  The conservative position should be (it often isn't in the real world of politics) to combine (A) strong external defense (i.e. a credible military) with (P) 'sensible' gun- or weapons control internally. Point B should be about the appropriate level of restrictions and about the appropriate political level for such decison-making.

Kappert asks indirectly (in the context of Budapest) one relevant question. What good could individual arms do against the military of a determinded totalitarian state or regime?  The answer should be obvious: nothing.   Americans and other democratic-minded or freedom-loving people should understand that their liberties ultimately depend on what happens in Parliament or Congress, i.e. on the quality of the people they elect, and not on the possession of individual weaponry.  Give Kappert his due on that point.   However, in much of the rest of his commentary he shows his inability of putting things in a proper context and he resorts to venting his fashionable anti-American prejudices.  Let's deal very  briefly with only some of them (for the list is sooo...long).

- Charlton Heston may ..."seem to be a politician"..., but, if so, he would (actually was) a rare bird in the massive crowd of Hollywood characters parroting fashionable leftist political positions on a daily basis.  So what is kappert's point here?

-  What has Abu Ghraib got to do with a rational discourse about gun control? Nothing, of course. It is abouit as (ir)relevant as using Belgian childrens'murderer Dutroux as an 'argument' against Belgium's stricter gun control laws (compared with most American states).

-  It is silly to compare a continent-sized country like the USA with small countries like Switserland, Norway, and Israel.  A better relevant question would be: why do 'large' (but economically comparable) countries seem to be more crime-prone than smaller ones?  Has the removal of internal European barriers raised or lowered the Belgian crime rate? Etc...

- In the 'liberal' leftist 1970's many American states emptied their sanatoria, largely under pressure from the political left.   One can still see the results today, for instance, in San Francisco's public parks.  Perhaps it's time to review such short-sighted policies?    Freedom always has a 'price', and a proper balance must be struck, but - and this is important - at the LOCAL level (say of that of Switserland, or Arizona, etc...) .  There is no need to go back to European fascisms and communisms.  And that is why Kappert's comment about "general health insurance" for "social control" is so short-sighted!.      

just a few points

-"disarming citizens in a crime-prone environment will not reduce crime". It seems marcfrans lives in such an environment, most people don't.
-"moral right to self-defense for the individual and the need for domestic security/tranquility of society". How many times in your life you needed that 'right of self-defence'. It seems you have a problem of 'domestic security' (which sense of 'domestic'?)
- if your problem is domestic, why do you want strong external defence and 'sensible' gun control?
- Charlton Heston was an actor, not a politician. Italy had its actress Chicciolina at least in parliament.
- I understand why you dismiss Abu Ghraib, does it appear in US history books?
- The US is not comparable, as you say. Indeed, I said it plays in another league of gun-swingers. "why do 'large' (but economically comparable) countries seem to be more crime-prone than smaller ones?" That's nonsens: The highest murder rates are in Africa and America, in Europe it's Greenland (!) and Eastern Europe (source: UNODC 2010)
- You seem to understand 'general health insurance' as communism. I feel sorry for you.

Kappert's Irrelevancies and strawmen

Discussions with Kappert are always fruitless, but they do illustrate how the postmodern leftist mind (mal)functions.

- No, I do not live in a crrime-prone environment. However, neighboring jurisdictions with more stringent gun control laws do have a much higher crime rate.  Unlike kappert, I do not draw simplistic and false conclusions from such an observation. But it does illustrate that the crime problem is primarily a matter of (sub)cultural behavior patterns and not primarily one of gun control laws.  Nevertheless, I continue to argue for sensible gun control, i.e. one that strikes a balance between the competing values of 'self-defense' and of 'domestic security'.

- If K has a problem with different/multiple meanings of the English word "domestic", that is his problem, not mine.  

- Only K could raise the irrelevant matter of Heston as a movie star who "seems to be a politician", only to return with the assertion that Heston is a movie star and with the irrelevancy of an Italian porn "actress" in parliament.  Meanwhile, Kappert closes his eyes to my accurate observation of the prevalence of leftist actors playing politician while Heston is a rightist exception. 

- Abu Ghraib is such an unimportant detail that it does not properly belong in most "history books", except perhaps as an illustration of media hype that often undermines Western determination in the eternal struggle with totalitarianisms in the world.   However, given the current leftist bent in academia one can be assured that Abu Ghraib will - for a while at least - feature prominently in many "US history books" before disappearing in the mists of time.  Nevertheless, no fair-minded observer would, nor could, claim that I "dismiss(ed) Abu Ghraib" in my previous commentary, which illustrates that Kappert is not a fairminded observer.  The whole subject of AG is totally irrelevant to the subject at hand, i.e. of gun control. 

- A sensible comparison between (economically comparable) large and small countries would involve comparisons between, for instance, Brazil and Chile, or between France and Belgium, or between the USA and Canada, or between India and Sri Lanka, etc....It certainly would not link in the same sentence... "Africa, America, Greenland, Eastern Europe...".   It is also not surprising that Kappert dances around the question of the impact of the removal of internal European 'restrictions' on the crime rate in various individual European countries.  Apparently, taboos and blinders are back in vogue!

- For the record, I do not equate "general health insurance" with communism. In fact, I do not know what "general health insurance" means. I do associate communism with centralised control of many aspects of life.  I do not even associate COMPULSORY health insurance with communism, as long as it is administered at an appropriate political level. like that of most European or American individual states.  Health care is a very complex subject, and for it to be economically efficient it must be administered at an appropriate level to maintain proper incentives and avoid massive 'waste'.  It is another Kappertian smokescreen that has nothing to do with the issue of gun control. What is relevant here is the degree or ease with which 'dangerous' people should/could be locked up before they commit horrendous crimes.  Now, that would/could be a real judicial debate, but it could not be had with prejudiced and smallminded people who want to repeat irrelevant mantras like 'Abu Ghraib' and the like.                        

What's the point …


… of your Budapest story? Did you shoot the T-34? Did your gun produced any benefit for the Hungarian uprising? Did you use it at all? You tell us nothing, so it is just another of your hollow stories.

Switzerland has mandatory military service for all male citizens, who are recruited when they reach adulthood, though women may volunteer for any position. After service they may keep their SIG SG550 until the age of 30 (officers to 34).

There are an estimated two to three million guns circulating in Switzerland. No-one knows the exact number because there is no national firearms register! In addition to the semi-automatic assault rifle that all those serving in the National People's Army may opt to store at home, there are hunting rifles and pistols. Although Switzerland's overall crime rate is low by international standards, the country has the highest rate of gun suicide in Europe.

The myth of a hunter society, what appears to be part of 'national tradition', is everything but tradition. In the past centuries only aristocrats had the hunting rights, modern Swiss weapon laws are the reflection of the fears during World War II, when neutral Switzerland was surrounded by Nazi-Europe. Depicting the Swiss society as cheering Wilhelm Tell crowd, fails the characterization. In the referendum in February 2011, the main cities Zürich, Genève and Basel voted for more restriction, while the countryside and billionaire-canton Zug voted by large majority in favour of arms, which led the right wing Swiss People's Party to proclaim "the Swiss people's affirmation of their proud shooting tradition".

Swiss gun factories support intensively the right wing politicians, not without some humour, when we can read on that Charlton Heston seems to be a politician! Or in 2005, for example, when the Swiss prosecuted recruits who had reenacted the torture scenes of Abu Ghraib, one of the charges was improper use of service weapons. When the Swiss arms lobby classifies the gun-swingers as joyful 'Waffennarren', this comparison with a jester is indeed childish and does not correspond to their actions. As in all countries with liberal gun laws, accidents and shootings, as well as suicide are much higher than in countries where access to arms is restricted. In fact, all empirical surveys agree that easy access to firearms induces to use them. Quite independent of being a 'good' or 'bad' guy.

In Switzerland, in 2005 over 10% of households contained handguns, compared to 18% of US households that contained handguns. In 2005 almost 29% of households in Switzerland contained firearms of some kind, compared to almost 43% in the USA.

This shows that the USA are still playing in another league with the double of arms in households than other gun-swinger countries like Yemen, Finland, Serbia or Saudi-Arabia. Also Norway has a high private gun rate, proving that the mentioned massacre wasn't by chance in this country.

Other countries with National People's Army, like Israel, show their weapons in public life, in a café, to get their kids from kindergarten, and in occupied Palestine Israelis recruit weapons from the Army – for so-called self-defence. Yet, we don't see in these countries madmen killing children or cinema visitors. Why does this happen so exclusively in the USA?

The US Second Amendment dates from the year 1791. The best gun at that time was the Kentucky Rifle, reloading time 1-2 minutes, quite different to modern guns.

Switzerland and Israel do not simply give out weapons, they recruit and teach a strict moral codex. Officially, weapons are accompanied by a strong national narrative, serving only for defence, do not threaten an enemy and no neighbour. But madmen are not guided by national narratives. Before James Holmes decided to kill the cinema visitors, he tried to phone a psychiatrist. That may be a clue: the USA have no general health insurance, therefore they have no social control, which is an inherent part of a social security network. In the USA, these psychos (only few are dangerous) are roaming on the streets, in Zürich or Tel Aviv they are treated in hospitals.