536 Comments
founding

There is no gun debate. There is only demagoguery masquerading as debate. It is boring, not in the slow-boring way, but boring because it is all a rehash with no real path to resolution.

Prosecutorial discretion, though, is a real issue with concrete examples that permeate multiple policy issues. Our lazy acceptance of prosecutorial discretion is driven by a good faith understanding that we have more laws than resources to enforce them, so some picking-and-choosing is to be expected. That has historically been true for prosecutorial discretion in most cases, but this has changed a lot over the past 15 years in ways that are really bad for our system of government.

When used as a way to advance policy, as is happening in D.C., prosecutorial discretion is a perversion of justice and undermines democracy. If representatives cannot pass a law and expect it to be "faithfully executed", then we cease to be a nation of laws at all. If the executive branch chooses to ignore some laws because they, and not the legislature, think the law is wrong then that is dangerously close to authoritarianism, with the application of the law being subject to the whims of one person alone.

To paraphrase the headline of today's essay: "The policy-driven prosecutorial discretion is the problem"

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“When used as a way to advance policy … prosecutorial discretion is a perversion of justice and undermines democracy.”

Every prosecutor’s office exercises a substantial amount of discretion, and does so to advance policy goals. This is the way the system is designed - the legislative function is separated from the executive function. Each makes choices, each faces the voters.

Don’t believe me? What is the speed limit in the highway nearest your home? How many people drive under that limit? Ten percent? Nobody drives the speed limit most places because they know police don’t enforce small violations. Every now and then a speed camera goes up and there the law is enforced. This is a trivial example but it’s familiar enough that people recognize it. You could repeat it law by law by law.

Stop and frisk was a *policy* innovation. Not all cities adopted it. Where to put police, which charges to emphasize, which to prosecute: these are everyday policy choices.

It’s perfectly coherent to say you don’t agree with these prosecutors’ choices or argue they’re wrong and dangerous. But what they’re doing is an expected outcome of the system.

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founding

What you are describing is the good faith argument in favor of discretion which I referenced in my original comment. But I submit there is a difference in kind, not just in degree, between choosing not to ticket for someone driving 66 mph in a 65 mph zone and choosing not to prosecute entire sections of the law, as in illegal gun possession.

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Prioritizing certain sections of the law is just setting enforcement priorities, something all prosecutors do. Calling it "progressive prosecution" is just a campaign rhetoric gimmick.

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founding

Hence why I never used the phrase "progressive prosecution".

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wouldn’t they prosecute if, say, the gun were used in a murder. i can only imagine they add firearms charges to most indictments for shooting people

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The only situation where the executive should refuse to enforce a law is if they believe it to be unconstitutional, in which case there should be a mechanism to bring that to a court to resolve the issue.

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You'd be surprised how far gutting a budget goes to not not enforcing a law.

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founding

The situation that Matt describes in D.C. is the Federal prosecutor decided not to enforce certain laws. It has nothing to do with budgetary constraints.

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Because some people think enforcing the law, like paying transit fares, is racist.

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It literally says in the linked article that it does have to do with budgetary constraints:

Because the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences lost its accreditation in 2021, prosecutors have to pay to have evidence for DNA, firearm and fingerprint analysis sent to outside laboratories, Graves said. Prosecutors, he said, prioritize doing so for violent offenses.

“We are now entering year three of DFS being shut down without any clear plan of coming back online,” Graves said. “We have to prioritize violent felonies and make sure we are doing the forensic testing for those cases. Our office is often bearing the cost for this analysis.”

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

Well good thing there were so many other points that Matt brought up and I wasn't addressing that one. (addendum: for example the red county sheriffs who don't enforce their blue state gun laws)

Eventually you're going to find this nitpicky Mr Gotcha willful misinterpretation strategy of discourse isn't going to advance a conversation, even if it provides you the feeling that you're most right, by being technically most correct about something in a different context.

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founding

Shorter: "I was wrong, but it doesn't matter"

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Even shorter: I wasn't talking about that.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

Which is why I am still astounded that George Bush publicly said the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act is unconstitutional and signed it anyway.

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He also did this with the act that declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. That one also went all the way up to SCOTUS and was eventually won by the executive branch (which by them was deep into the Obama administration).

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At least Clinton didn't actually sign the original bill as an act of protest against Congress. He should have at least vetoed it and made Congress override him, but in this case some protest is better than full capitulation like Bush. I know this seems petty, but when Bush signed BCRA into law he knowingly, willingly, and publicly violated his oath of office, and that is a more impeachable offense than other bad things he did.

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How is that a violation of the oath of office? Presidents don’t decide what’s constitutional. Bush was just doing his version of standing on both sides of the fence, as politicians are wont to do.

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Presidents aren't the final arbiter of constitutionality. But they can still have stances about it. Congress used to hold votes on the constitutionality of bills. Every president says in their oath "...will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Bush publicly said he wasn't doing this.

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Yes, but ...

Legislatures pass laws expecting that there will be prosecutorial and policing deaccession. Sometimes this is reasonable and sometimes not. And legislatures make available resources for police and prosecutors to influence the extent wo which they can "faithfully execute" the laws that are passed.

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What about the debate over open carry legislation in FL? That seems pretty important with real stakes.

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Every legal gun owner in the United States knows this. This is literally the conversation whenever gun owners talk about gun control.

It’s the most obvious, yet under discussed issue whenever gun control is discussed. And one of the main reasons gun owners say things like... 1st enforce the laws you already have before making new ones.

Of course, it will never happen.

Disclaimer: I own several guns. All locked away in a safe. I don’t shoot nearly as much as I would like, but it is fun.

Side note: nothing compares to Alaska for open or concealed carry or firearms. Though the little town in Eastern Oregon that my cabin is in comes close.

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I hear this a lot, but this is often a bait-and-switch intransigence argument, because very few people say how they want the current laws to be better enforced, but it's always compelling because everyone can imagine the enforcement to be someone else's problem.

If the current laws were enforced to a higher level, people would be complaining about how much the police are enforcing the law, like with the stop-and-frisk style policing that effects some people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like we all know drunk driving is bad, but we can't have breathalyzer checkpoints every 5 miles. Should we really not propose any other laws or policies that minimize alcohol related deaths until we achieve perfect implementation of the drunk driving ban?

Or if illegal firearms are bad, would we really want cops searching a car every time they see a Browning deer decal, or if they ran the driver's info to see if they ever had a background check at a gun shop, or previous charge? That'd all be a next reasonable step to better enforcement of the current laws.

There should be a name for the type of categorical fallacy that posits something is a good, because I imagine it's externalities likely won't effect me. Like the type of think the Rawlsian Theory of Justice seeks to undo.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

I don't think your comparison to drunk driving works.

The fact is that drunk driving laws are, for the most part, enforced in this country. If you get caught drunk driving, the police generally aren't going to let you off, and the courts are generally always going to give you some kind of penalty. That certain and consistent enforcement has helped to reduce the problem of drunk driving. Unlike illegal gun possession.

Consider if we treated drunk driving like illegal gun possession in progressive jurisdictions. People would potentially get arrested or a ticket for it, but the system wouldn't impose any penalties. Cops would realize that stopping people for drunk driving is largely a waste of their time except in more extreme cases. The only people prosecuted would be those who drove drunk and killed or injured someone.

The incentives of that would tell people that drunk driving is not risky as long as you don't get in an accident. We'd have a lot more people drinking and driving.

Now, one might propose other measures - checkpoints every 5 miles - as an additional step. But that additional step doesn't really work or do anything if the system refuses to punish drunk drivers in the first place. In the same way, passing additional gun laws that the legal system won't or can't enforce is not going to produce much in terms of actual effects.

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I love the alcohol question.

According to https://drugabusestatistics.org/alcohol-related-deaths/ alcohol related deaths were 95k a 2022. 10k were driving,

According to https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/firearms/fastfact.html there were 45k in 2020.

So why are we not bringing back prohibition? If less people dying is the goal, beer and wine and liquor need to go before guns!

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

You'd be surprised how many people go into court for their DUI and instead get a slap on the wrist with a "wet and reckless" and then given a nominal fine and a quota of AA meetings to attend, rather than any charges that goes on a record.

In fact, you're largely describing the enforcement of drunk driving as it is in many places.

In either case, the issue still remains, if gun-owners want us to better enforce the laws on the books, rather than put better laws on the books, how do they want us to enforce them?

They never really say, because it's rhetoric designed to get broad, ambiguous appeal and stall out the discussion.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

Which jurisdictions are these? And getting a fine, required AA meetings and - presumably - skyrocketing insurance costs is still a lot more than what is happening with illegal gun possession where charges are just dropped.

"In either case, the issue still remains, if gun-owners want us to better enforce the laws on the books, rather than put better laws on the books, how do they want us to enforce them?"

The "they" here is a pretty diverse, but the obvious thing to start with is to consistently prosecute those who break the law with a gun, to include illegal gun possession. The first step is to not just throw the cases out. Even if you don't send them to jail, there needs to be some kind of real consequence if you actually want to change behavior.

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"You'd be surprised how many people" is code for "I think this is true and that's good enough"

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You'd be surprised how I actually mean what I say, and I'm not speaking in code.

But try it, go to traffic court for a day, and listen to how many charges get reduced for first time infractions. I've done it. I was surprised.

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A wet reckless driving is still a criminal charge on someone’s record. And in many cases the reason for a reduction is because there’s some ambiguity as to someone’s level of impairment (particularly in cases where the driver does not give a breath, urine, or blood sample).

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I mean, you tell me. Go to traffic court for a day, and see if you don't see anyone come in who blew a certified .10 BAC, and then have the judge offer them a wet-n-reckless.

It shows up on a record of fines, but it's not a criminal charge and it's not a misdemeanor.

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I’m a criminal defense attorney. So yes I have seen DUIs play out in court.

A Judge can’t offer someone a reduction. That’s a power for the prosecutor.

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>because very few people say how they want the current laws to be better enforced<

Well, and a great many people would oppose stronger enforcement of gun regulation—let's be blunt. There are complaints on this very thread about prosecuting people for "paperwork crimes." And can you imagine the howl that would greet actual requests for, you know, more law enforcement resources to enforce existing gun laws? I'm sure Tom Tommy Tuberville and Marsha Blackburn would totally be on board for a big increase in the ATF budget.

The fact is the gun rights movement in the United States has become well and truly radicalized. Can you imagine Everett Dirksen or Barry Goldwater mugging for the camera with their families, all holding military rifles, and then making the resulting snapshots into Christmas cards?

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More enforcement doesn't have to be a huge public policy fight, though. Part of the point of using "existing laws" is that you can do it with dry memorandums distributed through emails to city police departments about policy changes and priorities, or with different decisions by prosecutor offices. Increasing budgets are things done in boring city council meetings no one attends.

This is one of those issues Yglesias points to as liberals shouldn't talk about it, they should just do it quietly and without a lot of argument where they have the legal authority to do so. It's just that first they need to get their internal policy house in order and agree it is in fact what they want to do.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

You can be unhappy about these issues, as I am and still accept the fundamental soundness of Rory’s argument. In Chicago, we are so awash in guns that even the galaxy brained plan of a national ban would take decades to achieve improvement.

Meanwhile our states attorney, the county president and many soft brained activists describe illegal gun possession as a ‘non-violent’ crime.

This is the order of operations we must pursue to convince gun holders for the steps you and I want.

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>In Chicago, we are so awash in guns that even the galaxy brained plan of a national ban would take decades to achieve improvement.<

I think the evidence strongly suggests some improvement would be seen almost immediately from the imposition of effective (and given the lack of internal borders in the US, that means "national") gun regulations. And very substantial improvement within few years. Certainly not "decades."

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"The fact is the gun rights movement in the United States has become well and truly radicalized. Can you imagine Everett Dirksen or Barry Goldwater mugging for the camera with their families, all holding military rifles, and then making the resulting snapshots into Christmas cards?"

That is evidence that the gun rights movement has been normalized (which it has, and which I support), which is the opposite of radicalized. I know that it sounds better to call your political opponents radicals to force them into an outgroup, but a large plurality, if not majority, of Americans support gun rights, and pretending that they're all crazy is.... not convincing to anyone who doesn't already agree with you.

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I don’t think the “implementation can’t be perfect” argument applies when a wing of the Democratic Party is advocating to not prosecute people found with illegal gums (and in some places succeeding).

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" wing of the Democratic Party is advocating to not prosecute people found with illegal gums"

Damn straight. I don't want us to become Singapore. :-)

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

It also doesn't apply that what's going on with a specific geographically limited wing of a party applies to the whole policy-proposing opposition.

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Ok, but that’s the scope of the article. Not enforcing illegal gun crimes and advocating against it is inconsistent with wanting fewer guns.

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I think you'll find those things don't logically follow or what's actually going on.

People could individually always just buy less guns and/or commit less gun crime.

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I mean, yes, they could. But they haven’t. And prosecuting gun crimes is one way to ensure that they would.

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There are some people who are reflexively opposed to new gun laws, but there are many people who might be open to it, but would want to hear a proposal that will actually impact gun crime without denying them the ability to own a gun. And that's just really hard to do. We have a pretty good number of laws on the books around gun ownership - most of the proposals made now (assault weapon ban) would have very limited impact on gun homicides while banning something that a large number of people own and do so safely!

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My proposal is to make it 25 year age limit to own a semi-automatic pistol or rifle.

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With exceptions for veterans?

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I’m agnostic. It’s not a hill I would die on. If it made it easier to pass, sure. If there were no exceptions, I’m not bothered.

Us veterans aren’t special.

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Yes, veterans are special: They are a cohort of Americans who have, 1) demonstrated a high-level of responsible behavior, and, 2) received at least a fairly rigorous firearms training that includes marksmanship and safe handling.

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The only problem is most of the folks who "who want to hear a proposal that will actually impact gun crime" will keep moving the goalposts and don't want to admit there are, and will always be, trade-offs. We have speed limits to save lives, even though it restricts safe drivers from getting to work faster. I personally can't think of a single pro-responsible-gun-owner piece of legislature in circulation put forward by responsible gun owners that posits "we will do this, and it will marginally reduce this type of crime, but in a way that doesn't bother gun owners."

It's a ruse.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

Yea but that ruse is to a significant degree the natural political counter force to the other ruse, that being the assertion that the ultimate goal of the other side is something other than de facto prohibition on private ownership of firearms.

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That's a ludicrous mischaracterization.

There's been no headline talk of restricting private security businesses from owning firearms, and most "progressives" would prefer the state owned far fewer firearms, with a less militarized police force.

If you wanna talk about ruses, there's your ruse.

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If the State, and the rich (those who can afford the services of private security) want to give theirs up first, it would go a long way to convincing gun owners that there is any good faith in the effort to disarm them.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

> because very few people say how they want the current laws to be better enforced

You're posting this comment under a lengthy article that tries to answer exactly this question. Matt outlined it pretty clearly: start by prosecuting people when they are caught in possession of a gun illegally. It's pretty simple. This will make a difference, even without doing any extra policing - cops in American cities come across plenty of illegal guns just going about their day, without having to adopt overly zealous "stop and frisk" tactics.

> Or if illegal firearms are bad, would we really want cops searching a car every time they see a Browning deer decal

Indeed, this wouldn't fly. And Matt was not arguing for this. This would basically just be "stop and frisk" except on conservatives instead of urban black men - so I would file this under Matt's argument that "stop and frisk" is a bad idea. He does cite Thomas Abt's work for what an alternative policing to reduce gun violence might look like.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

But what exactly are responsible gun owners advocating as a better mode of enforcement?

The thing is, they don't advocate for anything workable, and it's left intentionally vague. They just want to shoot down (harhar) any legislation they perceive targets (harhar) them as some oppressed class. Even when the "enforce the current laws" protocol they're suggesting would make them more primed (harhar) for policing, by all reasonable strategies.

That was the crux of my responce, not specifically what Matt's talking about.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

Responsible gun owners promote teaching people how to treat firearms with respect, and encourage having a stable society where violence is less common.

The parallels with the War on Drugs are striking.

It's very likely that we cannot enforce our way out of our violence problem.

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That's strange, because very few gun owners promote state subsidized firearm training, gun licensure, or even possibly a civil service.

It's certainly not the NRA's party line.

And differs incredibly from the progressive polices proposed to decriminalize drugs, while reducing the harms.

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"supporting something" is not the same thing as "wanting the state to control it."

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Having a culture that respects human life and the rule of law is very hard to legislate, and besides economic reform that decreases the need to commit crime to survive, a better more stable culture is what will drive down murder.

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They don't support having the state do it, no. Licensure already exists in many ways (background checks are essentially a license) and doesn't affect criminals for one thing, obviously. And there are plenty of open spots for firearm training going unfilled already, anyone who wants to can obtain good safety and use training right now. If you want to offer rebates for training, that's cool! I would love to get my money back for courses. I don't know what kind of civil service you mean so I can't address that.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

Gun enthusiasts don't actually want enforcement - as they believe many of the laws that would actually be enforced are illegitimate and unconstitutional. Most are just bringing it up to point out liberal hypocrisy on the issue.

Gun enthusiasts want basically unrestricted firearms ownership and they refuse to see the connection between more guns and more deaths. They can't really be reasoned with on this issue. The aim of prosecuting gun possession (in cities with the political capital to do so) isn't trying to "come up with something workable" gun enthusiasts approve of, it's to a) Improve public safety and b) take away their strongest argument against the gun control movement.

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Two issues with this take. One, gun owners see a connection, but reason that there is both a disconnect between the 'culture of gun owners', and 'criminals who use guns for murder'. A fantastically small percentage of guns and shooters are the problem, not the vast majority. So blanket gun control and abridgment of rights to curtail the actions of a very small group of people seems like a questionable deal.

Second, there is famously a tradeoff between Liberty and Security, and it seems that the various sides of the gun control/violence debate simply have different values on the scale.

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Wow, strange, conservatives don't actually want to drive to a conclusion, they just want bad faith politics to gum up the operations of the state. Never heard of that before.

Not at all like when it comes to taxes or how to reduce the deficit.

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I'm a gun owner who thinks all of the gun laws, including the paperwork laws, should be enforced. A felon who tries to buy a gun and fails the NCIS background check shouldn't just be refused, they should be arrested and prosecuted. Someone who can't legally possess or carry a gun who is found in possession or carrying a gun should be prosecuted.

There are some paperwork-related regulations that I think are bad, but I think those should be aggressively enforced, too, because that will motivate their repeal.

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I don't think people would object to officers doing drunk-driving checks whenever they pull a car over for driving recklessly (e.g. inability to keep a lane, swerving/weaving etc.). The problem with your scenario is that the hypothetical DUI checkpoints are an imposition on everyone, whether or not they're engaging in bad behavior.

Similarly, I don't think people would overly object to officers doing weapons checks on individuals who are otherwise seen to be engaging in behavior warranting an officer's intervention. Patting down someone who the officer's just pulled out of an altercation at a bar or club is a good idea. Stopping random people just going about their ordinary day is not.

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But many cities still regularly utilize breathalyzer checkpoints, even when they are an imposition on everyone!

Your "patdown" is another person's "stopping random people."

In either case, what do these gun owners who "merely want better enforcement of the current rules" actually want? Because most of them don't even think getting kicked out of food service establishment warrants an additional patdown.

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No, "patting down someone who just got pulled out of an altercation" is not "stopping random people." You didn't read (or ignored) the "just got pulled out of an altercation" bit.

And yes, sometimes indiscriminate checkpoints can be justified, e.g. on holidays where a significantly-larger-than-normal number of people are drinking, like New Year's, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day, etc. That doesn't mean they're always a good idea.

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You seemed to ignore the "getting kicked out of a food service establishment" bit that I recognized and conceded. My point is that your "probable cause" might be someone else's "random" search.

I mean, really, who's more likely to be carrying an illegal firearm, the town drunk, or someone with gang or militia insignia on their jacket or car?

There's even gender profiling implications to this.

We will really never know what's the best policy.

But what policy exactly are the responsible gun-owners proposing instead?

That's what I want to know.

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I am also a gun owner and in full agreement with Matt's post. I can't help but note that as much as "enforce the laws we have!" Is popular, so is the growing trend of saying that the ATF should not exist (or in the meme form, that killing ATF agents is funny). I don't think people saying "just enforce the laws we have" are being totally fair about what that entails

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Growing trend? I remember the convenience store joke going all the way back to when I was a kid.

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Oh yeah I'm thinking more in online spaces where anything gun adjacent that isn't corporate has a "ATF shooting your pupper" joke at a minimum.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

I sort of agree with this, but l think you can't overlook the fact that "enforce the laws" is something that requires resources and has multiple meanings, at least in my personal experience.

Gun advocates have been consistently uninterested in, for example, providing the resources for a truly rapid, responsive background check system. People complain about the kinks in the system, but the fact that it often results in checks not getting done and purchases getting waved through is, for a lot of folks, a feature, not a bug. And when I talk multiple meanings in enforcement, I'm speaking from experience: growing up as a white kid with guns in a rural part of Texas, I got caught breaking various kinds of possession or usage laws several times (for example, shooting practice off a pier), and police just didn't care, because "people like me" weren't "the problem" (and, to be honest, they were right, and the guns in question were always hunting weapons, but rules are rules).

I was very plugged into Republican politics as a younger person (my greatest moment: meeting Dan Quayle at a GOP fundraising dinner--lol), and I always understood back then that "enforce the laws" was a kind of thing people like me said secure in the knowledge that it was a reasonable thing we believed that also wouldn't actually change the status quo in any meaningful way (for us) and usefully blocked Dem demands that WOULD change the status quo.

Maybe all that has changed; I'm not at all plugged into GOP politics any more, so maybe these days everyone is operating in total good faith with an expectation that enforcing the laws would change the status quo. But it's why, whenever I hear the "enforce the laws" language, I kind of roll my eyes. I don't think gun enthusiasts would actually like it if we REALLY enforced the laws (which, recall, include pretty invasive stuff like storage laws, but also stuff like Jersey's controversy around biometric trigger controls), which is why gun owners sue when jurisdictions try to actually enforce laws that impose real restrictions on gun possession or usage.

It feels like not exactly a bad faith claim but also not exactly a genuine good-faith belief, if that makes sense.

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I support universal background checks, though they will make a very very tiny dent in the overall gun violence rate.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

> I don't think gun enthusiasts would actually like it if we REALLY enforced the laws

They wouldn't like it, indeed. They're very up front that what they really want is the laws repealed. But I don't really think this contradicts most conservatives pointing out lack of enforcement.

From their perspective, liberals' unwillingness to enforce these laws on the books exposes them as bad faith actors when it comes to guns. It seems to expose the anti-gun movement is more of a culture war against Bubba with his AR-15, while the actual hotspots of gun violence in America go ignored.

If you listen to gun owners, their nightmare scenario is one where law abiding people can't own guns - but gun violence is still rampant due to non law abiding people owning guns. Personally I always get frustrated with gun enthusiasts' refusal to see the very clear connection between the number of guns and the number of deaths - but I have to sympathize with them on this point. If we have tighter gun control, but the current enforcement regime continues - we really could be in for their imagined hellscape where society gets all the costs of gun control (can't use for self defense) and none of the benefits (reduction in gun violence).

Of course, where I disagree with gun enthusiasts is that I believe with proper enforcement, the benefits of gun control will outweigh the costs.

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I think I disagree. A minority (vocal) might want less laws, but most gun owners are agnostic about laws that don’t affect them… with a few exceptions in a few locations.

But all in all, this is a very valid comment.

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Maybe I'm melding "gun owners and "gun enthusiasts" too much. But I think it varies depending on the law. Most law abiding gun owners approve of the background check system, and are fine with laws against straw buying, for instance - they don't see those laws as impeding their ability to be a lawful gun owner.

Laws such as assault weapons bans, making concealed carry permits really hard to get, etc. are another story. A lot of gun enthusiasts I've talked to, for instance, are very mad about laws in liberal jurisdictions that don't effect them, and would love to see SCOTUS to strike them down.

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I get the argument for assault, weapons, ban, even though I don’t agree with it. My compromise would be to make all semi automatics illegal to owned by anyone under the age of 25, but that’s neither here nor there.

My question is on the concealed carry permit resistance. I can’t remember a single incident. A new story where a concealed carrier has murdered someone. It’s just not an issue. So why would people be resistant to them. It’s one of those issues that is clearly a cultural fuck you then a evidence-based intervention.

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I oppose the straw purchase prohibition on the grounds that it's not actually a law, and not even a regulation enacted pursuant to a law, but a whole-cloth invention of the ATF. I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other about whether we should pass a law banning straw purchases (though if we did I'd argue that it should focus on purchases on behalf of criminals, not of just anyone), but a ban that is an artifact of the wording chosen on federal forms is bad.

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There is of course a faction that wants minimal regulation as a goal in and of itself. In my experience I think what the median gun owner is concerned about and really animated against are (i) bans, either de jure or de facto via onerous regulation passed the point of diminishing returns and (ii) incoherence in what the law does and doesn't allow.

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“…gun enthusiasts' refusal to see the very clear connection between the number of guns and the number of deaths…”

Maybe because they understand it’s not the number of guns, it’s whose hands the guns are in.

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It's just not possible in a free society to prevent the guns getting into the wrong hands.

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It is possible to reduce the number in wrong hands with the laws we currently have. What’s needed to is to take it seriously.

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The notion that we could ever prevent “law abiding people” from owning guns is just plain nuts. Sure there may be progressives who fantasize about that, like they fantasize about “smashing capitalism,” but realistically nothing like that is possible in the US. It would be nice if we could just go back to how things used to be, when most people didn’t have guns unless they were into hunting or actually worked in law enforcement (or were violent criminals). Now we’re at a point where there is a case heading to the Supreme Court that argues it should be unconstitutional to prevent a violent domestic abuser from owning a gun because he’s not a threat to the public at large, only to his girlfriend.

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Just want to add--when I said it was mostly just hunters that had guns, lots and lots of people were into hunting in the old days, either for sport or to feed their families or both.

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>Gun advocates have been consistently uninterested in, for example, providing the resources for a truly rapid, responsive background check system

What specifically are you looking for? As I'm sure you know, when you buy a gun from an FFL they search the entire federal database for whether or not you're a prohibited person, like a felon or involuntarily hospitalized. And the vast majority of gun purchases are done via an FFL, not at 'gun shows' or whatever AOC believes. It's an incredibly difficult task to search every federal DB- the US has like 18 separate federal law enforcement agencies- but somehow it took the system less than 15 minutes the last time I purchased a gun.

It's pretty incredible that it works as well as it does, and there's obviously no way to force private sellers to use an FFL. The system seems fine as it is.....?

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The problem with background checks aren't the checks themselves but the original data reporting. The checks thoroughly search the available data, but if data isn't originally reported the check isn't going to catch something.

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I mean sure its great that it overcomes many limitations but it’s not very forward thinking to say it’s fine. Too many loopholes. But agreed that the priority should be enforcement of existing laws.

It’s crazy to me that the progressives out there and here do not seem to realize that gun rights activists are using virtually the same arguments (sloppy enforcement, inequitable blah blah) to just write those laws out of existence. Nullifying the laws is the first step to repeal.

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“…it often results in checks not getting done and purchases getting waved through is, for a lot of folks, a feature, not a bug”

I have never heard anyone put forth this opinion. Rather, everyone wishes the federal government would close up these holes in the system.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

I've been enjoying this thread, and in the interest of alternate history, instead of fighting the Civil War, we should have said 'so long fuckers'. Would have solved 90% of today's gun problem. I've lived btw 40 years in Brooklyn and never seen a gun or a gun shop. Not sure what the problem is, but it does make for entertaining reading.

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I grew up in a rural state where guns were a common feature of life, though not a universal or frequent one. Gun stores were plentiful - hell, Kmart sold guns - but crimes were exceedingly rare. I went to school in PA, in a somewhat less rural though still rural area where you’d see guns off campus from time to time. I served in the Army, in the infantry, where during training and deployments firearms were a constant presence - they never left your side. I later lived in NYC, and then NJ, where, as you know, there is quite a different attitude. Now I live in Miami, which has Florida Man and his crazy antics in the news all the time, but gun violence, as it is in NYC, is confined to fairly small and well-known areas or to other circumstances everyone knows how to avoid. (I bet you don’t go walking the streets of Brooklyn at 2AM, do you?)

As far as “what the problem is,” I think Matt did a decent job of laying that out in his essay. Go after the criminals with guns - they’re the problem.

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I'm 70 years old so don't walk the streets at 2AM, but I'm also an insomniac and often step outside for a cigarette then. Never been hassled or mugged. At 4AM the bars and clubs close and the streets are full of walkers. At 5AM I have the street all to myself.

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"I got caught breaking various kinds of possession or usage laws several times (for example, shooting practice off a pier), and police just didn't care, because "people like me" weren't "the problem" (and, to be honest, they were right, and the guns in question were always hunting weapons, but rules are rules)."

This is to me an incredibly revealing comment. Not in a bad way. I thought your post in general was quite thoughtful.

For a variety of reasons, Matt has ended up in a place where he's spends a lot of time scolding left wing overreach, including this post. The result of which is I sort of end up (semi) defending the more extremely lefty side of the Democratic party as a sort of counterbalance to the comments and Matt's writing even when in cases where I have a lot of agreement with him. Which is what's going to happen here.

The basic thrust of Matt's piece to me is correct. There is a real tension between gun control and not prosecuting gun possession crimes. And it seems like right now, it would probably be a good decision to a) enforce gun possession crimes and b) for prosecutors to treat gun possession crimes more seriously.

Having said that you're anecdote is where I think someone more on the Progressive side of things could rightly push back. You say in the incident in question "people like me weren't the problem". And reality, I'm perfectly willing to believe in practice that while you were technically breaking crimes, you were using you gun in a way that was not particularly dangerous or worthy of arrest and being charged. But, are we really sure that in all incidents where "people like you" are contravening various gun laws, "people like you" aren't actually a problem? The police reaction to basically say don't worry "it's one of our people, not those people" is where I think Progessives can rightly say this is a problem. Selective enforcement of the law based on whether the person committing the crime is right type of person is a depressingly imbedded part of our country's history. Matt makes reference to the problems of "Stop and Frisk". But while there is excessive focus on police shootings (similar to Matt's point about shootings involving assault rifles), police pulling over black drivers at an excessive rate is a very real phenomenon. https://news.stanford.edu/press-releases/2020/05/05/veil-darkness-reas-traffic-stops/

My point is, while on a cost-benefit analysis, enforcing gun possession laws (both arrests and prosecution) is probably worth it, worrying who this going to effect the most and who is may be unfairly targeted is a real concern.

By the way, this whole issue does tie together to DJT being indicted. I'm aware that most Republicans who are complaining about this indictment are not doing so out of some deep seated analysis of prosecutorial overreach or study of the law, but rather pure partisanship (guessing if exact facts were the same but DJT was a Democrat there would quite a few left leaning voters making similar arguments as right leaning voters. Though given the very particular political climate we're in, I suspect way more Democrats would be willing to support the indictment. But I digress). But there are also a number of "sober" voices who are saying that Trump shouldn't be indicted no matter what (again we don't know what's indictment yet) and I don't think people realize how much that undermines general arguments about enforcing the law or just "tough on crime". I'm going to hazard a guess that the majority of people decrying the indictment are likely to agree with Matt's post. Putting arguments out there that laws need to be enforced to the full extent of the law against "regular" people but if you're powerful enough, maybe not so much is a sure fire way to undermine support for enforcing stuff like gun possession (at least sure fire way to push me in a more lefty direction).

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

Also, universal enforcement would most likely have made you, ‘not the problem child’ far less likely to be possessing the guns illegally.

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This may be the conversation you and your friends have but this is decidedly NOT what happens in real life.

Did you read the part Matt wrote about Missouri? They didn’t pass a resolution to enforce existing gun laws. They loosened them further. With the (apparent) result of increasing homicides.

In fact this seems to happen in red leaning legislatures across the country after school shootings. Is to loosen gun laws?

I’m gonna be harsh here. Did you even read the piece here? Can you please point me to a state where the GOP trifecta and show me where their reaction to a school shooting is to pass laws that allow police to arrest more people for illegal gun possession? What you are saying is literally the opposite of what happens politically.

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You seem angry. And honestly I’m not sure of your point.

I never said don’t do anything else.

And enforcing gun laws is pretty easy. If you arrest someone in possession of an illegal gun out in public, send them to jail for a couple years no questions asked.

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I'm angry because this "Every legal gun owner in the United States knows this. This is literally the conversation whenever gun owners talk about gun control." is just decidedly not what happens in the real world. And the proof is the laws passed by state legislatures in the wake of school shootings. This is pattern is NOT happening if the majority position among gun owners is just enforce the existing laws on the books. That may be the position you have, but the proof is in the pudding so to speak.

This was just signed from one of the leading GOP candidates for President. https://www.politico.com/news/2023/03/30/desantis-florida-gun-laws-00089836.

Honestly, the pattern is the exact opposite from what you describe in regards to enforcing even existing gun laws as you say. https://www.nhpr.org/nh-news/2022-05-25/nh-republicans-state-enforcement-federal-gun-ban

So based on your logic, can you please point to me the uprising of New Hampshire Republican voters decrying this sort of logic from their legislature? Can you point to me Republican legislators who are out there saying we need stricter enforcement of existing gun laws? I really tried googling here and what came up was just the exact opposite. As an example. https://www.citybeat.com/news/loveland-rep-wants-to-keep-ohio-cops-from-enforcing-federal-gun-laws-14886857

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Hey. Sorry for the mad remark. I really didn’t understand your point. Anyway, see my comments further down the thread.

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Nope. I use the phrase you seem angry when people seem a great and honestly don’t make sense.

I still don’t understand what he is talking about. He jumps from all gun owners to state assemblies.

Last I checked, state assemblies weren’t all gun owners. And these federal gun law enforcement bans aren’t anything to do with the kids arrested and released with hand guns in Chicago.

He comes across as reactionary and attacking.

Which is weird since I’m not against gun control.

Personally, I would make raise the legal gun possession age to 25. Then throw in jail any one younger who own s or possessed one.

It would make a huge effect on gun crime.

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I took his question to be, if gun owners want more enforcement, then why is the legislative momentum from gun-friendly states running the other way? Why isn't the preference you describe having an impact on policy? Is the NRA not representative of gun owners' views, and if they're not, why do they have so much influence on gun policy?

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deletedApr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023
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That was the status quo, and while better than "no enforcement at all", was still not very effective. Humans simply aren't wired to pay attention when 1 of the 50 people they know toting an illegal firearm got popped and ended up in prison for a year or two.

If 10-15 of those get caught over the course of a year or two, and each does 3 months in prison and gets put on probation... then people will stop carrying for street cred or "just in case" and you've spun up a virtuous circle where carrying an illegal gun likely means something serious was going on and good, old-fashioned police work can unravel it, because the background noise level is so much lower.

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That sounds awfully good in principle.

What about the nurse who has to walk through a crime-ridden neighborhood after her shift ends at 3 a.m.? Send her to jail for a couple years?

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No. She should be get a permit and carry it legally.

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Indeed, that is the preferred means. But life is messy. So she has to make that awful walk just this once and, being scared, takes her boyfriend's gun with her but gets pulled over by the cops.

I was just trying to tap the brakes on your "no questions asked" statement. Of course we should ask some questions.

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That’s a tough one, but assuming the gun l s no questions ask we’re being enforced, I hypothesize that the crime rate would of been way lower and she would of felt safer, and wouldn’t have felt the need to carry her boyfriends gun.

But if she did, she should be arrested and sentenced. So should the boyfriend if he gave it to her.

Now if this was a constitutional carry state, she would be safe. It would be legal for her… no problem.

Also, most gun possession laws that aren’t prosecuted are (having a gun while committing another crime or having a felony record)

We could just enforce those particular crimes.

But why was she searched anyway?

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I would be fine with, say, the first offense being a minor one but the second being a felony. If you start catching a large fraction of offenders, lots of options open up.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

> Did you read the part Matt wrote about Missouri? They didn’t pass a resolution to enforce existing gun laws. They loosened them further.

I think what you're missing here is that gun owners aren't actually saying they want stricter enforced gun laws, when they say that. They're simply using the contradiction between desired gun laws and actual enforcement to say that liberals can't be trusted on the gun issue. And claiming it illustrates their fear that increased gun control will simply mean less ability for law abiding citizens to defend themselves, while criminals run free with guns.

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I have a hunch that there is slightly more diverse views and discussion amongst the millions of legal gun owners in America than suggested here.

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Lol. Finally someone called me out on it. Yes… yes there is. I might of used a bit of hyperbole.

It might not be the only conversation, but it is a big part of it.

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But do responsible gun owners get that we have lax gun laws that are weakly enforced operating under a dubious recent re-interpretation of the 2nd amendment, and it's not like we ended up here randomly, it's an intentional byproduct of well-organized lobbying and activism from gun owners, gun manufacturers, and conservative politicians?

This isn't the norm in other countries, we are the outlier, and we pay a pretty big price for it in terms of annual deaths to firearms, both homicide and suicide.

It's not like we'd see a drastic changes in those annual figures if only liberal cities started prosecuting gun crimes more than they do right now - though I'd like to see it.

We used to have a Republican party that supported gun control and their 1972 platform advocated for restricting access to cheap handguns. The NRA supported the 1934 first federal gun law, they used to focus more on gun safety than on re-interpreting the 2nd amendment. I'd love to see responisble gun owners reclaim the GOP and NRA and get them working toward a culture of safe gun ownership rather than what they've been doing lately.

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How do you propose we do this?

I live in New York City, and unlike some other jurisdictions mentioned by Matt in the piece, our "progressive prosecutors" have *not* stopped prosecuting gun crimes. Illegal possession of a gun is a statutorily a violent crime in New York state.

But it is very easy to buy an illegal-in-New-York gun somewhere else in the US and then bring it to New York. Surely you do not expect us to establish checkpoints at every state border crossing or point of entry and search people's belongings to see if they are smuggling in an illegal gun. So how do we "enforce the laws" better here in New York?

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1. NY crime rate lower than many cities.

2. NY hasn’t stopped prosecuting gun crimes.

Seems to me rest of country should copy.

You are welcome.

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Well, that's a great plan for the rest of the country, but I already live in New York and I'm not ready to declare victory on gun violence just because other parts of the country are worse.

What else can we do?

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Cameras, everywhere, trying to catch people with firearms and target police efforts.

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You've kind of answered your own question here; the DAS covers Lower Manhattan and a few select areas beyond.

Put it everywhere, and update the hardware to allow sufficient resolution for machine image recognition for firearms and facial recognition.

Then send the police to stop everyone it identifies with a firearm and ask for a concealed carry permit.

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Most effectively, I think NYC can do its best to persuade other cities in the US to adopts its approach. Both its approach to policing and gun prosecution.

That would of course require actually trying to persuade and not just yelling.

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Not sure "New York City tells the rest of the country what it should do" is going to fly particularly well in the rest of the country, even in places that are not particularly right leaning. The attack ad basically writes itself "Those fat cat New Yorkers who work on Wall Street think they can tell us what to do?".

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That's why I said they should try and persuade instead of yelling. Plus, I'm not talking about trying to convince rural Georgia to copy NYC. But the mayor of Atlanta is probably politically and ideologically similar to the mayor of NYC. Same for Baltimore, and for St. Louis.

Similarly, for the mayors in those cities, seems like they would get a lot of kudos in their towns if they could bring the gun homicides down to NYC levels.

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This seems like good advice for residents of NYC with followings on Twitter, but I'm asking about what New York City, the legal entity charged with writing and enforcing laws, can do.

I was responding to someone who suggested that the main problem with gun violence is that we don't enforce the laws on the books. We're enforcing the laws! But people keep getting shot. What else can we do?

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Search people based on tiny misdemeanors. Say jaywalking or littering. Then if people found with guns, throw in jail.

Also, search people with any sort of previous felony conviction at will and randomly.

Increase sentences for the people currently arrested with weapons to jail until the age of 50.

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Its been a long time since I took criminal justice classes in grad school, and even then NYC was an outlier so I don't know that I have analytically sound advice for NYC. However, my best guess would be that like most other places, violence is likely concentrated in very specific areas. I would definitely follow David R.'s advice there and put up lots of cameras and lots of signs talking about the cameras and then use them vigorously to charge illegal gun possession.

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Same thing with Massachusetts. AFAIK there's a mandatory one year in jail penalty for illegal possession of a handgun that's been on the books for years. And is vigorously enforced. Matt's right to call out lax enforcement of gun laws whether the laxity is emanating from the GOP or the Dems. But it's not a left-right issue.

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It’s a disparate impact issue.

New Hampshire doesn’t have a large black population so the disparate impacts aren’t as visible.

The cities that tend to be lax are largely either heavily black or super progressive (SF or Portland).

Disparate impact is the sole reason for lack of enforcement.

Boise is blue city in a red state and they definitely enforce illegal possession laws.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

I don't know that you can get better than NYC, given the context of the US with porous state borders and widely varying gun laws. Strict national gun bans would be required, I think, to get gun violence anywhere in the US down to European levels.

But the point is things would be dramatically better if more places in the US adopted NYC's approach. Matt's point is that we need to find where the cultural/political constraints are, and do as well as we can in as many parts of the US as possible given those.

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“So how do we ‘enforce the laws’ better here in New York?”

Hire more detectives and have them specialize on gun trafficking.

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This is a question from someone pretty ignorant about gun control. Don't we have technology today that can spot someone carrying a hand gun? Like a metal detector of some sort? And don't we have technology that can spot a car full of hand guns traveling from Virginia to Brooklyn?

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I am not aware of either technology.

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The "tons of rules but no enforcement" idea is probably my biggest hang up with progressive thought on criminal justice. I talk to people in philly telling me that it's actually a socioeconomic problem and we have to do the entire progressive laundry list of ideas because criminals are poor people learning about crime from other poor people.

Yet somehow they aren't leaning anything from being told "you will get away with crime". It's totally braindead

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That argument seems kind of insulting to poor people. Most poor people arent committing crimes.

I’ve also heard that we just need to arrest the people selling illegal guns. Which would be good and may be more efficient than arresting people who are just carrying illegal guns but doing all of the above seems like a much better idea.

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Federal firearm licensed (FFL) dealers aren't selling guns to convicted felons. They may sell to someone else who is straw-buying for a convicted felon, but the crime is committed by the straw-buyer.

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Yeah, I think that they want to go after the straw buyers. But most people probably don’t understand what you pointed out and just generally want to go after the “someone” who is somehow helping get illegal guns into the wrong hands.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

I think people like the "illegal guns" thing because it sounds like there's some illegal gun store that could be shut down, but mostly it's just irresponsible people having their legal guns stolen and focusing on that wouldn't do anything (which is why conservatives also like the idea)

Also yes I don't like that progressives can accept caricatures of groups of people to absolve them of their problems, it's really dumb

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I wonder how that abortion-snitch style gun law Gavin Newsom signed into California is going on.

That kinda of entrapment-adjacent policing is pretty interesting and puts the incentives in a better place than stop-and-frisk. Like with marijuana decriminalization.

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Carrying a gun around changes your perspective and can put you in a heightened state of alert. Many years ago, when I was a young libertarian (for my sins), I went to an open carry event. I have always owned guns but had never just walked around with one on my hip and sling around my back. It gives the wearer a sense of power but also a mild sense of paranoia. Like, if I had to use these tools of offense/defense right now how would I do it? Where is my cover? It was mostly what me and some friends talked about while walking to the event.

I don’t think the average person carrying around a gun in public is a good idea for this reason, it distorts your reality and in some important ways puts you in a low key warfare mindset when you are at the McDonald’s getting a number 1 or waterproofing the community center at the church. For most Americans this is not only unnecessary but a distracting and uncomfortable mental disruption to being a positive, peaceful civilian participant in community life.

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The no. 1 concern is the gun being lost or stolen. I don’t get why anyone would voluntarily want the liability.

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Safe storage laws not only prevent kids and problematic people from getting guns, it also makes them harder to steal. I have one gun that is not stored in our big gun case and it is hidden in the wall of my closet in its own locked case, which I can open quickly in the outside chance of a home invader but would be very hard to find and access if you didn’t know exactly where to look. I only travel with my gun in the car when I’m going to the range and it’s stored in a locked case, out of sight.

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How much liability is there currently for having your gun stolen (especially if it's used in a crime)?

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

No idea. There ought to be very heavy legal liability. However I was thinking at least equally of one's moral liability and fear lest your gun will be stolen and god knows what it will then be used for.

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I'm not big on open carry, but the kind of vigilance and preparation you're describing is absolutely something we want to encourage more of in the general population. Public safety is far better promoted through individual civic duty than it is by state enforcement.

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Your description nicely encapsulates why open carry laws like the one just passed in FL without the need for a permit are facially insane. At best, you’re creating a few “good guys with guns” but almost assuredly you’ll end with far more bad guys with guns.

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Matt gets a lot right in this post. It's mostly about handguns not "assault rifles."

But I feel like were never going to get anywhere in this debate until.all sides can speak honestly about the racial angle which Matt tiptoes around here.

Progressives didn't lose their appetite for enforcing gun laws because one day they woke up.and found incarceration declasse. They lost heart because such laws were having a disparate impact on blacks.

And let's be totally clear black people do in fact commit a disproportionate share of homicides. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-3.xls

Even controlling for poverty, the black homicide rate is around 4 times the rate in general population.

This is the data behind the progressive talking point about Red State homicides being higher. That is largely a factor of having larger black populations as statewide share in places like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia etc or cities like Louisville, KY or St Louis having high murder rates. That's not the whole story obviously as low strata whites will have elevated murder rates too but it's a very big part of it. If we as a society could bring the black murder rate down to the rate for whites and Latinos of equal SES it would have a huge effect on bigger picture

But conservatives have blind spots too because this does suggest that the south could in fact cut its own murder rate by adopting tougher laws against handguns and I feel that this is insufficiently talked about because the politics around gun laws are very different in the south than the north.

As one of Matt's conservative leaning readers, I do think the trend toward lax gun laws in Red States has gone too far

..not just for violent nut jobs being too easily able acquire guns but way way too many gun suicides and accidental shootings as well.

And i think conservative Republicans as the party of guns bear a big responsibility here. We're probably never going to get meaningful gun regulation in America without conservatives inititiating it or at least in broad measure supporting it. Instead too many just deflect from guns every time a mass shooting happens.

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I agree, this is a significant component of it. The case study is Maryland, which was a slave state, and has an urban black population comparable to southern states, but has diverged from 'the South' politically and culturally and therefore (among other differences) has among the strictest gun laws in the country. Now I take the left of center position that the situation is a result of a complex series of factors from legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and numerous socio-economic problems. But I assure you, the tight regulations on legally purchasing a handgun are not having any apparent impact on the number of primarily young black men shooting each other in Baltimore, and that's what makes the homicide rate in Maryland among the top ten.

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We've had almost 100 years of "meaningful gun regulation "

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Quality comment.

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Very, very good points and very well written. To me, Matt really whiffed on this one by completely talking past culture and racism and trying to assign all causation to availability.

I just wanted to chime in on one point you made this is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine. And that is, should you control for poverty? My theory / understanding is that crime causes poverty and not the other way around. So therefore controlling for poverty will always obscure other potential drivers of crime and not illuminate them.

The ways that crime cause poverty are fairly easy to list out: court and legal burdens, police burdens, property damage, physical bodily damage, mental damage, etc... But the ways that poverty cause crime seem a bit more tenuous even though they seem to be widely accepted by people on the left and in academia.

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Poverty does play a big part in the US, but is definitely not the whole story.

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Don't get me wrong, I don't like guns. But even if we had no guns in this country, does anyone think we'd have Japan-levels of crime? Clearly culture also plays a big part.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

You'd likely be looking at a crime rate similar to other Anglo societies like Canada, Australia, and the UK. The murder rate would be down by a factor of at least 3 but the rest not so much. Here's some old but still broadly relevant stats

https://news.gallup.com/poll/21346/crime-rate-lower-united-states-canada-than-britain.aspx#:~:text=The%20results%20show%20that%2021,%2C%20and%204%25%20in%20Britain.

Still, a murder rate thats 60-80% lower would save well over 10,000 lives a year, so that would be nice

(for example in the UK less than 10% of murders are by firearm compared to 75% in the US. Proportionately to population there's about the same number of fatal knifings and death by beating. That suggests to me that the vast majority of those US firearm homicides would not have happened in the absence of guns, which makes sense when you consider how much easier it is to shoot someone dead than to stab or batter them to death)

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Canada is kicking national ass. Sometimes I look at Canada and say to myself: fuck, we totally could be a really big, strong, rich version of that country only we'd have warmer weather and better music. Denmark ain't happening in my lifetime. And in any event I frankly have my doubts full-throttle social democracy is a great fit for the USA. But Canada? Why not? Why can't the US have sane gun laws, universal healthcare, a smart immigration system and affordable college? Jeff Davis's ghost and James Madison's legacy. That's why.

(Yeah, yeah, I know: nobody's perfect. Canada isn't very good at housing affordability and they might even be worse than the US at building infrastructure.)

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Canada also has the advantage of free-riding on the US to an enormous extent. From defense to immigration to healthcare the US provides far more benefits to Canada than the reverse.

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Canada has almost every advantage in the world: they get to free-ride on the US for a lot of things, they have amazing natural resources and incredibly easy trade (ports on the Pacific & Atlantic and a land border with the US). And Canada still lags the US economically.

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Canada is smart at maximizing its advantages. I wish the USA was still like that.

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Keep in mind that Canada has about the same population as California, is much larger and has far more resources without nearly as many of the problems - yet has 2/3 the GDP. They could be maximizing a whole lot more.

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Even in Canada culture is a clear driver. The First Peoples have a homicide that's close to 20x the rest of the population. And non-immigrant Blacks in Canada have homicide rates close to what they are in the US

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I thought this until Canadian covid cowardice went on forever. The trucker protesters had a point.

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Forever? I'm pretty sure life has returned to a fair degree of normality in Canada at this point. I'd gladly adopt "covid cowardice" if that's the only price that had to be paid for becoming a normal rich country. And in any event, the US was very far indeed from being the poster child of how to handle a pandemic.

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I used hyperbole, but Canada had coercive distancing through much of 2021 and even early 2022. My suburban bubble herd is basically as safe as most towns in Canada, and, as a Georgian, I never had to deal with a full on shelter in place order. We never closed our state parks!

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You didn't have to deal with a shelter in place order?

https://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2020-04-02/governor-kemp-issues-shelter-place-order

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And yet, the propensity of Canadians to migrate to the US is far higher than that of Americans to head north.

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Canada has some stiff requirements for anyone thinking of moving there (like people looking for socialized medicine)...they only want people with high proven income or skills that are in high demand. All those lefties that talk about moving to Canada to escape “fascism” have to reckon with that...

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Yeah, the sort of Americans who would be better off in Canada would find it hard to immigrate there. Meanwhile high skill Canadians are able to come to the US where they get much higher salaries. Plus snowbirds and retirees heading south.

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>Canada has a lot of remote territory<

Yes.

>and not much land suitable to human habitation<

Seems wrong. The southernmost 25% of Canada is like 3.5 times the size of France. That works out to well over 200 million Canucks at comparable density. And France is far from crowded. Canada hasn't reached 40 million yet.

Pretty sure Canada's affordability issues aren't because it's all tundra. It suffers from standard-issue, rich country NIMBYism like a lot of nations these days, and pretty much all the Anglophone ones. I do think that, like Australia, one attribute that surely intensifies Canadian housing scarcity is the fact that very large chunk of the population lives in what Americans would call "blue" cities. Canada's six largest metros account for fully half the population (the number for Australia is over 60%). The equivalent number in the US is less than 25%.

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There are more Americans living north of Toronto in America than there are Canadians living north of Toronto in Canada.

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Those big cities in Canada are mostly either along the Lake Erie / St Lawrence River valley (Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Quebec) or Vancouver on the West Coast - ie the bits of Canada that are what you think of as the exceptions.

Of the ten Canadian cities over half a million population, only three are outside of the Erie-St Lawrence and Vancouver areas that are warmer than most of Canada: Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg

And there's still lots more land for those to expand into

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

My understanding is that the relative disparity in violence within the anglosphere countries has remained roughly constant without any regard whatsoever to dramatic shifts in firearms availability among the countries. Neither Britain or Aus banning guns, or the US massively expanding their number, have budged their relative rates of violence at all. There's some evidence that suicide attempts are completed at a higher rate with more guns, but that's about all that anyone has managed to empirically support.

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This exactly. The more interesting comparisons are other large countries in the Western hemisphere with similar histories of colonization, immigration, and at least some tradition of private firearm ownership. This other exercise is really one of comparing the US to countries who never had the same problem and pretending they solved it.

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No, there are no other large English-settled countries in North America with massive immigrant populations, struggling Native American populations, hunting traditions or any of that stuff.

And yes the population of Canada is lower, but if higher total populations automatically increased the *rate* of violence China would be a war zone

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I think the point here is that data show, pretty consistently, that countries in the Americas are more violent than the rest of the world if you adjust for income.

Even Canada, by far the safest country in the Americas, has relatively high rates of violence compared to Western Europe and East Asia. And the world's most violent places outside war zones are disproportionately in Latin America - and Latin America is mostly middle-to-upper-middle income by global standards.

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Hang on, I specifically said that the US would be roughly as criminal (rather than violent) as settler colonies like Canada & Australia, and the UK, which has relatively high crime by European standards. So I'm not disagreeing that E Asian, western European crime rates are out of reach.

Here are some more stats suggesting that e.g. Australian and US overall crime levels are in the same ballpark excluding firearm-related violence & murder. https://www.numbeo.com/crime/compare_countries_result.jsp?country1=Australia&country2=United+States

I would predict that you get could much closer to Canadian/Australian levels of homicide in the US if you could magically and successfully introduce their type of firearm regulation. Specifically I'm very confident the homicide rate would drop by 50% at least.

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Where did I say English settled? Or that population size directly causes increases in homicide? I'm also not sure Canada really makes the case you think it does. They're more regulated than a lot of (probably most at this point) US states but also have a lot more personal firearm ownership than the other list of 10 or 12 countries which are (apparently) the only ones that serve as a legitimate point of comparison, for reasons no one ever says.

What I am saying is that there are serious limits to what one can deduce from these kinds of work backwards comparisons.

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I disagree that we can't look at Latin America as a point of comparison. Which isn't to say factors like wealth and GDP don't matter. There are other things though like having higher levels of inequality, the international drug trade, maybe even tending towards more Madisonian forms of federal governments, and a number of others that arguably make us more like them than pick your western European or east Asian social democracy.

None of which is to say we might not be able to do better. But are we ever going to have a 1 or 1.5 per 100k homicide rate? Probably not.

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I still think it would be higher than other Anglo countries. We take in alot more independent, free-spirited people from all over the world, which is a good thing. But it also means we have a lot of maniacs and continental Europe doesn't because we took them all.

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There's a little bit to that, but I think the Australians in particular would have something to say about that characterisation. Place was founded as a dumping ground for criminals and takes pride in its larrikin spirit

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UK would be way higher. Those dudes fight a lot. And stab!

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The "culture" argument is such a canard and only fuels Steve Sailer style racism.

Material well-being, economic opportunity, and poverty is more corollary with gun crime than "culture."

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The fact that cultural explanations, done poorly, can be taken in a racist direction does not logically support the conclusion that, therefore, cultural explanations are categorically false or "a canard".

What you'd need to do is make the case, without committing a lot of logical fallacies, that even done well, cultural explanations are not valid and do not have accurate explanatory power.

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founding

The logical fallacy is believing that any disparity of outcomes is proof of a racist system.

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RemovedApr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023
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Apr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023

My first comment on this topic continues to be my view: The entire discussion of guns is boring to me because I've not seen any new thinking on this topic in 30 years. There just isn't a solution I might dream up or others have proposed that will make anything better. And talking about it only increases the number of guns in circulation, because anyone on the fence becomes worried about gun bans, so they run out and buy more.

There are lots of problems with real solutions that I support: build more housing; make government more efficient so it can do more good things; expand all energy production, including nuclear, domestic oil, wind, solar, all of it; remove barriers for building more stuff; remove instances of regulatory capture which keep poor people shut out of career paths and small business ownership; don't outlaw abortion, but do implement restrictions in the second and third trimesters; vastly increase immigration levels while also enforcing laws against illegal immigration; increase pay for government workers to improve the talent pool; expand IRS enforcement actions across all income levels; I could list more if I wanted to think harder.

I think you underestimate the damage done to the broader cause of liberal government by the stupidity and overreach of the far left. The GOP has abandoned any pretense of governing at the federal level, particularly in the age of Trump. Half of Republican Party voters are desperate to move beyond Trump and abhor his style and/or his substance. The field is wide open for the Democrats!

And yet, still the Democratic Party cannot gain enough votes to elect enough "normal" Dems to get Congress working. I submit part of the reason is because the wackos on the left are actively harming the causes they claim to support by using annoying language (as you say) and going too far in places where they have full control of government, causing the substantial number of persuadable voters to not risk abandoning the current version of the Republican Party. I think that is a problem and, yes, I don't have a good solution for you, Dave.

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RemovedApr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023
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“Unlike the evil Trumpers, I won't deny that X problem exists, but the left overstated X or said it in Y terms that really annoy me, so I'm going to argue that the left is completely wrong about Y instead of sussing out the ways in which X is still actually true, albeit in an attenuated sense."

Put a bit more succinctly, the left has a habit of making mountains out of molehills. Sure, molehills exist, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about them.

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I won’t claim to speak for Matt or Freddie but it seems reasonable that a leftist/liberal would be more interested in policing their own side to help them maintain credibility and electability. The same is seen from never-Trump type conservatives, most of their criticisms is aimed at their former fellow travelers.

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I'm not disregarding "culture," because there are certainly marked differences between countries, but it's also that it's such a vague handwavey argument, while there are much lower-hanging and more accurate fruit to examine first.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

But if you step back a bit, it's kind of laughable, or at least strangely myopic, to claim that, because cultural attitudes and permissions are vague and handwavey, there's nothing to work with there, and the only choice is to focus on "lower hanging fruit".

What do you think the whole "Me too" movement was about, or the Civil Rights movement itself, if not a frontal attempt to change cultural attitudes and permissions towards certain kinds of behavior? And with considerable success. If you want to claim that cultural attitudes and permissions about disorderly criminal behavior are exempt from those same dynamics, I think the burden is on you to explain why.

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Isn't the burden usually on the person who first makes the claim? In this case, it's not shown it's this ephemeral "culture" and it's not even shown where this claim takes us, except mere vague intransigent inconclusiveness.

Even in the case of the US, it could be argued there are many many types of cultures across the country with various crime rates, but that high guncrime is a correlated with other conditions, like the Missouri law.

In either case, vague "culture" is a bad, imprecise, argument that ignores qualifiable and quantifiable reality.

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>Isn't the burden usually on the person who first makes the claim?

I think that's a good point, and culture is inherently hard to define. But I think if there's a way of quantifying believing honor culture -- i.e. the belief that retaliation is appropriate when someone disrespects or dishonors you -- then it would correlate very strongly with violence.

But to your point, how do you actually define this? I'm not sure.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

Material well-being, economic opportunity, and poverty are all downstream of culture.

Culture is a broad and fuzzy thing...but it is still a thing that exists and has a substantial impact.

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Then it would be nice to avoid broad and fuzzy arguments!

Because it's also just as easy to culture is downstream from material well-being, economic opportunity, and poverty!

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But Americans at basically every income level commit more crimes than people in other countries at the same income level (mainly because an economically destitute American is a basically a middle class Spaniard, e.g.)

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I'm going to ignore the abstract inaccurate simplifications of that claim across two very differently sized countries, but even working with it, it could be that, because of the lack of social safety net, and the high-risk-high-reward economic system America has set up for itself, that it necessarily would effect all levels of society?

Obviously all these things can be sourced back to "culture," but the relationship is so amorphous, it has broad appeal, but doesn't give anyone anything to work with.

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What I'm saying is that you keep pointing to economics as the reason, but Americans are economically better off than basically every other country. Like, a poor person in Europe living off their safety net is, in most cases, poorer than a poor person in America living off our safety net.

Perhaps it's not poverty but rather it's inequality -- seeing richer people makes us want to shoot people -- I don't know. My point is not that your conclusion is wrong, but rather that your main premise that poor Americans are extra poor is wrong.

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Apr 3, 2023·edited Apr 3, 2023

davie - have you ever looked at the data directly yourself? It's fairly straightforward to make a plot of homicides vs demographics by state or city using data from wikipedia, and then to make a 2nd chart of homicides vs poverty or income. If you compare the 2 charts, you'll see the first one has a much tighter correlation and the poverty or income charts has more big outliers, which will generally be large US Hispanic populations like El Paso (one of the poorest but also safest big cities in the US - in a red state with loose gun laws).

The cities with large Black populations but low homicide rates are all in the NorthEast and have a huge amount of Black immigrants - Mass and Conn, for example, are close to 50% immigrants among their Black citizens.

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“Material well-being, economic opportunity, and poverty” are a consequence of culture.

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Yeah, it’s hard to have economic opportunity and material well being in a neighborhood where people are constantly getting shot.

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You know averages do a really good job at hiding distributional disparities right?

Nominal wages don't do much to describe how insecure or precarious someone is, to balance out the risk-reward calculations of crime.

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1. Even looking at the median, or 25th percentile, or whatever shows that Americans commit more crimes than other developed countries

2. I think you probably underrate the extent to which Americans are more well-off than other countries. Like, 5% of homes in the UK have air conditioning, typical homes are more than 50% bigger in the US than in Japan, etc. etc. If poverty was that causal, we'd have very little crime in this country.

3. Most crime is impulsive, I don't think people would really say "well if the government would have expanded medicaid I wouldn't have shot that guy"

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I think you're overrating the value of having an air conditioner compared to a right to health care and a retirement pension.

There's a whole ripe, well discussed concept of the "precariat" that can explain the "cultural" differences you're looking for.

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You are aware that medicaid and social security exist, right?

And the concept of the precariat refers to downwardly mobile middle class young adults living in expensive cities, not people who are committing the lion share of gun crimes.

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I doubt we'd have Japan-like levels of crime, no. But there's an argument to be made that the propensity of Americans to commit violent crimes strengthens the case for tough, effective gun regulations rather than weakens it.

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