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Gun Rights Musings – Social Trust

Since news is relatively scarce, I’m going to start a recurring feature sharing things I’ve come to believe over the past decade. Thinking some more I realized how much my post the other day didn’t really include. Even if there’s no news I can probably think up something every couple of days for a while to fill space. I’ll start with a topic, then opine. Now, what I opine about in these might be bullshit, but it’s bullshit I think about. By all means, if you think I’m wrong, argue.

Today I’m going to talk about how we ended up with much of our current gun control. I don’t mean how we ended up with them politically. How we ended up with them politically is we lost the battle against the Gun Control Act and Brady Act. But there was a larger cultural framework that got us here.

There is a significant difference between rural and urban societies in terms of social trust. Social trust basically means whether you believe in “the honesty, integrity and reliability of others.” Rural populations have higher levels of social trust than urban populations. It’s been shown that rapid urbanization lowers levels of trust, and the United States experienced a significant urbanization, especially in the three decades that followed the Second World War. Moreover that urbanization coincided with a great increase in mobility.

As a society urbanizes and becomes more mobile, in high-trust societies like our own, there’s a tendency to formalize mechanisms of trust. In a non-urbanized society, or even in an urbanized but largely sedentary society, I know not to hire Joe because it is well known that Joe is lazy, his family is lazy, and generally no good. In an urban and mobile society, a process like hiring becomes more formalized. Joe Smith presents a resume. Maybe fills out a job application. He’ll be interviewed. Someone will ask for and check references, etc.

In my opinion, most of the gun controls of the 1960s up until the Brady Act has been driven by the inclination of an urbanizing people to formalize mechanisms of social trust. Social trust in urban or mobile environments can’t come from the fact that you generally know the people around you. I also believe this is why urban populations are more accepting of big government, because it is seen as a necessary agent of building social trust. I’m not saying the gun control advocates who pushed these issues were motivated by promoting social trust. Any successful social movement will pick up on social trends and exploit them. The question is what resonates with ordinary people not engaged closely with your issue? Sometime in the 1990s, the gun control movement switched to exploiting cultural condescension as a social trend.

Polls show that social trust is on the way down. While I think this is bad, because societies with a low level of social trust don’t tend to work very well, I’m not sure it will result in more gun control. It may actually result in less, and people feel less secure. But I think a desire of people to preserve social trust in an urban and mobile society explains much of our current gun control regime. I’m not saying it’s right, or effective, but I am offering an explanation of why we’re here.

Beliefs Change Over Time

I’m short on things to write about, probably because I haven’t been paying as close attention to the news. It’s occurred to me that there’s a lot of things I believe now that I didn’t ten years ago. Ten years is an awful lot of time to be immersed in writing about a single issue, and there’s not much I haven’t thought through, thought through again, then thought through a third time just to be thorough. Thinking about a list:

  • The biggest threat to gun rights are from states like California and New York because for better or worse, these states control the broader culture and they’ve been very effective at stamping out their own gun culture. YouTube recently had a dust-up where ISIS videos were getting advertisers. After a backlash, they created a category of “objectionable content” to be starved of advertising. Unfortunately for us, they put gun videos in that category. And why wouldn’t they? Do you think very many New Yorkers or people in Silicon Valley, where most of these companies draw their employees from,  know many people who enjoy shooting? They probably know more people who disdain it.
  • The primary motivation of most people seeking greater control over firearms is cultural chauvinism. Public safety is just how they justify it to themselves and others. But in reality it’s primarily, “I don’t like those kinds of people. I certainly don’t want them having guns.” Sometimes it can be “I’m afraid of those kinds of people. I certainly don’t want them having guns.”
  • We’d all do a lot better to look after the gun culture in our local areas. These days I’m much more concerned about the future of the shooting sports in suburban Philadelphia than I am about the future of the shooting sports in general. Any time a club dissolves, a shop closes, or shooting programs stop for lack of places to shoot, that’s a resource that will never come back. The best antidote to the cultural chauvinism mentioned above is familiarity, and I don’t think it’s much more complicated than that.
  • Social media is a vast wasteland and a huge waste of time. It’s not so much that people on Facebook disagree politically — I’ve never been able to get all that worked up that other people in my life don’t always share my opinions — It’s the fact that on Facebook, you see friends and family post ignorant, often vile, hateful things they’d never say to your face. I’ve been personally cutting back my presence significantly, and it wasn’t for the fact that I’m running my club’s Facebook page, the blog’s Facebook page, and that it’s Tam’s comment section these days, I’d probably just stop. Since giving up Twitter and cutting back on Facebook, I’m getting a lot more done.

Our side has our share of bullshit too, and I’ve come to acknowledge much of it.

  • For an ordinary middle-aged suburban dweller, you’re more likely to die prematurely from cardio-vascular disease than you are to need your firearm. If you work in front of a computer all day like I do, that’s probably far more likely. People who choose not to carry a firearm are making a fine choice. You might look at the balance of risk v. reward and come to a different conclusion, and that’s fine too, but someone whose calculation thinks carrying a firearm is too much of a pain in the ass isn’t making a foolish choice.
  • You don’t need to be the greatest gun ninja in the world to successfully defend yourself. Everyone should seek out some basic training, but I think beyond that it’s for fun. Like the link says, if you take care of the basics, you’re already way ahead of the curve.
  • A lot of people out there who have guns are complete idiots who I’d feel much better if they did not own or carry firearms. The difference between me and a gun control person is that I don’t think that’s a solvable problem, and you’ll do more damage trying. There’s a lot of people I wish didn’t have drivers’ licenses too, but that doesn’t mean I get to dictate my preferences, or that there’s any such thing as an idiot test.
  • There really are significant numbers of gun owners who support gun control. Even some of the very strict gun control you can find in the dozen or so bad states. Our side often likes to call these people out as false flags when they appear in media, and perhaps some are. But if you think they all are, you don’t spend enough time talking to other gun owners. This ties back into local engagement. There’s a lot of times I think New Jersey gun owners own a lot of the responsibility for their current sad situation.
  • The Second Amendment is nothing more than words in a piece of parchment on display at the National Archives. Those words are not self-enforcing. Their meaning might read plain as day to you, but you’re not a federal judge. The ghost of James Madison is not going to appear to make things right. Those words only mean something because people; people like you and people like me, have struggled to give those words actual meaning. That struggle does not end. In a way this should be first on a list of our side’s bullshit, because it’s the folly I run across most often.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot. But those are things I’m thinking about in terms of where I’ve come to with this issue in the decade I’ve been writing about it.

The Left Has Discovered Armed Protesting

Featuring about the same amount of Stay Puft as a right-wing armed protest. Not that I really have room to talk these days, but I’m also not out there acting like I’m in shape enough to fight the revolution.

Senator Hatch’s Transport Bill is a Nice Thought, But Useless

Senator Orrin Hatch has introduced S.618, which purportedly enhances the FOPA safe travel provision, but this bill suffers from the same flaw that the Manchin-Toomey version did:

(b) In subsection (a), the term ‘transport’—

(1) includes staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, or any other activity incidental to the transport; and

(2) does not include transportation—

(A) with the intent to commit a crime; or

(B) with knowledge, or reasonable cause to believe, that such a crime is to be committed in the course of, or arising from, the transportation.

(c)(1) A person who is transporting a firearm, ammunition, magazine, or feeding device may not be arrested or otherwise detained for violation of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof related solely to the possession, transportation, or carrying of firearms, ammunition, magazine, or feeding device unless there is probable cause to believe that the person is doing so in a manner not provided for in subsection (a).

I think they need to make it much clearer that subsection (b)(2)(A) and (B). It is a crime to transport hollow point ammunition through New Jersey. It is a crime to transport a 15 round pistol magazine through New York. It is a crime to possess any firearm in Washington D.C. if you’re not a resident of DC and have not registered it. So when someone transports through these states, they are technically committing a crime in that state. Also, people will tend to have firearms discovered when they got pulled over for a traffic offense, which is technically a crime. Do you lose protections then?

I get what Hatch is trying to accomplish here, but given the resistance of the jurisdictions this will apply to, it needs to be iron clad. If the bill gives hostile local judges the room, they will take it.

Hatch probably doesn’t want to surrender the ol’ law & order that Republican love themselves so much of, but I don’t see a way to save (b)(2) that doesn’t risk nullifying the entire purpose of the law. It needs to be removed or this bill is a waste of everyone’s time.

Fact Checkers: ARS Full of It

When even the biased Fact Checkers say you’re full of crap, you’re full of crap. It looks like Gifford’s ARS backtracked with a “Well, it could still make a gun ‘silent’ in really loud places.”

In the meantime, although the popular name of this accessory is a silencer, foes of the law such as Gillibrand should not use misleading terms such as “quiet” to describe the sound made by a high-powered weapon with a suppressor attached. We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios, but finally tipped to Three. There is little that’s quiet about a firearm with a silencer, unless one also thinks a jackhammer is quiet.

The facts are on our side. There’s no reason for the GOP not to pass this sucker.

There’s Probably a Window for Passing National Reciprocity

After Obama was elected, you saw a lot of hot air from the right about secession movements. Now with Trump, there’s talk of Calexit and other secessionist movements that are still mostly hot air, but are perhaps a little more serious. I think it’s likely the talk will get a little more serious as the years go on.

I think it’s highly unlikely the United States will crack up, but the world wide trend is away from technocratic edifices like the EU and our own federal system and toward greater decentralization and autonomy. It’s not just here. It’s happening everywhere.

What would be the problem with California independence? The big problem is that California has no means to defend itself unless robot armies start replacing foot soldiers. Would the California Republic get to keep the nukes it has? Would it get to keep the San Diego Naval Base? What about the ships? What about California’s share of the National Debt? You can see the issues.

If you were to take a group of people who didn’t really want to fight a war over these things, and think about what a negotiated partition would look like, it would look an awful lot like the kind of weak federalism enshrined in our Constitution before the reconstruction amendments. That’s probably where we’re going if trends continue. Secession would turn into a sort of disarmament talks… namely disarming the federal government as an instrument of national policy in the name of getting along and preserving a national market and common defense.

I don’t think the 14th Amendment will suddenly get ignored, or end up repealed. People will likely leave in place the functions they are accustomed to: enforcement of civil rights, etc. What does that mean for gun rights? Gun rights being vigorously enforced by the Courts, Congress and Executive branch as part of our understanding of civil rights is not something we’re accustomed to, because it’s largely not happened. The blue states will fight federal action to protect gun rights tooth and nail. If it doesn’t start happening soon, at some point that’s going to become a negotiating point between the Bluexit folks and the Redexit folks, and we’re probably not getting national gun rights policy after that. States like California and New York will remain awful. So in my 30,000 view of where the overall trends are going, we have a window, and that window is going to start closing probably within a decade.

California Legal

Can’t stop the signal:

I the Golden State, the automatic fire would be illegal, as would being able to detach a >10 rd magazine without disassembling the action. But the speed load would be legal, even with a bigger magazine if it were permanently attached.

Constitutional Carry on the Move Again

This time in South Dakota. A bill is now on the Governor’s desk. This would be the 14th state to adopt Constitutional Carry. Meanwhile Senator Cornyn has introduced the Senate Bill S.446, “Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017” This bill also recognizes the rights of citizens from states like Vermont that do not issue permits. I’m glad this is being pushed, because I’ve been of the opinion that our opponents need to get it worse than they would have if they had just conceded to this years ago when the only thing on the table was the recognition of permits.

Pennsylvania will not be a leader in the Constitutional Carry movement. Unfortunately, the only state, so far, that has passed Constitutional Carry which has a major urban center is Arizona. I don’t notice that sky is falling in Phoenix, but it will probably take another populous state like Florida or Texas before our politicians run out of excuses for not supporting it.

Reddit Ask Me Anything

Joe Huffman will be appearing on a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread tomorrow at 11AM alongside Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter. We’ve long needed an urbanized gun rights movement, so I think this should prove to be an interesting forum. The WaPo reported this weekend, “But that overall decline [in gun sales] has been accompanied by some unusual growth: Gun clubs and shops that cater to black and LGBT clients say there has been an uptick in interest in firearms since November among those who fear that racial and gender-based violence could increase during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Arming up in the face of uncertainly is very deeply engrained in the American experience, much to the chagrin of people who wish it wasn’t so.

Bellwethers to Watch for in the States

There’s a lot of gun stuff happening in the states, but much of it is friendly states getting more friendly, and the bad states getting worse. But there are some states to keep an eye on, and sadly we probably have more states going from friendly to hostile than we do the other way around.

Illinois is considering legalizing suppressors. Illinois has been one gun unfriendly state that’s been improving. We can thank the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for a lot of that, and we can also thank the people who have been working hard to press those advantages in the legislature.

Nevada is considering banning guns in public libraries. Nevada is a bluing state, where Democrats are increasingly asserting control. Along with Washington and Oregon, Nevada is a state to keep an eye on. It is at risk of falling into Bloomberg’s orbit. The same is true of New Mexico. At this point, any state controlled by Democrats is in serious danger of entering Bloomberg’s orbit and never coming back.

People look around and see a world full of win for gun rights. I see a real risk that another half-dozen states start moving more toward California-style gun control. What’s going to happen when blue model failed states start driving more and more people to leave? What happens when they come to your state? You can see why I believe we need some base protections for gun rights that apply everywhere.

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