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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Braving Gun Rights Haters' Nails: Lower Merion Township, PA Family Open Carry Rally (video)

Braving nails placed in the street by our car tires by gun rights haters (one wonders if there is no low they won't stoop to) we protested the fact that Lower Merion, PA won't repeal their local gun ordnance despite the fact that it's in violation of the state's preemption law.

Pictures of guns at the rally that killed no one:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pictures of signs and other expressions of support:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Monday, February 23, 2015

Gun Rights Haters: Victims or Aggressors?

Now these perpetual “victims” want to learn about “Powerfully Peaceful Action in the Face of Armed and Aggressive Opposition”. Why do they say they need to do this? Because, according to them, “Almost every group in the gun sense movement has – at some time in the last several years – been confronted by armed and/or aggressive counter demonstrators at one of our public actions.” Though as you can see at the link above no examples of any aggressive behavior towards them are given. Of course, we often counter-demonstrate their events armed but that's not aggression as the zero body count and zero hospitalization rate among attendees show. If being around guns frightens them there is a name for that, hoplophobia. Perhaps a psychiatrist would be more helpful to them than a workshop. 

I wish I knew what aggressiveness they've been facing. Last June we went out of our way not to interfere with their gun rights hating march from Chester to Media, two towns near Philadelphia, PA. Here is video proof that they weren't even verbally insulted.

Facing aggressors from our side isn't what's going on out there. No, they realize that they can't keep abusing us and keep the facade of goodness and victimhood intact. For example, they sure were abusive of me when I tried to flier their rally once:


Gun rights haters in Rhode Island were even worse to liberty activist Dan Bidondi:


Even disrupting a peaceful gun rights rally is held up by gun rights haters as a proper way to behave:


Then there is the vile practice of “swatting” open carriers. This is when gun rights haters call 911 and lie about open carriers' behavior so the police will stop, arrest, or even kill them.

Who really are the aggressors here? Certainly not gun rights advocates. We want only to peacefully have our rights respected. It is the other side, the gun rights haters, that want to send armed thugs with badges to infringe on our rights. Let's be very clear on this point, it is the gun rights haters who are the aggressors. They, in the form of their agents in the government, are coming after us not the other way around.

My impression is that they're stung by years of defeat in the legislatures and courts. Not to mention years of being proved wrong by the dropping crime rates that have occurred in recent decades despite the fact that there are more privately held guns than ever in the US. Just as they think that sounding more knowledgeable about guns will make them more credible and effective activists (see here for a write up of their meeting on firearms) they now think that hiding their hate will help their cause. It won't. More than a marketing problem what they have is a reality problem. They've been proved wrong and all the sweet talk in the world won't change that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Joshua Prince Mops the Floor With CeaseFirePA (video)

Attorney Joshua Prince makes a complete fool of CeaseFirePA's gun rights hating Shira Goodman. They're debating Pennsylvania's Act 192 which allows people to proactively sue municipalities which enact gun control laws in violation of the state's preemption statute. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Gun Rights Haters Try To Learn About Guns

The cover of the handout containing the presentation's PowerPoint slides
You read the title correctly, Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy (Delco United) held their “Firearms 101 Presentation” Monday night (02/02/2015) in Springfield, PA. They figure if they gain a little book knowledge about guns they'll have more credibility. OK, stop laughing, you have an article to read.

A page from the handout questioning
the nonexistent gun show loophole
As you can see by following the link above, the presenter, 

Larry Glick, is well credentialed being a former law enforcement officer and a former National Rifle Association member. Unfortunately, my request to video his presentation was denied. Let me start with one of the most most important things that he said, “there is no gun show loophole”. He went to great lengths to explain that the idea that there are many gun sales going on at gun shows with no background checks performed is false. Glick very directly told the Delco United people not to pursue that angle. Let's let that sink in for a moment. At a meeting of one of the major gun rights hating groups in the Philadelphia area the speaker debunked one of the biggest lies that gun rights haters put out.

The evening started out interestingly enough. When I first got there Terry Rumsey and Robin Lasersohn, Co-Chairs of Delco United, recognized me as the leader of the Open Carry Counter-Rally For Gun Rights that stole the thunder from their march and rally for universal background checks in Media, PA last June. They took me aside and expressed their concern that I might try to disrupt their meeting. “We don't want people being afraid of being mocked when they ask questions”, is how I recall Robin Lasersohn putting it. After agreeing to behave, which was my intention all along, I was allowed to stay.

The presenter, Glick, hit on the de rigueur propaganda notes. “It's for the children”, he said at one point. Tellingly, Glick said that he knows that crime rates, including murder rates, are falling as are rates of gun accidents. He must also know that this is happening as the number of guns in the US is higher than ever and rising. It doesn't matter, he still thinks we need more gun control. “If we can only save one life it's worth it”, he said dramatically. Hey, who needs facts and logic when you can tug at the heartstrings? I've written several articles covering the dynamics that drive the murder rate and it's not the availability of guns that matters. They can be read here, here, here, here, and here.

Glick also went into denial and said that nobody wants to confiscate guns. He may be sincere but is very misguided. Conversations with gun rights haters often reveal that ending civilian gun ownership is their goal. I don't recall him saying much about gun bans, but he sure was talking about the kinds of so called “assault weapons” that we don't need. Let's keep in mind that when certain kinds of guns are actually banned (as opposed to the phony 1994 – 2004 “assault weapon” “ban”) they're going to be confiscated. It makes little difference if all guns are banned/confiscated at once or if it happens in gradual stages. We end up in the same place.

Let's, for a moment, assume that few or no guns will actually be banned/confiscated. Onerous regulations, severe licensing requirements, high fees, insurance mandates, and draconian penalties for minor gun infractions can end up making owning and bearing arms financially prohibitive and legally dangerous. This is a way of de facto banning/confiscating guns without making the guns themselves illegal.

Because of my good behavior, I said not one word during the whole presentation, Terry and Robin were a bit nicer after the meeting. During our conversations I asked if they'd be interested in a debate. They said no but they would be interested in a moderated discussion. That sounds like a fine idea. Stay tuned for updates.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Professor's Reply to "Gun Rights Versus Anecdotes"

Below is the response to my article "Gun Rights Versus Anecdotes" from the retired professor whose mail prompted me to write said article. I'm publishing it unedited, in its entirety at his request.
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The International Libertarian

In the January 5, 2015 number of the International Libertarian, Darren Wolfe published what was essentially a response to me. I had mailed him a package of 49 pieces, mostly news articles from the Philadelphia Inquirer or The New York Times.

Having given a talk in a library about the brutality of tackle football about a year ago, I was in the audience when Darren followed me with a talk championing unrestricted, unregulated gun rights. I was the first member of the audience to offer objections to his position. I remember taking prompts from my notes of about 6 criticisms I wanted to offer. He was patient enough to hear half of them before he interrupted me and asked for other questions. I oppose his position and last winter decided to collect material for and against it, especially newspaper clippings. I had vague plans to write a paper, a paper suitable to be read at a conference of social philosophers, using that newspaper material and other scholarly sources. Before I retired from teaching philosophy in 2011, I had taught a philosophy of criminal justice course many times, and have or have easy access to all the scholarly material on gun rights that l might need to write my own piece about it.

My resolve to write that paper faded. On October 21st, 2014, I had open heart surgery, a triple bypass. By November I was recuperating slowly at home, and in the beginning of my recuperation, I had very little energy. It was in this state of physical weakness that I decided to use my news clippings in a way other than to write a philosophical paper. As I looked each over, I decided to use them to try to shake Darren’s confidence in his position. I chose articles in which some private citizen with a gun did something seriously harmful to an innocent victim. The sort of story I mailed Darren was like these: one small child shooting and killing another; someone shooting a neighbor’s dog as the neighbor watched; the 9 year old girl losing control of the Uzi she was firing and killing her instructor; the 2 year old killing his mother in a Walmart after finding the pistol in mom’s pocketbook; people shot to death simply because they lived in dangerous neighborhoods; suicides that only occurred because a gun was at hand, a gun that often was not the victim’s. I tried to choose the frequently occurring cases in which guns in the hands or houses of those who are not law enforcers do the harm, and cases in which the victims would not have avoided death by having their own guns at hand. Law enforcers often do good by using guns to stop occurring crimes of cruelty or oppression but, I well know that law enforcers, too, can become cruel oppressors with guns.

I mailed these clippings to Darren to challenge his claims that good results come from the freedom of all to have and carry guns. In the cases that I had sent him, I believe that there was not any gun-generated good, only pitiable or despicable harm. I sent them to him as one citizen to another and my only comment to him, in a handwritten note accompanying the articles, was that I, having had recent surgery, was sending him these articles to challenge him. I could have used them and other writings to do philosophy myself in creating my own argument from this material, and writing it out and sending it to him. But I did not. I was not contacting him as a philosophy teacher doing philosophy for students, colleagues, or the public, but as a citizen engaging another citizen on a personal level. He made it on a public level after asking my permission to do so.

I am offended that Darren, in “Gun Rights Versus Anecdotes,” judges me as a philosopher, and as a poor philosopher. He seems to believe that a better philosopher would have sent him “articles from [a] scholarly source.” Looking at my packet of materials, he remarks “One would expect better from [a] university professor.” But I am only a retired professor, and one who was without much energy after heart surgery, and one who then decided not to act like a philosopher, but only as a citizen. Had I been acting as a professional philosopher, I would have drawn my own conclusions from the materials, and stated them in writing for Darren. I would have supported my conclusions with references to court decisions, significant works of literature, scholarly books, and professional journals in which ethicists, social scientists, and political philosophers publish. But I was not acting as a philosopher and he should have realized this and treated me more fairly or kindly in responding in public to my personal and non-professional outreach to him.

Had I been acting in a professional and not a personal way, not only would I have written out the conclusions that I wanted him to reach from the materials, but I would have made copies of everything that I was mailing him. I was trusting him to treat me fairly, so I made no copies. Now, and in the future, I will copy and keep everything that I send him. Also, I have material that I could have copied and sent him, but that was work that I, as a convalescent, was trying to avoid.

Darren Wolfe’s piece argues that “more guns don’t mean more murder.” But my news clippings were often about shootings by guns that were killings but were not murders—accidents, suicides, guns fired from the hands of children, immature adults firing them.

In refuting the position that I would have argued for had I been writing like a philosopher or professor, Darren succeeds in not writing like one either. He claims that it is a “fact that guns in private hands prevent 2.5 million crimes each year.” This is certainly not a fact like “N number of crimes were committed last year according to FBI records.” Darren’s “fact” is a conclusion of a syllogism, and conclusions need premises and proof of the premises. But Darren does not tell us what the premises are from which this conclusion is alleged to follow. Nor does he tell the reader what the proofs are for each of these premises. My suspicion is that one of his premises is a highly speculative statement about how one knows that a crime has been prevented.

I would suggest that Darren’s non-aggression principle needs restatement. He says it is this: “It is immoral to initiate the use of force or the threat of force against peaceful people.” Force and aggression are not the same thing. A dentist uses force to pull a bad tooth in an innocent patient. The police officer’s pistol represents the threat of force to the demonstrators as she or he watches the angry demonstrators march by, and the threat of force represented by that pistol is often that which keeps the demonstrators innocent and “peaceful people.” And the implied threat of force against the demonstrators who are innocent people is, paradoxically, used by police protecting the demonstrators rights to petition for redress of their grievances.

Darren seems to use force as almost a dirty word. When he says “Freedom from force, liberty, is the only reasonable way forward” I take him to be defining liberty as freedom from force. But Darren quotes Frederick Bastiat in praise of U.S. law: “There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property.” But laws must be enforced (en-force-d) to protect liberty and property. Courts enforce the enjoyment of rights, including gun rights, when they are wrongfully challenged, by ordering the police to use force. Unenforced law, unless it is backed by strong and usually ancient custom, is ineffective. Freedom needs force. A better definition of freedom or liberty is the ability to act without external impediment.

My news clippings were chosen to cause in Darren, in his words, “emotional reactions to horrible events.” I hoped that they would arouse a compassion in him so that he would see that far fewer guns in citizens’ hands in American society would mean far fewer horrible, newsworthy events. But Darren resists my push towards compassion by saying that “we, gun rights advocates, realize that reason is what must guide us not compassion.” The title of his response to me, “Gun Rights Versus Anecdotes” and his subtitle, “Which side wins depends on whether one can reason or simply react emotionally.” For Darren, “Unthinking, emotional reactions to horrible events will only make things worse.”

He here celebrates reason as good, and compassion and emotion as bad, and claims to be the champion of reason in this matter. However, my gift to him of the 40-some compassion-eliciting news clippings was precisely intended to invite him to reason about them. I was hoping that he would see that if he reasoned by induction, he would agree with me. Induction occurs when one reasons from particular to general upon examining many particulars. If in this particular case the presence of a gun in the hand of a private citizen or her relative led to this compassion-causing, horrible event, and also in a second case, and then also in a third, and a fourth, and a fifth and so on to a fortieth case, then a generalization follows. That generalization is that guns in the possession of private citizens are very dangerous to the innocent because they so often lead to the horrible events of injury and death. Since all decent men and women want to effectively prevent the injury and death of the innocent, one likely way is to pass and enforce laws keeping guns from the possession of private citizens.

Darren did not see that the emotion of compassion raised by the 40-some cases I sent him led through this reasoning to this conclusion. This seems to be why he belittled my abilities as a philosophy teacher in sending him only these articles: “One would expect better from [a] university professor” were his words. This remark seems to me to be an example of the logical fallacy of the abusive type of Argumentum ad Hominem. This fallacy ordinarily consists in attacking the abilities of one’s opponent rather than the opponent’s argument. In Darren’s way of committing this fallacy, he belittled my abilities to argue like a professor even though I made no arguments, but did challenge him to reason by induction. Still he believes that I should have done “better” than challenging him to see what generalization followed by induction from the anecdotes I asked him to examine. Since I left constructing the argument to him, and as a convalescent did not construct it myself, I was not obliged to do better. He was.