Thursday, January 20, 2011

I will not stand idly by

Sebastian put together a post confirming that an NPR show deliberately presented opinions biased in favor of Representative McCarthy's gun magazine ban.  In response to this, I followed Sebastian's recommendation to e-mail our Congrescritters, and to forward a copy to Matthew Baskin, the person who sent the e-mail.

This is what I wrote:

Dear Matthew Baskin,

I have recently learned about the deliberately unbalanced reporting that you presented on the issue of Representative McCarthy's gun magazine ban.  I am disgusted by the deliberate attempts to skew the debate to your favor, and I will not stand by as you attack freedoms dear to me.  I have thus sent the following letter to my congressmen:

Dear Representative,

I recently learned of a deliberate attempt of NPR to deliberately stack a debate in an effort to undermine our right to keep and bear arms, by searching for pro-gun bloggers that supported McCarthy's anti-gun bill that would limit magazine capacity.

Indeed, here is the text of that e-mail sent to various bloggers:

From: Matthew Baskin <>
Sent: Fri, January 14, 2011 1:32:22 PM
Subject: NPR show On Point needing progressive gun guest

Hi Mr. Blogger,

My name is Matthew Baskin and I work for the NPR program On Point with Tom Ashbrook. I’m writing to ask if you’d be able to speak as a guest on Monday, January 17. We’re looking for a gun owner and 2nd Amendment supporter who is not opposed to the forthcoming McCarthy bill re: limiting magazine capacity. I’d be very grateful if you could put me in touch with any gun owner who is not opposed to regulation. Let me know if anyone comes to mind. Thanks very much.

Matthew Baskin

It is disgusting that a news organization that purports to be neutral would take efforts to be so biased; it is doubly disgusting that such an organization receives the tax dollars of those who oppose such a ban, like myself, to deliberately skew a debate against my position.  I would therefore ask that you end funding to NPR, and let them find their own funding from private purposes, if they wish to continue to pursue such dishonest tactics.

[Epsilon Given].

Firearms are an important part of American culture and history.  By owning certain firearms, such as the Henry Repeating Rifle used in the Civil War, we can own a little piece of that era, and show it to friends and family.  By choosing to arm ourselves daily, we take upon ourselves a responsibility to protect ourselves and our families--a responsibility that cannot be filled alone by police, because police will seldom be available when danger is imminent.  And by becoming familiar with the types of arms used in war, we prepare ourselves for the possibility that we may be called upon to defend our freedoms against enemies both foreign and domestic.

Representative McCarthy's ban is an attack on all these purposes of owning firearms, and your blatant attempt to disregard those who would oppose such an attack, particularly when you position yourself to be neutral on such an issue, cannot stand unopposed.

[Epsilon Given].

Monday, January 17, 2011

Civil Discourse?

Last week I was reading a lot of comments from people who were calling for "civil discourse".  At one point, I was even reading a Democrat's attempt to say "it wasn't the discourse:  this kid was insane!" only to have the post flooded with comments about how Sarah Palin had crosshairs--crosshairs--to target Congresspeople vunerable for defeat.  As though such language has never been used in a campain before, and never will be again (except by those gun nuts--you can't trust them, I guess).

And, as someone who has been well aware of the political climate this past decade, I couldn't help but wonder:  these people are only getting upset at crosshairs?  This is worse than hoping for the assassination of a sitting President?  Am I really supposed to take such calls for civility seriously?

So, when I saw "I do not want civil discourse" (Hat tip to Kevin Baker), I couldn't help but think:  "Amen, and A-MEN!".

An Afterthought on Political Feasibility

I just made a call for data, because I wanted to test some claims made by Ron Garret about tax levels.  I had a thought about the conversation, that didn't quite fit in with the call for data.

Ron also claimed that raising taxes was politically feasible, while cutting spending wasn't.  He also claimed that, if we were to raise our taxes, we'd be showing the world that we're determined to fund our government spending, and that will help the economy.

I'm not sure that Ron is right about this, though:  first of all, I don't think it's as "politically viable" to raise taxes as he thinks it is; indeed Barak Obama seems to think it's not politically viable (although some have questioned his motives for continuing Bush's tax levels).  It also doesn't matter whether cutting spending will be viable or not:  if we don't cut spending, and if we don't do it deeply, we're in for a world of hurt!  Raising taxes isn't going to fix our spending problem.  Heck, lowering taxes isn't going to fix things--even if, as we have historically seen, lowering taxes temporarily raises tax revenue.

To me, it's a little disingenuous to call for raising taxes because it's politically viable, but not call for cuts to spending, because it would be "political suicide":  if the first won't even put a dent in solving our problems, why bother calling for it?  Why not call for a reduction in spending, even you have to add the cynical parenthetical of "but everyone is too dependent on their pet subsidiaries, so this is practically impossible"?

A Call For Data

About a month and a half ago, I got into an online spate about taxes.  Ron Garrat posted a "Why-I-want-the-government-to-raise-my-taxes FAQ"--and I took issue to the idea that government "deserved" revenue.  In this spate, Ron made a couple of claims, that I would like to test with data:
  • Does lowering income taxes always temporarily boost unemployment, only to have things crash down a few years later?
  • Do high income taxes really ensure a low unemployment rate?
As I have tried to search for data so that I could examine these claims, I've only found, so far:

Ron claimed that we had somewhere between 25 and 30 years of 5% unemployment with the maximum tax rate at around 88% to 91%.  In looking at the Top Bracket Rates, I cannot see a period like this, unless we go back to 1938 (during which time, we had high unemployment), or look forward to beyond the Kennedy years (when we had a tax cut to about 77%).  Either way, I'm not satisfied that Ron is correct in his claims; nor am I satisfied, however, that I have enough data to see what's really going on.

Indeed, Ron never answered my question:  If the economy was doing so well, why did President John F. Kennedy see a need to justify a tax cut to increase revenue?  I don't have a satisfactory answer, one way or the other, either--the JFK era stock market link above was one effort to find an answer.
  • Ludwig von Mises claimed that interest rates, when forced too low, creates bubbles in the economy.
  • John Maynard Keynes claimed that bubbles were caused by "animal spirits", and that government taxing and spending can correct for problems caused by fear and greed.
  • One recent claim I've heard on the radio is that taxes--all taxes, put together-- have always represented 20% of the GDP.
  • The strengthening of unions often results in unemployment.
  • Minimum wages cause unemployment.
  • Businessmen can be cowed by the actions of government--especially by "frivolous" criminal charges and civil lawsuits.
I'm sure there are other claims that ought to be tested, and that I'll uncover them (or remember them) as time progresses.  In any case, I'd like to collect data to test these claims.  Among the data to collect, I'd like to see, for the last 100 to 200 years:
  • Unemployment rates, and how they are calculated or estimated.
  • Interest rates, and ways to estimate what the "market rate" would have been without government intervention.
  • Events, major and minor, that may have affected the economy--such as war, the prosecution of prominent businessmen, or Supreme Court decisions.
  • The values of the individual components that are used to calculate the GDP.
  • Stock market prices.
  • Taxes, taxes, taxes!  Income taxes--and not just the top rates!, tariffs, sales taxes, corporate taxes, State and local taxes, fees, even fines.
  • The number of laws in effect, and the number of regulations put into effect by regulatory agencies.
  • Anything else that might be relevant in looking at an Economy.
If you know of a data source, please put links (or at least references) in my comments--if the comment period has expired when you read this, please e-mail me.  Admittedly, I might not be able to find the time to examine this data, but I'd like everyone else to know where to find it, too, so that anyone else interested in addressing questions like these can sit down with these resources and attempt to do so.

Perhaps this call for data is stupid:  we are, after all, talking about a chaotic system (the United States economy), much of the data I'm requesting has to be estimated, and we have so little time to look back on (the income tax, for example, is only 100 years old!).  Even so, it wouldn't hurt to take a stab at looking at these claims, even if, in the end, we can't come to any solid conclusions.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

A few days ago, I sang the Hymn "God Speed the Right" to my children...and stumbled onto one of my most favorite lines:
Like the great and good in story, If we fail we fail in glory.  God speed the right!  God speed the right.
Our world is frought with dangers and challenges.  Too many people don't want us to raise up and face those dangers and challenges.  Gun-grabbers try to emphasize that, if we are armed, we can still get shot in a mugging, never minding that our innocent lives are worth fighting for, even if we fail.  Friends and family will sometimes think me insane for wanting to pursue certain dreams--and they may be right, I may end up poor when I die.  Even my own mind has little "voices" of doubt, trying to convince me that my dreams aren't worthwhile, and that I should stick with safety instead of liberty.

And yes, while some of these voices are sometimes right--I shouldn't become a freelance mathematician, for example, without having at least some inkling of how I'll make a living--overall, we need to have glorious, righteous goals to reach--and overall, if we fail to reach those goals, we do so in glory!  And it is up to us to pick ourselves up, and start again.

It's also important to remember that we only get glory--whether we succeed or fail--if our cause is truly right.  History is littered with people who had ambitious goals, but will be remembered in infamy rather than in glory.

On Gun Nuttery and Responsibility

Several weeks ago, I engaged in a messy debate with James Kelly, at "SCOT goes POP".  He insists that Freedom from Fear is the One Goal that we must all achieve, and that banning guns is the way to achieve it.

In the debate, I tried to say that I didn't want to be "free from fear", but that I wanted to be responsible, and when members of society choose to be responsible, "freedom from fear" was a mere side effect.

I don't think I explained myself very well; indeed, what I needed to say probably hadn't congealed properly.  I now understand what I need to say, and how to say it.  I will do so, by explaining how I became a so-called "Gun Nut".

For the first part of my life, I was completely unaware of guns--sure, I'd know of a person or two who owned them, including my grandpa; and I enjoyed rifle shooting and archery at Scout Camp--but beyond these experiences, I didn't think about guns all that much.  I didn't even think about it when I got mugged while walking the streets of Birmingham, England, or when an Englishman made the comment to the effect that it's ridiculous to think that Great Britain was gun free.  (These experiences occurred in the years of 1997 to 1999, some time after pistols were completely banned.)

What got me to think about guns was "More Guns, Less Crime" by John Lott.  I first heard about this book on the radio, and when I read it, I found John Lott to be very thorough in his statistical analysis; indeed, the was book boring and interesting at the same time because of this.  Being a mathematician with a couple of Statistics classes under my belt, I found the book rather convincing.  And I found it amusing how enemies of gun rights dismissed--and not just dismissed, but outright fought--Lott's conclusions, without even looking at them!

In the book, John Lott concluded that certain crime rates go down when it is legal for honest citizens to carry guns.  As a result, I decided it would be a good idea for me to get a concealed carry permit, and carry a gun.  I didn't act on that idea, though, in part because of lack of funds, but also in part because I was planning on going to New York soon, and I was aware that gun laws in that State were overbearing.

It was while in New York State, however, that my conversion to gun nuttery became complete:  I read an essay called A Nation of Cowards, by Jeff Snyder, and I discovered that carrying weapons isn't just a right, it's a responsibility:
One who values his life and takes seriously his responsibilities to his family and community will possess and cultivate the means of fighting back, and will retaliate when threatened with death or grievous injury to himself or a loved one. He will never be content to rely solely on others for his safety, or to think he has done all that is possible by being aware of his surroundings and taking measures of avoidance. Let's not mince words: He will be armed, will be trained in the use of his weapon, and will defend himself when faced with lethal violence.
Thus, I learned that it was my duty to carry a gun, and be prepared to use it when life and limb are unjustly threatened.  To the extent that I don't carry a gun, I fail at my responsibility.

This overwhelming desire to carry a gun, then, is not at all based on fear.  Indeed, in some exchanges with James Kelly, I decided to look up statistics for Vermont, and compare them to England--and I learned that Vermont, with lax gun laws, had seven murders in 2009, out of a population of 490,000.  Are we really expected to believe that banning guns will eliminate those seven deaths?

Similarly, Great Britain had something like 1,700 murders--I won't try again look up the exact number, and I don't know what year it was for--out of a population of about 57 million.  Even if getting rid of gun laws will increase murders by a factor of ten--to 17,000--is it really all that reasonable to fear death by gun?  For that matter, is it all that reasonable to expect the murder rate to jump like that, when guns are legalized?

Ultimately, in one sense, it doesn't matter if guns are legal or not:  the criminal element will still remain a tiny fraction of the entirety of society, and we will always be relatively safe.  In another sense, however, it's a matter of grave importance.  Society needs responsible citizens in order to be mature and peaceful, and by banning guns, we prevent citizens from being responsible, by forbidding the very tools they need to protect themselves, and their loved ones, from immediate danger to life and limb posed by criminal elements.

I value freedom and responsibility--and I value it far more than being vaguely "free from fear".

On Fear, Kinder Eggs, and Freedom

The other day Sebastian posted some links about the horrors of chocolate.  To summarize:  A woman tried to bring a Kinder Egg into the United States from Canada.  For those of us uncultured Americans who don't know what a Kinder Egg is, it's a hollow chocolate egg with a tiny toy (in a little plastic "egg" of its own) inside.  This woman had her car searched...and the border agents found a Kinder Egg.  If she had succeeded in bringing it into the United States, she would have faced a $300 fine.  If she wanted to contest the seizure, she'd have to pay $250 for storage fees.

All this, for a $2 treat.

Now, why is this egg banned?  Because the "tiny" toy inside can be a choking hazard.

Never mind that it's been popular in Europe and Canada for decades--and that, to the best of my knowledge, no one has choked on these things.  We have to ban them, because someone might choke on them!

And that, my dear readers, is what "Freedom from Fear" gives us:  a petty tyranny, that attempts to control the smallest details of our lives, to protect us from each other and from ourselves.

As for myself, there's only one Freedom I understand:  the freedom to observe the world, and then choose actions based on those observations.  Indeed, this is the only freedom--because it's the definition of freedom.  We are all born free, and are free to pursue any course of action, ranging from helping others, to sleeping in this morning, to murder.  No law passed will change that.

What laws can do is make it difficult to act on our desires.  Thus, for example, it is difficult to bring in a Kinder Egg from Canada to the United States.  Once across the border, such an egg will be almost completely innocuous--there's always a danger that it will kill people, but for crying out loud, a person can choke on the chocolate of the egg itself!--yet it's an object that must be Feared, and those who do not fear it must be Punished!

If you truly want Freedom from Fear, the key is to look at the world around you:  you will see countless dangers around us, in virtually every object, and every person.  You will also see that the chances of any one object or person causing you harm are very, very small--and the chances are even smaller if you learn how to handle the most dangerous of these objects correctly!

But the Freedom from Fear mindset doesn't do this:  instead, it sees the danger in every object, and in every human interaction, and tries to ban everything that has the slightest bit of danger--and what can't be banned, must have a warning label, and must be registered with the government, and the user must be licensed to use it.  And we absolutely must do these things, because if it will save one life, it will be worth it!

Never mind all those dead people who suffocated in their cocoons of red tape.

Another Fishy Study

Joe Huffman discovered another anti-gun blog...and the first thing I noticed about it was a a fishy study that was designed to make gun ownership look bad.  Like Joe, I put a comment on their site.  Unlike Joe, I have some hope that it will show up--I tried to avoid being clearly "pro-gun".  Nonetheless, I only have a little bit of hope, and I don't know if I'll get much of a response.  Thus, I decided to put that comment here, too.
I would have to confess that I'm very confused.  First of all, you just include gun deaths.  I may be wrong about this, but shouldn't you be using murder statistics instead?  If a policeman were to shoot someone robbing a store, that would be a gun death, but not a murder.  For that matter, if a robber stabbed and killed a gun store owner, then that would count as a murder, but not a gun death.

This is important, because the NRA and their ilk claim that legal guns push down the overall murder rate.

Second, I find your graphs confusing--especially the first one, which seems to cloud issues by cramming in as much data as possible.  The first graph is especially confusing, for several reasons:

-- By leaving off the names of the States, I can't see what's going on.  Yes, I know that's Excel's fault, but it's still a problem.  (Are you sure that Excel can't do this?  I seem to recall that Excel is <i>very good</i> at graph generation.)

-- Is it "volume of the spheres" or "area of the circles"?  If it's the first, then a lot of data will be obscured, because we're only getting an area representation of a sphere, which wouldn't be good.

-- What year of statistics are you using, and how do graphs compare to other years?  I'd like to know, because low-population states are more susceptible to fluctuations in murder rates.  To take as an extreme example, a small town of 1.500 people could have 0 deaths per 100,000 for decades, but two murders could cause that to jump to 115 per 100,000 for just one year, and then the sleepy town could go for another two or three decades with a death rate of 0 per 100,000.

Ah, heck!  I'm sure that my questions could be answered if I could look at the data myself.  Do you have a link to it, or have it available for download?  Thanks!
We'll have to see if I get any sort of response, or if it will become a victim of Reasoned DiscourseTM.

UPDATE:  the blog did post my comment, as well as a comment linking to an article that claims that the UK is surprisingly violent.  They haven't yet linked to any data, though.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Quote of the Day

I've been sitting on this quote for several days now, not knowing what to do with it.  I was debating calling this "Correction of the Day", and try to fix it, but in the end, I decided it would be better to comment on it instead.  It's from "The Rifle" by Gary Paulsen, and it's one of tha jabs he makes at America:
...and while he worked on the rifle, England--riddled in fear that the colonies in America would grow to dominate and outproduce and take over the world, which is exactly what happened--began to add taxes to Colonial produce and products to try to hold them down.
Now that I've written down the quote, it's not as bad as I first read it--I remember my anger focusing on the word "overproduce", which, upon closer reading is actually "outproduce"--but, even so, with phrases "dominate" and "take over the world", I still almost get a sense that  Mr. Paulsen kindof wishes England succeeded.

To give him credit, Mr. Paulsen also explains, in the same paragraph, that England forced monopolies on America, and forced their products to be priced "viciously low".

I, for one, am not sad that America outproduced England, and "took over the world"--although I wish we took George Washington's advice, and kept our noses out of other countries' business.  Even so, by outproducing England, and even the rest of the world, we've been able to avoid famine in our country, and help with famines around the world as well.  Indeed, most famines today are caused by governments!

It's sad that our government currently does a better job of holding us down than England ever did.

Mr. Paulsen also gives England a little too much credit:  they were, after all, a Colonial Empire, and they wanted to profit from their Colonies.  This is as much a motivating force of creating the monopolies they did, forcing viciously low prices on American goods, and taxing them however they could!

Yet Another Example of Fearmongering

Yesterday, Sebastian gave another example of a fearmonger; since I recently discussed fearmongering among anti-gun folk, I thought I'd bring it up here, too.

The Palm Beach Post editorial that Sebastian comments on, however, is a bit different from the modes of fearmongering I described in the above post, but it's one I mentioned before:  the Can't Trust My Neighbor Syndrome.

Only, this is a Fearmongering Editorial--that is, this person doesn't just fear his neighbors!  He's trying to convince you that you'd be stupid if you dared to trust your neighbors, which is why we need to ban guns.

The more I think about these things, the more I have to ask:  Why do these people think they are trying to preserve "Freedom from Fear"?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why All the Fearmongering?

During this last Christmas vacation, I've been arguing with one James Kelly.  The post I've been commenting to seems to be the latest in a debate with Kevin Baker of The Smallest Minority.

James Kelly's position is derived from the only "freedom" he understands:  freedom from fear.  He fears that anyone he meets might be the owner--might even be carrying, at this moment--a gun, and so he wants to ban guns, to elliminate this fear.

Ironically, in order to get support for his position, James needs to get others to fear guns as well--and so he encourages fear in others.  In order to remove our fear of government, James then goes on and tries to convince us that fighting a government with weapons of mass destruction is impossible--so we might as well not revolt, and turn in all our guns right now.  In other words, he tries to cancel the gun-toter's fear of tyranny with the fear of government holocaust.

For someone who so detests fear, James seems to be so ready to reach for it when he thinks it will convince others to ban guns, and even knives.  Why is this?

But James Kelly isn't the only one:  as I discovered this last week, young adult author Gary Paulsen resorts to both fear and loathing, in an attempt to convince others that guns are evil.  Yet, if you try to put things in perspective, you would quickly discover that gun deaths are almost statistical noise.

Yes, every person who dies by gun is a tragedy.  But then, so is every car accident.  So is every swimming pool drowning.  All of these are risks we need to learn to deal with--and these are all risks we have been dealing with, for decades, without regulation.  This is because life itself is risky, and we naturally learn to balance these risks with our actions--and this is consistent with choosing to live in liberty.

There is a certain mindset among people, however, that says "We must get rid of all risk!" and to do this, it is necessary to restrict the actions of individuals.  Individuals, however, have come to accept that certain risks come with certain actions--thus, to justify limits to these actions, anti-risk types have to make the risk seem larger than it is.  Hence, they become fearmongers.  And they become tyrants--petty tyrants, if they want to ban only one or two types of actions (say, ownership of guns, or swimming pools without alarms, both of which are practically banned in New York State), and all-out dictators, if they want to control every aspect of an individual's life (Communists, Nazis, Progressives, and some Monarchists are all examples of the latter).

Unfortunately, as anti-risk folk gain traction, the society begins to suffer from enough petty tyrannies to become one grand tyranny. 

So, do you want a life without fear?  Well, I'm sorry:  no matter how hard you try to remove sources of fear, there will always be new sources that need to be treated.  The more you try to remove fear, the more you trample on freedom, and trample on individual responsibility...and, eventually, society gets overwhelmed and collapses anyway.

I, for one, want a life of freedom--and with freedom, comes responsibility.  Do I fear someone with a gun?  No, I do not.  Yet, it's my responsibility--one I should be free to choose to accept, or not--to carry a gun, in case someone threatens me or my family with danger to life or limb.  Should I fear swimming pools?  No, I should not--but I should learn to be careful around water, and learn to swim as well.  Should I fear car accidents?  No--even though they are common enough, I have seen several in my lifetime, and see or hear of the remains of one almost daily.  But I should wear a seat belt--yet, even car accidents are rare enough, that if I don't wear a seatbelt, I'm not likely to die any time soon!

An exercise for the reader:  how does attempting to remove fear through welfare agencies destroy freedom and responsibility?

UPDATE:  Here's another example of how fearmongering is used by anti-gun folk; this article dismantles a piece by Paul Helmke of Brady Campaign fame.

The Fearmonger

During this last Christmas season, I took a few moments to try out a local library's touch-screen table.  Next to that table was a book called "The Rifle", by Gary Paulsen--and at the end of the book's blurb was a claim that cried out to be challenged:
With deadly accuracy, Gary Paulsen takes aim at the notion that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people".
So, what does Paulsen do to to take aim at this notion?  He first describes the creation of a "sweet" flintlock that is used in the Revolutionary War; he then creates an improbable series of events, and describes those events to the tiniest detail--up to, and including, how a charge of gunpowder could be sealed in a gun so that moisture won't cause it to cake while sitting in an attic for 227 years; how a candle can melt the grease that sealed the hole that leads to the charge; and how a tiny spark from the fireplace makes its way into that hole, sets of the charge, and kills Richard, a nice young man who lives next door.

After the gun goes off, and is thrown in a river, it's fished out by a person who--gasp!--is interested in black powder gun competition.  It's now only a matter of time before that gun kills another person!  Never mind that the need to keep a black-powder rifle ready at all times is long past, and modern black powder safety rules take that into account.

Along the way, he takes a couple of pot-shots at America, and he does his darnedest to illustrate how pretty much anyone interested in guns is a liar, a thief, and a cheat, and is distrustful of government to boot.  It isn't enough that we fear the rifle--we need to loath anyone who has any interest in guns.

Even this isn't enough:  almost everyone associated with this rifle seems to die grisly deaths.  After its service in the Revolutionary War, he then locks it up in the attic--and thereby refuses to show how such a device could feed a family during hard times, or to celebrate in times of happy competition.  Every step of the way, Paulsen is determined to show that this rifle only kills.

Several years ago, I read from a book that catalogued things we shoud be afraid of.  Among them--a ball point pen!  Why a pen?  Because someone who was riding a motorcycle got into a crash, and he would have walked away without a scratch...except that he had a ball point pen in the front pocket of his shirt, and that pen pierced him to the heart, and he died.  Of course, the chances of anyone dying from a ball point pen--even one in an upper front pocket of a coat, or a shirt, or a jacket--are very small.  When discussing such a death, it's more proper to say it's a "freak accident", than it is to say we should only keep pens in our pants pockets--and even then, be careful to keep it from our major arteries.

By producing a series of improbable events to make his point--events described with a God-like knowledge of the rifle, for given the history of the rifle described, only God could have known those events--he expects us to believe that guns are just waiting to kill us, even though the event he ultimately describes is just as likely to kill an individual as a ball point pen.

Thus, while it's true that Gary Paulsen takes deadly aim, his "gun" backfires.   All he does is try to gin up fear and loathing--Paulsen is nothing more than a fearmonger.  Perhaps the most sickening aspect of this book is that it's especially targeted to convince young people that they need to fear guns, and to loath anyone who has an interest in such devices.

As such, I would encourage everyone to read this book.  It's a short read, and it's a good illustration of how gun-grabbers view those of us who value our rights.  Paulsen also has an interesting narration of how a gun was made during Revolutionary times--which makes it a good read, even despite the anti-gun drivel.

Quote of the Day

From "The Rifle" by Gary Paulsen:
[Tim] viewed the government in some obscure way as an enemy of the people--especially Big Government, as he thought of it, somehow ignoring that it was made of people--and spent a lot of time trying to avoid being controlled or watched or even known by the government.
If we replaced "Big Government" with "Nazi Government", or "Soviet Government", or "Mao's Government", would Paulsen be so ready to ridicule the notion?  Probably, because he would likely agree with the notions of those governments.  Even so, his statement is ridiculous:  all governments are made up of people, even so-called "anarcho-capitalist" ones.  Is the notion that a government that takes as much from you as it can, to feed ever-expanding utopian welfare programs that grow even faster than can be supported by what the government takes from you, all that far-fetched?

"The Rifle" is copyrighted in 1995; the narrative takes place in 1993.  I wonder if Gary Paulsen feels different, now that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on the brink of destroying our financial well-being.  My guess:  probably not!

A Bit Of Perspective

Anti-gun folk like to point out that guns kill people--indeed, about 30,000 people die every year, in America, from guns.  Because of this, anti-gun folk conclude, we need to limit access to guns, if not ban them altogether.

Let's put this 30,000 figure in some perspective, shall we?

Currently, the United States population as around 300 million people.  Let's suppose that those 300,000,000 people will be made childless but immortal at this instant, excepting a weakness of guns--and that gun deaths remain at the current rate of 30,000 a year.  Then how long will it take for the American population to die off?  A.  About 10,000 years.

But immortality is such a ridiculous supposition.  Let's suppose, instead, that all those 30,000 deaths were caused by handguns, and that each death was caused by a single handgun, which is then promptly collected by police and destroyed.  Let's again assume that handguns will have no children--that is, we'll assume that from this moment, no handgun will be made--and we'll also assume that, except for police destruction, handguns will also be immortal.  It is estimated that there are about 80 million (80,000,000) handguns in America.  How many deaths will happen before all handguns will have killed a single person?  A.  About 2667 years.

Of course, it's rather silly of us to assume that all gun deaths are caused by handguns, VPC's belief that "Every Handgun is Pointed at You" notwithstanding.  Some of them are rifle deaths.  So, properly, we should include rifles in the above exercise.  It's estimated that Americans own 200 million (200,000,000) guns, total.  If each of these guns killed a single person, how long will it take for all of them to kill exactly one person?  A.  About 6667 years.

Now, one final bit of perspective.  Gun-toting folk like to point out that 40,000 people a year die from road accidents, while only 30,000 die per year from gun accidents.  Anti-gun folk will then respond, "But cars are designed for transportation.  Guns are designed to kill!"

Let that sink in for a moment.  A class of tools designed to transport people and goods from point A to point B kill more people than devices designed to kill people.  And this is true, despite the fact that devices to kill people are the prefered method for murder and suicide.

Ever wonder why we have silly studies saying things like "A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a loved one than an intruder" and "A gun, used defensively, prevents between 1 million and 2 million crimes per year"?  All these studies are refuted--some are more easy to refute than others--but all these studies suffer from a single flaw:  the number events they are trying to measure are tiny compared to the population at large.

Yet it's through studies like these that anti-gun folk use to gin up fear against gun-toting folk--and to try to get rid of guns altogether.  Ironically, they do it in the name of "getting rid of fear".  Just what are these people afraid of?