Althouse | category: guns



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"The suspect is not a deranged lunatic or career criminal left free to roam the hills of the city by a district attorney who left office nine months ago..."

".. but, rather, a fellow tech entrepreneur with whom [tech executive Bob] Lee was familiar.... [This] will not quiet the doomsayers who see San Francisco as a post-apocalyptic zombie set filled with violent psychotic homeless people.... The fear of crime often gets presented as a response to numbers—murder rates, numbers of robberies, carjackings, and assaults—but it’s primarily an anecdotal phenomenon that very often runs counter to what all the metrics would suggest. Today, the bulk of the fearmongering appears to exist online, where an informal rubric of virality determines how much the country, at large, hears about one crime or another.... [V]iolent crimes will happen, they will be sensationalized by the local media, which will blame the progressive district attorney; this, in turn, will activate local online networks, which, most likely, will also blame the progressive district attorney.... The future of how crime—especially violent crime—is handled in big American cities will be determined along the fault line between those progressive voters and the angry residents who feel as if all the criminals are being dumped on their block once they get released by a lenient district attorney...."

The cycle of anecdotalism, fearmongering, sensationalism, and blaming doesn't operate only against progressives. Progressives engage in it too, for example, when guns are used.

"Mr. Jones and Mr. Pearson were expelled on Thursday for interrupting debate last week by using a bullhorn to lead a gun control protest in the chamber..."

"... in the wake of a deadly school shooting in Nashville. Republican leaders argued that the two lawmakers and Representative Gloria Johnson, who joined the protest but survived an expulsion vote, had brought 'disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.' Critics said that the expulsions were an overreaction that defied the will of the voters who had elected Mr. Jones and Mr. Pearson in Nashville and Memphis, the state’s two largest cities, which also have large Black and Democratic-leaning populations. Democratic lawmakers and activists also warned that the expulsions could have dangerous repercussions, including encouraging lawmakers in Tennessee and other states controlled by a single party to use the measure as a tool for silencing dissenting voices."

What a bad mistake by Republicans! Did they not foresee this backlash? It is so plainly undemocratic to use the expulsion power so suddenly and crudely — and for the offense of speech

We've been talking a lot lately about the problem of speakers shouting down speakers. Some of us — and I am not one of them — have become overly righteous about preserving the forum of the official speaker on any given occasion.

We have a tradition of protest in America and a treasured right that entails toleration of disruptive speech. It's not easy to deal with the colliding issues, and some remedies are needed, but don't pick the most aggressive solution!

"A rally in Washington DC billed as a 'transgender day of vengeance' has been cancelled after organisers said they had been alerted to a 'credible threat to life and safety.'"

"The Trans Radical Activist Network announced on its website that the march scheduled for the US capital on Saturday would no longer be going ahead following a 'flood of raw hatred directed toward the trans community.' The group said the threats had emerged following a shooting at a Christian primary school in Tennessee. The killer, who shot dead three children and three adults, identified as transgender, police in Nashville said."

"Twitter removed tweets referencing the 'Transgender Day of Vengeance' and said: 'We do not support tweets that incite violence irrespective of who posts them. "Vengeance" does not imply peaceful protest.' Announcing the march had been cancelled, the Trans Radical Activist Network said: 'Individuals who had nothing to [do] with that heinous act have been subjected to highly serious threats and blamed only because of their gender identity. This is one of the steps in genocide, and we will continue our efforts to protect trans lives.'"

Are you surprised to see Twitter censoring based on the word "vengeance"? The Times offers this image as something that was seen on social media promoting the event:


Obviously, that looks awful so soon after the school shooting, but it strikes me as conventional American iconography. We have a right to bear arms in self-defense, and the written words are "defend equality." It seems like many images I've seen from right wingers, conveying the message that you're armed and you will defend yourself.

The word "vengeance" muddies the message, because it implies that you are not defending yourself against a present physical threat but you're looking at the past, totaling up resentment for accumulated wrongs, and deciding to inflict a punishment you've deemed appropriate.

"I know auto theft is a growing issue, not just in Denver but everywhere, and it’s infuriating to be victimized like that, but I discourage any resident to taking a vigilante approach."

Was this vigilantism? 

From the Wikipedia article on the topic:

According to political scientist Regina Bateson, vigilantism is "the extralegal prevention, investigation, or punishment of offenses."[1] The definition has three components:

  1. Extralegal: Vigilantism is done outside of the law (not necessarily in violation of the law)
  2. Prevention, investigation, or punishment: Vigilantism requires specific actions, not just attitudes or beliefs
  3. Offense: Vigilantism is a response to a perceived crime or violation of an authoritative norm
Can an owner of a car use an app to go in search of his stolen car? If he does, is it wrong to be armed? If, on finding his car, persons in the car point guns at him, isn't it self-defense to shoot the gun? I understand that the authorities like the idea of leaving it to them to decide what to do about crime, and I can see why they generally prefer that people not risk a confrontation, but I don't think it's "vigilantism" to go to retrieve your own property and to engage in legal self-defense. 

I don't know the facts of this case. I'm merely trying to picture what the words "exchanged fire" mean, and I note that the shooter has not been arrested. And I don't know the extent to which the Denver police have been effective in dealing with car theft.

Of course, the biggest problem is that a 12-year-old became involved in car theft. It led to his death. We're told that after he was shot in the head he "drove the car about two blocks" and "It was not clear if the boy had been driving the car before the shooting." Those are puzzling facts. Could he have moved into the driver's seat after being shot in the head? It seems more likely that he stepped on the gas to escape and as he was getting shot in the head and the car propelled itself 2 blocks. 

It's very sad that a boy is dead and that his life was such that it ended the way he did. 

The man famous for being shot in the face by Dick Cheney has died.

There is a NYT obituary for Harry Whittington, who was, otherwise, simply "a wealthy and well-connected lawyer" who — it says here — "typified the breed of Texan known as the good ol’ boy." 

The unfortunate event occurred in 2006. He lived 17 more years and died at the age of 95.

I blogged about the event at the time, mainly because Cheney was getting criticized for not going on camera and apologizing. A Republican defended Cheney, saying Cheney keeps his personal feelings to himself and doesn't care what the public thinks.

I said:
Doesn't care that he shot a man in the face? No... Cheney doesn't care if people criticize him. The suggestion is only that there's a political need to go on TV and emote so that people see you're not a machine. TV demands emotion. Tell us how you feel, reporters demand of people in pain, who often enough snap back "How do you think I feel?" Cheney accidentally shot an old man. How do you think he feels? Why do you need him to go on television and say what you already know? Because it would be so weird and awkward for gruff old Dick to do that?

"The 6-year-old, a first grader at Richneck Elementary in Newport News, Va., shot a teacher with a handgun on Friday afternoon...."

"The boy and the teacher had been involved in an altercation in a classroom before the boy shot the teacher once, the police said.... The boy was in police custody Friday evening, the authorities said, but the unusual nature of the situation leaves the path forward far from clear.... Under Virginia law, a 6-year-old cannot be charged as an adult. And while it is possible the child could be charged criminally in juvenile court, the minimum age to be sentenced to a juvenile prison in Virginia is 11. 'The juvenile justice system is not really equipped to deal with really young kids who commit criminal offenses and is probably the wrong place to deal with a situation like this,' said Andrew Block, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law...."

From "After 6-Year-Old Is Accused in School Shooting, Many Questions and a Murky Legal Path/The teacher who was shot was in stable condition on Saturday, the police said, but details surrounding the gun remained unknown" (NYT).

The question cannot be what to do to a 6-year-old child. What has already been done to him that he is so ruined at the age of 6?

The teacher suffered life-threatening injury but has not died, but I wanted to see how young a child has committed murder. Here's a list at Wikipedia. A 4-year-old named Retta McCabe is said to have committed murder in 1897. The "beautiful, blue-eyed, golden-haired child" threw her infant brother onto the floor and "sprang upon the babe and beat it with all her might." The next youngest children on Wikipedia's list are 6 year olds. There were 3, including the killer of Kayla Renee Rolland in 2000:

Kayla Rolland was killed by a six-year-old male first grader at Buell Elementary School in the Beecher Community School District, located in Mount Morris Township, Michigan.... His father, Dedric Owens, was in jail for violating his parole.... The boy had been living with his mother, Tamarla, and his eight-year-old brother. She was evicted from her home... and both boys then shared a single sofa as a bed at their uncle's house. The home, where his uncle lived with a 19-year-old man, was a crack house where guns were frequently traded for drugs....

The boy was known to have behavioral issues, and was made to stay after school nearly every day for swearing, giving people the finger, pinching, and hitting. Some weeks before the shooting he stabbed a girl with a pencil. Chris Boaz, a seven-year-old classmate, claimed the boy once punched him because he would not give him a pickle. The boy had previously attacked Kayla Rolland and, on the day prior to the killing, tried to kiss her and was rebuffed....

"During Tuesday’s testimony, [Megan Thee Stallion] described the rap game as a 'boy’s club' and said she knew she would be hated because she was 'telling on one y’all’s friend.'"

From "‘Going through torture’: Megan Thee Stallion testifies against Tory Lanez/Rapper takes stand in case against Canadian-born musician, emotionally recounting night when she was shot" (The Guardian).

The Texas-born rapper, whose real name is Megan Pete... described how the attack left her with constant pain in her feet and said the reliving the incident in the public eye had been “torture.”

“I don’t wanna be on this Earth,” Pete said at one point during a daylong testimony. “I wish he woulda shot and killed me if I knew I would go through this torture.”...

Tory Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Peterson, faces over 22 years in prison....

Pete told the courtroom she had asked to be let out of the car near the Hollywood Hills home she was staying in, but as she walked away, Pete said, she heard Peterson yell “dance, bitch,” and when she turned her head to face him he was hanging partly out of the car with a gun pointed at her. Then he began firing.

Terrible. I had never heard of anyone in real life acting out the cartoon cliché of shooting at someone's feet while telling them to dance. TV Tropes has an article, "Bullet Dancing," that describes the comic meme and ends with a warning that real life is not a cartoon:

This should be obvious but Do Not Try This at Home. Pointing a deadly weapon, much less firing it, at someone should be reserved for life threatening situations. Firing a weapon should only be to eliminate a deadly threat in which case you should be aiming at centre mass. Deliberately firing near someone to scare them will get you into very serious legal trouble in most jurisdictions, not to mention you could hit and kill them accidentally, or someone behind them, and if the surface you are firing at is something like concrete the bullet could ricochet extremely unpredictably - you might even hit yourself.

ADDED: Here's the classic Yosemite Sam version: 


Cartoons are full of violence that ends up not particularly hurting anyone.

"The elk problem is really interesting. I do feel that there has to be population control both on the part of humans and animals."

"Now, the available methods of contraception for animals are not always good.... But humans and animals have to limit our own population growth in order for the world to be minimally just. With the elk, there are things that have been tried: shooting them in cold blood; some kind of population control;  introducing wolves to tear the elks limb from limb. People say that’s better because it’s nature. I don’t like that argument. For the elk, a bullet to the brain — if the person knew how to shoot, which a lot of hunters don’t — would be a lot better than the wolf’s tearing them apart...."

Said Martha Nussbaum, quoted in "Do Humans Owe Animals Equal Rights? Martha Nussbaum Thinks So" (NYT).

"Now... I don’t think that predatory animals are doing anything wrong. I don’t think they should be deprived of their way of life. We also don’t know what terrible imbalances will be created in the ecosystem if we start protecting all the antelopes from getting killed. We do know that with our companion animals we teach them substitute behaviors. People who let their cats go outside try to stop them from eating little birds and to teach them, well, they can scratch a tree. If they’re indoor cats, they can have a scratching post. They want morally acceptable ways of getting the satisfaction of their predatory instincts. But wild carnivores aren’t going to stop being predators. That’s what humans have done over the centuries...."

"The idea that human rights encompass a right to self-destruction, the conceit that people in a state of terrible suffering and vulnerability are really 'free'..."

"... to make a choice that ends all choices, the idea that a healing profession should include death in its battery of treatments — these are inherently destructive ideas. Left unchecked, they will forge a cruel brave new world, a dehumanizing final chapter for the liberal story."

Writes Ross Douthat in "What Euthanasia Has Done to Canada" (NYT). 

I'll put the next sentence after the jump because it's a surprising change in topic (but I bet you can predict it if you know how these things go these days):

For anyone on the right opposed to Donald Trump and the foulness around him (most recently at his Mar-a-Lago dinner table), the last six years have forced hard questions about when it makes sense to identify with conservatism, to care about its direction and survival.

Donald Trump! What does he have to do with Euthanasia in Canada? 

Euthanasia in Canada... it made me think of "Trout Fishing in America," and I felt wistful about the old days when everyone loved books by Richard Brautigan. 

I searched his name in the New York Times and came up with his obituary, from 1984, which has a funny/sad mis-scanned headline: "RICHARD BRAUTIGAN, NOVELIST, A LITERARY IDOL OF THE 1060'S." 

Richard Brautigan, a literary idol of the 1960's who eventually fell out of fashion, was found dead Thursday at his secluded house in Bolinas, Calif. The Marin County coroner's office reported that the author of ''Trout Fishing in America'' and ''So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away'' apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound four or five weeks ago. He was 49 years old.

''He told everybody he was going away on a hunting trip''....

[T]he sincerity and the disconnected, elliptical style that so charmed critics and readers... eventually began to pall. For example, reviewing ''The Tokyo-Montana Express,'' a Brautigan novel published in 1980, Barry Yourgrau, a poet, wrote in The Times Book Review, ''He is now a longhair in his mid-40's, and across his habitually wistful good humor there now creep shadows of ennui and dullness, and too easily aroused sadness.''

Fishing, hunting, killing yourself.

Here's the memoir written by his daughter, Ianthe Brautigan: "You Can't Catch Death."

Must I get back to Douthat and his linkage of Canadian euthanasia and American Trumpism? It's become a joke the way everything gets connected to Trump, but euthanasia?! Have we reached peak Trump Derangement Syndrome yet? Or... I guess peak Trump Derangement Syndrome would have you relocating to Canada... relocating to Canada and embracing the Canadian freedom of offing yourself medically. Medically, not with a gun, guns being so... so... right wing.

I think Douthat's point is that Americans need conservatism — real conservatism, his kind of conservatism — to fend off Canadian-style freedom to abscond from life itself.

"Mayor John Suthers of Colorado Springs said that someone in the club had acted quickly to grab a handgun from the gunman, then hit him with it..."

"... subduing him. Two patrons then pinned the gunman down until police could arrive, according to the club’s owners, who viewed security video."

From "Here are the latest developments in the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting" (NYT).

It's hard to picture grabbing a handgun from a man who is in the middle of using it. But then to use the gun to hit the erstwhile gunman.... I guess your hand is not in the position to fire the gun. It's reversed and pointing more or less at you. And isn't the gunman's hand grabbing to get back to the trigger and shoot you? Once you've gone that far, perhaps the only thing you can do is to grip the barrel and clobber the guy with the grip.

Is that what happened?

Whatever happened, kudos to the man who disarmed the murderer.

CORRECTION: Oh, no. The difficult tangle I tried to picture is wrong. The murderer was using a rifle and carrying a handgun. That made the handgun easier to grab and to grab by the grip. If you got that far, would you use the handgun to hit the murderer?

IN THE COMMENTS: Enigma reminds me that there is a standard term for hitting someone with a gun: "pistol-whipping." Actually, there are 2 terms — "pistol-whipping" and "buffaloing," as I learned from the Wikipedia article, "Pistol-whipping":

Pistol-whipping or buffaloing is the act of using a handgun as a blunt weapon, wielding it as an improvised club....

The term "buffaloing" is documented as being used in the Wild West originally to refer to the act of being intimidated or cheated by bluffing. It would develop into a term meaning to strike someone with a handgun in the 1870s when Stuart N. Lake reported Wyatt Earp doing so.... The new use of the term developed because the act of hitting someone with their revolver was seen as an additional insult to the character of the victim....

The practice of using the handgun itself as a blunt-force weapon began with the appearance of muzzle loaders in the 15th century. Single-shot weapons that were tedious to reload were used to strike opponents directly in close-quarters combat after their projectile had been expended. It was entirely up to circumstance whether the user had time or chose to reverse the gun in their hand and strike a blow with its handle or merely swung the heavy weapon as a club or baton holding it normally....

Author Paul Wellman notes that clubbing an opponent with the butt of a gun held by its barrel, as seen in some Westerns, is problematic. First, the danger of an unintentional discharge could fatally wound the wielder. Second, many early revolvers of the black-powder cap and ball era, were relatively fragile around their cylinders relative to solid single-shot weapons. Third, rotating a gun so that it can be held by its barrel takes extra time, potentially crucial in a conflict.

To avoid the risk of damage or potential delay, pistol-whipping may be done with the gun held in an ordinary manner, hitting the target with an overhand strike from either the barrel or the flank of the gun above the trigger. It was a fairly common way to incapacitate a man in Western frontier days....

The practice was seen as a means of avoiding fatal confrontations. Instead of opening fire, an officer could knock someone unconscious with the barrel of their revolver which they claimed lowered mortality rates. This technique would later be considered a form of police brutality....

AND: The NYT has more detail on the man who took down the killer: "An Army Veteran Says He Went Into ‘Combat Mode’ to Disarm the Gunman/Richard M. Fierro, who served for 15 years in the military, said he was at Club Q in Colorado Springs with his family, and took down the man who killed five people."

Fiero was at the bar with his wife and daughter to see a drag show. When the shooting began, he got down on the floor, but when "he saw the gunman move through the bar toward a door leading to a patio where dozens of bar patrons had fled... he raced across the room, grabbed the gunman by a handle on the back of his body armor, pulled him to the floor and jumped on top of him."

The gunman, who Mr. Fierro estimated weighed more than 300 pounds, sprawled onto the floor, his military-style rifle landing just out of reach. Mr. Fierro started to go for the rifle, but then saw that the gunman had a pistol as well.

“I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Mr. Fierro said.... [H]e yelled for other club patrons to help him. A man grabbed the rifle and moved it away to safety. A drag dancer stomped on the gunman with her high heels....


"A rally in Washington DC billed as a 'transgender day of vengeance' has been cancelled after organisers said they had been alerted to a 'credible threat to life and safety.'""During Tuesday’s testimony, [Megan Thee Stallion] described the rap game as a 'boy’s club' and said she knew she would be hated because she was 'telling on one y’all’s friend.'""The elk problem is really interesting. I do feel that there has to be population control both on the part of humans and animals.""The idea that human rights encompass a right to self-destruction, the conceit that people in a state of terrible suffering and vulnerability are really 'free'..."

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