Friday, September 24, 2010

All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome

My fellow New Jersey inmate Ian Argent has a post up about civil disorder in the United States that's worth reading:

Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell posted about another attempt to link the violence in Mexico to American guns. In it, he quotes an article about Monterrey being terrorized by gangs, who have essentially taken control of the city, and asked us to imagine what would happen in Texas or Arizona (or even California) if gangs tried this and the government stood by.

But what would happen someplace less “rough-n-ready”? Well, we saw a “complete breakdown” of law and order in one of the least civically-organized large cities in the union about 5 years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I don’t mean to downplay the impact of the hurricane on the city, but despite the media’s best efforts to portray the events of the storm and its aftermath as some kind of Hobbesian environment (where life was brutal, nasty, and short); it ended up being only a very bad disaster experience when measured on an American scale. When compared to international disasters, not so much. There was some delay in repair crews rolling in due to the hyped fears of violence, but by and large, Masterblaster did not end up ruling Bartertown. The National Guard showed, but they didn’t have to fight their way in, and mostly spent their time acting as emergency workers. New Orleans was newsworthy at least partially because of the unexpected level of breakdown.

He goes on to discuss the role of privately owned firearms in preserving order in a crisis, and very responsibly tries not to overstate it:

The majority of people, even in the states with the most firearms-friendly laws, are not firearms enthusiasts. They don’t have the training or the inclination to hat up and bust caps. If they did, they might very well be the cops or military. Not always, though; for example, any gangers who try and terrorize the good residents of Broad Ripple, IN will lead brief and exciting lives, and IMPD will only have to bring by the coroner.

But a quick word on private guns in a serious crisis: Ordinary Americans without significant firearms training have shown repeatedly that when things _really_ go to hell--when they go from "I need stuff" to "invaders are threatening my community"--they're ready and able to find religion and start defending themselves.

We tend to think of this as an issue in places with stricter gun control. How many times have you seen nerds point out how badly boned Great Britain will be in a zombocalypse? But here in the States, I actually think there's a levelling factor not usually considered.

Our gun laws very often correlate with population. It's the overcrowded urban enclaves where people start to see their neighbors' every action as a potential imposition, and start to develop the communal, regulatory mindset that leads to gun control. It ain't Montana that's pushing to "close the gun-show loophole". In regions with strict gun control, there are so many people that you're bound to have lots of dedicated folks willing to jump through all the hoops to get guns. This is why New Jersey has such a paradoxical relationship with guns: we have some of the most draconian gun laws in the country, but we also have the most privately-owned guns per square mile.

Even here, in a state whose laws have led to a three-month waiting period for handgun sales and mandatory employer notification of handgun purchases, I wouldn't give Master Blaster a week before he gets picked off by a New Jerseyan with a rifle.


  1. At which point good old Master Blaster will be mourned as "yet another victim of gun violence"...

  2. Just more proof that guns are more likely to be used against somebody you know than against a stranger. Not two days earlier, Master Blaster had eaten the shooter's husband...

  3. Well-played, sir.

    Though, I think there may be something there about killers being known to their victims, worth writing on.

  4. I look forward to reading what you have to say about it.

    I suspect actual intra-family murder is a lot like acquaintance rape: more common and much, much harder to protect against with physical self-defense techniques.

  5. Insightful post. Thanks!

    Do you have stats on the gun-rights/population-density (inverse) correlation? I'd kind of like to take that line of argument and run with it.

  6. I have no stats, I'm afraid. I'm sure I've read about relative gun density before, and recall Jersey being at the top of the list, but my Google-fu is failing me now, so grain-of-salt. Right now all I've got is a "seems ta me".

    I know Patrick at The View from Central Jersey has commented on the density of our competitive shooting groups; he might have more info.

  7. Tooting my own horn, I did a post recently that attempts to resolve the paradox. Low relative ownership in a large population leads to a large absolute number of owners.

  8. "Paradox" figuratively speaking. It makes perfect sense, but isn't what you'd expect. :)