Can the State's Monopoly on Violence Endure in a Gun-Crazed Culture?

Categories: Schutze

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My belated New year's resolution: I absolutely refuse to read, talk about or use my brain to consider social theories based on Batman movies. Said. Done. There we have it.

But. This morning's romp through the newspapers does provoke certain musings about the erosion of a social consensus around the question of state monopoly of violence, alleged to be the theme, although you'll never hear it from me because I won't even go see the damned things, of Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy" movies, which, I am told, are about Batman. It's more than one movie, right, if it's a trilogy? Can't tell by me.

This morning's New York Times fleshes out a story that has been in the news a bit in the last week about the hail of death threats against the staff of the newspaper in a suburb of New York City that published names, addresses and a map to the homes of legally listed gun-keepers.

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The list was published after the Newtown slaughter. The editors of the newspaper have said they published it on the premise that holding a gun is a public legal act, regulated by government and therefore knowable and conceivably of interest to citizens at large. Yeah, well, a lot of people wanted to read the story, which is probably closer to the reason for publishing it, but that's not my lookout. Let's leave debates about journalistic ethics until after we've settled the one on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

What intrigues me is the tone of the blow-back, People seem to be saying, "We hold our guns. We hold them dearly. It's our little secret. If you tell anybody, we'll shoot you." What does that really mean? We read their words, but what voice do we hear speaking from their souls?

On October 16, 1991, George Hennard drove his pickup through the window of a Luby's cafeteria in Killeen and methodically executed 24 people with two handguns. Hennard stalked through the cafeteria, reached under tables where people were crouching, put his guns to their heads and squeezed the triggers.

I was out of a job at the time because I had made the mistake of working for a newspaper that didn't publish enough stories people wanted to read. Because my paper had died, I was freelancing, the journalistic term for unemployment. I was searching desperately for a way to replace the wealth of information from wire services and brilliant library research assistants that for years had allowed me to pose as someone who knew a little more than the average Joe about what was going on. I think I was looking at Killeen as a story I could pitch for a true-crime book.

In my desperate flailing for information I came across this thing called "the Internet." I might point out this was fully three years before the Worldwide Web Consortium was founded at MIT -- in other words, before there even was a web, if you can imagine. The Internet then was in some ways a snoop's dream: a place that was public and publicly accessible where people nevertheless believed mistakenly that they were speaking in private -- the ultimate fly-on-the-wall listening post.

What I found after Killeen was a gun-owners "chat room," a crude bulletin-board Internet site where people who loved guns were trading messages about the massacre. I can no longer quote what I read there, of course, but I have never forgotten the tone. There was a sort of pornographic fascination with the particular models of gun that Hennard had used and much debate about how fast and accurately those guns could fire and whether his kill rate was anything to brag about in the short time he was actively shooting, about 15 minutes total.

So what does any of that have to do with the people threatening the lives of part-time society columnists and cop-shop reporters at the paper in White Plains that published the gun-owners list? Well, you may see something else or nothing at all here, but this is what intrigues me: What I hear in the response to all of these events is a break-down or reordering of our belief in the principle of state monopoly of violence.

Pretty much from the beginning of time, we humans have submitted to the law of the strongest cave-man so we could all close both eyes when we went to bed in our caves at night. The rule of law, on which the modern state was founded, was always only a truce. We agreed to allow Man-with-Huge-Forehead to be our chieftain, because Man-with-Huge-Forehead had the biggest club and somebody had to do it.

But gun technology, not unlike the Internet or phone cameras, gives us all big clubs. Why do we need the state -- why in scary times when mass killers prowl the multiplexes would we rely on the state to protect us? And once we have gone over psychologically and morally to the other side where we hoard and prepare and arm ourselves for our own little personal Armageddons, then isn't every publishing of a state-sponsored list of gun-owners a mortal threat to our little one-off kingdoms?

As I say, I just refuse to go watch a bunch of Batman movies in order to sort this out, but I do believe the central dilemma before us is way beyond and deeper than gun control or Internet copy right law, and maybe The Caped One is on to something with this issue of the monopoly of violence. The new technologies are relentlessly whispering in our ears: "To hell with Man-with-Huge Forehead. Get a Glock."

And here's what makes the problem really interesting. Most of us might agree that good video cameras in our phones and access to Twitter have fueled successful campaigns for personal liberty in our time. So, this: What if somebody says, "Yeah, well the advance of the same kind of cheap hugely efficient technology in guns is fueling my own personal campaign to be independent of a state I do not trust." Do we have a quick good shoot-down of that idea on the tips of our tongues, and pardon me, of course, for poor word choice.

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109 comments
Mr_Hand
Mr_Hand

Does anyone have a real answer as to why the feds bought up all of that ammo in the summer of 2012?  Is it because they are going after guns and they knew it/preparing?  Are they reducing the inventory of ammo to make purchasing the ammo too expensive?  Will they shut down producers of ammo, thus rendering guns useless? I am not a tin hat guy, but I would love to hear some of the posters on the DO give some thoughts on the subject.  I found that very odd and coincidental happening the same time as Fast & Furious.

PaulTrevizo
PaulTrevizo

So here's the deal either this NY newspaper did criminals a favor by telling them which houses not to rob because they might get shot or it did them a favor by telling them which houses to break into and steal guns.  Oh wait, crooks who break into houses aren't usually the type of people to read newspapers.

On another note if you read the original article it reads like a comedy, especially with the statements from the "neighbors" who are obviously anti-gun.  Statements like "if I'd known people in this neighborhood owned guns I wouldn't have moved here," or "my children might go play at the neighbors house, I'd like to know if they have guns."  These people act like gun owners keep their guns and ammo laying around the coffee table right next to the TV remote. 

I got an idea to the "gun problem."  How about we educate non-gun owners about what responsible gun ownership is and means.  I suggest the first classes be held in upstate New York, since obviously people there have no idea. 

bmarvel
bmarvel

This is getting entirely too weird, so I'm dropping out. 

keepcensoringDO
keepcensoringDO

Did a gun put Reginald Denny in a coma?

Did the police protect the people of Koreatown?

NO!

Yet liberals like Shutze, bmarvel, Feinstein etc.. say HOW DARE YOU DEFEND YOURSELF!


(We need to understand the rioters feeeeeeelingggssss and find out whyyyyyyy)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgCiC6qTtjs

drtz
drtz

Whenever gun control comes up, everybody starts spewing out so many numbers it makes my head spin. Please take my advice and forget the statistics.  The NRA loves to spout statistics because the biggest effect they have in the gun control debate is to take the human element out of the argument.

When you start doing comparisons of percents of gun owners vs non-gun owners and countries with this law which has that murder rate and that county's law has this murder rate, it's easy to get sidetracked from the one question that actually matters:

As a people, how easy will we allow it to be for one person to kill another?

Or, to put it the light of recent events: how easy should it be for one person to walk into a crowded public place and massacre a room full of people?  Right now it's damn easy and the vast majority of the people who post here on The Observer could pop open their web browser and have the tools to do it arrive on their doorstep within a few days.

Why are guns designed for mass-killing so easy to get? We ban explosives.  We ban deadly toxins.  We even ban certain types of knives in many places.  But god help us if you take away our right to enjoy turning a deer into swiss cheese for "sport."

This has nothing to do with safety -- I'm not going to bring in statistics, but I think any reasonable person would agree we'd have fewer murders without guns.  This has nothing to do with defending ourselves from a tyrannical government -- collect all the weapons you want, but the guns we civilians can get are HELPLESS compared to military weapons.  This has EVERYTHING to do with a gun-obsessed culture and citizens who are willing to place their own "right" to kill above their own safety and the safety of those around them.

So I ask the question again, how easy should we as a people allow it to be for one person to kill another?  That is the only question here that matters.

roo_ster
roo_ster

JS:

Dude, the issue is spicy enough that you don't have to make up stories or lie about what has occurred.  The newspaper received emails which they showed the police to which the police said were not threats.  Whoopty-do.

As for publishing the names of those in NY state with legally owned & registered firearms, why stop there?  If those gun owners have purchased the capability to kill, why don't we publish the names of women who get abortions?  They don't just have the potential to kill, they have actually sought out the killing.  Same with abortionists.  At minimum the names & addresses of these who get/perform abortions with taxpayer dollars.  We really ought to know who are the infanticidal maniacs among us.



bmarvel
bmarvel

Two more questions worth thinking about: What do we think about those who justify gun ownership on the grounds that we may all someday have to take up arms against our very own government? Is this a reason to deny the State a monopoly on violence?

And, on a more personal level, is there anyone on this forum who has not, at some time in his or her life, for even a microsecond, felt a rush of rage so intense that at that moment, however brief, if they had a gun at hand would not have been tempted to use it. Think carefully before answering.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

A simple question-

What is the end purpose for publishing the names of legally-permitted gun owners?


If you discovered friends or acquaintances on the list, would you sever the relationship? Avoid them at the mall, avoid driving near them or their residences?

Would you create private clubs or shops or restaurants which would bar those on the list?

What is the practical application of the list?

keepcensoringDO
keepcensoringDO

@drtz It is easy to kill people. Humans are fragile. You should be answering: How hard do you think it should be to defend yourself from people who want to kill you?

Should we all be under the mercy of the most aggressive and violent among us? Should women be defenseless against those that would prey upon them? 

It has nothing to do with sport. None at all. 

bmarvel
bmarvel

@roo_ster "why don't we publish the names of women who get abortions?" It might help, if infants in the womb could read.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@bmarvel I think those folks can read.  The reason the Second Amendment exists is to fight a tyrannical gov't and hopefully prevent it from getting too tyrannical in the first place.  Read some of the debates at the time, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.

bmarvel, I think it is wise that you do not own a firearm.  Your words indicate you have not the discipline and understanding to be a responsible firearm owner.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@bmarvel 

Some say that the fear of weapons that liberals seem to have is because they don't trust themselves in a scenario which bmarvel describes.

pak152
pak152

@ruddski to prove that they can similar thing occurred in Virginia in 2007 (no shooting) but the Roanoke paper requested the CCL holders list from the State police using the FOI law. they then published the list during Sunshine week


http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/trejbal/wb/108160

but there was a backlash there too. don't know if there were threats against the paper. but many were upset especially women who had protective orders out against abusive ex-husbands or boyfriends, and the women's addresses were no exposed. in NY there are reports of convicst telling jail guards that they know where they and there families live

here is what happened after the Roanoke paper published the information


http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/112135

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ruddski 

you're thinking too hard about this.

the end purpose was to sell more papers and get the paper more publicity.

it worked.

drtz
drtz

@keepcensoringDO 

The word "easy" by itself is subjective, but compared to other means, guns are very easy.  Point, squeeze, dead.  Sounds a heck of a lot easier than chasing somebody around the room with a knife or trying to aim a bow and arrow out of a Buick window for a drive-by.

I would take my chances one-on-one vs a 'Goliath' over, well, anybody with a Glock.  Besides, nowadays we have tazers which are safer, cheaper, easier to use, and most importantly more effective at stopping an assailant than a gun.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@bmarvel @roo_ster The desired effect of the list of gun owners seems to be to  shame them, not to protect potential burglars.

In that context, publishing abortion mommas is the exact same thing. One group disapproving of another's constitutional rights.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@roo_ster @bmarvel I have read the Federalist papers and the surrounding controversy. 

The problem addressed by the Second Amendment was that the nascent United States did not have a standing army, or one that was adequate to deal with all the threats its citizens faced on what was rapidly becoming a widespread wilderness frontier. The answer, of course, was well-regulated militias that could form up on very short notice and meet whatever threat had arisen. It was assumed the members had their own weapons and knew how to use them and also that they had drilled together at least a little, and had elected patriotic officers to command them and keep good order (this is the "well-regulated" part of the Amendment).

That the founding fathers envisioned a situation in which citizens would spontaneously arise against the government they had created and ratified is disproved by the fact that when farmers in western Pennsylvania rose up against a whiskey tax imposed by the central government George Washington himself had no hesitation in sending well-ordered militias from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania itself to put down this disorder and enforce federal law.

Something you won't hear from these fly-by-night "militias" who like to dress up and play war games off in the woods and quote Mr. Jefferson and toot the horn of patriotism.

We still have well-regulated militias within the meaning of the Second Amendment, by the way. We call them the National Guard.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@ruddski @bmarvel And some say that conservatives are too dumb to recognize that they could find themselves in just such a scenario. 

Both would be wrong, of course. Neither "liberals" nor "conservatives" are so easy to characterize.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@pak152 @ruddski 

None of that counts, pak152, it was all about the FEELINGS of the people recklessly publishing personal information needlessly. They HAD to do it!


I J-school, stamping little feet in fury is taught early.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@mavdog @ruddski My guess, as someone from the business, is that this story cost the paper some circulation overall and probably cut into its advertising base. It's not impossible that the publisher's bean-counters at this very minute are sitting down with the editor for a little discussion.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@mavdog @ruddski 


I'd wager that these crusading journalists would angrily deny your claim, and would point out that circulation was unaffected and the national publicity for a local paper had no real value, and that your assumption made so sense.


smithjosh
smithjosh

@bmarvel You have absolutely no knowledge of the history of the second amendment... Or of current Supreme Court jurisprudence on the topic for that matter.  

roo_ster
roo_ster

@bmarvel Sorry bub.  Like Otto from "A Fish Called Wanda," reading of philosophy, you may have _read_ the Fed & Anti-Fed Papers, but you did not _understand_ them. 

1. The Second Amendment & RKBA in general was more a reaction to the threat posed by a standing army & central gov't tyranny and less a replacement for a standing army.

2. The Whiskey Rebellion was not an example of the citizenry rising in opposition to unconstitutional acts by fed.gov.  Fed.gov had the explicit constitutional authority to impose such taxes, no need to be mis-read by Yale law school grads.

3. The National Guard is in no way a militia in the common understanding or, particularly, in law.  [Fed.gov laws defining the milita plus the National Guard's chain of command preclude it from being the militia you think it is.]







keepcensoringDO
keepcensoringDO

@bmarvel @ruddski As Michael Savage would say: Liberals are afraid of guns because they are all medicated and borderline suicidal. 

%s

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@bmarvel @ruddski Then perhaps you should not own a gun, but your emotion has nothing to do with mine.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@ruddski @bmarvel I would have happily shot the moron who dumped his beer bottles on my front lawn. Fortunately there was no gun at hand and the feeling passed.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@bmarvel @ruddski 

I know quite a few conservatives who have found themselves in such situations, angry as hell, and armed - including myself. None of us has shot anyone, yet.

I guess that's a risk we choose to take, that we might at some point go so stark raving insane that we would murder over a pair of sneakers or something, it happens. 

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@mavdog You stated 1 million hits.

That data is meaningless in setting ad rates.


Point being, its silly to believe this was to boost revenue, and i'm sure the publishers who made the decision would agree.


mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ruddski 

the data is yet to be collated.

you're jumping the gun.

(pun intended)

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@mavdog You helpfully stated the data, friend.

From a contextual marketing standpoint, the data is absolutely worthless.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bmarvel 

ugh.

phrases I hope to never hear again:

"brand yourself"

"know your space"

"change the paradigm"

bmarvel
bmarvel

@ruddski @bmarvel That's what the journalism profs are telling us these days. We're being urged to "brand" ourselves -- like toothpaste and snack foods. My own instinct would be to call those who write for the journals you mention, "pundits" and not journalists. But I'd settle for simply "writers."

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ruddski

proofs in the pudding.

a savvy marketer knows to wait for the data before coming to a judgement.

what do you market, timeshares?

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@bmarvel So writers for The Nation, National Review, The New Republic and the Dallas Observer are in reality marketers?

bmarvel
bmarvel

@mavdog @bmarvel @ruddski If journalists paid more attention to their audience and what it would pay for, they wouldn't be journalists. They would be marketeers. (And probably better paid and more secure in their jobs.)

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

@mavdog @ruddski @bmarvel 


And as someone in corporatenmarketing, I wouldn't be so moronic as to pitch those specific hits to advertisers in the hopes that they were so damn stupid, they thought that was regular traffic that would repeat.

What do you market, windshield repair?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bmarvel @mavdog @ruddski 

journalists typically fail to understand who their audience is and what that audience will pay money for. The question is: which segment of their base of customers is of greater opportunity, those who support the decision to publish the map or those gun owners who  dislike the actions of the paper?

bmarvel
bmarvel

@mavdog @ruddski @bmarvel Marketeers always mistake the tree for the forest. The newspaper in question has to remain and do business in that community. Do you suppose those thousands of gun owners and the businesses they own are going to continue to have kindly feelings towards that paper?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ruddski @bmarvel 

my guess, as someone from the business of marketing, is the newspaper reached its goal.

they received over 1 Million hits to their website to read the article, over 2x as any of their articles ever.

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