The problem isn’t always identifying the problem

Rick Perlstein says liberals are making a big mistake with the way we respond to mass shootings because we don’t appreciate how conservatives think:

More mass shootings make right-wingers more attached to arming themselves yet further, yet more impassioned about defeating gun control, yet more paranoid about those who would ‘disarm’ them and render them more vulnerable to the scary scary scary everywhere around them. If you don’t understand that, you can’t contribute to winning the gun control debate.

Perlstein highlights the post-Sandy Hook response by the gun safety group as a typical, counterproductive approach. The group’s “heart-rending” campaign “had volunteers send ‘Father’s Day’ cards to members of Congress depicting families whose dads have been claimed by gun violence.”

The goal of campaigns like that are to call more attention to the severity of the problem, based on the assumption that this is what was needed. Convince members of Congress of the severity of the problem, the thinking goes, and they will be more likely to embrace your solution.

But Perlstein argues that emphasizing the severity of the problem only serves to deepen conservatives’ commitment to what they see as the solution to that problem: less regulation and more guns.

With every mass shooting that forces us all, yet again, to think of the gravity and severity of this problem, both sides become increasingly frustrated with the other’s stubborn refusal to swing around to embrace their preferred solution. “See what just happened?” we liberals say, “Can’t you see we need to get these guns off the streets?”

See what just happened?” conservatives say. “Can’t you see we need to do more to arm ourselves?”

These opposite responses make compromise impossible. Or, in a sense, they make the status quo a perpetual, inevitable form of compromise. We say fewer guns, they say more guns. So here we are.

I think where Perlstein is going with this is to suggest that liberals learn to “think like conservatives” so we can speak to them in a way that we’re more likely to be heard and less likely to reinforce their frustration. With regard to mass shootings, that would mean not responding in a way that emphasizes the severity of the problem, but rather responding in a way that gets at the fear and the “scary scary scary everywhere” that makes the more guns and more guns and more guns solution seem attractive.

That’s a laudable project and Rick Perlstein is a very smart guy, so I’m interested in following this discussion (this post is the first in a series of his). But here I want to talk about another, bigger problem that his post illuminates. The larger problem, I think, isn’t that liberals don’t know how to “think like conservatives” — or that conservatives don’t know how to “think like liberals.” I think the larger problem is that when we find ourselves with opposite proposed solutions to a problem, we lack any mutually recognized way of evaluating them. We don’t share any framework that would allow us to test our competing approaches or our opposite solutions and decide, together, which passed the test — which was more true, or which works better.

This is a problem not just with how the two sides respond to problems, but with how we respond to solutions. Social Security and Medicare are, by any measure, effective and efficient programs. Yet by any measure, there is no means of measuring that conservative opponents of those programs will accept as valid. In other words, the disagreement isn’t just a matter of ideology, but of epistemology.

And it goes deeper than just the ancient “through a glass, darkly” problem. This isn’t a blind-men-and-the-elephant type problem arising from the limited information available to all of us humans. It’s a more fundamental disagreement. In the terms of that old parable, it’s as though the liberals felt the elephant’s leg and said, “An elephant is round and tall, like a tree trunk” and then the conservatives felt the elephant’s leg and said “An elephant is tangy and articulate, like a curtain made of Roth IRAs.”

"They know what the answer is supposed to be. Which is a problem with polling."

Translating away justice

White evangelical logic: A child-molester is ..."
"Also, I have encountered Fundamentalists who think that social justice is an Illuminati plot to ..."

Translating away justice

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Fusina

    With the news that the Republicans are willing to shut down the government in order to get rid of the ACA, I don’t think I want to think like a Rebublican. And knowing that the Democratic party will probably allow it to happen is also depressing–I don’t think like a member of the Democratic party either–I’m more liberal than them even. On the other hand, if the government shuts down, maybe we can replace everyone in charge with adults. Would be nice for a change.

    Honestly, I’m ready to give the legislative and executive branches of the government a great big FTFU.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    I’m deeply frustrated and disgusted too. But I’m not willing to demand yet more yielding by the Democrats, and I’m not willing to put equal blame on the legislative and executive branches.

    Lord knows the Democrats have their faults, and the current President is not, alas, one of our all-time greats; but saying they’re as much at fault as the House Republicans papers over the degree to which this situation has been caused by the right wing’s determination to hold their collective breath until the rest of us turn blue.

  • Fusina

    Oh, I’m not saying that the Dems are more at fault–I place the cause squarely at the feet of the GOP. I also was noodling around on facebook and found Boehner’s page. And I reported one of his posts as abusive to the disabled and sick people. I can get rather cranky when I am bored and especially when seeing people getting caught in the middle of this shit. I also messaged him basically saying “YOU have good health care, until you are struggling to pay doctor’s bills, why don’t you stop stomping on the poor and sucking up to your rich buddies.” I very much doubt that I will get an answer…But I did have a little bit of say.

  • Lori

    The Dems legitimately don’t have control over the shut down. The GOP has control of the House, the House has control over the purse strings. The only way the Dems can avert a shut down is to agree to the GOP’s demands, which would be an incredibly terrible idea on several levels.

    The problem with giving the legislative & executive branches of government the big FTFU is that it leaves us with the Judicial branch. I certainly have no desire to see the Roberts’ court have more power.

  • Fusina

    Well, no I wouldn’t want that either…I was frustrated–see my answer to chgo-liz for why. I hate that they are willing to do this–and for what? I guess I just don’t understand why they hate the ACA so damn much. No, it isn’t the best solution–I am not sure what that is–but it is heaps better than what we have now.

  • AnonymousSam

    There’s one major difference between Romneycare and Obamacare, and I’d say it’s pretty obvious.

  • Fusina

    If the reason is what I think it is, it makes the GOP tea partiers look like total assholes–and even more pathetic.

  • AnonymousSam

    “Blah people.” Just… “Blah people.”

  • chgo_liz

    “With the news that the Republicans are willing to shut down the government in order to get rid of the ACA….”

    I get emails from Boehner. No, I didn’t sign up for them; they apparently lifted my email address off of something I did sign up for. Yes, ticks me off. Anyway….the most recent one started like this:

    Republican Bill Keeping Government Open, Stopping ObamaCare Awaits Senate Action


    In this week’s Speaker Alert,
    we want to give you a brief state-of-play on efforts by Republicans in
    the House of Representatives to keep the federal government running and
    stop as much of the president’s health care law as possible.

    “The House worked late into the night Saturday to prevent a government shutdown,” Speaker Boehner explained earlier. “And the Senate now must move quickly, today, to do the same.”

    The plan passed by the House and awaiting action by the Senate would…

    …keep the government running: As Speaker Boehner has
    said repeatedly, “the American people don’t want the government to shut
    down,” and Republicans are working to prevent it from happening;

    That’s right: the Republican line is that they are working to SAVE the government from shutting down. There’s no rational place to go with people like this.

  • Fusina

    Yeah. Like the way that FAUX News has convince people that the PPaACA is going to “force” people to buy insurance–doesn’t the bible have some cutting words about people who make wrong sound right and vice versa? Because it isn’t forcing people to buy insurance, it is making it possible for people to get insurance by forcing the insurance companies to sell insurance to them.

    I am more distressed by this because I currently have a friend in hospital with double pneumonia–she is covered by her husband’s insurance, but the college she works at recently cut the hours of all the adjunct professors so that they would not have to cover their insurance vis a vis the ACA

  • Baby_Raptor

    They don’t care about the truth, or what Jesus actually said. They want to hear stuff that confirms what they already believe. Faux gives them that.

  • FearlessSon

    To be fair, one can choose not to buy health insurance under the ACA, but one is fined for doing so, and the fine will increase over time as one continues to avoid doing so. So while it does not force people to buy health insurance, it does coerce people into doing so.

    Of course, that is like saying that police tickets coerce people into wearing seat belts while driving.

  • Hugh J

    “We say fewer guns, they say more guns.”

    Right…it’s no more complicated than that [insert eye-roll here] .

  • Ross

    Yeah. It’s more complicated than that. They say “more guns for white people

  • Baby_Raptor

    And no punishment for white people who use those guns on The Other.

  • Tinteardrop

    “They say “more guns for white people”


  • picklefactory

    Bulbous, also tapered.

  • FearlessSon

    I am thinking of the reactions to the Black Panther Party, who espoused a philosophy of encouraging African Americans to arm themselves as a method of discouraging police brutality. There was a pretty serious backlash calling for gun control in the seventies among people who otherwise are strong Second Amendment supporters.

    The “guns for me but not for thee” kind of mentality.

  • Tinteardrop

    “The “guns for me but not for thee” kind of mentality.”

    It goes back much further than the Panthers. Much has been written about what’s been called the ‘racist roots of gun control’.

    Starting post Civil War, gun laws in many places centered around keeping Blacks from owning weapons.

    I’m not sure if it’s viable strategy on people like Rahm Emanuel’s part as they now make sure they’re not accused of racism by keeping guns from the young folks in his city. I understand the need to feel “you’re getting even” for the past but there is seems to have backfired in that they seem to just be killing their own.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Albion Tourgee wrote about that. I thought it was a rather bitter irony that the KKK claimed they felt OMGTHREATENED and in all apparent sincerity offered up that load of crap as the reason why they were trying to stop Reconstruction.

  • atalex

    Personally, I don’t even care about “less guns” anymore. I just want some accountability from gun owners for the guns we already have. Owning a gun should be treated with strict liability. If your gun goes off in public even if it’s someone else’s fault, the owner gets charged with reckless endangerment. If the bullet hits somebody, that’s aggravated assault. If it kills somebody, treat it like manslaughter. No more of this “oh he didn’t mean for that toddler to get shot, he feels bad enough, let him off with a warning.” I’m sick of psychopaths who always bleat about “gun rights” but who can’t bear the thought of “gun responsibilities.”

  • Evan

    “An elephant is tangy and articulate, like a curtain made of Roth IRAs.”


  • Julie

    Someone should put this on a t-shirt.

  • Steve Dawson

    I have been thinking about this. Fear is a very strong emotion, trying to get someone who deeply believes that they have found the solution to that fear (even if it is a unworkable, untenable solution) will hold dearly to the solution. At some point, they either have to come to grips with the fear, or they will just become more afraid (and more irrational). This country has allowed some to play off that fear in the name of freedom of speech. I’m not so sure that we can easily resolve that fear since, in some cases it is aimed at the institution that would restrict what gives them protection.

    The real question is how many will die before they catch on that their solution is counter productive?

  • Matri

    The real question is how many will die before they catch on that their solution is counter productive?

    So long as the person dying isn’t them, they don’t give a fuck.

  • themunck

    And once it is, whether or not they give a fuck becomes kinda redundant.

  • Ross

    We don’t share any framework that would allow us to test our competing
    approaches or our opposite solutions and decide, together, which passed
    the test — which was more true, or which works better.

    Sure. That’s what happens when one side is allowed to discard “We tried it and it had the opposite effect to what we said we wanted to accomplish” as a metric for declaring a solution incorrect.

  • AnonymousSam

    And, for that matter, they don’t allow experimentation of any kind to determine a better solution, on threat of destroying the country.

  • Geds

    They also don’t allow, “It’s worked reasonably well in [not America] in the past, so maybe we should try something similar here.”

    I mean, hell, we just have to look at Australia or the UK to see what good, strong gun control looks like and its impact. But that’s not ‘Murica, so it doesn’t matter. And don’t even get me started on looking to Canada to see if a single-payer healthcare system will work. They don’t even want to look at Massachusetts to see how THE EXACT SAME FRIGGIN’ PROGRAM we know nationally as ObamaCare worked and was received (hint, most Massachusettians seem to be on board with RomneyCare.

  • J_Enigma32

    On this note, Moodies and the S&P might as well just downgrade our national credit now. The Republicans have submitted their budget just in time for the debt ceiling catastrophe, and, in the words of Ed Brayton, “They essentially demand that President Obama give them everything they want on every other issue and throw in a pony too.” The government shutdown is going to be nothing compared to what happens when – not if, when – we fail to meet the debt ceiling deadline (or the horrible consequences of meeting it, when everyone basically rolls over and gives the Republicans what they want).

    I’m not sure I’d sully the word “epistemology” by associating it with the current Republican Party. For them, it’s not even a matter of epistemology. It’s one of stubborn, taciturn, pig-headed temper tantrum-prone 40s something white males who don’t need to be anywhere near power, whether it’s Washington or a midnight shift at a Seven Eleven, who refuse to budge on everything because they feel it makes them look “noble” to the rubes that they’re fleecing. There’s no epistemology at all, because an epistemology would imply an underlying logic to why they do what they do when there really isn’t any beyond “oppose the black guy”; it’s repugnant perversity and a desire to be right even when reality itself is telling them they’re wrong. They’ve planted themselves beside the Tree of Willful Delusion and are demanding that the rest of the world move.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Exactly. Exactly times infinity.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    That guy on SGS who’s been predicting hyperinflation will finally be proven right, it looks like. The US government will have to start printing money if the Repubs refuse to appropriate any money for any programs.

  • aunursa

    I think the larger problem is that when we find ourselves with opposite proposed solutions to a problem, we lack any mutually recognized way of evaluating them. We don’t share any framework that would allow us to test our competing approaches or our opposite solutions and decide, together, which passed the test — which was more true, or which works better.

    Obviously the way to go is to demonize your opponents — by angrily equating your opponents with a mass murderer. That’s the best way to get your opponents to listen to and consider your position.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Do you have any integrity at all? The Right are masters at demonizing their opponents: See gays, poor people, non-whites, women who have abortions, people who just want access to healthcare…

    To try and take stabs at us for doing it when it’s one of the few talking points your chosen party has is…I don’t think there are words for the hypocrisy involved.

  • AnonaMiss

    That’s a tu quoque and we’re better than that.

  • Hth

    For thirty years, I’ve been hearing that if we would just speak a *little* more respectfully, conservatives would certainly listen to and consider our position. I’ve yet to see any movement on that, or, to be frank, any evidence that conservatives lose much sleep trying to modulate their tone so that I will be willing to listen to and consider their position.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Especially with the way we got a preview of how these jackasses actually want to do their dialog when the Repubs got Congress in 1994. Everything they wanted, they just tried steamrollering everybody else on it and throwing around “liberal” like it was a swear word to push the entire country’s politics further to the right with each passing year.

  • J_Enigma32

    Maybe it’d matter if they listened in the first place.

    As it stands, they don’t. In fact, they get mad when you point out the logical flaws in their ideology and double down. I refuse to attempt to reason with someone who still believes prayer is illegal in school even after I’ve politely told you it’s not four times. I refuse to attempt to reason with anyone who maintains that Obamacare is a type of insurance, even after I’ve gone out of my way to explain it, in detail to them, twice.

    How may more times am i to derail the discussion to explain to you something that you refuse to go look up on your own, only for you to pop up again, still believing what I debunked not even a day before? I can tell you communism is dead in the water. I can explain why it is. And yet, the very next day, I’m told by this same person we’re on our way to a communist nation.

    You want me to stop mocking these fools? Then maybe they should start listening.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I admit that I can’t even understand the “prayer is illegal in schools” argument. How does the Big Bad Government stop people from praying in their heads?

    It’s like the “god is no longer allowed in schools” argument. God is supposedly omnipresent. He’s also vastly more powerful than humans, even if you don’t believe he’s omnipotent. How are a bunch of humans going to stop him from walking into a school if he wants to? And then there’s that whole “god lives in the heart of every believer” thing. So he can get in that way too.

  • J_Enigma32

    And kids can pray in the open at school, as long as they’re not distracting the class. They can bring their Bible and read until their heart’s content. I’ve been in every grade level, K through Undergrad (both as a student and a teacher/supplementary educator, in several districts) and I’ve never even seen anyone, administrative or teacher, even comment that God somehow isn’t allowed in the classroom (which isn’t to say they don’t exist – but that if they do, it’s very rare given the number of schools willing to bend over backwards in the other direction).

    This one is a failure of their code-speak. Their code-speak is usually pretty good at maintaining plausible deniablity (“What do you mean I’m racist? I’m not talking about black people at all, I’m just talking about those lazy poor people in Cadillacs with Jordons who have litters of children and leech off the system! You’re the racist one for even thinking that I’m talking about black people!”), but here it fails miserable: By “god is no longer allowed in schools,” they’re basically saying “we are no longer allowed to push our ‘religion’ through state-sponsored schools”, and it’s readily transparent since taken any other way it’s a flat fucking lie.

    They’re not allowed to push their narrow little God; the God who punishes New Orleans with a hurricane or Washington D.C. with an earthquake so devastating it knocked over a few lawn chairs, but who “works in mysterious ways” when it’s a tornado leveling a Baptist church in Ass End, Mississippi. They’re not allowed to push their God, who mysteriously seems to agree with everything they believe (because they take the Bible literally, see?). Thus, God is no longer allowed in schools, because they’re no longer allowed to be the only viewpoint there.

  • Alix

    “Prayer is illegal in schools” = “I’m not allowed to put on a big, disruptive show of How Christian I Am,” with variants including “I can’t proselytize as a teacher/coach/administrator,” “the school’s giant tacky banner promoting my religion got taken down,” and “my kid got made fun of/told to stop being a loud, obnoxious asshole about their religion.”

    Silent prayer in your own head was never and is never good enough for these people. Jesus had something rather pointed to say about that, but like all the things Jesus said, they prefer not to remember that.

  • J_Enigma32

    Matthew 6:2
    “So whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow a trumpet before you like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they will be praised by people. I tell all of you with certainty, they have their full reward!”

    Matthew 6:5
    “And whenever you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. I tell all of you with certainty, they have their full reward!”

    Matthew 23:5
    “They do everything to be seen by people. They increase the size of their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.”

  • dpolicar

    Well, of course not.

    The point of “prayer in schools” is not and never has been to allow individual children to pray if they choose, in a manner of their choosing. It is and always has been to create social pressure encouraging all children to collectively pray in the socially preferred fashion.

  • Ross

    I think it’s even simpler than that. Some care about prayer in schools, but most care about the fact that their side lost a fight, plain and simple.

  • AnonaMiss

    You’re referring to the James Holmes item, yes?

    You know, I think I agree with you that that was inappropriate. We can’t assume that Holmes is against gun control – cognitive dissonance happens in saner minds than his.

  • dongisselbeck

    The “conservatives” forget that even being an expert (something you can’t become by plinking away at a cutout of BHO for half an hour on Saturdays) isn’t protection enough:

  • J_Enigma32

    Guns are a primarily offensive weapon. They benefit the person who acts first; they’re a poor defensive weapon. If you don’t act first with the gun, then you’re not going to act at all. And when you shoot a gun, you shoot to kill. You don’t shoot for any other reason. You are fully willing to murder and take the life of another human being.

    My favorite test goes like this, since gun fetishists love their made up scenarios so much:

    You are alone in an open parking lot. It’s dark, the lights are on, and you’ve got a gun on you. Your tire is flat, and you’ve decided to try and fix it yourself. Anyway, as you’re rummaging around in the trunk of your car, you see a person running towards you. They’re tall, they’re dark, they’ve got a hood on and they’re making a beeline right towards you. When you look closer, you see he’s got a knife – a big knife, possibly stained in blood, but that might be rust; it’s hard to tell. There’s definitely some dark substance on it, thought. He shouts out to you, in a deep baritone, “Hey!”

    You’ve got a few seconds to react. You have a gun. It’s loaded. You pull out your gun and shout, “don’t come any closer!” But he’s still running at you and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

    What do you do?

    if you chose to turn and run, you don’t need a gun for that, so what purpose did you having it serve? You don’t need a gun to turn around and bolt; I could do that effectively by myself and I don’t own a firearm. If that’s the case, any claim you have to the firearm being needed for self-defense is effectively debunked, because you just admitted yourself running is a better one.

    If you shoot him, you have to make sure you’re taking him down since you measured him as a legitimate threat. Which means you’re willing to murder a man running at you with a knife, who’s shouted “Hey!” at you and didn’t stop when you drew your gun and warned him. So you shoot him.

    Then you find out that one of his children had been hurt with the knife, and he was running at you to see if you could call 9-11 because they didn’t have a phone in the house or their battery was dead.

    Or you find out that the man was deaf and didn’t hear your warning, and didn’t see you pull the gun because it was dark, and he was running up to ask if the knife was yours.

    Or you find out that his wife had just been stabbed and he’d grabbed the knife away from the attacker, and he was running up to you to get help. Because you shot him, now the attacker gets away and the wife likely dies since nobody else knows until the police show up and ID the guy you killed.

    Or you find out…

    Being a good shot won’t protect you from your own mistakes when you kill an innocent person in response to the fight-or-flight reaction.

  • Alix

    These people honestly believe (well, for the most part) that in any of the scenarios you describe, their intent (self-defense, being a hero) would and should matter more than the fact they just killed someone.

  • J_Enigma32

    Which is why I make them look as much like the villain at the end as I possibly can:

    “You just murdered an innocent man whose kid hurt themselves acting like a paranoid hotshot. How do you feel having left that child fatherless? In fact, aren’t you the kind of person people have guns to defend against – someone who, in cold blood, guns down a man with a knife when you didn’t even know if he was hostile or not?”

    It doesn’t always work, but I’ve used this before and they stop responding to me after I explain how their actions play out. I usually take this to mean “I win”, at least until the next encounter when they’re back to spewing the same garbage again.

    Another favorite of mine is them in the middle of a mass shooting. They pull out their gun and start targeting who they think is a spree killer and end up shooting another person who was doing the same exact thing they were (with the added “advantage” this nearly happened in real life; when Gifford was shot, some ace in the audience decided to pull out a gun and shoot her attack, and in the process, nearly shot the man that was trying to pin the attacker down).

  • Ross

    I’ve had it “explained” to me many times that such scenarios are obvious fiction and a massive stretchl; it could never be the case in real life trhat the person you saw was anytthing other than a drug-fueled junkie about to murder you and rape your mother, no one could ever mistake another vigilante for a spree killer, and no one ever looks like a threat unless they actually are, whereas all the time, millions of times a day good people are saved by shooting scary attackers.

    (Frex, the answer to the giffords example is “Yeah, but he didn’t shoot him. So obviously it could never happen that way”)

  • DavidCheatham

    No need to be insulting to the Gifford’s guy.

    What _actually_ happened is that someone with a gun in the holster heard repeated gunshots and panic from around a corner.

    He pulled his gun and rounded the corner, and saw someone with a gun standing there…

    …and managed to figure out that said person had just pulled the gun away from the actual attacker. Before he did anything stupid.

    He wasn’t some ‘ace’, and he didn’t ‘nearly’ shoot someone. He didn’t shoot at all, because he recognized he didn’t know exactly what was going on.

    There’s no need to insult someone who responded _entirely appropriately_ to a situation.

    It is, however, a valid point that many of the pro-gun people seem to be ready to fire off shots randomly in a similar situation.

    And perhaps that more to the point, that if someone _had_ been right there with a gun, and responded to the gunfire with return gunfire, that guy could have rounded the corner, seen that, and shot _the responder_.

    (Edit: Or, of course, anyone could have shown up later and shot _him_, who after all was holding a gun.)

    There is pretty much one situation where you can deter crime with a gun. It is home invasions, a particularly rare form of crime, and one that doesn’t require any sort of carry permit at all for a weapon. So let everyone have a shotgun locked in a cabinet in their bedroom. The rest of stopping crime with a gun is total nonsense.

  • AnonymousSam

    Though for every home invasion stopped by a nearby gun, there are probably dozens of guns stolen out of homes and more than a handful of domestic incidents (intentional and otherwise) involving said gun…

  • hidden_urchin

    Or you find out it wasn’t a knife at all but some completely harmless object.

    It happens to police officers with alarming frequency.

  • smrnda

    The problem with any debate or discussion is that if one party is disconnected from reality, the debate goes nowhere. Our current batch of Republicans live in an alternate world with their *own-set-of-facts* which can be conveniently conjured out of thin air when necessary to supply a talking point. Imagine a person who can say “Believe me, I know all poor people are lazy, I knew at least one lazy poor person!” That person isn’t getting facts wrong, they don’t even understand how knowledge works, and because of that they can’t figure out that they are *wrong.*

    When Herman Cain was running, I pointed out to someone that his tax plan would raise taxes on most people, but would actually lead to a decrease in federal revenue. They contested that it was impossible, even though grade school algebra can demonstrate that moving from a progressive to a flat tax can lead to a revenue decrease provided you have *ANY* level of inequality in income. I’m not sure you can actually persuade people like this, since they aren’t capable of evaluating statements for their truth value.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Hell, even the guys who invented the flat tax in the first place back in ’83 admitted as much, that to stay revenue neutral taxes would need to shift around that would put more of a burden on the poor.

  • RavenOnTheHill

    See Hemenway, Private Guns, Public Health. There’s a way to think about this, if we can get past the fear.

    We might also point out that after a while, when people arm themselves even though it doesn’t solve the problem, and even makes matters worse, is giving in to fear. You want to see some angry conservatives, just tell them that. But, you see—I don’t know a cure for cowardice. Maybe we can tell them that god doesn’t like their behavior.

  • Kagi Soracia

    The problem is they already know that, and have rationalised it away. My dad is a pastor (was, anyway), an independent charismatic who was raised Mennonite, and came away from it with a deep hatred of pacifism. He already knows all the ‘God hates this kind of behaviour’ arguments, and has rejected them. I don’t know how he rationalises it to himself, because it sure as hell doesn’t make sense to me, or my grandfather, but he’s got himself convinced that guns and God go together. It’s madness.

  • RavenOnTheHill

    You can’t reason with an obsession.

    Sigh. Obviously we need Gunowners Anonymous.

  • connorboone

    When you want to create gun control legislation based on data, and one party sees the existence of data about guns and public health as a threat to be exterminated and forbids public funding of public health organizations to go out and collect that data… it’s not a problem of perception, it’s a problem of ideology.

    On another note, there was an article in the NYT yesterday that, at the end, made gun culture sound exactly like an abusive relationship – about parents letting their children go out shooting, despite the fact that the children had accidentally ended the lives of their siblings with unsecured firearms. Here it is:

  • caryjamesbond

    Eh- he has an excellent point. Essentially, Liberals are trying to say ‘Things are scary! WE NEED TO DISARM!” and conservatives reaction to fear is to arm themselves.

    It may be more effective to start making it obvious and well known that violent crime has been dropping for decades. When we focus on the scary outliers, all we do is scare people. Start focusing on how much SAFER NYC is now than it was in the 70’s. Saying “You don’t need guns anymore because things are better!” avoids that entire argument.

    Also- not the nicest thing ever but- play the race card. Frankly, a guy with fifty guns isn’t the issue. The guy with fifty guns probably knows all about them, how to store them, how to keep them safe, what the laws are and what they mean, etc etc. It’s the asshole with a $200 glock that he picked up at a gunshow because he wanted to prove how tough he is that’s the problem.

    Start talking about “removing guns from the criminal element” and create a program focused on removing guns from people with criminal records, and you’d probably get a lot of support from the dogwhistle coalition, PLUS you could take guns away from all the white guys with criminal records.

    It boils down to one of the fundamental problems with liberals, which is that they don’t necessarily want to get things done, they want to be seen TRYING to get things done in a nice, photogenic, happy, multicultural, look-everyone-the-pamphlets-have-diverse-pictures, and vastly ineffective way.

    The right manages to get their groups marching in lockstep using certain, proven, Representative techniques. Those are- lies, lies, racist lies, and prevarication. Maybe its time we started considered that while the ends might not justify ANY means, they certain justify some means that don’t seem very nice at the time.

  • Aeryl

    The guy with 50 guns IS THE ISSUE.

    The guy has more guns than he could ever possibly reasonably use.

    Evidence shows that gun sales are going up, but gun possession is going down per capita, so all of the guns are concentrating in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

  • AnonymousSam

    Devil’s advocate: Why is he more of an issue that a guy who’s liable to actually use those weapons?

  • Aeryl

    IMO, it’s indicative of a disturbed mind.

  • caryjamesbond

    And? Disturbed or not, you need to look at which people are actually doing the killing. If you want to reduce the rates of drug use, you can go with the stereotype “poor black on welfare” or you can look at the actual statistics, and start focusing on well-off suburban kids. IF you want to reduce gun violence, you can go with the stereotype of “madman with an arsenal” or look at the statistics and focus on impoverished people with prior criminal records and one or two guns in the house that they don’t know much about.

    You complain that I want to use stereotypes to reduce guns, while you’re engaging in one yourself. Both the idea that people who are mentally disturbed are more dangerous, and that people with a lot of guns are mentally disturbed.

  • caryjamesbond

    No, the guy doing a driveby is the issue. The guy with the Saturday night special is the issue.

    Mass shootings, are, frankly, irrelevant. They’re rare, media driven events. It’s like focusing on plane crashes instead of seatbelt laws. Yes- plane crashes are big and dramatic and scary and they kill far, far fewer people than even the gentlest car crash.

    If you’re interested in scoring political points, you go after the guy with the fifty guns, and you stand in front of congress and talk about arsenals and who needs that many guns.

    If you want to save lives, you get 9mm glocks off the streets of Chicago. THATS where the problem is. That’s where the bulk of the killing is happening- with a perfectly legal under any proposed scheme handgun, usually wielded by one kid against another. Mass killings make excellent arguments for ineffective measures.

    And, simply put- economics remains one of the biggest factors here. A guy with the money to amass a huge gun collection is much less likely to be willing to throw it all away to shoot someone in a bar, or go home and grab his gun to take back to an argument.

    I’ve known the guys with fifty guns and I’ve known the stupid drunken kids with the pistol they bought from a friend, and I’ve seen both get into drunken arguments- and the one who pulled out the gun and waved it around was the stupid kid, not the fifty year old with a job and a wife and kids.

  • Aeryl

    Your experience differs from mine. From what I’ve seen, the higher the number of guns, the higher the chances they’ll act like an idiot.

    And by all metrics, the numbers of drive bys and bar shootings, i.e. individualized shootings, are GOING DOWN, without us doing anything, while the numbers of mass shootings are going up. So yes, the mass shootings are the problem.

    There was a segment on the Daily Show that talked about how conservatives are working on redefining mass shootings, because by the current definition(4 people and over) over 96% of shootings in the US have been mass shootings.

    Yes, these things are media driven, and the media should be held accountable for that. But that is not their sole cause. I have been for many years, a gun rights advocate, but after this past year, no more. The problem is the culture, and we have to fix the culture. That is a long term solution, and won’t stop people dying right now, so short term, we need to take the guns.

  • caryjamesbond

    Not really- I’ve got a lot of family in backwoods Tennessee, and I’ve spent a lot of time with them and their friends who have actually, “The government is gonna fall, I need to be prepared” arsenals. Politically, their beliefs are whacko. In terms of day to day safety? Incredible. These are people who will flip out on you for acting unsafely with an unloaded gun (and with good reason). These are people who properly carry their guns, who make sure to safe them, who properly unload and store them.

    When it comes to someone handling a gun around me, I want the guy who shoots everyday and who obsessively studies marine combat manuals, over the idiot with a loaded glock in a sock drawer he sees once a year. The obsessive guy knows what he’s doing- and the most important part of knowing what you’re doing with a gun is gun safety. Not to mention he knows the law- idiots do things like fire warning shots, or spray-and-pray or shoot wildly- the paranoid who knows what he’s doing is gonna follow the law, and know what his backstop is- which means he isn’t going to shoot through the wall and kill the kid upstairs.

    Just like with cars- it isn’t the expert that’s gonna kill you. It’s the idiot that thinks he’s an expert.

  • Jeff

    I find your argument confusing. On the one hand, you acknowledge that there is such a thing as a responsible gun owner, and that such people aren’t the problem with respect to gun violence. On the other, you want to take ALL guns out of the hands of ALL private citizens. This raises two questions. First, why take the guns from the responsible gun owners? And second, how will your proposed method get the guns from those who acquire their guns illegally?

  • caryjamesbond

    Simple- guns are massively dangerous. Yes, there are responsible gun owners. But, on the level of an entire society, we can’t handle them. A simple glance at our murder rates (and comparative murder rates both between our nation and nations that have outlawed guns, and between those nations today and before they outlawed guns) demonstrates this.

    Yes, some people can handle their guns. The majority can’t. Sad, yes. I’m sure there are plenty of people that would handle RPGs and nukes responsibly. But most wouldn’t. So, yeah- the majority wins.

    I’d be willing to consider an extremely strict licensing process involving days of training (I’m talking actual, military level weapons safety training. Preferably with somone that flips on you when you act unsafely.)

    Add to that mandatory insurance on weapons, and holding gun owners responsible for whatever crimes their weapons commit. If your gun gets stolen and used in a crime- even if you report it, tough shit. You shouldn’t have let your deadly weapon get stolen. The fact that you did clearly indicates you aren’t responsible enough to own deadly weapons.

    As for the illegal guns- well, first, the number one source of illegal weapons is guns stolen from law abiding idiots. It’s one of the first things criminals look for in a burglary. Second….well, again, this will catch me flak. But back in the day, big city cops had a policy- they’d go into the bad neighborhoods, stop groups of guys hanging out on the corner in the middle of the day, and frisk them. almost every time they’d confiscate a gun. I’d say do the exact same thing in the trailer parks and you’d start getting the illegal guns away from the wrong people pretty quick.

    Stiffen penalties for unregistered weapons, and have no fault, paid confiscations.

    Make regular gun checks a standard part of probation. It won’t happen instantly, but it can be done as plenty of places demonstrate.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    “Stop and frisk” was treating a symptom rather than the underlying cause, and has, in the end, simply reinforced racist power structures that are rooted in the white-cops-good-black-people-bad mentality.

  • Ross

    And by all metrics, the numbers of drive bys and bar shootings, i.e.
    individualized shootings, are GOING DOWN, without us doing anything,
    while the numbers of mass shootings are going up. So yes, the mass
    shootings are the problem.

    No they aren’t and no they’re not. The number of mass shootings has not changed by any significant amount since at least the 1970s. (It was, I believe, higher in the 60s). Mass shootings are big and scary and get the public all worked up, but they represent a TINY fraction of gun deaths. For every Adam Lanza, there’s a hundred “Beligerant asshole who really wanted that parking space”.

  • Aeryl

    2013-5(So far)

    It’s something that fluctuates(and don’t forget, THWARTED attempts don’t make the record), but it’s ludicrous to say that they are at the same rates(the 60’s may have been worse, I don’t have that data, but IMO, it’s useless to use data from our leaded days, with the correlating drop in crime since the ban). We would go years without one, now we go MONTHS!

    And we already know how to solve incidences of individualized gun violence. Address poverty, lack of opportunity, and education.

    I can think of a few reasons as to why some years are worse than others, the economy, elections tend to agitate a polarized populace, the continued stigmatization of mental health treatment. But address these underlying problems is a LONG TERM problem. Short term, we gotta take the guns.

  • AnonymousSam

    Problems: Even so much as tracking our existing guns is seen as just a stepping stone toward “jackbooted thugs” taking away their weapons and putting them in chains. Pointing out that crime is on a downward trend makes no impact because there are always crimes going on that they swear could be or only were averted by every TomDickHarry in the vicinity having a gun.

    Maybe its time we started considered that while the ends might not justify ANY means, they certain justify some means that don’t seem very nice at the time.

    I have no idea what this means, only that it doesn’t sound like a course of action that’s liable to show us being on the right side of history.

  • caryjamesbond

    “right side of history”- what, exactly, does that phrase mean?

    Does it mean never doing anything questionable, ever, or does it mean doing what you have to do to stop things that are even worse?

    I’m not really that interested in what people a hundred years think of me, because, I’ll be dead. I’m interested in taking real steps to get rid of guns. One of those steps might be using terms that are traditionally considered racist dogwhistles, because A. Large segments of the population already respond to those and B. in the past, racially charged issues have led the NRA and similar groups to support gun control.

    The Tea Party is gonna be swayed by racist dogwhistles, no matter what we do. We might as well sway them in our direction.

    It doesn’t mean we have to be racist- it means we use their ‘secret’ language against them. We can then apply those laws equally, and justly, within white and black and brown populations. But we need the laws first.

  • Aeryl

    Perpetuating their “secret” language is to perpetuate racist thoughts. Full Stop. You can’t play that game, and not be racist, even if you yourself are not a bigoted person.

  • caryjamesbond

    See my point about wanting to be seen doing the absolutely right thing, instead of the effective thing. This isn’t freaking Narnia. It’s America, and yes, there is racism. It’s a powerful political current that our enemies routinely manipulate.

    We can play the angel and just butt heads against the opposition for all eternity, “Guns are BAD” vs. “guns are awesome!” forever.

    Or we can do this:

    Billboard: Stereotypical black thug, sneering,with a MAC-10 in his hands. In front of him is a cop with a piddling little 9mm and a (white) family cowering behind him.

    Text: “He’s got more firepower than the cops. Don’t you think its time we took it away? Vote yes on “LAW XYZ.”

    People are stupid. Racist people doubly so. That’s how you use fear, the great motivator, to start passing REAL gun control laws. As you pointed out- the number of gun owning households is plummeting, while the number of racists is about the same. That means there are plenty of people who are still racist, but don’t have guns. You can use that racist fear of being unarmed- or underarmed, to get them to vote for your proposals.

    It’s emotional manipulation, the same as the Father’s day cards.

  • Aeryl

    Easy to say “Let’s perpetuate racism to stop racism” when you’re not the one being targeted.

  • caryjamesbond

    Easy to take the moral high ground on political policies when your children aren’t being killed.

    And I’m not trying to stop racism- or at least, that’s not the goal of what I’m suggesting- which, incidentally, would include stuff besides racism- lying, for example, and demonizing our opponents. The use of racist dogwhistles is just the most controversial part of what I’m suggesting.

    Racism exists. Destroying racism is a laudably implausible goal. I’m interested in practical things that can be done NOW- IE, reducing the number of guns in the US, particularly among populations- poor whites, poor blacks, poor hispanics, that are at most risk for gun violence. One tool that can be used is to turn the inherent bigotry that a lot of people have against those populations- liberals among them, to a better purpose.

    How about this billboard. Lowerclass whiteguy with a shaved head, neck tats, etc. holding a mac-10. In front of him is a black cop with a….etc. etc.
    Exact same billboard, with the races switched around. Play on bigotry against poor whites instead.

  • Aeryl

    Um, hello, I have a school aged child, so YEAH MY KID IS BEING TARGETED!

    I just know that principled “concessions” to retrofuck attitudes for political expediency never works out better for the people being “helped”, because I know my history.

    Playing on racism will never solve the problem of racism.

  • caryjamesbond

    Ok. I understand the fear you have- but you’re allowing one event in a larger pattern of violence to disproportionately affect your thinking on the issue of gun control. I can’t blame you, but I don’t think there’s much point in continuing this argument.

    And like I said- I’m not interested in working to stop racism, because that’s a meaningless goal, How do you measure racism? When will racism be solved? I’m interested in working on solving problems that have measurable endpoints, instead of vague and noble sounding but ultimately meaningless statements.

    When the per capita murder rate in the US is the same as or lower than the UK’s or Japan’s, then the problem of gun violence is solved. Whatever policies get us there, I support.

    And one thing that might help us get there is playing on the unwarrented biases of the movers and shakers- fear of the poor, fear of minorities, fear of carjackings and etc.

  • Aeryl

    An hour ago, I was too divorced from this issue to consider, now I’m too close to the issue to consider it? Stuff it.

    The fact of the matter is that gun violence, on average, is declining. We don’t have to do anything more to address it for the most part, it is being solved by actions we’ve already taken(though of course anti-poverty and education initiatives will always be helpful).

    What is on the rise are these instances of mass violence. This is not ” one event in a larger pattern of violence”, this is an emerging trend.

    These debates on gun control(and the inherent racism involved in the antis) can no longer take place on an intellectual level, as you seem to want to, which is why you can blithely talk about perpetuating racist tropes that KILL PEOPLE(remember Trayvon Martin?) to address gun violence, because it’s all hypothetical to you. I used to be the same way. But this is real world shit.

    Playing on those “unwarranted biases” only validates those biases, and will only cause more people to be killed.

  • AnonymousSam

    Yes, there is racism. Should that mean that we should all be racists because the best way to get results is to throw black people under the bus whenever it’s convenient? News flash: I’d rather not live in a world that’s only safe for white people.