you can’t ban ingenuity.

I don’t shy away from debates on gun control, and the merits and drawbacks of legislative attempts to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

However, there’s one argument that immediately makes me disengage from the debate, because it shows that the person putting it forth has a.) not thought their own argument through, and b.) not the faintest clue on the subject.

This is it:

“Ban all guns.”

Instead of rebutting that proposal with my own detailed argument, complete with Constitutional footnotes, graphs, and other evidence, I usually just counter with a personal anecdote.

You see, when I was a teenager, living in Germany (which has gun control laws that would make Massachusetts residents say, “Damn, those people are strict over there”), there was this boy living on my street, two houses down.  He was good-natured, but a bit slow, always lagging a year or two behind the other kids his age in school.

Now, academically, that boy was a dud, but he had a talent.  He could make a functioning firearm out of anything.  He had a little metal-working shop in his parents’ basement, with a bunch of ordinary tools you can pick up at any Home Depot.  He spent his time figuring out the mechanics of things by trial and error, making a whole lot of scrap metal along the way, but after a few months of playing with stuff, he got so good at making guns that he could make a functioning revolver out of nothing but bar stock steel and scrap metal.  (They were smoothbore guns because he didn’t have the equipment to cut grooves and lands into a barrel, but they worked fine at conversational distance.)  Shotguns were a no-brainer, being much simpler to put together.

He also picked up some chemical knowledge along the way, and could manufacture his own cartridges and shotgun shells from stuff you can pick up at any CVS or gardening supply store without raising an eyebrow.

Now, any time someone comes up with the genius idea that banning all guns is the solution to the gun violence problem, I tell them this anecdote.  Here’s a not particularly gifted teenager in a country with extensive gun control laws, and he can teach himself basement gun manufacturing skills in a few months.  What kind of laws could you possibly pass that would prevent someone like him from making guns and ammunition?  What kind of laws could you pass that could keep someone smarter (and motivated by the profits inherent in the manufacture of an illegal in-demand commodity) from doing the same? 

Most American hobbyist basements have a much more impressive suite of power tools and equipment than this boy had in his basement.  You can walk into any Home Depot or Lowe’s and pick up a complete metalworking shop if you’re so inclined.  (Hell, your local Wal-Mart probably has all the ingredients and tools needed to make a working firearm.)  People are incredibly crafty when it comes to making stuff they like, and twice as crafty again when there’s a healthy profit to be made along the way.  Ban all guns, and you’ll do to guns what we did to drugs—you’ll create a vast and uncontrolled black market with obscene profit guarantees for anyone willing to ignore your ban.  (Not that we have historical examples of such a thing happening, or anything.)  Knowing the ingenuity and general “You’re Not The Boss Of Me” attitudes of most Americans, there’ll be a new and exciting cottage industry springing up within ten minutes of a total gun ban being announced.

So, as soon as that idea comes up, I put a brake on the debate, and ask the person coming up with the “Ban all guns!” genius plan to address the points above.  How are you going to accomplish a complete gun ban, and prevent people from simply making their own?  Ban all metalworking tools?  Register lathes and metal drill bits?  Put serial numbers on bar stock?

The technological genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no stuffing it back in.  In order to get rid of all guns, you’d have to erase the knowledge of all related subjects from the heads of people: metallurgy, chemistry, and so on.  (That doesn’t even address the question of what you’re going to do with all the millions of guns already out there—guns that suddenly become high-value contraband that can either be turned in to the authorities for a coupon for sneakers, or sold to Crazy Eddie’s Rolling Gun Store for a hefty stack of cash.)

So, if you want to have a debate about gun laws, the effectiveness thereof, and what measures you can realistically take to keep bad people from shooting good people, I’ll gladly debate the issue with you.  If, however, you drag out the Ultima Ratio of gun control, cross your arms, and say, “Let’s just ban all guns”, understand why I’ll stop wasting my time at that point, because that goal is just about as realistic to achieve as banning pound cake.

44 thoughts on “you can’t ban ingenuity.

  1. scotaku says:

    I usually run across the codicil to “ban all guns,” which tends to be along the lines of “well if we were all just law-abiding citizens”…

    I hurt myself getting “QED” out as fast as I can, but nobody knows what that means anymore, so it’s hardly a win.

    And why is it that people (in my experience) think that having more laws will make people more law-abiding?

  2. SemperGumby says:

    I usually enjoy posting your arguments for those I know to read because I like your logical pieces in favor of something I believe. When I quote you on Facebook and link to the argument on your blog, many of my friends enjoy trying to pick apart your arguments. I’ve done it enough times to start to see where they will focus in their counterarguments. One that I can see right off the bat that they would use would be to state that most people have neither the ability nor the access to the machinery to manufacture firearms such as what you describe. And I’m sure they would argue that to ban guns may only take them away from law abiding citizens but that accidents involving gun owners or children that occur would be decreased if we all didn’t have guns in our homes.

    I guess it’s a good thing to be able to foresee potential lines of argument and prepare for them but it bothers me that I can see these potential just as logical arguments in favor of their side. I think I’ll just let you know when I post your stuff and hope that you’ll help me respond to them…

    Thoughts?

    Mike

    • lenf says:

      “most people have neither the ability nor the access to the machinery to manufacture firearms such as what you describe.”

      It has not been suggested that everyone or even “most people” could or would manufacture guns, only those with the skills or the intelligence to acquire those skills and the desire to produce guns for fun or profit.

      “to ban guns may only take them away from law abiding citizens”

      And not effect the criminals, leaving law abiding citizens at a great disadvantage.

      “that accidents involving gun owners or children that occur would be decreased if we all didn’t have guns in our homes”

      Numbers, I need numbers! And would these accidental shootings be offset by criminals acting with impunity?

    • Rick R. says:

      Um, evidence (such as crimes committed) in places with really strict gun and border controls, such as LONDON, indicate that enough people possess the skills to make functional firearms from innocuous and perfectly legal objects.

      Such as making functional machinepistols from TOYS.

    • Kristopher says:

      Guns are 15th Century tech, mister. Been arguing that since fido-net.

      You can make a function one-use shotgun out of a section of plastic pipe, endcap, glue, fishing weights, matchheads, and an ignitor made of 0000-grade steel wool, two wires, and a 9 volt battery.

      If you think for about 10 seconds, you can assemble these bits into one without any further instructions from me.

      And I will post these instructions far and wide within minutes of such a ban.

      Fail, dude.

  3. Shootin' Buddy says:

    “What kind of laws could you possibly pass that would prevent someone like him from making guns and ammunition? What kind of laws could you pass that could keep someone smarter (and motivated by the profits inherent in the manufacture of an illegal in-demand commodity) from doing the same?”

    Death penalty for Possession with Intent to Manufacture a Firearm. Registration and inspection of all those who purchase materials to manufacture firearms. Eliminate firearms from the culture.

    Many nations in Asia have done this.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      …without eliminating firearms from their culture.

      (Unless you can show me an Asian nation with zero gun crime.)

      Also: registration and inspection of all those who purchase “materials to manufacture firearms”? How is anyone going to do that? They make AK-47s out of scrap metal and old Mercedes truck springs up by the Khyber Pass, with the most primitive toolshops.

      Let’s register and inspect everyone who buys a few feet of pipe, or a metal drill bit. Surely, that wouldn’t take a massively bloated and inefficient enforcement method.

      • Shootin' Buddy says:

        Pffft, I just changed the rule of your little scenario. You know like Kirk did in the last Star Trek movie.

        Ha, I have beaten a geek with his own geekiness!

        USA! USA! USA!

    • perlhaqr says:

      If there’s a Death Penalty for possession with intent, it’s clearly go time, because I’m not going to take the chance that I’m going to get hung just because some weenie claims I was thinking about guns while standing at the lathe.

      If I’m going to die anyway, I might as well take some of them with me.

      • Kristopher says:

        If I am to be given the death penalty for owning firearms, I might as well start shooting every asshole I see with an Obama sticker on his car.

        One should get to the source of any problem.

        I won’t disarm, they are going to kill me anyway, and they can only execute me once.

        All the dead Obamabots are freebies.

        • MarkHB says:

          Uh, there isn’t Nor will there be. But your death fantasy on peole with bumper stickers makes me not want to invite you for coffee.

          You want to kill your fellow Americans for an imagined infraction, based on their bumper stickers. I’m meant to not want to shoot you on sight… Why?

        • Kristopher says:

          Because, in the hypothetical situation offered by the person supporting victim-disarmament, they just used their elected officials as their agents to make me into a criminal with a death penalty offense on my head.

          My comment was about making firearms a death-penalty offense, and the results of such a bad move.

          Once you do that, you create a large group of persons with absolutely nothing left to lose.

          If you want to get angry and rescind lunch invitations, I would suggest you start with those folks who blithely throw out the death-penalty as a “solution” to disobeying their edicts.

        • MarkHB says:

          I’m *pretty* sure they were showing how ludicrous it was to try.

        • Kristopher says:

          Shooting Buddy mentioned that Many Asian countries have death penalties for firearms possession.

          I stated what the effects of passing such a law would be on myself, and many others, and why this would be so.

          I don’t personally think Shooting Buddy is advocating such laws.

          In fact, the President, and the congress critters most likely to even think of doing so are not that stupid … they would rather follow the CA model of slowly turning the heat up on the frog boiler.

    • Rick R. says:

      There’s an old story that goes like this:

      A group of farmers in China were called up to go report for spear carrier duty.

      A group of them are sittig around a campfire on the way to report, discussing the fact that they are going to be late reporting in, and no matter how fast they move, they can’t possibly make it in time.

      One farmer asks, “Boys, what’s the penalty for not reporting on time?”

      “Death.”

      “OK, what’s the penalty for rebellion?”

      “Death.”

      “Boys, guess what? We’re LATE.”

      And thus began the rebellion. . .

  4. JohnO says:

    When I was a college freshman, I worked in the government documents section of the University Library. I remember regularly getting distracted by the FBI law enforcement mag. Each issue had a photo of weapons that LEO’s should watch out for. I remember seeing lots of guns that were made inside U.S. prisons, where I think they are illegal and all of them are banned.

  5. igli1969 says:

    Laws are meant to establish what a crime is, and (often) what the punishment for that crime might be. Laws do NOT prevent those crimes. The people that are “deterred” from committing a particular crime are usually law-abiding people already, and generally unlikely to commit crimes anyway, barring extraordinary circumstances.

    Criminals, OTOH, break laws by definition, so bans do not work. Even in those Asian nations where there is a homogeneous population and a culture of obedience, I can guarantee that some people there have guns. If you are engaged in an activity for which there is a severe punishment that exceeds that of gun possession, it is a no-brainer to carry a gun to help escape an arrest! If nothing else, a gun is a way of helping prevent another criminal from poaching on your turf, since calling the cops is not an option.

    Pieces of paper, whether books of laws or the US Constitution, do not provide protection from whomever your enemy might be. What does, one might ask? “Guns” is the answer that comes to mind.

  6. elmo_iscariot says:

    Unfortunately, there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to _any_ critique of a gun control scheme: “we don’t claim we can prevent _all_ gun crime; we’re talking about _diminishment_”.

    If all guns were banned, it would be _harder_ for criminals to get guns, so _fewer_ of them would do it, thus (in the mind of the gun-control advocate), reducing the number of “gun crimes”. And if you point out that a gun isn’t necessary to commit a murder? Well, _some_ subset of the newly gunless criminals must have been on the fence, and chose not to murder because killing without a gun is just enough harder than it is with one. “Diminishment”.

    Obviously, the actual question is whether this hypothetical subset of a hypothetical subset of murders outweighs the number of lives _saved_ with guns, but by the time you’ve articulated that complex question you’re far enough beyond the emotionally compelling “less guns, less gun crime” bumper-sticker wisdom that your opponent has probably turtled up in another slogan.

    • Rick R. says:

      Which completely ignores the OTHER facet of civilain arms ownership equalling deterrance.

      If the people CAN rebel with reasonable chance of success, the government is less likely to act in such a way as to make rebellion likely.

      A strong enforcement of Second Amendment rights makes it less likely that the Second Amendment will need to be invoked. Seems paradoxical, but it isn’t, really — that is the entire POINT of having an enummerated right to keep and bear arms. . . to make it less likely you’ll actually NEED to do so.

    • SemperGumby says:

      See, now this is exactly the “if one life were saved it would be worth it” type of arguments that I get from people. The logic that criminals will commit crime regardless is overlooked by their own logic that fewer guns equals fewer chances for them to be stolen from legal owners and used inappropriately or for a kid or someone ignorant in safe handling to accidentally shoot themselves or someone else. I believe that if firearms education were as prevalent as driver or sex education is then the instances of such accidents that those arguing for banning always point out would be greatly diminished. Probably about as much as they would get from banning guns outright. Also, if a life can be saved by someone having a gun legally and using it to defend themselves then how can they, using that logic that “one life is worth it”, argue against allowing people that ability? I guess because they can’t process a normal person using a gun properly and safely in their own defense…

      • Rick R. says:

        Of course, every time people who actually KNOW something about guns try and get gun education programs instituted beyond the general gun culture (including such innocent programs as the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” which simply tells kids “If you see a gun, DON’T TOUCH! GET AN ADULT!!!”), they get hammered as trying to teach our children to be ruthless killers.

        As I have said elsewhere, EVERY single case of a negligent shooting with injury that I am personally aware of, where a minor was the one who made the gun go bang, involved one of two situations:

        1. A juvenile criminal, who was already knowingly using a gun he obtained illegally in teh furtherance of committing another crime (very rare). This injury usually involves shooting THEMSELVES in the leg or ass while playing Billy Badass Gansta.

        OR

        2. (The overwhelming number of cases in my personal experience) Kid comes across gun while having never been instructed on what NOT to do. Pretty much every case of an innocent kid accidentally (negligently, if you prefer — but I would argue that in this case, the negligence falls SQUARELY on the parents, by their deliberate fostering of ignorance) shooting themselves or someone else where I am familiar with the details is a kid who has been FORBIDDEN to learn anything about guns, much less ever handle so much as a BB gun with proper supervision.

        I would LOVE to see mandatory gun safety classes in public schools, including hands-on (unloaded) to reduce the mystery, and either a live or video demonstration of what a gun can do to an inanimate, fluid based item — soda cans, water jugs, and cans of tomoato soup are VERY graphic demonstrations of the energy involved, especially when you point out that the human body is mostly water, and skin is no tougher (or even weaker) than the container walls.

        One of the best safety demonstrations I gave (with blanks, even, as I was covering blank safety regs for a group of reenactors) was to explode a sealed 1 gallon plastic jug of water, immediately soaking everything (including me and the two assistants holding the rope the jug was suspended from) for 15 feet.

        The demo consisted of, “You are made of soggy Spam wrapped around sticks. Your body is mostly water, your skin is no tougher than the plastic of this jug.”

        BANG! Drip. . . drip. . . drip. . .

        “Any questions?”

  7. MarkHB says:

    I wonder if I’ll ever get to stop saying this in my lifetime?

    Banning objects is stupid – objects do not perform deeds. Dumb animals do not perform deeds. Weather does not perform deeds. People perform – or prevent – deeds.
    Deeds are the only things it is sensible to outlaw.
    Deeds can only be punished after they’ve been done.
    Causality only flows downstream.

    Prevention is for medicine, dentistry and parenting, not for law.

  8. Jay G. says:

    This is something I’ve been saying for years, Marko.

    The only gun control law that *might* even stand a chance of making a dent in gun crime would be death on the spot for so little as a single piece of brass.

    You’re caught with a bullet, the cops come to the scene, shoot you dead, and leave your corpse rotting in the sun as a warning to others.

    Anything less than this and all we’ll have is a whole shitload of new felons – you wave your magic law wand and *poof* all guns are illegal, there will be *MILLIONS* who do not comply.

    Some will Randy Weaver out, the archetypal “angry white male gun nut”; others will perform civil disobediance; countless others will simply build extra walls and drop ceilings and underground bunkers.

    And wait. Not for long.

    Even if you could wave a different magic wand and make not only guns/gunpowder/etc. disappear; but also all knowledge to recreate said items, you’d still have a tyranny of the strong. You’d immediately put the largest in charge (as you’ve mentioned)…

  9. RevolverRob says:

    If you magically erased the culture of firearms and the knowledge to build them. Then I will just go back to grinding and machine my steel into sharp and blunt objects.

    If you take that away, I will go back to making sharp and blunt objects out of wood and stone.

    If you take that away, then extinction of the species is sure to follow.

    -Rob

  10. MarkHB says:

    The path to civilisation is not to demonise items, or knowledge. It is not to outlaw things, it is to make modes of behaviour intolerable. It is not to ban guns, or lathes, or bar steel, or charcoal or saltpetre. It is to make violence to one’s fellow unacceptable, intolerable and not to be borne. The only way to acheive this is by individuals accepting the right for others to live, and to shoulder the control that of the powers that our minds give us.

    Nosce te ipsum. Know thyself. And to thine own self be true – and let part of that truth be a love of humanity, and life and sentience.

    We’re nowhere near close to that right now, but it’s the only way out of the darkness. We can’t go backwards. The only way out is forwards.

  11. Sarah says:

    The main argument I hear gun-banning folks make is that countries that have stricter gun control laws than the U.S. have many fewer gun-related deaths and crimes. How to counter that?

    • elmo_iscariot says:

      Simple: they’re presupposing that “fewer gun deaths” is synonymous with “fewer violent deaths”, which isn’t true in real life.

      Through draconian gun control, Britain has dramatically reduced “gun deaths”. But those have been replaced with “knife deaths”, prompting calls for stricter and stricter knife control (the murder rate in Britain is higher now than before their last round of gun bans–I don’t claim the one caused the other, but it proves their lower rate of gun crimes isn’t saving any lives).

      Gun control, applied brutally enough, _can_ reduce “gun deaths”, but that’s just blind, callous number-shuffling. The same number of people are being murdered and committing suicide; they’re just dying to a slightly different flavor of violence. The gun-banning authority declares victory because of its lower rate of “gun deaths”, but never actually benefits anybody.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      Also, comparing other countries to the U.S. regarding gun deaths is an apples-to-oranges comparison. We have more gun deaths because guns are more available, but we also have more violent deaths by other means (knives, fists, bats) than other countries, despite the similar restrictions on knives, fists, and bats.

      Counterpoint to the “countries with gun control have lower gun-related deaths” argument: if you subtract the gun homicides related to inner city gang and drug turf wars, our gun homicide rate is a dead ringer for that of Canada.

      • elmo_iscariot says:

        Exactly. Every given culture (be it a nation, a city, or a social group within a city) has a given number of people who’re willing to murder to get what they want, and they’ll use whatever tool is most effective and most available. Banning _any_ object won’t stop them from killing; it’ll just change what tool they choose to kill with.

        (An entirely reasonable thought-experiment response is, as I said above, that _some_ number of those murderers must be deterred by a slightly higher difficulty of murder in an environment with fewer guns. The rebuttal to that is simply that experimental results don’t bear out that conclusion: no region has reduced overall murders by banning guns. Why this is is open to debate–I suspect it’s because the number of crimes _encouraged_ by a helpless victim pool equals or outweighs the number deterred–but that it happens is a matter of fact. Find one gun control law that’s led to a decrease in actual murders, rather than a decrease in “gun crime”.)

    • Rick R. says:

      Even when Canada and Great Britain had equivalent gun laws as the US (MUCH looser than those now existing in the reddest of red states, even), their murder and violent assault rates were MUCH lower than the United States.

      NOT so long ago, the only real gun laws in the UK involved concealed carry — which was authorized by a permit one got at the UK post office. This was while the infamous Sullivan Law was enacted in NY.

      Concealed carry laws were in effect in the US before they were in England. (That’s because CCW laws were originally intended to keep blacks and other racially and culturally “inferior” minorities disarmed so they couldn’t defend against armed mobs of racists.) Likewise for simple possession bans — even where supposedly “even handed”, they were NEVER enforced against White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

      (The original Florida concealed carry ban was, in fact, struck down, because the courts acknowledged that, supposedly neutral statutory language aside, it was NEVER intended to be applied against free white men. Of course, the defendant in question was a free white male. . . )

      Concealed carry laws were also fairly common in the “Wild West” in towns. (This was primarily a reaction against the fear of a popeulation of mostly male, young, rootless, males, generally drunk and coming from a “fighting” culture, would engage in firefights in theh town streets on a continual basis. Of course, outside penny dreadfuls and later Hollywood movies, the stereotypical Wild West gunfight was a myth, so it was even then an overblown fear caused by emotional response, rather than a logical solution to an actual problem.)

      But then, concealed carry was viewed as nefarious, while honest men supposedly carried openly.

      Britons were allowed to own fully automatic weapons and silencers well after the 1934 National Firearms Act was passed, and the purchase, possession, and use of pistols (including service pistols) was considered completely unremarkeable.

      Towns across the US-Candian border from one another, even where gun laws were similar, even where the demographics are statistically equivalent, display the same results. As they did in the 19th Century.

      Americans are simply a more aggressive, independant people as a culture. No real suprise as to why — the US was overwhelmingly settled with malcontents too independant minded to fit in well at home. Even in the post-colonial period, the people who came here tended to be far more likely to be ambitious, aggressive, and independant than their coutrymen who stayed at home.

      Which is why you get incidents such as a town of first and second generation Americans “gunning up” to ambush a major, and nationally infamous, bank robbery gang. In Minnesota — one of the LEAST “independant and aggressive” cultures in the US.

  12. MarkHB says:

    Sarah, I’m still a huge fan of Tamara’s essay “Why HCI wants me dead”. It absolutely and magnificently shows why the price in gun-related deaths is worth it – for the innocent lives they save, a song almost never sung my the media.

    • Sarah says:

      This argument isn’t strong enough, given that the evidence that gun ownership prevents more deaths than it causes is not compelling. I don’t like the idea of gun control for philosophical reasons, but am not sold on the practical arguments against it.

  13. Bob says:

    Seems to me that if you want to drop the number of gun related deaths you reduce the drug usage in the USA. We in the US drive the demand that causes street corners to become real estate worth killing for. Be it here or in Mexico.
    You use you help Kill someone, that’s the true cost of using drugs.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      Bob,

      horse pucky.

      Drug prohibition drives drug wars, just like booze prohibition drove booze wars (and incidentally gave us NFA ’34.)

      Prohibitions are government price control for drug dealers, that’s all. What causes street corners to become real estate worth killing for is that fact that an ounce of easy-to-smuggle powder carries a 10,000% profit margin for anyone willing to ignore the law.

      (How many shooting victims of booze-related turf wars have we had lately?)

    • Rick R. says:

      Prohibition CREATED the violent mess that caused the passage of the 1934 National Firearms Act in the first place. (Interestingly enough, by the time it came up for a vote, Prohibition had been repealed, and the violent crime rate associated with the “Evil Machineguns” was already over.)

      I’m not sure (at this point) that full on decriminalization of ALL “narcotics” without other measures being taken is the best solution, BUT I think partial decriminalization of the “softer” drugs, combined with allowing ANY doctor to perscribe a “maintenance dose” of ANY controlled substance for in-office administration is a good first step, that doesn’t risk the “slippery slope” issues some people (who otherwise wouldn’t CARE if drugs were legalized) fear.

      The remainder of decriminalization can be taken on afterwards. Perhaps a sliding reduction of penalties for possession and use, while a rising of severity of penalties for “negligence under the influence” and “import, manufacture, or distribution without a license” will help deescalate the violence. As it becomes easier for junkies to get a LEGAL fix, street prices will drop. (What’s the “street price” on Thunderbird wine these days?) As the profits for the illegal dealers and importers drop, while the penalties increase, they will be encouraged — by their own self interest — to either legalize their business methods, OR switch lines of work.

      Just a rough outline for brainstorming.

      • Marko Kloos says:

        Rick,

        NFA ’34 came just after the repeal of Prohibition. They had all those booze cops on the payroll, and booze was suddenly legal again, so they had to find a different enforcement focus. The sinking violent crime rate was irrelevant to them.

        If you support prohibition of any kind, you support gun control, because one never goes without the other.

        • Rick R. says:

          I agree that one of the reasons the Treasury Department was so hot for the NFA was job security.

          But by June 1934, the running gunfights in the streets had ALREADY dropped. Six plus months of having no alcohol business worth killing for had kicked in.

          I also firmly believe that this wholescale transfer of “Revenooers” over to gun law enforcement is the SOURCE of the instututional arrogance and cowboy attitude the ATF has exhibited from Day One.

          After all, who is the poster child of Prohibition enforcement?

          Elliot Ness — who differed from the gangsters in only two major fashions:

          1. He had a badge.

          2. He didn’t have a direct profit motive. (He was in it for the glory of the Crusade. Crusaders make lousy cops.)

          The ATF has always thought of itself as “The End Justifies the Means” Crusaders. Batman with a badge. Roll in the gutter to get the job done if necessary, because The Cause is THAT important. This is the institutional standard, always has been.

          The FBI — for all it’s warts, including Hoover’s black bag jobs and Ruby Ridge, et al — has always THOUGHT of itself as Superman. Unimpeachable, above reproach, Mr. Clean. We do it RIGHT, we do it CLEAN, because that way nobody questions us in court. Because OUR REPUTATION is our biggest weapon. Even in failure, the FBI has traditionally kept this as the instututional standard and example.

          That’s one reasons why, for the very brief time that the Prohibition enforceers were part of the FBI, Hoover kept them at arm’s distance, so they wouldn’t taint the rest of the FBI. (He had had enough work repairing the damage to the FBI’s reputation and institutional culture that he inheirited when he took over the Bureau of Investigation, as the FBI was previously known.)

          That’s not to say that the ATF is full of “bad cops” and the FBI is full of “good cops”. But when your judgement is balanced on the fence as to which way to go, it’s your institutional traditions and culture that generally tip one way or the other. the default FBI setting has been “Keep it clean,” whereas the default ATF setting is “Get the conviction.”

          The hardest part of reforming ANY agency is reforming how it views ITSELF and its ideals.

          Which is why the Marine Corps is remarkeably resistant to change that reduces it’s emphasis on breaking things and hurting people. USMC default setting — “Warriors shielding the innocent, killing the bad guys, regardless of the Suck Factor or cost.”

          Which is why the State Department is remarkebaly resistant to change that reduces its emphasis on trying to compromise. State default setting — “A bad peace is better than a good war. General international approval, no matter how shallow, is better than deep approval from a narrow group of firm allies.”

  14. […] be desperately and bitterly clinging to their unworkable gun ban.   Marko even had a great post this week about why even prohibition won’t really work.  So you don’t really get to tell us we have to accept certain things when you can’t […]

  15. RamblinPathfinder says:

    1. A place that bans all guns is a target-rich environment that is very safe for the evil doer with the gun.

    2. The “protectors of society” are so self-righteously weird they probably would prefer that the warnings about not mixing ammonia with bleach be banned do the evil doers would not know how to create chlorine gas.

    3. We all need more protection against those who do things for our own good.

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