This was originally posted in defense of a bunch of kids making pronouncements on public policy (specifically gun control) being criticized for their lack of life experience and general knowledge of the subjects involved. We were supposed to go “oh, those guys were young too, so I guess it’s okay.”
There’s just one problem. None of the listed people, not one, was a policy maker in the nascent United States in 1776. None of them.
Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was born in September of 1757, so, yes, he was 18 at the time the United States declared independence. Being born a noble in France and in the context of his family’s martial tradition, he was commissioned an officer at age 13. In December of 1776, Lafayette was made a Major General but, well, at that time and place commissions were largely purchased. It was not until 1777 that he actually began his trek to America. When he learned that the Continental Congress lacked funds for his voyage, he bought a ship (The Victoire) with. his. own. money. on which to make the journey.
While the Marquis de Lafayette would go on to be a significant figure in the American fight for Independence, he was not a shaper of American political policy.
In 1776 James Monroe dropped out of college to join the 3rd Virginia Regiment in the Continental Army. Since he was literate, he was commissioned a Lieutenant. He was cited for bravery and promoted to Captain. As a captain he was expected to recruit his own company of soldiers but, lacking funds (unlike Washington, he was not independently wealthy), he was unable to do so and asked to be returned to the front. It would be some years later, in 1782 (age 24) when Monroe would win election to the Virginia house of Delegates. Later, he would become a United States Senator, a Minister to France, Governor of Virginia, and eventually win election to the Presidency in 1816 (age 58). So, while Monroe would go on to become a shaper of American policy, it was certainly not at the tender age of 18.
Henry Lee III became a Captain in a Virginia Dragoon detachment at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. In 1778, he was promoted to Major. Later, in 1786, then in his 30’s, Henry Lee III became a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation and in the 1788 Virginia convention, a 32 year old Lee favored the adoption of the United States Constitution. In 1799 (age 43) he became a member of the US House of Representatives. So, again, it was a Henry Lee III considerably older than in the meme above who actually became a policy shaper in the United States.
Nathan Hale is certainly a hero of renoun. In 1775 he joined a Connecticut militia unit. He participated in the siege of Boston. He was also part of the first organized intelligence service in the United States and, in that role, as a spy behind the enemy lines, he was captured by the British and executed with the purported last lines “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Nathan Hale was a hero and martyr, and is deservedly honored as such. He was not a policy maker.
With Aaron Burr we see the continuation of the pattern that’s becoming clear. He took part in Colonel Benedict Arnold’s expedition to Quebec. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Quebec. In 1776 he joined George Washington’s staff but, by June had quit that position to return to the battlefield. He played an important role in the evacuation of Manhattan after the British landing. Even though active in the war, Burr was able to finish his legal studies and was admitted to the bar in 1782 (age 26). He was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1784 to 1785 (age 27-28). He became seriously involved in politics, however, in 1789 (age 33) when appointed as New York State Attorney General. He became a US Senator in 1791 (age 35). He ran for President in 1796 and again in 1800 in which he became Vice President, which would lead to his famous duel with Hamilton and an end to any political influence he might have. So, again, Burr may have been young in 1776 but he was not a policy maker and would not be one for some years.
And, finally, we get to Alexander Hamilton. Shortly after the battles of Lexington and Concord (April 1775) Hamilton joined a volunteer militia company. He raised the New York Provinical Company of Artillery in in 1776 and was elected captain and fought in the campaign around New York City. He would go on to do more fighting and to serve on George Washington’s staff. In 1782 (Age 27) he became a member of the Congress of the Confederation as New York representative. He resigned in 1783 to return to law practice. In 1787 (age 32) he was an Assemblyman in the New York State legislature. While Hamilton had been a leader in calling for a Constitutional Convention, his actual influence in the convention was rather limited. The other two delegates from New York, being from a different faction, ensured that New York’s vote went their way (each State got one vote, which was decided by majority of the delegates from that State). Hamilton was one of the authors of The Federalist Papers used to “sell” the newly drafted Constitution to the States in general and New York in particular. He would go on to hold various roles in government, most notably Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington and his political infighting was a large part of the reason that John Adams only served a single term (and the power of the Federalist party was essentially broken from that point) until his fateful duel with Aaron Burr.
So the folk in the meme were not policymakers when they were 18-21 years old. That came later–for good or ill–with more seasoning and experience. So who were the policy makers and how young were they?
Well, the instrument shaping the policy of the colonies and the nascent United States at the time of the Declaration of Indpendence was the Second Continental Congress whose youngest member was Thomas Jefferson at 33 and whose oldest was Benjamin Franklin at 81.
Hardly the children demanding to have their way in the political arena today.
Over in another forum we had the argument raised, once again, on the theme of “you can’t fight the military with rifles…” I’ve addressed that before but I wrote a slightly different response to this one:
Ah, the old “lightly armed irregulars in the US can’t successfully fight the US military.” Let me ask you, do you also share that position regarding lightly armed irregulars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a little place called Vietnam?
Here’s the problem (one of them anyway). A resistance to a government gone rogue wouldn’t be like the American Civil War with setpiece battles with one group on one side of the field and the other group on the other side of the field and they shoot at each other until one side is dead or fled. It won’t have defined lines here people on one side are “your people” and the people on the other side are “the enemy’s people.” It would be all mixed together: allies, enemies, noncombatants all mixed together.
What exactly is the military to do with all its heavy weaponry? Is it to carpetbomb Boise because some insurgents are hiding in the population? Roll tanks through Des Moines because of an illegal propaganda operation somewhere within it? Nuke Indianapolis because a few home workshops are turning out copies of Sten guns (not that hard, actually)? How many of your. own. citizens. are you willing to accept as collateral damage in order to take down those insurgents?
Now, maybe the person giving the firing order on that cruise missile aimed at, say, Kansas City doesn’t have friends or family living in the area likely to be damaged/destroyed. Maybe nobody on the missiles prep or maintenance team does. But you can be bloody sure they know somebody who does. That’s the thing about an all volunteer force. It becomes really awkward to use it indiscriminately against your own people.
Now, you might be able to convince your force that the rebels are a threat to the nation and need to be shut down and that it’s their job to do so. It would take some preparation, both in terms of how you “paint” the rebels and also by making sure that you remove “unreliable” elements from the military in advance (perhaps by declaring the politically unreliable as “extremists” and the purge as “removing extremist elements”). Still, it’s a lot harder to convince that force to use force indiscriminately. You need to be selective. You need to be able to distinguish actual opposition force from allied civilians and noncombatants.
That requires “boots on the ground”, individual soldiers who can go into the population, target the actual individuals who present the threat, and do minimal harm to those who are not. And those individual soldiers are vulnerable to individual weapons. And armed United States Citizens outnumber the combined US military and police forces by about 50 to one, as a very conservative estimate. For that matter, armed United States Citizens outnumber the entire world’s combined military and paramilitary forces by about three to one. And that’s not counting the individuals who could arm others who come late to their “Road to Damascus” moment.
James Madison alluded to that in The Federalist Papers. While the anti-Federalists had serious…misgivings is too mild a term…about having a standing army, Madison noted that there were necessary tasks that simply were not well handled by a citizen militia. He gave the example of manning forts in the frontier. He noted, however, that the largest standing army a nation could realistically support (as a function of population, about twice what we have now) could be countered by a citizen militia at least an order of magnitude larger.
But let’s go further. Suppose, just suppose, you manage to convince the military, through a combination of propaganda and purging, to actually use the heavy weapons on US Citizens, to actually be willing to drop those bombs, roll that armor, launch those missiles, on American Citizens in the United States. You could level cities, certainly, and there’s little that the insurgents could do, directly, to stop you. But that doesn’t mean you have it all your own way. That army needs to be fed. The food has to come from somewhere, and it has to be transported to your bases and your troops. That transportation is vulnerable. The food is vulnerable to interception and/or contamination. How effective is your army going to be if a shipment of food gets laced with LSD (for example)? Are you going to test every shipment of every kind of foodstuffs for every possible contaminant? Well, maybe, but that’s a lot of manpower that’s taken away from actually fighting the insurgency.
And now trustworthy is that manpower? Can you be sure they will diligently perform their tests? That they won’t be subborned? That they won’t need to be suborned because they’re already irate with you because you just bombed Grandma in Boise and left Cousin Earl homeless after a tank ran through his house in Des Moines?
Now add in fuel, electronic spare parts, batteries, ammunition, and every other bit of the logistics it takes to run a modern army. And guarding the supply lines for all that logistics once again requires “boots on the ground”.
And, guess what, those “boots on the ground” guarding the supply lines are vulnerable to those lightly armed irregulars.
Kreg looked over the four people in the room with him. They had lost much, all of them. Kaila had lost her mother’s sword. Keven and Marek had lost a kingdom. And Kreg? He had lost a world.
Kreg allowed himself the hint of a grin. To all appearances, Shillond had lost nothing but weight.
The High Mage of Chanakra was dead. Kreg had accomplished that, along with the destruction of the changeling armies that had conquered Aerioch and most of the rest of the known world. And in the doing he had helped King Marek, Prince Keven, Kaila, Shillond, and himself win free of the High Mage’s dungeons.
Kreg’s grin widened. While they had lost, they had gained too. Kaila had changed in the time Kreg had known her. No longer just a good-natured bruiser with a quick temper, she had revealed a keen mind that he would never have suspected when he met her. Kreg himself had become someone that his self of a year ago would never have recognized.
“You smile,” Kaila said. “I would hear cheerful thoughts.”
“I was just thinking,” Kreg said. “Five people now have to sneak back into Aerioch and raise a rebellion against the Schahi. While we can expect the death of the High Mage to cause such confusion that Chanakra won’t have much influence, these five people will have to escape the country, reach Aerioch, raise forces from somewhere with all the knights either dead, imprisoned, or enslaved, and then throw the Schahi out of Aerioch.”
Kaila seemed puzzled. “And this causes you to smile?”
“Of course,” Kreg said. “The Schahi don’t have a chance.”
In the corner, Shillond frowned.
“Shillond?” Kreg said.
“The High Mage was an idiot,” Shillond said.
“Be thankful that he was, Father,” Kaila said.
“How did an idiot best Baaltor even once?” Shillond shrugged. “How did an idiot gain the magical power to become High Mage of Chanakra? How did an idiot direct the conquest of so much of the world?”
Shillond frowned again and looked into his hands. “I fear that it was not the High Mage of Chanakra who was our true foe. He was no more than a pawn. All of this was just one more deception within the deceptions.
“I fear that our true foe, whoever it might be, somehow has won.”
Early evening of the next day, Shillond returned to the room the five shared carrying a modest basket of bread, cheese, and small flasks of wine.
“It is as we feared.” Shillond set the basket on the room’s small table. “With the death of the High Mage discovered there has been much confusion. The city has been sealed. Guards have been increased at the gates. Lesser mages assigned to those gates to watch for magic. Troops search all ships before permitting them to sail and more mages join those searches. More parties search the city for us, also accompanied by mages.”
“That’s a lot of mages,” Kreg took a small loaf of bread and a block of cheese from the basket. “From everything you’ve told me I thought there would not be many mages in all the world.” He bit into the cheese and grimaced at the sour taste.
“There were fewer than a dozen in all of Aerioch,” Marek said, taking his own portion from the basket. “From whence come these Chanakranon mages?”
“I do not know,” Shillond said.
“If gates and port be closed to us,” Kaila said, “How may we escape the city?”
“Can we scale the wall?” Keven asked. “Cut the throats of patrols and be off before anyone notes their absence?”
“And have those within the towers guarding the city wall feather us from above?” Marek shook his head. “I think not.”
“Then conceal ourselves within the city.” Keven waved toward the room’s shuttered window. “Many thieves and cutthroats abide here. Of what note are four more? Five, with Good Duke Kaila.”
“I am neither thief nor cutthroat—“ Kaila’s voice rose with each word, then she stopped and smiled. “—but I may play the part if needed.”
Shillond sighed. “I do not think so.” He opened one of the shutters on the window and peered into the alley below. “Of the five of us, King Marek does not speak the Chanakranon language and only I speak it well enough to pass for a local. And with three of us being veritable giants to the locals we would be soon noted and draw the searchers to us. And we cannot remain hidden in these rooms or again we would be noticed and found.”
He turned, leaned against the windowsill, and folded his arms. “We must escape, and soon if we are to escape at all.”
“What about that seeming spell?” Kreg asked. “It made Keven not only look like the High Mage, but sound like him. If you could change us, we could pass for natives.”
“It would make us look and sound like natives, but it would not teach Marek the language.”
“I could be a mute,” Marek said. “If I do not speak, I will not need to know the language.”
Shillond shook his head. “The spell will not deceive any mage who spends the effort to look. And with mages searching for us we would again soon be revealed.”
Marek sat on the room’s single bed and leaned his head in his hands, his elbows on his knees. “Is there no hope then?”
“Children!” Kaila said sharply. “Are you all children? We have walked the width of the world, slipped within the enemy’s own stronghold. When captured, Kreg did, from within his very cell, destroy the changeling armies that had conquered Aerioch and when questioned by the High Mage did slay him with no more weapon than his hands. We then proceeded to escape from the enemy’s dungeons and win free to the city. Now…now, when beset by these… inconveniences, you give up hope? Children, I say.”
Kreg smiled and stood. “Kaila is right. We still live. We’re still free.” His eyes met hers. “Fear not for us. Fear rather for all the evil in Chanakra.”
“Well said!” Keven stood as well.
Marek straightened and nodded. “So be it. How shall we proceed?”
“We need to learn more,” Shillond said. “The seeming spell is our best chance to avoid detection for now.” He looked first at Kaila and then at Kreg. “Eyes and ears?”
Kreg nodded. “Eyes.”
Kaila laid a hand on Kreg’s shoulder. “And ears.”
Kreg and Shillond waited in an alley overlooking the docks. In the distance, sunlight glittered on the blue of the Elamak sea.
Keven, as the one who spoke the Chanakranon language best after Shillond, had accompanied Marek to inspect the gates. Kaila was prowling the depths of the city alone. Shillond’s magic had given them the seeming of random locals. He had admonished them to spare no effort in watching and to avoid mages at all costs.
The alley was little more than a crack between the adobe walls of low buildings. On one side stood a tavern, on the other a brothel. Rats scurried in the shadows picking at the garbage dumped in the alleyway. The shadows of the alley coupled with the bright sunlight shining on the docks concealed them from casual view.
“We have not had chance to talk alone since escaping the dungeons,” Shillond said. He had assured Kreg that no one was nearby. “You said that you destroyed the changeling armies but did not say how. You also said that you no longer can block spellcraft. I presume those two are connected?”
Kreg nodded. “I remembered the spell you used to challenge Baaltor. You told me that even someone not a mage can cast that spell, only that spell. I challenged Baaltor. He…made me promises—send me home, even restore Bertan to life—if I would give up on you. I refused and, well, turns out that was the challenge and I won. The prize I sought was the means to break the changeling spell. He gave me that and sufficient power to cast it…once. Once I did that, the extra power was gone, but I guess I have whatever someone gets after a first challenge with that demon. I don’t know. If I have it, I don’t know how to use it.”
“That should not be possible,” Shillond said. “Baaltor is not bested so easily as that.”
“Easy?” Kreg said. “You think that was easy? Bertan….”
“I know, Kreg,” Shillond said softly. “But compared to what Baaltor could have done…. You did not know to choose the form of the challenge so Baaltor could set the form. To choose the challenge of temptation instead of a physical contest? And offering to restore Bertan?” Shillond shook his head. “What Baaltor offers in the challenge of temptation is always something he can offer. After all, what temptation is a known lie?”
“Wait,” Kreg said. “You mean he couldn’t?”
“He could not. Once a spirit resides within the Nameless One’s halls, no force in all the world but the gods themselves can wrest it from thence.” Shillond sighed. “Still, he was right, you know. Weakened as you were, he could have bested you with ease in a contest of might and power such as those by which I face him. Beyond that, when you won, he exceeded the bare minimum required by your victory and gave you sufficient power to cast the spell? Why?”
Kreg sucked air over his teeth. “Because it’s what he wanted to happen?”
“He permitted you to win for his own ends. And if he permitted you…”
“Then maybe we’ve learned why Chanakra is so rife with mages. Perhaps instead of winning power through challenge, they simply…made a deal.”
Shillond nodded. “That could also explain—“
Kreg held up a hand. At the docks, a search party left one of the ships. As they watched, the mage heading the party stood at the dock as the gangplank slid up onto the ship and the crew pushed the ship off from the dock. Oars churned the water as the ship moved out into the harbor.
“That’s the fifth ship,” Kreg said. “All the same pattern.”
“No chance to slip aboard after they search.”
“Not here anyway,” Kreg said.
Kaila frowned as she lounged against the corner of a tavern. Men passing would pause to leer at her scanty attire but would scurry past on seeing her scowl. Too often of late she had worn this particular disguise and wondered what she would do if she needed to carry through on the implied promise of her clothing and pose.
So far, three men had braved her scowl. Each would wake, eventually, in the alleys to which she had taken them, stripped of coin and other trinkets they might think valuable, but alive. Each time she needed to change locations. So far, she had learned that Chanakra possessed few forces ready to search the city, but others were coming, drawn from other cities. Eventually she and her companions would no longer be able to hide within it. Shillond was right. They had to escape and soon.
There. That one. As another man, resplendent in the uniform of a high officer of the guard departed the tavern, Kaila looked up to meet his eyes and smiled. The officer—a captain, Kaila thought—met her eyes and turned toward her. As he looked at her, Kaila arched her back in a way that she knew emphasized her breasts and pulled the hem of her tunic higher.
The woman on whom Shillond had modeled the seeming had much larger breasts than her own. Through such subterfuges as this, she had learned that few men would ignore even her own modest breasts if she chose to twist just…so.
The captain made no pretense of hiding his staring now.
“Is Milord seeking company?” Kaila let her smile widen. She let her mouth open slightly, her tongue touch her upper lip, and then let her lips stretch into her most inviting smile.
The captain looked her up and down. “I’m thinking about it.”
Kaila pouted. “Well, think faster.”
Kaila made no mention of coin. Chanakranon law forbade the selling of sexual favors and the watch took that law quite seriously indeed. The law made no mention of gifts given by a pleased lover to the object of his overnight affection. And if the gift was inadequate? Why, not even a captain of the guard cared to face the wrath of the powerful, if unofficial, pimp’s guild.
The captain bowed and extended a hand. Kaila giggled, curtsied, and took it, grateful for once for the years the King and others had tried to turn her into a court lady instead of a warrior and a knight. Indeed, she hoped that her curtsey was not too polished.
She let the captain lead her where he would. Once some distance from the tavern outside which she had met him, she stumbled and bumped into him.
“I beg Milord’s pardon,” she said.
“Are you all right?”
“Milord is kind, but—“ She looked to the left, stuck her tongue in her cheek as if gnawing on it, then to the right. “—I need to get off the street.”
“Are you well?”
“Please, Milord. It will not take long.”
Now it was the captain’s turn to look both ways. He paused then pointed at the opening to a dark alleyway. “There.”
“Milord is gracious,” Kaila said. “If…if you would be so kind as to keep watch. There are cutpurses about.”
“My lady’s wish.” He waved her forward and followed her into the alleyway.
Once within the shadows, Kaila’s left hand darted out. Her fingers closed on the Captain’s throat, cutting off a cry before it escaped his lips. With inexorable strength, she drew him deeper into the alley. Once certain she was no longer visible from the street, she held him pinned against the wall.
“And now, good sir,” she said, watching as his eyes began to roll back in his head. “Let us see just what you are about.” She released the pressure on his throat and held her other hand against his mouth, not so hard as to cut off air, but enough to muffle the sound of his coughing fit.
The captain snatched at his dagger with his left hand. Before he could draw it, Kaila dropped the hand that had been covering his mouth, grasped the captain’s wrist, and twisted. She felt bones break under that grip.
“That was unkindly done, sir.” She leaned closer, her eyes less than a hand’s width from the Captain’s. “As you might surmise, I am no street wench, but a warrior and a knight. And if you wish to live out this day, you will tell me all you know of the search that proceeds in this city.”
How strange, Keven thought, to treat his own father, the King of Aerioch, as a servant.
The seeming Shillond had given Keven was that of a merchant of better than modest means. Marek’s, of a simple workingman, shorter and broader than Marek’s natural giant size. Mute, of course, given his inability to speak Chanakranon.
Keven wondered for a moment where Kaila had gotten the coin to fund their ruse then decided he did not want to know.
The cafe sat across the square from the North Gate. The gate proper stood open but twin portcullises blocked the passage through the wall. The setting sun cast long shadows across the square, a square filled with people seeking exit from the city.
Keven took a sip of his ale and let his gaze drift over the square. A large crowd, clamored at the gate, seeking egress.
Keven nudged Marek and nodded in the direction of the gate. Spear armed soldiers barred the way as the inner portcullis rose. Keven watched as the soldiers ushered two carts, a wagon, and a half-dozen people on foot through the now open gateway. One person tried to dash through only to face a leveled spear. The man backed away.
The portcullis dropped, leaving the little party isolated within the gateway. Keven could not see, but he could imagine the arrow slots to either side and the murder holes in the roof ready at any instant to rain death on those within.
A green glow descended from the ceiling of the gateway and washed over the people within. It held for several heartbeats then faded. Keven fancied he could hear a shout within the gateway. No. He must have imagined it. How could he hear even spoken word over the clamor of the crowd?
The outer portcullis rose and the party within the gatehouse departed. Another party, from outside, entered. As Keven watched, the outer portcullis closed and the inner opened.
So, Keven thought, they were only interested in those leaving the city, not those entering. No doubt, they sought him and his companions.
Motion to his left caught Keven’s attention. He turned his head. Marek seemed different. Was he taller than a moment before? Yes. Yes, he was.
“Come,” he said, still playing his role. “We have business to be about.”
Marek cocked his head to one side, staring at Keven then his eyes grew wide. He nodded and rose.
Keven dropped some coins on the table as he stood. Marek was definitely taller, his body shaped shifted from the stocky shape of a serving man to the more defined musculature of a seasoned warrior.
The spell, Keven thought. Whatever spell had caused that green light had, weakened by distance perhaps, had started to dissolve their seemings, their magic disguises.
Ahead, Marek pushed through the crowd, forcing a passage between the people and the buildings. Keven followed in his wake. Despite their faltering seemings that changed their appearance and their voices, Marek retained his true size and strength.
Marek now stood a full head taller than the tallest other person visible, his true size. Instead of the clothes of a man serving a somewhat successful merchant, he wore a simple tunic and breeches. His hair had extended to below his shoulders, the length to which it had grown during his captivity.
Keven looked down. His own seeming was likewise gone.
“There!” The shout came from the soldiers at the gate. “Stop that man!”
In the confusion, Marek snatched a pole from an awning that shaded a shop’s entrance. He swept the tip of the pole at knee height. Keven heard the thumps as the pole struck several men who did not move back fast enough. Marek reversed the pole, bringing the opposite end back around at head height. The crowd retreated further.
For a moment, Keven hesitated. Marek’s great size marked him, but Keven’s appearance did not stand out. No one had yet noted him. If he slipped away, he could come back with the others and, what? Rescue his father? And if they decided not to capture but to kill?
He regretted that he did not have a sword as he drew the dagger from his belt.
Marek had turned, seeking to drive his way farther from the gate. Despite no longer needing to maintain their subterfuge, he still had not spoken.
A stocky tough moved into the gap between Keven and Marek’s turned back, a club upraised in his hand.
Keven struck. His dagger bit deep between the ribs of the tough. The tough stiffened and dropped the club. With a practiced twist, Keven drew the dagger free and pushed the falling body of the tough aside. The body fell to the ground, twitching. Keven sprang over it and shouted, “Run, Father!”
Marek thrust three times with the staff. Three men fell gasping to the ground, curled around their own bruised guts. Marek darted forward. Following, Keven scooped up another of the awning poles and slid his dagger back into its sheath. A staff would be a better weapon in this crowd than his dagger.
Keven kept close behind Marek, his staff striking with careful precision to keep the disorganized crowd from closing too near behind them. He spared a glance in the distance behind and saw the detail of soldiers from the gate forcing its way through the crowd.
Unshy about using their spears to speed the crowd’s separation the soldiers were gaining.
I get that question whenever I object to more “gun control” as a response to the latest tragedy. I have long held, and continue to hold, the position that more restrictions on law-abiding gun owners is not the answer to mass murder. It doesn’t work. It just leaves the law abiding helpless in the face of criminal violence.
First, let’s dispense with that “end”. I hate to tell you this, but you can’t end them. “Gun control” certainly cannot. France’s strict gun control did not prevent Charlie Hebdo nor the 2015 Paris attacks. India’s draconian gun laws did not prevent Mumbai. Norway’s gun laws did not stop the spree shooter there. And so on.
“Ending” is an unachievable target. No matter what you do, somebody, somewhere, who intends to harm others–particularly if the’re looking at going out in a blaze of “glory” (with “infamy” serving for their purpose)–will find a way to do it. When you use it as a justification for restrictions on the law abiding there is no end to that. No restrictions will ever be enough. So it will always be an excuse for more restrictions. And if at any point anyone objects, you can do then as you do now and say “Don’t you care about the victims of gun crime?”
Sorry if you don’t like that, but the truth hurts sometimes.
So, can’t end them, not entirely, but you can improve the situation. In fact, you can improve it a lot.
“Ah, hah!” you say. “Gun control, right?”
Nope. In fact, gun control is a large part of the problem. The vast, vast majority of mass shootings of the “spree killer” type (which is what most people think of when you say “mass shooting” and is different in causes and dynamics than the “domestic murder-suicide” types and the “gang war” types, both of which require different approaches to reduce) happen in gun free zones. The El Paso shooter, in his manifesto (of which only his rant on immigration got widespread publication in the media; for some reason they didn’t bother to mention his rant on the environment and his rant on business) said:
Remember: it is not cowardly to pick low hanging fruit. AKA (sic) Don’t attack heavily guarded areas to fulfll (sic) your super soldier COD [Call of Duty first person shooter video game] fantasy. Attack low security targets. Even though you might out gun a security guard or police man, they likely beat you in armor, training and numbers. Do not throw away your life on an unnecessarily dangerous target. If a target seems too hot, live to fight another day.
More than 90 percent of mass shootings happen in gun free zones. Numbers vary depending on source (which can vary in how they’re counted) but the figures I’ve seen range from 92 to 97 percent. Yes, even the Fort Hood massacre, on an Army base, and the Norfolk Navy Yard shooting, Navy base, were “gun free zones” for this purpose–the military forbade personnel from being armed unless they were doing so as part of their duties–Stateside that meant Military Police on duty.
These shootings tend to stop once the shooter encounters armed resistance. Indeed, as I have noted before, FBI studies covering 2000 to 2017 had 33 cases of spree killers where armed citizens were present. In 25 of them, the armed citizen totally stopped the attack. In an additional 6 the armed citizens reduced the number of casualties. That’s 94% of the time the situation is made better by armed citizens being present. And what about the claim that people “getting caught in the crossfire” would make the situation worse? Those same reports also give the number of innocents killed by the armed citizens in those incidents. It’s a surprising number, all told. That number?
So, with that information in hand, here’s my approach to dealing with mass shootings:
End “gun free zones.” The idea that forbidding law abiding American Citizens from being armed for their own protection somehow makes them safer is as ridiculous in specific locations as it is in general. As we’ve seen, it only makes those places attractive targets for those who don’t care that it’s illegal. If they’re going to break laws on murder breaking laws forbidding them to carry weapons at the place they plan to commit the murder isn’t going to stop them. It’s ridiculous. It’s patently absurd.
End this practice of “may issue” on state licenses to carry firearms. Making the exercise of a Constitutional right dependent on the often arbitrary decision of government officials is a violation of basic human rights (the right to life is meaningless without the right to defend that life and the right to defend that life is meaningless without the right to effective means to defend that life). “May issue” which is generally worded as needing to show “good cause” generally works out in practice to issue only to those who are politically connected in the local power structure. It’s wrong. Stop it. If you must have licensing (the Constitution and the Second Amendment should be all the license required but I recognize that’s not politically achievable at this time) then it needs to be “shall issue.” The State has to show good-cause to deny, not the other way around.
Nationwide reciprocity. The Constitution requires States to give “full faith and credit” to the “Public acts, records, and judicial proceedings” of the other States. Marriages in one state are valid in every other. Drivers licenses issued in one state are valid in every other. And so, carry licenses issued in one state should be valid in every other. Again, the Constitution and the Second Amendment should be the only license required but, again, that’s not politically achievable for the foreseeable future.
Boom. Done. Mass shooting spree killer problem dealt with. There are no longer soft targets for them to attack and if they decide to try anyway, the odds are good that someone will be present and in a position to deal with it.
Now, some folk will say we need to do more. Well, okay, I can give you more.
Establish a fund to provide cash rewards to those who engage and stop a spree killer. Let’s show, clearly and unequivocally, of the “put your money where your mouth is” variety, that we as a society approve of people protecting themselves and those around them from those attempting to do them harm.
We want more people skilled and able to deal with threats, so make marksmanship and CQB electives in highs school and college (“any institution that accepts federal funds must…” if the other side can use that, so can we). These classes to be taught by military personnel. (Frankly, I do not trust professional “educators” to do so, not with the indoctrination they get at the typical school of education. Military personnel is not an ideal solution but stipulating private organizations would allow anti-gun groups to be chosen and singling out specific pro-gun organizations as the sole possibilities presents makes me squicky from a liberty point of view.) Oh, and if that state requires training for a carry license (And while I’m a fan of training, I’m not a fan of mandating it–it’s a freedom thing) then make that class also available as an elective in High School and college.
I’ll bend on the “not mandatory” in having gun safety and safe gun handling be a required course in elementary or middle school at the latest. Again, taught by military for the reasons mentioned above.
Implement the “Some Asshole Initiative.” The reason these guys look for soft targets, look to rack up the high body counts in the first place, is that they’re looking for their moment of fame (infamy). Stop. Making. These. Assholes. Famous. Unfortunately, there really isn’t any way to implement this “top down” without violating freedom so all I can really suggest here is a bottom up approach. People need to stop naming these people in their own communications and express their displeasure to the media when they put their pictures out, name them, and basically making them famous. Eventually, maybe, they’ll get the message that providing a forum and publicity to the spree killers is not good business. Hey, I can hope.
There, while nothing can completely eliminate tragedies in this imperfect world, this can at least trim them back so they’re not “trendy.” And they would do far more to reduce the incidence than any “gun control” ever can.
That’s the nice thing about being philosophically in favor of freedom is that it’s almost always also pragmatically better. And the few exceptions we can usually deal with so long as we guard against going beyond those exceptions rather than using them as an excuse for yet more “exceptions.”
Whenever one points out the horrors of communism and socialism historically, folk pushing the latest round always dismiss them saying they weren’t “true communism” or “true socialism.” First let’s dispose of the difference which is mainly in how you get there. They both involve seizure of control of the means of production for what they profess to be the “common good.” The only real distinction is communism generally involves armed overthrow of the existing system and socialism does so through lawfare.
But let’s go with the idea that it wasn’t “true communism/socialism”:
I am what the Instructor Certification Course from Learn to Skate USA calls a “logical learner.” I learn better if I understand, intellectually, what’s going on and how things are supposed to work. So, I started thinking about turns. By turns I don’t mean making curved paths to the right or left like turning a corner but rather the various ways one changes from skating forward to skating backward and vice versa.
The first turns we learn in figure skating are two-foot turns but most of them are done on one foot.
In making a turn there are four things–three independent and one dependent–that define how you’re entering, and how you’re exiting, the turn. You’ve got:
Which foot you’re skating on.
The direction your feet are pointed in relation to your direction of movement (forward or backward). I say feet because even if your body is twisted to face in the direction you’re skating (as it often is) if you’re toes are pointed back along the direction of travel, it’s counted as backward.
The edge on which you’re skating. As I have discussed before, skate blades have a curve from front to back and two edges–one to the inside and one to the outside. (See pictures below). As the blade is leaned to one side or the other the combination of the front to back curve and the edge pressed into the ice guides the skate into a curve along the ice in that direction.
And this leads us to the fourth, the dependent, element, the direction the path curves relative to the direction of travel.
The key thing to remember about turns is that the four elements change in pairs. Examples:
A Right Forward Outside Three-Turn, you start on the right foot, skating forward on the outside edge. You make the turn and now you’re skating on a backward inside edge. So the Direction (forward to backward), and edge (Outside to inside) have changed The foot you’re skating on (right foot) and the direction of curvature of path (to the right) is the same.
Similarly with a Right Forward Inside Three-Turn, you start on the right foot, skating forward on the inside edge now. This means your path is curving to the left. Make the turn and now you’re on a backward outside edge. So again the direction (forward to backward) and edge (inside to outside) have changed while the skating foot (right) and direction of curvature of the path (to the left) has remained the same.
And you’ve got the backward outside and inside three turns as well which work the same way. Foot and direction of curvature remains the same but edge and direction (back to front) change. Note also that there’s a “bracket” turn that works similarly only instead of the “cusp” of the turn pointing inward on the curved path, it points outward.
Another kind of turn, also taught fairly early in skating (generally before one starts (“Free Skate” and serious work on figure skating) is the Mohawk. A Mohawk involves a change from forward to backward (or vice versa) and a change of foot. A right forward inside Mohawk would start skating on a right inside edge which means your path is curving to the left, then you’d turn out the left foot so it’s facing back (usually at an angle) and step over to it ending up skating on a left back inside edge. So the direction (forward to backward) has changed and the foot (right to left) has changed while the edge (inside) and direction of curvature of the path (to the left) remains the same.
The various other Mohawks work the same way. Edge and direction of curvature remains the same while foot and direction front to back or back to front changes.
A more advanced turn that looks very like a three-turn is called a “Rocker”. In this the direction (front to back) and curvature of path both change. So a right forward outside rocker would start on a right forward outside edge. So now the direction (front to back) and direction of curvature of the path (curving to the right vs. curving to the left) change while the foot and edge remain the same. (And just like a “bracket” turn is like a three turn but has the cusp of the turn point to the inside of the entry curve a “counter” turn is like a rocket but the custp points toward the outside of the entry curve.)
Finally, there’s a class of turns called the Choctaw. In these one steps from one foot to another, changing direction and edge. So a right forward inside Choctaw would start on a right forward inside edge, then step to a left, backward outside edge. In this case all four of the elements change.
And there you have it, the various turns, how to go from forward to backward or vice versa in Figure Skating (and Hockey players do a lot of this too). Knowing how they work and why doesn’t replace getting out there and doing it, with a good coach to spot what you’re doing wrong and offering correction, but if you’re anything like me, knowing how they work and why is a big help in getting your body to actually do it.
Back on January 6th there was that protest-turned-riot. The Media and Leftist politicians were soon out in force and the words they were using were “armed insurrection.”
Um, there is a problem with that. “Riot” I’ll cop to, but “insurrection”? At most it might be considered a “warning shot across the bow” of what might arise if the concerns of a large and growing portion of the population are not adequately addressed. But actual insurrection? No. The folk making those “insurrection” claims are banking on You the People not having any idea what an actual armed insurrection would look like.
To give you some idea, consider some of the following:
I have a friend, lives not too far from me and many of you will probably know of whom I speak, who could byhimself arm a reinforced company or a light battalion (at least–that was based on the last count I had from him which was some time ago). By himself. And while it would be somewhat weak on crew-served weapons for units of that size it wouldn’t be entirely lacking in that department either.
I know more who could arm at least a rather eclectic squad where everyone would have something to shoot.
I have friends who have dealt firsthand with actual insurgencies. They know what works, and what doesn’t.
Me? I was in intel puke, about as far away from actual combat as you can get. We were told “you’d be evacuated before women and children” (darker rumors were that the Security Police had…other orders…in case of a danger of overrun, not that there was one when the closest I got to a “danger zone” was RAF Chicksands–since closed–in Bedfordshire, England).
Those in power have little to fear from me. I’m just a voice, and not much of one (I mean, despite how outspoken I am, I’ve only been in Facebook Jail once, that’s how small my footprint is), but there are other folk out there that should have them sleeping with one eye open if they really mean to reduce those of us who still believe in freedom into outright peonage. Indeed, I have argued, more than once on this blog and elsewhere that an armed insurrection would be a very bad idea, not just for the suffering and death it would inflict on the innocent but because that suffering and death is unlikely even to lead to a good end. The most likely result is simply exchanging one tyranny for another. Things truly have to be in extremis for such a long-shot to be worth the risk.
If there were an armed insurrection, you wouldn’t need politicians and media pundits to tell you. Did the people of Beirut need to be told that an insurrection was going on? Did the people of Northern Ireland need the BBC to inform them that the IRA was engaged in insurrection? No. They knew because of what was happening around them.
So, if you need the media, if you need pundits and political leaders, to tell you that “it’s an armed insurrection”, then it isn’t.
This “meme” showed up in my feed on the Book of Faces.
Amazingly, everything it says is wrong.
First, let’s start with the conditional clause. No, ICE doesn’t “always” raid workplaces. That may be all the “meme” creator hears about (and somehow I doubt even that–the truth is generally not in them) but that’s not all they do. they raid flophouses. They pick up individuals who are reported to them. They sometimes even get involved when an illegal alien (let’s use the correct term rather than the soft-pedaled politically correct nonsense) is arrested for some other crime. (“Other” because violation of our immigration laws is a crime. Thus “immigration law.”)
So, no, they don’t “always raid workplaces.” Even when they do, that does not prevent the folk being taken into custody from being some form of freeloader.
Illegal aliens do not have authorization to work in the US. They do not, indeed can not, have valid social security numbers–required for any job in the US. Thus, they are often paid “under the table.” This means”
They are not paying taxes, not income taxes, not social security taxes, not medicare taxes.
Their employer isn’t paying “employer contribution” to things like Social Security, Workman’s Comp, Unemployment insurance, etc.
But wait, there’s more. Since they don’t have any officially identifiable income, it’s not uncommon (not universal perhaps; I wouldn’t try to claim that) for them to also collect government benefits, “double dipping”, as it were.
They send their kids to public schools. Now, public schools are largely paid for by property taxes, rather than income taxes and the owners of whatever property where they lay their heads at night do pay those taxes and it becomes part of whatever rent they pay so I’ll give them that. However, since they have no “official” income (see “under the table” above), the kids qualify for free school lunch programs, which is largely paid for by those of us who do pay income taxes etc.
Many do not have health insurance, so what do they do? They use Emergency Rooms as their primary care provider…and don’t pay. Want to know why medical care, and hospital care in particular, is so expensive? That’s a big part of it right there.
The make use of our infrastructure, paid for by tax dollars you and I pay but they do not.
So, even if they’ve got their little under-the-table paid job, they are freeloading off of things the rest of us pay for but they don’t. So, the “meme” is wrong from start to finish. And yet, strangely enough, the Book of Faces does not bother to “fact check” it.
A little over a month ago I was in a minor auto accident. I won’t go into details here because claims and what not have not yet been resolved. However, one part of it is that I suffered what appeared to be a mild concussion.
The problem is that a “mild” concussion, at my age, can involve major recovery. After the first week or two, things looked good. I was doing well. The headaches and nausea were mostly gone. Only things took a bit of a turn for the worst.
The first indication of a renewed problem was on a Friday afternoon where I developed some fine motor coordination issues causing me to drop something I shouldn’t have dropped. It seemed to be an isolated incident at the time. On Saturday I went back onto the ice. And I just had the most difficult time. My balance seemed off. I thought, maybe, the problem was the lacing on my skates. There’s a “sweet spot” in lacing up my skates where they’re tight enough for good control but not so tight that they cause excessive foot pain. And then, of course, I had been missing skating because of the accident I thought, “oh, I’m just out of practice.”
So, Sunday, and class. And the same issues but worse. During class I fell, twice, on things that I simply should not have fallen doing. It was then where the accumulated incidents made clear beyond my ability to pretend otherwise that the concussion was still causing me problems.
So, next day, I went to speak to my doctor about it. He referred me to a concussion specialist at a physical therapy place and I went into treatment. A bunch of exercises designed to help my brain recover from the shaking up it had gotten.
So, three weeks later, I’ve been symptom free for a week. At a Friday morning session I talk to the therapist treating me (the specialist was out for the week, but as is usual for these places he left detailed instructions for my treatment) and asked if it was okay for me to return to the ice. She said that she thought so but to take it easy, just a little bit to see how it goes.
That brings us to today and the afternoon public skate session. I was able to do basic forward skating: forward stroking, one foot glides, and forward crossovers. Could do the backward basics: Backward crossovers and backward inside and outside edges on the circle. Forward outside three-turns and forward inside Mohawks went well too. Wasn’t going to do anything that involved fast head motions so, no spins.
Two “hiccups” during all this. First was a kid fell in front of me, not quite in my line of travel but close enough to distract me from what I was doing, leading to my catching a toe pick and falling to hands and knees. But then, I do that sometimes even without a concussion. The second “hiccup” was more concerning. About ten minutes in, the “mental effort” required to skate started to rise precipitously.
I called it quits at that point. Still, I figure it wasn’t bad for my first foray back onto the ice.
I think that I can probably benefit from brief sessions onto the ice provided I exercise the discipline to stop when I hit that “mental effort starts to rise precipitously” point.
I plan to talk about that with my physical therapist Monday (the specialist will be back then) and see what he says. I don’t plan to do skating class tomorrow. There’s just too much chance I’ll be tempted to push beyond a safe limit.
When people complain about censorship by FaceBook, Demonetizing or outright deleting content by YouTube, or ranking shenanigans by Google, the people who benefit from these things (by having their opponents silenced or at least throttled) always say it’s not “really” censorship and not a First Amendment Violation because they’re not government. “They’re private companies,” it is said. “They can do what they want.”
Except, I guess, refuse to bake a cake.
I’m going to ramble a bit on several topics here, but they do come together at the end.
Some years back Cleveland defense attorney Bob Ingersoll had a column, “The Law is a Ass” printed first in a magazine for comic book fans then repeated elsewhere. In this column he discussed the ways law is used, and misused–the ways they rarely got it right, and the ways they usually got it wrong–in comic books and other media. Among the things he discussed were exclusionary rules and exceptions thereto. One of those rules is if the police perform a search without meeting the legal requirements for probable cause and warrants and what not then the evidence could be excluded from trial.
Now, some people might think that this exclusionary rule would apply to someone like Batman making an illegal search so that any evidence thus found must be excluded because of coming from an illegal search. And the answer is…maybe.
You see, a private citizen could turn up evidence of a crime, even turn it up illegally, and the evidence is entirely admissible. It’s admissible because the reason for exclusionary rules is to provide an incentive against police misconduct. By not allowing the police to benefit from police misconduct it is meant to ensure the police don’t violate suspect (that whole “presumption of innocence” thing) rights. When a private citizen does it, however, there’s no police misconduct and, so, no real justification for excluding the evidence (although the citizen can be charged with crimes related to collecting that evidence–breaking and entering, theft, that sort of thing).
And so, evidence collected by Batman is perfectly admissible. Or is it? You see, depending on the era of Batman stories you’re talking about, Batman could have the unofficial, or even downright official (there is at least one rather risible reference in the late-silver to early bronze-age Batman being “officially deputized” by “every law enforcement office in the world”. Totally ridiculous, of course, even by comic book standards) status with the Gotham City Police. They permit him to function. They even work in cooperation with him. Other times they treat him as just another criminal…just one that’s harder to catch than even Two-Face and the Joker.
But it’s these periods where the police work with Batman that I want to talk about here, where the police turn a blind eye to his illegal activities. These are the cases where the police turn a blind eye to, or at most give no more than lip service of, his illegal activities. These are the cases where the police talk to him about crimes, give him information, or actually call. him. in. to help deal with criminals. A Batman that has that relationship with law enforcement is acting as an agent of government. It doesn’t matter that he’s not a sworn officer. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t draw a government paycheck. He is acting as an officer of the law through his actions and, most especially, through the way law enforcement by their actions approves his.
The courts might still allow illegally obtained evidence provided by Batman to be accepted (and, indeed, in the comics generally did) but the courts would be (and were) wrong to do so. It wouldn’t be the first time the courts made wrong decisions.
Now, let’s look at another topic (trust me, these will tie together). “Section 230”. Section 230 is a law that protects public platforms from being held liable for user content. A public platform doesn’t exercise control over content and, therefore, is not liable for it. When you speak to someone on your phone, the carrier, whether ATT or Verizon or someone else, is not legally responsible for anything you say. You can make the most vile statement, even legally actionable statements, and the carrier is protected because they have no control over what you say.
Fair enough, but what happens when a “platform” starts controlling content–limiting some voices, promoting others, endorsing one, disputing another? At that point the rationale for Section 230 protection breaks down. Instead of being a platform, they are now acting as a publisher. They are picking and choosing what content will be allowed. And this means that they are now responsible for everything that they do allow on what they are trying to call a platform. After all, since they are removing things, if they don’t remove that, then it must be because they approve of it. And so, if, among the billions of posts on a social media site that controls content there is one that includes something actionable, then the people running the social media site are also legally liable for that content. Or they would be if the rationale behind Section 230 were consistently applied.
For a large site with millions, or even billions, of users, it would be far, far better for the folk running it to throw up their hands and say “Oh, no. We’re not even going to try to control content. If you don’t like it, scroll past.” After all, how could any automatic algorithm, or any reasonably sized group of moderators, ensure that no posts contained something actionable that would leave them liable. They would be best advised to stay safely behind Section 230 provisions.
That is if the rationale behind Section 230 were consistently applied.
Side note: There can be laws that require even a platform to remove certain types of content as soon as they become aware of it. But note that such laws then are the action of government and, at least in the United States, are a First Amendment issue.
Next topic: Anti-Trust laws. In the US there are laws that are intended to “protect” American consumers from the problems of monopolies. We can discuss the value–good or bad–of such laws and whether their good outweighs their harm and maybe I’ll do that in another post. Not going to get into that here. Suffice to say that such laws do exist. Furthermore, then are often applied “proactively”. I.e. they sanction businesses long before they become an actual monopoly. One argument that has been used for sanctioning a company is that it “controls” (which is an odd way of saying “successfully sells to”) a “significant” percentage of the market). A company simply “controlling” some rather modest proportions of their market has been enough to trigger anti-trust action. (Note: Thomas Sowell goes into this a bit in his book Basic Economics.)
And yet, neither has seriously been challenged on an anti-trust basis.
And so we have these online versions of Batman, “private” but being given tacit sanction by government bureaucrats. They are shielded from laws that we peons have to abide by. And thus, they are not entirely “private” businesses, regardless of what their corporate structures might say. Their actions to silence or throttle certain views while promoting others, then, are First Amendment issues.
And if the courts say otherwise, just like with the courts of Gotham City allowing illegally obtained evidence provided by Batman, then so much the worse for the courts.