A License to Carry along with liability insurance is supported by the Second Amendment

In my previous posts, I’ve discussed the problem with gun violence in America, and I’ve pointed out that it would be impossible to remove guns from the American population.

Unless something changes, gun violence will continue to be a problem.

Let us add to this problem the current trend toward the Open Carry of guns, the recent episodes of armed bystanders firing upon unarmed and fleeing suspects, and my already stated case that possessing a gun is more likely to result in the escalation of aggression.

These people are in possession of a dangerous device. Most have little or no training in the use of this device. Few have the ability to assess the risk of owning and carrying these devices.

There is a comparable dangerous device that is owned by many Americans. The automobile.

Until 2013 Americans were more likely to die in a car crash than to be killed by a gun. The data are not in when I wrote this, but it has been projected that gun deaths and auto-related deaths were supposed to reach parity sometime in 2015.

There are no laws that restrict owning an automobile. Everyone in America can own as many cars as they can afford. Even if you are not allowed to drive a car, you are still allowed to own one.

But in order to operate a car, we must first demonstrate our knowledge of the law in regards to vehicle operation. We must also demonstrate our ability to operate a car. This is done through licensing. As part of licensing, we must also demonstrate our ability to minimize the risk of driving, and to hedge against loss due to accident. This is done through insurance.

America could apply this strategy to gun ownership and usage. Require licensing and insurance of individuals who carry a gun.

Licensing is already in effect in many states. For example, a concealed carry license in any state requires the possessor to attend training classes and pass a test. Texans who carry a handgun are required to have a License to Carry. Getting one involves training classes and a test.

Using a gun licensing strategy, states would issue licenses to carry, and state license requirements would meet or exceed minimal Federal standards. These standards would include classroom and practical training, along with an examination. I would suggest that there be a renewal requirement, with a period of renewal of every 5 years.

A firearm owner would also be required to demonstrate proof of liability insurance. Lack of insurance would be grounds to suspend or revoke the license to carry.

Insurance is an important part of this idea. In the case of accidental death, or homicide, some relief to the victims could be had through insurance. This would certainly motivate insurance companies to investigate each gun owner’s risk. Insurance companies are really very good at predicting the actions of people. Let us put that skill to use.

Similar to current driver’s laws, licensing would not apply on private property. In the same way that you don’t need a driver’s license to drive on your own ranch roads, unlicensed individuals could still “carry” their weapons lawfully in their own home. (Please note, there are usually city ordinances that make it a crime to shoot gun inside city limits. These are often ignored in the case where a gun is used to stop a crime in the home.)

License to carry laws could be written to allow the safe transportation of firearms by unlicensed gun owners. Inside a locked container, or with a trigger lock, for example.

Requiring a license and insurance to operate – or carry – a firearm does not restrict anyone’s Second Amendment right to own guns, or “bear arms” in the case of a military coup. Everyone would still be allowed to own as many guns and ammunition as they like. And they can be comfortable with the knowledge that they can ignore the law in the case of Federal overreach.

A license to carry and insurance requirements are not going to prevent gun violence. However, they will reduce it, and this requirement would work well together with background checks for gun ownership.

And finally, such a requirement could help answer a philosophical problem. How can I, or anyone, tell the difference between an armed law-abiding person with a gun, and a dangerous criminal with a gun?

The criminal is much less likely to be licensed to carry. And any establishment that checks licenses at the door is less likely to allow entry to such a person.

We can't take guns away from Americans for legal and practical reasons

In my last post, I discussed the problem with gun violence in America.  In this post, I'll discuss why we own guns, and why we can't take guns away from Americans.

Why do Americans own guns?

The stated reasons usually include personal protection, and to act as a check against military overreach by the United States Federal government.

I believe that these reasons are merely a fantasy.

First, owning a gun does not make you safer. Gun owners are more likely to act impulsively, and aggravate or escalate arguments. Populations with higher gun ownership are directly linked to higher gun murder rates. Studies have shown that for every time a gun in a household was used for self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides using guns.

There is also a popular American fantasy that violence in America is increasing, and that we should prepare against it. The opposite is true. There has been a steady decrease of violent crimes in America since the mid 1980's. Statistically, you are less likely to be the victim of a violent crime now, than 10 years ago, or 20, or 30.

Second, there is a myth that an armed population prevents tyranny.  There is no justification for this.  There is instead evidence that a militia will more likely support or even create a tyrannical government.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Why should it be "well regulated"?  There were about 100,000 troops in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  There were about twice that many serving in various militias.  Militias were used to defend the home front, to act as a police force, and they did some enemy surveillance.  When a militia company was summoned to active duty on the front lines, they were usually active for less than 90 days.

There is a world of difference between armed civilians, common militia, and Minutemen, or "well regulated militia".  The difference can be seen in how armed citizens and poorly regulated militia threw down their weapons and fled in the 1776 battles of Long Island, and at Camden, South Carolina, versus their successes at Lexington and Concord.  The Revolutionary War has many examples of militia failures, and the few examples of militia successes are attributed to state-organized militias.

The modern National Guard is based upon the idea of a "well regulated militia".

Well armed individuals and poorly regulated militias are more likely to support tyranny and fascism.

Nationalism and fascism go together hand in glove.  The very patriotic idea that there is a superior form of national identity that should unify all of a nation's citizens is very attractive and dangerous.

When private militias form, or armed citizens gather, they most often do so out of nationalism and fascism.  This can be shown in the "Bleeding Kansas" border wars in the mid-1800's between the pro-slavery "Border Ruffian" militia and the anti-slavery "Jayhawk" militia.

This can be seen in the foundation of the Ku Klux Klan, who used armed citizens and KKK militia in campaigns of violence, murder, and political intimidation.  Other examples of unregulated militias in America include the Black Panthers and Neo-Nazis.

Armed citizens and militias have lead to tyranny in other countries.  Vietnam, Somalia, and Southern Lebanon are examples of this.  Militias and armed civilians most often gather to form tribes, to support warlords, and to engage in civil war.  Weak democracies are more often ripped apart by armed private citizens, than they are supported by them

Third, there exists a very popular "Red Dawn narrative".  That a strong government with a strong military can be overthrown by armed citizens and private militias.

This is completely false.

Let's look at the case of Iraq, before the American invasion.  Gun ownership by individuals was (and still is) one of the highest in the world, with up to 40 guns owned per 100 people.  (In contrast, Americans own up to 95 guns per hundred people).  Iraqis had a gun culture that "closely resembled the United States", and yet gun ownership did not prevent Saddam Hussein from committing atrocities on his own people.

Another example of an authoritarian dictatorship that oppresses its own well-armed population is Saudi Arabia.  Dissent in Saudi Arabia is routinely crushed.  Dissenters are beheaded.  There are no guarantees of human rights in Saudi Arabia.

A well-disciplined military armed with modern weapons is completely immune to militias and privately armed citizens.  In the case of America, a single 19-year-old drone pilot sitting at Nellis Air Force base can put an end to a full militia with the push of a button.

You have a closet full of AK-47's? Excuse me while I laugh at you.

A dictator backed by a well-regulated modern army is proof against armed civilians.  Muammaar al-Qaddafi of Libya is a good example.  His citizens could not kick him out without outside help from NATO.

The other side of the "Red Dawn narrative" is that an armed population can drive out an invading force.  Both Vietnam and Afghanistan are given as examples.  But in neither case were the invading forces "driven out" by armed populations.

In the case of American involvement in Vietnam and Afghanistan, public opinion in America were the deciding factors to get out of these conflicts.  By 1971 a large majority of Americans believed it was a mistake to be involved in Vietnam.  American opinion toward the occupation of Afghanistan has been polarized, but in 2014 a majority of Americans were opposed.

In neither war were American troops ever in danger of being "forced" out of the conflict by local militias or armed civilians.

The Afghan resistance movement, under the command of many regional warlords who were supplied and assisted by the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Egypt and others were able to mount a guerrilla war against the occupying Soviets.  However the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan was due to the leadership of, and radical reforms initiated by, Mikhail Gorbachev.   Gorbachev withdrew Soviet forces from Afghanistan to assist in easing cold-war tensions, not due to an armed population, even one supported by other countries.

So if owning a gun doesn’t make us safer, if owning a gun is inherently risky, why should we have guns? If modern militias are no match for the American military, and our only hope of opposing a military coup is the goodwill of our American soldiers, then why would we bother to arm our militias? Again, why should we have guns?

We should have guns in America for two reasons.

First, as I said in my last post, amending the Constitution of the United States of America is somewhat perilous. Amending the Bill of Rights could have unintended consequences on other human rights held by American citizens. I think we should avoid amending the Constitution to support gun control. This means that the Second Amendment will apply, which means that we will have gun ownership in America.

The second reason we should have guns in America is because this is what America wants. Sure, this is a “Tyranny of the Majority” situation. But that sort of tyranny is checked only when it infringes on the rights of others. Merely owning a gun does not infringe on the rights of others, and so this tyranny does not apply. Therefore, the will of the majority in our society should apply.

To put it more simply, I like my guns, and I won't give them up unless I'm forced to do so. I would resist any such attempt. And I think that over 40 million other American households would do the same thing. Vigorously.

These are two HUGE reasons why Americans should own guns. Americans like their guns, and taking guns away from Americans would be a big problem, legally and practically.

There is still unresolved the fact that gun violence in America is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with.

I’ll discuss a possible solution in my next post.

Gun Violence in America

America has a problem with gun violence.

In 2015 there were 331 mass shootings in America, that resulted in over 360 deaths and 1,300 injuries. There were over 11,000 murders with guns in 2015, and more than 54,000 people were treated for gun assault in emergency rooms.

The numbers are very clear. There is a direct correlation between gun deaths in a population, and the number of guns owned by that population. Guns are used far more often to threaten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense. More often, gun owners escalate arguments by using their guns in an aggressive manner. Homes that own a gun have a higher risk of suicide and accidental death.

No mass shootings in America have ever been stopped by an armed civilian.

More than a third of American households own a gun – about 43.5 million. There are as many as 310 million guns in the United States. And while a majority of Americans favor stricter background checks, a majority of Americans also support the lawful ownership of guns generally. And this support has been trending upward over the last few years.

With such broad support for gun ownership, it is unlikely that Congress or the President will be able to remove guns from the general population. It also seems likely that gun related deaths, and mass shootings, will continue to be “normal” if nothing else changes.

American support for background checks suggests that Americans are willing to do something to change this status quo.

Personally I like guns, and I own a few. I was given my first gun as a birthday present by my father, on my very first birthday.

Dad was a huge influence on me and my sister in regards to guns. He kept our guns well locked up, out of our reach. He has a lot of them, and never put them on display, preferring to only take them out when he was going hunting.

Dad’s training in gun safety came from his training as a combat vet in Korea, and from a lifetime of using guns. My sister and I have both jumped down the throats of those people who supposedly went through "gun safety" programs for being idiots about their guns. Really, neither of us have any patience for that sort of nonsense. And we're both pretty fair shots. I've got "Expert" ribbons in the M16 and M9 pistol from the military.

I'm also someone who believes strongly in the Constitution, and I take my oath of enlistment seriously. Americans have the right to "bear arms", and will continue to have that right unless there is a Constitutional Amendment.

The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, originally applied only to the Federal government. In other words, these rights could be overridden by state law. Only those laws enumerated in the Constitution belonged to the Federal government. This changed upon the ratification of the 14th Amendment, where the “Due Process clause” applies the Bill of Rights against the states.

On ratification of the 14th Amendment, the Federal government was given the power to enforce the Bill of Rights, and States’ Rights were much weakened. This is what nullified the Dred Scott decision. It gave us all equal protection under the law, and prevented States from creating laws to remove the rights of American Citizens.

The 14th Amendment has also been used to expand the rights of citizens, giving interracial couples the right to marry (Loving v. Virginia) making it impossible for states to arrest citizens for homosexual acts (Lawrence v. Texas) and giving homosexuals the right to marry (Obergefell v. Hodges).

A Constitutional amendment that outlawed gun ownership could easily go very wrong. An amendment to overturn the Second Amendment could possibly be used to weaken the 14th Amendment, which might in turn allow States to once again create their own laws about homosexuality and race. We would again be a nation of patchwork freedoms.

Last, I want to point out that we have passed the point where 3D printers can easily print a gun.  This was first accomplished in plastics.  3D printed guns are now available in metal using the direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process.  As 3D printing prices fall, the availability of highly reliable printed guns will increase.  And there isn't much the government can do to prevent this.

From a purely practical position, outlawing gun ownership in America would be impossible without major changes in attitude. There is broad support for gun ownership, and there are inherent dangers in amending our Constitution to revise or remove the Second Amendment.  Finally, our increasing technological ability would make gun restrictions difficult, if not impossible.

It seems hopeless. Maybe there is something that can help.

But first, in my next post I'll examine why Americans own guns.

Quote mining by the Watch Tower - evidence that Jehovah's Witnesses shouldn't trust their beliefs.

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is dishonest.

The official publications of the Jehovah's Witnesses try to justify things like the truth of their religion, and that it is bad to accept blood transfusions.

But what annoys me the most is how dishonest they are when they try to discredit the fact of evolution.  What I'm about to explain is something called, "Quote Mining".  This is a logical fallacy called, "quoting out of context".  When quoting out of context is done dishonestly in order to support a position that you can not otherwise support, then it is a form of lying.

I am definitely accusing the Watch Tower society of lying.

I ran into this when I was handed the October copy of "AWAKE". (link to PDF)  On page 7 of this publication, I ran into this quote:
This experiment led Jeffrey H. Schwartz, a professor of anthropology, to conclude that while adaptation may help a species survive under changing circumstances, “it is not creating anything new.”
AWAKE didn't have much else to say about professor Schwartz, so I googled his name.  One of the first hits I got was also from Watch Tower publications.  Namely from their 2010 version of the brochure, "Was Life Created?"  (link to PDF).  On page 21 of this brochure it reads:
So, does natural selection really create entirely new species? Decades ago, evolutionary biologist George Christopher Williams began questioning whether natural selection had such power.26 In 1999, evolutionary theorist Jeffrey H. Schwartz wrote that natural selection may be helping species adapt to the changing demands of existence, but it is not creating anything new.
Unlike "AWAKE", the "Created" brochure has end notes.  This passage is footnoted as:
Sudden Origins—Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species, by Jeffrey H. Schwartz, 1999, pp. 317-320.
So, I checked to see if "Sudden Origins" was available online, or in a local library.  I didn't find it, but I was able to pick up a copy of it from Amazon.

To say that "Sudden Origins" is information dense is an understatement of epic proportions.  This closely written book explores the history of modern evolutionary synthesis and the most current, (as of 1999 when this book was printed) cutting edge advances in the many ways that evolution can be expressed.

Schwartz is not saying that "evolution is not creating anything new" in this book.  On the contrary!  Professor Schwartz very firmly accepts that evolutionary changes happen over time to populations.

What Schwartz disagrees with is the older evolutionary idea that evolution happens slowly, through minute changes to the genome.  He argues that there is a mechanism that corrects genetic changes, that cells maintain a "DNA homeostasis".  According to Schwartz, Darwin's finches, upon observation over time, seem to demonstrate this homeostasis since the bills of the finches never deviate too far.

Professor Schwartz has actually authored a Journal Article for the "Anatomical Record" (link to PDF) that argues that mutation in organisms require extreme environmental stress to overcome this homeostasis and alter development.  Minor stresses or natural mutations would be suppressed, but major stresses would lead to evolutionary changes that could result in new organisms.

So what, exactly, does Schwartz say on pages 317-320 of his book, "Sudden Origins"?  You can read it for yourself, I've scanned the relevant pages: (link to PDF), but I'll paraphrase.

Professor Schwartz has been explaining the history of the theory of evolution, and is now speaking about the Modern Synthesis.  He talks about the interdisciplinary disagreements about evolution, and the disagreements about how evolution happens between evolutionary biologists.  In a nutshell, every scientist has theories about evolution that are attached to their own fields of study, and some of these theories seem to be in conflict.  Perhaps they are, perhaps not.  But Schwartz points out that this conflict is often based on hierarchy within the study of evolution.  And traditionally, paleontologists had the hierarchical advantage - but geneticists were fast closing in and coming up with evidence that paleontologists must acknowledge as true.

The 'money quote' that Watch Tower publications seems to be touting is this one, found on page 319:
Although the goal of simplicity may lead to a better, or at least a clearer, explanation, it does not constitute a test of the theory of natural selection itself.  Nonetheless, it is important to realize that if, according to Williams, natural selection strives to maintain stability, then the picture of evolution that emerges is one in which nothing of significance happens until it is disrupted by mutation.  Natural selection may be accommodating individuals to the vicissitudes of daily existence by choosing among the already available alleles, but it is not creating anything new.  This does appear to be what Williams meant when he so clearly distinguished between individual adaptation and the processes of evolutionary change that lead to speciation.
"It is not creating anything new."  This is exactly the quote attributed to professor Schwartz in the October issue of "AWAKE" and in the "Is Life Created?" brochure.  But as we can see by this paragraph, Schwartz is merely discussing the research of another evolutionary biologist, George C. Williams.

Evolution, for a long time, has been considered a process of mutation and adaptation through natural selection over a long period of time.  Williams argued that natural selection would remove those mutation traits that would reduce fitness, making it more difficult for new species to arise.

Instead, according to Williams, adaptation would only happen under unusual, or stressful, or "onerous" times, and it wouldn't happen to the individual or the group, it would happen to the genes.

Williams later came to admit that based on the evidence, group selection does occur in nature.

Professor Schwartz's book discusses the idea of sudden speciation due to extreme environmental influence.  To me, it seems like his idea builds on the idea of "punctuated equilibrium" as proposed by Eldredge and Gould.  Indeed, Schwartz discusses this in his book.

And finally, during an online discussion of this quote mining, one individual actually emailed Professor Schwartz and asked him his opinion.  (Link to PDF)  From that email:
This reference is taken out of context from my book Sudden Origins.  My argument is a present-day version of non-Darwinians, including Huxley and Mivart: adaptation cannot explain both the origin of novelty and the persistence of novelty - only the latter.  But changes in the molecular signaling pathways that underlie development can.  So I'm not rejecting Darwin's discussion of adaptation, only putting it in a better explanatory place.
In other words, Schwartz is of the opinion that adaptation would preserve the species, not change it.  Mutation at the genetic level is required for speciation.  Schwartz definitely accepts that speciation happens in evolutionary terms, he just emphasizes a somewhat different method than what Darwin assumed.

In other words, he's doing science.

I can't say what the Watch Tower thinks it is doing.  But it certainly is NOT science.

It is obvious that someone at the Watch Tower had a copy of "Sudden Origins".  And if they read it, they would know that Schwartz most definitely supports the theory of evolution.  Even if they only read this one paragraph they would also know that Schwartz wasn't speaking for himself, he was instead quoting another evolutionary biologist who also accepts the theory of evolution.

If they had bothered to google professor Schwartz, they would also know that the quote is wrong.  If they read anything that Schwartz had written, they would know that he supports evolution.

This leads us to the question, did the person who wrote this not actually understand anything that he or she read?  Were they just that stupid?  I find this difficult to believe.  It would require a great deal of stupidity!

No, it is much more likely that the person who created this quote out of context did so knowing that it does NOT support the position that "evolution does not create anything new".

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:2 that it is "shameful" to deceive by distorting the words of God (Jehovah).  Is it any less shameful to distort anyone's words in order to deceive?

Christianity; unplugged

I read an analogy that I found appropriate.

Being on the outside and looking in at Christianity is like being unplugged from "The Matrix".

Everyone who is "plugged in" lives in a world where a deity rules supreme, where angels and Satan exist, where the saved mingle with the saints, and the unsaved are forgotten - or worse, they are NOT forgotten!

But outside, there are those of us who look at this complex inner life, and can do very little to change it.  We can talk, we can yell.  It doesn't matter. As Cypher said, "Ignorance is bliss."

I won't strain the analogy by talking about pills of various colors, and whether or not it is a sign of intelligence to be on the inside, or the outside of this belief system.

But I will say that being on the outside has been very rewarding.

I am responsible for my own actions.  I'm not "gifted" - no deity gave me anything.  I have some talent, and some hard won skills, and a lot of luck and support from those who love me.  What I've accomplished I can have pride in, and I can be grateful to those people who have invested in my future.

I don't have a mental peeping Tom.  That realization alone was extremely valuable to me.  In the privacy of my thoughts, I'm allowed to be unkind, to be jealous, to be angry.  I'm allowed to feel, and not feel guilty for feeling.  I spent almost 3 decades believing that my thoughts were monitored, in a real "tinfoil hat" manner.  I was being judged by a deity who knew my least charitable thoughts.

That's gone.  And it is freeing!  And yes, I know that my actions are informed by my thoughts, so I do try to keep good mental hygiene.  But at the same time, I'm allowed to give myself some space to be outraged, to be unkind, to throw my own pity-party.  I just keep it short, and then get over it.  I didn't realize how much I stressed over this silliness.

I've lost my fear of Hell.  That gave me nightmares as a believer.  Even as someone who can lucid dream, some nightmares hurt before I could bring them under control.  With that worry gone, my dreams are much less Armageddon-ish.

All in all, my life is much less stressful outside the Matrix.  It is more relaxed.  There is no "God-shaped hole" in my life.  And there is no more fear there either.