Tag Archives: Newtown

Why Gun Control Won’t Work: The Economics of Human Behavior.

In recent days, the chattering class has spent a lot of time speculating about what kind of gun control regulations they might achieve in the wake of the national tragedy in Newton, Connecticut.

No_gun

I appreciate what liberals are trying to do. They sincerely believe that by banning firearms, they will make us safer and rid the country of a great evil. I agree with the objective of safety, but I reject their means because controlling the weapon will not work if the real issue is the heart of man.

Jeremiah 17_9

Get your MBA at Charleston Southern UniversityHere I will address the economics of the issue, and I will go beyond the abstract discussion of supply and demand, incentives, and deterrence to provide seven historical examples of how real people have reacted to weapons controls.

All Guns Are Banned!

Let’s start with a thought experiment. Let’s assume that liberals get everything they  want:

  • All guns are banned.
  • We have massive “Gun Disposal Days.”
  • We melt our guns into iPhones.

Everyone is blissful and the world will live as one.  But are we safer?

Any serious student of history should question how much better off we would be. If, as I have suggested, the problem is not with the gun but the heart of man (and, to a lesser degree, culture), we might be in a more precarious position. In fact, historically speaking, populations who have been disarmed have generally been oppressed by those with arms. Examples range from Carthage to the Third Reich.

Behavioral Economics & Arms Control: 7 Examples

1. CrossBows. Throughout the Middle Ages, Crossbows were loathed and feared because they were very accurate and they could penetrate armor, eliminating a knight’s battlefield advantage. The Magna Carta specifically mentioned crossbowmen among mercenary soldiers who should be banished from the kingdom as soon as peace was restored.

CrossbowThey were banned by the Pope in 1139, but they were so effective that even the threat of eternal damnation  did little to reduce the proliferation of crossbows in Europe.

2. Have you ever wondered why Martial Artists use such funny weapons?

Martial Arts Weapons from Karatemart

You can trace the use of these weapons to arms bans in feudalistic Asian societies. When farmers were occupied and disarmed, they used whatever they had at their disposal (e.g. farming tools) to defend themselves. Looking at the images above, you can see how these would be helpful in threshing grain or bailing hay.

Cane Defense3. The Cane.  Combat Hapkido, which was only developed in 1990, has adopted the cane as its weapon of choice. Yes, the cane–just like your grandfather uses.

Why? Because the practitioners of this modern martial art understand that the cane is 100% street legal. This is a selling point in Combat Hapkido classes, books, manuals, and training videos.

Gangland Season 14. Hammers. If I learned anything from the time I spent watching an entire season of Gangland,  it was that the Hell’s Angles motorcycle club members sometimes carry ball peen hammers. Why? Completely legal.

I would imagine a group of Hell’s Angels could do a lot of damage swinging ball peen hammers, but if they were stopped by the authorities, who could say that they were not just on their way to a habitat for humanity build?

5. Knives. Let’s go back to Modern day China. Recently there has been a wave of violent knife attacks. According to CNN:

Guns are strictly controlled in China, but until recently possession of large knives were not. Chinese authorities have recently issued a regulation requiring people to register with their national ID cards when they buy knives longer that 15 centimeters.

Note: 15 centimeters is roughly 6 inches. Is this where we want to go as a society–registering with the government when you buy a kitchen knife at Wal-Mart?

Box-cutter6. But what about the assault weapons used on 9/11? The AR-15s and M-16s used to subdue the passengers…oh wait, they used box cutters and claimed to have explosives.

At this point, the gun-control advocate might cry foul and ask, “But isn’t it better to just have a society armed only with knives. After all, if a would-be killer did not have access to a gun he could hurt a far fewer people.”

This argument assumes that criminals will not still obtain guns, leaving the law-abiding population at their mercy.  After all, criminals have a nasty habit of ignoring and violating the law. Moreover, it also assumes that those who can’t obtain guns will not turn to some other, more deadly means. Here, I am not talking about knives, but explosives.

7. Explosives. A 2011 U. S. Army medical study found that of 7877 combat casualties, “almost 75% resulted from explosive mechanisms; just 20% were gunshot wounds.”  More to the point, additional studies found that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were directly responsible for roughly twice the number of casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq than in Vietnam.

The Heart of the Matter

From everything you have learned about how people react to these controls, does it stand to reason that bad men will recognize that Congress has passed sweeping legislation and change their evil gun-loving ways? A few might, but in an era where bomb building instructions can be found on the internet, do we really think we will be safer with more gun control legislation? Or, are we missing the point?

If the problem that we are trying to address is internal (the heart), an external solution (removing all guns) misses the point.

The heart can change voluntarily, but human nature is not easily subdued by legislation. Worse, an unintended consequence of robust gun control might be headlines about mall bombings and school bombings that take the lives of many more innocents.

Do you think Gun Control Legislation Will Be Effective?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 19, 2012

_______________

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Economics, Misc., Motivation, Movies, Poltics

Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers (Part II – Solutions).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gun Control: How To Think Like The Founding Fathers

After writing Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers, I received a number of comments on the blog, by Facebook,  Twitter, and  email.  While the comments varied, the majority of questions could be summarized as follows:

“Yes, I like the Founding Fathers too, but they wrote 200 years ago and times have changed. Don’t just tell us that the problem lies in the heart of man.We want a solution.”

So, here I would like to discuss solutions, but I would like to do so within the Founders’ framework.   Please allow me set up the discussion with a few of their own words:

Franklinface

Ben Franklin

“They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

John Adams

John Adams

“We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Robert Winthrop (Patron of Winthrop University)

Robert_Charles_Winthrop“All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.”

Winthrop was not a “Founding Father” but a member of the next generation. I included his statement because it summarized the type of thinking I have been talking about. If we are internally controlled, we do not need external control. If, on the other hand, we do not control ourselves, we will lose liberty and demand that the government control us.

James Madison ThumbnailOn the floor of the Virginia Ratification Convention, James Madison asked:

“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure.”

Solutions

Let’s begin with suggestions that would not work (or are 180 degrees from the thinking of the Founders). These include:

  • Gun-free school zones (Sandy Hook Elementary was already a gun-free school zone. Criminals tend not to follow the rules).
  • Expand gun-free areas to all public spaces (see comments above).
  • Additional gun control legislation (20 or more laws were broken at Colombine. It is yet to be determined how many laws were broken in Newtown, CT, but let’s assume criminals have little respect for the law. Do we believe that another law will help or is this an effort to feel like we have done something?)

Here are the most workable solutions I have heard:

  • Moral and religious revival (a bit difficult to implement, admittedly).
  • Cultural shift that does not glorify guns and violence (unlikely while Hollywood and Rappers exist).
  • Focus on moral and ethical training of our children (which will be difficult in a society that can no longer agree on what is right and what is wrong).
  • “Resource officers” – More police stationed at schools (please reread the Winthrop quote above).
  • We have Air Marshals–why not have School Marshals too? (or armed administrators).
  • More armed auxiliary police (e.g. deputized civilians who can be called on in crises–expanding this number is cost-effective compared to the other models. We have a lot of vets who already have training).
  • Adopt a Swiss Model (There is a reason the Nazis did not invade Switzerland–they realized it would be too costly).

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityThe first two suggestions are internal. The latter are external and somewhat expensive, but if we are unwilling to do the real work of dealing with the root of the matter (the heart), we will be required to vigilantly monitor an ever-growing number of bad guy.

A colleague that I deeply respect emailed and privately wrote this about the Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers article :

“I’m not sure how to improve [your argument]. Fact is, there is no way to remove all exigencies. Liberty requires character because it means taking responsibility for your own actions. Unfortunately, it also means bearing the cost of others misusing it.”

President Obama described the school shooting as his “compass moment.” If it is, this may be the political leadership issue of our time. I am convinced  that a departure from the Founders’ thinking will not lead us to the promised peace and security that we crave.

What Are Your Suggestions? I’ll add them to the list.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 18, 2012

_______________

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

22 Comments

Filed under Current Events, Effectiveness, Leadership, Misc., Poltics

Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers.

The school shooting in Newtown, CT was a terrible tragedy. The loss of innocent life is simply heartrending.  With what seems like a rash of mass shootings, politicians and political pundits have been asking whether meaningful gun control legislation is not overdue. Even President Obama has pledged to “use whatever power this office holds…in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because, what choice do we have?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sweedish sculpture of Non-Violence by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd

What Choices Do We Have?

Let’s begin with Michael Moore, the maker of Bowling for Columbine.  The day of the memorial service, he tweeted the following:

Michael Moore

This is simply illogical. Moore is equating legal ownership of guns and rape. But let’s be clear: Rape is a crime. Murder is also a crime.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reporting Services, in the last year for which we have data, “victims age 12 or older experienced a total of 188,380 rapes or sexual assaults” in the United States.

Now, this is 188,380 too many, but let’s apply his reasoning to rape and his tweet might read: “The debate is over! Rape has to stop now. We need universal male castration!” To borrow from Madison, the cure is worse than the disease.

Thinking Like the Founding Fathers

Placing this discussion in context is important. I will not here rehash the common arguments from either side of the gun-control debate (e.g. Gun don’t kill people; people kill people or “Fewer people would be killed if guns were illegal.”) I want to focus here on the way that the Founding Fathers thought through such issues.

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the way the Founding Fathers thought and reasoned during the Constitutional Convention and ratification debates. You may never have heard of me, but I know what I am talking about here. I borrowed Madison’s language from Federalist 10 because it is one of the clearest expositions of the Founders’ thinking about important political issues.

In Federalist 10, Madison was specifically was talking about factions (or what we call partisan politics). We don’t tend to like the bickering that goes on in Congress, but have you ever noticed that in countries where the lawmakers all have the same opinion, there is not a lot of freedom?  When we consider the alternative, Congress does not look so bad.

Let’s examine how the Founding Fathers thought. Madison wrote:

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

James Madison

James Madison – Chief Architect of the Constitution

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. (Federalist 10)

Let me recap.

Madison reasoned that you only have two choices: remove the causes or control its effects. If we try to remove the cause, we destroy our own liberty. The only viable solution is to control the effects.

 The First Amendment Has A Dark Side Too

In the wake of this tragedy, the Westboro Family Cult (I refuse to dignify them with the term “Baptist Church” as this is an insult to Baptists everywhere) announced that it was going to protest at the funerals in Connecticut.

They protest against America, reveling in God’s judgement. They disrupt funerals of fallen soldiers and other solemn venues (e.g. the Holocaust museum as pictured below) in order to gain publicity and attract lawsuits when their rights are violated. It is a shakedown operation using protected non-profit “church” status and the First Amendment as foils for the venom that they inject into society.

WestBoro Baptist Church

Condemn them, ignore them, or  encircle them with bikers as Patriot Guard Riders have done at funerals (in order to drown out their protests). But, do not compound the evil by attempting to remove the cause. As horrific as the the Westboro Family Cult is, it would be a far greater tragedy for the government to remove non-profit status for churches or restrict 1st Amendment religion or speech rights because of their abuses of the system.

The Solution

Madison concluded, “that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.” Why? Because the “causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.”

Now this is point. If the problem is internal (e.g. the heart of man), external solutions will not work.

The Second Amendment

We think of guns as a useful means to ward off criminals. It is, but it is more than that. It is also a preventative measure to thwart future tyranny.

In its historical context, the Founders reasoned that the people would never be subdued by an oppressive government (theirs or another) as long as the people were armed and free.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityLiberals who rabidly defend the first amendment should apply the same logic to the second. We can destroy the liberty of citizens by removing firearms, but if the problem is the heart of man, strict controls on firearms will not cure what ails us and we will lose liberty in the process.

Guns in Newton, CT; machetes in Rwanda; improvised explosive devices (IED) in Iraq. What’s the common denominator? Evil in the Heart of man (not guns). Unless you can change the heart, your only remedy is to control the effects.

What do you think? I would like to know.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 17, 2012

UPDATE:  Looking for solutions? Have a solution? Read my next article:

Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers (Part II – Solutions)

_______________

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

22 Comments

Filed under Current Events, Effectiveness, Leadership, Misc., Poltics