A short while ago I had a little discussion with one Virus-X on the topic of gun control, which ended when I twice attempted to post a comment to address some of the points he had raised, and twice saw my comment slip into a moderation queue, then disappear. Having been accused of dishonesty prior to this, I can’t say I was too impressed to then see my reply vanish. I subsequently posted it, and a summary of our gun discussion, right here, then followed this up a little while later with a critical look at his take on democracy. Virus-X has responded and my reply to his rebuttal will end up being posted directly to him, but it will also be posted here, so that an accurate record of the discussion exists – archiving via the Wayback Machine may also take place, for the sake of posterity. My original post regarding the issue of democracy can be found here.

So people are clear, Virus-X’s response to my article was added onto his original article – as before, I have placed his words in pink. Any quotations he makes from other sources will be in green.

Update:  Internet liberals took it upon themselves to criticize my page, and my disdain for socialism.  This is me fisking his long response that he tried to have me get into, on his own page.  I told him that if he had anything to say to me, next time, do it on my page, because I have no desire to go to  his.  I didn’t go to his page to challenge his viewpoint, he came to mine for that.  If you do that, you argue here, not elsewhere.  Anyhow, here’s the link to his blatherings that he believes I’m obligated to respond to, for context:

http://meerkatmusings.co.uk/democracy/

It ought to be noted straight away, for the sake of accuracy, that I do not believe he is obligated to respond to anything. That being said, the reason I posted to my own site rather than his is because of the previous, disappearing post fiasco on his gun post. Maybe there were technical gremlins that day, but for the same comment to twice disappear, after twice ending in a moderation queue where previously things had been ok, gave me cause to wonder if any further comments would get through. At any rate, he would have been immediately aware of my own post, thanks to WordPress setting up a ping whenever someone links to a page.

Like most apparent liberals, you choose to re-arrange language to suit your mood, at the moment. Nothing in the section you outlined even mentions the word “democracy”, and elections are not peculiar to democracies. Even communist governments have votes (but they’re just not for the people). Socialist governments, such as in the UK, have votes. Voting rights are not something that only exist in democracies. Apparently, you’re unfamiliar with basic history.

NUMBER:

1593

AUTHOR:

Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)

QUOTATION:

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

ATTRIBUTION:

The response is attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation—in the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.McHenry’s notes were first published in The American Historical Review,vol. 11, 1906, and the anecdote on p. 618 reads: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” When McHenry’s notes were included in The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, ed. Max Farrand, vol. 3, appendix A, p. 85 (1911, reprinted 1934), a footnote stated that the date this anecdote was written is uncertain.

SUBJECTS:

Republic

WORKS:

Benjamin Franklin Collection

Hmmm.

For some reason, Franklin didn’t call the emerging government a “democracy”. Perhaps there is a difference? Again, in your mental dishonesty to twist arguments and gain 5 minutes of Internet fame, you avoid looking into such differences. Here, let me do the 30 seconds of footwork for you:

http://madisonproject.com/2013/09/we-the-people-a-constitutional-republic-not-a-democracy/

The weird table won’t go into quote bubbles, so apologies if things look a little askew. At any rate, before moving on, let’s define what a democracy is.The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines democracy as:

the belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of governmentbased on this belief, in which power is either held by electedrepresentatives or directly by the people themselves:

The government has promised to uphold the principles of democracy.
The early 1990s saw the spread of democracy in EasternEurope.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has this to say.
1 a: government by the people; especially: rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections2: a political unit that has a democratic government

3capitalized: the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the U.S.

  • from emancipation Republicanism to New Deal Democracy
  • —C. M. Roberts4: the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
5: the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges What system does the United States employ? Are there principles of equality, freedom and representation of the people, either directly or indirectly? The answer is a clear yes. Just because the US is not officially referred as a democracy doesn’t mean that democratic principles aren’t at work. The absence of the word from the Constitution is merely a poor attempt to split hairs. To take an example from later on, where Virus-X brings up Venezuela as an example of democracy. Interestingly, both the US and Venezuela are classed not as democracies but as presidential republics – if we are to turn Virus-X’s logic on its head, what does this say about the existing system in the US?
The answer here is obviously that it says nothing. Virus-X is attempting semantics, and arguments around semantics and minutia simply don’t hold water. Let’s move on.

It’s funny you should say that:

democracy only works if the ‘right’ candidate wins

because people that think like you (liberals) say exactly the same thing.

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/306350-sudden-liberal-opposition-to-electoral-college-not

Well.

Isn’t that a coincidence? However, you can keep getting exercise walking the strawman, pretending elections are only aspects of democracies, and not republics and constitutional republics.

Quite aside from Virus-X taking my remark out of context, it is worth noting that both sides of the political divide will make the argument, however it’s also worth questioning the value of a system that allows the least popular candidate to win the election. That is in itself an irrelevance, since it does nothing to rebuke my argument that the US is a democracy. By definition, since free elections are held on a regular basis, the US is a democracy. Are democracies perfect? Of course not. Are they better than one-party communist states, theocracies and dictatorships? Absolutely. Nor does a democracy have to be called a democracy in order to be a democracy, so once again, Virus-X is splitting hairs.
“Cast your minds back to a discussion I had on the subject of guns and Constitutional rights. It appears that the Constitution is to be used selectively – we can apparently ignore it when it comes to support for representative ideals.”
Yep. And I just posted an article about how leftists are doing that very thing. However, this isn’t about guns, it’s about government types. Maybe you should try keeping on topic. If you want to talk about guns, that can be done in another thread.
It seems Virus-X either does not understand the point raised or is being deliberately obtuse. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t get the point I was making, so I’ll clarify – on this occasion, he, as the staunch right-wing conservative (as other staunch conservatives have done) is quite happy to be selective with the parts of the Constitution he wishes to apply, and selective still further in other ways. Apparently the right to have access to lethal weapons with little in the way of checks and balances is absolutely immutable, yet the idea of representation and elections? He pours scorn on these ideals when he pours scorn on the democratic ideals the Constitution speaks of (and once more, for the record, the absence of the word doesn’t mean the principle doesn’t exist).

No, actually the gamut, if there is one, is coming from you. Since you’re quite obviously ignorant of the mechanics of government, I’ll educate you: representative government is not endemic only to democracies, but also constitutional republics, like the United States of America. What you’re doing is throwing out yet another strawman, in publishing what is a clear lie, stating:

“It appears the opening gambit is to accuse anyone who favours a system of representative rule of being an ‘unwashed leftie’, which, quite aside from being quite the insult to anyone who identifies as left wing, rather ignores all the right wing individuals who consider democracy to be a cornerstone of freedom.”

Allow me to educate Virus-X – a democracy is a system where two or more parties take part in free elections on a regular basis. This is not my definition, but rather the offcial definition of several dictionaries. Meanwhile, several former presidents, including Republican president George W Bush, had a few things to say about democracy:

Through much of the last century, America’s faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations. Our democratic faith is more than the creed of our country, it is the inborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not own, a trust we bear and pass along. And even after nearly 225 years, we have a long way yet to travel.

I would hope Virus-X is not suggesting he knows better than a former president (and Republican at that). Then we have Ronald Reagan, who once said:

Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/ronald_reagan_387305

George Bush Sr (another Republican at that) is quoted as saying the following:

I’ll never apologize for the United States. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are,” Bush told about 200 members of his newly formed Coalition of American Nationalities, a group with representatives of ethnic backgrounds from about two dozen countries. Bush attributed his indiscriminate support for the nation to his belief that the United States is “the only hope for freedom and democracy” in the world and that “no other country is strong enough to lead the free world.”

I would imagine that presidents are required to have a reasonable understanding of the Constitution that they swear to uphold – and I would imagine they do in fact have a greater understanding of it than most.

There is more, a lot more, but given the aggressive tone that Virus-X directs toward me at almost every turn, plus (more seriously) the demands on my time (most importantly I am a father, also a husband, and I have recently started a new job), I don’t consider it worthwhile to delve into every last detail that Virus-X has seen fit to expand. Barring any dramatic changes to any one of a number of circumstances, I feel it is unlikely I’ll respond directly to him again, though we shall see.

I’m on a long train ride and I need to occupy my mind, so here goes with some more thoughts on Star Trek Discovery and the attitude towards the show of some elements of the fandom.

I recently started stumbled upon an article written by a Twitter user by the name of Skrishna. https://twitter.com/skrishna/status/937793666093023232

Now, the article in question does a great job of drawing attention to the false dilemma idea of ‘true Trek’, in particular along the lines of racist and homophobic stances. It is painful and frankly pathetic that there are fans out there who seriously resent the presence of a black woman as the lead character, and the existence of a same-sex relationship. Star Trek has always been about the message of bettering humanity and one’s self, of working together and understanding our differences. It’s the core principle of the show. If you’re going to rally against Discovery for doing exactly the same thing that every Star Trek show has tried to do, then Star Trek isn’t for you.

There’s also a very interesting little segment regarding ‘gatekeepers’. Self-anointed champions of the franchise, guardians of the ‘true Trek’ mantle, people who place a greater emphasis on canon than stories and ideas and ideals. The article infers (and I dare say it is true in some instances, albeit it not all) that this activity – the noise about canon and continuity – is a cover for the resentment and bitterness over the positive racial and same-sex relationship messages in the show. It is used as an excuse to get fans to turn off Discovery and to create doubt over whether fans of Discovery are even fans of Star Trek. There are some fans that seek to create this divide regardless, purely over the continuity issues – that in my view is petty; the ones doing it to support their racist, homophobic, misogynist agendas are just horrible.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that this article met with a bit of backlash. It’s worth highlighting the tweet (you may need to click on it to see the (now deleted) comment, but it’s a telling insight into the (in my view) over-the-top attitudes of some fans who feel they can dictate to other fans what Star Trek is, and who are proving just as good at creating a divide as anyone else, through the obviously obnoxious and divisive ‘true Trek’ rhetoric.

In one sense I get it. People do invest a lot of time and energy into the things they love and they want those things to have meaning. However, emotional and philosophical connections to a show are, to me at least, more important than the design of the Klingons or the presence of the weird technology on the USS Discovery. I don’t find it reasonable to tell other fans they’re not really fans of Star Trek if they like Discovery. I don’t think harbouring a divisive attitude then fighting tooth and nail to lay all the blame at the feet of Discovery fans, even going as far as to use a term intended to imply links between Discovery defenders and the radical ideology of the Taliban, is fair or reasonable. That’s just gifting the racists and homophobes ammunition.

This is the final part of a little discussion I’ve been having regarding guns, with one ‘Virus-X’. This final part of the exchange formed my final comment to him on this matter, which firstly got put into a moderation queue (not necessarily unusual), and then disappeared. I therefore post it here, and have also archived the original post by Virus-X, as well as the entire exchange, via the Wayback Machine, for posterity and accuracy. It should be noted that I do not regard Virus-X as representing the attitudes of any and every American toward guns, and that I have no problem with gun ownership per se. I do have to wonder why the idea that virtually unregulated access to weapons is seen as somehow making society safer, when all the evidence points to the opposite.

[QUOTE]By the way, how many of those homicides were justifiable? You do realize there is a distinction between justifiable homicide, and unjustifiable homicide, right? And, previously, you were complaining about my bringing up the UK and other nations. Actually, YOU were the first one to do that. I never mentioned it anywhere in the article, and it wasn’t mentioned, until you tried using it as a justification for an argument to violate Human Rights in the United States, as they are in the UK.[/QUOTE]

This will be, for now, my final direct response to you on this issue (though I reserve the right to dissect your posts in more detail, via my own site, if I feel it a worthy use of my time).

If you’re going to claim that somehow, the vast majority of the much higher homicides in the USA are justifiable, whilst elsewhere, they’re not, then I’ll trust you to back up your claims. Meanwhile, I’ll point out (yet again), that the national comparison is one where *you* wanted to make this solely about the USA and UK, whereas I was always making a wider comparison, one that you didn’t want to acknowledge. Furthermore, anyone glancing at the comments will see that my first comment didn’t mention other nations at all – your reply on the other hand, kept mentioning how we’re apparently not free here in the UK, and after that, I brought up several other nations as a point of comparison, whilst you have fixated on a simple UK vs US comparison.

By the way, if you practice what you preach and actually *look* at the details, you’ll see that the data on homicides involves intentional homicide (in other words, murder). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

[QUOTE]And if you’ve been doing your homework, you’re not getting a passing grade. I haven’t ignored gun homicide, at all. The whole article was pointing to the fact that many unjustifiable homicides would be prevented, if more potential victims were armed. So, no, you’re wrong, again, in suggesting I’m “ignoring” it, at all. You, on the other hand, completely ignore, time and again, every answer presented in every evidentiary video, so I’m not going to present them, anymore, because you only look at what you want to look at, while accusing me of doing the same thing.[/QUOTE]

You *are* ignoring evidence, in favour of Youtube videos. Every piece of statistical data demonstrates that countries with more robust gun laws have lower homicide rates. As mentioned in my previous post (which you have must have skimmed through), the total murder rates of the UK, Japan and France are *lower* than the USA’s murder rate with guns alone. It’s not a co-incidence that all three nations have stronger gun regulations than the USA.

I asked you why the US has a DEcreasing problem with violent crime, while experiencing an INcrease in legal gun ownership. Again, you ignored the question, and continued to make comparisons to the UK, France and Canada, dodging the question.[/QUOTE]

I haven’t dodged anything. You more or less admitted that the measuring criteria between the UK and USA is different and haven’t been able to justify why we should apply different yardsticks.

I quote:

DEFINING VIOLENT CRIME ==============================

United Kingdom:

“Violent crime contains a wide range of offences, from minor assaults such as pushing and shoving that result in no physical harm through to serious incidents of wounding and murder. Around a half of violent incidents identified by both BCS and police statistics involve no injury to the victim.” (THOSB – CEW, page 17, paragraph 1.)

United States:

“In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force.”   (FBI – CUS – Violent Crime)

So in the UK there is a much broader definition of violent crime, covering a wider range of incidents.

When the numbers are looked into more thoroughly (I suggest you read this link – https://dispellingthemythukvsusguns.wordpress.com/), it appears you are in fact more likely to be a victim of rape in the US, more likely to be raped, much more likely to be murdered, and more likely to be a victim of aggravated assault. This rather rubbishes the implication that the UK is a more dangerous place than the USA. Even if we accept as fact that the UK’s rate of violence is rising and the USA’s is decreasing, it doesn’t change the fact that the US remains more dangerous in several aspects, and to just to make sure it sinks in, those aspects are murder, rape, and aggravated assault.

[QUOTE]“So the presence of more guns doesn’t necessarily reduce the rate of robbery, though it does increase the likelihood of a fatal incident during a robbery.” That’s the POINT. If someone’s trying to rob you, or commit some other violent crime against you, that’s the point of firearm ownership.[quote]

Then it’s a pretty lousy point. The risk of serious injury or even death is dramatically reduced in nations with more robust gun control measures – firearms were used in 40% of robberies in the USA, and fatalities are three times as likely during a robbery with a firearm than without. If the same level of robbery is taking place, with or without guns, yet with guns they are far more likely to turn deadly, I fail to see how this demonstrates guns somehow reduce the problem, or make the situation better.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/2579469

[QUOTE]You also ignored your own point that the violent crime is concentrated in major cities (of which the US has far more than the entirety of the UK). This means more people, with the possibility of more criminality. It also shows that the per capita rates are skewed, thanks to those cities, which have political structures and gun laws more closely matched to your own, instead of what is legal and just. One of the first videos I posted addressed that, and showed what the crime rate would actually be, minus those cities. Those facts were ignored, too. Again, you’ve ignored the evidence the crime is dropping in the US, but not in the UK, and, again, your arguments have amounted to nothing more than European extreme Hoplophobia.[/QUOTE]

The fact that you wish to move the goalposts is in itself an act of dishonesty. Let’s compare several major cities and their crime rates, as well as their policies regarding deadly weapons…

New York: New York has been one of the best examples of how to reduce crime levels, and funnily enough has some pretty reasonable laws on guns. However, as of 2012, there were 5.6 homicides per 100,000 people. https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2012/nov/30/deadliest-cities-worldwide-murder-rates-interactive

Tokyo had just 0.4 in 2012, London just 1.6 and Seoul 2.6. Berlin had 1.8 and Mumbai 1.3.

Tokyo follows the same strict gun control laws as the rest of Japan, and 78% of Japan’s population live in urban areas. This is only slightly smaller than the US figure of 80%. Tokyo’s murder rate was fourteen times lower than New York’s in 2012.

Around 80% of South Korea’s population also live in urban areas and South Korea has strict gun laws. Seoul follows the same laws as the rest of the country.

So the idea that greater urban populations somehow skews figures has been thoroughly debunked. It gets scorned still further – the UK urban population is similar to the USA’s, standing at around 81%. The same is true for Germany (75%). The only country to buck this trend out of the ones compared is India.

With that in mind, the conclusions are pretty clear – greater urbanisation does not lead to greater homicide rates, at least in countries where robust gun control laws exist.

On the Freedom Argument

This is, frankly, an absurdity that flies in the face of common sense. It must have escaped your attention that we held a general election in this country earlier on this year, as we have on many occasions. Last year we held a referendum on leaving the EU. We can protest our government and criticise our political leaders (I’ve done that myself, on a few occasions). We are not so lacking in confidence and faith in our sense of freedom that we need a prop, a crutch, in the form of a lethal weapon, to uphold it.

 

 

 

Following a recent discussion over the pros and cons of gun control measures (and the wider question of whether guns actually make a location safer), I feel compelled to offer up a few facts…

Homicide Rates

Data collected from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC for short) reveals that the USA had the highest homicide rate per 100,000 people of developed nations, circa 2015, with a figure of 4.88 homicides. How does this compare to other developed nations? We’ll look at a set of countries for a fair comparison.

2. Belgium: 1.95 homicides per 100,000 people (again, circa 2015, which will be the case unless stated).

3. Canada: (2012) 1.68 per 100,000.

4. France: 1.58.

5. Romania: 1.49.

6. Sweden: 1.15.

7. Denmark: 0.99.

8. Australia: 0.98.

9. United Kingdom (2014): 0.92

10. Germany: 0.85.

11. Italy: 0.78.

12. South Korea (2014): 0.74.

13. Spain: 0.66.

14. Republic of Ireland: 0.64.

15. Japan (2014): 0.31.

So the homicide in the USA is nearly three times higher than that of Canada’s, more than five times higher than in the UK, and fifteen times higher than Japan’s.

Of course, it’s not necessarily as simple as ‘more guns = more homicides’. With that in mind, what percentage of homicides in these countries are carried out by firearms?

Well, as of 2014, the USA had 3.6 firearm homicides per 100,000 people. Granted, the total figure for homicides is from 2015, however, as the FBI’s own data shows, firearm homicides have consistently remained by far the highest percentage of total homicides. 3.6 is approximately 74% of 4.88 – it is actually more likely that the percentage is closer to 65%, accounting for a direct comparison of total homicides in 2014, versus firearm homicides in 2014. Nevertheless, a clear majority of US homicides are carried out with a firearm.

The second country on the list is Belgium. Belgium recorded 1.95 homicides per 100,000 in 2015, as of 2010 guns could be attributed to 0.33 homicides per 100,000 people.

In Canada (though we must again allow for a margin of error, as the homicide by gun figures are from 2013), the figure stands at 0.38 of 1.68. This is around 22%. Therefore, Canada has not only a much lower homicide rate, but also a much lower homicide rate involving guns. Canada, co-incidentally, has more stringent laws surrounding guns than the USA does.

Up next is France. France is yet another nation to put into place more rigid gun control measures. 0.21 firearm homicides in France in 2012, meaning just over 13% of homicides involved guns.

Romania is next on that list and has some of the strictest laws on gun ownership of anywhere in the world. In 2012 0.04 per 100,000 people were killed in homicides by guns. Again, there is likely to be a small discrepancy in the numbers, as we’re comparing different years, but this is also likely to be nominal. With these figures, 2.7% of homicides in Romania involved firearms.

Is a pattern emerging yet? Canada, France and Romania all have tighter laws regarding firearms, all have lower overall homicide rates and all have lower homicide rates involving firearms. Let’s pick a few more countries shall we?

Contrary to popular belief and misconceptions, firearms can be owned in the UK. There are are however, tight rules on what sort of firearms are available and how to go about obtaining a licence for them. As of 2011 (we must again allow a small fudge factor) 0.06 homicides involved guns – meaning roughly 6.5% of homicides in the UK involved guns.

The data from Japan is from 2008 and so somewhat dated compared to other nations, but shows a homicide from guns as zero. In reality there will be a small number, but if Japan’s recent record is anything to go by, it may well not even make double digits. Japan has incredibly strict laws on guns, amounting to more or less a complete ban.

By now the pattern is clear. Countries with stronger gun control laws have fewer homicides with or without guns. In fact, with 3.66 per 100,000 homicides involving guns in the USA, there are less homicides in total in the UK, France and Japan combined.

What about other forms of Violence?

One popular piece of misdirection is to distract from the homicide figures to focus on other crimes. ‘Guns reduce incidences of robbery, assault, rape etc.’ Quite why homicide is ignored when it is arguably the most serious of all violent crimes is beyond me, but nevertheless, is there any truth to this claim?

Let’s start with robbery. In 2014 the USA actually scored better than several of the other nations listed, but also much worse than several others. The USA had nearly double the robbery rate per 100,000 people of the UK and Germany, 40% more than Canada, and far more than Japan. It fared better than Belgium, France and Spain. In 2016, 41% of all robberies in the USA involved firearms. In the UK, the broad trend of robbery with firearms shows a decline. In Canada, the percentage of robberies with guns is roughly 20%, or half that of the USA.

It has long been regarded by people who have studied the crime of robbery that, even if removing guns from the equation did not reduce the number of robberies, it would almost certainly reduce the number of fatal incidents when robberies do occur. The presence of guns as a deterrent is an idea which is clearly not working.

Which brings up an interesting point. The pro-gun side (or, more precisely, the anti-regulation side, as you can be pro-gun but also in favour of stronger regulations) often argues that easier access to guns can save lives. Statistically speaking, this is not true of the USA, as the earlier link demonstrates. There’s no evidence to suggest an increased presence of guns on the streets reduces violent crime, and plenty to suggest that ease of access to guns plays a massive part in the homicide rate – itself the most serious and violent of all crimes.

For instance, when considering another violent, serious crime – rape – is the USA better or worse than the other comparison nations? As per 2010, the answer was generally worse. The USA had a marginally lower rape rate than Australia (27.3 compared to 28.6) and a much higher rate than Germany (9.4), Spain (3.4) and Japan (1.0).

Conclusions

Guns clearly contribute to higher homicide rates, and countries that have taken steps to introduce stricter controls have lower homicide rates. As already mentioned, the combined rate of total homicides across several nations is lower than the homicide rate with only firearms in the USA. The rate of robbery is, by and large, an inconsistent mixture of results, with some countries with tighter gun controls faring worse than the USA, and some faring better. However, there is a much higher likelihood of a robbery turning deadly where guns are involved. The USA also has a bigger problem with rape.

Freedoms and Rights

One argument I have been presented with, more than once, is the idea that a gun offers freedom, and that living in countries with tougher gun laws equates to not being free. To me, this is reflective of a very different mind set when it comes to guns, based on history. As you will see, the weaponry available during the time of the American Revolution was very different to the weapons of today. It was felt that an armed populace would keep the government in check, but back then, the weaponry available to both the armed forces and the civilian population was very similar. Flash forward to today, and the armed forces of the USA have access not only to superior weaponry, but vastly superior training, and are far more disciplined than the average citizen when it comes to using these weapons. This is to say nothing of the presence of tanks, warplanes and drones.

If the US government decided to become a tyrannical dictatorship tomorrow, complete with the backing of the police and military, would the presence of a semi-armed population, many of whom would lack the training and discipline of the average soldier, really make a difference (even with the generous assumption that every US citizen with a gun would take up arms against their government)?

The equation of guns = freedom is, in my humble opinion, a dangerous one. It has moved from a healthy respect for a deadly weapon, to one that borders on worship. It has reached a level where to even hint at tightening laws is seen as blasphemy, just as daring to suggest the Constitution (written to reflect different types of weapons) is fallible is treated as blasphemy. The irony is, the Constitution has been amended before, to reflect changing political, social and cultural forces.

Meanwhile, to suggest we are not free here in the UK is to commit a very obvious fallacy. We can and do hold local and general elections on a regular basis. We can hold protests. We can criticise our government and political parties. We can hold referendums. It’s my suggestion to those who think that the gun is the only mean to uphold freedom, to stop and consider that freedom cannot be defined by the barrel of a deadly weapon.

Back to What I Think

Is freedom the right to have one of these?

wpid-wp-1444030168901.jpg

Or the right to do this…

MusicConcert

… without fear?

Some (and I must emphasise, only some) of the Americans I know insist that the Constitution be treated as sacrosanct, their right to bear arms immutable. Is it morally correct to regard the right to have virtually unrestricted access to a lethal weapon as being superior to the right of people to be able to enjoy a music festival, or go to work, or even school, without the potential threat of being killed?

Some might argue – ‘someone could pick up a knife and use that as a weapon’. ‘A car or a truck is a weapon in the wrong hands’. True, on both counts, but could the Las Vegas killer have killed 59 people with a knife? Would he have been able to kill 59 people with a car? Knifes and vehicles are not designed as deadly weapons – a gun’s sole purpose is to kill. It is far more effective at this than a knife.

Case in point, in 2014 just over 33,000 people were killed by firearms in the USA – the same number killed in motor vehicle accidents. You might be thinking, ‘how does this help your argument?’ Well, bear with me.

The USA has an estimated population of 323,127,513. 85% (274,658,386) own or have access to a car. As of 2016 36% of Americans (116,325,904) own at least one gun. Therefore, you are more than twice as likely to be killed by a gun in the USA than by a car. Let that sink in for a moment – less than half of US citizens actually have a gun, yet guns are responsible for as many deaths per year as cars, which nearly every American owns or has access to.

It doesn’t stop there. There are claims that locations with stricter gun controls have higher incidents of gun crime. Is this true, and if so, is it as simple as suggested?

Chicago is often cited as an example of where strict gun control laws cause an increase in crime. The situation is actually more complicated than that, and at any rate, the problem of gun violence in the USA as a whole is unique to America’s fascination to these deadly weapons. Entire countries have enacted tougher gun laws and these countries have correspondingly lower homicide rates. Take for example, the UK.

After the Dunblane tragedy, strict new laws were drafted to prevent anything like that from ever happening again. So far, 21 years on, we have not seen a repeat of that horrible event. Overall, Britain has a lower homicide rate than the USA – 0.92 per 100,000 people, compared to 4.88 per 100,000, whilst the rate with a gun is 0.06 in the UK, versus 3.60 in the USA. This also means that gun homicides account for more than half of homicides in the USA.

In Japan, where gun laws are extremely strict, homicides by gun are so low they are measured in single digit figures, and the overall homicide rate is just 0.31 per 100,000. In countries such as Germany (where guns are in fact quite prevalent) the homicide rate with guns is 0.07 – Germany’s laws on guns are robust with plenty of checks in place. Their total homicide rate is 0.85.

So the UK, Japan and Germany have all taken different approaches to gun control, and all have not only lower homicide rates with guns, but lower homicide rates overall. This seems pretty conclusive, so why do Americans remain unwilling to make any changes to their gun laws? The problem appears to be cultural more than anything – the right to bear arms reflects the right, in part at least, to resist the government in the event that they tried to develop into a totalitarian regime. This might have held true in an era with a smaller population and a relatively level playing field in terms of the weaponry, but today? Could comparatively untrained ‘militias’ hold off a well-trained army with access to tanks and warplanes? This scenario also applies to foreign invasions.

‘What about the right to defend property?’

It’s true that people want to be able to defend their homes in the event of a burglary or home invasion. However, there is every chance, under the current trends of US society, for the would-be burglar to also be armed. Is that a preferable scenario to one where no one is armed?

More importantly, is the right to bear arms more important than the right to life?

 

Back in October 2015, I wrote an article regarding gun crime and American attitudes to these weapons. Among the details, I talked about how gun crime in the US compared to other countries, circa 2012. In the wake of the terrible events that unfolded in Las Vegas yesterday, and despite claims by certain parties that this matter should not be discussed yet (when is a good time to discuss it, one wonders?), I’m going to once again tackle the attitudes that Americans (and I must stress, not all Americans) have toward guns.

It’s an historical relationship, enshrined in the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, a document written centuries ago, during a very different era. It came into being in December 1791, and followed on from the Declaration of Independence and the tensions leading up to the Revolutionary War. As a matter of note, the 2nd Amendment took inspiration from an English Bill of Rights, one that spoke of the right to self-defense, the right to resist invaders and resistance to oppression. During the turbulent times of the Revolution and the formative years of the USA, the right to bear arms (perhaps even a need) would have proven important to the protection of one’s family, from both thieves/raiders, and the possibility of a tyrannical government/government forces. Taking up arms to repel invaders would have been seen as a patriotic duty.

These documents were drawn up to reflect weapons that bear little resemblance to the firearms of today. Unwieldy, inaccurate and slow to reload, these were nothing like the rifles and pistols and machine guns of today. As time has gone by, the US has developed a police force and a military to take over civic duties and national defence. The original right to bear arms in the 2nd Amendment is not reflective of these changes. Instead, some 55 million Americans have firearms, and access to them is made easy. You don’t even need a permit in many US states.

Despite the popular claim from pro-gun lobbies, the prevalence of guns in US society does not make people safer – in fact, quite the opposite. States with more guns have more gun-related deaths. This also pans out on a national level – with the USA leading the way on this by a considerable margin – just check out the statistics from this page.

This isn’t just about murders and mass shootings – it is far easier to commit suicide with a gun, and this is also reflected in the link above.

I can’t advocate banning guns completely from US society – I don’t understand the love affair with a deadly weapon, but it’s something that’s deeply engrained into US culture and not about to change. However, as I have said elsewhere, the definition of insanity (or stupidity) is repeating the same thing over and over again, whilst expecting a different outcome. Every time a mass shooting happens, we hear that it’s not the right time to talk about gun control, and every time a mass shooting happens, nothing changes. Access to these deadly weapons remains very easy. Other countries have taken steps to introduce much tighter regulations and have seen sharp reductions in death rates from guns, and a drop in homicide rates overall. These are not co-incidences.


It won’t be long now before the sixth series of Star Trek hits the TV screens. Annoyingly, the plan is to air Star Trek Discovery behind a ‘pay wall’, namely by sticking on the streaming service Netflix. To be, this goes against the ideals of inclusiveness and openness that Star Trek is all about. Yes, studios want to make money and I get that streaming is big business, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. I’ll not be paying out still more money for the sake of one show, even if Star Trek is wired into my DNA. 


That aside, this post isn’t really a rant about that, but rather, it’s about the ferocious criticisms of a show that hasn’t even aired yet. I’ve seen posts on Twitter that complain this show ‘is made for social justice warriors’ and that they won’t be watching it – for those of you wondering what’s meant by that, their issue is with a black female lead, a Chinese woman as a captain and the inclusion of at least one homosexual character. 


Guys, this is Star Trek, a franchise built upon challenging misconceptions and giving social issues a platform. Anyone who’s seen the original 1960s show will be fully aware of the social commentary on offer, to say nothing of the controversy it generated. Subsequent shows have continued to offer up this sort of thing. It’s what Star Trek does. Besides, the tantrums being thrown on the web at the idea of women in charge only go to show why putting them in charge in necessary. Something needs to push back against this sort of misogyny, and it’s not just misogyny.

Racism plays a part in the objections too. I don’t recall the idea of Captain Janeway – a woman – in Voyager creating nearly as much of a backlash as the casting of Michelle Yeoh as Captain Han Bo and Sonequa Martin as Commander Rainsford. Might it be because Yeoh is Chinese and Martin is black? Are we not only as a fanbase hung up on female leads, but on race as well? 


Come on people. Star Trek was placing black women on the bridge of a starship in the 1960s. Have we made no progress since then? Are we not a fanbase of inclusion? Where are the principles of diversity and equality that the show itself has long practiced? Let’s not shame ourselves by rejecting the core message at the heart of the franchise. We are not sexist, or racist, or homophobic. Let’s be better than that.

I saw this on Twitter, earlier today, and wanted to correct a few misconceptions.

Firstly, atheism and communism are not one and the same. I have this argument brought up again and again as a sign that those of a religious faith are more ‘moral’ and better than atheists. You can be a communist and an atheist. You can be a communist and a Christian, or a communist and a Muslim. You can a capitalist and an atheist (and so on). This is a classic example of ‘false equivalence’, a problem that seems to be growing in the wake of Trump’s ill-fated words on the Charlottesville riots. That the followers of Stalin’s breed of communism carried out so many atrocities has nothing to do with the absence of faith. Atheists do not see themselves as gods, and do not act in the interests of only themselves (well, some of them perhaps, some of them don’t, but guess what, this applies to people who are religious too, no matter what they may say). This swings back to discussions and comments on the subject of morality. It also wants to treat various blocs of people as monolithic entities. ‘All atheists think X, all Christians think Y, all Muslims think Z’. This is completely false. It’s a method of thinking that gives rise to all sorts of unreasonable stereotypes that end up doing far more harm than good.

People have died in the name of political causes, cultural ideals, and yes, religious beliefs. Morality is not something that can be sourced only through divine ideas. Anyone, from any walk of life, is capable of being cruel. Equally, anyone is capable of acts of great compassion. Can we move past the idea that only the faithful can be moral?

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There has been a lot of chatter about the now infamous Google Memo and its ramifications, plus discussion over whether the sacking of James Damore was justified. Was he merely exercising his right of expression? Was he treated unfairly? Is the content of his memo worth examining in any great detail for factual content, or is it unsubstantiated bullshit?
If you want to read the memo, you can find it here – you may need a PDF reader to view it.
For all the ideas that Google is somehow biased toward women (and there’s also a hint at a bias toward ethnic minorities), Google’s main employee base is still the white male.
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Damore goes on to suggest that ‘biological differences’ explain why men are better suited to leadership and status-driven roles. Unsurprisingly, women have reacted quite angrily to the suggestion they cannot do such jobs, and there is no reason to believe they can’t either – learning coding and other computer-based work is not a matter of biology – what the memo reveals is a damning lack of understanding of what it takes to be a woman in the workplace, especially somewhere like Silicon Valley, where women have to jump through hoops just to be heard.
Historically women have been forbidden from working in certain fields, due to the idea that they are too emotional, or too fragile, to handle them. Even today, in parts of the world such as the USA and the UK, women make up a small percentage of people entering into computing, yet in other parts of the world, women are demonstrating a passion for things like coding – Malaysia for example, and India. There is also no biological basis for the assumption that women suffer more from anxiety.
So whilst some folks jump up and down about the oppressive left and it’s evil views, it’s worth remembering that sexism is alive and strong within the computing and engineering field, and people like Damore encourage it, under the guise of rallying against political correctness. The reality? They don’t want to lose their privileged positions.

Trump is a man who doesn’t know what he’s doing – or maybe he knows exactly what he’s doing, hence his backtracking on his earlier backtracking.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Trump said:

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,”

“What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (…) There are two sides to a story.”

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Whoa! Hold the phone for a second! Does Trump seriously believe the opponents of the facism, racism and anti-Semitism that was on such open display are somehow equally responsible for what happened the other day? Which side came armed with guns and which side had a member who drove a car into people?

Trump is now drawing fire from his own party, who surely must eject him sooner rather than later, if they are to preserve their political future? Senator John McCain tweeted:

Whereas Trump has proven quite happy to jump to conclusions about radical Islam, his need to apparently wait for the ‘facts’ about this, not to mention suggesting there were ‘good people’ mixed in with the white supremacists, only goes to show that Trump knows who and what a large chunk of his support base is, and not only is he fine with that, he doesn’t want to risk alienating them by criticising their violent antics.

Trump is now effectively being open about his bigotry. He is the Bigot-in-Chief. To my American friends, and to any Americans that read this – consider the direction you want your nation to take.

P.S: Josh on his Friday Blog has written some excellent posts on why we shouldn’t be tolerating Nazis and their ideals, in case for some strange reason you think we should be open to listening to Nazis.