03 January 2010

For fear of the guilty

The following is a posting from The Jacksonian Party.

Some decades ago I remember reading a story or set of stories in Analog magazine that had as its basis a very interesting question: if becoming a criminal had a genetic basis what would we do as a society?

The set-up was that every individual convicted of a pre-meditated, violent or crime of passion had a few genes in common, without exception. No one that did not have those genes was convicted for those crimes, although crimes of oversight and accident did include them. The overall population that had this set of genes in society was of a given percent, approximately 25 to 30%, but that only indicated a genetic predisposition to committing crimes, not a certainty of it.

Legally this has ramifications for criminal suspects: if a violent crime has happened you can cross off those without the predisposition and you are left with those who have it. But that does not help if an accident or other mishap that has no intention behind it and is purely by chance or lack of skill yields a violent seeming crime. Thus examining crimes means exhausting all the ways that non-intentional circumstances could yield the crime as well as looking at all the intentional ways, and while the intentional would have a limited number of people to check off, the non-intentional still has the entire population of those with and without the predisposition that need checking out.

Taken a step further what would this mean for employment? Would you want individuals with such a predisposition in National Security positions? As police officers? Would you vote for someone with that predisposition? Would there be changes to, say, life insurance or health insurance coverage rates due to this? What would finding out that you had this predisposition or not do to your outlook on life?

Always we would need to remember that, like a disease, a predisposition towards something does not mean that the individual will manifest that disease. Indeed the percentage of society with the predisposition indicates that the majority of those with it do not ever manifest criminal behavior and that there is a component of criminality beyond mere genetics. If any steps were taken to limit the rights and freedoms of this minority, that crosses all races, classes and social strata, then those restrictions would only be upon those who WERE able to control their genetic predisposition and would have no effect upon those in which the entire condition is already in sway.

That would be punishing the innocent in fear of the guilty.

Of course we would never do that... would we?

In the wake of individuals attempting to bring down aircraft, we have come upon a situation in which our TSA has both 'succeeded' in failing to stop individuals with a predisposition and full indications of willingness to kill themselves to kill others from boarding a civilian aircraft. Later it is admitted that the system 'failed' and measures will be taken to 'correct' that failure. From that we can step to Christopher Hitchens at Slate on 28 DEC 2009 (h/t: Instapundit) talking about what will be done to try and stop such 'failures' again (boldface is mine):

So that's now more or less the routine for the guilty. (I am not making any presumption of innocence concerning Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.) But flick your eye across the page, or down it, and you will instantly see a different imperative for the innocent. "New Restrictions Quickly Added for Travelers," reads the inevitable headline just below the report on the notoriety of Abdulmutallab, whose own father had been sufficiently alarmed to report his son to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, some time ago. (By the way, I make a safe prediction: Nobody in that embassy or anywhere else in our national security system will lose his or her job as a consequence of this most recent disgrace.)


Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can't—or won't. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to "feel safe." The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens' toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect.

Those who abide by the law, indeed who are NOT a threat to any flight, are required for the 'safety' of air travel to no longer carry with them the things that would allow a plane to be brought down. And those who DO abide by that are the innocent, not the guilty who will find other and more ingenious ways WITHIN a set of restrictions to do as they will. Which will, of course, bring more restrictions on the innocent because the guilty have no need to follow any law or rule or restriction. Nothing we do will stop those seeking to bring down aircraft, merely require them to be smart enough to outwit a delimited set of rules, procedures, techniques or otherwise use human engineering to get around them. When a commenter at another site tried to make light of a 'firecracker' (the first report of the incident) and that it wasn't dangerous, I knew I was dealing with a fool: with a bit of ingenuity, a few allowed carry-on items, and decent placement using the materials that are perfectly allowable and 'safe', I could readily identify a few places where a 'firecracker' could damage an aircraft enough to disable it in-flight. Anyone with an ounce of sense can figure that out, and yet the concept of the regulations making us 'safer' is an illusion that some will cleave to unto death due to over-regulation. Human ingenuity trumps technology and regulations time and time again.

Instead of doing the smart thing, the right thing, and the proper thing, which is to restrict air travel of those suspected of having an inclination to be lawless and suicidal aboard flights due to a delimited religious outlook we, instead, punish the entire traveling public. Those who scoff at the loss of liberty due to regulation are the first to use this famous quote encouraging their fellow citizens to give up yet more of their liberty for the security of the officious Mother State:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 - 1790)

Of our essential liberties is also the expectation that we will be considered innocent until proven guilty of a crime as CITIZENS of the Nation. Those who are not citizens, who give reason for us to suspect them of harboring hatred unto killing against our Nation and our citizens are not afforded that liberty for our own security so that we CAN be afforded that liberty. All men are created equal, and yet that is an acknowledgement by our background as a society and we can and must recognize that not all societies are willing to see the self-evident truths when presented with them. As a Nation and a people we must have the right to differentiate between those in humanity that recognize and abide by the self-evident truths and those who do not do so. Yet, when those who do not do so have made it abundantly clear that they will not, that they will threaten us, that they will do anything to harm our Nation and citizens, the first people we turn to for restrictions are the law abiding citizens who have done no wrong.

That is because a 'Politically Correct' view of the world is one that fears, deeply so, those who are guilty and will do anything to try and appease those men who manifest none of the civilized understandings of liberty and rights with kind words and punish those that actually call those people as they are. For fear of the guilty, even to the point of not wanting to restrict the guilty or keep the convicted in JAILS, the PC view attempts to appease them and restrict any thoughts that might be had about wanting to protect ourselves by actually naming and identifying those who are guilty. That does not bring greater harmony between cultures, but disdain upon those who will not uphold their own culture because they are afraid to do so for offending those who can and will resort to repression and violence to get their way in the world. As we have seen no law or regulation will stop those intent on killing us and when seconds count the police are just minutes away. The system only 'works' when individuals not PART of the system save THEMSELVES from the systemic failure of not wanting to name and restrict those who seek to do us harm.

Remember: you can only punish the law abiding innocent as they are both law abiding and innocent, and when you complain about the system you become one of the guilty.

Next up in the annals of punishing the innocent comes this from SayUncle and Knoxnews on 29 DEC 2009 (h/t: Instapundit):

The gun control group headed by Michael Bloomberg presented to President Obama a Blueprint for Federal Action on Illegal Guns. Some folks sent a FOIA request and received a copy of the document. And it's pretty telling. The focus doesn't seem to target illegal guns but all guns and gun owners, including banning the importation of ammo and "non-sporting" firearms. The plan consists of items that are administrative and regulatory in nature and, therefore, don't require legislative action.

There are individuals in the US that actually utilize 'non-sporting' firearms, and these are firearms used for self-defense. What is even more interesting is that said firearms range across many decades, through World Wars and have both military and civilian counter-parts that are extremely difficult to check out. If you are a collector of military surplus rifles or handguns, then you become a target of such regulations, and yet it is perfectly legal and lawful to do so both as a registered collector and as a private citizen who just enjoys collecting said firearms. These firearms range across the last century and include a multitude of manufacturers, variations, and types of weapons. It is with difficulty that an individual can find out if a handgun purchased with, say, Waffen marks was utilized in the German military or civilian market after 1939. Even more interesting is that such a handgun used a round fully available to modern self-defense pistols. Indeed, collecting old cartridges, like stamp collecting, is a fascinating hobby and past-time that harms no one and actually USING those cartridges destroys the value of them. Going one step further to highly available military surplus rounds that WERE made for military weapons, how do you distinguish between them and 'civilian' rounds? Yes you need an 'expert'.

Joy, oh, rapture!

Military surplus guns, especially those that have come out of storage packed in cosmoline from the old USSR and its satellite countries are often cheap. Cleaning out the cosmoline is a non-trivial task. The largest supplies are of the old bolt-action Mosin-Nagants with wooden stocks and a bayonet, typified by a long barrel and are quite heavy. Of even more interest is the ammunition leaves behind a corrosive salt when you get the old military surplus ammo, thus requiring constant care and attention from the owner so that the weapon is not degraded by using it. These are not weapons that any criminal will want: heavy, bulky, hard to hide, slow rate of fire. If you want something lethal, easy to hide and with rapid fire or high lethality you get a handgun or you illegally saw off a shotgun.

Now bump that up to modern weapons that are semi-automatic, like the M-1 Garand... wait, that's still WWII, but an accredited rifle for the Civilian Marksmanship Program. Thus it is both collectible and teaches skills of accuracy, even though it was a military weapon of WWII. If you move to the modern semi-auto equivalent of the M-16, which is the AR-15, you have yet another weapon that can get good accuracy, have decent stopping power and have widely available civilian cartridges for it. Just as you can purchase civilian made cartridges for the Mosin-Nagant you can also do that for the M-1 Garand and the AR-15 as they are popular cartridge types for both civilian and military uses. Indeed you cannot define the difference between a 'military' bolt action or semi-automatic rifle and a 'sporting' version of the exact, same rifle. Why? An individual can change stocks to re-purpose the firearm for different uses, so that a Mosin-Nagant may be in its original wooden stock for display and then put into a fiberglass modern stock for use at the range. The same goes for the M-1 Garand and AR-15: you cannot distinguish between a 'sporterized' version of one and its non-sporting version.

Yes 'sporterized' is a recognized term for firearms because people have been doing that with military weapons throughout the 20th century, dating back before WWI, and a 'sporterized' version of a military weapon is part of its own, unique class of that weapon. Amazing, no? A few modifications and you go from 'military' or non-sporting firearm to 'sporting' firearm. And there is no functional difference in the nature of the firearm, itself, just in the outer housing. Prohibited one moment, allowed the next.

That brings us to handgun hunting, a sport that is gaining in wide popularity these days. One of the heaviest calibers that can be used for this in a semi-automatic pistol is the 50 Action Express, which is a 50 caliber pistol round. That is a sporting weapon, for all of it being a handgun. Any law or regulation that tries to stop the use of the 50 AE round, which is civilian and sporting in nature, then makes one of the most powerful handguns on the planet available while stopping older, lighter and less lethal firearms from history. In one go everyone is made 'safer' by permitting 'sporting' firearms for handgun hunting while stopping the use of lighter caliber self-defense pistols that can date back to 1897 that have a military origin. And the moment you try to change the regulations to 'make things safer' you end up creating more loopholes, more problems and all to the end of not doing a damned thing about those who are obtaining illegal weapons for their own use.

And just how many criminals actually USE older military surplus weapons and ammo? How about civilian self-defense handguns? There is no functional way to tell between a self-defense handgun in the hands of a law abiding citizen and one in the hands of a criminal. And heaven forbid you attempt to distinguish based ON THE USER! Can't do that! It might require 'profiling'.

Yes I am taking such thinking to extremes, but it has a point: how will this in any way, shape or form stop those willing to break the law from getting their hands on such weapons and utilizing them? This has not worked in Great Britain and in Mumbai one of the most pertinent statements from an eyewitness is wishing that they could have been armed so as to stop the attackers. By restricting or attempting to outlaw handguns the innocent are made less safe and the criminals have nothing to fear, and can safely intimidate the unarmed. Since the banning of handguns in the UK the police there have had to up-arm and armor themselves against criminals willing and able to deploy fully automatic weapons as they know no civilian will STOP THEM. That is how you get an officious, lethal and over-armed police for a Police State: you make civilians easy targets for criminals.

Yet your essential liberty of self-defense, the positive liberty of war that we do not give to the State, is threatened by the State that does not trust its own people to behave in a civil manner towards each other, fears criminals and then sees fit to disarm the people. When you are threatened in such a State your life is determined in seconds, and the police will spend some hours writing up the report of your death due to criminals who have no problem violating civil society and civil law to work their ends.

The State could, of course, seek the illegal venues that provide such weapons to criminals... but, really, it is much easier to repress the law abiding than go after the criminals.

It is easier to punish and make weak the law abiding and strengthen those who will not abide by the law by punishing the innocent.

That is what you get when you feel the regulations make you 'safe' and you trade away your liberty for that temporary feeling of safety. Mind you the safety isn't even temporary, just an illusion of safety given by self-deception.

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