Good Guy With a Gun

Jim Wright asked this question on his Facebook page recently;

Responsible Gun Owner Exercise: You’re in a public place. Lots of people. Guy in camo walks in with a pistol on his belt and an assault rifle in his hands.
Quick, is he a good guy with a gun or a murderous nut?
Well, which is it?
Come, come, seconds count, no guessing and don’t fuck it up. How do you KNOW? Is there a secret hand sign? A T-shirt? Does his phone emit an IFF signal? Which is it, good guy with a gun or bad guy with a gun? For full credit, you MUST answer BEFORE HE STARTS SHOOTING. Show your work.
Extra credit: How does he know YOU’RE not a bad guy with a gun?

He followed it up with a (very long) response addressing the various answers that he got. The answers are almost irrelevant. Of course there is no way to know what the intentions of this person are.  As another Facebook friend pointed out as a counter you don’t know what anyone’s intentions are if you are just now seeing them.

But that isn’t the question. The presence of the firearm alters the equation. This is a known fact, that visible weapons alter the behavior of people. It is true, as that same Facebook friend pointed out, the person could be carrying invisible weapons; a suicide vest, anthrax, firearm in his pocket, knife in his shoes. You name it. But that also isn’t the question.

The question is simple. You are armed, you see another person that is armed. Do you shoot him or don’t you? You have to answer this question before he starts shooting other people, or you fail the test. This is a very valid point that Jim has been trying to illustrate for several years and over about a dozen posts on Stonekettle Station; all of which I’ve read. The question isn’t whether guns are bad or not. The question isn’t whether we should be armed or not.

The question is, how do you know what your actions should be? That is all there is to it. The gunnuts are convinced that the solution to the mass murder problem is more guns in more hands, but that just makes the question that much more difficult since it muddies the waters as to who is the bad guy and who is the good guy.  If you shoot the guy before he shoots other people, are you the good guy or the bad guy?

You can’t know. There is no way to know. It is the nature of the universe, the uncertainty principle. You can’t know before the first shots are fired.  If you shoot first, you are the bad guy. But if you’re carrying the weapon to prevent aggression, what good is it if you don’t use it when you should have? What if his first action is to shoot you because you have a visible weapon? What if his first action is to demand that you disarm?  How many hours of time are we willing to waste making sure that each of us on an individual basis are good guys who are supposed to be carrying weapons and not bad guys who aren’t? All day, every day, from now on?

We can’t approach the problem from this direction.  It just isn’t going to work.  This is the reason why laws are made. This is the reason why governments exist. It isn’t for any of the paranoid delusions that individualists envision as they sweat inside their bunkers gripping their pistols in fear.  Laws are written to make sure that standards are met. Government exists to see that laws are followed.


I wrote and then shelved the above months ago. I had some notion that I would riff on a response from J. Neil Schulman who insisted the above question was meaningless.  However Mr. Schulman (surprise) really didn’t have a response to the above aside from putting more guns in more hands.  He has since unfriended me over some trumped up excuse involving calls to use RICO laws to initiate civil prosecutions of climate deniers, similar to what was done to RJR after it was discovered that the cigarette manufacturer was paying scientists to muddy the waters surrounding the effects of cigarette smoke on the human body.

FYI, smoking causes lung cancer, and anthropogenic climate change is almost certainly as real as the findings concerning smoking and lung cancer.  I don’t think it is outside of reason to use tactics similar to those used before in order to bring wayward corporate funded scientists to heel so that we can get down to the business of dealing with climate change.

That isn’t the subject of this post, but the level of denial concerning climate change is reflected in his level of denial when it comes to weapons and who should be allowed to have them.

I had forgotten this little dust-up and almost forgotten this post until last week.  The subject of weapons is one of  the subjects that I suffer cognitive dissonance with; consequently I have a very, very hard time writing coherently on the subject.  I have owned weapons all my life.  My most treasured gifts as a young boy were the weapons that my father gave me.

However, being a good father as well as a responsible gun owner himself, he made sure that I went to classes to train me in the proper handling and storage of weapons before I was allowed to take possession of my first real shotgun.  I still have the certificate issued by the (irony of ironies) NRA for hunter safety training in cooperation with the State of Kansas.

It is a mark of how far down the road to crazy we have come that the NRA no longer thinks weapons training is important enough to be required before allowing weapons purchases, even though their website stresses the importance of weapons training.  I’ve known enough people who sleep with a loaded weapon next to their beds now that I no longer believe the argument that gun owners don’t need weapons training because they’ve already had it.  A common refrain amongst gunnuts.

Then we had the latest mass killing, as well as the several other shootings on campuses across the US, even in Texas where campuses are no longer gun free zones (negating that counter-argument) and it seems that Jim’s question from a few months ago now has recent real-life examples that really do beg the question (no longer a fallacy) how do you tell who the good guys with guns are?

Take, for example, the case of the concealed carry weapons holder who fired on a suspected shoplifter as they drove away in their vehicle.  Not the merchant, who might well have been forgiven for acting in the heat of the moment. No, it was a simple bystander (a good guy with a gun?) who happened to be armed and thought that the thing to do.

Or the guy who shot the carjacking victim, then took the time to clean up his brass before fleeing the scene of the crime? Jim Wright posts one of these types of stories virtually every day on Facebook, a tribute to the stupidity of the average American when it comes to owning and using weapons in a public setting. So these are not isolated events, rare occurrences that don’t deserve our attention.  These are examples of the fact that there is something wrong in the US and we really should do something to fix the problem.

However, the minute you bring up examples of a clear lack of training like the above though, gunnuts (or ammosexuals, take your pick) start screaming about how we want to take their guns away.  I’d like to state for the record, yes.  If you think that the above is a reasonable use of a firearm, I want you to turn in your weapons, right now.  Because you don’t know the first thing about firearm safety.

The Flight Disaster That Wasn’t

Back when Flight was on screen, I got in a run-in with one of the few remaining Libertarians on my Facebook friends list (SPOILER ALERT) what follows is a clip from J. Neil Schulman‘s article on Rational Review;

“…having shown in her own presentation that the cause of the problem was mechanical and the savior of the lives was Whip, she continues her interrogation of Whip by asking him to give an opinion that two empty vodka bottles found in the airliner’s trash were consumed by the flight attendant that we in the audience knows was partying with Whip the night before the flight.

At which point, rather than lie, Whip confesses to having drunk the vodka himself.

The movie ends, true to its true-confessions formula, with a redeemed Whip in prison, having confessed to his sin of piloting an aircraft drunk and coked up — more expertly than any other cold sober pilot could have done.”

The one piece of salient advice that I would give to J. Neil Schulman, when it comes to writing, is that members of a hierarchical system (like a corporation) don’t tend to give jobs to outsiders who use code words like statist to describe any system that they disagree with. When you walk in with an obvious chip on your shoulder, and the attitude that you yourself can do anything faster and better than any other group of people, you’re more likely to be shown the door quickly than to be given the time of day.  Much less a job.

I went to see this move with a fellow film buff. My usual partner in crime.  The Wife doesn’t do dramas.  She’s into horror, SciFi, and action films.  She’s dragging me to Age of Ultron this week. Avengers is far more her speed than a film about a pilot who saves a plane in spite of his addictions.

The film accurately portrays what would happen to someone like Washington’s Whip Whitaker (a functioning alcoholic) in the current regulatory landscape; and I think that is why it did not meet with the kind of approval that its creators expected. The average viewer probably agrees with the sentiment that Whip Whitaker did not deserve jail time; producing a film with a very unsatisfying ending. But it was hardly a disaster in anyone’s estimation other than that of a libertarian writer attempting to tie the fictional events in the film to a real disaster and then draw the most tenuous of allegorical conclusions.  As follows;

let’s put ourselves into the plot of a fictitious combined disaster movie in which after scientist Richard Feynman proves that the cause of the Challenger explosion was launching on a day colder than the shuttle’s O-rings could properly function, the chief investigator finds vodka bottles among the shuttle wreckage and spends the rest of the investigation trying to find out if any of the crew of the Challenger was drunk at the time of the launch.

Flight, while flawed, wasn’t about what Neil says it was. The pilot in question wasn’t even jailed at the end for the reason he states. The movie was a limited exploration of how we treat addicts in this country, and how we mask over the functionally addicted among us with just the kinds of platitudes that Neil offers in his counter arguments. I would be the first person (and it was my first reaction on viewing the film the first time) to say that the pilot should not have been sent to jail. Yank his license, encourage him to seek treatment, etc, sure. Jail proves nothing, except that we will punish scapegoats given the chance.

However, to suggest he merited no punishment because he was a superman able to function on a level no other person could; I think I should remind Neil that the film was a work of fiction. While I have known many functional alcoholics in my lifetime, most of whom drove drunk every day of their lives, it doesn’t mean that they would not be responsible for accidents that they might have been involved in because of their impaired capacity.

It would be amusing, for the purpose of illustration, to put some of these types to the test, to find out if they really aren’t impaired. I’d be willing to bet that they would fail the same tests that the rest of us did, at statistically predictable rates. At least it would silence the people who insist that they not be subjected to the same laws as the rest of us.

The statement in the film that Neil hung his entire argument on was something to the effect that “we put [x number] of pilots in the simulator, all of them crashed” which is a far cry from the presentation that only Washington’s character could land the plane. The factual I took from that exchange was that it was an exceedingly difficult procedure to pull off. Imagine what the guy could have done had he been sober; had he done the preflight checks that regulation requires, he might even have noticed that the plane was not ready to fly.

But he didn’t, because he was hung over from a night of partying. He then proceeded to drink while flying, trying to ease the hangover (BTW, this doesn’t work.  It just gets you drunk again) consequently he was liable for his violation of the public trust, breaking rules that he knew were in place as part of the regulations for public safety. Rules that he agreed to when he got his pilot’s license.

A libertarian would argue that there is no public trust to violate and that licensing is an infringement on individual rights. I don’t have to ‘prove’ that there is a public, or define it for the doubting individualist; it is defined in law already. Government, law, licensing.  All out there already, part of the society we inhabit. Pretending the rules don’t apply to you just gets you put in jail like the protagonist of the film, it certainly doesn’t get the rules changed to be more reasonable.

 I’d happily go for a system that tests for ability rather than chemical makeup of the blood, disqualifying those on a case by case basis who cannot master the basic requirements of the job. That would be a reasonable solution to the problem of impaired capacity.  Getting that change made to the rules currently in place requires engaging the system currently in place.  It means accepting that rules made by others do have power over you in some limited fashion. It means that government has the ability to make and enforce rules, even rules that we deem unreasonable.
Personal delusions about the non-existence of the public trust just get in the way of real reform; just interfere in the enjoyment of a decent flick that illustrates some pretty glaring flaws in our legal system.  My suggestion? Leave your politics at home when you go see a movie. You might learn something.

As an aside, Age of Ultron was well worth the price of admission. An interestingly convoluted story about fear and what that emotion can twist you to doing in spite of your own better judgement. If Marvel has any sense they’ll keep letting Joss Whedon do what he does best for as long as he wants to keep doing it.  The man has a feel for Marvel superheroes, and it comes across in all of his films.  I’m in awe of his abilities and look forward to his next film.

Star Trek Professional Fan Films? With Libertarian Influence?

I’m on the mailing list for startrekofgodsandmen.com. This project was mentioned at the bottom of a article on Star Trek: Phase II.

Hold on, I think I’m getting ahead of myself here.

The email stoic Merbrat, a fellow SF fan from years gone by, sent me an article a month ago concerning Star Trek: Phase II: the First Professional Fan Film?

Reading through it, I was intrigued.

Filmed with high resolution digital cameras on authentic looking replica sets, Star Trek: Phase II (previously known as New Voyages) takes over where the original Star Trek ended – co-opting the name that Gene Roddenbury chose for his failed attempt to revive the original series on the small screen. Playing out the archetypal fan fantasy, a plucky bunch of Trek-nerds recast themselves as their Sci-Fi heroes, facing the same jeopardy, saying the same lines, wearing the same velour jerseys and ill-fitting trousers as the original Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

read more | digg story

At the bottom of the Article were a few listings for futher viewing. The author was less than complimentary of Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.

Another fan film full of former Trek actors is Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. Directed by Tim “Tuvok” Russ and starring Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and Alan Ruck, it should be more “professional” than New Voyages. It’s lovely to see so many Trek alumni on screen, but awful to hear them spout such truly terrible dialogue. And the plot? We’ve already seen Yesterday’s Enterprise, Mirror Mirror, Charlie X and City on the Edge of Forever. Great episodes on their own, but unpalatable when put in a blender and whizzed up into a fan-wank smoothie. Still, worth a look for curiosity value. Link here.

Former Star Trek actors participating in a fan film? I figured it was worth checking out. So I signed up and forgot about it. Well, Part 2 came out the other day and I thought I’d give the first part a quick look. Only I couldn’t just go look at it; I had to click the link, give them an email address, and wait for an invite.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <mailer@startrekofgodsandmen.com>
Date: Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 10:19 PM
Subject: Watch Star Trek Of Gods and Men Part 2
To: ranthonysteele@gmail.com

Thank you for your interest Star Trek: Of Gods And Men. The reason we are collecting your email address is so that we can notify you when part 3 is available.

IMPORTANT: Please save the below link, or this email, if you want to go back and watch Part 2 or Part 1 again.

http://scifi.dragonfly.com/renegade/stogamst448/

If, at anytime, you experience any issues you can always reply back to this email for assistance (depending on volume, emails can take up to 24 hours to respond to).

To talk about this film, please visit our forums: http://www.renegade-studios.com/forum

Since I failed to complete the task the first day, procrastination took over and I still haven’t watched a minute of the film. However, if you go to the Renegade Studios site, you’ll discover several other projects that might be of interest.

And then the newsletter shows up today.
http://www.startrekofgodsandmen.com/newsletter/April08/

My Dear Friends,

My new suspense-comedy feature film Lady Magdalene’s is having its Los Angeles-area premiere at the auspicious Backlot Film Festival. I’d love you to join me. During my introduction I’ll be singing one of the two songs I wrote for the movie and following the film will join writer/director/producer J. Neil Schulman for Q&A.

When:
Thursday, April 3rd, 7:00 PM

Where:
Backlot Film Festival
Veterans Memorial Auditorium
4117 Overland Avenue
Culver City, CA 90230

Cost $5.00 – $3.00 Senior/Student
Buy Tickets at the Door or Online at
http://www.backlotfilmfestival.com/tickets.htm
Official Movie Website: http://www.ladymagdalenes.com

For our printable flyer click here:
http://www.dujpepperman.com/jesulu/ladymagdalenes/invitation/

It’s going to be a wonderful evening.

Be there!

Blessings,

Nichelle

Nichelle Nichols is starring in a film by J. Neil Schulman? The same J. Neil Schulman who wrote Stopping Power? When did he start doing film? The universe is indeed weirder than we can know.

Star Trek fans probably have no idea who J. Neil Schulman is, but those of us who are reasonably informed in Libertarian circles have become well acquainted with the name, even if we haven’t quite gotten around to reading his books.

I guess I’ll have to make time to watch Nichelle perform in a film by J. Neil schulman. I’m in a quandary though as to whether to invite my Libertarian friends or my SF friends. If I invite both groups and they both show up there could well be a causality inversion.

Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.Egon

Might be interesting.