Re: some U.S. observations and notes

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Wed Jan 02 2002 - 17:27:00 MST

Kai Becker wrote:
> Am Montag, 31. Dezember 2001 18:49 schrieb Lee Daniel Crocker:
> > Your point 3 contradicts your point 1, because you /do/ in fact want the
> > policeman to carry a gun, otherwise he will be unprepared to deal with
> > the possibly dangerous and violent situation for which you called him.
> (1) I don't want the policeman to carry a gun. I want him to clear the
> situation. I don't want someone shot dead, I want to drink my beer without
> being threatened.

And when the troublemakers are using knives, or, pray tell, illegally
obtained guns, what do you suppose your hypothetical unarmed policeman
is going to do? In colonial America (and Britain at the time), policemen
were unarmed but private citizens were armed, and police were required
to depend upon private citizens to back up his enforcement of the law.

> (2) I have explained in another mail why I consider a professional police
> officer here (I've also explained the differences in training and
> supervision) to be more competent than a wannabe hero with a gun.

The problem with assertion (2) is that it supposes facts which
contradict the truth. In fact, an armed policeman in a given situation
is five times more likely to kill an innocent person (i.e. YOU, sitting
there drinking the beer) at any given crime scene than an armed private
citizen faced with the same situation.

> (3) Please look at the german crime statistics. German policemen use their
> gun very seldom:
> Use of firearms by the german police in 1997 (the newest data I found):

I could likewise say that in 1944, the german police used firearms on
hundreds of thousands of unarmed jews. Does the fact they didn't use
them on any law abiding German people make them right?

> (, sorry, only in german)
> Total: 106 uses, 60 against persons.
> In Bavaria, our most right-wing/"law-and-order" state, the secretary of the
> Interior, GŁnther Beckstein, said in 2001: "Thanks to the extensive and
> de-escalative training of the Bavarian police, first all other coercives
> like the newly introduced pepper-spray are used, while the use of firearms
> is only the ultima ratio."[1]
> Is de-escalation a part of your concept of self-defense? Do the training
> courses for self-defense with firearms in the US emphasize de-escalation
> and consider the use of firearms only as ultima ratio? Or are we again at
> the point of no-alternatives like in the Afghanistan discussion?
> Germany has 80 mio. citizens. Our population density is 250 persons/sq km,
> compared to 27 p/sq km in the US and >250 in New York. We have far less
> legal weapons here and according to official estimations far less illegal
> weapons than in the US. is an
> interesting comparison between the legal systems, the prosecution and
> justice of the US and Germany.
> Once again my question: Can you explain why the crime rates and use of
> firearms here is so much lower than in the USA? If it isn't the tech and it
> isn't the weapons, what magic is it then?

Crime rates are lower for demographic as well as social reasons. Germans
have always been raised with serf mentalities with respect to the State.

Similarly, the US is made up of the social rejects of every other
society (including Germany), so it shouldn't be surprising that violence
is generally higher here.

However, one point of mine you have continuously refused to acknowledge:
the 'high violence' attributed to the USA is almost exclusively a
phenomenon of jurisdictions in the US which have gun laws that are even
more restrictive than that of Germany. Jurisdictions with loose gun laws
here in the US have low violence rates comparative to that of Germany,
when adjusted for demographic differences.

> > You seem to have a typically European bias that somehow the policeman is
> > more qualified to "play hero" than other citizens, while the American
> > tradition leans more toward self-reliance.
> The question of "bias" mostly is a question of whom you ask... IMO, the
> "somehow" can indeed be shown by comparing the education and training, but
> that's another thread.

The fact is that police are generally far less trained and skilled with
arms than private citizens who posess firearms. Police generally dislike
participating in public shooting competitions, and restrict access by
the public to their own qualifications tests. A good friend of mine, who
is a retired cop who ran qualifications for other cops for many years
can attest that police are generally poorly skilled in use of arms,
mostly dislike participating in their annual qualification shoots, and
many think that it is a point of pride that they've never fired their
guns outside of qualifications (even for simple practice at a range).

There are of course exceptions to this, and those exceptions generally
tend to be excellent shooters. I've known quite a few such, and they
also have a low opinion of most of their fellow officers' gun skills.

> > Secondly, how do your feelings deal with the fact that technologies are
> > on the horizon that make a handgun seem like a child's toy? The
> > "problem" (if there is one) with firearms is no different from any other
> > empowering technology: it empowers evil people to do more evil, and good
> > people to do more good--but since we fear the former, we restrict the
> > technology which ends up limiting the latter. The extropian ideal is to
> > create new and better technologies that empower the good guys more, to
> > keep ahead of the bad guys, and figure out what causes people to become
> > bad guys and deal with that.
> (1) What magic will take care, that the "good guys" (who defines "good",
> btw?) will always be smarter and have the better tech?

The magic is that there will always be more good people in the world
than bad people. Bad people, in my experience, constitute somewhere
around 3-10% of the population. The less able become criminals, the more
able go into government and politics with agendas of distrust for

> (2) I've tried to shift the topic onto a more sociological level and a more
> global perspective, i.e. "figure out what causes people to become 'bad'
> guys", but this either ended in "tech will solve everything" (how? why?) or
> "don't know, I quit" (the easy escape) or "but handguns are okay" (no real
> argument, regardless of no. of repetitions)
> In fact, I feel the sheer horror when I think of, e.g. Mike Lorrey define
> what's "good" (from his point of view) and go around with a "meme changing
> device" to brain wash everyone. No thanks. I don't even want one nation to
> define what is "good".

What is one nation but the collective opinion of some portion of its
inhabitants, either one, or some, or many, or most, or all? I think that
everyone here pretty much agrees that leaving the control to just one
person is a dumb, and therefore, bad, idea. I also think we can get a
general agreement that there are some things which are beyond the
ability or right of anyone or everyone to regulate, and that, therefore,
the idea of 'negotiated rights' is a dumb, and therefore, bad, idea.

> > > I have heard this argument before: "The minorities" are far more
> > > violent and criminal than the rest. (I won't discuss prejudices of the
> > > police and justice here) It is sad to say that the numbers seem to
> > > confirm this theory, in the US as well as here.
> >
> > Mike said nothing of the sort, and nothing even remotely resembling this.
> > It seems clear to me that you didn't even try to read and understand what
> > he did say, and this reflects very poorly on the value of anything you
> > might have to say.
> Nice but unsubstantial rhetoric. The argument of the "more violent
> minorities" came from another author, that's right, I'm sorry. But
> incompatible subcultures that lead to burning discos are not a sign of a
> peaceful society either.
> So, what can we do to come to a peaceful society, not only in the US, but
> in the world? If you ask me, it can not be the "<insert your favorite>
> culture for everyone", but only a balance of many.

The problem is of trust, as I, and others, have written of so much in
the past, both on this list and on the web. This is a distinct problem,
because the human animal is not wired to trust just ANYONE implicitly.
We have evolved some measure of xenophobia, paranoia, and suspicion as a
survival instinct. We limit our trust not just to those we know to be
trustworthy, but to those who fit the profiles of those we know and

It is for this reason that separate nations exist, why nationalism and
tribalism seem to increase at the same time, and proportionally, to the
degree to which communications and transportation technologies improve.
Nations which are less culturally homogenous will generally exhibit a
greater degree of strife and violence of various kinds than those which
are more homogenous. Similarly, societies which are based more on
concepts like order and subservience to the state are likely to be more
internally peaceful in the short term, but also more prone to mass
violence in the long term.

While you can compare single years of data between the US and Germany,
the fact is that this is a disengenuous abuse of statistics. Proper use
requires comparison over longer terms, as well as a proper delineation
of jurisdictions. For example, over the entire 20th century, somewhere
between 2-5 million people died of violence in the US, while in Europe,
and Germany in particular, between 50-100 million people died in the
same period of violence, mostly due to the use of firearms, despite
living in a society where posession of firearms was highly regulated.

Furthermore, of the violence that occured in the US in that period, 90%
of it occured in jurisdictions where the use of firearms was highly
regulated, if not banned outright. These violent jurisdictions are
generally characterized by a high preponderance of non-anglo immigrants
and descendants of freed slaves, demographic groups which were not lent
to trustworthiness by the WASP majority, nor originating from societies
where trust between individuals was particularly very strong.

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