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A dilemma if you think private individuals shouldn’t own firearms

Here’s a thought for today: If the Democrats claim (the cynic in me suggests that party is full of BS on this) that police forces must be “defunded”, ie, that fewer resources should be steered to said police, how are they also going to make good on any threats to outlaw the private possession of firearms?

I know that those of a more libertarian slant have no problem with wanting to reform policing to reduce abuses and so that police actually protect life and property rather than enforce victimless crime laws, and be corrupted by the likes of asset forfeiture rules, politically-motivated “woke” crime enforcement, and so on. One thing to be clear on is that if qualified immunity is removed from cops, cops are also entitled to be protected against frivolous lawsuits from idiots since otherwise no rational man or woman will want to serve as a cop in such a situation. And that applies to any kind of policing or security, including private security guards.

And a more libertarian model of policing is congruent with a population of law-abiding persons being free to own firearms and competent to look after themselves. In fact, having law-abiding people own guns, and be trained in their responsible use, is a net plus for civil society and peaceful order. (An armed society is a polite society, as R A Heinlein liked to point out.) But what is NOT compatible is to claim that we should shut policing down, empty the jails, and all the rest of it, and still push for gun control. To take that stance is to treat the public as idiots.

42 comments to A dilemma if you think private individuals shouldn’t own firearms

  • Agammamon

    And that applies to any kind of policing or security, including private security guards.

    But it doesn’t.

    Private security guards don’t have any special protections against civil litigation. Yet they still manage to do their jobs. It helps, of course, the private security isn’t normally expected to get ‘hands on’. Observe and report. The vast majority of crimes are stopped from happening in the first place simply by having someone in earshot.

  • Agammamon

    and be trained in their responsible use, is a net plus for civil society and peaceful order. (An armed society is a polite society, as R A Heinlein liked to point out.)

    Here’s the thing – we (here in the US) are *not* trained in their responsible use. I live in a state where you can buy a gun from a private seller with no checks whatsoever – we don’t have a problem with people shooting each other. We don’t have licensing for carry (concealed or open). The level of ‘responsible’ varies from ‘I’ve only shot a hole in my wall once’ to ‘I’m former special forces’. Yet we don’t have people shooting at each other (accidentally or otherwise).

    At the same time, ‘an armed society is a polite society’ is bullshit. Chicago *is* an armed society (for all its government’s attempts to prevent that) that requires training (and permission from the state) before you can own a firearm and that still comes with tons of restrictions. Yet they have more murders in a single weekend than my state has all year.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Agammamon

    Private security guards don’t have any special protections against civil litigation. Yet they still manage to do their jobs. It helps, of course, the private security isn’t normally expected to get ‘hands on’

    So you accept that, because private security guards are not as “hands-on” as regular cops, the protection against civil litigation is not really a thing for them. And that is why I suggest that if there is potential civil litigation against people like security guards or police – as there is if qualified immunity goes – that vexatious and frivolous lawsuits should also not be allowed, lest no-one would want do those jobs at all.

    Here’s the thing – we (here in the US) are *not* trained in their responsible use

    Be careful about that word “we”. Many of the Americans I know have trained in their use. Quite extensively. As a Brit, I did a course (four-day defensive handgun) in Nevada more than 20 years ago. The course was packed, with everyone from cops getting better training through to CEOs and grandmas.

    At the same time, ‘an armed society is a polite society’ is bullshit.

    Which no doubt explains why heavily gun controlled big cities such as Chicago are warzones, while parts of the US which allow open-carry are, on the whole, much safer. By definition, people in Chicago who own guns are criminals; add in the cultural/social/economic shit-show of such cities and high levels of gun violence is what you get. Context is all. In Switzerland, firearms ownership is relatively normal, and the crime rate is low to the point of vanishing. Etc.

    If a society is as monumentally as screwed up as places such as Chicago, then sure, firearms are a problem. Because the people who have them are mostly drugs gangs.

  • Nico

    @Agammamon: The law-abiding in Chicago don’t easily get carry permits, so they don’t carry. The not-law-biding don’t care by definition, and do often carry. That makes Chicago’s society not polite.

    Where I live we don’t have training requirements to own a firearm, but we do have training requirements to get a carry permit. I’d be happy to have a training requirement to own a firearm. I’d be happy if more people carried, but in fact it’s difficult to carry even if you have a permit because every bloody public establishment opts out of allowing carry on their premises. If we’re going to have less police, then we need shall-issue carry permits (with training requirements), and we need to drastically cut down the number of types of public establishments that can opt out of allowing carry on their premises. The result won’t necessarily be more polite, perhaps not at first until the not-law-abiding learn that the law-abiding can be counted on to carry

  • Agammamon

    And that is why I suggest that if there is potential civil litigation against people like security guards or police – as there is if qualified immunity goes – that vexatious and frivolous lawsuits should also not be allowed, lest no-one would want do those jobs at all.

    That makes no sense. There is no special protection for security guards – yet people still want to do those jobs.

    Be careful about that word “we”. Many of the Americans I know have trained in their use. Quite extensively. As a Brit, I did a course (four-day defensive handgun) in Nevada more than 20 years ago. The course was packed, with everyone from cops getting better training through to CEOs and grandmas.

    I don’t need to be careful with it – I live it. I’m giving you my experience, living in the United States and knowing the people I associate with and I’ve lived across the country. I could say that maybe you should be careful making assumptions based on a a small sampling of the US. The vast majority of American gun owners are, at best, self-taught.

    Which no doubt explains why heavily gun controlled big cities such as Chicago are warzones,

    What? No. I already explained this – Chicago is not gun free. Gun control rhetoric aside, Chicago (and every American city) is awash in guns. And where I live, almost no one routinely walks around with a gun, especially open-carry (even though its legal and firearms are common). Its not the existence of widespread arms that makes a polite society because we have two societies (southern Arizona and Chicago), both with widespread gun ownership, but very different in terms of how dangerous they are.

    If a society is as monumentally as screwed up as places such as Chicago, then sure, firearms are a problem. Because the people who have them are mostly drugs gangs.

    And, right there, you’re saying its not the existence of guns that makes a society polite. A polite society can handle widespread firearm ownership without constant bloodshed. But the politeness comes first, not as a consequence of the armament.

    If you look at Heinlein’s own (fictional) examples of ‘polite societies’ he’s showing extremely violent societies where that violence is held in check by sheer *fear* of being killed because you said something wrong. Which leads to people being extremely wary of not being part of the herd-opinion. That’s not how I experience my own polite society. We’re not walking around here afraid to make a misstep lest someone take offense and violence ensues (or a groveling apology).

  • Agammamon

    Nico
    June 23, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    . . . but in fact it’s difficult to carry even

    But its not – its difficult to carry *legally*. That’s a whole different can of worms. But I would point to places like the large cities of the US where a massive number of people are shot all the time as a counter about how hard it is to carry even in a place where guns are all-but-illegal.

    Or Mexico. As another example.

  • Agammamon

    then we need shall-issue carry permits (with training requirements),

    Or, you know, just not have permits at all. Like we do where I live. No permits, no training requirement, we manage to avoid killing each other (or ourselves) . . . mostly.

    Otherwise, what other permits should we require, what other training should we require, for the exercise of other human rights?

  • Mr Ecks

    Buying a firearm and not getting the best training you can is evidence of fuckwittery. With stuff like the 21 foot rule it is clear that just having a gun MAY not be enough.

    However despite that every year 100 thou Americans–esp women–save themselves from assault and worse mostly by mere display of a handgun.

  • Nico

    @Agammamon:

    . . . but in fact it’s difficult to carry even

    But its not – its difficult to carry *legally*.

    That’s the point. The law-abiding should get to carry. The not-law-abiding are, by definition, less constrained by law and willing to carry illegaly. It is and should not be at all surprising that a society (e.g., most large U.S. cities) where the law abiding are the only ones not carrying… is not a “polite” society in the sense of the saying.

    Or, you know, just not have permits at all. Like we do where I live. No permits, no training requirement, we manage to avoid killing each other (or ourselves) . . . mostly.

    Otherwise, what other permits should we require, what other training should we require, for the exercise of other human rights?

    Requiring some training in order to exercise a particular human right is infinitely better than not allowing that human right at all. I’d even be OK with not requiring training but strongly encouraging it, but I think requiring training is easy enough. Also, requiring training is not nearly as invasive as conscription, but conscription is fundamentally a fact of life historically, and even at present, it can be at times of need.

    Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough, else you may get neither.

  • thefat tomato

    agammamon/JP: interesting dialogue, thank you.

  • BlokeInBrum

    With rights come obligations. Whilst I think there is a right to bear arms (in America), I dont think there is anything wrong with attaching a few minor obligations before you can exercise that right, such as being competent in handling what is in effect, a potentially deadly weapon.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Requiring some training in order to exercise a particular human right is infinitely better than not allowing that human right at all

    That should be the next Samizdata quote of the day.

    I’m giving you my experience, living in the United States and knowing the people I associate with and I’ve lived across the country. I could say that maybe you should be careful making assumptions based on a a small sampling of the US. The vast majority of American gun owners are, at best, self-taught.

    I have my experiences – and I have corresponded with a lot of folk who defend the Second Amendment. You have yours.

    Chicago (and every American city) is awash in guns. I know, and they are often held illegally. Which also proves that stricter gun control is not going to work if we “defund the police” and weaken law enforcement to the point of nullity. And as I said, context is the key here. You can declare that X or Y is illegal, but if it is about banning things like implements, and you haven’t dealt with welfare dependency and drugs gangs, what’s the point?

    We’re not walking around here afraid to make a misstep lest someone take offense and violence ensues (or a groveling apology). I am glad to hear it. Social norms and all that. But as you know, ultimately those norms are enforced to some degree, or they decay. Shaming and naming, and all the rest of it.

  • bobby b

    BlokeInBrum
    June 23, 2020 at 7:22 pm

    “Whilst I think there is a right to bear arms (in America), I dont think there is anything wrong with attaching a few minor obligations before you can exercise that right, such as being competent in handling what is in effect, a potentially deadly weapon.”

    Whilst I think there is a right to speak freely (in America) I don’t think there is anything wrong with attaching a few minor obligations before you can exercise that right, such as learning which words we can no longer say, which concepts are anathema, and which persons cannot be criticized.

  • bobby b

    “Chicago (and every American city) is awash in guns.”

    It’s only “awash in guns” on one side – the bad guys’ side.

    Heinlein’s “armed society” contemplates all sides armed, not merely one. The politeness of which he speaks comes from the standoff between equally-powerful adversaries. A society in which only the bad guys are armed isn’t an armed society – it’s a subjugated society.

  • Nico

    @bobby b:

    You’re asking me to repeat myself regarding perfection and the good enough. But also, it’s a bit silly to draw no distinction between speaking in public and carrying a firearm.

    And I wonder what your take on conscription is — certainly the SCOTUS has held that it’s perfectly constitutional, but I mean, what do you think of it? Why is driving not a right? We have rights that are not in the Bill of Rights, you know, such as the right to be a parent to our offspring, though, of course, many would take that away from us too!

    It’s really not a lot to ask that people who carry know the four rules of firearm safety, which I’m sure you know, and which are -for those here who don’t-:

    – treat every firearm as if it is loaded

    (unless your finger is in the chamber, even if you just checked, assume / act as though the gun is loaded)

    – do not point a firearm at anything you’re not willing to kill or destroy

    – keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire

    (for most people, good trigger discipline requires a modicum of training)

    – be sure of your target, and be aware of your target’s surroundings and what lies beyond

    The last one is very important when you must use a firearm in public: you don’t want to hit innocent bystanders!

    Of course, there’s more. What kind of ammo should you keep in a shotgun for home defense? Well, in a busy neighborhood you should keep buckshot, not slugs, because slugs can travel a long distance. Keep your guns clean (you don’t want them jamming at the worst possible time). And so on.

    But the above four are essential. If you’ve ever taken someone to a range who has never fired before, or if you remember the first time you went, you’ll know how difficult it is to truly know just these four rules. You can repeat them verbatim, but without a bit of practice at a range, you’re unlikely to actually adhere to them when it matters.

    I want my neighbors armed. I want my fellow law-abiding citizens armed. And yes, dammit, I want them to know enough firearm safety to reduce the likelihood that they’ll hit an innocent bystander. As that is no barrier to their practicing their god-given right to self-defense, legally requiring a modicum of training (modicum == a few hours, not 50, not 1,000, but, say, 3) is eminently acceptable.

  • bobby b

    Nico, I want all of those same things you want. I’m trained – believe me, I’m very well trained – and it pains me to experience those who are not.

    But – remember that I’m a near-fanatic constitutionalist (and Constitutionalist) and I firmly believe that we remain The Best Place In The World precisely because of some people’s efforts to keep that concept and that document unsullied and unbent (to the greatest extent possible.)

    Where we go wrong is usually where we try to finesse a constitutional point.

    (P.S. – Shotgun home defense? Two rounds of birdshot, the rest buck. Buck goes through walls.)

  • Nico

    @bobby b: OK, but the 2A says “well-regulated militia” while the 1A says nothing of the sort. If you’re a strict constitutionalist, why would you suppose that a three hours of training statutory requirement would violate the letter or spirit of the 2A?

    I adore our Constitution, and I don’t see how anyone could sincerely interpret the 2A as doing anything other than securing an individual right to keep firearms in private and carry firearms in public. But even I don’t see how you can interpret the 2A to say that no regulation can attach to that right. To begin with, I don’t want felons (or the mentally ill, by which I mean recognized as such subject to Due Process and not abused by, well, our Leninist betters) to have that right, at least not for a long time after they are released, which in turn means that a background check seems perfectly reasonable and desirable. And I do want a modicum of training. I don’t like red-flag laws as they generally are written — I want Due Process protections for this right, and I’d be happy to see just a few people at a time disarmed subsequent to a hearing involving probable cause which can be cured later pursuant to, again, Due Process. And so on.

    Yes, I am keenly aware that opponents of the 2A use “reasonable regulation” as cover for their evil aims. But I don’t, and just because they do doesn’t mean that you and I can’t consider what 2A regulation is reasonable and what is desirable. So tell me, ignoring the dems, why does the 2A not admit any regulation?

    Where we go wrong is usually where we try to finesse a constitutional point.

    That’s rather unavoidable. You yourself were defending Gorsuch’s finessing of statutory law the other day, but finessing it was. How is interpretation of statute different from interpretation of constitution? Specifically, how can the former be a necessary evil and the latter an unnecessary evil?

    While the SCOTUS has created doctrines that clearly violate the Constitution (e.g., Substantive Due Process), it isn’t reasonable to suppose that the Constitution needs no interpretation. Because -clearly!- people do sincerely disagree, and this is true even when you ignore those who hate our Constitution, even if you consider only the views of those who sincerely adore it. Indeed, you’re more likely to find disagreement on our side than on the other, sadly — we’re not Leninist thinkers, after all, but individualists.

    (P.S. – Shotgun home defense? Two rounds of birdshot, the rest buck. Buck goes through walls.)

    Fair!

  • Kirk

    There is an inherent problem when one starts throwing around quotes taken up from fictional characters–And, that problem is that you’re basically putting yourself into that category known as “Idiot” when you ascribe those beliefs behind the quote to the author.

    I don’t doubt that the whole idea of “An armed society is a polite society” resonated with Heinlein, but the entire quote comes from a work describing a society resulting from generations of eugenics, and runs “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”.

    There’s little evidence that Heinlein would have actually espoused the run-out implications of that idea–He merely had a character mouth the words in a work meant to entertain. And, the usual idiots have gone on to treat those words as holy writ, which again leads to using the professional term of art for anyone ascribing actual belief to the author for what his characters say in works written for entertainment–Idiot.

    Anyone who stops to consider the realities of what we could term “fully weaponized societies” might want to stop and consider the full ramifications of them all. Most primitive societies are awash with weapons–After all, they mostly used found objects like ungulate femurs, rocks, and chipped stone. Weapons were available to all, and the conditions obtaining were as if you found deposits of handguns and rifles all over your local neighborhood today, free for the taking. That being the case, we can assume that since our ancestors survived to breed us, availability of weapons wasn’t the issue then, nor is it today.

    Growing up, we had guns pretty much everywhere. Teenage boys had their hunting shotguns and rifles in their vehicles at the high school, and nobody had a thought to use them on their fellow students. One of our history teachers brought in actual samples of rifles used by US forces from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam, and had us do the appropriate manual of arms for each, using blanks or dummy cartridges. Precisely none of that led to killing, or any real difference in the general atmosphere of teenage assholishness. What was the difference? Hard to say, but the availability of weapons was a net non-issue. Guns were tools, and the primary restraint on behavior was that using them on other people simply wasn’t done.

    So, you can throw your Heinlein quotes around as much as you like, and you’re really just spewing gas on the issue. Even assuming he believed them, those ideas are so much specious bullshit, and verifiably wrong. You have fully-armed societies like the Swiss, where there is a negligible murder rate, and then those societies like Bosnia and Rwanda, where the members massacred each other with whatever came to hand, including machetes and bush knives. The presence of weapons isn’t ever the real issue in these things–What it actually boils down to is mad-dog disrespect for human life on the part of one or more segments of society, coupled with opportunity. The weapons themselves are nearly an irrelevancy–Someone wants to kill, they don’t need guns, all they need is will and a bit of imagination to weaponize the things they find around them in their environment.

    As always, though, the immature focus on the device, and not the man. You want to stop the killing? The only real effective way to do it is by civilizing the man, or culling him from the population to prevent him from passing on his behavioral traits through genetics (one theory…) or mimicry.

  • I’m pretty law-abiding (at least regarding matters of violence), I have a concealed carry license. I had to go through a training course to get the license, and another to get it renewed. I don’t go out much these days, what with the Kung Flu and the rioters — but when I do go out, I’m armed. They’ve burned down a lot of stores, and if they decide to burn me down, I will be able to dispute the matter with them from a position of strength. But I don’t want to provoke trouble. When I conceal, I do it well. I’m old. I wouldn’t win a fistfight. But as the old saying goes: God made men. Sam Colt made them equal.

    I’ve been around for a long time. When I was a teen, I had a 22-cal rifle, and a 16-ga shotgun. Nobody thought it strange — lots of people, kids and adults, had them. I lived in a small town on the prairie, and went hunting in the fall. I put ducks and pheasants on the family table. Much depends on the gun culture you grew up with.

    Oh, and I’ve written a couple of books. Only the villains are allowed to say things I don’t agree with. Others may vary — Jubal Harshaw certainly did. But I suspect Heinlein kept the real hosers out of his books, unless he needed villains.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Armed dysfunctional societies are violent, rude societies.

    Polite societies need not be armed – there is simply no correlation.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    But – remember that I’m a near-fanatic constitutionalist (and Constitutionalist) and I firmly believe that we remain The Best Place In The World precisely because of some people’s efforts to keep that concept and that document unsullied and unbent (to the greatest extent possible.)

    I am too, but not because I think the Constitution is perfect. On the contrary, it is far from perfect. However, I believe in the rule of law, and when the words of the law are bent out of all shape we don’t have the rule of law any more.

    Where we go wrong is usually where we try to finesse a constitutional point.

    So, seeming to contradict myself here, this is a nice sentiment, but very difficult to implement. What do the words of the Constitution mean? How are they applied? When we talk about the General Welfare clause, I am certainly aware what the Federalist papers and Madison said about this, however, neither the federalist papers or Madison’s thoughts are part of the document.

    But let me offer you a compare and contrast as to what I mean:

    * Recently, in a discussion on Jefferson’s view on slavery you commented on his statement “that all men are created equal” to wonder what Jefferson meant by “men” here — did it include black men (or come to that women.) Of course I understand that this was the DoI not the Constitution, but bear with me.

    * In the Second Amendment we are told “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged”. So, what did they mean by arms here?

    We have to decide what we want — do we try to read the minds of the authors, or perhaps use contemporaneous dictionaries and usage to determine what these words mean? If Jefferson “men” means Jefferson’s narrow minded idea of who constituted “men” rather than what we think if as “men”, how can we then say that “arms” doesn’t mean what Madison meant (flintlocks and swords) and rather reinterpret as our modern AR-15s or Glock semiautomatic weapons?

    And if we are to expand the definition of 18th century “arms” to include these, how extensively do we extend it? Fully auto rifles? Bazookas? Semtex? Tanks? Hydrogen bombs? Anthrax? How do we decide these points? If I remember rightly the USSC decision regarding sawn off shotguns was based on the principle that such weapons were not used by a militia. However, if that is the criterion we must surely also allow bazookas, fully auto rifles and tanks, since these are the common weapons of the organized militia.

    To be clear, I am not really advocating one position here. I just think that it cuts both ways. We interpret “press” in the second amendment to include web sites, and “papers” in the fourth to include Word documents or emails.

    It just seems to me it is a difficult problem. And I am not really sure of the answer.

    It actually reminds me of Bible study when I was younger. There is lots of stuff in the Bible that is plain enough but gives people pause. Its treatment of women as subordinate, its advocacy of corporal punishment of children, its demand of death for witches and homosexuals. The meaning is plain enough, and its interpretation given the words at the time, plain enough. However, we tend to filter these things through our modern lens and modify the meaning to something we are more comfortable with.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Kirk:

    Guns were tools, and the primary restraint on behavior was that using them on other people simply wasn’t done.

    So why was it “simply not done”? Perhaps law enforcement, punishment for murder, family structure, the prevailing nature of the culture, etc, all coalesced to produce a low-crime environment in the area where you lived? As I said, context is all. But I would be willing to bet that a society in which a majority of law-abiding folks could defend their homes, with lethal force if necessary, would have lower burglary rates than, say, an inner city where the only people who have guns are criminals.

    My use of the Heinlein quote is annoying to people. But it still touches on an important truth: if people think that a whole segment of a population are defenceless, they are more likely to be attacked if you have a large underclass, a drug war, and all the rest of it to build a large cohort of criminals who know their chances of getting caught and winding up dead are not high.

    But it does seem to me that if you have a situation in which the majority of gun owners in an area are, by definition, law abiding, and trained, then, other things being equal, there will be less crime than in those cases where the only people who are armed are criminal thugs. The asymmetric calculation is what counts.

    Check out this non-fiction book contrasting the UK and American experiences around guns and controls. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007XHCO66?tag=duc08-21&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1

  • MadRocketSci

    The left wants to defund the police because they think the police are standing in the way of their goon squads. They think when the police are defunded, hastily armed political thugs, representatives on mission, political officers, and the like can then move in and lean on people who are less organized.

    They *want* to touch off an armed conflict between people defending their towns and businesses and their political street thugs: That will provide them causus belli to land on them with the national guard. It’d be the perfect Hollywood scene that they’ve always wanted to set (Hollywood is a major funder of CHAZ/ the “protests”, btw). With the official government out of the way, who is to say which combatants are in the right? The people who own all the cameras – or at least that is what the left thinks.

    For the moment, the political street thugs’ sense of self-preservation is preventing them from “marching on white suburbs” like the organizers have publicly declared they want to do.

    I think we really are just one desperate cornered shopkeeper away from a brutal totalitarian crackdown, and possibly civil war.

  • MadRocketSci

    PS: Other things have been added in to crank up the pressure on bourgeoisie/Jeffersonian Americans: Insurance has been refusing to cover people who have been wrecked by the rioters. If they destroy your home and business, neither the government, nor your paid private safety nets will help you – your life is effectively destroyed. In leftist controlled states, the police will defend the rioters, but not you. (Even as the rioters pelt them with molotovs and bricks – the police are either following orders (defending the thugs) or resigning en masse, creating the power vacuum that the left wants.)

    So someone somewhere is eventually going to fight back, because everything they’ve painstakingly created over years is on the line. And that person will be used as the flashpoint to call in the guard or some leftist paramilitary force. Hollywood is standing by to make sure we all know what disgusting villians those brutal townsfolk are who massacred sweet beautiful college-kids in the name of property.

    This is why I want EVERYONE to have a rifle. When this godawful bloody mess kicks off, the people will end up winning, no matter what cooked up outside forces are brought to bear. I wish everyone in the western world had a rifle. Their governments could not then destroy their own people or reduce them to slavery.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “So why was it “simply not done”? Perhaps law enforcement, punishment for murder, family structure, the prevailing nature of the culture, etc, all coalesced to produce a low-crime environment in the area where you lived?”

    Prosperity is probably the most important factor. Crime is correlated with poverty. The prosperous, with jobs and reputations, have much more to lose from being caught, and relatively less to gain compared to ordinary law-abiding ways of making a living. Not everyone who is poor does so, but a greater proportion will. The cost-risk-benefit balance is very different.

    That works in combination with drugs and alcohol and gambling addictions, which often start with seeking an escape from the misery of poverty, and end up with crime being needed to feed an insatiable demand for more money to pay for drugs/alcohol, and the consequent inability to get/keep a well-paying job to pay for them.

    And then there’s cultural attitudes to crime, work-ethic, and education. Everyone knows the cool kids at school are the ones who cut class, and do bad things. If you fall behind and can’t catch up at school, it’s psychologically more comfortable to tell yourself that you don’t care about any of that stuff than to think of yourself as a failure. In a high-crime environment, with little sympathy or support from the authorities, kids form/join gangs for self-protection from crime and violence, and then turn to crime and violence themselves to fund and defend the gang. It starts by being about survival, but ends up a trap you can’t escape from. That often leads to prison, which means you can’t get an honest job because nobody will trust you, which leads back to more crime and more prison.

    And then there is the authoritarian impulse in society, that when it sees people doing something they don’t like, its first response is always to ban and punish the behaviour, and restrict the means of doing it. Like, the solution to people shooting people with guns is to try to take away the guns, not to fix the reasons they want/need to shoot one another. If they succeed with confiscating guns, they’re astonished to discover the same people now stabbing one another with knives. So they take away the knives, too. This doesn’t work either. And so they shrug, and say if authoritarian methods don’t work there can be no other solution. Whereupon they start to talk about wiping them all out.

    It’s the fundamental problem that all of society is trying to solve, with one set of authoritarians saying the solution is to stamp on the criminals ever more firmly, and the other set of authoritarians saying we need to steal from the prosperous and productive and support the poor indefinitely – in effect, for the government to do the stealing for them – and stamping instead on those who won’t cooperate with being robbed. Neither side is doing anything productive to help. It does not occur to either side that enabling the poor to get out of the trap for themselves could be a solution.

    If a student is doing badly at school, then one set of teachers is punishing them ever more harshly for their failure, while the other teachers are simply giving them the high marks they need to get through without delivering any work. Neither side considers trying to teach the student how to succeed. One side thinks their failure is purely due to lack of motivation, that learning and changing happens automatically, without effort, the other side thinks they are forever incapable of learning because of their background and disadvantages. It occurs to neither side that human being are all much the same, with the same capabilities, and if we the rich learned how to do it, then so can anyone. We’re not special or different to them. They’re no different to us.

    The industrial revolution and free markets are in the process of fixing this. Given enough time, poor areas get more prosperous. Cultural and educational capital grows, along with financial capital. And as an area gets richer, crime levels go down. Less law enforcement is needed, and it can get away with being less aggressive. Nobody needs guns or knives or clubs any more. But it is a grindingly slow process, and people are impatient. It could probably be speeded up, but until society recognises the real problem to be solved, any solutions will be blundered into by accident, unaware, despite society rather than because of it.

  • Agammamon

    Requiring some training in order to exercise a particular human right is infinitely better than not allowing that human right at all

    Once you allow the government to ‘require’ something of you before you can exercise a right – then its no longer a right.

    Would you say we need the government to decide if training is necessary before we speak? Before we are ‘secure in our persons . . . ‘? Before we can remain silent under police questioning?

    Requiring training before you can exercise a right is the same thing as not allowing that right at all.

    Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough, else you may get neither.

    You say that, but let me remind you that I have the perfect – because of years of fighting against the ‘good enough’. Of not settling. Of not compromising. You don’t even have the ‘good enough’. Because your ancestors compromised. And compromised again. And each time they compromised that became the new baseline from which those who wish to control you came back and sought *another compromise* until they had everything they wanted and you had nothing.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Requiring training before you can exercise a right is the same thing as not allowing that right at all.”

    ‘Rights’ that result in unconsented harm being done to others conflict with the rights of others not to be harmed, and are thus inconsistent. A rational system of rights cannot logically contradict itself. To speak precisely, ‘rights’ that allow one person to recklessly do harm to others cannot be a genuine right in such a system.

    But we don’t always speak precisely. Often it is easier to explain by asserting a right in a simple, pithy, ‘slogan’ form, and then adding on all the conditions, exceptions, and caveats you need to make it consistent with other people’s rights. And sometimes we just use the pithy slogan. It depends how you want to look at it.

    Do I have the “right” to fire my gun into the air in celebration in a crowded area? The people cringing under the rain of random bullets probably don’t think so. So does that mean I no longer have the “right” to fire my own gun in any manner I choose, because there are conditions and caveats being applied? Should I be required to know the more complex rules and caveats before I can carry and use my gun, and through my reckless ignorance perhaps use it in a way for which I don’t technically have the right? Does everyone else have the right to be safe from idiots who don’t know where the limits of their rights actually are?

    You have the right to remain silent under police questioning, but you also have to *know* you have this right, and know its limits. Which is why the police have to tell you your rights first before they can question you. Evidence cannot be used in court if they have not done so. Thus, the courts believe you do indeed need “training” of a sort to exercise this right. The police can’t question you if you don’t.

    This requirement to understand the precise boundaries of your rights applies to anything you have a right to do that has great potential to do harm to others if you don’t observe the limits. Whether you consider the caveats as part of the definition of the right, or conceptually-separate add-ons, is semantics. They’re still necessary for consistency.

  • CaptDMO

    An amusing concept fostering much “reasoning”.
    Perhaps I can help-from the US.
    The dilemma for folks that believe private individuals shouldn’t own firearms is that they are too mentally impaired to conduct their own affairs. Fortunately, such folk are traditionally deemed wards of the State, and properly institutionalized, or otherwise removed from polite society.
    Debate over
    “But…but…”
    Your wrong.
    “Well, it’s complicated…”
    No, it is not. You’re wrong.

  • thefat tomato

    @Nullius in Verba:”enabling the poor to get out of the trap for themselves”, which i would read as scrap teacher’s unions and scrap school holidays.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “… which i would read as scrap teacher’s unions and scrap school holidays.”

    I don’t know about school holidays, but my approach to unions would be to employ more teachers who are not ideologically inclined to join unions.

    People learn how to get on in society from the people around them. If you live among losers, you will grow up a loser. You have to surround children with an atmosphere of endeavor and ambition, a respect for values of hard work and honesty, and the justified expectation of being able to make steady advancement. The problem is we pick up those values subconsciously, without even realising it, so we tend to miss the need to teach it to those who don’t have the same environment. It needs a deliberate and conscious effort towards a cultural change, understanding how and why that works. And it is by no means as easy to implement as that was to say. It’s the stuff we don’t notice, because it’s just part of the background, that is hardest to see and understand.

    Unions don’t help, and tend to get in the way. But they’re not the root of the problem.

  • Nico

    No substantive answers to substantive points about why 2A admits regulation and 1A does not (no prior restraint at the very least, and anything else must be de minimis, like not inciting immediate violence), what regulation would be reasonable and what wouldn’t be, that having your rights with a one-time speed bump is better than not having them (pragmatism), or even about the real need for pragmatism in any political debates you’re trying to win (ergo, you must be trying to lose), nothing. Just silly extremism. Here it’s all my-rights-or-else-(i’ll-cry-to-mommy!-waaaa). Like some months ago when NiV was all open-borders-and-no-welfare,-but-if-i-can’t-get-no-welfare-i-insist-on-open-borders-even-though-i-know-it’s-suicidal.

    Libertarianism isn’t for freedom. It’s for suicide.

    JP, would you make that the quote of the day? Or would that be too true a criticism of this blog and its malcontents, and Libertarianism in general?

    Yes, there are exceptions! E.g., here, NK and most of the blog authors, who I expect to show up to school me over this intemperate reply. I appreciate the exceptions — I do! I appreciate that the exceptions might even be the rule, and the noise-makers (as always) the real exception.

    But to the noise makers: you bore me. You’re like a Leninist: there’s no new things in your playbook, no new surprises, no nothing, just the same old warmed over BS. You’re predictable in your quest for collective suicide.

    If someday the Left succeeds and I go up against a wall, I’ll do so fucking proudly, but for fuck’s sake, let them be entertaining along the way — let them show some fucking originality for the first time in decades. That goes for the Libertarians, though that bunch will never get close to power. If you’re going to continue on the suicide pact road, at least be original about it, surprising preferably. Do something. Something new. If at all possible, be substantive. No fantasies. Be real.

    Oh, I’m sure I bore you too. But I stand a chance to change minds, while you don’t — you just get in the way. You’re not even a good ally to have, or even an ally. At best we’ll laugh at the Left together… when I’m not laughing at you.

    The stupid. It hurts.

  • Kirk

    @ Jonathan Pearce;

    The main point I am trying to get at is that there is precisely zero connection between widespread access to firearms and societal violence. The idiot elite certainly think that there is, but the facts on the ground refute their lovely little theories.

    Which is why that Heinlein quote irritates me so much. He put those words into the mouth of a fictional character, one who I quite frankly find disturbing on oh-so-many-levels. The character is basically Heinlein’s version of a Nietzsche-esque “Superman”, perhaps an author avatar, perhaps not. In any event, the idiot that quotes that character in any serious way is third-level delusional–One, it’s a fictional character, two it’s written as fiction by an author who was notorious for putting outrageous ideas for his time out there to stimulate discussion, and three, there’s not one whit of evidence to support its accuracy or that Heinlein himself had any real authority to be making a pronouncement like that. Next, someone will be bringing in the Pope as a marriage counselor as an authority on sexual issues between husband and wife, something he has zero experience of, assuming he has held to his vows.

    In short, it’s an incredibly stupid thing to bring into the discussion as evidence of anything. Y’all want to quote someone who has conducted voluminous and documented social research, examining interpersonal violence in society? Sure; go ahead. That would be valuable. Catchy little phrases from a science fiction author, backed up by zero research or thought?

    Violence has got zilch to do with weapons access, when you get down to it. Hutus found little issue with conducting what amounted to a hand-hewn genocide using handtools, so the question of “arms availability” equating to a “polite society” quite literally is meaningless in that context. The Tutsi had, presumably, equivalent access to that same set of handtools, and thus should have had the benefit of that “polite society”, being equally well-armed.

    Same-same in Somalia. There, you’ve got weapons galore, purpose-built ones, probably with about the same availability as Switzerland on a man/weapon basis. Do you have the polite society of the Swiss? No, you emphatically do not.

    Switzerland has easy and open availability of weapons, and virtually zero violence compared to Somalia and Rwanda. So, there again–Evidence that the glib words of Heinlein’s fictional character do not actually have the slightest relationship with reality.

    Examine the history of violence in England, and consider the reasons why it was once so damn prevalent, subsided to the point where it was nearly non-existent, and is now on the rise again. If you graph that against “weapons availability”, you’ll find that there is virtually zero congruity. The studies are out there, describing the bad old days when stealing a loaf of bread was enough to get you hung, or transported–During those years, the number killings going on just in the taverns of English towns was staggering, and documented to be at the same levels as modern Baltimore or Chicago. Violence was endemic in the culture, life was cheap, and what made that change isn’t exactly clear–But, the availability of weapons had very little to do with it, as the gun control laws didn’t start coming into British life until well after the slaughter had ceased.

    What makes for a “polite society” has nothing to do with weapons. It has to do with the will of the individual in society, their values, and their mores. If you’re a ragged POS migrant into the early industrial age city, without the internal controls to stop you from killing someone who merely spilled your beer, you’re not much different from a modern inhabitant of the inner city who choses to kill because they feel “dissed”. The essential problem has nothing to do with the weapon used–It’s all in the head of the killer.

    People keep wanting to blame the object, when they should be focused on the man. You can’t keep someone from killing by reducing their tool options–They will always, always find a way.

    Glibly repeating the words of Heinlein’s fictional character just reinforces that totally useless and aberrant train of thought, and I feel it needs to be attacked whenever I see someone repeating it.

    And, ohbytheway, the entire specious argument is entirely separate from the question of whether or not one ought to have the right to go armed. The difference between being a domesticated animal, a subject, and being a free man of citizenship in a republic is that you take responsibility for your own security, and do not ask others to do what you will not for yourself. Frankly, I think that if you subject yourself to the status of a protected domestic animal, you’re a little less than human, and deserve whatever your masters do to you and your liberties. If you’re not willing to risk your life in your own defense, then you should not ask anyone else, and certainly no agent of the state, to takes such risks on your own behalf.

    That’s a rather unpopular view, but it’s the one I’ve come to. Don’t want to kill, in order to preserve your life and safety? Morally, that ought to prevent you from demanding that any other do it for you. Kill your own damn dogs, in other words…

  • Prosperity is probably the most important factor. Crime is correlated with poverty. (Nullius in Verba, June 24, 2020 at 3:05 pm)

    Poverty is caused by crime; crime is anti-economic, typically consuming much wealth for each fragment of wealth it transfers from its owners to the criminals. Societies differed markedly in their honesty millenia ago, when all were very poor by our standards. A society’s rising out of poverty correlates well with its prior honesty.

    It does not occur to either side that enabling the poor to get out of the trap for themselves could be a solution.

    That’s a bit unfair to e.g. Rudy Giuliani, who reduced crime (including police crime) in New York and thereby made it easier for locals to climb out of poverty. One side is not without people who know that living in a high crime environment makes it much harder to escape poverty because your meagre savings, work options and spare time are routinely swallowed by guarding against the dangers of, and repairing the effects of, crime – and that trying to reduce poverty instead of crime merely guarantees that the growing crime you foster will swallow the resources you shovel into the ghetto supposedly to reduce poverty.

    (I notice this is not as OT for this thread as might appear. The belief that poverty causes crime is like the belief that guns cause crime. In both cases, people following the idea cause an increase in crime – by removing guns from the honest, or by ‘fighting’ poverty while excusing crime as caused by it.)

  • bobby b

    More boring stuff, I guess:

    1. We do not have a 2A right to keep and bear arms so that we can hunt, or so we can shoot holes in cute targets shaped like bunnies, or even so we can defend ourselves from criminals. We have that right so that we can defend ourselves during those rare times when our own government turns against us. We need to be able to offer at least some viable threat to keep oppressive government power at bay. Our country is built on the idea that no group is so small that it ought to be easily trampled. Access to weapons is one method of keeping this power diffuse throughout society instead of concentrating it “above.” I am a militia – my government is not.

    And you want government to be the gatekeeper of who gets to keep and bear weapons?

    2. You don’t negotiate by announcing your ultimate goal. There is a substantial portion of our society advocating for complete disarmament. If the other side – my side – comes in with “okay, we’ll have registration, and these kinds of people don’t get their constitutional right, and your weapons need to be cute and not actually dangerous”, then the ending point of the negotiation is going to be somewhere in the middle of those two points. Screw that. So I start from the unbending position that the 2A says what it says (read about what prefatory clauses mean) and go from there. In the real world, I understand that that means we’re going to end up somewhere in between “no guns for you!” and “bazookas for everyone!” – as in any societal negotiation – but I’m not willing to start with the position you seem to be advancing.

    3. 1A – we let them have “time place and manner” restrictions and “obscenity” even though the 2A says “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . ” Now they want “hate speech is different, and the 1st Amendment doesn’t cover that!” Again, screw that. I’ll go back to arguing that the Constitution says “no law”, just so they don’t try to move the goalposts again. Then you can say “but surely you don’t think fraudulent speech is protected?”, and I’ll say that our media seems to think that everything I hold to be true is fraudulent, so go stand over there by them.

    “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” (/s/, A noted dead anarchist.)

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    June 24, 2020 at 3:26 am

    ” . . . “

    Sorry, missed this one.

    Your comments are spot-on, as usual. Where we differ is that I’m advocating – negotiating – for a more honest, unfiltered reading of the Constitution than my opponents are willing to accept, and I cannot do that by starting in the middle of the two positions as some natural ending point.

    I’ll argue that “arms” means “arms” – bazookas, Stingers, whatever – because we need that rigid counterpoint to the people who want the prefatory clause to be read as affecting the directive. I’ll argue against a 1A exception for fraudulent speech, for TPM restrictions, for obscenity – because we need that countervailing negotiating voice against the “ban speech I dislike” crew.

    And if we dislike everyone having their own Stinger, and think that that feeling is near-universal, there is a process available to amend the first amendment. But it ought to be that tough to change it – none of this “but we think differently now.” (Who is “we”? Obviously too small a group to pass an amendment.)

    If we’re going to read everything through our 2020 filter, then we can have their changeable, fluid constitution that means whatever the majority wants it to mean day by day. We might as well just save the paper at that point, and stop printing the thing.

    And then we can become the EU.

  • bobby b, I entirely agree that the intent of the “well-regulated militia” bit is crystal clear to anyone who knows what such things meant at that time; later claims that it limits the right mingle dishonesty with historical ignorance,

    You may well already know this second amendment paper of Glenn Reynolds. It interested me (as would your views on it, if you wished to give them, but no pressure – you’ve already provided much to the thread).

  • Nico

    bobby b, I entirely agree that the intent of the “well-regulated militia” bit is crystal clear to anyone who knows what such things meant at that time; later claims that it limits the right mingle dishonesty with historical ignorance,

    Yes, the militia’ is all able-bodied, armed, law-abiding citizens. Back then it was all free and land-owning men in some States, but that’s not relevant right now.

    ‘Well-regulated’ meant a variety of things, not the least of which is that they be the law-abiding, but also that they be required to own firearms (yes! Virginia, for example, had such a requirement) and know how to operate them. (A regular who owned a musket and didn’t know how to fire one would have been pretty useless until taught.) I imagine there were other meanings that “well-regulated” might have had in the various States back then, including, perhaps, having passable knowledge of certain military concepts, somehow be able to be called up for duty, etc., many of which might have been purely aspirational rather than enforceable. Conscription is very much a mechanism for training the militia, so there’s always that as a method of regulation under the 2A: call up the militia and train them.

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say that every law-abiding and able-bodied citizen must own a firearm (though that’d be nice), but I don’t see how you can say that a requirement for a modicum of gun safety and carry training falls afoul of the 2A. Or how a check that you are law-abiding when you purchase a firearm falls afoul of the 2A. I can think of many gun control regulations that do fall afoul of the 2A, of course, and I don’t want to give the Left rope with which to hang me, for sure, but to say that there are no regulations that don’t fall afoul of the 2A is extreme and -critically- will lose you the argument, and will mean you have no 2A.

    But by all means, insist that the words “well-regulated” have no meaning in present times and see if you win any arguments. Spoiler: you won’t.

  • To take that stance is to treat the public as idiots.

    I would have thought that the last few weeks have taught us that a significant number are idiots.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Kirk:

    The main point I am trying to get at is that there is precisely zero connection between widespread access to firearms and societal violence. The idiot elite certainly think that there is, but the facts on the ground refute their lovely little theories.

    My point – which I have made several times (are you just being obtuse?) was that context also plays a role (the state of a culture, society, economics, etc). Some countries are full of weapons and there can be lots of violence, but the key is whether the majority of gun owners are peaceful and law abiding, and why that is. We need to compare like with like to get a control factor. Switzerland is more peaceful than the UK. It cannot be just down to Rolex watches and nice mountains.

    Which is why that Heinlein quote irritates me so much. He put those words into the mouth of a fictional character, one who I quite frankly find disturbing on oh-so-many-levels

    You find fiction disturbing when a character says something you disagree with? FFS. In short, it’s an incredibly stupid thing to bring into the discussion as evidence of anything. Is it? If you think the quote touches on an important point, and gets people to debate (which is what we appear to be doing? Get over yourself.

    Violence has got zilch to do with weapons access, when you get down to it. You have a remarkable capacity to make massive sweeping statements. Like I said, context is all. But when controlled for certain situations, if law abiding people have access to the means of self defence, other things being equal, they are less likely to be attacked.

    A few years ago there was a real problem with attacks on UK homes and the police/courts tried to weaken the ability of homeowners to defend themselves. Burglars knew this, and cases of aggravated burglary ran high. In some parts of the world such as Texas, domestic burglaries are low. I wonder why. (And it is more than just society and economics, but about the willingness of Texan home owners to shoot intruders.)

    It has to do with the will of the individual in society, their values, and their mores

    Which have to be enforced at some point. And whence do this qualities come from? Defunding police and disarming the law abiding population is, given the state of certain parts of the world, not a winning proposition.

    And, ohbytheway, the entire specious argument is entirely separate from the question of whether or not one ought to have the right to go armed. The difference between being a domesticated animal, a subject, and being a free man of citizenship in a republic is that you take responsibility for your own security, and do not ask others to do what you will not for yourself.

    So after all your raging about my “glib” reference to Heinlein quotes, you damn people for wanting to have police and who don’t want the responsibility of defending themselves, if need be, by deadly force if necessary! Your own objection to my quote appears to be disagreeing with the idea that prevalence of weapons has anything to do with social order, despite my stating several times that the key is if the majority of owners of said are law abiding. And also you need to address, as Niall has, why a society is law abiding in the first place. And why, for example, in past periods of history when gun use was more widespread – as it was in 19th Century England – violent crime was far lower per head of population even though society in some ways was less prosperous.

    Spare me you urge to go around correcting people while making sweeping assertions yourself. Get a hobby.

  • I use a great many quotes, usually from real people I admire but sometimes from fictional people and sometimes from real people I un-admire so much in general that I pointedly remark on it when quoting them. If the quote is lapidary, what matters it that the author’s hero is not yours?

    It was justly said of Stalinist Lillian Hellman that her every word was a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’. Here’s a quote from her:

    Things start out as hopes and end up as habits.

    Though she would deny it (because she would deny it? 🙂 ), I suspect that describes her own experience of being a Stalinist very well.

    Quotes, like guns, take their effect in context.

  • Paul Marks

    The evil (and they are evil) people who control the Economist magazine were gloating over the age and so on of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in this week’s issue.

    Amongst all their lies and distortions the magazine (the journal of bureaucrats and Corporate managers) was making a VALID point.

    The forces of evil (the totalitarians – the education system, the “mainstream” media, the “Woke” Corporations, and-so-on) are one vote on the Supreme Court away from destroying the Bill of Rights.

    Not “just” the 2nd Amendment – the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, but also the 1st Amendment (Freedom of Speech), and the rest of it.

    The Bill of Rights will be “interpreted” out of existence.

    As for the present situation – police forces are already being pulled out of areas of the cities, and whole sections of the police (such as the plain clothes division in New York City) are being abolished.

    Violent crime is exploding in these areas – but the establishment do not care.

    Of course the establishment do not care – they are evil. I do not keep typing this because I am fond of the letters e i v l on a keyboard. Evil is what they are.

    They are doing this (pushing a massive wave of violent crime) partly (yes) to get the “Orange Man” out – but also THEY LIKE DOING THIS.

    The establishment get a kick about stirring up “the masses” to loot, burn and murder.

    Did I mention that the establishment are evil?

    They also got a kick out of the lockdowns – they love ordering people about.

    “But the lockdowns ruined the lives of many millions of people and were medically useless – they did NOT save lives”.

    The establishment knew all that – indeed that was the point.

  • bobby b

    Niall Kilmartin
    June 24, 2020 at 10:07 pm

    “You may well already know this second amendment paper of Glenn Reynolds.”

    Sorry, Niall K, I had to go back and re-read that one.

    When I read it quickly the first time a while ago, it struck me as being quite muddled.

    Upon re-reading it, it strikes me that it is muddled because the subject matter is so muddled. Heller should have dragged the various courts (some kicking and screaming) into treating the 2nd Amendment as something other than the embarrassing drunk uncle living in the back room. It didn’t, though.

    And the USSC has been quite timid about going back and saying “don’t you remember, we already dealt with this?”

    I had thought that the safe harbor would be the major point of attack by the lower courts, but it turns out that simple passive ignoring of the central thrust of Heller is the main line of non-attack. Several of the circuits just seem to carry on with their pre-Heller analyses and the USSC doesn’t seem eager to accept any such cases from below.

    My impression is that Roberts doesn’t want to force change anywhere, for anything. Not that he disagrees with Heller – but he seems to want society to happily accept Heller before “his court” goes to work enforcing it. (This seems to be his guiding principle in all things.)

    Using Reynolds’ own comparison – it’s a good thing the USSC didn’t sit off and await Americans’ happy acceptance of equality before enforcing the Jim Crow laws. Then, the court was willing to take a lead in guiding society in the precepts of the Constitution.

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