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Any HN readers have ideas for improving gun safety?
95 points by pg 455 days ago | comments
Ron Conway asked me to post on HN asking for tech ideas for improving gun safety. He asks that you email them to techcommiteeforgunsafety@gmail.com.

They're particularly interested in ideas for improving

- the safe handling, possession, storage and discharge of firearms and ammunition, and

- the management, scaling, and privacy safeguarding requirements for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).



rdl 455 days ago | link

I know enough about firearms and mechanical reliability that I don't put much faith in anything which modifies the critical firing path of a weapon. I don't even like S&W revolvers with an integrated trigger lock. However, there are lots of other areas for improvement.

1. Figure out a way to make firearms registration easy to compute owner from a given recovered weapon, but not to enumerate a list of all guns owned by a specific person based on his identity only. There are a variety of cryptographic ways to do this -- if we had a way to do write-only storage on guns (say, with a 2d barcode or something which couldn't be removed, and which included a cryptographic signature and timestamp), it would make tracing guns recovered in crime easier (and thus catch/prosecute straw man purchasers for gangs and such), but would prevent the "nazis seize all guns before implementing the ovens" irrational fear.

2. A way to do NCIC NICS checks without a huge amount of trust. A private party should be able to run one (with consent of a purchaser), using a smartphone and ID provided by the buyer. Something like a Square reader. Maybe something which uses both the buyer's phone and the seller's phone and an online server. It's unreasonable to require all buyers/sellers have smartphones (a lot of gun owners are old, and there's a constitutional argument to allow poor people to buy guns, too), but at a gun show, you could loan iPod Touch to various sellers for the day. This would be supplemental to normal at-dealer-premises FFL checks. You could possibly also just require all FFLs to purchase a reasonable terminal, too.

3. Safes suck. We can do so much on locking mechanisms to rapidly open safes. For non-self-defense weapons, having safes which do periodic "I haven't been broken into yet!" liveness reporting to the owner (and maybe law enforcement, insurance) remotely, and then which alarm on tamper events, would be great. I'd love these since my safes each contain >$50k.

4. Third-party custody. I'm more than willing to lower the bar for temporarily prohibiting someone from possessing firearms. Yet, turning them over to the police isn't really fair. There should be some kind of self-storage facility optimized for storing firearms where control can be temporarily ceded to a trustworthy third party, on a bailment basis. If you are suspected of mental illness/etc., they'd be safe, and you'd be prohibited from access for a period of time; access would be restored at some point. This would make it easier to lower the bar for removal of access to weapons. Someone like Mrs. Lanza may have considered placing her weapons in such a facility while trying to get rid of her son.

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strlen 455 days ago | link

Very well said (I think I may have been the one to mention the cryptographic signature idea to you, but I am pretty sure I've read it elsewhere).

1) I think the other key point is inferring how guns go from the factory floor to the crime scene: how many are illegally imported, how do firearms sold to civilian and law enforcement markets go from their legal gun owner to the criminal.

Essentially a Palantir-government type solution, not so much for legal purchases, but for firearms used in crimes. This can lead to improved policing: e.g., if it's found that firearms used in Los Angeles come via straw-purchases from Arizona, then police attention can be directed to CA/AZ border.

2) For classes of firearm owners that are licensed or registered (CCW in different states, handgun owners in some states, NFA), it may be helpful to keep track of what licensing procedures were used, the demographics of the owners, the type of firearm, and then correlate this with any crime involving either the firearm or the owner -- using this as a feedback loop to improve licensing and registration laws. E.g., if it is found that there is no significant difference in terms of incidents/accidents with CCW holders that had 15 hours of training vs. 30 hours of training, there's no point in maintaining the 30 hour training requirement.

3) I think 1 and 2 need significant buy-in from gun owners, manufacturers, law-enforcement officers, and gun rights group. When the previous scientific studies come out with proposals these three groups (whose buy in crucial) find non-sensical (for very good reasons) and backed by poor data, that leads to loss of trust and the belief that studies that find facts contrary to a pre-conceived agenda will not be permitted.

It makes perfect sense, for example, for CDC to investigate gun violence -- yet given the previously shoddy and biased studies on this matter, the significant stake holders are less likely to cooperate. This, in turn, leads to lower quality data, further perpetuating the cycle.

So if a group can manage to persuade congress to drop wildly unpopular and non-sensical measures (like Feinstein's semi-automatic "assault weapon" ban proposal), they have far better credibility for starting a conversation with the stake-holders.

Law enforcement, for example, have often found ways to work with organizations like the ACLU to ensure due process is observed, when implementing legislation opposed by those organizations. There's no reason why SAF, NRA, as well as ACLU (in regards to avoiding racial profiling, protecting the rights of mentally ill, and other first/fourth/fifth amendment issues -- especially with the #1 "tracking" proposal) should not play a role in a more in depth data-backed gun violence studies.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

Getting better data is key.

I hate how both anti-gun and pro-gun groups have blocked real studies out of self interest and fear, and how the debate in general is essentially uninformed by technical facts and often driven by racism and emotion (on the anti-gun side) or detailed crime data and any reasonable concept of competing claims as well as general paranoid nuttery (on the pro-gun side).

I'd probably trust CDC to be objective and data driven more than I'd trust industry groups, law enforcement, or other parts of the government.

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strlen 454 days ago | link

> I hate how both anti-gun and pro-gun groups have blocked real studies out of self interest and fear, and how the debate in general is essentially uninformed by technical facts and often driven by racism and emotion (on the anti-gun side) or detailed crime data and any reasonable concept of competing claims as well as general paranoid nuttery (on the pro-gun side).

Do something to validate their trust first: gun rights groups could easily be placated if the first thing any task force does is come out squarely against the assault weapon ban and demand investigations into what magazine capacity limits should be _before_ suggesting legislation.

Anti-gun groups would be placated by supporting universal background checks. Both would be placated by a Square-like device for instant background check for transfers, and so on.

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csense 455 days ago | link

1. There are too many existing weapons floating around. Convincing owners to bring them all out for cryptomarking is a non-starter.

3. Wouldn't this technology already exist? I'm surprised, you seem to say it doesn't.

4. What would be the incentive for gun owners to use these facilities?

If you have a gun because you like them, you want to use it, and having it in your house is much more convenient, especially if you live in a rural area and can hunt or target shoot without getting in the car.

If you have a gun for protection, you want it to be by your side at all times.

The facility would presumably cost money. Why go to the increased hassle?

For people that are temporarily legally restricted from possessing firearms, it would be attractive to have a place to leave your weapons safely and legally. But such people are rare; far more common is a felony conviction or other consideration that bars people from possession for life.

Digression: I'd be in favor of making firearm restrictions for felons lengthy but ultimately temporary. For example if you have a clean record for 10 years after serving your time, you get your voting and firearm privileges back, but a judge or parole board can deny the latter at their discretion if your crime involved illegal or grossly irresponsible use of firearms. My thinking is that there should be paths for redemption and rehabilitation for all but perhaps the most violent, most serial or most insane criminals, because while crime needs to be punished, if a criminal's life is ruined by the consequences of his/her first crime, he/she has no incentive to even try to become a productive member of society if it's impossible.

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rdl 455 days ago | link

1. A lot of the guns used in crime are fairly new, or newly transferred. It's also the case that theft isn't a major source of weapons used in crime (which I thought it was -- and theft-reporting-requirement could help)

Just requiring the cryptomark on every lawful transfer would get a lot of things marked.

3. Surprisingly, no. It would be technically feasible to do. There are some high-end safes which are integrated into building alarms and such, but no single S&G type I drop-in type lock which didn't suck. I'd probably build one as a startup if I weren't doing what I'm doing. (there are lots of other ways to make locks awesome, too; lockitron does some of them now)

4. I'm probably an outlier due to both quantity owned and travel (being outside the US for most of a decade, etc.). I ended up just leaving a bunch of purchases with my FFL for long enough to piss him off by filling up his vault for a year, etc.

I'm advocating lowering the bar for temporary restrictions (domestic violence, mental health, etc.). I'm also in favor of a simpler path to rehabilitation of even felons, but I'd consider voting and employment to be more important than gun ownership there; if a violent criminal who is convicted never gets a gun again, that's fine, but he should be allowed to vote.

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jevinskie 454 days ago | link

Is restoring one right but not another really equal protection under the law?

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strlen 454 days ago | link

Yes, but discrimination of this sort is possible if it can pass the appropriate scrutiny test. It's just like how constitution says "the right to bear arms shall not be infringed", yet it's clear that certain firearms can be banned and certain people may be prohibited from owning firearms: theoretically speaking no right or protection is absolute, but we have to be very cautious in the way we restrict these rights.

Government needs to show that there's a compelling interest in denying someone the right to bear arms while permitting them the right to vote, that doing so furthers that compelling interest, and (if strict scrutiny is used) that it's the most narrow (tailored toward that interest only) and smallest restriction possible.

E.g., it could be argued that a first time non-violent offender who has shown remorse, is successfully reintegrated back into society, etc... cannot be denied any of the rights after a certain amount of time -- but a violent offender may recoup other rights after say 10 years, but not lose the right to bear arms for a longer period.

See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strict_scrutiny (strictest standard) vs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermediate_scrutiny (more lax, the most lax standard that can be applied to enumerated fundamental rights) vs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_basis_review (the least strict standard, typically used for unenumerated rights)

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csense 452 days ago | link

Equal protection means different people are treated equally, not different rights.

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runjake 455 days ago | link

1. [citation needed]

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rdl 454 days ago | link

I got it from a briefing by an LAPD guy teaching policing strategies to military in Iraq/Afghanistan (he was a reservist, but I think they did an official program later involving LAPD and possibly FBI and NYPD) -- i.e. how to shut down networks of supply for insurgents getting weapons.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/guns/procon/gu... is a decent source. There's another source I saw recently which talks about young or new guns being the majority of the problem, but I couldn't find it on google in 30 seconds.

One problem with saying "1.2% of gun dealers are responsible for most of the guns used in crime" is that a lot of dealers are very low volume or very specialty (target, etc.) anyway, so mainstream sales may happen mostly at 1.2% of dealers, too. I.e. most of the knives used in killings are probably bought at Wal-Mart, not the Global store in Tokyo.

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shawn-butler 454 days ago | link

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4974763

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yakiv 454 days ago | link

The cryptographic thing might be a good idea, but we would need to consider not only current computers' ability to crack it but also future computers' ability to crack it. Much faster computers will probably get here eventually.

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samstave 455 days ago | link

I like #3 - which is similar to one of my comments. I also like #4 - although the suspicious side of me would worry that it could be used against someone; i.e. I claim that RDL is a nutter and should not be allowed access to his arsenal! some overly cautious system then prevents RDL from accessing his cache, and instead he comes and bludgeons me with his fists out of anger, thus proving that he is a nutter!

I really think that #3 - smart safes with an sms/email/http-host alerting system is a very easy entry into this market. (I do not know if these exist yet - I'll have to go look after this post) - but it would appear, based on the current public sentiment - that a safe which can differentiate between authorized access and not (two factor) would be a good thing.

The safe can open with whatever key/code it requires for physical access - but there is a smart-phone dead-mans-switch which, if this portion of authorization is not completed - the police are notified of the unauthorized access.

An external access log, would also be good. If you specify what weapon is in what slot/location - the alert could also include the exact weapon type moved. (think of the weighted mini-bars in hotels)

My buddy from lockheed and I designed a bar system which could easily be modified for this purpose, using weight sensors and passive RFID to tell which alcoholic beverage was poured and how much - its trivial to convert this into a gun safe system...

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rdl 455 days ago | link

If the standard for temporarily locking someone out from access to guns is similar to California's 5150 involuntary 72h psych hold, I'd be ok with it. There could also be a legal requirement for the police to provide constant protection during that no-firearms period, since otherwise someone might use the process to disarm a target.

I'd love a self-storage model for the guns I have as investments/collection vs. active use.

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samstave 455 days ago | link

You know what would be interesting: with your self storage setup: Add a range and the ability for your guns to be 'Air-BnB'd as rentals in the range.

The cost of renting your gun at the storage range would include the cost of a gunsmith (Gun Genius Bar) who takes care of them.

The gun ownership is all anonymous to all but the range/storage unit...

You can login to your account and allot weapons to being available to rental. You can set usage thresholds etc.

This would be an interesting way to also let your guns get some regular cleaning/service.

The system would keep a "gunfax" record of all its use as well.

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rdl 455 days ago | link

I think that sort of gets done already when people have really rare guns at ranges (in particular, it's how ranges tend to have post-1986 dealer sample NFA items available; there's a range and then an affiliated company which sells to police and has the dealer sample letter; blackwater got in trouble for sending dealer samples to their forces in Iraq).

It would be interesting to have a "condotel" style gun range, but in general, people who have huge private collections don't seem to want to rent them out, and most of the guns used at ranges are of a very limited selection which are most popular (you could probably fully stock a pistol range with $50-$100k worth of Glocks, Sigs, HKs, and some S&W revolvers)

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ctoth 454 days ago | link

Re your bar system, was this for deployment in hotel rooms and the like? If so how does it cope with the malicious user who refills their bottle with water to avoid or lessen the charge?

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samstave 454 days ago | link

No, this is for the bar/bartender. The system uses very sensitive scales in the drink well and on the shelves, which measure the weight of the bottle, the RFID tags ID the actual bottle and it tracks each pour based on the returned weight of the bottle.

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HeyLaughingBoy 454 days ago | link

Has it had commercial success? I proposed a similar system about five years ago to my wife who was working as a bartender at the time. She thought it was a dumb idea :-(

I was convinced that she was wrong, but I wasn't motivated enough to find buyers for it.

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strlen 454 days ago | link

This may be off-topic, but I thought I'd bring it up: in a nut shell, defensive "use once" less than lethal weapons for public areas. They would be strictly licensed and regulated by first responders, much like public defibrillators are.

While I found NRA's idea of arming teachers to be (let's be honest here, and I say this a strong second amendment supporter) absolutely nuts -- several people have circulated the idea of providing less than lethal weapons to teachers and administrators. I think most teachers (or most people in general) are not keen in owning a firearm, do not have the time to go through the training to use a firearm effectively in a high-stress scenario.

However (and this idea isn't original to me, I've seen it suggested elsewhere online) provide a modified than lethal weapon (e.g., a carbine length taser) in each classroom -- hidden behind glass door much like a fire extinguisher or a defibrillator would be. They would be given training in using this weapon to stop (or slow down) an opponent and there would be strict rules to ensure it cannot be used for any other purpose (e.g., it would have "drive-stun" capability removed and be limited to only a few rounds). Shattering the glass in any classroom would immediately set of alarms in all classrooms (giving other teachers time guide children to safety) and cause first responders to come (irrespective of time or day).

While mass shootings do not represent most of gun violence, they are especially unnerving. Generally, however:

1) Mass shootings are usually murder-suicide. Suicide here is either a primary (with murder being secondary) goal or a way of escaping retribution. If, on the other hand, the perpetrator knows they are more likely to be simply disabled and then arrested and thrown in prison, this creates further deterrence: it now makes more sense not to go through with the plan, to surrender right away before committing any violence.

Sentencing guidelines could reflect it: attempted school shooters who surrendered without firing a shot would receiving more lenient sentencing (but the case itself would be sealed, put on a gag order to prevent those seeking notoriety from making attempts), those are arrested by force would receive far stricter sentencing than those surrender voluntarily (idea being surrender voluntarily/commit no further crime crime < captured by force/commit no further crime < surrender voluntarily/commit further crimes < surrender by force/commit further crime).

Essentially the goal would be to sent two messages:

I) If you are suicidal, you're far more likely to fail, be captured, and have your life made much worse (on top of what ever is ailing you) if you try to "take others with you"

II) It is very difficult to escape retribution in a mass shooting, so the best strategy would be to either not attempt a mass shooting or to peacefully surrender without firing a shot.

2) Contrary to popular belief, mass shootings are not always in explici "gun free" zones (Giffords shooting, Portland Mall shooting, possibly the Aurora shooting) -- and usually a single armed guard or a CCW license holder might be there but wasn't be able to do much.

However, several shootings have been ended early by multiple unarmed individuals tackling a disoriented perpetrator. Obviously it is not expected for elementary school teachers to be able to tackle an assailant, yet this approach has the advantage that now there are multiple individuals (teachers in different classrooms) armed with less than lethal (which by no means means "non-lethal") tools that significant amplify their own physical ability and can disorient the assailant even without directly hitting the assailant (i.e., one volunteer using the weapon now makes the assailant more susceptible to additional uses of the weapon).

3) The less than lethal weapon should be designed with the purpose of making an otherwise untrained individual (with no firearms experience) not only able to incapacitate an assailant, but to also make them feel confident that they are able to.

That is why I think a "carbine/shotgun-length taser" might be better approach here than a hand-held tool: it would be easier to aim, look like a more menacing weapon, and fit a wider variety of individuals.

4) (Added this later) Teachers, guards, other volunteers have a "homeground advantage here" vis. an intruder. This would be more effective than a passer-by CCW holder in a mall.

5) (Also added later) Less than lethal weapon have less chance of causing serious damage to bystanders or those using the weapons.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

In theory this is a good idea, but I'd be afraid of slippery slope. When a teacher comes upon two kids fighting, the temptation to use a "non lethal" emergency device to break up the fight would be a lot higher than the temptation to shoot one of them.

You might be able to deal with it by declaring use of the device the same as using lethal force, with criminal liability for any use where deadly force wouldn't have been otherwise authorized.

I would be ok with the NRA "arm the teachers" IFF the teachers were given ~10-14 week sheriff's deputy/POST level training, and volunteered, in addition to regular CCW. I couldn't imagine an elementary school teacher doing this, but a college professor or a high school science teacher or someone seems like a reasonable candidate. Putting full time armed guards at most schools is just insane from a cost-benefit perspective even if it did help (which I don't believe it would, overall). $1-5k of extra training for a volunteer teacher would be a lot more reasonable.

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japhyr 454 days ago | link

I would be ok with the NRA "arm the teachers" IFF the teachers were given ~10-14 week sheriff's deputy/POST level training, and volunteered, in addition to regular CCW. I couldn't imagine an elementary school teacher doing this, but a college professor or a high school science teacher or someone seems like a reasonable candidate.

I have been teaching middle school and high school math and science for 15 years, in 3 very different schools in different parts of the country. The NRA's proposal was frightening. When I look back at all the colleagues I've worked with, most of them would not want anything to do with guns in schools. The teachers I respect most, who have been respected most by their students, don't want anything to do with guns. But I can also pick out a good number of my former colleagues who would probably like to arm themselves. A good number of these are teachers who do not have particularly good rapport with their students.

Think how many bored smart kids there are in schools. Think of the stupid games kids play against their teachers to amuse themselves. Now imagine these bored, smart kids knowing their teacher is carrying a gun. I imagine kids goading teachers to show them their gun, to take it out, to pose with it, etc. Most armed teachers would take themselves quite seriously and never have an issue. But it takes just a small percentage of armed teachers to let their guard down for some pretty ugly things to happen.

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strlen 454 days ago | link

Yep, that's why I find this insane on more than just practical grounds:

1) You can't teach someone to effectively and safely use a firearm if they do not wish to do so. Most teachers do not wish to own as much as use actual firearms.

2) A firearm is more than just a machine for sending a projectile at a certain rate in a certain direction. It has street value, it is considered "cool", etc...

I still remember when a DARE councilor (a policewoman) came to our school when I was first visiting the US in sixth grade: everyone kept asking to see her pistol (she had enough sense not to show it) and how she used it (her answer is once she was threatened by a man with a chainsaw, but avoided using the pistol), what would happen to her if she did, etc.... This was an absurdly upper-middle class elementary school in Cupertino, right next to Apple's Bubb Road buildings, etc. You can't even blame us "gun culture" as most of the kids were immigrants/children of temporary workers like myself (we later moved back to the United States on a permanent basis) and the community was very liberal.

It was a bit bizarre that she chose to carry it on her person to an elementary school, however. My home country is a quasi-fascist second-turned-third-world hell-hole yet majority of street police (at least when I lived time) did not carry firearms on them. Merely pepper spray and a rubber baton (which they would abuse extensively, of course).

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strlen 454 days ago | link

> the temptation to use a "non lethal" emergency device to break up the fight would be a lot higher than the temptation to shoot one of them

I think that if it's made clear that the firearm is merely "less than lethal" (it can actually kill or maim), but simply less likely to hurt by standers people will get the idea.

> You might be able to deal with it by declaring use of the device the same as using lethal force, with criminal liability for any use where deadly force wouldn't have been otherwise authorized.

Yep, that's the idea. Unauthorized use is prosecuted, the clear expectation is that these may only be used in the same condition that a firearm could be used (keep in mind that these devices are usually not only firearms in the legal sense, but are also NFA-regulated due to caliber and/or barrel length).

I would go as far and say that they may only be used on students who are armed (but not necessarily with a firearm). Now that might have the opposite effect is that they will be less likely to use them in a genuine scenario -- however, merely shattering the glass and grabbing one would alert other teachers (this would be another cost against teachers using them to break up a fight). So exact laws are tricky, but not improbable to device (much like there are regulations on when teachers may or may not physically restrain students).

Plus there's also a few other things: if you genuinely ever want to use a less than lethal weapon (or _any_ weapon) on a elementary child to break up a fight, some kind of psycho-metric testing should have stopped you from becoming a teacher in the first place :-) On the other hand, in high school or middle school, a fight (or other non-deadly confrontation) can be broken up by, e.g., P.E. or wrestling coaches (they will be slower to engage, but this isn't a life and death situation).

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vacri 454 days ago | link

How much more can we load onto teachers?

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froo 454 days ago | link

1) Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard initiated our gun buyback scheme in 1996 and since then, our firearm related suicide rate has fallen 74% and we have not had a single gun massacre since (we had 13 in the preceding 18 years before it).

He wrote a piece on this for the NYTimes recently, linked below

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/opinion/australia-banned-a...

It will be an unpopular position, especially amongst conservatives who seem to believe that Gun rights and right wing politics go hand in hand (I'll note that John Howard led our main conservative party in initiating the buyback).

It has surely worked for us. Our gun violence statistics have dropped dramatically since the scheme was implemented.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

On the suicide issue, I honestly don't care about the gun suicide rate in isolation of the total suicide rate. I'm curious what happened to the overall Australian suicide rate (and, ideally, correct for any other changes going on at the same time, like Australia's current booming economy)

I generally agree that banning possession or even just sale of most guns would reduce the spree killing rate, but spree killings are essentially statistical noise relative to other violent crimes and gun-related violent crimes.

Australia also had a far lower number of guns at time of prohibition than the US does now.

I think a blanket ban on gun possession (or even sale) wouldn't have anywhere near as much of an affect on gang-related gun crime in the US as you'd hope, and would have related negative effects.

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strlen 454 days ago | link

> I generally agree that banning possession or even just sale of most guns would reduce the spree killing rate, but spree killings are essentially statistical noise relative to other violent crimes and gun-related violent crimes.

Yes, exactly -- I don't think that stopping spree-killing (as dreadful as they are) -- validates a significant encroachment on what is considered a protected individual right.

The outright ban on most repeating firearms may have worked for Australia (less overall gun crime, no fundamental right to bear arms), but it would absolutely not happen in the US (liberals and conservatives would oppose it). At the same time, it would not significantly change public safety in general.

Addressing spree-shootings is a legitimate concern, but in the United States, it has to necessarily be addressed in a manner that involves the least possible restriction. The kind of solution Australia under took would require a constitutional amendment (which needs a super majority of states to agree), an insane budget for a buy back (there could be close to hundred of millions of these firearms at the least), and it would probably never come to fruition as majority of the US populace would oppose it and police would refuse to enforce it.

This isn't just about firearms: I'd imagine movies like "Innocence of Muslims" or groups like Westboro Baptist Church would be banned in many other first world countries. Upholding a statute that infringes on a Bill of Rights amendment requires an extra-ordinary cause ("fire in a crowded theater"/"clear and present danger" standard).

Individuals who suggest US follow the Australia or British model are well intentioned but are unaware of both how strongly gun rights advocates and gun owners feel on the issue (there is no magic "gun lobby", NRA is powerful because of donations from individuals) and the reality of day-to-day gun violence in the US (it is not what is shown on tv).

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Volpe 454 days ago | link

Yeah I agree with most of your points. Australia never had the gun culture the US had (even before the Gun buy back). Most people in urban areas did not own guns, it was (and remains) mostly farmers.

I don't have a citation, but I remember reading a justification for suicide prevention fences on bridges, that found that it didn't just stop suicides from that bridge, it did so without raising suicides in any other way (i.e it lowered the total suicides).

I've always found it difficult to think of a solution to America's "Gun Problem"... It is codified in their laws, and from that is deeply engrained in their culture. Any reform has to first start reforming the culture, in my mind.

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strlen 454 days ago | link

On the other hand, violence is generally decreasing in the US, so it's quite possible non-coercive approaches could substantially affect the spree-shooting problem.

Deeper structural changes would be needed to fix the actual gun violence problem in US which is completely different from the spree shooting problem (they're two separate problems, effectively): the violent crimes committed by illegally kept pistols (straw purchased, stolen, inherited, bought off the books) and is usually closely related to the drug war. It is also a deep inequality issue: the poor and minorities are far more likely to be affected than suburban whites.

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froo 454 days ago | link

It's not a blanket ban on gun possession though, it was purely a semi-automatic/automatic buyback.

Lower capacity guns are still freely available.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

It also seriously limited access overall (either by law or by culture). Otherwise the gun suicide rate wouldn't have been affected, since most suicides are single-shot (except for Russians...), and shotguns/rifles are used more in suicides than they are used in murder.

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lsllc 454 days ago | link

Teachers don't need to be armed in case of a shooter just as teachers don't need to carry fire extinguishers in case of a fire.

Teachers DO need to be trained in what to do in a shooting just as they do when there is a fire. When there is a fire, we don't lock ourselves in the classroom waiting for the fire department to show up. We escape, we fight the fire (with fire extinguishers) until the fire department shows up to deal with the situation.

This is what the Israelis do, they have gun safes placed around the school that contain a handgun and a magazine. They train the school personnel on how to operate the weapon, they're not looking for the next Jason Bourne, just someone who can slow down (or possibly stop the shooter). Opening the safe automatically dials 911.

http://backwoodshome.com/blogs/MassadAyoob/2012/12/15/agains...

What should the kids do? Escape and evade, don't sit around waiting to be executed:

http://www.activeresponsetraining.net/parents-guide

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strlen 454 days ago | link

This has the same approach in that the weapon is hidden behind a safe and opening the safe means a call to first responders. I am very much in favour of this.

My issue is that in US environment that weapon can not be a firearm: neither the students nor the teachers can think rationally about firearms.

A less than lethal weapon differs only psychologically: I believe there is no difference under US between a civilian discharging a police-model Taser (with ability to shoot barbs) and a civilian discharging an NFA-licensed grenade launcher. Both are considered "lethal force" and subject to the same rules. Tasers are absolutely capable of causing death and I am actually in favour of restricting their police use: prohibit their use when a subject is not a threat to themselves or anyone else, allow their use in situations where otherwise a firearm would be used despite not being needed. Infamous cases where police used Tasers on non-compliant (but non-threatening) individualists should be treated similar to shooting and lightly injuring (or shooting and missing) a non-compliant individual.

So why "glorified Tasers" but not firearms for teachers? As a Russian-Jewish immigrant to the United States with many friends and relatives in Israel, I have to say Israel is not the US.

1) Irrespective of gender non-Hassidic Jews, along with Druze, Bedouins, Circassians, and many other ethnic groups are subject to military service. The military service is half-ways between Swiss-style militia (a non-standing army) and US military. After the initial service (during which they are often free to go home with their service rifle) they become reservists subject to being regularly called up.

1) Naturally that means they already have some background training, so this isn't an issue of them learning to shoot from anew -- more of learning to use a Glock 17 instead of an an M1911 they used during training or in the reserves.

So even if they are issued an actual lethal firearm, said firearm would probably have to be a break-action pistol-caliber (or frangible .223) rifle rather than a pistol. A revolver would be simple from mechanical point of view but difficult to aim, while a shotgun would would have far too much felt-recoil (other than may be a .410).

2) Military service also instills a more balanced view of the firearm for both the teachers and the students: they will view the firearm as a tool and understand its dangers and limitations.

I think right now the view of firearms in US is dangerously split:

* Increasing super-majority (something like 70-75%) supports the individual right to posses firearms.

* Decreasing minority (currently 40%) actually owns firearms.

* The minority "guns are evil" side is fairly irrationally opposed to their use (e.g., it's one thing to think that firearms should not be owned by civilians, it's another thing to oppose civilians participating in shooting sports)

* Many gun owners and gun-rights defenders have these same "Jason Bourne" fantasies. It's nauseating to hear about how this or other shooting could have been stopped by conceal carriers holders. I fully support the idea of concealed carry (there are many legitimate reasons to do so), but it's asinine to think they can stop all crime. Actual statistics conceal carry alone does not actually change gun violence -- there's neither a marked increase nor a marked decrease. Crime rates have fallen since conceal-carry statues have been enacted in some states, but they also fallen across the board in the US.

* Young teens consider them to be somewhat of an accessory and a curiosity item.

I think not much good can come up if you a give a teacher that thinks "all guns are unequivocally evil" (or conversely "I could have stopped Columbine with my Ruger SP01") access to a firearm, while surrounding him with a crowd full of kids who have an unhealthy fascination with firearms.

If you train them to use a simplified version of what is a firearm in all but name, but is remarkably less dangerous to bystanders, evokes no emotions, and has no street value (no impetus for someone to disable the connection from safe 911, steal, and sell one) then it's a different situation. I think a purpose-built Taser-like weapon, in a school shooting scenario, would deliver 80% of the value of a small-caliber firearm anyway.

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scotty79 454 days ago | link

There is much simpler solution to mass shootings. The one that is successfully used all over the world (was recently successfully implemented in Australia). Ban individual gun ownership and go back to the original intent of 4th amendment (before gun manufacturers twisted it) that gun ownership is legal for private organised law enforcement organisations.

I was under the impression that the person who asked those questions doesn't have mass shootings in mind.

Making guns accessible to nearly anybody and asking not to have mass shootings is like having gravity and asking not to have anything seriously damaged by the fall ever.

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GFischer 454 days ago | link

I second this idea.

I've wondered a long time why there isn't more development of nonlethal weapons, something like a stun / tranquilizer gun.

I don't want a gun for my own self-defense, because, once you have a gun, and actually target someone, you have to be WILLING to fire it, and live with the consequences (automatic jail time here in my country, except in the most strenuous self-defense, and then only if the assailant had a gun himself).

However, I'm strongly considering a Taser for myself, after witnessing a particularly appalling mugging (I was to slow to intervene, which is actually a good thing, because I'm overweight and out of shape, I would have been beaten up).

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expralitemonk 454 days ago | link

Self defense sprays have come a long way in 30 years, and they can stop a bear. In fact a person using bear spray to stop a bear attack is less likely to be injured than a person using a gun. http://www.bearsmart.com/docs/BearSprayVsBullets.pdf

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GFischer 454 days ago | link

Well, there are no bears or dangerous wildlife in my country (except maybe for some bulls), but there are a lot of "planchas" which is the local brand of ghetto people, and drunk aggressive homeless people, and I've come close to getting hurt twice already this year.

I should look into a self-defense spray though :), with the added benefit of them being much cheaper.

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[deleted]
strlen 454 days ago | link

I think Russia allows "gas pistols" with a special license too. Nonetheless, a pistol like firearm in general is difficult to aim and use.

Mace is fully legal in the US, but not very efficient.

Actual tasers (those carried by police) are probably illegal in most countries as technically it's a short range grenade launcher (it uses an explosive charge). They are incredibly useful, but are unfortunately overused in cases where they are completely unwarranted. A simplified taser-like weapon would be more useful in this cases (little training, used by someone who is statistically likely to be opposed to firearms in general).

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rdl 454 days ago | link

There are different kinds of pepper (OC) spray, too.

In general Mace kind of sucks, but OC spray is an adequate untrained-person defensive choice, and OC stream or OC foam can be used in a fairly targeted way and is useful -- maybe a carbine-length OC foam dispenser would make sense, combined with geolocator, 3000 lumen 5-minute flashlight, radio communications direct to the police, etc.

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philwelch 455 days ago | link

So here's a crazy little idea.

Most gun violence is directly linked to gang activity. Gang activity is directly linked to the money involved in the drug trade. So the best technological approach to reducing gun violence would be one that took all the money out of the drug trade, giving the gangsters less to shoot at each other over. There is precedent for this. The fact that crime, including violent crime and violent crime committed with firearms, is so low now compared to the 80's and early 90's is directly linked to the collapse in the price of cocaine.

We've made it almost impossible to stop everyday copyright infringement, why not make it almost impossible to stop physical smuggling or fabrication of narcotics? Commoditize the gangsters straight out of business. Part of what made the bottom fall out of cocaine was crystal meth. So there's one direction: freely distribute the information and materials necessary to manufacture competing drugs. Then there's the distribution: Silk Road is a start, but find a better way of doing it that will pull in more producers, consumers, and distributors. If you work all the angles, you can engineer an end run against the war on drugs the same way we engineered an end run against copyright.

Too far out? ;)

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rdl 455 days ago | link

Heh. I do agree that ending the drug war is the single best thing that can be done to reduce violence, poverty, racism, hopelessness-among-minorities, etc.

Guns and gun violence are a very minor issue by comparison.

I'd rather not have a widespread "everyone a tweaker" program, though. Crystal meth is actually pretty bad. Decriminalizing existing drugs and production of drugs would probably be a lot better than replacing illegal pot/coke/etc. use with illegal meth use.

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philwelch 455 days ago | link

Sure, I was not being entirely serious. I'll just say that we're probably better off in the current heyday of meth than we were in the heyday of cocaine. Any reasonable approach to the drug problem is not about growing demand for drugs, just better meeting the existent demand with fewer externalities.

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lancewiggs 454 days ago | link

So perhaps one of the HN responses could be "legalise, regulate and tax most of the illegal drugs". That would certainly send an interesting message.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

That's not technical, though. This is specifically for 2 technical meetings they're having on technical measures to deal with gun violence.

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cookingrobot 454 days ago | link

Except skip the tax. There's no need for it, and it would just support the incentive for a black market.

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taejo 454 days ago | link

> I'll just say that we're probably better off in the current heyday of meth than we were in the heyday of cocaine.

As long as "we" excludes the drug users.

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strlen 455 days ago | link

It's interesting that both pro-gun rights libertarians and most anti-gun violence liberals agree on this point but for (one reason or another) fail to advance this.

Irrespective of what you think about gun laws, if you want to significantly reduce violence in US and Mexico, working on making drug trade less profitable would be a higher leverage activity than changing gun policy.

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codex 454 days ago | link

I think that ending the drug trade would actually increase violence against the average citizen.

Drugs provide a lucrative means of employment for a large number of people with few skills. Take that away, and the world looks much bleaker. These newly unemployed, who used to make hundreds of times what they would working at McDonalds, can now no longer afford their own shoes. They might then turn from dealing drugs and occasionally shooting each other, to armed robbery and occasionally shooting a law abiding citizen.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

The drug trade is uniquely violent. It has no recourse to legal contracts, high values of cash or cash equivalents, and people who are by virtue of being on drugs, predisposed to violence and irrationality.

The average citizen is honestly not that much affected by gun crime, drug crime, etc. now. It's mainly confined to urban ghettos and some border regions, and the perpetrators are generally black and latino young males, and the victims are black and latinos of a variety of ages (primarily young males, too, but not as exclusively).

It's pretty hard to separate racism and a history of racism and discrimination, the drug war, and culture of violence (including gun violence).

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raverbashing 454 days ago | link

Well, you know, about the substance you cited, it's difficult to synthesize it

That's why they still get it from the leaves of the plant, and have to transport it

There may be 'alternatives' but I suppose some people will just go for it, not to mention the 'new' different cheap format (rocks that can be smoked)

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Zak 454 days ago | link

What exactly do you mean by "gun safety"? I don't think you're talking about accidental or negligent discharges resulting in injury or death. Firearm enthusiast groups, firearms manufacturers and dealers have put significant effort in to educating the public about safe handling which has reduced unintended shootings by a large amount over the past 50 years or so. This would be a strange problem for someone not involved in the firearms industry directly to tackle.

If you were to include suicide, which accounts for the majority of fatal gunshots, I submit that there doesn't appear to be much if any correlation between suicide rates and access to firearms internationally. I'd certainly try to keep a suicidal friend away from firearms, but it's just not that hard to find a quick and reliably way to end one's life. Suicide prevention probably shouldn't focus on methods of suicide.

If you're talking about reducing gun crime, I actually do have an idea. Right now, very few people who fail NICS background checks are prosecuted, yet many of them have committed a felony by lying on the background check form they're required to fill out when buying a gun from a dealer. If it's due to criminal history, the police should show up to deliver the news about the failure in person - and arrest the buyer. If it's for mental health reasons, the person should be involuntarily detained for psychiatric evaluation. Obviously, the false-positive rate needs to be low for this to work.

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dmix 454 days ago | link

Penn Jillette made an excellent observation when confronted with a question of how can we solve a problem together as a species?

He said, the best question to ask is how can we solve this problem with more freedom rather than less?

So my only point is that we should be looking for ways to use technology for freedom, such as spreading information about safety or getting help for mental health issues.

And not trying to restrict the average normal healthy citizens with technology. Which has been proven again and again throughout history that technological restrictions are rendered ineffective against clever hackers or criminals.

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cookingrobot 454 days ago | link

Philwelch has a clever suggestion for this above: end the war on drugs, which would remove the drug gang economy and related gun violence.

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roguecoder 454 days ago | link

In that case we should be considering technology that allows me to disable guns in my vicinity, since I want to be free from having high speed projectiles discharged around me.

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Harkins 455 days ago | link

It seems to me that one of the major drivers of hostility to NICS is the fear that the government having a complete and accurate listing of gun purchases will enable a future fascistic government to neuter resistance by confiscating guns. So one way to reduce political opposition to NICS would be to make it useless as a database of gun ownership. Run it in such a public fashion that everyone can trust it's not keeping track of all guns, or constantly run fake queries against it for all citizens so that gun owners cannot be identified.

I unsure if what I've read about this belief is fringey or common among gun owners, so maybe this is not necessary to gain enough political support to require background checks for all firearm sales.

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rdl 455 days ago | link

There's actually federal law against building a national firearms registry, so that should influence NICS design.

We saw in California and NY that registration -> confiscation. I actually trust the federal government more than the California government, but I don't think it's an unreasonable concern. Borderline guns (say, .50bmg) which are 100% registered would be at risk to confiscation in the future if possession is banned. It would be much easier legally to ban possession of the .50bmg, particularly in semiauto, than anything else, since those are so expensive and rare, and so destructive that they look great on TV.

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dmix 455 days ago | link

> There's actually federal law against building a national firearms registry

There was also one for wiretapping citizens.

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jberryman 455 days ago | link

what are you referring to with "registration -> confiscation"?

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philwelch 455 days ago | link

If you register all the guns, or all the gun owners, then you have a list of people so you can go knock on their doors and take their guns away from them. Gangsters exempt, naturally--they didn't bother registering in the first place.

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dmix 455 days ago | link

People often aren't aware that the 2nd amendment has nothing to do with protecting you from other citizens, instead it's about protecting the civilians from having an authoritarian government being the only one with guns.

Combine that with the fact the DoD has a program to share excess weaponry with the police. So the domestic police force becomes militarized as the citizens are being stripped of weaponry.

It's a plausible concern.

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jevinskie 454 days ago | link

I think the grandparent poster was looking for those specific CA and NY examples.

Were SKS somehow confiscated in CA? How did CA get around the tricky "ex post facto" thing?

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rdl 454 days ago | link

There isn't a clear case:

The .50 and AW bans in California had a mandatory registration period. If you did not register during that 90 day window, you could never register them in the future, so they were illegal. There was a legal challenge during that process -- the AG said he'd extend it, someone anti-gun sued him, and the extension was invalidated; they then started sending letters to those who hadn't registered by the original deadline telling them to turn their (now illegal) weapons in.

NYC has local law 78 and there was confiscation based in prior registration. http://www.constitution.org/2ll/bardwell/richmond_boro_v_nyc...

Essentially, NYC used long gun registration records from the early 1980s to confiscate newly-defined assault weapons after a 1991 AW ban. There was a window given for AW registration in 1991, I believe, to get around the legal challenge.

Japanese-Americans had guns confiscated in Hawaii in 1942 (there were no mass internments in Hawaii, though)

Outside the US, registration was used to facilitate confiscation in Ireland, Bermuda, Jamaica, and Greece.

I think there wer also cases of registered handguns in Chicago where if the registration lapsed (there was an annual renewal requirement), the registration data was used for confiscation.

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mindslight 454 days ago | link

I've got a modest proposal - the second simplest idea of them all.

Instead of beating around the bush with restrictions that should be ruled unconstitutional but won't be, simply ban all firearms. The building-a-better-world folks would be happy to finally get their wet dream. The constitutionalists could stop deluding themselves as to its applicability, and thus choose to secede or revolt. And everybody who wants personal freedom would be free of a red herring and could better concentrate on functional ways of neutering the modern governments' ability to do things like ban personal tools in the first place.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

If someone passes an unconstitutional law, the reasonable response isn't to secede (which is itself unconstitutional), but to challenge it in the courts (as well as to vote out of office the legislators/executives who pushed those laws).

"Cutting off your nose to spite your face" would be the cliche here.

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mindslight 454 days ago | link

The courts actually ruling it unconstitutional would be a decent outcome as well. And maybe they even would with such a blatant contradiction. But if not, hopefully the incongruence would finally be explicit enough to dispel the wishful belief that the government is bound by a piece of paper.

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nthj 454 days ago | link

> The constitutionalists could stop deluding themselves as to its applicability, and thus choose to secede or revolt

Or revolt over seceding? The Civil War would not have taken place had Lincoln allowed the South to go on their merry way.

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maxharris 455 days ago | link

What about better ways to recognize those people that are mentally ill and violent before they strike again?

Unfortunately, this isn't really a tech problem. We're in this mess now because Thomas Szasz began a movement to destroy the profession of psychiatry. This led to the massive deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill thirty years ago, swelling the ranks of the homeless. That, in turn, played a major role in these recent killings, because of the impact the movement had on civil commitment laws: it is now very difficult (if not impossible) to commit those in dire need of effective, full-time treatment before people get killed.

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roguecoder 454 days ago | link

Only 75% of adult spree killers have a mental illness diagnosis and the most common diagnosis is "depression". Less than 20% of teenage spree killers have a mental illness diagnosis. Tiller wasn't mentally ill at all, just racist and power-obsessed.

As convenient as blaming mental illness may be, it is also short-sighted.

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Zak 454 days ago | link

Going on a killing spree is prima facie evidence of mental illness. The fact that it wasn't diagnosed beforehand is part of the problem.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

Spree killers are ~100/killings/yr. "rational" criminal murders with guns, domestic violence, etc. are more like 10k/yr.

I'm also not sure how many of the ~15k gun suicides (or, say, all suicides) are mental illness/depression/etc. It may be unpopular, but I don't consider a 50-80 year old guy who is diagnosed with cancer which will painfully kill him over the next 3 months, killing himself, to be particularly wrong. (it's sad that he dies, but fuck cancer, in that case, vs. suicide being the problem)

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Zak 454 days ago | link

I agree. I was just responding to roguecoder's point. Spree killings are so rare as to be irrational to give much consideration to when making public policy decisions.

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ctoth 454 days ago | link

I often have discussions with pro-gun friends of mine about reasonable solutions that would allow them to retain their weapons, which they evidently greatly favor, and would still increase overall safety.

It seems to me that the argument that a gun provides protection is a valid one. What other device gives us the ability to point and click and stop someone literally dead in their tracks? This is the problem, and as I see it one that is asking for a technical solution. Consider a device with the following attributes:

  - It is extremely quick to deploy. Just as quick as drawing and firing a gun.
  - It can be used multiple times in succession
  - It renders a potential threat (say a hostile person with a gun) inert or otherwise incapacitated
  - It is affordable, $99 or less.
  - It is difficult if not impossible to block (no Faraday cage armor)
Now, how might this be done? Can we induce paralysis remotely without deactivating critical muscles like the heart? I know about TASERS (TM), and from what I understand the primary drawback with those is that they are only one-time use weapons, once deployed they aren't easily reusable (I.E. if you miss you're out of luck) and their range is not equivalent to a handgun. Can one of you smart hackers find a link to a scientific paper about some sort of field that makes rats fall over? As a blind person, I would love it if the device could simply be pointed in the general direction of a threat and cover a wider area, say a shotgun stun device.

This has interesting second order implications which I haven't thought about -- what happens when you can easily go up to someone, shoot them, paralyze them for 30 minutes and steal their stuff? But all things considered, if someone is going to steal my stuff, I'd rather live through the experience.

Thoughts? Am I completely off base? Or is this a reasonable way to approach the protection part of the problem?

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roguecoder 454 days ago | link

* Require gun insurance and make gun purchasers criminally responsible if the guns they buy are later used to commit a crime.

* Provide incentives to encourage people to rent guns if they are going to shoot recreationally at a gun range. This could be accomplished through a flat tax on guns owned by individuals, combined with storage and tracking requirements for guns at ranges.

* Basic GPS tracking would seem easy and straight-forward, and reduce the problems with stolen (or "stolen") weapons.

* Repeal the second amendment. Any gun ownership should be based on efficacy and maximize safety. Currently gun ownership can not be optimized because it does not have a defined aim.

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monochromatic 454 days ago | link

How could GPS tracking possibly work? I mean everything you just said is laughably misguided, but the GPS thing shows a lack of technical understanding of both GPSes and guns.

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Zak 454 days ago | link

Basic GPS tracking would seem easy and straight-forward, and reduce the problems with stolen (or "stolen") weapons.

How do you prevent people from disabling the GPS when the gun is stolen or "stolen"? It seems like it would be pretty difficult to make a GPS tracking unit that couldn't have its power source disconnected. If you managed that, it's fairly easy to destroy electronics. A few seconds in the microwave usually does the trick.

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rundmc 454 days ago | link

The point is that if you introduce legislation that makes it manadatory for weapons to be location aware then this allows certain other features such as de-activation of "hunting" rifles etc. within urban environments and so forth.

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Zak 454 days ago | link

Aside from the technical difficulty of designing such a system and making it difficult to bypass, that sounds like a solution in search of a problem. People firing rifles of any kind in urban environments, whether by accident, for self defense or to commit a crime is quite rare. Handguns are the weapon of choice for both criminal use and lawful self defense in cities. I suppose you could disable those too, but the effect on crime would be similar to banning them: criminals would still have working guns and non-criminals wouldn't.

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kunle 454 days ago | link

What if guns were treated like cars.

Every single gun has a unique signature (like a VIN #), and you had to buy insurance on your gun in order to own it, transfer title anytime its sold, and be held liable for any violence damage caused by a gun you own.

Insurance companies would have to vet you in order to give you a price, and any mishaps that occurred from guns you own, would make your insurance rates increase. As such you would take as much care who has access to your guns as you do with who has access to your car, and you'd only own guns you need.

Gun owners who are responsible would see the cost of owning guns go up a bit, but more careless folks would feel the economic effects, which would prod them to behave more responsibly.

This way, we can worry less about loopholes around what kinds of weapons people should own, or deal with bans or gun buybacks (which would secretly just be a boon for gun manufacturers). The people so adamant about owning weapons would now have a mechanism to compensate society for the damage they caused (if any).

Good policy because it's a market driven mechanism for gun safety, and good politics because it's functionally the government setting the rules, and getting out of the way (which the right wants) and reducing the societal cost/damange of gun ownership by pricing in externalities (which the left once).

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rdl 454 days ago | link

Guns already have to have serial numbers (equivalent to VIN, but less structured, and managed by manufacturer, and no central registry).

The issue is that car accidents are accidents (often involving negligence), whereas gun crime is generally willful (sometimes involving crazy people, but generally just criminals).

There's the issue that a lawful collector or random hunter or whatever with lots of guns is a lower risk than a gangster with one gun, and the risk per gun is vastly lower for a law abiding person with lots of guns vs. a bad guy with one or a few.

In fact, I'd bet that gun crime goes down as the number of guns possessed goes up. Obviously 0 is the least, but 1 is the most, and it's probably close to exponential after that. The guy with 31 guns is way less likely to kill someone than the guy with 3.

The only risk when someone has lots of guns is that they'll get distributed to others -- either through theft or through willful straw-man purchase or other distribution. A person who holds ~30 guns for a gang, then distributes them as needed for crime, is a problem, yes.

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kunle 454 days ago | link

Right - I recognize there are limited things you can do about guns illegally out and about. But if owners were held liable for the social effects of weapons they own(ed), then:

1. You'd choose carefully what you owned and why you owned it. No matter how you slice it, its hard to justify why someone should own ~30, ~40, or ~50 firearms (dont know how often this actually happens but I believe owning multiple weapons happens fairly frequently), and any insurer seeing that, would price your risk accordingly. You'd be forced to take steps to reduce the cost of ownership, hence reducing it to the amount you actually use.

2. As a result of this change in ownership, the likelihood of weapons getting stolen drops, and correspondingly the flow of new guns into the black market.

assuming here that guns on the black market typically start out under legal ownership.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

1. Actuarially-priced insurance for a white 50 year old male who lives in a rich area and has an 800+ credit score, and owns NFA items and ~500 guns, would be less for all of his collection than for a single 21 year old black male who owns a single Raven .25acp (legally) for self defense.

(Maybe the younger guy is a military veteran, is volunteering to help his community and thus lives in a high-crime area, and has that gun to protect his 5yo niece from criminals in the neighborhood. Or, maybe he's a gang member who hasn't gotten arrested yet. The insurer would assume the latter.)

I mean, look at car insurance. There's also more of a socially-beneficial and defensible use for the 21 year old who wants to defend his family than for a collector, really.

2. Stolen guns are minor part of the supply of guns (10-15%). The benefits of this whole proposal could come from universal background checks on transfers, to the extent that they hinder straw purchases from dealers and "outside the gun show" person to person sales across state lines.

~all guns start out legal (at the manufacturer); the issue is how they go from manufacturer to first sale and then subsequent sales. Right now, a large number of illegal guns (particularly handguns) come from straw purchases (where a criminal has a non-criminal buy a gun from a dealer) or from private party sales (generally across state lines, since high crime places like LA, Baltimore, DC, Chicago have strict gun laws; places with low gun crime have looser laws).

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Jayschwa 454 days ago | link

Insurance is for covering unexpected events. A gun being fired is a deliberate act. I don't see how it makes sense in this context.

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rdl 454 days ago | link

Gun theft and gun liability insurance do make a lot of sense, and are currently offered.

Generally you get theft as a rider on your homeowners insurance -- which you should have, and you should probably get for computer equipment, camera equipment, etc. Allied Brokers in Palo Alto is awesome, btw

Liability is either specific to profession, or membership in something like NRA, for instructors. It's worth having an umbrella liability policy too, since it's pretty cheap to get $1-10mm in coverage once you have $500k coverage for your car, which is itself only 2-3x as expensive as the legal minimum.

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Jayschwa 454 days ago | link

Homeowner's insurance is to cover the cost of the item. If someone steals my gun and then shoots someone with it, I don't believe the homeowner's insurance will cover that. However, I think that's what kunle had in mind.

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dr_doom 455 days ago | link

I don't think gun safety is the major issue, gun violence is the big killer.

Biometric scanners and high tech safes may help save a few people but there are more murders during a Chicago summer than all school shootings in the last 10 years combined.

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rdl 455 days ago | link

The question is, are the possessors of those (mostly handguns) in Chicago lawfully able to purchase them?

If there were a 100% effective (no false positive or negatives) gun to legal owner biometric ID thing, then that should reduce Chicago gang violence as well. The problem is I don't believe it's technically possible to build even a 90% effective system like that (a trigger and firing mechanism is mechanically simple; I could just open the gun and replace the advanced biometric system with a traditional one, perhaps 3d printed), and the are the 200 million existing weapons.

Biometrics are potentially good for preventing someone from taking your gun and shooting you with it (which mainly applies to police who open-carry in close proximity to felons), or potentially for keeping children from getting access (although a traditional safe or lockbox works fine for that).

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dr_doom 455 days ago | link

All fair points.

I guess I was looking at it from a criminal perspective. These same Chicago gangs are able to import cocaine from Colombia, ecstasy from Amsterdam, heroin from Afghanistan, hell even knock off purses and electronics from China, I don't see why they wouldn't just expand and sell Romanian AK-47's or bootleg Chinese glocks.

Personally I wouldn't mind biometrics on my guns but would HATE any kind of registry.

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koenigdavidmj 454 days ago | link

Until a Supreme Court ruling a couple years ago, all handguns were illegal in Chicago.

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quasque 455 days ago | link

Discouraging or banning ownership seems to work well in many countries. It's a shame that so many citizens of the US feel intimately tied to these violent objects, and for such archaic reasons.

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Jayschwa 454 days ago | link

Having the ability to defend yourself is not "archaic".

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impendia 455 days ago | link

Require guns sold in the US to be outfitted with some kind of biometric scanner, so that they can only be fired by their legal, registered owner.

Sounds kind of like sci-fi to me, except that I read in the newspapers after Newtown that this kind of technology is being developed and is close to becoming feasible.

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dmix 455 days ago | link

The USA is surrounded by massive borders. Illegal firearms can't be stopped nearly as much as drugs can't.

Combined with the fact that the vast majority of gun crime doesn't happen with legal weapons.

One quote I was able to find:

> "More than 95 percent of all gun related crimes in the Rochester area are committed with illegal guns. That’s what District Attorney Mike Green told NEWS 10NBC Tuesday.

Is this really worth the capital investment?

Not even factoring in the fact that we can hardly keep banks or voting machines free from security flaws... let alone the lack of real-world research on the effectiveness of biometric scanners in wide scale deployments.

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dangero 454 days ago | link

Ignoring the biometric accuracy conversation for a second...

I think the benefit of a gun like this would be that responsible people could own them for self defense. Statistics say that guns in the home increase the chance of violent death. I live in Los Angeles where home invasion robberies are pretty common and I would like to be able to defend myself and my family against an armed intruder, but playing the odds says that I would be putting my family in more danger by bringing the gun into my home than I would be protecting them. This creates a catch-22 and the outcome is that a responsible party does not have a weapon while the criminals all do. I highly doubt a criminal would want to use an advanced biometric gun to commit a crime because it would ID the shooter and create evidence against them while I would prefer that knowing that nobody else could use the gun to cause a violent act in my home.

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Jayschwa 454 days ago | link

Guns need to be as simple as possible so that they are reliable in a self-defense situation. If it doesn't work because the batteries are low or because you're wearing a band-aid on the finger that gets scanned, that's no bueno.

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nate_martin 455 days ago | link

007 had this exact weapon in Skyfall.

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rdl 455 days ago | link

In practice the state of the art for that is a ring with RFID/NFC and a weapon with a reader. Actual biometric tends to fail at the wrong time due to gloves, weather, sweat, etc.

There are a few problems, though -- you want to be able to fire in your off-hand, police officers and especially military need to be able to exchange weapons on the battlefield with other friendly personnel, etc.

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