Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Improving safety after Newtown


After the Newtown school massacre, a lot of people feel unsafe and want changes. They are right to do so. But the changes we make should actually make us safer, not just make us feel good. So like any full review, we need to start by describing what we already have.

The United States has the premier security system on the planet. It has the largest military, by far and has 50 state militaries in the national guard system. It has overlapping layers of federal, state, county, municipal and special purpose police (like the postal and railway police). It also has an amorphous, poorly documented, little discussed system called the unorganized militia. Naturally, the first thing to look at is the unorganized militia. Efforts to oversee and improve all the other parts are ongoing and permanent. We're unlikely to squeeze major improvements out of those parts without major increases in expenses that we can't really afford right now.

The unorganized militia right now, for virtually no taxpayer dollars spent. Its costs are self-funded via license fees and members buy their own weapons, ammunition, and training. It is "bring your own device" defense and gives us somewhere on the order of 2.5 million defensive gun uses (DGU) per year according to the best guesses of the academics who study such things. That's 2.5 million cases of robbery, rape, murder, and other mayhem that often don't even make it to the FBI crime statistics because just the knowledge of an armed presence defused a situation and made potential criminals think better of what they were going to do.

Any effort to change the rules under which the unorganized militia arms itself or gets rid of the unorganized militia altogether has to keep an eye on the DGU numbers so they either go up or the other portions of the system pick up the slack as the militia DGU numbers go down. Anything else and we are becoming less safe. This is why conservatives are mad at Sen. Feinstein. The gun control bill she is threatening to introduce will, very predictably, reduce the number of militia DGU and cause more innocent americans to be victims.