A Journal on Resilience, Independence, and the Self-Assertive Personalities That Define Humanity.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Nature of Armament

Much time is expended debating the merits and demerits of individual possession of arms. Particularly here in the United States where those who choose to can enjoy a great deal of government permission to own, trade and use a variety of small arms.
Usually I often avoid these debates, particularly online, as they tend to be emotional and rarely logical or factual. It's also a topic I avoid writing much about as directly – As in my life, in my writing ownership of firearms (and armament in general) is a constant undercurrent. It is all at once foundation to, representative of, and wholly entwined in what I believe about personal freedom, capability, responsibility and even human nature itself. Particularly in the case of this Armed Bohemian business, armament is an essential (definitional) quality, and I have accordingly spoken of armament both as the right to keep and bear arms and as more than simple possession of a gun.
Recently I was drawn into one of these discussions, and the response I composed brought together a series of thoughts I'd been trying to assemble in written form, for the Armed Bohemian. It is still a sort of rambling screed, but what the hell, its a place to begin.

The right to keep and bear arms is a Human right, at a very fundamental level. By all appearances skill-at-arms (whatever those arms may be) is deeply hardwired into us, perhaps even deeper than many other technological skills that are presently common to humans, i.e. fire, some form of protective clothing, etc. Armament is an essential part of who we are as humans, given that our forward progress is directly tied to our technological process, and one of the dominant tech areas contributing to our rise has been improved hunting and warfare technologies. Human beings keep moving forward, regardless of any societal pressures, and advancing these systems and taking them on at an individual level. We're wired to make, own, and be competitive with, modern armament, starting as individuals.
This can be directly observed today with the Makers crowd (small batch, garage, tech dev. and manufacturing) beginning to DIY aerial drone platforms that are quickly headed towards functionally outstripping US Predator/Reaper platforms. What is emerging is that if the drone performs (and inexpensive, >$50, guidance systems available off-the-shelf ensure it can ), the weapons package doesn't need to be as advanced as a missile. The drone could have a very crude container release and still mount effective weapons package, which would cost a target hundreds of thousands (if not millions) to knock out of the air, but only a few thousand at most to build. So far, none of the open source innovators working on these things want to use them as weapons, they just want to build them “because”. “Because”, it could be argued is the Red Queen at work: Someone somewhere got ahead and the others are running faster simply to keep up. This seems to be the natural course, and is not at all abated or slowed down by state regulation or monopoly on armament, even advanced. Introduction of a monopoly on such systems actually creates greater pressure to innovate competitive solutions.
The point here is not to argue that everyone needs a Reaper drone, but the fact that people as autonomous individuals, not employed by a state contractor or other power innovating similar technologies serves as a great example (to my way of thinking at least) of the natural order in which the individual organism, and his/her hardwired evolutionary need to be competitive, behaves with regard to possession and use of armaments.

The small batch DIY-Drone innovators are also representative of something else I see happening. While many are still stuck on arguments about firearms, or knife, ownership and possession, there are others who are moving further forward – Development and possession of arms of the type, and scale, previously limited to the possession of states and governments. With the decreasing costs of development and manufacturing, and the “small batch” revolution, innovation and production of advanced technology is not limited to the laboratories of major governments and their contractors. People may not be building missile systems in their garages, but what they are doing is creating solutions that, while different, are increasingly competitive with the armaments of state.
How long this lasts, legally, may be a worthwhile question. The regulation of arms and armament is, to an extent, mandatory for the state (although only recently, in the grand scheme, has it been truly feasible in a large scale way).
This applies from possession of knives to possession of tanks. While easy to believe as "for the children" or "for the good of everyones safety", arms regulations are primarily for the benefit of the machines of state. I suspect this is more of an unconscious benefit, as most of those pushing for arms control measures are true believers (or political opportunists) doing it for the children, for the perception of safety. Though few working for disarmament of individuals see it as being for the states benefit, the natural effect is just that. It can only be that, as there is no actual benefit to the individual for being disarmed by the state.
Individuals remain threatened by predators who have accepted acting outside the rule/benefit of law. Such predators, by their very nature, can and will acquire weapons even in the strictest of societies. Meanwhile, the individuals who remain complaint with the states regulations are under-secured by the state despite their investment in it ("if I give up my ability to protect myself, you will protect me") because there is no way for the system to be able to effectively track, identify and respond to every threat to its citizenry in a preemptive manner. It is simply too complex a task to be done. Rather the system can only apply broad coverage, on a greatest benefit for the widest range basis. Out of necessity the state has made the acceptable baseline for protecting its citizens outlawing certain behaviors and acts, and trying to apprehend individuals who've committed those behaviors or acts anyway. That is a complex task anyway, but a far less complex one than trying to give protection to ever individual within the system at the very moment they encounter a predator.
Despite the failure to the individual of this system, many individuals continue their cooperation. It is not so much a direct dupe, as it is is driven by both convention and a loop of reward for cooperation. Cooperation with the state guarantees being able to reap the benefits afforded by the state; Resisting the state supposedly guarantees being unable to enjoy the benefits, and possibly meeting with the force (or greater levels of force) the state claims a monopoly on.
Early weapons bans (armament possession by serfs, sword bans in Europe and Asia, etc.) were enforced far more on the threat of meeting with the superior levels of force deliverable by the state, than by cooperation for reward. Today, in most first world states at least, that approach is little used and at least attempts to avoid it are usually taken, preferring the cooperation equals full access to benefit and non-coop equals restriction of access (imprisonment, felon status, etc.)

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

Trouble for the cooperators arises in those who choose to disobey the state control in a predatory fashion – By simply the act of disobeying they find the fallibility of the state, and knowing that state-control has left many of those who cooperate in a weakened position (dependent on the state for protection it cannot possibly provide) are given new freedoms to exploit this rich victim pool.
Non-cooperators who are not predatory, but have taken means to protect themselves from such predation while appearing to be compliant, are in a much better position in this situation than true cooperators.
Among such individuals, there are those who take such means as legally as possible – Classically, and into this century, we see agrarian cultures taking up farm implements both for defense and as means of predation in the absence of easily available advanced weapons tech. We also see people producing weapons that are within the allowance of law at that time – Much of the self defense products industry is built around these types of arms, and the DIY/Small Batch'ers have shown a capability of doing this on an even greater scale.
Then there are those who will fully cross into illegal territory by obtaining more competitive armament from the black market, or by producing it themselves. Of course, they run the risk of punishment by the state, but part of the arithmetic essential to the decision to not cooperate is calculating what that risk means. If punishment is fines, or jail time, and resultant loss of rights or privileges, and not otherwise severe, what detriment to life and well-being is the states punishment, particularly in the face of possible death or great loss of advantage to predation?

The natural state is an armed state, and as time progresses the organism must maintain that, and do so aggressively and competitively. It is a natural process, yet so many are trying to make it a conscious decision and are advocating for deciding not to. That is scarier than the idea of someone firing up their 3d printer and rolling out a Reaper complete with Hellfires.

(As a note folks - The colored, underlined, bits of text are links. They are relevant and important. Rather than breaking out the style guide and writing my sources in a bibliography, I use links. This serves, sort of, to prove I am not madly ranting in my own private ideological wilderness. I also notice via analytics and sitemeter that most of you are not clicking them. You should, really. You'll learn more that way.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Human Right

In talking about the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (or, RKBA) in the United States, there is often a tone put on the arguments that implies it is an American right. The question is even asked at times; Is gun ownership a right because you live in America, or is it a right because you are an America?
This is wrong. The “issue” (if it is an issue) extends beyond nationalities and borders. To answer that question, the answer is neither. It is a human right. Armament is a right given to humanity by having grasping hands, opposable thumbs and minds both clever enough to devise chemical and mechanical actions, and brutal enough to make weapons of them. Ever since the first ancestor of human beings picked up a branch or a stone and clobbered something to eat or his/her fellow with it arms have been part of the equation. As tools both for providing food and goods (leather, etc.) and of violent intercourse. The arms race began with sticks and rocks, and progressed from there. The advantage of having a superior technology for hunting, and for war, has always spurred those at a disadvantage to even (if not upset) the score. Such is the natural way of competition for survival. A right to arms is a human right, as old as humanity itself. (And it is a right that goes beyond the cut and dry “what it is”. It is representative of more than just force, far more than just violence. It represents capability.)
Being the gun owning nation, as Americans we sometimes loose sight of the global nature of this right we often fight so hard for. We must remember however, that we are not alone. Not only are we not alone, we are also setting the example for others to follow. The damage we do to ourselves, we do to all men and women who would retain an essential human right.

Washington Post: New groups mobilize as Indians embrace the right to bear arms

By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, February 1, 2010

In the land of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian gun owners are coming out of the shadows for the first time to mobilize, U.S.-style, against proposed new curbs on bearing arms.

When gunmen attacked 10 sites in Mumbai in November 2008, including two five-star hotels and a train station, Mumbai resident Kumar Verma sat at home glued to the television, feeling outraged and unsafe. Before the end of December, Verma and his friends had applied for gun licenses. He read up on India's gun laws and joined the Web forum Indians for Guns. When he got his license seven months later, he bought a black, secondhand, snub-nose Smith & Wesson revolver with a walnut grip.

"I feel safe wearing it in my ankle holster every day," said Verma, 27, who runs a family business selling fire-protection systems. "I have a right to self-protection, because random street crime and terrorism have increased. The police cannot be there for everybody all the time. Now I am a believer in the right to keep and bear arms." Verma said he plans to join the recently formed National Association for Gun Rights India to lobby against new gun controls that the government has proposed, blaming the proliferation of both licensed and illegal weapons for a rise in crime.

Although India's 1959 Arms Act gives citizens the legal right to own and carry guns, it is not a right enshrined in the country's constitution. Getting a license is a cumbersome process, and guns cannot be bought over the counter -- requirements that gun owners describe as hangovers from the colonial past, when the British rulers disarmed their Indian subjects to head off rebellion.
In December, the Ministry of Home Affairs proposed several amendments to the Arms Act that would make it even harder to acquire a gun license, restrict the number of people eligible for nationwide licenses and curtail the amount of ammunition a gun owner can amass.

An official said that the ministry has called for public input. But in the meantime, the proposals have given rise to a nascent gun rights movement modeled on the strategies of the United States' National Rifle Association and echoing its rhetoric of civil rights, dignity and self-protection. "We are outraged. We are not murderers. Instead of going after real criminals, the government is indulging in window dressing by bringing in gun control laws that target law-abiding citizens who have licensed guns," said Abhijeet Singh, 37, a software engineer who started Indians for Guns and is the coordinator of the new gun rights association. "We want to remove the stigma on licensed gun owners," Singh said. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 87 percent of murders by firearms in India in 2007 involved illegally held guns. There is no official tally of legal gun owners, but Singh cited a rough estimate of 4 million to 5 million.

Last week, the National Association for Gun Rights India began meeting with lawmakers and consulting lawyers in a bid to stall the proposals. The group's president is a 39-year-old lawmaker, Naveen Jindal, who studied at the University of Texas business school in Dallas. Inspired by American students' displays of patriotism, Jindal earlier launched a successful campaign for Indians' right to display the national flag outside their homes and offices.

Indian security experts appear dismissive of the group's efforts. "There is no place for a gun rights movement in India," said Julius Ribeiro, a former police officer who comments on security issues. "That kind of debate may work in America, but it will not work here, because laws are misused and guns can easily fall into the wrong hands. It can get dangerous in India."

Gun rights advocates respond -- using language familiar to Americans -- that guns are a deterrent to crime. "An armed society is a polite society," said Rahoul Rai, a member of the campaign. He said the movement also reflects the rise of an Indian middle class that can "voice its fears about rising crime, interpret the constitution to articulate their rights to self-protection and bring like-minded people together through technology."
Shahid Ahmad, who runs a Web site called the Gun Geek , said the process of getting a gun license in India is so burdensome that it encourages corruption. To hasten the process, he said, many applicants ask politicians to put in a word in their favor, or attempt to bribe officials and police officers.

To illustrate the point, gun advocates refer to a 2008 incident in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The clamor for gun licenses was so high, according to news media, that officials tried to induce men with large families to participate in a vasectomy program by promising a license in return.