OSD 125: The tingle means it’s working

People change their mind slowly, and then all at once.

A feature in the Washington Post this week was, once you get past the headline, a revealing snapshot of what it feels like for someone who didn’t grow up around guns to buy their first one:

Jabril Battle, a 28-year-old account representative at a financial services company in Los Angeles, had always believed that “anyone who had a gun was a gun nut,” he said. “I really bought into the whole idea that the more people have guns … the more likely it is for people to start killing each other.”

But as the pandemic paralyzed the nation, Battle said, “I just saw how crazy people got.” He found himself conjuring the worst scenarios: “I was like, if my block has 10 houses, how many people in these houses have guns? If the food and water gets cut off, [if] supplies run out … what does that look like? Is this going to be a ‘Mad Max’ situation? Like ‘The Walking Dead,’ but not with the zombies?

“I was just, like, ‘Do I want to be the person who has a gun or doesn’t have a gun?”

Battle bought a Beretta 92FS, then added a Glock 34 pistol.

Still, he had reservations: “Being Black with a gun is a very high risk, a way higher risk than other races,” he said. “You are seen as a threat without a gun, and with a gun you are seen as a super threat.”

He kept imagining the scene if he were stopped by a White police officer.

“It’s still in my head, honestly, when I go to the gun range and I have my gun in my car,” he said. “If I get pulled over, and they ask, ‘Are there any weapons in the car?’ [and] I say there’s a gun, and then I hand in my registration, will they shoot me?”

But he’s enjoying the new world that guns opened to him — classes, an organization of Black gun owners, shooting competitions.

“Once I started being around guns more, and I kind of saw the culture and the environment, I’m falling in love,” he said.

In Battle’s family, guns were “not a good thing,” he said. “It kind of represented crime, especially for Black people. It’s just different for African Americans.”

But his family has accepted his decision, he said. His grandmother and two aunts came to the range with him and are considering returning to take lessons.

Battle seems to have landed in a happy spot. Throughout the article, with each example of someone becoming a gun owner, you see an evolution. The gun starts out feeling scary and ends up being empowering. But there’s a strange intermediate phase where it’s both.

A lot of you have reached the point where buying another gun feels about special as the drive over to the gun shop to pick it up feels. But if you’ve never owned a gun, that purchase feels like the first time you ever got behind the wheel. And let’s factor into this metaphor what that would feel like if you grew up hearing that only bad people drive cars. Oh, and nobody you knew owned a car. And your genuinely lovely neighbors were fundraisers for Allcities for Car Safety, a group that wants to make owning a station wagon into a crime punishable by ten years in prison.

Yup, that’s going to produce some cognitive dissonance.

That sounds like a bad thing. But someone who’s set in their ways doesn’t experience this dissonance. For the gun-curious, cognitive dissonance is what it looks like when someone’s about to change their mind.

This isn’t something to be shamed, it’s something to encourage. Eventually, of course, we want people to land on a stable, positive view of gun rights. That’ll happen by meeting them where they’re at and coaxing them along, not by pouncing at signs of inconsistent thinking.

Out of everyone in the US who owns a gun today, more than one in eight bought their first gun in 2020. (The math on that: 8.4 million new gun owners in 2020, 209 million adults in the US, and 32% of adults owned guns in 2019.) That’s step one. Now we turn their curiosity into culture.


This week’s links

Jon Hauptman of PHLster with some seatbelt tips for appendix carry in your car

Lots of good nuances here.

Will Baude on Heller and corpus linguistics

Legal corpus linguistics (per Wikipedia) “uses large databases of examples of language usage … to better get at the meaning of words and phrases in legal texts (statutes, constitutions, contracts, etc.).”

Heller has been the subject of some debate in this context, with some work using corpus linguistics to question the ruling’s historical claims. Here Will Baude does an examination of his own on this front. Josh Blackman and James Phillips also dove into this last year.

Time magazine article on community violence intervention programs

Unlike carceral approaches to preventing violence, CVI programs are proven to work. They work by addressing root causes:

Here’s how CVI programs work: We know that people living in communities with high levels of violence experience significant levels of trauma. When young men grow up seeing their fathers, uncles or older brothers killed or jailed, that takes a psychological toll. In turn, that trauma impacts their ability to succeed in school, maintain a job, and navigate high-stress situations. This cycle builds—over years and generations—and leads to more violence. CVI programs connect people most impacted by violence with the mental health supports they need to begin to heal from complex trauma, and help them develop skills to cope in stressful, sometimes life-or-death situations.

The three of us know the impact CVI programs can have because we see it every day. READI Chicago and Oakland Ceasefire identify men who are most likely to die from gun violence and connect them to a network of resources, including trauma-informed counseling, support services, and job training. As President Biden said in this speech on Wednesday, early results show that READI participants are 40% less likely to be the victims of gun violence. And within six years of Oakland Ceasefire’s launch, the city had cut its annual homicides and non-fatal shootings by half. In New York, LIFE Camp—a program that provides educational supports, job opportunities, and mentorship to young people—has helped reduce gun violence by 10% citywide.

A random Quora thread because why not: “What would happen if 4 fully armed United States Marines had to fight their way through 20,000 fully armoured Medieval Knights armed with only swords and shields?”

The replies include a lot of 40 mike-mike.


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