OSD 59: Be a firestarter, not a firebreak

Control rods out.

This is a great time to re-read Kevin Simler’s essay “Going Critical”. It’s an exploration — with cool interactive graphs where you can modify the system’s properties in real time — of diffusion. Diffusion of just about anything through a network. Memes. Viruses. Ideas. Culture. Viruses are the topical example. And guns-as-culture are the example we’re perennially focused on.

Kevin explains how firebreaks in a network — i.e. nodes that are immune to the virus, opposed or embarrassed about the cultural meme, mutate it into less spreadable forms, etc. — can kill a diffusion process:

Changing how many nodes are immune absolutely changes whether the network is sub- or supercritical. And it’s not hard to see why. When many nodes are immune, each infection has fewer opportunities to spread to a new host.

This turns out to have a number of very important practical implications.

One is preventing the spread of wildfires. Now, individuals should always take their own local precautions (e.g., never leaving an open flame unattended). But at a larger scale, small outbreaks are inevitable. So another mitigation technique is to ensure there are enough “gaps” (in the network of flammable materials) that an outbreak can’t take over the entire network.

And he then explains how network density factors into the outcome:

What we’re exploring here are the effects of network density. This is defined, for a given set of nodes, as the number of actual edges divided by the number of potential edges. I.e., the percentage of possible connections that actually exist.

So, as we’ve seen, urban centers have higher network densities than rural areas. But cities aren’t the only place we find dense networks.

High schools are an interesting example. Consider, in a given neighborhood, the network that exists among the students vs. the network that exists among their parents. Same geographic area and similar population sizes, but one network is many times denser than the other. And it’s no surprise, then, that fashion and linguistic trends proliferate among adolescents, and spread much slower among the adults.

Finally, we can apply this lens to the internet, by choosing to model it as a huge and very densely networked city. Not surprisingly, there are many new kinds of culture flourishing online that simply couldn’t be sustained in purely meatspace networks.

It’s fitting that he ends with the internet. We’ve written about the idea that the internet is jet fuel for gun rights. That’s because we’re on the positive side of a lucky natural phenomenon: the more people learn about guns, the more comfortable they are with them. So the more people we reach, the more popular gun rights get. It’s that simple. And the internet is the most powerful tool ever invented to reach people.

As we onboard this new wave of gun owners, keep the concept of network density in mind. Kevin points out that network density dominates the outcome of a diffusion process. The lesson for the gun community is clear: increase network density. If you are growing the number of people you can reach, you are exponentially increasing the spread of gun rights. On the other hand, if you’re reducing the number of nodes in your network — by being unwelcoming, by discussing politics or culture war topics, or by not producing the highest-quality output you can — you’re making it mathematically impossible for you to spread gun rights.

This is a cool thing. The math is on our side. Model the behavior that will grow your network. That’s it. That puts exponential growth on your side.

Make it a great week, everyone.

This week’s links

Jocko Podcast 223: Pat McNamara

Two 🔥 hours with Delta Force vet (and excellent shooting instructor) Pat McNamara.

A general overview of the state of the AR-15 industry and what we are seeing from the manufacturer level.

First-hand account from a redditor who appears to work at a contract manufacturer.

The distributor RSR is informally used as a measure of panic levels. Generally, we look at PMAG and 5.56 ammo inventory. They generally have at least 100k 5.56 30rd PMAGs in stock at any given time. They have none right now. No 30rd 5.56 mags of any kind in fact. Of course, they have no 5.56 ammo either. Last I checked, no AR15 rifles were available. In order to get any of these right now, you need to be a dealer with a very strong buying history as all of this inventory is on allocation.


Do you like tourniquets? Do you like gauze? Do you like learning about tourniquets and gauze from smart strangers on the internet? This is the subreddit for you.

Jerry Miculek destroys a series of innocent hotdogs

Oddly pleasing slow-mo footage demonstrating that revolver cylinder gap blast is indeed pretty dangerous.

How to use a pump-action shotgun

Lucky Gunner with a characteristically excellent and comprehensive 30-minute video. Everything you ever wanted to know about pump-actions.

Ninth Circuit oral arguments in the lawsuit to overturn California’s standard-cap magazine ban

This is the next level of the case, after the state appealed the the district court ruling that triggered Freedom Week. (We wrote up that ruling by Judge Roger Benitez last year.) The oral arguments are only one hour long and fairly free of a legal jargon. Worth a watch, and the judges seemed a bit skeptical of California’s arguments. There’s no telling until the ruling comes out, though. That’ll likely be in 6–12 months.

American Suppressor Association update on NFA processing times during COVID

Good news on this front, there seems to be essentially no slowdown in processing times. Keep an eye on it, and while you’re at it, consider supporting the ASA. They do great work — they’ve taken suppressors from being legal in 39 states to 42 states, and from being legal for hunting in 22 states to 40 states.

NICS checks jumped ~80% from February to March

These are gun store sales, which means they largely represent new guns in circulation rather than transfers of existing guns.

New Jersey gun shops reopen after being declared essential

Quick and positive reversal from the week before.

Pepper spray: how to choose it and how to use it

Good rundown of everything you need to know.

“Reached peak boredom today and drew my dream AR build. Thought it turned out alright.”

When you want /r/GunPorn but all you have is a pencil.

If you’re a new gun owner, thinking about becoming one, or know someone who is, click here to come to OSD Office Hours. You get a 30-minute video call with an OSD team member to ask any and all questions you have, in a friendly, non-judgmental space. For free. We just want to help people become great gun owners. So come on by!

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