Wednesday, October 12, 2005

When government turns people into sheep

I usually ride the subway during the morning and evening, when I'm safe from potential attackers by virtue of the crowds. When it's late, I prefer to take a cab back to Grand Central. Crime in the city is nothing like during the '70s and '80s, but it's worth spending a few dollars to maximize my safety. One reason I greatly prefer the New York Post to the New York Times is that the Post reports on local crime, including in the subway system. There are still robberies, rapes and violent attacks, with the victims almost always alone and disarmed against an armed attacker. Robberies have become more frequent with the popularity of iPods; some people buy replacement earbuds of any color but white, so that they're not "marked" as targets.

Like in most states, New York doesn't really recognize the Second Amendment. State law requires a permit to own a handgun, and NYC law is particularly strict in giving out "pistol permits." These are so difficult to obtain that, according to the New York Metro, only 50,000 city residents own handguns. You'd think law-abiding citizens are already disarmed enough, but now New York's state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, has forced eBay to stop selling stun-guns to state residents.
Ebay to Block Stun-Gun Sales to New Yorkers
Ebay Agrees to Block Stun-Gun Sales to New Yorkers Under Agreement With Eliot Spitzer

ALBANY, N.Y. - Online auctioneer eBay Inc. will block the sale and shipment of stun guns and other illegal weapons to New York residents after working with Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, it was announced Tuesday.

In an investigation that started last year, Spitzer's office found that eBay users were easily able to buy stun guns through the company's Web site. Investigators, posing as ordinary customers, bought 16 stun guns from 16 different sellers on eBay.

The sellers, 14 of whom are from outside New York, are believed to have sold more than 1,100 stun guns to New Yorkers from September 2003 to August 2005, investigators said. Included in the sales were a 900,000-volt Taser International Inc. stun gun valued at $57 and a $400 "Air Taser" that delivers a 50,000-volt disabling shock through darts connected by wires to the weapon.

"You wouldn't want these used in either illegal activities or horseplay," Spitzer spokesman Paul Larrabee said. "Dangerous devices should not be in the hands of those unable to properly use them and you certainly don't want them used in any criminal activity."

EBay was never a target of the investigation, Larrabee said.

New York residents who bid on an illegal weapon will receive an electronic warning from eBay that the transaction is illegal and that any purchase will be reported to authorities.

Anyone bidding on items on eBay has to fill out a registration with the company that includes the bidder's address.

EBay has also sent letters to stun-gun sellers to warn them that the sale of such weapons in New York and other states is illegal.

The company, based in San Jose, Calif., also agreed to suspend retailers who violate New York laws.

Hani Durzy, a spokesman for eBay, said the company has for a long time alerted stun gun dealers of the states in which it is illegal to sell the weapons. He said eBay modified its policy after having conversations with Spitzer's office.

"We have always had a policy that if it's illegal to do off eBay, it's illegal to do on eBay," Durzy said. "We have made some changes and additions to our existing stun gun policy. We want to continue to keep people from doing illegal things on eBay."

New York is one of seven states that ban electric stun devices, Spitzer's office said. The others are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
I'm not saying anything about the effectiveness of stun guns, but only a very small fraction of people have the hand-to-hand skills to fight off a weapon. Peaceful, non-criminal people in New York City were already vulnerable because they're effectively deprived of firearms. Now it's virtually impossible for them to obtain a stun gun for self-defense, that is, through peaceful commercial channels. Yes, stun guns are already illegal under state law, but certain peaceful people still felt sufficiently endangered to purchase and carry one anyway. If they ever had cause to use it, they'd have to run away after disabling the criminal and not report the assault, because the NYDP would charge them -- with weapons possession.

With Spitzer's crackdown, criminals know it's become even easier to assault someone standing alone at a subway stop, especially late at night. Odds are even better now that the person won't have an illegal stun gun. Peaceful people are more likely to give up on acquiring stun guns for self-defense than turning to black markets or criminal sources. But criminals -- those who would be wolves -- have no such compunction. Does anyone seriously believe that criminals heed to New York City's rigmarole in obtaining a pistol permit, or pay the initial $439 in fees (plus more each year to renew)? Of course not, but the rest of us, wanting to stay within the law, generally will let government disarm us and turn us into sheep.

After decades of contrary evidence, gun control proponents still believe that laws making weapons illegal are of any effect in protecting peaceful people. It's not naïveté, but outright stupidity to think that criminals bent on attacking people will somehow obey another law making it illegal to buy or use a particular type of weapon. It's also stupidity to assume that peaceful citizens will purchase items for self-defense but not learn how to use them properly and effectively. Even without licenses and driver's ed classes, I argue that most people do have the rationality to learn the basics of operating motor vehicles before getting on freeways. After all, why spend many thousands of dollars on something that you might easily crash? Why spend money for a weapon but not learn how to use it, making it an expensive paperweight?

Should people simply depend on the police, because we cannot trust each other with weapons? Many examples abound about the ineffectiveness of the NYPD to apprehend criminals (let alone prevent crime), but I'll give this one that still horrifies me. Last June, a man raped a woman at knifepoint at a Queens subway stop. It was near one of the offices, but the attendants stayed in the office and simply pushed the panic button to summon police. Officials later said they acted "appropriately." It was appropriate for them to be cowards?

When I related that story to one of my friends, who happens to live in a state that is fairly free in firearms ownership, he said if he'd been there, he'd have put a bullet through the rapist's head. I replied, "The NYPD would then arrest you for having a handgun in the city, assuming they weren't trigger-happy and didn't shoot you as the rapist's accomplice. Then the victim's family would sue you, claiming the real rapist got away, and you shot someone trying to help her (with his pants around his ankles, but that doesn't matter)."

I'm the sort of person who thinks Bernie Getz was a hero. He should have been given a medal and an old-fashioned ticker tape parade.

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Blogger Mike said...

B-b-but the p-p-poor children just didn't have any means of survival other than...violently attacking people and stealing their money.

...Yeah, I'm with you. Shoot the bastards.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 3:51:00 PM  

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