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  • Hober Short 2:28 pm on 24 September 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    I can’t decide how to consider this article‘s treatment of the action pistol sports and their enthusiasts: (emphasis mine)

    Prosecutor: Road rage killing suspect seen in sharpshooter video

    . . .

    Now prosecutors say that video of Bowman at a [USPSA] pistol shooting competition in Puyallup may become an important piece of evidence in the case. It shows that he is an excellent shot – hitting one target after another in rapid-fire succession.

    . . .

    “There’s a concern that somebody who could even, if impulsive, could act this way, presents a danger to the community,” says O’Toole.

    Police tell KOMO News they found a so-called “gun room” during Friday’s search of Bowman’s home, filled with bullet-making equipment, ammunition and rifles. They also found evidence he owns at least one handgun.

    Obviously there is a certain level of media scare-quoting going on here, but most of it is just reprinting the prosecutor’s fear-mongering. The same fear-mongering that the jury in this guy’s case will be exposed to. Whether or not he’s guilty of murder, it’ll be interesting to see what effect this video of a proficient shooter (the raw video claims he won his division at the local match) has on the case.

    Within the action pistol subculture, this guy is more or less average. For someone who shoots as well as he does (in the video, I obviously have no idea about in the alleged murder) the idea that he has a “gun room” with handloading equipment is wholly unsurprising. Hell, I basically fit that description, and so do most competitive shooters I know. Being surrounded by it, it’s easy to forget how scary those kinds of things could be to someone outside the subculture. Media hype around ordering thousands of rounds of ammo online, anyone?

    There’s nothing quite like your hobby being identified as a “danger to the community” by someone with the power to end your life as you know it.

    Gun pedantry follows:

    • The article identifies it as a “sharpshooter video”, but sharpshooter is an IDPA rank, and below his skill level. It should use proper USPSA nomenclature and say “suspect seen in B-class shooter video”. (B-class just a guess based on the video without seeing his hits.)
    • A later article says “No handguns were found [in the suspect’s house], but police did find holsters for a 9mm handgun, which may have been used in the killing.” That is almost certainly police press conference nonsense, since most modern guns can be chambered in a number of common calibers (9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP being the most common) and they’d all fit the same holster. And in the video, he’s shooting a .45 ACP 1911. While 1911s can be chambered in 9mm it is certainly a minority of them, so if it was a 1911 holster they found, the logical leap to it being a “holster for a 9mm handgun” is pretty long.

    Hat tip: Triangle Tactical

  • Hober Short 1:33 pm on 16 July 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Seeing an article about the latest gun buyback program being instituted in an urban metropolis where guns practically illegal, I realized that economics tells us why these programs aren’t successful: the price is too low.

    A criminal whose livelihood depends on his gun can’t replace that livelihood with two hundred bucks. When you offer to pay a certain amount for something, the people who will sell to you at that price are those whose utility for that good is less than what you’re offering. And unless you offer the fair market value of a functioning handgun ($400+ retail, more on the black market), you’ll get two classes of results: old broken junk (value: zero dollars) and guns that people don’t want around anymore for whatever reason (value: negative dollars).

    It’s all about utility.

    Edit: also, the term “buyback” implies the guns belonged to the government originally. They really should call them “buyouts.”

  • Hober Short 7:27 pm on 29 June 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    An interesting bit of insider baseball from the gun industry concerning form 4473, the tax return-like ATF form that must be filled out each and every time you purchase a gun:

    A question concerning the new 4473

    At the shop I work in, we received a revised 4473 that goes into effect in early July. The only notable change is question 10a: Ethnicity. You have the option of selecting Hispanic or Latino or Not Hispanic/Latino. Is anyone aware of why this was added? Why is that information necessary to complete a NICS background check? Just curious. Thanks for any info.

    And a response from another licensed federal firearms dealer:

    I just got 500 of the old forms today. They went straight to the dumpster.

    Your tax dollars at work.

    The ATF, long-known as a slow-moving and recalcitrant regulatory body invalidated a bunch of printed forms because… they wanted to inquire whether or not purchasers were “Hispanic or Latino”?

    Post-racial administration indeed.

  • Hober Short 10:33 pm on 27 June 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: thinking like an economist   

    Today’s lesson in thinking like an economist: are there negative environmental effects of fracking? Probably. If you believe its staunchest opponents, fracking is an apocalyptically bad idea.

    But what if (as economists are wont to do) we put a dollar value on that negative consequence? Would it be bigger than the economic upside to fracking? Turns out probably not.

    Independent study assignment: since the gains will likely be private and the costs will likely be unpriced externalities like pollution, research the various methods of pricing externalities (e.g. Pigovian taxes, pollution permits) and write one page on the one you like the most.

  • Hober Short 7:32 pm on 10 June 2012 Permalink | Reply  


  • Hober Short 1:20 pm on 5 June 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    An interesting anecdotal report of unintended consequences and anchoring.

    Unexpected benefit of Michigan’s [motorcycle] helmet law repeal

    Working at a hospital (in IT), I got a bit of grief about riding. Every time I would get on the elevator I would at least get a sidelong look, sometimes snarky comments about “donorcycles”, or thoughts on danger, or admonitions to be super careful. And comments about “drumming up more business” for the hospital, of course. It was the only part of riding I didn’t like.

    Then the helmet law was repealed. And I still wear armored gear and a full-face and boots, because, well, donorcycles. For about a week, every person in the elevator asked me if I knew I didn’t have to wear a helmet anymore. Every. Single. Time.

    But then the magic happened. I became a Good Guy. Now every time I get in the elevator, I have strangers thanking me for wearing a helmet, congratulating me for being “a safe one”, and generally praising me for standing there in gear.

    So thank you, Snyder and the MI legislature and all you “no helmet”-ers who lobbied so hard for legally cracked skulls. You took me from being a Bad Guy to being a Good Guy in one week flat, without changing a single thing.

  • Hober Short 11:52 am on 15 May 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Some stats to back up my post a few weeks ago about gun sales trends:

    • Background checks to buy a firearm are up 10.5% year over year.
    • April makes the 23rd consecutive month of rising month over month checks.

    The caveat on this: these background checks are used when dealers sell new or used guns, so it’s not a measure of new guns being sold but more of a measure of the general level of activity buying and selling guns (I want to call it the velocity of guns).

    That said, it tracks pretty well with what I said: interest and sales for guns have been rising for about two years with no end in sight.

  • Hober Short 11:19 am on 8 May 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Tycho’s news post commenting on the new Microsoft program to sell game consoles like cell phones nails it:

    Subsidizing hardware with a service charge is how you sell expensive things to people who can’t afford them, or can’t afford it all at once.  It’s about context, though: the gaming console has historically been sold to people who place a premium on its ownership.  Eventually the top part of the funnel gets wider, certainly, and prices drop.  But seeing this model here, where I live, is like finding a bear in your driveway.  What happens when you launch a console in this way?

    You can look at Amazon or whatever and see that the hardware goes for $276 and up.  Obviously, you and I probably aren’t interested in such a device for our personal use: four gigs isn’t enough to copy a single disc to the local drive, reaping the benefits thereby.  The Kinect is deeply, profoundly optional as a peripheral.  It doesn’t matter, though: “we” already own the thing.  “We” have probably owned several, statistically speaking.  This box is for another type of person, and that person exists in far greater numbers than the stalwart faithful which huddle in our cloister.

    • Robert Berry 10:39 am on 9 May 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Not being a hardcore gamer, I’ve never felt qualified to comment on the gaming market. But I’m beginning to realize that the hardcore gamers are becoming less and less important — or at least, the manufacturers are hoping that they will. Nintendo led the way with their focus on casual gamers, but more recently, mobile gaming (which is pretty much exclusively casual gaming) seems to be the most significant trend.

      I’m not sure what any of this means (see my first sentence above), but I do wonder whether it’s a mistake to focus too much on this idea of continual expansion of the market. Nintendo has had great success by recruiting casual gamers, but what happens when that market is saturated? I don’t think those people will be lining up to buy each new console when it comes out. Hardcore gamers may be a small market, but I’d think they’re a reliable one.

      But Microsoft’s approach is interesting; if they take the up-front cost of the console out of the equation (at least partially), maybe they *will* convince casual gamers to stay current. Will we someday end up with a subscription model for gaming?

  • Hober Short 11:58 am on 7 May 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    I’ve harped before on how the system of reporting revenues for movies is broken since it’s done in nominal dollars. Between inflation and increasing real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) ticket prices, the system is rigged to favor the latest hotness and perennially produce record-breaking blockbusters. This is another instance of Naylor’s Law, “If you argue correctly, you are never wrong.”

    So I was glad to see the AP get analytical in their predictable article about the block-busting success of The Avengers:

    As admission prices rise, Hollywood’s record-breakers often take in more money but sell fewer tickets than previous blockbusters. But “The Avengers” took in so much money that it’s the undisputed champ among debuts.

    Based on average admission prices the years they were released, “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 3” had led with about 22 million tickets sold each over opening weekend. Today’s average prices put “The Avengers” tally at around 25.6 million tickets sold.

    Now that’s significant.

  • Hober Short 2:26 pm on 3 May 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Corner cases in US Firearms Law: it is a “ten years in federal prison” felony to attach this rifle vertical handgrip to the rail on the front of this pistol:

    Pistols are only allowed one grip, and adding a second, however temporarily, is extremely illegal.

    Of course, I’d never want to actually do that because it wouldn’t help you shoot the gun and would make carrying and drawing it a total pain. And I’d defy the ATF to find one case where such an “illegally modified” weapon was used in a violent crime. But those are just details.

    (via reddit)

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