Confused Security Reasoning

From Toronto Mayor David Miller:

"In a day when you can't bring a large tube of toothpaste on a plane how can you allow guns to wander through Union Station, the biggest transit hub in Canada?" he asked his colleagues on city council.

By that logic, I think we can ban anything from anywhere.

Posted on June 24, 2008 at 2:11 PM • 50 Comments

Comments

JoeHonkieJune 24, 2008 2:19 PM

Are these self-propelled robot guns that they can "wander" around on their own?

SpacialJune 24, 2008 2:32 PM

Poor Paraguay's citizens. What they gonna do with TererĂª on planes and trains?

this is priceless...

let's stop anyone from anywhere too..

Tangerine BlueJune 24, 2008 3:18 PM

> [if] you can't bring a large
> tube of toothpaste on a plane
> how can you allow guns to wander

I know, I know! We can allow guns to wander in Union Station only if they are less than three ounces.

Petréa MitchellJune 24, 2008 3:20 PM

In a day when a gun club can share space with the biggest transit hub in Canada and no one gets killed from it, how come I can't bring a large tube of toothpaste on an airplane?

Carlo GrazianiJune 24, 2008 3:29 PM

Well, as a justification for a weapons ban it's not the most persuasive thing I've seen, but as a comparative risk statement it's not that stupid. Guns in train stations are, in fact, more dangerous than tubes of toothpaste on airplanes.

Perhaps more of this sort of thing could cause the "911 Changed Everything" crowd to finally reflect on what their addled style of risk analysis has wrought.

AnonymousJune 24, 2008 3:32 PM

Everything's fine until one of those wandering guns whips out a concealed tube of toothpaste and starts threatening innocent lives. Then you'll know why there's a ban on toothpaste.

GunhaterJune 24, 2008 3:36 PM

@Carlo Graziani

"it's not that stupid."

But it's still stupid. Just not THAT stupid.

Kevin D. S.June 24, 2008 3:49 PM

From the article: "Toronto Mayor David Miller said he supports the plan because of recent crimes that were committed using stolen legal guns."

**And this ban will somehow stop the crimes?

From the article again: "...debated evicting residents living in public housing who have been convicted of gun-related crimes."

** And the evicted will go where? On the street?

Darrell WrightJune 24, 2008 4:15 PM

Put it into another perspective. Canada doesn't have the gun culture that the US does and guns are illegal for use as protection here. They are pretty much legally allowed for law enforcement, farming, trapping and hunting. So that really limits the legitimate hand guns in Canada. Gun clubs and collectors are the exception. There is a big problem with hand gun crime in Toronto. People are being shot.

This is about all Miller can do within the power of an Ontario municipal government. They didn't ban the gun clubs, just banned gun clubs from leasing city property after their lease is up.

But to the point, it does look stupid. But in politics it would be much worse for Miller to "look like" he is doing nothing.

One point might be that it does try to set the tone on the culture of guns. Just look at how smoking has moved from being accepted to being shunned in many urban centres. So there is some logic to the city saying they do not support guns on their property. It's about baby steps.

Next it looks like they will try to do the same on municipal public housing. For those convicted of gun related crimes they are looking to banning them from living in city owned housing. There is a problem of intimidation of those living there and being able to come out and help convict these criminals using guns to hurt people.

Nick LancasterJune 24, 2008 4:31 PM

"Confused" is a polite description.

Under Miller's premise, that anything more dangerous than toothpaste shouldn't be allowed in a public area like a transit hub, can we expect to ban cups of hot coffee (scalding, slip-and-fall), ballpoint pens (pointy), bottles of cologne (flammable aerosol), and cigarette lighters (flammable liquid)?

Of course, what bothers me more are the folks who will nod sagely and agree. 9/11 was the day we became scared and stupid, because it's clearly easier than being courageous and smart.

MarvinKJune 24, 2008 4:40 PM

Who uses tubes anymore, anyways? The liquid gel is nicer and doesn't require debating about whether to squeeze from the bottom....

cmosJune 24, 2008 5:28 PM

When arriving at the airport, and boarding the aircraft please follow these instructions:
Do not bring any containers.
Do not take photos.
Do not memorize the location of any secuirty doors.
Do not think about security, as it may increase your awareness of the lack of it.
Do not smile, frown, ponder or cough- as the cameras may detect your facial features as a sign of terror- god help you if you sneeze.
Do not wear heavy clothing, as you will be digitally scanned down to your underwear, and we want to know: boxers or briefs.
Do not joke or act friendly to your flight attendants, as it is a sign that you want to take them by surprise.
Do not sleep on the flight, it is a clear sign you are plotting.

Please enjoy your time at ________ airport.

That about covers it.

latteraJune 24, 2008 5:32 PM

Maybe we should get also rid of printed media. Printed media could be used to swat a random person in the head.

Maybe we should get rid of clothes. You never know when someone's going to take off their shirt and strangle someone else with it.

Maybe we should get rid of fingernails. You never know when someone's going to claw another person.

Maybe we should get rid of us.

SethJune 24, 2008 6:04 PM

@Carlo Graziani

Which has killed more people, guns in Toronto's Union Station, or large tubes of toothpaste on airplanes?

darkuncleJune 24, 2008 6:21 PM

@seth: which has killed more people, guns in Toronto's Union Station, or cars going to and from said station?

the "which has killed more people" comparison is specious, but if we're going to use it, the logic should be "toothpaste has killed no-one, therefore there is no reason to ban it".

Jay LevittJune 24, 2008 6:41 PM

I think I have it:

If we can't bring a large tube of toothpaste onto an airplane, why can we send a man to the moon?

NeighborcatJune 24, 2008 8:50 PM

Oooh, oooh! I know! Pick me!

The answer is...because you didn't think of banning them yet, but are now casting about for ways to maintain a convenient level of fear in the public so you get attention!

What do I win?

EamJune 24, 2008 10:42 PM

I'd call him an embarrassment, but he's absolutely brilliant compared to our last shady-furniture-salesman of a mayor.

WarrenJune 24, 2008 10:59 PM

(on a not-so-unrelated subject) now that we have to take our shoes off at the airport for inspection, just imagine if....

Richard Reid (a.k.a. the shoe bomber) had instead decided to carry his bomb in his jockey shorts.

Now try to imagine boarding a plane after that was worked into the security apparatus ?!?!?!? (laugh/cry/both)

sooth sayerJune 24, 2008 11:26 PM

This is amusing; it's just what I would have expected to the dimwits to conclude or argue.

If I were to take Bruce's criticism to it's logical conclusion; then one must conclude that many of HIS positions are untenable by the same token.

And frankly I read the blog to find a gem once in a while; but like alluvial diamonds one has to sift thru tons of dirt :-)

Patrick CahalanJune 25, 2008 1:09 AM

@ sooth sayer

> If I were to take Bruce's criticism to it's logical conclusion;
> then one must conclude that many of HIS positions are untenable
> by the same token.

I'm not sure you and I would agree with what Bruce's criticism actually is, here.

Then again, maybe we would.

Here's why I consider this method of reasoning to be poor security reasoning: you cannot assess the risk of one activity in one context by hand waving and associating it directly to another risk in a completely unrelated context.

Regardless of whether or not the "no toothpaste on an airplane" ban is reasonable or not... banning something *from a plane* has very little relation to banning something else from *a geographical location*.

Banning guns from a train station might make quite a bit of sense - that doesn't matter. Whether or not it makes sense has very little to do with whether or not it makes sense to ban something from an airplane. The failure scenarios are manifestly different. The attack profiles are different. The potential attacker populations are different. The existing security mechanisms are different.

AWJune 25, 2008 2:05 AM

Actually, banning things from a plane and banning things from a train station are related.

If you want to be consistent in what you ban, you should make a function that depends on the risk an object brings in a certain situation and the trouble banning it would bring that increases with risk and decreases with trouble. Then ban everything that comes above a certain threshold.*

There isn't really any reason to have different thresholds on planes and in train stations.**

I am quite certain that the actual value of this function would be higher for bringing a gun into a train station than for bringing toothpaste onto a plane.

Therefore, the implication "if it is a good idea to ban toothpaste form planes, then it is also a good idea to ban guns from this train station" holds.

The fallacy in this reasoning to ban guns from the train station is not the implication. The fallacy is that it assumes that because toothpaste is banned from planes it must be a good idea to ban toothpaste from planes.

* The trouble is of course in actually creating this function, and determining risk and trouble. It should exist though.

** Of course there is some difference between train stations and planes, but that should be reflected in the "risk" and "trouble".

AndrewJune 25, 2008 2:38 AM

Banning something from the public environment is somewhere between useless and pointless. It certainly hasn't worked for drugs, now has it?

Guns don't wander. People do.

The problem of spotting people carrying illegal guns in public has several interesting solutions, a few technical but at least one based on training peace officers to recognize simple cues.

This resembles common sense far too much to be honored by any politician, regardless of their stance on gun control. (Gun control? Hand position, muzzle awareness, good grip . . . oh, sorry, you meant gun prohibition, which works about as well as alcohol prohibition except that people won't kill to get booze.)

Let's prohibit guns from wandering. I think this is a good thing. The next gun I see wandering the street will be placed under citizen's arrest.

(I'm not holding my breath.)

someoneJune 25, 2008 2:43 AM

This knife cuts in both directions. So rather allow toothpaste on a plane and be done with it.

And by the way, allow guns to wander around in a plane.

szigiJune 25, 2008 4:10 AM

Lattera: Yes, I wholehearedly agree on banning clothes. Mythbusters have shown us how to make exploding jeans using pesticide. Clothes are dnagerous to take on planes. We have already started banning shoes on planes, so why not continue?

dogJune 25, 2008 4:30 AM

About "False idea of utility"
http://www.constitution.org/cb/crim_pun40.htm

Cesare Beccaria has still much to teach to many people "who would deprive men of the use of fire for fear of their being burnt, and of water for fear of their being drowned; and who knows of no means of preventing evil but by destroying it."

RustyJune 25, 2008 7:06 AM

@Neighborcat said "Oooh, oooh! I know! Pick me!

The answer is...because you didn't think of banning them yet, but are now casting about for ways to maintain a convenient level of fear in the public so you get attention!

What do I win?"

You win nothing my friend. The correct answer is not to keep a convenient level of fear in the public (we haven't adopted that particular aspect of US governance, not yet anyway). That, plus most Torontonians think Miller is largely incompetent.

The correct answer is that there is a problem in Toronto, as in many places, with black on black gun violence. One legally registered gun was used to commit a murder, and that wasn't stolen, the owner was the nutjob. SO, of course the answer is to find a scapegoat.

Mayor Miller, an avowed socialist, is of the "Something needs to be done and this is something" type of "leader".

He does not have the ideological bent to actually address the root causes of the problem, because that means being tough on criminals, and as an NDP type they think all the worlds problems can be fixed with a hug and some (of someone elses) money. So he goes after a straw man - legal sport shooters in Toronto. As we're a small group with an odd hobby of shooting holes in bits of paper, the urban population has little or no understanding of the issue.

The gun club at Union Station was originally used by the Canadian National Railway Police, and has been operational for dozens and dozens of years. I've shot there, it's a nothing special but it is handy. There has *never* been an incident at that club, nor at the other shooting range which is in a community centre. That range was also used by Sea and Air Cadets (Children 12 - 18) for rifle training and competitions. Again, I've shot there as an instructor and never an issue.

This is truly Security Theater of the highest order.

bobJune 25, 2008 7:07 AM

This is consistent with the "logic" they have shown everywere else in Canada.

Every "public shooting" in the world [most emphatically the US] in the last 20 years has been someplace where guns are PROHIBITED. The more places that ban [law abiding people ONLY from possessing] guns; the more murders - which leads to more outcry and inevitably to larger police budgets and finally more dependence of the populace on a government to control every aspect of their lives.

Because obviously if I am prepared to face from 2-25 capital murder charges, years in jails having to be around lawyers every day, loss of my freedom (at least that little bit which the DHS hasn't already taken) my family, my home, all my cars/motorcycle/toys and life in prison or even the death penalty for shooting up my workplace - what will stop me from doing this heinous act is the prospect of the $150 fine for going inside against the "no guns" sign.

I am amazed at all the people who support a political candidate by saying "he has new ideas" as if the fact that the ideas are new is a great thing. How about supporting a candidate with GOOD ideas regardless of how old those ideas may be? If it doesn't make sense then its not a good idea regardless of how "new" it is. If they cant explain it in simple terms or without using legalese (or worst of all having to give it some cute unassailable name; "patriot act" pops into mind) then its not a good idea.

@JoeHonkie: I want one! iRobot could make it - the "BangBa!"

MarkJune 25, 2008 7:26 AM

@Andrew

This resembles common sense far too much to be honored by any politician, regardless of their stance on gun control. (Gun control? Hand position, muzzle awareness, good grip . . . oh, sorry, you meant gun prohibition, which works about as well as alcohol prohibition except that people won't kill to get booze.)

Where you have drug prohibition you are likely to end up with the kind of suppliers who use guns (rather than lawyers) to sort out any "business problems". Since these people are criminals anyway they are unlikely to be too concerned about the legal status of their weapons.

MarkJune 25, 2008 7:30 AM

@ Nick Lancaster
Under Miller's premise, that anything more dangerous than toothpaste shouldn't be allowed in a public area like a transit hub, can we expect to ban cups of hot coffee (scalding, slip-and-fall), ballpoint pens (pointy), bottles of cologne (flammable aerosol), and cigarette lighters (flammable liquid)?

How about banning dogs, considering that there is only one mammal on Earth more dangerous to humans? Banning people whould make this place very safe, but utterly useless, however...

MarkJune 25, 2008 8:50 AM

@bob
Because obviously if I am prepared to face from 2-25 capital murder charges, years in jails having to be around lawyers every day, loss of my freedom (at least that little bit which the DHS hasn't already taken) my family, my home, all my cars/motorcycle/toys and life in prison or even the death penalty for shooting up my workplace - what will stop me from doing this heinous act is the prospect of the $150 fine for going inside against the "no guns" sign.

How often has such a shooter even been arrested? Typically they will end up dead. Thing is a lot of innocent people can also wind up dead before armed police can arrive.

PicadorJune 25, 2008 9:07 AM

This is the best example I've yet seen of the real danger of ridiculous bans like the TSA toothpaste rule: it conditions people to accept absurd and arbitrary curtailments of their rights, and that conditioning can then be leveraged by the state however it wants.

I'm waiting for Miller to come out with something like, "In an age when the American President claims the right to kidnap innocent people and torture them to death, are you really saying I can't occasionally lean out the window of my SUV and smack a pedestrian on the back of the head with a bat?"

Jared LesslJune 25, 2008 11:02 AM

> Every "public shooting" in the world [most emphatically the US] in the last 20 years has been someplace where guns are PROHIBITED.

Actually, there was a shooting in a Radio Shack right near here few years ago. AFAIK there's no special law against being armed while shopping at Radio Shanty ("You've got questions, we've got blank stares"), but by and large you're right and that's an excellent point. Of course, it doesn't help with locations where we still don't want the general populace to be armed (e.g., high schools).

bobJune 25, 2008 1:39 PM

@Jared Lessl : Are you sure guns were not prohibited at that Radio Shaft? I know in Ohio, right after they passed the Concealed Carry law, a lot of people made a lot of money by selling businesses "guns not allowed here" signs (claiming untruthfully that it was a legal requirement [only true if you have a by-the-drink liquor license]) for their doors (which then usually triggered a "take down the sign or we'll boycott your facility" protest from pro-gun types, which prolly succeeded 2/3 in getting it removed; for example at Best Buy) which unfortunately did have the force of law if it stayed up (for example United Dairy Farmers).

Its not just armed; they dont want the general public in schools at all; you have to go to the main entrance, provide a need-to-know, sign in, get a badge, be escorted etc. But it would prolly be a good idea to allow teachers who desired it to be armed.

And of course the underlying problem I have with all of this is the only way to keep actual GUNS (begging the question of whether guns are a cause of bad things or merely an inanimate object operated by people) out of any facility is by having ARMED GUARDS with metal detectors at ALL points of access or egress (even thats not an iron-clad gurantee, after all guns frequently find their way into PRISONS) - putting up SIGNS only keeps out the people who are NOT a problem and in fact may have been the solution, after all quite a few attempted shootings are thwarted by "good citizen" armed people who stop it before it starts.

AnonymousJune 25, 2008 1:58 PM

Largest transit hub in Canada? Not like that's a very high threshhold to cross.

MikeAJune 25, 2008 2:06 PM

@bob:
"...out of any facility is by having ARMED GUARDS with metal detectors at ALL points of access or egress (even thats not an iron-clad gurantee, after all guns frequently find their way into PRISONS)"

Well, the guns sometimes come in the same way as the drugs, smuggled in and sold by the ARMED GUARDS. Thus has it been since the first gun cheap enough to be sold at a profit to a prisoner, maybe 200 years. Before that, I'd guess some bent guards were selling bronze (flint?) daggers to inmates back when the year was counting down. :-)

bobJune 25, 2008 2:22 PM

@MikeA: Well the guards would have been my guess too; or at least they'd have to look other way - but you never know; a prisoner could have dug his way thru the wall with a rock hammer under cover of a poster and a storm, broken a hole in a huge clay sewer pipe with a rock, have raw sewage under such pressure that it fountained 6' into the air yet 30 seconds later the pipe was 95% empty, whereby he followed the pipe outside the prison to where it dumped huge volumes of raw sewage into a pond that now contains clean water, cleaned up in the water, put on the suit he brought with him in a ziploc bag, gone into town, bought a gun and then reversed course and gone back up the pipe into his cell with no one the wiser.

RoyJune 25, 2008 3:26 PM

50 years ago in the US it was normal for passengers to bring guns aboard. Handguns were kept out of sight, but long arms -- prized rifles and shotguns of hunters -- were carried aboard in cases rather than trust baggage smashers or thieves.

In 1963, the rules changed, and D B Cooper became possible, and copycats followed. In 2001, 9-11 'happened' -- because everybody knew everybody would be unarmed.

By prohibiting defensive weapons, the changes in the rules have amplified the power of even the simplest of offensive weapons.


averrosJune 26, 2008 2:19 AM

Ban the guns, and only criminals will have them... and that includes police.

Ever wondered why all these anti-gun bozos never seem to get around to prohibiting guns for *themselves*? Yep, check gun permits and more likely than not you'll find out that a lot of the anti-gun politicos do carry.

Prohibiting guns is merely an expression of elitist "us-the-elite vs them-the-serfs". They fear the peons - and not without reasons. Of course, these reasons have more to do with members of the "elite" knowing full well that they _are_ criminals than with putative aggressiveness of serfs.

In a sense, we're heading back to times when only nobles were allowed to carry swords, the only difference being that nobles had that thing called honour. Unlike the democratic aristo wannabes.

Jay LevittJune 28, 2008 6:57 AM

@Averros: You really think so? I grew up an anti-gun nut, and only lately am I starting to moderate that position, since the stats just don't seem to bear it out.

I don't think I was an elitist-vs-the-serfs teenager; in fact, considering that I grew up in Long Island, I'm pretty sure of that. We *were* the serfs. Our chief export was Aqua-Net.

I think I was following what appeared to be bulletproof logic: If you make it harder to get guns, there will be fewer guns, even accounting for the "only criminals will have guns" effect. (Interestingly, machetes are awful popular now. I wonder if there's a correlation.)

Also, guns scare the (#*$ out of me. I don't imagine I'd ever want to carry one personally, and neither do any of the anti-gun types I know.

Am I really in the minority, or was that just speculation? Now I'm curious.

anothermousJune 28, 2008 2:41 PM

@Jay Levitt

I think averros meant public/popular anti-gun nuts; not rank and file anti-gun nuts.

U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein is a good example of this hypocrisy.

TybaltJuly 8, 2008 2:36 PM

That, plus most Torontonians think Miller is largely incompetent.

That explains why he got 57% of the vote last time, eh?

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