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can speak for precise paragraphs at a stretch on various legal aspects
of social policy, but every so often the propeller-head prodigy
he once was breaks through his current policy-wonk persona and begins
spinning. "We'll meet at 927 Manchester," he announced
one afternoon to a group he'd assembled at his home high in the
West Hollywood Hills for a lecture on gun safety "Unsafety
of any kind is my abhorrence!" followed by target shooting
at the LAX Firing Range near the airport. "That's an easy address
to remember," he added briskly: "Three squared followed
by three cubed."
began organizing these field trips several years ago when he noticed
that most people who exclaimed that they hated guns had never actually
handled one. "You know, I perfectly well understand people's
arguments in favor of gun control, and some of them are very powerful,
although I'm not persuaded by them," he says. "But to
hate an inanimate object is a very strange thing. It made me think
it's actually helpful to go out there and have it be demystified,
get that out of the way and return to rational policy analysis."
Perhaps because he is used to being so much smarter than almost
everyone he encounters, Volokh often tempers his conversation with
signals that indicate he is indeed considering another person's
point of view. A cheery "fair enough!" is one of his favorite
phrases. "Interesting..." is another, said with a thoughtful
cock of his head and brief stare into the middle distance. Still,
he generally gets the last word.
the target-shooting excursion I attended, Roman Genn, a political
caricaturist and fellow Russian èmigrè, takes mild issue
with Volokh's citing of countries like Israel, which has a high
rate of gun ownership but a low crime rate. "The homicide rate
in Russia went up after they allowed guns," Genn points out.
"True," responds Volokh, "but there you also have
to look at the quality of the data." I wonder why Volokh doesn't
worry about party guests wandering around his house finding the
loaded gun he keeps in his nightstand. "I trust my guests not
to start opening drawers," he says. Besides, "If a person
coming to my house is that intent on killing us, he could bring
his own gun."