The New York Times Puts Gun Control On A1 (Update)

For the first time since 1920, the New York Times has put an editorial on page A1, its front page.  The title explains why.

End the Gun Epidemic in America

On its face, it’s a flagrant appeal to emotion.  But then, it’s an issue wrapped in emotion. Death does that to people, as well it should.  So the Times plays to its audience, northeastern liberals who have neither use for, nor love of, guns, and the heart-rending spectacle of a mass murder.

​It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.

The deliberate choice of framing its position as a moral outrage immediately tells the story that this isn’t intended as a reasoned argument, but one that goes to the bottom line of public sensibilities.  What is “moral” is a personal issue. Either you agree that it is or you don’t.

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.

That the editorial makes sweeping assertions, devoid of detail, repeating its plea to morality and national disgrace, reflects the division this editorial seeks to create and exploit.  The chorus knows nothing about guns, so saying that the weapons at issue are “specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency” without more is sufficient. Calling them “weapons of war,” and characterizing them as “tools of macho vigilantism” plays on the vague understanding of non-gun people.

And reducing the outcome to the most dreaded word available at the moment, “terrorism,” untethered from rational definition, is as plain an appeal to emotion as possible.

To the extent I support the Second Amendment, it’s based upon the principle that one cannot pick and choose which constitutional rights to honor. Whether we like one or not, adherence to the Constitution is either its own virtue or not. But once we get to distinguish between the ones we feel are good or bad, we put them all at risk. There are a lot of people who really hate the ones we love.

But I’m no more knowledgeable about weapons than most New Yorkers. I’m not a gun owner, nor do I want to be. You can’t make me be either.

The Times seeks to dispense with the arguments against gun control:

Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not. Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs. It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.

And they dismiss the Second Amendment as comfort.

It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.

While this assertion is facile, blame Scalia’s errant paragraph in Heller for opening the door. His unprincipled caveat means that Times and gun control advocates get to call for whatever regulation they deem reasonable.

The problem raised is that the emotional reaction to gun violence breeds cries for evisceration of rights, which are embraced by those who agree with gun control because it’s about gun control, but will invariably spill over to other rights. The slippery slope of evisceration of rights starts with emotion that overcomes reason, and flows downhill from there.

There is a host of issues that are raised by this hugely contentious subject, ranging from definitional problems as to what constitutes the dreaded assault weapon, why anyone needs a magazine that holds enough bullets to shoot up Milwaukee, why armor piercing bullets are justified, to name a few. People who describe themselves as “responsible gun owners” are the best supporters of gun control, explaining that they see no need for these weapons as well.  People who just hate guns can’t play the honest broker in this debate any more than people who just love guns.

Since I can offer little on the question outside of my position on principle, not being knowledgeable, and given that I’ve limited discussion here up to now, maybe today is the right day to open the floor to anyone who has something to say. Go at it. For those of you who have been champing at the bit to express your views on guns, gun control, the Second Amendment and need to stop this “epidemic,” this is your opportunity to express your views.

The floor is open. Now it’s up to you.

Update: There are days when I wonder why I allow comments at SJ at all. And then there are days when commenters are so brilliant, thoughtful and illuminating that I wonder why I bother to do more than open up comments and let readers run with them. Yesterday, I could not have been prouder than to play host to you, the readers.

The comments below are, I submit, the best discussion of the right to bear arms/gun control to be found anywhere on the internet. For that, and the civility of such a controversial discussion, I thank you.

242 comments on “The New York Times Puts Gun Control On A1 (Update)

  1. Ehud Gavron

    In the 1980s there was an “epidemic” series of attacks on coworkers with firearms and bloodshed and death. These were done by disgruntled* postal workers. As a result today we have an oft-used expression called “going postal.” Few remember the source of that expression.

    Did the postal-service ban all firearms? No.
    Did the postal-service ban all employees? No.
    Did the postal-service put TSA-style security theater checkpoints at every office? No.
    Did the postal-service “go postal” on harassing its employees, staff, and customers “for safety” and “think of the children”? No.

    They avoided the emotional response the “any solution is better than no solution” (no, it’s not, think “temporary emergency state of police”) and the unreasoned ITCH-TO-DO-SOMETHING-RIGHT-NOW and solved the underlying problem.

    Those who solve problems are to be admired.
    Those who excise symptoms and claims to be solving problems should not.

    Ehud Gavron
    Tucson AZ
    FD: I’m a firearm owner and a supporter of our Bill of Rights.

    * Disgruntled means a bit unhappy with things, not homicidally crazy.

  2. REvers

    Once, just once, I would like to see an editorial about gun control written by someone who actually knows something about firearms. It will never happen.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s largely why I opened the floor, today. I don’t know anything about firearms, but at least I realize it. More knowledgeable voices need to make the case.

      1. Kathleen Casey

        The New York DEC sponsors excellent sportsman safety courses. The Hunter Education Traditional course, ten hours, teaches basic firearms handling. It’s free including the handouts. I am guessing that no one among the Grey Lady editors has considered taking one, or would consider it.

        Journalists including opinion writers require a broad and deep store of knowledge, and great skepticism, to think and write competently. Yet here they go again at The Times making themselves and their readers stupider.

        In our profession we get to know personality disorders, isn’t that true? Fonts of emotion. Bricks for brains. This is an example.

    2. st

      It happens quite often, but those editorials are never, ever granted access to the soapboxes offered by the New York Times or any other MSM (mainstream media) outlet. You need to look for them; they are there.

  3. st

    It’s a link, but she already said it better than I ever will:

    [Ed. Note: Nope. Link deleted. You are free to express any thought you have. But the no links policy remains in effect.]

    1. st

      Fair enough. So for those looking for editorial commentary by an informed gun owner, you can start with a search for “Claire Wolfe.” Her most recent essay is “Come and take them. Start here.” She invites the reader to consider the inevitable consequences of the latest proposals.

      1. SHG Post author

        You squandered the opportunity by merely referring to someone else, and added no thought to the mix. Do better. Speak “your” mind, even if your thoughts are framed by others.

        1. st

          There is nothing new. The battle over firearms ownership, the right to self-defense, and the Second Amendment has been waged for decades.

          The gun confiscation proponents are reduced to flagrant appeal to emotion, moral outrage, and sweeping assertions, devoid of detail or thought. They are reduced to this because the decades-long battle has already been fought and won by those favoring firearms rights, on every front.

          The battle has been won in the court of public opinion. Gun and ammunition sales today are at an all-time high. People who have never owned guns are arming themselves, getting training, learning to shoot safely. People who already own guns are stocking up on yet more guns and ammo, because they can see where today’s rhetoric leads.

          These people are literally voting with their wallets. This isn’t some poll paid for by one side or the other, it is people spending their own money and precious time to do what they believe will most improve their safety and happiness.

          The battle has been won in the legislatures. An overwhelming majority of states now have “shall issue” laws regarding issue of permits for firearms ownership. That means the permit must be granted unless the applicant is disqualified by things like felony convictions or mental illness. This is a major change over the past 50 years.

          The legislative battle continues, but the tide remains on the pro-gun side. For well over a century Vermont was the only state that had never seen fit to regulate firearms ownership or carrying of firearms at all. Gun rights activists call this “constitutional carry,” reflecting their view that the Second Amendment permits no restrictions or other regulations on gun ownership. Far from remaining a curiosity in an isolated northeastern state, some form of constitutional carry is now the law of the land in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Vermont, and Wyoming. Texas will begin licensing concealed carrying of firearms as of January 1. This changes 150 years of law set down by fearful post-war carpetbaggers.

          The battle has been won at the polls, over and over again. Most recently, two Colorado state senators, Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron, were ousted in the first recall election in Colorado’s history after ramming gun control legislation through in the wake of a post-tragedy hysteria. Another state senator, Evie Hudak, resigned rather than face the near-certain prospect of being recalled.

          When the Times and other advocates of “victim disarmament” bewail the fact that “voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs,” they fail to acknowledge that voters regularly defeat politicians who promote more gun regulation and even gun confiscation. Politicians aren’t stupid; the ones outside of die-hard anti-gun states foolish enough to advocate for yet more onerous gun control laws are long gone. The current crop knows better. Like it or not, they are in the majority. The Times doesn’t like that.

          The battle has been won in academia and history, to the horror of the gun grabbers. Modern scholarship has built an overwhelming case for both the intention of the Founding Fathers in framing the Second Amendment, and in the role gun ownership plays in reducing violent crime, including mass shootings, home invasions, rape, and property crime.

          Scholarship has also established that the really large-scale mass murders and genocides are inevitably preceded by systematic disarmament of the populace. The 100 million victims of democide in the 20th century were all deprived of arms. Some of us have learned from those examples.

          While the largest and loudest public soapboxes will never report it, a very large number of potential mass killings never occurred, because citizens with firearms stopped them before they got underway. Whether it was a principal racing to his car to retrieve a handgun, or a woman at a church dropping a rifle-toting madman with her handgun and marksmanship, these stories rarely make national news. A bit of searching will easily reveal a dozen examples, a review of the scholarly literature will show still more.

          The battle has been won in the courts. Not just Heller, but in the decades of cases fought, won, and lost on the way to Heller, and in the challenges since that decision.

          The freedoms we still enjoy rest on four boxes: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box. Having lost the battles of the first 3 boxes, the government and its sycophants now openly call for the use of the fourth. No one pretends that gun confiscation will be simple, effective, or bloodless. The gun confiscators will dispatch heavily armed men, armed with guns, to take them from heretofore peaceful citizens.

          This is what is has come to. After decades of peaceful exercise of democratic rights, privileges, and principles, the people who wish to own firearms confront an enemy who openly calls for violence against them. Since the democratic process has failed to produce the results demanded by the gun grabbers, they call for executive orders or any other means to get their way. Gun rights activists and apolitical gun owners alike, having secured victories in the court of public opinion, in the legislatures, the history books, and the courts, now face the biggest megaphones in the nations calling for their scalps.

          The irony of needing a well-armed army to implement gun confiscation is rarely acknowledged. Gun confiscation advocates don’t like to discuss these messy details. They envision masses of people meekly surrendering their firearms and ammunition.

          Some would certainly do so. But others will certainly not. Having fought and won these battles, done all the right things, organized, petitioned, spoken, written, voted, donated, marched, lobbied, protested, and sued, there is a substantial population of gun owners who will not meekly surrender their property nor their right to self-defense.

          Quite the contrary. Claire Wolfe’s essay is an open invitation to gun grabbers: come and take them. She is as peaceful and harmless a woman as one could find, but she has put her line in the sand.

          Me, I was made a felon by the stroke of a northeastern governor’s pen decades ago. The book about three felonies a day came out 15 years too late to do me any good. If I’m ever caught and convicted it is certainly life plus cancer for me. I have very little to lose should armed thugs appear at my door. Their costumes don’t matter. I’m no more anxious to fight than Ms. Wolfe. I want to be left alone and live in peace. I rather doubt that any resistance I might muster will be effective or change the outcome. I’ve done my tiny part in the fight for firearms rights for the past 30 years, and I’m not going to surrender after that long string of victories.

          Take our two cases and multiple by 50 or 100 million. Perhaps only 1% of those would actively resist. A much larger fraction is likely to simply ignore any new laws, further eroding the authority and legitimacy of government. When that City of Los Angeles recently passed an ordinance banning magazines that hold more than ten rounds, residents were granted a “grace period” of sixty days to turn them in or dispose of them. That period just expired. In a city of nearly 4 million people not a single magazine was turned in.

          This is what the gun confiscators risk. I fervently hope that I am correct in predicting it will not come to house-to-house searches and a simmering civil war. It is much more likely that this campaign will further polarize the nation and de-legitimize government. Succession or dissolution are far more likely than insurrection. Civil disorder is a distinct possibility. None of those are pleasant outcomes.

  4. David M.

    Okay.

    Why should guns be banned? Because they kill? Indeed they do: more guns per capita -> more firearm-related deaths per capita, which is true pretty much everywhere. So let’s look at those deaths.

    By a mile, the biggest cause of firearm-related death (north of two thirds) is suicide. That’s unfortunate, but do guns cause suicides? Apparently not. Countries like France, Japan and South Korea, with very strict gun laws, have (significantly) higher suicide rates than America does.

    Next come accidents. They, too, are sad. Are Americans (not, of course, cops) too dumb to be trusted with guns, for fear of killing someone by mistake? Maybe. But if so, that’s an infinitely expansible argument.

    People are fallible. Any tool we have and use will mean the occasional accident; it’s just the way we are. Some people die in car crashes? Ban cars. When I was twelve, I opened a kitchen cabinet and dropped our lasagna pan on my head. Ouch. Ban pans, and the lasagnas that enable them to kill?

    And waistlines aside, you Americans don’t have a constitutional right to lasagna. Guns are important; they safeguard your liberty, some people use them for self-defense. It’s in the nature of rights to have real-world implications. Nobody said they’d all be positive. That’s not how life works.

    Finally, there’s violent crime. Liberals argue more guns -> more crime. Conservatives claim the opposite. Actually, both are wrong: there appears to be no correlation between guns and violent crime. See, for example, Gun Ownership and Firearm-related Deaths, by Bangalore and Messerli (as liberal, pro-gun-control a paper as you’ll find.)

    Also note the steep decline of crime throughout the West in the past twenty years. The American and British graphs, for instance, are much the same, though Britain effectively banned handguns (implicated in 95% of American shootings) in 1997.

    Though ready access to guns may not affect crime rates, what they do do is allow the victims of crime to defend themselves. Anyone who, in this age of decentralized threats from terrorism, believes in the only-the-state-may-have-guns approach has failed to appreciate the lesson of Europe’s various synagogue and theater shootings – not to mention that of countless police misconduct videos.

    Ban guns? Only if your feelz compel it. Decades of data and poor policy argue against it.

    1. TK

      “do guns cause suicides?”

      No, but they do dramatically raise the success rate of each suicide attempt.

      “People are fallible. Any tool we have and use will mean the occasional accident; it’s just the way we are.”

      As such, those tools are under strict safety requirements and government regulations. Ask any company that manufactures construction tools.

      “you Americans don’t have a constitutional right to lasagna.”

      Americans also didn’t have a constitutional right to individual gun ownership until 2008.

      “Finally, there’s violent crime. Liberals argue more guns -> more crime.”

      No. Liberals argue more guns -> more gun deaths. You seem to agree with this point, actually.

      1. DaveL

        Liberals argue more guns -> more gun deaths.

        Which, as has already been pointed out, means precisely nothing more or less than that it drives people to hang themselves. I don’t consider that a legitimate function of government, do you?

      2. Mort

        No, but they do dramatically raise the success rate of each suicide attempt.

        Wow, then Japan must have a LOT of failed attempts, since they have double our suicide rate with virtually no guns at all…

        If you want to kill yourself, you’re going to kill yourself. I frankly don’t care what method someone uses, so long as I don’t have to clean up afterwards.Americans also didn’t have a constitutional right to individual gun ownership until 2008.This is idiotic fiction. It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century the notion that it WASN’T an individual right even showed up. Until such time, it was simply understood that you got to own a gun. Period.

  5. Noxx

    I don’t know that it’s possible to have a real discussion on the subject. Those who wish to curtail gun ownership usually know nothing about guns (as you’ve pointed out), and are largely unaware of the complex state and federal gun laws that legal owners are already expected to know and comply with. Byzantine regulations that serve to drive historical collectors insane, and little else.

    It is often stated that the vilified weapons are tools of war, and serve no purpose in civilian hands. In reality, the only features common among these weapons, are common among ALL modern weapons, semi automatic fire, removable box magazines, these are century old innovations. Fully automatic weapons, explosives, armor piercing and incendiary rounds, these are all in fact tightly controlled, and not available “down to the wal mart”, as the pundits suggest.

    The semi automatic carbine is the modern long arm, in all its variations, they are fundamentally equivalent. Pursuing “look and feel” legislation diverts time, interest, and funds that are better spent reinforcing the background check systems and properly integrating disparate data sources to prevent the “oops” factor we have seen in many legally purchased guns used in shootings.

  6. Christopher Williams

    The problem with the debate is the framing of the essential problem. The arguments from the left lack even the most basic knowledge about firearms themselves, and highlight the wrong issues when trying to identify the essential problem with firearms (lots of firearms related deaths). Rather than focus on the meat and potatoes of violence committed with firearms, they choose to use these mass shootings as Exhibit A as evidence of a huge problem when they effectively represent exactly 0% of all firearms related deaths. Instead we ought to look at where and under what circumstances most of the violence occurs in order to best address the real problems with gun violence rather than simply the most visible, which is primarily in inner cities, and as a result of drug prohibition. Until we address the violence that’s solely a result of prohibition, violent crime will continue to be a problem.

    After each of these mass shootings the cries from the left are the same: in order to protect us all (as if that’s possible), people (and the NRA) who are exercising their rights responsibly are to blame, not the specific perpetrator. It’s not that this woman provided a non-existent Pakistani address on her visa application that was never caught by the appropriate personnel within the government, or that she was willing to forego her life (and her newborn child) in order to kill for her ideology; its those damn rednecks in flyover country and their damn NRA that are to blame. And they expect that 100m of us ought to give up our rights in order to make them feel better.

    The left has used shame as a tactic to bully their political enemies, and they’ve been successful of late. This editorial is simply another leftist using a very large platform to shame “those people,” only this time it won’t work. Guns are not a simple matter of law that is settled by The Nazgul and everyone must comply. We have actual agency and the real ability to resist. Many of us understand that the 2A (nor any other amendment) doesn’t confer anything at all. That’s it’s a recognition of our right to arms, not permission, and that a government restricting that right is illegitimate and that any restrictions don’t remove that right. That the restriction of this right (or any other) puts all of them at risk, and indeed the rule of law. The left sees the 2A as an impediment to their preferred society. We see it as necessary. They see that restricting my rights as the solution to their problems. They would try to shame us in to giving up our rights. Only with guns shame is a useless weapon.

    Until liberals start addressing the problems we face with solutions that don’t involve “you have to give up your rights” we will never find the solution.

    1. David M.

      Question. I see more than a few conservatives claim that if the government were to come for their guns, they’d fight back – or even that the government would have a civil war on its hands. Do you believe that?

      1. Noxx

        Given the sheer numbers of gun owners in America, even a statistically negligible amount of resistance would quickly add to unacceptable losses.

      2. Rick

        I don’t believe it. The irony is that the majority of gun owners are good, decent, honest, law abiding Americas who just want to be left alone. They are not going to start shooting at cops. But who is going to come get their guns? Local police don’t have enough manpower or time to do a house to house search to find guns and most people aren’t going to hand them over. Look what happened in CA when they banned “assault rifles” and demanded they be turned over to the state. The state is still waiting. Good luck to whatever agency is tasked with that job.

        1. Grock

          I’m going to throw another little wrinkle in that argument. As a gun owner, the license I presented at time of purchase did not list my physical home address. My license has never has listed my physical home address, a fact few know they can leverage but which is allowed by the DMV. Then you have all the unregistered guns and the reality that people move and the address and information provided at the time they purchased their firearm may have changed making any reasonably accurate attempt at confiscation almost impossible. Then of course there is the matter of suspending anything resembling the 4th amendment in order to search and seize. I just don’t see it happening. Then again, the media dearly love to hype these polarizing issues without fully understanding either the law or the underlying logistics.

      3. Christopher Williams

        Yes, I do believe that. Though I don’t believe that your average gun owner (and even most of the more active pro-gun gun owners) will be proactive in starting a war, but reactive in the event government does actively engage in gun confiscation.

        And even if it’s only a small portion of gun owners who would resist violently (and justifiably IMO), we’d have a serious problem on our hands, with lots of blood spilled.

    2. SHG Post author

      By characterizing the positions as left or right, you fall into the same trap as your adversaries. Labeling is facile. Try making your case without vilifying your opponent.

  7. mb

    All of their “reasonable” restrictions are phony wedge issues to demonize their opponents. “Barely modified” refers to the difference between fully automatic and semi-automatic. Lefty gun grabbers know that their voters don’t know the difference, and think that semi-automatic means a machine gun. Legally, semi-automatic means it fires one round each time the trigger is pulled, without the shooter having to do anything to chamber the next round. This would include anything from gas operated rifles, modified to be incapable of fully automatic fire, all the way down to double action revolvers. “Assault weapon” means semi-automatic weapon, which also has too many of the listed features, which are things like flash suppressors, tactical rails, and detachable box magazines. Mostly, these features do little to increase the lethality of the weapons, and you could have any two (I think) of the things on the list even when the assault weapons ban was in effect.

    As to types of ammunition, yes, some bullets do more tissue damage than others. If your targets are made of flesh, and your intent is to stop them, you will likely select such ammunition. This would apply equally to people who want the ability to defend themselves as well as to crazy people who want to murder. In any event, a criminal with a drill and some FMJs has all the hollow points he wants, regardless of any ban on them. Finally, there’s the idea of restricting certain classes of people from owning firearms. If I can’t trust that you can have access to a firearm without posing a direct threat to human life, I want you locked up for your safety as well as mine. Stripping broad categories of people of their rights is overbroad and ineffective.

    The most callous and disgusting rhetorical device I think I have ever seen has been the use by gun control advocates of statistical data on “gun homicide” irrespective of violent crime rates. Not all homicides are illegal, and not all violent crimes involve guns, nor are they all homicides. Anyone who thinks that it is better for an innocent person to be robbed or raped than for them to shoot their attacker is welcome to say so, otherwise, I don’t want to see your “gun homicide” statistic.

    1. Grock

      The fact is any fully automatic weapon is significantly less accurate than semi-automatic or single shot. Fully automatic looks sexy on film, but no knowledgeable gun owner, or experienced LE or military for that matter, sees fully automatic as the preferred approach.

      There’s a pretty decent video on YouTube titled “Full Auto vs. Semi-Auto with an AK” which mirrors my own experience in this area.

      1. mb

        That’s what I’ve heard from military friends as well. I was only commenting on the legal definitions of automatic and semi-automatic.

  8. Gregg

    Genuinely asking, but why does the analysis need to go beyond your argument based on the Second Amendment? It seems like this comments thread could quickly be filled with information from people who know more than the average NYT writer about how guns work, statistics on shootings, etc. — but does any of that matter with the Second Amendment in place? I guess for (lack of a better way of phrasing it) I’m not sure what additional information about firearms you’re looking for that could support or go against your opinion, or why that information would be important.

    My point of view is your argument (despite your admitted not “know[ing] anything about firearms”) is better than every argument I’ve heard from either side of the issue based around specific knowledge of gun safety, statistics on gun violence, etc. In particular, I like your paragraph from this post:

    “To the extent I support the Second Amendment, it’s based upon the principle that one cannot pick and choose which constitutional rights to honor. Whether we like one or not, adherence to the Constitution is either its own virtue or not. But once we get to distinguish between the ones we feel are good or bad, we put them all at risk. There are a lot of people who really hate the ones we love.”

    I don’t see why both sides of this debate couldn’t get behind this idea.

    1. SHG Post author

      Two reasons. One, because of the suggestion that the Second Amendment should be repealed, thus eliminating it from the bill of rights. Two, because of Scalia’s errant, unprincipled paragraph in Heller that restrictions are still permissible, which leaves a gaping hole in the scope of the right.

      1. Gregg

        That makes sense, I was focusing on the wrong question. Sorry about that.

        For your first point, based on repealing the Second Amendment, two things:

        1. Not going to happen (based on the process of amending the Constitution).
        2. True, prohibition was repealed, but that wasn’t one of the original parts of the Bill of Rights. I’m not suggesting the other amendments (such as the Fourteenth) aren’t important, but the Bill of Rights contains the most fundamental rights in our Constitution. If we repealed the Second Amendment, there would be no reason we couldn’t repeal, for example, the First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, etc. We should be very hesitant to consider repealing one of the original 10 Amendments.

        For the second point, many (hopefully most) would argue Scalia was an idiot when he wrote that paragraph. What is a “dangerous and unusual weapon”? It seems like the three points to consider are (1) how quickly the gun fires bullets, (2) the ease of reloading the gun, and (3) the actual ammunition itself (I swear this isn’t off-topic).

        A gun that fires quickly and can be reloaded quickly/easily is the type people are scared of regarding potential mass shootings. Automatic weapons (firing multiple times with one sustained pull of the trigger) are already banned. According to your post on Heller (amongs other discussions on the matter), this is arguably unconstitutional to begin with. Other people argue such a weapon “wasn’t available to the original founders,” therefore it wasn’t covered under the Second Amendment. That said, if we go down that path, it would effectively take away almost every gun on the market nowadays because the ammo used by modern guns is arguably very different than was available to the founders (because it contains the propellant in the actual cartridge and can thus be loaded without packing gunpowder, etc.) In the interest of not going off topic (though I do think it’s relevant — I’d just wait for your go-ahead) I’ll curb this discussion of ammo there, but suffice to say I think it’s interesting the discussion of ammo itself doesn’t come up more in this debate.

        1. TK

          “Other people argue such a weapon “wasn’t available to the original founders,” therefore it wasn’t covered under the Second Amendment. That said, if we go down that path, it would effectively take away almost every gun on the market nowadays because the ammo used by modern guns is arguably very different than was available to the founders (because it contains the propellant in the actual cartridge and can thus be loaded without packing gunpowder, etc.)”

          The constitutional jurisprudence behind the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment developed precisely by “going down that path.” The Supreme Court did not stay with the Founders’ concept of “cruel and unusual punishment.” Most Americans are glad that the Supreme Court did not. (Except for Justice Clarence Thomas, who maintains the position that as long as the punishment’s cruelty does not reach the level of 18th century cruelty, it is constitutionally permitted.)

        2. LarryArnold

          [Other people argue such a weapon “wasn’t available to the original founders,” therefore it wasn’t covered under the Second Amendment.]

          The same principle says the First Amendment doesn’t apply to multi-page printers, desktop publishing, radio, television, the internet, and computers.

      2. Bryan Gates

        I always viewed the “errant, unprincipled paragraph” in Heller as a nakedly political ploy. The right-wing justices could not stomach endorsing the position that the Second Amendment did not protect an individual right to possess firearms. The NRA is a big player in right-wing politics and conservative doctrine for years had been pro-gun. The right wing also realized that declaring that everyone who wanted to carry a gun could do so into a bar, courthouse, bank, legislature, The White House, etc. would not fly. There probably were not five votes for that position. So they punted and gave a symbolic nod to the Second Amendment, holding “you have the right to possess a firearm, but almost any restriction short of an outright ban will fly.” When the issue of a local ordinance that required trigger locks on guns in the home came up, only two Justices – Scalia and Thomas – voted to hear it. Only two Justices appear to favor any searching review of restrictions on Second Amendment rights and one of them authored the “errant, unprincipled paragraph.”

        My personal view is close to SHG’s. I never bought the idea that the Second Amendment did not protect an individual right to bear arms. I don’t think taking a gun with you everywhere you go is necessary, wise or practical. But something that is enshrined as a Constitutional right ought to get actual protection, not just lip service.

          1. Bryan Gates

            Sure I have, the four Justices who voted in the Heller minority are left-wing. When it comes to issues such as guns, the 4th Amendment, abortion, same-sex marriage, the traditional left-right designation predicts the Justices votes fairly accurately. The dimensions of the Second Amendment right to guns are not going to be influenced much by the left-wing, because the mainstream left-wing position is that no such right exists.

    2. TK

      why does the analysis need to go beyond [the author’s] argument based on the Second Amendment?

      Because there are many counter-arguments. To wit:

      (1) Legal positivists would argue that the law on paper, and particularly constitutional law, is no more than the vehicle to implement the optimal social policy. If you are a positivist who consider America’s high gun death rate suboptimal, the existence of the Second Amendment hardly matters.

      (2) Even if you are not a positivist, textualist interpretation demands the interpretation that the Second Amendment permits regulations of individual ownership of firearms–even fairly severe regulations, as long as the regulations serve the purpose of gun ownership that is clearly stated within the text of the Amendment itself: maintenance of a well regulated militia, necessary for the security of a free state. (Addendum: you may focus on the “shall not” language in the Second Amendment, but that language has about as much strength as the words “no law” in the First Amendment. We already have many regulations restricting gun ownership, as we do with speech–and Americans are even more absolutist about speech than guns.)

      (3) All Supreme Court precedents, prior to the 2008 decision of D.C. v. Heller, interpreted the Second Amendment consistent with the textualist position outlined above. It was only seven years ago that the Supreme Court discovered the constitutional right of individual gun ownership, despite having had numerous opportunity to do so in the history of the Republic. All Supreme Court precedents, dating back to United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), point to the direction opposite from Heller–which makes Heller a flagrant disregard of Supreme Court’s own precedents.

      (4) In practicality, partly because of all three reasons above, it is really easy for just one replacement in the Supreme Court to overrule Heller by going 5-4 in the other direction.

      1. SHG Post author

        It’s certainly conceivable that the Supreme will reverse Heller with a change of personnel, but until such time as it does, Heller is a constant in this discussion. Right or wrong, it is the law as it now stands.

        1. TK

          I agree. It is only to point out that the argument based solely on the Second Amendment will not be sufficient. (And you agree with this proposition, from what I can tell.)

      2. Alchemist

        TK,

        You wrote, “textualist interpretation demands the interpretation that the Second Amendment permits regulations of individual ownership of firearms–even fairly severe regulations, as long as the regulations serve the purpose of gun ownership that is clearly stated within the text of the Amendment itself: maintenance of a well regulated militia, necessary for the security of a free state. ”

        Consider the following:

        “A well educated Electorate, being necessary for the financial prosperity of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.”

        Would you say that this statement means that only well educated voters may keep or read books? That the possession of books by the uneducated, or non-voters, can therefore be subject to infringement? Or that only those books dealing with matters relating with business and finance may be kept and read?

        You also wrote “We already have many regulations restricting gun ownership, as we do with speech–and Americans are even more absolutist about speech than guns.”

        The fact that a regulation is in place is not an argument for it’s constitutionality. And any regulations against speech are for after an offense has been spoken, and do not restrict one from actually speaking. Would you muzzle everyone so that none may utter an offense?

        As a legal scholar, could you point me to any writings from the Founders, or their contemporaries, or for that matter any commentary for, let’s say 50 years after ratification, that supports your position?

        One last question. Did those who wrote, debated, and eventually ratified the constitution believe that their work granted rights, or rather simply protected rights that were inherent in being human?

        1. Keith

          As a legal scholar, could you point me to any writings from the Founders, or their contemporaries, or for that matter any commentary for, let’s say 50 years after ratification, that supports your position?

          I’m no legal scholar, but I like to read a bit. In Adam Winkler’s book, he describes a lot of the restrictive gun codes such as muster, where they would register every weapon or anti-carry laws in towns such as Dodge City, Kansas. He uses it as evidence that, if like Justice Scalia, you ascribe to the originalist approach of Heller, restrictive codes were Constitutional at the founding and therefore should be today.

          What say you, SHG or others? Do you think that rationale holds water? Would the actions of the colonies pre and post-ratification of 2A play a role in what should be protected under the right?

          1. Alchemist

            Keith,

            You wrote, “In Adam Winkler’s book, he describes a lot of the restrictive gun codes such as muster, where they would register every weapon or anti-carry laws in towns such as Dodge City, Kansas.”

            True, as far as it goes. The regulations concerning muster were more along the lines of “You should have a gun and be prepared to bring it when militia leaders called you for service.” These were not restrictions or regulations prohibiting arms. And it wasn’t so much a registration of every weapon, as it was a list of those who were in the militia and what arms they could bring to the field when necessary.

            Dodge City and other towns did have laws against the carrying of weapons. However, it must be remembered that the Bill of Rights was considered to be restraints only on the Federal government. State and local governments could trample rights that the Federal government could not. Only through the process of incorporation, during the 20th century, did the SCOTUS begin to say that the BOR also applied to state and local governments.

            1. Keith

              Totally fair, Patrick. For what it’s worth, I realized after I posted that switching the comment from musters to multiple points was probably a mistake. An edit button would be lovely sometimes. Until then, I’ll try more thinking (and coffee) before hitting that post button.

              Been appreciating the thread.

  9. Ross

    Gun control is one of those issues where most of the reactions and beliefs, especially on the anti side, are visceral, rather than based on logic and clear thinking. The result is a tendency to use “I’m right, you’re wrong, so go away” as the main argument. That makes rational discourse nearly impossible.

    To me, the operative words in the Second Amendment are “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”, the rest of the language provides some context, but ultimately says nothing that stands alone. In every other amendment in the Bill of Rights, it is understood that “the people” implies a personal right, not a collective one. I don’t see how the Second can be interpreted differently.

    To date, the bans on so called assault weapons have been based on appearance, and result in certain firearms being banned for being ugly. The derisive term used in gun culture is “ugly gun ban”. We then end up with the fairly ridiculous situation where a Remington 7400 is OK, while an AR15 isn’t, despite the fact they are functionally identical. Banning the Remington is a political non-starter, as they look like a benign hunting rifle, rather than something developed for the military. Of course, nearly all rifles are based on military designs if you go back in history far enough.

    Nearly all gun control laws attempt to control possession of things rather than punishing bad behavior. I don’t believe that’s a good basis for laws when the things have a multitude of legitimate uses, and the only difference between legality and crime is the whim of a judicial interpretation. My libertarian side says that I don’t care what you own, or what you do, as long as it impacts only you. If you want to own an artillery piece, that’s fine. If you want to fire it, you better have a piece of property large enough to do so without harming your neighbor.

    Finally, there is far too much room for political gain or favor in many gun control laws. We then end up with the situation where the granting of a carry license is based on who you are or who you know, rather than being shall issue if you qualify. An excellent example of this was that actor Sean Penn, known for a history of assaultive behavior, had a California carry license for some time, while women who had been threatened by abusive ex-boyfriends were denied permits, and told to call police if the ex showed up. That brings to mind the Clint Smith quote that “when seconds count, the police are just minutes away”.

  10. jay-w

    What we really need are some “reasonable, common sense restrictions” (TM) on freedom of the press. At the time the Constitution was ratified, the rotary printing press did not exist, photo-typesetting did not exist, etc. So, obviously those things are not covered by the FIrst Amendment. And as far as radio, television, and movies: fuggedaboudit

    But seriously, the most fundamental problem with gun control is that it simply would not work. You would disarm the people who don’t really need to be disarmed and have no effect whatsoever on the people who are a real threat. And this is especially true in view of the fact that the USA shares a 2000-mile border with one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Mexico has extremely draconian gun control laws, but just a few years ago, the annual homicide rate in Cuidad Juarez was up to 250 per 100,000 which is (I think) about ten times higher than Chicago.

    (And please spare me the baloney about how Mexico’s guns are all smuggled in from the USA! That is total BS. Mexico’s gangs use FULLY automatic weapons which are already almost impossible to buy in the USA.) If the USA banned guns tomorrow, the Mexican drug cartels would be ecstatic with joy at the opportunity to expand their businesses into the new market.

    Australia and England were able to (sort of) implement gun control because they are islands.

    1. SHG Post author

      But seriously, the most fundamental problem with gun control is that it simply would not work.

      But is this an argument against it, or an argument for “no harm, no foul”? Even if it doesn’t solve a problem (which, it is argued, can’t be known with certainty until it’s tried), what’s the harm in trying?

      1. jay-w

        I think it’s an argument based on a very approximate (and admittedly subjective) cost/benefit analysis. If I perceive the benefit of some policy to be zero, then it doesn’t much matter whether the cost is high, medium, or low because anything divided by zero still equals infinity. The “benefit” here is an possible, hypothetical, longterm increase in safety while the “cost” is a definite, unambiguous, immediate reduction in personal liberty. (Cue the possibly fake Ben Franklin quote here.)

        I ask myself: “Would I — and especially my children and my (yet unborn) grandchildren & great-grandchildren — be more safe or less safe in a country where only cops and criminals have guns?” And my answer (that I admittedly cannot prove) is that I think they would be less safe in the long run.

  11. Jake DiMare

    Somewhere between a boy scout’s pocket knife and a Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine there’s a line and we all agree that to the left of that line are a category of weapons individual civilians should be able to procure and to the right of that line they should not.

    I do have practical experience with small arms of all types, and training, certifications, and awards provided by the Department of Defense, The Massachusetts State Police, and more than one private, tactical training facility. I’m also an experienced hunter and a gun owner. My opinion is semiautomatic long guns that load .223 and 7.62 magazines with high capacity magazines:

    1. Are battlefield weapons designed specifically for killing human beings at the 25 to 300 meter range as effectively as possible.
    2. Are not the best option for other applications, such as big game hunting.
    3. Are an impractical choice for home defense for a variety of reasons I would be happy to explain at length if anyone cares to have a reasoned discussion.

    and therefore…

    4. Do not belong in the hands of individual citizens.

    Of course, I can hear the…But wait! I need mah AR-15 for tyranny! What if I need to defend myself against Obama’s 3rd term Muslim Kenyan invasion?? All I can say to anyone who clings to the facile belief that ‘Amuurican Patriots’ are going to repel the will of the United States Federal Government is this: Search Youtube for videos about ‘close air support’ for an hour this morning – And then talk to me about the value of an AR-15 for defending your cul de sac from a determined battalion of US Marines. Or, take my word for it: They will be useless.

    1. David M.

      But 4 doesn’t follow from 1, 2 or 3. Advice, however sensible, against using a gun for x doesn’t argue in favor of banning it.

      1. Jake DiMare

        That’s fair, as far as the rules of creating a compelling argument goes. I’m sharing my opinion as a non-lawyer, US Citizen, who straddles the line on this issue. In my opinion, guns designed for the battlefield do not belong in the hands of civilians. I recognize that ‘designed for the battlefield’ is a difficult distinction so I’ll be more specific: Semiautomatic long guns with a capacity over 6 rounds, which will receive a pre-loaded magazine (as opposed to hand-loading each individual round).

        There’s a point at which the design specifications of a weapon go from: Useful for killing animals, to useful for killing other, similarly armed humans. The rabble does not understand this point, but I do.

        1. David M.

          Allow me to paraphrase. You believe there’s a class of weapons that are useful only, or primarily, to terrorists, cops and soldiers. Let’s call them TCS Guns.

          I doubt the concept of TCS Guns makes sense, because there’s at least one other group of people who’d benefit from access to these weapons – anyone looking to defend themselves against Ts, Cs or Ses. Protecting oneself from violent criminals is, I hope, self-explanatory, and the idea that an armed populace wards off tyranny is the heart of the Second Amendment.

          What’s more, if TCS Guns do exist, I highly doubt the AR-15, America’s Favorite Rifle, qualifies. Your cutoff strikes me as not only arbitrary, but as a cure in search of a disease – evidently, people of all sorts, from Vermont to Texas, manage to use rifles of this kind without ripping society apart.

          Let’s dismiss everything I just said and assume, arguendo, that the AR-15 is a TCS Gun. As such, it must be, as you said, too devastating to be left in the hands of civilians. But you also claim that the AR-15 and guns of its ilk will be next to useless in the event of civil war. Which is it – devastating or useless? You can’t have meant that AR-15-armed civilians endanger one another, because the data show this happens so rarely as to be a statistical nonevent. Fully 2% of American gun crimes implicate rifles, compared to 3% for shotguns and a whopping 95% for handguns.

          Whatever the problem may be, I doubt gun Luddism is the answer…

          1. Jake DiMare

            “You believe there’s a class of weapons that are useful only, or primarily, to terrorists, cops and soldiers. Let’s call them TCS Guns.” – Sure, call them whatever you want but the legal concept of an Assault Weapon existed in this country from 1994 to 2004 and the AR series of rifles was specifically listed.

            “Which is it – devastating or useless?” Both. Devastating when in the hands of a psychopath bent on shooting up a building filled with unarmed school children but nearly useless in the hands of a civilian against a coordinated military unit with standoff weapons and close air support

            “You can’t have meant that AR-15-armed civilians endanger one another, because the data show this happens so rarely as to be a statistical nonevent.” I’m not limiting the scope of my desired end state to merely AR weapons. More than half of all mass shootings between 1982 and 2012 were carried out with assault weapons, high capacity magazines, or both. You’ll note, during that same time not one single mass murder was committed using claymore mines, TOW Missiles, or a SAW, in spite of gun nuts assertions that ‘if we make SAWs illegal, only criminals will have SAWs. (SAW = Squad Automatic Weapon)

            1. David M.

              Yeah, Jake, that’s because the AWB’s definition of “assault weapon” is ludicrously, cluelessly broad. There’s a reason why conservatives hate the term. It’s such a catchall for “guns liberals hate and find scary” that I’m frankly astonished only half of mass shootings allegedly fall into its ambit.

              If ever a law went away with good reason, it’s the AWB.

    2. Mike Q

      Your opinion on those certain firearms flies in the face of reality. The AR in calibers ranging from 17 to 223 to 308 and above is quickly becoming one of the most popular hunting rifles. Used with all ranges of game from varmint (coyote, foxes, etc), to large big game (elk, noise, bear). The same reasons the military likes them are similar why hunters do as well. Long ranges, accuracy, and lethality. Large magazines are a personal preference and still have applications in hunting. While shooting prairie dogs when speed is necessary, reloading can be a difference in number bagged.

      This isn’t even touching shooting for entertainment. Reloading magazines isn’t as much fun as the actual shooting, fyi.

      1. Jake DiMare

        “The AR in calibers ranging from 17 to 223 to 308 and above is quickly becoming one of the most popular hunting rifles. ”

        You’re picking one attribute of 4 I’ve specified which get at the purpose of a class of small arms. I have no problem with the caliber when it’s in a bolt, or pump action rifle which is every bit as useful (and more accurate) for hunting or sporting.

        ” Large magazines are a personal preference and still have applications in hunting. ”

        If the rules change there will be inconveniences I am willing to accept.

        “This isn’t even touching shooting for entertainment. Reloading magazines isn’t as much fun as the actual shooting, fyi.”

        Tell me about it. I can show you the blisters I have on my thumb from squeezing rounds into a clip after a morning at the range. Again, inconveniences I am willing to accept.

        1. Mike

          Now you’re reiterating common misconceptions about modern firearms. There is nothing to suggest a modern semi automatic is less accurate than a similar caliber bolt our pump rifle.

          I’m glad you’re willing to accept inconveniences on items you probably don’t currently use. Personally that’s not something I’m willing to give up based on a minute chance someone is saved.

          Clip?? Are you taking an M1 to the range?

          1. Mort

            Just to point out, a lot of Vietnam vets call magazines “clips.” It is how they were frequently referred to in the Army, and even the dictionary has the two words as synonyms.

            The only people who harp on the “it’s a magazine, not a clip” thing are pedantic assholes.

    3. Mike Q

      As for your comments on resistance and the current military, you seem to be ignoring the many wars fought in which an outgunned group either repelled or delayed long enough to make a large difference.

      1. Mort

        And that a majority of the military is from the very places that they would get sent to put down a revolution… Unlikely they would follow orders to shoot. More likely they’d Neidermeyer the 2nd Lt that gave the order…

    4. jay-w

      Jake: If all gun control advocates were as reasonable as you seem to be, we wouldn’t be having this endless emotional debate. That said, I do have a few quibbles with your argument:

      1.) Slippery slope !!!! If there is anybody here who thinks that the fanatical gun-grabbers would be satisfied with just AR-15’s, I’d like to sell them some beachfront property in Wyoming.

      2.) Notwithstanding last week’s events in San Berdoo, the number of murders committed with AR-15 type weapons is statistically insignificant.

      3.) (And very slightly tongue-in-cheek): The effectiveness of ‘close air support’ explains why the US government won such decisive, overwhelming, permanent victories in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, right? In fact, history shows that rag-tag groups of ‘patriots’ can hold off superpowers. If the group is clever, dedicated, and well-organized; and if they have the AR-15’s to begin with, they will eventually obtain the SAM’s and the RPG’s. At some point, fighter pilots have to land their aircraft and go eat dinner.

      1. Jake DiMare

        1.) Slippery slope !!!! If there is anybody here who thinks that the fanatical gun-grabbers would be satisfied with just AR-15’s, I’d like to sell them some beachfront property in Wyoming.

        – Fair. That’s why I think gun enthusiasts need to get out in front of this issue and cooperate on rational restrictions that don’t impact our ability to enjoy hunting and sporting. It’s not impossible to draw a line around weapons designed for the battlefield.

        2.) Notwithstanding last week’s events in San Berdoo, the number of murders committed with AR-15 type weapons is statistically insignificant.

        – True…So far. Weapons in this class are also relatively new to unrestricted ownership. My first ‘assault rifle’ was an SKS which required top-loading by hand and could not be bought in Arizona (of all places) in 1995 with a bayonet.

        3.) (And very slightly tongue-in-cheek): The effectiveness of ‘close air support’ explains why the US government won such decisive, overwhelming, permanent victories in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, right? In fact, history shows that rag-tag groups of ‘patriots’ can hold off superpowers. If the group is clever, dedicated, and well-organized; and if they have the AR-15’s to begin with, they will eventually obtain the SAM’s and the RPG’s. At some point, fighter pilots have to land their aircraft and go eat dinner.

        – You have a point, but I would counter with the fact that history tells us other strategic restrictions in Vietnam lead to our defeat. In Iraq and Afghanistan the evidence is clear. When we are fighting to win ground, the American Armed forces are un-paralleled. When we’re trying to hold ground in asymmetrical warfare our enemies can harry us, but they can not win. There is no reason to think open warfare between a modern, coordinated combined arms force and a rag tag group of uncoordinated citizens with small arms on American soil would have a different outcome.

        1. Mort

          That’s why I think gun enthusiasts need to get out in front of this issue and cooperate on rational restrictions that don’t impact our ability to enjoy hunting and sporting. It’s not impossible to draw a line around weapons designed for the battlefield.

          So in order to get ahead of an issue, they need to capitulate?

          That is one of the most galacticly stupid things I have every read.

          True…So far. Weapons in this class are also relatively new to unrestricted ownership. My first ‘assault rifle’ was an SKS which required top-loading by hand and could not be bought in Arizona (of all places) in 1995 with a bayonet

          Well, by this logic you might also get a DUI, so we should just take away your car right now. I mean, sure you haven’t done anything wrong YET…

        2. rojas

          – Fair. That’s why I think gun enthusiasts need to get out in front of this issue and cooperate on rational restrictions that don’t impact our ability to enjoy hunting and sporting. It’s not impossible to draw a line around weapons designed for the battlefield.

          Perhaps you could start with a list of firearms by type/category that do NOT share a common lineage with those designed for the battlefield.

          – True…So far. Weapons in this class are also relatively new to unrestricted ownership. My first ‘assault rifle’ was an SKS which required top-loading by hand and could not be bought in Arizona (of all places) in 1995 with a bayonet.

          You need to define “this class” but you seem to be narrowing in on semi-automatic firearms with detachable box magazines. Commercialized versions of these firearms have been available for over 120 years.

          The only Federal “restrictions” on these weapons I’m aware of prior to 1994 were related to importation.

          In 1958 domestic manufactures pushed for a successful ban on “re-importation of military weapons that the United States had sent abroad to other countries under the Lend/Lease program”. This was a protectionist bill and not restricted to semi-automatics.

          “The Gun Control Act signed by President Johnson on October 22, 1968 [18 U.S.C. 925(d)] was an omnibus measure reflecting a variety of congressional purposes. This Act ended the importation of ALL surplus military firearms and all other guns unless certified by the Secretary of the Treasury as “particularly suitable for … sporting purposes””

          Note these are import restrictions and had no effect on the US manufacture or retail sales of semi-automatic firearms with detachable box magazines including civilian versions of military rifles such as the M1 Carbine or AR15.

          “The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 amended The Gun Control Act 18 U.S.C. section 925(d)(3), requiring that the Secretary [of the Treasury] shall, as opposed to may, authorize the importation of firearms which were generally recognized as being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

          In 1989 the Bush administration interpreted the provisions of the 1968 act to extend the import ban to 43 versions of semi-automatic firearms.

          1. Jake DiMare

            I thought I did, but I’m happy to expound. My opinion is:

            a.) It is possible to define the functional characteristics of a weapon.
            b.) Depending on these functional characteristics you can categorize weapons based on intended purpose.
            c.) Weapons designed, or modified, for the purpose of achieving fire superiority on the battlefield should not be owned by individual citizens.

            In my opinion, the relevant functional characteristics are:

            a. Is the weapon capable of receiving a detachable magazine?
            b. Is the weapon semiautomatic, burst, or fully automatic?
            c. Is the weapon capable of loading more than 10 rounds?

            Again, in my opinion, if the answer to all of three of these questions is YES the weapon is designed for tactical superiority on the battlefield and it should not be owned by individual citizens. Also, to be clear, I don’t draw a distinction between rifles or a handgun.

            Now, some notes I would like to share to head off some of the typical push back I hear when sharing this opinion with other friends who like to shoot, and have heard over and over again in this conversation:

            First, for whatever reason I feel compelled to point out that I agree, the Federal AWB was poorly written and as a result did not always accomplish intended outcomes. You will note, my criteria has nothing to do with the appearance of the weapon.

            Second, I reject any argument that states no regulation regarding banning weapon classes can or should exist under the 2nd Amendment or Heller. A majority of Americans believe individual citizens are not allowed to purchase, or own, the overwhelming majority of weapons systems available. We’re not arguing about whether there should be regulation, we’re arguing about where the line between civilian and military weapons is. Simply stating that ‘if we ban weapon x only criminals will have weapon x’ is not an argument and is demonstrably false, as is evidenced by the fact that the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed with weapons which are not banned, and therefore easy to procure.

            Third, I am intentionally not addressing the logistics of ‘taking people’s guns away.’ as I am also not addressing the issue of what to do post-ban. I will only state that I would personally be satisfied with it being that the sale or transfer, as well as carrying such weapons in public, was illegal, and that a buy back program would be fair for people who’ve invested in them and would now rather invest in other weapons.

            Fourth, as to the question of whether or not ‘defense against tyranny’ is a lawful purpose for owning a weapon, I’m sorry to say that from a practical perspective, that ship has sailed. I know a lot of people like to fantasize that a semiautomatic long gun is enough to protect them from government overreach but this is simply not the case. When it comes to defending myself from tyranny, I choose to focus on demilitarization of government forces, not escalation. Few gun enthusiasts care to remember that prior to a couple of really well armed individual citizens making life miserable for a bunch of patrol officers during a bank robbery in LA a few years back, a very small minority of police officers had access to long guns and bear cats.

            Fifth, contrary to what a couple of people have tried to say, my opinion is based in practical experience and training, not ‘feelz’. If you don’t agree with the specific nature of my opinion, let’s debate it specifically.

          2. Jake DiMare

            Sorry, there was a sixth, but I hit submit to fast:

            Sixth, I recognize some people like to hunt, or compete with weapons designed for the battlefield. Hell, to be honest, I love firing an AK47, just for the fun of it…But it’s not fair to say “Your desire to be safer from the devastation some weapons are capable of doesn’t trump my freedom to own it.” That’s not how society works and that’s not how the 2nd Amendment works. I recognize that what I’m suggesting means some responsible gun owners will not longer be allowed to ‘hunt boar’ or ‘compete’ with an AR. That doesn’t mean hunting, sporting, or self-defense will be impossible.

            There is no such thing as unchecked freedom.

            1. Mort

              “That doesn’t mean hunting, sporting, or self-defense will be impossible”

              So what shit of yours that you like do I get to take away simply because I find it distasteful?

            2. Alpheus

              I would have to point out that there has yet to be any terrorist act that involves cannon and grapeshot, or flame throwers, yet both are legal.

              For that matter, while many mass shootings have used AR-15s and high-capacity magazines, it’s also very easy to see that literally millions of these rifles exist, yet the vast majority of them aren’t used for mass murder.

              Also, you give a binary choice for weapons: either AR-15s have to be used in terrorist acts, or they can only be used to attack the military. This ignores using AR-15s to defend businesses (as they have been used during times of riot), for hunting small, dangerous animals that travels in groups (coyotes and feral pigs come to mind), or to be prepared for invasion by foreign armies, or even just to have the opportunity to become familiar with standard military-issue weapons well before having to serve your country.

              Finally, it should be kept in mind that even bolt-action and lever-action rifles are military rifles. Just because they haven’t yet been used for mass murder, doesn’t mean that they can’t; indeed, the rounds used for these weapons are arguably more dangerous than the AR-15’s typical rounds, and will thus be worse once a mass murderer decides to use them.

              It’s for all these reasons, I find your “line of infringement” problematic. Although, honestly, even if artillery and SAWs became legal overnight, I don’t expect these to be used by terrorists: these are expensive and very difficult to move about, thereby cancelling their use for such purposes.

    5. Ross

      I hunt deer with a 7.62 (.308) bolt action rifle. A Remington 7400 in the same caliber would work just as well, and is functionally identical to the military firearms you describe. I can also show you pictures of more than a thousand competitors firing AR15 rifles in 5.56 (.223) at the National Trophy Matches at Camp Perry Ohio every July and August. We use AR15’s to shoot pests on ranches, and they work quite well for that purpose. Quit trying to make a case that the military style firearms aren’t needed or useful for the everyday gun enthusiast. And that’s ignoring the fact that there’s no test for usefulness or sporting purpose in the Second Amendment.

      1. Jake DiMare

        Ross, I also enjoy a day at the range and felt incredibly fulfilled the first time I got a medal for marksmanship. However, my position does not stop people from hunting or sporting. It just means we have to use weapon systems designed for those purposes, and not designed for the battlefield. Does this mean my options are limited? Yes. By the way, they already are. There’s a reason why there’s no M204 class in competitive shooting. This limitation hasn’t ended the sport.

        Try a .210 for pests. They’re cheap, fun, and easy to shoot.

        1. Mike

          You do realize most “old” guns many use for hunting are the very guns they brought home from war. You’re trying to ban guns based on feelz.

    6. Jay

      You’re taking the stance that the Second Amendment does not protect the right to own a gun optimized for an armed assault on human beings, or that people shouldn’t own such things regardless? From the standpoint of the Second Amendment, I think you’d be mistaken. The caselaw on unusual weaponry is pre-Heller, and fascinating in that the Court would often accept petitions from the government where there was no opposition. That’s how we wound up with the ban on sawed-off shotguns. I think the current court would overturn those decisions in a heartbeat.
      From the standpoint of principle- I think your stance is flawed because the vast majority of gun violence in this country comes from handguns. Handguns are terrible for hunting. To the extent that they’re good for home defense, so is a cellphone. Gun owners can claim till their blue in the face that they need guns in case of burglars, but half or more of the populace will go right on surviving burglaries without having a gun on hand. So if your points against assault weapons is true, it applies with equal force to the one gun most gun owners (myself included) own.
      Lastly, I’d point out that our military’s ability to take on groups armed with nothing but small arms has not, as of late, been particularly impressive. On the off chance that a president Trump decided to permit air support on an attack on a suburban neighborhood one day, I wouldn’t count the residents out quite yet.

    7. Patrick Maupin

      Somewhere between a boy scout’s pocket knife and a Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine there’s a line and we all agree…

      This is not England, and while you may or may not be a queen, you’re not that Queen, so no, you don’t get to agree on my behalf.

      I will say, though, that I could see how the EPA has the charter to regulate tactical nukes.

      1. Jake DiMare

        Fair. Rewording:

        It is unreasonable to suggest no regulation of arms is acceptable or that the regulation of arms will not work because there is already, obviously, regulation of arms. In fact, if you were to break up all the arms in the world into categories based on their purpose, the overwhelming majority of categories are already out of the reach of individual American citizens.

        1. Patrick Maupin

          It is unreasonable to suggest no regulation of arms is acceptable or that the regulation of arms will not work because there is already, obviously, regulation of arms.

          It is past unreasonable to suggest that just because the government has decided to regulate something, that regulation is “working.”

          the overwhelming majority of categories are already out of the reach of individual American citizens.

          But there is no “line.” Private citizens own MiG fighters, hand grenades, machine guns, and flamethrowers.

          Your entire argument seems to boil down to “we can easily regulate things that not that many people care about” (which circles directly back to Scott’s point — it is unprincipled to do so unconstitutionally) coupled with “and it’s working” (which is unsupported if it’s supposed to mean it’s saving lives).

          1. Jake DiMare

            “It is past unreasonable to suggest that just because the government has decided to regulate something, that regulation is “working.”

            We disagree on this point. In fatal road rage incidents, how many cars were blasted off the road in the last 20 years with unguided 70mm Hydra rockets? Exactly 0, even though a Hydra pod would probably look really cool mounted on the roof of a car, and would almost certainly, dramatically reduce the number of times the bearer was cut off in traffic.

            1. Patrick Maupin

              Road rage is usually not premeditated. Mounting a Hydra on your car would probably make it impossible to use it without facing murder charges; any jury in the country would treat that as intent.

          2. Jake DiMare

            “But there is no “line.” Private citizens own MiG fighters, hand grenades, machine guns, and flamethrowers.”

            Cute, but no. While it is possible to procure a MiG, I dare anyone to try flying one that hasn’t been demilitarized in NORAD airspace. Live hand grenades are definitely illegal and Machine Guns have been so heavily regulated that they are a non-issue.

            You need to read the National Firearms Act before I will respond to you any further.

            1. Patrick Maupin

              I know people who own machine guns. I know a guy who owns a flamethrower. The MiGs could still do a lot of damage. And I can buy hand grenades across the border all day long for 7 bucks each.

    8. Christopher Williams

      How are arms designed for military use unfit for civilians?

      Though not limited to its subordinate clause, the lone justification of the 2A is for militia use in the place of a standing army. The one explicitly stated reason is to defend country against invaders. In that context, and with using the strictest reading possible, not only are they fit for civilian use, but we citizens are obliged to own and train with them.

    9. Rick

      But a .308, 30-06, .264, .270, .284, 7mm and dozens of others, all virtually identical to the 7.62 are standard hunting rounds. Please explain what makes the 7.62 so much more lethal.

    10. Rick

      Long guns (particularly the AR-15) are absolutely a viable, practical option for home defense: with smart ammunition choice, there is probably less risk of overpenetration than with a shotgun or a handgun. It’s easier to achieve accurate first shots. Since recoil is easier to control, it’s easier to achieve accurate follow-up shots. It takes less training to get to a home-defense level of proficiency, and less training to maintain it. For home defense, an AR-15 is arguably superior in pretty much all circumstances to a shotgun. The handgun is superior for extreme close-quarters, but in my own home defense scenarios—since I live alone—I would be defending in place while waiting for the cops to arrive, not clearing the house room-to-room. Personally, I have both: the AR-15 for the circumstances where I’m awake and out of bed before someone gets into my room; the pistol for the oh-shit scenario.

      I’ve also found that female shooters have an easier time handling an AR-15 than a pistol or pump shotgun.

      Also, your argument that CAS renders small arms useless is facile: we have had air superiority for literally the entire GWOT, and small arms-armed insurgents still raised hell. Now it’s hundreds of thousands, even millions of armed American insurgents, plus the inevitable military deserters. And a revolution could not be fought? OK.

    11. dm

      First, what is it about gun grabbers like Mr. DiMare that causes them to believe that listing their bona fides regarding firearm ownership/usage somehow makes them any less odious to those of us who want an extremely liberal (classic liberalism) interpretation of the second amendment?
      Second, Mr. DiMare doubles down by mocking those of us who don’t want to ban so called “assault rifles.”
      Third/Finally, your statement regarding when “assault rifles” became available to the public is false. Semi-automatic rifles have been widely available to the U.S. public since the 1930s (Thompson). M1 carbines have been available to the US public since 1945. M1 rifles (semi-auto version of the M14) and AR-15 type rifles have been available to the US public since the 1970s. Even more varieties of 7.62 and 5.56 and 9mm caliber “assault rifles” became available in the US civilian market in the early 1980s (HK 91, HK 93, HK 94, FN FAL, FN FNC, Galil, Uzi carbine, etc.).

      1. Alpheus

        Something else just crossed my mind. Strictly speaking, the AR-15 wasn’t designed for the military, if I recall correctly. It was one of those rare models of guns that was originally designed and made available for the civilian market, and *then* adapted as a fully-automatic M-16 for military trials.

        Which makes the claim that we should only ban guns designed for military purposes rather galling…

        (That, and if we’re banning military arms, we’re going to have to ban long bows…)

    12. Mort

      Somewhere between a boy scout’s pocket knife and a Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine there’s a line and we all agree that to the left of that line are a category of weapons individual civilians should be able to procure and to the right of that line they should not.

      No, actually, there isn’t. Or rather, I suspect that you and I have very different views on where that line would be.

      For example, I think that I should be able to have as close to parity with the US military as my personal budget will allow, whatever that might include.

      Judging from the rest of your words, you think it should be barely past bolt-action rifles.

      I do have practical experience with small arms of all types, and training, certifications, and awards provided by the Department of Defense, The Massachusetts State Police, and more than one private, tactical training facility. I’m also an experienced hunter and a gun owner. My opinion is semiautomatic long guns that load .223 and 7.62 magazines with high capacity magazines:

      1. Are battlefield weapons designed specifically for killing human beings at the 25 to 300 meter range as effectively as possible.
      2. Are not the best option for other applications, such as big game hunting.
      3. Are an impractical choice for home defense for a variety of reasons I would be happy to explain at length if anyone cares to have a reasoned discussion.

      and therefore…

      4. Do not belong in the hands of individual citizens.

      I invite you to come try and take them from me. A 30-30 round from my Marlin does SIGNIFICANTLY more damage than a .223 round, and I’m more than passably accurate with it out to around 150 yards.

      And in point of fact the AR platform is exceedingly well suited to home defense. Not only are the controls easy to learn (and are second nature to anyone with military experience) but they are reliable, and almost infinitely modifiable to whatever your personal needs or tastes may be. We have several in my home, with at least two of them locked and loaded, ready and easy to access should they be needed. They are also EXCELLENT for hunting, with the AR-10 and AKs firing a round that is more than capable of killing a deer, and AR-15s are actually great hog-hunting weapons. Again, their adaptability does them lots of favors here.

      Of course, I can hear the…But wait! I need mah AR-15 for tyranny! What if I need to defend myself against Obama’s 3rd term Muslim Kenyan invasion?? All I can say to anyone who clings to the facile belief that ‘Amuurican Patriots’ are going to repel the will of the United States Federal Government is this: Search Youtube for videos about ‘close air support’ for an hour this morning – And then talk to me about the value of an AR-15 for defending your cul de sac from a determined battalion of US Marines. Or, take my word for it: They will be useless.

      I’m going to show far more restraint than I normally would, because I do not with to anger our host, but screw you, pal.

      Ignoring the fact that the entire POINT of the 2nd Amendment was so that the citizenry could resist the government (what with the first big fight of the Revolution happening because the British came to try and take a bunch of guns from those dirty colonials), you seem to have this idiotic assumption that if the government told the US military to fire on their fellow citizens, they would all actually follow the order. They would, AT BEST, sit it out, and I suspect that happy dream isn’t near what would actually happen.

      And quantity has a quality all its own.

      So please, you go right ahead and openly say that we need to take away some of the most popular weapons in America. I’m sure that will work out well for you.

    13. LarryArnold

      [1. Are battlefield weapons designed specifically for killing human beings at the 25 to 300 meter range as effectively as possible.]

      Yet no military in the world issues any semiauto main battle rifle. An AR-15 is no more a “military weapon” than a Hummer II is a “military vehicle.”

      They are very handy when hunting feral hog. They make excellent rifles for introductory shooting classes, particularly if they have the flexibility of an adjustable stock. Several national shooting competitions involve AR-15s.

      1. Jake DiMare

        “Yet no military in the world issues any semiauto main battle rifle. An AR-15 is no more a “military weapon” than a Hummer II is a “military vehicle.””

        True, far as it goes. Though you might be interested to know, however, that infantry and marines are trained to fire their main battle rifle in semiauto under most circumstances. In fact, Marine are trained to fire an average of 10 shots per minute but when things get tight a slower rate is recommended. The fastest rate a rifleman should fire is determined by his ability to select targets, align the sights, and shoot a round accurately.

        Nevertheless, it’s not the rate of fire per trigger squeeze that concerns me, particularly since I’ve fired bursts and full auto and I know how ridiculously difficult it then becomes to be accurate…Frankly, potential victims would probably fare better if the shooter was spraying rounds all over the place.

        My concern is the overall number of rounds a shooter can put down range in a single engagement. Some weapons are designed for the purpose of killing as many people as efficiently as possible. It is possible to define this category of weapons based on their design characteristics. And although removing this category of weapons from self defense, hunting, or sport shooting may be less ‘fun’ for enthusiasts of the class, it will not eliminate a person’s ability to participate in these categories, with other weapons.

    14. Alchemist

      Jake,

      You wrote “Search Youtube for videos about ‘close air support’ for an hour this morning – And then talk to me about the value of an AR-15 for defending your cul de sac from a determined battalion of US Marines. Or, take my word for it: They will be useless.”

      You forgot to tell all those goatherds in Afghanistan know how futile it is to resist determined battalions of US Marines. A bunch of dirt-poor Pashtun and Tajik (et al) tribesmen scratching a subsistence existence from a hostile landscape resisted the British, the Soviets, and now the US. Now, please enlighten us as to how your confidence in “close air support” will play out in Springfield, Boise, South Bend, any suburban or urban theater, your choice. Would you want to be the WH Press Secretary after the public sees videos of the aftermath of air strikes on some alleged “rebel stronghold” in a middle class neighborhood?

      Any theorizing about insurrection, rebellion, civil war – whatever you want to call it – must remember that it would likely be decentralized fourth-generation warfare, as described by Lind and others. There will be very few pitched battles, fewer still necessitating “close air support. Guerrilla warfare would seem mild and quaint to what I fear could happen. It would not be pretty, not at all.

      1. Jake DiMare

        I’ve seen this point come up a few times and it’s an interesting debate. Unfortunately, I still don’t think Americans would fare very well against the military. Please allow me to explain why, in bullet form:

        – Most importantly, the small guy in asymmetric warfare doesn’t ‘win’ in the conventional sense. While it’s true a hometown guerilla army might survive and harry an invading force, eventually waiting them out for a political win IF they have popular support, a force with an understanding of how to execute counter insurgency can, and will, make their lives worse than hell. Furthermore, in the scenario we’re talking about, the US Army and Marines would not be an invading army. They’d be the home team, fighting for the sovereignty of their homeland. By the way, I know some people like to fantasize an American army wouldn’t turn their guns on an American insurrection. This is obviously laughably at odds with history -on more than one occasion. Hell, a standing US army has turned their bayonets on war veterans who were doing nothing more than begging for their combat pay in this country. (Google: Bonus Army)

        – American citizens aren’t Mujahideen. If you think dudes are going to emerge from their favorite football team themed man-caves in American suburbs and fight like the Pashtuns and Tajiks, you’re in fantasy land. You’re talking about people who have been at a constant state of war for decades. They don’t know anything but war. There’s more to the advantage than simply being completely at home in total discomfort. They actually know how to coordinate, use communications, and build IEDs.

        – The Pashtuns and Tajiks had a lot of weapons American citizens don’t have, like automatic weapons, grenade launchers, grenades, mortars, etc. If you’re not aware of the significance to this point, there’s a lot of great information on the subject and I strongly suggest you read up on it before you put your life on the line against a modern army with nothing more than a handgun and an AR15.

        – The overwhelming majority of normal American citizens have no idea how to establish a base of fire, execute a tactical retreat, or flank an enemy position. This matters…A lot. I don’t have time to explain why…If you don’t get it, again, I suggest reading up before you head out there.

        1. Alchemist

          It is an interesting debate, and you make valid points. Your certainty is a bit troubling, though.

          You are right that “The overwhelming majority of normal American citizens have no idea how to establish a base of fire, execute a tactical retreat, or flank an enemy position.” But, any unpleasantries such as we are discussing would not involve “The overwhelming majority of normal American citizens.” There are many former military who still remember their training, and could pass along that knowledge. Of course, government forces could give insurgents, rebels, what-have-you, all manner of hell. There would also be “collateral damage” – gotta love such useful euphemisms – which could turn the populace against the government. The rebels could also give all manner of hell to the government, without engaging any gov’t military forces. Nothing is certain, by a long shot. Things could get really nasty. Let’s hope they don’t.

          “The Pashtuns and Tajiks had a lot of weapons American citizens don’t have,”
          Weapons are easy. Very easy. They could be smuggled inside bales of marijuana.

          “I suggest reading up before you head out there.”
          Never underestimate someone’s understanding of tradecraft.

        2. Alpheus

          I’m listening to a podcast on revolutions. The French Revolution, in particular, demonstrates that you don’t *know* what the people, the armies, or the various assemblies that pop up under contentious times are going to do. Sure, it’s possible that the Army will air-bomb neighborhoods. But it’s also possible that they’ll air-bomb the local Capitol building instead, as a result of that order.

          If I’ve learned anything about revolutions, it is this: regardless of which side I’m on or even if I’m going to choose a side, I’m going to want to be armed. And I’m *especially* going to want to be armed, if one of the sides is a clear tyrant. I don’t want to be in a position where I cannot fight against what I perceive to be tyranny.

    15. Strife

      As a veteran myself, one individual with an AR won’t stop a battalion of Marines, and God help anyone who tries to stop me in my tank, regardless of what they have. One person with an AR can certainly inconvenience a battalion of Marines, and that’s all that is really needed for an insurgency to win. Of course, I doubt that we’re going to face a tyrannical government any time soon, worse the probable win condition for the insurgency is death of the enemy and the country as a wasteland.

      Of course, rights taken are rarely returned and I won’t make a guess for the governments that my children and children’s children might face. Moreover, that end state of a destroyed America might be enough to stop a tyrannical America from ever being an issue, and even if that threat isn’t enough, I would take the American experiment reduced to ashes and waiting for it to grow again than for it to put on jackboots (which would, of course, almost certainly require burning down to ashes anyway before the tree of liberty ever showed itself again)

    16. Evyl Robot Michael

      1. Citing the purpose for which a tool was originally developed as an argument against it is silly at best since inanimate objects have no intentions of their own for good nor evil. I am shocked that nobody has yet noted that Eugene Stoner designed the AR-10 as a sporting rifle first and foremost and then his design was modified into the M-16 for the battlefield, which is not the same thing as a civilian, sporting-use AR-15. On the other hand, every bolt action hunting rifle is based on designs intended for war. Also, the assertion that modern battlefield guns are intended to kill anyone is wrong, as they are in fact intended to wound, which was a big part of the decision to ditch .308 for .223 at the time of the M-16 development. Kill an enemy on the battlefield and you’ve taken out one. Wound an enemy that has to be dragged out, and you’ve effectively taken out two. And then, survivors drain the enemy force of resources well beyond individual combatants. If we’re going to ban objects because they were first intended to kill and still persist in violent crime, we should ban hammers before any guns. According to the FBI, more people are killed by them than by rifles (or so we are told), and I’m pretty sure the war hammer predates the hammer’s use in carpentry. It was designed to kill, and it’s still going strong this many thousand years later.

      2. Others have shown this to be demonstrably false.

      3. I think others have done a good job putting this one to rest as well.

      4. Even if your main three points were not demonstrably false, they don’t logically point to a ban. Nowhere in the 2nd Amendment is there a clause stating that The People must show that any given arm is perfectly suited to their purpose, nor must they demonstrate any specific need in order to exercise an enumerated right.

      All that being said, isn’t it great to live in a country where we can have differing opinions and express them freely?

  12. Brady Curry

    The banning of guns may someday be done legally, but never in practice. Has this country ever been able to eliminate the use of anything by making it illegal? As long as there is one person that wants the banned object, and has enough money, there will be someone willing to supply them with their desired object. In the case of terrorists, you need only show the willingness to commit the crime in order to be supplied with the banned object(s) you desire.

    I also have never understood the thinking of most police and politicians in that the only good guy with a gun is a cop. “Cops have the proper training” they say. By the looks of some recent videos that could be debated. A citizen with a gun can also be a good guy. If guns are banned, and are required to be turned in to the government, those people willing to do so should be handed back their gun plus a badge. These are exactly the type of people you want on your side.

    Our country’s forefathers may have been smarter then we give them credit for. Having an armed populace is a deterrent. The choices this country has made, right or wrong, have created a situation where we are not very well liked by many. Having those people come here to do wrong is inevitable. When doing wrong these murderers show their true colors by running away like cowards when good guys with guns show up. I say the good guys shouldn’t always have to be cops. Having armed law abiding citizens among us should be championed by the unarmed. I wonder if ISIS would be for the banning of guns in the US?

    Having a an armed populace is not all sunshine and roses. Yes, murders will still be committed by criminals. Just as with terrorists, an armed citizenry could lessen their impacts. I just hate the thought of being placed in the middle of a war (“on Crime/Terrorism”) and then being told I can’t have a gun.

    1. Jake DiMare

      “The banning of guns may someday be done legally, but never in practice. Has this country ever been able to eliminate the use of anything by making it illegal?”

      This argument is obviously wrong. There’s a reason why bank robbers don’t use hand grenades or vehicle mounted M134D gatling guns. There’s also a reason why terrorists aren’t dropping planes out of the sky every day with Stinger missile launchers. These weapons are not legal for citizen use and therefore incredibly difficult to procure.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        This is completely specious reasoning. These are terrible tools for the job. I know a guy who owns a flamethrower, but that’s not really a good tool for robbing a bank, either.

          1. Patrick Maupin

            I never got to the sentence about the Stinger, because of how bad your thesis of “There’s a reason why bank robbers don’t use hand grenades or vehicle mounted M134D gatling guns.” was.

            There is such a reason, and that reason is that most bank robbers want to get away clean with the loot. They all know how Bonnie and Clyde ends. The reason has nothing to do with an inability to procure illegal substances.

            But now I’ll read your second sentence.

            As far as the Stingers, yes of course basic economics says any sort of scarcity means that there will be fewer in use. A Stinger is many orders of magnitude more difficult to build and maintain than a gun, and is essentially a single-use weapon (sure, you can reuse the launcher, but the missile has most of the smarts and weighs twice what the launcher weighs). Yet another reason for the scarcity and high price of stingers is that the US government has spent untold sums of dollars to buy them back from Afghanistan.

            Stingers would be extremely expensive under the best of circumstances. They also aren’t things that most normal people want. If you really want to look at how well regulating the availability of moderately expensive things that people want works, look no farther than the war on drugs.

      2. Patrick Maupin

        BTW, according to a two-year old article in the San Antonio Express-News, “About 28,690 machine guns are registered in Texas.”

        So, as others have pointed out, you are arguing either ignorantly or dishonestly.

        1. Jake DiMare

          Thanks for arguing my point for me. The closed registry of private owners of MGs in this country has choked out the supply to the point where an average sale price can easily be 25k. Most owners are registered gun dealers.

          I’d be happy to see assault rifles regulated the same way MGs are.

          1. Josh Jacobson

            Assault rifles are regulated the same was machine guns are, by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Per the military definition assault rifles are “Assault rifles are short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachinegun and rifle cartridges”. Selective fire means the assault rifle can switch between single round and automatic/burst mode. No weapons sold to the general population in the US today has this capability.

            What you might be referring to are assault weapons, a nebulous class of firearms defined by their looks rather than any specific characteristic of their functionality. To qualify as an assault weapon under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban a semi-automatic rifle had accept a detachable magazine and possess two or more of the following characteristics:
            * Folding or telescoping stock
            * Pistol Grip
            * Bayonet mount
            * Flash suppressor
            * Grenade launcher mount
            You will notice few of these features affect the accuracy or operation of the weapon itself, just the appearance and how scary it may look.

          2. Patrick Maupin

            Which point?

            Sure, legal ownership of machine guns is expensive. It is cheap enough to illegally acquire one, but doing so shows that your intentions are not good, and it’s a much more specialized tool than a regular gun. FWIW, if you really want to play with a machine gun, the purchase price is just an indication that the playing is going to cost you big time in ammo.

            If you really want to look at regulating stuff that (some) normal people use and care about, and most other normal people don’t have moral qualms about, look at what happened when the ATF tried to make model rockets illegal.

  13. Bryan Gates

    The fact some change in the law would not completely prevent gun violence is not a reason to do nothing. Several classes of people are not allowed to possess guns. The Supreme Court has approved of those exceptions to the Second Amendment. Anyone who sells a gun should be required to run the purchaser through the instant background check system. Just because black market sellers would still deal illegally does not make that a bad idea. I would not have much trouble finding heroin if I wanted to buy some. That does not mean it should be sold at WalMart.

    The assault weapon ban did not accomplish much. That was mostly because it is hard to come up with a sensible definition of an “assault weapon.” The federal ban on machine guns has been effective, mostly because the definition is simple. It is difficult to legally purchase or possess a machine gun. Possibly a ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds could help, provided there was no grandfathering in for existing magazines. Since most gun deaths in this country occur with handguns that would not meet any reasonable definition of an assault weapon, even an effective assault weapon ban would not reduce gun deaths by much. If a mass shooter had to reload after firing fifteen rounds and three potential victims got away, would that be bad just because it had no effect on handgun deaths?

    It is hard to imagine that restricting access to guns (by people who already are legally prohibiting from possessing them) would do much in the short term. There are already so many guns in circulation that even an outright ban on the manufacture or sale of guns would do much right away. Conceding that does not mean we should not do anything.

    Those who say that more mental health treatment would reduce gun deaths are kidding themselves. We should have better mental health treatment because there are a lot of mentally ill people in the world. Most shootings are not carried out be mentally ill people. It is also difficult to figure out who, among those with serious mental disorders, actually pose a threat to others.

    1. Mike Q

      Now you’re looking at arbitrary bans based on the rarest of shootings. Most firearm deaths are one offs in private settings, not mass killings. This is akin to making cars made of thick steel because a few people die after hitting large animals while driving.

    2. Mort

      The ban on automatic weapons hasn’t actually done much besides make the ones that were around before the ban really expensive. If I filled out the paperwork and had the $10,000+ plus it would cost (and could find a willing seller) I could purchase and own a minigun.

      Such a purchase would make me the coolest person within at least 200 miles of my home, and I would have every cop offering me their sisters and wives for a chance to shoot the thing.

      There are still automatic weapons legally owned by private citizens. Quite a few, actually.

    3. Patrick Maupin

      I would not have much trouble finding heroin if I wanted to buy some. That does not mean it should be sold at WalMart.

      Personally, I think WalMart should be able to sell heroin, because that would probably mean that I could get cough syrup without having to see a doctor. (I find the rest of your arguments equally uncompelling, but others have addressed most of those.)

  14. Chris Ryan

    I should begin by saying that I am a gun-owner, a hunter, and I would like to think of myself as one of the quiet majority of gun-owners that believes in reasonable gun restrictions along with the right to own firearms.

    I am a firm believer in that if the quiet majority of gun owners were allowed to write gun control (and everyone had to follow the law, both gun-owners and gun-haters), this debate would be over quickly. The problem is that one side of the political debate demands the freedom to any weaponry they want while the other side wants to take it all away. Neither side will likely win in our lifetimes.

    The simplest solution to getting reasonable gun-control laws? Gun-control advocates need to publicly express the belief that there is in fact a right to reasonable gun ownership, and then acknowledge that explicitly in the laws they write. I believe the key to the solving the problem is the responsible gun owners who do not subscribe to the NRA’s beliefs, but too often they are scared off by political leaders that spew hatred towards guns, and their owners.

    Unfortunately, nothing about today’s political reality is reasonable.

    1. Mike Q

      We already have reasonable restrictions though. Mentally ill and violent criminals cannot legally own, as well as strict requirements on full auto ownership. Bans on arbitrary looks and certain functionally are anything but reasonable as they seem to ignore the functions of a firearm. A banned AR is not functionally different than a completely legal mini 14 with the same magazine size.

      1. Chris Ryan

        Lets focus just on the mentally ill (who are a danger to themselves/others) and “violent” criminals for a second. While they are banned from gun possession, the fault lies in the fact that there is not a system in place to ensure they cannot simply cross a jurisdictional border and then purchase the gun.

        While the definition of reasonable can always be debated, I think that it can be safely said that we need a national (and mandatory) reporting system that will allow everyone to easily compare notes across state lines. if you are found mentally incompetent to own a firearm in one state, that decision should be entered into a database so that the next state over does not sell you one.

        Many times, I have walked into gun shows to look around, and I know that a mentally ill person, or a “violent” criminal could simply walk in behind me, buy a gun and ammo without ID and walk back out. That is simply not acceptable to me. Waiting periods and background checks are both perfectly reasonable to me. If you cannot be bothered to realize that you might need a shotgun to go hunting next month, you probably are not a responsible gun owner to begin with.

        As far as your comment on banning guns based on looks, I totally agree with you. It can be ironically funny to dig into many gun-control laws to see what they are trying to ban this time. I think the term “assault weapons” is thrown around too much today, and it used as an excuse to ban guns.

        1. Keith

          Every Federal Licensed gun dealer is required to run a background check. The “loophole” you and many speak of is actually the law working as intended. It may not be a law you like, but the answer to that is typically to ask your elected reps to change the laws. Even in NJ, which is ranked near or at the top of the list for gun control, we can sell private long guns without background checks. If the pol in NJ don’t consider that dangerous enough to change, why do you think they are wrong?

          As for the mentally ill. Bear in mind that the vast majority of people seeking mental health services are victims, not perpetrators of violence. If we are to take psychologists and task them with dropping the dime on patients, how many of those “would be patients” will stop seeking help at all. Is the trade-off worth the risk in mental health services that won’t be administered?

          I’m not sure. But when the rubber met the road, the Veterans Administration said they wouldn’t comply with the reporting requirements of the NY SAFE act because they thought it would, among other things, put at risk the veterans seeking help.

          How does that fall into the calculus here?

          1. Chris Ryan

            Let me be clear, simply going to a mental health professional should not, in any way, impact a person’s right to own or possess firearms.

            I tried, and obviously failed, to be clear with the mentally ill component of the discussion. There are already laws in place that require psychologists to report anyone that is an imminent danger to themselves or others (Tarasoff). Those people are the ones that concern me. If any person with a Tarasoff requirement, reports a person that should stop the reported individual from getting a firearm in any jurisdiction, however (as I state further down) that loss of the right to own a firearm should also come with due process protections so that the person reported has the chance to argue against the prohibition.

            1. Keith

              I agree with you on that score. I’d even be fine if there was a set period, perhaps a week or two, where the person can request proof be brought in order to substantiate the claim they can’t purchase firearms. And if you can’t get any actual evidence to a Judge in a couple weeks time (or a sign off on a continuance), the person gets his right to a gun.

              There has to be some nod to due process in there.

        2. Mike

          You must be going to some strange gun shows, because, as said above, any licensed dealer is bound by law to perform a background check. The vast majority of sellers at any gin sow I’ve been to have been licensed dealers. Private sellers also get words from the ATF as soon as there sales get a big to large.

          While there may be a small chance that a private seller sells to a restricted person, it’s still illegal for that person to buy. What you’re advocating is passing more laws in hopes that the next one might work.

          In terms of expanding background checks, I’m sure a lot more people would be up for it if it were free or insignificantly cheap, was easy to use, and quick. I would challenge anyone to think of a government process that was all three of those. I heard reports that the federal system was at its knees yesterday because of so many sales. Now add private transfers.

        3. Dragoness Eclectic

          Y’know, mentally ill people have enough problems with being stigmatized without a medical diagnosis being the basis for taking away fundamental Constitutional rights. It has been pointed out repeatedly that mentally ill people are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of crime than to commit them.

          I know people who won’t get treated for possibly treatable mental illness because that would leave a paper trail that could cost them their jobs and/or Constitutional rights. So screw you for pushing the rhetoric that the “mentally ill” don’t deserve the rights of citizens.

    2. dm

      You claim to be in favor of “reasonable” restrictions, but then fail to disclose what you believe to be reasonable. Why? If you want to advance the debate at least state where you stand with regard to some of the proposals currently pending in the US Congress.

      1. Chris Ryan

        I have not commented on proposals currently pending in the US Congress mainly because I do not have the time to dig down into the guts of any/every gun control proposal that some Congressman makes. Unfortunately, like many subject areas, the laws proposed are not simple to understand, nor easy to follow.

        as for some ideas that I find reasonable? (part of the issue is that IANAL but I know that with the way politics work there is no easy way to get any reasonable law passed regardless of whether it relates to guns or not)

        – Start by reworking all existing gun control laws to make them clear and concise. The DMV has to come up with a booklet on rules for driving that we are supposed to know, but there is no simple booklet on firearm ownership. gun control laws should be easy to follow

        – if you are responsible enough to own a firearm, you are responsible for that firearm. Nothing annoys me more then stories like the one out of Chicago where a guy left a loaded handgun in his fridge. Technology has advanced enough that there are a myriad of ways to keep any gun safely out of the hands of children when not in your direct control.

        – if a person stores their guns reasonably, and they are subsequently stolen, they should report the weapons stolen, and then be immunized against liability if the guns are later used illegally.

        – conversely, if a person refuses to keep their guns safe, they should be civilly liable for what happens with them, or if the case is gross negligence potentially criminally liable.

        – there should be a national database for background checks which is simple to use and anonymous (ie no records kept of who made the check nor whom the check was made on). Look up a little at Keith’s link for a start point on that.

        – the loss of the right to own firearms should have a higher due process requirement then currently exists.

        – all police departments should be required to install a non-monitored box that allows for any firearm or firearm paraphernalia (an example being magazines) to be anonymously turned in for destruction. No investigation of those items, or the people who turn them in should be allowed.

        – local jurisdictions should be banned from making their own gun control laws without the express consent of their state legislature. having a myriad of local laws makes it virtually impossible for anyone to know exactly what rules they should be following at any point

        – straw buyers should be prosecuted, and stores that sell to straw buyers should be investigated to ensure there is not a pattern of allowing such sales. If there is, they should lose their license at a minimum

        – violation of gun control laws should require a mens rea component

        I could list other ideas, but there are several issues not the least of which is most places do not enforce the gun control laws that are already on the books.

        1. Keith

          There’s a lot there I agree with. One potential problem is the States rights issue. In situations like that of Shaneen Allen, she was prosecuted in NJ because unlike her drivers license, her conceal carry permit didn’t transfer over.

          Even when State have preemption laws (e.g. PA), sometimes cities make up their own rules (I’m looking at you Philly) because they say the reality on the ground is that they aren’t like Harrisburg and reality needs to win.

          I have a Florida conceal carry permit. If you’re a resident of Florida, that’s valid to carry in PA. if you’re a non-resident, it’s not valid. But, if you have a non-resident permit from Florida, that’s enough to get a non-resident permit from New Hampshire, which *IS* valid to carry in PA. For crying out loud, you can’t possibly expect mere mortals without a law degree to understand these laws.

          (caveat: laws are subject to change without notice and you should check the reciprocity laws before traveling anywhere).

          1. Chris Ryan

            A few years ago I went out and got a Utah Concealed Firearm Permit even thou I have never carried a concealed firearm in my life. The reason I did so was because in the state I usually hunt in (Washington) it allows me the freedom to move around between jurisdictions without having to worry about the minutia of local law.

            State’s rights are indeed one of the biggest issues in many cases. While I can respect the right of State’s to craft their own laws, as long as they are consitutional, I do believe that they should be forced to make those laws available to the public, and easy to understand. I completely agree with your comment that it should not require a law degree (and i would add lots of experience in every niche) to be able to understand laws.

        2. Skeptical_Realist

          “– all police departments should be required to install a non-monitored box that allows for any firearm or firearm paraphernalia (an example being magazines) to be anonymously turned in for destruction. No investigation of those items, or the people who turn them in should be allowed.”

          So, if a gun is used in a crime, all the criminal has to do is stop by the police office and drop it in the box. Presto! Instant evidence destruction with no recourse for investigating officials.

          Might want to rethink that one. Most of your other ideas have merit, however.

  15. Noxx

    In August of 1966, Charles Whitman introduced America to the modern archetype of the boogeyman, the spree shooter.

    He carried several common weapons, the handgun, shotgun, military sources carbine, and a hunting rifle. He did most of the damage with a bolt action Remington 700, however that fact is not of great consequence. None of those weapons were prohibited to him at that time.

    fifty years and literally hundreds of federal and state regulations later, none of those weapons would be prohibited to Whitman today. He was discharged honorably, had no felony or DC convictions, did not appear on any lists.

    Charles Whitman could climb the clocktower today, and not one death would prevented by the millions of dollars and reams of paper consumed in the reactionary political activity following every shooting since.

    The loonies can be responded to. They cannot be fully anticipated, or safeguarded against. A man with a desire to wreak havoc will find a way, and frankly the back and forth over “this type of rifle” and “that many bullets” is far more heat than light.

    My answer is that there’s no answer. Worlds a hard place.

    1. Christopher Williams

      Not only is the world a hard place, but these mass shootings effectively make up 0% of all shootings, and those killed during mass shootings make up 0% of those killed via crimes where criminals use guns.

      Though horrific and tragic when mass shootings do occur, being that their frequency is effectively 0% of all shootings, one could argue that they’re not a real problem at all. They’re extreme outlier events in a country with at least 100m gun owners, and using them as the basis for gun control is intellectually null, and barely veiled dishonesty about the real agenda.

    2. Hal

      I thought this was a really good point. Like the shooter @ the DC Navy Yard, who used a shotgun that would be legal even in NYC, it makes clear that prohibiting certain types of weapons makes pitifully little difference to the degree of carnage these attackers can inflict on the unarmed. That it was arguably the first mass shooter and could happen again tomorrow, despite all that has occurred, should convince any thinking person that the technology these murderers use is not the critical consideration.

      Sadly, there are many who will, instead see it as evidence that yet more restrictions are necessary. In NYC they’ve been going after people who have pocket knives that can be “flicked” open. That many of the most popular knives by BenchMade, Buck, Spyderco, and Kershaw, can be and that, therefor, a whole lot of people are now carrying what has been rather arbitrarily decided are illegal weapons suggests that there really is no end to the restrictions that prohibitionists would impose.

      IIUC, carrying a Swiss Army knife is now technically illegal in Boston. I say “technically” as one can be sure that this is a statute that would be selectively enforced.

      Some days it hardly seems worth the effort to chew through the restraints and get out of bed in the morning.

      l

    3. Alpheus

      I’m listening to a podcast on revolutions. The French Revolution, in particular, demonstrates that you don’t *know* what the people, the armies, or the various assemblies that pop up under contentious times are going to do. Sure, it’s possible that the Army will air-bomb neighborhoods. But it’s also possible that they’ll air-bomb the local Capitol building instead, as a result of that order.

      If I’ve learned anything about revolutions, it is this: regardless of which side I’m on or even if I’m going to choose a side, I’m going to want to be armed. And I’m *especially* going to want to be armed, if one of the sides is a clear tyrant. I don’t want to be in a position where I cannot fight against what I perceive to be tyranny.

  16. Jay

    I think there are multiple gun control conversations happening all at once and so they have to be parsed out.

    First, there’s the “let’s end gun violence, period” conversation. This conversation is the most contentious, because critics rightfully point out that it can’t be done without disarming the entire populace. The FBI has already concluded that even if we stopped selling guns and ammo in stores, the populace has enough guns to keep the violence going. Assuming you could remove the second amendment from the constitution and go after everyone’s guns, then first you’d have a very ugly series of fights with disgruntled gun owners, and once the smoke cleared, we would be a country probably like China, where we’d continue to see spree killings but with swords, knives, and explosives. People tend to forget how easy it is to build an explosive from household items. If people want to commit mass murder, no amount of law will stop them.

    Second, there’s the “let’s end mass murder” conversation. This conversation is much simpler, it goes after 1. the amount of ammo a person may have at home 2. the size of the magazine a gun can have 3. weapons intended for assault purposes. As I pointed out before, none of these things will end mass murder, but they’re palatable to enough people and make people feel like they are “doing something.” Were it up to me, I’d probably let the gun control types have one of these, wait till we have a few more mass murder incidents, say “see?” and then take it away again. Why would I do that? Just to end this pointless conversation and go back to the first conversation which is inane but at least would bring about real change (not change anyone would actually want, but anyway).

    Third, there’s a “let’s give people better mental health care!” conversation which is really a “let’s ban more people that bother us from having guns!” I have nothing against better health care, frankly I applaud this. I also think it would actually bring down a lot of crime. Not mass murder, but crime. The lifetime bans on firearm ownership for anyone with mental health issues, however, is disturbing. We already have such lists, of course, but they prevent the mentally ill who were committed at some point from buying from firearm dealers. The ban could go to ownership (it does in some states) and it could go to purchasing from regular citizens as well. I’m not a fan of this because creating second class citizens bothers me and because these lists are lifetime bans that come from one incident. I think this likely unconstitutional, but assuming that doesn’t get in the way, from a pure policy perspective, a law that could be principled in application to take guns from people who are suffering from mental illness but only while their illness is not controlled or they pose a grave risk due to their medication, I could see this as a good thing. I’ll leave it to wiser people to develop a law like this.

    Fourth is the “let’s take guns away from bad people” conversation. We already do this with lifetime bans on firearms for felons and domestic abusers. Something which I think is unconstitutional, but we’re not concerned with that, so anyway. If you could design a law which banned firearms for a period of years after a violent act, or required a person to take a domestic violence course, anger management, and guns safety course, and then they could have their rights reinstated, but any further violence would trigger another period of years… I could see that being a good thing. I insist on the period of years rather than a lifetime ban because, surprise surprise, people do change. Most violent people I represent are in their 20s. I’d hate to see anyone lose their rights over their dumbest moments for life.

    Anyway, that’s how I would parse all the noise about guns and gun violence going on right now.

    1. Christopher Williams

      @Jay

      1) It’s foolish to think that we could give up a concession (magazine limit, etc) and then get it back once it’s shown that it was a useless gesture that prevented nothing.

      Case in point: there was already an assault weapons ban in place for 10 years that made no dent. In CA there ARE magazine limits, along with various other limitations placed on so-called assault rifles that failed to stop the latest shooting. The anti-gun movement will concede nothing, and instead say that said restrictions failed not because they’re useless, but because they aren’t restricted enough.

      As has been made clear in the last couple of days, the anti-gun movement has dispensed with their mask of not wanting to engage in confiscation, but in “common sense regulation,” and have explicitly stated that confiscation, not restriction, is their true goal.

      There are no concessions that we can make in good faith that will not be met with the demand for yet more concessions when the originals fail to bring about their impossible utopia.

  17. SHG

    I want to stir the pot a bit. One point that seems underdeveloped here is, assuming the Second Amendment is not an obstacle, the legitimate purposes of possessing weapons are:

    1. Hunting
    2. Sport shooting
    3. Self-defense
    4. Defense against government overreach

    One of the basic premises of gun control advocates is that the harm perpetrated by gun violence outweighs whatever enjoyment people get from hunting and sport shooting. Or, as it would more likely be put, your pleasure isn’t worth another person’s life. What is the response to this, putting aside reasons 3 and 4.

    1. REvers

      Hunting and sport shooting helps keep you competent with your firearm in case you ever need it for 3 and/or 4. The fact they are enjoyable doesn’t lessen the fact they’re both useful as training.

      Note that I consider a day at the range for practice as “sport shooting.” I haven’t been in an actual competitive shoot in decades.

    2. Jake DiMare

      I reject your premise. I’m a GCA but I don’t argue that ” harm perpetrated by gun violence outweighs whatever enjoyment people get from hunting and sport shooting.” Nothing I’ve suggested would eliminate hunting, sport shooting, or self-defense.

      1. DaveL

        Nothing about poll taxes and “literacy tests” actually forbid black people from voting, either. It’s not enough that some legal path remain to exercise a constitutional right, in some capacity, under some circumstances. The restrictions placed on that right must be justified.

    3. jay-w

      I think my response would be that, 1 and 2, by themselves, are probably not a sufficient justification to oppose “reasonable” gun control laws.

      I would also say that 4 is just a special case or subset of 3. Therefore, 3 is everything, and 3 by itself is more than sufficient to justify widespread civilian gun ownership.

      Self defense is a very fundamental human right — probably the most fundamental human right that there is. And even if one makes the highly dubious assumption that we will always have a competent and benevolent government, the police cannot protect everybody all the time, even if they wanted to; it is logistically impossible. (I am obviously not an attorney, but didn’t the Castle Rock/Gonzales case answer that for once & for all?)

    4. JR

      I’m in the category of 2 & 3. Mainly 3. I don’t carry a gun around, it is locked up at home. However, if I own a gun I believe that I should have the basic skills to use it correctly. That said, the wife and I 2 to 3 times a year go to a range and put some holes in paper targets. Neither of tries to be empty a clip rapidly, or try to hit from long distances. I want to make sure that if I have to, I can from a normal distance put the bullet where I want it to go, and not into something else.

      (As an aside, you would be shocked at how bad a lot of people are. Saw a guy last week that could barely put the rounds on the paper, at 10 yards with a laser sight. It shocked me because this out of the way range in another city is know mostly to police and feds that come to sharpen skills. I normally feel like the odd man out in my abilities at that place.)

      This related to 3 or maybe 1. I think it might have changed, I’m not sure, but a one time if you where flying a light plane over the northern parts of Canada, you were required to have as part of survial kit, some rifle or hand gun. I know a guy that would fly from Ohio to Alaska in a Cessna 140. For those that do not know that plane is 2 seats, about 80 HP, no instruments, visual flying only, and doesn’t go above about 12,000 feet. His first flue stop/customs in Canada they would inspect his kit and ask to see the gun.

      My response is that we are all not in LA, or NYC. In many places it stupid to go out without a gun. Large animals, some snakes, or nasty that are not people, can end your life quickly.

      And that brings me back to number 2. If you have it, you better know who to use it correctly.

      1 and 2 are not for enjoyment only.

    5. Kathleen Casey

      Is that one of their premises?

      Hunters keep shotguns at home to go hunting. (And rifles, though not in my neck of the hinterlands.) They learn and practice firearms safety. None has control over “the harm perpetrated by gun violence” except for individual precautions.

      What do gun advocates know about me? Nothing that’s what. What do other hunters know about me? For most of them, not much more. There are a few morons in the woods and for all other hunters know I may be one of them. Though I am not. I am respectful of the power of my 20-gauge.

      Precautions are individual. It is a trade by each of us, of safety for freedom. The Bill of Rights protects individuals, not massified groups.

    6. TK

      Certain countries ban civilian gun ownership, but do recognize the need for hunting and sport shooting as legitimate. Those countries often require gun owners to keep their guns unassembled, or kept at the lockers at the police stations so that they may be kept track.

      Even as an abolitionist, I would be fine with this approach. (In fact, I believe your characterization that it is “one of the basic premises” of GCAs is simply not true.) But at any rate, I do not see any gun advocate going for this compromise.

    7. mb

      (this tangent comes back around, I swear)

      One time my Criminal Procedure prof. had an attorney who was auditing his course come up in front of class and the prof. told us we were representing the defense, and he proceeded to examine this attorney as though he had witnessed a crime. We all sat and watched. Then the prof. berated us for not objecting to the questions. (the whole thing took two minutes) (btw, you’d really like my criminal procedure prof.) I later realized that I had just been taught what it felt like to be sandbagged. We all should have objected to the entire proceeding, having had no opportunity to prepare a defense or even met with our client, and stormed out of the room.

      I will not “put aside” number 4, and I will damned sure not “put aside” number 3. Heller is irrelevant. If the 2nd doesn’t protect an individual right, then it’s the only time the Constitution has been amended to grant to government a power which government already had. (that is, the ‘militia’ interpretation is, simply put, stoopid) I will no more argue for the right to keep and bear arms without reference to my God given right to self-defense than I would argue for free speech, free press, free religion, free association, and freedom of petition without reference to my God given right to freedom of conscience.

      A government that does not trust me with a gun is not to be trusted. And the harm of disarming the populace real. I will not put it aside.

    8. Patrick Maupin

      This is a difficult thought experiment (as mb has shown, he can’t even enter the frame). I suppose to play along, I would have to assume that few citizens would even ever want a gun for self defense, which would probably mean some combination of (a) very few guns were used by bad guys in crimes; (b) the cops were exceptionally good at protecting the public; and/or (c) the entire population was as sheep to the slaughter.

      So if 3 and 4 (with the big caveat on 3 above) were out of the picture, and also the elephant-in-the room #5 at the time the constitution was written — communal defense — was out of the picture, then the government could probably easily dispatch or ignore the second amendment and then be free to ban/regulate guns just as it does with drugs, open containers of alcohol, etc.

  18. DaveL

    A quick reality check: the shooters in San Bernardino are said to have fired 75 rounds in “about five minutes”. That gives each shooter an average rate of fire of 7.5 rounds per minute, a rate that would have astonished an 18th century musketeer but nobody else since about 1850.

    While that’s unusually low for a mass shooting, they almost always stay below about 20 rounds per minute, a rate easily achievable with manual repeating arms.

    1. SHG Post author

      I made the point yesterday that almost nothing in this discussion bears upon the San Berdoo murders. As the Times said, it “calls attention” to the issue. But guns, shootings, facts and definitions don’t seem to play well together. And it doesn’t bother many people.

      So the discussion derived from San Berdoo, but having nothing to do with San Berdoo, continues.

  19. DaveL

    Also, I think one of the scariest phrases from the gun control debates is “an AR-15’s only purpose is to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and only the police should have them.”

  20. losingtrader

    70 comments ? OMG I need to open carry my pistol to the liquor store and buy a bottle of good whiskey to drink while I read these. But, then, you picked the wrong day for this what with the college football championships coming on shortly. I think I’ll just drink the whiskey and skip reading anymore.

    I’m sure by tomorrow Martin Shkreli will have developed whatever drug is necessary to cure your egregious breach of SJ protocol and priced it just beyond your purchasing power.

  21. TK

    Since this board seems to be leaning mostly toward being in favor of guns, I would appreciate it if some of you could answer a couple of questions to flesh out your thoughts to edify this staunch abolitionist.

    1. Two indisputable facts: (1) the United States has significantly more guns in the hands of civilians, and; (2) the United States has significantly more gun deaths than any other developed nation. If you hold the position that the prevalence of guns make no contribution to the number of gun deaths, what is it about the United States that causes Americans to kill others and themselves significantly more?

    2. Many of you take the position that civilian gun ownership is essential to freedom. This position is almost always universalist; I have never seen anyone making the case that civilian gun ownership is essential to freedom in the U.S., but not in other countries. So then: are countries without civilian gun ownership–the countries with advanced economy and modern democratic governments–lack freedom?
    2.1 If your answer is yes, how did that lack of freedom impact these countries on the practical level? I am less interested in the high-minded political theory; I want to hear how not having guns negatively impact the day-to-day lives of the people of those countries. I lived in one of those countries for more than a decade, and I would say I enjoyed greater freedom in knowing that I can enjoy night time strolls alone and that a drunk brawl will never escalate to a fatal event.

    I have a lot more, but let’s start with these two (or two and a half) questions to start. Thank you in advance for thoughtful replies.

    1. SHG Post author

      While your questions raise interesting points, though largely outside the scope of the discussion about US gun control, you should note that almost everyone here began with a statement of their position and arguments in support of it. You, in contrast, ask question of others while giving no support for your position. Perhaps some will want to play, but you might find it more fruitful to take a less belligerent approach. No one owes you answers, especially when you’ve offered nothing to establish the merits of your own position.

      It’s up to you, but when your first comment begs for a fight, it makes you come off as a troll rather than someone interested in legitimate discussion.

      1. TK

        Really? I thought I was being quite respectful in the way in which I formulated my question. How am I being belligerent if I am simply asking for people’s positions? And I did offer my position in the beginning of the post: I am a staunch gun abolitionist. But I find a discussion to be more fruitful if I understood other people’s points better.

        Since I want to give you due respect as the author of the post, I can give you brief outline of the reasons behind my position:
        (1) Human experience shows that while guns are mere tools, they are the tools that exacerbate social problems. Such tools are dangerous and must be carefully controlled, just like we control any other dangerous tool in modern society, such as drugs, alcohol, vehicles, nuclear weapon, and so on.
        (2) Human experience also shows that many supposed benefits of civilian gun ownership are either significantly overstated or altogether fraudulent. The safest societies in the world have virtually no civilian gun ownership. Most free, advanced democracies in the world have no civilian gun ownership.
        (3) D.C. v. Heller is a deeply dishonest opinion, having no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the precedents of the Supreme Court.

        I have been debating these points for quite some time now, so I doubt I would hear a rejoinder that I have not heard before. But I have not heard measured responses to the questions that I raised earlier–and since this board seems to have a fairly even keel temperament, I figured I might give them a shot. I would rather hear a strong argument that is contrary to my position rather than repeat what I think. I find it more educational.

    2. Mort

      We actually don’t have “significantly more gun deaths.” Yes, our rate is higher than the UK’s, but when you consider that the rate is out of 100,000 people, it actually means that we are dealing with fractions of a percent of the population. The only reason we have so many more in pure numbers is because we are so much larger than almost anyone else. And frankly, in the US, while the murder rate is higher (for all forms of murder) you are far less likely to be robbed, assaulted, or raped.

      You know what? I’ll take that trade.

        1. Mort

          Indeed. Norway has more deaths by mass-shooting than we do, per 100,000. Pretty sure they have stricter gun laws, too.

          I get it, actual data makes you mad. It’s cool.

    3. JR

      Jut real quick.

      “If you hold the position that the prevalence of guns make no contribution to the number of gun deaths, what is it about the United States that causes Americans to kill others and themselves significantly more?”

      I have problems with that sentance.

      So if you think that guns do make a contribution, then you don’t have to answer the second part?

      First, correlation does not equal causation. You learn that in high school statistics classes.

      Second, The areas in the US with the highest gun crimes are the places with the strictest gun laws.

      Third, even without number two, there is no such things as no contribution when you look at stats. You need to know what level and if it is statically significant.

      And last.

      I think this is the real question that people should be focusing on.

      “….. what is it about the United States that causes Americans to kill others and themselves significantly more?”

      1. TK

        “So if you think that guns do make a contribution, then you don’t have to answer the second part?”

        You don’t have to answer anything, really. But I would be curious to hear what you have to say. If you have thoughts about what you consider the “real question”– i.e. “….. what is it about the United States that causes Americans to kill others and themselves significantly more?”–I would love to hear it.

    4. Patrick Maupin

      1. Two indisputable facts: (1) the United States has significantly more guns in the hands of civilians, and; (2) the United States has significantly more gun deaths than any other developed nation. If you hold the position that the prevalence of guns make no contribution to the number of gun deaths,

      Why “gun deaths” instead of “all deaths?” If you’re going to start banning objects based on the number of deaths they are associated with, cars are obviously going to be high up on the list; hospitals, too. How many people do you know who died in a hospital? And we already have empirical evidence that when doctors go on strike, the death rate goes down.

      David M. already thoroughly discussed how/why gun deaths are a bad metric, but instead of engaging with him, you blithely ignored that comment and apparently hope that the rest of the readership did as well. Unfortunately, though, “Country X has way more wood-chippers than any other developed nation, and way more wood-chipper deaths, so we should obviously ban wood-chippers” is not the sort of argument that would normally be allowed here, so most of the regulars aren’t going to be swayed much by it.

      1. TK

        Why “gun deaths”? Because this post is about guns.

        I am not interested in swaying anyone here. I am primarily interested in the more sophisticated versions of your arguments.

        As an aside, I *love* the idea of banning cars. When safe, self-driving cars become widely available, I would gladly vote to ban human-driven cars.

        1. Patrick Maupin

          Why “gun deaths”? Because this post is about guns.

          But even then, it’s disingenuous to discuss “all deaths from guns” rather than “extra deaths due to guns.” Unless you think everybody who dies in the hospital dies because of their location.

          I am not interested in swaying anyone here.

          Right. You’re just collecting ammunition, as it were, for later arguments.

          I am primarily interested in the more sophisticated versions of your arguments.

          The arguments are really pretty simple, and there’s a reason that sophisticated and sophistry share the same word root.

          As an aside, I *love* the idea of banning cars.

          Color me unsurprised, but that leads to another question. I know of several pedestrians who have been severely injured by bicyclists. Should we ban cycling or walking? They’re both good for you, but cycling is more efficient, so I’m leaning towards walking. What do you think?

      2. Jake DiMare

        “If you’re going to start banning objects based on the number of deaths they are associated with, cars are obviously going to be high up on the list;”

        Great example. The regulation of automobiles in this country has dramatically reduced instance of death and injury since the 50s.

        1. Mort

          And with virtually no regulation of the firearms industry (I don’t count laws on who can buy what, or what sort of gun with whatever features is legal in an given state) gun deaths have dropped by 49% since merely 1993.

        2. Patrick Maupin

          To my knowledge, there have been no new regulations on who can own a car, and while maybe you can spin out of it, you appear to have been discussing new regulations on who can own a firearm.

    5. David M.

      Of course more guns lead to more gun deaths. But that doesn’t mean more guns lead to more deaths. I wish this one point were more widely understood.

      Suicidal people use guns when they’re available, but guns don’t cause suicide. Even the staunchest liberal researchers find no correlation between guns and violent crime. Gun homicide statistics include cases of self-defense. One thing’s true: more guns mean more accidental gun-related deaths. But that’s true of any tool, because we’re monkeys and monkeys screw up.

      1. TK

        A. Sure, guns don’t cause suicide. But it does dramatically raise the success rate of a suicide attempt.

        B. Why is the correlation between guns and violent crime relevant? I thought the point was about reducing the number of deaths.

        C. In all other cases in which monkeys screw up, there are regulations and restrictions that are proportionate to the scale of the screw-up.

        But enough of this, since this is all the stuff I heard before. I really am curious about what you think about my two initial questions.

        1. David M.

          A. This is provably untrue. A simple look at suicide rates by country is enough. No offense, but this is such a basic fact that it makes me think you’re repeating something you read in an article.

          B. Uh. I assumed because you were concerned about people killing other people with guns, which criminals have been known to do? I think? I mean, I’m not a criminal or anything.

          C. I’m torn between “oh really?” and “can you imagine such a world?” Open to suggestions.

          On to your questions. Question 1 is basically just me repeating myself. Americans don’t. When they kill each other, they like to use guns, but they don’t commit more unjustifiable killings. That just leaves negligence, which, as a German, I can assure you isn’t unique to the American condition.

          Hey, look, I’m reasonably well-qualified to answer Question 2, because I’m a Kraut who’s spent more than a decade in Europe! Aside from the general contempt for civil rights that prevails around here, there’s the fact that when, say, a mass shooting happens in Europe, it’s indescribably worse than a comparable crime in the US. Check out the mass-shooting-deaths per capita per country statistic. Fully four and a half years after the Breivik shooting, Norway still leads the world. You lose ten? We lose eighty, or a hundred and forty.

          How does it affect me personally? I go to Paris. One of my best friends, whose best man I hope to be at her wedding, has family there. When a handful of texting, mouthbreathing millennial jihadis decide to shoot up, blow themselves up on, boulevard Voltaire five days after I walk down it, all I can do is pray Sophie & co. didn’t get hurt, to say nothing of the people I don’t know who certainly will die. In Texas, when jihadis of similar sophistication and moral character try to hit Everybody Draw Muhammad Day, they’re dead before they can come close to killing someone.

          Do you enjoy knowing your life, and those of your loved ones, to be at the mercy of fate and the type of man who’d sign on with ISIS? Or do you prefer to have some control over your circumstances?

          1. TK

            A. Actually, it is provably true. There are many studies that compared the effectiveness of suicide rates based on the method chosen. (Pills versus guns, for example.) I can’t put a link here, but I’m sure Google will yield plenty of results.

            B. I am worried about people dying from guns. That includes gun suicides and gun accidents. Crime is only an incidental element.

            C. I can imagine such a world. I lived in such a world for over a decade. South Korea, to be precise. Hot-tempered people who overthrew their dictatorial government twice, until they got democracy. And I did quite enjoy knowing that mass shooting is virtually impossible (happened exactly once in South Korean history.) I never feared a man next to me in Korea; in the U.S., I look around all the time.

            Norway loses 80 in a mass shooting that ? So what? That happened *once* in Norwegian history. Literally, a once-in-a-lifetime event. U.S. loses that many in a week, and those shootings can literally happen anywhere.

            1. David M.

              You’ve either gotten confused or you’re being misleading. We’re discussing suicide rates, not the effectiveness of various methods. Your former homeland, South Korea has triple the US suicide rate, as well as some of the world’s strictest gun laws. If you’re concerned about suicide – an admirable thing to be – you intend to pull on entirely the wrong lever.

              And ’cause I just can’t resist, you’re also wrong about guns facilitating suicide. It’s totally immaterial, since suicide rate statistics track successful attempts, but I’d be remiss to let it go. As Michael Chabon put it, 20 degrees off the vertical, just inside the angle of the mentum. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

              I’m oddly gratified that you know crime’s statistically the least of the three causes of gun deaths. That means it’s time for me to repeat myself, again: accidental gun deaths are all you’re left with. If you can draw a principled distinction between banning guns due to the risk of accident their use entails and banning any other x from the set of tools, I’d like to read it.

              And I gave you a per capita statistic, meaning it’s population-adjusted. If, for some unfathomable reason, you think that spoils your fun, we can do absolute stats. The Paris shootings alone resulted in more dead than American mass (3 or more dead or injured) shootings totaled in the past four years.

            2. TK

              “If you’re concerned about suicide – an admirable thing to be – you intend to pull on entirely the wrong lever.”

              Nope. Look up studies about how gun suicides–and suicide overall–decreased after Australia banned guns after Port Arthur shooting.

              “If you can draw a principled distinction between banning guns due to the risk of accident their use entails and banning any other x from the set of tools, I’d like to read it.”

              I am all for banning any tool that kills as much as guns, just as soon as it is feasible to do so. Cars, for example, I am happy to see go.

              “The Paris shootings alone resulted in more dead than American mass (3 or more dead or injured) shootings totaled in the past four years.”

              And the shooting in the scale of the recent Paris shootings happened how often in French history? And again, I don’t even really care about mass shootings. I am talking about overall gun deaths.

          2. TK

            Actually, I am curious to hear more about the part about “general contempt for civil rights” in Europe. Can you please elaborate? And do you think if Europeans had more guns, there will be more respect for civil rights?

            1. David M.

              Without diving too far down the rabbit hole, I mean that our constitutions don’t act as a check on government power. Rather, like ordinary legislation, they tend to expand the government’s right to interfere in private affairs.

              One corollary is that we lack Second Amendment equivalents. As a result, we’re more beholden to the state and dependent on it for security than Americans are.

            2. TK

              Thanks for that. So you think if you had more civilian gun ownership, there would be less government power? How would that be achieved?

            3. David M.

              Other way round. If there were less government power, we’d own more guns. Of course, I am sympathetic to the notion that guns in the hands of the people help keep the state from taking away the rights it’s had to cede. A sort of momentum of liberty.

            4. TK

              Ok, so less civil liberty is not the result is of less gun ownership, in your mind. So am I correct in understanding that you are basically satisfied with the exchange between [possibility of lowering the casualty of mass shooting] and [possibility of higher accidental deaths and suicides]?

              You might object to the suicide part, although I think you have no basis.

          3. David M.

            It’s not just that you’ve cherry-picked an example (and I’ll take it on faith that you’ve summarized the data correctly.) You’ve also moved the goalposts – again – since now you’re talking about trends in suicide rates instead of the rates themselves.

            Consider Britain, which all but banned guns in 1997, when suicide was already on a downtrend. Rates spiked for men that year before resuming their downwards trend, at much the same rate. The women’s downtrend slowed a little.

            The subject of suicide is extraordinarily complex, maybe more so than that of guns. Trends vary. A lot. But suicide rates themselves are consistently much higher elsewhere than they are in America, and that’s been true for decades.

            Though it is striking that the countries with the highest suicide rates have particularly strict gun laws. I suspect they’re symptomatic of a more general strictness of society.

            Regarding banning cars &c. alongside guns, I admire your principled position, if nothing else. I suspect Patrick, Mort and the others have stronger words for you.

            You don’t get to wriggle away. First you complain when I give you a pop-adjusted stat, then again when I make it absolute. If you persist in saying America has a disproportionate problem with violence, or in conflating gun death and violent death statistics, you do so in defiance of any reason I have to offer.

            1. TK

              I don’t think I complained about any statistic you gave me, and I have been consistent from the very beginning. My initial post referred to “gun deaths.” I never deviated from that.

              Since you want to talk about gun suicides, here is my point about gun suicides in full form, lest there should be any misunderstanding. I am concerned with gun deaths in all forms. One prevalent form of gun death is gun suicide. And the gun suicide attempts have an exponentially higher success rate than, say, pill suicide attempts. (85 percent versus 2 percent, according to one study.) If there were no guns available, such that the suicidal would have to resort to jumping, pills, hanging, etc., there would be less suicides.

              This point is borne out in many real-life situations. Australia after Port Arthur is the most on point. Comparing the number of suicide attempts versus actual suicide deaths in South Korea is also instructive.

            2. TK

              Just so I am clear. Am I correct in understanding that your position is:

              (a) Gun accidents and suicides are just things that happen in the course of life, and;
              (b) Those things are acceptable costs of having the ability to lower the death count in the event of a mass shooting.

              Sorry to belabor this, but I am trying very hard to understand your logic. I enjoy hearing a strong opposing argument, and I can only get that by trying out the various implications.

            3. David M.

              Yes. You’re concerned about gun deaths. Gun deaths make up a larger percentage of violent deaths in the US than they do elsewhere. This is because America has lots of guns. Other kinds of violent death are less prevalent in the US than elsewhere. This is because America has lots of guns.

              So do we have a problem? That depends on whether America sees more unjustifiable violent deaths by population than other places do. And under our previous definition of ‘unjustifiable,’ it doesn’t. Unremarkable suicide rate. No guns/violent crime correlation. Killing in self-defense doesn’t count. We agree that accidents do, but that’s not enough – certainly not enough to distinguish guns from other tools.

              Of course, you’d like to ban cars because drivers get involved in accidents.

              Now you’d like to expand ‘unjustifiable’ to include suicides, under the theory that even if guns don’t make people try to kill themselves, they let them succeed.

              That isn’t impossible. One could imagine a world where Americans are incredibly resilient, South Koreans are totally fragile, and it’s only because Americans have access to guns and South Koreans don’t that the Koreans are only three times more likely to off themselves compared to Americans. Otherwise, it’d be a hundred.

              Alas, there’s no data to that effect. As I hope you’re aware, suicide attempt tracking is notoriously bad. Then there’s the problem that countries like Britain didn’t see suicide rates drop after they banned guns, like you’d expect if we lived in that world.

            4. David M.

              Nah, let’s sum my position up as follows.

              a) Gun accidents, like accidents involving all kinds of things, are just things that happen in the course of life.
              b) Suicides are often preventable. There’s precious little to suggest the availability of guns has an impact.
              c) This thing – accidents – is an acceptable price to pay for the many benefits of having access to guns, whether for hunting, sport, self-defense, to create jobs, or to fight off and forestall tyranny,
              d) Point c) doesn’t apply in the US, because Americans shouldn’t play balancing games with their constitutional rights.

            5. TK

              “Gun deaths make up a larger percentage of violent deaths in the US than they do elsewhere. This is because America has lots of guns.”

              It took you this long just to answer my first question, but I suppose this will do. Thanks.

              As to your other points:

              “No guns/violent crime correlation.”

              No correlation if you are looking for number of guns versus number of violent crimes. But plenty of correlation if you see the proportion of petty crimes (e.g. theft) escalating to a situation resulting in gun deaths, in the United States versus other countries.

              “Killing in self-defense doesn’t count.”

              It counts; it’s still a gun death. And in the U.S., you can “kill in self defense” just for stepping into your front yard, as long as you are sufficiently scared in your own mind. (Look up State v. Peairs.)

              “One could imagine a world where Americans are incredibly resilient, South Koreans are totally fragile, and it’s only because Americans have access to guns and South Koreans don’t that the Koreans are only three times more likely to off themselves compared to Americans.”

              Your characterizations are inaccurate, but the essence of your “imagined world” is the reality. You seem to assume that South Korea and the United States have similar level of suicidogenic (suicide-causing) factors. Not so. South Korean society has much stronger suicidogenic factors than the United States: rapid modernization, high level of education, disqualifying poverty (especially among the elderly,) low fertility rate, etc. And contrary to what you say, there are tons and tons of data quantifying these suicidogenic factors cross-country.

              And this is before we even discuss the drop of Australian suicide rate following the Port Arthur shooting and the resultant gun ban (which you never addressed,) the relative lethality of suicidal method chosen, and the cross-country comparisons of suicide success rate.

            6. TK

              Thank you very much for your excellent summary. Let me explore a bit further, if you’d indulge me:

              “a) Gun accidents, like accidents involving all kinds of things, are just things that happen in the course of life.”

              Alright. Let’s set that aside for now.

              “b) Suicides are often preventable. There’s precious little to suggest the availability of guns has an impact.”

              If the suicide success rate is clearly impacted by the availability of guns, is that not sufficient to suggest that the availability of guns has an impact on the suicide rate? (Even setting aside the real world example of Australia?)

              “c) This thing – accidents – is an acceptable price to pay for the many benefits of having access to guns, whether for hunting, sport, self-defense, to create jobs, or to fight off and forestall tyranny,”

              Are the many benefits of gun ownership enough to justify no regulation at all? If you are ok with *some* regulations, can you give examples? What is the line that must not be crossed if you are ok with some regulations?

              “d) Point c) doesn’t apply in the US, because Americans shouldn’t play balancing games with their constitutional rights.”

              As a U.S. legal academic, I will just tell you that the entire U.S. constitutional jurisprudence is about playing balancing games. Even with the First Amendment–which provokes even fiercer response than the Second Amendment–there are all kinds of balancing games involved.

            7. David M.

              Argh. Literally the very first sentence I said to you, hours ago, was “Of course more guns lead to more gun deaths.” If you’re gonna keep me up all night, at least pretend you’ll love me in the morning.

              And no. Nuh-uh. Maybe we can reasonably disagree on what constitutes self-defense, but that’s a whole nother can of worms. And in the overall scheme of things, self-defense killings are a drop in the bucket.

              I also told you I’d just defer to your account of what happened after Port Arthur, since I know nothing about this case. I can do this because I can afford to. You’re the one stuck defending a far-fetched, probably counterfactual scenario, so you’re starved for data. A simple, strong counterexample like Britain’s post-1997 experience is enough to do serious damage to the notion that fewer guns leads to fewer successful suicide attempts.

              And the funny thing is, you’re right! There’re a number of societal reasons why South Koreans are more likely to commit suicide than Americans are. With such a wealth of complex, highly interrelated, well-studies causes to think about, why in the world would one embark on this quest to implicate guns?

            8. TK

              “With such a wealth of complex, highly interrelated, well-studies causes to think about, why in the world would one embark on this quest to implicate guns?”

              Because many of those studies make this very intuitive point: you are much more likely to succeed in killing yourself if you use a gun. According to Harvard School of Public Health, gun (85%), hanging (69%) and fall (31%) are the only methods whose lethality goes over 3%. And among the three, gun requires the least amount of planning and is therefore most susceptible to impulsive suicide.

              This point is hardly far-fetched, nor am I starved for data. I have been trying to be respectful of your views, but I would say that you are the one struggling to explain away the obvious fact that guns make suicide much easier and much more likely to succeed.

            9. David M.

              Beg pardon, I meant to write ‘studied.’

              b) It’d be a start. Of course, you’d have to see suicide rates drop faster following a ban on guns, which at a minimum didn’t happen in the UK. And in the absence of sound data on suicide attempts, which is very hard to collect due to unreliable reporting, we’d be shooting blanks. Pardon the expression. Not a great start for a quest to ban guns.

              Even if we could correlate gun availability with the success rate of suicide attempts, it’d be a far cry from proving causation. We do appear to agree that suicide is, by nature, hugely multivariate.

              c) I’m not okay with any regulations, at least on firearms. Others in this monstrosity of a post discuss this better than I could. I wrote a little rejoinder to Jake, who wants to regulate AR-15s, like a hundred comments up.

              d) Funny, I was thinking of the First Amendment too. As Ken White said, “American courts don’t weigh the value of speech against the harm it does.” Since you’re a lawprof of some kind, I won’t mansplain to you. Just so you know what I had in mind.

            10. TK

              Great. I think I am seeing your points. Just a little more on the accident prevention front.

              Recently there was a gun store in the U.S. that tried to sell a “smart gun,” which fires only if the owner holds it. (The owner would wear a wristband that communicated with the gun.) This gun store received numerous protests and bomb threats from gun enthusiasts because… well, I don’t really understand why. To me, the benefits seem obvious. No children shooting themselves; stealing a gun would be pointless; can’t use another person’s gun to commit suicide, etc.

              A couple of questions:
              (1) Given that a smart gun would give all the benefits of a gun ownership while reducing its downside, would you oppose the existence of a smart gun of this kind? Why?
              (2) Would you oppose a law providing that civilians can only own a smart gun? Why? Setting aside the Second Amendment, isn’t it true that the government regulates the ownership of many other dangerous instruments, like a car?

            11. David M.

              Hm. It just occurred to me that hanging’s by far the most popular way to commit suicide in the UK. Assuming, arguendo, that the lethality is as you say, the rather minor 16% discrepancy between shooting and hanging might help account for the lack of effect after the 1997 Firearms Act passed. Maybe Australians are rope-shy?

            12. TK

              And just one small point about weighing the value of speech–American courts regulate speech by pretending that certain types of speech are without value. It’s still a value judgment, however.

            13. David M.

              I have no objection to smart guns. Unless, of course, they turn out not to work properly. The nice thing about many of today’s firearms is that they’re in a very real sense perfectly studied: lots of field tests under all conceivable conditions. They work, and if they fail, the failure is probably understood. Can’t blame gun owners for being careful.

              On a personal note, as someone who just spent entirely too much money on wireless headphones, anyone willing to trust their lives to a Bluetooth connection is a braver man than I.

              And we’re setting aside the Second Amendment? Really? Even though you’ve got it, and I like it? Okay…

              yes, if it didn’t exist, the government could probably mandate smart guns. People wouldn’t like it; poor people, old people, new-tech skeptics, guys in flyover country, you know. But it might help to reduce accidents, which, in isolation, would be a great thing,

              Hey, maybe smart guns won’t suck, and people will adopt them all by their lonesomes. That’d be nice.

              Wouldn’t like to see them mandated, though

            14. Keith

              (1) Given that a smart gun would give all the benefits of a gun ownership while reducing its downside, would you oppose the existence of a smart gun of this kind? Why?

              Yes, under current law in NJ, if a smart gun is sold anywhere in the United States, the only handgun permitted to be sold in NJ would be a smartgun. It was a law passed a while back and now it’s rearing its head. Since you can’t purchase a handgun across State borders, that effectively means that any smartgun sold in MD would outlaw any handguns in NJ. I can’t believe that would pass Constitutional muster, even in a court system as screwed up as NJ, but I don’t know many gun owners that want to take a chance. So yes, I’m against it.

              (2) Would you oppose a law providing that civilians can only own a smart gun? Why? Setting aside the Second Amendment, isn’t it true that the government regulates the ownership of many other dangerous instruments, like a car?

              I would. While I don’t have an issue with them assuming NJ’s law goes away and we can somehow make sure it doesn’t pop up again elsewhere, tech is vulnerable. A gun, at its basic use for self defense shouldn’t be. It needs to work every single time because you don’t take it out unless you or someone else is about to die.

              Also, when the government regulates a danger, it’s a danger of doing something the object isn’t supposed to do. You buy a batter, you don’t think it’ll explode. Regulating that it doesn’t explode seems like decent oversight. A gun is meant to do many things. I use mine for target practice and skeet shooting mostly. But it’s meant to kill people. The fact that it does that isn’t an accident that needs to be remedied or looked at by government. It’s not a flaw.

            15. TK

              Got it. I was hoping you could elucidate me on the hostility against smart guns, but I’ll get that from the next person.

              Thanks for indulging me. Really enjoyed our conversation.

            16. David M.

              You’re very welcome. And as you can see, my writing skillz are almost gone; it’s 6 AM and I wanna sleep.

              Thanks, I enjoyed our conversation too.

    6. Frank

      Hi, SJ, first-time, long-time.

      TK, I used to struggled with your assertion that the US has more gun deaths compared to other developed nations. Then a blog pointed out that “developed nations” in the most common charts seemed to not include Jamaica, or Russia, or Mexico or Venezuela. I won’t include the link, but this widely acknowledged “fact” may actually be the product of some dubious cherry-picking.

      I’ll raise another issue, and it’s why I’m specifically opposed to more registration/formalized rules regarding ownership, by way of anecdote: a colleague of mine recently defended a client who was charged with a felony for lying on a federal background check form. The charge was made by the local prosecutors/police because he checked “no” to the question regarding prior convictions of domestic assault/battery. He had in fact been found guilty of such an offense years ago after failing to comply with the terms of a differed disposition program. But he was no longer under the terms of any protective order—and the federal form in fact included in its instructions that if you were no longer subject to such an order to mark the box “No.” Did he lie? Was he careless? He wasn’t a lawyer, and sometimes those forms require being a lawyer to parse the questions. The client took a no-jail plea to a misdemeanor legal-fiction, even though he was likely innocent as a matter of law, AND not the person who the law seeks to deprive of the right to purchase a gun. He had long since been out from under the protective order.

      The increased regulatory burdens of almost all gun-control measures promoted by their advocates will be borne not by would-be assassins or spree-killers, but instead by the poor, the minority, or the poorly educated. They’ll face felony charges for mistakenly filling out forms and it’s very difficult for prosecutors to figure out the misfeasance from the malfeasance.

      If reducing homicides by firearm is the goal, strong empirical evidence suggests ending drug prohibition, FWIW.

      1. TK

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Some thoughts:

        A. Jamaica, Russia, Mexico and Venezuela? I hardly think anyone would cry foul because those countries are not considered “developed.” Industrialized, perhaps, but developed? By “developed,” we are attempting to find a fair international analogue of the United States. Those four countries are not fair analogues. Attempt to include those countries strikes me as taking a side exit rather than addressing the question head-on.

        B. I am one of those liberals who take a strong stance against crimes. I don’t have many tears to shed for drug criminals. The obligation to follow the law falls equally on everyone.

        1. Frank

          A. Well, not wanting to violate the local rules regarding linking, the short version is the most commonly circulated graph is basically the OECD states, minus all of those with murder rates worse than the US…because? No good justification is offered other than its a helpful myth to propagate for gun control advocates.

          If one uses the UN’s Human Development index, and make the cut off .75, that adds in a whole bunch of other countries which we would consider “developed” without any selection bias in favor of Western Europe, and leaves the U.S. looking like the outlier not because of our high murder rate, but the dramatic lack of murder given the far greater number of available weapons.

          I don’t think comparing the U.S. to other countries is useful in evaluating our mix of laws, since in this regard we are unique in the world because of our history, size, diversity, etc. But you asserted that we have more firearm related deaths than other developed nations, a commonly made assertion, and I’m trying to tell you that assertion is based on dishonest data at best, racist view of the comparable nations at worst.

          1. TK

            I don’t understand your point. Jamaica, Russia and Venezuela are not OECD countries. I can see the point about Mexico, but I still am not sure if Mexico is a fair analogue to the United States–which is the entire point of the qualifier of “developed.” Why do you think they need to be included?

            If your point is that there is *no* fair international analogue to the U.S., I am not sure if we even need to discuss this point. We can skip straight to your telling me why you think our history, size and diversity leads to more gun deaths.

    7. mb

      1. “Gun deaths” are not all violent crimes, nor do all violent crimes result in “gun deaths”. I have not seen any evidence that lawful gun ownership increases violent crime. I have seen stats that show that lawful gun ownership leads to more “gun deaths”, but you can read my comment above and see what I think of people who conflate the two.

      2. Yes. They are less free than we are. Most people throughout history have been. Just as I would not recognize their pathetic lip service to free speech as the real deal, I can see that their rights to self defense are curtailed by their governments denying them readily accessible technology.

      2. (can you not count to three or what?) I’ve enjoyed many a night time stroll, and never witnessed single drunken brawl. (where the fuck are you from that every stroll ends in a brawl?) Those people have less freedom to defend themselves. The right of defense is, thankfully, not implicated every day. But just s I am thankful that I can travel with less than what some people might consider inadequate car insurance, I am grateful that I my defend my own life by whatever means I choose; not whatever means you deem appropriate.

      I have two questions for you as well;

      Do you think that there’s any reason for me not to be allowed a gun?

      If yes, who the fuck do you think you are?

      1. TK

        1. Is your point that you don’t really care about accidental gun deaths and gun suicides?

        2. Alright.

        2.1 <- This is a way to logically organize related questions. And you've never seen a drunken brawl? Your life does not sound very fun.

        As to your questions:

        A. If your question is asking to find *any* reason at all, the answer is yes, absolutely.

        B. I am the person who abides by the currently existing United States laws, which forbids gun ownership of many different types of people.

        1. mb

          The things I care about, but which I do not believe should confer upon my government to do whatever you want them to do are many and varied.

          I’m slightly curious as to whether, by “alright” you mean to recognize that the U.S. is, in a few areas, unique. I get a bit of an impression that we may have a slice of common ground. Or you’re just being a smartass. (I’m ok with that, too)

          Walking in the streets in the rural south in America doesn’t put one near any bars. I don’t care if you think I’m cool or not.

          If you don’t trust me with a firearm, I don’t trust you with my government. Thankfully, I don’t have to. Whatever power you can achieve here, we’re a constitutionally limited republic, not subject to your ignorant whims.

          1. TK

            A. By “alright,” I mean that I see that’s your opinion. U.S. is unique, but every country is unique. I tend to focus more on the commonalities. It makes navigating different cultures easier.

            B. You will be subject to the Supreme Court, which may well overturn Heller in another 5-4 decision. Enjoy your seven-year-old right while you can, I suppose.

            1. mb

              Citizens of my country don’t appreciate being called “subject”, nor do we generally like the suggestion that our rights don’t exist until vindicated by specific litigation. Maybe you’ve learned less about navigating different cultures than you think you have.

            2. TK

              We are citizens of the same country. Perhaps you should explore beyond the rural South, or study legal positivism. Encountering different kinds of people and idea is an enriching experience.

            3. mb

              I have studied legal positivism, and realism, and Dworkin’s thing about Hercules, and all that. And I’m wondering how positivism leads you to conclude that Second Amendment rights are seven years old. I’m kind thinking you just stumbled across the term on wikipedia five minutes ago.

            4. mb

              Lulz! You’re not a law prof. And if you are, your J.D isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. What, are you a janitor?

            5. mb

              That’s fine. I’ll play along. I got no secrets. I work at Dairy Queen, as I’ve stated here several times. Though, the jurisprudence prof I took would have answered my question. It’s not a trick, and it shouldn’t take a semester course to lay it out. C’mon, I thought you wanted a dialogue.

            6. Hal

              TK,

              While I appreciate your comments and your civil tone, I think that you are either being disingenuous or demonstrating a level of ignorance that I find surprising in a law professor.

              IANAL, so perhaps I’ve made a grievous error in reasoning, but my understanding is that the authors of the Bill of Rights were scrupulous in distinguishing between “the people”, “the States”, and “the United States” and that only “the people” have rights. Am I mistaken?

              To me, the notion of a collective right seems foreign to the spirit of what the authors were trying to accomplish. (It also seems completely unnecessary to give the United States “the right” to raise a militia, and if it were a power being delegated to “the States” I’d think this would have been made clear.)

              It seems to me that this notion of a collective right, emerged in the 1960s, likely as a result of the assassinations of MLK and the Kennedys. Is there historical precedence for the notion of a collective right?

              As I read U.S. v. Miller, both the gov’t and SCOTUS acknowledge an individual right to arms, albeit for the purpose of citizens being able to bring such weapons should they be called to serve in the militia. Am I wrong about this?

              Finally, would you argue that the authors of the BoR didn’t believe in the individual’s right to self defense? Or that, when describing and enumerating the most important civil rights they, through some curious oversight or omission, failed to make any provision to protect it? Or perhaps that one has the right to defend oneself, but that this does not include the right to the means w/ which to most effectively do so?

              To me this issue of the RKBA is abundantly clear and like others here, while I am deeply troubled by the violence in this country, I’m not willing to have my rights compromised in the dubious hope that this will somehow make us safer.

              I look forward to you thoughtful reply.

              TIA.

    8. Mike

      Your two indisputable facts are actually disputed quite often. Mises just had an excellent write-up discussing the folly of not including common “developed” nations when it isn’t prudent. Why the need to ignore countries such as Mexico, Russia, Uruguay astounds me unless one takes note the it defeats the narrative.

      It seems that “developed” is only acceptable when it deals with European-like countries with low firearm homicide numbers throughout history.

    9. Alpheus

      To answer your second question: America is allegedly the freest country on the planet right now, and it just isn’t about guns. We have Miranda rights, we have due process rights, we have the right not to have a confession beat out of us, among other things. There are a lot of countries (Italy and Japan are the first two that come to mind) that don’t even have these rights.

      Sure, these countries live without these freedoms, and still seem relatively free. Just how much of your freedom do you want to give up, though?

      Now, having experienced a mugging in Great Brittain (and having learned afterward of someone who had experienced a similar mugging, but didn’t survive, due to having his head bashed in with a hammer), and having lived in New York State (Capital Region), but in some of the less-nice neighborhoods of the area, I find your belief that you can walk safely down the streets because guns are illegal to be naive at best. Particularly your notion that the only thing that can make a drunken brawl lethal is whether or not there’s a gun involved–ignoring the possibility that there may be a knife, a bat, or a rock involved, or that the brawler can bench-press his substantial weight (which is particularly disparate if the potential victim is a small woman), or that it might not be one person, but several, and a three-on-one fight is always very dangerous. And this also doesn’t take into consideration that someone carrying a gun is more likely to try to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation, because having to call the police after you defended yourself can really mess you up, even if it proved to be necessary–or that, having to yell “Back off, leave me alone” while pulling out your gun is often enough to diffuse a situation, when verbal diffusion doesn’t work.

      So this line of thought leads me to ask you a question: why should I agree to a gun ban, when I have felt considerably safer in Vermont, or Utah, or Arizona, than I ever did in Great Britain or New York, or even Ottawa, Canada, where guns are much more highly restricted?

  22. Keith

    An open thread, on guns no less? Wow.

    I am most puzzled in the all or nothing polarization of gun control. Not the typical liberal wants to ban and and conservative doesn’t, but the way politicians seems to go about the topic as if any “common sense” reforms requires a bottleneck. The arguments for controls are premised on ‘more guns = more violence’ or ‘large magazines = ability to murder’, so the answers can only be a means of throttling the number of guns. I would ask a proponent of gun control what they would think of an act of Congress that made people safer while making it easier to get guns.

    So let’s try something else. I think we can enact a means of making us safer that didn’t add to the infringing side of the equation. I’d start with the background checks.

    The problems people (including me) have with them are time and money. They can only be run by a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer (“FFL”) and they charge for the check, sometimes $50 or more. That means if you live in a State that permits private sales without a check, you aren’t permitted to run a background check on your own without traveling to an FFL (who is going to add a fee to the transfer since he doesn’t exist for you to sell guns around his store). I bought a shotgun from a buddy in NJ. The entire thing cost $120 and there was no background check performed on me. Why would I be in favor of a requirement for an FFL to get involved to add substantially to the cost, especially when I’d have to travel and make time for doing it?

    This is 2015, we can do a whole lot better. We have eVerify to give employers a thumbs up or down for legal employees. Why can’t we have a gun version for sales that aren’t being conducted through FFL’s anyway?

    One problem, if you ask someone on the gun control side, is that there’s no government involvement. There’s no means of making sure it was sold without a check. That’s true. But they are being sold without checks now, so wouldn’t this be a tiny bit safer for society without sacrificing anything in terms of gun rights? I would sweeten the pot by not keeping records of checks being run. Just enter the name and let people get a yes or no to which they can print a sheet that they ran the check. And then, grant immunity from prosecution if they ran the check on the seller and the seller came up clean, but then used it for some violent ends. That’s a pretty good carrot & stick. I’d run the check on a seller.

    There are lots of other examples from safe storage to educational programs that can be made from the vantage point of, does this make things a little safer, without decreasing the right at all.

    Personally, I think that’s the right place to start. Because any scheme that’s predicated on the notion that fewer firearms will lead to fewer (suicides, murders, ______, etc… ) will inevitably come to the conclusion that there’s no acceptable number of (suicides, murders, ______, etc…) and that is problematic if you value rights.

    We wouldn’t tolerate that for invasions of privacy or general warrants and we shouldn’t tolerate it for gun control.

  23. Keith

    A second, but no less problematic issue (at least for those of us in NJ or NY) is the prosecution of small acts and mistakes as if they are acts of terror.

    Paul Wojdan was a law abiding citizen until his his girlfriend was pulled over at a traffic stop and he was arrested a few years back. Mr. Wojdan had a clean record. He also had a conceal carry permit for the pistol he informed the officer he had in his glove compartment. Unfortunately for Mr. Wojdan, he was about to find out that on April 15th of that year, the NY SAFE act went into effect and although his 10 round magazine had been legal six months prior, he was now, in the eyes of the law, a criminal.

    On January 2, 2009, Brian Aitken, an entrepreneur moving from Colorado to New Jersey got off the phone with his mother and she felt a bit worried. His mother, having worked for years with children who have mental health problems was concerned that her son might be a threat to himself or others. She did exactly what she had been trained to do, she called the police.

    He wound up being convicted (and then his sentence commuted by Gov. Christie) for having a gun that the NJ State Police told him was legal when he came here from his move.

    Gordon Van Gilder was in Cumberland County, NJ when cops found a 1700’s vintage flintlock pistol in his car. They didn’t even arrest him at the time, because “common sense”. But then they threatedn him with 10 years in jail.

    Shaneen Allen had a valid carry permit in PA and didn’t read the fine print that said she couldn’t cross State lines into NJ with it and was arrested and put through the ringer.

    Steffon Josey-Davis was a security guard that had a right to carry his gun during the day at work, but when he forgot to bring it in the house and a cop found it in his glove compartment, he became a convicted felon. He had applied to be a cop, but apparently they don’t like felons, so he needs a new life plan.

    I’m not going to say that any of these people didn’t break the law. They did it. The prosecutors have every right to focus on them. But are any of us better off because these individuals were prosecuted?

    How many of our neighbors should we put in jail as the cost of enacting legislation which experts say, has little promise at reducing violence? How much more effective would gun control and violence prevention efforts be if they addressed these problems head-on?

    Gun owners see this as maddening – and we are tired of being called paranoid.

    We have to stop making laws that create categories of criminals. Make magazine bans or high capacity weapons or guns that look scary illegal and you just created criminals. People that wouldn’t otherwise pose a threat. We should do better than that.

  24. J. Arlo

    Just once, I’d like to see this anti-gun rhetoric happen when a cop shoots a black teenager in the back multiple times. If guns are nothing but “weapons of war,” then why are police allowed to carry them on domestic soil? If they want to ban guns, then ban them strictly across the board so that no police, military or citizen can carry them outside of a military base. Since it’s more likely that the Loch Ness Monster is elected President, maybe we should leave the second amendment as it is. Besides, criminals will still get and use guns regardless of any ban or law. So will terrorists. I would prefer we don’t create the most horrific black market this country has ever seen.

    1. Frank

      The very week Chicago PD is being forced to charge an officer with obvious, cold blooded murder, no less.

  25. Whosk

    0. Define the problem. Is it all gun violence? Only homicide? Suicide? Is it the Supreme Court for cutting out “well-regulated militia,” etc.

    1. Allow Federal funds to go towards researching the public health consequences of gun ownership / gun violence.

    2. Decide what ammo is “ok” for civilians and heavily restrict all other types of ammo for non-civilian use.

    3. Shift some amount of liability to manufacturers, retailers, and gun-owners.

    4. Require a version of malpractice insurance for law enforcement.

    It was a low-quality editorial on a subject where there is a lot of high-quality support for the status-quo. Putting it on the front page only emphasized the shortcomings.

    There are so many problems with this whole subject. For instance, what is it about the 2nd Amendment that gets people so fervent? American police kill more people without due-process every year than any comparable society. There is an obvious hypocrisy when it comes to “arms” vs. other rights.

    1. dm

      1a. Even though the Feds may not be doing research, it doesn’t mean no research is being done by private entities.
      1b. Are there really any major questions left regarding the public health indications of widespread possession of firearms in the U.S.A.? I don’t believe so.
      2. Ammunition is already regulated by multiple federal statutes. So called “cop-killer” bullets were outlawed for sale/possession by the public in the 1980s. What additional ammunition laws do you believe need to be passed?
      3. Why should a firearm manufacturer be held liable when its product works exactly as designed and manufactured but is used by a criminal to commit a crime? The same question regarding retailers. The same applied to law-abiding gun owners.
      Also, I think you’re telling the wrong group of people that they don’t react strongly regarding the 1st, 4th, 5th Amendments (et alia). However, I suspect the average 2nd Amendment advocate reacts strongly about that right because it’s something they can see “in action” every day that they possess their firearms. Those same people don’t necessarily have as much day to day “contact” with the other amendments that are, IMO, equally important but nonetheless not a tangible object.

      1. Whosk

        Thanks for responding to my comment.

        I think it is important to get the legislative culture fixed, and that is why the Federal research ban should end. We’d have better data, and more eyes to help frame the problem and identify solutions if the NIH could fund grants in this general area.

        As far as ammo, what you’ve pointed out is also correct. There are a number of restrictions in place to prevent civilians from buying hollow or soft point ammo from stores. Obviously, with the right tools, you can convert legal ammo. But, let’s say we pound our magic gavel and get everybody to agree that there is a public interest in setting a floor and a ceiling for the power of ammunition civilians can buy. Whether it is a bullet that travels a minimum feet per second or however you want to measure the stopping power of various cartridges. Is there room to limit access to ammo in that way? Is there room to limit rounds fired per minute, etc? And can we do those things in a way that both helps public health and doesn’t infringe constitutional rights?

        As far as liability, why should manufacturers and retailers be immune from liability as a starting position? Guns aren’t like cars. Guns, when working as intended, are designed to be efficient at killing things and we can do better at creating incentives to better regulate the market. It’s easy to get guns in Chicago because it is easy to go to Indiana (or Ohio) and buy a gun legally. I bet a few of us could put our heads together and figure out how to protect the constitutional rights of the law-abiding gun owner and still limit the flow of guns in illegal-interstate commerce.

        I’m not sure I understand the “tangible thing” argument as a reason gun regulation becomes such an existential threat as a discussion topic. I’m fervent about my due process. I don’t keep it locked in a safe. I can try to imagine this from the perspective of religious practice, or my right to assemble. Guns have a different character, though. I don’t know. Is it the immediacy? Is it the empowerment? Is it just marketing?

        1. dm

          “I think it is important to get the legislative culture fixed, and that is why the Federal research ban should end. We’d have better data, and more eyes to help frame the problem and identify solutions if the NIH could fund grants in this general area.”

          I would argue that the legislative culture, with regard to firearms, is working as it should. There is a large interest group that opposes most new restrictive firearms legislation and politicians are responding to that interest group’s members (I obviously mean the NRA (I’m not a member, but probably should be)). Members of the NRA vote on this issue and therefore wield a disproportionate influence, and that’s how democracy sometimes works. Also, it is my belief that we already have great data regarding “the gun issue.” However, there is a stark contrast in how people feel this should be applied on the legislative side of things.

          “As far as ammo, what you’ve pointed out is also correct. There are a number of restrictions in place to prevent civilians from buying hollow or soft point ammo from stores.”

          Actually, that sentence strongly suggests that you live in NJ, which is the only state that limits civilians from purchasing/possessing hollow point/soft point ammunition. My handguns are all loaded with perfectly legal hollow point ammunition (I live in Colorado). Hollow points are much safer to use for defense because they are much less likely to pass through somebody and hit somebody else. This was evidenced by the NYPD’s use of full metal jacket ammunition that kept hitting third parties after passing through the individual that they intended to shoot. The NYPD switched to hollow point ammunition several years ago and reliable hollow point ammunition has been available to the general public almost everywhere since the late ’70s/early ’80s.

          “Obviously, with the right tools, you can convert legal ammo. But, let’s say we pound our magic gavel and get everybody to agree that there is a public interest in setting a floor and a ceiling for the power of ammunition civilians can buy. Whether it is a bullet that travels a minimum feet per second or however you want to measure the stopping power of various cartridges. Is there room to limit access to ammo in that way?”

          Why? What purpose is served? Additionally, I think the answer is no. Most rifle ammunition suitable for hunting travels at least 2500 feet per second (fps) (and most go faster than that). Most handgun ammunition travels at about 900 fps to 1150 fps.

          “Is there room to limit rounds fired per minute, etc? And can we do those things in a way that both helps public health and doesn’t infringe constitutional rights?”

          The only way to do this is to either ban semi-automatic firearms, or ban “high capacity” magazines. Here in CO we’re limited to 15 round magazines. In CA and NY they limit magazine size to 10 rounds of ammunition. Is it constitutional? So far, yes.

          “As far as liability, why should manufacturers and retailers be immune from liability as a starting position? Guns aren’t like cars. Guns, when working as intended, are designed to be efficient at killing things and we can do better at creating incentives to better regulate the market.”

          As they are a legal product, why should manufacturers be liable for the criminal misuse of their products. While I wouldn’t support it, I think the better argument would be to tax the sale of firearms and ammunition in such a way as to offset the public health costs of their usage (e.g. a “sin” tax like those on liquor and cigarettes).

          “It’s easy to get guns in Chicago because it is easy to go to Indiana (or Ohio) and buy a gun legally. I bet a few of us could put our heads together and figure out how to protect the constitutional rights of the law-abiding gun owner and still limit the flow of guns in illegal-interstate commerce.”

          I agree with you on this one. I would start by actually prosecuting the straw purchasers who are buying the guns in other states and trafficking them into the illegal gun pipeline.

          I’m not sure I understand the “tangible thing” argument as a reason gun regulation becomes such an existential threat as a discussion topic. I’m fervent about my due process. I don’t keep it locked in a safe. I can try to imagine this from the perspective of religious practice, or my right to assemble. Guns have a different character, though. I don’t know. Is it the immediacy? Is it the empowerment? Is it just marketing?

          Well, I guess there you have it. Some people are just off the charts protective of the right to own firearms as some are of their due process rights or their rights to free speech. I’m an extremist about my rights (including to be armed), but I get that many people pick and choose which are most important to them. If the 2A is not your thing, I get it. Does that, perhaps, make it more understandable? REGARDS!

          1. Mort

            Some people are just off the charts protective of the right to own firearms as some are of their due process rights or their rights to free speech

            That. That right there. I like ALL of my rights, and I don’t see a reality where I give up any of them for any reason. Not without a fight, at least.

  26. Butch

    I had the good fortune to be raised my grandmother. We lived in a two-room shack in very, very, rural Georgia. There was no electricity until I hit my teens and no phone until I was almost 18. A pump on our bucket well eventually got us an indoor cold water faucet. She gave me my first gun, a single-shot .22 rifle, and taught me how to use it. It was taller than I was. Hunting wasn’t for sport any more than chopping wood was for exercise.

    Like many of my generation I took my senior trip to Southeast Asia courtesy of Uncle Sam. I’m familiar with what guns can do and for me gun control is far from intellectual masturbation. Over the years four women very dear to me have had to use a gun to defend against sudden, violent and potentially deadly physical danger. Two in defense of their children and a third in defense of herself.

    The fourth was my 4’11” 98lb wife when a crazy man with a hatchet busted into the house while she was there alone.

    My wife is now pushing 70 and my position on gun control is very simple. Swear on your life and the lives of your loved ones that no matter what happens or when, you’ll be there to protect me or mine. Swear that if that door is kicked open again in the middle of the night I have nothing to fear because, no matter what, you’ll be there to protect my wife. Do that and then, and only then, will I discuss with you _your_ opinion on our right to own a gun or any weapon.

    Until then, leave us alone.

  27. mb

    Wow, we’re all really getting to know each other here, huh? I think I even hate mort about 12% less after this thread.

  28. st

    You wrote that “I’m no more knowledgeable about weapons that most New Yorkers. I’m not a gun owner, nor do I want to be.” Fair enough. But you don’t have to own a gun to become far more knowledgeable.

    You almost certainly know friends or colleagues who could take you to a range. Even if you go alone you’ll find them pretty friendly places. An investment of one or two evenings or weekend afternoons would advance your knowledge enormously. You don’t have to be an expert marksman or a gun owner to know far more than you do today.

    This isn’t an attempt to make you into a gun owner, or change your beliefs. You already have the principled position. I’m just pointing out that ignorance is a curable condition, and the first little bit of learning brings a lot of light.

    1. SHG Post author

      If I gave the impression that I’ve never held a gun in my hand, that would be untrue. In fact, I’m not a bad shot. Last time I was in Houston, the boys tried to get me to go to the range and enjoy some quality time, but I passed. It’s my choice.

      That said, I learned a great deal from the comments to this post, yours included, for which I’m very appreciative.

  29. John Barleycorn

    I must admit, I am a bit disapointed that no one has mentinied how fun it would be to shoot a few hundred holes in the interpreted enumerated powers bucket just for sport before the CDC starts mandating a vaccine that puts a hult to the evolution of our oposable thumbs.

    And you would think an open thread in the back pages of SJ would have a bit more “spray and pray” just for the shits and grins of it. Ammo ain’t that expensive yet.

    Anyway, if it is true that the evolving interpurtation of the enumerated powers bucket has become so elasticity expansive that swallowing the entire planet, to protect us and keep our “freedoms” safe,
    is in fact a real possibility, what difference does this “enlightenment” quest of yours really make esteemed one?

    In the end are we really all that far from the finial frontier of the Supremes openly “spraying and praying” with a “Because we said so! ” cherry on top technique as our republic marches on? How can they miss!?

    I guess a well organized militia of lawyers might be able to figure out a new bucket brigade strategy to slow the expansion down a bit. But let’s face it, although most lawyers may be orginized, they don’t organize well.

    So what is it esteemed one, are you strict or loose? All this day tripping about wheather or not it is going to be to much of a pain in the ass to change the federal subsistence hunting laws and regulations is just noise.

    I guess a man’s gotta eat, but that too may be a privilege needing the proper licensing and control?

    P.S. All of your readers, and yourself, should wade through the several thousand comments that were left under the opinion piece that is the subject of this post. It doesn’t take too much of an imagination to ponder the ones that were deleted on both sides of this distractiave “argument” as the published ones will give “each side” plenty of ammunition and piles and piles of spent brass to sort through in their nightmares.

    1. SHG Post author

      I did read the comments at the NY Times. The comments here are way better. That’s why the Times hates me, and not because I call them names on occasion.

      1. John Neff

        I have been following the gun control debate since JFK was assassinated and this thread is about as close to reasoned discourse as any I have read. Thanks for providing the forum.

  30. PAV

    One of the reasons I have a gun is for self-defense. I am a disabled woman, not particularly strong, but with a gun I can operate, I have a source of force available to me, should I need it, that nothing else provides. A source of force that anyone else who has the same gun also has access to, no matter how old, weak, fragile they otherwise are. The equalizing effect guns have is hinted at from time to time, such as when Colorado passed bills to make it illegal to have a gun on college campuses, the University of Colorado followed up by advising women to vomit or pee on someone attacking them. Colorado planned to deny women access to an equalizing form of self-defense then suggested they defile themselves as an alternative. They seemed to recognize that reality is, the human animal can be a fragile, defenseless thing when denied the ability to wield weapons, and not every one of us is suited to learning karate.

    It’s important to me to take responsibility for my own self-defense, as much as the state I live in allows. If I am unwilling to effectively defend myself, then I cannot expect anyone else to. The Second Amendment acknowledges, by guaranteeing us arms, the fundamental human right to defend and sustain oneself (hunting is not just a sport), the way the First acknowledges the fundamental right to think, speak, and believe for oneself.

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  32. Rr

    I would hope that anybody favoring gun control has the intellectual honesty to look to the success of alcohol prohibition or the “War on Drugs” (both consumable goods) and extrapolate on how well it would work on firearms (durable goods that already exist in significant quantity).

    1. Hal

      A bit late for the party, but I think that I have something to add.

      I don’t know what an “assault weapon” is, and I’m not convinced that anyone who uses the phrase knows precisely what they mean. I detest this phase as it seems to either credit the weapon w/ some sort of magical power or suggest that everyone who owns one has ill intent.

      I do know what an AR-15 is. This is the sort of weapon used by the San Bernadino shooters, by the Aurora movie theater shooter, by the Newtown school shooter, the DC snipers, the asshole who ambushed firemen in NY state, the UC Santa Monica shooter, the shooter at the mall in Clackamas, OR and doubtless several others. Perhaps even a couple dozen others.

      It seems, given the media attention these events garner, unlikely that the number of shootings w/ an AR-15 exceeds 40-50, but for the point of this discussion let’s assume that there have been 500 criminal uses of AR-15s, as this should be enough to include any assaults, robberies, or some dickhead menacing his spouse, lover, roommate, or neighbor w/ one.

      A very conservative estimate of the number of AR-15s in the US is 5,000,000 (the actual number is almost certainly greater than 6,000,000 and likely closer to 7,000,000). This means that fewer than one weapon in 10,000 has actually been used, or likely will be used, to commit a crime. Or greater that than ninety nine and ninety nine one hundredths percent (> 99.99%) are not misused.

      Now consider that, by Fed’l statute, all males age 18-55 are members of the “unorganized militia”. In U.S. v. Miller, SCOTUS stated “that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense” and that “these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time”. The AR-15 is the weapon that is closest to our military’s M-16 rifles and M-4 carbines (they use the same magazines, fire the same ammunition, share some parts, and accessories that work w/ one will generally work w/ the others). It is certainly “in common use”. IANAL, but it would seem to me that anything that bans the AR-15 would entirely undercut the militia provision of the Second Amendment.

      I’ve never believed that the 2A was some sort of collective right, but for the last few decades (since the 1960s) this has been argued by those who would restrict the right to keep and bear arms. Because of the militia clause it would appear that if there was only a single weapon protected by the 2A, that would be the AR-15.

      There’ve been sev’l comments made here that I want to address, to either praise or criticize, but I will go back and reply to the original posts for the sake of clarity.

      In closing I want to thank everyone who has contributed to a thoughtful and civil discussion. It’s given me lots to think about. Also, Scott, thanks for throwing this one open to discussion. It’s been fascinating.

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  34. Vin

    This country doesn’t have the money to afford speculative policy changes. Neither side can predict with any amount of certainty what will happen if either we keep things as they are or we make a monumentally difficult change to the Constitution.

    Meanwhile, we can’t afford to teach our kids how to write in cursive.

    Google the economic impact of both Prohibition and The Drug Wars. Both cost this country enormous amounts of tax payer revenue with little to no results to show.

    Unintended consequences are always the result of our desire to solve problems that either cannot be solved or require a different solution than we expect or want. Death goes up. Gov Spending goes up. And nothing gets resolved.

    Debate all you want, but until our Gov get’s fiscally more responsible, and we take ourselves out of the enormous debt we are in, or, someone can without one second of doubt predict what changing the Constitution would result in, speculation is simply not affordable.

  35. John Barleycorn

    AND?

    Is this not so very close to the carefully orchestrated?

    Fuck you esteemed one, if your “enlightening quest” is not at the very leap of vertical and landing upon the same place.

    Be back enumerated,

    You got all of tomorrow, what’s your feel of today?

    I personally don’t think your quest has a damn thing to do about “guns’ and I think you should say so and level this this conversation.

    Shame on you!

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