Tuesday Talk*: Is There A 2d Amendment Solution?

In light of the Bruen decision, the attorney general of Massachusetts has provided guidance on the issuance of concealed carry permits.

  • It remains unlawful to carry a firearm in Massachusetts without a license….
  • Licensing authorities should continue to enforce the “prohibited person” and
    “suitability” provisions of the license-to-carry statute….

The guidance goes on to create the appearance of compliance while suggesting that little more has changed than creating the appearance. Suitability? Nothing subjective there, right?

And yet, the series of mass shootings is undeniable, punctuated by the shooting at the Highland Park Independence Day parade. Six people dead and over thirty wounded. There was no lack of police presence, and yet one man with what is being described as a “high-powered rifle” apparently randomly shot to kill people whose only offense was watching a parade.

The authorities in Highland Park, Ill., said they had recovered a high-powered rifle after the mass shooting during the community’s Fourth of July parade. It was the state’s third mass shooting since Friday.

Illinois has the sixth strictest gun-safety laws in the country, and the ninth-lowest rate of gun ownership, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a leading gun control advocacy group. The state has universal background checks, red flag warnings and safe storage requirements, though no assault weapons ban.

The accused shooter’s motive is unknown. Maybe there was a political point lurking behind a twisted mind. Or maybe just a twisted mind. It would seem that the weapon involved wasn’t what the papers like to describe as an “assault weapon” or the dreaded AR-15, as it’s likely that it would have been expressly noted had that been the case. Instead, the description of “high-powered rifle” suggests that it might have been a far more ordinary weapon of the sort that didn’t make it on anyone’s banned list.

How the shooter got the weapon is unknown as well. While Illinois has stringent laws, there is no indication that the rifle wasn’t lawfully obtained in Illinois. The point that neighboring states have less strict laws which might enable a buyer to cross the border to purchase a gun may be a real concern, but may also be entirely irrelevant. Indeed, at this point, it’s unclear whether the shooter purchased the rifle lawfully or where the rifle was bought.

On the other hand, is anyone purchasing a gun lawfully likely to take to a rooftop and start randomly firing at people?  On the third hand, will the fear of some random gunman firing at nice folks watching the parade passing be an entirely sound reason not to stray outside knowing that the one in a million crazy shooter can take you or your child out at will?

Is there a solution to this situation? Should there be? Are we doomed to have what appears to be increasing chances not to survive a pleasant outing because one crazy has a gun in order to accommodate the million law-abiding citizens exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms?

Are guns the problem or is crazy the problem? Granted, guns aren’t the only means of causing harm, of killing people, but they surely make the task swifter and easier than other weapons. And even if the gun is merely the tool in the hands of a murderous nutjob, is there any way to identify the murderous nutjob before the slaughter? Is there any way to preserve the Second Amendment’s fundamental right to keep and bear arms without the price being mass murder? Or, for that matter, any murder?

*Tuesday Talk rules apply.

24 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Is There A 2d Amendment Solution?

  1. Mike

    I try to narrow down solutions by considering 3 facets of gun violence; mass shootings, suicides, and firearm homicides. Aside from removing all firearms, I can’t think of a legal solution that encompasses all 3 facets. However simple it is to just blame guns and video games, people are going to need to step back and try to rationally understand the “why” if we are going to come close to any solution. I just hope it doesn’t come at the expense of other rights and privileges.

    1. Hal

      Mike,

      Like you, I’ve spent some time considering the issues related to “gun violence” in this country.

      While the exact percentages vary from year to year, from what I’ve read the following generally holds true. Sixty percent or so (~60%) of all gun deaths in this country are suicides. Of the remainder, roughly half are gang violence (~ 20%), most of the rest (~12%) are drug related, other murders (incl mass shootings), self defense, and genuine accidents make up the rest. There’s obviously some overlap as intimate partner murders are often drug related while others would fall under “other murders”, and some gang violence is drug related.

      The approaches to dealing w/ suicide, gang violence, and violence related to drug use/ the drug trade would have to be very different to be effective. The former is clearly, in large part, a mental health issue. Keeping firearms locked up when not in use can be shown to reduce firearm suicides. I’m not sure how good the evidence is, but I’ve read that putting trigger locks on guns stored in safes will further reduce suicides. Apparently, putting photographs of loved ones on gun safes also reduces firearm suicides.

      A flaw in some proposed gun laws is that they restrict “transfers” such that a friend holding firearms for someone who is in crisis would be illegal. IMO, that’s not just counterproductive, but absolutely asinine.

      Gang violence has proven an especially intractable problem and is, as noted above, intertwined w/ the drug trade. Community intervention programs seem to be fairly effective in reducing gang violence. I heard recently that a law in CA, which prohibits firearm ownership by those w/ misdemeanor assault convictions correlates closely w/ a reduction in gun violence. I found this surprising, and correlation is not causation, but this would seem worth exploring.

      I can’t help wondering if gang violence and drug related violence wouldn’t be dramatically reduced if we went to something like the Portuguese model and decriminalized all drugs in small quantities, though this is likely not politically possible at present.

      My overall point is simply that these are disparate problems and need to addressed w/ specificity. Most proposed measures don’t do so. Many have infringed on the rights of law abiding gun owners.

  2. Keith

    If laws should be neutral on their face and generally applicable, how do you deal with a problem that isn’t evenly spread out among the population? Are the number of people that would go to a rooftop and pick off their neighbors, as opposed to a virus, going to be affected by vaccinating the majority and enabling herd immunity?

    A second, perhaps deeper problem, is that these sorts of mass shootings, as horrific as they are, happen to be the fewest number of people killed by firearms.

    If we were successful at halving the number of suicides while the number of mass shootings tripled, more people would be saved.

    Of course, we should walk and chew gum at the same time, but the point I’m making is – if our focus should be on fewer lives lost, we should put that focus where the lives are being lost most. And data suggest that accidents (e.g. kids getting guns) and suicides are far easier to interdict than mass shootings. There’s also a secondary benefit when fewer weapons fall into the wrong hands.

    Another possible avenue would be to reset the arguments between gun control and gun rights activists. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it pains me to see so many people respond to incentives produced by the lege, to have knee-jerk positions against laws they would otherwise support.

    By way of example:
    In NJ where I live, there is very little difference between the prosecution of someone mistakenly leaving a round in a magazine and someone nefariously putting one there. There’s a disincentive to treating these similar.

    Leaving a single round in a magazine after attending the range and going straight home and someone found with a high-power rifle full of loaded magazines on the way to do harm are not equivalent. Yet, there’s no pre-trial intervention permitted (by statute), and prosecutors must seek the max for the mistaken round in the magazine.

    Gun owners, therefore, knowing that all infractions will meet max penalties, are steadfastly resolved against any and all new laws against anything related to a firearm.

    As my econ professor would extort us: people respond to incentives… ALL of them.

    By merely changing the stance of how the prosecution against mistakes in law vs evil intent works on the ground, you can change the stance of how owners participate in the process of finding solutions. It won’t be immediate. But it would help.

    Perhaps most importantly, gun owners need to admit there’s a problem. Loud – publicly.

    Sadly, it’s gotten to the point that gun owners won’t even admit there are issues when almost every single one knows there are people that shouldn’t have guns. Go and talk among gun owners — nearly everyone knows of a guy that was kicked out of the range. Maybe he (it’s always a he) was too cavalier with a weapon or maybe he pointed it in the wrong direction or negligently fired while not paying attention or was just doing something stupid.

    Yes, it happens with any activity, but this activity is different, as mistakes lead to death. And range officers know this, take the responsibility seriously and kick the guy out immediately (perhaps after a warning, if it was truly something simple (e.g. walking back to the table with a weapon for more ammo).

    Yet, when you talk to a group of gun control advocates — the same gun owners likely never admit to knowing that guy exists, at least not publicly in the conversations I’ve been around.

    No, this doesn’t happen every time, but often enough that the pattern is manifest.

    Is it because “that guy” is like you and me, just with an attitude? That he’s a nexus between the bad guy with a gun and the good guy with a gun.

    I don’t know – but how do we solve a problem that you won’t admit exists? The first step is identifying that there’s a problem.

    1. norahc

      I highly doubt one side will admit there’s a problem as long as the other side uses outright lies to advance their agenda at any costs (i.e. President Biden stating recently that a 9mm blows the lung out of the body).

      There is also the issue that a lot of what is used to describe an assault weapon are merely cosmetic features that have absolutely nothing to do with the function of the firearm.

      Until both sides can agree on such basic things as fundamental definitions I don’t see much hope for compromise

  3. phv3773

    If you look at the 5 or 6 states with the lowest rates of gun death, the common thread is that gun ownership requires patience dealing with bureaucracy and possibly a training class. The same is true of Europe. Yes, they limit or ban the ownership of semi-automatic weapons, but deadly weapons of one type or another are available everywhere. This weeds out the young and a lot of the crazies.

    The most responsible gun owners are big believers getting some training, so there is a chance of common ground.

    As best I understand (I’m from Connecticut), Massachusetts gun laws are a mess of old laws and new. They should figure out what they want, repeal all the old, and pass something comprehensible.

  4. JD

    Like any other right, they come at a cost. Whether that right should continue would depend on whether the benefit exceeds the cost. If it does, the right should continue. If not, then the right should be revisited.

    Want to catch more criminals? Allow random home searches without cause.

    Want more convictions? Abolish the right to a jury, cross examination, and a whole slew of constitutional technicalities that let guilty people walk.

    The biggest problem with any 2A discussion is the lack of a single metric in measuring it. On the side that wants to ban all guns, every shooting is a result of the 2A, and nearly every shooting is now classified as a mass shooting. They also limit the benefits only when there is a defensive shooting.

    On the pro 2A side, the benefits also include that bad guys look for easy targets and will gravitate to gun free zones if given the choice. Merely knowing that some people might be carrying acts as a huge disincentive. When someone is carrying, drawing a gun but not shooting it is how many if not most encounters end. Finally, actual defensive shooting as a last resort does keep the good people alive at the expense of the bad guys. Twice in my life I wish I had a gun as I am alive only by luck and circumstance.

    You are correct that many if not all gun owners will no longer discuss the issue. That’s not due to gun owners, its a result of bad faith by the side that wants to ban guns. As someone likes to say, we are in a phase where having a discussion means shut up and listen to me you POS baby killing apologist. Good faith does not exist on the ban side, look at Hochul’s new gun laws that leave gun owners with a fraction of what they had before Bruen. The act of running low on gas to or from a gun range is now a class E felony if you’re forced to fuel up. The only workaround is to carry an 800 lb safe in your car, as guns must be locked in a fireproof tamperproof, secure container, which is a fancy way of saying “a safe”

    Add to the mix the complete lack of knowledge about guns by those writing the laws, the infamous “shoulder thing that goes up” (look for the interview and the memes it created) or “heat seeking bullets” or the sheer stupidity of laws such as 922(r).

    Each and every gun law that is passed is not in good faith. It merely creates a new loophole in what it doesn’t cover that is closed in the next set of laws.

    Give some of the cake back. Then a discussion will occur.

    1. Quinn Martindale

      I’d be more willing to take this seriously if the push for less gun control wasn’t also occurring in states like Texas. Pro-gun Republicans have controlled the state government for decades, and passed “shall issue” concealed carry followed by open carry followed by open carry without a license, all while imposing stringent signage requirements on business who don’t want guns inside. Do you really think that John Cornyn, of all people, is acting in bad faith because he secretly hates guns?

  5. Chairman of the Bored

    Six people dead and over thirty wounded. That’s unacceptable. For comparison, how does it stack up against an average summer weekend night in Chicago or Philadelphia?

  6. Mike V.

    “The guidance goes on to create the appearance of compliance while suggesting that little more has changed than creating the appearance. Suitability? Nothing subjective there, right?”
    States and Courts that try that approach will, I think, learn a painful lesson from SCOTUS.

    “Are guns the problem or is crazy the problem?”
    I’d submit that crazy and our unwillingness to properly care for the mentally ill and handicapped is a national scandal. Nearly every mass shooter has been known to mental health professionals or law enforcement but not given the treatment they needed. There such limited bed space for the seriously mentally ill that real help it little more than temporary. Sadly, there is no political will to fix the problem, so they demonize the tool instead of blaming the user.

  7. Hunting Guy

    Others have made good points so I won’t belabor the point.

    One thing that might help is less news coverage of the shootings. As a brief look at the Highland Park shooting, I appears that the shooter was looking for notoriety.

    Many a brief note about the shootings and leaving the shooters name out of the news might help.

    Shrug.

  8. Robert Parry

    I remain amazed that neither left nor right seems motivated to propose a compromise that:
    1) Prevents mass murderers from getting weapons with mass lethality.
    2) Respects the rights of lawful gun owners and doesn’t treat them like criminals
    3) Cannot be easily abused either way.

    Red flag laws could be a piece of the puzzle. Then Rep Swallwell made clear his intent to abuse them.

    The same people who say the NRA loves guns more than kids also loves political power more than kids.

    A pox on both houses.

    1. Rengit

      Another concern I’ve seen expressed with red flag laws is the “deputizing” effect of civilians, where people who are going through mental health issues like depression or anxiety may be less trusting of, for example, a therapist, a teacher, a close coworker, etc, if they think the person they’re confiding in might call up law enforcement and get their guns taken, just as a safety precaution. This undercuts the trust which is exceptionally important for addressing mental health issues, and given that paranoia is a common symptom of several mental health problems, the possibility of getting your guns taken away might cause many people to just not seek treatment.

      I go back to the Elonis case from 2015, where the Court tried to set a standard for criminal intent on making threats where a guy was posting violent self-written rap lyrics regarding an ex-girlfriend and a social worker on Facebook. I don’t think the criminal standard for threats can be right for red flag laws, but I don’t know what the standard should be otherwise that a) doesn’t raise serious First Amendment issues and b) causes people to keep any and all dark or angry thoughts bottled up.

    2. LocoYokel

      Robert, what you ask is impossible. Each point individually and as a whole.

      1 There is absolutely no way to prevent someone from getting almost any gun if they are determined to do so. There are to many avenues, legal and otherwise, to do so.

      2 Any gun restriction law automatically burdens legal owners disproportionately because criminals just ignore them. And the whole point of the laws is to eventually make all ownership illegal, they even admit to that,.

      3 Any and every law written can be and is abused in some form or another.

      Finally the gun grabbers have been using the “compromise” approach for decades but it always seems to be that they want gun owners to compromise and give up rights without ever getting anything back in return. We’re done “compromising” and want our rights back.

  9. PK

    Probably more crazy than guns, but guns make it easier to inflict more harm than otherwise. They are also scarier. I don’t have to see the person shooting at me and likely won’t. At least I’d be able to look at the person stabbing me in the eyes, assuming I haven’t run far away by then. Stabbing people is reportedly more difficult to do than aiming and pulling a trigger. In other words, I’d take a guy with a knife over a guy with a gun any day. Can’t really outrun bullets.

    Cars can do terrible things to crowds, but at least we have plenty of effective countermeasures to that kind of thing. Someone will mention them and bombs even though we’re talking about guns. I don’t know what to do about bombs.

    There’s one victim most people ignore. The shooter himself committed suicide yesterday even if he didn’t die. He was and is mentally ill. We’ve got to do better than this, to understand him, to know our enemy. Twisted as he may be, he’s still a person. Hating him is too easy. There’s a harder path that might be more worthwhile, but are we ready to be compassionate to someone so reprehensible? If he doesn’t deserve it maybe the next would-be shooter does.

  10. Pedantic Grammar Police

    There is, as always, a simple solution to this apparently complex problem. Buy a shotgun:

  11. Bruce Coulson

    Brunner’s ‘Stand on Zanzibar’ predicted this result (along with a lot of other trends) in 1968. Basically, given the population density, a few people go crazy and start killing. And there’s no easy solution. Banning all firearms (unlikely to happen) might cut down on the deaths…but it will keep happening. Guns are a tool, not the reason for the shootings.

  12. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    I’m not sure that any solution is possible. The sides are just too far apart in what they want and there is zero trust to be had from either. Neither side is happy with proposed solutions, and, to some degree, it may well BE an “insoluble problem.”

    Oh, and mutual hate. Lots of lots of ugly emotional hate.

    How can anyone hope to build a reasonable settlement under those conditions?

    I’ve sat through a few CLEs on mediation and I’m just not seeing any of that “find some common ground, somewhere, somehow, between the parties and work from there” strategy.*

    *ETA: I suppose “people shouldn’t do bad or stupid things with firearms” is a common denominator…

    1. RCJP

      This is a great point. Preventing mass shootings and respecting the rights of the law abiding citizen should be easy common ground!!!

      1. LocoYokel

        To respect the rights you first have to admit they exist. Gun banners refuse to acknowledge that there is a right to own firearms so how can they respect that right?

  13. Lee Keller King

    I know I’m coming quite late to this thread, but I’ve been busy with work and eye surgery. You may slap me down if you wish, Scott, but you know I’m part Weeble so it will only work for a while. 🙂

    The problem with early reports of shootings is they are often inaccurate and those inaccuracies tend to be repeated, creating a cascade effect. The weapon that was used in the Highland Park shootings was a Smith & Wesson MP 15 5.56mm AR style rifle (S&W only makes the M&P in 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington caliber). I find that calling this rifle is akin to President Biden stating that a 9mm Parabellum (the most popular pistol round in the world) will “blow a lung out.” It is NOT a high-powered rifle (such as a 30.06 or .308). But now that this it is in the wind, it will almost certainly continued to be seen as a “high powered” rifle.

    I guess this may fit in the same category of “definition creep” that has made words like “rape” and “abuse” almost meaningless to describe a crime (at least in the minds of the Progressives).

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