Posts Tagged ‘Gun control’

What I think about guns and gun control

November 2, 2015

Gun prohibition would not work, and would create worse problems, just as alcohol prohibition did and drug prohibition is now doing.

samuelljacksonguns6ca1bd46d6925b46071c077bcf8d6e72Ownership of firearms by law-abiding, responsible people is not a social problem.

Much (not all) gun legislation is security theater.   It doesn’t make people safer, but it makes them feel safer.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  The Supreme Court has held that this is an individual right.

The right to self-defense is a human right.  Thomas Hobbes and other philosophers have called it the most fundamental human right.

Throughout history and across many cultures, freedom is associated with the right to own weapons and the duty to fight for one’s community or nation.  Throughout history and across many cultures, slaves and subjugated people are denied the right to own weapons.

The United States historically is a gun culture.  Guns have had a cultural and symbolic significance in American culture similar to the sword in Japanese culture.



Second thoughts on Hillary Clinton and guns

November 2, 2015

I have to backtrack a little bit on a previous post, in which I cited the following question.  What I wrote was not exactly wrong, but not the whole story.

Why does Clinton keep getting away with saying that gun manufacturers are the only industry that is immune from being held accountable for criminal acts by purchasers of their products?  Almost NO manufacturers are, by law, accountable for criminal acts by purchasers of their products.  Someone should ask her to name one that is.

True, no manufacturer is held responsible for the criminal use of their legal products, unless it can be shown that they knowingly or negligently sold the products to criminals.  What makes gun manufacturers different is that in their case, this is spelled out in positive law, a law that Bernie Sanders supported.

hillaryclintongunsCQXNDpCWIAAn0NJHillary Clinton was giving a dog whistle to members of the anti-gun movement, who would have understood she was referring to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

Based on the exceptions written into the PLCAA, I don’t think it bars reasonable lawsuits against gun manufacturers or dealers.  The significance of the issue in the context of the Democratic Presidential debate is that it shows Bernie Sanders has more sympathy for gun owners and gun manufacturers than Hillary Clinton does.


Summary of Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  (Hat tip to Gary Young)

How to Bring a Successful Case Against Gun Manufacturers and Sellers by Daniel R. Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Hillary Clinton’s push on gun control marks a shift in presidential politics by Philip Rucker for the Washington Post.

Bernie Sanders Walks a Fine Line on Gun Control by Jessica Taylor for National Public Radio.


Switzerland, the other gun culture

October 29, 2015

Swiss citizens, as members of a well-regulated militia, have the right to keep and bear arms.

And, unlike us Americans, they manage not to kill each other in large numbers.

Places you can’t take guns

October 29, 2015

The following is from an article by Scott Keyes for ThinkProgress.

Gun ShowsPerhaps the most surprising conservative venue that bans loaded weapons are gun shows.  Crossroads Gun Show, which tours across the country, explained why even concealed carry permit holders can’t bring loaded weapons into the event: “Safety is our Number One Priority, and a safe environment in the show can only be maintained if there are no loaded guns in the show.”  [snip]

Political ConferencesConservative conferences frequently prohibit guests from bringing firearms. One recent example was the Morning in Nevada PAC’s Inaugural Basque Fry, a sold-out event featuring GOP presidential candidates Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, George Pataki, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker.  The event’s FAQ page answered the question “Can I bring licensed firearms?” with a simple “No.”

George W. Bush Presidential LibraryThough Bush was a strong proponent of gun rights, his presidential library in Dallas demands that all visitors leave their firearms at home.  According to a sign posted outside, guns are prohibited “For the security of our visitors, staff and facility.”


The gun rights movement and its lunatic fringe

June 9, 2014

I am not a gun person, but I don’t consider myself an enemy of  gun owners or gun rights advocates.

I’m philosophically in accord with much of what the gun rights movement says, while not in sympathy with some of its manifestations, including people in public places who carry around deadly weapons as if they were fashion accessories.

I believe that:

  • Self-protection is a fundamental human right.
  • The Constitution gives Americans an individual right to keep and bear arms.
  • Firearms have useful and legitimate purposes.
  • Ownership of firearms by responsible, law-abiding people is not a social problem.
  • Down through history and across many cultures, denial of the right to own weapons is a defining mark of a subjugated people.  (The other is denial of the right to testify in court).
  • Guns are an icon of American culture, just as swords are an icon of Japanese culture.

A lot of gun-related legislation seems to me to be “security theater”—aimed at making people feel safer even though it doesn’t actually make them safer.

Here in New York state, where I live, the SAFE law requires a background check on the private sale of a firearm to someone not a close relative.   Which means that if someone in rural New York sells a hunting rifle to a neighbor down the road he’s known most of his life, he has to go through the rigamarole of a background check.  That is a big nuisance and adds little, that I can see, to public safety.

I haven’t followed the Open Carry movement in Texas, but it does seem to me illogical that if you can carry a concealed handgun and you can openly carry a firearm much more deadly than a handgun, you can’t openly carry a pistol in a holster.

open-carry-txWhat I don’t understand is why gun rights advocates insist on bringing the deadliest and scariest-looking military-type weapons into public places where they have no useful purpose.

If I saw one of these guys come into my favorite diner while I was eating lunch, my reaction would be to wonder whether I was about to witness a holdup, or the next psycho gun massacre.   The person might say he was making a political point, and the gun is actually unloaded.   How am I supposed to know that?

Besides, one of the main things my father taught me about guns is that the most dangerous gun is the one you assume is not loaded.   Guns have a way of going off when you don’t expect them to.   That’s why they should be treated with respect, as you would treat any other potentially hazardous machine.

I’m well aware that gun deaths are declining.  So are deaths in motor vehicle accidents.  The latter fact does not reduce my responsibility, as a motorist, to drive with care.

Gun ownership in the United States is declining.   I don’t see how the gun rights cause is advanced by its supporters behaving in a way that alienates the public.

There is a lunatic fringe to the gun rights movement.   I am certain it does not represent the majority of gun owners, and I hope that it does not represent the gun rights movement as a whole.  Its effect on public opinion is not to make people more favorable to gun rights.


A gun is not a toy

June 6, 2014

benjaminmarauderairrifleOne of my father’s most frequent admonitions was, “A gun is not a toy.”

Like almost everybody else in our small town, he owned and used a hunting rifle.   One thing he impressed on me was that the muzzle of a firearm should never be pointed at a living thing that I didn’t intend to kill.  That applied whether I thought the gun was loaded or not.

I am not a gun person, but my brother is.  During my last visit to my brother, we spent an enjoyable morning together shooting at targets on his favorite firing range.  Everybody was highly conscious of gun safety, and monitored me closely to make sure that I, as a novice shooter, did not make some safety mistake.

Guns are useful for many things.  They are useful for self-protection, for protection of livestock from predators, for the pleasures of hunting and target shooting and, sometimes in the case of poor rural families, for putting meat on the table.

But a gun is a tool, not a toy.  A gun should be treated with the same care and respect as any other dangerous machinery.  Too many people forget this, including the people who walk around in crowded places with loaded firearms, just to make the point they have a right to do so.

Why is open carry worse than concealed carry?

February 13, 2014

Under current Texas law, qualified citizens have a right to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun.  Wendy Davis, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas, has been accused of letting down Team Blue by supporting legislation to allow qualified citizens to openly carry handguns.

Why is it more extreme to license people to carry unconcealed handguns than to carry concealed handguns?  I would think the reverse would be true, that the moderate position would be “open carry” and the extreme position would be “concealed carry”.

This is an honest question, not a sarcastic one.   I would appreciate help from somebody who knows more about gun laws than I do.

The danger of guns

April 15, 2013

Double click to enlarge.

Click on The K Chronicles and The Knight Life for more Keith Knight cartoons.

Irresponsible people with loaded guns

March 9, 2013

There are too many irresponsible people walking around with loaded guns in the United States today.


Justice Scalia on the Second Amendment

February 1, 2013

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a District of Columbia ordinance forbidding the carrying of handguns without a license, and requiring that handguns be kept unloaded.   The court ruled that this violated the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, and not limited to members of state militias.

Justice Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia

Here is what Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the 5-4 majority, stated that the ruling did not say:i

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.  From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. … For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. …

… … Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. [Precedent says] that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time’ [the Second Amendment was approved]. … We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”


I’m of two minds on this issue.  I’d like to live in a less heavily-armed society, but I don’t see a way to legislate that goal that wouldn’t be at best useless or at worst the equivalent of the current war on drugs.

My expectation is that Congressional gun legislation will result in (1) more extensive FBI files on American citizens to implement background checks, (2) more stop-and-frisks and no-knock break-ins by police in search of illegal weapons and (3) more armed police and security officers in public schools because federal money is available to pay them.

Hat tip to the New New York 23rd for the Scalia quote.


Is there a right to freedom from guns?

January 18, 2013

Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo doesn’t own guns, doesn’t like guns and resents the aggressiveness of the “gun culture”—people such as Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, who think the solution to gun violence is as armed citizenry.  He wrote the following earlier this week in defense of the values of the “non-gun tribe.”

… … Do I want to have people carrying firearms out and about where I live my life — at the store, the restaurant, at my kid’s playground?  No, the whole idea is alien and frankly scary.  Because remember, guns are extremely efficient tools for killing people and people get weird and do stupid things.

bildeA big part of gun versus non-gun tribalism or mentality is tied to the difference between city and rural.  And a big reason ‘gun control’ in the 70s, 80s and 90s foundered was that in the political arena, the rural areas rebelled against the city culture trying to impose its own ideas about guns on the rural areas.  And there’s a reality behind this because on many fronts the logic of pervasive gun ownership makes a lot more sense in sparsely populated rural areas than it does in highly concentrated city areas.

But a huge amount of the current gun debate, the argument for the gun-owning tribe, amounts to the gun culture invading my area, my culture, my part of the country.  So we’re upset about massacres so the answer is more guns.  Arming everybody. 

There’s a lot of bogus research (widely discredited) purporting to show that if we were all armed we’d all be safer through a sort of mutually assured destruction, pervasive deterrence.  As I said, the research appears to be bogus.  But even if it was possible that we could be just as safe with everyone armed as no one armed, I’d still want no one armed.  Not at my coffee shop or on the highway or wherever.  Because I don’t want to carry a gun.  And I don’t want to be around armed people.

via TPM Editors Blog.

I feel the same way Marshall does.  I don’t own a firearm and, if I did, I wouldn’t carry it around in public.   I don’t want to have to be constantly thinking about whether the person next to me is a threat, or the circumstances in which I needed to use deadly force.

Like Marshall, I recognize that there is a right to own guns, and that there are valid reasons why people might want to own guns.  I have no problem with someone who has a gun at home for hunting or in their home or place of business for self-protection.  I can see why someone might want to carry a gun in public for self-protection.

I think gun prohibition is a terrible idea.  The Branch Davidian massacre and the Ruby Ridge tragedy were the results of misguided attempts to enforce federal gun laws.

On the other hand I have no problem with the fact that you can’t bring a gun onto an airplane or into a federal building, or, in many places, within the vicinity of a public school.  I think the Obama administration made a mistake in deciding to allow concealed weapons in national parks.  I wish the President would issue an executive order rescinding that decision.

bushmaster-man-card-bannerWhat I do have a problem with is people who own guns as a form of self-expression.  I don’t personally know anybody who owns a large individual arsenal, but my impression is that, for most of such people, their stockpile of firearms is primarily a statement of who they are and what their values are, rather than for personal use.

Gun control is a symbolic issue.  President Obama’s proposals, and the legislation enacted with lightning speed here in New York state here this past week, are a way for Obama and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to affirm that they have more sympathy for what Josh Marshall calls the non-gun tribe than for the pro-gun tribe.   Sometimes there is a need for symbolic actions to reassure the public.  Whether these actions—such as New York state’s limitation of seven rounds to a magazine—will have any practical effect is another question.


Click on Being Part of the Non-Gun Tribe and Guns Kill People for Josh Marshall’s full comments on TPM Editors Blog.


Gun control and security theater

January 17, 2013


I think President Obama’s executive orders and proposed legislation are what is called “security theater”—actions intended to make Americans feel safer whether or not they actually make them safer.

I don’t have any great objection to what he proposes. but I don’t see that they’ll make any great difference one way or the other.

Some problems don’t have a governmental solution.  Some problems don’t have a solution.

As the great H.L. Mencken once said, “The fact that I have no panacea for the world’s ills is no reason why I should accept yours.  It merely increases the likelihood that yours is a fake.”


Click on President Obama’s New, Proposed Executive Orders and Legislation on Guns for a summary.

Then click on Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts for analysis of gun crime statistics by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and decide what impact you think the President’s proposals would have.

Click on President Obama’s Missing Executive Order on Gun Control for a Rolling Stone article about the President’s failure to use legislated authority to prohibit imports of dangerous weapons not suited for use by hunters and sportsmen.

Click on Background check system for guns deeply flawed for analysis by the Los Angeles Times.

Why I don’t own a gun

January 14, 2013

I accept that the Constitution affirms an individual right to keep and bear arms, I believe that self-defense is a basic human right and I don’t think gun prohibition would work any better than alcohol prohibition did or drug prohibition does.

But speaking for myself, I have no desire to own a firearm.  I would be terrified at the possibility that, in a moment of panic, I might take a human life.

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s in Williamsport, Md., a small town on the Potomac River at the foothills of the Appalachians.  Almost everyone in town owned a gun, mainly for hunting and sometimes for killing animal pests or target shooting.  I have fond memories of my father, with newspaper spread out across the kitchen table, cleaning and oiling his deer rifle prior to hunting season.  What I never heard back in those days was the need to own a gun to defend yourself against somebody else who owned a gun.

A Gannett editor who worked in Las Vegas once told me that young men in Nevada like to take junk refrigerators and other appliances out into the desert, and blow them to pieces with high-powered firearms.  That sounds like a lot of fun.  I don’t have any quarrel with anybody who likes to do that.

I’ve met owners of convenience stores in high-crime neighborhoods who think they need to own guns for self-protection.  That is their decision and their right.

But count me out.  If I bought a gun for self-protection, I would have to make up my mind that I was in such grave personal danger that I would have to be willing to take a human life.  It would be like being in the military.  Then I would take firearms training in order to be sure I could handle a gun safely and responsibly, without a danger to myself or bystanders.  That would not be a casual decision.  If my life had taken a different course, I might have found myself in circumstances in which I thought differently.  But such circumstances are not the norm.

The vision of a society in which everyone carried a gun at all times, like the movie version of the Wild West, is an appealing fantasy to some people.  To me, it is a nightmare.  Robert A. Heinlein many years ago wrote a science fiction novel, Beyond This Horizon, set in a future in which every citizen carried a gun and duels were common.  Heinlein thought this would result in a process of natural selection, in which survivors were either quick and accurate marksmen, or very, very polite.  I don’t think this would be the reality.

The idea of teachers in the classroom being armed is dreadful.  Teachers would be like prison guards.  If this idea were implemented, I would expect a rash of “stand your ground” shootings in the schools.  Now there might be circumstances in which bringing armed police officers into the school is necessary, but it would be a necessary evil.