Adam Gopnik writes on gun control again

Adam Gopnik is still (and uncharacteristically) really angry about the lack of gun control in the U.S., and the slaughter it engenders. He had an eloquent piece on it in The New Yorker the other day, but has decided to write again on the topic.

His empassioned new piece, “The simple truth about gun control,” is even better; it is, in fact, one of the best things I’ve seen on the topic. Here’s only one paragraph, a deft response to those who say (as a way of keeping guns), that we should go slow, examine the problem carefully, realize its complexity, and, above all, not react reflexively to this tragedy.

That’s all hokum.  We don’t need so many guns in this country, and we certainly don’t need semiautomatic weapons. We need to regulate guns the way they do in England.

But I digress: here’s a section of Gopnik’s new piece:

So don’t listen to those who, seeing twenty dead six- and seven-year-olds in ten minutes, their bodies riddled with bullets designed to rip apart bone and organ, say that this is impossibly hard, or even particularly complex, problem. It’s a very easy one. Summoning the political will to make it happen may be hard. But there’s no doubt or ambiguity about what needs to be done, nor that, if it is done, it will work. One would have to believe that Americans are somehow uniquely evil or depraved to think that the same forces that work on the rest of the planet won’t work here. It’s always hard to summon up political will for change, no matter how beneficial the change may obviously be. Summoning the political will to make automobiles safe was difficult; so was summoning the political will to limit and then effectively ban cigarettes from public places. At some point, we will become a gun-safe, and then a gun-sane, and finally a gun-free society. It’s closer than you think. (I’m grateful to my colleague Jeffrey Toobin for showing so well that the idea that the Second Amendment assures individual possession of guns, so far from being deeply rooted in American law, is in truth a new and bizarre reading, one that would have shocked even Warren Burger.

And do read Toobin’s piece mentioned above. It shows how the toxic combination of the National Rifle Association and the odious Antonin Scalia changed the meaning of the Second Amendment from allowing guns for a militia to allowing guns for everyone.

h/t: Krishan

148 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    The combination of children and guns is particularly troublesome. In fact, it’s the subject of my latest blog.

  3. Bonzodog
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Just read the transcript of the NRA’s press conference in the Guardian: are they completely fucking insane? Their answer to the mass kiling: put armed guards in every school. Upney pure fucking upneyism ….

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/21/nra-full-statement-lapierre-newtown

    (Sorry about the intemperate language, Jerry, but these people are just complete and utter lunatics)

    • Bonzodog
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Update: his speech was completely overshadowed by a protester who held a banner in front of all the cameras saying “NRA Killing Our Kids”… I strongly suspect I know which image will be on the front pages world-wide … This is from the UK’s Daily Mail ..

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2251762/NRA-statement-Sandy-Hook-shooting-Wayne-LaPierres-astonishing-response-calls-guns.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

      • gravelinspector
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Those security guards are going to be getting grief when they get home tonight. I hope.

      • Marella
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Note that there is a poll asking whether schools should have armed guards. The Nos are winning by a very small margin at the moment.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      “Besides calling for more security in schools, LaPierre made a brief criticism that the nation did not register people with mental health problems and blamed the media – specifically films, movies, and video games – glamorizing violence.”

      Was that their “meaningful contributions”!?

      Oy, oy, oy, vey.

      Some immediately reacted by calling the conference a public relations disaster in which LaPierre seemed despairingly out of touch. …

      Slate called the press conference, ‘unhinged’ and reported that LaPierre’s proposal to put armed security in every school would cost approximately $5.5 billion.

      The New York Daily News called him a ‘mad gunman’ giving a ‘wild rant’ disguised as a speech.

      Oh, I would think so!

  4. Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    How likely is it that the cause of the problem is due to a dysfunctional society rather than gun control laws? You’ve mentioned that unequal societies are dysfunctional societies and the inequality in America is increasing. Meanwhile the countries noted for not having massacres are also countries with more equal societies. I can certainly see it being that a dysfunctional society will be more likely to create a killer regardless of gun laws.

    While Canada, Australia and the like have stronger gun laws and fewer gun deaths than the US, I’m in South Africa where we also have much stricter gun laws than the US but where the rate of deaths due to guns is much higher. For example here you are not allowed automatic weapons, have to pass screenings and tests to get a gun (which also have long delays) and there are limits to both the number of firearms you can have and amount of ammunition you may possess. Looking at the situation here though you see that most of the guns used in killings were never legal in the first place, in fact many weapons used have never been available to the public. No doubt there are many reasons for that, both historical and due to corruption but we could also remember that despite our strong gun laws, South African society is hugely dysfunctional and so we have people that want guns and it doesn’t really matter if they are legal or not.

    • Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      The problem in South Africa would seem to be more a failure of enforcement than a lack of legislation.

      It’s hardly fair to hold up as an example a country with arms proliferation as evidence against the effectiveness of arms reduction.

      b&

    • gbjames
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      False choice. Dysfunctional society and dysfunctional law are not alternatives we must pick between.

      • bricewgilbert
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Yeah i’ll take fix both the society and the law which is the case for most western societies. Plus one puts strict control over deadly weapons which is an imediate solution while the other is incredibly complex. Involving social attitudes and for some people media censorship which I am not in favor of.

      • gluonspring
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. If society were less dysfunctional being awash in guns wouldn’t be such a worry. When gun supporters sound like responsible members of society, people think, “Yeah, my dad has a gun and hunts and that’s just great.” But when someone like the NRA guy gets up and paints this dystopian picture of a world armed to the teeth, where the only social contract is firepower, it makes me feel like the people the NRA represents aren’t responsible enough to own guns. They don’t remind me of my gentle hunter dad any more, they remind me of someone from Mad Max and I want to get as far away from Mad Max as possible, not embrace it.

    • Brygida Berse
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      How likely is it that the cause of the problem is due to a dysfunctional society rather than gun control laws?

      The problem is due to both a dysfunctional society and lack of gun control. And of course, the more dysfunction in the society (due to income disparities, poor education, drug use, what have you), the less reasonable it is to arm everybody with guns. A gun in every household in Switzerland poses much less danger than a gun in every household in Somalia.

      • Marella
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        My feelings exactly. The more a society worships violence as a way to get things done, the more difficult guns should be to get.

    • Thanny
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      It’s very likely a problem of societal dysfunction, not guns in particular. But a tragedy like this (which is more difficult to pull off without guns, but not impossible) prompts those with a visceral hatred of guns to temporarily lose their reasonable people membership cards.

    • Occam
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      GunPolicy.org provides a wealth of international data on gun ownership and gun-related deaths.

      Mark Reid, an Australian statistician, has just updated comparative plots:

      http://mark.reid.name/iem/gun-deaths-vs-gun-ownership.html

      (plus links to data sources for R aficionados)

      An interactive plot by Dominikus Baur allows the comparison between OECD and non-OECD countries. Rough outliers are salient. This should shed some data-based light on the question of gun ownership vs. societal dysfunctionalities.

      http://do.minik.us/shorts/guns/guns.html

    • RFW
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      A root problem is the influence of money on the political process. Think about lobbyists, corporate campaign financing, no campaign contribution limits, and outright bribery and corruption.

      Add to this the mindset of many of the filthy rich that their wealth makes them special and their political ideas even specialer. You end up with the NRA having so much money, it’s easily able to defeat gun control via the power of the purse.

      Solution? I’d say, impeach Scalia and his friends on the bench for starters, for corruption and bias, undo the “corporations are people” decision, impose campaign financing rules that limit contributions to a sum within reach of even the most impoverished per person per year (say, $100), and make it a point of law that accepting anything, in kind or in cash, from a lobbyist – and I am including a chicken salad sandwich for lunch one day – as a bribe.

      Stop up the mouth of wealth, silence its voice, and let the voice of the people be heard.

      A law criminalizing “spreading falshehoods” wouldn’t hurt. Just define falsehood as not being speech in the sense of the First Amendment, perhaps.

    • Tumara Baap
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      America is a dysfunctional society. Agreed. America is a dysfunctional society with gun laws that are blatantly misguided and irresponsible. Agreed X 2.
      So what are we to do? America must implement gun control regardless of anything else.

  5. Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    In his essay, Adam links to another must-read essay by Jeffrey Tobin that details how the interpretation of the Second as an individual right to own guns (as opposed to a right to be in a militia) is only a few decades old and an invention of the radical Right that reached its triumph in Heller just three years ago.

    Once again, I would fully support restriction of arms of any type to militia members, and to require militias to meet the same competency qualifications as our standing armed forces. Such a move would fulfill both the letter and the spirit of the Second. The militias would then be held suitably responsible for the actions of their members, including criminal assaults — just as military commanders everywhere throughout history have born responsibility for the actions of their troops.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Um. Didn’t notice that said link is in the bit that Jerry quoted. That’s what I get for going to the original source rather than reading the summary….

      b&

    • Marella
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Could you explain what these ‘militias’ everyone keeps talking about actually are? Are they private organisations run by individuals or are they small state run armies? Either seems weird to me. Maybe they’re something else altogether.

      • Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Well, that’s actually part of the problem.

        At the time of the American Revolution, there was a sentiment that a standing army was a great evil to be avoided at all costs. Instead, the thought was that, similar to a volunteer fire brigade, people so inclined would band together to form militias, and that they would be responsible for their own training and equipment. Should the need arise for the common defense, the thought went, it wouldn’t be hard to galvanize the militias together into a cohesive army. On the other hand, there wouldn’t be much chance of convincing the soldiers in the militias to go on imperialistic wars of conquest.

        There are many who point out that the National Guard is the direct descendant of the militias of the Revolutionary days, and that it fits the definition, letter, and spirit of the Second Amendment to a “T.”

        Some broaden that position a bit to include the many private militias in the States, such as the Michigan Militia. Many of them are New World Order Black Helicopter Nigerian Muslim President White Supremacist nutjobs, and some are better regulated than others.

        And then there are those in the pro-baby-killing faction today who would assert that “the militia” is every able-bodied citizen, and that it is the right and responsibility of all able-bodied citizens to arm themselves to provide for the common defense, including, if necessary, from a tyrannical central government.

        I personally think the National Guard is all the militia we need, especially considering that our standing armed forces are themselves all-volunteer and open to anybody (including non-citizens) who can pass the rather permissive entrance requirements.

        For political reasons, I would be happy to go with an expanded definition that included the citizen militias, provided that they were held to the same competency standards as the standing armed forces and were held responsible for the misdeeds of their members (the same way all armies of all nations throughout history have held their officers responsible for the actions of their subordinates).

        What I cannot condone is the baby-killing position that puts weapons into the hands of any fool who can pull a trigger.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

          Well said, Ben. I am DONE, absolutely DONE with the same old tired arguments that people DARE to bring up after this slaughter. How dare they. The pain of last week has ceased to wane even a little. I keep getting overwhelmed – it’s like waking up from a nightmare only to realize that the nightmare is real. Those babies are gone. I had to go into the bathroom at work today and just crumple on the ground while the grief wracked through my mind and heart as I sobbed and sobbed. I am a strong, even-keeled person – I do not suffer depression or other emotional problems. But this has literally brought me to my knees and I refuse to let these babies die in vain without doing everything I can to make my voice heard. WE DON’T NEED FUCKING SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPONS IN OUR HOMES. Really, guns successfully used in self-defense is a rare occasion – I might go so far as an outright ban on all guns – I am fed the fuck up. I was going to take my child to see Santa – and I couldn’t help but feel sick that that would be a perfect opportunity for someone to top last week’s headline.

  6. Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    There’s no reason for normal citizens to have guns. And the usual rhetoric about “if we outlaw guns then only outlaws will have guns111!!” is bullshit. You don’t need to regulate guns per se, you can just regulate ammunition.

    When I was in the military, we had to keep all types of tabs on ammunition. How many rounds we needed, what we needed it for, for how long; and when we returned it (because you can’t just keep ammo indefinitely) we had to account for every round that was fired or not fired.

    We should do the same thing but on a national scale and then eventually phase out the sale of ammo altogether. We might not be able to get rid of all of the guns in this country overnight, but ammo is “perishable” for lack of a better word at the moment. And guns are useless without ammo. Sure, this might create a black market for ammo, but this will make the black market created ammo less effective. And then people will most certainly be weary of just firing off the handle – literally – if ammo is scarce.

    We don’t need a war on drugs. We need a war on weapons.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Politically speaking, calling for the elimination of all guns is short-sighted, and won’t work anyway. Try to make allies of reasonable gun owners — namely decent hunters and farmers, some of them NRA members. Forget about utopia for the time being. Let Peter Singer think about that.

      • Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        Sorry, but you’re a bit behind.

        Poll after poll is showing overwhelming public support for serious arms regulation.

        The pro-gun lobby has been emasculated, and there’s no longer any point in placating them.

        b&

        • Larry Gay
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          I support arms regulation. I just don’t think arms elimination is possible in 2013. Not in the US of A.

          • Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

            And so…what? We shouldn’t even try?

            If now isn’t the time, how many dozens more babies must we watch be slaughtered until it is time?

            Besides which, as I wrote, all the polls say that this is something with huge public support, so I don’t know how you think a discredited minority with no remaining political capital is supposed to stand against the will of the people.

            b&

            • Larry Gay
              Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

              We will see. I don’t want to fight Ben. Remember that rural America is disproportionately powerful in Congress. To be successful in regulating guns, some rural Congressmen are going to have to believe they don’t need the NRA. The way to change their minds is for their RURAL constituents to tell them they’re fed up with the NRA. Don’t drive the farmers and hunters away with stridency or excessive rhetoric. Obama won in the parts of rural America by being calm and analytical.

              • gbjames
                Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

                “Don’t drive the farmers and hunters away with stridency or excessive rhetoric.”

                I’m used to tone trolling on the topic of religion. This is a novelty for me.

              • Marella
                Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

                ‘Strident’ looks like being even more useful than ‘racist’ as a catch all accusation which is expected to make any opinion or movement unacceptable. Perhaps we should be calling the NRA ‘strident’ then nobody would listen to a word they say! ;-)

            • Scott near Berkeley
              Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

              Agree, now is the time, now that there is momentum from the POTUS on down. The position that “so many things kill us, knives, cars…endless list” is beside the point. Just like auto safety, when the death rate is untenable, take action. No one mentions collapsible steering columns, but a steering column to the chest was another problem unseen in earlier times, when cars went more slowly, but as speed increased, needless deaths were more widespread. Fortunately, it was relatively easy to modify new cars. But the effect took quite some time to be felt. But that was no reason not to take corrective action.

              Nothing is ever an “instant fix”. But building up hypotheticals (e.g. threat of gov’t tyranny in the 21st century) to eventually arrive at “let’s do nothing” or “let’s make it worse” (moar guns and ammo) is relatively easy, and not worthy of consideration.

            • Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

              +1

        • RFW
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          But ah! all that money the NRA has at its disposal!

          • Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

            The money is significant, yes, but let’s not forget that the wealthiest man to ever run for President, and who further enjoyed significant financial support from Wall Street, just got his ass handed to him by a guy for whom the Presidency is the highest-paying job he’s ever had, by a very significant amount.

            Money gets you an awful lot in the States, but it doesn’t (yet) guarantee anything.

            b&

      • Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        Trying to make allies of reasonable gun owners sounds to me like trying to make allies with reasonable slave owners in the antebellum south.

        • Larry Gay
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          You sell your fellow man short.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

            Rather at gun point than by meters on the podium.

            We have this ongoing discussion with the religious. Will the religious moderates stand up against the fundamentalists? No. They can’t be reasoned with, they rather tone troll that we all should STFU.

            Will the moderate gun owners stand up against the fundamentalists? No. They can’t be reasoned with, they rather tone troll that we all should STFU.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

            Oops. Rather sell at gun point, et cetera.

        • RFW
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Not really. I know people who go hunting to put food on their table. Not out of necessity: they apparently like the taste of venison and moose. But they are hedged about by Canadian law that demands that they secure their guns at all times. Special locked gun safes, for example.

          Not to say that mass shootings don’t occur in Canada from time to time, but if you put enough speed bumps in the road, the would-be murderers find something else to do.

  7. Paul S
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I’d always thought of the militia mentioned in the second amendment as fitting the description of police. They are in affect an armed irregular army made up of ordinary citizens. We do not send them to war, but they do serve as a regulated militia protecting the security of a free state.

    • RFW
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Not very well regulated, I’d say.

      Beyond gun control, I’d say the next goal is demilitarization of the cops.

      It can start with getting rid of military style titles like “sergeant” and “lieutenant”, followed shortly thereafter by depriving them of their military grade armaments and equipment.

      Give me cops in blue serge uniforms armed with nothing more than billy clubs and whistles.

      • Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        On the campus of Arizona State University when I went there, the campus security — the guys who rode around on mountain bikes and told you to not staple that poster to the lamppost — wore “Dirty Harry”-style .44 magnum revolvers. The rationale was that, this being a state university, that made them state troopers and therefore required to be armed at all times when on duty.

        Never made sense to me. Do you really mean to tell me that, if the shit hit the fan, the local police — whose downtown station is a quarter mile from the football stadium — wouldn’t be there with whatever they needed inside of ten minutes? Hell, there was even a National Guard armory just on the edge of campus, complete with artillery.

        So why do we need rent-a-cops with “Are you feeling lucky?” guns to give tickets to teenagers who lock up their bikes to park benches?

        b&

        • gbjames
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

          I live next to a large urban state university. It is entirely reasonable for the university cops to be armed. The state has jurisdiction on state property and there is plenty of real security work to be done and real crime that occurs. They do a lot more than give tickets for locking bikes in the wrong place.

          • Marella
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

            You mean they need to shoot people a lot? Really? How often does this happen?

            • gbjames
              Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

              No I don’t mean that and I suspect you know I don’t. But from time to time they do need to deal with very serious crime and unless you are advocating the disarming of all police then there is no reason to think that these police are different. The term of derision, “rent-a-cop”, is a slur hanging around from my youth when back in the 60’s we needed handy epithet to toss at police. It was shallow then and it is shallow now. But I would have hoped that we had learned something over the years.

              • Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

                In my circles, “rent-a-cop” has always meant private security guards, and especially those pimply-faced youths with dark blue “SECURITY TEAM” t-shirts directing traffic at public events.

                The university security when I was there were barely a step above that, except for their oversized egos and weaponry.

                And, yes. I would personally advocate removing sidearms (including tasers and pepper spray) from beat cops, leaving them with billy clubs and a shotgun kept secured in the vehicle. But I’d only advocate that after private gun ownership is under control…police should be minimally better armed than the populace; in a civilized society, that means a club. In Somalia, that means armored vehicles. America is much too close to Somalia for comfort.

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

                Around here they really are state police.

              • Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

                And they really are state police in Arizona, too.

                It’s just that they were a disgrace to the badge, and would have been laughable jokes were the subject decidedly not funny.

                b&

  8. Graham
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    “We need to regulate guns the way they do in England.”

    In the UK there are far fewer guns. Much easier to regulate something that’s anyway not readily available. Not sure how you’d go about it in the States where the country seems to be awash with fire-arms.

    Another (complementary) approach would be to regulate the supply of ammunition.

    • Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Not sure how you’d go about it in the States where the country seems to be awash with fire-arms.

      It’s not that hard.

      Start by requiring licensing of gun ownership. Initially, licensing can even be as simple as mere registration to placate the “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers” crowd.

      At the same time, restrict all new sales however the political compromise works out on that one. Me? I’d restrict sales only to militias and prohibit sales to individuals. Whatever the restriction, the combination of these first two bits stops the problem from growing worse.

      Next, start a gun buy-back program. They’ve been hugely successful both abroad and in local jurisdictions here in the States. No questions asked, fixed prices per firearm type (regardless of condition), no limits on quantities, cash on the spot. Slag the guns and turn them into hoes and shovels for community gardens. Make it easy, too: have any police station or fire department accept them at any time, day or night — and, again, no questions asked, no ID shown, no paperwork to fill out, just cash for guns.

      And that should pretty much take care of it. Couple it with tight regulation on ammunition, including treating equipment to make ammunition the same way we currently treat locksmithing tools, and the problem of gun violence will pretty much vanish.

      b&

      • Scott near Berkeley
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        I think you have to go after suppliers manufacturing outside the USA, both of guns, and ammo. There is a unimaginable arsenal out there, in places like Iraq, not to mention many factories abroad, waiting for the profit motive to create movement toward the USA.

        • Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          I suppose it’s possible that we could see a black market in illicit arms pop up as a result of gun control, but I just don’t see it happening. Gun runners generally only deal in bulk. I don’t see how the logistics of running guns into the US would work.

          In particular, that would bring the US Armed Forces into the equation, and I don’t think very many gun runners would relish the thought of a personalized visit from the guys who killed bin Laden.

          b&

        • RFW
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          There’s that issue of money again: too many people have a vested interest in the domestic arms market.

    • Marella
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      After the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania the government outlawed various sorts of guns and staged a buy back of all kinds of guns as well as the outlawed ones. They collected hundreds of thousands of weapons which were mostly destroyed. We haven’t had a mass killing since. It cost money but otherwise was very straightforward.

  9. jose
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    What I don’t get is why conservatives like their guns so much in the first place. Our conservatives don’t like guns, or if they do, they keep it to themselves.

    • RFW
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      It’s because American conservatives are as crazy as bedbugs.

  10. johnpieret
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Another good piece is by Gary Wills, in the New York Review of Books, debunking the claim that the 2nd Amendment protects private ownership of weapons.

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1995/sep/21/to-keep-and-bear-arms/?pagination=false

    • Gary W
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Another good piece is by Gary Wills, in the New York Review of Books, debunking the claim that the 2nd Amendment protects private ownership of weapons.

      Garry Wills is a journalist and historian with no recognized expertise in constitutional law. The view that the Second Amendment protects a private, individual right to own guns has not only been upheld by the Supreme Court, but has been defended by a number of leading liberal constitutional law professors, including Laurence Tribe, Akhil Reed Amar, Sanford Levinson and Jack Balkin.

      An individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment does not necessarily preclude limited gun control, including outright bans on certain types of weapon (e.g., machine guns, perhaps assault weapons). But it does most likely mean that a general ban on guns would be unconstitutional.

      • johnpieret
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Garry Wills is a journalist and historian …

        And a historian is well placed to investigate the “original intent” of the Framers. But I should have said ‘debunking the claim that the Framers intended the 2nd Amendment to protect private ownership of weapons’.

        The view that the Second Amendment protects a private, individual right to own guns has not only been upheld by the Supreme Court …

        After years of SCOTUS holding the opposite view.

        … but has been defended by a number of leading liberal constitutional law professors, including Laurence Tribe, Akhil Reed Amar, Sanford Levinson and Jack Balkin.

        Scholars not generally known for appealing to “original intent.” Wills’ article is about the claims of supporters of gun rights that protection of private ownership was the original intent.

        Now there may well now be some sort of right to private ownership under the Constitution’s privacy penumbra but that’s not the argument that’s being made or one that Scalia would happy to embrace.

        • Gary W
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          After years of SCOTUS holding the opposite view.

          SCOTUS did not “hold the opposite view.” It simply hadn’t ruled on the question.

          And a historian is well placed to investigate the “original intent” of the Framers.

          “Original intent” is generally regarded as a conservative theory of constitutional interpretation. Its most famous proponent was Robert Bork. I’m not sure why you think liberals should accept it. And I doubt what your claim above about Garry Wills is true anyway.

          • johnpieret
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

            SCOTUS did not “hold the opposite view.” It simply hadn’t ruled on the question.

            United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Again, we (or maybe just I) am talking about the claim that the original intent was to protect the private ownership of weapons rather than the right of people to own them as part of “a well regulated militia”.

            “Original intent” is generally regarded as a conservative theory of constitutional interpretation. Its most famous proponent was Robert Bork. I’m not sure why you think liberals should accept it.

            I don’t understand why you think I said that. I specifically said that Tribe, et al. are not known for accepting original intent but might accept a right to bear arms as part of the penumbra of constitutional rights. Do you think that original intent is the only way a right to own arms can be found in the Constitution? The point that Wills made is that the original intent arguments are badly supported, mostly by quote mining, if not outright false.

            • Gary W
              Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

              United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Again, we (or maybe just I) am talking about the claim that the original intent was to protect the private ownership of weapons rather than the right of people to own them as part of “a well regulated militia”.

              Again, “original intent” is a broad theory of constitutional interpretation, not a legal ruling on the meaning of the Second Amendment. You claimed that prior to Heller, the Supreme Court “held the opposite view” on whether the Second Amendment protects the right of private individuals to possess guns. That claim is false. Heller did not overturn any previous ruling. The Court simply had not ruled on the question prior to Heller.

              I don’t understand why you think I said that.

              Because you claimed, absurdly, that Garry Wills, a journalist and historian with no recognized expertise in constitutional law, had “debunked” the claim that the Second Amendment protects “private ownership of weapons.”

      • gluonspring
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        It’s a bizarre interpretation given the wording, but the most baffling thing about that interpretation is interpreting “arms” as merely guns. The amendment explicitly says that it’s purpose is “for the security of a free state”. Arms for the security of the state must surely include all the military hardware likely needed to repel attacks on the free state. How is it possible to see an right to individual ownership of guns embedded in this amendment and not also see a right to individual ownership of grenades, claymors, Stinger missiles, and all the other things that would be needed to provide for the security of the state?

        • Gary W
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

          This probably isn’t the place for an in-depth discussion about the meaning of the Second Amendment. If you’re really interested in the legal arguments, you ought to read the academic literature and court decisions. A good place to start might be Sanford Levinson’s article, “The Embarrassing Second Amendment.” But to answer your question, one possible reason is that the purpose of the amendment was to recognize an individual’s right to engage in armed self-defense against criminals, rather than against government military forces.

          • gluonspring
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

            I have read, and this argument is made up bullshit.

            • Gary W
              Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

              I’m sure professor Levinson would thank you for that powerful and compelling critique.

  11. Gordon Hill
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    When I see the annual homicide numbers (4/100,000 in the U.S. and 1/100,000 in other developed countries) I have no doubt it is time to do something. Granted it’s a problem with many influences, but the availability of weapons of mass murder is the enabler.

    Eliminating the weapons won’t solve the issue, but will reduce it substantially.

    Mental health is an essential issue, but it’s a bit like AA where task #1 is to stop drinking, then work on the cure. Task one is getting rid of the weapons, then work on the cure.

  12. Josh
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    What about many Nordic countries that have a huge number of guns per person (almost as much as the US) and yet low rates of gun homicide? I think that argues against a plethora of guns being a primary reason for mass shootings and points to other causes.

    • Occam
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Not correct.
      For data, see the links in my comment to #4 above.

      The highest gun ownership rate rate in the Nordic countries is found in Finland (45.7 per 100 persons, according to GunPolicy.org). Gun deaths per 100k persons, 1994-2010: min 0.21, max 0.86.
      Compare to Switzerland: current private gun ownership rate also 45.7 per 100 persons; gun deaths per 100k persons, 1994-2010: min 0.24, max 1.0.

      US: gun ownership rate: 88.8 per 100 persons; gun deaths 1998-2010 (data 1994-97 are incomplete): min 2.97, max 3.43.

      While gun ownership is roughly half the US rate, gun deaths rate in Finland and Switzerland is at least 3-4 times lower. Still, it is the highest gun deaths rate in the OECD except Mexico. There is a clear correlation in affluent societies between a high prevalence of gun ownership and a high incidence of gun-caused mortality.
      The correlation is not linear.

    • aljones909
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      Anders Breivik killed 77 in Norway. The occasional slaughter is the price that’s paid for allowing easy access to guns. You obviously think it’s a price worth paying.

      • Gary W
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        Norway does not have easy access to guns. It has much stricter gun laws than the U.S. Breivik was able to acquire his guns legally because he had a hunting license, was a member of a sports shooting club, did not have a criminal record, and did not have a diagnosed mental illness that would have disqualified him.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          And it took him years of planning, studying, training, buying and construction to perpetrate his terrorist act.

          You may also note that it had two stages. The first one with a heavy homemade bomb killed 6 people, ~ 1/10 of his gun rampage 2nd stage.

          This is an excellent example on how guns are the problem, and why gun control works.

          • Gary W
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

            You made this same comment below. See my reply to it there.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes. Norway, Sweden, Finland gun owners likes to hunt, and there is also quite a lot of sport (say, biathlon).

      But we start to have more illegal guns and ammo in circulation, as well as a long and related problem of gun and ammo theft from “militia” storage (home defense units, still not disbanded despite having the military going more or less “pro”). So I won’t expect the gun homicide rate to stay down for much longer.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        And by “we” I mean Sweden. Norway and Finland don’t have that problem, I think.

  13. Gary W
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I think this latest piece by Gopnik is sloppy and confused, like his previous one. He may be right that “effective gun control” would dramatically reduce gun violence. But the key word there is “effective.” Evidence that the kind of limited gun control that is politically realistic in the U.S. — assault weapons ban, limits on the size of ammunition clips, tightening background checks, etc. — would do much to reduce gun violence is very weak. The very tight gun control policies that Australia and Britain have enacted simply aren’t possible in the U.S. without a dramatic change in culture. And even those policies have not “eliminated” (Gopnik’s word) massacres. In 2010, years after Britain tightened its laws, a gun massacre killed 13 people and injured 11. Norway has much stricter gun laws than the U.S. That didn’t stop a madman from killing 69 people and injuring 110 others in a gun massacre last year. That one attack killed many more people than the Columbine, Aurora and Newtown massacres combined. And in a country of only 5 million people (the U.S. has 300 million).

    • Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Ah, yes. Our baby murder apologist, right on schedule, telling us, against all evidence to the contrary, that Americans are too bloodthirsty to abandon their implements of mass murder so we shouldn’t even try to do anything to stem the tide of blood.

      http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57559669/poll-support-for-stricter-gun-control-at-10-year-high/

      http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/many-see-societal-issues-in-ct-shootings-most-back-ban-on-high-capacity-clips/

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/17/us-usa-shooting-poll-idUSBRE8BG18W20121217

      b&

      • Gary W
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        None of your citations support your claim that Americans are willing to give up guns. They show increased support for more gun control in the immediate wake of a tragedy, that’s all. You still don’t seem to understand the huge difference between a very limited gun control measure like a ban on high capacity ammunition clips, and a general ban on firearms.

        A bump in public support for stricter gun laws immediately after a gun massacre is hardly surprising. The long-term trend, however, is declining support for stricter gun laws. And a general ban on guns is total fantasy.

        • Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          None of your citations support your claim that Americans are willing to give up guns.

          That’s an egregiously transparent lie even for you, Gary. I mean, seriously?

          Hell, that first one shows that Americans support “more strict” gun laws by a 3:2 margin. You don’t think that stricter laws equates to fewer guns, or that’s the whole purpose of the laws and the desire for them in the first place? What, do you think it somehow means that people support requiring a two-handed stance (“gun control”) when shooting?

          I’ll grant you that you aren’t willing to give up your baby-killing toys. But — and I know this will come as a shock to you — not everybody thinks like you, and mature and responsible adults have no problem with safety regulations.

          Then again, you’re one of those nutjobs who gets his rocks off by fantasizing about fucking with critical industrial safety equipment so he can impress young kids by crushing fat people with trolley cars, so I suppose I really shouldn’t be all that surprised that you don’t want us to take away yet another of your death fantasies.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Gary W
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

            It really takes a special kind of stupid to believe that “stricter gun laws” = “giving up guns.”

            As I said, the long-term trend is a decline in support even for stricter gun laws.

            • Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

              Spell it out, o genius.

              The American public, by a 3:2 margin, support laws such as ones banning private possession of military-style assault weapons.

              How, thou exalteld braniac, are we supposed to ban weapons without giving them up?

              b&

      • gbjames
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

        Ben, you must have a sturdier skull than mine. I gave up knocking my head against that brick wall when I realized that you can only converse reasonably with honest commenters. There is ample polling that has been presented on these pages in the past week that supports your point and when commenters pretend it doesn’t exist they don’t deserve the electrons it takes to display a response.

        • Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          True, but there are times when playing with squeaky toys helps to pass the workday.

          b&

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      And it took that norwegian (who is legally no madman) years of planning, studying, training, buying and construction to perpetrate his terrorist act.

      You may also note that it had two stages. The first one with a heavy homemade bomb killed 6 people, ~ 1/10 of his gun rampage 2nd stage.

      This is an excellent example on how guns are the problem, and why gun control works.

      • Gary W
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        And it took that norwegian (who is legally no madman) years of planning, studying, training, buying and construction to perpetrate his terrorist act.

        So what? By the way, it didn’t take him years to get his guns.

        You may also note that it had two stages. The first one with a heavy homemade bomb killed 6 people, ~ 1/10 of his gun rampage 2nd stage. This is an excellent example on how guns are the problem, and why gun control works.

        Huh? Breivik was able to obtain his guns legally, despite Norway’s relatively strict gun control laws, and he used those guns to kill 69 people and injure 110 more. Exactly how is this an example of “why gun control works?”

    • Marella
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Australia has had no mass murders since the gun laws were tightened after the Port Arthur massacre. That was sixteen years ago.

  14. Bob J
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    NRA response – Less video games more rifle ranges.

    • Vaal
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Yup. The NRA blaming on video games and movies:

      NRA: What society needs to stem gun violence is fewer imaginary guns, and a lot more real guns!

      Sheesh.

      Vaal

      • gbjames
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        ! I’m stealing that line.

    • Posted December 22, 2012 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I wonder why it took the fuckers a week to come up with that. I was actually beginning to hope, against all odds, that they might have something sincere and rational to propose. Too many kids getting slaughtered by guns at schools? Their brilliant solution: More Guns in Schools. Guns Everywhere! I have to give kudos to Joe Scarborough – whom I normally disagree with on just about everything – for being honest and sincere for his rethinking the gun control issue. You could see that he was torn apart by the shootings, and I think it took bravery to speak out about gun control. I thought if he could do it – nearly a poster boy for the NRA – maybe there’s hope we can all work together and take some steps forward in a timely manner. The NRA response just broke my heart all over.

  15. MadScientist
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    “We need to regulate guns the way they do in England.”

    Unfortunately because of Supreme Court rulings in the past 60 years, I doubt that can happen without a constitutional amendment. Now the good thing is, citizens can demand such an amendment. However, with local as well as foreign arms manufacturers standing to lose many millions per year in sales, it will be very difficult to get such a change through. Even without the gun lobbies it would be a difficult job. It would be possible to convince the majority of gun owners to accept restrictions, but there’s an extremely loud, extreme and nutty minority as you can see from all the NRA propaganda.

    • RFW
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Constitutional amendment is not an impossiblity, and may in the end be necessary.

  16. twentynine
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about the US of A. But here we have regulations against certain types of weed poision, as they’re to strong and to damaging to plant life and animals. Can you IMAGINE?? There’s regulation against a WEED POISION!

    But in america when it comes to powerful weapons, the line seems to be drawn at nuclear. You can easily own a gun you can shoot someone from a mile away without revealing much about your position or kill 30+ ppl with a single mag, and then easily switch magazine within a few seconds and continue killing.

    In some ways I think I’d rather be a grass of weed in north america than a person. Of course, assuming you have about the same rational laws as we have when it comes to weed posion.

  17. MJA
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Ban guns, bombs, and wars.

    =

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      That is a complicated issue as you must, or should, know.

      Banning guns works, except when the society is dysfunctional.

      We *do* ban some forms of bombs (cluster, bio and chem bombs) and wars (genocides), and it works. But mainly bomb and war use drops for other reasons (see Pinker’s book).

      So we can’t really compare all aspects, but when we do they agree: banning works.

      • gluonspring
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        Bombs are already banned for private ownership. It is bizarre that the logic of not selling civilians hand grenades and motors is persuasive to the gun lobby (I suppose, maybe they are for it…) but limiting semi-automatic weapons capacity/rate of fire/deadliness of bullets, etc. is a shocking transgression of their rights. How do they draw that line?

        • Gary W
          Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

          A madman with a military-grade bomb (or even a homemade bomb, as in the Oklahoma City bombing) has the potential to kill many more people than a madman with a semi-automatic weapon with a high capacity magazine.

          According to Eugene Volokh, magazine size probably matters little to the deadliness of a gun, because in most modern guns it’s very quick and easy to install a new magazine. Rate of fire might matter, but most semiautomatics and revolvers fire quickly enough that it’s probably not a significant factor in the ability to hit a target. More important are barrel length, accuracy, caliber and type of bullet.

          • gluonspring
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

            Yes, we all know bombs are more deadly. So are 50-cal machine guns. So what’s your rate-of-fire cutoff for “it’s a slaughter device civilians shouldn’t have” vs “it’s good for self defense and hunting”? What’s your limit for caliber size and why?

            • Gary W
              Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

              I don’t have a “limit on caliber size.” You suggested that it’s “bizarre” to support a ban on private ownership of bombs, but not semi-automatic firearms. I was explaining why it isn’t. I don’t think it’s just “the gun lobby” that sees important differences between these two types of weapon.

          • MadScientist
            Posted December 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

            I would say that Eugene Volokh is talking out of his ass and doesn’t know a thing about guns. The barrel length, accuracy, and “type of bullet” (whatever that means) thing is bullshit as anyone trained to kill with a handgun knows. Rate of fire does matter – there’s a hell of a lot of difference between a gas-assist self-loading rifle and a bolt-action rifle, and a world of difference between a .38 Special and a G-Lock – police forces aren’t tossing out the .38 revolver and replacing them with G-Locks because Austrian guns are prettier. The Texas Bell Tower murderer had a very good reason for selecting an M1 carbine – it could fire a hell of a lot faster than his bolt-action rifle and it was good enough to aim kill even with open sights and at a quarter mile.

  18. Daniel
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    In the UK, the homicide numbers spiked after the handgun ban of 1997. It then went back down to about the number of homicides around 1997. The gun control didn’t work. The anti-gunners are misleading you. Most atheists are rather logical, but when it comes to gun control, most atheists it seems think like Christians who think with their emotions, not with rational thought. I’m rather ashamed to be an atheist at the moment.

    We have a right to self-defense. It is the right to protect our lives that compels that conclusion, not the Second Amendment. You won’t lose me as an atheist, but it does make me to no longer want to support any of those in the “atheist community.”

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      You should read Occam’s commentary to relevant statistics above. It shows you are wrong on guns and atheists both, gun control works and atheists & skeptics do the numbers as always.

      • Gary W
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Occam’s statistics are about a correlation between rates of gun ownerhip and rates of gun-related death. They don’t say anything at all about the effect of Britain’s handgun ban, let alone show that Daniel is wrong.

        Perhaps he’s wrong anyway. I think that a ban on all (or almost all) handguns probably would eventually lead to a decrease in homicides. But a ban on all handguns in the U.S. is a fantasy.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      And “self-defense” btw? What has that to do with guns, and when did anyone threatened to take away that right?

      You should read the article and its links, especially to Hemenway’s research:

      “(Hemenway is also the scientist who has shown that the inflated figure of guns used in self-defense every year, running even to a million or two million, is a pure fantasy, even though it’s still cited by pro-gun enthusiasts. Those hundreds of thousands intruders shot by gun owners left no records in emergency wards or morgues; indeed, left no evidentiary trace behind. This is because they did not exist.)

      Hemenway has discovered, as he explained in this interview with Harvard Magazine, that what is usually presented as a case of self-defense with guns is, in the real world, almost invariably a story about an escalating quarrel.

      “How often might you appropriately use a gun in self-defense?” Hemenway asks rhetorically.

      “Answer: zero to once in a lifetime. How about inappropriately—because you were tired, afraid, or drunk in a confrontational situation? There are lots and lots of chances.””

      *** It is a fantasy! And you are trying to pawn it off on others. ***

      I’m rather ashamed of someone at this moment, but it isn’t anyone within “the “atheist community””!

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        Oops, “when did anyone threaten…”.

    • threeflangedjavis
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Can’t say as I’ve made up my mind one way or the other on this issue. Used to be very anti gun ownership, despite quite liking guns, but have now become more ambivalent because I’ve come to realise that my views were more based on emotion than objectivity. I have a sneaking suspicion that redneck hatred motivates some of the passion in discussions on this issue..

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted December 23, 2012 at 2:31 am | Permalink

        That reminds me of the “used to be an atheist” line, which is equally unhelpful.

    • H.H.
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      You think those for stricter gun control are emotional? Give me one argument for handgun ownership that doesn’t rely upon exploiting fear.

      • Gary W
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        You think those for stricter gun control are emotional?

        I think that fanatical proponents of gun control are mostly driven by emotion. The evidence just doesn’t support their extravagant claims and predictions and insinuations about the benefits of gun control.

        Give me one argument for handgun ownership that doesn’t rely upon exploiting fear.

        Hunting, sport shooting, collecting. And fear of harm (either to yourself or others) is the basis of any kind of policy intended to reduce the risk of harm, whether it’s owning a handgun for self-defense or gun control.

        • Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
          Give me one argument for handgun ownership that doesn’t rely upon exploiting fear.

          Hunting, sport shooting, collecting.

          [Emphasis added]

          Thank you for conclusively demonstrating your utter incompetence on the subject of firearms. We may now ignore you as the idiot you are.

          Oh — and as for the parts that I didn’t highlight, thank you for similarly putting the debate in its proper context. You advocate keeping dangerous weapons in the hands of baby-killers so you can have fun shooting cans and admiring some sniny bits of metal. I couldn’t have better demonstrated your complete and utter lack of conscience and empathy had I tried.

          b&

          • Gary W
            Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

            We may now ignore you as the idiot you are.

            Some people hunt with handguns, you ignorant fool.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

              Okay, both of you guys, Ben and Gary W, knock off the invective. I WILL NOT have insults like this hurled at the commenters, get it?

              And you might consider that this discussion has become largely a one-on=one and is no longer productive. Consider taking it to private email.

    • gluonspring
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Debate them with numbers then. Don’t just go home and pout.

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      You really need to look at the real history of gun laws in the UK, not your revised history from bizzarro world.

  19. Freethinking Jew
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I thought we free thinkers determined what’s true based on evidence. Shouldn’t our approach be to look at what scientific studies have shown regarding whether weaker or stronger gun control laws cause more gun-related crime? Instead, all I see is emotional arguments made based on a few horrific case studies – exactly the kind of thing for we which we criticize religious people.

    • gluonspring
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      We anxiously await your dispassionate scientific study based argument. Fire away.

      • Gary W
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        He didn’t express a position, so I’m not sure what argument you’re expecting him to present. He just said our approach should be based on scientific study, rather than emotion and anecdote. I strongly concur.

  20. gluonspring
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I have never been, and still am not, especially worried about guns. But I am seriously worried about anyone the NRA continues to speak for. They sound like sociopaths peddling an openly dystopian vision of our future.

    • brujofeo
      Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:43 am | Permalink

      Gluonspring, I really doubt that this will give you comfort, but any good atheist should understand the logical fallacy of the “argument from comfort” anyway…

      The NRA is a bunch of gutless accommodationist quislings, justifiably called America’s largest gun-CONTROL organization. You want to see what a REAL pro-Bill of Rights organization looks like? Check out Gun Owners of America, http://gunowners.org/, or Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership…www.jpfo.org

  21. Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    It seems an outright ignorance of the experiences of other developed countries is an important part of political discourse in the USA, be it on gun control, on health insurance or on public transport…

    Then again, to some degree that problem is global. Many a discussion in my own home country could have benefited greatly from looking at other countries’ school systems or speed limits, for example. But countries as big as the USA are perhaps more parochial in their perspective than smaller ones.

    • gluonspring
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      We are inside our own event-horizon of parochiality.

    • Marella
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      You forget that America is exceptional, nothing that happens elsewhere could possibly be relevant to god’s favourite country.

      • JT
        Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        You’ve hit the nail on the head. American exceptionalism is at play here. Can we convince the majority of Americans that if gun control has worked in other western nations, it will work in the US too?

  22. Barry
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I followed the advice of the intelligentsia and got rid of all my guns years ago. Nowadays, thanks to what I have since learned about science on the internet, I defend myself against those wielding deadly force by quick-drawing the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium Principle. Despite its antique age, it’s still very powerful, yet small and light enough that it’s easily concealed and carried with me everywhere. It’s true! Several months ago my home in America was invaded by two thugs with guns. Without their consent I simply whipped out my Hardy & Weinberg and fired off a lecture at them on the null hypothesis of evolutionary change. And in no time at all they dropped their guns, covered their ears, and ran back out the door yelling “Stop it! Shut up you crazy bastard! You’re killing us!”

    • Marella
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      There’s a Geneva Convention rule against this sort of thing you evil bastard!

    • brujofeo
      Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:45 am | Permalink

      +1

  23. Dave
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    If ever there was a case to be made for term limits, this is it. Gutless “career” politicians will not do anything to jeopardize their re-election; they would not exist under a system where you do NOT get to run for consecutive terms in office. Increase the house term to four years and eliminate incumbent candidates. It’s the only way to make any real progress.

  24. still learning
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Banning guns, hmmmm. Does anyone remember their history class lessons about Prohibition? Alcohol was banned and the crime rate soared. I’d hate to see the carnage if guns were banned.

    • gbjames
      Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      And imagine how much improved things would be if we’d just stop outlawing theft and homicide.

      • brujofeo
        Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:52 am | Permalink

        Uh…gbjames…best keep to subjects that don’t overwhelm your ability to stick to the point.

        The reason that theft and homicide “work” as crimes is that they have an aggrieved party. Someone can pretty much be counted upon to report theft and homicide.

        The reason that Prohibition didn’t work, and the idiot War on Some Drugs never will, is that there is no aggrieved party…BOTH parties to the transaction want the police to stay the hell out of their business. And so the police has to resort to coercing snitches. How well has this worked out for us? I’ll tell you how…the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of its prisoners. We have more young black men incarcerated than in college.

        So you tell me…in the case of gun possession, who is the aggrieved party? Who will report this “crime,” and what effect will that have on the polity? Please read the 4th Amendment before answering…

        • gbjames
          Posted December 22, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

          This is not a matter of “reporting the crime”. If you don’t like the analog of theft and homocide, then perhaps a slight variation will fit you better. Imagine how much improved things would be if we stopped outlawing driving on the wrong side of the road. What if we removed laws requiring people to pay taxes?

          I won’t be entirely surprised if you respond that yes, you think these things should be legal because there is a small part of the extremist libertarian world that actually thinks like that. But if that is your position, then you really have no place in society where rules are necessary to provide for the common good.

          I do not appreciate the snark.

          • brujofeo
            Posted December 22, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

            Sorry about the “snark.” I don’t have infinite patience for the mental gymnastics that people indulge in when trashing the Bill of Rights. (It’s not just the 2nd; I hear the same nonsense from people who want to gut the 1st and 4th.)

            And here, your attempt at analogy just takes you out of the frying pan and into the fire. I’m not going to open the Russian front with the taxation issue; it’s its own whole other subject. But the prohibition against driving on the wrong side of the road? If people did that, they would be held responsible for crashing into other’s cars…NOT for car ownership. And yes–there actually already ARE laws against shooting people.

            Then you fall directly into two logical fallacies. (Does no one study basic logic anymore?) The first is the straw-man argument. I’ve been a member of the LP since 1973. You might imagine that I’ve met a libertarian or two. And I hear this bullshit all the time about how “many libertarians believe that…” followed by some outlandish statement that I’ve never heard espoused by any libertarian. So tell me…who are these libertarians who want to get rid of laws governing which side of the road to drive on? Please name one, because in 40 years, I’ve never met one.

            The second is the good old argumentum ad hominem. Boring…

            • gbjames
              Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

              Are you trying out for the most obnoxious commenter award here?

              Laws governing driving, laws governing auto safety standards, laws requiring payment of taxes all exist because they promote the common good. The same is true of laws governing the manufacture, sale, and use of weapons in places where such laws exist.

              Spare us the obnoxious responses, please. It is clear where you are coming from.

              • whyevolutionistrue
                Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

                One more name-calling like this, gb james, and I’ll ban you. I’ve warned others, but you are continuing with the invective.

                You might apologize, too.

              • gbjames
                Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

                Hmm. I rather had the shoe on the other foot. If I’m over the line, I’m sorry.

              • brujofeo
                Posted December 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

                No offense taken.

                I certainly appreciate Professor Coyne’s desire to err on the side of caution, but I thought that your remarks were within the ambit of spirited argument.

                I sometimes say, only a bit tongue in cheek, that before I retired from the ring, I spent 25 years getting the shit beat out of me by experts. It’s not for those with thin skin.

                In my present line of work, I not infrequently get death threats.

                So, no apology necessary, but all the same, accepted unreservedly.

    • Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      I’d hate to see the carnage if guns were banned.

      Easy: look at virtually every other developed country in the world. Behold the blood flowing through the streets of Liverpool, Frankfurt am Main, Orleans or Melbourne! Hm.

      • brujofeo
        Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:55 am | Permalink

        Zurich…

        • Posted December 22, 2012 at 1:48 am | Permalink

          Not sure I understand. If you are insinuating that the gun laws in Switzerland are in any way comparable to those in the USA, you are severely mistaken. I have lived and worked in Zurich for 15 months and would be very surprised to hear that any of my colleagues there had owned a gun.

          Really, in most of Europe somebody who owns so much as a revolver is considered a bit odd; somebody who owned a Bushmaster would be considered a dangerous wacko.

          • brujofeo
            Posted December 22, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

            I am aware that certain Swiss gun laws go canton by canton, so perhaps I might have picked a better example than Zurich.

            But I have to say…you had me going there for a moment. At first I thought that things might have changed radically since I sepent several weeks there in 1990, when Switzerland definitely looked like this: http://www.guncite.com/swissgun-kopel.html. So I looked here, and it would seem that not much has changed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Switzerland.

            And in fact, recently an attempt to pass more restrictive laws was rejected by a majority of Swiss voters: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/13/swiss-reject-gun-law-reform.

            So I’m not sure what’s going on… 1) Maybe Zurich is completely different from the rest of the country; 2) Maybe you have a VERY atypical group of friends; 3) maybe you SHOULD be “very surprised.”

            • Posted December 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

              You are correct that I underestimated the ease with which the Swiss can buy weapons. That being said, the Wikipedia article still describes a much more carefully regulated system than the one in the USA. In my specific case, my colleagues were probably atypical as they were all scientists.

              And finally, this is all irrelevant to still learning’s point, which was that mayhem would ensue if weapons were banned. One country in which that is not the case despite weapons being virtually banned serves to refute this point, while one country with liberal gun laws but significantly less gun violence than the USA (although also significantly more than in European countries with less guns!) merely shows that the USA may be a particularly violent society. In other words, one in which it is even more imperative to remove the guns than in a healthier one.

              • brujofeo
                Posted December 22, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

                Well, Alex, good of you that we could reach more agreement on the facts, if not our opinions. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, at least, would be proud of us.

                I would say good luck with your endeavors, but of course you know by now that I’m going to keep working to ensure that you fail.

                I think that gun violence will continue to wane in this country, as it has been for some time, and that the prohibitionist will be fewer. But of course, I could be wrong.

                If in fact you succeed in banning guns (and I don’t mean all of them, but the ones that we consider useful), then there will be many, many millions of us who will simply ignore the law, no different than you do every time you drive 56 in a 55 zone.

                What I don’t think the prohibitionists understand is that for many millions of us, this is very much a civil rights issue. One could try and pass a law that says that Negroes must once again move to the back of the bus, and use different drinking fountains. But I doubt that it would be successful. Yes–me and Rosa Parks, we are like THIS.

                Now you may find that comparison odious, even offensive. But WE DON’T CARE, any more than you care about our POV. So we will remain polarized. And it comes at a serious cost:

                In so many ways, the Republicans insist on so much stupidity in order to be nominated. Young Earth cretinism (NOT a typo) by itself, would be enough to make this Libertarian vote for Democrats. And millions like me (many more than have actually ever joined the LP) think the same way. Why do Republicans keep getting elected, and keep nominating Supreme Court Justices? This ONE issue is a sticking point for more of us than most commentators on this blog seem to think.

                So when Professor Coyne fulminates about Scalia, it’s worth asking who got him appointed? I think that Professor Coyne did, and the others on this list who refuse to realize just how important this issue is to us.

              • Posted December 22, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

                Wow, that’s about the most obnoxious piece of crap I’ve read on the subject thus far. I don’t even know where to start. The Rosa Parks comparison would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. How do you KNOW that “MILLIONS” of you (who the fuck are the “you”s in this anyway?) would break the law and insist on keeping banned firearms in your homes? Because the government is just waiting for the chance to disarm us so they can….what? Enslave us? With what army? The voluntary military made up of working, voting, tax paying civilians? What would happen economically if the government tried to (insert irrational fear here)? A call for bans on assault rifles and high capacity clips has you ready to go off the grid and settle down in your bunker? Unbelievable.

              • brujofeo
                Posted December 22, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

                No comment.

  25. Dave Ricks
    Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    October 11th, 1975 — NBC aired its first episode of “NBC’s Saturday Night (Live)”. George Carlin hosted, and gave a rant against religion. The show included a short film asking America to Show Us Your Guns.

    I’m just saying, that was 37 years ago.

  26. Jim Bradley
    Posted December 22, 2012 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    According to research by Gary Kleck, guns are used to defend against crime 2,000,000 times per year. Hence the incredible desire to purchase firearms before they are restricted that we see today.

    http://www.guncite.com/gcdgklec.html

    and

    http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcdguse.html

    In addition, I refer interested readers to the following clip in which Madeline Albright says that the deaths of 500,000 children in the sanctions on Iraq (violently enforced by government guns) is “worth it”. For child-killers, there is no modern parallel except perhaps the communists.

    I’m not sure we’ll have anything left of the other amendments without the 2nd, especially with the recent disrespect of basic human rights (rendition, “enemy combatants”, etc)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29,567 other followers

%d bloggers like this: