“Be safe out there”

When I walked to work at 5:30, I ran into the early-morning janitor of my building, a black guy, and he wanted to talk to me (normally he’s pretty laconic). He told me, “Be safe out there,” and it took me a minute to figure out what he wanted to say. It turned out that he was in despair at what’s happening all over the U.S.: black males killed by cops, often without provocation, and now, last night, five police officers killed and six wounded in Dallas—in protests against the apparent murders of restrained suspects (or any black suspects) by police. (Note: it’s not yet clear if those who killed the cops were on the side of the protestors.)

The janitor’s solution was to get rid of guns. “Why do we need all those guns?”, he said, almost in tears. I agreed. That will go a long way to eliminating this kind of violence. If police aren’t living under a hair-trigger mentality, in which they think a suspect can shoot them at any time—and this fear isn’t unjustified—they’ll continue to act precipitously. Too precipitiously, for they can’t just gun down someone who’s reaching for his identification, especially if they ask him to. Yes, we should ban private ownership of any guns, and that will help some.

But it won’t stop the madness completely, for it’s clear that there’s still an animus towards black people—a bigotry—on the part of cops. How else do you explain why cops kill a man restrained on the ground, like Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge? Why have Chicago police repeatedly shot unarmed men, and even tried to cover up the videos showing the deed?

What won’t solve the problem are riots and mass shootings of police, like those in Dallas last night. Nor will it do to demonize every police officer in America, for we know that not all of them are trigger-happy racists. We need to get rid of bigotry, get rid of guns, and make the police wear bodycams, with the stipulation that they’ll face serious charges if they themselves break the law. Investigations and reports of police departments, like that happening now in Chicago, may dampen the cycle of police violence.

But don’t recite the Second Amendment to me, for that’s about guns for militias, not private citizens. And don’t claim, in response to effective gun bans in other civilized nations, that “This is America!”  How are we different (besides the proliferation of guns) from Scotland or Australia, where gun bans were successful and reduced the murder rate?

Getting rid of bigotry is harder, in principle, than getting rid of guns. We need to do both, but only people like the janitor and I seem to worry much about the latter. And when we get guns out of the hands of the public, then we can proceed to disarm the cops. (Calls for disarming the police unilaterally, as some have demanded, is madness.)

But I have no confidence that this madness will stop in my lifetime. For the time being, it’s a lot easier to be safe out there if you’re white than if you’re black.

144 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Have to agree with everything you said in this post. The janitor is also correct.

    The press conference a short time ago in Dallas pretty well shows that at least one of the attackers/murderers was an angry person, mad at cops shooting blacks, mad at white people and mad at white cops. This is what he said before he was finally killed. Just more of the same sick and insane stuff going on in gun happy America. One thing is for sure…this does not go well with Trump or the NRA and their favorite saying, just get more good guys with guns.

  2. Mike Hagan
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    It seems like the prevalence of guns serves only to aggravate, the Hobbesian trap that the African American community and the police find themselves in

  3. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    (Note: it’s not yet clear if those who killed the cops were on the side of the protestors.)

    It is abundantly clear that they are not. Your first error is probably in assuming that there are two and only two “sides.”

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Where did I say there were only two sides? What I meant is that it’s not clear whether the shooters were sympathetic to the protestors.

      I presume you’ve detected other errors (since you say ‘your first error’) that you didn’t mention.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      The only abundantly clear result from your statement is that you are wrong to be guessing sides.

      Sometimes the big difference between peaceful protesters who follow the law and armed idiots who do otherwise is hard to detect. That is how we have several dead and wounded police in Dallas.

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        From initial reports, it seems that there has been only one armed idiot. How sad that just one person can cause so much harm.

  4. Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    For those who yearn for a “simpler time” when segregation was endemic, now you can experience “making America great again” on livestream.

  5. Cindy
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Identity politics only widens these divisions.

  6. Benjamin Eastman
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Getting rid of all guns is a good way to sort racist cops from those merely anticipating being harmed and shooting first. However, the post is incorrect when stating that the 2nd Amendment was only about “militias”. The 2nd Amendment clearly states that guns are a right of The People, not just of the States. The “militia” clause really doesn’t create any limit on the second clause.

    On Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 9:16 AM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “When I walked to work at 5:30, I ran into the > early-morning janitor of my building, a black guy, and he wanted to talk to > me (normally he’s pretty laconic). He told me, “Be safe out there,” and it > took me a minute to figure out what he wanted to say. It t” >

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry, but here’s the Second Amendment:

      “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

      The militia is the RATIONALE for having a “right to keep and bear arms.” We don’t need a “well regulated militia” any more, as we have the armed forces and the police.

      And I’m not the only one who thinks this: see here.
      But I really don’t want to have a debate again over the interpretation of this amendment. You have your view; I have mind.

      .

      • Kevin
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
        The two parts of the phrase do not logically connect: a well regulated militia does not mean the unregulated right of all of the people to bear arms. Does the need for a militia mean you have to allow lunatics access to guns so that there are also periodic public atrocities.
        A regulated militia means regulation of weapons.
        If the Constitution does not seem to be functioning, it needs to be changed: that’s what an Amendment means. The fact that the Second Amendment exists admits that the rules can be changed.

        • Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

          At the time the Constitution was written, “well regulated” meant “well functioning.”

          Also at that time the Constitution was written, the militia consisted of volunteers with their own muzzle-loaded muskets. That is why the right was given to the people. Personally, I am okay with people owning muskets.

          • Filippo
            Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

            ‘At the time the Constitution was written, “well regulated” meant “well functioning.”’

            That seems reasonably reasonable.

            Well-functioning seems to significantly imply well-trained by – and reasonably and appropriately under the supervision and control of who or what – the federal gov’t/military?

            “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

            Too bad it doesn’t say “to keep and bear muzzle-loaded muskets.”

            I wonder if it’s OK with the NRA for a private citizen to have his own bazooka or 155 mm howitzer? Do they draw the line somewhere? Their advocacy goes significantly beyond merely rifles. For the sake of accuracy they ought to change their name to the National Weapon Association.

            The NRA’s refusal to allow the federal gov’t to conduct research on gun deaths as a public health issue is astounding.

            • Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

              If only the framers would have written what they meant, which was “Congress shall not pass any law which disarms the state militias.”

              • Filippo
                Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

                ‘If only the framers would have written what they meant, which was “Congress shall not pass any law which disarms the state militias.”’

                Should the following line be added: “Militia members’ choice and number of weapons shall not be limited”?

              • rickflick
                Posted July 8, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

                And they should have added, “…until we’ve had time to create a real military organization and police force, at which time the muskets will be all collected and burned to celebrate the arrival of true civilized society.”

            • Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

              I used to know someone online who insisted that the 2nd Amendment gave all Americans the right to be armed in any way whatsoever. I asked him about nuclear weapons. “Yes.”

        • Adam M.
          Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          The two parts… do not logically connect… A regulated militia means regulation of weapons.

          “Regulated” in this context means “drilled” or “trained”, not “subject to restrictions”, so a rephrasing in modern English might be: “Since a well-trained militia is vital to the security of a free country, the people have the right to keep and bear arms and this right shall not be infringed.”

          So the two parts do logically connect. If a well-trained militia is necessary, then the right to have the weapons needed for training is also necessary.

          Now, I would agree that militias are no longer “necessary”, but the militia clause is effectively a preamble; the second clause of the amendment is the legally operative one.

          I would also agree that a more structured keeping of arms, for instance in an armory attached to a training ground rather than in people’s pockets, would be in line with the amendment as long as the armory was under the control of the citizenry as opposed to the government.

          • Andy
            Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

            ‘“Regulated” in this context means “drilled” or “trained”’ – I don’t believe that!
            Have you got any evidence?
            If you look at, say, the unratified amendments, it’s pretty clear that “regulated” meant rules and regulations, just like it does today.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          It’s pretty clear that the 2nd amendment is out to date. The language and confusion over it’s interpretation tell us that it’s time to amend the amendment – which is not something which was unanticipated by the founders.

          • Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            At the time the Amendment was written, the notion of telling the people whether they could own muskets was not even in the framers’ minds, what with wild animals, Indian raids, and the ever-present fear of slave uprisings. It was taken for granted they could. They just didn’t want Congress to have the power to disarm the states.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted July 8, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

              With more depth of knowledge about the people and time we are discussing, the reality goes something like this. The anti-federalist were concerned primarily about this new federal government wanting to create a standing army. This was high on the fear list for them. James Madison was mostly attempting to appease the anti-federalist so the congress could get on with more important work. Combining the Militia and guns issue into this sentence was a way of confirming the continued use and believe in Militia and easing this dreaded fear of a standing army.

              I am not making this up. Several historians talk about this fear of a standing army that many of them had. Four or five different states had come to Madison with this issue. Some of the states had this matter in their own state constitutions but one who did not was Virginia. The right to have and carry guns was not an issue to them.

          • mordacious1
            Posted July 8, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            Good luck with that. It is difficult to modify the Constitution, but not impossible. The Bill of Rights (the 1st 10), on the other hand, is much more difficult to change or dismiss as people here want to do. The Bill of Rights has never been amended. If you delete one, which right will be the next to go? Freedom of the press perhaps? Freedom of speech? This would be a dangerous precedent.

            • Filippo
              Posted July 8, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

              “The Bill of Rights (the 1st 10), on the other hand, is much more difficult to change or dismiss as people here want to do.”

              I speculate that most people here think that the 13th, 14th 15th amendments, at the very least, should have been included from the get-go in the Bill of Rights.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

                Please think about what you are saying. The 13th, 14th, and 15th? That makes no sense. In order to have a constitution they had to put slavery in it. So how would you take it out at the same time?

                Why the bill of rights would be much more difficult to change. It would not. How about that one about quartering British troops? We still need that?

              • Filippo
                Posted July 9, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

                “Please think about what you are saying. The 13th, 14th, and 15th? That makes no sense. In order to have a constitution they had to put slavery in it. So how would you take it out at the same time?”

                OK, I have though about it, again.

                Yep, in order to make a constitution a reality, those constitutional convention delegates against slavery had to acquiesce to the monumentally easily-offended Southern Masters of Mankind, who would not allow such sentiments to be added, whether in the body of the constitution or as amendments, however numbered. I don’t see how that possibly negates anyones opinion that those sentiments SHOULD have been part of the constitution. We Amuricuns weren’t as “exceptional” as we could have been.

              • mordacious1
                Posted July 9, 2016 at 1:18 am | Permalink

                There is no amendment about the quartering of British troops, there is one about the quartering of soldiers…and yes, that’s probably going to remain, unless you want some grunts being lodged in with your daughters. When the budget gets tight, it would be a good way to save money.

                But in all seriousness, the 3rd Amendment might be getting a revival in these times of terrorism. It’s the only part of the Constitution that deals with the relationship between civilians and the military. The amendment suggests some domestic privacy rights. It might also be argued that it gives rights in certain eminent domain cases, the militarization of the police and the subsequent relationship with the populace.

            • Kevin
              Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

              Secularists need to set a precedent for religion. We can always change the constitution for better through amendments…it’s what science does. Religion can do the same until not an iota of faith is required…only reason.

          • Vaal
            Posted July 8, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

            It’s an odd, somewhat dispiriting phenomenon to watch, from across the border, Americans argue about the constitution. It’s like the USA is stuck with it’s own holy-writ that can not really be changed in any fundamental way, only argued about what the authors meant. Just as God will never show up to clear up disagreements, the founding fathers are lost to history and can’t do that either, so it seems the arguments will go on in perpetuity.

            • mordacious1
              Posted July 8, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

              Not true. The Constitution gets changed often enough, there are 27 amendments, after all. The Bill of Rights is different than the entirety of the Constitution though. The founders were historians and noticed certain trends of tyrannical governments throughout the ages. They also felt that all governments could succumb to limiting the rights of the citizenry, even representative ones (John Adams’ tyranny of the majority). In order to avoid this, they felt it necessary to list certain rights that were important for freedom loving people to maintain, not just in their time. They didn’t make it impossible to change these rights though, just difficult.

              This list of rights has a special place in our democracy. To change one, weakens the stability of the rest. Changing any of these rights should not be done in haste. Most people here would probably like to see the 2nd Amendment disposed of, I’m not one of them. The right of self defense was not just a legal right to the founders, but an inalienable right. There is a reason the 1st Amendment is first and the 2nd is second, they were that important.

              Besides, currently the majority of Americans support the right for citizens to possess firearms. We certainly wouldn’t want the tyranny of the minority to rule. Removing rights is a serious matter, not to be taken lightly. If the citizens of the UK wish to give up those rights, that’s their choice. But we Americans tossed you lot 240 years ago, specifically because of your inability to afford these rights to your citizens. Just think, if you hadn’t of trampled on our rights, we might still be British and you’d still be a significant factor in the world.

              • Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

                The Constitution is very hard to amend, given the two supermajorities required. Near impossible, today. Of the 27 amendments 10 were part of the ratification process, and three were pushed through during Reconstruction. That leaves 14 over 227 years by the amendment process (including 18 and 21 which cancel out), so the Constitution has been changed by the process about once every 17 years, or once a generation on average. The result is the process being replaced by majority decisions by nine unelected lawyers.

              • Filippo
                Posted July 9, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

                “The result is the process being replaced by majority decisions by nine unelected lawyers.”

                The nine unelected lawyers are each essentially elected by some majority of officials who, until the second decade of the twentieth century, were each elected by a state legislature, as opposed to “The Populists – er, uh People.”

                Ah’ve heerd tell of certain conservatives who want to go back to the previous method of electing senators.

              • rickflick
                Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

                Well, it should be hard, but not that hard.

              • Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

                I’ll say. As few as 13 states can block a proposed amendment. That could be as few as 13 million people, or 4% of the population.

              • Richard
                Posted July 9, 2016 at 3:22 am | Permalink

                Then how come our insignificant decision to leave the EU has shaken the world?

              • Filippo
                Posted July 9, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

                “Then how come our insignificant decision to leave the EU has shaken the world?”

                Yep. If the U.S. thinks it’s so great to be in the E.U., the U.S. should join, and submit to the scions in Brussels. Or would the E.U. headquarters shift to DC or NYC?

              • Fiippo
                Posted July 9, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

                “Just think, if you hadn’t of trampled on our rights, we might still be British and you’d still be a significant factor in the world.”

                That’s true enough as far as it goes.

                Of course, after we “got shed” of the British, we – refulgently self-possessed of “American Exceptionalism” as we were and currently no less continue to be – pressed on with, e.g., making life miserable for and trampling the rights of Native Americans and African slaves (and of course women, but then that was a world-wide problem).

              • mordacious1
                Posted July 9, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

                @Richard The financial markets are so skittish, that if Obama coughs they drop 50 points. That being said, all US indices were at or close to, their all time highs on Friday. You were a speed bump on the economic highway, nothing more. Thump thump.

            • Kiwi Dave
              Posted July 8, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

              Nearly 100 years ago alcohol was prohibited by constitutional amendment and later restored by constitutional amendment.

              Presumably, if gun-banners had the numbers, they could change the second amendment and see if that works better than prohibition.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

                It is simply not necessary to change the second amendment. Just have the thing interpreted the way it was intended.

      • Posted July 17, 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

        The Second Amendment was to provide an armed populous as the means of regulating the military, (militia), as is demonstrated by this quote from one of the founders, Tenche Coxe;

        “Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      I am not a lawyer, so my opinion is worth even less than what you’ve paid for it. But here’s the take from someone who’s interpretation should be taken more seriously, former Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens.

      The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment

      Here’s just one excerpt, but I’d encourage you to read the whole thing:

      For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.”

      You may disagree over the interpretation, but don’t pretend that it’s so obviously an individual right when 200 years worth of Supreme Court justices interpreted it very differently, and the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision that overturned that interpretation was by a vote of 5 to 4 – hardly an overwhelming majority that should be expected if the interpretation was so obvious.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        Good comment, thank you.

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        And while they add those five words, will they please fix those goddam commas.

      • phil
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        Completely irrelevant, but is “my opinion is worth even less than what you’ve paid for it” even logically possible.

        Furthermore, I disagree with your assessment of its value.

      • phil
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

        “Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.””

        I am not convinced that is true. Shotguns have, and have had throughout the last century, a variety of military uses (Search Wikipedia for “trench guns”), and some have no butts. While I am unaware of any that have shortened barrels I can think of reasons why that might be useful too, much like the carbine.

        Having said that, I can’t see that there is a reason for ordinary citizenry to own or carry military weapons. Even a well organised militia can keep their weapons secured at a base, they don’t have to be distributed throughout the community.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

        I’m with Jeff on this and his comments. All I can say about those who seem to object, please read a bit of history.

        A well organized militia could keep their weapons at a base? Not many of those bases around during colonial days actually.

  7. BobTerrace
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    “An eye for an eye only leads to the whole world going blind”
    – Mahatma Ghandi

  8. Petrushka
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I am somewhat in despair of the why don’t we get rid of question.

    Why don’t we get rid of illicit drugs? Why don’t we get rid of drunk driving? Why don’t we get rid of addictive junk food? Why don’t we get rid of unprotected sex?

    Any actual ideas, other than a round of Ain’t It Awful?

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      That’s a bit disingenuous. We get rid of guns the way that the UK got rid of guns: banning private ownership. Rather than asking me to do your work for you, why don’t you look up what they did in Australia or Scotland a while back?

      Please do not claim that I am just moaning about “Ain’t it Awful?” for that’s bogus. There are practical ways to remove weapons from the hands of private individuals, and plenty of information about how it was done. Of course, it won’t be easy in the U.S., what with Republicans the the NRA, but we can at least TRY. And when the public as a whole is behind that practice, we can make the laws.

      • mcirvin14
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Unfortunately the political order in the US will not allow the banning of civilian ownership of firearms. In fact, I am opposed to even trying to enact any outright ban. Inside ‘gun-world’ even faintest rumor of new gun control legislation will immediately drive gun sales UP! This is evident in sales statistics following every mass-shooting event.

        The only thing that is both feasible and will actually help is an incremental approach focusing on two things; universality, and crime prevention.

        Universality, because here in Chicago handguns were banned for 20 years but could be bought by the bushel next door in Indiana (where you are not (IIRC) required to report a gun stolen) often without a background check. And crime prevention because it offers very little which even the most strident gun evangelist can argue with – who’s in favor of crime???

        So try, try, try, to enact universal background checks first. If that ever gets enacted, move on to something more restrictive – particularly after you can point to evidence that universal checks made a difference!

        • Posted July 17, 2016 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

          So, what would a universal background check do to stop sales which are already illegal? You cannot legally buy a gun outside your state of residence in a private sale, and can’t legally buy a handgun over the counter from an FFL outside your state of residence. If you buy a rifle or shotgun from an FFL dealer, the sale has to be legal in both the state where the sale occurs and the buyers state of residence.

    • Adam M.
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      I agree in general with your concerns about prohibition, but there’s a difference between guns and all the other things you listed: drugs (including alcohol), sex, and addictive junk food are all addictive, causing strong urges that are unlikely to be eliminated by fiat.

      But I don’t think guns are addictive in the same way, except perhaps for a very small proportion of gun owners.

      That said, guns are so useful for crime that I’m sure there would be a thriving black market.

      • Jeremy Tarone
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Neither sex nor junk food is addictive. Only some drugs are addictive, some, like Marijuana are not. Anything that gives a person pleasure or even psychological comfort can create a dependence, even guns or playing the lottery.

      • Xray
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Except I maintain that Wayne LaPierre (head of the NRA) is a man who’s never looked at a gun without getting an erection. Is that an addiction?

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Evidence? There’s pretty convincing evidence that prohibition of alcohol and other drugs doesn’t help and actively harms society. Same for abstinence-only sex education. Yet for guns, the evidence suggests banning them is helpful.

      • phil
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        I am inclined to agree, although I don’t think that all firearms should be just outright banned. What is really required is that they are controlled. Alcohol is not banned outright, but access and consumption is controlled. In fact private ownership of all firearms is not banned in Australia (some are banned) but owners need to have a licence and firearms have to be securely stored.

    • Kevin
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

      Time. Maybe it will take about 150years, but most guns will not be worth owning. Just like religion…no one will know what all the fuss was about. Good days lie ahead.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Most respected Historians I have read believe the 2nd Amendment was about the militia. That is obvious from everything I know about that time in our history. The fact that a couple of old men on the Supreme Court did not understand these simple facts was a tragedy.

    And even if you want do think otherwise, why would you hold fast on anything that was done 250 years ago and not think otherwise. It’s very close to the thinking of a creationist. Like one who built a wooden boat in the middle of Kentucky.

    • Posted July 17, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      Why should we hold fast to freedom of speech? Why should we hold fast to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure?
      Why should we hold fast to due process?
      ETC

      Lets throw away what was done 250 years ago, and of course all amendments to that document would be null and void, allowing slavery, dictatorship, police torture, censorship, etc.

  10. Dave
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    “How are we different (besides the proliferation of guns) from Scotland or Australia, where gun bans were successful and reduced the murder rate?”

    I think the proliferation you mention is the primary reason why it won’t happen in the USA. It’s quite easy to ban guns when hardly anyone in the country owns one, or even wants to own one. This was the case in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Gun ownership is a totally alien concept to the vast majority of us over here. It just isn’t part of our culture or everyday experience. Even before the Dunblane massacre there was a widespread perception of gun owners as creepy misfits or borderline psychos. In banning handguns in the wake of Dunblane, the UK government was pushing at an open door.

    In contrast, the USA is awash with guns, and they seem to be embedded in the American psyche to a much greater extent than in any European country. Many millions of Americans feel a deep emotional attachment to the right to bear arms, and a determination to exercise that right, no matter what the social consequences. In that situation, I can’t imagine how you could move society anywhere close to the UK model.I don’t know as much about Australia, but I would guess that urban Aussies at least are much closer to the UK mindset than to the USA on this issue.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Doing things you cannot imagine is what life is all about. Being like the U.K. or Australia is simply a place to compare with, not to be exactly like. Do we not learn from the example of others? If we do not then….oh well, carry on.

      • Dave
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Well of course I think the USA would be a safer and better place if it was more like the UK or Australia in its attitude to guns. But how do you get there? In practical terms, how do you go about weakening or breaking the deep-rooted cultural attachment to gun ownership? No matter how many “routine” murders, homicides-by-cop or mass shootings there are, nothing seems to shift the dial. For a huge number of Americans, these things are just the price that has to be paid for the freedom (to bear arms)they value.

        • Stuart A Milc
          Posted July 8, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          This is basically it – we get the society that we want. I know Jerry’s ideal is a country without private gun ownership but that’s not what the vast majority of Americans want.

          • rickflick
            Posted July 8, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

            This is also basically it – we don’t yet have the society we want, so we have to persuade others to desire what we would like to see. It’s known as progress.

            • phil
              Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

              From what I have read I get the impression a majority of US citizens are appalled by the gun violence and would like to do something effective to fix it. The problem seems to be that Congressional will has been captured by the gun lobby. Maybe compulsory voting would act as a suitable laxative.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      The stats that I’ve seen show that the number of gun owners is going down, although they tend to own more guns. At some point, perhaps the numbers will overshadow the passion of the few.

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      + 1. Once there are many guns around, reliance on them perpetuates a vicious cycle.

      After the three young Muslims were murdered in Chapel Hill, I read a comment, “I am a Muslim and I will buy a gun, because I do not want to be finished by some pig-looking monster.”

      Well, we all know that a gun would give this commenter just a false sense of security, and would be much more likely to cause a tragic accident than to be successfully used in self-defense. Nevertheless, I couldn’t tell him, “You shouldn’t do this”.

  11. JohnE
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Although I have absolutely no doubt about the pervasiveness of racism in America, I find myself wrestling with the actual statistics regarding police shootings. While African Americans are more than twice as likely to be arrested as white Americans (7.3% arrest rate versus a 3.14% arrest rate based on 2014 FBI figures), only (only?!) 12 unarmed African Americans have been killed by police this year, while 18 unarmed white Americans have been killed (See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2016/). Maybe it’s not just a African American problem.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      The methodology that the Post uses to gather stats probably isn’t very reliable. For instance, they use news reports, but maybe the killing of whites by police is bigger news than the killing of blacks?

      • JohnE
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        The methodology isn’t based on news reports and, if anything, I would guess that the killings of Blacks has been far more newsworthy in the last year or two than the killing of Whites.

        I think that all of us “liberals” (and I consider myself one), are keenly aware of the problem of racism, and we somehow know in out “guts” that this must necessarily lead to the disproportionate killing of Blacks by police, consistent with the fact that the arrest rate for Blacks is twice as high (a fact which is consistent with a presumption of discrimination). What I’m looking for is the data to validate my gut.

        • Scott Draper
          Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          From their website:

          by culling local news reports, law enforcement websites and social media, and by monitoring independent databases such as Killed by Police and Fatal Encounters.

          • JohnE
            Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            Right — I meant that it’s not based solely or even primarily on news reports.

            • Scott Draper
              Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

              These are all unreliable sources of data, which is my point.

              • JohnE
                Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

                I don’t disagree with your point, but I don’t agree that there’s any reason to believe that the aggregation of all of those sources would dramatically skew the data in favor of suppressing the number of unarmed Blacks killed by police, such that this may be the best data we have. And, to my original point, if we don’t have any good data then we’re at the mercy of our gut.

            • Scott Draper
              Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

              ” we don’t have any good data then we’re at the mercy of our gut.”

              The rational position is to withhold judgement when there’s no good data.

              • JohnE
                Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

                Yes, withhold judgment or rely on the best data you have if withholding judgment isn’t really an option.

    • Jhat
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      I think you can find the answer in your post. For arrests you used rates but for killings you used absolute numbers.

      See this FBI data in the link below. It may not just be a black problem as you say, but the numbers in the link suggest something is going on which may have a racial element.

      http://www.vox.com/2015/4/10/8382457/police-shootings-racism

      • Scott Draper
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        I don’t think comparing the rate against the population percentage is meaningful. It may be that the black population engages in more of the behavior that attracts the attention of the police.

        Again, I question the accuracy of the data that tracks police killings; it has the potential to have a profound bias if it relies on voluntary reports.

        • Jeremy Tarone
          Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          You assume facts for the benefit of your position but ignore them when they disagree. The figures are for unarmed people. Police shouldn’t be shooting unarmed people. If they were simply accidents, they would be spread through the population at random. But you state perhaps it’s because blacks attract the attention of police, while ignoring the possibility of racism and police giving more attention to blacks. If you were being fair you would accept other possible reasons, especially those that have been well documented.

          Racism has been shown to be a factor in the US justice system, from police to courts. Similar situations with first time offenders show black men are far more likely to get prison time for minor offences than whites. Blacks are far more likely to get longer sentences.

          We have obvious sentiments of outrageous racism from police officers all over the country, former and employed: (“I can’t believe I live in a country with a bunch of n****r lovers”).
          http://www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/article_645259aa-0438-59ad-a435-2d22fa0e6431.html

          Arrests for marijuana show the problem of systemic racism.
          http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/12/11/no-justice-is-not-colorblind

          There has been information in the press (and Justice Department reports) showing police have targeted black areas in revenue generating schemes in various cities.
          https://news.vice.com/article/driving-while-black-cops-target-minority-drivers-mostly-white-new-jersey-town
          http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/04/politics/ferguson-justice-report-shocking/

          This means police are focusing attention on the black community, rather than blacks attracting attention of police.

          You can’t have an honest conversation about the numbers if you don’t look at the percentages and the problem of systemic racism in the US justice system.

    • Adam M.
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      You’re right that the statistics are often misrepresented. The left-wing narrative is that this is something that only happens to blacks. (Just yesterday, there was a TYT video titled “White people with guns NOT killed by cops”.) But according to The Counted, a Guardian project to track killings by US police, twice as many whites are killed by police as blacks. So it’s clear that the “it almost never happens to whites” narrative is false.

      That said, per capita twice as many blacks are killed as whites. Some people say it’s due to bigotry and racism. Some people say it’s simply because blacks commit violent crime at a much higher rate and have more than twice as many interactions with police, and interactions of a more dangerous type, e.g. felony arrest. What I’ve heard from police and a police reporter is that they don’t go into the job prejudiced, but quickly become prejudiced based on the violence they see on the streets. It may be some combination.

    • Jeremy Tarone
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      You are missing one big factor, blacks account for only about 10 percent of the population.
      On that basis the number of blacks being shot is very high.
      Based on averages if it was the result of accidents or just poor policing it should be only 1/10 of whites, or about 2. Instead it’s 12.

      Unarmed black people are being shot six times the rate of unarmed white people.

    • phil
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      I would have thought that since black Americans are being killed by police at a rate that well exceeds their proportion of the population that there is indeed an “African American problem” and a pretty serious one.

      To be honest a similar problem exists within Australia, in that indigenous Australians are gaoled at a much higher rate than white Australians. This is no help to indigenous Australians more broadly, and I think we will only see an improvement when all sections of indigenous society have comparable levels of health, wealth and opportunity to that of white Australian society.

      And the same applies to the lowest socio-economic levels of white society too. Poverty seems to be a common factor.

      • Filippo
        Posted July 9, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        “Poverty seems to be a common factor.”

        If poverty is the first of several dominoes in a row, what do you see as the other dominoes?

  12. jay
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    “For the time being, it’s a lot easier to be safe out there if you’re white than if you’re black.”

    That depends on what neighborhood you’re in.

    BTW even regarding police shootings, more whites are killed by police than blacks.

    • JohnE
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Yes, but keep in mind that there are 5-1/2 times as many Whites as Blacks in the U.S.

  13. Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I think that there is a big problem built right into policing: those who are drawn to it as a profession often seem to be the kind of personalities that like to dominate others. This is a bad starting point. I have no idea what the solution might be.

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      All I can say is that I wish as many people as possible would be willing and able to have a look at Michael Moore’s documentary “Where to Invade Next”. In it, one can see first-hand how several other countries handle their miscreants more humanely and successfully. But even more importantly, it shows and explains some of the most fundamental practices of those countries that diminish societal dysfunction in general.

      • Filippo
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        I will put watching it on my To Do list. I’ll be watching for how they do things in Islamic countries, particularly Saudi Arabia.

  14. eric
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    We need to get rid of bigotry, get rid of guns, and make the police wear bodycams, with the stipulation that they’ll face serious charges if they themselves break the law.

    How about the stipulation that they’ll face serious charges even if thir camera ‘accidentally’ malfunctions and someone gets hurt while that happens? Because in the Alton James cass, the cop was wearing a body cam, but it ‘accidentally fell off’ at the beginning of the incident.

    • Adam M.
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I think that should be counted as evidence against them. I’m reminded of a story some years ago where a large group of cops from six cop cars beat up a woman. The department claimed that the dash cameras in all six cars had malfunctioned that day…

  15. Scott Draper
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    One lesson from this is that bad guys with guns can’t necessarily be taken out by good guys with guns. Whoever pulls his gun first, wins.

    As a side note, it’s interesting how many people have tweeted something to the effect “And so it begins…” One of these was Corey Robin, a poly-sci professor and author of “The Reactionary Mind”. I’m surprise that someone with his background would buy into the idea that there’s going to be some national revolt of black men who go around killing cops.

  16. alexandra moffat
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Yes, no guns, like Australia. But the crazies have guns that they would never give up without a fight. That would mean mayhem in the country, wouldn’t it? I wonder how many gun owners would answer yes to the question “would you give up your gun(s) if you KNEW that it would directly save a life”. Sane people would agree to that. In our society, the desire to own a gun, in many people, overrides everything else because we are the “I want, I must have, it’s my right”
    country. There would have to be such a massive cultural change – doesn’t seem possible. If (big if) we started today educating in the schools to the need for a mostly gun-less society, for militia guns only, it would take 2-3 generations to make a dent in it.
    As for the 2nd amendment – anybody seriously think we could reverse that?
    Solutions?

    • Posted July 17, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

      “would you give up your gun(s) if you KNEW that it would directly save a life”

      How many lives would it cost?

  17. Teresa Carson
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    As a mother of two interracial children, grandmother of three, and mother-in-law of a police officer, I am saddened, appalled and worried. I had the same response as the janitor in your building: get rid of the guns. Guns make it far too easy to make a fatal mistake. I wish the U.S. could do what Australia has done. I am so tired of hearing the same sad stories every day.

  18. Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Should we care if blacks get killed by cops? After all, blacks are slaves. They can’t vote. Which is a good thing since they are not allowed to read.

    Or, at least, all these things would be true about blacks if we simply chose to disregard case law. Disregard Supreme Court decisions.

    Which is exactly what you are doing, Jerry, when you say that the 2nd Amendment is “about guns for militias, not private citizens.” It is now very explicitly the opposite.

    And you would know that deep in your bones, if you did not choose to wilfully disregard the Supreme Court decisions. You are figuratively sticking your fingers in your ears and holding your breath. Because you are following your very strong compassionate emotions about gun control. You are choosing to “believe” something clearly irrational about the meaning of the 2nd Amendment.

    You are doing exactly what the faithful do when they choose belief in belief.

    Which wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that you are a high-profile liberal voice. Which makes you Karl Rove’s wet dream – yet another strong Liberal voice calling for the unConstitutional elimination of guns in America, based on disregard for the decisions of the Supreme Court on the 2nd Amendment.

    Do you really want to help elect more Republicans?

    • Scott Draper
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      “all these things would be true about blacks if we simply chose to disregard case law”

      13th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, actually.

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Yes, I think the Supreme Court decided wrongly, just as it has decided wrongly before, for example saying that segregation was okay.

      If I’m irrational, so is Garry Wills (read his NYRB piece); there is in fact a good scholarly case to be made that the Supreme court has disregarded the constitution. Is Garry Wills “overly emotional”?

      As far as your insults go in the last paragraph, calling me Karl Rove’s wet dream, you can apologize for that–or go away.

      You know, you could have made your arguments in a civil way without the insults. Apologize or go elsewhere, please.

    • Billy Bl.
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      In a speech that Colin Powell gave at the UN shortly before the last Iraq invasion, he said something to the effect that America had an obligation to spread its values around the world. That sent a chill down my spine. Don’t assume that your values are good. The “Supreme” Court isn’t the final judge.

      • Filippo
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        ” . . . an obligation to spread its values around the world….”

        I guess that’s what the U.S. was doing, e.g., in 1854 when Commodore Perry forced open Japan, and in the 1899-1901 Philippine so-called “Insurrection.”

        There is no end to bloviation about “American Values.” Is there located somewhere some official, sacrosanct, inviolable list of “American Values”? Or are those values whatever the U.S. Masters of Mankind at any given time say they are?

      • Scott Draper
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        “America had an obligation to spread its values around the world.”

        I agree with this, but I think it should be done by setting a good example, rather than military intervention.

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        “Don’t assume that your values are good.”

        Could you elaborate on this? Why would someone value an idea that he/she didn’t think was good? You could almost define “values” as ideas that the holder assumes to be good.

      • phil
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        I can understand your reservation, but please don’t forget that some American values are worth promoting (e.g. free speech, liberty, democracy). We all need to be judicious with the values we promote.

        The thing is that it isn’t that they are American values that makes them good, they are good independent of being American, which is why they are also esteemed and promoted by others.

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      If you’re going make a laughably overwrought and misinformed comment about guns, could you not sully the name of my favorite drummer in the process please?
      Thanks.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      So you think that your position is well supported by a single SC decision made in the 21st century that protects, from a federal point of view, the right of individuals to, very specifically, possess handguns in the home for purposes of self-defense, a decision that passed by merely 5/4, which has been hotly contested by constitutional and legal experts, which very clearly is contrary to 200 years of SC interpretations of the 2nd Amendment? You think that is somehow good support for your diatribe here? I think maybe it is you who is on shaky ground here. I’d also look in the mirror before accusing others of emotionally clouded reasoning.

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. What he said.

        Now change your name from gingerbaker to tommylee.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      “Or, at least, all these things would be true about blacks if we simply chose to disregard case law. Disregard Supreme Court decisions.”

      Just congenially curious – had you lived in the U.S. in 1858, what position would you have taken on the Dred Scott decision, and on the Fugitive Slave law?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 11, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      What’s so sacred about the Constitution? It’s got good bits and bad bits. Like, y’know, the Koran. Or the Bible.

      More to the point, it’s got bits that can be interpreted either benignly or malignly. And, like those sacred books, its wording has inevitably changed in meaning as society and language have evolved, though obviously the older the text the stronger the effect.

      I tend to view people who cling to (their interpretation of) the exact letter of their text as fundamentalists and a regressive influence. (Did I just imply a comparison between the NRA camp and Wahabbis? Oops…)

      There are potential arguments to be made on both sides of the issue but citing a 200-year-old document as holy writ suggests to me that one side doesn’t have many other shots left in its locker.

      cr

  19. allison
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Why can’t we just ban nearly all types of guns except simple ones like those that existed 240 years ago? You could still “bear arms” – muskets made in the 1700s. It seems to me that such an approach would not violate the Second Amendment, but I’m sure others have thought of this previously.

    • Art
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Gun nuttery in America is close to a religion. It’s hard to abolish such things.

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        Also, remember that Scalia’s “originalism”, like any textual fundamentalism, is just a cover for “means what I like”, so applying it consistently, nevermind rationally, is not really very likely.

      • Filippo
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        I contemplate the creation of a sacred site, on the order of a Mecca or Medina, where is located a Rodinesque bronzed mosaic of weapons, to, before and at which those so inclined may make a pilgrimage, genuflect, lie prostrate, meditate and contemplate.

        • Art
          Posted July 8, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          Don’t forget the Holy Gun Range!

  20. Damien McLeod
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Great article, I totally agree with you Dr. Coyne.

  21. Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    That’s the $64,000 question. It baffles me that it’s so rare for anyone to make any connection between the frequency with which the police in America use deadly force and a society that’s ankle-deep in guns.

  22. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I have unfortunately seen an attitude in some on the left that all police are bad. They are spreading the meme of “one bad apple”, but of course only use it with police, they ignore the fact that the meme can be used against any group, cops, blacks, whites, men, women, feminists.

    It seems they believe people shouldn’t be lumped together and judged except when it comes to police. I recently read an article of two white police officers who pulled a black men out of a burning car. They reached through the flames to get them out.
    Right after that video was one of a black officer doing the same thing.
    There are good police officers.

    Police killed in the line of duty 2015:
    USA: 42
    Canada: 2
    UK: 1 (average 2 a year, usually shot, stabbed or run over)

    Note that while the US is much higher, the USA has 10 times the population as Canada. It’s rate is 100 percent higher per capita. UK rate is 1/2 of Canada.
    But look at this:

    People killed by police:
    Canada: 22
    USA: 1186 (5.4 Canada’s rate per capita)
    UK: 69 (From 1900 to present) 1/100 US rate

    In the UK the police are killed on average 2 a year, shot, stabbed or run over. The death rate of police in the US who are killed by suspects is not that high on average, not compared to other countries.

    The number of people killed by police in the US is far outsized.

    • Richard
      Posted July 9, 2016 at 3:37 am | Permalink

      Could this difference possibly have anything to do with the police in the UK generally not carrying guns, so that it would be hard for them to kill someone even if they wanted to? Nah, that’s far too simple, someone would have thought of that by now! After all, guns don’t kill people, people kill people!

  23. Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    “How else do you explain why cops kill a man restrained on the ground, like Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge?”

    It can be explained by pointing out that the video shows a man (known to have a gun) with his left arm, chest, and legs restrained. His right arm, which we can’t see in the video, could very well have pulled out the gun, and have been in the process of turning it on the cops when one yelled “he’s got a gun”, and they open fired.
    Is that what happened? I have no idea, but I’m not making assumptions one way or another without knowing the facts.

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      You can’t say that in the two Chicago cases in which unarmed black men, either running from the cops or walking by them, were simply gunned down. And really, do you shoot the guy BEFORE he goes for his gun?

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        “You can’t say that in the two Chicago cases in which unarmed black men, either running from the cops or walking by them, were simply gunned down.”

        I wasn’t commenting on those cases.

        “And really, do you shoot the guy BEFORE he goes for his gun?”

        If you’re talking about Alton Sterling, how do you know he hadn’t gone for his gun? He may have had it in his hand when they shot. Or are you confusing the Sterling case with the Philando Castile case where his girlfriend was with him?

  24. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Hearing newscasts that speak of “tragedy” and “Dallas” immediately takes me back to November 22, 1963. It always will for my generation — the generation that can remember precisely where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news out of Dealey Plaza and Parkland Hospital and Love Airfield.

    Hard to believe it’s as easy today for a madman to get an assault rifle as it was for one to get a mail-order Mannlicher–Carcano carbine back then.

    • phil
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      By strange coincidence, according to one theory I have heard, JFK was actually killed accidentally by a Secret Service man (hence the need to cover it up) in the car behind, waving around an AR15.

      If the AR15 had not been there the president could well have come away seriously injured, but not shot in the head.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

        John F. Kennedy was murdered by a sad, little oddball named Lee Harvey Oswald. Acting alone. It would be more satisfying, and certainly more romantic, if there were more to it than that, but there’s not. It’s where all the credible evidence points. Once you look at JFK’s assassination closely and hold the various competing conspiracy theories up to scrutiny, none of them makes a lick of sense.

  25. Merilee
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  26. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    After the Dallas gunman took down a dozen armed and trained police officers, authorities employed a robot equipped with a Claymore mine to end the standoff. So much for the theory that the solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun — the “beautiful thing” of armed interlopers sending “bullets flying in the other direction” that Donald Trump trots out to exhort his slobbering crowds to ballistigasm.

    Will the NRA now argue that the Second Amendment guarantees to every citizen the right to robotic bombs for self-defense?

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      When I first heard this, my first reaction was, how the hell did the Dallas PD get their hands on a claymore? And what other weapons of war do they have? Do all PDs in the U.S. have claymores at their disposal and how many per? The whole thing is surreal.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        Urban police departments (and even some suburban and rural ones, too) have become increasingly militarized over the past two decades. That’s where a lot of the Patriot Act funding went in the wake of 9-11.

      • Richard
        Posted July 9, 2016 at 3:42 am | Permalink

        What’s next? RPGs? 50-cal machine guns? Auto-cannon? Abrams tanks?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 11, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          Flamethrowers? (Worked in WW2…)

          cr

  27. Sam Kitterman
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    There are many things that draw me back to this blog on a daily basis, including the breadth of topics covered and Professor Coyne’s often witty insights on them. The primary reason I return, however, is my desire for factually-backed opinion pieces. It was to my surprise and dismay, then, to read the above. Halfway thorough the article, Professor Coyne makes the claim “it’s clear that there’s still an animus towards black people—a bigotry—on the part of cops.” However, I am unable to discern how he arrived at such a conclusion without forgoing evidence. Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, sifted through the Washington Post database on police shootings and found some unexpected statistics. She points out, for instance, that blacks kill police at a rate 2.5 times higher than police kill blacks. She also found that, over the last decade, 40% of cop-killers have been black, and only around 4% of black homicide deaths are at the hands of police compared to 12% of white and hispanic homicide deaths. She also mentions that, via the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 62% of robbery charges, 57% of murder charges, and 45% of assault charges were given to blacks in 2009 in the U.S.’s 75 largest counties. (These are just some of her many startling conclusions based on the WaPo data— all of this information and more can be found in her article here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-myths-of-black-lives-matter-1455235686).
    In a speech at Hillsdale College, Mac Donald also pointed out that, according to the Post data, 50% of police shooting victims in 2015 were white, while only 26% were black (and that the majority of those who were shot by police—white and black—were armed). That speech can be found here: https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Imprimis_April16.pdf

    My main allegiance is not to an ideology but to truth, and I would love to know how Professor Coyne reached the conclusion that there is indeed still “an animus towards black people—a bigotry—on the part of cops.”

    • Posted July 8, 2016 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps I misspoke a bit, so let me correct myself. What I meant was that there are SOME policemen who are bigots, who are racist, and since they’re cops, that bigotry can play out in the use of their power, which includes using guns. I would ask you this: are NO cops bigots? Are there NONE who stop or harass people because they’re black? If you think there are no racist cops at all, and that that racism has bad consequences, then you’d have to defend that, and it won’t be reflected in statistics like the kind you mention above.

      And so long as there’s racism among people with power, then we need to stop it–it’s more injurious than racism among powerless people.

      • Sam Kitterman
        Posted July 8, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Certainly so. Undoubtedly there are policemen who use their uniform as asylum from the law and turn their ire on innocent, or at least undeserving given their crime, citizens. Undoubtedly, too, some of those wicked officers are spurred by personal animus to a certain, or certain races. It seems to me, however, statistically invalid to proclaim police brutality solely a black, or minority, issue given the equivalent, if not higher, prevalence amongst whites. Do claims about the targeting of blacks over any other group by police not disintegrate in the face of such statistics, rendering claims about racism amongst cops rather vapid, since the issue seems to transcend skin color?

        Thanks for addressing my initial questions!

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 11, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          Seems to me there are always *some* people in authority who are thugs, racist or otherwise. That includes (some) cops obviously, and also, for just one example, the cripple-bashing TSA agents PCC highlighted recently.

          What the authorities can and should do is try to weed out such individuals and never allow or facilitate cover-ups when incidents happen. All too often there’s a circle-the-wagons attitude which leads to otherwise uninvolved officers – who would not have done it themselves – being drawn into the affair or blamed by association.

          cr

  28. Posted July 8, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    A huge part of the problem which gets too little coverage is that police in the US are poorly trained. You can see in the cell phone footage taken by Castile’s friend that she is talking calmly, while the cop is almost hysterical and hyperventilating. Straight up lack of professional skills.

    IN Germany, where police do several years of training, there have been about 500 people killed by police over the last 50 years. Compare that to the US, where (I understand) it’s several months or even less in some states.

  29. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve spent the whole day just feeling awful about everything that has taken place over the last day or so in the US. It’s given me some serious Weltschmerz.

  30. rickflick
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    You need a cute cat…and fast:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kexjYVJt_cY

    • rickflick
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      That was supposed to be a reply to Diana Weltschmerz.

  31. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    “If police aren’t living under a hair-trigger mentality, in which they think a suspect can shoot them at any time—and this fear isn’t unjustified—they’ll continue to act precipitously.”

    that’s an excellent point – something that occured to me also.

    look, I have to cram this in here, sorry:

    I was listening to NPR and they had the standard segments on vigils and then the religion showcase : this imam, that priest, this other rabbi – highlighted speeches said things like:

    is this what has to happen for us to love eachother?

    this is not the country I want.

    look at all of you around – the diversity.

    … those are purely secular ideas. why then is *religion* being promoted? why then is *faith* being promoted? why isn’t it enough that any one person can say the same things?

    more to the point – and really frank – religion clings to these events, and I think its because it needs them to survive. Religion has always found ways to keep itself going…. I’ll stop now, thanks that’s off my chest – and out of PCC(E)’s tiny inbox.

  32. bluemaas
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    The character of Mr Toby Ziegler as portrayed on The West Wing by Mr Richard Schiff some time ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFIYLimyRHU

    “When you combine the populations of … …,”

    Blue

  33. phil
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    I live in Oz and I feel there are a few relevant points to make.

    First, ownership of all firearms is not outlawed in Oz, but firearms are controlled and some (such as assault rifles) are banned.

    Second, in NSW (where I live) at least, police are armed, all the time AFAIK. I used to sometimes wonder why police tend to walk with that certain swagger, with their arms out (like a recent US president). It’s so their they don’t whack their knuckles on all the equipment on their belts (sidearm, cuffs, flashlight, Taser, radio, tissue box, etc.) (ok, maybe not the tissue box). They do occasionally shoot people, sometimes quite dead. (Frequently the victims are mentally ill people.) Some police squads have assault rifles.

    Third, we still have “gun nuts” and people who promote the free ownership of firearms.

    Personally I think the risks of uncontrolled gun ownership far outweigh any advantages, and as it stands people who have a reasonable need for a firearm (e.g. farmers, sporting shooters) can own them, but they must be responsibly controlled and the owners must be licenced. I don’t think that an outright blanket ban of guns is desirable or necessary.

  34. Leigh Jackson
    Posted July 9, 2016 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    My only comment on this post is to applaud it.

  35. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted July 9, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Australia is completely different to the US.
    Not having semi=auto rifles and shotguns may have helped a bit but the fact is that there are not many handguns here.
    It has always been very hard to get a handgun, nearly always for club use and now it is virtually impossible to have one.

    Crucially, Australia has never allowed for guns to be used for personal protection.
    There is no way anyone can get a handgun for personal protection of any kind.

    Yet in the US banning handgun ownership is not on the radar.
    And handguns are semi auto with hefty magazine capacity.


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