Shorter Eugene Volokh

by Henry on December 15, 2012

Train kindergarten teachers as shooters. Tool them up. Problem solved.

Update: I can only imagine that Megan McArdle is jealous of all the attention Eugene Volokh has been getting.

{ 351 comments }

1

P O'Neill 12.15.12 at 3:09 pm

I’m sure it’s been done in the 280 comments his idiotic post has already attracted but one obvious response is to note that the mentally ill offspring of the teachers who you’ve armed could be the ones doing the killing with their gun. Anyway, given the current terms of the gun control “debate” it might be more enlightening to open an I/P thread.

2

Corey Robin 12.15.12 at 3:32 pm

I don’t know how anyone who’s ever been in an elementary school could even entertain this bit of mishegas. Where would the teacher keep his/her gun? How would s/he ensure that children didn’t have access to it — but that it was readily available? How would s/he ensure that it didn’t become a focal point of conversation, a totem of the classroom? Would the teachers get extra pay for taking on the second job of being security guards? And while we’re on the subject — with the country in the midst of firing teachers left and right, are we going to arm the ones that remain, while we stuff more students into their classrooms? (I wonder if we wouldn’t train a separate contingent of Teach for America teacher/guards: instead of the five weeks of training they currently get, they’ll get an extra day or two in order to learn how to handle a gun.) In some schools they’re cutting supplies like textbooks and computers, but guns we’ll provide. I mean, fuck it: why not just end the charade and turn all the schools into shooting ranges? Meanwhile, one lonely hamlet in Texas is one step ahead of the UCLA professor.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&

3

R. Porrofatto 12.15.12 at 3:40 pm

Volokh: You probably wouldn’t much worry, for instance, that the guard would go crazy and himself start shooting — theoretically possible, to be sure, but unlikely.

Ok. The guard is George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin just came in the door to pick up his little brother’s homework. Now what?

I sometimes wonder if people like this even hear what they’re suggesting. Thanks to such gun-rights absolutism, the U.S. is saturated with firearms, and their solution is to turn every quiet little school in American into an armed citadel. They see this as a normal thing for a modern, civilized, country to do, and this is the kind of country they want to live in?

4

Corey Robin 12.15.12 at 3:40 pm

This country doesn’t trust its teachers to teach. But handling guns? That’s fine. Anyway, here’s my new Teach for America slogan: “Five weeks to learn how to handle a classroom, one day for the Glock.”

5

Lee A. Arnold 12.15.12 at 3:58 pm

I didn’t bother reading past the first sentence: ” some rich foundation, worried about school shootings…”

6

Corey Robin 12.15.12 at 4:00 pm

I should revise comment #4: Libertarians think our public school teachers are total incompetents. And now they want them to carry Glocks?

7

RSA 12.15.12 at 4:03 pm

They’d go through some modest training and subjected to basic background checks, and in exchange they’d be given the right to carry the same guns that the security guards would have had.

What an attractive proposition! What kindergarten teacher wouldn’t trade her time, effort, and privacy for the right to carry a gun and the associated risks of carrying a gun while surrounded by children?

8

Corey Robin 12.15.12 at 4:03 pm

And then of course there’s this little irony: Libertarians like to join in the anarchist bashing of public schools as dungeons of authority and coercion. And now they want to arm the teachers with Glocks?

9

Liberty60 12.15.12 at 4:09 pm

In addition to the above comments, this scenario of armed vigilantes subduing mass killers would be laughable anywhere outside of a Hollywood screenwriters fantasy.
Its like that guy in Hot Fuzz, asking Simon Pegg if he ever “fired two guns whilst flying sideways through the air”, except it isn’t comedy, intentionally.

Police officers, combat veterans, will both be the first to say that when someone starts whooting the idea that an ordinary civilian- heck, even a highly trained officer- would be able to whirl around quick draw and kill the assailant is so absurd I despair that we even have to discuss it.
The almost certain scenario is that a couple of well meaning bystanders will fumble with their guns and shoot a dozen innocents in the chaos.

10

phosphorious 12.15.12 at 4:13 pm

I should revise comment #4: Libertarians think our public school teachers are total incompetents. And now they want them to carry Glocks?

I had the same thought: Is Volokh genuinely suggesting that we arm teacher’s unions?

11

Malaclypse 12.15.12 at 4:18 pm

Having spent my younger days working night shift in a cheap motel, and knowing the sorts of people that actually get jobs as security guards, dear Cthulhu below, armed security guards are a bad, bad, bad idea.

12

Merp 12.15.12 at 4:24 pm

Corey: inside every schoolteacher is an American, trying to get out

More generally when I hear “arm everyone” fantasies like this I think of Language of the Gun . In interviews about guns, gangmembers that fixate on carrying as a form of aggressive, pre-emptive protection and self-defense tended to do so in a way that eroticized control and a sense of order. Not the best foundation for public policy, eroticized control and a sense of order.

13

Harold 12.15.12 at 4:45 pm

Why not train kindergarten kids to fire glocks? I will create new markets, isn’t that the most important thing?

14

christian_h 12.15.12 at 4:57 pm

Makes me embarrassed for my university.

15

rootless (@root_e) 12.15.12 at 5:05 pm

The last thing children need is the nanny state taking away their glocks.

But it occurs to me that the previous sentence has almost certainly already been written by someone who is not being sarcastic.

16

BenSix 12.15.12 at 5:15 pm

True freedom is being so frightened of armed lunatics that you are forced to arm yourself before teaching a mathematics lesson.

17

mdc 12.15.12 at 5:15 pm

@10, 8, 6: This is why this is pure trolling: the point is that if you hypocritical liberals think teachers are so great, why don’t you trust them to carry guns, huh?

18

James Kennedy 12.15.12 at 5:44 pm

@6, 8, 10, 16

Why is that when ever one Liberal/Libertarian states one off the wall extremist perspective every other Liberal/Libertarian is automatically to blame.

I’ve been a paying member of the LP since the late 90s. I’ve never heard a single official statement come out claiming that it is a good idea to arm any group of individuals. This is not a Libertarian idea. This is a Oneextremistlunatic idea.

The point with guns is like the State of Washington. We allow people to buy assault rifles, .50 Barret sniper rifles, the frequently stated Glock handguns, whatever people want. Our murder rate is 2.4 per 100,000. That’s way below the world average of 6.9 per 100,000 and is even lower than the beloved European average of 2.9 per 100,000.

We don’t ban guns, we don’t make them difficult to purchase (Wal-Mart sells them), we only charge $40 for the concealed weapons permit. And if you aren’t charged with a felony you will have your firearm waiting for you at the evidence warehouse and can pick it up upon release.

All we did to make our crime rate plummet (previously over 5 per 100,000) was require that the guns and ammo be kept apart from each other. Then we strongly enforced that one law. We also take mental illness far more serious than imprisonment.

Banning guns doesn’t change anything. You have to address the real problem. You have to go after people’s will to commit the act. The time it takes to load a weapon, is usually all it takes for somebody to rethink their actions.

The real problem with crime in the US is that we don’t want to actually help anybody get better, we just want them out of the way. Eventually, they always come back.

19

Felix Gilman 12.15.12 at 5:48 pm

A Thought Experiment: Imagine that there were a load of guns in your child’s classroom. Awesome, right? Who’d say no to that? OK, now imagine that there were 25% more guns. Even better, right? Still with me? Of course you are. OK, now imagine that

20

Mao Cheng Ji 12.15.12 at 5:50 pm

Somehow, today all this is not very funny. Remind me, please: other than defending themselves from people with guns, why do people need guns anyway?

21

Davis X. Machina 12.15.12 at 5:58 pm

The almost certain scenario is that a couple of well meaning bystanders will fumble with their guns and shoot a dozen innocents in the chaos.

No deity worth its salt can’t coerce its followers into engaging in human sacrifice. Not Moloch. Not the free market. Not guns.

The Second Amendment as presently considered does precisely what the First Amendment is supposed to prevent – establish a state religion.

22

chris 12.15.12 at 6:01 pm

Then the kids can sit in the crossfire between the attacker and the teacher! Great!

…that’s pretty much the *best-case* outcome, before you start getting into little things like accidents and theft.

23

Felix Gilman 12.15.12 at 6:09 pm

This comment on Volokh’s post seems to pretty comprehensively address step one of the thought experiment: http://www.volokh.com/2012/12/14/a-thought-experiment-related-to-school-shootings/#comment-736896199

24

Meredith 12.15.12 at 6:26 pm

In Massachusetts, all statewide universities (e.g., UMass), state universities (i.e., state colleges), and state colleges (i.e., community colleges) (all this stupid new terminology for our public higher ed system isn’t irrelevant to the main point I am getting to) were urged recently by the board of higher ed to arm their campus security forces. At our local state college (excuse me, university) of fewer than 2,000 students, in spite of overwhelming opposition from faculty and students, the president and board of trustees decided to arm the campus’ small security force (meaning they would carry guns on their persons all the time), even though security seldom has more to do than break up loud parties or come to the aid of faculty who have locked themselves out of their offices. Moreover, local crime rates are very low and what crime exists seldom affects campus life, certainly in any way requiring security to be armed. In any case, the city police station sits on the edge of campus, and a State Police barracks is less than five minutes away by car. In other words, excellent resources for any violent situations that could conceivably arise are ready to hand. The problem of training these guards to use weapons properly was raised repeatedly by opponents of their being armed; proponents insisted that the guards would be well trained, no problem, and just brushed off this and all other objections.

This state board of higher ed (with its minions among administrators and trustees) that wants to “run higher education” the way you’d “run a business” in order to serve the needs of “industry’s captains” and to provide “job training” is in love with the idea of armed security guards on every higher ed campus. And this is Massachusetts.

25

guthrie 12.15.12 at 6:51 pm

Meredith – how else do you expect the administrators and trustees to enforce student compliance with their wishes? By means of persuasive language?

26

Watson Ladd 12.15.12 at 6:54 pm

banned commenter

27

Marshall 12.15.12 at 6:54 pm

It’s amazing the libertarians will not give up their devotion to a make-believe world in which everything is modeled by a perfectly competitive market and any public policy (say, gun control) just undermines the efficient operation of that market. More Guns Less Crime and all that.

28

Hogan 12.15.12 at 6:55 pm

I think the real motivation here is to paint a target on teachers’ backs. Call it the “Shoot the Teacher First” Act of 2013. That’ll thin out those public employee ranks.

29

Doctor Memory 12.15.12 at 6:56 pm

Wait a goddamn minute.

For the last… actually for the entire time that I’ve been alive and politically aware, all of my pro-RKBA/2A friends have been telling me, constantly, that Responsible Gun Owners™ (who are, they assure me, the vast majority of gun owners) can be counted on to do one thing above all others: keep the damn guns in a locked safe when there are kids around.

So now, I take it, that story is “no longer operative” as they say, and the goalposts have been swiftly moved to “let kindergarten teachers” concealed-carry?

If they gave awards for sheer chutzpah in the defense of the indefensible, this would get the lifetime achievement statue.

30

The Raven 12.15.12 at 7:02 pm

If you read Volokh, he seems to believe that people trust private security guards with firearms. Speaks a privileged white man indeed—one who has apparently never encountered a security guard with more authority than sense. Every now and again the insulation of privilege that wraps conservatives becomes visible and they are not even aware of it.

31

The Raven 12.15.12 at 7:08 pm

Prof Robin, in practice the teachers would have to wear them all the time or there would have to be a safe on premises to store them. The whole thing is crazy.

On the other hand, having police officers act as kindergarten teachers for two afternoons a week might just be a good idea. A kindergarten teacher has to learn to be authoritative without abuse. It might also be a useful way to remind police that they, too, are civilians and that not all the public is criminal.

32

Jonathan H. Adler 12.15.12 at 7:08 pm

Okay, you’ve had your fun. Now if you want to get serious it seems that you have to accept certain premises including a) widespread gun ownership is and will continue to be a reality in the U.S.; b) whatever political support there may be for moderage gun controls, there is (and will not be in the foreseeable future) political support to alter a); c) in a nation of millions, there will be more than a few violent psychopathic individuals; d) no police force we have or are likely to have will be able to protect all innocents from those prone to violence (whether with guns or otherwise — see, e.g., the mass stabbing in China last week).

So if one accepts these premises, what should we do to make our children safer? Demonizing the NRA or complaining about the Second Amendment may be emotionally satisfying, but it does not protect any of our children from those prone to violence. So once we’ve vented our spleens, what should we do? Eugene’s suggestion may or may not be the answer, but what realistic,* alternative steps should we take?

(And, again, by “realistic” I mean steps that have a snowball’s chance in hell of happening in this country before our young children become adults, i.e. those that could help protect our children. Any serious suggestions? Or is it just more fun to make fun of folks who try to think through the range of available second-best possibilities.

33

Main Street Muse 12.15.12 at 7:09 pm

“Libertarians think our public school teachers are total incompetents. And now they want them to carry Glocks?”

Apparently, for the libertarian – and for all of Fox News – teaching is a greater evil than toting a glock.

There is a reason why survivors of gun violence tend to advocate for gun control, not gun rights. We need to listen more carefully to what they say.

I find it despicable that people have used this incident to showcase the need for “gun rights.” If they had a child in that room – if their child had been murdered by that shooter, they’d be singing a different tune all together. The innocents don’t go around toting semi-automatics. They just don’t. So allowing them only shifts the balance in favor of the criminally violent.

34

Substance McGravitas 12.15.12 at 7:13 pm

Demonizing the NRA or complaining about the Second Amendment may be emotionally satisfying, but it does not protect any of our children from those prone to violence.

If the NRA was demonized as successfully as ACORN was children would indeed be better protected. No reason why you can’t point out that they are bloodthirsty monsters, the Second Amendment is stupid AND do other things.

Eugene’s suggestion may or may not be the answer

!

35

Jonathan H. Adler 12.15.12 at 7:18 pm

Mr. McGravitas –

Comparing the political influence of ACORN to the NRA (and other gun-rights groups) is laughable. But even if I’m wrong on this point, this might facilitate the enactment of rather modest gun controls, it won’t alter the fact that there are millions of guns in the U.S. (over 8 for every ten people). Demonize the NRA all you want, those guns will still be there. So, accepting some degree of political reality, what should we do to make our children safer?

36

Barry Freed 12.15.12 at 7:19 pm

What “fun”? Second amendment absolutists are on notice that we are sick of repeatedly paying the price for your gun fetish. 20 elementary school children dead and the serious suggestion from your side is to turn our public schools into armed camps? Australia had this problem and then they had the solution. Guess what? It works.

*I used to be on your side, some 25 years ago or so when I used to have memberships to both the NRA and the ACLU and was under the delusion that the constitution had been written by wizards or something (but too bad about the slaves). Jesus, but that was a very long time ago.

37

rootless (@root_e) 12.15.12 at 7:28 pm

Eugene Volokh’s writing has a creepy affect. He appears to lack compassion or empathy.

38

Henry 12.15.12 at 7:31 pm

Jonathan, part of this for me, perfectly frankly, is that when I’m confronted by an enormous and incomprehensible evil, it’s easier for me to focus on the little evils and idiocies around me. But also, if you think, as I do, that there is something genuinely deranged about this style of thinking, and that its purchase on American politics has pernicious consequences, then persistently ridiculing it over a long period of time might help shift back consensus to where it was thirty or so years ago. Furthermore, things could get worse. Law professors help shape the way in which judges interpret the Constitution, and hence when they argue from ridiculous premises, it seems to me to be perfectly reasonable to point out how ridiculous and offensive they are being, for fear that their arguments become accepted as common wisdom and hence make a bad situation even worse than it is. After all, Barnett’s arguments about the healthcare act went quite rapidly from being perceived as a fringe theory to a set of claims that got four votes on the Supreme Court.

You obviously see things differently – you’re both on the right wing, and willing to blog together with Professor Volokh and David Kopel (who is either a peddler of falsehoods or someone completely adrift from reality). But it seems to me that the space for the kind of conversation that you are suggesting opening up doesn’t exist yet. And I think it will have a decidedly hard time coming into existence when it has to coexist with the kind of nonsense that EV is pushing in his last post. Again, you’re entirely at liberty to disagree.

39

captcrisis 12.15.12 at 7:33 pm

“what should we do to make our children safer?”

I can’t believe this, Prof.

It’s the gun rights proponents who never address this question except in an unrealistic way. If you want proposed solutions, read the comments to EV’s post and you can quickly find about two dozen concrete proposals.

40

Brett 12.15.12 at 7:35 pm

@Jonathan Adler

Comparing the political influence of ACORN to the NRA (and other gun-rights groups) is laughable. But even if I’m wrong on this point, this might facilitate the enactment of rather modest gun controls, it won’t alter the fact that there are millions of guns in the U.S. (over 8 for every ten people). Demonize the NRA all you want, those guns will still be there.

So what? Impose a blanket ban on private ownership of handguns and assault rifle transfers, sales, and construction, and the guns would gradually filter out over time. That’s what has happened in Japan – there are still some privately owned rifles, but a 40-year ban has caused their ownership numbers to dwindle (the same country that has an infinitesimally small fraction of gun-related homicides, I might add).

As for arming teachers, fat load of good all those concealed carry people did in the Oregon Mall shooting. Turns out it’s hard to shoot someone without professional training – and even harder if the guy in question is wearing body armor (as with the Aurora and Oregon shootings).

But hey! Why the defensiveness? You’ve won the debate after all. As Tom Tomorrow pointed out, the pro-gun people have won the debate in this country – and the periodic horrific civilian massacre (including of children now, apparently) – is just the price the rest of us have to pay for that.

41

Tom M 12.15.12 at 7:37 pm

No need to regulate guns. Do what Chris Rock recommended: $500/ bullet. And make 99% of the price Federal Taxes so we can solve the budget problem and the gun problem

If bullets cost $500 only the rich would have ammo. Problem solved.

42

chris 12.15.12 at 7:43 pm

So if one accepts these premises, what should we do to make our children safer?

Focus on rate of fire and ammo capacities. Nobody ever shot more victims than he had bullets.

If the shooter has to stop to reload, the victims can run, or law enforcement can arrive.

You can’t really save the first victim because the shooter will always have surprise. But you can considerably reduce the ease of killing large numbers of people.

Focusing on the specifics of high-rate-of-fire weapons also has the advantage of being completely outside anything the Founders could possibly have intended when they wrote the 2nd Amendment, since even *revolvers* (let alone actual automatics) hadn’t been invented at the time. Obviously the potential harm of a crazy person shooting one person, then taking 30 seconds to reload and (if he hasn’t been tackled by then) looking around for a next victim is a lot less than modern mass shootings with automatic weapons.

43

Jonathan H. Adler 12.15.12 at 7:50 pm

@Brett –

The U.S. is not Japan, and Japan never had or gun culture. In any event, I’m worried about today’s children, not just tomorrow. I don’t like the idea of arming teachers, but I don’t think the suggestion of arming some subset of teachers who receive adequate training is beyond the pale (and I’m not sure why I should be more afraid of them than I am of many of those who are allowed to become police officers). And it’s a no less responsible contribution to a meaningful discussion about what to do in the here and now than proposing bans on gun sales or suggesting we should just rely upon the police to protect all of the innocents.

Henry has indicated he’s aiming at the long run, and that’s fine. But as the father of two young girls, I’d rather have a frank and potentially productive conversation about what might make them safer. I readily admit that few of my friends on the right are putting forward productive ideas, but if we care about our children — those that are alive now and may be at risk over the next 5-10 years, I think this is the discussion we need to have. And if the space for the right sort of conversation doesn’t exist yet, shouldn’t we be trying to create it? I like snarking at my ideological opponents as much as the next one, but I don’t believe it’s particularly conducive to productive dialogue.

44

Jonathan H. Adler 12.15.12 at 7:56 pm

@chris – I think focusing on thins like rate of fire and ammo capacities is a positive suggestion. It certainly makes more sense than the way in which legislatures have identified which guns to ban or restrict in the past (e.g. when “assault weapons” were chosen by what they looked like, rather than how they operated). I also think that such restrictions would be compatible with a conception of the Second Amendment that focuses on an inherent right of self-defense.

45

Jerry Vinokurov 12.15.12 at 8:02 pm

As soon as I saw “A Thought Experiment Related to School Shootings,” I knew this was going nowhere good. Newsflash: we’ve got actual, real experiments going on in this world. Yesterday was a real data point in the research project, a data point that 27 people paid for with their lives.

@Corey,

And then of course there’s this little irony: Libertarians like to join in the anarchist bashing of public schools as dungeons of authority and coercion. And now they want to arm the teachers with Glocks?

Yesterday on Facebook I argued with a gun-rights advocate who, literally, no joke, I swear I am not making this up, claimed that the problem was children raised improperly by uncaring parents and that the solution to this problem was to institute a regime of mandatory contraception. When challenged on the point that this was, shall we say, a little less than indicative of an absolute love of freedom and a commitment to civil liberties, he offered the response that this would eventually result in the elimination of poverty and hence the welfare state, and that therefore was eminently justified on eventual-freedom-increasing-grounds.

46

engels 12.15.12 at 8:14 pm

Where would the teacher keep his/her gun?

On his/her lap, throughout the entire lesson. Or maybe in a holster?

47

Kevin Donoghue 12.15.12 at 8:26 pm

Jonathan H. Adler: “I think focusing on things like rate of fire and ammo capacities is a positive suggestion.”

By all means try to get your fellow-bloggers to think along those lines. My guess is that you’ll be denounced as a crypto-leftist, but that’s to be expected from anything worthwhile that you do.

48

Uncle Kvetch 12.15.12 at 8:28 pm

The U.S. is not Japan, and Japan never had or gun culture. [...] Henry has indicated he’s aiming at the long run, and that’s fine. But as the father of two young girls, I’d rather have a frank and potentially productive conversation about what might make them safer.

You’ve already answered your own question: raise them in another country, one that doesn’t have “our gun culture.” If there’s no hope of controlling the ownership of guns, the most responsible thing you can do as a parent is get the hell out of here and bring your kids up somewhere sane.

49

P O'Neill 12.15.12 at 8:30 pm

modern mass shootings with automatic weapons

There’s a cottage industry of conservative point-scoring in pointing out that this statement is technically incorrect, since the spree killers have used semi-automatics, so let’s just save them the bother. It’s not clear how much of a distinction it is anyway with the current technology on semi-automatics, not to mention the simple expedient of the Newtown murderer of having 2 semi-automatics.

50

dsquared 12.15.12 at 8:43 pm

Okay, you’ve had your fun.

Oh get to bollix will you, you sanctimonious fart. Your blog just posted “Hey, Let’s Arm Kindergarten Teachers!”. Among other things, that means that you don’t get to go round wagging your finger disapprovingly at other people and demanding that they Take Things Seriously. Also, you don’t get to pretend that recycling the comedy premise of a 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie constitutes “thinking through the implications of second best solutions”.

Instead, you need to consider the following, not necessarily mutually exclusive options:

1. Own your bullshit and try to convince someone that Kindergarten Cop is a great movie.

2. Move to a different blog and disassociate yourself from this clown show.

3. Maintain a dignified silence for a while.

Either way up, wind your bloody neck in. “Okay, you’ve had your fun”! Who the hell do you think you are?

51

dsquared 12.15.12 at 8:44 pm

or to put it more succinctly: “Hey Jonathan, let’s have a frank and potentially productive conversation, not including your or your daft mates”.

52

Donald Johnson 12.15.12 at 8:58 pm

I agree with the rate of fire suggestion–I was just making the same argument at another blog. You can hunt even dangerous animals with rifles that are slow-firing or have small magazines, so the hunters have no legitimate objection on this point. Any hunter that needs to spray the countryside to bring down a deer should take up a different hobby. For self defense purposes against an armed intruder in one’s home, one could use a revolver or a hunting weapon. But there’s no need for civilians to have weapons that can shoot a lot of bullets in a short time and reload very quickly.

I’m not sure if anyone linked to this already, but by sheer coincidence China also had a crazy person attacking children outside a school yesterday. But he did it with a knife, and the results were dramatically different–

James Fallows post

53

Alan 12.15.12 at 9:06 pm

The differences between fully automatic weapons and semi-autos is really irrelevant and I too am tired of gun-culture types dwelling on that. I know weapons very well and am well-trained in using handguns and am in fact a very good shot–and I doubt that I could be effective in preventing something like this from happening on my university campus unless the shooter were standing right in front of me, gun holstered, and I had my 9 mm point right at him (probably not a her the stats show–I think ther was only one female shooter in the last few dozen mass shootings in the world). Then I know I could beat him to the draw–but if students are right behind, then I stand a fair chance of endangering them too no matter how good a shot I am. (Any good cop can tell you that: soft tissue penetration leaves a potentially lethal exit wound trajectory even if you use soft, expanding hollowpoints.) But even if a shooter is just nearby and target-accessible with a minute, if that shooter is using a reliable semi-auto with a drum-magazine capacity of 100 rounds, they can all easily be discharged in less than that minute.

We need at least an assault-weapons ban, much stricter guns laws for gun shows (one of the least regulated sources of some very dangerous weapons), ammunition-type and ammo magazine capacity laws, and much stricter background checks. I’m being realistic here; there is no way in hell our sick country can go back with the US awash in guns as we are now, but I sense there’s still no political will to do even a small measure of what I’ve suggested. The NRA and its members should all be ashamed (how do the people that run it sleep at night?) and dissolve that downright evil organization. Even with my own appreciation for and experience with firearms, I’d give anything to be more like Japan and less like the country that killed 26 innocents bcause we love our damn Glocks with expanded-capacity clips.

54

Suzanne 12.15.12 at 9:07 pm

@43: There is always the option of homeschooling, as many of your “friends on the right” advocate. You and the wife can teach the kiddies in the sanctity of your home, guns in holsters at the ready should any armed intruder(s) interrrupt the lesson, and the better to remind your tots that they live in a dangerous land. For added home security there’s always the option of posting a sniper on your roof to shoot suspicious types as they try to get in. This seems a more practical option than instructing our kindergarten teachers SWAT tactics.

In the meantime you can take comfort in the fact that schools in the aggregate are safer places than most for our children, and an incident like this is still rare, at least by contemporary American standards for gun massacres.

55

phosphorious 12.15.12 at 9:27 pm

Comparing the political influence of ACORN to the NRA (and other gun-rights groups) is laughable.

Because the NRA is a million times more influential than the now defunct ACORN ever was.

Right?

56

PatrickinIowa 12.15.12 at 9:27 pm

Who needs a thought experiment? The guns the shooter used were owned, legally, by a public school teacher. We know what would happen if public school teachers are armed. It happened yesterday.

Meanwhile we also know what happens when we arm campus police, security guards, whatever: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/07/14276420-after-police-shooting-of-naked-college-student-mother-asks-why?lite.

It’s really very simple: the more guns, and, especially, the more bullets, available, the more people die. The question is, are we going to do anything about it?

57

js. 12.15.12 at 9:30 pm

if you want to get serious it seems that you have to accept certain premises

Actually, no. Actually, fuck these premises. If, as you say, you’re “worried about today’s children” (43), then you should join the rest of us in treating the NRA as basically a criminal organization (as Loomis said yesterday at LGM). Enough people treat it as such, and the political space you bemoan is lacking will open up pretty damn fast. Or: what Substance said.

Though you did manage to say the truest thing on this thread:

Comparing the political influence of ACORN to the NRA (and other gun-rights groups) is laughable.

Indeed!

58

Barry Freed 12.15.12 at 9:33 pm

Yes, I wondered exactly what he meant when he said:

Comparing the political influence of ACORN to the NRA (and other gun-rights groups) is laughable.

And would like some clarification there so I can ascertain whether we inhabit the same universe.

59

P O'Neill 12.15.12 at 9:34 pm

In case anyone feared a Brooksian epidemic of open-mindedness on the right:

In hunting, a semiautomatic gun reduces the recovery time between shots, which is especially helpful during drives, when the targets are running.

It’s NR The Corner, no link.

60

Dave Weeden 12.15.12 at 9:38 pm

I’ve noticed, through more than 40 years of tv watching that baddies always miss, and goodies don’t. So schools should hire goodies to shoot baddies. I mean, how hard can this be? So, everyone can own guns, as per the 2nd Amendment, but as the bad guys always miss, where’s the harm?

You do do sarcasm?

61

PatrickinIowa 12.15.12 at 9:42 pm

I was wrong at 56. Mr. Lanza’s mother was not a teacher. She was simply a private citizen with multiple legal guns, which protected her being killed in the way most guns do–not at all.

62

guthrie 12.15.12 at 9:46 pm

Dave Weeden #60 – the obvious corollary is that the shooter is in fact the goodie…

63

soru 12.15.12 at 9:47 pm

http://papersky.livejournal.com/558627.html

In ancient Carthage bronze and angry gods
demanded children’s blood and children’s bones
and people bowed their heads down on the stones
knowing their city’s life hung on those odds.

These babies sacrificed in all their gore
this blood of innocents was shed to save
protect, defend the rest, the parents gave
their children to be safe from theft or war.

So, in America, the mighty Gun
likewise demands this high and bloody price
in children, in a bloody sacrifice
to stern necessity, what must be done.

The Gun, like Moloch, keeps the people free.
But these are not my gods, will never be.

I have nothing to add to that.

64

Barry 12.15.12 at 9:58 pm

Barry Freed 12.15.12 at 9:33 pm

” Yes, I wondered exactly what he meant when he said:

(quoting JA): Comparing the political influence of ACORN to the NRA (and other gun-rights groups) is laughable. (end quote)

And would like some clarification there so I can ascertain whether we inhabit the same universe.”

Seconding Barry here (’cause we stick together):

Jonathan, what you said made no sense unless you were trying to imply that ACORN had power on a level to compare with the NRA. Now, you and yours frequently make no sense, but what were you trying to say?

65

Jonathan H. Adler 12.15.12 at 10:00 pm

@phosphorius – Correct. The influence of ACORN was vastly overstated on the right. The influence of the NRA and other gun rights groups, on the other hand, is quite substantial.

@PatrickinOhio – There are also cases where a mass killing was averted by armed civilians with proper training, as happened at Appalachian Law School. And that proves? I’m not sure either anecdote proves anything. Your post is like the talking point on the right noting that all the mass killing episodes occur in supposed “gun-free” zones. It’s a cute point, but doesn’t get us anywhere. We could trade anecdotes about guns saving lives or costing lives all day.

@js – good luck. You remind me of the folks on the right who say the first step in immigration reform has to be deporting all those unlawfully present in the country. It’s laughable.

66

Pecador 12.15.12 at 10:17 pm

Volokh is just trying to save money. In gun loving Florida we do everything possible to protect judges, police and lawyers.
http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-09-28/news/fl-broward-courthouse-weapons-20110928_1_broward-courthouse-courthouse-security-guard-broward-sheriff-al-lamberti

Bottom line: children and teachers can fend for themselves.

67

Mo 12.15.12 at 10:18 pm

Do people not even remember back to August? The Empire State Building “mass shooting of eleven,” 2 killed, 9 wounded. Oh, right, they had to take that back. One man murdered a former boss and was killed by the police. The other nine people wounded don’t count because — they were all shot by the NYPD.

68

rootless (@root_e) 12.15.12 at 10:19 pm

@65 All of the armed people who were involved in subduing the shooter at Appalachian Law School were off duty police officers. One of them claims the shooter put down his weapon and was subdued before the two others showed up with their weapons.

In order to trade anecdotes, you need anecdotes. You don’t have any.

69

Liberty60 12.15.12 at 10:24 pm

We can sort out shooting deaths into deliberate acts like hold ups and gang slayings, and random senseless acts like this one.

The deliberate criminal acts are extremely hard to stop, since they are done by professional killers who are willing to take extraordinary steps to circumvent laws.

But if we focus for a moment on the senseless killings by madmen, we can look at several factors. The killing needs to have a gun and a madman combined. Removing either one of those would help tremendously.
Which brings us to mental health. Almost no spree killers were “bolt out of the blue”- almost all of them had many warning signs of instability and violence for years.

Could there be a way to identify and treat the mentally ill on a more aggressive stance than we have now? I honestly don’t know the answer, but I think we need to have this conversation as well, in addition to finding ways to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Oh, and by the way- YES, arming teachers IS beyond the pale; it deserves every bit of mockery we can throw at it.

70

Stephen Austin 12.15.12 at 10:28 pm

This is some sort of progress, isn’t it? At least Adler is actually admitting that the US is irreparably broken, thanks to gun nuts and their sympathetic academic thought experimentalists. Therefore, it’s futile to try to fix things. All that can realistically be done is to give everyone guns and hope for the best.

For Volokh, on the other hand, a few mass killings every so often is just the price of gun freedom. He lacks the courage to admit it, but give it time. For him, arming elementary school teachers isn’t an “available second-best possibility”, it’s the universe unfolding as it should.

71

PatrickinIowa 12.15.12 at 10:40 pm

@65 The only reason Volohk needed a thought experiment is that the real world is so damned inconvenient for true believers in guns. It’s a lot easier to just make shit up.

My point was that you don’t need to do thought experiments. The United States has been running a decades long real world experiment in arming people. Yesterday’s shooting was a result, as are the thousands of people who die every year.

Do guns deter crime? Well, millions of guns have been stolen over the years. They don’t seem seem to deter burglars all that much. And, for example, the Crips, heavily armed, go after the Bloods, who are equally heavily armed, so murderous thugs are apparently not all that deterred by armed murderous thugs.

I can imagine a world in which guns make people safer. I just read a China Mièville novel. I can imagine a lot of things.

I’ll give you this: I’ll bet some deranged, naked first year students have not been shot by trained security guards.

72

Jonathan H. Adler 12.15.12 at 10:47 pm

@68 – they were off-duty, so acting as civilians (albeit trained civilians). There are plenty of other anecdotes, including a recent mall shooting. But these cases, likes yesterday’s tragedy, are anecdotes, and are of limited probative value.

@Liberty60 – I agree a greater focus on identifying and addressing mental illness is important. There are legitimate privacy and civil liberties issues there as well, including the risk of stigmatizing the vast majority of those with mental illness who are not violent and post little threat to anyone. Figuring out how to be suitably proactive here is important, but difficult.

73

Harold 12.15.12 at 10:55 pm

Guns and gun shows are an underground economy for rural areas with no meaningful jobs to offer and a population of folks with many jail and or substance abuse records in their youth and therefore no ability to qualify for credit or have a bank account. Many of these people derive what little sense of dignity they have from being hunters. People need to be able to hunt — there is nothing wrong with it. But we will have to do something about our excessively punitive justice system and the lack of jobs with dignity if we want to make a dent in the gun trade.

74

Consumatopia 12.15.12 at 10:58 pm

Demonizing the NRA or complaining about the Second Amendment may be emotionally satisfying, but it does not protect any of our children from those prone to violence.

Gun culture is killing us not just by filling the country with guns, but for fostering a violent, paranoid vision of life. The problem is not just the guns, but our emotional attachment to them. Too many people feel the need to carry dangerous weapons with them to prove themselves, defining their identity by their capacity to hurt others–these spree killers only take that identity to its extreme conclusion.

I’m not sure that any effort to restrict guns would actually work at this point–it may simply be too late. But it’s never too late to change the culture–it’s something that each of us, individually, can work on immediately, without waiting for any new legislation whatsoever. We can shake people out of this madness. For example, if there is someone who doesn’t see the difference between an armed security guard out in the hallway tasked with doing nothing but protecting students, and a teacher who’s with the students near constantly and dedicating almost all of their attention to, you know, teaching rather than keeping little fingers away from a gun, that represents a teachable moment (and a chance to cut someone off before they spread a lethally dangerous idea throughout policy circles!)

75

Meredith 12.15.12 at 11:11 pm

On gun culture: Josh Marshall at TPM has published some very thoughtful emails he’s received. Goldie Taylor on MSNBC earlier was also very interesting — I think she’ll be on Chris Hayes tomorrow.

76

jfxgillis 12.15.12 at 11:24 pm

Jonathan:

“So if one accepts these premises, what should we do to make our children safer?”

Like Michael Corleone said to Senator Geary: Nothing.

This is the country you want, this is the country you got. The occasional massacre is the price we pay for the legal regime you and your kind wrought.

Why can’t you just own that?

77

Holden Pattern 12.15.12 at 11:48 pm

I like how “gun culture” is trotted out as a natural fact, like gravity or the speed of light. Nothing at all about how the rabid fetishization of the gun and the concomitant RAHOWA fearmongering subtext has has been deliberately cultivated by the NRA, GOA and the Republican Party — all Adler’s fellow travelers in the toxic stew that is American movement conservatism.

78

ezra abrams 12.15.12 at 11:51 pm

mao #20
politely, it is none of your biz why i desire to own a gun, any more then it is your biz to know why i wish to mow my lawn
its a free country; if I want to own a gun, it is no ones biz why

79

FSC 12.16.12 at 12:07 am

Ahoy Messrs Volokh et al

Thought experiments? Love’em. Try these two::

a) Imagine the 2nd Amendment doesn’t exist. Without it, would the people of the US allow the gun culture to arrive at it’s current pass? I say no. If you agree, then the question becomes:: Is that Amendment more important than making a serious dent in the 300,000 violent crimes that are committed each year with firearms?

b) speaking of the Constitution:: can you imagine that people today could continue to insist that non-whites should only count for 3/5 of a person. No, I can’t either. So – if Americans can overcome that blight on the founding documents, why is a lesser blight more difficult?

80

purple 12.16.12 at 12:09 am

Have you seen the stats on gun ownership ? Even 20 % of Dem household have them. Calls to ban guns, like Napolean Blooomberg commanded, will not fly.

81

rootless (@root_e) 12.16.12 at 12:12 am

@72
They were off duty police officers, not civilians. You need multiple anecdotes of actual civilians stopping gunmen in order to trade anecdotes and you don’t even have one.

82

Alex 12.16.12 at 12:22 am

Purple: I’m not sure anyone suggested a total ban. You could very simply borrow the very successful Australian policy wholesale, which would bring in semi-automatics and pump shotguns, register sales, and pay anyone who turned in a gun.

It worked. http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/12/6/365.full

83

ponce 12.16.12 at 12:36 am

The reason the “More guns = more security” argument is b.s. is that the shooter picks the time and place of his attack and can kill dozens before anyone can respond.

Not even our $1 trillion a year military can prevent the Taliban from carrying out hundreds of succesful attacks a month in Afghanistan for the same reason.

84

Anarcissie 12.16.12 at 12:48 am

If you want to eliminate or mitigate gun culture, I think you’re going to have to start at the top. That is, you need a national government and lesser authorities who do not see coercive violence as a legitimate solution to political and economic problems. Mr. O, for instance, has ordered the deaths of thousands, and in that regard he’s not a patch on his recent predecessors.

As for the libertarians and anarchists, they wouldn’t even have public schools, would they? Problem solved, in their fantasy world.

85

C.L. Ball 12.16.12 at 12:49 am

Actually one small Texas school has permitted armed teachers for 4 years:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?scp=2&sq=gun+control&st=nyt

86

rootless (@root_e) 12.16.12 at 12:49 am

Why no RPGs for civilians? If the 2cd amendment applies to Glocks and AR-15s, surely it applies to more powerful weapons.

87

Barry Freed 12.16.12 at 1:15 am

The reason the “More guns = more security” argument is b.s. is that the shooter picks the time and place of his attack and can kill dozens before anyone can respond.

Ponce posted above. It’s worth repeating.

88

Barry Freed 12.16.12 at 1:37 am

89

Matt 12.16.12 at 1:39 am

The reason the “More guns = more security” argument is b.s. is that the shooter picks the time and place of his attack and can kill dozens before anyone can respond.

Not even our $1 trillion a year military can prevent the Taliban from carrying out hundreds of succesful attacks a month in Afghanistan for the same reason.

The Americans made major cutbacks to joint operations with Afghan soldiers in September because too many Americans were being shot by their nominal allies. The armed teachers need to be more alert and fast-acting than veteran soldiers living in war zones.

90

chpooter 12.16.12 at 2:04 am

Years ago when hearing of the shooting that killed Carolyn McCarthy’s husband and wounded her son on the Long Island Railroad, I felt that the only thing more frightening than being in a railroad carriage when a gunman opened fire would be to be in the same carriage when half a dozen vigilantes drew their guns in response and, unable to know who were the ‘bad’ and who the ‘good’ guys, let fly at one another until the shooting stopped. Now transpose the scene to a schoolroom.

More generally, when the NRA tell us what a good job the armed citizenry does to protect us from gun violence, I wonder how deeply pathological our society must be if we can claim that without generally available guns the annual death toll of c. 9,000 would actually be worse.

91

Watson Ladd 12.16.12 at 2:22 am

banned commenter

92

nick s 12.16.12 at 2:22 am

Wake me up when creepy sociopath Eugene Volokh ceases to be a creepy sociopath.

93

faustusnotes 12.16.12 at 2:32 am

watson Ladd, would you rather your intruder was armed with a rocket launcher or a butter knife?

94

nick s 12.16.12 at 2:34 am

if the space for the right sort of conversation doesn’t exist yet, shouldn’t we be trying to create it?

Your concern is noted. Perhaps it’s time that the burden of making the first offer falls upon “the responsible gun owners”, who, strangely enough in the US, often intersect with “WOLVERINES!” when their bangsticks are treated with insufficient reverence. Kitting out kindergarteners in kevlar, as much as it would make the NRA’s paymasters very happy given how young ‘uns grow, is not what we want to hear from you. Own your complicity.

95

jfxgillis 12.16.12 at 2:45 am

nick s:

Indeed: “Now that we’ve ensured that events like this will be a feature of American society for the indefinite future, don’t you owe us consolation?”

96

Anderson 12.16.12 at 2:54 am

Still waiting for an Adler VC post on magazine caps. Not holding my breath; the guy wrote for NR.

Arming teachers is moronic, but given the volume of guns here in the US, armed guards in every school may be worth considering. Not sure whether one nets more overall deaths from crazy guards, or whether such a guard might not have ended up merely another casualty. But just as I demand the GOP reconsider its position on gun safety, I would like to hear the pros and cons of guards debated.

97

christian_h 12.16.12 at 2:57 am

Watson (88) this is really easy. Unless I’m suicidal, I’d rather be unarmed. Why? Because I can’t trust myself to shoot at a human being (and this is true for most people, including I’d bet you) – while the intruder, seeing me armed, would possibly not have such scruples.

98

christian_h 12.16.12 at 3:09 am

Not to mention most intruders will be there for stuff, and I’m un-American enough not to want to kill someone over stuff.

99

Coulter 12.16.12 at 3:15 am

+90 comments and no one mentioned Hitler and gun control, or the differences in private gun ownership between Israel and Palestine. Bravo – progress!

Sadly, this tragedy occurs almost six months to the day to the sierre coach accident, where coincidently 28 people, mostly students were killed.

100

Coulter 12.16.12 at 3:16 am

9 months, of course. terrible day … March 13, 2012

101

Liberty60 12.16.12 at 3:50 am

Watson Ladd-
What world do these paranoid fantasies spring from?

Lets do a quick poll- how many commenters here have personally been in a situation where you wished you had used gunfire to resolve it?

How many people here personally know someone who has?

Asking me how I would deal with an armed intruder is like asking how I would deal with a marauding mountain lion in my kitchen. Yet it always gets trotted out as a cautionary tale that justifies arming millions of Travis Bickels.

102

bad Jim 12.16.12 at 4:09 am

We’re always trying to find ways to prevent the most recent atrocity while ignoring the ongoing bloodbath. The fact that few incidents could have been prevented doesn’t mean that we couldn’t make progress against the background lethality which costs far more lives.

Simply giving the ATF more money and personnel, enough for example to trace the sources of all guns used in violent crimes, and changes in the law which would allow the sources of these guns to be held accountable, could make an enormous difference, as could restrictions or even just tracking of ammunition sales. James Fallows linked to an Atlantic article from 1993 which demonstrates how little we’re doing to enforce the laws already on the books.

No single measure could prevent this or that mass killing, but quite a lot could be done with fairly modest changes.

As for changing the culture, all we need to do is to reduce the pervasive sense of fear, which is largely the result of economic insecurity, which is rooted in our gross and growing inequality. Fix that and the problem goes away. It’s simple!

103

OhPlease 12.16.12 at 4:29 am

@Liberty60

Well, how *would* you deal with a marauding mountain lion in your kitchen. Wouldn’t a gun come in handy in that situation?

(Kidding.)

104

JW Mason 12.16.12 at 4:41 am

So would you rather be armed or unarmed if an intruder was in your house

Unarmed.

105

ponce 12.16.12 at 4:44 am

@88

“The armed teachers need to be more alert and fast-acting than veteran soldiers living in war zones.”

Yep.

To effectively defend their kids, armed teachers would have to shoot anyone entering their classroom befiore they had a chance to return fire.

Of course, there’d be a quite a few “false positives,” but that is the nature of war.

106

sanjiv 12.16.12 at 4:44 am

87: Thanks for the Garry Wills link. Very powerful piece.

107

Antti Nannimus 12.16.12 at 4:57 am

Hi,
If this atrocity is not enough, and we are not already completely bereft, then there is nothing worth saying anymore.
Have a nice day,
Antti

108

Meredith 12.16.12 at 5:01 am

Is anyone commenting at this site seriously considering arming teachers?
Or thinking that arms in almost any US household would be useful against intruders ?
Or that a farmer’s shotgun (plenty of people where I live have these, for good reason), or the weapons (not semi-automatic) necessary if you live in rural Alaska (I have family who do) are the kind of weapon anyone is really worried about? Or a serious hunter’s weapons?

If this is a foretaste of the discussion we as a whole nation are supposed to be starting up post Newtown, god help us.

109

Bruce Wilder 12.16.12 at 5:45 am

I think the public policy discussion often runs aground very early, because people from opposite ends of a spectrum of experience with guns — say rural Utah versus New York City — reach for categorical principles, which are mutually exclusive. It is a tough, but hardly insuperable public policy problem, for a diverse, continental nation.

The politics, though, is sunk by a completely different circumstance: guns in America are a consumer good, a status-laden, fashion accessory, acquired by enthusiasts in vast quantities, and a product shaped by the enthusiasms of enthusiasts is some very ugly ways. That market demand is not for a hunter’s weapon — it is for a device designed and purposed to kill people — lots of people and very quickly — and it creates an economic interest — an evil economic interest — which is eager to create, and able to finance the creation of, a gun culture, which both fuels demand and creates an electoral powerhouse of a lobby.

This is a kind of market failure the economists fail to catalog: a commercial madness that shapes demand by shaping culture, and ends by sinking people’s lives. It is just a foretaste of what we have to look forward to, if the current libertarian enthusiasm for de-criminalizing soft drugs leads to full corporate commercialization.

What’s needed, first, is simply, disgust. An aesthetic reaction, which won’t so much seek, say, to regulate gun sales at gun shows, as a starting point, as much as it will seek to undermine and marginalize the culture, generated and reproduced by gun shows and similar events.

110

Eli Rabett 12.16.12 at 5:52 am

What is not debatable is that the presence of so many guns in the US makes the tragedies of mass shootings inevitable. Claims that everyone carrying would prevent these things from happening are simple wishful thinking to avoid moral responsibility

While IEHO the arguments made by the gun lovers are a load of self justifying crap, the plain fact is that none of the people making those arguments will own up to the consequences. They are moral scum for not doing so. Make no mistake about it, the death of those children, the shooting of Congressman Giffords, the many people killed by firearms in the US are a result of our policy on gun ownership, and an honest debate about gun ownership starts with acknowledging the consequences.

One can only hope that John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia go to bed to night feeling a bit guilty and worrying about the safety of their grandchildren. The same for Johnathan Adler and his cohort.

111

js. 12.16.12 at 5:59 am

You remind me of the folks on the right who say the first step in immigration reform has to be deporting all those unlawfully present in the country. It’s laughable.

Well, you remind me of the folks who called civil rights protests “untimely”. And it’s not remotely funny.

112

bad Jim 12.16.12 at 7:31 am

There’s no magic bullet to stop this sort of thing from happening, but just enforcing the laws already on the books could help a lot. It would take a bit more funding for an unpopular branch of the government, at a minimum, and a lot more could be accomplished by minor tweaks to laws already on the books.

While many of us would be comfortable with requiring a license to purchase guns or ammunition and limits on the rate of consumption (perhaps with credits for recycling spent brass by target enthusiasts), we can’t expect that the Republicans would agree to anything that might impinge upon the defense they imagine against the threat they imagine we present.

They might, however, be induced, or shamed, into putting some teeth into laws already on the books to keep guns out of the hands of gangbangers and drugrunners, and that might even help.

113

andrew 12.16.12 at 10:02 am

“A psychopath knife-slashed twenty schoolchildren in China! Obviously that means that guns aren’t the problem!”

“Austria has lotsa guns but little gun violence – that means that our problem is the blackies/brownies!”

“Latin American countries have low number of guns per capita but high gun violence – never mind that the gun violence and ownership is concentrated in the poverty-stricken urban barrios!”

Epistemic closure and cognitive dissonance indeed…

114

Hermenauta 12.16.12 at 10:17 am

Rational expectations theory guarantees that crazy shooters will promptly start to self-select as armed guards and teachers.

The Right must be occasionally remembered that public policies are always inneficient.

Sigh.

115

Andrew F. 12.16.12 at 1:00 pm

We can examine the impact of armed guards at schools rationally. I’ve certainly heard of police officers being assigned to schools, though I’m not familiar with instances of armed private guards. If those instances exist, examining them would be useful.

The proposal to arm certain teachers isn’t new (and Eugene Volokh isn’t a sociopath for raising it again). I’m skeptical as to its usefulness, especially given the planning that more often than not accompanies a mass shooting, but I can’t dismiss it without knowing more facts. It seems likely to me that the costs of encouraging a large number of firearms to be introduced into schools will exceed the benefits – but, that’s not something we can know a priori.

But firearms policy generally cannot be all about this terrible event. Mass school shootings are rare – and the chances of a child dying in an event like this miniscule. How many children have died in mass school shootings over the last century? 80 (?), perhaps, if we include the Bath Michigan school bombing of 1927.

By contrast, roughly 100,000 persons overall were killed by the use of firearms in the 10 year period from 1999 to 2009.

So any policy to arm teachers must fit within a rational firearms policy generally.

Further, this event shouldn’t obscure the fact that mass school shootings are a threat of remote probability to the lives of children in the US, and that there are others of much greater probability. Let’s remember that 755 children under the age of 10 died in 2010 as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Roughly twice that number died of cancer. For the 40 parents whose lives have been torn apart by this shooting, there are 4,600 parents – each year – whose grief is no less profound when they lose their children to cancer or to a motor vehicle accident.

As poignantly horrific as the shooting is, as much as it brings home the nauseating fear of losing a child, we need to place mass school shootings in their proper context, among other threats and risks, when considering policy.

On a separate note – and this may just be my own way of taking a break from horrific elements of Friday – politically a push for new firearms regulation could be viewed as useful even if it were only likely to pass in a very weak form. It could be used to strengthen the President’s leverage on other issues, and it could be used to further portray the GOP as an increasingly extremist party disconnected from reality. That said, such a push also might have the effect of strengthening extremists within the confines of the GOP and making it more difficult for more moderate (or otherwise moderate) Republicans to compromise on policy matters, or shift the party. Though there are some who would view that as a long-term strategic positive, I think it’s a very serious negative consequence.

Rather than a push for dramatic new firearms legislation, then, I think the whispered threat of such a push will be used to gain ground on other policy fronts, while proposals for incremental improvements to firearms legislation are actually initiated and ultimately passed.

116

NomadUK 12.16.12 at 1:06 pm

Back in the 70s, when airline hijackings were the bugaboo of the day, I remember an episode of All In the Family in which Archie Bunker was interviewed on TV as a man-on-the-street, offering his solution, which was to arm all the passengers when they boarded, and collect the guns as they disembarked. This was presented on network television with a laugh track and considered comedy.

So, that was 40 years ago, and apparently fuckwits like Eugene Volokh haven’t had an original thought since.

117

roger gathman 12.16.12 at 1:46 pm

You know, the defensively armed defense makes more sense if you ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons. It doesn’t make any sense for mass shootings, since a mass shooter is not, like a person trying to rob you, working on some incentive scale that responds to the threat of harm. Plus, of course, Volokh is insane if he thinks, when the madman armed with the glock and the bushmiller invades his office, that he would just calmly reach for his gun and blow them away. This doesn’t even happen in the case of soldiers, who as we know are often frozen and can’t shoot, or shooting wildly – and it certainly is not going to be the case with a comfortable bourgeois law prof, however tough he dreams he is.
On the other hand, a nation in which there is a populous segment that desires a good – a gun or a drug – that endangers the public health can be regulated in various ways to minimize the danger. I think that would involve a parity program – the weapons consumer should not be caught up in a parity race for more and more fast and lethal weapons. We should concentrate on bringing parity about by building on what was done up to 2004: we should make the manufacture and sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons and ammunition illegal except for certain cases – for the army, the police force, etc. And we should register such weapons and over some period of time, buy them up and put them out of the market. There will be a black market in such weapons, but the mass slaughter consumer would have to work much harder to accumulate them and be subject to arrest all along the way.
While not solving the gun problem, it would solve the automatic weapons problem. It wouldn’t even require changing laws about carrying concealed weapons. If the weapons are less lethal, than the crowd defending the right to defend yourself would have more of a case.

118

Watson Ladd 12.16.12 at 1:55 pm

banned commenter

119

Anarcissie 12.16.12 at 2:26 pm

People want guns because they want power. Then they make up reasons for the desire. If you argue successfully with those reasons (and get the gun fans to listen to you) others will be provided.

120

rootless (@root_e) 12.16.12 at 2:41 pm

The other side is that we got rid of all those nanny state mental hospitals, God knows we needed the money for Oil Company tax credits, and so crazy people are out on the street.

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/12/15/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother

121

MinKimCT 12.16.12 at 2:55 pm

@WatsonLadd

If you’re so concerned about self-defense, go get a fucking pepper spray.

122

Uncle Kvetch 12.16.12 at 3:08 pm

Some food for thought from commenter joe from lowell at LGM…I think there’s something to this:

“I think the gun lobby has adopted a trolling strategy: say something so stupid and offensive that everyone refutes that, instead of making the affirmative case for gun control.

Even if they lose the ‘arm the teachers’ argument, they win if that is the type of discussion we have.”

123

Hogan 12.16.12 at 3:26 pm

@81: Yes, but Australia was settled by people of British and Irish descent who took possession of their land by killing and disposessing the natives. You can’t really compare a country like that to the US.

124

Hidari 12.16.12 at 3:28 pm

“People want guns because they want power. Then they make up reasons for the desire. If you argue successfully with those reasons (and get the gun fans to listen to you) others will be provided.”

Precisely. As good liberal democrats we must all play the game of pretending that we are having a rational argument here and that the professed reasons to carry guns are the real ones but we must at the end of the day remember that it’s all bullshit. It is almost invariably men who carry out these massacres and there’s a reason for that, and it’s almost invarıably men who state the “arguments” to have guns and there’s a reason for that too.

125

Eli Rabett 12.16.12 at 3:32 pm

Chutzpah: Writing how the US gun culture prevents doing anything about guns after spending all your life promoting that gun culture.

126

PGD 12.16.12 at 4:07 pm

Consumatopia @74 gets it exactly right.

Frankly, even armed police officers in schools is a lousy idea because in the 99.9 percent of their time not spent fighting off armed intruders they introduce the everyone’s-a-perp compliance culture and arrest the kids

127

DCA 12.16.12 at 4:07 pm

I think that Volokh is merely being logical, given the Prime Directive that any gun-c0ntrol measures are the first step towards total confiscation and state tyranny [NRA position] and an unwarranted infringement on liberty [glibertarian position]. So his choices (and this applies more broadly) are:
1. Say nothing.
2. Say this is the price we pay (the blood of children is necessary to water the tree of liberty). This makes you look like a moral monster, because you are.
3. Suggest some possible chenges to gun contr….. Oh noes, violates Prime Directive.
4. Aha, a positive move: more guns for the good guys.

Pointing out to him that (4) is stupid and will make things worse is pointless; it follows from his premises.

128

mud man 12.16.12 at 4:15 pm

Everybody read about the cop in Chi who paused while writing a parking ticket to shoot the puppy? (Apparently he just shot into the pavement and hit the dog with shrapnel. That thing isn’t anything more than a handy flashbang noisemaker, after all.) And when the Lieutenant came around, he wrote the dog’s owner a ticket for allowing it out off-leash? Anybody following Radley Balko might come to the conclusion that we can’t really trust cops to wear pistols all the time either. Really, with SWAT teams, cops are setting the standard for armed intrusions these days.

129

C.L. Ball 12.16.12 at 5:16 pm

@100 It’s hardly a “paranoid fantasy” and the question as posed is stupid: “wished you had used gunfire”? Well, there are six dead adults in CT you could try to ask that question to. Most police officers will never discharge their weapon or have “used gunfire to resolve” a situation; but that doesn’t mean that carrying them is not sensible. There are two times I wish that I had a gun to draw to defend myself; my hope is that my assailant would have submitted to arrest. But those instances were too rare to persuade me to purchase or carry a gun. Still, many people take self defense classes that are never assaulted; most schools never have fires but they run fire drills.

A more valid argument is that the possession of gun for the sole purpose of defending against intruders overlooks the risks that more common scenarios pose:
– you mistake a relative or a friend for an intruder, and kill them (this has happened all too often);
– you are faced with the intruder and fire the weapon but miss. The noise and muzzle-flash deafen and blind you, and you are then assaulted by the intruder or you accidentally shoot a family member in the confusion;
– you fire the weapon but miss and hit a neighbor or family member (through walls or windows).
– your child, spouse, or lover gets the gun and shoots themselves or others accidentally (happens too often).

And it overlooks better solutions: wire-reinforced glass; steel doors with cross-bars. These are expensive and not aesthetically pleasing, but if the armed intruder scenario is so salient, it offers a better deterrent and defense against intrusion than gun ownership.

@ 103 If you.read that study, it is not a study of homeowners who are not engaged in criminal activity and own a gun facing intruders v. homeowners who are not engaged in criminal activity but do not own a gun facing intruders. 83% of the shootings studied occurred outside and 53% of the assault victims had prior arrests.

In carry-concealed states, there has not been an epidemic of multiple vigilante cross-fire or accidental discharges in day-care centers or shopping malls. Indeed, there seems to have been no effect from these laws on crime rates. So they did not reduce crime any more than they increased crime.

What irks me about the concealed-carry laws is that the lawmakers prohibit weapons in government buildings. If they believe in responsible armed citizens, why can’t I wear my pistol to visit my state legislator if I have a valid license and registration? It seems they do not believe that citizens will be responsible with arms around them. So why should I have to let the same people have arms around me?

130

b9n10nt 12.16.12 at 5:35 pm

UK@119:

For members of the pro-gun tribe, “Arm The Teachers” is a timely affirmation that this tragedy will not undermine their cause. It’s a rallying cry.

For those in other tribes, “Arm The Teachers” is a ridiculous reductio, a rhetorical “own goal” scored upon the field of public opinion.

Gun tragedies, one by one, make the case for gun control. It’s in the nature of our species to self-incriminate rather than let our silence incriminate us, so the pro-gun tribe speaks in spite of its better judgement.

131

brandon 12.16.12 at 6:24 pm

Wait, did Wattles just offer up Bernhard Goetz as a positive example?

132

Bernard Yomtov 12.16.12 at 6:24 pm

Eli @122,

Chutzpah: Writing how the US gun culture prevents doing anything about guns after spending all your life promoting that gun culture.

Exactly. Adler comes to tell us the paranoids and nut cases he routinely allies himself with have won – hah, hah, hah – and now wants others to come up with ways acceptable to those allies to restrict them just a bit.

Just read your own comment section, Jonathan, and disillusion yourself. There are those who want military-power arms, because you see any day now invaders are going to come in tanks and helicopters and take over, or else our own army is going to go ballistic, and we need to resist. Do you really think these people are amenable to reason?

133

harry b 12.16.12 at 6:42 pm

Jonathan

This is the polite version of what Daniel said. I have to be polite, because I am not (nearly) as smart, not (nearly) as articulate, and not (nearly) as funny, as Daniel.

I haven’t gone through the comments to the original post: are there plenty of comments from you telling Volokh for making a completely unhelpful and deranged contribution to the debate? Have you said it to him in private? If not, why are you wasting your time here?

I agree with your central point, of course. America is awash with guns, and crazy and evil people have easy access to them; and there is no political will to use state power in the way it would need to be used to actually change that state of affairs significantly. Those of us who think that state of affairs is very very bad, and can give good reasons for arguing that the state could legitimately intervene to change them have to face up to things, and look for second and third-best solutions, devising and implementing which requires extremely careful attention to empirical detail and responsible conjectures about likely consequences of various interventions. I lack the competence to do that, as does almost everyone commenting here.

So, obviously, we should stay silent, and refrain from complaining about people who defend the state of affairs that keeps the violent death rate in America spectacularly higher than any other rich democracy and lead, regularly, to spree killings of innocent people.

But people who defend the indefensible lack the standing to tell us we should stay silent. To tell us that is to violate some very basic norms of conversational politeness.

134

Michael Drake 12.16.12 at 6:44 pm

“Or is it just more fun to make fun of folks who try to think through the range of available second-best possibilities.”

The only reason we are forced to think through the range of second-best possibilities currently on offer is because certain pro-gun advocates (which would include certain bloggers at VC) have done their level best to restrict the range of first-best possibilities.

The immediate task of genuinely serious people, aside from thinking carefully about possible policy responses, should be to limn the rank absurdity of suggestions like Eugene’s. There’s no shame in taking pleasure in one’s duty.

135

phosphorious 12.16.12 at 7:14 pm

I felt bad about making fun of Volokh’s piece without actually having read. So I read it.

Holy shit, it’s a million times worse than I thought! His “thought experiment” begins with “If a school were offered armed and trained security guards to protect them from psychotic shooters, wouldn’t you agree to that?” and jumps to “But what if security guards were not available, so instead we armed and trained the teachers, wouldn’t you have to agree to that, because you agreed to the first thing?

But that’s insane. It’s like saying: if you agree to hire a doctor to remove your appendix, wouldn’t you have to agree to removing it yourself if a doctor were not available?”

The whole point of hiring the security guards is that they are specialists who would deal only with shooters. Volokh even says “They wouldn’t deal with ordinary trespassing, vandalism, and the like. . .” Because they have to keep their minds on the psychotic shooters. But teachers can pick up that slack while still teaching? Even if you agreed to the first point about armed security guards, which is iffy at best, the second point just doesn’t follow. False analogy, bad casuistry, specious reasoning.

It’s like Fat Tony explaining to Bart Simpson why stealing cigarettes is like feeding your starving family (“What if they don’t like bread, they like cigarettes; is that wrong?”)

So 1) I will never again assume I have to read a libertarian before making fun of that libertarian and 2) No, Mr. Adler, we have not had our fun. Not by a long shot.

136

Eric L 12.16.12 at 7:20 pm

This isn’t the most relevant of gun control related questions, but it’s been bugging me.

Conservatives tend to be strong supporters of stripping felons of voting rights. But many of them believe that if the government tries to stop the same people from buying guns, that is tyranny, a threat to the very core of our freedom? Am I missing something here? Why so much more flexibility when it comes to the right to have representation?

137

James Kennedy 12.16.12 at 7:26 pm

The idea that less guns equals less crime is absurd. The only country that has completely outlawed firearms is Venezuela and Caracas has the highest murder rate on earth.

Ban guns in the US, the sociopaths will still be sociopaths and they will find other means of dispensing their angst.

Then we can work on banning knives and sharp objects. Then the sociopaths will still be sociopaths and they will find other means of dispensing their angst.

Then we can ban chemical agents. Then the sociopaths will still be sociopaths.

Or we can actually try and provide treatment to sociopaths before they go on killing sprees. Seriously, how is banning guns going to cure mental illnesses.

Also, Volokh and Fox news are no where near a normal Libertarian view. These are extremes, if this is the definition of Libertarian than Liberals are eco-terrorists who live in the woods and don’t bath… see how ridiculous that sounds.

Anybody who thinks Libertarians, even as a large minority, are trying to arm teachers or have security guards in schools is completely disenfranchised from reality and are themselves the idiots.

138

Harold 12.16.12 at 7:51 pm

Six months ago Venezuela banned gun ownership in response to its historically high murder rate. James Kennedy’s post shows that gun worshippers will say anything.

139

Harold 12.16.12 at 7:52 pm

At least the Venezuealan government is trying to do something.

140

Daniel Nexon 12.16.12 at 7:54 pm

“The idea that less guns equals less crime is absurd. The only country that has completely outlawed firearms is Venezuela and Caracas has the highest murder rate on earth.”

I would hope that we can agree that the counterfactual of “Newton, CT without legal firearms” is not “Caracas, Venezuela.” Otherwise, we’d just be making irrelevant comparisons that persuade nobody.

141

Bruce Wilder 12.16.12 at 8:00 pm

Stirling Newberry recently had a post on blogospheric discourse, titled:
The Three-Tier Attack.
http://symbalitics.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-three-tier-attack.html
The thesis is that internet discourse is habitually hijacked. First, someone makes an outrageous statement. Thank you, Eugene Volokh
Then, various other folks chime in, in noisy and propagandistic support of crazy, while sensible people try to explain how and why crazy is crazy.

Finally, a “suit” — played here by Jonathan H Adler — shows up, to make a “serious” pose, and explain why crazy deserves respectful consideration.

142

Bruce Wilder 12.16.12 at 8:07 pm

Newtown, CT: Headquarters of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is looking forward to its 2013 SHOT Show, Jan 15-18 in Las Vegas, “the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries.”

You can’t make these things up. One really wonders how the Onion stays in business, with this kind of competition.

143

Pete 12.16.12 at 8:17 pm

There’s a simple way to move this debate forwards:

1) Find your local influential gun advocate
2) Invite them to your home
3) Debate gun control
4) When this inevitably becomes heated, shoot them
5) When challenged, invoke Castle doctrine. It’s what they would have wanted, and they are threatening your safety.

After a few hundred of these, a sensible discussion about gun ownership can be had.

144

phosphorious 12.16.12 at 8:18 pm

Or we can actually try and provide treatment to sociopaths before they go on killing sprees.

But that’s socialized medicine. . . which is why we need our guns in the first place, to fight that off. No, I think your “arming teachers” idea is much better. /sarcasm

145

ponce 12.16.12 at 9:19 pm

@133

“1) I will never again assume I have to read a libertarian before making fun of that libertarian”

The writings of public sociopaths like Eugene Volokh and Bryan Caplan played a large part in my conversion from lifelong Republican to straight-ticket Democrat.

I began to fear for my immortal soul, and I’m an atheist.

146

Matt Austern 12.16.12 at 9:36 pm

Ridiculous suggestions like this aren’t just trolling, they’re also a way of moving the center of the debate. Instead of having a public conversation about which kind of gun control regulations to enact, we’re having a public conversation about whether we want to have kindergarten teachers carrying loaded guns around in the classroom so they’re always ready to have a shootout at a moment’s notice.

The advantage of getting everyone used to ridiculous extremist ideas is that slightly less ridiculous ideas, like doing nothing, can become the sensible centrist compromise.

147

Katherine 12.16.12 at 9:37 pm

If we’re in the business of trading anecdotes, I would point out that after the one and only school shooting spree in UK in Dunblane , hand guns in private ownership were banned (semi-automatics already having been banned after the Hungerford Massacre). Shotguns and rifles are legal but controlled. Somehow, the boot of fascist government is still not on my neck.

I’d also point out that, as far as I’m aware, the US is the only country that treats firearms ownership as a fundamental right. You sure as heck won’t find it in any international or regional human rights instruments.

148

The Iron-Tongued Devil 12.16.12 at 9:37 pm

I’m kind of late to the party and I haven’t read all the comments, so my apologies if someone has already said this. (I did do a couple of simple searches, so I think no one has.) I think this post should be read together with Corey’s post on capitalism as existentialism. Just as artificial scarcity both enables and enforces self-defining choice, so does the hazard posed by widespread gun availability. With guns, you can be a hero or you can be dead, with not that much space in between. And according to the official story, whether you end up a hero or dead depends on your innate virtue (e.g. your foresightedness in buying a gun and learning to shoot accurately, your cool-headedness under fire, your decisiveness, your skill in shooting, etc). Volokh and others like him are trying to create opportunities for that kind of virtue to be displayed, in this case by schoolteachers. If a few more children get gunned down along the way, well, that’s what greatness demands.

I do wonder if this should be related to existentialism, though, or if it has more to do with virtue ethics. Certainly virtue holds an enduring fascination for conservatives, whereas officially at least they tend to look down on cheese eating, fornicating existentialists. And the story works as well with virtue generally as with existential choice. There’s no reason why the choice needs to be self-defining in an existentialist sense. In fact, the people conservatives admire usually conform to a stock predefined image of a hero — a military hero or a hero of industry. (At least they do according to the official stories — which are often false, but that’s beside the immediate point.) John Galt may be self-made; he’s anything but self-creating.

149

JanieM 12.16.12 at 9:46 pm

From NBC news online:

Marsha Lanza, Nancy Lanza’s sister-in-law and Adam Lanza’s aunt, said there was a good reason for a divorced woman who grew up with guns to have them in the house: self-defense.

“She lived alone. She was a female (who) lived alone,” Marsha Lanza said.

150

Watson Ladd 12.16.12 at 10:00 pm

banned commenter

151

Katherine 12.16.12 at 10:19 pm

Watson Ladd, I’m not even sure of the point of your remark, but I can tell you that the law is actually a great deal more complicated and context dependent that your statement would suggest. As is ever the way with people using law about which they know nothing to make a point about something in a different jurisdiction.

152

Lynne 12.16.12 at 10:38 pm

Katherine, yes, it seems to be a peculiarly American thing to propose more guns as a solution to gun crime.

153

Uncle Kvetch 12.16.12 at 10:48 pm

The advantage of getting everyone used to ridiculous extremist ideas is that slightly less ridiculous ideas, like doing nothing, can become the sensible centrist compromise.

Yes. A thousand times yes. Ridicule, shaming, and generally uncivil discourse are the only appropriate response.

154

rootless (@root_e) 12.16.12 at 10:52 pm

This is the logical result of Hayekianism. In order to maintain the proposition that publicly funded day care is a fundamental threat to liberty, one must eventually reach the conclusion that nuts with automatic weapons are, like Pinochet’s secret police, the guardians of freedom.

155

Lawrence Stuart 12.16.12 at 10:59 pm

@Jonathan Adler “Or is it just more fun to make fun of folks who try to think through the range of available second-best possibilities.”

How did things come to this? To the point where mooting the possibility of arming elementary school teachers is seen as one among a range of ‘second best possibilities?’

Cos from where I sit, the corresponding ‘second best possibility’ would be to declare the NRA a fricking terrorist organization (actually, international terrorist organization, given the role they played in opposing and killing the Long Gun Registry in Canada, for e.g.). I begin to envision drone strikes, and extra judicial assassinations.

Cos, well shucks, if politics is gone, and all we have left is force (might is right, and the use of overwhelming force in the cause of public safety would be nothing if not righteous) well why not let us get right down to the root of the problem? Them buggers wanted Leviathan’s black helicopters, so let us now fulfill the prophecy. Eh? Wot?

Yes, in all honesty, I believe your proposal is that extreme. Arming school teachers is absolutely insane. Where is the contrition among the rightish intellegensia? The soul searching that should (and must) follow an event like this?

How did things come to this point? What can we do to draw back from this abyss? These are the things we need to discuss. This should be the point of departure.

156

Bruce Wilder 12.16.12 at 11:06 pm

The Iron-Tongued Devil @ 146: “With guns, you can be a hero or you can be dead, with not that much space in between. And according to the official story, whether you end up a hero or dead depends on your innate virtue . . . “

The “hero” you reference is not the classic figure of great courage or cunning striving against formidable obstacles with great persistence and fortitude — it is the super-hero of comicbooks and summer-blockbuster cinema, a chimera combining youthful athlete with tragic accident and technological marvels and/or scientific miracles, (usually involving a secret identity known to few).

A gun transforms an ordinary, nearly faceless individual, into a potentially lethal force of nature. The “skills” involved in manipulating a gun are minor matters of coordination, and nearly incidental to the instrument’s massive multiplication of puny strength into the power to kill at will.

The conservative mind has a deeply ambivalent and fantastical relationship with technology and the capital-which-embeds-technology. A conservative world-view needs to rescue a moral narrative of atomistic and potent individualism from the highly organized, and technological, political economy and society in which we live.

Attributing great power and productivity to our tools and to our social organizations, instead of to our individual, still puny selves, seems to offend conservatives deeply. They want a moral universe of atomistic individualism, and they will argue for any interpretative frame that gives them that alternative to reality, whether it is the hereditary predestination of genetics or Calvin’s God, the lie of “market economy”, Gary Becker’s “human capital” or the skills gap that supposedly explains increasing income inequality, or: “Guns don’t kill people, people . . .”

157

John Quiggin 12.16.12 at 11:30 pm

As regards the 2nd Amendment, any thoughts on the constitutionality of a law requiring all gun owners to enlist in their state militia, which could then “well regulate” their weapons?

158

ponce 12.16.12 at 11:47 pm

@154

“As regards the 2nd Amendment, any thoughts on the constitutionality of a law requiring all gun owners to enlist in their state militia, which could then “well regulate” their weapons?”

Zero chance.

American judges and politicians fear gun nuts far more than they fear dead babies.

159

Both Sides Do It 12.16.12 at 11:55 pm

I’m a big believer in ridicule, shaming, etc. but there’s just so much . . .

On Meet the Press this morning Bill Bennett, with a “I know I’m going to get heat for this”, presented “putting someone armed” into schools as something which would “stop these things from happening, and if we can do that I think we should do it”. Later David Gregory said to Tom Ridge, “That’s a cornerstone principle of homeland security, isn’t it: to harden the targets.”

The very next person to speak after Bennett was David Brooks, natch, saying that “in this conversation going forward” there “needs to be respect for rural people.”

Blinkered logic and moral obtuseness as far as the eye can see, lined up like crosses row on row, each one re-enforcing the overall narrative but each one unique and awful in its own way. Where do you even start?

160

Barry 12.17.12 at 12:09 am

Bruce Wilder 12.16.12 at 8:00 pm

” Stirling Newberry recently had a post on blogospheric discourse, titled:
The Three-Tier Attack.”

This is excellent – it’s not new, of course (‘Carthago Delenda Est’), but it zeros in on what’s going on.

161

Both Sides Do It 12.17.12 at 12:09 am

John,

The first holding in DC v. Heller, the recent Supreme Court decision about local gun control laws, is as follows: “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

There are legal concepts and arguments to make a completely opposite ruling; Thurgood Marshall called the individual right interpretation of the Second Amendment “the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people” in the early ’90s. And yet, here we are.

162

Liberty60 12.17.12 at 12:22 am

Before we can even hold a rational discussion about how to control lethal weapons, we have to acknowledge that American culture has a deeply dysfunctional and toxic relationship with guns.

No other tool occupies such a bizarre fetishistic hold on our imaginations; whatever useful purposes guns may serve (and I have owned guns and taught gun safety ) are completely swamped by our unnatural and dangerous fixation with the romance and power of guns.

Groups like the NRA have to be honest about this if they are to be taken seriously.

163

Meredith 12.17.12 at 12:44 am

Both Sides Do It @158: Alas you are no doubt right. As for, “And yet, here we are”: it took almost fifty years, but Plessy v. Fergusson was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education. With smarter public discussion about guns and the second amendment, and smarter and less blinkered supreme court justices, maybe we won’t have to wait fifty years to overturn Columbia v. Heller. (Let’s hope we don’t need too many more Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings.)

164

Actio 12.17.12 at 1:16 am

#135 James Kennedy:

“The idea that less guns equals less crime is absurd. The only country that has completely outlawed firearms is Venezuela and Caracas has the highest murder rate on earth.”

Let national gun density be measured on a scale from 0 to 100. Say that some country at 0 where to be shown to have a higher murder rate. That would still not help the case against stricter gun policies. Especially not if that country is very different from the US in terms of economic structure and wealth. A case for stricter gun policies only needs to show that moving from status quo gun density X to some lesser density X minus N is expected to decrease negative gun related outcomes. The relevant comparison for evaluating such policies is between the US and other highly industrialized and wealthy nations that already have such stricter policies in place. For example the northern european welfare states.

“Ban guns in the US, the sociopaths will still be sociopaths and they will find other means of dispensing their angst. Then we can work on banning knives and sharp objects. Then the sociopaths will still be sociopaths and they will find other means of dispensing their angst.”

That reasoning is flawed. A shift US status quo regulation to stricter gun policies will decrease the sum total harm done by sociopaths. That is good and should be done. Accepting that stricter policy does not entail accepting bans on knives and sharp objects. There is a big and relevant difference in terms of expected utility between anti-gun and anti-knife-and-fork policies.

Your text also has hints of a fallacy of this form: “if problem X can’t be 100% stopped then any suggested stricted policy against X is wrong”. For serious social problems (severe harm and killing) a policy that achieves even a small decrease (say 1% fewer problem outcomes) can be extremely important and should be vigorously pursued and funded.

“Or we can actually try and provide treatment to sociopaths before they go on killing sprees. Seriously, how is banning guns going to cure mental illnesses. “

Why assume that it is either or? Stricter gun policies can be pursued in parallel with better preventative mental health care. Second, as above, even same number of (mental health care deprived) sociopath cases will differ in harmful outcomes relative to sociopath ease of access to harm enhancing tools.

165

Meredith 12.17.12 at 1:26 am

166

nick s 12.17.12 at 1:28 am

IANAL, but I heard this from people who are.

Oh, the authority just oozes from Twatto. But thanks for invoking the 1740s to show just how in touch you are.

167

engels 12.17.12 at 1:53 am

Just read the actual post – good God, Volokh is an idiot.

168

nick s 12.17.12 at 2:17 am

Let us not forget that this is the same Eugene Volokh who has gleefully supported torture, enjoys brutal executions, and suspects that groping is a turn-on for the people being groped. It’s not as if he hasn’t already established himself as a high-functioning sociopath, and Adler is his sad little bag man.

169

pc 12.17.12 at 3:31 am

If I’m understanding Volokh and those like him correctly, the status quo right now — regular mass shootings — is basically what they intend, with the qualification that they also want the targets to be armed and returning fire. In other words, their vision of the second amendment is one where there are regular back-and-forth shootouts in schools and public places.

170

Henry 12.17.12 at 3:34 am

Watson Ladd has been banned from commenting on my threads for over a year, and is entirely aware of this fact. This serves as final warning that any further comments on my posts will lead to me looking for a sitewide ban for him.

171

ponce 12.17.12 at 4:07 am

@169

“In other words, their vision of the second amendment is one where there are regular back-and-forth shootouts in schools and public places.”

I don’t think it stops there.

I think their model for America (and Israel) in the future is Russia…one big state-run criminal enterprise.

172

purple 12.17.12 at 4:46 am

Does anyone on this blog own a gun (or two) ? If not, it is distinctly unrepresentative of the population. Most of the argument here feels like fantasy. Many, many Americans like guns – not just racist white Southerners – and feel it is their right to own one.

Arguments about gun control should not start with the premise that we are talking about a small, paranoid, part of the population. Straw man arguments.

173

The Raven 12.17.12 at 4:54 am

John Quiggin, #157: “As regards the 2nd Amendment, any thoughts on the constitutionality of a law requiring all gun owners to enlist in their state militia, which could then ‘well regulate their weapons?”

In fact, the men are already members; they just have no duties.

However…the first use of the term “well regulated militia” that I am aware of (I have not done a thorough literature search) is in Andrew Fletcher’s 1698 A discourse of government with relation to militias. By this he meant universal conscription. I believe the model intended by the Framers was that each state would require its citizens to participate in the militia, in a way similar to the Swiss militia. The Federal government would then be dependent on the states for its army. In practice, this was found to be inconvenient and expensive, so the states declared that most men were part of the unorganized militia, which had no duties.

A standard reference in the area is Mahon’s History of the Militia and the National Guard.

Fletcher can be found online, last I looked.

Croak!

174

Leeds man 12.17.12 at 5:19 am

@18 Our murder rate is 2.4 per 100,000. That’s way below the world average of 6.9 per 100,000 and is even lower than the beloved European average of 2.9 per 100,000.

Wrong and misleading. US homicide rate is 4.2 per 100,000. N, W and S Europe have less than 1.5 per 100,000. Eastern Europe jacks it up a lot.

175

John Quiggin 12.17.12 at 5:31 am

@BothSides Heller v Columbia only 5-4, and clearly overturned lots of previous jurisprudence. So chances of reversal must be fairly good, esp if politics are going the right way.

@Raven The things you learn on blogs. I’d never heard of the unorganized militia.

176

Anderson 12.17.12 at 5:44 am

“Does anyone on this blog own a gun (or two) ? If not, it is distinctly unrepresentative of the population.”

Two revolvers (S&W .357, Taurus .38), Winchester 12-gauge, and a .243 Remington 700, since you asked. (If a commenter is “on this blog.”) No semiauto pistols, nothing with more than 6 shots at a time. Ban the semiautos Ban any mag ove 6 shots. Representative enough for ya?

177

Meredith 12.17.12 at 5:52 am

I’d love to litigate the second amendment, simply as someone who regularly teaches the ablative absolute (cf. “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state” = “nominative absolute” in English). I’d love to nail the Scalia-types who think they know their grammar (because they’d probably like a return to the Latin mass and fetishize Latin and grammar and such).
Don’t know about (but will pursue with interest) first use of the phrase “well-regulated militia,” but my impression (an informed impression, I believe, though I make no claims to expertise here) is that the colonies had militias (in which participation by able-bodied men of sufficient means was often required by law, as here in Massachusetts), largely for fighting Native Americans (and also the French, at certain moments in the right British colonies). These militias (from the point of view of the British, all-too-well-regulated, and effective — think Lexington and Concord!) proved vital to the Revolutionary cause (hence their association with the resistance to “tyrants”). Add in the federalist notion of “free state,” and the later evolution of the National Guard out of colonial-then-state militias, and pretty soon you realize that the second amendment has nothing to do with contemporary, NRA- or Scalia-style notions of “individual” gun rights. This refutation coming, then, from the most “originalist” way of approaching constitutional interpretation. (If you want to go “originalist,” which I’d rather not — but then, the “judicial temperment” requires that we do go there, that we take into account all possibly reasonable arguments.)
(As for all of those (to us) unnecessary commas in the second amendment: red herring.)

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js. 12.17.12 at 6:07 am

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state” = “nominative absolute” in English

As for all of those (to us) unnecessary commas in the second amendment: red herring.

Please say more? That sentence has always seemed to me pretty near impossible to parse.

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Chris Mealy 12.17.12 at 6:34 am

Every gun nut I’ve ever known has been an asshole. At best they’re nerds like Dwight Schrute on The Office (trust me, these people really exist). Everybody hates them. They’re your aunt’s racist husband at Thanksgiving, your idiot coworker, the blowhard sitting next to you on the plane. We all put up with them because they’re insufferable and indefatigable. We know they’ll go on and on about states’ rights or refreshing the tree of liberty or some shit for an two hours, so we just try to change the subject and hope they’ll shut up. I’m done with that now. Next time one of these creeps mouths off I’m going to bore them to death. I’m going to tell them that their hobby is moronic and that I want the government to take all their guns away over and over until they shut up.

I know the left doesn’t do the demonization thing, but if it did, there is no better group of people to demonize than these assholes. There’s not that many of them, their demographic is shrinking, none of them will ever vote for Democrats anyway. They’re clowns.

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Meredith 12.17.12 at 6:55 am

Not really too hard to parse. Think English phrases which have no technical grammatical relation to a noun or verb or anything in the main clause, e.g.: all things being equal, all things considered, given what we know, this being the case, that being said, this having been done. Think, in other words, our shorthand ways of indicating cause (because, since) or concession (although) or condition (if), or time (after, when)…. Hence “absolute” (“untied” or “unloosed” from the grammar of the main clause), technically — but in context, people get the connection.

It’s hard to conceive that the absolute of the second amendment is anything but causal: Since (not although, if , when, anything else) a well-regulated militia…of a free state….”

“The people,” by the way (in “the right of the people”), is another clue to this amendment’s intentions. Look at the preamble to the constitution: We the people. (Not to mention the Declaration of Independence: the right of “the people” to alter or abolish….) Populus. (Avanti populo!) A collective. Not individual gun-owners doing some self-defense in the home number (however much the founders, or any or us, might have sympathized with that — it’s just not what they are taking about here in the second amendment). The constitution is talking about the collective — the militia, in an era when militias depended on individuals’ providing their own weapons for the collective, colony/state-authorized effort.

And “free state” has to mean a lot to people who have just declared themselves, and created a constitution for, “states,” as in “United States.”

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Both Sides Do It 12.17.12 at 7:14 am

John,

It’s a good bet that Heller will be explicitly overturned or else whittled hollow by subsequent rulings, but there are a couple factors working against that happening in the near to medium term.

- Chance plays a large role. If a Republican appoints replacements for two of the four eldest justices, which is plausible, five justices will be endorsing Heller for as long as Thomas is alive.

- Even if there’s a majority of Democratic appointees at some point, the Court is cognizant of itself as a political actor. If the Court is taking on other high-profile and controversial issues, it’s less likely to also take on gun control, especially since a liberal majority will have lots of Roberts mischief to undo. It’s willingness to do so is determined somewhat by the makeup and interaction of the Justices’ personalities and temperament. Also, even though it’s pretty easy to craft a ruling that effectively undermines an earlier one without explicitly overruling it, that strategy is more dependent on finding a case that can be used in that manner. Which will take time and makes the Court even more dependent on a favorable broader political context that can generate that case. All this makes mitigating Heller possible, maybe plausible, but not likely, and in any event unpredictable.

- The political context itself is still very much hard to predict. Gun massacres tend not to change the political landscape very much, either in public opinion or legislatures. This might be different because it was in an exurban area for the NY elite – in their backyard, so to speak – but since nothing much changed when a Congresswoman got shot in the head, hard to see why this would be different. It might be, the number and character of these massacres might be reaching a critical mass, but there’s nothing really indicating that it will be.

There are also ways to regulate guns within the interpretation of Heller – assault weapons bans, magazine and ammo restrictions, concealed carry restrictions, etc. – that would probably alleviate the political pressure to alter that interpretation.

- Which goes back to your original scenario: passing legislation requiring people be a member of a militia to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. As a possible tactic or thought experiment it’s a bad example. The likelihood of that happening within the current makeup of the political power structure, or any foreseeable change to that structure in the next couple decades, is arbitrarily close to zero; a political environment where that legislation passes would require such a change in the way political power is allocated that we wouldn’t be able to predict it. Something on the scale of the Republican Party collapsing, or money being severely restricted from political operations, or a complete, overwhelming and unprecedented change in public opinion.

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Salient 12.17.12 at 7:24 am

Many, many Americans like guns – not just racist white Southerners – and feel it is their right to own one.

The phrase “like guns” feels a bit creepy, but sure, there are literally no households in my extended family (rural Wisconsin) that possess fewer than one handgun per vehicle plus a hunting rifle or shotgun, I’d have received a Ruger No.1 as a high school graduation present if I hadn’t squicked out on the whole hunting thing, firearm safety class was considered a self-evident must-have in the way that swimming classes are elsewhere, and keeping a pistol in the glove compartment for emergencies was considered commonsense received wisdom, like carrying a spare tire. God though, having to establish one’s gunner bona fides to buy entrance into the conversation is just bullshit (not to mention that low gun ownership rates is representative of the first world English-speaking population; this is emphatically not an American blog!).

Arguments about gun control should not start with the premise that we are talking about a small, paranoid, part of the population.

Look, ‘paranoid’ is literally the kindest and most generous possible interpretation of someone who owns an automatic weapon and clips of ammunition for it. And you’re the one who said “american culture continually celebrates violence as a means to solve problems” — that’s premise is much more drastic than paranoia (though it does match up pretty well with various folks’ stated premises upthread, actually). So, uh, what premise would you prefer for us to adopt?

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Dr. Hilarius 12.17.12 at 7:32 am

Consumatopia @74 hits on a vital point, the nature of American gun culture. Look at any general internet site with gun control as a topic and you will see the most venomous, over-the-top posts from a segment of gun owners. Guns are their only issue. You will not find posts defending the 1st and 4rth Amendments with the emotion generated by the 2nd. Nothing matters more to them then their guns.

Guns are clearly a proxy for other issues. Gun ownership (by this group, not all gun owners) reflects a rejection of membership in a common society. These people see themselves as alone and armed against the world. Should the economy falter, guns are protection from their neighbors and society at large. Guns give them courage. Guns give them self-respect (I’m not your chicken shit civilian waiting to be a victim, I’m ready to protect myself). These people (there are a few, damn few, women) pride themselves as being on “yellow alert” for danger at all times. Consequently, they see danger everywhere.

The mentally ill in America are steeped in gun culture along with everyone else. American’s kids play endless hours of homicide in POV shooter video games. Movies are full of tough, brave heros who can take out bad guys with laser-like precision, and then get the girl. We love guns, we worship guns. The only surprise is that so few disturbed individuals pick up guns and start shooting.

A poster above asked if any CT commenters are gun owners. I am. I’ve had a concealed weapon permit since 1984. I own multiple handguns, shotguns, and a number of military assault rifles. All of them are in a gun safe bolted into the house foundation. They rarely see the light of day and if they vanished one day my life would not be altered in the least. I don’t hunt, preferring my wildlife alive. One time, doing biological field work in a remote area, I was confronted by people who wished me harm. Placing my 12-gauge on the top of my pickup resulted in them driving away. Not exactly an everyday situation.

It’s probably not possible to reduce the number of guns in this country. But as a society we can start to marginalize and ridicule gun fetishism. I hope.

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bad Jim 12.17.12 at 7:53 am

Perhaps gun control would be more popular if the recent mass killings had been carried out by blacks or Latinos instead of whites.

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Harold 12.17.12 at 8:34 am

In the very long-ago olden days when even commercial television thought it had some responsibility to be pro-social, Gene Autrey or Roy Rodgers would end their programs with a little lecture on gun etiquette, saying, “Remember, never point the business end of a gun at anyone.” Perhaps it was a bit hypocritical, but the reality is that no culture with dangerous weapons has ever been without elaborate rules as to their use. Even the old West. How far we have come. I understand General Petraeus’s paramour made some extra cash appearing as a model on an assault weapon info’mercial.

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Emma in Sydney 12.17.12 at 8:37 am

Salient @ 182 “there are literally no households in my extended family (rural Wisconsin) that possess fewer than one handgun per vehicle plus a hunting rifle or shotgun,”

See, this is the thing that feels weird to those of us who are not American. There are literally no households in my extended family, (rural NSW as well as a number of cities in Australia) who have ever even seen a gun at close quarters, except on a police officer’s hip. I would say that no one I know has ever held or fired any kind of gun. At all.

This piece linked on Making Light, gives another indication of just how far an outlier the United States is in the world.

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maidhc 12.17.12 at 10:54 am

My mother-in-law used to work as a nurse at a state mental hospital. It was a very nice place where they had the inmates grow their own vegetables and generally keep themselves usefully occupied. Although they were not able to deal with life on the outside, they could live reasonably pleasant lives.

The mental hospital was closed years ago. It’s now a park–admittedly a rather nice park. But now the people who would have been in it are now living on the streets and from time to time committing mass murder–it’s not this latest case I’m talking about, but some others within the last few years within a few miles of where the hospital I’m talking about used to be.

The lack of care available to mentally ill people in the US is really a disgrace.

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Katherine 12.17.12 at 11:02 am

The lack of care available to mentally ill people in the US is really a disgrace.

Yet another of those examples where, as a non-American, I wonder where the f*ck all the money is going. And then I remember – the military.

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Andrew F. 12.17.12 at 12:44 pm

It will be a mistake if this becomes all about assault weapons – though fitting with the idea of Obama focusing on an incremental step while using the possibility of more dramatic proposals to spur Republican movement on other issues.

Assault weapons – however we’re defining them this time around – are a subset of the problem. Lanza could have accomplished the same number of deaths, perhaps, without semiautomatic weapons. Obviously, “assault weapons” such as the rifle used in this attack should be banned; but that’s not an adequate policy response, and the ban should be a small piece of a bigger shift in policy.

Nor is ridicule, imho, an adequate response to proposals to use policies such as armed personnel in schools. There is an intuitive power to that kind of proposal for a significant number of people, and simply scorning it isn’t going to be enough. For the people to whom the proposal is appealing, the rationale is that gun control has been and will always be ineffective, and that therefore other responses are needed.

Mere ridicule enables the debate to be cast as purely partisan, a clash of opinions not decidable by facts, each side competing by the intensity of their emotions. And that’s not what it should be. Maybe it is in the land of the 10,000 year old earth, but those of us outside those communities should have something better.

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faustusnotes 12.17.12 at 12:58 pm

I think the Daily Mash has covered the Volokh angle best:

TEACHERS should be given assault rifles, America’s bastard pieces of shit said last night.
Right-wing Republicans responded to the country’s latest and most heart-breaking massacre by being their usual horrific fucking selves.
Texas Congressman Louis Gomhert reckoned the absolute best thing he could say was that the teachers should have been armed, but then refused to admit he was a festering turd who should be made to say sorry forever.
And Larry Pratt, head of the Gun Owners of America, insisted it was gun control supporters who had ‘little children’s blood on their hands’ in a move psychiatrists said was either pathologically sadistic or some kind of Tourettes Syndrome.
But Professor Henry Brubaker, of the Institute for Studies, said: “Don’t let them off the hook with talk of ‘mental illness’.
“They really are just horrendous bastards who drink from an open sewer and then breathe it over everyone.”
He added: “I like it when they argue they need assault weapons to protect themselves from the ‘tyranny of their own government’. The American government has aircraft carriers.”
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association finally broke its silence to pay tribute to 26 new pairs of cold dead hands.
And constitutional experts confirmed that the ‘right to bear arms’ would continue to be noisy and have lots of friends, many of whom are quiet loners.

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Anderson 12.17.12 at 1:34 pm

188: yep. To keep us safe! It’s working out great!

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Barry 12.17.12 at 1:54 pm

Andrew F: “Lanza could have accomplished the same number of deaths, perhaps, without semiautomatic weapons. “

Where ‘perhaps’ means ‘highly unlikely’.

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The Raven 12.17.12 at 2:01 pm

Eric Vanderhoff, over at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog, commented that the best thing about the assault weapon ban was the ban on large magazines; that with smaller magazines, shooters have to stop to reload, and this gives defenders time to overpower the shooter.

Unfortunately, Andrew F is right that mass murderers do sometimes use other methods; terrorists seem to prefer bombs to firearms. But most of the widely-publicized mass murders seem to prefer firearms, perhaps just because their imagination is limited.

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Barry 12.17.12 at 2:02 pm

BTW, this is why there are those (like) me who believe D^2’s advice that the greater error is to listen to people who’ve demonstrated that they are liars or fools.

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Anderson 12.17.12 at 2:12 pm

“But most of the widely-publicized mass murders seem to prefer firearms, perhaps just because their imagination is limited.”

It’s the power-trip fantasy. Passive people become active and godlike holding a gun and personally dealing out death. I suspect bombers have a very different psychology. And of course, terrorists using bombs are typically political actors who are trying to avoid getting themselves killed. (There are suicide bombers, but again, different psych.)

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Barry 12.17.12 at 2:26 pm

And it take some work to make a bomb. Maybe not a lot, but some.

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Substance McGravitas 12.17.12 at 3:08 pm

With a gat it don’t matter if he’s smarter or bigger.

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Anderson 12.17.12 at 3:25 pm

“And it take some work to make a bomb. Maybe not a lot, but some.”

Yes, I’m puzzled why my Second Amendment rights don’t mean that I can buy a bomb at Walmart. Tyranny!

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JanieM 12.17.12 at 3:27 pm

Yes, I’m puzzled why my Second Amendment rights don’t mean that I can buy a bomb at Walmart. Tyranny!

Or an aircraft carrier, a drone, or a nuclear bomb in a suitcase. I mean, parity in fighting tyranny is important, isn’t it?

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Henry Farrell 12.17.12 at 3:51 pm

Jonathan – like Harry I want to be polite here. But it looks as though you are in an uncomfortable argumentative position. Let me put it to you like this. You are a contributor to the best known libertarian/conservative legal blog out there. This means that you have the opportunity not only to test whether there is the possibility of a serious conversation here, but to contribute actively towards it. Why not put up a post laying out the arguments that you have laid out here for a more serious discussion about limited measures to try to deal with the problem of gun violence? Of course, if the cynicism of many of the commentators here is correct, this is likely to result in an apoplectic warp-spasm from your more conservative commenters, perhaps accompanied by grave and solemn remonstrations from EV, and fulminations from David Kopel. If, however, the liberal minority of commenters at the VC is joined by a substantial number of gun-rights supporters who are prepared to engage in serious conversation on this topic, then the cynicism over here will have been confounded, and you’ll have helped push public dialogue forward a little.

Of course, you haven’t done that yet. Perhaps this is because you haven’t had time (but I can’t imagine it would have taken much longer to write a short conversation starter post there than you have already devoted to discussions here). Or perhaps, as I guess is the likely answer, you are hesitant to try to do this given the reaction you would likely get from commenters and fellow-bloggers. I have no problem in taking you at your word – I fully accept that this is something that you worry seriously about, because of your kids and because of many other kids, including those who have lost their lives and those who are likely to lose their lives in future. But this should lead you to think very seriously about the company you’re keeping. If you believe that you simply can’t raise issues that you believe to be crucial to the well being of your and others’ children because of the angry reaction that you’d get, then do you really want to be part of the Conspiracy? Certainly, if I felt similarly constrained, I’d have dropped out of CT a longtime ago. Or alternatively, if you don’t think you’d get this kind of reaction, why aren’t you trying to start the conversation that you’d like to have over there? Your call.

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dbk 12.17.12 at 3:51 pm

I grew up in the Midwest and had one uncle/cousin who owned shotguns (they did some deer-hunting, but mostly, skeet). Having lived abroad nearly my entire adult life, I think I can more or less see both sides, and honestly, societies where almost no civilians own guns (legally) feel a lot safer, and seemed a lot safer for my children when they were little. My son never owned a toy gun or “play” weapon of any kind, and this was by no means an anomaly, it was quite common. The only person I know in the country where I live who actually owns a shotgun has it in permanent lock-down, and he was the national youth champion of Russia.

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Theophylact 12.17.12 at 4:12 pm

When I worked at EPA at its old Waterside Mall HQ, two security guards shot it out and one died. Turns out they were both engaged to the same woman. Security guards, like real cops, can have messy private lives.

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CJColucci 12.17.12 at 4:22 pm

I grew up in central New York, where ownership and use of guns was about as unusual and ownership and use of a pick-up truck. I”ve owned and used them myself (unlike pick-up trucks), though I’ve never been in a non-sporting situation where I would have felt more comfortable having one at my hip.
In my long-gone youth, what people had was hunting rifles and shotguns that generally held 3-5 rounds, though many people had re-purposed surplus WWII GI-issue M-1s with a 6 or 8 round capacity (I forget which and am too lazy to look it up). Handguns generally were either 5-6 round revolvers, small-capacity semi-autos, or Old Slabsides, the 7-8-round .45 semi-auto of WWI vintage.
While people sometimes shot and killed people on purpose, and accidental discharges sometimes took out the very young or careless, or people down-range of the very young or careless, these were not weapons suited to mass murder.
What makes a gun particularly lethal and suited for mass murder is some combination of: (1) rate of fire; (2) concealability; and (3) ammunition capacity. Few civilians can own an automatic-fire weapon. Semi-automatics don’t fire any faster than a six-gun. There are laws against sawed-off shotguns, and it probably wouldn’t be too heavy a lift to ban guns with folding stocks or other features that would make them easily concealable. That leaves ammo capacity. The standard AR-15 may look frightening, but the only thing that makes it more suited to mass murder than many a normal sporting rifle is its ability to take extended magazines, a 30-round clip rather than 3-5 rounds. (Critics of the lapsed federal law had a small but genuine point when they described the assault weapons ban as the “ugly gun law” because it targeted features that did not contribute to lethality. Are we really afraid that organized thugs will make bayonet charges?) Bands on extended clips — which no civilian needs for hunting or self-defense — should be politically possible, but the horse is probably already out of the barn with so many clips already out there. Since my day, however, handguns have been designed to carry up to about 20 rounds in a normal, handgun-sized package, we’ve probably reached the practical limit of gun design in this respect, and there are too many out there to go back to setting some arbitrary capacity limit. (Again, no civilian needs an extended handgun magazine of the type that makes a handgun something other than what it is designed to be.)
I suspect that what is most likely to be effective is serious training, safety, registration, and storage requirements. How did this kid manage to get his mother’s guns in the first place? There are things that can be done about that.

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JW Mason 12.17.12 at 4:43 pm

the horse is probably already out of the barn

What you mean by this is that it would be difficult and expensive to reduce the number of guns in people’s homes, and you don’t think the benefits are worth the difficulty and expense.

Lots of things are hard to do, but we find ways to do them because we think they are important. In a weird way I have more respect for the honest NRA types who thing widespread gun ownership is a good thing, than for the CJColuccis with their disingenuous world-weary that’s-just-the-way-it-is. Sure, they say, it would be nice if 3,000 kids weren’t shot to death in the US each year, but what are you gonna? The horse is out of the barn.

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Harold 12.17.12 at 4:45 pm

In the idyllic town of Newton, the gun culture had begun to get out of hand. As one of the town residents’ amusements was to flock to unlicensed gun ranges and blow up propane tanks with machine guns.– What’s next, hand-held missile range hobbyists?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/nyregion/in-newtown-conn-a-stiff-resistance-to-gun-restrictions.html?hp&_r=0

it remains unclear where [Nancy Lanza and her son] took their target practice. Much of the gunfire and the explosions reported by residents to the police in recent months came from a spot less than three miles from their house. Police logs identified the spot as one of the town’s many unlicensed gun ranges, where the familiar noise of hunting rifles has grown to include automatic gunfire and explosions that have shaken houses.

“It was like this continuous, rapid fire,” said Amy Habboush, who was accustomed to the sound of gunfire but became alarmed last year when she heard what sounded like machine guns, though she did not complain to the police. “It was a concern. We knew there was target practice, but we hadn’t heard that noise before.”

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CJColucci 12.17.12 at 4:51 pm

the horse is probably already out of the barn

What you mean by this is that it would be difficult and expensive to reduce the number of guns in people’s homes, and you don’t think the benefits are worth the difficulty and expense.

Well — uh — yeah. That was sort of my point. Actually, I might put it a little stronger: I don’t think it can be done. If you think differently, I’d be interested in hearing how you think it might be done.

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Anderson 12.17.12 at 4:57 pm

CJ, I agree that there are far too many high-capacity mags and guns out there, but I still think a ban that included a prohibition on *sale* of these already-possessed guns could be some help.

Surely other countries – the UK, Australia? – have implemented something like this. How’d they do it?

… 204: Yep, that’s a pretty weird way, all right. Sorry some of us are interested in being practical, not in making ourselves feel righteous and special.

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charliemcmenamin 12.17.12 at 4:57 pm

My gut reactions to the (lack of ) US gun control are entirely representative of most non Americans across the planet : are you people crazy or something?

But it does occur to me that there is one feature of American life which doesn’t really apply here in the UK: the hunting fetish. Very few people go hunting with guns in Britain – indeed, the very word ‘hunting’ is more likely to conjure up images of toffs on horseback chasing foxes than anyone with a rifle in their hand. I guess, at root, this is driven by different geographies and ecologies. So I acknowledge I don’t understand the hold of hunting on the American mind.

But I do have a Modest Proposal small idea to float for my American friends. If hunting is so important to so many people, leave it be. Just ban all guns within urban areas. Make people check them in at the city limits, or collect them from special hunting lodges with tight security when they go out into the wilderness.

Mad? Impossible? Well, if you say so – but this thread already has one contributor (@129) who thinks the appropriate response to the mass murder of infants is to complain they can’t take a pistol to see their senator.Which is madder?

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Coulter 12.17.12 at 5:00 pm

“Just ban all guns within urban areas.”

They already are, in general. You can’t get a permit to carry a weapon in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, or Washington DC unless you are a celebrity or are related to someone in politics or the police.

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nick s 12.17.12 at 5:07 pm

Please say more? That sentence has always seemed to me pretty near impossible to parse.

With good reason, I think: it’s the one bit of the Bill of Rights where the prose is atrocious. I see it as a committee-room fudge to accommodate two different approaches to the militia found in contemporary state constitutions. One is top-down, like that of New York:

XL. And whereas it is of the utmost importance to the safety of every State that it should always be in a condition of defence; and it is the duty of every man who enjoys the protection of society to be prepared and willing to defend it; this convention therefore, in the name and by the authority of the good people of this State, doth ordain, determine, and declare that the militia of this State, at all times hereafter, as well in peace as in war, shall be armed and disciplined, and in readiness for service…. And that a proper magazine of warlike stores, proportionate to the number of inhabitants, be, forever hereafter, at the expense of this State, and by acts of the legislature, established, maintained, and continued in every county in this State.

The other is bottom-up, as in Virginia:

SEC. 13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Wrapped up in all of this, of course, is the debate at the time over standing armies, which, I think we can safely say, is done and dusted — which poses the question of whether it invalidates the Jeffersonian concept of the self-organised civilian militia. Beyond the “collective right” debate, what has been jettisoned by Scalia’s cock-eyed jurisprudence is the notion that the right to keep and bear arms is in the service of the state as a collective entity.

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Bruce Wilder 12.17.12 at 5:07 pm

An “ugly gun law” might be extremely effective at targeting (sorry) the elements of gun culture that contribute to superhero/Rambo fantasizing.

I’m not worried much by virtual “ugly guns” in video games and movies, but I think there might be a problem, when mentally unstable adolescents find out that adults can buy the real thing at Wal-Mart.

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ajay 12.17.12 at 5:20 pm

Surely other countries – the UK, Australia? – have implemented something like this. How’d they do it?

In both cases, the same way – after a mass shooting or shootings. Hungerford 1987: 16 dead, ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all shotguns with more than three rounds capacity. (Most sport shooters in the UK shoot break-to-load shotguns rather than pumps anyway). Dunblane 1995, 17 dead: ban on handguns. Port Arthur massacre: 35 dead, bans on semi-automatics and a buyback scheme.
You can’t own a handgun now, at all, in the UK. You can own a shotgun or a rifle, but you need a licence. And the police make illegal firearms a priority.

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Tangurena 12.17.12 at 5:25 pm

We are going to trust teachers with a gun when we can’t trust them with a union?

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charliemcmenamin 12.17.12 at 5:26 pm

@209 I’m not talking about carrying guns, I’m talking about being in possession of them anywhere, at any time, in any part of any urban area including in your own home.

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MPAVictoria 12.17.12 at 5:31 pm

“I would say that no one I know has ever held or fired any kind of gun. At all. “

This comment stood out to me. Canada and Australia are similar in many ways but I guess gun ownership is not one of them. I know many people who have shotguns and rifles in there homes. My Uncle has quite the collection and was a semi serious competitive shooter in his younger days, my grandpa still has a few bolt action hunting rifles looked in his gun cabinet from when he used to hunt and my parents had an old .22 up in the attic until just recently. I am not worried by hunting rifles/shotguns in the hands of your average farmer or outdoor enthusiast.

All that said I do not know a SINGLE person who owns a handgun or who carries a firearm with them on a day to day basis. I also don’t know anyone who stockpiles thousands of rounds of ammo “just in case.” and I certainly do not understand the mindset of those who think the solution to school shootings is to arm school teachers. So I guess that Canada and the US are pretty different in this regard as well.

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Meredith 12.17.12 at 5:39 pm

You’d think most Americans were gun crazy, but they are not, and statistics bear that out. Not even half of American households have a gun in them, and most that do, like farmers or hunters, have one (or a limited number) for perfectly understandable reasons. Non-Americans reading and commenting here may not appreciate that the U.S. Constitution has a lot to say about what Americans can and cannot legislate about guns -something that Americans take for granted, even as we argue about what precisely the constitution says.

And it’s not just the second amendment. The ninth and fourteenth also figure. I just came across this very interesting 2008 piece by Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional expert at Yale School of Law, and highly recommend it:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2008/03/putting_the_second_amendment_second.single.html

I followed Ezra Klein’s link to it in a post that is also very worth reading:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/15/a-history-of-the-second-amendment-in-two-paintings/

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Anderson 12.17.12 at 5:39 pm

212: thanks, Ajay. Some sort of buyback scheme might have an effect.

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Katherine 12.17.12 at 5:45 pm

Surely other countries – the UK, Australia? – have implemented something like this. How’d they do it?

As well as the various gun bans that I and ajay describe, there have also been various gun amnesties in the UK. But honestly, there’s just no widespread gun culture. Sure, there’s a bit of hunting and clay pigeon shooting, but that’s generally perceived to be an upper class “sport” – it doesn’t have mass participation.

When Dunblane happened and the handgun ban was being debated there were a few gun “enthusiasts”, shall we say, who were spitting feathers, but mostly there was a mass shrugging of shoulders. Who cared? Why would you own a handgun anyway? Jesus, our police don’t even have them.

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ajay 12.17.12 at 6:10 pm

218: there’s a reasonable amount. About 1 million people in the UK shoot more or less regularly (caveat: according to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation) – mostly shotgun, some rifle. Roughly the same number that go to church every week.

The rule is, incidentally, that if you want a shotgun licence, the police have to come up with a good reason why you shouldn’t have one. But if you want a rifle, you have to come up with a good reason why you should.

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ajay 12.17.12 at 6:13 pm

186: Emma in Sydney: “I would say that no one I know has ever held or fired any kind of gun. At all.”

I am very surprised by this. Australia had conscription up to the 70s, for a start. You don’t know any Australian men over the age of 50?

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Seriously? 12.17.12 at 6:16 pm

To be honest, when I first read Leiter’s post–I read his blog regularly and enjoy it even when I disagree–I assumed it was intended satirically because it was inconceivable to me that an intelligent person would something that is so clearly a bad idea for all of the reasons that have been suggested so far, and probably many more.

But, OK, sadly he’s serious. However, the few defenses of his view that I’ve seen amount to a demand for his critics to provide “a reasonable alternative” without any real effort to argue that his proposal is reasonable in the first place. And frankly, it’s hard to see how a proposal that puts guns in close proximity to children *all the time* passes any reasonableness test.

I don’t care if you’re a homicidal lunatic, a teacher or a security guard (not that these are exclusive of each other). If you bring a gun into a school, you are endangering my child. And that is absolutely not OK.

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Jeffrey Davis 12.17.12 at 6:17 pm

Count the number of legislatures that permit people to carry guns into them.

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JanieM 12.17.12 at 6:32 pm

All that said I do not know a SINGLE person who owns a handgun or who carries a firearm with them on a day to day basis. I also don’t know anyone who stockpiles thousands of rounds of ammo “just in case.” and I certainly do not understand the mindset of those who think the solution to school shootings is to arm school teachers. So I guess that Canada and the US are pretty different in this regard as well.

Except for the last sentence, I can say exactly the same things, and I’m an American who lives in a state with a thriving hunting tradition. Nor is anyone I know any different from me in this regard. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t settle anything, but that applies as much to MPA Victoria’s impressions (“I guess that Canada and the US are pretty different in this regard”) as it does to my own direct experience.

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MPAVictoria 12.17.12 at 6:40 pm

” Nor is anyone I know any different from me in this regard. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t settle anything, but that applies as much to MPA Victoria’s impressions (“I guess that Canada and the US are pretty different in this regard”) as it does to my own direct experience.”

Well i was responding to another posters personal experience if that counts for anything. And, I hate to point it out, but the evidence shows that Americans are MUCH more likely to own pistols and to daily carry than Canadians.

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JanieM 12.17.12 at 6:41 pm

From the NYT article Harold linked to, quoting a Newtown gun enthusiast who helped shout down attempts to put restrictions on shooting practice in the town:

Guns are why we’re free in this country.

It’s a pretty strange definition of freedom if you can’t feel safe in the streets, the schools, or the movie theaters unless you’re carrying a gun. (Not that carrying a gun wouldn’t make me feel a lot less safe, but never mind that.)

Someone has already said it in this thread, but it starts to look like the only freedom these people care about is the freedom to own guns. My right to be free from guns and the mayhem they facilitate — who gives a shit about that?

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MPAVictoria 12.17.12 at 6:43 pm

227

John Quiggin 12.17.12 at 6:50 pm

@Ajay Conscription was abolished in 1972, so the cut off is nearer 60 than 50. And it was a lottery scheme, and not too hard to get out of. But the main thing is that no one ever talks about their military service, except for some who were sent to Vietnam (Google suggests a total of 60 000, or about 0.3 per cent of the population). My boss in my first real job had been a conscript in Vietnam a few years earlier, but he is literally the only person who has ever mentioned post-WWII military service to me, and he didn’t go on about it. This isn’t a matter of hostile responses, I think, it is just not a topic of conversation.

So, you are probably right that Emma knows people who have handled a gun, but it would take careful calculation to realise this.

In my case, my wife comes from a farming background, so I’ve seen a few and even seen one fired. But the closest most Aussies would come to encountering gun culture is seeing road signs riddled with bullet holes, which used to be common, but is now, I think, pretty rare.

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JanieM 12.17.12 at 6:58 pm

From MPAVictoria’s link:

…some friends and members of the Lanza family have allegedly portrayed Nancy Lanza as part of the “Doomsday Prepper movement,” a fringe section of American civil society who live in obsessed fear of collapse of civil society

My earlier point was about the “fringe” nature of the things MPAV had listed. I’m not saying that we don’t have a mind-bogglingly tragic, increasingly terrifying, and politically intractable problem in the US. But the country is huge in population and in area and increasingly balkanized culturally, and I doubt that the daily experience of the majority of Americans is very different from mine. Even the people I know who are hunters and/or gun collectors don’t carry weapons in everyday life, or stockpile ammunition, or argue for arming schoolteachers. The people who do that stuff to be fringe lunatics, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s time we took the country back from them.

Maybe we can get crackin’ on that task after we figure out how to deal with climate change, and after we take the country back from Wall Street, and etc. etc. etc.

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MPAVictoria 12.17.12 at 7:05 pm

“The people who do that stuff to be fringe lunatics”

The sad thing JanieM is that they are not fringe at all. Especially when compared to Canada.

http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/res-rec/comp-eng.htm

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Ragweed 12.17.12 at 7:06 pm

“Just ban all guns within urban areas.”

They already are, in general. You can’t get a permit to carry a weapon in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, or Washington DC unless you are a celebrity or are related to someone in politics or the police.

That depends on the state. If the state has a concealed carry law with “shall issue” language, then local law enforcement has no discretion in issueing a permit. Seattle police, for example, cannot deny a permit for anything other than the enumerated legal reasons (felony record, domestic violence misdemeanor, declared mentally incompetent etc.) Getting “shall issue” language carry permits has been a big issue for the NRA and other gun control advocates – currently 37 states are “Shall Issue” states. Chicago and Washington DC are currently the only jurisdictions that are strictly no-permit.

“Shall-issue” language has been a big tool for preventing local cities and counties from more restrictive gun laws. After a semi-accidental shooting at a music festival a few years ago, Seattle tried to ban guns from city parks, only to have it overturned on the grounds of the state law.

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Jeffrey Davis 12.17.12 at 7:15 pm

My father brought home a luger from WW2, and my wife’s father was a career military man. (My mother eventually found a way to dispose of the luger, and my wife’s family had no gun in the house. ) As a young teen, my wife was NRA-trained with a rifle and was a first rate marksman. Both of her aunts were farm women, and rifles and handguns were always around. One aunt even slept with a pistol at her bed side — an old, old lady living alone way out in the sticks — and once had occasion to scare away a truck full of 3AM loiterers from her driveway.

Guns by themselves have no fascination for me or my wife. We’re as spooked and disgusted as anyone by gun fetishists, but gun ownership isn’t a virus. You don’t get a disease by being familiar with guns. They aren’t addictive.

American love of violence has some other source than the mechanical.

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JanieM 12.17.12 at 7:16 pm

The sad thing JanieM is that they are not fringe at all.

Have it your way, define words however you want. I’m done.

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Substance McGravitas 12.17.12 at 7:36 pm

Wrapped up in all of this, of course, is the debate at the time over standing armies, which, I think we can safely say, is done and dusted — which poses the question of whether it invalidates the Jeffersonian concept of the self-organised civilian militia.

I thought it was invalidated when Jefferson fled Virginia in the face of an advancing army.

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Harold 12.17.12 at 7:47 pm

An armed citizenry is contrary to the idea of civilization. In book one of the Pelopenesian war, Thucydides tells us that the Athenians, who had a well-regulated militia, were the first to abandon the custom of bearing arms in civilian life.
http://people.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/thucydi1.html

For in early times the Hellenes and the barbarians of the coast and islands, as communication by sea became more common, were tempted to turn pirates, under the conduct of their most powerful men; the motives being to serve their own cupidity and to support the needy. They would fall upon a town unprotected by walls, and consisting of a mere collection of villages, and would plunder it; indeed, this came to be the main source of their livelihood, no disgrace being yet attached to such an achievement, but even some glory. .. The same rapine prevailed also by land.

And even at the present day many of Hellas still follow the old fashion … The whole of Hellas used once to carry arms, their habitations being unprotected and their communication with each other unsafe; 6 indeed, to wear arms was as much a part of everyday life with them as with the barbarians. And the fact that the people in these parts of Hellas are still living in the old way points to a time when the same mode of life was once equally common to all. The Athenians were the first to lay aside their weapons, and to adopt an easier and more luxurious mode of life; indeed, it is only lately that their rich old men left off the luxury of wearing undergarments of linen, and fastening a knot of their hair with a tie of golden grasshoppers, a fashion which spread to their Ionian kindred and long prevailed among the old men there.

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PJW 12.17.12 at 8:23 pm

The horse is out of the barn to some extent but that in no way makes the case for a safer America hopeless. To counter the huge number of weapons already in existence, a major focus needs to be placed on ammunition. Also, victims of gun violence perhaps should be able to hold the manufacturers of the weapons that harmed them liable to some degree and be able to win damages against them in a court of law. If Bushmaster had to pay each victim of the Sandy Hook tragedy $1 million or more maybe the company would think twice about selling their killing machines to the general public. An outright ban of these sorts of weapons and the Glocks and such obviously needs to happen in addition to making ammunition of all kinds prohibitively expensive or, in some cases, banned altogether.

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Anderson 12.17.12 at 9:17 pm

(1) I think we can reasonably push for a ban on sale/possession of magazines higher than 6 rounds; right now, a slim majority of Americans even support a ban on semiautomatic pistols, with no more effort at public education on the subject than the news reporting of massacres.

(2) A huge number of the weapons owned by Americans are hoarded by “gun nut” collectors; if their sale is banned, then even if these guys illegally hang onto their caches, they’ll be much more difficult for the general public to acquire.

(3) As someone suggested at James Fallows’ blog, the feds can buy back illegal weapons/magazines at 200% or whatever of their value (presumably, as that value was set well *before* any such law inflates the prices). Any % of the Defense budget rerouted to that would do much more to “defend” American lives than it likely would have otherwise.

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Hermenauta 12.17.12 at 9:18 pm

“Guns are why we’re free in this country.”

Actually, as a non-american, I think that the reason for the “american exceptionalism” concerning the high number of gun owners in America is because it doesn´t matters.

Why? Because America seems to be building a large and sprawling security state, with increasing inequality and really huge rates of incarceration. Since in America radical political discontent is inexistant, discontentment is metabolized as crime, and then, the security state takes care of it in a more palatable way. And it works _ that´s why you have low crime.

This is the reason I think that the article linked by @rootles 120, and ensuing discussion, is dangerous. Once you medicalize the remaining focus of threat represented by mentally ill offenders (that are a real threat, I think, but sometimes one created in some extent by disfunctional ideologies, if you lend credit to rumours about Lanza´s mother being a crazy survivalist for example) , you create another branch of the security state that will be prone to medicalize and incarcerate the remaining political dissatisfaction _ you only have to medicalize it also, maybe along the lines of “excess human biodiversity”, low IQ, and the like.

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Bruce Wilder 12.17.12 at 9:32 pm

Just to reinforce what Anderson says above, any reasonably competent politico ought to be able to fashion the inevitable compromise in such a way that grandfathering in some privileged status for gun-nut collections, as a way of removing some of the motivation for mindless opposition from everyone except the manufacturers of (new) guns, also reduces the cost of gun buy-backs, and creates a conflict of self-interest to divide the gun-nuts from the manufacturers as political interest group. (The asset value of existing collections, properly secured, rises in direct proportion to the success of both buy-backs and restrictions on the manufacture and sale of new guns.)

Buy-backs tend to sweep up a lot of low-value, but still lethal weapons, which feature in a lot of street crime, suicides and accidents, so buy-backs can be effective public policy. And, properly designed, grandfather clauses for gun collections can reduce gun availability, even if they don’t reduce the statistical inventory by much, as long as manufacture of new guns is curtailed, and secondary gun sales are transformed into a more conservative, insular hobby operation.

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Bruce Wilder 12.17.12 at 9:35 pm

Hermenauta — very insightful!

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ponce 12.17.12 at 9:36 pm

@235

“To counter the huge number of weapons already in existence, a major focus needs to be placed on ammunition. “

Sounds a lot like the argument we had about Thomas Jefferson and his anti-Slavery efforts we had here a few weeks ago.

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Meredith 12.17.12 at 10:57 pm

To come down with JanieM in her disagreement with MPAVictoria a ways back, I quote Paul Waldman at Tapped: http://leanforward.msnbc.com/_news/2012/07/24/12926630-gun-ownership-on-the-decline-but-just-as-many-guns-as-ever?lite

“In 1977, 54 percent of households reported owning guns; by 2010 that number had declined to 32 percent. And the decline happened across all age groups and birth cohorts. There are a number of explanations, including the decline of hunting as a pastime and the movement of population from rural areas to suburbs and cities. But if the number of gun owners has declined yet the number of guns hasn’t, that can only mean that America’s dwindling number of gun owners are each amassing bigger arsenals than ever.”

The larger culture uses mechanisms like gun manufacturers’ lobbying, the financing of political campaigns, and various ways of fanning the paranoid fantasies (to which Americans seem particularly prone) to persuade many Americans, including those who have no interest in guns or whose use of them is limited and unproblematic (e.g., farmers, hunters), to oppose even the most moderate gun regulation. (Note also that surveys show massive ignorance about current gun laws. Even many NRA members mistakenly believe certain things to be illegal that are, in fact, perfectly legal.)

This is how a fringe — and yes, it is a fringe — gets to dominate our legislative policies and priorities. Non-US citizens here, especially if you haven’t visited the US, need to understand this if they have any real interest in understanding the US.

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faustusnotes 12.18.12 at 12:06 am

ajay, conscription was a very temporary thing in Australia, instituted during the Vietnam war and highly unpopular. As far as I’m aware it didn’t exist in WW1 or WW2. I’m another Australian who has never seen a gun except at a policeman’s hip. I have a vague memory of my grandfather’s shotgun – but he was a Spanish war veteran living in rural England. I knew a few people whose family had guns, but they were farmers and they used them only for farming-related purposes and did not think of them in any way like the majority of gun nuts seem to.

As a result of this I also find the idea that criminals will always be able to get guns quite ludicrous. It’s often put forward by gun nuts: banning guns will only keep them out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. This is obviously rubbish. I live in Tokyo now and I have lived in London and Sydney: in any of those cities I think I could spend days or weeks investigating and I wouldn’t be able to find a gun like the ones used at Sandy Hook. If I were so lucky as to stumble upon someone willing to sell me one, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway, and/or the cops would turn up at the point of sale. It’s another piece of crazy gun-nuttery, that is. Guns are easy to ban. Just do it, America, and move one little step closer to being considered “civilized” by the rest of the world.

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Meredith 12.18.12 at 1:13 am

“Just do it, America, and move one little step closer to being considered “civilized” by the rest of the world.”

This is what I mean. Please, non-US’ers, stop whistling into the wind. We’ve got this thing here called the constitution, plus a Supreme Court, stuff like that. There’s plenty more we could be doing than we have been, but we can’t just willy-nilly do all the things that non-US’ers here keep suggesting. Like just ban handguns (two of them are part of this story, and it’s handguns that do most of the killing in this country).

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faustusnotes 12.18.12 at 1:21 am

then your constitution is uncivilized. Change it.

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Substance McGravitas 12.18.12 at 1:23 am

There are restrictions on various kinds of weapons already. It’s possible to do more, and constitutionally.

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Meredith 12.18.12 at 1:36 am

Substance McGravitas, I agree. As I said: “There’s plenty more we could be doing than we have been….” I guess that point seems so obvious to me that it didn’t need starts and banners and exclamation points all around it.
faustusnotes, if our constitution is uncivilized (not that I agree there, but the “if” for the sake of argument): do you have any idea how difficult it has become to change our constitution? Get real. Maybe down the road, but there’s lots of intermediate work (real work, not spouting off) to be done first.

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faustusnotes 12.18.12 at 1:46 am

Well Meredith, just from an empirical perspective it doesn’t seem like your constitution is the work of god-like wisdom that americans think it is. And if you can’t change this part of your constitution after this crime, then you have serious, deep problems in your body politic. But it seems like the US left either shares in the constitution-valorization, or has flat-out given up on changing it.

It’s also difficult to change the Australian constitution (a majority of voters and a majority of states have to support the change), but we do it when we have to. But maybe our constitution was better designed than yours – it doesn’t, for example, enshrine the right to murder your neighbours.

248

LFC 12.18.12 at 1:46 am

David Kopel was (regrettably) on the NewsHour this evening. He said (a point I’d heard from some before) that the previous assault weapons ban had focused on “cosmetic” (his word) features of weapons. No one offered the obvious, direct reply, i.e.: If that’s true, then develop legislation that does not focus on cosmetic features. Surely that must be possible. Perhaps the commenters here who have mentioned the large magazines etc. are right, but (as someone admittedly not v. knowledgeable about guns) it seems to me that semi-automatic (and automatic) rifles should be banned outright for those without a very compelling, legitimate reason to have one (e.g. perhaps members of certain police units or something like that).

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LFC 12.18.12 at 1:51 am

Even the current Sup Ct’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment would, afaik, permit a ban on semi-automatic and automatic rifles, and probably a fair amount more.

250

faustusnotes 12.18.12 at 1:54 am

Is that actually true though, LFC? I suspect that it is not, just as I suspect Lott’s claim that the Aurora shooter chose the cinema he did because it had an open gun-free policy is also a lie.

The few gun-nuts in Australia liked to claim that the assault rifle ban in Australia would never have affected the gun Bryant used (that triggered the ban). I’ve never seen this claim refuted, though I suspect it isn’t true, but the stats speak for themselves: no mass shootings in 16 years.

You can’t trust what gun-nuts say, but if you dispute them they segue straight to “do you own a gun? Then you don’t know what you’re talking about.” They even quibble over language like “assault rifle” vs. “machine gun” vs. whatever. Like anyone needs to care: everyone knows the difference between the kinds of guns we’re willing to let hobbyists use, and the kinds of guns that should not be seen outside the military.

251

LFC 12.18.12 at 2:08 am

faustusnotes,
I think we’re basically on the same side of this issue. What I’m saying on the constitutional point is that, as far as I know, the relevant part of the US Constitution as currently interpreted by the Sup Ct does not prevent Congress from banning certain kinds of weapons, including the weapon used in this horrific Connecticut shooting.

D. Kopel said on the NewsHour that Connecticut has a law banning assault weapons and that the rifle used here fell outside the ban. The answer would seem to be that Connecticut’s ban wasn’t stringent enough. I understand Kopel is a libertarian blah blah and he also seems to be, frankly, a bit of an idiot, which made it particularly frustrating to listen to him make points some of which did not go effectively rebutted by the other panelists. His basic argument was, in part: We’ve tried laws banning certain weapons; they don’t work b.c of flaws X Y and Z. To which the obvious answer ISTM is: Draft better legislation!!! We’re talking about guns here, not nuclear reactors for heaven’s sake. It can’t be that hard to craft legislation that does what its proponents intend it to do.

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faustusnotes 12.18.12 at 2:13 am

yes LFC I agree: either the ban was a crap ban, or Kopel is lying, or both.

The NY Times reported today that there is a sports shooters association in the town and they rallied opposition to some minimalist and realistic attempts to stop people shooting these kinds of rifles in town, and blowing shit up. I wonder how popular those people are in the town at the moment?

253

Main Street Muse 12.18.12 at 2:27 am

The mother of the shooter had all those guns for “self defense.” An abysmal failure, to say the least.

I could not believe how swiftly pro-gun idiots began the pro-gun advocacy following this slaughter of very young children. Lanza killed 26 people in 10 minutes. I remain haunted by that fact.

And cannot believe there is anyone – let alone a large percentage of the population – who feels the 2nd amendment now requires arming principals and kindergarten teachers with guns in order to uphold the rights of Americans to bear arms. But there you have it. Cognitive dissonance in America.

254

Coulter 12.18.12 at 2:29 am

“It can’t be that hard to craft legislation that does what its proponents intend it to do.”

Yes it actually is, because most proponents that I’ve listened to come at the issue with bad faith. The most common hunting rifles in the US fire .30-06 cartridges. They will kill people quite easily, a lot more easily than a handgun (physics and all that science-stuff). Deer, bears, moose and other large game hunting share a lot of similarities to humans. Kill one, kill both.

Now, you want to ban guns that kill people easily. We can have a conversation about ammunition capacity and concealability. But, that isn’t where proponents go, they look to ban the fetishization of guns, guns that look “bad”, as if the creeps who do bad things with guns won’t do bad things with the guns available whether they look “bad” or not. As mentioned above, banning guns with bayonet nuts was not done in the sprit of making things safer.

I’d have more respect if the Brady and other anti-gun groups came out and said they are against all guns, for all reasons period, including hunting and any other sport shooting. Because they go after guns used in crime, the slippery sloop is there for all gun owners – first they came for the guns others owned. Then after they banned those, and criminals switched to other guns, they will go and ban them, with the same effect …

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Meredith 12.18.12 at 2:33 am

faustusnotes: “Well Meredith, just from an empirical perspective it doesn’t seem like your constitution is the work of god-like wisdom that americans think it is.” Whence this hostility? Why impute to me belief in the constitutions’ god-like wisdom that I have never expressed (and do not feel)? Too much testosterone-infused snark around here. Bye.

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faustusnotes 12.18.12 at 2:35 am

No Coulter, that’s not what happens at all. Aussie farmers still keep their hunting guns, but no one in Australia can possess guns that are exclusively designed to be concealed or to kill lots of people in a hurry. It’s also illegal to own body armour, because you don’t need it, and in most states a wide range of other weapons (flick knives, extendable batons, and a variety of potentially lethal martial arts weapons) are also banned, or available only to permit holders with a legitimate reason.

In the aftermath of Port Arthur, John Howard did not approach gun control in bad faith: he moved, rightly, to restrict access to guns that no one needs. Some gun nuts complained, but the population handed in 630000 guns that they didn’t need. It’s still possible to go hunting or practice shooting in Australia; it’s not possible to cloak your desire to hold a murder weapon in some crap disguise based on “hunting.”

The only people approaching this debate in bad faith are the people who want the right to own an assault rifle, but can’t say why.

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faustusnotes 12.18.12 at 2:37 am

Sorry Meredith, that wasn’t intended to impute any particular ideas to you, it was just a comment on the state of American constitutional thought generally.

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nick s 12.18.12 at 2:41 am

I’d have more respect if the Brady and other anti-gun groups came out–

Here’s the thing: you don’t get to set the terms of the conversation any more. We tried that, and you and your fellow-travellers dragged us down a blind, bloody alley, so your “respect” doesn’t count for shit.

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Main Street Muse 12.18.12 at 3:00 am

“The most common hunting rifles in the US fire .30-06 cartridges. They will kill people quite easily, a lot more easily than a handgun (physics and all that science-stuff). Deer, bears, moose and other large game hunting share a lot of similarities to humans. Kill one, kill both.”

The CT shooter slaughtered 26 people in 10 minutes. Anyone who thinks hunters need that kind of fire power is an idiot. Seriously. People who are serious about hunting absolutely do not believe that.

A semi-automatic gun has one target – a human. In the case of the CT shooter, his targets were 6 and 7 years old. To say that nothing can be done to prevent such carnage in the future is an outrage.

Banning the kind of weapon used in the CT shooting is not the same as taking down the 2nd amendment. Banning a weapon that can slaughter 26 people in 10 minutes is done to protect Americans from such heinous violence.

Look at the pictures of those who died in Newtown. And then try to justify keeping the weapon used to slaughter them readily available. It is inexcusable. Indefensible. And immoral. And no way should the 2nd amendment be used to protect such immorality.

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krippendorf 12.18.12 at 3:10 am

“I wonder how popular those people are in town at the moment.”

Given Americans’ notorious inability to understand the connection between institutions and individual actions, I’d guess they are just as popular as they were before the shooting. Remember, this is a country in which a nontrivial proportion of the population, when faced with such an obviously preventable tragedy, is willing to chalk it up to “God’s will”.

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MPAVictoria 12.18.12 at 3:53 am

“This is how a fringe — and yes, it is a fringe”
Not to derail the thread but the NRA has 4.3 million members. If it is a fringe it is a pretty big one.

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P O'Neill 12.18.12 at 3:57 am

Some may laugh at McArdle’s proposal, but it contains the granular subtlety missing from Volokh’s crude statist mandate for more training. She clearly means that we should undertake a Coasian assignment of property rights of the aggregate group gains from stopping a spree killer, so that the optimal amount of gang rushing would take place in each particular situation.

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js. 12.18.12 at 5:19 am

I understand Kopel is a libertarian blah blah and he also seems to be, frankly, a bit of an idiot, which made it particularly frustrating to listen to him make points some of which did not go effectively rebutted by the other panelists.

I saw this too, and had a very similar reaction. It seemed to me that the Brady Campaign dude (forget his name) was far too focused on forwarding some sort of middle-of-the-road proposal that would be acceptable to all sides (background checks!), but this assumes reasonable, good-faith participants on all sides. Meanwhile, you’ve got Kopel mouthing nonsense and changing the subject.

It’s really what nick s said @258: do not let them set the terms of the debate. And so also: do not make your very first rhetorical move a compromise proposal!

(Also, many thanks to Meredith (180) and nick s (210) for clarifications on the grammar and history, respectively, of the 2nd amendment. Will say that Meredith’s reading of the language, esp. re “the right of the people” is both super helpful and amazingly obvious once pointed out. Cheers.)

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Chris Mealy 12.18.12 at 5:38 am

Meredith, all it really takes to change the constitution is five votes on the supreme court.

265

js. 12.18.12 at 6:06 am

Oh Jesus. I just read the McArdle piece. Well… skimmed it. And it’s frankly hilarious, so maybe worth a read. The bit Chait quotes is gold obviously, but this, which follows right after is just as choice:

But I doubt we’re going to tell people to gang rush mass shooters, because that would involve admitting that there is no mental health service or “reasonable gun control” which is going to prevent all of these attacks.

Yes! That’s exactly why we’re not going to tell people to gang rush psychopaths with machine guns! (Is Adler around to talk about how this “may or may not be” the solution?)

266

John Quiggin 12.18.12 at 6:24 am

One thing that strikes me is the degree of partisan unity on the response.

The Dems rapidly settled on “Enough is enough, we have to do something this time”, and even the most gun-friendly of them are now saying it.

The NRA went for immediate silence, and the Repubs have followed suit, or stuck to meaningless platitudes.

The glibertarians have competed to give the stupidest and most offensive argument possible for psychopath rights.

Have there been any counterexamples? For example, libertarians willing to defend the rights of sane people not to menaced by psychos toting guns,.

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Meredith 12.18.12 at 6:38 am

MPAVictoria, The NRA membership (as opposed to its insane leadership) has surprising views about gun regulation — most of them (though not as many as in the larger population) favor a great deal of gun regulation (admittedly, within the limited terms of the US debate):
http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/07/24/577091/nra-members-agree-regulating-guns-makes-sense/

All kinds of people are NRA members, for any numbers of reasons. (Only 4.3 million out of over 300 million? It’s not the numbers. It’s the MONEY that gives the crazy NRA leadership power.) Some members would be fringy by any definition, but most not (though I would probably agree with even the non-fringies, politically, on very little). (The truly craziest fringe probably are NOT members — they’re the kind of people who like to stay off radar screens as they hunker down in their militia compounds.)

My mild-mannered, college-educated Montana grandfather was an avid camper (primarily) and hunter (secondarily — he fished, too) — Glacier National Park, especially. Like many people in Montana back in the 1930’s, he always carried a shotgun in his car, on the shelf under the rear window. (I’m not sure Montana even required a driver’s license to drive a car in the 1930’s, when the population of the state was greater than it is today. It didn’t require one in the 1920’s.) He briefly tried to sell insurance during the Depression, including in Alberta and Saskatchewan. On one Canadian trip he got pulled over not because he had a shotgun in his car (folks in that part of Canada back then, as they probably would today, understood perfectly well why he’d be carrying a shotgun), but because it was illegally visible (or some such). The shotgun was confiscated and my grandfather was told to be on his way. Some Canadian “law enforcement officer” was personally richer one shotgun, my grandfather figured.
This story was always told in my family with a lot of affectionate laughter for my careless grandfather (whose family could ill afford to lose that shotgun, with its hunting value, in those hungry days), but part of that affection was directed the way of Canada. (We do like to imagine you are cagier than you usually let on.) Our ongoing dance with one another. We’re both awfully big countries, the US and Canada, with an awful lot in common. Maybe that’s why we both feel the need to make so much of the differences.

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nick s 12.18.12 at 6:47 am

The NRA went for immediate silence, and the Repubs have followed suit, or stuck to meaningless platitudes.

One suggestion I’ve read, and won’t discount here, is that the NRA and thus its GOP parrots are biding their time, waiting for Dems (or Bloomberg, or someone along those lines) to make any kind of proposal that can be parsed as “coming for your guns” overreach, at which point they can push back. I also won’t discount that there’s probably a substantial amount of stuff circulating on right-wing bulk email already, and we’ve had the GOP Idiot Caucus (Gohmert, etc.) doing their usual thing.

Having red-state Blue Dogs like Manchin set the tone keeps the NRA quiet, for the moment. That Manchin’s got six years till his next election doesn’t hurt here, either.

269

logern 12.18.12 at 7:03 am

“gun culture”

We once had more of a cigarette culture. It is possible to make a major movement away from prominent cultural norms, believe it or not.

270

Meredith 12.18.12 at 7:05 am

And I appreciate your comment, faustusnotes. But the US constitution (along with the massive apparatus associated with it) is a reality that must be confronted and dealt with, can’t be wished away. It is true, too, that I am kinda fond of that document — Americans do make a kind of Torah out of it (our “civic religion”). I don’t really apologize for that. But thanks.

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Skeptic 12.18.12 at 7:54 am

I don’t think the second amendment is about preserving hunting rights!

272

GiT 12.18.12 at 8:23 am

And indeed, language protecting hunting rights explicitly was offered by anti-federalists, or legislated early on in colonial, and then later state, constitutions, marking the distinctness of that particular issue.

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Bruce Wilder 12.18.12 at 9:21 am

LFC: “Kopel . . . on the NewsHour . . . said . . . the previous assault weapons ban had focused on “cosmetic” (his word) features of weapons. No one offered the obvious, direct reply, i.e.: If that’s true, then develop legislation that does not focus on cosmetic features. “

Or, maybe, the direct reply is that the “cosmetic” features of weapons are relevant — not relevant to sport or hunting, perhaps, but directly relevant to the kind of Rambo/superhero/gangster fantasies, which run quickly toward pathological uses.

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charliemcmenamin 12.18.12 at 10:05 am

Meredith: The American constitution is indeed a formidable and in many ways admirable instrument, not to be tampered with lightly. However, as a foreigner, I can’t help but note that your country managed to amend it some dozen or so times in the 20th Century, so it’s not exactly immutable.

I take your implied wider point that those of us outside the United States may have a tin ear for the politics of the possible on the gun control issue of course. It would be arrogant and rude not to do so.

But can it really be true that there is absolutely no one in front rank American politics who might even conceivable make a call for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment on the straightforward grounds that it is facilitating the slaughter of your children? I quite accept that such a call might well, in the here and now, be politically unachievable. But surely the very fact of making it would help shift the terms of the debate and ease the path of any possible sensible compromise (as opposed to the kind of compromises which dribble away to nothing in particular).

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ajay 12.18.12 at 10:05 am

Or, maybe, the direct reply is that the “cosmetic” features of weapons are relevant — not relevant to sport or hunting, perhaps, but directly relevant to the kind of Rambo/superhero/gangster fantasies, which run quickly toward pathological uses.

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed… but from now on they all have to be shocking pink and covered in My Little Pony branding.

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SusanC 12.18.12 at 10:28 am

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed… but from now on they all have to be shocking pink and covered in My Little Pony branding.

I was refraining from commenting on this thread, but that one made me laugh. There is, possibly, an element of truth in it. (cf. “signalling” in the economics literature.)

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ajay 12.18.12 at 10:47 am

Certainly it would make it rather more difficult to argue that owning one meant your Man Card had been reissued. (Marketing slogan for the Bushmaster .223, as used in Newtown.) But if you like hunting, you can hunt just as well with a shocking pink .30-06 rifle. If you like target shooting, here’s your shocking pink .22; carry on. If you really feel you need a firearm for self defence, well, a pink pump-action shotgun will work just as well. But if you like guns because they look mean when you pose with them…

It’s along the lines of Hunter S Thompson running for mayor of Aspen and promising to rename the town “Fat City”. If you like Aspen because it’s a cool place to live, you won’t care what it’s called. If you like Aspen because it gives you a chance to show off with conspicuous consumption, then you will probably go elsewhere, because you won’t be able to boast about your ski lodge in Fat City without the other greedheads laughing at you.

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ajay 12.18.12 at 10:51 am

The only downside is that it would inevitably lead to a generation of gun-obsessed eight-year-old girls (because PINK!) but that’s a problem we can deal with when it arises.

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Katherine 12.18.12 at 11:45 am

Nah, in 50-75 years’ time, pink would have been rebranded as manly, being a colour associated with red, which obviously refers to blood and hunting and other such masculine things. Society in general would just know that girls liked pale blue, obviously, because it’s such a gentle colour. Look at all those paintings of the Virgin Mary wearing powder blue, after all. “Studies” would declare that women were naturally attracted to blue because that’s a common colour for berries. And everyone would forget that not that long ago, things were exactly the other way around.

It’s happened before, can happen again.

280

rf 12.18.12 at 12:56 pm

“We once had more of a cigarette culture. It is possible to make a major movement away from prominent cultural norms, believe it or not.”

Meredith links to an article at 241 that says:

“In 1977, 54 percent of households reported owning guns; by 2010 that number had declined to 32 percent”

And in the same time violent crime seems to have taken a nosedive, so has this already begun to happen? Is it not better to look at this as a case of well funded interest group politics, (which is what Im taking away from what Meredith and JanieM are saying?), rather than a dysfunctional ‘gun culture?’
Also, I found this interesting, interested to know any American thoughts

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/09/the-secret-history-of-guns/308608/

(On the links between gun laws and racism etc)

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bert 12.18.12 at 1:09 pm

Mary wore blue because lapis lazuli was expensive. It had to come in on the trade routes from Afghanistan. (Literally, it was ultramarine.)
Would pink shift its cultural meaning? Hard to say. A generation of kids wear their trousers halfway down their backsides, because the cops take away your belt in the holding pen. But the next obvious step – flourescent pastel jumpsuits – has yet to catch on.

282

Barry 12.18.12 at 1:37 pm

“Would pink shift its cultural meaning? Hard to say.”

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html

“For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.”

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Katherine 12.18.12 at 1:37 pm

Mary wore blue because lapis lazuli was expensive. It had to come in on the trade routes from Afghanistan. (Literally, it was ultramarine.)

That may well be the original reason why artists depicting Mary put her in blue (I don’t think the original riding-on-the-back-of-a-donkey-no-room-in-the-inn Mary had the cash for lapis lazuli, did she?), but in more recent history, it’s been used as one of the reasons why girls should wear blue and boys pink.

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ajay 12.18.12 at 1:50 pm

I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a painting of the BVM wearing powder blue. Like bert says, ultramarine’s the normal colour.

285

MPAVictoria 12.18.12 at 2:12 pm

Meredith I agree our countries are very similar. However when it comes to gun laws and gun crimes we are not (See my earlier post on this thread for some stats). Now why do you think that is?

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rf 12.18.12 at 2:26 pm

“But the next obvious step – flourescent pastel jumpsuits – has yet to catch on.”

If only….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/fashion/2012/jan/16/ever-ok-to-wear-onesie

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bert 12.18.12 at 2:50 pm

If only…

Good God. The Mayans were right.

288

bert 12.18.12 at 3:02 pm

To engage with the topic, dsquared reacted harshly to Adler’s sanctimony at #32. I agree, and was even less keen on Adler’s pose of reasonableness. With his finicky little a) b) c) he’s pretending to make a rational argument.
It’s anything but.
It’s a hack’s argument, spread by lobbyists and repeated by halfwits. And as if on cue, moral cretin Louie Gohmert pops up to repeat it on Fox News.

289

Jerry Vinokurov 12.18.12 at 3:13 pm

But can it really be true that there is absolutely no one in front rank American politics who might even conceivable make a call for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment on the straightforward grounds that it is facilitating the slaughter of your children?

Not only can it be true, but it is true. I’m going to add my voice to Meredith’s here: the American political context makes suggestions like “amend the Constitution,” seem, well, a bit naive. If you look at what amendments have actually been added in recent times, they’ve either been administrative (defining the terms of the succession, slightly expanding the voting age) or have ridden in on the wave of a mass social movement (women’s suffrage, prohibition repeal, outlawing poll taxes). There is not, right now, in the US, a mass social movement that would support amending the Constitution to repeal the Second Amendment.

290

JW Mason 12.18.12 at 3:54 pm

Bringing up the Constitution here is BS. The US has had a very wide variety of gun restrictions, over time and across jurisdictions. Obviously, it is possible to regulate guns much more strongly than we currently do, without amending the Constitution. And as Chris Mealy notes, the Constitution is anyway only what five justices say it is. Why do we make such a fetish of “the Court” every four years if the content of the Constitution doesn’t depend on who is appointing the justices? Imagine if overturning Heller took on the same salience for liberals that overturning Roe has for conservatives — the Constitution would be effectively amended right quick.

Given that, there is only one reason to say “oh but the Constitution.” It’s because you like the status quo of widespread gun ownership, but you don’t have the guts to say so. If we want to limit gun ownership, there are lots of things we can do without any problems with the Constitution. Start with taking the toughest local gun laws that have withstood court challenge (New York or Chicago) and apply them nationwide. Question for you, Meredith: Would you support that?

291

CJColucci 12.18.12 at 4:38 pm

Obviously, it is possible to regulate guns much more strongly than we currently do, without amending the Constitution.

For certain values of “we,” I agree with that, but the situation is currently in some disarray, and anyone who makes confident predictions is setting himself up for potentially unpleasant surprises. I would not, for example, confidently predict that the very strictest laws now in force in any locality would be upheld, though I do think, personally, that most existing regulation would.

292

James 12.18.12 at 4:47 pm

faustusnotes @252. In the US, the need for government to honor the current interpretation of the US Constitution is what protects citizens rights for free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of press, right to privacy as well as the right to own a gun. I will thank you very much to leave off tearing up the protection of those rights just because you want to eliminate gun ownership.

293

BS 12.18.12 at 5:20 pm

I think it’s worth noting that Meredith (at 243) was responding to the following paragraph (at 242).

As a result of this I also find the idea that criminals will always be able to get guns quite ludicrous. It’s often put forward by gun nuts: banning guns will only keep them out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. This is obviously rubbish. I live in Tokyo now and I have lived in London and Sydney: in any of those cities I think I could spend days or weeks investigating and I wouldn’t be able to find a gun like the ones used at Sandy Hook. If I were so lucky as to stumble upon someone willing to sell me one, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway, and/or the cops would turn up at the point of sale. It’s another piece of crazy gun-nuttery, that is. Guns are easy to ban. Just do it, America, and move one little step closer to being considered “civilized” by the rest of the world.

It seems to me that recent second amendment jurisprudence that would hold the gun laws of London, Sydney, and Tokyo to be unconstitutional is relevant to the proposition that “guns are easy to ban.” That there have been lots of different gun regulations in the US over various times and places doesn’t make post-Heller jurisprudence irrelevant. That gun regulations in the US could be stronger doesn’t make post-Heller jurisprudence irrelevant either.

There is a difference between saying “there are some specific reasons that banning guns in the US is not easy,” and believing that the status quo is desirable. Note for instance that gun regulations in Chicago and New York fall far far short of the regulations in London, Sydney, or Tokyo.

294

C.L. Ball 12.18.12 at 5:59 pm

…this thread already has one contributor (@129) who thinks the appropriate response to the mass murder of infants is to complain they can’t take a pistol to see their senator.Which is madder?

If you read the rest of the paragraph, my point was that it is rank hypocrisy for legislators to allow people to carry weapons, but forbid them to do it around them. If responsible armed citizens are dangerous in government buildings, then they are dangerous outside government buildings, too. Carry-concealed laws with numerous exceptions are arguments against carry-concealed laws.

And at age 6 or 7, we no longer refer to children as infants.

295

Marc 12.18.12 at 6:24 pm

@290: As a practical and immediate matter, we can anticipate that the current court will be hostile to a wide range of otherwise plausible and logical laws. You raise Roe, and it’s a good analogy (even though I’m pro-choice.). Anti-abortion activists can choose between the bans that some of them favor and the limited bounds that the courts permit. Some attempt to challenge the status quo, but many others focus their efforts on limits that can actually pass muster with the courts.

I want a challenge to the faulty recent court rulings when we have members willing to listen to them. Until then I want laws limiting the slaughter that will actually be enforceable and not struck down, and there is a completely legitimate set of reasons to factor this into the legislation that one favors.

296

Salient 12.18.12 at 7:03 pm

One thing that strikes me is the degree of partisan unity on the response. … Have there been any counterexamples?

Yes, unfortunately. Neatly separating the Republicans from the glibertarians might be premature.

(Hopefully this is sufficient disquieting evidence for anyone inclined to aggressively ask “why are you lot arguing with insaneolibertarian people that obviously have no real-world influence” type questions… though that hasn’t happened much ITT, maybe because we were all aware that Volokh’s idea would inevitably find its way into a legislator’s bill within a few weeks’ time.)

297

Salient 12.18.12 at 7:10 pm

Apparently almost all Tennessee schools already have an armed ‘resource officer’ (god that phrase gives me the shivers) and the argument / bill is only about whether or not their should be additional plainclothes’d armed faculty:

“Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun].”

298

NomadUK 12.18.12 at 7:17 pm

And at age 6 or 7, we no longer refer to children as infants.

Actually, in the UK, we do. But since the kids getting shot are all in the US, you can have your point.

299

NomadUK 12.18.12 at 7:20 pm

But since the kids getting shot are all in the US

Including, sadly, a child from the UK whose parents made the mistake of emigrating to the US.

300

NomadUK 12.18.12 at 7:22 pm

Okay, well, actually, I hate Facebook.

301

Stephen 12.18.12 at 7:23 pm

Compare two responses to the appalling news, from the British press:

“Statistics may be a bad excuse for prose, but those which pertain to this subject make chilling and necessary reading. They demonstrate that there is a pathological pleasure at large in the United States. There are nearly 300 million guns to be found there, one third of them handguns – which are useless for hunting purposes, but brilliant as tools for killing. This represents the highest concentration of private ownership of murder weapons in the entire world. The rate for murder by gunfire is 100 times that of the United Kingdom.
Every year, 17,000 people are killed in America, 70 per cent of them with guns, and nearly 20,000 people commit suicide by shooting themselves to death in the home – where a gun is readily to hand in the cupboard. Almost half of all US households have a gun stored as easily as the knives and forks, the bed linen and the toothpaste. People are shot at work, at school, at the supermarket, at bus stops, or even at the front door if they ring the bell at an inconvenient time. In the whole world, only Colombia has a worse record.
The statistics are even more heart-breaking when applied to the young. The slaughter of children by gunfire in the United States is 25 times the rate of the 20 next largest industrial countries in the world combined. If you add them all up, since the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968, well over a million Americans, children and adults, have been shot to death, and even now 80 people die in this manner every day. The terrible slaughter on Friday is not as unusual as it should be.”

And then:
“”Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts … These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” Every parent can connect with what President Barack Obama said about the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. There can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people of that town.

It must follow that what applies to the children murdered there by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them, no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, no interviews with grieving relatives, no minute analysis of what happened and why.

If the victims of Mr Obama’s drone strikes are mentioned by the state at all, they are discussed in terms which suggest that they are less than human. The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as “bug splats”, “since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed”. Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back”.”

One is from a paper that has referred to itself, self-mockingly, as The Feudal Times and Reactionary Herald. The other calls itself The World’s Leading Liberal Voice.

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Jerry Vinokurov 12.18.12 at 7:39 pm

@J.W. Mason,

Bringing up the Constitution here is BS. The US has had a very wide variety of gun restrictions, over time and across jurisdictions.

Indeed, but how much of that time was post-Heller? Not that much. Optimistically, one might say that Heller does not preclude many sorts of firearms regulations, but we don’t know actually know which. As I understand it, the Court left that question mostly unresolved.

Regardless, I think it’s wrong to say that “bringing up the Constitution is BS.” What matters is not so much what the Constitution says but what you can convince the Supreme Court it says. And right now, that doesn’t seem to be going so well for those of us who’d like to see tighter firearms regulations.

Obviously, it is possible to regulate guns much more strongly than we currently do, without amending the Constitution.

I don’t think this is “obvious” at all. It may be possible, but we won’t know until we try. I agree that we should try, but I don’t think any kind of success here is assured.

And as Chris Mealy notes, the Constitution is anyway only what five justices say it is. Why do we make such a fetish of “the Court” every four years if the content of the Constitution doesn’t depend on who is appointing the justices? Imagine if overturning Heller took on the same salience for liberals that overturning Roe has for conservatives — the Constitution would be effectively amended right quick.

Conservatives have been working hard to overturn and undermine Roe at every turn for 40 years, and while they’ve made regrettable inroads, Roe is still the law of the land. There is no Constitutional amendment that has taken away the right to an abortion.

I don’t disagree with your goals, I just don’t see how the Constitutional/Supreme Court problem is going to be overcome here in the short term. There are 5 Republican appointees on the Court, and at least three of them (Thomas, Alito, and Roberts), barring accidents, will be on the court for a long while yet. Kennedy and Scalia are both 76; not exactly spring chickens, but not exactly ancients either. They might both certainly hang around for another 10 years, easy.

If gun control were to take on the same salience for liberals as abortion has for conservatives, it would have to start at the state level, and work its way up. Lots of states already have pretty restrictive gun laws, but they have not been unaffected by Heller; witness the concealed-carry decision in Illinois recently. Some of those laws may or may not survive court challenges in light of Heller. And fighting this battle at the state level (especially in states with the least stringent gun laws, which also typically happen to be the most Republican states in general) is going to consume a lot of resources that are already being used to fight other battles (over the economy, health care, LGBT rights, reproductive rights, etc.). I suspect that the decision not to have this fight has until now been largely strategic, but even if it were to happen, I don’t see us winning at the federal level until the composition of the Supreme Court changes.

303

Salient 12.18.12 at 7:40 pm

Oh, and Marc covered this already, but…

Start with taking the toughest local gun laws that have withstood court challenge (New York or Chicago) and apply them nationwide. Question for you, Meredith: Would you support that?

Do you have any reason whatsoever to believe she wouldn’t?

Do you have any reason whatsoever to be aggressive about this?

Did you Ctrl-F and go back and read what she has said already before getting pushy?

Reread this: “There’s plenty more we could be doing than we have been, but we can’t just willy-nilly do all the things that non-US’ers here keep suggesting. Like just ban handguns.”

That’s factually correct–handgun bans have been overturned with regularity. Your proposal (which I like (and that should go without saying (which is kind of the point of my comment))) explicitly falls under “plenty more we could be doing than we have been” in there. (We can’t do all the things suggested. We could do some of them.)

As for whether we should just lie prostrate before the Constitution and accept its constraints as fixed:

…pretty soon you realize that the second amendment has nothing to do with contemporary, NRA- or Scalia-style notions of “individual” gun rights. This refutation coming, then, from the most “originalist” way of approaching constitutional interpretation. (If you want to go “originalist,” which I’d rather not — but then, the “judicial temperment” requires that we do go there, that we take into account all possibly reasonable arguments.)

So, the currently salient Supreme Court interpretation is bullshit…

As for, “And yet, here we are”: it took almost fifty years, but Plessy v. Fergusson was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education. With smarter public discussion about guns and the second amendment, and smarter and less blinkered supreme court justices, maybe we won’t have to wait fifty years to overturn Columbia v. Heller. (Let’s hope we don’t need too many more Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings.)

…and we have every reason to push for large-scale change, and every reason to believe it’s possible to achieve it on a shorter time scale than the canonical previous large-scale change.

(It was weird to see faustusnotes say, “then your constitution is uncivilized. change it.” As if the need for change was a point of contention. Kinda got covered already.)

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js. 12.18.12 at 7:45 pm

Marc @294:

It’s really not either/or though. Yes, anti-abortion activists focus on what changes they can get within the confines of Roe, both via the courts and legislatures. At the same time, the pressure they have consistently applied ensures that any Justice appointed by a Republican president will, given the opportunity, most likely vote to overturn Roe. Mutatis mutandis etc.

305

Dr. Hilarius 12.18.12 at 7:58 pm

The argument over “cosmetic” features of weapons is deeper than it appears. Gun proponents ridicule assault weapon laws as naive for being based on certain appearance features rather than on some functional basis. My recall is the 1984 federal ban said that if a rifle had three or more features, a flash suppressor, pistol grip, detachable magazine, folding stock, among others, it was an assault rifle. You could buy a semi-auto rifle in the same caliber with the same functionality as long as it lacked one the suspect features. The Russian SKS carbine, having a fixed 10-round magazine, could be fitted with an after-market folding stock. A civilian semi-auto AK-47 (same caliber as the SKS), having a detachable magazine could not legally be fitted with a folding stock.

But appearance is exactly why assault weapons are popular. It’s not the caliber; you can get a rifle chambered for .223 that looks like an ordinary rifle (simple wood stock with an unobtrusive 10-round magazine) like the Ruger Mini-14 or you can get a pimped-out Bushmaster AR-15 with all of the suspect features. Both are semi-auto, both are very accurate and can be fired with rapidity. But it’s the Bushmaster that gets all the gun nuts hard. Why? Because it looks so cool, so military, so dangerous. It’s the fantasy not the function. Gun culture in America is all about the fantasy. Restricting the appearance (I do like the pink gun idea, maybe a few unicorn decals as well?) would reduce the attraction.

A prior posters reference to cigarette culture is astute. Smoking declined as it became unfashionable. But this takes sustained social pressure. Hard core gun fetishists will not bow to fashion but a lot of other people might. A not-so-easy starting point might be getting parents to say no to first-person shooter video games. If we can’t reject video games I don’t have much hope in rejecting gun culture.

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James 12.18.12 at 8:22 pm

Salient @302 and Meredith “pretty soon you realize that the second amendment has nothing to do with contemporary, NRA- or Scalia-style notions of “individual” gun rights. This refutation coming, then, from the most “originalist” way of approaching constitutional interpretation”

This is not historically accurate, nor accurate from a living constitution point of view. http://www.tysknews.com/Depts/2nd_Amend/scholar_angers_liberals.htm . I say this not to dissuade you, but to point out the effort it will take to implement changes.

307

NomadUK 12.18.12 at 8:26 pm

Son, only a pimp in a Louisiana whore house carries pearl-handled revolvers. These are ivory.
– General George Patton, being asked by an American reporter where he got his ‘pearl’-handled revolvers.

308

Consumatopia 12.18.12 at 8:40 pm

Along the same lines as 304, I always found it ironic that gun nuts chuckle so much at the “cosmetics” of the assault weapons ban while singing the praises of crimes deterred by merely displaying a weapon. Since the appearance of the weapon can be used to stop (and commit!) crimes, it’s not crazy to regulate that appearance.

309

CJColucci 12.18.12 at 8:55 pm

But appearance is exactly why assault weapons are popular. It’s not the caliber; you can get a rifle chambered for .223 that looks like an ordinary rifle (simple wood stock with an unobtrusive 10-round magazine) like the Ruger Mini-14 or you can get a pimped-out Bushmaster AR-15 with all of the suspect features. Both are semi-auto, both are very accurate and can be fired with rapidity. But it’s the Bushmaster that gets all the gun nuts hard. Why? Because it looks so cool, so military, so dangerous. It’s the fantasy not the function. Gun culture in America is all about the fantasy. Restricting the appearance (I do like the pink gun idea, maybe a few unicorn decals as well?) would reduce the attraction

There’s something to this, but until the Vietnam War, sporting weapons and miliary weapons looked pretty much alike for functional reasons. Indeed, sporting weapons often were surplus military weapons, often unmodified or only slightly modified. It is only relatively recently that they diverged in either function or form.
As you rightly point out, a pimped-out Bushmaster AR-15 is not functionally different (collapsible or folding stock aside — a genuine functional issue that ought to be regulated) from a wood-stocked Ruger mini-14 with a small magazine. Banning only the pimped-out versionmight have some impact, but it is likely to be modest unless you ban the functionally identical mini-14 as well.

310

JW Mason 12.18.12 at 8:57 pm

fighting this battle at the state level (especially in states with the least stringent gun laws, which also typically happen to be the most Republican states in general) is going to consume a lot of resources that are already being used to fight other battles (over the economy, health care, LGBT rights, reproductive rights, etc.).

Oh don’t I know it. For much of the 2000s, I was the policy guy for the New York Working Families Party, and during that time we scrupulously avoided taking any position on gun control — a decision I fully supported. It seemed then that endorsing gun control would cost us a lot of support from otherwise sympathetic working-class voters, especially upstate. And compared to our other priorities, tightening New York’s gun restrictions just did not seem that important.

Now, I feel differently. But of course it’s easy to take a maximal position on everything when you have the luxury of being just a guy on the internet. Who knows — if I once again found myself in a position that involved the allocation of scarce political resources, I might end up taking the same view I did then, that gun control is just not worth it. But if I did, I would own it.

What frustrates me is people who don’t think gun control is important or desirable, but who won’t own it. Instead they bring up spurious arguments about the Constitution, or muddy the waters with questions about exactly which guns should be banned, etc. There are feasible ways to restrict access to guns. If you don’t support them, you should have the honesty to say that you don’t think restricting access to guns is a goal worth pursuing.

311

Coulter 12.18.12 at 9:41 pm

“If you don’t support them, you should have the honesty to say that you don’t think restricting access to guns is a goal worth pursuing.”

I do want guns restricted. I don’t want felons to buy them. More importantly, if folks are convicted of a gun crime I want them to forever lose their rights to own guns.

OK, we agree … now let’s look for more …

312

Substance McGravitas 12.18.12 at 9:43 pm

More importantly, if folks are convicted of a gun crime I want them to forever lose their rights to own guns.

What do you need to be convicted of a gun crime?

313

John Quiggin 12.18.12 at 10:28 pm

As Mr Dooley said more than a century ago, the Supreme Court follows the election returns. Henry links to an amusing study that endorses this claim in its most literal form:
http://www.henryfarrell.net/images/scj.pdf

More seriously, the case has been put pretty convincingly by Dahl and Ackerman and the counterarguments seem to me to be qualifications rather than refutations (for example, that the SC doesn’t always make politically convenient decisions and that it’s responsive to elite opinion rather than the general public).

Turning from the general case to that of the 2nd Amendment, it’s blatantly obvious that Heller is an instance of Dooley (until recently, the reasoning would have been dismissed as absurd by nearly everyone) and that, if political support for gun control is sustained, it will only take one more Democratic vote on the SC to reverse it. Even without that, Roberts appears politically astute enough to change course if it’s obvious that the Reps are backing a loser.

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JW Mason 12.18.12 at 11:40 pm

I do want guns restricted. I don’t want felons to buy them. More importantly, if folks are convicted of a gun crime I want them to forever lose their rights to own guns.

What about law-abiding people like Nancy Lanza? Should their ability to acquire guns be more restricted than it is currently, or less, or have we got it about right?

315

Ragweed 12.18.12 at 11:59 pm

But appearance is exactly why assault weapons are popular. It’s not the caliber; you can get a rifle chambered for .223 that looks like an ordinary rifle (simple wood stock with an unobtrusive 10-round magazine) like the Ruger Mini-14 or you can get a pimped-out Bushmaster AR-15 with all of the suspect features. Both are semi-auto, both are very accurate and can be fired with rapidity. But it’s the Bushmaster that gets all the gun nuts hard.

I don’t know if the gun-nut community has changed a lot, or if you are not that familiar with it, but there is a whole bunch of pimped-out options for the Ruger Mini-14 as well – folding stocks, flash suppressors, big hulking 40-round magazines, etc. I can even remember reading disussions about why the Mini-14 was a superior survivalist weapon to the AR-15 in its various incarnations. Mind you, this was the late 80’s – I haven’t followed that culture for a while, but I suspect you can still get all the accoutrements still. (and for a pop-culture aside – a folding-stock mini-14 with a big banana clip was one of the guns featured on The A-Team back in the 80s)

Its the extended magazines and other such features that need to be banned. And guns need to be made so they cannot take extended magazines without remilling. The hardcore nuts will still be able to get someone to do the modifications (just as modifying any semi-auto to full-auto is relatively easy), but it will restrict access significantly.

For my credentials – though currently pretty anti-gun*, I grew up in a family where I was made a life member of the NRA when I was 3, and owned an afore-mentioned SKS when I was 13. My dad is a gun smith, owns two legal full-autos in his 200+ collection, and has flirted with the Militia movement. I know far, far too much about this sub-culture. Bruce Wilder and Dr. Hilarious are dead-on about the pseudo military culture and market.

(*Well, I still like the old black-powder rifles)

316

rf 12.19.12 at 12:37 am

“The few gun-nuts in Australia liked to claim that the assault rifle ban in Australia would never have affected the gun Bryant used (that triggered the ban). I’ve never seen this claim refuted, though I suspect it isn’t true, but the stats speak for themselves: no mass shootings in 16 years.”

Is the consensus in Australia that it was the assault rifle ban that led to the decline in massacres (going from wiki there were 6 in 26 years leading up to Port Arthur, and none since?)
I came across this which makes (I thought) a reasonable case that (realistic) gun control measures would not have prevented Columbine and other school shootings:

http://www.uta.fi/arkisto/aktk/projects/sta/Kleck_2009_Mass_Shootings_in_Schools.pdf

But the Australian stats look pretty conclusive. (What other theories are there for the decline?)

“A prior posters reference to cigarette culture is astute. Smoking declined as it became unfashionable. But this takes sustained social pressure. Hard core gun fetishists will not bow to fashion but a lot of other people might.”

Comparing wikis stats on the decline in smoking and Meredith’s link at 241 on the fall in gun ownership per household (in the US, in roughly the same period) there doesn’t seem much between them – from 42% to 20.8% (smoking 1965 – 2006) and 54% to 32% (guns, 1975 – 2010)

Perhaps some of the other tactics used against smoking, (anti-smoking lobbies, laws against smoking and lawsuits against tobacco companies), would be more useful at this stage?

317

faustusnotes 12.19.12 at 1:51 am

James at 292:

I will thank you very much to leave off tearing up the protection of those rights just because you want to eliminate gun ownership.

I don’t notice that your press is particularly diverse, your rights to assembly particularly secure, your freedom of religion particularly strong (aren’t you “one nation under god”?) or your right to privacy very assured, but whatever: I wasn’t suggesting you tear up those rights. The constitution contains one specific amendment about guns. Just get rid of it.

FWMason:

What about law-abiding people like Nancy Lanza? Should their ability to acquire guns be more restricted than it is currently, or less, or have we got it about right?

Is she law-abiding? How did her son get access to her guns? Had her ability to acquire guns been completely restricted, she might still be alive. Why did she need that bushmaster? What purpose did it serve? In the rest of the world, she would not have that right.

Also this business of “law-abiding citizens” is a complete furphy. Everyone is a law-abiding citizen until they break the law. Allowing only “law-abiding citizens” to get guns doesn’t stop law-abiding citizens (which many of these mass shooters are) from getting guns and then going on a killing spree. Adam Lanza wasn’t born a criminal, he wasn’t a criminal by nature, and there is no technique known to science or religion that would enable a licensing authority to identify his future crimes. This isn’t the set of Minority report. The only way to stop people like Lanza from killing lots of people with guns is to stop them getting the guns while they are still law-abiding citizens.

Yes, gun control means trampling on a “natural” right of law-abiding citizens. Deal with it.

318

Barry Freed 12.19.12 at 2:03 am

A breech loading .577/450 Martini-Henry is all the rifle anyone needs.

319

Consumatopia 12.19.12 at 2:29 am

The constitution contains one specific amendment about guns. Just get rid of it.

Three-fourths of the states have to go along with any change to the our constitution. They aren’t going to go along with a repeal of gun rights.

Even far-reaching regulations like banning semi-automatics or detachable magazines are probably constitutional, though.

320

Main Street Muse 12.19.12 at 2:32 am

The idea that we need to arm teachers (or someone who works inside a school filled with children) in order to protect the 2nd Amendment rights of people who wish to own a weapon that can slaughter 26 people in 10 minutes is insane. Utterly insane.

Ban assault weapons. It is not the same as destroying the 2nd amendment. An assault weapon ban is similar to putting establishing a speed limit (limiting the speed of a car, not banning the car.) We limit extreme danger while still allowing people the right to bear arms. Just the kind of arms that don’t allow disturbed men spray 100s of bullets into a classroom filled with first graders or a movie theater or a mosque, etc. and so on.

321

Dr. Hilarius 12.19.12 at 3:01 am

Just to throw another wrinkle into the discussion, state constitutions. Washington State’s constitution provides for an explicit individual right to bear arms.

“SECTION 24 RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”

I’m willing to bet that other state constitutions have similar provisions. I haven’t thought enough about the interplay of state and federal conflict of laws to have an opinion right now. The Washington State Supreme Court has interpreted other state constitutional provisions as granting greater protection than the federal constitution.

322

js. 12.19.12 at 3:17 am

The text of various constitutions is really besides the point. Ten years ago, there was in fact a federal ban on assault weapons. Such a ban can very easily exist again. The current justices wouldn’t stand for it, you say? I’d say it’s hardly clear—if there is broad and well-publicized support for such a ban, it’s not at all obvious that the justices would simply fly in the face of it. (Cf. the ACA, though slightly different considerations in play of course.)

(Also, faustus @317: I’m going to guess that JWM is pretty much in agreement with you. And so am I. But it hardly helps to ignore how extraordinarily difficult it is to change the US constitution—a deeply unfortunate feature to mind, though then again “fortune” might not have had much to do with it. In any case, given that the goal is to most effectively reduce access to guns, trying to repeal the 2nd amendment might not be the best way to go. Not that I’d at all be unhappy if it were repealed.)

323

nick s 12.19.12 at 4:39 am

I’m willing to bet that other state constitutions have similar provisions.

Maine: “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.” Which, to me, seems somewhat despotic in its wording.

I grew up in a family where I was made a life member of the NRA when I was 3

Things like that (along with, say, Rick Santorum making his disabled daughter a life member) really do enforce Gary Wills’ argument about guns as Moloch. It’s a pseudo-baptism; I won’t tempt the Googles, but I’m sure that zygotes have had life NRA membership imposed upon them.

324

Meredith 12.19.12 at 4:46 am

As to why the Supreme Court follows the election returns (John Quiggen@313), the Amar piece I linked to in 216 gives at least part of the reason. James’ link to Tribe (sorry, too weary to find James’ number here!) is also interesting and important. Seems to me, all of this should remind us how important every effort each of us makes on any level can make a difference big time, in the long run. Keep your eyes on the prize, listening along the way (since none of us has all the questions, much less answers).

325

Bill Murray 12.19.12 at 4:56 am

James @ 306, no the 2nd amendment was definitely not meant to be about individual person rights when written. here is the first text before it was trimmed mostly for reducing space

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person

People in the text is used (as throughout the constitution) to refer to a group of people, as is clear here. Person would be used for individuals as in the last clause.

The persons like Scalia that use originalist meaning to find individual gun rights in the original constitution are lying liars. Of course original intent is of little import to a living constitution, but since the major defenders use original intent they either can’t read or are being disingenuous

326

Meredith 12.19.12 at 5:24 am

(And thanks, Salient. Should I say this or assume it? In the spirit of the season, I say it.)

327

mclaren 12.19.12 at 6:11 am

Eugene Volokh has always been a rabid sociopath, and it’s nice to see that large numbers of people are finally beginning to notice. Of course, it was obvious to the rest of us back when he wrote his defense of the “deliberate infliction of pain,” “slow throttling,” and so on. If you read Volokh at all carefully over the last ten years, you had to acknowledge that he was just a much better educated version of the BTK killer. But some people are blinded by the credentials. C.f. John Yoo.

328

ponce 12.19.12 at 6:17 am

@327

“But some people are blinded by the credentials. C.f. John Yoo.”

I think people like Yoo, Reynolds, Volokh and Althouse hve dragged the prestige of being a law professor down low.

So low.

329

brandon 12.19.12 at 7:18 am

Well but is it more or less prestigious than being a physics professor?

330

Chris Bertram 12.19.12 at 7:57 am

I see that McArdle has now written a clarification and reply to critics:

I completely agree that small children rushing a shooter would be a terrible idea. I can see how taken out of context, if you maybe hadn’t read the whole article, “young people” could be read to refer to the Newtown school children. But I was talking about teenagers,

Of course, that changes things completely …..

331

John Quiggin 12.19.12 at 9:02 am

rf @316 There was a bit of controversy when a couple of academics published a study purporting to show no effect, in that there was already a declining trend. The problems
(a) It turned out they were both tied up with the gun lobby
(b) The null hypothesis in their test had gun deaths falling to zero, so the only way to show an effect was with negative deaths

Andrew Leigh (now a Federal MP) took it to bits, and that was that as far as the public debate was concerned

332

Andrew F. 12.19.12 at 12:12 pm

Interesting article on the subject of armed guards at schools: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/education/after-newtown-shootings-schools-consider-armed-security-officers.html

According to the article, 23,200 schools in the U.S., about 1/3 of all public schools, had armed guards during the 2009-2010 school year.

There is no mention of any incidents where these weapons were used to harm students.

Some of those schools are likely in high crime areas, where armed security staff may be there for more than protection against the (incredibly unlikely) event of a mass shooting.

Of course, hiring well trained armed guards (best would be off-duty cops) is not the same as allowing a teacher to carry or have access to a firearm – even a well trained and thoroughly checked teacher. But it’s not a huge stretch either, provided that the training and checking is in fact thorough and ongoing.

More schools, imho, may consider this option because local governments individually have only limited ability to impose gun control laws (weapons can flow in from other localities with more permissive gun laws). Looking for a means by which they might control the risk of a mass shooting, the posting an armed officer or guard may be what they find.

I’d guess that it would be moderately effective against the threat of mass shootings. Most mass shooters plan the event, so the presence of an armed officer can be a deterrent. If the shooting occurs anyway, the armed guard or officer can at the least occupy the shooter’s attention, keeping him from easier targets, while additional help arrives (reducing, but not eliminating, the number of victims). I’m still skeptical that it would be worth the costs, though.

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Andrew F. 12.19.12 at 12:15 pm

^ completely screwed up the link – apologies – the address displayed is correct though if anyone wants to read it

334

rf 12.19.12 at 1:35 pm

Thanks for the clarification John Q @ 331

335

Consumatopia 12.19.12 at 2:00 pm

Of course, hiring well trained armed guards (best would be off-duty cops) is not the same as allowing a teacher to carry or have access to a firearm – even a well trained and thoroughly checked teacher.But it’s not a huge stretch either, provided that the training and checking is in fact thorough and ongoing.

This is the perfect Andrew F. post.

Never mind all the posts above explaining the huge differences between them. Andrew’s a reasonable guy, he says it’s not a huge stretch, that’s good enough, right?

336

Niall McAuley 12.19.12 at 2:13 pm

If a mass-killer is planning a mass-killing at a school and finds that the school has one armed security guard on duty, what is the killer likely reaction?

a) Give up the whole idea

b) Shoot the guard first and take his gun.

337

Hogan 12.19.12 at 2:50 pm

I’d guess that it would be moderately effective against the threat of mass shootings.

It wasn’t at Columbine, but maybe they just did it wrong.

338

bianca steele 12.19.12 at 3:34 pm

OMG, McArdle’s follow-up is (if anything) even WORSE. She thinks that because gang members expect to be confronted by other gang members, and threatened by them in turn, and sometimes a confrontation ends without violence, with the initial people who made the threat backing down . . . and because violent people sometimes surrender to the police or other authority figures . . . any violent person would back down if confronted by his/her intended victims, and let himself be subdued by them.

339

Uncle Kvetch 12.19.12 at 4:14 pm

I see that McArdle has now written a clarification and reply to critics:

I am frankly very surprised by this. I was about 90% sure that McArdle’s inevitable clarification would explain that the original post was actually a brilliant flourish of Swiftian satire, which of course went right over the stupid liberals’ heads, what with them being so stupid and all. Then she’d do a little end-zone dance, cheered on by her fans.

But no. She was actually talking about teenagers, not children…after all, having little children rushing a killer armed with an assault rifle would be madness! (Jeez, what the hell is wrong with you liberals, anyway?)

What an utter wretch that woman is. Newsweek can’t go under quickly enough.

340

coulter 12.19.12 at 4:43 pm

“What do you need to be convicted of a gun crime?”

An arrest, a trial, and a conviction. Sadly, in many large urban areas in the US, it is less than 50% for all of these steps.

“the 2nd amendment was definitely not meant to be about individual person rights when written”

Try this:
http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/common.htm

Also – are you suggesting that the first amendment’s reference to people only applies to groups of people, not an individual’s right to “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”?

341

Uncle Kvetch 12.19.12 at 4:52 pm

Also – are you suggesting that the first amendment’s reference to people only applies to groups of people, not an individual’s right to “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”?

Where in the First Amendment does it refer to “a well-regulated militia”?

342

Salient 12.19.12 at 6:01 pm

This is not historically accurate, nor accurate from a living constitution point of view. I say this not to dissuade you, but to point out the effort it will take to implement changes.

Don’t worry, the vast effort it will take to implement changes is self-evident. (The webpage you linked to was not particularly convincing, but no convincing is necessary.)

Ban assault weapons. It is not the same as destroying the 2nd amendment.

Ten years ago, there was in fact a federal ban on assault weapons. Such a ban can very easily exist again.

fwiw I agree, and will happily do whatever’s possible to push for an assault weapons ban. It’s not enough, though. What we really, desperately, need is a handgun ban. (My relatives could carry a shotgun for roadside emergencies with no loss of functionality.) It’s definitely worth contemplating how we could effectively push for a handgun ban.

343

ogmb 12.19.12 at 6:10 pm

Also – are you suggesting that the first amendment’s reference to people only applies to groups of people, not an individual’s right to “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”?

How does an individual assemble?

344

Coulter 12.19.12 at 9:06 pm

“Where in the First Amendment does it refer to “a well-regulated militia”?”

Perhaps, if that is your reading of the second, in the same place a despot could follow your logic and read the first to allow banning OWS protests since they weren’t “peaceable” in the sense of the word that they were promoting conflict and class warfare …

345

Uncle Kvetch 12.19.12 at 9:51 pm

There’s no shortage of games that a despot could play with the language of the Constitution. Despots all over the world have been known to interpret innocuous-sounding articles of constitutions for nefarious ends. If that’s your best response, the only solution is to get rid of the Constitution and hope for the best.

346

Eli Rabett 12.19.12 at 10:05 pm

“How does an individual assemble?”

One takes a sperm and an egg and brings them together. This clearly shows that blastulas and fetuses are deserving of constitutional protection

347

Slex 12.19.12 at 10:31 pm

I don’t know if someone has already mentioned it, but Megan McArdle’s suggestion doesn’t even hold up to basic economic analysis. There are too big incentives to free ride in her proposed solution – to the point that it becomes unworkable. One can also explain this using game theory. I think that she should be able to draw the pay-off matrix on her own.

348

James 12.20.12 at 12:30 am

Bill Murray @325 Sorry, but the phrase ‘the people’ has always been interpreted as conferring and individual right. As in the first amendment: “…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”. The phrase ‘the people’ has always been interpreted as conferring an individual’s right to assemble. Your interpretation would have to explain why all amendments that refer to ‘the people’ mean an individual rights except for the second amendment. Your particular interpretation also runs the risk of removing individual rights for assembly under the same reasoning.

349

ecurb 12.20.12 at 2:07 am

You know what? I was thinking about opening a discussion about firearm regulation. I thought that maybe there could be some compromise that reasonable people could agree with.
But not after reading this nonsense. I refuse to have anything to do with such impolite and ignorant bigots.

350

mclaren 12.20.12 at 2:31 am

Niall McAuley remarked: If a mass-killer is planning a mass-killing at a school and finds that the school has one armed security guard on duty, what is the killer likely reaction?

Well, that’s the real problem with putting armed guards in schools — the likely answer is c), he wouldn’t even have to shoot the guard, just clobber him and grab him gun and go on a shooting spree. No one in the United Snakes of Amnesia seems to recognize that it is not a good idea to put lots of guns around children. Full stop. Period.

351

Andrew F. 12.20.12 at 11:43 am

Niall @336, there are other possibilities: d) pick another target, e) lower his ambition for the attack, f) attempt a more technically difficult means of attack (explosives, for example).

Now, it’s certainly possible that the gunman could manage to kill the guard immediately, and then proceed with a massacre as though the guard were never there. But provided the guard is well positioned and protected, or that there is more than one guard, the probability of that attempt failing is significant. The point of the guards – at least with respect to mass shooters – is to reduce the probability of the event occurring, even though the measure cannot reduce it to zero.

mclaren, what I found interesting about the New York Times article is how many schools already use armed personnel – I wouldn’t have guessed it was that many. And I agree that the risk of a guard losing control of his weapon is a cost of this kind of security measure; so is the risk of the guard using the weapon inappropriately. With so many schools using armed personnel, though, I wonder whether we might quantify the risk.

Part of the problem with giving certain teachers or administrative personnel access to weapons is that the risk of weapon loss or wrongful use becomes greater, in part simply due to the increase in the number of weapons at schools, and in part due to a possible increased riskiness on the part of each individual teacher or admin as compared to a well qualified guard or police officer. That riskiness could probably be reduced close to that of a qualified guard or officer with careful selection and continuous background checking, and with thorough and continuous training.

This is all obviously from the viewpoint of an individual school district who cannot influence national gun control laws. From that district’s vantage, a nation awash in firearms is the given; the question is whether risk to the school of a shooter is worth using armed personnel.

From a national vantage though, the question is different, since at that level the existing effective level of national gun control is no longer a given.

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