A right to bear Glocks?

January 10, 2011 • 8:06 am

There are two op-eds on gun control in today’s New York Times.  The first is a regular editorial, “Bloodshed and invective in Arizona.”

That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of “the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country.” Anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, firmly opposed by Ms. Giffords, has reached the point where Latino studies programs that advocate ethnic solidarity have actually been made illegal.

Its gun laws are among the most lenient, allowing even a disturbed man like Mr. Loughner to buy a pistol and carry it concealed without a special permit. That was before the Tucson rampage. Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.

And a piece by Gail Collins, “A right to bear Glocks“, including:

. . .Arizona has completely eliminated the whole concept of requiring a concealed weapon permit. Last year, it got 2 points out of a possible 100 in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence state score card, avoiding a zero only because its Legislature has not — so far — voted to force colleges to let people bring their guns on campuses.

Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great. But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it. .

. . . Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. “What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”

In all the discussion yesterday, and in the political discourse about the right to bear arms, I’ve never heard a single good justification for allowing people to own semiautomatic weapons.  As you know, I favor the banning of all firearms (or at least their restriction to target practice, where they could be sequestered at gun clubs), but for the nonce that’s a losing cause.  But allowing the sale of semiautomatic weapons to the public is insane. Is there any justification for it save the specious “slippery slope” argument (if you ban those, all weapons come next)?

Screw the NRA.

179 thoughts on “A right to bear Glocks?

  1. “Is there any justification for it save the specious “slippery slope” argument”

    No. The sole practical purpose of a firearm is to kill. “Target practice” is just practicing to kill.

    1. Heh. I’ll disagree with you. I was on a riflery team when I was younger. I was actually quite good at it. State champion once and tri-state runner-up once.

      At no time and in no way did I ever consider myself being prepared to shoot anything other than the little paper targets.

      It takes a steady hand, patience, and more than a little amount of fine-motor skill to accurately fire a weapon of any sort. Those skills don’t automatically turn one into a killer. Or instill a desire to shoot anything living.

      It was fun. In and of itself.

      So, if you’ll agree that the fallacy of hasty generalization has been invoked, we’ll leave it at that.

      1. It was fun. In and of itself.

        So your fun is good enough reason for people dying?

        I can understand people advocating the right to own weapons suitable for hunting. By people licensed to hold such weapons, proven capable of using them both physically and mentally etc etc.

        But otherwise it’s either idle pasttime or training to kill. And if a idle pasttime kills other people, it should stop.

        I see no legitimate reason for people owning handguns in a civilized society. I realize that the US doesn’t qualify for that at the moment, but you ought to aspire.

        1. Knee-jerkism doesn’t help.

          In fact, not one of the members of my team ever went into the military; or ever used a weapon against a living thing, as far as I know.

          As far as “idle”, well, I think the lessons of patience and discipline were pretty well instilled — as well as proper respect for firearms and a deep knowledge of how to use and not abuse them.

          I don’t see how that creates any kind of a slope, much less the slippery one you’re apparently on which consigns me to some future horrific act.

          1. It doesn’t have to be you, or anyone on your team. Is the fun of responsible gun owners who will only ever shoot targets a good enough reason for making them available to people who will kill with them?

            1. What about the fun of track racing, or simply going for a sunday drive?

              Cars kill half again as many Americans as do guns. Is the fun of responsible driving good enough reason for making cars available to drunks who carelessly mow down entire families with them?


              1. Wasn’t trying to imply the answer, just stating he had a narrow interpretation of the answer. I think it’s a more difficult question that a lot of people give credit. Cars, for example, have a practical purpose. The argument here assumes that these guns have no purpose other than fun at the range.

              2. What about the fun of track racing, or simply going for a sunday drive?

                I expected better of you than this Ben Goren.

                Cars fill a practical purpose, non-hunting guns do not.

                Car use is highly problematic too, but the two are not equivalent.

              3. TheBear, the parallels are closer than you care to admit.

                First, you’ve acknowledged one practical use for guns: hunting. And ranchers need guns to protect their livestock from predators, including coyotes (which are still very common). There’re also very legitimate needs for security personnel in various non-police, non-military situations to be armed — unless you want to suggest, for example, that nuclear power plants and drug manufacturing facilities should only be protected by either unarmed “guards” or uniformed police.

                Why should a bank be permitted to have armed guards to protect its vault, but a multimillionaire shouldn’t be permitted to have armed guards to protect his gemstone collection? And if the multimillionaire can hire somebody to protect that, why should a poorer but equally-private citizen be forbidden from using his own weapons to protect his seashell collection?

                And, if you’re only willing to permit guns for sport to be used in very restricted circumstances and ban all others because nobody needs them…then you’ve got to be equally willing to ban all cars capable of going over 65 MPH except for ones permanently kept at the racetrack. Nobody actually needs cars that go faster, except for racing — and speeding kills people more horribly and more spectacularly than guns.

                And what of knives? I have a 5″ hunting knife I’ve had since I was a boy that I use all the time in the kitchen. It doesn’t even pretend to be anything other than a weapon, but I’ve never used it on living flesh (other than, of course, accidentally on my own). Should I be permitted to own it? Or a baseball bat or a steel pipe? How about a bow or a bola?

                The problem isn’t the weapons. It’s not even the ready access to weapons; we’re swimming in a sea of weapons. We even sleep on weapons; people are murdered with their own pillows.

                The problem is with the people, and with the conditions in which they’re forced to live.



              4. The problem isn’t the weapons. It’s not even the ready access to weapons; we’re swimming in a sea of weapons.

                And yet people consistently go on killing sprees with guns! Can you explain that? Can you explain why Europeans don’t reliably go on killing sprees with cars or, since you brought it up, pillows?

              5. That’s not a fun comparison. You picked out a “Sunday drive”, but what about going to work or commerce, etc. That driving is done more often for those things than fun and conversely that reciprocal necessities don’t exist for guns undermine that analogy in precisely the one aspect that makes it invalid.

                And of course, drunk drivers (or careless people) don’t obtain a car for the express purpose of mowing down others nor do they plan on killing people (often themselves) with the car.

                I’m sorry, you’ll have to come up with another analogy that is a bit more similar if the analogy is to hold.

              6. That should have been “fair” comparison. Not sure how “fun” slipped in. Spell check of a typo?

              7. Tim Martin, first, I’ll observe that there’s still plenty of crime and violence in Europe. Ireland has calmed down of late, but France still erupts into rioting fairly regularly.

                What I will observe is that Europe has a few things going for it that greatly decrease the amount of violence relative to America, and gun ownership isn’t really on that list. (Consider Switzerland, where most or all households have military weapons.)

                Europeans aren’t subject to the crippling debt levels that Americans are, at both the personal and national levels. The level of income disparity isn’t anywhere near as great, either. Europeans have functioning social security networks, and universal health care. And they aren’t anywhere near as uptight about narcotics as Americans. If your deadbeat brother visits you while he’s got a joint in his pocket, and if the police knock on your door looking for him because he missed his probation phone call, your entire house can be confiscated.

                All that combines to create a great deal more personal security in Europe than we have here in America. There are far fewer people who fall through the cracks, and almost no real concern about becoming somebody who does fall through the cracks. In the States, a great many people are but a single late paycheck from eviction — not to mention the staggering homelessness figures. We live in uncertainty and fear, while Europeans live in safety and security. In the large aggregate, it’s a really big deal.

                J.J.E., as I pointed out, there are plenty of professions where firearms are as essential a requirement as motor vehicles. And, with exceedingly rare (and spectacular) exception, people don’t buy guns for the purpose of mowing down crowds any more than they buy cars for the purpose of getting drunk and mowing down crowds. And, yes, alcohol is a contributing factor in a significant portion of gun injuries just as in car injuries.



              8. Again, cars are designed for transportation, guns are designed for killing. Guns, when used for their designed purpose (military, law enforcement, hunting) are used for killing. Cars, when used for their designed purpose, are used for transportation.

                In both cases, entertainment is a “spandrel”.

                I think the analogy has undergone sufficient skepticism that perhaps you ought to communicate your ideas directly or perhaps you could pick a less controversial analogy? It would help communicate your perspective more clearly. I admit to not fully apprehending your perspective due to the interference of the analogies you choose.

            2. Questions that come to my mind:

              Do most people use semi-automatic guns for target practice?

              If they do, is there any problem with them being confined to shooting ranges?

              Objections to the above comments that come to mind:

              ““Target practice” is just practicing to kill.”

              This is an unsupported assertion, and obvious falsehood. Target practice is fun. To say that it isn’t is to make a mystery of millions of videogamers who engage in it via their games, using videogame controllers that provide very poor training in how to use an actual gun. To deny that they do this for fun is a ludicrous claim.

              “And if a idle pasttime kills other people, it should stop.”

              Idle pasttimes don’t kill people; people kill people. Kevin shooting at a range doesn’t kill people; murderers shooting at a mall kill people.

              1. As Edward Abbey said,
                “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. People with guns kill more people.”

              2. “If they do, is there any problem with them being confined to shooting ranges?”

                Yes. The Constitution specifically denies the government the right to ban the use of firearms used by private citizens. That meant, at that time as well as now, that firearms would be used for personal protection as well as in a militia type situation. So, restricting the use of a pistol would be unconstitutional.

              3. The Constitution? I hear you can amend that thing.

                I like how you presume to know what the Framers intended, even though it’s often considered a debatable topic, and you haven’t given any argument for your interpretation anyway. Did you ever think that, I dunno, the Framers didn’t realize what firearm technology would produce in the years after they wrote that?

        2. Stupid reply. I like to cook. I use knives. Knives can kill people as they, like guns, are multi-use tools (regardless of the false-arguments made).

          We don’t scream about the peaceful, non-violent uses of knives when someone is shived on the subway.

          No, your false equivalency is just stupid.

          And that comes from a person who is firmly in favor of gun control. I firmly believe that each and every firearm needs to be registered and own a firearm you must have a license, be lawfully required to install trigger-locks or a locking gun-cabinet to store the firearm and a legal requirement to carry insurance to cover the consequences of deliberate or accidental discharge.

          Owning a weapon should be legal. But it should be difficult to obtain one and difficult to keep the right.

          But to say they “have no other purpose” than which you’re will to lie about… Stupid. Just plain stupid. I’ve been target shooting since I was six and I think it’s fun to shoot bottles, cans, etc.

          And yet I can’t even stomach to bring myself to hunt squirrels… And they’re just a bunch of effing tree-rats…

          1. Word. I have been target shooting since like 10, maybe younger and I dislike hunting. I have no desire to use my firearms on any animal.

            I agree with most of what you listed for gun control. I do say people should have a right to at least have one ready weapon in case of defense.

            Accidental discharge is another subject. Most of the ones I’ve encountered came from ignorance or negligence. Anything short of malfunction in the firearm (not the person) when dealing with an AD, should include some stiff penalty.

          2. To use an evolution analogy, the “fun” aspect is a spandrel. The overwhelming majority of firearms are expressly designed for killing.

            1. The overwhelming majority of firearms are expressly designed for killing.

              This rhetorical oversimplification isn’t doing anything to help further the discussion.

              Slaughterhouses are expressly designed for killing, much more unambiguously do than firearms. Are you suggesting we eliminate all slaughterhouses?

              If you look at what guns are actually used for, homicide is pretty far down on the list.

              There’s hunting. Yes, that’s “killing,” but see the slaughterhouse for comparison.

              There’s all forms of non-violent sport, the variations on the target shooting theme. No killing, and the guns best suited for such sport aren’t very well suited for killing.

              Then there’s military weapons. Killing aplenty, but I seem to be the only one on these threads who’s constantly urging the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as a significant way to reduce domestic violence. Regardless, these aren’t the guns under discussion.

              Finally, there’re the types of small arms favored by police and civilians. As has been observed elsewhere in this thread, in a one-on-one situation, especially in close quarters, they’re actually less effective as weapons than knives. In practice, the intention is almost always to brandish (or merely display) the weapon and thus, through psychology similar to the MAD of the cold war, prevent escalation of a dangerous situation. This is especially true of police; you can be certain they don’t fire their weapons every time they draw them.

              And, yes, they are used to kill. In theory, when wielded by responsible people, only in kill-or-be-killed situations. In practice, irresponsible people also use them to kill or to threaten.

              Banning guns will hinder or stop all uses of guns except for that last one, and it’s only that last one that we’re concerned with. And it won’t address the root causes of violence — the poverty, the black market for easy-to-grow plants, the social and financial inequality.

              You want to stop drive-by shootings by gang-bangers in the barrio? The solution is the exact same one that stopped drive-by shootings by the mob in Little Italy in the ’20s.



              1. So, step outside the analogy and try to present your argument on its own merits rather than riding the coattails of other sanctioned and uncontroversial items, like slaughter houses and cars.

                It may be less convenient to step outside the analogy, but analogies aren’t true arguments anyway, and just shortcuts for communication. Since I seem to be stuck in accepting the analogy part, why don’t we just cut to the actual direct logical argument, even if it takes a bit longer?

              2. I’ve done that in pretty much every single response I’ve made.

                The solution isn’t to ban guns; they’re just the symptom.

                The solution is to eliminate the causes of societal violence. Withdraw from Afghanistan. Return taxes to those that Reagan favored. Use the savings and income to pay down the national debt and to build infrastructure; the investment will more than pay itself off just as the WPA did. Provide a real social safety net. Have everybody buy into Medicare through a mandatory (and gradated) tax assessment, thereby ensuring universal health care. And eliminate the black market for easily-cultivated crops that fuels gang violence by ending prohibition.

                Do all that, and personal security will soar, eliminating the root cause of most violence.

                None of that is even vaguely radical. The US has done most of it at various times, and most of Europe is doing all of it right now.



              3. Thanks for that. I won’t disagree on principle with most of that (though I’m not sure that the tax argument stands up very well in a U.S./Europe comparison given how low taxes in the U.S. are both latitudinally and longitudinally). However, I would add that obtaining firearms in nations that we would like to compare ourselves to is rather more difficult than in the U.S. One wonders if there isn’t some merit in both snuffing out the symptoms as well as diminishing the disease. I suppose we could try to provide the world’s first example of a high income, healthy economy, low poverty, low violence nation who also happens to permit very permissive public ownership of firearms. A veritable Sweden + guns… We’d be the first country to be like that. But is that really a worthwhile goal?

              4. Ben,

                What you say, here and above, makes sense. I had been wondering about the “societal security” issue and how much of a factor it is. I wouldn’t say it’s a foregone conclusion that it is the relevant factor here, but it’s certainly worth considering.

                That said, I find myself agreeing with J.J.E. as well, when he says there might be merit in snuffing out the symptoms as well as the disease. Often, attacking a complicated problem from multiple angles is what works best. It’s something I plan on thinking about further.

            2. The overwhelming majority of firearms are expressly designed for killing.

              This is so weird to see on an atheist blog, and it only seems to come out around gun control.

              When we unpack the argument, we’re seeing:

              1. Objects are designed with a purpose
              2. Designer’s intent is somehow a part of the object’s “True” intent.
              3. This intent matters, even if the owner has a different purpose in mind.

              The religious people use this setup when they’re talking about why gay sex is wrong. They’d say that humans were designed. So, sure, the owners of a pair of gentiles might want to use them for pleasure, but that’s not what they’re really for.

              Objects don’t have True Natures in this sense. They simply are.

              So a designer’s intent should be irrelevant. All that matters is the intent of the user.

              1. No. Real gun engineers with real professed motives have designed pieces of technology that are very good at killing other vertebrates. This is empirical. Humans when confronted with certain situations will at certain non-trivial rates avail themselves of such killing implements to do just that: kill. The types of killings that are often conducted with guns are often illegal and deemed undesirable by society. This is also empirical. We don’t need to follow your red herring. There is no “true nature” of guns, and that comment its irrelevant for considering the wisdom of the role of regulating firearms. Surely you don’t need to assume some Platonic ideal of fusion bombs to recognize the utility of regulating them.

    2. I consider target shooting a legitimate sport and hobby. Unfortunately the same weaspons can be misused, but usually it’s more the “defense” type of weapon that get used for shooting people.

    3. Gott sei dank for nostalgia. How comforting to remember earlier times when America was just beginning to exercise its right to armed self protection.

      It was the summer of 1966, and I was traveling in Europe before entering graduate school. Being semi-literate in German and stiffled by the inability to communicate freely without great effort, English publications would virtually leap up at me when close enough to be seen. So one day in the middle of August, I spied a copy of Life Magazine in some youth hostel, and mentioned on the cover of Life was a story about the first of the grand American small-arms massacres, which took place at the University of Texas. Freed from the suffocation of foreign language, my eyes sucked the letters from the page and soon came to a list of victims who had been killed and a list of those who had been injured. Names, meaningless names, strangers I’d never know. Then I saw Tom Ashton. Tom Ashton…! No, no, not Tom… Not the gentle, fragile boy I’d known since the 7th grade, the quiet, kindly friend, who though puny in his physical proportions was one of the most popular and respected boys in the school. No, it couldn’t be the decent, caring Tom who had just graduated from Stanford and told me before I left for Europe that he was going to the University of Texas to attend a training camp for the Peace Corps. All these years later, fully aware as a biologist and a pre-cosmic agnostic of how little the individual life means in the eyes of nature, I still think of Tom now and then.

      I fear we are bound in a classic, evolutionary arms race, a brawling ball of assholes and elbows, guns and knives, chains and baseball bats, rolling headlong toward the extinction of our democracy.

      For a succinct precis of the small arms debate, from the actions of the insane to the ballads of self defense (patriotic Texans soon brought their private pieces to campus and commenced firing back; the tower was so thoroughly pocked with return fire that it took several years to rapair and re-open)
      –for an historic perspective, on the social evolution of self defense, a link:


  2. There is not one single gun advocate who truly and really believes the second amendment permits every kind of weapon to anyone who wishes to have it.

    Else they would advocate in favor of personal nuclear weapons, land mines on their own property, and allowing every mosque in the country to arm their minarets with machine gun nests.

    So, in the end, it comes down to just how much restriction there should be.

    I’m with you. The types of weapons that are most popular are exactly the ones least likely to be usable for any purpose other than harming human beings.

    Ban them all. And tax the crap out of ammunition for the remainder.

    1. This is like saying, “I wish there were no drugs.”

      It’s a decent wish. The world might be better if no one had come up with guns or recreational drugs.

      The problem is getting from here to there.

      For instance, our current drug prohibition has done more harm than good.

      People talk about gun-bans, but how would such a thing actually be implemented? If Obama were to try, I imagine we’d see a literal violent uprising.

      Would it even be possible to ban all sidearms without having massive negative side-effects?

  3. Well, a lot of people like to fantasize that if/when the US turns into a totalitarian dictatorship, it will be plucky citizens with big guns who storm the capital and liberate the government by force. You can hear a lot of blather about this if you listen to gun advocates.

    That totalitarian dictatorships in the modern era typically have mass appeal, and in particular appeal to the sorts of persons who like fantasizing about being Rambo, does not seem to ruin their enthusiasm for this dream.

    1. It appears to me as a non-American that those gun advocates are the people who would most like to see a totalitarian state – ? The US is no longer a frontier community in fear of invasion.

      The comedian Chris Addison said “The right to bear arms is only slightly less ludicrous than the right to arm bears”.

      1. Can either of you explain why gun advocates (many who claim to hold a limited government ideology) want a totalitarian government to rule over them with an iron fist (and ban all firearms)?

        And on the subject of tyrannical governments, what would you do? Do you think the jews in the Warsaw ghetto who fought back were just wasting their time? That they might as well have went quietly to the camps since they were going to die anyway?

        I know the answer, and it all depends on who is running the government at the time:

        Republican Regime: Fight back! Freedom!

        Democrat Regime: What tyranny? Why all the anger, dude?

        1. They want to be the rulers or those in charge perhaps? They want a “strong man” who will give them power? I was not claiming to make a definitive as to their motivations – possibly they are just unthinking and selfish, rather than being selfless.

          The Jews in the Warsaw ghetto – I do not see the analagy with the US today. They were actually fighting for their lives, I do not see a foreign regime trampling on oppressed US citizens & murdering them.

          I do not like interference of government in the freedoms of the individual either but we have to compromise.

  4. People who don’t see a problem with making murder weapons readily available to febrile and rage-prone apes are the ones who usually don’t accept that they are,just that; apes.

    Scientific illiteracy in general and a denial of our origins in specific have some very nasty consequences indeed.

  5. If our political discourse were sane and our right wing not out of its Goddamn mind, we wouldn’t need to tighten up our gun laws. We could treat shooting like any other potentially dangerous hobby, like architecture or full-contact whist.

    Unfortunately we live in a country where many people are so lost in a violent persecutory fantasy that we are left with two choices: either restrict the speech or restrict the avenues of action. (Or chant Ben Franklin quotes like a magic mantra against bad times, but I’m speaking of *effective* solutions.)

    The First Amendment and its variations are necessary for a First World democracy; I can’t think of a country I’d want to live in without those freedoms inscribed in law or permitted through custom. By contrast the Second Amendment is an 18th century relic that rambles about something called a “well-regulated militia”; its statements are so weird and archaic as to border on the plainly counterfactual. Until the United States addresses the root causes of its political mass psychosis, I see no benefit, in practice or in theory, in giving citizens the opportunity to unleash their gun collections on one-another. I certainly don’t feel more “free” knowing that I, too, could rip through twenty of my fellow humans with a handgun.

    1. A few years ago my wife was writing a crime thriller story, so I took her to a gun shop in Texas so she could see what the various types of handguns looked and felt like. (I was a bit of a gun nut in my youth, so I already knew.)

      We looked a few revolvers, but the really cool weapons were the semi-autos, especially the Glocks.

      It was a bit sobering to realise that with my Texas drivers license, lack of criminal convictions, and a credit card, I could have walked out of there with any and all of those excellent killing machines — slowed only by a lame-ass 3-day waiting period required by the feds. And nothing could prevent me from using these weapons on my fellow humans except my own feelings of decency and empathy.

      And I was frightened at just how easy it would be for someone, anyone, to do what this guy just did in Tucson.

      1. The next time you drive past an elementary school at the start or end of the school day, take a moment to be just as frightened at how easy it would be for someone, anyone, to stomp on the accelerator, turn the wheel, and mow down dozens of children.

        And be sure to remember that the only thing that can prevent you or your fellow humans from doing so are our mutual feelings of decency and empathy.

        Next, have a look at how many of the people in cars next to you are talking on a cell phone as you drive past the school, and question just how much decency and empathy they actually have.



        1. It’s pretty hard to conceal a car under one’s jacket and sneak up behind someone with it, though — unless he/she is deaf and standing in the middle of the road.

    1. I used to think that people who make those kind of arguments have seen Red Dawn too many times. But that said, look at how effective the Taliban has been in Afghanistan with very low-tech weapons.

      1. You guys destroyed the taliban regime in like 5 seconds. Now, when it comes to *rebuilding* a country or a stable government, your army isn’t nearly as good at it as it is at destroying stuff.

        Same with Iraq. You conquered Iraq in two weeks, and then spent the next 8 years trying to figure out what to do next.

        Now, imagine a real rebellion by some Americans who declare war on the American government. The government is already established, so the military doesn’t need to rebuild anything, they just have to kill the rebels. You can see what would happen next.

        1. You guys destroyed the taliban regime in like 5 seconds. […] You conquered Iraq in two weeks

          What’s all this “you” stuff? I’m Canadian.

        2. You’re ignoring the fact that the US had it’s arse handed to them by a lightly armed insurgency in Iraq, and a slightly better armed one in Afghanistan (as did the Russians), which is ongoing. Guerilla/insurgent warfare works, even against an opponent which has advanced weaponry.

          And no one (except certain militias) is proposing that the American people “rebel” against “the American government,” ie, the present one. However, many American would have no problem in defending themselves against the hostile actions of a tyrannical, totalitarian government(which will probably never happen). It’s strange to me to see people laugh at this idea, or mock the idea of individuals resisting these actions through force (firearms).

          1. I believe one of the major advantages that the insurgents had in the middle-east was terrain and a many places to hide. America? Not so good on that count.

  6. As I wrote yesterday, firearms are but a single class of weapons, and nowhere near the most readily available nor the deadliest.

    A soda bottle filled with gasoline combined with a firecracker can make a fuel-air explosive device that would have killed even more people than died over the weekend and severely burned everybody present. And, with hardly any imagination, one could add stuff to the bottle, like rusty nails and magnesium shavings, that would make the carnage even more horrific.

    Sure, we can ban firecrackers, but people have been making them from — literally — dirt, paper, and string…and we’ve been doing so for centuries. Soda bottles and gasoline we won’t be banning any time soon.

    The problem isn’t ready access to weapons. The problem is violence, and the best way to solve that is by solving the forces that drive people to violence. Poverty, job insecurity, crippling debt, unavailability of health care, and a thriving black market in easy-to-grow crops are contributing far more to the problems we face from violent crime than ready access to firearms ever did.

    First put the effort and political capital into ending the war in Afghanistan (where gun violence, with military weapons, is being perpetrated by Americans on a scale us civilians simply can’t imagine). Then put your sights on getting our financial house in order by returning taxes to those favored by Reagan. Then end prohibition, and finally let Americans of all ages buy into Medicare.

    Do all that and gun violence will be about as noteworthy as house fires caused by code violations.



    1. How often do people go on killing sprees using soda bottles and gasoline?

      Do you have any evidence that, if guns were less available, people would start killing others using soda bottles and gasoline? I would think countries with stricter gun laws, such as Canada or the countries of Europe would provide the evidence your argument requires. Do they?

      When I lived in Japan, I was shocked by how often I saw in the news that someone had gone nuts and stabbed a bunch of people. I eventually realized that the reason there were so many stabbings is because they weren’t shootings. So I guess that’s a plus. Still, I don’t recall many people using chemistry to kill each other.

      Do you have any explanation for the fact that “the rate of death from firearms in the United States is eight times higher than that in its economic counterparts in other parts of the world”?

      How often do people go on killing sprees with

    2. Poverty – that’s the one. Ban that.

      However is it not true that violent crime in the US has dropped since the late 1970s? I know that the measurement of these things has a lot of difficulties, not least what is or is not reported.

    3. Great. More of the same ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ lame-ass drivel. You are right. They don’t. Then of course there are the practical, real world consequences of guns. They just make it a lot easier to kill many, very quickly. Since you mentioned pillows can be a weapon, I for one would rather have had Mr. Loughner try to take everybody out with his pillow. After all, ‘pillows don’t kill people, people kill people’.

  7. Nobody’s dick fell off when Thompson machine guns were banned.

    That said, there’ll be a discussion about what constitutes a semi-automatic, and that involves the bit that after loading the first round manually, the reloading is automatic but the trigger must be pulled for each shot. By that definition my father’s 1936 Colt Woodsman is I suppose semi-automatic. But, I frequently hear these damn things going off in the distance (from the low-rent section of town) with a mechanically-spaced repetition so precise that it can’t be correlated with anyone’s trigger finger. (The stray bullet from one of these outbursts was presumably what punctured the roof of the boro building beside my house.)

    Anyway, I assume that these are the sorts of things like the 9mm Glock and/or an Uzi or AK47.

    Question is, are these field-modified to be able to fire automatically, or do they come this way from the factory and they’re considered semi-automatic due to some semantic twist?

      1. They are also an excellent knowledge of how your exact model works (or an armorer’s course) away. Also, in many cases, machinist’s tools. Most gun owners neither have excellent knowledge of how they gun works, nor machinist’s tools.

        Go ahead an look up how to convert a Glock to full auto. It can actually be done on that pistol, unlike most other pistols, and tell me how easy it sounds to you. I have a pretty good knowledge of guns and do a little gunsmithing myself, I wouldn’t even attempt a full auto conversion to a Glock, or any handgun.

        1. It looks easy to me… I work at a machine shop though.

          And several of my co-workers are card-carrying NRA members. I know at least one of them has made parts for his. 50 caliber hand cannon. O_o that thing is scary!! It could srsly drop an elephant. I shot it once and scared the crap outta myself and everyone else at the range.

          On a lighter note, we just finished a sweet CO2 powered speargun… i’ll link ya’ll to the vid if ur interested… which does somewhat come around to the whole” guns aren’t the only weapons” theme…

  8. “Jared Lougnner: drug arrests, too crazy for Army or for college or anything else, but getting a legal gun? No problem.” – Tom Tomorrow


  9. What is the problem with “semiautomatic” pistols? Should double action revolvers be on the list, as well? If not, why not?

    1. Rate of fire is limited by how fast you can cock a revolver. Also, you can only put so many bullets in a revolver, and they’re a PITA to reload.

      You don’t have those problems with a semi-automatic. They go, “BLAMBLAMBLAM…” (30 times) That’s how Loughner was able to hit so many people. He would’ve needed like four revolvers to get so many.

      1. What you write suggests that you don’t know what a ‘double action’ revolver is (and possibly are unfamiliar with speedloaders).

        1. Even though a double action can fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, the trigger pull itself is much longer, which slows you down and reduces accuracy when you’re trying to go fast. And speedloaders aren’t a substitute for high capacity mags.

          1. I’ve seen people fire revolvers, as fast as they can pull the trigger, and be reasonably accurate. If some nut is just firing as fast as he can, as in the Arizona case, then the matter of ‘reduces accuracy’ becomes pretty much irrelevant.

            To be sure, speedloaders are not the equivalent of high-capacity magazines, but that is not on point in relation to the claim to which I replied, that being that “[h]e would’ve needed like four revolvers” for as many rounds.

            The comments by ‘nichole’ above struck me as almost painfully ignorant, and that is to what I responded, as I don’t like faith-based arguments on any subject.

            1. Did I mix up double-action and single-action? I do crap like that. I take it double-action’s the one you don’t have to cock…

              I’ll admit I was wrong if you quit being so touchy. You even admit that a double-action revolver with a speedloader isn’t as fast and accurate as a semi-auto, so it’s not exactly like my point was totally wrong.

              DBAD, dude.

              1. Unfortunately, your first response made two points, and both of them were -wrong-.
                I don’t think it is an offense to point that out.

                Can an extended magazine make a difference? Of course. But that is a different issue than that of a weapon being “semiautomatic”.

              2. So wait, you *can’t* only put so many bullets in a revolver? Because speed loaders exist?

                I thought you were asking an honest question, not a loaded one. I’ve fired semi-autos and revolvers. One goes “BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM” and one goes “BADOW! BADOW! BADOW! BADOW!” and that’s all I was trying to say. If I had realized you were asking a finer question and that you were aware of the differences between revolvers and semi-autos, I wouldn’t have answered you because I don’t have that answer.

  10. Because the ability to defend one’s own life is important and an inalienable right. Semiautomatic handguns are an extremely effective tool to do so. Sometimes they are misused.

    1. Everything you said applies to fully automatic weapons. Should any American be allowed to buy an AK-47, too?

      In my view, the “misuse” outweighs any advantage of having an automatic weapon over, say, a rifle or handgun, and the automatics should be banned.

      1. Americans can buy an AK-47 full auto if they have the right paperwork, and I agree that it should be tough as hell (and it is) to get that paperwork. But fully automatic weapons are piss-poor for self defense when it comes to rate of fire. Watch any video for any weapon (you can find them quickly) shooting fully automatic. They empty 30 round magazines in about a second. You want a semi-automatic for self defense because seconds count and you do not want a full auto for self defense because you want to make sure that each round counts and stops your attacker(s).

        Full autos are highly regulated by Federal law, not State law, so that applies everywhere.

        Considering 2.5 million crimes (as noted yesterday and is easy to find) are thwarted every year and 90% of the time not a shot is fired (and I imagine the great majority are for self defense), I’d say this outweighs the rare “misuse.”

        And if you are making the case it was a fully automatic Glock, it was not. It was a Glock 19 (semi-auto), Glock 18 is the full auto version (not available to common folk).

        1. Coming down on the other side, it seems almost certain that the “2.5 million crimes […] thwarted every year” figure is bogus.

          Self reporting of such things among gun owners is outrageously biased. I recall reading ‘stories of self defense’ column in some gun mag in which not a -single- case was clearly one of prevention: every one was a “he looked like trouble, but nothing happened because I had a gun” story.

          1. I’ve seen some of those stories too. I wonder what magazine the other guys write to? “There I was, just walking down a dark street when this guy opens his jacket and shows me a gun and tells me he doesn‘t want to shoot me. I turned right around and went back home.”

        2. “But fully automatic weapons are piss-poor for self defense when it comes to rate of fire. Watch any video for any weapon (you can find them quickly) shooting fully automatic. They empty 30 round magazines in about a second.”

          So don’t hold the trigger down until it’s empty. That’s a pretty lame excuse for saying they’re ‘piss-poor’ for self defense. In a home-defense scenario, where it’s dark and cramped, the ability to spray a burst or two is pretty effective, if indiscriminate.

          1. You seriously think that firing a fully automatic weapon in a home, when you cannot see what you are aiming at is a good idea ?

            1. First off, firing ANY weapon when unable to identify the target and what is beyond the target is super-duper fucking retarded. Is why I wish firearms came with safety courses. Simple shit like that may be avoided if that concept is entrenched into the gun owners mind.

              When used properly firearms can be life savers, but like any tool in the hand of the ignorant or disturbed the can cause harm.

              1. “When used properly firearms can be life savers”


                I suppose if you don’t use numbers to count with.

                otherwise, if you kill someone, even to save your own life (and THAT is quite debatable in the vast majority of even home invasions), then no, you haven’t actually saved any net lives.

                in fact, there is a net loss.

                simply stated, guns DO NOT SAVE LIVES.

                they MAY protect your own, but to classify them as “lifesaving equipment”, is just fucking inane.

            2. well, he did mention it was indiscriminate.

              so, I’m guessing at some level, they do recognize the inherent, uh, problems.

              fucking gun nuts, how do they work?

    2. It bears pointing out that “the inalienable right to defend one’s own life [with a gun]” becomes much more pressing when one’s neighbors, confused, drunk or deranged as they may be, walk around heavily armed.

      There is something very American about this endless debate on the pros and cons of firearms.

      For a change in perspective, ask virtually anyone in another modern, industrialized country about their thoughts on this matter and they will stare at you incredulously and answer that they feel that guns do not belong in a civilized society.

      1. Yes, I agree, I cannot, as a Canadian, understand it at all. What is the issue here? If everyone is armed, it almost pays to have a gun. But if guns are strictly regulated, you can sleep more peacefully at night, knowing that no else is likely to have one either. Besides, if guns are easily at hand, it only takes one violent outburst of rage to put it to use. We are often ashamed at our intemperance and anger. Suppose that in anger — because it was so easy — we killed someone too?

        1. Drugs are strictly regulated and they are readily available. The same thing would be true of guns in the U.S. if they were banned: the hackneyed “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” is obviously true.

          I get the feeling that a lot of folks commenting on this issue are academics who have never functioned in the world of the street. I am a retired academic who did have some real life conflict situations beyond the petty tensions of academia. I have faced down hostile, ex-convict white trash neighbors, armed trespassers, and KKK threats to my life back in 1960’s Birmingham. I lived and traveled alone in back country Brasil where life was cheap and many men were armed. Unless a person has had those kind of experiences, their theorizing about this issue rings hollow to me.

          1. How many of these psychologically disturbed people who go on shooting sprees are the “outlaws” you describe? Versus how many of them are psychologically disturbed people who were able to get a gun easily because it was legal?

            1. Here is the trade-off: outlaws armed with firearms routinely taking whatever property, life (when the victim tries defense without a firearm)or sex from unarmed citizens Versus an insane person killing innocents as an infrequent occurrence. My choice is for the latter, and I run just as much risk there as anyone does.

              1. “Why didn’t Canada have to make the trade-off?”

                or Australia, the UK, all of Europe…

                yes, for some odd reason, the USA stands alone as apparently the only place in the world where guns are indeed saving the citizens from rampant thuggery!

                or, could it be just a rampant projection of irrational fear?


              2. Thats a lie,and unprovable.Also,in reality “criminals” are not monsters,or abstractions from another planet.They are humans,and they take as many different approaches to their criminal avtivities,with as many different motives as there are criminals.What was the Robin Hood myth,but an icon for heroic outlaws fighting an oppressive,and unjust social system.John Dillinger,was rightly or wrongly considered a hero by many during the deoression.

              3. But do you need a handgun with a 30 round capacity to defend yourself? Something tells me that even if you actually were in a situation where you needed a gun, you could make do with fewer bullets.

          2. I have also lived in various dangerous neighborhoods,have been held up on several occassions.Ive never owned a gun.In ninjitsu,strategy,and awareness are deadlier weapons than any gun.There is no guarantee that if you are armed you will prevail against your opponent merely because you are equally armed.A quick mind can outwit a gun anytime.Also,gunshot wounds to nonvital areas are highly survivable.This precisely why police shot an armed assailant to kill.If they shoot them in the arm,or leg-they can,will,and have keep coming.

              1. I have heard that the ancient and venerable technique of here-is-my-wallet-and-watch is far superior to a gun for saving your life.

          3. Makes it much easier to spot and arrest the outlaws, no?

            Also, isn’t the manufacture and transport of guns far harder to do illegally than that of drugs, as you presumably need some manner of smelter and they can be found out via metal detectors?

        2. So, some how criminals would be unable to obtain a firearm or something that would do the job similarly? Group raids of houses don’t occur then I guess?

          Losing firearms would not let me soundly. If I saw an increase in intelligence of my fellow U.S. citizens, better understanding of safety in general and a decline in harmful intent in them. That would sleep soundly.

          Killing a person is easy. Razor blades disembowl, sharp edges can kill, snapped neck, knifing, shivs,
          tasers (yes they can), can do so.

          The question is how to help mellow some of these damn people so that violence is not the best option?

          Some fucking people are just irate and even if their body were turned into foam rubber, they’d die of exhaustion or manage to wear out the skull of someone else.

          Personal responsibility ftw.

      2. I’ve lived a lot of places, and the most dangerous places to go about, especially at night, are US cities. And the main reason is that everyone has the “constitutional right” to blow your head off for any reason that might present itself.

        (OK, some Latin American cities are even worse, but I haven’t actually lived in any of them.)

        I’ve walked all over many European cities at all hours and never felt the slightest need to have a gun with me for protection.

        1. You cannot prove you assertion that american cities are so dangerous.I dont believe that for one heartbeat.There is no good evidence to support that assertion.Danger takes many forms depending on you social status,or street smarts.It really is all relative.I could foresee a scenario where american cities did become vastly more dangerous than they are now.

      3. “There is something very American about this endless debate on the pros and cons of firearms.”


        one of the easy to defend reasons for why I left.

    3. You’re absolutely correct — self-defense is a vital right. And who is more likely to be threatened than those living on the street. That’s why I am starting the charity Arm the Homeless, which will provide free Glocks and assault rifles to those panhandlers you pass by on the street everyday. And I encourage every true 2nd Amendment Patriot to donate. Since gun advocates are so principled, I’m sure my charity will be a huge success.

    4. There is a vast swathe of evidence which convincingly demonstrates that firearms at home make that home more dangerous. So any supposed defence benefit is pretty much negated.

    5. Rights also mean responsibilities, as we are constantly reminded (at least in the UK), even more so in an ever more densely populated world. I am not sure that any rights are inalienable in practice, even if it is desirable that they should be. What we often get is what is expedient rather than what is right.

    1. The twitter feeds flying around about Palin deleting her “RELOAD” tweet are incorrect: Sarah Palin Has NOT Deleted ‘Reload’ Tweet Or Facebook Note. Palin’s RELOAD tweet is still up.

      Palin is a narcissist and just doesn’t care if anyone was shot or killed on her behalf, even a nine-year-old girl.

      But here are the comments on Palin’s FB page that Palin has deleted:

      “Guns and nutters don’t mix…”
      “I can’t believe you don’t have the leadership of intelligence to tell your people that putting crosshairs on people incites violence.”
      “I’m not blaming her but is it really a smart thing posting a map with gun sights of politicians with opposing views?”
      “Peace and Justice? That’s a new concept for you isn’t it?”
      “I hope you’re happy now. It’s because of the influence that you do wield, that you should think about things you say and do.”
      “You are so out of touch… Show a little consideration and leave innocent out of your twisted diatribe.”
      “Your type of sorrow doesn’t make up for the blood on your hands.”

      Satiric comment not deleted by Palin’s irony-blind team:

      “It’s ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a left wing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as ‘they’ say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly.”

  11. I was surprised to read that he fired 30 times without reloading – I had previously thought only really exotic pistols had magazines holding more than about 15 or so rounds. So I read the Wikipedia article on Glock.

    The Glock model 18 or 18c is the only one listed with such a large magazine – it hold 33 rounds. It comes from the factory with fully-automatic capability – pull the trigger once, hold it down, and the gun keeps firing until the magazine is empty. Presumably the Glock model 18 available for purchase by civilians, even in Arizona, has that mode disabled.

    From some videos I saw on Youtube (you can tell my research skills are top-notch today – wikipedia and youtube), and from the published rate of fire in full-auto mode (more than 1000 rounds / minute), it looks like Loughner’s gun would have been LESS lethal had he used it in full-auto mode. The first one or two people he shot would have been hit by at least 10 bullets each, but he would have run out of ammunition very quickly. Semi-auto mode allowed a broader spread to the violence.

    I had been considering possible non-killing-humans applications for semi-automatic weapons, but in light of this analysis, those arguments collapse.

    Pump action is fast enough for me, should I ever again face a polar bear (who rarely attend political events). But I’d be happy to take more certification and stricter regulation of my predator-deterence firearm – it’s a work-related expense, so I can charge it to the university if it comes to that.

    1. It would be very difficult to fire a fully automatic pistol accurately, so you’re probably right that it would have killed fewer people than the semi-auto did.

      The firepower issue (no. of rounds available without reloading) is more pertinent for these mass shootings.

    2. All Glock magazines are interchangeable. You can buy 30 round magazines for any Glock pistol and it’ll work, even those dinky sub-compacts that are only a couple inches tall.

      You are correct on being less lethal on full auto. Full auto is really only good for suppressing fire, not actually aiming (especially bad for aiming) and killing someone. Much like the numbers of 250,000 rounds are fired for every person killed in Iraq, that is one possible reason.

  12. As someone who was able to prevent my own murder only through the judicious use of a legally possessed and concealed firearm, I disagree with your call for the elimination of all firearms.

        1. “The people who’ve been murdered with firearms might have a different view, but they can’t speak.”

          indeed, it’s why I’ve started my “GUNS FOR ZOMBIES” campaign.

          otherwise, who would speak for the poor zombies?

    1. Same here, and my attacker was twice my size and had a knife. Were I not armed, he would’ve had no problem killing me.

      Considering well over 80% of people that get shot with handguns survive (handguns are not very good at killing compared to rifles or shotguns), I’d rather be attacked with a handgun than a knife.

          1. There was a book,and I forgot the name.It did a historical analysis of gun ownership in colonial times .Most colonists were NOT hunters,citizen soldiers,or “minutemen”There were indentured servants farmers,and pastoralists,and had no more familiarity with gunplay than you average suburbanite today.In fact,muzzle loading guns(that is high quality effective guns)were very expensive,and used only by professional soldiers.Also,if they did own one,it was usually rusty,and unusable.There is a world of difference between a hunter gatherer lifestyle,and a cash crop capitalist system.The Indians mostly hunted,the poor whites slaved on cash crops for their corporate masters in Europe.

          2. Thanks. I have been pondering this without any interesting result. The tendancy to insult is widespread. In the manner of Darwin’s __On the Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals__, may we posit an evolutionary function?

            It seems to me that isults serve at least three functions: 1. (said to the insulted party): to communicate “I don’t like you and I want you to know that”,
            2. (said to an audience of allies) to communicate “I don’t like him and I want your help making his life miserable”,
            3. (to a friend) “I like you and I will demonstrate this by calling you a dirty name, which only a friend could so and get away with it”.

            What evolutionary purpose is served by #1, giving information to an enemy?

  13. Their country was founded in a revolutionary war, and a certain narrative involving freedom, tyranny and revolution was left indelibly branded in the country’s lore. They usually win their wars, which makes them optimistic about it. This optimism has not been tamed by the disasters of war because war never takes place in their homeland, but Over There. They worship their soldiers, their veterans. They console their kids by calling them “little soldier”. They have a long history of shooting elected representatives.

    Maybe the American state of mind is inherently warlike.

    1. “Maybe the American state of mind is inherently warlike.”

      or inherently fearful.

      I think a lot of this “I need a gun to protect myself from thuggery!” nonsense is just projected insecurities and fear.

      1. (Ichthyic, January 10, 2011-01-10-1548): “I think a lot of this ‘I need a gun to protect myself from thuggery!’ nonsense is just projected insecurities and fear.”

        I think a lot of this “I need a government to protect myself from other humans” is just projected insecurities and fear.

        The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition, after Weber). The greater the scope of government intrusion (into, e.g., the education industry, the pension industry, the health care industry), the greater the recourse to violence as an organizing principle in human society.

    2. “Maybe the American state of mind is inherently warlike.”

      Wasn’t it Europe that started both World Wars (about 50 million dead)?

      America helped stop them, it didn’t start them. History would suggest that it’s Europe that’s inherently warlike. I didn’t notice anyone in Europe too eager to stop the Bosnian fighting.

      I suspect the only reason Europe hasn’t started another major war (like they used to do every 30 years or so) is that American troops now supply their defense.

  14. Semi autos are quite self defense tools. Like any tool it can be misused.

    The problem isn’t guns, knives, molotov cocktails, or anything of that sort. It’s that people with severe deficiencies can obtain them and/or are the reasons to use them in defense situations. Making a law that bans such an item would not stop someone determined to get one, but only hinder anyone who has to stop them.

    It is not a slippery slope to ask about what weapons next? But what can be done to enhance public understanding of safety and better efforts with handling and identifying dangerous persons.

    I do however think there should be a tighter leash on who can buy the weapons. It should not be anywhere near as easy to buy a weapon as it is to apply for a credit card. There should be some aptitude checks and training required. Not to make better killers, but to explain why KILL, if ever needed should not be taken lightly.

    But trying to turn everyone into baby rabbits in hopes that some rabid dogs will lose a couple of teeth is absurd. Felons, many of which are already restricted with a gun ban, get those weapons quite easily.

    1. But trying to turn everyone into baby rabbits in hopes that some rabid dogs will lose a couple of teeth is absurd.

      Oy veh.

  15. Get real! Do you really think a concealed weapon permit is going to stop a deranged killer? Although I can’t stand most of the bigotry of Arizona’s laws in too many instances, Arizona is right to have no concealed carry permits, such as Alaska and Vermont.

    It appears not enough people were carrying concealed to stop Loughner before the carnage.

    In the overall scheme of things, “more guns equals less crime.”

    1. It appears not enough people were carrying concealed to stop Loughner before the carnage.

      that’s fucking insane.

      if you were a part of the crowd, you would be focused on whoever was speaking at the time.

      gunman walks up behind the crowd, and starts shooting.

      you’re fucking nuts if you think he couldn’t empty a full clip before someone in the crowd would:

      -be able to react to the circumstance and be able to figure out what was really happening
      -be able to locate the source of the gunfire directly
      -be able to pull their gun, hope it was for some reason fully loaded AT A POLTICAL RALLY.
      -draw it and fire it at the assailant.

      again, you’d have to be insane to think what you said had any plausibility to it whatsoever.

      at the VERY BEST, if there was security available, WATCHING FOR SPECIFIC suspicious activity, even they would have had difficulty stopping him from shooting anyone.

      but to think random bystanders would have saved anyone if they were armed themselves?

      fucking ludicrous.

      1. What I invision in a crowd like that is someone opening fire, a dozen or so other people drawing weapons and shooting each other because they are shooting at anyone else who is shooting.

        1. Don’t forget the real police accidentally shooting a couple of would-be hero’s brandishing their guns at each other in the confusion.

        2. If being armed would make the situation worse, as in these hypothetical musings, why would we bother to arm police officers (or soldiers)?

          No need to fantasize, however — similar incidents have actually happened: On Feb 3, 1990, someone tried to rob a crowded gun store near Seattle. The store was full of armed customers, clerks, and a uniformed policeman. When the robber pulled his gun and opened fire, a number of people, including customers, drew their weapons. The clerk and the uniformed officer returned fire and fatally wounded the robber, who was pronounced dead at the scene. (http://www.snopes.com/crime/dumdum/gunshop.asp)

          No one else was injured.

          These fantastic speculations by people with no experience or knowledge of weapons that someone with a gun will start shooting wildly upon the slightest provocation are about as realistic as a non-driver assuming that most drivers would run down and kill pedestrians and bicyclists who annoy them.

  16. “I’ve never heard a single good justification for allowing people to own semiautomatic weapons”

    I’ll give it a ‘shot’ 🙂

    1) It’s political suicide for progressive values

    Democrats advocating banning semi’s is a political gift from god to Republicans. If you want to ensure the defeat of progressive candidates almost no other issue would be so effective. Most gun owners have semi’s.

    There are Progressive political goals that are simply much more important than this issue.

    2) There are better ways to approach the gun violence issue

    As horrible as this tragedy is, what would be viewed as a hysterical reaction at this time is counterproductive. The proportion of semiautomatic gun deaths represented by Loughner – a wacko going postal – is microscopic compared to gun violence by gangs and drug-related stuff. And it is subatomically small compared to the number of guns owned by Americans – which is 300 million+. In other words, almost no semi’s are used this way, yet you want to ban a large proportion of 300 million guns. That argument will not fly.

    If you really want to significantly decrease the needless murder of innocents in the US, then work instead to legalize drugs which will eliminate the vast majority of gun violence.

    3) Banning semi’s is likely unconstitutional

    I’m no expert, but the Founders definitely wanted private citizens to have the best available arms. This means semi’s, which, as I stated above, have a very good statistical track record – 99% of them have never caused a problem. I really do think a quest to ban semi’s would be fruitless.

    In fact, I would be happy that automatic weapons are still banned if I were you, as a new Constitutional challenge over arms availability at this time with this court might just succeed too well, allowing citizens to own real machine guns.

    1. I’m no expert, but the Founders definitely wanted private citizens to have the best available arms. This means semi’s

      No, it meant single-shot muzzle-loading black-powder weapons. That was the understanding of the Founders at the time of the 2nd Amendment. The best current available arms are hydrogen bombs — do you really think it was the intent of the ever-hallowed Founders for private citizens to own thermonuclear weapons?

      1. No, it meant single-shot muzzle-loading black-powder weapons.

        Which were the pinnacle of firearms back then. Do you think they meant to restrict future allowable guns to flintlocks? They knew the Constitution would outlive them. They wanted people to be able to take on invaders and standing armies. One could make a strong argument that they would approve of machine guns for that purpose.

        “do you really think it was the intent of the ever-hallowed Founders for private citizens to own thermonuclear weapons?”

        No. ‘Ordinance’ was clearly defined separately than ‘arms’, and as I said in a different thread, that ordinance was kept locked up in an armory. But it was available to the militias.

        1. I don’t see any restriction on “arms” in the Second Amendment. Automatic weapons, explosives, artillery, nerve gas, etc. are all perfectly Constitutional for individuals to keep for self defense.

          Since nuclear physics was not understood in the late 18th century, I’ll go out on a limb and say that nuclear weapons were not in the original Second Amendment intent.

      2. No, it meant single-shot muzzle-loading black-powder weapons. That was the understanding of the Founders at the time of the 2nd Amendment

        Similarly, the freedom of the press was intended to cover hand-set type with horse-limited distribution.

        That was the founders understanding at the time of the 2nd Amendment.

        1. Hey, talk to Scalia, not me — he’s the one pushing the “originalist” position for the 14th Amendment, and thus presumably would hold a similar principle for the 2nd. It’s those pinko hippies who think the Constitution is a living document that should acknowledge changes in society.

      3. Privately owned cannon figured prominently in the Revolutionary War. There is one on display (with the owners name on it) at the top of the Bunker Hill Memorial in Boston.

        The battle of Concord (which officially started the war) occurred when the British forces marched on the town with the express purpose of disarming the residents and particularly confiscating private cannons.

        Given this history, and the fact that no limitation to small arms was put in the 2nd amendment, we have to assume that cannon (at least) are covered by the 2nd amendment.

        When I was growing up (in the 50’s) you could buy used (Finnish, I think) 20mm anti-tank cannons (semi-auto, even!) by mail order. The ads were in the back of Mechanics Illustrated. I remember that Cuban exiles used them to good effect by arming speedboats used to rescue people from the island. Once the Cuban coast guard realized that these speedboats had serious armament, they gave them a wide berth.

  17. It’s surprising how most people (including you Jerry!) are NOT talking about mental illness, whether or not this kid fell through the cracks, and whether or not access to treatment might have prevented this attack.

    People intent on causing harm will always find ways to do so, using whatever resources they have available.

    Sorry to interrupt… so where were we with the whole “semi-auto vs. auto vs. revolver vs. bottle-o-unleaded” debate? 😉

    1. Paul,
      Thanks for bringing up the mental illness issue. This guy almost certainly is mentally ill, I would argue that a sane person would not do such a thing.

      This issue with mental illness is this: Legally (as i understand it, correct me if I am wrong) a person cannot be held against their will for psychological illness unless they can be shown to be a danger to themselves or others. This is not often clear until the person actually makes an attempt at suicide or homicide (in this case the latter and successfully) and so therefore: “hind site is 20/20”. Sure he has a history of mental issues but whether or not he was a risk to himself or others could not be proven legally till now. Therein lies the legal problem.

      Of course there is a social stigma associated with mental illness too. People are less likely to seek help on their own for mental illness than physical illness. In fact the affected person may not even realize there is something wrong with them and that makes it even harder. If the person does not have close friends or family to ensure they are getting the care they need, it is all to easy to fall through the cracks.

      I think the US health care system also allows those from low socioeconomic backgrounds to fall through the cracks all to easily too.

      However I not sure how to solve the issue. How does one detect a person that is going to do something like this before they do? Is it ethical to commit anyone who might do this kind of thing against their will? Would this not only add to the bad social stigma of mental illness?

      The only thing I can think of that may help is to alter the social stigma of mental illness. Which is much easier said than done. But I, myself, try to be open about my own mental illness (generalized anxiety disorder) and hope that this encourages other people to do the same. The message needs to be it is OK to ask for help, there is no shame in it. There are lots of really good medications and/or methods of talk therapy these days that can help a person cope with the symptoms and feel alot better.

  18. A thought experiment in an attempt to answer the host’s question: Should semi-automatic handguns be legal? (And if yes, then why not full autos?)

    A logical basis for the threshold of legality can be grounded on limiting the asymmetry of force between the potential crime victim and the potential criminal. If all weapons were banned (in actuality, rather than just in law), then most women, small men and elderly persons would be at the mercy of the fists of any young, robust male criminal. Legalizing batons or knives would not materially change the asymmetry of force between weak victim and strong criminal.

    Up the ante to legalizing revolvers, and the asymmetry (between a woman with a revolver and a criminal with an illegal semi-auto) is lessened, but some difference in potential force still exists. Ratchet up to legalizing semi-auto handguns and that results in parity of force because the average criminal would not use a full auto except for gang warfare or murder, and average criminals don’t do those crimes. Most criminals do not wish to have their choice be between actual murder and failure of their crime (the victim doesn’t comply because she doesn’t believe the threat of 15 rounds from a full auto). Evidence for this? That criminals don’t utilize full autos in the U.S. despite the fact that such arms could be obtained through smuggling or modification of semi-autos. My claim is that semi-autos are logically legal because that is what provides parity of force between the citizen and the criminal.

  19. For all you banging the drum of how semiautomatics prevent crime, where were they in this incident, which occurred in the heavily-armed state of AZ? The actor was stopped by being wrestled to the ground.

    Nauseating, but at the same time revealing, how the R-baggers are suddenly acting ever so solicitous, too.

    Meanwhile, Limbaugh’s disgusting comments of today heard via NPR a little while ago are further proof of the nonexistence of a benevolent god. Is Pat Robertson due to open his mouth?

  20. Looking at the anti-government arguments against gun control (vs. personal defense ones), which seem very much to be in ascendance among the Tea Party crowd, it’s clear that even automatic rifles don’t really cut it against military attack helicopters and attack drones. Therefore, the Second Amendment “obviously” was intended to allow deranged “patriots” to hold the government hostage using hydrogen bombs and ICBMs (i.e., anti-government, as opposed to anti-personnel, weapons).

    Sometime soon, I very much expect to hear the NRA proclaim that “I believe the Christian founders would have wanted all patriotic citizens to have nu-cu-ler weapons to defend themselves against the Socialist gubbermint.”

    1. the only thing that would limit them saying so, is just a personal estimation of how much cost and inconvenience would be engendered by having to obtain and maintain nuculer weapons for themselves.

      if, somehow, one could carry a pocket nuke you could buy at Walmart for 99.99…

      I’d bet you WOULD see this argument.

      there is nothing in their logic that would prevent it.

    2. Article 1 section 8:
      “Congress shall have power…
      …to grant letters of Marque and reprisal…”
      A letter of Marque is authorization from a government to the owner of a warship to make war in the name of that government. A letter of marque makes the difference between a privateer and a pirate. Sir Frances Drake operated under a letter of marque from the British government.
      The people who wrote the constitution expected private citizens to own warships.

  21. It’s disturbing how many gun nut apologists are posting here. Somehow, I feel less safer now. So should everyone else.

    1. “Somehow” implies that your feeling less safer (sic) is inchoate. Then why do you advance to the conclusion that everyone else should feel the same, considering that why you feel that way is ill-defined? Just trying to understand your mindset.

  22. I have been repeatedly been posting on this site about rhetoric,and characterizing your enemies by stereotypes.You MUST remember creationists,Michael Ruse,Dr. Oz ,and all the other people you have been demonizing ,ridiculing,and WHATEVER-it all leads to violence in the end.I have been SAVAGELY attacked by people merely for disagreeing with the recieved wisdom.It is entirely possible indeed likely that a lot of what you scientific types,who have ordained yourselves the holders of the one true science,will be shown to have been seriously mistaken.As usual,you will assume some unwarranted assumption about my views,without even asking me,or say…actually meeting me in person over a beer.Suffice it to say,you have become so unhinged about the completely ridiculous claims of the religious right that you seem to completely lose sight of the simple,obvious fact that YOU HAVE won,and that TIME the conqueror will crush them effortlessly.

  23. Oh,and this on guns.Yea,any simpleton can say”guns dont kill people,people do”.OK-Im going to go postal tomorrow at Daley Plaza tommorow.Let me ask you gun advocates this simpleton guestion-would rather I show up with an AK-47(and plenty of extra ammo)or a hunting knife.to paraphrase Huxley-how stupid of to not have foreseen such simple point.

  24. I’ll have to admit the G-Lock is an excellent weapon for killing; that’s why I used to own one back in the days when I owned guns. Just as Helmke said, you can point and fire and kill very quickly; the first time I fired one I was suprised at how quick I can fire at a target and still have an excellent grouping – it was a hell of a change from the old Browning 9mm.

    When I lived in Az you were allowed to carry firearms, but concealing firearms was a criminal offense. Way back then it was just good ol’ cowboy decency to let everyone know that you had a weapon and it was assumed that if you were hiding a weapon you must be up to no good.

    I’ve always been an advocate of very strict gun controls; unfortunately the NRA and other rednecks claim that the government wants to take their guns away. I’d like to see better gun control laws just to see if it does reduce the rate of incidents such as this. As far as I’m concerned people can have their guns so long as they’re not a threat to society. The vast majority of gun owners do the right thing, but something needs to be done to try to keep guns away from people who have something wrong with their head. After all, the right of everyone in society to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has got to trump the “right of loonies to have weapons”.

    1. Bear in mind a couple of things about this data:

      The Daily mail is NOT a reputable source of news and/or information. It is frequently mentioned on “Bad Science” By Dr Ben Goldacre for it’s various sins.

      Also, as quoted “The figures, compiled by the Tories, are considered the most accurate and up-to-date available.” is pretty meaningless given that no sources are mentioned.

      The Daily Mail is a Tory (Conservative) paper. It likes to spend time slagging off the previous government and praising the current one. So, you could say, it isn’t impartial.

      I rather suspect (but my precognition skills are pretty poor) that Dr Ben will be commenting on these figures at some point soon.

      The article starts by saying “Britain’s violent crime record is worse than any other country in the European union, it has been revealed.” This is followed by “The UK has the second highest overall crime rate in the EU.” And then a table showing the UK in the number 1 position. Not consistent!


      PS, it does say that the figures were “compiled from reports released by the European Commission and United Nations” but it says nothing about which reports or whether all reports were used in the compilation.

      1. Thanks for your comment. I was well aware that these data were reported by a political organ and therefore would need confirmation from original sources. Obviously there was a typo (92)for the Australian datum; it was likely 920 or so.

        I posted the data because the sheer magnitude of the difference between crime rates in the U.S and in gun-controlled EU countries is enough to refute (shall I say refudiate) statements to the effect that gun control does not lead to increased rates of crime. Crime did increase in Britain and Australia after gun bans. For definitive work on the effect of permitted concealed carry in the U.S. see John Lott’s book http://www.amazon.com/More-Guns-Less-Crime-Understanding/dp/0226493660/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294759511&sr=8-1

          1. I posted the data because the sheer magnitude of the difference between crime rates in the U.S and in gun-controlled EU countries is enough to refute (shall I say refudiate) statements to the effect that gun control does not lead to increased rates of crime.


            one, what defines “violence”

            two, what are the differences in how population centers are distributed in the contiries under comparison

            three, I bet there is NO consideration of using socio economic factors as variables

            four, what about differences in laws and application thereof, and differences in enforcement both on the ground and in the courts?

            to conclude this actually has anything to do with gun legislation is ludicrous.

            I assume you’ve at least HEARD the phrase “correlation does not equal causation” right?

              1. “number of cloudy days per year” in your list of possible causes.

                this tells me you still don’t understand causation.

                good luck playing with poll data.

            1. I posted the data in response to several comments above in the thread that scoffed at the assertion that Europe had higher rates of thuggery than the U.S. Instead of anyone having the honesty to admit their assertions were incorrect, you come along and deny the results of what was a “natural experiment.”

              Coyne’s Church and Choir is an echo chamber.

              1. Here’s a summary of how crime rates in Australia increased after the gun ban there. Note that crime decreased in the U.S. during the same period as concealed carry was approved by more and more states.

                “In 2002 — five years after enacting its gun ban — the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) acknowledged there was no correlation between gun control and the use of firearms in murder, but that “the percentage of homicides committed with a firearm continued its declining trend since 1969.”

                Another AIC publication shows that rape, robbery, and assault increased after Australia’s 1997 gun ban. While Australia’s murder rate decreased 31.9% between 1995 and 2007, America’s dropped similarly at 30.5%.

                During the same time period, Australian assault and robbery rates rose 49.2% and 6.2%, respectively. Sexual assault — Australia’s equivalent term for rape — increased 29.9%. Overall, Australia’s violent crime rate rose 42.2%. At the same time, U.S. violent crime decreased 31%: rape dropped 17.8%; robbery decreased 32.8%; aggravated assault dropped 31.3%.
                Between 1995­ — just before Britain’s ban — to 2005, Britain’s assault rates climbed 36.5%, sexual assaults increased 63%, and robbery increased 25.5%.

                By 2007, Australian women were raped over three times as often as American women, and British women twice as often. (All UK and Australian rates above are taken from earlier studies by this author.)”

                From http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/giffords-shot-now-a-word-from-our-gun-control-sponsors%E2%80%A6/?singlepage=true

  25. As a European I must say my jaw dropped a few inches reading this thread.

    There’s many things that I would want to say but that would take up too much space. So what do I find most important?

    Two notions that seem popular here on this thread are actually totally alien to Europeans – and Americans don’t seem to understand this.

    The first is this: the possession of firearms itself – not just their use – (outside of dedicated clubs who carefully vet, you can’t take the guns out of the club, etc etc) is illegal ‘here’. The only exceptions are for people authorised by the state – police and the military and the occasional hunter. Not bank guards, not private bodyguards. Nobody is allowed a gun.

    The idea that ‘the criminal’ will get his hands on an illegal gun and start killing unarmed civilians is, frankly, simply wrong. Shootings of civilians by criminals (say, burglars) is rare beyond imagination. The reason is simple – even owning a gun will get you in jail, without you having even used it. Show gun – goto jail. Since owning the gun is useless if you’re not going to show it at some point, you’re in trouble before you even commit your ‘real’ crime.
    Besides, because they’re illegal, guns are expensive to get.

    The net result is, that for any ‘ordinary’ criminal (burglar, street robber) it’s really not worth the risk owning a gun. You’re extremely likely to only ever use it either once or not at all before you go to jail (or get shot – police are generally restrained in using their guns but not when faced with one).

    Guns are prevalent only in ‘heavy’ crime, where criminals tend to shoot each other (they need not shoot civilians, no point in it). There’s more money in drug trafficking etc., so that type of criminal _can_ afford guns. Plus, if you kill a fellow criminal it’s not as likely that people ‘with information’ go and tell the police.

    (Side note: some people may be surprised that in some European countries life-like toy guns are, in fact, illegal too. Ponder that.)

    The second notion is that crazy people will kill anyway. Again, looking around in Europe this is downright wrong (at best it’s massively overstated). Guns are the single best way – by a country mile – of killing a lot of people in a very short time, with a minimun of fuss and experience. Try knifing down 15 people, killing half of them. Try driving a car through a crowd of 30 people, somewhere on a pavement, killing half of them. They’d see and hear you coming for miles.

    The net result is that there is the occasional crazy lone gunman spree that _might_ have been shortened if everybody owned a gun – but in return
    many many more of such sprees never occur because the insane man can’t get his hands on anything lethal enough to do any damage.

    So on the whole, it’s quite… surprising to hear so many arguments in favour of gun possession. I’d think the death toll number would mean something, clearly it doesn’t.

    1. The post immediately above yours points to evidence that both murder rates and all violent crime rates increase after gun bans. All your presumptions about how criminals should behave are powerless in the face of those data.

      Regarding multiple victim shootings, the data show that permitting of concealed handgun carry is a deterrent. The following is the abstract of the 1999 paper by Lott and Landes:

      John R. Lott Jr.
      University of Maryland Foundation, University of Maryland
      William M. Landes
      University of Chicago Law School

      Few events obtain the same instant worldwide news coverage as multiple victim public shootings. These crimes allow us to study the alternative methods used to kill a large number of people (e.g., shootings versus bombings), marginal deterrence and the severity of the crime, substitutability of penalties, private versus public methods of deterrence and incapacitation, and whether attacks produce copycats. Yet, economists have not studied this phenomenon. Our results are surprising and dramatic. While arrest or conviction rates and the death penalty reduce normal murder rates, our results find that the only policy factor to influence multiple victim public shootings is the passage of concealed handgun laws. We explain why public shootings are more sensitive than other violent crimes to concealed handguns, why the laws reduce both the number of shootings as well as their severity, and why other penalties like executions have differential deterrent effects depending upon the type of murder.

      Here is a link to the full citation: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=16317#show161637

      You folks continue to disgrace yourselves by hand waving while refusing to consider the evidence.

      Isn’t this is exactly the sort of behavior that you disdain when the creationists do it? Well, I disdain it in them and in you.

      1. “After gun bans”, my whole point being, is a moot point. In the Netherlands, where I am from, guns have essentially been banned since 1896. Quote me research that shows an increase in whatever after THAT gun ban, Sherlock.

        Apart from that the homocide rate in the US seems to lie at 5 per 100,000, in the UK at around 1.3 and in the Netherlands around 0.9. How’s that correlate to guns in the US then? Are you seriously suggesting that in the UK this was LOWER before guns were banned (even lower) and that it would go UP (even higher) in the US if guns were banned?

        Can you provide any credible explanation for the UK having a four-fold lower murder rate than the US with or without guns permitted in either country?

        And you are also suggesting that the already over five-fold lower murder rate in the Netherlands would go DOWN if we add a couple million handguns to the country? Again, can you provide any credible explanation to counter my statement that, duh, there will actually be a lot more deaths (intentional OR unintentional) in that situation?

        (source Wikipedia and its citations, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate)

      2. And re: “the only policy factor to influence multiple victim public shootings is the passage of concealed handgun laws”: again, in the Netherlands there have been none such cases. Zero. Ever. In the US, numerous.

        Explain THAT, then, with the Netherlands having, according to that study, the ‘wrong’ policy. Are you suggesting there’d be ‘less’ mass shootings in the Netherlands if they’d allow everyone to carry concealed guns? Instead of more, by the odd deranged lunatic that can easily obtain a semi-automatic? Provide a reasonable explanation then.

        (source: Wikipedia and citations therein http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_murderers_and_spree_killers_by_number_of_victims#Mass_murders)

  26. I find it ironic that as a strong proponent of the Constitution, especially the First Amendment, you can dismiss the Second Amendment completely. Your anti-gun dogma is bound to fail as surely as has the “War on Drugs”, and for many of the same reasons. I always thought that stifling individual rights was the bailiwick of the Religious Right, but I realize now that such behavior results from dogma whether it is religious dogma or otherwise. Worrying about how many rounds a magazine holds or what brand of gun a person has misses the point entirely.
    Instead of denying the general populace the right to own guns why not take action against people who act outside of the boundaries of sanity and restrict their ability to easily procure a gun. But, that wouldn’t be polite, would it?
    Also, instead of making up more rules for the courts to ignore, why not enforce the existing ones. There are plenty of them.

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