Time to outlaw guns

October 3, 2015 • 12:00 pm

UPDATE: Reader Barry called my attention to a piece in Politico Magazine, “How the NRA rewrote the Second Amendment,” by Michael Waldman, that’s well worth reading. It discusses the origin of the Amendment, and then how legal opinion beginning in the late 19th century consistently argued that the Amendment didn’t guarantee Americans the right to own guns. Beginning in the 1950s, legal opinions changed—largely with funding from the NRA.

One snippet that shows the NRA’s duplicity:

Today at the NRA’s headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, oversized letters on the facade no longer refer to “marksmanship” and “safety.” Instead, the Second Amendment is emblazoned on a wall of the building’s lobby. Visitors might not notice that the text is incomplete. It reads:

“.. the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The first half—the part about the well regulated militia—has been edited out.r

And Waldman’s conclusion:

Molding public opinion is the most important factor. Abraham Lincoln, debating slavery, said in 1858, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.” The triumph of gun rights reminds us today: If you want to win in the court of law, first win in the court of public opinion.


The more I reread and learn about the Second Amendment, the more I’m convinced that it is not a Constitutional justification for private gun ownership EXCEPT for the original purposes of allowing for a militia—a purpose now outmoded. Read it:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Somehow people read the second part of the statement, about the right to keep and bear arms, without paying attention to the first, which is the justification. What part of “a well regulated militia” don’t you (or the Supreme Court) understand?

Yesterday I pointed out historian Garry Wills’ trenchant analysis of the history of this amendment, a piece written in 1995 and concluding that the amendment’s purpose was to allow citizens to form militias (duh!) In a new piece at the online New Yorker, “The Second Amendment is a gun-control amendment,” Adam Gopnik agrees. And he makes the point, which is bloody obvious, that if mental instability is the real cause of our burgeoning gun violence, why does America harbor such a higher proportion unstable people? That makes little sense, but this does:

Everyone crazy enough to pick up a gun and kill many people is crazy enough to have an ideology to attach to the act. The point—the only point—is that, everywhere else, that person rants in isolation or on his keyboard; only in America do we cheerfully supply him with military-style weapons to express his rage. As the otherwise reliably Republican (but still Canadian-raised) David Frum wisely writes: “Every mass shooter has his own hateful motive. They all use the same tool.”

Then, like Wills, he runs through the history of the Second Amendment, bringing it up to date with the Supreme Court decision in 2008 that established the supposed Constitutional “right” to own guns for purposes like self-defense.  As a palliative, Gopnik recommends, as do I, that you read Justice Stevens’s dissent in that case. Stevens’s last paragraph, relevant to the court’s 5-4 decision to overturn a District of Columbia law banning hanguns, is this:

 “The Court properly disclaims any interest in evaluating the wisdom of the specific policy choice challenged in this case, but it fails to pay heed to a far more important policy choice—the choice made by the Framers themselves. The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons, and to authorize this Court to use the common-law process of case-by-case judicial lawmaking to define the contours of acceptable gun control policy. Absent compelling evidence that is nowhere to be found in the Court’s opinion, I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice.

For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.”

What Stevens is saying in the penultimate sentence is that he cannot find evidence that the authors of the Constitution saw no limits on the ability of elected officials to regulate gun ownership. Citing another of Stevens’s sentences, below, Gopnik concludes that the Second Amendment was designed to regulate gun ownership:

” . Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia. The Court’s announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes upsets that settled understanding . . .”

Yet the gun madness continues, justified now by two arguments. Both of these, I was sad to find, were made in a public Facebook post by The Thinking Atheist, Seth Andrews, a man I admire and count as a friend—but also a gun owner. Seth’s post is more nuanced than many, is thoughtful, and ends with a note that he’s willing to reconsider his views. I hope he will, because I think he’s wrong. Let me first show how Seth’s post is far less strident than the views of many gun owners.

He recognizes that not all people who own guns are responsible or thoughtful (his words are indented):

It’s easy for firearms opponents to caricaturize gun owners as a Wild West circus of reckless, blood-drunk fools who finish each day with reruns of “Dukes of Hazzard.” (And, unfortunately, those people exist.)
Seth recognizes that there are problems to which he doesn’t have solutions:
If someone asked me if I’d rather be pinned down under an active shooter in a grocery store with or without a firearm at my side, my answer is…with! However, it can also be argued that more guns, even on the law-abiding, equals more opportunities for things to go horribly wrong.
Finally, Seth notes that opinions on this subject are not immutable:
There are a thousand steps leading to the ones at Oregon and elsewhere. I’d like to understand all of them. I’d like to see a world where no one, nowhere, wakes with the intent to murder another. And I’m willing to continually assess my perspective and position on legal firearms in this country.

But then he proffers the two arguments for private gun ownership—arguments I hear all too often. The first claims that the monthly carnage we see on American campuses, theaters, and other public places is not attributable to America’s lax gun laws. It is due to mentally unstable people who just happen to use guns to exercise their animus. As Seth argues:

I don’t subscribe to the idea that the weapon to do harm doesn’t matter, only the desire to harm, although I maintain that the desire to harm – often borne of a hugely troubled mind – remains at the root of this terrible problem.

. . . Do written laws cause madmen to say, “Wait…this is illegal?”

Fine words, but they fail to explain why countries that must surely harbor just as high a proportion of “madmen” as the U.S. have so much less gun violence. Are Americans really sevenfold crazier than our Canadian neighbors? (We have seven times the per capita rate of homicide via guns.) Or could the presence of the tools help those madmen hurt others? After all, you can’t kill 22 people in a school with a knife or a taser.

The second argument is that now that we have so many guns floating around, we’ve crossed the Rubicon: it will be impossible to get rid of them, or impose realistic legislation, so that the rest of us must have guns to protect us from those bad people who have guns. Seth:

But does the idea of an armed, law-abiding citizen have merit? Possibly, especially as firearms are ubiquitous, and it only takes one rogue among the peaceful to wreak real havoc. If someone asked me if I’d rather be pinned down under an active shooter in a grocery store with or without a firearm at my side, my answer is…with! However, it can also be argued that more guns, even on the law-abiding, equals more opportunities for things to go horribly wrong.

. . . There are over 300 million firearms in this country. The gorilla is out of its cage. So if we were to approach gun violence deaths by simply removing the guns, how would this be accomplished, what law would be a (forgive the expression) magic bullet more effective than previous gun legislation, how would you get firearms from those who ignore gun laws, and how would you address an underground that can already get any other illegal substance at the drop of hat?

This last argument echoes a pointed piece in The Onion called “‘No way to prevent this, says only nation where this regularly happens.” An excerpt:

“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

I’m sorry, but I think there’s a way to put that gorilla back in the cage. It’s simply not possible to conceive of a democracy being unable to do so. A few suggestions:

  1.  Appoint a liberal Supreme Court to interpret the Second Amendment properly. This is a matter of a single Presidential appointment. This, perhaps, is the most important issue, for all regulatory legislation can be abolished by the court, just as they did in 2008. Republican Presidents have done more damage to American democracy via their Supreme Court appointments than through any policy decisions they’ve made.
  2. Stop saying that the problem cannot be solved, for that creates a national climate of despair.
  3. Get rid of concealed carry laws, which as far as I can know, are not prima facie Constitutional.
  4. Do not buy guns, and question those who own them. (I”m not adamantly opposed to guns for target shooting, but they should be kept at gun clubs in lockers, as in the British system.)
  5. Get rid of semiautomatic weapons; there is no right to own such things. They once were banned, but that federal ban expired in 2004 and has not been renewed (thanks, NRA!)
  6. Tax the hell out of guns and ammunition. This, too, seems constitutional.

A lot of this depends, of course, on the will of legislators and on our citizens to lobby them. Ask politicians their policy on gun control and do not vote for them if they support the existing regulations. (That, of course, may mean that you vote for nobody.)

I refuse to believe that Americans are so much more mentally unsound than citizens of other democracies that the U.S.’s big lead in gun violence must be attributed to American’s peculiar mentation.

206 thoughts on “Time to outlaw guns

  1. I only found out about there having been a mass murder in Oregon somewhere about 15 minutes ago. The network here is even worse than normal, and they’re shutting off the public access network completely as far as I can tell. Plus I’m out on deck more than normal.
    Oh well, I am absolutely sure – with the certainty of an established science like physics – that there will be another American school massacre along soon for me to pour scorn upon.
    Probability within a year – better than 95%.
    Within 6 months? Allowing for some effect, if the Oregon was a big massacre, better than evens.
    As Jim Morrison used to sing, “the calm calculus of Reason.

  2. One book I read suggested that even the idea of a restriction on individual gun ownership would never have occurred to anyone in the 18th century America, therefore the Second Amendment could not have been addressing this issue.

    Is this plausible? I don’t know. Were there restrictions on firearms in other countries at the time? Seems likely….I know that even swords were forbidden to commoners during earlier periods.

    1. When I began studying the Constitution years ago, I tried to read everything that was available that was written at the time. From the Federalist Papers to the collected writings of people like Madison. I don’t recall any discussion about removing guns from the populace (although, since the 2nd Amendment was indeed written, there must have been some concern in this area). My conclusion was and is, that the 2nd does protect gun ownership and that to remove this right, a new amendment will be necessary. Of course, PCC is right by saying that we could get activist, liberal justices to re-interpret the Amendment, but IMHO, that is a bad way to remove rights. Better is to get a consensus of the population and pass an amendment.

      1. “I don’t recall any discussion about removing guns from the populace (although, since the 2nd Amendment was indeed written, there must have been some concern in this area).”

        A more plausible conclusion is that it was intended to protect the state’s right to have its own military capability, which was a reasonable concern at the time.

        1. Yes, and that reason is now passe. The Amendment must be construed very bizarrely to think that it guarantees Americans the right to own guns for their own self-protection or other personal purpoess.

        2. please refer to this site: http://www.davekopel.org/2A/LawRev/american-revolution-against-british-gun-control.html

          “This Article reviews the British gun control program that precipitated the American Revolution: the 1774 import ban on firearms and gunpowder; the 1774-75 confiscations of firearms and gunpowder; and the use of violence to effectuate the confiscations. It was these events that changed a situation of political tension into a shooting war. Each of these British abuses provides insights into the scope of the modern Second Amendment…. “

            1. He’s of a piece with Halbrook, Reynolds, and the other ignorant cherry-pickers.

              Save your precious time, and read (or reread) the Federalist Papers. Life is far too short for spoiled little babies like Kopel.

          1. There isn’t time to catalog just how much idiocy stems from David Kopel. He is a troll and a propagandist of the first water. And his understanding of history is either totally imagined or willfully obscured in service of his libertarian, pro-gun agenda.

            Because, for example, James Madison talked SO much about British gun control. Not.

      2. No! No, no, no, no! What do you mean, “there must have been some concern in this area”? Does the lack of evidence for something compel the conclusion that that “something” must exist?

        Forgive me, but that is an asinine statement to make, and one we cannot afford right now. There was no – repeat – NO discussion of this when the amendment was debated in Congress. In discussing proposed rights, even Jefferson, the original American gun nut, discussed only the need for the militia by the states. (Even Jefferson’s draft of state rights for Virginians spoke of a right to use guns only on one’s own property.) The only people allowed guns by the states were pretty much only white landowners, and even in Pennsylvania, which had a right to arms in its constitution, a white male citizen had to swear an oath of allegiance to the state to exercise that right.

        Guns were presumptively available to the state. Each state had the right to take private arms for use by the militia. But more importantly, “going about armed” was definitely a practice a state could regulate. You are viewing arms through the prism of the present. People didn’t walk about with handguns or rifles (unless they were hunting or fighting Indians). No one was afraid the big bad government would come and take their guns. Some were afraid the big bad FEDERAL government would form a standing army that would take over their state, but they kind of lost that argument with the passage of Constitution.

        1. Just additional info…If you visit Williamsburg,Va and I’m sure that PCC has many times back at the old School, they have a weapons building there and it is full of guns and powder (kind of the armory). If I recall the building is round and painted red. It was a long time ago.

          When they were scratching together the state volunteers to fight the British, lots of guys showed up without guns, so guns had to be found for these fellow. No money, no gun.

          They needed to allow guns (muskets) for the militia because they wanted militia and not a standing army. They feared the idea of a standing army, not some guy carrying a musket around. Throwing rocks did not do much good.

  3. I’ve read that the current trend in gun ownership is that fewer people own guns, but those people who do have a lot more guns.

  4. Banning guns will not solve the problem. I agree there should be more controls, but I think the gun control crowd’s arguments are generally naive, and that the gun lobby’s arguments are not entirely without merit.

    Your 6 points above are reasonable, though I am not automatically suspicious of someone who buys a gun. Law-abiding people can have legitimate reasons for wanting a gun.

    1. It sure seems to work elsewhere. Most dramatically in Australia. Read up on what happened after the Post Arthur massacre.

      1. This is the type of comment that drives my to writing in all caps.
        Australia did not ban guns. dammit.
        “Guns could only be sold by licensed firearms dealers, and limits were placed on the amount of ammunition that could be sold. Firearm owners had to be 18, complete a safety course, and have a “genuine reason” for owning a gun, such as sport shooting, hunting, or occupational requirements (“personal protection” did not count as a legitimate reason). Licenses expired every five years, and could be revoked if police found “reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.”

        Very similar laws apply in Canada.

        1. You’re right. A bit of overstatement. Nonetheless, they bought back many, many guns, and restricted the pool of eligible new owners. And made a dramatic difference.

          If you want to be literal, I can’t think of any country that “bans” guns. There are always certain people who will be allowed them for appropriate purposes, such as occupational.

      2. Australia is not really a valid comparison.
        Australia has always had very tight restrictions on handguns. Nobody could have a handgun just because they wanted one, ever.
        The notion of home defense also has never been acknowledged. You cannot legally have a gun of any type for home defense in Australia.
        To be like Australia you would have to ban handguns for everything except club use.
        That seems so far from any US reality as to be impossible.

        But the US could develop its own regs, just don’t compare Australia so readily.

      1. I think the message from that is:
        It was lucky they caught him before he could carry out a massacre. They might not have done so.

        But, he had to get his gun (just one) in pieces from dodgy Internet sources, it took him a lot of time and effort to do it.

        So Britain is not 100% proof against massacres by psycho loonies, but it is far, far harder for any psycho loony** to get hold of a gun. And in the process, someone is more likely to notice and tip off the police.

        (** aka troubled teen, for the euphemistically enhanced)


    1. Actually Matt you would have 67,640 nickels per year. The NRA exaggerates this statistic, but denying that citizens use firearms to defend themselves is both callous and wilfully defiant of the facts. The figure I cite comes from the Violence Policy Center based on FBI and National Crime Victimization Data from 2007-2011. The New York Times approvingly cited this study in case the analysis requires some left-right political context to be believed.

      1. How about thwarting homicides? Because I don’t think thwarting 67,640 burglaries per year really justified the 11,000 odd gun deaths or even the 500 odd accidental gun deaths.

        In countries that are “callous and defiant of the facts” (such as my own) you can thwart many crimes without the aid of a firearm at all because most of the criminals don’t carry guns either.

        1. You didn’t quote Victoria correctly. Her or his words were ‘callous and WILFULLY defiant of the facts’. That is surely very much worse than being merely ‘defiant’.(My capitals, in case I am accused of misquoting her or him.)

    2. Sorry, but this is a crucial factual issue. Given a profusion of guns, do legal registered carriers prevent crime? Just shrugging it off like this won’t do. It’s a prescription for how to look foolish in a debate too, when the other side cites some numbers.

  5. Nobody’s dick fell off when Thompson submachine guns were effectively taxed out of the hands of the average person in 1934.

  6. As I recall, when the need for a militia was decided, the standing army was about 7,000 for some 3,000,000 citizens (1 for ~4,000?). Today it’s 1,400,000 for 319,000,000 (1 for ~200). [ball park figures]

    The need then has passed.

    1. Actually, that’s debatable. The National Guard is the current state militia, and it is used to good effect in states when there are natural disasters or “insurrection.” It is not used properly when it is sent to fight foreign wars.

      And when the “Militia was decided,” there wasn’t a legal standing army. The Constitution created it.

        1. Perhaps I didn’t follow. Are you saying that the need for the militia as a military force was greater then than now? If so, then I take your point.

          1. No, I’m saying that the established government defenses were less, that the militia then was a more significant part of our armed forces than now. Then, the locals were needed in response to a threat more than today.

  7. I like to listen to Seth’s TTA podcasts regularly. About two years ago he had a show where he talked about guns. I can’t remember what prompted the topic of the show. However, seriously bothered me that he chose to make cocking sounds with his gun(s) on the air. Nearly gave up listening to future editions.

    We all carry baggage from our upbringing. Seth shook his religion which seems as hard or harder to give up than the support of a gun ownership/culture. So a little more prodding may do the trick.

      1. Talking about gun grabbers, the murder’s mother appears to have been one of them and encouraged her son to be one, too. Perhaps, you, Dan, as well as inglorious Victoria, might take note of the following from Digby’s very good blog, Hullabaloo:

        ‘I don’t know if the right wingers have been able to process this latest mass shooting in a way that makes sense to them yet (they’ve been all over the place calling the shooter a black nationalist or a Muslim or a violent anti-Christian atheist) but this should provide some food for thought:

        According to multiple reports, the shooter’s mother boasted online about her arsenal and feared that gun ownership would soon be restricted.

        “When the mood strikes,” Harper reportedly wrote on Facebook, “I sling an AR, Tek-9 or AK over my shoulder, or holster a Glock 21 (not 22), or one of my other handguns, like the Sig Sauer P226, and walk out the door.” Shotguns, she said, “are a little too cumbersome to open carry.”

        According to officials, the Harper family moved from Torrance, California to Winchester, Oregon, in 2013. “I moved from So. Calif. to Oregon, from Southern Crime-a-mania to open carry,” Harper noted in that same Facebook post advocating for open carry laws.

        Harper, a registered nurse who shared an apartment with her son, spoke “openly about her love of guns,” according to one of her patients.

        “She said she had multiple guns and believed wholeheartedly in the Second Amendment and wanted to get all the guns she could before someone outlawed them,” Shelly Steele told the New York Daily News. Steele hired Harper to provide care for her sickly teenage son and said that Harper enjoyed talking to her husband, an avid hunter and former member of the military, about taking her son to shooting ranges.

        Steele said that Harper complained to her husband that the shooting range nearest their home “wasn’t very private.”

        “You needed to have a range master with you, and she didn’t like anyone watching,” Stelle explained, “she wanted more privacy.”

        “She told my husband she just purchased some new guns a few weeks ago and took him shooting. I thought the whole situation was very strange. If you know your son has mental health issues, do you encourage a fascination with guns?”

        Obviously, I don’t know about this particular case, but the Newtown killer’s mother also provided her son with guns apparently in some vain hope that it would help him with his mental/emotional issues. Also, she was a big gun proliferation zealot who bought into NRA propaganda.

        Maybe that isn’t such a hot idea.’ (end of Digby)

        ‘When the mood strikes…’, ma slings a gun over her shoulder, and when the mood strikes her son ups and slaughters people… Ah, that Second Amendment! The rights! The liberties!

  8. May I add a seventh point to yours?

    Part of “responsible gun ownership*” should be demanding accountability. The president mentioned this in his (appropriately) angry comments on the Oregon massacre. “Responsible gun owners” need to loudly, actively demand their representatives in federal, state and local governments take steps to enact meaningful controls. They also need to stop supporting and speak out against the NRA unless and until that organization stops being the force of evil that it is. For the most part “responsible gun owners” have been silent every time a new horror is committed. Some of that blood is on their hands.

    *I hope others noted that Obama said in his remarks that there were “scores” or “responsible gun owners”. I don’t think that he misspoke. I do believe he meant that, though in fact the number is probably more than a “scores”. But not much, sadly.

  9. At a bare minimum, all guns should be registered, and that registration should be transferred when the gun is purchased, just like a car. There should be a thorough background check before any transfer. The penalty for possession of an unregistered gun, or the failure to report a sale or gift or theft of a gun, should be meaningful. And while we’re at it, ban high capacity clips and armor-piercing ammunition.

  10. I don’t think that other countries have less mental illness than we do, but perhaps they handle those conditions better than the US. The treatment of the mentally ill in the US is appalling poor…and getting worse. The answer to the shootings is to increase treatment for these people, while at the same time passing sensible gun legislation.

  11. I believe I’ve said enough about the second amendment already and will not repeat all of that. Today, it is not necessary go any deeper on the history.

    What we need to recognize is that where we are with guns in this country is a direct result of what has happened to our system of government. The power and control of our elected officials is no longer in the hands of the people. The facts are that half the people do not vote. Money has become so big in determining what really happens the better name for what we have is government by the money.

    The NRA is just one of many full time lobby firms that determines the outcome of their personal issues. Almost no congressman or woman at the federal level will vote against the NRA. Think about increasing taxes…forget about it. The financial lobby will ruin you. Tax breaks for various big business, we have a lobby for that. And if you take a look at any big lobby firm, you will find X congressmen and their staff. It is little more than a walk across the street. Every few years they just switch places.

    So Unless or until the voting public takes the necessary steps to remove all private money from our elections, the rest is just talk.

  12. It would take a liberal Supreme Court to overturn its previous decisions on gun ownership. If this should happen, you can be sure that the right wing would go nuts, egged on by the NRA and other gun groups. We would see a big spurt in the growth of private right wing militias. They would perceive that their worst fears are coming true. Such a Supreme Court ruling would probably inspire the mentally damaged to engage in more acts of mass violence. The right wing would edge ever closer to fascism, looking for the man on the white horse to rescue them from their delusional fear of liberal tyranny. Remember, according to a recent yougov poll, 43% of Republicans could see themselves supporting a military coup against the federal government. This number would only grow larger if effective gun control legislation was passed. Thus, while I support greater gun control as outlined by Professor Coyne, no one should be so naïve as to expect that this transition would be anything but extremely rocky and dangerous.

    Here is the link to the yougov poll.


    1. It would take only the switch of one vote, not a “liberal” Supreme Court.

      And I believe that the great majority would live with a reversal of Heller just fine.

      Many states had stricter gun control for years, as did many cities. The actual craving for gun “freedom” is much less than pollsters can tell you. There’s a big difference between what people tell a pollster they would do and what they in fact will do.

      1. The Court as now constituted is considered a very conservative court because on many important issues it has broken for the conservative side. So, yes it would take one more liberal presumably to raise the possibility that the Court could reverse the Heller decision. It can never happen under a prevailing conservative majority. If on most important issues the Court then ruled for the liberal side, it would then be called a liberal court.

    2. DC vs Heller is 9-0 in favor for individual gun ownership (with 4 liberals and Kennedy). I think you need to nuke the SCOTUS and appoint the Brady Campaign to overturn it.

      1. No, it was 5-4

        “District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), was a landmark case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to federal enclaves and protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

    3. Worrying about a fanatic fraction of Republicans and teapartiers going nuts would prevent pretty much any change on any issue.
      Those people are crazy.

      This is why America can’t have nice things.

      Besides, nobody will be going house to house to confiscate firearms. Eventually, when the stink becomes too bad, someone can go around and pry the guns out of their cold dead hands. Until then, as long as the person doesn’t run amok, there’s no problem. If they do, the police can shoot them. They are quite good at that. They get lots of practice.
      That system would appear little different than the one America currently has, from the view of the people who refuse to turn in their weapons, except it would be more difficult to get more of certain types of guns. They could be grandfathered in. Any system would be generational.

      Personally, I don’t think America needs to prohibit guns. What’s needed is mandatory training, a sea change in how Americans attitudes on firearms and firearm safety. So people treat them as the deadly weapons they really are. Education in firearms would be better coming from the government than from the NRA, which is extreme right. The government needs to find a way to break it’s hold and it’s training, which is just creating more nuts. Plus the NRA spreads lies.
      A licensing system is needed, like the kind in Canada, that weeds out most of the people who shouldn’t have firearms, people with obvious issues.

      They do need to stop this crazy habit of walking around with a firearm, as if every other person is out to get them.

      The vast majority of Americans want reasonable regulations around firearms.
      Work on the ones that have the best chance of passing, and before doing anything, setup a counter to the NRA.
      The problem is a tiny albeit very vocal fraction who spread lies and propaganda. They seem to be on the internet 24/7/365 on every web site and they can copy and paste faster than a computer. I’ve come to believe many are really NRA bots.

  13. There’s a trivial legal and technological solution, and it has nothing to do with guns.

    Guns don’t kill people. Bullets kill people.

    So, simply regulate the manufacture and sale of the brass (etc.) casings that house the bullets.

    You can own as many guns as you want. But the bullets? Better have a license if you want to buy any, and especially if you’re found in possession of them.

    It wouldn’t even be an hindrance to legitimate use. Firing ranges could “rent” bullets; you show up to the range without any, and you buy them from them. At the end of the session, you return all the spent and unspent brass with a refund for the unspent. When you get your first hunting license, you can buy a set number of bullets at the same time. When you renew, you can exchange your spent brass for refills, possibly with a fee. Anything else? Expect lots of paperwork.



    1. Many (if not most) serious gun owners who shoot a lot produce their own ammo, so taxing or regulating sales of ammunition wouldn’t affect them. Generally though, these aren’t the type of people shooting up colleges.

      1. That’s a common misconception.

        “Producing their own ammo” just means casting lead into new or spent blanks.

        Actually manufacturing the cartridge, with the firing caps and everything, up to modern tolerances…well, it’s doable, but that then becomes a major industrial manufacturing operation. It’s not something you’re going to do on a small scale, or covertly.


        1. Most people who make their own ammo, buy the lead, primers and powder, then re-use the cartridges they have. I do know people who mold their own bullets and even create their own cartridges with primers. All you will do is create is a black market for ammunition. Prohibition all over again…how did that work out?

          1. Right.

            And where do they get the cartridges and the primers? How many can make those bits themselves?

            And please don’t strawman me. I’m calling for regulation, not prohibition. And the regulation I’m calling for is very much like the regulation we already have for prescription drugs. If you have a legitimate need for penicillin, you won’t have any trouble getting it, but good luck getting any without such a need.

            If it’s good enough for antibiotics, why should it post a problem for ammunition?


    2. No reasonable reading of arms includes the gun but not the ammunition. Do you know how suggestions like this look to people not already convinced. This looks like someone trying to trick his way around the bill of rights. Like arguing phone taping is not a search so you don’t need a warrant. You sure that’s the tack you want to take?

      1. Sorry if I gave the impression that I was suggesting an end run. I fully agree that there isn’t any significant legal distinction between regulating guns and regulating bullets. I’m just suggesting that all the hand-wringing over “there’re too many guns for us to do anything about them” means nothing, as regulating ammunition would be, technologically, a near-trivial solution. As an analogy, it would be nigh on impossible to get everybody to give up their cars…but cut off the flow of gasoline, and it would become a moot point.

        Yes, the current Court has commanded us to let gun terrorism reign free on our streets and in our schools. But, if an when we can ever get the Court or Congress or the States to remedy that malfeasance, the simplest way is not by regulating the guns but by regulating the bullets.


    3. For what it’s worth, I like your idea quite a bit, Ben. There will still be a black market of sorts. Using your prescription medication example, my sister in law regularly acquired painkillers without prescriptions, but it was very difficult for her to do. I think regulation of ammo would go a long way toward curtailing mentally disturbed individuals from committing these heinous acts.

  14. Just a slight rebuttal to Jerry’s post…which is kind of weird because I’m a non-gun owner, non-NRA member, pro-gun control person.

    1. Appoint a liberal Supreme Court to interpret the Second Amendment properly…

    I’m not sure of the exact numbers…but I recall seeing that gun ownership is more of a rural/urban issue than a conservative/liberal issue. (Liberals in Texas may have a higher probability of owning a gun than Conservatives in Boston.) Also, Bernie Sanders (from a very rural Vermont) is one of the more pro-gun candidates.

    Not sure if adding liberal justices will automatically change anything.

    2. Stop saying that the problem cannot be solved, for that creates a national climate of despair.

    I can’t really disagree with this.

    3. Get rid of concealed carry laws, which as far as I can know, are not prima facie Constitutional.

    Are folks with concealed carry permits involved in these mass shootings? I’m not sure about that.

    In fact, getting a concealed carry permit involves extra work…which would be a good model for general gun control.

    4. Do not buy guns, and question those who own them…

    I’m not a hunter, nor do I live in an area where I would need a gun for self-defense.

    However, some people are big into hunting and others aren’t quite as lucky to live in an area that is as safe as mine. Unless those folks are up to no good, I’m not going to question their motives to buy a gun.

    5. Get rid of semiautomatic weapons; there is no right to own such things.

    Because I don’t really know the differences between “Semiautomatic”/”Automatic” and “Manual”(?) weapons…I have nothing to add.

    6. Tax the hell out of guns and ammunition. This, too, seems constitutional.

    I’m not a Constitutional lawyer, but it seems like taking them too much might result in a de facto violation of 2A.
    Would taking abortion at a high rate result in a violation of Roe v Wade?
    I don’t know.



    1. I think he wanted to say Automatic not semi. semi-automatic have been around forever such as in shotguns that people use to hunt with. Only one bullet fires when you pull the trigger. Then you pull the trigger again. What they did do with these is limit the number of shells you could put into the gun. Some shotguns will hold up to 7 shells but if you take the gun duck hunting you had to put a plug in it so it could only hold 3 shells. Call it giving the duck a bit of a chance.

      In Iowa and some other states you cannot hunt deer with a rifle. Guess why? Not because they give a damn about the deer but the crazy hunters will be shooting each other and anyone within a mile of where he is hunting. Rifles are far more dangerous than shotguns because the bullets go much farther. Handguns are the most dangerous because people shoot themselves and each other left and right. This is because the barrels are much shorter. Handguns are stupid for the public because in most cases they cannot hit a damn thing with them and they are very likely to shoot innocent people. Nobody I know hunts with a handgun.

      1. Handguns are stupid for the public because in most cases they cannot hit a damn thing with them and they are very likely to shoot innocent people.

        Indeed, this is very much the case.

        Many moons ago, I went camping with some friends, including an ex-Marine who had just gotten a new Glock handgun. Even at a mere fifteen feet or so, not a one of us, including the Marine, could hit a damned tree stump with any reliability or precision.

        There’re obviously those who work hard at the range to attain and maintain a degree of proficiency with handguns. For the rest…unless the target is no more than ten feet away, I wouldn’t count on the bullet going where the shooter thinks it will.

        The flip side of this is that handguns are nearly useless for personal defense. The time to pull a gun, aim, and fire is much more than the time to rush somebody with a knife.

        Handguns are very useful for the types of massacres they’re typically used for. It’s not hard to run around with one and shoot lots of people at close range.


        1. You sound like you know more about handguns than we actual handgun owners do. You must be a great internet ninja. Tell me, what’s your preferred stance?

          1. Okay, Mr. Actual Handgun Owner.

            At what range can you personally reliably hit a 12″ target? At what range in a quick-draw situation? When aiming at a target actively evading you and also returning your fire? And, in all situations, how likely are you to inadvertently hit something downrange? What kind of training did it take before you got to your current skill level?

            And would you rate your skill as above, below, or comparable to the average handgun owner?


            1. Yes, the whole idea of a hand gun for protection makes no sense. If your house is broken into at night and that’s all you have, better stay in bed. You would likely kill the whole family in your excitement. A simple, single shot, shotgun would be the best choice if you are looking for protection from something. Go with 6s or 7 1/2 size shot. Bird shot as they say.

              Just owning a handgun if you live in the city makes no sense. The only place you can shoot it is at a certified shooting range. I believe it is illegal to shoot any gun in the city limits. So the guns just sit there, year after year. A total waste of money. Get a baseball bat if you are afraid.

              1. I mentioned this above but one reason Australia has successfully stopped mass shootings is because we have NEVER been able to have handguns without very strict regulations.
                We have never been able to have a gun for protection, any gun.

        2. Back in the early 70’s a boyfriend took me shooting; he had a .30-06 rifle & a .22 pistol. I did my best to be a good sport and try it–wisely, he had me kneel and lean against a dirt bank when I fired the rifle (just once) or I’d’ve landed on my back. Then he set up some tin cans and we tried to hit them with the .22. I was of course very lousy at it, and after trading the pistol back & forth, with him having longer & longer turns with it but me shooting last, he noticed that it just wasn’t my thing.

          Back at his house, he was sitting beside me, cleaning the pistol…when it went off as he was holding it in his lap. Miraculously it hit only a wall or the floor–I don’t remember which. Bf was shaking & white as a sheet. Apparently there were still some bullets in the gun when I’d given it back to him, and he’d assumed it was empty.

          One of my more exciting dates…

  15. After WW2 there were actually an awful lot of guns kicking around in the United Kingdom. Mainly handguns that soldiers had kept as souvenirs, but still perfectly capable of killing someone.
    How did we get rid of them? We held regular gun amnesties, where you could hand your gun into the police for destruction on the understanding that they would not ask why you had it or how you obtained it.
    You could try something similar in the US.

    1. They have, mainly on a citywide basis carried out by local authorities. To be effective here, it would need to be national. And like what was done in Australia, on a buyback basis. (If only to satisfy 5th Amendment concerns.)

  16. One thing more on guns but I still say the major change that must happen is to get the money out of our elections.

    Most of the death and destruction in America with guns is all about hand guns. If this type of gun could be removed from the discussion there would be great improvement. They are the most dangerous type of gun to use, for the beginner and for those who think they know guns. Anyone that really knows guns will confirm this.

    Do you use hand guns for hunting? No. Are they used for anything useful besides law enforcement? If you just removed hand guns from all major cities you would reduce the death rate by more than half.

    If you think that the NRA does not have the power in this issue just ask why can’t they at least outlaw clips of more than 10 bullets? Who the hell needs a clip for their hand gun that holds 30 bullets?

    1. “If you think that the NRA does not have the power in this issue just ask why can’t they at least outlaw clips of more than 10 bullets? Who the hell needs a clip for their hand gun that holds 30 bullets?”

      What is to prevent a gun owner from carrying 3 or more 10 bullet magazines? Anyone who practices can eject and replace a magazine in a handgun in less than 1.5 seconds.

      1. Sure. If you practice, you can learn how to do that in the calm of your living room, with everything set out perfectly.

        But to do so in actual live fire, with adrenaline going and all the rest of the chaos? Probably not. And, even so, in 1.5 seconds, it’d be no problem for somebody to cover 20 – 25 feet and hit the shooter with a flying tackle that would end the shooting.


        1. LOL, so you recommend dangerous unarmed resistance against an armed criminal? Thank goodness greater minds have prevailed and we allow concealed carry in all 50 states.

          It boggles the mind how anti gun you are that you would rather have people die in a hail of bullets than to admit that gun owners can and have neutralized armed criminals.

          1. …and here we have the foundation of all this gun “rights” nonsense. All those advocating gun “rights” inevitably turn out to be, as Dan here, John Wayne wannabes, certain that a gunfight is going to break out at the OK Corral any minute now, and they’re going to be the heroes to save the day.

            Sorry, but the reality is that you’ve far better luck of winning the lottery than of finding yourself in such a situation, and the chances of you actually being of any use if the shit does hit the fan are basically zero.

            It’d be funny were it not for the fact that we, as a society, pay such a terrible price in blood just so you can maintain these fantasies of yours and those like you.


      2. Keep in mind that the gun idiot who killed all those people in Arizona a few years back, including a Congresswoman used a handgun with a 30 round clip. They jumped him only after he had emptied the thing and was trying to reload. I ask again, give any reason why they even make such a clip for any hand gun? It’s only good for mass killing.

  17. This is why elections matter. Prior to the Heller decision, there was no S. Ct. decision recognizing any “individual right” to own firearms. And until the Emerson decision in the 5th Circuit, there were no federal courts of appeals decisions (binding, anyway).

    The entire “individual right” interpretation is, in the words of the late Chief Justice Burger, a “fraud,” perpetrated by the NRA and its minions, aided in large part by an ignorant citizenry who seem clueless to the fact that “bear arms” meant military service, not walkin’ around packin’ heat.

    What has been missed is that the Second Amendment was passed as a choke on FEDERAL action that would disarm the state militias. (As such, it can’t be applied to state action, as that would make no sense. No state is going to disarm its own militia. And of course, the Bill of Rights originally had no effect on state action. It restricted federal action only.)

    But as to elections, and why they matter: Remember that this is the same Court that gave us Bush v. Gore. And no matter one’s politics, that was an unsupportable, pathetic decision driven solely by the drive to reach one specific result. Ditto with Heller. So, either we craft and pass new amendments (good luck with that), or we get new justices on the Court and convince the Court to revisit the Heller decision (and its progeny) and undo this. Else, the carnage continues.

    1. And the bill of rights used to apply to white people only. Interpretations change, usually for the good. I am glad the 2A is rightly recognized as an individual right. I like it when we get more civil liberties and freedom from the government. If you want less liberties, be my guest.

  18. It is well to remember that the Second Amendment was presumably written with a sharpened quill plucked from a goose, dipped into squid ink, and drawn over a hammered lambskin parchment. And it referred to guns that had a range of twenty yards, took five minutes to reload and sent a spinning ball in any direction. On those grounds alone the Second Amendment must be revised. It simply does not refer to guns today.
    It took fifty years to disarm our countries, with slowly tightening legislation. The argument of too many guns already in circulation is addressed by slow and inevitable restrictions. And as to the mental health of citizenry; perhaps half of people experience mental health difficulties in their life; feelings of inadequacy and depression, feelings of rejection or victims of insult. All young people who go buy guns have mental health issues. No good looking there for help with gun control.
    First is to declare the NRA a terrorist organisation ‘responsible’ for the deaths of thousands a year by opposing gun control.
    Seems like ordering all gun owners to register with a gun-club and be tested once a year would be a good beginning. Gun clubs have an interest in weeding-out nutters. Then, after time, that all guns be kept at the club. Then all gun-owners to have insurance for liability. Premiums would soar. And then change the attitude from restricting a very few from owning guns to restricting all but a very few to owning guns. It may take years. I suggest fifty years.

    Churchill famously suggested that the Americans usually do the right thing, but only after doing the wrong thing for many years. I suspect that when the majority of Americans are freed from the tyranny of religion, the idea of submission will fade, and a new mood of social responsibility and social action may emerge.

    1. Your proposals would result in people who are fairly well off owning guns and poorer individuals not being able to afford gun club memberships, high fees and taxes. Nice. I’m sure that would make some people very happy.

      1. Huh?

        I’m sorry, but I’m at a loss to see where you could possibly be coming from with this.

        Poor people also can’t afford to buy cars or pay for the liability insurance we require for ownership. And car ownership would be far more beneficial to poor people than gun ownership. Are you suggesting we completely gut all vehicular safety and liability regulations as well? If not, how can you possibly object to similar standards for gun ownership?


        1. I’m sure that a society where mostly well-to-do white people own all the guns would make many people feel more comfortable. It won’t happen…not anytime soon anyway. One of the biggest complaints against the Ferguson PD was that they were constantly ticketing poor black folk for not being able to pay for insurance/registration for their cars. When they didn’t pay the fines, they would be arrested and have their cars impounded. If you do the same for guns, you will be accused of racism…I guarantee it.

          1. Huh?

            Again, I don’t see where you’re going with this.

            Are you suggesting that the minorities of Ferguson need guns to fight a war against the police, and that it’s racist of me to want to disarm them?

            If so…I don’t know that there’s enough agreement between us as to what constitutes reality for us to have a productive discussion. The one or the other of us is completely off the rails.


  19. There is an “urban vs. rural” aspect to this. I remember having a similar reaction during the SUV discussion.

    On a farm, there are legitimate, although infrequent, uses for guns. Dispatching a dying animal that is in pain, and killing or discouraging predators come to mind.

    Limiting use of guns to one’s property, registration, and insisting that owners demonstrate competence would go a long way toward allowing farmers to have them without increasing the danger to society in general.

    BTW, I don’t think that requiring a demonstration of competence is “the first step on the slippery slope toward the government taking our guns” any more than requiring a driving test for a driver’s license is the first step toward the government confiscating our vehicles.

    Also, I agree with Ben’s suggestion of taxing ammunition. I have a box of bullets for my pistol that is probably ten years old, and is only about 20% used up, so taxing ammunition would not be a huge expense. L

    1. And restricting the types of firearms one is allowed to own – that helps too. No one needs military grade weaponry, except the military.

      It won’t stop all the crime – where there is a will, there is a way as evidenced by the murder of women at L’école Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec when I was a student in the 90s (we still mark that day on Canadian campuses), butit should make it more difficult to commit such crimes.

      1. I absolutely agree with you.

        I wish there were a way to euthanize dying animals without the use of a gun, but “blue juice” used by vets is controlled and not available to the general public, and using it renders the meat unusable. We donate carcasses to the zoo, so shooting them is the only way that doesn’t contaminate the meat. L

      2. They allowed the assault rife ban to be dropped or expire several years ago and that was when the NRA really took over and marked the end of any control in the U.S. That is when we knew it was really going nuts. You would see these guns for sale in Walmart that were basically an M-16. They all looked very military and they were. Not worth a damn for hunting and no respectable hunter I know would ever have one. Guns for idiots is what they are. Lots of money in it for the manufacturers and retailers.

  20. Yesterday, I was listening to BBC World Services (I have a 6 month satellite radio free trial) and there was an interview with a fellow about America and guns. The interviewer asked him a question” “Europeans have guns – take Switzerland for example – and there aren’t the same level of gun crime there.” He replied that American gun culture is different, then as far as I’m concerned used such hyperbole as to come close to rendering his point moot when he answered that “in Europe there are rules around storing your guns; you can’t just walk around in public with your gun, but in America people tuck guns into their pants or put them on the dashes of their car.”

    That got me thinking about American gun culture. Yeah, it’s definitely a thing (as a Canadian I always find it so strange) but I wonder if there is a correlation between poverty, lack of education and high gun crime. Just as there is a correlation between poor education and high religiosity, is it possible there is a common root cause that points to a dysfunctional society – one that lacks enough social safety nets?

    1. That may be a part, but just a small part. I remember growing up here in the U.S. in the ’50s. EVERYTHING in entertainment seemed to revolve around guns. Westerns, “The Roaring ’20s”, “The Untouchables” – in every show that wasn’t a comedy, someone was getting shot. Even as benign a show as “Mr. Lucky” featured gunplay regularly. John Wayne solved his problems with a gun.

      Fast-forward, little changed. Drug dealers romanticized, cops romanticized. Got a problem? Shoot the guy, and the more outrageously wrongly it’s portrayed the better. (Actually gunplay looks nothing like like the movie version.) It has permeated our culture for over a hundred years, that resort to shooting is honorable and necessary. Nobody fucks with you if you have a gun. Worried about getting robbed? Carry a gun. Worried about those black folk? Carry a gun. But I don’t think poverty has any more to do with it than it does with the desire for fancy cars – it’s there, but no more than anything else. I think Gopnik is on to it – the secret lust to have the individual power of life and death. It’s like the old rule of the theatre: If there’s a gun in the first act, it must be fired by the third act. Possession of firearms leads seamlessly to use for some people. Too many people.

  21. You all realize that you can’t just “outlaw guns”. That horse has left the barn two Supreme Court decisions ago.

    And there is no way whatsoever we are ever going to get a Constitutional amendment ratified.

    Individual people have a Constitutional right to own, carry, use firearms in the United States. We need to accept this.

    Every time another article is written about “outlawing guns” it just reinforces right-wing political strategy, and ensures that more right-wing crazies wind up at the polls to vote.

    Since we can’t “outlaw guns” why are we helping elect more Republicans?

    1. You used to have a right to own other people, too. I think the solution to a bad decision is a correct one, and not just cry about being helpless.

      1. It’s not about being helpless. It’s about timing. First you win majorities in the house and Senate, and then you address gun control.

        Otherwise, all you are doing is helping to elect more Republicans.

  22. OK…so now I understand where in the political spectrum you exist. It is much more than observing that there’s no real difference between the left and right wings of the Demopublican Party. I’m sure you would agree that although the Republicans say they believe in economic freedom (they don’t), they definitely don’t believe in social freedom. And the Democrats of course say they believe in social freedom (they don’t), but they definitely don’t believe in economic freedom. You don’t believe in any freedom, except of course what you dictate. So I believe you’re not the part of Left wing of the Democratic Party (which had been my thoughts after all you “political blogging”…You’re a member of the Anti-Libertarian Party…aren’t you! 🙂

    1. Your freedom to swing your fists ends at the tip of my nose. All the freedoms you’re promoting involve continuing your swinging past that point.


      1. We agree. My freedom to own a gun stands as long as I don’t discharge it and shoot off the tip of your nose. Just as my freedom of speech stays in tact as long as I don’t use it to cause a riot, which could of course cause someone to take a swing at the tip of your nose.

        1. No, we do not agree. Your gun ownership constitutes an attractive nuisance at best and an hostile active threat at worst, no different from you swinging your fists inches from my face.


  23. I’m interested in the comments of other readers of this blog on this letter in the Los Angeles Times Thu. 10/1/15. (I’m for gun control, and I don’t agree with the writer.)

    Re “Gun control, again,” Editorial, Sept. 23
    In its editorial, The Times trots out the hoary and long-discredited notion that the 2nd Amendment’s “reference to a ‘well-regulated militia’ limits the right to keep and bear arms to organized military units, such as the National Guard.”
    Let’s apply common sense to the text itself.
    If you want a state army, you form one. You don’t put it in a document called the Bill of Rights, let alone give it pride of (second) place.
    Remember that whole Revolutionary War thing? The words of the body of the amendment — “the right of the people” — are the same ones used in the 1st and 4th Amendments, and are universally recognized to confer individual rights.
    I can respectfully disagree with an anti-gun argument that the evolution of weapons over time dilutes the effectiveness or importance of the 2nd Amendment as a check on the military, but continuing to prop up the collective right theory betrays historical ignorance.

    1. I suggest you study your history a little more before accusing anyone of “historical ignorance”. And remember we already had state and federal governments prior to the Constitution. You seem to forget how the Articles of Confederation worked, and how they led to the drafting of the Constitution.

      But more directly, “state armies” predate even the Founding: that’s what the militias WERE. The amendment concerned the relationship between the state and federal governments of power and authority over the militias. Look at the new powers over the militias given the federal government in Article I of the Constitution. It lends context, which is lacking in your post.

      You also assume that the drafters of the amendments had some overriding grammatical code. No evidence of such a thing, and certainly not between the drafters of the Bill of Rights, and the drafters, many decades later, of the 14th Amendment.

      1. Historical arguments are moot. The first amendment was written with quill pens and parchment in mind, not electronic computers and the internet. The SCOTUS rightly interpreted the 2A as an individual right. I like having more rights than less. Don’t you?

        1. Oh, yes. I want lots and lots of rights. I want the right to dump whatever noxious pollutants I feel like in the rivers, the right to release packs of rabid wolves into populated areas, and to use tactical nuclear weapons to ensure my local baseball team’s victory.

          And don’t you dare suggest taking away any of these rights from me!


          1. LOL, nice strawman. But my words still stands. The SCOTUS rightly determined the 2A as an individual right. Despite you antis protesting, gun rights have been increasing. You can blame it all on the NRA, and that is ok, but it is also that the rank and file members do go to town meetings to argue for 2A.

            After Sandy Hook the call for gun control jumped from about 40% to 90%. And while cooler minds have prevailed and it has again dropped less than 50%, your comrades still repeat the 90% canard. The fact is, the majority of Americans do want their individual gun rights, and want it to be loose than restricted. Tragedies happen and gun control whores can push their agenda to the public, but it passes relatively quick.

            The war has already lost. You just think it’s still being fought.

        2. You can’t rely on a novel decision that purports to be based on “history,” and then say history doesn’t matter. Any more than you can say that what was written to protect the militias should now be read as something else.

          And for the record, you probably have far fewer rights than you think you do.

  24. So have any of the usual suspects blamed atheists for this yet since he supposedly targeted Christians, and had a problem with organized religion.
    He claimed on a dating website he was “spiritual”, and there’s no reason to think he didn’t believe in God, but they never let silly things like facts get in their way.

  25. I agree with Alan Dershowitz. The 2nd amendment sys we have a right to have guns. That’s why it’s time to repeal it

    1. If you can get 3/4 of the states to agree to repeal the 2nd Amendment, then by all means do so. But that isn’t what PCC is suggesting. He wants to appoint activist judges who will overrule the majority of Americans. That is not the way to run a democracy. Most Americans want sensible gun regulations, very few want to ban guns outright.

  26. What I don’t understand is the insistence that the U.S. Constitution be treated as some infallible, unchangeable instruction for running a country to be interpreted literally in the same way that some people use holy books for running their lives.

    It seems that many of the pro gun arguments rely on “The Constitution says so!” type unreason. It does not matter what the constitution says or does not say, do what it takes to fix the problem.

    1. A strategic problem with the Amendment solution is that it’s a tacit admission that the 2nd Amendment says what gun advocates say it does.

      1. You are correct. The Court has had to reverse itself in the past, and will have to do so with this decision as well.

      2. The 2nd DOES say what what gun advocates say it does. That’s what 2 recent Supreme Court cases have said.

        You may not like it, but until you have a new Supreme Court, a new Senate, a new House, and have changed the public opinion of half of the country, you are not going to change that Amendment.

        You can’t even pass gun control until you win back both houses of Congress, and perhaps the best way to eliminate your chances of doing that is to keep talking about “banning guns”.

        1. “The 2nd DOES say what what gun advocates say it does. That’s what 2 recent Supreme Court cases have said.”

          As a technical matter, yes, what the SC says is the law of the land, but on a different level, the SC can be wrong.

          It wasn’t until the recent decisions that the SC has ever endorsed the idea of an individual right to bear arms; even so, it’s still not absolute and some types of control are still permissible.

          I agree that the sort of gun control necessary has zero chance of being politically viable in today’s climate, but it’s conceivable that could change rapidly under the right circumstances. Merely banning assault rifles or high capacity magazines is silly and a waste of time.

    2. No one is saying that. The Constitution has been amended 17 times (if you don’t include the Bill of Rights). Something wrong with it or it doesn’t work anymore, amend the darn thing.

  27. What other country in the world regularly has toddlers shooting themselves and other children?

    What other country has parents that think it’s a good idea to let a 9 year old child play with an Uzi sub machinegun? Or large handguns, or shotguns? Youtube is full of videos of American parents letting very young children use large firearms, and letting those firearms get out of control. Like the 9 year old that shot the range employee in the head, killing him.

    Parents boast of letting 4 year old shoot off a 22 pistol. Parents regularly leave loaded firearms unsecured around very young children, and many of these children pay the price. Yet of all the incidents that result in death only a 1/4 of those firearm owners are charged with a crime. It’s most often written off as an accident. This is most often in so called “law and order” red states that like to talk about personal responsibility.

    When it comes to firearms, personal responsibility goes out the window. Slippery slope argument is fine for every other issue, but when you have toddlers shooting other toddlers, then those liberals are using a tragedy to promote an agenda. Your damn straight I am. My agenda is, if you leave a loaded firearm unsecured around an unsupervised child, you should be arrested, charged and imprisoned.

    Meanwhile, elected representatives pass laws that prevent doctors from talking to parents about firearms. (Florida)
    They pass laws that prevent the CDC from collecting research. They pass laws that prevent the ATF from properly investigating the smuggling of guns and the sale of cases of guns, every month, to individuals. Background paperwork is shredded leaving no trail to the sale of cases of weapons.
    While the NRA tells people to buy guns for fear of Mexican gangs and drug dealers, those gangs and dealers are getting their firearms from the USA. The same for Canada’s criminal element.

    Semiautomatic weapons were not banned. So called assault guns were banned. An assault gun is a military style rifle that is designed for urban warfare, close in shooting with a short barrel so the weapon doesn’t hit walls, doors, etc.
    The favorite weapon of spree shooters (and most murderers in the US) is the semi automatic handgun.

    The US has about 300 million firearms, but less than 30 percent of the population own them.

    While spree shootings get the most press, there are an average of 70,000 shootings a year. Some 10,000 are fatal. Of those, about 650 are children 14 and under who found a firearm, usually at home. About 100 of those result in death. These occur year after year after year. While the US and first world has seen decreasing homicides and violent crime, the US has recently seen a spike in homicide.

  28. Professor Coyne, you and the source you cite are ignoring the wider context of why firearm rights evolved, namely the evolution of the Bill of Rights as a whole in the 20th century from a restraint on states to a mandate of individual liberty relative to all government actors. The current interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is consistent with the wider jurisprudence on individual liberty that liberals, including me, hold as sacrosanct. I think Senator Sanders shows this recognition and has very reasonable changes in mind that are respectful of a right to arm and defend oneself.

    1. ‘Sacrosanct’? It’s amusing to find someone unashamedly and un-ironically declaring their belief in holy writ on a website owned and contributed to by atheists. Religion, or religious thinking, pops up in surprising places…

    2. Whoooaaaa! The Bill of Rights did not simply “evolve” as a restraint on the “states.” It has always acted as a restraint on the federal government and then, through incorporation, an imposition of federal constitutional principles to the states. (The 4th Amendment didn’t even apply to the states until 1961.)

      And it’s hardly a stretch of constitutional protection to equate government invasion of “papers and effects” to wiretapping private conversations. The privacy interests are the same, merely updated to account for technology. That’s a far cry from twisting an amendment that was meant ONLY as a restraint on federal action against state militias to a guarantee of an “individual right” of gun possession, particularly since “citizen militias” have pretty much ceased to exist as lawful organizations. In one case, the individual right to be free from unlawful government invasion of privacy has remained the same. In the other, you are asking us to recognize a “right” that never existed has been born full-blown from the imagination of Justice Scalia. That is not how the Bill of Rights has evolved, not at all. It should be quite clear that the Second Amendment is now an anachronism, a remedy in search of a disease. It has about as much vitality as the Third Amendment.

      1. I was going to respond but the reference to Antotin Scalia shows you are arguing in bad faith. While Scalia agrees with the individual right interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, he is hardly the origin or sustaining force of that view. He’s just an object of hate in liberal virtue-signalling. Since I make clear I’m on the left and many liberals believe in the individual right to bear arms interpretation, it is just a needlessly hostile and inflammatory reference. The person above me is angry because I used “sacrosanct” in a figurative manner. Ill pass on further engagement.

        1. You have a strange definition of “bad faith.” I never said Scalia was the origin of the concept – the NRA and a bunch of libertarian law professors were. But he is responsible for its origin as a “constitutional right.” Very different thing.

          I don’t give a toss about what “many liberals believe.” If a million people believe a stupid thing, it’s still a stupid thing.

          For that matter, I know a number of conservatives who agree that Scalia was talking out of his ass. It’s not a liberal/conservative thing. It’s a question-of-correct-application-of-the-Constitution thing. Making up rights out of thin air is hardly new. Anyone can play. Doesn’t make it right, and it sure as hell is a lousy way to run a country.

        2. Ah, yes, Victoria, the figurative ploy… the religiose use it all the time so that one is never sure whether what they say is metaphorical or literal. And, no, I was hardly angry, merely amused.

          1. Are you arguing that there is a religion that holds Constitutional freedoms as holy?

            It is obvious to this reader that Victoria was using the term rhetorically. Give her a break.

            1. Not obvious to me, I’m afraid. As a matter of fact, I would say that the kind of thinking, or whatever you might like to call it, that attributes to one’s nation, to American ‘exceptionalism’ or some other political dogma (e.g. Communism), or to something like the US Constitution a quality that puts it into some position beyond criticism involves precisely the kind of thinking, or whatever one wishes to call it, that generates and maintain religion, and I think it is a weakness of the New Atheism that it does not recognise that our lives are shot through with what one call religious thinking.

              The shooter’s father, by the way, has called for the proper regulation of guns, according to this from Josh Marshall’s ‘Talking Points Memo’: ‘Ian Mercer, the father of the man who shot and killed nine people and injured nine others at a community college in Oregon last week told CNN Saturday that, had gun laws prevented his son from accessing the guns, the incident wouldn’t have happened.

              Authorities said that the shooter, Chris Harper Mercer, had 13 guns linked to him that were all acquired legally.

              His father questioned how he was able to access those weapons.

              “How on Earth could he compile 13 guns? How can that happen?” Ian Mercer said on CNN. “They talk about gun laws, they talk about gun control. Every time something like this happens, they talk about it, and nothing is done.”

              “I’m not trying to say that that’s what to blame for what happened,” he added. “But if Chris had not been able to get a hold of 13 guns, it wouldn’t have happened.”‘

              Thirteen guns, and people go on about the sanctity of our rights and freedoms and the latest interpretation of the Second Amendment.

  29. I agree with the post, wholesale removal of guns is the only way out for this ‘means to a nutter’s end’
    I would suggest the US is still going through the civilising phase (to take Steven Pinker’s cue) on the surface it looks smooth but close up, it’s warped, pitted, bumpy.
    All these guns just didn’t just arrive and it’s going to take years, possibly decades and beyond to remove them but a start has to be made. Where and how? starting with education, the young need to understand all of the implications of violence, which guns are apart, how, why it exists making it unacceptable behaviour and outside the norm unless for sport, recreational hunting (if you must) law enforcement and soldiers at war (if we must)
    From the ground up is my solution whilst chipping away from the top but it’s got to stop, children shooting children, it doesn’t sound very civilised to me.
    Now what does this remind me of? something about flies..

  30. Liberals are activist when interpreting theconstitution when it is useful for them, and originalist when it is useful for them. No different than the conservative side.

    I will continue to be a liberal gun owner, and while I have not supported the NRA financially, I will support them in spirit.

    1. The problem is, that the NRA is against even common sense gun legislation, closing the gun show background check avoidance loophole for example.

  31. Criminals will not obey any gun law. If outlawed they will make them in their basement. Militias are not outmoded. Gun ownership is not a Constitutional right It is a constitutional guarantee that the Right we have which is antecedent to the constitution will not be infringed.

      1. Good, then let’s support the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program, which has successfully taught thousands of children proper gun safety. The more people are exposed to gun safety, the less gun tragedies will happen.

        Wow, Ben Goren and the NRA agree for once! There is hope for you yet.

        1. And how do you propose restricting gun ownership to only those who’ve demonstrated such competence without implementing the exact sorts of regulations as are being called for?

          Or is it “good enough” for you if a small handful of kids get elite NRA sharpshooting lessons with free propaganda DVDs, and who gives a damn about the rest?


          1. Let’s make it national of course. The NRA Eddie Eagle program is available for everyone and they even offer the program to any public school.

            You really know nothing about the other side do you?

            1. Are you willing to make gun possession dependent on regular demonstrated proficiency in Eddie Eagle? Or are you just waving it as a distraction and suggesting that, because it’s theoretically available, it’s an obvious conclusion that all gun owners are responsible people who religiously take advantage of the opportunity?


            2. Your suggestion that the NRA be the big gun safety group that trains and teaches kids gun safety. Hell, that is what they were basically 40 some years ago but now they are the big time number one lobby for gun manufacturers. If they had just stayed with their earlier profession they would not smell so bad today.

            3. When Obama and congress tried to close background check loopholes, the NRA lied and told everyone that the law was designed to take away peoples firearms. It wasn’t.

              I wouldn’t trust the NRA to do anything.
              It’s an extremist political organization, having it teach children anything is a very bad idea.

            4. Why not give the little kids lessons on how to properly light up a bong? Hypothetically, they are going to need to know anyway. I would approve this over lessons about guns. First, I can teach my kids how to use a gun with products made by Matel, and second knowing something about drugs is more practical and realistic.

              1. Bong, bong as opposed to bang, bang – a very sensible solution! I’d support that to the hilt.

  32. This business about “well regulation militia” is frequently used by those who labor under the delusion that getting rid of guns will somehow end all the gun violence in America.

    “Everyone crazy enough to pick up a gun and kill many people is crazy.”

    “Crazy” – That is a point that your typical gun-control advocate somehow ignores, that it is criminals and the mentally ill, and not ordinary law abiding citizens who go about killing. What part of that don’t you understand?

    What you are promoting is guilt by assumption. That is, if you own a gun, you will kill somebody, hence they must be banned. That’s the stuff of totalitarianism.

    “ … only in America do we cheerfully supply him with military-style weapons to express his rage.”

    That’s not true. Here in Maryland, we have some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, thanks to Governor Martin O’Malley, who’s now a Democrat presidential candidate.

    “ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Martin O’Malley has signed a gun-control measure to give Maryland some of the nation’s tightest gun laws and the National Rifle Association says it plans to challenge the law in court … The measure bans 45 types of assault weapons and gun magazines will be limited to 10 bullets.” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/16/maryland-gun-control-law_n_3287475.html

    In spite of this, during the past 6 months, Baltimore has seen the worst murder rates

    “Baltimore has become the second most violent city in America” – https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2015/08/07/baltimore-surges-past-detroit-in-number-of-homicides-in-2015/

    Stricter gun laws haven’t done a thing to reduce Baltimore’s murder rate. The reason is that anti-gun hysteria has diverted attention away from criminals and the mentally ill, and instead assumes that punishing the innocent will somehow reduce crime.

      1. Chicago is the third largest city in the country. I know, I worked in law enforcement there. And it’s gun murder rate is less than at least five other American cities. And thanks to the Supreme Court, the first case up after Heller was the case that voided many of Chicago’s gun laws, including its handgun ban. Do you see a relationship THERE?

        1. Sorry for delaying a reply, Jeff. And, while I’m at it, no need to shout at me. I am older, and a bit hard of hearing, but that doesn’t in any way affect my intelligence.

          Chicago faces escalating gun violence – MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY 10/3/15:
          The Chicago Tribune says September 2015 is the city’s deadliest in 13 years with 60 homicides. Charlene Carruthers from the Black Youth Project and The Chicago Tribune’s Alexandra Chachkevitch join her to discuss.

          You are free to get the link to said discussion yourself. Try MSNBC. You know, the liberal news media.

          This is a fact, Jeff, not a belief or supposition, and until you can provide evidence that the violation of Chicago’s gun laws (in 2008) reputedly by the 2008 Supreme Court decision, are responsible for the escalation of gun homicides in 2015, my reply to you is “Yes, I can see a relationship there, but only of it is supported by evidence and not mere supposition.”

          1. I take your point, Cliff, and apologize if I was a bit peremptory. I’m no spring chicken either, as evidenced by the fact that I say things like “I’m no spring chicken either.”

            You are also right to call me on some lazy argumentation – in fact, I do need to research the relationship, if any, between the Court’s decision and the current state of affairs in Chicago.

            Now, I think there is another important story here: I worked in law enforcement in Chicago back in 1991 (among other years before and after – I’m just grabbing some numbers here). In 1991, Chicago had 928 murders. At that time, best I recall, New York averaged about 2000 murders a year, Chicago about 950. In 2014, Chicago had 460 murders. And Chicago’s population had grown between those two different years. Now, these are the sort of bread and butter murders we usually got. A lot of gang killings, drug-related killings (obvious overlap there), plus the various other murders a city of 3 million is gonna have.

            What I don’t recall having nearly as often in the nation (not talking Chicago here) are the mass shooting/murders we are seeing now. And no, I haven’t really run the numbers because it’s Sunday and I’m tired. But is my sense the same as yours?

            And yes, I have changed the subject drastically, but I will try to give you some sort of answer to your question soon. And no, I won’t be as lazy next time. Nor will I be as disingenuous.

        2. FWIW, I never consider the capitalization of one word here and there to be yelling. IME it’s mostly use to indicate that the word should be stressed, just as italics does; the latter being harder to deal with with some of today’s devices. (Esp. for us non-vernal galliforms.)

          1. I don’t use capitalization unless I’m stymied by the unavailability of italics (or my lack of knowledge of how to access them). I do use italics too much, too, probably. But I agree capital letters are obnoxious.

            1. Then you agree with Cliff, not me. 🙂 I only see yelling when entire posts are in caps. Or at least, large parts of them. Seems to me that the custom of using caps for italics predates the computer age, when devices didn’t have the italic option (and underlining was difficult).

              I know I have a hard enough time typing anything on my phone, let alone having to stop for html tags.

              But isn’t this the wholly superfluous side discussion? 😀

    1. The mentally ill are responsible for an exceedingly low rate of gun homicides.

      But I guess since the problem isn’t guns, there’s nothing we can do. It’s all the “criminals.” Who have guns. Hmm.

      1. Yes and Baltimore is often called the heroin capital. They didn’t do the TV show The Wire, in Baltimore for nothing. If you have what you think are strict laws in Baltimore, how far do you go to get guns easier. How many miles. Come on, please give us a break.

        1. Actually, years ago, there was a study of Baltimore and the guns used in crimes. A lot of them turned out to have been obtained through the burglaries of lawful gun owners’ homes.

  33. Here in the northern part of the UK it will soon be necessary to have a licence to own an air rifle. “The new law will mean anyone wanting to own an air gun will need to demonstrate they have a legitimate reason for doing so.” (BBC). I think it’s envisaged that only pest controllers will be able to get a licence”
    The number of murders by firearm have averaged about 3 for the last 5 years (I think it was 1 for 2013/2014).

    1. Actually between about 40 and 60 a year for the whole UK over the past 10 years or so. Still compares well with the 8-10,000 a year in the US.

  34. I get why there are the guns everywhere, after all, the country is wide and the infrastucture was thin. That’s no longer an excuse. Police will arrive at every scene in a reasonable timeframe, and playing the hero in this sort of situations is typically a bad idea and shouldn’t be confused with courage. Nobody in their right mind will want to be seen shooting around or just waving with their gun when the police arrives. How will they know you’re on the good team? This whole thing doesn’t work game theoretically, either, for even when ways existed to show who’s on what team, a motivated killer can exploit it. Also, it apparently never worked out so far with the Hollywood Heroism in practice. It’s like (right wing) libertarianism: advocates think they’re cleverer than the rest and somehow prevail when everything was unregulated.

    You’ve mentioned the reason why the US is afflicted more than other countries. When someone has a bad day in Britain, they fall asleep at some point, in the US, they get their gun and become “famous” that way. Where in other countries, a spouse going berserk will have to get messy (which often then doesn’t happen), in the USA they just pull a trigger.

    Guns are also special in another way: there is no other tool in a house that is that dangerous, yet that easy to use — even when you count in the chainsaw under the bed. You need to start it first and it’s noisy when it’s running. Other ways towards a quick demise are quite circumstantial. Yet people get killed while cleaning the gun, or it gets into the hands of children and all sorts of accidents can happen — because they’re easy to use.

    1. That is a good point. To kill someone with any other sort of implement is messy, requires close contact with the victim, and potentially dangerous – they might fight back. Shooting someone OTOH is physically easy and (relatively) fairly safe for the shooter. And much easier to do by accident.

      As to gun availability, if I (here in NZ) wanted a gun, I think I could go to a gun shop, go through the legal processes, and after a few days own a rifle or shotgun. Not a handgun. As an average member of the public, I wouldn’t know where to get hold of a gun – any gun – in a hurry. I suspect in US the answer would be quite different.


      1. You want to buy a gun, just go to your local Walmart. Or sporting goods store, or a pawn shop, or any of the innumerable local Mom & Pop gunsmiths. If you’d rather not fill out any paperwork, go to a swap meet and find somebody selling a gun there. Craigslist or a similar classified listing are good options for undocumented purchases, too.

        If you don’t have a gun in the States, it’s because you don’t want one.


          1. Hmmm…you’re right, but a simple search for “craigslist gun sales” turns up, as the first hit for me, armslist.com; only the second hit is for Craigslist’s prohibited items page. And there’re lots more similar services listed…gunlistings.org, calguns.net, utahguns.com….



  35. The call for a ban on firearms is the fuel that keeps the NRA going. They need only point to posts like this and the donations start rolling in from the millions of Americans that see firearms as much a part of their culture as football.
    Prohibition of widely sought goods and services only creates more problems than it solves, weather it be drugs or guns. And whether people like it or not, guns are a very important part of the lives of a very large segment of the US population. Teaching your kids to shoot, going hunting with friends and family are very important experiences in the lives of many.
    I personally would be in support of gun control measures, such as mandatory licensing. But most gun owners have become paranoid about the issue. Many believe that giving in on even the most reasonable legislation will be the beginning of the path to gun bans. So It’s become an entrenched war between those who don’t see any reason for owning a gun and those who wouldn’t want to be without one. With neither side wanting to give an inch for fear of losing a mile.

  36. Point is simple; you can keep the guns, and point to Switzerland all you like where half the population has guns.

    Just make sure the ammo is locked up at the public range as they do also!

    (Lowest crime rate anywhere)


    Sent from my iPhone


  37. Simple. No Guns= No Gun Deaths, end of ,apparently 87,000 Americans have been killed by Guns since the Sandy Hook Massacre, 87,000! that is bloody Insanity. You already have a well regulated Militia, what is the National Guard if not the aforementioned.? If there was a massacre in Congress I have no doubt there would be a different Opinion on Gun Control. madness total bloody madness.

  38. After the assassinations of the sixties, Moynihan proposed that trace amounts to radioactive elements be introduced into gun powder, which has a relatively short shelf life. This would permit electronic devices to detect gun powder and, presumably guns in the vicinity. If hand-held detection devices could be built with today’s technology, then those of us who fear gun owners would at least be warned when in the vicinity of concealed weapons. Obviously, this would not prevent all shooting because it isn’t a deterrent, but it might create a zone of safety say when walking into a bar in Texas.

  39. The “militia” reference in 2A refers to the militias organized in slave-holding states to recapture escaped slaves, or to put down slave rebellions. Virginia would not ratify the Constitution without that specific provision.

    1. Yes, that is one argument (not factually as clear as its proponents would have one believe), but the problem is that the Constitution had already been ratified when the Bill of Rights was amended. Congress had little appetite for it, but Madison pushed it.

      So it was too late for Virginia to opt out.

      1. I do not think this is accurate. A promise of a bill of rights was needed to sell ratification. I’m was not a later independent idea of Madison’s.

        1. I think there’s a consensus on the point among historians: Promises were made during the ratification process that no one had any intention of keeping once ratification occurred. (There was no mechanism to “opt out” if such promises were broken.) When Madison brought up the amendments for consideration, the idea was strongly resisted, though sentiment gradually changed.

          And don’t forget that bills of rights weren’t regarded then as they are today. States had bills of rights that were routinely disregarded by those same states. We think of the Bill of Rights as mandatory, but at the time, such bills were precatory only, seen as statements of principles, not guarantees upon which relief could be sought. Madison himself called them “parchment barriers.” He referred to the task of drafting the Bill as a “nauseous project.” (Of course, he said many other things as well. Like many of the Framers, his ideas evolved over time, changed, changed back again, etc. Hence the danger of cherry-picking anyone’s quotes.)

  40. Part of the problem is this immediate argumentative conflation of “gun control” with “taking all the guns” in these conversations.

    I’m Canadian, and all for gun control. I also have no problem with hunting rifles, and even small calibre pistols in certain circumstances – provided there is required background checks, training, licensing, storage, and limits on when and where it’s legal to use them.

    The majority of NRA MEMBERS support universal background checks – do NRA members want to take away all the guns?

    This idea that forcing people to register and license firearms is “punishing” legitimate gun owners, is like saying requiring a driver’s license “punishes” people who know how to drive. If they didn’t immediately wave the tragic misreading of the 2nd Amendment in your face, that is.

    Which is another problem – this view of the Constitution as some sacred stone tablet handed down by God, instead of a living, imperfect document, written a couple of hundred years ago – with a bunch of amendments, no less!

  41. One more helpful point, but also probably unrealistic: Stop naming the wacko shooters involved, thus taking away their infamous legacies. Don’t publish their supposed “manifestos”; give them no recognition or direct acknowledgement. The sheriff in Oregon has the same notion, but why isn’t this obvious to the media?

    1. The sheriff in Oregon also believes that Sandy Hook was a “false flag” operation to compel gun control, so I don’t really care what he thinks.

      More to the point, we have a First Amendment in this country and the identity of the shooter is always going to be a matter of public concern. As will their manifestos, if any.

  42. Jerry mentioned the disparity in gun violence between Canada and the US so I thought I’d offer up a couple of reasons why I believe it exists. One reason is Canada’s strict (from a US perspective) firearms licensing program. In short, here are the steps: 1) take a firearms safety course, 2) pass a written and practical test, and 3) submit your application to the government. As a licensed gun owner in Canada and someone who is active in the firearms community I would suggest that the training and testing component is adequate. Anyone who goes though the course and passes it knows about the safe handling of firearms.

    Once you’ve passed your tests your application is submitted to the RCMP for processing. In short, here are some of the thing things that they look into: 1) criminal history, 2) history of violence, 3) history of depression, mental issues, etc, 4) history of financial distress/hardship, etc. If you are married or are in a common law relationship your significant other must also sign the application. If you have split with your SO within the last 2 years then you still require their signature. Also, you need 2 personal references (other than your SO) to sign the application and the RCMP will absolutely call and interview those references (your application will be held up until those interviews are done). Lastly, there is a 28-day waiting period on processing new firearms applications. Once issued, that license is good for 5 years at which point you need to renew it. In Canada, a firearms license is required to purchase firearms and ammunition and is also required to possess a firearm.

    Is it difficult to legally possess a firearm in Canada? Absolutely not. As long as you don’t have any issues with anything that I’ve previously mentioned then you’re fine. If you do have issues with any of them though then you’re pretty much hooped. Is Canada’s system foolproof? Of course not and it does not make us immune from what happened in Oregon last week. In my opinion though, it reduces the probability of something like that happening. The system in Canada is not perfect and there are changes that I would like to see but I believe it strikes a fair balance between keeping the public (that includes me!) safe while at the same time respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens who own guns. Why the US doesn’t have a licensing system is beyond me.

    The other big driver in my opinion is the general quality of life in Canada. A lot of the hoops (minor in my opinion) that you need to jump through to obtain a firearms license in Canada that I mentioned above arose in 1995 in the wake of the École Polytechnique massacre (1989). If you look at the general trend in gun violence though, Canada was already on a steady decline since the early 70’s. As horrendous as the shooting in Oregon is, it’s not those shootings that drive the bulk of gun violence stats. I’ve looked at the problem for some time now and the only strong correlation that has ever made sense to me is quality of life. If you have a situation where a large percentage of the population is eking out an existence and then you inject guns into that mix – well, I think the results are predictable.

  43. Another issue which I don’t think has been considered much: Should the Second Amendment apply to the states. It took decades for the Supreme Court to apply most of the Bill of Rights to states. It seems pretty clear that the Second Amendment was intended to protect state governments from the federal government. To then claim that it prevents state governments from controlling firearms seems backward – it allows the federal government, in the guise of the Supreme Court, to infringe on the rights of states to make their own firearm laws.

    1. read the 14th amendment:Section 1.

      … No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

  44. the wording of the 2nd amendment as ratified by the states and and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, then-Secretary of State”:

    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    you will notice there is no comma between “arms” and “shall”, this meant that the right is absolute – no “if s” “and s” or “but s”.
    James Madison, the author of the 2nd amendment read in to the first congressional journal this:

    A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.

    that meant that everyone was in the militia.

    “well regulated” (interesting words) in the 1700 meant, according to Alexander Hamilton, “not only to “organizing”, “disciplining”, and “training” the militia, but also to “arming” the militia”:

    this simply means that the us government was to arm the body of the people to the same level as the army, navy, and marines.

    according to justice Scalia:

    Nowhere else in the Constitution does a “right” attributed to “the people” refer to anything other than an individual right.

    1. Again with the grammarian approach to constitutional interpretation. There were more than one “official” versions of the amendment. This happens often. (It has also been a mainstay of opponents of the 13th Amendment who wish to void the income tax. It didn’t work there, either.)

      In point of fact, not “everyone” was in the militia. You have misquoted the last part of the proposed amendment, which actually says, “…but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.” Meaning you could pay someone to do it for you. But then, wouldn’t THAT person also already be a militiaman? Hmm. “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

      And if you’re passing an amendment to guarantee individuals the right to own guns, why would you be concerned with conscientious objectors? Unless, of course, the amendment proposed related to military matters, not personal ones.

      And would you point me to any statement in the congressional debates where ANYONE said ANYTHING about a personal right to own a gun? Have you read the debates? Have you read Jefferson’s correspondence with Madison on this very issue? Or have you merely memorized the arguments of shills like Kopel, who once said that 21 million people wouldn’t have died had Hitler not relied on gun control. Now, certainly, Jews (who were far from being all of the 21 million Kopel refers to) were barred from firearms ownership. But non-Jewish German citizens weren’t. In fact, they were encouraged to own and train with guns. (Hitler actually loosened the previous gun restrictions for citizens.) So, naturally, repelled by the slaughter of their fellow citizens, the German people grabbed their guns, rose up and…Oh, that’s right. They didn’t.

  45. . . . There are over 300 million firearms in this country. The gorilla is out of its cage. So if we were to approach gun violence deaths by simply removing the guns, how would this be accomplished, what law would be a (forgive the expression) magic bullet more effective than previous gun legislation, how would you get firearms from those who ignore gun laws, and how would you address an underground that can already get any other illegal substance at the drop of hat?

    Smell test:

    ‘There are over 300 million cars without air bags in this country. The gorilla is out of its cage. So if we were to approach traffic deaths by simply removing those cars, how would this be accomplished, what law would be a (forgive the expression) magic ticket more effective than previous car legislation, how would you get cars from those who ignore traffic laws, and how would you address an underground that can already get any other illegal car at the drop of hat?’

    Just … no.

  46. Point 5 is in factual error. Semi-automatic firearms have never been banned on a federal level. Jerry is likely thinking of the semi automatic assault weapons ban that sunshined in 2004 which essentially prohibited the sale of new manufacture detachable box magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds and some tirvial combination of features like pistol grip stocks and bayonet mounts at the same time. It was a pointless, toothless law that server neither side of the gun control issue, and it had no effect on crime or mass shootings.


    (As a side note, new manufacture fully automatic weapons have been effective banned since 1987.)

  47. “After all, you can’t kill 22 people in a school with a knife…”

    This reminded me of the school attacks in China:

    “What was supposed to be another day of learning at an elementary school in central China instead turned to one of terror, as a man slashed 22 children and one adult with a knife.”

    I this case they actually all survived, but I couldn’t resist the coincidence of the numbers.

    Then we have

    “On March 23, 2010, Zheng Minsheng 41, murdered eight children with a knife in an elementary school in Nanping, Fujian province”

    For more school incidents in China see:

    In the Kunming train station attack, eight knife-wielders managed to kill 29 people and injure 143.

    The Rwandan genocide was carried out mostly with machetes, clubs, etc.

    Knife-wielders can cause a lot of carnage, albeit less than gun-wielders.

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