NY Times has first front-page editorial in 95 years: it’s about gun control

December 5, 2015 • 11:00 am

The last time the New York Times had an editorial on its front page was in 1920. And that 95 year old piece was a complaint that Warren Harding had become the Republican Presidential candidate (granted, he turned out to be a dreadful President).  Now the Paper of Record has done it again this morning, clearly aiming to call public attention to the epidemic of gun violence in America. As another Times piece notes, this was a decision by publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger:

In a statement, the publisher of The Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said the paper was placing an editorial on Page 1 for the first time in many decades “to deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country’s inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns

“Even in this digital age, the front page remains an incredibly strong and powerful way to surface issues that demand attention,” Mr. Sulzberger said. “And, what issue is more important than our nation’s failure to protect its citizens?”

I’m fully behind Sulzberger and the editorial, called “End the gun epidemic in America,” and, after long cogitation about this issue, and seeing the bad behavior of legislators and gun proponents, have lost patience with those who either say that it’s futile to tackle this issue, or defend American’s untrammeled right to own guns. It’s not futile—not if American stood up to the National Rifle Association, and the “right” to own guns is, in my view, based on a complete misreading of the Second Amendment, regardless of what the Supreme Court says. It’s right there in the Bill of Rights:

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.

What part of “well regulated Militia” don’t you understand, gun aficionados? In my view, we need to go to the British system: no handguns and very strict regulation of rifles (no semiautomatic weapons, either). Is Britain rife with shootings by criminals taking advantage of unarmed citizens? Hardly: it has one of the world’s lowest rates of gun homicide. Now everybody will point out the cultural differences between the U.S. and Britain. And you know what? I don’t care. Stricter control of guns is the only way to stop the murders, suicides, and accidental killings that have become an everyday occurrence in America. We’re getting jaded about this—jaded to the point where we see gun control as a futile endeavor.

Here’s what the Times said in its front-page editorial, which I reproduce in full (my emphasis):

All decent people feel sorrow and righteous fury about the latest slaughter of innocents, in California. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are searching for motivations, including the vital question of how the murderers might have been connected to international terrorism. That is right and proper.

But motives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.

170 thoughts on “NY Times has first front-page editorial in 95 years: it’s about gun control

  1. Having already said pretty much the same as the Times is finally saying on both the guns and the second amendment, there is no need to repeat it again. I get as tired of saying it as apparently others do listening.

  2. I recall Churchill’s Never Give In speech to Harrow School in 1941 where he said, “I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

    The entire text is at http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/234-1941-1945-war-leader/103-never-give-in

    1. Of course the gun proponents effectively use the same argument and come to the same conclusion. We know how determined they are to never, ever, yield a bloody inch. Not even conceding on smart guns.

  3. “that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal”

    Of course not, but raise the price of violence, meaning that if any person who is inclined to violence has to go to a great deal of trouble to commit it, at least some of them will decide it’s not worth the effort.

    This is why price and demand are inversely related in economics. Double the price of salt and fewer people will buy it, even though pretty much everyone could if they really, really wanted to.

  4. The Times approach is the only moral stand to take. But, I believe many gun control advocates limit there demands to background check, probably because they see it as the only near term approach to progress. It’s hard to see how we could expect a very strong law such as the Times proposal to pass the current congress – even if Americans were for it. I think there is hope for the longer term future, but we’ve been in this post-traumatic stage many, many, times before. Our experience has not been encouraging.

    1. pass the current congress

      Or any foreseeable congress. I think the minimum timeframe where one can imagine significant progress on this front is 20 years, time enough for supreme court appointments to change, for some gerrymandering to be undone, time enough for an old generation pining for an imaginary Good Old Days to die, etc. And that only if a series of things go in one direction. But it could happen, just as gay rights seemed unimaginable in 1980 but feel inevitable in 2015, it is not hard to imagine a couple of decades from now a sudden shift on this topic. Things like the argument we are having now, like the NYT front page, are slow burning fuses.

      1. it is not hard to imagine a couple of decades from now a sudden shift on this topic.

        W.R.T the gay rights question, is that maybe a signal of a literal(1) generational change. People who grew up through the 1980s and who no-longer saw gay people as outrageous preverts, entered the effective electorate and made it necessary for the windsocks of politics to accommodate their opinions.
        By “effective electorate” I mean, of an age to vote, and of sufficient maturity and consideration to actually think about how to vote, and to get out and do it. Making them an electorate who the windsocks have to consider. People who don’t actually vote are, of course, irrelevant.
        So, taking 1980 as a dividing line w.r.t. gay rights, and 2014 (the school shooting in New England – Newtown, or Sandy Hook, something like that) as the dividing line for gun control, that would suggest that America would actually undertake gun control in some effective sense in about 2048.
        Of course, it is a question of mass psychology (psephology, even?) if the dividing line was that school shooting, or if the American population is waiting for the first 100+ mass shooting (has it happened yet?), or maybe a survivalist shootout with 100 dead soldiers (National Guard? Whoever the police call for additional firepower.)
        (1) by “literal” I literally mean “literal”, not “figurative” or “metaphorical.” Sorry, but I am affected by an offline rant about popular vocabulary errors effecting distortions of meaning.

  5. I agree with Sulzberger, too, but a newspaperman shouldn’t use “surface” as a transitive verb except when reporting on submarines.

      1. Why back-form a verb from “surface,” when the perfectly serviceable “raise” is available? It’s bad enough that “impact” and “grow” (for anything other than plants and crops) have gone transitive. I’m no prescriptivist proposing arbitrary rules; I simply abjure the ugly among coinages we can do without.

        Let’s hope Sulzberger doesn’t surface it again.

          1. I find it interesting that in a discussion of
            a crucial national topic, we nitpick about a piece of language chosen for an editorial. Our language has always changed by various mechanisms, including the use of existing words to mean something other than what they originally did. Please refer many, many words in the OED.

          2. No, Ken. “Prescriptivism” is an attempt to impose rules or standards that derive from an arbitrary authority that lies outside of what users of the language actually do.

            It’s perfectly fine to opine that you find transitive “surface” ugly, so long as you acknowledge that it’s nothing more than a subjective stylistic opinion, with no more objective validity than a preference for blue over green. When you start using the word “should”, and backing it up with “rules” about transitivization that you basically just invented from whole cloth, I’m afraid that’s archetypal prescriptivism.

          3. Yes, my objection here is aesthetic, not normative. My “shouldn’t” was meant as precatory (and tongue-in-cheek) rather than prescriptive.

          4. Ken, not to rub it in (I think you know you have a problem!) but other classic markers of prescriptivist peeving are:

            – inability to resist nitpicking even when far larger issues are at stake;

            – decrying a usage on the grounds that other perfect acceptable words are available;

            – claiming that natural evolution of language equates to deterioration, and that those who truly respect our heritage must “hold the line” somewhere lest linguistic chaos and anarchy ensue.

            There’s a great article by Geoff Pullum about what “rules” mean to a linguist, here: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001843.html

          5. I’ve clearly given a poor accounting of my position.

            I’ve no interest in seeing the English language frozen, or in enforcing some set of arbitrary rules (inasmuch as there ain’t none). Quite the opposite: I’m always on the lookout for a fresh turn of phrase or a novel usage, or even an intentional violation of the conventions of grammar or spelling — but ones that provide insight or new perspective or even just a grin for the reader.

            To my thinking, “to surface issues” fails that test; it is ugly and imprecise. I hope it perishes of SIDS before outgrowing its bassinet. (I support “elegant variation,” too!)

            I recognize that not everyone shares this aesthetic judgment. Hell, I may even stand alone in it. That’s ok; de gustibus non est disputandum.

            (I hope you recognize the irony, Ralph, of citing three precepts and an authority figure in support of your assertion that it’s the other guy who’s being the “prescriptivist.” 🙂 )

            Anyway, I meant my original comment as half a snarky joke. It’s gotten more attention than it merits.

            Whaddya say we unsurface this issue?

          6. Ken, just a final comment on this. You said

            “I hope you recognize the irony, Ralph, of citing three precepts and an authority figure in support of your assertion that it’s the other guy who’s being the “prescriptivist.” :)”

            No, I absolutely do NOT recognize the irony – because there is none. Your mistake is the classic misunderstanding of descriptivist linguistics that’s repeated by prescriptivists ad nauseam.

            The descriptivist position is NOT that there are “no rules”. It is not “anything goes”, it is not anarchy. The descriptivist position is scientific. There are rules, and they are derived empirically. The rules derive FROM the language, as its speakers actually use it.

            Please, I beg of you – read the Pullum article that I linked to:

            “What’s so interesting is that XXX cannot see any possibility of a position other than two extremes: on the left, that all honest efforts at uttering sentences are ipso facto correct; and on the right, that rules of grammar have an authority that derives from something independent of what any users of the language actually do. But there had better be a third position, because these two extreme ones are both utterly insane.”

          7. I’m a regular visitor to Language Log, the site where Pullum and the other cunning linguists post (and I’ve linked to it numerous times in previous comments on this site). I’ve long followed the prescriptivist/descriptivist dispute, there and elsewhere.

            If you read my comments above closely, I think you’ll see that what I’ve said is consistent with the descriptivist position. I have cited no arbitrary rules of grammar or usage set down in some musty style book. I’ve advocated for the standards of the English language as its actually used by educated and articulate speakers and writers. What I’m against is the awkward, the imprecise, and ugly. What I’m for is the lucid, the piquant, and the graceful.

            I apologize for not making that clear to you earlier, Ralph.

          8. “ugly and imprecise”

            I can’t argue with your judgement of “ugly” given beauty, eyes, and beholders. But I don’t think it is any less precise to say “surface an issue” than to say “raise an issue”.

          9. It’s imprecise, GBJ, because it’s ambiguous. In this usage, “surface” connotes not just “raise,” but “raise to a specific level” (i.e., the surface). The surface of what, who knows?

            Though it’s far from certain from the context, I took Sulzberger to mean something metaphorical like “the surface of public consciousness.” If so, his usage wasn’t just ambiguous, imprecise, and ugly; it was inaccurate, too. Gun control has long been lingering on the surface of public consciousness, spreading there like an oil slick every time there’s another mass shooting (which has happened this year in the US at a rate exceeding one-per-day).

            What Sulzberger and The Times were doing with the front-page editorial wasn’t “surface” the issue; they were instead throwing The Times’ institutional weight on one side of that issue.

            Now, it happens that I agree with that side, and I applaud them for doing so. I nevertheless find Sulzberger’s phraseology ill-chosen (as was, I must admit, my decision to mention the matter in passing in my initial comment).

          10. “…ill-chosen (as was, I must admit, my decision to mention the matter in passing in my initial comment.”

            I thought you’d be regretting that by now, Ken. 😀 FWIW, I found that particular verbing of surface quite irritating the first time I read it, too, before Jerry even posted it here. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th…times.

          11. “I found that particular verbing of surface quite irritating the first time I read it, too, before Jerry even posted it here. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th…times.”

            I wonder why surface as used here to mean to reveal or make known sounds annoying. Is the metaphor annoying? I’m asking scientifically. What’s the underlying metaphorical concept? Isn’t it that issues are hidden? Is it possible that what strikes people as annoying isn’t the grammatical construction but the use of a metaphor about hiddeness when the gun issue was neither new nor unknown?

          12. Yeah, Diane, I was looking forward to reading Sulzberger’s explanation for the front-page editorial, but his “to surface issues” phrase took me right out of the subject (which is one I care about) on a DoubleU-Tee-Eff scale.

            In Sulzberger’s defense, he’s not a working journalist; he’s an owner/publisher — and not even an up-from-his-bootstraps owner/publisher, but the son-of-Punch scion of the Sulzberger clan who essentially inherited the reigns to The New York Times Company.

            GBJ is no doubt correct that I’ve way over-thought the matter at this point. But I meant my initial comment solely as a throw-away wisecrack. That’ll learn me.

          13. @ Ken:

            That’s happened to me here, too. Intended wise-crack gets micro-dissected… Psst–I don’t think it’s we who overthink things here. 🙄


            BTW–“who essentially inherited the reigns to The New York Times.” That works so well on a Freudian basis, I’m assuming you did it on purpose. 😀

          14. @ Charleen:

            Speaking only for myself, I just find that usage of “surface” grating. I’d prefer something more along the lines of “underscore,” “stress,” “emphasize,” “draw attention to,” etc.

            Or, in tune with your “hidden” metaphor, “expose.”

          15. @Diane:

            You wrote: “Speaking only for myself, I just find that usage of “surface” grating. I’d prefer something more along the lines of “underscore,” “stress,” “emphasize,” “draw attention to,” etc.

            Or, in tune with your “hidden” metaphor, “expose.””

            My response: Very interesting. It sounds like we’ve narrowed the grating issue down to the use of surface metaphorically, which makes me wonder why that is. I don’t know the answer.

            What’s captivating to me about the journalistic use of metaphorical surface is that I also see that surface can be used more literally as an intransitive to mean to create a surface. One can surface a road with asphalt. The NY Times chose to surface its cover with the issue of gun control. But instead of using the intransitive, they went with surfacing the issue on their cover, which nicely wordplays with the metaphorical meaning of to expose or reveal.

          16. Diane — Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., is the son of legendary publisher “Punch,” and the third generation of the Sulzbergers to head up The Times Company. (I had originally done a little reign/rein wordplay in my comment, but got tired, decided I’d said too much already and, blurry-eyed, let go the reins while “reigns” mistakenly still reigned.)

            Don’t get me started on what it does on the plains of Spain.

          17. Or maybe I was “bleary-eyed.”

            I hear it rains on planes in Spain, too.
            Guess I’ve gone homophone-normative.

  6. I think that the single biggest thing we can do to create a more rational approach to firearms is to eliminate the product liability exclusions currently enjoyed by manufacturers and sellers. Imagine for a moment if gun makers had to address the same risks as every other industry.

    1. I’m afraid that the primary result would be a lot more lawyers getting rich. Besides, the NRA would work that proposition in congress just like all the others. It is actually a whole lot of lawyers that defend these producers of killing products anyway.

  7. America is gripped by an overriding fear. This fear is stoked by the NRA, Republican candidates, and conspiracy nuts. It is aimed particularly at white Americans. What are these people supposed to fear? The answer is immigrants, terrorists, crime, and of course the government – every evil that bedevils the country has Obama to blame. The fact that these fears are either overblown or non-existent doesn’t matter. Citizens need guns, the more the better, to resist if “they” (whoever they may be) should attempt to suppress the freedom to bear arms. In this atmosphere, with fear being an election strategy for the Republicans, it is unlikely we will see any meaningful or even modest gun control legislation in the near future. More violence will beget the purchase of even more weapons, the demand for suppression of civil liberties, and the growth of proto-fascist movements. The future is not bright.

    1. If I might summarize a bit of what you are saying in a nice way — the ignorance which is substituted for fear is now pretty common and wide spread in this country. Thomas Jefferson offers a pretty true statement on this.

      Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.

        1. Porcine aviation has long been undertaken, using modest amounts of black powder and long barrels. If you use a sabot, the pig can even experience the delights of preparing it’s undercarriage for landing. After that, it may get … well, the undercarriage is a major problem.

          1. Hmmm. I know people who have jumped off 200ft heights into water and survived. More an uncontrolled plummet than flying. But the debris that was flying didn’t land too well either, and some of the men survived.
            Nasty, considering the news. 32 dead, last count I heard.

    2. “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country”

      In this case ‘the leaders’ are the NRA and the politicians they have paid for. It’s a great sales strategy they have. Violence is a problem that can be solved by buying more guns, this leads to more violence that can be solved by buying more guns, etc.

  8. The most stunning thing in all of this is the item in the link within the editorial: Congress’ vote a few days ago (with nearly 100% Republican support) to keep allowing suspected terrorists on the “no-fly list” to buy guns without restriction.

    So even the Republicans’ theatrical “war on terror” is trumped by their fealty to the NRA. That is sick.

      1. Their “defense” is that they worry about someone wrongly listed being unable to purchase weaponry. Feeble, I know, but that’s the case they make.

          1. Yes, unfortunately, the Republicans in Congress have made this very argument. This is from a Politico article.

            Opponents of the Democrats’ bill to close the so-called “terror gap” argue that the broad terror watch list can wrongly ensnare people who are not terrorists. For example, former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) had his name appear on a government no-fly list in 2004.

            Under the Democratic proposal, “the government, without due process, can take away from you valuable constitutional rights,” Cornyn said. “And they happen to be Second Amendment rights without notice and the opportunity to be heard.”


          2. Here’s presidential candidate Carly Fiorina…

            Fiorina: That’s kind of a red herring honestly. if somebody is a suspected terrorist on a watch list, they can be indicted at any time, and once you’re indicted, you cannot own a firearm. So let’s enforce the laws we have, let’s start with that. I honestly think that’s why people are losing faith in their government, losing faith in their political…

            Scarborough: If you’re on a terror watch list, you can’t get on a plane, but you can buy a .223?

            Fiorina: Well you know my best friend’s husband was on the watch list, for years, it was a complete mistake; he happened to be a gun owner. If I had utter faith in the competence of government, I might agree with that, but do you? I don’t! The government screws up all the time…there are litanies of things the government makes mistakes on. […]

    1. to keep allowing suspected terrorists on the “no-fly list” to buy guns without restriction

      Hmm, I didn’t particularly notice that one. Isn’t this just a pragmatic acceptance that the no-fly list is hopelessly corrupted by people who aren’t actually a credible threat?
      (And, isn’t it a disjoint collection of lists?)

      1. I’d be fine with that logic (government intelligence is fallible so we should be careful how we use it) if the same Republicans applied it more consistently, for example when deciding whether there should be a death penalty, or a Guantanamo with uncharged and unsentenced permanent prisoners because of unverified intelligence.

        1. The consistency of politicians in general isn’t much more … notochordate … than the normal right-winger.

  9. ” It’s not futile—not if American stood up to the National Rifle Association, and the “right” to own guns is, in my view, based on a complete misreading of the Second Amendment, regardless of what the Supreme Court says”.

    Sorry, but the NRA is not the problem. According to Gallup, in 1959, 60% of Americans supported banning the possession of handguns other than by police. In Oct. of 2015, only 27% of Americans supported such a ban. We live in a democracy. If you want to ban guns, you have to convince at least 50% of the people.

    Once people are given a right, it’s more difficult to take that right back. Which is good news for pro choice advocates, but bad news for those of you who want to ban guns. I believe that you’re going to have to repeal the 2nd Amendment in order to get rid of guns, which won’t happen in our lifetime. If you get an anti-gun SCOTUS, it won’t matter, because there’s enough support for guns to pass a new Amendment giving gun ownership rights back.

    Where the NRA is the problem, is in passing sensible gun legislation that the majority of Americans do support, like background checks or banning the sale to people on the no-fly list. This is where progress can be made.

    1. True, but why did American’s change their views? Is it not likely that they had help in the form of highly funded fear mongering propaganda? Is it not likely that this is ALL an outgrowth of the GOP southern strategy and demagoguery aimed at white American’s fears? If not that, something has happened to change so many minds.

      1. Only 37% of Democrats support a handgun ban. Are you saying that 63% of Dems are gullible and easily swayed by right wing rhetoric? Only 24% of college graduates support a handgun ban…nothing worse than gullible educated people.

        1. I have no doubt that 65% of ALL people are gullible and easily swayed. 😉 Democrats are comprised of equal numbers of clueless people as Republicans, even if I agree with the former party slightly more often than the latter (at the moment, but that too is provisional). Propaganda is propaganda and while it might start somewhere bits and pieces of it can take root anywhere.

          But maybe that’s not it. I am keen to hear your speculation (off-the-cuff, I won’t hold you to it) for why there has been such a big shift? Seriously, this is an interesting question worth some discussion. What has happened to cause this change?

          And in general the argument that “you can’t change it because not enough people support it” is kind of strange. That’s the whole point of having arguments and making posts like this, to try to persuade people. And if it were futile, nothing in the world would ever change. What was the level of support for gay marriage in 1980? What is it now? I can tell you that it would have sounded like some wild fairy tale in 1980 to imagine that gay marriage would be enshrined as a constitutional right in my lifetime, yet here we are.

          1. Last paragraph first, giving someone rights (or acknowledging rights)is much easier than taking rights away…especially if they’re enshrined in the Constitution.

            For your main question, the answer is complex, but I’ll give it a quick shot (no pun). Prior to WWII and even into the Fifties, most people grew up and died within fifty of where they were born. There was a lot of societal pressure to behave and maintain a certain image. If you went to prison, better find a new place to live. Today, people bounce all over the place. Get caught stealing from your neighbor, move to a different state. This mobility has led to, IMO, an increase in crime. No one knows or trusts anyone, especially in the city. Most people you meet are strangers and may want to do you harm. When I was a kid, we went miles from home and my parents didn’t worry. Now kids can’t play in their own front yard. So, part of the answer is fear, but perhaps a fear based on reality.

            This isn’t to say that there aren’t other reasons for owning firearms. People have more disposable income today and can afford toys and then there’s sport. All this being said, only 1 in three Americans actually own a gun or live in a house with one. That seems low.

          2. > only 1 in three Americans actually own a gun or live in a house with one. That seems low.

            Low compared to what? It’s perhaps low compared to what the world expects of Americans but here in Europe I’d be utterly shocked to think that there was a gun in every third house on my street. I’d be amazed if there was even one gun per 100 houses, and even further amazed if that one in a hundred was kept in the home rather than in a gun club’s secure locker.

          3. Caveat : Switzerland, where IIRC every adult able-bodied male (hmmm, there’s a separate point) has to keep their Civil Defence weapon at home. But in a secure locker of some sort.

          4. When I was a kid, we went miles from home and my parents didn’t worry. Now kids can’t play in their own front yard. So, part of the answer is fear, but perhaps a fear based on reality.

            Hmmm… Well murder rates did go up in the 1970’s, peaking around 1980… so maybe that did cause a lot of fear. It’s not entirely rational because even at it’s peak your risk of getting murdered was very tiny compared to risks people take all of the time, but the increased crime at that time might have fed people’s paranoia. Also media. Hearing about more crime from more places. I expect that is a very big effect. Our brains are horrible at scaling. If we *hear* about ten crimes, our mind automatically interprets all of those emotionally as if they were local, whereas in a past time you tended only to hear about crimes that actually were local so ten crimes was a big deal, ten crimes in Houston is nothing. Also video nightly news, much more vivid than a newspaper article buried on page 5 that arrives days after the event. And now the internet connects us with everything we are paranoid about anywhere. Changes in technology and society are like paranoia gasoline. So there could definitely be some merit to all of these ideas. Maybe these things cause the propaganda, not the other way around. I revise my off-the-cuff suggestion and say I expect it is more structural than anything pushed by any one group. Although I still think the sense of instability that civil rights and shifting national power has played a role in the paranoia too.

            I don’t think the change in kids play behavior is remotely rational. I think that results almost entirely from a moral panic about child abuse that hit the country in (I think) the late 1980’s and hasn’t subsided since. The panic concerns both the frequency of such crimes and their effects, with people coming to believe that such crimes are everywhere and invariably life destroying. I doubt such crimes have increased as much as the panic but everyone thinks about it now. In the 1960’s such crimes were literally unspeakable, meaning that while they happened no one talked about them, news refrained from running such stories, so they seemed more rare than they actually were.

          5. especially if they’re enshrined in the Constitution.

            Interesting choice of word, “enshrined”, considering the audience here.

          6. Perfectly good word.

            Enshrine: To preserve (a right, tradition, or idea) in a form that ensures it will be protected and respected.

          7. But in this den of atheists …
            I’m off to the photos of Chauvet, to see if there’s a picture of a stone age man waving a red rag at an aurochs.

  10. The USA is in need of firearms law reform. Obviously it is! But when I hear the comments from the anti-gun crowd saying things like “…ban all handguns…” I just shake my head.

    I had someone on WEIT once brazenly order me to “…get another hobby!” My initial thought was “you have got to be kidding me. Who the hell are you?” If this is your starting point, you’re done. You’re done and you don’t even know it. Now, the folks on WEIT don’t really concern me in terms of their influence in getting this gun or that gun banned. When I hear this stuff though from people that can influence law – well, that’s when I pull out my chequebook and send a donation to my gun lobbyist. I’m Canadian btw and we have a gun lobby too…

    1. Well, shake your head all you want. Handguns are banned in Britain, and is it a severe impediment to British life? No–it improves it, since the rate of gun-related homicide is so low.

      You give no argument why we shouldn’t ban handguns (as I believe DC did once), you just cluck and shake your head and write a check to gun lobbyists. That’s not an argument, that’s a funding of more violence.

      I shake my head when you shake your head, act morally superior, and then present no argument at all–just invective and denigration.

      1. I’m not interested in arguing with you Jerry. I’m just pointing out that if you’re opening position is “…ban all handguns…” you might as not even bother coming to the table.

        “…you just cluck…” Pot calling the kettle black…

        1. I grew up in the UK, where handguns are essentially banned. Virtually nobody in the UK feels that their freedom is infringed by the fact that they can’t legally own a gun. They feel that giving up this right is worthwhile to create a dramatically safer society.

          I appreciate that, in a different culture, you value your right to own a gun.

          But, given the situation in the U.K., and in most other civilized countries, why do you feel that it is such an outrageous idea to even bring up the possibility of banning handguns? Given the obscene number of gun deaths in the U.S., when the rate of gun death in the U.K. is almost zero, why do you think it is so outrageous and ridiculous to even consider working toward gun laws (and gun prevalence) that are similar to the U.K.?

          I realize that it’s a subjective value judgement, and that the majority in the U.S. prefer to just keep their guns and live with the current levels of murder and mayhem.

          But how can you possibly dismiss the idea of a conversation about it out of hand?

          1. I don’t dismiss the idea of conversation. What I’m saying is there’s effective conversation and there’s conversation that just gets the other side to dig their trench deeper. Jerry asks me why don’t present a counter argument to the question of handgun ownership. The reason is because it’s futile. I don’t even think we can agree on some big points as to what we want as a society. That means there are no victory conditions in terms of us arguing about the right of private citizens to own handguns.

            Again, I know I beat this to death, but I’m Canadian. I think some US gun laws, or lack of laws, are absurd! Bat-shit crazy in some circumstances! On the flip side, I believe private citizens can own hand guns, and AR’s, and a host of other “scary guns.” We don’t seem to have a problem with it in my country and we’re not alone.

            I see someone below has commented that I need to “Get another hobby…” and “Blood is on the hands of people like you.” Just keep repeating that – see how far it gets you.

          2. It can’t be totally futile. As comment #10 pointed out, not that long ago 60% of Americans DID support banning hand guns. Something changed their mind. Something could change it back.

            You are right, of course, that in the climate today this is a non-starter. Such calls aren’t going to yield any legal change in the short term, just as calls to legalize gay marriage would have had no effect in 1980. Perhaps it is a bad strategy even, as maybe it’s better to be incremental, maybe calling for legal gay marriage in 1980 would have set back the cause more than it helped it, or maybe it would shift the Overton window. Who knows? The determinants of public opinion are hard to pin down. But they are ultimately just opinions, not laws of nature, and they certainly could change. You must think it’s possible, else you wouldn’t feel the need to write those checks. Is that worry I sense? A dinosaur seeing a comet in the sky? Maybe not. But maybe.

          3. Well, the perverse thing is that what changed after 1959 was the Civil Rights Movement. A lot of gun control measures from the late 50s’ and the 60s’ are in response to armed Black Power groups like the Black Panthers.

            It’s somewhat ironic that the same constituency who favored using gun control legislation to disarm Black Power organizations are now howling the loudest against even modest gun control measures.


          4. I see someone below has commented that I need to “Get another hobby…” and “Blood is on the hands of people like you.” Just keep repeating that – see how far it gets you.

            You also posted this (if I haven’t slipped a time zone) 44 minutes after PCC(E) told that writer that he was bordering a Roolz violation.

    2. Get another hobby, Stuart. Blood is on the hands of people like you. There is a direct line between you and the dead in San Bernardino and elsewhere. Your demand to play with your toys costs people their lives.

      But you do have a point – there is very little hope that sanity will prevail. People like you are the reason why.

        1. Well, it is your site, so your roolz. I apologize to you but not to Stuart. There *is* a direct line between the demand for the right to play with those toys and the deaths in San Bernardino and elsewhere. It’s personal for me. The daughter of a dear, life long friend has paid the price for that “right”.

          I bow out of WEIT and wish you all the best.

        2. “Please do NOT imply that readers have blood on their hands or that they’re insane.”

          I would have added, “even if it’s true”, which is why I don’t make the the roolz. Apologies in advance. :p

    3. When the Dunblane massacre led to the ban on handguns in the UK the handgun hobbyists did indeed protest, but the general feeling was that they were being selfish in putting their hobby above the safety of children, so the ban went through.

      Anyhow, nowadays there are oodles of computer games for the shoot-em-up enthusiast.

      1. They sure did protest.
        By coincidence, at that time one of my regular circle of pot-smoking friends was also on the university’s target shooting team, and was going through the somewhat tedious process of getting his gun locker certified by the local police as being acceptable, so that he could keep his long weapon (I’m not sure of the category) in his rented apartment. I think the sticking point was that the cabinet needed to be bolted to or through a masonry wall, and the landlord wasn’t keen on the damage to his property for at most a 2 year lease.
        Said friend in the gun club informed us that most of the handgun shooters – perfectly respectable target shooters all – were unhappy about the ban, but recognised it was going to happen. Their damage limitation efforts were to try to be allowed to keep their weapons but only on gun club premises. Special license for moving them on such-and-such a day to competitions ; paid for police escort; that sort of thing. But I don’t think they even got that.
        The day after the police surveyed my friend’s proposed gun locker location and approved it, someone was stabbed to death outside friend’s kitchen window while he was in the pub. He stopped trying to get the locker, and to this day keeps his weapon in his gun club. It isn’t worth the stress.

        1. At the time of the Dunblane massacre I was co-owner of a tackle and gun shop. In several years of ownership I think I sold one handgun (ordered in specifically for the buyer) – we mostly sold hunting rifles and shotguns. I was annoyed at the time about the change in legislation, mainly because if proper police procedures had been followed correctly, the Dunblane perpetrator would never have been allowed to own a handgun (it’s a long story, largely covered up, about having friends in high places).

          Having said that, with the benefit of hindsight I now agree with the outright ban on handguns that we have in the UK. It is now some time since I was in the business, so my knowledge of current legislation is thin, but I understand that to own even a .22 calibre rifle requires written permission from a landowner with suitable land to shoot on his land. Also required, as you described, is a strong steel cabinet bolted to the wall, with ammunition kept in a separate locked cabinet.

          1. Sounds sane. I don’t have any need to keep up with the gun legislation myself, and the last time my firend posted photos of himself with a gun it was a “technical” with a (technical term) fucking great anti-aircraft gun bolted onto the back. They take site security reasonably seriously.

  11. The people who say it’s futile are the same people who don’t care about things like global warming, or anything that won’t be a problem, or may not be able to be solved in their lifetime.
    If we outlawed most guns today, made the penalties for possessing them, and the use of them extremely high, instituted buyback programs, aggressively sought out, confiscated, and destroyed them, we could solve this problem. Perhaps not in many of our lifetime, but eventually. It’s only futile if we do nothing.

    1. “Solve” is a relative term. We need to make changes that reduce gun violence and not let the NRA types get away with arguing that solutions are imperfect.

    2. These are the best suggestions. It’s not that farfetched that at some (probably distant) point in the future, a Supreme Court will decide that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t prohibit banning guns, laws are passed that possessing a gun is illegal, people are given sixty days, or whatever, to give them up, and after that penalties are imposed, something like a mandatory 10 years in jail, for anyone caught with a gun. People may say it’s impossible but I don’t agree.

      I don’t think the problem is the NRA or politicians. It’s that people want to own and shoot guns. When those people becomes a tiny minority, officials will be elected that change the laws. Just like abortion or gay rights or anything else.

    3. Yes. And I question whether there’s any strategic merit in an attempt to compromise with a pro-gun majority who see private gun ownership as a non-negotiable right that trumps all other considerations.

      The American majority’s love of guns seems almost reminiscent of an alcoholic who has not yet reached rock bottom. It’s canonical that you should not lecture or enable an alcoholic; generally, an alcoholic will never recover until things become so bad that he figures out for himself that there’s a serious and unsustainable problem that he needs to address.

      As for “compromise”, I don’t think background checks or modest restrictions on the most egregious types of firearms will make the slightest dent on America’s gun problem. I think the real alternatives are quite polarized:

      (1) Status quo. Embrace the murder and carnage, attempt to ameliorate with prayer and homeopathy.

      (2) UK-style gun laws – virtually all weapons are illegal for the general population; aggressive measures to reduce the number of illegal guns in circulation.

      So long as the majority are clearly in favor of (1), I’m not sure that much can be done, I don’t think compromise measures will make much difference. Perhaps casual Islamic terrorism like San Bernardino will make the US gun violence problem significantly worse over the next 10 years, and perhaps public opinion about the Second Amendment may eventually change.

  12. I think that is the best editorial I have ever read.

    Gun owners need to think of thought experiments where owning a gun is actually useful for their protection. I cannot think of an example where owning a gun is better than not owning one, unless I lived alone and cared for no one else but myself.

    It is insane that my cats are safer from guns than I am in this country.

    1. Gun owners think of nothing but such thought experiments.

      They imagine that someone will break into their home at night and their loaded and ready gun in the night stand will save their family from murder, they imagine that they will be at a football game when terrorists burst in and start shooting or they are at work and a disgruntled employee comes intent to kill but they stop them with their gun. They imagine that their car will break down out on a lonely highway and an assailant will come to kill them and rape their children but their gun will save them. They imagine that the government will be taken over by some kind of “tyranny”, that Obama won’t leave at the end of his term or some such and they will have to rise up and fight with their guns to take their government back. They think of old days when the natural and manly thing to do was to go out hunting to bring home food for the family.

      No, they do not need more thought experiments. They are already completely blinded by though experiments.

      1. You are spot on. There’s far too much John Wayne fantasizing, and far too little rational analysis of public safety.

        The gun-nut fantasy about the theatre in Paris is a classic. Sure, if I’m actually caught in that theatre, maybe I’d rather take my chances in the crossfire, rather than await execution hoping that the cops arrive in time. But the more relevant factor is that the rarity of legal guns in Europe makes such incidents FAR less likely to occur in the first place. If Europe had US-style gun laws, we might easily have had 100 incidents like Paris by now.

        The “good guys with guns” trope is an idiotic fallacy. In the U.S., there is no fixed population of good guys, just one amorphous and heavily armed population. The citizen who was a “good guy with a gun” yesterday gets angry, gets disillusioned, gets drunk; he has his gun stolen or sells it illegally. The good guys with guys either BECOME bad guys with guns, or they are responsible for arming the bad guys.

        1. The “good guys with guns” trope is an idiotic fallacy.

          A few days ago here someone came up with a list of a dozen “good guy with a gun” cases in 20 years. Two of them involved security professionals, which I discounted, and the remaining ten were still insignificant against just one of 20 years tally of mass shootings.
          I don’t think I’ve seen the poster here since. He (she?) doesn’t seem to like the taste of evidence.

          1. Well, Aidan, that’s certainly interesting revisionist history in a number of ways.

            First, “he” is a lawyer; I make my living dealing not merely with the “taste” of evidence, but the actual stuff. Second, if you haven’t “seen the poster here since,” it may be because you’re not paying attention. IIRC, this would now be my *fifth* post since then on the general subject, at least three of which responded directly to this specific contention. For example, here is part of just one of my responses [to weatherjeff]:


            Aidan asked for *one* example; you turned that into a discussion of whether (as best expressed in this, your last post): “on balance the good guys with guns have prevented more damage than the bad guys with guns have caused.”

            That may be an interesting point that someone (*not* me) wishes to argue; I only wanted Mr. Toscano to cite his stats for the claims that: 1) [civilian, apparently] guns are useless; and 2) criminals are less likely to carry guns if they are not expecting others to have them.

            I would still love to see these alleged stats. I’m not even suggesting that they’re completely imaginary, but I think my views on the burden of proof are entirely correct. I shouldn’t have to go looking for support for an argument made by another if they refuse to support their own argument. Am I wrong about this?

            Why is this even controversial? The man said: “[S]tatistics show…” Fine. Show us your data.


            I also responded to one John Taylor by pointing out the absurdity of the “stopping mass shootings” stats. The FBI doesn’t call it a mass shooting south of 4 deaths. So if such a shooter is stopped–by anyone, armed or not–after the 4th death, you’d say that the action didn’t prevent a mass shooting. And if it happens before the 4th death, you’d say that it wasn’t a mass shooting to begin with.

            Nice “heads you win tails you lose” argument you’ve got there.

            And I love how you “discounted” the list by pointing out that one case involved corrections officers, and another-wait for it–a *bouncer*, who in your mind is now a “security professional.” Wow.

            In point of fact, as I pointed out to weatherjeff, there are MANY such incidents of defensive gun use, or “DGUs.” Every day. Our own Victoria cited a figure of 80,000 annual DGUs as being accepted by an anti-gun group. But another poster–who was it–ah yes, one “gravelinspector-Aidan” decried NRA lobbying “to have the CDC excluded from considering this cause of death as a matter it should attempt to control.”

            Now isn’t that special?! So perhaps we need to see what the CDC has to say about the matter, shall we? From a study the CDC commissioned from the Institute of Medicine in 2013 (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18319/priorities-for-research-to-reduce-the-threat-of-firearm-related-violence:

            “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies,” the CDC study, entitled “Priorities For Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence,” states…

            The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council released the results of their research through the CDC last month. Researchers compiled data from previous studies in order to guide future research on gun violence, noting that “almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year.”

            Allow me to point out–*again*–that I am not
            here making the argument–or any other–that civilian gun ownership is good, or effective, or whatever. I’m merely waiting–still–for Mr. Toscano’s promised statistics.

          2. It would take too much effort to even start trying to unpick where you’re trying to go with that. You gave a list of 10 defensive gun uses that might have averted a mass shooting (and to be honest, I’d be counting the number of bullet casings on the ground, not the number of corpses. Because as I said, having a gun shoved in your face is a pretty unpleasant experience even if the farmer, policeman or soldier on the working end of it doesn’t actually open fire.) and now you’re trying to expand it to hundreds of thousands. Get back to your original goalposts.
            As for why I forgot your name – thankfully I don’t live in as a dangerous a society as America. So this is all pretty academic to me. When I get back from work, I don’t need to worry about people shooting me. It’s really only in the transit. These days.

        2. If you had had a gun in that theatre in Paris and you had drawn it, I predict you would have been cut down by the hail of bullets before you had got off more than a couple of shots.

          And the chance that you would have hit a terrorist (as opposed to a hostage) with those one or two bullets would be nigh on bro.

  13. “I’d go further: ban all handguns, as they do in Britain, and tax the hell out of ammunition.”

    While the guns themselves were not purchased by the Pasadena killers, though they were purchased legally, the ammunition was. It is completely legal to purchase thousands, or even tens of thousands of rounds online without licence, background check, or even showing an ID. That’s just insane.

    1. From ‘The Economist’:


      “Vitally, it is also very hard to get hold of ammunition. Just before leaving Britain in the summer, I had lunch with a member of parliament whose constituency is plagued with gang violence and drug gangs. She told me of a shooting, and how it had not led to a death, because the gang had had to make its own bullets, which did not work well, and how this was very common, according to her local police commander.”

      Perhaps the solution is to let the gun-lovers keep their precious toys, but simply stop manufacturing the ammunition for them. The 2nd Amendment doesn’t mention ammunition, does it?

      1. You’re right, it doesn’t! Nor does it mention hammers, sears, triggers, barrels, stocks, magazines, etc…so *obviously* it’s OK to ban *all* of the components, because we can still play with our “toys,” you know, like air guitar.

        And while we’re at it, the 1st Amendment talks about religion, but not churches, so obviously there’s no constitutional prohibition on burning the synagogues to the ground. And it talks about the right to peaceably assemble, but it doesn’t say that you get to *walk* to your chosen point of assembly, so it’s above-the-knee amputations for anyone who complains about the government. And of course, the freedom of “the press” doesn’t even mention radio, or TV, or the internet…

        There, now that we’ve all had out little chuckle, you have to realize that after the 85th time we’ve heard this, the shine has worn off. It’s like when I’m carrying a violin or viola, and someone just has to ask me if I’ve “got a tommy gun in there.” And every time, I have to fight the urge to affect a look of slowly-dawning comprehension, guffaw loudly, and say: “Oh, that’s *amazing*–I’ve never heard that one before! Because, you know, it’s unseemly to beat retarded children.

        Which brings us back to this gang that “had had to make its own bullets.” This “didn’t work well”? First, your MP (or the local police commander she may be misquoting) can’t have meant bullets; *any* moron can cast bullets out of anything with a low enough melting point. She must have meant completed cartridges, or “rounds” in the vernacular. Back when I was shooting regularly, I had a progressive turret reloader. Cost a couple of hundred bucks. Bullets in one hopper, brass in another, primers in another, powder in another. One pull, one perfect round. (In fact, many competitive shooters insist on making their own; commercial ammo isn’t made to close enough tolerances for them.) And if you don’t have a reloading machine (it’s about the size of a commercial coffee-maker; a bit hard to smuggle, perhaps), the entire process can be done, albeit more slowly, with common hand tools.

        So go ahead; just “stop manufacturing the ammunition for [us].” We’ll just go ahead and make our own, like we always have. Hell, if you force us to, we could probably even figure out how to make beer, or candles, or sweaters.

        1. First off, those of us who are not gun-fondlers tend to use “bullets” as a synonym for “ammunition” – it does not mean that we don’t know the difference between bullet, cartridge case, propellant or primer. It’s simply as irrelevant to the question of gun control as is whether a cartridge is centerfire, rimfire or pinfire, or whether a gun has a blowback operation or a blow-forward operation. There, I used some proper gun words – are you happy now?

          And no, nothing will ever induce you to give up your deadly toys. That is why you will continue to have thirty thousand gun-shot deaths every year, and a mass shooting (four or more people killed or injured) nearly every day, whilst the rest of the world looks on in amazement.

  14. Living in the UK I find America’s obsession with guns puzzling. I keep asking myself what are you so scared of that you feel the need to have a gun in the first place?
    Our gun laws work. If you want or need a gun for hunting you can have one, after you have convinced the police that you are a fit and proper person to have one. Your gun must also be kept in a secure gun safe when not in use. You can own a hand gun, but only for target shooting, and it must be kept at secure and licensed premises.
    Admittedly you do have the problem of getting rid of what about 300 million weapons, that will take some time, so how about an interim measure, a limit on the amount of ammunition that may be possessed.If your excuse for owning a gun is self protection, how many bullets do you need, six to ten should be sufficient,

      1. Or, if you’re a dark person, light people.
        And if you’re intermediate in skin tone or green, other people.

    1. The difference is in the UK self defense is never a good reason to own guns, while in the US, and several other countries I might add, it is a perfectly acceptable reason. I suppose calling 99 or using harsh words is good enough for the Queen’s subjects.

      1. Self-defence is a perfectly acceptable reason for injuring someone else – even killing them.
        It is not a reason for installing and using a piece of machinery designed to kill people.
        So, if someone broke into my house and I beat them to death with a sock in a rock, then at trial I’d probably get no more than an admonition. If I used the rungu which sits in my living room as a souvenir from working with Maasai, I’d likely similarly get no more than an admonition. If I used a knife from the kitchen, then the trial would hinge on how many times I’d struck the invader and had my use of force been reasonable (since knife wounds tend to be more obviously life threatening than blunt-force traumas.
        And if I’d rigged up an electrical shock mat under the window and put 20kVA through the person as their foot touched the floor, then I’d probably do jail time for murder.
        You’ll probably trot out the case of Tony Martin who shot and killed an intruder in his remote farm a few years ago, using a legally-held shotgun. The reason he did time wasn’t his use of the gun. It was because he descended his stairs reloaded and shot and killed one of the intruders who had been incapacitated by his first volley. The first volley was acceptable self-defence ; the second volley was murder.

        1. Without wishing to detract from your main point, with which I agree, you have some inaccuracies in the Tony Martin case.

          The gun wasn’t legally owned. Tony Martin didn’t have a shotgun certificate, and that wouldn’t have covered the pump action model that he used, if he did have one.

          I believe the point that actually did for him was that, he shot once, the intruders started to flee and he shot again as they were leaving the premises. There is no way that you can claim shooting a fleeing man in the back counts as self defence.

          1. Hmmm, my memory is going. But in general, bullet holes in the dead man’s back don’t go well with a special defence of “self defence”.

      2. Self defence is never a good reason to own a gun anywhere in the World if you have no training in armed combat (like most Americans).

        I believe what you mean is that self defence is perceived to be a good reason to own a gun in the USA. However, the perception is wrong and it can be corrected with education.

  15. The San Bernardino precedent is extremely worrying.

    In Europe, the Muslim population is far greater than the U.S., and the number of violent extremists embedded in European society is far higher. Many or most are “home grown”, not immigrants. I think the limiting factor for European Islamic terrorism is almost certainly the lack of weapons. There are many willing terrorists, but they simply can’t get access to weapons.

    U.S. gun nuts arguing that U.S.-style gun laws would have prevented Paris are short-sighted fools. Even if it’s plausible that an armed population could have ameliorated the specific hostage situation in the theatre in Paris once it arose, the fact is that with U.S.-style gun laws we would have had 100 such incidents by now, not just one. The fact that our civilian population is unarmed means that it’s also extremely difficult for the terrorists to get weapons.

    Given the level of violence-prone Islamic extremism embedded in European society, it’s horrific to imagine how Europe would look right now with U.S.-style gun laws. The worry would not be so much big 9/11-style attacks, but “casual terrorism”, along the lines of San Bernardino. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that Europe might be under permanent curfew, under martial law, with our whole way of life under serious threat.

    So, if the San Bernardino style attack becomes a “thing” in the U.S., where does this lead? The proportion of Muslims here is much lower than Europe, and perhaps the proportion of violence-prone jihadists embedded in U.S. society is very much smaller than Europe. But virtually ALL the potential “casual terrorists” in the U.S. have easy access to weapons with which, if suicidal, they can easily kill tens or hundreds of people.

    1. Yeah, like the “armed populace” concept would make things better.

      Just imagine: one or two armed assailant start open firing in the food court of a shopping mall. Suddenly, eight other diners whip out their guns and start shooting to protect themselves. With people shooting from everywhere with total surprise, in the mayhem how the hell is everyone supposed to know which are the bad guys who to shoot at?
      Let alone, apparently it’s very, very hard to hit a target with a hand gun unless one is fairly close, so you now have increased the bullets whizzing around possibly hitting bystanders, all the more.

      1. I think Ralph’s analysis is absolutely right. As an example, the two nutcases who murdered Lee Rigby a couple of years ago killed using a car and some knives. They had an old rusty handgun but if I remember correctly it was unusable on the day. When the police arrived they were overcome and arrested quite quickly. Just imagine if they’d had US-style access to firearms – they could have killed dozens of people rather than just one.

  16. Hear, hear, Jerry!

    The problem is that US politicians are so cowed by the gun lobbies and gun-nuts that they dare not propose anything more than band-aid level solutions, and even then they are vilified. As you recognize, it will really take a much more drastic, comprehensive approach, like that of Britain and other places, to move from regular bouts of gun terror to putting it into the background.

    Here’s a nice article about a Japanese man coming to grips with moving into America’s gun-culture:


    As a Canadian I can relate. No one I know owns a gun, feels the need to own a gun, and I never fear being shot when I go out anywhere in the city. Whereas I see American gun-nuts saying it’s nuts to go out without packing a gun “just in case.”

    And with the gun nuts you can just see the way they relish the idea of actually being able to use their guns “I’ll tell you, if anyone invades MY home they’ll have a surprise – they’ll need to be picked up with a shovel!”

    When I drive in the USA I find I adopt a different tentative mindset. If someone cuts me off (or should I make a similar mistake) I have in the back of my mind they may well be toting guns and that my life could be in danger. This is a real worry in the USA. I never think about it driving here.

    I remember our family getting lost, driving in Montana, no GPS signal to help, and possibly far off course. We passed some houses and if we were driving where I live, I’d seriously think of stopping to ask directions. But that thought was whisked away by all the rhetoric I hear from US gun owners – that it is very likely the house we might call on would be a gun-wielding household, with who-knows-how-high a level of paranoia about strangers on their property.

    When I tell USA gun owners I’m happy to live where I don’t fear gun violence, I get “Well, at least I’m free!” It’s just amazing how “freedom” is so tied to “owning a gun” in America. And the idea the genie is out of the bottle and guns will always be a fact of US life.

    As usual, The Onion gets it right:


    1. From the Japanese perspective :

      San Diego State University, where I am now a student, was the target of a shooting in 1996, when a grad student shot three professors during his master’s thesis defense.

      Wow. That was some defence. I mean. Just. W.O.W.

        1. That would probably depend on the rules in force at the time. These days, there is probably a prohibition on graduating someone who has killed their professors (or worse, visiting external examiners!), but there may not have been such a rule then. Nor a perceived need for one.

          1. Mmmmm…makes sense, yes…

            And I’ll bet if he killed all but one, that guy/gal would approve him in a heartbeat.

          2. … any remaining heartbeats that he (or she) had. At least until they got out of the line of fire.
            Ohhh, popping 12kpsi bottles last night, I decided to stop bracing the tools with my knees, remove my … self … from the “line of fire” and use an implement instead. Given a choice between an implement being hit and my … self being hit … it’s not hard. As a choice.

  17. I get the impression that every reasonable attempt to control gun ownership is viewed by certain groups as a deliberate conspiracy.
    Perhaps the true root is in the American populists political style now mixed in with more than a dash of Hollywood and on present evidence seems to show that anything goes.

    1. Yes, populism’s resentfulness. You know those ‘guns save lives’ sequential signs along some Interstate highways here in the vast Midwest? They are evidently a take-off on the old Burma Shave (Myanmar Shave?)ads. ‘What are you afraid of,’ a Scots poster asks. Well, not so much of ‘dark people,’ as was answered, but in my case of sociopathic loners in huge pickups.

      Here’s my take on ‘guns save lives:’

      The gummint stole it from the Injuns,
      My forbears bought it cheap.
      Farmed here for generations,
      Their fortunes for to reap.

      ‘Til all the topsoil blowed away
      and the cricks refused to run.
      Now all I’ve got’s a mortgage
      and this here loaded gun.

  18. From a Pew study from 2013: “Mass shootings….are a relatively small share of shootings overall. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics review, homicides that claimed at least three lives accounted for less than 1% of all homicide deaths from 1980 to 2008. These homicides, most of which are shootings, increased as a share of all homicides from 0.5% in 1980 to 0.8% in 2008, according to the bureau’s data. A Congressional Research Service report, using a definition of four deaths or more, counted 547 deaths from mass shootings in the U.S. from 1983 to 2012.”


    I was stunned by the Times decision to declare that it would place an editorial on front page since 1920 given what has occurred in the intervening years…..like Depression, World Wars, Holocaust, Vietnam, Iraq. (The Times, like other publication, editorializes all the time, in fact, in its news section disguised as “news”.)

    So, I ask myself why that is so. Is it because it wants to detract from the religion of the San Bernardino shooters? Is it a political dog whistle of some sort? It’s going to be a very fraught campaign, not least because so much killing in the US is race on the same race, and pointing and arguing about that may be hard to do.

      1. He’s not asking for a solution. He’s asking the moral standing of the newspaper of record. No front-page editorial on 6 million dead people in the shoah, not for the massacres in Vietnam, not on the terrorist attacks in their own city, not for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, etc. But now when we are in the midst of a presidential election, when the Dems and GOP are sharply divided on gun rights, the Times publishes a “dog whistle” of an editorial on gun control in the front page.

        They are playing partisan politics, and a cheap one at that.

        1. I ask because df mentions race on race killing which is itself a dog whistle. A very loud dog whistle. If you’re going to bring up race on race killing in the context of a gun control debate, then you need to say a little more. What’s your solution for that? Since it’s race on race is it just not a problem? Do they deserve it? Do they just need to get some responsibility? Do we need to prohibit gun sales to dark skinned people? End welfare? Ramp up the war on gangs? What is it? I didn’t bring this dog whistle up, df did. I just want to know where he is going with this. Don’t keep whatever ugly thought you are having to yourself, bring it out in the open where we can see it.

          1. Greetings, I am sorry I have no solutions. But inadvertently you have illustrated a point I was trying to make: “It’s going to be a very fraught campaign, not least because so much killing in the US is race on the same race, and pointing and arguing about that may be hard to do.”

          2. It’s certainly true that much killing is by members of the same race. For example, FBI statistics show that 83% of white people killed were killed by other white people. A touchy subject, indeed.

  19. As usual, several thoughts:

    1. If U.S. history is still taught in the U.S., it probably still idolizes the American revolutionaries who fought the British redcoats with guns they owned individually. Militia wasn’t like the modern day National Guard in owning an armory of weapons for dispersal to the group. Militia gathered to fight with whatever weaponry each individual owned and could bring to the fight. We still have citizens who fear our own government enough that they feel the need to keep (and stockpile) weapons. I’m not saying this is good, but just that it is.

    2. A great many people who immigrate to
    the U.S. have come from countries controlled by dictators, military, gangs and the corrupt where the individual feels powerless (and largely is). This has been true throughout the history of our country and the right of the individual to protect himself or herself has been romanticized. You need look no further than Mexico, Central and South America for examples. There are too many countries like this, or much worse, all over the world to list.

    3. Having recently travelled in Canada and having read local newspapers daily, I can tell you that U.S. style crime, including use of guns, is reported there. (Perhaps, by people leaving the U.S. for safer climes and bringing their weapons with them? Couldn’t be, as travelers can’t take guns into Canada.)

    4. It may have been mentioned (but I didn’t see it) that the killers in San Bernardino also had bombs, and additional materials for making bombs, the instruction for making of which are readily available to anyone on the internet. As I recall, the destruction at the Boston Marathon was achieved via homemade bombs. I see no way to criminalize all potential ingredients for making bombs or chemical weapons.

    5. Saying all that, I agree that military grade weaponry and bullets should not be able to be bought and kept by citizens. However, I also don’t think that our military
    should be dispersing military grade weapons to our police forces either.

    1. Re bombs:

      I don’t know of anyone who supports legalizing bombs so that you can buy them at Wal-Mart. So when that is trotted out I detect more than just a little bit of insincerity. Also, it’s worth noting how many would-be bombers fail. None of the San Bernadino bombs went off. Neither did the Columbine bombs. Neither did the shoe bomber’s bomb. OTOH, McVeigh was very successful making a bomb, as were the Boston bombers, so home made bombs are definitely scary… On balance, though, I think bombs are harder to make than most people appreciate. Also, if you’re found with a pressure cooker bomb in your car you’ll definitely be going to jail, not sent on your way with a smile. That’s a pretty big difference right there.

      Unless you have a special skill in the area of bomb making (a knack for electronics or general building skill) your much better bet for killing people is to buy a precision manufactured weapon designed to kill people and go out and use it the way it was designed. This happens roughly every day.

      I think it will get worse, because I think people are suggestible so that the more it happens, the more we hear about it happening, the more there are people who will act on this idea that is out there. I think that bomb making will get easier too, as more things become plug-and play, as better homemade designs circulate. I think we’ll see a weaponized drone attack in the next couple of years, and when that happens we’ll see another big uptick because then a lot of people will get the idea and see how easy it is. I think technology and wealth and toxic ideologies are all mixing to make for a very very dangerous future. I don’t know what to do about it exactly.

      1. You don’t need huge amounts of skill to improvise an explosive device. But you do definitely need some degree of skill, and a greater degree of forethought, planning and attention to detail to practice the construction and test the operation.
        Not the spree killer’s weapon of choice. For the dedicated terrorist though, the payback in terms of attention and enemy bodies does make it worth pursuing. As McVeigh and his co-conspiritors and the Boston cooker bombers showed.
        With a bomb, there’s no chance of claiming you did it while the “balance of your mind was disturbed”. It’s too pernickity a task.

        1. Some of my engineer friends and I always sort of marvel that there isn’t more mayhem. We’re pretty sure that we could create a lot of mayhem if that were our goal. The fact that there isn’t more tends to suggest to me that 1) terrorists and other mass killers are rare and 2) on average they are not highly competent. I hat to say it because people take it the wrong way, but the 9/11 attacks were brilliant. We have much to be thankful for that such brilliance is rare.

          1. The 9/11 attacks were brilliant? I’ll grant that they did a lot of damage, but the hijackers did not anticipate the collapse of the building, I don’t think. If the buildings had not collapsed, it would have been a brutal event but not really that terrifically effective. Most of it was pure luck.

          2. Oh, I wasn’t talking about the building collapse. I know that was pure luck. Even before the buildings collapsed I think it was still the “best” terrorist attack ever… high body count, very striking and dramatic visuals, symbolic targets. Even realizing that they could take over a plane and use it as a bomb without having to smuggle guns on board, because people would think it is a “normal” hijacking and will comply with the small threat of violence was kind of brilliant, IMO. And it took planning, signing people up to learn to fly, buying tickets, etc. I think we are very fortunate that such well thought out and executed attacks are very rare.

          3. And it had a lasting impact on the way we do business in the U.S. today. Not just flying.
            So OK, kind of brilliant. I just don’t want them taking all the credit. 😎

          4. They were brilliant indeed. Such economy of effort. Such payback for investment. It is truly disturbing to be able to think like that. But fuck, the guys in charge of that knew their stuff!

  20. Reading the comments here it is no surprise why gun control fails. I see just venomous hatred of people exercising a legal right. In a liberal society we prioritise rights over security. The perpetrator goes free lest an innocent person be convicted. The overwhelming majority of firearms are never used in crimes, and thus we prioritise the right. What many of you are blind to is that the expansion of gun rights parallels the expansion of all civil liberties. Blaming the lobbying of the NRA, while it certainly prevents needed reforms, misses the larger context. I’m also amazed that liberals who see the systemic abuses of police are so keen to give them a monopoly on firearms.

    1. “In a liberal society we prioritise rights over security. The perpetrator goes free lest an innocent person be convicted. The overwhelming majority of firearms are never used in crimes, and thus we prioritise the right.”

      Do you think all law-abiding citizens should be allowed ANY kind of weapon? I assume not. So, there is clearly no absolute right here. All societies choose to draw a line somewhere. Most civilized societies outside the U.S. choose not to allow citizens to be armed with guns without good reason, and the citizens do not feel that their rights are being infringed. Conversely, they feel MORE free, because they feel safer – there is far less risk that they will be shot by another armed citizen who’s either committing a crime or just having a bad day.

      “I’m also amazed that liberals who see the systemic abuses of police are so keen to give them a monopoly on firearms.”

      So you think a sensible response to police misconduct is armed resistance to the police?

      1. She didn’t say either of those things! But please continue and rip her (actually your) argument to shreds. My god…this is what we have to deal with…

        1. @Stuart A Milc:

          I find Ralph’s words suitable in response to Victoria’s.

          Victoria’s words: “In a liberal society we prioritise rights over security.”

          This is not always so. Take the field of public health. Public health is despised by some precisely because it imposes limits to individual freedom for the good of the many: think vaccination and monitoring of restaurants by local public health agencies. Another example is newborn screening, the mandatory genetic testing of every baby born in hospitals in most states.

          Gun restriction is a matter of public health, as the number of lives lost, especially among poor and minority groups, provides the evidence needed to restrict their use and impinge on individual freedom. Legislators must then use reason to decide how to set these limits.

          1. The comparison to public health spurious for a number of reasons. Most obligatory medical care surrounds children, who have medical care decisions made for them by others as part of a broad reduction in rights deemed necessary for parenting. Children are, I would add, also barred from gun ownership, so it is actually not so different.

            The second major issue is that compulsory vaccines, water fluoridation, etc. all are deemed acceptable intrusions on personal liberty because they are literally imperceptible barring specific and rare medical complications.

            In sharp contrast you could not take away firearms without demonstrably curtailing the safety of large numbers of citizens. The last time this debate came up, I posted an estimate from a pro-gun-control group that guns are used defensively to prevent 80,000 crimes per year (less than the NRA’s propaganda, but still a large number). Not all homes can rely on law enforcement either due to rural locality or unreliability.

            Also gun deaths include a large percentage of suicides. While suicide prevention is desirable, it is also being recognised as a personal right more and more, counteracting Abrahamic superstition.

            I’m a liberal gun owner and the place to start is reducing drug-trade violence (a huge portion of deaths), strengthening mental health and social safety nets, ending gun show shenanigans, and possibly adding psychological evaluations to conceal carry or handgun ownership.

          2. “The second major issue is that compulsory vaccines, water fluoridation, etc. all are deemed acceptable intrusions on personal liberty because they are literally imperceptible barring specific and rare medical complications.”

            Victoria, human behavior can be deemed as imperceptible and unpredictable– until a shooting occurs — as other examples of entities to be controlled. I’m sure those in San Bernardino felt the abrupt shootings as suddenly as one who suddenly presents with a viral illness.

            I’m unpersuaded by your argument that 80,000 crimes (of what type?) are prevented by (citizen?) use of guns, as I haven’t seen the source. And 80,000 crimes per year is trumped by the loss of >30,000 DEATHS per year.

          3. “Also gun deaths include a large percentage of suicides. While suicide prevention is desirable, it is also being recognised as a personal right more and more, counteracting Abrahamic superstition.”

            Suicide follows the social gradient. As such, just as Jerry questioned (in another post) whether Islamic women’s “choice” to cover their heads is really a choice, when a higher burden of suicide falls on the poor, treating suicide as a “choice” is confounded.

            We need to better understand the social determinants of health of violence.

          4. I like that framing!

            The framing of gun deaths as a public health issue?
            That is why the NRA lobbied to have the CDC excluded from considering this cause of death as a matter it should attempt to control.

  21. The VOX site has published an article entitled “Why mass shootings don’t convince gun owners to support gun control.” It has a rather in-depth analysis, with a psychological emphasis, why mass shootings will do nothing to convince gun owners that some sort of gun control is necessary. I highly recommend it.

    The page also has a 90 second video that sort of sums things up.


    1. I read the article and believe it does a pretty good job of explaining this great distance between conservative and liberal and where this conservative mind has gone. I don’t see much hope for their suggested solution at the end but who knows. Amass the political power to overwhelm — more money, more votes?

      My suggestion is even more unlikely but I still think it’s better because there is a lot more to do than fix the gun thing. Lets fix everything by making the money go away. Amend the constitution (I guess it would be #28) with one that states all Federal elections will be funded by the tax payers exclusively. No more private money at all. Not your money own or anyone or any corporation or any PAC.

      1. Really mangled that last bit…Not your own money, corporate money or any PAC. What I attempt to say is, if you are going to swing hard, why just go for this issue. Why not attempt to fix the heart of the problem. It’s no more impossible than just fixing guns.

  22. Jerry,

    The 2nd amendment is one good reason for owning guns. That’s good enough for me. The SCOTUS has already ruled it as an individual right so people who still say it only applies to militias is out of touch. And if you bitch about that, remember that the SCOTUS has expanded the reading of other amendments to include women, minorities, etc. The bill of rights are individual rights, all of them.

    The newspaper of record wastes its token front page editorial on a losing cause. It is not a right vs left thing. I am a lefty but I am as much a proponent of the 2nd amendment as the 1st. Too bad my fellow lefties are bleeding heart cafeteria liberals. You don’t pick and choose which bill of rights to preserve and defend.

    1. The only thing I can think of in response to these firm opinions is – If you are left I must be religious and that just isn’t possible.

    2. Since you appear to be an absolutist in regard to the first and second amendments, I suppose you think it is perfectly fine for a person to yell fire in a crowded theater. It’s free speech, right?

    3. Dan wrote:
      “The SCOTUS has already ruled it as an individual right so people who still say it only applies to militias is out of touch.”
      Since that is your justification for people owning guns, how would you feel if another decision overruled that and said individuals do not have the right to own guns. It could happen. Would you willingly give up your so-called right to own guns and willingly turn in your guns?

    4. I really scratch my head at this one.

      Do you think that something written in 1791 is so sacred and perfect that every single sentence and phrase should be applied without question to all of human society rigidly for all time?

      How do you feel about the fact that the Constitution incorporates a mechanism for amendment. Was that a mistake?

      How do you feel about slavery and women’s suffrage?

      What do you think should be the threshold to trigger a discussion of an element of the Constitution on its merits as applied to modern society, and consider further amendment?

      Americans are completely free to exercise their democratic right to just let everyone have all the guns they want. If that’s the society that the majority prefer, so be it.
      But when over 30,000 people a year are dying, the idea that the right to gun ownership is not even open to discussion on its merits because of the specific turn of phrase of something that was written in 1791 is just preposterous.

      1. I don’t speak for Dan. That being said…

        Historian, Pali, Ralph…all of you are responding to Dan with straw-man arguments. There is nothing in what he wrote to even suggest that he is an “absolutist” as to any of the Bill of Rights. (I have no idea whether he is or isn’t–but neither do you.) And there is nothing in what he wrote to suggest that he’s hostile to amending the Constitution, or that he thinks that the Constitution is perfect. (In fact, George Will, a *very* anti-gun polemicist, has written that this is exactly what needs to happen.)

        But what he does seem to be saying, and if he isn’t, I will, is that it simply makes no sense to pretend that the right described is not an individual one.

        First, please recall that enough of the founders were lawyers to understand what they were saying. And certainly, if the right was to be held and assigned only by militia, they wouldn’t have used merely precatory language to say so. Further, the founders understood the difference between rights and powers, and used those words advisedly.

        Suppose that part of the First Amendment had been written: “A well informed Legislature, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.”

        Would anyone here be seriously arguing that the government could seize all printing presses not owned by elected officials? Forget about the fact that you like books and don’t like guns for a moment, and just indulge the intellectual exercise over the language.

        Yes, the Constitution is certainly imperfect, and no,charleenadams, I don’t know anyone who considers it Holy Writ. (In fact, I would recommend to you, for a contrarian view, Lysander Spooner’s 1870 essay, *The Constitution of No Authority*. See http://praxeology.net/LS-NT-6.htm#no.6) And yes, it has a good mechanism within it for changing it.

        So, by all means, repeal the Second Amendment. But the argument that you don’t *need* to repeal it? If that’s your argument, and yet you profess to not understand why gun-rights advocates are hostile to your expressed desire only for “reasonable” and “common-sense” gun laws…then I think that you’re overlooking some quite basic human psychology. Not to mention history.

        Please note that I am expressing no opinion whatsoëver–*zero*–concerning the desirability of gun ownership, or the Second Amendment, or *anything* other than exactly what I’ve written here. I don’t point out a number of straw-man arguments with the aim of engendering more of them.

        1. The point I was making about yelling fire in a crowded theater is that the rights enumerated in the first and second amendments are not absolute. As Wikipedia puts it:


          “Shouting fire in a crowded theater” is a popular metaphor for speech or actions made for the principal purpose of creating unnecessary panic. The phrase is a paraphrasing of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s opinion in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919, which held that the defendant’s speech in opposition to the draft during World War I was not protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.


          In other words, the Supreme Court has ruled that rights enunciated in the first amendment need not be absolute. Certainly, this would apply to the second amendment. Do you believe people should have the right to carry suitcase dirty bombs? If not, where do you draw the line? It is irrelevant whether or not the second amendment confers individual rights or whether gun owners would be upset by gun legislation. The point is that gun legislation need not be per se unconstitutional. Amending the second amendment is not necessary. Ultimately, the Supreme Court draws the line. And, of course, later Courts could overrule the decisions of earlier ones. The Supreme Court does not like to overturn precedent, but it has been done before, Brown vs. Board of Education reversing Plessy vs. Ferguson is perhaps the most famous example as it dealt with school segregation.

          1. And that’s certainly a point worth discussing. But launching the discussion by accusing Dan of being an absolutist is not the way to do it, when he’s given *no* indication that he is.

            “The point is that gun legislation need not be per se unconstitutional.” Well, it is if the effect of the legislation is to completely gut the Amendment. Your 1st Amendment analogy is no help to you here; yes, it’s very well to prohibit shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater, but it wouldn’t be OK to require everyone to keep their mouths duct-taped shut at all times. You would agree with that, wouldn’t you?

            “Do you believe people should have the right to carry suitcase dirty bombs? If not, where do you draw the line?”

            Where I would draw the line is irrelevant, although I’m quite sure that you wouldn’t care for it, but no, I don’t think that there’s an individual right to “suitcase dirty bombs.”

            Ultimately, the Supremes will have to revisit *Miller*, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). I don’t want to start an argument about what’s a holding and what is dicta, but the fairly clear policy statement of that case was that if it’s used in warfare, it’s covered by the 2nd Amendment. A strict reading of *Miller* would seem to hold that citizens can own nuclear submarines. Of course there’s no way that that proposition will stand, so it will be interesting to see how the Supremes back away from it. But they certainly will. I’m guessing that the first narrowing will be to non-explosive weapons that soldiers carry on their own bodies. (In fact, there may be post-*Miller* case law that has addressed this–I haven’t carefully researched that.) So grenades are out, and even at that, the narrower category has already been eaten away by (among other things) the Acts of 1934 and 1968.

          2. Yes, it would be by definition unconstitutional to gut the second amendment. But, this is your straw man. Very few people who want reasonable gun control call for the gutting of the second amendment, whatever that may mean. You admit that the second amendment is not absolute. Certain arms, such as hand grenades or at least dirty bombs, can be banned if I understand you correctly. So, again, where is the line between reasonable and unreasonable gun legislation, i.e., unconstitutional gun legislation? Ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide the issue, although we must recognize that whatever one Court decides, a subsequent Court can change.

          3. “we must recognize that whatever one Court decides, a subsequent Court can change.”

            An important point and one that those who trumpet Supreme Court decisions, as somehow justifying their inalienable “rights,” don’t seem to take into account. The five reactionary members of our current Court struck down the District of Columbia’s 32-year-old ban on handguns, in a 5-4 decision. With one or two replacements on the Court another case could easily go the other way. Of course then we’ll no doubt hear from these same people railing about unelected, activist judges trampling on the rights of god-fearing Americans. Kim Davis style.

          4. No, Historian, I’m not making a straw man argument. Let’s break it down:

            First, a definition: “whatever that may mean.” What I mean by “gutting the second amendment” is calling for a ban on civilian gun ownership. Even if there is an exception, as mentioned by our host here, for target shooting and hunting. (Because clearly the amendment has no more to do with target shooting or hunting than it does with growing tomatoes.) And with that definition:

            “Very few people who want reasonable gun control call for the gutting of the second amendment…”

            That’s just a tautology–isn’t it?

            In point of fact, there are millions of people who are calling for an outright ban on civilian gun ownership; millions more if we discount the above-referenced, and completely meaningless, exceptions. Sometimes it seems as if half of those people are contributors to this website. (Yes, that was hyperbole; not, I don’t need a statistical analysis pointing that out.)

          5. Brujo, perhaps you should re-read what Dan wrote:

            “I am a lefty but I am as much a proponent of the 2nd amendment as the 1st. Too bad my fellow lefties are bleeding heart cafeteria liberals. You don’t pick and choose which bill of rights to preserve and defend.”

            Apparently, either we must accept and agree with every element of the Bill or Rights, or we are hypocrites, insincere in our liberal beliefs. That is what I (and I think everyone else other than you) were responding to in Dan’s comments – and he said it rather clearly, we are not inventing a straw man.

            Many Americans seem to be under the impression that the individual right to have guns is as fundamental and natural to any society as (say) free speech or due process. But if you look around at the way other free societies around the world work, that’s clearly not true. The American view of guns as an individual right is seen as almost freakish by the rest of the civilized world.

            As for parsing the language of the 2nd Amendment to try to figure out what the writers meant in 1791: I don’t know. Of course I realize that it’s critically important from a legal perspective – the question of whether a fundamental change would require a SCOTUS decision, a legislative majority, or a supermajority to change things.

            But I’m really less interested in the legalistic issue, and more concerned about the fundamental societal question of whether the right or ordinary citizens to have guns actually has any merit at all in modern society. And, contra Dan and some others here, it doesn’t make me illiberal or hypocritical on the general principles of individual rights to ask that question.

    5. You seem to have equated being a lefty with strict acceptance of the Constitution as some sort of perfect document that never needs revising. I don’t think the lefties who wrote the thing, who intentionally included a mechanism for changing it as needed, would agree with that position.

      1. I too have noticed the similarities between the die-hard pro-gun folks and religious fundamentalists.

        I see cognitive dissonance, willful ignorance and blindness in both cases, and mistaken devotion to some nebulous divine right.

  23. I’m in 100% agreement with the NYT editorial and with Jerry’s stance on guns. It’s long past time to reverse the tide of this insanity here in America. How many more deaths will it take?

    If nothing is ever going to change then, on some level, hardcore gun advocates have to admit to themselves that they’re okay with these continuous mass shootings, that it’s an acceptable trade-off in order for them to keep all their guns. They have to be willing to live with this carnage, which is only likely to get worse. Some of us have had enough.

  24. Kudos to the NYT for going counter to the naysayers. Though it must feel a lot like a voice in the wilderness, it’s the right and responsible thing to do. Barbarism comes in different forms.

  25. A oousin of my Wife in the States is one of these Gun Nuts, she is obssessed with the damn things ! No argument, Facts or Statistics make any difference, keeps trotting out the 2nd Amendment every time, you can point out the fallacy of her argument; waste of time. Your Country is broken ,what with the Congress in thrall to their Paymasters the NRA and other Corporate interests, its time to dust off the Guillotines. Oh, by the way she’s an Evangelical Christian as well , there is no hope. !

  26. One way to deal with a problem is making it more visible, and lay open the assumptions that block solutions.

    If the problem is the wording of the ammendment, then the president could Eulenspiegel this: “Alright, we need well-regulated militias then”. He would create militias, and people can sign up there.

    Everyone else is disallowed to bear arms. The “militias” would be a kind of gun-club as they exist elsewhere too. Members have to undergo training — not aiming, but security in handling — which neatly can count as “militia training”. Firing guns and all that can be left as a hobby.

    Then this construction can be “well-regulated”. Now the law-maker even has an heightened interest to prevent para-military, whereas right now it’s not conceptually captured in any way, even if para-military-like groups exist.

    Motivated reasoners probably find some way to complain, but it would take away a few lawyering and literalist arguments.

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