103 thoughts on “Three cartoons about gun control

  1. Matt Wuerker, who is rapidly becoming my second-favorite political cartoonist (after Tom Toles), just published this cartoon, which prompted this comment from one person: “Good heavens, all those mass murderers are different people with different backgrounds and different motivations….we could discover the cause of all these murders if ONLY we could figure out what they all have in common……”

    1. Hi Mark

      Good cartoon. And I appreciated your chapter-and-verse response in the comments to the guy who dared anyone to find a Xtian teaching that commanded killing people. Well done.


  2. I was chatting over lunch with a local retiree. Phil was in the sporting goods business and had several stores all over California. He sold thousands of guns. He has at least 20 guns of his own. (I have three.) His politics are very conservative, unlike mine. One thing we agreed on was that responsible gun owners should support effective gun control laws, because if things keep going the way they are the public will demand confiscation.

    1. I am starting to realize where my interest in the gun debate comes from. I agree with gun owners that, grotesque as gun deaths are, it’s still not a big risk in my life. So in a purely selfish way, I don’t really care that much because the odds it’ll ever affect me are small. I’m unlikely to ever want to buy a gun and I’m also unlikely to ever be a victim of gun crime. Either could happen, but I’ve got more likely things to be concerned with. And, for that matter, I don’t really like bans either. If I want to buy some explosives and go out into a big field and blow stuff up for fun, I’d like to be able to do that. Ditto for shooting stuff. Ditto for a lot of things. So I sympathize with all of that a lot.

      Where I find myself being sucked into the debate is the anti-social attitude exuded by many gun nuts. The big middle finger to society. The unwillingness to engage in ANY kind of responsibility. I mean, I get it, if I want to blow stuff up for fun I’ve got to expect that I’m going to have to jump through some hoops first. My BIG rocketry friends already do this because big rocket engines are essentially bombs. But they still shoot off their big rockets. They jump through all of the hoops because they are on Team Society. The sense I get from most of my outspoken gun rights friends is that they are NOT on Team Society, but are on some selfish little team of their own. It is that sense that angers me and makes me want to oppose them. As a part of society who wants to see society succeed, if you exude an attitude of FU society… well, you’ve made an enemy of me and there aren’t enough lobbying dollars in the world to buy me back.

      I bet I’m not alone.

        1. That is not what I said. “many gun nuts” and “most of my outspoken gun rights friends” are not everyone who disagrees with me on this topic.

          Let me try again in less bombastic language. Contra Jerry, I’m not out to ban all guns. Still, I think there is a gun violence problem. To me, all reasonable people should be trying to grapple with that problem. I don’t know exactly what can be done to help, but I’m pretty sure it’s not “nothing”. So if your answer is “nothing”, I disagree with you. I would like gun owners to come help me figure this out. Anything would do. For example, I have one concealed carry friend who advocates the concealed carry licensing process for all gun owners. I don’t know if that would matter but I applaud him being willing to consider something other than the status quo. And he has a point: Jumping through those hoops is a filter, and it would probably filter out a lot of people who shouldn’t have guns. This friend is not one of the selfish ones I speak of. If gun advocates came across as being composed of people like my friend I probably wouldn’t even engage the debate at all. I’d let them figure it out among themselves because I can see that they are on the case and they know more about it than me.

          But here’s the thing. That’s not how most of my gun advocate friends come across. They come across as zealots. They advance an image of civilized life that suggests that we’d be better off if almost everyone had a gun on them at all times. They get behind people who want to take “scary looking guns” and take them to the grocery store to “exercise their rights”, no matter if it’s disturbing to fellow shoppers (That’s where my FU society image comes in). They spew conspiracy theories about how if there is a national gun database, tomorrow Hitler! They concoct bizarre tales about how they really NEED to be able to swap out large magazines really fast, and how it doesn’t matter what laws there are, people are going to kill people. These are the people who engage me in the debate because they are saying insane things that must be pushed back against. I’m not willing to live in their Wild West/Rambo world.

          So what I am saying is that I oppose the attitude of irresponsibility, and all of the delusional fantasies that are used to prop it up. I’m saying that I’m not even a person who has a clear political agenda on guns, all I know is that I’m opposed to selfish and crazy, which I see a lot of.

          1. Now what *I* want to do is drive as fast as I wish at all times. Speed limits are anathema, they’re an unjustified restriction on my freedom. And I’m a responsible driver, with a pretty good non-accident record. I can judge (better than some blanket limit) what is a safe speed for me to do in all circumstances, taking into account all prevailing conditions.

            Why should I be penalised because some drivers are just incompetent??

            All speed limits do is provide the authorities with an excuse to generate revenue. They have nothing to do with safety.

            And there could easily be circumstances where I need to rush some member of my family to hospital without being fettered by irrelevant regulations.

            We drivers need our Second Amendment. “Efficient and speedy transport being essential to the workings of a modern society, the right of the people to travel at their optimum speed shall not be infringed”.


          2. “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled …”

            — Jonathan Swift —

          3. Funnily enough, many speed limits in the U.S. are still set to generate revenue rather than what the optimal safe speed or design speed of the road is. They’ve got better since the 1980s when it was still capped at 55 mph in order to conserve fuel. The conservation part is a good idea, though setting limits at 55 when the design speed of the road is 80 to 90 tends to result in a lot of people speeding. To your point though, you do see the occasional idiot doing 120+ mph with the exact mentality you just parodied.

      1. You aren’t.

        I’m with you 100% in the reasoning. Furthermore, I hang out a lot on the gocomics editorial cartoons, and see the most socially regressive mindset imaginable from the gun nuts.

        They seem to be locked into an “everyone is out to get me” paranoid mentality (in which “everyone” is pretty much everyone–liberals, blacks, communists, the government, gay people, muslims). I’ve taken to posting, when they talk about how they need their guns to defend themselves, “just what are you defending yourself from?” Of course, they know it’s socially unacceptable to say “blacks,” the government has not attacked them, and they are far more likely to be terrorists than to be victimized by terrorists, so they simply do not answer. Except for one guy, who said he was a little afraid of me. I guess he thought maybe I’d whack him over the head with a science book.

      2. You call it a middle finger to society. I see it as a reasonable reaction against the constant siege from gun grabbers. Of the bill of rights, the 2nd is the only one that is being attacked, even by Jerry Coyne. Even the ACLU would not overtly support this individual right. They do support it in principle, but they are afraid of losing support from the left if they were start defending AR-15s.

        I am also wary of the constant attacks. I am amenable to some restrictions, but in the current climate any sort of compromise will be foisted by the gun grabbers as the start for further restrictions. Maybe when we overcome the anti-gun sentiment of the left, or wait for the old guard to shuffle off this mortal coil. Maybe then we can revisit the common sense gun laws the left is bandying about.

        But not now, the ink has barely dried from the McDonald v Chicago, and DC v Heller cases. The individual right to bear arms is not yet embraced by the majority and you want restrictions already? Would you support immediate restrictions to abortions just after Roe v Wade? Of course not, even if you are amenable to it. It was still in danger of getting virtually banned by restrictions. Same with gun rights.

          1. Yes, and the fact that many, if not most of the posters here use the “gun nuts” says as much about them.

          2. “If a politician isn’t perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash — for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything — without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn’t your friend no matter what he tells you.” (L. Neil Smith, sourced on his Wikiquote page).

            I stand unapologetically behind my liberal (in both senses of the term) use of the term “gun nut”. You may also want to check out two recent posts on the this website concerning Michele Fiore.

        1. How do you know “any sort of compromise” will result in gun grabbers going for (and presumably your fear is obtaining) further restrictions? This is the slippery slope fallacy at its worst and the facts show that there are more guns in circulation than ever despite the (mostly local) restrictions that do exist.

          I would bet that if restrictions were put in place that ended up stopping the constant carnage, there wouldn’t be “gun grabbers” trying to confiscate every weapon in circulation. There would be more important things to discuss.

          For the record, I’m largely on the same page as gluonspring. I think people who want to own guns should be properly trained and licensed in the same way an airplane pilot is, to borrow Sam Harris’s analogy. I am not a gun owner, but if I decided to be, I am not comfortable with the fact that I can go buy weapons without a clue about how to operate them. This is not only for the safety of others, but myself as well. Likewise, I wouldn’t want to go to the local private airport and be allowed to take a solo flight sans licensing.

          Yes, there are people like Jerry who would ban all guns and there are people who think that the 2nd Amendment should theoretically extend to tanks. That does not mean that either of those things are realistically going to happen or that there shouldn’t be something done about the violence problem in America. I am also in the camp that ending this will take much more than just gun laws, but this is the only issue I’ve ever seen where one of the main arguments for not passing a law is that criminals break laws. Of course they do, but under that logic, we should just have anarchy. No crime!

      3. I don’t know where you live to feel safe, but I live in Colorado Springs and open carry is allowed. I don’t feel safe. Especially because of what you have noted… many of the ‘open carry’ people I’ve met have an attitude. I don’t know of any studies out there – but I suspect that many of them have dreams of being Rambo and saving the town with their hand gun and a few rounds of ammo.

        I learned to shoot when I was younger and would go target shooting with my older brother. We used to go to a box canyon on the outskirts of Los Angeles, it was set up for target shooting. Then one morning, a guy drove up – wearing fatigues – took out a riffle that had been refitted to be an automatic weapon – he just started shooting – not aiming – not caring what or where he hit. We left and never went back. He was not target shooting, he was just freaking nuts.

        Living among ranchers, yes, a gun is necessary, one must always be prepared to put a horse down if it breaks a leg in the middle of no-where, or shoot a coyote that is too close to a calf. But I don’t know of many real ranchers who feel the need to carry an assault riffle in order to be safe. Real ranchers don’t pretend to be urban cowboys.

        Most of the hunters I know seem to be the same way… they put meat on the table… they are respectful and know where their food comes from. There is no need for an assault riffle – if there is – you should not be hunting.

        The current love affair with guns is unique to the US – maybe based on the fantasies of the old West (most of it is fantasy) and Rambo films.

        I think it is a sickness in our country that 5 year olds need to learn how to react to an active shooter. Geeze…. where is the sensibility?

        1. For what it’s worth, I’ve encountered the more irresponsible / nuttier gun owners as well. To my mind, making irresponsible gun use illegal is the most needed change at present, and not nearly the political hot-potato that restrictions on gun ownership are. Even the NRA puts out guidelines for responsible gun use that are more stringent than our current laws!

          For instance, a friend of mine who occasionally comments here was recently camped outside of town and had some drunken yahoos show up at night and start shooting in a wildly irresponsible fashion–not just drunk, but shooting at night, when they could not easily see what is downrange, and from high ground where their rounds can go quite a long way before reaching any berm or other backstop. I don’t care if they’re shooting muskets, handguns, or M16s, that kind of behavior ought to be illegal. And it isn’t. Until those yahoos actually shoot someone, they’re within the law to use lethal force recklessly.

        2. A few years ago I saw a TV documentary about the gun culture in America, which showed a hundred or so of these gun-nuts who had gathered together in a field in Oklahoma to hold their annual “shoot for freedom” (uh?).

          So they stood in a line and blasted away at targets with their handguns, and their rifles, and their pump-action shotguns – and one of them was sat behind a tripod-mounted, belt-fed, water-cooled Vickers machine-gun.

          How is it possible for a private citizen to own such a weapon? Is this some loop-hole in the laws on automatic weapon ownership (perhaps because of the gun’s age?)?

          1. I had a friend who was a serious gun collector and he had a Vickers in his collection**. It was probably the *least* dangerous gun he had. It took several people to lift it. If he suddenly went insane and threatened to shoot you with it, you could walk away and be out of sight by the time he had the thing set up.

            So, for the same reason that guns with barrels under a certain length are more highly restricted in many countries, anything as unwieldy as the Vickers, while it looks very dramatic, is not actually much of a hazard.

            (**This is possible under New Zealand law, if you jump through enough legal hoops. He had to be vetted by the police, he had to have a strongroom to keep the guns in, he had to register each gun, the bolts and ammo had to be kept in a safe, the automatic ones were not legally permitted to be fired at any time – in other words, it was a military collection, not an arsenal.)


      4. I came to pretty much the same conclusion, gluonspring. But as the carnage mounts ever higher, I don’t think we have time to figure out how to prevent the yahoos from having arms (if there could ever be a way). It now seems to me that the least bad choice is serious legal prohibition of most guns, a registry of those who may legally have them, and the best screening we can do to figure out who are the responsible hunters and ranchers and who are the paranoid, the rabid anarchists, the scary far right-wingers…

        I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Cute, and I do favor stricter gun control, but the grammar of the Second Amendment is unambiguous, and it most certainly does not limit gun ownership to militiamen.

    Semantically it’s less clear: What constitutes “arms”? And what exactly does it mean to “keep and bear” them?

    But the “right” in question is “of the people,” and it isn’t contingent on participating in a “well-regulated militia.”

    1. Cute, and I do favor freedom of expression. But you are perpetuating a fraud:

      “Justice John Paul Stephens discussed his long experience with Second Amendment jurisprudence in his book “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” and notes that when he came on the Supreme Court there was literally no debate among the justices, conservative or liberal, over the idea that the Second Amendment constituted a “fundamental right” to bear arms. Precedents going all the way back to the beginning of the republic had held that the state had an interest in regulating weapons and never once in all its years had declared a “fundamental right” in this regard.

      So, what happened? Well, the NRA happened. Or more specifically, a change in leadership in the NRA happened.”

      [ https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/more-on-the-second-amendment-and-the-nras-fraudulent-stands/ ]

    2. I think the Militia Acts of 1792 do a good job of explicitly nailing down most of the details that are left rather vague by the Second Amendment. We don’t really need to guess as to what a well-regulated militia was supposed to look like, or what kind of purpose it was supposed to serve. Of course the militia acts are long obsolete and it’s not clear to me what kind of strictly legal role they may play at this point, but if we just want to understand the context and make sense of the intent of the Second Amendment, I think the Militia Acts nail things down as good as can be hoped for. So, here are a few quotes to give the gist:

      What was the militia for?

      “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled
      , That whenever the United States shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion from any foreign nation or Indian tribe, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, to call forth such number of the militia of the state or states most convenient to the place of danger or scene of action as he may judge necessary to repel such invasion […]”

      The militia was intended to serve essentially the same role as the modern National Guard and Armed Forces, although that role was much smaller at the time (they weren’t imagining, for instance, sending the militia out to fight wars of aggression in the Middle East, although that has come to be, apparently, the primary purpose of our Armed Forces at present).

      Who was in the militia?

      “Be it enacted […] That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia,[…]”

      Except for the age limitation, presumably intended to avoid conscripting the old & feeble, that’s basically the definition of “the people”–i.e., full citizens–at the time. To me, this nicely explains the apparent ambiguity in the Second Amendment that it’s not entirely clear if we’re talking about a right for militia members or “the people” to be armed. The militia was “the people”, so there’s not a whole lot of room for confusion (although one might still wonder about more peripheral questions–do white men over 45 have a right to bear arms?). (Misunderstanding on this point is the basis for the first cartoon in the OP.)

      What kind of weapons are we talking about?

      “That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, [etc.]”

      The full description there is basically the kind of weaponry that the average soldier would have carried into the field at the time. That the authors intended the militia to be frozen in time is an absurd idea. If we’re relying on the militia for national defense, surely we want them to have the appropriate weapons for that purpose at the time, not to be stuck with old technology. So a reasonable interpretation here would be that the militia was intended to arm itself with the basic weaponry needed for the average soldier to enter battle. At this point, that would mean something like an M16 or M4 (“assault rifles”) and a Beretta M9 or similar pistol. So far as I can tell without digging into things too deeply, more specialized weaponry (basically cannons back then; drones, missiles, and a wide variety of other weaposn now) would have been supplied by the government rather than by the militia members and probably would not have fallen within the intent of “arms” in the Second Amendment. (Misunderstanding on this point is the basis for the third cartoon in the OP.)

      So, let’s just imagine a world in which all full citizens between 18 and 45 are members of the militia and are legally required to own (at their own expense!) at least an assault rifle and a pistol. That’s the kind of world we’re talking about if we want to understand the intent of the Second Amendment. Not an armed professional military force, not a populace limited to obsolete technology or weapons appropriate for personal defense or hunting, but a citizenry armed and ready to enter battle against an invading army. I think that’s more than a bit absurd at this point, and that the Second Amendment became obsolete as soon as we ditched the militia model of national defense in favor of a professional military. IMO, it’s long past time to repeal the damned thing. Since that is not politically feasible, I certainly understand the desire to pretend that the Second Amendment means whatever we might want it to mean. However, I do not think that is an intellectually honest approach.

      1. This analysis helps to fill in where my own very basic understanding of the history is lacking. The hope, then, as I see it, is that this understanding can be widely accepted as a starting point of discussion. Eventually I can foresee a time when the 2nd amendment can be removed.

      2. Does anyone really think that an individual with an assault riffle is really going to defeat the Army? According to many Texans, that Army was the US Army… so all the technology on smart missiles,specially designed helicopters, armored vehicles along with all the billions of tax dollars spent on advanced military technology will succumb to a guy (or a few guys/gals) with assault riffles? Does somebody actually believe this and be able to give a credible response of how this is possible???

        1. Robin – That’s why I said that this kind of approach to national security is a bit absurd at this point. I don’t think the idea of an armed citizenry forming up as the militia and going into battle against foreign powers makes a whole lot of sense at this point. Although that is more or less the approach the Afghanistanis have been using, with… well, I wouldn’t call it success, but at least not the kind of total and abject failure we might expect. And they’ve faced both us and the Soviet Union.

          On the other hand, the idea of an individual or a small armed group successfully standing up to a modern military is quite obviously absurd. I don’t think that scenario was at all what our politicians had in mind at the time of the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts of 1792, nor do I think any sane person considers is plausible today. That’s a fantasy entertained by a few nutballs on the far right.

          1. Yes, I should have been more clear that I was agreeing with your post. I believe that the Constitution was meant to be a living/breathing document and that as time changes we need to be sensible about what is really appropriate. We have amendments to adjust the constitution… With the way some people interpret the second amendment – we should all be allowed to have small nuclear armaments. One can extrapolate it to the absurdities – but at least that makes the point that there exists a limit. We can set that limit. By not allowing anyone to build their own nuclear weapon, we are restricting the second amendment. Now we just need to reel it back so that it makes sense for our current technology.

            After all – would we really think it sensible to allow people to carry bazookas or small missiles? We don’t and would not allow this. Oh dear, I hope I just didn’t give the NRA new ideas!!!

          2. A “living/breathing document” is an idea that was never meant to remove the rights of individuals and groups, but rather to give more rights. As gays became more accepted in our society, they fought for and obtained rights they didn’t have prior but should have had. What you want to do is to remove a right. That is very serious and needs to be done through an Amendment, like the 18th Amendment did with Prohibition. If you want rights to be removed through SCOTUS decisions, you are entering dangerous territory. What right should they remove next from the Bill of Rights? Press? Speech? Oh, I know…religion. We all hate that one.

          3. Limiting fire arms is not rescinding a right. Just has banning teachers from leading prayer in public schools is not rescinding the teacher’s right to free expression. We already limit certain weapons, unless you think that citizens have a right to owning handheld missile launchers, you already agree to some restrictions. Freedom of speech is protected, but not if someone yells ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater causing a stampede and endangering lives. There are a growing number of Americans who believe they have a right to walk into a restaurant without confronting people with guns strapped to their hips. I have a right to go into an environment where people are not smoking. Is that taking rights away from smokers because they can’t smoke in grocery stores, hospitals, or restaurants? (some argued it was when smoking bans began to crop up in various states).

            There is a need for a balance. Protecting citizens is important. Despite Trump and others’ fantasies that someone with a gun would have stopped the mass murders is either willful ignorance or madness. Given that trained officers, well trained and armed, are killed is evidence that carrying a gun will not stop mass murders. Limiting the purchase of guns designed for the sole purpose of slaughtering dozens of people is a starting point. Educating people that gun violence does not solve problems is another. The statistics are heavily in the favor that gun ownership increases the risk of death for anyone living in a house with a loaded weapon.

            If politicians are not playing fast and loose when supporting the NRA, why would they ban even the study of gun violence as a health issue (and yet, blanket-blame the mentally ill for mass shootings)? Just as Reagan tried to ban the CDC from studying HIV/AIDS (they hid the study by saying it was on aging) – so the current Republican Congress has worked to block any reference to gun violence being one of the leading causes of death in our country.

            The current Republican run Congress wants to stop the conversation by making wild statements that if everyone carried a gun, then there would be less gun violence. Honestly, does anyone really see that as a possibility when data say something completely different?

          4. I’ve made that same point about nukes and 2A many times. “Arms” is long overdue for a precise legal definition.

    3. “But the “right” in question is “of the people,” and it isn’t contingent on participating in a “well-regulated militia.”

      This is a key point. The use in a militia is a justification, it’s not limited to militia use.

      1. Yes, that’s exactly my point. The grammar is straightforward in that regard.

        I also happen to think that 2A is long overdue for an update. But I can still parse English.

    4. Well, I think a lot of people find the amendment ambiguous and contradictory. The first phrase specifies “a well regulated militia”, but the second says “the people”. No one can say with certainty what the authors meant.

      But what seems obvious is that if the government continues to allow anyone to have modern weapons, the less stable and responsible among us will kill others with increasing frequency, which is going to make the country a hellish place to live. How long before I have to arm myself and wear a protective vest just to go grocery shopping?

      It’s hard to predict what will be the breaking point, if San Bernardino isn’t it, but we have to at some point say it’s time to amend the bill of rights. It’s hard to pursue life, liberty and happiness when under constant threat of violence.

      1. As a freedom-loving progressive, I would defend ALL of the bill of rights from unnecessary and politically motivated amendments. It is clear as day that all of the bill of rights are individual rights, it just took longer for the SCOTUS to recognize it for the 2nd. But now that we have more freedom, why demand for less? I know we like to look to the Queen’s subjects in the UK or Australia when comparing gun laws, but note that both countries do not have a robust bill of rights.

        1. “note that both countries do not have a robust bill of rights”

          And your point is…. what exactly? Doesn’t that prove that not every single component of the US Bill Of Rights is necessarily required in order to run a free and fair society? Are you under the impression that the citizens of the UK and Australia are in need of liberation from tyranny? Should they rise up an demand more guns and less healthcare?

          1. So Dan, should citizens be allowed to open carry small missiles and/or bazookas? Just asking….

          2. I think any notion of freedom of speech in the UK and elsewhere is under attack as more and more muslims enter the population and demand protection for their sensitive feelings as regards to their religion. The people don’t have a Bill of Rights to protect their speech in this area. Many people in those countries wish they had such protection. The BoR is the cornerstone of American democracy and freedom, so please don’t try to fuck with it.

          3. I certainly agree that the U.K. needs much more robust constitutional protection of freedom of speech. We should also dump the anachronisms of royal family and state religion.

            Do you think that if would be impossible for the U.K. to achieve this without simultaneously giving everyone the right to own a gun?

          4. I’d go with 1,3,4,5,6 and 8 for certain, the others, only if needed. But I might add, that the right to bear arms originally came from English common law. Sir William Blackstone summed it up thusly: A public allowance under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression. This was codified in the English Bill of Rights of 1689 (but only pertained to Protestants).

            Somewhere along the way, the English gave up this right…which is their choice. But unlike others here, I don’t see the UK as the shining beacon on the hill and prefer to keep our BoR’s just as they are.

      2. Excellent point, ploubere. A bit less abstract freedom fetishism and a bit more concrete “how do we build a free, safe and prosperous society” might perhaps help this discussion. Freedom should also include the freedom from the fear that your neighbour will accidentally shoot you while drunkenly fooling around in his backyard.

  4. But the “right” in question is “of the people,” and it isn’t contingent on participating in a “well-regulated militia.”

    Then, does that make the first part of the amendment superfluous?

    1. It strikes me as serving the same purpose as a preamble: presenting context and justification, and guiding interpretation, but but not being legally operative itself.

  5. I love it when people bring up the asinine “militia” argument, as if, after multiple court rulings stating otherwise, it is somehow still valid or relevant. Since “consensus” is a word that gets thrown around here, a lot, I would like to point out that overwhelming consensus amongst 2nd Amendment scholars is that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right, regardless of militia membership. Anyone familiar with the debate(that excludes the majority of commenters here)knows this. Another classic, and by classic I mean idiotic, argument is the “musket” “argument” Applying the same “logic”, the First Amendment does not apply to the internet, TV, the radio, or phone conversations. And since the Founding Fathers couldn’t have possibly conceived of abortion or gay marriage, neither of those are protected by the Constitution. It would seem the Constitution is a “living” document in every regard except when it comes to the Second Amendment. Give me a break.

    But the most ridiculous part of this “debate” is the fixation on so-called “assault weapons”. According to FBI statistics, a little over 200 people, out of a population of over 300 million, were killed in 2014 with ALL rifles, so the number is even less for “assault weapons”. More people were killed with bats and fists. That means approximately 10,000 people were murdered with handguns. Most mass shootings, including the deadliest in US history, are perpetrated with handguns. Pushing an assault weapons ban is nothing more than a way for people to show how morally superior they think they are.

  6. I love it when people bring up the asinine “militia” argument, as if, after multiple court rulings stating otherwise, it is somehow still valid or relevant. Since “consensus” is a word that gets thrown around here, a lot, I would like to point out that overwhelming consensus amongst 2nd Amendment scholars is that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right, regardless of militia membership. Anyone familiar with the debate(that excludes the majority of commenters here)knows this. Another classic, and by classic I mean idiotic, argument is the “musket” “argument” Applying the same “logic”, the First Amendment does not apply to the internet, TV, the radio, or phone conversations. And since the Founding Fathers couldn’t have possibly conceived of abortion or gay marriage, neither of those are protected by the Constitution. It would seem the Constitution is a “living” document in every regard except when it comes to the Second Amendment. Give me a break.

  7. Continuing the comparisons with the UK. Apparently a man has just attacked the London subway, shouting “this is for Syria”.

    But, being Britain, rather than an AK-47 and oodles of ammunition, he had a knife. One person is in hospital with stab wounds. No one has died.

  8. The following are a portion of the gun homicide statistics for the entire year of 2014, as taken from the FBI website.

    Gun homicides, committed by a handgun: 5562
    Gun homicides, committed by rifles (this includes so-called “assault weapons”):248

    Handguns were used to commit approximately 22 times more often than rifles. Since the 248 number is for all rifles, the number killed by so-called assault weapons is even lower. Moreover, most mass shootings, including the deadliest in US history, are perpetrated with handguns. According to the FBI, hands. fists and feet killed 660 people during the same time period. So, clearly, the greatest scourge this country is now facing is “assault weapons”. Assault weapons bans are useless, as proved by the 1994-2004 ban, and those pushing them are engaging in little more than “look how morally superior I am” posturing.

    1. Those facts are bit misleading. Most gun deaths happen among people who know one another, often involving alcohol, and some sort of altercation. This is a one on one incident. This is not someone walking into a school, Planned Parenthood organization, or a holiday party opening fire. Yes, there are more deaths by handguns… but not the sort of deaths that result from someone with grievance against the world – whether that be the government, women’s reproductive rights, or religion. Most people can avoid the situation of being around someone with a handgun (but not any longer thanks to the NRA and open carry). So please, if you are going to pull the statistics card – at least be honest with what the numbers mean.

  9. I suppose it is apt that the gun grabbers would resort to cartoons to express their childish crusade against civil liberties.

    1. What’s wrong with cartoons. They are often more effective at distilling an idea than essays. Cartoons…not just for kids.

    2. My civil liberty includes being able to down a street and not get shot. If you think you need a gun to protect your home (despite the overwhelming data suggesting you rather than an intruder are most likely to be killed) – go ahead… but don’t infringe my civil right of feeling safe because you think you have a ‘right’ to carry a weapon. There is no evidence that any fool with enough money has the right to carrying guns keeps our citizens or our Nation safer. Not a shred… Instead, we feel less safe, more paranoid, and have to teach our kindergarteners what to do is there is an active shooter. The Cold War felt safer than this current milieu (duck and cover kids!).

      1. I don’t think anyone has a “civil right of feeling safe”. What about the granny who doesn’t feel safe because two black guys moved in next door? Do they have to move? OTOH, there is a right to own a gun. Want to change things, get an amendment passed. Good luck, as Liam Neeson would say.

        1. “I don’t think anyone has a civil right of feeling safe. What about the granny who doesn’t feel safe because two black guys moved in next door?”

          Are you seriously suggesting that societal safety is nothing more than a subjective state of mind? You really can’t think of any measure that might be use to differentiate between a racist granny’s bigotry and objective safety?

          1. Maybe you could point out to me where the rights of feeling safe are enumerated?

            And with that, I will quit commenting on this thread…Roolz about too many comments.

          2. A desire to BE safe (not FEEL safe) is paramount in all societies. It is really not difficult to assess objectively, by looking at crime statistics and accident statistics.

            Ironically, although you seem to think you have some kind of “gotcha” here, it’s an irrational desire to FEEL safe from ill-defined non-existent dangers that characterizes the gun-fetishists, not those who favor gun control.

  10. Excellent commentary on the second amendment. And speaking of cartoons, Trump said today that if someone had had a gun in Paris or San Bernardino – then only the terrorists would have been killed. Right…. terrorists walk in with the intent to kill, carrying an arsenal of weapons… and some Rambo character with a handgun would have stopped it all from happening. What bizarro world does that nut job live in?

    1. Trump and his supporters forget Charlie Hebdo had two armed guards. But Trump isn’t big on facts, logic and reality, and neither is his supporters.

  11. I live in the U.S., but did not grow up here, and I’ve never understood one part of this story. Some elements of the pro-gun lobby seem to adhere to the idea that an armed population limits government power.

    The practicalities have been parodied above, rednecks vs 82nd Airborne etc. But setting aside the actual logistics, what on earth is the principle underlying this idea? Who ever thought that the principle of an armed coup as a mechanism for power transfer was a good idea, and why? Is this some perversion of the “militia” language in the Second Amendment, or what’s going on? Aren’t we supposed to support the rule of law, and change government via elections?

    1. Oh no! Your are inserting logic! A curse upon you.. no you see rights are rights are rights… and using logic just f***s things up.

    2. Ralph – I don’t think you need to look much further than the American Revolution. The story, in its simplest form, is of an armed citizenry rising up, organizing into a military force, and overthrowing the tyranny of a foreign occupying government. That’s a big piece of our national history, so I don’t think it’s too surprising that it still occupies a part of the nationalist psyche on the right.

      1. Except that we didn’t have an armed citizenry rise up to overthrow the “tyranny” of a foreign occupying government. We had a number of British subjects in the colonies who believed they shouldn’t have to pay taxes to the Crown. They did their best to avoid paying said taxes and to subvert the attempts by the British authorities to collect taxes. This led to a huge division in the colonies between the Tories, who supported remaining loyal to the mother country and those who wanted to break off relations and declare the colonies as an independent nation. We were never under any tyranny as we understand it today. The colonies were a great financial burden on Great Britain and they logically thought the colonists who had benefited from being a part of the British Empire should pay their fair share of taxes. They were a bit clumsy on how they tried to go about it at first but they backed off and tried to reason with the colonists to no avail. Eventually, those who supported an armed rebellion against the Crown won out and there was a war with England to gain our independence. So our National Founding Myth turns out to be just that… a myth.

      2. While I understand your point about the American Revolution, I think that the gun rights and protection against the government grew out the Civil War rather than the Revolutionary War. The South has been paranoid about the government ever since they broke away to defend their right to own other human beings. The gun culture grew out of this aspect of our history – coupled with the oddity of Southern Honor (there have been a few studies on this, but can’t recall the researcher’s name).

        1. That was my thought too. The South has it’s rebellious grudge against the Union. Add to that the West’s independent streak and nearness to the frontier spirit. There seem to be many strains to the origin of gun culture.

        2. You may be right. I’ve never lived in the south, and don’t have any particular understanding of the Zeitgeist down there.

          Although, the Civil War would not exactly lead one to believe that insurrection can be successful…

    3. I don’t think most of them have visions of bitterly resisting an invader to the last, though some may entertain “Red Dawn”-style visions, but they do believe their weapons protect them from the evil Federal Government. What’s worse is that they were allowed to prove it to their own satisfaction in the disgraceful affair of Cliven Bundy who last time I checked was still illegally grazing his cows on BLM lands for free…

  12. Well, the topic of gun control always come back after a shooting. However, I do not understand the “science”.

    I am not saying I am against gun control. There may be good arguments in favour of it (reducing accidents, say) and it may be the sort of things a modern prosperous nation does. It may also be good “security theatre” for politicians. What I do not get is how it would prevent any “shooting”.

    As I see it, the actors of the “shooting” are well prepared men and women who have a plan. As the relative inefficiency of the “war on drug” proves (insert here a gazillion of other arguments such as the weapons already in circulation, the failure of alcool prohibition, etc) — one can obtain heavily controlled things. And so our well prepared men and women would buy and get the arms they needed — and the shootings would happen all the same.
    Sure, it may take them a bit longer, it may be a bit harder and riskier — but they clearly are embracing a “hard and risky” lifestyle. So all you get is “longer”.

    Another argument is Switzerland. Around 30% of young men you cross on the street have a military assault weapon at home, and they’re trained to use them. Bullets are rather easy to come by (before 2008 bullets were kept home as well). However, as far as I know, there are comparatively a lot less shootings in Switzerland than in the US, despite the wide availability of military weapons.

    So there, can someone explain how you get from “strict gun control” to “less shooting by prepared maniacs” in the real world?

    1. It’s not the number of attacks that’s the problem – it’s the ability of the attackers to kill in large numbers because they have such ridiculously overpowered weapons.
      This morning some guy stabbed three people in London whilst shouting ‘this is for Syria’ – if he’d lived in America he’d have been able to kill as many people as his ammunition and accuracy allowed. As it is no-one’s dead or even seriously injured.

      As for Switzerland – I don’t know why the number of mass killings is lower there than the US. Nevertheless I don’t think it’s a good example: whilst the US firearms-related death-rate is admittedly three times higher than Switzerland’s, Switzerland’s firearms-related death-rate is around ELEVEN times higher than the UK’s.

      1. In Switzerland one can not just run out and buy a gun. You apply to buy a specific gun, and you get a real background check. There are no loopholes, you can’t just go down to the next state and get one at the local gun show, or buy one second hand without a background check. There are magazine capacities. You must belong to a shooting club and/or range for certain firearms.

        Firearms must be locked up when no directly under care and control, with ammunition locked up separately. Which is why they don’t have toddlers shooting people every week.

        In other words, Switzerland is the opposite of the USA, and an example of how rational laws can reduce needless deaths. Yes, they have a lot of guns, but citizens are restricted by gun control regulations that prevent many of the needless firearm deaths seen in the USA.

        When people say shootings would not have been prevented, it’s simply not true. The (*&(*& person who killed his mother then killed a bunch little children killed his mother with a firearm that he should not have had. His mother left it out of the safe, and he used it to kill her. He then took the key off her warm bleeding corpse, and got the rest of the firearms.

        This was a disturbed young man who had a large poster sized Excel printout of the murder scores of serial killers on his bedroom wall.

        In any other country a parent would not have thought it was a good idea to teach him how to shoot, or keep firearms in the house with him.

        But in the USA parents give rifles to 5 year old’s, and let 9 year old’s play with sub-machineguns, and get cranky if you suggest they shouldn’t leave a loaded firearm in the drawer in the hall next to the toddlers room. And there is much more. The simple fact is, many Americans have a bad, dangerous attitude about firearms.

        Several school shootings have been by teens who got guns that were not secured properly.
        But in most states there is no requirement to secure guns. In others, no real penalty.

        In Switzerland, firearm training in mandatory if you want a firearm. As it is in Canada (or you have to pass an exam). One of the most important changes in these other countries is a concerted effort to ensure firearm owners have an attitude of respect for the danger posed by firearms, and of the responsibility a firearm owner has.

        US firearm laws are full of holes, and deliberately so. A good start would be to start filling them.

        1. What a fantastic post

          It sounds to me, that the model in Switzerland, is what the Second Amendment SHOULD look like.

        2. Fully agree. Making guns totally illegal and unavailable is probably not realistic. But, the Swiss and Canadian model of gun control could eventually be adopted in the U.S. and save many lives.

    2. Strict gun control is unlikely to stop shooting by prepared maniacs.

      However it is the epistemology of owning a gun that gun owners lack any introspection. Why? There are no prudent reasons to own one.

      Pinker makes a very good argument for the point that we live progressively in an age where violence that is predictable has decreased to very low levels. What remains in all of our futures is violence that is both random and prepared.

  13. In fact, 2A is simply poorly written. Its language explicitly recognizes an existing right, a right the amendment declares “shall not be infringed.” The founders were not prescient. They could not imagine what we have to deal with today. But, as the NY Times said this morning, “It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.”

    We must legislate regulation of the right, that’s all–and most of the American populace, by far (including most gun owners), favor all kinds of stringent regulation. We can do it. Get corporate money out of elections, and it will happen.

    1. There is an amending formula – use it. If a regulating amendment passes it is because most of the people of the USA agree. If it fails to pass it is because the majority do not agree. That’s how this constitutional republic is supposed to work.

    2. The u.s. is the only nation four founded on the principle that the state and elected officials do not have exclusive or extra rights that are denied to the citizens. The state does have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force but only in retaliation to the threat or initiation of force. All other nations are founded on divine or elite authority that gifts rights to citizens that can be taken away are anytime.

  14. I pulled this quote from an article in NYT this morning:
    “It’ll gradually dawn on people,” said Bruce Jones, a former United Nations official and the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, “that we’ll be living for a long time with the possibility of low-level attacks that can never be predicted and can rarely be prevented.”

    1. Randomness makes guns useless for protection. If someone stormed into my office or my children’s classroom, protection would be too late for me or my kids (even if I had a gun or my kids did).

      Unfortunately, the John Waynes of the world do not know statistics. They like in a non-extensive world, like they will be the ones to beat the odds.

      It is a bittersweet hope that technologies will get so good (at killing) that the perpetrators will be more drone like and not capable of being retaliated against by a gun. This will make gun owners think, well I need that new toy because my gun is no longer effective. But what is that new toy, a 10,000 ft hovering drone, a robodog, a nano drug, etc?

      A single coffee barista could set up on a corner of New York city and poison hundreds, if not a thousand people in one morning with polonium…unpleasant death in weeks. Gun owners response: well guns were not involved with those deaths so clearly guns are not to blame, never thinking that the threats they perceive protection from are not gun protectable.

      1. Exactly… people fantasize they can ‘save the day’ because they can’t separate Hollywood movies from reality.

  15. Being pro gun control is not anti gun, it’s the irrational belief that the most deadly weapons should be tightly controlled by the exalted state and their increasingly militarized thug police force who have the worst record of epic mass slaughter that dwarves the body count of all lone psychos and terrorists combined. To be truly pro gun control, you must un-invent firearms. Get to work. Good luck.

    1. You can replicate humans with no desire to own a gun, it’s called raising children with no interest in firearms.

      Sodas and cigarettes are everywhere. I do not use them. I am sure they are awesome, just like owning a gun.

      There are also people in America who are working to make better weapons, one’s that make the guns that people own less effective at protection.

    2. “Worst record of epic mass slaughter.” Could you please provide stats about all the mass slaughters committed by the police? We’ll start with the working definition we have for civilians…4 or more deaths in a single attack. Then we’ll move in to assessing if those police mass homicides amount to more killings than are committed by civilians.

  16. In my opinion, the strongest argument for initial intent is that the 2nd amendment was to protect the people from the government’s necessary militia: “Sorry guys, we have to have an army, so you get to keep your guns in case things go badly and the army tries to take over.” Why in the world would the government need to allow everyone to have guns in order to form a militia? We would just need it to let the militia members own guns.

    Which is not to say that this makes any sense whatsoever in modern times. The entire idea of citizen groups banding together to fight the US Army is laughable. So we should repeal the thing as being uselessly anachronistic. I doubt we’re much in danger of the government forcing us to quarter troops either.

    My concern is that a lot of effort is being applied to this problem in the wrong place. Similar to the way that people rail against the interpretation of the 1st amendment in regard to Citizens United. I think the court was right. I also think that’s not the kind of country we want to have.

    Let’s change the constitution, not keep arguing about what it means!

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