Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren tells us how to control guns in America:

April 23, 2023 • 10:50 am

While there are those who say that trying to control guns, and thus gun violence, is a futile job in America, so wedded to our firearms are we, most of us want some controls over laws that allow assault weapons, concealed carry, open carry, no need for background checks, and so on. I’m one of these. In fact, I’d be happy if America went to the British or Scottish system of gun control—or one even stricter.

But this seems nearly impossible in a country where so many people love their guns, and especially where the courts repeatedly interpret the Second Amendment as allowing people to carry rifles into grocery stores. (The best article I know of describing the misinterpretation of the Second Amendment was one by Garry Wills in the NYRB in 1995 (free online). Here’s Wills’s last paragraph:

The recent effort to find a new meaning for the Second Amendment comes from the failure of appeals to other sources as a warrant for the omnipresence of guns of all types in private hands. Easy access to all these guns is hard to justify in pragmatic terms, as a matter of social policy. Mere common law or statute may yield to common sense and specific cultural needs. That is why the gun advocates appeal, above pragmatism and common sense, to a supposed sacred right enshrined in a document Americans revere. Those advocates love to quote Sanford Levinson, who compares the admitted “social costs” of adhering to gun rights with the social costs of observing the First Amendment.

We have to put up with all kinds of bad talk in the name of free talk. So we must put up with our world-record rates of homicide, suicide, and accidental shootings because, whether we like it or not, the Constitution tells us to. Well, it doesn’t.

Well, it’s been 28 years since that article came out, and gun laws are even laxer and mass shootings are now a weekly occurrence. While I do what I can by way of signing petitions and writing and the like, in today’s America there seems to be no practical way to control guns.

But here comes Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren of the NYT, doing her weekly shtick, which is to say what’s bloody obvious and makes people feel good, while at the same time extolling her Christian faith—and accomplishing nothing.  To her credit, she is a staunch advocate of gun control. But her question in the article below (click screenshot to read) is weird: why should Christians do things differently about gun control than anybody else? The answer, I suppose, comes at the end: Christians, following Jesus, are supposed to be peaceful and loving people, and therefore should control guns and the carnage they produce. She fails to give a reason, though, why Christians differ from secular humanists or any empathic people in this respect. She simply quotes the Bible.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Click the screenshot to read:

I will be brief.  Here are the three things Warren things we need to control guns. What’s bizarre is that she pretends these solutions are somehow new.

1.) We need to change American society and the laws. 

To reduce gun violence in the United States, we need legal change and we need social change. Both take time. And both demand a level of unity and sustained attention that is unusual in our day. Reducing gun deaths in America will require focus, persistence and cooperation over years and decades from people across a broad swath of political and ideological communities.

It is unlikely that guns will ever be banned in this country, but there are legal steps we can take to ensure responsible gun ownership. We need any and all laws that can make a difference: restrictions on the types of guns that can be sold (such as banning AR-15-style weapons), requirements of licensing, insurance and safety courses for gun ownership (as we do with driver’s licenses and vehicles), universal background checks, red flag laws, storage requirements and stricter age limits for gun ownership. We need to make it harder to get guns, which makes it easier to ensure guns stay in trustworthy hands.

DUH! It’s like nobody ever thought of those things, eh?

2.) The social change requires bipartisan consensus that gun proliferation is bad. 

We desperately need unity across the aisle to change the culture around guns. At the very least, given the needless destruction guns are causing each day, reasonable conservatives and progressives can surely agree that we need to approach firearms with sobriety, concern, maturity and restraint. We can all unite against foolishness, recklessness and political posturing when it comes to firearms, stand against the glamorization of guns and denounce any cavalier treatment of them.

Has she ever heard of the Republican Party? Does she have any idea of the schism between those who love guns and those who despise them? What is a “reasonable” conservative when it comes to guns? And if this consensus is so obvious, why hasn’t it happened?

The paragraph above is anodyne, saying what’s completely obvious. Of course you need bipartisan consensus to change the laws! And of course it’s not feasible to create all this change now. (It may be impossible to create hardly any changes in gun laws.)

Finally, it’s Time for Faith:

3.) We need religion to help us get rid of guns. Yes, you heard it right. Of course Warren has to drag Jesus in here as a solution.

Furthermore, to achieve the social and cultural changes necessary to reduce gun violence, we need individuals and communities of faith — not just progressive people of faith, but all people of faith — to stand against the idolatry of guns in America.

Why not “all people” instead of “all people of faith”? Does she realize that Christians are among the most avid gun nuts in America? Is she somehow evoking the Bible and seeing that people worship guns as they used to worship golden calves, and that we need to see that those who worship God should be the most eager to abandon gun “idolatry”? She manages to note that black churches have “led the way in a fight against gun violence,” though I’m not sure it’s true—her evidence is anecdotal. But I’m prepared to believe her given that blacks are by far disproportional victims of gun violence in America.

In the end, amongst the homilies and bromides, Warren seems to be saying that Christians should be leading the fight for gun control because the Bible tells Christians to be peaceful and loving, and if you’re like that, you don’t want guns:

As a priest and as a Christian, I have long believed that Christians are called to love our neighbors and seek, in the words of the biblical book of Isaiah, the “welfare of the city.” To do so, we must understand our context, our culture and the needs of our particular time and place. What does it mean to be peacemakers, to love our neighbors and to affirm the value of human life in this moment? The unavoidable conclusion is that we in America’s churches can no longer claim to worship the “prince of peace” while tolerating the preventable obliteration of America’s children.

I guess it meant something different to be a peacemaker back in the days of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the extirpation of Central Americans. And the Bible is hardly a textbook of neighborly love and peace. The Old Testament repeatedly describes the God-approved decimation of entire tribes, not to mention the killing of individuals for making fun of bald men, and so on. Re the New Testament, in Matthew 10:34-36, the Prince of Peace says this:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

Now liberal Christians interpret this, maybe correctly, as saying that Jesus realized his message would divide people. But it certainly doesn’t paint the Prince of Peace as someone keen to reach across the aisle. In truth, Warren is doing what liberal Christians always do: insert their secular values into the Bible and then pretend that they came from the Bible. You don’t have to be religious to favor gun control.

Why do they pay this woman good money to churn out this pap every Sunday. Do they think her words are profound? Worse, does she think her words are profound?  This stuff would never get by in a regular op-ed column, which would be spiked on the grounds of EXTREME TRITENESS.

A two-time participant in mass shootings speaks out

February 14, 2023 • 10:45 am

UPDATE: Jackie has been identified in a big NBC News story as Jackie Matthews, and is quoted extensively. You can also here a short interview with her (also on NBC) here.


I got an email and a Tik Tok posting from reader Tom, whose notes below explain the short Tik Tok video attached. It was made by Jackie, a friend of Tom’s daughter. Imagine being involved in the Sandy Hook shooting (where 26 people were killed) and the MSU shooting!  I surely agree with Jackie that thoughts and prayers are useless in such situations; we need legislation. We seem to have mass shootings nearly every day, and yet restriction of access to guns is not happening—states, in fact, are loosening gun restrictions.

From Tom:

My daughter graduated from Michigan State in December.  She spent last night and this morning talking and texting friends still on campus.  One of her friends was locked down in a janitor’s closet with three other students for 5 1/2 hours until released by police at 1:30 am.  To hear the fear and sorrow in my daughter’s voice as she spoke to her friends broke my heart.  Please find below a TikTok video of one of her friends, Jackie, speaking from lockdown across the street from one of the shooting sites.  Jackie is also a survivor of Sandy Hook.
I have permission to post the video (which is public) and the explanation above.
Click on the bottom of the video to turn the sound on.

#duet with @jmattttt #spartanstrong

♬ original sound – Jmattttt

The injurious ruling of the Supreme Court on guns

December 1, 2022 • 12:30 pm

I didn’t really follow the Supreme Court case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, but the 2022 case was settled in favor of less restrictive gun laws—and by a vote of 6-3 (ruling here), with the dissenters being Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  Here’s the Wikipedia summary that brought me up to speed:

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. ___ (2022), abbreviated NYSRPA v. Bruen and also known as NYSRPA II or Bruen to distinguish it from the 2020 case, is a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court related to the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The case concerned the constitutionality of the 1911 Sullivan Act, a New York State law requiring applicants for an unrestricted license to carry a concealed pistol on their person to show “proper cause”, or a special need distinguishable from the general public, in their application.

In a 6–3 decision, the majority ruled that New York’s law was unconstitutional, and ruled that the ability to carry a pistol in public was a constitutional right under the Second Amendment. The majority ruled that states are allowed to enforce “shall-issue” permitting, where applicants for concealed carry permits must satisfy certain objective criteria, such as passing a background check, but that “may-issue” systems that utilize “arbitrary” evaluations of need made by local authorities are unconstitutional.

Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion, which rested a semi-“originalist” decision that the Sullivan Act violated on the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. First, the Amendments:


“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.”

Relevant bits of the Fourteenth (section 1):

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

Thomas interpreted these in two ways. The Second Amendment allows people to keep and bear arms, and the Fourteenth Amendment says that states can’t infringe on the Constitutional right to do so, i.e., it can’t make unreasonably restrictive gun laws. At least that’s what I get from this part of Thomas’s decision in the case.

The burden then falls on respondents to show that New York’s proper-cause requirement is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. To do so, respondents appeal to a variety of historical sources from the late 1200s to the early 1900s. But when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, not all history is created equal. “Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them.” Heller, 554 U. S., at 634–635. The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791; the Fourteenth in 1868. Historical evidence that long predates or postdates either time may not illuminate the scope of the right. With these principles in mind, the Court concludes that respondents have failed to meet their burden to identify an American tradition justifying New York’s proper-cause requirement.

Steven Lubet, the Williams Memorial Professor Emeritus and Director Emeritus, Bartlit Center for Trial Advocacy at Northwestern University’s School of Law, has a new article in The Hill about this decision, which he claims is promoting a “homicide pact”. Click to read:

Thomas really does seem gun-crazy; as Lubet notes, he’s been pushing a decision like this for years. Here’s some of the fallout (quotes from Lubet indented):

It looks as though there will be no end to the fallout from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s majority opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen holding that gun control regulations are “presumptively” unconstitutional unless they are sufficiently “analogous” to a 19th century law. The Court’s requirement of a close historical comparator has turned out to be almost impossible to satisfy, causing lower courts to invalidate or question otherwise reasonable laws prohibiting the obliteration of guns’ serial numbers and firearm possession by convicted felons or domestic abusers.

Most recently, a judge held that the absence of a “historical tradition of sufficiently analogous regulations” limited New York’s ability to restrict bringing concealed weapons onto others’ private property.

Lubet brings up the issue of mass shootings, often with legally obtained guns, that now seem to happen a couple of times per week:

It did not have to be that way. In 2008, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an “individual right” to possess firearms. Two years later, the Court made it clear that the right to “keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense” is applicable to the states as well as the federal government.

Those decisions still left the scope of the Second Amendment right to be determined. In other circumstances, even fundamental constitutional rights may be subject to valid limitations when the government can currently demonstrate a sufficiently “compelling interest” to survive “strict scrutiny.”

A similar approach to the Second Amendment would have allowed lower courts to at least consider the value of existing firearms laws in relation to the constraints they impose on gun owners. But even that modest evaluation has been foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s command, as one judge put it, “that a gun regulation’s constitutionality hinge solely on the historical inquiry [as the] only consideration.”

The Court’s embrace of an exclusively historical method of constitutional review represented an ideological triumph for Justice Thomas, who had been pushing for it in a series of dissenting opinions for years.

I’ve always disliked a hard-nosed kind of “originalism” as espoused by Scalia (and now by his right-wing pal Thomas), for times have changed so much since the late 18th century that it’s impossible to tell what those who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights would think about issues that didn’t exist then. For example, in 1995 Garry Wills made a convincing case (at least to me) that the Second Amendment was indeed there to allow militias but not private citizens like Lauren Boebert to pack heat in public, much less pack it concealed and without much scrutiny for a license.

Yes, cases have to be interpreted in light of the Constitution, but when cases arise that can’t be judged using those old standards, one has to rely on rationality and on more recent thinking. Because Thomas won’t do that, he has indeed signed onto a “homicide pact.” Lubet:

Thomas has ultimately succeeded at a long game, but his victory comes at a severe cost. Under Bruen’s holding, a gun regulation must be invalidated unless a court can locate “a well-established and representative historical analogue” dating to the 19th century. Reasoning from a silent record is perverse. The absence of an historical counterpart does not mean that a particular firearm limitation would have been considered unconstitutional by the framers, but only that they found it unnecessary, if they thought of it at all.

One judge has already ruled that domestic abusers cannot be prohibited from gun possession because there were no such laws in an age when domestic battery was regarded as an unprosecutable family matter. And high-capacity magazines were unknown, and would have been thought impossible, in the era of muzzle-loading muskets.

There is no logical, sensible or moral reason to confine today’s gun laws to the provisions favored by 19th century property owners, other than a dogmatic commitment to so-called originalism, no matter how much carnage follows. In 1949, Justice Robert Jackson famously cautioned, “there is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.” Justice Thomas has at last assembled a majority that now appears bent on turning the Second Amendment into a homicide pact.

I realize, of course, that the brief of the Supreme Court is to see if a recent law follows the Supreme Law—the stipulations of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. What I don’t know is how the Supreme Court should rule when there’s an issue (like abortion) that wasn’t envisioned by the Founders.  Usually they make in their decision on some trumped-up Constitutional issue like “right to privacy”. But for me, if the Second Amendment says the right to bear arms is there to allow a “well regulated militia,” then the reason for having guns is therefor all to see. And I know that Lauren Boebert is not a militia.

A congresswoman (oy!), not a militia

How useful are guns in civilian hands for defending against “active shooters”? Not very much.

June 23, 2022 • 9:15 am

The common defense of gun ownership by private individuals is that “what stops armed bad guys is armed good guys”. (This is a quote from Ted Cruz). Such is the defense for much private gun ownership, and also now for the ridiculous movement to arm teachers to deter or kill school shooters. Of course if you include police and security guards as “armed good guys,” the mantra has more credibility, but the mantra is often used to justify gun ownership by private citizens.

A new article in the New York Times (click on headline below) tests whether the Cruz Mantra is a verity, at least as far as “active shootings” are concerned.

It turns out that the answer is that the “conventional wisdom” is wrong for active shooters. It’s also wrong for home invasions in general, as private gun ownership involves accidental deaths, or suicides, far more often than it stops (by shooting) individual altercations between innocent citizens and “bad guys”. But today we’re talking about “active shooters”.

What is an active shooter? The paper, drawing from data collected by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State, collaborating with the FBI, defines active shooter attacks this way:

[Active shooter attacks are those] in which one or more shooters killed or attempted to kill multiple unrelated people in a populated place.

And they’re increasing—currently up to more than one a week. Here’s a figure from the NYT (all figures from the article) showing the number of active shooter attacks per year from 2011 to 2021. (According to the Washington Post, we’ve had 250 already in 2022; although their figures are for “mass shootings”, these seem the same as “active shootings”).

According to the data, there have been 433 active shooter attacks in the US from 2000-2021. What the figure below shows is how they ended, divided into two main groups: attacks that ended before police arrived (249) and those that ended after police arrived (184).Each of the two main divisions is further subdivided.

Click to enlarge:


Here are the lessons (bold headings and indented stuff are taken from the paper):

a.) Police officers shoot or physically subdue the shooter in less than a third of attacks. ”

Most events end before the police arrive, but police officers are usually the ones to end an attack if they get to the scene while it is ongoing.

Hunter Martaindale, director of research at the ALERRT Center, said the group has used the data to train law enforcement that “When you show up and this is going on, you are going to be the one to solve this problem.”

The average response time for police to get to the scene is very fast: three minutes. But this doesn’t mean that the cops themselves nearly always end the attack. Very often the shootings end when the attacker simply leaves the scene (not because he’s being shot at, kills himself, surrenders, or is subdued without guns.  These add up to 65% of total active shootings.

b.) The rate of suicide is extraordinarily high in these events. 110 of the 433 events ended with the attacker killing himself (there are a few women who carry out these attacks, but nearly all are by men). This is most likely either via “suicide by cop” or the result of a realization by the attacker that he’s going to be either caught or shot.

c.) When attacks are stopped by bystanders rather than security guards, cops, or off-duty cops, they are ended more often by physical force than by shootings.  Of 54 cases of attacks stopped by citizen bystanders, 42 of them—78%—were stopped by subduing rather than shooting the perp. Further, when attacks are stopped by shooting before police arrived, about half of them (10/22, or 45%) are stopped by security guards or off-duty cops than by citizens.

d.) When attacks are ended by the shooting of the attacker, the vast majority of time it’s by a police officer, on or off duty, or a security guard.  The number of attacks shopped by shooting the perp were 120. Of these, 12, or 10%, were stopped by citizen shooters. But 12 is only 2.7% of all active shootings that were ended.

Conclusion (from me): When mass shootings are stopped, only a very small percentage are stopped via shooting by armed citizens who are not cops or security guards. And attacks stopped by private citizens were most likely to be stopped by subduing him than by shooting him (42/54, or 78%; this drops to 66% if you include “bystander” cops or security guards.

But taking all the ways that active shootings could end, including the shooter leaving the scene (most are captured later), suicide, or subduing the shooter, only 2.8% of them are stopped by private citizens shooting perps (12/433). Ergo, Ted Cruz is wrong: in these mass shootings, at least, it’s not the “armed good guys” (implying private citizens) but other forces, tactics, and people (including cops) who stop the shootings. 

I have no objection to cops or security guards carrying guns; I do have objections to private citizens carrying or owning guns. In most cases these lead to the death of innocent people more often than to the extirpation of “bad guys.”

I’ll end with a couple of quotes from the article:

“It’s direct, indisputable, empirical evidence that this kind of common claim that ‘the only thing that stops a bad guy with the gun is a good guy with the gun’ is wrong,” said Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama, who has studied mass shootings for more than a decade. “It’s demonstrably false, because often they are stopping themselves.”

. . . But armed bystanders shooting attackers was not common in the data — 22 cases out of 433. In 10 of those, the “good guy” was a security guard or an off-duty police officer.

“The actual data show that some of these kind of heroic, Hollywood moments of armed citizens taking out active shooters are just extraordinarily rare,” Mr. Lankford said.

In fact, having more than one armed person at the scene who is not a member of law enforcement can create confusion and carry dire risks. An armed bystander who shot and killed an attacker in 2021 in Arvada, Colo., was himself shot and killed by the police, who mistook him for the gunman.

Now remember that this post (and the article) is about “active shooters,” which seem roughly equivalent to “mass shooters”. We’re not talking about home invasions or private confrontations between people. And at least in this case, almost no benefit is derived from arming citizens. When you compare that to the down side of arming citizens, the Ted Cruz defense falls to pieces.

9 mm vs. AR-15

May 27, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I knew that the shooter in the Texas school massacre used a semiautomatic weapon, but just found out it was the AR-15, which has been profiled a couple of times on the television show “60 minutes”.  Below, for example, is a demonstration by a retired Army general showing its power. While the general thinks the rifle should be available to gun collectors or gun aficionados (I don’t), he worries about “what happens when it gets into the hands of the wrong people.” Indeed!

The AR-15 is said to be “the most popular rifle in America.” It’s also a special favorite for mass shooters (it was also used in the Sandy Hook massacre)—and for good reason. (Have a read of this CNN article.)

Remember that a “semiautomatic” weapon like the AR-15 enables you to fire a shot each time you pull the trigger, as it uses the force of the previous firing to eject the casing and reload. According to Wikipedia, “assault weapons” are a subspecies of semiautomatic weapons with extra features, like “a detachable magazine, a pistol grip, and sometimes other features, such as a vertical forward gripflash suppressor, or barrel shroud.”

This clip is from 2018.

And here’s an exegesis of what was probably the piece above, comparing the AR-15 with a handgun often used in crimes, the 9 mm.  The damage done by the AR-15 is immense and scary, with a small entrance hole and then a huge exit hole clearly demonstrated by the experiment with a hog leg.

If you want to stop a perp, you don’t need an AR-15, but it sure is good for mass shootings. I favor strict weapons bans with minor exceptions, but even if you think you need a weapon for self-defense (something that happened 589 times last year compared to about 12,000 homicides), you don’t need a gun like this.  Gun control, which appears dead in the water (Manchin, for example, favors the 60-vote filibuster rule for it in the Senate), won’t even take on weapons like this.

(This appears to be a clip derived from the segment above, but shows different stuff).

Reader Ken sent an update:

Daniel Defense, the maker of the AR-15 style assault rifle used in the recent elementary school shootings in Uvalde, TX, has decided not to open its booth at this Memorial Day weekend’s annual meeting of the National Rifle Association in Houston, TX. (In promotional videos, Daniel Defense bills its version of the AR-15 — the DDM4 V7 — as “a perfect rifle for everybody.”)

I guess Daniel Defense figures it can do without the advertising since, when a similar AR-15 style rifle was used in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the rifle’s sales skyrocketed all on their own.

A new solution to the gun issue

May 26, 2022 • 9:00 am

Everybody’s pondering how to stop mass shootings, including tightening gun restrictions, and of course nobody has a solution. Here’s one offered by Phyllis Chesler, whom I hadn’t heard of before. She’s apparently quite a well known second-wave feminist, and (relevant to this piece) strongly “pro choice”. Here’s how Wikipedia describes her:

[Chesler is an] American writer, psychotherapist, and professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies at the College of Staten Island (CUNY).[1][2] She is a renowned second-wave feminist psychologist and the author of 18 books, including the best-sellers Women and Madness (1972), With Child: A Story of Motherhood (1979), and An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (2013). Chesler has written extensively about topics such as gender, mental illness, divorce and child custody, surrogacy, second-wave feminism, pornography, prostitution, incest, and violence against women.

Malgorzata, who sent me this link, says that Chesler has been somewhat demonized because she’s a defender of Israel as well as a a critic of the misogyny of Islam. But these aren’t the topics here: it’s gun violence (she brings in abortion at the end). Chesler has a novel solution to the problem of mass shootings. It may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but given Chesler’s history it’s not that likely.

Here’s her piece from the New English Review (click on the screenshot to read):

Here are some quotes from her piece, which some will claim is anti-male, but really, you can’t argue with the data. Her quotes are indented and the bolding is hers):

President Biden focused both on the Gun Lobby and on God in his speech at the White House in response to the latest horror—the mass shooting of nineteen children by an 18-year-old Hispanic man/boy who, we’ve just been told, had failed to graduate from the Uvalde High School. That was what he was allegedly arguing with his grandmother about when he shot her down.

I guess our President did not read my piece about the single most important variable which is invariably always missing, never mentioned, when it comes to mass shooting, namely, that 99.9% of mass murderers are all male.

. . . President Biden: Where is the funding for mental health that our country needs so desperately? Chirlane McCray: What did you do with the three billion dollars allocated for mental health services? Clearly, nothing much, given all the epidemic of shootings on New York City streets and in our subways allegedly by mentally ill men.

The male ego. The supposedly male thin skin. The inability of some men to absorb abuse, frustration, failure, or disappointment without violently turning it against someone else. Yes, it is a real problem.

Now I tend to bridle when I see men lumped together and dissed as a group (one rankling example is the “old white male” trope). But Chesler isn’t saying that all males are potential murderers: rather,  that there’s something about the male psyche that leads to a higher proportion of mass shooters (and, I suspect, all shooters) among males. And she’s right, whether that “something” be evolutionary, cultural, or both. (I suspect the risk-taking behavior of males, combined with their innately higher aggression are some evolutionary aspects of this situation. And of course “macho”-ness is culturally encouraged in men.)

And here’s her solution, which is funny because of the parallel with anti-abortion activitists:

Sometimes a very good idea crosses my desk. Written by an unknown genius, and passed along by one Nev Schulman, please allow me to share this with you.

Our Anonymous Genius suggests the following:

“How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion—mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from a doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence…Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.”

Of course this is sarcastic, but Chesler has a point.


From NPR: Joan L. Roth/Courtesy of Palgrave Macmillan

Two ways of looking at gun violence

May 25, 2022 • 11:00 am

After every mass shooting—and mass shootings constitute only 1.2% of all American deaths due to gun violence—we experience a brief period of self-awareness and self-assessment, and then discourse gets back to normal. Everyone jaws for a week about the solutions (some even offer them),but in the end the status quo is back with us. This is exemplified in a story from The Onion, appearing after the Las Vegas massacre (click on screenshot to read); it’s one of the best pieces the sarcastic site ever produced.

There are generally two kinds of reactions by well-meaning people after a mass shooting: fixing American attitudes towards guns, and fixing American attitudes towards other people. Today’s post gives examples of both solutions.

First, though, let’s recognize, as I noted above, that mass shootings are but a small fraction of all gun-related deaths. What we most need to deal with are not the attention-grabbing mass shootings, but the much larger number of homicides, suicides, and accidental gun deaths.  The Pew Research Center reports that in 2020, 45,222 died in gun-related incidents in the U.S.  Depending on your definition of “mass shooting”, those killed in mass-shooting incidents range from 38 to 513: 0.08% to 1.1% of all deaths. (I’m not trying to minimize the psychological effect and grief caused by mass shootings, of course, but trying to emphasize that if you want to save lives, these events are a smaller part of the problem than most people think.)

This figure from Nicholas Kristof’s new and illustrated op-ed in the NYT, “How to reduce shootings,” gives an overview of the problem:

This shows several things, the most striking being that the NRA and other gun owners’ justification for having guns (protecting yourself from bad guys) is unjustified: only 589 killed others in justified self-defense compared to 11,760 homicides (I assume the latter don’t include “mass shootings” but are one-off events, including accidents.)

Further, death by suicide is by far the largest form of gun-related mortality. I will assume that if guns weren’t easily available, this number would drop. (Shooting is the easiest, most reliable, and one of the least messy ways of doing yourself in. That’s why it’s the go-to way of killing yourself.)

It’s hard not to conclude that the lax gun laws of America are largely responsible for the death rate. You can say that we have more “bad guys,” and it’s the people who kill, not the guns (viz., the NRA), but then how does that explain our huge number of suicides? Only easy access to guns (or a special incidence of mental illness in America) explains that.

Here are some figures included in Kristof’s piece (illustrations are by Bill Marsh:

Further, there’s a positive correlation among states between the laxity of gun laws and per capita gun deaths:

This is a correlation, of course, not necessarily a causation, but the correlation is strong, and one would have to posit that sociological factors in states like Kansas and Idaho (more bad people per capita, for example), are the factor producing this. As Kristof notes,

Some of you will protest that the immediate aftermath of a shooting is too soon to talk about guns, or that it is disrespectful to the dead to use such a tragedy to score political points. Yet more Americans have died from gun violence, including suicides, since 1970 (about 1.4 million) than in all the wars in American history going back to the Revolutionary War (about 1.3 million). And it’s not just gang-members: In a typical year, more pre-schoolers are shot dead in America (about 75) than police officers are.

He adds that another factor supportsthe ubiquity of guns as causal here:

For skeptics who think that gun laws don’t make a difference, consider what happened in two states, Missouri and Connecticut. In 1995, Connecticut tightened licensing laws, while in 2007 Missouri eased gun laws.

The upshot? After tightening gun laws, firearm homicide rates dropped 40 percent in Connecticut. And after Missouri eased gun laws, gun homicide rates rose 25 percent.

Granted, this is an anecdote, but it’s surely worth following up. (To do that, of course, we need more states loosening as well as tightening gun laws.)

Presumably because of the futility of trying to enact gun-control legislation in the U.S. (even though most Americans favor some kind of gun control), Kristof instead floats a “public health” approach: controlling not the number of guns, but who gets to buy a gun. That, of course, would be helpful, but a lot of deaths come from shootings by sane people in bad situations or accidental shootings by children and the like. And plenty of suicides have no formal record of mental illness that would bar them from owning a gun—even if such laws were widespread.

Here are Kristof’s solutions.

a.) Regulate guns like we regulate cars.

Gun enthusiasts often protest: Cars kill about as many people as guns, and we don’t ban them! No, but automobiles are actually a model for the public health approach I’m suggesting.

We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them — and limit access to them — so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful, reducing the death rate per 100 million miles driven to less than one-seventh of what it was in 1946.

Kristof then gives a list of the kind of regulations that reduced automobile deaths (seat belts, child safety seats, car safety ratings, etc.). And yes, they worked, but we own cars because we need them. Except for the army and police, Americans don’t need guns—except perhaps in the case of farmers or those who insist on target practice. (Even then, guns can be kept in lockers at the shooting sites.)

My solution, were I King of the U.S. (god help you if that were to occur!) would be to start by adhering to the UK model of gun control, where pistols and automatic weapons are banned, and both guns and ammunition must be licensed by the police before you can have them. (I’d go even farther, but we won’t get into that). How many people really need a gun as opposed to those who really need a car?

More suggestions from Kristof:

b.) The liberal approach is ineffective. Use a public health approach instead.  By this Kristof euphemistically says “gun safety” rather than “gun control” since the latter sounds more draconian. Here are his suggestions:

These are useful changes, of course, but won’t do much about suicides, and I wonder how much they’ll reduce homicides as opposed to implementing draconian laws against gun ownership. In Kristof’s favor, however, is the palpable fact that most Americans do favor tightening gun restrictions:

Note that although gun owners tend to be a bit laxer on these bans and stipulations, more than 50% still favor them. And yes, those bans have been enacted in some states. But remember that the 18-year-old who committed yesterday’s Texas school slaughter bought his gun(s) legally.

c.) Better training about using guns. Training about how to store guns and ammo will surely reduce gun deaths, particularly those caused when kids get hold of guns. But somehow this “better education” plan sounds ineffectual. For one thing, it does nothing to prevent suicides. And the general problem with training, as Kristof points out, is that a very high percentage of safety trainers both encourage gun ownership and gun carrying, as well as encouraging people to join “gun rights groups.”

There’s no doubt that implementing most of Kristof’s suggestions will reduce deaths, and even reducing one death is a good. But even as a package they seem to me a suboptimal way to solve the problem.The best way is, as I’ve suggested, going to a draconian gun-ownership system like the UK’s. You’ll tell me that’s impossible, and you’re probably right. (One can dream, however.) But solutions that have been offered only nibble away at the problem, and will still leave us near the top of all countries in gun-related deaths. Once again, Kristof says that if we can make cars safe, we can make guns safer;

But automobiles are a reminder that we can chip away at a large problem through a public health approach: Just as auto safety improvements have left us far better off, it seems plausible to some gun policy experts that a sensible, politically feasible set of public health steps could over time reduce firearm deaths in America by one-third — or more than 10,000 lives saved each year.

He seems to forget that we have no automobile equivalent of the NRA. There is no anti-car-safety lobby.


Bari Weiss’s solution, on the other hand, while also involving stricter gun laws and restrictions on gun proliferation, involves fixing a broken and divided America (click to read, but subscribe if you do that often):

Her plaint—and she’s right—is that we’ve “normalized” violence. The fact that each mass shooting evokes but a temporary outcry (while the much larger number of gun deaths continues unremarked) is an argument against Kristof’s solutions, since what’s the impetus to do anything if we accept shootings as a regular part of life? She advocates a Kumbaya solution: reducing divisiveness reduces deaths. Given that most deaths are single-person homicides or suicides, I’m not sure how that will work, and at any rate seems just as hard (if not harder) than tightening gun laws.

Weiss (my emphasis):

You don’t need another writer telling you what you already know: that mentally ill people getting their hands on guns to commit mass murder this easily is deranged and wrong. Accepting this as normal has nothing to do with respecting the Second Amendment. You don’t need another writer pointing out that this doesn’t really happen in other places and maybe the fact that America has more guns than any other nation on Earth has something to do with it. There’s nothing well-regulated about Salvador Ramos, though it appears he bought those assault rifles legally on his 18th birthday. There’s simply no world in which our founders would look at inner-city gun violence and these sick teenagers in suburban schools and say this was their intention.

Gun rights activists will argue that other countries have guns and that murderers don’t need guns to kill and that some of the cities and states with the strictest gun laws in the country have the highest rates of violent crime and that people kill people guns don’t kill people and that anyway good guys with guns kill bad guys with guns. (Uvalde police officers and a school resource officer reportedly fired at the shooter. They couldn’t stop him.)

Here’s where I think they are right, if inadvertently: The social rot that’s come over America, the nihilism and hatred of each other, is part of the cause here. The dissolution of our social ties—and with them the accountability and responsibility that an actual community demands—has allowed insanity to fester unnoticed. Lockdowns accelerated the isolation, the purposelessness, the lack of meaning that was already overcoming us.

If we insist on viewing this shooting as part of some isolated issue or species of violence, then we miss the point. The point is the country is being consumed by what Philip Roth famously called “the indigenous American berserk.” It stretches back many decades, or longer, and for ages, it was possible to ignore or compartmentalize. Now the brokenness is everywhere we look and it is impossible to unsee it.

I’m not sure what “the indigenous American berserk” is, and the lockdown will eventually abate. But Weiss offers no other solution to the “dissolution of our social ties” problem, and I can’t think of one.

The one step to reduce these deaths that is at least feasible (but nearly impossible) is to ban the goddam guns. And yes, I know that won’t happen, so you don’t need to tell me. But at least that can be implemented with a few strokes of the pen. Fixing “indigenous American berserk,” well, how do you do that?

Or, as Matthew suggested to me this morning, I could leave America. But that doesn’t solve the problem except for me, and I’m in no great danger anyway.


Here’s Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors basketball team, declaring that he’s mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore.

There are too many guns in the U.S.!

March 24, 2021 • 12:30 pm

When I write about gun control, I know that I’ll get substantial pushback on either this site or on email. Americans love their guns, and can give many reasons why they should have them (including  semiautomatic weapons).

These reasons include the Second Amendment, which has, in my view, been misinterpreted by the courts to allow nearly anyone to have guns, handguns, assault rifles, and the ability to open carry. All that to ensure “a well regulated militia”!  But we no longer have militias!

I’ve always advocated for strict gun control—along the lines of Britain or even Scotland—as a way to reduce homicides in the U.S. The counterarguments I hear include the famous mantra “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns: the idea that making guns harder to buy will ensure that only criminals will have guns. But there are a slew of other arguments for why loose gun control in America isn’t responsible for mass shootings, some of them addressed in the NYT column below. These include the claim that the U.S. is an especially violent nation, is full of mentally ill people who commit mass shootings, have racial divisions that exacerbate homicides, and so on. Those arguments now appear to hold no water.

We already know that private ownership of guns causes the deaths of far more innocent people than of home invaders or other miscreants. We also know that the U.S. leads the world in per capita gun ownership (see below), with nearly as many guns (270 million) as people (328 million, but that includes kids and the aged).

The column below (click on screenshot) attacks the notion that the ease of gun ownership in the U.S. has nothing to do with the huge number of mass shootings. And it dispels the claims that other peculiarities of American culture are the real reason for mass shootings.

This plot shows the total number of guns per country and how much of an outlier we are in both the number of mass shootings and the number of guns:

Below: the correlation between per capita gun ownership and per capita number of mass shooters. Now if you remove Yemen (which has even more mass shootings per capita) as well as the U.S., there might not be a statistical correlation, but the analysis in the article apparently shows that there is, and it isn’t due to complicating factors like an American “culture of violence”.

Here are some data and citations from the article (quotes are indented). You can check the sources for yourself; I haven’t read them.

Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.

. . . Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country. And it held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by a society’s access to guns than by its baseline level of violence.

. . . More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates. And gun control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

Other factors that didn’t correlate with mass homicides included suicide rates (well, there are fewer mass shootings in countries with higher suicide rate), playing video games, racial diversity, general amount of criminal behavior (though American crime is “simply more lethal” than that in other developed countries), or mental health issues.

And here’s a comparison with China, suggesting that the lethality of weapons makes a difference in the homicide rate, at least in this case:

In China, about a dozen seemingly random attacks on schoolchildren killed 25 people between 2010 and 2012. Most used knives; none used a gun.

By contrast, in this same window, the United States experienced five of its deadliest mass shootings, which killed 78 people. Scaled by population, the American attacks were 12 times as deadly.

The authors of the NYT piece,, Max Fisher and Josh Keller, note that even in countries with high gun ownership, like Switzerland—second only to the U.S. among in gun ownership among developed countries—which has a higher than average rate of homicides, it’s still only a fraction of the U.S. rate (in Switzerland it’s 7.7 per million people; in the U.S. it’s 33). The authors add at the end that “The United States is only one of three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with. . . . the assumption that people have an inherent right to own guns.”  That’s again pretty scary for us, but many Americans cling to the wonky interpretation of the Second Amendment.  It would be nice if the courts interpreted the amendment as I believe (as do others) it was intended.

According to this article, if you want reduce mass homicides in America, regulate our guns. There’s no sign that pervasive gun ownerships keeps America (or gun owners) safer, and lots of people get killed as a byproduct of “legal” gun ownership (viz., children, domestic disputes, and, of course, the mass killers). Reports of mass killings seem to be almost a monthly event now. Most Americans want stricter controls on guns. It’s only the NRA and the Republican Party that are preventing enacting the will of the people.

The article ends with a sad prognostication:

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

It should not be bearable. When I was a kid, we had “nuclear attack drills”, when we would pretend the Russians were bombing us and we’d hide under our desks. Those days are gone; now they have “mass shooter drills.”

Eighteen year old woman with AK-47 and shotgun threatens to shoot up her school

September 17, 2019 • 2:30 pm

From today’s Washington Post (click on screenshot), we have the story of Alexis Wilson, an 18 year old woman who was arrested because she told a friend she had guns, showed the friend a video of her firing the guns, said that she hated the people in her old high school, and then added that she wanted to ““shoot 400 people for fun.”

Wilson had a checkered history and other signs that she might have become a shooter. As the Post says,

The 5-foot-7, baby-faced teenager is an anomaly as a female suspect allegedly plotting a mass shooting, but police described her as a serious threat.

The high school she allegedly targeted had suspended her once for bringing a knife to school and again for displaying swastikas on her personal belongings, a school resource officer told the sheriff’s office. Her booking photo shows Wilson wearing a T-shirt referencing “The Anarchist Cookbook,” a 1971 book advocating for violent civil disobedience that has been found among the belongings of school shooters. On Facebook, Wilson had liked a documentary about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

“A female can pull the trigger just as easily as a male,” Morris told KTUL Monday. “It’s rare, it’s different. I don’t know that there’s been a female accused of this.”

. . . Stites and Jordan [police officers] collected an iPhone with a purple case, an AK-47 with six magazines and a 12-gauge shotgun with a stock sleeve for extra shells from Wilson’s bedroom.

. . . After she had been suspended in her freshman year, she said she completed a program at Thunderbird, a military academy in Oklahoma that advertises itself as an alternative option to public school. She said she tried to re-enroll at McAlester High afterward, but she hadn’t been allowed to start classes this fall. Wilson explained the alleged threat by saying she had been trying to convince her co-worker that “not everyone that owns a gun is a bad person,” the police report said.

. . .At the end of the police interview, Wilson told the officers that she used to feel “suicidal and borderline homicidal” toward her classmates at McAlester High because of the bullying she faced. Jordan asked her if she thought about hurting anyone at the school.

“Not recently, but she has in the past,” the report says.

Well, Wilson clearly needs therapeutic help, and I hope she gets it. I also think that yes, it’s okay for the police to arrest her, for she made a threat to her friend and there were other signs that she could have become a shooter. Too many of these signs have been ignored in the past—resulting in tremendous loss of life.

But what I want to know is this: how the bloody hell did Wilson get an assault weapon with magazines, much less a 12-gauge shotgun? Did she buy them legally, or borrow them from her parents? Either way, those guns shouldn’t have been available to her. If we went to the Scottish system of gun control, they wouldn’t have.

This won’t happen in my lifetime, but Wilson should not have been able to legally obtain any gun, much less an assault rifle that could kill lots of her ex-classmates.  I’m with Beto O’Rourke on this one: yes, let’s take the assault weapons out of the hands of Americans. They have no use except for mass killing of other humans. And that’s just a start in the banning and confiscation that should occur.

I’m just glad the cops arrested her (making a threat is a felony) before she was able to use those guns.

After two mass shootings, Texas loosens gun laws

September 2, 2019 • 9:00 am

Granted, the brand-new looser gun laws in Texas, which are almost ludicrous in how widely they permit the possession and carrying of firearms, are part of a series of bills passed before June. But in view of the two recent mass shootings in Texas—making it the state with 4 of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history—the laws look especially ludicrous. Given that most of the American public wants stricter gun laws, but the Republicans (pressed by the NRA) apparently want every American to be armed with a semiautomatic rifle that they can carry to Starbucks, these laws make Texas look especially bad. I can only imagine how the rest of the world regards us now—now that we seem to have a mass shooting every two weeks.

And the solution to these murders? MORE GUNS, Texas tells us. CNN reports what the new laws are (click on screenshot):

Read and weep (from CNN).

House Bill 1143 says a school district cannot prohibit licensed gun owners, including school employees, from storing a firearm or ammunition in a locked vehicle on a school parking lot — provided they are not in plain view.

House Bill 1387 loosens restrictions on how many armed school marshals a school district can appoint.

House Bill 2363 allows some foster homes to store firearms and ammunition in a safe and secure place for personal protection. Proper storage must be followed, the bill says, including putting firearms and ammunition together in the same locked locations.

House Bill 302 bans homeowners or landlords of rental property from prohibiting residents from lawfully possessing, carrying, transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in the property.

House Bill 1177 prohibits residents from being charged with a crime for carrying a handgun while evacuating from a state or local disaster area.

Senate Bill 535 clarifies the possession of firearms at churches, synagogues or other places of worship. It allows licensed handgun owners to legally carry their weapons in places of worship — and comes nearly two years after a gunman killed 26 people at Sutherland Springs church.

The news last night reported that, re the last bill, if a church chooses to prohibit the carrying of firearms, they can do so. Otherwise, we have to look forward to more guns in schools and churches, and even in Universities. Students at the University of Texas in Austin, for instance, can legally carry guns to class. What could go wrong with that?

The excuse for this shameful behavior is the usual: Americans need more guns to protect themselves against the bad guys. As CNN reports: “‘We have learned many times over that there is no such thing as a gun free zone. Those with evil intentions will violate the law and carry out their heinous acts no matter what,’ state Sen. Donna Campbell, co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. ‘It makes no sense to disarm the good guys and leave law-abiding citizens defenseless where violent offenders break the law to do great harm’.”

NBC News, in a press conference I watched, reports the Texas governor making the same justification:

In a press conference Sunday, Gov. Abbott insisted the new laws will protect Texans, pointing to the law which allows more school marshals to have guns in schools. “Some of these laws were enacted for the purpose of making our communities safer,” Abbott said.

That’s about as lame as you can get. Yes, perhaps the laws were enacted with that intention, but do they actually yield those results? Apparently not. It seems as if more innocent lives are lost when criminals use guns (many of them obtained legally) than when guns are used for self-defense. From the Violence Policy Center (VPC):

The main argument used to advance these policies is that guns are a common and effective tool for self-defense. This argument is false.

A series of VPC studies on guns and self-defense thoroughly disprove the NRA myth. These studies analyze national data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Among the findings of the most recent edition of the study are the following:

  • In 2016, the FBI reports there were only 274 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm. That same year, there were 10,341 criminal gun homicides. Guns were used in 37 criminal homicides for every justifiable homicide.
  • Intended victims of violent crimes engaged in self-protective behavior that involved a firearm in 1.1 percent of attempted and completed incidents between 2014 and 2016.
  • Intended victims of property crimes engaged in self-protective behavior that involved a firearm in 0.3 percent of attempted and completed incidents between 2014 and 2016.

Here are the graphic data on that survey provided by The Washington Post:

Even just considering guns kept in the home, those guns are far more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, criminal acts, and suicides than in justifiable incidents of self-defense. Here’s a survey from 1999 published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery (my emphasis):

Determine the relative frequency with which guns in the home are used to injure or kill in self-defense, compared with the number of times these weapons are involved in an unintentional injury, suicide attempt, or criminal assault or homicide. We reviewed the police, medical examiner, emergency medical service, emergency department, and hospital records of all fatal and nonfatal shootings in three U.S. cities: Memphis, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; and Galveston, Texas. During the study interval (12 months in Memphis, 18 months in Seattle, and Galveston) 626 shootings occurred in or around a residence. This total included 54 unintentional shootings, 118 attempted or completed suicides, and 438 assaults/homicides. Thirteen shootings were legally justifiable or an act of self-defense, including three that involved law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty. For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides. Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.

Given this balance, what’s the justification for allowing people to keep guns in their homes?

The NRA responds that people wounded in acts of self defense and who escape are not reported by gun owners for fear of police investigation. But I strongly doubt that even if this underreporting exists, it can redress the balance of innocent lives lost versus successful defenses against criminals.

A 2015 paper in Preventive Medicine says pretty much the same thing: self defense gun use (SDGU) is not associated with reduced risk of injury to the people defending themselves, while use of any weapon, not just guns, reduces the likelihood of property loss.

Finally, a Pew Survey published in 2013 shows that the percentage of people who own a gun for protection has gone up dramatically since 1999 (“constitutional right” is a mere 2%)

My own view, which I’ve discussed before, is that the U.S. needs the same laws as Scotland, which has pretty much the same strict gun laws as the UK but with even stronger provisions:

Gun laws in Scotland differ in some details from those in the rest of the UK. However, in terms of licensing they are, currently, identical to the rest of Great Britain. A firearms certificate is required to purchase firearms, and a separate shotgun certificate is required for shotguns. The guiding laws for firearms in Scotland are the Firearms (Scotland) Rules 1989 and the Firearms Act (1968). All handguns, semi-automatic and pump-action non-rim-fire rifles are prohibited. A few pistols are licensed on a Firearm Certificate for exactly the same reasons as the rest of Great Britain. There are only 566 licensed handgun owners in Scotland.

Note that handguns were banned in the UK after the 1996 Dunblane School massacre in Scotland. That is a sane mentality, and the opposite of the craziness in the US, where after a mass shooting many legislators and NRA crazies call for more guns, assuming that people need to protect themselves from mass shooters. But mass shooters are nearly always taken down not by private citizens with guns, but by the police. And, as we’ve seen, having a gun in the home doesn’t make you safer; in fact, it leads to more deaths of innocent people.

The result: we have a gazillion mass shootings and accidental shootings in the U.S., and there are virtually none in the UK.

Finally, the whole “right to bear arms” issue, which some people—especially Republican legislators and the NRA—use to justify widespread ownership of handguns, is based on a Constitutional provision, the Second Amendment:

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.

That seems pretty clear to me: the amendment is there to allow the existence of a militia to keep the people from being oppressed by the arms of the government. Well, we don’t have militias any more, and armed private citizens are no longer a match to government weapons. Garry Wills, in an excellent article in the New York Review of Books, makes (to me) a persuasive case that the Second Amendment was not intended to justify the willy-nilly ownership of guns, even with the intention of self-defense. His piece ends like this:

The recent effort to find a new meaning for the Second Amendment comes from the failure of appeals to other sources as a warrant for the omnipresence of guns of all types in private hands. Easy access to all these guns is hard to justify in pragmatic terms, as a matter of social policy. Mere common law or statute may yield to common sense and specific cultural needs. That is why the gun advocates appeal, above pragmatism and common sense, to a supposed sacred right enshrined in a document Americans revere. Those advocates love to quote Sanford Levinson, who compares the admitted “social costs” of adhering to gun rights with the social costs of observing the First Amendment.  We have to put up with all kinds of bad talk in the name of free talk. So we must put up with our world-record rates of homicide, suicide, and accidental shootings because, whether we like it or not, the Constitution tells us to. Well, it doesn’t.

Sadly, the Supreme Court doesn’t accept Wills’s argument; and since most of them are conservatives, they won’t any time soon. I have little hope that the gun epidemic in our country can be stemmed. We may get a few more regulations and background checks, but in my view we should adopt the UK/Scottish system, along with severe increases in legal penalties for committing crimes with guns. But of course that’s a pipe dream.