Noodling American Gun Culture Memes

This meme, and hundreds like it that pop up every time some massive outrage with mass artillery is committed, illustrates for me something that always bugs me about the “leap to enthuse over massive artillery even harder than before” gun lobby.

Here’s the thing: the meme winds up accidently suggesting that all attempts to deal with murder are utopian–as though anything less than 100% success in limiting gun violence means the attempt is a total waste of time.  But, in fact, we *do* have laws against murder. In fact, *God* has a law against murder–even though murder remains a fact of life. That’s not silly utopianism, that’s common sense. And though laws against murder do not prevent all murders, we *should* have laws against murder–and frankly we should respond to the mass slaying of children with “There has to be some way to help reduce the chances of this God-damned* thing ever happening again” instead of, as this poster is saying, “Give up. There’s nothing you can do about it. Only an idiot would even try.”

That counsel of despair, wrapped in this sneering mockery is, more than anything else, what has bothered me about the gun lobby’s latest attempt to say, in effect, “a school room full of dead children is the price we are willing to pay for maintaining the current regime without any contemplation whatsoever of possible ways to mitigate such outrages in the future.” That’s what memes like this are calculated to do. And they demonstrate their folly by suggesting that the fifth commandment itself is a silly exercise in utopian futility.

The national period of mourning is over. It’s time to talk about this. I’ve heard all the ancient tropes about guns being morally neutral and outlaws having guns and anybody trying to limit access to assault rifles is Hitler and all the rest. Still and all, it does not escape my notice that when the maniac in question is an Iranian imam or a North Korean nutjob everybody embraces the idea that, while evil originates in the hearts of men and must finally be confronted there, there’s also the practical notion that it makes it much harder for evil men to inflict that evil on others if you don’t provide them with easy access to massive firepower.

Does the conversation about mental health need to happen too? Absolutely. So does the conversation about the social and spiritual degeneration that is proceeding apace in our culture and is the ultimate cause of this evil. But arguments about mass murder which begin by sneering at the fifth commandment as utopian suggest that those who make them are not entirely serious about that whole “We need to return to Good Book Values” rhetoric and only help to make clear that the problem is also our deeply sick gun culture and the gun lobby’s endless excuses for it.

So, by way of noodling the problem I have some questions, in no particular order, as well as some growing skepticism about the kneejerk tropes from the NRA and fellow travelers.

To begin with, who are these shadowy forces of malevolence who want to “outlaw” guns (really? all of them?) and send us all forthwith to concentration camps?

Second, since the Constitution links the right to keep and bear arms to membership in a militia…

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.

…it seems reasonable to ask why people who are not in militias should have easy access to massive artillery–or even any artillery at all.

If you reply, “Why, to fight the guerilla war against the Leviathan that people like Glenn Beck assured Nancy Lanza was coming to put her in a concentration camp when the apocalypse came!” then I would suggest that a miscalculation has been made somewhere.  In fact, several miscalculations.  For the Constitution mentions nothing whatsoever about a well-regulated militia being deployed to fight a civil war against the federal government. What is clearly in view in the Second Amendment is opposition to a foreign power or threats to civil peace such as Indian attacks or drunken riots.  Indeed, the theory that the purpose of gun ownership was to shoot at the government was tested some decades after the ratification of the Second Amendment in the 1860s and turns out to have had some significant problems.

Could it be that the Feds might, in fact, impose a tyranny citizens must defend against?  Sure.  In fact, it could be argued that many elements of tyranny already exist (such as an Executive who claims the power to kill anybody he likes on his secret unilateral authority alone). But like it or not, that’s not what the second amendment has in view.  And to be honest, I doubt any but the craziest of my readers think much would be helped if armed vigilantes decided to turn America into a large-scale version of 1982 Beirut, swiss-cheesed by factional killings and assassinations by people who have decided to Fight the Power. Nor does this path of Home Arsenal Enhancement really promise much success even if you go down it, as David Koresh could tell you. As a reader of mine (who is, by the way, in the military) points out:

You’ll do that better with advanced knowledge of IT, security, how your devices can be used to spy on you, and steal from you, and a law degree and admittance to the bar. ( not that I disagree in principle.) And maybe, for that hypothetical police-state eventuality, the ability to hack into a drone… ;-)

And aside from the impracticality of you and your pistol facing down the 101st Airborne under the command of some looming American Hitler who seizes power in Glenn Beck fever dreams, it is also worth noting that Catholic teaching seldom smiles much on those who decide to take warfare into their own hands (that is why “competent authority” is invoked and Hatfields and McCoys are condemned).  Deadly force is the one aspect of Catholic social teaching where subsidiarity is actively discouraged and the responsibility for using it is kicked as high up the ladder of authority as possible. (And, in any case, one of the weirdest “strange bedfellows” realities of our current politics is that the people most likely to be enthused about guns as our bulwark against Leviathan are also the ones most bizarrely supportive of an Executive who orders secret and lawless drone strikes and indefinite detention.  Indeed, they are pining for the day when a manly Republican can exercise these tyrannical powers and revive the torture chamber as well, since those are part of the sacred War on Terror that now constitutes the GOP’s core value just as abortion is the Dem’s core value).

So I’m having trouble buying the notion that the second amendment really is the guarantor that people like Nancy Lanza should ever have had easy access to endless firepower, much less have been in a position to make that firepower readily available to her son.  I likewise think that her case is an especially powerful persuader that it is prudent to read the second amendment in the strictest way possible: as a guarantor of guns for use by militias and them only.  The net result of the gun lobby’s reading of the second amendment–for Nancy Lanza and her neighbors (and repeatedly for mass murder victims all over the US again and again and again and again and again)–is that several mass slaughters of extremely real people every year (plus some 10,000 others that go unnoticed) are deemed an acceptable cost for keeping at bay a phantasm of totalitarian monsters bent on placing us all in concentration camps.  I think that’s crazy.  Once again, prudence dictates that reality, not fantasy, should guide our actions in what to do next.

Our pattern, as a people, is to respond strongly to foreign powers that kill lots of us at once.  Pearl Harbor (2500 dead) and 9/11 (3000 dead) both prompted a national response.  10,ooo+ Americans were murdered last year–by other Americans who could not typically have killed their victims without a gun in their hands. Most of those victims did not die spectacularly or in a way that gripped the viscera of suburbanites and would not let go.  But one thing they all have in common with Adam Lanza’s victims is this: None of those killers were part of a “well-ordered militia”  So why, I ask, did they have easy access to firepower? For some reason, there never is a national response to that question, except to say that opposition to gun murder is utopian and nothing can or should be done.  I refuse to accept that a people who could land a man on the moon can look at Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and on and on and on and say, “Let’s do nothing.  Let it happen again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  It’s a waste of time to even try to prevent it.”  I refuse to believe it with the slaughter of innocents in abortion and I refuse to believe it with the slaughter of innocents in a kindergarten class.

*If it matters more to you that I used theologically precise language to describe the slaughter of children as “God-damned” than that children were slaughtered, you are part of the problem. I do not take the Lord’s Name in vain.  I use those words in deadly earnest.  If this slaughter of children is not damned by God, nothing is.

  • Mercury

    Mark, what do you think about people who keep guns in their homes based on a real fear for self-defense?
    I would never own a gun, but then again, I’ve always lived in a very safe area. Certainly there are valid claims here.

    Of course, living in Louisiana, almost everyone I know outside of my own family owns rifles and shotguns for deer and duck hunting. What about that kind of stuff? Again, not my thing, but some people like to hunt.

    If it were up to you, what would you want to see banned, and what would you allow? Most mass killings are done with simple handguns, not military-grade weapons.

    One more thing – how do you answer the claim that “if guns are banned, this would disarm only law-abiding citizens?”

    I’m not tryin to be sarcastic, so I hope it doesn’t come out that way. I’m just trying to understand.

    • Mark Shea

      It’s not my place to judge people. If somebody is afraid for their life, they have a right to defend themselves. On the other hand, “fear for one’s life” is often subjective thing with no bearing in reality. Nancy Lanza reportedly was afraid of the coming economic apocalypse and kept a small arsenal to defend herself because of her fears. It turns out her method of dealing with fear created rather than alleviated the horror she hoped to avoid. I have known other people who, possessing a gun, were tempted to use it in situations where it turned out to be totally uncalled for and would have resulted in needless tragedy. Happily they didn’t. But it was a close call in both cases. The “guns don’t kill people” crowd need to remember that the possession of technology often constitutes a temptation to use that technology that would not otherwise exist.

      • Mercury

        I’m not talking about pillbox in the backyard nuts. I’m talking about people who live in dangerous neighborhoods in cities, or who have had credible threats made against their lives.

        On the other hand I am talking about sportsmen who hunt ducks, deer, etc.

        • Mark Shea

          As I say, not my job to judge. And by no means do I have some sort of detailed program worked out. I am playing catch up. Not being a gun owner myself and having little interest in the matter hitherto, I’ve never paid much attention to gun culture rhetoric. But I could not help but be struck by the bizarre sociopathy of the pre-programmed responses to the murders of these children. So I’m just now looking at the gun culture rhetoric seriously and am struck by how much of it is, frankly, rubbish. But I’m basically in the “clear the ground of BS and then see what is actually there” phase of my cogitations. I don’t have some big program. But obviously, if somebody is in danger, they have the right of self-defense. Whether that automatically means a gun is a separate question. But it certainly might.

          • Mercury

            I too was appalled at the memes, especially the ones that indicated one somehow needs an AR-15 to defend one’s family (what neighborhood do THEY live in?).

            I read a great article in the Wall Street Journal about all this yesterday, but I cannot for the life of me remember the title. I think it was “Flash Suppressors Don’t Kill”. It was about the trend in mass killings since the 1960s and what effect legislation up to now has had.

            • Bob

              I live in one of the more dangerous cities in the country. And I don’t live in a particularly great neighborhood. When I first moved here, I was scared. I considered buying a gun. But you know what? I’ve never been the victim of a violent crime. I’ve never had my home broken into. I didn’t buy a gun and don’t think I need one any more. I’m not saying crime is an illusion but the truth is that most gun violence is perpetrated by criminals against their own associates and rivals, usually at 4 am outside of a bar. For the most part, you leave the bad guys alone, they leave you alone. Most folks in my neighborhood are really very nice.
              As for what to do, please read this article in today’s Washington Post about what other countries have done and how successful they have been. It’s an eye-opener. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-the-solution-to-gun-violence-is-clear/2012/12/19/110a6f82-4a15-11e2-b6f0-e851e741d196_story.html?hpid=z2

      • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

        Responsibility among gun-owners is very important. However, we also must keep in mind that the temptation that people face to murder or commit suicide is not caused simply by the presence of a certain deadly mechanism. People do not kill others or themselves simply because they have a gun. All available evidence points to this fact, showing that when one deadly mechanism is removed murder and suicide rates never decrease and people simply resort to other methods of killing themselves or others.

        An excerpt from a Harvard study on guns and violent crime:

        There is no social benefit in decreasing the availability of
        guns if the result is only to increase the use of other means of
        suicide and murder, resulting in more or less the same
        amount of death. Elementary as this point is, proponents of
        the more guns equal more death mantra seem oblivious to it.
        One study asserts that Americans are more likely to be shot
        to death than people in the world’s other 35 wealthier na‐
        tions.
        46 While this is literally true, it is irrelevant—except,
        perhaps to people terrified not of death per se but just death
        by gunshot. A fact that should be of greater concern—but
        which the study fails to mention—is that per capita murder
        overall is only half as frequent in the United States as in sev‐
        eral other nations where gun murder is rarer, but murder by
        strangling, stabbing, or beating is much more frequent.
        47
        Of course, it may be speculated that murder rates around
        the world would be higher if guns were more available. But
        there is simply no evidence to support this. Like any specu‐
        lation, it is not subject to conclusive disproof; but the Euro‐
        pean data in Table 1 and the studies across 36 and 21 nations
        already discussed show no correlation of high gun owner‐
        ship nations and greater murder per capita or lower gun
        ownership nations and less murder per capita.
        48
        To reiterate, the determinants of murder and suicide are
        basic social, economic, and cultural factors, not the preva‐
        lence of some form of deadly mechanism. In this connection,
        recall that the American jurisdictions which have the highest
        violent crime rates are precisely those with the most strin‐
        gent gun controls.
        49
        This correlation does not necessarily
        prove gun advocates’ assertion that gun controls actually
        encourage crime by depriving victims of the means of self‐
        defense. The explanation of this correlation may be political
        rather than criminological: jurisdictions afflicted with violent
        crime tend to severely restrict gun ownership. This, how‐
        ever, does not suppress the crime, for banning guns cannot
        alleviate the socio‐cultural and economic factors that are the
        real determinants of violence and crime rates.
        http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

        Guns, whether you are for or against them, are a red herring. The real culprit behind the violence in our society is our Culture of Death. Only by decreasing the influence of that culture can we significantly decrease murder and suicide rates. Gun-control or the lack thereof do not address the underlying causes of violence and the former has been proven ineffectual, even counter-productive, while the evidence regarding the “increased gun-ownership reduces violent crime” mantra only shows a correlation but not causation.

        • Irenist

          What if someone were to argue:
          “Outlawing abortion, whether you are for or against it, is a red herring. The real culprit behind the violence in our society is our Culture of Death. Only by decreasing the influence of that culture can we significantly decrease abortion rates. Laws against abortion or the lack thereof do not address the underlying causes of abortion….”

          • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

            I would agree with them. The problem is ultimately the family. As my father (and his) always pointed out, in their day there were even more guns on school property (especially at the start of deer season) yet you didn’t have much of these shootings. Why? Only thing I can see is that there were more intact and better families back then.

            To amend a phrase I’ve heard before: “Every year each civilization is invaded by millions of barbarians. We call them children. The best weapon against them, is the dinner table*.” The last few generations have been civilized less and less with each one, why is anyone surprised they’re now more barbaric?

            *OK, for those who don’t know, it’s been hinted and theorized that family meal time at the end of the day is one of the principle times that culture and life lessons are passed on to the next generation. Not kidding, just do a google search of “correlation with family meal time” and see what results you get.

          • Stu

            The act of abortion is evil.

            Simply owning a firearm, which can be used for good, is not evil.

            • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

              Stu is correct.

          • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

            Not comparable. There’s a difference between banning an act that is intrinsically evil and banning an object. We must ban abortion and murder and torture etc. because they are evil. Guns are not evil and therefore we should ask ourselves first and foremost, “is gun-control effective or is it counter-productive?” The evidence demonstrates that it is counter-productive. The why is that it does not address the underlying causes that determine murder and suicide rates.

            On the other hand, the central question in regards to abortion is not one of efficacy but good and evil. Regardless of the statistical effectiveness of banning abortion is it is still an intrinsic evil that must be opposed. The same goes for murder. Furthermore, while evidence exists showing gun-control to be counter-productive, leading to either no benefit despite the expenses or even a greater loss of life, no such evidence exists that I am aware regarding abortion. We have good reason to believe that banning abortion will save many lives while banning guns will not.

            Instead of comparing guns to abortion you would be more apt to compare them to scalpels. Will abortions cease simply because we have removed one tool used in abortions? Will they even be reduced in the slightest? Or are we missing the mark entirely?

    • Rachel K

      Mercury, this was a huge sticking point for me with gun control, too–my mother once saved herself from an intruder with a shotgun because the police couldn’t get there in time. (She didn’t have to shoot him, thank God–he just broke open the door, saw the shotgun aimed at him, and decided to beat feet.) Up until last week, I had a very kneejerk reaction to anyone saying the words “gun control,” because my brain would immediately sputter, “But my mom!”

      Then I actually looked at some of the gun control laws that are being proposed and blocked: assault weapon bans, strict background checks, registration, limits on the number of guns a person can own, tighter regulations on gun shows that tend to sidestep any of these laws that are already on the books, etc. Any one of these laws would have allowed my mother to have that shotgun but would have prevented a lot of our recent shootings from attaining the scope they had; if a crazed shooter managed to get past all the background checks for mental illness and break into a place armed with, say, a pistol and a rifle, he could still kill people, but he’d have to stop and reload at some point, and that would leave him vulnerable. The NRA wants us to think that “gun control” means “no one can own a gun,” and that’s utterly untrue.

      • Rachel K

        (To clarify: “my mom used a shotgun to save herself from an intruder, ” not “my mom saved herself from a shotgun-wielding intruder.” Probably clear from context, but Facebook has taught me that when I type things that could be interpreted in more than one way, I’m going to get misinterpreted a lot.)

  • Dante Aligheri

    What about just an assault weapons ban on things which really, at least to me, ought to belong exclusively to the military? Actually, in an ideal situation, I would not be against a general gun ban except I can see some value to hunting even in modern society.

    On that same note, I am not against the idea of specially training faculty and licensing them to use tasers in these situations (i.e., not the more lethal gun as some districts in Texas do – rightly or wrongly) as a precaution.

    • Mercury

      But what is an “assault weapon” – how would it be defined legally? Any rifle with a clip? And wht about the fact that most mass killing are done with exactly the type handguns people buy for defensive purposes?

      Also, I KNOW it is a cliche, but how does one deal with the fact that of there were suddenly a ban on all guns, or even all handguns, tomorrow, then *only* law-abiding citizens would disarm? There are already so many guns in circulation – you wouldn’t be able to avoid a situation where whereas all the legal guns could be rounded up, they’d still be in the hands of criminals. Again, a cliche, but how does one counter it?

      • Mark Shea

        I’d look at how such things have been done in real life in places like Australia, rather than hypothesize in a vacuum.

        • Mercury

          True, but we’d have to be careful, as those other places are VERY different indeed. I’d say our situation in terms of average gang and violent crime is closer to Latin American countries. And the reasons for THAT are legion.

        • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

          I would hope that we could do better than Australia, which apparently has not done any cost/benefit analysis on their ban (a 2011 request was denied on the grounds that no such documents exist). Whether gun violence trends in Australia are continuing pre-ban trends or are reducing because of the ban is under hot contention.

          • EBS

            Being an Australian, I can tell you that gun crime has not stopped, after fomer Prime Minister Howards buy back scheme, but mass style shootings haven’t occurred again since 1996, Port Arthur Massacre where 36 ppl were killed sniper style- which is what initiated the whole gun control response. As an innocent citizen, you are probably more likely to die from being king-hit on a night out on the town, than by a random stray bullet. Furthermore, I suspect the recent drive-by shootings that are occurring weekly in Western Sydney are done by bike gangs and drug dealers and their targets are homes of fellow criminals….and the police is just letting them kill each other off. My gut feeling anyway. So gun control does stop psychos killing innocent people, execution style, on whim. It does work. And from personal experience, not owning a gun does not take away mine and my families freedom or sense of security. Satan’s biggest lie is to instill fear in a person. And the only way to rid oneself of fear, is to trust in God. God alone protects.

          • Irenist

            “which apparently has not done any cost/benefit analysis on their ban”
            What would the cost be, exactly?

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              Disarming citizens, rising crime rates, etc. It would be anything the NRA mentions as a consequence.

            • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

              If you are incapable of coming up independently with a positive aspect of gun ownership, you are in a major bubble. You may wish to expand your reading material.
              Off the top of my head, the positive effect on crime reduction by the use of legal firearms is lost and that’s probably the biggest cost. There are others but they pale in importance for me.

          • kenneth

            On one level, cost-benefit in the Australia gun law is murky. It’s hard to tell if it had much impact on “ordinary” murder and suicides. They have always had a low murder rate, and illegal guns played a disproportionate role before and after the ban. One benefit is not in dispute. There have been zero mass killing incidents since 1996, where there were 13 in the previous 18 years. I don’t think they had any illusions about ending evil and tragedy after Port Arthur. The country did reach a near-total consensus, however, that “we’re not doing this again.”

          • Mark Shea

            13 mass murders in 18 years before 1996/no mass murders since 1996 does not look like a huge failure to me. And no concentration camps for a people prostrate under the jackboot of an Aussie Soviet Nazi Maoist Khmer Rouge Leviathan. I could live with that.

        • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

          A real world example like Russia or Luxembourg clearly demonstrates the problem with gun-control. Russia, as the former Soviet Union, disarmed its populace of firearms to such an extreme degree that guns among private citizens were virtually non-existent. The “more guns equal more crime” mantra would predict that violent crime would decrease as a result. It did not. On the contrary, while gun-related crime did decrease overall violent crime, including the murder rate, rose and continued to rise for decades. In 2004 the Russian populace remained unarmed but the murder rate had risen to four times that of the United States. This is a worldwide trend in which gun-ownership shares a negative correlation with violent crime, meaning that as gun-ownership increases within a society, violent crime decreases. If we are to adopt gun-control measures into our public policy then the massive evidence against such restrictions must be refuted and evidence must be shown supporting the net benefit of such interventions. I have yet to see any such evidence.

          As criminologists Kates and Mauser point out, “the determinants of murder and suicide are basic social, economic, and cultural factors, not the prevalence of some form of deadly mechanism.” In other words, a high rate of violence represents the natural progression of a culture of death. Therefore, our objective must be, not to restrict one particular deadly mechanism among many but, to eliminate that violent, godless culture. It is not the easy answer but, ultimately, it is the only solution.
          http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

    • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

      I’m against gun bans, not because I am an avid hunter, but because there is overwhelming evidence showing that they are ineffective or even counter-productive. While gun-related crime may go down as a result of all out bans total violent crime including murder rates either remain unchanged or actually increase. This is not a hypothetical but a very real trend occurring around the world. http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

  • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

    Your problem, Mark, is that you are not versed in the relevant US law. I believe you are in Seattle, Washington. For you, that would make Title 38 of the Washington state code the relevant legislation for your state. Go read it so that you understand what it is that actually exists. If you had previously read RCW 38.04.030, you would never have said “…it seems reasonable to ask why people who are not in militias should have easy access to massive artillery–or even any artillery at all.” because you would know that would set people off. People who are not in the militia in Washington are pretty much minors and are quite often restricted in their gun rights with little protest from the gun lobby. In the state of Indiana the problem would be different because you’d be denying guns to all women and everybody over the age of 45. Again, it would be considered just ill informed but for different reasons. Add another 48 state codes and you might start to grasp the complexity of the problem. That’s not an excuse for an inaction but should elicit the right attitude of prudence that we understand what we are changing before we change it.

    We have an unorganized militia system of securing our safety when the police aren’t adequate or even available. This system predates the creation of the US. It has been around for a long time. I believe the last time the unorganized militia was called up formally was in WW II for anti-saboteur and sub spotting duty on the atlantic coast. The last time it was called up informally someplace in the US is probably best measured in hours and minutes. It’s a remarkably useful system that is privately funded and avoids the problem of a police state which is what you’d have to have to maintain the same level of security if you ended the unorganized militia system. Then you have option three which is just to have less security. I hope we can toss that one right out.

    You might be surprised but I agree with you that we should not just shrug our shoulders and say that nothing can be done. I welcome a discussion of how we can improve the functioning of this unorganized militia system which depends on sufficient people arming themselves, training, and just being around sufficient that security is increased. Here are some questions I don’t see being discussed much but should be discussed after every mass shooting:
    1. Did the unorganized militia perform as hoped?
    2. Is there any system flaw that kept the unorganized militia from acting as it should?
    3. Is there any cultural flaw that has reduced readiness and training?

    In the current tragedy, the answers, in my opinion are (in order) no (dozens dead), yes (gun free zone legislation), and yes (anti-gun propaganda). This would seem to argue for both legislation changes and a call for gun owners, especially CCW permit holders, to be treated with the respect and honor that they deserve as they go about their lives, quietly making it safer for us all.

    This may not be the gun discussion Michael Moore was hoping for but he is right that we need some sort of discussion. The stonewalling impulse does not serve the country well.

  • Elaine S.

    It’s my understanding that the “militia” in early America considered of every able bodied adult male who could carry a gun. It was not an organized, standing military unit like today’s National Guard, but simply a group of ordinary citizens activated when needed to respond to danger (e.g., attacks by Indians, Redcoats, or Rebels). In order for ordinary citizens to be able to do this, they had to have guns. So the “well regulated militia” clause was never meant to imply that ONLY members of a standing police or military force have the right to “keep and bear arms.” It included ordinary citizens. That said, I believe there can and should be reasonable regulation of the right to own guns that would include limiting certain types of weapons to the military, requiring proof of some kind of training in firearms use before a permit to carry is issued, etc.

    • TMLutas

      You should know, if you do not already, this is still current law.

  • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

    The American Revolution began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19th, 1775. The British government (then the “national” government over the provinces in the New World) sent troops to the armory in Concord where they believed weapons to be stored. They were opposed by militia, including special units called Minutemen.

    It seems to me that the 2nd Amendment, and indeed, the Bill of Rights should be understood in light of the perceived abuses of British rule in the 13 colonies.

    • Mark Shea

      That is a very popular meme. Is there any actual basis for it in the Federalist Papers? It’s certainly not discernible in the language of the amendment. And the Civil War doesn’t seem to have panned out for those advocating that interpretation.

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        Yes:

        “The best we can help for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
        Alexander Hamilton
        The Federalist Papers at 184-8

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        That the Second Amendment arose because of attempts to disarm the colonists isn’t a meme; it’s history. Even as the Third Amendment came about because of the Quartering Acts. The founding Fathers didn’t just pull these ideas out of the air, they were based on real-world experiences which were fresh in everyone’s mind at the time.

  • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

    Um, I believe that these memes are meant to illustrate that simply passing a law cannot prevent evil. Obviously, we should have laws against murder but it should also be obvious that such laws alone accomplish little without a culture that respects life. Likewise, with guns it is futile to look towards gun-control as the solution to violence. All available evidence demonstrates the “more guns, more crimes” mantra to be false. Also, I’m not sure how Glocks or Bushmasters qualify as “massive artillery.”

    It is a common mistake of gun-control advocates to look solely at gun-related homicides when in fact we should be looking at the relation between gun-control and the total number of homicides. As criminologists Kates and Mauser point out in one Harvard study, gun-ownership shares a negative correlation with total homicides meaning that as gun-ownership increases in a society, total homicides decrease.

    http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

    Are we more interested in preventing gun-related crime or are we interested in actually saving human lives? Because we can indeed decrease gun-related crime by imposing strict, nationwide gun bans. However, if we wish to reduce the actual death toll of violent crime then we must look for another avenue of attack. Banning guns is pointless when statistics clearly show that people will simply resort to alternative methods like strangling or stabbing, perhaps even at a higher rate.

    As Kates and Mauser point out, “the determinants of murder and suicide are basic social, economic, and cultural factors, not the prevalence of some form of deadly mechanism.” In other words, a high rate of violence represents the natural progression of a culture of death. Therefore, our objective must be, not to restrict one particular deadly mechanism among many but, to eliminate that violent, godless culture. It is not the easy answer but, ultimately, it is the only solution.

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      Obviously, we should have laws against murder but it should also be obvious that such laws alone accomplish little without a culture that respects life.

      Actually, I thought the point was that we ALREADY have laws about murder and… look how well it’s stopped it. (what makes anyone think gun control laws are going to make any difference)

      Though to quote one poster:

      The writers of the constitution understood that the purpose of the 2nd amendment was to enable rebellion against a fielded army.

      The second amendment is about ensuring that free Americans never become serfs in their own land. Military grade firearms are the great equalizer between peasant farmers and the warrior class that traditionally make up the aristocracy. You cannot re-impose feudalism as long as the peasants can fight back.

  • ivan_the_mad

    “an acceptable cost for keeping at bay a phantasm of totalitarian monsters bent on placing us all in concentration camps”

    I used to hold that line of thought. Then I realized how absolutely crazy it was, especially in light of friends and relatives dropping thousands of dollars on firearms and ammunition. Then I had the following intuition: Probability of that line of thought materializing: 0.0001. Probability that nearly of that money would have done immediate good in executing our Christian duty, i.e. corporal works of mercy: 1.0.

    I think and hope that there is a reasonable middle ground between private arsenals and the majority of people not owning guns, although I don’t object to the Church’s reasoning on behalf of the latter. But certainly, the stock arguments of the NRA and my former ideological partisans begin to wear thin as the frequency and scope of these tragedies either continue apace or increase.

    • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

      Actually they have neither continued apace nor have they increased. The high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.

      Of course, while the number of incidents have decreased that says nothing as to the total body count of those shootings. Although we do know that the total murder rate is down compared to the 1990s. You can thank an irresponsible media that is more interested in entertaining than informing for giving you the opposite impression.

      http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/335739/facts-about-mass-shootings-john-fund#

      • ivan_the_mad

        I find the article less than convincing.

        • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

          You stated that these shootings have continued apace or have increased. I pointed out your factual error and provided the evidence to prove it. That’s all I set out to do. I’m sorry that objective observation is not convincing enough for you.

          • ivan_the_mad

            “objective observation” Yes, clearly, NR is objective and the piece chock full of hard data and footnotes. Now what was all that bellyaching about Jon Stewart a while back …

            • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

              First off, I never personally bellyached about Jon Stewart so how that is relevant is beyond me. Second, I gave you explicit facts explaining the frequency of mass shootings over time in the United States. No personal opinions, no conjecture just facts. That’s what we call being objective.

              • ivan_the_mad

                I call hard data and references I can check facts, not a piece making assertions with only vague references to external sources.

      • ivan_the_mad

        “26 in the first decade of this century” I don’t know how they’re defining mass murder, but there were 13 mass shootings this year, in which all but two, the shooter killed two or more people: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57559329-504083/mass-shootings-in-2012-crimesider-reports-on-this-years-public-shootings/

        Seems to me to be an increase, if you’re averaging 2.6 a year and get thirteen in one year.

        • ivan_the_mad

          Not that it really even matters. One is too many.

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          WAIT! Hold on.

          there were 13 mass shootings this year in which all but two, the shooter killed two or more people

          If you only killed 0 or 1 person (the only less than “two or more”), how is that a “mass shooting”?

          So it sounds like at the very least, there were only 11 “mass shootings”. Though I doubt many people would count two, three or four deaths as “mass”.

          • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

            Oh by the way, i notice something Ivan’s link.

            State gun laws: By most accounts, California has the strictest gun laws in the country. According to the LCPGV, the state imposes a 10-day waiting period on all firearm purchases and in 1999 mandated that waiting periods and other restrictions be extended to purchases made at gun shows. California also bans all large capacity ammunition magazines and most assault weapons and 50 caliber rifles. In 2007, California became the first state to require microstamping of handguns. That’s the process of imprinting microscopic characters on firearms that will transfer to bullet casings, thus allowing police to trace bullets found at a crime scene without having to recover the weapon itself.

            State gun laws: According to the Brady Campaign, New Jersey had the nation’s second strongest gun laws, with one handgun per month purchase limit, and a permit required to purchase all firearms. The NRA reports that an ID card is also required to purchase a rifle or shotgun in the state. However, according to the NRA, owners do not need to register their firearms.

            State gun laws: According to the NRA, Connecticut requires that a person have permit to purchase a handgun, but not rifle. Handguns – but not rifles – must also be licensed. The Brady Campaign calls the state’s gun laws “strong.”

            etc etc

            Hmm… looks like there’s not much correlation between gun laws and mass shootings. (otherwise, why would the states with some of the best GC laws be on the list at all?) Anyone have state comparison studies?

          • ivan_the_mad

            “If you only killed 0 or 1 person (the only less than “two or more”), how is that a “mass shooting”?” If you’d have read the report, you ‘d know that in those instances, the shooter killed one person and wounded, respectively, seven and seventeen people. Hence the article’s title of mass shootings, not mass murders.

            “Though I doubt many people would count two, three or four deaths as “mass”.” … wow.

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              So then the answer to your question is that the two reports are tallying numbers differently since the article the other poster linked said:

              “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

              So I guess first step would be to compare apples to apples.

              • ivan_the_mad

                This is sick. I’m done with you.

          • Mark Shea

            You do realize how sick and weird pettifogging about body counts in murders makes you sound, right?

            “A mass murder is supposed to be a *happy* occasion! Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed how many…”

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              I do believe that is the response a lot of people give when one tries to bring context to the “historical crimes” of the catholic church. (i.e. how many the Inquisition actually killed)

              Congrats, Mark, you’ve sunk to the level of most internet atheists.

              • Mark Shea

                Good bye, Nate.

            • The Deuce

              You do realize how sick and weird pettifogging about body counts in murders makes you sound, right?

              That was really low, Mark. In comparing the rate of mass shootings now to in the past, which is an important thing to do when considering which policies work best and worst at preventing them, it’s necessary to compare apples to apples. That’s all he was doing. He wasn’t “pettifogging” about body counts. That kind of slanderous demagoguery used to short-circuit a reasoned discussion by appealing to anger is indeed reminiscent of internet atheists.

              • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

                The Deuce is right. Right now people are mixing a desire to figure things out with high emotions. People are throwing out stats at a time when hearts are still rightly broken over what happened. Nate seemed to be trying to get to the bottom of what’s being said, especially if it’s under the heading ‘stats prove thus and such about gun violence.’ Just like we all are. If people are going to appeal to numbers, then numbers are fair game, and indeed should be looked at if we want to find ways to limit such horrors. To simply shut people down, and then let fly with that sort of a response, is hell and gone from ‘it’s time to come together and find a solution.’ I think Nate deserves a chance to come back. Maybe he can be banned for other reasons, but not this.

  • SteveP

    I am quite uncomfortable with the narrative regarding Nancy Lanza as a hysteria prone Beck-drone. She is also a victim. The son she bore murdered her.

    Your questions are always good Mark; perhaps the guns are a symptom of insecurity after a divorce – that is an avenue which has a much larger set of idols. Surely spouses at war, with teenagers or young adults as observers, ending in final physical separation is explanation enough.

    Thank you for giving me more things to ponder. I started your post thinking the NRA/2nd Amendment were tangents to the Newtown slaughter. I might end up back there but one does not know.

  • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

    My take: The United States doesn’t have a deeply sick gun culture. It has at least two sick gun cultures — one that fetishes guns and one that fetishes gun bans. Then there’s the guns-are-ubiquitous culture, and the culture in which guns are essentially absent (in thought as well as physically).

    In much the same way that drivers can be classified as “maniacs,” “idiots,” and “people who drive the same speed you do,” the country’s various gun cultures don’t particularly trust each other, and even see each other as dangerous and threatening the further apart they are on their views.

    One dynamic I’ve noticed — which I’ll just stipulate occurs between sane people who own guns and sane people who don’t own guns — is that sane people who don’t own guns will demonstrate their technical ignorance of guns (as I think Mark does by implying a .223 rifle is “massive artillery”), and sane people who own guns reply by correcting the technical details. The sane people who don’t own guns see the sane people who own guns as trying to divert the discussion away from what really matters, and the sane people who own guns see the sane people who don’t own guns as being wrong on the premises and therefore wrong on the conclusions.

    • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

      I think that the best thing any sane person can do is to inform themselves so that even when they disagree they can avoid the pitfall of misinforming others by arguing from ignorance which is why I have been passing this study around to everyone I know:

      http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

      • Irenist
        • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

          I believe that the goal of eventual elimination of firearms is meant to take place only in a staunch culture of life which we do not have.

          “The Vatican’s justice and peace council’s 1994 document said, ‘In a world marked by evil and sin, the right of legitimate defense by armed means exists.’”

          As long as we live in a culture of death such as our own with its rampant violence then firearms cannot be entirely eliminated from private society and I think that the bishops recognize that. That staunch culture of life that is necessary for the total elimination of firearms among citizens is still a long way off.

          Our public policy must be in response to our current environment and its problems and not in response to the environment that we hope one day to achieve. We must work towards that culture of life but not behave like we already live in one.

          “And as Pope Benedict wrote in his message to the disarmament conference, no reduction or elimination of arms can happen without eliminating violence at its root. Every person “is called to disarm his own heart and be a peacemaker everywhere,” the pope said.”

          When we have defeated the culture of death and disarmed our hearts then we can safely disarm society.

          • The Deuce

            When we have defeated the culture of death and disarmed our hearts then we can safely disarm society.

            We won’t have to, because society will disarm itself. I believe the name of the civilization where that will happen is “The New Jerusalem.”

          • Irenist

            “When we have defeated the culture of death and disarmed our hearts then we can safely disarm society.”
            So we need to wait until the Second Coming to regulate guns?

            • The Deuce

              Only if “regulate guns” is synonymous with “disarm society.” Is that an admission on your part?

              • Irenist

                No.
                (Comment lengthened with this parenthesis to placate spam filter.)

            • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

              I’m paraphrasing Pope Benedict as illustrated above. I’m not against pertinent regulations like registration, background checks and making it illegal for people with a history violence or certain mental illnesses to possess firearms.

              What I am against is gun control which is often used synonymously to mean outright gun bans or the use of other methods to restrict gun-ownership among healthy, law-abiding citizens. That can only safely occur within the context of a staunch culture of life. Both the evidence provided by criminological reports and the bishops allude to this reality.

    • Stu

      Tom is on to something. As a gun owner and retired Naval Officer, I do get frustrated by those making calls for action only to see their understanding of firearms greatly “challenged.” The so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” of 1994 was good example of this. It effectively outlawed rifles that looked menacing. It was the “easy button” approach.. People wiped their hands, congratulated themselves on doing something but in reality nothing was accomplished.

      • Irenist

        That’s a fair point.

    • Mark Shea

      By “massive artillery” all I am doing is using hyperbole to describe, not howitzers and bazookas, but simply “sufficient firepower to spray crowd with bullets and kill, say, 20 six year olds. I’m not interested in technical details about weaponry. I’m interested in reducing the access of maniacs to the technology of slaughter.

      • Stu

        But Mark,

        You need to understand the technical aspects in order to make informed recommendations. Otherwise you get meaningless laws like the “Assault Weapons Ban.”

        I assume you want effective action vice just “action.”

      • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

        I understand your use of hyperbole, Mark. If you didn’t use hyperbole, I’d probably think someone slipped some beer into your milk. And as examples of what I’m talking about go, your “massive artillery” is pretty mild.

        But if sane people who don’t own guns are seeking common cause with sane people who own guns, I think they’ll find it easier going if they don’t give grounds for wondering whether they know the difference between “the technology of slaughter” and “rifles that look menacing.”

  • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

    And to be honest, I doubt any but the craziest of my readers think much would be helped if armed vigilantes decided to turn America into a large-scale version of 1982 Beirut, swiss-cheesed by factional killings and assassinations by people who have decided to Fight the Power. Nor does this path of Home Arsenal Enhancement really promise much success even if you go down it, as David Koresh could tell you.

    Ok then, Mark. What’s your solution to “police state America” (that you complain about so much)? To tell the state “thank you sir, may I have another?” Yeah, you might not have much of a chance against the military, but you’ll have more than just standing there.

    That is a very popular meme. Is there any actual basis for it in the Federalist Papers? It’s certainly not discernible in the language of the amendment. And the Civil War doesn’t seem to have panned out for those advocating that interpretation.

    So… you’ve never read like… anything?
    http://cap-n-ball.com/fathers.htm

    “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”
    George Washington
    First President of the United States

    That’s just one. Oh wait, you asked specifically about the federalist papers:

    “The best we can help for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
    Alexander Hamilton
    The Federalist Papers at 184-8

    • Mark Shea

      You seem to think I have some solutions. I’m just trying to clear my mind of cant (and can’t) at this point.

      So: *are* you seriously suggesting we need an America that looks like Beirut. Speak into the mike.

    • Irenist

      The Founders may have been as wrong about guns as about slavery. They were not the Church, and their wisdom was not infallible.

      “Yeah, you might not have much of a chance against the military, but you’ll have more than just standing there.”
      So don’t just stand there. Organize. Start a petition, a protest, a political party. THAT is how you bring down tyranny, not by playing with loud toys. It’s time to put away the things of the child, Nate.

      • Irenist

        If you want a REALLY effective weapon against tyranny, pray the Rosary. Brought down the Soviets, you know.

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        The Founders may have been as wrong about guns as about slavery. They were not the Church, and their wisdom was not infallible.

        1) Mark asked for information about the founders’ beliefs, I provided it.
        2) And where does that stop? Maybe they were wrong about democracy. Maybe they were wrong about the 1st amendment, the 4th, the 5th, 3rd, etc etc.
        3) I’m not saying they were infallible, but these were the founding documents of the nation. If you reject them, then you reject the nation and need to leave or alter it peacefully (as the Constitution allows).

        So don’t just stand there. Organize. Start a petition, a protest, a political party. THAT is how you bring down tyranny, not by playing with loud toys. It’s time to put away the things of the child, Nate.

        So… you think WW2 was childish?

        If you want a REALLY effective weapon against tyranny, pray the Rosary. Brought down the Soviets, you know.

        Sure the USA and their military didn’t play even a MINOR role in that?

        Of course, actually it was more economic law that brought down the Soviets (though I will give plenty of credit to the Church as well). See for example: China. They flexed on their economy, and don’t show many signs of slowing down that tyranny. Ironically, their violating biological law (the 1 child policy) looks to be setting up the current regime for take down.

        • Irenist

          “So… you think WW2 was childish?… Sure the USA and their military didn’t play even a MINOR role in that?”
          So, you’re in favor of the sword in the hands of Caesar. So were Paul and Aquinas. This relates to long-overdue safety regulations of the still-legal sword in the hand of the Christian civilian how?

          • TMLutas

            Does your ignorance of state military law bother you at all?

  • Andy, Bad Person

    I’ve been mulling over my own views about gun control for the last week, too. Up until this point, I’ve been of the “the 2nd amendment gives us the right to rebel against the government if we need to” mindset. I’ve also come around quite far in the last week, and I reached the same conclusion you stated here:

    Nor does this path of Home Arsenal Enhancement really promise much success even if you go down it, as David Koresh could tell you.

    It. Won’t. Work. Yes, our rights need defending, but it is the militant anti-federalists who are the utopians here. Even if we have no laws banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines (the only bans on the table right now, panic-mongerers), the U.S. Military would turn those “militias” into a stain so fast that it would make your head spin.

    One of the components of Just War is a reasonable chance of success. If you’re truly planning Civil War, there is no reasonable chance of success.

    Yup, I’ve done a complete 180 on the 2nd amendment. Since last week, I’m having a hard time defending the amendment at all.

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      So you have no solution for if a people’s rights are taken from them?

      • Irenist

        Non-violent civil disobedience. It works, and it’s more Christian.

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          It works when dealing with a democracy (which is why I’m in favor of it with the Palestinians). You have any results of it working against an actual tyranny?

          • Irenist

            Solidarity and the Arab Spring, for starters.

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              Forgive me but I am not familiar with what “solidarity” might be referring to. Was it a town? Country? Group of people?

              As for the Arab Spring, considering that it’s only approaching 2 years old, it might be a little early to say that it was non-violent and it ‘worked’.

              • Irenist

                I keep forgetting you’re not Catholic; the fulfillment of the Fatima prayers against the Soviet Empire is kind of a big deal in these parts. Solidarity:
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solidarity_%28Polish_trade_union%29

                Arab Spring: it brought down Mubarak, which is an example of working against an actual tyranny. Whether similar tactics will be tried and will work against, e.g., Morsi, remains to be seen. But you wanted a proof of concept, I thought.

                One American theorist of nonviolent civil resistance whose work was influential amongst nonviolent young Arab protesters was Gene Sharp:
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Sharp

                His work is extensive, and can supply you with more rigorous info. The upshot is that the military will always have more guns than you, but that the mass populace has other ways to resist. Gun-fights are resistance on the military’s strong ground. Nonviolent civil disobedience is resistance on civilians’. The Machiavellian thing to do is to turn the other cheek: Jesus is smarter than the men of violence; listen to Him.

              • Bill

                I assume Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement.

  • The Deuce

    But, in fact, we *do* have laws against murder. In fact, *God* has a law against murder–even though murder remains a fact of life. That’s not silly utopianism, that’s common sense.

    I think you’ve missed the point of that argument (which is understandable, given the snark). The point is that simply making a law that something shall be so does not make it so. Saying that there shall be no murder clearly doesn’t make there be no murder. Likewise, saying that there shall be no guns to murder with does not make it so. Our determination that there shall be no murder is only as good as our determination to actively stop murder attempts when they’re attempted, and to punish the ones that happen despite our efforts. The point is that we ought to be thinking of how to practically stop murders rather than immediately coming up with unenforceable laws to declare how some of us would like our ideal world to be.

    To begin with, who are these shadowy forces of malevolence who want to “outlaw” guns (really? all of them?) and send us all forthwith to concentration camps?

    Frankly, I think that most of the gun control crowd falls into that category, based on their behavior. None of them say so outright, of course. Instead they recommend banning “assault weapons,” but the designation of what constitutes an “assault weapon” turns out to be entirely arbitrary. They repeatedly show a total ignorance of the topic, and don’t attempt to inform themselves before declaring which weapons should be banned. They blithely ignore all the evidence regarding gun control, “gun-free zones,” and crime rates, and just keep pushing the same line without attempting to deal with those issues.

    What am I supposed to conclude from all that, except that they aren’t concerned with details or practical solutions, but are simply reaching for an opportunity to get the camel’s nose under the tent to establish a precedent for banning any and all guns for any reasons they may dream of in the future? Even you Mark, shortly after insinuating that nobody wants to ban all the guns, suggest outlawing guns for everyone who isn’t in a militia, which basically means all private citizens (Btw, both Jefferson and Madison, the guys behind the 2nd Amendment, specifically affirmed that it was meant as an individual right, not just a militia one. If you think we should consider repealing it, please say so and present your reasons, and leave post-modern literature deconstruction to the post-modern deconstructionists.)

  • The Deuce

    Btw, regarding the part in the comic strip that says: “insert fantasies about armed civilian heroes saving the day, and the various excuses for why this has never actually happened, here”

    All I have to say is, Tom Tomorrow is a dangerously misinformed fool to nearly the same degree that he is a supercilious jackass. Is a simple Google search too much to ask for?

    http://deadlinelive.info/2012/08/07/armed-citizen-in-tx-stops-shooting-spree-and-saves-cop-by-making-150-yard-shot-with-a-pistol/
    http://www.policymic.com/articles/20891/oregon-gun-owner-stops-clackamas-shooting-spree-proving-guns-save-lives

    Of course, the reason you never hear about these sorts of things in front-page news is precisely because the low or nonexistent body counts prevent them from being big news in the first place (and, of course, because it doesn’t advance the preferred “narrative”). And that doesn’t take into account the killings that are never attempted in the first place, because potentially armed citizens present a deterrent. There’s a reason nearly *all* of these mass shootings have taken place in gun-free zones.

    And even in the cases you do hear about, like Sandy Hook or Aurora, the shooting ends when armed heroes show up, and the killer is either shot down, takes his own life, or is captured. If the cops had showed up later, Sandy Hook would have had more victims, and if they’d showed up earlier, it may have had less. And if there had already been some there, perhaps it wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

  • Mercury

    I have to wonder – how much gun crime is actually perpetrated by people who either have concealed carry permits (I hear it is lower than for police themselves) or by people who use firearms primarily for sportsmanship?

    I do not understand why people need military-grade weapons, but I also do not see how *banning* guns used for self-defense (as in Australia and Germany) would be effective here in the US.

    Also, I have read that killers tend to choose locations where they know no one else will be armed because of gun-free zones and the like – schools, the particular theater in Aurora, etc.

  • http://www.patheos.com Deacon Tom

    Since we live in the US, it does little good to pontificate on the general good and evil of guns without addressing the relevant provisions of the US Constitution. Just as the Becket Fund for religious Liberty is making strong legal arguments in federal courts based on the First Amendment that the HHS mandate violates the religious liberty of businesses, churches and other institutions, any discussion of limitations on gun ownership must be made in the context of the 2d Amendment. And Mr. Shea, just like it is hazardous to just pick up a scripture passage and rely on “plain language,” one can’t just read the 2d Amendment and know what it “says.” In DC v. Heller (2008), the US Supreme Court unequivocally found a individual right to bear arms. So any theoretical discussion of “militia” etc. is fruitless-the issue has been decided. But the Supremes also noted this right, like others in the Bill of Rights, is not unlimited. Congress and States can place reasonable limits on gun ownership, and there is no good reason that a conversation can’t take place that would put new, reasonable limits of the individual right to bear arms. Radical views on both sides have kept this conversation from taking place. For example, the individual right to own a handgun for self-defense likely would not include the right to have military weapons and sufficient ammunition to wage an insurrection or a small war, which apparently the Lanzas did. The bottom line is that a rational discussion of gun rights is long overdue, but we should not waste time trying to argue individuals don’t have the right to bear arms, an argument that some diehards still want to make. I don’t agree with Senator Schumer of NY very often, but his opinion piece in today’s Washington Post is the most reasonable approach I have read in many years, and definitely would offer a bit of sanity to the gun control discussion now taking place.

    • TMLutas

      Even if you properly navigate the 2nd amendment, you also have to manage the state codes. Gun rights are also guaranteed by state constitutions throughout the nation.

  • Irenist

    Questions for the group:
    I don’t think a ban on all guns will ever happen in the U.S., and as with other potentially dangerous objects like automobiles, alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, I think “legal but heavily regulated” is probably the way to go for the foreseeable future. Thus, short of a ban on all guns (which isn’t going to happen and angers people when discussed), would the pro-gun folks here be in favor of federal or state (whatever your preference; don’t care to discuss your thoughts on federalism in this thread) actions like:

    1. Laws against high-capacity ammo cartridges
    2. Registration of all guns
    3. Mandated use of digital technologies (available now) that render a gun inoperable by anyone but its owner
    4. Closing the so-called gun show loophole / Requiring extensive background checks for every gun purchase
    5. Requiring renewal of those checks on the same time-table as drivers’ licenses
    6. Mandating that gun owners purchase insurance for their guns equivalent to car insurance, since both kinds of machine are dangerous
    7. Allowing gun safety to be regulated like the safety of cars and all other consumer goods by being placed in the purview of actual consumer safety regulators, instead of being de facto completely unregulated in the as it is now by the ATF, which focuses on law enforcement, not safety regulation
    8. Massive no-questions-asked gun buy-back programs
    9. Increased “sin taxes” on guns and, especially, ammo, like we have for other dangerous but legal hobbies like alcohol and tobacco
    10. Increased sentences or other penalties for violators of felon-in-possession statutes

    • ivan_the_mad

      Here are my responses. I’m a gun owner with a very minimal collection.
      1) In favor. I’d consider high capacity to be more than six rounds.
      2) In favor.
      3) Against; would be in favor of physical safeguards (trigger locks etc). Also, like many things I own, I would like them to be for common use by my family.
      4) Extremely in favor. There are far too many instances of that being abused in my state for criminal purposes.
      5) In favor. Mental health, for instance, is not static.
      6) In favor, I could certainly see a minimum liability insurance requirement as with cars.
      7) Reserve judgement. What would such an agency see to? The mechanical safety of guns? The standardization of gun safety programs?
      8) In favor, less the massive part.
      9) Against. It smacks too much of social engineering. I distinguish between regulation and associated fees / taxes (e.g. property) and punitive taxes designed to discourage use/ownership.
      10) In favor.

      • Irenist

        Thanks, Ivan!
        (Comment lengthened with this parenthesis to placate spam filter.)

    • Stu

      1. Laws against high-capacity ammo cartridges
      Not specifically against in principle. They actually tend to jam the rifle more often. Ironically, that is what happened in Aurorora.
      2. Registration of all guns
      No. None of their business. Not sure how that would stop people from going crazy.
      3. Mandated use of digital technologies (available now) that render a gun inoperable by anyone but its owner
      No. Overly complicated. Would be disabled by bad guys. Meanwhile, a wife would reach for her husband’s firearm and it wouldn’t work while under durress.
      4. Closing the so-called gun show loophole / Requiring extensive background checks for every gun purchase
      Define “extensive”
      5. Requiring renewal of those checks on the same time-table as drivers’ licenses
      No. Again, not the business of the government if I own a firearm. Wouldn’t stop any of these mass shootings.
      6. Mandating that gun owners purchase insurance for their guns equivalent to car insurance, since both kinds of machine are dangerous
      Why not extend that to chain saws, ladderrs, etc? We have auto insurance because we use public roads. My use of a firearm is my right and has no need for government regulation. Again, would not solve the problem at hand.
      7. Allowing gun safety to be regulated like the safety of cars and all other consumer goods by being placed in the purview of actual consumer safety regulators, instead of being de facto completely unregulated in the as it is now by the ATF, which focuses on law enforcement, not safety regulation
      How would this help?
      8. Massive no-questions-asked gun buy-back programs
      Theft would increase.
      9. Increased “sin taxes” on guns and, especially, ammo, like we have for other dangerous but legal hobbies like alcohol and tobacco
      How would this stop massacres?
      10. Increased sentences or other penalties for violators of felon-in-possession statutes
      Sure. Why not. Doesn’t address the problem.

      • Irenist

        ” My use of a firearm is my right and has no need for government regulation.”
        Stu, your safe, responsible *hobby* is a less important right than innocent children’s right to life. Your gun ownership does not make the state less tyrannical; it merely provides you with a pleasant pastime. Which is laudable, but other dangerous hobby devices are regulated. Why is your hobby sacrosanct? Because some distressingly irreligious eighteenth century rationalist deists said so?

        • Stu

          My so-called “hobby” does not threaten the life of children. Never has, never will.

          Go register your power tools with the local authorities. In you hands, they are much more likely to do more harm to others.

          And my views have nothing to do with your “distressingly irreligious eighteenth century rationalist deists.” That’s your debate with them.

          • Irenist

            My so-called “hobby” does not threaten the life of children. Never has, never will.

            You’re probably a really safe driver, too. That’s great. But in the aggregate, universally-applicable regulation of dangerous machines saves lives, because the state doesn’t have a magic detector that allows it to only require insurance of bad drivers and irresponsible shooters. If you really want to defend the Republic, join the nonviolent political agitation for safe, responsible regulations that save lives. It’s more rewarding, and more effective, than guarding us against the nonexistent invading army from the Red Dawn remake. Show me a grandmother at a pro-life prayer vigil, and I’ll show you a defender of human rights. Show me a hunter, and I’ll show you a hobbyist.

            • Stu

              I drive my car public property. Thus they regulate it. I can shoot my gun on private property. Thus my business.

              Thanks for you concern. You can move along now.

              • Irenist

                “I can shoot my gun on private property. Thus my business.”
                Thoughts about this:
                1. How are you getting that gun back to your house after you buy it? Public roads?
                2. How does the state know you’re going to only fire the gun at home? What if you have a concealed carry permit? Or hunt away from home? Or what if it’s someone less trustworthy than you, Stu? The state can’t tell.
                3. My concern is with preventing the deaths of innocents. Yours seems to be with keeping the Man out of your face. That troubles me.

      • Chris M

        A lot of these ideas (2,3,6,7, and 9 in particular) would only increase the price of gun ownership, which would leave those law-abiding poor less able to obtain a firearm for self-defense and very likely increase the prevalence of black market firearms.

        • Irenist

          Increasing the price of tobacco and alcohol for the law-abiding poor discourages the use of these dangerous substances. Ditto ammo and guns.

          • Stu

            Let them eat cake.

            • Irenist

              Stu, are you implying that public health measures intended to reduce consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and bullets are somehow equivalent to insensitively denying bread to starving peasants? Not, mind you, taxes intended to make guns owned for home protection unaffordable, just taxes intended to make gang-bangers think twice about spraying bullets around:

              The key thing here is that the use of handguns in gang conflicts is at least in part an equilibrium problem. If two rival organizations are conducting disputes with guns rather than knives and fists, that’s worse for both gangs and for the city at large. The legal risks are higher, the risk of death is higher, and up-arming yourself gives you no systematic advantage over rivals. But whole cities get stuck in the bad high-fatality equilibrium because nobody wants to be the guy who brings the knife to a gunfight. Yet at the same time, these gangs are at least in part economic institutions that should be sensitive to the price of production inputs. If bullets get more expensive, you need to start conserving them. And if your rivals have the same problem, then perhaps the citywide basis of competition can ratchet down to a less-deadly dynamic of melee rather than drive-by.

              http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/12/17/ammunition_tax_taxing_bullets_could_reduce_violene.html
              What I’m hoping for, Stu, is for us to learn to think of gun crime (and drugs!) as a public health problem amenable to sensible regulation, rather than a form of Wal-Mart vs. Whole Foods identity politics where we argue about “Liberty!” and “Dead Kids!” all day without getting anywhere, just like we do (with Team Red’s and Team Blue’s kabuki roles reversed), spend all day arguing about abortion with those exact slogans (“Liberty!”, “Dead Kids!”) without, again, actually getting anywhere.

              • Stu

                I think your attitude of knowing better than the so-called poor to be elitist.

                • Irenist

                  I don’t know better than the so-called poor. For most of my life, I have been the so-called poor. I just think that raising the cost of ammo is going to mean that less ammo gets used at the margin, which is basic economics, and which will perhaps save some lives, as described above.

                  The cost of ammo is not a major factor for the poor householder buying six rounds for his home-defense revolver. It may be somewhat burdensome when the cost of rounds for target practice (which I understand responsible gun owners are advised to engage in with some regularity) is factored in, but even there I think the average poor person, like any person, would rather live in a neighborhood with a lower equilibrium level of gang gunfire, even if it meant practice ammo was a bit more expensive.

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      1) No, that wouldn’t even do anything. Practiced shooters can reload in a second or two.
      2) That actually wouldn’t be bad for collectors, but what will it do? Get someone innocent in trouble if their gun is stolen? (or just encourage more identity theft)
      3) What’s the current price increase on these? If it’s still high, then congrats, you just made sure only the rich have guns. I’m in favor of it, but you probably won’t have to mandate it once it reaches a point of cheapness and flexibility as homeowners would probably WANT a gun that they can key to themselves and select friends/loved ones that intruders or little kids can’t utilize. (assuming the tech is even effective, which no tech is)
      4) The research I’ve done so far, none of these killers have bought their weapons at a gun show. Any data on what this would actually prevent or help?
      5) Eh, I guess, if you’re ok with increased government record keeping and surveillance of your life.
      6) This I actually don’t mind as much, except I think it should just be offered, not mandated. Though that brings up a question I’m now curious about: what are the car insurance rates among gangsters? Is that another law among many they break or is it surprisingly one they follow?
      7) Meaningless? Seriously, what regulations are they going to enforce? The free-market has already made guns about as safe as they can be since… you know: gun owners don’t want the gun doing something undesigned (like going off accidentally, jamming, etc).
      8) I’m fine with this but where are you getting the money? If you want to set up a private charity that’s going to run that program, more power to you and I wish you all the luck. (heck, the charity could maybe even figure out some way of funding itself from the guns it gets)
      9) What makes you think there aren’t any?
      10) And what are the sentences now? How much increasing you doing? Death penalty? Not enough context in this (or previous question) to answer meaningfully.

      • Irenist

        “Eh, I guess, if you’re ok with increased government record keeping and surveillance of your life.”
        Drivers have to go to the DMV. Why should gun owners get special treatment for their equally dangerous machines? The rest of us have to man up and be responsible.
        “what are the car insurance rates among gangsters?”
        That some people break some laws doesn’t mean we should have no laws. If your car hits me, I want compensation. If your gun injures me, I want compensation. Why do gun owners get special treatment that car owners don’t?

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          Drivers have to go to the DMV. Why should gun owners get special treatment for their equally dangerous machines? The rest of us have to man up and be responsible.

          Similar to what I said earlier. Because it’s going to be a lot harder for someone to build a car in their garage than a gun.

          That some people break some laws doesn’t mean we should have no laws. If your car hits me, I want compensation. If your gun injures me, I want compensation. Why do gun owners get special treatment that car owners don’t?

          1) I said I was find with it being offered, and if the gun owners want it, they’ll buy it.
          2) You are far more likely to be injured by my car, than my gun. Of course, I would be more than willing to compensate you if my gun injured you, but the first I am curious, how did my gun injure you? 1 of 2 ways: First, you are a home intruder or otherwise threatening me and mine in which case, you won’t need the insurance money, you’re dead. Second, I’ve snapped and just decided to kill everyone, in which case, do you think my lack of insurance will make a difference?

          Although I do think it could be viable compromise to set up either digital prints OR insurance for gun owners.

          • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

            How about the very real-life example, 3) I didn’t properly secure my gun so a nutcase got a hold of it and went on a murderous rampage?

          • Irenist

            “how did my gun injure you?”
            Well, there was that fellow in PA who forgot that his gun was loaded and it fatally shot his young son in the chest when he set it down on the center console of his car. Accidents happen. Lots of gun owners follow safety rules. Lots of drivers are excellent. Some aren’t. So we all have to carry insurance; even macho hyper-competent manly drivers and shooters should have to do this, just like the rest of us imperfect sinners. It’s about being a responsible member of civil society. An adult. Some cars are used by crooks: thus, in part, we all have I.D. plates on our cars, and carry licenses when we drive them.

            Why are gun owners exempt from similar common sense regulations? It seems to me that the answer is that the gun manufacturers have a powerful lobby that has used propaganda to work some gun owners into a panic about the New World Order or something taking their guns away so the manufacturers could avoid profit-lessening regulations, and those panicked folks have a lot of votes in rural states and in certain safe Congressional districts where the GOP primary is a bigger deal than the general. I would like to see those of us in other states and Congressional districts out-argue and out-vote them. Because that’s how democracy actually works. Relatedly, I think democracy is a better way to resist abortion than clinic bombings. Resist not evil. That’s how you beat it.

    • The Deuce

      Irenist:

      All of your recommendations appear to be aimed simply at reducing legal gun ownership in general, by making guns costlier and more inconvenient to legally own. None of them are directed at this sort of crime in particular.

      I think you would actually agree with that assessment. Your recommendations, then, are based on the premise that a reduction in legal gun ownership rates, via imposed cost overhead, correlates with a reduction in mass murder. You need to defend that premise, then, for your recommendations to have any merit. Can you?

      • Irenist

        Wrong premise. My premise is that making dangerous toys safer (through digital trigger locks, etc.), less likely to fall into the hands of criminals (through registration), and costlier through Pigovian sin taxes that have succeeded in other public health areas like tobacco and alcohol where people persist in playing with dangerous toys, that overall firearm deaths (including from accidental discharges, use by curious children, domestic violence, and non-mass killings) could be reduced. The most dangerous school massacre in U.S. history was perpetrated in the 1920′s with a bomb, not guns. My interest is pro-life in general, not anti-mass-killing in particular. The only mass-killing-relevant regulations I’ve suggested are the combination of background checks with digital trigger locks (which might’ve prevented Lanza from using his mother’s guns or buying his own) and limits on the number of rounds in a clip, which is a worthwhile, but marginal intervention in these contexts. You can’t prevent mass killing entirely, any more than you can stop coat hangar abortions all the time where abortion is restricted. But making some of the tools of killing more regulated and more costly will prevent some killing some of the time. And that’s pro-life.

  • Jason Hull

    I am certain, Mr. Shea, that you would argue that Scripture must be interpreted in its appropriate context. So why would we read the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights in any different manner? The historical context of the Bill of Rights reveals a prior failure of the Articles of Confederation and a subsequent Constitution that was met with fierce opposition. One of the main criticisms of the document was that it was lacking in guarantees for individual rights. The supporters claimed that whatever the Constitution was silent on was a right of the people. The detractors claimed that was not a strong enough protection for individual rights. Thus came the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, labeled the Bill of Rights. These amendments were meant to guarantee individual rights and liberties so as to protect the people from a tyrannical federal government. That is why we see such bold individual rights being declared such as right to due process, speedy trial, freedom of speech, press, and religion, and freedom from having to quarter troops. Notice how these are not federal rights, state rights, or government rights of any kind. They are individual rights. So what exactly is a “militia” in 2nd Amendment terms? Well based on the historical context of the text and the individualized personal nature of all the surrounding texts within the text itself, I seriously doubt it has to do with some government organization’s ability (regardless of the level of government) to keep and bear arms for a publicly held and controlled army. Even the 9th and 10th Commandments were general catch all points to illustrate that the Bill of Rights were not an exhaustive list of individual rights. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights

    That tremendous oversight in context aside, the meme is stupid. But so are most of them. They are caricatures and straw man simplifications of real issues designed for a dim witted society that does not have the attention span to thoroughly consider a topic or read an extensive paper on a subject. Thus I have no problem attacking it. The problem with this article is that it mixes doses of very strong and truthful reality with very small missteps in thinking. The former tends to blend in with the latter and make the latter which is unfounded seem founded. Examples in this article beyond what I already mentioned are the short little tangential jabs at Republicans, the Tea Party, and anyone that recognizes that an unarmed populace is at a far greater disadvantage in the preservation of its individual rights from an oppressive government than an armed one. An attack on ideas would have been sufficient, but some how it was deemed necessary to belittle and generalize large swaths of people. That of itself make the article take on elements of caricature and ad hominem fallacy.

    Concerning the idea that an armed populace is a free one, why did they storm the Bastille? They needed guns. What was one of the primary issues with the American Revolution? Sufficient arms. The 2nd Amendment was practically dedicated to King George in addition to the God-given, inalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. And these situations are not even remotely comparable to David Koresh’s situation. He was not a sane man revolting against a tyrannical government but loon committing crimes against children. It did not work because it was a small group of crazies. (But another interesting reflection on sanity, try reading “The Radicalism of the American Revolution” by Gordon Wood.) If the government decided that Catholics were political dissidents over issues like non-compliance to the HHS contraception mandate and their opposition to homosexual marriage and started imprisoning or executing people, that 2nd Amendment might be a lot more popular. A vast population of armed resistance is a strong deterrent. It’s current popularity may be what keeps such thinking outside of the realm of thought of some radical secularists. Considering the effectiveness that armed insurgents have had against modern armies overseas, these are realities that cannot be overlooked. It is not crazy. It is simply the reality.

    Concerning the Civil War, I would hate to see another civil war, and I have great hopes that such a thing would never happen. Even though I think another American civil war is extraordinarily unlikely, to close my eyes to human history and hope that such a thing will never be necessary or occur again is not prudent in my opinion. After all, if I were alive 100 years ago and someone suggested the idea that this country alone would kill 1 million children in the womb every year, I would have thought that person an apocalyptic minded mad-man with no grasp of reality. Yet I have not lived a day of my life absent of that horrific and seemingly impossible reality. Could my government become oppressive to the point where a new civil war was necessary? I hope not. But an armed populace provides a degree of insurance.

    I do, however, understand the desire the gun control. Guns are very powerful and effective weapons. They make killing very easy, and they make mass-murder possible. However, I do not think that gun control aimed at weapon types will be effective in these matters, Constitutional, or even feasible for practical application. For example, if we were to ban semi-automatic weapons, I do not think that most people would turn them in. The number of them in circulation is immense. So would we raid people’s homes to collect them? This is a situation where wisdom and prudence is key. We cannot afford more legislation based on wishful thinking. Wishful thinking legislation has been disastrous in this country as of late (from the “everyone should own a home” policy which caused the great recession to the “everyone should have health care” policy which is currently driving up medical care costs and attacking Constitutional rights).

    I think that perhaps the best way to counter this issue of mass murder is to work on our mental health system and stop holding God in disdain as a society. Concerning mental health, the following timeline suggests that the number of people institutionalized for mental health disorders has decreased dramatically and also the percentage of people in prison diagnosed with mental health disorders has dramatically increased. Prison is not the place for mental health treatment, especially since we have crowding issues that result in premature releasing of prisoners. And I seriously doubt that mental illness has declined amongst the U.S. population. This means that it is probable that there are more mentally ill people on the streets not being appropriately treated. http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/37146/A-History-of-Mental-Institutions-in-the-United-States/#vars!date=1964-12-21_21:30:35! Also, here is another article that discusses some of the difficulties that the mental health care in the U.S. has faced in the last century: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/11/3/7.full.pdf

    Concerning the issue of having disdain for God as a society, without God there is no morality. A rejection of God in the short term is a rejection of morality in the long term.

    But perhaps there are things that could be done through gun control methods like mental health exam requirements for licensing? Not sure about this last thought as I am cautious about allowing the government too much control over whether or not I get to execute my Constitutional rights. I am already facing issues with “hate speech” and HHS attacking my freedoms of speech and religious life.

    Just some things to think about.

    • Irenist

      The Constitution is not Scripture; treating the Founders like Christ is a big part of the problem with right-wing gun culture. They were wrong about slavery; maybe they were wrong about guns.

      Guns in the hands of the people don’t prevent tyranny as effectively in 21st century conditions as they allegedly did in 18th century conditions. Countries like Somalia and Yemen (comparable to us in civilian gun ownership) are hellholes, not possessors of the institutional framework of functioning courts and legislatures that supports ordered liberty. Nonviolent verbal disagreement is the stuff of democracy; not guns.

      Guns are a pleasant hobby for hunters and target shooters. That is all. Owning them does not make you a defender of the Republic. Just a hobbyist. If your hobby endangers others, regulation may be appropriate.

      • Mark Shea

        This is common sense. Thank you.

      • ivan_the_mad

        “Countries like Somalia and Yemen (comparable to us in civilian gun ownership) are hellholes” Because I’m a terrible person, I’d rewrite that as:

        “Countries like Somalia and Yemen (comparable to us in civilian gun ownership) are libertarian paradises”

      • Beadgirl

        Irenist, I really have liked a lot of what you have to say in this thread — you’ve explained several things more concisely than I could have.

        • Irenist

          Thanks, Beadgirl! I’ve never been accused of being concise before in one of these threads, that’s for sure. You’ve made my day.

          • Beadgirl

            Perhaps we should have a Ramble-Off someday, then. :>

      • B-Rob

        “Guns are a pleasant hobby for hunters and target shooters. That is all.”

        Are you completely dismissing the fact that tens of thousands (one study states 2.5 million) of crimes are stopped each year by a person with a firearm?

        “Countries like Somalia and Yemen (comparable to us in civilian gun ownership) are hellholes, not possessors of the institutional framework of functioning courts and legislatures that supports ordered liberty. ”

        What about Switzerland? They are more closely related to us (not a third world country) and they have plenty of firearms with sensible regulation. Why don’t we model our laws like theirs? They have extremely low crime.

        • Irenist

          “they have plenty of firearms with sensible regulation”
          Sensible regulation is my goal. However, when I suggest that guns and ammo be treated no worse than automobiles and tobacco, I get complaints about “My rights!” that remind me far too much of the pro-choice lobby for comfort.

          • Jason Hull

            Here is an interesting article examining the gun laws in Switzerland that illustrates how a Swiss style system of gun ownership in the U.S. is a very difficult thing to argue considering the differences in Swiss and U.S. culture (just like how Yemen and the U.S. are not comparable): http://www.guncite.com/swissgun-kopel.html

      • Jason Hull

        This seems like a strong argument on the surface, however, it is riddled with fallacy and the facts are not true.

        Concerning the facts, Somalia is no where near similar to the U.S. in civilian gun ownership. Yemen is second in the world but still a significant way behind the U.S. in guns per capita: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/files/2012/12/gun-own-totals.jpg.

        I would tend to agree with you that private small arms ownership is not as effective at preventing tyranny today as it was 200 plus years ago, but it is still far superior to an unarmed populace, again illustrated by the difficulties that modern armies encounter when fighting insurgency. My argument was not based upon historical effectiveness but current effectiveness relative to an unarmed populace.

        Also, there are few statements in this world that I would agree with more than, “Nonviolent verbal disagreement is the stuff of democracy; not guns.” But again, that was not my argument. Neither did I argue that the U.S. Constitution is comparable to Sacred Scripture. Those are blatant forms of red-herring fallacy, and I would appreciate if you would refrain from such argumentation.

        On the issue of the Constitution, I took aim at Mr. Shea’s literalist interpretation of the text from a modern day perspective without taking into account the primary context of the text and the historical context of the text. It led Mr. Shea to as false of an understanding of that text as it would be to conclude there is no such thing as Sacramental Confession from reading Mark 2:7.

        Concerning the excellent point that you made, “Nonviolent verbal disagreement is the stuff of democracy; not guns.” The 2nd Amendment’s purpose is to preserve democracy from those who do not care so much about verbal disagreements but are more interested in imposing their will upon others. This is very common sense. If a man chooses to rob another man, he will rob the easier target. For one to rob a strong man, he must first neutralize the strong man’s strength, common sense recognized by even Jesus in Mark 3:27. Now do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that Jesus is arguing the 2nd Amendment. I am simply illustrating the universal notion of overcoming an easy target vs. overcoming a strong target. The heart and spirit of democracy is verbal disagreement, argument, persuasion, working together, and compromise. However, the heart and spirit of a totalitarianism is force, and it cares not for reason, argument, talk, or God-given rights. So although your statement is true in the deepest sense, it does not apply to circumstances or situations that I was addressing.

        As far a Yemen is concerned (because even though they are a distant second in the guns per capita ranking the fact that they are number 2 could be an argument for similarity to the U.S. [unlike Somalia]), I do not know enough about the culture or the history of that country to speak in an informed manner regarding the similarity or dissimilarity of their situation to ours. Being a middle eastern and Arabic culture, I imagine that there are many differences from our culture and the attitudes of our two peoples as well as differences in economics that have far greater impact on their living conditions than gun ownership. Our culture is based on individual freedom won through a war for independence based on the idea of God-given rights. We were also blessed with economic prosperity and abundance from our beginning. What is Yemen’s cultural, historical, and economic perspective? Aside from your previously mentioned red-herring fallacies, I think these may be serious issues that were glossed over in your reasoning.

        Out of curiosity, was your comment about, “treating the Founders like Christ is a big part of the problem with right-wing gun culture,” an ad hominem attack aimed specifically at me or just an ad hominem fallacy in general?

        • Irenist

          Concerning the facts, Somalia is no where near similar to the U.S. in civilian gun ownership.

          How do you define “civilian” in the Somali anarchy?

          Yemen is second in the world but still a significant way behind the U.S. in guns per capita: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/files/2012/12/gun-own-totals.jpg.

          Ah. So we’re number one. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Sigh.

          I would tend to agree with you that private small arms ownership is not as effective at preventing tyranny today as it was 200 plus years ago, but it is still far superior to an unarmed populace, again illustrated by the difficulties that modern armies encounter when fighting insurgency. My argument was not based upon historical effectiveness but current effectiveness relative to an unarmed populace.

          The U.S. population is not going to get off the sofa long enough to become “an insurgency” fighting the U.S. army in any foreseeable future. Nor should it. In some sci-fi dystopia in which it did, presumably our insurgent army of Tea Party patriots, gangsters, home defense handgun owners, and hunters, once they’d all learned to work in concert (oh, to be a fly on that wall), would be able to be just as effective if our civilian gun ownership rates were those of pre-Civil War Syria (number 62 in the world, as I recall) rather than number 1. Not, mind you, that I’m even proposing that.

          “The 2nd Amendment’s purpose is to preserve democracy from those who do not care so much about verbal disagreements but are more interested in imposing their will upon others. This is very common sense.”
          The 2nd Amendment was rooted in the 1688 Bill of Rights in England and the American experience with minutemen facing down redcoats. During Reconstruction, it was reinterpreted by northern Radical Republicans understandably eager to see southern freed blacks armed so they could defend themselves against marauding armed white-supremacist terrorist insurgencies (ahem) like the KKK. These are specific historical circumstances, none of which are applicable. Nonetheless, I don’t advocate a total ban on guns, which are indeed useful for hunting and home defense, and enjoyable for shooting sports. I just don’t think the circumstances of 1688, 1776, or 1868 is especially applicable to the public health quandaries of the present.

          I am simply illustrating the universal notion of overcoming an easy target vs. overcoming a strong target.

          The early Christians were not “an easy target” for Nero. Solidarity was not “an easy target” for the Reds.

          However, the heart and spirit of a totalitarianism is force, and it cares not for reason, argument, talk, or God-given rights.

          If you want to prevent totalitarianism, though, your best civic weapons are reason, argument, and talk, not guns. As for existing totalitarianisms, they have been brought down by nonviolence in Poland, Egypt, and elsewhere.

          So although your statement is true in the deepest sense, it does not apply to circumstances or situations that I was addressing.

          And although your statements may be true in, e.g., Syria, they are completely inapplicable to the present First World democracies, where overt tyranny would be bad for mega-business (so it’s not gonna happen), and where prayer and nonviolent peer-to-peer democratic self-organization are the best antidotes to dangerous concentrations of political and economic power. The enemies of American liberty today are post-9/11 national security hysterics and mega-corporate lobbying. Neither of these is best resisted with guns.

          What is Yemen’s cultural, historical, and economic perspective? Aside from your previously mentioned red-herring fallacies, I think these may be serious issues that were glossed over in your reasoning.

          Yemen and Somalia demonstrate that widespread gun ownership, alone, does not guarantee liberty. That is all. No claim was made that widespread gun ownership guarantees the absence of liberty.

          Out of curiosity, was your comment about, “treating the Founders like Christ is a big part of the problem with right-wing gun culture,”

          There are lots of people in the country, mostly on the right politically, who treat the Constitution like Holy Writ. Many of these folks take to the internet to argue about its original intent like sola scriptura Protestants convinced that any layman can understand complicated old texts just by reading them and exercising private judgment. The subculture I am referring to is one of nationalist idolatry, embodied in kitsch like Mormon artist Jon McNaughton’s painting of Jesus with the Constitution, which embodies the heretical and dangerous LDS (and frequently, now, thanks to cranks like David Barton, evangelical) belief that the Constitution was a divinely inspired blueprint for a perfect Christian nation. That attitude affects the inflexible and absolutist right-wing attitude toward the Second Amendment, in much the same way that pernicious postmodern libertinism contributes to the inflexible pro-choice absolutism that surrounds any attempt to discuss unborn life or abortion with those dedicated to the infallibility of the nonexistent constitutional “right to privacy” w/r/t abortifacients fabricated in Roe. That libertarian dedication to guns and abortion “rights,” and the problems it causes is an observation about why this area tends to generate more heat than light. I wasn’t thinking of you in particular at all. Neither Heller nor Roe is a blueprint for the good society. Sorry.

          • Jason Hull

            At this point I am going to disengage. I have the impression that further conversation will not be fruitful.

  • Beadgirl

    I think part of the problem may be a tendency to conflate all kinds of gun violence. Drug dealers killing each other with illegally obtained guns is not the same as an abusive husband shooting his wife with a hunting rifle, which is not the same as a little kid stumbling onto his father’s gun and accidentally shooting his brother, which is not the same as a man buying assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to take out as many innocent people as he can before the guns jam or he gets caught. Stopping all these forms of gun violence will need multiple approaches both across the board and within each category.

    What people are concerned with right now is how very easy it is to perpetrate a mass murder of the kind that happened in Newtown, and so the focus is on the kinds of guns he used, which enabled him to kill dozens of people in a matter of minutes (and more, had the gun not jammed or whatever). And this, I think, ties in with Mark’s and other’s points — that people have been warning of the government maybe someday trying to turn us all into serfs or fodder for concentration camps, and yet meanwhile these weapons are being used to kill innocent people. Add to that the fact that we’d be toast if the entire military turned against us, no matter how many guns we had (don’t forget all the bombs, tanks, drones, chemical weapons, etc. they have and we don’t), and I think we need to drastically limit what kinds of guns are available to the general public.

    But addressing this concern with “oh, but banning guns entirely won’t prevent people from killing each other” or “gangs will still find a way to get guns” or “don’t people have a right to hunt?” or “guns don’t kill people, people do” misses the point. Else why do we prevent people from building bombs, or owning chemical weapons, and so on? A recognition that some weapons are too dangerous for the public to have, despite a potential threat of having to fight a dictatorship someday maybe.

  • Stu

    Aside from the fact that the right to bear arms is not dependent on being in the militia, the 2nd Amendment is saying that people need to have guns so that there can be a militia if needed, every male not in the military between the ages of 18 and 65 is part of the standing militia as per Title 10 of the U.S. Code.

    Now again from the perspective of a military officer, I don’t feel comfortable with the government ever having a monopoly on firearms. Just seems like an imbalance we don’t want. Just to argue from extremes. Imagine if we all had single shot muzzle loaders in the general populace with the government being armed with automatic weapons. I guess you can dismiss me as a Glenn Beck-nut, but do we really think that we are free from the risk of tyranny in this country for all time? Accordingly, I want to have semi-automatic weapons and truthfully a .223 Bushmaster would not be my first choice. I have my .45 M1911 and M1 Garand. Much more effective.

    • Irenist

      ” Imagine if we all had single shot muzzle loaders in the general populace with the government being armed with automatic weapons.”
      Imagine if automatics had been near impossible to get for decades, and the general populace had semi-automatics, while the government had bazookas, tanks, choopers, jets, drones, and tactical nukes. That country must be some kind of dystopian nightmare, right?

      • Stu

        Thankfully my approach has balance since all I am calling for is semi-automatics.

        BTW, bazookas, tanks, choopers (SIC), jets, drones and tactical nukes are NOT firearms.

        • Irenist

          In a world in which tanks, etc., exist, how do semi-automatic firearms resist tyranny? Nonviolent democratic participation resists tyranny.

          Gun ownership is a hobby. It doesn’t make you a virtuous yeoman or a cowboy or a Jedi. It is a hobby. Gun owners are like sports car owners: their toys are dangerous, and should be regulated.

          • Stu

            How do semi-automatic fire arms resist tyranny?

            Do I need to get graphic?

            Scripture tells us there is a season for all things. I’m happy with non-violent means of resistance. But sometimes you have to fight as well. Have the possibility of the latter makes the former plausible.

            • Irenist

              “Do I need to get graphic?”
              No. You need to tell me why insurgency with guns and roadside bombs (as practiced with some success in Iraq, e.g., against our own “tyranny” as our loathsome enemies saw it) is a superior model to Christian nonviolent civil resistance. Both may work–but which is better for the women and children involved?
              “Have the possibility of the latter makes the former plausible.”
              No, it does not. Unarmed peoples have resisted evil through the nonresistance of the Gospel. Solidarity did not succeed in Poland because its members had guns; they did not. You may, if you wish, argue that it succeeded in part because it had the support abroad of Reagan and Thatcher. But that is an argument for the legitimacy of the swords in the hands of Caesar, not in the hands of Christian civilians.

            • Mark Shea

              So are you suggesting that the Koresh approach is a winning strategy? Or that turning America into Beirut is advisable? Or what? This whole “guns will save us all from tyranny” meme seems massively delusional to me. Meanwhile 20 very non-delusional funerals are in progress. Again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

              • Irenist

                I think the delusion that one’s toys make one a Jedi defender of the Republic feeds and feeds on Pride. It is dangerous.

              • Stu

                Mark,

                If I was suggesting such things, I suppose I would have said them.

                Let me play the same game with you.

                Are you suggesting that the government start a massive effort to take all firearms?

                27 people were killed in this event. That’s a tragedy. But history also shows the many have died due to tyranny. I’m not comfortable believing that as a nation we are above all of history in that regard.

                • Irenist

                  Not speaking for Mark, but I am neither arguing for the confiscation of all firearms nor for the not-badness of tyranny. Regulation of firearms similar to the regulation of automobiles and tobacco (both dangerous but legal) is the most common argument in this thread. As for tyranny, read some Gene Sharp and then get back to me. You want a weapon against tyranny? Pray the Rosary.

                  • Stu

                    Speaking for myself, I wasn’t suggesting anyone was advocating such measure. Just meeting Mark’s extremes with more extremes.

                    I couldn’t care less if calls for increase regulation are common in this thread. None that have been proposed would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook.

                    As to fighting tyranny, I’ll take both my firearms and my Rosary. Sometimes God calls us to act.

                    • Irenist

                      If God calls you to act against tyranny with your guns, please consult a mental health professional.

                    • Stu

                      Nice smear. You may need to use your Rosary more.

                    • Irenist

                      Guilty as charged. Sorry for the hit below the belt. In all seriousness, though, the attitude that guns deserve special status because of their non-existent ability to “fight tyranny” under modern conditions is a right-wing trope that blocks sensible public health measures that could save lives. Since I’m pro-life, that makes me angry. Sorry.

                    • Stu

                      “right-wing trope that blocks sensible public health measures that could save lives. Since I’m pro-life, that makes me angry.”

                      I prefer to analyze the situation when I am not angry. You laid out a variety of proposals above. None of them would have prevented the tragedy. They are feel good measure that make us feel like we are doing something as if we can outlaw evil. Connecticut already has countless measures in place and still this happened. I’m all ears if you have a good idea that involves gun laws. But you haven’t presented anything good, anything original nor anything that would actually solve the problem.

                    • Irenist

                      “None of them would have prevented the tragedy.”
                      1. They’d all prevent lots of *other* tragedies. Most gun deaths are not media sensations. It took this one to get us talking about the mundane daily grind of gun death in this country.
                      2. Mandated use of currently available technology preventing unauthorized shooters from firing guns they don’t own might have prevented the tragedy, if Nancy Lanza had not let her son be authorized on her guns; we’ll never know if she would’ve done that.
                      3. Limits on clip size might’ve reduced the carnage by a few lives. That would be worth it.

              • B-Rob

                I don’t consider David Koresh as the ideal for stopping tyranny. I don’t even think that was his goal. When I think of something like opposing tyranny, I think of the Afghan and Iraqi fighters that have assembled and kept our troops at bay for 10 years, and the Russians before that. They basically are a bunch of partially-organized fighters not in a formal military that picked up arms to fight. Granted, they get killed by the dozens for every well-equipped soldier they kill, but you can’t say that their impact is negligible…it’s obviously made the “war” here in America extremely unpopular and is bankrupting us, and they shut down the Russians in Afghan.

                Note: I am using this as an imperfect but somewhat comparable example. Yes, they are considered “insurgents” or “terrorists.” Also, I am not suggesting that what they are doing is good, nor that killing American and Russian troops is a good thing, nor suggesting anything else other than the fact a mass population with guns isn’t easily defeated or ruled over, as we have noticed the last decade.

                • Mark Shea

                  I don’t consider him an ideal for stopping tyranny either. What I do consider him as, is an object lesson of the infinitely vanishing likelihood of even extremely well-armed civilians standing a chance against our military Leviathan if some tyrant decided to use it against them. The whole “We need guns to resist the government!” line of argument is a total fantasy scenario. Deploying it to say, “Everything about our current gun culture is perfect (except that *more* people need guns)! Sandy Hook is the price we all must pay to preserve our ability to Fight the Power!” only causes people like me to say, “People who make that argument are insane.”

                  • B-Rob

                    Obviously any one person or small group will get demolished if the military (or in this case, the ATF) complies with the tyrannical government. I believe we are in agreeement regarding that.

                    But what about the example I just gave of the Afghan and Iraqi fighters? Ultimately the actions of the Russians and Americans enraged enough of the non-military population to fight with arms against the most advanced military machines in the world and still have a strong impact. Do you deny that point?

                • Irenist

                  “the Afghan and Iraqi fighters”
                  American gun owners are socioeconomically nothing like those people, and are not going to engage in an armed insurgency against the U.S. government, thank God.

                  • B-Rob

                    Humans are humans. We all desire to be free. We’re not that much different than them. And no, the US Govt, right now, while doing evil things, is no where near the point in which one could justify a rebellion. Not even close. And for that I truly do praise God. But, it is the *last* line of defense….and by last I truly mean last. But, it is still a line of defense. Even the CCC says so.

                    • Irenist

                      Okay, if, for argument’s sake, it’s the last line of defense, then a ban on guns would be a bad idea. Not advocating that. Limits on clip size, mandatory registration, etc., would not be a ban.

    • kenneth

      Anyone who thinks citizen-owned small arms, even the military style semi-autos like a Bushmaster, are adequate to create some sort of balance of power against the government are deluding themselves. These weapons are so pathetically inadequate to the task that they might as well be single-shot muzzleloaders.

      If regular folk wanted or needed to stand against our government or any modern force, they would need heavy machine guns, anti-tank weapons, and most importantly, a very high-grade anti-aircraft capability, at a very bare minimum. Realistically they would probably need a nuclear deterrent. Small arms are little more than a nuisance to a modern army.

      The only weapon of asymetric warfare that even begins to affect force security in a serious way is suicide bombs and huge IEDs. Of course, when the army in question loses its sense of humor about that, they can just stand off, bribe the populace silly to reveal the location of the movement leaders, then send a drone to vaporize them and their families. So all you guys who fancy yourselves “patriots” who foresee the need to fight your own nation sometime soon, you’re going to need to build the infrastructure for a full-scale terror movement, and resign yourselves to a one or two-year life expectancy that goes with that game.

      I get the self-defense argument in day to day scenarios, but the “hedge against tyranny” rationale for unlimited armament is a sad redneck fantasy, and we don’t owe classrooms full of bodies at regular intervals to indulge it. There is no realistic self-defense need that cannot be met with a 10-round capacity, or less.

  • MikeTheGeek

    (a) Not sure where you live, but in my state, the “militia” consists of all able-bodied adult males and all female officers of the National Guard.
    (b) The court has ruled that the 2nd Amendment applies to individuals, and has effectively if not formally incorporated it as applying to the states.
    (c) Even if you claim that it is not incorporated to the states, then it still applies to the Feds.

    Everything else is irrelevant.

    • Stu

      Mike,

      Here is Federal Law. It does include the National Guard and then some. (BTW, the cutoff is 45,not 65. I erred on that part.)

      -STATUTE-
      (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied
      males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section
      313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a
      declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States
      and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the
      National Guard.
      (b) The classes of the militia are –
      (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard
      and the Naval Militia; and
      (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of
      the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
      Naval Militia.

    • Irenist

      “Everything else is irrelevant.”
      No, those dead kids in Newtown are pretty relevant, too. If the law or even the Constitution are a barrier to protecting them, then the law and the Constitution are unChristian and should be changed. The Constitution once protected slavery. It still fails to protect the unborn. The abolitionists used to rightly call the pro-slavery pre-Civil War Constitution a “pact with the Devil.” It is not Scripture. If it needs to be changed, it should be.

      • Mark Shea

        Thank you for your continued common sense. It really is striking how, for many people arguing this, the second Amendment–a mere human tradition–is elevated to the level of Sacred Tradition.

        • Irenist

          “Thank you for your continued common sense. ”
          I learned it from watching you!!!

        • http://www.patheos.com Deacon Tom

          I certainly was NOT elevating the 2d Amendment to the level of “Sacred Tradition.” I was criticizing your weighing in on the interpretation of the 2d Amendment as if you know something about it, i.e., your off-the-cuff comments about what a “militia” is. Many folks, like me, would like reasonable restrictions on gun control to actually succeed and help in saving lives. Proposing a total ban on individual gun ownership is unconstitutional, individual gun ownership is not inherently evil like abortion, and proposing a total ban is dead in the water before it even starts. If you want to help actually get something done, you might want to know what the 2d Amendment requires. The Becket Fund is not making theoretical arguments in challenging the HHS mandate. We should be developing reasonable restrictions that can pass constitutional muster-that seems like common sense to me.

          • Irenist

            “We should be developing reasonable restrictions that can pass constitutional muster.”
            Agreed.

          • Mark Shea

            I proposed no total ban on anything. I know of no one who is.

            • Irenist

              The Illuminati, Mark. They’re coming for Glenn Beck’s guns, and his painting of Jesus and Joseph Smith cradling the Constitution.

            • kenneth

              This whole trajectory of argument on the gun issue is what makes me think on my darker days that we’re too stupid as a society to propagate, and that it might be all to the good if we contracept ourselves away. Every time they’re putting a new crop of kids in the ground, we’re told that the only solution is more guns, and the status quo because the only alternative is a “total gun ban” and, of course, the concentration camps which will ensue the following week.

              Really? That’s all we got? That’s our game? We used to be a country that could come up with imaginative solutions to problems. A ban, if there is a need for one at all, would reasonably affect only high-capacity weapons or perhaps semi-automatics. There is plenty of room for intelligent options short of that. We could impose stricter regulation and licensing for the more dangerous weapons. We could place higher burdens on certain owners to demonstrate current mental wellness, proper security of their collections etc.

              There are a lot of way to regulate thing short of an absolute ban. Believe it or not, high explosives, machine guns, bio-warfare agents and LSD are not banned in an absolute sense. You can get permits to own and work with all of these things, but (not unreasonably), you have a high burden to show that you are sane and have the proper facilities and credentials to have such materials.

              We don’t need to rush into any one of these potential solutions, and we shouldn’t. If we’re going to fall back on the same old BS where everything to do with gun regulation is pre-emptively off the table for any discussion, we’re not serious about addressing the problem, and we should stop offering victims families empty consolations.

              • Mark Shea

                Agreed.

            • http://www.patheos.com Deacon Tom

              But many gun control advocates have argued for a total ban of handguns for individuals. The DC government did that and thus DC v. Heller and the Supremes decision finding that the 2d Amendment was not limited to “militias” like you suggested in your main post as the correct way to interpret the 2d Amendment. Abortion opponents did not just throw their arms up and say, well, we can’t do anything because the Supremes said abortion is a constitutional right. Smart people using their God-given intellect, including some lawyers like me, have gone after that right legally–by pursuing first amendment rights, partial-birth abortion bans, parental notification laws, and now medical standards for abortion “clinics.” Concerned folks can seek reasonable restrictions on the 2d Amendment right to bear arms, e.g., national background checks, cooling-off periods, clip and ammunition limits, limits on the type of ammunition, mental health requirements, safety requirements, etc., etc. But suggesting that only people in “militias” should have guns, by your wrong interpretation of the 2d Amendment running through your initial post, gets people nowhere fast. Let’s have the correct conversation.

              • Mark Shea

                I am under no obligation to think that a court that gave us Dred Scott and Roe got it right with its reading of the second amendment. The whole attempt being made by Mr. Hull and others to treat the second amendment as though it was analogous to sacred scripture is, in my view, rubbish. It’s a human tradition concerning an entirely mutable civil right. The only question here is prudence, not some sort of obligation to keep doing it the way we’ve been doing it because we are bound by some sacred obligation to preserve our current reading of the 2nd Amendment–or even bound to keep the 2nd Amendment at all. It’s not sacred scripture. It’s merely the way Americans have chosen to handle their practical affairs concerning guns for a good long while. When the way we handle our practical affairs results in mass murder as a constant theme of American culture, prudence says to rethink your human tradition in obedience to Sacred Traditions such as “You shall not murder.”

                So I see no particular reason why I can’t think that the Constitution, as worded, no more extends penumbras granting vast firepower to the mothers of lunatics who watch too much Glenn Beck, than I think it extends penumbras granting mothers the right to abort their children.

                • http://www.patheos.com Deacon Tom

                  ” no more extends penumbras granting vast firepower to the mothers of lunatics who watch too much Glenn Beck, than I think it extends penumbras granting mothers the right to abort their children.”
                  Please tell me where I said that? Did you read the Supreme Court decision in Heller? I suspect not-why bother you with the facts and the law before you dismiss it. Oh, I forgot, Jesus and the Church taught respect for the law unless it is unjust. But then again you have decided the decision is unjust-I assume–although you don’t know what it says and why. — I think we are on the same side on this, Mr. Shea, but quite frankly it seems that anyone who does not see the world as you do you place in some fringe, Beckian or Voorhian camp. I am one of those simple, humble Catholics trying to figure the world out, in light of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church. I am also a Deacon and lawyer. Excuse me if I don’t accept your worldview as divinely inspired.

                  • Irenist

                    I did read Heller, and while I of course don’t think it’s infallible, it didn’t bother me too much–it’s not precisely my reading of the 2nd Amdt., but it’s a respectable, historically-grounded reading. It’s the absolutist opposition to even the slightest regulations one sees from, e.g., the NRA, that bothers me. I don’t think you’re part of that problem, Deacon Tom.

                    • http://www.patheos.com Deacon Tom

                      Irenist, Thank you for the kind response. My problem is that Mr. Shea tends to go over the top with his caricatures, such as here by painting everyone as a gun wacko. While undoubtedly there are more than a few who will object to any restrictions, I believe there are many law-abiding folk who believe in the right to own a handgun or hunting long-gun who would not object to making military type weapons, ammunition and arsenals illegal with stiff penalties. In Senator Schumer’s piece today in the Washington Post, he notes how he was educated about use of guns in hunting as a way of life, and that he understands it. He now believes that law-abiding citizens who own handguns for self-protection and hunting guns would be a great ally in getting rid of assault weapons, etc. Mr. Shea’s attempt to paint all people who believe in 2d Amendment rights as lunatics does not any good for getting some important things done.

                    • Mark Shea

                      I have not painted everyone as a gun wacko. I just haven’t.

                    • Irenist

                      Deacon Tom, thanks for your kind words. I think you and Mark are in pretty much complete agreement on sensible regulations like Sen. Schumer’s plan, but that some misreading of intentions is happening, as it so often does on the Internet. The 2nd-Amdt. absolutists he’s talking about are those who oppose ALL regulations, not those who, like the Heller court and yourself (and me, frankly) interpret it to forbid a total ban.

      • ivan_the_mad

        It’s like there’s a higher Truth out there … naaaah.

  • Irenist

    Democratic self-governance is an alternative to the Hobbesian world of Somali gang-bangers engaging in armed self-defense:
    Libertarians “who equate the state with violence should attend to this empirical connection of actually existing anti-governmentality and the facilitation and even suffusion of society with violence. As I regularly insist, democratic theory seeks to deploy the state-form precisely to provide non-violent alternatives for the adjudication of disputes (including disputes as to what properly constitutes violence), to provide a scene of informed non-duressed consent to the terms of everyday commerce, and to circumvent the structural violence of private abuse of public and common goods. This is not to deny the reality of violence in the policing of any order — although I would insist that violence inheres as a permanent possibility in plurality and so precedes and exceeds states and hence cannot be eliminated through the fantastic elimination of the state — but to deny the essential or exhaustive anarchist identification of the state with violence that yields all too often a reactionary hostility to or dismissal of democratic government . . . .” –Dale Carrico

  • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

    Why are people seeming to say here that the only valid reason to own guns is for hunting, i.e. as a hobby? I know that there are many people who have guns because their home has been broken into several times, or live in a neighborhood where break-in’s are commonplace. Now, it’s true that it may be delusional to imagine that one could defend themselves from the government if it came to that, but there are myriad other self-defense scenarios in which a gun might make all the difference.

    Also, let’s take a serious look at whether gun control actually prevents crime, as Christian is attempting to point out, before we go and ban anything. Let’s look at each one of these lunatics and figure out how they got their guns, and then see what might be done about it. For example, requiring insurance on guns with differing rates depending on how secured they are, and (ahem) whether they are kept in a home with mentally unstable people, etc. might be a good idea.

    • Stu

      Indeed, Dave.

      I have been knowingly shot at in two place in my life: Afghanistan and Memphis (and I don’t mean Egypt).

    • Irenist

      I talk to hunters of my acquaintance here in Texas about the AR-15, they tell me it’s a great gun for feral pig hunting, and they mean to get around to buying one or two before Obama goes after them. That’s a hobby. (If it’s more than a hobby, you’ll probably have better luck clearing feral pigs off your land if you call the pest control folks instead of attempting to engage in self-help.)

      You want an entirely legal car to drive you to the store, then you should be trained to use it safely, licensed, registered and insured. You want an entirely legal low-capacity handgun or rifle for home defense, then you should be trained, licensed, registered and insured. (If you want a semi-automatic rifle with a high capacity clip for self-defense, you may be a character on some prestige cable drama about gangsters rather than a real person.)

      • http://www.patheos.com Deacon Tom

        I am with you on this. This is the conversation that needs to happen.

        • Irenist

          I think, Deacon Tom, that you and I are in complete agreement in this thread.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    Personally I’m fine with looking at regulations. I’m not fine in letting my emotions declare ‘Prussia is under attack, we need more government control! I used to support the 2nd Amendment, but not now!’ I admit that mass killings happened long before modern weapons. They also happen in other countries. Fact is, killing lots of people has been a way to send a message ever since God took out the first born of Egypt. It continues today around the world. How it happens probably says things about that countries values and norms. Sure, I would like to find ways to prevent these, but I realize that if we stop all gun violence, those hellbent on killing will find other ways. The number of incidents might decrease, but the results could be far worse per incident. As for figuring out why these killings in this particular manner have been happening, I’d like to be real: they are almost always middle to upper middle class, they are always men, and with a handful of exceptions, they are always Caucasian. Looking at that could probably help at least with these particular crimes in schools. Not to mention looking at what’s currently wrong in America and wondering what role I’ve played in that, rather than assuming everyone else is the mischief and doesn’t react right or think right or whatever. That’s just my brief.

    FWIW, I’m also aware of the fact that I’m invested in this because of the unimaginable horror of someone seeking out children and killing them, but I’m also focused on it because the media has invested itself in this. And that same media, which has promoted the HHS mandate and also seems to favor cracking down on folks who don’t support homosexual normality, was pretty quick with linking this to more gun control even with no information at hand. Fact is, since last Saturday, families in America and around the world have experienced the same horrors as their loved ones, including children, fell to similar barbarity, they will just be left alone in their pain – no special honor guards, no media interviews, no songs by Paul Simon. So those are my thoughts, for what they’re worth.

    • Irenist

      “Personally I’m fine with looking at regulations.” Awesome.

  • CJ

    Mark,

    Perhaps you are going to follow up with another post, but it seems the only memes you’re testing are those of the “pro-gun” side. You didn’t question Tom Tomorrow’s completely inaccurate (to the point of being dishonest) claim that armed civillians stopping crime is just a fantasy. While Australia hasn’t suffered a mass shooting since their gun buyback, Israel hasn’t suffered a school shooting since placing armed volunteers in schools. Or that in China 2010 21 people died in mass attacks carried out with knives, hammers, and meat cleavers. Andres Brevik managed to kill dozens of people in a country with strict gun laws.

    If you’re going to wash those memes right outta your hair, make sure you get both sides.

  • CJ

    Irenist,

    1. Laws against high-capacity ammo cartridges
    Meh. I’m agnostic about this one. I’m not sure how much good it will do.
    2. Registration of all guns
    No. In the wrong hands its a tool for confiscation.
    3. Mandated use of digital technologies (available now) that render a gun inoperable by anyone but its owner
    No. My wife may need to use it. Home invasions aren’t exactly planned ahead of time.
    4. Closing the so-called gun show loophole / Requiring extensive background checks for every gun purchase.
    In favor.
    5. Requiring renewal of those checks on the same time-table as drivers’ licenses
    In favor.
    6. Mandating that gun owners purchase insurance for their guns equivalent to car insurance, since both kinds of machine are dangerous
    Could work if there were protection to prevent claims against people who are adjudicated to have used their weapon in self defense.

    7. Allowing gun safety to be regulated like the safety of cars and all other consumer goods by being placed in the purview of actual consumer safety regulators, instead of being de facto completely unregulated in the as it is now by the ATF, which focuses on law enforcement, not safety regulation

    This is too vague, but I wouldn’t be opposed to some safety standards.

    8. Massive no-questions-asked gun buy-back programs
    Depending on where the money is coming from, sure.

    9. Increased “sin taxes” on guns and, especially, ammo, like we have for other dangerous but legal hobbies like alcohol and tobacco
    No. I don’t want the government to discourage lawful firearm use or ownership.

    10. Increased sentences or other penalties for violators of felon-in-possession statutes
    Agnostic. Depends on if there were any actual marginal utility.

    In general, I am against adding more laws for the sake of Doing Something!(tm) If there is good reason to think that measures are effective, I’ll at least give ‘em a hearing.

    • Irenist

      CJ, thanks for a thoughtful reply.
      This one troubled me:

      2. Registration of all guns
      No. In the wrong hands its a tool for confiscation.

      How is this different than asking us to title our vehicles? Seriously, I’m not seeing something here.

      • CJ

        The difference is nobody calls for bans on cars after, say, a 20 car pile up. Registration isn’t nefarious in and of itself, but as someone mentioned upthread, we have two gun cultures. One of them is afraid of private ownership of guns and would end it if they could.

        • Irenist

          That’s a fair concern. I think one goal of responsible gun-owners, then, should be to find a regulatory regime that reduces the harms from guns so as to reduce the attractiveness of the gun-phobic view.

          • CJ

            I’m all in favor of reasonable regulations, but I don’t know what effect it would have on those who are gun-phobic. Phobias are irrational, and so you see people calling for a renewal of the assault weapons ban after an attack where the weapons involved wouldn’t meet the definition of an assault weapon. Or calls for background checks where the killer was denied a legally purchased gun because he wouldn’t submit to a background check.

            • Irenist

              I agree, CJ, that “assault weapons” are nebulously defined, and that, e.g., whether a rifle has a pistol grip or other “assault” cosmetic features is a red herring. I also agree that just as there are those on the right who are irrationally phobic about the Man coming for their guns, there are indeed those on the left who have a reprehensible disdain for those of their fellow Americans who “cling to guns and religion.” Glad to be talking reasonable regulation with you, instead of with representatives of either of those groups. My main clarification is that while various regs might not have stopped Lanza, they’d still stop a lot of other, less sensationalized deaths. And that’s my main interest in the topic, rather than school shooters, who, like terrorists, are not a numerically significant threat to anybody. Letting Lanza write our gun policy is like letting bin Laden stick us with the TSA: wrong solution. Still, airplane safety is important, and so is gun safety.

  • Dan C

    Australia is different than the US. It has a REAL frontier that is dangerous. And still, no guns. It has illegal immigrants, drugs, ghettos. It looks a lot like America. But more REAL frontier.

    And less guns.

    • EBS

      Yep, less guns, and a mentality that doesn’t make it mandatory to live with one.

  • Mercury

    I just wanted to say that Irenist has posted some of the most level-headed, prudent, and reasonable responses to this whole issue I have ever seen, and has really avoided letting emotions cloud his points either way. I want to thank Irenist, Mark Shea, and others for helping me to come to terms with the issues we are talking about, and understanding reasonable ways to deal with these issues.

    But as to Irenists’s ten propositions, while I’d be for some of them and would have to know more about others, I don’t like #3 for the reason most people said they didn’t like it – for issues of self-defense, one would want family members to be able to use the weapon in a pinch, and for hunters, most sportsmen learn gun safety from fathers and grandfathers at a young age – perhaps there could be some sort of “add person” option to something like this? But then again, it would probably be easily disabled by criminals anyway.

    Thanks.

  • Michaelus

    Australia had a mass shooting after their ban on semiauto rifles. An insane student shot up Monash University. He was stopped by two men who physically restrained him until the police arrived – 30 minutes later.

    This morning two evil morons in the Connecticut legislature announced a bunch of new laws that would not have done anything to prevent this shooting. If the proposed laws were in place Lanza’s mother would have had to pay a bit more for her ammo and Lanza would have had to use a shotgun or the two handguns rather than the rifle.

    Anyone ever wonder how we would be treating this if Nancy Lanza had been an FBI agent? A CT State Trooper?

  • Chris

    Mark, I understand your interpretation of the 2nd amendment, but now I wonder something. In 1791, when the amendment came to be, was there an organized militia in this country or was it expected that, when and if the need arose, common man, armed with their own weaponry, would rise to an occasion of violence on our turf? I suspect that, in the event of a zombie apocalypse (or some-such crisis), sane, wise, armed common-man might come in handy. Any suggestion that government militia should be the only ones armed in this country makes me cringe!

  • EBS

    Well obviously it isn’t current law because Nancy Lanza had military style weapons that shot multiple rounds. So that “limiting certain type of weapons” part doesn’t apply, and the “screening” part failed because she had them in the same house as her medicated son with a mental illness was living…

  • http://awfulneat.blogspot.com John Henry

    The phrase is “well regulated militia,” meaning a well-trained (think “regulars” as opposed to “green” troops) civilian populace that can be called on to supplement the national guard as needed.

    The militia includes both the organized militia and the unorganized militia (essentially all able bodied men age 17-45.) See the relevant section of the US Code here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/311

  • http://awfulneat.blogspot.com John Henry

    @Irenist: Asymmetry in armaments isn’t the big issue you think. The semi automatic rifle has been used against superior military technology successfully for a very long time. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria. Destroyers and aircraft carriers are great for attacking fortified bases and other large military targets, but boots and rifles on the ground is the only way a civilian populace is subdued and kept that way. That’s why local law enforcement doesn’t use bazookas any more than Roman centurions used catapults.

    Until very recently, it was the sword that separated the noble caste from the peasant. Since gunpowder, it has been the rifled musket.


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