As the Boy Who Cried Wolf Discovered…

…when you scream “HITLER!” every time something doesn’t go your way, you wind up having people making making fun of your rhetoric:

When I post things like this, I always get feedback from readers who assure me they can see through my “agenda” which is, as I am informed, something along the lines of abolishing the second amendment, confiscating everybody’s guns and all that. I myself have no idea what my agenda is and certainly no worked out goal. But one of the things I have discovered since wandering into this argument after Sandy Hook, it has quickly become obvious to me that camps are so hardened and sensitized that all you have to do is clear your throat or say, “Wait a minute, that thing you said doesn’t make sense” and you are instantly pegged as a “gun nut” or a Nazi bent on confiscation of guns. Here’s reality: at present “what I want” is very unformed in my mind. “No more Sandy Hooks” is one. Something less than 10,000 gun murders each year” is another. Somewhere in there is “Stop with crappy arguments”. At present, I am struck by the number of crappy arguments the gun lobby uses and am trying to parse them–slowly. Why am I picking on gun lobby arguments? Easy. Because they are the ones arguing to preserve the status quo: a status quo in which the actuarial calculation states that we have to be willing to put up with more Sandy Hooks and 10,000 gun murders a year. I reject that calculation and therefore think the status quo–and therefore gun lobby arguments–need to be examined.

Lots of pro-gun folk seem to think *they* know what I want (confiscation, an America prostrate before Leviathan and Home Invaders and Rapists, etc.). But I’m pretty sure that’s not what I want. All I want, at present, is to stop having the repeated sensation of hearing gun lobby arguments and thinking “Wait! This argument is crap!”. So, from “Obama is Hitler” to “They’re going to take away our guns” to the other rhetoric that Stewart quotes in the desperate scramble to maintain the status quo at all costs, what has consistently impressed me is how unimpressive the arguments are–because of the fear that drives them. The fear is simple: it is the deep conviction that America is ruled by an implacable enemy that means to destroy us. The cognitive dissonance between this and “America: the Light and the Glory” that also animates the thinking of many conservatives is one of the mysteries I don’t fully fathom. But there it is. It’s a theme that goes right back to the founding, of course, a patriotic people who create a government based on the idea that the government cannot be trusted. In short, a state created in the full conviction that the doctrine of original sin is undeniable fact. I empathize with that a lot.

However, I also empathize with reality a lot. And the reality is that, though the state has undoubtedly taken measures that are tyrannical (often with the enthusiastic support of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism) it is not the case that Obama is just about to usher in Nazi tyranny, and it is not the case the the modest measures he proposes in response to the straw the broke the camel’s back at Sandy Hook are “confiscation” or even much of a challenge to the status quo. So the hysteria just sounds like more boys crying wolf. That concerns me, because I do think the day could well come when there’s real wolf and people will not be able to tell if he’s there because the rhetoric from the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism has been so shrill for so long that nobody listens anymore. As I mentioned recently, I have a friend who is a prolife Catholic Democrat who prays earnestly for the Right to make a recovery, because he knows that Left needs a healthy check on its own capacity for monstrous sin and currently has very little standing in its way because the Right has lost its mind. I share his fear.

I also share his fear of the lunatics who are simultaneously declaring that we need to have our guns in order to “defend ourselves from tyrants” and insisting that secession is something we need to be thinking over–all while trying to pretend they are envisioning a *peaceful* secession that won’t be a civil war or a bloodbath or anything, but we really need our guns for it.  Sell that crazy somewhere else.

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  • With family members who are NRA members who all hunt, and having a dad who taught us gun safety, had us attend hunter safety classes and locked up the guns, the thought that occurs to me with this whole gun issue is: why not simply require legal gun owners to register their guns and demonstrate that they have taken a safety class and have a gun safe for their weapons? It could be similar to what we do with our driver’s license and car registration, and requirement for insurance, for example. Probably not a perfect solution, but considering I’m a 2nd Amendment supporter, it’s the best I can come up with as an idea.

    On the mental health front, I would be interested in keeping better tabs on folks with mental illness, actually getting them decent treatment, supporting families with mentally ill family members, and most importantly, looking more seriously at the side effects of the medication folks are put on. Most of these mass shooters were on prescription drugs of some kind. As the Church, we need to step up and get more involved and not depend upon the government to do the job as we can do it so much better because we are the Body of Christ! I could get more detailed, but it’s late and just wanted to share my 2 cents and are open to others’ thoughts. God bless.

    • The problem on the gun registration bit is that you can go from a registration list to door-to-door confiscation in about 24 hours. It really is a very short step, too short for most americans who like their civil rights a little better protected. This isn’t a commentary on the current regime, just a plea to read history and see how quickly one can transition.

      • Just curious: what kind of manpower would it take to go from a registration list to door-to-door confiscation in about 24 hours? I mean, if even 1% of gun owners decided to resist confiscation, you’d have thousands – maybe tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands? I don’t know the stats – of shoot-outs or stand-offs. That’s (minimally) tens of thousands of law enforcement and/or military man-hours.

        Around where I live, the police and military are already stretched pretty thin. I don’t see this happening.

        I’ll agree that registration allows the theoretical possibility of universal confiscation; but putting that theory into practice would involve outrageous logistic problems, and may be a practical impossibility in the same way that deporting each and every undocumented alien is a practical impossibility.

        • Heck, even if there was no resistance at all, how many man-hours would it take to just drive round and pick up all the guns? It took the government over a year of planning and hiring to manage just the census!

          And what about the lawyers? If the administration decided to confiscate all firearms, there would be dozens of lawsuits filed before the first officer left to pick up the first gun. Those lawsuits would take at least a year to work their way through to the Supreme Court, where it would take a blatant and obvious disregard for the Constitution to approve of such a scheme.

          No, I really don’t see any practical possibility of an overnight confiscation based solely on registration.

          • ivan_the_mad

            How dare you inject reality into a fearful slippery slope.

            This was the same argument posited against background checks, i.e. that the government would know who had guns and therefore would easily be able to confiscate them. This totally comports with reality, because, you know, the government severely curtailed gun ownership or confiscated all guns following the implementation of background checks, and gun sales totally can’t be described as CHA-CHING.

    • ivan_the_mad

      I agree. I don’t think registration and liability insurance to be unreasonable. I’ve also seen suggested recurring background checks, rather than just one at time of sale. Mental health among other things isn’t static, so this does not seem unreasonable to me. If the goal is to lessen gun violence, and we can agree that one such way is to keep guns out of the possession of people who couldn’t pass a background check, then I think it follows that we ensure those who can pass continue to pass.

    • Kathy Wikman

      Sheila, I agree that using reason in regard to gun issues offers the only “reasonable” solution; however, I also believe we must apply reason when dealing with mental illness. We must tread very carefully when it comes to deciding who is “mentally ill” and how we should keep “better tabs” on them. Those who suffer from mental illness already belong to a highly stigmatized section of our population and those who take anti-depressants or medications to reduce anxiety constitute an even higher proportion (who wants to tell their neighbor that they take Wellbutrin?). I’m also wondering where you found information about “most of these mass shooters were on prescription drugs of some kind” — I’d like to explore that a bit further, but I suspect that if they were indeed on some kind of medication, their behaviors may have been linked to quitting those drugs. Background checks on the “mentally ill” risks opening that proverbial can of worms — who decides who is mentally “ill” and who should have their activities curtailed (do we include mothers with postpartum depression)? Which medications are “OK” to take and which are not? How about dosages? Do we begin to monitor who takes what and how often? Well, I could go on and on, but will close with the recommendation that whatever we do, we had better do it with a big dose of caution.

      • Kathy, since my son is autistic, I was particularly sensitive to the autism angle and then, of course, the mental health angle of what happened at Sandy Hook. I am a self professed health nut as a result of Joshua’s diagnosis, which has been a blessing in disguise in many ways, one of which is looking more closely at diet and environmental factors with all the toxins affecting not only our kids health, but our own. Anyway, one news source I look at is the healthy living angle and although they have their share of sensationalism, I think, as a former children’s mental health worker, that there is a lot to be aware of on the prescription drug angle. There are many sources out there if you Google, but here is one to get you started on gun violence being related to medicated kids/young adults: and here’s another that looks interesting: Being the skeptic that I am, I’d bet not much will come of this mental health angle as there are too many political contributions from drug companies and folks in the FDA/CDC who come from the corporate /private sector. I just listen to all the commercials, too, on TV of medication being advertised with all the lovely side effects, not to mention what happens when folks abruptly stop taking some of their meds.

  • Jack


    I have news for you. You’re clairvoyant. Obviously, because how else could you have seen the email I was preparing for you this afternoon asking you just what you do believe about the second amendment, what it means, and what you, were you to be emperor of America would do, were you to have a free hand.

    Personally, I’ve been kind of a fan of your writing, but the way that I’ve seen gun owners portrayed as part of the “insane gun culture”, what ever that means, lately on this blog has really put me off.

    In principle, I suppose I don’t have a problem with the executive orders signed so far, but with what the vice president’s been saying lately, and the president’s reputation for honesty in other legislative acts (HHS?), I believe I have cause to doubt that he wants to let the point lie with his executive orders, or with what most people would conceive of as reasonable action. I think you’re right to say that an out and out ban is unlikely, however, I do believe that he would try for a “soft ban” ie, taxing it out of the range of anyone not pulling down six figures.

    As an aside, the exqample of registration, storage rules etc, as with cars is likely to be found unlawful; operation of an automobile is not constitutionally guaranteed; ownership of firearms is – see District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 and McDonald v. Chicago 561 U.S. 3025. You may be able to slide a registry under the table, but not the recurrent lisensure and mandatory storage requirements. Nor will you be able to ban handguns outright; I’m simply speaking on the state of the law here; it’s just impossible without a rewriting of the second amendment, followed by ratification by the states. (Note: I’m not equating the second amendment with sacred scripture; just presenting it as the law of the land. Which it is.)

    Now, these case do leave open the possibility of reasonable restrictions, however, to extend these to the requirement of locked, disassembled storage exceeds the bounds of the amendment – see J. Scalia in Heller, above. It is likely that a mandatory separate storage of ammunition and firearms would also transgress this boundary.

    So I reiterate Mark, out of a sense of genuine curiosity, because I respect your writing in other areas, if you were king, what law would you make?

    • Mark Shea

      I would mandate a change in technology so that weapons could only be fired by those authorized to fire them. I would make those weapons in a calibre incompatible with conventional weapons. Then I would mandate that only bullets in the new calibers could be manufacturered or sold in the US. No, it won’t “fix the problem” (and we all know that if something does not have a 100% success rate with respect to gun violence its useless). But it would move us toward reduction in gun violence as the old bullets and guns become obsolete. Or so it seems to me a useful first step. And yeah, I would have no objection to arranging exchanges of the old tech for new at a discount, as well as the recycling of old bullets into new ones. Think of it as creating guns with safeties only the right people can take off.

      • Jack


        Thank you for answering me. I’m glad to hear you propose something.

        Here’s my concern(s) with that;

        1) there’s a lot of these killings that start with someone stealing a lawfully possessed gun. Also, no matter how good a safe you have, I promise you that with an angle grinder, and fifteen minutes of privacy, you could open handle any safe out there. Oceans 11 this ain’t. How do we deal with someone who decides to get started by hitting someone over the head with a mallet and getting to work on the safe door.

        2) Your proposal has been tried before on a limited scale in Europe, and especially Germany, between the wars. (Please note the conspicuous lack of any Nazi references – not my point at all) Google Wehrmann Gewehr for an example. Okay, not really a problem, just a historical footnote.

        3) Do we tax this? Do you agree with the idea of making it cost prohibitive? (honest question, not shooting for polemics)

        4) What do we do with those who collect historical pieces? Are they mandated to be handed over? What about great-granddaddy’s colts?

        Sorry to ramble; I’m just tired of the shouting from all sides, and want to hear what you really think, and how that can be fleshed into reality, or not.

        • Mark Shea

          Guns that cannot be fired by anybody but the authorized user make safes unnecessary. I’m talking about weapons with some sort of code or key or retinal scan or voiceprint or fingerprint ID system. We use such systems all the time on other pieces of tech we don’t want the wrong person screwing around with. We could invent something for guns too. Right to own guns is maintained for the right people, taken away from the wrong people. Seems like a sound first step to me.

          I’m not sure what you mean by taxing. Tax the sale of such weapons? If so, sure.

          I’m not a gun confiscation zealot, so I don’t care about collectors and such. I think of this more in terms of a tech upgrade, with some muscle from the State. So just as car manufacturers are mandated to build in seat belts and airbags without Caesar having to run around confiscating cars without them and, over time, the consumer wants the good car with the airbag and not the piece of crap without one, so user-specific guns would come to naturally take over the market without any of the fantasies of Hitleresque confiscations that have dominated the discourse in the cyberspace since Sandy Hook. I *would* favor the state destroying conventional weapons as it finds them (in drug busts, etc.) and I have no problem with the state facilitating some sort of discount for people who exchange their conventional weapons for the user specific tech. The idea is to make conventional guns the arms equivalent of an 8086 computer. They still exist. But who wants one?

      • Mandating a change in technology is only going to work if the technology actually exists and there are no use cases that violate the technological restriction. We just dodged the bullet on an EPA rule that required compliance with an air particulate standard that current technology cannot meet. Making guns unreliable if you’re sweaty and nervous is not acceptable and that’s the state of the art right now regarding the technology you would mandate.

        • Mark Shea

          Yes. I know it’s an urgent need of gun rhetoric to foment defeatism and say it’s impossible and can’t be done and give up and don’t change a thing because it’s all perfect. Nonetheless, I think it’s perfectly doable to create guns that can only be fired by authorized people.

      • KM

        Executive Order #15 states: “Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.”

        So one of the 23 Executive Orders is challenging the private sector to come up with creative solutions, like what Mark is suggesting. There’s a vast reservoir of creative talent that is probably already working on this. They use the crowdfunding sites to get many of their ideas funded without the need for venture capital. Looks like there may now be additional federal incentives to develop ideas. What a great *positive* solution.

  • Dan C

    The Second Amendment really is a barrier to preventing effective gun control. Effectiveness is not in complex, engineered solutions. Effective gun control is exactly that- gun control. But we enshrouded enormous power and Faith in the gun.

    I have no hope for effectiveness, but I hate guns. I reject the idiocy of the NRA’s essential attempt to gin up sales for its manufacturers by proposing a fully armed society. In the ghettoes I have lived and worked in, that has been nothing but an “OK Corralle.” Mutually Assured Destruction is not part of the calculus of local weapons use. Home invasions in which guns are stolen are the routine. Its just the rare heroic battler that gets press.

    The Faith of the gun lover though is based on his desire to oppose tyranny. This is a prelude to idiotic wastes of lives and resources and the Catholic right wing would behoove itself to knock that approach out of its repertoire. The Catholic right wing needs to make this the time to politically separate from the Evangelical right, which finds this opposition to impending tyranny as a tenet of its “Left Behind” political religion.

    Guns unfortunately provide the false hope in self-reliance, a virtue that, in the extremes presented by the Catholic Right, denies community and communal interdependence. Community is a Catholic principle, and the gun culture, is one facet of a series of strongly held ideals on the right that rejects community.

    • The ghettoes are generally the most gun controlled territory in the USA. As they are forced into a less restrictive gun control regime, their crime and murder rates are likely to drop, just like everywhere else. DC is currently going through the process and more people are alive because of it. With this pattern repeating time after time, at a certain point people taking your position really have to bear the burden that their policy choices consistently lead to more dead people. How can you live with it?

      The press *is* a problem, but not just in undercovering failed defensive gun uses. The first use of an armed populace is in a criminal’s head when he plans his crime. Crime patterns shift to avoid them so crimes move from violent break ins when people are at home and can conveniently be forced to give out safe combinations and hidden spots where valuables are stashed to when they are not home and unavailable to shoot the criminal. That process is very real (talk to prisoners for confirmation) but gets nearly no coverage. Other sociological improvements are in the behavior of gun owners who tend to be less easily roused to violence when they carry because they know the end point of things going wrong just got a whole lot worse. That’s virtually uncovered by news organizations as well. Ditto for the defensive use of the casual revelation that a gun is present, the brandishing of a weapon that de-escalates a bad situation, and warning shots fired.

      I love guns is a strange position to have but it is as sinful as I love hammers. Gun lover is a pejorative implying that the appreciation of a useful tool rises to the point of pathology. So your remarks on gun lovers translates out to stop supporting pathology.


      But you stop unjustifiably calling normal tool appreciation pathology first. That has its own roots in sin that you do not seem to be cognizant of.

      I don’t even know what to do with your libel that gun culture rejects community other than to say that any reasonable examination of gun culture as it actually exists among the law abiding refutes the point. Libel is not a Catholic value. Stop it.

      • Dan C

        I read how your neighbors are going to come and take the guns due to the ease of registration. Yes, claiming some unnamed government people are going to take your guns is talking about your neighbors. Someone is going to do it.

        The hold out against tyranny presupposes that one’s neighbors will be the problem, or a large portion of them, or maybe people in a different region overtaking another region of America and imposing tyranny on them. This is the basis of the discussion.

        It is no health to the success of a community to keep fearing the impending tyranny of one’s neighbor. One begins to sound like a libertarian version of Sartre in which “Hell is other people.” Community begins in trust and their is none with the constant refrain of “I need to protect against tyranny.” Guess what, being on the left, I am the one you intimate you need a gun to protect against.

        I am a gun grabber. But, really, such is a fantasy in this country, in which the weapons makers have an enormous lobby and marketing strategy to gin up sales. The gun makers have had the upper hand for so long. And the barrier is a strong 2nd amendment.

        Also, about the difference between your propaganda that is repeated over and over about inner cities having the most “gun control laws,” most laws are emasculated intentionally-ineffective rules that are for show. Real laws that prevent some people from having guns and confiscate peoples weapons cannot happen because the gun lovers have lobbied to tie all such efforts down. There are no effective gun control laws anywhere on the books.

        Want to see an effective weapons control law: nuclear weapon control is an effective way to control arms. But there is the 2nd amendment and that is an impenetrable barrier, held as sacrosanct as any other tradition in the US.

        When I hear about the impending tyranny and from whom people are seceding, I make no secret that me and my family are the enemy. So, yes, a disruption of community is at the heart of that discussion.

        • KM

          Good point about what this fear is. It is fear of neighbors. Fear of not only the criminal types, but even fear of those whom we know. How can we distinguish the good guys from the bad guys? How do we know the neighbor with all the guns isn’t going to steal from the other guy who has guns? We don’t know that, so automatically we begin to fear each other. Fear breaks apart community which leads to separation and isolation, which can eventually lead to hate.

          As MLK said: “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.” Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958)

      • Beadgirl

        “DC is currently going through the process and more people are alive because of it. With this pattern repeating time after time, at a certain point people taking your position really have to bear the burden that their policy choices consistently lead to more dead people. How can you live with it?”

        TMLutas, you keep citing DC as proof that fewer gun restrictions lead to lower crime and fewer deaths. May I counter with NYC, which has extremely strict gun control, and record low crime rates and murder rates?* Places like DC and other areas and countries clearly demonstrate that more/better gun control is not the only thing that must be done to reduce violence, but I think it is a mistake to go to the other extreme and say that more/better gun control is worthless when trying to reduce violence.

        *The rate of overall crime did tick up in 2012, but that was due almost entirely to the theft of iphones, ipads, etc — almost every other kind of crime remained the same or went down.

        • Rosemarie


          A significant part of NYC’s low crime rate is due to a controversial stop and frisk program. When an NYPD officer “reasonably suspects” that a person might have committed/be about to commit a crime, he can stop said person, question him and frisk him for weapons. Many guns are seized this way and thus crimes are averted.

          So I’m not sure sure the strict NYC gun control laws *in and of themselves* are working to stop crime as well as some might think. There are still guns on the street despite the laws, which is why law enforcement uses stop and frisk. The laws do, however, occasionally lead to innocent tourists from other parts of the country being arrested for weapons possession, despite fully legal ownership and concealed carry permits from their home states:

        • Beadgirl

          Right, Rosemarie, that was my point — that neither attitude (“gun control solves everything!” “gun control does nothing!”) is correct. Other factors are involved (police tactics, culture, economics, treatment of mental illness, etc.), all of which should be addressed, and none of which should be ignored.

          For the record, I am opposed to the stop and frisk program as used in NYC.

    • KM


      You wrote:
      “Guns unfortunately provide the false hope in self-reliance, a virtue that, in the extremes [is] presented by the Catholic Right…”

      I’ve been pondering this a bit. Do you think that part of the problem on the Catholic Right is that a few may be hoping for sainthood, thinking they’ll be the next St. Joan of Arc, and inciting others to join their patriot army? I wonder if this is what’s driving the literal call to (civilian) arms among some on the Catholic Right: desire for sainthood(?).

      (I posted a similar comment on another thread here too.)

  • michaelp71

    Mark this person who is a Catholic pro-life Democrat who prays for the right…does he have a blog or regular posts here? I for one would love to read that kind of opinion and think that would provide awesome balance to a good Catholic discussion.

    • Mark Shea

      Nope. No blog. Sorry. Though Patheos’ own Rebecca Hamilton is very good too.

  • D.P.

    I don’t have a big problem with some reasonable regulation of guns. The problem comes in the fact that many gun control advocates have as their eventual goal a total ban on guns. They see the reasonable gun regulation that most people agree on as just a stepping stone to something much broader. Then it becomes a concern that if you give them an inch they’ll eventually want to take a mile. This is what causes groups such as the NRA to be unwilling to accept even minor gun control measures. They know many people won’t be willing to stop there.

    Should we be concerned that the federal government will try to move beyond reasonable gun control measures to something much broader? I think so. Just look at the HHS contraceptive mandate. President Obama had told Archbishop Dolan that there would be conscience protections but then totally reneged on that. Now Church organizations are having to sue the federal government for their right to religious liberty. In an article in last week’s Our Sunday Visitor, Fr Mitch Pacwa said he doubts the ability of the federal government — which is pushing a mandate that employers must provide contraceptives through health care — to address the gun issue. “I don’t see a basis to trust them,” he said. A link to that article is here:

  • Patrick Thornton

    Dan C,

    Chicago has had very strict gun laws for years. Not just for show. Not laws filled with loopholes or exceptions. In fact, from the mid 1980’s until 2010, owning a handgun in Chicago was completely illegal, no grandfather clause. Being caught possessing a handgun in Chicago was a felony. And handguns were confiscated. Did it help? In Chicago in 2009, 378 murders were committed using a gun. 356 of the guns used in those murders were handguns, weapons that had been completely illegal to possess for over 20 years.

    On another note, a couple of comments have correctly identified the obstacle to “gun control”: The 2nd Amendment. They way the amendment is written and the founding father writings on the subject make it clear that it is incompatible with anything that anyone would identify as “gun control”. Microchip sensors, registry, etc., cannot be compatible with any normal reading of the 2nd amendment. It seems to me that those in favor of those things should really be calling for a repeal of the 2nd amendment. I oppose this completely, but perhaps that is the debate that we should be having. Is the 2nd amendment worth keeping?

    Would anyone here be uncomfortable if the federal government were to maintain a mandatory registry of each citizens religious affiliation? I sure would.

  • Mark, I will help you out with the argument, and use just logic, not sentiment.

    Axiom: the Second Amendment prohibits Congress from making any laws abridging the right to keep and bear arms. Axiom: The Constitution does not delegate to the Executive branch any authority to make laws, but only to enforce what laws Congress has made. Conclusion: The Executive branch cannot constitutionally enforce any gun regulations because Congress cannot make any gun regulations. Any executive order which says otherwise is unconstitutional.

    Next question: should the Constitution be amended, on the grounds that the Second Amendment no longer protects the rights of the people, or exposes them to a greater danger than the rights are worth?

    The answer to this question would depend on how well those grounds were framed. As a matter of logic, if the gun regulations being contemplated (more background checks, smaller magazines, prohibitions on features that give a rifle a military look) would not reduce the violent crime rate nor prevent atrocities like Sandy Hook, this argument is moot. It might be useful or just to amend the Constitution for some other reason, but not for the reason allowing for these measures on the grounds that they serve those goals. So we need not reach this question.

    Next question: Do gun control measures lower the violent crime rate? That is a question involving the esoterica of statistics. This is an area where I have no authority to speak. Those arguments would have to be weighed each one on its particular merit.

    (I live in Virginia were we have a concealed carry permit law, and the crime rate here has gone down. Whether this is statistically significant, someone else will have to say.)

    Next question: Is there any Constitutional prohibition on State or Municipal or Local government enacting reasonable restrictions on gun ownership? That is an area where I am an expert.

    In general, the States are restricted by some of the prohibitions which the Bill of Right restricts the Federal Government, but in any area where there is no clear precedent incorporating the provision of the Bill of Rights against a State or Local government, the State and Local government has the plenary police powers once associated with the Crown of England and with civil society in general to keep the peace.

    In plain English, yes, states and counties and cities can regulate gun use and enact gun bans on certain types of weapons and ammunition, except that a total ban might (depending on the wording) run afoul of the Second Amendment. The types of restrictions being contemplated (background checks, magazine limits) do not necessarily run afoul of the Second Amendment.

    So the short answer which logic rather than sentiment would produce is this: EITHER we must amend the Constitution OR this is a state and local matter and not a federal matter.

    Hopes this helps shed some light and reduce some heat.

    • Could the Federal government provide incentives to states and local governments to implement such laws? For example, offering a subsidy of some sort to states that implement b/g checks? (Not that I think this would necessarily be a good idea; I’m just wondering if it would be legal under our current system of law.)

  • Mark,

    I’m going to guess that you want to see violent crimes reduced. I know I do. But if you look at the evidence, gun restrictions are counter-productive.

    As one who owned (but did not carry) in part for defense, I did not fear my neighbors. I regarded home invasion as a possibility, but expected that the sound of chambering a 12ga shell in my shotgun would likely have sent any home invaders with sense fleeing. Nearly all my neighbors have guns now, as I live in an area where hunting of all types is part of the culture. I don’t fear my neighbors, and I’d be surprised if they fear me. However, I am certain that criminals fear armed civilians.

    First, when they are surveyed about it, they say so. Second, when concealed carry increases, violent crime decreases. One of the most dramatic examples was in Orlando, when stories of the police training some 2500 women to carry and use handguns made the front page of the local paper, several times over from Oct 1966 to March 1967. Incidence of all sorts of violent crime fell, of course. No violent criminal is going to look at a headline like that and say to himself, “Well, I don’t see how this is going to affect *me*.”

    The undesirable sorbiquet of “murder capital of the US” tends to follow the most restrictive laws on the ownership of firearms. It has never visited Vermont, where the State Supreme Court has ruled that the government has no authority to regulate concealed carry.

    As for your particular regulations:

    Signature guns (ie, those not able to fire unless held by an authorized user): Once we have energy weapons, this will no doubt be very effective. But an electronic/computer interface between trigger and firing pin is likely to be fairly easy to defeat. It would be difficult to prevent a gunsmith from removing it (if it blocks the action) or replacing it with a spring, rod, bar, or what have you if it completes the action. It’s a speed bump, not a barrier.

    A security token, as is used in automotive ignition systems, is more reasonable than a built-in iris or fingerprint or voiceprint scanner, but reliability requirements are going to be a lot higher than for automotive or security-door applications, and they’re going to have to work a lot faster too. Also, it will be necessary to harden both the software and the hardware to prevent either sussing out the codes, or reprogramming the receiver. Given the ease and speed with which the most elaborate and expensive DRM schemes are defeated, criminals will have a fairly easy time.

    Eliminating access to legacy ammo: The root problem with your simile (making everything from .308 Win to .223 Rem to 9mm Para to .45 ACP to .40 S&W to .38 Sp to .357 Mag to .380 ACP to 25-30 and 30-30 to .270 Win to 12ga and 20ga as unappealing as an 8086 computer) is that ammo is not subject to Moore’s Law like computers. Most popular chamberings are popular because they work pretty well.

    Currently civilians buy about 5 billion rounds a year in the US, and a lot of the casings get reloaded, often several times over. Precision shooters (including varmint hunters) nearly always make their own ammo. You’re also going to have to eliminate the aftermarket sources for powder, primers, casings, bullets, lead, and reloading presses and dies.

    How do you stop the primary commecial ammo manufacturers from continuing to manufacture legacy chamberings? And how do you get the current manufacturers to develop these rounds? Many chamberings are whomped up by lone gunsmith/ ballisticians. If they work really well, others use them, and they get accepted and graduate from wildcat rounds to common rounds. If not, they stay wildcat rounds or get ignored into oblivion.