Mystical Arguments I Think are Rubbish

After every incident of mass murder with a gun, I can reliably count on my FB page filling up with some variation on “No law can remove evil from the human heart” (from which we are apparently to conclude that any attempt to limit the access of lunatics to the technology of mass murder is a waste of time).

It’s only after mass murders with guns that I hear this rhetoric.  Nobody says that the mystery of evil makes it futile to try to limit North Korea’s access to the technology of mass death.  Nobody talks as though having cops arrest criminals is starry-eyed utopianism.  Nobody says “Stealers gonna steal” and concludes that attempts to limit shoplifting with various technological fixes like cameras or mall cops is a refusal to address the fact that sin begins in the heart.

But whenever gun violence breaks out, this beloved trope is right behind, talking as though the very idea of pursuing–among other remedies such as healing families, not inducing pharmacological psychosis, healthier communities, less violent games and media–some sensible way of making it much harder for lunatics to have easy access to the technology of mass death… well, that’s just utopian crazy talk.  All we can do is simply roll over and utter pieties about the mystery of evil.  This sounds, to the untrained ear, uncommonly like a particularly ridiculous form of special pleading that nobody believes when it comes to any other form of crime.

Note that I am not talking even about registration of guns (though I consider it to be on the table, just as registration of cars is sensible).  I’m certainly not talking about the cloud cuckoo fantasy of gun confiscation (which is impossible even if a society were mobilised to do it, which ours is not, and which would be counter-productive from all that I’ve seen).  I’m talking about, for instance, building weapons that, say, can’t be fired by anybody but the registered owner (easily within our technological prowess to invent).  I’m talking about mandating ways in which to make sure that law-abiding people have access to guns while lunatics don’t.  At present, our civilization has made the actuarial bargain, just like an insurance company, that it is willing to put up with a certain number of Auroras, Sandy Hooks, Virginia Techs… as a trade off for maintaining the status quo.  I dissent from that bargain.  That doesn’t mean I advocate the lunacy of confiscation.  It does mean I advocate clearing our minds of such cant as “Our only response to massive acts of bloodshed is to say pieties about the mystery of evil and do nothing.”  Such cant at least, should be done away with as we consider how to order the common good here.

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  • Kalamazoo

    Fingerprint sensitive triggers are a good idea. However that technology is extremely expensive and will take time. A lot of time. In the meantime, there should be armed guards in schools, just like the ones protecting the president’s children and other well to do denizens of DC. Sidwell has 11 armed guards I believe, and they’re not just secret service. An armed guard at Newtown would have most likely prevented any deaths because 1) the shooter killed himself the second he heard a siren, which bursted his interior fantasy world instantaneously, and 2) the shooter knew there were no armed guards. Guns frequently save lives, a fact which those in the media quietly drooling for confiscation entirely ignore. The Klackamas mall shooter, for example, just last month killed himself the second a regular citizen with a carry permit simply drew his weapon. Guns are not the problem and never will be. It may sound like a “trope” but it isn’t until they start firing automatically on random people by themselves.

    • Gigalith

      I’m not an expert on biometrics, but my impression is that they’re either too accurate, and reject the correct user because they had grease on their hand, or aren’t accurate enough and accept about anyone. DNA scanners and the like are not going to fit on a gun, or give results fast enough. With any electronic device, it’s going to be possible to hot-wire whatever detector.

      This isn’t to say the idea is without merit. A mechanical combination lock, acting as the safety, might be simpler and far more effective. Let the manufacturer pick the number to prevent anyone from using simple 123456 type codes. It would still be possible to circumvent, yes, but third parties may be slowed down enough not to commit crimes of passion.

      • Kalamazoo

        Good point. There’s actually a serious negative flip side to that technology also. The 15 year old who just used his father’s shot gun to protect his sister and himself from a home invasion would not have been able to fire. The home invaders would have just knocked it out of his hands, and done God knows what to them. The overarching problem here is not guns; it’s the coarsening of our culture, if you can call it that. There’s no respect for life; there’s glorification of violence all over the place, Hollywood, video games. There’s too much psychotropic medication being doled out to every problem kid. ALL of these recent shooters were on psychotropic meds. Media also ignores that.

        • Stu

          The first time a biometric enabled weapon stops a woman from using her husband’s firearm to stop an armed intruder, the outcry will be huge. Does anyone really want that sort of complication on their means for self-defense? Personally, if I am forced to buy guns like that I will disable that functionality first thing. I’m confident others will too. After all, those who steal guns will have to find a way to use them.

          Further, it drives up the prices of firearms and unfairly puts them further out of reach of those with modest incomes; the same people who often live in rough neighborhoods.

      • Stu

        And as to the PIN idea.. I haven’t heard that one before, so I give it credit for originality. But again, do you really want to be fumbling over remembering and entering a PIN in a crisis situation when you are under duress?

        Confronted with that, most people would pick a code like “1111” or simply disable the functionality even if doing such were illegal. I certainly would.

  • Bill

    It’s not just the Second Amendment is not Sacred Scripture. It’s also a gun isn’t the Holy Eucharist.

    My In Laws, who I love, substitute guns for church. (this idea that guns are the domain of the religious is false. Venn Diagrams be damned here).

    There’s almost something soteriological about guns to some. Transcendent salvation achieved through them. Guns ARE THE PROBLEM when they become a false idol.

    • …. X ARE THE PROBLEM when they become a false idol is always going to be true.

  • Dan C

    The answer has to be simple.

    I have given up hope for this though, because guns are loved more so than the lives that are taken. I have lived in and currently work and take public transportation through heavily armed populations which shoot at each other without deterrence. Such has been the experiment in the inner city and the honest know this.

    The only way gun control will have effect is by operational laws that make effects as preventative.

    Simply put, such laws have to have an effect as follows:

    1. Many guns will have to be taken away from people who currently own them.
    2. Some people cannot be allowed to have guns, determined easily and without many barriers to preventing gun ownership.
    3. Many guns currently available will have to be banned.

    Without these simple operational rules nothing will change.

    I have heard people boo-hooing about having their guns removed before, about putting down their weapons. I worked in the inner city in a Catholic Worker and the gangs would not relinquish their weapons, all with the same claims as the conservatives now- the government was opporessive and it was for protection from “those” people.

    Yes, I am equating the gun lover of 2013 with the same boo-hooing as a gang member of the late 1980’s, because people are not so different.

    Serious gun control cannot rely on a technological solution. Preventative measures require the three outcomes noted above, and due to the huge affection folks have for their weapons, I never expect to see change. Just more massacres, more guns on the street.

    I am a proud gun grabber as the right wing would describe me. I consider it a religious duty as a Christian to work to end violence, and see no saints or martyrs making the claims of the gun lovers. Oddly, the ownership snd love of guns has been raised to a relgious and theological level, which I claim is deeply deeply warping the meaning of the Faith. Take warning.

    • Stu

      I have firearms because I love the lives of my family and will protect them.

      I don’t know why you want to take away my means of self-defense from potentially deadly threats.

      • “joe”

        i don’t have firearms. do i not love the lives of my family?

        • Stu

          Didn’t say that “Joe.” I simply gave my reasons.

          • “joe”

            i asked a question, i didn’t say what you said.
            and, you didn’t answer the question.
            ps it’s “joe” not “Joe”.

      • I noticed no one had an answer for your very simple statement, Stu.

    • Kate

      Dan C. wrote: “Oddly, the ownership and love of guns has been raised to a religious and theological level, which I claim is deeply deeply warping the meaning of the Faith. Take warning.”

      (This is my first post, but I’ve been an lurker here for awhile.) I agree with Dan. I’ve noticed this disturbing mix of theology, guns, and patriotism as well. It seems that today guns and militarism have become a new American religion that is mixed with a conservative/libertarianism mindset as well.

      There’s at least one self-proclaimed Catholic on the internet who claims that bearing arms is a God-given right and duty of Christians (she has a poster of her hand clutching a rosary and a pink AR15 in front of an American flag). Yet many non-Catholic Christians claim this as well.

      Cherry-picked scripture about swords is often used, while the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor are neglected, along with any statements from the Catholic Church on this issue. As Dan C. says, this is “deeply deeply warping the meaning of the Faith.” Very troubling.

    • Those inner cities are the most gun controlled areas of the US. The answer is *not* simple.

    • enness

      “guns are loved more so than the lives that are taken”

      That’s quite an accusation, Dan. I don’t believe that.

    • yan

      Both guns and gangs are in part a constitutional problem. The former are protected by the second amendment and, believe it or not, the latter enjoy protection from the first amendment.

      Chicago tried to permit police to break up loiterers that were suspected of being gang members. The Court struck the law down. Justice Clarence Thomas began his dissent with these words: “The duly elected members of the Chicago City Council enacted the ordinance at issue as part of a larger effort to prevent gangs from establishing dominion over the public streets. By invalidating Chicago’s ordinance, I fear that the Court has unnecessarily sentenced law-abiding citizens to lives of terror and misery.” He was, of course, correct.

      Once the Court says a certain action or law is constitutional or unconstitutional, options for dealing with a problem may become much more limited.

      One has to wonder if the American people in 1787 ever imagined that the 1st amendment would be a shield for loiterers leading to a situation conducive to fomenting criminal enterprises, and that, incident to the more violent society which we have guaranteed to exist as a matter of right [we can’t seem to outlaw violent video games either, since this is seen by the Court to be a violation of the 1st amendment freedom of expression], the 2nd amendment would consequently be put on trial in the public mind for being a shield for crazy people to commit mass murders.

      Instead then of focusing upon eliminating the consequences of having a more violent society by regulating guns better and etc., a real reform could direct itself at taking away the Court’s discretion in certain matters which we believe create a more violent society in the first place. Thus, the American people could pass an amendment to the Constitution limiting the construction of the first amendment so that it simply does not apply to efforts by the government to infringe upon the freedom of expression when such expression is judged to be conducive to violent behavior. Government could then censor movies, the press, video games, etc., to the extent that elected officials and the people that elect them deem appropriate.

      The American people could similarly limit indecent expression through a constitutional amendment.

      It is the failure to do these things that, in my opinion, really constitutes the Faustian bargain that we live with. We don’t want to use law to curb evil in our hearts because of our overriding interest in preserving ‘freedom.’ But it is the failure to limit the freedom to do things that are wrong per se–such as the freedom to encourage the contemplation and fomentation of mindless violence–that results in the call to limit the freedom to do things which are not wrong per se, and which have many beneficial uses when used properly and wisely–such as, owning guns; even extremely efficient and powerful guns.

  • The thing I don’t get is people talking about “love of guns” and “gun ownership” as if this is a new concept in our country. It is a *Founding Concept* that the people should be well armed and able to overthrow their government (not that I think that’s a good idea) in order to secure their rights. It’s how our country was founded in the first place. If we want to change that culture we have to radically change our founding principles as a country. I don’t see that as a likely or even possible at this point.

    Gun control is a worthwhile concept to discuss but the “cold dead hands” and the “confiscate all the legal guns” crowds aren’t discussing – they are drawing lines in the sand. That will only end with more bloodshed.

    • Jenny

      I come from an old American family. My people came here long before the Revolution and fought in it and then fought on both sides of the Civil War. We are old school Scotch-Irish folk. I look at my family history/culture, etc as a baseline to measure claims of what Americans have always been. And while everyone had guns, they were not “well-armed.” My grandfathers and their fathers before them, probably going all of the way back to the beginning, kept guns the house but they were not machine guns or automatic rifles or anything like that. (I’m not an expert on the types of guns so don’t use the correct terminology.) Their guns were for hunting and target shooting.
      Contrast that to my uncles today who is “well-armed.” He thinks the government is going to take his guns and has a room full of guns; machine guns, automatic rifles, etc. This is not the same thing. Something is different here. What is my uncle’s house is not consistent with how Americans lived before.
      And I also don’t buy the claim that we’re always ready to overthrow our government. Like I wrote above, I come from old-stock Americans who fought in the Revolution but nobody since then has ever planned for a Revolution. They were all big believers in this country and it was unthinkable to not be. They didn’t distrust the government like people do today. Of course it probably helped that they didn’t have conservative media to rile them up.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        I wish I had an uncle who could afford the exorbitant stamps and other rigamarole that come with owning automatic weapons. Yours is an aversion to color and material, and I don’t blame you. Black is such a dreary color and plastic lacks the charm of wood. Otherwise, I doubt any difference beyond quantity exists. Your uncle has black plastic semiautomatic weapons. Your grandpa probably had brown wooden ones. And your Scots-Irish ancestors tried to foment a second revolution over liquor taxes less than a decade after the Constitution was ratified

        So your uncle is a nut and you freely admit to holding ignorant opinions. This is not a basis for sensible laws, madame.

        • Stu

          As another Scotch-Irish “Old Stock”, I think James Webb had it right when he used the term “Born to Fight” for his book on the Scotch-Irish immigrants. May family came over here after being on the losing end of the Battle of Culloden and took up fighting the English on this soil instead.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            If they were on the losing end of Culloden, as one of my ancestors was, they were very likely not Scots-Irish, but more likely Highland Celts.

            • Stu

              I can assure you that I know my lineage. 🙂

              I’m a Stuart. Parts of our family were given lands in Ireland as well and intermingled with locals. So it’s a “both/and.” Oddly, the branch I come from were presbyterian but still fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Blood was apparently thicker than religion.

              My line settled in the Western Virginia with my direct ancestor being the “Father of Greenbriar County.” He was actually friends with both Jefferson and Washington. In fact, Washington’s initials were carved in the foundation of his home, which still stands, by Washington himself. This is the same line as JEB Stuart. So we have an established history of being rebellious. Something about “apples falling from trees” may be applicable.

      • enness

        Why wouldn’t anybody trust a government that passed the NDAA? /sarc

    • Cindy Coleman

      @Dan–please give me a reference how it is that “It is a *Founding Concept* that the people should be well armed and able to overthrow their government.” Well-armed? Able to overthrow their government? I was a political science major in university, studied American political beginnings, etc and that is certainly not what the 2nd amendment says. Though it seems as though what you state is how the 2nd amendment has been reinvented in recent years.

      • InsaneSanity

        The 2nd Amendment doesn’t specifically say that, but it’s the primary reason for the 2nd Amendment to exist. Surprised you don’t recognize this.

      • yan

        Here are a few quotes to illustrate the mindset of some Founders. Although antifederalists like Mason and Henry might not properly be called ‘founders’ in the sense of supporting the Constitution, since they opposed yet, yet they are rightly considered to be founders of our country in any event, since their thoughts and concerns were taken into consideration by the writers of the Constitution, resulting most famously in a bill of rights, including of course the 2nd amendment.

        “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.” –Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787

        “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” –Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, quoted by Thomas Jefferson in Commonplace Book

        “[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it.” –Federal Farmer, Antifederalist Letter, No. 18, 1787

        “O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?” –Patrick Henry, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788

        “[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, – who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia.” –George Mason, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788

        “Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.” –James Madison, Federalist No. 46, 1788

        “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.” –Patrick Henry, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788

        • yan

          One more:

          “No free government was ever founded or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defence of the state…. Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen.” –Josiah Quincy, Jr., Thoughts on Standing Armies, 1774

  • Ed the Roman

    Right. The hardware store owner, the retired widow, the diamond salesman, the former Marine studying accounting are *just like* members of criminal gangs. Because everybody knows that gangs tell the precise truth about what *their* guns are for, and somebody else sold those drugs, ran those hos, and shot those people on their porches from a car anyway, and those people I mentioned in the first sentence really do that stuff too.

    Please allow me to give you some advice against my own interest: don’t let your anger drive your tongue so much: it makes you say things that most of the country knows are stupid and find insulting. Also a reminder that every problem has an answer that is obvious, simple, and wrong.

  • Matthew

    Could you address the flip-side of this “mystical argument” the equally fallacious idea that if we just had the right laws in place people would be perfect? The idea that if we just had the right gun control laws in place these mass murders never would happen is foolish. Consider: Has anyone heard mention that the largest number of deaths in an attack on a school in the US occurred here in Michigan in the 1930’s? A local farmer distraught over losing his farm spent a week stockpiling dynamite under the local school. He blew it up when school was in session. No big guns here.

    • Mark Shea

      Sure I can. It’s a nonsensical straw man argument only advanced by gun zealots in the attempt to make gun regulation advocates look like blithering idiots and never ever advanced by any advocate of gun regulation I’ve ever seen, heard, or read.

      • Kalamazoo

        Well not quite. Biden is literally advancing the “if it saves one life” argument. Under that nonsensical straw man argument, the government would impose much tighter restrictions on who can drive a car. Cars are far more deadly in day to day life than guns are.

        • Jmac

          Well, that’s certainly not true now, and overall trends don’t look good for the future of your argument:

          • Kalamazoo

            Yeah you’re wrong Jmac. Even if they were the same, you’re not addressing Biden’s straw man argument. Do we tighten restrictions on cars and guns? What about trucks? Planes?


            • Peggy R

              My first post on this thread.

              By the way, we have a constitutionally explicit right to bear arms, but not such an explicit right to have a car or fly in an airplane. (We may have the general right to freely travel…I’m no expert on how this gets fleshed out, but we can all see there’s no amendment for cars or other transportation such as there is for arms.)

              And did you hear Biden say “there’s no silver bullet” for solving this problem? Another fine moment in public speaking by our illustrious Veep.

            • Jmac

              You misunderstand, I’m not trying to argue for anything since I don’t have a lot of information, and don’t find the arguments on either side particularly convincing. That being said, I think the cars vs. guns argument is facile and misleading, especially when we can point toward better regulation of automobiles and increased crackdowns on drunk drivers for a drastic reduction in auto fatalities, as gun deaths have (more slowly) been increasing. Hence, it’s misleading to say that cars are “far more deadly” than guns, especially when overall trends don’t look good for that argument.

              I don’t have a dog in this fight, and I’m trying to gauge my position based on arguments presented in this thread. I just don’t think the data supports you here.

        • Sus

          The restrictions on vehicles manufactured to kill are regulated and perhaps even banned. I haven’t tried to buy a tank lately.

          The automobile vs gun is invalid. By your reasoning no one should ever take medication because they are going to die of old age some day.

          • Kalamazoo

            No it’s your reasoning not mine. Since people die from the use of guns, you would say we should ban guns. I’m saying that guns, cars, planes, etc. are all inherently risky endeavors and death will result if we engage in any of them, but we cannot outlaw them all. Your medication comment is a non sequitur.

            A car is an inanimate object just like a gun is. The comparison is quite apt.

            • Sus

              Oh, I’ve given up on banning guns. I’ve moved on to securing the guns. I want them locked up in a combination safe so that only you, the gun owner, has access. That would prevent lots accidents and help prevent people who should not have access to guns.

              The reluctance for better background checks makes me nervous. If you don’t think you could pass the background check, why should I think it’s okay for you to have a gun?

              • Stu

                Locking my firearms in a safe is my choice. For self defense purposes, most criminals aren’t into to giving you time to unlock your gun to “make it fair.”

                • Sus

                  I’d laugh if it wasn’t so sad.

                  me me me me me me me me me me my my my my my my

                  Got it.

                  • Stu

                    I laugh how you are so concerned about what goes on in my home.

                    So apparently you are really interested in me. Might want to pay some attention to yourself.

              • Kalamazoo

                Sus, I’m all for gun safes, but you’re being a little theoretical and naive. When the home invasion happens, the time it takes to get to the safe, enter the code, withdraw the gun, etc., is a pronounced and life threatening disadvantage. Most cops do not put their guns away in safes at night.

                I see Stu has read my mind. If you have kids in the house, yes by all means keep it in the safe. At night, there’s nothing wrong with having it under the mattress.

                • Karen

                  How frequent are home invasions? If they are so common that thousands of people require guns that shoot 300 bullets per minute, as the Sandy Hook shooter’s weapon could, don’t you all think we have a bigger problem than gun control?

                  • Sus

                    I’m not sure how frequent home invasions are. It seems like home invasions are much less likely than the risks of injury from gun accidents, domestic violence and suicide.

                  • UK burglars vs US burglars have radically different methodologies. The US burglars are much more likely to make sure the house is empty. UK burglars often find the best way to get in is to just walk up and ring the bell. These two styles stem from the justifiable fear in the burglar population in the US that trying that with the owner home is a recipe for getting shot. This is a very good effect of gun ownership in private hands. There are others.

                  • Stu

                    Home invasions are much more frequent than gun massacres.

                    You guys can’t have it both ways. On one hand, you want to argue that the likelihood of having our life threatened with deadly force is rare but then you want to enact all manner of new laws because you feel there is a substantial risk of falling victim to a gun massacre?

                    • Sus

                      I said that it seems like home invasions are less likely to happen than injury from gun accidents, domestic violence and suicide.

                    • Stu

                      And I am pointing out that home invasions are a bigger threat than gun massacres.

                  • Patrick Thornton

                    Karen, what guns are you speaking of that fire 300 rounds per minute? LOL. That would be an automatic weapon. Automatic weapons have never been used in mass murders. The guns used at Sandy Hook and every other atrocity were semi-automatic, like most handguns and hunting rifles that have been around for the last 100 years or so.

                    Well, except they look “scarier”, but that’s no really a good basis for serious legislation.

                    A couple of points:

                    1. Unless we are getting rid of the 2nd amendment, citizens have the right to own weaponry to defend themselves against tyranny. If you want to argue that citizens should not have this right, then make a move to amend the constitution. I happen to think the Founders had many good ideas including the 2nd amendment. Especially as a guarantee of our rights to free speech and religion.

                    2. Additional restrictions on my right to own weapons infringes on my obligation to live out my vocation as a husband and father. I have a moral obligation to defend my family to the best of my ability.

              • Hezekiah Garrett

                If you can’t pass a literacy test, why should I let you vote?

                • yan

                  Perfect analogy to illustrate the constitutional issue in respect to restricting gun ownership.
                  Now how about return my favor and jump on my bandwagon of the need to limit the scope of the 1st rather than the 2nd amendment? : )

  • Well, first problem is that I have heard arguments like those in other places. In dealing with Iran, I’ve heard variations of ‘evil happens, you can’t stop evil just by invading this or that country.’ So yeah, it seems to be a popular argument when it comes to ‘I don’t want X to be the solution to this or that problem.’ For that matter, I’ve heard it used by those who aren’t happy to sit down and negotiate with Iran either. So there you go.

    As for guns, my boys brought up an interesting point. They said mass killings are like plane crashes. Most of the time, planes fly, they land, they fly, they land, and nobody notices. But when a plane crashes, especially if everyone on board dies, then the entire country comes to a stop. Yet, tens of thousands will die in car accidents every year.

    I knew where they were going with it. It would fit if tens of thousands of Americans died daily every year in smaller planes. But I got the point. For all of those who say ‘we’re just wanting to restrict assault weapons, or ban them, or limit them, or whatever’, fact is, that counts for a very small percentage of deaths by gun violence in our country. Sure, if it could limit, or stop, any more mass killings, I’m all for it! If I never had to see another Newtown again, I would be that much happier.

    But fact is, tens of thousands will die from guns in our country, guns that have nothing at all to do with anything that is ever discussed when one of these things happen. The big question is: what does that mean? I’d continue, but I hear coffee is ready, so must go. Just a thought, compliments of my perceptive boys.

  • Stu

    At present, our civilization has made the actuarial bargain, just like an insurance company, that it is willing to put up with a certain number of Auroras, Sandy Hooks, Virginia Techs… as a trade off for maintaining the status quo. I dissent from that bargain.
    No, you don’t. You make that bargain everyday when you walk outside of your home in a free society. Whether driving a car, flying a plan, using electricity, taking a shower, cooking with a gas range, etc, you are engaging in that sort of calculus.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes. I do. I don’t dissent from actuarial bargaining per se for the reason you state. I do dissent from the claim that we simply have to stand by and utter pieties about the mystery of evil and do nothing, while maintaining the status quo at the cost of still more Sandy Hooks. Do I imagine that gun violence will be eradicated? No. I don’t think automobile deaths will be eliminated by mandating seat belt law either. But I do think some lives will be saved.

      • Stu

        But what is your break point in balancing the lives saved with more intrusion, bureaucracy and cost? You are much more likely to be killed in an automobile accident than in a gun accident much less a “Sandy Hook” type massacre. While I understand your dislike of the platitudes you cite, there is in fact some point where we reach diminishing returns for exponential costs. That’s where many of us thing we are with the current set of gun laws on the books already.

        I have the same aim as you in this. I want to prevent massacres. But it’s time to reconceptualize the problem.

        • Mark Shea

          I gave some suggestions. So, for instance, to the complaint that guns which make it impossible for all but the registered owner to use would be more expensive, my reply is, “Tough.” The 2nd Amendment does not guarantee the right to cheap arms.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            And your Constitution doesn’t even guarantee a right to vote, but the Poll Tax was dismissed as onerous nevertheless.

          • Stu

            Guns for the rich.
            Sucks to be poor.

            Such measures would be bypassed, especially by those stealing guns to commit crimes.

          • Kalamazoo

            Right but Mark, how about the 15 year old who while trying to defend his sister with his father’s shotgun, can’t fire it because of biometrics? Then he and his sister are killed. So high tech regs cost 2 lives and save none.

            I agree with Stu that we are at the point of diminishing returns re regs. We need to advance the culture of life and attack the culture of violence and evil wherever we can.

            • Stu

              “Tough” for that kid and his sister.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Risk analysts are skeptical. People reset their risk thermostats in response to perceived risks. When seat belts became common people began to drive faster and more recklessly. Accidents increased and the seat belts did not help the folks who were T-boned by the reckless driver. OTOH, other safety features introduced at the same time — collapsible steering columns and crumple zones — being transparent to the driver, did not affect their perception of risk. The latter helped dissipate the energy of impact while the former eliminated the main cause of death in collision: the driver’s chest being punctured by a stiff metal rod on which the steering wheel was mounted. At the same time, improvements in emergency medical treatment made its way from MASH units to civilian EMTs and ERs.
        What’s this to do with guns? Guns are instruments and are not actually causal. Making the instrument safer will be effective only against accidents. Airliners have been made very safe, but nothing much technical can be done to the machine that would prevent suicidal terrorists from flying one into a building.
        So there are things that can be done with guns. Safety catches, for example. Oh, wait. We got those. But they will help only against accidental firing. They will not help against someone intent on committing murder. This need to change the human heart is distressing for those who want only instrumental fixes to their problems, like condoms, ritalin, etc., rather than address the disordering of the human heart. Gun control is inherently ineffective without lunatic control.
        Perhaps what we need is some sort of ethical system that can be ingrained in people from a young age; one that teaches, I don’t know, love your neighbor, even your enemy; do good to those who bully you; be generous to the poor, help the sick. Stuff like that. Maybe we can find an inspirational speaker willing to promulgate such things, though who knows how such a speaker would be treated.
        Oh, wait.

        • “Gun control is inherently ineffective without lunatic control.”

          Oh, I agree. But it’s unlikely we’ll focus on lunatic control. As I wrote last month:

          Meanwhile, “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” seems to have been published widely. Everyone seems to acknowledge that our mental health care system is broken to some extent, and that we should be able to do better in a vague way. So about what do we seem to be occupied in our national debate in response to Sandy Hook? Gun control. Much like the drunk at night searching for his keys under the lamp post in the modern parable, we look only there, because the light is better there. Riffing off of Walker Percy in Lost in the Cosmos, we know guns (things) better than we know ourselves.

          • yan

            As with the inability to regulate violent expression, the inability to better address the problem of crazy people is also a problem that cannot be properly addressed without limiting the scope or application of the 1st amendment.

            • If crazy behavior is protected by 1st Amendment, then we are truly lost. We may as well place criminal behavior under the umbrella of 1st Amendment rights because we’ve lost all capability for making distinctions.

              Once upon a time, in a country called America, they had this capability to lock up crazy people for the greater good (really, they didn’t have to wait for the crazy person to break the law and shoot 29 innocent people before dealing with the crazy person).

              If there is no room for compromise between absolute individual rights and absolute government tyranny, then I expect people will favor absolute tyranny since at least in that form of government, there is a promise of security.

              I’m not a libertarian, and I believe in censorship. I support lunatic control.

      • David Davies

        I have been a seat-belt fan like, forever. I feel naked if I’m not buckled in whether I’m driving or I am a passenger. I never understood why it was necessary to MAKE people do this by passing a law.

        So. Even with seat-belts we have deaths by automobile. Many of those are caused by distracted drivers, so we are now passing laws prohibiting the use of cell-phones while driving. I’m all in favor. But we aren’t going far enough. We need to ensure that EVERY driver is concentrating on his driving and not being distracted by ANYTHING. So, it should also be illegal to change radio stations or CD’s. It should be illegal to eat anything while driving. It should be illegal for the driver to engage in conversation with the other occupants of the car. We should have interactive audio visual monitors in each car so that the Department of Not Being Distracted while Driving agents can intervene when it becomes apparent that the driver isn’t keeping his mind on the job. Yes, lots of government intrusion there, but, hey, driving is not a right and if even one person’s life is saved then it would be worth it.

        • Mark Shea

          Yes. And we have laws against murder even though people still kill each other. The whole “unless a legal measure can completely eradicate a problem it is utterly worthless” line of sophistry is another reliable trope that gets trotted out every time the subject is slaughter by gun.

          • David Davies

            I am more serious than snarky here Mark. I’ve relatives maimed for life by autos operated by careless drivers. I drive my poor wife to distraction by my frequent comments on the bad driving I see everyday. So if we can ban cell-phone use by drivers, why can’t we ban eating and talking to your passengers? I want drivers to concentrate on the job they are doing to the exclusion of ALL distractions. We would save lives even though it would not completely eradicate the problem. The road belongs to the government and driving is a privilege which the government has the right to regulate. So why not ban talking by the driver?

            • yan

              Too difficult to enforce.

              • David Davies

                Yeah. A lot like enforcing laws against the possession of things the government thinks you shouldn’t have. Like alcohol. Like drugs. Just put a video camera in every car. When you fill up at the service station you will plug into a data link which will upload the video to the DDD where it can be reviewed for compliance. Along with your compliance with speed limits. Big employment opportunities for Big Government supporters.

          • If a legal measure’s collateral damage kills more people than its intended effects save, it is a counter-productive and cruel joke of a law. This is what the pro-gun side does not like.

            Instant background checks were advocated by the NRA and are current law. They are not infallible. Your characterization of the pro-gun side is simply not accurate.

          • rjolly

            But Mark, laws against murder acutally relates to not only the action, but the intent of the person performing the action. No one has any problem with that.

            What we are discussing is laws against possessing an inanimate object, and one that is specifically protected by our Constitution, or by passing laws that make possessing them unduly difficult or impossible to use.

            All responsible gun owners are horrified that anyone would have guns easily accessible to someone with serious mental illnes or children not old enough to be trained in their proper use. We always have been and always will be. Laws against this kind of thing are already on the books. If Nancy Lanza had not been killed- we would have now problem with her being tried for allowing him access.

            But laws like that are not what is being advocated- we see laws being proposed about banning assualt weapons or high capacity magazines. This is done not because they are good ideas which will help prevent massacres (or constitutional) but because they appeal to the political base of the left, and almost no one that cares about the right to own guns would be voting for lefty canidates anyway- so there is nothing to lose.

            On the one hand I don’t think that you want an outright ban on most items- you are also advocating very technical “solutions” such as biometrics. With respect I don’t think you realize the serious problems with such a solution- and your dismissal that no one is guaranteed a right to cheap arms while literalistically true- is also incorrect in that the government is not allowed to place restrictions on arms through taxes or unreasonable requirements (infingement).

            • Mark Shea

              I’m perfectly aware that there are bugs in any new technology. But because I do not advocate eager passivity when the lives 10,000 per year are on the line, I think that a country that landed a man on the moon can overcome those technical problems and create technology that is only useable by the people who are supposed to be using it. If that makes the tech more expensive, oh well.

        • enness

          Speaking of texting while driving — I have seen countless drivers get away with it here in Connecticut, where it is supposed to be illegal. I’m not saying it is completely worthless, but almost. It needs to have teeth; unfortunately CT is so broke it had to lay off 60 cops last year. Good luck.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Flying a plan could be dangerous.

    • kenneth

      I wonder if Wayne LaPierre would have the balls to call up the parents of those dead 6-year-old and tell them they were acceptable casualties, the cost of doing business in America. If this is the reasonable and inevitable tradeoff, we ought to disclose that to parents and make them read and sign a waiver that their kids might have to die on the job as students to maintain the status quo. The military has some perfectly good forms we could use. There’s no guarantees in life, kids, and if you have any sense, you’ll make sure your teachers are packing and take some combat pistol training yourselves instead of screwing off on your iPhone so much.

      We can’t impose on gun owners to do anything different, not even lock up their guns, because, you know, we’ve got to have that at the ready 24/7 in white suburbia. 99.5% of us will die from un-dramatic things like blocked cardiac arteries from being too fat or cancer, but there’s that 1 in 10,000 chance some guy will kick in the door, so we have to have the freedom to be locked and loaded in every room of the house.

      • Jamie R

        If you’re an adult, and you’re not familiar with the fact that modern society kills people and that you have to accept that tradeoff, I hope you don’t have any kids, since you’re living in a delusional fairyland.

        Every time you buy, do, or say literally anything you’re making that trade-off. You contributed marginally to death of some coal miner when you powered on your computer. You contributed to the death of some cable or phone company employees when you connected your computer to the internet. Every mile that you drive puts carbon in the air, contributing marginally to the death of some poor kid from asthma (setting aside possible climate change). Some percentage of a migrant worker died from heat stroke when you bought lettuce at the grocery store.

        Do you have the balls to call the survivors of all the people whose deaths you marginally contributed to and let them know that that’s just the cost of doing business?

        You could make an honest argument, which is that our permissive gun regime is too costly. But don’t whine about there being no acceptable tradeoff when you make that exact same analysis every single minute of every single day.

        • kenneth

          I know full well that people die in the ordinary course of life and economic and everyday activities. I do what I can to avoid subsidizing the worse abuses, and I can live with the rest to the extent that I, and we as a society, are doing our best to fix the problems. The test in my mind is “are we doing something prudential?” Would a neutral third party auditing the situation conclude that we are demonstrating some level of care about the victims of our activities? About 25 coal miners die each year in this country. That sucks, but its down from 2,000 or 3,000 a year 100 year ago. That tells me we’re trying to do right by people now and falling a bit short. 100 years ago, a man’s life was not worth it’s weight in coal dust. The same was true of drunk driving deaths 25 or 30 years ago. We’ve cut that in half, and we got that far by deciding that at some level, life was worth a bit more than people’s fun or convenience or “freedom.” I don’t expect us to achieve perfection with gun safety anymore than any other area, but I’m not seeing us even try. Much of the Second Amendment community has decided, like the coal miners and booze lobbyists of old, that there is no level of death that will make us reconsider the status quo, because we know nothing else will work and we have our rights anyway. To the extent that continues, we’re forming a consensus in this society that the lives of gun crime victims are worthless, and we ought to be able to look their families in the eye and say so.

          • Jamie R

            We’re forming a consensus that we’re not willing to bear hugely disproportionate costs to prevent the handful of deaths that proposed gun control measures would prevent. It’s quantitatively, not qualitatively different from the consensus we’ve formed about literally all other things that you do.

            • kenneth

              We have north of 30,000 firearm deaths a year in this country. That can only be considered a “handful” in the context of a World War.

              • Jamie R

                I didn’t say we have a handful of firearms deaths. I said that proposed gun regulations would prevent only a handful of deaths.

                The overwhelming majority of firearms deaths are suicides. The overwhelming majority of gun crime is committed with handguns. Banning AR-15 type guns and large magazines isn’t going to affect suicides (since it’s hard to shoot yourself 30 times with a rifle) or most gun crime (since it’s hard to conceal an AR-15, and you only need to shoot the cashier at a gas station once or twice).

          • enness

            Kenneth, I’m sure you’re partly correct, but you have to also keep in mind, 100 years ago we didn’t even have penicillin.

      • Stu


        I have been knowingly shot at in two different geographical locals in my life. One was Afghanistan and the other was driving to work in “white suburbia.”

        I like how you are so cavalier with other people’s right and choice to have the means to defend themselves.

        • Mark Shea

          Dead children vs. My Sacred Rights: Change Partners and dance, left and right.

          • Stu

            My firearms can be used to prevent dead children.

            BTW, none of my firearms has been used to kill children.

        • kenneth

          I think people should have the means to defend themselves. I also think many of the absolutist arguments for WHAT people feel they need is absurdly out of proportion to the actual threat they face and the ability of the weapons they advocate to counter those threats in most instances. We are told that the threat of gun-preventable violent crime is so imminent and so widespread that the right to own, sell, carry and use firearms cannot be subject to any balancing or even examination against any other public safety concern.

          • Stu

            I think the arguments against certain forms of firearms used for self defense come from people who are absurdly ignorant about firearms in general.

            My wife is petite. In the event that she is threatened by an intruder and I am not home, which used to be a lot when I was still on Active Duty, I want her to have a semi-automatic weapon with plenty of rounds to shoot a would-be intruder dead with as many shots as it takes. Don’t want her to have to reload under duress or anything like that. That’s my call. Not yours, or Mark’s or anyone else’s.

            • Kalamazoo

              But Stu, neo catholicism requires her to what, I don’t know. think about God while the intruder comes in. insane i know.

              i just talked to a democratic chief of police who, try as he did, agreed with every real life situation. it ends up being a conversation about magazines. reload? ok but that’s “hard”

              • Mark Shea

                Call me a neo-Catholic again and you are gone. Comprende?

            • kenneth

              Well look. Sometimes there’s two or three intruders. Shouldn’t she have the option to pack a full-auto Mac 10? Criminals are now getting wise to body armor. Maybe she ought to have tungsten or depleted uranium core rounds. And really, if you take defense seriously, you should never let them get as far as the house. Why shouldn’t she have an RPG to stop the suspect vehicle on the way down the drive?

              You’re also ignoring the other side of her being armed. Yes, it sometimes gives the resident a drop on an invader and saves a life. It also furnishes a weapon for a homicide that may not have occurred otherwise. Cops have their guns turned on them with a fair degree of frequency, so civilians are far from immune.

              • Stu

                Thanks, Kenneth.

                I’ll take my risk at having gun for defense. No need for those other implements you mentioned. I think semi-automatic weapons are the good compromise that we have had for over 100 years.

      • “tell them they were acceptable casualties, the cost of doing business in America.”

        I haven’t found that quote. When did he say that?

  • Stu

    At some point, you have to reconceptualize the problem.

    In my opinion, the myriad laws already in place have gotten us about as far as we are going to get in terms of regulation, increased bureaucracy and government oversight of our personal lives. Also, most of the measures being discussed now are not aimed at solving the problem, which is supposedly “Auroras, Sandy Hooks, Virginia Techs” but instead go after firearms in general as some sort of panacea for all that ails society.

    If we want to stop criminals and crazy people then we need to think about their behaviors and target them, not everyone else. Look where they target when they engage in activity and “harden” those place. That doesn’t mean we have to make schools, malls and theaters like Fort Knox, buy much can be done to improve security as well as enlist the aid of trained, law-abiding citizens who legally carry concealed.

    • Jamie R

      One cost effective measure that would reduce gun violence, but not the Auroras etc. (since most gun crime is with illegally-owned handguns), would be to make all secondary market transfers go through the same background checks you go through when you buy from an FFL. Tighter restriction of the grey and black markets in guns would keep guns out of criminals’ hands without affecting lawful gun ownership.

      I’m not certain that “hardening” certain targets is actually worth it. The Aurora / Sandy Hook style mass-shooting is incredibly rare. The costs of hardening are pretty high: hiring cops, the opportunity cost of having cops prevent extremely rare crimes, the costs of bored cops busting kids for trivial offenses, the costs of remodeling the buildings to have less open plans, the fire-safety costs of less open buildings, etc. I can’t imagine any target-hardening measures that would make sense from a cost-benefit, BPL approach.

      • Stu

        You harden the potential targets as they are now being built. Similar to improving the fire safety of new structures. You then allow teacher who want to volunteer to carry a concealed weapon.

        As to background checks for private purchases, making neighbor to neighbor sales go through such scrutiny is overkill. There is perhaps giving more scrutiny to FFLs and their private transactions given their ability to buy and transfer weapons around the country.

        • Jamie R

          Unless I’m hugely mistaken, most gun crime passes through the secondary market. It’s relatively rare that someone buys a gun from an FFL and then uses it to commit a crime. Shutting down the grey market, through regulations aimed at making private party sales more difficult without an FFL (e.g., making it illegal to sell a firearm without it passing through an FFL) would reduce gun crime. (Making legal secondary sales too difficult would perversely encourage illegal secondary sales, so you’d have to balance it out with other measures to make legal secondary market sales easier).

          • Stu

            Actually, wayward FFLs are fairly significant source. About a fifth are such guns are stolen. Criminals aren’t getting their guns from individual gun owners or gun shows.

        • Paula Gehringer

          Stu, I made the case for hardening structures the other day and also compared it to the Life Safety code in place for all occupancies. I don’t want to see buildings which house vulnerable populations become armed camps so the first principle of designing for security should be to prevent access. The second should be much like NFPA 101, get those at risk of harm out of the building . As part of that areas of secure egress (much like fire rated corridors) should be provided. It could also be as simple of having egress windows in classrooms. Last should be ways to block off access to parts of the building should it be breached. It is at this point I think an armed response scenario if any would come into play. But the whole idea is to prevent that.

          The purpose of arms for self defense is not to escalate a confrontation but to make the aggressor believe that the risk to him if he continues with his behavior is so great ceasing his actions is the best choice for him. It is a very effective way of making sure such people know that “No” is a complete sentence .

          If people are serious about ending gun violence the focus needs to be away from the very tragic and rare incidents such as Newtown and on where the majority of gun violence does happen. Ask what the incentive is for those shootings and you might discover it might be more fruitful to discuss changing laws that at first glance don’t seem connected to gun violence at all. Think “fast and furious” for the domestic side.

  • bob

    I have a pretty unpopular idea for gun control: muzzle loaders only. One shot, about a minute to reload. If everyone allowed to own a firearm had these it would make it much harder to kill 20+ people in less than about a half hour. If two people were enraged and wanted to hurt each other, it would be a duel. Neither has a good reason to shoot first; most people will miss and miss a lot, and very few intended targets would be hit. Then the other guy has a free shot to miss too. There would be no mass murders and much fewer shots fired in anger. Those weapons solved the Revolution, the Civil War, and could bring sanity to our situation. I can hear the gun owners screaming already.

    • Perhaps the best solution to auto accidents, then, would be horse and carriage? On the whole, it works for the Amish. It being the 21st century, the solutions should probably fall within the realization that we are, in fact, in the 21st century. Why muzzle loaders at all? Why not 13th century maces? Ancient Roman swords? Funny solution, but not practical.

    • str

      No matter whether the idea is simple as yours or technologically advanced as Mark’s, they will and must all fail for one reason – they will only affect guns legally produced and purchased after you introduced your idea.
      They will not affect any guns already owned – or if they do, you idea simply boils down to confiscation.
      They will not affect illegal guns.
      Hence, they will put the legal gun owner at an disadvantage vs. the gangster that actually is the problem. The former can fire once, the gangster can fire as often as he likes.

      Re for the whole issue: Guns are a problem in America. Guns are not simply a tool for multiple uses like knives or cars – they are intended to shoot and wound/kill people. And if there were a way, most guns could be eliminated, it would a huge step forward. … However, there’s no such way. There are simply to many guns around for such attempts to work.

      As for the 2nd amendment: I’m no fan of it but there’s no footing around that it says what it says. If one doesn’t like, one has to repeal it just like the 18th amendment.

    • Stu

      That’s just wacky.

      Aside from the fact that we need to have some parity with the government in the RARE event that there is civil strife because of a tyrannical government, we should have semi-automatic weapons in the case of a foreign invader. Again, unlikely but could happen. And even the US Government believes such to be a potential threat and that is one of the reasons why they started the Civilian Marksmanship Program to promote proficiency in the use of arms among the general populace. They still sell surplus M1 Garands to the public for this purpose.

      • Cinlef

        Foreign invader? With the respect this is something that as a Canadian has always struck me as deeply odd, that Americans don’t seem to grasp the actual extent of their military superiority. Preventing a foreign invasion is far far easier than occupying another country America is at literally no risk of foreign invasion, even if you didn’t massively outspend every other nation on Earth in military expenditure, (A single US carrier group could defeat most nations) the USA controls enough nukes to not only destroy any enemy nation/army but to literally render the entire Earth uninhabitable. You can not only win the game but smash the board.

        • Sus

          Amen! The WMD that Saddam supposedly had was nothing compared to what the USA has in their arsenal.

          Forget guns, we better start stockpiling nukes. Mine can fit between the septic field and the shed.

        • Stu

          I simply pointed out the reality of the CMP and it’s purpose. It is what it is. You can look it up yourself and then go argue with the historical record.

          We didn’t always have such firepower to defend ourselves (and Canada for that matter).

        • It’s tough to mention America’s military superiority when losing wars is becoming as American as apple pie and baseball.

        • We actually are having something of an uptick of armed incursions from Mexico at present as part of the spillover from the drug wars in Mexico’s north. We have less to worry about from Mexico’s army on the foreign invasion front than we do from the Zetas and MS-13. But haven’t you heard? Westphalianism is dying if not dead already. That makes the foreign invasion question a lot trickier.

  • Kirt Higdon

    There is no effective technological fix to this. Even if guns could be designed, as they probably can, to be used only be the registered owner, it would still be far easier and cheaper to manufacture guns which did not have this characteristic and such guns would be more popular for a variety of reasons good and bad. Background checks could be made more effective, but in the absence of a felony conviction or some kind of official ruling of mental incompetence, what would be the basis of denying someone the right to own a firearm? Keep in mind that the regime which will establish the controls is the largest marketer of arms in the world and in addition to client governments has armed many militias and terrorist groups including Mexican drug cartels. I also don’t see how gun grabbing would reduce violence given that the grabbers themselves would have to be police or soldiers armed with guns and prepared to do lethal violence to anyone who resisted the grab. Finally, given that violent crime, including homicides, has been waning in this country for decades now, I don’t see why we need new laws. The mysticism of Americans is mostly mystical legalism. Anytime something bad happens, just pass another law or group of laws and that will solve the problem.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    I have the solution: We give every legal adult in this country a firearm. Then we pass so many regulations that it is impossible to make 1 bullet for less than $20,000.

    • Jamie R

      It’s relatively easy to make ammunition at home. Lots of people do so lawfully. I think you’re plan will work about as well, and is as grounded in reality, as the war on drugs.

    • Kalamazoo

      Yeah that would be unconstitutional. Might work in Italy.

  • Frog Leg

    The only thing I disagree with is the title. The use by a religious writer of the word “mystical” as automatically pejorative is really off.

  • Harry Piper

    I don’t really think the comparison of guns to cars really holds up – cars are not designed or intended for use as a weapon. Of course they are used in that manner, but that is not their express purpose. Also, motorized transport is a pretty fundamental part of modern civilization – fast travel = globalization, fast communication, better international trade. Private gun ownership is not a fundamental part of modern civilization in the 21st century – making allowances for farmers, hunters, those who deal with wild animals etc. Europe in general doesn’t have the gun culture that America does – over here in the UK, after the Hungerford Massacre in 1987 even stricter gun laws were introduced to supplement the older ones, and no one cared.
    And they still don’t care. Even most – and by quite a large margin; something like 70%- policemen in the UK are against the arming of the Police Force. When the gun issue is being discussed in the US it’s important to remember that quite a large proportion of the West simply doesn’t view private gun ownership as a non-negotiable issue to the extent that Americans do.

    • Seamus

      “over here in the UK, after the Hungerford Massacre in 1987 even stricter gun laws were introduced to supplement the older ones, and no one cared.”

      And did those laws cut gun violence? Doesn’t look like it:

      • Harry Piper

        And the situation would be improved by making guns more widely available?

      • Mark Shea

        Does England have a 10,000+ gun murder rate per year?

        • If a murderer uses a knife or a bomb, does that make a school massacre’s victims less worthy of concern? I would rather have Swiss murder rates than UK murder rates. In case you didn’t know, the Swiss are more armed than we Americans are and have lower than UK murder rates (Swiss= 0.7, UK=1.2, US=4.2 intentional homicides per 100,000 people).

          Why is Switzerland’s solution worse than the UK’s if it provides a better result in fewer murder victims?

          • Stu

            Insert cricket chirp here.

          • Harry Piper

            The Swiss have those weapons because of mass conscription – the people, in general, are armed and trained with them. It’s also strikingly different from the UK and the US in several cultural and social respects.

            • Stu

              Yes, Harry I agree.

              Different cultures. That’s true in all of these comparisons.

          • kenneth

            I’ve proposed modeling a regulatory environment after Switzerland and the Nordic Countries at several different turns on this forum in recent weeks. I was told time and again that their systems are totally unacceptable and the pre-cursors to totalitarianism. Switzerland has a very high rate of gun ownership, and some very sensible regulations, including universal background checks, record keeping of all transactions, and registration for some weapons.

            • I don’t advocate taking any foreign system wholesale and making it US law. The US is unique in some respects and those differences should be respected. What gets me is people piously talking about changing things to reduce murder and taking models of gun law from disarmed countries that have a higher rate of violence than Switzerland. That exposes an agenda that is either not very well thought through or one that is dishonest.

              • kenneth

                The NRA and the Pelosi/Bloomberg/Cuomo gun grabbers are being equally dishonest with the American people. The former say no regulation of any kind can work. The latter say nothing short of a total ban will work. Places like Switzerland prove there is a middle path. Not all of their solution ought to be copied wholesale, and we cannot expect to achieve the same results as them, but there’s no reason their ideas should not be seriously analyzed and debated here.

                I also reject the suggestion that no debate can be entertained because our unresponsive government will turn on us or confiscate. That reveals very little faith in what generations have died to preserve for us. Our country was designed from the bottom up as a democratic republic and has a fairly solid track record of working for going on 237 years. In most of these European/Nordic countries, citizens and the government maintain a mutual trust and in societies which have only been modern democracies for a century or less. If they can pull that off, surely we can….

                • It is simply not true that the NRA wants no gun regulation. The NRA has long been opposed to violent felons retaining gun rights. If you were to call up the NRA and ask for a list of gun regulations they support, you would not be turned away empty handed.

                  We can certainly debate guns and we do, nearly continuously. We had a multi-decade debate in the legal academy after US v Miller. Heller and McDonald were part of that debate. Guess what, the gun control side lost the debate. It was pretty obvious that the gun controllers were really not paying attention to the conservative and libertarian arguments and mostly made stuff up a lot. That only garnered 4 votes on the Supreme Court.

                  Now it is certainly possible to come up with new arguments, new ideas, and new justifications. However, that’s not what the gun control folks are doing. They are using emotional blackmail and waving the bloody shirt in order to try to ram through the same ideas they’ve been pushing for decades. That’s dirty pool and you shouldn’t support it.

    • Hezekiah Garrett


      Your preferred way of life is worth all kinds of death and destruction, other people’s are not.

      Thought you’d get some mileage with that argument? Bone up on Trivuum, Dude.

    • enness

      Harry: your description of European apathy makes me feel so much better!

      How many people actually, really *need* their own personal cars? Have you given that some thought? Because the more I think about it, the weirder it seems. My work regularly takes me all over the state and sometimes beyond, but in 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the average commute to work was 25 minutes; 5% used public transportation versus 86% who drove, and of those who drove, three quarters drove alone. Possessing a car of one’s own doesn’t particularly help anybody who wants to travel overseas, and besides, a 2008 Pew survey found that 4 in 10 Americans have not left the place in which they were born.

  • B-Rob

    “–some sensible way of making it much harder for lunatics to have easy access to the technology of mass death… well, that’s just utopian crazy talk.”

    Perhaps not now, but in the very near future (5-10 years), “gun control” *will* be utopian crazy talk. It will be similar to “book banning” in the age of the internet….it will be virtually impossible. Right now, anyone that owns a 3-D printer and micro-CNC machine can make a firearm at home in a few hours. That technology is getter cheaper, more available, more popular and more precise every day. 3-D printers and micro-CNC machines will be as common as regular computer printers. Gun CAD files will roam throughout the internet like porn does today. This is the reality of the future. Gun control will be pointless.

    On the flip side, this technology will have many wonderful benefits, such as people being able to make new prototypes for medical devices, car parts, art…virtually anything. I work with that technology today and it is awesome, but like every tool can be used for good or evil.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      You don’t need a printer. Until you are going to HEAVILY regulate plumbing supplies, I am going to be able to produce fully automatic weapons all day long.

      Ask the Japanese about Filipino homemade guns.

      • B-Rob

        True. I think Mark and many others do not understand the simplicity of a firearm. It is utterly simple…just need a firing-pin mechanism to hit the cartridges’ primer.

  • bob

    How about a weight restriction for firearms? A gun may have unlimited capacity, but must weigh 2 pounds per round. My muzzle loader can weigh 2 pounds, a 30 round capacity weapon must weigh 60. Bear as much as you want, but there’s a limit to how much arm the arm can bear. As for illegal weapons, just banish offenders to a selected Aleutian island where they can enjoy each others company. And give each one a gun so they’ll feel secure and be happy.

    • I’m not a gunsmith but even I can figure out the end result of this, which is wide area, very lethal mass carnage guns that only hold a few rounds. This would not be an improvement over present law.

      • bob

        General MacArthur carried a 2-shot derringer when he lived in New York. Good enough for a 5-star general, good enough for anybody. Very difficult to take out 20 children but still upholds the 2nd amendment.

        • Stu

          Sorry, not good enough for my petite wife who is not a warrior.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          Oh great! Now we have to hear from the Cult of Dugout Doug!

  • Kalamazoo

    How about we follow the Bill of Rights?

  • Maiki

    I think the real solution here is to use intelligence in how we write laws and realize that exceptions don’t always make good laws. Is the law an emotional reaction to the situation, or an effective solution to a problem?

    Is mandating a new feature in a gun sold going to change the distribution of older guns in a black or resale market? Is the feature actually going to prevent a criminal from doing X — and proportionately, will it prevent law abiding citizens (that might outnumber the criminal by several orders of magnitude) from doing things like protecting themselves? Will it make the gun more prone to failure? Are we making laws for the sake of “something must be done!” or because it is the right thing to do?

    I find that proposals to do “something” that involve self-defense measures in public establishments (e.g. armed guards or police detail or trained teachers with guns) a far more sensible measure for several reasons. a) It defends children against many types of attackers or weapons. b) it reinforces the idea of legitimate authorities /rule of law and use of force c) shortens time of response in emergencies of all sorts. d) does not inconvenience those removed from the problem e) is low risk.

    I find proposals to mandate a strange tech/limitation on guns sort of short sighted, though, on the flip side. A gun is there to shoot a target with force proportional to the bullets/cartridges used. No modification on a gun unless it makes it “not a gun” will change that. A gun in the hands of an assailant will allow them to shoot trapped unarmed targets fairly easily regardless of any modifications/laws made to them. They are more likely to make them hard to use (both in safety and effectiveness) for those who don’t enter the situation with malice aforethought, though, like those trying to defend themselves.

  • Sus

    Our founding fathers wrote our Constitution. They also had the foresight to put something in it that says the government can “act for the good of the people”. They also fixed it so that the Constitution could be changed if the need arose.

    I understand why people call end up being called gun nuts. It’s because there can be no conversation, no solutions, no nothing if the discussion is about problems with guns. Some gun owners are afraid to admit that their right to own guns might be a problem.

    • Stu

      I guess for every “gun nut” there is a “utopian” to balance it out.

    • Szymon

      If the right to own guns is a problem, the government should be disarmed along with the citizens.

      America was founded on the principle of the Government being by the people and for the people. The ownership of weapons constitutes power and allows for enforcement of a person’s will onto others. This can be used for good (“I WILL not allow you to kill my family”) or used for evil (“I WILL take your money from you”).

      Understanding this principle, are you sure that it’s wise to be advocating for civilian disarmament, essentially being at the complete mercy of the government? To me, it seems like this scenario is very inviting to a psychopathic politician (or group of them) who would impose his will onto others who now have no means of saying “No”. I remind you, that this has happened numerous times in the 20th Century.

      What is the price of having the means to prevent tyranny? As far as I am aware there has NEVER been a well-armed nation in history who has come under tyrannical rule. Seeing the trend in politics (limiting freedoms that the current administration does not agree with), I would be very hesitant with calling for any sort of disarmament or limiting of weapons by citizens, the VAST majority of whom are good people.

      We often talk about taking guns away from bad people. That’s something that nobody can disagree with. However, what happens when you take guns away from good people? We mourn the tragic loss of life that happened at Sandy Hook, and rightly so. But what sort of tragedies can occur when a people no longer have the means to control their government? Civilian firearm ownership is the final safeguard of liberty, but all freedoms come with a price – the price of those who would abuse them.

      • Sus

        I never said that we should disarm all. The problem is that when there is a discussion anywhere near guns it turns to “how dare you wanting take away my guns”.

        I’m saying there is room for discussion about gun violence and guns in America.

        • Szymon

          Well, I’m of the opinion that, considering the amount of laws that all of these criminals break, passing new laws is not likely to lessen crime. With every law being a restriction on a society, there comes a point where a society becomes so restrictive that passing new laws could actually increase crime. The reason being that good people are now restricted from defending the good, while those who don’t care about laws or the consequences of breaking them continue business as usual.

          There’s are a number of interesting YouTube videos documenting this phenomenon:

          I’m referring to the crime rates of America vs. other nations, as explained in the video I linked above.

        • enness

          Sus, it’s not that much of a leap when you see people you know trading articles about how great it is that the UK banned all private firearm possession. I don’t understand why some of them do it — that’s not the kind of stuff that wins a skeptic to their side.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      So amend it. Until you amend it, you’re merely casting pejoratives.


      • Sus

        If wanting less violence and useless killings means I’m a nutbag, I proudly accept that label.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          Nope, that’s not the reason at all.

          For the record, again, I own single shot scatter guns and a tube-fed semi-auto .22LR squirrel gun, and favor door to door confiscation of all firearms by executive fiat.

  • Kate

    Thank you for writing this, Mr. Shea. This article is what’s needed right now.

  • Harry Piper

    I’m not too sure about the argument based around preventing an oppressive government taking over. I understand where’s it’s coming from – no one wants to be at the mercy of the state – but I think that if guns are intended to be used against a tyrannical government then we can’t really talk about regulation or limits in any way, shape or form. You would have to allow private ownership of every type of gun – assault rifles, machine guns, whatever. Including any kind of ammunition.
    And why stop there? If we have guns just in case of this hypothetical civil war, surely you’d need explosives to use against enemy armor? IED’s for the inevitable guerrilla campaign? And how is registration advisable in this view? If you’re going up against the State, then you can’t allow information to get out that shows what weapons you have, who you are, where you live etc – information that could be used against you.

    • Szymon


      I think that you can talk about regulation with regard to weapons when talking about preventing a repressive government. However, whenever you do, you have to remember that you are walking a thin line. Straying too far can take a nation down a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to confiscation of civilian firearms (as with most countries). We currently have regulations requiring background checks on all firearms purchased through federally licensed dealers (all new firearms must be purchased through dealers), we have an effective ban on fully-automatic weapons, there are limits to barrel length/caliber/overall length for long guns, sound suppressors are federally registered, etc. However, we do not have a national registry of firearm ownership. The reason for this being that registration of firearms has, historically, eventually led to confiscation of those firearms.

      In the United States, people have fought the very hard politically to make sure that civilian ownership of firearms is preserved, and that the types of weapons available to people (who pass a background check) are effective (not neutered hunting weapons). On top of that, the so-called “assault weapons” that are popularly being demonized by the media are used in less than 2% of crimes! With all the commotion being made, you’d think that every criminal had one.

      If we are to be true to the Constitution, we have to take the 2nd Amendment literally. For those who wish to change it, there is an amendment process for that. However, there is a very good reason that the 2nd Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights.

      Not to get too far into this, but with 80 million Americans owning firearms, you don’t necessarily need IED’s, tanks, helicopters, etc. Vietnam and current wars in the Middle East have proven that even a small number of men with rifles can wreak havoc on a standing army. As we are armed currently, it would be impossible for an invading army or tyrannical leader, to take over America. One should be highly suspicious of anybody who promises peace in exchange for your liberties, namely the freedom to own effective weapons.

      • Stu

        Well done on that response.

    • enness

      Someone I know tipped me off to an event that reminded me there are such things as small-time thugs, too. It is known as the “Battle of Athens” (not to be confused with the actual Civil War battle) and involved a bunch of war vets versus an entrenched political machine that was trying to fix an election, and they were having a difficult time getting help. I wouldn’t say it was flawlessly carried out, but in the end, they got what they were seeking and I think nobody was even killed. Best of possible outcomes? Maybe. It’s worth a search, if for no other reason than that it’s about as interesting a story as they come.

  • Merkn

    Here in NYC we have one of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. It has been on the books for nearly 100 years. We used to have 2000 plus murders a year in the the city. Homicides have dropped drastically since their 2200 or so peak under Mayor Dinkins. We are now down to about 440 per year. The gun law has never changed. What changed was law enforcement. We actually lock violent criminals up for long periods of time, and we aggressively enforce the gun laws on the books. This includes using our stop and frisk program under which police question and search persons that they have probable cause (my view) to believe are evildoers. The same voices that demand new gun control rules oppose stop and frisk on the grounds it is a form of racial profiling since minorities living in high crime areas are much more likely to be stopped than white people living in better areas. Of course the 1500 plus lives saved each year also come from minority communities. There is no reason to believe any of the suggestions made by Mr. Shea would have prevented any of these school shootings. If anyone think the would please explain how. How do those of you so concerned about “the children” feel about stop and frisk. It saved a lot more children’s lives than the assault weapons ban ever did.

    • I’ve often wondered if it is a matter of regulations, or a matter of enforcing the existing laws. I can’t help but think there’s more to it than the current debate is allowing.

    • Stu

      Interesting….target the criminals….that’s just crazy enough that it might work!

      Alternatively, we could do background checks on everyone in the United States. Can’t be “too safe.”

  • Kalamazoo

    It’s a matter of evil, powers and principalities, preying on enfeebled, weak human minds. That is the problem. Mark knows it.

    • Mark Shea

      I do know that. What I also know is that it is only in the case of gun violence that eagerly mystical passivity is invoked to say “There is nothing to be done to keep such minds from having access to the technology of mass slaughter. Give up. Don’t even try. You are evil or stupid if you do, you dumb neo-catholic who probably isn’t even a *real* Catholic at all.”

      • Szymon

        There is no “mystical passivity”, Mark. Please do some research on the 20,000+ firearm laws already on the books. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you are ignorant to the myriad of safeguards already put in place, to keep bad people from owning firearms.

        It would be good to know that firearm-related violence is at a 20-year low, which also corresponds to the highest level of civilian firearm ownership. Mass shootings are statistical outliers. When policies are made that treat them as commonplace, things go crazy.

        The point that I tried to convey in my previous posts is that clever people will find a way to bypass these laws. An emotional (not rational) society would then push for more laws, the inevitable end being that all firearms will be banned. This would create a situation worse than the situation when they were available (legal to purchase to those who pass background checks).

        While you’re doing your research, I suggest asking a friend to take you shooting. It would do you some good to learn what a firearm can and cannot do.

        Just a sidenote: I don’t know your background, Mark, but I have seen many other people who have strong opinions (strong enough to proclaim them on the internet/television/news media), calling for gun regulations, registrations, bans, etc. They argue feverishly as to why we need to ban “assault weapons”, “weapons of war”, “high capacity” magazines, etc.

        Yet, they have never fired a shot or taken a gun safety course. Many have never even handled such a weapon. Their actual knowledge of firearms is basic, at best. Despite all that, they claim that they are unbiased, while claiming that gun owners and enthusiasts are biased and fanatical.

        Does ignorance of real-world application really make you an authority on such a topic? Would you ask a pre-med student a complex and involved question regarding a medical procedure, while discounting arguments given by an experienced physician? (A rhetorical “you”, not referring to anyone in particular)

        • Mark Shea

          Of course there is mystical passivity. That’s what’s being urged when people say of some monstrous crime, “It’s the mystery of evil. It’s futile, stupid, and evil to so much as *suggest* looking at ways to keep it from happening again.”

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            And no one is saying that. Listen to your interlocutors, Mark, or you look less than intelligent and emotionally driven.

          • The NRA has suggested measures to keep school shootings from happening again. Nobody on the pro-gun side is against the NRA’s suggestion on 2nd amendment grounds. You are just making stuff up. Please stop.

          • merkn

            Once again, where are you on more aggressive enforcement. Should the police be able to stop people and question the within existing constitutional parameters? I don’t think demanding production of the magical gun that only works in the hands of the good guys is a realistic approach.

            • Mark Shea

              It’s not magic. It’s technology. We already have beaucoup devices that are only capable of being operated by authorized users. But your eager passivity to so much as attempting is duly noted. It’s the outstanding hallmark of “Keep the status quo of 10,000 gun murders a year” rhetoric.

              • Stu

                I’m not too eager to combine a mechanism for self-defense with the temperamental nature of something like Windows XP especially when stress and sweaty hands might be involved.

                • Mark Shea

                  Too bad. As you noted, there is risk to everything. I prefer this risk to 10,000+ murders each year.

                  • Stu

                    Based on what calculus?

                    How many innocent lives are saved by firearms every year? How many crimes are averted simply by having a firearm present. Before we go off half-cocked, let’s actually consider the problem fully. People don’t like hearing this, but 9,146 murders by firearm in a country of over 300 million people and estimates of about 300 million firearms is not a bad track record. You are more likely to be killed by STD in the US than murdered by a firearm. We’d be better off having the government fund abstinence campaigns similar to those aimed at ending smoking.

                    • CaliKate

                      Stu writes:
                      “but 9,146 murders by firearm in a country of over 300 million people and estimates of about 300 million firearms is not a bad track record.”

                      You sound like an apologist for nihilism. Compare below the annual gun violence deaths to the following battle casualties:

                      “…gun violence…has taken over 1.3 million American lives since Dr. King and Robert Kennedy’s assassinations in 1968. This is twice the loss of life than all American battle casualties in all the major wars we have fought since our nation began: the Revolutionary War (4,435); the War of 1812 (2,260); the Mexican War (1,733); the Civil War (214,938); the Spanish American War (385); World War I (53,402); World War II (291,557); the Korean War (33,739); the Vietnam War (47,434); the Persian Gulf War (148); the Iraq War (3,518), and the war in Afghanistan (1,712). Isn’t it way past time for some hard soul searching about what we believe as Americans? Do we believe in the sanctity of life in America or don’t we? We decide.”


                    • Stu

                      I like the name calling on your part. That’s sweet.

                      Marians number appear to be way off, BTW. For instance, US deaths in WWII were over 400,000. Vietnam was 58K. There are other errors that are obvious.

                      Her 1.3 million statistic almost assuredly counts accidents and suicides.

                    • CaliKate

                      Stu, the numbers refer to battle casualties and they come from the World almanac from other sites I’ve read. Saying that you sound like an apologist for nihilism is an observation, not name-calling.

                    • enness

                      Do you mind if I ask how that is nihilism?

                    • CaliKate

                      See this chart for combat and other deaths for each war:


                      It shows that 1.3 million U.S. war deaths (combat and other) occurred from the Revolutionary War to the present. So in comparison, about 1.3 million gun violence deaths since 1968 *is equal to* the number of all U.S. war casualties from 1775 to the present.

                    • CaliKate

                      Arguing that 9,000+ annual murders by firearm is acceptable because that isn’t a large number compared to 300 million is the very definition of existential nihilism in which a single human life is insignificant and life has no intrinsic meaning or value.

                    • Stu

                      Did I call it “acceptable?” Hardly. I’m simply showing perspective for the problem and demonstrating that there is always a balance in such things. And you do it too everytime you get in a car or fly in a plane. Those too present risk, cars more than firearms BTW, yet you aren’t here comparing that to war deaths and calling for more laws. You have accepted the current risk as acceptable given the benefits.

                      So until you call for the elimination of all autos because so that we don’t lose a “single human life,” I will assume that you see such life as insignificant with no intrinsic meaning or value.
                      You are such a nihilist.

                    • CaliKate

                      You’re missing the point. When gun advocates use the numbers argument, they’re saying that it’s an acceptable loss/balance and that the status quo is acceptable.

                      I give a lot of credit to President Obama on this subject. He recently said that if we can save just one life from gun violence by addressing it now, the effort is worth it. He’s affirming life, and that is saying “the status quo isn’t acceptable anymore.”

                      Whatever criticisms we have of Democrats/Obama, that was a life-affirming message. And that’s why his message is effective, unlike the opponents who are arguing “we can’t do anything; just accept the hopelessness and futility of it.”

                    • “I give a lot of credit to President Obama on this subject. He recently said that if we can save just one life from gun violence by addressing it now, the effort is worth it.”

                      Well, yeah, but the key there is “if we can save just one life”. Let’s change if necessary, but let’s make sure that we don’t make changes that save some lives, but cause many more to be lost.

                    • CaliKate

                      One more thing:

                      We call it “gun violence” and equate to it war because guns are instruments of war. Guns are made for one purpose: to kill. And dying via gun shot wound(s) is a very violent way to die. We don’t call deaths by automobile or planes “automobile violence” or “plane violence” for obvious reasons. So that’s why we compare gun deaths to war casualties.

                    • Stu

                      Kate said….When gun advocates use the numbers argument, they’re saying that it’s an acceptable loss/balance and that the status quo is acceptable.
                      No. Just like with everything in life that we do with risk, there is a calculus that weighs risk with cost associated with taking more action. We could could mandate that everyone drive at 15 MPH. We could actually make cars that only go that fast. It would conceivably save lives. After all, wouldn’t it be worth saving just one life? Or are traffic deaths more acceptable than deaths by firearm?

                    • CaliKate

                      First, comparing guns to a motor vehicle is a red herring. But anyway you know that we have car registration and laws regulating cars.

                      Second, who wants to live in a society where our freedom means we have to worry about getting shot when we go out to the post office, the grocery store, school, etc.? That doesn’t sound free to me. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, that sounds like a war zone (Somalia).

                      But you’re saying “statistically speaking you’re not going to get shot. And anyway if you do get shot, that’s acceptable because really it’s not that many people getting shot in the grand scheme of things.” So if that’s true, then why do gun owners need guns for self-defense if statistically speaking they have a small chance of getting shot? Statistically speaking, home invasions are rare. So why do gun owners claim they need more guns for self-defense, if home invasions are statistically not that significant?

                    • Stu

                      Because home invasions do happen and at a greater rate than massacres. And statistically it has been shown that having an armed citizenry makes the rate of all violent crime go down.

                      The fact that you go about town worrying about getting shot is not my concern. I can’t help that. I wonder if you are similarly disturbed on single lane highways passing opposing traffic at rates of closure over 80 knots.

                      If you think we are like Somalia, I believe your comparison is simply off mark. That is a place run by a the criminal element who use their firearms to prey upon the innocent. In the US, the overwhelming “ludicrous” number of gun owners are law abiding citizens.

                      Further, I have firearms for a variety of reasons; hunting, self-defense and part of a collective hedge against domestic tyranny both on the Federal and local levels.

                    • CaliKate

                      Whatever. Home invasions are not as common as gun violence. You want to protect yourself from home invasions, even though they’re statistically insignificant. Fine. Society has a right to protect itself too from gun violence even if gun violence is “statistically insignificant.” And government, empowered by the people, can decide what that protection means.

                      And I don’t live in fear of getting shot either. I’m arguing that we as a society don’t want to become a society of fear. If we increase guns everywhere, the statistical chance of getting shot will increase and the fear factor goes up as well.

                    • Stu

                      I always enjoyed the “whatever” retort.

  • Rebecca in ID

    Any scenario of further gun regulation seems to me full of difficulties, and as some of the commenters outlined above, would cause more deaths. I am speaking on a practical level; I am not placing personal rights above human lives. My instinct, when massacres like this happen, is not to roll over and talk about the mystery of evil, and it is not to think about more gun control–my instinct is to wish that a great many more people were armed. Lunatics like this are looking for rooms or buildings full of victims. That is why they choose a school, or a movie theater with a big sign announcing it is a gun-free zone. These foks do not want to shoot a couple of people and go down; they want to take down a dozen or two people at least. If they thought they were walking into a room where one or two people are likely to be armed, they simply would not attempt it. I believe that if ten or twenty percent of citizens were armed at all times and places, these types of massacres would be prevented. I understand that there is a deeper level that needs to be addressed; we need to stop abandoning our children and glorifiying violence in media, etc., all of that is far more fundamental, but on the immediate level I am really surprised to see anyone wishing for more gun control when it seems obvious to me that the immediate solution to bad guys with guns is a better armed citizenry. My CHP brother-in-law is of this mind, and I believe most policemen are, because they know they can be neither omnipresent nor omnipotent, and too often their job is cleaning up the corpses.

    • Sus

      “I believe that if ten or twenty percent of citizens were armed at all times and places, these types of massacres would be prevented. ”

      You may be right. However, I think the numbers of the people who die from guns would go up. People get enraged if someone cuts them off in a mall parking lot.

      I’ve thought about this all weekend. Our country is full of angry people. There was a case lately where some guy’s pizza order got messed up. He started carrying on to the owner of the pizza place. Another customer waiting for their pizza pulled out a gun and shot the guy bitching.

      This thread is a good example of the angry. Just a discussion about guns brings out “don’t you dare take my guns”. No one said anything about taking them.

      • Please review Gov. Cuomo’s recent comments in favor of gun confiscation. The governor generally has the power to call a draft and can legally run a confiscation program under his military authority, at least until we settle the question of whether the 2nd amendment is one of the ones that is incorporated by the 14th amendment and is thus applicable to the states.

        To have a governor make pro-confiscation remarks is not a small thing.

        • Kalamazoo

          Andy Cuomo needs to get a job in the real world.. Still riding on Mario “notre dame” coattails He can’t speak, zero charisma. Andy, get a normal job. please

        • yan

          The 2nd amendment was incorporated against the states in McDonald v Chicago in 2010.

          • So it was. Hm, that actually makes me feel somewhat less creeped out by Andy Cuomo, a condition I’ve suffered from since talking to the fellow once.

            Thank you.

            • yan

              Still, in times of crisis or perceived crisis, the general rule for executives is to act first, and worry about the law later.

      • enness

        I get angry at people who do rude, dangerous, stupid things in cars. It doesn’t mean I want to shoot them. Could that guy not also have pulled a knife? What’s stopping them now? I just want to know…

  • Mark,

    In all sincerity and charity, you seem to be incapable of even naming and describing the status quo which makes your judgment on sensible adjustments worth very little until you educate yourself on the subject. The status quo is that we have a layer of societal protection against violence called the unorganized militia which tamps down violence in our society, quite a bit. As a side effect of the liberty required to have such a force in place, we occasionally get a nasty tragedy like the recent shootings. Unless you’re in favor of more people dead, this sort of actuarial choice is correct social policy.

    This situation makes it a prudential balancing test on how to reduce the victims of violence on balance. It is not an argument in favor of maintaining the status quo and very few people actually want to maintain the status quo. No pro-gun advocate I know wants to maintain the status quo of gun free zones which assisted the Virginia Tech shooter to rack up such a high body count. So your entire premise is a straw man describing a world which does not actually exist. This is worse than useless. It’s actively harmful and not very christian of you to make stuff up about the other side of a public policy question.

    The question is what sort of reforms will actually save more lives on balance and which will be ineffective and/or counterproductive. We’ve just gotten a great big reform in the settling of the question of whether gun rights are individual rights. The last state without concealed carry (Illinois) is being forced to permit it within the next 5 months. It’s starting to look like school carry by licensed individuals is going to get a push forward. All three of these reforms are gun law reforms I support and so does the NRA and virtually all the people you libel by stating they just want the status quo. We believe that these reforms will make us safer and we support them. By pretending such reform efforts do not exist, you are making a false narrative, in effect bearing false witness. Please stop.

    Good luck on your proposed reforms. Currently the technology for personally coded firearms reduces reliability appreciably. You can’t wear gloves and if you’re sweaty the accuracy of the coding goes down. How many legitimate firearm users will have their guns fail them and die of it vs the mass shootings avoided. Please, share your data. Until the technology gets reliable enough that, on balance, more lives are saved than lost by this, this is one to wait on.

    Keeping the violent mentally ill from accessing guns is a very big reform. If you can do that, you’d likely be able to use the same technology and procedures to keep them from filling up our prisons and populating our streets as homeless. Since we do a horrible job at preventing both those things, I would be fascinated to hear how this is to be done. Nobody on the pro-gun side is against this but, surprisingly, many on the anti-gun side are also pro-deinstitutionalization and are going to sabotage reforms of this type. Pick your friends well on this one.

  • Kate

    So if guns laws are futile because of the evil of the human heart, wouldn’t laws against contraception and abortion and homosexuality and prostitution be equally as futile? Why bother? The left must be right – teenagers are going to have sex anyway, so why not make it safe.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Um, wrong logic. The left calls for more “protection”. The corollary is armed teachers and janitors, not onerous gun control.

      • Sus

        We have the right to own guns for personal protection. You have to have training in order to have a license to carry. I think the training requirements vary state to state.

        If we are going to arm school employees in the name of protection will these people have the same kind of training as police and the military? Or, will it just be whatever training is required to carry a gun?

        I don’t think the training for protection of yourself and family is adequate training to carry a gun to protect others.

        If there is adequate training, I’m not necessarily opposed to arming school employees.

        • Stu


          Have you had concealed carry training? Upon what do you base your opinion.

          I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, just pointing out that it’s helpful to have a some background knowledge.

          • Sus

            I took a 5 hour firearms safety course a few years ago. I did earn the certificate to apply for a concealed carry permit but did not follow through because I took the class for info, not the license. In my opinion that class did not prepare me for the responsibility of protecting a crowd of people in a school. There were no requirements that I practice or receive further training.

            Stu, I think you said that you are/were in the military. Surely we can agree that the training and experience you obtained would be difficult for the average person to get in the gun safety classes that most people take for their license requirements. I’m talking about bringing guns into schools in this instance, not having them in the home.

            • Sus

              Opps, my husband said it wasn’t a “concealed” to carry class. Just to carry class. So no not sure about the training on concealed carry.

              • Stu

                What state do you live in? Most states you don’t need any license to openly carry a firearm in public. In my current state of Virginia, I need a permit to carry concealed by if I just want to wear it around on my hip openly, that requires no permit.

            • Stu

              Actually, my concealed carry class was more extensive than what I got in the military and it did touch on protecting others because if you are going to carry, you do have some obligation to help others if able. That being said, it was stressed repeatedly that if you can simply “get way” from a bad guy and deescalate the situation, that is always the best course of action.

              The class was taught by off duty police officers who indicated that in their experience simply having the firearm present was enough to make most perps go way on their own. They usually want an “easy mark,” not an incident where they might get hurt. I will also report that the people taking the class all seemed to understand the responsibility they were taking on.

              There was on guy who was a bit “metro” in his dress who even had “shooting gloves” for the practical part of the training on the range. I did enjoy watching him shoot miserably while next to him a middle-aged mother was just tearing up the range. It was a hoot.

              But that was Tennessee. Different states do have different qualification procedures and I would agree that teachers that were armed should have some extra training and I would give them a background check. One would actually hope our teachers already have extensive background checks for being alone with and teaching our children already. But just like the middle-aged mother I saw use a weapon very well, (my wife is an excellent shot), I believe people can be trained to carry in a responsible manner. Is it ideal to have armed teachers? Of course not. But I like the idea of having an “all hands” approach to civic safety. 911 certainly taught us that. We can’t always wait around for the authorities.

              I honestly believe the the more people know and understand about firearms and the more they have actually had a chance to shoot them on range, the more comfortable they will feel with having them around.

        • You might wish to speak to some of your local police to find out firearms training requirements for officers. That should give you a benchmark on the training and practice that would be just to require for individuals for whom firing a gun is not a part of their job description. My understanding is that many jurisdictions require a yearly excursion to the range and a minimum score and that’s it. Your local jurisdiction may vary.

          • Sus

            From what I can tell, in my state and town, police officers have to attend the State Police Academy. The police in town have training exercises throughout the year. I don’t know what that entails.

            Training is only part of my concern about armed school employees.

            Experience counts too. Having the responsibility for protecting people with a gun is much different than teaching 1st graders to read.

            I said that I’m not necessarily opposed, I just don’t want someone that isn’t trained properly to make a bad situation worse.

            • Stu

              Legitimate concern. I think you would find that people can rise to the occasion.

            • Working out the details so that the proposal actually works is absolutely legitimate. I am in favor of reform that actually has a net effect of fewer lives lost.

              We certainly have historical evidence that we can safely handle guns in school. Up until the 1960s competitive rifle teams were a high school sport in the US. The wave of assassinations that decade led to their wholesale abandonment. Those teams were not of trained adult teachers competing. Those were student teams, a much riskier proposition. We did not have the sort of blood bath problems that the gun control people are worried about.

    • Szymon

      Please do not compare firearm ownership to abortion, contraception, homosexual sex and prostitution. All of those are intrinsic moral evils and are never permissible under any circumstance.

      Firearm ownership is no different, morally, than owning a hammer or a car. They can be used for good or misused for evil, as can any tool. Due to the nature of these weapons, however, and the fact that criminals will find a way to get them, if law and order is to be maintained, good people need to be armed.

      Laws should exist (and do exist) to make it harder for criminals to get them. However, as soon as we step into the realm of law that prevents good people from owning and using effective weapons for the preservation of the good, we have gone too far.

      I do not know where Mark is finding people who say that “guns laws are futile because of the evil of the human heart”. What we should be considering is the question: “Can certain gun laws be harmful to society?”

      • Mark Shea

        Why consider a question everybody already knows the answer to? Of course *certain* gun laws can be harmful. If you are not familiar with the “evil is a mystery” school of eager passivity, you aren’t paying attention.

    • enness

      Kate: first of all, Szymon is spot on about intrinsic/not intrinsic. Second, while I don’t agree with their conclusions, I must admit that even the best laws are always only part of the solution; in that sense, they’re not entirely wrong (the difference, I suspect, is that they don’t take the extra step of doing something about it, and justify this by telling themselves the lie that no one else is, either. Stuff like that takes time). I would bet that our pregnancy resource center along with 40 Days for Life does as much good in this area, if not more.

      As far as contraception and homosexuality go, yes, I think there is a point when we are overreaching and have to leave people alone. I’m not comfortable with conducting house raids or having people followed to the drugstore and spied upon. It is my impression that the Church generally prefers persuasion first. Is that shocking?

  • CaliKate (“Kate” from 1/12/13 comments)

    TMLutas writes: “As a side effect of the liberty required to have such a force in place, we occasionally get a nasty tragedy like the recent shootings. Unless you’re in favor of more people dead, this sort of actuarial choice is correct social policy.”

    That sounds fairly cold, like something an Objectivist or libertarian would write. I’m a mother of young children, and the Newtown massacre was more than just a nasty tragedy or an actuarial choice for correct social policy. It was a tipping point for a lot of people.

    More children die of gun violence each year than die of the flu. Children shouldn’t have to fear that they will die from gun violence in the Land of the Free. We’re better than that.

    As a nation we’ve reduced polio deaths for children. We’ve reduced flu deaths. So we can certainly do a lot better at reducing gun deaths for children and by extension all people.

    But I don’t think adding even more guns, which is what a lot of gun zealots are proposing, will solve the problem of escalating gun violence. Turning the Land of the Free into Somalia is not an appealing solution.

    • Sus

      ” Turning the Land of the Free into Somalia is not an appealing solution.”

      Exactly! Nice comment. Thanks Kate.

      • Sus – Please read up on Somalia. Your ignorance, just like CaliKate’s, is embarrassing. Somalia and Switzerland have similar numbers of armed households, ie pretty much all of them.

    • merkn

      We could also protect the children better by turning the country into a police state. We could have informers and secret hotlines. If you suspected anyone had a gun you could make a secret phone call to the hotline. The police could move in immediatley search the house and everyone in it, if the caller wasright we could give them a medal and an award, like “Protector of the Children”. If they were wrong we would keep their identity secret. After all it’s for the good of the children. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

      • CaliKate (“Kate” from 1/12/13 comments)

        Isn’t that what the NRA is suggesting — a police state where everyone puts on their body armor and gun before trotting out to work, school, church and the grocery store? That sounds like a society of people ruled by fear, not freedom.

        And if you’re deemed mentally ill (or a “lunatic” as LaPierre likes to say) you get to go on the national Mental Health Registry as well. Yes, the NRA suggested the national Mental Health Registry which sounds an awful lot like the no-fly list that the TSA has. Not to mention it just might violate the HIPAA laws. So how does one get on and off that National Mental Health Registry anyway? If you’ve ever been depressed and your doctor prescribed anti-depressants? How do you prove you’re not depressed anymore once you’re on the list? If your neighbor suspects you might be a bit nutty, can they call the Mental Health Registry tipline?

        • Stu


          I share your concerns about a “National Health Registry” just like I do about any “National Registry” including one for firearm ownership.

        • yan

          Unless we exercise more self-control, we will have a police state one way or the other, as these 2 comments illustrate.
          ‘Men of intemperate minds can never be free. Their passions forge their fetters.’ Burke.

      • Mark Shea

        Yeah, but nobody’s suggesting that. Only eagerly passive people trot out such straw men to defend keeping the murder rate at 10,000+ a year.

        • Stu

          Actually, having the government involved in every gun transaction, even between two individual citizens, is being bandied about. I’m quite confident they will be keeping records. Nothing happens in the government without a paper trail.

          • Mark Shea


            • Stu

              Well at least we agree there is a proposal to have a national registry. Maybe they can call it the “Enhanced Patriot Act.”

              • Mark Shea

                Actually, it is, in my case, a proposal to think about it before instantly being shouted down with “Give up. Do nothing. Even thinking about changing the status quo is stupid and evil.”

                • Stu

                  Simply characterizing my objections repeatedly as “Give up. Do nothing. Even thinking about changing the status quo is stupid and evil” is neither accurate nor neighborly. Same is the case with simply saying “tough” to legitimate concerns raised in response to your proposals.

                  You have the benefit of having some people here with extensive knowledge of firearms, existing policy and the limitations on what can be done given the myriad factors involved. Instead of trying to glean some of that knowledge from these folks, we are derided as “gun zealots,” “gun nuts” and further characterized as not caring about the Sandy Hook or any other potential future massacres because we don’t believe your ideas for solving the problem will be effective.

                  What a wasted opportunity.

    • Szymon


      Emotion does not trump truth in an intellectual debate. What TMLutas wrote was the cold-hard reality of living in a fallen world. Ignoring such a reality can only lead to more death and destruction. Nobody here is happy with what happened at Sandy Hook. We all have family members who are young children and understand such a loss. I even have a little sister in first grade and thinking about that happening to her gets me choked up.

      However, it’s NOT an excuse to throw reason out the window.

      All statistics can be manipulated by those with an agenda. The way in which they do that is by making the listener assume that the statistic is saying something that it really isn’t. It is usually done by not fully explaining all that is included in the sampled data.

      A CDC (Center of Disease Control) Study showing the amount of children hurt or killed as a result of firearm-related injuries, is often used to argue for limiting or banning firearms. That study says that about 10 “children” a day die from firearms. What is often overlooked is the study considers anyone from ages 1-24 a “child”. This includes gang members and even members of our armed forces. Would any reasonable person consider a 24 year old a child?

      When we see the word “children”, we assume an innocent little child, not a 22 year old drug dealer. About half of the firearm-related deaths considered in that study occured with people aged 20-24, with another 30% with those aged 15-19. So, 80% of firearm-related deaths in that study were from “children” aged 15-24.

      That’s just some food for thought. In my opinion, the study seems extremely biased and anyone using it as an argument against firearm ownership is either ignorant or dishonest.

      • CaliKate (“Kate” from 1/12/13 comments)

        Yes, the old “emotions” v. truth argument. Emotions can help guide truth. Jesus got quite angry with the money-changers in the temple which doesn’t negate the truth of what He confronted. The money-changers of today, who thrive on profit, would have us believe that it’s godly, just and patriotic to amp up the arming of America in a climate of fear and paranoia.

        But really, aren’t gun zealots also arguing from emotion: fear that someone’s going to take their guns? Paranoia that the government is going to turn on them? That sounds emotional and not rational to me.

        No one is arguing *against* firearm ownership. We’re saying that if we reduce the number of guns, we’ll reduce the gun violence. There will be a multi-pronged approach to this, but we can’t ignore the number of guns out there, many of them capable of killing many people in minutes.

        • Stu

          And many of us are saying that the notion that you will reduce violence by reducing guns doesn’t add up. Do I have a fear that the government will turn on me? Let’s explore that. Years ago I would have said that your were complete nuts if would have told me that the military would allow for open homosexuality and women in combat roles. I would have said that you were nuts if you told me that as a nation we would be on the road to redefining marriage. I would have said that you were nuts if you would have said that we will move towards nationalizing healthcare. I would have told you were nuts to think that we would pass a law requiring private citizens to directly pay for contraception for those under their employment agains their conscience. And then there are things like the Patriot Act, invasive personal searches, torture all at the hand of our government. Now, we are far from the some totalitarian government. Far. But things can change and part of being prepared is having things in place even for remote possibilities, especially if they have the potential for being catastrophic. Perhaps the Naval Aviator in me always have a contingency plan for something going awry.

          And then we have to also consider that just having a well-armed populace could be a factor in not having to worry much about an overly totalitarian government.

        • Szymon

          Emotions can guide truth but they just as easily can blind a person to the truth. Fear of the government is not an irrational position. History, especially recent history, is full of examples of governments killing millions whom they disagree with. No society is immune from evil. Sticking your head in the sand and willfully ignoring that reality, while choosing to give away the ability to defend against it, will only more quickly escalate the loss of freedom that we are enduring.

          Like Stu said, could anyone even 20 years ago, imagine that we would be living in a time where a government will be forcing a business to pay for abortifacent drugs, and if they do not comply, will fine them into oblivion (Hobby Lobby)? The Freedom of Conscience is under attack. I believe that it is no coincidence that the freedom to own effective weapons is quickly following in its wake.

          Emotions aside, guns are used more often to save life than they are to take it away (see my post further down).

        • enness

          “That sounds fairly cold”
          I sound like a real b*tch when I tell someone, “You are not a woman, you do not have a ‘husband’.” I don’t like to sound like a b*tch. But I have done it, because it’s true, and seemed like bluntness was the only thing that would get through under the circumstances.

          By “paranoid” I take it you mean you couldn’t imagine it happening. Forgive me for saying so, but I think that’s equally silly. This doesn’t necessarily describe you, but the impression I get is that many people I know are practically in love with Barack Obama, don’t know jack about the NDAA, or worse, don’t care, and think the era of tyrants is a thing of the past because government takes care of us. There’s unreasonable fear, and then there’s justified fear. Remember, pro-lifers are right-wing terrorists! I’m not saying I ran out and bought a gun; I’m single, lacking in regard, and would prefer to go out like José Sánchez del Río. Granted, I don’t know how I’d feel if I had kids.

      • Szymon – I’m actually on CaliKate’s side regarding emotions. That I have them under control does not mean that my righteous fury does not get engaged. CaliKate’s problem is that if she can’t see it her emotions don’t engage while mine still do because, well, I’m a nerd. Nerds’ empathy tend to engage in different ways than non-nerds do. This is why you’ll find nerds like Bill Gates heavy in philanthropy that save more lives but aren’t rich in photo ops.

        It is her lack of sympathy and feeling for those who need those guns to protect themselves and their families from predatory humans that is a big part of the problem. That this cold fish accuses me of being cold is just the cherry on top of the whole bloody sundae.

      • Paula Gehringer

        You might find this interesting, “Firearm Laws and the Prevention of Violence, A Systematic Review”
        It is from the CDC’s” Community Preventative Services Task Force.”

    • Personally, I think terms like ‘gun zealots’ are conversation stoppers right there. If we really, really, really want to find a solution to the problem, we will do what we can to find solutions, not win arguments. Assuming that people fighting for gun rights don’t actually enjoy seeing helpless children brutally killed, it might be worth trying to find out why they seem reluctant to embrace the solutions that are put out by various groups within minutes of such horrifyingly tragic killings. From there, we might be able to move forward. But painting everyone on one side or the other with such terms may make me feel better, but it’s almost certain to shut down any hopes of coming together.

      • CaliKate (“Kate” from 1/12/13 comments)

        Okay then let’s stop calling it “gun rights.” Guns don’t have rights. Gun owners already have rights to self-protection. No one is arguing to take that away.

        This debate has been going on for years, not in the last few weeks since Newtown. People are weary of the same old conversation and want solutions. For the sake of a free society.

        • Let’s call it 2nd Amendment Rights then, to be specific. Though I doubt most people who are calling for solutions through regulations would consider themselves not to be for the 2nd Amendment, though some might not. Point is, allow the people to define themselves, don’t feel obliged to define them yourself. That’s the first great leap away from finding common ground. If they are saying ‘gun rights’, then ask yourself what they mean by that. Do you really believe that they don’t care what happened at Newtown? Probably not. My guess is, you imagine that they were just as horrified and emotionally shattered as anyone that day. So in the light of that, what do they mean by gun rights? Why, after so many horrible mass killings, the killings of children, are they reluctant to just throw in and say ‘whatever regulations, we’re fine with it.’ Ask those questions, and we might get closer to finding common ground than we hope.

        • Kalamazoo

          Kate, there is no solution. Evil exists. It is sick and crushing but it happens.

          • Mark Shea

            Give up. Despair. Do nothing. Attempt nothing. To so much as suggest otherwise is stupid, utopian, and evil.

            As I say, eager passivity. Specially reserved for gun violence.

            • Szymon

              When I fully understood and actualized that evil threatening bodily harm exists, I did something. I bought a firearm, because I understand that it’s the best tool that I can own to defend my life and, more importantly, the life of my family.

              Mark, your position, if it’s arguing for anything at all, seems to be to follow the same path of compromising liberty for the promise of a little more security. When that security isn’t delivered, it’s compromised a little more and a little more, until it’s gone. The argument for gun control has been argued in America since the early 20th Century. The same arguments are given each time and the same outcomes occur after ever new law. 20,000+ gun laws later, violence is still here and we’re no better for it.

              Like many have said before in this discussion, the only real answer to a security breech is to beef up security. If schools and other “gun free zones” are a target for criminals, we need to have people there who can defend those places. Seems logical and not passive in the least.

              • Mark Shea

                Mark, your position, if it’s arguing for anything at all, seems to be to follow the same path of compromising liberty for the promise of a little more security.

                Yes. That’s correct. This is how civilization generally works. The notion that we enjoy absolutely unfettered liberty untrammelled by the common good is a libertarian fantasy. Exactly what the state does is intervene to keep anarchists from imposing undue demands of individuals to do whatever they want on the common good.

                • Szymon

                  Well, I hope that you didn’t stop reading my post after that sentence.

                  I think that myself and many others have done a stand-up job explaining the reasoning behind why limiting the freedom of good people to own firearms is generally a bad idea.

                  Whether or not you accept this is now ultimately up to you.

                • Actually that’s not how civilization works. It’s how civilization works in a tyranny. All over eastern europe citizens there have more gun rights than they did 40 years ago. They are also more civilized in their public affairs than they were 40 years ago.

            • Merkn

              Not true. I point out above that aggressive enforcement within constitutional limits has demonstrably reduced handgun deaths in a population of 8 million. on the other hand I see no practical solutions proposed by the other side at all.

              • Szymon

                Which society are you referring to?

                Why do you use the term “handgun deaths”? Is somebody stabbed to death not as dead as somebody who is shot? Or maybe you’re referring to dead handguns aka broken/destroyed handguns.

                Limiting technology can have the effect of limiting people’s use of that technology. (Wow, what a discovery! *sarcasm*) However, I thought the end goal wasn’t to limit technology, but to limit violence. What are the violent crime statistics of your hypothetical society?

                This guy illustrates my point:

        • While we’re giving up the term “gun rights” do we also have to give up “free speech rights” as well? It suffers from the same linguistic approach.

          • Andy

            Actually there are limits on what we call free-speech. If that is acceptable – it is teh first Amendment why are restrictions on the 2cnd so problematic?

            • They aren’t. The division between arms and munitions has never really been challenged with much heavier restrictions on munitions, even when it gets ridiculous, like categorizing computer encryption programs as munitions. And the restriction on fully automatic firearms is not under serious challenge either and hasn’t been for decades. The artificial division of gun rights under individual state regimes has been around for a long time without a major push against it.

              In other words, if we had a similar attitude on 1st amendment and 2nd amendment enforcement keyed to the restriction types put on the 1st amendment, we would have a radically more liberal gun regime with full autos legal, permits being shall issue in type and national in scope, and prior restraint of gun ownership and use being almost unheard of. We would also be heavily promoting private gun ownership internationally.

              Do you have any idea of the restrictions on the rights protected by each of these two amendments and how they work?

    • CaliKate – I’m a father of 3, my youngest is now nine years old. You do not get to play the “I care about kids more than you do” card. I would like fewer dead children from criminals no matter what the source or circumstance. You seem to differ. I find it deeply disturbing that you describe a desire for fewer innocent children dying to be “cold”. I assure you that it is not cold at all. It is just that commenting dissenters, if they are experienced, know that they have to be ultra careful to be logical and precise in their criticism lest they be banned from the forum and not get their points out at all.

      I’m easily looked up on the net. e-mail me and you’ll find out exactly how cold I am not about misguided efforts like yours on gun control that would lead to more dead kids.

      • CaliKate

        The manner in which murders by firearm was described (as statistically insignificant) I thought was cold. I’m not an Obama voter or worshipper (I actually held my nose and voted Romney) but Obama got it right when he described what the goal of his commission was: to reduce gun violence. So let’s work together and put everything on the table, and not dismiss it before we’ve tried it. What Mr. Shea was describing in this post was how some opponents try to say there’s no solution to the problem of evil so let’s not even try.

        • Do a word search on the term insignificant. You are the person who introduced that term into the debate, not I. You are also the majority user of that term on thread. To put it bluntly, you are making stuff up and accusing me of something I did not say and do not believe. That is wrong.

          No death is insignificant. The lousiest, nastiest criminal shot down in justifiable self defense is still a child of God and bears His image. What I said is that I would prefer that 10 die instead of 20. I would prefer that 0 die even more but I don’t get that lucky, nobody does.

          In this real world where gun policy always has a body count attached to it no matter what set of rules you adopt, you pick the rules that minimize the body count. It is criminally irresponsible to handicap the unorganized militia without an analysis of how many extra people die from your reform vs how many are saved. The phrase depraved indifference fits very well. It is shameful.

  • Harry Piper

    Alright, how about this –
    The argument for guns that relies on the threat of a hypothetical tyrannical government doesn’t move beyond the hypothetical. It could be a good reason, but since we haven’t had a test case of a modern liberal democracy sliding into totalitarianism only to be rescued from it by an armed populace we can’t really tell how realistic it is. On the other hand, wide availability of weaponry would be very helpful for a civil war – but that’s assuming that the gun owners remain unified, not split into various para-military groups and the tyrannical government does not have any popular support whatsoever from other gun owners.
    However, what we can absolutely do is to look at the statistics on gun crime/accidents/self-defense uses and ask-
    Overall, what impact does the mass availability of weaponry have on society? Does the amount of incidents where guns are used to save lives outweigh the incidents where they are used to murder people? How many accidents are there per-year involving guns that lead to injury/death? Stuff like that.

    • Szymon

      Guns are used to prevent more crimes than they are used to commit. Studies have shown that guns stop about 2.5 million crimes each year (majority of them without a shot being fired, by the way).

      There are about 8,500 firearm-related deaths in the U.S. per year. I believe this takes into account gang on gang violence and death of soldiers as well.

      Here’s a simple calculus as to why these numbers are different by several orders of magnitude:
      # of Good People w/ Guns > # of Bad People w/ Guns (That’s a greater than sign)

      Knowing this, it seems logical to assume that the amount of times guns are used in defense will be greater than the amount of times they are used for evil as well.

      • Andy

        Szymon – the CDC says that 30,000 people per year die in the US due to gun violence. I guess your figures are either creative accounting form the NRA or I don’t know what. To add another number since Newtown occurred 836 people have died from gun violence. Also I would guess that the website you cite sort of exemplifies the ultimate gun-extremists – preppers.

    • Harry Piper – I assure you that the tyranny issue does move beyond the hypothetical. It just doesn’t progress the way you think it does. When the KKK considered conducting a night ride, the prospect of being answered by a hail of bullets from the Deacons of Defense and Justice concerned them a great deal more than response by the sheriff. After all, they might just have a deputy or two along with them.

      In my own political activism, I have been told flat out and directly to my face that my life is at risk. In my own case, I think the threat is exaggerated, but certain incidents in my own county have led me to take prudent precautions to minimize the risk. I make sure that whatever I am doing, killing me would make more difficulties than just letting me go forward with the benign reforms I propose. I have the luxury to do that sort of tailoring. Others take a bolder course and need access to arms.

  • Kalamazoo

    Harry, two words: second amendment.


    and is say that with as much as gusto as when we beat the russians in 1980. we are armed. we will not let tax and spend lunatics rule us.

    end of story

    • Harry Piper

      Well, that’s a concise answer, I guess.

    • Sus

      It sounds like you and James Yeager could be BFFs.

      The extremism that the word “gun” brings out scares me to death.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        But these aren’t extremist positions. Extremists argue that because the standing army possesses tanks, nuclear weapons, drones, etc, any citizen who can afford or build them should also.

        There simply are no pro-gun extremists visible in this discussion. A handful of anti-gun extremists, maybe, but no pro-gun ones.

        • yan

          I am flirting with the notion of pro-gun extremism. It does stand to reason that if part of the rationale for the 2nd amendment is that there ought to exist a surety against the normal and inevitable desires of government to encroach upon individual liberties, that this surety may be illusory if citizens cannot own arms of equivalent force and effectiveness as the government, with its potential to oppress them, does.

          However, that rationale, which was part of the national discussion at the time of the writing of the 2nd amendment, does not clearly appear in the wording of the 2nd amendment. Thus it would seem that such ‘extremism’ is not protected by the 2nd amendment as presently written.

          As I stated before, I am of the opinion that it would be better to address the evils resulting in gun violence–mass shootings and gangs–by means of limiting or redefining certain freedoms in the 1st amendment, since these evils are caused, in my opinion, in great measure, by unhealthy applications of these 1st amendment freedoms.

          The first amendment being a national treasure, this would have to be done very carefully of course.

          • You really ought to consider asymmetric warfare. There is actually no need to go as far as stockpiling munitions in addition to arms. The unorganized militia will not take to the field in direct confrontation. It doesn’t need to in order to win.

            • yan

              If we didn’t have a standing army [we weren’t supposed to have one in the first place], the question of the appropriateness or level of stockpiling would be moot, pretty much as would the issue of whether or not it was ok for the state to regulate guns with multiple clips and so on. If we had no standing army I don’t see why, considered as a moral matter or in view of the rationales underlying the 2nd amendment, we couldn’t regulate these things all day long.

              • If we did not have a standing army, we would be regulating them as the Swiss do, with mandatory issuance and training under a militia/reserve system. Based on cultural issues, we’d likely have higher death rates than the swiss, but likely a healthier society.

                Regulation in the 2nd amendment sense does not mean what you think it means.

                • yan

                  Strictly speaking, there is no regulation in the 2nd amendment…’the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be inringed.’ However that phrase has been read to have reasonable limits. The Court decides what those limits are, as it does in matters relating to other rights held to be fundamental.

                  There are 2 basic recourses if you don’t like the Court’s decisions. 1] Elect Presidents you think will appoint Justices more favorable to reading the law according to your point of view; 2] amend the Constitution–in this case, the Bill of Rights.

                  Since we share basically the same culture as the Swiss I presume you and others here use ‘culture’ as a proxy for ‘race.’ I.e. ‘we have a lot more blacks and Mexicans than the Swiss do, and statistics show they account for a higher proportion by race of violent crimes; thus we can’t be expected to have as low a crime rate as Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, etc.’

                  If you mean by culture that we have a wild west mentality not shared by these other countries and that this accounts for our higher crime rate, I think that this contention is refuted by the crime rate statistics I just mentioned.

                  So if you think it is wrong as I do to limit the 2nd amendment because our comparatively high crime rates are actually a function of our diversity and not a function of our incidence of gun possession, then perhaps you will agree with me that in attempting to prevent mass slaughters–which have insubstantial effect on our crime rates–one of our best constitutional options is to address the way the 1st amendment contributes to an atmosphere which fosters violent mentalities which are a leading cause of these massacres.

                  Q. Tarantino, we are coming for your movies.

                  • You are quite mistaken about culture being a proxy for race. Some of the most violent cultures in the US are white. Some US violent cultures are latin, some are asian, and some of them are black.

                    My point on regulation comes out of a real attempt to come to grips with the opening clause of the 2nd amendment, “A well regulated militia”. By that my research has led me to the conclusion that regulation meant well equipped, well trained, and well disciplined. There are improvements that could be had along those lines that would improve public safety.

  • Becky

    Thank you for this post. More Catholics need to be saying this and forcefully.

  • David Davies

    The motor car is the Moloch of the modern age. Anyone who doesn’t agree with me that we need severe restrictions on the ownership and operation of these death dealing machines [see my proposal for a new Department of Distracted Driving, above] is adopting the passive position of ‘Accidents happen, we can do nothing’. No matter that we have in place a myriad of regulations and rules designed to ensure the safe operation of these monsters, if you don’t agree with my proposal you are in favor of doing nothing.

    And that is my understanding of the logic of Mark’s position. Over to you Mark!

    • CaliKate

      I posted this much further up but I repost here, slightly modified:

      We call deaths by gun “gun violence” and compare gun deaths to war casualties because guns are instruments of war. Guns are made for one purpose: to kill. And dying via gun shot wound(s) is a very violent way to die.

      We don’t call deaths by automobile or planes “automobile violence” or “plane violence” for obvious reasons. So that’s why we compare gun deaths to war casualties. This is also why people don’t think that 10,000+ murders by firearm each year is acceptable in a free and civilized society, and are therefore working for ways to bring those numbers down.

      Comparing motor vehicle deaths to gun violence deaths is a red herring.

      • Stu

        So you only care about people who die via firearm?

        • CaliKate

          That doesn’t even deserve a serious answer.

          On to this last point: Statistically speaking, very few people die of terrorist plane crashes but after 9/11 when 3,000+ died we decided that all travelers would get patted down and screened.

          • Stu


            I just did to you rhetorically what you have been attempting to do me. When confronted with it, you take you ball and go home.

            And yes, following 911 we engaged in all manner of knee-jerk reactions aimed at improving appearances and not actually solving the problem.

          • CaliKate – This TSA routine is known as security theater. How to get past the detectors is well known. It is well known to the terrorists in Al Queda. The screenings are maintained in order for you and I not to demand forceful action to actually solve the security problem. They are a fraud and a fake. In that they are very similar to gun control.

            • Sus

              Why haven’t the terrorists done it again? From their perspective 9/11 must have been fabulous.

              • Hezekiah Garrett

                Why should they? They accomplished many if not most of their objectives with a few hours work.

              • They have tried. 9/11 worked in large part because we’d had decades of instruction that you keep your head down and just do what the hijackers say and you likely get out of such a situation alive. 9/11 changed the rules. Passenger behavior will never be the same again.

                Now the passengers treat it as life or death and subdue hijackers. They also beat up and subdue belligerent drunks and other air nuisances. Don’t just take my word for it, google hijacker beat up. You’ll find a great many articles from around the world on the subject. Sometimes the hijackers don’t even make it off the plane alive.

      • David Davies

        Kate, I really cannot decide which would crush me more:

        1. The police arrive at my door to tell me my only daughter has been killed in a traffic ‘accident’.
        2. The police arrive at my door to tell me my only daughter has been killed in an incident involving a ‘gun’.

        Tell me which you think would be more painful. Please.

    • Mark Shea

      Excellent straw man. Yawn. Enjoy talking to yourself and offering hilarious rebuttals.

      • Very droll Mark, are you ever going to get around to answering my point (made January 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm) that the pro-gun side actually isn’t status quo but just has a competing set of proposals for reform to enhance safety?

        Let’s be honest, you have a point about the passivity argument. It’s clearly a ploy and playing for time. The reason it keeps getting deployed is that it’s effective at playing out the clock until peoples’ brains get out of blind outrage mode and back into the mode where their rational parts dominate. At which point a solid majority doesn’t agree with the gun controller agenda. You seem to be upset that we aren’t doing quick, knee jerk reforms in a fit of blind emotionalism that would, on balance, make things worse.

        As you said in response to another commenter, “Tough.”

        • kenneth

          Turning schools into armed camps is not a “solution” worth entertaining by sane grownups, and what’s worse, it’s clearly not even intended as an offer of genuine help in problem solving. It was a calculated way for the NRA to give the finger to the rest of us for having the gall to even suggest that things are not OK now.

          • Szymon

            Really, Kenneth? Armed guards to protect people with a higher risk of being injured is not a “solution”?

            Did you know that there are armed guards protecting the school that Obama’s children attend?

            Please explain why arming schools (teachers who have been trained) is bad idea.

            The way that you feel (NRA vs. the rest of America) shows that you’re playing right in to the scare tactics of the mainstream media. The media is demonizing the NRA to polarize Americans so that they can ram through this legislation. The views of the NRA are expressed by millions of Americans, most of whom aren’t even members of that organization.

            • Stu

              I’m a life member of the NRA and will continue to be so proudly.

            • kenneth

              Armed guards in the context LaPierre suggests, as a primary and near-universal safety measure, is a wildly unrealistic and poor idea. It is allowing a problem to fester and then trying to stop it at the last possible moment in the least effective and most expensive way possible. It’s a bad idea for the same reason that using morning after contraception to offset promiscuity is a bad idea.

              We fell into this mentality in the few years shortly after 9/11, when we moved to harden every possible target building against any possible terror threat. There were untold millions wasted trying to build bio-warfare response capabilities in the middle of Hiccup, Montana, talk of blast-proofing every public building etc. You end up having to spend millions of dollars to the bad guy’s one, and you get very little real safety in return.

              Putting an armed guard in every school, just one, would cost $2 billion a year. Substituting them with volunteer teachers is not a viable alternative. Teachers are not security guards and putting them through a couple Saturdays of training won’t make them so. Making someone an effective combat shooter is expensive and time intensive, and it takes constant training to maintain that edge, and for all that, not everyone has the wiring for it. Arming teachers would introduce many hundreds of thousands of guns into schools, and would lead to plenty of accidental shootings and furnish a wonderful source of arms for shooters themselves.

              Teachers lead hectic and overworked days. What happens when they inevitably lose their piece after going to the can or teacher’s lounge? A full-blown panic lockdown, at the very least. Moreover, teachers cannot respond to shooters in the way officers can, ie by running toward the scene. You cannot have a teacher leaving charge of their class to run off into combat, ever. In a real shooting crisis, you will, sooner or later, end up with kids shot by their own teachers, and very likely armed teachers killed by responders. Swat teams have no way of telling who the bad guys are when they show up, and their instinct is to open up on anyone who looks armed.

              Another problem is that having armed personnel and other hardened security measures all over the place warps the learning environment and creates a dynamic that is more akin to a prison than a school.

              No, the NRA “solution” is not a fix at all.

              • Armed guards at all schools founder as a solution on financial grounds, not on safety grounds. This is why people are moving to a more affordable variant, arming teachers, or even better, allowing already armed teachers to carry in school with reasonable rules. We currently have a population of CCW licensed teachers. We currently stop them from bringing their guns to school. If they snap and go on a spree, do you think that they won’t bring their guns in from home that day? Get real. The only difference is that the other teachers who bear CCW permits won’t be armed.

                The unorganized militia has got to be the world’s best security bargain. It has a zero dollar budget. Members’ permit costs are paid for by application fees so the system self-finances. There simply is nothing as cost effective as this system. CCW holders are responsible for a very small number of crimes, well below average.

                As for the SWAT teams don’t know who is a defender vs attacker, they are paid to make that distinction very rapidly. All police are. Are you saying that they are failures at this basic task?

            • kenneth

              I also don’t take my cues about the NRA from mainstream or left wing media or anyone else. I was a member once upon a time, but their posture and actions in recent years have demonstrated to me that they are not a serious partner in safety nor representative of most gun owners. The organization’s opposition to closing the gun show loophole is staggering. Most gun owners and even NRA members I’ve ever come across see the sense in requiring an instant criminal background check. The NRA these days is largely a shill for the gun manufacturers.

              • Sus

                The NRA sends my husband a membership card with a bill every year despite the fact he has never been a member and hasn’t responded. I always wonder if he is included in their numbers.

              • ivan_the_mad

                ” The organization’s opposition to closing the gun show loophole is staggering. ” Absolutely correct.

                I cancelled my membership after their shameful support of the DISCLOSE Act. Not that they gave a damn, since their mailings have followed me ever since with solicitations to renew my membership in exchange for some cheap trinket of Chinese manufacture.

      • David Davies

        Mark, we are trying to talk to you, not ourselves. And we have very little evidence that you are listening.

  • CaliKate

    I’m done here for today. First I’m accused of arguing from too much emotion for “the children,” and then I’m accused of being a cold fish without emotion. Time to get on with my life today. Good day everyone.

    Thanks Mr. Shea for this post and for your writing.

    • Sorry that I offended you. To be fair, you offended me first. You do not know me and you have no right to accuse me of a horrible sort of emotional callousness without opening the door to a reply in kind.

      • Anson

        Gallant of you to apologize, but not really necessary, I think. You have been nothing if not measured and informed in your speech. If you don’t mind my saying so as an outsider to the conversation.

        • The apology was sincere as well as calculated. She doesn’t get to walk away without an honest review of who brought in a false assertion of moral superiority to the table. These sorts of manipulative tactics will not end until my side is willing to win on both logic and emotion levels.

          Ill considered, feel good but counterproductive measures are not just logically wrong, they are emotionally offensive and they must be denied any moral or emotional victories because otherwise they just fester and never go away. That is what I’m getting at when I take a swipe at my own side every once in awhile. I want us to discuss an issue, come to a conclusion, and actually move on instead of circling back to square one time and again. It is the assumed emotional superiority and psychic satisfaction of moral victories that is stopping us from actually moving forward. It needs to stop.

  • Szymon

    I really don’t understand what the big disagreement is here.

    The pro-gun side is arguing that everyone is intelligent and responsible enough (unless proven to be a criminal/mentally incompetent) to own effective weapons to defend themselves, their families and their nations.

    The anti-gun side is arguing that everyone is too stupid to do so. The assumption being that those in government are more intelligent and responsible than the rest of us.

    Pick your side. It’s as simple as that.

    • Harry Piper

      So far the argument has gone like this –

      Mark and others – “Let’s do something about guns.”

      Pro-gun people – “Don’t you dare touch my guns!”

      The latter answer is occasionally followed up with “I might need it for a possible guerrilla war with a tyrannical government” or “Guns are needed for self-defense and solve more problems than they cause.” Now if you can prove the latter argument true you will have gone some way to persuading those who aren’t quite so keen on making firearms widely available that there is some merit in your position.

      • Stu

        Harry, that’s just plain disingenuous of you.

        • Stu

          And Syzmon, I think your assertions are “off” as well.

          • Szymon

            We’re not arguing for our guns. We’re arguing for the freedom to own them, a freedom that you enjoy as well (although one that you choose not to exercise).

            Indirectly, my point is proven by the fact that our military and police use weapons with no protest from you or anyone else. If that caused more problems than it solved, we would have stopped doing that. Are the police and military somehow super-human and free from the effects of evil?

            Directly, according to a 2000 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, U.S. civilians use guns to defend themselves and others from crime at least 989,883 times per year. About 436,000 violent crimes were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun. In 2008, 10,886 murders were committed with firearms while a 1993 nationwide survey found that 162,000 people used a firearm in defense when they thought someone “almost certainly would have been killed” if they “had not used a gun for protection.”

            I know these year ranges do not coincide, but the fact that 10 times more people defended their lives than whose lives were taken using guns is an interesting statistic.

            under the section “Crime and Self-Defense”

            Please explain. To me, the viewpoints I listed seem very distilled.

            • Stu

              You said, “The anti-gun side is arguing that everyone is too stupid to do so. The assumption being that those in government are more intelligent and responsible than the rest of us.”
              I don’t believe most here advocating for more regulation are necessarily “anti-gun.” There might be one or two who have been involved in this discussion but most of the opposing side can be categorized that way. Further, I don’t believe their position is that everyone is simply “too stupid” to have firearms. Instead, I believe they have a sincere desire to stop injustices upon the innocent in society.

              That being said, I do believe many of them have no real experience with firearms, their use and are in general ignorant of how they work or the history involved. This causes well-intentioned recommendations for solving the problem but ones that simply aren’t thought out.

              I do agree with this statement: The pro-gun side is arguing that everyone is intelligent and responsible enough (unless proven to be a criminal/mentally incompetent) to own effective weapons to defend themselves, their families and their nations.

    • We’ve been picking our sides and debating this since 1939 when US v Miller was decided in a very strange way. The pro-gun side won that multi-decade debate. The anti-gun side wants to throw all that history out and start from scratch with them occupying the moral high ground. Why do they get the high ground? Well… because!

  • Suburbanbanshee

    I’m a non-driver, so my basic perspective on cars (especially on rainy days) is that people with dubious skills are running around with dangerous high-speed machinery that’s huge, and that they don’t really need.

    It’s a stupid perspective to have, because most people who drive are competent people of good will, and do not work hard to kill or splash me. But of course, some are not competent or of good will, and they kill a lot of innocent people.

    Of course, the really deadly things are stuff like bathtubs, stairways, bicycles, and breathing.

    • Suburbanbanshee

      Anyway, the point is that if everybody had to go through Gun Education the way that we force kids to take Driver’s Education, with plenty of practice as well as theory, you’d either be knowledgeable about guns instead of fearful about them, or you’d admit to being fearful orpoorly coordinated or not interested enough to learn (much like a non-driver such as myself). People would be clear that it was wickedness or stupidity causing gun incidents, rather than blaming the poor defenseless inanimate object.