So what would I suggest about guns?

First, of course, I would suggest that it is perfectly true to say that the problem of violence lies in the human heart, not primarily (note that word, of which more anon) in the instruments by which we enact our violence. So yes, all the stuff the gun lobby says about the mystery of sin and evil and the fact that if you can’t find a gun you can still find a knife or a rock is true and, at the end of the day, violence is most effectively dealt with through repentance, faith in Christ, crucifixion of the old man and new creation in Christ. However, in addition to that, I note that the Church says Caesar has a role to play in limiting evil and does not recommend mystical passivity in the face of gun violence any more than she recommends it with any other form of crime.

Similarly, I would note that in addition to sin, we have to look at pathology, including our drug culture (both illicit and prescription) that appears to play a big role in people like the Aurora dude and others. But I would also recommend that we take steps to make it hard for drugged out lunatics to have access to the technology of mass slaughter.

I would also note that, though Sandy Hooks and related outrages get our attention, the 10,000 other murders each year (more than three 9/11s each year) are where the statistical heart of the matter is.

And I would note that, yes, there is no question that we are slowly morphing into a menacing national security state and have been for some time–often with the enthusiastic support of torture and war zealots whose monomaniacal obsession with “self-defense” has led them to cheer for the overreach of Leviathan and to practice a decade-long labor of sophistry in defending Caesar’s war crimes when Caesar was of the Correct Tribe–right up to the point Leviathan threatened their guns. Now those same “patriots” are mumbling about “secession” (aka civil war and mass bloodshed) due to the selfsame obsession with “self-defense”.

Which brings me to my next point. If the key to confronting violence in our culture is repentance and renewal in Christ, I think that one crucial point in doing that is to face the fact that an awful lot of gun rhetoric is marked by the smell of heresy.

What is heresy? Heresy is a single truth exaggerated to monstrous proportions and used as a weapon against the rest of the Church’s body of teaching. So Calvinism exaggerates the sovereignty of God and makes it the Only Truth. Abortion supporters exaggerate free will to the Only Truth. Communists exaggerate economic justice to the Only Truth. And gun zealotry, militarism, and torture enthusiasts often exaggerate the right to self-defense to the only truth.

The thing about heresy is that it then becomes hyper-sensitive to any attempt to situate its pet truth in the context of the common good. The Calvinist takes every assertion of human freedom as the negation of God’s power. The pro-abort darkly warns that the slightest attempt to assert that babies share in the common good masks a desire to enslave women and institute A Handmaid’s Tale theocratic fascist state. Commies routinely divided the world into Us and Them. And the self-defense heretic has, for the past month, indulged in massive amounts of HITLER!!!!!! hysteria when anybody has cleared their throat to suggest that some way should be explored to try to curb our massive gun violence rate and try to prevent future Sandy Hooks. In each case, the assertion of the common good is regarded by the heretic as the absolute and total negation of his pet truth.

So: one way of approaching evil in the human heart is to educate people on what “heresy” means–including the heresy that absolutizes the right to self-defense. That means learning what the Church means by the “common good” and “solidarity” (terms I will leave the reader to search out in the Catechism). Really internalizing the meaning of both terms will require putting to death an awful lot of the libertarian ideology that dominates discourse on the Right. But that’s okay, since the goal of life is to have the mind of Christ, not to prop up insane and destructive human ideologies past all reason.

As to questions of human law, my basic take is “The law (including the Constitution) was made for man, not man for the law”. So while I respect our institutions and don’t think they should be changed lightly, I also don’t lose sleep over the possibility of altering the Constitution (or our interpretation of it) should it get in the way of weightier matters like the protection of innocent life.

I am highly skeptical that mere confiscation edicts are a) likely, b) feasible or c) likely to produce the desired result of curbing gun violence. Yet almost all of the conversation from the right has centered on this phantasm, as is the way with heretics who take any assertion of the common good (“No more Sandy Hooks”) as the absolute negation of their pet truth (“So you want to confiscate guns and leave us prostrate before HITLERSTALINMAOBAMA!!!!, home invaders, and rapists!”).

What I, in fact, think is that, in addition to addressing the problems in the soul–sin, the destruction of the family, drugs, the encouragement of violence in everything from video games and TV shows to secessionist fantasies of civil war (which is, recall, “why we need the second amendment: to protect us from the government” and is absolutely a corrollary of the guns ‘n secession yakkery)–we also need to find some clever technological ways to keep this particular form of tech out of the wrong hands while allowing it to remain in the right hands.

Guns are, at the end of the day, technology. We have long devised ways to help keep technology from being accessed by the Wrong People. That’s why your bank does not keep your money in a big heap on the floor in the middle of the bank so that total strangers can help themselves. They keep it in a place where only you can get it. It’s why we put pieces of tech called “locks” on pieces of tech called “your house”. It’s why you need a key to start your car. We are, in fact, very clever monkeys when we put our minds to things and have been known to send people to the moon when we felt it was an issue of urgent national importance. Are such pieces of tech flawless and foolproof? Of course not. And yet common sense says “Lock your car” anyway. And the more precious (or deadly) something is, the more security tech we use. So if you live in a safe neighborhood, you might just lock the door. If you live in a rougher one, you might add a deadbolt or alarm. If you are a lab working with the ebola virus, you take even more precautions so that somebody who feels he has a “right to biological arms” does not assert this at the expense of the population of New York City’s right to live. This is only complicated if we want it to be.

So, in addition to the steps I mention above, I think the most sensible way of approaching the regulation of guns (which the *Church* says the state has the right and obligation to do, whatever the merely human tradition of the second amendment might say) is something along these lines:

I would mandate a change in technology so that weapons could only be fired by those authorized to fire them. I’m talking about weapons with some sort of code or key or retinal scan or voiceprint or fingerprint ID system. Perhaps something as simple as a distinctive finger swipe pattern like my son’s cell phone requires. We use such systems all the time on other pieces of tech we don’t want the wrong person screwing around with. We could invent something for guns too.

I would make those new weapons in a calibre incompatible with conventional weapons. Then I would mandate that only bullets in the new calibers could be manufacturered or sold in the US. No, it won’t “fix the problem” instantly (and we all know from “maintain the status quo at all costs” gun heretic rhetoric that if something does not have an immediate 100% success rate with respect to gun violence it’s futile, utopian and useless and should not be attempted because Give Up Now). But utopians like me think it would move us toward a reduction in gun violence as the old bullets and guns become obsolete and user-specific ones take over.

And yeah, I would have no objection to arranging exchanges of the old tech for new at a discount, as well as the recycling of old bullets into new ones. Think of it as creating guns with safeties only the right people can take off.

In such a system, the right to own guns is maintained for the right people, but taken away from the wrong people. Seems like a sound first step to me.

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

All this is well within our technological capability to achieve. Will it inconvenience some gun enthusiasts? Probably. My answer: tough. The common good and the protection of innocent human life trumps the heretical belief that convenience for gun owners is the primary good. In the end, such a tech upgrade will preserve the right of reliable people to a weapon of self-defense (a real, but subordinate, good) while respecting the common good and helping to reduce the chance that weapons will be accessible to the wrong hands.

Worth a shot, so to speak.

Oh, one last thing. Another lousy argument put forward by the gun lobby is that guns are “morally neutral”. No. Technology affects the way we think. When we acquire or invent new tech, we start to think in new ways. When you acquire the means to inflict violence and death on people, you start imagining scenarios in which you might do it. You begin to *ready* yourself to shoot and even to kill. I know people who, on at least two ocassions have come within seconds of killing innocent people because, as gun owners, they had trained themselves to view such people as *threats*. (On one occasion, it was a guy who had accidently been sent to the wrong hotel room by a desk clerk and walked in. On another ocassion, it was simply a high-spirited teen running across a grocery story parking lot, whooping and hollering as he gathered up shopping carts. My first thought in both cases, would not be to assume they were threats at all. The man I know was thinking, instantly, of shooting both of them.) In short, the accumulation of arms brings with it the temptation to use those arms in order to vindicate the expense–and in order to say to critics of accumulation of arms that you were a tough-minded realist and they were buttercup-twirling peaceniks. Such tech does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in relationship with fallen man and has an impact on him. That fact needs to be taken into account by those who assert simple slogans like “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

  • Lizzie

    I kind of like the idea that guns should only be fireable by their rightful owners. It is no different from not being able to start a car unless you have the key. (Of course, it’s true that a car thief can get around it.) It is true you can legally borrow a car, but it would also be possible to manufacture the guns so that the owners could loan the guns to others for legitimate purposes.

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

    I have no problem with a tech upgrade. I have enduring faith in the criminal underworld to find ways around it. The upgrades will probably happen. I’m not a gun enthusiast and don’t know the workings of a shotgun or handgun or assault gun, though I get the differences. How they would make it work is beyond me. What impact it would have is also beyond me. It may dissuade lawful people from bothering. It may cut down on some crimes here, it may create more there. I don’t know. I suppose go for it. It doesn’t seem to infringe upon rights or compromise the 2nd Amendment as currently understood. And if it stops one shooting that’s pretty good, unless it can be demonstrated that it could cause more shootings or compromise the ability for lawful citizens to protect themselves. Then it might need another look.

  • Kenneth

    I like the concept. It will be pilloried in very short order here because one family member won’t be able to fire the gun of another in the (inevitable) instance when a pair of paroled serial killers come through the door in the middle of the night. And the unconventional caliber concept won’t sell because, after all, we all need to maintain a military deterrence against our own elected government. Wait for it…5, 4, 3, 2, 1…..we’re live!

    • Mark Shea

      Though, of course, such tech would–just like passwords on the home computer–be distributable to whichever family members you want to allow access to the weapon. Not foolproof. Nancy Lanza might, for instance, give Adam the password to the family arsenal. But a very useful first step nonetheless.

    • Chris

      I suspect we could come up with technology that allows for multiple “fingerprint signatures” to be “installed” at the point of registration. In other words, if someone with an unstable family member doesn’t want them to have access to the weapons, they simply register it without getting their fingerprint scanned for permissions. If Dad wants Mom to have access, she gets her fingerprint scanned at registration or whenever, but in the presence of the owner (Dad). If Mom and Dad want their teenage kids to have access in an emergency, they have to pass a special youth licensing course and then get their fingerprints scanned. This includes sport-target shooting, hunting, etc.

      • Chris

        Not sure what to do about 12 and under. No permissions whatsoever? I guess the cases are pretty rare where junior takes out the home invader…

        • Seamus

          And in those cases where he does–or, rather, where he would have but for the new fingerprint-reading technology–well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few 12-year-old eggs.

      • Mark Shea

        Doesn’t have to be fingerprints. There’s all sorts of coding tech out there.

        • Chris

          Just thinking that fingerprints (or retinal scan) would be required at point of registration, and that kind of authorization requires a human being to be present. Codes can be broken, hacked, etc. So the mom of the Newtown gunmen gets her guns registered with her unique signature only, that way, an insane son can’t shoot her and use the weapons if he’s not registered. And he can’t get his signature added without her physically present and signed-off.

          Nonetheless, extremely level-headed idea. Especially regarding the attrition of conventional weapons.

  • ivan_the_mad

    It is a reasonable position that recognizes arms ownership but acts to increase the responsibility and liability of the owner for the purpose of securing the public good.

  • KM

    As I mentioned in another thread here, one of the 23 EO’s — #15 to be exact — asks the private sector to come up with creative tech solutions for gun safety. It’s not a mandate as you’re suggesting; it’s more of a free market incentive, but your idea sounds doable.

  • bill bannon

    I actually agreed with Mark until Kenneth made a valid objection while intending parody. But technology could solve that someday by allowing an initial batch of fingerprints….or just husband and wife. I have one shotgun for home defense and sent a fifteen shot 9mm to a gun store for sale. Folks…a shotgun with home defense rounds is safer on your neighboring houses and occupants yet tougher on the criminal before you because shotgun shell pellets dissipate with travel and walls because each pellet is small and has deficient momentum over distance but when used short distance is equivalent to two 44 magnums as to wound trauma. Ergo I don’t get the desire for .44 Magnums etc. which can actually over penetrate people and walls which is why police don’t use them. You could miss the home invader by recoil but take out everyone else in
    their homes in the neighborhood as they’re watching TV and spend the rest of your days in civil court.
    One shotgun suffices. But with 310 million guns in circulation in the US and with many pistols taking 15 rounds (including the sig sauers used by the Swiss Guard), there is a nightmare out there of non compliance that might rival Prohibition. NY just restricted guns to 7 rounds. All semiautomatic pistols take more than that. I can’t envision compliance success.

    • ivan_the_mad

      ” I can’t envision compliance success.” Wait, wait, wait, of course you can. The vast majority of gun owners abide by the law, which is why any gun control measures discussed are so unfair. But if such a thing were to happen, of course gun owners would comply. Right?

      • bill bannon

        Er….I think you’re attributing to me beliefs I never expressed anywhere.

        • ivan_the_mad

          My intention wasn’t to attribute anything to you, but to make my own connection between what you wrote and an assertion repeated frequently in the comboxes here and elsewhere as of late. It was done in something of a tongue-in-cheek fashion.

  • Jack

    Mark,

    Glad to see you fleshing out your idea; still not convinced of the practical end; admittedly though, we are clever monkeys. The hitch is that it would have to be instant, and take all of a millisecond to engage; no deathstar laser warmup time – self defense is very much a here and now issue.
    That said, your post reminded me of something i’d seen years back -the magna-ring revolver. Its not biometric per se, but would something like that meet your approval?

    If you come up with another idea, I know a crackerjack IP attorney ;)

    I personally dislike the liability insurance idea someone mentioned above; if the idea is to reduce misuse, I dont think pricing people out of the market is a great way to do it.

    • Mark Shea

      I think all these tech issues are probably easily achievable, but of course, the real person that needs to approve is an engineer and, ultimately, the consumer. A gun that can’t be fired the instant it needs to be fired is worthless. But I find it impossible to believe such a weapon could not be created if we really wanted one. I’m glad to hear you think my idea is worth pursuing. I’m not choosy about *how* the access code works. Faster is better, it seems to me. And I don’t see why it would have to be fingerprints, though it could be. But given that chips can perform 50 bazillion operations a second, I find it incredible to believe we could not devise a system that works as fast as or faster than the time it takes to take off a physical safety.

      • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar

        Mark, I know you know that Catholics are not often despised in truth, but rather that people (reasonably) despise the various straw-men that have been erected and labeled “Catholic.” The same might be said for gun enthusiasts. I’m going to invite you to read an essay by a man who spent most of his adult life in criminology, shooting, and teaching people (like a lot of cops) how to shoot. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/ It’s around 10,000 words, but he goes over nearly everything that’s been said in the debate.

        I agree that biomarkers of any sort are probably the wrong tech for signature guns. More apropos would be a ring or bracelet with an RFID on it, similar to fobs used in keyless automotive ignition systems. (There have already been magnetic locks, deactivated with rings. They are unpopular for the increased bulk and expense, and also for the extra training that is sometimes required.) I am convinced that an enterprising gunsmith will be able to disable whatever lock or block the key introduces within an hour. When Sandia National Laboratories looked into smart guns, their criterion was that such a weapon would keep the thug from shooting for at least 60 seconds after he’d taken it from a cop. They didn’t find any appropirate tech, but that was over 10 years ago.

        I maintain that the real issue with your notions remains planned obsolesence. Neither firearm designs nor chamberings are subject to Moore’s Law, the way computers are. Well over half of popular chamberings are over 50 years old, with proven performance and reliability. .38 special, .357 Magnum, 30-06, 9x19mm, .45ACP, .270 Winchester, and 30-30 are all very popular rounds that date from before WWII. The Mauser bolt action has been at the heart of many many popular rifles since 1898, because it’s so reliable. The M1911 .45 ACP pistol persists, more than 100 years after its introduction, because it is so reliable. People who own and use firearms, _especially_ _for_ _defense_, often regard reliability as the touchstone of a desirable weapon. Anything that monkeys with that is going to be regarded with very deep suspicion, because it has the potential to keep the thing from working in exactly the sort of life-and-death situations for which it is made.

        The thing that most often stops a violent criminal in his tracks is when he is confronted by a good guy with a gun. I say it’s time to make it easier for a good guy to have a gun on hand with which to confront such violent criminals as he encounters. Odds are very good that he won’t have to shoot. When the thug is after profit, he tends to flee. If he’s after notoriety, he tends to give up or shoot himself.

  • Ed

    So much in your post to reflect on. Thanks, Mark. Whatever the technological fix, putting this debate into a wider Catholic context is very helpful.

  • MattyD

    Great piece, great proposal. And speaking of options that are perfectly reasonable and don’t infringe upon 2nd amend or self-defense: There’s good research suggesting that about 57% of gun crimes involve guns purchased from 1% of gun dealers. So why can’t we shut down the bad dealers? Because the NRA has lobbied for decades to systematically strip the ATF of its ability to enforce existing gun laws. Why? For the usual reasons, “government tyranny” “2nd amend”, blah, blah. It’s a perfect example of a “single truth exaggerated to monstrous proportions.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/23/AR2010102302996.html

  • Jack

    Honestly, in more than a decade of tinkering with firearms, I spend more time cursing the electronic locks on two my safes than anything else. False reads, slow reads, battery went dead again ¤ t3 3 5eee#12!!!
    Mechanical systems are always more reliable.

  • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

    I was going to just leave my comments on your facebook post, but in the interest of spirited debate, why not here too?

    Some points to consider:

    1st – Tech is notoriously unreliable. One of the nice things about guns is that they are really low tech. You point the dangerous end at someone bad and squeeze a trigger. I have a biometric scanner on my laptop. Sometimes, my fingerprint unlocks the computer. Other times, it’s a case of swipe. swipe. swipe. swipe. swipe. swipe. Give up and type in password. I don’t want to be doing that in an emergency situation.

    2nd – As mentioned already in the comments, guns need to be accessible to multiple people. My wife and I each have guns. If I one of us needs to use that of the other, do I want to bet on the biometric configuration working properly?

    3rd – proprietary bullets are a bad idea. They introduce all kinds of complexities into the system. There’s a reason ammo is standardized. It makes it possible to obtain and use it, and nobody has a monopoly of control on production or supply, which also keeps it affordable and available. Many owners of multiple firearms (including hunters) have their own ammo presses for exactly this reason. It’s far cheaper to make their own.

    4th – You cite the 11,000 gun homicides per year. You don’t cite the 2,000,000 defensive gun uses per year. The homicides are less than 1/2 of 1 percent of total defensive uses. This is an astronomically low number.

    5th – Guns only act as effective deterrents of violence if they are accessible, available, and allowed. Most of the time, when massacres happen, they happen in designated gun-free zones. These are kill zones for psychos because they are target-rich environments full of people who can’t fight back. The more you limit availability (and more to the point, allowability) the more you increase the probability that these kinds of things will happen again.

    6th – Confiscation is a real worry, and not just for loonies. Historically, this is the kind of thing that has happened under despots like Hitler and Stalin. It’s not just conspiracy theorism. Hitler knew how dangerous it was for private firearms to be allowed, so the Nazis used the gun registries to identify who had weapons and went to those homes and confiscated. Those who resisted were executed. The only reason this is unlikely in the US is because we have so MANY guns – 270 million private firearms. But in isolated circumstances, like New Orleans after Katrina, this kind of thing happened. It happened a few years ago in Australia. It’s not out of the question for them to try.

    7th – Let’s get all foundery for a second, just because it’s the cool thing to do: “Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American peoples’ liberty teeth and keystone under independence… From the hour the pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to ensure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable…The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that is good.” ― George Washington

    • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

      The two guns in your household and other households will prevent a tyrannical government from abrogating the Constitution? Have you ever lived under a tyrannical government?

      I watched a tyrannical government fall, and there although there was some talk of civil war, there was no civil war and no uprising. It fell because people stopped supporting it and obeying its orders. Nobody wanted it any more, nobody loved it enough to save it, and it collapsed.

      Amazingly few people were directly hurt.

      • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

        Pavel,

        270 million private firearms absolutely will make it virtually impossible for our government to turn into an overnight tyranny. We have by far the highest private gun ownership in the world, and we are a nation founded on a revolution fought by ordinary citizens who took up those very kinds of arms against a supposedly unstoppable government. That ethos runs deep.

        The difficulty comes in when we recognize that this government, forced not to impose its despotic will all at once, chooses instead to slowly and methodically take rights away, beginning with the most fundamental within our particular legal framework: the right to defend yourself from tyranny by force of arms.

        Anyone can argue against the effectiveness of an armed citizenry against a modern military such as ours. What they cannot deny is that this was the intention of the founders of this nation in enshrining this right as an individual right as part of the Constitution.

        I’d leave you with this quote, which I think isn’t merely an early-discussion-invocation of Godwin’s law:

        “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police. German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order throughout the occupied Russian territories, and a system of military strong-points must be evolved to cover the entire occupied country.” –Adolf Hitler, dinner talk on April 11, 1942, quoted in Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-44: His Private Conversations

        • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

          By the way, this is what Mayor Ray Nagin said after Katrina, during the gun confiscation in New Orleans:

          “No one will be able to be armed. We will take all weapons. Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns.”

          • Mark Shea

            Not talking about confiscation.

            • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

              Just because you’re not talking about it doesn’t mean it isn’t a likely outcome. You can’t just use a Jedi Mind Trick and make it go away.

              “This is not the issue you’re looking for.”

              • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

                It’s not a likely outcome. Obama will be lucky to get a high-capacity magazine limit through Congress. Mark’s proposal, which is quite laudable, would be D.O.A. in the House.

            • Seamus

              You may not be talking about it, but there are plenty of people who are. In fact, I suspect that most of those pushing these “common-sense” gun control measures are doing so as a way of just turning the water under us frogs up to “Warm,” and waiting till we get used to it before they turn it up further. An example was Charles Krauthammer, who in 1996 said with unaccustomed honesty for a gun-grabber: “Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic — purely symbolic — move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.”

              • Mark Shea

                Thanks for yet another able explication of the Can’t Do Spirit. Give up. Don’t Try. Won’t work. Not Even Worth Exploring. That’s the persistent message every time a reasonable idea is bruited.

                • Matt

                  Except that these ideas are, as people have pointed out time and time again, completely unreasonable and arbitrary.

                  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar

                    The point of all these detractions that you swiftly dismiss as the Can’t Do Spirit is this: What you are proposing is likely to be much, much more difficult than you think. We could make every Ford 500 as safe as a NASCAR Ford 500, but are the costs imposed by doing so, and they may well outweigh the good you’re trying to obtain. The same goes with your proposals. I have no doubts about your good intentions. But I don’t think you’re thinking things through. If you make a policy proposal, you ought to be able to answer the question, “How much will it cost? And what good will it prevent us from having?” When people propose to answer these questions, you need a better response than “YOU DON’T CARE!!!!!”

                    • Mark Shea

                      “We choose not to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is likely to be much, much more difficult than you think!”

                      Inspiring. And we are just talking about cutting into a yearly death toll in the thousands, plus future Sandy Hooks. So give up, don’t try, won’t work.

                      And don’t, for heaven’s sake, ask an engineer about things like feasibility, cost and materiel. Demand that a non-engineer who simply voiced what seems like reasonable idea now supply a cost/benefit analysis and then declare it impossible and futile science fiction when he can’t.

                      Yeah. That’s the Can’t Do Spirit.

        • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist
        • Mark Shea

          HIIIIIIITLERRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

          Again. Not talking confiscation.

          I’m really mystified by the complete and utter refusal to consider the most reasonable proposal and the urgent will to believe that any assertion of the common good can only mean the utter and absolute negation of, in this case, the right to self-defense. Classic heretical thinking.

          • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

            You know, Mark, that I agree with you on a number of things. But you’ve sort of taken up the habit of overstating your case and creating a bunker mentality.

            There’s absolutely no good reason not to look at historical precedent. Nobody has a problem comparing the abortion holocaust to the Nazi one, but if you start comparing gun control policies to those of the Nazis and Communists, suddenly you’ve gone wading into the surreal? How can anyone have a serious discussion that way? There are historical facts in plays, and if the comparisons are apt, why not use them?

            You’ve reached a conclusion that your position is “the most reasonable” and your definition of the “common good” is the one we should all be operating under. To then characterize thinking that refuses to accept the parameters of these constructs as “classic heretical thinking” is kind of beneath the conduct of reasonable discussion, dontcha think? Or is that not what you were aiming for here?

            • Mark Shea

              but if you start comparing gun control policies to those of the Nazis and Communists, suddenly you’ve gone wading into the surreal?

              Yes. That’s correct. Obama’s proposals and the laws on the books in many nations–and what Rome recommends–are simply not like Nazi Germany and it is hysteria to claim it is.

              More to the point, it has *nothing to do* with what I am proposing, which is the subject of this thread. But such hysteria *does* illustrate my point that, for the heretic, any assertion of the common good whatsoever that sets the Pet Truth in a subordinate position to the common good is spoken of as the absolute negation of the pet truth. Moving from a suggestion that we create tech that is accessible only by authorized users to HITLER!!!!! does tend to underscore my point.

              I make no claim that my suggestion is the “most reasonable”. I think it *a* reasonable idea. I offered no defintion of the common good. I referred the reader to the Church and the catechism. But yeah, I think it is irrational to a) labor to preach defeat to the proposal and counsel “give up. don’t ttry. Won’t work” and then b) immediately jump back to hysteria about Hitler and confiscation and all the rest. It does indeed strike me as the elevation of self-defense and gun to the Only Truth at the expense of the common good.

              • http://frmartinfox.blogspot.com FrMartinFox

                With respect, Mark, you seem not to be connecting this subject with the other line of discussion you’ve pursued–properly–on government policy and “security.”

                It seems to me that your recurring examination–and just mockery–of the “National Security State” could be lampooned as invoking “StalinHitler” too. But if your point about creeping statism in those other matters is valid–and it is–then why are gunnies supposed to be kaRAYzee for connecting that with moves on gun control?

              • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

                Maybe you’re confusing me with someone else. Because there’s no hysteria here. I have a blood pressure monitor on my shelf, if you want me to check things out and prove it to you.

                I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to assume that a significant goal of this administration (and many on the political left) is to seriously curtail private gun ownership.

                I also don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that IF THEY COULD, the liberal democrats would be HAPPY to confiscate all guns. It’s political suicide, so they can’t. But that only means that they have to find more subtle means to begin working toward this agenda.

                The gun control measures you are suggesting would be prohibitive on the ability of most Americans to exercise their 2nd amendment rights. It would, if executed effectively, make the nearly 300 million private firearms in this country obsolete. This would create scarcity, into which any new entity manufacturing said guns, ammo, and technology as you propose would be highly regulated. New gun registries would be created. Prohibitive taxes might well be levied. The government would have all the leverage, because they would essentially have an entirely new framework in which they could control the supply of guns and ammunition in the most firearm-friendly country on earth.

                What you are proposing is limited in scope because it exists only in your imagination. The practical effect, however, would be to put the power in the government’s hands to completely change the meaning and practice of the 2nd amendment.

                Both political parties have despotic tendencies and are moving toward the oppression of political and religious freedom. Both are centralizing authority and taking massive liberties with their Constitutionally-granted powers (which, incidentally, limits our liberties.)

                Do you honestly believe that what you propose, combined with the current level of corruption in our government, would not create an increasingly despotic state that ceases to fear an armed public?

                Do you really believe that just the fact that it was Hitler who I quoted above negates the principle stated, namely, his assertion that “History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty.”

                It is for this reason that the founders crafted the 2nd amendment at all. They feared this eventuality. They knew this political philosophy, because it’s just really basic comic book villain common sense. It’s that Jeffersonian principle: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

                If what I am saying is crazy, or fearmongering, or hysterical, rather than a warning that what you propose will accelerate a path I am under the impression you believe we are already on – toward a more corrupt and menacing government – I don’t know what else to say. It isn’t a foregone conclusion, but it’s a very likely one. I can’t seem to explain it any better than I have.

                • Matt

                  Excellent point, Steve.

                  I can point to place like New York to show what Democrats “really want” in terms of gun control. Ideally they would eradicate firearm ownership by civilians completely, and the idea is to do it one step at a time. These people aren’t stupid.

                  I’d wager in 3 years time (or when another massarce happens), there’s a 5-round limit in New York. In 10 years, 3, etc. This type of creeping statism is analogous to other things, like the HHS mandata, whic Catholics *should* be “freaking out” about. It’s all part and parcel of the same whole. It’s no coincidence that Cuomo, who signed New York’s “the legal number is now seven” bill, wants to do this: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cuomos-extreme-abortion-bill-creates-a-civil-war-with-democrats-catholics

                  For them, it’s not about protecting children, or making people safer. If it WAS about that, the discussion would be much different. It’s about using a national tragedy to push a political agenda, pure and simple. This is what people are resisting.

                  I have to admit, I can understand how they might not seem so clear for everyone, including Mark Shea. I imagine that they are somewhat comparable to how a sober Catholic would see how introducing contraception as a norm ends in a society that abhors marriage. What I mean is that with gun control (as it is presented by the Democrats), it’s unfortunately similar. A lot of these things stand or fall together. Once you allow arbitrary limits (10, 7, …N round counts) to take over, the trend is ALWAYS towards further restriction, control, and registration. And it’s always to disarm law-abiding citizens. It never seems to have any actual net positive effect on crime rates. It’s similar with contraception. Once you allow that, the rest falls on its own.

                  The reason people “freak out” over this kind of stuff is actually a very similar reason that people “freaked out” over the HHS mandate. Although the two share a lot of differences, there is some common ground between them. You’ll often see that the very same people are behind both things. :)

        • David

          The real question is whose side the military would take in such a conflict. After all, these would be their own families and neighbors they would be firing on…

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            There isn’t going to be such a conflict. No is going to try to confiscate guns, so there is no possibility of conflict there. As America gets less demographically amenable to Tea Party patriotism, there may be some domestic terrorism by disgruntled rightists. I don’t think the military will have any qualms about taking those guys out.

            So the real question isn’t whose side the military would take in this fantastical conflict, it’s why, after Mark’s clear statement in the secession thread that such bloodymindedness is intolerable hereabouts, supposed Catholics around here feel drawn to keep dredging up these violent scenarios.

            • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

              I keep trying to figure out where the certitude is derived about our government not confiscating guns? They did it in the UK. They did it in Australia. Why not here?

              • Harry Piper

                They did it in the UK because very few people here care about guns. The Police are overwhelmingly in favor of remaining unarmed – when stricter gun laws were put into place the reaction was not -
                “OMG THE STATE IS PREPARING THE DEATHCAMPS”
                -but rather-
                “Oh, Mr Jenkins isn’t allowed to own his AK-47 anymore. Ho-hum, pass the butter.”

                • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

                  Which is why you now have the highest violent crime rate in the EU. Congrats!

                  • Mark Shea

                    How does that crime rate compare to the US?

                  • Harry Piper

                    You’re not listening. NO ONE HAD A GUN – or rather, *nearly* no one had a gun. This idea that our guns were taken away and we were unable to defend ourselves is absolutely ludicrous.

        • Jamie R

          Our high rate of gun ownership hasn’t done anything to dissuade our growing police state thus far. No cop is ever going to say “Well, I would illegally search this guy without a warrant, but he might own a gun.”

          In fact, the gun lobby has been instrumental in our growing post-9/11 police state. By treating the 2d amendment as the only one that matters, it gave cover to the Bush administration’s policy of infringing on our rights and the rights of foreigners, and has deflected calls for gun control with calls for increased criminalization and incarceration, as well as government censorship of movies, tv, and video games. Even if it wasn’t instrumental, the gun lobby hasn’t done anything otherwise to prevent our growing police state, but gun manufacturers have benefited from it.

          So, I’m not certain, as an empirical argument, that guns prevent tyranny. Thus far, they certainly haven’t.

        • Kate

          Steve, you are assuming that all those 270 million private firearm owners will be fighting on the same side (yours, I guess) against the tyrannical govt. Not a good assumption. I know a few gun owners who I would not want on my side. Actually, they would more likely have the “every man for himself” attitude. My bet would be on anarchy in such a case, which would give the govt and even stronger reason for heavy action. The govt has a lot more lethal resources than the average citizen. I personally do not know anyone who has a missile silo in the backyard or a grenade launcher in the garage or a couple of containers of poison gas in the basement.

          • Mark Shea

            Right. Such a war will not be a sectional conflict like the Civil War. Think more “Beirut 1982″

    • Harry Piper

      I really think this “I need guns to prevent a tyrannical take-over” argument needs some work.
      Let’s say that overnight a dictatorship assumes control of the USA with control of the police and the army. Are you saying that you would be able to stop this with the weapons that you own? Or would you and your friends – who I really hope all live quite close to one another – band together to form an impromptu militia? With the weapons and training to take on professional soldiers?
      Or do you think that if this takeover happened, whilst you would not be able to prevent it, you might be able to take part in a guerrilla campaign against it? That makes much more sense.

      • thomas tucker

        Bingo! Guerilla war has worked well in Iraq and Afghanistan, and previously in Viet Nam. Come to think of it, it worked well when the colonists revolted against Great Britain.

        • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

          So you’re saying guns are good because they make a guerilla war against the U.S. government possible? In case of tyranny? If so, how do you define tyranny? Because I know how Timothy McVeigh defined tyranny, and I think there’s a lot of people in and around Oklahoma City who wish he’d kept his freedom-fighting to himself.

          • Jamie R

            So, you support fertilizer control?

            • Ed

              In fact, Congress passed a law in 2007 doing exactly that but the Dept. of Homeland Security has not been implementing it.

          • Thomas Tucker

            I haven’t thought about how I would define tyranny. But I don’t categorically rule out the possibility of its existence at some point.
            How would you define it?
            Regardless, my point was that guerrila warfare is effective against professional soldiers. Do you disagree?

            • Harry Piper

              Yes, it is effective, but my point is that having guns would not prevent the tyrannical state from taking over. It would happen and then you would have to fight it from within.
              And guerrilla warfare is not a clean or simple pursuit. It would inevitably involve reprisal actions, the killing of suspected collaborators, using fear to bend civilians to your will. And it would be a very long war – the occupying force does not have to ship troops in from far away.
              Using Afghanistan or Ireland as an example is the wrong approach – in both these places the occupying army had some restraint, much moreso in the latter. A tyrannical government would have none.
              That does not mean resistance is futile. It might be better to use civil disobedience – heck, Pavel lived under an oppressive regime and has come away from it deeply mistrustful of violent revolution.

              • thomas tucker

                Yes, I agree with all of those thoughts.

    • Mark Shea

      1st – Tech is notoriously unreliable. One of the nice things about guns is that they are really low tech. You point the dangerous end at someone bad and squeeze a trigger. I have a biometric scanner on my laptop. Sometimes, my fingerprint unlocks the computer. Other times, it’s a case of swipe. swipe. swipe. swipe. swipe. swipe. Give up and type in password. I don’t want to be doing that in an emergency situation.

      We build security systems all the time. If we want to, we could do this. Why instantly counsel defeat and despair?

      2nd – As mentioned already in the comments, guns need to be accessible to multiple people. My wife and I each have guns. If I one of us needs to use that of the other, do I want to bet on the biometric configuration working properly?

      Again, eminently doable to create easy security systems accessible to multiple users, but which lock out undesirables. We require only the will to do it.

      3rd – proprietary bullets are a bad idea. They introduce all kinds of complexities into the system. There’s a reason ammo is standardized. It makes it possible to obtain and use it, and nobody has a monopoly of control on production or supply, which also keeps it affordable and available. Many owners of multiple firearms (including hunters) have their own ammo presses for exactly this reason. It’s far cheaper to make their own.

      I’m not saying it’s foolproof. But over time, the ammo that is only usable in user-specific guns would predominate and ammo for conventional weapons would be expensive and annoying to get. That’s a feature, not a bug, in my plan. If gun owners are inconvenienced by having to subordinate their right of self-defense to the common good, tough. The second amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to convenience or freedom from annoyance or expense.

      4th – You cite the 11,000 gun homicides per year. You don’t cite the 2,000,000 defensive gun uses per year. The homicides are less than 1/2 of 1 percent of total defensive uses. This is an astronomically low number.

      That is no doubt a huge consolation to the victims of gun violence and their families. But not relevant to my proposal, which would not take any legitimate gun owner’s right to a gun away.

      5th – Guns only act as effective deterrents of violence if they are accessible, available, and allowed. Most of the time, when massacres happen, they happen in designated gun-free zones. These are kill zones for psychos because they are target-rich environments full of people who can’t fight back. The more you limit availability (and more to the point, allowability) the more you increase the probability that these kinds of things will happen again.

      Your rhetoric appears to be stuck on auto-pilot, since I have said nothing about gun free zones or confiscation or limiting anybody’s access to guns who has a legitimate right to one. This feature of gun culture rhetoric–of repeating tropes about things that are not even being proposed–is one of the most intellectually stultifying aspects of the “conversation”.

      6th – Confiscation is a real worry, and not just for loonies. Historically, this is the kind of thing that has happened under despots like Hitler and Stalin. It’s not just conspiracy theorism. Hitler knew how dangerous it was for private firearms to be allowed, so the Nazis used the gun registries to identify who had weapons and went to those homes and confiscated. Those who resisted were executed. The only reason this is unlikely in the US is because we have so MANY guns – 270 million private firearms. But in isolated circumstances, like New Orleans after Katrina, this kind of thing happened. It happened a few years ago in Australia. It’s not out of the question for them to try.

      Um, I’m not talking about confiscation (which is not going to happen in any case). So let’s get past that fantasy and stick to what I’m actually proposing.

      7th – Let’s get all foundery for a second, just because it’s the cool thing to do: “Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American peoples’ liberty teeth and keystone under independence… From the hour the pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to ensure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable…The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that is good.” ― George Washington

      Mhm. And if that were in any way relevant to what I’m saying here, you’d have a point. But mostly, quoted here, as though it is a rebuttal to something I’ve said, it only serves to illustrate my point that gun heresy, like all heresy, takes any assertion of the common good or the totality of the Tradition as the absolute and total negation of the pet truth of the heretic. I’m not interested in confiscating anybody’s guns. I’m interested in creating guns that can only be fired by the people who should be firing them.

      • KM

        Steve’s 7th point also had a made-up George Washington quote. I’ve seen multiple bogus Thomas Jefferson firearm quotes on other websites and now this bogus “George Washington” quote. Here’s a brief compendium of Bogus Quotes Attributed to the Founders: http://www.guncite.com/gc2ndbog.html

        • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

          Fair enough, I take it back. I didn’t verify it. I should have.

      • c matt

        Um, I’m not talking about confiscation (which is not going to happen in any case).

        True, you are not talking about it. But people like Pelosi, Feinstein and Cuomo – i.e., those in a position to actually implement such action – are talking about it. So I think Steve is just addressing a larger question.

      • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

        We build security systems all the time. If we want to, we could do this. Why instantly counsel defeat and despair?

        Maybe because I’ve worked with tech for too long, and I have found it to be notoriously unreliable. So much of my job now, even though I’m not in IT, has to do with resolving technical issues that people have with our website, with their membership, with notifications, with permissions, etc. Do I think it’s impossible to create reliable technology? No. Do I think it’s likely that this technology will be reliable in all, or even most cases? No. Even the most stable systems often have glitches. I’d much prefer simplicity.

        Again, eminently doable to create easy security systems accessible to multiple users, but which lock out undesirables. We require only the will to do it.

        See my answer above. Nothing is as dependable as something mechanical. It can’t crash, have verification errors, and isn’t vulnerable to overload or power failure.

        I’m not saying it’s foolproof. But over time, the ammo that is only usable in user-specific guns would predominate and ammo for conventional weapons would be expensive and annoying to get. That’s a feature, not a bug, in my plan. If gun owners are inconvenienced by having to subordinate their right of self-defense to the common good, tough. The second amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to convenience or freedom from annoyance or expense.

        I think you need to do a better job defining the good. Because as I said, statistics show that guns are far more often used in defense (and thus, in my definition in the service of the common good) than they are used to thwart or damage it. Making it more inconvenient is not likely to make those statistics more favorable.

        That is no doubt a huge consolation to the victims of gun violence and their families. But not relevant to my proposal, which would not take any legitimate gun owner’s right to a gun away.

        Your proposal is theoretical, and does not take into account the likely consequence of creating a highly regulated, proprietary system; namely, that you are concentrating the control, supply, and access to this “right” in the hands of people who have a financial incentive (manufacturers) or a power incentive (government) to create scarcity. This is a likely outcome, and it is an outcome that will whittle away at this “right” from the beginning.

        That said, it’s an odd right that begins with restrictions rather than ends with them. A person has a right to free speech. They can be punished for abusing this right, but pre-emptive regulation of what speech they can and cannot use is not any sort of reasonable interpretation of the 1st amendment.

        Um, I’m not talking about confiscation (which is not going to happen in any case). So let’s get past that fantasy and stick to what I’m actually proposing.

        Gun confiscation is not a fantasy under the scenario you’re proposing. It is NOW, because there are too many firearms in play. But if you have your way and make firearms and ammunition proprietary and thus, more limited, you increase the likelihood of confiscation. Also, the more you legislate keeping guns out of the wrong hands, the more records you create of who owns them legally. Which, in a scenario like many fear will be the outcome of the current direction of centralized government authority, makes confiscation far more likely. They will know who has your new guns and where they live, and it’s simply a matter of taking them. Most law abiding citizens will comply if the pretense seems legitimate.

        Mhm. And if that were in any way relevant to what I’m saying here, you’d have a point. But mostly, quoted here, as though it is a rebuttal to something I’ve said, it only serves to illustrate my point that gun heresy, like all heresy, takes any assertion of the common good or the totality of the Tradition as the absolute and total negation of the pet truth of the heretic. I’m not interested in confiscating anybody’s guns. I’m interested in creating guns that can only be fired by the people who should be firing them.

        I’ll take the quote back. Someone else pointed out that it’s a misattribution, so I shouldn’t have posted it until I sourced it. I’ve been seeing it around the interwebs today and I thought it was interesting.

        But what *is* relevant about the sentiment it expresses is the philosophy behind gun ownership and its relationship to the guarantee of liberty. I have not seen that assertion refuted in any meaningful way, and I think the impetus is on you to make that refutation before proposing that others should accept what sounds like a pretty draconian program of government intervention into what has always been construed as a fundamental right in this country. It’s odd to say that something that has been bedrock from the beginning in America is a heresy. If anything, it’s the deconstructionist take on guns – which it looks to me like you’re espousing – that is the heresy, at least insofar as that term can be applied to a political philosophy.

        • Mark Shea

          Actually the quote is utterly and completely irrelevant since it is addressing the bogeyman of confiscation, which I am not proposing. It’s like gun rhetoric only has a hammer, so every proposal for change is a nail.

          • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

            I’m sorry, what does that quote have to do with confiscation? It asserts the importance of firearms as a deterrent to evil. It says nothing about anyone taking them away.

    • KM

      Steve,

      I don’t want to rain on your parade, but that George Washington “quote” doesn’t sound right and indeed is bogus. See: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Washington and look under “Spurious attributions.”

      Also you get extra points for bringing up Hitler.

      • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

        I didn’t bring up Hitler, I responded to Mark’s mention of others bringing up Hitler. As I’ve said, this isn’t merely an exercise of Godwin’s law. Recent despots have undertaken a campaign of firearms confiscation as part of their abuse of power. It’s logical to make these comparisons, even if the common employment of Hitler comparisons in debates makes it seem hyperbolic.

        • KM

          Mark was criticizing the use of the Hitler card which is why he mentioned it in his post.

          Time for me to go now. I have a little silent screaming to do right before I pray.

          Have a good day.

          • KM

            P.S. I agree with Irenist: your blog looks great.
            Peace,
            KM

            • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

              Thank you, KM! I tried to just post “Thanks!” but it keeps telling me my comment is too short, so fine, I’m going to just write a bunch of words here in the hopes it will accept me.

              So, you really look great today, KM! I appreciate your presence here! I AFFIRM YOU!!!

              Maybe now it will let me post.

              • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

                Heh. I always just write what I want, and then add a parenthetical line like this:
                (Comment lengthened to placate spam filter.)

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      The liberty teeth quote is a known hoax. That 2,000,000 defensive uses number sounds fake, too.

      • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

        Here’s my source on that number. Make of it what you will:

        http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcdguse.html

        • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

          Thanks for the source, Steve. It looks like Kleck’s study is widely regarded as debunked outside the gun rights community. Unrelatedly, your blog looks great. I doubt I’m going to end this conversation agreeing with you about guns, but I look forward to reading the blog. Cheers.

          • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

            So what about the Department of Justice study cited on the same page, that puts it at 1.5 million DGUs? I mean, if the stats are wrong, fine, but it looks legit to me.

            Thanks for your comments on my blog. I only talk about guns there once in a while. I’m not a gun nut at all. I just find the discussion around this issue perplexing.

            • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

              I think getting into the weeds on DGU’s is unlikely to be helpful here, since DGU’s are an argument against banning guns, which no one is proposing.

              And yeah, the discussion around guns is perplexing. Thing is, banning guns would be bad. I agree with that. I really do. But further regulation of guns might be wise, just like sometimes further regulation of automobiles can be wise. Dangerous machines are dangerous. That’s all. No one is trying to ban guns or cars. Just regulate them.

              Thus, I think we all need to remain calm, and try to avoid seeing Hitler around the corner. A larger point about the Hitler stuff is that the way certain actually existing awful government policies (HHS contraception mandate, unjust wars, barbaric prison systems, and legal abortion, e.g.) are maintained has nothing to do with fascism, and everything to do with something much subtler: manufacturing consent for a deeply anti-Christian order through infantilizing media and shallow elections. That’s an evil order worth fighting, but it’s not fascism, and I’m sick to death of good Christian people wasting their energy on fighting imagined fascism instead of engaging with the far more subtle ways the hegemony of corporate greed, libertine lust, and militarist/abortionist murder is legitimated in American culture. There’s a lot of important political work to be done, and none of it involves fighting Hitler. So that’s just a free-floating peeve of mine, prior to any chat about guns specifically.

              • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

                I don’t know, fascism is state-controlled corporations and a centrally planned economy, right? I mean strictly speaking, we have quite a lot of that already.

                As for the the creation of a “deeply anti-Christian order through infantilizing media and shallow elections,” have you heard of the Communist luminary Antonio Gramsci? From Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West:

                Gramsci concluded it was their Christian souls that prevented the Russian people from embracing their Communist revolution. “The civilized world had been thoroughly saturated with Christianity for 2000 years,” Gramsci wrote; and a regime grounded in Judeo-Christian beliefs and values could not be overthrown until those roots were cut. If Christianity was the heat shield of capitalism, then, to capture the West, Marxists must first de-Christianize the West.

                [snip]

                Rather than seize power first and impose a cultural revolution from above, Gramsci argued, Marxists in the West must first change the culture; then power would fall into their laps like ripened fruit. But to change the culture would require a “long march through the institutions” – the arts, cinema, theater, schools, colleges, seminaries, newspapers, magazines, and the new electronic medium radio. One by one, each had to be captured and converted and politicized into an agency of revolution. Then the people could be slowly educated to understand and even welcome the revolution.

                I wrote more about that here. Suffice to say, this anti-christian agenda has been a Marxist agenda for almost a century. I don’t like to be too dismissive of the evil ideologies behind our present ills.

          • Andy S

            Debunked outside the gun community? Like the Bible has been “debunked” by those outside the Bible community? Facts gathered with a level of detail and care on a particular issue are not automatically debunked because they were gathered by supporters of a particular cause, interest, or issue.

        • MattyD

          Steve S, there’s a major flaw in comparing “2,000,000 defensive gun uses” against 10,000 homicides. (And I’m setting aside that the 2,000,000 number is highly disputed by criminologists. Probably more like 250K-500K.) Let me explain the flaw this way. In short, you are saying the total good uses of guns vastly outweighs the bad, ie homicide. But the problem is that homicide is not the full range of bad uses of guns. Homicide numbers, high as they are, are a smaller subset of ALL criminal gun uses . If you are going to count ALL of the positive uses of guns, you must compare with ALL of the negative/criminal uses, not just homicides. IE, criminal shootings that result in *injury*, armed robberies with a gun, rape with a gun, accidental gun death, etc. Just looking at armed robberies alone, we’re around half a million. Your “numbers” argument is not nearly as strong, or as intellectually honest, as you present it.

          • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

            But the proposed controls on guns, at least all the arguments I’ve heard, relate specifically to homicides. After all, you can hold up a store with an airsoft. It doesn’t have to be a real gun to be threatening. Loss of life is always the catalyst for these debates.

  • SteveP

    Mark: How about parents look at their local schools and ask the school board why the doors are made of glass? How about being that person who sees another use an exit and block the exit open, kick the block out of the way and close the door? How about being that student that walks and talks with each other student in that class? How about being that professor who ensures everyone is engaged.

    An eloquent speaker may have been able to ask the country to find ways to make safe places safe without turning those same places into castles or prisons. An eloquent writer might have helped some understand their own passivity in regard to knowing their own neighbor, their neighbor’s struggles and fears.

    I am disheartened that only apparent solution to a technological problem is more technology.

    • Mark Shea

      Sorry I did not have time to write a book.

      • SteveP

        Mark: Please accept my apology: when referencing a speaker’s or writer’s ability to persuaded I was not thinking of you specifically but segments of the government and of some of the largely read newspapers. I can see how the net was cast too broad.

        • Mark Shea

          No sweat.

  • Jack

    Also, I have yet to encounter a policy problem without a practica, nuts and bolts solution. Not saying theres’ no possibility of one, just saying I’ve never seen one.

    Also, in my experience, which is admittedly limited, I’ve never seen an ATF operation or agent tgst impressed upon me the ability to find their head with both hands, also, there is, in my opinion, a tendancy on the part of the agency, to assume guilt, even in a routine inspection.

  • Marthe Lépine

    Congratulations, Mark, this is an excellent post, and a good first step in looking for a solution. Later, you, or someone else, can build on this and begin to devise the practical applications.

  • Jacob

    Rather that wait for technology that is at least ten years off, there is something out there that would be a lot more effective soon – RFID receivers that unlock or activate the firing mechanism in a gun. This technology still isn’t quite there, but has the advantage that if you are either wearing or have implanted the rfid chip, no complicated sci-fi stuff is required. I fear that it is a massive problem, politically, to get people to adopt this with so many guns already out there, but I would be willing to comply with such a law – as long as I got compensated for the firearms I own. I would miss my antiques though.

    • Mark Shea

      Sure. That’s one possible fix. the point is only allow weapons to be fired by the people who should be firing them.

  • c matt

    I recall hearing about the ring tech before. I even think it is adaptable to current arms (that is, I don’t recall it being a specific gun, but something that can be added to existing ones). I imagine it works similar to the new fangled cars that don’t use a key to turn on. You have some gizmo that once it is within an acceptable range of the car, allows you to operate it (I am guessing some RF type setup). I suppose you could have a similar operation that only allows you to disengage the safety when the gizmo is within range. Thus, storing the gizmo separate from the gun would work.

  • IB Bill

    I though about the tech solution. I suppose it’s possible. Worth discussing.

    The only thing I’ll say in defense of we gun owners and confiscation is, yes, liberals have every intention of confiscating our weapons. It is not a phantasm: They want our guns. They got them in Australia and Great Britain. They’ve told me in person. They want our guns.

    No, I’m not going to fight a civil war or secede over it. That talk is rash and stupid. But I know liberals, and I know they have a massive agenda of things they want to control. Look at the news: They hate our church. They hate our faith. They think we’re superstitious idiots whom they need to enlighten about what to think, what to eat, what to drink, what to burn, what to smoke, what not to smoke, what to do with our money, how our children should be educated, and how long we should live and when we should die. Soviet kommissars and Calvinists would be embarrassed at their level of dogmatism. These people want to tell us how much salt to put in our food. What keeps them even remotely polite and from utterly baring their fangs … yes, the Second Amendment.

    Common sense regulations and technology — yes. But let’s not pretend we don’t know their agenda.

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      The second amendment keeps liberals from controlling the amount of salt you put in your food. Wow. Just, wow. How does that work exactly, the whole buy a gun at Wal-Mart, use your salt shaker as much as you want process? What’s the mechanism there?

      Next, those liberals will be trying to introduce fluoride into our precious bodily fluids, right? All part of their “massive agenda.”

      • IB Bill

        Yeah, Irenist, that’s what I said. I will attempt to clarify, though given your sarcasm, this will be futile: Liberals do in fact want to control many many many aspects of our lives, and that has included our salt intake, our soda intake, our transfat intake, what kind of light bulbs we can purchase, etc.

        They are relentless busybodies.

        I would argue that somewhere in the back of their pointy heads, the Second Amendment acts as a restraining force, right where their conscience should be.

        • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

          Okay, look, I’ve seen you in these threads IB Bill. You seem like a nice guy. But then you go and say things implying that liberals don’t have a conscience. Which is a laughably extremist thing to think. You also imply that the modern regulatory state (FDA, EPA, Bloomberg in New York, etc.), is somehow meaningfully influenced in its regulations by the fact that some portion of our citizenry is armed. As if regulatory bureaucrats are really sitting around their cubicles wondering, in a mustache-twirling villain sort of way, what they can get away with, if it weren’t for those damn kids from the Scooby gang, ahem, responsible gun owners. This is such a blinkered view of actually existing reality–which is way more boring and less melodramatic than that–it inspires me to sarcasm. Which is not very Christian of me. But not only is such conspiracy-theorizing laughable, it’s dangerous. It dehumanizes political opponents (liberals lack consciences, e.g.) and deranges understanding of how democratic self-government in a modern regulatory welfare capitalist state actually works. Reducing liberals’ motivations to that of “relentless busybodies,” like reducing the pro-life movement to a desire to control women’s sexuality (a similarly reductive stereotype of us Catholics one sees on the left) leaves you dealing with strawmen instead of peers. It short-circuits civic debate.

          • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

            Amen. And so on and so on.

          • Seamus

            The problem with liberals is not that they don’t have a conscience. It’s that their conscience tells them things that just aren’t so.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes. And Fundamentalists mean to enslave women! All discussion of the common good are absolute negations of My Pet Truth!

      • IB Bill

        You make that sound like a bad thing :)

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

      “yes, liberals have every intention of confiscating our weapons. It is not a phantasm: They want our guns. They got them in Australia and Great Britain. They’ve told me in person. They want our guns [snip]But I know liberals, and I know they have a massive agenda of things they want to control. [snip]But let’s not pretend we don’t know their agenda.”

      Really? All liberals, everywhere? You’ve spoken to all of them? Even me?

      Well, two can play at this game: Conservatives love their guns more than people. They are just itching to use those guns as much as they can against the rest of us, and they are looking forward to the day they can rise up against the government and everyone they don’t agree with, including those who commit the wrong kinds of sin. They go on about self-defense as the reason for keeping guns as accessible as they want them, but let’s not pretend we don’t know their agenda.

      • IB Bill

        This is borderline trolling.

        • Beadgirl

          How so? You made sweeping statements about liberals, so in an attempt to point out that fallacy, I made similarly sweeping statements about conservatives. Why is it ok for you to do it, but not me?

  • CK

    ““secession” (aka civil war and mass bloodshed)”

    This is a non-sequitur. The former Soviet republics all seceded without any war or mass bloodshed.

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      You must be new here.

    • Mark Shea

      Riiight. So all the gun heretics talking about the need for guns to Fight Tyranny don’t envision secession as being bloody. Do you even listen to yourselves?

  • CK

    “But over time, the ammo that is only usable in user-specific guns would predominate and ammo for conventional weapons would be expensive and annoying to get. . . If gun owners are inconvenienced by having to subordinate their right of self-defense to the common good, tough.”

    And what if the common good is undermined by such user specific ammo? Why is it assumed that the common good favors increasing gun control? Perhaps the common good favors decreasing gun control.

    • CK

      As for regulations requiring user specific ammo, the compliance and legal costs would naturally benefit the large gun manufacturers against the smaller more marginal producers.

      • Mark Shea

        Boo hoo. Remember all that stuff about healthy competition? Anybody who want could get out in front of this tech, build a good gun compliant with the regs and make a fortune.

        It’s fascinating how the gun culture so urgently counsels defeat and giving up every step of the way.

        • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

          Maybe they just have a more realistic understanding of pragmatism and probability than you do.

          • Kenneth

            Or they’re just “can’t do” sort of people who “know” something isn’t achievable because they have a quasi-religious ideological investment in making sure nothing changes.

            • Mark Shea

              What amazes me is that I’m getting mail from readers who are telling me that creating tech to make guns usable only by authorized users is a “fairy tale” and “science fiction” (you know, like cell phone passwords), but armed insurrection and secession is just solid practical thinking. In.Sane.

              • CK

                “What amazes me is that I’m getting mail from readers who are telling me that creating tech to make guns usable only by authorized users is a “fairy tale” and “science fiction” (you know, like cell phone passwords), but armed insurrection and secession is just solid practical thinking. In.Sane.”

                As Chesterton once rightly quipped: “We might take, for example, the case of that strange class of notions which underlie the word “union,” and all the eulogies heaped upon it. Of course, union is no more a good thing in itself than separation is a good thing in itself. To have a party in favour of union and a party in favour of separation is as absurd as to have a party in favour of going upstairs and a party in favour of going downstairs. The question is not whether we go up or down stairs, but where we are going to, and what we are going, for? Union is strength; union is also weakness. It is a good thing to harness two horses to a cart; but it is not a good thing to try and turn two hansom cabs into one four-wheeler. Turning ten nations into one empire may happen to be as feasible as turning ten shillings into one half-sovereign. Also it may happen to be as preposterous as turning ten terriers into one mastiff . The question in all cases is not a question of union or absence of union, but of identity or absence of identity. “

              • Jmac

                Considering how hilariously uninformed the general public is about technology, I’d wager that there’s a few technologies *in existence* that your readers would dismiss as bad sci-fi.

                • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

                  Feel free to let the state of NJ know about these technologies. They’ve had a smart gun law on the books since 2002 and have only waited for that technology to become useable for them to start enforcing a mandate for smart guns in the state.

                  Knock yourself out.

                  • Jmac

                    Calm that jerking knee, my friend. I was talking about tech in general, not specifically the tech Mark is talking about. Since I never intend to own a gun, I haven’t exactly taken the time to do an exhaustive search of the available tech in that area. Given what I know of the problem though, I can’t imagine it would be too difficult to come up with a simple solution.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

                      There have been research grants available for at least a decade and more for smart gun technology and there’s obvious money on the table for the production of such arms. However, no such arms have been produced even though there is already one ready made market to start a roll out in (NJ) and no doubt more more than happy to go down that road if someone, anyone would actually ship something that works as advertised.

                      This is a harder problem than most people who are uninformed about the history of this fight think. They think that the magic technology fairy is going to solve this in no time because of course nobody’s tried to fix this before now.

        • CK

          “Boo hoo. Remember all that stuff about healthy competition? Anybody who want could get out in front of this tech, build a good gun compliant with the regs and make a fortune.

          It won’t be the smaller firms; it won’t be the firms with marginal resources. It is through regulatory dictates like this that the Distributist firm is crushed at the expense of the large corporations with teams of engineers and lawyers that can handle the compliance costs. This is just a simple understanding of economics. Frederic Bastiat and Henry Hazlitt gave cogent explanations of this sort of problem, I urge a reading.

          “It’s fascinating how the gun culture so urgently counsels defeat and giving up every step of the way.”

          Counseling against what would be problematic to the common good in favor of particular interests of large gun manufacturers (large corporations always win out in increasing regulatory environments) is not counseling defeat. It’s merely pointing out the consequences of a particular regulatory environment.

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            The NRA is a mouthpiece for large gun makers. Yet it opposes measures like Mark’s. Perhaps they know something you don’t about the economics of guns.

            • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

              The NRA is threatened constantly on its right by the Gun Owners of America as well as other, more militant firearms groups. GOA competes with the NRA for memberships, influence, and donations. It cannot ignore that existential threat to its own financial position.

              You cannot understand the NRA without looking at threats to it from both sides of the gun spectrum.

    • Seamus

      If ammo for conventional weapons becomes “expensive and annoying to get,” the owners can just make their own, as many of them now do.

      • Mark Shea

        Yes. As I say, not a sovereign cure all. So?

        • Seamus

          So it’s a waste of time that fails to accomplish its goal, while inconveniencing normal folks. Like the requirement that we jump through all sorts of hoops to buy Sudafed, in a misguided and ineffective effort to cut down on meth production.

          • Mark Shea

            Can’t Do! Give up! Won’t work! Don’t try! Don’t even attempt to *imagine* ways these objections might be overcome and bugs ironed out.

            • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

              Some of us imagine quite well how moving most people away from commercial ammunition and to homemade would make things worse. Fighting against things that make things worse is nether status quo, nor particularly against any part of the deposit of faith. Even the sainthood process has a designated guy that says “no”. Why should a public policy debate lack one? Climb the hill, overcome the objections, know the issue, be more than someone who parachutes in and pronounces from on high and lets others do the detail work.

  • Loud

    Think “All-Star”. They let cops call in and disable a cars engine. What if the replaced a peice of the mechenism with a collapsible part, one whose shape is slightly different so that it cant just be replaced with a normal part. If someone goes mad, they can disable guns owned by that person, if a gun is stolen, you could report it and it will be disabled before the theif can do much damage with it. You wouldnt be able to stockpile stolen weapons to use in something big, they would be innefective a few hours after being stolen. There is one problem to the allstar approch: there is no defense against our own government. Sure,now we deal with small tyrannoes, ones that can be accepted, but what of thirty years from now? The puropse of the second ammendment wasnt to protect us when times are good, but when things go bad. I suppose the solution is to place it only in assult wepons the gov hates so much, so that we will still have protection from any future problems in the form of small arms and yet are protected here and now, assult wepons to defend against mobs or multiple atackers, and a way to disable them should they be used against inoccents. Its a crappy compermise, but something needs to be done.

  • Jack

    For Irenist; actually, the use of firearms as self defense tools is quite high – the range, depending on the study is 1,000,000 -2,500,000 times per year. The high end comes from a study authored by Gary Kleck in the late 90′s. Just fyi. I’m not sure about Mark’s policy on linking articles, but google can help you out.

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      Thanks, Jack. I think linked articles are fine, btw.

  • http://jenniferfitz.wordpress.com Jennifer Fitz

    Mark,

    I appreciate where you’re coming from, but I think the proposed solution’s a no-go. I live in gun-land. I won’t say we’re the reddest state in the union, but we’re in the running for sure. And living in gun-land does change your perspective — its sort of the difference between someone who lives in a nice walkable town saying, “Hey, cars are dangerous — let’s seriously restrict them!” versus someone who does NASCAR for a living, who’s inclination is to automatically say, “Don’t touch our vehicles! We need ‘em! We love ‘em! They aren’t that dangerous if you know what you’re doing!”

    On the one hand, no, you don’t want a bunch of race car drivers deciding traffic laws for a nation. On the other hand, let me gently say it: You sound kinda like a guy who’s never driven a car, telling us how to fix cars so that there will never be another tragic accident. I appreciate your willingness to give it a shot in looking for solutions. I’m all for brainstorming, and in brainstorming no idea is too crazy. But understand that to the folks who use guns, collect guns, shoot guns for fun, or carry them for self- or communal-defense, yeah, you sound like you just c&p’d a solution from 19th century sci-fi novel.

    I know you’re trying. I know the rabid conspiracy theorists aren’t helping you. Understand that for a citizen of gun-land, the calculus is very different, in evaluating potential laws and solutions, than it is for someone who doesn’t really see much of the point in this whole gun thing anyway.

    I have no idea what your background is, and whether you’ve got a personal story that makes this a particularly sensitive topic for you, or if you’re just working from good human solidarity, trying to protect others from tragedy. Understand that for residents of gun-land, when we know someone who’s been shot in a workplace shooting, or raped and left for dead in a home invasion, our knee-jerk reaction is, “We need better defense. There are maniacs are out there. If only there’d been a cop / soldier / armed citizen on hand when the bad guy struck, this tragedy could have been avoided. And now someone wants to leave us disarmed against them?!”

    Is that an irrational reaction? Perhaps. But consider that it also is a reaction borne from a lifetime living in gun-land, and seeing the tool used properly, not abused. Seeing over and again that decency, self-control, and good safety practices really do work most of the time.

    So. What I’d advise, is that you take some time to get a feel for the calm, responsible, rational contingent of the opposing side of the debate — admittedly not a crowd you’ll likely meet in your combox :-) . Not because I think you’ll be converted — takes years of drinking the water before that’ll happen. But because it would be a very good thing for reasonable folks from both sides of the gun-line to look for how to understand one another, and thus find solutions that are amenable to both. I don’t think it’s impossible.

    Jen.

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      ^Awesome contribution to the conversation. I for one, feel better educated after having read it.

    • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

      We have relatives who collect guns and practice with some of them. They are wonderful people. But who is proposing to take that sort of firearms away from anybody?

      • Mark Shea

        Nobody. Yet that fantasy absolutely dominates the conversation to the degree that I can’t make a common sense proposal–having nothing to do with that–which is not immediately derailed back to “HITLER IS COMING TO TAKE OUR GUNS!” Crazy.

        • thomas tucker

          Mark, your proposals are interesting. What I fail to see, and please correct my vision, is how your proposals will do away with those 10,000 murders every year. Criminals, by definition, don’t follow the laws, and will still smuggle in weapons or find ways around the technology. And crazy people will continue to murder and maim, albeit with other weapons. Plus. there is always the law of unintened consequences, and if this makes it harder for innocent gun owners to protect themselves in an emrgency, then the number of eaths could go up, not down.

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            I don’t think Mark’s proposal is intended to do away with all gun murders. Just to lessen them. Which is a legitimate goal.

          • Mark Shea

            I discuss all this. I don’t understand what I said that was unclear. Sure some people might go to the trouble of making their own bullets for conventional arms. But over time, the annoyance and expense will take those old arms out of circulation just as upgrades have meant that nobody uses 8086′s anymore.

            • thomas tucker

              Well, you certainly didn’t discuss my points in your post above. Maybe somewhere else.

              • Mark Shea

                ? I’m confused. But I don’t have time to write more right now. Work beckons.

                • thomas tucker

                  Later then. Maybe someone else will tackle it. To reiterate, I have three points: first, this might decrease gun murders by some people but probaably not by criminals, and second, murders/suicides by other weapons will go up to take their place. Third, there is the Law of Unintended Consequences, whereby if you make it harder for non-criminals to use guns, then there might be an increase in deaths due to the many gun-as-self-defense events that happen every year.

                  • Jmac

                    “first, this might decrease gun murders by some people but probaably [sic] not by criminals.”

                    Then what would you call those who murder with guns?

                    “second, murders/suicides by other weapons will go up to take their place.”

                    Do you have numbers to back this up? Will the numbers be of similar magnitude to current murders/suicides?

                    “Third, there is the Law of Unintended Consequences, whereby if you make it harder for non-criminals to use guns, then there might be an increase in deaths due to the many gun-as-self-defense events that happen every year.”

                    Again, do you have numbers to back this up, or is this merely a slippery slope argument?

            • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

              Just like outlawing narcotics has made their production and use go into decline?

              • Mark Shea

                No. Actually, not like that at all, since I’m not talking about outlawing guns.

                • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

                  You were talking about creating a regulatory framework that makes existing guns obsolete. Which is, for all intents and purposes, a form of outlawing guns.

                  • Mark Shea

                    No. It’s a form of regulating what sort of arms we can use, which we already do. That’s why you have no right to keep and bear nuclear weapons.

        • http://frmartinfox.blogspot.com FrMartinFox

          In reading this thread, I think there is a kind of unstated agreement, between our genial host, and the unreflective people he’s playing off of, about what the “take our guns away” threat really is.

          Yes, you’re right, it’s very unlikely that the government is going to take away EVERY gun from EVERYONE.

          That’s a meaningless threat.

          But is there a danger that the government will take away SOME guns from SOME people? Why, of course: that’s what the President, and various leaders in Congress and in particular states, are actively trying to do.

          If the government says, “you can have any gun you want, don’t worry! Er, just not THIS gun, which–er, just happens to be the gun you need!”–on a practical level, that means “taking your guns away.” Or to state it more precisely, it may well mean taking away from you, meaningful self-defense.

          I see this subject from the point of view of natural law. Does an individual have a right to self defense? Yes, we all agree (I assume). OK, but how does that shake out?

          How about this question: if you live in a neighborhood where you can reasonably fear an assault, and the best weapon you can think of for your safety is one the government declared illegal, are you a bad person if you go get a weapon, illegally, in order to protect yourself (and perhaps others)?

          And then, the followup question: is a policy that puts a citizen in the situation I just described, a just policy? Should it not be changed so that people acting for their own safety, should not be deemed lawbreakers?

        • Seamus

          Nobody? Maybe not you, but you don’t have to dig very deep to find gun controllers who are talking about exactly that. Like Charles Krauthammer: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19960408&slug=2323082

  • Mercury

    Mark, as always, eminently reasonable.

    I like it, except maybe the caliber thing may need to be worked on.

    It’s also possible to have collector guns deactivated, though some people like reenactors do use reproduction muskets.

    I wonder if we can expect Washington to be as reasonable as you though? :)

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      I think we can expect Washington to block any serious gun reforms for a long while yet. The NRA isn’t going to let anything like what Mark’s proposing through the G.O.P.-majority House that we’re likely to have until at least the next census. (And possibly beyond, depending on who controls state legislatures when post-census decennial Congressional redistricting happens.) Still, Mark is contributing to a climate in which people who have learned to think with the Church on abortion can also learn to think with the Church on guns. That in itself is important work–both spiritually, and as groundwork for future political progress on the issue.

  • Jack

    Respectfully Ireneist, I would day, that Kleck’s study has only been “debunked” within, the gun control community, by which I mean the Brady campaign types.

    That said,plenty of, other studys land into the million plus uses zone. Point is, self defense with firearms is a non-negligable number.

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      Well, let’s grant that for argument’s sake. That makes gun ownership good and a total ban bad, just like some of the other goods Mark was discussing above. However, it’s thinking akin to heresy in religion to focus solely on one good to the exclusion of others. Thus, knee-jerk opposition to any and all gun regulations (as we see from the NRA) is unhelpful, even granting that guns are good in their place.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    The Soviet- post-Soviet situation is not really analogous to anything happening in the US. These are very different societies with different histories and traditions.

    But the SU did fall with minimum bloodshed, which was not what a lot of people were predicting for it. There was also the issue of command and control of nuclear weapons systems. In the fall of ’91 I spoke with the chief adviser to the Russian Government on nuclear weapons, a general who had been a colonel in command of a brigade of SS-18s, and he was extremely concerned. Thank God, it turned out that those in control of the weapons were sane and responsible people, and that someone *was* in control.

    I don’t see the US as a proper analogy. Things work here. There is food in the stores, gasoline at the filling stations, things work. There, the shops were empty, gasoline was being sold out of jugs on street corners. Across the street from where I was living there was a store selling dairy products, and I woke one morning to hear and watch a near-riot going on as people jostled to be first in. Someone I knew saw the teenagers behind the counter of a butcher shop tossing sausage wrapped in newspaper at the mob. A rare shipment had come in, and the kids were terrified that their arms would be ripped off.

    In countries that work and where the essentials of life are readily available, where the government can guarantee control and stability, law and order, there is highly unlikely to be rebellion. No one looks for trouble unless it is absolutely unavoidable. The population will simply not stand for that kind of chaos and anarchy.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    One point: your son’s fingerswipe can be bypassed in an emergency, precisely because people get all shaky after the adrenaline dump.

    • Mark Shea

      Okay. So what? Attempt nothing? Do nothing? What are you saying?

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        That it is a bad comparison, precisely because of the emergency override. Love the leap to assumptions though. You never got overwrought like this in the torture debates, and you changed a lot of hearts and minds by taking people seriously.

        • Mark Shea

          I’m not leaping to any assumptions. I’m asking what you are saying. Because from here it sounds like yet another iteration of “Won’t work. Give up. Don’t try.” What irks me is the Can’t Do Spirit that dominates responses to reasonable proposals like this. If that’s not what you are saying, then what are you saying?

  • Scotty

    The most frightening moment of my life was hearing a loud unexplained noise in my house during the middle of the night and not having a quickly accessible firearm in my nightstand to protect my wife, my infant child, and myself. That’s why I now own a firearm. It’s 99.999% likely I will never have reason to point that firearm at another human being, but it doesn’t hurt to “be prepared” as a husband and father. That’s the choice I’ve made and for which I am ultimately responsible before God, my family, and society should that potentially deadly scenario ever occur.

    Every firearm owner should understand the immense responsibility that comes from ownership. The sad reality is too many probably do not. No “background check” or “safety course” can instill responsibility in people. It comes with hours upon hours of practice, training with experienced (often professional) shooters, and expert familiarity with your weapon. You are absolutely correct that technology affects human behavior – both for good and for bad.

    • Sus

      Did ever find out what the loud unexplained noise was?

  • Jack

    My observation Mark, is that pretty much everyonehere believes you when you say that confiscation isn’t on the, table; we don’t believe our elected leaders, and so the conversation slides.

    Also, I’m curious what you mean by thinking with the church on guns. By my reading, theres nothing in church teaching prohibiting a) collecting them like trains, stamps, or model airplanes, b) participating in shooting sports, or c) bearing them in reasonable and proportionate defense of self or others.

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      I don’t think there’s anything to forbid (a)-(c). But Mark isn’t proposing to outlaw those things. And, although there are extremists in the gun control community who would, admittedly, like to ban all guns, such measures are not under consideration anywhere in our politics at the moment, or for the foreseeable future.

    • Mark Shea

      By “thinking with the Church” I mean having the mental habit of rightly relating subordinate goods to the common good and the whole tradition. Self-defense is a subordinate good to the common good. Using guns to defend oneself is a prudential judgment out of a whole range of possible forms of self-defense. Gun heresy takes this one good and exaggerates it to an absolute, just as pro-choice heresy takes free will and exaggerates it to an absolute. In both cases, even a mild suggestion of the total tradition and the common good are met with irrational hostility.

  • Jack

    …and by “you” in paragraph two of my previous post, I meant to say Ireneist…

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      That’s okay. I thought you meant Mark, but presumptuously answered anyway. So it all worked out….

  • Jack

    Ireneist, right, but I’m asking you to clarify your statement-you want us to “think with the church” you seem to want substantially greater limits on firearms from the tenor of your posts (if this,is wrong, then my apologies), and I imagine you see yourself as thinking with the church, so what is the, position you’re attributing to the church?

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      Pretty much just the one Mark attributes to the Church. Guns are fine in their place, but the state has a real regulatory role to play. Guns’ place includes legitimate self-defense (take the arms borne by the Swiss Guards, e.g.).

      As for me, my personal emotional relationship with the Second Amendment doesn’t start so much with the legal tradition that actually led up to it (the English Bill of Rights, etc.) so much as it does with the history of the Irish Penal Laws, which, among other things, forbade Irish Catholics from bearing arms. (Along with holding public office, and lots of other stuff.) My initial emotional response to gun issues, based on my reading of that ancient history in my dad’s homeland, is to be grateful that Catholics in this country may keep and bear arms.

      However, like anything else (automobiles, e.g.), the fact that something is and ought to remain legal doesn’t mean that it ought not to be regulated. What frustrates me about the gun control debate, and gun rights proponents, is that any discussion of what seem to me to be common-sense regulations that would protect innocent people from gun crimes and gun accidents seems to get bogged down in wholly unrealistic fears about gun confiscation. So that’s pretty much where I’m at.

  • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

    It’s my wife’s birthday and I need to go be with her now, so I’m going to bid you all adieu. I highly recommend, though, for a really thorough and thoughtful analysis on the gun control debate, the following piece by Larry Correia. He’s a novelist who writes about killing monsters (YMMV, but I love the books) but he’s also a firearms expert and CCW instructor. I think this is really worth consideration:

    http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      There’s a lot of perfectly reasonable stuff in there, actually. A lot of it answers arguments (ban all guns, e.g.) that no one here is making, though. Anyway, happy birthday to your wife. God bless you both.

  • Jack

    Mark,

    I’m really going you’re not lumping me in as a heretic here, Mark, because it was the perception of bring broad brushed that frustrated me in the first instance. In the second, I think that perdition is not uncommon, and tends to shut down productive conversation. Just saying.

    • Mark Shea

      You seem quite reasonable to me.

      • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

        Do I get to be a heretic though? Pretty please?

  • Jack

    okay, I just read my last comment, and my phones’ autocorrect murdered it. Please stand by for a corrected version.

  • Jack

    Mark,

    I’m really hoping you’re not lumping me in as a heretic here, Mark, because it was the perception of bring broad brushed that frustrated me in the first instance. In the second, I think that perception is not uncommon, and tends to shut down productive conversation. Just saying.

    Okay, corrected. Anyhow, my last word on the subject for now on account of productive labor.

  • Anson

    This proposal would apply to all firearms? Even to my Remington 700 which only holds four rounds and has to have the bolt cycled after each shot. It’s no one choice for mass shootings. No one is going to choose it for a driveby shooting or to hold up a convenience. It wouldn’t even make a very good gun to repel that usurpatious government we keep hearing we need to be on guard against. But it’s a pretty good rifle hunting elk. I don’t like military looking weapons, anything made out of plastic. I like guns with wood stocks and gleaming metal barrels. Twentieth century tech ruined rifles with muzzle brakes and picatinny rails, composite stocks and electronic scopes. I hate them all. There is something timeless about elk camp. You drink coffee brewed in a tin coffee pot and use coleman lanterns for light. You imagine that this is very nearly exactly what elk camp looked like in those first post-war years, or the years when your dad and uncles were still boys eager to jump out of their sleeping bags at the break of dawn to beginning glassing adjacent hills for a sizeable herd. Nothing would wreck the timelessness of elk camp more than looking over at your rifle resting against the hand carved saddle bequeathed to you by your grandfather just as the firelight catches the gleam of the hardwood stock right above the retinal scanner… Ban all the semi-automatics you want. Limit magazine capacities to five rounds, but don’t wreck elk camp. Please.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m trying to find where I said “ban guns”.

      • Anson

        I don’t think you did say it. I’m offering it in exchange for your not turning aesthetically pleasing pieces of history that are not known for their utility as weapons of mass slaughter into props on the set of Buck Rogers. I also don’t like when people destroy the dashboard of a classic automobile to make room for their sound system. Some of us venture into the backcountry to get away from cell phones and computers. Please don’t build them into our rifles so we can’t even get that small respite. You don’t want to ban my rifle, but it sounds like you would like to make it impossible for me to buy .30-06 rounds for it after a couple of years. I’ll only be able to keep hunting if I’m willing to cart the very technology I’m trying to get away from into the backcountry. That makes me sad. I’m willing to have you ban and confiscate all kinds of guns in exchange for leaving me alone. I’m not saying you said you wanted to. I’m saying I would prefer it.

  • Peggy R

    We will continue to have violent rampages with some sort of weapons as long as we have a society that can’t deal with its feelings. (Yes, weapons other than guns are likely to yield fewer victims and fewer deaths–not considering bombs.) I think in particular, we do need to talk about boys who’ve been medicated with ADD drugs, how their emotional growth has been stunted, or perhaps how they’re angry about what has been done to them. Additionally, the violent video games and movies are important cultural influences that should worry us. Playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians without realistic bloody visuals is a very different thing. Children knew that dead was dead. The kids today get absorbed into these fantasy worlds in video games. They get angry when told it’s time to quit and come back to the real world, do real things with real people.

    We need to do something about the culture, not just about guns.

  • Linda C.

    I have a little different take on this than some—what makes me lose sleep (to play off of Mark’s phrase) is not reasonable regulation, reasonably arrived at, but the larger issue (to me, at least) of a president who in effect says to the legislative branch, “Pass the regulations I want, or I will go around you”; to those who say the text of the 2nd Amendment( purely as an example) is irrelevant or that it does not say what it clearly says; and those who believe the proper way to “interpret” the law is to devise the desired result and find a member of the judiciary (or write an executive order or bureaucratic regulation) to accomplish what cannot be done legislatively. The Constitution provides for its own amendment, a process which no one on either side of the gun control issue seems willing to even look at, possibly because the amendment process is (intentionally) long and arduous, with no guarantee of success, and it has become so much easier to “go around it”.

    I personally suspect that a government which increasingly strays from being a government of duly-passed laws and its own founding documents, in favor of ruling by executive order, bureaucratic regulation and judicial fiat, is a government which is headed in the direction of denying rights and legal protection to its citizens, and has as its primary interest the maintenance of its own power. To my mind that’s a broader issue than the specific one of what should be done with guns.

    • Jmac

      Which of the executive orders specifically do you take issue with?

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        I can’t speak to Linda C’s position but for myself I simply do not trust that this administration will handle the matter correctly. The orders are vague enough that an honorable administration who hasn’t been caught running guns to mexican drug lords (Operation Fast and Furious, look it up) among other gun related sins might generate useful progress. If they’re willing to do that in contravention of common sense and existing regulations/laws, vague executive orders are just asking for trouble.

        • Jmac

          Oh I’ve seen the fallout over Fast and Furious, certainly. But do you see anything in the (admittedly) vague executive orders that could actually be enforced in any real way? Because it seems he did a lot of prioritizing for federal departments, and a lot of asking congress to do the rest.

  • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

    The state of NJ passed, way back in 2002, legislation requiring custom coded firearms as soon as they were technically feasible. NJ still has not put this law into function and no doubt spends money every year reviewing the state of the art. Nothing has passed their scrutiny and NJ is not really well known as a haven for gun nuts. Mark, were you even aware of this law? The NRA certainly is and its failure to produce workable technology and the demonstrated political shenanigans that were given birth by that law have given them a healthy suspicion that this is legislation that need not spread at present. For people who only parachute in when the media whips up a frenzy, they don’t know the history and even the existence of this law.

    There is a different kind of smart gun which only fires in proximity to a magnetic ring worn on the hand or on both hands if you’re ambidextrous. But this wouldn’t have helped in the Sandy Hook case because the shooter would have simply stripped his mom’s finger of the magnetic ring(s) after he killed her or would have swiped a ring at leisure before he killed her.

    I will be kind and omit a discussion on chipping people to enable them to use firearms with description, pro and con. Your ban hammer gets enough of a workout already.

    Again, nothing fundamentally wrong with the theology you’re espousing. It’s just being projected on a world that is not the one we live on day-to-day and that’s what is making your policy prescriptions wrong.

    • Jmac

      What did NJ offer to technology firms in order to produce said tech? Was it a law that merely said “once these things appear, use them”, or did it actually provide a plan for the acquisition of technologies to make this feasible?

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        There were state grants and a decade long effort to develop workable prototypes out of the NJ Institute of technology. They had a marketing and distribution agreement with Metalstorm, an innovative firearms manufacturer, who was willing to ship if anything came of the research. So far nothing has and NJ no longer has the money to pay for further research.

    • Mark Shea

      Give up. Don’t try. Won’t work. The Can’t Do Spirit of the Gun Lobby!

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        At a certain point it is reasonable to stop trying to make a certain technology work for awhile. I’ve seen wonderful stuff that simply was too far ahead of its time that came back decades later. We seem to be in that sort of situation with this technology.

        Feel free to finance further research. If you want other people to do so, like NJ state government, the money has to come from somewhere and you really ought to take responsibility for the other stuff that will not be financed in order to make room for this project.

  • Nate

    We have ways of stopping unauthorized access to our guns. Even a budget $150-$200 Hipoint Handgun comes with a Trigger lock and deteachable magazines. These school shootings all have in common two things: lack of parenting and not locking their guns up while not in use. If We ever go with a regulatory scheme as your suggesting, I better as heck start seeing mandatory breathalyzers that connect to the ignition installed in cars for the sake of “the common good” as well. I refuse to have a chip installed in my guns because some folks don’t know how to use all of the safety technology gun and gun accessory manufacturers have been making for many years. Plus Anson and his beloved elk hunting rifle have to be regulated in the same way as us “military” gun owners. His rifle is more deadly than my .22 ruger with a muzzle break and scope on it.

  • Nate

    We have ways of stopping unauthorized access to our guns. Even a budget $150-$200 Hipoint Handgun comes with a Trigger lock and deteachable magazines. These school shootings all have in common two things: lack of parenting and not locking their guns up while not in use. If We ever go with a regulatory scheme as your suggesting, I better as heck start seeing mandatory breathalyzers that connect to the ignition installed in cars for the sake of “the common good” as well. I refuse to have a chip installed in my guns because some folks don’t know how to use all of the safety technology gun and gun accessory manufacturers have been making for many years.

  • Nate

    You could at least “try” to answer the objections of gun owners Mark. We have gun safety technology. It is precisley those of us who are the most opposed to stricter guns laws who use trigger locks, detachable mags, safeties, gun lockers, and biometric safes on a daily basis.

    • Mark Shea

      Um, I did try to answer the objections of gun owners. That’s what this post was. It is, however, impossible to answer the objections of people whose objection is simply “Can’t do. Won’t work. Give up.” They aren’t interested in answers. If they were, they would not ask me whether this is feasible. They would ask an engineer. Those who do have some knowledge about some of the tech objections have replied in this space to the Can’t Do folks, pointing out that a lot of their Can’t Do talk is hurried, premature, and *eager* to say It Can’t Be Done. But the basic problem here is not technical. It can, in fact, be done. It’s the Can’t Do Spirit that is the main problem. Whatever the Can’t Do crowd says, what it really means is “Don’t Wanna Do It.”

      In short, there are two kind of questioner: those who ask questions to find things out and those who ask questions to keep from finding things out. People who are asking me engineering questions and then pretending my lack of expertise in engineering justifies the declaration “It Can’t Be Done” are asking in order to keep from finding anything out. They are in a hurry to dismiss me as a vendor of science fiction. What they really need to do is ask an engineer with the relevant competencies what the technology we have would be capable of if we wanted to invent such devices.
      s

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        There is a difference between won’t work, and we tried and it hasn’t worked, a difference you seem determined to gloss over. The NRA does a lot of work for gun safety. They are not obligated to lessen their efforts in order to shift some of that money to funding smart guns, nor should they be. It is quite likely that this sort of transaction would actually cost lives.

  • Nate

    “Can’t do. Won’t work. Give up”.
    We need better Gun and Gun Safety education, not more regulation. This is an example of a gun nut who gets what I am saying about simply using the technology we already have (video is clean other than 4 instances of bleeped out language but may be NSFW:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLLQWplcLgg

  • Dave

    Fantastic idea about the gun scan idea. I’ve had a finger scan on my dell laptop for four years to keep the zombies away from access and it works without a glitch. It probably cost dell $10. It makes a lot of sense to install and wire them to a firing pin lock as a safety on a firearm. Manufacturers should install them voluntarily to replace manual safety or in addition to the safety already on all firearms. So why didn’t the VP talk to Mark when he was looking for solutions?