A reader thinks he disagrees with me

A reader thinks he disagrees with me December 21, 2012

…and he writes to gripe at me for not trying to provide some “explanation” for the monstrous outburt of evil in Newtown:

There are only “no answers” because we studiously avoid looking for answers, because the search would lead us to answers that are politically and economically inconvenient for us.  These are not unforseeable once-in-a-generation lightning strike tragedies.  They are a form of human sacrifice that is tacitly approved and enabled by us because we have made a conscious choice that the status quo is worth the price in any number of lives that might be required to sustain it.  It is the same spineless idiocy that used to enable communities to bury a dozen members of each high school class from drunk driving accidents in the 1970s and thousands of coal miners each year a century ago. “We just can’t know why these things happen” was the refrain then too from apologists of the legal and cultural status quo.

Those who say we should just cast our eyes up to Heaven and offer it up to Jesus and focus on the wonderful tales of selfless sacrifice and avoid “politicizing the tragedy” are moral cowards. Without even having the courage to put their names behind it, they are giving a nodding approval to the execution warrants of the next victims of the next Newtown, and of the tens of thousands who will die in less spectacular shootings every day. They have no business bleating about “the sanctity of life” because they embracing nihilism. Any race of beings who perpetually tell themselves “now is not the right time” to even discuss an existential threat to its children is one that is too brutal and stupid to deserve the sacrifice of a Christ figure.  No god that would offer comfort without admonishment to his people for this pattern of negligence is worthy of worship.

But in fact we are in substantial agreement.  My point was not, “Give up.  It’s stupid to even try to prevent such evils” but “When such evils come, all we can do is suffer them in union with Christ on the cross, not analyze them or solve them.  Evil is a mystery.”

That said, evil is not unanswerable and we are to take what steps we can to oppose it instead of passively sitting there.  So while it is perfectly sound theology to say “Things that cause men to sin are bound to come” it is also perfectly good morals to say, “but woe to him through whom they come” (or as that tough old Catholic buzzard Mother Jones used to say, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”)  The counselors of despair from the gun lobby, which leapt with pre-programmed enthusiasm to express more concern for guns than for the dead, and have spent the past week saying, “There are no answers.  There is nothing anybody can do.  You must resign yourself to the fact that this will happen again and again and again and again” have, as much as the tragedy itself, impressed upon me that fact that there is something deeply evil at work in the battery of NRA Talking Points that go out after each fresh slaughter.  And my reader is right, they essentially urge that we regard each fresh slaughter as a necessary human sacrifice for maintaining the status quo–including this most recent sacrifice of six year olds to Moloch.

The one and only policy recommendation made by those who persistently offer these counsels of despair is that we should become a garrison state in which everybody is packing heat at all times, coupled with piety about the need for every member of our hyper-militarized universal gun culture to be pious Christians.  These two counsels are hard to square with one another.  And the former counsel tends to suggest that the latter is just windy Christianese covering a deep belief in the efficacy of trusting chariots and horses and not in the name of the Lord our God.  People keep sending me pictures of Israeli teachers with rifles or anecdotes about some guy in Bugtussle who allegedly stopped a bad guy by drawing down on him, as though this is a consolation.  Nobody asks, “And if one of these teachers goes nuts and kills their class, should the students all pack heat too?”  Nobody asks, “Is it really sane to say “Freedom means living in a nation of citizens so terrified of violence that elementary school teachers are carrying rifles and side arms and reduced to living in the same circumstances of siege mentality as Israelis.”  In short, the people in the gun lobby who go all mystical and say, “The problem lies in the human heart” belie their own case the next second by offering, just as gun controllers do, a technological, not a religious, solution: Guns for All.  Why?  Because all they have is a gun and every problem looks like a target.  What they object to is not that gun controllers try to offer a technological fix instead of addressing our broken souls.  Rather, they object to gun controllers threatening access to guns and offer instead the technological fix of more death (for that is, after all, the only thing handguns exist to do: kill humans.)

So while it is true that the core issue is moral and technological fixes cannot address that and only God can, it does not follow that there are no technological aids to the problem, nor that the best technological aid is to help facilitate maximum opportunities to kill human beings in a war of all against all.  Christians have, to be sure, a job to do in helping with the conversion of society.  But prudence also suggests that Christians also have a job to do in making sure nutjobs can’t lay their hands on an assault rifle or a handgun.  That’s not just me.  That’s the American bishops. And it’s not just the American bishops.  It’s Rome.

So when I say that evil is not soluble by some easy-peasy political formula or pious nostrum, I am not in the least trying to suggest we sit on our hands.  We are called to be peacemakers.  We are called to help the Holy Spirit with the conversion of human hearts.  And we are called to limit evil as best we can.  So we are called to limit the access of maniacs, not just to nukes, but to Glocks.

We put a man on the moon.  Finding ways to make it harder for maniacs to obtain massive artillery is well within our grasp and, frankly, the main thing standing in the way is the intransigently obstructionist gun lobby.  And we start that process by not repeating lies about how “there are no answers to keeping massive firepower  out of the hands of lunatics” and rejecting the kind of rhetoric that says it is utopian to want to stop outrages like Sandy Hook.  We believe there are plenty of answers for keeping massive firepower out of the hands of Al Quaeda.  We note that England, Australia and other nations have taken effective action to mitigate against maniacs having easy access to weapons–and have done so without turning into Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, as the gun lobby always assures us will happen to an America that crosses them.

I’m prolife.  Abortion on demand has been the law of the land for forty years.  I recognize that, at the theological level, a universe in which a sovereign God permits abortion and the slaughter of innocents is one of the most profound mysteries we are confronted with.  I have no “answers” to why that is.  But I will believe with my dying breath that He hates it and wills that we fight it.  I will *never* settle for or listen to any voice that says, “There are no answers” to abortion.  Why the hell should I believe the gun lobby when it says exactly the same thing about the slaughter of innocents at Sandy Hook?  Such counsels of despair are, I think, from the devil.

That is not, you will note, a political program.  It is a fundamental orientation of my heart.  I don’t have some thought-through political program.  But I have come to a certain amount of clarity about certain things.  One of them is that when people greet the news of the slaughter of children with “Oh well.  Whaddaya gonna do?  There are no answers.  Lunatics will be lunatics.  We just have to take the risk of a culture in which it’s simple for them to have access to field artillery.  Anything other than that is either utopian or incipient Nazism.” I want to take a shower.

I can’t help but think we are approaching a tipping point of some kind.  Essentially, the present social contract has been “We will trade off a certain number of mass murders (and of course a far greater number of private unnoticed murders) for our present gun culture regime.”  Sooner or later, some outrage (and Sandy Hook may be it) is going to spur a great enough number of people with the money and power to make it happen to say, “Screw this present regime.  Something has to change. We can’t endure these counsels of despair anymore.”  What that change will look like–and whether it will be wise–is anybody’s guess.

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  • The counselors of despair from the gun lobby, which leapt with pre-programmed enthusiasm to express more concern for guns than for the dead, and have spent the past week saying, “There are no answers. There is nothing anybody can do. You must resign yourself to the fact that this will happen again and again and again and again” .

    Not really. They’ve said that the answer to this isn’t some kind of gun ban. And frankly, they’re probably right. Keep in mind that the ‘pre-programmed enthusiasm’ you’re talking about involved an NRA blackout where they kept quiet while people started talking about how the clear solution was ‘BAN SCARY GUNS!!’ Which itself is a pre-programmed answer.

    But prudence also suggests that Christians also have a job to do in making sure nutjobs can’t lay their hands on an assault rifle or a handgun.

    Great. Figure out a way to do that while minimizing or avoiding penalizing non-nutjobs from laying their hands on assault rifles or handguns. And if you turn around and say ‘Well, there’s no way to do that, we have to keep everyone from having access to guns, and by everyone we mean average law-abiding citizens – celebrities and Important People get exceptions’, then we have a problem.

    Why the hell should I believe the gun lobby when it says exactly the same thing about the slaughter of innocents at Sandy Hook?

    Again, they didn’t say there are no answers. They said that the one answer so many people think will solve everything, won’t, and even if it helped, the cost is too great. Rather like how the knee-jerk answer of many people to the prevalence of abortion is ‘more contraception!’ Tell me, Mark, do you think that’s a solution to the problem? Or is it just yet another problem?

    Incidentally, the pro-life comparison is apt precisely because any intelligent pro-lifer realizes that what they want won’t be accomplished by law alone – possibly not even by law in large part. In that case, it would be a step forward, but it is manifestly not a solution to the problem they’ve actually got in mind.

    Your whole post has talked about how the gun lobby is saying that ‘there are no answers’, but again, what they mean is that the idea that the solution here is to ban scary guns (or all guns) is simply wrong. There are other ways to combat the problem, but frankly they too are complicated. Would you like to make it easier for people suspected of being crazy to be committed against their will? More government power to force psychiatric meds on people deemed needing it? Perhaps greater government surveillance of people in general is necessary – I hear police would like greater access to people’s IMs and email and other accounts.

    All distasteful, despite the possibility that they’d help? Then you begin to see the a glimmer of the problem from the perspective of gun rights advocates.

    • Ted Seeber

      Here is a way to do it. Add medical records to the standard criminal background check, and automate the whole mess so that it can be done over a cell phone at a gun show, or by a seller who is selling his gun on craigslist. Enforce it by holding the seller responsible for any crimes committed with the gun he sold if he didn’t do a background check on that gun.

  • Joseph

    Hey Mark,

    I apologize in advance for my suggestion. There is a trend where these school shooters do not actually purchase their own guns that they use in their massacres, rather they steal them or take them from their parents stockpile. Also, those who seek to purchase a gun in order to commit a crime generally don’t do so at a gun shop, they do it on the black market. So, would some new legislation that requires proof from gun purchasers and owners that they have proper gun safes help. Also, could their be an annual “property” tax on weapons to help keep track of them (realizing that this wouldn’t make a difference with those that have acquired their weapons through illegal means… but there is really no way to track that).

    I’m not making an argument for either side here. Just trying to brainstorm without having my judgement clouded by emotion (which is entirely understandable) as it seems the “gun control” crowd and the NRA-heads alike have by essentially staking the claim that anyone who doesn’t take up the cause immediately is an idiotic and cowardly nutcase who either hates children or the Constitution.

  • Scott

    Mark, in light of the horrible tragedy of Sandy Hook and the myriad of emotions it has brought to nearly everyone, I can understand some of what you are saying but not all. You are leading with your heart and not your intellect in this case. No gun law would have stopped this guy period. He was hell bent to kill innocents for whatever twisted and evil reasons. He could have just as well drove his car into a school yard of children playing at recess with the same evil results. I own handguns. I have spent hours teaching my children how to shoot at a local range reponsibly and safely. We shoot targets, tin cans, steel plates and old bowling pins. Shooting people has never been a part of the discussion and I won’t be made to feel guilty by you or anyone else because some guy blows a gasket and decides to use a gun (obtained legally by his mother) to kill innocents. Maybe those of you who live in large cities on the coasts can’t understand the so called “gun culture” of those here in the midwest but nearly every house hold here has a few guns in them and we don’t shoot one another with them except maybe as a last resort in a life threatening situation.

    • “Shooting people has never been a part of the discussion and I won’t be made to feel guilty by you or anyone else because some guy blows a gasket and decides to use a gun (obtained legally by his mother) to kill innocents.”

      You shouldn’t be made to feel guilty.

      But this isn’t the first time I’ve seen it pointed out that the gun used was obtained legally by his mother. I’m not sure why this is pointed out, if it’s not to imply that the question of whether such guns ought to be legally obtainable is not open for discussion.

      But “It’s legal, therefore it ought to be legal” isn’t a sound argument. (I’m reminded of Sonny Bono’s famous comment on illegal immigration: “What’s to talk about? It’s illegal.”)

      • Stu

        I think pointing out that it was legally obtained does go to show that even with following applicable laws, even in a very stringent state like Connecticut, deviant people still find a way. So while we can apply more norms (laws) to the problem, deviant people by definition deviate from the norms. At some point, more laws simply result in diminishing returns and only hurt those who operate within the system.

        But you hit on the real point. One can move to make certain guns illegal BUT going after so-called “assault weapons” (which generally mean fully automatic but to most simply means “scary looking) then you need to look at all semiautomatic weapons. While I don’t believe that will change a thing given a crazy can show up with multiple revolvers and a lever action rifle and kill a fair amount of people as well. In my mind, the next reaction would be to make those weapons illegal as well.

        • ” At some point, more laws simply result in diminishing returns and only hurt those who operate within the system.”

          True enough, and by itself that’s reason to ensure any changes come with a more thorough cost-benefit analysis than “What could it hurt?”

          But even your referring to Connecticut as “a very stringent state” starts a lead toward the “and we’re already at that point” base, from which the question of whether guns like the AR-15 ought to be legally obtainable is not open for discussion.

          And if that question is open for discussion, then “No, an AR-15 offers no advantage to mass shooters over other firearms,” is a very different answer than, “No, banning AR-15s is just the next step to banning all firearms.”

          • Stu

            It’s a different answer but a real concern that falls under “What could it hurt?” So the answer become, “No, an AR-15 offers no advantage to mass shooters over other firearms, so if you are going to do that then what stops you from taking the next step of simply banning all firearms?”

            Personally, I have no problem banning an AR-15. I wouldn’t ever want one. You can’t hunt with it because it is too weak (in fact it is illegal in many place to use such weak weapon) and it’s overly expensive because it looks menacing. But perhaps the “menacing” aspect is worth banning. Perhaps we need to make them less “sexy” for lack of a better term.

            • mike in kc, mo

              “Perhaps we need to make them less “sexy” for lack of a better term.”
              – This is actually what the 1994-2004 Crime Bill focused on. It was also demonstrated to have had zero net affect on violent crime.

              I agree that a BIG part of why most fan boys love ‘battle plastic’ is because of their looks. Heck, I think that’s 90% of what H&K relies on to sell their overpriced firearms. I’ve never owned an AR platform, but I DO own the excellent Ruger Mini-14 ‘ranch rifle’, which is functionally the same, sans sexiness and high price tag…. and is not considered an ‘assault weapon’.

              • Stu


                Did they intentionally focus on that aspect? I think they were ignorant of firearms and were fooled by that aspect.

                • mike in kc, mo

                  Going back and watching the debates (what little there was) on that subject, yeah, that’s what you see. But they were also very ignorant of firearms in general.

                  For a brief while I took a ‘post ban’ AK style rifle in trade for something else. It was identical in all functioning aspects with pre ban semi autos, it simply had no bayonet mount and had a thumb hole stock instead of or pistol grip.

            • Michael

              Is the criteria for the banning of something (anything for that matter) whether or not you would personally want it? I personally never thought I would want one either but then bought one on a whim at a gun show. It is now my favorite rifle. It is easy to shoot. There is so much of an aftermarket for it that it can be tweaked to the shooter’s liking in any number of ways. It is pretty accurate. And it is just a lot of fun. Does you lack of appreciation of those things qualify you to tell me and many others that a ban is not a problem?

              • Stu

                No, Michael.

                I spoke from my personal preference only. I’m not going to lose sleep over the banning of an AR-15. It’s one model. My point was to demonstrate that there are other rifles that are much more capable.

                • Michael

                  There seem to be this mythology that the press is building up that the AR-15 is some kind of super-powerful weapon that no one besides those carefully selected and licensed by the state should have access to. You are right in noting that as rifles go, it is relatively weak and not suitable for much. In fact its cartridge was designed to wound, not to kill, on the battlefield. It is considered weak even for deer hunting. That should not make it anymore suitable for banning than more capable rifles.

                  The federal government has for many years, first through the DCM and then the CMP, made old military issue M-1 Garands available to anyone who wanted them. They are much more devastating weapons capable of bringing down the largest of animals, and men. Should they be banned?

                  • Stu

                    Nope. I own four of them. 🙂

                    • Michael

                      Pretty sexy there, Stu.

          • Dan C

            Most gun laws are made to be unenforceable, or enforceable only in a past-tense, crime-already-done situation. Then people say things like-look, there is already a gun law…

            The creation of systems to prevent harm and injury differ substantially in form from current laws, which seemingly rely on deterrence due to consequences as the main prevention component.

            That is not working.

            So, those philosopher’s and legal types out there structuring laws instead ought to be looking at what systems work. Less chat, less wordiness, more success.

    • Mark Shea

      “You are leading with your heart” and “I won’t be made to feel guilty” are a curious combination of statements. I don’t recall saying anything about honest people who like target shooting being guilty of anything. What I do remark on though, as Tom K. points out, is the rather obviously touchy pre-emptive attempts to say that mere legality automatically renders something right or prudent. It is, I think, you who lead with your heart when you declare, on the basis of nothing, that “no gun law would have stopped this guy”. It’s a favorite trope of the gun lobby and is repeated with Pavlovian regularity, but I see no reason to believe it. Gun laws in Australia have stopped mass murders since 1996. England responded to Dunblane with legislation that has prevented more Dunblanes. Had Lanza’s mother not been allowed to keep an arsenal within easy reach, he could not have done what he did and the myth that he would have just contacted his pals in the Newtown Underworld and ordered up an arsenal is silly. Nobody is saying that American gun culture is a bunch of trigger-happy crazies. What I *am* saying is that the pre-recorded counsels of despair you are offering here are, well, bunk and amount to saying, “Change nothing. Let it all happen again and again and again–or else turn American into a garrison state of terrified, heavily armed citizen soldiers like the very healthy and successful state of Israel.” It is those counsels that I think come from a deeply emotional place of fear, not the obvious and prudent reaction, “Steps must be take to help ensure such a slaughter of children never happens again.” Will there be 100% success? Of course not. The fifth commandment likewise does not have a 100% success rate. But it is a counsel of despair to say, “You can’t guarantee total success, so don’t even try.” I refuse to believe those counsels of despair.

      • Stephen J.

        I think, Mark, you may be hearing “You can’t guarantee total success, so don’t even try” when what the defenders of firearms rights are saying is, “We cannot achieve further meaningful results down this road without incurring unacceptable costs of a different kind, so despite our fully justified and shared anguish at this horror, it is both unjust and counterproductive to try to go further in that direction.”

        To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it is not a counsel of despair to say, “Even if this measure would further increase the safety and happiness of the majority, we cannot do it; it is unjust.” Yes, steps must be taken to help ensure such a slaughter of children never happens again — but they must be just steps, and they must be prudent, i.e. practical and effective, steps. To protest that some steps currently being called for are, in one’s opinion, neither just nor prudent does not mean the protesters are speaking in a spirit of despair or malice.

        • Stephen J.

          That said, it is certainly not out of the question to consider what kind of further restrictions *can* be made to firearm access, within the limits of what is just and prudent.

        • Mark Shea

          In other words, the gun culture is saying what it always says, “Do nothing–except Guns for All!” Sorry, but that’s insane.

          And yes, there is a very considerable element of ridicule for a normal and healthy moral instinct which cries out at a room full of slaughtered children. Every time I read a representative of the gun culture sneer, “Here come the Do Something People”–as though the normal healthy desire to stop such horrors is a sign of idiocy–I simply hear the voice of hell speaking.

          • Stu


            Unfair broadbrush on your part. Unfair.

            I take issue with the “do something people” because they often don’t achieve any real results and take actions that aren’t directed towards the problem at hand. If your car won’t start, do you change the tire?

            Propose meaningful change all you want. But don’t get upset if someone rightly points out that it doesn’t address the problem or the possible unintended consequences might be too great.

            In fact, here is a thought. How about you assume that I am operating in good faith and I will do the same to you?

            • Mike Petrik

              Yes, it was unfair, but get used to that on this blog.
              Over 40% of the children born in this country are illegitimate. Make no mistake: the disordered culture that has produced such a tragic datum is largely a product of “do something people.” For years we have created and expanded all manner of programs that have worked very effectively to destroy families. This was not an intended consequence, of course. It is the consequence of (no pun intended) a ready, shoot, aim strategy driven by the passions of “do something people.” People suffer; the results are disturbing; but the “do something people” carry on, feeling good about themselves all the while.

          • mike in kc, mo

            “In other words, the gun culture is saying what it always says, “Do nothing–except Guns for All!” Sorry, but that’s insane.”
            – I think you need to take a breath and calm down, Mark. What people are saying is that any legislation that comes of this (and yes, I think there is soem that could be very worthwhile) should be narrow in focus and actually address a problem.

            Calling people who point out that pushing back into law a bill that after 10 years even its proponents admitted had done nothing to limit crime (ie, it did not achieve the goal it was enacted for) and put ill defined regulations on non criminals ‘insane’ seems a bit unbalanced on your part.

            “as though the normal healthy desire to stop such horrors is a sign of idiocy–I simply hear the voice of hell speaking.”
            – I recall similar ad hominem attacks being leveled against people who thought that slamming in laws establishing a massively intrusive federal security state after 9/11 might not be a good idea and that, you know, maybe we should cool down a bit and have a genuine debate about what would constitute a proper response. Would you also consider them to be demons from Hell?

            Equating people who say ‘based on previous laws and statistics, throwing out a massive, intrusive blanket law that doesn’t actually do anything that is claims it does is not something I will support’ with demons is a bit, well, irrational on your part is the most charitable thing I can say.

            What people are objecting to is trying to slam in laws based on justified emotional outrage. That is NEVER a good thing. Period. Laws that affect hundreds of millions of people need to be debated rationally by both sides.

            • Mark Shea


              Get it. There is a difference between specific policy recommendations and the simple visceral demand that some sort of action be taken to try to prevent a future horror. The gun lobby goes further than poo poo dumb idea. They frequently–indeed typically–poo pooh the moral revulsion and desire to act. Yeah, I think it is evil to try to quell and sneer at moral horror at a school shooting. Deal with it.

              • Stu

                Are Mike or Nate or I part of the “gun lobby?” Are we sneering at moral horror?

              • mike in kc, mo

                Mark, first, thanks for replying!

                Second, no, I am not referring to sneering at moral horror. Moral horror is a good thing to have. And yes, I know there were people who tried to avoid it. Very wrong, I agree.

                What I am saying is that you are lumping in people who are NOT trying to ‘sneer at moral horror’, but rather think that trying to leverage that moral horror into legal action that has proven in the past to do nothing, sans any kind of honest debate on the subject, as if they some kind of nefarious means.

                “Deal with it.”
                – I certainly am. I am doing so by trying to show people that drastic action taken without proper debate and research into effects and history of previous attempts is a VERY bad idea. Moral outrage does not justify actions that are may be useless or even harmful. Just because we are outraged by the massacre doesn’t automatically baptize any and all actions we may take, pro gun or anti gun.

                • Mike Petrik

                  What you are saying is not only fair and sensible, but obvious — meaning that no fair-minded person could have misunderstood you. Food for thought, that.

                • Mark Shea


                  Thanks for your irenic response. If you are not among those poo poohing the moral horror and sneering at that as the “Do Something Crowd” or issuing similar dismissals then I’m not referring to you. But those dismissals are extremely common in the gun culture nonetheless.

              • tz

                His mother did not have an “arsenal”, she had an ordinary amount of weapons and ammunition.

                You have not mentioned ANY specific policy provision. If you have some sensible approach, please enlighten us.

                If your point is if you have any relative which might be even a bit off, you should have YOUR guns – and anything else dangerous, do we also go after chainsaws? – confiscated because your crazy apocalyptic cousin that the authorities refuse to commit although he would spew threats to kill dozens even in front of a judge?

                Then there’s http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2012/12/this_weeks_over.html

                I do not own a gun. I have no wish to. It means in such situations I will probably end up DEAD. I pray the church’s teaching on martrydom is accurate. I’ve decided upon the path of peace. It might be different if I had a family that God would hold me responsible for the protection thereof.

                Yet I recognize that – in a form of subsidiarity – and even solidarity – I want those who are willing to do what is necessary to arm themselves to be here at the local level. Our state has CCW. I hope some in the restaurant here are packing for the sake of the customers. Smoking is banned but not self-defense.

                You also caricature “school as armed camp”. No, merely the uncertainty if the particular classroom has an armed teacher might adequately deter. Thomas Woods points out the wild west wasn’t.

                Drones, Tasers, Cops are even worse since they are armed, kill many innocents, yet you approve of arming them and only them, yet not holding them responsible?

                Some tragedies are preventable, some aren’t. Bohpal India? If there were no pesticides, no one would have died, except of starvation.

                For some reason you have chosen to demonize (and I do not use that word lightly) the “gun lobby”, yet not those who would call for disarming every citizen, for effectively repealing the 2nd amendment. You have not criticized whatever combination of civil liberties or psychiatry that let one loose nut cause such destruction.

                I do not see turning the world into one giant padded cell where we all wear straitjackets and are drugged so all we can do is drool and say an occasional slurred word as an improvement.

                Liberty is both hard and dangerous.

                God allows free will. He permitted this evil. Are you going to condemn him for not striking dead the person even before he could kill his mother? Do you hold God himself to a lower standard – is he less good? less intelligent? less concerned? He certainly had the power to do so? Why didn’t God use it?

                God tolerates a great deal of freedom so we can have free will. Freedom. For that is the only way to love. And that freedom can be misused. And the punishment is literally hell. Eternal suffering.

                When considering restricting individuals or even groups, we ought to be at least as circumspect. We ought to avoid punishing before any evil is committed or even conceived. We ought to not regulate thought or action beyond preventing negligence if such would diminish the individual’s ability to do good or protect from evil. The only way to accomplish anything in civil society is with force. Using the very same guns. You can say you are better than the killer, but are you really? You decide when force can be used, when people can be killed – all for the good of society? No one is that wise, at least no one on earth.

                Ban guns first, and don’t bother asking questions because you don’t need to?

                But then ought we not TASER first and accept a few dead people since they might have done violence? Have not more died? Have not children been tased?

                Don’t drones usually target people who might, well, if they have a chance, end up doing us harm (and isn’t the “collateral damage” thus, to quite Albright “worth it”)?

                Guns were banned at the school. But paper cannot prevent evil.

                CT has lots of restrictions so the DEAD Mother – who was trying to get help for her son – had to go through all the procedures, yet she ended up dead (perhaps if her gun was more immediately available, she and the children would be alive). Would even more restrictions on guns have helped? If Mom went through the additional hoops?

                Why not simply pass a “no demons allowed” law, that would stop temptation, sin, and a lot of stuff. At least most of it. Yet we cannot ban demons. Or can we? Yet instead we would rather ban the Guns we can see instead of the actual evil – the darkness roaming the earth and in our hearts. There have been knife, petrol, and bomb attacks where guns were not easily obtained.

                Guns are no proxy for evil, so banning them has little effect. Except maybe to make you feel good as if you’ve done something. Soothe your conscience – yet conscience should only be soothed by the destruction of the root evil, not from the destruction of the human or mechanical instrument. Satan has many tools. He will not miss one.

                • Mark Shea

                  Evil is in the Heart, blah blah, do nothing to limit the access maniacs have to the technology of mass murder, blah blah guns for all blah blah if you can’t eradicate all murder there’s no point in trying to limit the access maniacs have to guns. Yeah, I’ve heard all that before. Is there like an gun lobby macro that just cranks this stuff out?

                  • Gigalith

                    Ignore who is right or wrong for a moment. Is this charitable? Is your interlocutor any more likely to agree with you when your response to a ten+ paragraph is a single paragraph comparing his work to that of a computer program?

                    Speaking as someone generally preferring the other side of the fence, I can hardly feel welcome to your side if all of us, gun-owning or not, are to expect this kind of reply. He put effort in his words, can you not put effort in your own?

                    • Andy, Bad Person

                      Yawn. It’s tiresome to read Mark’s blog and find so many people who can’t formulate an argument and choose to focus on Mark’s tone instead.

                    • Stu

                      Wow, Andy.

                      Oddly I was thinking the same thing about Mark.

  • Hm. Since my husband is a hunter, which helps us stay afloat financially, I’m of two minds on this one. Also, I have a relative who lives in an area where drug cartels pass through regularly, thus she and her husband are armed. That said, I too am disgusted with the whole gun culture’s defensive posture. Ugh, evil sucks.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Semi-automatic and automatic firearms allow one guy to spray bullets indiscriminately and maim or kill many people in a matter of seconds.

    One guy with a rifle or with a handgun can’t do anywhere comparable harm, unless he is a superb marksman. And these maniacs are almost never superb marksmen. They rely on the spray of bullets delivered by the semi-auto or auto weapons. With non-autos, they have to stop and reload all the time, which may give by-standers time and opportunity to plan to overpower the gunman.

    Ordinary handguns and rifles have been and may still be used in the commission of heinous crimes, but usually result only in one or two deaths per incident, not these dozens and scores of deaths.

    It is these type of firearms which should be designated for military or police use only.

    • Stu


      A rifle or handgun can be a semiautomatic and often is. Semiautomatic arms have been around for over 100 years, long before these incidents. The technology hasn’t changed since then. Something else has.

      Automatic weapons have been highly regulated and almost effectively banned since the 1930s. To own one takes an extensive background check, Federal licensing and permission from your local authorities as well. Automatic weapons have not been used in any of these killings.

      • Dan C

        There are many types of “background checks” and most are ineffective. But the gun lobby and its advocates know this. No check that occurs in less than 6 weeks has any value. No check that happens without fingerprints has any value.

        It is easy to get an automatic weapon and has been throughout the past 40 years. And now they are within the routine family budget! I see and have seen too many since my youth to believe such hog wash.

        • Stu

          When was the last time an automatic weapon was used in such an event like this? Seeing as how they are easy to get and within the routine family budget?

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          Dan C,

          Put up or shut up on this one. Name one automatic weapon you’ve seen in the last 40 yrs? You’ve seen semiautos. But I’ll put a year’s salary of mine to a year’s salary of yours that you’ve not seen a single easy-to-get, within-the-routine-family-budget automatic weapon in the last 40 yrs. I trust you, you are an honourable man, so I know you wouldn’t lie to take an EMT’s money. Now name it.

          It’s the incredible ignorance of voters that makes me uncomfortable with democracy.

  • SteveP

    Mark Shea: I pondered your post from yesterday. I also prayed over the beginning verses of Genesis 4 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/4).

    I still think pro-gun/anti-gun arguments are misdirected: in Aurora the point of failure was a door; in Newtown the point of failure was a door. The technological fix, then, will be in physical security.

    I’d suggest we redirect the question from “how do we keep massive firepower out of the hands of lunatics” to “how do we keep safe places safe without succumbing to a siege mentality.”

    Thank you very much for writing down your thoughts and giving me opportunity to do the same. Peace be with you.

    • Stu


      I applaud the tactical approach towards actually reducing risk in a real way for incident like this. We can’t control the actions of madmen all over the country but we can control certain choke points.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      New NRA slogan: Guns don’t kill people; doors kill people.

  • Regarding England and Australia, I can’t speak for Australia, since it’s never interested me. But I think I’m right in saying that England is a country frequently referenced on this blog when it comes to the growing legal persecution of those who hold traditional Christian values. People who argue against gun restrictions simply point to the same trend in places like Canada or England or other European countries: sure they have tight gun regulations that have helped, but look at the price they are paying in other things that are now being regulated. It’s not an unfounded argument that imposing government regulations is like eating peanuts.

    • Mark Shea

      You do realize that your argument is a complete non sequitur and that there is no necessary connection between keeping guns away from maniacs more effectively and persecuting Christians? Good. Just so we’re clear on that.

      • Actually, it’s hell and gone from a non sequitur. You brought up the popular argument that countries like England have laws regulating guns. That’s fine. But as it has been pointed out many times, various instances of persecuting Christians in these countries are the result of these countries not having the same notion of rights and freedoms as we have. And these countries’ approaches to such things could be what made it easy to regulate guns. So yes, there could be a connection. Does there have to be a connection? No. Can it be debated and discussed? Sure. But to make one claim about how these other countries do it, while then striking down any counter-claim as a non sequitur, suggests mind made up, closed to further discussion. It also suggests a tendency to isolate things issue by issue, rather than looking at the broader factors involved. Sometimes it’s worth looking at the forests, and not just arguing one tree at a time, if we want to get to the bottom of things.

        • kenneth

          Do you have a shred of evidence or even third-hand latrine rumors that the U.K. would not have made these religion-based laws if its citizens had more guns? Do you suppose the entire evolution of gun laws in Britain over the past century or so, including the periodic massacres, were engineered as a pretext and political cover to allow some human rights commission in Scratchassshire to tell a B&B owner that they can’t turn away gay business?

          More to the point, when did the widespread possession of citizen arms ever prevent or even mitigate the imposition of unpopular laws from Washington? If Washington were really scared of our guns, we’d still have slavery and we wouldn’t have any taxes to speak of, to say nothing of the Patriot Act.

          • Why is it you’re not willing to entertain the possibility? I’m fine with looking at these to see if there are connections or not. There are certainly connections in other areas, a point often invoked when one of these countries comes down hard on something like religious liberty or free speech. We’re often reminded that those countries have different attitudes about freedoms and rights. That’s fine. It’s worth looking at. I’m not saying it’s slam dunk one way or another. I merely point out, as others do, that the links between those countries and their treatment of religion have been made in other areas, why would I therefore imagine that their treatment of weapons and guns stands outside of it all? I’m willing to look and see. Maybe if folks on both sides of the debate are willing to look and see, we could find solutions without opening cans of worms. Again, looking at forests, not just one tree at a time. Just like looking at an isolated incident with an American law enforcement officer may or may not portend a coming American Police State. It’s worth looking at it all. A nice approach IMHO.

            • kenneth

              I’m willing to entertain any possibility. In the news business, I came to feel that there was nothing so crazy that it might not be true. However, paranoid theories, while possible, should not be used as the basis of public policy discussions unless and until someone can show probable cause for giving them serious consideration.

              • And that goes both ways of course. Nor should a theory be dismissed so easily, simply because it might seem paranoid, especially if the very reasoning is used in so many other instances. Of course honesty is important. We can’t ignore the fact that some resisting any regulations might have other motives than simply finding a solution. But we can’t ignore that those calling for more regulations might also have ulterior motives. As Mark has said many times, there is nothing inherently wrong with invoking the Slippery Slope. It’s not as if it’s never happened before.

    • enness

      I figure pro-gun control references to England, far from convincing skeptics, are sure to elicit predictable comments about King George and citizens vs. subjects. I don’t quite get why they seem to think that would be persuasive, rather than sending people running in the other direction.

      What bothers me about making direct comparisons to other countries is that, while I’m perfectly willing to admit to there being true cases or at least some truth, I don’t really see anybody controlling for any other possible factors. It’s correlation as automatic proof of cause. I sense a thread of escapist fantasy running through it, i.e.: anywhere else is better than here. Maybe, and maybe not. The Japan one I’ve seen particularly bugs me, because if you look at things besides gun violence, they’re clearly not this idyllic picture of mental health. Of industrialized countries, they commit suicide at a rate second only to the land of the KGB; at one point in the last decade, as far as I could find, they lead the world in consumption of antianxiety drugs. Unfortunately, this falls on deaf ears with someone who needs. to. be. right.

      What other countries do is only relevant and practical to the extent that it would be Constitutional here, anyway. Realistically, that is a hurdle most just don’t have to deal with. You can see here how much debate there is just over the meaning of the word ‘militia.’ It’s going to keep us busy for a while.

  • bob

    How about having legal guns be muzzle loaders? Good enough for the Founders. No more spraying a hail of bullets, and given the usual accuracy of anyone who picks up a gun, little danger to the target. Lots less firing in anger with minute or so reloading lag time. Built in cool off period and safety for bystanders. Hunting unaffected. It takes away nothing from anyone and makes everyone safer.

  • mike in kc, mo

    ” It takes away nothing from anyone”
    – Probably should limit freedom of speech to quill pen and parchment being the only allowable form.

    There are certainly legal measures that could be taken. I’m really hoping you said this in jest.

    • bob

      Not at all in jest. Nothing like limiting communication to quill and paper. Free speech can’t kill 28 or so people in a matter of minutes. High end guns can. So can a muzzle loader. It just takes a lot longer and people have a chance to get away or fight back. With those guns you might never see a shot fired; people would think twice before shooting and knowing it would be a minute before they shoot again. You can still fire at a paper target or a turkey. Paper targets are very patient. We can write all we want pretty much.

      • mike in kc, mo

        “We can write all we want pretty much.”
        – I wonder if you are a Catholic. If so, you would realize that, no, ideas and speech can cause orders of magnitude more death than firearms.

        You also seem to have no idea what the second amendment is for. It has nothing to do with paper, nor turkeys. If all hunting were totally outlawed tomorrow, it would not be a 2nd amendment issue.

        You seem to have little knowledge on this topic. I would ask that you go learn a bit more before going any further, as your arguments are lacking quite a bit in the persuasion department.

        • bob

          Only speaking as a potential target. The gun toting folks need to understand our position. I have only enough knowledge to understand that the usual gun lobby cares for little else and my welfare is a distant 10th to the 2nd amendment.

      • mike in kc, mo

        Which is basically what happened in what is the actual WORST school murder in US history:


      • kenneth

        I think we could find a reasonable compromise with something more than muzzleloaders (though they would restore the long-lost art of aiming). I think a regulation regime that allowed revolvers, bolt-actions, lever actions and pumps with no more than 10 rounds would get us a decent part of the way toward safety while allowing reasonable firepower for any legitimate citizen need. Semi-autos? Couple of thoughts on them. One concept I increasingly like is to limit them to 10 rounds AND with fixed magazines like the old broomhandle mauser or M-1 and much of pre-Vietnam military gear.

        Anything hotter in terms of high-capacity magazines would require a separate system of licensing with extensive background checks, medical clearance and character references. Anyone with flags of being a screw-off or irresponsible in any way – DUIs, domestic abuse, disorderly conduct – you’re outta here. There would be strict requirements on safe storage and any serious violations would lead to revocation.

        Would this foreclose homicides or mass-shootings? No, but it would be a significant improvement.

        • mike in kc, mo

          “Anyone with flags of being a screw-off or irresponsible in any way – DUIs, domestic abuse, disorderly conduct – you’re outta here. ”
          – Just sticking with that and I think you’d do more than all the rest of your suggestion.

          • kenneth

            I too think it would be more effective overall than technical regulations on weapon type. That said, I think the NRA crowd would scream bloody murder if they understood what I meant by “background checks.” What I envision would be a hell of a lot more intrusive and comprehensive than some instant criminal records check followed by a “shall sell” clearance. What I’m talking about would be a system of background checks that would look and feel much more like those undergone by commercial pilots and candidates for police forces and holders of national security clearances. You would not have to be a cop or FBI agent to access these weapons under my regime, but you’d have to have a level of temperament and consistent patterns of responsibility and stability that would at least allow you to be in the running for such jobs. A fair number of people now able to own guns would wash out of this vetting process. Our current vetting system, which is really just limited to seeing if someone has a felony history, is a good start, but it falls way, way short of telling us whether someone really has a maturity and sanity level sufficient to trust with the lives of others.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          You’d require licensing for a marlin M60? Really? Why?

          • kenneth

            It’s well over 10 shot capacity. If we decide to start regulating in part based on capacity, consistency is better than trying to play the 1994 game of judging what looks sporting vs sinister. I haven’t had a look at this particular gun, but it seems its not that hard to add a stop plug of some sort that would solve this. It’s done all the time for pump guns where hunting regs limit capacity. It’s possible too that rimfire guns merit different consideration and possibly also for tubular magazines and non-removable sorts in general. I don’t have any illusions about being able to stop mass shootings entirely with anything short of fairly severe bans. What bothers me in all this is the almost completely unrestricted access to semi-automatics that are configured to allow nearly continuous walking fire of hundreds of rounds without any significant interruption that might allow more people to flee or counter-attack. Even if we left the Marlin out of this scheme entirely, someone could then use one to shoot up to, what, 15 people. After that, that gun is done. You can’t realistically re-stuff a tube in an attack scenario.

  • Subsistent

    Sometimes Mr. Shea seems to sort of “shoot himself in the foot” by retarding (as here) an otherwise excellent post by some apparently careless hyperbolic error of his. For example, he writes of “the only thing handguns exist to do: kill humans”. But obviously, a handgun can sometimes be used to STOP an attacker without killing him; also for target shooting at a sports gun range or elsewhere (as at tin cans, etc.).

  • mike in kc, mo

    I will sum up what really gets my goat over this:

    The braying we hear from everyone is the following: “We must ban ‘assault weapons’!”

    Me: “So, like the ban that we had from 1994-2004? That ban?”

    Them: YES!

    Me: “So, you want to put in a national version of the ban, that Connecticut already had at the local level, that after 10 years the FBI uniform crime statistics showed had no discernible affect upon violent crime (which was why it was allowed to expire so easily), that even it’s proponents in 2004 admitted pretty much did nothing, that attacks happened during (the Columbine murders happened at the HEIGHT of the ’94 Crime Bill), that tries to ban firearms that are used in less than %2 of murders in the United States, that even police know is bunk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STeyS6LYIx4)… whose only affect was to put lots of additional, onerous regulations upon others…. That’s your plan? That’s what you want?

    If we are going to debate firearms policy, which I think is a good idea, it needs to be a truly rational discussion (free of chanting slogans from either side) that deals with facts, historical affects of previous laws, possible outcomes pro and con, etc. But I get the distinct impression that ‘facts’ are not things that these people wish to discuss.

    I’m not an owner of ‘battle plastic’, nor do I worship the second amendment as somehow divine (nor anything else in the Bill of Rights for that matter.) However, a rational person, regardless of if he likes certain things or not, should be convinced that the demanded heavy limits on freedom for MILLIONS of non-psychos should be proven to be a decent tradeoff.

    There are many gun laws that ARE good trade offs: Instant background checks, causing small delays in purchasing, I think are an EXCELLENT tradeoff to preventing felons etc from being able to directly purchase firearms. I have studied this topic for many years. So far, aside from special emotional pleading, I have not found any proof that reinstating the defunct ‘Crime Bill’ (which is already in affect in many locations) is a wise trade off for what has been shown up to this date to be no positive benefit.

    I would ask this: Should any law (not just gun laws, ANY law) that will be a limiting factor on Constitutional or civil rights has to demonstrate that the net benefit will outweigh the negatives? Or is it simply enough for you that people say that it might, especially when we have mountains of data that speak otherwise?

    Treating over 100,000,000 non-psychotic firearm owners in the US as all totally capable of being a mass murderers is the same reasoning as demanding that the TSA scan, frisk and grope all toddlers and grandmothers in wheelchairs because, hey, ANYONE could be a terrorist!

  • Ed the Roman

    I guess I’m a gun-lobby type. I’d like to point out that the average number of fatalities at mass shooting attempts for which the first armed response is the police is a little over 18. The average number of fatalities for such attempts when the first armed response is an armed citizen on the scene is a little over 2.

    • beccolina

      I understand that the shooting the mall in Portland was cut short when an armed citizen made himself known, even though he never fired a shot (not having a clear line of fire). True? I only saw one report of it.

  • vox borealis

    @ Mark Shea and Dave G, above–

    I’m not so sure that it is non sequitur to bring up religious persecution in England with respect to this discussion. The reality is that owning firearms is a constitutional right in the USA—enshrined in the Bill of Rights, with a philosophical underpinning that such rights are divinely granted and cannot be taken away. So we are not simply talking about making new laws, however sensible they may seem. Rather, we are talking about circumscribing one of the ten biggies in the foundational document of governmental system.

    Now, it seems to me that there is (or at least used to be ) a tradition in the USA to accept the negative consequences of freedom as the price of freedom itself; that the rights outweigh their sometimes negative consequences. Thus, for example, Americans have long been willing to put up with (at least theoretically) outrageous and offensive speech, and to tread very lightly around any limits on free speech, because we so value the right enshrined in the First Amendment. So too, historically, have we granted wide interpretation of the freedom of religion in the First Amendment.

    However, lately there seems to be greater pressure and a greater willingness to abandon the broad understanding of those freedoms. It is no accident, I think, that the push to circumscribe freedom of religion as “freedom of worship”—the same thinking that brings us the HHS mandate as a reasonable accommodation to religious freedom—comes at the same time as a push to ban various kinds of speech because it’s “hate speech” (after all, isn’e that a reasonable solution), at the same there is a push to circumscribe the right to bear arms. This is not a non sequitur—it is all related: it is a fundamental questioning of the foundational document(s) and their underlying principles.

    I’m not saying the Constitution is some sort of holy text that can never be questioned, nor am I equating gun laws with free speech laws (except inasmuch as both freedoms are explicitly constitutionally defined, and as far as I know, according to the constitution, there is no hierarchy of rights)—maybe we should have much stricter control of firearms, maybe the entire populace should be demilitarized..I don’t know. But I am saying that within the constitutional conext of the US, it is not so simple as passing a few new laws to ban this or that type of gun. And that’s not just the eeeeeevil Gun Lobby talking. That’s the Constitution.

    If Americans are now really prepared to circumscribe the right to bear arms, then let’s do it the right way and open a Constitutional discussion. The document can be amended; let’s amend the language of the Second Amendment to clarify more precisely who can bear arms, when, and of what sort. But then, I suspect that such a discussion will inevitably lead to a push to clarify free speech and freedom of worship, er, I mean, freedom of religion.

    • Rosemarie


      See, this is what bothers me, too. The Second Amendment doesn’t stand alone; it’s part of a group of ten in the Bill of Rights, the document that ensures our rights under US law. Tamper with one and what will prevent tampering with the rest?

      I’m not a “gun enthusiast” at all; never owned a gun, don’t intend to get one. Never been an NRA member nor am I absolutist about the Second Amendment. If there are certain limits to freedom of speech, why not certain limits to the right to bear arms as well? Maybe some high-powered weaponry is the equivalent of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. That’s for people who know more than I do about the Constitution to hash out.

      Yet when I hear certain liberal politicians calling for more gun control (especially ones who are already control-freaks in other areas, like Bloomberg), I can’t help but wonder if there’s more to it. In the past few decades we’ve seen calls to limit the free speech of anyone who disagrees with gay rights (punish “hate speech!”), the freedom of pro-lifers to protest (sic RICO on them!) and the freedom of religion for Christians who own businesses (HHS mandate!). The TSA repeatedly flouts the Fourth Amendment every day in our airports, with the blessing of the current administration. Our rights are being threatened by people who don’t seem to care a whit what the Constitution says. Could their attack on the Second Amendment be a sort-of trial balloon, to see how hard it would be to undermine an Amendment before going after some others?

      That’s why I don’t trust gun control talk. Not because I’m some “gun-toting nut” who mindlessly spouts off NRA propaganda, but because I don’t trust the politicians doing the talking. I favor the Second Amendment insofar as I favor the Constitution in general; it’s not divinely inspired nor is it perfect by any means but it’s the best thing we’ve got standing between We the People and full-on oppression by the Ruling Class. I can’t help but see the Bill of Rights as a line of dominoes – if one Amendment falls what’s to stop the others from falling as well?

      That’s why I want to see the discussion proceed with caution, not driven by the type of emotionally-driven irrationality that got us embroiled in a nebulous, long-term, impossible-to-win “War on Terror” after the horror of 9/11. And if NRA platitudes aren’t conducive to that, then neither are generalized, emotional attacks on people who question certain assumptions on the part of gun-control proponents. Finally, I hope action on the issue of America’s broken mental health system will be a positive result of this tragedy, but I fear it will just get tossed aside and forgotten amid all the weapons ban talk. Mental illness is nowhere near as šëxy a political issue as gun control.

  • Ed the Roman

    Re England, I’d like to remind people that England has had a lower murder rate than we have for two hundred years. In the 1930s, New York had had the Sullivan Law in effect for twenty years, and Christopher Robin Milne (yes, THAT Christopher Robin), still a boy, was able to buy a revolver from a hardware store in the UK (my source is his memoir). New York’s murder rate was still higher.

    • FWIW, no one argues that England has a lower crime rate. Oodles of countries have lower crime rates. I’m all for lower crime rates. I’m completely opened to looking at sensible regulations. I’m also aware that some countries that have lower crime rates bring along baggage that may or may not be connected to such lower crime rates, and that’s worth taking a long look at.

  • Will

    There is no need outside of the police or military for semi-automatic guns. There is also no need for clips with more than ten bullets.

    • mike in kc, mo

      I’m guessing you also believe the 2nd amendment is all about hunting too.

      ” There is also no need for clips with more than ten bullets.”
      This I would actually agree with. I think any more than 10 and it would make it very difficult to load the magazine smoothly and without bending the clip.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        You shouldn’t tease people for being ignorant of what they’re talking about, mike. Just because he doesnt know a clip from a magazine, or shit from shinola, is no reason to mock him.


    • mike in kc, mo


      On further reflection, there is also something deeply troubling about what I see is the assumed premise of your statements here.

      I see assumed in your statement the following:
      When the government demands that certain civil or constitutional rights be limited or removed, it is up to citizens to PROVE that they directly NEED these rights. If they can’t demonstrate that they absolutely NEED the right in question, then the government may limit or remove said right as it pleases. This is actually the 100% opposite manner in which our government is supposed to function.

      I would wonder if your attitude in this matter applies to ALL rights, or just those you don’t happen to like yourself? I would remind you that the EXACT same logic is what is being used to promote unconstitutional spying on citizens. Afterall, you do not NEED privacy. Unless you have something to hide, that is.

      • enness

        The “need” arguments make me nuts. Some people think I shouldn’t “need” to get paid for entertaining them because I might be fortunate enough to not hate it and, in fact, occasionally kind of like it. I would love to go to the houses of certain folks and read them the riot act over every expensive plaything they have and don’t “need” that theoretically took bread out of a hundred starving people’s mouths. Need…pfft.

  • Leslie

    I was glad to read in the Bishops’ document on gun violence that they respect hunters and sportsmen having access to shotguns and rifles, that no heavy burdens should be put on them, and that they want this group to be part of the process. I live in a part of the South where a lot of blue collar families very much depend on the meat they obtain through hunting. Although I am not a hunter or a lover of guns myself, I see no problem with families hunting to feed their families, and apparently the Bishops don’t either.

  • Kate

    I don’t understand why sane, ethical people own guns except for hunting food. We’ve lived in a rural area for about 20 years without a gun. We have four dogs which provide plenty of protection and warning. I also have a burly 19yo son who has become very strong from chopping wood and is quite intimidating. I’d probably go vegetarian before I could bring myself to kill, gut and prepare an animal (and I’ve heard from hunters that the deer around here are mangy and it’s best to go to Idaho or Montana for good game). My husband has killed chickens, but a sharp knife is sufficient for the task. My older sons have gone target shooting with friends and they don’t see what the attraction is. Yeah, it’s exciting the first couple of shots, but then it gets old. They really don’t get guys who go off into the dessert to shoot at cans and junk.

    The way the Second Amendment is stated assumes that every state has a militia made of of armed citizens; hence the necessity to own a gun. But that isn’t the case now. There are those who talk about having an armed citizenry to defend themselves against an unjust government. Come on! The govt. has big stuff – bombs, missiles, poison gas, etc. How long would an armed citizenry last? And if society falls apart and you had to defend your property, you’d only be good for as long as your ammunition lasted. Or do you think if society falls apart you could just stroll down to the local Walmart for few more rounds or put in an online order to be over-nighted by Fedex? In a meltdown I think we’d have more serious concerns – like getting clean drinking water, refilling insulin prescriptions or even, finding a roll of TP. I think hot, running water is really under appreciated and I don’t think a gun would keep that flowing in a catastrophe.

    • mike in kc, mo

      “I don’t understand why sane, ethical”
      – While I can certainly appreciate smearing close to 100,000,000 people as unethical lunatics, can the insults flow both ways, or are only you allowed to toss them about?

      I have no idea why people who quite obviously have no clue what they are talking about think we should take their opinions seriously. These people are the usual kind who, not liking or understanding a certain kind of activity, believe such activity should be disallowed to most everyone because hey, if THEY don’t like it, it must be wrong.

      • Kate

        No, I’m saying besides not liking it, I don’t think it is necessary on a day to day basis and as a fulfillment of the 2nd Amendment (which the NRA is always touting as THE most important right).

        My theory for Americans’ love affair with the gun is that America is the most individualistic and Lockean of all nations and the gun is a symbol of the controversial relationship between the individual and the “necessary evil” of the state (which is not a Catholic view of government at all according to St. Thomas Aquinas). In other words, in America the “social contract” is maintained by force with a gun.

        • Or it could be that they enjoy pastimes that involve guns, being both sane and ethical.

        • mike in kc, mo

          “No, I’m saying besides not liking it, I don’t think it is necessary on a day to day basis and as a fulfillment of the 2nd Amendment”
          – Firearms are not part of the 2nd Amendment?

          “is that America is the most individualistic and Lockean of all nations and the gun is a symbol of the controversial relationship between the individual and the “necessary evil” of the state”
          – Some may think that, I’m sure. However, you just finished inferring that all these people are unethical lunatics, so I’m not sure how you expect them to think in terms of ‘social contract’.

          • Kate

            I should qualify the “sane” part. Living in a rural area we know quite a few people few who are a little nutty about the guns and govt. They believe in everything from aliens to conspiracy theories. They can be pretty normal and nice on a day to day basis, but there are certain subjects one learns to avoid. We were told that the previous owner of our home was a little paranoid and kept a gun in every corner (he designed a very nice gun closet which we refigured for books) . His bomb shelter makes a very nice root cellar. My sister lived in a different state but also in the country and her closest neighbor was building a baricade around his home complete with booby-traps to protect himself from the FBI and CIA (he warned neighbors to call before coming on his property). The only other civilians I know who own guns either hunt with them (as in actually eat what you shoot).

            • Who is responsible for you and your family’s safety, first and foremost?

              (which is not a Catholic view of government at all according to St. Thomas Aquinas).

              That’s great, because the government we have is quite unlike the government Aquinas thinks we should have.

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              Great, now its rural-dwellers who are nuts.

              I grew up in the sticks. I’ve lived in major metropolitan areas for a decade and a half. Trust me, Sugar, cities have far more paranoid lunatics per capita. In the country, you just know your neighbors; that’s the difference.

              And, deal with the Dumb Ox as a whole, or look foolish. Your choice.

    • Stu


      Just to clarify you on your 2nd Amendment point. Title 10 of the U.S. Code includes all able bodied men between the ages of 19 and 45 who are not in the military as part of the “unorganized milita.”

  • Leslie

    I am asking this seriously, and not being snarky, so please don’t take it that way — but is there anything in the Catechism that explicitly states you cannot use a gun for self-defense? It is one thing to hold up as ideal the idea of our country eventually being gun-free and working toward those ends, but until it is (and that is a big if), is it immoral or unethical, according to the Catechism, to defend yourself, your spouse or your little ones with a gun? No matter how big and tough you or your spouse may be, if someone breaks into your home with the intention of killing you and/or your family members, and he takes you out with a gun, your spouse and children are now at the mercy of that person. I am not talking about people having an arsenal here. I am talking about a shotgun or something along those lines.

    • Kate

      Well, I didn’t mean that only unethical people own guns. You notice, I did say “except hunters” and I don’t think hunters are unethical. The gun is a tool for them to obtain food; the gun is a tool for a policeman or prison guard to help them do their job. Of course, I don’t think it’s wrong to defend oneself or family; although, the Church asks that we only use a force sufficient to stop the intruder or criminal, not kill (sometimes, you have to kill, but that shouldn’t be the intent). I just really question the need for most people to own firearms (at least anything beyond a simple rifle or shotgun). We had some renting neighbors recently who we were sure were selling drugs. There was also a lot of screaming and swearing. The cops (called by us or other neighbors) came numerous times. I didn’t feel safe while they were living there, but I didn’t think “we need to get a gun” because I think threats with a gun or shooting a gun would have worsened or escalated the situation. We kept praying for them (especially after we heard the main renter died of a drug overdose) and they were eventually evicted.

      My father (who I consider sane and ethical) owned a shotgun because we lived out in the country. He didn’t use it “recreationally” and I think he only shot it once at an dangerous animal (he missed). We were never allowed to touch the gun and he kept it unloaded and the ammunition hidden. We never thought “I’m safe because Papa has a gun. We thought I’m safe because Papa said God would take care of us (just like we believed him when he said God would provide for our large family financially). Call me naive.

      • mike in kc, mo

        Why is it that I must either be a hunter (I am, actually, but prefer broad spear on foot) or wanting to defend my life because I think it’s in danger (I also have those, but that isn’t the only reason)?

        I think you don’t understand that most people own them, and use them responsibly because they ENJOY them. Honestly, not everything has to have a food/defense/serious reason to have it. As long as they are legally, and responsibly owned and used, who cares?

        If someone asked me why I have a mountain bike (another hobby I enjoy) when I obviously don’t NEED one (I own a car) and I couldn’t possibly enjoy it because, well, THEY don’t enjoy huffing around on something like that… what could I possibly say?

        • Leslie

          In the Bishops’ letter Mark linked to, it states:
          “We support the legitimate and proper use of rifles and shotguns for hunting and recreational purposes.”

          So it looks to be like recreation is OK, at least according to the Bishops.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            He’s not arguing with the bishops. He’s arguing with Kate.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Well, I don’t know… But being a city dweller in what someone in this combox once called my “barbarian” country, I just find it difficult to understand that it is perfectly normal and ordinary to ENJOY owning a device that has been specifically designed to kill… There are so many other things in our world to enjoy, why that?

      • enness

        Kate, I apologize if this comes out harshly, but it seems like somebody’s got to inform you that not everybody is like you or your neighbors. Might as well be me.
        If you don’t understand something, you should ask someone who does — and not in the rhetorical way which suggests you aren’t that concerned about the answer because you have your mind made up.

  • thomas tucker

    Can we please get rid of the “semi-automatic” label as some kind of major demonic feature? I know people who can fire a revolver faster than a semi-automatic.

  • IB Bill

    The wounds of time. Every time someone does something like this, it puts tremendous pressure on us to do something to stop it. And the world ends up a little less free each time. Truth is, a very small percentage of outliers (it’s even a small percentage of psychopaths) can eventually do enough damage to make the world less and less human. When I started this life, the president could drive around in an open convertible in a motorcade. It only took one guy to stop that forever. You could fly on an airplane without a security check. Hijackings took care of that in the 70s. And so on and so on. You used to have lockers in airports, then LaGuardia explosions. Just keeps going.

    Love to give you an answer. But I’ll tell you this much: Just because I own a Glock and a mini-14 doesn’t make me responsible for what happened in Connecticut. I resent the crap out of the idea that someone my ownership of weapons involves a human sacrifice. No, it doesn’t.

    There was a murderer responsible for the killing spree, and possibly a gun owner who didn’t properly secure her weapons as far as we know, though it’s possible she did. Clearly she didn’t anticipate her son was a psychopath who would shoot her in her sleep and then go after young children, and then kill himself at the first hint of a responder.

    The blame for this lies in one person, the shooter. And he was possibly the most gutless coward the world has ever seen. He wouldn’t even make it into Dante’s hell, lest the other damned have some glory over him.

    I don’t really want to go the way of Great Britain and Australia and give up handguns, except in highly regulated cases, and rifles in many cases. It would stop it, though. Probably nothing else will. We’ll have to make that decision, ultimately. It’ll be a big part of our freedom to go.

  • Sherrill

    There are four things involved in this aweful situation. The shooter, the weapon , the environment, and the media. No one needs an AK47, however, our mental health system is broken, our environment worships celebs, and the media promote games and movies that glorify death. Any step forward would help but we must look at the entire problem

    • Mark Shea

      No argument from me.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    Is it just me, or is the NRA plan to prevent future school shootings exactly the same as the plot to Kindergarten Cop?

    • kenneth

      It’s a plan that would cost tens of billions of dollars a year, funded, apparently, by that magical currency called “someone else’s money.” I think it would be funny as hell, and perfect justice, if Congress granted him his wish. Put those armed guards in every school building in America. Then fund it with a $500 transfer tax (or whatever amount it takes) on semi-automatic weapons to fund every last time of the cost of that program.

  • Joseph

    Kenneth. I’m not a gun owner myself, mainly because I don’t feel like owning one would be necessary (and I never want to have to pull one on another person, even if my life is threatened, because I know that through an decent helping of violence via media since my youngest days I’d probably use it without thinking about the human life I’d extinguish), but your logic is flawed in the sense that these horrific acts of violence are not committed by those who purchase the weapons they used at gun shops through legitimate means. Making it harder to buy them through extensive background checks, though well meaning, will only result in a higher tax burden on the country. The same people who buy guns at gun shops will still be buying guns at gun shops. It will just have to go through the bureaucracy mill, taking longer and costing millions more. That’s why I had the thought of requiring gun safes for gun owners and an annual tax on weapons (like an asset tax) mainly just to keep track of those weapons (whether they have been lost, stolen, or sold) annually.

    This will only serve to prevent the situation where a child steals the parents weapons (as has been the case for almost all of these shootings) and provide a means of reporting the current status of legally obtained weapons. Unfortunately, it will not prevent the most common forms of gun violence which is caused by weapons sales on the black market (that exists even in Ireland).

    I also don’t think it’s helpful to slag gun owners by implying that there is a link between their desire to own guns and an approval of slavery. Last I checked, the North didn’t defeat the south using slingshots and water balloons. They fought with guns too. And after the abolition of slavery there still existed a so-called “gun culture” in both the North and South up until modern day.

    In case you haven’t been paying attention, the “gun culture” is still prevalent in the self-presumed enlightened Northeast where gun sales have shot through the roof during the reign of Blessed Obama for fear that he may restrict gun ownership. So, please, we’re adults. Leave out the jabs.

    • kenneth

      Most of the perpetrators of mass shootings, at least the more horrific ones of recent years, did buy their guns legally at stores, with no questions asked beyond the pro-forma felony check. The guy who shot up Virginia Tech a few years ago, Jared Lee Loughner, the guy who ambushed that congresswoman’s press conference and that freak with the orange hair in Colorado all bought their weapons over the counter.

      All three were crazy enough to chew off their own arms and one of them actually had a recent legal ruling that he was insane, which was not flagged in the gun database because he hadn’t actually been dragged off to an asylum in a straight jacket. Back in August, the white power knucklehead who killed a bunch of Sikhs in Wisconsin also bought his gun over the counter. He was not a felon in the career criminal sense of the word, but his background screamed “five-star loser.” He was discharged from the army for being too drunk and irresponsible to carry a weapon for them. In civilian life, he had a record of DUIs and involvement with extremist groups which are arguably terrorist movements. Cash and carry. Have a nice day fella…

      None of these jamokes would have made those purchases under any decent system of background checks. I suspect none of them would have been allowed to even board a plane in Israel. Real background checks do much more than one or two yes/no qualifiers. They set out to answer the question “who is this person, and what, really, is their deal?” Data from a variety of points builds an imperfect, but very reliable picture of that. A real system like this would also go some way in constricting the black market supply of guns, as would your idea for required guns safes.

      I’m not too sympathetic to arguments that it would “cost too much.” Life ain’t free. We pay processing costs for loan applications, drivers licensing, professional licensing, you name it. Gun owners (I among them), can suck it up and do the same. The combat-grade semi-autos everyone seems to love these days run about a thousand per, and many people are buying them by the cabinet full. If they can’t find a hundred bucks or so for a decent background check, they ought to switch hobbies. If we had decent reporting systems and databases for mental illness and other problems, a person would probably only need to do one full-blown background investigation followed by less intensive recerts.

      I’m not sure where you’re finding a connection between gun ownership and advocacy for slavery in anything I’ve said. All I said in that regard is that gun ownership is not an effective deterrent against unpopular federal laws.

      • enness

        I agree with this — it suggests lots of sensible ideas for improvement. The other thing, from what I understand, is that these guys typically amassed a large number in a short time period. Seems as though something could be done about that.

    • Marthe Lépine

      About a tax on weapons: That’s not a bad idea… I remember when I was a child my parents had to pay for a licence, I think it was renewed every year, just to have a radio. It might have been a WW2 financing thing, I really do not know. But I clearly remember that the licence was kept under the radio in our living room. A similar licence for guns, that a person carrying a gun, whether concealed or visible, would have to be ready to produce any time requested, might just happen to work…

  • What can I say, but you are wrong. I know that you are wrong because I am pro-gun, pro-second amendment, have not reacted as you describe. I’m pretty sure that I have said so in your comments.

    If you want to improve the pro-gun reaction, you are only going to do so through a better reaction that achieves those ends in a way that is more in line with Christ. Find that improved way and point it out, as I am doing so to my less eloquent pro-gun friends and you will have an effect.

    To recap:
    1. The United States has a “bring-your-own-device” security system called the unorganized militia. This is a public institution that is largely privately funded and self-funds via gun licensing fees. Individuals are given the ability to participate by qualifying under state law to purchase or carry weapons. The most effective are the CCW holders who carry their weapons in public, concealed. In the US there are approximately 1.5 million defensive gun uses per year (1994 govt. study, other studies range it from 800k to 2.5M DGU annually).
    2. Between 1%-5% of adults are CCW license holders. Criminals must take this into account when they wish to commit crimes. This changes the pattern of criminality in the US. For instance burglaries are much more likely to be committed when the house is empty in the US than in the UK.
    3. The system failed in Newtown, just as the police failed, just as the military failed.
    4. We excuse the army because we understand that military rule has severe bad effects and we will not tolerate the down side of that security choice.
    5. We excuse the police because we understand that having cops in all public buildings and on every street corner has its own down sides, especially in a country where it’s estimated that your average adult unknowingly commits three felonies a day.
    6. This leaves the unorganized militia as a focus for reform.
    7. Any reform that does not address the effects on the 1.5 million DGU per year that mean reduced crime for us all is at best a poorly thought through, irresponsible reform.

    • Stu

      You are such a meanie.

      Seriously, bonus points for discussion on the “unorganized militia.” I suspect many posting here are, by Federal Law, members and they don’t even know it.

  • David Davies

    And if no guns were available then the massacre in Sandy Hook would not have happened? The perpetrator could not have entered the school with a sword and slaughtered children by the dozen? Or just a piece of re-bar or a baseball bat? We are talking about a grown man versus kindergarten children here. There are lots of ways to murder people in large numbers, especially if they are small children.

    And I haven’t seen ANY expression by pro-gun people of the attitude Mark describes: ‘Oh well. Que sera sera.’ The NRA had the decency to keep out of the news cycle for DAYS. That shows a lot more respect for the murdered than the media and the anti-gunners who IMMEDIATELY descended like vultures.

    There are a lot of things which can and should be done. Doing things which don’t work is a waste of effort that could be useful if applied to things which do. I don’t have any more love for my guns than I do for my table saw, and if melting them down into slag would end murder forever I’d do it. Even if it would just SIGNIFICANTLY reduce murder. But it won’t.

    It should be pointed out that in the last two centuries of the ongoing human bloodbath, a uniform was almost always clothing the person wielding the gun. ‘Government Control’ is a far more pressing problem than ‘gun control’. Until we devise a way to deprive governments of guns anyway. I was kind of rooting for the ‘End of the World’ last Friday, figuring it was high time for God to pull the plug on our excesses. He obviously has something else planned.

    And, I’m sure Mark knows that G.K. Chesterton habitually carried a pistol around with him. I’d be interested in a comment on that.

    • kenneth

      Really? You’re going to try to equate a sword with Lanza’s arsenal? I suppose if we were talking about Miyamoto Musashi or a Dark Jedi, then yes, we can envision a fairly high death toll from a swordsman. Let’s take it back to reality for a moment. Lanza was a scrawny mama’s boy who never did anything more athletic than a video game. He made the guys on “Big Bang Theory” look like Navy Seals. Sandy Hook would probably have been several injuries, and MAYBE one fatality. He was not left alone with penned kindergartners. He was confronted by adults, who probably could have stopped him, or at least greatly slowed them down. Rushing a guy with a Bushmaster buys the rest of the tribe what? About two-thirds of a second. People, even little kids, can outrun a swordsman. They can’t, it turns out, run 3,000 feet per second. This is one of the more absurd canards used by the NRA: Since we can’t outlaw the instinct to murder or the possibility of accomplishing it with non-firearm weapons, there’s no reason to even consider gun laws. By that logic, we should just give up on trying to limit nuclear diversion because terrorists can just fly 100 airliners into 100 high-rises.

      • North West

        Lanza was a scrawny mama’s boy who never did anything more athletic than a video game. He made the guys on “Big Bang Theory” look like Navy Seals. Sandy Hook would probably have been several injuries, and MAYBE one fatality. He was not left alone with penned kindergartners. He was confronted by adults, who probably could have stopped him, or at least greatly slowed them down. Rushing a guy with a Bushmaster buys the rest of the tribe what? About two-thirds of a second. People, even little kids, can outrun a swordsman. They can’t, it turns out, run 3,000 feet per second.

        1) If he was so scrawny and weak, then how was he handling the recoil of the weapons? If anything, semi-auto/autos in hands like his would lead to FEWER deaths as the recoil would force more shots & bullets to go wide (as is usually the case with most rapid fire shots). Up above you mentioned restricting such people slower weapons, but doing so would force them to take extra time to aim between shots. So congrats, you just legislated more death.

        2) Yes, they can “outrun” 3k feet per second. See the FBI stats gathered here. The greater the distance between shooter and target, the greater the chance the target survived. In which case, forget restricting guns, you’d save more lives by installing emergency exits (or escape hatches or whatever) in every classroom so the kids can get out and scatter as fast as possible (rather than remain trapped). Heck, with kids being smaller than full grown adults, they’d probably have even a higher survival rate than the cops studied.

    • Jmac

      And when the NRA *did* decide to come back to the news cycle, it was “Nu-uh! Not our fault! We should ban those vidya games and movies! They’re the real problem! Not the devices that can actually kill people.”

      While there may be some truth to the glorification of violence seen in other media, the NRA’s press release was one of the most shameless incidents of passing the buck I’ve ever seen. Especially when it became obvious that what they knew of video games was what about 5 minutes on google told them.

      • Chris M

        I’m about as pro-2nd amendment as they come and I completely agree with Jmac here. Every time the NRA opens its mouth I cringe. I recognize they’re the counterbalance to the idiocy on the anti-gunners side, but man.. with friends like that..

      • Michael

        The NRA has its finger on the pulse of congress. For them to send a compromising signal at all at this time would have given cover for the most extreme gun control measures that could be imagined to be steamrolled through. Have you read the summary of Fientein’s bill? It proposes banning the sale of all but a limited number of weapons it will allow by name. All existing weapons and parts that meet the definition of ‘assault weapons’ it creates, rifles and pistols, will be allowed to be grandfathered but only if registered. In short, it is a declaration of war on the second amendment and gun ownership in this nation. Don’t kid yourself that the opponents of private gun ownership are going to be reasonable just because gun owners may desire to be.

        • kenneth

          Actually the NRA’s refusal to consider any compromise or any common sense solutions guarantees that the debate, and any final legislation, will be driven almost entirely by gun control extremists like Feinstein. The NRA’s bottom line position on gun violence is: A) Guns have nothing to do with mass shooting incidents and B) The only acceptable solution to gun violence is more guns – a society in which all of us should go everywhere armed like Khyber Pass tribesmen. This position will strike most Americans as lunacy, because it is. More problematically, it will lock sensible gun owners out of the debate because we will be seen, en bloc, as a demographic of nutbag extremists who have nothing to contribute to a grown up discussion of a real problem. We will be sidelined in the same way the pro-life community was marginalized with the help of its “legitimate rape” genuises. We could change the dynamics of this debate by saying, and demonstrating, that we are willing to take on some additional burden to ensure public safety even though we are not in favor of over-reaching do-nothing blanket bans. So long as the NRA speaks for us, we won’t. The hardcore anti-gunners will push something through that is more restrictive than we would see otherwise, and which will probably do relatively little to improve safety. None of us, (including the Democrats), will be better off at the end of it, but by God, the NRA will be able to say they stuck to their guns. A classic American “circular ambush” where everyone makes their point and everybody loses.

          • Michael

            “Actually the NRA’s refusal to consider any compromise or any common sense solutions guarantees that the debate, and any final legislation, will be driven almost entirely by gun control extremists like Feinstein.”

            You do not understand how congressthings think then. There is hardly a one that has any real principle and most would be willing to sign on to full bans of this and that, a national gun registry, and tracking of every purchase, transfer, and gun owner if they thought it was the path of least resistance. If the NRA had signaled compromise at this stage the sell-out would have been a fait accompli. Now congressmen are thinking twice about the position they want to stake out many of them are hoping it goes away without them having to vote for some kind of gun control.

            There will not be a common sense compromise on this. The Feinstein’s of the world will not settle for that. Never let a crisis go to waste and this is that crisis. They will take all they can and will steamroll over anybody who is naive enough to think that being reasonable is an option with them.

            • kenneth

              Of course Congress has no principles. Politicians always follow the path of least resistance and maximum political safety. That’s my point. They are feeling a pressure to do something visible in the wake of this massacre. They have to be able to go home, and to the cameras, and show that they’re doing something serious (or that at least sounds serious). The NRA’s intrasingence is giving them nowhere else viable to go BUT the Feinsteins of the world. The NRA, and gun owners generally, whether we want to or not, are going to end up blowing off our own feet just to prove that we’re hard enough guys to do it. There is nothing noble or principled about the NRA’s position in this. It is self-defeating because it will drive that mass of quivering politicians directly into the arms of the gun-ban lobby.

              • Michael

                You are acting as if no one on capitol hill fears the NRA as a political lobby. They speak with a loud voice. If they had sent the signal that they would accept some sort of a ban in their press conference, Feinstein’s bill would be on the fast track to approval.

                • kenneth

                  The NRA speaks with a very loud voice. Almost everyone on Capitol Hill fears them, to the point that it has been considered political suicide for national candidates or office holders to even mention the words “gun control.” The problem is, fear only works to a point, and groups that buy into the myth of their own invulnerability never see the edge of that cliff until they’re over it. The British, the Romans, the Soviets and the Assad regime all thought fear and their reputation for unchallengable strength would last forever.

                  Sooner or later, populations become so discontented that they lose that fear and discover that they’re 100 times stronger than the groups that ran the show for so long. I may turn out to be wrong, but I see signs that Sandy Hook is that turning point in the gun debate. Politicians are talking about guns in ways that would have been unthinkable under the NRA only a couple months ago. They seem to be more afraid of public sentiment than the NRA. Regimes, including interest groups, that have the foresight or wisdom to sense these sea changes, can get out ahead of them and shape the change and retain a seat at the table when the dust settles. Those who stick with the iron-fist approach and misread the tsunami as just another squall (as almost all do), get swept away.

        • enness

          Feinstein’s indifference to aborted children makes the whole thing especially rich.

  • Jmac

    Oh, and I perfectly equal knee-jerkage from both sides. The pro-gunners aren’t the victims here.

  • tz

    I really need to chastise you.

    You continually use terms like maniacs and lunatics. And say we ought to keep weapons out of their hands. I agree. Completely.

    However with deinstitutionalization, we have moved the mentally ill from hospitals – which were terrible but at least secure – to the streets.

    The mentally ill are confined to solitary in jails and prisons – which is torture by many measures. Others are homeless and starve or freeze to death. Some, like the retarded end up in “group homes” where they can be abused (e.g. women ending up pregnant, sometimes they are scalded to death because the bath was too hot or other “tragedies”).

    Nowhere do you even attempt to deal those who are detached from reality. Who cannot – through no will of their own – properly process and analyze what their senses tell them.

    You appear (tacitly) to want these people to suffer, to do horrible acts, wander the streets screeching at hallucinatory attackers.

    Somehow the “civil rights” which cause suffering to these poor victims are even more important than the “right to keep and bear arms”.

    We must keep the mentally ill homeless, on the streets, in jails, or wherever. And somehow turn the world into one giant “padded cell” so they can go about the world without hurting themselves or others while they continue in excruciating emotional – and often physical – agony.

    Your converse social contract trade-off is to keep the mentally ill in some kind of horrible extreme libertarianism where they must take care of themselves while utterly incapable of doing so, suffer horribly, end up in jails and prisons instead of anywhere they might be cared about and cared for, but control guns so they can’t get hold of them so their psychosis will only be limited by their access to one particular kind of weapon.

    Why do you harbor such uncharity to the mentally ill that you would not seek their cure, or even the amelioration, but abandon them to their suffering, imprisonment with torture, and/or whatever evil ends up inflicted upon them by man or by devil?

    Assuming the mentally ill – and I would add sociopaths that desire evil and destruction – are quarantined and treated with appropriate means, would you still advocate for restrictions on guns and/or other weapons if there would then be no great need?

    • kenneth

      If I had a few extra terrawatts of power in my magic wand, I’d wave it and create a seamless humane mental health system, and there would be no need for really any gun regulation at all. If I knew with a godlike certainty that everyone at large was mentally well and mature and just had all around sense, I would have no problem with them owning semi-autos, or for that matter, full on heavy machine guns. If you have the backyard for it, go target shooting with a Quad .50 for all I care. Ride the subway with a six-holster rig like “Il Deuce” in “Boondock Saints” if you’re that easily amused. It’s not likely we’ll ever create such a world, and right now, we’re not even in the same galaxy. Our mental health system is, to put it charitably, is minimalist.
      In our real world, this is a complex problem involving mental health and weapons regulation and will require complex solutions to achieve any good. The NRA’s “solution” – allowing unlimited firepower to 300 million people largely on the honor system, and then making our society an armed camp to shoot it out with the loons we’ve let through the net – is not a solution. Nor should we allow the loons to transform our society into one where no one can be trusted with sharp scissors let alone guns of any kind. We need to reform mental health care regardless of anything else we do. The current mess costs us in a million ways beyond violence. Gun regulations should not be approached as a “ban or not” question but one of sensible regulation. I see that as recognition of the real and quantum differences in lethality between certain types of weapon technology – ie high capacity semi-autos and imposing different burdens upon owners to prove their stability.

      • Stu

        The NRA’s “solution” – allowing unlimited firepower to 300 million people largely on the honor system, and then making our society an armed camp to shoot it out with the loons we’ve let through the net – is not a solution.

        That’s not the NRA “solution.” I’ll assume that is just oversight on your part.

  • Stu

    Never let a good crisis go to waste.

    Senator Feinstein seizes the opportunity to propose actions that are not in any way aimed at preventing what happened in Sandy Hook. Her proposal calls for:

    Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:
    Background check of owner and any transferee;
    Type and serial number of the firearm;
    Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint;
    Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law; and
    Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration

    For the good of the state, tovarich.

    • kenneth

      I agree that this won’t do much directly to prevent mass shootings, but it also doesn’t strike me as particularly onerous. It’s really no more intrusive than vehicle ownership.

      • Stu

        So it’s not about stopping events like Sandy Hook? Is that just the convenient excuse to go for more intrusion?

        This is how we get things like the Patriot Act, rendition, indefinite detention, roadside cavity searches, intrusive TSA screening, etc.

        All in the name of safety with the dismissal that it’s not “particularly onerous.”

        I rest my case that there is a “do something, no matter what it is, do something” mindset that follows events like this.

        • kenneth

          Anyone with a conscience or soul should want to “do something” after events like this, and the many dozens prior. The trick is to do something intelligent and within Constitutional bounds and that has a reasonable chance of improving safety. We would have a much better chance at that if the gun culture was willing to do anything and thereby become an effective moderating voice to the extreme anti-gun position.

          • Stu

            Anyone with a conscience, soul and thoughtfulness wants to “do something” that will actually try to remedy the problem at hand.

            Feinstein’s registration ploy has nothing to do with remedying the problem at hand. It’s opportunism for her political agenda with a unquestioning mass of people behind her.

            We would have a much better chance if people were willing to actually address the problem at hand and thereby become an effect agent for real accomplishment.

            • kenneth

              Yes, but who is going to be able to effectively guide a productive problem-solving approach vs blanket banning now that the NRA has marginalized themselves (and thereby the gun culture as a whole)?

              The public wants to see Washington do something differently after Sandy Hook. Something big. They don’t give a damn about the NRA’s long-running hurt feelings over liberal’s ill intentions or maintaining the purity of a no-compromise policy crafted largely by the gun manufacturers and the tin-foil hatters fantasizing about armed uprising. They’re also not especially interested in the technical minutiae of defining “assault weapons.”

              They want action and they want some big pieces of legislation toward public safety out of Washington. By defining gun owners as fringe nutters unwilling to budge on anything, the NRA has cleared the field for Feinstein to position herself as the go-to person for real action on public safety after Sandy Hook.

              The NRA is caught in the same death spiral feedback loop that has snagged the GOP and countless other political movements over the centuries. The extreme voices gain power over a movement and engage the wider world on the basis of fear and isolationism. In doing so, they do and say increasingly crazy things, which actually DOES set the wider world against them, so their suspicion hardens their extremism and they present a loonier face to the outside and…..

              Feinstein is an extremist too, but she’s politically much smarter than Wayne Lapierre. She knows all she has to do to win this issue is to get out front of it, let the NRA speak and marginalize itself, and then act like the sole voice of reason on the field.

  • North West