Some Thoughts On Guns, Part 2

Some Thoughts On Guns, Part 2 September 26, 2013

IN PART ONE, I began my discussion of gun control by saying that I have some real ambivalence about the issue, based in part on the makeup of my extended family — how it is divided between mostly rural folks on my Mom’s side and Dad’s far more urban side of the family.

As someone who has feet in both camps, I see an awful lot of mythologizing about guns from both the pro- and anti-control sides of the debate. A gun, in and of itself, is intrinsically neither a Destroyer of the Innocent nor a Magical Totem of Manly Power. It is a machine — receiver, firing pin, primer, and so forth, all working together to push a bullet down the barrel at high velocity.

So, I don’t think the problem has merely to do with the existence of guns. I do, however, think that some reasonable controls are necessary and wise.

But for me, there is another factor in play here, a factor not often mentioned in debates over gun control. I’m speaking of the situation on the ground in places like Richmond, California and South Central Los Angeles.

It has been said that a nation can be judged best by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens; I would say that the people in our poorer neighborhoods are our most vulnerable population, and the daily existence of people in my old neighborhood in the Flats in Richmond, California is beset by violence and the desolating grief it causes.

I’ve talked to many people in my old neighborhood and in other places like it, and a story I keep hearing from older people there is how the violence has escalated in the last 30 or 40 years. Gangs have existed in one form or another probably since cities have existed, but within living memory of some old-timers, those gangs settled differences with their fists and — when everyone’s arms eventually grew tired of throwing punches — from negotiations between factions.

The easy availability of guns has destroyed the old order, mostly because guns can bring a terrible (but illusory) finality to conflicts, but also because killing someone raises the stakes for everyone involved. Getting a beating will usually result in humiliation at worst; the prospect of being killed means everyone is fighting not just for abstractions like honor and respect, but for their very survival. It also means that the cycle of retaliation can have no real end.

I think asking, “How do we find a compromise that will be acceptable to both hunters and the professoriate?” is not enough; I think we also need to ask, “What can we do in terms of gun policy to deal with the terrible situation in our poor neighborhoods?”

The answer to that question is very complex, but I think removing guns from the equation is an essential ingredient so we can buy time to de-escalate conflicts and address the deeper issues that afflict our most vulnerable citizens. Removing guns from the equation pretty much means enacting pretty fine-grained controls on gun ownership nationwide, to prevent a “gray-market” in guns purchased in rural areas being transported into violent urban neighborhoods.

It is worth mentioning that there are already gun control measures in place nationwide, and (aside from a few fringe militia types and assorted other gun fetishists) these controls are relatively uncontroversial and supported by a consensus of citizens across the political spectrum.

For example, it is illegal for most people to own a machine gun in the United States, and I and most other people think that’s a very good thing. Machine guns are designed to do one thing: kill large numbers of people or threaten them with death. I can’t think of a good reason for a civilian to have one. No one needs that much firepower for personal defense, and if anyone does then it can reasonably be said that he probably needs to work on his people skills. And no one needs a machine gun for hunting — if you need to spray the woods with hundreds of rounds to get a buck, then I think you need to hit the firing range more often.

More to the point, a machine gun is deliberately designed to very quickly produce casualties on an industrial scale – the prospect of an Adam Lanza (the Sandy Hook gunman) with full-auto weaponry is more than any reasonable person can bear to contemplate.

So there is a consensus that weaponry explicitly designed for military use ought not to be generally available.

More controls beyond that are entirely reasonable, in my view. For example, the only place I’ve ever needed a 30-round magazine was for the M-16 I was issued by the Army. I’ve never needed one for hunting or target shooting. The day I need 30 rounds to get a deer is the day my rifle will become a conversation piece rather than a tool for hunting. I can’t think of any valid reason for ordinary citizens to have a magazine holding more than five rounds.

Another feature of military-grade weaponry is the presence of a flash suppressor at the end of the barrel. The only reason to have a flash suppressor on the end of a barrel is to hide, from other human beings, the muzzle flash when firing your weapon, thus making it less likely that enemy soldiers can locate your firing position. They have no purpose in the context of hunting, because deer (for example) don’t have the visual acuity (nor the understanding) to locate and avoid a reasonably well-concealed hunter. So, I think flash suppressors ought to be prohibited.

More generally, rifles whose telos is causing human casualties ought not to be in the hands of civilians as a matter of course. It should be the case that if you need firearms of that kind, there should be lots of background checks, or licensing, or whatever it takes to make them relatively rare in civilian hands, and if you want one you are required to provide a Darned Good Reason Why, beyond just “it’s shiny and I can wave it around and pretend to be in a movie.”


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  • Doc Fox

    A movie of decades ago, once a genre of movies, “The Gunfight at the OK Corral” portrays an 1800’s scenario that is a parallel to the above. The NRA’s thought of ‘give the good guys guns to defend themselves and others and all will be well’ is put to the test by the author above’s tale. Imagine a theatre shooting … bad guy stands up a shoots, twenty people with guns stand up looking for the bad guy … which of the 21 people holding guns is each of them supposed to determine is the one to shoot at?

    • For one thing, Tombstone, Arizona at the time was actually safer than many modern American cities. Despite the “Ok Corral,” homicides rates were lower.

      For another thing, the police are more likely to shoot a good guy than a regular armed civilian is. If you think about it a minute you should understand why.

      Often when the cop arrives on the scene he may not know who the good guy is and may shoot him by mistake (although given the circumstances they do pretty good at figuring it out). The cop wasn’t there when the action started and has to figure it out when he arrives, and mistakes can be made. However a civilian on the scene who _was_ there from the beginning does almost certainly know who the bad guy is and that is the guy – if he is armed – that he will shoot.

      Also a lot of people licensed to carry concealed handguns are starting to carry little (but very powerful flashlights) that in the Aurora scenario could be used to a) identify the bad guy, and b) blind him while putting a couple rounds in center of mass.

      Mostly you are a bunch of people with probably zero, zilch, nada reach tactical training and you probably talk among yourselves to reinforces your fallacies.

      You should read the following post (not by me) by someone who actually knows something about tactics. He is ex-Marine, ex-soldier, and ex-police.

      Everything that’s wrong with the argument against protecting schools with guns

      http://chrishernandezauthor.com/2013/09/03/everything-thats-wrong-with-the-argument-against-protecting-schools-with-guns/

      lwk

      • lwk – I realize there are strong feelings out there about guns – on both sides of the issue.

        I approved this comment because it was substantive, but please try to dial back the vitriol. Respectful disagreement is fine, and welcome; comments that are likely to shed more heat than light will get deleted by me without ever seeing the light of day.

        • Sorry, re the vitriol.

          Let me make this point again. The article says:

          “Another feature of military-grade weaponry is the presence of a flash suppressor at the end of the barrel. The only reason to have a flash suppressor on the end of a barrel is to hide, from other human beings, the muzzle flash when firing your weapon, thus making it less likely that enemy soldiers can locate your firing position.”

          The above statement is false. Absolutely false, and a common staple I have seen many times by writers who have not actually ever been shot at.

          The purpose of a flash suppressor as used on the M16 assault rifle and the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle (not an assault rifle) is to help not blind the shooter with his own the flash in low light. It in no way helps hide the position of the shooter from the enemy. Perhaps a full suppressor (a.k.a. “silencer”) might do that to some extent, but the ordinary suppressors on these rifles do no such thing. A “silencer” or similar device is a Class II device requiring a very special license and registration with the BATFE.

          Trust me on this, or go out some time and have someone fire one of these rifles in your general direction. I guarantee you will see the truth clearly.

          lwk

          • I stand corrected, lwk. The flash suppressor is primarily to keep the shooter from being blinded in low light (although lowering the visibility of the shooter is one intended, though secondary, effect.)

            I actually think the broader point stands, however; a flash suppressor is a feature of rifles whose purpose is killing people. That’s why you don’t ordinarily see flash suppressors on rifles designed primarily for hunting – my last deer rifle, a Remington 700 in .270, didn’t have one.

            Let me ask you, though – why should civilians have more or less unrestricted access to assault rifles and high-capacity magazines? (For the purposes of this discussion, I’m using the term “assault rifle” to describe civilian (semi-auto) versions of rifles which were designed primarily as tactical rifles for military and police use around the world, as well as imitations, knock-offs and other rifles whose design features and characteristics would indicate an anti-personnel rather than hunting use. This is the common and descriptive definition.)

  • Another thought on this – and whether I agree with the article or not – it did stimulate some thought on my part.

    “I’ve talked to many people in my old neighborhood and in other places like it, and a story I keep hearing from older people there is how the violence has escalated in the last 30 or 40 years. Gangs have existed in one form or another probably since cities have existed, but within living memory of some old-timers, those gangs settled differences with their fists …The easy availability of guns has destroyed the old order.”

    I agree that something has changed. In my old neighborhood in Chicago in the late 50s and early 60s if someone had a zip gun (homemade single shot “pistol” of sorts, usually very crude) then that would be fairly extrordinary. Knives, clubs, and other blunt force weapons would be more likely for young hoodlums of that day.

    But guns were easily available then. I could buy a surplus Italian or German battle rifle from WWII by mail order then from an ad in the back of comic book. People typically didn’t lock their guns away in safes either. They might have them proudly displayed in a gun cabinet. You could probably find a loaded revolved in a fair amount of night stands back then too.

    I remember going to my uncles apartment and handling an M1 Garand battle rifle that he owned. Another uncle owned an M1 carbine with a 20 round “high capacity” magazine. We had a German Luger pistol my grandfather brought back from WWI. That M1 Garand by the way, fires a cartridge that is way more powerful than an M16 or AR-15 (its bullet has more kinetic energy at 500 yards from the muzzle than the M16 cartridge has at the muzzle).

    I am pretty sure as a teenager back then I could have bought a handgun if I had the money to do so and really wanted to. As it turns out I didn’t buy a handgun back then cause didn’t have much use for it. Was living in Indiana when was 16 and bought a 22 rifle for hunting instead. More useful in rural Indiana than it would have been when lived in Chicago inner city.

    So how does an inner city kid in Chicago today afford to buy a handgun? Or handguns if they get caught by the police and it is taken away and they supposedly need to replace it? So he buys it from a black market dealer with no check, but how can so many kids afford to? Or the ammo?

    I read that Trayvon Martin was looking to buy a handgun before his encounter with George Zimmerman (supposedly from his cell phone). It seems to some kids today owning a handgun is up there in importance with how important I thought buying a car was when I was that age.

    I don’t think guns are necessarily more available. But it seems some segments of society value owning a handgun a lot more today than many did back when I was a kid. Demand drives supply. And maybe illegal drugs and profits from crime help pay for them?

    According to FBI stats for 2011 for homicides when the race of the offender is known it was black 52.4% of the time although blacks were between 13-14% of the population in 2011. And other blacks are usually the victim. Also if you carefully examine those FBI stats for other crimes like theft and burglary blacks will often be way overrepresented. Please understand I am not saying blacks are inherently more homicidal or criminal. I think it is a social problem more than anything else, a problem largely brought about by the destruction of the black family in the inner city.

    I have read if you take the homicide stats for the U.S. and subract homicides in the inner cities where a Drug War is being fought, and gangs are the main activity of a lot of kids, then you would be very comparable to some European countries that are considered less violent than the U.S.

    In other words our violence/homicide problem is highly concentrated in inner cities, and those cities in most cases have been run by Democrats, sometimes for decades.

    So I don’t believe easy availability of guns is an explanation for the problem. I think the problem is deeper and a lot harder to eradicate than guns.

    It seems to me that guns are an easy target to blame while ignoring the failures of 50 years of social polices the unintended consequences of which have come home to roost, so to speak.

    lwk

  • Matt Talbot wrote:

    “…a flash suppressor is a feature of rifles whose purpose is killing people.”

    The most important feature of any firearm that can kill people (just about all of them) is the cartridge it fires. The .223 or 5.56×45 (very nearly the same, used in M16 and AR-15s) is one of the least powerful centerfile rifle cartridges in existence. As I said in another post, the M1 Garand fires a much more powerful cartridge and that is probably the most popular hunting cartridge that has ever existed in America (the 30.06).

    A term that has come into great popularity of late is “military grade” to describe some of these weapons. The 30.06 used by millions of hunters is a supreme “military grade” cartridge well capable of killing a person at well over 600 yards (the farthest target in high power matches).

    My guess is that most people who own AR-15s (and I am one of them) is that the flash suppressor makes the firearm look more “authentic,” that is, they want it to cosmetically look like the real thing, the M16. If I have have to defend myself at night with my AR-15 then I will be glad it is there, but from experience it is of limited usefulness. But as I said, it is a cosmetic feature that is very popular.

    But to directly answer your question, all firearms can be used to kill people.

    “That’s why you don’t ordinarily see flash suppressors on rifles designed primarily for hunting – my last deer rifle, a Remington 700 in .270, didn’t have one.”

    The primary reason you do not see any kind of suppressor on hunting rifles is the National Firearms Act of 1934. Otherwise you probably would have some sort of commercial sound suppressor on your rifle.

    I, like many people who have been around un-suppressed firearms too often, have hearing today that is seriously degraded and I hear a constant ringing in my ears (which fortunately my mind has learned to largely ignore most of the time). If it had not been for the NFA the use of suppressors might have been much more common, and although they rarely really “silence” a firearm they can bring the decibel level down enough so as not to be the threat to hearing that an un-suppressed firearm. Bear in mind, what I am talking about here has nothing to do with the suppressor on an M16 which does nothing to reduce sound levels.

    I live in Texas today. What you can buy in regards to Class II devices depends on the state you live in. A serious suppressor is a Class II device. In Texas you can buy them now (just pay a $200 fee to BATFE and go through paperwork). Some states make them illegal. Recently I am starting to see some gun stores selling Class II suppressors.

    I think that suppressors on hunting rifles is a very good idea and a lot of hearing loss would be avoided if they became more common. I am not too worried about Mafia hit men with silenced pistols.

    Actually, and I am fairly old fashioned and prefer traditional hunting rifles with wood stocks and bluing, the future I think is headed towards semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, some sort of plastic stock, and maybe a suppressor to save hearing.

    I wrote some on that here:

    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/assault-rifles/

    “Let me ask you, though – why should civilians have more or less unrestricted access to assault rifles and high-capacity magazines?”

    I wrote an article on my blog on a form of univeral background check that I think gun owners could support.

    Universal Background Checks
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/universal-background-checks/

    You have to decide what you mean by “unrestricted.” My view is that the current system where people with felony convictions or having been committed to a mental institution are good reasons to bar them from owning firearms of any kind.

    As to whether people should be able to own rifles like an AR-15, my answer is yes. Again I have written about it before:

    Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

    The above talks about what an AR-15 can be good for in terms of self defense.

    In the following article I talk about what I think the 2nd Amendment really means:

    A Modern 2nd Amendment
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/a-modern-2nd-amendment/

    My understanding is the the Founders meant to guarantee a right to own “military grade” firearms for regular citizens.

    “…rifles which were designed primarily as tactical rifles for military and police …”

    My general belief is that any weapon that your local police can have, a law abiding citizen should be able to own. One of the really sad consequences of the War on Drugs has been the huge militarization of local law enforcement and a huge erosion of our rights under the 4th Amendment to not have police in expensive tactical gear break into our house with assault rifles and dogs and force us to lay on the ground

    I don’t think the issue is however clear cut or simple, or just a claim as to what the 2nd Amendment means or meant. A huge part of the problem is an enormous distrust of government and the motives, intentions, and understanding of people who want to largely ban guns. Unfortunately that often stands in the way of people on both sides of the issue having a conversation.

    regards,

    lwk

    • The most important feature of any firearm that can kill people (just about all of them) is the cartridge it fires.

      I disagree. The features I’m highlighting are the features that distinguish military and police rifles from hunting rifles. Flash suppressors, semi-auto fire, 30 round magazines, and so on. Being able to spray 30 bullets into a crowd, quickly reload and fire 30 more, means someone with an AR 15 can kill way more people way more quickly than they could with a bolt action rifle of whatever caliber.

      The .223 or 5.56×45 (very nearly the same, used in M16 and AR-15s) is one of the least powerful center-fire rifle cartridges in existence.

      Well, I probably wouldn’t use that round to go, say, elk or bear hunting, but it will do lethal-enough damage to any human being on the receiving end of one.

      Texas is a large and (in terms of the land area) mostly rural state, and the culture there is very much like my Mom’s side of the family (I’ve road-tripped through there, and finished out my Army enlistment at Fort Bliss in the far western corner of that state) and I understand that folks there have a different experience, a different cultural “relationship” with guns than people in more urban states. I also agree with your point above that gun control is not the be-all and end-all of solving things, and you raise some good points about the cultural and other challenges that are contributing factors to violence in our society.

      My point is that it is time, in my view, for the people in Texas and similar areas to give some ground in terms of gun control, because places that aren’t like that are the scenes of more or less regular carnage, and if assault rifles (as defined above) and handguns were far more tightly controlled and regulated, the death toll would be much lower.

      .

  • “The features I’m highlighting are the features that distinguish military and police rifles from hunting rifles. Flash suppressors, semi-auto fire, 30 round magazines, and so on.”

    It is probably important at this point to understand that the 2nd Amendment was not primarily written to protect your right to own a rifle for hunting. For most people today owning a hunting rifle constitutes a hobby, not a means of survival. If hunting is the justification of owning a firearm today then we have no real justification.

    “Being able to spray 30 bullets into a crowd, quickly reload and fire 30 more, means someone with an AR 15 can kill way more people way more quickly than they could with a bolt action rifle of whatever caliber.”

    It is true that such a rifle can be used, in the hands of someone skilled in it use, to kill or injure a large number of people. But that is equally true of a car. Look at incidents where people – usually in some form of accident – have driven a car into a crowd killing or injuring a lot of people very quickly. Or if some deranged persons really wanted to they could construct IEDs (improvised explosive devices) like the Boston bombers did at the marathon recently. How many people were killed with a fertilizer fuel bomb in Oklahoma some years ago?

    If one wants to kill a lot of people in a hurry it is not hard to do, with or without semi-automatic rifles. Fortunately for America we have seen relativey few of these, so far.

    The bottom line is this. Mass public shootings account for a minute percentage of people killed with guns each year. So called “assault rifles” are a tiny, tiny percentage. The vast majority of homicides are committed with a handgun.

    But these public shootings are horrible and get a lot of attention and make it appear America is very violent when in fact our crime and homicide rates are approaching historic lows not seen since I was a teenager in the 1960s.

    Nevertheless people want to do something to stop these mass shootings. It is easy to blame guns and rationalize that you don’t see a good reason for people to own these guns. But it is rationalization that refuses address the real underlying issues and just wants to punish millions and millions of people with absolutely justifiable reasons to own these guns, and to punish them based on the actions of a few mad men, mad men literally in most cases that should have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution and treated.

    Adam Lanza’s mother was trying to have him committed when he killed her and the teachers and children in Newtown.

    The psychiatrist for James Holmes, the killer in the Aurora, Colorado theater, warned police that he was dangerous before his rampage.

    Jared Lee Loughner who shot Rep. Giffords was diagnosed as a parnoid schizophrenic after his arrest, and his family and friends had complained of his bizarre behaviour before.

    Aaron Alexis, the most recent killer in Washington, had called police to a motel room because he was hearing voices and the police apparently were powerless to take him to a mental hospital for evaluation.

    Charles Krauthammer wrote in the Washington Post:

    “Had this happened 35 years ago in Boston, Alexis would have been brought to me as the psychiatrist on duty at the emergency room of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Were he as agitated and distressed as in the police report, I probably would have administered an immediate dose of Haldol, the most powerful fast-acting antipsychotic of the time.”

    “This would generally have relieved the hallucinations and delusions, a blessing not only in itself, but also for the lucidity brought on that would have allowed him to give us important diagnostic details — psychiatric history, family history, social history, medical history, etc. If I had thought he could be sufficiently cared for by family or friends to receive regular oral medication, therapy and follow-up, I would have discharged him. Otherwise, I’d have admitted him. And if he refused, I’d have ordered a 14-day involuntary commitment.”

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-19/opinions/42218994_1_tucson-shooting-family-history-newtown

    What all of these indicate is not a problem with guns. What these indicate is that we are no longer serious about detecting these dangerous people and putting them away until they can at least be treated.

    But that is not all.

    As I wrote earlier guns were easy to get when I was a kid. But we didn’t have these mass shootings. Another thing we did not have is the massive prescription of psychoactive drugs to young boys for diagnoses like ADHD.

    Many people complain that the NRA represents a massive lobby for gun manufacturers and the money from these manufacturers is buying the votes of Congress. But in fact the pharmaceutical industry is something like 100x as big in terms of profits than the industry that supplies firearms to civilians.

    I wrote about that here:

    Guns And Drugs
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/guns-and-drugs/

    From the above article, here are just some of the documented side effects of these drugs:

    Aggression/hostility
    Agitation
    Depression
    Hallucinations
    Increased irritability
    Insomnia
    Mania
    Mental/mood changes
    Psychosis
    Suicidal thoughts
    Toxic psychosis
    Violent behavior
    “Zombie” demeanor

    In summary it is easy to blames guns and call for the seizure of certain weapons frmo millions and millions of people who will never harm anyone with them and who have valid reasons for owning them. But to do so is to ignore very real issues with dealing with people with serious mental illness, and ignoring the very dangerous side effects of some very powerful drgus now being routinely prescribed to millions of kids.

    On these drugs, the vast majority will probably have some benefit and will not turn into sociopathic murderers like Adam Lanza. But some very few vulnerable individuals with undiagnosed issues may be in fact be turned into these exact kind of murderers by these drugs. We definitely need to investigate that, but an industry 100x larger and more powerful than the NRA so far has been capable of preventing that public examination in depth.

    Finally, as long as we do have these problems, and obviously it will take a while to change our course on many of these issues, we need to recognize the necessity of protecting vulnerable children in our schools with law abiding good citizens with guns.

    If the principal at Newton had had a firearm she could have stopped Lanza. This link by an ex-police officer explains and defends that remark:

    Everything that’s wrong with the argument against protecting schools with guns

    http://chrishernandezauthor.com/2013/09/03/everything-thats-wrong-with-the-argument-against-protecting-schools-with-guns/

    My youngest son is currently an active duty Marine. I read yesterday that the Commandant of the Marine Corps is now – after the Washington shooting – calling for all on duty Marines in the U.S. to be armed all the time on duty. Amen.

    regards,

    lwk

    • It is true that such a rifle can be used, in the hands of someone skilled in it use, to kill or injure a large number of people. But that is equally true of a car.

      Yes, but: 1. Cars are not designed to kill people, and 2. the ability to use a car is heavily regulated, involving licensing, mandatory training and so forth, because their mis-use can be lethal.

      Adam Lanza’s mother was trying to have him committed when he killed her and the teachers and children in Newtown.

      The psychiatrist for James Holmes, the killer in the Aurora, Colorado theater, warned police that he was dangerous before his rampage.

      Jared Lee Loughner who shot Rep. Giffords was diagnosed as a parnoid schizophrenic after his arrest, and his family and friends had complained of his bizarre behaviour before.

      Aaron Alexis, the most recent killer in Washington, had called police to a motel room because he was hearing voices and the police apparently were powerless to take him to a mental hospital for evaluation.

      Charles Krauthammer wrote in the Washington Post:

      “Had this happened 35 years ago in Boston, Alexis would have been brought to me as the psychiatrist on duty at the emergency room of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Were he as agitated and distressed as in the police report, I probably would have administered an immediate dose of Haldol, the most powerful fast-acting antipsychotic of the time.”

      “This would generally have relieved the hallucinations and delusions, a blessing not only in itself, but also for the lucidity brought on that would have allowed him to give us important diagnostic details — psychiatric history, family history, social history, medical history, etc. If I had thought he could be sufficiently cared for by family or friends to receive regular oral medication, therapy and follow-up, I would have discharged him. Otherwise, I’d have admitted him. And if he refused, I’d have ordered a 14-day involuntary commitment.”

      http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-19/opinions/42218994_1_tucson-shooting-family-history-newtown

      What all of these indicate is not a problem with guns. What these indicate is that we are no longer serious about detecting these dangerous people and putting them away until they can at least be treated.

      Right: there were and are other factors than guns. But if the United States had gun laws similar to, say, the UK, it is reasonable to believe that their crimes would not have happened, since it is far more difficult to acquire a gun there than it is here.

      In summary it is easy to blames guns and call for the seizure of certain weapons from millions and millions of people who will never harm anyone with them and who have valid reasons for owning them. But to do so is to ignore very real issues with dealing with people with serious mental illness, and ignoring the very dangerous side effects of some very powerful drgus now being routinely prescribed to millions of kids.

      I’m not saying that tightly regulating gun ownership is THE solution. My point is more that it is an essential part of the solution. Another part of it is directly challenging what I could describe as the Cult of the Gun in the United States, which is far more prevalent here than in our peer countries in Europe and East Asia.

      But look: There are plenty of places in the world that are as densely populated as the United States, that have broadly similar cultural institutions and levels of economic development, and that have far less gun violence of all kinds than the United States. I think it is worth asking what they are doing that we are not, and it is worth asking what is keeping us from doing those things too.

  • Julia Smucker

    “The easy availability of guns has destroyed the old order…”

    The rest of that paragraph is very incisive, but I am particularly struck by this statement because it illustrates that there is nothing conservative about the liberalization of public access to guns (particularly those designed to cause human casualties – an important distinction). It doesn’t conserve much of anything (except a fundamentally liberal/libertarian notion of “freedom” as individual autonomy) any more than abortion on demand does.

    • “…there is nothing conservative about the liberalization of public access to guns (particularly those designed to cause human casualties – an important distinction). It doesn’t conserve much of anything (except a fundamentally liberal/libertarian notion of “freedom” as individual autonomy) any more than abortion on demand does.”

      Those are interesting statements. Not sure entirely how to parse all of it though.

      Having grown up reading Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein my views are very strongly pro-Libertarian. I am very much for the maximum amount of individual automony and freedom. However unlike many Libertarians I also have to reconcile my views with those teachings in the New Testament which ring true to me.

      As to the “liberalization of public access to guns” I am not sure what you are talking about. I have lived over 6 decades now and I have never seen access to guns made easier – just the opposite in fact. Before the Gun Control Act of 1968 I could buy top quality “military grade” surplus firearms by mail order from an ad in a magazine or comic book with absolutely no checks whatsover – the only thing that counted was that my check not bounce to the seller.

      President John F. Kennedy was assassinated with a surplus WWII Italian rifle bought in just that fashion by Lee Harvey Oswald. Or at least that is the official story. 🙂

      I bought my first .22 rifle at 16 years of age by walking into the store and putting down my money and I walked out of the store immediately with both gun and a box of ammunition.

      Guns are in no way easier to buy today than they were then. Today to buy a new gun from a dealer I show my concealed carry license (therefore NICS FBI check not required) but I still have to fill out the 4473 form swearing I am not a felon, crazy, etc. and that I am not a “straw buyer” for someone else.

      Oddly enough though I have read that prosecutions of people who lie on the form 4473 are way, way down under the Obama administration compared to under G.W. Bush. How is it that people who daily talk about needing more gun control laws can’t find the time to actually enforce the existing ones? Joe Biden said on TV, when asked about it, that they didn’t have time for it right now.

      You wrote:

      “particularly those [guns] designed to cause human casualties”

      Which is odd because the cartridge used in the AR-15 “assault rifle” used to be considered a “varmit” cartridge only suitable for target shooting and killing nuisance small animals that farmers and ranchers like to see eradicated. Many states today have laws on the books that forbid using the same cartridge for shooting whitetail deer. It is not considered powerful enough for humane kills.

      In fact just about any gun made today can kill a human being. Some will kill things a lot bigger and meaner than a human being (which tends to be on the frailer side compared to some of these animals).

      For example look at this picture (from my blog) that compares some handgun and rifle cartridges I have firearms for:

      http://free2beinamerica2.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/cartridges21.jpg?w=640&h=587

      On the left you will see couple handgun cartridges then the 5.56×45 cartridge used in the M16 and some AR-15s. It is dwarfed by previous military cartridges, and particularly by the 7mm Remington Magnum hunting cargridge on the far right.

      I absolutely guarantee you that the hunting cartridge on the far right is enormously more lethal than that used in “assault rifles.”

      “It doesn’t conserve much of anything …”

      Another odd tidbit I can comment on. Conservatives by definition want to conserve the past. “If it was good enough for Grandpa it is good enough for me!” Liberals seem to find little in the present order worthwhile to preserve and only want to change to something else they imagine will be better.

      Both sides if they were totally in charge would be a disaster. Conservative resist change, but life is change more often than not. Liberals however are willing to make huge changes on a hunch it might be better and often the unintended consequences are disasters of the first order (as witness the mess they have made with blacks by destroying families).

      Libertarians have some good ideas about freedom, but often they can’t compromise to actually get something useful done. They spend more time fighting among themselves on differences than actually accomplishing anything.

      The real answer I think is to find a middle way between conserving what truly works and changing that which can be improved. But that is actually hard and even harder to put into slogans that fit on picket signs. 🙂

      regards,

      lwk

      • Which is odd because the cartridge used in the AR-15 “assault rifle” used to be considered a “varmint” cartridge only suitable for target shooting and killing nuisance small animals that farmers and ranchers like to see eradicated. Many states today have laws on the books that forbid using the same cartridge for shooting whitetail deer. It is not considered powerful enough for humane kills.

        In fact just about any gun made today can kill a human being. Some will kill things a lot bigger and meaner than a human being (which tends to be on the frailer side compared to some of these animals).

        Again: the problem with assault rifles is that they are designed for the purpose of efficiently killing people. Yes, a .270 round from my Remington 700 will kill people too, but I can only fire maybe an aimed shot per second at best, and if I’m shooting up a shopping mall, the time when I am reloading is time that someone can use to stop my attack.

        More generally, The libertarian ethic you describe is really aimed at a far more rural civilization than exists in the contemporary United States. The United States has not been a primarily rural country since some time in the 1930s. New citizens, and new circumstances, require new laws and new approaches.

  • “Cars are not designed to kill people, and 2. the ability to use a car is heavily regulated, involving licensing, mandatory training and so forth, because their mis-use can be lethal.”

    From:

    List of preventable causes of death
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_preventable_causes_of_death

    In the United States today some 43,000 people die as the result of traffic accidents. Less than 32,000 people die from firearms (and approximately 2/3s of those are suicides).

    Also it looks like the doctors and hospitals kill more people than guns. Somewhere between 44,000 and 98,000 people from “Preventable medical errors in hospitals” (the exact number it says is controversial).

    Regardless of licensing, training, etc. people still kill more people with cars than guns. and kill quite a lot more people with cars than are killed in deliberate homicides. According to FBI stats there were 12,664 homicides in 2011.

    see:
    http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8

    Of those homicides only 323 were committed with rifles of _all_ types (not just socalled “assault rifles”). 2.55% of all homicides committed with rifles of all types.

    However for _all_ homicides nearly half were committed with handguns (6,220).

    So it would seem to me that if one was largely concerned with reducing homicides then one should be a lot more concerned with keeping handguns out of the wrong hands than socalled assault rifles. These rifles account for only a tiny fraction of homicides (albeit some very atrocious ones with huge media attention).

    Someone made the observation that we seem to be a lot more concerned with the murder of a small number of white kids in Newtown than with the routine murder of black kids and young men in the inner cities, places like the south side of Chicago.

    My point is this. You cannot account for the huge desire of some to ban these assault rifles based on actual statistics of their use in murder. Their use is tiny compared to all other methods, methods that includes gun, knives, blunt trauma, etc.

    Regardless of what one asserts guns are designed for, it would look like cars and doctors still manage to kill more people than guns.

    The new talking point seems to be about “gun violence,” but from my perspective that is largely deceptive. When most people think of violence they are thinking of one person directing violence against another person. They are not thinking of suicide.

    However those seeking much greater regulation of guns, or outright bans now almost unamiously use the term “gun violence” and include suicides in their stats.

    These same people compare the U.S. and the U.K. for example in terms of gun violence. Looking at statistics for suicide though the statistics for the U.S. and the U.K. are nearly _identical_ at averages of 12.0 and 11.8 per 100,000 respectively.

    So exactly how did the banning of a huge number of firearms in the U.K. help the U.K. have a nearly insignificant advantage over the U.S. in terms of suicide?

    See:

    List of countries by suicide rate
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate#cite_note-1

    What this really tells us is that banning firearms probably has little effect on suicide. People who will kill themselves with a gun are not making a plea for help. They really mean it and will find a way to do it with a gun, or without.

    “…if the United States had gun laws similar to, say, the UK, it is reasonable to believe that their crimes would not have happened, since it is far more difficult to acquire a gun there than it is here.”

    Actually gun crimes in the U.K. have been going up considerably now. See:

    Gun Crime Soars in England Where Guns Are Banned
    http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2012/12/11/gun-crime-soars-in-england-where-guns-are-banned-n1464528

    Qutoing from above:

    “Figures showed the number of crimes involving handguns had more than doubled since the post-Dunblane massacre ban on the weapons, from 2,636 in 1997-1998 to 5,871.”

    “Despite the street crime initiative, robbery is massively up. So are gun-related crimes, domestic burglary, retail burglary, and drug offenses.”

    “Violent crime in the United States fell for the fifth consecutive year in 2011 with murder, rape and robbery all going down, although crime remains a serious problem in many urban areas, the FBI said on Monday.”

    So based on some of these stats, exactly what are you bragging about with the U.K.? Also taking into account the point made about suicides earlier, what does the U.K. have to brag about? The U.K. has always had a much lower homicide rate than the U.S. But for the U.K. things have been getting worse for a long time. Back in the 1920s a guy could be discharged from prison and if he had the money immediately walk into a store in London and buy a handgun without any check whatsoever, but at the point Bobbies never carried a gun.

    “My point is more that it is an essential part of the solution. Another part of it is directly challenging what I could describe as the Cult of the Gun in the United States, which is far more prevalent here than in our peer countries in Europe and East Asia.”

    I am not sure why it is particularly “essential.” The U.S. used to have much easier access to guns than it has now and those times did not have the mass killings we have today (although as I pointed out earlier, our overall homicide rates is approaching historic lows not seen before by many people alive today).

    My belief is that the first thing to do is focus like a laser on identify our real root problems. Also we should repeal the absolutely insane Gun Free School Zones Act and proceed immediately put guns in the hands of good people in schools to protect children.

    As to the “Cult of the Gun,” as you call it, what exactly is so wrong with that?

    For example, I no longer hunt (and have not for many years). However I spend considerable time working with or on firearms of some type. I just finished restoring and accurizing a rifle originally built in 1959. Now I am spending time working up loads for the rifle to see what is most accurate. I handload cartridges making up a few at a time with various experiments as to bullet weight and design, primer manufacture, different powder types and weights, and varying seating depths of the bullet to exactly match the chamber of the rifle.

    I spend a fair amount of money on my hobby and that helps create jobs and opportunities for other people who work to provide me with the materials I need to enjoy this aspect of my hobby.

    Target shooting is an important hobby of many people in your “Cult of the Gun.” Some of these people will routinely spend thousands of dollars every year on a sport that involves making holes in a piece of paper up to 1/3 of a mile away (600 yards). There a whole slew of sports involved including “practical” shooting with handguns and even “cowboy” shooting with arms similar to those available in 19th century America. Unfortunately my eyes are aging and using iron sights is a lot more difficult for me today than it used to be or I would be out there this weekend with my Springfield M1A target rifle which looks just like an M14 service rifle (and in fact has many real M14 parts in it).

    Of course people who hunt with guns make a very significant contribution to conservation in the United States and helping to preserve healthy populations of native animals like deer and bear.

    I personally see nothing wrong with a “Cult of the Gun” that carries on the above activities. I also see nothing wrong with that aspect of the “Cult” which involves self defense, defense of one’s family, and perhaps in a potential disaster, defense of one’s community.

    I also have a concealed carry license in the state of Texas (and it is honored by many other states). My eyes are still plenty good enough to put a lot of bullets into one ragged hole at the range most self defense gun fights happen at (7 yards or less). People with such licenses have proven over several decades to be among some of the most law abiding in the U.S. They may be arrested from time to time for firearms violations, but at a rate very slightly lower than sworn police officers being arrested for firearms violations (which does happen, but not very often).

    As a person who is armed every day in public I am in no way ashamed of being part of the “Cult of the Gun.” As a person who has well above average knowledge of firearms I am not ashamed of my interest and love of the history of firearms. If this is a “Cult,” I am in no way ashamed to be part of it.

    “There are plenty of places in the world that are as densely populated as the United States, that have broadly similar cultural institutions and levels of economic development, and that have far less gun violence of all kinds than the United States. ”

    This is true, but it is only largely true of certain areas of the United States. As has been mentioned before, the “epidemic of violence” is largely contained in inner cities, involves a Drug War and gang violence, and those inner cities have been largely run by Democrats for generations (as a former resident of Chicago I know something of that).

    My company used to have an office in Switzerland. The Swiss have lots of guns too (and are addicted to target shooting). A person I knew rather well there kept a fully automatic machine gun at home. It had been issued to him for his use in the Swiss Militia.

    Here is a link to a study Kates and Mauser that concludes that violence, gun or otherwise, is largely cultural and not in proportion to the number of guns people own:

    WOULD BANNING FIREARMS REDUCE MURDER AND SUICIDE?
    A REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL AND SOME DOMESTIC EVIDENCE
    DON B. KATES* AND GARY MAUSER**

    Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy

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

    Do Kates and Mauser in the above study prove beyond a doubt their point? Maybe, and maybe not, but it is important to look at both sides (and try to figure out how they either intentionally, or unintentially misused statistics).

    For me the bottom line is that there are serious problems in society and focusing on guns as a root cause is just an excuse to continue to ignore bad public polices that, for example, create the mess in our inner cities where too many kids are not raised in families with fathers in the household, and to ignore the very real effects of prescribing tons of psychoactive drugs to kids (and making drug companies enormously rich).

    regards,

    lwk

  • Matt Talbot wrote:

    “the problem with assault rifles is that they are designed for the purpose of efficiently killing people.”

    You did notice that Aaron Alexis, the most recent killer in the Washington Naval Shipyard used a pump action Remington 870 shotgun, not an AR-15, and any kind of semi-automatic rifle? He racked up a pretty number of victims with a gun that many hunters consider a staple (me and my sons all own an 870).

    Which proves that quite a few modern firearms, even pump shotguns, can kill a lot of people.

    Which proves that there is something else behind wanting to ban or highly regulate AR-15 type rifles because as was pointed out before they are extremely rarely used in homicides in the U.S. (2.55% of all rifles used for homicide, and we don’t know what percentage of those were “assault rifles” vs. plain vanilla bolt action or lever action or whatever kind of rifles).

    That says to me that the extreme desire to eliminate these rifles is driven more by emotion than hard facts.

    “yes, a .270 round from my Remington 700 will kill people too, but I can only fire maybe an aimed shot per second at best, and if I’m shooting up a shopping mall, the time when I am reloading is time that someone can use to stop my attack.”

    And every well aimed shot from that Remington 700 will kill a person more than likely. Depending on the particular version of bullet chosen, the AR-15 or M16 often will not kill on every shot. The 62 gr. green tip that my son uses in the Marine Corps is not a particularly lethal cartridge which is why he was taught to for CQB (close quarter combat) to shoot an enemy _twice_ in the chest and then one in the head for good measure. For one kill.

    The 30.06 in the M1 Garand or the 7.62×51 (308) in the M14 was designed for one shot, one kill, and that is what it is capable of. Our 55 gr. version for the M16 for Vietnam was almost certainly more lethal at close range, but that was probably an accident of bad design.

    There are perfectly logical ways to protect against mass killers without taking away very useful weapons from millions of people. Especially when those weapons are used in a tiny fraction of murders.

    regards,

    lwk

    • I wrote this and thought of one additional detail you might find interesting:

      “And every well aimed shot from that Remington 700 will kill a person more than likely. ”

      One of the most lethal snipers in Marine Corps history, Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, favored the Remington 700 and he largely influenced the Marine Corps to use the Remington 700 for later sniper models used by the Marines.

      regards,

      lwk

  • Julia Smucker

    LWK, the vigor with which you take up the defense of guns (which, to be clear, I can support for the limited set of purposes necessary to agrarian living, such as hunting for meat or defense against predatorial animals) suggests that the subject of this post has hit a nerve for you. Might I tap into the root of these exchanges and ask why you feel as strongly about this as you do?

    • Julia Smucker wrote:

      “I can support for the limited set of purposes necessary to agrarian living, such as hunting for meat or defense against predatorial animals)…”

      One of the most predatory of animals are human beings. They can be dangerous predators individually, in gangs, or even in government – especially in government. In the 20th century millions of people were murdered by their government after they were disarmed. That is neither conspiracy thinking nor paranoia. It is history.

      Germany in the early 20th century was considered one of the most civilized nations on earth. It was the homeland of Schweitzer, Goethe, Beethoven, and a long list of other very great men in science, music, philosphy, and literature.

      No one imagined that such a country could be taken over by savages like the Nazis. But in fact that happened. And the Gun Control Act of 1968 in the United States was largely modeled on the Nazi Weapons Law of 1938.

      Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of “The Gulag Archipelago” and “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” wrote:

      “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!”

      One of the nearly unique features of America has been the individual right to bear arms to defend against human predators and, if you read what the Founders really meant by the 2nd Amendment, to put fear in the Federal government if it should overstep its bounds set by the Constitution. Government is almost always the worst of human predators.

      The unique genius of the Founders of the United States was the many checks and balances they designed into government to limit the ability of some Americans to act as predators on other Americans, and to do so with the benefit of government power.

      A Modern 2nd Amendment
      http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/a-modern-2nd-amendment/

      Ultimately they failed, but so far in human history it has been one of the greatest attempts. One thing is certain though. The 2nd Amendment was not about hunting, or defending against non-human predators.

      The 2nd Amendment and the right to keep and bear “military grade” firearms is an important check and balance. Whether it would succeed to stop tyranny I do not know, but I do know that disarming the populace is a step towards tyranny.

      We have issues today with crime, and mass murderers, and drugs, and engineered poverty and destroyed families in our inner cities. We need to solve those problems, and the chimera of gun control is waved in front of the face of many as the answer to those problems. It is not the answer. It is a symptom of a people who will are not willing to face their real problems.

      regards,

      lwk

      • Julia Smucker

        I have a response to this, but I will refrain from giving it for the time being in order to restate my question. I am disappointed that you have responded only to my disclaimer and not to the question itself, which was intended to move the conversation to a deeper level of honesty so as to avoid getting stuck talking past each other.

        I am trying to understand where you are coming from. So, once again, why do you feel strongly about this?

        • ” I am disappointed that you have responded only to my disclaimer and not to the question itself, …”

          I presume you mean I didn’t respond to this:

          “Might I tap into the root of these exchanges and ask why you feel as strongly about this as you do?”

          I thought to quote the above in my original reply, but then thought that the context of my reply was so blindingly clear that no one could miss what it is that I feel strongly about? I don’t say that to be critical or mean or anything. I just simply thought my “hot button” was so obvious that I didn’t need to spell it out more clearly than I already had.

          “I am trying to understand where you are coming from. So, once again, why do you feel strongly about this?”

          Quoting myself from my previous reply:

          “One of the most predatory of animals are human beings. They can be dangerous predators individually, in gangs, or even in government – especially in government. In the 20th century millions of people were murdered by their government after they were disarmed. That is neither conspiracy thinking nor paranoia. It is history.”

          Mao Tse Tung explained the importance of guns and politics:

          “All political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The communist party must command all the guns, that way, no guns can ever be used to command the party.”

          Mao Tse Tung
          Problems of War and Strategy, Nov 6 1938

          Mao fully understood the importance of disarming all potential opposition.

          Quoting:

          The first large-scale killings under Mao took place during land reform and the counterrevolutionary campaign. … Actual numbers killed in land reform are believed to have been lower, but at least one million.

          …the Great Leap Forward was a cause of the Great Chinese Famine…Chinese archives indicates the death toll was at least 45 million, … Dikötter estimates that at least 2.5 million people were summarily killed or tortured to death during this period.

          Sinologists Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals estimate that between 750,000 and 1.5 million people were killed in the violence of the Cultural Revolution, in rural China alone.[119] Mao’s Red Guards were given carte blanche to abuse and kill the revolution’s enemies. For example, in August 1966, over 100 teachers were murdered by their students in western Beijing alone.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_killings_under_Communist_regimes

          I wrote earlier:

          “Germany in the early 20th century was considered one of the most civilized nations on earth. It was the homeland of Schweitzer, Goethe, Beethoven, and a long list of other very great men in science, music, philosphy, and literature.”

          “No one imagined that such a country could be taken over by savages like the Nazis. But in fact that happened. And the Gun Control Act of 1968 in the United States was largely modeled on the Nazi Weapons Law of 1938.”

          Is it still unclear to you what my hot button is?

          In this country not many years ago President Obama started his political career in the living room of Bill Ayers and his wife, both at the very least accessories to murder during their terrorist days. Bill Ayers himself (and a good writer by the way, read “Fugitive Days” sometime) admitted that he was “guity as hell and free as a bird.”

          He and his wife belonged to the Weather underground. The Weather Undergound had discussion of how many Americans would have to be killed when radicals took over America. They speculated then that it would be about 25 million.

          So you really don’t think this could happen here? That there are not people who think that way?

          If it is still unclear what my hot button is I don’t know what to say. Thomas Jefferson understood it though:

          “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” –Thomas Jefferson

          regards,

          lwk

        • Julia Smucker

          I’m just not sure this is really getting to the root of the fear you’re expressing, but maybe I’m asking too much.

          To a certain extent I can sympathize with your general wariness of statism. We do need to blaspheme the idols of the State, but in ways that honor the intrinsic dignity of all human beings. Perhaps the best way to deny the government control over us is NOT to allow ourselves to be driven by fear of it.

  • Mark VA

    From the Conservative point of view:

    I would like to offer a few observations, and pose a question or two, on the substantive exchange of views between LWK and Matt Talbot:

    (a) First, I would like to ask the same question Julia posed to LWK, except to direct it to Matt. It seems to me this question applies to both;

    (b) LWK has brought the very important aspect of the family, and the consequences of its breakdown, into the discussion. Yet it seems it has received a very lukewarm response. Why?

    (c) Following up on (b), I have a very general point to make:

    It seems the Left has a habit of avoiding discussions that relate the societal programs it favors, to any unintended consequences they may have produced. What remains, is often a sterile discussion about the minutia of this or that technicality. The substance remains unaddressed, the problems continue, and often get worse;

    (d) Without broadening this discussion to include the foundational role of the family, the conversation will only meander from one technical issue to another, and not engage with the problem as it is. Without the family, we can truly say: “I ain’t got no home”.

    • Julia Smucker

      Mark VA, I agree with you on the significance of family as a factor. I thought Matt had been addressing this – as well as where he is coming from personally on this matter – not only in terms of his own family history but also of urban contexts, in which (for example) gangs can emerge as an unhealthy attempt to fill a void left by unstable family situations.

      Matt has also talked about gun control in connection with deeply conservative principles, saying (as I commented on earlier), “The easy availability of guns has destroyed the old order.” There is nothing conservative, in any classical sense of the word, about keeping guns easily available for the sake of personal autonomy. (For that matter, there is nothing really conservative about neo-conservatism to begin with.)

      I think people on both sides of the gun control debate (and this applies to other, ahem, life issues as well) need to break free of the either/or thinking that assumes there can be only one solution. Coming at the problem from both sides – that is, addressing systemic factors such as family breakdown, among other things, and at the same time supporting laws designed to prevent violence – would have a much better chance of being effective than simply arguing about which approach is needed as if only one could be taken.

      I argued this point at length in Christian Democracy a few months ago (http://www.christiandemocracymagazine.com/2013/07/of-guns-and-gosnell-just-laws-vs-root.html) and got no response.

  • I have one question for Matt. You are clearly in favor of some restrictions. What exactly do you think should be enacted? Should semi-automatic weapons be banned for civilian use?

    It might be helpful to actually understand what you think needs to be done in some detail, and how you think it will help.

    regards,

    lwk

  • Brian Martin

    I would like to pose the question…Why is it that under the Clinton and Obama administrations, prosecution of federal gun law violations were significantly lower than under recent Republican administrations? Let me get this straight…pro-gun administrations enforce existing gun laws, anti-gun administrations do not? Can it be that their goal is not a practical one , that being the reduction of crime and violence…but rather an ideological one, that is making the situation look worse so as to better facilitate a political agenda, that being the banning of guns?
    Let us not forget that one of the first mass killings in the united states involved a teacher in Michigan using explosives to blow up a school back in 1927.
    Oklahoma City bombing used improvised explosives
    9-11 was box cutters. People who give themselves over to evil kill other people, whether or not they have access to firearms. I wonder how Cain killed Abel?

    • I’m not sure what you’re getting at there, Brian, but whatever it is I doubt it.

      • One of the points he was making is that we have laws that make it a Federal crime to lie on the Form 4473 which you must fill out when purchasing a firearms from an FFL dealer in the U.S. It will ask you questions as to whether you are buying the gun for yourself or others (straw purchase), or have been convicted of a felony, are addicted to illegal drugs, etc.

        Some people make mistakes on these that are perfectly innocent (they may not know, for example, that something they did as a teenager technically disbars them), but some people deliberately lie on the form. That is a Federal crime.

        It is a fact that under the Obama administration that prosecutions of people who falsified information on the 4473 are way down from when G.W. Bush was President.

        So I think the general thrust of his comment was something like, why are they asking for more gun control laws when they won’t enforce the ones they have? Vice President Biden was asked specifically about that on a TV interview not long ago and said to the effect “we’re too busy.”

        Maybe they were “too busy” concocting the Fast and Furious scheme where the Feds coerced gun dealers along the Mexican border to sell AK-47s to straw buyers which ended up in Mexico and so far has killed quite a few Mexicans. Not sure what the count is now, but it gets higher all the time (and includes at least one, maybe two, American immigration officers).

        By the way, and I may have mentioned this earlier, I have a proposal for universal background checks that gun owners might support.

        Universal Background Checks
        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/universal-background-checks/

        Would be interested in your take on that if have time.

        regards,

        lwk

    • Julia Smucker

      It seems more likely to me that higher rates of gun law violations under Democratic administrations result from a false sense of security, giving rise to less frequent and less vehement protestation against gun violence. I saw a similar point made in the Consistent Life newsletter once about less work being done to oppose abortion under Bush and less opposition to hawkish foreign policy under Obama, despite that Bush did nothing (legislatively or systemically) to lower abortion rates, and despite that Obama has continued and even expanded Bush-style foreign policy strategies. This is how partisan presumptions, on both sides, can obscure the defense of the vulnerable.

      • “It seems more likely to me that higher rates of gun law violations under Democratic administrations result from a false sense of security, giving rise to less frequent and less vehement protestation against gun violence.”

        Yes, I expect a lot of people living in Chicago felt much more secure under Democratic administrations. My uncles particularly enjoyed being held up by the Chicago police for “donations” for the privilege of doing business in that wonderful city by the lake.

        Just look at the evidence of just how bad some of these cities run by Democrats have turned out – Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C., …

        You need to do something very basic. Question your premises.

        lwk

        • Julia Smucker

          Note that I said it was a *false* sense of security, obviously on the part of those not directly affected by the violence. In other words, I’m not sure we’re disagreeing on this point as much as you think we are.

  • I can’t speak to the actions of the Obama administration, for whom I’m no partisan, but in general my position is: Enforce the laws that already exist, and also impose new restrictions.

    What I am arguing for is far more intrusive and fine-grained gun control than we currently have in the United States. Background checks, yes, but also in general keep (as a general rule) assault rifles and high capacity magazines (for both pistols and rifles) out of the hands of civilians. Institute mandatory mental health screening if you want to own a gun.

    License the ownership of guns, and make certain categories of mental illness grounds for mandatory suspension of that license. Put the burden of proof on the prospective gun owner; if you want to own a gun, you need to take mandatory training, and provide documentation from certified professionals that you pose no significant risk to yourself or others. Make the license renewable yearly.

    There are other factors involved in violence in the United States, and those factors are worth discussing in some depth in a future post: the topic of this post, however, is gun control.

    • “What I am arguing for is far more intrusive and fine-grained gun control than we currently have in the United States.”

      And what is your solution to intrusive government that feels it has a right to a “fine grained” picture of your life and the ability to decide the value of your life? Death panels anyone?

      lwk

      • Why is government licensing of firearms any worse than licensing of drivers?

        • Because government is not afraid of citizens with cars.

          lwk

          • Well, as I said in part one, the government has no need to fear citizens with guns, either. Even if America’s gun laws were designed by the most permissive libertarian, the government will still have cluster bombs, B52s, the Air Force, artillery, incendiary bombs, armored divisions and so forth. If the only thing standing between us and tyranny is our guns, then the cause is already lost.

            The usual counter-example is various insurgencies that have worn down the resolve of major powers at various points in history, but the response to that is, if the government is truly tyrannical, it will use whatever means necessary to annihilate the opposition – you gave the example of Mao, which is in fact a good analogy for the point I’m making. If it comes down to the ability to exert force, a ruthless enough government will always win.

            On a related note: You were in the military, LWK, so ponder this: A civil war in the United States, given the range and destructiveness of modern weaponry, would be almost unimaginably horrific, involving death and misery on a scale not seen since World War II, and maybe ever. Imagine what full-on, house-to-house fighting operations would do to, say, Dallas or Chicago.

            Our best defense against tyranny is making sure we have strong democratic institutions (including an excellent education system) and social justice, not making sure we have enough arms to oppose it.

            Martin Luther King used to say that “Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice.”

  • Julia Smucker wrote:

    “Perhaps the best way to deny the government control over us is NOT to allow ourselves to be driven by fear of it.”

    That is what a lot of Jews in Europe thought back in the late 1930s. Krisallnacht woke up a few, but for many it turned out to be too late. They ended up as smoke drifting downstream from the crematoriums of Aushwitz.

    The idea that not being a afraid of evil is not a bad one if you have a plan to thwart it. Feeling good about not being afraid of evil is however not a particularly good strategy.

    lwk

  • Matt Talbot writes:

    “… government will still have cluster bombs, B52s, the Air Force, artillery, incendiary bombs, armored divisions and so forth.”

    And none of those were very useful in large parts of S. Vietnam. To beat Charlie there you had to have guys, for example, willing to take a flashlight and a .45 and crawl down a tunnel and take him out (like my cousin in the Army). Or LRRPS who spent weeks in the field hunting him down and the cost sometimes was high. Or endless patrols with endless casualties while trying to get a shot at Charlie.

    In the meantime Charlie would terrorize people by raping the chief’s daughters then torturing and murdering the whole family just to make an example. Read about the Tet offensive in 1968 and what happened in Hue.

    But Tet was a mistake for Charlie and it cost him big time. Guess they didn’t read Mao well enough and tried to escalate too soon.

    A lot of regular American military wouldn’t follow some orders though. They are not the robots some people think. Basically right now it is crap shoot what would happen. You don’t know and I don’t know. There are Marines right now who would fade into the countryside and join the opposition, and bring some toys with them. I know some of them.

    “The usual counter-example is various insurgencies that have worn down the resolve of major powers at various points in history, but the response to that is, if the government is truly tyrannical, it will use whatever means necessary to annihilate the opposition…”

    Not if large portions of the regular military doesn’t go along. Lots of National Guard out there that may not go along. It is a lot more of a crap shoot than you think.

    “Our best defense against tyranny is making sure we have strong democratic institutions …”

    You mean like encouraging illiterate people from the third world to come here illegally and giving them a right to vote on what benefits they think government should give them? Then suing states that try to prevent voter fraud?

    “…including an excellent education system) ”

    Then we need to close the public schools. The schools of education in our colleges are the intellectual ghetto of higher education (paraphrasing Dr. Leonard Peikoff).

    “…and social justice, …”

    And so far the policies to achieve it have destroyed the black family? Many blacks were better off in 1950 than now.

    “Martin Luther King used to say that “Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice.””

    I watched Dr. King deliver his “I have a dream” speech live on a black and white TV. Peace and justice cannot be accomplished by wishing it to be. There are basic principles and one of the greatest is that the road to hell is wide and many find it. You might reflect that many with similar views to yours on the role of government have nearly destroyed the black community in America. That should give you pause to examine your basic premises, at least before you destroy the rest of America.

    lwk

    • Not if large portions of the regular military doesn’t go along. Lots of National Guard out there that may not go along. It is a lot more of a crap shoot than you think.

      That actually leads me to this thought: There is another way, lwk. No one needs guns to resist evil. Tyranny can be met with love, and the result is reconciliation:

      I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many white sheriffs, too many white citizens’ councilors, and too many Klansmen of the south to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-co-operation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is co-operation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country, and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we will still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’

      Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

      Christians used to take only this approach, and the result was hundreds of years martyrdom, which fertilized the Faith and resulted in huge growth, to the point that Classical Antiquity ended with virtually the entire Roman Empire believing.

      • Julia Smucker

        Now THAT is strength.

  • Matt Talbot writes:

    “There is another way, …. No one needs guns to resist evil. Tyranny can be met with love, and the result is reconciliation:”

    Back when the Internet was a new and bright and shiny toy I had an extended conversation with one of Mahatma Gandhi’s grandsons via email. It has been quite a while now, more than a quarter century probably. Don’t recollect exactly how that got started for sure. Best as I remember I commented on a promotion for a book or something he had written or was somehow involved in. That resulted in an exchange of emails. Wish I still had the text of those. In fact at this date I am not entirely sure which grandson it was.

    Basically the conversation came down to my assertion that Gandhi succeeded in India because fundamentally the British were good. If they had not been good, or completely ruled a totalitarian government that was not good, then Gandhi would have quickly perished and we would not even know his name.

    In Nazi Germany many clerics who stood up ended up dying in concenration camps. You may have heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

    He agreed, although reluctantly. Non-violent resistance such as Gandhi and Dr. King used depended fundamentally on the fact that those they wished to change were fundamentally good, or at least a significant number were, and they were not ruled by total barbarians like the Nazis in Germany who would have executed both Gandhi and King without a second thought or a moment’s hesitation.

    Although not often recognized, Christianity largely succeeded because most of the time the Roman Empire was not too bad. Don’t get me wrong. I largely believe the stories of the martyrs and believe they did in fact create a ground for the seed of their faith to grow by being “fertilizer,” as you wrote. But most of the time the Roman Empire was receptive ground and great persecutions came in waves then receded.

    The Romans were mostly materialistic and their main beef with Christians was not their faith per se, but their perceived lack of allegiance to the Roman state, their perceived lack of patriotism. Any Christian could avoid martyrdom by simply performing an act of worship to the Emperor (which the martyrs could not do, although who knows how many weaker Christians did escape that way).

    Had the Romans truly been like the Nazis then Christianity would have had a enormously harder time, and indeed may not have survived. Maybe that is why the seed was planted in that soil? The Roman soil was largely a materialistic soil needing spiritual enrichment.

    In the modern world there is no comparison between Rome and Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Communist China. The former was much more tolerant. The latter were all guilty of mass murders that far exceeded that of Rome, and over a much shorter time (thanks I guess in part to technology, but also due to their sheer ruthlessness).

    You say that “no one needs guns to resist evil,” but you are simply wrong if by that you mean that as an absolute statement. If you think that you could have resisted, and triumphed eventually, over the Nazi regime had it gained its goal of world domination then I think you are seriously deluded.

    “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;”
    –Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (KJV)

    In the New Testament:

    “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
    And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
    And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
    Matthew 5:39-41

    My personal belief that it is a mistake to take the words of Jesus literally without context. The first commandment above is to turn the other cheek. But there is a deeper context. How one hit another person, with what hand and what cheek, was an important context. One way was to inferiors and slaves, and the opposite was for equals. If one struck you on the right cheek as a slave, then turn the cheek and invite them to stike you as an equal – an appeal to the person striking you to see you as a valuable human being.In the next commandment you give your cloak exposing your nakedness, again to embarrass your oppressor and appeal to your humanity.

    In the final commandment quoted above, the law of the time allowed a Roman soldier to compel a Jew to carry his pack a mile, but no more. By carrying more than that it is an appeal to the soldier to see you as a human being.

    There is a lot more to these than the literal and concrete reading!
    Jesus says to not resist evil, but he also says this:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
    Matthew 5:17

    Defense of life is a very basic principle of the Law that Jesus came to fulfil. In modern Judaism we still see this, for example:

    “In Judaism, Pikuach Nefesh (Hebrew: פיקוח נפש) describes the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious consideration. When the life of a specific person is in danger, almost any mitzvah lo ta’aseh (Command to not do an action) of the Torah becomes inapplicable.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pikuach_nefesh

    Jeffry R. Snyder writes in “A Nation of Cowards” that:

    “Although difficult for modern man to fathom, it was once widely believed that life was a gift from God, that to not defend that life when offered violence was to hold God’s gift in contempt, to be a coward and to breach one’s duty to one’s community. ”

    I would highly recommend you read Snyder’s “A Nation of Cowards.” It has had a profound effect on many who have read it with largely pacifistic views. A copy is available here:
    http://www.rkba.org/comment/cowards.html

    My belief that Jesus is givin a command in Matthew 5:39 that applies when your enemy doesn’t threaten your life. Otherwise he would be directly contradicting Judaism at that time, and the Law of Moses. Jesus in this sermon gives numerous examples of how to affect how other people see you, examples of how to perhaps get others to see you as a real human being.

    Christians in the Roman Empire were pacifists because they literally had no other option. They fulfilled their purpose. That does not mean that we should use that as a univeral principle when dealing with pure evil where it is literally impossible to appeal to either pity or humanity.

    regards,

    lwk

    • lwk:

      If I accept the premise that the credible threat of force is essential to deterring tyranny on the part of the Federal government, then I think it is necessary to point out that the threat of force needs to be way more credible than at present, so that they get the message really clearly.

      Really, the best thing would be for states that oppose some federal initiative to set up a parallel institution with its own intelligence apparatus, weapons procurement, and alternate governmental institutions and courts. We could call these states The Confederacy, and then they could fight a bloody and protracted war to decide whether the federal government should be the supreme authority in the land, or whether the individual states should be able to nullify any federal laws they find “tyrannical” or otherwise disagreeable.

      Oh, wait…

      Joking aside, that’s what I’m seeing in your comments when I read between the lines.

      • You said something reasonably interesting before. But your reply here, and reliance on branding ideas with the Southern Confederacy of the Civil War is pretty lame, honestly.

        lwk

      • “that’s what I’m seeing in your comments when I read between the lines.”

        Just occurred to me, and explains lots of communications between pro-2nd Amendment and anti-2nd Amendment folks like yourself. You do read way too much “between the lines,” so much in fact that you actually miss what is on the lines. Of course pro folks often do the same thing. Hence the enormous difficulty in communication.

        You wrote earlier:

        “Tyranny can be met with love, and the result is reconciliation:”

        I honestly fail to see how you will meet anything with love leading to reconciliation as long as you believe that what you read between the lines is the ultimate reality.

        Brings to mind this from Isaiah:

        “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” -Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)

        Don’t take that as a personal attack – it is not meant to be. What it says to me is that we all struggle to figure out what is real and what is illusion.

        The first step is to read the lines before jumping between them. 🙂

        regards,

        lwk

  • brian martin

    Matt,
    I have just read and re-read both your posts on guns. I want to say thank you. This, like many other conflicted topics, is most often the breeding ground not for thoughtful discussion, but for often shrill ideological statements. I use the following definition of ideology (“a set of convictions and values that by nature are resistant to critical evaluation and assessment…which are open only to the exposition and refinement of their emphatic declarations.” -Donald Cozzens, A Faith That Dares to Speak)
    First, I am reminded that I too often fall into this category, and it results in argument rather than dialogue. I thank you, because you put forth a thoughtful, well articulated commentary, and, when faced with disagreement, continued to dialogue. It is something that is too often lacking in discussions of issues such as this. I think that our faith asks that we wrestle with issues such as this, and not blindly toe any party line.
    LWK, thank you as well. I have enjoyed reading your responses.

    • Brian,

      I agree that discussion is better than ranting. You wrote:

      “I think that our faith asks that we wrestle with issues such as this…”

      The most disappointing part of the conversation for me was not whether Matt, or anyone, necessarily agreed with my views on guns. What most disappointed me was the absolute null response when I commented on the statement:

      “There is another way, …. No one needs guns to resist evil. Tyranny can be met with love, and the result is reconciliation:”

      In that response I mostly talked about scriptures and some meanings I take from them, and that above all resulted in no response or acknowledgement whatsoever. That was disappointing. To me that was the most meaningful subject, more so than guns which in themselves which are just pieces of wood, steel, and plastic, whereas the scriptures address the soul.

      regards,

      lwk

      • lwk – I did not engage on the substance of what you wrote because:

        1. I think it is safe to say we are not going to agree on this, or much of anything else, and thus basically wanted to let you have the last word in that discussion and then let our readers decide with whom they agree.

        2. By bringing in Nazis, Communists, and assorted other historical villains, you seem to be making some sort of analogy between them and the current US Government, which is absurd, and I did not want this sub-thread to become a gigantic distraction from the topic of the post.

        That said — OK, fine: let’s go there. I’m willing to use this side-thread to begin the discussion, but you can expect a post in the near future where I address the state of race relations in the United States in a far more direct and comprehensive way.

        We still live in a democratic republic (a deeply flawed one, to be sure, but still basically intact) so we are nowhere near the point where violent resistance to the US Government should even be part of the discussion. That you speak of it as if it is totally in play sounds to me like a certain strain of right-wing paranoia, a paranoia that is very characteristically Southern. For example, when you said this in a previous comment:

        You mean like encouraging illiterate people from the third world to come here illegally and giving them a right to vote on what benefits they think government should give them? Then suing states that try to prevent voter fraud?

        That sounds like the sort of racial paranoia that used to be characteristic of the pre-civil-war (and for that matter, post-civil-war) American South. I believe I can draw a fairly straight line from comments like that to the besetting anxiety in the old south about the possibility of a slave rebellion. The common thread in this species of fear is racial anxiety about “what if the dusky heathen get power, and then treat us like we’ve been treating them?”

        To bring this even more out into the open: I have never met you, have no idea what you’re like as a human being, or even what race you are, but I will say this: you write like a classic southern racist.

        Since the hobbling of the Voting Rights Act by the Roberts Court, Southern states have enacted laws designed to suppress black participation in elections. That is the main purpose of those laws. Now, you’ll probably object to that, which is fine, but putting up the kinds of roadblocks to voting that are being erected is about keeping black people from voting. Voter fraud, as a practical matter, is a non-problem in the United States. It occurs, yes, but at such vanishingly small levels that it is not a plausible alternative explanation for the laws that are currently the subject of federal lawsuits.

        at least before you destroy the rest of America.

        Well, it depends what you mean by “destroy” and “the rest of America.”

        What I would like to finish “destroy[ing]” is the remaining vestiges of structures of white privilege in the United States, especially in the south but by no means confined to there, including economic privilege. Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” was about preserving it; the fact that much of the South is now Republican is primarily the result of the Republican Party having transformed itself into the Party of White Privilege, even as the Democratic Party abandoned that role.

        I and many others have committed ourselves to that project. I believe the project is noble and (done right) will lead to great things for America, including making possible a reconciliation between blacks and whites that has been too long delayed.

        • You wrote:

          “I did not engage on the substance of what you wrote because:… I think it is safe to say we are not going to agree on this…”

          On guns probably not. On many political issues, probably not. I certainly do not see the Rpublicans trying to deny blacks a right to vote in the south today. I DO see them trying to prevent non-citizens from voting. But that has little to do with what we’ve talked about so far.

          “By bringing in Nazis, Communists, and assorted other historical villains, you seem to be making some sort of analogy between them and the current US Government…”

          What I was trying to say, and apparently failed to communicate, is that any government in the right circumstances can go wrong, terribly wrong. I pointed out earlier somewhere that Germany was considered one of the most civilized nations on earth before the Nazis. To think we as Americans are immune is I think an illusion.

          That was the sole point. I wasn’t saying the current government is at that stage at this point. You buy car insurance not because you plan to have an accident but because you can have an accident. Guns are another form of “insurance,” against government and other possibilities. As to whether they would work there are simply too many unknowns. I do agree with you that we really don’t want to have to find out and to that end need to educate voters.

          But again, that is the last on that for now.

          But none of the above is what I was talking about. None.

          You wrote earlier:

          “There is another way, …. No one needs guns to resist evil. Tyranny can be met with love, and the result is reconciliation:”

          I addressed that by talking about Gandhi and Dr. King. I talked about the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Most importatnly I talked about Matthew 5:39-41.

          What I was literally talking about is whether Jesus did, or did not, command Christians to be pacifists. If one sees oneself as a Christian then I think that is a very important question. That is what I think you either missed, or ignored.

          regards,

          lwk

  • brian martin

    This is interesting, because looking at the second amendment from a historical perspective, it is pretty clear that LWK’s interpretation of an armed populace to stand against tyranny is an accurate interpretation of the founders intent. It also passes constitutional muster in that the Supreme Court, while allowing some limitations, continues to reaffirm the right of individuals to own arms for the purpose of self-defense. The right to own fire-arms for the purpose of self-defense ie. potentially killing people, is probably more constitutionally protected, than the ownership of firearms for sporting purposes.
    As to LWK’s discussion of biblical statements made by Jesus, and the context of the time, yes, it is important to understand Jesus’ teachings in context, however, we Catholics are not fundamentalists, nor do we see the bible as the sole source of truth. There is also tradition and the teachings of the magisterium. That means that the Church believes that the Holy Spirit has the ability to help the Church interpret truth for different time periods. (I’m no theologian, so if i’m wrong here, help me out)
    As far as “illegal immigrants” I suspect that biblically there is little to justify turning away the “illiterate” unwashed masses.

    • “As to LWK’s discussion of biblical statements made by Jesus, and the context of the time, yes, it is important to understand Jesus’ teachings in context, however, we Catholics are not fundamentalists, nor do we see the bible as the sole source of truth.”

      I am not a fundamentalist. Just bear that in mind in any discussion. I am very near the opposite in that I do not assume the Bible as handed down to us is necessarily the literal word of God. I think God spoke to people, they wrote down what they think they heard, and that is largely the Bible. It takes intelligence and persistence to get any real truth from the Bible, but I do think there is very real truth there. But maybe it is written so as to not “cast pearls before pigs,” so to speak. 🙂

      But regardless of where you take inspiration, what is your view on whether a Christian today, in today’s world, should be a pacifist? I think that if one takes a literal view of the text I quoted then one must necessarily be a pacifist (“resist not an evil person”).

      “As far as “illegal immigrants” I suspect that biblically there is little to justify turning away the “illiterate” unwashed masses.”

      How about the idea that we have processes to bring people into our country and possibly citizenship but we have some basic right to prevent 50 million poor people from sneaking across our border and demanding we pay for everything they want?

      Don’t we have a right to be concerned about the future of our children too?

      But here is an idea. No unearned benefits. Private charity, fine (what Jesus talked about). Then people will come here for opportunity, not handouts they can’t get in their own country.

      Regardless of the chit chat above, the main question is whether Jesus commands Christians to be pacifists? Yes? No? Why?

      regards,

      lwk

      • How about the idea that we have processes to bring people into our country and possibly citizenship but we have some basic right to prevent 50 million poor people from sneaking across our border and demanding we pay for everything they want?

        Yeesh, lwk.

        Even if we opened the border wide, and welcomed everyone who wanted to come here and live, they would not come here because they want to sign up for welfare or whatever and just live on the dole (do you actually know any immigrants?). It would be for the same reason every generation of immigrants has come here: to make a better life for themselves and their children. This has been the story for well over a hundred years, and the evidence is everywhere in our cities – in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live, there are whole districts filled with businesses started by immigrants (not just from Latin America, but from Ethiopia, Armenia, China, and so on) and employing many more beyond just the family members who started those businesses. They come here to add something to America, they do not come here to take.

        I think you need to re-examine your premises.

        • Matt Talbot writes:

          “…do you actually know any immigrants?”

          You’re kidding, right? I live in Texas.

          “[People] come here to add something to America, they do not come here to take.”

          That is a black and white ideological statement which I feel little motivation to argue with you about. You can’t describe millions of people with one simple description of motivation. There are more than a few “immigrants” in Texas right now who are agents of various Mexican drug cartels and yes, they are here for the opportunity afforded by America, and that opportunity is to massively deal in illegal drugs and kill anyone who get’s in their way.

          The very real possibility of meeting up with some of these folks in some parts of Texas I frequent is one motivation for carrying a loaded handgun everyday (legally).

          But that is not why I am replying now.

          I am still asking you the question I asked you the other day. Do you as a Christian feel compelled to be a pacifist? Do the words of Jesus in the New Testament, or whatever other sources your respect, lead you to the conclusion of pacifism? Or not? That is very simple question.

          regards,

          lwk

          • That is a black and white ideological statement which I feel little motivation to argue with you about. You can’t describe millions of people with one simple description of motivation. There are more than a few “immigrants” in Texas right now who are agents of various Mexican drug cartels and yes, they are here for the opportunity afforded by America, and that opportunity is to massively deal in illegal drugs and kill anyone who get’s in their way.

            Well, by that logic we should have shut down immigration from Italy because some of those immigrants were associated with the mafia. The point is the vast majority of immigrants will turn out to be law-abiding citizens who bring social and economic value to society.

            That aside…

            Do you as a Christian feel compelled to be a pacifist? Do the words of Jesus in the New Testament, or whatever other sources your respect, lead you to the conclusion of pacifism? Or not? That is very simple question.

            “Compelled” to be a pacifist? No. It is more that the words of Jesus, and the example of the early Christian martyrs, make me question any presumption that violence ought to be seen as just another tool in the toolbox.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Brian Martin wrote: “This is interesting, because looking at the second amendment from a historical perspective, it is pretty clear that LWK’s interpretation of an armed populace to stand against tyranny is an accurate interpretation of the founders intent.”

      Actually, there is very good scholarship that the 2nd Amendment was at least in part a concession to slave holding states, who wanted to continue to have armed citizen patrols/ militias whose raison de etre was to keep the slave populations under control. So appeals to the original intent are fraught with complications.

      • “Actually, there is very good scholarship that the 2nd Amendment was at least in part a concession to slave holding states,…”

        This is one of those new memes that has appeared relativly recently in the gun control debate. The motivation is obvious. It is a case of trying to use the logical fallacy of guilt by association. It is very much like the tactic of calling anyone who advances a state’s right argument as being a racist because state’s rights was the prime claim of the Confederates in the Civil War.

        The French and Indian Wars dated from 1689 to 1763. This alone was a major motivation for militias and an armed populace.

        There was no “concession” by non-slave states to slave states required. All the states were concerned about defense from external threats. It is true that southern slave holding states had an additional motivation based on a fear of a slave revolt, but there was absolutely no requirement for them to “twist the arm” of the northern states to get a 2nd Amendment.

        The 2nd Amendment was one thing that all could agree on without much debate or controversy. Hence the claim that the 2nd Amendmet was primarily purposed against slaves is largely nonsense, an attempt to smear by association.

        “So appeals to the original intent are fraught with complications.”

        Not really, unless one theorizes on a non-existent “concession.”

        To actually understand the motivation of the 2nd Amendment read Federalist #46. Quoting from a previous article I wrote on that:

        The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition.

        That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of time, elect an uninterupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should, throughout this period, uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism.

        Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, …

        -end quote-

        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/2nd-amendment-and-ar-15s/

        Above, especially if read the very last, was the clear idea that state governments could with their citizen militia overthrow the Federal government if necessary by force of arms.

        _That_ was the motivation of the 2nd Amendment. It was a motivation shared by all of the states.

        regards,

        lwk

      • brian martin

        David…I would love to see that information. (That is meant seriously, not sarcastically…it is something I haven’t run across before.) But I readily concede that discerning original intent is not always as black and white as people would like. I maintain that my statement “The right to own fire-arms for the purpose of self-defense ie. potentially killing people, is probably more constitutionally protected, than the ownership of firearms for sporting purposes.” is accurate.

        LWK- “Regardless of the chit chat above, the main question is whether Jesus commands Christians to be pacifists? Yes? No? Why?”

        i would say no, because him having done so absolutely would have then made it unnecessary for Just War Theory to be developed, right? Or is that simplistic thinking on my part?

        • Ronald King

          Jesus desires sacrificial love without weapons

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Brian Martin and LWK:

          While the slave states origin of the second amendment has recently appeared in the gun control debate, the idea itself is older and has been debated by both historians and legal scholars. A quick search produced the following 1998 law review article which does a fairly good job of making the case:

          http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/bogus2.htm

          As for this being nothing more than “guilt by association”: no, it is a scholarly attempt to understand the origins of the amendment (“original intent” if you will), and in particular to rebut claims that the second amendment was to either support an untrammeled right for individuals to own guns or was a bulwark against tyrannical government. With regards to the quote from the Federalist papers, one must recall that these were propaganda, designed to convince the doubtful to support the proposed constitution. Also, it is worth noting that this quote has nothing to do directly with the 2nd amendment, since it is discussing the original constitution, sans the bill of rights. On a historical note, consult Federalist #29 which seems to give a very different picture of the role of the militia (and so perhaps, by extension, of the 2nd amendment).

          The article cited above does a very good job of challenging this notion that a militia would be a bulwark of liberty by examining the actual performance of the various militias during the revolutionary war. Federalist #46 claims that

          “It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it.”

          However, as the article points out, this was pure propaganda, part of the mythos which surrounded the war (and continues to do so in popular imagination to this day) but has a limited basis in what actually happened.

  • Matt Talbot writes:

    “‘Compelled’ to be a pacifist? No. It is more that the words of Jesus, and the example of the early Christian martyrs, make me question any presumption that violence ought to be seen as just another tool in the toolbox.”

    If I were to rephrase this phrase:

    “violence ought to be seen as just another tool in the toolbox”

    To something like this:

    “violence ought to be seen as the last resort and only when one has a reasonable belief that one is threatened with serious injury or death”

    Given the words of Jesus and the examples of Christian martyrs do you question that re-phrase also? Or do you consider that there might be situations where violence in self-defense justified? Is it possible in your world view that violence sometimes can be both justified and in fact the most moral action one could take?

    regards,

    lwk

    • What I mean is, I suppose I can imagine a scenario where the use of violence would be justified, but that scenario, in the world we live in, is mostly the result of many prior failures to act with non-violent means. There was a saying in the peace movement of the 1960s: “If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” That’s what an awful lot of gun rights agitation sounds like to me: “Look – this is our preferred method of dealing with problems. Who are you to interfere?”

      • “Look – this is our preferred method of dealing with problems.”

        My experience in the concealed carry movement is that there is a lot of emphasis in training people to avoid “problems,” to find alternative ways to deal with them, at least up to the point that you have no other choice. A large part of the training I received was to make sure that one fully understood the consequences of using deadly force, consequences that run the gamut of the economic costs of legal defense to the deep emotional scars that many will experience even if they were totally justified in the use of deadly force.

        Again, as I said before on your remark about reading between the lines to understand what other people mean or are saying, perhaps your prior assumptions affect your perception.

        Consider this. If indeed people getting these licenses to carry loaded handguns in public “preferred” violence as a solution to problems then you would expect them to use those guns a lot more often. But on the contrary they are some of the most law abiding of citizens, and although there will always be counter examples where the exception proves the rule.

        regards,

        lwk

  • I would really recommend reading this book. In many ways it ties in with our discussion of firearms, problems in modern society, and lastly something I am not sure we have discussed – the very strong reluctance of most individuals to take life.

    It is not a book that particularly backs my previous arguments. Some could argue that it in fact does just the opposite. In either case if one is concerned about violence and killing in modern society and trying to understand some potential causes.

    On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society [Kindle Edition]
    Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (Author)

    [part of review on Amazon]

    From Publishers Weekly
    Drawing on interviews, published personal accounts and academic studies, Grossman investigates the psychology of killing in combat. Stressing that human beings have a powerful, innate resistance to the taking of life, he examines the techniques developed by the military to overcome that aversion. His provocative study focuses in particular on the Vietnam war, revealing how the American soldier was “enabled to kill to a far greater degree than any other soldier in history.” Grossman argues that the breakdown of American society, combined with the pervasive violence in the media and interactive video games, is conditioning our children to kill in a manner siimilar to the army’s conditioning of soldiers: “We are reaching that stage of desensitization at which the infliction of pain and suffering has become a source of entertainment: vicarious pleasure rather than revulsion. We are learning to kill, and we are learning to like it.” Grossman, a professor of military science at Arkansas State University, has written a study of relevance to a society of escalating violence.

    http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Psychological-Learning-Society-ebook/dp/B003XREUV2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380989873&sr=8-1&keywords=on+killing

    It is less than $8 as a Kindle book.

    lwk

  • brian martin writes:

    Quoting me:

    “the main question is whether Jesus commands Christians to be pacifists?”

    Brian replies:

    “I would say no, because him having done so absolutely would have then made it unnecessary for Just War Theory to be developed,”

    In all honesty I had never heard “Just War Theory” before. I feel sometimes that my education is less than adequate. Did a quick Wikipedia on it and it seems to encapsulate a lot of ideas I have heard over the years, and some I have not.

    Without reference to that, I believe that Jesus was not an absolute pacifist. I believe he was what he was in that lifetime because it fit into a higher plan to teach the meaning of love to a world sorely lacking in love extended beyond that circle of people important to one’s personal life and welfare.

    It was an exercise in awakening the innate power and universality of love.

    That said, Abraham was by all in the New Testament considered righteous and he was a warrior, and Jesus in Revelation is portrayed as a warrior.

    I believe, as is stated very explicitly in Eccessiates, that there is a time and place for everything. A time to build up, and a time to kill. In the world to come the need to kill will disappear but we will not reach that place without great effort.

    regards,

    lwk

  • David Cruz-Uribe writes:

    “1998 law review article which does a fairly good job of making the case:
    http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/bogus2.htm

    The last name of the author is appropriately “Bogus.” 🙂

    Here is a link to sources by Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School on::

    Sources on the Second Amendment and Rights to Keep and Bear Arms in State Constitutions

    http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/2amteach/sources.htm

    For example from Pennsylvania:

    “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination, to, and governed by, the civil power (1776).”

    Or Connecticut:

    “Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state (1818).”

    Quite a bit more there supporting

    Prof. Bogus in his article attacks Stephen Halbrook”

    -quoting-

    “The bulk of this writing has been produced by a small band of true believers who belong not merely to the individual rights school of thought but a particular wing commonly called ‘insurrectionist theory.'[35] The leader of this band is Stephen P. Halbrook,[36] who, with the support of tens of thousands of dollars in NRA grants,[37] has written no less than two books and thirteen law review articles advocating this particular theory of the Second Amendment.[38] Insurrectionist theory is premised on [Page 319] the idea that the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself.”

    Oddly enough Bogus failed to mention that Stephen Halbrook who won two cases before the US Supreme Court:

    Printz_v._United_States
    United States v. Thompson-Center Arms Company

    Bogus wrote above that: “Insurrectionist theory is premised on [Page 319] the idea that the ultimate purpose of an armed citizenry is to be prepared to fight the government itself.”

    Isn’t that exactly what Madison said in Federalist #46 where he compared an army of the Federal government of 25 to 30 thousand men vs. a half million armed citizens in state militias?

    This was one of the primary argument by the Federalists as to why the Federal government did not represent a threat to tyranny.

    You write that:

    “With regards to the quote from the Federalist papers, one must recall that these were propaganda, designed to convince the doubtful to support the proposed constitution.”

    Yes, the Federalists Papers were written by supporters of the Constitution to convince Americans that it should be adopted. Therefore in its arguments it outlined in great deal the thinking of those who supported the Constitution. They are essential to understanding the mindset of the authors of the Constitution.

    You call them “propaganda” as if they were written by Joseph Goebbels to fool people into adopting the Constitution by appealing to emotion over fact, but in fact, Madison made a logical argument which Bogus cannot refute by calling Halbrook et al some “small band of true believers.”

    “The article cited above does a very good job of challenging this notion that a militia would be a bulwark of liberty by examining the actual performance of the various militias during the revolutionary war.”

    I have probably spent several decades reading about how the militia performed in the Revolutionary War. You are right that many times in open battle they did not do too well. Rifles instead of smoothbores were not the best weapon for massed battles on open fields and they didn’t usually come equipped with bayonets. However they did very well at sniping British officers. Often the militia functioned better emulating the Viet Cong than a regular army.

    There was much discussion about how the average militia performed and some despair that it could be the military tool that some hoped it could be. All those things are absolutely true. Perhaps Madison understood what Stalin is reputed to have said later: “Quantity has a quality of its own.”

    That was essentially Madison’s argument in the context of the militia. Although it might be constituted of individually less well equipped and trained members, it would overwhelm the more highly trained army by its sheer numbers.

    “However, as the article points out, this was pure propaganda, part of the mythos which surrounded the war (and continues to do so in popular imagination to this day) but has a limited basis in what actually happened.”

    It is absolutely true that there is a lot of myth surrounding how the Revolutionary War played out. At the beginning both sides thought they could win easily. As it turned out it was a lot closer than either side imagined.

    But all of that is largely irrelevant to why those supporting adoption of the Constitution (the Federalists) and many Northern states required an explicit protection on the right to keep and bear arms in a Bill of Rights attached to the Constitution.

    There is no doubt that the southern slave owning states had their concerns that a powerful Federal government might take away their slaves, but all the states united believed in and supported the militia system and thought it powerful defense against tyranny (whether or not their expectations were realistic or not).

    Stephen Halbrook and others have a laid a strong case for the individual rights argument, and his research and writing was in fact part of the case in District of Columbia v. Heller.

    As for Bogus, I see his argument basically as an argument of association, “the 2nd Amendment is bad because it was intended to protect slavery,” which is, as is his last name, Bogus. 🙂

    It is not that he lies or that all that he says is in fact incorrect. It is what he leaves out and where he focuses. Halbrook and others have largely covered what he left out, and in the end they won at the Supreme Court (which I understand doesn’t “prove” their case is correct, but nevertheless it shows they could mount a powerful argument, a powerful argument that I do not see Bogus refuting).

    regards,

    lwk

    • Ronald King

      lwk, You have written a lot here about gun control philosophy and you stated that you are a Christian. I am wondering if you could express from your belief in Christ how He would support your position.

      • I am not entirely certain I can express it to you in conventional theological terms. The central concept I use is free will. Note that Jesus always appealed to the individual conscience and free will of others. He didn’t expect Caesar to set up his kingdom and force people to obey him.

        My belief is that Christ expects us individually to learn, understand, and follow his teachings purely by free will. Nothing we do has any value unless it is done 100% by our own free will. Therefore those who work to pass laws and legislation to force others to act – in their view – morally by contributing to the welfare of others are ultimately acting against the will of Christ. Forcing others takes away the only agency a person has to achieve salvation, that is, free will.

        Force is justified only against those that initiate the use of force and only for the purpose of stopping that use of force. Therefore my politics are largely Libertarian where one has the smallest possible government doing absolutely the least amount possible, and allowing individuals total free will to do what they will as long as they don’t initiate the use of force against others. Restrictions on free will would be based on criminal activity or mental inability (that is, criminals and the dangerously mentally ill).

        The use of force, i.e. guns, is premised on the belief that free agents have the right to protect their free will which is the sole agency of coming to Christ. There was a time when Christians submitted to unjust authorities because there was no other option, e.g., during the Roman Empire for a time. In that case their pacifism helped advance the teachings of Christ. However to have done the same thing in WWII in the face of the great evils ravaging the earth would have been evil and would have had an exactly reverse effect.

        A true Christian should, as Jesus instructed his disciples, go and sell their cloak and go buy a sword. Not because they want to use the sword to kill their brother, but so they can demonstrate their power to hold that power and not use it unjustly.

        regards,

        lwk

  • Matt Talbot wrote:

    “The point is the vast majority of immigrants will turn out to be law-abiding citizens who bring social and economic value to society.”

    In the past many people came to America for opportunity, not benefits. In Austin, Texas I can assure that many of our illegal immigrants are not law abiding. If they hit a bicylist while driving drunk – not all that uncommon – they may leave them at the side of the road because they are here illegal. Happened a while back. Cyclist died.

    We have child molesters, drunk drivers, criminals in their country, and a host of other illegal immigrants not vetted through any immigration service. Not to mention a whole cadre of ruthless drug dealers. Not to mention people from S. America with lethal forms of tuberculosis that is no longer treatable with antibiotics.

    But as I said earlier, in the past many immigrants came to America for opportunity. Many still do, but at the same time they also plan to cash in on the multitude of benefits paid for by American taxpayers. We also have a lot of people in this country who are on welfare while illegals do work they won’t do.

    How is this a rational scenario? The answer is obvious. If you are a Democrat and you can win a majority of votes with Americans, just importa a lot more people who will vote for you and turn them into voting Americans. Which is a large part of the motivation in stopping any reasonable checking of voters that they are in fact qualified to vote.

    I have no problem with people coming to America for opportunity, but they ought to do so through legal immigration channels and America should exercise its own self interest in choosing those who are most likely to contribute, that is, people who have skills and education.

    Some few stories from the Net:

    USDA partnering with Mexico to boost food stamp participation

    The Mexican government has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.

    USDA has an agreement with Mexico to promote American food assistance programs, including food stamps, among Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and migrant communities in America.

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/07/19/usda-partnering-with-mexico-to-boost-food-stamp-participation/

    Obama USDA met 30 times with Mexican gov’t to promote food-stamp use among Mexican immigrants

    Department of Agriculture personnel in the Obama administration have met with Mexican Government officials dozens of times since the president took office to promote nutrition assistance programs — notably food stamps — among Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and migrant communities in America.

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/01/obama-usda-met-30-times-with-mexican-govt-to-promote-food-stamp-use-among-mexican-immigrants/

    Illegal Aliens Eligible for Social Security Benefits

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/2003/02/20/illegal-aliens-eligible-for-social-security-benefits/

    SSI is funded through the payroll taxes of Americans. But you don’t have to be an American to receive SSI payments. Like food stamps, Medicaid and almost every other form of social insurance that America has developed to help its citizens, SSI is targeted by people from other countries as a tool to materially improve their lives without work.

    lwk

    • None of what you have linked to here really addresses the statement of mine that you quoted at the beginning:

      The point is the vast majority of immigrants will turn out to be law-abiding citizens who bring social and economic value to society.

      • “The point is the vast majority of immigrants will turn out to be law-abiding citizens who bring social and economic value to society.”

        According to this paper:

        The High Cost of Cheap Labor
        Illegal Immigration and the Federal Budget

        By Steven A. Camarota August 2004

        Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household.

        Among the largest costs are Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).

        With nearly two-thirds of illegal aliens lacking a high school degree, the primary reason they create a fiscal deficit is their low education levels and resulting low incomes and tax payments, not their legal status or heavy use of most social services.

        On average, the costs that illegal households impose on federal coffers are less than half that of other households, but their tax payments are only one-fourth that of other households.

        Many of the costs associated with illegals are due to their American-born children, who are awarded U.S. citizenship at birth. Thus, greater efforts at barring illegals from federal programs will not reduce costs because their citizen children can continue to access them.

        If illegal aliens were given amnesty and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual net fiscal deficit would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total net cost of $29 billion.
        Costs increase dramatically because unskilled immigrants with legal status — what most illegal aliens would become — can access government programs, but still tend to make very modest tax payments.

        Although legalization would increase average tax payments by 77 percent, average costs would rise by 118 percent.

        The fact that legal immigrants with few years of schooling are a large fiscal drain does not mean that legal immigrants overall are a net drain — many legal immigrants are highly skilled.

        The vast majority of illegals hold jobs. Thus the fiscal deficit they create for the federal government is not the result of an unwillingness to work.

        The results of this study are consistent with a 1997 study by the National Research Council, which also found that immigrants’ education level is a key determinant of their fiscal impact.

        http://www.cis.org/articles/2004/fiscalexec.html

        — end quote —

        lwk

        • The point is the vast majority of immigrants will turn out to be law-abiding citizens who bring social and economic value to society.

      • Or see:

        Fraud by illegal immigrants destroying children’s lives
        By U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.)

        llegal immigrant workers not only take jobs from American workers, they also damage the future of millions of American children through fraud and identity theft.

        It’s an issue that will not go away if our southern border is sealed or Mexican citizens decide the United States is no longer a desirable destination, as a recent Pew Hispanic Center study suggests. Forty percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstays who come from around the world. That percentage will only rise if the recent Pew Hispanic Center study is correct. Illegal immigrants need fraudulent documents to obtain employment no matter where they come from.

        Children are particularly susceptible to identity theft.

        “The use of fraudulent documents for employment authorization and child identity theft go hand-in-hand because adults can use children’s Social Security numbers for years without being detected,” Ronald Mortensen, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, testified at a congressional hearing I chaired this month. “Document fraud, therefore, is not a victimless crime and the children whose Social Security numbers are used for employment purposes suffer very real and serious harm.”

        Jennifer Andrushko’s 3-year-old son is one of those victims. His identity was taken by an illegal immigrant, who then used it to fraudulently obtain work and run up unpaid medical bills.

        Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/homeland-security/223971-fraud-by-illegal-immigrants-destroying-childrens-lives#ixzz2h9Ph8gbS

        Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

        — end quote —

        lwk

  • Ronald King

    lwk, Thank you for your response. What you interpret as pacifism during the period of the Roman Empire I interpret as an example of free will choosing to act as Christ with sacrificial love. Your example of WWII seems to be more of a projection of your belief about the use of violence to end violence. As Christians, are there other ways to think of free will which does not involve taking the life of another in order to save our lives? I wish I could say more at this time however, my free will tells me to give the computer to my spouse since she needs it at this time.

    • “What you interpret as pacifism during the period of the Roman Empire I interpret as an example of free will choosing to act as Christ with sacrificial love.”

      While I think there is more to it than that, I agree with you, and do not see that as a contradiction. The answer is not a simple black and white one.

      “our example of WWII seems to be more of a projection of your belief about the use of violence to end violence.”

      See my earlier reply on October 1, 2013 11:28 am (or just search on this page for “Gandhi”). That was earlier and you may have not seen it.

      My point in the above is that if the Roman Empire had been like the Nazis then Christianity may not have survived. Love is powerful but there are those who have completely rejected love and the Holy Spirit, therefore appeals to love to those people will be met with contempt (and violence if you in any way stand in their way or don’t serve their purposes).

      True evil exists in this world.

      regards,

      lwk

      • Ronald King

        1wk, I just read your comment of 10/1 and I understand your perspective. However, I believe it is a worldly perspective. My faith has the belief that no evil can overcome God’s Love here on earth. Those who did sacrifice their lives in a nonviolent action appear to me to be following Christ’s example of the Cross and that this is the Way of conversion and salvation for those we consider enemies. What kind of faith is operating when we have wars in which Christians are killing innocent human beings and other Christians. Christ did say we will be known by how we love one another and His acceptance or lack of will be determined by how we live our lives.

        • “I understand your perspective. However, I believe it is a worldly perspective.”

          Ok, and I think I understand your perspective. I believe it fits well within the mainstream of Christian beliefs. Mine often don’t fit well within the mainstream and I didn’t primarily come here to debate those beliefs. 🙂

          Thanks for your views and insights.

          regards,

          lwk

  • Matt Talbot wrote:

    “The point is the vast majority of immigrants will turn out to be law-abiding citizens who bring social and economic value to society.”

    Ok, then a moral question to you.

    From my previous quotes above it should be obvious that initially America will have to make huge investments in these people (or more likely their children) before they become productive enough to actually contribute back more than they cost in taxes, etc.

    Do you believe that you and people who believe like you, have the moral right to use the political process to force people like me, people who disagree with you, to pay taxes to support these programs to help these people?

    In other words if you are being a “Robin Hood” helping the downtrodden, the poor, and the disadvantaged to come here and prosper, do you feel that by doing so – by using the blunt political threat of violence and force against those who disagree – that you are following the words and will of Christ?

    Make no mistake about it – government is ultimately enforced with a threat of violence. So are you morally comfortable using those threats against people who would not otherwise be willing to pay for what you consider to be social justice?

    Just curious.

    lwk

    • Do you believe that you and people who believe like you, have the moral right to use the political process to force people like me, people who disagree with you, to pay taxes to support these programs to help these people?

      In other words if you are being a “Robin Hood” helping the downtrodden, the poor, and the disadvantaged to come here and prosper, do you feel that by doing so – by using the blunt political threat of violence and force against those who disagree – that you are following the words and will of Christ?

      Make no mistake about it – government is ultimately enforced with a threat of violence. So are you morally comfortable using those threats against people who would not otherwise be willing to pay for what you consider to be social justice?

      Do we live in a country where people elect representatives, in the hope that those representatives will represent their interests, and do I expect that some of those interests will be against the will of some of my fellow citizens?

      Yes, that’s how it works.

      Presidents and congresses pass laws that I don’t like all the time. I obey those laws, not because they will kill me if I don’t, but because it is my obligation as a citizen. I also petition my government for redress of grievances, work to elect people who have a vision for America I agree with, and work to un-elect people whose vision I oppose.

      • brian martin

        lwk… you wrote “Do you believe that you and people who believe like you, have the moral right to use the political process to force people like me, people who disagree with you, to pay taxes to support these programs to help these people?”
        The point is, this is precisely what any law does…it imposes the will of the majority on everyone. Matt pointed out the benefits of democracy…if you don’t like something, you have the ability to speak out against it, and to work to change it, no matter how quixotic the cause may seem to others. Right to carry a concealed handgun laws don’t bother me…I don’t expect an increase in violence. However, they scare the crap out of other people…who feel that it infringes upon their right to feel safe and secure. Laws by definition impose particular behavior.

        And I believe that part of my duty as a citizen and as a Catholic is obey all laws that do not interfere with my conscience.

        • “The point is, this is precisely what any law does…it imposes the will of the majority on everyone.”

          And the point of the Constitution of the United States was to severely limit the power of the government to “impose…the will of the majority on everyone. That is why, for example, we have a Bill of Rights. Despite the real limitations set forth in the Constitution, the states were still suspicious and demanded explicit and inviolate rights be encoded in what is called the Bill of Rights.

          We can talk about the intentions of the Founders, and we can talk about how that has evolved over time. Unfortunately it has evolved as many Founders feared towards giving more and more power to those who would impose their will on others and eroding the rights of individuals to not be imposed on.

          But there is still a fundamental question I am not getting a clear answer on from anyone so far. Does anyone here believe that Christ would condone and endorse a system where the majority impose their will on the minority, and especially do you believe Christ would condone and endorse charity imposed by force on the unwilling?

          regards,

          lwk

      • “Do we live in a country where people elect representatives, in the hope that those representatives will represent their interests, and do I expect that some of those interests will be against the will of some of my fellow citizens?”

        In very simple language you are saying that ultimately we are a democracy where the will of the majority becomes the law. I would say that you are nearly accurate as to current conditions, but far from accurate as to how the United States was founded, or the intentions of the writers of the Constitution who very much feared unlimited democracy.

        John Adams:

        “Democracy never lasts long,…. “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.” He insisted, “There was never a democracy that ‘did not commit suicide.’”

        Alexander Hamilton:

        It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.”

        “We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”

        (by “Republican” above he of course was not referring to the Republican Party which did not yet exist)

        James Madison:

        “… democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths.”

        The point is that the Founders conceived of the the United States as a Republic that guaranteed basic rights to individuals and strictly limited the power of government. They greatly distrusted unlimited democracy whether “pure” or “representative.”

        The limited democracy was originally intended as a means to elect the caretakers of a severely limited government that was not supposed to have the power to “rob Peter to pay Paul,” which is what you are advocating.

        There is a term for democracy as you see it: “Mob rule.”

        But you never did answer my basic question. Assuming you believe that democracy is proper and that 51% have a right to take from some to give to those in need, do you believe that in doing so you are doing the will of Christ?

        regards,

        lwk

        • I keep hearing that the United States is not a democracy, it is a republic, which is a little like saying that the United States is not in North America, it is in the Western Hemisphere.

          We live in a constitutional, democratic republic. Democracy is absolutely essential and structural to our system of government, and our system has gotten steadily more democratic as our history has unfolded. In the late 18th century, only white, property-owning men could vote, but in the ensuing 200 years the right to vote has been extended to non-property owners, former slaves and women. In the civil rights era, after the right to vote was made a practical impossibility by Southern Jim Crow laws, the right to vote was re-extended to those former slaves and their descendants.

          That said: Do I think Jesus would have a problem with a system where some people are legally obligated to pay taxes, some of which are used to take care of the needs to their fellow citizens? I don’t think the question actually has much meaning, but for the record, I kind of doubt it.

        • Ronald King

          1wk, I think the answer to your question can be answered in Luke 12:57-59

  • Matt Talbot wrote:

    “…our system has gotten steadily more democratic as our history has unfolded.”

    That is true, and a good thing.

    “In the late 18th century, only white, property-owning men could vote, but in the ensuing 200 years the right to vote has been extended to non-property owners, former slaves and women.”

    Yes, but there is an important distinction you seem to be missing.

    There are two aspects of voting:

    1. Who can vote

    2. What one can vote for (or what one’s representatives can vote for)

    The concept of a republic, a representational form of government with a charter or constitution that limits government power, is largely premised on putting many things “off the table” as far as government or democracy is concerned.

    It is one thing to extend the right to vote to more people and most probably support that. The problem is giving that vote more power to impose on the free will of others.

    “That said: Do I think Jesus would have a problem with a system where some people are legally obligated to pay taxes, some of which are used to take care of the needs to their fellow citizens? …I kind of doubt it.”

    I don’t agree, but at least you did answer the question. I believe that Christ is a champion of free will and he seeks one’s complete and open cooperation that comes from a place not coerced by the threats of the state or the democratic majority (or peer pressure).

    Christ said we would always have the poor with us, and I do not think that was a casual remark. The poor and damaged exist to evoke a free will response in others and with that evocation through the spirit one moves towards grace and doing his will. To short circuit that is in my way of understanding things to short circuit the very work you believe you are accomplishing.

    lwk

    • The problem is giving that vote more power to impose on the free will of others.

      There are always going to be some groups in society that disagree with some federal action, and other groups that desire that very same action. The extent to which the “republic” aspect of our system and the “democracy” aspect of our system has been ongoing since our founding, and I doubt you and I will settle it here.

      Christ said we would always have the poor with us, and I do not think that was a casual remark.

      I don’t think so, either, but I think you are applying a meaning beyond His intention. He was saying essentially, “Guys – look: There will be plenty of time to tend to the poor later. At the moment, the focus needs to be what’s happening now.”

  • brian martin

    “Does anyone here believe that Christ would condone and endorse a system where the majority impose their will on the minority, and especially do you believe Christ would condone and endorse charity imposed by force on the unwilling?”
    I don’t know. I am not sure there was anyplace where he specifically said that we should disobey laws of our respective lands..at least unless the law violated God’s law in some way. He didn’t instruct his followers not to pay taxes to the Romans. He paid taxes. And when asked about it, he said to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”

    The USCCB stated the following in Their Letter :A Catholic Framework for Economic Life :

    “In economic life, free markets have both clear advantages and limits; government has essential responsibilities and limitations; voluntary groups have irreplaceable roles, but cannot substitute for the proper working of the market and the just policies of the state” (no. 7)
    “Society has a moral obligation, including governmental action where necessary, to assure opportunity,meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life” (no. 8)”

    And in : A Place at the Table:A Catholic Recommitment to Overcome
    Poverty and to Respect the Dignity of All Gods Children
    U.S. Catholic Bishops, 2002
    “…the table we seek for all rests on these four institutions, or legs:
    (1) what families and individuals can do, (2) what community and religious institutions can do, (3) what the private sector can do, and (4) what the government can do to work together to overcome poverty” (p. 14). “The Catholic way is to recognize the essential role and the complementary responsibilities of families, communities, the market, and government to work together to overcome poverty and advance human dignity” (p. 18).
    “Work must be an escape from poverty, not another version of it” (p. 17)

    Or in the words of Pope Francis: “While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.”
    Note the statement “The right of control to the states, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good”

    I suspect Jesus would find plenty to criticize in regard to our economic system.

    • “I suspect Jesus would find plenty to criticize in regard to our economic system.”

      He would probably criticize it in terms he used to criticize the one he was familiar with 2,000 or so years ago. In that age the Emperor dispersed favors to those who supported him and penalties on those who did not, a form of economics not dissimilar to the crony capitalism we see more and more of today. What we have today only vaguely resembles free markets.

      lwk

  • Mel

    l have to agree with wk2431 that changing social policies more than anything have had more to do with the escalating violence than anything in our inner cities and this comes from a former kid who grew up in Detroit during the 60s. Changing social policies combined with the secularization of society and declining morals are the fuel for inner city wildfires. Guns are a symptom like the smoke escaping a fire but the flames have already consumed our once great beautiful cities. Time to rebuild and that can only be done by building a new house with new materials of value, strength, beauty and that those materials come from loving and knowing God!