James Wright’s article about how he was wrong about gun control and why it is doomed to failure, from the 90’s. The years change, but the song remains the same:
Came across this last night:
America’s decades long national argument about gun control is not a normal political debate about addressing policy to problems but about what kind of politics to have. It is fundamentally about how citizens should relate to each other and the state, and that makes it a matter of political philosophy, Politics with a capital P. That in turn explains why the debate has gone on so long without resolution and the division and frustration it inspires.
Of course it is up to Americans to decide what kind of society they should have, not philosophers, and certainly not foreign ones like me. Indeed, part of my argument is that even this most fundamental question must be decided politically, by the people, and not by appeal to the special authority of sacred constitutional principles or social science or even philosophy. Philosophers’ pronouncements of truth and rightness have no special authority over politics, nor should they. What philosophical analysis can do is offer new perspective and argumentative resources by which a political debate such as this one might be improved from its toxic stalemate.
I know what you are thinking. This is going to be a long winded argument about how guns are bad. WRONG!
So what does my philosophical perspective come down to? First a diagnosis. Both sides of the gun control debate know they are right. But only one side recognises it as a fundamentally philosophical dispute. The other has systematically evaded the real debate about values in favour of the faux objectivity of a statistical public health argument [See Hunt for a discussion of what the gun control debate is actually about]. Second some positive advice. The advocates of gun control need to take the political philosophy of the gun rights movement seriously and show that a society without guns is a better society not that it is a safer one.
It only gets better from there:
I’m going to have to be blunt. Gun control advocates rely excessively on a public health case that is not only much weaker than they believe it to be but also crowds out the kind of arguments that might actually win over their opponents. Their confidence that they are on the right side of history has blinded them to the fact that they have chosen to fight on the wrong ground. They keep harping on about guns killing people. As if guns were like cigarettes, and as if the numbers were big enough to matter
Guns are an excellent killing technology. They are extremely good at transforming an intention to kill into its achievement. However, that doesn’t mean that they are a particularly significant cause of death; only a particularly exciting one.The idea that forcibly removing guns from citizens would reduce death rates in any appreciable degree is a triumph of moral indignation over statistics. America is not 43rd in the world for life-expectancy because it kills so many people with guns, but, principally, because of the social gradient in health that follows from its shameful levels of socio-economic inequality .
Let’s go into this a little more.
We hear a lot about the large number of deaths caused by guns in America, around 33,000 per year. This sounds like a big number. But understanding whether a number is big enough to matter requires considering it in context. 2.6 million Americans die every year [CDC] . Gun deaths represent just over 1% of deaths, and two thirds of those are suicides. From a public health perspective, many other causes of death seem much more deserving of our worry, and also more likely to yield to government intervention.
So happy to see someone else making the same arguments I’ve been using for years. This one addresses a plethora of typical arguments: Guns vs Cars, Suicide, Mass Shootings, etc. I have to disagree with the author’s “Your gun isn’t going to stop the military” argument for reasons outlined in previous posts, but you can’t have everything.
So I came across an article this morning where David Smalley, Proud Atheist, lectures America about “Why Gun Nuts Lie – I Know From Experience” – and with a premise like that, you know you are in for quite a wild ride.
First, he starts with his credentials:
I live in Texas. I’m a gun owner. I have a concealed handgun license. I’ve taught my kids how to fire weapons.
I also understand and appreciate our Constitution. I’m fully aware of the 2nd Amendment, and how its authors wanted to prevent government tyranny. Considering what they had gone through, they had every right to demand such a thing.
I know enough about weapons to have a near perfect score on my firing test, to know that the “c” in SR9c stands for “compact” to make the weapon easier to hide; and to know that the AR in AR-15 doesn’t stand for ‘Assault Rifle,’ but ‘Armalite’ after the original company who made the gun.
Am I a gun nut? Maybe. But I like to keep myself skeptical and informed. And that includes realizing when I’m being illogically influenced by my culture, and taking necessary steps to correct it.
At this nation’s beginning, it made sense for the citizens to be armed similarly to the government to prevent tyranny.
Today, that’s ridiculous. The very concept is outdated. Some have said to me; the point is for the citizens to be “as armed as well as the government.”
Really? The concept is outdated? This would seem to indicate that Mr. Smalley’s beliefs are predicated on either strawman arguments or a lack of history (or both). We’ll go into detail though, don’t worry.
For starters, today, the military has fully automatic M-16s. Citizens can’t buy that. You have to get a tamer version: AR-15.
You can’t have flame throwers, bombs, bazookas, Z10 attack helicopters, bradleys, tanks, fighter jets, nuclear reactors, or a plethora of other secret military weapons you don’t even know exist.
Mr Smalley shows a fundamental lack of knowledge with these statements, starting with current gun control laws. Citizens can buy fully automatic M-16s, they are regulated as Machineguns under the National Firearms Act of 1934. Flamethrowers? Not even federally regulated (even CNN scratched their head on that) and there are models for sale online right now in various configurations. Bombs & Bazookas? They are considered “destructive devices” and have similar paperwork to machineguns. Attack helicopters (Z10? wtf) & fighter jets? Uh, here ya go. Bradleys, tanks? Whoops.
So right off the bat, Mr. Smalley is entirely full of shit. Of course if you confront him on this, he will shift the goalposts to whine about how you can’t buy the latest in military weapons systems like AH-64 Apaches with full Block upgrades, or a F-22, but that is besides the point – anyone citizen based uprising doesn’t require full air dominance & support. They just have to apply the same asymmetric warfare principles that were used against the US in Iraq, Afghanistan & Vietnam.
Secondly, what if you were? I could hand you 50 AR-15s, give you 1000 illegal bombs, steal you a couple of tanks, and smuggle in some bazookas, and even let you fully train 500 of your closest friends.
If the government wants your shit, they’re going to take it.
You still wouldn’t be a match for even a single battalion of the United States Marine Corps. Not to mention the Air Force, Army, Navy, National Guard, Secret Service, FBI, CIA, and Seals.
So stop acting like your little AR-15 is going to stop tyranny.
There’s the money shot! The argument is “your AR-15 doesn’t matter against the full weight of the US Government. At a base level, he’s correct – one person cannot stand against the government. One person, however, can make a difference, whether they are Ed Snowden, or Bradley Manning, or others. If Mr. Smalley had a base level of knowledge, he’d recall back to how WWI was started before making such a vacuous argument.
Here’s the thing though: We’ve been at war since just after 9/11 – 15 years now. Despite that, we haven’t been able to pacify two areas that are smaller than Texas. We still have troops deployed in Afghanistan, and despite “withdrawing” from Iraq, we have troops fighting there as well. So while one man with a rifle can’t make a difference, it would behoove Mr. Smalley to recall the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, or the LA Riots from the 90s, before dismissing the effectiveness of large groups of people. Larry Correia has a great article on why your “citizens can’t stand up to the government” argument is not grounded in reality, I suggest you read it.
But that can’t be all of his argument now, can it? Of course not:
Just be honest. You like it because it makes your pee-pee big, and when you fire it, it gives you a tingle in your no-no place.
Of course, nobody could want an AR-15 (or equivalent rifle) because they are fun guns to shoot. Or that they are excellent for home protection. Or that they work for shooters as tall as 6’6″, or children barely in their teens. No, it’s because we’ve got little dicks. And Mr. Smalley has a vast amount of experience with the genitalia of gun owners because he’s clearly conversant and can speak from experience having handled many of them, right?
So what’s next? Oh, more of the usual antigun talking points:
A collection of studies from 2012-2013 found that having a gun in your home significantly increases your risk of death—and that of your spouse and children. If you have a gun (regardless of how it’s stored), everybody in your home is more likely than your non-gun-owning neighbors and their families to die in a gun-related accident, suicide or homicide.
Oh look, a list of 10 strawman arguments from Mother Jones, followed by a moronic “correlation = causation” argument that ignores that firearms homicides or suicides aren’t even on the top ten lists of ways to die in America. Guess what, Mr Smalley – owning a car makes it more likely you’ll be in a car accident too. Please, let go of your pearls.
Gun owners and their families are not more suicidal than non-gun-owners, research shows. Nor are they more likely to have a history of depression or other mental health problems.
But they—and their families—are at significantly increased risk of successfully taking their lives with a gun.
Sure, because firearms are pretty efficient like that. But, as I’ve stated before, “Remove guns, PROBLEM SOLVED” doesn’t work with suicides either, as people will switch methods. See (gun free) Japan with 2x our suicide rate, and (gun free) South Korea with more than 2x our suicide rate, and (heavily gun restricted) Belgium with 1.33 our suicide rate.
Next, Mr. Smalley fails at the google:
Let’s play a little research game. Google: “man fights off gang of bad guys with AR-15” and the first thing that pops up is a video of criminals shooting at a moving car with handguns. …
Your fantasy of wiping out those 14 burglars, like Rambo spraying bullets from your AR-15, just isn’t going to happen.
It doesn’t happen. Period.
It doesn’t happen? Oh ok. Let’s try that with videos. First result for “man defends with AR-15” is this:
Here’s another video:
And here’s a woman defending her home in Detroit with a Hi Point carbine:
Hmm, sure looks like people defend themselves with rifles, Mr. Smalley.
I’m not advocating for you to lose all your guns. Even aware of the statistical dangers, I struggle with what to do with mine. I want my kids to be educated on the dangers, but I don’t want to act like guns make me safer. At least if I’m being skeptical even when it hurts.
Ah yes, the “No one wants to take your guns” strawman rears its head.
Here’s an idea: Disarm yourself. If you don’t want a gun, don’t buy one. We’re pro-choice like that. As a matter of fact, I’d suggest you sell all of yours immediately because you sound like an asshole and I’d hate for you to hurt yourself or someone else. Because you aren’t being skeptical: you are showing confirmation bias and are ignoring information that counters your viewpoints.
Then comes the litany of gun control masturbation:
But we have to draw the line somewhere. The bottom line is, we just need common sense. And we need to stop lying to ourselves.
I detailed my proposal for gun legislation on Dogma Debate #211: Guns & Atheists. But here’s the gist of it:
Treat guns like cars.
Operating age limits
Restrict some models
Require safety inspections
I’m drawing the line well before that, because you aren’t educated enough about the laws to have a layman’s opinion and your facts are wrong.
Your laundry list is dumb for a few reason. For one, you don’t want to treat guns like cars, because if you did, you’d actually be making the case to loosen laws. Here’s a couple things for you to read about why your argument has the facts exactly backwards:
- Michael Z Williamson’s essay “We need to regulate cars the way we regulate guns“
- TTAG’s Debunking the “Guns should be Treated like Cars” Analogy
- Eugene Volokh’s “Why not regulate guns like cars?”
All of those lay it out in very simple language why your argument is dumb.
Mandatory licenses? This is a non-starter unless they are freely available on a shall-issue basis. By the way, Illinois has mandatory licenses for even purchasing ammunition under their Firearms Owner Identification requirements. Guess how that works out for them?
But hey, are you going to be ok with 16 year olds getting concealed carry permits? Because that’s what you are asking for.
Mandatory training? I’m down for that if you make it part of K-12 public school curriculum. Otherwise you are just using dogwhistle racism to try to deny those who live in lower income brackets the ability to defend themselves.
Mandatory insurance? There’s not an insurance company out there that’s going to cover criminal actions (the primary reason you want firearms insurance, right?) and suicide requirements are pretty strict in existing health insurance as well. But again, this goes back to dogwhistle racism as the people most likely to be victimized are also the same group disproportionately represented as homicide offenders.
Age limits? Why? This sounds like you aren’t interested in safety whatsoever. We have 360x more children 12 & under being injured in bicycle accidents every year (144,573 in 2014) than firearms (460 again 2014). Hell, almost 6800 kids under 12 almost drowned in 2014. Even looking at fatal injury data, bicycles killed 29 kids, 597 were drowned, 43 fell to their deaths, and 44 were killed unintentionally by firearms. Roughly the same number of kids died falling down stairs or off ladders as were accidentally shot. Double digit numbers of deaths, while tragic and horrendous for the families, are not reasons to curtail constitutional rights.
Model restrictions? Why? What restrictions? Let me guess, ones that scare you based on cosmetic features. We already have model restrictions, thanks, and we don’t need more for dubious reasons.
Safety inspections? Why? Sounds like you aren’t a fan of privacy either.
Mandatory registration? LOL no. Sorry! First, registration schemes are the epitome of Southpark’s Underpants Gnomes style gun control logic. It’s one of those ideas that sounds good in theory, but doesn’t actually work out in practice. Why? Because when guns are stolen, or straw purchased, or otherwise disappear, your registry is useless. Registries are good for one thing, and that’s revenue generation. Past that, they don’t work unless the firearm is recovered at the crime scene… and if you have the gun, you typically have the shooter too.
Finally, Background Checks. See Illinois above. If you want truly effective background checks, open a publicly accessible NICS portal that requires two party token authentication and you’ll have actual gun owners supporting the concept. Meanwhile until straw purchasing and the like are eliminated, not to mention burglary, you are missing the crime gun forest for the trees.
Yesterday was a victory for the United States – the Senate prevented shredding the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments in order for Senate Democrats to restrict the 2nd.
This is being played as Republican’s wanting to sell guns to ISIS. I’m not joking, that’s actually what Sen Chris Murphy stated:
We’ve got to make this clear, constant case that Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS
Why? Because the Senate Democrats put forward bills to restrict gun sales to people listed on the US Government’s Terror Watchlists. The same secret watchlists that the even ACLU is saying not to use for gun control.
So what was the problem with the proposed bills from the Democrats? TL;DR – they wanted people to prove their innocence, eliminated due process, and a host of other issues.
The Republican’s put up two alternative bills in order to quell public fears:
Grassley Senate Amendment 4751
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s piece of legislation aimed to bolster the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) through increased funding. Other than Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, Democrats voted against the measure,
Grassley’s bill failed 53-47.
Looks like the Democratic party isn’t for bolstering the NICS system.
The Republicans also put a bill up allowing use of the Terror Watchlists to deny gun sales provided the feds could show probable cause:
Senate Amendment 4749
Another bill, put forth by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, would have allowed a federal judge to block a gun sale pending there is probable cause that an individual “has committed or will commit an act of terrorism.”
The Cornyn bill failed 53-47.
In closing, the any spin about how this is all the Republican’s fault is misplaced – the Republican’s proposals had much more support and protected core constitutional rights.
Also of note: Universal Background Checks, which were utterly unrelated to the Orlando shooting and would not have prevented it, were also defeated yesterday. Hooray!
Next time someone tells you that the Democratic Party isn’t about gun control, show them this.
It’s gotten to the point where I’m going to have to create a new category: No One Wants To Take Your Guns.
Because this shit is getting out of hand.
Supposed Constitutional Law Professor David S. Cohen penned this nonsensical rant for Rolling Stone the other day, “Why It’s Time to Repeal the Second Amendment”
In the face of yet another mass shooting, now is the time to acknowledge a profound but obvious truth – the Second Amendment is wrong for this country and needs to be jettisoned. We can do that through a Constitutional amendment. It’s been done before (when the Twenty-First Amendment repealed prohibition in the Eighteenth), and it must be done now.
Yeah, because we should just eliminate constitutional rights because something bad happened. My rights end where your feelings begin. Mind you, this only applies to the 2nd amendment. Hate speech? Well no, we can’t eliminate the 1st amendment! A criminal getting away with murder because of the right to remain silent? Not a good reason there.
Rather, it’s only the burdensome 2nd amendment that is regularly targeted for elimination. And remember, no one wants to take your guns.
The en banc court affirmed the district courts’ judgments and held that there is no Second Amendment right for members of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.
Appellants, who live in San Diego and Yolo Counties, sought to carry concealed firearms in public for self-defense, but alleged they were denied licenses to do so because they did not satisfy the good cause requirements in their counties. Under California law, an applicant for a license must show, among other things, “good cause” to carry a concealed firearm. California law authorizes county sheriffs to establish and publish policies defining good cause. Appellants contend that San Diego and Yolo Counties’ published policies defining good cause violate their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
The en banc court held that the history relevant to both the Second Amendment and its incorporation by the Fourteenth Amendment lead to the same conclusion: The right of a member of the general public to carry a concealed firearm in public is not, and never has been, protected by the Second Amendment. Therefore, because the Second Amendment does not protect in any degree the right to carry concealed firearms in public, any prohibition or restriction a state may choose to impose on concealed carry — including a requirement of “good cause,” however defined — is necessarily allowed by the Amendment. The en banc court stated that there may or may not be a Second Amendment right for a member of the general public to carry a firearm openly in public, but the Supreme Court has not answered that question.
As a reminder, California bans open carry entirely. By allowing arbitrary “good cause” requirements for concealed carry that can be denied under any pretext, the 2nd amendment is effectively non-existent outside of one’s home.
The Supreme Court will have to weigh in with a solid decision stating the 2nd Amendment applies to carry outside the home in order to overrule these sorts of decisions – and this will require another district coming up with a ruling opposite what the 9th circuit has returned.