Hell On Earth

In the wake of the Newtown shootings, the usual voices on the Left have resumed their call for the nation to “do something” about guns. In a longish post, here are some contrarian opinions from around the blogosphere, and a few observations of my own.

First, here’s a penetrating essay by Charles Cooke, who is wiser than his years:

On Newtown and Gun Control: The Difficult Response

After a man walked into a British elementary school in 1996 and killed 17 people, the British government summarily banned handguns. After yesterday’s massacre at Newtown, some in America would that Congress did the same here. The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik wrote yesterday afternoon that “gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.” He concluded with a general call for something to be done and the execrable charge that those who oppose “gun control” were complicit in the crime. This, sadly, is a predictable response.

Arguments over the merits of gun control are made all the more difficult to navigate by the Left’s stubborn denial that we are already having a debate on the issue. Gun control propositions are by no means new, and nor is there a lack of a “national conversation on the subject.” Instead, the national conversation is ongoing, and the Left is losing it badly. Gun control advocates may talk of national soul searching and dialogue, but in truth that already exists; what they mean is that they’d like to win for a change.

The Gopniks of the world don’t tend to win, however, because their arguments are weak and because their thinking is shallow. It is quite literally unfathomable to almost every human being that a man could shoot his mother dead. It is perhaps doubly unfathomable that someone could shoot a group of little children. To have done both on the same day is nothing short of astonishing. Herein lies the essential problem for those who would radically change our constitutional order: Americans know that they could never do such things whether they had no guns or two hundred guns at their disposal. The mind of a man so ill or depraved that he is capable of an atrocity such as we saw at Newtown is not one that can be constrained by law. Nobody refrains from shooting up a school because it is illegal.

There are at least two hundred million privately owned guns in America, and Connecticut regulates access to them more strictly than most. To believe that yesterday’s crime could have been prevented, you have to presume either that a man willing to go to such grievous lengths could have been deterred from doing so by stronger laws, or that those stronger laws could rid America of privately available guns completely — thus making the killer’s task an impossible one. I believe neither thing. To pass a law is not to achieve its aims, and one suspects that any attempt at gun control in America — which outlaws and the deranged will naturally ignore — would be destined to be filed next to Prohibition and the War on Drugs in the annals of man’s folly.

American liberties, including the Second Amendment and the 40-plus state-level guarantees of the right to bear arms, pre-exist the federal government, and are defined and protected in the same document from which the state derives its authority and its structure. In a free republic, the people cannot be disarmed by the government, for they are it’s employers, and they did not give up their individual rights when they consented to its creation. There is no clause in our charters of liberty that allows for the people to be deprived of their freedom if and when a few individuals abuse theirs. Moreover, contrary to the rhetoric of many, America is not in the middle of a crime epidemic. As laws have been liberalized over the last forty years, crime has dropped significantly. The partial incorporation of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court, along with the decline in public support for gun control and the passage of state-level concealed carry laws has done nothing to check this trend.

Contrarily, school shootings, such as the nauseating and heartbreaking spectacle we saw yesterday, are seemingly on the rise — as are other mass shootings, such as that which afflicted Aurora, Colo. earlier in the year. As Ezra Klein has observed, “of the 12 deadliest shootings in U.S. history, six have taken place since 2007.” This is a separate problem. What is causing this is not yet known and probably underinvestigated, but it is certainly not guns. The American republic stood for almost two hundred years before the first school shooting occurred. Something is awry, to be sure; to blame guns is a mistake.

It is often glibly asserted that mine is the “easy” response. On the contrary, it is the difficult response. To shout “do something” or “ban guns” is the facile suggestion, and nonchalantly to content oneself that laws passed in a faraway city will fix society’s problems is the comforting conviction. My judgment, by contrast, is the terrifying one: To realize that there is very little than one could have done to stop yesterday’s abomination is to understand that we are sometimes powerless in the face of evil, however much we shout about it.

Mr Cooke is right: the issue here is not guns; it’s culture. For instance: on a per-capita basis, Switzerland is ranked third in the world for private firearms possession, but its per-capita firearm homicide is only a quarter of the U.S. rate. Brazil, on the other hand, has a rate of firearms possession that is only one-eleventh of America’s, but its rate of gun homicide is six times higher.

Only a tiny proportion of homicides are mass murders caused by what John Brunner called “muckers” — but as Brunner predicted in his gloomy masterpiece Stand on Zanzibar, they are becoming more common, all over the world. The people who study these things know this, and appear to be baffled as to the cause.

Here’s the abstract from a paper titled The Nature of Mass Murder and Autogenic Massacre, published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology:

Incidents of mass murder have gained considerable media attention, but are not well understood in behavioral sciences. Current definitions are weak, and may include politically or ideological motivated phenomenon. Our current understanding of the phenomenon indicates these incidents are not peculiar to only western cultures, and appear to be increasing. Methods most prominently used include firearms by males who have experienced challenging setbacks in important social, familial and vocational domains. There often appears to be important autogenic components (Mullen Behavioral Sciences and the Law (22)3, 2004), including dysthymic reactions and similar antecedents. There have been observations of possible seasonal variations in mass murders, but research to date is inadequate to establish this relationship. It is recommended behavioral sciences and mental health researchers increase research efforts on understanding mass killings, as the current socioeconomic climate may increase vulnerability to this phenomenon, and the incidents are not well understood despite their notoriety.

Again: the causal factor here is not guns. Guns have been almost completely unregulated throughout most of US history, but mass shootings at American schools began only in the 1960s, with the Whitman shootings at the University of Texas. The pace has been accelerating since then. Anyway, Connecticut already has restrictive gun laws; the guns used in the Newtown shooting were legally owned by the shooter’s mother. Even more stringent background checks for mental illness would have done nothing to prevent this assault.

Lawrence Auster, writing at VFR, makes this point and more:

A conservative friend said to me that she’s starting to think that something has to be done about guns. But I heard a few minutes ago on Fox that the three guns the killer used were all owned legally by his mother. Which made my point for me: the only type of gun control that could have stopped such a crime would be the outlawing and confiscation of every privately owned gun in America.

Meanwhile, the entire country takes for granted demonically evil and violent entertainment. It takes for granted — when it’s not applauding — movie stars who declare on national television that they enjoyed killing white people in their latest movie. At the same time, people assume that their lives in America is middle-class, normal, and safe. The disconnect is radical, apparently incurable. We have a society in which there are no moral norms (except for the tyrannical and inverted “norms” of politically correctness), yet we are always shocked when someone puts into practice the idea that there are no norms.

Laura Wood also points to cultural causes that nobody on the Left would be inclined to discuss:

A Feminized Culture is a Violent Culture

ONE OF the fundamental pretenses of liberalism is that it stands on the side of non-violence. A liberal is tolerant, accepting, open and, above all, a pacifist. Feminism, in particular, has always held that if more women were in power, society would become more peaceful because women are less prone to aggression.

However, if we look closely at the kind of society feminism creates, we see that the opposite is true. A feminist society is not a peaceful one. Feminism encourages violence. It is no surprise that mass shootings have become increasingly common in the last fifty years.

Feminism encourages violence by creating homes without fathers.

Feminism encourages violence by leaving women too overburdened or emotionally unstable to provide maternal love.

Feminism encourages violence by depriving children of siblings and extended family, who may ease their alienation and force them to learn restraint.

Feminism encourages violence by leaving children under the supervision of popular culture, which exalts and glorifies violence and death.

Feminism encourages violence by making government-run, atheistic schools, which alienate boys with their feminized regimentation, the center of community life.

Feminism encourages violence by creating hordes of female psychologists who understand little about aggression and hatred and are powerless to restrain it, and yet who create the illusion of control.

Feminism encourages violence by weakening communities, so that fewer people recognize when someone is dangerously mentally ill and families are left alone with those who are unstable.

Feminism encourages violence by disenfranchising men, whose relative powerlessness creates rage and resentment.

Feminism encourages violence by feminizing God and denying sin.

The cries of outrage, and the demands that the President, or Congress, must do something, are understandable enough; above all in 21st-century America, people want to be safe. But implicit in these calls for decisive “action” are some questionable assumptions: not only that tighter gun laws will in fact make people safer (which appears to be contrary to empirical results), but also that protection from all risk is society’s highest possible aim, and that it is therefore in a free people’s best interests to surrender these fundamental rights and liberties to the Federal sovereign in exchange for the hope of improved security.

Here are some of my own thoughts from 2007, written just after the Virginia Tech shootings:

When this sort of thing happens, the natural reaction here in the U.S., where we are able to live our lives at a level of safety and comfort that is unparalleled in the history of the world, is to ask how we can prevent it from happening again. This isn’t some horrid Third World backwater, after all, where life is cheap; this is America, and if something is broken, we want the government to fix it. But underlying this attitude is the assumption that everything can be fixed; that we have an inalienable right to live tranquil and sheltered lives, and that what we get for living here and not, say, Darfur, or East Timor, or Baghdad, is that our children will be safe. And the amazing fact is that generally, they are.

But we should take a step back from our indignation to realize that we live brief and precarious lives on a tiny speck of dust in a vast and indifferent Cosmos, and that despite our very best efforts (and by all means, let us see what we can do, not with a hysterical backlash, but by a reasoned examination of our options and priorities as a society), the chaos, the blackness, the uncaring and infinite Wild that we so effectively manage to keep just beyond the gates is going to creep in now and then, and pick some of us off. We live in a firelit glade in the forest, and sometimes we forget how recently the ground was cleared, and how small a place we occupy in the wilderness all around us.

The madness that took those infinitely precious young lives was not a localized instance, nor is it “fixable” by legislature. It was an eruption of a molten pool that lies beneath us all, and while our species passes through its awkward and painful adolescence — as the world is compressed ever more tightly, and as more and more of us are brought, willy-nilly, into random and kinetic interaction with one another — that heat and pressure will find its way to the surface again and again, until we transform not our governments, not our laws, but ourselves.

Although I am not a religious believer myself, I’ll conclude by mentioning something that comes up often when I discuss the “problem of evil” with theologically literate Christians. The question is: how can a benevolent and all-powerful God allow the terrible evil that men do?

The answer usually given is that in order to create Man in His own image — that is, in order for Man to have the potential to approach most closely to God Himself — it was absolutely necessary that Man should instantiate that most precious of God’s own attributes: the freedom of choice that allows him to elect his own destiny. This bears the awful consequence, however, that man, if free, must be free to choose evil. But in that freedom, and in that alone, lies Man’s only claim to real dignity, and his only chance at self-perfection. More importantly, it is the only way that he may claim his self-perfection, his movement toward the ultimate Good, as his own.

This means that as long as men are free, and are still imperfect, there will always be evil in this world — but we do not move Man toward perfection, and toward the Good, by diminishing his liberty. We must treat the disease, not the symptoms.

72 Comments

  1. Kevin Kim says

    “In a free republic, the people cannot be disarmed by the government, for they are [its] employers, and they did not give up their individual rights when they consented to its creation.”

    How true.

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink
  2. GW says

    The study from UMich indicating that college students’ levels of empathy are essentially in freefall (while levels of narcissism are rising) is an eye-opening peek into how much, and how fast, our society is rotting:

    “The research, led by Sara H. Konrath of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and published online in August in Personality and Social Psychology Review, found that college students’ self-reported empathy has declined since 1980, with an especially steep drop in the past 10 years. To make matters worse, during this same period students’ self-reported narcissism has reached new heights”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-me-care

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    So basically your contention is that there is nothing that we can do, so we should just resign ourselves to living in a society where every few months another atrocity will occur, and innocents will die. Yesterday was Newtown, Tuesday was a shopping mall in Oregon, Aurora was a few months ago, and so forth. I could not disagree more.

    Your central contention – that “nobody refrains from shooting up a school because it is illegal,” so therefore legislation is futile – misses the point. To be sure, murder most foul is nothing new, and there is no way to eradicate malevolence or mental illness. However, by allowing the manufacture and sale of weapons which are designed to kill the maximum number of human targets within a few minutes, we are facilitating mass murder by providing the technology to do so. You can kill with a knife, a baseball bat, or a whale harpoon, but you can kill a whole lot more with a Gluck.

    Auster makes the same incorrect assertion: “The only type of gun control that could have stopped such a crime would be the outlawing and confiscation of every privately owned gun in America.” Could Lanza (or Loechner, or the Aurora guy, etc.) have killed people with a handgun? Sure. Could he have killed as many as he did, as quickly as he did? Of course not. Can someone who has to be reload be stopped from killing the tenth or twentieth victim more easily than someone who does not? Of course. By eliding the distinction between traditional weapons and those which can kill dozens in less than a minute, Auster makes a straw man argument and cannot be taken seriously. Few people advocate banning all guns. Many people – probably most people – advocate banning those guns which are designed not for self-defense or sport, but for maximum lethality against other humans.

    Hence the fact that the guns were legally registered to his mother is irrelevant. She should not have been able to own them in the first place, and had the assault weapon ban not been reversed some years ago, twenty kids would be celebrating Christmas later this month. (Gopnik is absolutely correct: those who lobbied or legislated for repealing the assault weapons ban are, in fact, complicit in murder.)

    Cooke’s denial that “stronger laws could rid America of privately available guns completely — thus making the killer’s task an impossible one” makes the perfect the enemy of the good. We can’t eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, but to the extent that they become harder to obtain – by banning the manufacture of new ones and confiscating existing ones – we will have prevented future disasters. So let’s suppose that banning assault weapons isn’t 100% effective, but only 50% effective. Your contention is that because we can only save half of the number of lives from senseless death, therefore those lives aren’t worth saving?

    Basically the argument boils down to making the perfect the enemy of the good. Since we can’t stop all mass murders, therefore we shouldn’t try to stop any of them. By the same logic, since we can’t stop all drivers from going 80 miles an hour, why bother with traffic laws?

    The remainder of your argument contains the usual discredited arguments which the gun lobby peddles.

    Switzerland has far stricter gun control regulations than we do. Automatic weapons are illegal without a special permit. You cannot buy bullets without having the sale registered and reported to the government. There is no comparison.

    The Second Amendment protects the rights of citizens in a well-regulated militia to own weapons for their common defense. It says nothing about the putative right of citizens to own guns for personal use, and the notion that the Founding Fathers wanted to permanently enshrine Americans’ right to own weapons of mass destruction is preposterous.

    The notion that there is a connection between individual liberty and unlimited gun ownership is equally preposterous. One might just as well argue that we ought to have the freedom to own nerve gas, surface-to-air missiles, and nuclear weapons. While there is no inherent right to own weapons of mass destruction, there is the very real right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Your freedom to own a Gluck is antithetical to my freedom to send my daughter to school and not have to worry that a deranged man will go there with military weaponry. Those who believe that all weapons should be available to virtually anyone make a very clear moral choice: their enjoyment of owning military weapons trumps public safety and the lives of innocents. If they had true courage, instead of the ersatz kind which comes from packing heat, they would go to Connecticut and explain to grieving parents why gun control is such a bad idea.

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  4. the one eyed man says

    Glock, not Gluck.

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink
  5. Apropos, the “problem of evil”:

    “Do you remember when you read us the sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and we argued about them?”

    “I do indeed. And that’s a long time ago.”

    “Ten years nearly,” said Lee. “Well, the story bit deeply into me and I went into it word for word. The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have — and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James version says this — it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.”

    Samuel nodded. “And his children didn’t do it entirely,” he said.

    Lee sipped his coffee. “Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made.”

    Samuel put his palms down on the table and leaned forward and the old young light came into his eyes. “Lee,” he said, “don’t tell me you studied Hebrew!”

    Lee said, “I’m going to tell you. And it’s a fairly long story. Will you have a touch of ng-ka-py?”

    “You mean the drink that tastes of good rotten apples?”

    “Yes. I can talk better with it.”

    “Maybe I can listen better,” said Samuel.

    While Lee went to the kitchen Samuel asked, “Adam, did you know about this?”

    “No,” said Adam. “He didn’t tell me. Maybe I wasn’t listening.”

    Lee came back with his stone bottle and three little porcelain cups so thin and delicate that the light shone through them. “Dlinkee Chinee fashion,” he said and poured the almost black liquor. “There’s a lot of wormwood in this. It’s quite a drink,” he said. “Has about the same effect as absinthe if you drink enough of it.”

    Samuel sipped the drink. “I want to know why you were so interested,” he said.

    “Well, it seemed to me that the man who could conceive this great story would know exactly what he wanted to say and there would be no confusion in his statement.”

    “You say ‘the man.’ Do you then not think this is a divine book written by the inky finger of God?”

    “I think the mind that could think this story was a curiously divine mind. We have had a few such minds in China too.”

    “I just wanted to know,” said Samuel. “You’re not a Presbyterian after all.”

    “I told you I was getting more Chinese. Well, to go on, I went to San Francisco to the headquarters of our family association. Do you know about them? Our great families have centers where any member can get help or give it. The Lee family is very large. It takes care of its own.”

    “I have heard of them,” said Samuel.

    “You mean Chinee hatchet man fightee Tong war over slave girl?”

    “I guess so.”

    “It’s a little different from that, really,” said Lee. “I went there because in our family there are a number of ancient reverend gentlemen who are great scholars. They are thinkers in exactness. A man may spend many years pondering a sentence of the scholar you call Confucius. I thought there might be experts in meaning who could advise me.

    “They are fine old men. They smoke their two pipes of opium in the afternoon and it rests and sharpens them, and they sit through the night and their minds are wonderful. I guess no other people have been able to use opium well.”

    Lee dampened his tongue in the black brew. “I respectfully submitted my problem to one of these sages, read him the story, and told him what I understood from it. The next night four of them met and called me in. We discussed the story all night long.”

    Lee laughed. “I guess it’s funny,” he said. “I know I wouldn’t dare tell it to many people. Can you imagine four old gentlemen, the youngest is over ninety now, taking on the study of Hebrew? They engaged a learned rabbi. They took to the study as though they were children. Exercise books, grammar, vocabulary, simple sentences. You should see Hebrew written in Chinese ink with a brush! The right to left didn’t bother them as much as it would you, since we write up to down. Oh, they were perfectionists! They went to the root of the matter.”

    “And you?” said Samuel.

    “I went along with them, marveling at the beauty of their proud clean brains. I began to love my race, and for the first time I wanted to be Chinese. Every two weeks I went to a meeting with them, and in my room here I covered pages with writing. I bought every known Hebrew dictionary. But the old gentlemen were always ahead of me. It wasn’t long before they were ahead of our rabbi; he brought a colleague in. Mr. Hamilton, you should have sat through some of those nights of argument and discussion. The questions, the inspection, oh, the lovely thinking — the beautiful thinking.

    “After two years we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too— ‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Do thou.’ And this was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ ‘Thou mayest rule over sin.’ The old gentlemen smiled and nodded and felt the years were well spent. It brought them out of their Chinese shells too, and right now they are studying Greek.”

    Samuel said, “It’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?”

    Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel — ‘Thou mayest’ — that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’ — it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”

    “Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?”

    “Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.

    Adam said, “Do you believe that, Lee?”

    “Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?”

    Adam said, “Do you mean these Chinese men believe the Old Testament?”

    Lee said, “These old men believe a true story, and they know a true story when they hear it. They are critics of truth. They know that these sixteen verses are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race. They do not believe a man writes fifteen and three-quarter verses of truth and tells a lie with one verb. Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this — this is a ladder to climb to the stars.” Lee’s eyes shone. “You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness.”

    Adam said, “I don’t see how you could cook and raise the boys and take care of me and still do all this.”

    “Neither do I,” said Lee. “But I take my two pipes in the afternoon, no more and no less, like the elders. And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing — maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed — because ‘Thou mayest.’”

    — From John Steinbeck, East of Eden

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Perfect, Henry. Thank you.

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink
  7. Churchgoer says

    “We must treat the disease, not the symptoms.”

    Why not both? Subtracting automatic weapons from the equation will relieve the immediate symptomatic pain – mass killings – while the more complex problem of the disease itself – mental illness – can be treated.

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Peter, before you presume to lecture us on firearm safety, you might consider acquiring at least some shred of knowledge about them.

    Could Lanza (or Loechner, or the Aurora guy, etc.) have killed people with a handgun? Sure. Could he have killed as many as he did, as quickly as he did?

    Of course he could. Any semiautomatic weapon, from a revolver to an AR-15, fires as quickly as you can pull the trigger.

    Switzerland has far stricter gun control regulations than we do. Automatic weapons are illegal without a special permit…

    Fully automatic weapons are equally tightly restricted in the U.S., by Federal law.

    …You cannot buy bullets without having the sale registered and reported to the government.

    And once you have them, there is nothing to prevent you from firing them in a lethal rampage, just as Adam Lanza did.

    …the fact that the guns were legally registered to his mother is irrelevant. She should not have been able to own them in the first place, and had the assault weapon ban not been reversed some years ago, twenty kids would be celebrating Christmas later this month.

    Peter, an “assault weapon” differs from any other semiautomatic weapon in no relevant functional sense whatsoever, and there is no rational principle for making this distinction. The differences between “assault weapons” and other semiautomatic weapons are purely cosmetic: pistol grips, telescoping stocks, bayonet mounts, etc.. It is every bit as easy to kill a roomful of people with any semiautomatic handgun as with a Bushmaster Carbon 15. All you need in either case is a few extra magazines (or as in Lanza’s case, an extra weapon or two.)

    The Second Amendment protects the rights of citizens in a well-regulated militia to own weapons for their common defense. It says nothing about the putative right of citizens to own guns for personal use, and the notion that the Founding Fathers wanted to permanently enshrine Americans’ right to own weapons of mass destruction is preposterous.

    The Second Amendment, after giving one example of why this is a good idea, says in plain English that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    So let’s suppose that banning assault weapons isn’t 100% effective, but only 50% effective. Your contention is that because we can only save half of the number of lives from senseless death, therefore those lives aren’t worth saving?…

    …By the same logic, since we can’t stop all drivers from going 80 miles an hour, why bother with traffic laws?

    And by your logic, we should lower the national speed limit to five miles an hour. Think of all the lives we’d save!

    In the United States, over 30,000 people die in automobile accidents each year. There are over 200 million firearms in the US, and until relatively recently there were no gun laws at all — but fewer than 700 people have been murdered in all rampage killings since 1863, committed by a grand total of about a hundred deranged people. (Mass killings are exceedingly rare; about as many people die in the U.S. each year from autoerotic asphyxiation as have ever been killed in murderous rampages.) Yet for this you demand that we abrogate the rights of the entire law-abiding citizenry of the United States, that we use the power of the Federal government arbitrarily to crush one of America’s oldest industries, and that we abolish the most important bulwark a free people has against tyranny.

    I understand that events like this are horrifying — try as I might, I can imagine no crime more heinous, more repugnant to all decent people, than Mr. Lanza’s — but sensational events such as this tend to provoke hysterical, incoherent responses. Yours is a good example.

    So basically your contention is that there is nothing that we can do, so we should just resign ourselves to living in a society where every few months another atrocity will occur, and innocents will die.

    I haven’t said that at all. What I am saying is that I do not approve of the “solution” you propose.

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink
  9. JK says

    Subtracting automatic weapons from the equation will relieve the immediate symptomatic pain…

    I take it Churchgoer, you’ve no feral pigs running around in your neck of the woods? Bears?

    A truly automatic would’ve been kinda nifty the last time I encountered a pissed-off boar while meaning to put venison in the freezer – alas, all I was legally authorized to have was a semiautomatic. Took an eternity seemed like to remember to release the trigger. Reckoned arthritic Arkies probably’d be better off letting the nephews hit the woods after that.

    Back to “topic” – I’m generally of the opinion (since in the not so distant future actual autos’ll likely be at hand by Xerox) any imposition of a ban on semis would be, if you will, a placebo. And who in their right mind would wish to be in the control group not receiving the actual palliative?

    However – I am cognizant of that “right mind” – and would be mighty grateful to fellow gun owners if they’d take to properly, adequately ensuring their arms are secured. Unfortunately in this latest, ultimately I’m afraid we’re gonna be finding out Mom didn’t bother with purchasing a gunsafe along with the Bushmaster.

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Permalink
  10. JK says

    Appears I was typing while another was. I’d just add to the mentions of all these references to the 2nd Amendment – this from the 9th:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Posted December 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Permalink
  11. JK says

    Since Peter gets to change “Gluck” to Glock” – do I get to change “palliative” to “palliate”?

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 12:37 am | Permalink
  12. the one eyed man says

    There is a clear difference between guns which are designed for self-defense and weapons which are designed to rapidly fire at human targets at close range. I do not need the technical expertise to distinguish which models are in the first group and which are the second to know that there is no conceivable reason to allow people to own magazines which can fire dozens of rounds in less than a minute.

    I also know that these weapons are not “tightly restricted in the U.S., by Federal law,” because so many people own them or have access to them. Even minimal restrictions would not have permitted Jared Loughner or the Aurora gunman to own one.

    The Second Amendment states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” because “a well regulated Militia (is) necessary to the security of a free State.” The first clause is not “one example” of the right to bear arms – it is the sole reason. Had the Founding Fathers intended to allow unlimited private ownership of weapons, they would not have included the reference to collective security, and simply written that “the right of the people to bear Arms shall not be infringed.” That’s how the First Amendment was written – not “reading books is awesome, so Congress shall pass no laws infringing the freedom of the press.”

    Your reductio ad absurdum argument about cars and five mile speed limits is a fatuity. Cars are indispensable to modern life, and we accept the risk that 30,000 people will die every year in car crashes, because the necessity of transportation trumps the fatalities which are inevitable. We accept the risk that more people will die driving 65 on the highway than driving at 5 miles per hour, because the utility of getting somewhere in a reasonable amount of time trumps the incremental fatalities which come with higher speed limits. In both cases, the goal is not to eliminate risk entirely, but to accept a level of risk which is commensurate with the benefits which come from being able to get to where we want to go in a reasonable amount of time. In order to balance the risk versus the reward, we enforce restrictions such as speed limits and banning drunk driving.

    Similarly, we allow gun ownership, as we recognize the need for self-defense, along with the inevitability that innocents will be murdered. We accept this risk as being subordinate to the greater good of self-defense. However, there is no incremental reward from allowing people to own guns which can kill dozens of people in an instant: it does not enhance self-defense or any other societal good. The restrictions we place on driving to calibrate risk with reward are completely absent here, as we allow greatly increased risk with no correlating reward.

    There is no inherent right to own weapons of this type, just as there is no inherent right to own anthrax or sarin. What is the principled distinction between banning a surface-to-air missile which can kill sixty people in an instant with allowing a weapon which can kill the same number of people in the same amount of time?

    So would I “abrogate the rights of the entire law-abiding citizenry of the United States” to own the weapons which were used in Aurora, Tucson, and Newtown? Of course I would. The lives of those who were murdered are far more important than whatever pleasure people might enjoy in owning them.

    While banning military weaponry would not “crush one of America’s oldest industries” – people will still buy guns, and plenty of them – the economic interests of gun manufacturers has no importance when weighed against public safety. The economic interests of the liquor industry was not a consideration when we enacted Prohibition, and the economic interests of bootleggers was not a consideration when we ended it.

    The notion that assault weapons are “the most important bulwark a free people has against tyranny” is complete nonsense. We are far from a tyrannical society, and if we were, the ownership of assault weapons would do nothing to stop it.

    There is nothing I have written which is either incoherent or hysterical. If you want an example of incoherence or hysteria, I suggest that you re-read Laura Wood’s rant. It is the frustration which is born from seeing timid politicians – including Obama – cower before the gun lobby by putting their political survival above human lives. It would be nice if deranged gunmen only went to the schools where Wayne LaPierre’s kids go. However, both I and my child must live in the same society as those who block the enactment of reasonable legislation regarding what sorts of weaponry are allowable, who is allowed to own them, and where they may be carried, and it is reprehensible that my freedom and my daughter’s freedom to live in a peaceful society is truncated by those who can’t live without their toys.

    This is all I have to say about the subject. America is the most violent society among all developed countries – by far – and has twice the ratio of firearms to citizens as the number two country (Yemen). The availability of weapons facilitates their impulsive use, and their destructiveness is amplified by the availability of highly lethal assault weapons. This is a national disgrace which is entirely preventable. You seem perfectly content to live in a society as violent as this one without doing the slightest thing to change it. I am not.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 12:44 am | Permalink
  13. JK says

    http://formerspook.blogspot.com/2012/12/todays-massacre-in-connecticut-will.html

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 1:26 am | Permalink
  14. Malcolm says

    I also know that these [fully automatic] weapons are not “tightly restricted in the U.S., by Federal law,” because so many people own them or have access to them. Even minimal restrictions would not have permitted Jared Loughner or the Aurora gunman to own one.

    Peter, your confusion persists. You seem almost stubbornly unaware of the distinction between automatic and semiautomatic weapons. Not one of any of the mass murders that have got the nation whipped into such a frenzy in recent years was committed with automatic weapons. And to focus (again, in righteous ignorance) on magazine size is utterly pointless; a shooter can change them in less than a second. (Have a look here.) I notice also a steady inflation of the lethal power of the weapons you imagine; in one sentence they can “fire dozens of rounds in less than a minute”; next thing you know they can kill dozens of people “in an instant”; a moment later it’s up to sixty per instant, and they have become the the equivalent of “surface-to-air missiles”.

    The first clause is not “one example” of the right to bear arms – it is the sole reason. Had the Founding Fathers intended to allow unlimited private ownership of weapons, they would not have included the reference to collective security, and simply written that “the right of the people to bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

    This is just your benighted opinion, masquerading as fact. You’re simply making things up here, and worse, you betray further ignorance: in this case, it is your unawareness of the relevant (and critical) historical context.

    Note that the Constitution does not grant, as some sort of innovation, the right to bear arms; it refers to what was already assumed at the time to be a pre-existing right, and assures those who agree to be bound by the Constitution that it shall not be infringed — i.e., that this vitally important right that the people already had could not be taken away.

    So why mention a “militia” at all? To understand this, you have to look even further back, into English history and law. The way the Catholic Stuart kings suppressed the possibility of armed uprising by “the militia” — which meant nothing more than the population of privately armed, able-bodied men who might be pressed into service in time of war — was not to pass laws guaranteeing their fealty, but by the surest means of all: by confiscating their arms. The Founders knew their history, and were keenly aware that this was the primary means by which a tyrannous sovereign power could usurp the people’s liberty, and so added language to ensure that this crucial and ancient right of the people — i.e., the “militia” — shall not be infringed. Period. The right to bear arms is about much more than “toys”.

    You press me for a limiting principle, but offer none yourself in the example I gave about speed limits; you content yourself with what you consider a reasonable “balance”. Well, fine, then; if you are willing to settle on a “balance” that results in tens of thousands of deaths a year on the highways, I’m willing to deny the possession of “surface-to-air missiles” in order to prevent rampage killings, which have killed fewer than a thousand people in the past century-and-a-half. Banning “assault weapons” would have no effect at all on this tiny category of crime.

    The economic interests of the liquor industry was not a consideration when we enacted Prohibition…

    No — and it certainly should have been.

    …and the economic interests of bootleggers was not a consideration when we ended it.

    And why, pray, should the economic interests of criminals be a factor in our legislation?

    The notion that assault weapons are “the most important bulwark a free people has against tyranny” is complete nonsense.

    Again, in your hysterical and willful ignorance, you focus with idiotic fixity on “assault weapons” — which, as I have repeatedly explained to you, are no different in lethal function from other semiautomatic weapons. If your point, on the other hand, is the more general one that that disarming the people does not remove a vital bulwark against tyranny — and worse, that it doesn’t matter anyway, because, after all, “it can’t happen here” — then you have revealed yourself not only to be childishly (and stupendously) naive, but also utterly ignorant of history. You also deny the plain language of the Second Amendment, which says that the right to bear arms is necessary in order to secure — wait for it — freedom.

    This is all I have to say about the subject.

    Good! It was more than enough. We’re done, then.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 1:40 am | Permalink
  15. Malcolm says

    Thank you for that link, JK. Contrary to Peter’s scurrilous and utterly unfounded assertions, I have never said about criminal gun violence and rampage killings that I am “perfectly content” not to do “the slightest thing to change it”.

    In contrast to the hysteria on the Left, your link illustrates an approach that might actually work, while preserving essential liberties.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 1:56 am | Permalink
  16. the one eyed man says

    You willfully ignore what I write to focus on minutiae instead. “Assault weapons” is shorthand for the combination of firearms and accessories which enable a gunman to fire rapidly at close range, and not whether the guns are automatic or semi-automatic. The gunman in Aurora shot seventy people in under two minutes. I do not need to be an expert on guns to know that weaponry with that level of lethality should never find their way into anyone’s hands, much less someone who is mentally unstable. Whether you achieve that by banning specific models of semi-automatic weapons, or the one hundred round drums which go with them, or some combination of the two, is completely irrelevant to the simple and obvious point that the only reason anyone would use such weaponry is to kill as many people as possible before the SWAT team arrives.

    The Second Amendment has the only sentence in the Constitution with an appositive clause, indicating that membership in a well-regulated militia is the limiting factor and not a justification. In any event, the notion that people living in the age of flintlock muskets intended to endow Americans with the sacrosanct right of having weapons which can shoot seventy people in under two minutes is absurd on its face.

    Your comparison between cars and guns is risible. We need cars to get around, so we accept 30,000 deaths a year as the cost of having them. Roughly the same number of people get killed every year from firearms. Unlike cars, there is no social utility which comes with a one-to-one ratio of people and guns. We regulate the way cars can be used to balance utility with mortality. We do not have any such limitations on the use or availability of firearms. We cannot have a functioning society without cars. We would have a much better society if there were no guns.

    Despite the plangent cries of the paranoid right: no, it can’t happen here. The notion that we should have a reasonable fear of a tyrannical government which will swoop down and oppress its citizenry – and having guns would somehow stop that – is sheer lunacy.

    I have presented a reasoned and thoughtful argument that limiting the lethality of weapons will have at least limited efficacy in preventing further massacres, and you have responded with charges of naivete, childishness, scurrility, and so forth. (Tell me again who is hysterical?) Ours is the most violent society in the developed world, in large part because we have more guns than anywhere else. I take the reasonable view that one way to end this madness is to limit the availability and lethality of firearms. You don’t want to do a thing about weapons, yet claim to want to live in a world where kids don’t get killed in schools. What then would you do to make that happen?

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink
  17. JK says

    Seeing how this is December 16th it’s probably appropriate to bring up something not particularly focused on schools rather, just generally shit happens.

    I’d like to think I’m prepared for at least some types of shit. Fr’instance out in my pickup I’ve got seven days worth of storeable foodstuffs and (when it’s not “ice-cold” outside) I carry a gallon of distilled water. My toolbox is pretty well arranged and if again for instance, a bridge was out at the same time I was, I think I’d be able to, in some small degree of comfort be prepared on my own to open and sustain myself on a tin of fish.

    But what if just as I was getting down to the last two little fishes and a whole bunch of big ol’ determineds to take my fishes away from me showed up?

    Since I’m pretty sure (thank you Kinky Friedman – Peace be upon you) ‘they ain’t making Jews like Jesus much anymore’ – so I’d know pretty certain Nobody’d be around to turn my two little fishes into something able to feed a multitude. (I would loan ‘em fishing gear and tell ‘em, “Go find a pond” but what if the determineds demanded I hand over my roll of toilet paper?)

    “Outlandish scenario,” I hear you shout over the Nets Peter – “Why would a bridge be out and what the hell does December the 16th have to do with it?!!!”:

    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/earthquake-rocks-the-american-wilderness

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  18. Malcolm says

    (Tell me again who is hysterical?)

    You.

    You willfully ignore what I write to focus on minutiae instead.

    No, you focus relentlessly, and with vague incomprehension, on a category of weapons that — as I have repeatedly explained to you — differs in no relevant functional sense, in no quality of lethality whatsoever, from ordinary semiautomatic weapons, which have been around since long before the exceedingly rare category of crimes that you use to justify your screed even existed in this nation.

    That such crimes are on the rise is a symptom of a disturbing change in modern culture, and a confused, hysterical (yes, hysterical) reaction against a particular class of weapons with irrelevant external features is not going to solve the problem. (I can only imagine that if mass killings were committed instead, as they easily could be, by people ramming cars into dense crowds of people, you’d be talking about what category of grilles and hood-ornaments to ban.)

    You want to outlaw large-capacity magazines? Fine. Many states already do. A shooter can easily kill dozens of people in minutes without them anyway, simply by carrying multiple clips, and multiple guns. (As rampage killers usually do.) Did you bother to watch this video? The pistol the shooter is firing is not an “assault weapon”, nor would the capacity of the clips make any difference here. It is you who are focusing on irrelevant minutiae.

    As heinous as rampage killings are, and as sensational as they are (and as evil as this last one was), they are an exceptionally rare category of crime. Most gun homicides are committed one at a time, using ordinary weapons that lack the cosmetic “assault weapon” features that you seem to think is so vital a distinction.

    Hundreds of millions of people in America are responsible gun owners, who obey the local gun laws. People who obey the gun laws, however, aren’t the problem. Do you imagine that a man who is willing to slaughter a classroom full of children will be deterred by the prospect of weapons-violation charges? Given that there are over 200 million firearms in America, most of which are ordinary semiautomatic weapons that nevertheless can kill people as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger, do you imagine that you can devise laws, short of across-the board confiscation, that will keep someone who is determined to go on a murderous rampage from getting his hands on them?

    All that you will accomplish will be to disarm the only people who have any chance of stopping such demons when they begin to kill.

    You don’t want to do a thing about weapons, yet claim to want to live in a world where kids don’t get killed in schools. What then would you do to make that happen?

    Read JK’s link.

    The Second Amendment has the only sentence in the Constitution with an appositive clause, indicating that membership in a well-regulated militia is the limiting factor and not a justification.

    As I have explained, an understanding of history makes it clear that your opinion is mistaken. The Supreme Court agrees.

    In any event, the notion that people living in the age of flintlock muskets intended to endow Americans with the sacrosanct right of having weapons which can shoot seventy people in under two minutes is absurd on its face.

    And I suppose that the notion that people living in an age of handwritten manuscripts intended to endow Americans with the right to speak to millions of people in milliseconds over the Internet is equally absurd.

    What the Founders intended was that the people should be as well-armed as they need to be — not only to defend their own lives and property, but also to resist, should the necessity arise, the ascent of sovereign tyranny. (And that was at a time when the people were well armed and the Federal government maintained no standing army. The balance has now shifted in the other direction; if anything, there is even more reason for concern.)

    In any event, the amendment says “shall not be infringed”. If you don’t like it, there is a process by which it can be changed.

    Ours is the most violent society in the developed world, in large part because we have more guns than anywhere else.

    You confuse cause and effect. It is like blaming the rising incidence of obesity on the ready availability of forks. If you want to fix the problem, change the culture.

    Despite the plangent cries of the paranoid right: no, it can’t happen here. The notion that we should have a reasonable fear of a tyrannical government which will swoop down and oppress its citizenry – and having guns would somehow stop that – is sheer lunacy.

    No, Peter, this is NOT lunacy, as the Framers well understood — and they were wise enough to understand it without having seen any of the stark examples that time has given us all since then. If you had lived a less sheltered life in more uncertain times, or had a clearer view of human nature, or had the slightest acquaintance with history, you’d understand it too. Indeed, we’ve already been partway down that road at least once already: when Woodrow Wilson, letting no crisis go to waste, assumed emergency powers — always the first step — and began prosecuting people for expressing dissenting opinions. Upton Sinclair was even arrested for reading the Constitution!

    The first thing any tyranny does in its course to absolute power is to disarm its people. And if you think, in your blithe, unlettered insouciance, that there is anywhere on earth that such a descent into tyranny “can’t happen”, then you are being, simply put, a fool.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  19. “… and what the hell does December the 16th have to do with it?!!!”

    “IMHO, the only significant event of December the 16th, other than this comment, occurred in 1770.”
    – TheBigLudwig

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink
  20. Malcolm says

    Peter, 478 words ago you said “This is all I have to say about the subject.”

    Trust is a precious thing, my friend.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink
  21. JK says

    I noted on MTP today Bill Bennett suggested what’s on the link to Spook.

    It may be it’s a “California Thing” ’cause Senator Feinstein’s face contorted so to seem seated to her right, David Gregory had just farted.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  22. As any other life-and-death issue, our national controversy over gun-related violence has merit, as well as demerit, on both sides of the divide. It could not be otherwise, because otherwise the controversy would vanish.

    I believe that the “gun issue” itself is a red herring. The problem of recurring murderous rampage, I think, emerges from the collective experiences of a nation-state and its people, conceived in violent revolution and reborn in even more violent civil war.

    I also believe, that top-down social engineering is, inevitably, a foolhardy proposition. It has never, to my knowledge, succeeded because unintended consequences swamp the best of intentions; it’s a law of nature, analogous to, if not a part of, the inevitable growth of entropy.

    My wife, the lovely Trish, has posited, and I agree with her, that only a collection of “bottom-up” fine-tunings of our cultural inclinations might have a chance to create an emergence of a society that is less inclined to tolerate circumstances leading to murderous rampage.

    It ain’t gonna happen in my lifetime. Fer shur.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  23. JK says

    Trish would appear to’ve suggested the surest chart Henry.

    (& right smart Hillbilly ending.)

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  24. As you’ve already guessed, JK, Hillbilly is one of my favorite folk.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  25. GW says

    One-Eyed Man said:

    “Despite the plangent cries of the paranoid right: no, it can’t happen here. The notion that we should have a reasonable fear of a tyrannical government which will swoop down and oppress its citizenry – and having guns would somehow stop that – is sheer lunacy.”

    May I refer you to this: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/12/gov-dossiers-on-us-citizens/

    Research also the NDAA.

    Open your eyes.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  26. JK says

    As if GW needs reiterating, just think on the implicit during the recent Petraeus emails thing.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  27. the one eyed man says

    I had intended to keep my pie-hole shut, but the charge of scurrility really got my goat.

    That’s your solution? Give out more guns? I’m sure there were plenty of guns at Fort Hood. There was a bystander in Tucson, whose gun was luckily taken from him during the melee, as he was mistaken as to who the gunman was and would have shot the wrong person. Ronald Reagan was protected by armed, trained men when John Hinckley shot him. There was a security guard at Columbine who hid in a classroom. Should we have given guns to the ticket takers at the movie theater in Aurora on the off-chance that a lunatic would go on a killing spree?

    It’s not the culture. It’s the guns. Americans are not five times as murderous or have five times as many lunatics as the rest of the developed world. The difference is that we have far more guns than anywhere else, and we are the only country which has never had meaningful gun control laws. The status quo clearly is not working. It’s time to give gun control a chance.

    Military weapons may result in only a fraction of the death toll, but their importance far outweighs the number of casualties, as our inability to prevent routine massacres shows our weakness as a society, just as Giuliani’s crackdown on squeegee guys had importance beyond the crackdown itself. Gun control does not start and end there, and there is much which can be done on other fronts to reduce overall violence by all kinds of weapons. I’m under no illusion that even stringent gun control will reduce American violence to the level of other countries – but over time there will inevitably be fewer massacres.

    I was in the mall today, where a group of elementary school kids was giving a concert of Christmas carols. They were the same ages as the kids who died on Thursday, and it was impossible to look at them without thinking of Newtown and Tuesday’s mall shootings in Oregon. If banning every semi-automatic weapon and every high-capacity magazine only worked once, and prevented the next Jared Loughner from getting his hands on a weapon of mass destruction – and we had one less Newtown – then to me it is a trade-off well worth taking. I recognize that you would make the opposite choice. I would only ask you to reevaluate your priorities the next time you see an eight year old.

    And with that I will, really and truly, leave the discussion.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink
  28. Malcolm says

    It’s not the culture. It’s the guns.

    Again you confuse cause and effect. Why do you suppose there are so many guns in America? They fell from the sky?

    I’m sure there were plenty of guns at Fort Hood.

    Again (again!!) you betray your tendentious indifference to the facts. Major Nidal Hasan was able to kill as many as he did (and he was using, not one of those “assault weapons” you’ve railed against, but an ordinary semiautomatic pistol) precisely because he chose to make his attack in an area of the base where all the other soldiers were disarmed — that’s right, disarmed — as the result of a policy enacted under the Clinton administration.

    Fort Hood? You couldn’t have chosen a better example of the deadly results of liberal foolishness. In any sane culture Nidal Hasan — a raving jihadist who signed his name “SOA” (for Soldier of Allah), and who had given presentations explaining why Muslim soldiers in the U.S. military should defy their commanders when sent to Muslim lands, and turn on their comrades if necessary — would never have been on a military base in the first place (except possibly in the stockade, awaiting transport to Gitmo). But so terrified were his superiors of seeming insufficiently “tolerant” of this Muslim infiltrator that he was not only kept on, but promoted.

    If you want to stop lunatics and terrorists from killing innocent citizens, then do something about the killers themselves. In all these cases, the signs were clear enough.

    You choose instead to disarm anyone who might possibly be in a position to stop them when they begin to kill.

    This is insane.

    Peter, you are lost in the liberal-Pollyanna dogma in which all peoples are exactly alike, freedom is society’s natural state, culture means nothing, humans are basically good, and happiness is guaranteed for all as long as well-intentioned liberals are able to impose their agenda.

    It is your view that for us to understand, as the Founders did, that democracy can always bend toward tyranny, is “lunacy”. In your mind, our enlightened statesmen, and the benevolent State itself, know better than we what our best interests are, and will keep them always at the forefront. You believe that the idea of the Constitution as designed to limit the power of the government, and of the United States as a republic of free people under limited, simple, and comprehensible Federal laws, should in these enlightened times be seen as retrograde nonsense. You hold that the more power is centralized and consolidated in the Federal sovereign, and the more elastic the restraints of the Constitution are made, the better off we will be. In your view the Framers could not possibly have imagined the world we live in today — and so their original intent, which was based on their crabbed and benighted view of human nature, is hopelessly out of date, and obviously inapplicable to these modern times.

    And so on. It would merely be laughable in its unwitting naiveté, if it weren’t the politically dominant view in America today. As such, though, it is utterly terrifying. It is incumbent on those of us who see such nonsense for the suicidal folly that it is to do everything in our power to resist, deny, and discredit this lethally destructive ideology wherever and whenever we can.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  29. JK says

    Something’s nagging at me these last few days Peter – I keep hearing/reading “routine massacres” and I wonder just how anyone, pro or anti-gun could possibly call such routine. Under any meaningful definition.

    Having a regimen of brushing one’s teeth every day – a shower – checking voicemail?

    But a regimen of mass killing?

    Routine?

    I do hope Peter you find out where you can go to recover your goat.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink
  30. “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help” is a euphemism for “You didn’t have a problem, until now.”

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
  31. “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

    – Rahm “It Up Your Ass” Emanuel

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink
  32. JK says

    Henry my friend, while Rahm’s Proverb can be handy for stuff – I rather doubt much “real” effort toward attempting an outright ban on military “style” weaponry or accessories will be tried.

    There’s a post up over on Jeff’s Gypsy Scholar that I’ll bet our Executive (and Party Panjandrums) is more cognizant of than it’s [likely] intended audience. The election of 2012 was a squeaker, voting blocs of course must be offerred sympathetic sounding noises in order to consolidate – but buttressing/ strengthening requires making inroads.

    And there’s only the one general geographic area of the US where that can take place.

    It’s strategy – not tactics.

    Posted December 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink
  33. Malcolm says

    Peter,

    I apologize for speaking so harshly. I know that you are a good person who means well, and that you are simply groping for some kind of response to an unspeakable crime, to a descent into evil that for most of us is almost literally unimaginable. No decent person, on any side of these political disagreements, can confront such an act — and the repeated occurrence of such acts in recent years — without a horror and revulsion that borders on despair.

    So forgive me. While I believe that your response to this horror is dangerously wrong, and is motivated by a system of ideas, beliefs, and priorities that I consider to be deeply misguided, and that in my opinion puts all of our essential liberties, and indeed our very civilization, in peril, I do understand that you are motivated here by a sincere concern for the safety of our children, which is something that no good person can ignore. I should have kept that more in the foreground of this discussion.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink
  34. the one eyed man says

    Malcolm: Not a problem. However I would ask you to reflect on this: even granting your (preposterous) premise that a tyrannical government would materialize ex nihilo to oppress us, what exactly do you think people with guns would be able to accomplish against a government which – if it really wanted to attack its citizens – could kill them quicker than you can say predator drone?

    JK: the year is not over, and we have had massacres in an Oregon shopping mall, a Wisconsin temple, a college in Oakland, a movie theater in Colorado, and an elementary school in Connecticut. I think that events which happen every two or three months qualify as routine.

    And while I appreciate your solicitude towards my goat, I am happy to report that I have found her. It is becoming increasingly clear that Newtown is the most significant national event since 9/11, and will be equally transformative. Nobody who is a parent will look at the world in the same way again. Last Thursday was President Obama’s worst day in office, and you could see that he reacted as a father and not as a calculating politician. David Gregory invited 31 pro-gun Senators to appear on his show, and they all refused. What was surprising was not their cowardice – which was to be expected – but their realization that blind obeisance to the gun lobby will not play anymore. This morning I watched Joe Scarborough – who as Congressman had a perfect rating from the NRA – make this startling statement:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNfyyexl81Y

    This time will be different, as public opinion comes to realize what the rest of the developed world knows: a sane society does not allow its citizens to carry military weapons. As heartbreaking as it is to imagine how grieving parents will feel every year when it is December 13 or their child’s birthday, there is some solace to be gained from the realization that their young lives were not lost in vain.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  35. Malcolm says

    A moving statement by Mr. Scarborough, and there’s much to agree with.

    We all want our children to be safe. We all want things to “change”. Everyone, in the wake of this horror, wants America to “do something”.

    Like you, though, in talking about gun control Mr. Scarborough focuses on vaguely imagined technical features — he mentions “high-caliber” weapons, for example, when “assault” rifles like the AR-15 and Bushmaster actually fire low-caliber rounds.

    I mention this only to make clear that to focus on such details misses the point altogether, and simply gives people a convenient bogeyman, a distracting target for the Two Minutes’ Hate. The real truth is that all guns, or at least the vast majority of the 200,000,000 or so guns in the U.S., can kill rapidly and effectively. Yes, high-capacity magazines make the task slightly more efficient, and I would have no objection to a ban on those (which I expect will happen) — but in point of fact banning this or that style of nasty-looking rifle will not solve this problem. If we are going to use gun laws to keep the means of killing a lot of people out of the hands of a few determined madmen, there is no genuinely effective middle ground between where we are and total confiscation. And total confiscation is not only a very bad option, but it will never happen. This isn’t “letting the perfect be the enemy of the good”: it is letting reality be the enemy of a comforting and distracting fantasy.

    The real solution is going to be much harder, and will involve re-examining some cherished notions, beginning with the importance of “old-fashioned” families, with both a father and a mother providing structure and discipline and a good example — but also we will need to take a long, hard look at just what it is that has that has brought this country to such a pass. There have always been guns, and schools, but this horror is something new — and more to the point, it is something modern. If we really want to fix it, first we have to understand it, which will require us to face the fact that what is broken in America has a very great deal more to do with the social changes that have “fundamentally transformed” our culture since the 1960′s than with pistol-grips on rifles, and a few extra rounds in the clip.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  36. Malcolm says

    Peter, you wrote:

    However I would ask you to reflect on this: even granting your (preposterous) premise that a tyrannical government would materialize ex nihilo to oppress us, what exactly do you think people with guns would be able to accomplish against a government which – if it really wanted to attack its citizens – could kill them quicker than you can say predator drone?

    And I’ll ask you to reflect on the asymmetry between the Afghan mujahedeen and the U.S. Army, or even on the long-ago conflict between England and its rebellious colonists. Keep in mind also where the military’s sympathies might actually lie. Send them out to murder their brothers, and inner tensions may arise.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  37. fnn says

    Mark Hackard is almost as good of critic of
    America in late modernity as Auster:
    http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/zeitgeist/our-more-perfect-union/

    …Viewing footage of the Black Friday rite, we must conclude that it is one phenomenon among many uniting Americans of the most diverse ancestry into a common cause- the cult of Mammon. Look into the consumer throngs: here can be seen the uprooted children of Africa, Meso-Americans, Asians and the sad descendants of the Indo-Europeans. As editorial writers have informed us upon President Obama’s re-election, the United States has entered “a new normal” of cultural and demographic transformation. The old holiday of Thanksgiving simply did not extract the necessary profits desired by the corporate-financial priesthood, and so it was re-formulated according to their wishes. In the same way the U.S. population has been subjected to several decades of Cabalistic processing through every available means: psychological warfare waged by the media-entertainment complex, indoctrination in academia and so many of the churches, and waves of immigration from alien lands. Black Friday marks the perfection of mass man, the “individual” consumer wholly divorced from generations of his faith, ethnic heritage and family, a slave to debt, technology and base impulses.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  38. Thoughtful and well-meaning people are generally inclined to engage in free-wheeling debate to air or thrash-out most viewpoints in the hope of distilling a sensible solution to a perceived socioeconomic problem. Much more often than not, however, the elephant-sized fly in the ointment is that a not insignificant fraction of the populus is not well-meaning, and, I submit, a majority is not thoughtful — they either think with their hearts or their dicks.

    Gun-related issues will never be resolved in this country thoughtfully, peacefully, or apolitically, if at all. The issues themselves are fraught with passion and violence.

    I believe that the only possible way to abate the recurring episodes of murderous mayhem is to reach a national consensus that, for want of a better expression, traditional family values are to be embraced, promoted, and gradually adopted as the preferred norm.

    Good luck getting a society of one-third of a billion individuals to reach a consensus on anything that far-reaching.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  39. the one eyed man says

    I completely agree that “there is no genuinely effective middle ground between where we are and total confiscation,” which will never happen (and should never happen). However, as Scarborough notes, there is no reason to let the perfect be the enemy of the good (he must have been reading my posts).

    While there are no panaceas, there are lots of ways to achieve results at the margins. The more guns you have, the more likely they are to be used impulsively, mistakenly (e.g., the father who shot his son last month because he thought that his kid was an intruder), or with the lethality which military weapons facilitate. Requiring guns to be registered increases the likelihood that criminals using them will be caught, and reduces the likelihood they will be used, as criminals perceive a higher probability of capture. Etc., etc. None of these things will individually have an enormous effect, but one hopes that in aggregate they will move the needle. As NRA poster child Senator Joe Manchin said this morning, it is possible to have an intelligent gun control policy which does not violate the Second Amendment or the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves.

    As for the mujahadeen: I have boatloads of work to get done today, so I will have to reflect upon it when I have the leisure to do so.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  40. the one eyed man says

    I would dispute the notion that mass murder is something new. The worst gun massacre in American history occured in 1927. The anarchists, George Metesky, Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczinski, and Charles Whitman – among many others – caused plenty of havoc in their day. (Given JK’s fondness for Kinky Friedman, I would refer him to Kinky’s immortal Ballad of Charles Whitman).

    What is new – or relatively new – is the greater lethality of contemporary weapons, as well as the fact that there are a lot more of them around than ever before. People have been going postal as long as there have been post offices, but the widespread availability of technology which amplifies the destruction which evil can cause is arguably the most significant difference between then and now.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  41. Malcolm says

    The worst gun massacre in American history occurred in 1927.

    Mentioning this outlier hardly buttresses your argument that the issue is new-fangled guns, then. Metesky and McVeigh and Kaczinski used bombs, not guns — and Whitman, who I consider to be the first of the modern rampage killers, was no anarchist, but rather an Eagle Scout with a brain tumor.

    If you are determined to avoid looking at the transformation of American culture for the root causes of this moral rot, this violent dislocation, this encroachment of evil — in short, if you are unwilling to examine what has taken America from this to this and this — then you are as complicit in the perpetuation of the problem as you imagine “gun nuts” to be.

    *    *    *

    Mullah Nasrudin was on his hands and knees in the street. A friend saw him, and came over to ask what he was up to.

    “Mullah! What are you doing?”

    “I’ve lost my key.”

    “Well, where did you last see it?”

    “In my study.”

    “So why are you looking for it out here?”

    “Because the light’s better here, of course!”

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  42. the one eyed man says

    Kaczinsky killed three people, and nobody died because of Metesky. My point is that evil is a constant, but the body count is much higher than before, largely because the technology permits it.

    Ditto for Whitman: If he had today’s weapons, he would have killed many more people than he did.

    McVeigh’s dastardly deed required planning, resources, and a lot of technical knowledge, which are things which are beyond the more recent crop of killers. My point here is that the accessibility and ease of use which comes with military weapons is the variable. if Jared Loughner was not able to get a firearm, it is difficult to imagine that he could have or would have fashioned a bomb to blow up a building.

    I remember being a child and asking my mother if she would still love me if I did what Charles Whitman did.

    “Of course I would, Peter. But please don’t go around shooting people.”

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  43. Malcolm says

    If [Whitman] had today’s weapons, he would have killed many more people than he did.

    This is what General Norman Schwarzkopf used to call “bovine scatology”. It is simply not true.

    Forgive me, but you do not know the first thing about firearms, Peter, and you should neither lecture anyone on their effect, nor should you believe that you know enough to have an informed opinion. It is ignorance like this — arrogant ignorance that knows not that it knows not, yet presumes itself capable of creating wise public policy — that is democracy’s greatest liability, and is the most potent argument, in a democracy, for limited government.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink
  44. the one eyed man says

    Whitman killed thirteen people in a rampage which lasted over twenty minutes. Lanza killed 27 people in about two minutes. The Aurora guy shot 71 people in the same time span. You don’t think that the slower weapons which Whitman used enabled at least some potential victims to get inside a building or out of range?

    There is a case to be made that there has been a degradation of our culture over the past few decades, and there certainly has been a glorification of violence. However, I don’t know if we are a less moral people as a result. Today’s events pale into insignificance besides the genocide of our indigenous population or the enslavement and lynching of blacks. More to the point, I do not know if there is a causal relationship between the putative degradation of our culture and what the very small percentage of people who would commit mass murder would actually do. These are facile assumption which may well be true, but require data and substantiation before they can be blindly accepted. Just because it makes intuitive sense does not necessarily make it so.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  45. Malcolm says

    And, forgive me again, but why point out in one breath that “The worst gun massacre in American history occurred in 1927″, and then say in the next that “My point is that … the body count is much higher than before, largely because the technology permits it.”

    This is just incoherent. Semiautomatic weapons have been around for a very long time, and killed a person just as dead, and just as quickly, in 1927 as they do today. What has changed in America is the culture.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  46. the one eyed man says

    Technical knowledge about how one firearm differs from another is necessary if one is going to write legislation which discriminates among them. I am agnostic as to which specific weapons and accessories should be regulated. However one does not need to be an expert in ordnance to realize that weapons which can shoot 71 people in less than two minutes are beyond the pale.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  47. Malcolm says

    Peter, you are just digging yourself in deeper. Whitman was armed with semiautomatic weapons that fired as fast as he could pull the trigger, just as Lanza was.

    I think we will see that it took Lanza more than two minutes to do what he did. It is also far easier to acquire and hit your targets in an elementary-school classroom than from 231 feet above the ground.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  48. the one eyed man says

    Your contention is that the weapons which Whitman used enabled him to shoot 71 people in less than two minutes, as the Aurora guy did?

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  49. Malcolm says

    Now we are going round in circles.

    Once more, you contradict yourself in a single breath. You say:

    I am agnostic as to which specific weapons and accessories should be regulated.

    And then:

    However one does not need to be an expert in ordnance to realize that weapons which can shoot 71 people in less than two minutes are beyond the pale.

    One should, at least, know enough to understand what is and what isn’t a coherent and relevant distinction. Again: watch this video, of a man firing and reloading an ordinary semiautomatic weapon. How many shots do you suppose he could get off in two minutes, or five, or ten?

    The real point to take away from this is that one should be wise enough to know that if one is utterly ignorant about some technical subject, it means you in fact probably don’t know enough to know just what you do and don’t need to know before making lofty pronouncements on appropriate public policy. Legislating from a position of such overheated and overweening ignorance is exactly how we end up with stupid and ineffective laws with unwelcome and unintended consequences.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink
  50. the one eyed man says

    Not at all. I know that weapons which shoot 71 people in under two minutes are unacceptable, while a service revolver is fine. I do not need to know where to set the dial on the continuum between the two in order to know that some weapons should be allowable and others should not, nor do I need to know which specific weapons fall into either group. I know what is white and what is black. I don’t need to know what is gray.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  51. Malcolm says

    So, is that your position, then? Ban all weapons except revolvers? Confiscate the rest?

    It’s clear, at least.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  52. the one eyed man says

    Not at all. I will cheerfully concede that I do not have the expertise to make that judgment. That’s why my argument is general and not specific, and why I would be the worst person in the world to write legislation on the matter.

    I would also add that for someone who has never set foot in a mosque or a Muslim country, or read the Quran except for limited excerpts, you display no discernible reticence about expressing opinions about Islam. I would submit that my opinions on gun control have at least as much validity as your opinions about Islam.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  53. Malcolm says

    I beg your pardon: first of all, my expertise on Islam has nothing to do with the details of gun control, which is what we are discussing here.

    Second, I have read the entire Quran several times over, in three different translations, and have devoted hundreds of hours over the past eleven years to studying the Hadith, the history of Islam and its relations with the West, and theological analysis from both Western and Islamic scholars, ancient and modern. If you had spent one-hundredth the time learning about guns as I have about Islam, we wouldn’t be 53 comments into this thread.

    When I say something about Islam that you think is demonstrably false, as you have done repeatedly in this discussion about firearms, I’ll be glad to examine it. But I’ll thank you to leave my qualifications to discuss Islam out of this thread.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink
  54. Malcolm says

    Not at all. I will cheerfully concede that I do not have the expertise to make that judgment. That’s why my argument is general and not specific, and why I would be the worst person in the world to write legislation on the matter.

    And that’s the point: your “argument” is so “general”, and based on such a scant understanding of the technical realities of actual firearms and their use, as to be incoherent.

    If you would be the “worst person in the world” to write such legislation, then why should anybody pay the slightest attention to what you think it ought to say? It’s no different from deciding that you’d like cars that go five hundred miles on a spoonful of Crisco, and saying “there oughtta be a law.”

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  55. the one eyed man says

    Oh, I see. I had no idea you were such a maven on the subject. I am surprised you still had time for work, family, blogging, and kung fu.

    I haven’t spelled out what the specifics of gun control legislation ought to be. I merely expressed my gratitude that those who possess that sort of technical expertise are doing so.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  56. Malcolm says

    I am surprised you still had time for work, family, blogging, and kung fu.

    I never get enough sleep.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  57. Malcolm says

    I merely expressed my gratitude that those who possess that sort of technical expertise are doing so.

    Yeah, like Nancy Pelosi. Rest easy.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  58. Malcolm says

    I think we’re done here.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
  59. JK says

    However I would ask you to reflect on this: even granting your (preposterous) premise that a tyrannical government would materialize ex nihilo to oppress us, what exactly do you think people with guns would be able to accomplish against a government which – if it really wanted to attack its citizens – could kill them quicker than you can say … Waco.

    Although at Waco the children who died did so by fire – that fire erupted in proximity to where a weapon of truly greater potential lethality (a tank) poked it’s snout.

    Actually Peter, though I’m a fellow of few routines, my one dependable is when I first log on of a day. First I update my anti-virus – next I watch Morning Joe.

    What is new – or relatively new – is the greater lethality of contemporary weapons, as well as the fact that there are a lot more of them around than ever before.

    Is the jawbone of an ass any less lethal (lethality only coming once to an individual) than any other instrument? I’ve read many stories where the jawbones of asses figured mightily. And though I cannot know, I’d still wager that in the annals of man’s lethality toward others, there have been far more jawbones than Bushmasters.

    I would like to point out Peter your, pardon the expression, “zeroing in” on assault style firearms as the primary causal factor in these recent (and now, not so recent) manifestations of humankind’s propensities. But that was yesterday. Now that you’ve watched Joe Scarborough I know you realize there’s alot more here to be debated to effect than merely the particular instrument of death – be it the jawbone of an ass or a surface-to-air missile.

    It has been written, “the problem is not in the stars” or somesuch – and with that I’d lean in agreeing. And while also admitting agreement with you as a singular facet in sculpting the deadly gem that is humankind’s habit – that gem like the stars of the phrase scatters it’s beams of light so to confuse the mind as to where specifically, the problem actually does originate.

    (I think a much greater than we give due to, is our 24/7 media which… excuse:

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/kevin-myers-be-afraid-of-what-passes-for-news-in-the-dark-depths-of-cyberspace-3315495.html

    combined, makes us not so much the lean eaters of news rather gluttons. Too, hunting and gathering on the fast-food savannah makes it more likely “the routine” diabetic will emerge from the darknesses of the forest to haunt not only our nightmares but also our daydreams.)

    I’m well aware of my fellow Waka commentors telling me, “Wha???” so I’ll just leave it at that. Apologies Steinbeck never had a chance to enjoy rotten apple sauce with me.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink
  60. JK says

    McVeigh’s dastardly deed required planning, resources, and a lot of technical knowledge, which are things which are beyond the more recent crop of killers

    Bag of [a certain type of] fertilizer, a common fuel, a 9V battery.

    Fertilizer again, a garage door opener.

    Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  61. JK says

    Peter? I am (despite what you might think) hopeful Waka hasn’t many readers of this:

    I know that weapons which shoot 71 people in under two minutes…

    Thankfully it came to me how I might express this without going into specifics/physics.

    Fish in a barrel.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  62. the one eyed man says

    JK: once I am able to translate what you are writing from Arkansas to English, I will be happy to respond to it.

    I am grateful that you provided us with the whole nine yards of your thinking, however. As an expert on firearms, you are surely aware that the provenance of that phrase is World War II, when the magazines on anti-aircraft artillery were 27 feet long, and GI’s exhorted their colleagues to “give the Japs the whole nine yards.”

    I also noted with interest the following article by a professor at Harvard Law School regarding why the Second Amendment refers to militia:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-17/gun-debate-must-avoid-crazy-second-amendment-claims.html

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  63. Malcolm says

    Ah, Cass Sunstein.

    Of course, he makes no mention of any of the relevant historical antecedents I limned above.

    For a glimpse at the real meaning of what was intended, by someone in a good position to know, here’s Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, who was appointed by the “Father of the Constitution” himself, “Jemmy” Madison.

    In his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution, Story wrote:

    The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  64. Malcolm says

    The point being: yes, in a time when the Federal power was new, and the natural unit of organization was the individual States, the worry was that an overreaching Federal sovereign might threaten the liberty of the States, and the citizens thereof. The most effective way the States could push back against this usurpation would be through its local militias. In order to ensure this, it was vital that the citizens themselves be armed — and so it was made clear that their (pre-existing!) right to bear weapons was, in no uncertain terms, never to be infringed.

    We see from Justice Story’s remarks that the purpose of this right (or at least a central purpose) is to safeguard the liberty of the people against the encroachment of tyranny. That this was imagined best to be guaranteed through the action of a local militia (as it still would be today; no doubt the people would organize into local resistance units, just as they would have in 1789, to fight off the Federal behemoth, if the need arose) has no bearing on the intent of the article: to preserve for the people their primary bulwark against tyranny.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
  65. the one eyed man says

    Considering that Sunstein has Warren Burger, all nine Justices from the 1939 Court, and four Justices from the 2008 Court on his side, I think the company he keeps has a lot of firepower. So to speak.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink
  66. Malcolm says

    No doubt. If we get a few more of those “wise Latinas” on the bench, the Second Amendment won’t be worth the parchment it’s written on, no matter what the Founders intended.

    And then we’ll see what happens next.

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Permalink
  67. JK says

    I’d hoped not to – but Peter (remaining hopeful not many will read):

    As Malcolm noted above, the firearms used most recently were of relatively small caliber rather than the type caliber you zero to. That creates a paradox. I hope you can see it.

    The defensive tactic of “unarmed lockdown” of necessity requires clustering in order to readily pass narrow portals – see the inherent problem Peter? As it is now, “we” condition our kids to group and go with the flow – our more recent statutory limits on “lethality” of the ammunition [bullets] – what our legislative efforts have accomplished is that rather than a projectile stopping at it’s sole intended target (knockdown) the projectile was by statute, legislated into such a construction that it would “not immediately fragment or pass through armor” – see the paradox Peter?

    If Peter you haven’t, the legislative effect has been “target shooting” or as we say in Arkansas, ‘plinking’ ammunition isn’t much available anymore so rather than the regular commercial loads we could depend on just passing through an aluminum can – can now shoot through to, as you say – the range of a surface-to-air missile.

    I recognize Peter you’ve no disdain for me personally only ’cause I comment on Waka – but; I am Hillbilly – then again maybe the word “hillbilly” is directly connected with the Yiddishly lingo.

    “Yiddbilly”? “Illish”?

    Posted December 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink
  68. As we have beaten this thread to a pulp, I offer, as a palliative, another gem from the philosopher/novelist John Steinbeck, who IMHO is the leading contender for anointment as the American Tolstoy (“East of Eden” being Steinbeck’s “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”):

    Lee went on, “that’s why I include myself. We all have that heritage, no matter what old land our fathers left. All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It’s a breed — selected out by accident. And so we’re overbrave and overfearful — we’re kind and cruel as children. We’re overfriendly and at the same time frightened of strangers. We boast and are impressed. We’re oversentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic — and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture. Can it be that our critics have not the key or the language of our culture? That’s what we are, Cal — all of us. You aren’t very different.

    – From Chapter 51, East of Eden

    This passage speaks to me …

    Posted December 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  69. JK says

    Thank you Henry – looks like I’ll be having a cup of that.

    Seems I’ve missed out in certain things

    Posted December 18, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  70. TheBigHenry says

    JK,

    EoE is one of my all-time favorite novels, along with Anna Karenina. I have read both multiple times.

    Posted December 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  71. Up2L8 says

    Oh well, why not, even though late.

    Perhaps when considering the original meaning of the Constitution, I think it’s relevant to consider the history of the wording as it evolved before ratification, as it pertains to this particular thread.

    1. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

    2. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.

    3. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

    4. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

    5. A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

    6. A well regulated militia being the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    7. A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    Clearly, James Madison’s first draft started out declaring that the people’s right shall not be infringed. Then he went on to explain that militias are necessary. The simple rearrangement of these statements as it was being finalized did not significantly change the overall meaning: “Militias are necessary, therefore the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    Try looking up who ‘the militia’ is. Start with the US Code.

    It’s self explained in the text that surrounds the SUBJECT MATTER, “……the right of THE PEOPLE to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Just as with all other details of the Constitution, there is NO INTERPRETATION required, just simple comprehension as the text is drafted in English and is to be read as is all other text, with a SUBJECT MATTER that is not robbed of its CONTEXTUAL INTEGRITY. The 2nd explains quite vividly with no ambiguity whatsoever just WHO makes up a Militia….THE PEOPLE, the same PEOPLE who drafted and ratified the Constitution as in WE THE PEOPLE.

    Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:01 am | Permalink
  72. Malcolm says

    Excellent comment, Up2L8. (Given that this was posted at 5 a.m., your handle seems apt.)

    Two ideas stand out very clearly: that the term “militia” simply refers to “the body of the People”, and that the right of the People to be armed is of central importance because it is a necessary (though perhaps not sufficient) condition for the defense of the People’s freedom. The opposite of freedom is tyranny, a descent into which the Framers considered to be democracy’s chief liability.

    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

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