In Support Of A Total Ban on Civilians Owning Firearms

I support the argument that the United States should enact a total ban on civilians owning firearms.

Oh, I don't support the ban. I support the argument.

I support the argument because it's honest and specific. It doesn't hide the ball, it doesn't refuse to define terms, it doesn't tell rely on telling people they are paranoid or stupid in their concerns about the scope of the ban. The argument proposes a particular solution and will require the advocate to defend it openly.

That elevates it above most gun control dialogue.

I've argued before that gun control debates would be improved if people avoided culture-bundling and cared about the meaning of words. Most don't. Too much looks like this:

derpitude

There's a very good reason to care about what you mean when you argue that "assault weapons" should be banned: the term is infinitely flexible. If you think it inherently means something specific, you haven't bothered to inform yourself about the issue. "Assault weapon" means whatever the definers decide it should mean. Banning "assault weapons" is the gun version of banning "hate speech" or "disruptive protest" or "dangerous persons" or "interfering with a police officer" — it's a blank check. And I don't like handing out blank checks to the government to ban things and jail people.

I'm not making an argument that it's impossible to define assault weapons.1 I'm not even making an argument that banning "assault weapons," defined with reasonable specificity, would violate the Second Amendment. There's an argument to be made about that — an argument that's still in its jurisprudential infancy, given the recency of Heller — but it's not my point. My point is that if you won't even try to define what you want to regulate, and how, the argument about practicality and constitutionality is both abstract and premature. It's the same with defining automatic and semi-automatic. I don't want gun control advocates to acquire some vague grasp of what those mean because I'm eager to have my neighbor own a machine gun. I want advocates to learn the difference so I can have some level of confidence that I know what kind of proposed government power we're debating. Right now the debate seems choked with people who don't know, are proud of not knowing, and think you're a redneck gun-nut asshole if you want them to know because they feel very strongly about this. I decline to take that seriously.

Gun control advocates may argue that it's pointless to define terms because gun control opponents will oppose gun control laws no matter how they are crafted. That's a fair description of the behavior of some — perhaps even most — gun control opponents. But it's not a logical or moral excuse for not trying. Urging vague and unconstrained government power is not how responsible citizens of a free society ought to act. It's a bad habit and it's dangerous and irresponsible to promote it.

This is not an abstract or hypothetical point. We live in a country in which arbitrary power is routinely abused, usually to the detriment of the least powerful and the most abused among us. We live in a country in which we have been panicked into giving the government more and more power to protect us from harm, and that power is most often not used for the things we were told, but to solidify and expand previously existing government power. We live in a country where the government uses the power we've already given it as a rationale for giving it more: "how can we not ban x when we've already banned y?" We live in a country where vague laws are used arbitrarily and capriciously. We live in a country that is about to nominate Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President of the United States: a man who wants to limit free speech, ban people based on religion, and generally jackboot around. We live in a country where his opponent is a long-time advocate of the security state who got famous helping label young black men "superpredators."

Maybe gun control advocates won't define terms because they know that the defined terms they want won't sell. That's not unusual; it's typical politics. That doesn't make it right. You have no moral or rational claim to your fellow citizens' support for a deliberately vague law. Cowboy up. Define what you want and argue for it. Anything else is either silly and self-indulgent, or deliberately deceitful.

  1. It's certainly difficult — past bans often led to gun manufacturers making minor cosmetic changes to evade the law.  

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Phaedrus says

    Ban assault weapons only if "alcohol" and "tobacco" are also banned as those kill far more than "assault weapons"

  2. The_Jack says

    If you want to make the purchase and/or possession of X punishable by imprisonment, then you don't get to complain when someone asks you how you would define X.

    When advocating that the government should be able to prohibit something, the first step is to define how the state would determine if a given object would even be prohibited.

    (Later come the follow-up questions of can the government prohibit X (both as a matter of law and of enforcement logistics) and should the government prohibit X)

    But if that first step is too high of a bar, then one should probably do more research on the subject.

  3. Dan says

    It's certainly difficult — past bans often led to gun manufacturers making minor cosmetic changes to evade the law.

    …which is because the features that define an "assault weapon" are purely cosmetic to begin with. The 1994 Clinton ban was a perfect example of this–it named several guns that were banned by name (whereupon the manufacturers simply renamed them), it named several hundred guns that were not banned (which was a complete waste of space and time, as not a single one of them met the definition of a "semi-automatic assault weapon"), and then it gave a list of cosmetic features (from memory: pistol grip, collapsible/folding stock, grenade launcher, bayonet lug, or flash hider), the possession of two or more of which would make a particular firearm a "semi-automatic assault weapon." Since the features are only cosmetic to begin with, it took only minor cosmetic changes to remove them.

  4. Jonathan Waite says

    Gladly. I want the global firearms industry torn up by the roots and burned. I want its factories and workers given useful work to do, its owners stripped of their fortunes and made to work for a living, its products seized and melted down and made into something that enhances life. Firearms aren't going away, I know that much, but if people want them they should have to go to a craftsman who turns out maybe one every week. Those guns should be things of beauty, lovingly made, and shoot one round per trigger pull–anything else should be illegal. (And of course they would all be traceable.) The ammunition should likewise be hand-crafted and cost the earth.

    I want this because all America's problems with guns can be traced to the appalling amounts of money made by the firearms industry and the political power that money buys. Gun control legislation is just putting a plaster over the cancer. Sure, there would be a black market, but without mass production it would be a fraction of the legal and illegal firearms market now. And you'd get hobbyists cobbling together their own guns from plans on the internet, and some of them wouldd manage not to blow themselves up, but that just can't be helped. Some people will always want guns. This way, fewer of them would have them, and that means fewer people shot.

    Best of all, with the arms industry gone, there would be no new firearms available to be used in war. In a hundred years or so we might even find something better to do with our time.

    Specific enough for you? Oh, I know it'll never happen. Governments make way too much money out of people shooting each other ever to be seriously opposed to it. But that's what I would argue for if I thought it would do any good.

  5. Brett says

    It's certainly difficult — past bans often led to gun manufacturers making minor cosmetic changes to evade the law.

    it wasn't to evade the law, it was to comply with the law. no folding stock, no bayonet lug, no grenade launcher or muzzle brake but it has a pistol grip? that's fine. it passes the law's requirements, right? How does that classify that as evasion?

  6. SJE says

    Well said. Both sides engage in too much FEELZ and not enough actual debate, or assessment of the facts. So, while I don't agree with some of the Dem proposals regarding making the no fly list a disqualifier for firearm ownership, I was glad that they forced a debate on the issue.

    Then again, one of my biggest personal blindspots is assuming that people actually care about facts and logic over emotions when, in fact, a lot of people make a lot of decisions on emotion.

  7. Publius says

    I light of this sensible, well written post, can we all agree that Hot Takes should be banned?

  8. Dragoness Eclectic says

    I predict Ken getting a torrent of Internet abuse for "caring more about semantics and servicing his gun fetish than dead children!!!!"

    As for the person upthread living in the cozy fantasy world where no guns are manufactured in factories–have your country disarm its military first. Preferably, your country shares a border with a large, aggressive neighbor who covets your resources. Then tell me how that goes.

  9. Castaigne says

    There's a very good reason to care about what you mean when you argue that "assault weapons" should be banned: the term is infinitely flexible. If you think it inherently means something specific, you haven't bothered to inform yourself about the issue. "Assault weapon" means whatever the definers decide it should mean.

    That's what irritates me; it DOESN'T. There is a specific definition for an assault rifle:

    * It must be an individual weapon.
    * It must be capable of selective fire.
    * It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle.
    * Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable box magazine.
    * It should have an effective range of at least 300 metres (330 yards).

    I wish EVERYONE, on all sides, would stick to the damn definition of the assault rifle.

    My point is that if you won't even try to define what you want to regulate, and how, the argument about practicality and constitutionality is both abstract and premature.

    Preach it, Brother Popehat! Define, define, define – with precision.

    As it is, if someone said "Let's have the same restrictions and requirements for owning firearms as we do for owning a car, including liability insurance." I wouldn't have much of a problem with it.

  10. Trent says

    The magazine restrictions were quite effective because they were well designed and broad. The problem was you couldn't ban number of magazines so rather than have a 50 round magazine, the law banned it to 5-10 rounds so people would just buy the equivalent number of mags. It meant you were constantly switching mags when shooting but otherwise did nothing to actually impede.

    The assault weapon bans were always crazy. The goal has always been to eliminate gun ownership but the pesky 2nd amendment gets in the way of an outright ban. So they do feel good bans that do nothing to actually affect availability, only put stupid easily avoided restrictions in place. Hopefully now that the supreme court has undone the 30's ruling that gave the government broad power to restrict firearms they can stomp these laws and end the debate entirely.

  11. En Passant says

    I want [gun control] advocates to learn the difference so I can have some level of confidence that I know what kind of proposed government power we're debating. Right now the debate seems choked with people who don't know, are proud of not knowing, and think you're a redneck gun-nut asshole if you want them to know because they feel very strongly about this. I decline to take that seriously.

    Militant ignorance is a sure sign that a proponent is seeking far more than the facial terms of the debate would appear to indicate.

    Militant ignorance on the question "what, exactly constitutes an 'assault weapon'?" ultimately means "anything I say is an assault weapon is an assault weapon". It's a ploy to expand definitions to fit the proponent's opinion at any given time.

    The old, familiar and obvious form is "I can't define obscenity, but I recognize it when I see it."

  12. TK-421 says

    I knew previously that "assault weapon" is a often used as a vague umbrella term, but are "automatic" and "semi-automatic" not well-defined? I would have thought those were fairly uncontroversial.

    Also, while we're at it: what is the difference between a magazine and a clip?

  13. Picador says

    Okay I see your point Ken but the current bill is about "closing the terror gap" so surely you can't be opposed to that because terror and any time the government uses the terror word terror it terror means they're doing terror something good to stop terror because terror. Terror. Terrorterrorterrorterrorterror.

    What are you some kind of terror-loving terrorist?

  14. Jim in Conroe says

    It's certainly difficult — past bans often led to gun manufacturers making minor cosmetic changes to evade the law.

    Not "evade," but "comply with."

  15. McFate says

    @ Castaigne, "assault rifle" is not the same as "assault weapon."

    The assault RIFLE requirement of "selective fire" means that it has a fully automatic mode, and fully automatic rifles have been banned to the public at large since the 1980s.

    Many assault WEAPONS covered by the 1994 ban (like the AR-15) are semi-automatic — one bullet per trigger pull. But so are most guns including most handguns. There is little hope for a ban on all semi-automatic guns, or even all semi-automatic rifles.

    "Assault weapon" is a very vague attempt to broaden the assault RIFLE category, often done on the basis of cosmetic features (such as a bayonet mount or flash hider) that make the gun look scarier but do not impact its effectiveness as a weapon. The intent is to sow confusion among people who can't discern the two terms, and who don't understand the difference between automatic and semi-automatic. Apparently you are willing to propagate that confusion.

  16. LlamaHerder says

    I agree that knowledge of How Guns Work is necessary to create good gun control policy, but I'm not convinced it's necessary to advocate for it. At least not in any great detail.

    The difference between automatic and semi-automatic is relevant and easy for anyone to learn, so it's reasonable to expect people to understand it.

    What's not reasonable is the obvious attempts to silence debate with jargon. The fact that someone might not know what size round an AR-15 uses, or whether a 1911 uses gas or recoil to reload, isn't the important thing right now.

  17. Jander says

    Oh, I don't support the ban. I support the argument.

    Sadly, too few will ever understand the distinction.

  18. Dan says

    @McFate

    Many assault WEAPONS covered by the 1994 ban (like the AR-15) are semi-automatic

    Actually, all of the firearms covered by the 1994 ban were semi-automatic. The act dealt with "semi-automatic assault weapons", and each class (handgun, shotgun, and rifle) was defined specifically in terms of being a semi-automatic.

  19. Daniel Weber says

    all America's problems with guns can be traced to the appalling amounts of money made by the firearms industry and the political power that money buys.

    The NRA doesn't have power because of money. It has power because it can motivate a few million members, as well as many other people, to vote.

    There's your democracy.

  20. Mikee says

    RE: Jonathan Waite

    15,000 Americans are murdered with guns each year.
    The entire firearms industry in the US makes 6 billion per year.

    33,000 Americans die from vehicle collisions each year.
    The automotive industry in the US makes 61 billion per year.

    640,000 Americans die from heart disease each year.
    The snack food industry in the US makes 38 billion per year, and the computer industry makes 75 billion each year.

    If a revenue stream that results in death is your primary concern, trash your computer (can't sell your machine, because that would only be contributing to the sedentary lifestyle of someone else) and start protesting Twinkies.

    The rest of your assumptions are just nonsense. Reloading ammunition is not expensive, and would cost nowhere near 'the Earth'. Small manufacturers and hobbyists already make works of art that can also kill people. Plus, there's also that pesky 2nd Amendment in your way.

  21. LlamaHerder says

    The NRA doesn't have power because of money. It has power because it can motivate a few million members, as well as many other people, to vote.

    There's your democracy.

    Don't sell the NRA short; campaign contributions and ad buys are effective too.

  22. Maurice de Sully says

    The assault RIFLE requirement of "selective fire" means that it has a fully automatic mode, and fully automatic rifles have been banned to the public at large since the 1980s.

    Not quite. There are about 250,000 privately owned automatic weapons in the the US . In the grand progressive tradition however, they are essentially only available to very wealthy people. If you like filling out forms- and have the cash for a new Benz burning a hole in your pocket- you can get yourself a real assault rifle if you like.

  23. Mercury says

    "My point is that if you won't even try to define what you want to regulate, and how, the argument about practicality and constitutionality is both abstract and premature."
    ——————————————————————————————————————-

    Well, terms like: "single-shot", "semi-automatic", "automatic" and "high-capacity" are all specific definitions relating to the capabilities of specific firearms and everyone who knows anything about guns, including people in positions of government authority, already well understands exactly what they mean.

    So, gun control advocates, including the president, who refuse to use or avoid using terms like these are either ignorant, disingenuous or deceptive.

  24. Lokiwi says

    @Castaigne Where does that "specific definition" come from? It's not from any of the proposed legislation, nor is it particularly specific when it relies on the rather nebulous term "effective range".

    If you want to ban some guns based on their excessive lethality (which is probably constitutional, but as Ken says the law is in its infancy since Heller), you need to specify aspects of the guns that make them more lethal. I imagine you could create combinations of:
    1. Gun length (to target long guns vs. pistols);
    2. Fire rate (to require some form of manual action between each shot, such as a bolt action, rather than full semi-auto);
    3. Muzzle velocity with particular ammo (specified down to weight and grains); and
    4. Caliber.

    If you are targeting items like detachability of magazines or pistol grips, you are never going to be specific enough.

  25. Nobody says

    shoot one round per trigger pull–anything else should be illegal.

    So… All currently legal weapons.

    See, this is why people get frustrated with the anti gun crowd.

  26. Jay says

    It's an interesting point. A blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns would probably be just as constitutional as the various "assault weapons bans" that have been upheld, and it's a lot easier to define. Is it just for political reasons that people don't advocate for that? Especially for rifles, something like a Mini-14 looks just as scary as an AR-15. I guess maybe the wooden stock makes it less threatening? I bet if you put pictures of a bunch of bad guys carrying them around and sent them out as your election mail most voters would be just as happy to vote to ban them too as they would whatever silly assault weapon definition they use.

  27. Trent says

    This discussion about semi-automatic versus automatic is a good indication of how this debate is manipulated. There are vast numbers of people out there with zero experience with firearms that think semi-automatic equals a military weapon, most don't even understand what it is. The people that want to ban firearms manipulate this misunderstanding by mis-characterizing the entire debate.

    Semi-automatic was first developed in late 1880's and was first popularized by the browning brothers (from Utah) in 1902 with their semi-automatic shotgun. Almost all firearms are semiautomatic, to the point where it would be easier to count the ones that aren't.. Any talk of banning semi-automatic is talking about banning almost every single firearm. And it's utterly pointless because it doesn't take more than about 5 minutes of experience before you can fire a manually operated breach almost as fast. The British developed several rifles that can be fired every second or two accurately and have manually operated breaches.

    Like I said earlier, all these attempts are pointless. The only solution to this would be to get rid of the 2nd amendment and you'd have an easier time getting rid of the 1st amendment. Gun's are here to stay in the US. Just like the previous assault rifle ban the manufacturers will simply alter the features that ban their guns. AR-15's will be sold with wood stocks again just like before to avoid the ban. They ban it by name and they'll produce a new model, just like the old model with a different name.

  28. says

    "Also, while we're at it: what is the difference between a magazine and a clip?"

    A clip is a metal strip that holds a stack of cartridges together by their base, usually 5 or 10. The cartridges can be slid off the clip using a special tool in order to facilitate loading a magazine. A magazine can be loaded without a clip/tool, but they facilitate quicker loading by allowing the user to jam 10 rounds into the magazine with a single motion.

    A magazine is the box that attaches to the firearm itself and from which the firearm draws cartridges.

    A clip without a magazine (and the loading tool) isn't all that useful except to keep your cartridges in tidy little groups. A magazine is what determines how many rounds can be fired from a given weapon before reloading.

    There are exceptions to this. There are some older firearms that fire from a clip or something that is very clip-like in appearance, such as the M-1 Garand's enbloc. But that is the general difference, especially when speaking of modern firearms.

  29. says

    I want the global firearms industry torn up by the roots and burned. I want its factories and workers given useful work to do, its owners stripped of their fortunes and made to work for a living, its products seized and melted down and made into something that enhances life.

    Okay.

    Firearms aren't going away, I know that much, but if people want them they should have to go to a craftsman who turns out maybe one every week. Those guns should be things of beauty, lovingly made,

    I'm not entirely sure how you prevent gunsmiths from using efficient production techniques, but alright, let's go with it. I'm also not sure how you reconcile your other (presumably) liberal views with the idea that guns should available, but only to the very privileged, but we'll set that aside.

    and shoot one round per trigger pull–anything else should be illegal.

    Protip: They already are. It has been basically illegal for a member of the public to buy or sell a machine gun—that is, a gun which shoots more than one round per trigger pull—since 1986. The government can get them, but the rest of us basically can't.

    (The word "semi-automatic" merely means that, after firing one bullet, the gun automatically ejects the cartridge and loads the next one. You still need to pull the trigger again to fire that bullet. You hear "semi-automatic" associated with shootings not because semi-automatics are especially dangerous, but because nearly every modern gun is semi-automatic. If they reported whether the cars involved in a car crash had automatic or manual transmissions, you might think that automatic cars crashed more often, too.)

    However, there's a small problem with both this and your next point:

    (And of course they would all be traceable.)

    If gun manufacturing becomes an artisan craft, I'm not sure how you keep enforcing these kinds of laws. The economies of scale in gun manufacturing actually help to enforce gun laws currently, because there are a few large manufacturers and the government can keep a close eye on them. If you replace a few large companies with tens of thousands of individual gunsmiths, how do you make sure they don't build machine guns? How do you make sure they put the serial numbers on their guns?

    The ammunition should likewise be hand-crafted and cost the earth.

    That's just not gonna happen. Ammunition is just simple chemicals and basic metalwork. If you want it to be expensive, the only way you can do that is by taxing it, and if you want to tax it, the only way to do that is by tightly controlling manufacturing and distribution. Again, your hope to deindustrialize gun manufacturing runs counter to your goal of regulating it.

    And you'd get hobbyists cobbling together their own guns from plans on the internet, and some of them wouldd manage not to blow themselves up, but that just can't be helped. Some people will always want guns. This way, fewer of them would have them, and that means fewer people shot.

    Let's be clear about what you're saying here: Most people who own guns will never harm another human being, so you are hoping that many, many people who would not otherwise hurt a fly will main or kill themselves because other people do bad things with their hobby. This is not unlike seeing that some people commit terrible crimes while drunk, and therefore banning commercial alcohol production so that people will kill themselves drinking moonshine. It's kind of despicable.

    Best of all, with the arms industry gone, there would be no new firearms available to be used in war. In a hundred years or so we might even find something better to do with our time.

    Or, you know, other countries' militaries will sail right past our navy and the artisanal rifles that have replaced their shells and missiles, dock at our ports, and mow down our soldiers with the machine guns they did not completely give up. Unless we're supposed to conquer the world first and then hold all that territory with our small-batch guns?

  30. Chris says

    I'm all for limits on magazine size. I can't be certain, but I would bet that numbers like 49 dead and 53 wounded would be quite a bit lower if the shooter had to reload after every shot.

    Set a limit so a gun has to be reloaded after an arbitrary low number of shots (3d6 says 13).

    Besides, most people claim they need guns for defense, hunting, or overthrowing the government, and "assault rifles" seem poorly designed for all three. For defense you want something that can be concealed and won't kill friendlies in the next room; if you need to be able to fire 30 rounds without reloading to take down a deer you should probably give up and learn to knit instead; and as we are proving in the middle East, even a fully automatic rifle doesn't do much good against a 3 am surprise drone strike.

  31. Tradegeek says

    I applaud Ken for trying to bring the debate to some logical baseline.

    Here is my only problem; the debate itself is little more than ideological masturbation, on all sides.

    The US has 112 guns for every 100 citizens. And unlike cars, guns (if even barely maintained) can remain functional for decades or even centuries. There is enough ammunition stockpiled in the hands of private citizens to sustain a civil war (or two). Even if we burned down every gun factory and repealed the second amendment, there would be no shortage of guns.

    The greatest gift to the gun industry has been gun control proponents. Every time a Democrat wins a major election, gun sales spike. Every time there is a mass shooting, talk of gun control becomes front and center…. and sales spike.

    Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc stock closed at $57 on Friday. The stock closed at $63 end of day Monday. Why? Talk of gun control is great for those who sell guns.

    No gun control legislation has had any meaning impact on gun violence in my lifetime. Yet talking about gun control increases the number of guns in circulation.

    Am I wrong to think that this is starting to be the left's war on drugs?

    Who cares if my outrage isn't doing any good. Who cares if it makes things even worse. I'm morally right, and that's all there is to it!

  32. McFate says

    A blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns would probably be just as constitutional as the various "assault weapons bans" that have been upheld, and it's a lot easier to define. Is it just for political reasons that people don't advocate for that?

    I don't think you have many people arguing for a blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles just because it's not a good stopping point philosophically. To advocate for that, you have to drop all pretense of "I support the 2nd Amendment, but…" or "I support hunters, but…" If you're going that far, you might as well argue for all guns to be banned, period.

    Inside the political sphere, banning all semi-automatic rifles is infeasible. No pol is willing to face the backlash of telling nearly all sportsmen that the government is outlawing their guns.

  33. Southern Radical says

    The only solution to this would be to get rid of the 2nd amendment and you'd have an easier time getting rid of the 1st amendment.

    This is honestly the thing about this debate that makes me the saddest.

  34. DRJlaw says

    @Castaigne

    There is a specific definition for an assault rifle

    No source provided…

    * It must be capable of selective fire.

    Which proves that whatever source you're drawing from, it is only one amongst many. Because nothing previously forbidden from sale by law as an "assault rifle" or "assault weapon" had that feature.

    "Selective fire" does not mean semi-automatic, it means selectable between modes of fire, i.e., full automatic and burst, burst and semi-automatic, full automatic and semi-automatic, etc.

    No weapon sold as new to civilians in the US from 1994-2004 could be selective because no such weapon could be capable of automatic or burst fire (banned since 1986). No weapon that people are knowingly complaining about now as an "assault rifle, "modern sporting rifle," or what have you has selective fire, yet those weapons are labeled as "assault rifles" by activists, the press, the general public, etc.

    The terminology has moved beyond your selected definition, which is precisely Ken's point.

  35. Trent says

    Chris,

    There have been several mass shootings where the shooter reloaded multiple times. Reloading doesn't stop mass shootings and any restriction on the size of a magazine is just going to mean your mass shooter simply carriers more preloaded magazines. I'll never understand why people like you fail to realize that.

    There is no such thing as an assault rifle. This point seems lost on you. It's an arbitrary definition that's based on how a gun looks. It is an absolutely pointless regulation. Changing what a gun looks like is as easy as swapping out a single part.

  36. OrderoftheQuaff says

    Well yes, an argument to repeal the 2nd Amendment is conceptually simpler than what we have now. That would require a Constitutional Convention or ratification by 3/4 of the states, neither of which is going to happen, so we're left with trying to draw a bright line of technology between forbidden arms and those arms that I have a civil right to possess.

    The first choice in this journey involves the interpretation of a specific text, whether to take into account the intent of its authors or not, and as always, faithfulness to original intent will be rendered when it supports the desired result, and the rest of the time, not.

    In 1787 when this text was written, simple manual firearms were the most powerful weapons known. The authors didn't intend to secure us the right of bearing nukes, anthrax vials, nerve gas canisters, or a single weapon capable of killing 50 people in a nightclub. The line is easy to draw, that isn't the problem, the problem is all the self-interested lying, obfuscation and handwringing about it, which will continue unabated until society summons the strength of will to draw that line.

  37. gekkobear says

    "Chris says
    JUNE 16, 2016 AT 11:50 AM

    I'm all for limits on magazine size. I can't be certain, but I would bet that numbers like 49 dead and 53 wounded would be quite a bit lower if the shooter had to reload after every shot.

    Set a limit so a gun has to be reloaded after an arbitrary low number of shots (3d6 says 13)."

    Um, find someone who knows guns, ask them to quick fire and quick reload their fastest gun to show you how long it takes to reload.

    Actually having this information would tell you if it's a really long time and your argument makes sense.
    Or if it's closer to "under a second for many guns" and would be a pointless exercise in futility.

    Interesting you'd try this, without knowing…
    In response to a post asking for people calling for laws to have some minimal information on what they're asking for, and what that would mean.

    Was this irony? Parody? Or just not realizing what you're doing?

  38. Tracey says

    I appreciate that a post that argues in favor of more pedantry is followed by critical comment after critical comment by pedants.

  39. Chris says

    @Trent

    I'll let your first point stand as I'm at work and too lazy to look up statistics on my phone.

    As for your second point, I used "assault rifles" with the scare quotes specifically because the term has no actual meaning, but seems to be used to describe a category that ranges from "nonexistent" to "every weapon, which could be called a gun, that isn't a shotgun".

    For your sake, from now on instead of using the "assault rifle" shorthand, I will carefully explain that I am talking about shooting machines longer than my forearm, that fire a single solid bullet when you pull the trigger, and use ammunition supplied by a magazine holding no less than 5 bullets.

  40. Quiet Lurcker says

    @Ken —

    The entire discussion is (or at least, *should* be) moot.

    The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States states, in pertinent part:

    …[T]he right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    There are no distinctions. There are no semantics. Because the language above is clear, unambiguous, and absolute. (Please further note that this amendment, unlike the First Amendment, does NOT limit itself solely to the actions of Congress. The Second Continental Congress had to have had a purpose for that phrasing.)

    The only argument we should be having centers around the question, 'how can we effectively and safely dismantle the patchwork quilt of court decisions, regulations, and laws which should not exist.

    I fail to grasp how you or anyone else could argue in favor of anything approximating to a ban on the possession and use of firearms, full stop. Anything else however well intentioned flies in the face of the Constitution.

  41. says

    I appreciate that a post that argues in favor of more pedantry is followed by critical comment after critical comment by pedants.

    I don't view being specific about what the state can jail me for doing to be pedantry. Your views may differ.

  42. Trent says

    @Quiet Lurker

    People opposed to gun control often disregard that from ~1930 to just a few years ago the Supreme court had interpreted the 2nd amendment to apply to the states, not to individuals. You can argue whether that's appropriate or not but don't disregard it. Under the current supreme court interpretation that's no longer valid, but the people that seek gun control want that definition back because it gave the government pretty much unlimited power to regulate firearms as long as the law didn't try to regulate the states.

    It wouldn't take much for court to go back to the previous interpretation of the 2nd, and I hope they don't but this is what most gun control advocates base their arguments on. It wasn't that long ago that individual gun ownership restrictions were perfectly constitutional, as defined by the supreme court.

  43. Robert Beckman says

    @OrderoftheQuaff

    If manual firearms were the greatest weapon of the time, and the drafters of the Constitution knew that (as you posit), doesn't that mean that they intended the people to have the very best armaments?

    As for a single weapon capable of killing 50 obviously not being intended by the Framers, that's just patently untrue. Cannon were privately owned, and could kill 50 in a tightly packed building with a single shot.

    For that matter, a man on a horse with a saber could kill 50 people himself, as long as no one had a firearm to take him down with. As we see in most mass killings, killing many people is easy to accomplish when they can't fight back. There's a reason"taking candy from a baby" and "shooting fish in a barrel" are common sayings.

  44. Lurker says

    Lokiwi, DRJlaw, the definition Castaigne gave for "assault rifle" is the one used by the military (and by firearms manufacturers). See various DoD technical documents (such as the Special Forces Foreign Weapons Handbook or the Small Arms Identification and Operation guides). "Assault weapon" is the vague one, and a (deliberately) distinct term.

    Incidentally, Chris, there are reasons to prefer long guns over handguns for home defense (although not, obvs, concealed carry). They're much easier to aim, especially under stress, and appropriate rifle ammunition actually penetrates walls less than pistol bullets (for the same reasons it causes more damage to people).

  45. Pyrroc says

    @Jonathan Waite

    Cars kill far more people and are far more destructive to our climate, hence a slight rewording since we're being a bit ridiculous:

    Gladly. I want the global automobile industry torn up by the roots and burned. I want its factories and workers given useful work to do, its owners stripped of their fortunes and made to work for a living, its products seized and melted down and made into something that enhances life. Automobiles aren't going away, I know that much, but if people want them they should have to go to a craftsman who turns out maybe one every week. Those cars should be things of beauty, lovingly made, and run on solar power–anything else should be illegal. (And of course they would all be traceable.)

    I want this because Global Warming and all America's problems with cars can be traced to the appalling amounts of money made by the automobile industry and the political power that money buys. Automobile licensing and insuring is just putting a plaster over the cancer. Sure, there would be a black market, but without mass production it would be a fraction of the legal and illegal automobile market now. And you'd get hobbyists cobbling together their own cars from plans on the internet, and some of them would manage not to kill themselves driving, but that just can't be helped. Some people will always want cars. This way, fewer of them would have them, and that means fewer people killed and far less pollution in the world.

    Best of all, with the automobile industry gone, there would be no new automobiles available to be used to pollute the world. In a hundred years or so we might even find something better to do with our time.

    Specific enough for you? Oh, I know it'll never happen. Governments make way too much money out of people driving ever to be seriously opposed to it. But that's what I would argue for if I thought it would do any good.

  46. anne mouse says

    uh, Quiet Lurker, if you're going to claim that some text is "clear, unambiguous, and absolute", people might find it odd that you deleted half of the text in question.

    Not that it matters to our Congress or courts. Example off the top of my head: the Sonny Bono / Disney Act apparently functions to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts."

  47. says

    @Quiet Lurcker

    You say there are no distinctions or semantics, but I would beg to differ. One question is, what does the word "arms" mean? This is something of a case of what Constitutional Scholar Lawrence Lessig calls a "latent ambiguity" caused by changes in society and technology.

    If we limit "arms" to what our Framers would have recognized, then only muskets are protected. As a gun owner myself, I find that interpretation both absurd and undesirable. But an Originalist could make a reasonable argument for that. Being more reasonable, I suspect both the text and policy limit it to meaning something like "small arms suitable for personal defense and hunting." I think few would see this as a guarantee of a right to an RPG and no one sane would say it guarantees a right of personal ownership of nuclear weapons.

    I strongly support the right of responsible, personal ownership of firearms in the general sense, but even I am comfortable removing the right from convicted felons, background checks to help enforce that, and a waiting period to ensure cooling off from heat of the moment purchases and I believe all of those are quite permissible under the Constitution.

  48. MG says

    I've thought about the idea of banning guns that can fire more than a certain number of bullets per 10-second interval. I don't know where I would put the threshold without more research, but I think this is a useful factor to consider. Guns with a low rate of fire are just as good for target shooting (fun) and hunting (not my thing but respectable enough) and worse for killing as many people as possible. What do the highly-informed people of popehat think of this?

  49. Pete says

    I'm all in favor of the use of clear clean description. I'm a bit surprised that no-one has talked about the kinds of clear, well-tested definitions of acceptable/unacceptable features in firearms already developed by other countries who have successfully limited firearm ownership and which have similar legal traditions to the US. eg Australia's clear and straightforward descriptions of firearm types. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Australia#Firearms_categories. It's not like the US has to completely reinvent the wheel here..

  50. JB says

    The problem with any type of "guns that can do x" ban is that aftermarket modifications are extremely easy. So the only way you could enforce such a ban is either routine gun inspections, which would be impossible, or review of guns seized from people who had used them to commit crimes, which would defeat the purpose of preventing said crimes by banning said guns.

    Furthermore, while a somehow-effective ban on weapons of a certain power would cut down on the casualties of mass shootings, nothing short of a complete ban will do anything about kids accidentally shooting themselves/each other/their parents, which is vastly more common.

  51. says

    1) Said as a person who owns a firearm. (In fine working order, btw.)
    2) Said as a person who was raised around firearms and knows many people who hunt.
    3) Said as a person who has watched every episode of Triggers: Weapons that Changed the World several times because I love history in general and the history of firearms is this perfect meeting place of the history of industrialization, design, mechanical engineering, and the history of tactics & strategy — it's so gloriously interdisciplinary.
    4) Said as a person has helped several writer friends research firearms for historical fiction and has been known to cringe when I see a double action revolver being in westerns set before the mid-late 1870s

    I would define an assault weapon as:
    1) Capable of firing more than one round per trigger pull.
    or
    2) Has a clip or magazine capable of holding more than 20 rounds currently inserted/attached*.

    If it meets either of those criteria, it's an assault weapon.

    You want to defend your home, get a shotgun and/or a revolver. (Semi-auto pistols are fine too, but revolvers almost never jam.) If you hunt, get a shotgun and/or a bolt/lever-action/semi-auto rifle. Any and all of these work just fine for target practice and varmint slaying, too.

    Anything else should be the provenience of LEOs/Military/Firearms Museums.

    If you think you need more, I pity you your fragile and limited sense of self and encourage you to expand your horizons when it comes to identity. (FFS — get a wicked keen sword or five and learn how to use them! Awesomely fun!)

    *Yes, a person could just carry a lot of magazines/clips/loose ammo, but (a) it's clunky and inconvenient and (b) you will have to reload more often, which can be further complicated if you have the shakes from all the adrenaline in your body.

  52. A Leap at the Wheel says

    Katherine Keller – The wordsmithing on your post is astonishingly good. The fact that is feels like an offer to move toward more restrictions, while in fact would be neutral or more liberal than current regimes, is quite a feat.

  53. DRJlaw says

    Lokiwi, DRJlaw, the definition Castaigne gave for "assault rifle" is the one used by the military (and by firearms manufacturers). See various DoD technical documents (such as the Special Forces Foreign Weapons Handbook or the Small Arms Identification and Operation guides). "Assault weapon" is the vague one, and a (deliberately) distinct term.

    Yes, so distinct that Castaigne was, in fact, the very first one to use the term "assault rifle," substituting it for the term "assault weapon" and then laying into one and all as if they were dullards for not heeding a specific definition of assault rifle when discussing assault weapons.

    I suggest that you run a Google News search for the term assault rifle. Because the rest of the country is not hewing to that definition, and in this language, the popular media and general public almost always win debates concerning meaning.

  54. Psmith says

    10/10, Ken. Nice job.

    @Jonathan Waite: your utopia was all of human history before 1500 or so. Draw your own conclusions.

    @orderofthequaff

    In 1787 when this text was written, simple manual firearms were the most powerful weapons known.

    1. Girandoni air rifle, Puckle gun, etc.
    2. Privately owned cannon-armed warships formed most of the Revolutionary Navy, and letters of marque are explicitly provided for in the Constitution. I believe Jefferson explicitly cited 2A in support of privately owned warships in a letter of marque issued during the Barbary Wars.

  55. Rien says

    I noted with a chuckle the irony of Castaigne lauding Ken's call for proper definitions and terms… while completely missing that Ken was referring to the gun control-favored & flexible term "assault weapons" and expounded instead the definition of "assault rifles."

    It is sadly unfortunate that Jonathan Waite apparently doesn't know his wish that every firearm "shoot one round per trigger pull" was granted way back in 1986.
    … for private individuals anyway. Governments can still buy machine guns because they need to be able to slaughter people.

  56. Lokiwi says

    @Lurker, it may be in use by the DoD and manufacturers (I haven't bothered to look that up), but as DRJlaw points out, it is not in general use by the public so it doesn't help provide specificity to public debate.

    More importantly, as I stated previously, it uses nebulous terms like effective range that make it useless as a definition for use in a law banning specific weapons. If it isn't a definition that would be useful in drafting a law, it's not particularly useful in the debate over what laws we should pass.

  57. Jordan says

    Set a limit so a gun has to be reloaded after an arbitrary low number of shots (3d6 says 13).

    That worked out well in San Bernadino, huh?

  58. Trent says

    There's always something ironic about someone suggesting that having magazines larger than a certain size means you don't have enough enjoyment in your life.

    Number of rounds in a magazine has never affected a mass shooting. Probably one of the most famous mass shooters in recent history, the Newtown massacre's Lanza, reloaded multiple times (IIRC it was more than a dozen times). The columbine massacre involved numerous firearms and reloading. In fact I have a hard time even thinking of a single mass shooting that did not involve either multiple firearms or reloading.

    AFAIK there has only been one mass shooting (out of hundreds, the us averages around 6 per year and has for the last 100 years) where a subject was stopped while reloading. It's so incredibly rare that I doubt its even statistically significant.

    Magazine limits don't stop shootings, they don't impair mass shootings and they generally don't even inconvenience someone that's intent on mass murder. Weapon jams are more likely to stop a mass shooting than magazine size limits. (maybe we should mandate that all firearms jam every 3rd shot). They are a red herring and the only people they inconvenience is law abiding citizens that have to stop shooting and reload, often right as they get into a rhythm or buy a dozen magazines.

    Like almost every gun control measure ever proposed all magazine limits do is impact law abiding people while not at all inconveniencing someone intent on committing crimes and murder.

    And BTW, implying that doing casual research and watching a documentary makes you more informed on gun control while claiming the same life experience (using and growing up around guns) as everyone else is rather silly.

  59. says

    TK-421: automatic and semi-automatic are well defined, and yet a semi-automatic handgun is very often loosely called an automatic because, come on, who has time for two extra syllables?

    Also, I don't know but I've been told that TV news has a bad habit of illustrating stories about semi-auto weapons with stock footage of someone firing a full auto.

  60. says

    Heller will, if the US doesn't become a total shitheap, be overturned someday. Plessy was.

    And, to 'go Nino' on originalism and indiv vs corporate rights, only 10% of Merika owned guns in 1775; rate wasn't much higher in 1790. That plus unregulated militias of the war, Shays' Rebellion, etc., the answer seems clear to me.

    ===

    As for 110% pro-gun folk, do you oppose tighter mental-health restriction on sales? Bans for those on the no-fly list? Closing Brady Bill loopholes?

    ===

    Ken, I'm not saying this is your ultimate stance, and I'm also saying that it's not necessarily NOT your stance, but your linguistic concern can be fetishized into the old slippery slope fallacy.

  61. jackn says

    It's just too bad that the framers didn't think to include some wording such as "really good regulations" concerning the right to own guns. I guess they didn't have the word "regulation" in the olden days.

  62. Jordan says

    And, to 'go Nino' on originalism and indiv vs corporate rights, only 10% of Merika owned guns in 1775; rate wasn't much higher in 1790.

    You're citing the thoroughly discredited figure from Michael Bellesiles, aren't you?

  63. says

    Only marginally on-topic, but did anyone else see an obvious flaw in Trump's recent pronouncement that people on terror watch lists shouldn't be allowed to buy guns? (Quite apart from the fact that if I understand correctly the Orlando shooter wasn't actually on a watch list at the time.) It seems to me that the process would go something like this:

    Step 1: make it illegal for people on terror watch lists to have guns. If at all possible, establish a precedent saying that this is constitutional.

    Step 2: put everybody who tries to buy a gun on a terror watch list. (Excluding police, I guess, because they're obviously trustworthy.)

    I mean, dammit, the whole point of those watch lists is that there's nothing resembling due process. That's bad enough when it comes to no-fly lists.

    (Step 3: make it illegal for people on terror watch lists to post on the internet or otherwise speak in public. Because if you can sidestep the second amendment, why not the first? And we don't want people who are probably terrorists talking to our children, do we?)

  64. ravenshrike says

    Jonathan Waite says
    I want this because all America's problems with guns can be traced to the appalling amounts of money made by the firearms industry and the political power that money buys. Gun control legislation is just putting a plaster over the cancer. Sure, there would be a black market, but without mass production it would be a fraction of the legal and illegal firearms market now. And you'd get hobbyists cobbling together their own guns from plans on the internet, and some of them wouldd manage not to blow themselves up, but that just can't be helped. Some people will always want guns. This way, fewer of them would have them, and that means fewer people shot.

    Apparently in your universe, guns are only manufactured in the US. Amazing. Even if guns were outlawed, and all the guns in US hands vanished tomorrow, the Narcos* would be resupplying US criminals within the week. Withing the year the criminal supply of weapons would be within 50% of current supply, within 10, virtually indistinguishable. Moreover, since weapons would be moving North anyway, full auto weapons would suddenly become a lot more popular among criminals Not to mention, not blowing yourself up is trivial unless you're manufacturing the primers and powder, but there's more than enough industrial capacity in the US to make potassium chlorate primers and various types of modern gunpowder with relative ease and safety.

    Pete says
    countries who have successfully limited firearm ownership and which have similar legal traditions to the US. eg Australia's clear and straightforward descriptions of firearm types. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Australia#Firearms_categories. It's not like the US has to completely reinvent the wheel here..

    Fun fact, in the decade following the Port Arthur laws and the nearly continuous liberalization of US gun laws and significant increase in supply, homicide rates fell faster in the US than in Australia.

    SocraticGadfly says

    And, to 'go Nino' on originalism and indiv vs corporate rights, only 10% of Merika owned guns in 1775; rate wasn't much higher in 1790. That plus unregulated militias of the war, Shays' Rebellion, etc., the answer seems clear to me.

    ===

    As for 110% pro-gun folk, do you oppose tighter mental-health restriction on sales? Bans for those on the no-fly list? Closing Brady Bill loopholes?

    Citation Needed on that 10% rate. Also, if it includes slaves in the headcount, that's more than a little bit disingenuous. If the names Bellesiles, Kellerman, or Hemenway are anywhere near your cite, I will laugh at you. As for the other part of your post, maybe, no, no. I mean, the argument could be made for not making private sales at a gun show. Maybe. Of course, the sane answer to that would be to have the BATFE open up NICS to everyone for free rather than just FFLs. Given the amount of non-hunters who pay conservation taxes, it's only fair that some of that money gets funneled back into something useful for all gun owners.

    *Fingers crossed that someone is stupid enough to bring up the 90% Mexican crime guns statistic in an attempt to rebut my argument.

  65. says

    Answer me this, 2nd Amdt absolutists …. it says 'bear arms,' no 'carry guns.'

    So, since the've been outlawed, why ca't I carry a nuke? Since the US hasn't signed the Convention against Land Mines, why can't I mine my yard against burglars?

  66. mcinsand says

    One problem is the tone set by the extremes on both sides. If you want to shut down my ears, just use several keywords to passive-aggressively demean anyone that has a different opinion: reasonable, common sense, sensible, etc. Also, some people actually pay attention to multiple voices, so don't try to con us by insisting that all of the other side wants to either legalize everything or nothing.

    As for specifics, an good starting point might be the National Firearms Act , particularly the short list of what is covered . This isn't all-inclusive, it doesn't include magazines, but this is a good place to start a discussion on what would constitute an assault weapon. Items on this list require added scrutiny and paperwork before a civilian could obtain them… which is, of course, another discussion jumping board. The list may be longer than some would like and too short for others, but at least the conditions are specific. Also, unlike the legislation from the 1990s, this list has to do with actual function, as opposed to overly focusing on cosmetic appearance.

    On that short list, item 3 is worth considering when approaching the issues of magazines and shoulder stocks. As it was explained to me, the SBR (short barreled rifle) is a different category because it has more power than a pistol, while the shorter barrel allows for easier maneuvering in a confined area such as a building interior. In other words, it's more suitable for offensive use. Shortening the barrel reduces the power significantly, but it does make reorienting inside faster. Should the stock length still be outside of the scope of overall rifle length? The magazine issue has had voices from both sides here, but magazine specifications could find their way onto the list. Suppressors ('silencers') are on the list, but that might be more of a result of TV and public demand (…or not, since we're trying to have a discussion). They don't work anything like the way they work on TV, and the main effect is to reduce hearing damage.

    A big question for me is what happens to people that have legally purchased items after any legislation has passed. That concerns me a lot. What can happen with one category of property could happen with another. I might like my manual shift transmission, but what if a group decides that automatics enable more attention to the road, and manuals distract the driver?

  67. Jordan says

    Having nuclear weapons or landmines on your property imposes significant risks to bystanders. Having an AR-15 in your closet doesn't.

  68. Matthew Cline says

    @Timothy A Wiseman:

    … no one sane would say it guarantees a right of personal ownership of nuclear weapons.

    You can take my nuclear bomb when you pry it from my glowing dead fingers.

  69. ravenshrike says

    Here's the thing Socratic, you want to pass a constitutional amendment banning the ownership of nuclear weapons, you'd be hard pressed to find a significant number to disagree with you Maybe one in five hundred. So go ahead, do so. As for land mines, they probably should be legal under a strict reading of the 2nd. But again, kept strictly to mines, that would be another simple amendment to pass. The real question is why people are so loathe to avail themselves of the proper tools in order to address their concerns.

  70. says

    Jordan, "castle doctrine" says stay off my property, at least if posted, so the anti-mines argument fails right there. Besides, BOTH your arguments are purely leal ones, NOT constitutional ones,

  71. ravenshrike says

    Castle doctrine says that you can defend your property when present. So if you die or are not present you are no longer allowed to do so. Since the function of a mine is not predicated on you being alive or present to kill someone, they wouldn't fall under the castle doctrine.

  72. James Lovejoy says

    Jordan says
    JUNE 16, 2016 AT 6:35 PM

    Having nuclear weapons or landmines on your property imposes significant risks to bystanders. Having an AR-15 in your closet doesn't.

    Citation needed

  73. says

    Raven, why, then, are so many loathe to look at the actual original intent of the 2nd, if the claim to originalists, a fig leaf worn selectively, I know. :)

  74. Psmith says

    So, since the've been outlawed, why ca't I carry a nuke?

    If you can afford it, rock and roll.

    (As a practical matter, this is so far outside the Overton window it may as well not be a question. For now.).

    Since the US hasn't signed the Convention against Land Mines, why can't I mine my yard against burglars?

    There's some interesting case law on the specific legality of booby-trapping your house regardless of implement, so you'd have to be on the right side of that. Otherwise, carry on.

  75. Mikee says

    RE: OrderoftheQuaff

    "In 1787 when this text was written, simple manual firearms were the most powerful weapons known. The authors didn't intend"

    Have you ever actually read what the authors intended for the 2nd Amendment?

    http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/history/the-founding-fathers-on-the-second-amendment

    Here's a very, very, very small sample of their thoughts on gun ownership:

    “At a time, when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke, and maintain the liberty, which we have derived from our ancestors. But the manner of doing it, to answer the purpose effectually, is the point in question. That no man should scruple, or hesitate a moment, to use arms in defence of so valuable a blessing, on which all the good and evil of life depends, is clearly my opinion. Yet arms, I would beg leave to add, should be the last resource, the dernier resort. Addresses to the throne, and remonstrances to Parliament, we have already, it is said, proved the inefficacy of. How far, then, their attention to our rights and privileges is to be awakened or alarmed, by starving their trade and manufacturers, remains to be tried.” – Letter to George Mason, Apr. 5, 1769; The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889). Vol. III (1758-1775)

    “[W]hat country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.” – Letter to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787; The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5) Vol. 5

    “The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. And while a single nation refuses to lay them down, it is proper that all should keep them up. Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them.” – Thoughts on Defensive War, 1775; The Writings of Thomas Paine, Collected and Edited by Moncure Daniel Conway (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1894) Volume 1, Chapter XII

    “O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?” – Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778; “Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution,” Jonathan Elliot, editor, vol. 3, pp. 50-53

    “… but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29, Concerning the Militia, Independent Journal, January 9, 1788; The Federalist (The Gideon Edition), (1818), Edited with an Introduction, Reader’s Guide, Constitutional Cross-reference, Index, and Glossary by George W. Carey and James McClellan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001)

    They didn't intend for us to have weapons to hunt, or to protect ourselves from other citizens, or for sport. They, all of them, intended for the 2nd Amendment to be a safety valve against our own government.

    While I'm fine with banning private tank, nuke, warplane, bomb, and machine gun ownership, it still flies in the face of what the authors of our Constitution intended.

  76. Mike says

    California's assault weapons ban is a perfect example of this vagueness leading to creeping definitions. Originally the law looked almost identical to the federal ban. Now it includes any rifle chambered in .50 bmg, pistols that accept magazines outside of the pistol grip, etc. And the criteria grow regularly.

    It's so complex now we have to consult a flowchart

  77. Shawn McManus says

    TK-421,

    A "magazine" fully encloses the bullets, such that you might find on the M-16. It detaches and bullets are fed through them. They have a small plate that is spring-loaded and feed the bullets into the chamber / barrel of the firearm. They may be reused thousands of times. Nearly all modern rifles use these.

    A "clip" is a thin piece of metal that is fed into a firearms built-in magazine. With clips, the bullets are exposed until loaded. Clips a thin pieces of metal that wear out anywhere between a few to a few hundred times used. These started to fade from popular use after WWII.

    There is also a "stripper clip" which is similar to a clip but never loaded into a firearm. These are used to handle larger amounts of ammunition – typically 10 bullets – at a time, usually to load a magazine more quickly. These are generally only used by those in the military. They add cost and time to the manufacturing process.

  78. says

    Quaff is damn skippy. The founders also didn't know about puters, and all the warrant-related and other 4th Amendment issues that involves, and 1st Amendment-related issues, not that we'd evolve humanitarian attitudes re the 8th Amdt, or that states-righters and RWNJs would wave the 10th Amdt to hide the 9th,

    (among other things.)

  79. Trent says

    Nothing like a statistic. After all, numbers never lie, but liars can figure. It would be trivial to create a statistic that limited American gun ownership in the late 1700's to less than 10 percent. Simply pick a nice urban area like New York or a Nice slave state By specifically excluding the rural areas, which at the time contained the bulk of the American population or by only including rural areas that were slave states (slaves and indentured servants were obviously bared from ownership) you could easily concoct such a number and even though the number doesn't lie, the person that came up with it certainly did.

    There were laws enacted by the states shortly after the revolution that required that every able bodied male between 18 and 50 to report upon the state calling them and supply themselves and a rifle with 25 rounds of ammunition (either paper patch or ball and powder) of the same caliber as the rifle. Rifles were common, hell the whiskey rebellion wouldn't have even been possible without them and Washington had to raise an army to put that rebellion down. The founders considered gun ownership essential for the states to defend themselves from aggressors, both foreign and domestic. It's why the original constitution banned a standing army because they didn't want a force with the arms and numbers to be able to enact a coup by out gunning the states. They wanted the states to always be able to raise sufficient forces to defend themselves.

    In fact this was the reasoning the Supreme court used to allow the government to regulate private ownership, that is that the intent of the 2nd was for the feds not to be able to ban the states from equipping and raising militia, not for private ownership (while ignoring that such an ability would only come from private ownership). Fortunately interpretations and attitudes change, and the 2nd amendment has evolved steadily within the American public to mean private ownership. At this point I don't think the court could overturn that decision anymore and were more than a decade late in making it.

  80. Sami says

    It doesn't have to be that hard, I think. If you look at Australia's National Firearms Agreement (because we, too, have states, and tightening gun control in 1996 required getting some interstate agreement about what the laws would, more-or-less, cover), it divides firearms into categories by functional elements:

    Category A: Rimfire rifles (not semi-automatic), circuit loaded firearms. shotguns (not pump-action or semi-automatic), air rifles including semi automatic, and paintball gun. A "genuine reason" must be provided for a Category A firearm.
    Category B: Centrefire rifles including bolt action, pump action, circuit loaded, and lever action (not semi-automatic), muzzleloading firearms made after 1 January 1901.

    I would argue that America could hit a nice compromise by just using the Australian definitions and moving the categories up a bit. e.g. where Australia has "you must have a Genuine Reason" America could have "okay fine" and where Australia has "you must be the Australian Defense Force" America could have "You must be the US Army, Navy or Air Force" because CIVILIANS DON'T NEED THOSE.

    In fairness, I believe most of the R/E Restricted weapons are also extremely heavily restricted in the US, because seriously, civilians do not need machine guns. (Except that flamethrowers are included in that category in Australia, and not the US, but we don't have a killer bee threat, so, you know, legit. As flamethrowers generally have an effective range of "lol" they're probably not a major concern.)

    "Assault rifle" is meaningless; rimfire vs centrefire and semi-automatic vs not are meaningful distinctions.

    Higher categories also draw distinctions about bullet calibre and magazine size, but you get the idea, I imagine.

  81. mcinsand says

    Hmm… I thought I submitted a long-ish message last night, but may have been too sleepy to properly post. Either that or I made statement that would have had the same effect as asking about shouting fire in a crowded theater. Anyway… I do have a comment to make about some of the nuclear weapon comments. Those are already covered: destructive devices. If you can afford to build or buy one, then the $200 tax stamp might be trivial, but the approvals would be a problem. Just filling them out for such a request would get a visit or two from at least one three letter agency.

  82. SeanF says

    Jonathan Waite: Best of all, with the arms industry gone, there would be no new firearms available to be used in war. In a hundred years or so we might even find something better to do with our time.

    Right, because governments wouldn't be able to mass-produce weapons on their own without private industry.

    On a side note, the problem with magazine capacity limits – much like almost all gun control proposals – is that it causes more problems for innocents than criminals. The nutcase who's going to go shoot up a school or nightclub can (and will) load up his pockets with as many magazines as he wants, and changing them only takes a second. Whereas the person with a weapon for self-defense is likely only going to have the one magazine that's loaded in the gun.

    So you've limited the ammunition available to the innocent defender, but done nothing to limit the mass murderer.

  83. Total says

    After all, numbers never lie, but liars can figure. It would be trivial to create a statistic that limited American gun ownership in the late 1700's to less than 10 percent. Simply pick a nice urban area like New York or a Nice slave state By specifically excluding the rural areas, which at the time contained the bulk of the American population or by only including rural areas that were slave states (slaves and indentured servants were obviously bared from ownership) you could easily concoct such a number and even though the number doesn't lie, the person that came up with it certainly did

    Well, they could, but did the person *actually* do that, or have you just made up your mind that it's WRONG WRONG WRONG?

  84. rastajenk says

    We have to pass a gun control law so we can see what's in the gun control law.

  85. Dantes says

    "CIVILIANS DON'T NEED THOSE".

    The definition of a right does not include the word "need".

    The Australian gun "buyback", so beloved by gun banners, was estimated to have resulted in the confiscation of perhaps 20% of the guns which were banned, which means 80% of them are still out there in Australian hands.

    All of the bans proposed so far in the US do not involve confiscation.

    http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/25/the-australia-gun-control-fallacy/

    The other allegedly salutory effects of Australia's gun ban have been disputed. True, Australia has not had a recent mass shooting but it is also true that Australia is a more homogenous society than the US, and is not letting in the numbers of illegal aliens and refugees from jihadist countries that the US is.

    As for the lethality of whatever rifle you want to define as an assault rifle vs "good guns" like pump action shotguns, you might want to reconsider that definition in light of a shotgun loaded with double 00 buckshot especially in close quarters. Practically every shotgun in the USA is just a hacksaw blade away from being an illegal sawed off shotgun.

    Arguing about the lethality of guns is a fool's errand, when the emphasis should be on the people who use or misuse the guns. But backround checks are not a panacea either.

    Registration, then confiscation is the rule when government makes a record of a firearm purchase. And what happens if a president decides, with a stroke of his pen, to just not fund the backround check system and instead diverts that money to some other use, effectively shutting down all gun dealers and legal transfers? Hmmm?

    https://www.gunowners.org/fs2011b.htm

    Even in countries with far stricter restrictions on civilian ownership of firearms, there are mass shootings and mayhem. The unintended consequences of various gun bans and confiscations, even if successful, be unlikely to reduce civilian deaths at the hands of criminals or terrorists and might result in even more death as terrorists in particular would turn to even more lethal means of destruction. Do I really have to list those?

  86. Knoxville says

    From the footnote: " 1. It's certainly difficult [defining assault weapons] — past bans often led to gun manufacturers making minor cosmetic changes to evade the law."

    That is a thoroughly ridiculous sentence for an attorney to write. People who grow marijuana deep in the forest to avoid detection are trying to evade the law. People who hide income to avoid taxes are trying to evade the law. Politicians who set up personal email servers to avoid having their dealings available through FOIA requests are trying to evade the law.

    If congress passes a law saying "guns with some combination of features X, Y, & Z are banned", gun manufacturers who alter their existing products so that they do not have the banned combination of features X, Y, & Z are COMPLYING with the law.

  87. Jim in Conroe says

    Yes, what you suggest is part of the argument. As gun owner, my side of the argument is that nothing that Australia has done is acceptable in the US.

    Firearms are already classified in the US and certain classifications are forbidden to civilian ownership. For example machine guns have been illegal without a complex and expensive licensing and registration process since 1934; those manufactured since 1986 are absolutely forbidden.

    Whether breaking things down like shotguns into break-open, pump, or semi automatic is useful or not is problematic.

    If you want to see how complicated such a system can get, look at this flow chart for purchasing a rifle in California. https://www.calguns.net/caawid/flowchart.pdf

  88. Jim in Conroe says

    "At this point I don’t think the court could overturn that decision anymore and were more than a decade late in making it."

    I believe that once you achieve a progressive majority on the Supreme Court they would loose their scruples over any hesitation to overturn a precedent setting decision. Just my opinion, of course. However, this fear would have a chilling effect on bringing any appeals to the Supreme Court, if it were felt that a law or decision in a lower court infringed the Second Amendment.

  89. Jim in Conroe says

    Well, in spite of my hesitancy to criticize the source, which I characterize as a progressive tactic when confronted by a factual argument, I would just point out that the Islamic Monthly article author makes an argument, but has no facts or research to reference as the basis for his conclusions.

    I could equally make the argument that very few Americans own automobiles, because they are expensive, require maintenance, and "are heavy, cumbersome and dangerous to operate, requiring the user to have considerable skill."

    My counterpoint would be that firearms were so essential to the safety and well being of the American frontier family, who constituted the majority of Americans in Colonial times, that no home could be without them. This demand drove blacksmiths to manufacture guns and their owners to take the time and expense to maintain them. Shot and even powder could be manufactured from basic materials commonly available.

  90. Hi Shadow says

    Um, find someone who knows guns, ask them to quick fire and quick reload their fastest gun to show you how long it takes to reload.

    That's the problem, isn't it? Like every industry, the makers of these weapons have used every technology at their disposal to make them as easy and as effortless to use as possible. Under the nightclub scenario in Orlanda, a moron with 3 minutes to spare can learn all he needs to learn to kill a room full of people. No specialists required.

  91. John C. says

    Regarding what the Founders may have thought regarding modern weaponry, you must remember that they were mostly wealthy and well-educated, and that at the time, and for over a century after, improvements in personal weaponry were considered desireable. At the time of the Bill of Rights, the Lorenzoni Repeating Flintlock system was a century old, and there is at least one surviving one made in America that predates the Revolution, and multibarrel and superimposed repeaters dated to matchlock days. In addition, there was a Girandoni repeating air rifle (multishot AND silent, and designed in 1779) taken on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. So the Founders would have expected that weapons would improve, and probably would have been surprised if they hadn't.

    As for more-powerful weapons, the Constitution specifically allows for the issuing of Letters of Marque to license privateers, and what was a privateer of the time but a privately-owned mobile rapid-fire artillery platform?

    But in my opinion the Founders would probably have drawn the line on mines and nukes, had they thought of the possibility; not because they are powerful but because they are indiscriminate.

  92. says

    This post by Ken White should be assigned reading for every student in America. They need to be warned that some people would bilk us of our freedom using the most dishonest of tactics, redefining words, shifting their definitions so subtly we likely won't notice.

    This tactic is even worse than burying some odious provision in an End Users License Agreement or the fine print of a contract. Those documents, at least, give some notice to anyone who takes the time to read them.

    The tactic causes harm which too often goes unnoticed. For example, if a survey defines "sexual assault" to include sexist remarks, it will result in headlines about the high rate of sexual assaults. The story below the headline likely will not mention the twisted definition because the author of the story did not know.

    The term "safe" used to imply "safe from physical harm" but some now would use it to mean "safe from hurt feelings." Of course, they don't mention how they have tweaked the meaning.

    We should be teaching the next generation that someone who is not faithful with words cannot be trusted to be honest about anything.

    – John Peccavi

  93. Derrill says

    I am going to personally force everyone on earth – for or against gun control – to read this post and understand it.

    (Note: I'm not actually going to do that, but I AM going to share it on all the social medias.)

  94. Hasdrubal says

    The problem I have with gun control measures short of (near) complete bans is that I cannot see how they can even be theoretically effective in any meaningful sense. My premises are:

    There is a right to defend yourself effectively and with deadly force. I don't think we could get a majority of Americans to agree that you don't have the right to protect yourself from attackers. There might be disagreement about which conditions allow you to use deadly force, but the basic premise, that you are allowed to do something to protect yourself exists for most people.

    The functionality that makes a pistol effective for self defense is identical to the functionality that makes a rifle effective. Namely, the ability to shoot a large number of aimed shots in a short amount of time. So long as you don't need to distract your aim between shots to chamber a round (i.e. a semi automatic weapon as opposed to a bolt action rifle,) and as long as you can reload reasonably quickly, you can shoot a lot of people. But those are also the features that make it possible to have a high probability of actually hitting an attacker in the stress of the moment.

    The functionality that makes rifles superior weapons of war isn't really relevant when it comes to crime. Rifles are used in the military because they're accurate beyond the 10 or so meters that pistols are accurate to. Also, the high velocity bullets are more effective at penetrating body armor that civilians are not wearing.

    The vast majority of gun crimes are committed by people using pistols. Even if a policy were somehow able to completely prevent mass shootings, that wouldn't change the murder rate or murder rate with guns at all. At the same time, the features that make pistols effective weapons for self defense are the exact same features that make rifles useful for mass shootings. So, I don't see any real effect on mass shootings unless the rules around pistols are changed along with the rules around rifles.

    For these reasons, I don't see any policy focusing on rifles having any effect on gun violence. The only way I can see of a policy change affecting mass shootings is if it targets every gun that can shoot multiple times: Not just semiautomatic rifles and automatic pistols, but also pump shotguns, lever action rifles and revolvers. And, the only policy that I can see even theoretically effective against the vast majority of gun crimes is a policy focused on removing access to pistols. But, as long as we accept lethal force as legitimate for self defense, we're going to have to accept pistols because they're the only viable option for self defense.

    So, when I hear people advocating for stricter laws around "assault weapons" or anything relating to rifles, I can only think they're somewhere on the spectrum between "don't understand the nature of crime" and "trying to set up something that is doomed to fail as an excuse to say 'we tried, we compromised in good faith, it didn't work so now we have a legitimate claim to ban everything.'" The only real difference between the two extremes I can see is the intentionality of the long term result: Lesser policies didn't work so the only real option is to ban everything.

    To me, the reason I think it's worth fighting against even the policies that won't impact me, is that I honestly don't think they'll actually reduce crime or violence in any significant way. Guns are a tool of crime, but they're not the cause of crime. You won't eliminate crime by removing guns any more than you'll eliminate poverty and people living in squalor by building apartment buildings for them to live in rent free. We have to address the root cause of the crime and violence, not just prohibit the tools. And I can't believe the root cause of most gun violence is the same as the root cause of mass shootings like Orlando, San Bernadino, or the school shootings.

  95. Corey says

    @Chris

    "I'm all for limits on magazine size. I can't be certain, but I would bet that numbers like 49 dead and 53 wounded would be quite a bit lower if the shooter had to reload after every shot. "

    Let's put this in perspective, the numbers you list above would require a reload of said "assault weapon" a minimum of 4 times assuming a 30rd mag. And that would mean he missed very little which could be possible but not probable. Regardless, at this assumed minimum times of reload, if he was skilled there would still be 2-3 seconds of time per reload where his focus was not "on the room" but on reloading. As someone who would be in that club, you should figure that you are for all intents and purposes already dead and in those precious few seconds rush the shooter as you have nothing to lose. You do in fact have everything to gain in that instance as you could possibly save lives, including your own. The mag size in this instance makes no difference when people cannot equalize the situation. Quiet Lurcker is correct in that the 2nd Amendment is quite clear in that it SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. The laws in FL disarm the people unconstitutionally. When a crazed lunatic decides to commit this crime, the only way to stop his force is by equal force. If one person in that club would have been armed, there would be a good chance that most of those people killed/wounded would be alive and unhurt.

    On another topic unrelated to Chris' comment, the police response was horrendous. Three hours before they stormed the club? I don't know why we insist on being a nation of sheep waiting for the state to save us. Why is the solution to all of our problems more government intervention and laws on the books? As if doing more of the same will be different this time. The only solution is for people to take responsibility for themselves and their loved ones security. The only way to do that in the world we live in is to arm yourself and learn how to use it. If you do not you are leaving your life in hands that aren't yours.

  96. Ashe says

    @Hasdrubal

    So, when I hear people advocating for stricter laws around "assault weapons" or anything relating to rifles, I can only think they're somewhere on the spectrum between "don't understand the nature of crime" and "trying to set up something that is doomed to fail as an excuse to say 'we tried, we compromised in good faith, it didn't work so now we have a legitimate claim to ban everything.'" The only real difference between the two extremes I can see is the intentionality of the long term result: Lesser policies didn't work so the only real option is to ban everything.

    If I may present a third option: The advocacy of a ban or stricter controls around "assault weapons" is viewed as a first step. The simple reality is that the problem of gun violence in the US is far to large with far too many contributing factors for a single law or single act to reverse it. But, and using this as an example, if the AR-15 has become the gun of choice for people wanting to go out in a blaze of glory and take a few dozen people with them, then it becomes reasonable to focus on this one small piece of the problem. Obviously, however, a ban on assault weapons would not end the debate. The calls for more total bans will not end with such a law.

    Also, lets face it, nobody in middle class suburbs actually *cares* about inner city violence as they rarely have to deal with it. Nobody actually wants to deal with the societal issues, or the psychological issues at the same time – even though they are also necessary prerequisites. American society hasn't reached a point where it is ready or capable of tackling these issues.

  97. arity says

    I think the best way to elevate the discourse is to steer right into the dumb. We join them and we demand a ban on "long guns." Then someone just has to make a 20 foot gun. Any other gun, by relative comparison, is no longer "long" and thus not banned. Then we turn around and say "now do you see why you need to be specific?"

  98. fse says

    I support the argument that the United States should enact a total ban on civilians owning firearms.

    Oh, I don't support the ban. I support the argument.

    You don't the support the ban, yet the title of your post is, "In Support Of A Total Ban on Civilians Owning Firearms".

  99. JohnM says

    Just a FYI, not weighing in on the pro/con side here – I don't think several posters here understand what/how a (box) magazine works.

    The part of the firearm that the magazine is placed in is generally a rectangular box, with no top (that's where the bolt will go by and strip the round from the magazine) and no bottom, which is where the magazine is fed into. Nothing about the firearm itself limits the cartridge size of the magazine itself – it can be built from any size to take from 1 to 1000's of rounds.

    Magazines also happen to be very simple devices. A metal or plastic rectangular box, with no top (bolt strips the rounds from the top). Inside the magazine is a simple spring and a plate that pushes up against the cartridges that are loaded into it. Anybody with access to a high school machine shop could make one.

    So – magazines can be built to accommodate any number of rounds, any weapon that accept a (box) magazine won't care about the number of rounds in the magazine, and magazines are very simple in design and to make.

    So any ban would depend on the cooperation of the citizens to actually work. Ignoring the fact that the cat is already out of the bag, even if everyone turned in all existing magazine, a law isn't going to prevent the will or ability to quickly and easily turn out magazines.

  100. Justin says

    If I'm in favor of banning everything that can plausibly be described as an "assault weapon" (which I think is still well to the right of many gun control advocates), why should I be obligated to define the term? Let those who think that's too broad come up with the relevant carve outs. One obvious benefit is that it would avoid this problem:

    It's certainly difficult — past bans often led to gun manufacturers making minor cosmetic changes to evade the law.

    I'm just guessing here, but I'd imagine statutory references to "gun" generally go undefined and I'm not aware of much confusion over the precise domain of objects over which that term should apply. Why must "assault weason" be any different?

  101. Argentina Orange says

    The most important feature of an assault weapon?

    It's black.

    Americans are such racists, smh.

  102. Guy who looks things up says

    @Hasdrubal

    Guns are a tool of crime, but they're not the cause of crime.

    They contribute. I know of an abusive husband who shot and killed his estranged wife and shot and blinded the woman who had been sheltering her.

    It seems pretty fucking obvious to me that they would have a much better chance of being alive and well if the man's guns had been confiscated when the wife took out the restraining order.

  103. Hasdrubal says

    @Ashe

    If I may present a third option: The advocacy of a ban or stricter controls around "assault weapons" is viewed as a first step. …. But, and using this as an example, if the AR-15 has become the gun of choice for people wanting to go out in a blaze of glory and take a few dozen people with them, then it becomes reasonable to focus on this one small piece of the problem.

    That's why I used "spectrum," not "two possibilities" or something like that. I'd put that position pretty close to the " it didn't work so now we have a legitimate claim to ban everything" extreme, though. It's pushing a policy that isn't expected to work, in order to create momentum in support for a more aggressive ban. And, I'm too much of a pragmatist to believe focusing on AR type weapons, or any rifle, has even a chance to make an impact on any time of gun violence. They may be what the cool kids are using to shoot up schools, but pistols are a near perfect substitute. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe they're something in their make up that means most school shooters and wannabe jihadists won't go on rampages because they can't use their favorite weapon from Call of Duty, but it will take some really impressive research to convince me that's even a remote possibility.

    And still, that won't impact the vast majority of the, what is it now? 1,000 mass shootings in 1,200 days? Those are mostly crimes of poverty or passion and most of those are still committed with pistols.

    @JohnM Didn't someone get a working AR compatible magazine from a 3D printer a few years back? That's a sign of how quixotic it is to try to eliminate some of these things through regulation.

  104. Ingot says

    Are police officers a special type of citizen, with rights that normal citizens don't have?
    Are soldiers a special type of citizen, with rights that normal citizens don't have?

  105. Hasdrubal says

    @Guy who looks things up:

    It seems pretty fucking obvious to me that they would have a much better chance of being alive and well if the man's guns had been confiscated when the wife took out the restraining order.

    You know, that might be a legitimately effective gun control measure: Remove access to guns via a restraining order. It's particularized to individuals who have shown an actual reason to be considered a threat to another specific person. Also, I think restraining orders are issued in an adversarial process where both sides can have representation. It's also not a ban that focuses on irrelevant features of some guns while leaving other guns that function in the exact same way alone, and it doesn't implicate the rights of entire classes of people since it's decided on a case by case basis. (And aren't restraining orders generally temporary, only in effect while the person is considered a threat? Or are they lifetime bans?)

    I would suggest that it become a special provision of restraining orders, not something that automatically goes into force. It might also require a public defender if the person on the receiving end can't afford council, because we're talking about removing a Constitutional right. And I don't know what kind of burden of proof (or whatever the hurdle for things like restraining orders is called,) there should be before it can go into effect.

    It sounds like an idea worth exploring. Domestic violence is a real and significant issue, and I can see a mechanism through which this policy could mitigate murders related to that (and other situations where restraining orders show up.) But I'm not a lawyer, so I'd be curious about what a real lawyer would think of such a proposal.

  106. Sinij says

    "We live in a country in which we have been panicked into giving the government more and more power to protect us from harm, and that power is most often not used for the things we were told, but to solidify and expand previously existing government power. "

    Absolutely!

    Now, I don't think that a personal firearm would be an effective tool in reversing this process, even if it reaches extreme. Unless you define "effective" along Syria lines.

  107. Trent says

    Back in the 1950's the NRA actually supported gun control measures. It's the reason guns have serial numbers and you have to register the weapon when you purchase it. The NRA stopped supporting gun control and actively opposed all efforts for the same reason that's now been articulated multiple times in this thread. That is that gun-control advocates aren't actually interested in stopping crime or murders. They are only interested in preventing gun ownership. All gun control measures no matter how carefully crafted are simply stepping stones to an outright ban.

    For example you see this in comments like the comment that all AR weapons should be banned. It doesn't matter that with such an action all the shootings would then just move to another weapon. There is no consideration for why criminals choose AR weapons (being one of the most popular guns in America). It's not much different than suggesting that the way to stop car theft is to ban the Camry (the most stolen vehicle). This is why the NRA and most gun owners oppose almost all gun regulations. They aren't narrowly targeted at illegal use of firearms they are targeted at everyone. And the honesty to admit that within the gun-control community is almost totally absent, which is one of the things Ken pointed out. From the gun-control perspective these regulations aren't intent to stop criminals, they are a slow march to an outright ban on private ownership and whether or not the ban would be effective isn't even relevant.

    And that's where we are at with almost all gun-control proposals. They are over-broad attempts to regulate private ownership and very few on the gun-control side will even admit that. For example, the restraining order issue mentioned above. It's already possible in (at least some) states to get a restraining order that takes away someone's guns in the case of a domestic violence restraining order. Even though these orders are routinely abused by both sides in divorce proceedings to attempt to sway judges.

    I'm getting off topic, my main point is that there can be no discussion of gun-control when the gun-control side is only interested in a total ban, not measures that reduce criminal use of guns. It's why the NRA opposes all gun regulations and it's why you'll find most gun owners oppose these regulations as well. They aren't targeted to unlawful use and very few even work. Most attempts fall into the category of banning the Camry to stop car theft, that is they won't do whats claimed and you're harming millions to stop the actions of a couple criminals in that million.

    Fortunately we've got the second amendment in this country or we might have already did what the UK and Australia did and banned guns outright before the NRA could gain the power it now has to block this kind of legislation. As a gun owner I don't like the NRA, I would support some very narrowly targeted gun control measures, but I recognize the vast majority of the gun control side isn't actually interested in narrowly targeting anything, or even whether the measures will work.

  108. Sami says

    Dantes: While I see what you mean by "a right is not a need", ownership of machine guns is also not a right. Certainly not by individual civilians. The Second Amendment makes specific references to "a well-regulated militia" in THE SAME SENTENCE, and it is mind-boggling how comprehensively American gun advocates ignore that.

    But hey, if complete sentences were so important why would they use a comma?

    The rest of your argument about Australia is an impressive flail at dismissing evidence, were it not also kind of fucking insulting. Australia is not "more homogenous" than America, particularly when you take into account that:

    a) almost all mass shootings are perpetrated by white men

    and

    b) even your latest, slightly-brown-ish shooter was BORN IN NEW YORK STATE

    Approximately 27.7% of the Australian population was born outside of Australia; America is approaching a "record high" that still isn't going to top 15%.

    Our population is significantly *smaller*, but we nonetheless had fairly regular mass shootings here until we tightened the laws in 1996 after we had a really bad one. It's not like we only ever had one and therefore it's meaningless we haven't had one in the last twenty years – we used to have them, and now we don't.

    But oh well. You have a right to bear arms, and therefore, that means ANY AND ALL WEAPONS, and it's an unconstitutional travesty that you're not allowed your own SAMs. The fact that you'd still have an un-infringed right to "bear arms" even if the only legal firearms were flintlock pistols is irrelevant, you want ALL THE GUNS.

    I would respect gun advocates more if they'd just admit *that*. They like guns and they want guns.

    Also if they didn't make up bullshit about my country to try and pretend that gun control DOESN'T WORK even though it obviously does.

  109. SmokeJaguar says

    Ken: As always a solid posting, and worthy of consideration.

    To the crowds:

    a) Magazine, clip and stripper clip have been well defined, so no need to continue, as have semi-automatic and automatic.

    b) I would respectfully disagree that "high capacity magazine" is a well defined term. Many would argue that this is a capacity of 10 cartridges, some argue for 6/7/8/x. Glock produces standard capacity magazines that hold on order of 18 cartridges in many cases. Not as a special order or item, but as a standard product. The Browning Hi Power, produced early in the 20th century had a capacity of 13 cartridges, and remains a fine weapon.

    c) For those advocating magazine capacity limits, I recommend you good "Jerry Miculek" and learn that you can reload a six shot revolver extremely quickly.

    d) From a practical sense, everyone forgets that the English and Australians have traditionally been subjects of the crown and not citizens. They lack many of the rights we have in the United States. For those who do enjoy the concept, you are still free to leave the country if you desire.

    e) For those advocating that the 2nd Amendment covered only muskets, please consider that the 1st Amendment covered only speech. Not email, not art, and certainly not covering one's self in chocolate sauce at tax payer expense.

    So…I guess that I am agreeing with Ken and others that a ban without definition is both useless and a step towards even greater abuse by the Government. Finally, let's not forget that Senator Feinstein and others proudly announced that if they could have banned all firearms in 1994, they would have…I believe that the quote was similar to "if we'd had the support, we would have told the American people to turn them all in". So, no, gun banning fears are not necessarily overstated.

  110. Jim in Conroe says

    The issue of the Second Amendment applying to individuals, rather than militias, was settled in favor of the individual by the Supreme Court's Heller decision in 2008.

  111. Harry Johnston says

    One obvious pragmatic solution to the problem of manufacturers "evading" the law would be to use a whitelist rather than a blacklist. That is, require all guns to be manufactured according to government-provided designs, or require new designs to be approved by a government agency.

    I would argue that this would be obviously unconstitutional, but it would resolve the specific issue of how to define "assault weapons".

  112. Jim in Conroe says

    And if they had extended the Restraining Order to baseball bats, other blunt objects, knives, his car – all the things that kill more people every year than guns.

  113. Matt says

    We can, in fact, ban all guns in this country through a straightforward and well-established process – simply amend the constitution.

    This was the precise route that was envisioned from the beginning. If there are things in our government that we do not like this is how we change it.

    Rather than trying to weasel around the issue, indirectly saying "oh yes, we should have the right, but not really" lets just stop pussy footing around. It is a right as it stands right now, and thus is deserving of our strongest protection.

    Lets decide that maybe it shouldn't be.

  114. Rob Thomas says

    I'm a stranger to this blog, so as a newcomer I'll preface by admitting that I haven't gone through all the comments yet. With that out of the way, I have a couple questions.

    First, granted that the discussion is about statutes rather than capabilities, is anyone here considering what's involved with the manufacture of firearms (even semi-automatic ones)? It may be true that it isn't always easy, but it's hardly a matter requiring an engineering degree. (JOKE: except to make a mess of it.) AR-15 upper receivers and 80% lowers, if such legislation occurred, would probably sell for triple the price; and banning them would be a whole other legal issue- and probably a more difficult one.

    Second, and somewhat related to the first- if enough people are sufficiently worried for their safety, how would law enforcement possibly deal with a percentage of the citizenry that defied the law? I already happen to know an individual in Chicago who decided that statutes are subordinate to safety- and we do already have parts of the country where the public is less likely to alert the authorities out of mistrust; couldn't that phenomenon spread?

    [EDIT: please pardon the language and the writing. I'm just a skilled tradesman- I'm not a scholar, I don't have a degree, nor am I "well-read".]

  115. DrMike says

    Limiting magazine capacity will kill.

    Experience to give above statement- 40+ yr shooting enthusiast and practicing emergency physician. Studies show trained police only hit target 12% time. Large body medical literature show wide variability in stopping power of different guns/calibers. Yes, my dears, real life is not like a movie with every round fired causing bad guys to fly backwards 10ft never to rise again. My last two gunshot patients, one shot once through heart, died but it took him 45min to do so. The other shot twelve times and was cussing at me and my team every seconds- that dirtball will live. On average, from both literature and my experience most pistol calibers need 3 rounds center mass to ensure stopping (even then they can take a while to fully bleed out)

    Back to reality now. Bad guys, especially mass shooters, go in with multiple guns and multiple magazines. They choose the time and place of the encounter. Good guys usually have what is on them, the single magazine in the gun and maybe a spare. Do the math 10 rnd mag x 12% hit rate= 1 hit with 1/3 chance stopping. Oh yeah let's be like San Bernadino and have two terrorists.

  116. Jim in Conroe says

    Except in the more benighted states, probably less than half a dozen, guns are not registered. The initial purchase is recorded with the details of the firearm, but these forms are not kept by the government by law, but everyone believes that they actually are.

    Actually, except for a few mass shootings, criminals do not choose AR's. Handguns are much more concealable and disposable, not to mention obtainable and economical.. Very few violent crimes are committed with long guns, and of these, only a fraction are with AR's.

  117. Jeff Ryan says

    (Sigh.) having fought these wars for decade now, I begin to tire.

    Look, there is nothing in the Second Amendment that would forbid registration and licensing. These two preliminary steps would go a long way toward sanity.

    It is an indisputable fact that, both prior to and following enactment of the Second Amendment, the state and federal governments conducted gun censuses. No one complained about this on Constitutional grounds, which sort of gives the lie to modern, pro-gun Second Amendment opinions right there. We are always told that the "original intent" of the Second Amendment is to preserve some sort of ludicrous "right" to own weapons as a check on the federal government. Never mind that no constitution provides for its its own destruction. The "individual right" proponents understand that it is necessary to suggest that the Constitution in fact does grant some sort of right of revolution. When considered reasonably, this is laughable. The Second Amendment cannot be read in opposition to the militia clauses of Article I. Else, we agree that the Constitution not only means nothing, and the NRA means everything. But the entire history of gun censuses gives the lie to the NRA position that registration and licensing is somehow unconstitutional. These people lie as easily as they breathe. Why does anyone listen to them?

    This is one reason the current interpretation is ludicrous. Did the Framers believe that private firearms ownership was a right? They would laughed hysterically at such an argument. If for no other reason that such an interpretation of rights didn't exist at time. Else, why would the right of citizens of the state of Pennsylvania to possess the firearms depend on the condition that anyone so desirous of possession of firearms must swear an oath of loyalty to the State of Pennsylvania? These are the "inconvenient truths" that gun nuts must spend their time refuting, because they actually have no historical basis for their position.

    To read, as the NRA doe its, the Second Amendment as providing the rights to gun nuts, with no extra-governmental ocnstariants

  118. CrimsonAvenger says

    Jeff, have you ever read the Militia Act? Did you know that YOU are a member of the militia (probably – it's possible you're too old)? As am I. And pretty much everyone else commenting on this thread who is an American citizen.

  119. Agammamon says

    Harry Johnston says

    June 17, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    One obvious pragmatic solution to the problem of manufacturers "evading" the law would be to use a whitelist rather than a blacklist. That is, require all guns to be manufactured according to government-provided designs, or require new designs to be approved by a government agency.

    I would argue that this would be obviously unconstitutional, but it would resolve the specific issue of how to define "assault weapons".

    A whitelist doesn't help anymore than the previous blacklist did. The blacklist listed all the features that made a firearm an 'assault weapon'. Then it became apparent that those features were irrelevant (bayonet lugs and flash hiders) to the weapon's lethality (no one was using bayonets – hell, the US military doesn't even use bayonets and the M-16 would probably break if you tried to stab someone with it) or had neglible effect (collapsing stocks are convenient for customizing LOP on a rifle used by more than one person over its lifetime and makes storage slightly easier – does nothing to affect concealment and a poorly made one can actually decrease accuracy – and the 'pistol grip' rears make it easier to quickly bring up to shoulder when you come under fire and more comfortable to hold when on patrol – neither of which are things mass shooters have to worry about).

    The problem really isn't what *name* is being used – its that the features defined under that name are irrelevant for lethality purposes.

    You'd be better served requiring all civilian rifles to be *actual high powered* rifles (5.56 is not a high powered round – people are about as hard to incapacitate and kill as a large dog) as these rifles take some skill to use properly and quickly – the recoil is harsh and its hard to quickly bring the rifle back on target.

    And finally, a manufacturing whitelist would simply bring all innovation in firearms to a halt – and since the majority of innovation is in things that make these weapons *safer* (better safeties, including things like electronic safeties) instead of lethality (firearms are a pretty mature technology and short of a handful of areas – Kriss/computer aided targeting/Metalstorm – they're not getting more lethal).

  120. Knoxville says

    We are always told that the "original intent" of the Second Amendment is to preserve some sort of ludicrous "right" to own weapons as a check on the federal government. Never mind that no constitution provides for its its own destruction. The "individual right" proponents understand that it is necessary to suggest that the Constitution in fact does grant some sort of right of revolution. When considered reasonably, this is laughable. The Second Amendment cannot be read in opposition to the militia clauses of Article I.

    James Madison would disagree with you. From Federalist No. 46:

    "Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. "

    Obviously, the numbers he quotes are far outdated, but this is the "Father of the Constitution" specifically referencing the citizens of the United States using their personal arms against a federal government which has become oppressive.

  121. G says

    Jeff Ryan has been fighting for that long and still Ignorant? Maybe read what Knoxville posted and you can end your war. You lost.

  122. C. S. P. Schofield says

    1) Both basic English grammar and the well recorded debates on the Constitution and Bill of Rights support the idea that the Second Amendment enshrines an individual right to own arms. Further, it is clear from the writings of the Founders that the arms in question were intended to be of military grade. All attempts to enact gun control laws fly in the face of these inconvenient facts. In short, even the effective ban on fully automatic weapons should be considered Unconstitutional. This may be a lousy idea, but to change it requires – or should require – a Constitutional Amendment. Gun Control advocates do not want to fight that battle, because they would lose. They may be filled with happy thoughts and good intentions, but they are still scofflaws.

    2) The common argument that rifles and handguns will not allow rebellion against a tyranny armed with tanks and jet fighters is largely bushwa. Tyrannies are not run from tanks, they are run from desks. People at desks can be shot. In any case, the practicality of rebellion in the modern world is not at issue. The Founders are on record as thinking that the citizens had a natural right to rebel, and that the Second Amendment was in support of that right. The idea may now be ludicrous. That is beside the point. It is still enshrined in the Bill of Rights and if you want to do away with it, you need an Amendment. Either the Constitution and its Amendments limit the power of the State, or they do not.

    3) The Ignorance of many Gun Control advocates approaches the cartoonish. I would believe it was all a deliberate attempt at fraud if not for the fact that many successful authors of Murder Mysteries, even today, are prone to call almost any pistol a "revolver", specifically including semi-automatic pistols with no revolving parts.

    4) The notion that modern guns should not be protected because nothing like them was envisioned at the time the Bill of Rights was passed is absurd, unless one is also prepared to say that the protection of freedom of the press is limited to the kind of press common at that time. I wish I thought that the Progressive Left would be unanimously outraged at that idea, but I suspect they will not.

    Finally; The fight over the Second Amendment is not, ultimately, a fight over guns. It is a fight over whether the Government will be bound by its own rules. Many of the people who want to make exceptions to those rules in the name of this emergency or that are genuine and well meaning. But not all. And so all of them should be viewed with profound suspicion. The idea that your neighbor, who cannot back his car out of his own driveway without hitting something, has a right to own a machine-gun may be at once ludicrous and frightening. But an unbounded State should be even more frightening. Such States are seldom benign, and in the twentieth century they murdered on the order of a hundred million of their own citizens.

  123. Steve Brecher says

    The headline and the post contents, as summarized by the its second sentence, are contradictory.

  124. BadRoad says

    Has anyone mentioned internal cylinder magazines yet? I have a .22 rifle that uses one, and I'm not sure how it could be reloaded any faster than inserting the bullets individually by hand.

  125. Guy who looks things up says

    @Jim in Conroe

    Please don't advance a stupid argument.

    It is far easier to kill someone with a hand gun than with any of the things you mention. It should be because that's their purpose. I fully expect mine to do that should that extreme measure ever become necessary.

    If your head contains the idea that it's OK for someone whose heart is filled to the brim with hate should be walking around with lethal instruments, I'm glad you live in Conroe and not near me.

  126. Random Gun Owner says

    I like the idea of legislators banning clips. As a gun owner I don't have any clips; I have magazines. Even if they ban "high capacity clips", as another poster pointed out, clips already only tend to come in sizes of 5-10, so banning anything higher would likely have no effect.

    That's why Ken's point that terminology matters is correct, as usual.

  127. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Guy that looks things up,

    The problem with laws that would deprive that "someone whose heart is filled to the brim with hate" of basic civil rights is that it entrusts the decision about just who that "someone" is to the State … which cannot be trusted with it.

  128. Jim in Conroe says

    Huh?

    Not sure what drove you to this rant. I'm not advocating for committing crimes with handguns, only reporting the facts that these are the weapons of choice of criminals, rather than rifles.

  129. Total says

    The fight over the Second Amendment is not, ultimately, a fight over guns. It is a fight over whether the Government will be bound by its own rules.

    Actually, no, it's a fight over guns.

  130. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Total;

    If you think it's a fight about guns, you have totally failed to understand how untrustworthy government is. Not our government, now. All governments, ever.

    A society that will not defend the Second Amendment, at least to the extent of making those who wish to gut it pass an Amendment of their own, will not defend the First Amendment either. Or any of the others.

    Let's be clear here; I do not own any guns. I don't PLAN on owning any guns. But I have a lively dread of an unlimited State. Such entities spent the 20th Century making every previous tyrant look like a piker, with the single possible exception of Genghis Khan.

  131. Argentina Orange says

    @Jeff Ryan

    Look, there is nothing in the Second Amendment that would forbid registration and licensing. These two preliminary steps would go a long way toward sanity.

    "Restoring sanity" is of course, meaningless posturing.

    But if you are trying to somehow claim that licencing and registration would somehow prevent the attack which is the context in which this post is written, then you are demonstrably lying.

    Omar Mateen had multiple government licences, and yet they somehow failed to prevent his attack. Registration would have made it possible for investigators to track the guns back to him after the attack, but for some reason such a capability was not necessary.

  132. Harry Johnston says

    @Agammamon,

    A whitelist doesn’t help anymore than the previous blacklist did. The blacklist listed all the features that made a firearm an ‘assault weapon’. Then it became apparent that those features were irrelevant […]

    Isn't that the point? On general principle (applicable to most sorts of machine) I would expect it to be the overall design that's important, not individual features. The example of a bayonet lug is perfect: typical at the time of the class of design that they were attempting to eliminate, but irrelevant in and of itself.

    I find it difficult to believe that someone can kill 50 people, apparently including armed guards, with a weapon that wasn't specifically designed to make it easy to kill people.

    … on the other hand, reading other comments I'm reminded of just how many people in the US want to be allowed to have weapons specifically designed to make it easy to kill people, so I suppose I was working on an inaccurate premise. Selective memory strikes again!

    The question then becomes whether certain weapons are designed specifically for killing lots of people, and are significantly more effective at that job while not also being more effective for self-defense. I'll have to remain agnostic on that one.

    And finally, a manufacturing whitelist would simply bring all innovation in firearms to a halt

    Any competent government department would promptly approve innovations that improve safely. Granted, competent government departments sometimes seem to be hard to come by in the US. And even prompt approvals could still slow things down, perhaps significantly.

  133. Justin Smith says

    @Harry Johnston

    Any competent government department…

    Please list five such departments (federal only).

  134. Total says

    A society that will not defend the Second Amendment thing I'm panicking about, at least to the extent of making those who wish to gut it pass an Amendment of their own, will not defend the First Amendment thing I think you will panic about either.

    I edited your quote to reflect reality. Your argument is so general as to be meaningless.

  135. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Total,

    My argument is anything but general. The Constitution and its Amendments set strict limits on what the Government may do. A great many of those limits are broadly ignored, and I do not consider the results impressive.

    We have people saying, publicly, that the First Amendment does not protect "Offensive" speech, a statement that is absurd on its face, and is easily translated as "I don't think the First Amendment should protect speech that annoys ME."

    A Constitutional Amendment is hardly necessary to protect INOFFENSIVE speech. It protects offensive speech, or it protects nothing.

    The position that a modern society does not need an armed citizenry can be argued. If you believe that to be the case, then propose a Constitutional Amendment. To fail to do so, while pressing for more restrictive gun control laws, basically says that you have no respect for the idea that the Government is limited by the Constitution. And if you have no respect for that idea, then I cannot trust you with any authority.

    There will always be an expedient argument for evading the Constitutional limits on the power of the government. But the history of governments is an even stronger argument for enforcing them.

  136. says

    Gun control advocates may argue that it's pointless to define terms because gun control opponents will oppose gun control laws no matter how they are crafted. That's a fair description of the behavior of some — perhaps even most — gun control opponents. But it's not a logical or moral excuse for not trying.

    Note that the most widely wanted gun control measure, universal background checks, doesn't require or even mention the sort of details you go into at all.

    Also note that gun control opponents resist that just as much as they resist every other kind of restriction.

    Saying "well, you don't know guns, so you can't criticize!" makes as much sense as saying you can't criticize drunk driving because you can't tell the difference between a pinot and a malbec, or that the car had a six-cylinder engine instead of a four.

  137. Marzipan says

    @Jim in Conroe, I'm not sure what data from which you're drawing to argue that baseball bats, other blunt objects, and knives all kill more people than guns. According to the FBI's 2014 statistics, there were:

    11,961 total murders
    8124 murders by firearm
    1567 murders by knife
    435 murders by blunt objects
    660 murders by personal objects (e.g., fists, feet)
    830 murders by other objects

    Perhaps you meant that there were fewer murders by rifles (248) or shotguns (262) than these implements? I'll certainly grant that cars cause more deaths than firearms, even when suicides are included in both totals (though they pull just about even in that case).

  138. Jeff Ryan says

    Okay. I confess that I have nearly hijacked whole threads on this site to argue about what the Second Amendment means. That was probably wrong, and certainly disrespectful to Ken White and the point he was actually trying to make. So I do apologize for that.

    But now this is legitimately in my wheelhouse, so it is not inappropriate for me to chime in. Mr. White, if you don't agree, well, it's your website. And I do respect your opinions most of the time, even though they don't necessarily mesh with mine. I have spent many days of my life being wrong, so it's no leap for me to consider you may be right, or nearly right, with many of your posts.

    You are quite correct to note that most on the left don't understand the arcane, but easily learned, realm of firearms available to the general public. When I was a Deputy District Attorney, I was considered a law enforcement officer, and therefore could go about armed all I wanted. And, make no mistake, firearms are very addicting, even for a liberal such as myself. I have often said that if you give me the most liberal person handy and let me take them to a firing range, I will give you someone who will be buying a gun very soon. Though the same might be said about exposure to crack.

    Yes, there is a world of difference between automatic weapons and semiautomatic weapons. Yes, there are any number of non-AR-15 long guns that will perform in similar fashion, and the differences are largely cosmetic. Yes, yes, yes.

    The bottom line for me, though, is that until we have a Supreme Court who will admit Heller is a constitutional monstrosity or, frankly, until the people recognize that the bitter truth is that the Second Amendment is as obsolete as the Third, and repeal it, then we will continue to suffer useless carnage under the false belief that the Constitution requires it. It doesn't. But if the banning of certain weapons seems intellectually dishonest, well, call me a liar, but if lives are saved, then fuck it.

    Want a definition of "assault rifles"? As you know at least was well as I, a legislature can define any damned thing it wants in any damned way it wants. Right now, what is really required is a ban (I originally wrote "limit") on large capacity magazines. Right now, what is needed is to close the gun show loophole.

    From there, what is really needed is a national registration scheme, and a licensing scheme, and a liability scheme. Registration is something Scalia would have had to agree to, since the state and federal governments conducted gun censuses both before the enactment of the Second Amendment and after, so don't piss about over "original intent." Make gun owners register their guns on the federal level, require them to qualify for possession by licensing, and, finally, impose liability for the misuse of guns. These reforms would go a long way to discouraging gun owners from the free-wheeling buying and selling they currently engage in, and might make them think twice about selling their guns to the first yahoo who answers their internet ad.

    I understand this does not go to the heart of your post. Tough. People are dying out here.

  139. Jim in Conroe says

    Sorry, should have clarified that i was talking about rifles, not all firearms, since the discussion tends to focus on "assault rifles," which is a subset of all rifles, and responsible for even fewer homicides.

  140. Zachriel says

    Ken White: Gun control advocates may argue that it's pointless to define terms because gun control opponents will oppose gun control laws no matter how they are crafted. That's a fair description of the behavior of some — perhaps even most — gun control opponents.

    In a functioning political system, where people consider opposing concerns, and where compromise is possible, those who support guns for self-defense would work with those who want to restrict guns to find solutions; in particular, that people have enough firepower for reasonable self-defense, but not so much that a single individual can cause a hundred casualties in a couple of minutes. Notably, the 1930s restriction on fully automatic weapons has been quite effective, and the criminal use of such weapons is rare in the U.S.

    So, Ken White, perhaps you could propose an unambiguous standard, perhaps based on rate of fire, size of magazine, and the time it takes to switch out the magazine.

  141. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Jeff,

    If Gun Control advocates were willing to openly campaign for an Amendment to nullify the Second, I would be prepared to debate what Gun Control measures would save lives. If. instead, the attitude seems to be "We don't like parts of the Constitution and the Amendments, so we are going to ignore them, finding ways to weasel around their limitations".

    That isn't good enough. As I have posted here, I do not own any guns. I am far less concerned with Guns than I am with a core principle; The State should be subject to its own laws. I may be wrong, but it is my firm belief that the Twentieth Century demonstrated clearly that the untrammeled State is far more dangerous to me than any likely number of individual armed idiots.

  142. Total says

    Your edited quote ismeaningless quite telling; the original is not a load of bollocks

    Fixed that for you.

    My argument is anything but general

    No, it’s general. You’re asserting that any change from what we have now will inevitably cause the government to end all our freedoms. One slight change in regulation of guns and poof! There goes the First Amendment as well.

    By that logic, the First Amendment should have gone poof when fully-automatic weapons were outlawed with The American People! standing up to defend it. That was back in the 1930s.


    And for everyone arguing that “Oh, this particular tactic [limiting gun magazine/ammo/etc] won’t work because some people will be able to get around it,” please name a public policy that can’t be circumvented to some extent. You are implying that we shouldn’t outlaw murders just because some people manage to carry them out anyway.

    Finally, there’s a rich irony in saying that we don’t know if certain gun control measures will be effective, since it was the gun lobby that got Congress to *ban* research on gun control. We don’t know if things will work because the NRA stopped us from finding out.

    Registration is something Scalia would have had to agree to

    You’re highly optimistic. Scalia was always about getting the result he wanted, and filling in the logic afterwards.

  143. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Total;

    "No, it’s general. You’re asserting that any change from what we have now will inevitably cause the government to end all our freedoms. One slight change in regulation of guns and poof! There goes the First Amendment as well."

    Bullshit. I'm asserting that if you want to change regulations about guns, you should be required to follow established common law procedures, and that claiming that there is an emergency too urgent to allow that is a classic symptom of tyranny.

    The Second Amendment denies the government the authority to "infringe" on the right of the common people to keep and bear arms. If you want to change that, you must push through an Amendment of your own. Unless you hold the Constitution in contempt.

    I'm not saying that changing regulations about guns will result in tyranny. I'm saying that changing those regulations without following the law IS tyranny.

    So, are you an activist, or a would-be tyrant?

  144. Total says

    Bullshit. I'm asserting that if you want to change regulations about guns, you should be required to follow established common law procedures, and that claiming that there is an emergency too urgent to allow that is a classic symptom of tyranny.

    No, you're asserting that the point we are at *right at the moment* is the constitutional point and that any shift without an amendment is tyrannical. You thus ignore the fact that when they restricted fully automatic weapons, there was no amendment. Was that tyrannical? You ignore that when they made it illegal for felons to own firearms, there was no amendment. Was that tyrannical? You haven't even considered it because you're so locked into your own imaginary world that the real world looks like strange to you.

    So, programmer or engineer?

  145. C. S. P. Schofield says

    Total;

    Are you saying that because a wrong thing was done before, it is OK to do a similar wrong thing now?

    When I first became interested in politics – in the mid 1970's – it was widely assumed that in a decade or so all handguns would be banned and use of long guns would be broadly restricted. Generally speaking, matters have moved in the other direction. At the same time – acknowledging that correlation is not causation – violent crime has dropped. I'm not saying, as some do, that "More guns mean less crime". However, I AM saying that the horrendous rise in crime that Gun Control advocates have assured us would follow closely on any lifting of Gun Control laws has not materialized.

    Now, in the wake of a mass shooting by a mook who passed a background check AND scrutiny by the FBI, we are being told that more Gun Control laws – administered by a State that failed to identify this idiot – would help.

    Politically, I am what is called a Crank. I don't subscribe to any one particular 'brand'. I just distrust the State, the good intentions of people who claim to know better than I do, and solutions that have previously failed. Absent clear evidence that Gun Control actually HELPS, I want the Second Amendment left alone. As I said before, I own no guns. But the "We have to do something, people are dying!" argument is one I have heard before. Applied to abridgment of other limitations on power. And so, we have 'no knock' raids, which started out on Drug Dealers and no get served on people with parking tickets. We have 'Hate Crimes' laws that punish wrong-think, and screw the First Amendment.

    You think I'm locked in a delusion? How do you not see that all the civil rights enumerated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights are being eroded by one group of self-important twits or another? Is it because most of said twits promote an agenda of which you approve? Fine. What do you propose to do when they adopt goals of which you disapprove?

  146. Docrailgun says

    No reasonable person thinks that so-called "assault weapons" (that is, high-capacity semi-automatic rifles) cause most of the gun deaths in the US. What a reasonable gun-control advocate believes is that pistols are. Further, a ban on pistols would bring gun laws more into line with what the Second Amendment seems to say in plain language, even if St. Scalia doesn't agree.
    I think that the NRA would be better served by compromising: a ban or strict limitations on pistols in return for a loosening of regulations on rifles and shotguns – which actually are useful for hunting, self-defense, or militia-ing. That's unlikely to happen, though.
    What we also might do is just make it socially unacceptable to want a pistol – pistols really only have one use: murdering people. Sure, one CAN hunt with it, or defend one's self with one, but one can hunt with a bow or defend one's self with a knife. If people started feeling that everyone with a pistol was planning on killing someone someday then there would be a lot less pistols. Smoking went from being cool to being considered something disgusting… the same could be done with pistols.
    We could also take pistols away from policemen – they have tasers and training to disable people. If they need to be armed heavily give them SMGs like in Europe. If that solves the problem of the police gunning people down in the street is another question. Anything that a policeman could do with a pistol he can do with a shotgun.
    I would also like to see the NRA promoting the open carry of swords, maces, and at least knives if they're so interested in self-defence. The fact that the organization isn't really interested in reducing controls in "arms" or even knife blade length is pretty damning evidence that all LaPierre really wants is to shill for the handgun industry.
    I'm excited to see how many proverbial reams of virtual paper will be spent refuting that.

  147. RandomGuy says

    Jeff: The beauty of the country is that we, who have volunteered to defend it, defend it for all points of view including yours. Perhaps though, you might consider re-reading the Federalist papers again. For that matter most anything written by Madison, Jefferson or Mason during the time frame. The reality is that the world is dangerous, and there is not a child proof setting.

    C.S.P. Schofield – points well said and taken. Far more eloquently than I am capable.

    I would add, however, that those arguing that rifles are incapable of defending against tanks, aircraft, etc are missing the history of the last 15 years. Insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq effectively fought the most technologically capable army on the planet to stand still several times…with little more that rifles in many cases. The Mujahadeen in Afghanistan fought the Russians successfully with little more than rifles and rocks before the US provided advanced arms. To say that a rifle in skilled hands is not an equalizing function is rather disingenuous.

  148. Total says

    Are you saying that because a wrong thing was done before, it is OK to do a similar wrong thing now?

    No, I'm saying that you're acting as if anything that happens now is INEVITABLE TYRANNY, ignoring the entirety of 20th century gun control history. Was it INEVITABLE TYRANNY in the 1930s? INEVITABLE TYRANNY in the 1960s? You're hyperventilating about THE CONSTITUTION BEING RIPPED UP RIGHT NOW as if there haven't been these kinds of regulations for the last 70 years. Take a deep breath and act like a person in the real world.

    When I first became interested in politics – in the mid 1970's – it was widely assumed that in a decade or so all handguns would be banned and use of long guns would be broadly restricted

    This is what I mean by your imaginary world. You *thought* that things were going to get much more restricted and because of that you imagine that things have loosened up. What REALLY happened is that gun control has edged back and forth (tighter during the 1990s; looser now) and that crime rates have consistently dropped since 1991. That's not even correlation, let alone causation.

    Politically, I am what is called a Crank

    You misspelled idiot.

    How do you not see that all the civil rights enumerated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights are being eroded by one group of self-important twits or another

    Because they're not? For the first time in American history, the Supreme Court actually agreed with your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment (ie private right to guns) and yet you still think that your rights are being eroded?

    Imaginary. Delusional.

  149. Harry Johnston says

    @Justin,

    Please list five such departments

    Well, since you asked so nicely:

    Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management

    Ministry of Education

    Ministry of Health

    New Zealand Transport Agency

    New Zealand Tourism Board

    True, they're not parts of your government, but I did already acknowledge that the US seems to have an unusual amount of trouble in this respect. Perhaps you should consider outsourcing? :-)

    (More seriously, it seems unlikely that the entire US government is really as incompetent as people seem to think. I'm guessing that the problem is that the departments that typical people have the most contact with are exactly the ones dealing with the most people, and that bureaucracy just doesn't scale well. Small departments, such as the one I hypothetically proposed, are presumably mostly competent. How does the Coast Guard rate, for example?)

  150. CarlosT says

    Jeff Ryan:

    … until the people recognize that the bitter truth is that the Second Amendment is as obsolete as the Third…

    So we can move in that platoon of US Marines for you to house and feed next week? Since the Third Amendment is obsolete, you have no objections, right?

    Great, thanks.

  151. TM says

    A well educated Electorate, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.

    Who has the right to keep and read books in this statement? Is it only eligible voters? If not, why would the 2nd amendment only apply to the militia? If so, why switch to "the people" for the second clause, when "the right of the Electorate" would be as appropriate and far more specific?

    Along the same lines, as the previous question, if we assume that he second amendment is actually supposed to read:

    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the Militia to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    What is the ultimate purpose of this amendment? A militia by definition is an armed fighting force, so securing the right of those already armed to arm themselves is somewhat redundant is it not?

    If however, we assume that the purpose was to prevent the federal government from infringing on the ability of the states to arm their militias, does this imply that should the federal government issue a ban on ownership for citizens, that the state of Texas merely needs to pass a law drafting all citizens 18 years and older into the state Militia, thereby allowing them to own ? If not, then again, what was the purpose of the amendment?

  152. chembot says

    @Total

    No, I'm saying that you're acting as if anything that happens now is INEVITABLE TYRANNY, ignoring the entirety of 20th century gun control history.

    So velocity is what defines tyranny? If a frog is shot vs. slowly boiled, is the end result not the same? You seem to have a habit of conceding the point and then blithely moving on (after a hurled insult) as if nothing happened because to do otherwise threatens the righteousness of your cause.

    What REALLY happened is that gun control has edged back and forth (tighter during the 1990s; looser now) and that crime rates have consistently dropped since 1991. That's not even correlation, let alone causation.

    Awesome. Your "refutation" amounts to: Gun control has no discernible effect on crime. We direly need more regulation! For the children!

    As to calling folk delusional those who do happen to see the erosion of liberties: What are your views on the issues like The TSA, or civil forfeiture (4th amendment), the rights of business owners to refuse service, my right to not associate with insurance companies, "free speech and protest zones" (all 1st amendment), guantanamo detentions (6th amendment). Perhaps I want to grow wheat on my property for my personal use without crossing state borders and without federal interference. Oops! (9th and 10 amendments) The lists could go on and on. The truth is we have been raising the heat on that frog for a long time, but it dramatically accelerated during the 20th century

  153. Knoxville says

    For the first time in American history, the Supreme Court actually agreed with your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment (ie private right to guns) . . .

    Not necessarily true. While Heller & McDonald are certainly the decisions that are most specific about the 2A protecting an individual right, the concept has been mentioned in preceding decisions.

    Presser v. People of Illinois (1886):

    "It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States as well as of the States; and, in view of this prerogative of the General Government, as well as of its general powers, the States cannot, even laying the constitutional provision in question [the Second Amendment] out of view prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms, so as to deprive the United States of their rightful resource for maintaining the public security, and disable the people from performing their duty to the General Government."

    U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez (1990): A Fourth Amendment case which discussed who "the people" are when mentioned in the Constitution –

    "'[T]he people' seems to have been a term of art employed in select parts of the Constitution. The Preamble declares that the Constitution is ordained and established by 'the people of the United States.' The Second Amendment protects 'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,' and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments provide that certain rights and powers are retained by and reserved to 'the people.' See also U.S. Const., Amdt. 1 ('Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble') (emphasis added); Art. I, 2, cl. 1 ('The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the people of the several States') (emphasis added). While this textual exegesis is by no means conclusive, it suggests that 'the people' protected by the Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments, and to whom rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community. "

    Even in US v Miller (1939), which is generally considered to be a case in which the court endorsed the militia view of the 2A, the decision actually only determined that the weapon needed to be suitable for use in a militia, not that the owner needed to be actively enrolled in one.

  154. Dan says

    The headline of this post may be rhetorical, but it reflects a widespread sentiment across the left.

    Meanwhile in the real world, gun sales are soaring once again after Orlando. Gun sales had been impossibly, unimaginably high before Orlando and then they skyrocketed upward from there. No doubt (and without exaggeration) someone is reading the headline of this blog post and buying ten more, just in case the author means it.

    The number of Americans guns during the Obama administration quickly reached and surpassed 1 per capita. Only 11 percent of women and few children own guns, so we are looking at between 2 and 3 per American adult male and probably around 10 per gun enthusiast. "From my cold dead hands" is their mantra. Good luck with that. Connecticut had a 1% recovery rate on the guns they banned after Newtown.

    The left trying to 'ban' guns in America would be like the right trying to 'ban' out-of-wedlock sex. Scratch that. It would be like trying to 'ban' all sex. Passing the legislation would be the easy part.

    The gun control debate is a silly masturbatory exercise because it ignores the facts on the ground. The facts on the ground are that almost all solid matter within our borders is now either a gun or ammunition.

  155. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Total;

    "For the first time in American history, the Supreme Court actually agreed with your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment (ie private right to guns)"

    Wrong. I expect that lawyers familiar with Constitutional Law could cite other instances, but I do know that the Court ruled that the National Firearms Law of 1934 was Constitutional in so far as it (effectively) banned sawed off shotguns on the grounds that such were not weapons of war, the private ownership of which was protected by the Second Amendment.

    The "The Second Amendment protects a collective right" argument is (relatively) new. The Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights in response to a widespread demand that the Government NOT be able to disarm the citizenry. The Debates on the Constitution and Bill of Rights are well documented, and show this clearly.

    Well before Heller, Lawrence Tribe (Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard, and well know Gun Control advocate) stated that the historical record was clear, and the Second Amendment enshrined a right of individuals to own guns.

    All gun control laws, special taxes, registration screams, and especially attempts to preemptively deprive citizens not convicted of any crime of their right to arms, are attempts to weasel around this.

    As I have stated multiple times; I don't own any guns. I just think that governments should not be encouraged to disobey their own laws in the name of this or that 'emergency'.

  156. TM says

    Heck, the courts even cited the 2nd amendment as an individual right in non gun control cases. The horrible Dred Scott decision contains this quote:

    For if they [African-Americans] were so received, and entitled to tne privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police regulations which they [the slave States] considered necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its [a slave State's] own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon public affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. And all of this would be done in the face of the subject race of the same color, both free and slaves, and inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State.

  157. says

    @Total

    You misspelled idiot.

    If you want to frequent this establishment, leave your douchery at home. Or don't frequent. Your call.

  158. Milhouse says

    @Trent

    People opposed to gun control often disregard that from ~1930 to just a few years ago the Supreme court had interpreted the 2nd amendment to apply to the states, not to individuals.

    No, it didn't. People who make this claim are either outright lying, or betray such ignorance on the subject that nothing else they say is worth paying any attentionto. Every single time the Supreme Court has mentioned the 2nd amendment, whether in a ruling or in dicta, it has understood it the same way: that it protects an individual right to own weapons.

    Specifically, that was the holding in Miller, which is the case you are misrepresenting. The only novelty in Miller was that the Court held that the amendment only protects certain weapons, and that the trial court neglected to collect any evidence on whether the weapon in question fell into that category. It laid out the criteria and sent the case back down for a hearing; had that hearing ever been held, there is no question that weapon would have been found to be protected, and Miller's acquittal would have been upheld.

  159. Mitch says

    In my opinion, Heller will be overturned within the next five years by 7-2 (or 6-3) vote (the replacements for Scalia, RBG, Kennedy (and Thomas)) voting with Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Heller is ahistorical, poorly reasoned and virtually impossible to implement. The Second Amendment will return to its historical understanding, as guaranteeing the right of states to raise a militia – not of an individual to own a gun.

    At the end of the day, this will not usher in an era of national gun control, because gun control advocates like me do not have the votes to push gun control through Congress. It would lead to strong anti-gun laws in states like New York.

  160. C.S.P. Schofield says

    @Mitch,

    You may be right about Heller and the direction of the Court. You are dead wrong about the historical interpretation of the Second Amendment. The history of its passage and its interpretation show clearly that it has been a protection of an individual right to bear arms for most of its history. The 'miliia' interpretation was dreamed up by Statists in the last few decades of the last century, and never gained much creedence with scholars.

    Which doesn't mean that an individual right to own arms is a good idea. That can be argued. But pretending that the Second Amendments does not protect such a right is part and parcel of the worrying tendency to pass all authority to the central government. And we know, from recent and current examples, how bad an idea THAT is.

    Propose an Amendment, or admit that you don't give a fat damn about any of the rights secured to the people in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

  161. Milhouse says

    @SocraticGadfly

    only 10% of Merika owned guns in 1775; rate wasn't much higher in 1790.

    Bulldust. Where did you come up with that alleged statistic? Michael Belleisles?!

    As for 110% pro-gun folk, do you oppose tighter mental-health restriction on sales?

    If you mean that people who've been adjudicated as incompetent in a proper hearing with due process should not be allowed to buy guns, that's already the law. What more do you want?

    Bans for those on the no-fly list?

    No, of course not. There's no due process for people on that list, which is fine so long as it's not being used to deprive anyone of a constitutional liberty. There is no constitutional right to board a commercial aircraft. But the 5th amendment explicitly bans using such a list to deprive people of any constitutional liberty, such as the right to keep and bear arms.

    Closing Brady Bill loopholes?

    What loopholes? As far as I know there aren't any.

  162. Milhouse says

    It seems pretty fucking obvious to me that they would have a much better chance of being alive and well if the man's guns had been confiscated when the wife took out the restraining order.

    And if he'd been killed while he was deprived without due process of his means of self defense? Perhaps by a random assailant, or perhaps by the crazy b*tch who took out the restraining order for that exact purpose? How many tears would you have shed then?

  163. Milhouse says

    The Second Amendment will return to its historical understanding, as guaranteeing the right of states to raise a militia

    There has never been a time when it was understood that way.

  164. Milhouse says

    Remove access to guns via a restraining order. It's particularized to individuals who have shown an actual reason to be considered a threat to another specific person.

    No, it isn't. There is nothing a person need do to be the subject of a restraining order.

    Also, I think restraining orders are issued in an adversarial process where both sides can have representation.

    Temporary restraining orders are not. And even when an order is subject to such a process it's usually a formality, with the judge paying no attention to whatever the subject has to say, because denying the order will get them in all kinds of trouble, especially if something then happens to the applicant, while improperly granting it will get them no grief at all from anybody.

  165. Milhouse says

    The issue of the Second Amendment applying to individuals, rather than militias, was settled in favor of the individual by the Supreme Court's Heller decision in 2008.

    No, it wasn't, because it was never an issue in the first place. The idea that it doesn't apply to individuals was a recent invention, and it was never endorsed by the Supreme Court, or AFAIK by any court at all. Heller just reaffirmed what every previous decision, including Miller, said.

  166. enoriverbend says

    Closing Brady Bill loopholes?
    What loopholes? As far as I know there aren't any.

    To some people, every last shred of freedom left to individuals is a loophole.

  167. Milhouse says

    Look, there is nothing in the Second Amendment that would forbid registration and licensing. These two preliminary steps would go a long way toward sanity.

    They wouldn't be unconstitutional, but we resist them because we know exactly where they lead. You gave the game away when you termed them "preliminary steps".

    Nobody objected to gun censuses in the 1790s, because it would never have occurred to anyone to use them for confiscation.

    Never mind that no constitution provides for its its own destruction.

    This one does.

    The "individual right" proponents understand that it is necessary to suggest that the Constitution in fact does grant some sort of right of revolution.

    It doesn't grant a right of revolution; the Declaration of Independence asserts that such a right always exists, and that no constitution can ever take it away. What the 2A does is preserve the means for that right to be exercised, if it should ever prove necessary.

    The whole point of the entire Bill of Rights was to reassure those who feared that the new federal government would turn into something like what it has in fact done, and should therefore be put down in its cradle. The 2A told these skeptics that if their fears proved accurate they'd be able to put the fedgov down later, so they should allow the experiment to proceed for now.

    Did the Framers believe that private firearms ownership was a right?

    Yes, they did, and said so repeatedly.

    Else, why would the right of citizens of the state of Pennsylvania to possess the firearms depend on the condition that anyone so desirous of possession of firearms must swear an oath of loyalty to the State of Pennsylvania?

    For the same reason that nobody could take a seat in the PA legislature without swearing his belief "in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder to the good and the punisher of the wicked" and that "the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament [were] given by Divine inspiration". The Bill of Rights didn't apply to the states, and not all states respected everyone's rights. Look at Maine, which didn't get a republican form of government until the 1850s.

  168. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Milhouse;

    Thank you for making points that I lack the time and energy to research. My Lady has been in and out of Psychiatric Hospitals for the last quarter, and it takes a lot out of you.

    For those who want to take Second Amendment rights away from people without due process, let me ask you; how would you feel if the rights in question were those protected by the First Amendment? Does it make a difference? Why? And if you allow the State to decide which people may have rights, where do you expect that to stop, and why?

  169. Milhouse says

    "For the first time in American history, the Supreme Court actually agreed with your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment (ie private right to guns)"

    Wrong. I expect that lawyers familiar with Constitutional Law could cite other instances, but I do know that the Court ruled that the National Firearms Law of 1934 was Constitutional in so far as it (effectively) banned sawed off shotguns on the grounds that such were not weapons of war, the private ownership of which was protected by the Second Amendment.

    Sorry, still wrong. The Court did not rule that sawn-off shotguns are not weapons of war, and thus not protected. It ruled that if they are weapons of war then they are protected, and if not then not. It told the trial court to hold a hearing on that question and rule accordingly, but the hearing was never held, because Miller was dead. But it is an uncontested fact that sawn-off shotguns are such weapons, and are therefore protected under Miller; had the hearing ever been held, the trial court would have acquitted Miller.

  170. Tim! says

    @Harry Johnston: "How does the Coast Guard rate, for example?"

    I know a boat builder that has nothing good to say about the way the Guard treats its boats and their builders.

    @chemboat "If a frog is shot vs. slowly boiled, is the end result not the same?"

    It is not. A boiled frog remains edible.

  171. Tim! says

    What do you all think about this proposal? The premise: restrictive gun laws won't stop gun crime. In fact the point of any law is not to stop crime; it's to put the responsibility for the crime on the criminal and as a secondary effect, hopefully deter future criminals. Effective gun control doesn't take away guns, it puts the responsibility for gun crimes on the shooter, the owner, or the handler of the weapon. Therefore, instead of restrictive gun laws, enter punitive gun laws.

    Codify the NRA's own gun safety rules into law. In case of accidental discharge, the gun handler is responsible for any injury: they didn't clear the chamber or the range. "There are no accidents with guns." Make drinking & shooting a crime like drinking & driving. Make it a crime to leave your gun unsecured & accessible to children or thieves. Make gun sellers responsible as an accessory if they sell a gun used in a crime. If we had implemented the last one, there would have been no need to mandate background checks; dealers would have rushed to volunteer.

    No, it won't stop mass shootings. It won't stop gun homicide or suicide. But it will reduce them, I think significantly. And it will do so without infringing anyone's right to bear arms — not unless they have demonstrated their incapacity to properly maintain and respect their weapons.

    I also believe we should restore the ability of the CDC to conduct studies of gun violence and of the ATF to maintain an indexable electronic registry — of guns used in crimes if not all guns. I support mandatory safety training, licensure exams, and liability insurance.

  172. GuestPoster says

    I think the definitions should be clear, in a gun control debate, because that helps clarify things. Tautology, yes, but that doesn't make it less true.

    That being said, the point has been raised that when one DOES honestly try to define things, the pro-gun crowd tends to engage in semantic arguments that put a senior level literary theory class to shame. That this happens does not mean that it's bad to try to define terms. That the terms aren't defined 100% perfectly doesn't make it right to dive into insane semantic arguments rather than acting on the obvious merit, or lack thereof, of the argument put forth.

    All that being said? For 'assault weapon' in particular, I'm not entirely sure why we can't use a definition similar to that used for 'obscenity' in law, which essentially boils down to 'you know it when you see it'. Was the gun built with the goal of making it easier to kill people? It's probably an assault weapon. Is it derived from a model the military uses to kill lots of people? It's probably an assault weapon. Does the model give a deer a fighting chance to run for its life? It's probably not an assault weapon.

    All THAT being said? I'd love for us to just hold the gun manufacturers to the exact same standards as every OTHER industry, where when some idiot uses your product incorrectly, YOU are on the hook for the payout. Make the gun industry as culpable for deaths resulting from misuse of its products as the drug industry is for deaths resulting from misuse of ITS products? Guns would have biometric IDs, manufacturer-maintained background check databases, and really, really complete paper-trails inside a week.

  173. Harry Johnston says

    @Tim! – I don't intend to comment on the gun-specific aspects of that proposal, but broadly similar laws have always seemed to me to have the effect of criminalizing bad luck.

    If you can't catch and prosecute people for violating a law unless they were unlucky it is probably a bad law IMO. (For example, there's no way in most jurisdictions to catch people whose dogs haven't been properly raised unless they actually attack someone, which is quite rare. Either we shouldn't prosecute owners whose dogs attack someone unless they were unusually negligent, or we should mandate professional training.)

    Put another way, humans make mistakes. You can't simply choose not to. Criminalizing making a mistake might be necessary in rare cases, but it should be used very sparingly, because at a fundamental level it is inherently unjust.

  174. Milhouse says

    Make gun sellers responsible as an accessory if they sell a gun used in a crime. If we had implemented the last one, there would have been no need to mandate background checks; dealers would have rushed to volunteer.

    Are car dealers responsible when a car they sell is used in a crime?! Computer dealers? Hardware stores? Is there any other business that is held to be an accessory to a crime committed by a purchaser? I don't even see how such a law could be constitutional; it inherently lacks due process.

    I also believe we should restore the ability of the CDC to conduct studies of gun violence

    So it can concoct anti-gun propaganda

    and of the ATF to maintain an indexable electronic registry — of guns used in crimes if not all guns

    There's already a registry of guns used in crimes. It has never proved useful for anything, but it exists. Not sure what the ATF would have to do with it, though, since it isn't a crime-prevention agency. But a list of all guns? Not on your f—ing life. We know exactly what you plan to do with that.

    For 'assault weapon' in particular, I'm not entirely sure why we can't use a definition similar to that used for 'obscenity' in law, which essentially boils down to 'you know it when you see it'.

    Which means it's impossible for a person to know whether they are committing a crime. Does the phrase "unconstitutionally vague" mean anything to you?

    Was the gun built with the goal of making it easier to kill people? It's probably an assault weapon.

    Every gun is built with the goal of making it easier to kill people. That's what guns are for — stopping people who would harm you.

    I'd love for us to just hold the gun manufacturers to the exact same standards as every OTHER industry, where when some idiot uses your product incorrectly, YOU are on the hook for the payout.

    No industry is held to that standard. Not the drug industry or any other. The gun industry has no special exemption from liability; what it has is a special exemption from frivolous lawsuits, that in any other industry would never be given a hearing in any court. It's the exact equivalent of the SLAPP laws that Ken is so fond of; the lawsuits that it bars are intended to intimidate and silence gun makers by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they shut down or go bankrupt.

  175. Brian Z says

    @GuestPoster

    I'd love for us to just hold the gun manufacturers to the exact same standards as every OTHER industry, where when some idiot uses your product incorrectly, YOU are on the hook for the payout.

    Can you flesh this out a bit for me? I've heard this assertion from a couple different people now; I suspect it's asserted either disingenuously or in ignorance. But I could be wrong.

    When someone murders his wife with a hammer, I don't think we hold Craftsman culpable. If someone is involved in a hit-and-run, do we go after Ford?

    You and others say we do this with every other industry, but usually invoke drug manufacturers. Yet I don't believe we hold the manufacturer responsible when police break up a meth ring (pseudoephedrine) or bust an oxy dealer (oxycodone).

    If it's true that every other industry is governed by the standard you speak of (the one that the gun industry is uniquely immune to) why don't my kitchen knives have biometric IDs or a really, really complete paper-trail?

  176. Tim! says

    @Harry Johnston: you can't catch and prosecute most criminals unless they have bad luck. Very few people commit a crime with the intention of getting caught.

    It is difficult to prove whether a dog owner was negligent trainer, or the mauling victim was irresponsibly provoking the dog, or the dog had a degenerative brain disease and a really bad day. Dogs are capable of action independent of their handler.

    It is easy to prove that someone negligently handled a firearm by not clearing the chamber, checking downrange for unintentional targets, or properly securing it in their holster or safe. Guns are not capable of firing themselves. There are no accidents with guns.

    Yes humans make mistakes. If I make the mistake of slipping off the brake, onto the accelerator, and mow down a sidewalk full of pedestrians, I should be held responsible for that mistake — even if someone else did the same thing in an empty lot and didn't hit anyone. If I make the mistake of dropping my hammer off the side of the scaffolding, I should be held responsible for hitting someone below in the head — even if someone else did the same thing and only hit the sidewalk. If I make the mistake of shoplifting in view of a security camera, I should be held responsible for stealing — even if someone else did the same thing and wasn't observed. If I make the mistake of breaking a window while playing baseball in the park across the street, I should be held responsible for replacing it – even if someone else did the same thing and walked away before anyone noticed. If I make the mistake of grabbing the wrong shoes when leaving a party, I should be held responsible for returning it to its rightful owner – even if someone else already grabbed my shoes earlier.

    Mistakes are why there's a difference between manslaughter and murder.

    I do agree that overcriminalization is a problem. Eric Garner died due to overcriminalization of cigarette tax evasion. Malpractice is over-litigated; medicine comes with risks and you should accept going into surgery that you might not come out. I also believe that prison is an overprescribed punishment and we should find better ways to hold people accountable for their actions, whether intentional or mistaken. Too many young people have had their lives stripped away by drug possession charges. But I do not believe gun legislation falls into these same overcriminalized categories.

  177. Tim! says

    @Milhouse:

    "Is there any other business that is held to be an accessory to a crime committed by a purchaser?"
    You're right, this was a bad suggestion born of a desire to crack down on the allegedly few gun dealers who knowingly supply guns to criminals.

    "So it can concoct anti-gun propaganda"
    Your reflexive bullshit emitter is acting up. Are you an anti-vaxxer too?

    "There's already a registry of guns used in crimes. It has never proved useful for anything"… because it exists only on paper and the ATF is legally proscribed from making an indexable electronic registry. Thanks NRA!

  178. Tim! says

    @BrianZ: I suspect GuestPoster was referring to the civil negligence suits that have resulted in 4 giant tags stuck to the cord warning that my hair dryer is not for use in the bath.

  179. Harry Johnston says

    @Harry Johnston: you can’t catch and prosecute most criminals unless they have bad luck. Very few people commit a crime with the intention of getting caught.

    You can usually at least tell that a crime has been committed. What percentage of crimes are solved, typically? Is it really that low?

    If I make the mistake of slipping off the brake, onto the accelerator, and mow down a sidewalk full of pedestrians, I should be held responsible for that mistake

    Yeah, I'm kind of ambivalent about that. I can understand the desire to take revenge, but it still doesn't seem quite right. (Oddly enough, I recall an episode of an American TV show in which exactly that happened, and the driver wasn't prosecuted. Might have just been bad writing, I suppose.)

    At any rate, if a law won't make anyone safer, but just gives us someone to punish, well, that may or may not have value in and of itself, but I'm not sure it's relevant to the gun control debate.

  180. Brian Z says

    I often think that individual gun ownership may not be a very good idea in our modern society. Regardless, I believe the Constitution's 2nd Amendment, as written, as properly understood, guarantees an individual right to own firearms (and has nothing whatsoever to do with the National Guard).

    I wonder if limiting the number of guns an individual could own (say: 3) would put a big dent in toxic gun culture? If passed (politically, it never could), could such a limitation withstand Constitutional challenge?

  181. Milhouse says

    "So it can concoct anti-gun propaganda"
    Your reflexive bullshit emitter is acting up. Are you an anti-vaxxer too?

    On the contrary, it's my bullshit detecter that's in play here. Why do you think the ban exists in the first place? It's because that's exactly what the CDC was doing in the '90s. Why do you imagine they wouldn't be back to their old tricks as soon as the ban is lifted? Maybe you're an anti-vaxxer, since you seem to think there's no such thing as junk science.

    "There's already a registry of guns used in crimes. It has never proved useful for anything"… because it exists only on paper and the ATF is legally proscribed from making an indexable electronic registry. Thanks NRA!

    Um, bullshit. There is no proscription against any government agency making an electronic registry of guns used in crimes. I can't see what such a registry would be good for, or why the ATF would be the one to maintain it, but if it thinks it might be useful it's free to do so. In fact I'm quite sure it has an electronic list of all trace requests it receives, i.e. guns used in crimes, because the trace requests must be logged somehow, and it has no reason to delete the log. Certainly no law requires it to do so.

    The ATF is absolutely forbidden from maintaining any registry — electronic or paper — of all guns, and that's as it should be. The NCIS is allowed to keep records of background checks for six months, in case there's some problem and they need to refer to it, but after that the records must be deleted, for the same reason: if kept it would be a gun registry, and we all know how that ends.

    @BrianZ: I suspect GuestPoster was referring to the civil negligence suits that have resulted in 4 giant tags stuck to the cord warning that my hair dryer is not for use in the bath.

    Gun manufacturers are not immune from product liability suits. If someone alleges that a gun was defective, and didn't function as it was meant to, they're free to sue the company. What they can't be sued for is guns that work exactly according to design, when their owner deliberately uses them to commit a crime.

  182. says

    @Milhouse:

    Was the gun built with the goal of making it easier to kill people? It’s probably an assault weapon.

    Every gun is built with the goal of making it easier to kill people. That’s what guns are for — stopping people who would harm you.

    Fixed that for you. Guns are also for stopping people who have no intention of harming you, or have any capability to harm you.

  183. C.S.P. Schofield says

    The core problem with the "I know it when I see it" standard, whether applied to 'assault weapons' or 'obscenity' is that it allows the government to shift definitions arbitrarily, for political expedience or simple hobby-horse riding.

    The history of 'obscenity' laws being applied to genuinely educational material intended to inform poor women about birth control is long and sordid. The history of state legislatures and law enforcement shifting the definition of 'assault weapon' to suddenly include guns formerly understood to be outside the dfinition is not as long, but it has happened often enough to make the pro-gun side's insistance on a concrete definition totally justified.

    Give the state the power to ban some vague category and somehow all manner of things that the State finds inconvenient that were never looked at in that light before fall under that category.

    The problem is that gun control advocates distrust their fellow citizens and trust the State, while gun control opponents trust their fellow citizens and distrust the State. I don't know how many people were murdered with 'assault weapons' in private hands during the 20th century, and I suspect that nobody else does either. I also suspect that the number is well below the 100,000,000 mark. According to THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM (Harvard University Press) that is the approximate number of people murdered by their own, Communist, governments during the Century just past. It does not include those murdered by various non-Communist States.

    I don't trust governments.

  184. chembot says

    @Tim!

    It is not. A boiled frog remains edible.

    Well de gustibus non est disputandum I guess. I think I will stick with delicious, delicious cow, braised in the tears of a militant vegetarian, and cooked over a cancer inducing charcoal based flame.

    But may I suggest a smoothbore .22 and some ratshot for obtaining your frog legs? Or maybe just a pellet gun? Surely Ted Nugent has an answer for us on how to kill it and grill it!

  185. GuestPoster says

    @Brian Z: I bring up the drug industry (as do so many others) because it's the most obvious example. No, we do NOT hold them responsible for drugs OTHER PEOPLE make. But we DO hold them responsible for misuse of drugs THEY make. Doctor gave you the wrong drug? It killed your daughter? Sue the drug company. Drug had a labeled 0.1% chance of causing blindness, and you were in that 0.1%? Sue the drug company. The drug companies are required to do EXTENSIVE safety testing to ensure that their drugs will not cause harm compared to the good they cause, and even with this documentation, they still get held liable for bad things that happen from the drugs.

    Can you imagine if we required the gun industry to shoot people with their weapons, over and over again, and prove before sale that the vast majority of the people were not harmed? That would be the equivalent test.

    Car companies are held liable all the time. Oh, I was too stupid to take my foot off the gas and hit the brake? Your carpets are bad! Oh, I can't be bothered to properly maintain my car, and it doesn't stop as fast as it should? Recall an entire line to make sure all the brakes are perfect!

    We've held BASEBALL BAT manufacturers liable for their bat being 'too hard', and resulting in injury. Because, really, who would imagine that, if you hit somebody with a baseball bat, they might get hurt?

    And, as has been mentioned, almost every safety warning on your appliance electrical cord is there because somebody did something wrong with a product, and held the manufacturer liable.

    As it is? We're not allowed to exercise our rights to seek redress from the gun industry. We're told, in law, that the right of people to murder us from a distance is SO IMPORTANT that we must give up our constitutional right to seek redress for harm. Even the anti-SLAPP statues only make it a punishable offense to file really stupid suits – they don't flat-out bar you from bringing them, like the gun industry protection laws do. We treat them unlike any other industry, for the simple reason that the gun proponents know that if we held them to the same standard, they'd go out of business. If they had to sell a safe product, like everybody else does, there's no way they'd do it – they're not INTERESTED in selling safe products.

    Also, do notice that you equate guns to kitchen knives – and like most, you ignore that one of these items is used FAR more routinely to kill people than the other (at least in the US). You ignore that one of these items was specifically designed to kill people, while the other has a very different intended, designed use.

    The gun manufacturers are, willingly and knowingly, manufacturing items that are designed to cause harm, and then acting surprised when the items are used to cause harm. We should hold them to at LEAST the same standards we hold industries, such as the drug industry, that manufacture items NOT intended to cause harm – they should owe millions of dollars every time one of their items causes the death of another person, since it's so easily avoidable.

    @C.S.P.: Ok, we don't know how many people were murdered by assault weapons. Fine. Was the number higher than 0? Yes? That number is then too high. You are willing to pay for the right to bear arms with the life of other people. That is the simple truth of the matter.

    No decent person is willing to make that payment.

  186. C. S. P. Schofeld says

    @GuestPoster;

    "If it saves just on life…"

    Bullshit. Everything is a trade-off. You say banning 'assault weapons' will save lives? Fine. It hasn't been demonstrated, but fine.

    PROPOSE A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT OR PISS OFF.

    The Second Amendment was written and ratified to ensure that the right of the people to own military grade arms was not abriged by the State. There is no reputable dispute of this. I am simply not willing to even discuss the merits of your proposed ban unless you are willing to follow the proceedures laid down in the Constitution for changing the Constitution. Because a State unfettered by law is far more dangerous than any number of overarmed unaligned idiots.

    BTW, any time I hear "if it saves ine life" I know I am being scammed. It means that a cold eyed assesment of costs and benefits will show that the proposed measre will inevitably cost the flipping earth in return for benefits that are hard to prove at all.

  187. Zachriel says

    GuestPoster: Ok, we don't know how many people were murdered by assault weapons.

    The problem with assault weapons is the scaling effect. The attacks of 9-11 killed 'only' 3000 people, far less than those caused by motor vehicles or cancer in the same year. However, the attacks could have been repeated — unless actions were taken to prevent them.

    Rapid-fire assault weapons give power to the individual to end multiple lives, and can easily scale. That's why machine guns, explosives, and other means of mass-murder are regulated. The question is where to draw the line, providing enough fire-power for reasonable self-defense, but not enough to cause unlimited mayhem.

  188. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Zachriel;

    The problem is that 'assault weapons' are not more rapid fire than autoloading weapons that aren't scary looking. The 'assault weapon' tag is either based on 'it looks mean, make it go away!' Or on simple political dishonesty; making up a category to ban as a stepping stone for further bans later. The former is a poor basis for policy and the latter even worse.

    A lot of the heat of the gun control debate comes from this. Pro gun people look at the term 'assault weapon' and ask what it means. Pro gun control people answer with a laundry list of features that don't really affect the dangerousness of the gun. So the pro gun folks point this out and those who made the list because they had an emotional reaction to the appearance of the guns get angry.

    Assault rifles (which caregory has a definition) are usually low calibre weapons. That means soldiers can carry more ammunition (and much more is fired than ever hits anyone), and enemies that get hit are wounded (and thus a drag on their fellows), not dead. Assault rifles typically do not work well at long range, because the average soldier doesn't either. No point in buying masses of rifles for sharp shooters if you aren't going to have masses of shap shooters. Yes, assault rifles often have bayonnet lugs. Not sure why, there hasn't been a bayonnet charge since WWII, and that one was an abberation. If there has been a mass shooting during which somebody was bayonnetted, I haven't heard of it.

    The term 'assault weapon' is emotionally meaningful, but functionally meaninless. Emotion without definition makes for bad law.

    Better to a) promulgate a proposed Amendment that would allow guncontrol laws without having to play Supreme Court Roulette. And b) work on deciding which fratures, if any, really make mass shootings easier and worse.

    Or you could examine the fatc that all mass shootings but one in the last couple of decades,have taken place i 'gun free' zones.

  189. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @ All Gun Control advocates present;

    Core question; Why do you trust the State? Especially; why do you trust the State so much that you are prepared even discuss abridging due process? Where in history do you see a government that could be trusted as far as one could kick it in stocking feet?

  190. chembot says

    @GuestPoster

    Could we get a list of consumer goods and everyday activities that "cost one life" to apply your standard of regulation to?

    For instance, I enjoy the use of kitchen utensils, cleaning products, and baseball. Am I paying for cooking, scrubbing toilets, and watching/playing the national pastime with the blood of others?

    Oh, and InB4 "But those products are not specifically designed to kill people"
    1. Your standard is saving a life = good regulation/ban. Once again, the precautionary principle rears its ugly head.
    2. Guns are used in a number of sporting activities that have nothing to do with killing anybody, as are bows and crossbows, as are bats. We use plenty of products that are inherently dangerous when used improperly (or even properly!), but don't strive to ban every one of them or regulate them into submission. But with certain classes of things like cigarettes, guns, and so forth we get a special breed of meddling nanny who feels that we desperately need their helpful authoritarian impulse to save the day.

  191. Dan says

    Trust in government is basically at its lowest level in history, and is extremely low among all age groups. It hovers around 15% to 20% among the public as a whole, and is presumably closer to 0% for gun owners.

    http://www.people-press.org/2015/11/23/1-trust-in-government-1958-2015/

    Government has an incredible legitimacy crisis in America, and I say this as someone with a Federal job.

    Things like background checks and even registrations would be reasonable in a nation that had anything like a good relationship with its government. We are not such a nation. We once were such a nation; trust in the government was 75% during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations (when pollsters started asking) but has never exceeded 30% in the last ten years.

    In my view strong gun regulation would be dead law from the moment of passage. It would be impossible to get a jury of 12 to ever convict anyone of violating a politicized new gun law.

    In fact, I suspect we are approaching a future where the jury system breaks down due to tribalism, both ethnic and political.

    What is the way out? My view, totally contrary to my position as a Federal employee, is that America should really be many countries, free to govern themselves. If the Republic of Alabama wants Uzis for eleven year olds, let'em. That'll learn'em. Chicago can be free meanwhile to banish all pokey utensils from the dinner table, permitting only foods that can be eaten with a spoon.

  192. mcinsand says

    @Dan

    >>In fact, I suspect we are approaching a future where the jury system breaks down due
    >>to tribalism…

    Tribalism sums much of the dysfunctionality in one word. The political parties aren't about principles anymore; they're just brand names like Coke and Pepsi. The only time they work together are in cases like Burr and Feinstein teaming up to attack privacy. The greatest disease in the tribes seems to be a lack of tolerance from loyal critics. Members have to either mouth the tribes' policies word for word or be denounced as one of 'them' (the other tribe).

  193. Tim! says

    @Milhouse: Sincerely, thank you for pointing out where my reason has been corrupted by reflexive responses arising from incomplete informational foundations. My apologies for accusing you of the same kind of bias I was exhibiting. The parts of my posts that you have responded to have been my least considered and least polished.

    Also a big thank you to Ken White. I love this site so much for offering so much insightful commentary and discussion with a delightful snarky dressing and relatively few thinned-skinned us-vs-them impotent entrenched attacks.

  194. WuzYoungOnceToo says

    Because nothing previously forbidden from sale by law as an "assault rifle" or "assault weapon" had that feature.

    There is no such thing as an assault rifle.

    Both of you make the baby Jesus cry. Here, let me lay this out as simply, clearly and unambiguously as I can:

    1) "Assault weapon" and "assault rifle" are two different terms for a reason, and they are not interchangeable.

    2) "Assault weapon" is, as was pointed out, a nebulous term with no generally agreed upon meaning aside from the "icky, scary-looking black guns" one that gun control activists apply to it.

    3) There most certainly IS such a thing as an "assault rifle", and although there's no official standards body that has codified a definition for it, it's meaning is pretty well understood by people who have actually taken the trouble to learn anything about the subject. That meaning is based on the features of the German StG 44…the very first "assault rifle". The designation "StG" is an abbreviation of "Sturmgewehr", or "Storm Rifle"….with the word "storm" used in sense of "storming"…or "assaulting"…a military position. Hence the English language interpretation of "assault rifle". The combination of characteristics that made that made the StG 44 a new class of weapon were:

    – An individual (vs crew-served) firearm.
    – Select-fire (semi-auto or full-auto) capability.
    – Chambered for an intermediate-power round (somewhere between round meant for pistols and battle rifles).
    – Uses a detachable box magazine.
    – Has an effective range of at least 300 meters.

    There are also shorter definitions, such as the one coined by the U.S. Army in 1970: "…short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges."

    This really isn't that difficult to learn and understand. The fact that so many allegedly educated people are still incapable of doing so is most depressing.

  195. mcinsand says

    As a semi-tangential note, I can't help but wonder if Ken caught Senator Rimes on The Daily Show this past Tuesday night. Rimes was arguing that there is room for restricting the Amendments, just as the First doesn't give the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. I thought of Ken instantly, of course.

  196. gekkobear says

    @GuestPoster
    "Ok, we don't know how many people were murdered by assault weapons. Fine. Was the number higher than 0? Yes? That number is then too high."

    How many people were "murdered" by assault weapons.
    And lets go with the proper criminal definition of murder; not legal self defense.
    Unknown but > 0.

    Now, how many people's lives were defended with assault weapons?
    Unknown but > 0.

    You are willing to pay for the right to disarm everybody with the life of other people.
    "That is the simple truth of the matter.
    No decent person is willing to make that payment."

    That is the same argument you made on the other side…
    Why are you willing to sacrificial lives for your desires, and not even admit those lives exist?
    Is that not equally horrible?
    Note "It's only good when I do it" isn't actually Moral High Ground; so keep looking.

  197. Justin says

    @ All Gun Control advocates present;

    Core question; Why do you trust the State? Especially; why do you trust the State so much that you are prepared even discuss abridging due process? Where in history do you see a government that could be trusted as far as one could kick it in stocking feet?

    Do I trust the State to properly (whatever that means) regulate guns? Not really; they're pretty terrible at most things. Do I trust the State more than I trust private companies with a vested interest in selling as many guns as possible? Absolutely. It's too simplistic to point out that one group is bad at something and conclude that that something shouldn't be done.

    I think guns are too readily available and the types available are in many cases too destructive and I'd like to see the State (as the only actor with the ability to do so) take some steps to address those excesses. I don't know exactly what those steps should look like, but as a very rough cut, I think a ban on "assault weapons", left undefined, would move the needle in the direction I want with an acceptably small risk (given the perceived gains) of being over-restrictive.

    Now, all that is what I want and is a separate issue from what is possible (either because of a lack of political will on the legislative side or because of conflict with the Constitution on the judicial side). I'd imagine further refinements would be required to my above proposal, but it's disingenuous to claim that I can't advocate for gun control measures without first being certain that my proposals are Constitutional. Pro-life advocates have for decades enacted various restrictions on abortions, many of which have ultimately been found unconstitutional. But the net effect of those laws has been to slowly restrict women's right and access to abortions. I'd like to do the same with respect to gun ownership (which is no more constitutionally protected than abortion).

  198. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Justin,

    The thing is, gun ownership is explicitly protcted. That was the intent at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified, it is how the law has been interpreted for most of the Country's history, and it is where matter sstand now. I will grant that there was a period, from the early 1970's to Heller, when if one lived in a Liberal Left enclave one heard a lot about how the Amendment was about militias. But that was never established law, and several gun control cases were quietly derailed by the gun control faction, out of concern that they would get to the Supreme Court and blow the militia argument out of the water.

    And, further, anybody who has done any reading about the history of the subject knows this. The only reasons Liberal Left politicians repeat the militia lie is that its basically what they've got, and they are no more honest than any other kind of politician.

  199. Justin says

    The thing is, gun ownership is explicitly protected.

    Unless you think "explicitly" does a lot of work in that sentence, so are abortions. Do you feel just as strongly that we shouldn't pass new abortion restrictions if the constitutionality of such restrictions is in doubt? That seems to happen all the time, with courts subsequently striking down and/or narrowing those that go too far. What's wrong with taking that approach to gun control?

  200. Zachriel says

    C. S. P. Schofield: The problem is that 'assault weapons' are not more rapid fire than autoloading weapons that aren't scary looking.

    Which is why overall rate of fire is a more appropriate standard to answer the concerns of self-defense while limiting the ability of a lone gunman from causing mayhem.

  201. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Justin;

    re:"Unless you think "explicitly" does a lot of work in that sentence, so are abortions."

    Think. You cannot possibly mean that. Gun Ownership ("The right to keep and bear arms") is given an entire Amendment. Abortion is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, or in any of its Amendments.

    Which is not to say that I think something has to be mentioned in the Constitution and its Amendments explicitly to be a civil right worth preserving. Guns are mentioned. Abortion isn't.

  202. Justin Smith says

    @ Justin, JUNE 17, 2016 AT 1:45 PM

    Why do you want a ban on "everything that can plausibly be described as an 'assault weapon'?" What do you believe such a ban will accomplish? I assume, based on your comments, that you'd really like a total ban on all guns. Am I right? If so, what do you believe that will accomplish?

  203. Jason says

    I'd be happy with a ban on handguns. According the FBI UCR statistics 48% of all US murders involve a handgun as the reported weapon. Rifles and shotguns are more like 2.5% each.

    Ban civilian purchase of handgun and ammo for them and consider just buying them from current owners with a gradually declining formula until its just made illegal to own them for most people without a special hard-to-obtain permit.

    Courts have not been as protective of rights to own concealable weapons as rifles and many cities had handgun bans for decades.

  204. Justin says

    @C. S. P. Schofield

    re:"Unless you think "explicitly" does a lot of work in that sentence, so are abortions."

    Think. You cannot possibly mean that. Gun Ownership ("The right to keep and bear arms") is given an entire Amendment. Abortion is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, or in any of its Amendments.

    So I guess you do think "explicitly" is doing a lot of work? To my mind, constitutional is a binary choice. There's no "more constitutional" option. Court have said gun rights x, y and z are protected and abortion rights 1, 2 and 3 are protected. How they got there doesn't really matter, unless you're interested in drawing inferences from those decisions or deciding whether you agree with their rationale.

    @Justin Smith

    I was being somewhat facetious for the sake of argument, and don't have the energy to go too far down this path, but:

    Why do you want a ban on "everything that can plausibly be described as an 'assault weapon'?"

    Because I think that domain of weapons, however defined, doesn't include any weapons that (a) are necessary for "good" uses of guns and (b) can't be replaced by guns that aren't plausibly "assault weapons".

    What do you believe such a ban will accomplish?

    I think such a ban would result in fewer "assault weapons" being owned. There are obvious downsides to owning "assault weapons" and I don't think there are any upsides, so this is a good thing.

    I assume, based on your comments, that you'd really like a total ban on all guns. Am I right? If so, what do you believe that will accomplish?

    No, I'm fine with guns that aren't "assault weapons." Such a total ban would have downsides, like the inability to hunt or participate in sport shooting, that would more than offset and increased gains.

  205. Justin Smith says

    @Justin, JUNE 22, 2016 AT 4:41 PM

    I think such a ban would result in fewer "assault weapons" being owned. There are obvious downsides to owning "assault weapons" and I don't think there are any upsides, so this is a good thing.

    I'm having a difficult time seeing the downsides for 'assault weapons' that don't also apply to pretty much every other type of firearm. What are the downsides as you see them?

  206. Dan says

    If the right did give in to rules like universal background checks or registration or no 'assault weapons', is there anyone in America who believes the left would not come back for more? Is there one person in America who believes that the left would ever simply leave well enough alone?

    The right has learned that when the left makes a promise that it will go only so far and no further, the left is certain to break that promise. The right therefore wants no part in any discussions and feels like they are playing a game with a player that operates in bad faith.

  207. Zachriel says

    Dan: The right has learned that when the left makes a promise that it will go only so far and no further, the left is certain to break that promise.

    What promise is that? You seem to be reifying a vast and disparate group as a single entity.

    Some people on the left want to ban all guns. Some people on the right don't want to ban any guns. Many people in the middle want to regulate some guns. Politics is the art of compromise. Furthermore, if there is a compromise made, such as banning machine guns, that doesn't mean the political process stops. Some people will still want to ban all guns, and some people will still want to upend the ban on machine guns. They have a right to continue to make their arguments.

    Gee whiz. If you let the slaves go, the next thing you know, they'll want to eat at the whites-only counter at Woolworth's. Where does it end!?

  208. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Justin,

    I think there is a world of difference between a right that is written into our founding documents, and one that was found by reading between the lines. If a subsequent Supreme Court ruling voided Roe v. Wade i would disagree, but not be outraged. The right of privacy which is the basis of abortion rights simply is not memtioned by name in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I happen to think abortion should be legal, but I am not at all sure Roe v. Wade was a good ruling. Or, if it was a good ruling, that depending on the right to privacy that it placed in Law, rather than saying "what a good idea. Let's pass an amendment to cement that." is smart. Recall that the Supreme Court once ruled that the 'owners' of escaped slaves had a right to retreive their property from free states.

  209. Tim! says

    @C.S.P. Schofield: This is why Hamilton et al argued against the Bill of Rights, because it would confer special status on the enumerated rights and imply that other rights were less favored or non-existent.

    The fundamental philosophy behind the constitution is that a person possesses rights fundamentally, but that we must infringe some few of those rights in order to function as an organized society. The fact that a right is not enumerated in the Bill of Rights ought not imply that the government may infringe it; similarly the fact that a right is enumerated ought not necessarily imply that it is more sacrosanct than an unenumerated right.

  210. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Tim!;

    In general, I agree with you. But at the same time, setting enumeration issues aside, I feel that the right to be armed is arguably more important than the right to have an abortion, if only because without the former you won't have the latter unless your 'betters' approve.

    And on a mundane level; it is a core part of my political philosophy (insofar as I have one) that the government does too goddamned much, and much of it badly. So my political goals tend to run to looking for ways to make the government mind its own goddamned business, and to do so with honesty, transparency, and competence where possible.

    The Government has not show much competence at either keeping guns out of the hands of nuts, OR policing the medical profession (the Medical Profession is even worse at the latter). I want them OUT of both the guns and abortion debates. I view the guns issue as more urgent, if only because it is the one that is currently being whored out by shameless political pimps as an excuse for doing away with due process.

  211. Justin Smith says

    Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert comic, has an interesting take on the gun control debate. You can read the full blog post yourself, but he concludes with:

    If we had a real government – the kind that works – we would acknowledge that gun violence is not one big problem with one big solution. It is millions of people with different risk profiles voting their self-interest as they see it.

    So stop acting like one side is stupid. Both sides of the gun issue are scared, and both have legitimate reasons to be that way. Neither side is “right.”

    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/146307088451/why-gun-control-cant-be-solved-in-the-usa

  212. C. S. P. Schofield says

    Scott Adams is right, and that insight applies to a lot of debates. But the core of the gun control debate, for me, remains that the gun control advocates aren't willing to acknowedge the Secnd Amendment. The think they can squirm around it, making "reasonable" "compromises", and not seeing that that paves the way (further) for gutting parts of the Constitution they like.

    Or, possibly, some of them actually want to raise up a police state, in which case, God help them.

  213. Shell says

    Milhouse says
    JUNE 21, 2016 AT 1:12 PM

    "'Never mind that no constitution provides for its its own destruction.'

    This one does."

    ………….

    No, it doesn't. "Constitution" and "government" are not the same thing. The Constitution authorizes us to overthrow a government that does not obey its (the Constitution's) limitations and set up another that does.

  214. Milhouse says

    The constitution also provides for its own repeal, either by force of arms or by constitutional convention.

  215. Zachriel says

    Milhouse: The constitution also provides for its own repeal, either by force of arms or by constitutional convention.

    There is no provision for overthrowing the government by force of arms in the U.S. Constitution. There is a specified process for a constitutional convention, however.

  216. Milhouse says

    The claim was that "no constitution provides for its its own destruction". This constitution, in the second amendment, clearly does. It doesn't have to say that it can be destroyed by force of arms — every constitution can be; that's just the nature of the world. Sufficient force will overturn any government and any constitution. But this constitution forbids governments from taking an obvious action to prevent its overthrow. It deliberately leaves itself vulnerable. The second amendment is a back door engineered into the constitution, so it can be shut down if necessary.

  217. Muzzle Blast says

    Folks, it is called "substitution." If "Achmed The Terrorist" cannot get X, do you think he/she will give up or switch to "Y" for their nefarious acts? People who do not understand the principles and properties of firearms also do not comprehend how many BTUs there are in a plain gallon of ubiquitous and readily available gasoline.

    If a rental van full of flimsy containers filled with 85 octane unleaded is crashed through a nightclub/mall/church/school/etc. wall incinerating the entire structure and everyone within, will those advocating gun control attempt to cheer those waiting for DNA identification of the charred corpses that "Hey, you can thank me that they didn't use an assault weapon to kill your loved ones!"

  218. Zachriel says

    Milhouse: This constitution, in the second amendment, clearly does.

    Ah, no. The Second Amendment is not a provision for overthrowing the government, and the Constitution is clear that those who attempt to do so are guilty of treason. Washington was the first to enforce federal power over militias, so it's not as if this is some newfangled notion.

  219. Milhouse says

    Um, yes, the second amendment absolutely is a provision to ensure that the people have the means to overthrow the government, if they should find it necessary. That's what it's for. And while attempting to overthrow the government may be treason (if you count it as "levying war against the united states"), doing so is not. Which simply means if you try, you'd better succeed. The second amendment is there to make it easier to succeed. The people who drafted and ratified the amendment would all have been traitors had they failed, and they took no shame in it. They added this amendment to the constitution so that their successors, if any, might succeed too.

  220. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Zachriel

    Actually, several of the leaders who debated and adopted the Constitution and Bill of Rights felt strongly that the Second Amendment was for just that purpose. The view was respectable right up until the Civil War, when it got co-opted by the Secessionists, who did not in fact give a rat's ass about States Rights (or they wouldn't have pushed the Fugitive Slave Act).

  221. Milhouse says

    @CSP Schofield, how did the Fugitive Slave Law show a disregard for states' rights? Are you claming that states had the right not to return fugitive slaves?! The constitution explicitly required them to do so, and state laws impeding their recapture were unconstitutional. The Fugitive Slave Act merely implemented that requirement in the face of states that had been brazenly defying it.

  222. Zachriel says

    Milhouse: the second amendment absolutely is a provision to ensure that the people have the means to overthrow the government

    The militia system was meant as a substitute for a standing army during peacetime. It was there to protect the Republic, not overthrow it. The Constitution is quite clear on the issue of treason. The recourse is a constitutional amendment or constitutional convention.

  223. Harry Johnston says

    Folks, it is called “substitution.” If “Achmed The Terrorist” cannot get X, do you think he/she will give up or switch to “Y” for their nefarious acts?

    I don't think this argument is sound. AFAIK, the record of attempted terrorist bombings vs shootings strongly suggests that a prospective bomber is significantly more likely to get caught, and when they don't, they're likely to kill fewer people. For example, the Boston Marathon bombing only killed three people, compared to 49 killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting. Another example is the November 2015 Paris attacks, which incorporated both bombings and shootings; the shootings killed significantly more people.

    (Granted, the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 could be considered counter-examples. But in many ways that was a different age.)

  224. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Milhouse,

    States have a right to determine what is considered contraband. If you take your pet ferret into a state that does not allow them, it is taken from you. If it wanders in on its own, you don't get it back. Letting (former) property loose on its own recognizance may be bizarre, but the free States had a right to do it…if you believe in States Rights.

    The South didn't. They used their clout to force slavery down the throats of the North, but when the shoe looked like it might be on the other foot they whined about States Rights. Rights they had never shown any particular regard for when they were the rights of OTHER States.

    The Civil War was less about Slaves, or even the Union, than it was about a giving a bunch of arrogant assholes the kicking they richly deserved. Pity the Plantation Elite managed to hornswoggle so many common southerners to pay the price for their desire to be Aristocrats.

  225. Milhouse says

    No, states did not have the right to do it, any more than they had the right to mint money, or discriminate against citizens of other states, or raise their own armies. The constitution specifically prohibited them from doing it.

    Morever, unlike, e.g., the prohibition on states creating their own local nobility, this prohibition was not severable from the rest of the constitution, because without it the southern states would never have ratified it. Thus had states been allowed to flout it the USA would have lost its right to exist.

  226. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Milhouse;

    Individual states later were judged to have the right to ban alcohol, and prevent it crossing their borders. They did a laughable job of it, but nobody claimed they hadn't the right. What makes Slaves a different sort of property?

  227. C. S. P. Schofield says

    @Zachriel,

    Several of the founders, including Jefferson (who can hardly be characterized as obscure) stated publicly that the citizens should be prepared to overthrow a tyrannical government. If someone have told you that such sentiments had gone away by the time the Constitution was ratified, they have been lying to you.

    @Milhouse

    It occurs to me that I have not differentiated between what was legal under the Constitution (which included provisions mandated by the clout of the Planters) and what would be reasonable if the Southerners had cared about the rights of any States but theirs. Maybe it was legal, under the Constitution, for the South to force the North to return slaves. It was also a clear violation of the concept of States Rights. If the South had the right to it's "peculiar institution" the North had a right to not tolerate its practice within their own borders. You want to hold Saves? Keep them on your side of the line, because the moment they cross out borders, they are confiscated from you. We will not hold YOUR slaves.

    The Planters didn't give a fat damn about States Rights. They cared about their own Privilege.

  228. Milhouse says

    What makes Slaves a different sort of property?

    The constitution.

    Maybe it was legal, under the Constitution, for the South to force the North to return slaves. It was also a clear violation of the concept of States Rights.

    That's a contradiction in terms. The constitution defines what rights states have. That's why there was a tenth amendment, to specify that the states retained whatever rights they had before 1788, except those they explicitly gave up, such as the right to harbor fugitive slaves.

    The southern states stuck by the compact they'd agreed to; the northern ones flouted it. If they could no longer abide by it, they should have seceded. Or they should have let the south secede peacefully, which would free them from this obligation.

  229. Harry Johnston says

    @Milhouse, can you please point to the specific section of the constitution that you think applies?

    All I can find in Wikipedia is Article One, Section Nine, which only addresses the importation of slaves – it doesn't say anything about what happens to them once they're in the country.

  230. GuestPoster says

    Funny enough, you've all stumbled into the reason that 'original intent' is such a worthless doctrine.

    Did the founding fathers intend the second amendment as a guarantee that the people could overthrow the government? Yup. Some of them did. Emphasis upon SOME.

    Did the founding fathers intend the second amendment as a way to prevent needing a standing army? Yup. Some of them did. Emphasis upon SOME.

    Did they intend it as an individual right? A group right? Some, in each case.

    Funny thing though – they agreed upon one specific language: "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."

    That's what they agreed upon, each and every one of them. And while some different text was sent to SOME of the states (which might then have reason to whine), this is the agreed upon text today, printed upon the document stored in the official archive, which is (in theory) the document the court is supposed to care about when determining what the law of the land is. That is to say – they are SUPPOSED to think that the constitution actually matters when interpreting the constitution.

    And what does it say? It says the federal government can't infringe upon the right to form well regulated militias, and considers these militias to be, effectively, the essence of the right to bear arms. The punctuation makes it so that 'the right to bear arms', taken alone, CANNOT be linked to 'shall not be infringed'. It IS a group right, a right to form regulated militias, as far as the written document goes.

    Did various founding fathers INTEND for it to mean various things? Yup. Few of them agreed with one another. But this is what they decided upon in the end. This is what they wrote upon the test sheet before turning it in to teacher.

    You can argue all day about what your preferred subset of founding fathers WANTED to write, and WANTED it to mean. What matters more is what they actually agreed upon with all the other authors at the end of negotiations.

    Of similar note: the original constitution says not one darn thing about slavery. Not one thing. It DOES say that a person "held to Service or Labour" in one state, who escaped, had to be returned. But a reasonable argument could be made that 'property' such as a slave isn't held to 'service or labour', and that that is more talking about indentured servants, or prisoners doing labor following a crime. Similarly, slave owners were not people to whom service or labor was due, but rather owners of beasts. Literally. Had the authors actually wanted slaves returned, they could have said so. Instead, they used language which doesn't honestly apply, but is better applied to indentured servants. Again, and certainly, many authors THOUGHT it would, or should, apply to slaves… but the language they used makes it so that it does not. And it DOES obliquely reference slaves as 'everyone else' after mentioning free persons, but funny enough, it also directly mentions persons bound to service for a period of years… e.g. exactly the sort of people the 'return to sender' clause seems to be actually addressing.

  231. Harry Johnston says

    As for the right to secede, I more or less agree with you, except that it seems like a moot point. Even if the Union had recognized the legitimacy of the Confederacy, the obvious next step would have been to declare war on it. Potayto, potahto.

  232. Milhouse says

    @Harry Johnston, "No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due." You can't get more explicit than that.

    And the Union had no legitimate reason to go to war on the Confederacy. There was no quarrel between them. Had it recognised the legitimacy of the secession, a declaration of war would have been naked aggression. It should have evacuated Fort Sumter just as the UK, having recognised the USA's independence, evacuated all its facilities within the USA's territory.

    @GuestPoster, your argument is full of sh*t. You don't seriously believe it yourself. There is no way to read the second amendment as protecting "a right to form regulated militias", and nobody has ever seriously read it that way. Certainly no court has done so. The amendment has always been understood to protect an individual right to keep and bear arms, because that's what it says. The introductory phrase can at most be read as modifying that right; for instance the Miller court saw it as limiting what kind of arms are protected (ironically in a way exactly opposite to the wishes of hoplophobes such as yourself).

    The same applies to your disingenuous claim that fugitive slaves were not "people held to service or labour under the laws of" the state they had escaped. You know very well that the clause included but was not limited to slaves; you just don't want to admit it. There is nothing in the clause that says or implies anything about a limited term, or the commission of a crime; nobody in the world has ever supposed that it might mean that, so no reasonable argument can be made for it.

  233. Harry Johnston says

    You can’t get more explicit than that.

    I don't want to be overly nitpicky, but it certain could have been more explicit than that. Specifically, they could have actually included the word "slavery" alongside "service" and "labour".

    I found this on Wikipedia:

    There were no laws regarding slavery early in Virginia's history. But, in 1640, a Virginia court sentenced John Punch, an African, to slavery after he attempted to flee his service.[6] The two whites with whom he fled were sentenced only to an additional year of their indenture, and three years' service to the colony.[7] This marked the first legal sanctioning of slavery in the English colonies and was one of the first legal distinctions made between Europeans and Africans.[6][8]

    So in the 17th century, at least, "service" and "slavery" were two different things. Perhaps by the 18th century that had changed, but can you prove it?

  234. Vorkon says

    @GuestPoster

    Are you seriously responding to an accusation that you are not arguing in good faith with that ridiculous "third comma" argument? There is absolutely no way to make that argument in good faith.

    For one thing, anyone who has studied any writing from the time knows that commas were thrown around willy-nilly, usually just when there would have been a pause in speech, and that by and large people didn't assign them as much value as we do today.

    Second, when you say "some states," you do realize you mean "all but two states," as well as the official version that Congress published and distributed as "this is what was ratified," (and which was also entered into official records, just like the handwritten version you're talking about) right? (There were only four states that sent back the one-comma version, but the others had either no commas or two commas.) The famous handwritten parchment version may contain three commas, but almost every printed version does not. Which version do you think is more likely to have a minor clerical error? Either way, there is no distinct, universally agreed upon "official" version, and even if there were, the version that was actually ratified has the stronger claim to that title.

    But fine, let's assume, for the purpose of argument, that the three-comma version is the one, true, official version. Are you seriously trying to argue that "shall not be infringed" modifies "a well-regulated militia"? There may have been different points in the history of the English language where certain punctuation was used differently, but there has NEVER been a point in which the statement "a well regulated militia shall not be infringed" has been anything other than ungrammatical nonsense. The word "infringe" does not work that way. It requires a right, or something similar, to be infringed upon. You might say, "the right of the people to form a well-regulated militia shall not be infringed," but no one, at any point in history, would ever say "a well-regulated militia shall not be infringed," any more than they might say, "a cat shall not be infringed," or "a chair shall not be infringed."

    Is your argument, then, that the second amendment is just a string of nonsense words with no meaning, which the framers threw in to troll us, and which the states ratified because they thought it was funny? That is the only explanation I can think of for the three-comma version, other than the historically true fact that people were more liberal with commas back then, which makes any sense whatsoever.

    Feel free to argue over the exact meaning of "bear arms," or what it means to "infringe" upon that right, or even to argue over how just much the first clause modifies the second. (Which, if the answer is "a lot," MIGHT even lead a reasonable person to agree with the "collective right" interpretation.) I might disagree with your interpretation, but at least those are logically sound, honest arguments. But if you try to argue that the sentence is NOT broken up into two distinct clauses, (the first of which being "a well regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state," and the second of which being "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed") you are either being willfully dishonest, or you just don't understand how the English language works.

  235. Zachriel says

    C. S. P. Schofield: Several of the founders, including Jefferson (who can hardly be characterized as obscure) stated publicly that the citizens should be prepared to overthrow a tyrannical government.

    That doesn't make it a provision of the U.S. Constitution.

  236. Bob Jacobson says

    We live in a society that has relinquished to private interests far more determination of our way of living than a distant and in many ways closeted government. Why the wishes of gun manufacturers, salespersons, and users should get to set the tone and terms of this argument — an argument that has herein produced innumerable pages of self-described sagacity and outright sophistry — is a question that generally has gone unasked, let alone unanswered, here or yet anywhere in our wonderful republic, land of the brave and home of the free. Brave and free, maybe once upon a time…

    Happy Fourth. Bang.

  237. Careless says

    Oooooh I forgot that's the dude who was upset that I criticized what's-his-name the prune-faced ex-NRO white supremacist

    So in this particular thread, Ken misuses "white supremacist" in that manner? /facepalm

  238. Jeff Ryan says

    @Vorkon: This has to be about the most pathetic, desperate interpretation of the Second Amendment I've ever seen.

    It is a fundamental rule of interpretation that one may resort to the legislative history of an act or amendment to determine its meaning. Meaning, my friend, that if the the people who passed the amendment spoke of its purpose, then their words should be heeded. So, please, name a single representative who took part in the debates who stated that any "individual right" to own a gun was under consideration. Just one, oh. please! You can't, because that was never what the Congress was even talking about.

    They talked about militia service, meaning military service. That's why the original version included an exemption for conscientious objectors to be allowed to refrain from the requirement to "bear arms" in militia service. You fall prey to a modernist interpretation of language, without resort to even the most basic tool there is: What did Congress say? Obviously, if you'd done so, you would realize just how absurd your argument is. "Bear arms" was well understood to mean military service, not packing heat. Research the usage of the phrase contemporaneous to the time of the Amendment: It didn't mean carrying a gun. It meant serving in the military.

    Are you even aware (and I suspect you're not) that basic gun registration existed both before and after the passage of the Second Amendment? No? Let me enlighten you: Both the states and the federal government conducted gun censuses; i.e., door-to-door surveys of who owned what firearms. Because all guns were considered to be held in trust for the use of the militia. In light of this indisputable fact, gun registration (once quite common) would not offend the Amendment. (After all, "original intent" is what matters, right?)

    In point of plain fact, Congress never discussed any "private" right to own firearms. That was not even a concern. The Second Amendment was passed to ensure the right of the states to have armed militias. Why? Because the Constitution gave Congress, for the first time, the sole authority for arming said militias. At this, the anti-Federalists balked, claiming that Congress could disarm the militia by simply refusing to arm it. Hence the guarantee that states would always retain the right to have such an armed militia, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment. You do not seem to have any understanding of the militia clauses of Article I of the Constitution, to say nothing of the history and reason for those provisions.

    Your argument is idiotic. It assumes that the word "militia' is included in the Amendment as a form of surplusage, and not really necessary to its meaning. Have you even read the original Amendment as proposed by Madison? It is passing strange that you denigrate the Amendment's language to support the unsupportable: That, even though Congress well knew the purpose of the Amendment, they carelessly tossed militia language into it, allowing you to disregard it. On the one hand you insist on literality, while on the other you want us to believe that the language betrays an utter lack of relationship between the term "militia" and the rest of the Amendment. Have your cake. Eat it. You are still wrong.

    In all, you demonstrate a woeful ignorance of both the drafting of the Amendment and its intent. This is not just shoddy history: It is magical thinking.

  239. Milhouse says

    Your comment is so full of sh*t that it would supply fertilizer for a small third-world country. It is a lie from beginning to end. The amendment says "the people", not "the states", and it means exactly what it says. It is in fact a fundamental rule of interpretation that a prefatory clause giving the reason for a statement does not change the meaning of the operative clause.

    And every court that has ever considered the amendment has intepreted it the same way: as an individual right. The idea that it could mean anything else is a modern "liberal" lie, unheard of before the 1960s. The most meaning that any court has ever read into the prefatory clause was the Miller decision that since the amendment's purpose was to make sure people had arms to bring with them on militia service, therefore it only applied to weapons that would be useful for militia service.

    Note well that the Miller court agreed with every court before and after that the right to bear such arms is an individual right; all it said was that if a weapon has no military use then it's not included. Accordingly, once a hearing was held to formally establish the well-known fact that sawn-off shotguns do indeed have a military use, Miller's conviction would remain overturned. Of course the hearing was never held because Miller was dead.

  240. Tommyboy says

    @Milhouse
    While I deplore ad hominem, I agree with your sentiment. Let's not forget that the Miller court had so little insight into the tools of warfare that they found a Short Barreled Shotgun- commonly employed as a trench broom during the period- to be an unacceptable weapon for warfare. I think this supports Mr. White's point nicely.

    @Jeff Ryan
    Pried from the cold pen of Justice Scalia, writing on behalf of the court in D.C. v. Heller (2008):

    "From our review of founding-era sources, we conclude that this natural meaning was also the meaning that “bear arms” had in the 18th century. In numerous instances, “bear arms” was unambiguously used to refer to the carrying of weapons outside of an organized militia. The most prominent examples are those most relevant to the Second Amendment : Nine state constitutional provisions written in the 18th century or the first two decades of the 19th, which enshrined a right of citizens to “bear arms in defense of themselves and the state” or “bear arms in defense of himself and the state.” 8 It is clear from those formulations that “bear arms” did not refer only to carrying a weapon in an organized military unit. Justice James Wilson interpreted the Pennsylvania Constitution’s arms-bearing right, for example, as a recognition of the natural right of defense “of one’s person or house”—what he called the law of “self preservation.” 2 Collected Works of James Wilson 1142, and n. x (K. Hall & M. Hall eds. 2007) (citing Pa. Const., Art. IX, §21 (1790)); see also T. Walker, Introduction to American Law 198 (1837) (“Thus the right of self-defence [is] guaranteed by the [Ohio] constitution”); see also id., at 157 (equating Second Amendment with that provision of the Ohio Constitution). That was also the interpretation of those state constitutional provisions adopted by pre-Civil War state courts.9 These provisions demonstrate—again, in the most analogous linguistic context—that “bear arms” was not limited to the carrying of arms in a militia."

  241. Milhouse says

    @Tommyboy, you are mistaken. The Miller court did not find that short-barreled shotguns were not militia weapons. It found that there was nothing in the record on the question, so it was unable to decide whether Miller's conviction was properly overturned. An appeals court can't take evidence; it must decide each case based only on the record before it.

    The court did not reinstate Miller's conviction; it sent the case back to trial court with instructions to hear evidence on the weapon's uses, and to determine the case accordingly. Had that hearing been held, the weapon's military use would have been established, and thus the reversal of Miller's conviction would have been upheld.

  242. Dave says

    @mg

    Guns with a low rate of fire are just as good for target shooting (fun) and hunting (not my thing but respectable enough) and worse for killing as many people as possible.

    That would pretty much kill speed-shooting as a sport. e.g. https://www.youtu.be/N5QTFvnENRc

    Limiting rate of fire isn't exactly easy to put into legalese because the receiver/frame doesn't have a rate of fire. If you mean to make it harder to reload/ready a firearm, there's plenty of technical remedies for that which would make any of these much easier.

  243. Vorkon says

    @Jeff Ryan

    What are you even talking about? I never even MADE an argument supporting the "individual right" interpretation. (I happen to believe it is the only sensible interpretation, but that was clearly not what I was arguing, and I don't care enough to try to convince someone who so obviously has their mind made up.) Did you say @Vorkon when you meant @SomeoneElse, or something?

    The ONLY thing I argued in that post was that GuestPoster's ridiculous three-comma argument strained all credulity, and was obviously a rationalization based on wishful thinking. Are you trying to argue that the three commas are somehow significant, or that the amendment isn't broken up into a fundamentally two-clause structure? If so, then I'M not the one making a pathetic, desperate interpretation here.

    (You'll note, that I SPECIFICALLY pointed out that the significance of the prefatory clause is up for debate, and that it's a perfectly valid argument to apply more weight to that clause than I do, personally, even though I might disagree with that argument. But trying to argue that the amendment does NOT have a two-clause structure, as GuestPoster did? That's just beyond the pale.)

    Mind you, the argument you are making against the strawman you are calling "Vorkon" is terrible too, of course, but since that person is not me, and I never made the argument you are ascribing to him, I see no reason to bother responding to it.