Monday, January 10, 2011

Tucson and the "Magazine Problem"

Alas.  The producer who interviewed me for the Colbert Report just called to say that the big two-parter about "possible alien invasion" had to be trimmed-down to make room for fast-breaking stories.

 Alack, that means they had to cut the calm and reasoned straight man from the piece.  In other words... me.  Ah well. I'm still a friend of the show. In fact, you should still tune in! It will be funny and you can try to guess where "Brin woulda been."

The topic - "whether and how the universe might be dangerous" - is one that simultaneously merits thought, argument... and humor.


 While thoughtful folks point to recent, tragic events in Arizona, appealing for Americans to tone down the horrifically polarized rhetoric of recent years, we all can see the opposite going on.  In an era when all scientists are painted (by one side) as conspiring traitors and liars, you can tell that we have entered what Robert Heinlein forecast as "The Crazy Years."

One element to the Tuscon rampage that I haven't seen mentioned, so far, is the role that was played by the gunman's use of an insanely large capacity, 31-round magazine, which allowed him to spray a helpless crowd, killing several elderly bystanders, a federal judge and a nine-year old girl, and critically injure the district's freely elected representative to the United States Congress, before he could finally be brought down, when his automatic pistol ran out of bullets.

Let's be plain here. The insistence of the NRA and other gun groups, on preventing any restraints on magazine size, or on the sale of assault rifles and automatic weapons, is not based on tradition or any legitimate personal need. 

Their stance of utter resistance to any constraint, is defended on the basis of "slippery slope" arguments. They maintain that any legal restraint on gun ownership is inherently part of a plot to eventually eliminate all forms of gun ownership. 

Now, lest anyone mistake me for a reflex lefty nannystater, let me avow that slippery slope arguments do have enough historical support to logically merit a proper place in any discussion. Firearm registration records in European countries, before World War Two, were later used by both Nazi and Communist tyrannies to strip the populace of registered weapons. This fact - recited ad nauseam - offers a core of justified fear that should be part of any reasoned discussion.

JEFFERSONRIFLEElsewhere, I've tried to analyze the central fear of gun rights supporters... a crux worry that is deeply American and that (indeed) many liberals share. I tried to logically derive a solution that could satisfy any reasonable person... even one who wants to keep secret the kinds of weapons that would be most useful in a mass insurrection against some future Big Brother tyranny.  See my moderate suggestions in: "The Jefferson Rifle: Guns and the Insurrection Myth."

To be clear... right-wingers often repeat their mantra that "liberals want to take away our guns."  But they cannot point to any mainstream (non lefty-dingbat) democrat or liberal voices who have made any such moves, in decades.  Indeed, most thinking people now know that the flood of guns and ammunition that has filled America is long past unstoppable. It has come in tsunami layerings that are by now almost sedementary, a layer so thck that future geologists will find fossils of glocks and colts in the very rocks!  Firefighters are asking for bullet proof gear, before they go into some burning homes, so sure are they that the closets -full of ammo will go off.

 Liberals aren't pushing for gun control.  Given the hot rhetoric of Culture War and violence pouring from men like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, more and more liberals are buying weapons of their own.

But no.  Even so. A line has to be drawn somewhere. If only because the world will not follow a Pax Americana that has gone insane.

 A good place to start is with those 31 round magazines.  They are only good for one purpose, pouring a lot of bullets into a crowd of people, too fast for anyone to react.  You cannot come up with another scenario for such  awful things. Even if you are in a B-Movie gun fight with a horde of motorcycle-riding zombies, that will take place over a period when you can change your freaking magazines. Heck, Lady Lara Croft does just fine with seven or nine-round clips.

NamesInfamyTime and again, we have seen mass murdering gunmen brought down by brave citizen bystanders... at Columbine and when Reagan and Ford and Robert Kennedy were attacked... and in Tucson.  For the most part,  the take-down happened as soon as the bastard ran out of bullets!

This is one case where the slippery slope is all the nutters have. There are no other justifications for allowing Big Clips. If you can fantacize ever needing one... fantacize being part of the next unarmed crowd.

--See also my article: Names of Infamy: Deny Killers the Notoriety they Seek


Dave Rickey said...

Yes, by all means lets replay the reaction to the assassinations of the 60's. Let's make this about 31-round magazines and waiting periods, spend the next decade hardening the split that puts "people who like guns" on one side of the political divide.

You're smarter than this.

gwern said...

> One element to the Tuscon rampage that I haven't seen mentioned, so far, is the role that was played by the gunman's use of an insanely large capacity, 31-round magazine, which allowed him to spray a helpless crowd, killing several elderly bystanders, a federal judge and a nine-year old girl, and critically injure the district's freely elected representative to the United States Congress, before he could finally be brought down, when his automatic pistol ran out of bullets.

It's been covered. My local newspaper in today's edition published an editorial calling for the reinstatement of the Clinton-era ban on such magazines.

Tony Fisk said...

Banning semi-automatics was a newly elected John Howard's response to the Port Arthur massacre.

One of the few things I'm willing to credit the guy with.

Corey said...

So let me get this straight, Dave, and please correct me if I'm misunderstanding here. Are you saying that we shouldn't discuss the implementation of ANY form of gun regulation, especially in light of the result of lack of such regulation (of which this shooting is just the latest in a LONG line of enormous problems), because it'll be objected to by the all or nothing gun nuts, who think they're arming themselves for the impending political revolution (that's been "right around the corner" probably for about the past 110 years), and will further politically isolate them?

I'm sorry, but judging the extent to how reasonable such controls are should not revolve around whether we think it'll drive a few political extremists even further to the fringes of our political discourse than they already are, assuming that's even possible.

Waiting periods, limitations on magazine size, restriction of weapons past a certain destructive capability, these are things intended to save lives, and I'm no more inclined to think they should be off the table just because someone might politically object anymore than I think we should throw teaching evolution out of schools (and keeping creationism out), or requiring helmets/eyewear for motorcycle riders, just because SOMEONE, somewhere, thinks such things are objectionable. One can find someone, somewhere, who will object to almost anything, but that doesn't mean we stop it from from allowing the government to do the job that 85% of us think it should do.

Just in the first two years since the lift on the assault weapon ban, crimes committed with assault weapons QUADRUPLED, forcing police to try, desperately (and often inadequately) to match the firepower of these increasingly armed criminals, making such shootouts more frequent and hazardous and firepower just goes up and up on both sides. It's so bad, that getting overpowered weaponry is now easier in the supposedly "civilized" United States, than it is in Mexico, which has created huge exports of assault weapons to Mexico for use by drug interests, such that Mexican authorities (much like our own) are actually getting out-gunned by criminals and are finding their desperate measures to compete falling far short of adequacy.

I'm sorry, but it's long past time to nip these problems in the bud, and I'm certainly not inclined to allow fear of the reaction of a few extreme people to become further reason to stall on things we never should have STOPPED doing in the first place.

Dave Rickey said...

Millions of people die every year because of private motor vehicles. Many would be saved if private vehicle ownership was abolished or discouraged. But politically, that's a non-starter, even though there are many in the environmental lobby who would make exactly that argument.

We're not talking about a few extremists. The NRA was once the most powerful lobby in the country, and will be again if Democrats actually start up with the gun control efforts again.

David Brin said...

No Dave, YOU are smarter. You effectively say, no discussion.

Not even concerning portions at the edge that are certifiably unsupportable and crazy.

Did you even read the "Jefferson Rifle" piece?

Corey said...

You're right, Dave, and it wouldn't be reasonable to ban motor vehicles.

Likewise, I'm not a fan of gun bans. I know many hobbyists and hunters, and I think they have a right to their weapons. Hell, I've even shot off a few interesting guns myself beyond the mundane hunting rifle, and it was some of the most fun I've ever had (even if I freely admit that I'm a piss-poor shot with 9mm automatics).

That said, you note that there are speed limits governing cars. Motorcycles require helmets in many states, and at the very LEAST, require eye protection so you don't end up endangering others. Race cars are illegal, inspections are mandatory, age limits are in place, special licences are required for some vehicles (CDL A and B, depending), insurance is usually a driving perquisite. You and your equipment are held to certain standards as stipulations of the right to drive.

Now it's time we look at the same things for guns. Your argument seems to be that if we even so much as discuss ANY kind of regulation, and ANY kinds of limitations, that suddenly it's tantamount to saying we shouldn't be allowed to use guns. Your argument seems to be that it's all or nothing, and it isn't, for guns OR motor vehicles.

I don't care if the NRA objects. If they can't compromise to allow ANY kind of control, then they're a political extremist group, and a political extremist group that, at ONE POINT THREE PERCENT of the population of the US, should not get to unilaterally dictate policy.

I would also point out that the slippery slope argument works both ways. If we're going to argue all or nothing, then fine; let's legalize hand grenades, and allow the private ownership or armed tanks and aircraft? If right to own weapons needs be taken as far as M-16s and P90s, not just being owned, but being owned with no restriction, and no regulation, on the basis that this right must be all-inclusive at all costs, then there is no reason, whatsoever, to stop at basic firearms.

The Second Amendment, upheld to back private rights by Washington DC v Heller, refers to the right to bear "arms". Last I checked, hand grenades counted in that, so if we're to make that right absolute, and above any form of abrogation or regulation, then they should be included too (along with the tanks and the planes, and hell, why not throw in an Iowa class battleship or too if the local militia really thinks they can afford it).

These are the problems I have with what you seem to be arguing.

Dave Rickey said...

I read it when you put it back up in 2007, and I just re-read it again. It's not really relevant.

My point is based on political track record. For over 30 years, gun control was a high priority for the Democrats, and what did they accomplish?

1) You can't buy a firearm via mail order.

2) You can't buy a fully automatic weapon without all kinds of hassles.

3) You need a basic background check to buy a firearm from a dealer.

That's *it*. And what price have we paid for this anemic, underwhelming result? We've moved "everybody who likes guns" to one side of the political debate, we've legitimized and validated the paranoid mumblings of the conspiracy theorists, and we've pushed the Mountain West into bed with the Bible Belt in the GOP camp. And *just* as the west is starting to realize "holy shit, these people are crazy", you want to make this a debate about gun control?

How about making it about how this guy was able to wander around for years without psychological treatment? How Arizona helped balance it's budget by eliminating the staff who evaluated who needed that kind of help? Or keeping it about the violent, eliminationist rhetoric of the right?

Because just by bringing the magazine up, you undermine efforts to get through to the "ostriches" because you're working off a familiar script, you distract from those other, more substantive issues in the public discourse, and you incidentally send sales of high-cap pistol magazines through the roof (try and find an online retailer that still has them in stock in a week, many have already sold out).

Yes, sometimes even having the discussion is a mistake. That's what "message discipline" is all about.


Corey said...

So in other words, because you're saying that the US public is too infantile and immature to properly decide the place of firearms in our society, that we should end that discussion, now and forever.

Actually, I think what you're saying is that because a full one or two percent of our society is too infantile and immature to have this discussion, that our entire nation should end it, now and forever.

I'm sorry, but no. Gun control measures only became "anemic" because or the recklessness of fringe neoconservatives, and they didn't come to power on gun rights issues in the post-Clinton era.

Furthermore, your argument is a false dichotomy. I'm sure there are many issues we have to discuss in light of this, but making the lack of proper regulation on guns one of them does not preclude discussing other issues as you imply.

Corey said...

As for "message discipline", as I said, a fringe organization that comprises 1.3% of the population does not get to unilaterally control the political discourse, just because they threaten to stomp and scream extra loudly the moment anyone wants to say anything that might disagree with.

If 1.3% of the population wants to flock to the GOP, let them. I'm not going to completely take an issue off the table for fear of it (especially when they're already firmly ON the side of the GOP, and always will be; it's not like anything's bound to change).

Dave Rickey said...

Where do you get this 1.3% figure? The NRA had a peak membership in the tens of millions, which happened to occur just before the Assault Weapons Ban (which included the high-cap magazine ban) failed renewal.

In the Mountain West and rural Midwest, being against gun control in any way, shape, or form, is not a fringe position, it's the *norm*. I grew up in Montana and currently live in Wyoming, states that have more weapons than people. When I was born, you couldn't get elected dogcatcher in Montana if you weren't a Democrat (Bachus was elected Senator in that period), guns were a big reason why that flipped, and the fact they seemed to have come off the table was a big part of why they have started coming back.

Put gun control back into the debate (a debate that historically you have lost), and watch Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico move back to the "Red" column.


Corey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

"How about making it about how this guy was able to wander around for years without psychological treatment?"

Dave and you accuse us of tilting at windmills? You actually think taxpayers are going to let states fulfill their commitments to the mentally ill?. In comparison to that, my request to move the line of contention back to cover 31 round magazines is a mere bagatelle.

In fact, I think it can be couched carefully, acknowledging the "slippery slope" - so that defenders of those clips are the ones driving ostriches OUT of the Murdockian alliance.

Anonymous said...

Corey: Can you provide a source for the statistic of crimes committed with assault weapons having quadrupled since the assault weapon ban was lifted?

Rob said...

You don't need a large clip to hunt or defend yourself. You don't even need a large clip to intimidate with a gun.

You *do* need a large clip to sustain fire. Marines and Army don't sustain fire; they try to make every single shot count.

That argues very strongly in favor of a commercial regulation against large capacity ammunition clips.

I know people who *armed themselves* (with 15-round firearms) upon learning that Obama had won the election. Decent, civilized people whose only rational fear was of the loss of the right to buy any firearm, and who had never owned a firearm before.

That alone says to me that the rhetoric has been hyperbolic, and it needs to be toned down. Whether this shooting is related to that hyperbole, or came without that influence, I can't tell; hating on congresscritters is a far older pastime than the most recent anti-government pushes.

David Brin said...

Regarding the 1/11/11 date...
Might mention that certain assholes kept WWI going an extra day... with artillery still firing! so the war could end at 11:11:11 on 11/11/18. I am sure the guys who died under those shells appreciated the imagery.

Dave Rickey said...

"Dave and you accuse us of tilting at windmills? You actually think taxpayers are going to let states fulfill their commitments to the mentally ill?. In comparison to that, my request to move the line of contention back to cover 31 round magazines is a mere bagatelle."

But it's a debate that moves the country back towards "community values" even if you *lose* it. Where the high-cap magazine debate just falls into familiar narratives, reinforces existing divisions, and strengthens existing power formations.


rewinn said...

If sounds to me that Dave & Corey are in fundamental agreement as to what a rational policy might be, but disagree as to whether (A) we can achieve that rational policy through political discussion (B) the collateral damage from a failed attempt to achieve that policy would be excessive.

It seems to me that the basic problem is not the policy itself, but the childishly low level of political discourse today. This Thanksgiving, a family member disclosed that although he agreed with Patty Murray (D-WA) on almost everything, he voted against her because she wanted to take his guns away. I asked him for evidence: a bill she'd introduced, a speech she'd made. He had none, for there hasn't been a gun-banning bill introduced since when, but he "knew" it was true.

It occurred to me later that the emasculation theme that ran through his fear of losing his guns was only intensified when I asked him to provide a fact in support of his feelings. Perhaps a rational gun-control strategy has to first prepare the ground by introducing rationality into our political discourse.

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of hyperbole and high capacity magazines, check out 'Metal Storm' technology.

That should end any argument (until hand held lasers become a constitutional right and essential BBQ accessory)

(Actually, a mini-lop with a switchblade is all that's needed to satisfy anyone's security needs).

Dave Rickey said...

Pretty much. There are a lot of people who are primed to be irrational about guns. If you say "we have too many guns, or some of the ones we have are too dangerous" what they hear is "I want to take away *your* gun, so that when the bad man breaks into your house and rapes your wife and daughters, you have no defense. I want you, your family, and your dog to die."

Like it or not, you can't propose even something as common-sense as "you don't really need to be able to fire 30+ rounds before you change the clip unless you're trying to kill a lot of unarmed people in a hurry" without triggering those irrational fears. And it's not a fringe 1-2% that would never vote Democrat, anyway, but a solid chunk of otherwise perfectly normal and rational people, who hold a powerful swing position.


Tony Fisk said...

Gun control in the US clearly has a long and very emotional history...

...but seriously, I think you folks should be aware that it is possible for a highly developed society to exist without each and every citizen obsessing about whether they pack enough heat in their pants!

David Brin said...

I'm no huge fan of Michael Moore. But he was cogently surprised to find that Canadians are MORE armed than US citizens, on average. They are just more calm and likable... and less jibbering crazy.

Corey said...


To answer your question, the statistic I heard was from a CNN article, which I believe was in response to the Westroads Mall Shooting.

That said, the article seems to be rather illusive, so it's a particular claim I'll have to retract, pending a citeable source.

I WILL note that gun crime climbed steadily from the mid 1980s precisely until 1994, the EXACT year of the Assault Weapon Ban. From 1994 onward, it fell like a rock, going from some ~570,000 reported crimes in 1993, down to ~340,000-350,000 by 1999, where it held steady until 2004-2005, the EXACT year the ban expired. After that ban expired, there was a *consistently* present 10% uptick for 2005, 2006 and 2007. BJS statistics have not, as yet, been updated past 2007.

Percent of crimes (murder, robbery and assault) committed with firearms follows a fairly similar trend. They go up continually by enormous strides until 1994, then from 1994 onward, fall to 1999-2000 levels of 25.5-26.5 percent, then once 2004 rolls in, there's a *consistent* uptick (something a bit less than a 10 percent increase over the prior numbers, from ~26% to ~28% or 29%).

We'll see how it plays out in further years to see if it regresses COMPLETELY back to 1993 levels.

Corey said...


What you're describing is a single political interest taking unilateral control of an entire nation's political discourse, something they don't have the right to do.

More importantly, an issue doesn't stop becoming relevant, or important, just because it seems politically inexpedient to discuss. In this economy, climate change is also not a particularly convenient thing to discuss, but it's not as if the physics of climate suddenly change according to the financial status of nations.

Dr Brin is a scientist, his job is to discern and report the facts to the best of his ability, not decide what facts "political reality" should act as a censor for. I'm also studying to be a scientist, and I don't stop offering what information I can just because someone threatens to throw a political stink over it.

If lack of regulation on guns is measurably becoming an issue, then I'm going to discuss it with whatever rational minds are out there to discuss it with, and not worry whether some special interest group is going to try to turn it into an ideological call for war. That's not my job, or Brin's for that matter, and perhaps that's where the disconnect is here.

Tacitus2 said...

assault weapons was always a political label.
But allowing for some sane discussion of where to draw the line..

I agree there is no private need for high capacity magazines, sawed off shotguns, fully automatic weapons. I would go further and say that handguns should be allowed only with a permit, but there I diverge from a goodly portion of my conservative brethern.

Its the attitude I worry about changing, there is too extensive an arsenal floating around out there already.


Acacia H. said...

Okay. I'm pro-2nd Amendment. But I honestly do not see what the problem is in banning these massive ammo clips. The only purpose they serve is to allow people to have sustained weapons fire, whether it's while shooting on the range (laziness in not wanting to reload), or committing one of a number of crimes that utilize firearms.

But I will say this. The massive outcry against this shows that anything even hinting at gun regulation is the Third Rail of Politics, even moreso than Social Security. Look at how we have 24 comments in a little over four and a half hours.

This Second Amendment supporter is calling bullshit. I do not see how not allowing people to have these clips, or having a waiting period before picking up a firearm, is a bad thing. And while my father (who is quite vehement in his paranoia about the government taking away guns and says that the government is constantly trying to pass legislation on this (which I honestly am not aware of)) may disown me for saying this... I stand by my statement.

We may Constitutionally be allowed to possess firearms... but we who either own guns or would own guns need to show some responsibility, lest public sentiment turn against us, and we see the Second Amendment appealed and our greatest fears come true. If we give an inch, it does not mean they will take a mile. It means that we negotiate intelligently, maturely, and logically on these things.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Carl M. said...

I rather like your Jefferson Rifle piece, though it was a while back when I read it.

But the slippery slope argument is not fantasy. The tone of many of the commenters here indicate they could go for some gun bans. Britain and Australia have gun bans. Washington D.C. had a gun ban. I think Washington D.C. is part of the United States...

Unknown said...

I liked the Militia Rifle piece. How about this:

all ammo gets encrypted rfid tag and registered in a big database. Blackpowder and load your owns get trace markers in the combustibles. You get caught without an rfid in your lead, or someone else gets caught with your supplies and you didn't call in the theft, very very severe consequences. Lefties don't really care about the gun control thing that much - as someone in thread pointed out, cars are the real killer of people and environment. Mostly we want accountability from owners and dealers.

Unknown said...

oh yeah, and 30 round mags are for killin' people by surprise and in a random fashion and nothing else. I haven't read anything in this thread to refute that statement. If you can't yield to this fact, then the slippery slope argument sound like trolling to me.

Anonymous said...

It might be instructive to look at history. Back before Canada had any kind of weapons restrictions it had 10% of the murder rate of America. After gun control was instituted this didn't really change.

Look at the Klondike Gold Rush. Violence on one side of the border, peace on the other.

Rather than focusing on weapons, it might be useful to figure out why American culture is so violent.

Acacia H. said...

Sexual repression. Sex is a sin in the eyes of many religious sorts and nudity and the like is anathema. So Hollywood puts out movies glorifying violence because sex is a no no, and people who seriously need to get laid are instead given the outlet of guns and violence.

Please note, I'm being tongue-in-cheek here.

Rob H.

Dave Rickey said...

And Britain was recently mired in a debate over "knife crime" where they were seriously discussing restrictions and registration of kitchen knives, because much as "slippery slope" arguments postulate, if you do succeed in getting rid of the guns, criminals turn to new weapons which in turn become the embodiment of evil.

Does anyone really need a 30+ round pistol magazine? No. Will getting rid of them reduce the fatalities inflicted by the criminal and insane? Maybe. Will it move the goal posts towards whatever hardware is seen as instrumental in the *next* mass murder? Certainly. Will this Congress and this Supreme Court even consider any meaningful restrictions? Definitely not. Will even having this pointless argument we can't possibly win cost us politically in other ways? Hell yes it will.

So why even have the debate? Reasonable people will agree, unreasonable people will get their way, and the ground will be poisoned for addressing any of the *other* issues this incident brings to the fore.

It's also worth noting that just as there's a sizable contingent that are irrationally attached to guns, there's an equally large population that is irrationally repulsed by them. This is one case where there really is a "both sides are crazy" equivalency.


Tony Fisk said...

Why indeed?

High risk activity (aka violence) is usually associated with low socio-economic expectations.

Yet here we are, talking about a nation with one of the highest standards of living in history.

What gives?

('Freedoms just another word for, nothing left to lose')

Dave Rickey said...

Tom Tomorrow sums it up:

ZarPaulus said...

Don't feel bad about being dropped from the Colber' Repor', being a parody of Fox News they have to make half-hearted attempts at shocking their audience.

And I've heard conservatives argue that they need 30-round magazines to defend against Mexican Drug Cartels of all things. Seriously it's like they think we live in a third world country.

David Brin said...

"Dr Brin is a scientist, his job is to discern and report the facts to the best of his ability, not decide what facts "political reality" should act as a censor for."

Well. That is my religion. My faith. But I am human and thus a hypocrite. Of course I wind up biasing my perceptions and reporting.

What I have done, to compensate for that is:

1. cultivate a community of persnickity souls who will question/criticize. CITOKATE.

2. nurture my own sense of ornery contrarianism and BOREDOM with one point of view.

Tacitus, Robert, I stand by my "Jefferson Rifle" solution. Give EVERY American a bolt action rifle. Destroy all records and declare them sacred, forever. They are mostly useless in crime. But 10,000 neighbors, armed with them, can keep out a division, so long as the troops are unwilling to use artillery. That is it. Your militia. Your 2nd amendment.

Now discuss all the other things that are made for mayhem, separately.

Dave R. It is worth debating this in case someone finds whatever it is that Murdock has slipped into the water supply to drive 1/3 of americans crazy. If we find an antidote, then these pre-discussions can be brought up between sincere liberals and sincere (brought back from hell) conservatives.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Tony Said
-High risk activity (aka violence) is usually associated with low socio-economic expectations.

Yet here we are, talking about a nation with one of the highest standards of living in history.-

How true is this?
The "average" in the USA is quite well off-
Are the bottom 10% in the USA as well off as the bottom 10% in most first world countries?

I feel the USA is not a good country to be poor in - to make it worse the poor are surrounded by affluence - they don't/can't share

And their socio-economic expectations are to be poor until they die

Corey said...

The problem, Dave, is that your position assumes and is contingent on a static compromise on the issue here that simply doesn't exist.

Instead, what happens is that the balance is constantly disrupted by the pro-gun movement pushing things further and further and further and further.

I wish your little comic was right; I wish the issue *was* settled. The problem is that it isn't settled, because the NRA types are NEVER satisfied. They won't LET the issue be settled. They proved that when the Bush Administration came to power with a GOP government, and they whittled down every law, every reasonably restriction, every possible hint of sanity on the issue until there was almost nothing left.

I don't know what's scarier, the thought of how far they got, or the fact that they are willing and able to go much, much further. My Granddad has a pillow on his couch that reads "Give a man an inch and he thinks he's a ruler". I don't think I truly understood the expression until I learned about the NRA.

This is exactly the danger of allowing any single group to unilaterally control political, especially when it's by holding the nation hostage by threatening a political rampage every time someone so much as says something they don't like.

You tell us we should just sit tight, keep our mouths shut, and forget the issue for political expedience, but the NRA is going to be doing no such thing. It's not in their nature.

It seems rather unusual to suggest that we accept mass killings as the price of political expedience, but really, I might almost be willing to let it go if I thought they were.

Thesis Writing said...

Excellent Blog! I really admire your thinking and the way you have put these information in this post. Thanks for sharing an informative post.

Corey said...

@Duncan Cairncross

This is a class case of the difference between a median average and a mean average.

Mean income in the US hasn't been doing ANYTHING to complain about over the past few decades, but mean averages are heavily skewed by outliers, and right now the rich few in this nation control an absurd portion of the wealth.

Yes, we're a wealthy nation, a very wealth nation in fact, but fewer and fewer people seem to be having access to it (and forget economic mobility).

Fixing our socioeconomic problems would do WONDERS for our crime rates. Another giant problem is that our prison system is a total institution, that radically resocializes people, taking away their ability to operate in normal society, thereby creating a system that breeds repeat offenders by design (something a sociology professor of mine actually studied in significant detail earlier in his career).

There's a myriad of problems to address when it comes to dealing with crime. Easy instant access to weapons that enable them is just one of many.

David Brin said...

"I feel the USA is not a good country to be poor in - to make it worse the poor are surrounded by affluence - they don't/can't share"

hmmm complicated. The Bushites pursued the "ownership society" and made a big deal of easing mortgages for 1st time buyers... to a degree of laxity that almost crushed the economy and that they now deny ever happened. For a while there, home ownership rates - even among the poor - were higher than anywhere in the world. Probably pretty high even now.

US poor tend to have far more square footage and access to cars.

On the other hand, their medical care situation is horrible. Other quality of life factors like violence, also bad.

Some factors aren't the fault of a nation that absorbs MOST of the world's legal AND illegal immigrants. What do you expect?

Naum said...

Drew Westen has written a good article on this topic

Whether they are owned and operated by the NRA, too cowardly to take on the NRA for fear of being defeated in the next election, or misled into believing that the average American is as psychotic as the man who opened fire in Tucson (i.e., that most Americans can't tell the difference between hunting deer and hunting people, or between a hunting rifle and a semi-automatic), our leaders have either faithfully served the interest of Smith and Wesson and the gun lobby or failed to oppose them. The result is that the country has shifted to the right on gun safety, which is what naturally happens when the right is vocal and the left is frightened and silent.

But even today, if you simply speak to ordinary Americans in plain English, they do not believe in the NRA's interpretation of the Second Amendment. Americans are, if nothing else, strong believers in common sense, and the same people who willingly walk through metal detectors at airports and other settings understand the importance of metal detectors for protecting their elected officials -- just as they support them for protecting their kids if there's any chance they could be harmed at school.

Consider a message colleagues and I tested with two large national samples of registered voters, which beat a tough conservative anti-regulation message on guns by 20 points with both the general electorate and swing voters:

Every law-abiding citizen has the right to bear arms to hunt and protect his family. But that right doesn't extend to criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill... We need to use some common sense in deciding what kind of weapons we want on the streets. I don't know any hunters who keep stockpiles of munitions in their basements, and I don't think the Founding Fathers had AK-47s in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment.

Another message beat the conservative message by 40 points with Independent voters, by beginning with a simple statement of principle with which voters across the political spectrum agree if they simply hear it enunciated:

My view on guns reflects one simple principle: that our gun laws should guarantee the rights and freedoms of all law-abiding Americans. That's why I stand with the majority who believe in the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns to hunt and protect their families. And that's why I also stand with the majority who believe they have the right to send their kids to school in the morning and have them come home safely.

Or consider yet another message, which began as follows:

"Every law-abiding American has the right to own a gun to hunt and protect his family... But you don't need an assault weapon to hunt deer, and if you do, you shouldn't be anywhere near a gun."

Duncan Cairncross said...

US poor tend to have far more square footage and access to cars.

I think this is true - but not necessarily relevant, when I lived in the USA my house was probably four or five times the size of my British house - but only 10% "better" to live in
(I had a devil of a job getting my US furniture into the house when i returned to the UK)
The same with the cars - more available but also more necessary - less alternative methods of transport!

But a minimum wage worker here (NZ) or UK is better off compared to his/her neighbors

12 million is 4% of your population

In NZ nearly 50% of the population were not born here - but most came from the UK so that is not a fair comparison

I think immigration is not the problem - I would blame the death of the unions and the subsequent fall of the working man

Acacia H. said...

(Warning, this comment is slightly tongue-in-cheek here.)

Concerning the argument that you don't need an assault rifle to hunt deer... when I was hunting during this fall in Colorado, one of the individuals in the next camp over was hunting with a lever-action rifle (Winchester I think, I'm not exactly sure). He came across a doe (having the one doe license for the camp) and took five shots.

Not only did all five shots miss, but the deer just stood there, staring at him as if to say "what the hell is wrong with you? I'm standing here like a side of a barn and you MISS? Sheesh!" and then AFTER the bullets were all fired, only then left.

So yes. I can fully believe some individuals need assault rifles in order to hunt. ;) Of course, I fully suspect that this individual could have had a clip of 30 bullets and missed with them all. Because while it might be well and nice to hunt with iron sights, but having a proper scope on a rifle really helps. ;)

Rob H., who froze his ass off on the mountains in Colorado... but loved every minute of it. Even the minutes after having blisters form and break on the fronts and backs of both feet....

Paul said...

(Fourth attempt to post..)

Tony Fisk,
"Actually, a mini-lop with a switchblade is all that's needed to satisfy anyone's security needs"

Errr, a mini-lop with a switch-blade? ( ?) Colour me curious.

JohnSerenity, Re: RFID in ammo.
Doesn't need to be "RF", just "ID". You can get micro-dot tags small enough to be sprayed onto high-value vehicles, but large enough to be forensically useful. So it would be easy to find something to embed in the lead. (Possibly even in the cartridge, to be sprayed out when you fire, (provided it doesn't foul the weapon.))

Paul said...

Naum (quoting another),
"Every law-abiding citizen has the right to bear arms to hunt and protect his family. But that right doesn't extend to criminals, terrorists [...] and I don't think the Founding Fathers had AK-47s in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment."

Actually that is all they had in mind when they wrote the 2nd.(*) I tried (but apparently failed) to make this point in the last topic.

The 2nd amendment isn't about You The People having the right to hunt deer or to shoot burglars. Nor is it about forming a well-organised-militia.

It is about defending against a militia. The second amendment means, "We have to permit the government to have an army/militia to defend us; but historically whoever controls the militia controls the nation, so the people must have the weapons necessary to oppose such a militia."

The 2nd Amendment is your constitutional right to prepare to become a terrorist. The First Amendment is your constitutional right to advocate the overthrow of the government. The Third Amendment is to prevent your home being seized by the army/militia. The Fourth allows you to carry secrets between conspirators. The Fifth to keep you from being tortured to reveal your conspiracy. Sixth and Seventh to keep you from being arbitrarily rounded up or kept in limbo. See the pattern?

Your Founding Fathers just won a war against an Empire. They had formed an unproven system of government that they fully expected to go wrong. Revolution was all they were thinking about.

I'm well to the Left of most (all?) of you, and I support gun control, but IMO very few on either the left or right in the US seem to correctly interpret the US Bill of Rights. Anything(**) your government does to prevent domestic terrorism is unconstitutional.

(*) Okay, maybe not AK47's exactly. Just the equivalent.

(**) Except training and encouraging civilians to respond to an incident.

"that our gun laws should guarantee the rights and freedoms of all law-abiding Americans."

But "law abiding" can be redefined. IMO, the Brady act is also unconstitutional.

"But you don't need an assault weapon to hunt deer..."

But it's the only way they'll learn... :)

Abilard said...

This is one of those areas where, frankly, our Constitution might need amending, which we as a society avoid doing by playing fast and loose with the meaning of its statements. For example, we commonly support the concept of negative rights. Freedom of religion is expanded, logically, to include freedom from religion. As an atheist, I'm all over this. However, I'm not sure the Founders thought in those terms.

Consider the Militia Act in relation to the Second Amendment:

"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."

If we take this both ways as we do with freedom of/from religion, then the government can neither make laws restricting nor make laws encouraging gun ownership, but in the Militia Act the Founders did exactly the latter requiring the following:

"That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack."

Then there is the fact that when the colonials thought in terms of "arms" they were not speaking of just guns. Can a society that allows citizens to carry around their own portable nuclear weapons for home defense survive?

We should, in my opinion, be discussing modernization of this section of the Constitution through amendment. We will, I believe, be chicken [bleep] about it and continue to try to fit square pegs into round holes.

Acacia H. said...

The minilop with a switchblade is a reference to the webcomic Sluggy Freelance, a surreal comic which includes a sarcastic, one-dimensional switchblade-wielding minilop called BunBun. I'm always happiest when BunBun isn't in the comic for extended periods of time. sadly, Pete Abrams seems enamored with the easily-drawn character and insists on dragging the Sue-bunny back from whatever hell Abrams put him in whenever his sense of intelligence takes hold and realizes the character is destructive and serves no purpose outside of mindless destruction and humiliation of the primary cast.

Rob H.

Paul said...

"The minilop with a switchblade is a reference to the webcomic Sluggy Freelance..."

Holy cow, I just thought I was being a sarcastic dick over a coincidentally similarly named weapon.

Tony Fisk said...

You got it Rob, and you see the relevance?

Always thought the terrifying prospect of a Kzinti's warrior-like 'scream and leap' paled in comparison to 'Ka-click! Ka-poing!'

(Well, OK. So the second amendment's about the right to bear arms, rather than cut(ish) rodents.)

Tony Fisk said...

Holy cow, I just thought I was being a sarcastic dick over a coincidentally similarly named weapon.

"There are more things in heaven and earth than thou didst dream, Horatio"

Paul said...

That's what I was trying to get at. You can't restrict gun ownership within the US Constitution. You've already gone waaay too far with some laws.

Bite the bullet (oops) and update the Bill of Rights, or accept that the US Constitution is intended to protect a domestic insurgency.

Re: Home Defence with nukes.

No. It only protects weapons that are useful against a hostile militia/army. So assault rifles, sniper rifles, RPGs and IEDs. Nukes aren't a defensive or guerrilla (or gorilla) weapon.

Acacia H. said...

It's always dangerous to have a webcomic critic wandering around your discussion threads. You never know when he'll jump in and start spouting off almost-irrelevant webcomic-related trivia. ;)

Rob H.

frathcon: A convention for those people who get upset that their cappuccinos are not frothy enough

Ian said...

"And Britain was recently mired in a debate over "knife crime" where they were seriously discussing restrictions and registration of kitchen knives,"

I'd like to see a source for the vlaim that Britain considered licensing kitchen knives.

JuhnDonn said...

As far as magazine sizes go, WWII was won with the semi-auto M1 Garand with an 8 round magazine over the German And Italian bolt action rifles with 6 round magazines. The M1 Carbine had 10 and 15 round magazines and the 1911 Colt .45 has 7+1. Both the carbine and 1911 were side arms for non-front line troops.

Sure, there were support weapons with 20 round magazines (BAR, Thompson, etc.) but the majority of troops had weapons with less than 10 rounds.

For analysis of what bearing, if anything, this has on the Arizona shooting, I'll leave to y'all.

Jeff B. said...

Slate is reporting that the AZ shooting is pushing that state's legislature to actually accelerate the removal of further gun ownership and carry restrictions:

The anti-gun control hysteria has been having repercussions in other areas as well. Because Any action to control or change any single aspect of current gun use is seen as the 1st step on that slippery slope, both public health and wildlife are being impacted because we can't eliminate the use of lead from hunting ammo.

Not only does it have long-proven, obvious effects on raptors and other scavengers- to the point of threatening the recovery of the condor- recent studies have proven that lead bullets often shatter and fragment on striking bone, resulting in inadvertent human ingestion. Obvious problem, obvious solution, but can't be rationally addressed.

Thankfully lead in ammo for hunting waterfowl was largely banned before the levels of fear peaked, or these would also be in decline.

Tacitus2 said...

Not sure if I am considered a reliable "source" but I visit the UK annually and yes, there have been discussions about restricting knives. Blade length, etc.
I recall it being a couple of years back, and roughly concurrent with the term Yobs to describe malefactors. (Boys spelled backwards).
I sound a bit like the designer handbag spamsters, but "interesting discussion". Folks from all over the political landscape with opinions I would not have predicted.
Another interesting point, did you not mentally revise your opinions when you first saw the picture of the suspect, orange suited, grinning, shaven head.
We judge people, still, by the look in their eye.
Not an entirely useless evolutionary trait, but as with all we are sometimes fooled. Not this time.

Acacia H. said...

When I saw the look in his eyes, I immediately thought "this guy knew exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it, and was of sound mind and body while doing it. He very likely built up his online "persona" specifically to give him a defense should he be captured, so he can plead insanity."

No, that's not the look of a deranged nutcase. That's the look of someone proud of what he's done and whose only regrets is that he was caught and that more of his targets didn't die in the shooting. No doubt if no one tackled him while reloading, he'd have fired off even more rounds and then once the area was cleared go through the scene and finish off the wounded with cold purpose.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

You think it "very likely" that he built up this crazy persona over, by accounts of those around him, several years? Pretty diabolical, that.
I must respectfully disagree.
No rush to judgement from this quarter, but having said that, I deal with crazy and potentially dangerous people on a regular basis.
We can wait a bit, but I was just describing the visceral reaction to having a face that goes with the name/deed.
And I did caution that we can be fooled. Ted Bundy was a real charmer by all accounts. And I know some folks who come across as off due to minor physical traits that do not reflect on their inner persona.
As a conservative I feel omfortable calling out "my side". If you are going to decry the violence of the mentally ill, if you are going to demand strict enforcement of existing gun laws to deflect more laws--then by God you better vote to fund the demanded services.

Acacia H. said...

Well, it wouldn't be the first or last time I was wrong about something. It was an initial gut reaction. Though considering (if memory serves me right) he left a note in a safe stating he planned this in advance, it does suggest that if he does suffer from some psychological condition (besides sociopathy) he's still able to function and plan, and went there with the specific intent on killing as many people as possible.

Rob H., who doesn't look forward to the media circus that will happen when this goes to trial

Jonathan S. said...

Wow, I can't believe this was allowed to pass for so long...

Dave, ol' buddy, the "hassle" in acquiring fully-automatic firearms in fact dates back to the 1930s, where a Federal license was required to own one. This was an effort to get one more handle on the violence of the era - gangsters with Thompson submachine guns ("Tommy guns"), while not as common as depicted in films, were common enough that sustained automatic fire became known as "Illinois lightning" (often accompanied by grenades, or "Cicero thunder").

And no, nobody needs a 30-round magazine for any reasonable purpose. It doesn't take that long to change 10-round mags...

Corey, before we can reasonably discuss assault weapons, we must define the term. Under that expired ban, the firearm I owned at the age of fourteen would have been an "assault weapon" - it was a .22 semiautomatic varmint rifle, capable of carrying 12 rounds in a magazine that ran under the barrel. For that matter, my eldest brother is a cop; his duty weapon is a Glock 17 with a 10-round magazine, which can also safely carry one round in the chamber. According to the legislation, any semi-automatic weapon with a magazine capacity of 10 rounds or more was exactly the same thing as a Kalashnikov AK-47.

(As an aside, my brother also carries three magazines in his utility belt; he often says that he'd be terribly embarrassed if he were ever killed in a firefight just because he didn't have enough ammo.)

David Brin said...

Did anyone see the Colbert piece? It...was... awful!!!!

Duncan, we have VASTLY more than 12 million immigrants in the US.

Robert... you NEED an assault rifle for hunting only if your kids will starve without the meat. You do not need one if it is supposed to be sporting, challenging, and there are consequences for doing it badly.

Paul... that was a cool deconstruction of the Bill of Rights.

Abilard, I think we are still obliged to sign up for local duties.

Abilard said...

I don't know. The local CERT program is a whole 11 miles away. :-) I'll run it by my wife.

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, you do realize that when I was being tongue-in-cheek there, I was not honestly advocating the use of assault rifles in hunting animals. (Except squirrels. Fast little buggers, you need every advantage you can get. And let's face it, you're not hunting squirrels for meat, you're hunting them for being annoying critters who throw branches and the like at you and warn every critter around that you're in the area.) (Please note, that was another example of me being tongue-in-cheek or not serious.)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Oooooh, I was so mean! ;-)

Acacia H. said...


Think I'd shift focus briefly to a couple science-oriented news articles. First, here's a couple of articles concerning the discovery of a supermassive black hole in the center of dwarf galaxy Henize 2-10, which may help explain if the chicken or the egg came first - that being, if supermassive black holes predate large galaxy formation or are a product of it.


Next, is doing a week-long report on what it would take to return to the Moon. The first article presents the case to return to the Moon, while tomorrow's article is arguments against returning to the Moon (the latter article probably being of interest to Dr. Brin, seeing he's opposed to going back to Luna).

Another article utilizes geological data from 40 years ago to determine the structure of the Moon's interior, suggesting that the Moon still has molten regions in the Moon, including the outer core (and the belief that the lunar core is six percent sulfur by weight).

Finally, here's an article suggesting the majority of water on the Mon is from cometary sources due to the increased level of deuterium in lunar rock samples compared to that found on Earth.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

@Paul - nothing in the text of the 2nd Amendment supports your claim.

In fact, the phrase "well-regulated Militia" is opposed to your claim, as is the explicit purpose of Militia as originally specified in the Constitution, Article 1. Section 8: “…to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions”
That’s right – the 2nd Amendment’s “well-regulated Militia” is *not* to protect The People against an oppressive central government but to suppress insurrectionists and to fight off the Russkys (“Wolveriiiines!).

It seems very unlikely that our Founders were so stupid as to set up one system of Article 1 Militias to suppress insurrection, and another set of 2nd Amendment Militias to be insurrection. Surely so extraordinary division of powers would have been explicitly evidenced *somewhere*. To the contrary ... odd as it may seem in this era of shouting ... our Founders really did seem to believe in democracy.

And as a practical matter, if you can't win with ballots, you're not going to win with bullots, especially when the government has such a huge head start. We won our Revolution thanks to the Atlantic Ocean and the French Navy, neither of which would help domestic insurrectionists against D.C..

Otherwise, with respect to RFID or ID, it sounds like you’re proposing “taggants” which IIRC, were proposed after Oklahoma City terrorist attack and defeated by the NRA. It might be worth trying again only because it’s a rational measure, although not really applicable to the question of mentally ill people with 30-shot magazines.

rewinn said...

@Rob H - I'm with you on the squirrels. Cheeky devils get away with it only because they're cute. But at least they don't poop like pigeons. Would you consider expanding the Assault Weapon Hunting Exception to include pigeons?

Acacia H. said...

Semiautomatic weapons are useless against pigeons. For those I advocate the use of fully automatic shotguns to spray an entire region with steel buckshot to ensure that the airborne vermin are exterminated. ;)

Rob H.

David Brin said...


we are crazy

Tony Fisk said...

What you need against squirrels is a point defence system on the bird feeder. Something like that wasp killing thingummy from 'Earth'.

(I remember a UK documentary on the tenacity of squirrels when faced with an increasingly complex system of getting at the goodies.)

pestrac: see above

Acacia H. said...

One of the more interesting videos I saw was the use of a slinky as a squirrel repellent device. It took the squirrel a dozen tries before it finally was able to bypass the slinky. Damn but those critters are tenacious and getting smarter all the time. ^^;;

Rob H.

Dave Rickey said...

"we are crazy"

Probably. But it was entirely predictable. In anecdotal news, I can't find an online retailer that still has high-cap Glock magazines in stock in any caliber, and quite a lot of the Beretta and Sig-Sauer equivalents are getting hard to find, as well. Some gun-nut forums I follow indicate that at least some of them are being snapped up in speculation that not only will there be a ban, but it will be like the last one (where only new ones were prohibited, and pre-ban models were still legal), and they'll sell for 5x as much on eBay and at gun shows.

According to the same forums, at least one manufacturer has already started ramping up production, trying to crank out as many as possible. And I'd expect KelTec Sub2000 and Beretta CX4 pistol-caliber carbines to get snapped up, as well.

There's been a bill submitted in the House by a New York dem to ban the high-cap magazines, but I doubt very strongly it makes it out of committee. Another by a Republican to ban carrying a firearm within 1000 feet of a member of Congress if you're not law enforcement.

Paul said...

"and another set of 2nd Amendment Militias to be [an] insurrection."

Errr, either you misread what I wrote, or I miswrote what you read.

My point is that there is no "2nd Amendment Militia." The 2nd amendment is about the people taking up arms against the militia.

The first part of the text, "A well-organised militia being necessary..." is not prescriptive, it's apologetic.

The 2nd amendment (in fact, the whole freakin' bill of rights) is about ensuring that You The People have the tools to rise up against the government if democracy fails; if the government, the courts, and the militia are used against you.

The myths around the bill of rights have allowed people to pretend that the amendments refer to comparatively minor issues. Like porn, hunting, traffic-stops, etc. Whereas the actual limits inherent in the BoR are so far beyond, those other issues shouldn't even be in question.

"And as a practical matter, if you can't win with ballots, you're not going to win with bullots,"

I agree. As I said, I'm to the left of most or all posters here. Nor am I American. So I don't "believe" in the US Bill of Rights, particularly not the 2nd Amendment. But I think people in the US are in a state of denial, pretending that the BoR doesn't say what it says.

If the US actually had to live with the BoR as intended, I think most people (left and right) would be calling for its removal.

(Sigh. Another long boring rant...)

Re: Pigeon Season.

Hmmm, with the advances in aerial robotics, a reusable self-guided kinetic skewer should be possible in a few years. It'd work like one of those robo-vacuums, just turn it on when you head to work. And periodically clear out the dead pigeon bin.

(When I say I'm to the left, obviously I took three rights...)

Corey said...

I'm curious, Paul, as to where you're getting this information.

It's certainly not a paradigm upheld by mainstream legal scholars. I actually just took a political science course only about six months ago, with a professor who loved to cover various perspectives on Constitutional law, and he didn't even so much as mention the idea that any of the Bill of Rights exists for the purpose you suggest.

The Surpreme Court has also never issued a ruling that supports this interpretation. In fact, they never issued any kind of clear ruling until DC v Heller, which says nothing of the sort.

I'm not surprised that the Supreme Court has made no such ruling, because what you're saying is that the Bill of Rights upholds the right of a person or people to commit treason, as defined by Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution.

The Clear and Present Danger test established in Schenck v United States clearly shows that the First Amendment cannot be used to incite lawless actions, and while the case was overturned by Brandenburg v Ohio, that case simply established the Imminent Lawless Action test, which still says that the First Amendment cannot be used to incite lawless actions, merely a slightly clarified way.

There is no indication, at all, that the Bill of Rights supports mass treason, insofar as I'm aware. Furthermore, what you're saying doesn't make any sense. No government who's actions warrant armed revolution in the first place is going to say "Oh, okay guys, I guess we have to let you rise up against us, because the Bill of Rights says so". The Founding Fathers honestly had a hard time agreeing on much of anything, but none of them were THAT oblivious.

Paul said...

"I'm curious, Paul, as to where you're getting this information."

Well, I'm sitting on it, if that helps.

"because what you're saying is that the Bill of Rights upholds the right of a person or people to commit treason"

No, not actually committing.

The moment you act, the government has just-cause to request warrants, conduct searches, make arrests, etc. All perfectly legit.

Likewise, once a corrupt government stops paying at least lip-service to the constitution, it's either game over or civil war.

But if you look at examples of factions usurping power, there's a period where they use existing legal structures to excise their opponents. Rounding up opposition politicians on trumped up charges. Seizing property, media, businesses. Removing unsympathetic judges, etc etc.

The US Founding Fathers had just finished a revolution, just created a brand new system of government. They knew about the abuse of power, they knew that whoever controlled the military could control the country. But they couldn't ban the government from raising an army since you had loyal British colonies in the north, French and Spanish colonies in the south, and the whole European continent that would happily end your little experiment if you let them. So they needed a way of ensuring that domestic usurpers were restrained. That's the BoR. And that's why I believe it should only be interpreted in those terms.

Now, I don't think the BoR (as I've interpreted it) is necessary now to protect US democracy. It could be scrapped or re-written to reflect modern democracy. But people (including the highest courts) have "re-written" it by simply pretending it says something it doesn't, and that pretence has led to some weird and convoluted rulings.

rewinn said...

"My point is that there is no "2nd Amendment Militia." The 2nd amendment is about the people taking up arms against the militia."

Don't quibble.

A militia is a band of armed citizens. When some or all of the people take up arms, they are or become "a" militia.

You argue that the 2nd Amendment is about setting up a militia other than the Article 1 militia. It is uncommon and indeed refreshing to see such a wholly novel concept, but it would be even better to have a shred of proof to back it up.

The major point is this: contrary to the claims of soi-disant constitutionalists, Article 1 specifies that the function of the people, armed, is to suppress insurrection. The Constitution authorizes revolution through the ballot box; any other means is unconstitutional.

Most especially including the Palin/Angle "2nd Amendment Remedy."

"...Nor am I American"

Well then what the heck are you doing making up stuff about our Constitution? Do *I* go on and on about how *your* constitution mandates turning to stone when you are exposed to sunlight?

Paul said...

(Fourth attempt to post... I'll try killing the link...)

"Don't quibble. A militia is a band of armed citizens. When some or all of the people take up arms, they are or become "a" militia."

Now who's quibbling. When I previously used "army" in the generic sense (including the article 1 militia) you insisted on the separate meaning of "Army" and "Militia" in Article 1, Section 8. Okay fine, I'll use that. Now you want to use militia in the broadest dictionary definition. Not cool.

"You argue that the 2nd Amendment is about setting up a militia other than the Article 1 militia."

Sigh. No, that's one of the two myths about the 2nd. Half claim it's about "hunting" or "home defence", or the other half talk about "forming a well-organised militia". I've seen both versions from commenters in the last two topics (hence my rants.)

Because neither interpretation is consistent with the text.

(Coincidently/spookily, today on my YouTube homepage recommended videos, Penn Jillette on the 2nd. Same interpretation; less prolix, more shouty. Penn & Teller, that's like a constitutional precedent isn't it?)

"Do *I* go on and on about how *your* constitution mandates turning to stone when you are exposed to sunlight?"

Sunlight interferes with our constitutionally guaranteed flooding. Though it aids our constitutionally guaranteed bushfires. Opinions vary.

rewinn said...

" insisted on the separate meaning of "Army" and "Militia" ..."

There is no evidence to your claim that I "insisted on" such a distinction, just as there is no evidence backing up any of your other claims.

On to other things.

Corey said...

Paul, I think the bigger point here is simply that your making assertions, treating them with certainty, and not offering one iota of backing beyond your own personal opinion on the matter.

What you're doing here is a textbook case of a bare assertion fallacy.

You can rationalize it any way you like, but nothing you've presented logically necessitates the acceptance of your thesis, and so while a valid opinion, insofar as any opinion is, your statements are far from anything that must be accepted as fact.

Corey said...

I would add, that because your statements are nothing more than valid opinion statements, at best, your weight of evidence is insufficient for you to characterize any other interpretation of the US Constitution as a "myth" or "misconception", that weight of evidence being essentially nonexistent.

Paul said...

"your weight of evidence is insufficient for you to characterize any other interpretation of the US Constitution as a "myth" or "misconception" "

Well, I'm not going to trawl through another country's constitutional law for a comment in a blog, and wouldn't expect anyone else to.

My original spiel was in response to two comments in a previous post:

Tyler said, "I still don't see how gun control takes away your second amendment rights. You can join a well-regulated militia at any time, Rob."

Naum, quoting another writer, "Every law-abiding citizen has the right to bear arms to hunt and protect his family. [...] and I don't think the Founding Fathers had AK-47s in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment."

Do you think that either of these are valid interpretations of the 2nd Amendment? Is gun ownership really confined to members of a "Well-organised militia"? Is there a "hunting clause" that I missed?

Yet these two interpretations appear all the time, including in speeches by US congress-critters. It's widespread and goes largely uncorrected.

In the case of higher courts, I think it's a kind of knowing pretence, "rewriting" the text when making rulings. So bans on assault weapons are constitutional, but bans on handguns not. The literal text makes no such distinctions.

(And that's not unusual. Australia has only two Constitutional rights. Trial by jury, and no-religious-test-for-office. There's nothing approaching a "Free Speech" clause. But the Federal High Court has struck down legislation on the basis that it violated the "Constitutionally implied" freedom of speech.)

(Oh god my posts are getting longer and longer. Sorry, I can't do pithy. Wanna just let it die?)

Corey said...

"Well, I'm not going to trawl through another country's constitutional law for a comment in a blog, and wouldn't expect anyone else to."

Nor would I, up to the point that one makes a comment that necessitates it.

The nature of the forum isn't the issue here. It doesn't matter whether you're making an assertion in Nature, on CNN, on some random dude's blog, in a chat room, or even in an oral conversation (the last one being the most difficult); if you make an assertion, and treat it as fact, then you need to back it up with something more than "It's true, because I say so". If you do not, then you are committing a bare assertion fallacy.

If you don't want to "trawl" through another nation's Constitution law, then you shouldn't be trying to make factual assertions about it in the first place. It's as simple as that.

That isn't to say that you aren't welcome to discuss the topic, but regardless of the topic, or how any part of your origin may affect your familiarity with it, you are held to the same standards as anyone else, and must back any factual assertions you make, otherwise you shouldn't be making them.

It's no different than an assertion I made earlier about crimes committed with assault weapons. When asked for a source, I couldn't track down the source I originally read the claim from, so I retracted the claim, stating that I could no longer find the source. You are held to a standard that is no different.

Corey said...

"Tyler said, 'I still don't see how gun control takes away your second amendment rights. You can join a well-regulated militia at any time'"

This is in fact the interpretation that was most upheld by legal scholars and professionals until DC v Heller in 2008.

Up until that point, NO private right to gun ownership was assumed to explicitly be anywhere in the Constitution. It was simply something people were allowed to do because no government had ever been elected that had taken that particular freedom away, much as can be said for driving, or owning pets, or flying planes, or playing sports, etc and so on.

Do you think that either of these are valid interpretations of the 2nd Amendment? Is gun ownership really confined to members of a "Well-organised militia"? Is there a "hunting clause" that I missed?

There's no more a hunting clause than there is an insurrection clause. One is legal, the other is not. Both are addressed separately from the right to own firearms.

What I "think", however, is irrelevant at this point.

The relevant point is that you're making assertions about the correctness of various interpretations, treating them as fact, and then backing them up with absolutely nothing. This makes said assertions absolutely meaningless.

"Yet these two interpretations appear all the time, including in speeches by US congress-critters. It's widespread and goes largely uncorrected."

You're right; it goes uncorrected because no one has presented the evidence to correct it. That includes you.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment was the one place in the Constitution that DID back a guarantee to the freedom to own firearms. Maybe the precedent will stick, maybe it won't, but even the Founding Fathers never had anything close to absolute agreement about the complete implications of the governing framework they set up, or how various laws and statements should be treated.

Most simply give opinions and interpretations insofar as the framework allows. If you're going to claim that given opinions are factually right or wrong, however, then you are going to be held to the same standards as anyone else for backing up those facts. Thus far, acceptance of your thesis is not logically necessitated by anything you've presented.

Jumper said...

It's often useful to obtain from a Second Amendment supporter a theoretical point beyond which they will not go. That is, do they support the individual's right to possess one of these?

Or a SCUD missile?

An atomic bomb?

Let the arguer posit his own line of demarcation. Then it all becomes simply a question of scale. (Unless you are arguing with Vernor Vinge...)

BobW said...

"I'm no huge fan of Michael Moore. But he was cogently surprised to find that Canadians are MORE armed than US citizens, on average. They are just more calm and likable... and less jibbering crazy.:"

Could it be just just that Canada is less crowded? Crowding makes people crazy, just as much as isolation. It would be useful to plot gun crime against population density in each country.

BobW said...

The what could it hurt argument is every bit as bad as the slippery slope argument.

To ban high capacity magazines would be a feelgood measure with no effect on the actual problem, but a real distraction from real solutions. It's also yet another straw added to the regulatory burden on the camel's back.

BobW said...

BBC article on knife crime controversy.

They may not have meant to ban kitchen knives, but where do you draw the line?

After they ban knives, they'll have to ban cricket bats, and then maybe rocks...

Anonymous said...

The Tucson incident immediately brought to mind muckers from the brilliant book "Stand on Zanzibar" by John Brunner.

Transit Glenn said...

The reason the 31rd mag was created was for the Glock 18, a full auto pistol. It just happens to fit in the other 9mm Glocks. I keep one in my range bag so that I can load while someone is down range and spend more time firing when the range is clear, I find the mag a little silly otherwise (It is longer than the sidearm with the slide locked back.)

The real problem with 'tagged' rounds is that someone could simply mine a range (collect lead from the trap or berm) and mold their own lead. Where is the tracking there? The lead I used, tagged to me is now in someone else's weapon.

I know it is cliche, but the "if you outlaw..." line applies here.

The rounds I use in my concealed sidearm are not the ones I target practice with. They are easily 5-6 years old. (Yes, I do use them, but slowly.)

BSBG (big scary black guns) are just for 3 things, Military action, Target practice/fun, substitute penis. You shouldn't legislate away under-endowed men's penises. Hell, Viagra should be considered a 'recreational' drug right?

Some caveats: I am a lifetime NRA member, I own a 31rd Glock mag, and consider myself Democrat/Libertarian/Independent in my political views.

Paul said...

Transit Glenn,
"The real problem with 'tagged' rounds is that someone could simply mine a range" [...] I know it is cliche, but the "if you outlaw..." line applies here."

That is possible, and I had considered it, but how many criminals manufacture their own ammunition? ID-hoaxing would likely only occur when someone is trying to frame a rival for a capital crime.

(And I'm not dismissing it, even if those cases are rare, they need to be taken into account when weighing the pros and cons of the idea. There may be ways of getting the tags so they show if they've been re-used.)