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Did Michigan Just Cause a Constitutional Convention?

Last month the Michigan state legislature approved a resolution calling for a new constitutional convention to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. About 20 other states have recently voted to do so as well, but at least one scholar thinks that number is 34 because of really old votes to do so from decades ago:

Article V requires Congress to authorize a convention when 34 states have called for an amendment on the same topic, but that threshold has never been reached.

Conventional wisdom suggests — and supporters repeatedly stated — that by adopting its resolution, Michigan had joined more than 20 other states with similar applications.

But Michigan may unknowingly have been the 34th state to call for a federal balanced budget amendment, according to at least one constitutional scholar. A California Congressman is asking U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to consider the argument and explore whether a convention should be called.

The dispute hinges on an apparently untested legal question: Can a state rescind an application after petitioning Congress?

“There is a school of thought — scholars are very divided on the subject — that once a state Legislature has said ‘yes’ to an Article V Convention, it is without the ability to then turn around and change it’s mind and say, ‘No, we don’t want that any more,” said Gregory Watson, a constitutional expert who works as a staffer in the Texas House.

“The issue has never been brought before a federal court, and that’s why I think perhaps, maybe, possibly someone somewhere — not necessarily in Michigan — could file a lawsuit in a federal court claiming that the 34-state threshold has indeed been met.”

There has never been a constitutional convention, but about a dozen states had voted for one way in the past. Do those votes still represent the view of the state legislatures in which almost no one who voted for the convention the first time is still serving? I doubt the courts would say yes. And I certainly hope they don’t. I have a list of changes I’d like to see made to the Constitution myself, but opening a constitutional convention means there are no limits at all one what can be done and that scares the shit out of me.

Comments

  1. Lithified Detritus says

    The prospect of the current crop of yahoos rewriting the Constitution is utterly terrifying.

  2. eric says

    Timeliness seems like a perfectly reasonable (and nonpartisan) criteria to use when judging such state votes.

    Having said that, IF this were to happen I think the GOP would be very surprised with the ultimate results. A balanced budget is a “be careful what you wish for” sort of thing. No representative would be reelected after severe cuts to services. No representative would be reelected after large increases in taxes to the majority of Americans. So I suspect that in the face of a balanced budget amendment, GOPers would bite the bullet and join with Dems to increase taxes on the wealthy.

    But frankly I think liberals could easily make the GOP do an about-face on whether a convention is even a good idea. Just start making noises that you’re going to use popular pressure to enshrine an amendment protecting gay rights, SSM, and a right to abortion (all positions with majority support at this point), and the GOP will fall all over itself thinking of reasons not to have a convention.

  3. Doug Little says

    Yes lets do this we can start by scrapping the second amendment… Oh that’s not how this would shake out, yeah with the morons currently in power it scares the shit out of me as well.

  4. says

    If the Legislative votes had a time limit built into the petition, then the petition would be invalid after that time limit has been passed. If not… I agree with blf that precedence is pretty clear.

    The real question is whether or not an Article V convention is open to any ideas, or must be restricted to only the topics of the legislative petitions.

  5. equisetum says

    but opening a constitutional convention means there are no limits at all one what can be done and that scares the shit out of me.

    The prospect of the current crop of yahoos rewriting the Constitution is utterly terrifying.

    Seconded and seconded. The level of politics in the U.S. over the last ten or so years has degenerated to the point that it’s not unthinkable that a constitutional convention could lead to civil war, or a significant increase in domestic terrorism. There are enough assholes already itching and/or calling for one.

  6. eamick says

    It will be interesting to see what happens. The courts have never definitively ruled on whether states can rescind ratification of an amendment, for instance, let alone a call for a convention. Even if the call for a convention is ruled to be valid, there is no time limit in the Constitution as to when Congress has to respond to the call with appropriate legislation, and none currently exists, as far as I know.

  7. blf says

    The real question is whether or not an Article V convention is open to any ideas, or must be restricted to only the topics of the legislative petitions.

    My understanding — and I have not researched it, this is from (rather old and dusty) memory — is a Constitutional Convention is not limited (i.e., is “open to any ideas”). As I recall, this is why most constitutional scholars are terrified about one actually happening.

  8. John Pieret says

    Given Ed’s documentation of the lunatics in state legislatures, the notion of turning over the whole of our system of government to those august bodies is the stuff of nightmares.

  9. doublereed says

    Considering a convention is the only way to overturn Citizen’s United and Buckley vs Valeo, I fail to see why we should be afraid of a constitutional convention. There’s literally no other way.

    Congress won’t pass an campaign finance reform amendment. They even struck down the Disclose Act. So a convention is the only way to go.

  10. equisetum says

    Considering a convention is the only way to overturn Citizen’s United and Buckley vs Valeo, I fail to see why we should be afraid of a constitutional convention. There’s literally no other way.

    What makes you think that would happen, with the Koch Bros, and Ted Cruz, and Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan? Really. What’s your theory? It’s just as likely, if not more so, that Citizen’s United would be enshrined in the new constitution.

  11. doublereed says

    @14 equisetum

    What makes you think that would happen, with the Koch Bros, and Ted Cruz, and Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan? Really. What’s your theory? It’s just as likely, if not more so, that Citizen’s United would be enshrined in the new constitution.

    The States are what controls the convention, not Congress, because the States have to ratify the amendment. Congress just calls it. At the state level, corruption is not nearly as massive and state legislatures actually attempt to represent the people. This has been demonstrated by the people at Wolf-PAC. Seriously, they have changed people’s minds by simply getting citizens to call in and speak to them.

    Campaign Finance Reform is literally the only issue that has overwhelming public support (above 80%+). It is about as bipartisan as it gets. Both liberals and conservatives on the state legislature level love it. It’s only Congress that doesn’t because they’ve already been bought and sold.

    So that is my theory.

  12. D. C. Sessions says

    doublereed, what makes you think that a Convention (which is called by the legislatures of the States and represents them alone — not by population) would do anything other than enshrine in our Constitution the favorite issues of the Red States and their patrons?

    * The NRA
    * The Kochtopus
    * Grover “drowned in a bathtub” Norquist
    * Heritage Foundation
    * Assorted radical Christian groups, including Domionists
    * etc.

  13. doublereed says

    Also the whole point is that Citizen’s United is already enshrined in our constitution. That is already the case, so it’s a ridiculous fear. It cannot be overturned except by an Amendment or another Supreme Court ruling.

  14. says

    equisetum “The level of politics in the U.S. over the last ten or so years has degenerated to the point that it’s not unthinkable that a constitutional convention could lead to civil war, or a significant increase in domestic terrorism.”
    Thanks, Obama!

  15. doublereed says

    Maybe I should ask you guys, #16 and #14 what you think should be done about Citizen’s United. Because the problem is only going to get worse before it gets better. The massive amounts of money in elections has not yet reached the State level yet (some representatives and such run campaigns with a couple thousand dollars and less).

    And it’s not as if corruption won’t get there. It will, and probably pretty fast, honestly. Again, Congress couldn’t even pass the Disclose Act. The Federal government is overwhelmed with money and cannot do it themselves.

    Even if you think a convention is a scary idea, what other options are there?

  16. abb3w says

    This has the potential to be a big f@cking can of worms.

    doublereed

    Considering a convention is the only way to overturn Citizen’s United and Buckley vs Valeo, I fail to see why we should be afraid of a constitutional convention. There’s literally no other way.

    Because a constitutional convention also has the authority to Amend to repeal the No Religious Test clause, revoke the prohibitions against Bills of Attainder and Ex Post Facto legislation, mandate reversion to the Gold Standard, establish a theocratic Monarchy of the House of Palin under HRM Queen Sarah I, and re-instate the 18th Amendment — or absolutely any other damn fool thing the delegates decide on.

    Granted, they need to get 38 state legislatures to go along with the gag. Contrarwise, any manner of conservative crazy that has enough vestigial politically viability to be in vogue at the state level in Maine, Oregon, or New Mexico (say, ditching the income tax for a national sales tax) should be classed as an entirely realistic hazard.

  17. equisetum says

    @doublereed:

    “So that is my theory.”

    OK. It’s a good theory, given the current situation, but I still don’t think it will pan out in practice. Fox and the Koch Bros will just shift their emphasis from national to state level for the duration, and there are enough true believers to swing the convention in their direction.

    I wish you luck.

    OT: Oboe, bassoon or english horn?

  18. Doug Little says

    Gregory @8,

    This has popped up before somewhere before. I think it was on the Daily Show.

  19. thascius says

    @14-“At the state level, corruption is not nearly as massive and state legislatures actually attempt to represent the people.” Are you kidding? Look at “liberal” New York where the state government, under a Democratic governor, is giving away public schools willy-nilly to privately run and funded charter schools. Look at Wisconsin under union-buster Scott Walker. Look at Alabama where the state constitution still enshrines white supremacy. Sure, a lot of it’s unenforceable now, but they’ve been trying to repair the state constitution for decades now and gotten nowhere. A lot of state legislatures are now wholly owned subsidiaries of ALEC, the idea that they would get the chance to rewrite the Constitution should horrify you.
    And @ 5-one of the proposals for a balanced budget amendment would include a clause that taxes could not be raised to balance the budget at all, another would require a 2/3 majority vote in the House and Senate for any tax increase. The conservatives are well aware that a balanced budget amendment could lead to tax increases, so they intend to make sure it’s framed in a way that it won’t.

  20. doublereed says

    @21 equisetum

    Bassoon :D

    True Believers are generally on our side. They see tackling Citizen’s United as taking down all the “special interest groups” and corruption of the big evil federal government. Which in this case happens to be pretty accurate. They love sticking it to Congress.

  21. Chiroptera says

    Personally, I would think that a functioning democracy should be examining its constitution on a somewhat regular basis to propose amendments and even occassionally rewrite it.

    If the Republic can’t survive a constitutional convention, then it is probably doomed anyway.

    ‘Course I can also see the argument that a constitutional convention could speed up the demise enough to make a recovery less likely. So while I’m not as frightened as some people here are, I so understand why there is cause for concern.

  22. equisetum says

    Modusoperandi: “Thanks, Obama!”

    I never thought I’d post something like this here, but Fuck You. Obama (Campaign Obama, not President Obama*) was a giant step back toward rationality after Bush, Cheney and Co. It was not Obama who lowered the level of engagement, but the Republican Party when they nominated Palin and opened the nastiest can of worms the U.S. has seen in a long time. She opened the national door to all of those idiots, the John Birchers and KKK’ers and their descendants that got thrown out of the Republican Party in the ’60’s and welcomed them back into the fold.

    Obama is the not the cause of the problem, and if you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand the problem.

    Sheesh. And now I’m reminded why I quit posting in forums.

    *President Obama is a huge disappointment, but probably not for the reasons you think.

  23. eric says

    Doublereed:

    Considering a convention is the only way to overturn Citizen’s United and Buckley vs Valeo, I fail to see why we should be afraid of a constitutional convention. There’s literally no other way.

    Bzzzt. Fine of one intertube, for metaphorical reference using the word “literally.” Unless you were serious, which I hope you weren’t, because that’s a really silly position.

    Maybe I should ask you guys, #16 and #14 what you think should be done about Citizen’s United.

    Changing Citizens United, if it occurs, will likely occur the same way most other SCOTUS rulings are overturned – because new justices are appointed, and they overturn the old interpretation. This one was a 5-4 decsision. I think a far more likely scenario for overturning would be: a Democrat wins the White House 2016-2024, and replaces Ginsberg, Scalia, Breyer, and Kennedy (all of whom are in their 70s and 80s) with liberal justices. It won’t make much difference replacing Ginsberg or Breyer, but replacing Scalia and Kennedy with more liberal appointees could create a huge shift in how the constitution is interpreted.

  24. doublereed says

    @23 thascius

    It’s my impression that those charter schools have public support, as does the white supremacy of the Alabama constitution. Scott Walker is rather an outlier, because he had such a high-profile election. Whether or not they are horrible policies is basically not important.

    Look at the fundraising amounts the GOP suggests. $5000. $80,000 is considered a lot. This is not huge chunks of money. But that’s not going to last forever. That’s going to rapidly change as the Kochtopus and moneyed interests decide to focus their efforts even deeper into our politics.

  25. doublereed says

    @27 eric

    Well, okay, not literally.

    I would remind you that the Justice replacing those people has to be appointed by the President who has successfully fellated enough large corporations to win the national election, and the Justice needs to be confirmed by the corrupt Congress who have been fellating large corporations all this time.

  26. thascius says

    @doublereed-The problem you seem to be overlooking is that, at the moment the majority of state legislatures are dominated by Republicans who do not see Citizens United et al as a problem. The “True Believers” may see $ in politics as a problem in the abstract, but when it comes to having millionaires pouring unilimited funds to getting “True Believers” elected they won’t have a problem with it.

  27. eric says

    @29 – that may be so, but its still true that a convention is not the only way Citizens United will get overturned – its not even the most likely way. SCOTUS will likely do it eventually.

    And I don’t know why you are so skeptical of a Dem president successfully appointing moderately liberal justices. Obama just did it with Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Do you somehow think that politics has changed so radically since 2010 that what happened then will not ever happen again?

  28. busterggi says

    Of course old votes still count!

    And if the next winning Republican presidential candidate gets less votes than Gore did in ’00 then he will step aside for Gore to become POTUS.

  29. doublereed says

    @31

    I’m basically contending that point. Conservatives do not like Citizen’s United at all, especially at the state level. The only reason they don’t see it as a problem is because they don’t think that they can do anything about it. They think that it’s up to Congress. I can try to look up the points you’re making though. I don’t know how many legislatures are dominated by Republicans. But either way, I’d like to get away from the idea that Republicans are the enemy in this particular case.

    @32

    I definitely think politics has changed radically since 2010, and it’s only going to get worse. Sotomayor/Kagan are not paragons of liberal justices, and in fact vote very frequently with corporate interests. It is not at all crazy to think that the next “moderately liberal” justice will be in favor of Citizen’s United.

  30. eric says

    Sotomayor/Kagan are not paragons of liberal justices, and in fact vote very frequently with corporate interests. It is not at all crazy to think that the next “moderately liberal” justice will be in favor of Citizen’s United.

    Sotomayor dissented from it. Kagan was not on the court at the time, but she argued for it as a lawyer, so we are 1 and 1 on that one. However, both dissented from the more recent McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission case (which eliminated the cap on total personal contributions). I see no reason whatsoever to think that future Democratic Presidents could not successfully appoint justices who also think McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission was wrongly decided.

  31. eric says

    I should say that that would still involve a string of somewhat improbable events: first a Dem getting elected (50/50 chance or so), then a couple of the more conservative justices retiring or dying, then successful replacement. However, I view that string of events as FAR more likely, and trying to make that string of events happen as a far more realistic strategy for liberals, than trying to use a constitutional convention to overturn Citizens United.

  32. TxSkeptic says

    I talked to the Wolf-PAC co-coordinator for Texas last week about the open vs restricted nature of a convention. He assured me that the convention is restricted to the purpose for which it is called. If it is called to specifically take up campaign financing, or corporate personhood, or an already worded amendment, that is what it would be restricted to. Of course you have to get 34 states to agree on the same limited proposal. I don’t think you can add 10 calling for a full re-write to 25 calling for a balanced budget, and then get a convention. You need 34 on the same topic.

    This is why it is important to find a really good proposal, worded well, and get a broad consensus to push it. Wolf-PAC seems to me to have done a good job so far and is who I am supporting.

  33. John Horstman says

    Explicit language stating that agreements between people (like corporations) are not, in fact, people themselves, legally or otherwise! Explicit protection of bodily autonomy! We have so much to gain…

  34. thascius says

    @35-I’ve yet to see ANY conservative come out against Citizens United. There may be some out there, but all of the nationally known conservatives I’ve heard speak on it have been 110% in favor of it. And when conservatives complain about special interests, they don’t mean the same things liberals do. “Special interests” to conservatives are racial minorities, religious minorities, women, gays/lesbians/transgendered people. Corporations are hard working people who deserve all the breaks the government can give them. I agree with you that Citizens United needs to be overturned, but I really don’t think a constitutional convention would do it.

  35. says

    Ah, conservatives: “The Constitution is a divinely inspire document that was handed to the Founding Fathers by Jesus himself, which must be scrapped and replaced with something entirely new.”

  36. Pierce R. Butler says

    Conventional wisdom suggests …

    Ba-da-boom! Try the veal, folks!

    There has never been a constitutional convention…

    Yup. Jesus brought the original Constitution to George Washington on a midnight ride they had together.

    Some people may try to tell you they had a meet-up in Philadelphia to write it, but that’s just a con-con con.

  37. matty1 says

    Explicit language stating that agreements between people (like corporations) are not, in fact, people themselves, legally or otherwise!

    Lets look at this, currently a corporation can be sued if it, for example, pollutes your local river. The reason it can be sued is that it has a legal existence, which lawyers like to call a ‘corporate person’, if you take that away who would you sue? The directors, the shareholders, the employees?

    Second question, what would this do to limited liability? A lot of people who are nowhere near rich own shares, often as part of a pension plan. If the company those shares are in goes bust should those people be liable for more money than they originally put in, how much more, can $10 worth of shares become $1 million of personal debt?

    I do understand why this line of argument comes up but corporate personhood does a lot of things, most of which are nothing to do with political speech and which have benefits to ordinary people.

  38. Synfandel says

    If a constitutional convention happens, I dearly hope that they will dump the long-obsolete, yet incredibly harmful, second amendment. I know, I know…it’ll never happen. *Sigh*

  39. sigurd jorsalfar says

    There’s also the fact that a balanced budget amendment would be one of the stupidest ideas there is.

  40. doublereed says

    @41 thasius

    I’ve yet to see ANY conservative come out against Citizens United. There may be some out there, but all of the nationally known conservatives I’ve heard speak on it have been 110% in favor of it. And when conservatives complain about special interests, they don’t mean the same things liberals do. “Special interests” to conservatives are racial minorities, religious minorities, women, gays/lesbians/transgendered people.

    Oh well, I can show you all sorts of people. Remember, at the federal level it’s difficult to find people come out directly against it. But if you just want examples, you can see some conservative senators in Illinois. They also had practically the entire Vermont Senate vote for the resolution. Wolf-PAC has shown time and time again that conservatives are for this.

    Also, if you know any conservatives, have you tried asking them what their opinion is? Honestly, I’ve yet to meet someone who is in favor of it, and I know a decent share of conservatives and libertarians.

    Whether special interests are good guys or bad guys is irrelevant. Both sides see cronyism. One of the Vermont Senators said “Any chance I get to stick it to the federal government, I’ll take it!” This is very popular stateside among conservatives.

  41. D. C. Sessions says

    BTW, there are quite a few fairly left-of-center legal scholars who agree that Citizens United was good Constitutional law (even though the process that led to it sucked bricks.) The problem is that there are already corporations that have unlimited legal right to push their politics to the public. You know several of them, in fact:

    * News Corp.
    * Comcast
    * General Electric
    * Tribune Company
    * Gannett Corporation
    * New York Times Company
    * Nash Holdings LLC
    * American Broadcasting Company

    The Koch entity is reportedly in negotiations to buy one or more of these precisely to give them their own answer to News Corporation.

    I agree with Beau Biden that there’s really no way to prevent the mega-wealthy (and that includes corporations) from spending as much as they like promoting their views. At least not without putting a serious crimp on the freedom of the Press. Badly as the Press has been failing the watchdog job that the Founders envisioned — the justification for the protections it receives — it would have to be quite a bit worse before I’d toss out those protections.

    The cases which have followed Citizens United? A different story.

  42. paul says

    But frankly I think liberals could easily make the GOP do an about-face on whether a convention is even a good idea. Just start making noises that you’re going to use popular pressure to enshrine an amendment protecting gay rights, SSM, and a right to abortion (all positions with majority support at this point), and the GOP will fall all over itself thinking of reasons not to have a convention.

    What does majority support have to do with it? Changes to the constitution have to be approved on a state-by-state basis, with Wyoming counting the same as New York.

  43. sabrekgb says

    @45 Synfandel

    Ok, i’ll bite.

    Surely, if anything, you mean the obsolete third amendment…? The second is far from obsolete, and i think it’s very debateable whether it causes and “incredible” amount of harm. Or, on balance, harm at all.

  44. says

    @50:

    And your take is based on what? Kleck or Lott? Sorry, not the clear cut “proofs” that Gunzloonznation want them to be.

    The amount of positive good cannot be measured, we have no data to work with. The amount of harm, otoh, is quite quantifiable.

  45. sabrekgb says

    @52 democommie

    My take is based on the utility of arms for self defense, defense against invasion, and defense against tyrannical government.

    I wouldn’t say we have no data to work with when it comes to measuring the good of the amendment (or, rather, weapons possession in general by law-abiding citizens, which is the desired outcome of the amendment), but i will agree that it’s not exactly a simple matter to gather or analyze it. Lott attempts to, and even if you don’t subscribe to the notion that more guns reduces crime, it seems that it doesn’t really hurt anything either. Is the study up for debate? Sure. All studies are. I’m all for more science. There are practical and moral dimensions in the area of possessing firearms for self-defense. Practical concerns are important, as evidence-based policymaking is far too rare and we want to work for the best outcomes we can; but there is a moral dimension as well in that it is quite simply immoral to render someone unable to effectively defend themselves.

    With regards to tyranny and invasion, these are not exactly right around the corner threats, i’ll grant you. Still, in the grand scheme of things, it is worth considering what the effect of an armed population would be. Clearly there have been times in the history of the United States that invasion was a legitimate thing to be concerned about. We don’t know what the future holds, but that time may come again, and a well armed population makes invasion costly and untenable.

    The same with tyranny…while it may seem relatively unlikely at the moment, how can we tell what the future may hold? A citizenry that is disarmed has much less chance to effectively resist a government which has turned tyrannical than one that is. It’s an unlikely thing to be needed, but at the root, this is a fundamental bulwark against such an occurrence.

    You say that the amount of harm is quite quantifiable, but i would disagree. If we can’t say for sure what the amount of benefit is, how do we know what harm has been prevented? And, for that matter, keep in mind that weapons might very well still be legal despite the absence of the second amendment. No second amendment does not necessarily mean no guns, so we can’t put all gun related deaths at the feet of it.

  46. says

    I saw Tyrannical Government at the Capital back in ’79. Got this scar over my eyebrow from the mosh pit. Still the strangest damn klezmer band I ever heard of.

  47. equisetum says

    @Gregory in Seattle: Not new here, just don’t read through the comments much. Not enough to have had context for Modusoperandi’s clever remark, which then lapsed into failure mode.

    My apologies to Modusoperandi. Hug accepted.

  48. Ichthyic says

    At the state level, corruption is not nearly as massive

    ROFLMAO!

    man, so much ignorance. I don’t even know where to start.

  49. Ichthyic says

    …you obviously never grew up in CA… or Texas… or Florida… or basically any state with a population over 10 thousand.

    sate level politics are the most corrupt of all.

  50. says

    The States are what controls the convention, not Congress…

    And that brings us to the next question: what role would ALEC have in changing the Constitution? And in getting state legislatures to ratify whatever changes are made?

  51. says

    …a well armed population makes invasion costly and untenable.

    Citation required. And given the number of invasions that have happened in human history, and the number of places where firearms are easily obtained, you shouldn’t have any problem finding the required citation. So stop the obvious flailing and handwaving and get some real backup for your assertions.

    A citizenry that is disarmed has much less chance to effectively resist a government which has turned tyrannical than one that is.

    Of all the tyrannies that have existed on Earth, can you cite even ONE that was effectively resisted by an armed citizenry alone? Most of the tyranny in America was effectively resisted by UNARMED people engaging in nonviolent resistance.

    Case in point: the Civil Rights Movement: which side in that struggle had the most guns, the black protesters or the KKK?

  52. says

    There’s also the fact that a balanced budget amendment would be one of the stupidest ideas there is.

    Not to mention the most hypocritical. Of all the people advocating a balanced-budget amendment, how many have actually proposed, or fought for, a balanced budget? And how many would support a tax increase to comply with such an amendment?

  53. says

    I talked to the Wolf-PAC co-coordinator for Texas last week about the open vs restricted nature of a convention. He assured me that the convention is restricted to the purpose for which it is called.

    He’s dead wrong. Once a constitutional convention is convened, they can rewrite the Constitution any way they want, and no one has any veto-power or other control over their procedings. The only check to their behavior is the ability of the states to not ratify their final outcome.

  54. D. C. Sessions says

    Of all the people advocating a balanced-budget amendment, how many have actually proposed, or fought for, a balanced budget?

    Pretty much all of them, at one time or another.

  55. sabrekgb says

    @58 Raging Bee

    For making invasions costly and untenable: I would cite the examples guerilla wars the U.S. has fought in the recent past (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq), the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 70s, the first Anglo-Afghan war (why people continue to pursue military operations in Afghanistan is beyond me…it’s much like invading Russia in the winter, doesn’t usually turn out well and people know it.). Additionally i will toss in Switzerland during WWII, as i think it is arguable that their near universal conscription and system of arming damn near everyone was relevant to Germany never acting on invasion plans. These are the quick off-the-top-of-my-head examples with which i am most familiar. If you disagree, i’d be happy to discuss with you why.

    Tyranny that was resisted effectively by an armed citizenry alone? No, probably not, but that’s because nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Still, how about the example of the (yes, i know, over-used) American Revolution? You can argue about whether conditions were actually tyranny or about the tax-evading motivations of some, but i think it stands as a good example. I think the Kurdish example is a pretty good one as well. Clearly, the Kurds have not “won” their cause, and there is a long history of armed resistance…not sure if you’d classify it as “effective” or not, but there seems to be gains in both Iraq and Turkey, and they have managed to stick around despite some reasonably atrocious pogroms. Oh, and if we want to go back to antiquity, how about the Servile Wars? No guns involved, but it does sort of show pretty clearly how arming an oppressed portion of the population can lead to massive cost.

    I think it’s important to consider not just positive examples, but also negative ones. That is to say, ones in which we can see that an unarmed population (or segment thereof) was oppressed, and that if armed resistance had been possible on a large scale, the events may not have happened. Could the holocaust have been resisted better if the european jews were more armed? What if guns hadn’t been systematically taken away from blacks in the American South…would lynching have been as common? I cannot argue definitively that those sorts of occasions wouldn’t have happened, because at that point were are playing a game of historical “what-if?”. Yes, there are huge other factors in play, and weapons are not a panacea…but still.

    And, also, what role for prevention? It is hard to cite instances of things that didn’t happen. Surely in considering the role of an armed populace, we can be confident that there are occasions in history when more tyranny or oppression could have evolved had there not been this check against it. Damn near impossible to quantify, sure…but worth a nod, i’d think.

    Also, i notice you didn’t mention anything about personal self-defense. I’ve lurked here for a long time, but don’t actually recall reading your position in that regard. Does that lack of mention imply you agree with there being a moral right to have the means to effectively defend one’s self (and others)?

  56. says

    I would cite the examples guerilla wars the U.S. has fought in the recent past (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq)…

    Seriously? first, those guerrillas weren’t using handguns they’d bought for home-self-defense, they were using weapons furnished by a foreign government, terrorist group, or other political force. And second, those weapons were NOT sufficient to repel US invaders — our forces crushed most, if not all, of the units they engaged directly. We weren’t repelled from either of those countries, we gave up after our incompetent use of force made our objectives unobtainable.

    …the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 70s…

    Are you really stoopid enough to think the Red Army — the same fucking Red Army that fought off the Nazis — was repelled by Victorian-era rifles kept by Afghan tribesmen? They were repelled by a resistance that got billions of dollars of direct and indirect support from SEVERAL foreign powers, including the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. (Oh, and they didn’t get any actual liberty for their troubles either.) Your so-called examples of ‘armed citizenry” repelling foreign invasions are pure ignorant bullshit. Read some actual history before you romanticize guns.

    Still, how about the example of the (yes, i know, over-used) American Revolution?

    The American Revolution was won by an army organized by colonial governments. With a little help from the French empire.

    PS: I notice you totally ignored my counter-example of the US Civil Rights Movement. Firearms don’t defend liberty — most of the advances in legal and political liberties secured by Americans were OPPOSED by “armed citizenry,” not secured by them. (Are the “stand your ground” loonies protecting liberty?)

  57. says

    Also, i notice you didn’t mention anything about personal self-defense.

    That’s because it wasn’t the primary topic of this conversation. And no, the right to defend oneself does not automatically translate to a right to possess or use any particular weapon or class of weapon.

  58. says

    @52:

    “My take is based on the utility of arms for self defense, defense against invasion, and defense against tyrannical government.’

    What utility is that? You need some citations to back that up.

    “I wouldn’t say we have no data to work with when it comes to measuring the good of the amendment”

    Then, by all means, show it to us.

    ” Lott attempts to, and even if you don’t subscribe to the notion that more guns reduces crime, it seems that it doesn’t really hurt anything either.”

    No. What Lott attempted was to pass off a piece of confirmation bias as a legitimate scientific exercise. To date he has not furnished his notes, the names of others who “assisted” him in the preparation and polling…but don’t take my word for it. This:

    “Lott Became Subject Of Ethics Inquiry After Failing To Produce Evidence That He Actually Conducted A 1997 Survey. A January 17, 2003 letter written by Northwestern University Professor of Law James Lindgren, raised concerns that Lott fabricated a survey that found 98 percent of defensive gun uses involved only brandishing a weapon. Lott has failed to produce the data from the study, claiming to have lost it in a computer crash. From Lindgren’s lette’Lott Became Subject Of Ethics Inquiry After Failing To Produce Evidence That He Actually Conducted A 1997 Survey. A January 17, 2003 letter written by Northwestern University Professor of Law James Lindgren, raised concerns that Lott fabricated a survey that found 98 percent of defensive gun uses involved only brandishing a weapon. Lott has failed to produce the data from the study, claiming to have lost it in a computer crash. From Lindgren’s letter:

    In September 2002 I offered to look into a question raised about John Lott’s work. I thought that offering such help to Lott and to the profession was the responsible thing to do when serious questions were raised, and I thought it would be exceedingly simple to establish that a survey of 2,424 people had been done. While I recognized that it is extremely easy to lose data in a computer crash, I had not anticipated that Lott would claim to have done a large national survey without discussing the sampling design with anyone, leaving any financial or other records of the study, or remembering anyone who had worked on it. I had never heard of a professor doing anything of that size with no funding, paid support, paid staff, phone reimbursements, or records (though there are probably precedents for such an unusual method). As it stands now, unless someone comes forward to verify working on the study–as I still hope occurs–we may never know with any certainty whether the 1997 study was done. Although I strongly favor emailing 1997-98 University of Chicago college graduates…”

    There’s more, and the trail starts here:

    http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/12/17/who-is-gun-advocate-john-lott/191885

    or here:

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/01/25/discredited-gun-researcher-john-lotts-failed-at/192391

    There’s a lot of other stuff out there re: Lott’s being a pretty bad bald-faced liar. I truly love reading about his sockpuppet. “Mary Sue”.

    “Is the study up for debate? Sure. All studies are. I’m all for more science.”

    Really? The NRA and it’s clients (hint–you’re not one of them, even if you’re a Life Member) disagree, to the extent that they have successfully lobbied to have monies for gathering statistics about gun deaths and injuries by the CDC cut out of their budget. The possibility of assembling the data that is out there, still waiting to be compiled is slim, given other budgetary issues at both the state and federal levels–never mind that a fair number of state legislatures are opposed to the programs as well.

    “Clearly there have been times in the history of the United States that invasion was a legitimate thing to be concerned about.”

    Twice.

    Once in the period between 1776 and 1783 when British troops (already here, btw) were directed by the King of England (and the parliament) to put down an illegal uprising. The second time was in the period 1812-1814 when the British were piqued that we had attempted to invade Canada, 3 times, in August of 1812, after declaring War against them in June of 1812. In both cases, the civilian “militias” were either uninvolved or had very limited effect against regular british army troops. One thing that did happen during the U.S. Revolution, in spades, was a settling of scores, especially in the U.S. South, between those loyal to the British Crown and those loyal to the recently declared U.S. of A. For those decidedly partisan attacks, gunz were certainly the weapon of choice, used by an untrained, unrestrained and largely uncontrollable assortment of “militias”.

    The primary reason for the British not simply crushing the U.S. in the period between 1776 and 1815 was, um, FRANCE. The French were “diplomatically engaged” during that period (which is to say that they were their usual vacillating, equivocating, duplicitous selves during that period–like all good diplomats ALWAYS are) causing the British, who were already at war with them during most of that period*, to maintain two fronts, always a bad idea in times of war.

    So, the whole, “MurKKKa’s underarmed and untrained yeomen r’gonna be the bulwark on which the invaders will break their armies!” conceit is nonsense. It would be heartbreakling to see a second U.S. Civil War but I don’t think that the several million hardcore gunzlooniez out there are gonna do much against the combined arms of the U.S. military–except give them excuses to raze cities and eliminate pockets of resistance with tactical nukes. Guerilla warfare usually winds up destroying the village in order to save it, too.

    “You say that the amount of harm is quite quantifiable, but i would disagree.”

    Fine, disagree. It would be a sign of trying to make a “good faith” argument if you could provide some statistical data on the number of productivity man hours created and monies generated by the activity of the 3 MILLION DGU’s that happen every year. Please provide links to the documents, not simply the “notitia traho ex suum anuses” that are pretty much the extent of the NRA’s useful idiots.

    I gotta walk the dog and do some work. I’ll give you some time, well, a LOT of time, to read the material I linked to and provide a list of rebuttals that weren’t authored by Lott or Kleck.

    @63:

    Aw, shucks. You didn’t give him the rest of ‘em–just the one written by a 2nd Amendment Caisson Chaser. Here’s a few others:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/nazis/talk/

    No fairsies, btw, when you don’t tell the reader that the quote you put up is from a guy who makes his living by fighting gun control.

    I notice that his piece is rich in opinion and devoid of citation.

    * They were each other’s, “Evil Empire!”

  59. says

    demoeditor’s note:

    I had to split my previous comment. It went to moderation (a/k/a “The oubliette of much profound thought”) because it had 3 links.

    Therefor:

    @52:

    “My take is based on the utility of arms for self defense, defense against invasion, and defense against tyrannical government.’

    What utility is that? You need some citations to back that up.

    “I wouldn’t say we have no data to work with when it comes to measuring the good of the amendment”

    Then, by all means, show it to us.

    ” Lott attempts to, and even if you don’t subscribe to the notion that more guns reduces crime, it seems that it doesn’t really hurt anything either.”

    No. What Lott attempted was to pass off a piece of confirmation bias as a legitimate scientific exercise. To date he has not furnished his notes, the names of others who “assisted” him in the preparation and polling…but don’t take my word for it. This:

    “Lott Became Subject Of Ethics Inquiry After Failing To Produce Evidence That He Actually Conducted A 1997 Survey. A January 17, 2003 letter written by Northwestern University Professor of Law James Lindgren, raised concerns that Lott fabricated a survey that found 98 percent of defensive gun uses involved only brandishing a weapon. Lott has failed to produce the data from the study, claiming to have lost it in a computer crash. From Lindgren’s lette’Lott Became Subject Of Ethics Inquiry After Failing To Produce Evidence That He Actually Conducted A 1997 Survey. A January 17, 2003 letter written by Northwestern University Professor of Law James Lindgren, raised concerns that Lott fabricated a survey that found 98 percent of defensive gun uses involved only brandishing a weapon. Lott has failed to produce the data from the study, claiming to have lost it in a computer crash. From Lindgren’s letter:

    In September 2002 I offered to look into a question raised about John Lott’s work. I thought that offering such help to Lott and to the profession was the responsible thing to do when serious questions were raised, and I thought it would be exceedingly simple to establish that a survey of 2,424 people had been done. While I recognized that it is extremely easy to lose data in a computer crash, I had not anticipated that Lott would claim to have done a large national survey without discussing the sampling design with anyone, leaving any financial or other records of the study, or remembering anyone who had worked on it. I had never heard of a professor doing anything of that size with no funding, paid support, paid staff, phone reimbursements, or records (though there are probably precedents for such an unusual method). As it stands now, unless someone comes forward to verify working on the study–as I still hope occurs–we may never know with any certainty whether the 1997 study was done. Although I strongly favor emailing 1997-98 University of Chicago college graduates…”

    There’s more, and the trail starts here:

    http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/12/17/who-is-gun-advocate-john-lott/191885

    or here:

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/01/25/discredited-gun-researcher-john-lotts-failed-at/192391

    There’s a lot of other stuff out there re: Lott’s being a pretty bad bald-faced liar. I truly love reading about his sockpuppet. “Mary Sue”.

    “Is the study up for debate? Sure. All studies are. I’m all for more science.”

    Really? The NRA and it’s clients (hint–you’re not one of them, even if you’re a Life Member) disagree, to the extent that they have successfully lobbied to have monies for gathering statistics about gun deaths and injuries by the CDC cut out of their budget. The possibility of assembling the data that is out there, still waiting to be compiled is slim, given other budgetary issues at both the state and federal levels–never mind that a fair number of state legislatures are opposed to the programs as well.

    “Clearly there have been times in the history of the United States that invasion was a legitimate thing to be concerned about.”

    Twice.

    Once in the period between 1776 and 1783 when British troops (already here, btw) were directed by the King of England (and the parliament) to put down an illegal uprising. The second time was in the period 1812-1814 when the British were piqued that we had attempted to invade Canada, 3 times, in August of 1812, after declaring War against them in June of 1812. In both cases, the civilian “militias” were either uninvolved or had very limited effect against regular british army troops. One thing that did happen during the U.S. Revolution, in spades, was a settling of scores, especially in the U.S. South, between those loyal to the British Crown and those loyal to the recently declared U.S. of A. For those decidedly partisan attacks, gunz were certainly the weapon of choice, used by an untrained, unrestrained and largely uncontrollable assortment of “militias”.

    The primary reason for the British not simply crushing the U.S. in the period between 1776 and 1815 was, um, FRANCE. The French were “diplomatically engaged” during that period (which is to say that they were their usual vacillating, equivocating, duplicitous selves during that period–like all good diplomats ALWAYS are) causing the British, who were already at war with them during most of that period*, to maintain two fronts, always a bad idea in times of war.

    So, the whole, “MurKKKa’s underarmed and untrained yeomen r’gonna be the bulwark on which the invaders will break their armies!” conceit is nonsense. It would be heartbreakling to see a second U.S. Civil War but I don’t think that the several million hardcore gunzlooniez out there are gonna do much against the combined arms of the U.S. military–except give them excuses to raze cities and eliminate pockets of resistance with tactical nukes. Guerilla warfare usually winds up destroying the village in order to save it, too.

    “You say that the amount of harm is quite quantifiable, but i would disagree.”

    Fine, disagree. It would be a sign of trying to make a “good faith” argument if you could provide some statistical data on the number of productivity man hours created and monies generated by the activity of the 3 MILLION DGU’s that happen every year. Please provide links to the documents, not simply the “notitia traho ex suum anuses” that are pretty much the extent of the NRA’s useful idiots.

    I gotta walk the dog and do some work. I’ll give you some time, well, a LOT of time, to read the material I linked to and provide a list of rebuttals that weren’t authored by Lott or Kleck.

    * They were each other’s, “Evil Empire!”

  60. says

    Here’s the other piece of it; I offer my pre-emptive apology if my actions result in a duplicative commenting. Feel free to ignore the other comment (if it ever comes out of moderation) just like you do this one.

    @63:

    Aw, shucks. You didn’t give him the rest of ‘em–just the one written by a 2nd Amendment Caisson Chaser. Here’s a few others:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/nazis/talk/

    No fairsies, btw, when you don’t tell the reader that the quote you put up is from a guy who makes his living by fighting gun control.

    I notice that his piece is rich in opinion and devoid of citation.

  61. dingojack says

    “My take is based on the utility of arms for self defense, defense against invasion, and defense against tyrannical government.”

    Awww, Gunloonz say the cutest things!

    The last time America was invaded was 200 years ago.
    Freedom from invasive governments and gun ownership laws show almost no correlation, there is a slight positive slope showing lose gun laws do reduce the invasiveness of government but this is << than 1 std. dev.

    OBTW Switzerland was invaded by Napoleon in 1795, only gaining (some) autonomy in 1815. Guess they lost the keys to the gun case, eh?.

    Dingo
    ——–
    The harm:
    Firearm homicides: •Number of deaths: 11,078 •Deaths per 100,000 population: 3.6 (CDC – 2010)

  62. colnago80 says

    Re democommie

    Relative to the American Revolutionary War, one should also point out that the defeat of British forces at Yorktown was due to the strategic defeat of the British naval task force under Graves by the much larger French fleet under DeGrasse in the Battle of the Capes. Absent that engagement, the British force would have been successfully withdrawn to fight another day.

  63. says

    Here’s a number for consideration:

    848,163*

    here’s another:

    http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states

    933,199**

    That’s a pretty amazing pair of numbers, don’t you think?

    * Total for U.S. War dead since 1776–yeah it’s wiki, but it’s prolly fairly close. If you can supply updated numbers from credible sources, go for it.

    ** extrapolated from a quoted annual average cited with this graph on page 5 of this report: http://www.bing.com/search?q=Final+Resource+Book+Updated+2009+Section+1&form=IE10TR&src=IE10TR&pc=AGJB and figures from the U.S. CDC for years 2007-2012–you really don’t want to get into the numbers of wounded in civilian injuries involving guns v those happening to U.S. troops in battle zones.

  64. says

    @71:

    There’s a book I read a while back, “The Revolution’s Last Day” 9or something near that) about the battles in SC 1782-1783 and the British-French naval battles of the same period. The British were fighting in about 3 or 4 different places at that point (outside the rebellious colonies).

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