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Jan 14 2014

Where a rational conversation about guns ought to start

The newspaper of record reflected the disease last night. They had an article about the man killed over texting during the previews at a movie that included this ridiculous paragraph.

The killing underscored the increased debate about when to use smartphones in public. In October, the singer Madonna was spotted texting during the Lincoln Center premiere of “12 Years a Slave.” That led Tim League, chief executive of Alama Drafthouse, a Texas-based chain of boutique cinemas, to post on Twitter that she was banned from watching movies at his theater.

No, it did not underscore that debate. It underscored the debate over whether we should continue to allow armed assholes to wander the streets freely. You know, that real issue that no one in America, including the New York Times, wants to deal with, because the proponents of armed assholery like to kill you if you disagree with them.

(By the way, if you go read that article now, you’ll discover that it has been cleansed of that astonishingly stupid paragraph.)

It’s about time the US had a rational discussion about gun control, though. It’s way past due, and the weird aversion to changing the way we manage guns has to be overcome. So here are my suggestions for a start.

  • Repeal the second amendment. All right, we don’t actually have a mechanism to strip that sucker out of there, but we can override it with a new amendment. Face it, the second amendment stinks: it’s an 18th century relic, it’s ambiguously worded (it’s about militias, people), and somehow stupid Americans have it fixed in their brains that the Constitution is sacred magic — all they have to do is shout, “Second amendment!” and we’re supposed to dissolve into accommodating bits of gelatin before them. We can criticize and revise the Constitution, you know; if you revere the Founding Fathers, you should at least still recognize that they thought an informed citizenry was important. You’re supposed to think, not just follow rules.

  • Regulate gun ownership. Regulate the heck out of it. I live in a state where all liquor sales, even of wine and beer, have to be made through state-licensed stores — but I can order a freaking AR-15 through reddit. This is absurd. End all the loopholes, including the gun show provisions. All gun sales must be made through strictly licensed dealers, with extensive background checks, and all gun sales must be made in person with photo ID and a permanent record made. Make gun ownership public: anyone and everyone can look up who owns guns and where the guns are.

    If you are a responsible gun owner who needs the tool for hunting deer, this should be no burden at all on you. I’m very suspicious of people who insist that their possession of a deadly weapon must be secret and untraceable, and that they must be allowed to buy it from the skeevy guy operating out of a trailer.

  • You have no right to carry a gun in any public place. No more concealed carry permits. No more “stand your ground” laws. Only authorized agents of the law should be carrying weapons in public, and even there, not all of them should be armed, and those who are, should be clearly and obviously armed. You’re packing heat in a movie theater? Fuck, WHY??.

  • End the “gun collector” excuse. I don’t believe the pretense that you’re merely building a historical archive, that you’re simply gathering Americana of note. Collect bottles or hubcaps, instead. If you must insist that you’re creating a museum, OK…then you won’t object if every weapon in your collection is thoroughly and irreversibly modified to be non-functional: firing pins removed, solid plugs placed in the barrel, mechanisms locked in place with a nice glop of super-glue. If you have religious reasaons that they must be functional, go collect old hand grenades and undetonated bombs. You’ll expunge yourself from the population soon enough.

    We have no problem recognizing that if you have a bale of marijuana in your garage you’re in the business of dealing, not just recreationally consuming, drugs. If you’re accumulating an arsenal of deadly weapons, this isn’t for your personal enjoyment any more, you’re up to nefarious purposes.

  • No more “self defense” excuse. The only people we need to defend ourselves from are the jerks who carry guns. And guns are a lousy instrument for self-defense — they’re indiscriminate and irreversible, they tend to punch holes in objects and people that we didn’t intend to punch holes in, and there are no take-backs after you punch a hole in someone by mistake.

    You want to defend yourself? Take a martial arts course. Too unathletic to do that, like me? Support your local police and have a phone by your bedside.

  • Change the culture. You may think you’re a macho stud when you swagger down the street with a pistol at your hip, but the rest of us think you’re a pathetic asshole who is not just stupid, but a real danger to others. The rest of us have to get that message across to the NRA membership.

    There are very few legitimate uses for guns by general citizens — hunting, target shooting — and none of those require assault rifles, secrecy, or huge stockpiles of guns and ammo. If you actually have a practical use for the gun as a tool, I can respect that and have no problem with it, just like people who have a use for a tractor. But you know, it’s a tool with a specific purpose, and the nitwits who want to extend that purpose to being a constant presence in our lives are overcompensating losers.

Now, cue the stupid people declaring their love of guns in the comments, and accusing me of being a commie. I’ll prime your anger by telling you right off the bat that if you love guns, you are a sick, pathetic, twisted dingbat, and I won’t care about your arguments.

533 comments

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  1. 501
    rabbitscribe

    Bee 498: Whose bluff are you calling? No right is without limitation. Of course the government can, does, and always will heavily regulate firearms. Very precisely: a pistol or long arm IS OK. An assault-style weapon may or may not be: the issue has not been addressed by the Court. Open/ concealed-carry bans are subject to the same review. Any final decision will be based on existing statutes and precedents.

  2. 502
    Raging Bee

    From the McDonald article cited above:

    The plurality decision also reaffirmed that certain firearms restrictions mentioned in District of Columbia v. Heller are assumed permissible and not directly dealt with in this case.[23] Such restrictions include those to “prohibit…the possession of firearms by felons or mentally ill” and “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms”.

    So, again, the Court is acknowledging that the right to keep and bear arms is nowhere near unlimited, and is trumped by compelling state interests in protecting citizens from violence, keeping order (the phrase “WELL-ORDERED liberty” comes into play here), and enforcing other basic rights, like the right to go about in public without being menaced or injured by gunfights.

  3. 503
    rabbitscribe

    Bee: We keep posting past each other. I would never, for example, argue that fully-automatic rifles are permissable, or that a state must allow any adult to wander around with holstered pistols in plain view. I just wanted to address the very puzzling tendency people, starting with PZ, seem to have to interpret the Second Amendment as if our judiciary has never weighed in. The prefatory clause doesn’t matter and the right to own a firearm for self-defense in the home is the law.

  4. 504
    doublereed

    So Heller clearly delineates that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited by any means. You could regulate the fuck out of guns and not interfere with Heller.

    But even Heller is unprecedented with its interpretation of the Second Amendment. It overturned the previous precedent of Miller, which was an even stronger limitation of so-called “Second Amendment rights.” It would not be crazy if Heller got overturned in of itself considering that it completely flies in the face of 200+ years of Second Amendment judicial interpretation.

    And the fact that people keep using “self defense” as an argument shows the massive dishonesty of the second amendment crowd. The second amendment is absolutely not about self defense, even by the craziest of interpretations.

  5. 505
    Raging Bee

    The second amendment is absolutely not about self defense…

    Actually, it is — but it’s about COLLECTIVE self-defense, not just individuals in an every-man-woman-and-child-for-himself jungle.

  6. 506
    rabbitscribe

    doublereed: Heller does not “overturn” Miller. It relies on Miller (which, in turn, relies on previous statuatory and case law). And we can and do regulate the fuck out of guns, for a given value of “fuck.” What we can’t do is what DC and Chicago did: outright ban handguns and require long arms to be stored in a condition rendering them unsuitable for self-defense.

    The second amendment is absolutely not about self defense, even by the craziest of interpretations.

    Well, fuck me with a barrel cactus. This is hopeless. Fine- you all can have it your way: the law is what you believe it should be, based on your layman’s interpretations of statutes and precedents as guided by your individual moral compasses. What legislators and judges and law-enforcement officers ACTUALLY DO IN THE REAL WORLD has no bearing on what the law is. Heller and McDonald are illegal and state and local governments are free to ban and confiscate handguns. Wheee!!!

  7. 507
    Raging Bee

    So, rabbitscribe, you’re admitting that my interpretation of the Second Amendment is the correct one? Glad we’ve cleared that up.

  8. 508
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @pubdefender

    I actually agree that severe penalties don’t generally factor into the decision to committ most crimes.

    However, I think this is slightly different. Getting your license in the first place would be conditional upon medical evaluation, demonstration of a secure storage space etc., and no FFL will sell you a firearm if you don’t have a license, so the only potential I see for breach of the law is in private person-to-person sales. I don’t think we can eliminate these entirely, but I think the vast majority of gun owners will abide by the law. Why risk jail time when you could sell your gun to an FFL, and buy a new one from an FFL? I see no advantages to circumventing the new regulations.

    The only people who will try and circumvent it will be those who want a gun for nefarious purposes, or those particularly nutty gun nuts who don’t want da gov’mint having a record of what firearms they own. Judging from the UK, I don’t think this will be a massive problem, simply because there won’t be much of a black market in stolen guns if they’re all locked up as the law will dictate, and if any gun that finds it’s way onto the black market that was originally bought legally then the police can trace the last legal owner… who will then get slapped with a criminal charge for selling their gun illegally without going through an FFL, or for not reporting the theft of a gun or whatever. I agree that stiff penalties don’t tend to be much of a deterrent if the reward for the crime is large, but equally I can’t see people comitting a crime that has a stiff penalty attached to it if there is no benefit to them in doing so.

  9. 509
    doublereed

    doublereed: Heller does not “overturn” Miller. It relies on Miller (which, in turn, relies on previous statuatory and case law). And we can and do regulate the fuck out of guns, for a given value of “fuck.” What we can’t do is what DC and Chicago did: outright ban handguns and require long arms to be stored in a condition rendering them unsuitable for self-defense.

    Heller absolutely overturns Miller. Miller essentially denied the individual right to own a gun, and that’s how it has been interpreted for the last 70 years. Heller overturned that interpretation. I’m not going by ‘layman’ but by the interpretation given by the ACLU. I’m basically an ACLU parrot.

    https://www.aclu.org/racial-justice_prisoners-rights_drug-law-reform_immigrants-rights/second-amendment

    You can say that’s a bad interpretation of the Miller decision, but that’s the one that we’ve been using up until Heller. If you’re going to ignore that, then you’re the one ignoring what legislators and judges have been doing up until Heller.

  10. 510
    rabbitscribe

    Bee 507: ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY! The Second Amendment refers to the collective right to be defended by state militias, as any simpleton can tell by simply reading the thing. There is no individual right to own a gun, period. The Supreme Court is dead-wrong on what the law is. Chicago and Washington DC had no reason to dedicate scare resources in defending their statutes- in light of the clear text of the Amendment, they were and are free to continue to ban guns. How could we all have been so blind?

    I’m sure your plate is already quite full, but as the only scholar that knows a damn thing about the Constitution, there’s a matter requiring your urgent attention:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commerce_Clause

    In an FDR-era case called Wickard v. Filburn, the Supreme Court erroneously ruled that it applied to a matter that clearly has nothing to do with interstate commerce: a farmer growing fodder for his own livestock. Since then, this null-and-void decision has served as precedent for a tremendous body of illegal case law, most recently, the federal charges against a patient for growing medical marijuana for her own use in her own home in a state where that is legal. This mess needs to be sorted out, STAT!

  11. 511
    Raging Bee

    The Supreme Court is dead-wrong on what the law is.

    Actually, the Supreme court pretty much agrees with my interpretation of the Second Amendment. I’m not saying they’re wrong — I’m quoting them to prove I’m right.

  12. 512
    Raging Bee

    In an FDR-era case called Wickard v. Filburn, the Supreme Court erroneously ruled that it applied to a matter that clearly has nothing to do with interstate commerce: a farmer growing fodder for his own livestock.

    The law that farmer violated had to do with soil conservation policy, which in turn was connected to an environmental disaster that was causing adverse effects all over the country, which the states could not handle. Read about the Dust Bowl and what FDR had to do about it sometime — it was a NATIONAL ECONOMIC SECURITY issue, which is well within the Feds’ authority.

  13. 513
    David Marjanović

    As for the comparison with Russia, this is a country that has recently undergone a wrenching social transition that plunged millions into extreme poverty and caused a drastic fall in life expectancy due mainly to extremely high levels of alcoholism, as well as two localized civil wars.

    Plus, for centuries now, they’ve had the attitude “heaven is high, the tsar is far”.

    Do these people really want to go through life always on edge, like they’re on patrol on a war zone?

    They’re already going through life like that! They’re scared shitless, and they believe that only a gun (or five) might provide any protection.

    The culture of fear is a massive problem in the US – extending to its foreign policy.

    Indeed, an argument can be made that if you remove all the effective ways of committing suicide from people, they won’t be less suicidal, but they’re simply use ways that are less effective.

    That’s from nullifidian in comment 465.

    Wow. It’s been explained easily five times in this thread that, even though this is counterintuitive at first glance, when you take away opportunities for suicide, most people who would have used them simply keep on living!

    What exactly do you believe we were doing in this thread till you graced us with your presence in comment 345? Treading water?

    Though not legally binding, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Of course it’s legally binding. The US has ratified it, so:

    Article. VI.
    [...]
    This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    Emphasis mine.

    A lot of different people seem to have a lot of different opinions about what the law IS. I tried to make that point by stringing together a bunch of tax protester buzz-words. I assumed that because it was unparsable word soup my sarcasm would be obvious (I’m right because reasons! I’m right because Jesus!). It seems it wasn’t.

    The trouble is that your satire was no weirder, no more extreme, no more soupy, than what some people out there actually believe. So people here had no reason not to take it literally. Ebert’s Fallacy; Poe’s Law.

  14. 514
    David Marjanović

    I agree that stiff penalties don’t tend to be much of a deterrent if the reward for the crime is large

    I think that even then the probability of actually getting caught factors into it much more.

  15. 515
    Raging Bee

    I tried to make that point by stringing together a bunch of tax protester buzz-words…

    And you failed because you forgot the OLD magickal incantation, SUBORNATION TO FALSE MUSTER!!!

  16. 516
    Anri

    pubdefender @ 458:

    Regarding “imagining the carnage”: if I understand your analogy correctly you are comparing “use” of automobiles with “use” of firearms as being a comparison between actively driving a car and actively firing a gun. In a time-weighted survey of injuries resulting I would agree with you. However, I don’t believe that your analogy is a fair one. I think the fairer comparison would be comparing actively driving with actively “carrying” a firearm.

    And I disagree.
    Few people are run over by parked cars, regardless of who’s sitting in them not operating them.
    I could work on and around (for example) a tablesaw all day long and be very unlikely to injure myself on it unless it was operating.
    I do not at all accept your idea that a gun being carried but not operated is equivalent to a car (or other object) being carried/displayed/occupied but not operated. I have never cut myself with a knife I had in a knifecase. I have cut myself plenty of times when I was actually cutting with it, though. That’s how I know knives are dangerous objects – when you use them, they can easily hurt you.

    To put it another way: if you equate carrying a gun with using a gun, can you carry a gun while unloaded? Can you use a gun while unloaded?
    Not really the same at all, are they?

  17. 517
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    The only way to carry a gun in public with absolute safety is to have it broken down, with ammunition and gun totally separated. Pubdefender, show me otherwise where carrying a loaded gun in public is safer than it being broken down. Just try to go against range safety rules and sound intelligent.

  18. 518
    pubdefender

    @Anri #516

    Yes, we do disagree; so I’ll be brief because I don’t think that it will change that status.

    Discharging a firearm is inherently dangerous. Because it’s a weapon. Similarly, swinging around a razor sharp samurai sword is also inherently dangerous, because it’s a weapon. Driving an automobile is potentially dangerous, but not inherently so, because it’s primary function is as a vehicle.

    Carrying a loaded firearm, in my opinion, is similar to driving a car. A ordinary person carrying a gun is doing so for protection (whether warranted or not in any one else’s estimation) and during that time the gun has the potential to be dangerous but is not specifically dangerous, in the same or similar way that a moving car has the potential to be dangerous but is not specifically so in normal use. The “protection” is the purpose of the gun and, at least in the mind of the bearer, it is providing that value and use while it is carried. In a similar way that a car provides value in being a conveyance. It’s not a perfect comparison, certainly, and I can poke holes in it, but that’s where I was coming from with my disagreement with your time-weighted use speculation.

    And, again, I’m not trying to persuade you to adopt that viewpoint, only clarify it for myself. If you continue to disagree with me that’s fine, of course.

  19. 519
    Anri

    pubdefender @ 518:

    Ok, I’ll be equally brief, then.
    You said:

    The “protection” is the purpose of the gun and, at least in the mind of the bearer, it is providing that value and use while it is carried

    If a gun is carried but not used, in what way has it protected the carrier?

    Saying a gun is being operated when it is merely being carried makes as much sense as saying I’m reading a book when I’m carrying it in my pocket.

  20. 520
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Carrying a loaded firearm, in my opinion, is similar to driving a car.

    A fuckwitted erroneous OPINION. Cars have purpose other than killing. The only way to carry a gun safely in public, and be safe to all the public, is for it to be broken down with the ammo and gun separated per range safety rules. No incidents, no shoot yourself in the leg, no by-stander hurt when it falls out of the purse. And since the likelyhood of being used is essentially zero, there is no need to carry it loaded. The danger to others versus utility for its intended use is just too great. This also has the purpose of reminding fools that safety must be considered even at home. The gun and ammo should be separated and in a gun safe, not kept loaded in the bedside table for a kid to shoot another kid with.

  21. 521
    pubdefender

    @Anri #519

    Carrying a firearm provides, *in the mind of the bearer*, protection — peace of mind, a sense of safety. That was my thought about equating “carrying” with “using” in a time weighted study. Actual protection, obviously, is arguable. That’s one of the central arguments in this thread.

    The raw numbers show that firearms injure and kill fewer people in the U.S. each year than automobiles. Certainly there are far fewer hours of live firing than driving among users of both guns and cars, and using that definition of “use” your speculation that a time weighted study would show that automobiles injure and kill far fewer than guns would likely be correct.

  22. 522
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    So nice to see pubdefender rationalizing murder, suicide, and injury from firearms as no big deal bc car accidents kill more people . Such compassion for human life. Such respect for others. I’m truly awed.

    By awed, I mean disgusted.

  23. 523
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Every accidental gun discharge outside of a licensed gun range should be a criminal act, with severe penalties including confiscation of all firearms, and lose of any ability for a gun license, even for hunting. Gun owners need to know safety comes first. Period.

  24. 524
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    pubdefender

    Carrying a firearm provides, *in the mind of the bearer*, protection — peace of mind, a sense of safety.

    But, as has been shown repeatedly in this thread, that feeling is wrong, and they are, in fact, less safe for having it.

    The raw numbers show that firearms injure and kill fewer people in the U.S. each year than automobiles.

    Yes, you halfwit. That’s because there are orders of magnitude more people going around in cars every day than people going around with guns every day.

  25. 525
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Pubdefender:

    Carrying a firearm [irrationally] provides, *in the mind of the bearer*, protection — peace of mind, a sense of safety.

    Fixed that for you. Delusional fools they be, as the evidence says they are in more danger.

  26. 526
    Ingdigo Jump

    One might suggest that a slight difference is that when a car kills it is either through driver error or mechanical failure but when a gun kills it is either through user error or mechanical success

  27. 527
    Ingdigo Jump

    Also gun owners should probably start to question if all this refusal to regulate guns in anyway and lobbying from the industry has resulted in a severe lasp of safety quality and innovation.

  28. 528
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Carrying a firearm provides, *in the mind of the bearer*, protection — peace of mind, a sense of safety.

    That’s the problem, stupid.

  29. 529
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    There’s also some pretty strong consequences for killing someone with a car whether accidentally or with intent. There’s no vehicular version of Stand Your Ground that allows people in cars to kill if they feel it is justified. Vehicles are not created with the intent to hurt anyone let alone kill. They have a necessary purpose having nothing to do with killing anyone. Guns don’t have any purpose other than to end a life.
    Also, vehicles are regulated. Your driving privileges can be suspended or revoked depending on the actions you take while driving. FFS, its unlawful to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Yet some douchebag politicians think it is a good idea to let people bring guns into bars.
    I’m fucking sick of gun-holes trying to draw an analogy between cars and guns. In a discussion about gun control there isn’t a valid comparison. People should have to prove they are responsible to acquire a firearm. The default should not be responsible til proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

  30. 530
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Although, technically, if you can find a way to carry a car into a bar in your pocket, I don’t think anyone will arrest you for it.

  31. 531
    Ingdigo Jump

    A better question. Anyone check how many MORE deaths there likely would be if we didn’t regulate cars at all?

  32. 532
    Raging Bee

    A ordinary person carrying a gun is doing so for protection … and during that time the gun has the potential to be dangerous but is not specifically dangerous…

    Actually, yes, it IS dangerous, because it’s being carried by a person who feels he needs it for safety, and who is thus more likely to have to pull it preemptively — because, AS WE’VE SAID BEFORE, he has to pull it first or it’s useless — which could then make a mundane dispute something far bigger than it had to be. So yes, a scared person carrying a gun for safety is SPECIFICALLY dangerous, just like a criminal or a psychotic carrying a gun is dangerous.

  33. 533
    Raging Bee

    Also gun owners should probably start to question if all this refusal to regulate guns in anyway and lobbying from the industry has resulted in a severe [lapse] of safety quality and innovation.

    We should also question whether this refusal to regulate guns has really made law-abiding citizens (and cops) safer, like the gun lobby keep on saying it does. I don’t see a decline in such crimes as armed robbery and home-invasion that would point to such a conclusion.

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