Better Angels
For Family Values and Gun Control

Why not both?

Published on: December 13, 2017
David Blankenhorn is president of Better Angels, a citizen’s initiative aimed at reducing polarization. Follow him on Twitter.
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  • Boritz

    “I like the “family values” solution to gun violence because it pointsfocusesremindstells

    I also like the “gun control” solution……well regulated…tighter regulation…new restrictions

    See the imbalance. How about tighter, well regulated, new restrictions for liberal practices and pointing (politely, of course), focusing, reminding and telling (again, politely) for conservatives.

    This is supposed to gain my trust?

  • QET

    I can’t see why even the most red-blooded, freedom-loving American civilians need the right to use automatic, military-style weapons, or the right to carry a concealed gun into a bar, or the right to visit my state with a weapon and/or a way of carrying it that isn’t permitted in my state.

    In the words of St. Paul, why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? The fact that Blankenhorn “can’t see” my “need [for] the right” is not dispositive of the matter. It’s not even relevant. It says everything about his perceptive ability and nothing at all about the right itself.

    As for “well-regulated,” first, is Blankenhorn serious that this suggests that “no” right is absolute, when the phrase is found in only one right? What kind of reasoning is that? Put in the old quasi-humorous way, what part of “shall make no law” doesn’t Blankenhorn understand? More absolute language I cannot think of. That our Courts acting in loco parentis have seen fit to permit the making of such laws anyway and that We the People have not risen up in armed revolt yet over their depredations does not mean they decided correctly. And this is all in addition to the controversy on what the presence of the phrase really means. The idea that it permits private ownership only for militia duty is absurd, as Congress already had (has) the power to regulate the militia under Article I, meaning that in the absence of the Second Amendment, Congress could by law have restricted gun ownership to militia-related duties; it would have been unnecessary to repeat that in a cryptic phrase in an amendment.

    Nor do I comprehend his statement about unqualified rights canceling out other rights. I do not see how the right to bear arms cancels out, say, the right to trial by jury, or to freedom of speech. If the Framers had believed that rights must be always balanced against one another in their application, they would hardly have gone to the trouble of adding the Bill of Rights. It would have been totally unnecessary. That is the kind of process that goes on in England, which is without a written constitution. If Blankenhorn is thinking of the cornucopia of amorphous, ambiguous “human rights” that academics are dreaming up each week, well, then, I just thank the stars that I live in an order where the rights were made absolute, beyond the reach of well-meaning persons like Blankenhorn who would decide what I may be allowed to do based on their own opinions of things.

    Blankenhorn surely knows that 99.9% of the gun violence he decries is carried out with unlawful guns, meaning guns obtained notwithstanding prohibitions. (He also surely knows that no civilians currently lawfully possess “automatic” weapons (with a few exceptions). So why does he introduce that red herring into the discussion?).

    Despite the horrificness of the events, the number of people killed in “mass shootings” by “assault rifles” is so small that it does not, as our former President chided us with respect to Islamic terrorist killings, constitute an “existential threat.” So clearly Blankenhorn and others are reasoning on a purely aesthetic plane. Assault weapons look scary and make him nervous; therefore, we must outlaw them.

    The solution to guns is the same as it has always been–amend the Constitution. If there really are enough people in this country (as there once were to outright ban liquor) who want guns to be banned or at least bannable, such an amendment shouldn’t be too difficult of passage.

    • StudentZ

      I agree with amending the Constitution, though it should take the form of declaring the 2nd Amendment obsolete. Also, the argument about illegally obtained guns raises questions regarding liability and the effects of gun control laws on illegal access to guns (which may not be as unrelated as your comment implies). Given the number of household gun thefts, to what extent are gun owners and manufacturers liable for crimes committed with their guns? If you are carrying a gun, which is then stolen and used to commit crimes, should you be held partly responsible? What are the consequences of imposing high taxes/fines or other penalties on both manufacturers and former gun owners when their weapons are used in criminal activities? Would advanced tracking systems be feasible or helpful? Obviously, people have addressed these questions, but too often solutions are dismissed in the name of some vague right that seems more of a liability to me.

      • QET

        Amending the Constitution to delete the 2A is sort of just like “declaring it obsolete.”

        As for liability–hold GoogleFacebookTwitter liable each time a kid commits suicide over cyberbullying? Hold Apple liable each time an iPhone is used to sext a picture of a minor? Hold Toyota liable each time one of its cars is used in the commission of a crime? Some may call that progress. I don’t.

  • There are only TWO ways for a victim to stop an armed attacker: reason and force. There’s nothing else. I have no problem if you want to choose “reason”, but don’t force your opinion on anyone else! Nobody can debate this fact. Most liberals choose to ignore it, while the rest simply “deflect” and refuse to admit that it’s an indisputable fact.

    Let’s face it: even the most staunch liberal admits that guns aren’t going anywhere in the USA. More and more are sold every year, and both violent crime, and firearm homicides are steadily decreasing. The problem is much more complex than just blaming “guns” or “gun access”. The root cause of violence needs to be addressed (there are several, in my opinion). I see a clear division of politics; I lean “right”, and rarely do I get an honest conversation with someone that leans left (on the topic of firearms). I have no problem discussing solutions, but the first step is to identify the problem, the root cause(s) of the problem, then find a solution that is directly related. So many times I read people that skip all the steps and go directly to “guns”, ignoring the facts and going off of emotion. I understand the emotion; my wife was shot by someone years ago (survived); I have also had to use a firearm to defend myself, so I know both sides of the emotion.
    Bottom line, is we need to work together to find solutions, instead of simply blaming guns and law abiding gun owners.

  • Fat_Man

    Never. The deplorables know that gun control is the first step on a primrose path that will end with them in re-eduction camps where they will be forced to submit to the vile practices valorized by the “enlightened liberals”. You want a shooting war between the red and the blue. this is the way to start it.

  • Tom

    The quickest way to resolve most of the acrimony around the gun control debate would be for liberals to think of gun owners the same way they think of Muslims.

    • Dale Fayda

      Thanks. I will use that, if you don’t mind.

      • Tom

        Not a problem.

  • Psalms13626

    Sorry, but the conservative side’s response is BS. The answer to the question posed is to materially increase resources for some heavy handed policing in predominantly black neighborhoods of a lot of our cities. Gun violence is a very local phenomenon. Some communities in NYC may have two orders of magnitude difference in a chance to get shot. Deal with the source of gun violence, black men between ages of 16-44, and you will reduce it. I’m supposed to give up my Constitutional rights because nobody cares about these neighborhoods? I don’t think so. Not after 2016 when the liberals let their mask slip.

  • Abraham Collins

    What a FUDD. The second amendment wasn’t written for sport; it was written so the People could form paramilitary units in order to defend the country from all threats both foreign and domestic.

    “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”

    This won’t be achieved at the ballot box, but rather by the barrel of a gun. Military hardware is what the founders intended by “arms” and “well-regulated” didn’t mean government restriction. It meant that the Militia would be made regular, i.e. trained and equipped. An AR-15 is NOT an automatic firearm; M16s are. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

    When the UK nearly ended private gun ownership (so strictly that its Olympic shooting competitors could not practice in their own country), the result was a decrease in gun crime — and a radical increase in violent burglaries. And the English are less naturally violent than we are … or that’s Blankenhorn’s story, anyway.

    Here in the US, I live in a deer-hunting district. I don’t have to own a gun, since most of my neighbors do. Call it a form of herd immunity. But if the predators know that all their potential victims are completely defenseless, that will no longer work.

    Note, too, that few weapons used in crime are legally owned. At most, 20% of crimes involving weapons are committed with legal guns. Also note that automatic weapons are all but banned, those which are owned by private citizens are closely regulated, and only 3 crimes have been committed with such weapons since the ban in 1934.

    Now, I don’t really have a dog in this hunt. I’m a bowman; it’s my wife who likes guns. And, so far, no one has suggested banning bows and arrows — even though, at self-defense distances, I’m at least as accurate as someone with a pistol. Admittedly, my rate of fire leaves something to be desired …

    • Tom

      That, and the learning curve for becoming deadly with a bow is significantly higher than for becoming deadly with a gun, in addition to bows being harder to conceal than guns, particularly handguns.

      • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

        And that’s why archers are so much smarter (and better looking) than shooters!

  • tom2

    This article suggests there’s a “…terrifying rise in the number of mass shootings…” but that propaganda has been thoroughly debunked. Fortunately, the incidence of mass shootings isn’t rising. A Congressional Research Service study entitled “Mass Murder with Firearms…1999-2013,” found that mass shootings continue to be rare and the annual incidence is flat. Additionally, criminologist James Alan Fox found no solid trend in the numbers. Fact is, mass shootings account for only .004 percent of all deaths, about .66 percent of all murders and less than two percent of non-firearm murder victims. James Alan Fox clarified the data by pointing out the chance against a person being killed in a mass shooting would be about one in three million. That’s pretty close to a new report that the US has about 30 murders by “mass shootings” per hundred million. Anyone know what percentage that is? The decimal is .0000003 and that’s .00003 percent. In English, that’s three ten-thousandths of one percent!! Folks, it’s a flimflam.

    In 2015, the last year for which federal gun homicide statistics are available, there were 12,979 gun-related homicides overall in the United States. Notably, almost half were committed by illegal aliens. All considered, mass shooting deaths totaled 0.3% (three tenths of one percent) of all gun homicides in the United States. Further, the CDC found that homicides by firearm have dropped by nearly half, proportional to the population over the past two decades. During that time, sales of firearms tripled and ownership today is skyrocketing. Even if they cannot accept facts, it’s disgraceful that leftists believe disarming potential victims is rational. Everyone should know by now that since 1950, only one percent of the mass shootings have occurred where citizens are allowed to defend themselves.

    Considering the overarching issue, it’s important to remember this. Governments that carry out mass murders fear armed citizens and it’s precisely why disarmament of the governed always precedes the purge. Taken together all the mass shooting deaths from nuts, felons, terrorists and illegal aliens, throughout history for the entire planet is infinitesimal compared to the total number of civilian citizens murdered by governments. It’s the reason for our 2nd Amendment and throughout human history, it has been a very bad idea to allow any government to disarm its people.

    • Tom

      You got a citation for that illegal aliens stat?

      • tom2

        Glad you asked. The short answer is the General Accountability Office counted illegal alien prisoners convicted of murder and the years of their crimes. That number of 7,085 murders per year was later refined downward by the American Thinker by incorporating federal prisoners into the equations.

        The long answer is, according to Breitbart, GAO reported “…38% represents 7,085 murders out of the total of 18,643…Those astounding numbers were compiled by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) using official Department of Justice data on criminal aliens in the nation’s correctional system. The numbers were the basis for a presentation at a recent New Hampshire conference sponsored by the highly respected Center for Security Policy….”

        Because this seemed confused and high, The American Thinker analyzed the numbers more scientifically.

        “…Conclusion: criminal and illegal aliens commit murder at much higher rates than all inhabitants of the U.S. – at least 3 to 10 times higher.

        And I believe these are low-end estimates. For one, murder is almost always handled at the state and local level, not the federal level. So the GAO’s homicide data are skewed toward the state and local data, which cover fewer years (four) and a smaller population (illegals only). The Washington Post states that “Federal prisoners made up 10 percent of the total incarcerated populations in the United States in 2013.”

        OK, let’s assume that 90% of the crimes listed by the GAO (other than immigration itself) were committed by SCAAP [State Criminal Alien Assistance Program] persons in state and local institutions. That would mean illegal aliens committed 22,558 murders over four years. That is a rate of 5,639 per year, or over 15 per day. (For reference, Rep. Steve King reported a figure of 12 per day. A sheriffs’ association is reported to estimate it at 25 per day. I don’t know how reliable these values are, but they are not totally out of line with the GAO’s data.)…”

        Hope this helps.

  • hecate9

    Two points, one off topic:

    Off topic: The American Interest is in the unusual predicament of having recently modified its editorial direction from right wing to centrist. Its “commenters” however are mostly holdovers from the previous Neo-con and Trumpian dispensation. Because critical thinking is in relatively short supply (at the moment) on the right, the comments here are typically combative and refractory to reality-based arguments, and are mostly of the form-“this sounds like a Liberal argument therefore I must be against it.” With time, such commenters will perhaps tire of this magazine and hopefully wander off to Breitbart or the National Review where the ideologic fare is more canonically to their liking. Some will remain as trolls of course. And some few may re-acquire a yen for critical thinking that they perhaps once had and start actually reading the articles carefully and critically.

    On topic: The US has gun homicide rate (i.e. excluding suicides) that is six times greater than Canada and 20 times greater than Australia. If the gun homicide rate is the dependent variable, what is the independent variable? Why are 20 times more Americans killed by guns than Australians? The conservatives interviewed by the author offer up a typical hypothesis: “…the root cause of violence is the breakdown of social institutions…the family.” Fix the family and you fix the violence. Now this is plausible to some, because the connection between social dysfunction, mental illness, and violence is fairly obvious, in an anecdotal sense, and at the level of individuals and families. Hence the knee-jerk reaction to every publicized gun-related crime- “it’s a mental illness problem, not a gun problem.” We all know of a family that “broke down” and resulted in some tragic paroxysm of violence.
    The problem with the conservative’s logic comes when we go from the individual level to the societal level. The corollary of the conservative’s hypothesis- that the independent variable/”root” cause of high gun homicide rates in American society is social dysfunction rather than, say, availability of firearms, is that the differences in gun homicide rates per 100,000 between various countries and societies must therefore be due to different rates of social dysfunction. We Americans must be 20 times more screwed up-socially-than Australia, etc.
    Now I’m sure that many Australians would nod their heads in affirmation, but is US society really 20 times more dysfunctional, socially, than Australia? Perhaps. Arguments could be made that, due to our cultural diversity, levels of inequality, yada yada yada, we have in fact experienced a breakdown in institutions that is orders of magnitude greater than other similar industrialized countries. That would be an exceedingly difficult social science question to even define, much less answer. Is the prevalence of, say, mental illness, in all its manifestations, 20 times greater in the US than Australia? (in fact, the consensus among mental health experts is that it is not different).

    The alternative to the conservative’s tortuous argument is really rather simple. We have more gun homicides-by far-because we have more guns-by far. The independent variable is not mainly social dysfunction- it’s the availability of guns. Occam’s razor points-as usual- the the simplest and most probable hypothesis.
    Of course this is an over-simplification, and there must be more than one “independent variable” in this equation. But there is another problem with the conservative argument that “it’s all mental illness and social dysfunction.” And that is that our chances “repairing” these “broken” social institutions (if that were even possible) and reducing mental illness rates by orders of magnitude is close to nil. So the conservative’s narrative leads to a fatalistic acceptance of these gun homicide rates, barring the reductio ad absurdum Wild West fantasy of us all having guns pointed at each other all the time so we “good men” can stop the “bad men.”
    Most Americans in 2017 are not comfortable with this fatalistic acceptance of industrialized world-leading gun homicide rates when Occam’s razor is such an easier and more obvious remedy. It will be interesting to see what happens. Many will point out that a literal interpretation of a document written in 1787 to safeguard public militias (the Second Amendment) rather forces everyone’s acceptance. And so it may-for now.

    • Tom

      Of course there are more gun homicides in countries where there are lots of guns, much like it is a given that the more Muslims you have in a country the more Muslim terrorism you have.
      Whether you should make policy based on that is an entirely different question, seeing as you’re just as dead if someone smashes your head in with a hammer as you would be if someone put a bullet in your brainpan.
      (Also, the idea that TAI was previously Trumpian is laughable.)

    • You did a good job at explaining what I usually argue as a basic point, but you did it with more detail.
      The one thing I noticed is that you attempted to steer those of us who look at the bigger picture, into blaming “access to gun”, but you left out one important consideration: other countries with high numbers of guns and homicides. You included “peer” countries, (which left leaning debaters always do), but you ignored the countries that have poor healthcare systems, huge poverty, and next to nothing governments. Skipping to the deeper thought of that subject, no, it’s not as though just the vermin from those countries have imbedded themselves in the USA just to incite violence. I truly do believe it’s much more than just “gun access”; it’s clearly a multitude of factors that many people ignore. Of course the gun is the easiest to regulate; to “reduce” for those inclined towards violent outbursts. But guns are an object, nothing more, nothing less. They serve a valuable purpose, and are used on a regular basis for self defense. Low estimates are around 55K per year, and even the most staunch of liberals know that guns aren’t going to leave the USA. The best move from here is to work (albeit slowly) at steering society towards a less violent nature. That will take considerably more time, and it won’t be nearly as easy as passing a few laws here and there. It’s a deeper rooted process, which will take serious effort, and a mountain of dedication.

      Guns aren’t going anywhere, so if we can make it so the need (and desire) for a gun has dwindled, it would have better results. Convincing people of this will be next to impossible though.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Nice to read someone arriving here with sense.

      • Too bad they aren’t looking at the big picture. He never replied to my first post, (maybe never read it), but even if he is right on the part of “access to guns” is a contributor to violence, they aren’t going anywhere, so arguing that is moot.
        The main goal should be to reduce violence before it becomes violence. Then there’s no need to worry if a person has access to a gun.

        • FriendlyGoat

          Okay, I’ll read your post:

          “The best move from here is to work (albeit slowly) at steering society towards a less violent nature. That will take considerably more time, and it won’t be nearly as easy as passing a few laws here and there. It’s a deeper rooted process, which will take serious effort, and a mountain of dedication.
          Guns aren’t going anywhere, so if we can make it so the need (and desire) for a gun has dwindled, it would have better results. Convincing people of this will be next to impossible though.”

          Translates as, 1) You have no idea how to start what you recommend. 2) You believe what you recommend is impossible anyway. 3) Net, net, do nothing.

          • Thank God you’re not a translator!

          • FriendlyGoat

            Messaging “comes across” as it “comes across”. That’s why I could translate it so easily.

          • 1. I do know how to start implementing what I said.
            2. I said convincing people would be near impossible, not “implementing it”.
            3. Start by reading slower, try to understand from someone’s view point other than your own, then reply.

            See how easy that was?!

          • FriendlyGoat

            If you DO know how to start implementing what you recommend, you did not tell us.

          • You are correct

          • FriendlyGoat

            That’s why the messaging is BS, you see. What’s that phrase? Oh, yeah. No there there.

          • A lack of information given doesn’t equal a lack of knowledge. Your abrasive tactics don’t work with me. You can consider yourself blocked, so any further responses are equivalent to a toddler screaming at a closed door. You started off sounding intelligent, but the cocky responses got you nowhere. I doubt you’ll learn from this interaction.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Blocking me is always a good idea if you don’t want to hear from me. Toodle-doo.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Blocking me is always a good idea if you don’t want to hear from me. Toodle-doo.

          • Dale Fayda

            Just a respectful word to the wise…

            Friendly Goat has blocked close to half the commenters on this forum, including me. In my case, it was for calling him a “snowflake” – for some reason, that really frosts his weenie.

            Friendly Goat comments on this site more than anyone else, by far. I’m pretty sure he frequents other sites’ forums as well, so leaving comments on the Internet is his raison d’etre, since he’s retired and an ardent leftist.

            This is by no means to discourage you from engaging in polemics with FG, but please be advised that looking for even a sliver of objectivity from him is a lost cause. He’s a pretty scary progressive when he lets his mask slip a bit.

            My apologies if I had overstepped my bounds.

          • Appreciate the reply, thank you! You’re good, no reason to worry. Merry Christmas!

          • Dale Fayda

            Merry Christmas to you as well!

          • Anthony

            Abrasive, interesting adjective applied to you (one who has received “abrasive” replies quite regularly only because, as hecate9 infers, you dare heretofore to comment on a right leaning blog) hmmmmm.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Maybe I’m being too testy, but when one looks at this exchange, why am I being taken to task for simply complimenting hecate9’s post?

          • Anthony

            Nothing to explain; you for several years have added (with civility generally where possible) to ViaMedia/TAI essays and opinion pieces. I’ve seen (read) real unprovoked testiness here; you’re on tail of curve!

          • FriendlyGoat

            At the moment, I am battling flu symptoms. Probably not helpful to my exchanges, but some days are better than others, as they say. Thanks always for your kind words.

          • Anthony

            You’re welcome and the flu symptoms are seasonal (and to be expected); you know what’s needed to ameliorate them – take care.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Fortunately, I am not contagious via (in my case) broadband phone lines, no?

          • Anthony

            You got it! And we can’t quarantine the FriendGoat under such ephemeral indicators, yes?

          • FriendlyGoat

            Not yet.

          • Anthony

            Read this, it’s a heck of a piece:

          • FriendlyGoat

            How about this thought? Bannon didn’t really do anything but help convince 53% of white women to vote for Trump, when the country is such that 63% of white women in Alabama would (did) still vote for Roy Moore after seeing a year of Trumpism.

            Nothing against the philosophers and those (of greater intellectual rigor) who seek to parse their wisdom, but Bannon’s work at Breitbart isn’t sourced from “the philosophers” or aimed at their admirers. It was as he said, “Bring out the hate.” As it happened, 53% was enough to get Trump. Reducing that to even 52% in WI/MI/PA might have been enough to prevent him. 51%, absolutely.)

            So, from the highlight, I agree: “When journalists treat men like Bannon as if they are serious thinkers, they lend undeserved public legitimacy to a racist, conspiratorial, anti-democratic ideology.”

          • Anthony

            Yes, and your last paragraph (the quote) is my point. The journalist and the explanatory pretensions of our national press had been a critical resource for the on-the-make blood-and-soil types; a valid point the writer (of piece) said well as he gave articulation to an impression I had during the 2015-2017 period but could not pinpoint (to my mind) what exactly was troubling me about the coverage (the social positioning/the co-dependency). So, essentially his Bannon critique put in words my sense that the media was both revenue-starved and idea-deficient but definitely enabling something anti-democratic at the time.

            Basically, I linked piece to not delineate American demographics but to adumbrate the national media’s witting or unwitting involvement.

    • CaliforniaStark

      Actually some of the Rocky Mountain states adjacent to Canada, with few gun laws and a high-level of gun owners, have lower gun related homicides rates than Canada. In the U.S. “gun violence” predominately takes place in urban areas, and is associated with gang and narcotics activity. Most these urban areas have enacted strict gun laws, but they are not proving effective. Mexico has strict gun laws, but has among the highest gun violence rates in the world.

      • hecate9

        In order to not be comparing apples and oranges it would be necessary to look at gun homicide rates, per capita, in particular districts with comparable populations. Canadian provinces are not organized by counties and I am not familiar with crime statistics for Canada by locality. We do know that, overall, the gun homicide rate in Canada is about 1/7 the rate of the US. I’d like to see statistics that related similar sections of, say Montana and Alberta (at the county level).
        One thing we CAN do is to look at the variation in violent crime rates of counties within a state by population density. For example, in California we can compare the violent crime rate or the gun homicide rate of Alpine Co., which has a population density of 1.6 people per square mile with Alameda County (home of Oakland) which has a population density of about 2100 people per square mile. The violent crime rate of Alameda Co. is about twice that of Alpine Co. (not too bad considering the pop density is almost 1500 times greater). Similar data exist for some other (but not all) states (collecting crime data by locality has mostly been left up to states which have little incentive to really look into the issue). The relationship between violent crime and population density is tricky. Overall there is a sense that the per capita gun violence rates may climb as population density increases- but not by very much. Still, if you’re living in a big city and come face-to-face with 150 people a day (mostly strangers), your chance of being shot is probably higher than if your living in the country and interact with 15 people a day- most of whom you know. But the relationship is not as clear-cut as you would think.
        NRA Stock Argument No. 11- that gun violence is “all gangs and narcotics” is a comforting one though. If it’s all “Those People” that are shooting themselves up, then it’s not really our problem, right?
        That’s fine except for the 11 year old girl who catches a stray bullet while walking to the store to buy a lollipop- and except for the narcotic epidemic which has now spread to the NON-urban areas, where rates of heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl addiction now approach the inner cities. Watch out when “Those People” become “Our People.”

        • CaliforniaStark

          My recollection was that the gun homicide rates in Alberta and neighboring provinces was slightly higher than Idaho and other adjacent Rocky Mountain states. The problem with your argument is you assume the prevalence of guns is the major causative factor in gun-related crimes, and that therefore passing gun control laws will reduce it. This has not happened in Chicago or other major urban areas, or Mexico, which all have stringent gun control laws. Those committing illegal activity have no problem illegally obtaining guns, and with the ability to obtain “ghost guns” and produce them using 3-D printers, passing additional gun control regulations becomes almost meaningless.

          I agree that the gun violence taking place in urban areas resulting from gang and narcotics activity is something society should not tolerate. However, we have seen a considerable rise in this type of crime as more restrictions are placed on the police, and effective policies such as “stop and frisk” are been prohibited. The sharp rise in gun homicides in cities such as Baltimore and Chicago has been a result. I feel very safe in towns in Wyoming and Idaho, even through guns are prevalent and guns are carried openly in public — it can often be startling to those of us from urban areas to see it. But I do not feel safe in areas of cities like Chicago and Baltimore even though they have stringent gun control laws. The causative effect of narcotics and gangs is not just a thought, it is a reality, and it must be directly and seriously addressed, and vulnerable populations protected. I am not the least bit sympathetic to police misconduct, and it needs to be addressed as well, nor to urban politicians who claim passing yet another layer of gun control legislation will somehow be effective.

          • hecate9

            “Gun laws don’t work because Chicago has tough gun laws but really high gun violence.” This is a very popular stock NRA talking point, having recently been parroted by Donald Trump, Sara Huckabee Sanders and Steve Scalise. You use it to set up a nice straw man argument: “if prevalence of guns was the major factor in gun violence then passing gun control laws would reduce it-but look at Chicago- their gun laws haven’t reduced it- therefore your premise is wrong.”
            In countries where gun laws ARE effective, the laws are administered over the entire nation. The US is a patchwork of states and counties with wildly different laws relating to gun ownership and use. In Chicago, for example, the Indiana border is 10 miles away and the Wisconsin border about 20. Both Indiana and Wisconsin have weak gun laws, and many studies have shown that guns from those states flood the Chicago area. Certainly Chicago has failed to prevent a lot of gun violence, although Chicago is far from being the most violent city in the US. It has a lot of murders but it’s a very large city. When you look at murders per capita, you find that New Orleans (in Louisiana- an open carry state) has about three times as many homicides as Chicago.
            In my opinion patchwork gun laws (which are probably the only kind we can have in a federated, decentralized state such as the US) DON’T work that well. It’s too easy to get guns from the next county or state. Still, they are better than nothing. Enforcing the laws we DO have on the books would also be nice, and might have prevented some (but not most) of the recent mass slayings.
            To say that a given gun law in a particular locality hasn’t worked is not the same as showing that gun regulation in principle will not work, and says absolutely nothing about the relationship between gun availability and gun violence. Move to Britain or Japan and I guarantee that you will have to work VERY HARD to commit a crime with a gun. Making gun laws work in America- where states and counties and cities, rather than the Federal Government, control access to guns- is a harder nut to crack. It WILL be cracked- but not for a very long time. I think we have lots of time left to play with our toys.

          • Andrew Vanbarner

            Britain and Japan have plenty of stabbings, bludgeonings, poisonings, and violence without guns; It is also illegal to carry a Swiss army knife on the streets of London. UK residents use “glass” as a verb, meaning to smash a glass into someone’s face.
            Those who aren’t good with their fists are defenseless, including women and probably most gays, while larger, stronger, and more vicious criminals have a distinct advantage.
            At any rate, the only sort of legal sanction that would actually work in leftist fantasy land would be a house to house search of all residences, with guns being confiscated upon discovery.
            This would be wildly authoritarian and would pretty much convince anyone to the right of Jane Fonda that the left wants a police state.
            Which many if not most on the left do.
            There would also be few cops who would take that job – most of them have families – and it would probably touch off another civil war.
            Any other gun law will be ignored by criminals, resented by the law abiding, and used primarily as a political football in the next election.
            Please stop suggesting any more silly laws like New York’s “SAFE” law. Murders continue unabated in much of New York, particularly above the Hudson River and into cities like Buffalo and Syracuse, while the law abiding wonder if their grandpa’s hunting rifle is still legal to use.

  • hecate9

    I won’t answer Tom’s point about “you’re just as dead with a hammer to the head” as it’s too silly really to warrant a reply. Although it is, like the :”it’s all mental illness!” argument, one of the classic replies offered up by the gun apologists that can be found on hundreds of sites where gun violence is discussed. I have the feeling that, were this conversation to go on long enough, all the classic NRA arguments would eventually be offered. And we’ve heard them all before.
    I actually do agree with one “pro-gun” argument- I think- and that is that guns are not going anywhere anytime soon. For constitutional and other, mostly political, reasons, gun owners, despite their paranoid “cold dead hands” hyperbole, have little to worry about. The majority of Americans who would be willing to give up “gun liberty” in exchange for a sensible gun policy are helpless-and likely to remain so.

    A final point- or observation. The “pro-gun” (or gun liberty) party is the Rural Party. I myself live in a very rural area with a very low population density. Gun ownership has several advantages here and almost no disadvantages. I own several guns- as does almost everyone I know. I feel like I know my neighbors and trust them and I do not- on an individual level- fear them or their guns. In fact, self defense is NOT my major motive for gun ownership- it’s more for hunting and sport. For me-as a rural person-guns are fine- part of the American cultural landscape and not a threat to anyone. Many I know actually rely on deer hunting for their yearly supply of protein (this is actually ” a thing” in the country). Are there occasional gun homicides in rural areas? yes. But homicide rates in general are low here, and if someone’s going to kill me it’ll probably be someone I know (which is-oddly-comforting).
    But I have been a city dweller also- and guns truly do not work in the city. In cities and urban environments guns- particularly hand guns- are the major threat to many inhabitants’ life, and their presence and easy availability has warped urban culture. Their bad effects spill over to ALL communities in countless ways. Because higher density areas are where most people live, it follows that gun violence-facilitated by gun availability-is a major “bad” for American society. Guns are a net negative for the U.S.
    We’re probably stuck with guns, as many have (some ruefully, some gleefully) observed. But urban/suburban dwellers- who are the majority in this country- greatly resent the “tail wagging the dog” effects of the nightly random gun violence in the cities, made possible by a hands-off gun policy that lets me keep my toys in the country. That resentment builds- and works against the project of rural and urban people coming together to work problems out.

    • StudentZ

      I feel like this is one of those issues that isn’t actually as complicated as people make it out to be. First, get rid of the second amendment as a cryptic relic of a very different past. There is no point arguing about its original intent. Leave it to gun rights advocates to draft a new amendment explaining why individuals should have the right to bear arms in contemporary society. Arguments should be based on statistics and data. Gun advocates should have to come up with the data to support the need for guns, which are clearly dangerous. Arguing that gun deaths or mass shootings are infrequent (which is debatable) makes no sense. The real focus should be on whether such casualties are unnecessary and avoidable. Second, allow local jurisdictions to create separate policies for rural and urban areas, ideally prohibiting civilians from having or carrying guns in congested areas, publicly shared spaces, etc., where citizens have access to police and publicly sanctioned forms of protection. Third, implement research-based policies designed to lower the proliferation and circulation of guns nationwide. The gun issue is not about lowering violence but minimizing the risk of violent tendencies, which are complex. Lowering the number of fatalities that could arise from such tendencies is certainly possible, if policy makers were so inclined. The difficulty, however, lies in intractable policy positions and vested interests, not in a lack of possible solutions.

      • hecate9

        I agree with everything you say- except the “…isn’t actually as complicated” part. If Sandy Hook and Las Vegas, mass shootings almost every day, whole urban neighborhoods rendered almost unlivable by gun violence, tens of thousands of gun homicides each year, etc. etc. haven’t budged the political needle one micrometer in the direction of sane gun policy then we have to conclude that, politically, it is VERY complicated. Something very strange is going on in the good old US of A.
        I think the POLITICAL impediments to a sane policy- (like the one you suggest) are twofold:
        1) the ruling party (GOP) is increasingly congruent with the rural party- in fact, “Rural Party” is a much more descriptive name for what the GOP now represents than “Republican.” Gun “libertarianism” has its greatest appeal to rural dwellers and their self-appointed agents (NRA, Gun industry, etc), where National political power is now concentrated (due to gerrymandering, non-representative “features vs. bugs” built in to the Constitution, clustering, etc.). Although the majority of Americans are in favor of some kind of gun control, the minority is “calling the shots” (pun not intended) here.
        2). The Second Amendment. Bret Stephens wrote an Op-Ed in the NYT in October recommending just what you suggest. I think it WILL happen eventually- it’s hard to believe people will be toting ray guns- or whatever the lethal weaponry of choice will be- in 2117. Otherwise, life in the US (and there won’t be any rural areas in 2017) will be a real hell on earth. At some point, the State must re-assert its monopoly on violence else we are in a truly Hobbesian nightmare. Eventually sanity must overwhelm even the rural party, the gun lobby, and the strict constructionists. But there is little evidence we are close to a tipping point. And the mechanics of “getting rid” of Constitutional Amendments are complicated by definition, as they are designed, in some measure, to protect “minority rights” from an “oppressive” majority. Built into the Constitution is a very high degree of difficulty in regards to changing it. A feature- or a bug- depending your point of view.

        • StudentZ

          Yes, I think I was trying to separate the actual issues from the politics, but perhaps that was too simplistic. I agree with you about the politics. I think emphasis should actually be placed on the gun industry and gun sales. The problem with the right to bear arms is that it only applies to those who can obtain those arms. It’s bizarre to call it a right when manufacturers and sellers could essentially take away that right by selling guns at prices no one could afford. This is probably obvious, but if you can control the market (either by getting gun manufacturers to convert to different goods or technologies, or by making it cost-prohibitive to manufacture and sell guns), you could probably nip the problem in the bud. Republicans will go where the money is, so make gun manufacturing a less attractive industry.

  • Anthony

    An observation: our national mythology encourages Americans to see the Second Amendment as a result of the Revolutionary War – “the trope of the hunter recurs frequently in current debates over gun ownership, even though hunting is no longer the leading reason Americans give for gun ownership.”

    “Toward the end of ‘Loaded’, Dunbar-Ortiz presents American ‘gun love’ as a quasi-religious phenomenon, bound up in a primal national myth of chosen-ness, victimization, and righteous violence….It would be folly to hope that any single intellectual intervention, no matter how trenchant, could undo this template or could reverse or slow this trajectory….” (The Brutal Origins of Gun Rights – another view here: )

    • hecate9

      It (the gun love affair) is all the things you mention. I agree that the fixation is beyond logic- as are all cultural symbols.
      Nothing will change until the majority (who do not share the righteous violence narrative) somehow wrest power from the minority- at least in this one area.
      But the Second Amendment is no small impediment. Other similar cultures (Canada, Australia) had frontier histories too- but no Second Amendment to permanently enshrine the mythology. They were able to move on.

      • Anthony

        I completely agree with all three paragraphs. Moreover, the Second Amendment has only become so totemic since the 1970s but , yes, its availability for enshrinement now makes task far more daunting – though the majority you reference (myself included) must understand both the cultural and capitalist dynamic undergirding opposition to modifying “gun love”.

        Yes, Canada and Australia, granted, shared a frontier history but had cultural orientations lending to a different National perspective – perhaps we could learn something and move on.

  • LarryD

    Legal definition of militia

    Sir Robert Peel’s 7th principal of policing (emphasis mine)

    “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

    As the saying goes, when every second counts, the police are only minutes away. If you are lucky; in some cities it’s hours.
    Back when the Constitution was written, it was common for colonies to require the ownership of arms.

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