THAT WHICH CANNOT BE DONE

Thank god the Supreme Court session has ended and we can stop talking about this stuff. Soon.

So, lots of weeping and rending of garments over the Chicago anti-handgun decision. Even more hysteria about the concept of incorporating the 2nd Amendment. As I don't subscribe to the slippery slope school of logic (incorporation today = striking down background checks tomorrow) and I think this will have shockingly little impact on substantive gun control legislation, I'm more interested in the underlying issue here – everyone, save for the NRA hardliners, recognizes the need for some kind of "control" on private firearms. The big problem is that we know exactly which guns are the problem and, as Chicago just discovered, it's virtually impossible to craft legislation to restrict them.

As a kid, my family was not big on guns. I think my dad had his father's WWII .45, which was more for sentimental reasons than any of the usual motivations for gun ownership. But as a public prosecutor for many years he always impressed upon me the futility of the kinds of showy gun control legislation produced by Congress. The mid-90s "assault weapon" panic was, and still is, a textbook example of a red herring. "Assault weapons" are involved in about 0.1% of gun crime, if that. The other 99%+ primarily revolves around one type of weapon: small, cheap pistols with large magazine capacities. The movies in the 1980s convinced a lot of people that criminals and gang members were wandering the streets with machine guns and AK-47s. Such instances are rare and exceptional. By and large, violent crime is committed with the bottom of the barrel in the firearm market.

Take the Virginia Tech slayings as an example. The killer used .22 pistols. They are usually used for shooting at paper targets. A decently heavy wooden door has a chance of stopping a .22 pistol round. This is absolutely the last kind of firearm that legislation would ever try to ban. Yet the small round (which enables many to be crammed into a single magazine, giving the handguns a high capacity) works just fine against "soft" targets, i.e. someone's chest. Focusing on the guns alone and not the killer's mental issues, on what basis could legislation be written narrowly enough to ban such things?

Given the obscene number of handguns already circulating in the U.S., bans on new weapon sales can't even begin to solve the problem. And as long as people persist in the delusion that having a gun in the house makes them safer, there will be howls of protest about such laws despite their relative ineffectiveness. Our solutions appear to be:

1. Take the right-wing argument to its logical conclusion; arm everyone to the teeth and live out some kind of Mad Max scenario.

2. Ban handgun sales and ownership – a move that, as gun propaganda rightly points out, will not stop people who aren't concerned about things like laws and licenses.

3. Ban all gun ownership. Same problem, plus the Constitution makes this untenable.

It seems like we're drifting toward #1 not because the conservative majority on the Court and in Congress for the last 30 years have been successful at executing a nefarious plot to manipulate the law, but rather because the other two options are some combination of ineffective, unrealistic, and unconstitutional. We've saturated this society with so goddamn many guns – especially the worst kind for criminals to have, the small, cheap, big-magazine ones – that I don't see how we can make this country "gun free" even if we wanted to. And the 2nd Amendment clearly does confer some kind of right to individual ownership (although we could reasonably debate in what context that applies).

The problem, in essence, is that we're out of answers and we, like the Courts, appear to have settled on the least terrible one. Yet we know that it's a non-solution, even when our bluster and attempts at self delusion indicate otherwise. We know goddamn well that the pistol isn't going to protect us when someone breaks into our home as we sleep or charges in through the front door, gun in hand, as we watch TV. Deep down we know or at least should know that the odds of using a firearm to successfully execute any of the fantasy scenarios presented by NRA types are close to nil.

So what is the answer? How do we do the impossible, or at least the highly improbable, and craft legislation that addresses the massive supply of guns already in circulation while protecting the basic 2nd Amendment right and parsimoniously targeting the kind of cheap, disposable handguns that actually fuel street crime? The next good answer I hear to any of these queries will be the first.

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67 Responses to “THAT WHICH CANNOT BE DONE”

  1. Dudeski Says:

    Why don't you dump that constitution and start from scratch? Wouldn't the be first ones to try that…

  2. Maren Says:

    What amazes me is the general human propensity for violence. When I was in London a few years back I remember being surprised to read, day after day in the free Tube newspapers, about really violent-sounding crimes — knifings, stranglings, and other very physical murders. Took me a couple of days to realize that without easy access to handguns, people were just turning to whatever weapons were available, from kitchen knives to their own bare hands. I've seen those miserable stats about the number of gun-related deaths in the US compared to the single or double digit numbers in other countries, but I haven't seen one that just looks at straight-up homicides.

  3. Technogeek Says:

    Why don't you dump that constitution and start from scratch? Wouldn't the be first ones to try that…

    Yeah, there's no way that could go wrong in the current political climate.

  4. Jimcat Says:

    Dammit Ed, you've let me down; I count on you to have the answer to everything.

  5. Misterben Says:

    What about working to broaden and toughen the laws that intensify the penalty for committing a crime with a gun? Many jurisdictions already have laws to this effect; could we work to establish a national framework for them? After all, I don't really care if my creepy neighbor has a basement full of shotguns; I just don't want him using the guns to commit crimes.

    And beyond that, what about creating (and toughening, where they already exist) laws requiring responsible gun ownership? For example – if your kid "borrows" your gun and uses it to shoot up his school, you are also charged with a felony.

    If the penalties were sufficiently harsh, these laws might actually dissuade criminals from using guns to commit crimes. But obviously, the whole field of crime and punishment in this country needs a massive overhaul. I'm just spitballing on the subject of gun crimes.

  6. HoosierPoli Says:

    I saw we stick to the "original intent" of the second Amendment:

    As many swords and muzzleloaders as you can carry.

  7. Amanda Says:

    God knows Arizona (and possibly Florida) don't mind making laws that ignore the constitution…why couldn't other states man up too and handle it at that level? :-)

  8. Del Says:

    An arresting visual:

    http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/ihs.html

    Plain ol' bar graph:

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita

  9. Chris Jensen Says:

    well, obviously the real answer is to try and foster a society in which fewer people turn to crime or accept violence as a way of life, but that sort of utopian rhetoric usually goes nowhere or turns into a despotic nightmare.

  10. John Says:

    The problem, as Maren has pointed out with the UK reference, is that guns are not the source of violent crime — they are merely the most convenient tool to aid in its execution. Were we to have a magical No Gun Ray that immediately disintegrated all guns on the planet, these kinds of crimes would not stop. People would just start stabbing each other instead of shooting each other

    This is one of the cases where I actually have to agree with the crowd on the political right — banning guns just removes them from the hands of law-abiding citizens; those already commiting a crime that is going to land them in jail for many years really won't care about tacking a few more onto the sentence for having an illegal gun.

    There is, unfortunately, no real solution to this problem. It is basic human nature to covet that which others have and you do not, and there will always be depraved individuals that will act on the nature to take those things by force. Removing their access to one set of tools for accomplishing that goal will not remove their drive to do it.

    I was actually at my mother's home one night, back when I was in college and was coming home for the semester, during a break-in attempt. A quick bang on the back door made the prospective robber or robbers disperse with the utmost haste, but what struck me was the little sliver of metal sticking through the crack in the middle of the double-doors.

    In the absence of any proper lockpicking tools, they had been using a paint spreader to try and jimmy the latch.

  11. duck-billed placelot Says:

    Why not look to that other intractably awful weaponry problem – nuclear bombs – for answers? Bans or highly increased controls on new guns in conjunction with focused disarmament might slow and hopefully reverse proliferation. Public campaigns to encourage the non-crazy portion of the population, tax credits to people who turn in handguns, a slew of new jobs for Patriotic Disarmament Representatives (telemarketers, people to work the collection depots, or buses, or whatever, security for said depots or buses), and the gun-materials could go to some massive public works….bridge repair? Light rail construction? I have no idea what ex-guns would be good for, but I'd imagine that metal could have some use. Even a campaign to (voluntarily) reduce guns to one per household could make a big dent – as long as the restrictions on new guns were in place. Leaving shotguns out of any new laws might help, too. While just as useful in a home-protection scenario, shotguns are so much less dangerous – Dick Cheney not withstanding – in a social context, and much less likely to be toted around by the wingnuttery. (That's just a guess; although requiring all holsters to be bright pink might have a similar dampening effect on the crazy 'open carry' bullshit.)

    Anyway, tell me why it wouldn't work. It just seems like the right wing position is pretty much Cold War thinking. And that arms race sure turned out well for us, didn't it? With our military industrial complex and our massive stockpile of planet-destroying weapons? Surely we can come up with a different response.

  12. Elder Futhark Says:

    Dogs are good. More dogs. And cudgels. Cudgels are great for home invaders. Imitating the sound of loading a shotgun also works very well, if you are good at that.

    Honestly, is this really an issue? Statistically, I should be more worried about your vehicular habits, or the chance of drowning in your puke, than being shot by any of you. Because almost every one you Americans suck at shooting things.

    People with cars, though. They are fucking dangerous. So maybe you can set up a linkage of inconvience without infringing 2nd amendment rights. Want to drive a car? Don't own a gun. If we find out you own a gun, and you are driving a car, we shoot you in the head.

  13. J Says:

    I've always favored the idea of mandating an educational course and mandatory time at a gun range before a person can purchase a gun. And I'm not talking an hour long class, something more akin to 6 months where an instructor can divest the students of gun myths. The time (again measured in hundreds of hours) on the gun range would (hopefully) teach the person to hit what they're shooting and not the women and children behind and to the side of them.

  14. ladiesbane Says:

    “We know goddamn well that the pistol isn't going to protect us when someone breaks into our home as we sleep or charges in through the front door, gun in hand, as we watch TV. Deep down we know or at least should know that the odds of using a firearm to successfully execute any of the fantasy scenarios presented by NRA types are close to nil.”

    One night when I was in junior high, I woke up because there were people moving around inside our porch. My grandfather was already moving to the door. The sound of the shotgun being shucked ended their sneaking around and they ran like hell. When I was out with a girlfriend in the early nineties, a group of meatheads were paying too much of the wrong kind of attention to us as we sat in her parked car drinking Cokes. They came up all around the car and were showing ugly intent. Assuming you’ve never been a five foot tall girl with weak little Tyrannosaurus Rex arms, I can tell you that a group of large men who are hur-hur-hur let’s-have-some-fun-with-these-bitches can do whatever they want once they get their hands on you. She showed them a gun and they backed off. (A nearly identical situation occurred years later on a road trip; and again, years later, with a boyfriend of the wrong color for that part of town. No guns were aimed directly at people nor otherwise brandished; display was all that was required.)

    These are not the only incidents in which having a gun has been a great help to my safety. No one can say what would have happened, but please, please, please do not tell me that a pistol is not going to protect me. No one has ever charged through my front door; I don’t know why anyone would want to. But I can tell you, as a petite girl who spent most of her life in isolated places and crummy neighborhoods, that strong language does not slow down a group of guys. I have been assaulted and worse. But never when I was carrying.

    It doesn’t sound as if you think responsible gun ownership is the problem, regardless of your lack of positive personal history with guns, and please don’t think I endorse fearful nuts like Bernhard Goetz. If people misuse firearms (or drive drunk, for that matter), I am all for harsh punishment and permanent revocation of rights. But here in CA, for example, there is no castle doctrine, and no right to defend myself with force (not even Mace.) California either sees me as a physical giant who can gently repel large men the way a mother holds a flailing child, or perhaps they see me as a victim. I am not the former and would prefer not to be the latter. I don’t want to be defenseless because a bunch of gang members and random jerks are an irresponsible minority. When you think about solving the problem, please don’t make the rule fit the exception.

  15. bb in GA Says:

    Shotguns are excellent self defense weapons when you are scared spitless.

    Most of y'all are brave and have never been that scared – you know, knees knocking together and all…Pistols are not preferred defensive weapons because of accuracy issues when you are maxed out on adrenaline and accuracy issues generally.

    If you are someone who doesn't practice regularly combined with the pump, you have to be very close to your target. But they are better than a broomstick for sure if you are barricaded in your back bedroom and the baddies are coming.

    Further, larger caliber handguns can actually be dangerous to third parties in indoor confrontations. You could be shooting at the bad guy in the living room and the sheetrock hardly slows down your .357 round and you get grandma while she's still in the bed. If you use #6 shot in your big bore, any misses end up pretty much embedded in the walls. Another (Fog of War) issue is "Have you ever discharged a firearm indoors?"

    I think the most direct route to "gun control" (realizing that criminals just do not comply with whatever law is in their way) is "ammo control." Without ammo, firearms are just lumps of metal, plastic, and wood. If you can find ways to make it difficult to own or personally reload ammo, I think you have half the battle won on disarming America.

    Of course, I will work against it.

    //bb

  16. Mike Says:

    Unfortunately, targeting the cost of the weapon is practically off limits as well. The NRA and other gun lobbies have successfully argued that taxing handguns or restricting the manufacturer of low cost weapons is discriminatory towards lower income people and therefore should not be considered.

    As for home defense, I read a study somewhere that stated that the SOUND of a shotgun being loaded has as much effect as actually brandishing the weapon.

    I am a combat veteran and own weapons for sport shooting and I have a concealed carry license, but I think that competence is the only route one can pursue to reduce gun ownership. Training should be mandatory for ownership and any kind of documented mental incapacity should be grounds for restriction.

    I too see that we will simply reach a d

  17. Keifus Says:

    That's the sanest article on gun control I've read in a long time.

    Here are some other ideas if we want to reduce gun violence:

    - Drastically reduce the population, so that the whole country resembles the rural patches (or colonial-vintage agrarian regions) where guns are useful for more things than killing and threatening people. That'll probably help our per capita gun deaths, and certainly reduce the entire number of them.

    - Completely change our entertainment culture. No more neo-westerns chocked with rugged frontiersman living by their own rules. No more hardboiled cops, playing by their own rules, but still lovin' them some officially-sanctioned authoritay. No more shootemups and slashemups. Instead we'll embrace all things European in cinema, with complicated romances, and depressing verite. Healthcare and vacation time will be right around the corner.

    - Throw in jail anyone who might possibly look scary or threatening to suburban white folks. If guns are legal, we'll have to manufacture some other paradigm under which to incarcerate the dusky-hued. Sounds absolutely crazy in this country, I know, but I think it could actually happen.

    (Or maybe if every goddamn civil program wasn't presented as a war on some fucking thing, we'd stop treating it as one. Which is a quote I just stole from the episode of The Wire I watched last week.)

  18. SeaTea Says:

    Wow. Some sanity on an issue that typically only attracts insane points of view. Nicely done.

  19. SeaTea Says:

    >I think that competence is the only route one can pursue to reduce gun ownership. Training should be mandatory for ownership and any kind of documented mental incapacity should be grounds for restriction.

    Sorry for the double-post, but A-MEN! You need to go through rigorous testing to operate a fryer at McDonald's, but you don't have to prove competence in any way to own an AR-15 or a Glock 19. I'd make gun ownership more like skydiving. It's a dangerous activity (to yourself and others), so establish a series of licenses that you earn by demonstrating proficiency and taking classes.

    Start with the ability to own a single-shot .22 and work your way up (over years of training) to being able to own a 50 caliber BMG sniper rifle or a fully-auto AK-47.

  20. Jared Says:

    This country, particularly in urban areas basically have an unbridaled fear of firearms. I grew up in northern, northern Kentucky, also known as southern Indiana. When I grew up I had access to SKS assault rifles, .22 and .38 caliber handguns, and shotguns. Rather than fearing them, I learned to see them as a tool after being taught how they functioned. I think that essentially gun control comes with the knowledge and experience that comes with actually holding a firearm in your hands and respecting their power. I agree with SeaTea. While the government should have a "monopoly on the legitimate use of force," when seconds count and the police aren't there, I believe that self-defense is basically a fact of life. People will kill each other regardless, and firearms are merely the most efficient way of doing it. As the poster above said in England, people kill others using their bare hands and knives because they lack access to firearms. But you don't bring a knife to a gun fight.

  21. Jared Says:

    Sorry for the grammatical errors above.

  22. Zamboni Sam Says:

    This is a cultural problem and not a legislative one. I sorta feel we should do the same thing with guns that we've done with cigarettes: shame people who are proponents of them. Get the statistics front and center of every debate that if you own a gun you are far, far, more likely to hurt and kill someone you love than some imagined intruder or assailant. Then couple that with a simple phrase: "And you still want to own a gun? What are you, a fucking idiot?"

    Obsession and desire for guns makes you one of two things: paranoid or a neanderthal. I've lived in some of the worst neighborhoods in this country and never felt a gun would do a damn thing to protect me in any instance. You carry a weapon because of the fear that some "other" (usually some brown or black "other") will come and get you or take your precious belongings, or you do it because it's an imagined extension of your wiener and its the only way to feel like a big important person.

    The ownership of a gun means nothing more than you had the ability to purchase a gun. It's not some kind of American right-of-passage and it doesn't make you a real man.

    People who love guns are evolutionary throwbacks. And it's time we started calling them out on it.

  23. Zamboni Sam Says:

    Oh, and while I'm at it, fuck hunters too. Seriously. Fuck hunters.

  24. comrade x Says:

    It is an immensely complex issue. I agree that there needs to be a certain level of regulation on firearms owned by civilians. As a commie I can also understand the attachment most Americans feel towards guns- its very much a class issue. This is one of the very few nations on the planet where class doesn't determine who has access to weapons. European nations didn't ban firearms from the general public because their governments were full of wise and benevolent men. It was because the aristocracy didn't want workers and peasants to be armed. This is a sentiment exploited very skillfully by the NRA and right- wing politicians and one liberal democrats stumble over time and again.
    BTW, I own 11 firearms but my main line of home defense is a burglar alarm. But I do have a CCW license and as ladiesbane pointed out there are situations where having a gun prevents assholes from doing violence to you.

  25. Jared Says:

    In Afghanistan, owning a Kalashnikov is seen as a right of passage of manhood. Gun happy republicans have far more in common with Afghan Pashtun culture than they do with their own American liberal counterparts.

  26. bb in GA Says:

    ZSam:

    Are you a vegan? If not, you just subcontract your killing to others.

    If you are are a vegan, then I accept your curses in the wonderful spirit in which they were offered.

    //bb

  27. ladiesbane Says:

    Zamboni Sam: I promise you , I have neither a wiener, nor wiener envy, and I am not sorry for participating in hunting for food as a child, nor protecting myself with guns.

    You seem to have the idea that all gun owners are racist nuts who dream about answering mercenary ads in the back of Soldier of Fortune magazine, and who take potshots at neighbor cats off the back porch. I know these idiots exist, and as I said, irresponsible gun use should be punished (far more severely than it is now.)

    But please don't condemn a whole group of people for the actions of a few swine. You sound like a liberal person; I feel as if I shouldn't have to ask you to do that.

  28. wellnab Says:

    Here's an idea, which I think is more in line with what we know of the original intent of the 2nd Amendment: conscription and mandatory military service, and (almost) complete reduction of the standing professional military. Owning a gun would be a RESPONSIBILITY as much as a right.

    Every adult in the country, between the ages of, say, 20 and 40, MUST keep AT LEAST a long gun, in good working order, in their home. They MUST spend some time each calendar year (a few weeks? a month?) in training with their local militia group, under the direction of trained, professional military personnel. Whether the government would supply the weapons is an open question for me as yet, but I lean towards that. Handguns would have to be purchased by each individual, if they wanted one.

    I think that, in addition to the gun issues, this would also go a fair way to addressing the problems of systemic police malfeasance and foreign military adventurism in our country, as well as investing a since of ownership and participation in the general populace. We'd be less likely to "bring democracy" to other countries, because, well, WE would be the ones going. And those of the police who misuse their authority would be less likely to do so, since EVERYONE would be armed, and organized.

    I know this will never happen, but I think it could work.

  29. Nunya Says:

    I started reading the comments on this post and was amazed at the reasonable discourse and wondering when the first "tiny penis" reference was going to come up. Zamboni Sam, my hat is off to you for breaking the chain.

    Living in the great bastion of liberalism in the Pacific Northwest, I have had the opportunity to discuss this very topic many, many times. It seems that the highly educated residents of this fair city have a visceral reaction to the existence of firearms and, almost without exception, know almost nothing about how they work.

    About 95% of gun owners are not what you might consider gun nuts. They own firearms because their fathers owned firearms and enjoy an occasional evening of target practice at the local gun range. Despite what you might think, they rarely harbor some sociopathic fantasy of blowing away some ne'er-do-well who tries engage them in mortal combat. Some do, of course, and they're highly vocal; but the average person keeps them stored safely in the attic for months at a time.

    I've found the best way to change a gun hater is to simply introduce them to how guns work and take them for an outing at the gun range. Without exception, simply educating them and allowing them to experience the zen and focus required to reliably place a bullet on a target is enough to make them realize that shooting sports are much more akin to shooting pool than some Mad Max post-apocalyptic fantasy.

    I assure you that the vast majority of people who own firearms regard them as little more than a piece of recreational equipment and not as a tool of mass destruction.

    So here's the deal. If you want to hate guns and gun owners, at least have all the knowledge you need to refute their arguments. Sign up for a firearm training class. Know your enemy and be able to describe, in detail, why guns are scary things.

    I have a feeling you might just soften your stance a bit.

  30. Ed Says:

    "You seem to have the idea that all gun owners are racist nuts who dream about answering mercenary ads in the back of Soldier of Fortune magazine, and who take potshots at neighbor cats off the back porch. I know these idiots exist, and as I said, irresponsible gun use should be punished (far more severely than it is now.) "

    I don't think guns are an issue where the "A few bad apples spoil the bunch" argument applies. Should we look at offshore drilling and say "Well one bad apple shouldn't change our policies"?

    In the case of the oil spill, the consequences are too significant to say "Oh well, have to take the good with the bad!" So it is with guns. These "nuts" and idiots are really, really fucking numerous. And I'm sorry to the much cited Responsible Gun Owner but the consequences of the actions of the Bad Apples are severe enough that we need a solution which will probably punish the good along with the bad.

    When the bad apples are killing people and living out their survivalist fantasies, yes, unfortunately that spoils the whole bunch.

  31. wellnab Says:

    "… as well as investing a since of ownership…"

    Ack. I meant "sense of ownership."

  32. Nunya Says:

    Ed, while I respect your logic, realistically gun ownership is so integrated into the psyche of such a large portion of our citizenry that I think it will be an uphill battle to try to win the hearts and minds on the topic. I've met many otherwise rational, progressive people that vote Republican based solely on this single issue. The more focus Democrats put on the issue, the more power it gives to the other side.

    If we could disassociate God from the rights and personal gun ownership restrictions from the left, things might be quite a bit different than they are today.

  33. bb in GA Says:

    Let's do some math:

    over 250 million guns (handguns, rifles, and shotguns)

    ~90 million Legal gun owners (don't know how many criminals)

    ~3 million NRA members (I am one)

    15,000 +/- gun homicides per year

    In 2007, we executed 42 capital criminals in the US of which 26 were in Texas. As Ron "Tater Salad" White says "If you kill somebody in Texas, we'll kill you back!"

    I think I can argue that, outside of Texas, we probably don't have a death penalty anymore since 20 something states don't have one by law and the other 20 something only executed less than 20.

    Some of those numbers need to change. I'm sure we disagree on which ones and how much.

    //bb

  34. ladiesbane Says:

    Ed, have you come up with a solution since you first posted this? You agreed that guns can't be made to disappear, that the Constitution does guarantee some degree of right to keep arms, and that criminals will ignore any prohibition anyway.

    I think the situation can be improved by more severe (and consistent) punishment for misbehavior, but there is no single easy fix.

    Gun laws vary so much between states that it's not practical to discuss each one here. Can we agree that working on the situation is something that can't be done in a few flippant lines? I agree there's a problem. Look, I’ve got the cleanest record in the world, and I’m happy to pass any background check or waiting period or ammo restriction you care to apply – not that it would have stopped the bad guys, but it may well weed out some heat-of-the-moment killers. But since those restrictions are in place, and not sufficient, can we also agree that there will always be nuts who slip through the net? That guy who shot all those women at the gym, the Virginia Tech shooter, the guy who killed all those people at a Luby's in Killeen…freaks. I don't hold with making laws for the exception, no matter how grossly heartbreaking those exceptions are.

    Perhaps the gun rule should be that only women get to carry. (Sorry, I'm joking, of course.)

  35. Nunya Says:

    @ ladiesbane – Although gun laws vary widely by jurisdiction, in my neck of the woods, displaying a firearm in public is a misdemeanor offense and, depending on the situation, would also be considered felony assault.

    Brandishing a weapon whenever you feel threatened by some mean looking guy should be illegal. Using it as a substitute for common sense (i.e. not putting yourself in a dangerous situation) is a very poor example of responsible gun ownership.

    Be careful before you count yourself among the squeaky clean, responsible crowd you are defending.

  36. bb in GA Says:

    oops

    Total homicides (not gun homicides)in the US 15,000 – 17,000/yr long term

    Handguns ~10000/yr

    Other guns ~3000/yr

    Knives ~2500/yr

    Other methods ~2000/yr

    //bb

  37. Ed Says:

    I don't condone the victim-blaming idea, but I admit that upon first read I questioned the wisdom of the strategy of carrying a gun so that one can point it at people if you feel threatened.

    I have no reason to doubt that you were legitimately threatened, but I question the broader application of that logic. Do you trust your fellow Americans to judiciously determine when it is appropriate to whip out a pistol because they feel threatened? I don't. Maybe that's just me. It isn't much of a leap from "Some guys surrounded my car and I felt threatened" to "Four black guys were walking toward me and I felt threatened" and I think a lot of my fellow Americans can make that leap in a hurry.

    With all due respect, letting people be armed and allowing them to make the determination of when it's appropriate to whip out the piece and point it at a stranger seems like an atrocious idea. "I felt threatened" becomes an argument that can't be refuted; how deferential is the legal system supposed to be to an argument that subjective?

  38. Elder Futhark Says:

    Bernie Goetz.

  39. Robert Says:

    The one time I've seen a handgun in another person's hand was when one was being pointed at me. If I had had a gun of my own, even if it was loaded and the safety was off (in which case I would be criminally stupid/insane), by the time I'd drawn it and aimed, I'd have been shot.

    If the man had been holding a knife, I would have run like a weasel on fire, and he most likely would not have caught up with me.

    And Jared, your comment
    "This country, particularly in urban areas basically have an unbridaled fear of firearms" makes me wonder which country you're referring to. The USA does not have the reputation of a firearm-fearing country.

    Also, the con-lib mantra 'an armed society is a polite society' always makes me think 'wow, Afghanistan must be the world capital of politeness'.

  40. Kevin Says:

    In places with more lenient gun laws, it's possible to count the number of tragic accidents and crazy killers, but we never know how many crimes are prevented by someone brandishing (but not using) a handgun, or perhaps more importantantly, by the sheer possibility that the potential victim MIGHT have a gun. ladiesbane illustrates the point.

    There's some decent evidence that crime rates are lower where people are allowed to have guns, so I come down on that side. Everyone doesn't have to have a gun (I don't), but many people benefit from the fact that a few people DO have one.

  41. ladiesbane Says:

    @Nunya — I understand your points, but you don't have the whole story. I don't know whether you consider being poor and living where poor people do to be putting myself in a dangerous situation, but it is where my problems have usually occurred. I hope you don't think that's a willful indiscretion. But a late night run for the border (actually I believe it was a Burgerville in Beaverton, OR) should not have been an imprudent act.

    I did not know that my girlfriend was packing, but I did know she had a carry permit. As I said, she did not brandish the weapon or point it at anyone; she displayed it. If any of those goons wanted to press charges, we would have a chance to discuss the circumstances with a judge, and since Portland courts (back in my day) weren't too friendly toward men who threatened women, I feel certain we would have done okay.

    Not that it would have made a difference. If big strong men are talking about what they want to do to you, whether you want them to or not, and you have a gun, and you DON'T use it to correct the situation, you are either paralyzed with fear or an idiot. Misdemeanor offense versus gang rape? How long would you have to think about that? Perhaps you were joking.

    And Ed, all I can say is that I know our country is full of fools and freaks. I know that since guns can't be magically eradicated, I'd like to be able to protect myself as efficiently as possible. I do not endorse laws that are geared to exceptions, and I do support enthusiastic prosecution of anyone who abuses the right to own a gun. I'm for Liberty, and against License. The "I felt threatened" argument does have boundaries, and can be judged on by-case basis to determine whether a reasonable, prudent person would consider the situation threatening.

    It’s true that "Yeah, I was holding her down, but I was just joking around" is considered nonthreatening to some judges, but it's getting harder to press "but he was BLACK! Eek!" as we get less okay with racism and get more people of color on the bench (Clarence Thomas notwithstanding.) Allowing people to make the determination of when it's appropriate to whip out a piece is not something you can do. Anyone who has a gun will be making that decision whether you like it or not. – it’s one of the reasons I so strongly support mandatory training, which stresses safe and responsible use. If people misbehave, they forfeit their ability to own or carry.

    But short of the total gun ban we have agreed is unfeasible, all we have are regulation, and punishment for infraction. I would prefer to discuss what regulations might work best and have the fewest loopholes, and when to revoke, but so far people haven’t come up with much that is based in world of legal gun ownership. Until it does, the argument chases its own tail.

  42. Nunya Says:

    @ladiesbane – I grew up as a middle-sized white kid in the gang-ridden Los Angeles suburbs and have more than a passing knowledge of angry young men looking to intimidate passers by. More than a few times, swallowing my pride and talking my way out of or, in a few cases, running for my life in the presence of 6-10 less than racially harmonious individuals left me feeling humiliated and seriously wishing I could have caused them serious bodily damage at the least. I still despise this kind of behavior but I also learned the value of avoiding the conflict in the first place. Crossing the street when you see unsavory looking characters may be tough on your ego but it pales in comparison to the the alternative.

    Later in life, I went to college in a CCW friendly state. Remembering the kind of humiliation I had to endure in my youth, I applied for and receive a permit to carry a concealed pistol. For about 2 weeks, I carried that pistol everywhere I went (besides the legally prohibited college campus or bars.) I slowly noticed a shift in my behavior. I stopped avoiding conflict and subconsciously encouraged it by walking aggressively into places I knew better than to be in.

    Fortunately, I never was presented with an occasion to pull my weapon and decided that I didn't like what having it available was doing to my outlook on humanity or my ability to stay out of jail. I unloaded it and put it away for good.

    I support a citizens right to own a firearm and to use it in defense of their home (or some theoretical invasion or revolution) but I cannot condone an armed populous walking the streets. The sense of power is too intoxicating for most, myself included. I now get by on my wits and situational awareness. It's served me well for many years.

    On a side note, on a business trip to Chicago, I noticed a group of intoxicated men who were openly discussing how to best mug me. I used a tried and true method taught to me by my police officer father. I acted crazy- swatting at my head Rainman style while screaming "Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!" at the to of my lungs. This intimidating looking group crossed the street to avoid me and I went on my way.

    Crazy trumped armed in that situation and I'm pleased with the outcome.

  43. Ed Says:

    Why is the number of handgun homicides is a random statistic and not a very good one. It primarily measures how good the aim of the average felon is. We already know most of them can't shoot for shit.

    How many assaults with handguns take place? How many people are shot? These are the more relevant statistics.

    Second, 10k people is a lot of fucking people, especially compared to the double-digit number of gun homicides in other countries. Your logic reminds me of one of McClellan's telegrams to Lincoln: "Good news; objective achieved and only 35 casualties" to which the president responded "Not such good news for the 35."

  44. comrade x Says:

    Yeah, its not much of an argument anymore. The gun control lobby has gone down in defeat and that's fine with me. Their ideas were based on a total ignorance of firearms and consequently their recomendations looked foolish. The Right was able to spin it into the The Liberal Elites Think American Citizens Are Too Dumb To Own Firearms meme. And that's exactly how it sounds when you hear most Liberals talk about gun control.
    And believe it or not, even the most rabid NRA types don't want to go around blowing people away. The people I have met that carry do not take it lightly and if you ever knew how little firearms training police officers actually recieve you would probably be quicker to trust the civilian gun owner.
    Anyway, don't come crying to me when the dead rise and all you have is a pocket knife. :^)

  45. Nick Says:

    Personally, I think there needs to be more discussion of firearms, firearm safety, etc. in schools. Accidental gun deaths aren't the epidemic that the Brady Campaign attempts to make them, but each of them is preventable–if kids were taught basic gun safety (starting with the "Stop-Don't Touch-Leave the Area-Tell an Adult" method used in the NRA's Eddie Eagle program, and graduating to basic gun safety rules and a brief overview of the types of firearms and their mechanics) then we'd have fewer kids playing around with guns and fewer adults (especially young adults) doing dumb shit like not checking the chamber before cleaning their gun.

    As for the crime issue, you're correct that there's no easy solution. In the absence of a magic law or set of laws that's going to keep criminals from getting guns, I have to say I'd rather err on the side of personal liberty. A law that restricts freedoms while offering no positive gain is pretty much the worst possible kind of law, and like airport security measures, basically exists solely to make easily frightened white people feel safer. To me, one of the more telling of the many statistics surrounding guns and gun control (most of which are horseshit, including that "you're x times more likely to kill someone you love than a home invader" stat, which included suicides in the "killing someone you love" category and didn't include defensive uses in which the intruder was not actually killed) is that in the UK, half of all home invasion robberies occur while the occupant is at home. In the US, it's ten percent. Now, there's probably several reasons for this, but I don't think it's unreasonable to infer that burglars in the States tend to be concerned about getting shot, and thus wait until the occupants leave, as opposed to burglars in the UK, where basically any self-defensive use of any kind of weapon is illegal. It's like the line in Pulp Fiction about not robbing bars or liquor stores or gas stations because you'll get shot–criminals may not be the brightest bunch, but they do have self-preservation instincts.

    Plus, one of the more important aspects of gun rights that's rarely discussed is the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. When the dead rise, Europe is FUCKED. Except Switzerland.

  46. Nick Says:

    Goddammit, Comrade X beat me to the zombie points.

  47. Ecks Says:

    we never know how many crimes are prevented by someone brandishing (but not using) a handgun

    The problem with this is that "criminals" are actual people, and not the cartoon morons you see on tv. I would much MUCH rather be mugged in Canada than the USA, because in the USA the guy mugging me has to assume I might have a gun, and so he's going to be far more twitchy and trigger happy. The guy in Canada knows I don't, so he's far less likely to panic and shoot.

    To the people who say "intruders ran away when they heard my gun," I can tell you about being a child in England, when people would try to break into our house and inevitably run like hell when they heard the burglar alarm and/or people at home. This had nothing to do with guns (nobody had them in the UK), and everything to do with them just wanting to grab stuff without facing potential violent reprisal, and/or visits from the police.

    There's also the asinine point that "criminals will have guns anyway." That's probably true… of the mafia, but not the local meathead who is going to lug a brick through someone's window and see if they can't make a few bucks by grabbing what they can. In fact, if it he can be arrested simply for possessing a gun, he's taking chances of getting busted before he's done a single thing to anybody, so he actually has a disincentive. And if nobody else is armed, then he doesn't really need a gun.

    In ambiguous scary situations, people do crazy things, and so what you want are barriers to violence, not facilitating violence by making it easier for people to effortlessly kill each other.

    Given the large number of guns already in the country and people's cultural resistance to sense on the issue, what to do about it is the big problem. Probably at this point mandatory training is the best that is possible for people who do want to carry them (though not, as the jackass above suggests, up to the level of teaching people to fire AK-47's… not even their biggest boosters can reasonably claim they have ANYTHING at all to do with personal safety – we're talking about civilian life in a first world country, not military action in a war zone here).

    Note: I'm not saying that gun owners are bad people, or that guns are the spawn of satan… just that a society with lots of people carrying around the ability to kill each other easily is inevitably going to be a less safe society. Most of the time it will be fine, but occasionally it won't be, and when those occasions happen, innocent people end up dead.

  48. Prudence Says:

    While it's true that people will use other methods to kill their fellow man, guns just automate that process in a way that knives, bats and cudgels can't; you need a certain level of fitness and determination to kill someone with those. Whereas with one of these babies, as Ed well knows, any bedridden shut-in can be a stone-cold killer. http://www.the-backup.com/

  49. Duverger's Outlaw Says:

    Thanks for the link prudence; provided some dark humor at the end of a very long day. The best line (from the website) "Although America is the greatest country in the world, the frightening reality is that Americans are not safe in their own homes." You could not make this shit up.

  50. Nick Says:

    Ecks: I assume you're referring to my post; I have to ask how exactly "basic gun safety rules and a brief overview of the types of firearms and their mechanics" translates into "teaching people to fire AK-47's."

  51. bb in GA Says:

    Ed:

    I had no "logic" I was providing data. I made no editorial comment on the numbers.

    I am a numbers geek.

    "I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind"

    Lord Kelvin

  52. Nunya Says:

    BB, as a fellow numbers geek I have to point out the obvious. "There are lies, damn lies and statistics." Simply choosing the numbers that support your own argument is to be untrue not only to the facts but to science.

  53. Prudence Says:

    "Although America is the greatest country in the world, the frightening reality is that Americans are not safe in their own homes."

    I live in DC and some right wing nut (i forget which, there are so many) is constantly litigating to allow yet more guns into my lovely swamp. And I tell you, it makes me want to shove a Back-Up up his backside.

  54. Graham Says:

    But as Michael Moore pointed out some years ago, Canada has a similar level of gun ownership to America but has a tiny fraction of its gun death rate. He went on to say that it is not guns that kill people but Americans.

    Now why IS that?

  55. Monkey Business Says:

    I posted this in the previous thread, but it fits better here.

    We don't need gun control in this country. We need bullet control. A gun can't kill anyone, unless you pistol-whip the shit out of them. Neither can a bullet, unless fired from a gun.

    The Second Amendment is open to a ridiculous amount of interpretation. It either guarantees the right to own firearms, or it guarantees the right to own firearms in the service of a State Militia. Seeing as there are no officially recognized State Militias anymore, if you choose that interpretation it would be easy to ban guns. The problem is that almost no one uses that interpretation, regardless of what the Founding Father's intent might have been.

    As the article states, that would be damn near impossible. Banning firearms in this country simply isn't possible. Even if you did, there are too many.

    That being said, the Constitution says absolutely nothing about a right to have bullets.

    Restrict the sale of bullets to armed forces and police services. Gun clubs, firing ranges, hunting areas, etc. may also purchase bullets, but they will be heavily taxed. Each bullet will be individually numbered and registered, so that there is a clear chain of ownership from the manufacturer to purchaser to end user.

    The problem arises with what to do with the bullets already in circulation. Well, start by making non-registered bullets illegal. Set the penalty for possessing unregistered bullets the same as a modified firearm like an AR-16 turned in to a M12 or a sawed off shotgun. Next, provide an amnesty period where people can exchange their non-registered bullets for registered ones.

    It's not a perfect solution, but I'd like to hear feedback.

  56. Parrotlover77 Says:

    This isn't in any way a solution to this problem, but I just have to vent for a second…

    FUCK the second amendment. Seriously. Fuck it. Fuck it with a long hard wooden spoon up its ass until you scoop out the appendix. I am so fucking tired of the second amendment getting in the way of common sense. The right to own a weapon whose sole function in all of existence is to kill is not a right I want anybody to have. So fuck it.

    Okay, I'm done venting. Now back to reality.

    Gun control legislation is a very long term investment. Restricting the purchase of new firearms of any particular style (be it the cheap hand guns you rightly point out is used in the majority of crimes, or the ridiculous automatic assault rifles which serve absolutely no purpose except to kill humans in very large quantities very quickly despite the relatively little crime actually committed with them) does not solve the problem now. But, given forty or fifty years, the guns will eventually break, get lost, get melted, or whatever else, and since the circulation of those guns is less, the crimes able to committed with them are less.

    With the aforementioned god damned second amendment in effect, this is a very difficult line to tread. I don't think you'll ever see remarkably tangible difference in the short term, but even if only ONE death is prevented due to an assault weapon ban (for example), that's reason enough to have the law in place.

    As mentioned by previous posters, restricting ammo sales with high taxes or whatever other mechanism is another way, although I'm not sure that will do much except maybe create a black market for ammo for the gangs (etc), but since you can tell I have so much affection for gun fags, I don't see a problem with milking them heartily for their cash to give them the freedom to shoot the thing.

    Hopefully as society progresses, we can find a way to control our innate violence and channel it effectively into productive competition (ie, 'space race' type of stuff instead of 'cold war nukes'). I don't know how we can, but it would certainly solve a hell of a lot of problems.

  57. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Good to see Zamboni Sam's comments. Word. And to the asshats who bounce back with the "are you vegan" to angst against hunters, screw you. Are YOU? How are you so sure he ISN'T vegan?

    And can you really not see any difference between (1) stalking a prey animal who is, quite literally, outgunned and not even close to equal footing for routes of escape and the giant penis enlarging effect for the hunter of controlling the animal's very life and death and then eating it, even though you have absolutely no actual need to do anything of this, and (2) animal husbandry which is absolutely atrocious in this country in large effect due to the giant corporate interests controlling farms, BUT has the potential for happy stress free captive animal lives when done on a small scale by caring farmers who use ethical farming practices, including the possibility of painless slaughter?

    But blarg blarg, it doesn't matter. If people would be open to non-meat protein substitutes (ie, fake beef/chicken/fish/whatever), companies would produce much better tasting products in those lines. And what they have now is already actually very very good.

    But now we're really diverging from the point of this whole discussion, so I'll just end it there. :-D

  58. Ecks Says:

    @Nick: no, I was talking about SeaTurtle:

    Start with the ability to own a single-shot .22 and work your way up (over years of training) to being able to own a 50 caliber BMG sniper rifle or a fully-auto AK-47.

    Also:

    But as Michael Moore pointed out some years ago, Canada has a similar level of gun ownership to America but has a tiny fraction of its gun death rate. He went on to say that it is not guns that kill people but Americans.

    Canada has lots of guns, but they are mostly rifles held by rural types. Those aren't the insanely dangerous ones. A city slicker CAN own a handgun in Canada, but they have to apply for a license, keep it at a gun club, or stored in a locked container separately from the ammo. You can get a license to carry a concealed handgun in Canada, but only if you prove that your life is in some real form of danger – so there are exceptions that can be made when absolutely needed.

  59. bb in GA Says:

    Nunya:

    I was grinding no axe w/ my precious numbers, but merely reporting them. And I gathered them from non-tendentious sources as best I know (CDC, National Safety Council, etc.) It's not like I quoted FOX NEWS….

    The only comment I made on the whole deal was about how we all would like to see these numbers change, but would probably disagree on which ones,, and how much. True, dat?

    Your Mark Twain quote is quite apt though.

    //bb

  60. bb in GA Says:

    ParrotLover, I believe…Constitution lover, not so much

    //bb

  61. Shell Goddamnit Says:

    As far as home protection, I have a cell phone, & I'm not afraid to use it. I believe the same weapon would be at least moderately effective against a crew of burly miscreants on the streets, also; don't see the burning need for everyone to carry, these days. Yet another way the cell phone has changed the world. Yeah, I know, the police are not such a great alternative, but we will certainly not succeed in banning them, and the fact is that criminals generally don't like having them around much.

    Indeed, it's not long guns that are the problem; it's the easily concealable, portable, keepable-in-the-bedside-table handgun that is the issue with gun homicides. I say, ban em; sure, then fewer law abiding people will have them relative to criminals, but so what? Use yr shotgun, for heaven's sake; it's not such a huge imposition, is it? Eventually we'd end up with fewer handguns in the hands of criminals, as well as in the hands of those people who wake up in the nighttime and shoot off their own foot thinking it's an intruder.

    Apologies to those who truly enjoy target-shooting with a handgun, but tough shit. Actually, I think I kinda like the "you can have one as long as it stays locked in the gun club safe" idea.

  62. Matt L Says:

    Its amazing to see that guns, gun control, and the Second Amendment bring out the stupid in everyone in the US. We really are our own worst enemies. Mad Max here we come.

  63. Mike Says:

    @ Parrotlover77:

    I'm fairly liberal on many issues, but with regards to the ownership of firearms I would have to say I'm very much a supporter of how we have interpreted our 2nd amendment rights. I'm sorry this doesn't seem to fit your Utopian Gun-Free America Vision, but I'm glad you aren't in charge of what rights people should have.

    For the record, I don't hunt. I don't have to. I grow vegetables and raise chickens and pigs for meat. I don't have the need, nor desire, to gear myself with thousands of dollars worth of shooting equipment and go drink beer for 2 weeks in the middle of nowhere so I can "bag" something. If I was forced, in a life/death situation, to hunt for my survival, I would. Otherwise, I really do not see the "sport" in it, and that is my opinion and choice.

  64. bb in GA Says:

    The problem with "Make all the handguns go away" position is simple to explain. In societies that have recently attempted to, the criminals have not cooperated with the program and they now know that their potential victims are less likely to be armed when they strike. Unless I'm just reading twisted NRA propaganda, things have not gone well in the UK and Austrailia in this area.

    //bb

  65. Patrick Says:

    It ends up being an arms race for law enforcement. Ever read about the North Hollywood shootout? After that the LA police force was effectively militarized.

    More dangerous weapons have the potential to produce much more sensational events and our society responds more readily to sensational events than chronic festering conditions. Not saying this is right, just that it is.

  66. Melatonin Supplement ` Says:

    gun control should always be imposed strictly to avoid another Columbine scenario,;.

  67. Wrench Set Says:

    i think that gun control is a must because more guns means more deaths ::,