CANNED HEAT

In any mixed group of people of different nationalities it is only a matter of time and drinks until the token American will be asked to shed light upon the aspects of his homeland that foreigners find the most baffling. This is eminently fair; payback, if you will, for all of the times a group of Americans have asked the one Japanese person if everyone eats sushi every day and does karate, or the German is asked to defend his fatherland's somewhat checkered history since…Charlemagne, I guess.

The last time I visited Canada, a group of people explained to me why the U.S. healthcare system is idiotic as though this had not yet occurred to me, and that if only I brought back to America an explanation of our faulty logic we could finally fix the broken system. In my more recent experience abroad the topics were not quite as esoteric. Three times in a single week, though, I was asked to explain why everyone in America carries a gun.

It is hard to explain U.S. gun culture to a non-American. Especially as an outsider. Six capirinhas in, I cleared my throat and prepared to break new ground in advancing understanding among peoples.

First – and in any conversation about guns you really, really owe it to your audience to hammer this point home at the outset – the percentage of Americans who own guns is actually declining. Our country has more guns – nearly 300 million – than ever before yet the share of households that own a gun has fallen steadily during this Gun Boom (see what I did there). Simply put, everyone in America does not have a gun. America has a relatively small, possibly even shrinking, number of people who each own a large and growing number of guns. It's a bimodal distribution (note: do not explain it this way to normal people) with peaks at Zero Guns and Shitload of Guns.

So the first thing to understand about American gun culture is that you're either in or you're out. And if you're in, you are all in. Go big or go home, son. Back to this point in a minute.

The second thing to try to communicate is that unlike most nations, we do have firearm ownership written into our Constitution. What this means is that individuals have a right to own a gun. It does not mean, despite what the NRA has successfully argued, that one has a right to own any and all types of guns or to do with those guns whatever one's heart desires. The 2nd Amendment may tell us we can be armed, but it does not establish your right to own a .50 cal heavy machine gun and to carry it (supposing you could) into a Federal courthouse. This, I tried to explain, is where the left and right diverge.

Increasingly, though, the "no restrictions or regulations of any kind ever because freedom" argument has become the status quo. This is due almost singly to the relentless work of the NRA. Foreigners know "NRA" when they hear it but often do not know what it is. It is an interest group, and easily the most consistently successful one, I said. At this juncture my own ignorance was a roadblock, because I do not know much about how interest groups function in other democracies despite knowing a good deal about interest groups in the U.S. In most other political systems corruption and influence-peddling tend to be a little more brash, unvarnished, and Mafiaesque (think Russia, for example). In the U.S., however, with its pretensions of a free, transparent, and equitable democratic system requires the going through of many motions. Interest groups and elected officials must engage in these ritualized war dances and secret handshakes and coded oaths to arrange political exchanges with the facade of plausible deniability. Why no, my supplemental rule on that bill had nothing to do with the $100,000 campaign donation I received. It was a mere coincidence.

Any moderately politically interested foreigner grasps this readily. What might not be obvious, though, is the NRA's grand illusion – the Big Lie that it is a group that represents firearm owners. On paper and in mission statement this may be true. In practice, the NRA represents gun manufacturers. In furtherance of the gun industry's desire to sell a fuckton of guns to the declining percentage of Americans who own guns and who happen to already own a fuckton of them, the NRA must constantly fan the flames of fear that They are coming to Take Your Guns. Never mind that Congress hasn't passed a consequential restriction on gun ownership since the Great Depression. The impending threat looms large that Obama and Clinton and Liberal Judges and Saul Alinsky and the tree huggers and Ed Begley and the Comintern are always coming to take them away imminently so the only logical thing for a freedom loving Patriot to do is rush out and buy, buy, buy. Get them now while you still can, fellow Minutemen!

Are people really so stupid that they fall for this ruse? And fall for it repeatedly?

Well, yes. I ask by way of answering, "Have you ever been to Florida? Go to Florida sometime. Walk into a chain buffet restaurant at 3 PM on a weekday and start talking to people about guns. Or about anything, really. And that this kind of cheap hucksterism works will no longer be a mystery. Watch Fox News for 15 minutes, remind yourself that an appreciable minority of Americans take it seriously, and suddenly the NRA Theory doesn't seem so far fetched.

"So to answer your question, we don't all have guns. In fact Canada has more guns per capita than we do. I guess our gun owners are just…dumber? More malleable, if we're being polite? Anyway," I said, scanning for a valid target to redirect this line of questioning and finding two erudite German backpackers, "don't you all wear leiderhosen? And where do you hide all the Nazi gold?"

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76 Responses to “CANNED HEAT”

  1. Dbp Says:

    What did they say about the gold? I would like to find some gold.

    Also, the NRA isn't special (though they have their own store where all the prices are marked up. The extra cost is so the NRA can FIGHT FOR YOUR LIBERTY!); just about everything from gun culture is ads for gun companies. My father watches gun shows on tv and ALL of them are basically reviews for guns or gun products. There is pretty much nothing in these "shows" that aren't product placement.

    I'm desperately trying to think of something, but even the guys doing trick shots are covered in logos and talk about how they only use one specific firearm to shoot paper circles.

    The magazines profile a new and expensive version of the AR-15,1911, a sniper rifle (all at least $1500 and up) or weapons from WWII. Never about things you can't really buy. Then about half of it are things that are explicitly ads.

    There are "funny" t-shirts that are basically gun ads. My father is especially proud of his "suck my glock" shirt.

    They don't even give practical advise "if you're not using your firearm, keep it in a safe." Without pimping a specific item.

    The only thing that doesn't really seem to be ads are when the shows or magazines or radio people complain about gun laws.

  2. wetcasements Says:

    When Teabaggers start talkin' tough about secession they seem to think they're upsetting my delicate librul sensitivities.

    But no, by all means, ship all these fuckers to Texas, give them all the assault rifles and ammo they can handle, and build a brick wall around the entire state. Let them finish each other off.

  3. Denialist Duck Says:

    I was stationed in Alaska in 2008 when Obama was elected. Many people I worked with were Freaking the Fuck Out. One coworker, whose wife had just delivered the second (or was it third?) child, took out a $10,000 personal loan with the credit union in order to buy more guns and ammo.

    And so, because of all the Freaking the Fuck Out, ammunition in common calibers became hard to come by and rose in price for a year or two after. And a few gun manufacturers made an (ahem) killing.

  4. Funkhauser Says:

    Shorter version of "Pork Barreling is not Credit-Claiming or Advertising" Samuels 2002, the best intro article on campaign finance in that country you visited:

    See the big comglomerates building World Cup infrastructure with big delays and cost overruns? Those are the biggest campaign donors.

  5. FMguru Says:

    Yep. Guns have the real "problem" that if they're moderately well cared for they don't wear out, and unlike cell phones or video game consoles, there's no real technological reason to junk your old 1990s guns and buy brand new 2010s guns for all their new features (most of my friends who own guns own hand-me-downs from fathers and grandfathers). When you combine that with the declining numbers of Americans owning guns (as hunting for food becomes less popular, as people increasingly live in cities and suburbs, and as shooting for sport has to compete with the increasing numbers of leisure activities our late capitalist system generates), you get sad times for gun manufacturers – which, as you note, means that they have to convince people who are already gun owners that they need to own an arsenal of weapons for FREEDOM, which leads us to the current situation.

  6. hawiken Says:

    The NRA isn't necessarily the firearms manufacturers friend- try googling Smith and Wesson NRA boycott.

    Sure, S&W's revenue has more than quadrupled since 2000, but the NRA damn near put the company- as iconic an American firearms brand as Colt, Winchester, and Remington- out of business when S&W voluntarily jumped on board legislation that enforced things like locking devices and the size of magazines, and some limitations on the sales and distribution of firearms.

    In actuality, the NRA is the malignant tumor in the tail that is wagging the national dog.

  7. Major Kong Says:

    Heck, I've got a couple guns from the late 1800s that still work. Ammunition for them is hard to come by however.

  8. Gordon Guano Says:

    Calling back to an earlier G and T column on this subject, anyone who has paid dues to the NRA in the last 20 years would be a strong candidate for never being allowed to wield anything more deadly than a spork. Or, if they wanted to be part of a well-regulated militia, perhaps they could be trained up to a potato peeler.

  9. Jeremy Says:

    It's actually "lederhosen" – I don't think "leiderhosen" is a word, and "liederhosen" translates to "song pants," which amused a German friend of mine greatly when I made that mistake.

  10. democommie Says:

    I know a lot of people who own firearms. The majority of them are sensible people who keep their firearms locked up for reasons of safety and security or at least store unloaded weapons in one place and ammunition in another, often locked, place. They own firearms because they hunt, they used to hunt, dad or an uncle used to hunt or they enjoy shooting at skeet or targets. Some of them are pretty adamant about their RIGHT to own firearms of whatever sort they desire in whatever quantity they might afford; most are, "meh", on the subject.

    Then there are the people who see themselves as experts on firerms and other projectile weaponry; self-defense, urban and guerilla combat tactics and battle strategies. Often they also consider themselves experts on foreign and domestic policy, tax law and tax equity, the U.S. Constitution*, U.S. race relations and the REAL enemies of the U.S. (much of its citizenry and most of its non-batshit polticians and media types). That they are, generally, few or none of those things is evident from their self-reports.

    It is the latter group that is bufoonishly terrifying in their laser targeted tunnel vision.

    * I disagree, wholeheartedly that the U.S. Constitution confers an unrestricted right to individuals to "keep and bear arms"–absent their being in that "well regulated militia"–and, brother, I do mean, "WELL REGULATED". That I am currently on the losing side of the argument carried by one vote of nine on strictly ideological bases is not lost on me.

  11. democommie Says:

    @ Jeremy:

    Do German vegans wear plederhosen?

  12. c u n d gulag Says:

    And the NRA doesn't want any "Smart Guns" on the market.

    I guess you can't have the weapons be more intelligent than their owners.

  13. TomW Says:

    @Jeremy – Leiderhosen doesn't work as a compound, but leider means unfortunately and the mistake can be funny in context.

    Er trägt Lederhosen = He's wearing lederhosen.
    Er trägt Liederhosen = He's wearing song pants.
    Er trägt leider Hosen = Unfortunately, he's wearing pants.

  14. Alex SL Says:

    Of course the 'roundabout' way of influence peddling is the same in any rich, democratic nation. In central Africa you hand over monies to a public official and they make things happen; in Germany, however, a member of government drafts legislation in favor of some type of industry while in office, and through sheer coincidence they get high speaker's fees and well-paying consultation contracts once they leave office. See, it can't be corruption because nobody was paid before they did what they did.

    I am curious however. What was so checkered about our history before 1933? Or at least what was worse than what Britain, Spain, the USA, and France also did regularly?

  15. Monty Says:

    You had me at "Nazi gold."

  16. Greg Says:

    There is(was?) a semi-punk band of indeterminate degree of right-winginess called Die Toten Hosen (dead pants). Not sure if this was aspirational (kill the pants!) or factual( I killed the pants. Fucking pants. Don't you hate pants?) but it always cracks me up.

  17. Dave Dell Says:

    Several common taters have mentioned my situation. Inherited rifles and shotguns including a very non-functional flintlock muzzle loading double barrel that had to already be an antique when my wife's great great grandfather brought it to the Midwest.

    As a side story, one day my mother in law hands me the last remaining gun in her house. It's a chrome plated .32 caliber pistol made prior to 1910 that I think (google searches) would use a rim fire cartridge. Ammo would have to be custom made. She gave it to me wrapped in one of those stocking hats with the mouth and nose holes. "What is this?, I asked. A 'stick up a liquor store kit?"

    Turns out this pistol had, at one time in the 1950's been registered with the police. This was during the Charles Starkweather crime spree in the 1950's. The local constabulary had urged citizens to register their firearms for easy tracking in case the mass murderer stole them. No big objections then.

  18. Major Kong Says:

    @Dave

    You might find ammunition for your .32 from The Old Western Scrounger

    http://www.ows-ammo.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=146

    They specialize in hard to find and obsolete ammunition.

    If you decided to shoot the 1910 revolver, you might want to have a gunsmith look at it first. Some of those older .32 revolvers were essentially "Saturday Night Specials". Cheaply made pistols that were dangerous even when new and certainly haven't improved with age.

  19. isherwood Says:

    I'd dispute your point about all-or-nothing gun ownership, at least in my region (the Great North Woods). Most gun owners I know have a few for hunting deer, ducks, etc., and maybe a handgun or three for fun. If I'm acquainted with any fucktonians, I'm not aware of them.

  20. anotherbozo Says:

    Ed, I wish you came in a pocket version that I could carry around on trips to various European capitals, where I'm prey to questions about guns, prison systems, armed invasions, etc. and have no command of facts on my own. And I keep forgetting to pack the Canadian T-shirt for camouflage so I don't have to be a conspicuous Yankee everywhere.

    Maybe you should travel more yourself, to help redress the balance of dumb Americans we let loose on the world.

  21. Khaled Says:

    If you forget your Canadian T shirt, just say "how about them Maple Leafs, eh?" and everyone will assume you're Canadian.

  22. mothra Says:

    Oh, come on TomW—Leiderhosen sure as hell does work as a compound. Those would be sad pants. If there are song pants, then there are definitely sad pants.

  23. Nick Says:

    Being the owner of multiple guns, I'm asked about it quite regularly when I travel. Most people understand the arguments I'm making; nearly always, we agree to disagree, but they at least do not come away thinking I'm a crazed far-righter living in a bunker somewhere, or that I've smuggled an AK47 into their country and will shortly attempt to bestow freedom upon them in 7.62x39mm doses.

    I can't offer them much on why we're terrified of poor people having access to healthcare, though.

    Cund: To be fair, aside from the tinfoil hat types, the smart gun controversy is only a controversy at all because of laws like New Jersey's, which would require only "smart" guns to be sold in NJ within three years of the first commercial sale anywhere in the US. I don't trust a gun that might have to be rebooted, that changes a gun from a simple machine with a few mechanical parts to a complex machine with mechanical, electronic, and computerized parts. If I want to keep my guns from being used by an unauthorized person, I'll get a gun safe, not an unproven first-generation technology. I have no objection to their sale to other people, but the NJ-style laws that force the product on consumers are unfortunate. Sounds like NJ might be willing to repeal the law though, so hopefully soon the guns will be available to those who want them without binding those who don't.

  24. Guerre Says:

    Isherwood I can't tell if you are making a joke or not. "most have a few for hunting and 1 or 3 handguns for fun" so having 3-6 guns seems like a normal amount to you? Guess which bimodial peak you're at.

  25. Assistant Professor Says:

    Nitpick: at this point, the lunacy that was originally peddled by the gun industry has run way out ahead of the actual manufacturers of firearms. You look at right-wing discussion boards and they'll generally call the gun industry a bunch of sell-outs because they'll maybe be sort of okay with some restrictions on the right to the ownership of firearms. And there's an increasing number of folks (like Gun Owners of America) who feel that the NRA is too left-wing. (NB: GOA believes that the Government is going to deputize black gangs to take white people's guns away.)

    So at this point, what may have begun as a fleecing of the rubes by the folks who just want to sell more guns has taken on a life of its own.

    And that should terrify every sensible person.

  26. Chex Mix Says:

    The "Be Sociable, Share!" coming after the "nazi gold" line is a fucking riot.

  27. Nick Says:

    Guerre, what part of the country do you live in? Because there are quite a few places where owning 3-6 guns IS normal. Where I'm from you don't have "a lot of guns" till you're into double digits.

  28. erase Says:

    ed, re: "Canada has more guns per capita than we do." – the estimate (from the small arms survey – results at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country) is that the US has about 0.9 guns per capita while canada is about 0.3 guns.

  29. Bob Says:

    democommie: Although I agree with you, the NRA has succeeded in totally removing the militia clause from the 2nd Amendment, turning it into an individual right devoid of any obligation to help defend the country. That elsewhere in the Constitution (Article I, Section 8) severe limits are placed on the Army is not coincidental – the militia was intended to be the front line of defense.
    The problem is once you play the game of Constitutional Originalism and divorce the first half of the 2nd Amendment from the second you are left with pure insanity. Look up the word “arms” in any 18th century dictionary and you’ll get a definition along these lines:
    those implements used by nations to conduct war.
    So if the 2nd Amendment grants an absolute individual right to own any and all “arms” what is actually being granted is an unfettered right to own anything in the DoD stockpile, up to and including nuclear weapons.

  30. John Doheny Says:

    Another nitpick:

    "In fact Canada has more guns per capita than we do. I guess our gun owners are just…dumber?"

    This is a Michael Moore-ism. He has repeated it endlessly over many years, and I have no idea why, because it's easily refutable horseshit. Of all the nations in the world, the United States has far more guns in civilian hands, more even than Switzerland, source of the oft-wielded "but Switzerland" argument favored by gun nuts.

    Mr. Moore, meet Mr. Google.

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

  31. Sarah Says:

    I can't offer them much on why we're terrified of poor people having access to healthcare, though.

    Just tell them rich people hate having to wait in line with the hoi polloi.

  32. democommie Says:

    "democommie: Although I agree with you, the NRA has succeeded in totally removing the militia clause from the 2nd Amendment, turning it into an individual right devoid of any obligation to help defend the country.'

    In practical terms that is true, for the moment, it could always swing the other way. The language is still there, they've just managed to convince the ReiKKKwingers and SCotUS that it is a meaningless clause. Funny that, one of the 10 Articles of the BoR and it's the only one with a meaningless primary clause in its first sentence. Right.

    3, 6, 36, 63, or 3,636; it makes very little difference how many firearms anyone owns–unless they're owned by shitheads who hold them to be sacred totems and fetishes. That, unfortunately, is too often the case with the folks that own LOTS of gunz.

  33. Nate Says:

    The NRA is pretty much just the Make-a-Wish Foundation for violent sociopaths.

    Just think how many dreams they've helped come true!

    Horrible, horrible dreams.

  34. Tim H. Says:

    A weird thing about the ammunition shortage, 22LR is really hard to find, perhaps the least likely size to be restricted.

  35. afeman Says:

    Having a couple of firearms once you're into them for recreation doesn't seem necessarily crazy — bicycle enthusiasts probably average several. Of course, if you intended them for guerrilla war, that would be weird.

    That said, this paints a stark picture (note the date):

    http://globalsociology.com/2012/12/15/on-the-guns-thing-i-would-just-like-to-point-out/
    http://globalsociology.com/2012/12/16/on-the-guns-thing-part-2/

    The correlations hold even if you exclude the US.

  36. afeman Says:

    Several bicycles, not guns, that is. So far as I know.

  37. Alan C Says:

    You may be interested in this editorial by Joe Nocera: http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2023708930_joenoceracolumnislavistaguns28xml.html

  38. someloser Says:

    Good post. Adam Weinstein had some interesting gun law proposals over at Gawker today.

    http://gawker.com/the-gun-law-improvements-that-no-one-is-taking-seriousl-1582425240

  39. Bob Says:

    “Funny that, one of the 10 Articles of the BoR and it's the only one with a meaningless primary clause in its first sentence. Right.”
    That’s one of my go-to arguments with gun rights friends. Some of the founders could write beautiful prose but the Constitution is dry, dull serviceable writing, no superfluous embellishments. It’s a laundry list: government can do A, B, and C but can’t do D, E and F. Yet somehow, in the entire document only one prose flight takes place: in the 2nd Amendment. That’s it – that’s the only place where you can find such a touch of writerly enthusiasm. It’s a single sentence in which the opening clause has nothing whatever to do with the closing clause. How that makes sense is beyond me.

  40. Heisenberg Says:

    Great piece, Ed!

  41. NickT Says:

    You could loosely translate Leiderhosen as "Regretful trousers" – Leid as in "Es tut mir aber Leid" – "I am so sorry". I quite like the idea of asking two German backpackers why everyone in their country wears Apology Pants.

  42. Nick Says:

    Bob: Is that any less believable than the idea that, of the original ten amendments in the Bill of Rights, all were meant to refer to rights held by individual citizens except for one? Or that the authors of the Constitution felt the need, in what is as you say a fairly workmanlike document, to point out that people who were fighting on behalf of the United States could carry guns while doing so?

    In any case, even with our professional army, "militia" is defined in US Code as every able-bodied male between 18 and 45–basically, every draft-eligible person, plus anyone serving in the Reserves/Coast Guard/etc. So even if only "members of the militia" have the right to have guns, that would include most adult males in the country, and under that theory they should have the right to any weapon suitable for a militia purpose.

  43. el mago Says:

    Living and traveling in foreign countries in the late 80's and early 90's, the issue of Americans and their love affair with guns and violence would inevitably arise in conversation. At that time I would say, ah, that's just Hollywood and the media. It's a stereotype. My response now would be, yeah, it's a battlefield mentality for sure.

    The U.S. is riddled with fear and attendant aggression fueled by government and media lap dogs. This country is all about aggression and has been from the get go. Good old Euro-American kill em up mentality.

    I grew up in hunting culture (SE Idaho), and in a military family, but responsible gun use was the norm. When I was 13 I routinely won marksmanship awards in NRA sponsored shooting matches. (The NRA was all about gun safety in those days.) When I turned 16 I sold my .22, my .410 shotgun, and my 30.06 to my older brother's friend and used the money to buy . . . marijuana. Gasp!

    And I refused to join the military and dodged the draft to my family's consternation.

    Guns are made to kill. Period. Por eso, son indefensible.

  44. waspuppet Says:

    Two things I explain to people in other countries about the US in general, not just regarding guns:

    1) There is a large and probably even growing segment of the population who still think that the societal changes of the 1960s can still be reversed if only they throw a big enough tantrum;

    2) it's not just New York and LA and DC and Miami and in fact is mostly a sparsely populated country, with lots of people sitting alone in cars driving to and from work. Ergo, it's surprisingly easy to get a bullshit, Fox News-derived notion in your head and never have it challenged.

    There are other things, of course, but in my experience those two are a) pretty important and b) things most foreigners I've met, being civilized and educated, honestly don't realize.

  45. Bob Says:

    Nick: The 1st Amendment covers both individual and group rights – a free press infers a community right – what's being defended is the right of people to disseminate information within a community. Likewise freedom of speech which means your right to argue within a broader group and freedom of religion, which enables communities of like-minded believers to come together.
    No one can arrest you for what's in your mind – you are as free to believe any religious or political belief in North Korea as you are here. What the 1st Amendment grants is the right to go public with such beliefs, thus guaranteeing a right to engage in public – and to form coalitions of like-minded believers.
    The 10th Amendment is wholly governmental – state and federal – and cedes no power whatever to individuals.

  46. Csicopper Says:

    Some European friends told me how happy they were to visit but they thought it too bad they couldn't see Manhattan because of the guns and violence. I said they'd feel right at home since it's pretty much unarmed tourists paying for entertainment that would have them believe otherwise.

  47. Nick Says:

    @Greg: I wouldn't say Die Toten Hosen display an indeterminate degree of right-wingedness. More like, they are solidly and powerfully left wing. Contribute songs to anti-nazi compilations, play concerts at anti-xenophobia rallies, posed for PETA, supported greenpeace, anti-nuclear demonstrations, etc.

    What made you think they could be right wing at all? Not their lyrics, surely?

  48. democommie Says:

    "Or that the authors of the Constitution felt the need, in what is as you say a fairly workmanlike document, to point out that people who were fighting on behalf of the United States could carry guns while doing so?'

    Where does it say that? I have a copy of the 2nd Amendment handy and I don't see that language anywhere in the text.

    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    "In any case, even with our professional army, "militia" is defined in US Code as every able-bodied male between 18 and 45–basically, every draft-eligible person, plus anyone serving in the Reserves/Coast Guard/etc."

    The U.S. Code, according to Wiki is 78 years old, having first been authorized by Congress in 1926 and it was assembled from a number of sources. I have no idea what the original language of the law might have been, I'd love to see it and know when it was written.

    "So even if only "members of the militia" have the right to have guns, that would include most adult males in the country, and under that theory they should have the right to any weapon suitable for a militia purpose."

    So why can't you have a nuke or a fully operational Main Battle Tank, A-10 Warthog or M777 155mm Howitzer?

    Whoops, my bad, it appears that you can have a howitzer:

    http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=155mm+howitzer

  49. Major Kong Says:

    You might be able to own an operation 155mm howitzer provided:

    You obtained a Class 3 firearms license with all the associated fees and background checks. I'm not sure I'd want the feds crawling that far up my behind but…..

    You registered it as a Class 3 "destructive device" and paid the associated fees.

    Interestingly enough. Class 3 firearms (machine guns for example) are almost never used to commit crimes. Nobody's shot up a bank with a Thompson submachinegun since the days of Bonnie and Clyde.

    I like to bring this up when gun, ahem, "enthusiasts" give me the talking point that "gun control laws don't work".

    No, they work quite effectively if passed at the federal level and strictly enforced.

  50. Scott Says:

    This is slightly off topic, but only slightly.
    I read Bob's comment above and thought I'd go and actually read Article 1, Section 8.
    Now, I'm only slightly less ignorant about the Constitution than the average American, so I was a little surprised to find the following:
    "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;"
    So apparently the authors had a pretty clear idea of what the militia (the one mentioned in the 2nd.) was meant to be used for, and their idea did not include "watering the tree of Liberty with the blood of Tyrants."
    The notion that the 2nd amendment was intended to allow the people to overthrow an oppressive government is a fairly frequent hallucination of democommie's Constitutional experts.

  51. Nunya Says:

    The point that I try tomake when travelling abroaf is that anyone with a passport isn't a typical American so my information might be tainted. It tends to work well, especially for the more devious. Also, why is it that the most remote paet of every corner of the world will always have a German tourist who wants to talk politics as long as we ignore history per-1945? I don' t necessarily disagree but ferfucksake…

  52. Xynzee Says:

    @Bob: "So if the 2nd Amendment grants an absolute individual right to own any and all “arms” what is actually being granted is an unfettered right to own anything in the DoD stockpile, up to and including nuclear weapons."

    So I really can get my missile sub??!! Woot! Woot! 'Murika! F+++! Yeah!!

    As an aside, when iwantoneofthose.com first started they had a MiG-23 (iirc) or three on offer, until the Ministry of Defense put the kybosh on that. Now they just offer the same kind of tat that Sharper Image has—Sigh—must be Obama's fault.

  53. Freeportguy Says:

    Fear is quite a seller to Americans. Oh they want to save money on everything government, from teleprompter fees to most evything tax related…with one EXCEPTION: the military (other than its personnel and veterans though): they always want more military equipment and arsenal. Fear of what, since the US military dwarfs all the others combined?

    I'm afraid it is fear of…fear. As FDR feared…

    It took me a while, but I finally noticed a trend on tv: during the 9:00-10:00pm shows on major networks, at some point they have a 30sec spot advertising the upcoming 10pm news by summarizing the main news so that people will stay tuned after the 9pm show. Interestingly, the last bit of news advertised is always, and I mean ALWAYS about a danger looming: "Danger in the schoolyard you don't even suspect", "Your credit cards at risk", "New ways unsuspecting drivers are being ripped…News at 10pm"! Fear is strong in the US…

  54. Major Kong Says:

    @Xynzee

    You really don't want a MiG-23, even though a few are in civilian hands.

    The USAF had a squadron of them out at Nellis that they used as aggressors (this was recently declassified). Everyone was afraid to fly them. They have a lot of bad handling quirks. They all loved the MiG-21, however.

  55. democommie Says:

    "The notion that the 2nd amendment was intended to allow the people to overthrow an oppressive government is a fairly frequent hallucination of democommie's Constitutional experts."

    I hope that you are not saying that I have that notion.

    From the FWIW Dept.:

    Most mass shooters of recent vintage are gay, commie, liebrul demoncrats. I'm getting this from the most trusted Anochephalics in Gunzloonz Nation.

  56. Major Kong Says:

    One would think that Shay's Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion put to rest that whole "watering the tree of liberty" thing.

  57. Xynzee Says:

    @Freeport: years ago (late 80s) an ex-20/20 reporter (not Geraldo, but the guy they got to replace him who looked a bit similar) did an exposé entitled, Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death? Basically covering the whole fear as entertainment industry.

    @Kong: nah, no MiGs for me. Missile subs are way cooler than carrier battle groups. ;) Though a diesel has numerous advantages over a nuke, but I don't believe they come in a missile class.

    @Demo: I believe he was aiming at your "Consitutional experts".

  58. Khaled Says:

    @ Major Kong-
    History means nothing to these people. They ignore it, bend it, or outright change it to fit whatever political axe they currently have to grind. Politicians and political people, as a rule, are more interested in "winning" and being in power than they are in the truth. And this is not new- Democracy, an American novel by Henry James (I think) spoke of people saying one thing to the people in your district or state or whatever and saying and doing another in Washington in the 19th century. Saying that current political discourse is unique in it's meanness hasn't looked at the history of American Elections (Ed- you know more about this than I do, as I recall some past posts of yours) and even the current frenzy over how the "free speech is being infringed upon" ignores things like the Kent State shooting, or the 60s in general. I've gotten into a few Facebook thread arguments with some people over the Atlantic article by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and it's useless to argue with people that don't bother to read articles before ranting about them.

  59. Scott Says:

    @democommie- No No No. After I posted, I was afraid it might read that way, but I was referring to:
    "…the people who see themselves as experts on firearms and other projectile weaponry; self-defense, urban and guerilla combat tactics and battle strategies. Often they also consider themselves experts on foreign and domestic policy, tax law and tax equity, the U.S. Constitution*, U.S. race relations and the REAL enemies of the U.S."
    I am an expert on on these subjects too, now, on account of I eat Thanksgiving dinner with one of these guys. He is absolutely certain that the Founders intended "The People" to rise up every so often and kill the people they elected, and that's why 2nd Amendment. This is so crazy, and would be so unique among governments if true, that one hardly knows where to start.

    @Freeportguy- My favorite of those was a few years ago, when a local news station teased with "University of Michigan student shot to death… Details at 11.",
    (I'm not kidding) freaking out 200,00 relatives, and causing the overload and failure of cell services around Ann Arbor.

  60. democommie Says:

    @Scott:

    Thanks for the clarification.

    If I find myself in a public place with someone who is as loony as your Thanksgiving dinner companion, I generally leave–because if I stay it never goes well. In a situation where I can't do that, like a family event–I generally leave–because if I stay it never goes well.

  61. Scott Says:

    @democommie- Sadly, he's one of those folks discussed here in an older thread. Perfectly normal nice guy, sort of a liberal/moderate Republican all his life until he hit 70, locked on to Fox, NewsMax, etc. and went over the deep end.
    He's completely outnumbered at my house, and after the first episode, his wife has managed to keep him under control. So it's not as bad as it could be, just sad.

  62. Whatver Says:

    The gun manufacturers – knowing that gun purchases are infrequent, ammo purchases more frequent – generally have adopted the same market strategy as the toy industry. In fact, they even have a strong marketing campaign directed at children. The whole idea being, how are we going to get those dumb motherfuckers to continue to buy product?

  63. EJ Says:

    @John Doheny

    Switzerland is hard to compare, because statistics often exclude guns that are techicially owned by the state, but kept in the home, as part of their well-regulated militia.

  64. democommie Says:

    EJ:

    I've heard that one of the controls that the Swiss have on those military weapons that are in the hands of homeowners is that they inventory the rounds and if there are any missing an explanation is required. Do you know if that is true?

  65. Major Kong Says:

    I'm not sure the Swiss reservists even get to keep ammunition for their rifle in their home. I think it's normally only issued for training.

  66. Jeffrey Says:

    Though Ed cites a study on declining gun ownership in the U.S. (or is it merely households reporting that they do or do not include guns – a mostly dubious metric), because gun sales figures are completely unreliable, I don't think we have the slightest idea of how many people possess guns in the U.S. Consider all the private and illegal sales involving some mook buying a trunk full of guns in State A, which has no restrictions on individual purchases, that are then sold in State B where there are monthly, annual or even lifetime restrictions.

  67. bb in GA Says:

    FOX-o-phobics

    I repeat myself – Their top rated shows pull in 2 million or so.

    We have well over 100 million adults in the USA.

    Talk about irrational fear….

    //bb

  68. Neal Deesit Says:

    "The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says 'State' instead of 'Country' (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote."

  69. Major Kong Says:

    @bb

    And that doesn't even count all the places were Fox is turned on and left on all day. It's running continuously on at least one TV monitor in our crew room at work.

  70. fdchief218 Says:

    @Nick: "a gun from a simple machine with a few mechanical parts to a complex machine with mechanical, electronic, and computerized parts."

    Speaking as the guy who was always dragged into the arms room whenever one of the M1911A1s had to be repaired, I would simply note that there are few, if any, modern electronic devices as prone to failure as a mechnical device. It is far more likely that your automatic pistol will suffer a failure to eject or failure to extract than the electronic ID device will malfunction and cause a break in the cycle of operation.

    That really has no bearing on whether or not requiring such an ID device is a good idea or not. But as a reason for not wanting such a device the possibility of failure is really not than such of a muchness.

    And as the guy who also was dragged in to provide counseling when one of our GIs had to be repaired, let me just say that in an organization were EVERYONE was armed and had to undergo a series of background-checks that would make any gun-rights activist faint the conditions under which we were issued both weapons and ammunition were incredibly stringent. The notion of one of my troops, say, wandering into a Chipotle with his issue weapon and live rounds would have had him (and me) up in front of my battalion commander and CSM in a heartbeat.

    This whole business strikes me as completely ridiculous. A weapon is a tool, like an axe or saw. If you walked around in public carrying an axe you'd be taken for a lunatic. Why somehow walking around strapped isn't seen as similarly nosensical completely baffles me.

  71. skwerlhugger Says:

    "toten hosen" is, in addition to a punk group most definitely not right wing, a colloquialism for boring people– dead pants. I"m partial to alpenrock from the way-off-mainstream Hundsbuam myself, apparently only available by various internet videos nowadays.

  72. democommie Says:

    "FOX-o-phobics

    I repeat myself – Their top rated shows pull in 2 million or so.

    We have well over 100 million adults in the USA.

    Talk about irrational fear…."

    I only see the comment above on this thread.

  73. Paul S Says:

    "Watch Fox News for 15 minutes, remind yourself that an appreciable minority of Americans take it seriously"

    The largest audience Fox news ever gathered was for the 2012 third presidential debate. They had about 3.8% of the US population watching. On a regular day, they have about half of one percent of the population of America watching.

  74. Barry Says:

    As has been pointed out, Fox (along with CNN) is the default setting on a vast number of 'public' TV screens.

  75. bb in GA Says:

    @Barry

    Which means…?

    Can you catch Foxitis in a "drive by," casual contact?

    Let me max out on the solipscism meter – My public experience TV exposure has registered about zero on me best I can tell. Usually much more important stuff is going in my life at that time…..like gonna take that flight, etc.

    //bb

  76. democommie Says:

    " My public experience TV exposure has registered about zero on me best I can tell. Usually much more important stuff is going in my life at that time…..like gonna take that flight, etc."

    So, you're speaking for the millions of seniors who are off their meds or off their rockers and DON'T have anything more important to do than listen to FuckTheNew'sCorpse or any of the ReiKKKwing talking shitheads and then send them money, volunteer to work the phones, go to schoolboard meetings and the like?

    In my extended family of about 60 people I count at least a dozen who are, against all logic, supporters of the GOP which is doing its best to fuck them out of their social security and medical care. When they tell me what they hear on the "News", they are not talking about NBC or any other source than Fox and the rest of the "Not intended to be a factual statement" crowd.

    I get the same sort of nonsense from them about gunz, cuz freedom–and it's totes bullshit.