I'm the last person in the field of political science who is qualified to hold court on political theory. Like most people trained in American politics I know the relevant philosophical touchstones of the people who wrote the Constitution – Locke, Hobbes, Mill, etc – thoroughly enough to avoid embarrassing myself and to teach it effectively in the context of non-theory courses. Accordingly I do know a couple of useful things. One such nugget of knowledge is that nearly every one of the hundreds of competing definitions of terms like state and sovereignty boil down to, as Hobbes put it, a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

That does not imply that individuals may never use force legitimately. Common law tradition back to the dawn of civilization recognizes, for example, that the individual can act in self defense when attacked. But as the state retains the right to determine whether an act of self defense is justified, even this is not a proper exception to the state monopoly. The reason that this idea is so central to the definition of a state or a legitimate, sovereign government is that if every individual or self-appointed group is able to determine for him- or herself when the use of force is justified and legitimate, then that's not a state. That's not a society. That's what Hobbes was referring to when he described the "State of Nature." Without a state monopoly on the use of force, the use of force becomes unpredictable to the individual. Whereas I can walk to work and feel reasonably confident that I will not be shot at random (note that this is not impossible, merely unlikely enough that I walk to work without a phalanx of personal bodyguards and a small arsenal of weapons to fend off highwaymen who might, in a term that almost certainly cannot be used in polite conversation anymore, Shanghai me) in a world in which everyone gets to decide when to use force without the threat of state retribution or punishment I can't do that. Like everyone else in society, as Hobbes explained so long ago, I would have to devote so much of my energy, resources, and existence to defending myself that I'd engage in no other productive activity. And despite my best efforts at self-defense, I'd learn that no man is an island when anarchy reigns and life would indeed be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

As I posted over a year ago during the Trayvon Martin trial, this is essentially what "Stand Your Ground" laws produce. Every individual is left to decide when he or she feels threatened enough to justify using force to defend themselves from a threat (real or imagined). And if we're all making that decision on our own, using our own criteria, and without the threat of sanction (As written, the laws make prosecution nearly impossible; what prosecutor could establish that I did not fear for my life if I insist stridently enough that I did, regardless of whether that fear was justified or rational?) then we are teetering on the edge of a very dangerous precipice here. The fantasy of gun enthusiasts is that everyone will go around armed, that Good Guys are easily distinguishable from Bad Guys, and that somehow people making this decision independently according to no objective standards will use lethal force judiciously and wisely. In a nation of 320,000,000 people that seems pretty likely, right?

In Michigan this week a woman with a legally permitted concealed handgun pulled out her weapon and blazed away at someone she believed she saw shoplifting as the purported thief drove away from a Home Depot store. This woman, who was judged by the state and the few mechanisms of screening in place to be competent to walk around with a loaded gun, is not smart or rational enough to have thought what a normal person might in that situation – Maybe write down the license plate and call 911? Maybe tell a store employee and let them handle it according to their established and well rehearsed corporate policy? No, her judgment was that it was necessary to respond to what she believed was a nonviolent petty property crime by firing several rounds at a moving vehicle, the consequences of which could have been disastrous in any number of ways. And this is in a society in which the threat of sanction exists. She can be, and might be, prosecuted for her wanton and irresponsible actions. That wasn't enough to make her pause or to knock any sense into her.

The more people we arm, the more we are forced implicitly to trust that the people with guns will make just decisions about when and how to use them. Forgive me for saying that absolutely nothing about the American concealed carry gun enthusiast as a class rouses merits faith. Advocates can claim until they're blue in the face that most of them are sane and rational and Good; whether that is true is irrelevant. Ninety-five percent isn't good enough in this case, leaving tens of thousands of unstable and untrustworthy knuckleheads out there armed and ready to act out their Rambo fantasies. And in the long term it is not alarmist to ask how a society is supposed to survive when one of the defining powers of the state is privatized.

98 thoughts on “NASTY, BRUTISH, AND SHORT”

  • I oppose stand-your-ground laws, but I don't think any of them would allow shooting at a fleeing shoplifter.

  • When I lived in Louisiana they had a "shoot the burglar" law that allowed you to pick the guy off as he was headed down the street with your stereo under his arm.

    At least that's how it was explained to me when I lived there.

  • Worth mentioning, too, that Florida is now contemplating changes to their stand-your-ground law that will make it quite difficult for prosecutors to obtain a trial on lack of self-defense evidence. Presently, the defense is required to show at time of trial that at least half the evidence available indicates an honest self-defense effort in order for stand-your-ground to be invoked.

    The proposed changes would include a reversal of that–in several ways. First, the prosecution would be responsible for proving that stand-your ground does not apply. Second, the prosecution would have to do so by a preponderance of the evidence. Third, the prosecutor would have to do so at an initial pre-trial hearing. If those conditions aren't met, the defendant must be given stand-your-ground immunity. All of which pretty much forecloses any trial on the disputable facts.

    And, in a further attempt to foreclose trial, unlike other defendants, stand-your-ground claimants who challenge the state's evidence at trial and win immunity at trial are entitled to all attorney fees, ancillary expenses, lost income, etc., up to $200,000. And, apparently, the bill's language puts the same onus on civil plaintiffs as it does criminal prosecutors.

    I would guess this is the Florida legislature's response to George Zimmerman ever having to go to trial at all.

    It's real fucking weird out there.

  • I can't understand how the response to this is that I am now expected to be prepared at all times to be a martyr to the cause of unfettered access to some asshole's dick-extension.

  • Actually, Nate, I think you are 'expected' to buy a weapon and stand your ground. That is what NRA would tell you, I think. Oh, and lots of bullets. Closet fulls…

    Nice essay, Ed. I learned stuff.

  • Tee Mangrove says:

    Unrelated to your argument: I don't think "shanghaiing" is a derogatory, racist term. Use at will.

  • [I have saved everyone from rerereading my opinion of deep thinking Americans.]

    If your attention span maxes out at 30 seconds, you're likely not aware of what Hobbes said about anything.

  • Emerson Dameron says:


    So what you're saying is that Florida isn't particularly sorry Trayvon Martin is dead. They're upset that the Zim-Zam got national attention and they'd rather the next delusional militiaman who turns their brilliant law into a punchline not be such a public embarrassment for them.

    Sounds about right.

  • @Tee Mangrove

    I believe the term "Shanghaied" meant that you were pressed into service on a ship sailing to said location.

    Drinking at a waterfront bar back in the day might find you drugged and when you woke up you were now an involuntary crew member on a ship bound for the far east.

  • H.M.S. Blankenship says:

    In an obliquely related note, Dr. Ben Carson wants us all to
    rush the shooter next time there is one of these gun-nut
    mass-murder incidents. So we're supposed to be armed
    in case somebody makes us nervous, but if we're unarmed
    & somebody starts shooting, we're supposed to gang tackle
    him. Got it.

  • I'm a college professor and we've been taught to throw things at the shooter, specifically huge textbooks and laptops. That's if hiding under tables in a dark room doesn't work.

  • Y'know, just when are we gonna get fed up and suppress these insurrectionists?

    Let's start by instituting a black market in ammo – manufacturers can only sell contracted amounts to the government armed forces, nobody else can legally buy any. Off-market sales are subject to confiscation. No arrests, just confiscation of the ammo and the loot from the sale. By the time we reach Chris Rock levels of the cost of a bullet, the Mighty Invisible Fist of the Free Market may have solved the problem.

    Buy all the dick extensions you want. But if that bullet costs a grand a pop, maybe you will indeed think twice before firing it.

    But alas, until the oligarchy starts getting their asses shot off, the rest of us will still have to put up with Hobbesian barbarians.

  • Yes, I think Major Kong is right. Not "Shanghaied" but "bushwhacked" or just "ambushed" is what you want.

  • Whenever my mood gets too good, I know I can always stop by to rein in any excess optimism. Is it too early for a NPF yet? Or maybe a dry vodka martini?

  • anotherbozo:

    Are you sure some Teatard Congresscritters are not already packing heroic heat?

    The caption should be changed to include reference to multiple deaths caused by Gohmert and Cruz and Pete King engaging in a fire fight with the shooter.

  • Factual inaccuracy.

    The Florida 'Stand Your Ground' law was not part of the Martin-Zimmerman trial.

    It was a garden variety, self defense argument from the defendant.


  • I'm a college professor and we've been taught to throw things at the shooter, specifically huge textbooks and laptops.

    That sentence depresses the hell out of me.

    And Mo, you've hit the nail on the head. After all, the Second Amendment says absolutely nothing about the right to keep ammo.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    The first time I heard of that brilliant strategy was from our resident glibertarian punching bag Megan McArdle. Great minds do think alike.

  • Somehow I think that while everyone else is gang tackling the shooter, Dr Ben is running out the back door.

  • FWIW my USAF anti terrorism training told us to stay out of the way, especially if law enforcement is responding so that you don't get shot by mistake.

    I think one quote was "Rip the buttons off your shirt so you can get closer to the ground".

  • Ed sez: “Like everyone else in society, as Hobbes explained so long ago, I would have to devote so much of my energy, resources, and existence to defending myself that I'd engage in no other productive activity.”

    A good argument can be made that the United States has adopted bunker mentality, probably a result of Cold War paranoia driven into the minds of impressionable kids in the 1950s (duck and cover), that the very existence of others around the globe, mischaracterized with their fingers poised over the nuclear button, is the equivalent of an omnipresent existential threat or clear-and-present danger. Xenophobia writ large. So we pour a ridiculous percentage of federal taxes (or whatever measure you prefer) into military personnel, equipment, and escapades — all to feel safe, which of course we’re not, nor can we ever truly be with the world armed to the teeth. Small wonder then that bunker mentality trickles down to every Tom, Dick, and Harry with motivation and cash sufficient to arm himself against anyone and everyone. A war of all against all is likely when things get rough.

  • @Sluggo: as a medical doctor and surgeon, Ben Carson needs to preserve Ben Carson's ability to attend to the wounded, so actually he will grab and use as a shield the closest person within reach, preferably a woman because they are light and easy to wield, as he strategically retreats out the back door.

  • Failing a ban on ammo sales, how about a humongous TAX that reduces any ammo hoarder into a cardboard box beneath the underpass [shopping cart full of deteriorating ammo, of course].

    Riffing on revenoors, we could call the ammo tax patrol "Regulators."
    They could pack Colt 45s! It would be a fun and rewarding job, especially for women.

  • Okay – if you ban or tax the hell out of ammo, what happens ?

    A large illegal industry producing and distributing ammo.

    So the 'civil war' would begin as the 'Regulators' hunt down buyers and sellers and those about to be arrested – resist.

    Deaths caused by people misusing guns are at about 3.5 per 100K. I'd say the War on Ammo would run it up to at least 35 per 100K.

    And since a majority of resisters would be White Southrons, you would get the ethnic cleansing so many of you desire.

    But at least it would all be legal…


  • @bb in GA:

    What happened to the "When guns are outlawed…" meme?
    Are there really that many who would become outlaws? Sorta puts the lie to the "only" part.

  • We tax alcohol and cigs. Sure, there's some theft and smuggling. But mostly the taxes get collected and everyone buys what they need. At least, I haven't heard of anyone with stockpiles of cigs and booze filling their attic and basement – quite different from a well-stocked bar or a rack of hunting rifles, yes?

    Try another white whine, bb, with that applesauce.

  • Skepticalist says:

    Lotta guns here in Upstate New York. Gunners are big on reloading. I can only imagine the amount of money to be had if ammo goes the way of Prohibition.

    I can't open the Sunday paper or Penny Saver without seeing several professionally designed ads for courses in obtaining a NYS concealed carry pistol license. There are many "gun safety" courses and special classes for women and teenagers.

    It's not quite like the days of Rifle Club at the high school. What would a high school rifle club look like today? Terrifying.

  • @andrew

    sorry for the error, but I think you can get my drift.


    I think it is pedantic to say that ammo is not mentioned in the 2A so that it can be banned, regulated, or taxed out of existence. It is that kind of argument that makes lots of folks hate lawyers/politicians (no matter the party)

    How about paying a Poll Tax before you can exercise your right to vote ? Oh yeah, we tried that in the past and it was found to be an unreasonable burden on the exercise of your rights.

    In a sane US, I believe taxes that would have me living under a bridge with my guns and ammo would likewise be an unreasonable burden on the 2A.

    I think the 2A should be dealt with straight up. Your side should do the honest persuasion and leg work to get the sucker repealed. Then we can have our civil war :-(

    I think you underestimate the fury that would be unleashed by the removal of what used to be a Right that some segments of the population hold as very important. It would cause a lot of pain throughout the country. It might even finish us off as a country.

    The only advice I have to your side is 'Be Patient.' Another 20 or 30 years almost all of us older White men will be either dead or we won't be a political factor.

    I really believe the future is 'Red' in the old school sense and you will triumph (i.e. get a European liberal democracy.)


  • Just when I thought that I couldn't love you more, you go and write this. Dude.

    This, a million times this.

  • having a right to live my life in America without some "idiot" killing me with a gun seems to be a "right" we all forfeit here in America. It's just a matter of time before the gun nuts come to your section of America/one mass killing after another. The right to life free of the "fear of guns" obviously doesn't belong to Americans. We are the hunted, just by default of living in America with gun nuts in control. we all have targets on our bodies, and the gun nuts have "every" Right to kill us upon sight, at least, that is how it goes, as Jeb Bush said, "Stuff happens." lol

    Talk about Culture "Wars." quite deadly. and most of us we be the losers.

    BB is right about one thing, though. Guns are such a "Southern" thing. that old saying of "Guns, God and No Gays" is a Southern belief. kind of like the Confederate Flag.

    Southerners would never give up their guns, no matter how many ATF, FBI, DEA, Federal and State Police Armored Division came against you and your "cache" of weapons.
    kind of like what happened up in Idaho years ago, where they Gov. Sharpshooters killed the wife and child of the White Nation idiots Randy..Weaver?. whatever his name was.

    just amazes me gun nuts think they can stand up the combined power and Military might thrown against them nowadays. So maybe that's why they shoot the unarmed innocents. like being a Palestinian in Israel, just a matter of time before they finish you off. that is the price of the "right to a well regulated militia/aka the right to bear arms. Notice how that is "interpreted" to allow guns nuts free reign, and no word about a "well regulated militia". no surprise the "well regulated militia" part isn't acceptable to the Right wingers, so they just ignore that part and kill those who get in their way." martyrdom", a real Southern "family" value.

    Now, Gun nuts obviously have no problem killing unarmed people. They never stop the loonies from using Guns to kill. So they are part of the Murderers themselves. Makes them Powerful, exercising their Right to kill anyone/anything they choose.

    the killings will continue. just the American Way. Die by stupidly accepting Gun nuts have the "right" to kill you and me, anytime anywhere they choose, than to fight for the Right for the rest of us to live "Peaceably". Guns vs People. and Guns always win.

    sounds just like the Wild Wild West again. Frontier values, no such thing as society as a valued entity. somethings never change. in America we have the Right to Die by unhinged Gun Nuts! Let Freedom Ring!!!!

  • @Beleck

    I won't even try…except on one point.

    I think it fair that you research the Randy Weaver case.

    The US government lost big time in that whole affair. It was a very sad case of petty entrapment, child, wife and infant assassination and even pet killing.


  • Christ, a few things.

    We have (conservatively) ten million people with concealed carry permits. That also doesn't count the states with no permit required. Concealed carry in most of the country has been a reality for two decades. During that time, gun deaths have plummeted (I don't think CC is the cause of the drop).

    Texas tracks its CC revocations and that data shows that permit holders are not only less likely to commit crime than the general public, they are less likely to commit crime than Texas law enforcement officers.

    Lastly, if you are going to go nuts over a particular negative incident, doesn't intellectual honesty demand citing incidents with positive results? If you can't find any I'd be happy to supply you with lots and lots of links. FYI, every gun owner I know is as horrified by that incident as anyone.

  • Anonymous Prof says:

    I read a good article (not sure where, probably The Baffler) about the whole idea that "state=monopoly on force." The article pointed out that all the people like Hobbes who said that were Europeans. Here in America we assume that of course, Hobbes was right, the state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force- how could it possibly be any other way? It's just logical.

    But the problem is that in America, it's obviously not true.

    What are two big, defining features of American history? Genocide of the natives, and slavery, followed by Jim Crow. Both of these depended on widespread, sanctioned vigilante violence.

    This is why guns are, as was pointed out above, a "Southern thing." Lynchings and the KKK are also Southern things. The real problem with "whites only" water fountains is that they are the wink-and-nod that the government used to assure white people that they could terrorize Blacks with impunity.

    This is why Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. This is why some random white lady in a Home Depot parking lot will take potshots at a suspected shoplifter. Because this is America, and they are used to thinking that, as armed white people, *this is their job.*

    History is full of similar examples. Once Sparta conquered Messenia, they found that an organized military was not enough to keep the Messenians under their thumb- so, they taught their kids that a Real Man ™ will commit random acts of terrorism against Messenians, just for lulz.

    One wonders how true Hobbes' idea has been, even in Europe. Sure, in Britain you want to assure yourself that the police, and only the police, have the right so use violence, so they can beat the factory workers if they go on strike. But off in India or Africa, where whites are outnumbered, it's convenient to tell the lowliest white that he's free to rough up the natives and keep them in line, whenever he feels like it. The alternative is to say that colonial order can only be legitimately imposed by a small, duly authorized sliver of the already small white population.

    I mean, for God's sake, look at American entertainment. The secret message of every superhero movie is that vigilantism is heroic. When Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, he doesn't join the police. The thought doesn't even cross his mind. And nobody in the audience says, "Whoah, wait a minute- Spider-Man is a dangerous vigilante! What gives him the right to act unilaterally, when the state has a legitimate monopoly on force?"

    What makes Spider-man legitimate, in the eyes of the audience? Is it that the police are so corrupt that Spider-man is forced to act outside the law? No! It's understood that he's helping the police. On the occasions when Spider-man is not appreciated, it's because the sleazy Press has once again stirred up a controversy against a true American hero, who was using his great power to carry out his great responsibility to maintain social order.

    Sound familiar? Yes, because it's exactly what conservatives say about Zimmerman. It's only a matter of time before scriptwriters decide that it's time to abandon the idea that superheroes never kill. They're going to have an old-school superhero finally SLAY the villain, saving millions of people in the process, only to be pilloried by a sleazy press and ungrateful public.

    Oh, shit, I almost forgot- that's what the latest Superman movies are about!

  • @bb: I hope you're right and I live long enough to see it, but the sneak peak of a liberal social democracy that we're building in California is pretty awesome.

  • I don't know where you live, but in my corner of urban Northern California I don't really worry much about gun nuts.

  • Phase out lead projectiles, require iron, for environmental reasons, single-shot long arms available with little or no restriction, after all, how many rounds do you really need to kill Bambi? In a couple of decades, semiautomatic firearms become restricted to Police & military except for a few worn out curiosities and deer hunters smitten with a new rifle can tell their partners "I really need it, those biodegradable bullets the ****greentards require just wear them out faster.".

  • @Jason; are you talking about fine, upstanding gun nuts like the one who endangered countless innocent people in the parking lot of a Home Depot by self-deputizing herself and blasting away at an SUV that was carrying suspected shoplifters? My god, what if she hadn't have had her artificial penis? She might have had to take note of the make & model of the SUV, copied down the license plate number, called the police, and notified the Home Depot staff! That's just crazy-talk! The "correct" answer is obviously to pump countless rounds into a shopping center parking lot while trying to hit a moving target!

  • When they bust my union and send my job overseas I'll have to sell my damn guns to pay the bills anyway.

    My guns won't protect me from the things most likely to hurt me.

  • "A well regulated miltia' ????

    We have a constitutional right that ensures that guns don't end up in the wrong hands.

    Seems to me that the second amendment mandates gun registration and gun operator licencing. Just like motor vehicles.

    If someone is insane, or lacks enough agility/dexterity or scores a six on their Wonderlic Test, we are all better if they are kept away from firearms.

    I am looking at you, Barney Fife.

  • @Jason; the problem you ignore is that stupid people with guns acting recklessly and dangerously to the public at large are in no way isolated incidents. To pretend that anyone with a gun permit is a stellar individual demonstrating the highest levels of sanity and common sense at all times is just delusional.

    Look at drivers; you have to take a test and demonstrate minimum proficiency to get a driver's license, and yet a cursory look on the roads show you that licensed drivers show poor judgment all the time. You don't even need a license to buy a gun at a gun show.

  • katydid:
    Licensed carriers doing something that stupid is far more isolated than not doing something stupid or legitimately using their guns in self defense.

    No one said that a gun permit makes you a stellar individual. I was clear when I said that they have lower rates of criminality than non-permit holders, that's all. You can't put a group of ten million people together, I don't care if it's cops or nuns, and not get some idiots in the bunch.

    In most states you don't need a "license" to buy at any locale, not just gun shows. And if you buy from an FFL at a gun show, you have to go through the same background check as you would in a store.

  • For once the Atlantic is timely. And bb, as a child of a "white Southron" with relatives who wanted to identify with Mabinogian descent until discovering they were a fantasy, and were devastated to learn that a Civil War veteran ancestor was so proud of his Union Army pension that he made reference to it on his tombstone, fuck once and for all the "Anglo-Saxon" horseshit cherished by self-identified "white Southrons"- fuck them with a railroad spike.

  • Jason: "Licensed carriers doing something that stupid is far more isolated than not doing something stupid or legitimately using their guns in self defense."

    I'm skeptical that "legitimate" uses of guns for self defense is actually lower than gun stupidity – which encompasses all gun-related "accidents". We do not live in a war zone, after all.

    That aside, let's assume that licensed gun users *are* far more careful with their guns that those who are not licensed. Given that, would you support mandatory licensing/registration/liability insurance requirements for gun ownership and use, much like we require for car ownership and use?

    (And if not, why not?)

  • For copious examples of "stellar" gun owners shooting their loved ones, themselves in the genitals, complete strangers who are innocent of any crime, random pets, etc., peruse Southern Beale's site:

    Or just google "Florida Man" or "Ohio Man" or "Kentucky Man" or "Tennessee Man".

  • Oh, look, another "random, this never happens so don't read about it or talk about it, all gun owners are ABOVE REPROACH IN EVERY WAY AND COMPLETELY SAFE AROUND STRANGERS" story: An Idaho high school went into temporary lockdown Wednesday after a 15-year-old boy reportedly threatened online to bring a gun to school and “kill all the girls” for refusing to send him nude photos. The student has since been arrested and is being charged with telephone harassment and threatening violence at a school.

  • @Katydid: What that boy did was reprehensible, but you can't really call him a "gun owner" since he's too young to own one under existing laws, and he never actually brought one to school.

  • I'm sorry…he's not a gun owner because he can't legally own a gun? Are you kidding? The NRA starts shooting classes at 10; the boy was 15. This is Idaho, the place where another "responsible" gun owner was shot and killed by her 2-year-old while shopping at Wal-Mart because she left a loaded gun in his reach.

    The boy was apprehended at his home at 7:30 pm; he very well could have brought his guns to school the following day. Should the school district have waited until he actually shot up all the female students in school before taking his threats seriously, because, hey, we have absolutely NO history in America of deranged gun-toters shooting up schools?

  • At the time he made the threat, we did not know whether he actually had access to a gun. But if he did, it would be his parents' gun, not his. So his parents are at fault for not making sure their guns were kept well away from their minor children.

  • So, bright ideas are:

    1) Tax on ammo
    2) Lead-free biodegradable ammo
    3) Tests, licensing & insurance requirements

    Here's another one: every time someone uses a weapon to murder someone else, the manufacturer of that weapon has to pony up a quarter mil to the victim's family.

    Or to each of the victims' families, as the case may be.

    Follow the money, strike at the root of the evil tree.

  • Pee Cee:
    The total number of accidental gun deaths is in the hundreds annually (505 for the latest year available, 2013). For the latest year, non-fatal, unintentional gunshot injuries totaled just under 17,000. As I'm sure you're aware, the actual number of defensive gun uses per year is very controversial (not to mention the data very old). The numbers thrown around by both sides are mostly based on research done in the early 90s, when we were near or at all time highs for violent crime. So whatever the real number is, it's definitely lower now. But the lowest number of defensive gun uses agreed to back then, a number even anti-gun people like the Violence Policy Center concede, is in the tens of thousands. I suppose it's possible that DFUs dropped from 50,000 to less than 18,000, but I think skepticism for that is more warranted than skepticism the other direction, particularly since the number of people carrying has exploded, partially offsetting the effect that less crime would have.

    The reason people with permits are less likely to commit crime isn't because they are more careful, it's because they are a self-selected group of people willing and able to go through numerous hoops, including being finger-printed and having their background checked. I didn't say anything about permitted people being more careful.

    No, I am not in favor of mandatory licensing for gun ownership. We don't license Constitutional rights. You would rightly find it absurd to require newspapers or websites to get a government issued license to operate; that would be a flagrant violation of the first amendment. As for concealed carry, there has yet to be a finding that the 2A protects that as a right. Frankly, even with the current conservative court, I don't think that it will be any time soon (check Scalia's comments on Heller).

  • I don't like guns either, and I'd like to see us restrict them the way civilized countries do. but I'm not sure yours is the most just idea. Lots of useful products are also harmful, and the manufacturer has no control over how they are used.

  • Andrew, you understand that you are desperately hair-splitting, right? Gun "ownership" is part of the problem of gun "availability" but both are related to a gun culture that is wide, varied, and source material for the kind of mass shootings that prompted this discussion. Hiding behind whether he actually could hold title to guns or should have been able to reach his parents' is quite deliberately trying to change the discussion. The gun violence is like racism: there are individuals responsible for acts motivated by their ideology, and there are the multiple legal, social, and moral consequences and protections which are institutionalized by that ideology's acceptance. Focusing only on the individuals is a means of protecting the institutions.

  • I'm not "desperately" doing anything. Threatening to bring a gun (which may not even exist) to school is a reprehensible act. So is threatening to bring a kitchen knife or a car and run people down with it. We need to focus on why disaffected people do dangerous and antisocial things, not what items they use (or threaten to use) to do so.

    If his parents have no gun, or he has no access to it, then his threat, though reprehensible, is impotent. You have to have a gun in your hand to commit a violent gun crime.

  • @Andrew; at the very least, someone in the Idaho "good gun owner" family had a license for that gun (or bought it at a gun show, with no background check) and was lax enough that the son thought he'd have ready access to it. That just highlights once again that the fiction that all gun owners are above reproach and always perfectly careful with the lethal weapon is pure fantasy.

    The kid *could* have threatened to beam people up in his spaceship, too. We could play "what if" all day. The fact is that the threat was highly credible simple because it happens every few weeks in American schools, American malls, American movie theaters, American public streets. I completely agree that we need to take action to prevent the public from unhinged, entitled idiots with murderous intent, but the NRA has been fighting for 40 years now against the USA having an honest conversation about the fact that guns are designed to do just one thing–to kill (unlike cars or kitchen knives), and that unstable people find it entirely too easy to get them. Not even St. Ronnie Raygun being shot in an assassination attempt was enough to spur it.

  • So, how has this discussion progressed? It started with the assertion that gun owners are all Lake Woebegone citizens, "Above Average in Every Way". When numerous examples were given that it's just not so, the goalposts were moved to "whoever acted badly was either too young or not typical." It's time to stop moving goalposts and recognize that people with guns have and continue to kill and/or injure people (including, often, themselves). It's what guns are made to do.

  • We don't know anything about what the son thought. I could call up my job right now and threaten to come in with a gun and shoot up the place. I have no gun, so it would be an empty threat, but of course the recipient of the threat would have to take it seriously.

    Also, guns are not designed to kill people. They are designed to fire a projectile at high speed in a straight line. It's up to the gun user who or what is on the other end of that straight line.

    Many people do buy guns in order to be able to kill a person who poses a mortal threat to them or their family, and sometimes they use those guns against people who don't either out of rage or out of poor threat assessment, but many people also just whip out their gun and the threat goes away, no harm, no foul. The statistics on defensive use of guns only count cases where the gun was fired, which is highly misleading. The sound of a double-barrel shotgun being racked should scare the crap (at times literally) out of nearly anyone with the slightest instinct for self preservation, and I have no doubt that it does so several times a day in the USA.

  • @Katydid: It is most assuredly NOT what guns were designed to do. Guns are machines designed to fire projectiles at high speed in a straight line. No wonder the gun fans don't want to listen to us when we spew nonsense like this.

  • Katydid:
    "@Andrew; at the very least, someone in the Idaho "good gun owner" family had a license for that gun (or bought it at a gun show, with no background check)"

    I'd be happy to be corrected on Idaho specifically, but again, very few states require licenses to buy a firearm. I'd be shocked if Idaho was one of them. Also (again) buying a gun at a gun show doesn't mean there is no background check. If you buy it from a federal firearm license holder (and it's my experience that most sellers at gun shows are), you still have to do the background check. It's only private sales that don't require it.

    "That just highlights once again that the fiction that all gun owners are above reproach and always perfectly careful with the lethal weapon is pure fantasy."

    Now you are just lying. Who has said that all gun owners are above reproach? Who has said anything close to that? You must really hate that straw man to beat him like that.

    "So, how has this discussion progressed? It started with the assertion that gun owners are all Lake Woebegone citizens, "Above Average in Every Way"."

    WHO SAID THAT? Post it or admit you made it up.

  • That's pretty rich coming from someone who called for his ideological opponents to be violently sexually assaulted with a foreign object. Unless you can disagree without being disagreeable, no one, ever, will ever, ever listen to you or consider your point of view. Have a nice day.

  • Yep, Greg, for someone supposed living in liberal paradise northern California and totally unworried about rabid gun humpers, Andrew is a little too conveniently dismissing a growing cancer of a social hazard.

    Nice try, Katydid, but you're wasting your time. Some people are simply too impressed by their own minds, especially someone fatuous and smug enough to actually write something like this:

    Guns are machines designed to fire projectiles at high speed in a straight line.


  • I'm out. I don't even disagree with the anti-gun crowd, just their desperate attempts to advance their agenda with lies when the truth is on their side.

  • Andrew:
    Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Dude. Guns most certainly were and are made to kill. Whatever gets in the way of the projectile it is firing in a straight line. Yes, yes, some people like to take their guns out and shoot them at targets, but that was not the first reason a gun was built.

  • @Andrew said: "Also, guns are not designed to kill people. They are designed to fire a projectile at high speed in a straight line"

    Hah! Projectile trajectories are parabolas, NOT "straight lines"! That's as bad as calling a "magazine" a "clip" or a "semiautomatic" an "automatic", maybe even worse! How can anybody take you seriously after a gaff like that?

  • The one time in my life I had a gun pointed at me: walking down the street a block from my house with my son, I saw a car pull up to the curb. The rear door opened, and a hand holding a pistol emerged.

    If I had had a concealed handgun on my person, how long would it have taken for me to reach, pull and aim it? How many times would I have been shot during that time?

    Regarding guns in the home, having a suicidally depressed teenager in the house is a contraindication. From what I've read, about two thirds of all gun deaths in the USA are suicides.

  • So stand your ground is basically the equivalent of removing all traffic laws and signs, and expect motorists to self regulate…

    I see the proliferation of guns having a similar effect (in a different way though) as the proliferation of cell phones has been having: misuse and abuse will only go increasingly as more people get their own.

    And guns, like cigarette, will keep making victims of innocent people who never touched the thing. Conservatives have been having a multi year fit over four dead in Benghazi, but they're a-ok with 30,000 dead/year, if only for their own pleasure to pack…

  • I said fuck them, not rape them. The sex should be consensual. I think you're projecting your own violence in there, Andrew, and may want to explore what this means with a counsellor of some kind.
    And I was being sincere; writing what you did with -so to speak- a straight face wasn't actually meant to be a serious statement, was it? If so I see why you necessarily place so much value on the forms of civility.

  • @Andrew

    "Guns are machines designed to fire projectiles at high speed in a straight line."

    Sure. That's why they're the standard infantry weapon for every army on the planet. Now you're just being silly.

    And the MK-82s I dropped on Iraq were just "machines designed to dig a large crater and scatter pieces of metal at high velocity in all directions".

    A modern firearm is a highly efficient killing tool. Yes, there are other ways to kill people, but a semi-automatic rifle (for example) allows you to kill multiple times, at range, in a short time period. I can't think of any other device that packs that kind of killing power into a small, light, easily transportable package.

    The fact that we as a culture practically swim in the damn things makes it that much more likely for them to be misused.

  • The Supreme Court of Michigan ruled in 1990 that private citizens can use deadly force to apprehend someone who is fleeing after committing a felony. This is an old rule going back to English common law. This decision was in spite of the the 1985 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Tennessee v. Garner, that held the Fourth Amendment prohibits a police officer from using deadly force to apprehend a fleeing suspect who poses no threat to the officer or others.

    I don't know if any laws have changed since then, but if not, then not only does the state of Michigan have monopoly on deadly force, it has *less than* that of its private citizens.

  • My comment above should say "not only does the state of Michigan *not* have monopoly on deadly force, it has less than that of its private citizens."

  • FWIW:

    Andrew, Jason, bb brained in GA and a couple of other commenterS tend to skew verborrehic when the subject is the gunz. What they all fail to mention is that most statistics on firearms crimes are hard to come by since the NRA managed to gut the CDC'S attempts to keep track of them.

  • democommie:
    The numbers on fatalities and injuries I cited were taken from the CDC's website. Also, you are aware that there are other research entities, governmental and otherwise, that can and do research gun issues, right?

  • Andrew; the anti-gun "lies" that guns are designed to kill, you mean? I think you're so far down your own rabbit hole that you should stop digging now.

  • Even Dodge City passed gun control legislation back in the 1870's. So sad that so many modern Americans are so ignorant of our history of the need for gun control. It has not been that many years ago that anyone who owned a pistol or a high powered rifle were looked at as pretty out there. The amount of money the gun manufacturers have spent on advertising has paid off incredibly well for them to the detriment of the rest of society.

    If one spends some time at the Dodge City museum, you can learn quite a lot about the city's early gun control efforts.

    From the Ford County Historical Society website:
    "The city passed an ordinance that guns could not be worn or carried north of the "deadline" which was the railroad tracks. The south side where "anything went" was wide open."

    I did not see any indication in the museum that the citizens were real concerned about the 2nd Amendment. They knew from personal experience that everyone walking around with guns was a really bad idea and got lots of people killed very quickly.

    It is a sad state of affairs that the citizens of Dodge City in the 1870's understood more about public safety than many of our citizens today.

    Thank you, Ed, another outstanding essay.

  • It's a sad state of affairs that people in the 1870s understood that guns are used as weapons, not for "target shooting". If guns truly were just for target shooting, you wouldn't see all the cowards taking their AK-47s to fast food restaurants and Walmarts.

  • Just to clarify, when I said that guns were DESIGNED for expelling a high-speed projectile in a straight line (yes, it's really a parabola, but over the usual distances, it approximates a straight line), I never meant to imply that they were not often USED or PURCHASED for killing other human beings. Design and use are two different things.

    Besides, sometimes killing another human being, or making a credible threat to do so in order to make the other person change their behavior, is necessary and just. Rarely, but sometimes.

  • Andrew; I thought you said you were leaving? Are you still pretending that guns were never designed to kill? That's just adorable.

  • I'm just advocating for the proper use of words. Designed and marketed/used are not the same thing. Of course the people who make guns are aware that they are going to sell them to people who will use them to kill other people, sometimes justly, sometimes not.

    I don't own a gun, but if I did, and I was in a kill-or-be-killed situation, I'd use it, and while I wouldn't go around telling everyone how great it was that I killed some scumbag, as I actually care about people and regret loss of life, I wouldn't feel bad about choosing my life over the other person's. That's just human nature.

    The gun nuts think they will be in multiple kill-or-be-killed situations over their lifetimes, and for the most part, they're bad at threat assessment. The ones who own a five- or six-figure-valued gun collection and justifying it by saying they live in a bad neighborhood, while never considering that they could sell it and use the proceeds to move to a better neighborhood, I have no sympathy for.

    But guns are no more designed to kill human beings than kitchen knives or hammers are designed to do so, and arguing that they should be banned or greatly restricted because of this so-called "design" will not persuade anyone. There are better arguments. I recommend using them.

  • >>But guns are no more designed to kill human beings than kitchen knives or hammers are designed to do so>>

    Which explains why the American Revolution was fought by throwing their three-cornered hats at each other, hoping to impale the enemy on the pointy end! That also explains the Civil War, or, heck, just about any war, when the two sides obviously engaged in pillow-fights-to-the-death. That's why bank robberies, muggings, and drive-bys are carried out using chewed up bubble-gum…oh, wait, they're not!

    I think you're projecting when you assert that there are better arguments and you recommend using them.

  • The more you stick to your guns the more ridiculous it gets. You are claiming to be serious in arguing that the sequence was "hmm, I need a tool to move small projectiles through the air for *some* reason," and then having worked that out "oh, wow! You could totally use these to kill someone or animal!" As opposed to "how do I kill more effectively than a pike but with the range of a bow"? Guns are tools for killing, whether for food, for sport, or for defense. Of course you can develop your skill with them by target shooting (gun ranges BTW are so polluted with lead that they require CERCLA remediation) and never actually use them for that purpose, but unless you can show me proof of you hammering a nail with a bullet, I'm not going to take you seriously. And no one else is either.

  • @greg

    I haven't known but a few people in my whole life who would go consensual with a spike.

    " …cherished by self-identified "white Southrons"- fuck them with a railroad spike."

    That was you who said that above, right ?

    It is so sad that the 'cream of the Left' here is so eat up with ad hominem…


  • @andrew

    Please stop talking. Oh, I'm sorry…….words matter…….Please stop writing.


  • Another college shooting, this time in Arizona. 4 people dead. It's a mystery, really since guns absolutely never kill people. Why, they were never designed to inflict damage! They're strictly for aiming at targets!

  • You know as well as I do that no one ever said guns aren't used to kill and maim. So are many other things.

  • Katydid:
    One dead. And I'm going to turn you in to authorities if you don't quit assaulting that straw man.

  • God decided not to destroy Roseburg with fire and brimstone because there were two good people there.

    However, there were also Obama supporters among the people waiting behind a security fence near the airport to catch a glimpse of the president.

    They included two men on bicycles — Phil Benedetti and John Poole.

    "I want to support our president," said Benedetti, a Roseburg physician. "This isn't about gun control, it's about caring about the welfare of the small town and every small town when tragedy happens."

  • "it is not alarmist to ask how a society is supposed to survive when one of the defining powers of the state is privatized."

    Indeed it isn't. The answer is probably "It isn't," too.

  • the sovereign exists because the majority has consented to his rule; the minority have agreed to abide by this arrangement and must then assent to the sovereign's actions. because the purpose of the commonwealth is peace, and the sovereign has the right to do whatever he thinks necessary for the preserving of peace and security and prevention of discord. Therefore, the sovereign may judge what opinions and doctrines are averse, who shall be allowed to speak to multitudes, and who shall examine the doctrines of all books before they are published.

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