Is The Public Crazy Not To Support Gun Control?

Monday, July 23, AD 2012

A number of opinion writers have taken the occasion of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado to express disgust with the fact that the American public shows little inclination towards increased gun control. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they “feel that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict” dropped from 78% to 44% during the period from 1990 to 2010.

Some of the more hyperbolic has claimed this is because the US is seized by a “death cult” or that it “worships violence”, but I think the actual reason is quite rational.

If we look at the percentage of people supporting stricter gun control in relation to the percentage of people who say they own guns (also from Gallup) and the US homicide rate, we see that the homicide rate dropped by 49% from 1990 to 2010 while gun ownership rates have remained fairly flat.

Since people readily perceive that gun ownership remains common, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly since the height of the ’80s and ’90s crime wave, people seem to implicitly believe that restricting gun ownership is not necessary in order to deal with crime.

We can get a somewhat longer term view of this if we look at an older Gallup question which is available in the same study, the percentage of Americans who say they support a ban on civilian handgun ownership. The question has been asked somewhat sporadically by Gallup, so we have only a few data points from the 50s, 60s and 70s, but the pattern is still very interesting.

Gallup first asked the question in 1959 when the murder rate had just gone up from 4.1 in 1955 to 4.9 in 1959. Support for a ban was quite high as 60%. Support for a ban dropped rapidly while crime increased. In 1979 31% of Americans supported banning handguns and the murder rate was 9.8. Support for a handgun ban then rebounded, reaching a recent high of 43% of American in 1991, which was also one of the worst years for violent crime with a murder rate of 9.8. However, violent crime then fell sharply and has continued a gradual decline, and support for banning hand guns has declined along with it with only 29% of Americans supporting such a ban in 2010.

This suggests to me that Americans actually have a pretty reasonable approach to the question. Despite the occasional headline grabbing catastrophe, the current murder rate is down at the same level as the 1950s, despite the availability of Glock handguns and “assault rifles”.

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34 Responses to Is The Public Crazy Not To Support Gun Control?

  • Thank you, Darwin Catholic, for this post.

  • “A number of opinion writers have taken the occasion of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado to express disgust with the fact that the American public shows little inclination towards increased gun control.”

    The attempt by some Leftist pundits to use this tragedy by either a very insane, or very evil, man to promote war on the Second Amendment is as predictible as it is contemptible. Norway has fairly strict gun control laws, and they did absolutely nothing in preventing a far worse massacre a year ago:

    http://world.time.com/2012/07/21/trying-to-forget-breivik-one-year-after-the-norway-massacre/

  • Far more guilt is to be laid on the people who removed the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” from the public square.

    Guns do not kill people. People kill people.

    The Right to Life fair was a miracle and a blessing. The woman approached the table and stated that “babies of crack mothers ought to be aborted.” Charles said: “My wife and I adopted a crack baby and she is doing fine”. Last year a woman approached the table and said: “Disabled children ought to be aborted.” David, the man born blind who goes to work on the train to teach others with his disability said: “What kind of disability are you talking about?” and the weather held up. Thank God. One Hail Mary

  • Forks kill!

    Millions are dying horrid deaths from obesity.

    Ban forks.

    Correlation is not causation. Since the 1950’s, liberals have added layer upon payer of gun control laws restricting access of law-abiding people to firearms. And, year after year, we have seen horrid increases in violence.

    Americans outside the welfare states on the fringes/coasts, realize that criminals employ guns and they don’t obey gun laws.

    We understand that banning guns won’t stop violent predatory criminals.

    “So, if the USA follows Australia’s lead in banning guns, it should expect a 42 percent increase in violent crime, a higher percentage of murders committed with a gun, and three times more rape.”

    Plus: “The International Crime Victims Survey, conducted by Leiden University in Holland, found that England and Wales ranked second overall in violent crime among industrialized nations. Twenty-six percent of English citizens — roughly one-quarter of the population — have been victimized by violent crime. Australia led the list with more than 30 percent of its population victimized. The United States didn’t even make the ‘top 10? list of industrialized nations whose citizens were victimized by crime.”

  • Oddly, by choosing guns, this man avoided the McVeigh route and killed very few people RELATIVE to what his science trained mind could have done with fertilizer etc. Twelve is awful.
    Hundreds would have been worse. If we cannot stop 12 million illegals from entering the country, I suspect prohibition of guns would create a highway from Taurus pistols in Brazil right to our cities. Then only bad guys would have them and our probable cause restrictions would prevent cops from searching houses in the worst neighborhoods….as obtains now.
    We do need to de-glorify violence though. Example: It’s absurd that there are fist fights in professional hockey and none in Olympic hockey. A bar brawler gets time in jail for the very thing that hockey takes pride in while the municipal governments hosting the hockey games look the other way because of the money brought to surrounding culture by hockey.
    Secondly…we are still not as a culture identifying those who are moving into states of true oddity…whether of mental illness or of homicidal evil inclinations which they signal on the internet.
    Thirdly the papal Swiss guard is better equipped than our security guards in large venues to kill a mass murderer wearing body armor because they are given Heckler and Koch PDW’s ( smaller than submachine guns) with armor piercing bullets…the 4.6 mm in MP 7’s which Heckler and Koch probbly donated to Vatican city. So our anti death penalty Vatican is realistic off camera. It’s not impossible that Al Qaeda one day sends someone with body armor into St. Peter’s. The Swiss Guard are actually ready whereas our security in movie theaters are probably unarmed normally.

  • A little further on what Bill said. We have to consider ourselves lucky that Holmes only used guns and he was not well trained in using them – it could have been much worse.

    Lets face it. If only 1/10 of 1/10% of our population in America is truly insane enough to perpetrate something like this that is still 30,000+ individuals. In most cases we are lucky they choose less massively lethal ways of killing people.

    In this particular case the bomb making skills were in evidence and could easily have been used but weren’t. I won’t go into the many, many ways to make bombs, biological or chemical agents out of the proverbial “household items”. Suffice to say that we can ban everything but wooden spoons and one of those 30,000 will still find a way.

    At least with guns there is a chance for members of the public to actually defend themselves if they can legally carry. It is really hard to defend yourself against an IED.

  • Anybody that disagrees with the elites and their liberal narrative is both crazy and dangerous.

  • T. Shaw, I shall proudly join you in being both crazy and dangerous. 😉

  • Here is a curious autobiographical fact. On three occasions, I have been in the near vicinity of a bomb explosion.

    The first time, on Monday 22nd January 1962, aged 16, I was on the embankment of the Seine, in front of the French Foreign Office at Quai d’Orsay, when the OAS plastiqueurs set off a bomb there. Three 5 kg (11 lb) charges of C-4 were used, packed into the mouldings of the facade. Hundreds of windows were blown in. One woman was killed and thirteen people injured.

    The second was on Thursday 8th March 1973, when the IRA set off a bomb () outside the Central Criminal Court in Old Bailey in London. The bomb, about 14 kg or 30 lb of Semtex, was in a car across the street from a public house called the Magpie & Stump. One bar faces the street and the other is behind it, reached from an alleyway called Bishop’s Court. I was in the back bar, when the front of the building was blown in. In the street, one person died and one hundred and forty were injured

    The third was on Saturday 17th December 1983, when the IRA planted another car bomb, similar to the Old Bailey bomb, in Hans Crescent, at the back of Harrods’s, the London department store. I was going there to do some Xmas shopping and had stopped to chat to a friend in Sloan Street. I would have used the Hans Crescent entrance. Six people were killed, including three police officers who had just arrived and were still in their car. One of the dead was an American visitor. Ninety people were injured.

    It is worth noting that, in each case, the bomb was small enough to have been carried with ease in a suitcase or back-pack. From 1973 onwards, the regulations and licensing procedure governing the possession, storage and use of explosives, especially plastic explosives, have been tightened considerably. Terrorists in the UK now tend to use hydrogen peroxide based bombs.

    I have never been shot at.

  • Michael,
    So in your cases, 1,1 and 6 were killed. In the USA, lapsed Catholic Timothy McVeigh killed 168 of whom 19 were children with one very big bomb in a truck. According to reports, he received the Catholic Extreme Unction/ Anointing of the Sick… prior to execution.

  • I am not familiar with the current level of gun control, but aren’t there things such as waiting periods and backgrounds checks already in most states, not to mention licenses for concealed carry?

  • Besides, my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals. Even if there is a crime/gun ownership correlation, that would seem to be irrelevant to a 2nd Amd analysis (in other words, the Framers determined the trade off was worth it).

  • “…aren’t there things such as waiting periods and backgrounds checks already in most states…?”

    In North Carolina I bought my mini-14 rifle and ammunition by just walking into the gun store and picking and choosing what I wanted.

    But there are mandatory training courses and background checks for conceal and carry handguns which a close friend of mine has. He let me see his handgun one day and by goodness, it’s ammunition would do worse damage than what my mini-14 uses! 😉

    Again, what terrorists like James Holmes and dictators like Barack Hussein Obama fear more than anything else is a well-armed citizenry able to defend its right to life, liberty and the private ownership of property.

  • “…my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals.”

    Doesn’t matter, C Matt. Everyone has the moral right to defend his life and that of his loved ones against aggression. The Maccabean brothers knew that.

  • “Besides, my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals.”
    Is there a difference?

  • No, Mary De Voe, not in today’s government where the criminal is the President.

  • “The Swiss Guard are actually ready whereas our security in movie theaters are probably unarmed normally.”

    Like the body guards of Ronald Reagan, the Swiss Guards are to throw their bodies down on the Pope as shields against the Pope’s harm. There were several men, real men, who saved their beloved ones.

    Our culture needs to return to the love of man for the love of God.

    While walking home from the fifth grade, my son was shot at with a bb gun. I picked the bbs out of his hood. He could have lost an eye. It is a law of physics: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Let the punishment equal the crime. Bring the power of God into the public square.

  • People don’t stop killers.

    People with guns stop killers.

  • Amen, T. Shaw! Another lesson from the Maccabean brothers, except they had only swords, spears, and bows and arrows to use.

  • Technical point of order for Mr. Primavera (whose points are right on):
    The .223 in your Mini-14 can do a lot more damage at the equivalent range than your friend’s handgun, can, unless he’s got one heck of a handgun. It’s the energy that determines stopping power. Remember that E=1/2mv^2. The .223 has low mass, but – coming out of a rifle barrel with a pretty good charge behind it – has a lot higher velocity. Your rifle will yield about 1100-1200 ft-lbs muzzle energy, depending on the round; a .45 handgun delivers way less than half of that.

    I would reccommend, however, trying to avoid being hit with either 🙂

    Rules for a gunfight (traditional):
    1) Bring a gun
    2) Bring more guns
    3) Bring all your friends with guns

  • Hey! A guy who knows Newtonian physics. Hooray! Thanks, Mike the Geek!

  • Because I’m a stodgy and un-fun kind of guy (and I authored the post) I’m just going to stick my nose back into the threat briefly and say that I don’t think it’s remotely accurate to describe the current president as a dictator or a criminal. I most certainly want to defeat the guy in November, but we’ve been blessed to have real criminals or dictators among our presidents, and I think it’s worth keeping that in mind. Otherwise I’d feel like I was following in the path of so many of my liberal acquaintances who spent eight years suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome.

  • Agreed Darwin. Obama is not a criminal or a dictator. He merely is a President giving James Buchanan a run for his money in regard to Buchanan’s title of worst President of the United States! 🙂

  • *dryly* Yeah, let’s have more gun control, especially gun free zones– they work so well for preventing a large number of deaths.

  • I suspect that one reason support for gun control has dropped so dramatically over the past 20-30 years is the spread of concealed carry laws to the majority of states. The doomsayers who predicted that concealed carry would lead to constant Wild West-like shootouts have, for the most part, been proven wrong. As gun ownership and carry permits become more common– every state except, you guessed it, Illinois has some provisions for civilians to carry concealed weapons, though some states make the rules so strict that they might as well be no-carry states — more people learn how to use guns properly, and more people successfully use guns to defend themselves or their families, they lose their fear of them.

  • Donald R McClary

    There is a street market for second0hand books in Farringdon Street in the City of London, where second-hand books are sold, usually for coppers. I once saw a copy of “Mr Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion” there, rather handsomely bound and gilded. It had one of those engraved heraldic book plates on the inside front cover, of the kind rather pretentious Victorians used to put in their books. The man wanted £5 for it, but accepted £3.

    Of course, I checked the arms in Papworth and it turned out it had belonged to Sir Edward Gray, who was British Foreign Secretary from 1905-1916. He obviously acquired it before being created a Viscount in 1916, as there was no coronet or supporters on the arms. It is now in my old college library.

  • What a coincidence MPS! I have a copy of one of the volumes in the Cambridge Ancient hstory that had once been in Grey’s library! He lived until 1933 and I assume his lbirary, or portions of it, must have been sold off after his death.

  • Did it have a book-plate?

  • Yep. And the spine in gold leaf states that it was part of his library.

  • I most certainly want to defeat the guy in November, but we’ve been blessed to have real criminals or dictators among our presidents, and I think it’s worth keeping that in mind.

    I think you can make a case for the criminality of some (I would be cautious with that – there’s a whole ‘investigative reporter’ subculture which has for forty years or more been manufacturing literature contending each and all were) and Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt were certainly severely and unjustly abusive to swaths of the domestic opposition and to people who just happened to be in the way. However, I do not think there has ever been a time where public policy could be made on the President’s whim.

  • Elaine,
    New Jersey allows concealed carry but to the absolutely rare person as per your remark. NJ is the most densely populated state per square mile so it makes sense vis a vis the probability of a distant bystander being hit by an errant self defense shot. P.A. is actually an open carry state except for large cities, Federal buildings and state parks; and concealed carry seems very possible there to almost anyone normal since many towns probably prefer that people don’t open carry for tourism reasons. Visiting my brother in Shippensburg PA, I never saw a person open carrying because not crime but bad teenage driving seems to be the greater danger in some rural areas. What should be allowed and is not in big NE cities is the .410 pistol that shoots a shotgun shell that quickly dissipates in power past the criminal’s space. So far though these pistols also shoot the .45. Where’s the creativity? Make a .410 only pistol which would stop criminals but dissipate as to far away bystanders in populous states.

  • Art,

    I’m an idiot. That was meant to read, “we’ve been blessed NOT to have real criminals or dictators among our presidents.”

  • Police don’t stop killers. People with guns stop killers.

    NY Daily News: “The evidence is clear: Massacres are stopped by legally armed citizens.”

The Magical Mystery Glock

Thursday, January 20, AD 2011

In the wake of the Tuscon shooting, there have been renewed call for gun control. This is hardly surprising, and while from my own point of view it seems like an attempt to make political hay out of widespread shock and fear, and I can certainly understand that for those who believe that our current gun laws make violence more common, this sort of event would seem to confirm their thesis. What is not, however, reasonable from those who believe that gun control would be a good thing for our country, is the odd fixation of the anti-gun lobby on the Glock brand.

The Glock 19

One common question from gun control advocates in the wake of the shooting was, “Why would any reasonable person think that civilians should need or want to own Glocks?” New York Times columnist Gail Collins summed up this line of thinking well in a column entitled “A Right to Bear Glocks?” Collins writes:

Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great. But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.

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20 Responses to The Magical Mystery Glock

  • Granting that the Glock isn’t any more deadly than other handguns and granting that past gun control laws haven’t done much, what’s wrong with advocating an extended magazine ban? Loughner would have shot more people had his gun held more rounds. That’s undeniable.

  • Well, we’ve had extended magazine bans in the past, and they’ve neither prevented mass killings nor made an impact in the murder rate. It’s true that Loughner was tackled when he had trouble changing magazines, but a lot of mass killers (including Virginia Tech, Fort Hood and Columbine) used standard size magazines and changed them repeatedly before being tackled.

    I have no great attachment to extended magazines; I’m just not clear that banning them would achieve anything other than making gun control advocates feel good.

  • The Glock 9 mm. is light.

    Real men carry something effective like the M1911 .45 Government issue, or whatever.

    Heck, a rolled up magazine or newspaper is an effective weapon when intelligently employed. Thing is: need to keep alert and be ready to act at all times.

    PS: If that were a GOP gathering, someone would have stopped him before he got off three rounds.

    Fight gun violence! Shoot back.

  • If gun control had won, Loughner would still be shooting sheeple.

    This is not 1994. Tucson is similar to the 1993 LIRR raison d’etre for the 879th thru 902nd gun control laws, and Carolyn McCarthy and her 100% promotion of abortion and common snese socialism.

    Then, a white-hating, Jamaican immigrant shot up a commuter RR car. Mayor Dinkens (first and last black NYC mayor) was boss in NYC. So fellow-racist Colin Ferguson waited until the train was outside NYC to open fire. He was safe. No one in NYC and Nassau can carry a weapon except the murderers and cops that respond in 20 minutes.

    The sheeple had gun control to protect them!

    They were blessed with security and safety and got to experience how it feels to sit in their and cringe in their seats while the GUN calmly walked the aisle pumping rounds into sheeps’ heads.

    Fight gun violence. Shoot back.

    [T. Shaw — I take your point, but I’m going to ask you to avoid the sheep/sheeple kind of terminology when talking about shooting victims. It comes off as seriously heartless.]

  • “I have no great attachment to extended magazines; I’m just not clear that banning them would achieve anything other than making gun control advocates feel good.”

    Bingo. That has usually been the only good achieved by gun control legislation. However, in this political environment even this type of empty symbolic legislation is going nowhere quickly.

  • That has usually been the only good achieved by gun control legislation. However, in this political environment even this type of empty symbolic legislation is going nowhere quickly.

    I would just point out that it is often difficult for a sociologist to ascertain the effects of incremental policy changes. That does not mean that the policy changes are worthless, merely that their effects are difficult to isolate and discern. (And if I am not mistaken, hauling people in on weapons offenses was one of the salient features of ‘broken windows’ policing. ‘Symbolic legislation’ can have some salutary spill-over benefits.

  • I would just point out that it is often difficult for a sociologist to ascertain the effects of incremental policy changes. That does not mean that the policy changes are worthless, merely that their effects are difficult to isolate and discern.

    True — though I as regards to my own support or opposition to something I think I’d tend to feel it’s necessary for me to see a clear cause and effect relationship, at least when it comes to instituting a legal ban on things. I think a lot of gun enthusiasts would fear that the primary incremental result from an extended gun magazine ban would be more restrictive gun bans in the future.

    I guess my attitude toward extended magazine bans is:

    If a ban were suggested against 20+ round magazines, I wouldn’t support it (and if I were in congress I wouldn’t vote for it) but it wouldn’t worry me much and I wouldn’t bother opposing it much either.

    If the 10+ round magazine of the “assault weapon” ban were brought back, I would bestir myself to oppose it a bit, but I still wouldn’t be extremely upset if it passed.

    I don’t really think either one of these is a good idea or would save a discernible number of lives — to be honest the main effect might be to increase the paranoia of the more extreme band of gun rights enthusiast — but I don’t think the loss of magazine size beyond ten would be a major problem for legal gun owners. Of course, that’s mainly because I think such a ban would do absolutely nothing to change the overall effectiveness of guns. It would just remove a completely surface level aspect of “bad-assery” from the gun store.

  • Mac,

    Sorry.

    I was out with arthroscopic knee surgery or I would have been on the LIRR train that that bad man shot up. I was also present at the (1993/2001) WTC bombings.

    Maintain a low profile, stay alert, keep moving, don’t get silouhetted on a military horizon, etc.

    Sorry, again. In doesn’t mean anything. One more such incident and I’m “packing it in.”

  • T. Shaw,

    Actually, that was me stepping in as editor — we each edit the threads on our own posts.

    Definitely understand. There are much lesser scares that have made me very glad to be a gun owner over the years. I just want to make sure we keep a level of discussion here at TAC that stays within certain bounds. Kind of the online version of broken window policing. 🙂

  • The 1994 ban on extended magazines didn’t ban existing magazines.
    The V Tech killer used a Glock with 15-round magazines. It’s very possible that he would’ve shot fewer people had it been 10-round magazines. One of the guns used in Columbine was a TEC-DC9 with a pre-ban 32-round magazine from which 55 shots were fired.

    It’s true that criminals will adapt to a ban by buying more magazines, guns, or recruiting accomplices. But every additional level of complexity is a place where criminals can get tripped up and it doesn’t affect law-abiding gun owners at all.

  • I think you kind of need to think about what you’re proposing here versus the size of the theoretical benefit. “Banning existing magazines” may sound very easy on paper, but in fact it would mean trying to confiscate tens of millions of magazines from legal gun owners — magazines that were bought legally and which have only an infinitessimal chance of every being involved in any crime. You’d doubtless have a lot of people who would (for one reason or another) defy the law, and so you’d have law enforcement tied up with enforcing it and the justice system tied up with prosecuting people for crimes (I’m assuming you’d have to make this a fellony to get any compliance) related to the law.

    And all of that chaos in hopes that maybe in the handful of crimes each year in which more than a dozen shots are fired, that changing magazines (assuming that the law succeeded in keeping these incredibly plentiful things from ending up on the black market) would trip up a criminal and thus result in fewer shots being fired?

    I can seriously see how, at first pass, the idea seems like a well intentioned way to “do something” about violence in the face of a news story about one of the exceptional events in which a lot of shots are fired, but it seems to me that once you think about it a bit the whole thing becomes both ineffective and untennable.

  • There are very few things impossible policy wise. Offer a $50 bounty on magazines with a capacity over 10, and you would see a significant number of magazines out of circulation. Combine that requiring a permit to transport after 180 days, and the problem would seem to be solved. I’m not claiming such a thing is prudent; I’m simply claiming it is a policy obstacle that can be overcome.

  • I wouldn’t want to spend much more than the recycle value to take illicit magazines off the streets. After a ban, I’d prefer that private charities do that. I think the most effective part of the ban would be making them unavailable at legit gun stores like the ones where Loughner and Seung-Hui Cho bought theirs. Marginal benefit for sure, but also marginal cost.

  • But if a “complete” ban actually left tens of millions of the things floating around the country on the grey market (which is seems to me either RR or MZ’s proposals would) then you might as well save the money on collection and enforcement and just have a ban on manufacture and sale of new ones.

    Which, yeah, might mean that some crazy intent on shooting a lot of people shot them with a 2-3 second pause every ten shots. I’m just not clear that’s a huge benefit.

    Like I say, I don’t see a huge downside to a “high capacity” magazine ban (though I see exactly zero chance of such a thing passing any time in the near future) I just don’t think there would be much upside other than annoying gun owners and making gun control advocates feel mildly better.

    If there was to be a piece of legislation taken out of this whole tragedy, I’d think the most obvious choice would be trying to come up with a way to make it harder for someone who has been reported to police repeatedly for issuing death threats and generally unstable behavior to walk in and buy a gun and ammo without having to answer a few questions or get put on a waiting list or something.

  • “If there was to be a piece of legislation taken out of this whole tragedy, I’d think the most obvious choice would be trying to come up with a way to make it harder for someone who has been reported to police repeatedly for issuing death threats and generally unstable behavior to walk in and buy a gun and ammo without having to answer a few questions or get put on a waiting list or something.”

    1. Make it easier to involuntarily commit crazy people who are a danger to themselves and to other. 2. Create institutions to treat and care for said crazy people. The civil libertarians would howl at one, and the cost would make most people howl at two. Until we bite the bullet on this, we will still have the odd massacre by someone who is deranged, and clearly mentally ill people living homeless on our streets.

  • Make it easier to involuntarily commit crazy people who are a danger to themselves and to other.

    We had a case in Brooklyn where a student was involuntarily committed for weeks. Turned out the student was completely sane. If anybody supports this now, they won’t once more stories like that come out.

    Create institutions to treat and care for said crazy people.

    Again, in NY, back in the 60’s and 70’s, notoriously underfunded mental institutes arguable made matters worse than no funding at all because it gave people the impression that something was being done. There is no public support for increased funding and politicians would rather dip into the coffers to buy votes than help non-voters.

  • In this political climate, political dissidents would end up in the mental institutions just like in the USSR.

    “Oh, you think that blob of cells is a human being, do you Mr. McClarey? Well that is clearly an insane belief, and you may be a pro-life terrorist. 3 years in a psychiatric ward! Next!”

    Besides, didn’t that incompetent left-wing sheriff know about Loughner in advance? Wasn’t it is professional failure that really is to blame here?

  • No Joe, I assure you that by the time I was done in the courtroom those who sought to involuntarily commit me would find themselves buried in litigation for the remainder of their existence. Contra One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest it is very difficult, certainly in Illinois, to have manifestly mentally ill people committed against their will. The streets and jails are currently where the majority of seriously mentally ill people are “housed” in this country. The fortunate ones live with long-suffering relatives who are often at their wits end as to what to do.

  • I don’t know RR, I think the student in question might be a few screws loose:

    http://gothamist.com/2011/01/14/brooklyn_college_student.php

    In Illinois a legal hearing would have had to have been conducted, with appointed counsel for her prior to her committment.

  • Glock 19 “not suited for… personal protection.”
    Thanks! I needed a good laugh.
    And thank you for posting the picture of the Beretta, which aesthetically blows the polyGlock out of the water.
    Oops. Violent rhetoric. Mea culpa.

2 Responses to Just in case you wondered …

Don't Negotiate, They're Crazy!

Monday, August 24, AD 2009

I made the mistake of following a link to a Frank Rich column this morning — an activity liable to cause lowed IQ, severe irritation, or in extreme cases, the gnawing off of one’s own arm. In an effort to channel possible side effects into a vaguely positive outlet, I hope that readers will forgive me if I revisit a topic that I already touched on once before: the increasing attempts by Democratic partisans to insist that the only people who could possibly oppose their agenda are evil, racist, gun-toting, potentially-violent freaks.

abc_rifle_protestor_090821_mnLike many of Rich’s pieces, this one is wandering and somewhat inarticulate. However, the basic thread is that the right as a whole is made up of violent extremists who should not be a part of the current health care debate in congress. In support of this, he points to the handful of 2nd Amendment activists who have been showing up at Townhall Meetings and other public venues in states that allows the open carry of firearms and exercising that selfsame right. This, he argues, proves that they are just like Timothy McVeigh (after all, one of them quoted Thomas Jefferson, who was also quoted by McVeigh), and to cap it all off some Republicans opposed counter-terrorism bills proposed in the wake of the OKC bombing. Got all that?

A couple things strike me about the unreasonableness of this line of thinking.

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13 Responses to Don't Negotiate, They're Crazy!

  • Darwin don’t be too hard on Mr. Rich. When Obama was elected with large Democrat majorities in Congress he, like much of the Left, thought that this was their final victory over conservatives. Instead, Obama is proving himself singularly unable to carry his agenda through Congress in the teeth of popular resistance. So what is Rich to do?

    He could write that Obama made a key mistake in attempting to shut out the GOP from his legislative initiatives, thereby ensuring that 40% of the country would be in automatic opposition. Another possible column might be that Democrats with such a large Blue Dog contingent have to learn how to compromise. Finally, Rich might tell his fellow Leftists that they should adopt an incremental approach and that bold schemes such as federalizing health care simply produce too much opposition to succeed.

    Of course, these type of columns would detract from the idea that Obama is a Leftist Messiah who will lead his followers to an unending political reign in an earthly socialist paradise. Thus we have Rich, rather than dealing with an unpleasant reality, writing another blame the Right column, which allows him and his faithful readers to vent emotionally, while doing absolutely nothing to address the fact that the Obama legislative agenda is taking on water faster than the Titanic.

  • I made the mistake of following a link to a Frank Rich column this morning

    I made the same mistake. I generally enjoy the give-and-take of partisan debate, but the last couple months have been depressing, and Rich’s column is just another salvo in the bitter recriminations following the health care debacle.

    Democrats think they’re on the side of the angels with health care reform. I think they’re right – at least as a matter of intention – but they’ve mismanaged it badly, and now are reduced to pretending as if it’s shocking – shocking! – that an amorphous and chaotic mess of a reform bill is being successfully mis-characterized by its opponents. It would be nice if they found a better outlet for their frustrations than writing shrill and incendiary op-eds, and it certainly would be better for the country. On the other hand, Republican partisans must enjoy seeing Democrats like Mr. Rich in such a state. The surest and fastest route to a Republican recovery is for the Democrats to convince themselves that it was evil Republican lies, rather than their own mishandling, that prevented health care reform.

  • On the other hand, Republican partisans must enjoy seeing Democrats like Mr. Rich in such a state. The surest and fastest route to a Republican recovery is for the Democrats to convince themselves that it was evil Republican lies, rather than their own mishandling, that prevented health care reform.

    There’s a sense in which it is perversely satisfying to see many Democrats consistently unable to understand that some people of good will actually oppose their program, but from such cheap victories come lazy habits.

  • Finally, Rich might tell his fellow Leftists that they should adopt an incremental approach and that bold schemes such as federalizing health care simply produce too much opposition to succeed.

    Yes, but what we are seeing is the incremental approach to federalizing health care. When Hillary the co-president failed, she said that they would have to take incremental steps. That’s what the idea behind expanding SCHIP to upper middle class adults was about. This is about that too. Remember the Barney Frank clip from a week ago, he’s all for federalized medicine but prefers this plan be pushed through as an incremental step.

    I don’t think anybody, left or right, sincrely believes this is actually a good or workable plan. Most on the left still want it as a step toward government control of HC, the less workable this plan is, the better for their objectives. Some on the left oppose it because they have no patience for the incremental approach, they want it all, and now. The rest of us oppose it because it’s not only a bad plan but we know where it’s leading.

  • but from such cheap victories come lazy habits.

    I admit I’m enjoying watching both parties flounder to some extent. My hope is that the end result will involve better access to health care for the chronically under-insured – and little else.

  • To be fair, I think Clinton Derangement Syndrome played some role in the coarsening of public discourse as well.

  • Fair point. And indeed, though it was a bit on my early end, there seemed to be a pretty clear Reagan Derangement Syndrome as well. I’m not really clear if Carter managed to inspire that kind of craziness. Nixon did — but then managed in many ways to deserve it as well.

    Come to that, I’m not sure there’s a real beginning to the trend. It may just be that after a certain point that kind of pop culture phenomenon fades into the background of historical awareness.

  • Jefferson was a crazed atheist, Adams a dangerous monarchist. Just ask the partisans that opposed them. I think every president since Washington has attracted extreme opposition, and by the middle of his second term even he was not immune.

    The advance of mass communications, especially the internet, makes it seem like we’re in an intensely partisan age, but this sort of bitterness has always been there. That said, I think Peter Wood makes a good case that perhaps anger is more intense now than ever before.

  • Come to that, I’m not sure there’s a real beginning to the trend.

    Robert Bork has said that there was a change in the culture of official Washington around about 1981. Larry Sabato identified 1966 and 1973 as salient punctuation marks in the evolution of the national press corps.

  • I don’t remember ’66. ’73 was pure anti-Nixon. ’81 pure anti-Reagan. I suspect if the MSM were more objective in their reporting on Obama there might be less aggressive displays by conservatives.

  • I became eligible to vote in ’81. Reagan Derangement Syndrome was very much extant, but I think things have gotten worse since. Reagan’s personal charisma, like Clinton’s after him, may have had the effect of toning things down a bit.

  • That in part is probably true. Obama’s charisma seems part real and part manufactured. That plus the “messianism” of his movement probably also contributes to the extremes of response.

  • Sabato referred to the period running from 1966 to 1973 as a sweet interlude. By his account, from about 1941 to about 1966, the national press corps had little critical distance from the politicians and government they covered. (Critics who read Katherine Graham’s memoir said one of the disconcerting elements was unselfconscious description of the incestuous relationship between the Kennedy Administration on the one hand and Philip Graham & Ben Bradlee on the other). In his view, from about 1973, the press was overtaken with unprofessional behavior. Nicholas von Hoffman has been critical of what he called “media Monovox”, but has also said that there was a lowering of standards of journalistic proof that began around 1973 and that the behavior of major newspapers during Richard Nixon’s last years in office was embarrassing.

    Bork has said that political life in the capital was adversarial but not vicious prior to 1981, and that was what changed.

Gun Control and School Shootings

Wednesday, March 11, AD 2009

Politicians are already considering how to tighten gun control laws as people respond with shock and horror to a school shooting spree which took the lives of 15 victims and the 18-year-old shooter in a small town today in Germany. The problem is, Germany already has some of the tightest gun laws in Europe, a continent of tight gun laws.

In 2002, in the wake of a school shooting which killed 17 plus the shooter, Germany went so far as to require a permit for airsoft guns and starter pistols. Under current German laws, someone must have a gun license for each gun he purchases, and licenses expire and must be renewed at least every three years. To get a license, you must a 18 for an airgun or .22, and 21 for larger calibers. Applicants are subjected to a criminal and psychological background check and must demonstrate ability and safety knowledge.

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3 Responses to Gun Control and School Shootings

  • The one thing I’m willing to concede to the anti-gun crowd is that a gun allows a person to do a whole lot more damage in a shorter period of time than a lot of other weapons. Even the pro-gun crowd is willing to admit this implicitly, since they claim that a gun is a much more effective weapon of defense than a can of mace, a knife, or other such things.

    The problem as I see it is this. Even if we wanted to ban guns, we can’t really do that. We’re in an arms race against criminals, essentially. If we disarm, the criminals will be able to walk all over us with their illegal weapons.

    But how, then, do we deal with incidents such as these? I know most people I’m friends with would simply arm other students and let them drop the perpetrator, but I’m not so certain that’s the best idea. Simply shrugging and saying “well, it’s inevitable terrible things like this would happen” is not the greatest of ideas, either, though I tend to believe that statement.

    I think once again the problem is that the government is trying to micromanage the situation in a poor way. The responsibility for handling these things needs to be at a more local level. Neighborhoods and families. With incentive (somehow, not that I have any great ideas on that) to watch out for neighbors. Not spy, but know the neighbors, know if a kid is troubled enough to commit a crime like this, and try to lend an ear, a shoulder, or a swift kick in the butt, whatever is needed.

  • I wouldn’t remotely consider letting high school students have concealed carry to be a solution to this kind of thing — but it does strike me as underlining that national regulation is simply not a very good tool for assuring that massive tragedies will never happen. If one could wish all guns in the world out of existence, that would prevent such things, but gun control laws do not wish all guns in the world out of existence — which is a fact I think sometimes escapes advocates. A law may have the intent of keeping irresponsible people from getting guns, but that doesn’t mean that the specific measures take will be successful in that.

  • Where I work, we have registered first responders. These are folks trained in the use of first aid, including the defibrillator.

    Why not have adult concealed carry “first responders” designated by the school in case something like this happens. These people are volunteers, trained and permitted by the state who must take additional tactical training courses for the permission to carry concealed in the school.

Catholics, The 2nd Amendment, & Subsidiarity

Friday, January 2, AD 2009

Ryan Harkins took an initial look at how Catholics should look at the question of whether there is a natural right to own guns in a post last week. The basic thrust of Ryan’s argument, and I ask him to correct me if I misstate this, was to examine the question of whether the benefits of private gun ownership outweighed the potential social evils. This is, in a sense, an obvious way to look at the question. If one is trying to determine the rightness of allowing people to own something potentially destructive, it would seem natural to take a “do the benefits outweigh the dangers?” approach.

I’d like to take a slightly different approach, looking at both the actual text of the second amendment and Catholic Social Teaching. The second amendment reads:

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.

The libertarian approach to this is to assert that an armed citizenry is required in order to provide a counter-weight to the power of the government. However, I’m not convinced that the thinking behind the second amendment was a merely a balancing of powers in this sense. Rather, it seems to me that to a great extent the US Constitution is written with the point of view that people possess certain natural rights and duties, and that from these spring rights and duties of the government. My understanding is that one of the major controversies in regards to the second amendment (one spoken to fairly definitely in last June’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision) has been whether it secures a right of state militias to have weapons, or a right of individuals to have weapons. While in effect my opinion on the matter lies closer to the individual right side, it seems to me that there is an important distinction which has been increasingly lost in our modern mass society:

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26 Responses to Catholics, The 2nd Amendment, & Subsidiarity

  • If one looks at Catholic social teaching (e.g. the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church), I can find nothing which directly supports the absolute right to own small arms. As far as I can see, all the places where such weapons are mentioned, it is heavily emphasized that (e.g.) “Appropriate measures are needed to control the production, sale, importation and exportation of small arms and light weapons”. This would support a conclusion that the ownership of such weapons is always a prudential matter, and thus not an absolute right.

  • Paul,

    Point taken.

    And I tried to be clear that there is, to my knowledge, no specific Catholic treatment of how the natural right to self defense (which the Church does recognize specifically in the Catechism, 2263-2265) plays out in regards to the question of whether one thus has a right to the means to self defense. Similarly, I am not aware of any statement in Church documents (as opposed to the speculations of individual theologians) as to whether the duty to defend the common good and societal order springs from the rights and duties of the individual, or is a prerogative of “just authority” but never the people.

    However the passages such as you cite are invariably about the containment of various political ills associated with the arms trade and societal disruption, and I’m not clear that one can conclude from the existence of these passages (and silence on the above mentioned matters) that the Church thus teaches that the individual does _not_ have a right to the means to exercise his natural right to self defense.

  • I assume that “criminal record” comes with an “etc.” for other reasonable restrictions, e.g. mental illness, the existence of certain kinds of injunctions, etc.

    Sometime soon I have to ask your opinion on the catechetical series I’m using with Offspring #1, and some interesting assertions it makes regarding Church teaching on labor issues.

  • I assume that “criminal record” comes with an “etc.” for other reasonable restrictions, e.g. mental illness, the existence of certain kinds of injunctions, etc.

    Most definitely.

    Sometime soon I have to ask your opinion on the catechetical series I’m using with Offspring #1, and some interesting assertions it makes regarding Church teaching on labor issues.

    Some have claimed that when I discuss unions I should have my sanity license revoked, but I shall endeavor to behave myself. 🙂

  • I think that when most discussions of the second amendment get off track is dealing with the term “militia”. The founders would not have accepted a standing army (which would probably include the national guard as a part thereof) as dangerous to freedom.

  • Is there a right to self-defense that might be lethal? Yes: the Catechism certainly supports that (#2263-2264). But that is not the question at issue — but rather: Is there an absolute right to own a particular weapon that may be used in self-defense? We both see no teaching directly on the issue. In which case, we then have to look for indirectly related statements, to see what bearing they might have on the question.

    In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #511, it says: “Appropriate measures are needed to control the production, sale, importation and exportation of small arms and light weapons, armaments that facilitate many outbreaks of violence to occur. The sale and trafficking of such weapons constitute a serious threat to peace: these arms kill and are used for the most part in internal and regional conflicts; their ready availability increases both the risk of new conflicts and the intensity of those already underway.”

    It is very hard to read that and avoid concluding that, in the appropriate circumstances, a state might legitimately decide to ban the production or sale of small-arms, on the grounds that it would make an existing situation worse. If that conclusion is accepted, then, following on, it would seem that there could be no absolute right to own such a controlled weapon.

  • I would tend to agree with Paul and Ryan that this is a question of proportionality rather than a ‘right’ to firearms as a means of self-defense. There are significant limitations, for example, to individual property rights (e.g. taxes). A restriction on firearms in some contexts could similarly be a reasonable limitation on the right to self-defense.

    That said, I think a good argument can be made that there are proportionate reasons in the U.S. (as well as Constitutional support) for allowing citizens to own firearms.

    As an aside, I thought you were skeptical of additional Catholic ‘rights talk’ DC. Are certain commentators references to your ‘love’ of guns valid? 😉

  • Paul,

    We’re in agreement as to the legitimacy of self defense (and I assume to self defense being a natural right) which might some times be lethal.

    Is there an absolute right to own a particular weapon that may be used in self-defense?

    Actually, I would say: No.

    Come to that, the 2nd Amendment (which is what I’m trying to defend from a Catholic point of view here) actually doesn’t specify any particular weapon either — and I don’t dispute (though perhaps some of the founders would have) the Supreme Court finding that some kinds of weapons (all fully automatic firearms, for instance) can quite legitimately be banned.

    What I do think one can defend from a Catholic point of view is the claim (which would seem to be essentially a 2nd Amendment one) that since one does have a natural right to self defense and to defend and maintain order in one’s immediate community, that stemming from this would be a right to possess those weapons that might legitimately achieve those aims.

    Given that those are aims of limited scope, I would also see strong reason to restrict individual ownership of weapons that go beyond those needs. (After which I’d proceed to argue that given the wide availability of guns in modern American society, it would not be realistic to claim that a total ban on personal ownership of guns would be compatible with allowing people the tools for defense of themselves and their immediate communities.)

    Now, I take your point on the Compendium of Social Doctrine, however given that it p511 comes right between p510 which discusses the need to get rid of landmines (which significantly it goes on to call “a type of small arm that is inhumanly insidious”) and p512 where it strongly condemns the practice of recruiting child soldiers, I guess my big questions would be: Are the “small arms and light weapons” the sort of non-full-auto rifles, pistols and shot guns which are currently legal in the US? And, are we talking here about private citizens owning guns, or are we talking about local strongmen buying crates of AK-47s to hand out to their gangs of boy soldiers?

    Given that the second half of p511 says:
    The position of States that apply severe controls on the international transfer of heavy arms while they never, or only very rarely, restrict the sale and trafficking of small arms and light weapons is an unacceptable contradiction. It is indispensable and urgent that Governments adopt appropriate measures to control the production, stockpiling, sale and trafficking of such arms [1076] in order to stop their growing proliferation, in large part among groups of combatants that are not part of the military forces of a State.

    I guess I’d take it to be a pretty straightforward denunciation of countries making a policy of allowing unrestricted sales of everything from AK-47s to land mines and rocket launchers to trouble-makers in the third world. It doesn’t really strike me as addressing the question of whether households have a natural right to be able to own those weapons which, under the current technological and social conditions, would be sufficient to defend the household and its neighbors from harm.

  • John Henry,

    As an aside, I thought you were skeptical of additional Catholic ‘rights talk’ DC. Are certain commentators references to your ‘love’ of guns valid?

    Well, the specific examples I am concerned about in regards to “rights talk” pertain to claiming rights to be given something (a right to health care, a right to housing, a right to education, a right to a living wage) rather than a right to be able to possess something if you have the means to acquire it.

    I certainly would not say that a “right to bear arms” means that the state is obligated to give you a gun — simply that it may mean, if guns are the only culturally and technologically reasonable means by which you can defend yourself and your neighbors, that you should not be restricted from owning a gun if you choose to go out and take steps to acquire one.

    More generally,

    I recognize that I’m pushing a point here and trying to make an argument that may in the end not hold up. I’m going ahead and defending it strenuously in order to see how well the argument works (and try to make sure that I’ve presented my thinking thoroughly) but I recognize that this certainly is not “what the Church teaches”. At best, I’m hoping that it looks like a fairly reasonable conclusion based on what the Church teaches.

    So while I’ll continue to defend and clarify in an attempt to see how well this argument works, please understand that I’m not trying to simply assert, “The Catholic Church says you have the right to bear arms,” but simply to see if one can successfully make an argument for the personal right to bear arms within a Catholic context.

  • Startling how DC outright confesses his embrace of the rights to consume and possess, if one has the means, right as he rejects to the rights to be nourished educated, housed and paid equitably…

  • Mark,

    If you read my post a while back about “rights talk”, which is what I’m referencing there, I argued that the “right to housing” is not a natural right in the sense that if one is simply left to oneself and does nothing to create one’s own housing, one does not have any housing. The right to free speech, on the other hand, is a natural right in that one is fully capable of speaking until someone comes in and takes that right away from you.

    I am, of course, strongly in favor of people being free to obtain education, housing, and pay — but I don’t think it’s proper to describe something as a “right” which someone else has to come and give to you. That is properly described as a duty. As in: We have duty to provide shelter to the homeless, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, pay the worker, educate the ignorant, etc.

    To call those things rights, in my opinion, ignores the fact that they need to come from other people. They are not things that we naturally possess until someone else comes and takes them away from us.

    I’m not clear if you’re really unclear as to the argument, or you just enjoy a chance to characterize those you disagree with, regardless of whether your characterization bears any resemblance to the truth.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    While “small arms and light weapons” has no precisely agreed-on international definition, “small arms” would generally be reckoned to include revolvers, rifles, and AK-47s; and “light weapons” would be something like grenade launchers or two-person machine-guns.

    You say: “stemming from this [right to self-defense] would be a right to possess those weapons that might legitimately achieve those aims”. I think if that were changed to “… that would legitimately achieve those aims”, it would be defensible from a Catholic point of view.

    For example, suppose in a particular country, two different large groups were close to being in violent conflict. It could, depending on the exact circumstances, be legitimate (along the lines of what the Compendium indicates) for a state to ban the private possession of small arms and light weapons, until the reasons for the conflict were eliminated. Though each individual could say “This weapon is for my personal defense”, the cumulative effect of everyone in both groups claiming that, and acting on it, could tip things over into open conflict, or cause any subsequent conflict to be much worse. The individual’s benefits in possessing small arms have to be balanced against the needs of society (since, after all, each individual is also a a member of society, and is affected by and benefits from it).

    Opinions as to what the 2nd amendment means obviously differ quite widely. I think that if it were taken in some sense like: “Provided it benefits society, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”, that would be consistent both with the Compendium, and with much of how the law has tended to be interpreted (though not by all!).

  • This is a statement by the American Bishops who make clear that people of good will are free to contradict them on the means to the end, but not the ends.

    http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/criminal/handguns.shtml

  • Eric,

    The ends in this case being?

  • Eric,

    Where do they say that people of good will are not free to disagree with them?

  • For example, suppose in a particular country, two different large groups were close to being in violent conflict. It could, depending on the exact circumstances, be legitimate (along the lines of what the Compendium indicates) for a state to ban the private possession of small arms and light weapons, until the reasons for the conflict were eliminated. Though each individual could say “This weapon is for my personal defense”, the cumulative effect of everyone in both groups claiming that, and acting on it, could tip things over into open conflict, or cause any subsequent conflict to be much worse. The individual’s benefits in possessing small arms have to be balanced against the needs of society (since, after all, each individual is also a a member of society, and is affected by and benefits from it).

    I would certainly see the compendium as saying that in such a situation both the local government and outside governments should work to keep military hardware from being poured into the country. Pouring crates of AKs and RPGs into a third world country with a failing government will certainly not do anything to help the common good.

    I’m more skeptical that it would necessarily be a good idea for the local government to ban gun ownership and confiscate the guns that private households already own. The question would be: who in such a situation is likely to use the power to confiscate weapons from private citizens for the common good rather than simply to confiscate weapons from everyone but their own faction?

    From what I’ve read about conflicts in places like Uganda and Somalia, the problem is not that many individual citizens are armed to the teeth and ready to burst into civil war, but rather that the general population is almost completely unarmed while local strongmen have crates of weapons which they pass out to their followers. This makes it far easier for local strongmen to inflict terror on the population, because the population is unable to exercise any form of self defense against them.

    So, I would certainly agree with the Compendiums prescription that when there is great civil unrest in an area shipping in weapons is an additional source of trouble. I also could theoretically see a situation in which an area was sufficiently unarmed or disarmed that it was not necessary for people to own firearms in order to legitimately exercise self defense and control of their own communities — but my concern with suggestions of a confiscatory ban on all guns or whole classes of guns (like the 70s era statement supporting a hand gun ban out of the USCCB) is that when done in the context of rising violence this merely serves to prevent ordinary citizens from defending themselves while leaving the elements of chaos (who aren’t following the law anyway) fully armed.

  • That said, Paul’s interpretation strikes me as being more in keeping with precedent than mine. There were, to my recollection, a whole series of papal statements in the high middle ages attempting to ban specific weapons (notably the crossbow) and ban fighting on certain days of the week and such. To my knowledge, not of this was particularly successful, but it is the approach with history to it.

    To get a Catholic understanding of a right to bear arms one has to assume a new development along the lines of the right to own ones property and own the fruits of one’s labor — which was itself in contradiction to a long history of statements which tacitly accepted the peasant system.

  • -he rejects to the rights to be nourished educated, housed and paid equitably…-

    This sounds like a right to be infantilized.

    I would rather be poor and free, as I am now.

  • Actually, the Constitution was not originally meant to interfere in any of our lives. The document was written to protect states from federal interference. The 2nd amendment meant, when written, that the feds would not be allowed to disarm or disband any state militia.

    It may be hard to believe now, when we think the government should tell us where to live, how to live and why to live, but the constitution was not meant to do any of these things and neither was the federal government. An early Chief Justice (Jay? I’m not sure. It was in the 1820’s or 1830’s), when asked if the Bill of Rights applied to state governments, said,without hesitation, NO! I.e., a state could infringe on your right to bear arms, your free speech, etc. The Bill of Rights only restricted the federal government from doing these things because the founders did not fear their own states (since they controlled them!). The Congregationalist church was the state church in one of the New England states until the early 19th century, Bill of Rights or no.

    The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments changed all this and activist judges began to “incorporate” the rights expressed in the Bill of rights and applied them to all people.

    Really unfortunate, as our states have just been pawns ever since, and not the free, cooperating nations they were meant to be. Under the original intent of the constitution, people in each state would not have their hands tied every time they try to solve a local problem (Wouldn’t it be nice if your state, with a government you elected, could declare certain areas, infested by drugs and gangs, free from guns without the federal hassle and without trying to do the same thing everywhere? And then later reverse the decision if it seemed wise to do so? They could restrict pornography without some ACLU scum breathing down their necks. The present interpretation of the constitution makes us all slaves to out-of-touch nitwits in Washington.)

  • Thoughtful post Darwin. I think it is clear there is a natural right to proportionate self-defense.

    It is also clear that guns are a part of our reality whether we like it or not. No amount of legislation is going to change this fact. What legislation does change is who has the guns, i.e., whether the guns are in the hands of the people, the government and criminals, or alternatively, in the hands of the government and criminals alone.

    I think you’re right about the natural rights case to be made for the second amendment, but I wouldn’t discount the Founders desire to limit the power of government.

    The 2nd Amendment is part of the very fabric of our democracy. It helps underscore and substantiate the essential equality of all the citizens in our Republic. It does this by ensuring there is no substantial power gap between the rulers and the ruled.

    I think this commitment to equality, made significant by limiting the power of the government over its citizens, is very much in accord with the Catholic conception of the common good. We all stand to benefit from there being no one group of people responsible for eveyone’s defense. After all, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The Founders were wise to diffuse power rather than concentrate it.

  • Blackdadder,

    The end is the “joint effort to eliminate the criminal and deadly misuse of handguns.” We all have the same goal, but differing opinions as to how to obtain it and part of that constitutes the regulation of guns.

    Zach,

    You misread me. I said people of good will are, in fact, free to contradict the Bishops on the matter. They aren’t exercising magisterial authority.

  • I’ll add that it is evident from their words that the Bishops believe people of “good faith” can and will oppose gun control measures they collectively support. However, it is implicit (thus, I made my comment) that we are not in fact free to disagree with them on an end. No person of good will, abiding by the natural law, can disagree with the Bishops on the end goal of curbing gun violence. The means — gun control laws or no gun control laws — can be debated. The ends are non-negotiable.

  • Oh, there is no disagreement then. I thought the “end” you were thinking of may have been something like a ban on guns.

  • No person of good will, abiding by the natural law, can disagree with the Bishops on the end goal of curbing gun violence.

    This is true, but since hardly anybody does disagree with this goal, I’m not sure how significant a truth it is.

  • If we have a natural right to self defense, wouldn’t that imply that we have a natural right to effective self defense?

    What I mean by this is saying that a cat has a natural right to self defense, but I’m going to de-claw him and pull his teeth. He has a natural right to self defense, but I have effectively removed the means of the self defense.

    This is important, especially in the case of women who are generally much smaller, physically weaker and less aggressive than men. This means that a woman can’t effectively defend herself against a much bigger, stronger and more violent attacker. Those “less than lethal” methods are generally used closer up, and by that time the attacker is usually within arm’s reach.

    I heard a great quote: “A man use two methods to make me do what he wants. He can either convince me, or force me. A gun guarantees that he stick to the first method”.

  • As an old saying says:

    “God created man, Sam Colt made them equal.”

    Clearly the natural law right to defend oneself in our current milieu would allow the ownership of semi-auto hand guns and (at the least) civilian long guns. It would seem the USCCB position is contrary to this in it’s approach (but not it’s end).

    It also seems to me that the “Compendium of Social Doctrine” and the USCCB (even sometimes the Holy See itself) are sometimes stepping outside of their competence when they start to make judgments about the acceptability of specific weapon systems. As regards the proscription of “indiscriminant” use of weapons which cause mass destruction, it is the ends which are objected to, not the means. It would not necessarily be immoral to use a nuclear weapon against a nuclear missile silo. By the same token, I don’t think it’s reasonable for the hierarchy to judge that there is no legitimate use for land mine technology, if they are be deployed applying the rules of just warfare. The same goes for hand guns in legitimate self-defense, this is just out of the competence of the bishops.

    God Bless,

    Matt

33 Responses to Should Catholics Own Guns?

  • I do. I don’t see anything in the catechism that says I’m obliged to passively let a home invaded kill me in my own bedroom.

  • Indeed. The passages I quoted from the catechism affirmed that we have a moral duty to protect ourselves, out of the love of self derived from our existence as a gift from God. I personally believe that gun ownership should remain legal and in some places be more accessible.

    On the other hand, you have to consider the likelihood of a trespasser attempting to kill you in your home. What actually is the risk, and what is the risk of having a gun in the house? This is why it is a question of prudence. For me, since I’m not a hunter and have no training, owning a gun would pose a greater risk than an intruder, so until I get the training, a gun is definitely not for me. For my wife, who is trained and has been around guns her entire life, a gun poses much less risk than an intruder, and so a gun is definitely an option for her. How does that mesh between the two of us? Right now, her guns are in storage well away from home. Perhaps in the future that might change.

  • In addition to training/experience, there is also a moral duty to know how “strong” one’s firearm is in relation to the proximity of your neighbors. For example, using a hunting rifle (with a high muzzle velocity) to defend yourself very well poses risks to your neighbors if you miss, and perhaps even if you don’t. The flip side of 2263-65 is that you can’t risk your neighbor’s lives, either.

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  • I’ve never liked guns, and haven’t shot one since my Army days three decades ago, but I strongly support the right of people to own guns for hunting and self-defense. I agree with this line from my late father’s favorite western, Shane: : “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”

  • Of course, what I didn’t argue in this post is how effective guns are at what they’re purported to do. I’ll leave that to someone else. But, to play devil’s advocate, speaking of a gun as only a tool may mask part of the issue. Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill? Under what circumstances is merely owning a gun bringing a person into the near occasion of sin? I think those are the questions that Catholic opponents of gun ownership would ask. (I don’t think the accidental death ranks near as high, since by that mark we’d have to ban cars before banning guns…)

  • Yes, Catholics should own guns if they see the need. Good luck trying to get the Vatican security details to disarm 😉

  • “Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill?”

    Depends entirely upon the persons wielding the weapons Ryan. I’ve lived my life almost entirely in rural Illinois. Most of my neighbors have guns of all sorts, pistols, shotguns, rifles,etc. I have never been threatened with a weapon, even though for the past 26 years I have brought legal actions, on behalf of clients, against thousands of people who live in the surrounding area. Some people can be trusted with firearms, just as they can be trusted with knives, axes, etc, and other tools, while other people, including some of my criminal clients, could not be trusted with a paper clip.

  • “Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill?”

    As Donald said, it depends a lot on the person, but for someone who’s got a basic level of moral responsibility and has received at least 20 minutes in training on basic gun safety and respect for what they can do, my experience is that generally the knowledge of what a gun can do as a tool is sobering rather than a motive towards irresponsible behavior.

    Robert Heinlein (hardly an exemplar of Catholic thinking, I know) said, “A well armed society is a polite society.”

    And while that could be taken to refer to the reserve of mutual fear, my experience is more that people who know they bear the responsibility of handling highly lethal weapons remember to be more polite, more careful, and more helpful for it. I’ve been treated rudely in church far more often than I have at the gun range.

    This, I think, is where familiarity with guns is very, very important from a safety perspective. The person you want to fear is not the “gun nut” with the AK collection who’s down at the range every other weekend, but the person who went and bought a gun that he or she has never shot — or perhaps only shot once. That’s the person who’s likely to be quick to reach for it “like in the movies”.

  • I think, for the most part, agreeable that people have a right to self-defense and the right to defend their families, and therefore, a right to gun ownership. However, I am most curious as to why many second amendment advocates I’ve encountered oppose very reasonable gun control laws.

    24 to 48 hour waiting periods. I’ve encountered opposition to this idea and I’ve been told (I wouldn’t be surprised) that some politicians actually vote against such laws. Common sense would suggest that if a person cannot wait two measely days to get a gun, perhaps it would be prudent to think twice about giving it to them.

    I read in a book about Catholic Social Teaching (I haven’t checked the statistics that were footnoted) that some 40% of gun sales are done privately and background checks are not done. I’ve further encountered opposition to changing this reality on the basis of a slippery slope argument.

    Moreover, laws restricting the number of guns bought in day have found opposition. Does one really need to buy more than twenty guns at a time? I can’t recall the precise number, but I do not remember it being unreasonable.

    I’m just not certain why sensible gun control laws are opposed when the right to own guns is respected while seeking to minimally regulate the flow of guns.

    I am not a fan of guns. There’s a debate in the Texas state government to unrestrict concealed carry laws to enable teachers and students to carry concealed weapons on their campuses and even in classrooms. I don’t think words could even describe my opposition to this idea.

    Thoughts?

  • There’s a debate in the Texas state government to unrestrict concealed carry laws to enable teachers and students to carry concealed weapons on their campuses and even in classrooms. I don’t think words could even describe my opposition to this idea. Thoughts?

    Well, ever since Va. Tech….

  • I simply see no need for a Catholic to own a gun, an instrument for killing.

  • The solution to the problem of armed violence in schools is to enable everyone to be armed as to even the playing field?

  • Hey Mark,

    That is what Carl Rowan thought too.

  • Just as a follow-up, I do not own a firearm, and I tend to be ambivalent about the 2nd Amendment. I have mixed feelings about gun control, but as a Va. Tech alum the incident was a particularly jarring reminder that only those who break the law have guns in gun-free zones.

  • I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.

  • However, I am most curious as to why many second amendment advocates I’ve encountered oppose very reasonable gun control laws.

    Probably a couple of reasons for this.

    On the unreasonable level, gun owners often start to feel fairly persecuted by the gun control lobby, and so their emotional reaction is simply to oppose everything that the gun control lobby advocates, regardless of whether it seems like a good idea.

    On the reasonable level, oftentimes laws which seem to make a lot of sense to gun control advocates do not make much sense to people from the perspective of law abiding gun owners. For example, as you point out a lot of gun sales are private person-to-person sales which currently require no paperwork to be filed in most states. I once made a private gun sale myself. I knew that a buddy of mine had been wanting a Swiss K31 bolt action rifle for some time, and I had a chance to buy one for under $200. It’s a moderately hard to find rifle (a straight pull bolt action rifle that the Swiss army used until the 50s and which the papal Swiss Guard used until fairly recently) and it’s not exactly the crowd killer — the design has not changed since 1931. So after checking with him on the cell phone, I bought it for him, and then sold it to him the next time I was down where he lived.

    Now in states that apply all the same rules to private party sales that are applied to dealer sales, I would have had to drive down to his town, take it to a gun dealer, give it to the gun dealer, who would then run a background check and hold on to it for a waiting period before letting him have it. (And generally charge a $50 to $75 fee in the process for his trouble.) Since these sales are usually between relatives or friends, that seems like a royal pain and rather unfair.

    The solution to the problem of armed violence in schools is to enable everyone to be armed as to even the playing field?

    To be fair, though, that’s not the suggestion. In all states that I’m aware of the licensing process to get a concealed carry permit is intensive enough that it’s very clear by the time you get one that you
    a) have no criminal record
    b) know how to use a gun well
    c) understand thoroughly the (very severe) legal consequences to using a gun improperly

    The change in law that they’re looking at would simply allow people who’ve already gone through that process to continue to carry (if they want) on the premises of “gun free” institutions like universities. I don’t have a strong opinion either way, personally, as you’re going to find very, very few licensed carriers among the student and faculty demographics. But to the extent that we already have a legal process for determining who’s allowed to carry, I don’t have a problem with them carrying in schools, hospitals, etc.

    I look a quick look around for data, and at least in Florida only 0.01% (out of 1.4 million) of those licensed to carry later commit crimes involving guns — so it doesn’t sound like much of a risk to me.

  • Darwin,

    On the first note, I don’t think inconvenience as reason to oppose those laws. I’m just as sure that criminals obtain guns from private gun sales and that the small inconvenience one might pay in the hobby of collecting guns, if it could potentially save one life is worth every bit of it.

    On the second matter, I see your point, but Florida’s demographics are not the same as, say, Los Angeles, Houston, or Chicago. Statistics of Florida don’t immediately apply to the rest of the country.

    And on the same level, I think numbers of student/faculty gun carriers will change depending on the demograpics and the state. I think much more would have to go into analyzing such a policy.

  • On the first note, I don’t think inconvenience as reason to oppose those laws. I’m just as sure that criminals obtain guns from private gun sales and that the small inconvenience one might pay in the hobby of collecting guns, if it could potentially save one life is worth every bit of it.

    I see your point, though at the same time — if Criminal A has a gun he wants to sell to Criminal B, and the state in question requires that private party sales be made through a dealer, I strongly doubt that the criminals in question would feel they needed to go over to the dealer and subject themselves to a background check and waiting period. I’d have to look the statistics up, but according to nationwide statistics slightly over half the guns used in all crimes are already obtained illegally.

    So I think often gun owners (myself included) feel like these laws simply make us jump through useless hoops, while doing very little to actually keep guns out of the hands of criminals. That said, if a law really would be successful in keeping guns out of criminals hands, I personally think it’s worth some inconvenience to achieve that.

    On the second matter, I see your point, but Florida’s demographics are not the same as, say, Los Angeles, Houston, or Chicago. Statistics of Florida don’t immediately apply to the rest of the country.

    Agreed, though due especially to the drug trade Florida has plenty of crime in some areas. Still, though I’d have to hunt for more data, I think you’ll find that people with concealed carry permits are absolutely the safest people you could possibly deal with in regards to guns. (Also, it’s hard to compare as Chicago, DC, New York, and Los Angeles all have incredibly restrictive gun laws compared to most other parts of the country. The concealed carry approach has not been tried in any of those places.)

    Gun training, background check, and knowledge of the world of trouble you’d be in for mis-using the gun ought to be roughly the best combination of factors for reducing people’s likelihood of committing crimes.

  • “I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.”

    Well, sure, but emotional reactions work both ways. If we already have concealed carry permits under state law which allow people to carry everywhere else in the state, why should colleges and universities be different? If you think there are ‘other ills’ that we are blind to here, shouldn’t we see those ills everywhere else in the state?

    If you are against concealed carry laws, then maybe the question is irrelevant, but otherwise I do not see why a university campus is significantly different than a block away from a university campus. If anything, university students and faculties are less likely to be criminally dangerous. To me the suspension of an otherwise valid concealed carry permit on university grounds seems more emotional (no guns in our pristine intellectual utopia!) than rational, but I would be willing to revise that view if there is empirical support for the ban.

  • Wow, I can’t believe this thread has been up for nearly a whole day, and Michael Iafrate hasn’t posted a kneejerk leftist response. (For someone who seems to think the most important thing in the world is to question the assumptions and beliefs that come naturally to you, he never shows the slightest openmindedness about questioning his own leftist beliefs. Anyone who disagrees with him is the enemy.)

  • Happy Advent, S.B.

  • I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.

    The question isn’t necessarily are we reacting to a single incident (though I agree that many, many, many reams of paper with worthless blots of ink have been forced through legislatures everywhere in response to single incidents), but whether the single incident is indicative of a larger trend. Part of the problem with trying to learn if arming the campus deters shootings is that there isn’t much evidence one way or another. But from the one incident that we have, we can speculate that either a) having guns nearby did nothing to deter the shooter, as he still shot and killed several people or b) having guns nearby allowed several students to halt the shooting before it became a massacre.

    Frankly, I’m of the opinion that allowing guns on campus and keeping legal in all places the right to carry a conceal weapon are suitable deterrents for crime. Attempting a crime becomes like playing Russian roulette. Will there be a bullet in the chamber, or won’t there? Granted, some will take the risk anyway, just as some will still obtain guns illegally and commit crimes that way. At this point, I feel it becomes a number game determining which methods decrease deaths the most.

    The problem, of course, is that no gun law is going to solve all the problems. Fallen human nature, and all that. I know from personal experience that it is very, very frustrating to have to deal with inconvenient legalities, and it isn’t because they’re inconvenient. Rather, it is like being treated like a criminal when I haven’t committed any crime, while the legal nonsense does nothing to prevent real criminals from doing what they will, anyway. That sense of being judged before any crime has been committed has, I think, more implications than simply us crying out in frustration about punishing those who obey the law, while doing nothing to stop those who break the law.

    However, I don’t feel that such limitations as: licensing, background checks, waiting periods, and bringing a gun by at least the county office after a private sale are beyond reason. Mark is exactly right when he describes guns as instruments of killing. While I disagree with him as to whether or not a Catholic can/should own a gun, I do feel that it is important to keep in mind that a gun is a weapon. The gravity of that fact demands a healthy respect for guns. To that effect, I believe every gun owner needs to be licensed (just like anyone who drives a car needs to be licensed); I believe a background check is important, especially since it is against federal law for a felon to own a gun, or to provide a felon with a gun (so a bit of cya there); I think a waiting period is a good idea to help with those few cases where someone might need a day or two to calm down before he actually receives his gun; and I think a gun should come with a title, like a car, that has to be transferred to the new owner with a minimum sale of $1.00 (so you can then go down to the county office and pay your $0.06 tax).

  • 24 to 48 hour waiting periods. I’ve encountered opposition to this idea and I’ve been told (I wouldn’t be surprised) that some politicians actually vote against such laws. Common sense would suggest that if a person cannot wait two measely days to get a gun, perhaps it would be prudent to think twice about giving it to them.

    I remember watching an interview once with a woman who had sought to buy a gun in a locality with a waiting period, and then was attacked and raped during the waiting period. In that case, at least, a waiting period turned out to be pretty harmful.

    Now you might say that such occurances are rare. And you’re probably right. But then cases where someone goes to buy a gun in order to kill someone and then changes his mind about it during the waiting period aren’t that common either. In fact, it is not obvious that cases of the former type are not more common than cases of the latter type. And unless one can establish that the latter sort of case is more common than the former, then the justification for the law would seem to be rather weak, even aside from considerations of inconvenience.

  • I wonder what Saint Gabriel Possenti would have to say?

    http://www.gunsaint.com/

  • As a friend of mine said….

    When seconds count, the police are only minutes– or hours– away.

  • blackadderiv-
    I’ve heard of a couple of cases where the dead woman was found with a card that indicated she had a restraining order aginst the murderer, and that she was to pick up her handgun the next day….

    Yeah, worked great, eh?

  • “I’ve heard of a couple of cases where the dead woman was found with a card that indicated she had a restraining order aginst the murderer”

    How true Foxfier. I’ve often been in court when judges issue orders of protection. The judges usually admonish the petitioners that the orders of protection are merely pieces of paper and that they still need to take precautions for their safety. The police will often tell people that they cannot guard them twenty-four hours a day. A gun is often the only means by which a physically weaker potential victim, usually a woman, has any chance against a stronger assailant.

  • I can think of a few people in the old testament who, not only owned weapons of killing, but were commanded by God to use them swiftly.

    *picks up the indiana jones whip he got for christmas and wonders… wwjd*

  • If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
    Also, if Catholics don’t own guns, only non-Catholics will own guns.

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