A gun control debate with Matt Springer

Given that Matt and I are both gun enthusiasts, scientists, and bloggers, and we’re both interested in something being done to prevent mass shootings such as in Newtown, Aurora, and almost one dozen other locations in just the last few years, we decided to host a more formal debate on the issue. I’m taking the side of a more stringent policy specifically on certain types of firearms that I don’t believe should be freely-available to citizens, that is, magazine-fed semi-automatic handguns and rifles. This doesn’t mean I believe in a ban, but simply more barriers to purchase, and simple safety measures to prevent unauthorized use such as in the Newtown shootings. I will start, and Matt will respond in a few days.

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.

Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Tucson, and now Webster, among other mass shootings, have brought the issue of gun control regulation back into the public consciousness, and reignited what appeared to be a dead political debate on the issue of gun regulation. During the presidential debates, questions on gun control resulted in non-committal answers from both candidates, and a universal affirmation of 2nd amendment rights. In the face of 20 dead 6 and 7-year-olds, we can no longer deny that more needs to be done to prevent mass murder by guns. I say this as a gun owner.

The issue of gun control needs to be tailored to address two distinct types of gun violence. One is the mass killing that we have seen at unconscionable frequency over the last decade, the second is the “routine” gun violence associated with violent crime and murder that we experience every day. This gun violence has been tracked more intensively since Newtown, and one estimate from aggregation of news stories is that since Newtown, an additional 588 gun deaths have occurred as of 1/5/13, largely homicides (suicides are more rarely reported). That is approximately one Newtown of deaths daily, but less obvious as the deaths are spread out geographically.

To address these two problems I would propose two major federal restrictions on gun ownership.

(1) Significant restrictions on civilian ownership of magazine-fed semi-automatic weapons is the best way to decrease the frequency, and severity of mass violence.

A criminal background check would be only the start of an evaluation for ownership of these types of weapons, which I believe should include both magazine-fed rifles and magazine-fed handguns, such as used at Virginia Tech, in which a shooter managed to kill almost 30 people in about 10 minutes. These weapons should be restricted to adults over age 21 (or possibly older – Israel restricts possession to 27 if the owner has not served in the military). Sale should require gun safety training certification that is provided by law enforcement (I have received such training and it is useful), or a history of military service, and a subsequent license to own such weapons. These licenses should require renewal every three to five years with repetition of criminal background check, and verification that the weapons are still in the licensee’s possession. Purchasers should have to provide a reason for ownership. It doesn’t have to be a great reason but it has to be better than “I want one.” Sport shooting, hunting, etc., would be legitimate reasons. Preparation for an incipient race war should raise red flags. When not in use the weapons must be stored in a gun safe or trigger locked (or built in fire lock) with civil and criminal liability if the gun is then used by unauthorized persons (children, criminals etc.) who obtained the guns without some minimum barrier to access. Additionally, we should consider adopting strategies used by other countries, such as requiring two other adult, non-criminal citizens known to the individual to “vouch” in a sworn statement that the individual seeking the weapon is an upstanding citizen, not a criminal, and not obviously dangerous (this might have prevented Virginia Tech, Aurora, or the Giffords shooting). Magazines larger than 10 rounds should be illegal, period. Round-stamping technology should be required for all newly manufactured firearms that allows shells to be traced to the weapon that fired it. New weapons should be manufactured with built-in fire lock mechanisms to prevent unauthorized use.

(2) All transfers of firearms should be accompanied by the same level of scrutiny as purchase of a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer (an FFL). Guns, like cars, should effectively be titled, so that transfer of firearms results in a background check of the purchaser, paperwork accompanies transfer, and when guns end up in the hands of criminals, as they do every single day, the source of the firearm can be effectively tracked, and the supplier of the firearm to the criminal market punished. Right now, every day, firearms are purchased for sale into the black market. There is almost no investigation of guns back to their source because the NRA has effectively lobbied to make such tracking impossible. This only serves to benefit gun manufacturers, it does not benefit public safety, or law-abiding gun owners, to make it so anyone can dump a gun onto the criminal market with impunity. There is no federal requirement for such background checks, or requirements for records of such sales, and most states do not require any scrutiny of private sale of firearms. While it is illegal to sell weapons to felons, or to the underaged, it’s only illegal to do so “knowingly”, and without background checks, and without a paper trail, these laws are virtually unenforceable. Hence, a thriving illegal gun market that ensures no one, even a criminal, has any difficulty obtaining a firearm. Finally, all gun thefts must be reported to law enforcement (currently not required in all states).

First, let’s address the issue of mass violence.

While it’s true that madmen will always find ways to hurt others, it is clear that ready access to machines designed to kill masses of people have increased the severity of these incidents. A concurrent incident in China, in which a man attacked schoolchildren with a knife, and stabbed 22, was notable for no fatalities. It should be common sense, that machines designed for easy and rapid killing will make mass killing easier, hence safeguards should be in place to prevent easy access to such machines. Such safeguards will not prevent all killing. And much is made by gun rights lobbyists of this fact, but that is not the point. The point is decreasing the severity of such assaults; making it harder, making it rarer for the deranged to kill en masse.

Mass violence is not just a problem in the United States. Similar incidents have occurred in other countries, even mass shootings in countries with significant restrictions similar to what I would advocate. However, the experience of other countries is less in frequency and severity. Yes, other countries have mass violence despite strict gun control, even countries like Norway. However, no other comparable industrialized country has gun violence similar to ours. No you can not compare the United States to Mexico. No, gun control is never perfect. No, we can not prevent all murder, all mass murder, or all violent crime, but we can decrease the death toll.

The recent mass shootings have been had one factor in common. The shooter had access to a magazine-fed semi-automatic weapon (see this google spreadsheet for a summary – the overwhelming majority of the time, semi-automatic weapons have been used for these shootings in the last decade). Fully-automatic weapons – weapons that fire automatically as long as the trigger is depressed – have been banned since 1934. This is an example of a legal, constitutional, federal restriction of a class of arms deemed too dangerous for civilian use. Now we see that semi-automatic magazine-fed weapons are clearly too dangerous for unregulated civilian ownership. These are the same weapons, after all, that we use to equip our military. They have only very questionable sport use, and no sport use requires the use of massive clips or the 100 round drum used by the Aurora shooter.

Restriction of these weapons, barriers to access, civil and criminal liability for negligent storage allowing access of the firearms to the unauthorized may not prevent all mass shootings. Considering how many are already out there, it may even be years or decades before there is an impact, but if that is the case so be it. The deaths from these mass murders, specifically using these types of firearms, is simply unacceptable, and unwillingness to do anything about access to these weapons is no longer a tenable position. It is total denial that we have a problem with access to death machines. We have to change the culture that considers easy access to such weapons acceptable, or civilized.

Second, the issue of guns in violent crime.

The gun lobby in the United States exists to serve gun manufacturers, not gun owners. Hence, they have lobbied extensively to prevent any laws that would result in loss of revenue from sale into illegal gun markets. Yes, I am that cynical about this. There is no good reason that every time a gun is used in a crime, that we shouldn’t be able to track that weapon back to it’s original purchaser. It wouldn’t even require some scary national gun registry that would have every gun nut crying 1984. It’s simple. Manufacturers sell a given firearm to a distributor or dealer. They know which weapons go to which dealer by a serial number which should be on multiple parts of each weapon, internally, (there also needs to be significant improvement in technology to prevent easy defacement of serial numbers, or other mechanisms of unique gun identification – this is possible with multiple existing technologies). One could even conceive of a system in which accessing an interior serial number results in permanent damage to the weapon rendering it useless if so disassembled. Whenever a gun is then used in a crime by someone who has no legal right to own or carry such a weapon (felons, minors, etc.), the police should send the serial number to the manufacturer, who identifies the dealer. The dealer will then have a record of the sale, and who the entry point into the criminal market is.

If a given dealer has a large proportion of weapons they sell entering the criminal market, they should undergo additional scrutiny, or possibly even lose their license. And this should be international. If Mexican drug cartels are found with weapons supplied by american distributors (which they are), those distributors should lose their ability to sell weapons. We have to stop acting as if we aren’t also enabling crime in other countries by the careless dumping of military hardware into other countries as well.

If private sale requires individuals to keep records (hell, you have to keep your tax records for 7 years, we could do as well with guns), and also to require a NCIS background check, any new gun could be traced to point of entry into the criminal market. If you can not explain where your gun went, you should be criminally liable for the act in which your gun was used as an accessory after the fact. To say we can not do this with existing technology, or that we should not devote serious effort for identifying the sources of the illegal gun trade, is simply pro-criminal.

Guns enter the streets every day after legitimate purchases from FFLs, gun shows, straw man sales and private sales. They also leave the streets every day from confiscations, warranted searches, and arrests. The illegal gun market needs continuous inputs of new guns to meet demand. It should also be noted the most recent Webster shooting was by a felon, who by definition has obtained these weapons illegally. I hope they track down whoever is responsible for him getting those guns, and they get put in jail for the murder of 4 firefighters.

We will never stop the routine gun violence we see in cities every day until we permanently disrupt the sale of firearms into the black market. Yes, older guns, guns before implementation of such regulations etc., will be impossible to track, but we can stop new firearms from entering the market, which they do, every single day, likely from a limited set of distributors and straw purchasers. Further, citing all the guns that are already out there as proof no restrictions will work assumes that most of the millions of law-abiding gun owners would routinely sell their firearms to criminals for profit – a notion I reject. These kinds of regulations will also put an additional onus on individual gun owners to take more responsibility for preventing the sale of weapons to criminals, and may even change the culture to reflect that transfer of a gun should be taken very seriously. This should not be a point of contention for gun owners, it should be a point of pride. People that supply weapons to the illegal market should be jailed for the same crime the criminal committed with the gun they bought.

Neither of these two strategies will prevent all gun crime, or all mass shootings. But they will make it harder. Making access more challenging, and giving those who seek access more scrutiny, will dissuade those who seek to do harm from even trying to obtain these weapons. It will not stop the most motivated of individuals, it will not stop all crime, but it will reduce the frequency and severity of the problem, as well as inject some much-needed responsibility into the existing gun markets. No other product that has potential for so much harm is sold with so little oversight, or even liability for misuse, theft or loss.

Finally, some arguments which I will not even acknowledge as worthy of attention:

1. The only thing that stops gun violence is “good guys” with guns – the argument we should arm teachers, arm principles, or place armed guards to prevent mass shootings in school. Or the even more obnoxious “when seconds count” argument.

This is a NRA fantasy. The idea that anyone who is not specifically trained in acting while under fire will prevent these types of shootings is absurd. The people that promote this have seen too many movies. The fact is, even trained police have enormous difficulty facing armed gunmen, hence SWAT teams. Previous incidents, such as the Columbine shootings, had armed individuals on site (an off duty deputy at Columbine), and they failed to stop the shooting, despite exchanging fire with shooters. One also recalls recent firefights with trained police against shooters in which the police ended up shooting more victims than the shooter. The fact is, some minimum-wage schlub, or teacher with a pea-shooter, will be more likely to shoot more kids than hit a gunman, and will not realistically stop this kind of shooting. You are not going to be able to equip all the schools in the country with adequately-trained armed individuals that have a snowball’s chance at stopping some armed lunatic with a semi-automatic. And don’t forget a shooter like in Aurora, who was wearing body armor.

Worse, this assumes the answer to this problem is an arms race, where we respond to the problem of too many guns with more guns, more fences, barbed wire, and higher walls. I don’t want to live in a country where the only solution to problems like these is imprisoning ourselves behind greater and greater security. This is a move in the wrong direction. The paranoid gun fantasy becomes self-promulgating in this situation, eventually the gun crazies will create the world the believe already exists, by virtue of putting guns in every corner, and barbed wire on every building. Yes, then it might become necessary for even teachers to be armed. What a sad world that would be.

2. You can kill someone with a frozen banana, hence assault weapons shouldn’t be banned.

I’m not kidding. I got this one on my blog. It generally goes, “well, you could just use a knife, people are going to kill people.” Well, ok then. Why shouldn’t we legalize C4 then? Fully automatic weapons? Tanks? Anthrax?

No, this is stupid. Making killing easy makes killing easy. Killing should be hard. It’s harder to kill with a knife than an AR-15. It’s harder to kill 20 schoolchildren in 10 minutes with a frozen banana than an assault weapon. Just because there’s more than one way to skin a cat doesn’t mean everyone should own an industrial cat-skinning machine that skins 1000 cats a minute.

3. The 2nd amendment protects us from tyranny.

Again, total fantasy. This is the big lie. There are any number of countries that don’t have our gun craziness that are not run by dictators. Tyranny is yelled so soon, and so often in these discussions that it’s meaningless. On my gun control thread the same person said that guns prevent tyranny and a minute later was talking about how Obama was a tyrant. Anyone see a problem with this? The idea that the US is anywhere near a tyrannical dictatorship is a joke. You people who think this are unreasonable and not worth arguing with, and should really consider looking at countries that actually have tyranny before getting on your free internet, in your free society, where you are free to buy hand cannons, monster trucks, and everyone has the right to vote, and you can chose any job you want, and go anywhere you want or even leave when you want, and start crying tyranny (and guess what – real tyrants don’t let you call them tyrants).

Also, the idea we can stand up to the US military? This is a legitimate threat to the military in the year 2013? Our military so far outclasses us that there is no chance some 10, or 100, or even 1000 person militia armed with AR-15s will be anything but a passing inconvenience. If a truly immoral tyrant came to power, in charge of a nuclear arsenal, sky robots, tanks and aircraft carriers, you aren’t going to stop them with your rifle. Red Dawn was not a documentary people, and you’re again in a fantasy world.

4. It’s crazy people that’s the problem, we need to track them, institutionalize them etc.

Well, maybe we need to swing the pendulum back towards more institutionalization for the mentally ill that are violent, Webster may be an example of this, but this is ultimately extremely challenging. Already, any psychiatrist who encounters someone who they believe is an imminent threat is allowed to notify police, or commit a person against their will. This is then subjected to oversight by a judge etc. We already have systems in place to deal with the mentally-ill and maybe this needs to be tightened. However, are we really capable of identifying who has this potential among the millions with mental illness in this country? Aren’t we scapegoating the mentally-ill who are more likely to be victims of violent crime, and in general, are less likely to commit violent crimes than sane people? I also find it interesting that the NRA, which considers itself a civil-rights organization, is so ready to deny what they consider the most important civil right to the mentally ill(? What kind of due-process is going to go into this?

The mentally-ill as a whole don’t deserve to be grouped with these killers any more than white people, or 18-20 year-olds. The overwhelming majority of the mentally-ill have no capacity for violence like this. It is also extremely difficult to prospectively identify people with this potential, so more than likely attempts to pin this on the mentally-ill are just going to victimize thousands of innocent people who already are demonized, marginalized, and ignored by our society. Now I know the gun crazies are going to say I’m suggesting they should be “victimized” like they’re criminals too. No, I’m saying you should have to do some goddamn paperwork, not that you should be institutionalized for being different, or unfortunate.

5. They already had an assault weapons ban, it didn’t work.

As Matt and I both have pointed out, the assault weapons bans as promoted by demagogues like Feinstein are a joke. They ban scary-looking guns but have no real effect on function or killing-capacity of a given weapon. They are political ploys, not real effective legislation. Anyone who thinks the 1994 assault weapons ban was going to do a damn thing wasn’t paying attention that the bill only regulated cosmetic features of these weapons, not the semi-automatic function, and not the rapid-reloading function, beyond banning clips with > 10 rounds.

6. It’s unconstitutional!

No, it’s not unconstitutional to regulate firearms, the words “well-regulated” are in the freaking amendment. The 1934 automatic weapons ban is constitutional. The stupid 1994 assault weapons ban was constitutional. The Supreme Court only seems to mind when you make it totally impossible to own almost any type of gun. I’m talking about making what is essentially military hardware harder, but not impossible to access, by civilians. Further I think it’s fine for any non-felon, sane civilian to own revolvers, breech-fed rifles and shotguns, and bolt-action weapons without these restrictions. You can still do harm with these weapons, true, but it’s much more difficult than with semi-automatic weapons that can take large-capacity magazines, or even 100-round drums as used in Aurora (which thankfully jammed after 30 rounds).

7. But Israel lets everyone carry guns and they don’t have school shootings.

You don’t know anything about Israel. I actually cribbed most of my suggestions from their gun laws, which require re-registration every 3 years, military service for ownership (before age 27), ammunition limitations etc. They have a great deal of regulation, however, and their citizenry have almost all served in the military – they might actually be able to do something about a shooter, unlike the the NRA fantasists who have most likely never faced a shot fired in anger.

8. It’s because we don’t have school prayer, the students should have rushed the gunman, it’s because God isn’t in schools, it’s video games, it’s feminists, it’s doctors, it’s anti-depressants, it’s the FBI using mind control etc.

Every time there is an incident like this the usual suspects gather to use tragedy to ghoulishly grind their favorite axe. These arguments are unhelpful, and just show how warped some people are by ideological agendas. I have no interest in engaging people who promote these theories as if they have anything valuable to say and I’m not having it on this thread.

Comments

  1. #1 phanmo
    January 9, 2013

    Seems like a reasonable idea to me… What would you suggest for the guns concerned that are already out there?

  2. #2 B Viglietta
    Beautiful Farm Country in Upstate New York
    January 9, 2013

    I truly hope the investigators will let the American public know immediately if and when they conclude that Adam Lanza had his Bushmaster set to fire in a fully automatic mode. Of course we should keep our regard for the feelings of the families very high. But the significance of such a fact in the consideration of gun use/control generally makes keeping it a secret wrong. If true, it should be disclosed without delay.

  3. #3 Cullen Tillotson
    United Kingdom
    January 9, 2013

    Mark – well written and I agree with most of your tenets (BTW, I live in the UK but am an American citizen and have been a gun owner since i was a young man, although my guns are now at my mother’s with trigger locks and a gun safe).

    phanmo – how about a buy-back like Australia? It was pretty successful. Lots of people who were borderline enthusiasts will likely go for this, although the hard core Alex Jones whackos won’t.

    B Viglietta – unlikely, and if he did it is unlikely the body count would be significantly changed either way. He was shooting from short range at non-moving victims. Full-auto wouldn’t have helped him.

  4. #4 Mark
    January 9, 2013

    B Viglietta, it is illegal for a citizen without an FFL to purchase a fully-automatic weapon since 1934. The weapon used in Newtown was a semi-automatic. It is possible to modify some weapons to become fully automatic after the fact, but this is, of course, also illegal, and somewhat difficult to do. Much of the tragedy here comes from the fact that such effective weapons are legal and so readily available, and that there is no requirement that when not in use such weapons be stored properly and safely. Hence, a mentally-disturbed 20-year-old was able to access the weapons, shoot his mother, and go on a rampage. It’s hard to know without all the facts yet, but it is suggestive of some pretty severe negligence in storage of those arms.

    Phanmo, I’m not particularly worried about most guns that are out there already. Like I said, I don’t think that the majority of law-abiding owners would willingly sell into the black market, it’s likely a subset of dealers that are responsible for the black market. Interestingly, our congress has specifically forbidden the ATF from aggregating data on which dealers are responsible for the black market purchases, and while this data was initially public, they eliminated public access to prevent people from collecting data to determine where the source of the problem is. We essentially have members of congress protecting a criminal enterprise because it benefits this industry. And their names are Inhofe and the now retired Todd Tiahrt, who made it impossible to research and study where the problem dealers are. You can read about the Tiahrt amendments here, they’ve been revised to be a bit better in 2010, but still work needs to be done to allow law enforcement to truly be able to make criminal dealers responsible for illegal gun sales. These restrictions need to be completely eliminated so that law enforcement has no restrictions on its ability to tie guns in crimes to sales from “legitimate” dealers. This is how we fight shooters like the Webster shooter.

    Finally, I think requiring gun locks, safes etc., for firearms not in use can do a lot to prevent the unauthorized access to guns such as those used by the Newtown shooter.

  5. #5 Jarred Davidsom
    Taiwan
    January 9, 2013

    Nice article. I created a short gun control dark satire video on youtube and would like to leave a link to your article in the description- with your permission.

    Here’s the vid link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxU-k4D-uvw

    I would set it up as follows: For a deeper, more sober look into this complex issue, check out this article by Matt Spring (link).

    Let me know.

    Thanks!!

    J

  6. #6 Mark
    January 9, 2013

    Except I’m not Matt Springer

  7. #7 bobh
    January 9, 2013

    Why would your limitations have any impact on what happened in Conn? The mother who bought the guns her sone used could have gotten them just as easily under your “limitations”. (And you have to say why you want before you get – really? That’s a limitation?) As Stanley McChristall puts it , soldiers need these weapons, citizens don’t. As a parent I made it clear to my children that want is not need. I drove an M1A1 tank once, it was fun. But I don’t need one. No one needs these weapons they just want them. The needs of a civilized society sometimes outweigh the wants of some of its citizens. The only way to deal with this is to make them inaccessible (yes I know nothing is 100%) to anyone but soldiers on active duty.

  8. #8 LH
    January 9, 2013

    The problem I see with all of these, coming from another gun owner who does feel weapons are all too easily obtainable for criminal acts, is that they mostly address the symptom rather than the cause, and so would probably be ineffective. Gun violence is a symptom of the society in which we live; it is not the cause of our society.

    You say it’s wrong to compare America with Mexico. Why? It is no less wrong to compare America with Israel (or Japan, or England, or …). Each country has a unique culture, history, social fabric, diversity, etc. Given the incredibly high correlation between income inequality and violent crime, America is much more like Mexico, and other high crime countries, than we are like pretty much every other developed country.

    For a good primer on the link between inequality and crime, see here:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2012/07/26/the-jokers-wild/

    Which then links to a few studies, and then you can see their references, etc, etc, etc.

    Without addressing this underlying cause of most gun killings (I realize I switched from saying correlation earlier to cause here, but I think we can all see a plausible causal relationship), you’re just wasting your time.

    As for the mass murders, I do agree that steps like you mention would be helpful. But if the goal is minimizing gun deaths, we need to look at how most gun deaths occur. Please note that I do agree with the larger point that reducing the killings by even a small margin is better than doing nothing at all.

    A potentially great way to drastically reduce violence, rather than resorting to tinkering at the margins like I feel these proposals are, is removing lead from our environment. See this excellent investigative journalism from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones for more on the lead-crime link:

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

    And this is getting long now, but please bear with me. I do also worry that onerous regulations could have the perverse effect of keeping guns out of the hands of people who most need them for self/home defense. We liberals love to talk about onerous voter ID laws preventing a segment of the population from voting, primarily the poor and/or those lacking transportation. These are people who oftentimes live in the most crime-ridden areas of cities. So it’s fair to say that similarly onerous gun laws may also prevent this segment of the population from defending themselves. As much as Democrats hate to admit it, guns are used hundreds, if not thousands, of times per year in self-defense. I realize here you run into problems like the “stand your ground” laws of what exactly constitutes defense vs agression, which just goes to show how complex an issue this is. So we shouldn’t Do Something! just for the sake of Doing Something!

    Finally, I hate to wear the tin foil hat, but Americans 4th and 5th Amendment rights have basically been thrown away, and the government is steadily chipping away at the 1st as well (see: designated free speech zones for activists, which not coincidentally are set up far from the activity rallied against).

    Is it really that inconceivable that citizens could at some point need to take up arms against their own country, even in America? We’ve already had one civil war. It’s not like there’s one defining event where a democratic society suddenly becomes a theocracy ruled by a tyrant; it’s a gradual erosion of freedoms that most people don’t notice until it’s too late. Not every society has been doomed by civil war, but every society had collapsed; it’s a matter of when America will, not if.

    And the fact that the armed forces have such greater weaponry may be irrelevant. I know many people have seen the classic study that showed most soldiers aimed to miss when fighting against a hated foreign enemy. Do you really think most members of our armed forces could so easily be turned against their own countrymen, their families, friends, and neighbors? I’m not nearly as worried about a conflict between civilians and the armed forces as I am about a conflict between different factions of citizens, where members of the armed forces would most likely fall in line with their faction, not be their own separate coalition that chooses to intervene on behalf of one of the other factions.
    /tin foil hat rant.

    As an avid –
    hunter and owner of several guns,
    a libera/libertarian leaning personality,
    son of two people who work in schools and friend of several others,
    and friend of someone whose father, just a few days before Sandy Hook, bought a gun and committed suicide despite an extensive history of depression –

    I’ve thought about guns a ton and am incredibly conflicted, bouncing back and forth based on the day. So to anyone who made it all the way through, thanks!

  9. #9 jane
    January 9, 2013

    Much of this seems very reasonable. However, first, I fear that you’re adopting a new version of the Feinstein “ban the scary-looking models [first]” approach. We own a .22 pistol for target shooting that has a modern semi-automatic mechanism, and therefore is clip-fed (a clip is inserted into the grip, a magazine is a separate object). It takes 10 rounds. It’s long-barreled and not particularly concealable. My husband used to own a six-shot .45 ACP revolver. Which do you think he’d have grabbed if our home were invaded? If the latter can do more damage, why should the former be banned because of its mechanism of operation?

    Also, if registration is ever to be acceptable to America’s gun owners, they must have some reason to believe it is not a set-up for confiscation. American politics are so polarized that there is a tendency on both ends of every issue to treat opponents as evil subhumans who cannot be reasoned with. (For a gentle example see, #3 above, your ad hominems towards people who think, probably correctly, that small arms would be useful to their communities in case there is ever a war on this land again, which history tells us is virtually 100% certain.) If gun owners accept a gigantic concession, such as registration of all guns that they’ll be allowed to keep, will that be recognized as an olive branch offered by tens of millions of Americans who are willing to compromise because they care about their fellow Americans’ safety too? Or will those whose beliefs include hatred and contempt for gun-owning rural folks and red-staters interpret that sacrifice as political weakness and think that the forces of evil must be on the ropes, so it’s the perfect time to start pounding them harder?

  10. #10 Bruce J Mitchell
    United States
    January 9, 2013

    Facts are:
    -There are many assault type firearms out there already.
    -If you bought it from a citizen (no FFL) there is no record.
    -Banned mentally ill persons are only those adjudicated MI in public records.
    -Schools, malls and other places of assembly are under detected and protected.

  11. #11 David Wells
    January 9, 2013

    A weapon can’t be “clip-fed.” Ammunition can be loaded more quickly into a weapon using a clip, and a magazine can be fixed within a firearm. Likewise a clip can be loaded as a whole unit into a fixed magazine, but then it is the magazine that is feeding the ammunition.

  12. #12 MarkH
    January 9, 2013

    Bruce, I addressed each of those points pre-emptively. Do you want to try to actually arguing with them, rather than restating the exact same arguments over and over?

    Briefly:
    Just because there’s lots of guns out there doesn’t mean that citizens are going to readily give them to the black market or unauthorized persons. Requiring them to be stored in a safe way, and for future sales to require an FFL, will help prevent further entry into the black market.

    Two, there is no way we could train enough people adequately to provide a deterrent or security to prevent these shootings.

    David, sorry if I was shoddy in my terminology. I frequently switch to clip-fed even though I know it’s wrong (or “controversial” according to wikipedia) because I’m just used to using the word “clip”.

  13. #13 Matt Springer
    January 9, 2013

    B Viglietta, it is illegal for a citizen without an FFL to purchase a fully-automatic weapon since 1934.

    It’s possible in principle if you have a lot of money to burn. There’s a lot of expensive bureaucratic hoops to jump through. But the main barrier is that all such firearms are required to be registered, and the registry was closed to new firearms in 1986. This has caused prices of pre-1986 transferable firearms to jump into the five-figure-plus range.

    But yes, in practice it’s a de-facto ban. (And one of the reasons people like me are skeptical of registries – they can be closed.)

  14. #14 Jesse
    January 9, 2013

    I have one idea that is a) simple b) doesn’t impinge on anyone’s right to own a gun.

    No concealed carry. Ever. That’s it.

    The only reason to conceal the fact that you have a weapon is to get the drop on someone. You want to carry a gun? Great, but do it in the open where I can see you and remember to stay away. Loud and proud, I say, if you think having a gun is so damned important.

    If you show your gun, nobody will mug you, right? Oh, wait, you don’t want the muggers to go after the unarmed, so you want to fool them in the hopes of shooting one? If that’s the case, you should not be trusted with a sharp object like a fork.

    Anyhow, point is, I’d have no problem with ticketing people for not showing the guns they carry, so the rest of us know who to avoid.

    As to protecting people’s rights with an armed populace: there’s a long list of countries where the populace is armed and it doesn’t protect anyone’s rights. See: Somalia, Yugoslavia (as it disintegrated), The Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Mexico… all these places have high rates of gun ownership and t least two have petty warlords running huge swaths of the country. Because when you arm everybody, you make it rather easy for a little petty warlord to arise. Democracy doesn’t tend to do well in those places. But rich and powerful people seem to be ok with it, since petty warlords are often venal. Want to mine diamonds with slave labor? Hey, your friendly neighborhood group of thugs with guns is happy to oblige, for a fee.

    In the US in particular, armed insurrection hasn’t been particularly successful. More to the point, it hasn’t taken the shape that people who say an armed populace will stop tyrants seem to assume it would.

    The idea that an armed populace scares tyrants is sort of silly anyway. Many if not most countries that have dictators have had large gun-owning populations. What scares dictators is an organized political movement. Yes, an armed one is a bigger problem for them, but that’s different than a whole bunch of individuals with guns. And the possession of arms was not a prerequisite to organizing.

    in the countries I am aware of that had dictators take over– Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Zaire, Uganda — there are plenty more — disarming the populace was not a priority. The Pinochet dictatorship did not go around confiscating weapons. Nor did the Taliban, nor Qaddafi. Why not? Because an armed populace in itself simply isn’t a problem. Qaddafi didn’t last for 40 years because the people had no guns, he lasted because he was a master politician who kept the opposition off balance politically while engaged in repressive behavior like jailing and executing people.

    Insurrection just doesn’t work like it does in the movies. Nor do dictatorships. The way revolutionary movements appear is much, much more complicated, as is the way governments engage in repression. Why threaten to shoot someone when you can threaten their livelihood instead? Why court violent reactions when there are a thousand small ways to keep control?

    Yes, many constitutional rights in the US are under attack. But an armed populace isn’t going to restore them. Political organizing will. And here’s a thought: any government is perfectly happy to arm everyone if it means nobody ever organizes real political movements.

  15. #15 LH
    January 9, 2013

    Jesse:

    “Oh, concealed carry is illegal now? I guess I’ll stop”
    – no criminal, ever

    How would this law be enforced? Everyone NOT openly carrying gets stopped and frisked?

    Also, it gives criminals great targets because they now know for sure who to avoid.

  16. #16 Bruce J Mitchell
    USA
    January 9, 2013

    Answer to Mark H- Agree , citizens are not going to give weapons up and as I indicated, nobody knows who has many of these assault weapons. It would do no good going door to door to collect weapons. As far as schools, malls, etc., entrances can be limited, equipped with metal detectors and armed guards. Because we cannot go backwards to a gun free society, we must find ways to protect the public from mass shootings and find ways to identify potential shooters, this will not be easy and will violate personal privacy. Did anybody know Lanza’s fantasy before he acted? And, he could borrow or steal the weapon of choice to carry it out .

  17. #17 Jesse
    January 9, 2013

    @LH — I answered your second point already. But let’s look at it this way: Yes, they won’t attack someone with a gun, which is sort of the point. If you’re worried about them going after people who don’t carry, then fine: let everyone carry one openly and there won’t be any targets left. But saying that you want concealed carry to protect all those folks who dont’ want to carry one is sort of silly.

    Secondly, I don’t think making concealed carry illegal is as hard as you state, since in New York it’s illegal already — for knives and such. People get arrested all the time and that gets tacked on. You could easily say that you can’t stop someone on that suspicion alone, just as they do for seat belt violations in some states. (You’ll notice that in those cases they stop you for speeding and then tack on the seat belt violation).

    The point I made still stands: you hide your weapon to surprise someone. You only need to do that as an aggressor, unless you’re hoping someone attacks you so you can surprise them and go all Charles Bronson.

  18. #18 Lance
    Ca
    January 9, 2013

    It seems like you are only looking at gov solutions. There was a class offered to teachers who wanted gun training and who we’d like to have a firearm at school. 200 teachers showed up. Why does the gov have to b ur solution. There r retired police officers and military who could do a great job.

  19. #19 Lance
    January 9, 2013

    We have tried the gun ban way and it did not stop gun violence. People r saying “more guns is not the answer. Having an armed guard is not the answer”. Well banning we tried. Why not start allowing guns in these gun free zones and see if it works. Israel has it and sure seems to keep the children safe. It just doesn’t fit the liberal agenda. If it is really about child safety and not political then try it. We have evidence that were there r places with guards there is less violence. What is the problem with trying it since we never have.

  20. #20 barron pilgrim
    cola sc
    January 9, 2013

    what needs to be controlled is the movie industry, not the guns, but the movies that that encourage killing such as jack preacher and others, weak minds take that to heart.

  21. #21 Todd Meyer
    Madison WI
    January 9, 2013

    Are you willing to subject all of your rights to this level of regulation. In order to write a blog you should have a legitimate reason- not because you have something to say, need someone to vouch for you, have to register every few years, etc.

    We should value our rights and protect them from infringement dearly rather than so easily give them up. The debate should be about violence and not restricting our second amendment rights.

  22. #22 Mark
    January 9, 2013

    Why would your limitations have any impact on what happened in Conn?

    For that I would suggest the several unauthorized access restrictions I discussed, such as requiring storage of such weapons in safes when not in use, trigger-lock mechanisms etc. Many times with these mass shootings the guns are stolen from family members, as in this case. Note that in the Connecticut instance, guns did not protect Lanza’s mother from aggression. Her own guns were turned on her. I worry that at the bottom of this incident we will find negligent storage with potential access to these arms by a mentally-unstable person.

    My husband used to own a six-shot .45 ACP revolver. Which do you think he’d have grabbed if our home were invaded? If the latter can do more damage, why should the former be banned because of its mechanism of operation?

    Try shooting 50 people in 10 minutes with a six-shot. One of the weapons Cho used at VT was a .22 Walther. A .22 can be pretty damn deadly too. It’s not always about the caliber, after all, shotguns are incredibly deadly, but I wouldn’t even significantly regulate them under this scheme, because it’s very hard to go on a mass rampage with a revolver or a breech weapon. Yeah, you could still kill some people. But you can’t plug in a 100-round drum and drop 30 rounds in under a minute.

    It seems like you are only looking at gov solutions. There was a class offered to teachers who wanted gun training and who we’d like to have a firearm at school. 200 teachers showed up. Why does the gov have to b ur solution. There r retired police officers and military who could do a great job.

    Think through this. Teachers might be trained to shoot a gun straight, but shooting under fire? Do you have any idea what that is like? It’s why we send soldiers to boot camp, train them extensively, and it’s still incredibly difficult to do, even for extensively trained civilian forces like police. At Columbine, notably, an off duty deputy who was assigned to be at the school during the day, exchanged fire with the shooters and was unable to prevent the incident from continuing. Further, most parents and districts will simply not tolerate teachers carrying guns in schools. It is unlikely the intervention will cover even a small minority of schools.

    The idea we’re going to secure our school by putting more guns in them, giving them to teachers, or principles, or even armed guards is ludicrous. You can not prevent shooting incidents like these with an armed teacher who has never faced a shot fired in anger. You can not possibly pay for, or staff schools with the number or types of guards that would have adequate training to reasonably be able to stop an armed gunman with a semi-automatic rifle. What you’ll end up with is basically bank guards, underpaid wage workers who will be as likely to hide when the shooting starts as any other civilian, armed or not.

    It’s a fantasy. Give up.

    what needs to be controlled is the movie industry, not the guns, but the movies that that encourage killing such as jack preacher and others, weak minds take that to heart.

    This is idiotic. I’m sorry. I said I wasn’t going to put up with this crap. Do you really think that Batman made Aurora happen? Or that someone violently disturbed as that would have found something, anything to confine his psychotic perception of the world to? Do you really think it’s Taxi Driver that’s to blame for Brady and Reagan being shot? Or poor Jodi Foster? Was the Matrix responsible for the Beltway shooters because one of them loved that movie? Many more people see these movies than become mass murderers, the link is pretty tenuous. Crazy people latch onto things in pop culture. It’s what they do. It’s not the pop culture making them crazy.

    We have tried the gun ban way and it did not stop gun violence. People r saying “more guns is not the answer. Having an armed guard is not the answer”. Well banning we tried. Why not start allowing guns in these gun free zones and see if it works. Israel has it and sure seems to keep the children safe. It just doesn’t fit the liberal agenda. If it is really about child safety and not political then try it. We have evidence that were there r places with guards there is less violence. What is the problem with trying it since we never have.

    You didn’t read a single word I wrote did you? The previous ban was not a ban. Follow either of the links in 5 for an explanation. Second, I’m not suggesting a ban, in any form. Just tightening access, regulation on storage, and restrictions on private sale. Third, read #7 on Israel. They have pretty much all the regulation I am suggesting in this post.

    As far as schools, malls, etc., entrances can be limited, equipped with metal detectors and armed guards. Because we cannot go backwards to a gun free society, we must find ways to protect the public from mass shootings and find ways to identify potential shooters, this will not be easy and will violate personal privacy. Did anybody know Lanza’s fantasy before he acted? And, he could borrow or steal the weapon of choice to carry it out .

    No, no, no, no, no. This is not the way we’re going to go. Sorry. The answer isn’t to make every public journey require a trip through a TSA line. That’s frankly the sickest suggestion I’ve ever heard. We should basically give up on privacy, give up on public safety, and instead submit to government search in every public place? Screw that.

    We can not respond to this problem by hiding behind taller walls, barbed wire fences, and TSA screening to go to the public park. There is no way to place adequately-trained armed guards to prevent incidents like these everywhere, who would pay for it? This is what the police are for. We don’t need to go gun free to prevent mass shootings. I’m not suggesting that. I’m just saying we need to get smarter about access to these kinds of weapons. No military hardware for civilians without significant scrutiny. That’s a pretty moderate suggestion people.

    Are you willing to subject all of your rights to this level of regulation. In order to write a blog you should have a legitimate reason- not because you have something to say, need someone to vouch for you, have to register every few years, etc.

    We should value our rights and protect them from infringement dearly rather than so easily give them up. The debate should be about violence and not restricting our second amendment rights.

    Does my blog have the potential to kill 30 people in a minute? I love the free speech comparisons for two reasons. First, speech is significantly regulated by government. Any lawyer will tell you, depending on the type of speech, such as political vs commercial, there is room for regulations on where and when you can say it, as well as in the truth content. For instance, if I’m selling product x, I can’t say it does y unless I have some kind of proof. I can’t offer a money-back guarantee and then not honor it. This is known as fraud. Hence, commercial speech is subjected to far more regulation. Even political and religious speech is subject to considerable regulation. Try, for instance, having a spontaneous protest of 10,000 people in the middle of Washington DC (try Lafayette park for a real laugh) on the spur of the moment. You will all be arrested, rightly, by the police for not obtaining the proper permits that allow you to assemble 10,000 people in one place for political speech. The state has a compelling interest in such requirements because they are responsible for maintaining public safety, functioning transport etc., and your speech is going to go and screw all that up. Hence permits. Then there is the old yelling “fire!” in the movie theater example. Yes if your speech puts people in imminent danger, it is in fact, illegal. Not even getting into civil liability for lying, publishing advice that results in harm, etc. Speech is a terrible example of some unregulated phenomenon. If guns were regulated like speech, there would be a sensible framework limiting access based on the relative danger of a weapon. So yes Todd, I think it would be great if guns were regulated like speech.

    The second reason I love the comparison is just the pure nuttiness of it all. The day blogs routinely cause traffic jams and riots, or cause the death of 20 6-year-olds, will be the day we might need to consider permits for blogging. Give me a break.

  23. #23 Anonymous
    January 9, 2013

    But i still see the biggest issue. And so far it has been impossible to do anything about since the 1934 fully-automatic ban. People will kill someone if they really want to, it doesn’t have to be a high-powered gun. and even with the 1934 ban, there is still the black market. one way or another someone is able to get one of these high-powered guns. and with these limitations, all it hurts is the law-abiding citizens. criminals will get there hands on what they want no matter what. Sure the thing is ILLEGAL, but since when do criminals, murderers, and other law-breakers care about legal and illegal? I know that they won’t ban all guns, only these weapons of war. but i worry about being able to defend myself from a weapon of war with the nice and polite citizen gun.

    • #24 Mark
      January 10, 2013

      Multiple times we’ve discussed the fact this is not a valid argument. Just because there is more than one way to do something doesn’t mean that every single weapon of death should be readily available. Please explain how this argument can’t be used to justify the legalization of C4? Weaponized anthrax?

      And Kevin, you have nothing useful to contribute but schizophrenic rants. I’m deleting all your posts.

  24. #25 Greg
    Canada
    January 9, 2013

    You say your are a gun owner. This is very gruesome to say but you the gun crazy non-human who did this terrible thing to those dear little kids and adults. If that person who did the killings had even a 686 357 magnum and loaded to the hilt with speed loaders and had those poor humanbeing trap the way that gunman did it wouldn’t give the police time to help them . It would be over and the dead count would be just as bad. If you are a gun owner you know how fast that wheel gun can be loaded and fired. tO HERE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY its not safe to have ploiceman on the street. Sorry that’s what i got from your speech. I was in the army also. It is not a safe world. Deal with it.

  25. #26 xbarronx
    California
    January 9, 2013

    I have a simple solution that might be acceptable to all those in favor of strict gun control laws. Make the use of a gun during a crime punishable by life imprisonment. If the criminal’s plan was to commit a crime using a gun, then they have planned to deprive someone of their life and therefore should be prepared to relinquish their freedom for the rest of their natural lives. Of course, there will be some that consider this a poor plan in that we would have to build many additional prisons to house all of the scum, but we could get around this issue by sending our work oversieas just like the American jobs that our government has no problem doing. I’m sure some country would be more than happy to accept a contract that I am sure would be less than what we pay to lavish luxuries on these scum.

  26. #27 xbarronx
    California
    January 9, 2013

    Although, let’s be serious and punish those that have been convicted of actually using that gun in a felonious manner, and not someone that was merely ignorant of some states carry laws.

  27. #28 Anonymous
    January 10, 2013

    @Mark

    C4 and bio-weapons were nowhere in my statement. i apologize for neglecting to have that in there, however i do agree that those weapons should be banned, however i made a comment towards firearms, as you titled your article. Now I’m not saying that gattling guns, MGL’s, SAW’s and other heavy firearms are things to made legal. I do agree however with the full-auto ban. My solution to the automatic’s would be for a harder conversion? I’m getting off-track here. My main point is that I’m saying banning semi-auto Rifles isn’t the right choice. However, i draw the line up to a certain caliber, by no reason should any civilian need a 50 caliber rifle.

  28. #29 Anonymous
    January 10, 2013

    @Anonymous

    Ah i also missed one of your questions in your comment, i apologize for that as well. Explosives are beyond overkill, my reason as to how it could not work towards explosives, is that C4 and Bio-weapons are not to be considered anywhere near home and personal defense. Those are weapons for destruction and massacre. however, unless i am incorrect, i believe C4 is also used in demolition? but that isn’t part of the topic and that would just pull into an entirely different subject.

  29. #30 1stMarine
    California
    January 10, 2013

    If saving lives is the purpose of this debate, and you want to put the public safety above the wants of millions of citizens, then couldn’t the same argument be made to ban cigarrettes? Second hand smoke kills 42,000 people including infants in the US alone. What does Diane Feinstein have to say about that?

  30. #31 Matt Springer
    January 10, 2013

    For the people who’re interested in following the debate as it happens, my response will be on my blog on either Friday or Monday morning. (Probably Friday)

  31. #32 pat
    January 10, 2013

    I am distrust anyone who says “I am a gun enthusiast”

  32. #33 pat
    January 10, 2013

    mmm, correction:
    I distrust anyone who says “I am a gun enthusiast”

  33. #34 matt
    missouri
    January 10, 2013

    I am a gun enthusiast. I wanted to start there so people would know not to trust me. I was reading this article like so many others because I want to be able to try and understand the gun control side of the house. I did however always stop when I run into the first wrong fact. There is no ban on fully automatic weapons. So long as your state allows for it you can fill out ATF form 4, register the weapon and pay $200 and it’s yours. Also the reference to the 86 “ban” was only on new fully automatic weapons. No one ever realizes that until 1986 full auto weapons were still in production for civilian use. I could go buy a 1986 built full auto ar-15 right now if I wanted to because my state allows for it. Everyone thinks we don’t have people running the streets with “street sweepers” any more are because we banned them in 1934. In 1984 you could buy a full auto Thompson submachine gun for $1500 plus the $200 tax however full auto was never a very popular option because most people see it as an expensive waste of ammo. The military even removed full auto from ar-15s because you can’t shoot straight in that mode so they went to 3 round burst. If you want to quote the law, make sure you are correct first. I know all of this because I got my FFL to start a home business so I made sure to learn everything I could about firearm law and history. Now to my insane point of view. First off any weapon, full, semi, or even revolver is an inanimate object. It must have a person behind it. Why can we not just blame the person? I know people hate to hear this but in this case http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-2200813.html an elderly man killed 10 people and injured 70. Now if you had said you wanted to sue GM for making a car so dangerous or blame the car people would laugh at you. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people using a car, fertilizer and race fuel. Again all just regular tools and we don’t blame them. You can only blame an inanimate object if it is a gun. Second I do not understand why this can’t just be a state issue. If you don’t want big scary guns where you live tell your law makers to put local restrictions on them just like NY and CA do. I was stationed in CA for 3 years and I never want to live in that state again and that is the beauty of this country in my opinion. No one forces you to live anywhere. If you think the guns in Missouri are too scary move to New York. If NY is too scary go to Europe, no one is forcing you to stay. Now I won’t say my opinion isn’t bias. My grandfather was on the beach on D-day. My uncle was in the Korean War. My father was in Vietnam. I have done 3 tours in Afghanistan and will be going back next year. Perhaps living in a family of service members and firearm owners makes me less afraid of them. I am also sick of people telling me that because I live in a rural area and serve in the military I’m a stupid gun nut hillbilly buy people who have never done one day of public service in their life. Every generation of my stupid hillbilly family has spilled blood when this nation called them to do so and I can’t help but feel that has earned me a right to express my opinion without being treated like some form of sub human monster because I enjoy shooting my replica 1927 Thompson M-1. Like the one my grandfather had with him. I like it because it reminds me of a part of my family history I am proud of, and yes I have a 100 round drum for it so be sure and put me on a list of people to watch.

  34. #35 matt
    missouri
    January 10, 2013

    Also to the person who was talking about people not wanting to open carry I would love to. Missouri is an open carry state but each county AND town can pass local ordinance that make it illegal and it is too had to know all of the local laws AND where the count lines are. Last year a coworker of mine was pulled over because the officer said he was swerving. He made it a point to tell the officer he had a loaded hand gun in the glove box (legal in Missouri.) After he told the officer this she became worried, cuffed him and called for back up. He was trying to tell the officer the law but she could not understand it. At one point she tells him that he is supposed to have it in a holster in the glove box. Once the other 3 officers show up they go back to the car to talk about the situation (we had the dash cam video and it is a very funny / sad thing to see.) They are all talking it over and trying to google it to see if it really was Missouri law. At that point the ranking officer says ” I don’t give a *hit if it is legal no one carries in my town”. My friend spent the night in jail and had his weapon sent to the ATF. It took him 6 weeks to get it back. That is why I will not open carry. Even if it is legal it only takes one jumpy cop to shoot me because he is less informed on local law than I am.

  35. #36 truth seeker
    United States
    January 10, 2013

    I don’t want to sign up for either camp – pro gun or not. Most, if not all of your posters have missed the point so I stopped reading. The real issue is not gun control. Using this object helps lawmakers deny the obvious and much more complicated issue of mental health in the United States. We don’t tackle this side of the issue because it is not politically advantageous therefore not worth the lawmakers time. The people who pick up the guns (or any other objects being used to inflict severe injury or death) are what we need to focus on. We can’t regulate a persons thoughts but we can learn to recognize their emotional instability and other life events that can trigger erratic behavior in any individual. As a society we need to be taught to recognize danger signs in our own families, communities, schools, etc.. We need to be taught how to assess what constitutes a threat and have a plan of action in place for everyone to follow to help these people regain control of their faculties. Let’s remember, a gun is an inanimate object. Not one gun, assault or otherwise, can get up on it’s own and start firing at any target. It can be used for good or evil.

  36. #37 Kagehi
    January 10, 2013

    There is no good reason that every time a gun is used in a crime, that we shouldn’t be able to track that weapon back to it’s original purchaser. … They know which weapons go to which dealer by a serial number which should be on multiple parts of each weapon, internally, (there also needs to be significant improvement in technology to prevent easy defacement of serial numbers, or other mechanisms of unique gun identification – this is possible with multiple existing technologies). One could even conceive of a system in which accessing an interior serial number results in permanent damage to the weapon rendering it useless if so disassembled. Whenever a gun is then used in a crime by someone who has no legal right to own or carry such a weapon (felons, minors, etc.), the police should send the serial number to the manufacturer, who identifies the dealer. The dealer will then have a record of the sale, and who the entry point into the criminal market is.

    The problem here is several fold. 1) While not every part is marked, they do already have serials. 2) The original “end point” sale does have a record, as does the manufacturer. *BUT*, 3) these are stored in multiple different ways, including old filing cabinets, the ATF has been denied, nearly every congressional session, the right to standardize this information in their own database, and companies, even manufacturers, never mind stores, go out of business. This means that, if you are lucky, the gun is registered, the company it was purchased from is still in business, and the data is accessible, because the point of sale is cooperating with police. The existence of the information becomes completely meaningless when a) the store no longer exists, b) the information was never put into a state DB, so the call has to be fielded up to the federal level, c) the gun was sold/traded without going through a store, and/or d) it wasn’t registered. And.. the same lobby has done everything it can to make sure that the sale of a gun, by a private citizen, to another, isn’t illegal, even if no registration takes place, as long as its done in some manner that bypasses a store. If you tried that with, say, a car… you would have a much more serious problem on your hands, for some stupid reason.

    Hell, even with cars, it doesn’t matter how old the thing is, it **must**, unless only used for show, or in specific venues, meet basic road requirements, and can’t be “grandfathered” into the new laws. But, own 500 assault rifles, and you get otherwise sane people telling you, “Oh, we have to let them keep them, not register them, and not admit they have them. It just wouldn’t be right to impose the same law on people that already have them!”

    Uh… Bullshit. We do that all the time, when ever its a case of public health/safety, even, in some cases, though, not always enough, when its religion that is being used to claim, “You can’t make us do that!” Why the frak is gun ownership actually *more* protected than your right to starve your kid, because of religious convictions, or the like?

    Its just.. bloody insane. But, much like the cases of people getting by with exactly that sort of thing due to religion, the gun promoters are getting by with it because they have a) privilege, b) power, and c) people over estimate how many total nuts actually agree with the stuff they are promoting. Heck, there was a study on this, done in Australia, which showed that both the advocates for a position, and their opposition, where prone to estimate the number of people that support a position by 3-10 times. In other words, the “advocates” might think that 30% of the population is with them, when its only 3%, but their own opponents will think that the number of people they are fighting against is 9-12%, or some other semi-significant number (I think the numbers in the study was more like 45% vs. 15%, with both being off by almost exact 10x and 3x the actual numbers).

    But, no. We are already seeing that the rhetoric is going to produce a) no real change, and b) more guns in the hands of people that are “assumed” to be unable to go nuts, and start shooting people. The fact that the next school shooting is likely to be an overstressed teacher, with a conceal carry permit, or that they first person shot will be the one they wacko knows/suspects is armed, still won’t phase the gun lobby, who will, once again, just argue that we need more or them, instead of less.

  37. #38 jane
    January 10, 2013

    Jesse – Matt is correct about concealed carry. It is, again, unhelpfully polarizing to suggest that everyone who carries a weapon for self-defense is evilly hoping to be attacked so they can go all George Zimmerman on someone. I don’t know whether the public would really be safer if criminals could see who was and wasn’t armed – but it doesn’t matter, because in most states it’s illegal to carry openly, and even where it’s allegedly the required form of carry, you are still likely to be arrested, if not tasered or shot, for doing it among city folk. If you think open carry is better, work to change the laws – and then work to change hostile attitudes towards gun owners, so that they do not have to fear harassment or worse when they obey the new laws.

    Mark – as for “shooting 50 people in 10 minutes with a six-shot” – I don’t spend a lot of time contemplating the mechanics of shooting humans, but shooting 50 targets in 10 minutes with a revolver is very feasible – certainly firing 50 shots in the general direction of a mass of targets is. That’s only 5 shots per minute. You can pull the trigger on a revolver just as fast as you can pull it on a semi-automatic pistol. Reloading with a speed-loader should take under five seconds for someone who has practiced and is not a klutz like me. To fire 50 shots with a gun with a 10-round clip, you’d have to reload four times (then a fifth if you wanted to keep firing). To fire 48 shots with a 6-round revolver, you’d reload seven times. Those extra three times could take up less than fifteen extra seconds. [And that assumes that the pistol never jams and takes time to unjam, which does happen, especially if you are firing a lot of rounds and reloading fast and sloppily.] Even if we agree that relatively rare mass shootings should be our primary focus of concern, is that such a huge difference as to justify demonizing every firearm invented in the 20th century?

    As it happens, I agree with you that banning very high-capacity magazines, ridiculous drums, etc. is a reasonable measure – but if it encompasses a vast number of very ordinary guns, the portions of American society where gun ownership is commonplace are going to feel targeted, understandably so.

  38. #39 matt
    missouri
    January 10, 2013

    Sir you are incorrect about cars. If your car never came with a required item from the factory you are not required to install them. My 1980 chevy luv has no smog or cat required by federal law. My friends 1969 Bronco has no seat belts. As far as “road requirement* the state of Kansas doesn’t do inspections. Again know the law before you speak. Also if I shut down my business I am required to turn over all my ATF form 4473 (the background check sheets) to the ATF or I must keep them for 10 years.

  39. #40 Mark
    January 10, 2013

    I did however always stop when I run into the first wrong fact. There is no ban on fully automatic weapons. So long as your state allows for it you can fill out ATF form 4, register the weapon and pay $200 and it’s yours. Also the reference to the 86 “ban” was only on new fully automatic weapons.

    I’m glad I could be in error on such a minor point so that you may dismiss anything I say. I’m glad I gave you the opportunity to feel superior. But I disagree, both laws are de facto bans. Sure, there are ways civilians can have access to them, but for the most part, the barriers are high enough to prevent all but a small minority of gun owners from bothering.

    First off any weapon, full, semi, or even revolver is an inanimate object. It must have a person behind it. Why can we not just blame the person?

    We do blame the person. The inanimate object argument is tedious, why do we keep hearing it as if you guys think you have a winner with it? We regulate all kinds of inanimate objects, and we’re not talking about putting guns in jail. Cars are inanimate objects, tanks are inanimate objects, but we treat them differently, and don’t allow civilians one of them, because there isn’t a good reason for ownership and the potential harm that a tank can cause.

    Now I am sure I will be lectured on how there isn’t actually a ban on civilian ownership of tanks, and how I should therefore be permanently ignored.

    You say your are a gun owner. This is very gruesome to say but you the gun crazy non-human who did this terrible thing to those dear little kids and adults.

    I am distrust anyone who says “I am a gun enthusiast”

    And here is why the anti-gun side is almost as bad as the gun nuts. Because I like to skeet shoot I am a mass murderer? Because I grew up around guns I’m never to be trusted again?

    It’s comments like these that prevent a real mature discussion from taking place and it’s coming from the anti-gun side. There is a reasoned debate to be had here people, but the demonization of gun owners, who are at least 40% of households in this country is not helping.

    Mark – as for “shooting 50 people in 10 minutes with a six-shot” – I don’t spend a lot of time contemplating the mechanics of shooting humans, but shooting 50 targets in 10 minutes with a revolver is very feasible – certainly firing 50 shots in the general direction of a mass of targets is. That’s only 5 shots per minute.

    Only if they hold very still.

    There is only one incident I know of in which there was a mass shooting with just a revolver, and the shooter killed 7 including himself in about 10 minutes. I think the reason we consistently see semiautomatic weapons in these shootings is they are the best weapons for killing lots of people rapidly, and these lunatics know it.

    As it happens, I agree with you that banning very high-capacity magazines, ridiculous drums, etc. is a reasonable measure – but if it encompasses a vast number of very ordinary guns, the portions of American society where gun ownership is commonplace are going to feel targeted, understandably so.

    I’m not saying you can’t own semi-automatic weapons, I’m just saying the barriers to ownership should require more scrutiny in an effort to weed out the crazies (that’s where the vouching system is so appealing), and to prevent unauthorized use. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to pass a law that says, even of existing guns, that when not in use they should be locked up, and you are liable for the acts of unauthorized users if you store weapons, or lose weapons in a negligent fashion. Gun owners should not feel threatened by a law that punishes negligence.

    We can’t regulate a persons thoughts but we can learn to recognize their emotional instability and other life events that can trigger erratic behavior in any individual. As a society we need to be taught to recognize danger signs in our own families, communities, schools, etc.. We need to be taught how to assess what constitutes a threat and have a plan of action in place for everyone to follow to help these people regain control of their faculties.

    The Aurora shooter was seen by a school psychologist who was so disturbed she contacted campus police. However, it is quite difficult to force people into custody unless they have committed a crime.

    While I agree mental health parity is something our country needs I don’t think we’ll ever get to the point where we can prospectively identify and detain these types of people.

  40. #41 matt
    missouri
    January 10, 2013

    Mark – The reason I can’t listen to you is because you are always incorrect. You CAN own a tank. There is no law about it. The only think you have to do in my state if you want to have plates for it and drive it on the road is convert / buy rubber treads so you don’t damage the road. There is not a huge difference between a tank and a bulldozer other than the cab having armor. The part of the tank that is regulated is the shells, and if you were to apply for an FFL class 9 and get a Dealer of High Explosives license you can get the shells also. When I was getting my FFL the ATF agent was trying to get me to get a class 9 over my 7. I guess because it costs so much more that is more money for them. You do brig up a good point though. Does anyone remember the tank dozer that Marvin Heemeyer made? My point is anything can be turned into a weapon. If I were a sick person I will find a way to kill you if I want to and there isn’t much you can do about it. Well you could at least try and stop me if you were armed I guess. You know that 17,000 people are killed every year buy drunk drivers? That is 7000 more than firearms. I keep being told the gun nuts won’t let us pass common sense laws to stop the killing. I say a common sense way to stop people from driving drunk would be to ban all alcoholic drinks. O wait we did that, how did that turn out again? We know that won’t work so why don’t we just install breathalyzers in cars like some judges mandate on people who get too many DUI’s. You could do that, save more lives and not even have to trample the constitution you that will NEVER happen. I will make you a deal. When you can get breathalyzers installed in every car in the US and get drunk drivers to kill less people than guns I will turn in / register what every you like. People say it ‘s about saving lives and they are just full of BS. Just a little bit ago a man crashed is car and killed 1 woman and 5 children and it’s not even a blip on the radar. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/5-children-1-adult-killed-mississippi-car-crash-article-1.1229762 That is almost one quarter of the sandy hook shooting. This country really does not care about if you die, they only care about how.

  41. #42 Brian
    US
    January 10, 2013

    This of course highlights the importance of addressing violence and aggression in our communities, but the problem is complex. Here is my partial take on the psychology of gun violence, basically showing that to some extent we are conditioned starting as babies to associate certain ideas or objects (like guns) with aggression: http://www.whatthefreud.com/on-gun-control/

  42. #43 jane
    January 10, 2013

    “It’s comments like these that prevent a real mature discussion from taking place and it’s coming from the anti-gun side . . . the demonization of gun owners, who are at least 40% of households in this country is not helping”

    Thanks for saying that. It’s atrocious how much of American politics and society is about turning everything into a black-and-white issue and treating the people who are believed to disagree with you as untermenschen. It’s constant on both sides of this issue – I just can’t stand the hate speech on most sites.

    “Only if they hold very still.”

    But you are still wrong about that. If you can hit a moving target with a pistol, you can hit it with a revolver; the revolver is just as accurate and more reliable. Yes, if you assume that a fixed percentage of shots will hit the moving target, then if you fire more rounds per minute, you will hit the target more times per minute. But the difference in maximum shots per minute imposed by the mechanism of a revolver vs. a pistol is not all that great, certainly not like the difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic weapon, and IMHO, not great enough to justify confiscating everything with a modern mechanism. You note above that you are not demanding that, but some who have far more public voice than you do are. We need better efforts to keep evil or crazy people from getting guns, period; a person who can’t be trusted with a .22 pistol sure shouldn’t have his mitts on a .45 revolver either. Most American gun owners will comply with registration if they think it can help accomplish that goal, but not if they think it’s just a setup to confiscate their own .22 five years down the road.

  43. #44 Mark
    January 10, 2013

    Mark – The reason I can’t listen to you is because you are always incorrect. You CAN own a tank. There is no law about it.

    I knew it! Hah. Well Matt, I’m glad that these mistakes showing my poor knowledge of tank regulations will allow you to ignore a more substantive debate. Bad example. How about grenades? They’re regulated under federal law, they’re inanimate objects? Does that satisfy the inanity of the “inanimate object” BS argument? Are laws only designed to regulate animate objects like people, dogs, and drinkie-birds? Why do the pro-gun people think this is meaningful?

    This country really does not care about if you die, they only care about how.

    It’s true, a violent death of a 6-year-old at the hands of a shooter does get more attention than deaths by drunk driver, which are also, sadly, routine. However, cars are necessary items. Drinking is culturally embedded in such a way that we know we can’t stop it. Semi-automatic rifles with the capacity to hold dozens of rounds are not a necessity however, and serve no useful purpose. It’s also not a valid argument because it’s besides the point. We’re talking about preventing mass shooting. What does that have to do with drunk driving? This is just another distracting argument. If you want to talk about saving lives overall as a society, then fine, we can talk about that. This thread is about what can be done to reduce gun violence and mass murder.

    My point is anything can be turned into a weapon.

    And my point is that I don’t care. I don’t accept this argument as legitimate response to why we shouldn’t tighten regulations on machines designed to kill rapidly. This is the frozen-banana argument. It’s nonsense. Machines designed to kill make killing easy. Access to such machines should be difficult.

    But you are still wrong about that. If you can hit a moving target with a pistol, you can hit it with a revolver; the revolver is just as accurate and more reliable

    What I was intimating is no one is going to stick around to let you take pot shots at them, reload, etc. The VT shooting was remarkable for the sheer volume of shots the shooter laid down, far in excess of the number of his victims. You’re assuming I’m saying one shot per person killed. No, Cho shot 170 rounds, hit 47 people, killed about 30 in 10 minutes, all while they were trying to hide, and barricade themselves behind doors. Most he shot 3 times and 28 he shot in the head. I think it would have been challenging to shoot that many rounds without the ease of reloading with magazine-fed weapons. Trying to shove loose rounds into a revolver or breech takes time, requires coordination (something hard to do when the heart is pumping etc.). The mechanism of these weapons allowing rapid reloading is important to the amount of damage that can be done.

  44. #45 matt
    missouri
    January 10, 2013

    Ok well I would like to say that no one with military training has every used an assault rifle to commit a crime so anyone with military service should be able to own what ever they want. See now you know that is not true so it make it harder to take what I am says as true doesn’t it? I’ll I am saying is if you are going to quote a law or statistic make sure it is correct first. If you want to express an opinion have at it. I also find it sad you can say “Drinking is culturally embedded in such a way that we know we can’t stop it”. Well guess what, so are guns! Lets get back on subject then. In 1994 we got the original assault rifle ban. In 1999 we had columbine. I don’t know how anyone can argue that the original ban did any good. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the “assault weapon” ban and other gun control attempts, and found “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence,” That is because Handguns make up for almost all gun crime. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence examined the impact of the Assault Weapons Ban in its 2004 report, On Target: The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Act. Examining 1.4 million guns involved in crime, “in the five-year period before enactment of the Federal Assault Weapons Act (1990-1994), assault weapons named in the Act constituted 4.82% of the crime gun traces ATF conducted nationwide. Since the law’s enactment, however, these assault weapons have made up only 1.61% of the guns ATF has traced to crime.” So that means the ban only effects less than 5% of all guns used in crimes. That was why it did not help. All that was done was make the “scary” guns cost more. There are also millions of these weapons already in use so the only way to prevent this crime is to collect them. You can ban them all you want but unless you take them away they will always find a way into the wrong hands.

  45. #46 Gil
    January 10, 2013

    I would argue there’s a better argument to say people have a right to own small firearms for personal self-defence than anything else (esp. the tired, non-regulated militia/posse argument). But by the same token it could also be argued that non-functional, high-performance cars could well be highly regulated on the grounds that people need either small commuting cars or SJVs for towing but not race cars. Hence it could be argued people have unrestricted right to small 4-cylinders cars and 6-cyilnder SUVs but anything else has to be specially registered. In both cases what people need versus the excessive stuff they want means there can be easily two separate standards.

  46. #47 Kagehi
    January 10, 2013

    Sir you are incorrect about cars. If your car never came with a required item from the factory you are not required to install them. My 1980 chevy luv has no smog or cat required by federal law. My friends 1969 Bronco has no seat belts.”

    How about head lights, tail lights, etc.? I never said “seat belts”. And, the law can vary from state to state too, so.. sorry, but no.

    As far as “road requirement* the state of Kansas doesn’t do inspections. Again know the law before you speak. Also if I shut down my business I am required to turn over all my ATF form 4473 (the background check sheets) to the ATF or I must keep them for 10 years.

    Yes, well.. We *are* talking about Kansas here. A lot of those more southern states are out of step with the rest of the country by a fair margin.

    And, again, I never said that a business doesn’t have to send them forms. What I said is that the federal government’s lobby shills have denied the ATF the right to actually put any of that into a database. Or, if they have, its *very* recent. They also, interestingly, can’t release their own gun statistics, or.. well.. a lot of other things that might make things less convenient for the gun lobby, and/or embarrassing for the same.

    Being able to directly look up a gun in Alaska, which was sold in Kansas, via ATF records, years after its purchase, when the company is defunct, instead of having to have some clerk rummage through a room full of forms… isn’t exactly “simpler”. And, while hand guns have much better tracking, other types have all sorts of wonderful loopholes, which can render any attempt to determine the ***current*** owner nearly impossible (Arizona, where I live, being one of the idiot states that allow this, with certain classes of weapons).

  47. #48 matt
    missouri
    January 10, 2013

    Ok well my statement about cars still stands. I only used seat belts as an example so yes if I had a car that came without headlights then that would again still be legal…so…. any way thanks for calling everyone in Kansas and other southern states stupid for not agreeing with you. You know why that guy in Alaska doesn’t want you be able to instantly look up what he owns? He fears on day his government may turn on him one day, and he knows who they will go after first. The people with arms. Let me guess, you are one of the people who think the government could never turn on them right? No politician has ever been corrupt right? Perhaps you should review the Japanese American internment and tell me again they will never turn on you.

  48. #49 Anonymous
    January 11, 2013

    I’m late on the whole open carry aspect, but i have something to say about it. There is a site i found awhile back that eplains a lot about open carrying. A lot of states permit open carry, few without licenses, but still permitted. As someone mentioned a while back, there was an incident where police get nervous about the whole thing. Open carry has both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages are lower crime rates (Sometimes, haven’t found a reliable enough source on this one yet), more well protected establishments, and fewer gun problems. But disadvntages are that people will get nervous, especially since it was most common to be done back in the 19th century. For some, this may bring up the famous scenes from western movies with the quick-draw shootouts. However such a thing has not occured since that time. Perhaps if open carry was a bit more elaborated on, and made to be known by law enforcement to be legal, in the states that permit it anyway, could be a step towards a solution towards gun laws? I might just be being hopeful of such a simple solution, but you don’t really hear about open carry unless you look for it.

    By the way I apologize if there are some bad typos, my computer has been acting up. And i apologize about the late comment to the subject, busy day and the likes.

  49. #50 jane
    January 11, 2013

    You don’t have to shove loose rounds into a revolver; you can use a speedloader, which holds them in the right configuration so that you just pop them all into the chambers at once. A clip is slightly faster, but if you are rushing it is also more likely to jam and take time to get working (which could often also be accomplished within a few seconds if you have practiced). Assuming you don’t take a lot of time to aim, I think firing 170 shots in 10 minutes with a revolver would be feasible (for someone with the necessary hand strength). I don’t know what kind of gun Cho used, but if it was an ordinary pistol with 10-round clips that event does not, IMHO, justify banning ordinary pistols.

    In practice, the most common use for real high-capacity magazines is to fire a lot of rounds while target shooting without having to reload, which is not evil but also not necessary. For real-world uses, you could argue that they would be valuable to criminals much more often than to good people defending themselves, so should be banned. But I’m not going to be eager to support any such measure until I have some reason to believe that wherever the line is drawn now is where it will stay for a long time.

  50. #51 Mark
    January 11, 2013

    You don’t have to shove loose rounds into a revolver; you can use a speedloader, which holds them in the right configuration so that you just pop them all into the chambers at once.

    I now want to officially gouge my eyes out with toothpicks. Yes, you could carry 32 speedloaders and accomplish the same effect. But you’ve essentially recreated a magazine-fed system. Yes you could do this, but it’s harder, slower, and still requires coordination. Being able to change out a 30 round clip in under 2 seconds is going to be very efficient compared to carrying a bandolier of speed loaders.

    Cho used two weapons, a glock 9mm (15round clip normally) and walther .22 (10 round). I still think it would be a logistical and practical challenge to accomplish such shootings with breech-fed weapons or revolvers relative to the ease of magazine-fed weapons in which the magazines are compact, can be loaded ahead of time etc.

    I can’t believe I’m still arguing this point. Magazine fed weapons can shoot more per minute with less skill and time involved with reloading.

  51. #52 Kagehi
    January 12, 2013

    Matt. I didn’t call them stupid. I said “out of step”. That isn’t the same thing. Though, now that you bring it up.. some of the politicians from those places…. probably do qualify for the label.

    BTW… Anyone notice that, with the exception of suicides, most cases of gun violence/crime, where one actually gets fired, seem to happen in cases where both sides have them? I mean, not “robberies”, where someone just waves one around, but actual shoot outs. These mass killing spree things are the exception to the rule. Most of the time, its two groups of thugs, or the like, shooting each other up. I guess we are supposed to assume that when two gangs show up to blow each other away, everyone else in the neighborhood is supposed to draw too, and make it a three way shootout? Just wondering…

  52. #53 jane
    January 13, 2013

    You can put the toothpicks down. I said repeatedly that I could see banning 30-round magazines as justifiable. That’s different from banning all modern designs of firearm because someone could carry a “bandolier of 10-round clips.”

  53. #54 matt
    missouri
    January 13, 2013

    I say pick em back up. Now you know how how the 98% of law abiding gun owners feel when one person with mental problems goes on a rampage so we must all give up our rights.
    Kagehi – Actually a review of all mass shootings in the U.S (3 or more deaths from gunfire from a single person) from 1956 to today only one has happened outside of a gun safe zone (the shooting in Arizona). Think about that, only one has happened where other people were armed. So no your idea about 2 groups of thugs shooing it out in the streets is only in the movies. You can look all this up if you actually cared about being correct. There has not been a single area that has allowed concealed carry and had crime go up. People say the drop in crime is due to other factors but the fact is the streets did not turn into the wild wild west and crime did not go up like the gun grabbers said it would. I will again say the gun has nothing to do with the crime. Big scary guns holding 100 rounds make up only 5% of crime. That is less than 500 deaths per year. The other 9500ish deaths come from the guns you don’t want to ban, handguns with 10 or less rounds. So I ask again what does a ban help? You could have a chance to save 500ish people if you go around and collect them all up? You really don’t’ think we have any more pressing issues in this country?

  54. #55 Joseph O'Sullivan
    January 13, 2013

    Matt Springer the post is a very reasonable approach to the problem.

    On Built on Facts a while ago I wrote that the mass killings were rare enough that they weren’t good arguments for or against gun control. I think that a limit has been surpassed, and now the mass shootings demand that gun control be rationally considered.

    That being be said, I have always been torn on my own views of guns. I am an avid amateur military historian, and I know a lot about guns. I also have friends who are hunters, and have learned about gun just by hanging around them. I don’t want to own a gun of my own, but I think care is required when limiting others from owning them.

    My final thing is the proposals that have been floated to allow people to bring guns into venues that serve alcohol, like bars (in Tennessee) and sport stadiums (Ohio) are insane enough that the lawmakers that these are so crazy that they should be banned from gun ownership.

  55. #56 Les
    Virginia
    January 13, 2013

    The right to bear arms was given to us by men who had seen what an unarmed people suffer with an armed government to do as they want to them. If we are going to talk about the innocent mass killings such as Newtown and Aurora then first, your guns need to be locked up when you are not using them.In the case of Newtown his mother paid the price for her irresponsibility.If we want to discuss killings and our constituional rights then let us do that.I am a firm believer in individual rights guaranteed to us all but it seems as a society that one is becoming demonized as compared to the other.99 percent of lawful gun owners have never killed anyone but are prepared to defend themselves as guaranteed by their constitution .We in this country need to see numbers so here, feel free to look them up also.We abort approx 4,000 children a day in this country that equals 128 school shootings a day if you do the math.Protected by the constituion because as I said that is the constituions guarantee to individual rights.Just imagine if everyday you turned on the tv and saw 128 school shootings.How is it that ones’ rights can be so easily seen as such a threat when the numbers and facts tell us otherwise and one that has killed 55 million people since 1973 and keeps killing at the rate of 4,000 per day is somehow acceptable to the same individual..It is a fact by the numbers that we as a nation seem to be the biggest hypacrits when it comes to making an argument on gun control and mass killings when we refuse to hold irresponsible people accountable for their actions.We would rather impose knee jerk restrictions on lawful citizens and our children and their children etc,etc making it easier for them to become victims and unable to defend themselves and are not willing to hold others accountable for their actions.We will never stop evil people from doing these things but WE CAN HOLD THEM RESPONSIBLE WHEN THEY DO. and we don’t.

  56. #57 Joseph O'Sullivan
    January 13, 2013

    Hey Les have you thought of using spellchecker? Firefox has it built in.

  57. #58 Adam
    January 15, 2013

    It is never really considered a viable option, but we as citizens could decide that the 2nd Amendment has been antiquated and legally remove or replace it with something more suitable to the times.

  58. #59 Tim
    January 15, 2013

    I don’t understand the premise that civilization must respect someone’s right to own a killing weapon. All this talk of self defense and home invasions as if it is a common occurrence for law abiding people to find themselves in life-threatening situations that can be solved by waving a gun or pumping a few bullets into an intruder. The Second Amendment is an anachronism. The cultural love for guns and the mythology around crime and self defense seems irrational. I have to believe that someday people will look back on this love affair with weapons and wonder what was wrong with us. I hope it is only a few generations away.

  59. #60 Les
    January 15, 2013

    Adam Hitler used that option.Tim I would be willing to bet that if your wife or daughter ws being raped by a intruder you would shoot them.The right to bear arms came fom men who lived under kings rule.No different than what Hitler himself did.It must be nice to live in a place wheer all people are law abiding.A gun gave us our freedoms.Killing weapon?that is funny and very vague indeed.

  60. #61 pete
    nyc
    January 16, 2013

    Nice analytic and high brow conversation here …what all you geniuses need to ask yourself is what will you do when you are in that columbine or sandyhook situation ? Please tell me because you all talk hypotheticals and not reality. Interview anyone who’s ever been in an active shooter incident what they would have or could have done to end the situation/prevent people from getting harmed and they all say kill the aggressor/criminal -and how do you suppose one goes about that with harsh language and posturing .The only fantasy created is the one in which this article creates with the notion of a Utopian gun free world. ALL of these gun regulations already exist in NYC and have for awhile-they don’t do a thing to curb the violence. So it might make sense to you people in suburbia or in God’s country to spew out these nonsensical ideas, because you’ve never been in a horrible life threatening situation (and God bless you for being so lucky) but let’s try and see things form the perspective of the not so fortunate or the defenseless , I bet you all would do “whatever it takes ” to save your child or loved one -so please enough with the garbage about the “Evil gun machine”.

  61. #62 Dennis
    January 16, 2013

    I admit that I am slightly disappointed. I hoped that, with a science blog, I might get a well reasoned, scientifically-based, argument. Instead this appears to be an opinion piece listing many of the same arguments I’ve heard before without much in the way of statistics, or facts, to back up those arguments. Several of your assertions, especially surrounding FFL procedures and the tracking of guns, demonstrate your ignorance of the existing process. Other of your assertions show an almost complete lack of any research done on the subject. While it is certainly not incumbent on you to provide intellectual meat for the masses, I was hoping for something more substantial than what I found.

  62. #63 Mark
    January 16, 2013

    I said repeatedly that I could see banning 30-round magazines as justifiable. That’s different from banning all modern designs of firearm because someone could carry a “bandolier of 10-round clips.”

    And I said repeatedly that I’m not interested in a ban, just increased scrutiny for those purchasing these types of weapons.

    The other 9500ish deaths come from the guns you don’t want to ban, handguns with 10 or less rounds. So I ask again what does a ban help? You could have a chance to save 500ish people if you go around and collect them all up? You really don’t’ think we have any more pressing issues in this country?

    Ban, ban, ban, ban. Is the reading comprehension here 0%? No ban was described. No confiscation regime was described. Further, point #2 above, which encompassed fully half the essay, was a description of tactics to cut off the illegal gun trade which would hopefully target the more routine deaths from street crime. I see New York is additionally addressing guns in the homes with domestic violence, another excellent idea.

    The right to bear arms was given to us by men who had seen what an unarmed people suffer with an armed government to do as they want to them.

    I think your history is a bit off here bud. The Brits did not disarm us. They attempted to disarm us at Lexington and Concord. We said no. The rest is history. There was not a point at which we were disarmed.

    If we are going to talk about the innocent mass killings such as Newtown and Aurora then first, your guns need to be locked up when you are not using them.

    Agreed! See point #1 above.

    We abort approx 4,000 children a day in this country that equals 128 school shootings a day if you do the math.

    We are not going to turn this into an abortion debate, and I will not tolerate this BS tactic of diverting any debate by saying there is always some more pressing issue like alcohol or smoking or abortion. I realize some people out there consider undeveloped clumps of cells to be equivalent to you or I, but I don’t, and I’m not going to let you start this crap. This is a tiresome tactic, off topic, and not comparable.

    Adam Hitler used that option.Tim I would be willing to bet that if your wife or daughter ws being raped by a intruder you would shoot them.The right to bear arms came fom men who lived under kings rule.No different than what Hitler himself did.It must be nice to live in a place wheer all people are law abiding.A gun gave us our freedoms.Killing weapon?that is funny and very vague indeed.

    Actually the Hitler gun control point is completely mythical. Hitler did not restrict gun control in pre-WWII Germany, he loosened it. Guns were highly regulated by the Weimar government after the treaty of Versailles. Hitler basically rearmed the populace with the exception of undesirable peoples. This myth has been propagated all over the place, is based upon a likely fabricated quote, and does not match the actual behavior of the Nazis. Also, stop talking about Hitler, let’s not Godwin the thread.

    Nice analytic and high brow conversation here …what all you geniuses need to ask yourself is what will you do when you are in that columbine or sandyhook situation ? Please tell me because you all talk hypotheticals and not reality. Interview anyone who’s ever been in an active shooter incident what they would have or could have done to end the situation/prevent people from getting harmed and they all say kill the aggressor/criminal -and how do you suppose one goes about that with harsh language and posturing .

    As described above, both incidents were not stopped by “good guys with guns”, but by the shooter’s own suicide. There was a cop at Columbine with a gun, who exchanged fire with the shooters, failed to stop the shootings, and basically did what anyone else would do – find cover and wait for backup.

    The only fantasy created is the one in which this article creates with the notion of a Utopian gun free world. ALL of these gun regulations already exist in NYC and have for awhile-they don’t do a thing to curb the violence.

    What article did you read? I did not suggest a gun-free world. I did not suggest a ban. I did not suggest laws similar to what are in NYC (although the new ones being passed are similar to these suggestions), further, a federal passage of these laws is what is required, as in NYC they find many of the guns on their streets are coming from Virginia, the Carolinas etc.

    You guys show up to a gun control debate assuming some argument that I did not make. It’s getting tiresome.

    I admit that I am slightly disappointed. I hoped that, with a science blog, I might get a well reasoned, scientifically-based, argument. Instead this appears to be an opinion piece listing many of the same arguments I’ve heard before without much in the way of statistics, or facts, to back up those arguments.

    Ah, the old, “it’s a science blog where’s the science!” argument. Well, did you miss the link the the Mother Jones summary of recent mass shootings? Mass shootings are rare, what kind of data were you expecting other than descriptive information? Are you aware that the NRA has effectively lobbied to prevent research into the causes of gun violence by federal agencies like the CDC? Are you aware that the Tiahrt amendments have specifically made it impossible to do the kind of tracking I advocate here (although they were weakened recently)? What was the inaccuracy about the FFL tracking? Yes, we can track a gun to the point of sale, true, but after that? Nothing. That’s the argument I make, nothing about FFLs, but about private sales. This is what is feeding the illegal gun market, if I failed to make this clear, I’ll revisit my language above. If this is another complaint over me calling the 1934 act a ban on automatic weapons, I’m sorry, I stand by that. It is effectively a ban. Yes there are ways around it, as there are around most “bans”. For instance, I would say there is a ban on cocaine in this country. Yes, with a DEA license and a good reason (lab research into cocaine/addiction etc.) one can obtain cocaine or other schedule I drugs, that doesn’t mean cocaine isn’t effectively banned in this country.

    I make 2 broad suggestions in this post. One, we should increase scrutiny of sales of weapons with high fire rate and easy reloading capacity, and require more stringent post-sale safety measures for storage of such weapons. Two, to prevent street crime with guns, we have to cut off the illegal gun market. This requires making private sales subject to some paperwork, a NICS check, a record of sale etc. No I do not have data from an RCT comparing these measures before and after implementation. Yes, I am aware that states that have passed similar measures have not seen a corresponding drop in crime. The problem is without universality of some of these precautions, these laws end at the state border. You want some statistics, here’s a preview from my next post, the ATF report on the source of guns used in crimes in NY.

    I love how the argument is for more data, at the same time the gun lobby has hamstrung efforts to collect data. It’s wonderful. Also, this debate is not over yet. Expect some more stats in my response to Matt.

  63. #64 Dennis
    January 16, 2013

    It isn’t an argument, just a comment on my experience in reading the article. I did, in fact, miss the Mother Jones summary link in this article. I did catch the link in the rebuttal article by Matt Springer. I am aware of, and oppose, the NRA’s efforts to prevent the CDC from effectively researching the impact of firearms on public health. It effectively prevents certain kinds of useful data from being gathered and presented to the public. This, in turn, stifles informed debate on the topic. I enjoy informed public debate on this, and other, topics. I know that more data exists on the subject than that which was collected by the CDC prior to the current prohibitions on research. If, as you say, that data will be used to support your future posts on the topic I will give them a read.

  64. #65 John
    January 16, 2013

    Welcome to the debate Dennis. While I am not sure you had to point out your distaste in Marks’s argument in such a perjorative way, could you elaborate on your views on the topic? As someone who came to learn about the issue and has read Marks case, I would enjoy hearing your (I assume based on your post) more substantive views on the topic that will clear up the ignorant assertions you claim Mark made in his piece. I often find those on the other side of the debate all too willing to shoot down arguments generally without offering their own. Since you call out Mark for displaying an “almost complete lack of any research done on the subject,” as well as displaying an argument similar to others you have heard that lack “much in the way of statistics or facts,” I would like to hear your take on the issue.

    Thanks

  65. #66 Dennis
    January 16, 2013

    You are correct John. I should probably not have posted my initial comments in the way that I did. I’m just tired of hearing many of these views thrown out there with few, if any, data points to support them. Of note, I am annoyed by the same tendency on the other side of the debate. I come to these types of posts hoping to learn something new, and are disappointed when that is not the case. As I pointed out, I don’t feel that I’m “entitled” to this, or that it is incumbent on him to provide that. It was merely a reaction to what I found that probably would have been better off left unsaid.

    That aside, I’ll gladly share my views on the topic. In order to provide something more edifying than just my opinion on the matter it will take me some time to prepare such a statement. I’ll something once I’ve had that opportunity.

  66. #67 Daniel
    January 16, 2013

    Anyone dismissive of Mark’s essay is wrong. Mark put forth reasoned, measured, and relevant arguments in all cases, and I think they have held up under each counter argument. So I can’t debate them meaningfully. However, this being the internet, I am still going to post my opinion regardless. And that is…

    I don’t care about mass shootings.

    But wait! Before you roll your eyes and skip the rest, I invite you to read on. I don’t care because over 12,000 people die from falling injuries (stairs, tripping, slips, etc.) and yet I have done nothing to advocate for more handrails. Best estimates from the CDC are that an average of 30,000 people die from the flu each year; I didn’t even check with my grandmother to see if she got her vaccination. Unhealthy eating habits surely kill hundreds of thousands in the US each year, but I’ve never told a fat person to drop their Baconator. On and on and on… My point? Mass shootings (which kill a few dozen each year) are statistically meaningless. I know I sound like an antisocial curmudgeon, but please believe me when I say I am actually a pretty caring guy. I just don’t understand why people, more importantly people running the government, get so galvanized to act by gun violence and not other more pressing problems. Let me enjoy shooting a relatively harmless (by comparison) semi-auto assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine. For the vast majority of people who do so it is a fun day at the range, not a horror-filled tragedy. Work on the more important stuff.

  67. #68 Mark
    January 16, 2013

    But wait! Before you roll your eyes and skip the rest, I invite you to read on. I don’t care because over 12,000 people die from falling injuries (stairs, tripping, slips, etc.) and yet I have done nothing to advocate for more handrails.

    Yes, but accidents around the home, falls, etc., while they are preventable are from ordinary activities that 100% of us engage in, by necessity, daily. Also, your fall risk doesn’t necessarily pose a risk to others. One of the key problems with comparing gun violence to diet or other individually-risky behavior is that those behaviors tend to be a risk for the individual much more than society-at-large.

    Best estimates from the CDC are that an average of 30,000 people die from the flu each year; I didn’t even check with my grandmother to see if she got her vaccination.

    I forget what you call this kind of trolling. It’s when the troll insists that whatever you are talking about isn’t a problem because x, y, or z has a greater death toll. Anyone remember? Is it just concern trolling? Just because other problems have a higher death toll doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address problems that are less fatal. One of the worst things about gun violence is that most frequently, it is cutting down people in their youth. Especially incidents like Sandy Hook are atrocious because the victims haven’t taken on the risk for this behavior, they weren’t doing anything to contribute to this kind of violence. They were cut down because of the questionable judgement of a local woman who allowed access to incredibly dangerous machines to her mentally-defective child.

    Unhealthy eating habits surely kill hundreds of thousands in the US each year, but I’ve never told a fat person to drop their Baconator. On and on and on…

    And yes, if you die at 65 from a heart attack from a lifetime of bacon eating, that’s a little bit sad. When you are shot in the neck for having the misfortune of standing on the wrong street corner and catching a stray, ending up paralyzed from the neck down, and ending up disabled and dependent for what will likely be a dramatically-shortened life at age 24 that’s a bit sadder. I’ve had both for patients. Guess which one hits me in the gut every time I think about it? One wasn’t even fatal.

    One of the things that pisses me off the most about these arguments is that you guys are talking about this violence in total ignorance, never being exposed to the victims of gun violence. This type of violence causes terrible, and lasting tragedy, kills the young, and cuts a lifetime of potential short.

    Gun violence is killing people before they’ve even had a chance at life, and often kills victims who were doing nothing wrong, nothing to increase their risk. I think it’s different, and deserves more compassion than you are demonstrating.

    I will, from this point on, accept no “more important stuff” arguments. It is trolling, and does not contribute meaningfully to the discussion.

  68. #69 Daniel
    January 16, 2013

    Mark, apparently you took my overtly callous language at more than face value. Genuinely speaking, of course I abhor mass killing. Further, to alleviate you being pissed, I am not ignorant of and in fact experienced first-hand the atrocities of mass gun violence via a deployment to Bosnia. Perhaps I have witnessed more of the tragic outcomes of mass gun violence than even you (BTW I sincerely respect and appreciate your work as a physician).

    But of course the above is silly to argue about. The basic point I was trying to get across is that if we are to spend time, effort and money to reduce preventable death, why not do so in a more impactful way? I agree with your point regarding the fact that in the examples I gave, the individuals dying are taking on that risk as a matter of choice or at least not adding similar risks to others. I suppose that their deaths are somewhat more palatable, even in far greater quantities. What I don’t agree with is that government has the aptitude or foresight to legislate appropriately in the area of mass shootings (as the proposals released today by the administration have clearly proven).

    Listen, as I said before (I was not being sarcastic) your arguments have merit. If one accepts the notion that gun control could work those would be reasonable measures. However, I say the whole endeavor is folly in that it is practically impossible for legislation to have any meaningful impact. Spend the time, effort and money elsewhere.

  69. #70 Another Mark
    January 16, 2013

    Little late to reading this article, but I must disagree about your recommendations.

    Firstly, what is the purpose of the 2nd Amendment? Is it for hunting/sporting? Or is it for the resistance of tyranny enacted through gov’t agents “just doing their job”.

    The standard firearm issued to the majority of our armed servicemen should also be legal for civilians to own. Unrestricted. Without subject to any government “lists”. I simply cannot support any policy that would disarm our veterans returning from “defending our freedom.”

    “Welcome home son, now turn in your firearm because you can’t be trusted.”

    Secondly, if you know of a teacher that is a former policeman and extremely skilled shoot, wouldn’t you want that person to have a concealed weapon. If some maniac comes to a school, I very much want that man to be armed and I was my child to be in his classroom as opposed to a room with only a teacher armed with a ballpoint pen to defend my child.

    Also, I reject the notion that gun lobbies are for the sole purpose of enriching gun manufacturers anymore than the EFF has a sole objective to enrich computer manufacturers or ISPs or whatever.

  70. #71 Chris
    Maryland
    January 16, 2013

    A few random points:

    While people love to debate the meaning of “well regulated”, often to the absurd extreme of saying it does not involve regulation at all, they usually forget that the topic is to protect the state, not the individual. The bill of rights ismostly about limiting the Federal government’s powers over states, and

  71. #72 Chris
    January 16, 2013

    and much less about protecting individual rights (note I said “less” – I know it deals with some individual rights). In this case they did us the favor of spelling out which they mean.

    As far as the old argument about not being able to remove the 200+ million guns already ciculating, Mark is right. A study by the mayor’s office of Newark, N.J. Found that nearly all shootings are with guns recently obtained on the black market.

  72. #73 Chris
    January 16, 2013

    Did it again.

    Criminals do not tend to buy their guns from personal transfers from law abiding citizens have had theirs for years. They buy new (and usually cheap) guns that enter the black market via unregulated sales. Just requiring all sales to be registerec and to involve a background check woukd quickly starve the “street thugs” of their weapons.

  73. #74 Mark
    January 17, 2013

    Or is it for the resistance of tyranny enacted through gov’t agents “just doing their job”.

    That’s disturbing. So if the police show up at your door and you disagree with their intentions or purpose, you would just shoot them?

    I’m way more disturbed about the threat of violence from other citizens than I am from my government. But then, I live in Baltimore and my neighborhood 7-11 was just held up at gunpoint twice last week.

    I don’t accept that our firearms protect us from tyranny. Chris’s point is correct, it was about state militia’s, not every individual’s idea about when it’s time to take on the government. Currently, there is no chance any amount of armament presents a credible threat to either the state or federal government, just to other citizens like you and me. And finally, it’s the behavior of the gun nuts talking about fighting tyranny and starting a revolution by just going out in the street and shooting people over gun control (google it if you don’t believe me) that I find to be a far more credible threat to me than some imaginary tyrant taking over the US.

    The standard firearm issued to the majority of our armed servicemen should also be legal for civilians to own. Unrestricted. Without subject to any government “lists”. I simply cannot support any policy that would disarm our veterans returning from “defending our freedom.”

    So, a well-regulated millitia, for the purpose of defending the states, should involve no lists of who is in it, or armed to provide assistance? There should be no criteria for who is fit to be so armed?

    Secondly, if you know of a teacher that is a former policeman and extremely skilled shoot, wouldn’t you want that person to have a concealed weapon. If some maniac comes to a school, I very much want that man to be armed and I was my child to be in his classroom as opposed to a room with only a teacher armed with a ballpoint pen to defend my child.

    Take the example of my 7-11 being robbed. I’m actually glad that their response isn’t to shoot at their robbers, because one day I’m going to be in the store, and I’d rather they just lose insured property, than for me to be in a crossfire. Did you see the example of the police response to the empire state building shooting in which the shooter shot 2 and the police shot 9? More guns, more bullets, more potentially unstable idiots and morons with questionable firearms skills, and no real training to shoot while under fire (sorry, I don’t trust my fellow man that much, not even police to be good shots or good shots under fire ) shooting around schoolchildren sounds like a very bad idea to me. I want no more guns in schools, no barricades, no barbed wire around the playground. Let’s deal with this without escalation but rather some common sense barriers to civilian ownership of military hardware. Not a ban, paperwork. It’s not the end of the world. Get over it.

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