moar reading on guns

Since a very polite pro-gun-rights reader left me a long, thoughtful comment today, I thought I’d give a little equal time to two gun rights articles that I’ve found to be interesting and engaging, even though I don’t necessarily agree with them on all points.

First, here’s David Kopel of The National Review on Colorado’s post-Columbine gun law compromise, which, as Kopel puts it, was an attempt to “make it harder for the wrong people to acquire guns and … remove[] obstacles to the use and carrying of firearms by law-abiding citizens.” I found the three specific gun control measures (requested by Colorado sheriffs) to be interesting:

Complementing the five laws to protect the self-defense rights of law-abiding citizens, Colorado passed three laws that aim to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

A “straw purchaser” is someone who can legally buy a gun — but who buys a gun on behalf of a prohibited person, such as a convicted criminal. Straw purchases have been illegal under federal law since 1968, and in 1986 the straw-purchase ban was strengthened by the NRA’s flagship bill, the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act. Colorado’s first post-Columbine “gun control” law is similar to the federal one, and it allows local law enforcement to bring cases in state court instead of depending on busy federal prosecutors to file federal charges.

The Columbine guns had been procured by adults who bought the guns on behalf of the killers. So, as the second gun-control measure, Colorado enacted a statute against transferring a firearm to a minor without consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. Previously, Colorado law had forbidden such transfers of handguns, but not long guns.

Finally, Colorado voters in 2000 passed a law imposing some special restrictions on gun shows, because three of the four Columbine guns had been obtained at a gun show. In most states, the laws for selling guns at a gun show are exactly the same as for selling a gun anywhere else. Thus, persons who are in the business of selling guns must have a federal license and must conduct a background check on every sale….

The gun-show initiative won 67 percent of the vote — only a little bit less than the proportion favoring Colorado’s Concealed Carry Act.


Second, since I picked at Dan Baum’s reading of the social science yesterday, allow me to recommend his non-science journalism in the form of this fascinating 2010 article about his experiences carrying weapons, both concealed and open. The part about open carry is particularly mindbending:

I’ve tried carrying openly a few times, wearing a loaded, long-barreled .45-caliber revolver in a hip holster to Safeway, Home Depot, Target, Whole Foods, and my local Apple Store. The only person who objected was my wife (“For Christ’s sake!”). Nobody else said a word. The kids at the Apple Store, in their rectangular-framed glasses and blue T-shirts, stood right beside me as I played with an iPad for half an hour. It isn’t possible that they didn’t see the big handgun. More likely, it didn’t interest them: a World War I revolver is pretty dull competition for a touch-screen device running a 1 GHz A4 chip and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. At Target, I made a point of standing for a long time directly in front of a security guard. Nothing. What he saw was a balding, middle-aged man in pleated pants and glasses with a tired old gun on his hip—not a particularly threatening sight. He may have figured I was a useless cop or a ranger from the city’s vast parks system. Either that, or the sight was so incongruous that he and everybody else in Target failed to register it. Then I stopped at a gritty little Mexican grocery I like, for some tortillas and crema, and everybody noticed, their eyes flicking over my belt and going wide. “Señor, is it real?” a chubby little boy asked as I locked up my bicycle. In Mexico, almost nobody gets a license to own a handgun, let alone wear one. “¿Por qué la pistola?” a man at the meat counter asked. “¿Por qué no?” I answered. He shrugged and walked away, shaking his head—not like I was dangerous, more like I was simply a gabacho fool.


On the other hand, I also have some sympathy for Eric’s irritated post today, in which he specifically declines the offer of a gun enthusiast to protect “your liberal views, and your freedoms from people like [Hitler].” Despite my gut sympathy for the Wolverines of the world, this more accurately reflects both my ideals and my sense of how the world actually works:

Hell, if it comes down to tanks in the streets, I’d like to be Wang Weilin. I know that’s not everyone’s bag of tea, I just think that guy–whether that was really his name or whoever he was–did a lot more just standing there than he could have done waving a gun around like he was Yosemite Sam on a tear. He represented man’s dignity against oppression in a way that grabs the gut and holds it. Gods help me if I ever have to test my courage like that only to have some jackass spoil the whole capital-letters Great Moment In History by turning himself into a clay pigeon. Not because of my ego. And, frankly, it’s very possible Wang Weilin or whoever the hell that hero was ended up in a shallow grave two weeks later, something I’d rather avoid (thanks). But because can you imagine that guy’s balls-out stand (a literal stand) against tyranny, forcing his nation to face itself and holding the world’s attention so the world had to say something about the whole thing, can you imagine his stand having the same power, forcing the same moment of stunned universal silence, if fucking Leeroy Jenkins came running in from the image’s margin?!

Well. Indeed.

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5 Responses to moar reading on guns

  1. Eric says:

    I haven’t had the opportunity to read the Baum piece yet, but the except ignores the very real possibility that people noticed his gun, registered it, and were too intimidated/uncertain what the social protocol is/afraid to poke the crazy man/etc. to actually say anything. Much as if, for instance, he walked in wearing a shirt with an outrageously offensive racist slogan on it: people may be angry and offended, but the only ones who will say anything are those willing or able (or required by their job responsibilities) to have a confrontation about it. Someone wearing a vile shirt may be within their rights, and there’s a good chance they WANT to provoke a reaction; but it’s hard (not impossible) to injure or kill someone with an article of clothing.

    If I saw Baum with a gun, I might act natural, but I’d also keep an eye on him and evaluate him as a possible threat. Maybe he’s a nice guy who’s just exercising his constitutional and statutory rights… or maybe he’s one raindrop from the dam bursting. Since I don’t know, I keep one eye on him and try to play it cool.

  2. Eric says:

    (“Excerpt” not “except”. Damn tablet.)

  3. Eric says:

    (A personal footnote: I am around openly-carried firearms–LOTS of openly-carried firearms–five days a week. 1: the issue is not the open firearm per se, it’s the total picture: being surrounded by a dozen cops with guns, sitting around chatting, is a different scene from some total stranger who for gods-only-know-what-reason takes his piece to the Apple Store. 2: Even at the courthouse, I’m all too aware of situations in the past of gun violence in courthouses, including instances in which civilians or inmates managed to disarm law-enforcement officers; being more used to a police officer with an open pistol doesn’t mean one is wholly secure with that sight.)

  4. Eric says:

    Yeeeeeeah…. Read the Baum piece. Well-written, not terribly persuasive; not because he hasn’t done his homework, which certainly suggests arming the public isn’t as dangerous as some gun-control advocates claim or may not increase risk at all, but because he ultimately sounds like a guy who really likes guns (which is fine) but can’t rationalize constant-carry even when he tries and really, really wants to justify it. Doesn’t he ultimately decide he doesn’t want to carry for reasons he dismisses as irrelevant/illogical (it makes his friends uncomfortable, he’s willing to leave public safety to professionals) and reject a rationale he found philosphically acceptable (it’s okay not to carry because you can’t kill, but he thinks he can)?

    If he’s persuasive, it’s contra to where he started: I.e. he describes an armed, paranoid society that doesn’t sound like anything I’d want to live in. If the cost of eternal vigilance is eternal vigilance, I think maybe I’d like to pass. Besides which, I’ve chosen my weapon (as suggested by the post of mine you link back to); I’m reminded of one of my favorite things ever: the sign on Woody Guthrie’s guitar, “This machine kills fascists.” Yes, yes it does.

    • thehandsomecamel says:

      Yeah — I agree on both counts. I think Baum is ambivalent (at least in that article), which makes him more compelling than convincing. But, as someone who’s ambivalent about many things, I was touched by his discomfort with his own behavior.

      And the armed, paranoid society is also not something I want to be a part of. I think I understand a little bit of it — since having a kid I’ve become much more watchful and much less secure moving through the world. I think it’s because, before, you know, if I died, I died, but now if I die this beautiful little kid grows up without a father. On the other hand, I don’t really believe that you can stave off random violence by carrying a gun and staying at “Condition Yellow” at all times, so maybe I’d be happier if I could just let the whole thing go and buy a guitar.

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