Jon Stewart has a pretty good segment up about the NRA’s resistance to the ATF’s efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals even through such modest measures as inspections of gun store inventory.
Here‘s President Obama’s formal proposal for better gun regulation. I still think the “assault weapon” moniker needs to be retired, and I’m not sure whether these steps would stop another Newtown or Aurora or Columbine. But they’re certainly steps in the right direction.
Also, did you know that maybe the Newtown massacre didn’t happen? That’s right. All those grieving parents? Actors. The school officials? The sheriff? The friends and neighbors and classmates? In on it. The guy who let six traumatized kids and a bus driver hide in his house? A total faker. Government, you see, is so profoundly incompetent that no gun control measure could ever possibly reduce gun crime — but also so fiendishly competent that they could invent or subvert a whole town in Connecticut. (In order, I guess, to pass already-popular, extremely modest gun control measures like closing the private-sale loophole and restricting magazine capacity…? Dumb, sure — but that’s because government is so goddamned incompetent!)
Robert Parry argues that the usual argument that the Founders intended us to keep arms in order to rise up against a tyrannical federal government is bunkum:
The Framers also made clear what they thought should happen to people who took up arms against the Republic. Article IV, Section 4 committed the federal government to protect each state from not only invasion but “domestic Violence,” and treason is defined in the Constitution as “levying war against” the United States….
I’m not sure this argument entirely holds water. Federalist 29 explicitly envisions the militia going to the tyrant’s capital “to crush them in their imagined intrenchments of power, and to make them an example of the just vengeance of an abused and incensed people.” But (a) that was something the Federalists thought would happen if the President tried to use the militia itself for evil purposes; it wasn’t suggested as a general remedy to bad governance. And (b) I think Parry is right that our history seems to show that militias have much more frequently been used as instruments of rebellion against duly elected officials carrying out democratically-approved policies than as an effective hedge against tyranny.
But more to the point — why do people who are dissatisfied with government never attempt to do what the Founders themselves did: hold a constitutional convention and try to propose a better system? Why don’t they try argument and persuasion first? Why don’t they publish a modern Federalist Papers in America’s newspapers, clearly laying out their ideas for a more robust and functional democracy? Why, in short, why don’t they have a little faith in their fellow citizens and take their case to the people? That is the best safeguard for democracy. Guns are a pretty weak second-best.
(That’s not to say guns have no place in forcing change in a democracy. Maybe they do. Arguably, Nat Turner and John Brown make the arguments of Frederick Douglass and Salmon P. Chase more convincing and compelling. But they also inspire loathing and a knee-jerk impulse to clamp down harder, to contain that terrifying — if just — stormhead of vengeance. And in the end black slaves won their freedom not by an extra-legal rebellion but by joining the national government in a fight against the militias of rebellious local powers.)
Alex Seitz-Wald refutes the popular myth that Hitler imposed draconian new gun control legislation in order to solidify his power. Quite the opposite, says Seitz-Wald — the Nazis actually loosened the strict gun regulation imposed by the Weimar regime.
Ta-Nehisi Coates (quoting a University of Chicago social scientist) points out that the fear of home invasion — a common justification for gun ownership — may be overblown:
In 2011, precisely one homicide listed “burglary” as the motive. Nationwide, there are about 100 burglary-homicides every year. When you compare that to more than 18,000 gun suicides, the conclusions seem pretty obvious.
(But Coates does note that homicide is not the only possible bad outcome — nobody wants to be beaten or raped, obviously, and many people think even defense of property is enough to justify deadly force. I’m not one of them, but the argument is sometimes made.)
More Coates: if you think universal gun possession is justified by the examples of Switzerland and Israel, be prepared for more, not less, regulation and government intrusion.
Here’s an interesting story from about four years ago: two sheriff’s deputies were shot while trying to arrest a man at a shooting range, although they were themselves armed, as was every single person around them. Why? And why was the shooter captured later, rather than being gunned down by armed and ready citizens? Well, according to another account, range control told everyone to get down and hide. (Which, I emphasize, was absolutely the right call.)
An old story from ABC News has been making the rounds. In it, ABC conducted (pretty unscientific) experiments to see if citizens with guns can really react to active shooters. They put people in a classroom, as though they’re students, and then at some point a stranger would burst in and start shooting the place up. (Not with really bullets, obviously.) Generally, the subjects were not able to draw before being shot. I’m not sure this entirely refutes the idea that gun owners carrying on campus could stop a shooter — after all, some of them might get the drop on the shooter, rather than the reverse. But I’ve actually done a round of use-of-force training at the LAPD’s own classroom, and even when you’re expecting violence it’s surprisingly hard to draw and fire before being shot.
Finally, the idea of more guns = less crime is not new. Archie Bunker thought of it years ago.