Ethics Quote of the Week: Prof. Glenn Reynolds

“A 20-year-old lunatic stole some guns and killed people. Who’s to blame? According to a lot of our supposedly rational and tolerant opinion leaders, it’s . . . the NRA, a civil-rights organization whose only crime was to oppose laws banning guns. (Ironically, it wasn’t even successful in Connecticut, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.) The hatred was intense. One Rhode Island professor issued a call — later deleted — for NRA head Wayne LaPierre’s “head on a stick.” People like author Joyce Carol Oates and actress Marg Helgenberger wished for NRA members to be shot. So did Texas Democratic Party official John Cobarruvias, who also called the NRA a ‘terrorist organization,’ and Texas Republican congressman Louis Gohmert a “terror baby.” Nor were reporters, who are supposed to be neutral, much better. As The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg commented, ‘Reporters on my Twitter feed seem to hate the NRA more than anything else, ever. ‘Calling people murderers and wishing them to be shot sits oddly with claims to be against violence. The NRA — like the ACLU, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers or Planned Parenthood — exists to advocate policies its members want. It’s free speech. The group-hate directed at the NRA is ugly and says ugly things about those consumed by it.”

—- University of Tennessee law professor (and conservative blogging icon) Glenn Reynolds, in a USA Today op-ed piece called “Reflections on Newtown.”

Stop the NRAI’m tempted to go further than Prof. Reynolds and suggest that this also says ugly things about what the extended recession has done to our culture, which once was characterized by the initiative, determination and innovation to solve problems, but now increasingly resorts to the useless strategy of  pointing fingers. The tradition of picking out convenient public scapegoats to blame and demonize in response to complex societal problems is a long-running historical phenomenon around the world, but it seems to me that the United States has never before embraced it with the fervor we are seeing now.

41 thoughts on “Ethics Quote of the Week: Prof. Glenn Reynolds

  1. When people start saying “Ban assualt weapons” I imediatly ask them what for the definition of an “assualt weapon” most people have no idea what that term means and cant tell you what one is.

    • When people start saying “Ban assualt weapons” I imediatly ask them what for the definition of an “assualt weapon” most people have no idea what that term means and cant tell you what one is.

      Invincible ignorance is part and parcel of the gun control campaign.

      In fact, the only campaign which has more invincible ignorance is the Holocaust denial campaign- and not by much.

      • There is an old Latin jurisprudence phrase that governs this debate. A legal precedent established known as “Cum gladiis proscriptae, solum proscripti habebit gladiis.”

        • “When swords are outlawed, only outlaws will have swords” This was the ringing motto of the Roman chapter of the NSA (The National Sword Association) around 86 BC. That was also around the time when NSA head Charltus Hestus famously said, “Vos mos have propugnavit gladium meum de mea frigus, mortuus manus.”

    • I can recall reading a news story here in North Carolina that someone had been charged with possession of ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It turned out that said weapon was a shotgun (sawed off, perhaps?).

      How can one look at something like that and not realize that we have already gone beyond absurd?

      People watch news clips or movies that show soldiers / guerrillas / insurgents firing machine pistols or automatic rifles, etc. Then they hear the media talking about ‘assault weapons’. Why would you not get the impression that the two are the same?

      Sheesh.

  2. It’s easier for people to attack an easily identifiable group of people rather than focus on immaterial psychological ills perpetuated by a materialist narcissist culture, especially since addressing such ills may compel an uncomfortable introspection on everyone’s individual life styles. Those same people yelling at the NRA are loathe to admit their own irresponsible and indiscipline lives contribute to the very societal diseases that lead to these heinous crimes.

  3. I haven’t had a chance yet to check out Crag R. Whitney’s new book “Living with Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment” but I did see this: (Reason Magazine, Vol 44, No.7, December 2012) (..but published in October before the Election.)

    He stated 3 things that everyone should understand about the 2nd Amendment:

    1) It did not create a new right. Rather, it recognized and protected the common law right to have and use firearms that already belonged to every free, adult white male in the colonies.

    2) The right the amendment protects was connected with a civic duty. Then it was militia service; now it should be public safety.

    3) Gun control should focus on keeping firearms out of the hands of people who everybody agrees should not have them, rather than taking them from as many people as possible. Significant measures to protect public safety, such as better ways of identifying and treating mentally disturbed people who might turn to violence, could do more to prevent mass shootings than bans on “assault” weapons and large capacity magazines.

    • Significant measures to protect public safety, such as better ways of identifying and treating mentally disturbed people who might turn to violence, could do more to prevent mass shootings than bans on “assault” weapons and large capacity magazines.

      Such measures must be tempered by due process.

      It should not be the individual who has the burden of proving mental qualification to own a gun’ it should be the government that has the burden of proving mental disqualification to deny a gun.

  4. While I have a hard time squaring it with an ethical framework, I am thoroughly disgusted by the callousness of nearly all the “solution oriented” conversation that has occurred around this shooting. This is all occurring in the context of the grief of each individual family who has to deal with the crushing reality of having lost an immediate family member. In most cases that grief takes a long time to process (months, years) and having a large portion of the country’s media engaged in tossing verbal assaults back and forth at each other over the causes of the incident shows an extreme lack of respect for the grieving families in this incident. Not only did these families have the misfortune of experiencing one of the greatest tragedies in life, they have the added ugliness of having a public spectacle made of it through a crazed subset of media crusaders. It’s sick by any definition of the word.

    • I have trouble conceiving of what your remedy would be. Don’t report the event? Downplay it? Not write about its significance, if one thinks it has significant? Don’t address causes, remedies, and theories, or public policy implications until the incident is what, a year old, and something else has the nation’s attention? Your argument would apply with equal validity—that is, not much—to 9/11, the sinking of the Titanic, the Manson murders and the Triangle fire.

      When 20 children have been murdered it IS a public spectacle. This is just vague bitching without focus, as far as I can tell.

      • I agree with your criticism of my comment, but I was leaning more towards the point of Mr. Reynolds post that you highlighted which implies that a lot of what is being put forth as remedies and theories are merely using the tragedy as a cover to vent personal and/or professional prejudices that people harbor that they are too cowardly to advance without the use of a tragedy to lend legitimacy to otherwise extreme viewpoints. If that is peoples motives, then do they not have some form of ethical responsibility to at least refrain from committing those types of thought to permanent media for everyone to consume? Or shouldn’t they at least qualify their statement to let people know for example that they have always hated the NRA?

        In reference to your second paragraph, again you are correct, but I still have trouble rationalizing how it is that 200+ children killed by drunk driving every year doesn’t incite the same level of reaction, publicity and public discussion that 20 children being killed in a far more statistically rare occurrence than those who were killed in alcohol related crashes. What determines which events deserve a visit from the President and a stump speech at the memorial calling for public action? If he is truly concerned about children dying needlessly, is he negligent in not pursuing tougher policies to lower drunk driving deaths?

        I understand I don’t have clear arguments here, but looking for how ethics can help to bring more clarity to these kinds of situations?

  5. It’s beyond this – although this is probably one of the biggest flashpoints. We have two Americas, and they don’t like each other.

    Quite frankly, as someone who opposes gun bans and who once owned an AR-15, I resent effectively being told that because of some nutcase in Connecticut, I cannot try to get a new AR-15 (or two) at some point. I think those who do seek to punish me for that nutcase’s actions are not very friendly, at all.

    Both sides are going to rapidly demonize each other over this. With twenty dead children, the emotions will run very high.

    • Quite frankly, as someone who opposes gun bans and who once owned an AR-15, I resent effectively being told that because of some nutcase in Connecticut, I cannot try to get a new AR-15 (or two) at some point. I think those who do seek to punish me for that nutcase’s actions are not very friendly, at all.

      The true America is not the America who would punish the innocent for the acts of the guilty.

      • The premise of the anti-gun hysteria is that those who don’t support outright gun banning and confiscation ARE guilty. It is an emotional, fact-free, gut-level, gender-biased argument that has very little to do with common sense and everything to do with lizard-brain level cognitive dissonance manipulation: Guns kill people, killing people BAD, guns BAD, people who own guns BAD, people who oppose gun banning support BAD people killing with BAD guns, so those people are also BAD. The concept of a good gun owner or a good supporter of gun rights doesn’t compute to these people. It’s an impossibility. Guns are like racism, murder and rape—they are per se wrong, so not defense of them can be right. It is exactly as much a matter of cant and declared morality without reason as the conclusion that homosexuality is a sin. they don’t have to justify it with reason—it is decreed wisdom.

        • The concept of a good gun owner or a good supporter of gun rights doesn’t compute to these people.

          And yet, I never heard these people say we should disarm the government, even after the Kandahar Massacre, for which the government was clearly responsible.

          When I suggest that we disarm the government first, none of them agree.

          • That’s been my go to request in any discussion. If the government gives up its weapons, I’d forego my right to the same weapons. (Military exclusion to this.)

            Also, I feel that the defense of the 2nd Amendment is the first line of defense for the 1st Amendment. It won’t be long after we say that dangerous weapons hurt people and should be outlawed that we then say dangerous words hurt people and should be outlawed. “Hate Speech”? “Bullying”? “Social Media Code of Conduct”?

            • That’s been my go to request in any discussion. If the government gives up its weapons, I’d forego my right to the same weapons. (Military exclusion to this.)

              There is a common meme among the gun ban crowd, that the government should be held to a lower standard.

              Some have suggested that if a gun is used in a crime, the owner should be held responsible for the crime without qualifications. When I ask who should be held responsible if a government gun is used in a crime, I get no answer.

  6. The tradition of picking out convenient public scapegoats to blame and demonize in response to complex societal problems is a long-running historical phenomenon around the world

    Indeed.

    Jews were historically the scapegoats, and I am surprised no newspaper or equivalent reported any quotes from Nazi or sand Nazi nithings blaming Sandy Hook on the Jews. (I would not be surprised if Nazi nithings and sand Nazi nithings blamed the Kandahar Massacre on the Jews.)

    As for those who blame the NRA, note that they had nary a peep to say when Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, Kenneth Chamberlain, and Aiyana Jones were killed. Of course, it could be because they were killed by those who would enforce their preferred policies.

    (And if I were a shameless race baiter, I would point out the above were black.)

  7. I think Reynolds may have slightly overstated his case. Some of the comments are definitely ugly, but not all comments against the NRA are. I also think some of the comments from NRA members and leaders DESERVE to be hated. For instance, I think it’s horrible to suggest that arming teachers is a good idea. More clearly, the people suggesting that the Newtown killings were God’s plan and a blessing deserve my hate.

    it also looks to me like Reynolds makes a case that because the NRA has free speech rights, we shouldn’t criticize them. That goes way to far.

    Nothing in my post should be construed to imply that I think horrible comments are ethically okay.

    • I can’t believe that he meant to suggest that they shouldn’t be criticized, since he intentionally linked them to other advocacy/rights groups that he criticizes himself, like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

      I don’t think the arming teachers suggestion is hate-worthy; contempt worthy, maybe. Allowing qualified teachers to carry guns if they wanted to? I’m not sure I’d object to that.

      • Then good for Glen. I should have checked his full comments before interpreting that piece.

        You see contempt. I see danger in the idea. School shootings are still incredibly rare. Arming teachers is just another step in the idea that are children are in danger every second and we need to protect them. It’s gonna blow SMP and tex’s mind, but I think that attitude actually leads people ceding private rights to the government.

        Now, allowing qualified teachers to carry guns? It depends on what the standard is, but I’d say that it’s also completely incoherent to encourage and condone teachers carrying guns while student use of water guns would be an expulsion. If we relax the latter insanity, I can maybe see agreeing.

    • How far back do you want to take the tracking of purchases?

      Because the further back you go, you inevitably get to an initial purchase from a firearms manufacturer (which I would assume is 100% legal).

    • As texagg and Jack point out, it would be pretty much all weapons if you go back far enough.

      A more interesting question I would like stats on would be, what percentage of legally obtained firearms have been used in crimes? Also, for what percentage of guns used in crimes were the criminals the legal owners of the guns?

      • There are alot of statistics that would interesting to see, several may not be measurable.

        Comparison of legally obtained firearms used in crime compared with a potentially immeasurable “legally obtained firearms used to avert crime”.

        Comparison of crime utilizing legally obtained firearms to crime utilizing illegally obtained firearms & crime utilizing other weapons & crime using NO weapons.

        Comparison of the subset of guns used in crime to the whole set of all guns.

        Comparison of crime-rate per capita now to crime-rate per capita then (this stat exists, and is reveals that our society is actually improving in terms of violent crime). Additionally apply the filter of crime-rate with guns per capita now to crime-rate with guns per capita then.

        Of course, all these statistics are interesting. What is the objective use of those statistics? If it is to remove possession of firearms from the citizenry, surely you have to first get past the entirely philosophical debate of the Morality and Civic Virtue of an Armed Citizenry.

        • Oh, you’re certainly right about both the immeasurability of many of these factors as well as the fact that statistics will ultimately be used as it most benefits the arguments of those looking for stats to cite.

          If you’re asking what my own intent or bias would be, I suspect that only a small percentage of legal guns have been used in crimes, and most gunowners are law abiding citizens. While I am not strongly pro-gun, I am anti- government taking away rights of its citizens.

  8. I find it interesting that Liberals, who: (1) purport to hate violence; (2) purport to BE non-violent; (3) purport to be against the death penalty for violent crimes (murder, rape, torture, et al.); (4) purport to be proponents of constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, civil rights, freedom from illegal search and seizure, etc., etc. – – eagerly and aggressively condemn to death, without a trial by law, any person who has not committed any crime whatsoever, but legally and rightfully avails themselves of their right bear arms under the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Just line them up and execute them. Mob rule and hypocrisy; the very essence of Liberalism.

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