Regarding Gun Violence, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Can’t Handle The Truth…and She’s Not The Only One.

This morning on New Day, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota this morning hectored and badgered a GOP Congressman—as soon as I find the video, I’ll add his name–on the issue of gun regulations in the aftermath of the most recent mass shooting. Her fevered attitude and rhetoric, combined with the Congressman’s measured responses, should serve as a template for the commentary on future shootings.

It was an infuriating conversation, and like all recent conversations and speeches about guns, including the President’s irresponsible statement following yesterday’s shooting, it springs from an unwillingness to face facts, accept the nature of rights, and to be straightforward about what gun control proposals really mean.

The following are facts. Alisyn Camerota, like the President, and like her partner Chris Cuomo, who opined that anyone opposing gun control was “delusional,” either can’t accept them, or is unwilling to be honest and candid about their implications.

1)  Rights, if they exist and are upheld by the government, will always be abused by some people.

2) The only way to stop people from abusing rights is to end the rights.

3) Those who want to end rights for the vast majority of people who do not abuse rights in order to remove the rights from the relative few who do are also people who do not care about or value the rights under discussion.

4) As a result, they are biased and untrustworthy advocates on the topic of limiting those rights.

5) Abuse of the right to bear arms, since it necessarily involves a misuse of weapons, will always cause more harm and societal pain that the abuse of other rights. That does not diminish the value of the right itself, or the obligation of the state to respect and protect it.

6) When an anti-gun advocate says that we must prevent guns from falling into the hands of unhinged people, the only possible alternatives are locking up anyone who demonstrates any tendencies toward anxiety, emotionalism, irrationality, depression or poor impulse control, which is pre-crime and unconstitutional, and.or banning guns entirely…which is unconstitutional. No measures short of these will prevent a citizen demonstrating that he or she is too dangerous to own a gun by the act of shooting someone for the first time.

7) Liberal and progressives championed court decisions that ruled that non-violent citizens, no matter how disturbed, should not be confined in institutions against their wills. This protected the right of Americans to be free until they posed a clear danger to themselves or others, and was a principled policy change. It also has led to many deaths as a price for respecting our individual liberties.

8) Despite Camerota insistently asking the Congressman why something couldn’t be done to identify potentially dangerous crazy people before they do something crazy and dangerous, the answer is obvious. It’s impossible, without constricting the rights of innocent, non-criminal, non-dangerous citizens in order to try to stop the deadly ones.

A member of my extended family, in a group therapy session, was urged repeatedly by a psychologist to open up and express her thoughts. She said that in the past, after a series of misfortunes, she briefly thought about suicide. She had earlier noted that she owned a shotgun gun for Skeet shooting, legally. She was immediately put in a car and confined in a state facility, placed on a 48 hour suicide watch, and declared a danger to herself, which she was not. The family had to hire a lawyer and threaten law suits to get her out. This is already excessive state action.

Camerota, we could gather from her comments, believes that someone like my family member should not be able to exercise her right to own a firearm because a single hysterical, litigation averse government bureaucrat over-reacted…you know, just to be on the safe side. What her policies would mean, of course, is that communications between patients and mental health professionals would no longer be confidential, which would mean that these sessions would no longer be candid or therapeutic.

9) The right to protect one’s home, family, possessions, person and liberty with firearms remains a bulwark of the American ideal of independence and personal freedom. The statements from the President, Camerota, and others that only the U.S. has a problem with gun violence is irrelevant to the discussion unless the objective is to ban guns or lock up eccentrics and depressives before they do anything that justifies confinement. No other country shares the U.S.’s commitment to individual liberty.Obviously we are the only country with this problem. And????

10) Unless they are not thinking about the implications of their words, anyone who makes this observation is admitting that he or she does not value the American commitment to individual freedom as much as supporters of the Second Amendment.

11) “This is the price we pay for our rights” wrote a Facebook friend, ruefully, in what was taken by most to be a statement that they weren’t worth that price. Still, that is an accurate statement. The price we pay for free speech is hurtful speech and ugly speech—and many “progressives” don’t want to pay that price, either. The price we pay for the right to be safe from illegal searches and seizures is that it is hard to catch terrorists before they kill, and criminals are allowed to go free because warrants were faulty even though a cop’s suspicions were correct. The price we pay to keep our rights safe is to periodically send soldiers into harm’s way—lots of people, including our President, don’t want to pay that price. The price we pay for freedom of religion is that we can’t ban a religion from participating in our democracy even though we know with some mathematical certainty that some of those espousing this religion want to kill us, and will. The price we pay for due process and the right to a fair trial by a jury of our peers is that O.J. and a lot of other terrible people never get punished for the crimes they commit.

My solution? I think it’s unethical to just leave an ethics discussion by saying that “you can’t get there from here,’ so here is what I think can be done, and that may help.

If more people are snapping and killing people, then the way to address the problem is to find out why, not to strip away important rights. I suspect that many people decide to start killing people when they feel like they have less liberty, that they cannot control their own fate, and that their last option to assert their independence is to lash out against society and civilization. I suspect that increasingly, due to technology, due to the proliferation of laws, due to the din of polarized political discourse and hateful rhetoric, and due to the fact that it is more difficult to function in our society without wealth, intelligence and knowledge than ever before, Americans are becoming lonely, desperate, cynical and hopeless. The answer, whatever it is, cannot involve taking their core rights and liberties away.

The answer, whatever it is, must involve making those rights more meaningful, and permitting more individual liberty, not less.

238 thoughts on “Regarding Gun Violence, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Can’t Handle The Truth…and She’s Not The Only One.

  1. I posted this article to a friend’s facebook page. He is British and was wondering why the US couldn’t stop these incidents. I hope you don’t mind. This is his facebook page and my comment, with your link. I am not sure about your reposting policies so I wanted to let you that I did what I did.

    jvb

        • Agreed. His comments and questions were honest, seeking debate and clarity. I hope I helped his understanding. That is why I posted this blog as a follow up to my comments. Your comment was more detailed than mine and more cogent.

          jvb

        • Oddly, I was just told by a UK acquaintance who is going to quit her job and travel the world for a year that she and her husband are specifically not coming to the US “until you people get your gun issue sorted,” adding that there is simply no reason for anyone to own a handgun when they have gotten along fine without them since the school massacre in Scotland opened everyone’s eyes.

        • Britain has become one of the most violent places in Europe since they banned guns. They’ve also been invaded by several million guys little different than the one who shot those people (for being Christians) in Oregon. People are routinely assaulted when they wander into one of Britain’s “no go” zones and knife murders are on the rise. They might well be reminded (along with the government of Oregon) that these crimes tend to happen in places where people collect, where armed men are unlikely to be and at the hands of atheists or Moslems. This woman that John mentions has apparently worn blinders and voted Labour for the extent of her useless life. I’d ask her to please stay home, then, and witness the slow demise of her country that she’s contributed to through her evident idiocy.

  2. Great post .

    I see a lot of people who oppose gun rights calling for a national conversation on gun control. Well its hard to have a national conversation when every time you open you mouth they call you a murderer.

    I also find it sad that the same people who are losing their minds over these seven people killed in Oregon could care less about the 2,000 a week dying in Syria and Iraq.

    • They call for a “national conversation” but we’ve been having one, for decades now, they just don’t like that no one wants to agree with them, so they pretend like the conversation hasn’t been had.

    • Their idea of a conversation is not “you and I are going to talk,” it’s more “no, dammit, I am going to talk. You are going to LISTEN!” Maybe that worked when mom or the teacher was holding all the cards. It doesn’t work between two adults.

      • Yeah, doesn’t that sound like a parent warning a kid they’re going to be grounded when they get home? Who’s going to be involved, and how much say or influence will they have on the outcome? As a politician says it, it usually means they want to look like they’re doing something but it will be only talk.

        But, if we aren’t going to try to address these mass shootings at the weapons, what are some alternatives? Alienation, frustration, futility, hopelessness, and cries for attention/fame but willing for die for infamy,

        I think we have too large an age cohort, mostly angry men-boys who want to be popular, respected, and feared that have no hope of a better life (girls/money/cred.) The media has not been helping, with gritty dark art predominating so long past the millennial angst that younger people don’t remember it wasn’t always that way. When Mad Max was the gritty exception once it was fine, but when they keep revamping old heroes darker and more violent, are they catering to a trend or accelerating it? Some people can use online social media to meet or make healthy friendships, but people like these shooters only find echo chambers.

        Truly I think our society has spun apart so much with mobiles and net, all we have are people shouting from their soapboxes in the town square instead of communities. We’re not in one community, we’re in dozens of virtual communities a little bit, and no one has enough contact to identify or assist avatars and their flesh person. Learning how to meet others face to face and get through wins and losses, snubs at the dance or bar, get toys for tots every year. They may never have learned to treat or care for people outside themselves and that makes every other life passage from college, to jobs, to romance impossible and they blame the world or religion for their failures.

        Maybe we need to start having physical community activities, geared for that 15-30 age. Meet people. Try out dating and networking. Mess up and try again. Dances were weekly in my mother’s day, then monthly, but now biennial. Charity drives. Contests. Any activity that pulls people into the same task and benefits the community. SOMETHING to do. Yeah some kids sail through without getting lost, by family or luck, but these shooters DON’T have anything or anyone they care enough about to not want to lose. They’re pissed that the girls are not falling over themselves to hook up with them, but I sure would not from what is public about them. That ‘underachiever’ needs something to care about, something the “Keep (them) busy off the streets and out of trouble” Like my one teacher said when he gave homework. If they find a purpose, they will do as much for themselves as they would for any charity.

    • I propose no more conversation with these people whatsoever. No is no. Simple as that. We keep talking with them, allowing them to browbeat us into one “common sense” law after another. Not another inch. Period.

      • Imagine two lines (roughly parallel), one at value 10, the other at value 5. Extend these lines (roughly parallel to each other) through time…5 has never really been happy being 5, but will be 5 because it’s tolerable for now, 10 doesn’t really care as long as everyone seems happy.

        Let’s say, about 10 years down the road, 5 says to 10, “HEY YOU YOUR KINDA FAR FROM ME, LET’S BE CLOSER, Let’s compromise, come my direction”, so 10 does…now he’s 9.

        Another 10 years down the road, 5 has gotten discontent and moved to 2 (closer to where he’s always wanted to be) and says to what is now 9, “HEY YOU LUNATIC CRAZY MURDERER HATER, Let’s compromise, come my direction”, so 9 does…now he’s 7.

        Another 10 years down the road, 2 (who used to be 5) has gotten discontent again and moved to the -4 spot and says to 7 (who used to be 10 long ago). , “HEY YOU FREAKING HATEFUL MONSTER, YOU HATE KIDS DON’T YOU? Let’s compromise, come my direction and I won’t hate you so much”…so 7 moves to the 5 spot.

        Another 10 years down the road, -4 (having come a long way from where he was, though he hated it so) is discontent yet again, and moves to the -10 spot…he looks at 5 (who used to be 10) and says “WOW, I CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT AN EXTREMIST WHACKO YOU ARE, I BET YOU DREAM ABOUT MURDERING GRANDMOTHERS AND EATING BLACK PEOPLE FOR DINNER, let’s compromise, come my direction”…

        At this point, 5 has decided, “enough is enough, we’re done talking, I kinda like where we used to be (10) better than where you want to go.”

        That may be a long read and slightly confusing analogy…but that’s pretty much how I see most discussions with Leftwingers anymore…

    • It’s not 7 people killed by guns in Oregon – it’s 10,000 people killed by guns in the US this year. As of October 2.
      And counting.
      And how do you figure people who are concerned about gun violence in the US aren’t concerned about deaths in Syria and Iraq? Most folks I know find them all appalling.

  3. I’ve had this discussion with other folks up and down. I can explain the history and the facts (I find it particularly telling that if you drop out DC, failed city Detroit, uber-corrupt New Orleans, and the granddaddy of murder, Chicago, the US is actually 4th from the bottom of the world in homicides, and all those cities have draconian gun laws) until I’m blue in the face. Most folks have made up their minds on guns either one way or the other, and just back into their conclusions, ignoring anything that does not agree with what they have decided and characterizing those who do not agree with them as stupid, deluded, or some other insult. It’s very easy to dismiss someone who’s anti-gun if you think he’s a weenie or a Euro wannabe, and it’s easy to dismiss someone who’s pro-gun if you think he’s a cowboy or a redneck (and its only one step to racist from either).

    At this point both right and left have moved beyond working within the framework established by the Constitution to trying to work around it or bend it to their vision. The right is not as guilty, but wants to use religious freedom to justify personal bias and in some cases hate. The left wants to throw the Second Amendment out the window as outdated or nonsensical, impose its own vision of cruel and unusual punishment over and above state ones, and carve out a big exception to free speech for hate speech so no one can argue with them. For seven years now the left has acted like the other side wasn’t even worth listening to, because Obama was all-powerful, but he no longer is and their attempts have failed. So the rhetoric gets more shrill as they watch their hopes at total control and a permanent majority dissipate.

  4. As usual, your analysis is near perfect. Thankfully, your closing paragraphs tend to contradict fact number six. Locking people up pre-crime and “banning guns entirely” are not “the only possible alternatives” to “prevent guns from falling into the hands of unhinged people”. The other alternative is to make sure there are no unhinged people. Happy people, people that are treated throughout their lives with dignity, respect, love, and compassion (i.e., ethically), do not typically come unhinged. As you suggest, “making…rights more meaningful, and permitting more individual liberty” is a way to behave ethically by showing respect for others. Alternatively, “taking…core rights and liberties away” is likely to cause more unhinging. In this arena, and in many others, the solutions offered by liberals tend to be the cause of the problem.

    • “the solutions offered by liberals tend to be the cause of the problem.”

      How is this not complete and utter nonsense? How do you figure that the feeling that we should severely restrict the availability of guns – the basic liberal position – is the “cause” of murder rates in the US that are ten times that of Scandinavia, and 500% higher than continental Europe?

      Do you know what “cause” means? I am completely missing your logic here.

      • I confess that “cause” is too strong of a word. “Exacerbate” and “perpetuate” are more accurate. Outlawing guns is a liberal solution to gun violence that can lead to frustration and feelings of impotence that in turn promote violent lashing out at the community (with and without guns). There’s at least some evidence, and some people would claim ample evidence, that liberal solutions for poverty (such as minimum wages, high taxation, and dependence on government) perpetuate poverty; liberal solutions for racism (such as promoting victim mentality) exacerbate racial tension; the liberal solution to poor retirees (Social Security) discourages workers from saving, and will likely soon result in destitute retirees and/or impoverished (overtaxed) workers; the liberal solution to illegal immigration (providing sanctuary and government services) perpetuates illegal immigration; the liberal solution to hunger (subsidizing food consumption) exacerbates obesity and poor health; the liberal solution to Assad’s use of chemical weapons…the list could go on and on. Admittedly, liberal solutions are not the origin of these societal issues, but they are an impediment to mitigation, tending to make the problems worse rather than better.

        • Good summary of liberals’ bad solutions. However, gun issues (unlike the other examples you mention), as Jack has noted again and again, involve Rights. The infringement on Rights or worse, their removal, could signal a final political break among individuals. One argues on the subject of “outlawing” guns and making happy people; the other’s premise is “severely restricting” them as in accord with other cultures’ lawmaking. Others, on all sides (including people I know), have declared a halt to any discussion on the subject. In fact, the discussion doesn’t really seem to have begun.

          Time to start over again with Jack’s difficult (impossible?) challenge in mind: “The answer, whatever it is, must involve making those rights more meaningful, and permitting more individual liberty, not less”.

      • ” the feeling that we should severely restrict the availability of guns – the basic liberal position”. Thank you for your candidness on this. It must be said, however, that this is precisely why so many of us have nothing to say to liberals on the matter. You’d might as well say that our right to free speech should be severely limited. Actually, it may be more accurate to say that the availability of air for free speech should be severely limited. I’ve posted the stats on democide, so I don’t think it needs to be done again, but I think that, and that alone, is sufficient to shut down any argument for more gun control decisively, at least among the truly reasonable. At the very least, it’s all the convincing I need.

        • “this is precisely why so many of us have nothing to say to liberals on the matter.”

          JoeD, you are undoubtedly right about this. Or anyway, I agree.

          That is the gulf between us. “We” are frustrated at ongoing death rates, and “you” are concerned about significant restrictions on the right to gun ownership.

          I’ve always found it useful to at least agree on a problem definition as a first step, and I find I’m quite in agreement with the problem as you’ve stated it.

          Thanks for that.

          • It’s actually about death rates to me, too; the risk to benefit ratio between doing something that may or may not have a very significant impact on violent death, versus the risk of democide incurred by permanently curtailing this right.

            • The fact that you are willing to phrase it as a trade-off is very encouraging to me; I see it that way too. Absolute unlimited rights don’t seem necessary, and we’ve been able to live with non-zero death rates from smoking and driving.

              So good people of good will ought to be able to work that admittedly wide gulf.

              I just saw some interesting stuff that offers some ideas in that direction, “Inside the Race to Stop the Next Mass Shooter” at

              http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/09/mass-shootings-threat-assessment-shooter-fbi-columbine

              • I’ve always enjoyed shooting and guns. Nonetheless, if there was ever a magic button I could press that would un-invent them, and every terrible weapon, I would push it. But they’re here to stay, and bad people will always have them. So will governments, and I doubt there’d be a majority of people in any government that would push such a button, because it would not give them the exponential advantage over its citizens that they already enjoy. That is simply not the nature of government, no matter how many people of good will are in it at any given time. For good or bad, government is raw power. To forget that, to ascribe noble intentions that may or may not exist, and if they do, may not remain indefinitely, is to court disaster. I have little doubt that our government would confiscate any and all civilian-owned weapons in a heartbeat, and that’s why we MUST be unyielding in this matter. I read a court decision somewhere, wherein a justice ended his remarks that mistakes in this matter could only be made once, because once this right is gone, it will never come back. It’s not a chance worth taking.

                • “I’ve always enjoyed shooting and guns. Nonetheless, if there was ever a magic button I could press that would un-invent them, and every terrible weapon, I would push it.”

                  Idealistic at best…you’ll also want to somehow destroy the impulse in undisciplined man that drives him to power and control others and be willing to kill others in that pursuit…

                  Because destroy his weapons and he’ll still kill in pursuit of domination.

                  • I agree. I’m only stating that it MIGHT be harder for governments to have the enormous force advantage that they do now, my chief concern, and people MIGHT be less-inclined to commit terrible crimes against each other if there’s no such thing as force-multipliers like projectile weapons. Or, maybe we’d just beat each other to death with heavy sticks, and our wars would return to being the hand-to-hand matters that they were long ago. That doesn’t sound like much fun, either. I don’t know. Mega-murders and criminals are now our reality, and that will simply never change. A gun ban would accomplish nothing but the beginning of a lucrative and violent black market in guns, and most people simply wouldn’t disarm anyway. And, as I’ve stated before, I firmly believe it would foment complete distrust in our government, and would be an unmistakable signal of bad intent.

                  • I also wanted to make it clear that my unwillingness to see confiscation or further regulation as viable alternatives is actually motivated by the same desire to minimize death, and not borne from some morbid fascination with guns.

                    • I fully understood your intent, it was Charles who altered what you said then imposed those words on you, prompting my long exposition in response to him that demonstrated just how he and his side ruin all chances of the “dialogue” they claim to desperately want when they dishonestly skew what the pro-American values side of the debate has to say.

              • I’m really kind of a hippy at heart, believe it or not. My ideal life would consist of my family and maybe some close friends and relatives going off-grid, working together, being self-sufficient,enjoying a simple life, treasuring every minute with our children, working hard, then eating together at night. I’d leave it all behind in a second.

              • So Charles, if it is really about the trade-off for you, explain to me why unfathomable millions murdered by Left-wing governments unchecked by an Armed Citizenry is preferable to a couple hundred thousand in the past century murdered by criminals?

                Really… if it is about the trade off.

                • Texagg, this looks like a double non-sequitur. I really don’t know what you’re talking about, or what you’re asking me to defend.

                  What does a trade-off in a problem statement have to do with nation-historical genocide? Are you asking me to compare Stalinist Russia with 21st Century United States? Gosh let me think – I choose the US.
                  Does that prove something?

                  How is this somehow a choice? I don’t get a lot of satisfaction out of saying we’re better than Stalin. I’d rather ask: don’t you think we can do better than we’re doing?

                  • Uh, you acknowledged that JoEd’s phrasing it as a trade-off means you know exactly what I’m talking about. Now’s not the time to play stupid, not after saying “The fact that you are willing to phrase it as a trade-off is very encouraging to me; I see it that way too.”

                    This is clear acknowledgement of what JoEd mentioned and I expounded on, when he said “It’s actually about death rates to me, too; the risk to benefit ratio between doing something that may or may not have a very significant impact on violent death, versus the risk of democide incurred by permanently curtailing this right.”

                    That is precisely the tradeoff between deaths at the hands of government gone wild versus deaths at the hands of criminals while maintaining an armed citizenry.

                    Your pretending like that wasn’t what was said is precisely why I say you are completely incapable of a good faith discussion.

                    Like I said, now isn’t the time to play stupid.

                    Put up or shut up.

                    “Are you asking me to compare Stalinist Russia with 21st Century United States? Gosh let me think – I choose the US.
                    Does that prove something?”

                    Yes, it proves you are ignorant as you hide in your question the tried and untrue defense of “it could never happen here“. Which any student of history and humanity knows, yes, indeed it CAN happen here.

                    Now, answer the question, would you rather have 10,000 deaths a year due to criminals or 1,000,000 per year at the hands of a government?

                    Sure, it won’t happen tomorrow or next year or even next decade, but deny the right, and we know where history goes. This is how people comfortable with reality understand the world and realize the need for checks and balances.

          • “That is the gulf between us. “We” are frustrated at ongoing death rates, and “you” are concerned about significant restrictions on the right to gun ownership.”

            Ladies and Gentlemen,

            Here we have on display the subtle phraseology adopted by the Left designed to establish a “conversation” on their terms, and creating the basis for making the American value enshrined in the 2nd Amendment out as though it is some sort of cheap assertion of possession.

            You see, part of the Left’s tactics when attacking American values, as displayed by reliably knee-jerk Charles Green, is to cheapen the defense of the 2nd Amendment as though it’s supporting arguments boil down to “I WANTS MY GUNZ ‘CUZ DEY MINEZ!”

            I could count to a thousand the number of times I’ve heard the argument that “all you care about is your guns, we care about people dying”. For Charles’ part, it’s sophomoric at best and dishonest at worst to claim that appropriately frames the discussion.

            You see, I can frame it in terms preferable to me: It is about securing the most ancient right of all people, Self-Preservation, be it from common criminal, external invader, or home-grown tyrant versus the other side that just wants to dis-empower and subjugate the citizens. You see, we can all play illogical word games.

            Now, I don’t doubt that Charles isn’t one of the ilk that wants to tyrannize his fellow man, so to appease his needs, an actual framing of the “debate” in fair and responsible terms, that:

            Our side seeks to continue educating and advancing the ONLY principle that keeps civil government civil, is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and that aftera long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. And when that time comes, the ONLY hope the people have is to meet FORCE with FORCE.

            Their side seeks to reduce death counts by removing the means to inflict death. Which is certainly a noble sounding goal, though I don’t quite see the vigor from their side in targeting far more prolific killing implements in our culture.

            I would submit that Charles’ inaccurate wording of the problem is designed to make the pro-American values side of that argument seem simplistic and obviously the wrong answer; however, given an accurate portrayal of the problem facing us, we see that his side of the argument is quite the kindergarten solution – lacking nuance and lacking understanding of the depth of the problem that faces Man when he seeks to establish civil government.

            You see, there is no doubt that taking guns away WILL reduce a certain amount of gun deaths (though not all), but History will readily prove that the trade off IS NOT WORTH IT.

            Our good contributor, JoEd has posted elsewhere the staggering number of DEAD at the hands of governments PLACED IN POWER by just the kind of naive innocents that espouse the utopian world-views Charles would advance. His type likes to rejoinder “But that would never happen here”, which time and again is a glaring denial of both human nature and human history.

            No no, it isn’t about making sure we get to own guns just ‘cuz pappy owned ’em also! It isn’t about making sure we get to hunt, because you can stop hunting all you want, THAT ISN’T protected by the 2nd Amendment. Though some make that argument, it isn’t the real argument, only convenient fodder for Leftists to beat like a straw man.

            The 2nd Amendment doesn’t even read as though “Keep Arms” is the only phrase in the Amendment. Nay.

            “Necessary for the security of a Free State” demonstrates exactly the depth of importance of a citizenry armed and knowledgeable in arms as the ONLY counterbalance to a government gone wild.

            “I’ve always found it useful to at least agree on a problem definition as a first step, and I find I’m quite in agreement with the problem as you’ve stated it.”

            Except you didn’t, you dishonestly re-termed what JoEd said and put words in his mouth.

            • Sigh…

              TexAgg, I honestly tried to make a simple sentence that would speak to the core issues of each side. I think my intent was clear from the context, and I’ll freely confess to imperfection on execution.

              If I didn’t nail it for “your” side, mea culpa – please improve on it. We do need a joint problem statement.

              I will note, however, that your entire note here – all 15 paragraphs of it – is about stating YOUR view, with the exception of one sentence (“Their side seeks to reduce death counts by removing the means to inflict death.” A fair enough summary, albeit a little bloodless compared with the tome you wrote expressing your own view point).

              So how about you take a shot at it? Try your hand at crafting a simple problem statement that fairly presents the best of each side’s viewpoints? These things rarely get nailed on the first try, so I’ll give up pride of authorship.

              Over to you – do me one better. How do you phrase the problem?

              • “So how about you take a shot at it?”

                If your side is concerned with the death rate at the hands of gun-wielding killers, then yes, I stated it quite accurately. And it would seem that is your side’s concern based on your incessant droning during this discussion.

                And no, you didn’t nail it for “my” side and you know you didn’t, you know full well you parroted typical Leftist vilifying commentary, there you go with the “innocent as a dove routine”. You aren’t fooling anyone.

                The reason I spent 15 paragraphs (I’m glad you can count past your fingers, that’s some sign of cognitive function), on “my” side, is because I had to rectify your juvenile attempt at cheapening “my” sides’ argument.

                You can save your sighs for yourself, you’re the one who popped off with cringe-worthy nonsense.

            • Without endorsing all the rhetorical flourishes, this is an apt and perceptive exposition of the dishonest framing that makes the “civil” debate that anti-gun zealots claim to seek all but impossible.

              The Second Amendment is not about guns—indeed, it doesn’t mention guns. The Amendment earned its high ranking among the Amendments because it asserts the supremacy of the individual over government power, and states that the government must never render him or her and their property, family and rights vulnerable to harm or tyranny by removing that individual’s ability to protect all without government largess, assistance, or, heaven forbid, opposition. The only underlying beliefs that can support a desire to remove that right is the belief that citizens should be wholly dependent upon the police power for their security, and wholly trustful of the governments benign motives. The first is irresponsible, and the second is naive.

              The argument that periodic deaths justify eliminating the right to bear arms is the same as arguing that the threat of crime justifies a police state, and the removal of due process and a fair trial. The reason ant-gun zealots don’t see the similarity is that they are not biased against due process and fair trials. But since they personally lack the interest, the assertiveness, and/or the guts to take measures to ensure their own safety rather than trust in the government to provide it, they feel justified in removing the option from those who do.

              • Just who is proposing “the argument that periodic deaths justify eliminating the right to bear arms?” Not me.

                But in the way you put that forth, you suggest both that NO AMOUNT OF DEATHS can alter your point, and NO QUALIFICATION ON RIGHTS can be brooked.

                I know of no one in the real world who is proposing such an absolutist definition of the issue.

                Like it or not, we live in a social world of other human beings, politics, etc. Suppose the death rate from guns became 10X what it is today – I HOPE you would consider that relevant. And suppose that some kind of careful policy, far far short of “eliminating the right to bear arms,” could be devised – I HOPE you would consider that something worth talking about.

                Am I wrong?

                But ascribing unqualified absolutist views to others is just demonization. Who are you trying to convince? Me? TexAgg? It’s not doing anything that I can see to advance any agenda.

                • Sure I do: I talk about the Ethics Incompleteness principle all the time. There is always an exception: that’s a given. As with torture: I believe it is an absolute, but there is a unique exception in directly existential circumstances. We’re not talking about a suddenly exploding number of gun deaths. We are talking about a declining number in fact. Do you’re moving the goal posts. Yes, in the unimaginable situation in which the right to bear arms threatened the existence of the nation and/or the public, those rights would have to be eliminated or greatly reduced. That’s not the issue at hand.

                • “Suppose the death rate from guns became 10X what it is today – I HOPE you would consider that relevant.”

                  Hypotheticals like this are still just as silly, if the homicide rate climbs to 10x what it is today, there is MUCH MORE wrong with the culture than the Right to Bear Arms, and we’d still have the same puerile claims that “getting rid of the guns” would solve the problem, when in all obviousness, there is a more serious issue going on.

                  “And suppose that some kind of careful policy, far far short of “eliminating the right to bear arms,” could be devised – I HOPE you would consider that something worth talking about.”

                  And again, this is, by YOU, a complete denial of the central premise of this discussion — that your side CANNOT come up with a “careful policy, far far short of eliminating the right to bear arms” that would effect the ends you seek. You make the false claim that that is the limit, but then describe a vision in which the only effective solution would be to eliminate the right to bear arms. That is precisely the dishonest drivel that prompted Jack’s post and stops cold all possible “national conversations” on this topic.

      • Three reasons I didn’t respond.

        One, I was on a plane.

        Two, that’s a Koch-funded right wing think tank with heavy ties to ALEC; a very biased source, in other words.

        Three, and most substantively, that article is 7 years old – and it uses data from 2002 – 13 years old. Further, it concludes that the study “does prove that gun control is a flawed policy.”

        It proves no such thing. The opposite is clearly true.

        In 2013, Prime Minister John Howard said, “the fact is that our murder rate using guns has fallen and there’s not much doubt in my mind that it’s the availability of guns that causes such a high rate of murder using weapons.”

        And, according to a CNN article, “In the years after the Port Arthur massacre, the risk of dying by gunshot in Australia fell by more than 50% — and stayed there. A 2012 study by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University also found the buyback led to a drop in firearm suicide rates of almost 80% in the following decade.”

        Both of those quotes by the way are from a June 2015 CNN article, titled “This Is What Happened When Australia Tigthtened Gun Laws.”
        http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/19/world/us-australia-gun-control/
        (And please spare me the bit about how CNN is in bed with the Obamanites and the radical left).

        More relevant to your point would be the nature of the Australian program: as noted in The Federalist (which also grants the reduction in murders and suicides), the program was seriously confiscatory – in ways that would never pass muster in the US.
        http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/25/the-australia-gun-control-fallacy/

        In other words, the Australian program would never work here, because we’re in such a dither over the issue that even the proposal to collect data on gun use is considered by the right to be an incipient threat to gun ownership, driving more paranoiac buying of even more guns to “be ready” for the Obamanite onslaught of gun confiscation.

        It truly is a dilemma. Jack asks how guns can be reduced without violating our gun ‘rights.’ Darned if I know. It’s like being asked to get rid of rats, but without using poison or traps. Or improving car safety without being able to track automobile usage, ownership or accident rates.

        There is simply no question that less readily available guns leads to fewer gun deaths. The question is how to get there. Rather than obsessing about the infringement on rights and the sharpshooting at confiscatory proposals, how about the gun lobby come up with some constitutionally-acceptable ways to limit the epidemic of gun deaths in this country?

        A lot of people would like to hear a good answer. Actually, even a suggestion that such high death rates matter would be a welcome sign.

        • “OH GOD NOT THE KOCH BROTHERS!!!!!

          HOLY HELL, BUT I’LL TOTALLY BUY EVERY LAST THING I READ FROM SITES FUNDED BY PEOPLE WHO VOTE LIKE ME!!!!! I’LL EVEN PRETEND THEY ARE UNBIASED!!!!!”

          -Charles Green

          • What an arrogant jerk you are, to disregard something supported by your political opposition and then immediately preempt the same objection by others with this line:

            “Both of those quotes by the way are from a June 2015 CNN article, titled “This Is What Happened When Australia Tigthtened Gun Laws.”
            http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/19/world/us-australia-gun-control/
            (And please spare me the bit about how CNN is in bed with the Obamanites and the radical left).”

            Are you really capable of even a modicum of a good faith argument?

            How, I ask again, do you take yourself seriously or look yourself in the mirror?

            • I’m glad you bit on that one. Here’s what happened.

              The original response by SMP refused to even LOOK at the site on factcheck finding, saying it was a biased source and therefore presumably hot worthy of his even looking at it.

              I didn’t do that. I WENT to the Koch-funded site, and IN ADDITION TO noting it was Koch-brothers-funded, I made a substantive critique of the piece.

              – I noted the data was a decade out of date
              – I quoted the key finding, and provided data that flatly disproved it.

              This is exactly the opposite of what SMP did.

              He refused to look at something. I looked at it and provided real data to counteract it.

              Get how that works?

              • I don’t have the time tonight to go over all the entries, Charles. Maybe tomorrow. Now listen up. I didn’t go to Factcheck because it has too many ties to the Left. I can’t trust it as factual. The same goes for Snopes. Nor, BTW, do I trust a source automatically from rightist circles unless I’ve come to know it and its level of accuracy. It’s tough to find a source these days that DOESN’T have an ax to grind. Some, at least, will admit it. Those are the more trustworthy ones! You just have to balance them off with other sources that are around to get an accurate picture. Only a fool takes a single source (other than the Bible!) as gospel. Only a gigantic fool will take a leftist one and grant it any credence at all.

  5. Jack, you knew this was coming. I find your point of view on this issue utterly baffling.

    As the WaPo headline notes, so far in the year 2015 we’ve had 274 days, and 294 mass shootings. You choose to call that “infrequent,” and argue that at least the vast majority of people still have their precious rights.

    OK, here’s the point. You can harangue all you want about the ethics of rights, and I can harangue right back about how the level of murder in this nation vastly exceeds by multiples the murder rates in other Western nations. We can both use hyperbole and outrage, but here’s the truth: I’m not going to convince you, and you’re not going to convince me.

    I seriously doubt there’s a person in 1,000 over the age of 20 in this country who doesn’t have a seriously hard opinion about the enormous rate of gun ownership – either pro or con.

    So here’s my question: you’re the ethics expert. How do you explain, in ethics terms, the utter hard-mindedness on both sides of the argument? And what are the ethical implications of such a strongly defined split?

    Can the field of ethics somehow get past “I’m right and you’re wrong?” Are we doomed to purely ethics-by-majority opinion? And if not, why is it that we find hundreds of millions of people on opposite sides of this issue?

    My question is borne from honest frustration – how can we ever figure out how to find consensus, or even empathy, on such divisive issues, when the dialogue is so severely divided?

    • I. You get an ethics ding right off the bat, Charles, as the word “infrequent” doesn’t appear anywhere in my post, nor have any relevance to the topic. What the hell are you talking about?

    • II. Convince you of what? that this isn’t Australia? You need convincing on that point? What is it that you think you need to convince me of? That our rights are are rights? That rights are abused? That murders are bad? You aren’t even trying to deal with the real issue, Charles, and that’s what the post was about.

    • III Wowsers. “How do you explain, in ethics terms, the utter hard-mindedness on both sides of the argument?” That’s what the entire post was about: the stand-off that isn’t a stand-ff exists because one said refuses to accept reality and/or is lying. If we are going to have a right to bear arms, which is essential to all the rights and the philosophical core of the USA, then we are going to have shootings, and the rest is just a tantrum. A tantrum, that’s all it is, or an illogical refusal to recognize that no amount of making the right loss accessible to non-crazies and villains will stop crazies and villains, or a refusal to admit that you want to take the right away….because nothing else will accomplish the objective you want, and eliminating the right isn’t going to happen—because enough people care about the right, because the right is important, because reasonable people don’t trust people obsessed with expanding power and ordering them what to do to be armed when they aren’t, and because it’s wrong and un-American.

    • IV. Not every issue has two reasonable sides. Pacifism isn’t reasonable, it’s a delusion. Slavery reparations isn’t reasonable. And banning guns isn’t reasonable, nor is eliminating the right, nor is stopping shootings without doing both of those..,and maybe not even then. WE can have the discussion when it’s on the realistic basis that one “side” wants to ban guns, because they don’t want to pay the price of keeping the right viable, because they don’t give a damn about the right. Sure, we can have an honest debate on that basis, but it’s over before it starts.

      • I would love to hear a person like Charles back in 1860, when Republicans wanted an end to slavery and Democrats wanted to perpetuate it…would he then expect a Democrat to say “Let’s have a national conversation about this, I just don’t understand why we’ve become so polarized about this”.

    • V. As I have said many times, I’m in favor of rational regulations, like the so called gun show loophole fix, like enforced waiting periods, like rules preventing certain felons, those with restraining orders, etc, from obtaining guns as easily as law-abiding citizens, but since the advocates for those measures aren’t trustworthy and lie about both the problem and what they really want, I’m not trusting them until they admit that no laws are going to stop shootings, and that what they really want is to eliminate citizen access to guns.

    • “My question is borne from honest frustration – how can we ever figure out how to find consensus, or even empathy, on such divisive issues, when the dialogue is so severely divided?”

      It might help if the Left toned down its hate filled rhetoric towards those espousing American values of Freedom and Responsibility…

  6. ” 274 days, and 294 mass shootings”

    How many of those are a stranger opening up on strangers, in other words, a shooting like today’s? How many are drug peddlers shooting each other? If as tragic as today’s, why didn’t they make the news? The site itself says they ‘broadened the definition’ of mass shootings as defined by the FBI, and they include shootings where there were no fatalities. You know, though, that the day after an event like this, people will read this and think that there was nearly one mass shooting a day in the US where people lost their lives.

    • Need to be patient with people who think like Charles. They really really believe that if you take things away from people, you’ll make all the bad people stop being bad. Their ultimate belief — that utopia can be created as long as you dis-empower individuals and cede control to central planners — is a hard one to shake. That kind of faith can move mountains. Unfortunately, when you hold a believe so blindly yet innocently, it is hard not to grab onto dishonest statistics or broadened definition. Be patient with Charles.

      I know. I know.

      It makes no sense whatsoever. They really really think that the *result* of bad conduct is what is bad, not the conduct itself…they really think that bad people won’t find ways to be bad as long as the result is mitigated.

      They don’t worry about causes, they worry about results.

      But alas, the ultimate cure in their mind is to spend and regulate into oblivion mitigating all the symptoms and effects of the disease and never seeking to cure the causes.

      But alas, living, breathing, vibrant, *HAPPY* cultures require freedom, and every little hiccup that occurs in a Free country is just another cause to limit freedom, never mind it perpetuates the very disease they seek to cure.

      • I believe that most rank-and-file liberals truly mean well, but have very unrealistic expectations coupled with an incomplete grasp of human nature, and thus are very easily manipulated into being the unwitting pawns of people who do not mean well.

    • “How many of those are a stranger opening up on strangers, in other words, a shooting like today’s? How many are drug peddlers shooting each other?”

      How may of those don’t result in death? DWS went on the news and said the death count was at 380 for those 294 ‘mass’ shootings. That’s an average toll of 1.3 per. When you factor in the double digit fatality tragedies, mathematically, there are ‘mass’ shootings without deaths.

  7. My most favorite bit today!!!!

    When the President actually told the media outlets to do the research and grab the statistics of gun violence and publish the statistics that way Americans could get statistics not from his Administration to listen to and trust in.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    As if our Media and this Administration are separate entities….

    Oh, it was rich.

    Comedy Gold.

    • But then you look at the replies on sites that haven’t (yet) censored most voices of dissent, and see that about 99.9% of them see through their ruse too? Even better! The propaganda ministers were out in force today, too.

  8. “6) When an anti-gun advocate says that we must prevent guns from falling into the hands of unhinged people, the only possible alternatives are locking up anyone who demonstrates any tendencies toward anxiety, emotionalism, irrationality, depression or poor impulse control”

    Give it 30 years (unless a massive wake-up occurs) and that list will include:

    People who are climate change skeptics
    Austrian Economists
    Traditional religious types
    the Koch Brothers
    etc

    “A member of my extended family, in a group therapy session, was urged repeatedly by a psychologist to open up and express her thoughts. She said that in the past, after a series of misfortunes, she briefly thought about suicide. She had earlier noted that she owned a shotgun gun for Skeet shooting, legally. She was immediately put in a car and confined in a state facility, placed on a 48 hour suicide watch, and declared a danger to herself, which she was not. The family had to hire a lawyer and threaten law suits to get her out. This is already excessive state action.”

    I will reemphasize my dystopian prediction:

    That medical “care” (or maybe to-be-termed “health management”) will increasingly be placed under central state control and that increasingly, diagnoses will replace trial/convictions and mandatory treatments will replace incarcerations and “hospitals” (treatment facilities) will replaces prisons. Badabing badaboom…we can follow all our traditional rights involving trials and due process while bypassing it all under the guise of “mental illness”.

    • If any doctor (especially one at the VA) ever asks you if you’ve ever felt depressed, tell him NO, for God’s sake. I had a close call with the system by initially giving that question an honest answer. After all, who HASN’T felt down in the dumps before? But not in the Brave New World of the Obamanation. If you’ve ever felt low, keep it to yourself and tell your sawbones you’ve been as happy as a sultan in his harem your whole life through. That is, if you like if you like being able to drive, go hunting and not have health service nerds annoying you constantly. If you’re a veteran and have ever voted in a Republican primary, you’re already in trouble enough!

      • These days, that question is immediately followed with “do you have any guns in the house”. It makes me want to say “oh yes, many, but don’t worry; the voices haven’t ordered me to anything yet”, or “Do you consider tanks and hellfire missiles to be guns?”

        • I suppose the worst possible answer to such questions would be, “Yes, I own a working Springfield musket which I employ for hunting, fending off looters during race riots and carrying on the field while serving as the standard bearer of a Confederate re-enactor regiment”.

            • Yeah… but the Sharps carbine was one of the first issued military firearms to utilize an enclosed metallic cartridge with a breech loading mechanism. Much better rate of fire, but an Enfield or Springfield rifled musket could deliver a heavier ball at greater ranges. That’s part of the reason why the Union Army’s Ordnance Department held off for so long in adopting metallic cartridges and repeating rifles. The other reason was that they were dumb bureaucrats with no vision!

        • I have to say, as a medical student who was advised to never forget that follow-up question (in Canada, even), I am completely baffled by its relevance.

          More generally, though, the identification/medicalisation of mental illness is far from uncontroversial, based as it is, after all, on our rudimentary understanding of mind and cognition. Thus, psychiatric diagnoses require byzantine criteria that are frequently debated and updated. Unfortunately, the textbook difference between calling something a variant of normal and labelling it a psychiatric illness is almost always whether or not the condition “affects day-to-day functioning”, which is obviously 100% subjective and a source of anxiety/uncertainty for doctors and patients alike. Similarly, the criteria for instituting a Form 1 (for involuntary admission for psychiatric evaluation) are based on subjective determinations of likely self-harm, inability to care for self, etc.

          Here, at least, I find that professionalism and ethics, and maybe the economic pressures and different litigation environment, keep the balance comfortably sane. Doctors do realise that the therapeutic relationship depends on maintaining the public’s trust, and that means not over-diagnosing and over-treating mental illness. Certainly, routine treatment of mental illness is voluntary and based on informed consent sought from the patient. Correspondingly, Form 1s are truly reserved for exceptional circumstances and very quickly revoked once the situation is clarified or the patient condition improves.

          This is not to say that I haven’t met doctors who practise overly defensively, and I do agree that in psychiatry more than in other specialties, there is a particular risk of patients’ most fundamental rights being infringed upon. It’s a difficult line to tread.

  9. Liberal and progressives championed court decisions that ruled that non-violent citizens, no matter how disturbed, should not be confined in institutions against their wills.</blockquote<
    Which liberals and progressives were those?

    The price we pay for the right to be safe from illegal searches and seizures is that it is hard to catch terrorists before they kill, and criminals are allowed to go free because warrants were faulty even though a cop’s suspicions were correct.

    What other countries protect this right?

    Of course, I wonder how you would ensure that the local neighborhood crack dealer would run a background check on people to whom he would sell firearms….or crack for that matter.

  10. Here is something to consider.

    300 million guns in the U.S. and 15,000 Americans killed by guns each year. The rate is 0.005%.

    Here is something else to consider.

    36 million black people in the U.S. and 7500 Americans killed by black people each year. The rate is 0.021%.

    Are we to ban black people, or put restrictions on black people to save 7,500 Americans a year?

    (Of course, i suspect that many of those who want restrictions on guns also want restrictions on blacks.)

    Reply

  11. “She said that in the past, after a series of misfortunes, she briefly thought about suicide.”

    There is a version of the Tarasoff Rule – the mental health professional’s duty to protect or duty to warn of suicidal or homicidal intentions — in all states. Some of the laws are mandatory, some are permissive, some are being broadedned to cover mental-health workers, others challenged for breach of confidentiality, but in ALL cases, every single one, the exact word “IMMINENT” is used to modify “danger” or “threat.” There is nothing imminent about what she said. Too bad the family did not go ahead with the lawsuit.

    Source: http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/mental-health-professionals-duty-to-warn.aspx

    Apropos the blog: New York’s new [2013] law also allows law enforcement to remove firearms owned by patients reported to be likely to be dangerous.

  12. First thing to do in a discussion is to eliminate arguments based on wishful thinking, such as:
    “‘Locking people up pre-crime and “banning guns entirely” are not “the only possible alternatives” to “prevent guns from falling into the hands of unhinged people”. The other alternative is to make sure there are no unhinged people. Happy people, people that are treated throughout their lives with dignity, respect, love, and compassion (i.e., ethically), do not typically come unhinged.”

    These fantasies can usually (sometimes?) be countered with a reality check, such as: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-04-13-columbine-myths_N.htm

  13. Like Charles, I think it is useless to have this conversation, for many of the reasons cited above.

    What I will find interesting is the changing views on gun ownership in this country and how this will affect the debate — say 100 years from now. Although there are a lot of guns, fewer people in each generation are buying them. Here on the east coast, I know very few people who own a gun, and the ones who do tend to be ex-military. Back home in Michigan, most of my family own guns, both sporting and hand guns — and the people I know who own guns own a lot of them.

    So, here’s where I think it will get interesting. Pro gun advocates treat gun ownership as a sacred right in America — and I won’t even dispute that, although there is a ton of scholarship on both sides. But, if each new generation shows a diminishing percentage of the populace purchasing them, then that right also will continue to lose importance, right?

    What are main reasons that people own guns? Safety, sport, and a perceived need to keep guns in order to protect ourselves against an over-reaching government. I think all of these categories are seeing fewer people (again, not reflected in overall guns being purchased) view these reasons as important or even practical. My prediction is that we will eventually see a small percentage of people in the US owning guns properly and legally, but the Second Amendment will be revisited in its entirety because people eventually will see that the harm outweighs the perceived good.

    So, I actually sympathize with the people who are screaming that the Second Amendment is under attack. It doesn’t take a fortune teller to see where this debate is headed, although I do not think it will happen in my lifetime.

    • Nope. I don’t own a gun, but I can foresee situations in which I would want the choice to own one. When will popular culture stop representing guns as the final option of good people being terrorized, bullied, or abused by the evil and powerful? When will we stop watching and being entertained by science fiction, westerns, WWII movies, cop shows, mysteries, horror movies? NEVER, that’s when. Guns are inseparable from our culture’s concept of individual freedom, and it is not changing as long as the nation remains what it was designed to be.

    • By the way, Charles says he doesn’t understand why we can’t have this conversation, not that it’s useless. I explained why it’s useless: one side of it is either lying or deluded.

      • Jack, I serve you a high softball over the middle of the plate–a chance to have a meta-ethical discussion–and you still miss by swinging low.

        Massive numbers of good-willed people find themselves on totally opposite sides of this debate, and yet you insist that the essence of the problem is–the other team is made up of delusional liars.

        How can you host a discussion ostensibly about ethics and yet evince no questions about the meaning of this massive gulf?

        I doubt anything that either you or I have said on this issue has had the effect of changing ANYONE’s mind. Don’t you find that fact worthy of ethical reflection?

        Like, HOW do well-meaning people come to hold such conflicting views? WHY are they so set in their beliefs? WHEN do such stand-offs occur? WHAT conditions lead to them? WHO is prone to hard-set ideas and who isn’t? What conditions lead to such conflict? Are there any best practices for reducing such absolutist dialogues?

        Basically, what is going on when we find ourselves trapped in knee-jerk, repetitive shouting to our respective echo chambers?

        As an ethicist, I think you occasionally have an obligation to step out of the particular ethical issues and ask meta-questions about the meaning of ethical stand-offs. What are they about? What’s it all mean?

        It isn’t just guns; a similar absolutist stand-off exists with abortion, for example.

        I have found exactly one author who addressed these questions, and I’ll suggest it again: Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided By Politics and Religion.” It is non-partisan and enlightening, and a hugely welcome relief from the incessant demonization that we see on these divisive issues.

        • Irrelevant, irrelevant irrelevant. The issue is gun control, not abstract ideological disagreements. The question is practical policy, not a-wishin’ and a hopin’. You can activate the discussion by honestly addressing my facts, and facts they are: what practical measure short of abridging the right to bear arms and infringing the rights of citizens before their emotional problems bear criminal fruit will have the effect that all those “good-willed people” want? This isn’t a meta-ethical question, and treating it as such begs the question. The problem is real, but some ethics conflicts have unsatisfactory answers, which “good people” refuse to accept. The analogy is pacifism. Another is alcohol. Another is crime.

          It’s wasn’t a softball, Charles, it is a straw man.

          • “what practical measure short of abridging the right to bear arms and infringing the rights of citizens before their emotional problems bear criminal fruit will have the effect that all those “good-willed people” want? ”

            Almost certainly, none. Which is why I’m heartily in favor of “infringing” the most ambiguously-worded amendment in the Constitution and bringing us in line with every other civilized country in the world.

            You see it differently.

            You claim the higher ethical ground is [your interpretation of] a right. I claim human life, at this scale, trumps that right. You say poTAYto, I say poTAHto.

            And we’re back–either to name-calling or to a serious meta-ethical discussion. Which shall it be?

            • You may need to move. We don’t see it differently at all. I respect the law of the land and the principles under which the US was founded. You say you don’t.I accept the laws and culture of the United States and view its continuing success as flowing from them. The position that this should be altered is not one that should be a matter of serious debate.

              The Constitution and its inalienable rights (through the Declaration) are a given. The United States is materially different from other nations, and that has always been its strength. Those who think we should follow the crowd rather than lead it—I realize this is also the position of our hopelessly misguided President—are opposed to core American ideals. I see no other way of interpreting it.

              Your argument simply boils down to “the ends justify the means.” If one right can be jettisoned to save lives, any and all of them can. Thus we are back to the Boulder Congressman’s “let’s kick out ten accused students if four of them might be guilty.” It’s the same thing.

              We can’t have an ethical debate over a fundamentally unethical proposition.

              • Nor will the means achieve the hoped-for ends. “The road to hell…”. Nothing demonstrates the laws of unintended consequences quite like liberalism.

              • So now I don’t respect “the law of the land and the principles under which the US was founded?” Yes I do. This is just silly.

                To claim that “the constitution and its inalienable rights are a given” is similarly silly – just crack open a history book and you’ll find its interpretation is constantly changing.

                And more silly? To claim that my argument boils down to “the ends justify the means.” That’s as useful as me saying that “your argument boils down to ‘the means justify the ends,’ because it doesn’t matter how many people die as long as we uphold the ‘principle.'”

                And “we can’t have an unethical debate over a fundamentally unethical proposition?” Puh-leeze. Seem putting it that way, that’s our problem in a nutshell.

                We don’t seem to be able to have any debate in this country regarding what to do about gun deaths without somehow first conceding – as you would have it – that everyone has an inalienable right to buy loads of guns with less regulation than we accord to toothpaste and safety belts. And I find that, and so does the rest of the world, to be tragically silly.

                I don’t concede any such silliness. I’m sure neither my father nor my grandfathers, all of whom owned, used and respected guns and taught me serious gun safety, would agree with the nonsense being put forth about the second amendment. They believed in gun safety, common sense and the rule of law, and would be appalled at what the NRA has become and how the 2nd amendment debate has morphed.

                So I don’t accept your definition of what’s ethical and unethical in this debate, not at all. I get where you’re coming from – but I have no confidence that you get where I’m coming from.

                  • Yep, 10,000 gun deaths pale in comparison to deaths at the hands of governments that all advocated for removal of guns from the hands of citizens.

                    Charles however won’t accept history as a guidance. He and his ilk really believe that benign western governments will stay benign in the future (DESPITE ALL HISTORY TO THE CONTRARY)

                • So now I don’t respect “the law of the land and the principles under which the US was founded?” Yes I do. This is just silly.

                  To claim that “the constitution and its inalienable rights are a given” is similarly silly – just crack open a history book and you’ll find its interpretation is constantly changing.

                  Yup. Name a right that has been eliminated, which is what you directly assert is your intent. The Supreme Court has consistently expanded definitions of individual rights, not eliminated them, and not allowed them to be truncated. Rights are in the realm of absolutism. People die to uphold rights. Your argument is deteriorating into “Better Dead Than Red.”

                  Throw some cold water in that face, man!

                • We don’t seem to be able to have any debate in this country regarding what to do about gun deaths without somehow first conceding – as you would have it – that everyone has an inalienable right to buy loads of guns with less regulation than we accord to toothpaste and safety belts. And I find that, and so does the rest of the world, to be tragically silly.

                  Well, if people use guns to commit homicide,. maybe we can arrest them and prosecute them.

                  Why is that not enough?

            • Almost certainly, none. Which is why I’m heartily in favor of “infringing” the most ambiguously-worded amendment in the Constitution and bringing us in line with every other civilized country in the world.

              I have a superior idea.

              Back during the Los Angeles riots, after rioters started shooting firefighters, the U.S. could have sent some bombers from Edwards Air Force Base and bomb the shit out of the rioters. this would have been followed up by the Army seizing control of Los Angeles. For “[y]ou don’t fight a junkyard dog with ASPCA rules. What you do is you take the leash off your bigger, meaner dog”. And this would be a permanent state of affairs. Civil administration in Los Angeles would be abolished. Soldiers would patrol every street, occupy every point. And there would be zero tolerance for the slightest of disorderly conduct. Any disorderly conduct will be met with lethal force. There will also be arbirtrary arrests and searches, and even the slightest resistance would be met with lethal force.

              This would cause the people to fear the U.S. military, And this fear would keep them in line. Thus, Los Angeles would have become the safest city on Earth. The model of governance- ruling by the fear of force- would no doubt have been followed by other cities. There would be no more mass shootings, because fear would keep the population in line.

              What would have been the downside of “tak[ing] the leash off [our] bigger, meaner dog”?

      • Here’s from Justice Stevens, dissenting in the 5-4 Heller decision of just 8 years ago: do you really think his side of the argument – one vote away from being a majority view – is best characterized as lying or deluded?
        —–
        “The right the Court announces [in Heller] was not “enshrined” in the Second Amendment by the Framers; it is the product of today’s law-changing decision. . . . Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia. The Court’s announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes upsets that settled understanding . . .

        • “Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia.”

          That statement may not be lying, but it is obviously wrong. I studied Constitutional Law, and there was no “understanding” on the point except among those who didn’t think the 2nd was a live amendment. At best its a deceitful statement. Please don’t play the 5-4 game, Charles…in Scotus decisions, like baseball, the final score doesn’t matter after the game goes in the win or loss column. Gay marriage is the law of the land. Affirmative action hasn’t been ruled inconstitutional. Obamacare is still limping along.

          • You’re right of course about 5-4, thanks for the correction.

            But how do you judge Stevens to be wrong? After all, he’s done a bit of studying himself I suspect.

            • Stevens, like Byron White and Brennan before him, was a mediocre second-tier justice who faded into the woodwork until he became a lone lib standing, whereupon he started getting aggressive and extreme. He has been positively wacky in retirement.

              I checked: somehow you missed the discussion on this post, regarding Stevens and the Second Amendment. It directly addresses your question, Thanks for reminding me!

    • You are probably on to something there, Beth. Related to adages about being condemned to repeat history, and old sayings about that which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly. I am more convinced that the evolution to the unhappier, gun-banned world will proceed faster and more surely as a result of ethical rot from the head (of government) down, despite however much ethical rot among the peasantry might drive the society permanently toward the nationwide, worldwide “gun free” Kill Zone.

    • One can only hope that, should the day ever come when the 2nd amendment is finally discarded, enough people remain that realize that the amendment merely enumerates a natural right that can never, EVER be taken away, so long as the social contract is observed.

      • Because it’s going to become easier to amend the Constitution over time, not harder.

        To my eye, Beth is relying on the power of indoctrination, by such measures as kicking kids out of school for pointing their fingers.

        Good plan…

          • Poe’s law. “Good plan..” is a sarcastic punchline, notably used by Steve Martin in “All of Me,” but in many other places, to denote a poorly thought out scenario.

            My fault–I often make the mistake of assuming that everyone else’s brain is as besotted with pop culture as mine.

        • Are you delusional? I don’t have a plan. I made a prediction. My generation doesn’t care about guns as much as my father’s generation. The younger generation behind me cares about them even less.

          My *guess* is that we will eventually reach the point that the majority of Americans will want the Amendment repealed.

          As for schools, the reason I am poor is because I spend all of my money on a top notch private school for my kids. I hate the stupidity that goes on in public schools even more than you do.

          • A majority wants the FIRST amendment repealed. The mob is not always right. In fact, the mob is usually dumber than dirt.

            Here’s my prediction: if guns are ever banned, those ignorant generations will learn PDQ why previous citizens “cared” about gun rights.

            • This was in reply to Beth’s “My generation doesn’t care about guns as much as my father’s generation. The younger generation behind me cares about them even less. ”

              I believe you would find a very different situation in the parts of the country that are not on the coasts.

              • It’s liberocentric thinking. It seems to be a small but significant part of the problem. You can also see it at work in their universal solutions, which fail to take individual human nature into account. Im not suggesting that this is Beth (I do like Beth), but Ive gotten to know very well a few liberals who, contrary to the great myth, had a disturbing lack of empathy, in the truest sense of the term. They’re often great at feigning it, though. I was in an intimate relationship with one, and it was the most excrutiatingly painful relationship of my life. Subject-object differentiation seems to be a developmental stage that was skipped. It makes real communication all but impossible.

        • I think this is correct. Indoctrination is all that matters for the future. Follow generations understand less and less the importance of our rights and the importance of why those rights ARE rights and why they must be exercised and appreciated. Once they’ve been trained to care less about that and more about material things, it’s too easy to convince them they don’t need the rights anyway, just so long as the WiFi works.

    • Rights don’t go away just because people stop practicing them, stop caring about them, or stop understanding them. All it means is that we are looking at a bleak lifeless future until another generation wakes up and reasserts itself (which will be painful the further we allow ourselves to lapse before regeneration).

      The rights merely go into hibernation as a sheepish populace is content with being guided and told how to exist.

  14. “We can’t have an ethical debate over a fundamentally unethical proposition.”

    You just don’t seem able to get out of this “me right you unethical” mindset, and it’s a real ethical conversation-killer.

    If you can’t even grant a seat at the ethical discussion table to those who think our gun culture needs reigning in, and that other successful western cultures with far lower death rates might have relevant things to say to us, then you’re just feeding a partisan echo chamber.

    I do not think of myself as unethical, nor do I see my beliefs on this issue as being unethical. But you’re telling me I am and they are. Where the hell does one go from there?

    It seems like you’re arguing for “ethical” as a single set of logically deducible principles with the kind of clarity we assign to mathematics. There can be no disagreement about such deductions, you seem to say.

    I In turn that people of good will can disagree about what’s ethical and what isn’t; one’s view depends on a complex set of beliefs, themselves influenced by history and culture. Take, oh, you and me for example.

    By that view, the role of ethical dialogue is to clarify basic assumptions, challenge unspoken assumptions, and try to find common ground. Precious little of which I see happening here.

    • Charles, you keep shifting the goal line, and that IS unethical. You didn’t say you wanted the gun culture to be reigned in. You said, and I quote, “I’m heartily in favor of “infringing” the most ambiguously-worded amendment in the Constitution and bringing us in line with every other civilized country in the world.”

      Where guns are banned, and people get killed anyway, and individual rights are routinely trampled, including free speech. That’s a long way from “our gun culture needs reigning in.” Is it not?

  15. To your claim that the constitution is inviolate, principles-based, and the unimpeachable source of ethics, consider this , by Jeffrey Toobin, several years ago, in the New Yorker: It anchors the second amendment in politics and recent history, not as some unimpeachable principle.

    ——–
    Does the Second Amendment prevent Congress from passing gun-control laws? The question, which is suddenly pressing, in light of the reaction to the school massacre in Newtown, is rooted in politics as much as law.

    For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.

    Enter the modern National Rifle Association. Before the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. had been devoted mostly to non-political issues, like gun safety. But a coup d’état at the group’s annual convention in 1977 brought a group of committed political conservatives to power—as part of the leading edge of the new, more rightward-leaning Republican Party. (Jill Lepore recounted this history in a recent piece for The New Yorker.) The new group pushed for a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, one that gave individuals, not just militias, the right to bear arms. It was an uphill struggle. At first, their views were widely scorned. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who was no liberal, mocked the individual-rights theory of the amendment as “a fraud.”

    But the N.R.A. kept pushing—and there’s a lesson here. Conservatives often embrace “originalism,” the idea that the meaning of the Constitution was fixed when it was ratified, in 1787. They mock the so-called liberal idea of a “living” constitution, whose meaning changes with the values of the country at large. But there is no better example of the living Constitution than the conservative re-casting of the Second Amendment in the last few decades of the twentieth century. (Reva Siegel, of Yale Law School, elaborates on this point in a brilliant article.)

    The re-interpretation of the Second Amendment was an elaborate and brilliantly executed political operation, inside and outside of government. Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 brought a gun-rights enthusiast to the White House. At the same time, Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, became chairman of an important subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he commissioned a report that claimed to find “clear—and long lost—proof that the second amendment to our Constitution was intended as an individual right of the American citizen to keep and carry arms in a peaceful manner, for protection of himself, his family, and his freedoms.” The N.R.A. began commissioning academic studies aimed at proving the same conclusion. An outré constitutional theory, rejected even by the establishment of the Republican Party, evolved, through brute political force, into the conservative conventional wisdom.

    And so, eventually, this theory became the law of the land. In District of Columbia v. Heller, decided in 2008, the Supreme Court embraced the individual-rights view of the Second Amendment. It was a triumph above all for Justice Antonin Scalia, the author of the opinion, but it required him to craft a thoroughly political compromise. In the eighteenth century, militias were proto-military operations, and their members had to obtain the best military hardware of the day. But Scalia could not create, in the twenty-first century, an individual right to contemporary military weapons—like tanks and Stinger missiles. In light of this, Scalia conjured a rule that said D.C. could not ban handguns because “handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.”

    • Well. He’s wrong, as Toobin usually is. The Bill of Rights was in place to protect individual rights against government oppression. “In District of Columbia v. Heller, decided in 2008, the Supreme Court embraced the individual-rights view of the Second Amendment.” Is he kidding? It embraced that because individual rights are core to both founding documents, and the counter interpretation was intellectually dishonest.

      • Was Toobin “wrong” about “Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who was no liberal, mocked the individual-rights theory of the amendment as “a fraud?”

        Have you read Reva Siegel’s article in Harvard Law Review? It’s a much more historical analysis of how conservative jurists moved from “strict constructionism” under Nixon to “founders’ intent” under Reagan and now Scalia; it’s all a lot more evoluationary, political, and history-based than your tablets-from-on-high view would suggest.

        • Appeal to authority, and a dubious authority at that. Since nobody “knows” what the Amendment was meant to mean exactly, the question is what it should mean in the context of American ideals and principles. The fact that those arguing against the right inevitably cite non-American models proves my point. If you recall, I explained in a previous post why the principle of guaranteed access to weapons was central to our rights, not tangential to them. You may also recall David Mamet’s essay about how the government was not empowered to tell him what he “needed” to protect his home, loved ones, life and property. Exactly.

          To have a discussion there must be trust in candor good will: since gun control advocates hint all over the place that their real objective is confiscation, per se unethical in my view, then there is no basis for debate. The Atlantic despite its own anti-gun bias, explains this quite well here.

          The money quote, from Cooke: “But why do you think Obama wants confiscation?” “Because he keeps praising it on national television.”

  16. The argument for what it “should” mean is historically a political and shifting argument. That’s fact. Reagan was against open carry, Burger was against your interpretation of the 2nd amendment – these things change. Law is politics writ slowly. The claim that the 2nd amendment applied to assault rifles would never have been made pre-modern NRA, for example.

    The Atlantic article indeed does a great job of EXPLAINING WHY YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU DO – but that’s far from the same thing as a justification. An explanation of what other people believe is what’s required for civilized discourse – exactly what I’ve been talking about. I welcome the Atlantic article – it helps explain, as does the Jonathan Haidt book, why “you people” believe what you believe. If you can’t get away from demonizing the “other” there’s no hope for us.

    So – where’s the comparable article, aimed at explaining to the right the rationale for those of us who find 10,000 gunshot deaths OBVIOUSLY linked to the mountain of guns in this country, and who find relevant the experience of other countries who regulate guns way more than we do?

    • “The claim that the 2nd amendment applied to assault rifles would never have been made pre-modern NRA, for example.”

      Is this a self-evident truth? Muskets were the “assault weapons” of their day. In those days, citizens with muskets were armed as well as their military counterparts. The balance of power has shifted greatly towards the government, making the so-called assault rifle only marginally better than a single-shot rifle by comparison to rockets, planes, and other technological horrors. And this balance of power is PRECISELY the point of the 2nd amendment.

      • A trained and well equipped military force always has the great advantage over a civilian group or militia. In the days of the Revolution, the British not only had the Brown Bess musket, but the bayonet that went with it. In those days, the bayonet was the final arbiter of a stand up battle. Today, as you say, technology has shifted that advantage even further in favor of the regular military.

        Fortunately, those troops are not the threat in America. Militarized federal police are. The biggest advantage of the armed citizen is in numbers. Again; a gun behind every blade of grass. In a country where the armed citizen is everywhere, is indistinguishable from the subjugated populace, requires no logistical base and is determined to defend his freedoms, it takes a huge armed force to quell them… plus the frequent employment of terror.

        Many still see the Waco incident (where Eric Holder won his tarnished spurs) as the beginning of that policy in the leftist circles of government. Certainly, the ongoing attempts to restrict arms and ammunition from the public is an important part of that overall policy. These people realize that there can be no Brave New World where there exist Brave Free Men… with guns.

      • The error here is assuming the “pre-Modern NRA” was somehow cool with the quiet creeping direction that the Left was taking America in terms of dis-empowering the citizens. There was a Golden Age back when we trusted the decisions of central powers, but since we see where we’re headed, and it’s kind of scary, alot of eyes have opened. That includes the “modern NRA”. I think distrust of central authorities and empowerment of the people are ESSENTIAL American values that we are now realizing are slipping under the Left-wing onslaught.

        Charles is merely making a type of Appeal to Authority here, but it doesn’t work.

  17. I have to buy in on what I believe is the biggest problem in this whole discussion.

    Jack, your comment – waaayyy above – :”what practical measure short of abridging the right to bear arms …………will have the effect that all those “good-willed people” want?” seems to imply that even you believe banning firearms will work. I really can not see it. I can’t think of any situation where banning something has had the desired effect of preventing a problem, it didn’t work for alcohol and it sure isn’t working for drugs. No, I’m not in favour of legalising drug use; yes, I believe we would be better off if we tightened up some alcohol laws; yes, I believe the US would benefit from tightening and unifying some gun laws – as I understand you do also.

    The bottom line is that it won’t work. No one can show me anywhere it has worked. Australia, the UK, guess what, just like the US gun deaths in these countries continue to decline just like they were doing before the restrictions were brought in. Overall deaths and homicides however continue to increase, just as they were before. We recently had an anti-gun campaigner here in Oz (that’s Australia folks) telling us how wonderfully the new gun laws and gun buy back worked AND, at exactly the same time, bemoaning the fact that there are currently far more firearms in the country than before the buyback! Go figure!

    Banning firearms WILL NOT WORK. (shouting intentional!) Crooks will always be crooks. The number of firearms murders may fall but the overall number of murders will still increase.

    The fact that banning firearms from sane, honest people will never stop the others doing their evil means the whole argument is moot at best and fraught with danger at worst.

    • No, I have made it clear that I know it won’t work. I’m saying that this is what the anti-gun rhetoric obviously is aimed at, because they think it will work. I wrote, “No measures short of these will prevent a citizen demonstrating that he or she is too dangerous to own a gun by the act of shooting someone for the first time.” And that would prevent a citizen, some citizens, but never all citizens. IF you could ban guns, which you can’t either by law or practically speaking—that is, if there were literally no guns in private hands, and no way to get them, it would “work.” But since that solution is impossible, it still isn’t a working solution.

      We agree. Don’t put words in my mouth, especially when I vehemently disagree with them.

      • I wasn’t attempting to put words in your mouth, hence my use of ‘seems to imply’. Even if:”there were literally no guns in private hands, and no way to get them” it wouldn’t work, even in parenthesis! The method would just change – IED’s for example, British soldier stabbed to death on the street for example.

        I am constantly dumbfounded that anyone believes banning firearms would actually have ANY positive effect on the number of deaths, as opposed to gun related deaths) and end up thinking they must have some ulterior motive. I suspect that I am not alone there!

        The catch is that I know a number of sane smart people that hold to that position absolutely. I can’t work it out.

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