Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/7/17: Election Day Edition”

JP‘s timely and thoughtful Comment of the Day on #4 in yesterday’s Warm-Up would also be a germane COTD on #3 of this morning’s Warm-up.

Unlike the anti-gun “Do Something!” chorus, JP actually examines the likelihood of two widely proposed gun regulations having any measurable effect on the problem they are supposed to address.

Below is JP’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/7/17: Election Day Edition. 

I’ll be back at the end, with quite a bit, frankly.

I think [the “We have to do something!” response] is virtue signaling because it accomplishes nothing and because doing something just to do something can  be reckless. Mostly, I have been ignoring these incidents because I have no better solution. Americans have a right to own a gun. However, in the increasingly intense aftermath of the 2016 election, I have been amazed at the number of people who I believe to be intelligent that have thrown logic and reasoning out the window. Therefore, I have decided to investigate some versions of “doing something” to see what they might accomplish.

Outside of total gun confiscation, the most common types of gun control proposed are bump stock bans and closing the gun show loophole. According to CNN (take that for what it’s worth) there were 12 bump stocks found on the weapons used in the recent Vegas strip shooting. For those of you who are not aware of what a bump stock is,  it is a device that is attached to the weapon to simulate rapid fire. What it actually does is compensates for the slowness of the user at the expense of accuracy. For example, if you were using an AR-15 you would steady the weapon with your shoulder. If you are pump firing, the rocess involves bracing the rifle with the non-trigger hand, releasing the grip on the firing hand (leaving the trigger finger in its normal position in front of the trigger), pushing the rifle forward in order to apply pressure on the trigger from the finger, and keeping the trigger finger stationary. During a shot, the firearm will recoil (“bump” back) and the trigger will reset as it normally does; then, the non-trigger hand pulls the firearm away from the body and back to the original position, pressing the trigger against the stationary finger again, thereby firing another round when the trigger is pushed back. During this process, it is common for the magazine to be emptied in a quick manner.

Bump stocks cost about $100, though the price depends on the quality. I’ve read that you could do a makeshift bump stock using some rubber bands, making it difficult to regulate. So the question remains, is the bump stock something that should be  available to the public? To me, the answer is no. A bump stock is not a feature of a weapon. As such, banning it does not infringe on  Second Amendment rights. Furthermore, the bump stocks create a loophole in the assault weapon ban. Finally, since its purpose is to sacrifice accuracy for speed, using the bump stocks are dangerous and irresponsible. A smart gun owner knows the importance of environment, accuuracy, and aiming at a target. While it might be fun to shoot quickly, I can see no way a bump stock could ever be used responsibly (though feel free to contribute one).

The second proposed regulation is the so-called “gun show loophole”. This is a misnomer,g because it is not actually a loophole. The law, which goes by many names such as gun law loophole, Brady law loophole (or Brady bill loophole), private sale loophole, and private sale exemption, was intentionally designed to be as it is. Current federal law does not require private sellers to do background checks; i affects the secondary market or the unrelated market that includes private sellers. I assume the law was crafted this way to pass down weapons in families, and to avoid an unnecessary burdens between private owners. The logic for support of the law is fewer guns in the hands of people who should not have them.

Here, I will just refer to it as the gun show loophole.

Let’s look at some background. In a 1997 study by the National Institute of Justice, it was found that fewer than 2% of convicted criminals bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show. About 12% purchased their firearm from a retail store or pawnshop, and 80% bought from family, friends, or an illegal source. A 1999 report by the Justice Department found a majority of gun show owners had a license to sell and did perform background checks. It concluded that although most sellers at gun shows are upstanding people, a few corrupt sellers could move a large quantity of firearms into high-risk hands. In short: though it was not likely to happen through a gun show, it was possible. More recent data might reflect better or worse conditions.

In relation to mass shootings, can we see this being a problem? The gun show loophole became a prominent issue in 1999 after the Columbine school shooting. However, these guns were obtained legally by the parents and stolen by the kids. It was an issue again in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, but these guns were also obtained legally (the shooter passed a background check). In the 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, Homes obtained his guns through four shops legally. Also in 2012, the guns used in the Sandy Spring Elementary School killing were stolen from the mother of the shooter who had obtained the guns  legally.

The 2013 Washington Navy Yard shooting is perhaps the most interesting. The killer was stopped from buying a rifle but was allowed to buy a shotgun, which he used to kill 12 people. In 2014, the Fort Hood Killer legally purchased his gun. The 2014 shooterin Washington obtained a gun legally, but only because prior abuse was never entered into the system (which should have denied him the gun). The 2015 Charleston church shooter should have also been stopped from buying a gun but was allowed to, also because of human error. The 2015 San Bernardino guns were obtained legally. In the 2016 Florida Nightclub shooting, the guns were obtained legally. Finally, in  the two most recent shootings (Las Vegas and Texas church) the guns were obtained legally, though the Texas shooter would have failed a background check had the Air Force properly entered the data it was supposed to.

This is not exhaustive. There are more . I tried to highlight the big events and the ones where guns were obtained illegally. There are two things we can take from this list. In the cases where guns were obtained, it was stealing, human error, and perhaps 1 case of negligence (denying rifle, but allowing shotgun). None of them had anything to do with the gun show loophole. Therefore, to shut down the gun show loophole would not have prevented any of these cases. In quite a number of these cases (though not discussed here), mental health was a significant issue. I believe for any serious debate to continue on gun control, we have to have mental health reform. However, for now, I will stick with my two points.

Should we close the so-called ‘gun show loophole’? I don’t think it will change anything; there is no data to support the claim that it will.. However, I am OK with background checks and see why they are necessary. I believe they uphold the integrity of the system. Furthermore, I have demonstrated that research has shown the potential for exploitatiing the loophole, and to some degree it is already happening. These numbers might be relatively insignificant, but they shouldn’t be considered acceptable.

I am worried how additional regulations will impede passing down weapons to family, and that they will creaet unfair burdens on people who cannot afford the added cost of trying to move a gun or acquire one. Checks can cost anywhere from $5 to $100. Depending on the city, purchasing a weapon can cost up to $1000. Classes can be free depending on where you go, but that is also a potential additional cost, which might be required depending on where you live.

While I don’t believe it will change anything, closing the gun show loophole can be a responsible step to reducing the loss of life. If it is to be considered, it should be considered in the with consideration of ways to lowering costs to law-abiding citizens who would suffer by it.


I’m back. In a follow-up comment, JP recounted some responses he received on Facebook when he posted this. It provided an excellent survey of the shallow, emotion-based and largely poorly-reasoned and rationalization-based arguments of the anti-gun crowd. They are worth examining.

A. “The problem with mental health reform is diagnosis. Are we saying all illnesses? What about ADHD? It involves impulse control. Who needs to diagnose. I will be capable of diagnosing once I have been licensed. There are different opinions often about someone’s diagnosis. If we say someone’s ill does that absolve them of their crime? The mental illness route does not stop the fact that gun violence cannot happen without guns. I don’t dispute your claim about the 2nd amendment, but it means we will continue to have this discussion and God help us that none of our children are shot.”

1)Yes, but violence can happen without guns.

2) What “claim” about the Second Amendment? It exists. It’s a right. It’s not Big Foot.

3) Ah, the old “let’s create a conflict of interest to preclude objective analysis” trick. Yes, if my son was shot to death, I might have a bias against guns. That would make me a worse analyst, not a better one.

B. “The other thing I’ll say is that it says the right to [bear] arms which means anything the government has we are allowed to have. By this extension any billionaire has the right to own a fighter jet, a tank, a battleship, or a nuclear bomb. Ummm I clearly don’t believe that so why guns.”

Ummm, you’re an idiot. No, the laws are quite clear about the fact that citizens do not have the right to have fighter jets and nuclear weapons, and this is neither the issue at hand nor a current problem. This is called a “straw man argument,” as well as a terrible analogy.

C. “It may be protected by the bill of rights, true, but we have the ability to change our constitution. It’s called an amendment. The NRA and others are quick to hold to their constitutional rights but we’ve done it before. In fact, we have changed our constitution 33 times in the past. We got rid of prohibition and abolished slavery.”

1)It’s not “maybe” protected; the Bill of Rights guarantee it. 

2) Changing the Constitution on this issue is in fact almost certainly beyond our “ability,” unless about half the population are replaced by Pods.

3) None of those amendments reduced a Constitutional right except for Prohibition, and it was repealed, precisely because Americans will defy any effort to give them less liberty than they have.

D. “Total confiscation has worked well in other countries (Australia for example after the Port Arthur massacre) and can work here and save lives if people stop being so closed minded about our precious little Constitution.”

1)”Precious little Constitution,” eh? Is there a better res ipsa loquitur for complete civic ignorance and the complacency of so many American? Or, in fewer words, “What an asshole!”

2) Define “worked well.” If you are willing to sacrifice liberty for the illusion of safety it “worked well.” There have still been mass killings in Australia, and with guns.

3) Australia and the United States are very different places and cultures. Total confiscation would require a police -state style assault on private homes, and be a blood bath, and still wouldn’t “work,” much less “work well.”

Says JP, “I almost don’t even know why I bothered.” You bothered because people who sneer at our “precious little Constitution” are being turned out of the Progressive anti-democracy factory with increasing speed and volume, and you have an ethical duty to bother.

Everyone does.

20 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/7/17: Election Day Edition”

  1. Well-deserved COTD JP. I want to elaborate on one statement, ”I believe for any serious debate to continue on gun control, we have to have mental health reform. “

    I agree that there needs to be more access to mental health care, but it appears from current data there is only one area where contact with the mental health system seems to correlate with significantly increased risk of death by firearm and that is suicide. About 60% of deaths involving firearms are suicide and about 50% of successful suicide attempts are by firearm.
    The major predictor of future violence is a history of violence not the presence or absence of mental illness. I believe anyone who has been found to be guilty of an act of violence, including any kind of domestic violence, should be denied the right to purchase a firearm. My understanding is that this is pretty much the law although there have been slip ups in administering it.

    A group of people who do show a high incidence of violent behavior are substance abusers. Anyone convicted of a drug or alcohol offense should be prohibited from being able to legally acquire a firearm. There should be a mechanism to allow for the restoration of the right to buy a firearm in those cases such as simple possession where no violence was involved, and the conviction did not involve a more serious crime such as trafficking. Just from my anecdotal experience, people under the influence of drugs have been the most dangerous, unpredictable patients I have had to deal with.

    The laws requiring reporting of persons with mental illness vary from state to state. Florida follows the Federal Law that prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who has been “adjudicated a mental defective” or involuntarily “committed to any mental institution.” Persons who fall into these categories are reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who maintains a database. The FDLE is authorized to report these to the federal government and other states exclusively for the purpose of determining lawfulness of a firearm sale or transfer. The information may also be used to make decisions regarding a concealed carry permit. There is a mechanism in the law for restoration of rights.

    In Florida a person who seeks voluntary hospitalization may be determined to meet the same criteria as an involuntarily committed person under certain circumstances. The treating provider must certify that they are imminently dangerous, they must be allowed a chance to challenge the certification as to their dangerousness, and the court must review the certification and order the record to be submitted.

    The American Psychiatric Association put out a “Position Statement on Firearm Access, Acts of Violence and the Relationship to Mental Illness and Mental Health Services.” It is freely available on-line. For the most part, I think the statement is fairly level headed and is consistent with the Second Amendment. They recommend the obvious such as background checks and safe storage but also endorsed gun free zones which I don’t feel are effective. They asked for more research into gun violence and endorsed more training for providers and more public education. They make the statement, “Reasonable restrictions on gun access are appropriate, but such restrictions should not be based solely on a diagnosis of mental disorder.” Their statement acknowledges that gun ownership is a right and makes the point that the criteria to limit the right should be carefully defined and the right should not be removed due to non-adjudicated events. They also emphasize that a person who has had their rights removed must have a fair opportunity to have them restored.

    An article from Oct 2017 in Psychiatric Services looked at 838 state prison inmates who were violent gun offenders and compared those with and without a history of psychiatric hospitalization. Those who had been hospitalized were only 12% of the sample. They were less likely to victimize strangers and were no more likely to commit gun violence in public or have multiple victims. Among those with previous hospitalizations, 78% obtained guns from sources not subject to federal background checks and of the total of 1,041 victims of gun violence only 3% were victims of a perpetrator with prior hospitalization who obtained a gun legally. That is, prohibiting person who had been psychiatrically hospitalized from legally obtaining a gun would have reduced the number of gun violence victims by 3%.

    There are mental health issues that should be addressed such as better access to care, research to help improve prediction of violence, and of course continued efforts to reduce suicide whether committed by guns or other means. This may reduce gun deaths by a small percentage. But the evidence seems clear that just automatically taking access to guns from everyone who has been diagnosed as mentally ill will not result in any significant reduction in total gun deaths, will not stop mass shootings, and will likely deter many people from seeking help due to fear of losing their rights. And, except in those cases where the individual has gone through the legal process of commitment which already makes the possession of firearms illegal, it would mean removing a right without due process.

    Jack’s statement in #3 of the Warm-Up today, ”Mass shootings are a side effect of the Second Amendment and the core individual right to be armed. The only way to reduce such shootings is to eliminate that right and confiscate guns” is the bottom line fact.

    • Now you know how I hate having to have Comments of the Day on Comments of the Day.

      Thanks for explicating this topic; it saves me a post. Except for extreme cases, determining who is emotionally or mentally ill is too subjective, and a wide open door to civil rights violations and Second Amendment rights restrictions without just cause. What about Asperger’s? Alcoholics? Depressives? Bi-Polar? Sociopaths? Narcissists? This will be pre-crime before you know it.

  2. Furthermore, the bump stocks create a loophole in the assault weapon ban.

    The “assault weapon ban” was the now expired Clinton era ban on certain semi-auto rifles based on “ugly” features.

    You’re thinking of the national firearms act of 1934. That was the regulation that required registration of automatic weapons. The act was extended in 1986 to prohibit the manufacture of any new automatic weapons for private ownership.

    I don’t see much point in the bump stock ban. It doesn’t take too long to figure out how to bump fire even without a bump stock, particularly with a higher recoil rifle. I’ve done it and it’s very easy with a M1 Garand. I would expect an AR-10 to be similar.

  3. Finally, in the two most recent shootings (Las Vegas and Texas church) the guns were obtained legally, though the Texas shooter would have failed a background check had the Air Force properly entered the data it was supposed to.

    I’ve only heard about it mentioned briefly, but the Texas shooter should still be in the Air Force, finishing his sentence for assaulting his infant son. He broke the baby’s skull, admitted it was on purpose, and got less than a year. He got the Brock Turner treatment. Because of that sentence, he got a bad conduct charge. Had he served the maximum, as he deserved, the shooter would have gotten a dishonorable discharge instead. A dishonorable discharge is a felony in the eyes of the law. Perhaps the Air Force would have still screwed up and not entered it, but that’s less likely.

    What’s certain, is that it would have been hard to commit the shooting while still in prison.

    • Sorry I intended to write the word automatic not assault. Thanks for the clarification.

      I think I fell into the media trap of conflating the two by mixing up the word.

    • According to the NYT:

      “The Air Force admitted that it had failed to enter Mr. Kelley’s domestic violence conviction into federal databases, which could have blocked him from buying the rifle he used in the massacre.”

  4. SO MANY great comments lately! Well done, JP! LOOPHOLES MUST DIE!

    2) Changing the Constitution on this issue is in fact almost certainly beyond our “ability,” unless about half the population are replaced by Pods.

    As we have seen in recent years, it is possible to have an Executive Branch that just doesn’t give a damn about a “precious little Constitution.” Therefore, “ability” to change the Constitution is irrelevant; the zeitgeist of Rex Lex has returned with a vengeance, so the law is what The Boss says it is. That’s WHATEVER The Boss says it is. Our society is devolving to the point where the “final Ejercito solution” to so many guns in the country is one pen and one phone call away. Some day – and that day may be far sooner than anyone reading here thinks, or even wishes to think – “The Siege” will happen, with focus on confiscation of all unauthorized guns (which will be all guns not under the complete control of the all-powerful, all-benevolent, accountability-monopolized, infallible people and offices of the government).

    Borrowing part of a line from who we all should know by now, SHOULD BE The Boss: We need to get the fuck to work janitoring all the loopholes that let tyrannical government get as far as it has toward denying all of us the basic right to defend ourselves with deadly force on an equal basis against those who would use deadly force to “janitor” our lives into slavish hell.

    • I was not meaning to mock our commenter Ejercito – only meaning to refer to the methodology he previously referred to a couple of days ago, to wit: a scene from the movie “The Siege:”

      • At the right time, under the right circumstances – and you can bet your bottom condom, that time and circumstances WILL come – the martial-law method of gun confiscation will be implemented in this was-country.

        • Lucky, I share your pessimistic view of our future. Mostly because of the DEEP divide between the left and the right. My one consolation is that, at age 72, I will likely not see it happen. My one deep regret is that my sons (both veterans, one combat), 7 grandchildren (no veterans, yet) and 4 great-grandchildren will have to cope with this…and there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.


    Good essay, though I have some disagreement with this argument:

    “The word “arms” includes firearms as understood by the original writers. The word is not limited to flintlocks and muskets, as rifled weapons were well-understood by the general public at the time, and the fundamental functional concepts of modern weapons were already understood and in use on weapons of the time. Most of today’s so-called (and erroneously labled) assault rifles contain elements that were familiar to 18th Century hunters. The concept of a high-capacity magazine even appeared in the Siege of Copenhagen in 1658, and folding stocks and bayonets go back even earlier.”

  6. Best memetic tweet on the topic:

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