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February 5, 2014 3:08 PM   Subscribe

The Simple Facts About Mass Shootings Aren't Simple At All
The first step in stopping future mass shootings is figuring out what we know and working from there. Unfortunately, the real first step is getting rid of a bunch of stuff we “know” that turns out to be wrong.

Mass Shootings in America - Moving Beyond Newtown
Mass shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, a Colorado movie theater, and other venues have prompted a fair number of proposals for change. Advocates for tighter gun restrictions, for expanding mental health services, for upgrading security in public places, and, even, for controlling violent entertainment have made certain assumptions about the nature of mass murder that are not necessarily valid.
by James Alan Fox, also of Boston.com's Crime and Punishment blog.

The Shooting Cycle
The pattern is a painfully familiar one. A gunman opens fire in a public place, killing many innocent victims. After this tragedy, support for gun control surges. With a closing window for reform, politicians and activists quickly push for new gun laws. But as time elapses, support decreases. Soon enough, the passions fade, and society returns to the status quo.

We call this paradigm "the shooting cycle." This article provides the first qualitative and quantitative analysis of the shooting cycle, and explains how and why people and governments react to mass shootings.
by Josh Blackman, via.

The Mass Murder Problem
Mass murder is primarily a crime committed by men with violent delusions who respond by attacking targets of opportunity. At best, decreasing the availability of assault weapons or increasing the number of armed citizens has had limited success in the past and does not address the root cause. To solve the problem, we need to shift our focus from better response to better prevention.
Preventing Highly Improbable Mass Murders like that at Sandy Hook Elementary School Is Impossible, but There Are Things We Can Do to Decrease Violence
The Seven Myths Of Mass Murder
Breaking The Cycle Of School Shootings

Hegemonic Masculinity And Mass Murder In The United States [PDF]
This exploratory study examines the act of mass murder as an attempt by the perpetrators to lay claim to a hegemonic masculine identity that has been damaged or denied them, yet that they feel entitled to as males in American culture
"Going Postal" Goes Abroad - "knowing the history of the phrase “going postal” helps us understand how America exports killing sprees to angry young men worldwide."
Terror and school shootings sides of same coin
Terrorists And Mass Shooters: More Similar Than We Thought is about Adam Lankford's A Comparative Analysis of Suicide Terrorists and Rampage, Workplace, and School Shooters in the United States From 1990 to 2010
Prior to their attacks, they struggled with many of the same personal problems, including social marginalization, family problems, work or school problems, and precipitating crisis events. Ultimately, patterns among all four types of offenders can assist those developing security policy, conducting threat assessments, and attempting to intervene in the lives of at-risk individuals.
Lankford wrote in the New York Times: What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers?
posted by the man of twists and turns (126 comments total) 83 users marked this as a favorite

 
the title is from this comment, itself a quote of Pinker's How The Mind Works.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:10 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


[Don't pre-doom the thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:43 PM on February 5 [23 favorites]


The Skeptic article is kind of mystifying in that it only explores bans on "assault weapons." Why not talk about what happens to mass shooting rates when a society not only bans the resale of one kind of firearm, but engages in wholesale destruction of privately-owned firearms of all types? The world world is full of countries that have done this. Turns out it's hard to engage in mass shootings when you can't legally own guns or ammunition.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:00 PM on February 5 [14 favorites]


-First, we bring empirical clarity to the debate over mass shootings, and show that contrary to popular opinion, they are fairly rare

-Myth 3: Incidents of mass murder are increasing

OK,how many is enough to worry about?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:02 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Re assault weapon bans: there aren't many other bans that would pass constitutional muster.
posted by jpe at 4:07 PM on February 5


Turns out it's hard to engage in mass shootings when you can't legally own guns or ammunition.

Actually, it turns out it's harder to engage in any sort of shooting when you can't legally own guns or ammunition. Who would have guessed?
posted by Jimbob at 4:10 PM on February 5 [26 favorites]


I like who they had to call themselves 'Mayors Against Illegal Guns', because no politician can be 'Mayors Against Guns' -- is there a lobby somewhere that's in favour of illegal guns?

I wonder if I could get money from someone to set up Criminals For Illegal Guns? Just so those politicians don't have to keep on arguing against a straw man.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:15 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


OK,how many is enough to worry about?

That seems a little unfair. I don't think the authors are saying "you shouldn't worry about mass shootings." But it's important to understand the scope and nature of the problem. If mass shootings were increasing in frequency or severity then we would want to look for some kind of causal trigger that is, similarly, increasing in frequency or potency or prevalence. If they are a pretty constant feature of US society over the last several decades then we know that we should be looking at causes that are more constant features of US life.
posted by yoink at 4:17 PM on February 5 [13 favorites]


Great post. That "Hegemonic masculinity" article is a real gem, I hope other people read it.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 4:25 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


I think the problem of mass shootings goes WAY beyond ownership and availability of fire-arms.
Our concepts about masculinity are pretty much to blame.
I had my own rifle as a teenager. I had to use it under supervision, but it was mine.
The key word is supervision.
We had firearms for home defense because we were in a remote area, and response time from the sheriff could be lengthy. My step-father held an important civil service position and people sometimes made threats.
We had target practice, and discussions of how to defend our home if the need arose.
People who have real reasons (whether its home/self defense or subsistance hunting) to have weapons and who correctly teach their children about them don't run into these problems.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:29 PM on February 5 [11 favorites]


Great post. That "Hegemonic masculinity" article is a real gem, I hope other people read it.

I read it, but didn't feel like it's shedding any startling new light. It's pretty modest in its claims (laudably so; they're at pains to point out the limitations of their study) and it seems like its finding something that you're pretty obviously going to find if you go looking for it. That is, that the kinds of people who end up engaging in mass shootings are going to be the kinds of people who don't fit the bill for "shining exemplar of hegemonic masculinity" seems pretty self-evident. The trick, as the authors acknowledge, is figuring out what causal role the "damaged masculinity" portion of their variously broken life stories plays in precipitating the violence.
posted by yoink at 4:33 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Well surprise surprise. Publications interested in science came up with dramatically different answers than publications centered on politics, either on the left or on the right.

I am definitely linking this page the next time there's a mass shooting and my left wing and right wing friends on social media start linking to all their rote politics-driven selective-stats bullshit.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:40 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


I am definitely linking this page the next time there's a mass shooting

I'll save you the trouble of even bothering to link: They'll keep going and going, until something else in the news cycle takes their attention elsewhere.
posted by FJT at 4:53 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


we were in a remote area, and response time from the sheriff could be lengthy. My step-father held an important civil service position and people sometimes made threats.

I think you need to take that comment apart a little and consider how it relates to the hypotheses presented in the post.

Plenty of people in "important civil service positions" in remote areas in countries where guns aren't as available don't feel the need to have guns (and encourage their kids to have guns) in order to protect themselves, to feel safe. Why is that?

Is it that people in remote areas in important civil service positions where you're from receive more threats than in other countries? Why would that be?

Is it because those threats are more likely to be violently acted upon? Why would that be?

Where I'm from, self-defense / home protection are not valid reasons to own a gun and you will not be given a firearms licence or be allowed to own a gun if that is your justification. Strangely, people seem to survive. What's different?
posted by Jimbob at 5:08 PM on February 5 [29 favorites]


Jimbob: where, exactly, do you think Katjusa Roquette was talking about? Be as specific as possible, please.

Me, I spent time in what was, for a while, Република Српска Крајина and it wasn't violent at all - now.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:28 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


> where, exactly, do you think Katjusa Roquette was talking about?

Scotland?
Canada?
NZ South Island?

Or are you hinting at a place with limited rule of law.
Because I am pretty sure Jimbob was talking about places with a functioning government like the UK or Canada or Australia or the USA.
For the record, I agree that restrictions on gun ownership in well governed countries will result in fewer gun homicides/mass shootings.
posted by bystander at 5:37 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Jimbob: Where I'm from, self-defense / home protection are not valid reasons to own a gun and you will not be given a firearms licence or be allowed to own a gun if that is your justification. Strangely, people seem to survive. What's different?

Maybe the U.S. is different because of how masculinity is brought up in schools and in our culture as a whole, especially in regard to violence, and how socio-economic factors and family issues (whether genetic or not) can all come together to make a person act out violence against others.

The "hegemonic masculinity" link is really interesting and I'd like to read more about how it could relate to the rate of mass shootings in the U.S. staying mostly the same for 40 years.
posted by gucci mane at 5:56 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Yes, the problem of shootings doesn't have a (unfortunate pun) silver bullet. I can't think of a single social problem which does. The question is about balancing benefits and drawbacks. People who support gun control, as I do, tend to believe that some formulation of tighter regulation on guns has more benefits from drawbacks: that's why they tend to particularly go after weapons which have less lawful purposes like assault rifles and large magazines, or to suggest sales restrictions (if you want a gun for self-defense, you should probably be okay with buying it from a licensed store, waiting three days and not being a felon).
posted by Apropos of Something at 6:14 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Maybe the U.S. is different because of how masculinity is brought up in schools and in our culture as a whole, especially in regard to violence, and how socio-economic factors and family issues (whether genetic or not) can all come together to make a person act out violence against others.

They have those things on knifecrime island, too, (to take one example) but of course the big difference is that a single person can't stab dozens of people to death in minutes.

America is not unique, except possibly in thinking we're unique.
posted by winna at 6:29 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


Deformation of perception is a useful concept.

From "The Shooting Cycle": "Simply put, after the emotions from each mass shootings settle, support for stricter gun control laws is lower than it was before the tragedy ... These numbers are relevant for those seeking to implement gun control laws. There is a short window, during the spike, where support for new laws is stronger than it was before. However, if laws are not passed quickly, once emotions fade, their chances of success are even lower than they were before. ... Desensitized as a society, the threshold for moral outrage becomes higher. Less support for gun control laws after tragedies is the normal reaction to mass shootings. Not the other way around." Interesting.

But moral outrage, based on widespread misperceptions, paves the way for ineffective policy responses, counter Fox and DeLateur.

It's always a good time to talk about reducing/eliminating mass shootings. It's never a good time to talk about reducing/eliminating mass shootings. My head hurts. Thanks, tmott.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:34 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I know that repealing the Second Amendment is a non-starter, but it seems to me that the widespread availability of guns of any kind has much more to do with the prevalence of mass shootings than anything else these studies bring to the table. It seems pointless to ignore that elephant in the room, and instead go on to have lengthy discussions about machismo and mental illness and violent culture.
posted by monospace at 6:35 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Mass shootings in regards to gun violence in the US is like charismatic megafauna in regards to environmental issues. It's not that its an unimportant problem, but its missing the wood for the trees. Massive gun ownership kills thousands upon thousands every year in the US: mostly via suicide and domestic violence. Mass shootings are a very small part of the US gun toll.
posted by yoink at 6:48 PM on February 5 [16 favorites]


Running Amok: A Modern Perspective on a Culture-Bound Syndrome, Manuel L. Saint Martin, M.D., J.D, Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, June 1999


I linked that article in a comment I made last year wherein I looked at the list of rampage killings on Wikipedia and came to the conclusion:
With those caveats in mind, of the 128 incidents on the list 34 were in the century between 1863 and 1963. The remaining 94 incidents have occurred in the half-century since. 72 of those have been since 1980.

You could make the argument that this corresponds with the rise of video gaming, but I would not. Rather I think that it corresponds with the time frame in which a growing number of people have faced the loss what they thought was an unassailable economic, political and social status after losing their livelihood due to circumstances beyond their control.
Point being, when people feel backed into a corner by life, sometimes they lash out violently. What we need to do first is stop making people feel cornered. Except that this is in direct opposition to the Conservative agenda of punishing people who "made bad life choices." Even so, I can't help but feel like the solution lies at least in part in helping lift THE WEIGHT for those feeling crushed by life.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:11 PM on February 5 [14 favorites]


Re assault weapon bans: there aren't many other bans that would pass constitutional muster.

The constitution isn't written in stone. Some people might be interested in the long game.
posted by anonymisc at 7:14 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


I know that repealing the Second Amendment is a non-starter, but it seems to me that the widespread availability of guns of any kind has much more to do with the prevalence of mass shootings than anything else these studies bring to the table.

So, speaking as someone who is pretty extremely far-left with the sole exception of gun control - I don't actually believe that there are any laws that will measurably reduce the availability of guns for the purposes of criminal endeavor in America. The majority of the people who would obey such laws are, by definition, the law-abiding citizens who will use them responsibly.

It's a big country with literally as many guns as people - how many do you think a massive round-up operation would garner, once the smoke had cleared? 100 million? 150 million? That still leaves 200 or 150 million sitting around in safes under floorboards or forgotten in closets in millions of homes.

My point is, there's enough supply that you could pass laws prohibiting all private possession tomorrow and still be facing easy criminal availability fifty years down the line. Just on existing stocks, never mind basic facts like the Mk 2 version of the British Sten submachinegun being so incredibly simple that Polish resistance fighters were making them in basements. That also means decades of criminals having impunity in any situation where law enforcement isn't on the scene, enabling the more rabid gun-supporters to "I told you so" all the way to a repeal.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have done their damnedest to stonewall public healthcare and in particular have acted to defund mental healthcare for the majority of Americans. Reagan all but emptied the asylums into the streets and we've never really recovered.

So, yes, mental illness is worth talking about. Our weird, frustrated-imperialist winner-take-all-and-fuck-the-losers culture and its impact on those who deem themselves as having "lost", is worth talking about.

All of these things, including how to preempt mass shootings through mandatory waiting periods and background checks, are worth talking about - but reducing the actual physical availability of guns in this country isn't just a political non-starter, it's a physical impossibility.
posted by Ryvar at 7:15 PM on February 5 [15 favorites]


It's a big country with literally as many guns as people - how many do you think a massive round-up operation would garner, once the smoke had cleared?

Pretty much all of the ones that cause the most death.
Let's say a pistol costs $1000. Let's say a pawn shop will pay $250 for it. If The People are always offering $800, the link between poverty and gun violence is transformed into a link between poverty and no guns. People eventually hit rough-enough times that they just need the cash more. And even if they don't, someone near them will eventually need that kind of cash and steal the gun.
Flow of guns out is open while the flow of guns in is smaller - criminals can't buy themselves due to sensible background checks and weapon registry, things like insurance rates tied to weapon outcomes dries up the middlemen. Sweeten the deal by making gun law so much easier to navigate for law-abiding people than the hoops they jump through today, do that by throwing out the piles of accumulated crud law and bandaid garbage and fig-leaf posturing. It's not rocket science, there's just no political will to climb such a politically unclimbable cliff.

In less than 10 years of this, the culture will already be shifting - when everyone has a gun, you need one too, and if you grow up in that kind of shithole, it's what you learn. But within 10 years, kids will be growing up without learning that.

The cultural shift is where the magic really starts. But we're looking 20 years out at that point.
posted by anonymisc at 7:39 PM on February 5 [17 favorites]


It's a big country with literally as many guns as people - how many do you think a massive round-up operation would garner, once the smoke had cleared? 100 million? 150 million? That still leaves 200 or 150 million sitting around in safes under floorboards or forgotten in closets in millions of homes.

It's a big country with literally as many cars as people - how many do you think a massive round-up operation would garner, once the exhaust had cleared? 100 million? 150 million? That still leaves 200 or 150 million sitting around in garages or forgotten in sheds and barns near millions of homes.

or replace 'guns' with your regulated substance of choice -- drugs, counterfeit currency, explosives, etc. Taking things from lots of people is first nature for the government.

Politics is the only reason our country is swimming in gun violence -- every other first world nation has their shit together on this point. It's a fucking embarrassment, and the US can do better.
posted by serif at 7:47 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


And something I just realized -- gun nuts cling to the fantasy that they could use their personal guns to resist the government.

But think about it: all the stuff that actually threatens the government is already illegal. If the government didn't neutralize internal threats, it wouldn't last very long. So, the fact that I can go buy a barrel of pistols from Wal-mart entails that the federal government isn't really scared of pistols.

Look at what people are using in Syria -- explosives, anti-tank munitions, automatic and burst-fire rifles -- all illegal/highly regulated gear, because you need stuff that strong to fight a large government.
posted by serif at 8:03 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Let's say a pistol costs $1000. Let's say a pawn shop will pay $250 for it. If The People are always offering $800

...then pretty soon the pawn shop will start offering more than $800, once the supply starts to dwindle.

Anyways, I'm pretty solidly in the camp that gun violence is the symptom, not the disease. People need help. We take their guns away, they maybe can't kill as many people when they don't get the help they need, but they still need help. So could we talk about giving people the psychological and situational help they need, or do we have to wait until after we ban guns and then talk about getting people help in response to the subsequent rash of knife attacks?

or replace 'guns' with your regulated substance of choice -- drugs, counterfeit currency, explosives, etc. Taking things from lots of people is first nature for the government.

Yeah, Prohibition for instance, which worked great. Or the War on the Drugs, that's been a fantastic success. Can't wait to add The War on Guns to the list, we need another reason to jail a fuckton of brown people.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:16 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


So, the fact that I can go buy a barrel of pistols from Wal-mart entails that the federal government isn't really scared of pistols.

Of course they aren't. You're outgunned by them. The 2nd Amendment conveniently doesn't cover fighter jets or ballistic missiles.

"What do you mean, you aren't allowed guns in your country? What are you going to do to resist tyrannical government oppression?"

"The same thing you do. Nothing."
posted by Jimbob at 8:24 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


The whole thing is, a repressive government needs to rely on some fraction of its citizenry to be the military that does the repressing. Oh, until robots get good enough to replace all the soldiers.
posted by newdaddy at 8:50 PM on February 5


"Mental illness" isn't the problem, either. A huge proportion of the population (as many as 1 in 4) is diagnosably mentally ill, for a certain value of mentally ill, and they will never shoot anyone. Ever. It's a prejudiced shorthand to use "mental illness" to mean the confluence of oppression, derangement, toxic gender ideals, opportunity, and individual unpredictability that occasionally produces mass murder.
posted by Peach at 8:57 PM on February 5 [20 favorites]


"Running Amok: A Modern Perspective on a Culture-Bound Syndrome", Manuel L. Saint Martin, M.D., J.D, Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, June 1999

This is what it seems to be, isn't it? Like it's almost too evo. psych but it really seems to be just a simple error in targeting.

There may come a time in a young man's life when he feels rejected and down, outcast from his tribe but with no other tribe to go to. At this time he may gather his disaffected friends into a warband, prepare himself for battle, seek out a hostile tribe, and commit massacres on them before kidnapping any surviving women for rape-slaves, bringing back bounteous loot. This is adaptive, tending to increase status, treat depression, and increase reproductive success, if only for the remaining tribe members of the rampant individuals in the event of their deaths after inflicting damage.

See also My Lai.

But going on a rampage against your own tribe, that's just insane. On the other hand, in this day and age when your tribe is supposed to extend across thousands of miles or even span the globe, it's not too hard to comprehend that some young men would need to find some target for a rampage anyway.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:13 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Can't wait to add The War on Guns to the list, we need another reason to jail a fuckton of brown people.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:16 PM on February 5

What?

No. You do it by changing the laws to implement a gun buyback program; nobody's getting jailed.

Australia introduced a gun buyback program in 1996, as a result of the Port Arthur tragedy in which 35 people lost their lives. It has been an undeniable success: 'the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides.'*

Yes, of course there are other factors that contribute to gun homicide, and a holistic approach is needed. But that doesn't change the fact that there is only one significant difference between the US and other developed nations that have nowhere near the amount of gun violence, and that is the rate of private gun ownership.

Politics is the only reason our country is swimming in gun violence -- every other first world nation has their shit together on this point. It's a fucking embarrassment, and the US can do better.
posted by serif at 7:47 PM on February 5


I wholeheartedly agree.

*http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/02/did-gun-control-work-in-australia/
posted by Salamander at 9:19 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


Maybe the U.S. is different because of how masculinity is brought up in schools and in our culture as a whole, especially in regard to violence, and how socio-economic factors and family issues (whether genetic or not) can all come together to make a person act out violence against others.

I've got a lot of feelings I can't articulate about this debate, but I'll comment on this. The US is different, sure, everywhere is, but it's nowhere near different enough in its treatment of masculinity in schools generally. I'm from what some people might call a liberal paradise where guns are prevalent but highly regulated. Yet we still have, I think, a completely warped idea of what it means to be a man (whatever THAT means) and those messages, while substantially our own in many regards, are heavily flavoured by US media. And guess what...
posted by ddd at 9:22 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


The difference here is that we'd have to repeal the second amendment and spend at least a hundred billion on the buyback. I guess that's "just politics" like saying fixing the Sahara is "just water".

Stop being ashamed of America, our gun problems were two hundred plus years in the making. It's understandable that it's not an easy fix.

What I'm embarassed about is the efforts to curtail the CDC & ATF data collection / record keeping.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:26 PM on February 5


People of talking about disarming the American people are pretty much doing the mental equivalent of masturbating. It's never gonna happen. Congress can't even pass universal background checks.

Personally I don't think that a minority of Americans should be able to tell the majority, who support private gun ownership, that they don't get to exercise rights granted by the constitution.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:43 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Also you have to keep in mind it's pretty fun to fire off guns definitely. (I think all gun controllers should go fire off a gun at least once, not because it will convert you, but so you won't look like a fool talking about guns while never having even touched one.)

And it's probably fun to fantasize about firing on interlopers and ethnics if you're into that.

America will accept a certain rate of rampages in order to obtain these benefits.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:05 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


See also My Lai.

Granted, I haven't read the "Running Amok" article you cite... but I have a hard time equating the My Lai massacre with domestic mass shootings in the United States.

They are both awful, ugly, inexcusable things. No doubt. But they are evils of significantly different circumstance.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:05 PM on February 5


I don't think the authors are saying "you shouldn't worry about mass shootings."

In terms of actual risk, you should be more worried about being attacked by animals than you are about mass shootings.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:13 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


And it's probably fun to fantasize about firing on interlopers and ethnics if you're into that.

If you've ever seen first hand the results of flesh being impacted by lead then no it's not.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:15 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Granted, I haven't read the "Running Amok" article you cite... but I have a hard time equating the My Lai massacre with domestic mass shootings in the United States.

Quite right.
The My Lai massacre was more or less sane.
Domestic mass shootings are insane.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:24 PM on February 5


Domestic mass shootings are insane.

I picture a crazed crowd of butlers and maids, full-auto rock'n'roll.
posted by telstar at 11:02 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


> I know that repealing the Second Amendment is a non-starter, but it seems to me that the widespread availability of guns of any kind has much more to do with the prevalence of mass shootings than anything else these studies bring to the table.

A system of licensing and liability insurance would be constitutional and could go a long way to reducing the homicide rate in the US (including mass shootings), and potentially get support from a decent chunk of gun owners, especially hunters. Unfortunately, in our polarized political climate, there seems to be little interest discussing measures that are actually feasible and could actually help.
posted by nangar at 11:18 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


People need help. We take their guns away, they maybe can't kill as many people when they don't get the help they need, but they still need help. So could we talk about giving people the psychological and situational help they need

No one, including the articles in the TFAs fail to mention the need to improve mental health care access and quality. There is no reason why BOTH tighter gun control and better mental health care can't be both pursued at once. Especially since you yourself admit that death tolls will go down with more gun control.

My only concern is that "better" health care will most likely involve a national mental health database and monitoring program that would violate the privacy and rights of an already vulnerable part of the population.
posted by FJT at 12:49 AM on February 6


At Least 26 Children Or Teens Died In Florida Stand Your Ground Cases
posted by homunculus at 12:53 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


The occasional horrific civilian massacre is just the price the rest of us have to pay.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:46 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


A system of licensing and liability insurance would be constitutional

It probably wouldn't be.
posted by jpe at 2:46 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


The point that I took away from this article, is one that isn't brought up too often in the mainstream media reporting of mass murders or murders in general:

The motivating factors for the rare individual(s) who perform "senseless" mass shootings/murders are far more complex than can be fixed by simple legislation, either for or against gun ownership, and neither can they be clearly predicted by displayed, antisocial behaviors.

After an attempted home invasion and my wife's car being broken into in my driveway occurred on two separate occasions last month, I too, reluctantly joined the ranks of gun owners. We have an alarm system, and after the car break-in, I installed cameras, but the attempted home invasion, where someone tried to break in the back door with my wife and daughter in clear view, caused me to feel the need to escalate my home protection to gun ownership.

It's frightening, more so the owning of a gun rather than the crimes which were committed, so I took classes, educated myself with a reputable trainer, and I sincerely hope I will never use the gun outside of a range.

With that said, I found this bit in the article a tad conflicting:

"And what about America’s culture? Here the authors only focused on one myth, one that’s been hashed out repeatedly in years past—video games. And they come down squarely on the side of “we don’t know:”"

The article clearly states that there has been no indicated increase in mass shooting from 1976 to present, and unless one can count Pac Man as a "violent game," by these words, I would say that the evidence is mostly there already.
posted by Debaser626 at 3:42 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Do statistics on gun ownership and the number of guns in America account for certain people owning more than one gun, including collectors? I know there are definitely people who own 10 guns but literally leave them hung up on a wall in a room somewhere and never shoot them. Likewise, there are people who own different guns simply because they like to shoot different guns.
posted by gucci mane at 4:41 AM on February 6


They have those things on knifecrime island, too, (to take one example) but of course the big difference is that a single person can't stab dozens of people to death in minutes.

America's odd obsession with how often British people stab each other is quite strange, not least because a greater percentage of people get stabbed to death in America anyway. In Britain about 220 people (see page 15) are stabbed to death each year, which works out at about 3.5 per million people. In America, about 1800 people are stabbed to death each year, which is about 5.5 people per million.

This is despite stabbing murders accounting for about two thirds of all British murders, and only an eighth of American murders.
posted by dng at 5:11 AM on February 6 [12 favorites]


This is despite stabbing murders accounting for about two thirds of all British murders, and only an eighth of American murders.

Sorry, I should have said a third here, not two thirds. Stabbinsg account for 35% of all murders for the UK, and 13% for the USA.
posted by dng at 6:05 AM on February 6


Do statistics on gun ownership and the number of guns in America account for certain people owning more than one gun, including collectors? I know there are definitely people who own 10 guns but literally leave them hung up on a wall in a room somewhere and never shoot them. Likewise, there are people who own different guns simply because they like to shoot different guns.
In 1996, the NRA persuaded Congressman Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) to successfully include budget provisions that prohibit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from advocating or promoting gun control, and that deleted $2.6 million from the CDC budget, the exact amount the CDC had spent on firearms research the previous year. The ban was later extended to all research funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. According to scientists in the field, this has made gun research more difficult, has reduced the number of studies, and has discouraged researchers from even talking about gun violence at medical and scientific conferences. In 2013, President Barack Obama ordered the CDC to resume funding research on gun violence and prevention, and put $10 million in the 2014 budget request for it.
More proof that members of NRA and their sycophants are awful human beings.
posted by deanklear at 6:20 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


I think it would be a real shame to see this thread devolve into yet another gun control/gun rights thread. These articles are intensely thought-provoking, not least because they puncture everyone's sacred cows. Gun bans don't solve mass shootings. More people with concealed carry probably don't - or at least, it's uncertain. Mental health care doesn't solve mass shootings. We have to find a way to solve the culture that breeds them.

And that's of course where articles like the Hegemonic Masculinity are so useful. One thing seems to be pretty common as a thread in these shootings - they are rarely, almost never, undertaken by women. Why is that? Certainly not that women are "the weaker sex" - women serve alongside men in many armies here and across the globe. Women also suffer intense rejections and disappointments. But the one thing women don't have is that feeling of impotent masculinity. The article points out that it's not just the act of bullying, but that,
Another important aspect of a hegemonic masculine identity is the ability to exert social dominance, achieve a high social status, command respect and demonstrate authority.
These are pressures that women largely do not have - and also that some other cultures do not have, but that Americans have in abundance. These things are considered highly important - and these are things that have been shifting for the last hundred years as equalities were achieved.
posted by corb at 8:03 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


> "America's odd obsession with how often British people stab each other is quite strange ..."

The oddest encounter I have had with this was when I made a cheery announcement on Facebook that I was moving to the UK. One person responded with a rather hysterical comment warning me that "murder capital" Glasgow had homicide rates that "make NYC in the 1980s seem tame".

Incidentally, the homicide rate of New York in the 1980s was generally around 10 to 12.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. The homicide rate in Glasgow is currently around 3 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Also, I wasn't moving to Glasgow.
posted by kyrademon at 8:11 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Personally I don't think that a minority of Americans should be able to tell the majority, who support private gun ownership, that they don't get to exercise rights granted by the constitution.

I personally think that the thousands of people dying from guns every year have a right to be alive, which more or less trumps the fucking stupid 2nd Amendment and the even more fucking stupid deliberate misinterpretation of same. The bit about 'well regulated militia' is important, and it is always ignored because I WANT MY GUN. Sigh.

Gun bans don't solve mass shootings.

Yes, actually, they do. See Australia. Statistics linked further up in this thread, but gun violence down by ~60% and gun suicides down by the same amount without an increase in other suicide methods.

You may not believe that gun bans do anything, but they absolutely and incontrovertibly do. These are known facts.

Mental health care doesn't solve mass shootings. We have to find a way to solve the culture that breeds them.

Mental health care is precisely one of the major avenues for solving that culture.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:22 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I've read the Hegemonic Masculinity paper, and I'm really not seeing how it's anything revolutionary. Maybe it's just me being a great thicko, but it seems to have been funded by a Stating the Obvious Grant from the No Shrift, Sherlock Foundation. I mean, I guess it's nice to have things written down in black and white with graphs and citations, but was there really any question that these crimes were generally carried out by men and boys who had grown up to believe that they should have more power than they did?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:23 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


was there really any question that these crimes were generally carried out by men and boys who had grown up to believe that they should have more power than they did?

To me? No. But I think that it is a question to broad swathes of the public, who either don't see that, or worse, don't see that as a problem. They agree that men and boys should have more power, which means why should they mention it? It's like the idea that the sun should shine to them.

Mental health care can't fix that. Mental health care is for breaks and actual disorders, not for a generalized societal proclamation of male entitlement.
posted by corb at 8:52 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to accept the idea that cultural problems are a part of the equation, but many cultural problems have public policy origins, and gun control is part of public policy. We lost the ability to customize that policy to suit state and municipal preferences in a pair of Supreme Court decisions less than a decade ago, but that doesn't mean it's not productive to discuss what productive gun control measures could survive legal challenges now, or what measures might make an impact should the composition of the court change. Gun control should absolutely be in bounds for this discussion.

It's also notable that there's a large intersection between people with absolutist views of the Second Amendment and people who reflexively oppose public policy approaches to addressing the root causes of gun violence, including the dismal state of public education and the inadequate safety net. These aren't part of the "culture" per se, but they are part of the environment that leads to the death spiral of violence begetting violence, which nobody seems to care about until it comes to their neighborhood.

Culture doesn't form in a vacuum -- it's a product of choices made, past and present. We can't write laws to change culture, but we can use public policy, including whatever gun control measures can comport with the prevailing interpretation of the Second Amendment, to try to improve peoples' lives in ways that might help break the cycle of violence.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:17 AM on February 6


I personally think that the thousands of people dying from guns every year have a right to be alive, which more or less trumps the fucking stupid 2nd Amendment

As horrible as gun violence is you seem to be terribly confused about how democracies operate.

and the even more fucking stupid deliberate misinterpretation of same. The bit about 'well regulated militia' is important, and it is always ignored because I WANT MY GUN.

You also seem terribly confused about the history of the 2nd amendment.

The Commonplace Second Amendment


Sources on the Second Amendment and Rights to Keep and Bear Arms in State Constitutions
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:32 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to accept the idea that cultural problems are a part of the equation, but many cultural problems have public policy origins, and gun control is part of public policy.

I think there's a difference, ideologically speaking, between people who think that culture is the province of the state, and those who do not. And there really isn't, practically speaking, a clear answer here. The state has a lot of power - so in many cases, using that power to solve cultural problems seems like an easy answer. But in this case, you're often dealing with a demographic who sees that very cultural interference by the state as an unsupportable offense, and one to be resisted.

This is something not confined to guns, but does often enter the debate every time there's talk around gun control. I know - or think I know - the purpose of gun control, but what usually happens, given the way our legislative system works, is that there's a lot of notice, by design, before a gun control bill is passed. In that time, gun speculators buy all the guns they can afford. People who have guns, who might have considered selling them for some purpose or another, hold onto them, even when they desperately need the money, because they don't know when they'll be able to buy them again. The market shoots through the roof for guns and ammunition. It's a boom market for anyone in the firearms industry. The speculators are hoping that either a gun bill looks like it will pass, in which case they will make a moderate amount of money - gun prices doubled in some cases around Newtown - or that a gun bill will pass, so they can make an obscene amount of money. So the creation of a gun control bill, perversely, causes more guns to be purchased.

This stuff is stoked up by legislators talking about how they want to wipe out gun culture, that gun culture is an ignorant thing that only needs destroying.

I don't support gun control as it is commonly understood. But if I did, I would look at it more like the question of fur. Fur used to be intensely popular, valued as a status symbol - a rite of passage for certain classes of American girls - and not only the rich ones. Now, fur is not illegal. It hasn't been made illegal. There's little regulation of it. But because of various campaigns, to wear fur has been considered tacky. It's socially disapproved, but not generally in a serious 'you must not do this' way, but rather as a 'this is old fashioned' way. There's still fur in the streets, but radically less. When it appears, it's looked on as a curiousity.

It would easily be possible to create a cultural trend of seeing guns differently, without too much backlash. But it - like most cultural changes - would take a generation for the answers, and most people don't want to take that long.
posted by corb at 9:49 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


As horrible as gun violence is you seem to be terribly confused about how democracies operate.

No, actually. But thank you for attacking me personally.

You also seem terribly confused about the history of the 2nd amendment.

Not in the slightest. Again, thank you for the personal attack. It really elevates the discourse.

Perhaps you could show me a single gun supporter who actually couples both halves of the sentence together instead of ignoring the inconvenient bit about 'a well regulated militia.'

Your gun rights people only, ever, focus on the part after that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:57 AM on February 6


I'm willing to accept the idea that cultural problems are a part of the equation, but many cultural problems have public policy origins, and gun control is part of public policy.

And cultural problems don't preclude gun control, and may be a reason why we need more of it than other countries.

18% gun ownership (300M guns) + American gun culture = 10 gun deaths /100k
10% gun ownership (2M guns?) + Swiss culture = 4 gun deaths / 100k

Clearly American gun culture can't sustain as many guns as Swiss gun culture. It may be easier to change gun laws than gun culture.

We have to find a way to solve the culture that breeds them.

If broken lives are a big cause of shootings, maybe doing a better job of helping people with broken lives will reduce gun violence. I think this is where churches, social work, community, 12-step programs, access to therapy, etc. may be a big help.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:04 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


"gun nuts cling to the fantasy that they could use their personal guns to resist the government...Look at what people are using in Syria ...all illegal/highly regulated gear, because you need stuff that strong to fight a large government."

Yeah, that's why we're sending them small arms. ...oh, wait.

There’s no question small arms can fight government. You always get idiots disputing this thinking tanks are invulnerable, snipers are useless, air support can hold ground and that we fight modern wars by firebombing cities. That’s not how it works, sorry.

Failed states are most often destabilized by small arms and strife from rebel outfits, political militias, ethnic or religious tribes, criminal organizations, political bloc backed mercenaries, etc. running through non-traditional battlegrounds within communities and local society often using asymmetric means but typically with irregular recruitment including young people, sometimes children (e.g. Cote d'Ivoire, Congo, Sierra Leone, Colombia, Haiti, etc.)

The only modern war truly dominated by heavy weapons was the 1991 Gulf War. Light arms are the only arms in the vast majority of conflicts world wide. In part because of their portability and the proliferation. But mostly because you need a big, stable, industrial base to produce major conventional weapons and they’re nowhere near as deniable as small arms.
Pakistan has been engaged in a decades long (at least since Zia-ul-Haq in ’79) unconventional warfare campaign to push their regional objectives in Afghanistan. ALL of it has been with small arms. And they have not entangled their conventional forces in Afghanistan.
Contrast this with our drone strike policy in that region – very successful tactically. It certainly kills the people in the area it aims at. Killed 50 AQ and Taliban leaders at least. In terms of targeted killing it’s really, really successful.
Big, expensive weapon. Huge base of technology. Vastly more powerful than a guy with a rifle. And yet, somehow, we’ve failed to develop and implement a strategy that actually, y’know, affects the root causes of Islamic extremism and anti-American violence.

Huhm.

It’s not collateral damage – although that’s a huge, huge political factor in any conventional forces vs. guerrilla/insurgent conflict. No, the big thing is most Pakistanis never heard of ‘em. Not affected by drone strikes at all.

They have 193 million people. Let’s say we killed 1000 of them indirectly. How many people does that affect? Place that against the terrorism committed with little puissant bombs and those small arms we all know are so ineffective? Yeah, at least 26,000. With about 6,000 being suicide attacks which are goddamn spectacular such that everyone hears about them. Maybe radicalization isn’t subdued by big guns? Perhaps?

You, and everyone who takes this “gun nuts can’t fight the government because the government has a-bombs or tanks or aircraft carriers” crap is just as delusional as the idiots who think they’re actually going to achieve political objectives with a deer rifle alone.

I don’t get why people keep dismissing this point. Ignorance I suppose. Or political stubbornness.
I’m fairly pro-gun but I’d think an argument that small arms can be used to overthrow a government would be an anti-gun argument. At least as far as having a fairly free and open political system goes.
You don’t have the local militia crazies mandating teaching religious law in schools with guns in America. (They do it with lawsuits)

“A system of licensing and liability insurance … could go a long way to reducing the homicide rate in the US (including mass shootings), and potentially get support from a decent chunk of gun owners, especially hunters.”
I’d support it. Although liability insurance is only as good as its enforcement and wouldn’t affect illegal actors.

From the Skeptic link: “but it is important to note that people who commit mass murder appear to be operating as if under military rules of engagement.”
True. Most of this is an associative act.

Which leads me to (from winna’s comment): “but of course the big difference is that a single person can't stab dozens of people to death in minutes.”

What is it we’re trying to stop? Because a group of people with just machetes can commit a genocide if they’re in the right mindset. Do we fear the one guy flipping out more than the mindset that leads to killing?
The focus on prevention has to take into account the root causes.
Otherwise it's going to be as useless as superior firepower generally is when used to take on a movement.

From Skeptic: “This only shows that the availability of assault weapons doesn’t change the number of mass murder incidents, which means that killers just switched to different weapons, obtained illegal weapons, or made improvised weapons”
And
Re: concealed carry: “As a result, arguments that would have ended in a fistfight are more likely to end in a gunfight.”

So the question is twofold – one, how do we stop mass murder? Two – is the freedom to engage in certain decisions worth a life or lives?

Because those two questions are linked, it’s hard to find a solution that satisfies everyone. For some people banning all guns and preventing as many people as possible from being killed by them is the solution. For others, maximizing freedom at the cost of security is more important.

Mental health checks couldn’t hurt.

One thing I don’t hear brought up that much in the debate is camera surveillance.
The thing Japan, England, and a lot of other countries, that also have strict gun laws, have are Orwellian surveillance (in Japan’s case, also draconian laws).
Worth it? I don’t know. But I do know that surveillance – in the form of listening surveillance coupled with passive (until there’s gunfire) visual surveillance is one method that addresses only illegal (or rather potentially illegal, as determined later in court) use of firearms while damping the risk from them.

OTOH it’s after the fact. Preventative rather than pre-emptive...

*shrug* Good post. Lots of things to think about.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:06 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


Oops that was handgun. For total gun ownership it should be:


43% gun ownership (300M guns) + American gun culture = 10 gun deaths /100k
29% gun ownership (2M guns?) + Swiss culture = 4 gun deaths / 100k
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:18 AM on February 6


No, actually. But thank you for attacking me personally.

Yes, actually. In democracies majority rules. Currently in the U.S. the majority of people are against a total gun ban. I am sorry you feel I have personally attacked you, but I was merely pointing out that you are mistaken in your opinion that gun deaths trump the 2nd amendment. Before you can change that you need a majority of the people on your side, and this is currently not the case. Nothing personal about it, just reality.

It really elevates the discourse.

Again, I am sorry if you feel I was personally "attacking" you, but in my experience here on metafilter pointing out when someone is confused or incorrect about something is decidedly not a personal attack. If I was to call you names and engage in ad hominem abuse then, yes, you might have a point, but I have not done that.

Perhaps you could show me a single gun supporter who actually couples both halves of the sentence together instead of ignoring the inconvenient bit about 'a well regulated militia.'

I suggest you read the two links I provided. Eugene Volokh address how one can interpret both the operative clause and the justification clause in the context of similar provisions in state constitutions and also in the context of other constitutional provisions with operative and justification clauses.

Some people suggest the justification clause provides a built-in expiration date for the right. So long as a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state (or so long as the right to keep and bear arms contributes to a well-regulated militia, or so long as the militia is in fact well-regulated), the argument goes, the people have a right to keep and bear arms; but once the circumstances change and the necessity disappears, so does the right.

This reading seems at odds with the text: The Amendment doesn't say "so long as a militia is necessary"; it says "being necessary." Such a locution usually means the speaker is giving a justification for his command, not limiting its duration. If anything, it might require the courts to operate on the assumption that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, since that's what the justification clause asserts.

But the unsoundness of the "temporary right" reading becomes even starker when one considers the other state constitutional provisions.

posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:39 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


gun nuts cling to the fantasy that they could use their personal guns to resist the government.

Heh, I think the legally weaponless peasant of Old Europe with his pitchfork was probably a bigger threat to a fully armed and armoured knight than the threat posed by today's Modern American peasant with legal light arms against a fully loaded A10.
posted by anonymisc at 10:43 AM on February 6


They have those things on knifecrime island, too, (to take one example) but of course the big difference is that a single person can't stab dozens of people to death in minutes.

The Bath School disaster of 1927 remains the worst school massacre in American history - worse than Virginia Tech, Columbine, or Newtown. Andrew Kehoe, a school board treasurer angry about losing a local election secretly stockpiled explosives on a timer in the school basement, as well as his home and car. Only half the explosives in the school detonated, killing 43 people including 36 school children. A single gunshot was fired as a makeshift detonator for the final suicide car-bomb.

No guns necessary, and the exact same cultural phenomenon we're seeing today fully 70 years before it became a widely-acknowledged social trend. Dynamite and TNT are not - speaking as someone who made small quantities of a variety of different explosives by age 12 - difficult to make or beyond the grasp of any reasonably determined individual.

While easy firearm availability doesn't help matters, our problems run much deeper and have been with us for far longer than we generally admit.
posted by Ryvar at 10:44 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Yes, actually. In democracies majority rules.

Actually, preventing the tyranny of the majority is the fundamental underpinning of democracy but I'm so very confused apparently.

you are mistaken in your opinion that gun deaths trump the 2nd amendment

Not in any sane world I'm not.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:49 AM on February 6


Dynamite and TNT are not - speaking as someone who made small quantities of a variety of different explosives by age 12 - difficult to make or beyond the grasp of any reasonably determined individual.

Actually, they are difficult and beyond the grasp. We're not generally talking about the kind of people who have their shit together or who want to methodically work through solving engineering or life problems over a protracted period. If they were, they wouldn't be taking the blaze of fury path. Usually, not always, but usually, people who go out in a blaze of fury are the kind of person who would prefer to go out in a blaze of fury instead. Sure, every now and then, you'll get an exception, but you're letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
posted by anonymisc at 10:51 AM on February 6


We're not generally talking about the kind of people who have their shit together or who want to methodically work through solving engineering or life problems over a protracted period.

This is really a common misperception of mental illness, honestly. I see a lot of people come up with this idea - that if someone is mentally ill, they must be completely nonfunctional in all aspects of life. It's severely flawed - both because of the idea that someone who's functional can't be mentally ill, and the idea that someone who's mentally ill can't be functional.

How many people do we all know, who can do stunning programming, or exhaustive research, or mad tinkering, but that can't get their life together? They can't date, or they can't keep track of money?

There are more people who may not have their life together, but can still obsessively tinker with explosives or what have you, than you might think. Murderous intentions does not incompetency make.
posted by corb at 11:04 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Actually, preventing the tyranny of the majority is the fundamental underpinning of democracy but I'm so very confused apparently.

I will await your description of the constitutional mechanism that provides for amending the constitution with out 3/4 of the states ratifying said amendment. Until you can provide one you are incorrect in your assertion. Also, "tyranny of the majority" is a possible outcome in any democracy. Democracy is not what prevents this, but rather a system of checks and balances. This is all fairly well trodden territory. If you want to look into it more you can read this book. There is a whole chapter entitled "tyranny of the majority":

Democratic republics extend the practice of currying favor with the many, and they introduce it into a greater number of classes at once: this is one of the most serious reproaches that can be addressed to them. In democratic States organized on the principles of the American republics, this is more especially the case, where the authority of the majority is so absolute and so irresistible that a man must give up his rights as a citizen, and almost abjure his quality as a human being, if te intends to stray from the track which it lays down.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:24 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


you are mistaken in your opinion that gun deaths trump the 2nd amendment

One cannot be "mistaken" as to a matter of opinion about relative priorities. If the claim were that gun deaths would cause the courts to ignore the 2nd amendment, that would be a mistake. But the claim that the social good caused by the 2nd amendment is outweighed by the social good of preventing gun deaths is simply an opinion with which one can either agree or disagree; it's not something that can be a "mistake."
posted by yoink at 11:35 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


but reducing the actual physical availability of guns in this country isn't just a political non-starter, it's a physical impossibility.

As a staunch repeal-the-2nd person, you are making some good points to convince me that the cat is out of the bag. I see where you are coming from. What about ammunition? If we can't curtail the availability and movement of guns, can we make it harder to fill the chambers with bullets?
posted by dgran at 11:44 AM on February 6


AElfwine Evenstar: "I suggest you read the two links I provided. Eugene Volokh address how one can interpret both the operative clause and the justification clause in the context of similar provisions in state constitutions and also in the context of other constitutional provisions with operative and justification clauses."

Garry Wills deals with the Volokh's argument about the inclusiveness of "the people" here. The relevant excerpt (between the paragraph starting with 'To organize a militia' and the paragraph ending with 'defense of the kingdom under ordinary circumstances.') would be far too long to quote here, but if you read it, I think he ably dispatches the notion that "the people" is intended to apply to all people.

Volokh's other premise seems to be that one can find passages in the Constitution that are expressed using similar grammatical constructs, and then assert that matching clauses from each must have the same relative priorities. This is preposterous given the number of different people involved in drafting and editing the document prior to passage, and the fact that Volokh has to dig into state constitutions written earlier, in many cases by people not involved in drafting the constitution, certainly doesn't help his argument.

We can certainly go back and forth about the meaning of the amendment at the time, but I don't see why we'd bother given that Volokh's argument won in the mind of the only five people that matter back in 2008 (Justice Scalia and those who joined his majority opinion). However, in that same opinion, Scalia did also leave the door open for many other restrictions of and limitations on that individual right. and it's in that space where today's legislative fights are happening, and perhaps where we could have more productive discussions that don't involve trying to read tea leaves from 200+ years ago.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:49 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


What about ammunition? If we can't curtail the availability and movement of guns, can we make it harder to fill the chambers with bullets?

No.

This is something that isn't commonly known, but bullets aren't actually very hard to make. Making bullets is kind of out of fashion right now in the country - it's thought of as a "grandpa's hobby", something for old men to putter around doing - but it's almost ridiculously easy. It's also pretty easy to casually stockpile enough supplies to keep you in ammunition for the rest of your natural life, and I'm pretty sure some people already have.
posted by corb at 11:57 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I think the mistake is assuming that there's no possibility of more gun violence from trying to hand wave away the 2nd amendment, and thus weakening every enumerated and non-enumerated right and the constitutional authority that is the bedrock of our country. I'm not saying it's certain there'd be some kind of violent backlash, but the mathematical expectation is not zero.

We lost the ability to customize that policy to suit state and municipal preferences in a pair of Supreme Court decisions less than a decade ago

I would respectfully argue that we effectively lost that ability at the time of the Cruikshank decision, if not at the time of the drafting of the second amendment itself. I don't know if I have an 'absolutist' perception of that amendment, but I think the legal precedent through the entirety of Supreme Court decisions protects the right to bear arms as an individual rather than collective right, and I've articulated some of that here before. I'd cut and paste, but I'm hoping to keep my digression short because I'm still mulling the implications of this article and how we can fight 'hegemonic masculinity' effectively.

Personally, I think the analogy to fur is a good one, maybe a little shame/fear argument would help. "Sure you have a right to own guns, you also have a right to give your children lawn darts and a right to watch nazi movies in your basement, but why would you want to?" That's obviously too heavy handed, but I think a campaign of people talking about why they gave up guns could help, accidental shootings, children getting a hold of guns, suicidal ideation, arguments that nearly spiral out of control, etc...

Fighting a culture of male entitlement and an expectation of power is a little more difficult. I feel like we were at the cusp of making a cultural shift away from the sort of 50s male-female power dynamic and expectation, but we somehow stalled out. There's a fragility and brittleness about our gender roles, but we can't seem to break and reform our societal expectations into a new more fluid future.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:58 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


One cannot be "mistaken" as to a matter of opinion about relative priorities.

This is true, but I that wasn't the context of the exchange.

Garry Wills deals with the Volokh's argument about the inclusiveness of "the people" here.

Thanks, I will read it when I get a chance.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:00 PM on February 6


The wikipedia article on handloading covers making ammunition pretty well, I'd think if we could figure out how to restrict and track the sale of primers we'd be able to make a dent in ammunition supply within a few generations. Not that it's impossible to make those at home either.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:05 PM on February 6


There are more people who may not have their life together, but can still obsessively tinker with explosives or what have you, than you might think.

No. I've lived in places with working gun control. Murder sprees with guns didn't get replaced by bombing sprees. It Just Didn't Happen.

And when you look at terrorist cells, you find exactly the same thing - of all the people involved, the people who can actually make useful bombs are few and far between. (And many of those aren't even doing that, but re-purposing military ordnance instead)

Many of us went through the childhood pyro phase. But that just doesn't translate to anyone-can-just-as-easily-make-bombs-as-use-guns.
posted by anonymisc at 12:08 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Sorry, up above I meant Barron vs Baltimore (which reversed Cruikshank) when I said Cruikshank. I'm a bit out of it today.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:08 PM on February 6


No. I've lived in places with working gun control. Murder sprees with guns didn't get replaced by bombing sprees. It Just Didn't Happen.

Sure - but was the culture of those places functionally identical to American culture? It's really important to look at the things driving these situations, rather than just the tools.
posted by corb at 12:10 PM on February 6


Yeah, but the culture informs the psychology which chooses the tools (guns) even where arson or bombs would be more effective at mass killing. The Happy Land fire and Bath school disaster have been available as models of mass killing, but most mass killing perpetrators pick up a gun anyway. I think there's something about the psychology of killers and their need for power that demands an active, direct and immediate participation in murder. I suspect if you take guns out of the equation that their fantasies of empowerment through violence won't work the same way. I'm leaving off homemade flamethrowers, which might be a substitute.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:33 PM on February 6


This makes me feel dark and depressed to even say, but I think that need is the perpetrator seeing the acknowledgement in the face of their victim while enacting their murderous fantasy.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:35 PM on February 6


Many of us went through the childhood pyro phase.

Respectfully, you are drastically underestimating what I am talking about with the words "childhood pyro phase." Three of my best friends made TNT, independently before we knew each other, before the age of 15. For my own part my first few innocent endeavors - nitrogen triiodide (at age 8), flash powder, thermite - were under the supervision of an adult relative. The more powerful, genuinely dangerous stuff that followed was not.

Maybe I was a bit brighter than your average 12-year-old, but not vastly so. This stuff just isn't that hard, the instructions are literally *everywhere*, and it's responsible for the biggest school massacre in US history.

I think, sadly, BrotherCaine has the right of it - most of these events seem to be more about targeting a few chosen tormentors as a first priority and then lashing out at those viewed as passively "enabling" the perpetrator's torment as a secondary goal. When it escalates to blaming the entire "system" and all the people in it directly, however, that's when we see a Bath School-style massacre.
posted by Ryvar at 12:42 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


You, and everyone who takes this “gun nuts can’t fight the government because the government has a-bombs or tanks or aircraft carriers” crap is just as delusional as the idiots who think they’re actually going to achieve political objectives with a deer rifle alone.

No, the reason I think the gun owners are foolish in thinking they can fight the government is not because the government has big guns. I think it's foolish because gun owners think in the event a nation the size and population of the US falls apart, we're going to have people running around readily identifiable as "government" and "rebels", just like in the good 'ole American Civil War. Or that things will end when we've signed a nice treaty in a courthouse and everyone poses for a nice picture.

The last time a country both the size, population, and importance of the US fell apart was China. And during that time, the country fought a civil war between Nationalists and Communists, but also was invaded by Japan, had a dozen warlords running around, and was dragged into World War II. I mean, honestly, anybody who thinks that it will conveniently pare down to a limited war situation in Pakistan or any small podunk country is just not thinking about the absolute worst case scenario that will rain down on US, if not the world if it hits the fan.
posted by FJT at 12:49 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I think there's something about the psychology of killers and their need for power that demands an active, direct and immediate participation in murder.

I think it's mostly even simpler: the mass killings that the media has rewarded with attention, making their perpetrators the most important person in America for a few days, happen to have been shootings, so shootings continue instead of bombings or arson.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:52 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I think it's foolish because gun owners think in the event a nation the size and population of the US falls apart, we're going to have people running around readily identifiable as "government" and "rebels", just like in the good 'ole American Civil War. Or that things will end when we've signed a nice treaty in a courthouse and everyone poses for a nice picture.

So - though we are, of course, pretty far afield of the mass shooting scenario - I actually am familiar with some gun owners who are concerned about governmental tyranny. And I think the idea that they think there will be clearly identifiable "government" and "rebels" is actually far-fetched. From my experience, most of the concern is about - when the government starts committing tyranny, how will they be able to defend their home and family? How will they be able to stop lawless criminal behavior that is now entirely defended by law?

And for many of them, it's not really an impossibility. They would, in the scenario they envision, just need to make their particular preferred area too irritating or annoying for it to be worth soldiers being sent in to take it. They don't really want to take the whole country back. They just want to be left alone in their hidey-holes.
posted by corb at 1:00 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I will await your description of the constitutional mechanism that provides for amending the constitution with out 3/4 of the states ratifying said amendment.

Look, if you're not even going to bother engaging in good faith, I'm not going to bother talking to you.

Sure - but was the culture of those places functionally identical to American culture? It's really important to look at the things driving these situations, rather than just the tools.

Sigh. This is the problem with gun rights advocates. So blinded by the desire to have guns--while conveniently ignoring how much of the rest of the Western world doesn't have them and somehow manages to do just fine--that they refuse to acknowledge a very very very simple fact, one that has been proven time and time again:

Fewer guns means fewer people dying from guns. Yes, the toxic American culture has a lot to do with the problem. But that very simple fact is impossible to ignore.

Australia did it. Gun deaths dropped precipitously. Why do you ignore that?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:11 PM on February 6


They would, in the scenario they envision, just need to make their particular preferred area too irritating or annoying for it to be worth soldiers being sent in to take it. They don't really want to take the whole country back. They just want to be left alone in their hidey-holes.

Then they have an unbelievably odd picture of what a 'government tyranny' would look like.
posted by yoink at 1:12 PM on February 6


BrotherCaine: "I would respectfully argue that we effectively lost that ability at the time of the Cruikshank decision, if not at the time of the drafting of the second amendment itself."

How so? I read your analysis in the thread that you linked to, but I don't see it as proving what you're asserting here. My understanding is that settled law was on the side of allowing states to regulate guns as they see fit until the Heller decision many decades later. From the Cruikshank opinion:
The second and tenth counts are equally defective. The right there specified is that of 'bearing arms for a lawful purpose.' This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government, leaving the people to look for their protection against any violation by their fellow-citizens of the rights it recognizes, to what is called, in The City of New York v. Miln, 11 Pet. 139, the 'powers which relate to merely municipal legislation, or what was, perhaps, more properly called internal police,' 'not surrendered or restrained' by the Constitution of the United States.
You quoted this piece of the opinion in your previous comment, but truncated it (accidentally, I hope?) in a way that changes its meaning entirely. Yes, Cruikshank does talk of an individual right that predates the Constitution, but it also says the states decide how to guarantee that right, if at all.

Now, I'm not defending Cruikshank on its merits -- it's a very troubling and widely-discredited opinion. But it was quite clear on the states being allowed to deprive citizens of certain rights, with the federal government being only prevented from abridging that right, not being required to guarantee that right. Your interpretation definitely needs more supporting evidence than what you provided in your linked comment by way of an imprecise quotation of the opinion itself.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:03 PM on February 6


corb: "So - though we are, of course, pretty far afield of the mass shooting scenario - I actually am familiar with some gun owners who are concerned about governmental tyranny."

The Wills piece I linked to earlier also deals with the absurd notion that the founders put the Second Amendment into the government's founding document to ensure people could take up arms against that same government:
Only fantasts can think the self-styled militias of our day are acting under the mandate of, or even in accord with, the Second Amendment. Only madmen, one would think, can suppose that militias have a constitutional right to levy war against the United States, which is treason by constitutional definition (Article III, Section 3, Clause 1). Yet the body of writers who proclaim themselves at the scholarly center of the Second Amendment’s interpretation say that a well-regulated body authorized by the government is intended to train itself for action against the government.

...

The Standard Model finds, squirreled away in the Second Amendment, not only a private right to own guns for any purpose but a public right to oppose with arms the government of the United States. It grounds this claim in the right of insurrection, which clearly does exist whenever tyranny exists. Yet the right to overthrow government is not given by government. It arises when government no longer has authority. One cannot say one rebels by right of that nonexistent authority. Modern militias say the government itself instructs them to overthrow government—and wacky scholars endorse this view. They think the Constitution is so deranged a document that it brands as the greatest crime a war upon itself (in Article III: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them…”) and then instructs its citizens to take this up (in the Second Amendment). According to this doctrine, a well-regulated group is meant to overthrow its own regulator, and a soldier swearing to obey orders is disqualified for true militia virtue.

Gun advocates claim that a militia is meant to oppose (not assist) the standing army. But even in England the militia’s role was not to fight the king’s army. The point of the militias was to make it unnecessary to establish a standing army. That no longer applied when the Second Amendment was adopted, since the Constitution had already provided Congress the powers to “raise and support armies” (Article I, Section 8, Clause 12), to “provide and maintain a navy” (Clause 13), and “to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces” (Clause 14). The battle against a standing army was lost when the Constitution was ratified, and nothing in the Second Amendment as it was proposed and passed altered that. Nor did it change the Constitution’s provision for using militias “to suppress insurrections” (Clause 15), not to foment them.

Yet gun advocates continue to quote from the ratification debates as if those arguments applied to the interpretation of the Second Amendment. They were aimed at the military clauses in the proposed Constitution. Patrick Henry and others did not want the Constitution to pass precisely because it would set up a standing army—and it did.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:09 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Sorry, tonycpsu, as I stated in my earlier comment I meant to say the opinion refuting cruikshank.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:36 PM on February 6


BrotherCaine: "Sorry, tonycpsu, as I stated in my earlier comment I meant to say the opinion refuting cruikshank."

???

Barron was decided in 1833, Cruikshank in 1876.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:42 PM on February 6


And Cruikshank was just affirming Barron that states weren't restricted by the Bill of Rights.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:44 PM on February 6


Sorry again the post I linked to in the earlier thread had about five hours of research. Today I tried to cobble together what I could remember about incorporation in about five minutes and obviously blew it. I'm pretty sure the opinion on incorporation by scotus had shifted previously and the most recent scotus decision on the second was the nail in the coffin, but I should've shut up on that point until I had time to support my case. In any case the opinion on incorporation is a separate issue from the collective vs individual right argument. I read your link to the legal scholarship on the subject with interest, but am waiting till I have more time and health to dig into it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:41 PM on February 6


The Standard Model finds, squirreled away in the Second Amendment, not only a private right to own guns for any purpose but a public right to oppose with arms the government of the United States. It grounds this claim in the right of insurrection, which clearly does exist whenever tyranny exists. Yet the right to overthrow government is not given by government. It arises when government no longer has authority. One cannot say one rebels by right of that nonexistent authority
I would love to agree with Wills here--certainly if I were creating a constitution from scratch I'd have nothing remotely like the 2nd Amendment--but this is a piss poor argument, both logically and, alas, historically. You really don't have to hold that the 2nd Amendment is enjoining revolution in contradiction with the Constitutional ban on treason to logically hold that it is motivated by a desire to keep Government tyranny in check. You can believe that the Constitution's framers both wished to insist that working to overthrow the government when it was properly exercising its duly constituted powers was treason AND that they wished to ensure that in the event that the government should exceed those bounds and become tyrannical, there should be a sufficient body of the people trained in the use of arms who were willing and able to resist the government.

And it simply is undeniably an historical fact that part of the tradition of English republican political theory from the 17th century on was the armed citizen militia as a potential check on government overreach. It is a standard part of English progressive critiques of the game laws and their restrictions on ownership of arms by members of the lower classes that this makes tyrannical government easier to impose--and it is not difficult to find post-Revolutionary American's boasting about how the fact that everyone in the US has access to guns will ensure liberty in a way that people in Europe can only envy.

I think these are all bad arguments and arguments which technological and social developments since the C18th have rendered null and void--but Wills is being either disingenuous or simply turning a blind eye to the abundant evidence that shows that the idea that ensuring the people's access to and familiarity with arms would also ensure its liberty from future tyranny was definitely part of the contemporary mix of ideas behind the 2nd Amendment.
posted by yoink at 5:00 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


it's thought of as a "grandpa's hobby", something for old men to putter around doing
Hey!
...well, I do putter. Only my knees are old though.

I think making people load their own ammunition would go a long way to reducing gun violence.
No real practical way to enforce that. But in such a case it wouldn't be the cost but thinking about spending time with the press, scale, calipers, policing up your brass, remembering not to double charge your grains because - goddamn! - getting repetitive motion sickness if you're doing a bunch of rounds, deburring, etc.
At the very least you're thinking about how much time it took you to load the damn things because you can't afford to be sloppy if you don't want to foul up your weapon.

On the other hand, last thing you want is a fastidious madman...
posted by Smedleyman at 5:01 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Respectfully, you are drastically underestimating what I am talking about with the words "childhood pyro phase."

Nope. I went through the same phase. I know exactly what you (and I) are talking about. The removal of guns works. Bombmakers are rare and don't pick up the slack.
posted by anonymisc at 5:07 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


(That said, it's also cultural - terrorist bombings get lots of press and seem to be becoming also a symbol. I can foresee a possible future where bombs become a trendier weapon for the American angry at their own community, but I don't see that trend being influenced by (un)availability of guns, the bombs themselves have to have the appeal, not be some 2nd-choice poor-man's-gun)
posted by anonymisc at 5:21 PM on February 6


As someone who sees gun violence in the US as a public health issue, it is just so weird to see other people worrying about the constitutionality of taking the simplest, most effective solution to the incidence of gun violence (reduce the number of available guns, mainly handguns).

Just imagine people arguing against preventing an epidemic of lethal infectious disease because they're afraid the obvious and proven prevention method might not be constitutional, that is so weird.

Other nations, take careful notes: When companies that sell lethal toys manage convince people that it's unconstitutional for the government to effectively control the sale of those lethal toys... the lethal toy companies will make lots of money, and lots of people will be killed by lethal toys.
posted by serif at 7:40 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


yoink: "You can believe that the Constitution's framers both wished to insist that working to overthrow the government when it was properly exercising its duly constituted powers was treason AND that they wished to ensure that in the event that the government should exceed those bounds and become tyrannical, there should be a sufficient body of the people trained in the use of arms who were willing and able to resist the government."

One can believe that, but it would require one to disregard the clauses in the Constitution that describe the militia as being "organized, armed, and disciplined" by the federal government, and existing "to suppress insurrections, not to foment them" as Wills put it. It would also require accepting that there was some widely-accepted idea of universal militia service at the time of the country's founding, a myth that Wills deals with in this passage:
The attempt to raise a volunteer force for royal use across local lines was seen, in the seventeenth century, as a step toward assembling the elements of a standing army. But that does not mean that the ordinary local militia was ever universal. No locale could empty out its fields and shops to train all males of the appropriate age. The militia was in fact “select” in that it represented the local squirearchy and its dependents. The very operation of the militia depended on some people continuing their ordinary work—civil officials, food suppliers, sowers and harvesters, ostlers, blacksmiths, and the like. The very term “trained bands” means that the militia was not universal: only those with the time, opportunity, acceptance, and will to be exercised in training were actual “bandsmen,” on whose discipline depended the effectiveness of the trained bands in precluding the need for a standing army. Any breakdown of order at the local level would destroy the argument that militias were a sufficient defense of the kingdom under ordinary circumstances.

It is true that Congress passed a militia law in 1792 providing that every able-bodied man should equip himself with a musket to serve in the militia—but it was a dead letter, since no organized training was provided for. This was like defining the jury pool as the citizenry at large without providing for voir dires, so that no jury panels could be formed. Not until Congress passed the Dick Act in 1903 was the overall organization of a trained militia (the Guard) put on a regular basis. The gun advocates’ talk of a time when the militia of the United States was universal is not nostalgia for a past reality, but a present dream about a past dream. The militia actions of the nineteenth century were sporadic, “select,” and largely ineffectual.
Specifically on the Uniform Militia Act of 1792, held up by many as evidence that the founders did desire universal militia service, Wills refers to a 1940 Harvard Law Review article by Frederick Bernays Wiener which lays out the case for that act being a "dead letter". Quoting from the piece:
But the necessities of the new Republic were more compelling than its principles. A War Department was organized early in 1789. The 700-odd men who had been maintained in service were reorganized and expanded into a small army which, in 1790 and 1791, was required to deal with the Western Indians. These were the campaigns of Harmarand St. Clair; the reverses which were suffered only emphasized the need for trained and instantly available forces. Not until 1792 did Congress find time to provide for the " well-regulated militia " which the Bill of Rights had declared " necessary to the security of a free State." There was transmitted to Congress in January, 1790 the socalled Knox plan, which retained the essential features of Washington's Sentiments on a Peace Establishment.. Legislation not materially different was introduced twice in 1790, and twice in 1791. It passed in 1792 -with the heart cut out of it, and opposed by its sponsor; this was "the notorious Militia Act of 1792." In place of a select contingent of young men, uniformly and periodically trained, Congress included every man, and imposed no requirements as to drills or musters. The President signed the bill, but continued to recommend militia legislation, as though none had been passed. As General Palmer says, " Washington had proposed militia in terms of 'gilt-edged' bonds. Congress issued it in terms of 'watered stock.'

If only for one reason, the Militia Act of 1792 is significant: for over a century, it was the only permanent legislation under which the militia was organized. Under this law, every able-bodied man between 18 and 45 was (with exceptions not now material) enrolled in the militia, and required to arm and equip himself at his own expense. Annual returns were prescribed, the result of which was that the militia was, in most communities, mustered once a year. At these occasions, so far as can now be ascertained, Mars was less in evidence than Bacchus. The basic fallacy of the 1792 Act was that it was unselective. It imposed a duty on everyone, with the result that this duty was discharged by no one. Its provisions were unworkable when they were adopted; they were soon obsolete; as measures of national defense, they were worthless; and for generations prior to their repeal, in 1903, they were, in Maitland's phrase, no more than "an interesting cabinet of antiquities."
yoink: "It is a standard part of English progressive critiques of the game laws and their restrictions on ownership of arms by members of the lower classes that this makes tyrannical government easier to impose--and it is not difficult to find post-Revolutionary American's boasting about how the fact that everyone in the US has access to guns will ensure liberty in a way that people in Europe can only envy."

It's certainly not difficult to find those quotations, but it does seem difficult for many folks to realize that those who made such arguments lost the debate to those who favored a militia as described above, organized, armed, and disciplined by the federal government. This is the militia prescribed in the Constitution; the one that would over time become our National Guard.

Now, one can certainly believe that the founders would call out these specific features of a militia in 1787 when drafting the Constitution, then use that same word to describe a different kind of militia a few years later when drafting Bill of Rights, and if you'd like to make that case, by all means do so, but I don't think the fact that a few Patrick Henrys and George Masons expressed support for arming everyone to defend against tyranny are sufficient evidence to make such a case.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:22 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


This subject came up tonight at the dinner table in relation to the retired police captain who shot and killed a man after an argument about texting in a movie theater. It was my thesis that murder rampages and this incident are more similar than it appears on the surface because of the issues surrounding masculinity, etc. we've discussed here.

I said, "I think there are far too many jackasses with 'armed courage' in this country. Walking around with a handgun under their jacket and thinking, 'Don't disrepect me. I'm packing.' I'm all for free people having long arms, but the handgun situation is out of control."

"Well then I guess you and the rest of you Pelosi-ites better be more polite because you never know who has a gun."

"Is that really what you want?" I asked. "For everyone to just go around strapped all the time? I guess we should wear them low on our thighs like a gunslinger too. Because you never know when someone might draw on you."

"I'll kill anybody who comes for my gun."

God Bless America.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:51 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand why the clause that appears to be a justification for a right is being used as a restriction on that right. If that was the intent it could've been phrased differently. Such as "the right of the states to arm their people/militia".

It's as if one said the preamble were a checklist that once met allowed the government to ignore any constitutional protection at will.

Just imagine people arguing against preventing an epidemic of lethal infectious disease because they're afraid the obvious and proven prevention method might not be constitutional, that is so weird.

Well I agree that would be weird if the epidemic posed a risk at the level of the Black Plague, but if we're talking about something with a CMR of one in a hundred thousand and say the prevention method involves suppression of rights to free association and the enforcement appears more burdendensome to a particular poilitical or ethnic group.

I support the second amendment because I like the first amendment. I'm happy with some restrictions on either, but I think they need to be the restrictions that are implicit to the precedents in law at time of framing. Not because I think the founders are sacred, more intelligent, or framed the document better than legal scholars of the day. Rather that I think we need as explicit and commonsense a foundation for the highest law of the land as possible. Alternatively, we need to find the political will to redraft it. Which is my preference actually despite its current unlikeliness.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:49 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Which leads me to (from winna’s comment): “but of course the big difference is that a single person can't stab dozens of people to death in minutes.”

What is it we’re trying to stop? Because a group of people with just machetes can commit a genocide if they’re in the right mindset.


Maybe those folks are coming from a perspective of harm reduction rather than one of trying to eradicate all killings, which I think everyone on both sides of the issue grants is never going to happen?

I think many people believe that while we obviously can't prevent every killing, if we make them more difficult to commit we might lessen the body count. I'm not sure very many people see it as a panacea, but rather as an aid.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:33 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


One can believe that, but it would require one to disregard the clauses in the Constitution that describe the militia as being "organized, armed, and disciplined" by the federal government,

It requires no such disregard. I don't think you read my comment very closely. Wills says it is absurd to think that the Constitution would provide for the possibility of armed resistance to a Government grown tyrannical. My comment was addressing that point and that point alone. If the body of the citizenry are in a militia "organized, armed, and disciplined" by the federal government that serves the republican theorists' purpose of having a citizenry who are capable in some future contingency of resisting a government grown unconstitutionally tyrannical. You seem to be imagining that a corollary of my argument is that the "militia" have to be conceived of as a bunch of gun nuts running around the woods in West Virginia or something. In the republican political theory to which I'm referring the "militia" refers to the citizenry as a whole as they mobilize to express their will by military means.

It's certainly not difficult to find those quotations, but it does seem difficult for many folks to realize that those who made such arguments lost the debate to those who favored a militia as described above, organized, armed, and disciplined by the federal government.


This is simply untrue, for the simple reason that the debate really wasn't ever had. The 2nd Amendment had astonishingly little discussion for something that has become so deeply controversial in later years. For about a century after its adoption, however, it was pretty much a non-issue. Consequently everyone who had any opinion about the matter was able to project onto it whatever meaning they wished. But there were plenty of people among the "winners" in the constitutional struggles of the time who understood the 2nd Amendment in terms of the conventional republican political theory of the day, in which an armed and trained populace was the best guarantor of the continued liberty of the state.

Consider Madison (surely not one of the 'losers' of the fight to determine the meaning of the constitution?):
The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for the common liberties and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the late successful resistance of this country against the British arms will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments of the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. (Federalist 46)
Or just a few decades after the ratification of the 2nd Amendment, consider Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833):
The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.
I could go on (and on--this is, as I say, simply a commonplace of progressive republican political thought in the day) but those two are, by themselves, sufficient to establish that Wills is simply wrong. There was no perceived contradiction, at all, in the minds of the framers or of those who set out to interpret the constitution in their wake, between the idea of the citizen's duty to obey the government (in general) and the idea that the 2nd Amendment of the constitution was important precisely in that it provided the means by which an armed citizenry could resist a government grown tyrannical.
posted by yoink at 8:55 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


yet gun advocates continue to quote from the ratification debates as if those arguments applied to the interpretation of the Second Amendment. They were aimed at the military clauses in the proposed Constitution. Patrick Henry and others did not want the Constitution to pass precisely because it would set up a standing army—and it did.

As I see it, the ratification debates are in fact significant primarily because the idea of amendments (that eventually led to the Bill of Rights) itself was a necessary compromise in order for the Constution to be verified in the first place - the Massachusetts Compromise. So it's not that "The Constitution Won", but rather "The Amendments /and/ The Constitution Won"

...though dammit, I've been sucked back into the debate I was trying to avoid! Ah well.
posted by corb at 9:05 AM on February 7


I see I failed to bold the phrase "domestic usurpations of power by rulers" in the quotation from Joseph Story so I'm just going to pop back in to underscore that point. For those of you who may not know, Story's Commentaries are the single most important and influential legal analysis of the Constitution in the C19th, something akin to Blackstone in the UK. And here he is, in 1833, insisting that the primary significance of the 2nd Amendment is that it protects against "domestic usurpations of power by rulers." Frankly, I think Wills was just being dishonest in trying to pretend that this is some kind of crazy modern invention unimaginable to the framers of the constitution.

It is, on the other hand, harder (though--and, again, from my own perspective, unfortunately--not impossible) to find warrant for the idea that the 2nd Amendment protects any individual right to own arms. The Madison passage above, with its satisfied comment about how the American populace is armed, unlike the poor oppressed subjects of European tyranny, certainly shows that some such idea was around at the time. Still, I've often thought that you could make an argument that the original aims of the 2nd Amendment would be satisfied if all citizens were provided with military training (so everyone learned how to use a gun) and if people were allowed to keep arms for training and recreation purposes in suitably regulated facilities (e.g., shooting ranges etc.). Then you would have a situation where the citizen "militia" was a genuine possibility (even if, today, it's largely meaningless) and where organized "militias" would have access to small arms caches in the event of justified insurrection. But on a day-to-day basis all weapons would be confined to suitably monitored and controlled facilities rather than sitting around in people's houses waiting for depressed teenagers to shoot themselves or angry husbands to kill their wives.
posted by yoink at 9:25 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Yoink, do you feel that meets with the phrasing "keep and bear"? I agree that it's a sane alternative.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:56 AM on February 7


yoink: "Wills says it is absurd to think that the Constitution would provide for the possibility of armed resistance to a Government grown tyrannical. "

No, that isn't what he was saying. There are two separate questions you (and many who make similar arguments) are conflating:

(a) did an appreciable number of our founders believe that armed citizens could serve as a check on tyranny?

(b) was the Second Amendment put in place to guarantee the right to do so?

The point is that (b) can be false even if (a) is true. Wills concedes that the right to insurrection "clearly does exist whenever tyranny exists", but unless you ascribe one meaning to the word "militia" in the Constitution itself and another totally different meaning in an amendment written a couple of years later, you are saying that the government was to organize, arm, and discipline a militia that could, by rights guaranteed by the government, not by their natural rights, fight back against that same government as soon as they decided tyranny had arrived.

The distinction between natural rights and rights guaranteed by the government is important, and perhaps where you're misunderstanding Wills' argument. As noted above, many court decisions have pointed out that we have many natural rights that aren't encoded into the Constitution. Enforcement of these typically falls to the states, and, as noted above, this is how a decision like Cruikshank could happen -- "yes, freed slaves, you have a right to arm yourself, but it's not the federal government's job to guarantee that right, so, best of luck!"

So, yes, it would not be paradoxical to say that founders wanted people to be armed to guard against tyranny, but it is paradoxical to say that a right guaranteed by the federal government to rebel against that government could have any meaning, because the rebels by definition don't accept the authority of the government, and the government would of course not guarantee this right. This is especially true since, to believe the desire of such insurrection-loving founders was encoded in the Second Amendment, you have to allow the definition of the term militia to change radically from how it is described in the parent document.

yoink: " Consider Madison (surely not one of the 'losers' of the fight to determine the meaning of the constitution?): "

This is where, having been told I didn't read your comment very closely (despite having done so, having quoted a majority of its text, and having responded to each point you made) I tell you that you must not have read Wills' piece very closely, because he deals explicitly with Madison's writing in Federalist No. 46:
One of the Standard Modelers’ favorite quotations, meant to prove that the militia was designed to fight against, not for, the federal government, is James Madison’s argument, in Federalist No. 46, that any foreseeable national army could not conquer a militia of “half a million citizens with arms in their hands.” But Madison says this while making what he calls a “visionary supposition”—that the federal government has become a tyranny, overthrowing freedom.
That the people and the States should for a sufficient period of time elect an uninterrupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should throughout this period, uniformly and systematically preserve some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the misjudged exaggeration of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism.
Madison says he will grant, per impossible, such a hypothesis in order to consider the result:
A correspondence would be opened. Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would animate and conduct the whole. The same combination in short would result from an apprehension of the federal, as was produced by the dread of the foreign yoke…
Madison is describing the Revolution, when Committees of Correspondence, Minutemen, and other bodies of resistance to tyranny sprang into being. It is not the “well-regulated militia” under the Constitution that is being described, but the revolutionary effort of a people overthrowing any despotism that replaces the Constitution and makes it void. Tyrannicides do not take their warrant from the tyrant’s writ.

In Madison’s dire hypothesis, all bets are off and the pre-government right of resistance replaces governmental regulations including the Second Amendment. He is not describing the militia as envisioned in the Second Amendment. To use his words as if they explained the amendment’s proper functioning is absurd.
This, again, gets to the distinction between the natural rights of man, and those that could be encoded in the founding document without making a mockery of the idea of government itself.

I have to close for now and get back to work. Will do some thinking on the Joseph Story bit later.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:24 AM on February 7


(b) was the Second Amendment put in place to guarantee the right to do so?

And this is where Wills simply creates a giant straw man. No one--no one at all--is saying the 2nd amendment confers the right of rebellion. That right is, by its nature, extra-constitutional (see Locke's 2nd Treatise of Government for the theoretical tradition on which that right is largely founded). The 2nd amendment, for those who held the kinds of views espoused by Madison, was put in place not to grant the right of rebellion but to ensure the people the means to rebel effectively if such a case should befall them.

As for his response to Madison, it's utterly beside the point because, again, he's riding his ridiculous and, frankly, laughable straw man that the argument turns on the 2nd amendment granting "a warrant from the tyrant's writ." Drop that nonsensical straw man and what are you left with? The simple fact that Madison is saying--what would have struck his readers as a banal orthodoxy of republican political theory--that future government tyranny is rendered less likely and more easily remedied when the people's right to "keep and bear arms" is protected: unlike the situation in most of the states of modern Europe.

Yoink, do you feel that meets with the phrasing "keep and bear"? I agree that it's a sane alternative.

Yes, I do. They get to "keep" the arms because they possess them and have access to them that is not controlled by the federal government. And I do, actually, agree with Wills's argument about the rather specific meaning of "bear" arms, which very clearly does not mean, in C18th usage, to "carry" arms. The people's right to "bear arms" is a right to participate in armed struggle (whether for the defense of the nation from foreign attack or from a domestic tyranny); it would be a bizarre term to use if they had meant a right to strap a gun to your waist and wander into the nearest coffee shop.
posted by yoink at 10:50 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


I don't see how anyone with even a passing familiarity with the issue could refer to this as a straw man. I give you Standard Modeler Glenn Reynolds, from "A Critical Guide to the Second Amendment", one of the pieces Wills was responding to in his NYRB article:
One modern critic of the Standard Model, Dennis Henigan of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, dismisses this basis for the Second Amendment. Henigan describes what I call the "Standard Model" as the "insurrectionist theory" of the Second Amendment. According to Henigan, it is absurd to believe that the Framers intended to include a right of revolution in the Constitution. Henigan's argument suffers from a number of problems, not least of which is that in fact the Framers did seem to believe in just such a right. Aside from the passages quoted above, the 1794 Tennessee Constitution, which was adopted just after the adoption of the Bill of Rights and which Thomas Jefferson is said to have described as "the least imperfect and most republican of the state constitutions,"41 contains an explicit recognition of the right—and in fact the duty—of citizens to rebel against a tyrannical government. Article I, Section 1 of the Tennessee Constitution provides:
That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; for the advancement of those ends they have at all times, an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.42
Article I, Section 2 provides:
That government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.43(pg.472)
One could hardly ask for a more explicit endorsement of an "insurrectionist theory" than this. Nor is Tennessee the only state whose constitution dates from the period of the Framing and contains such a provision.44 And, of course, the Declaration of Independence states the same theory.45 So the argument that a constitutional right of revolt was unthinkable or absurd to the Framers contradicts some rather obvious historical evidence to the contrary. That should come as no surprise, really, when we remember that the Framers were, after all, revolutionaries themselves.
Apologies for the embedded footnote numbers and any cut/paste mistakes I've made. Reynolds isn't talking about some abstract natural right, he's explicitly connecting the Second Amendment to a "right of revolution in the Constitution." You can agree or disagree, but you can't say it's a straw man.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:25 AM on February 7


Tony, you will notice that he is not saying that the 2nd amendment is one of the examples of a constitutional document that "grants" a right of insurrection. He is pointing out that the framers believed that the people did, in fact, retain such a right. Again, this is simply self-evidently true. Almost any half-way progressive-minded Englishman or pre-Revolutionary American would have acknowledged the existence of this right. They would all have known of Locke's defense of the Glorious Revolution and would have subscribed to the belief that a free people retain the right to overthrow their government if it becomes tyrannical. O.K?

The straw man here is the claim that people are arguing that the 2nd Amendment is the instrument that creates this right. Nobody who is remotely informed about the issue makes that claim. It is a ridiculous notion. No doubt some half wit gun nuts could be dredged up who have some confused belief that this is the case, but it's not worth engaging with them, because it is no serious person's understanding of or basis for interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

The argument is that given that the right of insurrection exists(and always exists, regardless of Constitutional warrant), the purpose (or, at least, one of the purposes) of the Second Amendment is to ensure that the people have the means to engage effectively in that insurrection should the need arise.

I do not know that I can spell this out any plainer than I have, but you are entirely failing to engage with the point that I am making.
posted by yoink at 11:56 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


yoink: "Tony, you will notice that he is not saying that the 2nd amendment is one of the examples of a constitutional document that "grants" a right of insurrection. "

I have no idea why you're scare-quoting "grants" since I didn't use that word or any of its forms in my argument. If you're going to accuse me of "entirely failing to engage", perhaps you could stop putting words in my mouth.

yoink: "The straw man here is the claim that people are arguing that the 2nd Amendment is the instrument that creates this right. "

False. The argument Reynolds was making, and one that is a central tenet of the Standard Model, is not that the Second Amendment created this right, but that it was put in place to guarantee that right which was, as you and I both agree, not an uncommon idea for the time.

This is clearly shown above, where Reynolds begins by responding to the description of the Standard Model by critics as an "Insurrectionist Theory of the Second Amendment." He then goes on to embrace that characterization, citing a state constitution which contains an explicit provision for insurrection, and pointing out that other state constitutions contain the same or similar. He does so in defense of his theory of the Second Amendment, not in defense of some treatise on the rights of man.

He then says, and I'll quote this again because you are denying its existence:
So the argument that a constitutional right of revolt was unthinkable or absurd to the Framers contradicts some rather obvious historical evidence to the contrary.
He's not talking about an abstract right, and he's not saying the document creates the right, he's talking about the use of the Constitution to guarantee that right. The whole paragraph is about how the documents themselves contain passages that allow for insurrection, and he wants to extend that to the modern interpretation of the Second Amendment. It's all there in his own writing, so I have no idea how you're reading it some other way. If you're going to throw mud at me for not engaging, you need to have an explicit argument on how you read him as saying something else.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:33 PM on February 7


“Maybe those folks are coming from a perspective of harm reduction rather than one of trying to eradicate all killings, which I think everyone on both sides of the issue grants is never going to happen?”

I was making more of a rhetorical question to point out that you can address the mindset of killing as well as the means. They’re not mutually exclusive. But that harm is a relative question.

For example, rampage killings vs. gang shootings as two entirely different root causes – regardless of means.

The question of harm reduction too is related to the value of life/security (from harm) and the freedom to use firearms (in whatever lawful manner).

“…if we make them more difficult to commit we might lessen the body count”


Make which “them”? More difficult how? As in my example, it was guys on the radio that helped the Rwandan genocide. So – limit radios? Obviously that’s rhetorical. No, of course not.
But then, how to limit the social antagonism? Is that not a factor in lessening body counts? There’s certainly a pattern of tribalism amongst criminal organizations and terrorist groups that lessens social interaction.

Many people have a remarkably authoritarian perspective when it comes to certain issues that they wouldn’t think of on others.
People rail against CC surveillance as an encroachment on freedom. And yet, there’s evidence they reduce gun crime (and crime in general). England certainly has a lot of them. Japan as well.

TL;DR - What I’m saying is, means, any means, has a social impact and that any means worth using addresses root causes to make lasting change.

Suicide, for example. People like to quote the fact that guns make suicide easier. Well, yeah.
On the other hand one of the highest rates of suicide are found among senior males (65 to 85).
Phil Merrill comes to mind.
Tough, resilient, compassionate, and yet, bang. Suicide by gunshot. Someone going to tell me he couldn’t cope with being wealthy and respected? He didn’t have the right mental health care (while being able to pony up millions for charity)?
Or does it say something more broadly about the social systems we have and how we treat the elderly?

Do we keep guns away from granpa and Dr. Kevorkian in jail and then everything is just keen because no one’s dying by their own hand?
Or is it a quality of life thing that we need to address?
Both probably.

But, I understand Hunter S. Thompson was keeping his gats handy just so he could check out at a time of his choosing well before the end of his life.

Is that freedom or is it reduction of harm to not let people take care of their own end-of-life?
I don’t know where those lines are drawn. I’m saying “reduction of harm” is a more complex idea than it appears when it comes to social issues. And that means have price tags attached.

For me, I think some lives are worth certain freedoms. On the other hand, I think we place far too much value on other freedoms that take waaaay more lives than we suspect.
The connection between cars and this concept, for example. And that’s usually distorted into guns = cars, but that’s not at all the case.

We value having cars more than we value public transportation and more than we value the lives cars cost. Yes we mitigate the destruction of lives by cars as much as possible. But that doesn’t make the kind of sea change there would be if we followed the Russian or Japanese model.

So the two things, on that level alone, are analogous. We like having cars. So we mandate seat belts, etc. to make them as safe as possible.

I happen to agree with this approach – for example, gun background checks = seat belt laws, in those terms – even as I disagree with the subject itself (vast and widespread automobile ownership) being a freedom worth the destruction. Whereas with firearms I’m onboard with the same mechanism (mitigating as much as possible while having them) but think that that particular freedom is worth having.
In part because I hunt. In part because it’s a tool for my job. But also in part because I’m with Thompson. If we don’t have the right to die with dignity, and in many quarters we still don’t, I’m damn well not going to relinquish my firearm and trust to the tender mercies of the kind of people willing to pass "Terri's Law."
Just because it's "politics" doesn't mean it doesn't have a bearing on the realities of life.

So “harm” as a relative, in that sense. And certainly a contested definition, politically.

I'm not arguing against the health perspective. But hopefully that frames it, as far as where I was looking, in terms of the potential encroachment of otherwise altruistic motives and the goal of saving lives vs the right to individual liberties.

With reasonable concessions of course. I’m not saying all methods of gun control are invalid if they restrict any freedoms at all.
Just pointing up that there’s a tension there and not everyone feels the same way about which is worth what to who.

And, again, a lot in these links to look at as to the why's and wherefores, which I think is important.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:41 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


The majority of people who attempt suicide and fail live to regret it. With a gun there is no second chance 99% of the time.

I recommend this interview -
Sgt. John Carman: Preventing Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge

Sgt. Carman is a living Saint.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:08 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


“…if we make them more difficult to commit we might lessen the body count”

Make which “them”?


Murders. You know, the thing we were talking about.

More difficult how?

Difficult, as in, not quite so easy to physically perform.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:13 PM on February 7


The majority of people who attempt suicide and fail live to regret it.
As opposed to all the people we've interviewed who were successful?
I joke, but I don't think you seriously think just addressing stopping people from suicide addresses depression, social isolation, etc. that the elderly have to contend with.

You know, the thing we were talking about.
Because you have no interest in what *I'm* talking about. Got it.

Is it difficult to understand that there are different points of view and people place different values on things such as life? My"TL;DR" point too long, so you didn't read?
Why does it have to be this bullshit? For real.

Difficult, as in, not quite so easy to physically perform.


So making it more difficult for physicians to assist suicides is an absolute, uncontested good under all circumstances? There's no conceptual 'value' component to this kind of topic, just a question of means?

Perhaps you think I'm not intelligent enough to parse the idea that many pro-gun control people believe that the trade off is NOT worth it?
Allow me to assure you this is not the case.

And that my peevishness comes not from attempting to contest this point, but the tedium in trying to explore the nuance here one might find in considering meditation or other forms of spiritual and mental insight with someone who argues that there is no "man in the clouds" and and brings up "the flying spaghetti monster" thinking any ritualistic concept is rooted in Judeo-Christian thinking.

No, sorry. I'm for some methods of gun control that make it more difficult for people in general, and impossible for some people in particular to get firearms. I've a sporting interest in Constitutional interpretation, but mostly historical, and I've really stopped caring to argue over it.

I think we need to explore the reasoning here - that is, in the articles above - and understand the "why" of the thing and I think gainsaying and appeals to ignorance are counterproductive and lead to further acrimony.
And I think, to paraphrase a quote from the lead FA, attempting to identify and assess the misconceptions that have encouraged policy responses with a slim probability of achieving their desired outcome—eliminating the risk of mass murder, is a good idea.
And I agree with the summation: "In short, it’s complicated."

As opposed to the 'gunzr bad' vs 'gunzr good' crap.

But guns, religion, big chunks of philosophy, et.al., are things metafilter doesn't do well.
Meh.
Only reason I speak up is because I'm around firearms and have some experience and information to contribute. Beyond the emotionalism, I mean. I think a great deal of terrorism and crazed shooters are shaped by cultural forces - such as hegemonic masculinity which takes a different form in, say, the middle east vs. southeast asia despite certain constant and/or recurrent influences such as radical islam vs. (as in this case) the U.S. - and the means by which they seek to destroy themselves and others are influenced by that.

This would be, y'know, beyond the guns bad/guns good thing.
Or, were you more interested in an ethical/cultural absolute/relative values argument? Got a lot of time on my hands lately mending up. Happy to niggle over piddly details instead of exchanging constructive ideas. I could pretend to care.

But I'm more interested in American female mass murderers vs. (say) Chyornaya Vdova. The Chechen female suicide bombers and the concepts of empowerment vs. self-abnegation

I happen to think the way a culture thinks about gender and violence influences how the matter itself is studied.

Reading the "going postal" article, I'm thinking of Jennifer San Marco who was a postal employee and apparently a racist. Plenty of guns in Chechnya.

So patterns of violence themselves can replicate and spread with cultural reinforcement. Not only in doing violence, but by the kind of social statement the means make (or rather, the murderer thinks they make).
But perhaps I don't know the thing we're talking about and that's not more interesting an idea.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:29 PM on February 7


So the argument that a constitutional right of revolt was unthinkable or absurd to the Framers contradicts some rather obvious historical evidence to the contrary.

Tony, I haven't a clue how you think you're responding to my point. Yeah, he uses the word "constitutional" sloppily here. Great. So?

Look, let's pretend, for a moment, that there are hundreds of people out there who think that the US Constitution contains an explicit guarantee of a "right of revolt." So what? How would that save Wills's argument about the historical justification for the 2nd Amendment? It wouldn't. All it would mean is that there are a bunch of people who think something demonstrably absurd. They aren't worth engaging with because they are making a logically absurd argument.

It still remains a fact, however, that the argument for the 2nd Amendment that was made by contemporaries was that it preserved the people's capacity to resist tyrannical government and it remains a fact that Wills's argument about the illogicality of thinking that the 2nd Amendment is being seen as the source of the right of such resistance is a laughable straw man. The people we're talking about (Madison, Story et al.) did not believe that the 2nd Amendment was the source of the right of resistance, they thought that that right was inalienable and prior to any constitution. But they did believe that the 2nd Amendment preserved the people's ability to exercise that right. This is the argument with which Wills needs to engage, and which he ducks with his shabby straw man about the tyrant granting a "warrant" for rebellion.
posted by yoink at 5:27 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I joke, but I don't think you seriously think just addressing stopping people from suicide addresses depression, social isolation, etc. that the elderly have to contend with.

I joke, but I don't think you seriously think ensuring the right to suicide and making guns readily available for that purpose addresses depression, social isolation, etc. that the elderly have to contend with.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:09 PM on February 7


yoink: "Tony, I haven't a clue how you think you're responding to my point. Yeah, he uses the word "constitutional" sloppily here. Great. So?"

I understand why you'd want to defend your straw man characterization by making this look like a simple case of sloppiness with a single word, but that's clearly not the case with Reynolds' article. Throughout the entirety of the passage I quoted, Reynolds is, point by point, making a case that the right to insurrection exists in the Second Amendment. And it's not like Glenn Reynolds is some yokel on RedState who could conceivably be sloppy with the word "constitutional" in a law review article. He's a prominent law professor, frequently cited in pro-Second Amendment scholarship. Your casual dismissal does not scan as a good faith response to me.

yoink: "It still remains a fact, however, that the argument for the 2nd Amendment that was made by contemporaries was that it preserved the people's capacity to resist tyrannical government and it remains a fact that Wills's argument about the illogicality of thinking that the 2nd Amendment is being seen as the source of the right of such resistance is a laughable straw man."

I think we're officially in meta-straw-man territory here. Wills didn't make any determination as to where the Standard Modelers thought the right to insurrection derived from, he was just pointing out that they see that right expressed in and guaranteed by the Second Amendment. They make that case explicitly in many of their seminal articles on the subject, including Levinson's 'The Embarrassing Second Amendment', Kates' 'Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment', and the aforementioned Reynolds piece. They all use many of the same supporting points you did (Madison in Federalist 46, Story in Commentaries, etc.) with respect to where that right derives from, but then go the extra step to say the Second Amendment contains this right within it. That is the Standard Model argument Wills is engaging with. He's not denying the long tradition of republican thought about an armed militia fighting tyranny or talking about any right that was created by the Second Amendment.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:03 AM on February 8


I don't think you seriously think ensuring the right to suicide and making guns readily available for that purpose addresses depression, social isolation, etc. that the elderly have to contend with.

No, not at all. But you do see how method - while linked - is separate from the broader social causes don't you?
How addressing method doesn't necessarily address the social aspects and may in fact cause them to change form?

I do seriously think separating mass murder from the forms it takes and the means it uses is a useful thought experiment to help understand why something occurs. And I think understanding why something occurs is important to prevention.

You do know this is a thing, right? People actually seriously study root causes of this kind of violence regardless of the tools involved.
Because I'm not trying to thinly veil a pro-gun argument with some facile bullshit. This is an actual topic of study.

In the public health/prevention sense, triage isn't the same as long term study and prevention.
Advocacy of using iron lungs isn't the same as finding a vaccine for polio, and vice-versa.

So looking at the 'hegimonic' male role, I thought it'd be nice to focus on the idea of females and their roles in mass murders and consider cultural differences. Then look at the difference between means.

So in one case we have a woman like San Marco who took the trouble to go through a background check to buy a handgun which touches on the idea of making firearms more scarce (nothing provable of course)
vs.
A woman who will blow up a school full of children, take down two aircraft, or blow themselves up in other ways - even though they have a great deal of access to firearms of all types, much more deadly than handguns.

So what's the thinking there? In someone like Wafa Idris who is a female, and apparently was very compassionate at one point in her life, working for the Red Crescent as a paramedic, then - boom.

Can we at least stipulate that even the most restrictive possible measures against firearms (specifically) would not have stopped her?

You see how mass murder is a thing whether it's facilitated by firearms or bombs, no?

So - back to where some of y'all seem to be coming from: In all earnest - what's the question of prevention?

Because I see the "mass shooting" topic bound up with general ideas of gun control and again, while linked in terms of means, they're two entirely different animals.

This is not to say I wouldn't be fine with making it harder to get hand on guns. In fact, if you bother at all to read, I'm very much for longer sentencing for violent crimes involving firearms - ANY firearms at all, bought legally or not.

Furthermore, I'm all in favor of gunshot listening devices, AND coupling them with mass surveillance (albeit with low-rez cameras, but ones that can point to where the shot(s) come from and tighten resolution) AND tighter methods of tracking ownership.

Hell, short of a total gun ban I'd say I'm for tighter gun laws than most 'liberals.'

But while that might help prevent illegal shootings, and most certainly helps gunshot victims, it doesn't at all address the piece of the equation brought up here - suicidal mass murderers - which is the only bit I'm focused on.

I don't believe even a total gun ban would stop that. I don't believe halting production of all small arms would stop that. I think it would change its form.

I think the social factors are a huge - overwhelmingly dominant in fact, part of that - much more so than the financial - i.e. poverty - considerations of gang violence (although they have a social component)

I think a bomber, suicide bomber, or other mass murderer is produced by certain social pressures that begs the question - are they committing suicide to commit suicide (in an act of socially visible redemptive violence), or is it a social goal because it's a successful (typically terrorist/guerrilla/military) tactic because of it's visibility and affect on society?

There have been pregnant Chechen women who have blown themselves up.
Nidal Malik Hasan worked six years at Walter Reed helping soldiers before he decided to shoot at them.

Is not exploring their motivations a worthwhile topic? The nature of our society such that people feel the need to settle things with violence, guns in the U.S. in particular?

More than, at least, the usually gun/no-gun retreads we usually have?

I think part of the problem is I am serious about this topic. I want to explore it. I'm not trying to win an argument and I think it does a disservice to ourselves to not be affected by others' informed opinions.
I'm sorry if I personally come off a harsh but it's infuriating to see the same ignorance again and again - point to it objectively and purely informationally and get dismissed by so called open minded liberals like I'm on Fox f'ing News. Yeah, A-10s, by themselves, without infantry can stop entire guerrilla movements who won't attack ammo and fuel depots, factories that make parts, won't render air support useless by taking hostages, won't have close ties with local populations (who can just be, what, gunned down by A-10 strafing runs at will?), won't mine airfields, won't have snipers in cranes, smokestacks, corner apartments smokestacks, and on ambushes they'll just wait around for opfor air support, yeah. etc. etc.)

I've had my opinion and my mind changed a number of times on this site and for that I'm very grateful. (Hell, just learned tampons aren't sterile the other day. Never occurred to me they weren't.)
But I don't think many people approach this topic with that attitude.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:48 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Old documentary on violence in the U.S. looked at as a tradition. Useful to see how ideas spread and so behavior is spread.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:44 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


American Violence and Southern Culture
Why is America so much more violent—in particular, so much more homicidal—than other developed countries? One vein of history and social science suggests that its roots are in the South, and the British borderland culture that it originated in.
Why does South Africa have such high rates of violent crime (PDF)?
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:50 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


That article about Southern Culture is really fascinating, Golden Eternity! It also, I think, explains a lot of urban/rural divide - not being urban/rural, but "culture of honor" versus those for whom it didn't play a large role.

I'm reminded of, once, asking a pacifist friend of mine some version of what he would do if someone insulted his wife - thinking, coming from a (different) culture of honor background, that that would be the ultimate provocation. But I remember he seemed kind of confused, and said that of course the same principles would apply - at which point I was confused.

An excessively legalistic society is not kind to cultures of honor, and I could easily see that rubbing people raw.
posted by corb at 7:46 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


The Fall Into Guns

Race-Making and Colonial Violence in the U.S. Empire: The Philippine-American War as Race War
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:41 AM on February 11


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