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A good guy with a gun
July 29, 2014 7:57 AM   Subscribe

In 1963, Robert Dowlut was convicted of shooting two people: a shopkeeper during a robbery, and then his girlfriend's mother later the same night. Six years later, he was released from prison by a ruling from the Indiana State Supreme Court, due to a flawed police investigation. Today, Dowlut is the general counsel of the National Rifle Association. As the NRA's top lawyer, he has been a key architect of the gun lobby's campaign to define the legal interpretation of the Second Amendment.

The NRA's Murder Mystery: a great longread from Mother Jones.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (69 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Their leadership is made up of racists, murderers, and just general shitheels...and they're supposedly the sane 2A activists.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:11 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


The part I found interesting was this:
"Carter also envisioned recruiting "young men and women—lawyers, constitutional scholars, writers, historians, professors—who some day will be old and gray and wise, widely published and highly respected. It will be those individuals—in the future—who will provide the means to save the Second Amendment."
I'm beginning to see more and more, the pattern of growing a group of people together over the long term, a highly effective strategy.
posted by niccolo at 8:25 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


It sounds like he was railroaded by the police, even though with a little work they could have come up with enough evidence for a clean conviction. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose...

In his 1983 article, he cited the Supreme Court's affirmation in Miranda of "the right to remain silent and have counsel present during a custodial interrogation." He disapprovingly quoted Justice Byron White's dissent, which predicted that the ruling "will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets."

That read like a death spiral of irony.
posted by TedW at 8:26 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


How do we keeping finding ourselves as a country hostage to whackjobs? You would think there would be more money for politicians in promoting safety and sanity.

Perhaps we could work to make it that way.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:27 AM on July 29


In 1963, Robert Dowlut was convicted of shooting two people ... Today, Dowlut is the general counsel of the National Rifle Association.

I think this is the very definition of "self-starter."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:29 AM on July 29 [21 favorites]


Certainly there have been other 16 year olds who committed crimes and then turned their lives around. I'm pretty sure Mother Jones has written about some of them. Before the deluge of comments begins, I hope people actually read the piece. He went to Howard University's Law School.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:30 AM on July 29 [6 favorites]


Fascinating story, on many levels.

He graduated in 1979 and was admitted to the DC Bar in 1980.

This is the part that surprised me - people have been rejected on character and fitness grounds for taking on too much debt in law school. (I don't believe Bernardine Dohrn has ever passed character and fitness, as another example. Although John Wesley Hardin did.)
posted by sallybrown at 8:32 AM on July 29 [7 favorites]


Turning your life around is usually understood to mean doing something good with it after making bad choices, not advancing a national policy agenda whose success makes it much more likely that the bad things you did in youth will happen to lots of other people.

Seems to me that this guy did something close to the opposite of turning his life around, despite his superficial transition to middle/upper-class respectability.
posted by clockzero at 8:34 AM on July 29 [32 favorites]


Certainly there have been other 16 year olds who committed crimes and then turned their lives around. I'm pretty sure Mother Jones has written about some of them. Before the deluge of comments begins, I hope people actually read the piece. He went to Howard University's Law School.

I'm not sure how this is relevant, other than the fact that his actions now make it easier for people to commit the crimes he did (both as a juvenile and those described in the article), while doing much to undermine efforts to combat them.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:35 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


So this is the guy who managed to divorce the intent of the 2A from the mechanism of intent by (Mis)labeling the statement of intent as a useless "preamble". And during, IIRC, the height of the "intent of the founders" rhetoric from the right. Quite the accomplishment.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:35 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


He graduated in 1979 and was admitted to the DC Bar in 1980.

This is the part that surprised me - people have been rejected on character and fitness grounds for taking on too much debt in law school.


Is the DC bar more lenient than others when it comes to applying those standarards? If so, might that have influenced where he chose to apply for the bar?
posted by TedW at 8:42 AM on July 29


If this guy had exactly the same rap sheet and then had gone on to, let's say, become a major legal advocate for abortion rights you'd think it was a pretty shitty move by a right-wing journal to suggest that there's some kind of link between the two parts of his life ("see, he was just addicted to killing people!"). This seems equivalently shitty.

Lots of people who've never committed a crime in their lives and would never dream of shooting another person are passionately committed to exactly the same vision of the 2nd amendment as this guy. I think they're wrong-headed and that their wrong-headedness has pernicious and dangerous consequences. I'm on board all the way if you want to have an argument with them on policy or legal grounds but I think this is just ad hom bullshit.
posted by yoink at 8:51 AM on July 29 [23 favorites]


Certainly there have been other 16 year olds who committed crimes and then turned their lives around.

No, you're right. Dowlut really is a role model. And God knows, George Zimmerman needs someone to look up to.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:54 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Wow, pretty harsh view of our criminal justice system on the part of some people. Conviction overturned, but see I don't like that person, so once-a-convict-always-a-convict.
posted by resurrexit at 9:00 AM on July 29 [10 favorites]


If this guy had exactly the same rap sheet and then had gone on to, let's say, become a major legal advocate for abortion rights you'd think it was a pretty shitty move by a right-wing journal to suggest that there's some kind of link between the two parts of his life ("see, he was just addicted to killing people!"). This seems equivalently shitty.

If he had shot an abortion doctor and went on to become general counsel for Operation Rescue, how would you feel?

I am sure I can come up with more analogies that are equally as grotesque, and this is the problem with arguing by analogy. He didn't go on to become an advocate for abortion rights. I wonder of we can address what he did go on to do, which is become a lawyer for an organization that has taken a hard-line, knee-jerk, take-no-prisoners stance against any sort of gun control measures.
posted by maxsparber at 9:06 AM on July 29 [10 favorites]


If this guy had exactly the same rap sheet and then had gone on to, let's say, become a major legal advocate for abortion rights you'd think it was a pretty shitty move by a right-wing journal to suggest that there's some kind of link between the two parts of his life ("see, he was just addicted to killing people!"). This seems equivalently shitty.

Accusing people implicitly of hypocrisy they haven't actually committed, by insinuating that a different situation would merit a different response than the one put forward in the actual situation at hand, seems like flimsy sophistry to me. And in any case your analogy is not really analogous because it entails assuming what anti-choice advocates are trying to prove vis-a-vis the moral character of abortion itself. And, finally, it's a complete derail into another highly contentious topic which seems entirely avoidable.
posted by clockzero at 9:07 AM on July 29 [7 favorites]


Conviction overturned, but see I don't like that person, so once-a-convict-always-a-convict.

If a guy goes to jail for beating up gay people, has his conviction overturned, and goes on to do spectacular work for GLAAD, that's one thing. If he goes to work for the WBC, that's another.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:07 AM on July 29 [15 favorites]


Yes, in the former case we say he's learned a lesson; in the latter we say he's a natural.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:11 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Accusing people implicitly of hypocrisy they haven't actually committed

I'm not "accusing people of hypocrisy"; I'm accusing them of indulging in a shitty ad hominem argument and providing a clarifying analogy for why it's ad hominem. You don't like the "abortion rights lawyer" analogy? Great, how about if he'd become a lawyer working for the Innocence Project and a right wing journal was saying "see, this proves the Innocence Project is just about being soft on criminals"? Or say he had become a lawyer working for marijuana legalization and a right wing journal was saying "see, that proves that marijuana rights people are all just fronts for the cartels!"

The point is that there is no logical connection between the fact that this guy supports a particular legal reading of the 2nd amendment and his past criminal history. The desire to conflate the two is simply the desire to score the cheap shot of implying that there's something sordid and inherently criminal in the NRA's position on the 2nd amendment.
posted by yoink at 9:13 AM on July 29 [10 favorites]


Certainly there have been other 16 year olds who committed crimes and then turned their lives around.

This person did not turn his life around, he just stopped doing things that are illegal. Becoming the NRA's top lawyer is the exact opposite of turning your life around.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:13 AM on July 29 [5 favorites]


If the notion of the 2nd amendment as a personal right is something that was created in large part in the 70's, how can one support that newer view of gun rights and claim to be an originalist? It seems to be two contradictory positions.
posted by Carillon at 9:15 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


'm accusing them of indulging in a shitty ad hominem argument and providing a clarifying analogy for why it's ad hominem.

You say "clarifying analogy," I say "conveniently muddying analogy." Let's stick to who he actually is and what he actually did and does, instead of analogizing him into something where you assume we're all going to agree with you. It's a crappy rhetorical technique.
posted by maxsparber at 9:16 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Ad hominems aren't by definition always wrong. That the top lawyer for the NRA is a convicted murderer seems quite relevant to me.
posted by monospace at 9:23 AM on July 29 [12 favorites]


If this guy had exactly the same rap sheet and then had gone on to, let's say, become a major legal advocate for abortion rights you'd think it was a pretty shitty move by a right-wing journal to suggest that there's some kind of link between the two parts of his life ("see, he was just addicted to killing people!"). This seems equivalently shitty.

That's the usual bullshit about having to play politics nicely as if it's all a big game.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:25 AM on July 29 [12 favorites]


To be fair, his conviction wasn't upheld which means it'd perhaps be unfair to describe him as a convicted murderer monospace. Not that it means he didn't do it, but unless I'm mistaken he's not a felon.
posted by Carillon at 9:27 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Great, how about if he'd become a lawyer working for the Innocence Project and a right wing journal was saying "see, this proves the Innocence Project is just about being soft on criminals"?

Or what if he was a convicted bodysnatcher who became a renowned wax museum curator all of whose waxworks looked uncannily real? Of course there would be no logical connection between his criminal history and his choice of career.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:27 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


>That the top lawyer for the NRA is a convicted murderer seems quite relevant to me.

A convicted murderer by way of using guns and bullets. If he had killed those people with a knife, his current position could seem like reasonable gun advocacy, but that would still be a hard sell. Forgive me if what I hear and see from the NRA doesn't look and sound anything like the people who say things like "the barrel of your gun should never be pointed at anything you aren't willing to shoot, kill, or otherwise be responsible for losing forever."
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 9:31 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Okay then, if we must use an analogy to illustrate why this seems outrageous: Imagine OJ Simpson with a second career as a domestic abuse counsellor. He wasn't convicted either.
posted by monospace at 9:31 AM on July 29


Imagine OJ Simpson with a second career as a domestic abuse counsellor.

Well, more like as the spokesperson for the National Cutlery Association.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:36 AM on July 29 [10 favorites]


Conviction overturned

Yeah, his previous armed robbery conviction wasn't overturned though, was it?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:01 AM on July 29 [5 favorites]


Lots of people who've never committed a crime in their lives and would never dream of shooting another person are passionately committed to exactly the same vision of the 2nd amendment as this guy. I think they're wrong-headed and that their wrong-headedness has pernicious and dangerous consequences. I'm on board all the way if you want to have an argument with them on policy or legal grounds but I think this is just ad hom bullshit.

It's relevant given that as the article itself not very subtly points out at the end, the NRA during his tenure has taken the rhetorical stance that criminals are inherently bad and law-abiding people are inherently good, so limiting access to guns won't have any impact on violent crime. Whereas despite all of the railroading and illegal interrogation methods by the police in his case, Dowlut's criminal behavior as a youth was clearly exacerbated by his access to firearms. He was not a hardened criminal and as far as I know has never committed a major crime since then, but given access to deadly weapons he was a much bigger threat to the safety of others and most likely killed someone. That aspect is entirely relevant to his organization and their attempts to sway public opinion and policy.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:05 AM on July 29 [19 favorites]


yoink >

"Accusing people implicitly of hypocrisy they haven't actually committed"

I'm not "accusing people of hypocrisy"; I'm accusing them of indulging in a shitty ad hominem argument and providing a clarifying analogy for why it's ad hominem.


You're saying, it seems, that if the situation were different, the same kind of response (as you characterize its sameness) would lead us to conclusions we would substantively disagree with. But that assumes agnosticism toward the facts of the situation, which seems arbitrary and specious to me. And anyway, saying that it seems unsettling or improper that a high-ranking NRA employee apparently murdered several innocent people with guns is not at all an ad hominem attack. Invoking that term doesn't justify an injunction against taking people's acts into consideration when discussing issues.

You don't like the "abortion rights lawyer" analogy? Great, how about if he'd become a lawyer working for the Innocence Project and a right wing journal was saying "see, this proves the Innocence Project is just about being soft on criminals"? Or say he had become a lawyer working for marijuana legalization and a right wing journal was saying "see, that proves that marijuana rights people are all just fronts for the cartels!"

Ok, so your point was that this man's actions shouldn't reflect on the NRA, right? Very well. The main problem here is that the NRA's advocacy is immoral. This revelation may suggest that the NRA shouldn't employ him anymore, but it doesn't improve or worsen the moral implications of what they do. So I think we agree on that point.

However, that inferential consideration has little to do with the fact that this is still very unsettling. And if a lawyer for the Innocence Project had done something unambiguously evil, something empirically comparable to murdering people, I would be totally fine with suggestions that they should get rid of that hypothetical person. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but advocating for the exoneration of wrongfully-convicted people is a good thing to do. Working for the legalization of marijuana is a little more ambiguous, but it's silly to treat any two endeavors as morally equivalent simply because there exist people who are willing to critique one or the other of them.
posted by clockzero at 10:17 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


The guy was just ahead of his time. If he'd done the same thing today, he could have just said he stood his ground after feeling threatened.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:46 AM on July 29


He was an excitable boy, they said.
posted by clockzero at 10:55 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


You can add me to the chorus of people who think that tying this guy's past to his present profession is not especially relevant to the public. I reserve the right to hold a very severe opinion of him as an individual, but nobody here is really discussing our opinions of this gentleman as an individual: disdain for him is clearly intended to transfer to the organization which he represents.

If you do want to criticize the NRA, there's clearly lots of other scope to do that on issues that are more relevant to the public AND directly reflect the organization's expressed policy. Here's one for starters -- the accompanying article is a little ridiculous in its "fall of civilization" tone, but the underlying issue is a genuinely bad idea.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:00 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Imagine OJ Simpson with a second career as a domestic abuse counsellor.

Well, more like as the spokesperson for the National Cutlery Association.


Imagine George Zimmerman as a security guard for a gun store. Oh, wait:

George Zimmerman's New Job: Security Guard At A Gun Store
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:03 AM on July 29 [7 favorites]


Nerd of the North: You can add me to the chorus of people who think that tying this guy's past to his present profession is not especially relevant to the public. I reserve the right to hold a very severe opinion of him as an individual, but nobody here is really discussing our opinions of this gentleman as an individual: disdain for him is clearly intended to transfer to the organization which he represents.

The organization he represents insists that most gun owners are law-abiding citizens, while his own past shows that he was not able to abide by the law while handling a gun in a frenzied emotional state. The fact that the police prosecuting him were also not able to abide by the law when they took him into custody doesn't change the facts of what he did, nor the relevance of those facts to the debate over the NRA's tooth-and-nail opposition to anything that would curtail the availability of firearms.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:04 AM on July 29 [8 favorites]


I think the NRA is one of the most dangerous organizations in the country, beholden to the manufacturers of firearms and dedicated to promoting fear of a future that, at the very least, will not come anytime in the next few generations.

That said, I doubt this man committed murder, for the exact reason that cops in the 60's accused him of it. While these days I tend to take a 50% chance of a police officer lying, I tend to believe that without an unsolicited confession or a good deal of collaborating evidence (not jailhouse snitches), that murder accusations from the past are more likely to be bogus than not.

I think that if this had been more about how his experience being convicted and then having his accusation overturned had influenced his perception of firearm ownership. I'm generally up for a good hit piece, but this one actually made me more sympathetic to him than I was before. Mother Jones is just not a source that works well with accusations of malfeasance on cases that had police misconduct in them in the past. This is not a statement that the left needs to play nice, but I've read enough pieces on cases like this that attempted to strike sympathy that this one just fell flat.
posted by Hactar at 11:06 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Hactar: That said, I doubt this man committed murder, for the exact reason that cops in the 60's accused him of it. While these days I tend to take a 50% chance of a police officer lying, I tend to believe that without an unsolicited confession or a good deal of collaborating evidence (not jailhouse snitches), that murder accusations from the past are more likely to be bogus than not.

Please explain how he knew the location of the murder weapon.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:08 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


So there's two halves I think of, when reading this story.

The first is that it's a ripping good yarn, and actually more of a mystery than Mother Jones goes into. So Dowlut initially says sadly that he won't be able to marry Camille after all, because she's pregnant by someone who's not him. Then he comes back on leave to town, and Camille's mother is killed. While initially Camille and the boyfriend are suspects, suspicion then focuses on Dowlut. Then Camille marries her mother's boyfriend and refuses, years later, to even answer any questions or receive mail about the case. Dowlut tries to rob a store, fucks up and shoots someone, then freaks out and runs.

On that alone, I could easily come up with half a dozen plausible explanations for how he "knew the location of the murder weapon", not least among them being that 1960s cops and forensics being what they were, I'm not personally convinced it even was a murder weapon. It could go either way - the guy could be a murderer, or just a two-penny robber.


The second is that this is clearly an ad hominem attack, an ad hominem attack in the worst way, and with people who usually argue for the rehabilitation of criminals coming in a rush to condemn the guy. People who have argued for the employment of actual felons, in fact, that they need a chance to turn their life around. And people have argued for lawyers who have defended even stuff far more egregious than this, on the grounds that the American judicial system depends on lawyers and everyone needs at least some legal recourse.

If you usually argue "innocent until proven guilty", then why not try applying it here? If you usually argue that people deserve a chance, then why not here? If the answer is "Because we don't like his politics and what he argues for today", then you're being biased, and in a particularly not-great way.
posted by corb at 11:40 AM on July 29


corb: On that alone, I could easily come up with half a dozen plausible explanations for how he "knew the location of the murder weapon", not least among them being that 1960s cops and forensics being what they were, I'm not personally convinced it even was a murder weapon. It could go either way - the guy could be a murderer, or just a two-penny robber.

Hectar said he doubted the man "committed murder." As we all know, committing a crime isn't the same as being found guilty of it, because the legal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" applies only in a courtroom, not when we're discussing on the Internet whether we actually believe he committed the crime or not.

By the forensic standards of the time, he was found guilty of the crime, based in large part on the fact that he led the police to the location of a weapon that he himself stated was the murder weapon. The conviction was rightfully overturned due to police misconduct, and therefore he is not guilty of the crime. My argument is that he did commit the crime, however, and barring something like the cops burying the gun in the cemetery and coercing him to confess to the crime and make up the story about burying the gun, there are no other explanations for why he would have known where the gun was, or why that gun was a forensic match.

corb: The second is that this is clearly an ad hominem attack, an ad hominem attack in the worst way, and with people who usually argue for the rehabilitation of criminals coming in a rush to condemn the guy. People who have argued for the employment of actual felons, in fact, that they need a chance to turn their life around. And people have argued for lawyers who have defended even stuff far more egregious than this, on the grounds that the American judicial system depends on lawyers and everyone needs at least some legal recourse.

This is, unsurprisingly, a total straw man. Who here has said he shouldn't have had counsel? Who has suggested that his conviction shouldn't have been overturned?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:58 AM on July 29 [8 favorites]


If you usually argue "innocent until proven guilty", then why not try applying it here?

Besides the fact that dude was "proven guilty" in the usual sense of this phrase, you gotta admit this is funny given the NRA's constituency's traditional love of Chappaquiddick jokes.

You can add me to the chorus of people who think that tying this guy's past to his present profession is not especially relevant to the public.

Of course it's relevant. Now his criminal history does not necessarily invalidate his constitutional interpretations, which is the fine distinction yoink was trying to make, but his actions, his "character," how he handled the situation he found himself in as a youth are all perfectly relevant to a judgement of his credibility on public policy positions or to, as burnmp3s notes, the arguments his organization makes about the kind of public policy we should have.

But mostly I'm not surprised to learn that an NRA leader shot someone. I'm only surprised to learn that it isn't a requirement.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:59 AM on July 29 [14 favorites]


The second is that this is clearly an ad hominem attack, an ad hominem attack in the worst way, and with people who usually argue for the rehabilitation of criminals coming in a rush to condemn the guy. People who have argued for the employment of actual felons, in fact, that they need a chance to turn their life around. And people have argued for lawyers who have defended even stuff far more egregious than this, on the grounds that the American judicial system depends on lawyers and everyone needs at least some legal recourse.

No one said he didn't deserve to vote, or be employed, or be a lawyer. The problem is his advocacy as it relates to his crimes.

If you usually argue "innocent until proven guilty", then why not try applying it here?

As tonycpsu pointed out, no one said he shouldn't have had the right to a lawyer or a trial, or that his conviction was ironclad. They did point out that he was guilty of other firearm-related crimes, and that there are several large holes in his story.

If you usually argue that people deserve a chance, then why not here?

He had a chance, and he chose to take the one that attempts to erase culpability for the kind of crimes he himself committed, including several from before the murders.

If the answer is "Because we don't like his politics and what he argues for today", then you're being biased, and in a particularly not-great way.

The only one making all of these equivalences is you. Discussing the crimes someone committed using guns in relation to that person's political advocacy making it easier for people with guns to commit crimes isn't "biased." It's a major part of the conversation.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:11 PM on July 29 [5 favorites]


If you usually argue "innocent until proven guilty"

You're not new to this site, and can use a search bar anyway. There is an inevitable response to that, it's reasonable, and it works here:

That's the standard for a court of criminal law. This is not a court of criminal law. Nobody is arguing that he should be locked up without a trial. We are saying he was a gun criminal when he was younger and now works for an organization that seems to be doing its darnedest to make sure gun criminals have easy access to the absolutely most awful guns we can invent.
posted by maxsparber at 12:14 PM on July 29 [10 favorites]


Also, you just know that this guy has got to have this t-shirt or bumper sticker.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:22 PM on July 29


Sure, I'm not saying the standards of internet are the standards of a court. But I'm saying that the points being made above are extremely valid. How many people now condemning him have attended a "Free Mumia" rally? How many people have condemned others attacking Obama for his drug record? This is the court of public opinion, sure, but it's important to be internally consistent. Either people's 40 year old criminal histories are relevant to their decisionmaking and public policy processes today, or they're not. I welcome you to pick one. I don't even care which one you pick. Belief that every crime casts doubt on future character is just as morally valid as believing that past crimes should not be held as predictive of future character. But arguing that past crimes from people you don't like do reflect on their current character, while crimes from people you do like don't reflect on current character, is not morally defensible.
posted by corb at 12:27 PM on July 29


Discussing the crimes someone committed using guns in relation to that person's political advocacy making it easier for people with guns to commit crimes isn't "biased." It's a major part of the conversation.

Isn't the difference that the NRA does not support using guns to commit crimes? You disagree with their policy, saying "that person's political advocacy mak[es] it easier for people with guns to commit crimes"--but that's not the NRA's position. The NRA usually argues that more guns means less crimes, and that if criminals have guns, we should, too, blah blah blah--the "dedicated to promoting fear" criticism someone leveled above.
posted by resurrexit at 12:30 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


How many people now condemning him have attended a "Free Mumia" rally?

How is that the same? Mumia does not currently hold down a job at Cop Killer records, and neither do I.
posted by maxsparber at 12:37 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


How many people now condemning him have attended a "Free Mumia" rally?

Unless he now has a job in a similar position to Dowlut, this is irrelevant.

How many people have condemned others attacking Obama for his drug record?

Attacking him for his drug record disqualifying him as President is shitty, doing so for his continuation of the drug war (as seems to be much more popular here) is not. The former is just people being shitty, and more often than not, racist shitheads. The latter is directly related to actions he's taking.

Either people's 40 year old criminal histories are relevant to their decisionmaking and public policy processes today, or they're not.

Repeatedly stripping away all context just for shits and giggles is a really poor argument.

But arguing that past crimes from people you don't like do reflect on their current character, while crimes from people you do like don't reflect on current character, is not morally defensible.

It is 100% morally defensible when those crimes are directly related to their line of work. In fact, I'd say it's morally indefensible to state that it doesn't just because you don't believe in the context of a person's actions.

Isn't the difference that the NRA does not support using guns to commit crimes? You disagree with their policy, saying "that person's political advocacy mak[es] it easier for people with guns to commit crimes"--but that's not the NRA's position.

I disagree with the outcomes of their advocacy. Big difference.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:41 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


If this guy changed his ways then it would be one kind of discussion but he hasn't. He was clearly an advocate for guns when he committed his crimes and he clearly advocates for guns now.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 12:42 PM on July 29


corb: Sure, I'm not saying the standards of internet are the standards of a court.

Maybe you're no longer saying that, but that's exactly what you were implying with the bit about 1960s forensic techniques. Have the decency to cede your original point before conflating three others with nightmarishly bad analogies to convicted cop killers and recreational drug use.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:43 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


How many people now condemning him have attended a "Free Mumia" rally?

I've never gotten any free mumia at all.

it's important to be internally consistent. Either people's 40 year old criminal histories are relevant to their decisionmaking and public policy processes today, or they're not.

Well, this must also mean that anyone who's ever wanted to "get tough on crime" needs to demand Dowlut's resignation at least, possibly his incarceration. I welcome you to do so. Look, I am welcoming you!
posted by octobersurprise at 12:51 PM on July 29 [3 favorites]


I mean, let's be internally consistent: if you believe that guns don't kill people, criminals kill people, then Lolwut is a criminal.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:55 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


it's important to be internally consistent

That's ridiculous. There's nothing inconsistent about thinking that murdering people is going to have more of an affect on your life than smoking weed or attending rallies.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:58 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


How many people have condemned others attacking Obama for his drug record?
...
Either people's 40 year old criminal histories are relevant to their decisionmaking and public policy processes today, or they're not.


Most people who don't care about a president's past history of drug use feel that way because they think that recreational drug use is not actually that big of a deal, not because they decided that everyone gets a free pass on their actions as long as they happened a long time ago.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:06 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


corb >

The second is that this is clearly an ad hominem attack, an ad hominem attack in the worst way, and with people who usually argue for the rehabilitation of criminals coming in a rush to condemn the guy. People who have argued for the employment of actual felons, in fact, that they need a chance to turn their life around. And people have argued for lawyers who have defended even stuff far more egregious than this, on the grounds that the American judicial system depends on lawyers and everyone needs at least some legal recourse.

There seems to be a lot of confusion here about what "ad hominem" means in reference to argumentation.

Here's an ad hominem argument: "Dowlut supports an agenda entailing no regulation for guns whatsoever, because he argues that the 2nd Amendment demands it. But why should we listen to what a murderer thinks about the 2nd Amendment?"

This is fallacious because the social position, character, or past acts of the person making an argument have no bearing on whether or not the argument they present is a good one in itself.

Here's something that isn't an ad hominem argument: "Wow, the NRA's general counsel apparently murdered a bunch of people when he was younger. Seems like people predisposed to gun-facilitated murder are drawn to that organization, doesn't it? Kind of worrisome."

Attacking someone rhetorically cannot usefully be described as "ad hominem" because any critique targeted at a person is, by definition, ad hominem. It's meaningless to use it in this way. Its utility is in reference to bad arguments, things that take the form of a claim or proposition, not just talk about someone or some state of affairs.

They're very different, and it's becoming tiresome to see the term misused so insistently.
posted by clockzero at 1:06 PM on July 29 [14 favorites]


Here's something that isn't an ad hominem argument: "Wow, the NRA's general counsel apparently murdered a bunch of people when he was younger. Seems like people predisposed to gun-facilitated murder are drawn to that organization, doesn't it? Kind of worrisome."

Attacking someone rhetorically cannot usefully be described as "ad hominem" because any critique targeted at a person is, by definition, ad hominem.


Yet that first statement that you made does not exist in a vacuum. Few people seem to be talking specifically about Dowlut and leaving it there, as in, "That guy was a murderer and really sucks, he should not be in his present position." It is at least strongly implying, "And thus we should not listen to the NRA, because they are all lying murderers what want to make it easier for other murderers." Otherwise, what's the point of even noting it if you believe a lot of murderers are drawn to the organization?

I mean, let's be internally consistent: if you believe that guns don't kill people, criminals kill people, then Lolwut is a criminal.

You're missing a step there. Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and if in the comission of that killing the individual violated the law, then they are a criminal. Thus, if Lolwut shot the woman, he is definitely a criminal, but I certainly don't have enough evidence to be sure of either his guilt or innocence.
posted by corb at 1:39 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


It is at least strongly implying, "And thus we should not listen to the NRA, because they are all lying murderers what want to make it easier for other murderers."

Nobody has even weakly implied that the NRA is all lying murders.
posted by maxsparber at 1:50 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Guns don't kill people, people kill people...

Gah! I hate this tired old bumper sticker worthy train of "thought".
posted by futz at 2:01 PM on July 29


...then Lolwut is a criminal.

Ahahaha, still laughing at that one. Now I'm picturing the NRA's lawyer as a tooty, eyeless pear....
posted by resurrexit at 2:21 PM on July 29


He sounds like an asshole, then and now.

That is all.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:29 PM on July 29


You know what would have solved this problem, and protected the people that he (apparently) killed?

More guns in the hands of people (ie: his victims).

He of all people knows the importance of innocent people being able to defend themselves with deadly force against violent predators.
posted by el io at 3:35 PM on July 29


corb >

"Here's something that isn't an ad hominem argument: "Wow, the NRA's general counsel apparently murdered a bunch of people when he was younger. Seems like people predisposed to gun-facilitated murder are drawn to that organization, doesn't it? Kind of worrisome."

Attacking someone rhetorically cannot usefully be described as "ad hominem" because any critique targeted at a person is, by definition, ad hominem."

Yet that first statement that you made does not exist in a vacuum.


Not sure what you mean by that. It was an illustrative example.

Few people seem to be talking specifically about Dowlut and leaving it there, as in, "That guy was a murderer and really sucks, he should not be in his present position." It is at least strongly implying, "And thus we should not listen to the NRA, because they are all lying murderers what want to make it easier for other murderers." Otherwise, what's the point of even noting it if you believe a lot of murderers are drawn to the organization?

I think you've misunderstood. I was merely furnishing an example to make a point about the use of "ad hominem."
posted by clockzero at 3:42 PM on July 29


Thus, if Lolwut shot the woman, he is definitely a criminal, but I certainly don't have enough evidence to be sure of either his guilt or innocence.

Again, you don't need evidence of his guilt of murder for that, because you have his earlier convictions for armed robbery, burglary, auto theft and hit and run to remove any doubts that he was a criminal.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:50 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


given the NRA's constituency's traditional love of Chappaquiddick jokes.

"A few years later, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy--of Chappaquiddick infamy...."

Source: NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action)
Date: July 11, 2014
posted by dhartung at 4:36 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


el io: You know what would have solved this problem, and protected the people that he (apparently) killed?

More guns in the hands of people (ie: his victims).


"Solved" the problem? Really? Merely carrying a gun prevents you from being shot? Do we have to review the many high-profile gun murders in which either the victims or bystanders were armed, or can we just short-circuit that conversation by agreeing that "an armed society is a polite society" is an article of faith, not anything that's ever been proven by actual data?
posted by tonycpsu at 4:39 PM on July 29


tonycpsu: sorry about that. an attempt at humor/sarcasm. no, i don't actually think that more armed people would make for a better world. i was trying to use the NRA argument to it's logical conclusion to point out that it's current lawyer would be dead if the NRA had its way.
posted by el io at 5:54 PM on July 29 [6 favorites]


An armed society is a polite society.

Ted Nugent is armed.
Therefore, Ted Nugent is polite.
posted by TedW at 6:47 AM on July 30


Law of the excluded sanity
posted by clockzero at 9:16 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


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