Various thoughts on current events with an emphasis on politics, legal issues, books, movies and whatever is on my mind. Emails can be sent to email@example.com; please put "blog comments" in the subject line.
Lawrence O'Donnell had a remarkable almost twenty minute response to the head of the NRA's statement while Chris Hayes' panel provided various viewpoints. LO was right to be pissed off -- fantasies about a police officer (sounds like a standing army; btw, that didn't stop Columbine) in every school from the same people who won't raise taxes to pay for it and targeting Hollywood. What about movie theaters, congressional meet-ups or fast food restaurants. Oh, quite a few want that too, including increasing concealed carry. Didn't help in the Giffords shooting though. Fort Hood. etc.
See also another Volokh Conspiracy failure to actually accept any chance of regulation, this time a tiresome "let's all be reasonable!" response to criticism (by a few named people) of a libertarian voice that various people have found a tool in the past. The selective nature of the whole thing is underlined by citing someone (Mark Kleiman, who at times comes off as a concern troll) saying someone had a fevered imagination when he suggested the McArdle said we should think about suicide squads of children rushing at shooters. Oh?
My guess is that we're going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity. I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.
In comments, instead of addressing my criticism of the allegation that Jonathan Chait (via Kleiman) imagined all of this, Adler said I should address Kleiman and McArdle responding. A link was provided to the latter and it isn't helpful. She said Chait should have taken what she said in context and what she meant -- though this was in response to a shooting involving young children -- by "young people" is teenagers. Oh. That's soooo much more sane. She also cited a few examples of people actually rushing shooters, including one person who was a retired member of the military. Hiding actually saved lives here, just to cite that.
One reply in the VC thread addressed what the judge noted in the LAT (O'Donnell read the op-ed in its entirety on air):
Bystanders got to Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 31-round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose as his primary weapon a semiautomatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don't even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater a magazine — it is a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire?
That is, even if we imagine doing that, the heavy firepower of the gun, something the pro-Heller, conservative judge among quite a few other gun owners do not believe such guns are necessary. More than one person on Chris Hayes noted the belief that owning a gun is a right and/or something someone can believe important or perfectly fine. That's fine. Personally, I don't own a gun, but understand and accept the sentiment that owning one is okay and in fact is a right. But, we limit rights in our system of "ordered liberty." Heller itself notes:
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”
This is true even if a certain weapon is "most useful in military service" because the 2A is not about every such weapon. It is tragic that Heller is not used by more people to support gun control. "Gun control" is another scare word as if "gun prohibition" is involved. But, quoting Heller, "[l]ike most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." The ruling even suggests concealed carry could be banned (it doesn't say, but it is likely another matter if all carry is banned) and:
Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment , nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
As the LAT article notes, such regulations will only do so much, but if stopping all harm is the test, loads of regulations would be unsatisfactory. The limits of "assault weapon" bans in particular often occur because so many types of guns are not included (Connecticut has such a ban, enough said) and the guns not included often can easily be altered to become rapid fire weapons. So, make the law more comprehensive. This is not about banning guns as a whole or denying concealed carry at all. How much good will it do? I don't know. But, we should be able to draw reasonable lines here. As some have noted, having them for fun or psychological pleasure do not override their dangers.
As to existing guns, the judge suggests targeting even current owners. I don't know if that is really possible -- putting aside the likely response (they are coming to seize our guns! see!!!!!) -- except by voluntary buy backs. One option would be taxing them a lot. Taxing protected devices would be problematic, but if we can ban their sale (I see litigation), we should be able to heavily tax them ala the guns in U.S. v. Miller. The taxes can also be subject to them truly being under lock and key in safes or more likely outside the home. Don't see seizure as likely.
One other thing, someone on Hayes strongly opposed registration ala cars. Guns are a right! Yes, they are, just like voting and jury service is a right (yes, jury service is a right, though most just see it as a burden; some, however, aren't very gung ho about guns either) as well as have a duty component. They also are regulated. A "well regulated" militia includes some form of registration. Heller is misguided in suggesting personal gun ownership at home for self-defense is the core issue here.
That is part of it, but the 2A is also about the militia. The militia has various aspects and this includes a civic duty component. We as members of the militia have special responsibilities. The militia and guns as Heller notes is open to various regulations The militia also can be called up by the state -- its function is just that to avoid a standing army being so large and powerful -- when necessary. So, why not require an accounting of membership (namely, owners of weapons and what weapons) by registration? This aside from the need to register dangerous devices, including if the owners somehow no longer have a right to own them (die, become felons, mentally ill and so forth).
Lawrence O'Donnell made a point about how much power the head of the NRA, who spoke of a few million members, vis-a-vis head of powerful unions or of the AARP. Many many more people own guns as well. Underlining why the power of the NRA and their one-note sentiments are so troubling. The response of some (like Stephanie Miller, who criticized violent video games, getting pushback from her news reader and producer) on the other side as well -- talk about repealing the 2A won't help much either. The dead here need more from us. It's just too important.
[I forgot to add this argument that drug criminalization is a major cause of gun violence. Surely though even if we do a lot to cut back -- and apparently letting two states experiment with legalization of marijuana is deemed a lot -- the violence will continue. But, I guess we need to take it all in the same spirit, small steps important too. We also need to think big, including yes a change in culture. Like other evils, including slavery, change seems oh so impossible. It can be possible though, even if it is a long hard road.]