The Futility of Armed Guards at Public Schools

According to NRA President Wayne LaPierre, armed guards would prevent killing sprees as public schools.

CNN’s full account of the Columbine School massacre makes clear that Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Neil Gardner, an armed 15 year law enforcement veteran, WAS assigned to the Columbine School and did try to stop the massacre, to no avail.

In fairness, perhaps LaPierre wasn’t asserting that a single armed guard was enough. Maybe he meant that what would really be required to prevent a gun massacre is a whole armed force. You know, like, say, an entire police department at Virginia Tech University or pretty much everyone at Fort Hood military base.

H/T: An anonymous commenter at the Daily Dish.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

69 thoughts on “The Futility of Armed Guards at Public Schools”

      1. Wow! If I hadn’t seen it on their websites I would never have believed those covers weren’t Photoshopped. The Post is really going after it, too. I count at least three more stories on the website’s first page in very much the same vein. The rest of the right-wing media seems to be toeing the NRA line pretty—including Fox News, so I really wonder if it’s a turning point or a couple of editors jumping the reservation. If Murdoch pushes hard for a ban on military weapons and high-capacity magazines, I think he’s got the juice to do it and give commitments to wavering Democrats that’s he got their backs for at least one election cycle. Interesting alignment—sort of like Churchill and FDR making common cause with Uncle Joe Stalin.

        1. Not really what I’d call a surprise; It’s well known that some of the more visible people on our side are just pretending because they feel they have to, for profit or political need. Incidents like this come along, they (Usually wrongly) calculate that they can get away with showing their true colors, and shortly afterwards we replace them with hopefully honest allies.

          I’m sure the same occurs on your side, where you elect somebody who claims to be anti-war, maybe even wins the Peace prize before they’ve had time to do anything, and then when they think they can get away with it they start a war without Congressional authorization, or announce they’re entitled to execute American citizens without trial.

          Both sides have their opportunists, who change colors when they sense a change in the wind.

          1. I am just awestruck. Brett, your comment has to be one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read on the Internet. I have no words with which to respond. I can only salute you.

    1. Wayne LPierre is to firearms policy as Eric Cantor is to [insert any noun] policy. It’s never clear who’s leading the parade and who’s following, but it’ clear their parades are (a) large, (b) well organized, and (c) ridiculous.

  1. The Haddon Matrix offers a framework for thinking about injury prevention in general, and there is no reason not to apply it to gun violence. It can organize our thinking into looking at three phases, pre-event, event, and post-event, and also into three factors, human, agent/carrier, and environment (physical and social). It has shaped public health thinking about injury prevention for decades; if we consider deaths from mass shootings a specific form of injury, we can see where various proposals fit into the matrix and what other squares deserve consideration.

    Much of the acrimonious discourse in the past week has consisted of people looking at one column or row of the matrix yelling at the idiots focusing on a different row or column. The idiocy of the NRA resides mainly in its absolute refusal to consider the agent column of the matrix. Their proposal for armed guards in schools can be placed into the human factor column, mostly in the event phase, where the good guy will shoot the bad guy just in time. It also has some overlap into the pre-even phase, if it is true that the knowledge of armed guards will deter bad guys from approaching schools (and not motivate them to buy extra Kevlar for their attack or plan their attack more carefully).

    The Sandy Hook elementary school had a locked door (pre-event physical environment square) which the killer was able to overcome; this has been cited as evidence that such barriers are futile, rather than seeing them as only one square of a larger matrix. Of course no one column or row has all the answers. A physical environmental barrier cannot provide complete protection any more than an armed guard whose training is a bit rusty or who sees pandemonium and has trouble locating the correct target in an emergency.

    Gun and ammunition control is all about the agent column of the matrix, mostly the pre-event row, and should remain in a central place on the table. Other commentators in recent threads (like Brett) have focused on the human column and the behaviors associated with them. This is not wrong, but it is just partial, and there is no reason to yell at him for pointing out these factors.

    Our first priority needs to be developing a lucid framework for organizing our thinking, and the Haddon matrix at least offers a chance at doing that. If we can see which square we are looking at, that will help to avoid some acrimony and advance a coherent public policy debate.

    1. Ed…

      One column I haven’t seen addressed is cost. If MONEY is not a “lucid framework” nothing is. Since schools are strapped for money have any of our friends at the NRA proposed how to pay for armed guards? Will they raise our property taxes? Or put it on the credit card like the Iraq war?

      You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due. –Dick Cheney

      1. Cost is distributed throughout the Haddon matrix; every cell has some cost considerations. In the pre-event phase, for physical environment factors in the example of child pedestrian injury, well-marked pedestrian crossings cost some money, as do the human factors of crossing guards near schools. In the post-event phase for human factors, paramedics cost money, and so do social environmental factors like systems of rehabilitation care. But if you keep cost in mind, you can probably see where some cells of the matrix are more cost-effective per injury prevented than other cells. Cost does not warrant a column of its own, since it is not a distinct factor, but is common across factors.

        Regarding the pattern that many folks on the right have of focusing on the behavioral factors of gun violence, I want to repeat that they are not wrong to mention them, only wrong to oppose attention to the other factors. It is helpful to remember that many decades ago, auto manufacturers placed great emphasis on the behavioral approach to reducing morbidity and mortality from car crashes, diverting attention from factors involving auto design which have in recent decades made major contributions to reducing deaths per vehicle mile traveled in this country.

        “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” is similarly a ploy to direct attention at behavioral factors and divert attention from the agents of injury.

        If mosquitoes had a well-funded lobby, they would say, “Mosquitoes don’t cause malaria; parasites cause malaria.” If the NMA is prepared to pay good money for a lobbyist, they can give me a call any time.

        1. I suppose if mosquitoes had a well funded lobby, they’d point out that most of them aren’t Anopheles, so why are you blaming malaria on mosquitoes who don’t carry it? You got something against insects that live off plant sap?

          1. Not to mention that some large portion (perhaps half?) of mosquitoes are males, who don’t bite as they have no eggs which require mammal blood to help them form proteins.

  2. Gang members have guns. Lots of them. Does that mean that being a gang member is safe? Are gang neighborhoods safe havens because any potential shooter knows that the person he (or she) might want to shoot might shoot back? Or are they violent places, where kill-or-be-killed leads to a lot of killings, both intentional and accidental? I’ve never been in a gang neighborhood, but from what I’ve read, they’re not safe places to live. Despite all the guns.

    1. Quite correct; see above, Haddon matrix under environment/social.

      According to Wayne LaPierre, gang-infested neighborhoods ought to be the safest parts of town, unless he has neglected to look at some other part of the matrix.

      1. But you see, the guys in gang-infested neighborhoods are all bad guys with guns. Only good guys with guns make a place safe. Please try to keep up.

        1. But polite, of course. A heavily armed people are a polite people. On a more serious note, however, why do you say that the only guys in gang-infested neighborhoods with guns are the bad guys? Why wouldn’t every man, woman and child be packing heat? Wouldn’t that mean bad gang-infested neighborhoods would soon become excellent places to live if everybody carried a gun? How do you reconcile this?

        2. Really? Only the bad guys have guns? Wouldn’t you expect every man, woman and child to be packing heat everywhere they go so they’d be treated with respect? Shouldn’t gang members be respectful with one another since each presumably knows the other is habitually armed?

  3. Wayne LaPierre is towing the liberal media line of restricting gun rights to adults. Typical Frenchman. An armed guard would just be killed first by a determined murderer and give the killer another gun. What you need is to arm everyone in the school and put them through the Eddie Eagle gun safety program.

    Kids do everything younger nowadays. A properly tooled-up schoolyard would dissuade any would-be assassin and start the kids on their way to responsible citizenship.It would also stop bullying instantly. Gun makers thankfully produce many weapons that are easy to use for people with small hands and delicate frames.

  4. I’ll take the gun rights people seriously when they start advocating allowing prisoners to have guns inside prisons. It’s very dangerous in prisons, and, anyway, what part of ‘shall not be infringed’ do they fail to understand?

    1. What part of, “Innocent people don’t want to be treated like convicted felons in prison.” don’t YOU understand?

      1. In Brett’s and the NRA’s almost achieved American Utopia, the difference between a prison yard and Central Park or public school is that the prison is safer, and the walls surrounding the park and school are invisible ones of universal fear.

      2. “Don’t want?” C’mon, Brett, be consistent. If you think the 2nd Amendment stands exactly as written, point out which words IN THE AMENDMENT say which people can be infringed.

        Now, I’m not saying that’s what I believe. I, on the other hand, think there’s a WHOLE LOT of ambiguity, and therefore flexibility, in the words “people” and “infringed.” But if you want to maintain an absolutist stance on “the words as written,” then you gotta walk back a whole lot of laws and common practice.

          1. Not that I agree with Brett about much of anything either, but the Framers didn’t write the 13th Amendment, they were all long since dead by then.

        1. While I agree with the larger point, and don’t agree with Brett in much of anything he has said, either in this thread or elsewhere, to be fair: the Fifth Amendment obviously implies, while saying that no one can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, that with due process someone may be deprived of liberty, presumably including the other rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

          1. That actually doesn’t explain it, Herschel. Persons convicted of felonies may be deprived of their physical liberty to the extent the judge imposes a sentence of imprisonment that is authorized by the Legislature. They retain or lose other rights (speech, religion, self-incrimination, search & seizure, etc., etc.) to the extent consistent or not with the necessities of that imprisonment. The right to possess a firearm for self-protection is clearly incompatible with the status of being a prisoner serving a sentence. It is not inconsistent, however, with being a convicted felon after serving a sentence. The latter limitation has to be justified and explained in some other way.

          2. You might be able to say that but Brett, as a “strict constructionist” surely can not. If the Constitution is holy writ, nothing can be implied or inferred or presumed. The words giving the government the power to take away people’s Constitutional rights are either there or they are not. And they are not. There’s nothing in the Fifth amendment due process clause that specifically allows abridgment or deprivation of Constitutional. Not a word.

        2. JanieM: Chill. All this discussion is ironic in tone. My comment was mock constitutional analysis. Hence, the tongue-in-cheek reference to the Framers. If all of the Constitution, and each of its words, is Holy Writ, then aren’t all the authors of its provisions equally Framers? (Just as each of the many authors of the many books of the Bible were apparently equally channelers of the Word of God.)

      3. But where in the Constitution does it say that convicted felons in prison or anywhere else lose their Second Amendment rights? I think Ken Rhodes is asking a reasonable question: If the text of the Second Amendment contains no exceptions or circumstances justifying the loss of one’s Second Amendment rights, would it then logically (and legally) follow that a whole host of gun regulations such as age limits on buying guns, limits on types of weaponry such as machine guns or bazookas, bans on mentally ill people owning guns, bans on firearms being carried in the Supreme Court building must be unconstitutional? Really, what is the basis for taking away guns from convicts in prison—there’s literally not one word in the Second Amendment supporting such a limitation.

          1. Herschel pretty much covered it. By your reasoning, there couldn’t be ANY penalties for a criminal conviction, at all. The case for the 2nd amendment is no different for the 1st, or any other civil liberty, which you can lose for cause, but not without, and not without due process.

            The 2nd is not above any other civil liberty, but neither is it beneath the others, either.

      1. Is there some reason why a sober person shouldn’t have a gun in a bar? Maybe you’d like to express your contempt for the idea that somebody could legally drive after having been in a bar, too?

        Being in a bar isn’t the same thing as drinking, you know. Yeah, I’m guessing you did know that.

        1. Yes.

          Anyone with half a brain knows it’s a bad idea to let someone who is drinking have a gun at hand. The overwhelming majority of people in bars are drinking. Even some who didn’t intend to drink end up doing so. Therefore, it makes sense, to say the least, to declare that people drinking in bars shouldn’t be allowed to have guns with them. Now, as a practical matter, if there is any way to enforce this it must involve barring those with guns from entering bars to begin with. For the tiny minority who really aren’t going to drink, and want to carry a gun, that’s an infringement, I suppose. But if we don’t want drunks with guns it’s necessary. Too bad.

          Think of the alternative. You can have a gun if you’re 100% sober. So someone with a gun starts drinking. Now what? Call the cops and ask them to disarm or arrest a drunk waving a gun in a crowded bar? Yeah, that’s a good idea.

          And let me add one thing. The insistence on the right to have a gun in a bar is an example of the utter insanity of the gun lobby. I mean, are you serious? Adler has been wondering why we can’t treat each others’ opinions respectfully. Well, here’s one explanation.

          1. I have, numerous times, been in bars and not drank. In fact, I have never, even once in my life, been in a bar AND drank. You are aware, aren’t you, that some people have no interest in alcohol? But may work there, have an interest in hot-wings, like socializing, or, I don’t know, have a desperate need to use the bathroom.

            And the current prohibitions don’t apply to “bars”, they apply to any place with a license to sell alcohol. That’s right, if Wendy’s gets a license to sell wine coolers, suddenly it’s illegal for somebody who drops in for a burger to pack heat.

            The insistence on mindlessly prohibiting having a gun in a place that sells alcohol even if you don’t drink is equivalent to prohibiting driving away from a bar. Both are dependent on the assumption that it’s impossible to enter a bar without getting drunk. By your reasoning designated drivers are impossible.

            No, the point here is that you’re utterly unwilling to make any kind of reasonable accommodation, because your starting point is the assumption that exercising the right in the first place is unreasonable.

            And the other point here is that you deliberately characterized the proposal, which was explicitly NOT to let people drink and pack heat, but only to do so if they didn’t drink, which contrary to your assumption, is not only possible, but fairly common; Most even semi-decent restaurants serve booze, but do most of the people eating at Olive Garden leave drunk?

          2. Given the impossibility of enforcing the rules you suggest – OK for sober people to have guns in bars, but not for those who are drinking, is it really unreasonable to suggest that, if you want to go get some chicken wings and watch the football game, you could just leave the gun at home?

            And how does being unarmed interfere with the ability to be a designated driver?

            As for drunk driving, which is easier and safer? To stop an apparently drunk driver on the street, or to go into a bar, with lots of customers and workers around, to arrest an apparently drunk patron with a gun?

            Underlying your comment is the idea that any restriction whatsoever on your right to carry a gun wherever you want is utterly unacceptable. I disagree, and so, I suspect, does Scalia:

            The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on … laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings,

            I think a bar could be consisdered a “sensitive place.”

        2. I understand that you’ve got this libertarian thing going on and I also understand that we’re all supposed to talk nice here so I’ll just say that your comment wasn’t well thought out. I’ve had enough experience with mean, drunken cops who illegally carried their guns into bars to say that you need to have the phrase “guns and alcohol don’t mix” tattooed on your forehead. If you’re serious about what you said and not just playing with us, you have very poor judgment and should not be around firearms at all.

          Here is what Rep. Terry Landry, D-Opelousas, a career State Trooper and former superintendent of Louisiana State Police, said about a bill to let people have guns in bars:

          “I don’t like your bill,” Landry said. “Alcohol and guns do not mix. This is a bad, bad situation. … I don’t understand how this will enhance public safety.

          “We might as well go back to the days when everybody wore a gun on their side. We are setting ourselves up for a major catastrophe and a wild, wild west situation.”

          To which I can only say: Amen!

  5. Even IF it were a good idea (and I believe it would not be), it is an unworkable one. From what budget would the funds for this enormous workforce come? What would the full-time guards DO all day — particularly the ones in elementary schools? The same deeply conservative movement that might get behind this idea are deeply opposed to more funding for tax-supported public services, including police and teachers.

    1. I had the exact same thought first thing off the bat when Wayne LaPierre made his pitch; this was the stupidest idea of the week.

      In Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic” the client opens a door only to be met with a torrent of insults. He says he came for an argument and is told that this is Abuse and that Argument is Room 12A next door.

      Similarly, this is Futility; Stupidity is Room 12 A next door.

    2. I went to a small neighborhood elementary school in Baltimore 60 years ago. The building had three public entrance/exit doors, one at the center “lobby” and one at the end of each of the two wings. I suppose you could place three armed guards in that elementary school. My high school, OTOH, had quite a few doors; seven, I think, though it may have been eight. Lots of armed guards needed there.


  6. I would also point out an important reason why armed people (even policemen) in a place like a school, a mall or a movie theater tend to be ineffective in these situation is that an armed gunman shooting up such a place is still, thankfully, an extremely rare occurrence. It’s very hard to spend year after year on alert for such an unusual event and respond instantly according to training one may have received years earlier. Studies show that people tend not to recognize or respond to many types of usual events for which they have prepared themselves even when they do take place. That’s why TSA security guards who look at thousands of pieces of luggage every day tend to miss things like bombs or weapons when they’re planted in luggage being screened as a test.

    A related problem is why you read about police officers being killed in restaurants or at ATM machines. It is very difficult for even trained people to react properly to an unexpected event or to be perpetually on “high alert”. That’s why police officers are so fearful about being inside a place like a restaurant or even a dry cleaners during something like a takeover robbery or walking in on one in progress. There’s no enough time to properly react to such an unexpected event. I seriously doubt whether ordinary citizens wandering around with guns would be in a position to effectively react to something like this latest rampage. In the very rare cases that I’m aware of where an armed person arguably stopped one of these rampages, it was an trained outsider like an off duty cop who was well away from the action who was able to gather himself together and then moved into action. A cop who’s been sitting in his car in the same spot outside a school, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper for year after years is far more likely to be the first victim rather than a savior.

    1. Mitch is absolutely correct. Some years ago, the Onion had a front page story about a city in which loud sirens blared 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in order to indicate an elevated level of alert for terrorism. There was a photo of citizens walking on the street covering their ears with their hands.

      I wonder if it is even worth watching Meet the Press tomorrow to see if David Gregory will even ask Wayne LaPierre any intelligent questions regarding either the monetary cost or the ways in which alertness will wane among guards after several years at the same school with no attack. I bet he will ask about the guard at Columbine, but I just do not know what else he may ask about.

      1. I think this whole silly announcement was never intended as a policy but is a diversionary tactic to force people who were otherwise finally getting serious about control to consider something that there is no money nor intention to ever have implemented. A straw man to divert attention and resources from actual gun control and successful as long as it has anyone talking about why it wouldn’t work instead of focusing on what new restrictions are achievable and how they might work. A classic bargaining chip, created out of thin air.

  7. Brett,

    Well, it seems to me that as long as we’re doing all this nifty inferring and presuming to stop prisoners from enjoying their personal right to gun ownership while in prison, I don’t see why we can’t just presume and infer that a ban on civilian possession of military style weaponry would be okay. So, Constitutional objections overcome, right Brett?

    By the way, Peter G. may have a poor sense of history but he has you on another point and it highlights one of the many problems with Heller. The framers of the Constitution were quite capable of limiting rights when they wanted. The fact that there isn’t any sort of limitation in the Second Amendment suggests that they didn’t want any.

    Now, that’s not a problem for my tribe because we say that the phrase “well regulated militia” means there’s no personal right to own firearms and the scope of permissible regulations is therefore very. But if one is to read the Second Amendment literally as a “strict constructionist,” it’s difficult to see why prisoners can have guns while in prison—or bazookas or machine guns or B-52 bombers, if they’ve got the money. The lack of any principled stopping point is a big part of why nobody of any political stripe or with a background in Constitutional law or history believed there was a personal right to own guns. Yet, I think it’s inescapable under Heller that everybody—the mentally ill, the Islamic terrorists and prisoners doing time—is has the personal right to own any sort of weapon they please.

    Here’s my challenge to you: Can you identify a principled way to limit the personal right of prisoners under the Second Amendment to possess machine guns and whatever other weapons they please while in prison?

    1. I certainly don’t speak for Brett, with whom I rarely agree, but see my comment at 6:51 pm, Mitch, and see if that doesn’t answer you about prisoners.

      1. No, it really doesn’t. It might be a satisfactory explanation for people who believe in a “living Constitution” but it can’t possibly be enough for somebody who believes that one shouldn’t go beyond the text of the Constitution in interpreting or understanding it. None of the actions you describe are provided for explicitly in the Constitution but are based on powers inferred or interpreted from provisions such as the “necessary and proper” clause or other very broadly worded grants of power.

        That’s one of the main critiques of Scalia’s approach. He doesn’t look at historical documents or writings by the founders or legislative history in order to figure out the drafter’s intent. He simply divines a meaning which he ascribes to the drafters and which par chance invariably matches his own personal preferences.

        But I digress. The Second amendment is very specific and contains no limitations or qualifications. If it’s interpreted as a personal right, it’s a very specific one with no possible limitations. As I said, there are other provisions of the Bill of Rights which have limitations or qualifications of some kind, so it’s clear that the framers knew how to limit or qualify rights when they wanted to. There are no such qualifications in the Second amendment and there is nothing in the amendment itself to suggest that it is to be interpreted in light of other provisions of the Constitution. It is absolute.

        Again, if you think (as I do) that the operative or controlling portion is the language about a well regulated militia then it’s easy to interpret the amendment so as to prohibit prisoners from having guns. Impliedly, Congress can say who gets to be in the militia and what kinds of weapons they can have. By necessary implication, if prisoners can’t serve in the militia then they can have guns. And so fort.

        But if the Second amendment creates a personal right, pace Heller, then the rights of the people to have bear arms language is controlling and there is simply no limitation in the language itself or in any reasonable interpretation consistent with its being a personal right. So we’re right back where we started: Looking for a principled way to limit the Second amendment rights of prisoners that is consistent with the principles of Constitutional interpretation that Brett has previously said he believes in.

        1. It’s been argued that “keep” and “bear” are being used in a somewhat technical sense and hence are self limiting (“bear arms” referring to serving in an organized military effort, “keep arms” referring to the maintenance of equipment for said military effort).

          1. Yes, but it’s only been argued by people intent on rendering the 2nd amendment a nullity by making it amount to, “Soldiers have a right to keep and bear arms if ordered to.”

          2. Brett,

            That’s essentially my view of the 2nd amendment but it’s obviously not yours. So, where in the text of the Constitution does it say that the state can prohibit prisoners from having firearms? Also, since you believe that the 2nd confers a personal right to own weapons on some unspecified groups of people in this country, what gives the state the power to regulate the types of weapons individuals may possesses? Why can’t people own machine guns or military aircraft or even nuclear bombs?

            Also, assuming that you think there is some kind of workaround, what is the principled limitation that allows the state to ban these things but not your beloved military style weapons and high-capacity magazines?

          3. Mitch, have you read the 10th amendment? There are powers delegated to the federal government. Powers prohibited to the states. Everything else is possessed by either the states or the people, as specified in state constitutions.

            The group isn’t “unspecified”, it’s the people, the same people as referred to by the 1st amendment.

            The power to enact criminal laws, and punish the violation of them, is one of those reserved powers.

            The principled limitation would be that the 2nd amendment, existing to further the cause of a militia, must thus apply to those arms suited to militia use. That is to say, the same sorts of arms the nation’s soldiers are expected to carry about.

          4. “Yes, but it’s only been argued by people intent on rendering the 2nd amendment a nullity by making it amount to, “Soldiers have a right to keep and bear arms if ordered to.””

            So? Who cares what their intent is, if the argument is based in facts and evidence (which it is). But facts and evidence are rarely univocal.

            One has a common law right to self defense, that other common law countries seem to be doing just fine with.

          5. Brett,

            That makes no sense. The 10th amendment is not relevant to your challenge which is to describe some principled way to limit the language of the 2nd amendment to (1) allow prisoners to be forbidden weapons and (2) to allow certain kinds of weapons such as machine guns or military aircraft to be banned without being so broad as to permit civilian ownership of military style weapons and high capacity magazines.

            First, if the 2nd amendment creates a personal right to own weapons (but does not by its language impose any limits on the nature of the weapons that can be owned), then I don’t see what the 10th amendment has to do with anything since the source of the individual right to own weapons is already in the Constitution. I don’t see how the 10th amendment allows the states or the people the ability to take away or limit a right explicitly, pace Heller, granted by the 2nd amendment. How can one of the “reserved powers” possibly be the power to invalidate the Bill of Rights?

            (I don’t understand how the 10th amendment applies to this situation unless you are arguing a natural law right by states and individuals to forbid other people to own guns and you’re also arguing that the natural law powers of the 10th amendment trump Heller’s determination that there’s an explicit power for all individuals in the country to own guns—which Scalia then arbitrarily limits without reference the rationale supporting the rulings which suggests that there should be no such limitation. But let’s leave that for another day)

            I just still don’t see how the 10th amendment helps your argument. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that the 10th amendment would permit the states to prohibit prisoners from having guns while in prison and all the rest; and it does so without running afoul of the 2nd amendment and the Supremacy Clause. You still haven’t explained why the states or bizarrely, private people (have you actually read the 10th amendment?) would permit those kinds of limits on private ownership of weapons without allowing the limitations on military style weapons and high-capacity magazines that I’ve been advocating.

            But even your “principled 10th amendment limitation” analysis makes no sense because logically, you’re saying that the 2nd amendment creates a right specifically to have military weaponry such as jet fighters or nuclear bombs (which is actually the logical conclusion that Heller backed away from). What kind of a limitation is that?

            Worse yet, you have come full circle and seem to have adopted the position that Heller rejected, namely, that the 2nd amendment allows for the formation of various militias so that a standing army would not be needed even in time of war. Under the traditional analysis, the meaning of the 2nd amendment was that you had to been in a properly constituted militia to possess a weapon and that members of the militias were subject to regulations about where, where and how they could have such weapons. Meaning, criminals and mentally ill people can’t be in a militia and the government has the power to say that all weapons must be stored in a government armory.

            I think you need to try again.

          6. mr. guthmanm, surely by now you have noticed the frequent attempts by mr. bellmore to “have it both ways” or even have it three or four ways at once, his tendency to change arguments in the middle of a conversation with no acknowledgement that the previous arguments were faulty, or to even completely derail his own logic in pursuit of some way, any way, to keep from admitting any error in his positions and then abandoning the discussion when caught out in his spurious and infrequently mendacious conclusions. even though i know arguing with mr. bellmore is a fool’s errand i still attempt it. i wish you luck with your attempt here.

    2. The principled limitation would be that the 2nd amendment, existing to further the cause of a militia, must thus apply to those arms suited to militia use. That is to say, the same sorts of arms the nation’s soldiers are expected to carry about.

      So does that include automatic weapons, grenade launchers, whatever? Or take step back. What is a “militia,” anyway, and what is its purpose, and why wouldn’t it have tanks, artillery, and so on?

      1. The militia is known today as The National Guard. Of course they have artillery, as well as other potent “arms” like F/A-18s.

        I guess I better not let my dog pee on my neighbor’s yard. No telling what sort of arms that old standby, the 2nd Amendment, has given him access to.

          1. Perpich isn’t really relevant to this and it didn’t say that the “militia” in the 2nd amendment is different from the militias spoken of in the Constitution itself. But I would take the opportunity to return to the question of whether states or the federal government can limit the types of weapons individuals may have or prohibit certain categories of persons such as the mentally ill, persons under a restraining order for domestic violence or prisoners from having firearms. To remind you of the problem: Under Heller, there is a personal constitutional right to “keep and bear arms” unconnected with a militia that is recognized and regulated by the government. The 2nd amendment itself has neither limitations about the nature or type of “arms” that people may “keep and bear” nor does it limit explicitly who among the people may be forbidden to “keep and bear” arms. Also, since it is generally accepted as a rule of constitutional construction that later added amendments modify the understanding of the original language and that the specific controls the general, I don’t see how any other provisions of the Constitution would allow limitations to be applied.

            That’s why I have said that Scalia’s creation in Heller of an individual right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia, for purposes such as self-defense is self-contradictory and at odds with the supposed philosophical/political genius of the 2nd amendment. In other words, having basically conjured up an individual right out of thin air, Scalia then imposes limitations on that right which are neither explicit nor implicit in the language of the amendment. By contract, it seems to me that once you’ve decided that the 2nd amendment creates an individual right to bear arms then there’s no limitation whatsoever on the type of arms that an individual may have or the circumstances under which the right to “keep and bear arms” can be abridged. The language of the 2nd amendment is absolute and therefore so must the individual’s right to “keep and bear arms” necessarily be absolute.

            You will recall that my challenge to you was for you to demonstrate some principled limitation that would do the following: (1) Allow prisoners to be prohibited from “keeping and bearing arms” while incarcerated; (2) prevent individuals from “keeping and bearing” machine guns, fighter jets, bazookas and nuclear weapons (3) not be so broad or amorphous as to basically reverse Heller and allow states to limit private ownership of military style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

            I’m looking forward to your explanation of why it’s possible to prohibit private ownership of atomic bombs but impossible to prohibit private ownership of other types of weapons such as assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. (But, naturally, I won’t be looking for it before Wednesday since I assume you will be busy enjoying Christmas).

            Substantially off topic but I would like to wish all persons of the Christian faith who celebrate this holiday a very Happy Christmas!

          2. As my boss, who is a Muslim, remarked to the cleaning lady, it’s Christmas whether or not you’re a Christian, and he was perfectly capable of having a happy one regardless of his religion. Nice fellow, except for his, “If I can’t eat before sundown during Ramadan, you can do a bit of overtime, too!” attitude..

            I agree that the Heller decision is at odds with the basis of the 2nd amendment. Both sides employed a bit of fake originalism there, the minority with the intent of rendering the right utterly hollow, (A right for the government’s soldiers to be armed! How absurd is that?) the majority with the intent of converting a right too radical for our modern politics to accept into something more acceptable.

            1) Prisoners can be prohibited from keeping and bearing arms while imprisoned for precisely the same reason they can be imprisoned, which is, after all, no less a basic deprivation of a civil liberty. Your reasoning thus proves too much.

            2) I don’t think it’s possible, consistent with the 2nd amendment, to prohibit people from keeping and bearing machine guns, they are precisely the arms which a modern militia is armed with. The rest are not “arms”, but “armaments”. You might keep a fighter jet, (And it is legal to, I might add…) but you surely can not bear it. There have been nukes one or two men could bear, but they certainly were not issued to soldiers on graduation from boot camp. Neither are bazookas.

            3) I think I covered this with 2); In any event, the federal government can’t ban squat, constitutionally, outside of such land as it purchased from the states with their legislatures’ permission, where it rules as though it were a state. Banning stuff isn’t among the enumerated powers… Most of the states could not ban these things even absent a 2nd amendment, they have their own constitutional safeguards of the same nature.

  8. i have been thinking about this and playing it in my head.i dont know what the solution is.armed guards??that doesnt work.who is gonna pay for that??

    1. Did you notice that they carefully avoided putting those numbers in any context? Nobody denies that concealed carry licensees occasionally commit crimes. They merely do so much less often than other people.

      You could, I suppose, if you wished to prove cops should not be trusted with firearms, compile a list of crimes committed by police. It’s quite possible that, if you put the numbers in context, they’d actually look worse than those for CCW holders. Especially if you could compensate for their being so well placed to avoid arrest…

      But you don’t generally see compilations like that, because there’s no national movement to disarm the police. Though maybe it would make more sense than disarming the civilian population.

  9. Brett,

    1. I think what you’re missing is a bit of the historical context regarding the Militia Clause (and, from my perspective, the 2nd amendment, too). The argument wasn’t whether the government’s soldiers would be armed but rather whether the government should have any soldiers at all. There was a significant body of opinion (probably a minority but possibly not) that was opposed to have a standing army for a number of reasons, mainly the fear of an overbearing entrenched government and a strong desire to avoid adventurism abroad.

    They argued that compulsory enrollment of all men of fighting age would provide the country with an adequate defense force while denying the government the means to, for example, easily invade Canada and Mexico or engage in other foreign interventions. With what turned out to be an ill advised, poorly worded rhetorical sop to the radical Jeffersonian “water tree of liberty with blood of tyrants” crowd in the 2nd amendment.

    2. Your argument explain why prisoners can’t have guns in prison makes good sense and I would agree with it except for a couple of points. First, if you read the articles that pushed the new understanding of the 2nd amendment as a personal right (several are cited in Heller), it’s clear that under this interpretation government probably can’t forbid convicts weapons if they’re given “due process” because it would be too easy for the state to render the right to armed rebellion nugatory by manipulating the legal system. The state arguably shouldn’t be able to take away the right to rebellion against the agents of the state (in this case, prison officials and guards) if you believe they are tyrants.

    3. Even I don’t think the 2nd amendment “Keep and bear arms” mean the people can have only those weapons they can personally lift or carry. Neither do I believe it means that the people have the right to keep a stockpile of limbs hacked from other people’s bodies.

    I also don’t understand why you think the federal government can’t ban things or regulate activities except on federal reservations. That’s simply not true. There is very little activity the federal government can’t reach through either the necessary and proper clause or the commerce clause. Then there are also many specific grants of power set forth in the Constitution that allow the federal government to regulate all manner of activities everywhere in the country. You need to start logging some time with more and better hornbooks.

    By the way, I limited my Christmas wishes to those Christians who celebrate the holiday not because I’m waging war against Christmas but because there are many people who do not celebrate Christmas (including many Christians who don’t celebrate the holiday tomorrow and some who don’t celebrate it at all). But one shouldn’t be churlish on Christmas Eve, so I will revise my holiday greeting, to wit:

    I wish everyone who celebrates Christmas a very Happy Christmas. My best wishes for everyone and, as the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge might say, I hope you we can all keep Christmas properly with the joy of the season and good will towards our fellow man in our hearts.

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