Coming attractions: A conversation with Mark Kleiman about gun policy

Mark Kleiman and I did a bloggingheads-style conversation about gun policy. We’re not quite ready for prime-time, given President Obama’s response today. Instead of posting our incomplete conversation, I think it’s best to simply post a “Coming Attraction,” below. Enjoy, if that’s the word.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

11 thoughts on “Coming attractions: A conversation with Mark Kleiman about gun policy”

  1. the shooters weren’t criminals. It’s not about the criminals. It’s about seemingly normal people being normal right up until they slip over some edge we don’t see. And guns all around. And violence both heightened and downgraded at the same time. So we either learn how to see who”s “normal”, on a continuing basis, or we decide that the choices available to “normal” people are perhaps too broad.

    Many gun fans point out that Britain, without guns, has a higher crime rate. Our gun homicide rate is 90 times higher. ( Our crimes must be special – maybe guns? And much of that so-called crime -pickpockets and street fights- I don’t care about. Heck, I don’t care about our gang shootings; I consider them all volunteers.

    I care about crazed people that desire public punishment and subsequent notoriety. I’ll be magnanimous here and say that gun owners and crazy aren’t the same thing, but we, as a society, can’t let them overlap. So the availability, the trade and commerce of guns deemed dangerous must be difficult. For seemingly normal people. Reaching out for these guns MUST attract notice in proper areas.

    By outlawing all sales of certain guns, we freeze the market. Owners own, but are stuck with what they have. Since I don’t believe pasty-white young gameBOYS have good links to an underground gun market, they will not be able to find many guns. I bet we can identify misfits through their efforts to find theses guns – since they start as misfits within a secure society and try to delve into the hastily created underground.

    After all, it’s not about criminals.

  2. Since I don’t believe pasty-white young gameBOYS have good links to an underground gun market, they will not be able to find many guns.

    The pasty-white gameBOY who shot up Sandy Hook didn’t need a link to any gun market, underground or otherwise, to “find many guns”. Here in the Midwest, practically everyone who isn’t a gun enthusiast knows at least a few who are. As with drugs in our schools, Mohamed doesn’t need to go to the mountain, the mountain will come to him. I can’t count the number of times I was solicited during the last assault weapons ban by various acquaintances eager to help me assemble one from legally purchased components. (I declined, though I do enjoy shooting their guns from time to time). The ban didn’t seem very effective to me — I certainly wouldn’t have described the market as “frozen” — I knew quite a few people who made it a point to procure that which was banned (because it was banned) and who were strident evangelists encouraging others to do the same and offering their help in doing so.

    But a ban will help a lot of people to feel like we’re “doing something about the problem”, regardless of it’s effectiveness. That good feeling will come at a political price. Nothing mobilizes the right like a perceived threat to their gun rights. 2014 should be interesting.

  3. Since this is a very thoughtful community, I’m hoping someone here might tell respond to this. I am sincere here; I’m not trying to be sarcastic, though I recognize it might seem that way.

    If I understand the argument correctly, strict constructionists (like Scalia) uphold the death penalty, because they oppose the idea that the death penalty is “cruel and unusual.” They do so based on a static reading of the Constitution, and the death penalty is not cruel or unusual because it was not considered to be so at the time the Constitution was written. They would argue that the Constitution is not a living document, and therefore when we refer to “cruel and unusual” punishment we must think of it as the authors of the Constitution intended did when they wrote it. I hope that it stating their argument correctly, if not elegantly.

    So, why not then apply this same logic to the 2nd amendment? Why then has the definition of “arms” changed to include AK-47s? Wouldn’t it follow that if the definition of cruel and unusual must remain static, so too must the definition of arms? Or am I drastically overreaching here?

    1. It has nothing to do with logic. Since all our governing institutions, including the SC majority, have been purchased by the ruling elite… logic is what they say it is.

      There, I hope I’ve been helpful.

  4. I don’t think a ban on sales makes possession inside your home illegal. I want to impede the transfer and acquisition of semi-autos. So any part of any illegal gun found on your possession outside your house/property will cause arrest, confiscation, and a search of your house. Iy you have a cache, you can’t afford to do anything wrong – like leaving them unlocked at home. I want laws so strong that gun owners can;t afford to be slack anywhere anytime.

    1. Automobile accidents cause much more death and mayhem than misuse of semi-auto firearms, so logically…

      I want to impede the transfer and acquisition of automobiles.
      I want laws so strong that car owners can’t afford to be slack anywhere anytime.

      More laws, more restrictions on someone else’s liberties (especially liberties one’s tribe feels little need to exercise), and more draconian punishment for the slightest transgression — haven’t we failed enough at that already? Will we really improve our lives by further building out the police-state totalitarian society we’re well on our way to becoming?

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