Ezra Klein on gun policy after Sandy Hook

First-rate policy journalism.

Ezra Klein shows why he’s Ezra Klein in this rundown on gun policy after Sandy Hook. You’d never guess crime wasn’t his specialty: he tells a coherent story, getting the facts right, making the key distinctions, and offering the best line-up of practical policy ideas I’ve seen so far.

Ezra does his homework. The piece has quotes from an all-star line-up of gun policy experts: Phil Cook, Susan Ginsburg, Rick Rosenfeld.

And me. Well, three out of four ain’t bad.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

79 thoughts on “Ezra Klein on gun policy after Sandy Hook”

  1. By all means, let’s have a flurry of legislation banning everything we can. Every little bit helps, right? But even Klein and Kleiman must concede that prohibitions are frustratingly limited in their effectiveness.

    Guns are tools that facilitate easy murder, but they also can and are used effectively in self-defense, arguably more often than they are used to murder. It seems to me that our schools are woefully under-defended.


    A. What the Defender Did with the Gun
    Brandished or showed gun 75.7%
    Verbally referred to gun 57.6%
    Pointed gun at offender 49.8%
    Fired gun (including warning shots) 23.9%
    Fired gun at offender, trying to shoot him/her 15.6%
    Wounded or killed offender 8.3%
    B. Location of Incident
    In defender’s home 37.3%
    Near defender’s home 35.9%
    At, in, near home of friend, relative, neighbor 4.2%
    Commercial place (bar, gas station, office, factory) 7.5%
    Parking lot, commercial garage 4.5%
    School (in building, on school property, playground) 0.3%
    Open area, on street or public transportation 7.4%
    Other locations 2.3%

    No doubt the tiny percentage of self-defensive use of guns on school property has a lot to do with the rarity of incidents taking place in such spaces. But we do know that they happen, and that when they do, it’s often a massacre situation where the perpetrators meet little resistance, usually killing themselves once the teams with guns show up. Perhaps we should also consider taking positive steps to better defend our schools while we’re at it. I don’t see that as mutually exclusive with tighter gun restrictions. Every little bit helps, right?

    1. Many of us, or most of us, don’t want to live in a permanently militarized nation where the threat of violence and bloodshed are perpetual.

      People who love guns, weaponry, tactical thinking, and the 2nd Amendment, have created this situation. Sandy Hook happened because this violent, militaristic, tactical mindset is all too prevalent in our country. It’s seen as an end in itself by people like you and Brett. But it’s really a self-fulfilling prophesy: more guns means more murder. Period. There is no way around this simple statement.

      But it doesn’t need to be that way. The aftermath of Sandy Hook is causing us to reconsider what our laissez-faire attitude toward guns has wrought.

      You can trot out all kinds of statistics. But the point, for most Americans, is that we don’t want to live in a nation where our children’s schoolteachers must be armed. And I think we are seeing the beginnings a massive pushback against the kind of world that you and Brett seem to want.

    2. A list of percentages of defensive gun uses is pointless without comparing the number of those uses to the number of murders AND the number of gun assaults in which people were wounded but not killed.

      You tell us guns are used, “arguably more often than they are used to murder”. Fine. Prove it. Present some statistics — preferably from a recent, reasonably impartial source, not the NRA or a 20-year-old study that’s been debunked. And you should include accidental firearm homicides and suicides in your numbers. This information is available; it’s been around the web a lot in the last five days for some reason.

      If I sound angry, it’s because I am angry. I grew up around hunters whose guns never left the cabinets except when they were packed for hunting trips. Those cabinets were locked, and the ammunition was stored in separate cabinets, also locked (and with different keys). I have no problem with hunters’ guns.

      But that’s not what we’re discussing here. We’re discussing people like Michael Dunn in Florida, who shot up a car full of kids and killed one of them because they wouldn’t turn their music down. We’re talking about the man who fired shots at a mall in Oregon. We’re discussing a guy in New Orleans 20 years or so ago who thought a kid in a Halloween costume, who’d rung his doorbell by mistake looking for a party, was such a lethal threat that he (homeowner) shot him (kid). The homeowner, by the way, later said he had gotten rid of his gun and wished he’d never had it in the first place.

      That’s the price we pay for the number of guns we have, and our worship of them.

      I don’t think that price is worth it. It’s up to you to explain to me why it is worth it.

      And before you tell me I’d understand if I had ever been a crime victim: I have been. I hated it and I was furious. But I still wouldn’t have wanted to take a life over it, not then and not now.

      1. I recall a similar case in Texas … a stranger, drunk got out of a taxi in suburbia, and decided he was lost. Being a stranger, and a Scot, he was a bit over-loud and a bit gregarious, so he approached a house looking for some directions. He never got the chance becasue, hearing his approach, the house-owner blasted him through the door and killed him.

  2. Klein said: “Some gun enthusiasts have argued that if more people carried guns, Lanza would’ve been swiftly stopped. Of course, Lanza’s mother loved guns and was highly trained in their use. Those guns didn’t save her life; they caused her death.”

    That’s sort of a nonsense applied to this incident: two incredibly brave and wholly defenseless women were killed running towards the killer. If the principal had had a gun in a gun safe in her office, she could have had it in her hand. One of the catch-phrases Instapundit uses regularly is “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away” and in this case they were twenty minutes away. My (and, temporarily, your, Mark) governor has suggested that we think about ways to get some guns into schools, and on balance I think my children will be safer if we do.

    1. Indeed. It is for the sake of my three precious grandchildren in early grade-school that I advocate.

      1. These arguments are ultimately a lost cause.

        One side does not object to a hyper-militarized world in which the threat of violence is perpetual. This side sees safety in increasing the threat of violence in the form of retaliation and violent deterrence.

        The other side would like to work toward a condition where the threat of violence is minimized. This side sees safety in reducing access and prevalence of the tools of violence, as well as reducing the root cause of violence.

        These two positions are mutually incompatible. If you believe in reducing violence, the only possible action is to work toward strong policy solutions while shaming the culture that venerates violence.

        1. Matt, think of not as a “militarized world.” Think of it instead as our “old west” tradition, and you’ll have an understanding of that mindset.

          Divorced from modern reality, of course, but firmly grounded in the movies and TV we grew up with.

          It’s going to be a long time and a hard sell to dispel that outmoded image.

          1. It’s going to be a long time and a hard sell to dispel that outmoded image.

            Right. But the people with that image in their heads are a voting minority. The iron is hot. Let us strike for some sensible, non-inane laws about guns that don’t pander to scared, white gun fetishizers.

          2. Sadly, Don, the minority isn’t nearly small enough.

            To modify or repeal the 2nd Amendment, what sort of majorities do you need? House, Senate, and State Legislatures? Or, of course, a majority on SCOTUS that is willing, not only to reinterpret the brief words of that Amendment, but in doing so, overturn a LOT of precedents. In other words, a majority of highly activist justices.

            The 2nd Amendment was written in a time when the government fought with rifles and the rebels fought with rifles. The interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that clings to that purpose–protecting ourselves from an overreaching tyrannical government–has become obsolete. But wnat do you think are the chances of changing it?

  3. In response to Freeman and Dave, I’ll repeat something I said before. It would be incredibly useful to be 8 feet tall if you just happened to be standing near the basket when your favorite NBA team were in a championship game. But this won’t happen very often, and being 8 feet tall is very unhealthy.
    Wide gun distribution will cause many more killings than it will prevent–including the one in Newtown. Lots of people who aren’t white crazies or dusky gangstas do strange things with guns–married couples, children, road ragers, drunks, etc., etc. And a concealed pistol (the only practical way to get universal armament) will usually lose in any argument with an automatic rifle.

    1. The principal only would have been “8 feet tall” once she got the gun out of the safe. If your life depended on making the basket, you’d want temporary tallness too. Any defense is better than letting our children remain sitting ducks.

      1. You miss the point entirely. People who carry concealed weapons are armed all the time, not just when they draw the weapon from its holster. They are armed when they’re tired, and cranky, and drunk, and driving. They are armed when they’re clear-headed and when they’re unreasonably fearful. You can’t propose that the weapon would have saved this or that person in this or that rare emergency, and also claim the gun would have no other influence on their lives, or the lives of those around them.

        1. You can’t propose that the weapon would have saved this or that person in this or that rare emergency, and also claim the gun would have no other influence on their lives, or the lives of those around them.

          Well said.

        2. If only we had actual statistics on how CCW permit holders behave. Say, we had passed CCW reform laws in most of the states, and engaged in record keeping, to determine whether people carrying legally were pulling guns on each other at fender benders, or up and shooting people when cranky. We might even know if average people with CCW permits were, say, less likely to wrongly shoot somebody than police were.

          What a pity we can only engage in baseless speculation, instead of looking at the record.

          1. What a pity the gun manufacturers pushed through legislation that forbids the federal government to study these things. Perhaps they know something we don’t, perhaps they prefer we share their ignorance. Who knows?

          2. False that. The Florida CCW reform law included a provision for a study to determine exactly this.

          3. Brett, this is a very important point you raise. Irrespective of my skepticism, I really favor real study of real data when it’s available. Do you have a good link to follow-up, or is it too soon?

          4. Of course police officers are much more likely to wrongly shoot someone in public than gun owners. They use their guns in public much more often for completely obvious reasons.

          5. John, I don’t usually induge in this “cite?” business, but I’m unaware of any federal law prohibiting collecting statistics on crimes committed by CCW permit holders; Perhaps you could enlighten me?

            Ken, see for instance, NYT Scare Story About Carry Permit Holders Shows They Are Remarkably Law-Abiding

            Or, NYT finds that concealed carry gun permit holders commit less crime

            It is my recollection that the Florida CCW law included a cause requiring records to be kept of crimes committe by permit holders, at the insistance of foes, who thought they were going to document that “blood in the streets” they were predicting. But it was long enough ago I’m having trouble finding a reference during my lunch.

            The bottom line, though, is that CCW permit holders are, by far, the most law abiding segment of society. And this has been definatively known for some time.

          6. Fair enough, Brett. I did overstate the case. That it was an Arkansawyer who was the main force in Congress behind this effort stuck in my head, but the details didn’t.

            It was a ban on the CDC “advocating or promoting” gun control. That had a chilling effect on their studies. That’s bad and wrong, but not as bad and wrong as I claimed. It’s still bad and wrong.

            I don’t think studies of CCW permit holders are particularly useful in isolation, any more than studying the hydrocodone use by dental patients in isolation are particularly useful in thinking about drug policy.

          7. i would also add that the state of florida is not a part of the cdc in particular or the federal government in general. the original statement i seconded and brett denied may have been a bit overly broad but it was narrow enough to exclude the study he hoped to use as a counterexample. as for the other two articles, they fail to serve as counterexamples either because, the last time i checked, the new york times is not part of the federal government either.

          8. I think that policy is, in fact, both right and proper. The Center for Disease Control has no particular expertese in the area of criminology, it is no more appropriate for them to be advocating in that area, than for the FBI to have an official position on malaria.

          9. allow me to point out that the cdc is not in the automotive business and yet they track automotive accidents and fatalities, nor are they in the arson investigation or fire insurance business and yet they track deaths by fire, nor are they in the pyrotechnics business and yet they track deaths and injuries that are fireworks related. indeed, they track deaths and injuries due to a wide variety of reasons. the only thing they are not allowed to track on a comprehensive basis is injuries and death realting to firearms because they are forbidden to by statute.

            brett, don’t on the one hand decry the absence of actual data about the behavior of gun owners or a subset of gun owners and on the other hand make the argument that it’s best that the agency most qualified for the task not do it. even your logic is usually better than that, at least until the point you disappear from the conversation altogether. have we reached that point so soon?

          10. apparently we have since i note he’s commenting on posts above this one now. cranky, time to cue the crickets.

          11. You know Freeman, you were right: I made a mistake.

            Per the US Census, http://sbcoalition.org/2011/04/gun-violence-and-the-census-sobering-statistics/

            homicides by weapon used from 2001-2010 was 86,112 for guns, 5,782 for blunt objects (which presumably includes hammers). That 14.89:1 ratio is only 1.17 orders of magnitude larger for gun deaths, not two orders of magnitude as I originally estimated. That’s a significant difference and I do offer my apologies.

            Still kinda wondering where all the stories about the mass murders by hammer in the United States are, given that 86000:5800 ratio.


          12. Sorry Cranky, but in your words, “not even close”. Go back and re-read your claim. You said mass murders by gun, not homicide by weapon. Trying to change the terms of disagreement in bad faith again?

      2. When I’m on a Bart train, I would not feel safer in the slightest if 10% of the passengers armed, as compared with the 0.1% of today.

        More guns means more chances to be stupid.

  4. One minor point from Ezra’s article – not sure whether banning hollowpoints and similar rounds is a net benefit. They tradeoff is that they are less likely to go through walls and hit bystanders. Which raises a more significant point – we need to end all the restrictions on gathering data on gun sales and use so we can base these decisions on more than arm waving.

  5. One item for which I fail to see the advocates of an armed populace account, is that in any situation, if the initial victim is armed, there’s a guarantee that the situation will have a gun present. Sometimes that may go well for the intended victim, but often times not. If the perpetrator gets the gun….OOPS!

    When someone is carrying a weapon, any weapon be it firearm, knife, tear gas etc, is that person ready to use the weapon both from a commitment and readiness standpoint? Response time doesn’t just apply to police.

    Assume an armed teacher populace. How long before things get a bit lax, and let’s say the gun now spends its day in the desk drawer on in someone’s purse. Little Johnny figures out where to go get the gun and shoot up the kids who just bullied him.

    One reason I am absolutely loathe to call the police on neighbors for anything but a dire emergency response, is that I am then responsible for bringing an armed response to that neighbor.

    I am old enough to know folks who have died by their own hand using a firearm. Perhaps lacking that firearm something would have been used, but perhaps not. We’ll never know.

  6. Should children grow up in places where instruments of death are omnipresent? For some, that’s clearly their vision of society: armed mutual suspicion. Small children should learn as early as possible that they can in the end only rely on themselves to defend their lives and property. Kindergarten teachers should carry guns. Priests should celebrate the Eucharist and rabbis expound the Torah with a gun ready to hand. Hobbes called this hell the “state of nature”, a place from which rational beings will escape at the price of surrendering their natural liberty to a sovereign with the monopoly of violence.

    Gun trolls still don’t get it. It not for the rest of us – in a democracy, the people are Hobbes’ sovereign – to justify the infringements of the gun-owner’s alleged rights. It’s for the gun-owners to justify any access to such weapons. Hunting? OK; that means single-shot bolt-action rifles and two-barrel shotguns, without magazines. In urban areas, the guns should be stored in licensed club armouries. No ammunition at home; if you are going hunting, you draw six bullets or whatever from the police. Target shooting? All in clubs, as in Britain. Self-defence? Not with a gun.

    As with slavery in 1860, the gun nuts are not content with the (to any non-American eye) astonishing tolerance of their peculiar institution. They insist of imposing it on everybody else, even Connecticut kindergartens. This is a mistake. I hope it costs them abolition.

    1. James Wimberley @ 8:12,
      May I have your permission to quote that? Noting that even if I do not include your name, or your last name, it will be searchable back to this post.


      1. By all means! A blog is public not private speech. As far as I’m concerned, anything written here by posters or commenters is freely reproducible.

        Acknowledgement is a matter of courtesy and common sense, not I feel for fixed rules. It’s not worth it for a one-line joke or snark or a simple link to a fact. I try to give hat tips when I link through to something interesting, but nobody would be interested in a site-by-site reconstruction of my idiosyncratic search process. The propriety also depends on professional status. Most of the bloggers here are academics and when they write in their area of expertise, I would view it as work product, contributing to their professional reputations, so acknowledgement is very desirable. I’m retired so have no need for trade cred. As long as it keeps you reading my thoughts, I’m satisfied.

        1. Just that if I put it on Facebook, even as a graphic, it might draw unwanted attention.


    2. Well, put, but I’m not sure I agree. I don’t view gun nuts as radical individualists. They invoke that rugged rhetoric, mostly because it is a very American rhetoric, and thus a convenient one. (Why else does the legal abortion movement stress the word: “choice”?) But gun nuts are, in fact, quite communitarian. They divide the world into two groups: armed bad guys, and good guys emasculated by the state. And they find it very easy to distinguish between the two. That’s not a world within Hobbes’ ken.

      I think it is more productive to view gun nuts as phallus worshippers. They are mostly men, who feel cheated of their masculinity by society. Their feeling is legitimate: society doesn’t value men much, except those at the top. Median men’s incomes have been going down faster than women’s, and there is no sign that the trend is turning. The service economy is an increasingly feminized one. Popular culture is rough on men: it’s Homer and Bart versus Marge and Lisa. There is a legitimate feminist voice for women, but none for men.

      It should be no surprise that many men (and some women) turn to guns to regain some sense of power and control over their lives. And there is something to this. Guns are powerful–they can kill people. I plan to teach my kid to shoot, for exactly this reason: learning the close nexus between power and responsibility. But when you feel radically disempowered, the nexus is a much more pernicious one: between physical power and masculine self-worth.

      I don’t think that gun nuttery will go away until our economy–and perhaps are society–are transformed to be much better for people in general and men specifically.

      1. “They divide the world into two groups: armed bad guys, and good guys emasculated by the state.”

        Sorry ES, I don’t think so. You have to retain the two classes above and to them add “armed good guys, who will save us all”. The gun fanatics purest fantasy is that the armed good guys kill all the bad guys, through a constant and incremental process of vigilante violence in every possible public place. James post implies this. The Bellmores and Freemans in this country imagine we all view them as “good”, but factually speaking more of us are seeing them for what they are: seriously unbalanced and dangerous fools, who are in the best case inadvertently seeking to destroy civil society.

        1. I stand corrected. Indeed, gladly so, since you are strengthening my thesis–it’s about manliness, not Hobbes. Or perhaps Nietzsche, as refracted through Shane. Again, no Hobbes.

          1. I partly agree. It’s true that the stench of a deeply held narcissism wafts all through the gun fanatic’s arguments. But they also project those beliefs onto the entire body politic; it’s not all about themselves. You see, Brett cares about us. He cares so much about us that he’d sadly trade having us and/or our children killed if that would help the world get to a better place where we and our families would be so much safer.

          2. Personally, I’m detecting the stench of a deeply held contempt for anybody who disagrees with liberals here. Could we for once have this discussion without gratuitous sexually charged inuendo, which isn’t even validly based on psychology?

          3. I’ve never seen Brett admit that there are any tragic choices in Brett-land. Free guns makes everybody safe, all the time. Free dope does not hurt anybody. Nor free markets, for that matter. (Free, as in speech, not beer.)

          4. “… gratuitous sexually charged inuendo”

            Hilarious. It would never occur to me to associate gun fanatics with sexual innuendo (quite the contrary), but then I’m not Brett.

          5. Brett, I’m sorry that you took my sexual theme as innuendo. I meant it to be quite explicit. But I did not mean it to be personal. I have a model of how your mind works, because you are good at expressing yourself. I have no model of what motivates you. Social psychology (even my armchair version) says nothing about individuals.

            And by the way, not all Second Amendment advocates are of the right. My brother is a Second Amendment advocate, whose political views are substantially to the left of this website. He hasn’t convinced me of much along this line, apart from the difficulty of defining “assault weapon.” But his arguments are generally cogent, if not compelling.

          6. So, you’re saying the insult wasn’t meant to be veiled?

            Do I go around accusing you of projecting your violent impulses on me? My understanding of psychology leads me to suspect that would be as valid a diagnosis as yours. But the fact is that defense mechanisms are perfectly capable of leading one to generate valid arguments, so there’s nothing to be gained from diagnosing people instead of debating them, save an opportunity to avoid an argument you think you might lose.

            Let us meet on the field of logic, not pop pseudo-psychology.

          7. Brett, you’re free to view anything I say as a personal insult. For me to impose any constraints on your feelings would be PC in the extreme. For whatever my testimony is worth, the post was intended as a response to Wimberley’s excellent post, which I thought could be supplemented with a bit of feminist theory.

            I admit that this post was not addressing any arguments on the merits of the gun control issue. But Wimberley’s post was too good to pass up. Btw, I’m happy to admit that your response to my argument on the merits–the 8-foot basketball fan–was fully logical: a lack of empirical data. However, guns are a field in which empirical assertions must be very carefully vetted. The names of Lott and Bellesiles come to mind.

          8. The beauty of Hobbes’ psychology is not that it’s comprehensive, but that it’s convincingly broad and economical.

            In the nature of man, we find three causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory. The first, maketh men invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for reputation.

            (Leviathan, chapter XIII). It doesn’t matter to his argument what else men have in mind. As long as a significant proportion of men are wiling to do violence for gain or reputation, everybody else has a motive to arm themselves for defence. And since nobody can mind-read, possession of arms will often be interpreted as a sign of aggressive intention. It’s MAD all the way.

            Somebody please convince me Hobbes is wrong and that the foundation of the USA was a Lockean social contract, rather than the exchange of one armed sovereign for another.

          9. Brett Bellmore on pop psychological analysis:

            = = =
            Brett Bellmore @ December 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm

            “So, you’re saying the insult wasn’t meant to be veiled?

            Do I go around accusing you of projecting your violent impulses on me? My understanding of psychology leads me to suspect that would be as valid a diagnosis as yours. But the fact is that defense mechanisms are perfectly capable of leading one to generate valid arguments, so there’s nothing to be gained from diagnosing people instead of debating them, save an opportunity to avoid an argument you think you might lose.

            Let us meet on the field of logic, not pop pseudo-psychology.”
            = = =

            Brett Bellmore on the question of pop psychologizing of others’ motives in a previous thread:

            = = =
            Brett Bellmore says: November 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm

            See, that’s the kind of ‘reasoning’ that leads to conspiracy theories: Obama could have simply said, “State of Hawaii, there’s the controversy here, and in a way it IS my fault, after all, (I could have corrected that biography!) could you publicly display my birth certificate? Pretty please?” at which point the onus is on the state of Hawaii, it’s off his plate.

            But instead he indulged himself in a long, expensive legal fight, (At other people’s expense, naturally!) to avoid the release of a document that it wasn’t entirely unreasonable for people to want to see, and which could do him no damage. Why?

            The Birthers made the mistake of assuming Obama was a perfectly reasonable guy, and that, since there wasn’t any reason to fight the release of his birth certificate unless it showed something fishy, jumped to the conclusion he was hiding something. When the obvious explanation was in front of them all the while:

            ‘Cause he’s an a**hole, that’s why.
            = = =

      2. = = = Ebenezer Scrooge @ 8:50 am
        […] They are mostly men, who feel cheated of their masculinity by society. Their feeling is legitimate: society doesn’t value men much, except those at the top. Median men’s incomes have been going down faster than women’s, and there is no sign that the trend is turning. The service economy is an increasingly feminized one. Popular culture is rough on men: it’s Homer and Bart versus Marge and Lisa. There is a legitimate feminist voice for women, but none for men.
        = = =

        Well, that’s a theory much advanced by Rush Limbaugh. Almost a pop psychology of the Radial Right, one might say. But speaking as a white male who grew up in a time and place where white males of northern European descent were very much advantaged (in pretty equal measures over black people and all women of every group), and who is aware he still gets a fair amount of advantage even in the modern world, I have to question it quite strongly. It is true that white men are no longer granted automatic privilege over everyone else, that they have to compete somewhat more fairly against everyone (including women), and that they are no longer allowed to browbeat, bully, or simply beat up anyone of any group other than white men who disagrees with them. But I don’t think the world so created (the “PC” world, as Rush would say) is on net worse than the one I grew up in, is in fact quite a bit better in many respects, and overall all is better for the white men as well.

        Admittedly if one gets all one’s joy in life from beating those who he considers inferior and weaker than one is going to have a bit of a sad when the beat-ees band together and make it so you can’t do that anymore. But as has been well-documented by Thomas Frank and others, to the extent that gub’mint and “culture” have been doing the white man wrong it is because he has been voting for people such as Cheney and Romney who literally stole the bread out of their mouths (see Hostess Corporation, bonuses paid to executives). I watched an entire industrial neighborhood, with all its good blue-collar jobs for the boys, dismantled, and today I know it was Bain Capital that was behind the dismantling. Feeling “radically disempowered” about that and yet still voting for Romney? I don’t think that is the fault of a “feminized society”.


  7. Would a law limiting the rate of fire pass 2nd amendment muster?
    Say we require all publicly available guns to fire no faster than 1 bullet / 2 seconds. (or some such)
    That would a least allow some means to ‘rush the madman’ in a mass shooting.

    1. i think a regulation to limit the size of the magazine would be more likely to pass muster than what you suggest. i think it would be easier to enforce and monitor as well. i would also suggest a “buyback” provision similar to the one australia created when they passed strong gun control laws in the 90s.

    2. I wonder about the most fundamental question in re the 2nd Amendment: What is the definition of “arms” in that single sentence?

      My dad was an artillery officer in WW2. Arms, to him, included the 105 howitzer and the 4.2 mortar. Am I allowed to include them in my uninfringed arsenal? What about his anti-tank bazooka? Is there a clear line of what is protected (uninfringed)?

      1. According to textualists like Justice Scalia, the words of the Constitution mean what they meant to ordinary people at the time a given article was adopted. I think that means the “arms” of the second amendment are mostly swords and muskets. Because of the language “keep and bear”, I don’t think field artillery would be included.

        1. Also, “people” means “gens”, as in “the people,” in the second amendment. It did not mean “individuals” in the late 1700s. “people” is not the plural of “persons” that it seems to us today according to current usage.

          Thus, the people can keep and bear arms — in the local powder magazine and in a mustering group.

        2. Herschel, if that’s the case, then how come multiple-shot guns are protected? Revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, multi-shot rifles, fully automatic weapons–none existed at the time the 2nd Amendment was passed into law.

        3. BTW, Herschel, in my example of my dad’s artillery service, the 105 howitzer was what you would call “field artillery,” but the 4.2 mortar and the anti-tank bazooka were carried and fired by individual soldiers, and were cleaned and maintained by those same soldiers. And they still are today by Afghans and other rebels in many parts of the world. So they were definitely “kept and borne” by individuals in the ordinary meaning of that language.

          1. After I wrote this (sadly, without checking any references) my sister reminded me that my dad led a squad of several soldiers who carried the pieces of the 4.2 mortar and assembled it on-site before firing it. The bugger weighed about 300 pounds, she said, and it would have been one helluva soldier who packed it on his back unassisted.

            I guess the fundamental question still remains, though, since an anti-tank bazooka was clearly a one-man weapon. What is it that makes some “arms” uninfringible? Or, alternatively, if we are allowed to draw a line before bazookas with armor-piercing rounds, then why can’t we draw a line before high-capacity high-firing-rate automatic weapons?

  8. Small incremental changes will make a small difference. But, that is not enough. We need big change. Full repeal of the 2nd amendment would be a good start.

    1. The more I’ve waded through the arguments of gun nuts in the last few days, and their “collateral damage” logic when it comes to mass shootings, the more I agree with you.

      Brett, Freeman, et al are trying to Mae the argument that a few occasional massacres shouldn’t outweigh the “greater good,” which I take to mean everyone’s right to possess and wield a firearm under the 2nd Amendment. But what they have convinced no one of, save those who share their cold and calculating opinion, is why this is in any way a real “greater good.”

      If our goal is a more peaceful society with less violence and fewer murders, then the only way to get there is to both reduce the number of guns in public circulation and reduce the amount that they’re actually used. And if one’s goal is not a more peaceful society with less violence (as I sometimes suspect of Brett) then all conversation with that person is impossible–we should just stop talking to them.

  9. I said this before and I repeat it: to all gun advocates F*ck-Off.
    I don’t want to hear your fantasies about you heroically saving the fair maiden from the dragon.
    The time for discussion is past.

  10. Those of us who believe in a sensible gun control policy should do the following in any venue where we have an opportunity to discuss this issue with a gun advocate. First, start by decrying the latest outrage and getting, if possible, the person to agree it is a terrible act. Second, say that those who want gun rights should take responsibility for crafting a solution to the problem. Promise that person you won’t mention a gun ban unless their solution involves arming even more people. Then just shut up until the uncomfortable silence builds.

    I have done this several times since the massacre (electronically in social media and in person) and there hasn’t been one single response. As a country we should give gun advocates in Congress one month to propose any solution whatsoever that doesn’t include more guns. Let’s see what they come up with. THEN start the debate in earnest.

    1. You’ve been dealing with some dim gun advocates. The stock NRA-approved answer is “stiffer sentences for gun crimes.” I don’t think it makes any more sense than arming more people, but it does avoid uncomfortable silences. And with the current state of our magnificent press, any answer will do.

      1. So to the stock NRA “read-the-script” adherents, you might then ask “what stiffer sentence would you suggest for all those crazies who massacred the kids and then got off with light sentences? … Oh, I forgot, they’re all dead. Hmmm … hard to figure how facing a stiffer sentence would have deterred them.”

  11. I saw an even better idea on how to control gun-nuttery on Salon yesterday. Banning gun advertising. The author argues that there’s no 1st Amendment problem with it because they’ve already done that with cigarettes. It would have the added benefit of putting the gun porn magazines out of business.

  12. One of the things we may not be looking at is how Ezra Klein got that way. I have yet to find him wanting whatever the topic. His critical thinking skills are superb and are supported by an unparalleled grasp of language and ability to convey his thinking in understandable written and oral forms. I know he’s an N of 1 but, in my experience, that’s often the best place to start when you’re thinking about trying to replicate something.

  13. The air in here is thick with blinding fear. I’m not the gun nut some of you seem to imagine. The only gun I’ve ever owned is the single-shot hunting rifle my dad gave me when I was 14, which I keep unloaded and locked in a gun case in a closet. I’m only advocating for responsible defense of our nation’s children.

    No wonder the right-wingers are so keen on home-schooling. They know better than to leave their children sitting ducks in public classrooms that every psycho out there knows is undefended.

    Gun restrictions are one thing — have at it. Demanding that we advocate our responsibility to defend our classrooms is another thing altogether.

    1. Oops, I meant to say: Demanding that we avert our responsibility to defend our classrooms is another thing altogether.

    2. i teach in the public schools and i know that for myself and my students i’m more likely to die in my home than i am here. more children are killed by people they know in the home than are killed in schools. we have our drills and procedures, our locked perimeter doors. i won’t deny that the tragedy at sandy hook struck me close to where i live. but like the pilot driving to the airport after a major plane crash, i also know the underlying reality.

      i believe we need to move to a more tightly regulated regime regarding guns because too many people are dying. not because of fear for my own safety, not because i don’t understand guns or are afraid of them, i own three, but because too many people are dying.

      1. Yes, well after 9/11 some of those pilots driving to the airport are now armed. On a plane. Carrying hundreds of innocent passengers. Some of whom are children. More guns. Where is the outrage?

        1. The difference is that the pilots already have access to lethal force without a gun – what if they go crazy mid-flight and deliberately crash the plane? Pilots are vetted and trained to keep their cool in a way that would not be feasible to impose on kindergarten teachers.

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