Firedoglake Book Salon tomorrow on Adam Winkler’s new book on the Second Amendment front in the gun wars.

Adam Winkler’s new book, which combines a history of gun rights and gun control, a policy analysis of gun regulation, a doctrinal analysis of the Second Amendment, and cultural criticism about one front in the culture wars, is a contradiction in terms: a scholarly page-turner.

He and I will be discussing it on line tomorrow (Saturday) from 2-4 Pacific, 5-7 Eastern, as a Firedoglake Book Salon. Be there, or be square.

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:

38 thoughts on “Gunfight”

  1. Gunfight promises to be a seminal work in its examination of America’s four-centuries-long political battle over gun control and the right to bear arms. In the tradition of Gideon’s Trumpet, Adam Winkler uses the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, which invalidated a law banning handguns in the nation’s capital, as a springboard for a groundbreaking historical narrative. From the Founding Fathers and the Second Amendment to the origins of the Klan, ironically as a gun control organization, the debate over guns has always generated controversy. Whether examining the Black Panthers’ role in provoking the modern gun rights movement or Ronald Reagan’s efforts to curtail gun ownership, Winkler brilliantly weaves together the dramatic stories of gun rights advocates and gun control lobbyists, providing often unexpected insights into the venomous debate that now cleaves our nation. 20 black-and-white illustrations

    Ironically as a gun control organization? I hope you’re going to touch on what’s “ironic” about the Klan having started as a conspiracy to violate a particular civil liberty, because I just don’t see it.

    I guess I’m going to have to add this to my 2nd amendment library. Hope it’s not going next to “Arming America”, that would be a disappointment.

  2. I’ll be checking this out, thanks for the tip.

    Sure you want to be messing around with FDL, Mark? Seems to me that Hamsher has gone off her rocker about Obama. I’ve seen such loony stuff there that I never even check it out anymore. I’m sure you’ll elevate the level, but still…

  3. Brett, given that you have a “second amendment library” with a special place for the discredited work of Bellesiles, I do hope you keep the work of John Lott in that same place. The difference being their treatment by their respective community after their various frauds were exposed; one was largely ostracized (certain inexplicable idiots at The New Press excepted), while the other remains an icon, and is apparently a weekly columnist at Fox News.

  4. I suppose we could get into the differences between Lott’s case, and Belesilles, if that wouldn’t be derailing the thread. I personally find Lott’s antics a bit embarrassing, but don’t see how they’re comparable to the outright fraud Belesilles committed. But, of course, that’s the advantage my side has in this fight: We don’t HAVE to commit fraud, because we’re right.

    At any rate, I’ve no reason at this point to suppose Winkler is a deliberate academic fraud. I’m hoping the book will be a good read, though it’s obviously not written from a perspective anything like mine.

  5. Not threadjacking at all. Lott committed outright fraud – he reported the results of a survey he obviously never conducted – and kept his job at AEI, while Belesiles was ostracized after having his fraud exposed by an academic liberal more committed to honest discourse than to partisanship. That challenges one of the central themes of Winkler’s book: the symmetry he perceives between the unreasonableness of the anti-gun nuts and the unreasonableness of the gun nuts.

  6. I think I’d have to maintain that he’s a slacker compared to Belesilles. But who isn’t?

    Anyway, I am serious in wondering what’s “ironic” about the KKK having origins as a gun control organization. I suppose it’s kind of jarring if you think of gun control as a noble cause, rather than the conspiracy to violate a civil liberty it really is. But the connection between the gun control movement and Jim Crow isn’t exactly news, it’s a commonplace observation, and has been for decades. Old news.

  7. Brett is right about the non-irony of the KKK remark (though I wonder why he seems to keep asking Mark to defend it — did Mark write Amazon’s product description or merely link to the book he was talking about?). The KKK was a very selective “gun control organization”. They supported unrestricted gun rights for whites — it was the newly freed blacks whom they wished to deny civil liberty to. Nothing ironic at all about that.

  8. I’m a fairly committed defender of Second Amendment rights, and I agree that the treatment of Belesilles by liberals was more reasonable than the treatment of Lott by conservatives has been. The reactions in question seem pretty typical of the respective ends of he political spectrum: conservatives tend to be rather more willing to accept any arguments that support their preferred conclusions; liberals less so. Politics brings out backwards reasoning (or: “the method of inverse criticism) in everyone…but it’s more of a problem on the right. Even though I’m on the right on this issue, I think the right is crazier about it than the left. (Not that I haven’t encountered lots of loony anti-firearm types in academia, for I have.) But I’m embarrassed to be allied with people who think it’s just fine to lionize Lott. I don’t think all of Lott’s stuff is crap…but he can’t be trusted, so it might as well all be.

  9. Not expecting Mark to defend an Amazon book description, just wondering if they’d “touch on it”, as I said. The gun control movement’s origins are rather sordid, aren’t they? Did attacking the civil liberties of freed blacks suddenly become savory just because they expanded the target list?

    As for Lott, an embarrassment. Your side certainly has no shortage of them, that’s for sure.

  10. Anyway, I see the eponymous Carl T. Bogus hates the book, so it’s likely to be good. There can’t be a much higher recommendation, unless maybe Saul Cornell pans it, too.

  11. I think it would be clear to Brett that Lott is not a fraud because his completely fabricated results support Brett’s beliefs. Just like it is clear to Brett that birtherism is legitimate since he personally can have no metaphysical certitude about where Obama was born since Brett wasn’t physically in the OR at the time.

  12. I would say that Lott is not entirely a fraud. In all things there are graduations, and Belesilles was more of a fraud than Lott. But Lott is, as I say, something of an embarrassment.

  13. Brett,

    I think I’d have to maintain that he’s a slacker compared to Belesilles. But who isn’t?

    But, of course, that’s the advantage my side has in this fight: We don’t HAVE to commit fraud, because we’re right.

    I think rather than arguing over who is the bigger fraud, it’s useful to note that your side, despite your claims of integrity, continues to support and honor its fraudster with a respected (by your side) position at AEI. Maybe you should think about that before claiming too much virtue.

  14. Lott is widely viewed on my side as an embarrassment, whose transgressions, while real, are largely exaggerated by a gun control movement desperate to be able to say that it doesn’t have a complete monopoly on fraud. Which it doesn’t. Not quite, anyway, though it’s not for lack of effort.

    So, I’m going to stand by my position: Lott is a piker when it comes to fraud, compared to Belesilles. But absolutely embarrassing. Mary Rosh? What WERE you thinking, John?

    Lott ceased working at the AEI back in 2006, I might note. So you can’t even get the most easily checked facts right.

    Anyway, T minus 1 hour and counting; Looking forward to the discussion.

  15. Brett,
    If you’d followed the link I provided, you’d have seen that the “Mary Rosh” episode – which was not remotely limited to “Mary Rosh” – was, however lurid, the least of his issues with fraud, including both the concoction of nonexistent data and the repeated misleading erroneous manipulation of genuine data.
    As to his employment at the AEI, it is true that this part of his career is now five years in the past – but it persisted for nearly a decade after several substantive frauds of his had been exposed. And, according to Wikipedia, “since March 2008 he has been a weekly columnist for Fox News. He has also appeared frequently on television and radio shows.”

  16. Winston Smith: I’m curious – I wonder just what you find “loony” over at FDL. I read it and while I don’t always agree with the conclusions, I do find their coverage of facts/data to be very accurate (and easily verified). The basis of their conclusions is as much “reality” as one finds here. I’m serious, I would like some examples.

  17. Yes, that’s correct, Lott’s career hasn’t imploded. Then again, as Winkler himself points out, Lott’s sins were not in fact as bad as Belesilles’, and at this point the worst of them are still just allegations, not proven. Not at all like Belesilles, who simply fabricated evidence wholesale, rewrote historical documents to agree with his thesis, and so forth; A really comprehensive act of fraud, remarkably unambiguous.

    An interesting conversation so far.

  18. I think I’ll definitely buy the book. And at this point it seems likely Arming America is going to lack for company.

  19. Brad,
    Hamsher’s lunacy re: Obama is certainly no secret. There may be good things still at FDL–I wouldn’t know. I quit dropping by when Hamsher started making claims like “Obama supporters are the dumbest m*therf*ckers in the room.” ( Then there’s “Obama and the Death of the Democratic Party,” and all that. Hamsher accepts Wingnut Axiom 1: Everything Obama Does is Wrong, No Matter What It IS. She’s on par with Limbaugh. I have to hear that deranged nonsense from the right all the time; I’m not going to subject myself to an extended temper-tantrum by an unbalanced Hillary supporter who’s willing to help throw the country back to the party that ran it into a ditch because her candidate didn’t get the nomination.

  20. Your side certainly has no shortage of them, that’s for sure.
    Which side would that be? I’m neither gun-grabber nor gun-nut, Democrat nor Republican. I vote for individuals, not parties. I did not vote for Obama (or McCain) and will not be voting for him in 2012, though as Presidents go I don’t think he’s any more horrible than any of the others who have served during my lifetime, and if I were a believer in two-party-hold-your-nose-and-vote-for-the-lesser-evil, I would favor him highly over any of the nutjobs distinguished ladies and gentlemen (remembering to keep it civil!) the Republicans currently have to offer. I tend to favor individual liberty over authority where practical, while recognizing the need for a reasonable balance between the two in a civil society. On the gun-control issue (and quite a few others) I think we probably agree more than you might assume. I think the Constitution clearly supports individual right to gun ownership. I don’t think gun-control laws are particularly effective and like the drug laws they tend to result in a thriving black market and draconian enforcement efforts. Every (otherwise) (mostly) law-abiding gun-nut friend of mine has managed to get outlaw clips and such for their assault rifles, and I’ve known a few paroled felons who had quite impressive arsenals. Personally I own a beautiful old double-barrel single-shot Savage 30-30/20-guage over/under that is stored away unloaded in the corner of a closet far from the ammo. My Dad gave it to me when I was 14 and I haven’t seen any need to increase my personal arsenal beyond that since. I’m probably one of the very few households in my somewhat rough (my house has caught four bullet holes over the last twelve years) mixed-race neighborhood (where I’m a white minority-by-far) without a handgun, though I fully support my neighbors’ right to theirs.

    In all things there are graduations, and Belesilles was more of a fraud than Lott.
    Ah, moral relativism. Wasn’t “your side” against that sort of thing before you were for it? 😉

    that’s the advantage my side has in this fight: We don’t HAVE to commit fraud, because we’re right.
    To paraphrase an old comedy routine: There is absolutely no fraud on our side. None whatsoever, and by that I mean there is a certain amount.

  21. And, according to Wikipedia, “since March 2008 he has been a weekly columnist for Fox News.

    Considering his wholesale fraud, it would be remiss of Fox NOT to hire him.

    Interesting that to Brett “the dog ate my survey” is evidence that the critics have no proof against Lott, but that he has managed to maintain a healthy lack of metaphysical certitude about where Obama was born because he wasn’t personally in the OR when the birth happened. I believe this is called intellectual honesty.

  22. I’m not quite certain of the extent to which Lott is a fraud. While “The dog ate my homework” is a classic line, I suppose it can be true once in a while, and Lott does have at least a little supporting evidence. Of Belesilles fraud there is no real doubt, it was rather blatant.

    Indeed, both belesilles and Lott are embarrassments for their respective sides, Lott for Mary Rosh, Belesilles for their ever falling for him in the first place.

    Anyway, anyone want to discuss the conversation at Firedoglake? If not, I’m out of here.

  23. Freeman,
    I know you’ve got a smiley there, but, in defense of Brett, to say that x comes in degrees is not be a relativist about x. Moral wrongness comes in degrees (murder is worse than cheating at Monopoly), but that doesn’t mean that moral relativism is true. To acknowledge that some things are (really, objectively) hotter than others is not to be a relativist about heat.

  24. Anyway, anyone want to discuss the conversation at Firedoglake? If not, I’m out of here.

    Surprising how you seem to have lost interest in Belleseiles once Lott was brought up, despite your gratuitously introducing Belleseiles into the conversation.

    Well, I learned today that “the dog ate my homework” is something that you believe makes Lott’s evidence legit, and justifies his continued inclusion in influential conservative circles many years after his wholesale fraud was exposed – just because his fraud was on the side of conservative shibboleths. Just like you believe that Obama might not have been born in the US because you didn’t physically see the birth.

  25. I believe that Lott’s “fraud”, except for the rather tacky “Mary Rosh” business, has not been proven. I believe that advocates of gun control like to pretend otherwise, because having Lott to point to makes them feel a bit better about Belesilles, about having one of their frauds decisively exposed.

    And it really was an interesting conversation there, rather more intelligent than you’d expect here on such a subject, even if Mark got a bit testy at one point.

  26. OK Winston, you got my attention. I understand the usefulness and recognize the validity of relative moral comparisons expressed in shades of grey. I was under the impression that the objection to moral relativism rests on the implicit admission that the wrong being defended is a wrong, which is the whole point and the degree of wrongness relative to something else is beside the point in the black & white judgment of the objector. I was poking a little fun at this rigid objection, it’s selective invocation by some on the right and their occasional willingness to indulge when there’s nothing else to support a position they don’t want to abandon, so I’m curious: If a rationale to excuse the wrongness of one thing by alleging the greater wrongness of another isn’t an example of moral relativism, would you please provide one?

  27. I believe that Dan Rather’s “fraud” has not been proven either, but the allegation and lack of ability to authenticate the document was enough to end his career prematurely anyway despite the fact that the contents of the document (or it’s authenticity for that matter) were in no way challenged by the subject of the document.

    More to the point of the thread, I’m heading over to check out the discussion at fdl. Brett’s got me amused and intrigued.

  28. A somewhat unproductive conversation at fdl. Mark kept asking where the pro-gunners draw the line at reasonable regulation and could get no serious replies, just the usual hyperbole from Brett that the gun-controllers don’t want to be reasonable therefore no reasonable regulation is possible and accusations of “extreme straw-man arguments” from “realitychecker” when he tried to tease out a more responsive answer to his question from Brett.

    I don’t blame Mark for getting a bit testy. realitychecker was saying things like “That is a ridiculous and unworthy argument” while posting rebuttals that showed little understanding of the context of the statement he was rebutting (“All Constitutional rights are subject to reasonable regulation” as a response to a question that basically asked “if legally carrying guns makes us safer by facilitating self-defense, why is it OK for the government to ban guns in it’s public areas – e.g. why can’t congressmen just arm themselves for self-defense rather than banning guns on the house floor”). Reasonable question: “And, as Adam points out, frontier cities such as Dodge decided that it was a reasonable regulation to forbid the carrying of firearms within city limits. Why were they wrong to do so?” realitychecker’s response: “Because an absolute ban is not reasonable regulation of the Ssecond Amendment right, that’s why. Your emotional bias is showing on this one. That’s why these gun discussions get so frustrating.”

    And boy, those folks over at fdl sure are (selectively, big surprise) sensitive! realitychecker leaves the parting snark: “I’ll go somewhere else now so I don’t have to keep doing this to you.”, Mark replies “Yes, please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”, Mark gets a scolding on civility (his comment was deemed “somewhat beneath what is expected of those who converse at FDL”) and not one word about realitychecker’s lack thereof. I’d sure like to know what it was Mark said in two comments that were apparently sooo bad they were deleted.

  29. Freeman, I did offer Mark a laundry list, he didn’t seem interested. Of course, I came somewhat late to the conversation, had some trouble getting registered there.

    Winkler pointed out that the “assault weapon” ban banned guns based on cosmetic features having no relationship to lethality. Literally, the same gun might be banned if it had plastic parts, but not if they were wood. Many guns were included on the list by name, because they couldn’t even be swept in by a list of arbitrary characteristics. This doesn’t strike you as unreasonable? Mark apparently had no problem with it.

    DC banned ownership of guns, even by people whose day job was providing armed defense of the D.C. government. How many gun controllers denounced D.C.’s laws as unreasonable? I can think of very few.

    Chicago demands that you have firearms training to own a gun, while banning any training facilities for civilians, while maintaining such facilities for it’s own employees. Reasonable?

    Obama has seriously proposed a national ban on all gun stores within 5 miles of a school. You do realize that the average distance between schools throughout almost the entire populated land of the US is less than five miles? Reasonable? Gun controllers seem to think so.

    Now, I’m fine with any number of regulations. Guns shouldn’t, for instance, blow up in your hand. But, then again, the head of the product safety commission said that, if he had the authority, he’d ban all guns, because they’re “unsafe” by virtue of firing bullets out their end. Reasonable?

    The basic problem here is that, since gun controllers place a negative value on gun ownership, they regard ALL restrictions on gun ownership as presumptively “reasonable”. It’s an empty qualification as far as they’re concerned.

  30. Obama has seriously proposed a national ban on all gun stores within 5 miles of a school.

    In 1999, apparently, in the wake of Columbine and a rash of other school shootings. When he was a state senator, representing an anti-gun constituency. I’m not saying I would support this proposal, nor that it was smart of him to support it. But you write these sorts of things as if Obama were this very day mustering the ATF to illegally take away your guns this weekend, not as if the dude floated a dumb legislative proposal a dozen years ago.

  31. And you discuss it as though we hadn’t been fighting off garbage like this for a few decades now, and had some insane obligation to pretend that this sort of nonsense only comes from fringe characters in the Democratic party. Like the President… This is the face of reasonable gun control. It’s why gun owners laugh bitterly at that phrase. You want more examples of the same sort, from “fringe” characters like, oh, Edward Kennedy?

    Gun controllers wouldn’t know “reasonable” if it bit them on their hineys.

  32. Thanks for the short laundry list Brett, I agree with you that those are examples of unreasonable regulations, and no doubt you can list plenty more.

    Even realitychecker acknowledged that “All Constitutional rights are subject to reasonable regulation”. What I’m most interested in is what sort of gun regulations you guys consider reasonable. No matter how the question was posed, readers were offered a lot more information on what you say your opposition considers reasonable than what you will say you do. So far I got this:

    ban on citizens bearing arms on government property (ridiculous and unworthy to question this one!)
    ban on guns that blow up in your hand (I suppose the same would apply here)

    Did I miss any?

  33. For starters, virtually all reasonable regulation of firearms is going to be at the state level, because they’re all matters which are properly state concerns. And most genuinely reasonable regulations are already going to be in place, because they were taken care of years ago. (Being reasonable, after all.) But setting that aside, reasonable regulations:

    Target shooting ranges should require proper backstops and ventilation. If newly built in occupied areas, they should have some system for noise containment. (But none of this building a subdivision next to an existing gun range, and then demanding that it shut down because it’s “noisy”. We don’t do that to airports.)

    There are standard ways of preventing a firearm from firing if simply dropped. It would not be unreasonable to require them to be used in new guns.

    Basically, guns shouldn’t frequently malfunction in a way that causes them to fire.

    OTOH, there are a host of regulations on subjects like melting points of alloys, which have no purpose except to make guns more expensive, in order to prevent the poor from affording them. That stuff has to go.

    Time place and manner restrictions: I’d go so far as to say that you should be required to use frangible ammo, such as Glaser safety slugs, in your home defense gun, if you have nearby neighbors, and your walls aren’t concrete.

    Before the age at which the government will allow you to join the military, or voting age, whichever is earlier, gun handling should require adult supervision.

    As far as banning guns in certain restricted subsets of government territory, (No sense in banning them in libraries, for instance; Nobody goes armed into a library to bust somebody out of jail. That’s just a ban for the sake of having a ban.) fine, as long as it’s not overdone, as long as the government actually provides facilities to check the gun as you enter the restricted area, and as long as whoever is running the facility becomes strictly liable for any harm that results from insisting that everybody within be defenseless.

    But, as I say, the problem with “reasonable regulation” is that the government is lousy with people who, on an ideological level, are devoted to destroying this particular civil liberty. It may have been proven to them that openly advocating gun control is a political death sentence through most of the country, but that hasn’t made them “reasonable”, just sneaky. Obama didn’t back a law which would ban gun stores across almost the entire country because he’s reasonable on the subject, he did it because he opposes the right he was setting out to infringe. And we have no reason at all to believe he suddenly became reasonable when he found he needed votes from people who were more reasonable than himself on the subject.

    The presumption of reasonableness and good faith is a rebuttable presumption, and in the case of gun controllers, it already stands rebutted. Gun owners are not going to be bullied into pretending otherwise.

    Thus my advice: Just drop the subject. Find some other cause, it’s not like gun regulations are the only worthwhile thing to work on. Leave it alone, because even if you start out reasonable yourself, your efforts will be hijacked by the gun controllers, or implemented in a bad faith manner by the BATF.

    In another generation, when the hard core gun controllers have departed the scene, and gun owners aren’t still on a hair trigger to defend themselves from constant assaults on their rights, you can revisit the topic. Or, rather, somebody else can.

    I would have given the same advise to people wanting to know what would be reasonable racial regulations, after Brown. “Just drop it, nobody in their right mind trusts you anymore.”

  34. Thanks. I’ll add, for the benefit of anybody who thinks that Obama was just being unreasonable because he was representing an unreasonable district, and has become reasonable now that he’s President, that Obama’s current position on the 2nd amendment is that, while it’s an ‘individual right’, any local community should be able to ban guns anyway. IOW, that the only ‘right’ he’s willing to acknowledge is a ‘right’ which doesn’t actually stop the government from doing anything.

    Imagine your reaction if a Republican President claimed to be a strong supporter of the 1st amendment, but maintained that local governments were, none the less, perfectly entitled to ban books. Would you accept his claim? I think not.

    This is the guy who, if one of five Supreme court justices should happen to die while he’s in office, will nominate somebody to razor blade the 2nd amendment out of the Constitution. Because, when one of the Heller minority was replaced by him, they joined the McDonald minority. We might have gone off Defcon 4 if he’d nominated somebody to join the majority. But he didn’t.

    Now, let’s hear somebody on the other side name an existing, enforced gun law they’d be willing to admit is unreasonable. Because claiming to be “reasonable” doesn’t mean squat, if in practice you think everything is “reasonable”.

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