Wedge politics

The NRA is against universal background checks, which the whole country is for? Good! Let’s vote on that.

Now that the NRA has come out against universal background checks – obviously good policy, and with overwhelming public support, including among gun owners and NRA members – Harry Reid should bring up a background-check-only gun bill. If Boehner won’t move it in the House, start a discharge petition. Force every Republican to go on record for or against common sense (and against or for the NRA).

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:

74 thoughts on “Wedge politics”

  1. It is refreshing, about time.

    I believe the NRA’s position on this to be eminently defensible: Background checks do nothing to prevent criminals from getting guns, because criminals don’t obey laws. A large fraction of the criminal population can pass background checks, because they haven’t had their first conviction yet. The remainder have access to an extensive black market. Thus the checks only inconvenience people attempting to exercise a civil liberty. As they were intended to.

    If you think otherwise, maybe we should legislate background checks for sellers of cocaine? In as much as criminals would fail to pass the checks, and anyone selling cocaine is a criminal, cocaine would cease being available…

    Since the background checks can not achieve their supposed aim, and since they burden the exercise of a civil liberty, one the Supreme court has FINALLY gotten around to admitting is a civil liberty, they can’t be justified.

    If you don’t want somebody to be able to buy a gun, because you think they’d be unreasonably dangerous if they did, they belong somewhere they can’t buy a gun, which is not walking free. Let’s not any longer humor this fantasy that background checks keep criminals disarmed.

    The question, as always, is whether we’ll be allowed to defend our position, instead of some combination of being shouted down and cut off. (The way LaPierre was during that hearing.) Apparently the leadership of the NRA has calculated that we’ve reached the point where we can’t be effectively silenced, and the time has finally come for that converstation about guns the anti-gunners themselves have been preventing.

    I look forward to it.

    1. We expect gun _sellers_ to obey the law, and not sell without background checks.
      The sellers are not criminals, and we want to assist them in not selling to criminals.
      By having the few cases where background checks are not required be covered by existing systems.

      I will ignore the rest of the strawman arguments, as you are arguing with what you believe gun regulators’ motivations are.

      1. We expect pharmacists to obey the law, and not sell controlled substances to people who lack valid prescriptions. How’s that working out?

        What I’m saying is the notion that the background check system actually WORKS, as a way of keeping criminals disarmed, is a fantasy. It’s magical thinking. What I’m saying is that releasing a criminal from prison, or a madmad from the psycho ward, = letting them have a gun if they’re so inclined.

        And so the imposition on the law abiding can not be justified, because the imposition doesn’t achieve it’s supposed end.

        This may have implications for sentencing or the mental health system, but it certainly implies that any argument premised on background checks actually keeping criminals from getting guns is a non-starter.

        1. Your analogy is invalid on a number of levels.
          However, I recognize a windmill, and refuse to tilt at it. At least until that windmill retracts the previous bad analogy between child rapists and gun control researchers.

          1. You’re denying it’s valid, but you’re not explaining how. No reasoning, just denial.

          2. I’m not explaining because it is pointless explaining to somebody who will never listen. At least until you show you can show understanding about your other analogy between child rapists and gun control researchers.

        2. Brett, the answer to your specific (analogy) question is: “It’s working less that we wish, but certainly much more than not.”

          As with many things in our complex lives, the requirement for pharmacists (and for gun dealers) is a less than perfect solution to an important problem, but less than perfect is a lot better than nothing at all.

    2. So let’s be clear: you think that someone who has just gotten out of prison for shooting someone should be able to walk up to a licensed gun store and buy a gun, with no responsibility for the gun store to verify his criminal record? If you don’t think that, why should the same felon be able to make the same purchase from a private party, at a gun show? Just precisely what sort of policy are you arguing for? Or are you just expressing your generalized rage?

      1. My understanding is that Brett seems to subscribe more to the idea that this person should never have been let out of prison (i.e., mandatory life sentences for any offense that would be a risk factor). Also, apparently, he’s advocating for lifelong confinement for anybody with mental health or substance abuse problems that may render them ineligible to carry a gun.

        While that certainly has the virtue of being logically consistent, it seems to me to be just a tiny bit on the crazy side.

        1. If narcotics laws don’t inhibit pharmacists from illegal sales of narcotics, then what help would prison be? If you make escape from prison illegal, only criminals will escape from prison.

          Or something. Brett is in fine form today.

      2. @Mark. Brett’s position is totally indefensible (criminals don’t obey stoplights let’s not have them!) but I am curious about the specific reasoning behind barring released felons from gun purchases. I understand barring individuals who are wanted for crimes or domestic violence offenders, but just as stopping prisoners from voting is a bad idea, why should we stop them from purchasing a weapon if that helps them
        Reintegrate into society. I’d be more comfortable with blanket bans in certain guns and ammo capacities than stigmatizing those we are supposed to be forgiving.

        1. Gun ownership as a way to help felons reintegrate into society? Don’t you think there might be one or two things that might work somewhat better with significantly less risk? I’m not necessarily against felons eventually getting that right back after their background check has been clean for a decade or so after they leave prison, particularly if their felony was nonviolent. On the other hand, you have to consider that most people who have been convicted of felonies have shown a significant problem with both judgment and integrity so I’d think some serious conditions would be appropriate.

          1. Fair enough. I’m definetly ok with it if it allows them to get out of prison sooner, but of course Brett’s positions is stopping this from being the case.

        2. “Felon” is an overbroad term. Different felonies have different implications for different rights.

          For example, I would have no compunctions about giving a law license to somebody who had served their time for manslaughter, or maybe even murder. But I’d be terrified to give a law license to a fraudster.

          Similarly, I wouldn’t mind giving a gun license to a nonviolent ex-criminal on the same terms as anybody else. A violent ex-criminal? I’d be a lot more careful, even though the stats (I believe) show that murder has a low recidivism rate.

    3. The black market argument is often put forward by gun advocates, but that does not make it any less fallacious.

      First of all, not all black markets are created equal. Black markets can be reduced in size (most guns on the black market were at one point bought legally, after all). That you cannot make it impossible for a criminal to buy a gun on the black market does not mean that you cannot make it more difficult by reducing the availability of illegal guns.

      Second, plenty of guns being used to commit crimes are still bought legally, because that’s still much easier in many states than to get one illegally. When this is not only more difficult, but also riskier (i.e., because there’s now a paper trail of said criminal having bought a gun), the hurdle that you have to clear in order to acquire a firearm for criminal purposes has become higher.

      With respect to locking everyone up who cannot be trusted with a gun: would you also lock up everybody who cannot be trusted with a car? Locking up everyone who cannot be trusted with a gun seems like a disproportionate response. (It also keeps amazing me how willing many libertarians are to endorse policies right out of 19th century Prussia when they are not affecting them, despite their lip service to personal freedoms.)

      1. “would you also lock up everybody who cannot be trusted with a car?”

        No, I’d be a bit more trusting on the gun side. I think we have, as a society, pushed the line far in the direction of distrusting people, because the policy was being pushed by folks who didn’t trust even people with perfect records with guns, and saw every additional person denied guns as an unqualified gain.

        We’ve made too many things illegal, ramped up the penalties too far for other things, and stripped the people of basic civil liberties even after they’ve nominally paid their debt to society.

        If you trust somebody to walk among us, trust them with a gun. That’s what I’m saying.

        1. That’s a remarkable philosophy of criminal justice. If I understand you correctly, practically everybody convicted of a crime except white collar criminals would receive an indeterminate life sentence with the only criteria for release back into society being whether that person can be trusted to reenter a society of “maximum guns,” where nearly everybody goes about their daily lives heavily armed and ready to take a life in the blink of an eye.

          I’m not really sure whether you and your fellow glibertarians would actually enjoy the kind of post-apocalyptic world where a man’s possession are defined by what he can personally defend but you are certainly blessed with the kind of thinking which can quickly bring such a world about.

      1. You blog with the Bellmore you have, not the Bellmore you might want or wish to have at a later time.

    4. Background checks do nothing to prevent criminals from getting guns, because criminals don’t obey laws. A large fraction of the criminal population can pass background checks, because they haven’t had their first conviction yet. The remainder have access to an extensive black market. Thus the checks only inconvenience people attempting to exercise a civil liberty. As they were intended to.

      Your metaphysical certitude about this whole thing is quite impressive, considering you remain doubtful about President Obama’s birth place, despite his producing a birth certificate, since you weren’t in the room to witness the actual amount of birth.

    5. Somewhere else on the internets — Obsidian Wings, to be specific, in case anyone wants to verify accuracy — you are currently arguing that it’s perfectly OK to put “minor impediments” in the way of people trying to exercise a civil right; to wit, voting. And you’re arguing that doing so is perfectly OK because it will winnow out the lazy and stupid:

      I think the lack of “success” demonstrates how inappropriate the term “voter suppression” really is for the mild measures the GOP supports, such as ID requirements, and asking people to vote on election day. “Indifferent voter suppression” might be a more accurate term for what the GOP is attempting, to discourage voting by people who likely don’t care enough to have become informed voters.

      So you certainly don’t object in principle to the placing of minor and even pointless impediments in the way of people seeking to exercise civil rights; or you’re lying; or you genuinely care only about unrestricted gun ownership and nothing else. So which one is it?

  2. “If you don’t want somebody to be able to buy a gun, because you think they’d be unreasonably dangerous if they did, they belong somewhere they can’t buy a gun, which is not walking free.”
    Clarify, please: against parole for violent offenders, or against parolees with violent offenses being prohibited from buying guns?

  3. Duh, it’s not up to criminals to get a background check, it’s up to gun sellers to do them. Background checks already do keep guns out of he hands of criminals. The numbers are readily available. Plug the currently huge loopholes, maintaining serious penalties for both straw buyers and sellers not following the rules, and you should be able to make it significantly harder for criminals to get guns.

    The second amendment, whatever its flaws or features, does not guarantee anyone a life totally free from small inconveniences. Assuming a reasonable inconvenience to effect even a modest decrease in the staggering amount of gun-related violence we are subject to in this country is a worthwhile experiment. The fact that more Americans agree on that than almost any other policy proposal that’s ever been polled serves to underscore just how reality-based that proposal is.

    1. Chris,
      The House is a different body than the Senate, and has very different rules. It was James Inhofe, of all people, who made discharge petitions public records.

      I don’t see why a partisan D–like Mark–would want a discharge petition. There are very few House Republicans who can possibly be embarrassed by this. And there may be some House Democrats who might be.

  4. Brett you need to read a book by the late Albert Hitschmann called the “rhetoric of reaction.” It’s short, only like 175 pages or so. Hirschman has you to a t on almost every single one of your posts here. Trust me, check it out.

    1. I might check that out. But you do realize, don’t you, that “Oh, that’s just an example of…” doesn’t actually refute an argument.

      1. No it doesn’t. But when certain kinds of argument are made against social reforms for three centuries straight you do begin to wonder whether they are a bit exaggerated. Look I don’t really feel that strong about the gun control issue (except that I hope people like you are pro- choice as well) but to say that nothing that we can do will make a difference is just silly. You could say the disadvantages outweigh the benefits, but that’s a totally different thing.

        1. “But when certain kinds of argument are made against social reforms for three centuries straight you do begin to wonder whether they are a bit exaggerated.”

          Ditto when they’re made for them. Especially when the “reform” originated with chaps like the KKK, and only later went sort of mainstream.

          Look, like it or not, this is a civil liberty. It became a civil liberty the moment the 2nd amendment was ratified. It will only cease being a civil liberty if the 2nd amendment is somehow repealed.

          Furthermore, the Supreme court has already ruled that this civil liberty is a fundamental one, for which ‘rational’ basis analysis isn’t appropriate.

          That means that if you propose a law which infringes this right, it’s not enough that somebody could, in a drunken stupor, think the law might achieve it’s stated purpose. (Which is all the misnamed ‘rational’ basis review demands.) You don’t infringe civil liberties to mildly inconvenience criminals.

          1. ___
            DAWN HOCHSPRUNG, 47, principal

            Dawn Hochsprung’s pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert; days before that, the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.

            She viewed her school as a model, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010 that “I don’t think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day.” She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety, too, and in October, the 47-year-old Hochsprung shared a picture of the school’s evacuation drill with the message “safety first.” When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend.

            Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

            “She had an extremely likable style about her,” said Gerald Stomski, first selectman of Woodbury, where Hochsprung lived and had taught. “She was an extremely charismatic principal while she was here.”
            via the Huffington Post

          2. Man defends himself and wife from home invader, WOWT, Omaha, Neb. January 26, 2013

            “David Erives and his wife were in their Omaha, Neb. home when a man began pounding on their back door. The wife went to answer the door, but upon opening it, the man grabbed her and came inside the house. To protect his wife, Erives retrieved a rifle and shot the criminal once in the leg and ordered the home invader to the floor. When the intruder didn’t comply, Erives shot the man again, this time in the chest, killing him.

            Police are conducting an investigation, but have told local media, “at this point all indications are that the shooting was justified.” (WOWT, Omaha, Neb. January 26, 2013)”

            You really want to play dueling anecdotes?

          3. Couldn’t take it any more, eh Mr. Bellmore? Was it the one about the child standing in the pile of her classmates’ bodies that finally got to you? So tell me, how many of these anecdotes of brave civil libertarians fighting off “home invaders” with their guns do you have, and how does that compare to the number of children who die from those household guns per year? Oh, that’s right, you can’t answer that: because you and your ilk had those studies shut down. One wonders why.


          4. = = = = =
            New York Times, “Reliving Horror and Faint Hope at Massacre Site”
            […] With state troopers coming in, the officers began to evacuate the children who were still behind locked doors. But many of the teachers, seeking to protect their students and following their own training, refused to open up.

            “We’re kicking the doors, yelling ‘Police! Police!’ ” Officer McGowan said. “We were ripping our badges off and putting them up to the window.”

            Detective Frank, who had been off duty and rushed to the scene so quickly that he had to borrow a gun from a colleague once he arrived, remembers ripping the handle off one of the doors, “just trying to get through.”

            As the children emerged, the officers tried to reassure them. “Everything is fine now,” they said, even as they stayed alert for a possible second gunman. “Everybody hold hands, close your eyes,” they told the children.

            Some officers formed a human curtain around the bodies of Ms. Hochsprung and Ms. Sherlach, to shield the children from the sight as they filed past. Others blocked the doorways of the two classrooms.

            As the scene settled that day, officers standing guard outside warned newly arriving colleagues not to go in if they had children. Detective Joe Joudy, one of the senior members of the force, spotted Officer Chapman walking back to the building, covered in blood. “I was a mess, and he looks at me and says, ‘They’ve got to get you guys out of here,’ ” Officer Chapman said. […]
            = = = = =

          5. Father protects infant son from violent attack, The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, Ohio 01/08/12

            “After pulling into the driveway of his brother’s home in Columbus, Ohio, Kelby Smith removed his 2-month-old son, still in his car seat, from the vehicle. While still in the driveway, an armed robber approached Smith and demanded money, prompting Smith to kneel down to shield his son. Smith, a Right-to-Carry permit holder, handed the man a small amount of money then drew a pistol, at which point the criminal retreated. But during his escape, the robber turned and pointed his gun at Smith, prompting Smith to shoot the criminal.

            Police captured the wounded robber a short time later after he sought medical treatment at a local hospital. Smith and his son were not harmed during the incident and police have not charged the armed citizen. (The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, Ohio 01/08/12)”

            Just demonstrating that two can play at this idiocy. And that’s all it is.

          6. Ah. It’s time for an anecdote.

            My father, and his father before him, were gun dealers in South Florida, back in the 60s and 70s. So I was raised in, how shall we understate it, a gun-positive family. I’ve actually got no beef with the guns themselves. I have fond memories of, before the Iraq War revealed that Republicans (like Brett) had some serious integrity issues, sitting in a reloader’s personal cabin, amid the um, supplies, smoking Cuban cigars and drinking exceptional whiskey. One of my major annoyances is that the drift of Republicans into insanity (like Brett) has robbed me of my birding partners. I mean, people, this is how you *really* practice locavorism. You kill, dress, and eat your own meat.

            So I hope you can understand now that I was raised with the NRA, and in particular, it’s um, house organ, The American Rifleman. And it turns out that we had every copy every printed in the ’70s run through our house, and it was my favorite reading in the bathroom. The reason for this, oddly, is, there was a column, of exactly 1 page, called “The Armed Citizen”, or something similar, that purported to reveal how an “armed citizen” had thwarted this or that crime. It was composed of vignettes of three sentences, not more than 100 words. Maybe 10 per issue (typeset on a single page).

            And after reading maybe 30, possibly 40 of these installments, I came to the conclusion (at age 17) that the data, as presented on that page, each month, did not support the assertion: Armed citizens thwart a significant amount of crime.

            So the NRA has been practicing these “armed citizen” vignettes for 40 years now. There aren’t that many of them. Brett will run out soon.

          7. Wow, a gun precipitating violence and causing physical injury during a petty theft. Clearly a good thing.

          8. It’s well established constitutional law that even civil liberties aren’t absolute. No crying fire in a crowded theater despite the first amendment. But keep arguing that, Brett. The one thing that might conceivably lead to an eventually successful repeal of the second amendment is that insistence that the right to own a gun trumps every other consideration.

  5. Stop with the anecdotes. I’m out with this; Brett the NAACP supports gun control overwhelmingly, so please don’t try the gun control is racist thing. It’s just plain silly.

    1. There are 75+ gun homicides a day in this country.
      Are you old enough to remember when Time Magazine ran their famous issue of gun victims’s faces from just one week of carnage?
      That was powerful stuff:,16641,19890717,00.html

      500 anecdotes a week isn’t something to sniff learnedly at.
      Or wave away with a professorial hand…
      It’s a full blown violent sinus infection of the body politic.
      And I argue that these anecdotes are the way to catapult the gun control legislation.
      More vivid; more penetrating; more real; than just about any other line of counterattack.

      Will they give Brett pause?
      Of course not. Nothing gives Brett pause.
      The guy’s a belt machine gun churning out his love of bullets 24/7.
      But they do put his insane flubdub under a bright scornful light.
      And they do give other’s pause…
      If you have a heart…
      They absolutely knock some sense into your head via the vagus nerve…

      My prediction is that new background checks are a done deal.
      Even Mr. Ryan thinks they are a no-brainer.
      Brett, like Archie Bunker, is yet again on the wrong side of history…
      Itching for a fight he has already lost…

      The real battle will be to ban high capacity clips.
      That won’t happen without vivid anecdotes.
      We’ll have 75 more to choose from tomorrow. Hopefully you and I won’t be one of the victims.
      Like Feinstein said: We have a right to be safe too.

      Monday, Jan. 21: Eleaquin Temblador had plans. He was working to earn his high school diploma and wanted to join the U.S. Marine Corps and marry his girlfriend. … Instead, family members are planning Temblador’s funeral. For reasons no one can explain, gunmen in a light-colored, older-model vehicle gunned down the 18-year-old … as he rode his bicycle home from his girlfriend’s house.

      1. I just havnt seen that much air right evidence for more guns=more homicide, and that’s all that matters. Frankly I’d rather go out by the bullet than by being strangled. But we as a society do have an obligation to respond to the Newtown shootings. You can’t just say that’s the price of the second amendment.

        1. I don’t think that’s the singular metric required to justify action. The price of more guns means more injury, more intimidation, more threats to life and safety, more avoidable tragic endings. Yes, I know you can threaten someone with a hammer etc. blah, blah, blah.

    2. Ok, that doesn’t make any sense. The NAACP supports objectively racist policies like affirmative action, and represents one of the most racist racial blocks in the country. They are, demonstrably, capable of racism. Not consciously anti-black racism, maybe, but racism all the same.

      There’s a certain irony to the NAACP supporting a policy which originated with the KKK, but life is full of little ironies.

  6. Brett,

    I think you should read the newspaper article about the father protecting his son from a violent attack. In reality, he seems to have done no such thing and, indeed, was sufficiently irresponsible that he was arguably chargable with child endangerment. It seems clear that at the time the defendant drew his pistol and called out to the armed robber, the robbery was over, the robber was fleeing and nobody was pointing guns at anybody else. The child wasn’t in any danger and neither was his father. The risk of an exchange of gunfire during which the child might have been killed was basically zero at the moment when the kid’s father pulled out his gun and started shooting. Essentially, this guy risked his son’s life over chump change. Is a man with such poor judgement that he would risk his son’s life over chump change really someone who should be carrying a gun?

  7. Brett,

    Either you don’t read these articles you keep citing or you think people are too lazy to bother reading them. Putting it charitably, there’s a lot of ambiguity about the case where the homeowner was supposedly defending his wife from a home intruder. There is the distinct possibility that the guy he shot knew his wife (and maybe knew her very, very well), didn’t break into the house and may have been invited in by the wife after ringing the doorbell. The material you are quoting is simply the prospective defendant’s side of the story. It looks like there lots more to this one than meets the eye.

    The killer apparently lied about whether he or the wife knew the victim. Turns out, the dead guy apparently knew the wife from her job as a casino hostess. He owned a small business. He had a wife and kids. No criminal history. Also, the guy was unarmed and the fatal shot may have been fired outside the house while the victim was talking to Erives. Physical evidence is ambiguous and the shooter and the wife are the only two living witnesses so the shooter probably is going to walk. But I’ve seen more than one home invasion and nether the supposed home invader nor the sequence of events says home invasion to me.

    Reading between the lines, I’m thinking something more along these lines: Hubby walked in on something he didn’t like. Maybe he misunderstood what was going on and maybe he didn’t. He got mad. He got his gun and started blasting away at somebody who might be a drunken customer who followed the wife home or maybe something else entirely but the man Erives killed was clearly not the home invader you portrayed. If it was up to me, I’d have the cops take a run at the wife; if she rolls over on the husband, he’s a collar for sure. Otherwise, he probably walks but I bet the cops don’t think this guy’s a hero.

    In any event, this clearly was, at best, an awkward domestic incident that resulted in a senseless killing of an unarmed man simply because a gun was readily available. Alternatively, it’s something much darker—maybe murder. The one thing it isn’t is a heroic husband defending his wife from a home invader.

  8. I would go the other way. Harry Reid should put up a bill arguing for people to be able to carry pocket nukes and machine guns without any form of regulation. Not sure why the 2A stops that based on current theories, right?

  9. The absolute enforcability of a law isn’t a reason to abandon the attempt to regulate undesirable activity. By outlawing gun sales without a background check we put any seller on notice that they are responsible and liable to legal hazard. It prevents selling to undesirables with impunity and makes sensable people think twice about what they are doing. It just makes it more difficult for unqualified individuals to get weapons and that’s a good thing.
    Sorry for all the inconvenience guys but rights do have responsibilities because we all gotta live on this planet. Proove you can be a responsible gun owner and carry your freight. Thank you in advance.

  10. Here’s the thing: You all think I’m nuts to believe opposition to background checks is reasonable.

    But you all think CCW reform is nuts. You think Stand Your Ground is nuts. You think it’s insane people should be able to own ‘assault weapons’.

    And CCW reform is the law of the land in almost all states. Stand your ground spreading across the nation. ‘Assault weapons’ poll fairly well.

    You guys have no conception of what the average person, if they get to hear both sides of the argument, will think is reasonable. Your judgement of what the average person will think is unreasonable is warped to Hell and back by your highly atypical viewpoints.

    Wayne LaPierre talks in front of a Congressional committee, he can’t make this argument, because he won’t be permitted to. Any time he tries to reason with people he’ll be interrupted and shouted down. Same for if he gets on Face the Nation, or any of those talking head shows outside maybe Fox.

    And if the NRA were some poor little organization with 25,000 members, like your average gun control org, that would be the end of it. Your allies would be heard, we wouldn’t, and you’d win by default.

    But any time the NRA feels like it, it can buy half hour or hour blocks of time on TV, and make it’s case direct without interruption. We’ve got that kind of money.

    And you’ll exult, figuring the NRA is about to commit PR suicide on national TV. And then seethe in baffled rage as public opinion starts swinging in our direction once we get heard.

    Because you’re clueless about your viewpoint being the real fringe viewpoint here, and you are clueless about what most people think is reasonable. And the NRA didn’t reach over 4 million members, and more popular than the President in polls, by being clueless.

    1. Brett’s argument works pretty well if “NRA” is replaced with with “drug warrior”

    2. Brett, you know perfectly well that I’m a supporter of concealed carry (with licensing after training and a background check), on the grounds that the data don’t show any crime increase where it’s been enacted. I know it does your heart good to believe that all the people who disagree with you are crazy, but it’s not so.

  11. It’s unclear what the proposal on the table is, and what the proposal the NRA is opposing is.

    I’d like a proposal that private sellers can use NICS, and would find tolerable a requirement that they do so.

    But a proposal to get rid of NICS and go back to the waiting-period system, or anything that weakens the no-records provision, are well worth fighting.

    I’m in favor of making buying a gun and voting comparably difficult.

    1. You mean, no photo ID, no background check, and no keeping a record of anything more than the fact that you did buy something?

          1. Two minor points:

            First, could you describe how a system of determining “competence” as a voter would work? My recollection is that we previously had such a system in the South and it didn’t work very well.

            Second, I also think the concept of “competence” with a firearm is a little bit more complicated than either you or Brett make it sound. How would you define competence? Would people applying for concealed carry firearms licenses have to, say, POST qualify? Should they have to qualify “combat” or would it be acceptable to qualify on “target” shooting only. Also, shooting skills and particularly pistol “combat” skills are extremely perishable. How often should gun owners be required to qualify?

            Now, here’s a question for Brett: How much time to you log at the pistol range? Do you take a program of instruction and do you continue to receive regular instruction on using your pistol? If not, why do you feel competent to own a non-sporting weapon and why would you feel capable of carrying it in public?

          2. I feel competent to own the guns I own, (And they’re all sporting, just different sports.) because owning them doesn’t require a lot of competence. Don’t put your finger on the trigger until you’re going to shoot, all guns are presumed loaded, don’t point a gun at something you’re not willing to destroy; Are these complicated rules? No, they’re not. Proficiency with a gun requires a lot of practice. Not screwing up? Not so much.

  12. So why are they proposing a National Registry of the Mentally Ill as a solution to gun violence if it can’t be checked to make sure a prospective gun buyer isn’t certifiably crackers and a danger to himself and others?

  13. Oh, man, I guess this is the definative proof the NRA is out of touch, just a bunch of gun crazy maniacs:

    Newtown Votes to Request Armed Police Officers in Elementary Schools

    “In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the National Rifle Association advocated placing armed guards in all schools — sparking a nationwide “bad guy with a gun”/”good guy with a gun” debate. Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Newtown Board of Education voted to request additional armed SROs (school resource officers).”

    1. mr. bellmore, i know how argumentative and easily offended you are but i must say at this point you have set up enough straw men to thatch a welsh pub. i suppose you may be attempting to be preemptively strident but you really seem like you’re losing it. i recognize that you are rarely persuadable which is why i have started to make a policy of restricting my interactions with you. still, and i intend this in the friendliest manner possible under the circumstances, i wish you would take a break from the site for a while and go back and reread some of your comments under this post and see if there isn’t a certain amount of asymmetry in the stimulus and response.

  14. I have previously compared Wayne LaPierre to a high dollar whore. I now regret that.

    You see, many whores have some scruples.

    If the NRA took the remainder of the Bill of Rights as seriously as it takes its interpretation of the Second Amendment, I would take that organization a bit more seriously.


  15. I just want to make a couple of general points that have been rolling around in my head for a couple of days:

    First, I want to express my disagreement with a number of people about who should be allowed to carry a gun and what qualifications should be required. I don’t think it is even remotely sensible to say that anyone with a clean record should get to carry a gun. Using a pistol in the type of situations police officers tend to confront is a highly developed and very perishable skill

    As far as I am aware, no state requires applicants for concealed carry permits to be even POST qualified. None requires training and qualification on a “shoot, don’t shoot” simulator. No state offers such simulators or access to a Hogan’s Alley type of shooting course to holders of concealed carry licenses. No state requires civilians who carry guns to re-qualify on a regular basis.

    It seems to me that people who don’t have this kind of minimal training shouldn’t be carrying guns and that the odds of a positive outcome in some kind of “active shooter” situation are remote. By contrast, there are many published incidents where disaster has been averted very narrowly and only through the intervention of dumb luck.

    Second, I think the focus on things like background checks misses an important point. If you look at nearly all of the situations discussed on the NRA’s website, very few of them represent cases where gun owners defended themselves and their families against dangerous predators. Mainly, the cases seem to be situations where the gun owner misperceived the danger and fired his gun based on a frequently irrational fear.

    The recent example of a young man in Georgia who was killed because of a GPS mistake is a good example. He pulled into the wrong driveway and an elderly man who lived there became frightened and came out shooting. This was a completely senseless killing.

    There are many similar news reports where the presence of a readily available gun has escalated a momentary lapse of judgment in a tragedy. All of the killers mentioned on the NRA linked site from which Brett is drawing his example seem to fall into this category.

    Homeowners who defend themselves from genuinely dangerous, violent criminals are very rare. Maybe not black swan rare but evidently very close. By contrast, there are a lot of families who have been brutalized or killed during takeover home invasions despite the presence of a firearm in the house. Clearly, unless you are a gun nut who lives every minute of every day armed and in “condition red,” the criminal’s first mover advantage is very difficult to overcome.

    It seems to me that we ought to at least try returning to the time when concealed carry permits were very rare and when it was illegal to stockpile assault weapons and ammunition. The fetishisation of guns is crazy. Every day we are reading about total nutters running around with their “open carry” in public places or survivalists or mentally ill people turning schools and movie theaters into slaughterhouses and I don’t understand why we can’t stop it. Why do we let gun nuts have so much influence in our society?

    1. All very good points.

      The recent example of a young man in Georgia who was killed because of a GPS mistake is a good example. He pulled into the wrong driveway and an elderly man who lived there became frightened and came out shooting. This was a completely senseless killing.

      And I’ll bet the shooter had no violent criminal history. Moreover, he was fully compliant with Brett’s Rules of Gun Competence.

      1. You seem to have that that right. Apparently, nobody involved (including the shooter, Mr. Sailors) has any kind of criminal history. So far, it looks like he’s just an ordinary man in a not very good neighborhood who got scared and used extremely poor judgment. It’s a very disturbing story. Really, nothing but victims all round. According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, the victim and some friends were going ice skating and they were going to pick up one more skater. The shooter, an elderly man named Phillip Sailors, ran out of his house firing his gun. According to the police, the physical evidence and eyewitness testimony says that the car was turning and moving away when the fatal shot was fired. Apparently, the victim was trying to escape when Sailors shot him in the head. Sailors has been charged with murder.

        The story with links is here:

        There isn’t any indication that he knew anything about guns except perhaps what Brett seems to consider adequate training for firing his sporting guns. The main point for me is that Sailor doesn’t seem to be a bad man. He’s old and there have been some home invasion in his neighborhood. His fear seems to have been irrational and over the top but genuine nonetheless.

        I think most people would have known that at a glance but evidently he and his wife became frightened and Sailors pick up a gun instead of the telephone and in an instant of panic and overreaction, he destroyed the lives of everyone involved, including his wife’s and his own. Yet again, the catalyst for this tragedy was a citizen who had a gun handy and choose self-help instead of calling the police, which I’m sure he now wishes he’d done.

        I have little doubt about two things:

        The first is that Mr. Sailor is an upstanding citizen (and I mean that genuinely) who wanted a gun in the house for protection and would almost certainly have passed the background check if he’d wanted to carry a gun or have one in the house. He isn’t a dangerous criminal and he doesn’t seem to be a bad man, either. Just a frightened old man whose fear made him a little bit stupid.

        The presence of this gun in his house is what transformed this temporary lapse in judgment from an old man shaking his fist and shouting “get off my lawn” into a horrible tragedy.

        The second is that you can be absolutely certain that years from now when they think nobody’s paying attention, Brett and his gang at the NRA will be citing this as an example of a man defending himself and his wife from a gang of home invaders straight out of a Chuck Norris movie.

        1. Mr. Sailors obviously lacks the mental stability and good judgment we should hope all gun owners possess. Firing a gun into the air, yelling “shut up”, and then firing on a retreating victim who never acted in a threatening manner is too much fail to blame on simple fear alone. And a .22 pea-shooter, though occasionally lethal, is a poor choice for a home-defense weapon. If this had been an actual home invasion his odds of repelling it with the actions he took are probably not as good as his odds of being killed with return fire, though it was obviously effective this time against an unarmed teen who had no ill intent.

          I’ll bet Mr. Sailors is in possession of a valid driver’s license. Given his demonstrated poor judgment and mental faculties, under different circumstances the story of Mr. Sailors’ tragic mistake could just as easily have been yet another story about an elderly person panicking and stomping on the gas instead of the brakes and mowing down a crowd of pedestrians with his car. I find it interesting that nobody blames the car in those cases, and nobody thinks every driver should bear further restrictions on her liberty to own and drive a motor vehicle in reaction to such stories, even though vehicle deaths outnumber gun deaths.

  16. One of the insidious things about gun culture is that being a gun victim too often ends up pulling one into the culture rather than repelling one from it. To the NRA this is a feature not a bug. How many of us after a brush with death at the point of a gun wouldn’t be inclined to take up arms ourself? If we had techniques and resources to help people overcome that perhaps we could start making some headway out of this mess.

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