1 year ago
1 year ago
The National Rifle Association is amping up the political rhetoric in advance of President Obama’s gun violence prevention announcement scheduled for Wednesday. On Tuesday, the NRA posted a video on its website accusing the president of being “an elitist hypocrite” because his daughters have armed guards at school. CNN reported Tuesday night that the video “is running on the Sportsman Channel, a cable network focused on outdoors programming such as hunting and fishing.”
The NRA has called on Congress to put armed police in every public school in the nation following the Newtown shooting, a move rejected by many teacher groups.
“Are the president’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?” the NRA ad’s narration reads. “Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”
The post-1977 NRA = demented psychos.
1 year ago
1 year ago
Alas, too much of our discussion of gun rights these days starts and ends from a primitive understanding of the relationship between the Constitution’s statements about our rights and the real-world applications of those rights.
Put simply, the Constitution is almost always direct and simple. Amendment 1, for example, says ”Congress shall make no law” limiting speech, or imposing religion, or interfering with your practice of religion, or limiting the press. What could be clearer? “No law” means “NO LAW,” right?
But practice is always murkier. Thus, while I have freedom of speech, we all know I can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater (when no fire is present). Likewise, if I oppose scientific medicine on religious grounds, I have the religious freedom to refuse to go to the doctor. However, the law says I have to take my son to the doctor regardless of my beliefs. And of course I have the right to assemble peaceably to petition government for redress of grievances, but I can’t block traffic just because I want to. No right is absolute and inviolable regardless of circumstance or context.
But not, according to the gun nuts, the second amendment. The gun wackos quote the second amendment—which has a limiting amendatory preface that the first amendment lacks—as if it is gospel. No limitation of any kind can be accepted … because the Constitution says so! The Second Amendment, then, is special, different: the one that is not subject to any kind of real world analysis or compromise.
It’s analytically primitive twaddle, but it drives our discourse about guns in America. We are the worse for it.
1 year ago
1 year ago
Gun control is currently taking over the airwaves, news websites, and blogosphere. As it trends up, the backlash is already forming. Many blogs and news outlets have already condemned the spike in gun control conversations to shameless people using one of the worst shootings in American history to push a political viewpoint. Unforgivable, shameless, awful, they say.
That’s ridiculous. The massive surge in the gun control debate is notbecause people are trying to use a national tragedy to push their own political agenda. It is a natural, national reaction to an overwhelming tragedy.
The truth of the matter is that I, sitting at my desk 3000 miles away, am completely powerless to assuage the awful tragedy of this Connecticut shooting. I am angry, I am upset, and there is nothing I can do. Everyone feels this way right now. They feel the need to turn that anger and helplessness into some sort of action. “Something needs to be done,” someone thinks, “to make sure this never happens again”. And what does the blogosphere/hivemind/national consciousness turn to, in all its impotent anger and rage? Gun control, naturally.
For the record, I don’t think this is a bad thing.
1 year ago
The Gospel according to Fluff Logic.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
Nope. A gun is designed to fire ammunition at a target. That is all it does. A person can live, laugh, cry, reproduce… many, many things.
It’s not just guns that kill people
A knife can cut and prepare vegetables to eat. It can cut back nuisance plants. It can be a survival tool. A gun, again, fires ammunition at its target. Its sole purpose is that. You don’t get guns designed to do other things.
If more people were armed this would not happen
No. Wrong. I assure you, in a situation where a gunman opens fire, armed people die just as much as unarmed people. Look at the barracks shootings that happened while armies were training police in Iraq. How many of those armed people firing at armed people got shot?
But the second amendment says
The second amendment says the right to bear arms as part of a militia. It is meant as a defence against armed invaders, like the home guard in the UK during World War II. It is not the right to go out and buy an M16 because guns damnit.
This isn’t the time to talk about gun control
When is then? When people forget? While parents bury children, at Christmas? When is it convenient to talk about “we should stop buying machines for murder”? There is no such time. Quit wasting everybody’s time with this lame duck.
It’s my right to carry a gun
It’s not, and never was. See second amendment, above.
2 years ago
We argue fiercely today about the intended relationship between the famous opening phrase (“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,”) and the famous main clause (“the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”). But it’s fruitless to try to nail down that relationship, to hope to prove for good and all that the opening phrase is or is not a preamble, or that a preamble does or does not determine the meaning of a main text, or that a “being” phrase means something different from or identical to a “whereas” clause.
The sentence is weak. The weakness is deliberate.
Madison couldn’t afford, on the one hand, to let the amendment seem to contradict the hard-won federal military power in the main body. He couldn’t afford, on the other, to underscore too strongly for the states’ comfort the overwhelming nature of that federal power. He seems therefore to have resorted to a preamble-ish-like phrase (others in the first 10 don’t have preambles), referring to supposed benefits of state militias, but resorting to the loose “being” construction — technically a kind of “absolute” phrase that modern English avoids, for good reason — that has left the phrase’s grammatical relation to the main clause permanently in doubt.
And even as the amendment’s opening phrase refers to a “free state,” its main clause refers to a “right of the people.” In 1789 Madison was still trying to move sovereignty away from the states and locate it in what the Constitution’s preamble calls “We, the people” — citizens of the whole United States. Some today who favor assertive gun laws follow the historian Garry Wills’ famous argument that the opening phrase refers to a state power, not an individual right, and that whereas in the Fourth Amendment, “the right of the people” does refer to individuals, in the Second it doesn’t. Meanwhile, defenders of a right to private gun ownership insist that when the founders said “a well-regulated militia,” “a free state,” and “the right of the people,” they simply meant that private individuals must remain armed against potential tyranny.
However well or poorly such arguments are formed — Wills’ is exhaustively well-founded and logical; many of the gun advocates’ are not — both sides in the current gun-rights debate are trying to make sense of something intended by its author not to make that kind of sense. Madison was not trying to protect a right to individual gun ownership. He was trying to conjure a mood of grudging, semi-coherent consensus, to establish nationhood. To that end, he denied real divisions and real effects and wrote the denial into founding law.
We must learn to manage, somehow, the unintended consequences of founding politics. To that end, we must face up to them. Without the nationalists’ smoothness — even their slipperiness — at the constitutional convention and during the amendment process, our nation might not have come into being. Neither Madison nor any other founder could have envisioned the modern uses that the Second Amendment has been put to, or that arms have. For political reasons having little to do with our struggles today, the founders incidentally built a murky confusion around the relationship of guns and liberty into American culture, a confusion that stunts, all these years later, much-needed public discussion of what has long since become a deadly national problem.
To begin to free ourselves from incoherence, to begin thinking publicly about how we might drastically reduce our penchant for gun violence, we must face the stark fact that in this case, our founders don’t have much help to offer us. We’re on our own.
2 years ago
I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.
2 years ago
Today on the Iowa conservative radio show “Mickelson in the Morning,” host Jan Mickelson had on Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) to talk about the Nuns on the Bus tour and the Ryan budget.
Objecting to the tour, Mickelson asked Latham whether he had any power to pull over the bus and “pistol whip” the nuns…
2 years ago
The fact that he [Rick Santorum] is pro-life and pro-gun is very important to republican voters.