On the Cost of Gun Ownership

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Yves here. I’m of two minds of inviting discussion on such a charged topic, but the commentariat had a go at it a few days ago and comported itself well. Let’s see if we can continue this trend.

Some additional factors to consider:

1. IMHO, guns should be licensed. Fees can be made progressive and even waived for people who have guns for sustenance hunting (but let us not forget that hunters are require to buy licenses to hunt during hunting season). We require licensing to operate cars and boats, equipment which is deadly only as a side effect, not its sole purpose.

There is also strong evidence that people who are trained in gun safety before they get a gun have vastly fewer accidents and incidents of misuse (like kids killing themselves or family members because guns were not well secured) than people who get gun training after they get a gun. So there is a generational problem in trying to improve public safety even if you take fairly mild measures (a training requirement) to

2. The article underplays suicides. There are nearly twice as many suicides by gun in the US as homicides, and that’s before you get to the fact that some of those homicides were accidents. In 2016 in the US, 10 million people thought seriously about killing themselves, almost three million made a suicide plan, and 1.4 million tried to kill themselves but failed. 42,000 people killed themselves. Suicides by gun in 2014 were over 21,000.

The reason for singling out guns is the high completion rate relative to putting a plan in motion. With other methods of killing oneself, the greater time taken to execute a plan also gives more opportunity to reconsider. And don’t tell me people don’t reconsider. The fact that some methods of suicide can also result in permanent debilitating damage (as well as high medical bills) if they fail is another deterrent to carrying out plans.

Now you might argue that some people have good reasons to kill themselves, like having a terminal illnesses and a poor quality of life. While true, the suicide rate is lowest in the population where you’d anticipate that motive to come up most often, old people.

3. I am bothered by the normalization of the idea that it’s OK to kill people over property or even mere threats to property, which is the implicit justification for a lot of gun ownership and carrying. I lived in NYC after the fiscal crisis. I had my wallet stolen quite a few times and I had a lot of friends who had their apartments broken into, a few while they were there. No one, and I mean no one then, would have though it reasonable to use a gun in those circumstances. If you were going out at a time of day or to a ‘hood that wasn’t very safe, you took mugger money, as in $10 or $20 in a pocket. If someone accosted you and asked you for your cash, you handed them that money, and that was always the end of the matter.

One proof of the importance now placed on protection of property, as opposed to personal safety, came decades later. I took a self defense course, more out of curiosity and the interest in mastering a skill of sorts. Except the philosophy wasn’t defensive. The class was designed and taught by the man who had developed the hand to hand combat training program for the Navy Seals and had continued to refine his approach. The course presupposed that you were smaller, slower, and weaker than your assailant. If you were in a situation where someone intends to hurt you, you need to, as the instructors put it, inflict sufficient trauma so as to shut their central nervous system down. That entails hitting two vulnerable points in succession hard enough to do damage.

The class was about 80% male. The instructors devoted a considerable amount of time (including showing CCTV videos) stressing that students should never fight in a social violence situation or a theft. Walk away from verbal fights or a drunk grabs your girlfriend’s ass. And if a robber wants your cash or your car, let him have them. They described the cost of involved in the criminal justice system, particularly if you killed someone (not hard to do, all it takes is having someone’s head hit the floor or a sharp object).

We also learned via sparring that a bludgeon is a much better weapon than a gun in close quarters.

By Silvia Merler, an Affiliate Fellow at Bruegel and previously, an Economic Analyst in DG Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission. Originally published at Bruegel

On 1 October 2017, 59 people were killed and another 489 injured in what is currently the deadliest mass shooting in US modern history. The author reviews recent contributions on the economic cost of gun violence, as well as the impact of regulation.

The Washington Post makes the math of mass shootings.There is no universally accepted definition of a mass shooting, and different organizations use different criteria. The Post piece uses a narrow definition and looks only at deadliest mass shootings, beginning August 1, 1966. Based on this criteria, they identify 131 events in which four or more people were killed by a lone shooter (or two shooters in three cases). An average of eight people died during each event, taking the total death toll to 948. It’s worth checking out the Post’s piece for their impressive work in collecting details about each case.

Vox has 17 relevant facts on gun violence in the United States. Looking at the number of firearm homicides per 1 million people, the US, has 29.7, which is about six times as many as Canada (5.1) and nearly 16 times as many as Germany (1.9). While accounting for about 4.4% of the world’s population, US accounts for almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world. Since Sandy Hook in 2012 (the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, before the one of last week) there have been more than 1000 shootings in which four or more people were shot at all. Under the broader definition of mass shootings, the United States have nearly one mass shooting a day.

Every mass shooting resurfaces a debate about gun control, which revolves around security on one hand and constitutional freedom on the other hand. Opinions diverge widely when it comes to the effect of tighter regulation on guns. A heated academic and policy debate concerns the relation between the strictness of gun laws and gun violence/crime. Vox points out that firearm homicides, like all homicides and crime, have declined over the past two decades (although that may have changed in 2015 and 2016.) There’s still a lot of debate among criminal justice experts about why this crime drop is occurring – some point to mass incarceration, more and better policing, and reduced lead exposure from gasoline. The question of whether right-to-carry (RTC) laws have an important impact on crime has been at the centre of a vast production of literature.

Source: Vox

One theory is that more guns deter crime. In 1997, John Lott and David Mustard argued that RTC laws decreased violent crime (“More Guns, Less Crime” hypothesis). Using cross-sectional time-series data for US counties from 1977 to 1992, their results suggested that  allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths.

The theory has been questioned by much contemporaneous as well as more recent research. TheHarvard Injury Control Research Centre has a literature review on the relationship between guns and homicides, supporting opposite conclusions. Ayres and Donohue argued that, estimating on more complete county data, in most states shall-issue laws have been associated with more crime. The apparent stimulus to crime tends to be especially strong for those states that adopted in the last decade.

Donohue, Aneja and Weber replicated very recently some of the previous research and found consistent estimates showing RTC laws increase overall violent crime and/or murder when run on the most complete data. They also use a synthetic control approach to generate state-specific estimates of the impact of RTC laws on crime. Their major finding is that under all four specifications tested, RTC laws are associated with higher aggregate violent crime rates, and the size of the deleterious effects that are associated with the passage of RTC laws climbs over time. Ten years after the adoption of RTC laws, violent crime is estimated to be 13-15% percent higher than it would have been without the RTC law. Using a consensus estimate for the elasticity of crime with respect to incarceration of .15, the average RTC state would have to double its prison population to counteract the RTC-induced increase in violent crime.

State laws on firearms vary considerably across the US. Coates and Pearson-Merkowitzz examine policy spillovers, by looking at how different state gun control policies affect the migration of guns between states with lax regulatory environments for gun purchasing and licensing to states with strict regulatory environments. They use data from 2007 to 2013 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on presence of criminal guns and from the Brady Campaign on state gun control laws. Results suggest that a large proportion of criminal guns in states with strict gun control laws were originally purchased in states with fewer regulations. There is a direct correlation between where criminal guns were originally purchased, where criminal guns are uncovered, and the strength of state gun laws. The framework of state gun control laws is prone to policy spillovers, to the extent that they shift the “market” for criminal guns to purchasing locations across state borders where purchasing is easier.

Todd Frankel at the Washington Post argues that one reason why policy positions are so intractable is that no one really knows what works to prevent gun deaths. Frankel argues that gun-control research in the United States essentially came to a standstill in 1996 when the Republican-majority Congress threatened to strip funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The so-called Dickey Amendment – introduced after lobbying by the National Rifle Association – mandated that none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC may be used to advocate or promote gun control. Frankel argues that as a result, the CDC stopped funding gun-control research – which reduced money for almost all public health studies of the issue nationwide. A history of the Federal funding freeze is outlined by Christine Jamieson, on the website of the American Psychological Association. Frankel also highlights that the National Institute of Justice funded 32 gun-related studies from 1993 to 1999, but none from 2009 to 2012, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The institute then resumed funding in 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting the year before.

Gun violence is terrible and has many unquantifiable effects. Nevertheless, economists have tried to quantify the economic cost of gun violence. It is a daunting task. There is an obvious health cost, but also more indirect economic costs at the national and local level, as well as general social costs. Such an analysis, of course, is never a substitute for the ethical and moral consequences of gun violence.

A recent Johns Hopkins study analysed data on treatment costs resulting from gun violence based on a nationally representative sample of 704,916 patients in the United States who arrived at an emergency room alive for treatment of a firearm injury from 2006 to 2014. The research team found that firearm injuries were ninefold higher among male than female patients and were highest among males 20 to 24 years old. The average emergency department and inpatient charges annually were $5254 and $95887, respectively, resulting in approximately $2.8 billion in annual charges for the group studied. The overall incidence of ED admissions for firearm-related injuries decreased 22.9% from 2009 to 2013. However, emergency department visits generally increased for those older than 30 and increased overall for the entire study population in 2014. The proportion of patients who arrived with a previously diagnosed mental health disorder rose over the study period.

Besides direct health-related costs, gun violence can have other economic effects. Despite broad interest in estimating the economic costs of gun violence at the national and individual levels, we know little about how local economies respond to it. A recent report by the Urban Institute finds that higher levels of neighborhood gun violence can be associated with fewer retail and service establishments, fewer new jobs, lower home values, credit scores, and homeownership rates. The report is based on interviews with local stakeholders (homeowners, renters, business owners, non-profits, etc.) in six cities across the US and provides estimates for the effect of increased gun violence on the growth of business activity, employment and house prices.

Previous research by Cook and Ludwig tried to figure out what sorts of costs gun owners impose on the rest of society. They estimated the effect of household gun prevalence on homicide rates, and inferred the marginal external cost of handgun ownership. The estimates utilized a proxy for gun prevalence, the percentage of suicides committed with a gun, and used county- and state-level panels for 20 years. The estimated elasticity of homicide with respect to gun prevalence was between +0.1 and + 0.3. All of the effect of gun prevalence is on gun homicide rates. Based on Cook and Ludwig’s assumptions, the average annual marginal social cost of household gun ownership is in the range $100 to $600.

A report compiled by Mother Jones together with the economist Ted Miller puts the total cost of US gun violence at about $229 billion per year, or about 1.4 percent of GDP. Although gun suicides now outnumber gun homicides, much of the direct costs of gun violence comes from homicides and assaults – mostly reflecting the cost of imprisoning the perpetrators.

Noah Smith argues that the Mother Jones’ analysis is problematic, because of the assumption it makes in order to estimate two overwhelmingly important indirect costs: death, and loss of quality of life for victims of gun violence. Mother Jones values each human life at $6.2 million dollars, based on the results of lawsuits. It also calculates quality of life by looking at court awards in wrongful injury cases. One cost that the analysis does not look at  – Smith argues – is that of wasted resources: when gun violence is high, people try to protect themselves by getting guns of their own; this boosts the size of the firearms industry and provides jobs to people who work in gun factories, but those are resources that would be put to better use if people felt safer. Overall, Smith argues that the question cannot be put in purely economic terms because the economics profession has few reliable tools for putting a dollar figure on these costs. Maybe this is one of those cases where popular sentiment and moral principles should take precedence over the calculation of economists.

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  1. HarrisonBergeron

    I think the debate around gun ownership often overlooks how easy a working firearm is to construct. Anyone with some training and a modest metal shop can manufacture them. Making useable smokeless powder and primers is much more difficult. To use an analogy we don’t track moving trucks but we do track large purchases of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.

    1. jsn

      It’s much easier to make small bombs than hand guns, so I’m having trouble figuring out what your point is. Bomb making would be ok?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        And if some people are as sick as what we have seen in those tragedies, what do we do when they just move on the the next level, if the the easiest option is taken away?

        That is, no gun? Try small bombs…make lots of them. How do we stop that?

    2. John Zelnicker

      @HarrisonBergeron – “Anyone with some training and a modest metal shop…”

      How many people do you really think have that training and a modest metal shop?

      And, with guns so easy to acquire, why bother trying to make one?

    3. Joel

      But the NRA wouldn’t be any happier with “ammo control” than with gun control.

      Still, it points out the idiocy (on top of the venality) of gun nuts who stockpile guns rather than ammo.

    4. Ian Ollmann

      What about simply requiring Firearm liability insurance, much like automobile liability insurance. People/estates harmed by firearms can collect against the insurance policy. The cost of this is borne by gun owners. The insurance industry can figure out rates to ensure a likely modest profit, as they usually do.

      I feel like there would be less debate about gun ownership and gun rights if there was a $800/yr price tag associated with owning one. Likewise, the idea of shooting 400 people in a concert might seem like less of a going out with a bang when their families would be collecting $400M as a result.

    1. BoycottAmazon

      BTW, in one of the two cut away video shots, Harry is taking pot shots (together with a group of constituents?) at targets while highway traffic is moving through the distant background. Together with my earlier note, this sums the madness, a blindness to others, that is so richly on display in this topic.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I forgot another reason that suicide by gun is bad: whoever finds the body gets traumatized. Killing yourself with pills or carbon monoxide is much more courteous to your family and whoever finds your corpse.

      1. BoycottAmazon

        Yes, my older brother’s step-son did himself with a bag over the head in his parents bedroom. They can’t afford to sell and move out for reasons I won’t go into, but they often sleep on the couch. Bad enough shock, as I told my mother, but luckily for my brother, his shotguns had been stolen just two weeks prior, and were the only things of high monetary value taken.

        This is a two-for-one point, as guns, like being known in an area as a gold bug, attract attention from neighbors, who either act on it directly or sell the information.

      2. Croatoan

        Yves, believe me, when we are in that state, that distorted, torturous state, conscientious thought is completely unavailable.

        In your statement you continue a stigma about mental illness, that it is a matter of will power and “rude”. Imagine saying that death by heart attack in restaurant is bad because it disturbs the other diners?

        But thank you for bringing the stats about suicide by gun because as you said, it is totally over looked.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, my father shot himself and it was not unplanned. He’d been sick a while. When my mother called to tell me he was dead, she said. “Of course, he shot himself.” She was expecting him to kill himself that way. He could have used carbon monoxide instead and spared her finding his brains all over the office.

          Moroever, the Hemlock Society will tell people how to kill themselves in a painless manner, but they won’t tell you in less than three months after asking in an effort to reduce the impulse element.

          1. John Zelnicker

            Yves – My sympathies for your loss.

            A dear friend of my father’s did the same due to depression (his home and farm were taken for a new road) and the close friend who found him was forever after an emotional wreck.

            1. justanotherprogressive

              My sympathies for your loss also.

              I had a friend who just committed suicide a few months ago. She had taken care of her mother who had alzheimers for years, and when she herself was diagnosed with alzheimers, she decided she didn’t want to live the way her mother had lived. I can fully understand her reasons for ending her life – I just wish she hadn’t done it with a gun……

          2. Croatoan

            I planned my suicide as well, as do many people with mental illness, that has nothing to do with mental illness and suicide. If the hemlock society would have helped me I could have waited the three months. But they are hypocrites and do not see the uncurable pain of mental illness the same as that of other diseases.

            I still have pain, like your father did, but I no longer suffering from the pain. It’s not the pain that causes us to want to die, it’s the suffering.

            Anyone who dies by suicide to avoid suffering caused by pain has a basic delusion. They do not know where suffering arises from.

            Those us us with mood disorders live with pain our whole lives. It is my illness that both caused my pain and made me believe there was a was out. I learned a lot since then, about my delusions and about our cultural delusions regarding life and death and pain and suffering.

            I understand why people want to choose death. But I now understand that there is another choice that is not talked about in American culture. Suffering is a delusion of the ego.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              My father had skin that was so thin that if he bumped anything he would get bloody bruises. He taped his fingers but could no longer use his hands. He had ulcers in his mouth and could not eat and so lost 25% of his body weight. Studies have found that rapid loss of that much weight is very damaging psychologically.

              He was taking presnisone which also makes most people feel terrible. And he couldn’t sleep.

  2. Wukchumni

    There’s also an emotional cost involved for the shooter defending their property as well…

    About 5 years ago, a friend was living up in a very small town in California near Cedarville (truly the place to be if you want to get away from it all in the state but still be in it) and his estranged better half and their twin daughters were living in a funky 3 story house and he was living across the road a bit, and in the wee hours she heard somebody that was climbing the wall of her house and called him in a panic, and he rushed over with his gat, and challenged the person ascending the wall to stop or he’d shoot, and if you think about it, somebody climbing a wall isn’t much of a threat really, but anyway, the said soon to be deceased fellow didn’t respond, so my friend let loose with but one bullet and that’s all she wrote.

    Fast forward a day and he’s in the slammer under manslaughter charges, and he’s about my age and like me had never been arrested for anything, as clean as a whistle.

    Well, the guy he killed was a 3rd generation local that was quite drunk and had met his soon to permanent ex a few days before and for whatever reason decided to climb that wall, and yes it was no bueno what he did, but also no reason to kill the fellow.

    So he’s looking at time in the slammer, and gets a good attorney and $65k in lawyer fees later, he eventually is acquitted by the state, but not his conscience.

    He came down to live with us for a stretch, and it’s all he could talk about, it consumed him to the point where he literally had issues mentally from the anguish of doing a deed that really need not have happened, a lot of second guessing, let me tell you.

    He’s a complete mess now, sad to say.

    So, there was a couple of victims of the shooting~

  3. Quanka

    This article is all well and good, but I find the discussion missing the point. I want to compare this against the way that the fundraising week has hit on the fact that in topics of finance and political power, you have to change the game. You have to re-frame the discussion and speak in your own words. If you adopt the language of the powerful they will just coerce or corrupt your movement.

    The critique on gun ownership based on statistics will always fail.

    I have a right not to be killed be a gun-owner, and on the spectrum of rights that we have, our constitution begins with the right to life, liberty, bah blah blah.

    There is a mass shooting in the United States every day. Period. No matter where you live and what you do, you are at risk of being shot at. Literally all sides of the political spectrum are at risk, from gay nightclubs to country music festivals, from elementary schools to colleges AND EVERYWHERE IN BETWEEN.

    Its illegal for the makers of tanks and RPGs to sell those weapons to the public – for obvious reasons. Why we don’t treat automatic weapons the same way boggles my mind. What is the logical reason for allowing a civilian to own such a weapon of war?

    Also, WHAT DEBATE is occurring here? I know this country always gets all emotional when there is a tragedy but the latest discussion is on whether the NRA will “allow” a discussion on bump stock accessories. Some debate that is.

    We have the flip the board and change the discussion on gun control. My arguments are based on my right to live combined with the idea that automatic weapons are not unlike tanks and RPGs. and the like. Also – if you take away automatic weapons from the public you have a stronger argument to take them away from police departments as well.

    1. Rostale

      Automatic weapons are illegal, have been for decades, how do you expect anyone to take you seriously when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.

      1. BoycottAmazon

        I’ll just put this here to double down on what “justanotherprogressive” said.


        Utter and complete madness in what can be legally owned in the US of A.

        Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, or they will get you wrong. Dr. Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

      2. Quanka

        You’re right — I should have said semi-automatic. I will admit that I am not refined on the language of guns not being an owner or user of one myself.

        However, I think the argument holds. Shotguns, Rifles, Handguns – ok, there are legitimate reasons one might need those, with the proper licensing and registration procedures. I am not saying no guns.
        Anything above, including semi-automatic guns, should be outright barred. There is no logical argument that can connect the 2nd amendment to those type of weapons. They are a threat to public health.

        And let’s be clear — illegal weapons are readily available on the black market if you want to obtain them. Many mass shootings are carried out with illegal weapons, even if they aren’t “automatic weapons” by definition. Sawed off shotguns, bump stocks, large magazines, etc are just examples. It seems that as a priority, we treat marijuana usage, for example, as a more serious public threat than guns.

        1. NevadaTom

          Yes, ban all semi-automatic weapons for a start. I think Australia did this and reduced homicides by gun significantly.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Australia went much further that that after a mass shooting. And Australia had had high levels of gun ownership.:

            My colleague Uri Friedman wrote about the impact of the Port Arthur massacre in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino, California in 2015. He noted that, among other things, the Australian government “banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms, adopted new licensing requirements, established a national firearms registry, and instituted a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases. It also bought and destroyed more than 600,000 civilian-owned firearms, in a scheme that cost half a billion dollars and was funded by raising taxes.” The entire overhaul, Friedman pointed out, took just months to implement.


        2. Mark Woodward

          How can you admit that illegal automatic weapons are available on the black market for criminals, who do not follow the laws, and at the same time deny citizens semi automatic weapons to defend themselves against said criminals?

          1. Quanka

            That’s an assinine argument, I hope you understand that. Im not brushed up on my philosophy so can’t pin down the loggical fallacy that you are using.

            What you are saying is that since weapons can be bought illegally, we should change our laws to make some of those legally purchasable … b/c then people can defend themselves. Or maybe we should avoid changing our laws to make the public safer, b/c scary people with guns under the bed might get us?

            If we had strict laws banning automatic weapons it would make cracking down on the black market easier. The black market exists today because of how many guns there are in the first place, combined with fact that lines of legality are blurred. See the politco link above, please.

            I presume that if we got serious about banning weapons of war — and allocated our DEA, FBI and other police units to deal with such a public threat – the black market would dry up rather quickly.

      3. JTMcPhee

        Anyone who thinks that because full-auto guns are sort of “illegal” that they are not pretty ubiquitous, ought to spend an hour or two looking through the videos on good old youtube, under the heading “full auto.” Or spend some time at the magazine racks, combing through the gun mags. There’s lots of stuff that’s “illegal” in America, but absent enforcement of “the law,” what does “illegal” actually mean, again?

        Try just one, for starters: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UnykKuZhRMU “Unless you are a licensed dealer or manufacturer,” the vlogger says, “it is very illegal to have this part on your gun…” BUt then puts 30 rounds down range at 1200 rounds per minute. This is a pistol vid, but there are plenty for full-auto long guns, “assault weapons,” shotguns, submachine guns, the whole gamut. And there are these great “fests,” where full-auto YEE-haw people, male and female, gather to get off on blasting refrigerator cases and car bodies with hot full-metal-jacket lead — https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=523J0F_0hkg

  4. The Rev Kev

    At the risk of tap-dancing my way into a minefield, I’ll have a go at this topic. Lots of countries have high firearm ownership but how it works out seems to be a cultural thing. You look in the closet of most Swiss households and you will likely find an assault rifle as they still have a citizen militia who keeps their battle gear at home (http://world.time.com/2012/12/20/the-swiss-difference-a-gun-culture-that-works/) but historically you do not have the frequent repetitive massacres now associated with America.
    I can understand gun ownership and I have used guns myself in the past though only something simple like a .222 bolt action. If gun ownership in the US was reasonable then there would be far fewer problems but weapon ownership is carried out to extremes. Would you believe that it is legal to own a flame-thrower in 48 States of the Union. Seriously? If you had the money you could even own a mini-gun if that was your particular bent. Try putting in the term Big Sandy Machine Gun Shoot into YouTube to get an idea of the extremes that has arisen with this. No, I am not anti-gun. I even recognize most of the weapons used in these shoots but that does not say that I think that it is a good idea for them to be in general public use.
    I’ll be upfront and say that you can tie this article directly in with last night’s article of “Worse Than Big Tobacco: How Big Pharma Fuels the Opioid Epidemic”. They both share common characteristics in that it is something responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each and every year but it goes on as it is so profitable to the industry that manufactures them. The least these industries could do is to offer to cover all the associated funeral costs. The only difference is that at least with big pharma, you don’t have people swearing to defend to the death their right to down opiates.

    1. Mike G

      A crucial difference with Switzerland is that most reservists (except some specialties like military police) aren’t allowed to keep ammunition at home. A rifle is an expensive club without bullets.
      They changed the laws a few years ago because they had a number of shootings. Reservists go to shooting ranges to practice and are issued ammunition to use there.

      Plus being military issue means they are extensively trained in usage and safety, and the culture is that weapon is a tool for a specific purpose, not a toy to make you feel self-important.

      1. TheMog

        Interestingly enough, it seems that even Switzerland is considerably tightening their gun laws, at least based on this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Switzerland

        They used to have fairly lax gun laws, based on the premise that just about every male citizen already had a military assault rifle at home and the training to use it. While the laws were different from Kanton to Kanton, I distinctly remember seeing AK47s for sale at gun stores back in the 80s/early 90s in certain areas. Not to mention that people from ex-Yugoslavia buying them for “export puporses”…

        But even back then, you’d read more about shootings in the US than in Switzerland, and I was living just across the border from Switzerland in Germany. At least anecdotally that would support the theory about training having an impact.

  5. Carolinian

    This could be a relevant link.


    Here’s the core of his argument.

    For liberals, of course, the state—our American capitalist state—is a neutral force that mediates social conflicts fairly, and actually does, or at least sincerely tries to, look out for everyone’s lives and well-being equally. And, on this issue alone, many left-socialists simply forget the core understanding of the state as an instrument of class rule enunciated above, and fall back on the traditional liberal view. Though they righteously protest rampant police brutality against minorities and the poor, the mass-incarceration state, the increasing restriction of rights in the name of surveillance and security, and the thoroughgoing purchase of the American political system by a corrupt oligarchy that oversees it all, when it comes to this issue—well, it’s fine for that state to have a monopoly of armed force.

    Of course the counter argument is that in our modern world individuals will always be outgunned (not to mention out droned) by our massively armed government. Still there’s a case for some libertarian views when the government becomes a force for oligarchy rather than a force for justice. Perhaps we need to fix our politics before fixing our gun laws (and indeed must fix our politics in order to fix our gun laws).

  6. John

    Give gun liability insurance biz to the current medical insurance companies to cover the horrendous costs of gun damage. Registration and insurance as required for cars. Each gun has to be insured which would curtail ammosexuals like the Vegas shooter. At least a little. And his insurance company would have to compensate the victims for pain and suffering. Single payer would cover medical cost that is now being dealt partially with by crowd sourcing. How screwed up is that? Those Vegas people are bring doubly victimized….first by the shooter, then by the medcorps.

    1. Quanka

      I don’t like the idea of gun liability insurance because it’s just another way to financialize our world. I think a more direct approach is to ban certain types of guns (whether you say automatic, semi-automatic, both, whatever) from being owned by civilians in the first place. There is no place in our society for weapons of war. There is no argument to connect these types of weapons to any kind of “justified” human activity (hunting, protection from animals, etc).

      People are going to commit mass terror no matter what – see post from Ian Welsh re: vehicular homicide. I don’t at all claim that this proposed ban will end all mass killings, but I think it will take away a stupid tool that we for some reason make readily available to the population.

        1. Quanka

          Your argument stands — or not — on its own merits. If you think semi-automatic and automatic weapons are the reason we have our “freedom” and the constitution and all that, you are free to have your own opinion.

        2. Lambert Strether

          > That stupid tool, with the additional loss of life your forefathers gave, bought your freedom.

          Really? I would have thought the French fleet at Yorktown had something to do with it. But then I’m not a fan of monocausal explanations. And of course, freedom was attained by millions of Americans only with the Thirteenth Amendment, in 1865. If the Civil War was won by militias, well-regulated or no, I didn’t get the memo.

  7. DJG

    Like The Rev Kev, I’m going to discuss culture, which may be the defining characteristic of the gun debate (rather than the wording or legalisms of the Constitution) and which makes the debate intractable. Note any geographical differencs between the top ten states and the bottom ten states with regard to violent crime?


    So the discussion in the last several paragraphs of the post about economics is germane, but not defining. Economics isn’t going to lead to action in the U S of A, which already wastes money on a prodigious scale for all kinds of things (excess air conditioning, anyone?).

    Living in Illinois, which comes smack in the middle of the list that I just posted, I know that there is considerable resentment that the NRA forced the state, the last holdout, to pass a concealed-carry bill. Culturally, concealed carry and open carry are step too far: They are the cultural hybris of the NRA. To come to some compromise is going to mean abrogating concealed carry and open carry.

    [And don’t bring up murders in Chicago as some universal antidote to gun control: The socioeconomic problems have been well diagnosed > > residential segregation, economic disparities, and lots of guns floating in from neighboring states where they are as almost as easy to buy as lo-tax cigarettes.]

    And as Yves Smith points out up top, hunters have to take out hunting licenses. Hunters tend to be trained–hunting is often family tradition. So this cultural issue isn’t about hunters. (PETA and its grandstanding notwithstanding.)

  8. Pelham

    Let’s grant that all the arguments against guns are valid and we should, as Yves suggests, license them for activities such as hunting — and given that hunting licenses are already required, this makes sense.

    Even given all that, regulation remains unconstitutional. And that’s due to the stubborn presence of the 2nd Amendment, which states that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. No qualifications. Period.

    However, there is an important clause informing that guarantee. The framers note the necessity of well-regulated militias. Put that together with the unqualified right to gun ownership and it appears the framers intended to have a broad populace familiar with firearms (whether or not they were hunters, hobbyists or whatever) so the state could occasionally draw upon them to form militias.

    Now I’m aware of all the points made about the framers being unable to anticipate automatic weapons and the possibility they were driven by less than honorable intentions. But these are sidebars that do nothing to dilute the actual wording of the amendment. We routinely interpret vaguely worded parts of the Constitution as reflecting a kind of genius on the framers’ part that allows the document to thrive through the centuries. We are compelled to be at least as accommodating for the 2nd Amendment, which has the advantage of not being vague at all. (By the way, given the presence of that informational clause, Americans should be allowed to possess weapons that are generally issued to military personnel — fully automatic assault-style rifles and semi-auto sidearms.)

    So outright repeal of the amendment absolutely has to be the very first order of business if we intend to regulate or rid ourselves of firearms. Good luck with that.

    1. Clive

      For those of us who lack the “benefit” of such written-down definitions of what we can do and what we can’t do, such as me here in England, I can’t say I’m experiencing a huge sense of loss.

      I’m always reminded of what the Japanese think about the written word — it’s always slightly mistrusted because in the act of writing down thoughts, opinions, ideas, definitions and so on, you inevitably compromise the humanity behind them.

      And when I read:

      A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

      … well, I struggle to make head or tail of what was intended all those years ago and whether the well-intentioned people who wrote it really envisaged the you’d be able to schlep down to Wal*Mart and pick up your guns and ammo with your broccoli and Oreo cookies.

      (and, as an aside, us Europeans generally don’t mind being lectured by Americans; we’re used to it by now and quite enjoy it — we’d probably start to worry if America stopped being so darned cock-sure of itself and came over all self-doubting and reticent)

      1. Wukchumni

        One incredibly frightening aspect of either a Carrington event, or EMP attack is, that every last gun in this country would continue to function w/o a hitch, as electricity went away.

  9. w_b_

    Since the second amendment also says “a well-regulated militia,” one could argue that training requirements-and therefore permits that certify one is current on the training requirements-be required with legal gun ownership.

    I’m thinking firearms safety and accuracy training, plus legal issues, plus first aid, renewable on a biannual basis.

    It’s supposed to be a citizen militia, they ought to be able to handle a gun safely, shoot safely, maintain a gun safely, and provide first aid in case of accidental shooting.

    This seems logical to me.

    1. wilroncanada

      Further to your suggestion, this well-trained militia of gun-toters should be the first called up to provide the front lines of all the wars the US is and will be fighting. Why spend billions on international mercenaries when you have a large trove of local mercenaries?

      To prepare for going to the front, they would need training in actual combat. I envision something like the paintball contests, but with live ammunition. The fattest, the slowest and the most stupid would be quickly eliminated.

      The only issue them: who would be left to join the NRA. On the other hand: thousands of Darwin awards.

  10. pictboy3

    Honestly, I think economic arguments have no place in a rights discussion. No one would argue that we should ditch the 5th or the 14th Amendments because of the cost to taxpayers for paying out just compensation or ensuring everyone has due process. They would be laughed out of the room.

    The two central questions that I come back to for 2nd Amendment arguments are:
    1) What is the reason for the right to bear arms?
    2) Does it make sense to keep that right in the modern world?

    The first question is open to discussion, but I believe that there is a majority consensus that the main impetus for the original amendment was to provide a buffer against state tyranny in the form of a large armed citizenry and a small national army, that would rely on conscription and the militia mentioned in the
    amendment itself. Justifications based on self defense or hunting aren’t necessarily irrelevant, but I believe they’re modern rationales that have been inserted into the discussion in later times.

    The second question is where the meat is. I’m honestly puzzled by the argument that, because a large militia would be outgunned by the national army, we should give up the right to bear arms. If this were true, we would not be stuck in a losing war in Afghanistan, fighting against an insurgent force that has fewer and less sophisticated weapons than those available to the average American, and far less than a majority of popular support. For all our superior technology, cruise missiles, drones, and thermal optics, we have not been able to win the war there. Why would the case be any different in the US, where we have far more weapons, far more people, and terrain that is far more suited to guerilla warfare? That’s before we get into hypotheticals of a disunited military, and loss of legitimacy, though I’m a little loathe to try and justify an argument based on crystal ball gazing. That being said, when you look at the evidence of conflicts since the Vietnam war, I don’t see how you can come to the conclusion that a large, armed populace is not a deterrent to major military action, foreign or domestic.

    So if we know what the purpose of the 2nd Amendment is, and I believe there’s a good argument for the efficacy of an armed populace in fulfilling that purpose, the only remaining question is whether that’s worth the amount of people dying over it? Considering that the amount of people killed by guns is about the same killed by traffic accidents (that’s including suicides in gun fatalities), I know where I stand on this one.

    1. shargash

      I don’t think it is accurate that the 2nd amendment is there to protect the citizens against their own government. Shay’s Rebellion was one of the drivers of the constitutional convention in 1787. The idea that the framers wanted to protect rebellions like Shay’s is ahistorical. They wanted to prevent them.

      IMO, the 2nd amendment served three purposes: (1) the framers felt that a standing army was an invitation to caesarism, and they wanted citizens to be able to (2) suppress the Indians and (3) put down slave revolts. None of those reasons are still relevant.

      1. justanotherprogressive

        Do you have links or sources? In my searches, I’ve noticed what seems to be silence on the 2nd amendment by the framers of the Constitution and I’ve always wondered why. I would love to know more background about why it was implemented and who were the drivers behind it.

      2. pictboy3

        Isn’t that a contradiction? What is “caesarism” other than a synonym for tyranny? Even if you have a small standing army, if you have no armed force to oppose them, they will still have the run of the place. I have no doubt that they additionally wanted to suppress both slave revolts and Indians, but it doesn’t negate the underlying necessity of the amendment in the modern era.

        I think we get overly caught up in the motivations of historical figures when we try to make sense of their impact on the modern day. Jefferson may have been a hypocrite when he wrote that all men were created equal, but it doesn’t follow that the words themselves suddenly become meaningless. Either the law itself makes sense in the current day or it doesn’t. My argument is that it does.

        A rebellion isn’t guaranteed to succeed just because it’s right. The founders may have suffered from myopia about what kind of rebellion they actually supported. That doesn’t mean that the underlying point isn’t a sound one. Having guns won’t guarantee you anything other than a better chance at resisting, but that’s better than no chance at all.

    2. Medbh

      I understand the argument about deterring domestic or foreign military action. However, civilians have used other effective strategies (i.e. U.S. Civil Rights Movement, India’s independence) that don’t incur the substantial collateral damage of an armed populace. Perhaps military level guns would make it easier to resist in the theoretical war of future, but civilian use of these weapons is causing tremendous harm right now.

      As you noted, an insurgency force can be very effective even with less sophisticated weapons. I don’t see guns being the deciding factor for a civil or foreign war. If it came down to that, people would resist with IEDs, suicide attacks, sabotage, and all the other various ways people use to kill each other and create chaos.

      We’ll never remove violence completely, but we could make it less convenient. Guns should be treated like a drivers license, and require training and insurance. The type of weapon you’re able to access should be dependent upon your role (i.e. military, hunter, etc.), and the greater potential for destruction, the more intensive training and oversight involved.

  11. dcblogger

    more links
    GQ the department of way too many guns

    From “Operation Wetback” To Newtown: Tracing The Hick Fascism Of The NRA

    Tiahrt Amendments

    Named for their sponsor, U.S. Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), the Tiahrt Amendments are provisions that have been attached to U.S. Department of Justice appropriations bills since 2003 that significantly restrict law enforcement’s ability to investigate gun crimes and prosecute unscrupulous
    gun dealers.

    From 1993, but still hideously relevant: The Story of a Gun

  12. PS

    When trying to calculate the cost of gun ownership in this country here are a few other costs that I’d like to see included:

    The cost of having security personnel and metal detectors at sporting events, concerts, etc. Those costs are presumably passed on to the ticket purchaser. What additional security measures and personnel will hotels in Las Vegas and other cities take? Presumably those costs will be passed on to the guests. State and local police departments now have to arm themselves and train for the possibility of fighting against people armed with military grade weapons. Tax payers foot the bill for those costs.

    I have to wonder how much each of us spends a year unknowingly to try and protect ourselves from a random lunatic with a gun.

    1. yamahog

      Absent a bargaining mechanism (and supposing that venues are already charging the highest prices they can), it’s unfair to attribute the costs to guns and it’s not apparent that the cost is borne through higher fees – it may well be coming out of the profit. Besides, they have metal detectors for public events in countries with knife problems.

      If there were a part of my local stadium that offered a discount for lower security, I’d probably consider it. Conversely, I could just arm myself. What we really need to do is get rid of the laws that make it cumbersome to buy bullet-resistant apparel.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Bullet-resistant “apparel,” like this? http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6-cMIVNntHs

        Those guys even had bullet-resistant masks and head coverings, so unlike our Troops and patrolling cops, they were not even vulnerable to head shots. Yes, lets make it easier to pull off that kind of spree…

        An interesting idea, having a “lower-security zone” at the stadium or arena, where the price-conscious with their packed heat and body armor can sit, swivel-headed, ready to draw down on any person who looked to be reaching for his or her piece… I imagine walking off such a space so “stray bullets” don’t wander off and kill some mope across the field might impose some significant socialized costs on the event-goers, so the Brave libertarian could pay less for his or her seat in the Hot Zone…

  13. marym

    Quinnipiac poll conducted 10/5 – 10/12

    American voters support stricter gun laws 60 – 36 percent, the highest level of support ever, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. The previous high support was 54 – 42 percent June 28.

    Voters also support 73 – 25 percent, including 62 – 34 percent among Republicans and 67 – 29 percent among voters in households where there is a gun, a ban on modifications to make a semi-automatic weapon fire more like an automatic weapon, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

    Consistent with every Quinnipiac University poll since February 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Massacre, American voters support 94 – 5 percent requiring background checks for all gun purchases. Voters in gun households support universal background checks 93 – 6 percent. Support for other nationwide gun measures is:
    79 – 19 percent for a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases;
    64 – 32 percent for a ban on the sale of assault weapons;
    86 – 12 percent for a ban of the sale of guns to people convicted of a violent crime;
    58 – 38 percent for stricter regulations on ammunition sales;
    64 – 34 percent for a ban on high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
    American voters say 63 – 27 percent that it’s possible to make new gun laws without interfering with gun rights. Republicans voters say 51 – 37 percent that it’s possible to make gun laws that don’t interfere with gun rights and voters in gun households agree 57 – 33 percent.

  14. michael savoca

    Freedom is messy, disorderly, filled with conflict and leaves the way open for neglect, abuse and even violence.
    Totalitarian control over society and its people will lead to order through strict adherence to the laws of our rulers. These laws are becoming more and more enforceable as multi-national corporations and the government collect all data on your every purchase with debit or credit cards, every move you make as transmitted by smart phones and cars with “on-star” like computers and rfid chips in tires, and the snooping of every email and text message and phone call. …and smart refrigerators monitor our food consumption and smart TVs even transmit what we say in our living rooms. Of course, every web site you visit is recorded in a file managed by google and other web search engines. It too late to resist by clinging to the second amendment. The forth amendment has been eviscerated ( they can search you home and your person for “secret” reasons”). The fifth and eighth amendments are toast, (ever heard of water boarding). The first amendment protecting religious liberty is under attack as corporations can deprive people of birth control-health care because of the “religion of the corporation”. The USA is under a permanent state of war on terrorism and thus under the patriot act you no longer have an absolute right to confront those who give witness and make allegations against you…thus destroying the 6th amendment. And finally the 7th amendment which guarantees a right to a public trial in all cases or suits in excess of 20$ has been done away with by corporate arbitration clauses which forbid you from accessing the courts if you have a claim. So really, why not just give up on the second amendment too. The indolent brainwashed american public has already been entertained into somnolescence and sold out by our rulers. True more people are killed with knives than all long guns put together….and medical malpractice kills over 100,000 each year. But who cares? The real issue here is we must disarm the american people to prevent violent revolution…and we must do it soon as artificial intelligence takes over most jobs and the depletion of the earths resources makes it impossible to support a population of over 1 billion let alone the 10 billion coming soon. My advice is take soma and surrender. Resistance is futile you will be assimilated. Few are worthy to labor under the heavy burden of freedom,

    “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.” – Thomas Jefferson.

    “To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them.” – George Mason.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.” – Thomas Jefferson.

      The origin of the quotation (which is deeply ironic, coming as it does from a slave-owner).

      > “To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them”

      Here is the origin, with the full quotation:

      Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual was to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia.

      The militia part seems to have been lost in paraphrase. Mason, of course, was also a slaveowner, ironically enough.

  15. MichaelSF

    Should there be strict liability for firearms owners? It looks to me that there is no such thing as a firearm “accident”, all of them seem to have negligence as the root cause.

    Leave your weapon unsecured where others (like a child rummaging in a purse) can get it — negligent homicide/reckless endangerment/etc.

    Shoot a friend/neighbor when you are cleaning/fooling around with an unloaded weapon that isn’t unloaded — same thing as above.

    If you or your weapon causes damage/injury then you are on the hook for both civil and criminal penalties with no “but the distraught firearm owners have already been punished enough by their childs/friends/spouses death” cop-outs.

    Add to that registration, insurance, periodic training, and having secure storage for both weapons and ammunition (this being subject to spot checks).

    That still leaves the idiotic “stand your ground/I was scared/they were threatening to take my stuff” legal/cultural stuff to be dealt with, but it would be a start.

  16. dcblogger

    More links
    Loopholes Let Gun Smuggling to Mexico Flourish

    Gun Industry Ex-Official Describes Bond of Silence

    A former senior firearms industry executive said in an affidavit filed in court in San Diego yesterday that gun manufacturers had long known that some of their dealers corruptly sold guns to criminals but pressured one another into remaining silent for fear of legal liability. It is the first time a senior official in the gun industry has broken ranks to challenge practices in the business.
    The affidavit, by Robert A. Ricker, a former chief lobbyist and executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, then the main gun industry trade organization, was filed in California Superior Court in support of claims by 12 California cities and counties suing the gun makers and their wholesalers and retail dealers.

  17. dcblogger

    I hope NC will continue coverage of guns in America as it is well suited to this topic. Much of the gun industry is owned by private equity, and it would be worth pursuing the connection between private equity, lobbyists, the NRA and organized hate groups.

  18. dcblogger

    Mark Ames on how the mentality of conceal carry is a threat to solidarity:
    Looking back at Big Business’ violent reaction against the New Deal and the political culture that it created: a more “collectivist” political culture, as the libertarians derisively call it, where people were more deeply involved with each other and their communities, and with that involvement in their politics and communities came greater trust in their communities. That political culture — where people were more involved in their politics and trusted government more than they trusted business — was a big problem, according to pollsters and PR experts hired by business lobby groups in the postwar era, groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce.

    Much better is to pour arms unrestricted into the population, give them legal cover and political encouragement to take political matters into their own hands with laws like “Stand Your Ground”. That way you wind up creating a political culture of atomized, fear-fueled citizens who think they’re literally at war with each other, and their only way out is to fend for themselves and their family.

    One of FDR’s first and most powerful opponents in the 30s and 40s was a New York lobbyist and public relations heavyweight named Merwin K. Hart. He was the brains and organizing force behind far-right big business groups like the American Liberty League, the isolationist America First Committee, and the far-right National Economic Council, fighting labor unions and waging nonstop war on democracy, which Merwin Hart equated with Communism. He also served as PR flak for Spain’s fascist dictator, publishing a fawning book on Franco in 1939 titled “America, Look At Spain” completely whitewashing the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards his client the Generalissimo had just finished slaughtering.

    Robert Jackson — the Nuremberg Trials prosecutor and Supreme Court Justice — singled out Merwin K. Hart as one of America’s most dangerous fascists on the eve of World War Two. After the war, Hart became a leading Holocaust denier. He also helped engineer Joe McCarthy’s election victory, and helped spearhead relentless attacks on “collectivism” (in which act together in politics and the workplace, rather than “individually” which is how the bosses prefer it), and against democracy, which Hart claimed was an alien Communist idea subverting American liberty. He proposed “that every person who accepted any form of government help should be denied the right to vote.” He also called for impeaching the entire Supreme Court, accusing the justices of being “dedicated to socialism.”

    In place of democracy and “collectivism” and community activism, Merwin K. Hart promoted “individualism” and fear.

    And that naturally led Merwin K Hart into promoting the sort of fanatical gun-politics that shocked the public in his time, but today is accepted as part of the mainstream discourse, as if NRA gun-fanaticism was always in the air, rather than a political project with political ends in mind.

  19. Bob Blake

    What country in the world sells the most weapons of all shapes and sizes and calibers to other countries? What country champions those who use those weapons both in film, literature and daily life? Could it be here, in the USA? I’m 69 and clearly remember being raised in a culture where the real men, and you know who I mean, solved any problem with a gun. We champion those who go into other countries, invited or not invited, to kill “the enemy” since this country was founded. And this country is still doing it today, tomorrow and next weekend. Oh wait, didn’t those who immigrated hundreds of years ago to this country also exterminate the enemy red skins at every chance? This country is steeped in blood yesterday and it is neck deep in blood today. Just look at the politicians, of whatever affiliation, who proclaim that guns are bad bad bad and then turn around and blithely vote to kill “the enemy” of the moment. Unknown government groups blithely OK hundreds of millions in weapons sales to others without a twinge of concern. The business of killing is good and profitable. Here’s the phrase from the 60’s – Better dead than red.
    Hypocrisy isn’t the right word.
    If you, and I mean everyone who is reading this, wants to do something about guns, lets start doing something about the bloody culture that this country is steeped in. When was the last time anyone cornered a government representative and asked him to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to kill today most recently labeled “enemy.”
    If you want to solve the gun problem, and pick whatever specific “gun problem” you want, we all need to stop championing the slaughter our country is steeped in right now around the world and if nothing changes, for the foreseeable future.
    No, I am not advocating eliminating the military forces. There are times when you do need to kill the enemy. But we, the USA, has been killing “the enemy” directly and indirectly without being “at war” for how many years now?
    I laugh when I read how limiting the gun magazine to ten rounds will do anything other than make a “feel good” moment for the politicians and voters. Need more than 10 rounds? Use duct tape to tape two magazines side by side. Empty one and take less than two seconds to eject it and flip and shove it back in. Instant 20 rounds.
    But that’s what this whole gun problem is. Feel good moments so the voters can think something is being done that is good and positive. And then they authorize another couple hundred million to slaughter some more “enemy” of the moment.

    Yes, I own some rifles and pistols. And if you came to my house you’d have to crack the gun safe and bypass the alarm to get to them.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Thank you, from another Older American who long ago was dumb enough to volunteer to go “kill Commies for Christ.”

  20. Al Stephens

    There is really only one way to get “rid” of guns, and that’s to get away from them. By this I mean, leave the country. (That’s easier said than done, since you have to have money to get permanent residency in Canada or the UK.)

  21. JBird

    Stuff like this is like water in a desert. I am a firm supporter of gun rights, but I really, really, really appreciate those who take the effort to write informative, not propagandistic or fear-mongering, articles, and posts.

    Too often it’s a fight between:

    the Guns are malevolent, sentience, conscious, self-mobile death machines owned by psychopathic monsters.

    and the

    When little Johnny turns five it’s time for his first uzi, and gun regulation is the work of the Godless Commie American haters, and they hate the Constitution!!

    Makes me want to drink, it does.

    Mental illness is a deadly serious issue that destroys millions of lives. It could be greatly reduced if there was an actual healthcare system that did not treat it as an annoyance; If there was a functioning economy in this country, both mental illness, and health overall would also greatly improve, and violence of all kinds would diminish.

    This country has always been well armed, and semi-automatic weapons have been around for over century. Heck, if you wanted to stretch the definition you could call revolvers that, and they have been in use since the Civil War. I do not think the fact that what could be called mass shootings were almost unknown from end of the Second World War to the middle 1980s, but have been increasing is happenstance, or more guns. The phrase “going postal” started with the mass shootings at postal installations by postal workers freakout by the “reforms” of the Reagan Era.

    No, I think the increase in mass shootings, and much of the death is merely a symptom, like the opioid epidemic for if our society was healthy, and was working for most at least economically as it had in the 50s, 60s, and even the 70s, we would have far fewer murders, suicides, and “accidents.” Arguing about what the gun, and drug industries, due merely deals with the opportunistic parasites weasels taking advantage of the nation’s poor health.

    The weasels are not just the manufacturers of death, but the politicians, police unions, prison industry, even think tanks using the suffering to advocate for draconian laws, more prisons, better armed paramilitary police, mass surveillance, even governmental organizations like Homeland Security, and the TSA albeit less directly. These tactics feed the culture of fear that pushes money into the same tactics being used, and not into anything that would deal successfully with the health issues like mental illness and gun violence.

    Also, gun laws are usually aimed at, and enforced on, minorities, the poor, the activists, the trouble makers. If you are a middle class white person you do not have to fear much, even if you are violating a gun control law. However, there is long history of such laws being used as an excuse to violate the rights of others, to crack down on the troublesome. One of the first things Jim Crow did was stripped blacks of much of their weapons, but leave all the whites, especially the middle class and higher their plethora of guns. Here, in California the first serious gun legislation is nicknamed the Black Panther Gun Control law, and on those now illegal gun magazines here in California, rural sheriffs have said they will not actively enforced them. Unless you’re a drug dealer, or other such troublemaker, then they will be happen to add to the charges.

    Why am I bringing this all up you ask?

    Our country is creeping, or maybe running to, an authoritarian police state in which rights do not exist. Never mind the growing dysfunction of government at all levels, much of the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights is almost a dead letter. Yet, there is effort to create, nourish, and grow this fear, and then using that fear to further control us by further destroying the rights that we have to protect us from the government. The neoliberals, and the neoconservatives use the same reasoning, tactics, and fear-mongering as for our illegal, unproductive, but profitable now self sustaining forever wars, as they do to expand the illegal, unproductive, but profitable self sustaining police state.

    It is hard to simplify, to make understandable the connections, and others have done a better job than I, but it is all interconnected, even if just by chance, with many of us being programmed puppets that fear everything, that yearn for safety by control of everything including themselves. Guns are one of those means. Fear the gun grabber, fear the gun freaks, don’t fear those controlling you, using you, actively destroying you, just fear each other.

    Even if I supported gun legislation, even gun abolition, our country is so corrupt, and dysfunctional, my greater fear would be that the efforts would be expanded to even further control us. If guns are so bad, just like the drugs, why shouldn’t there be more SWAT raids for them? Those midnight raids are used on all sorts of people, and many of whom are not know for being armed, but the drugs, that bad. They have expanded to collecting fines, or on card games in some places. Let’s have another reason. More laws, more rules, more heavily armed police, more surveillance, more, more, more.

    Fear, ain’t it cool? It’s so useful and profitable.

  22. chicagogal

    Definitely a well behaved discussion on a topic that make so many sound like the lunatic fringe. Kudos to NC on facilitating the forum for it.

    There are so many interpretations for the 2nd Amendment, both for and against any sort of regulation, but let’s keep in mind the time our constitution was put together. To us it seems such a backward way of life, but it was integral to have a gun for protection, hunting and those occasions where someone may be called into service in a citizen militia. To our founders, it was a normal part of everyday life and I’m sure they would never have thought to ban something so essential to it. That they decided to enshrine it in such a vague way does call into question why, but we may never know the answer.

    My brother committed suicide by handgun in the bedroom late one afternoon while his wife was in the kitchen fixing dinner. No one really knows why, but as he was a paraplegic for quite some time, it had been discussed in his family often over the years and he had promised them he would not do so while they were in the house. His death created a lot of ill will within the rest of our family, most especially when there was no funeral by his decision. But what was done was done and there was really nothing the rest of us could do except learn to live with it in our own way.

    On the flip side, I have a friend who owns several handguns legally and would fight to the death his right to own them. I try hard to not have discussions with him about this issue because we have such opposite opinions. His reasoning is that it is his constitutional right to have them and because there has been so much talk over the years about this group or that group coming to take his guns and he simply won’t stand by and let them. Tho no place is ever completely safe, where we live it is rare that there is gun violence and would seem to rule out his need for them, but there really is just no talking to people like that. There is no rational argument that gets thru to otherwise intelligent and reasonable people.

    With all of that said, I believe that the only way to stop gun violence in this country is to completely ban ownership or possession. But that belief really only encourages people like my friend who believe that criminals will still get guns, so he needs his to prevent them from attacking his home.

  23. yamahog

    So what next? Go door to door and collect the 300 million guns?

    A little while back in the nearest big city, some crack head got a gun and robbed some teens of their phones. His victims were laying on the ground, pockets empty when he executed them with shots to the back of the head. If there’s a social contract about compliance with robbers, he violated it and the transgression calls for nothing less than serving as an example to those who would continue to violate the contract – I’m thinking something very medieval because I’m a victim of an armed robbery myself and I get so frustrated thinking that I could have been killed over a phone.

    My robber was a real bad dude, I later found out that he had ~10 felonies and was out on parole when he robbed me. I reported it but the police didn’t seem to go look for him, a few days later they found him passed out in the driver’s seat of a stolen car he crashed into a tree. He got picked up with meth, a gun, and a stolen car but he plead down to a theft charge, had his parole revoked, and got ~14 months added to his sentence. The mandatory minimums apparently aren’t.

    I’m not sure what the solution is to the plague that is gun violence but I know confiscation is a non-starter and I know that lawful gun owners are not the problem. I’d like to see the laws on the books enforced for starters.

    Secondly, I think we should repeal the EMTALA act or at least create an exception for people who show up with gunshot wounds in bad neighborhoods – let violent thugs eradicate themselves.

    1. JTMcPhee

      So many are “lawful gun owners” right up to the moment they kill their families, or shoot some guy for telling them to stop talking in the movie theatre or cutting them off in traffic, or bring smoke on some father who tells them to stop yelling at and threatening his kids in the cul-de-sac… and that’s just the intentional acts, not the negligent and damn-fool events…

      1. yamahog

        Maybe. But a lot of them have warning signs like being domestically violent. But suppose you’re right, they have guns now. It’d be better if they didn’t have guns – who’s going to go round up the guns?

        Though there are lower hanging fruits than lawful gun owners – let’s start getting rid of felons in possession and see where that gets us.

    2. Filiform Radical

      Something about your EMTALA exception idea bothers me, and I think it’s the whole “condemning people as deserving of death because it looks like they might be criminals” thing.

  24. Mark Woodward

    Yves, I think your prejudice is reflected in the title of this blog and the focus of the articles you selected to review. In the spirit of fair and balanced inquiry can we expect a blog on the “Benefits of Gun Ownership?” Or should we really start all over again with “The Risk/ Benefit Ratio of Gun Ownership?” If we do start over it would be wise to start by putting ourselves in the shoes of the founding fathers, reading what they had learned by their study of politics and history and what they said at the time of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights? The framers of this country put their lives on the line against the British to get this “experiment” right. No one posting on this blog has come close to this reality. Many of the signatories of the Declaration suffered terrible for their treason. For our own good we need to respect their work and sacrifice and learn what we can from them. Most Americans know so little of American or world history and this is a great place to start. In short the second amendment was conceived and written with the same interest as the construction of our governance at large. The founding fathers were rightfully obsessed with the concept of the “balance of power.” We are not talking about a mugger who wants your twenty dollars. We are talking about the development of totalitarian authority and even genocide. I hope your readers are familiar enough with the Holocaust to know that gun control was put in place in Germany during the Wehrmacht Republic. The Nazis then systematically exploited their political rivals and the Jews through these restrictions, registrations and licensing schemes. There are numerous times in history where this very thing has happened and to ignore the political and human cost of these actions is to deny history itself. Start with the big picture, not “synthetic control estimates” and “mugger money.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Widespread gun ownership is a threat to my personal safety, and I’m not referring to mass shooters. I am vastly safer in places like New York City and Sydney, with tough gun controls, than I am in places with lots of people (save hunters) who own guns. I was willing to intervene in a domestic violence situation (so bad that the guy was not just arrested but eventually sent to prison) because I was sure he had no gun and my bludgeon was sufficient to hold him off. I would never have taken that risk in the US, save maybe in NYC, and the woman would have gotten the shit beaten out of her (I had called the police but they hadn’t arrived yet).

      I’m referring to the fact that when I go to places like Texas, I am too often in the company of people who carry them and are clearly lax about safety. I’ve been in cars multiple times when the gun is out on the front car seat next to me with no safety on. I’ve been in an SUV that I later found had 2000 rounds of ammo in it. One of my friends in Dallas says all of her friends carry guns in their purses. I guarantee that none of them can pull it out in time to aim at a threat even if they were good shooters. Police studies have found that cops with guns holstered on their hips cannot pull them out and aim them in time to shoot an assailant with 21 feet. And that’s even assuming they can aim well. The record of cops at shootouts (targets that are static or not moving much) is they land only about 15-20% of their shots. Even for a professional, adrenaline interferes with taking the time to aim and fire accurately.

      And you are simply delusional if you think people carrying guns can stand up to police. Where have all of your precious defenders of liberty been as our surveillance state grows, as banks stole literally millions of houses, as police abuse whites as well as people of color? All they seem to have the guts to do is bully doctors and paramedics at abortion clinics.

      In case you missed it, police have access to tear gas, sound cannons, tanks, grenades, and helicopter gunships. They can also isolate a target in a building and torch it. Your little militia wannabes can’t begin to stand up to that. And the police increasingly have former soldiers in their ranks, which means they are seasoned and quick trigger shooters, and are also experienced in coordinating assaults on targets.

      If this is the best justification you can come up with your gun fetish, you need to get real. You are a hobbyist who has seen too many action pictures where the hero prevails against impossible odds. That’s not how it works in real life. The government has vastly superior weaponry and unlike Vietnam, already controls the terrain.

      1. JBird

        Are we talking about a lack of proper training for proper gun use? On that I can agree with you; I am disinclined for strong controls, but oh yes, solid training, and creating, or improving, a culture of respect for them. I do like them, but they are not toys and too many fools do think so. Worse, they act so.

        Are we talking about violence in our society, and the quickly increasing militarization of law enforcement, with the arming of military weapons faster than any individuals, or groups other than them? On that I can also agree. The police kill over a thousand people each year. Most of who either were unarmed, or had the weapon, often not a gun, holstered, or put away, or they killed in those midnight raids, in which the police were dressed, and acted, like home invaders. Or the thousands more who were injured in the same situations? Numbers perhaps greater than the combined deaths, and injuries of American and European, military personnel and civilian contractors, during the same time.

        Are we talking about the generations of the ownership of guns by large numbers of, and in some places the majority of the population? As has been the case for decades, if not more than a century, if not longer? Okay, but gun violence, and death by the civilian population has been going down for a few decades, aside from maybe the past two years; fear though of whatever is the latest fear du jour has been increasing steadily at the same time? The fears being used at the same time as a justification of the growth, and militarization of the police, and the prison industrial industry.

        Are we talking about the increase of violence, and control, by police, without regard to the dangers, or lack thereof in the situations they faced, or the decrease in individual shootings or the increase of mass shootings by individuals?
        Shootings that only began in the mid 80s, and around the same time of the then first really noticeable deunionization, deindustrialiazation, and impoverishment of middle and working class Americans? The inward focus by blacks of such, and the outward focus by whites of such with violence?

        What exactly are we afraid of, and talking about, and in doing so, hopefully change? The corruption, destruction, the atomization of society which encourages gun, and drug, use, mental illness, and police violence? Or something else?

      2. Mark Woodward

        These are your policies;
        “Other violations include but are not limited to ad hominem attacks,”
        “Keep it constructive and courteous”
        “Criticize ideas, not people.”

        These are your words;
        “Where have all of ‘your’ precious defenders of liberty been…”
        “All they seem to have the guts to do is bully doctors and paramedics at abortion clinics.”
        “’Your’ little militia wannabes..”
        “with ‘your’ gun fetish..”
        “ ’You’ are a hobbyist who has seen too many action pictures…”

        Someone answer this one question. If one believes the deep state is so strong as to make the second amendment moot from a tyranny perspective what chance does this blog, any blog, any community have going forward?

        1. BoycottAmazon

          Your only solution is violence. That’s pretty limited. Think on that, if you have the ability.

    2. vlade

      You talk about balance of power.

      Balance of power to make violence is now firmly gone – that is, unless you are willing to make violence indiscriminately against civilians. Where private sector (so to say) is already competing with US gov’t (comparing “illegal” gun deaths to police shootings + executions) if not ahead.

      I’d like a firm example of what do you think you could do having access to guns. And please don’t tell me that Holocaust would have been stopped if Jews had guns. If you really think it, you’d first spend some time on reading the history of Germany in 1920s/1930s (which would also mean you’d know it wasn’t a Wehrmacht, but Weimar Republic, and that gun controls never stopped extreme left cells from getting guns, but much help did it do to them.. ).

      1. JBird

        There was a rough balance of power, but the conservative elements of society brought in, supported, and equipped the Friekorps. Hitler got such support shifted to him using the fear of the conservative business, financial, and military leadership of the communists, socialists, and democratic elements period. The private armies of the various parties were larger than the army until its rearmament by the Nazis.

        There was also the problem that the ultraconservatives in general, and the Nazis specifically, were more willing to ignore convention, the law and to use violence, including murder than the more liberal or leftist parties. When you know the head of the German Communist party says next time it will be our turn when the Nazis are elected there was a difference in expectations. Of course he wound up dead in a concentration camp.

        Once the Nazis got the financial backing of the upper classes, who wound down their own parties for him, he got enough power to seize control. It was something of a close thing. Most people did not realized just how ruthless he was otherwise he never would have gotten power despite his private army of Brownshirts.

        In the American South, armed violence by private groups like the KKK, and later the Democratic party, including the police, was used to overthrow the political power of blacks, their white allies, socialist parties, and the Republicans into the 20th century. Hard to organize, or vote, if you are dead or fleeing for your lives.

        So the direct successful competition with the military is really unlikely. It is the margins, the early staging of power, that counts.

        1. BoycottAmazon

          Once the Nazis got the financial backing of the upper classes, who wound down their own parties for him, he got enough power to seize control.

          There you go again, ignoring the facts that Hitler was handed the army and the police by the elite (to further their interest, not because he had thugs, but in-spite of them (see Night of the Long Knives). Elites who were for the most part pretty happy with him till it all started to go south. Own-goal, dude.

    3. BoycottAmazon

      Risk, really? The founding fathers stayed far away from the fighting. They suckerd not very intelligent souls, perhaps men like yourself if you are as brave and dull as your writing indicates, into dying so they could avoid paying British Taxes (fairly set to recover costs of defending their property interest in the colonies from France & Spain), could raise tariffs to protect their monopolies squeezing the working class, and most importantly could go on slaughtering Native Americans (with the guns you want to keep) for cheap land instead of being restrained by the British Crown. Since you admire these men, I have to wonder about your moral grounding.

      The 10 amendments that you call the Bill of Rghts, are just that amendments. Guess what, they can be amended away just as they were added. Jim Jeffrey make that point much better and more humorously.

      1. JBird

        I’m a overweight, overaged college student who has absolutely no intention of getting into a gunfight with anyone, anywhere, and almost any reason. I’m cowardly to die.

        The British did use the same tactics on the Americans as our American governments are using on a growing proportion of the American nation; both national governments, as a well all the current state and municipal governments, to ignore, do away, do away, or loophole into nothingness any customs, rules, and laws that might be prevent their getting of money, and in the current times power.

        The whole march to war started as a conflict over revenue generation, but Bill of Rights were written in reaction too, just as the war was finally triggered by, the abuses of the British.

        Finally, although most of the entire American Colonies’ economy was based on the smuggled goods, much of which was not available from Great Britain at any price, although at of the smuggling was in luxuries like Maidiera wine. Look up mercantilism. The Colonies were colonies. with under much of what that implies.

        1. BoycottAmazon

          Finally, although most of the entire American Colonies’ economy was based on the smuggled goods, much of which was not available from Great Britain at any price, although at of the smuggling was in luxuries like Maidiera wine.

          Do you understand your own thinking? and where do you pull these wild facts, from your imagination?

          1. Lambert Strether

            Let me show you how it’s done.

            * * *

            A cursory internet search turns up this Encyclopedia Brittanica entry:

            Smuggling was a regular feature of the economy of colonial British America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Though the very nature of illicit commerce means that the extent of this trade is incalculable, a wide variety of British and colonial sources testify to the ability of merchants to trade where they pleased and to avoid paying duties in the process. Together admiralty proceedings, merchant correspondence and account books, customs reports, and petitions demonstrate that illicit trade enriched individuals and allowed settlers to shape their colonies’ development. Smuggling formed in resistance to British economic and political control. British authorities attempted to harness the trade of their Atlantic colonies by employing a series of laws that restricted overseas commerce (often referred to as the Navigation Acts). This legislation created the opportunity for illicit trade by raising the costs of legal trade. Hampered by insufficient resources, thousands of miles of coastline, and complicit local officials, British customs agents could not prevent smuggling. Economic self-interest and the pursuit of profit certainly motivated smugglers, but because it was tied to a larger transatlantic debate about the proper balance between regulation and free trade, smuggling was also a political act. Through smuggling colonists rejected what they saw as capricious regulations designed to enrich Britain at their expense.

            So, while it’s true that smuggling in Colonial (by which I mean pre-Revolutionary) America was significant, there’s no basis for the claim that “most of the entire American Colonies’ economy was based on the smuggled goods.” (Corrections from more knowledgeable readers welcome.)

            * * *

            Spot any differences? Besides the absence of ad hominems? like “do you understand your own thinking? and where do you pull these wild facts, from your imagination?”

            1. JBird

              With respect to the Encyclopedia Britannica I think it’s biased, although not deliberately so.

              The American Colonies ability to pay for their smuggled imports, and remember under the mercantile system of the day, colonies were forbidden to produce their own finished goods like nails, but only import them the empire and only on that empire’s ships, and export their raw materials only to that empire. The colonists needs were unimportant rather like with Puerto Rico’s with the Jones Act, the serial destruction, or theft, of any profitable farming, or industries of the natives, and the special Congressionally imposed commission controlling its finances today. We have screwed the Puerto Ricans real good.

              The American Colonies depended on its drug dealing much like communities today to acquire cash, or even as straight exchange. Rum was hardly the only way, but it was the primary way of paying for what they needed and what they wanted. The Colonies were always having trouble finding and producing enough of anything that could be converted to cash or was exchangeable.

              Rum needs molasses, British molasses was too expensive, and cheaper non British molasses was taxed to be a too expensive also, so it was smuggled in. The British were always happy to import rum.

              Again, the system of duties, taxes, manufacturing, and imports was to financially benefit the central government, British, not colonial, manufacturers, and even farming interests, and not the financial welfare of the Colonies. So while excessive greed was a motive for the colonists, especially the successful and wealthy ones. George Washington and his rich fellow planters really loved their untaxed illegal (because the British didn’t make it) Madeira wine. So was survival for many who needed those nails imported from England and paid with American rum made from smuggled cheap French molasses.

                1. JBird

                  My apologies. I am mostly responding by a wonky cellphone in bed.

                  Anyways I don’t think the Encyclopedia Britannica is being malevolent. It just using an incomplete parochial view. Just like how Americans are taught about the French and Indian War with a local emphasis instead of the Seven Years War with a broader world view. Same war, just different views. Books that I have read, and recommendation of? Oh my. One good one would be the March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara Tuchman. Only part of the book is on the American Revolution. Then again the book subject is the that folly runs through history, like it does with our current elites, so it would be a good recommendation anyways.

                  Everything else is from memory. Although I did use Wikipedia to check on some dates. I can try some of it from the past thirty years. It just happens that I still have a copy of March of Folly. Also much of the reading was/is from books, articles, and even documentaries covering other subjects such as that slave trade, or slavery in general, or the Puritans. If you really want, I can get together a list, but it will have to wait until next weekend. I am procrastinating enough on my home work, and my papers.

          2. JBird

            From reading books? I have been reading, on and off, for decades the American Revolution including the events leading to it.

            The Colonies economy was financially dependent on rum which was made from illegally imported molasses. Sometimes it was used as a form of money. The colonists ability to pay for their imports from essentials like nails to luxuries like Madeira wine depended on it. It was an economy run on drug running and smuggling, which the British Empire had tacitly ignored, if only because it would cause extreme political difficulties, the Colonies were for the British the end of nowhere, and the Colonies had to support themselves somehow especially as not all the needed goods could come from the Mother country.

            When the Seven Years ended the central government thought that the colonists should contribute some to paying off the debt and to the costs of the continued military defense. Something many if not most colonists agreed reluctantly. The government just did it in all the ways.

            1. Lambert Strether

              If you would cite the books, that would be useful (I also notice you’re leaving slaves out of your description of the triangular trade).

              Not sure about:

              the Colonies were for the British the end of nowhere, and the Colonies had to support themselves somehow especially as not all the needed goods could come from the Mother country

              Surely the British didn’t maintain their empire out of altruism? And surely British mercantilism meant exactly that all the goods should come from “mother country”?

              1. JBird

                No, the British did not start, or maintain, an empire out of the goodness of their hearts. It was an empire that kinda happened though. The English were hoping to do what the Spanish had done. Conquer some natives and get them to do all the nasty work of digging up the gold and silver.

                Which of course didn’t happen. What did happen was a slow settlement of at first really small, poor, and unimportant communities on the East Coast by a hodgepodge of groups over a 150 years or more. A lot of with with the government’s backing, much of it financed and composed of rich people seeking to get richer, some religious dissenters like the Puritans, some immigrants like modern Americans, and a lot of “waste people” or poor English, Irish, Scots sent either as criminals or indentured servants to be gotten rid of, made hopefully into useful people, or to die usefully. You can also add the Dutch colony around New Amsterdam.

                Part of the problem here is that trying to use a single plot to cover two centuries, the entire Atlantic coastline, the Caribbean, and Africa, something around twenty colonies, four empires (French, English, Dutch, and the Spanish), shifting laws, attention, wars, territories, and God knows what else is insane.

                For example, each American colony was settled at different times, under different rules, or charters, and had different economies. The Puritans who settled in New England could be called a democratic theocracy with an economy based first on small farming, then adding fishing, and later whaling.

                Pennsylvania was owed for a while by the Penn family under a charter from the British government, and run by the Quakers.

                The Southern Colonies were mainly founded by companies of investors seeking more money. It was mainly composed at first by effectively enslaved whites, later definitely enslaved blacks with some Indians between the two groups. Those colonies were strictly money making enterprises by any means. Timber, tar pitch, rich, tobacco, and cotton.

                So in the 150 plus years before the American Revolution, the colonies at first were financially unimportant. The Caribbean was where most of the profit in sugar growing, most of the slaves, and most of the fighting between the empires were. When France lost the Seven Years War, it was more interested in keeping some very profitable colonies in the Caribbean than it was in keeping the less profitable North American colonies.

                The British had not been serious in enforcing the mercantilism system on poor backwaters. Benign neglect lasting centuries in which the laws were mostly ignored by both sides until they were not. At which point a fully developed interconnected economy of around three million people was suddenly treated as if it was the old small undeveloped economy of a century before. And yes, mercantilism is supposed to mean that all finished good were supposed to come from only the home country, and while the development of manufacturing was hindered, the trading was not.
                By then, it was too late. A fully developed, mature economy, deeply rooted. There are good reasons Puerto Rico is such a economy mess as it was first a colony of Spain, and now the United States. There has been a continuous effort to hinder its economic development.

                Also, the Southern Colonies had more to trade with, whereas the New England Colonies not so much. Which is probably why the trouble started in the North. If your main means of exchange has to be illegal to be profitable, and is unprofitable if legal, and you have to import most of your stuff…

      2. Mark Woodward

        You are factually wrong on the founding fathers staying away from battle (http://www.snopes.com/history/american/pricepaid.asp). Two lost their sons and nine died from battle wounds. All men have flaws and are somewhat bound by their place in history. The system of governance they created stands as a work on it’s own. I admire that work and the sacrifice they made to achieve it. Do you or don’t you? What would you do differently and why? Will you actually take a position, debate it, learn from it, or are you here continue to use Insults, errors and character assaults? What’s your point?

  25. Lambert Strether

    A simple recommendation for commenters who want to avoid ad hominems and keep the atmosphere in the comments section serene, or at least not totally fractious:

    If you find yourself using the word “you,” try to rewrite to avoid it.* (Yes, this comment is meta, for very obvious reasons.)

    Adding, to the commentariat at large: This was a tough topic, with a lot of good commenting. Thank you.

    * In the comment above, there is at best no value add at all after the first sentence, which contains a link intended to prove a point.

  26. Joel

    Most legal experts agree the Framers of the Constitution did not intend the Second Amendment to preempt gun control. The Supreme Court decided this in 1939 and the precedent stood until decades of NRA lobbying ended with a party-line 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2008 that limited the potential scope of gun control.

    From Cornell Law School:

    In 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court considered the matter in United States v. Miller. 307 U.S. 174. The Court adopted a collective rights approach in this case, determining that Congress could regulate a sawed-off shotgun that had moved in interstate commerce under the National Firearms Act of 1934 because the evidence did not suggest that the shotgun “has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated milita . . . .” The Court then explained that the Framers included the Second Amendment to ensure the effectiveness of the military.

    This precedent stood for nearly 70 years when in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court revisited the issue in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290). The plaintiff in Heller challenged the constitutionality of the Washington D.C. handgun ban, a statute that had stood for 32 years. Many considered the statute the most stringent in the nation. In a 5-4 decision, the Court, meticulously detailing the history and tradition of the Second Amendment at the time of the Constitutional Convention, proclaimed that the Second Amendment established an individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms and struck down the D.C. handgun ban as violative of that right. The majority carved out Miller as an exception to the general rule that Americans may possess firearms, claiming that law-abiding citizens cannot use sawed-off shotguns for any law-abiding purpose. Similarly, the Court in its dicta found regulations of similar weaponry that cannot be used for law-abiding purposes as laws that would not implicate the Second Amendment. Further, the Court suggested that the United States Constitution would not disallow regulations prohibiting criminals and the mentally ill from firearm possession.

    By the way, the Framers were also into slavery and powdered wigs so no good reason to be beholden to them forever.

    1. JBird

      >>By the way, the Framers were also into slavery and powdered wigs so no good reason to be beholden to them forever.<<

      True. They were also into freedom of speech, and search warrants.

  27. Eclair

    Well, here I am in western NY state, on the border of Pennsylvania, where, now that bow-hunting season has begun, the hunters park in the field by the kitchen window and trudge back into the woods. I try not to look like a deer on my walks.

    I also work at my cousin’s farm just over the border. A few weeks ago, one of the volunteer firemen stopped by to pick up a donation of 150 pounds of potatoes for their annual fund-raising potato and pork roast. Helping him out to his truck, he asked if I would like to buy a ticket. Who could say ‘no’ to the volunteer fire department? My $20 donation entitled me to all the potatoes and pork I could eat, and a chance at winning one of the 24 guns being raffled off. I figured this would arm about a quarter of the town.

    I won a rifle. I do have to go to the local hunting emporium and pay to have a background check done before I can claim ownership.

    Should I take it and remove one gun from the universe?

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