The NRA Could Be Winning Its Long Gun Game Even as It Appears To Be in Dire Straits

Yves here. I know it is obvious, but it still is important not to forget: a big reason gun culture has become so well established in the US is that movies and TV make such heavy use of shootouts. Westerns. Crime shows. Spy movies. War pictures. Most action flicks. Many of these  dramas have normalized the idea of shooting someone to protect your stuff, as opposed to your life and limb. And by contrast, there is just about no modeling of talking merely crazy or very upset people who are wielding weapons into putting them down. I wonder if the NRA and gun companies were early on to paying for product placement in shows.

By Robert Spitzer, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the Political Science Department, State University of New York College at Cortland. Originally published at The Conversation

No observer of contemporary gun politics could fail to notice a jarring disconnect between the two very different trajectories of the gun rights movement today.

On the one hand, more states are allowing Americans to carry weapons in public without permits, and the gun-rights movement could be on the verge of a major Supreme Court victory. On the other, the National Rifle Association, which advocates on behalf of gun owners, faces an existential crisisthat’s mostly due to the NRA’s own missteps.

As a political scientist who has studied gun politics and policy for over 30 years, I’m confident that there is no precedent for this contradictory situation. Moreover, there’s no reason to believe that the NRA’s problems will influence how the courts treat gun-rights cases.

2 Very Different Lawsuits Are Pending

The Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, challenges a state law that requires authorities to exercise discretion when issuing concealed-carry pistol permits. When justices heard oral arguments on Nov. 3, 2021, a majority of them appeared to be skeptical about the law’s constitutionality – despite the fact that it was first enacted in 1911and has withstood legal challenges in the past.

Meanwhile, as it marks the 150th anniversary of its 1871 founding, the NRA looks like an organization in jeopardy.

Expensive and protracted litigation exposed a pattern of lavish perks for its top officials, including private jets, designer clothes and vacations at expensive resorts – as well as plenty of cronyism and sweetheart contracts.

Many of these allegations of misdeeds were crystallized in a 160-page lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General’s office in August 2020. It called for the NRA’s dissolution and the removal of Wayne LaPierre as its CEO.

A nonprofit gun-control group led by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived being shot at close range, is also suing the NRA. The Giffords group alleges financial misconduct and possible campaign finance law violations.

Also, some NRA board members have resigned in recent years due to their objections to the organization’s track record. In September 2021, a dissident board member called for the entire board to be replaced and for LaPierre’s removal.

And in November, a National Public Radio report on secret recordings of a 1999 conference call among the organization’s top leaders held immediately after the Columbine High School shootings further tarnished the NRA’s reputation.

The recordings revealed frank discussions of the organization’s public relations strategy and derided some of the organization’s more zealous members as “hillbillies” and “fruitcakes.”

The organization has not released clear information about how any of this has affected membership. Because the NRA gets 40% of its annual revenue from member dues, which are reportedly stagnant, this exposure could be affecting its bottom line.

What’s Happening in Court

The NRA’s national reputation, however, might not matter that much.

First, while the NRA has long played a key role in Second Amendment litigation, many affiliated and unaffiliated organizations have taken on the task of challenging laws that restrict gun rights, such as the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association – the plaintiff in the pending Supreme Court case. Similar state-specific organizations exist throughout the country.

Second, and arguably more important, recent Republican presidents have been remarkably successful in appointing to the federal court system a large number of young and very conservative jurists. They have expressed great sympathy for an expansive reading of gun rights under the Second Amendment. Their interpretation goes further than the standard the court set out in its 2008 D.C. v. Heller ruling, when the court for the first time established that Americans have a right to own handguns for personal protection in their homes.

Even though he served for only one term, President Donald Trump was particularly successful in filling judicial vacancies, thanks in large measure to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts.

The three conservative Supreme Court justices Trump appointed, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, had all previously expressed their support for the rights of gun owners. And Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who have been on the court far longer, have often expressed dissatisfaction that gun rights have not received sufficient deference in prior court rulings.

Public Opinion Is Shifting

There’s another paradox that could matter too: Most Americans, especially Democrats, continue to support stricter gun laws, and yet people in the U.S. are buying guns, mostly handguns, at a record pace.

Notably, support for stricter gun control fell in the past year by 5 percentage points to 52%, according to a Gallup poll conducted in October 2021. That decline followed a 7-percentage-point drop Gallup measured a year earlier. Still, the poll reflects overwhelming support for existing gun laws: Only 11% favor making gun laws less strict.

A record-setting 1.2 million background checks, a proxy for gun sales, were conducted in two separate single weeks in March 2021. The buying spree was fanned by fears that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrations tied to the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 elections.

However, only about 20% of these purchases were new gun owners. For the most part, the nation’s estimated 72 million gun owners are adding to their firearm collections.

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  1. Tom Stone

    When authorities “Use discretion” in issuing either gun permits or concealed weapons permits in a “May Issue” state your odds of having your application approved improve vastly with a campaign contribution of $5K or more to the right re election campaign.
    Sometimes it’s pretty bluntly put,as in the recent fuss in Santa Clara county.
    And sometimes it’s merely understood.
    Really,it’s not a bribe,it just shows you aren’t riff raff and that your heart is in the right place…like a
    “1099 Foundation” license plate holder does.

  2. Chris

    How does one determine beforehand if someone is only out for your property or you? I give no benefit of the doubt to any aggressor. You want to risk your life for my possessions that’s a choice you made. Go steal from a corporation not a person.

    1. Tom Stone

      Chris,If a “Reasonable Man” percieves that there is an IMMINENT threat of death or serious bodily injury to an innocent person then the use of potentially lethal force is justified.
      If Sumdood is driving away in your car or running out your front door with a mega TV let the cops handle it.
      No matter how justified a shooting is the aftermath is a nightmare.
      If it is at close range you are going to get splattered, in any event you will be subjected to a Homicide investigation,people will treat you differently and if you are not a psycho you are going to have flashbacks.

      Sometimes the use of lethal force is the best bad choice you have, that does not make it a good choice.

      1. Pelham

        Agreed. But I may go just a bit further than that. I think there’s some extended, long-term value in owning a gun for home protection — even given the possibility that you end up using it lethally in self defense and regretting it afterward. That value lies in the simple — or simplistic — idea that you’re not completely helpless in the event of a home invasion.

        I know there’s a mountain of statistics to suggest this is a foolish notion. But there are also instances in which guns are brandished and fired justifiably in self defense. The stats may overwhelm the number of justified self-defense scenarios. Still, it’s important to acknowledge the real value of the at least perceived ability to exercise a degree of agency to preserve life and limb.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          There are very few cases of people actually chasing off invaders with guns. Sites that compile them to justify gunz and they have few examples, on the order of one or two a month. And you need to keep the gun in a manifestly unsafe place, like in a drawer next to the bed, to do that. Do you propose carrying your gun around with you? Having a gun in every room so you can grab it when you need it?

          A loud alarm or a German Shepherd or Doberman is a lot safer.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Maybe what would work best would be permits easy to get for actual hunting rifles but if you wanted a hand gun or a military style rifle, that is when the extra permits will be required with requirements for safety training, proper weapons storage, etc. In terms of functionality, handguns & military rifles have a different purpose to hunting rifles after all.

    1. Pelham

      All true. But what about the 2nd Amendment? It says nothing about hunting rifles or any other kind and it’s supposedly the law of the land.

      The problem with the nearly incomprehensible web of gun laws that vary from one locale to another is that they all fall afoul of the (at least) perceived universal right of “the people” (not just militia members) to keep and bear arms. We can argue about the language, but it’s undeniable that one — among several — legitimate interpretations is that “the people” applies to every single US citizen. And those who want to read it that way have every right and good reason to do so and feel aggrieved when that basic right is denied.

      The amendment itself should be the focus. It should be retained, repealed or replaced, possibly with some grandfather provision that doesn’t require mass confiscations. In the meantime, rejiggering laws here and there ticks off many of the nation’s responsible gun owners and probably achieves very little in terms of curbing gun violence.

      1. Mike Elwin

        Yes, I agree entirely that it’s the Second Amendment itself that’s the problem. There are all sorts of contributing factors, including our being a country that exists only because we used guns to kill everyone here and steal the place from them. But that damn text!

      2. lordkoos

        There were no revolvers, fully or semi-automatic weapons when the 2nd amendment was written. An update is sorely needed.

        1. molon labe

          1) Why does the 2nd Amendment get treated so poorly? All other enumerated rights are considered fundamental and subject to strict scrutiny. Be careful about what you would give away. Also, a gun registry is an awful idea if you are someone who thinks that the government has been doing a terrible job of protecting other rights–such as the 1st and 4th Amendments.
          2) There were no internet or cellphones when the 2nd Amendment was written. Should we go back to manual printing presses and Paul Revere?
          3) Guns are tools (albeit very effective ones) misused by bad guys. The number of “bad” shootings by “good” guys can probably be counted on one hand. Despite what the mainstream media would lead you to believe, guns are used 10s-100s of thousands of times a year in proper self defense–almost always without a shot being fired. (see pp. 15-16).
          4) The NRA under Wayne Lapierre and Marion Hammer is awful. Most gun owners are joining Gun Owners of America and The Second Amendment Foundation.

          1. TimH

            Santa Clara Valley Rifle Club requires NRA membership at higher level than associate member… I suspect that it is a common requirement.

            1. rowlf

              A lot of gun clubs require NRA membership, and NRA membership was often required to compete in organized competitions. Like Hunter Thompson, I got a life membership, but in my case, it was a matter of an occasional discount program versus how many years I planned to compete so the cost was less than any other memberships, my way of flipping the bird by meeting the minimums.

              The NRA screwed-the-pooch with its competition programs which they used to be proud of, so most competition shooters are moving on to other organizations like the Civilian Marksmanship Program (outgrowth of the former Department of Civilian Marksmanship) and USA Shooting for International and Olympic competitions.

              I see Wayne Lapierre and his greed and fear marketing as sinking the the ship.

        2. Tom Stone

          The Collier was a successful flintlock revolver at the time of the American Revolution and there were a number of repeating rifles made in flintlock days that were horrendously expensive but functional when well maintained.

  4. Tom Stone

    I’ll address the NRA first,and then Hoplophobia.
    The NRA was founded 150 years ago because the average American Soldier in our Civil War could not hit the broad side of a barn from the inside.
    It is a 150 year old bureaucracy with two major aims,promoting firearms safety and accuracy and a political side,promoting the widespread ownership of Firearms.
    Like any senescent bureaucracy with political aims, it has become corrupt.
    On the positive side the NRA has set safety standards for indoor and outdoor firing ranges,provides Insurance against both the theft of Firearms and for the defense of those who have used firearms in self .defense.
    They have also set the standards fora variety of competitions and the standards for different kinds of safety training.
    The people who run “Hunter Safety” programs are NRA Certified Instructors, for one example.
    On the Political side you see the money and thus the corruption.

    On to Hoplophobia, in the far away days I got the WSJ free at work I ran across an article that claimed the average American had witnessed 15,000 violent murders by the time they were 18.
    On TV and in the movies.
    All as dramatic as Hollywood can make them because “If it bleeds it leads”
    It’s pretty hard to convince someone that “Assault Rifles” aren’t a major threat by quoting the stats from the DOJ when they have seen thousands upon thousands of violent murders committed with them over the years WITH THEIR OWN EYES!.
    Add the number of times they hear about violent guns every day in the MSM.
    Not violent people using guns to commit crimes,Violent Guns.
    In the USA it is a matter of faith among”Liberals” that Gunz have agency.
    If that were indeed the case the answer would be simple, Exorcism.
    Two other falsehoods I commonly encounter is that Handguns have no place in Hunting, the .44 Magnum cartridge was developed 70 years ago specifically as a hunting cartridge…
    Another is that the AR15 is inaccurate and not suitable for hunting.
    For one example Les Baer has been selling AR15’s that are guaranteed to put 5 rounds into .5″ at 100 yards (300′) for decades and the AR15 has been the choice of professional Feral Hog Hunters for quite a few years.
    It is commonly referred to as the “Modern Sporting Rifle” for good reason and is available in more than 45 different calibers suitable for 1,000 yard competition, small game hunting or the biggest game found on the North American Continent as well as home defense.
    FD, I do not own an AR style rifle.

    1. w d w

      hm,maybe the reason so many are convinced that crime is running rampant, in their neighborhood. since they see in the movies they watch, and in the news. course with the modern technology added to this mix, allowing many to hear of crimes far from their homes, and applying those their own neighborhood. maybe because in the old days, the local papers didnt really have much interest in crimes far away. so now we see this every where, in part because we can see it on the news.
      while i could see some need to have weapons in rural areas, my problem is that in urban areas, shooting a firearm in your house, can kill some one next door, or up a block away. so why do we think its a good idea to push more guns in urban areas?
      seems like i read that some of this is because of the wars, where soldiers got used to having to have guns at all times, except that when in the military, and on base, very few carried weapons on base.

      1. w d w

        i forgot to mention that its not just urban areas, its suburban areas that fire arms are more dangerous than say in rural areas. some about urban areas having up 30,000 people per acre, where rural areas might have 100 per acre

    2. Cocomaan

      Senescent is the right word. A lot of younger gun owners see the NRA as corrupt and, when it comes to lobbying, useless or even worse.

      Go onto most gun and hunting forums and you’ll find people recommending membership in orgs like Gun Owners of America.

      1. Eric377

        I think the distinction is not very important in this discussion. The NRA may be corrupt with stagnating membership, but the gun owners who join other gun associations out there fully expect a robust and aggressive defense of gun rights. It’s not like the NRA is in trouble with it’s membership as being too against gun control.

    3. Soredemos

      “In the USA it is a matter of faith among”Liberals” that Gunz have agency.
      If that were indeed the case the answer would be simple, Exorcism.”

      This seems like a complete strawman. I have never met anyone, liberal or otherwise, who literally thinks this. The point of ‘guns kill people’ type talk is that a firearm is a vastly more effective means of killing someone than a knife (if nothing else you can run away from a knife with a reasonable chance of surviving). Get rid of the guns and the number of murders will plummet. That’s the rationale behind gun prohibition.

      This is legally a complete nonstarter in the US, because it’s blatantly unconstitutional. But in a sane society it wouldn’t be. The onus would be on gun defenders to prove that their toys provide a net social benefit.

        1. Soredemos

          This is disingenuous. You should be able to know what people are talking about, rather than taking every word you hear hyper literally. No one talks about gun violence as if the guns are magically alive.

        2. Andy

          This sounds like deliberate obtuseness.

          “Gun Violence” is media shorthand for “an individual using a firearm to commit a violent act or offense”

          Nobody thinks guns are AI driven autonomous entities that go around shooting people. They require a human operator with agency who must consciously decide to pull the trigger and everyone knows this.

    4. TimH

      “Les Baer has been selling AR15s”. [apostrophe corrected :) ]


      “Les Baer has been selling civilian AR-15 style rifles without selective fire” is more accurate.

      I don’t own one either (but do have a .22 rifle for target practice, which has never even been pointed at a living creature).

      1. Tom Stone

        EVERY Armalite 15 is semi automatic unless it has been modified legally or illegally to a select fire weapon.
        The M16 and its variants are select fire.

    5. rowlf

      The firearms safety trainers around me have developed their own courses and material due to feeling the NRA has been raising costs too much. The NRA programs were very good but the squeeze was getting to be too much.

      The last year and a half has been a boom time for the safety classes due to the increase in new owners. The class one of my teenage sons attended was mostly middle aged women and a few men, and didn’t match any stereotypes of typical firearms owners.

  5. Ping

    The rallying cry for expanded gun rights is only the surface layer of the onion. The NRA of decades ago, was focused on gun safety and would never imagine advocating for the untrained, unpermitted to conceal carry.

    The NRA is about far more than expansive gun rights, morphed into a congressional money laundering structure to privatize public lands on behalf of extraction industries in partnership with Safari Club International with identical playbooks to attack critics.

    NRA –SCI partnership hiding behind “gun rights” is a massive coalescing political power with covert agenda hat advanced rapidly with Trump Sr. and Trump Jr. (see link below). SCI operations is headquartered in Arizona with legislators aggressively advancing the corporatization of public lands, where the real money is and several years ago naming Paul Gosar, Oath keeper instrumental in 1/6 capitol assault, “Legislator of the Year”.

  6. a fax machine

    To use a Marxist perspective, modern technology invalidates all gun control as it invalidates most press control. CNC mills are about the price of a car, they require training to use but can reliably produce ~10-20 guns/day with enough material. Only issue are barrels, but DIYers have already solved this using improved electrodischarge methods using plastic dies made from 3D printers. The only missing element is gunpowder for bullets, but most drug dealers have the equipment to produce it and eventually someone will make a plug-and-play gunpowder machine as well. Now consider the larger developments in airguns, electromagnetic rail guns, lasers and drones – all of this will develop into usable weapons as batteries get better. Just look at your local hardware store, the premium $300 tool battery usually has enough energy to shoot ~5 rounds of .22 at a velocity comparable to a normal .22 round. In this case the limiting problem is capacitors.. but modern hybrid cars contain ones suitable for this purpose. This is similar to how the printing press made mass literacy and democracy plausible. Perhaps computer aided machining will do the same for industrial democracy. I mention electricity because if power tool batteries ever get good enough to do 5-10 .22 rounds with the same performance as powder, then it’s over for power weaponry in the same way electric power replaced steam power. Because electricity is easier to deal with then poweder, this improves the chances of worker rebellion.

    To use an American perspective, Americans don’t unconditionally trust the police anymore. Thus, people want guns because if the police don’t show up to robberies or looting then people will do it themselves. Regardless of what that actually means, it reduces the viability of gun control as a political platform. Democrats have been told this for years now but BLM has finally forced it in a way they cannot ignore.

    As for the NRA, they will still exist as long as Democrats keep trying to sue them out of existence. The biggest threat to the NRA isn’t gun control – it’s other gun owners wanting a gun rights organization independent of the Republican Party. Without making endorsements, the Second Amendment Foundation is considered superior in this regard. Same, as class consciousness breaks into gun-owning communities gun owners themselves want a 2nd Amendment without a corporate, elitist agenda behind it. New types of gun owners who have bought guns and use them present a long-term problem for Republican culture warriors, as they are creating a strong alternative to the current gun culture zeitgeist. And this “alternative” includes all the handguns, hi-cap magazines, assault rifles and explosives the old one does but without the subservience to the GOP.

    Personally, I blame Trump. He totally broke the old NRA by endorsing gun control and his bumpstock ban. This action also cost him the Presidency, and created a situation where far-right zealots who worship guns are actually against the insane people rioting at the capitol to worship Trump.

    1. Tom Stone

      You can have a small CNC Mill delivered to your door for less than $2,000 and for that same $2,000 you can buy a 3D printer and enough material to build a dozen of the FGC9 Mk!! submachine guns in your basement

  7. farragut

    I should state at the outset I believe responsible (definition TBD) citizens should be allowed to own firearms; I own several myself. Some thoughts:

    Having said that, it boggles my mind we still lack a national or state-level registry of private gun ownership (like we have for say, personal property or real estate). It’s also astounding that even though the FBI has a national crime database, it’s my understanding (apologies–I can’t find the source at the moment) many local police departments often don’t report (or fully report) local crimes to this database. So, we really don’t know the full extent of the details which would help us reduce gun violence.

    1. farragut

      The outrage for the number of homicides due to guns has always struck me as disproportionate to the extent of the problem. I certainly don’t want to diminish anyone’s death or loss of a loved one due to guns—I couldn’t begin to understand the grief of losing a family member to such a tragic death. But, from a societal perspective, it seems the annual number of homicides (approx. 10,000 annually from 2006-2019, but a sharp jump to ~14,000 in 2020…or roughly 0.00004% of a country with a population of 330 million) due to guns is quite small, especially when compared to the Top Ten (such as cancer or heart disease, which each account for approx. 550,000-600,000 annually). There are far more deadly public health concerns than guns, but we don’t see the same public or political outrage nor media coverage for these, in many cases, preventable fatalities.

      1. farragut

        As Spitzer points out above, we USians see tons of scripted gun violence in our movies & on our TVs (while our Empire creates conditions for *actual* & hellish gun violence in developing countries around the world—but that’s a rant for another day). Part of the solution to gun violence has to involve a reduction in gun glorification in our culture. This means confronting the MIC and their extensive involvement in Hollywood. For example, the authors in the link below obtained 1000s of pages from the US DoD & Intelligence agencies through FOIA. They discovered these groups had influence over 1,800 movies and TV shows.

        1. Basil Pesto

          The rest of the world watches the same movies and plays the same video games as you lot do. And yet… and yet…

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Straw man. You conveniently skip over suicide by gun, a big item among middle aged men. Other modes of suicide aren’t as fast and often wind up in sleeping first and waking up with a change of heart. And gun accidents which happen all the time and too often involve kids.

        Deaths by gun, including accidents, are nearly 40,000 a year, more than die in auto accidents, about 33,00 by car.

        1. farragut

          Indeed, I skipped suicides, as it always struck me as odd combining both gun homicides & suicides into a single category, where, even though they both result from death by firearms, they were motivated by very different reasons.

          Regarding suicide, I hope friends, family, or authority figures in proximity (eg, teachers) would intervene if they saw suicidal ideations, but–if after that–someone truly was intent upon killing themselves it’s not for me to stop them.

          I also skipped over accidents because it’s such a small number (eg, 500 or fewer since 2013), but I’ll concede your point and can see including them in the total, along with homicides. While the accidental death of a child is lamentable, how many kids have their lives cut short due to poor dietary or exercise habits instilled in them by their parents? My guess would be a much, much higher number.

          1. Joe Well

            >>if after that–someone truly was intent upon killing themselves it’s not for me to stop them.

            This was a common belief about suicide until better research in the 1990s-2000s. It is profoundly at odds with the reality of suicide by gun (as opposed to medically assisted suicide).

            Here is a good summation:

            Anderson says that suicide is an overwhelmingly impulsive act. He cites a study of survivors that said only 13 percent reported thinking about committing suicide for eight hours or longer; 70 percent said they thought about it for less than an hour; and a whopping 24 percent said the idea had occurred to them less than five minutes before their attempt.

            If that’s true, then suicide is highly opportunistic, and Anderson suggests that reducing the opportunities would reduce the incidence. He says that research and anecdotal evidence appear to bear this out. For example, he notes in his magazine piece that states in which gun ownership are highest have the highest rates of suicide by gun; in fact, the higher rates of gun ownership closely track the higher rates of gun suicides by state. Yet suicide rates by other means remain roughly similar.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Middle aged men are not big on talking about their feelings.

            As to kids dying of “poor dietary habits”, that is ridiculous. They won’t die as kids of that but they will of a gunshot.

            1. Basil Pesto

              your last point makes me think how I would be absolutely tickled if gun stores and packaging in the States (do guns even come in boxes? are there gun unboxing videos on youtube?) were bedecked in the same manner as Australian cigarette cartons (warning: graphic example of how we aren’t always completely shit at public health), but with gunshot victim photographs instead.

              The pearl-clutching from the gun stans alone would be hilarious and well worth it.

            2. farragut

              Apologies; poor wording on my part. I meant kids who grow to and die at age 60, rather than 80, due to the preventable dietary /exercise habits learned from their parents.

    2. farragut

      Urgh. I had two more comments under this one which appear to be caught in the Content Moderation wormhole…

      1. farragut

        The registry isn’t intended to stop gun homicide directly, nor to facilitate confiscation, but rather to verify the ownership chain quickly to determine a gun’s provenance, thus identifying and remedying any weaknesses in the purchasing of, education about, training in the use of, demonstration of competency, etc., chain. Since much of this doesn’t exist, it would require some work to create & administer.

    3. Mike Mc

      So old that 1) my Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops had NRA instructors teach us gun safety – Cub Scouts with BB rifles, Boy Scouts with .22 rifles – and most of them (as well as most of our fathers) were at least veterans if not combat veterans of WWII and Korea; 2) I remember when “Saturday Night Specials” were a Major Threat and politicians lined up to ban them (what happened with that, anyway?).

      Like many of the NC faithful, I grew up with firearms – learned to shoot at a tender age (see above) but never got deeply into the hunting scene. Have shot trap, skeet and sporting clays more recently – don’t have to clean, cook or eat clay pigeons – and have been debating purchasing a .380 or 9 mm pistol for… self defense? Because all recently retired white guys like me have one (or several)? To open carry and convince the Trump Humpers I’m really one of them (nope – diehard Berniecrat)? Or because I still like to put holes in paper targets at the range with a fine piece of machinery (lots of gun nuts are gearheads too)?

      I want to see all kinds of research into gun violence, domestic violence, poverty etc. etc. because COVID has made it crystal clear America – despite our spectacular technologies and advanced science – don’t know SQUAT about the things that plague far too many of our citizens. We only have a few years to get better at this before climate change sweeps civilization away, or into a deep deep ditch. Let’s get to it.

      1. lordkoos

        I’ve never owned a firearm other than a pellet rifle or BB gun (my dad did his hunting with a camera, he was a WWII vet but not infantry), but I grew up around hunters, and outside of hunting most farmers and ranchers around here owned weapons for shooting coyotes etc. When I was a boy a neighbor once took a group of us kids out in the woods to shoot the pistol and rifles that he owned, while teaching us a little about gun handling and safety. There were no school shootings back then and though many families owned weapons, the idea that someone would bring a gun to school to settle a grudge was unthinkable. The problem isn’t guns so much as it is the failure of American society and a media that constantly associates guns and killing with heroism.

  8. David in Santa Cruz

    The libertarian obsession with “individual rights” is a recent phenomenon which completely ignores the fact that the Second Amendment refers to “…a well regulated Militia,” not to letting a bunch of nuts run around with guns.

    Libertarianism is a death cult. As ye sow, so shall ye reap

    1. Soredemos

      No, the Second Amendment says individual rights to bear arms, for the purposes of forming militia, shall not be infringed. That last bit is why any attempt at gun laws, no matter how reasonable, are unconstitutional. A sane society would have sensible gun regulation, but the US isn’t a sane society.

      1. redleg

        That’s where regulating or restricting ammunition comes in.
        Own any firearm you desire, in countless numbers, but ammo…

        I’m a former Army officer, and would like to remind everyone that in the Army all weapons (including bayonets, btw), brass/ammo have to be kept under lock and key unless they are to be used under supervision. Then each soldier signs for their weapon upon issue, while the commanding officer is directly responsible for the equipment of the entire unit (signing a receipt for all of it), including its safe return (or combat loss). And yes, combat conditions are considered to be supervised.
        If soldiers are trained but not entrusted to keep weapons (or even spent ammo), that level of regulation should be applied to the general population. Go ahead and own a military weapon, but you have to bear personal responsibility for it at all times, including if it’s lost or stolen. There’s my $0.02.

      2. David in Santa Cruz

        The phrase “the right of the People” was not until very recently interpreted as an individual right. Rather it referred to entities other than the federal government. As conservative Nixon-appointed Chief Justice Warren E Burger said as late as 1991:

        If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment … that a well regulated militia being necessary for the defense of the state, the peoples’ rights to bear arms. This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word ‘fraud’ – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

        Another conservative Nixon-appointed Supreme Court Justice, J.P. Stevens wrote in his 1998 dissent to the libertarian Reagan-appointee Scalia in Heller:

        When each word in the text is given full effect, the Amendment is most naturally read to secure to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia.

        1. Eric377

          Misreading English is a normal approach when reading it accurately angers a person. The militia reference is a given reason for the right to bear arms, not a requirement. They could gotten rid of the part about militias and wrote that it was the need to shoot “pesky wabbits” and we would have the same right to bear arms.

          1. Soredemos

            That’s my point. It’s about individual rights, with the part about militia being the rationale behind enshrining those rights.

        2. JBird4049

          However, the extremists on each side do not want the Second Amendment to read as having a guaranteed, but limited, right to own arms. One side wants the Second to read as all weapons all the time, anywhere for any, or no, reason, while the other side wants to glide over that inconvenient amendment’s very existence.

          I just exaggerating for effect here, but it really does seem like this is how the extremists are.

          Let’s get little Johnny his first uzi in kindergarden. And I always open carry my .357 revolver while grocery shopping because who knows what might happen?


          But guns are teh evulz being the semi sentient and aware, autonomous floating death machines owned by knuckle dragging white racists

          There cannot be any need for a gun in a country in which it can be hours before the police can get to you or if there are some grizzlies around. Then there are those murderous exes who can’t take a divorce or separation rationally.

          Suppose a state or states wanted to rearm (reactivate or recreate really) its army again. States did and could again. I can see Alabama creating the Army of Alabama. Heck, states had armed navies. The Navy of Alabama? Or Florida? I can see some die hard gun rights nutballs in a state government making it a law again that all healthy adults of military age are in the state military with the responsibility to own their own assault rifle. What would the gun control crowd do then?

          I don’t think that the federal government needs a admendment to be armed; that leaves either the individual, semi-independent states and/or the citizens/public. Then the debate becomes just to whom the admendment is giving those rights and to what degree. From my inexpert, layman’s reading a weapon is anything from a rock to nerve gas and it could plausibly be the states or the individual, or some combination.

          So, I am right back at the beginning except for the admendment’s existence with the personal understanding that the correct interpretation depends on what kind of country the Founders wanted then, and Americans want today.

          But Obama is a Kenyan socialist and it’s all the deplorables and the poors fault that Covid is merrily killing us.

          Apparently, nuance is for suckers and idiots. Really. It is also my personal understanding that we as a nation are simply just f—–.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        David in Santa Cruz in an attorney with tons of courtroom experience as a prosecutor, meaning solely criminal cases. What is your claim re knowing the relevant precedents?

      4. David in Santa Cruz

        In a document that begins with the words, “We the People,” the use of the plural article compels the conclusion that “the People” is a reference to collective rather than individual rights. The concept of “individual rights” appears to have developed during the Warren court’s struggle to find a practical application of these collective rights to individuals.

        Unfortunately, this period also saw the rise of the individualized philosophies of people such as Wilhelm Reich, Ayn Rand, and their ilk. These have combined in the collective consciousness and in neoliberal jurisprudence into a perversion of what “We the People” was understood to mean for 200 years. The general gist of this comments thread demonstrates how deeply this individualism has taken root in the culture.

        Individual “rights” absolutism, libertarianism, and neoliberalism provide nothing but a framework for self-indulgence and greed at the expense of the “security of a free State” and the collective well-being of the People.

        1. Tom

          This is essentially the dissent argument in Heller. Regardless of how anyone feels about this, or their personal belief, it is incorrect as a matter of constitutional law.

          I went back and re-read the majority opinion in Heller and Scalia specifically addresses this point. So, in my opinion it is disingenuous at best to keep making this argument.

          1. David in Santa Cruz

            How is it “disingenuous” to agree with the dissenting justices that Heller was wrongly decided? Is it “disingenuous” to argue that Dred Scott or Plessy v Ferguson were wrongly decided? “Separate But Equal” was the “Law of the Land” for many more years than Heller has stood.

            The justices are just men and women ridden with personal biases and swayed by politics. The United States Constitution is not a sacred text or scripture. They are often proved wrong in their interpretation of that imperfect document. No opinion of the court is ever the “final” word on the subject matter decided, as any decent lawyer will tell you.

            Individual rights don’t exist in a vacuum; one individual’s “rights” may not impinge on the “rights” of another individual. Every “right” carries with it responsibilities. While firearms may not be banned, even a libertarian demagogue like Antonin Scalia would have agreed that they must be regulated in order to protect the peaceable enjoyment of life and property.

            1. Tom

              It’s disingenuous because you are ignoring the current state of the law. You aren’t saying that you disagree with the Supreme Court or that the Heller ruling was wrong – you don’t mention it at all. And while it could of course be revisited by the Supreme Court in the future it is the final word on the law until that happens. If you had stated that you disagreed with Heller or that your expect it to be changed in the future would be far more intellectually honest than ignoring it and implying that the dissent is actually the state of the law.

              Moreover, the Heller opinion specifically addresses each of your points in the third paragraph above. To not mention that Scalia considered and rebutted each of your points, including specifically stating that the right to own and bear firearms is not unlimited and can be regulated by the state is even more disingenuous.

              ps – After more than 15 years practicing at some of the biggest law firms in the world I like to consider myself a decent lawyer…

              1. David in Santa Cruz

                It is “disingenuous” to reply without reading my original comment, which clearly says that the current state of the law ignoring the “well-regulated militia” clause is a recent phenomenon brought-on by the death-cult of libertarianism.

                Heller was a 5-4 decision reversing legislation of very questionable constitutionality that balanced on the tiny fulcrum of Anthony Kennedy’s agreement to go along if Scalia grudgingly agreed that the Second Amendment is not absolute.

                Kennedy and Scalia are both gone from the court. Heller is quite likely to be distinguished on its facts by future courts, depending on the factual record in future cases. As the saying goes, bad facts make bad law.

                I personally spent my entire 30-plus years as a practicing lawyer in actual courtrooms (occasionally sitting as a judge pro tem), not pontificating for wealthy clients in private dining rooms. For me, the law is a living thing dependent upon facts and circumstances and decided case-by-case by actual humans.

    2. Eric377

      Because it was thought important to be able to raise said well regulated militia, it was thought important for people to have the right to arms, because those were the source of arming the militia. People had a right to arms whether or not a militia was ever raised. In a sense, militarily useful arms should be the most protected. Anyway, why not simply say that you want to eliminate or substantially change the second amendment, but with the Constitutional amendment process and sentiment among the states, this probably won’t happen.

      1. marym

        The connection of gun ownership and use to a well-regulated militia currently being non-existent, but the rights retained, it would be socially beneficial, even if not legally required, for proponents to provide some rationale for what we face today.

        Why should the unrestricted legal ability for almost anyone to acquire almost any number of powerful deadly weapons, stockpile ammunition, parade around almost anywhere with such weapons on display, and benefit at times from some very favorable definitions of self-defense — be considered not only an apparently unassailable legal right, but acceptable behavior?

        Most other reasons given for why this is an important right (hunting, self-defense, property defense, stopping a bad guy with a gun don’t require anything close to the situation we have in the US, nor do they require a gun culture of glorifying the ownership, display, and use of these weapons.

  9. Sue inSoCal

    Awash with firearms, we shall descend into anarchy. Nowhere will be safe, as we see practically on a daily basis (my opinion). There is also the issue of militias. I saw this in a piece in the Guardian, but can’t find the citation. Feel free to correct if this if incorrect!

    “To clear up for readers who may get snarled when we use the word militia: all legal militia activity was incorporated into state national guard units in 1903 in the Dick Act. Everything else is extralegal. There are laws in the books in all 50 states that limit having private armies. And yet here they are. We have elected officials who report to these groups.”
    – Kathleen Belew (white supremacy historian, Harvard, via The Guardian)

    1. JBird4049

      Severely paraphrasing here, I read a quote of a Brazilian who said we have guns and violence, but you do not see us shooting any schools up. What is wrong with you?

      I think, like with the increasingly bifurcation into the tiny wealthy class and everyone else, the increasing corruption and griftification of almost everything in American society, business, the courts, charities, churches, government, even the military, the anarchy we see is caused by all this, with gun violence merely a symptom.

      Guns are just a more visceral, and often more available, tool for using violence to express the anger, fear, and despair in too many people. If there were no guns, then knives, cars, and bombs would be used.

      It is also a fabulous way for those creeps in the NRA or corrupt politicians like Gavin Newsom to get their money; using words to whip up the fear, the votes, the donations with the same fear also leading to more anarchy and violence. So long as they can make a profitable grift, they do not care.

      1. Soredemos

        I agree that it’s a symptom. The US has had widespread gun ownership from the beginning, but didn’t always have widespread gun violence (even the Wild West was in fact nothing like the Wild West of popular imagination). And there are other countries today with high percentages of gun ownership but a tiny fraction of our levels of gun violence.

        So the constant shootings are a symptom of a society in decay. Everyone is poor and miserable. But it is also a hell of a symptom. I have a very hard time believing that if we could somehow magic away all the guns tomorrow that there would be such a rise in stabbings or murder by other means that it would match the previous firearm-related deaths. The gun is simply a fantastically effective way of killing, especially of impulse killing. It literally revolutionized warfare, after all.

        It’s not like any of the underlying problems that are actually driving the constant stream of shootings are going to be solved any time soon (or ever, probably).

        In an ideal society, ie one not operating under the specter of a badly written and open to interpretation Second Amendment, firearms would be at least as heavily regulated as automobiles are. I know that doesn’t please right-wing libertarians, or certain types of Marxists (Marx himself famously was opposed to any attempts at disarming the working class*), but I can’t see a reasonable, functional society not regulating them.

        *I’m not persuaded by arguments that ‘we need them to keep tyranny in check’. Marx could still, just, make that kind of argument in the 19th century, but at this point it’s just utterly absurd. And even in his time, peasant rebellions actually have a pretty poor record of success in any era. Revolts succeed most often when parts of the professional soldiery defect, not when only regular people show up with their modest weapons. Also, specifically in the American context, the most heavily armed people seem to be, to use their own terms, the most cucked and least likely to revolt. Ironically, as long as their rights to weapons aren’t restricted, you can seemingly get away with quietly restricting all their other rights and they won’t even notice.

        1. Robert Gray

          > So the constant shootings [in the US] are a symptom of a society in decay.

          No argument there.

          > *I’m not persuaded by arguments that ‘we need them to keep tyranny in check’.
          > Marx could still, just, make that kind of argument in the 19th century, but at this point
          > it’s just utterly absurd.

          Some (extreme libertarians, for example) might say that it is utterly absurd only because nowadays the tyranny is well and truly unchecked and it’s tricky to put the genie back into the bottle.

          > Revolts succeed most often when parts of the professional soldiery defect …

          This is a good point; however

          > in the American context, the most heavily armed people seem to be … the most cucked …

          No. In the American context, the most heavily armed people are obviously the agents of the State. I have long thought that it would be very interesting indeed to see a ‘census’ of how many millions of government employees at all levels, from the local dog-catcher up to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have a lethal weapon associated with their jobs. I won’t be the only one here to remember the brief, quickly forgotten news-story from some years back where it was reported that the budget for the Social Security Administration included an item for hundreds of thousands of rounds of small-arms ammunition. Social Security, ffs!

          That is why, as you say, it is crucial to bring the armed agents over to the side of the people. Every once in a while there is a glimmer of hope but it is always doused. I remember during the events that became known as ‘Tiananmen Square’, in the early days the protestors took heart when some military spokesman said ‘The People’s Liberation Army does not fire on the people.’ But, then we saw how that turned out.

      2. Anon

        When I was a teenager, it was more common than not that the student pickups in the high school parking lot would have a gun in the gun rack of the back window. As someone else noted above, it was also completely unthinkable that someone would actually use a gun on another person. But it’s so much easier to blame problems on guns than it is to face up to the fact that our society is sick.

        1. Roland

          In the part of Canada where I grew up in the 1980’s (central British Columbia), it seemed that half the pickup trucks in town had rifles hanging in the back window rack–and hardly anyone ever locked their vehicle doors.

          Notwithstanding the very high unemployment rate at that time, the ubiquitous family dysfunction, and rampant public drunkeness, nobody got shot. As I can recall, the 1980’s were a dismal time in this region, but not dangerous or desperate. We felt disgruntled, not bleak. We often wanted to hit somebody, but not to kill anyone. There was still a general expectation of future happiness.

          But when I think back on it, I do marvel at the rudeness that was so commonplace. Maybe that was the thing–we could curse and storm and glower, without consequences. e.g. I insulted my boss numerous times, even customers once or twice, and never got sacked.

          As for media, we could just turn on the TV or rent a video, and enjoy watching people getting randomly wasted (quoth Arnie, “I’ll be back”), so that’s not much of a factor.

  10. marym

    Maybe part of the reason the NRA is visibly in crisis is that its membership and political allies have already won so much that they no longer need to put their efforts into defending it or deflecting attention from its scandals.

    Real winners currently are those among the electorate for whom unlimited guns and state control of women’s bodies have long been their self-proclaimed single or most important issue. Sure, they’ve done their share, along with the libs, of empowering elite political leaders responsible for our failing economic, healthcare, and infrastructure systems, but they’re winning what they decided was more important.

  11. flora

    Don’t hand it all the credit to the GOP. The MSM for at least the past 2 years (last summer’s riots and recent cases) declaring WS at the drop of a hat if someone is white and a deplorado (in their view), has done good job, too.

    Glenn Greenwald’s latest about the co-called left-ish MSM fixation on their particular ‘WSs under the bed’ scare reporting:

    The Cynical and Dangerous Weaponization of the “White Supremacist” Label
    In dominant elite discourse, no evidence is needed to brand someone a “white supremacist.” The belief that it will produce political or personal gain suffices.

  12. Dave in Austin

    The Gallup survey at least makes public the text of the questions. The question above reads: “In general do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict or kept as they are now?”

    Change “sale of firearms” to “sale of guns”, “guns” or “the right to bear arms”. Try “private sale” vs “sale”. Now substitute “believe” or “think” for “feel”. Delete the final “now”. Each change will lead to different poll results.

    “Strict” also has a set of reactions. Try “relaxed”, “restrictive” or “more or less strict” in the sentence. Even better see if you react differently to “more or less strict” than to “less or more strict”. We are all lab-rats in these ongoing experiments which can either consciously or unconsciously bias questions.

    I’ve written, scored, tested and modified such questions. Minor changes in wording result in different statistics. An SAT study found changing the subject’s name from “John” to “Juan” would change both gender and ethnic scores by as much as 3%. Results also vary over time. At some point all questions on the SATs which referred to hunting or fishing were withdrawn because they apparently altered the scores of the increasing number of vegan girls. More strangely, such questions affected the scores on the questions that followed. Every attempt to correct for one bias introduces a new bias.

    Look carefully at both gender and ethnic roles in the narrative of TV shows and the show’s adds and you can quickly guess not only which gender, race and marital status the adds are aimed at but also the aspirations and longings of the target audience. Adds on pro football games and dating shows are obvious but so are the narratives and adds on reruns of “Big Bang Theory”.

    The only advise I can give is “learn grammar” and “test everything by substituting different words”. Then examine how the changes affect your own emotions and responses.

  13. George Phillies

    The interesting contradiction is the fixation of some liberals on the NRA, whose membership is a tiny minority of all gun owners, while ignoring all the other Second Amendment groups and the work they do. The perhaps-imminent USSC action comes NYPR, not NRA.

  14. Wukchumni

    I hear about 5-10 gunshots in the distance per week here in rural tiny town and it ain’t no big thang, i’m used to it.

    I’d posit that the vast majority of guns owned by city slickers have never been fired or only a few times-as it isn’t easy to do so, free shooting ranges are many hours drive away, and in city indoor shooting ranges are spendy, about a Benjamin per session when you figure ammo use.

    Getting a concealed carry permit is no biggie here in the red state bastion, but forget about that in SD/OC/LA/SF, so there are going to be a heck of a lot of exposed guns on really inexperienced people in the Big Smokes when the shift hits the fan, what could go wrong?

    My fellow Americans, guns won the battle to have more rights than citizens in our country and it doesn’t matter that the NRA was CalPERKS in reality, the Cylinderella story of the situation is we have everybody armed to the teeth against an unquenchable foe, us.

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