A conversation about guns and the intentions of POTUS

The assault weapons of the time when the 2nd Amendment was adopted. If you were really good, you might have been able to fire one round a minute.

The assault weapons of the time when the 2nd Amendment was adopted. If you were really good, you might have been able to fire one or two rounds a minute.

Last night during the debate, I Tweeted:

This led to a brief back-and-forth with Bryan Caskey about whether that was true or not. Eventually I urged him to send me evidence supporting his position after the debate. Today, he obliged…

You asked for the evidence. Okay, here it is:

First, let’s understand what the Australia policy actually is. Just so we’re clear, the “Austraila Policy” is not just an optional buy-back of guns. It’s a MANDATORY (as in required by law, or else you’re committing a crime) buy-back program for a lot of guns, and it’s an outright ban on semiautomatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns, and all handguns. All. Oh, you want one? Well then mate, you have to show up to the government of Australia and show a “genuine reason” for wanting to own a gun, and guess what, the reason of “self-defense” isn’t a valid reason.

When has Obama touted this super-duper policy? What evidence is there? Well, here are three times he said praised this gun control system. Submitted for your approval…

1. June 10, 2014: “Couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting, similar to Columbine or Newtown. And Australia just said, well, that’s it, we’re not doing, we’re not seeing that again, and basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since. Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country that would put up with this.” …

2. June 22, 2015: “When Australia had a mass killing … it was just so shocking to the system, the entire country said ‘well we’re going to completely change our gun laws’ and they did, and it hasn’t happened since,” Obama said.

3. October 1, 2015: “We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.  Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.  So we know there are ways to prevent it.”

Here’s the thing. You just can’t tout Australia’s gun laws without touting the mass confiscation program which is the heart of it. So when Obama says we should look to respond to shootings as Australia did, he’s not talking about background checks. He’s not talking about gun shows. He’s not talking about magazine limits. He means that we should ban and confiscate guns. No amount of him saying “I believe in the Second Amendment” and him smirking whiles saying “No one is coming to take away your gun” can change this. He can’t just casually bring  up countries that have confiscated firearms as some great achievement that we should look to emulate unless he really wishes to push the conversation toward confiscation.

But hey, I’m sure this guy would never try and mislead us. If you like your gun, you can keep your gun.

To which I responded…

My point was, he’s never tried to do anything like that. So it’s kind of disingenous to say that’s his default response.
I can sort of identify with Obama’s position, even though he may be, in his heart of hearts, more anti-gun than I am.
I have an ambivalence that I see in him. (And which you are HIGHLY unlikely to identify with.)
I believe that probably the ONLY thing that would significantly reduce our gun-death rate would be a radical reduction in the number of guns that exist and are in circulation. And yeah, that would mean something like Australia, or Britain.
And I think that is actually a sensible, rational response to the problem.
At the same time, I see it as completely politically impossible in this country. Not because of the 2nd Amendment — frankly, I think the most obvious interpretation of those words would be that gun ownership is protected within the context of a well-ordered militia. But the idea that it means no personal ownership of any kind of weapon should ever be abridged is SO embedded in our political culture that it’s unshakable.
So I end up feeling like there’s not really anything I can do.
And I think Obama reaches a similar conclusion, except that being the president, he doesn’t want to own up to powerlessness.
I don’t believe it EVER occurs to Obama to try to do something to “take guns from law-abiding citizens” because he’s too pragmatic to waste time on such a thought.
Where the distrust comes in is that folks on your side of the debate see that he’s someone who would LIKE the political realities to be different. But he knows they AREN’T different, and acts accordingly.
Is this making sense? As I say, I’m describing an ambivalence…

To which he responded…

I agree he’s never actually tried. Where my distrust comes from is that I don’t think he is actually letting us know what his real heart-of-hearts position is. I think (as you say) his true position is something along the lines of the Australia Model, and he knows that openly, honestly saying “Look, I believe we need to confiscate guns like they did in Australia” would be (1) political suicide; and (2) would not actually get anything done, anyway.

That’s because as you say our idea that gun ownership as a personal right (unconnected from service in a formal military unit) is “embedded in our political culture that it’s unshakable”. I agree that Obama acknowledges that reality, and that’s what really keeps him from openly saying “Here’s what I believe”. I see him as someone who will not tell us what he really wants because it’s so outside the mainstream of what is embedded in our culture.

To give you a counter-example, I give you exceedingly more credit for laying your cards on the table and saying “Here’s what I believe” than I do to Obama, who keeps trying to reassure me that he’s a big believer in the Second Amendment. Every time I hear him say “I believe in the Second Amendment”, I have a flashback to Sunday school where a teacher was telling us about believing in God, and how lots of people would say that. She would then say, “Believing in God isn’t the end of the spiritual journey, because even the Devilbelieves in God.

You’re going to flip your lid when you read this, but I think Obama believes in the Second Amendment like the Devil believes in God.

For instance, if Scalia had a heart attack today, I believe Obama would appoint a Justice to SCOTUS tomorrow who would overturn Hellerand tell us that privately owning a firearm is contingent on military service.

I would prefer that Obama say “Look, I believe we need to confiscate guns like they did in Australia, Some of you may not agree, but that’s what I believe”, and then we can all lay our cards on the table about what we actually want. Then we can talk about what we’re all willing to do. However, it’s really hard to make a deal with someone when they won’t level with you about what their real beliefs are.

At which point I decided to share the conversation with the rest of y’all…

29 thoughts on “A conversation about guns and the intentions of POTUS

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I appreciate that Bryan appreciates my relative frankness on the issue by comparison to the president.

    But don’t y’all get up and give me a standing ovation or anything. I’m freer than he is to say what I think. My words don’t have the explosive impact that his would if he said that yeah, we’d probably all be safer without the current predominate interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

    I suspect that the president believes in the 2nd Amendment the way he believed that marriage is a thing between a man and a woman, back when he said he believed that.

    But I think pro-gun people should take comfort from the fact that he isn’t going to try to go out and confiscate guns, because he is a pragmatist…

    1. Bryan Caskey

      I feel like the last line of your post implies: At which point I realized my dear friend Bryan had been exposed to red kyrptonite…


      Have a good weekend, everyone.

    2. Barry

      I disagree with you Brad.

      He will avoid going out to “confiscate guns” because he knows he’d be ignored.

      1) The Supreme Court wouldn’t allow it
      2) Many members of his own party would be furious with him
      3) He’d likely immediately be impeached
      4) The American Public wouldn’t stand for it (can we discuss hundreds or even thousands of armed groups marching on state houses and in Washington
      5) Many legal jurisdictions, and even police forces across the country wouldn’t enforce it

  2. Matt Bohn

    Not related to the commentary, but the guns in the photo looked like early percussion caps and not flintlocks. This would make these antiques more modern than the firearms from 1789 by thirty plus years.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well in that case, I’ve just fallen into one of the most common errors of journalists — betraying an ignorance of firearms.

      No more can I make fun of journos who refer to the “bullet” fired by the shotgun…

      Or maybe I can make fun of them a little.

      Frankly, I’ve never seen a firearm that old in the “flesh,” so I’m bound to make mistakes. The oldest gun I’ve ever examined up close was a Navy revolver from about the 1850s that a friend had, and it was a replica… I learned to load and fire it. Loading it took a lot of work, but once you were done, you had six rounds ready to go (or was it five? I forget)…

      1. Matt Bohn

        An honest error. They look like flintlocks that were modernized and you have to look closely to see that. I think it’s more amusing to realize that while they look comically old, the coversion made them a lot more advanced than the firearm the amendment was addressing in the first place in terms of reliability and speed. You should shoot a blackpowder rifle, I bet you’d enjoy it. A sense of accomplishment after the many steps of measuring and loading and lots of smoke with each shot. It’s fun. I don’t know if you would get that feeling with an assault rifle. It takes no real effort. A cheap high.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Black powder is a lot of fun. The slow whooosh of the explosion is so different from a modern crack. It’s a real commitment to the process.

  3. Burl Burlingame

    To which I respond, please name someone whose gun has been taken away.

    Also, even with muzzle loaders, the percussion cap totally speeded up the reload process. Three and four rounds a minutes from an infantry line wasn’t unusual. What really takes time is aiming.

  4. bud

    As a nation we’ve just decided to accept 20,000 gun deaths per year the same way we accept 35,000 traffic deaths. As a free society sometimes we have to accept such tradeoffs. That position I could respect. I just wish the pro-gun folks would just acknowledge that their right to own guns comes at a cost that is acceptable to them and quit trying to peddle this bull that what we need to end gun violence is more guns.

    1. Dave Crockett

      I have to agree with Bud.

      And, as I’ve said numerous times before, I truly appreciate the points of view that Bryan and Brad have been able to put forth. I always come down on Brad’s side, but Bryan has made some really important comments that have helped me clarify my feelings on this topic.

      Thanks to all!

    2. Assistant

      I just looked it up and was surprised (er, not really) to find that all the cities with the outrageous murder rates were run by Democrats: Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, Camden, Gary, New Orleans, Baltimore, Newark, etc.

      So let’s ban Democrats! That’s just as constitutional as banning guns, no?

    3. Barry

      In many ways we do accept the traffic deaths. You don’t hear the president or political parties talking very much about the almost 33,000 people that die in traffic deaths every year. You surely don’t see them get in front of microphones after a family of 7 are killed in a single traffic accident.

      but back to the gun deaths – It’s actually about 30,000 – with almost 20,000 being suicides by gun (87% of gun suicides are by males).

      and HANDGUNS – not “assault style weapons” that get all the public attention are the gun of choice in over 70% of homicides.

      I think your position stated above is stated by many – including myself. Yes, some people are going to kill other people- and some will kill themselves.

      By age group, those 65 and older (not young people) have the highest suicide rate by guns per Pew Research Center

      About 11,000 are gun homicides.

      Gun suicides have generally been on the rise, while gun homicides have declined over the years even though restricting gun ownership is talked about more and more.

  5. Assistant

    I share Bryan’s belief that the president would like to ban private ownership of firearms. Obama’s first Attorney General, Eric Holder, went on record in 1995 recommending brainwashing (his word) kids in schools at all levels with the gun control message. In testimony before Congress while in office he clarified his remarks, stating that his target for those messages was black students. I can and do accept that. I’d not use the word “brainwash,” but do support any effort to get all kids — regardless of color, ethnic origin, creed, sexual orientation, and the like — to refrain from violence in resolving disputes or otherwise addressing differences with others.

    However, the ill-conceived “Fast and Furious” program was among the first of the Obama administration’s initiatives to curtail gun rights. In December, 2011, CBS reported:

    “Documents obtained by CBS News show that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) discussed using their covert operation ‘Fast and Furious’ to argue for controversial new rules about gun sales.”

    Under F&F, ATF directed licensed gun-sellers to sell high-powered rifles to straw purchasers who were obviously buying on behalf of third-parties who were probably Mexican drug gang members. The main difference between F&F and a similar GW Bush Administration program was that the US did not notify the Mexican government of the particulars of the programs, resulting in the weapons disappearing after they were brought across the border.

    The administration’s argument that US weapons were empowering the drug-gangs’ efforts might have succeeded had not F&F weapons been traced and identified as the weapons used to murder one or more US Border Patrol officers. (And, as it turns out, a bunch of Mexican law enforcement and elected officials too.) It’s just one more case where facts dismissed an otherwise adequate argument. The Obami could not move forward on limiting gun rights using this argument.

    So let’s move on. A lot of folks argue that this aspect or that aspect of the US Constitution is outdated because the document is old, over 100 years according to the youngsters at Vox. One point stressed, for example, is that personal weapons are a lot more potent than those in use when our constitution’s framers wrote the Second Amendment. The Vox folks don’t seem to notice that they’re not setting type and slathering ink and running paper through a press, but that the same protections afforded the pressman of old by the First Amendment applies to them in this digital age. They don’t understand that our founding documents imposed a structure that was technology independent (or ignorant) and designed to counterbalance the vested interests of the folks who occupied roles in each of the three branches. Our founders foresaw divisiveness and prescribed a bill of rights to limit the impact of one branch trying to assert authority over the other two branches.

    The timelessness and value of that Bill of Rights is evident in the Supreme’s 1983 decision in Minneapolis Star Tribune Co. v. Commissioner where it found that a use tax on paper and ink in excess of $100,000 consumed in any calendar year violated the First Amendment . The ruling found that state tax systems cannot treat the press differently from any other business without significant and substantial justification, and the state of Minnesota demonstrated no such justification to impose a special tax on a select few newspaper publishers. Therefore, this tax was in violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press.

    What I find most distressing in the discussions about firearms and gun control in this “modern” age is that we’ve forgotten how important the means of self-defense — modern arms defending one’s life, family, and home — has been throughout our nation’s history. The fact is that the modern civil rights movement would have been snuffed out were it not for brave people well-armed who stood in the background to defend the peaceful and brave civil rights advocates who pressed for justice. Look up “Deacons for Defense and Justice” for a fuller depiction of the folks who tried to protect the innocents. I refer you also to the Battle of Athens, the 1946 episode where folks took up arms to defeat a corrupt local government after their appeals to the state and federal government fell on deaf ears.

    Over the past few years I’ve become fascinated with Frederick Douglass and consider him to be every bit as important to our nation’s moral development as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were. He was prescient when he wrote: “A man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.” And who can forget the remarkable Ida B. Wells who in 1892 remarked that “the Winchester rifle deserved a place of honor in every Black home.”

    So today we find that too many people are dying by the gun, so we blame the guns. That’s rather silly when we take a slightly deeper look at the crimes, to include the terrorist-related ones. How does eliminating firearms from the law-abiding lessen the body count? The answer is simple: it prevents the innocents from protecting themselves and others.

    In Chiraq (Chicago), Oakland, and other cities, gangs are recognized as political players. I can almost believe that the Holder Justice Department directed settlement funds to organizations that in turn diverted funds to them. Almost. Wittingly or unwittingly, is there a difference?

    I find this whole discussion somewhat bizarre in that there are lots of bad guys who want to intimidate, rob, rape, and or / kill innocents, and that there are those who want to prevent the innocents from defending themselves as God intended and Colt, Smith and Wesson, Browning, and others enabled. I leave you with this:

    Gun ownership goes to the heart of what it means to be a responsible citizen in our constitutional republic. It goes to the heart of what it means to be a responsible parent or spouse. It isn’t merely about hunting, or the joy of an afternoon at the firing range, or “looking tough.” It isn’t about fear. It’s about autonomy, independence, and a deep and self-sacrificial regard for the lives of those you love. It’s about exercising the fundamental human right to defend oneself and others.

    Have a great weekend!

    1. bud

      I share Bryan’s belief that the president would like to ban private ownership of firearms.

      That’s just plain paranoid. POTUS has never uttered a word that would even remotely suggest he would “like to ban private ownership of firearms”. That’s the kind of dangerous rhetoric that causes people to lose respect for the pro-gun extremists.

      1. bud

        Here’s a few liberal equivalents to Mike’s banning firearms comment:

        Ted Cruz would like to disenfranchise New York as a state by eliminating their electoral votes for POTUS.
        Marco Rubio would like to eliminate taxes on anyone making more than $1million/year.
        Jeb Bush would like to invade Iraq and establish it as the 51st state.
        Chris Christie would like to permanently close all bridges that service cities with Democratic mayors.
        Mike Huckabee would like to mandate all public school teachers lead their classes in Christian bible study for one hour each day.
        Ben Carson would like to ban all religions except Seventh Day Adventists.
        Donald Trump would like to forcibly expel 11 million people from the US. (Ok that one is actually true)

        These are actually more in line with the truth than: “the president would like to ban private ownership of firearms”.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Regarding Cruz and New York, here’s something I tweeted during the debate the other night:

      2. Assistant

        bud –

        Just because an individual’s paranoid does not mean that nobody’s out to get her. Her concern may have arisen from her observation of what others regard as coincidences, her understanding of human nature, her analysis of others’ behaviors and patterns. Her critics may argue that there’s no smoking gun and be 100% correct until the smoking gun appears.

        Here’s a good example:

        The most paranoid and xenophobic conservatives of the Cold War were, painful though this is to admit, the closest to the truth in estimating the magnitude and subtlety of Soviet subversion. Liberal anticommunists (like myself in the 1970s) thought we were being judicious and fair-minded when we dismissed half of the Right’s complaint as crude blather. We were wrong; the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss really were guilty, the Hollywood Ten really were Stalinist tools, and all of Joseph McCarthy’s rants about “Communists in the State Department” were essentially true. The Venona transcripts and other new material leave no room for reasonable doubt on this score.

        Obama’s already written two memoirs, perhaps he’ll do a third that’s more enlightening. Sadly, I suspect we’re about as likely to get his real beliefs on gun control as we are to see his college transcripts.

      3. Barry

        I believe Obama would like to confiscate guns but realizes it’s a non starter – thank goodness.

        But no one pays Obama any attention on the gun issue anyway – thank goodness.

    2. Barry

      Generally that’s a failure of the parent.

      I was raised around guns. I had guns in my home when I was a child. I have guns in my home now. I regularly shoot my pistols and my shotgun. My children have shot my pistols. At Christmas, I spent a few hours with my 12 year letting him shoot my pistols.

      But I am a responsible parent when it comes to guns. I don’t need the government to hold my hand, or restrict me from my guns because I am a responsible person with respect to their use, safe handling, and safe storage.

      1. Assistant

        Barry –

        You make a great point about the parents’ role in the proper use of firearms. But that’s a loving family with wholesome values, an endangered, vanishing marvel in our time.

        I’d take that step further by pointing out that the gang phenomenon that’s plaguing our society and generating the horrendously high bodycounts in many of our major cities has been happening because the gang supplants whatever family there may have been for the troubled youths it ensnares. For many, the gang may be the only family they’ve ever had. Unless / until we find a way to strengthen the family in all communities, not just the troubled ones, we’ll have no recourse but to lock up the gang members who survive long enough for us to imprison.

        Since we’ve not implemented any successful corrective measures since Daniel Patrick Moynihan identified the problem fifty years ago, I figure that we’re probably screwed. Gangs now represent a powerful political force in some cities, in Chiraq for sure.

        Couple that with radical Islam’s successes in proselytizing the disaffected through social media and we appear to be on the highway to heck, the only smooth pavement to be found in the country.

        The optimists will tell you that it’s merely our self-made Goetterdaemmerung, so a new order will arise from the waterlogged ashes. The pessimists fear that the optimists are 100% correct.

  6. Burl Burlingame

    Comparing gun to cars would be accurate — if cars were designed to kill as many people as possible.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, it’s hard to make analogies with guns, particularly if you’re talking product liability or anything like that.

      There are cigarettes, which when used as intended do kill people. But that’s not the original intent of cigarettes. (I believe the original intent of cigarettes are merely to be obnoxious and foul the air for all the people around you. Oh, and to look cool.)

      Since swords aren’t much of a factor these days, there’s just nothing you can compare, say, a handgun to, in terms of its intent

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        It brings up the old litany from Western movies:

        Don’t wear a gun unless you’re prepared to draw it.

        Don’t draw a gun unless you’re prepared to fire it.

        Don’t fire a gun unless you aim to kill.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        “there’s just nothing you can compare, say, a handgun to, in terms of its intent…”

        You’re a word guy. A word-smith, perhaps. That’s why I sigh when I see you type the above statement.

        A handgun doesn’t have an intent. It’s an inanimate object. It’s a thing. It has a function, not an intent.

        1. Barry

          Brad apparently thinks that a gun has a brain and can act with intent. It sure sounds that way.

          Did you hear about the SUV that killed all those people on the highway?

          It was interesting. According to the news the SUV decided it wanted to kill some people.

          It’s time to put SUVs in jail.

  7. Burl Burlingame

    Also, something like two-thirds of gun deaths in the US are suicides.

    On the other hand, Marco Rubio said he bought a gun on Christmas Eve to defend his family against ISIS.

    1. Barry

      well – sort of – he mentioned it in terms of community, school, home, etc…

      Brothers Ryan and Michael McCarty, who attended Rubio’s stop in Sioux Center, said they appreciated Rubio’s focus on the Second Amendment.

      “I think there’s a little sensationalism there, but I think using ISIS as a focal point to try to get people to understand the importance of the Second Amendment is vital,” said Ryan McCarty, 24.

      “The idea of ISIS coming to my home, a little bit of a fear tactic there, but the overall idea that we have Second Amendment rights — I’m definitely with him on that,” added his 27-year-old brother Michael

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