Open Thread for Friday, June 10, 2016


Slow news day, with most outlets’ lede story being a funeral. But here are some interesting topics, if anyone cares on a Friday afternoon:

  1. Thousands Gather in Tribute to Ali — The aforementioned funeral, in case you have further thoughts to share re “The Greatest.”
  2. Witches perform impotence hex on Stanford man convicted of sexual assault — Oh yeah, sure, that should sort him out. And you know, they probably announced this with a straight face. This is a terrible case that didn’t need unintentional humor injected into it.
  3. Gawker, Reeling From Hogan Suit, Files for Bankruptcy — And all the newspapers moved over to make room on the bench, saying “Welcome to the club…”Gordie_Howe_Chex_card
  4. NHL legend Gordie Howe dies at 88 — There goes one of the only two hockey players I would be able to name. The other is Bobby Orr, whose surname is so popular on crosswords. (Wait, does Happy Gilmore count?) Anyway, even I knew he was one of the greats, which is an achievement in itself.
  5. Special Operations Command wants U.S. companies to start making AK-47s — That’s the smartest idea I’ve heard in awhile. This is the greatest infantry weapon ever made. Every enemy we’ve face since Vietnam has had these, and it’s time our soldiers could match them.
  6. Egg producers pledge to stop grinding newborn male chickens to death — Hey, anybody up for a nice chicken salad? Listen, you can do away with the whole industry as far as I’m concerned. I don’t eat the creatures — or their eggs, either.

63 thoughts on “Open Thread for Friday, June 10, 2016

  1. Karen Pearson

    I’m all for freedom of the press, but I think Gawker went wa-a-y beyond that when they published pictures. That doesn’t add any information, and appeals only to prurient interest.

  2. Dave Crockett

    I know I’m kicking the hornet’s nest, but….

    Bryan, et al., in light of Saturday’s event in Orlando, please explain to me again why it is essential to the American way of life to allow a private citizen legally to purchase an AR-15. I’m limiting my question to this weapon specifically, as I’ve come to grudgingly accept the handgun possession arguments you’ve put forward for personal protection (though I don’t own one) and have always accepted the general concept of recreational hunting/target shooting with rifles (which I also do not own).

    I’m 63 years old, so please bear with my failing memory.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      No, you’re not kicking the hornet’s nest. I’m not offended that you’re asking this question. Since you’re someone who doesn’t own any guns at all, you’re doing the right thing in trying to learn before you come to any conclusions. I’m guessing that in addition to not owning any guns, you may not have ever held a gun, fired a gun, much less understand the particular way that various guns function.

      The AR-15 is a modern rifle, relatively speaking. Generally, firearms are mostly old technology. For instance, the classic Colt .45 pistol that is iconic (pictured below) was designed in 1911. (Hence the name.) The mechanism and design of the 1911 pistol is over a hundred years old, and it really hasn’t been improved on since then.

      Going back to the AR-15, it was designed in the late 50’s, and after roughly 10 years of being a civilian rifle and going through various modification, it was adopted by the US military in the mid 60’s. Side note: the “AR” in the name of the rifle doesn’t mean “assault rifle” It’s simply because the guy who designed the rifle was working for Armalite at the time and Armalite simply desingated all their rifles with the prefix “AR” and then a number.

      Now, here’s where I have to get a bit technical. The US Military adopted the rifle and modified it. The most significant modification was they made the rifle a “Selective Fire” rifle. This means that the M-16* (the military rifle) is capable of the following modes of fire:

      1. SAFE – The safety is on, and when you pull the trigger, nothing happens.
      2. SEMI – When you pull the trigger one round is fired.
      3. AUTO – When you pull the trigger, the gun fires rounds continuously until you release the trigger or the magazine is empty.

      *There are lots of variants in the military. Some models of the M-16 have a “BURST” setting in which you pull the trigger and only three rounds fire. Some have this in lieu of the AUTO setting, and some have it in addition.

      By comparison, the civilian model (the only one that you or I could buy) is capable of only SEMI. In this respect, it is accurately referred to as a semi-automatic rifle. One trigger pull yields one round heading downrange. To fire another round, you have to release the trigger and then pull it again. Obviously, you can do this as fast as you can flex your index finger, which is pretty fast. In this respect, the rate of fire is identical to the 1911 pistol or the M-1 Garand we used against the Germans in WWII.

      Accordingly, the AR-15 is really no different than any other semi-automatic rifle in its core functionality. It’s popularity stems from two main factors:

      1. Customize-able: The AR-15 is one of the most customize-able rifles out there. You can kind of think of it as the “Mr. Potatohead” of rifles. You can set it up to be all different calibers, barrel lengths, sights, etc. Obviously, people have lots of different preferences so this is a rifle that you can really customize to make it suit your desires.

      2. Accurate: It’s really easy to be accurate with an AR-15. The recoil is almost nothing, so there’s no giant “kick” when you fire off a round, and having a longer barrel (compared to a handgun) stabilized by being against your shoulder makes it a very accurate platform. I love shooting an AR-15 type rifle because I like to hit what I’m aiming at. That’s a large part of why it’s the most popular rifle in the USA.

      Going into caliber (the size of the bullet that the gun shoots), as I mentioned above, the AR-15 platform can shoot a variety of calibers. However, the most popular caliber round is probably the .223 Remington. This isn’t a huge cartridge in terms of size, but it’s relatively inexpensive. Accordingly, it’s sort of a misnomer when someone refers to an AR-15 chambered for .223 as a “high-powered” rifle. In point of fact, it’s a rather lower-powered rifle. In my opinion something “high-powered” would be a rifle like a .50 caliber rifle. The .223 is really good for shooting things you would refer to as “varmints”; gophers, rabbits, and things like that. At closer range (inside 100 yards) you could take a deer with it, but it’s worth noting that not all states allow you to go deer hunting with a .223 because if you don’t hit the deer in the right place, the .223 will likely just wound the deer, rather than dropping it quickly.

      Yes, inside 100 yards, it will certainly kill a person, and that’s why the US Army uses a round that is similar in the M-16. But again, we’re talking about the cartridge, not the rifle.

      So what’s the point of all that background? Well, my point is that the AR-15 platform isn’t some outlier of a rifle. Sure, it’s a great rifle, but there’s nothing really fundamentally different about it from thousand of other semi-automatic rifles and carbines. So when I encounter people who want to ban this rifle, I sorta feel like that’s saying you want to ban the Honda Accord because you’re trying to prevent car accidents. Yeah, it’s a popular car, but there are lots of really similar cars out there.

      Is it “essential to the American way of life” to be able to buy one? I’m not sure that’s the standard that we use in deciding whether or not to make things illegal. But we do live in a country with a specific provision in our Constitution that protects the right to keep and bear arms. I know a lot of people don’t like that, but we do, in fact, have that language in our Constitution. The AR-15 is now the most popular rifle in the United States, and 99.99999% of theme are used for lawful purposes. They’re very, very, very, rarely used in crimes because they’re relatively expensive and not concealable (as opposed to handguns) Even if you did ban them, all you would do is stop people like me from owning them.

      I guess my short answer is that the AR-15 isn’t a crazy outlier of a dangerous rifle warranting a ban, and banning it wouldn’t make any actual difference in your goal – which is presumably to stop terrorists from killing innocent people.

      If you ever want to come shooting sometime, let me know and we’ll put some rounds downrange and put some holes in some paper and/or turn round pieces of clay into little pieces of clay.

      1. Dave Crockett

        My thanks, too, for a complete and thoughtful response to my question, though it still leaves me with a very empty feeling about whether it will ever be possible to put a dent in this rising tide of gun violence of all types in this country. To your question about my gun experience, no, the only things I’ve ever shot were a BB gun and a pretty nice Sheridan air pellet rifle back in my teen years. The first time I managed to pick off a bird with the Sheridan was the last time I shot it.

        I’ll now go follow the new thread that Brad has started on the Orlando situation.

      2. Mark Stewart

        “The .223 is really good for shooting things you would refer to as “varmints”; gophers, rabbits, and things like that. At closer range (inside 100 yards) you could take a deer with it, but it’s worth noting that not all states allow you to go deer hunting with a .223 because if you don’t hit the deer in the right place, the .223 will likely just wound the deer, rather than dropping it quickly.”

        “Yes, inside 100 yards, it will certainly kill a person…”

        Bryan, while I generally agree with you, these are preposterous statements. The AR-15 was designed to kill on the battlefield – from up close to 400-600 yards out. It is not, and never was, a “sporting rifle”. It is a weapon and round combination designed to do maximum harm to people. Ballistic characteristics x rounds down range (plus time and accuracy on target) is what this weapon is about. The combination that makes it inappropriate for civilian life is its intent, the magazine size and the ease of accurate rapid fire.

        Saying the AR-15 cannot take down a deer when one was just used 1 day earlier to murder 49 people is staggering.

        The entire problem here is that in hunting one is limited to 3-5 rounds in a magazine by law. Large magazines are verboten. Yes, one can carry unlimited ammunition, but the practical limitation is rate of fire. However, leave the woods and one can walk into a school, nightclub, movie theater – hell, anywhere people congregate – with 30 round quick load clips and a killer can fire 300 rounds in a matter of minutes. 300 rounds of people killing bullets. Accurately and as fast as one can pull the trigger – which, as you said, is fast.

        Sub machine guns where banned in 1934 because of their volume of fire; and now we have semi-automatic weapons systems which can fire nearly as many rounds with significantly higher accuracy and effectiveness at killing people.

        This is something that we as a society need to consider. The constitutional right to life life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens trumps the 2nd Amendments rights – especially as now most broadly applied. The basic right to live of those 49 murdered people supersed the right of another to buy, without restriction, a people killing weapon system. That’s the bottom line.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          My Dad, a Vietnam veteran, asked me last night what a weapon like the AR-15 is for. “For killing people,” I said. “That’s right,” he said.

          But I continue to wonder why our military uses the M-16 (or, increasingly, the M4 carbine, with its small slug, rather than something like the AK-47.

          I’ve mentioned this before I believe, but it made quite an impression on me, so I’ll mention it again. In the book Black Hawk Down, one of the soldiers — I want to say a Delta guy, but it could have been a Ranger — complained that when you shot someone coming at you with an M-16, he could keep coming. That was something that caused this guy to switch to another weapon, because when he shot someone coming at him with intent to kill, he wanted that guy to go DOWN, not keep coming.

          And of course, there were thousands of people coming at those U.S. soldiers that day. It should be noted that despite that guy’s complaint, about 1,000 Somalis died, compared to 18 Americans. (And yet we were the ones who thought we were defeated.)

          1. Mark Stewart

            The Russian’s have switched their AK’s to new versions using ammunition similar to the AR-15 – down from the larger caliber of the AK-47.

            The issue of “stopping power” is a different issue. Knock down power comes from a bullet carrying greater energy than the .223 round. It’s immediate force. What the .223 does is create a greater, more devastating wound cavity. That’s why so many people died between being shot at 2 am and being rescued at 5 am. And to Bryan’s point, why the .223 isn’t a great bullet to hunt deer – as a hunter you don’t want them to stagger off to bleed out somewhere they are difficult to recover them from. Hunter’s want their prey not just dead, but dead where they fell.

            Special operations soldiers need immediate knock-down power in close-in combat; the army as a whole needs a rifle that removes the greatest number of enemy combatants from the battlefield and the fight. These are very different conceptualizations of force.

            I’m kind of sick of talking about a situation where as a society we have accepted hunting regulations and restrictions, and yet when it comes to people we want the ability to kill as many as possible, as fast as possible. It’s dis-heartening, to say the least.

        2. Bryan Caskey

          “Bryan, while I generally agree with you, these are preposterous statements.”

          Okay, allow me to expand and clarify my remarks. For me personally, I find it irresponsible to shoot at a deer with a .223 Remington cartridge. First, there are other cartridges out there that are vastly superior to taking a deer. To me, hitting a deer and not dropping it almost immediately is worse than missing it entirely. Yes, one *can* take a deer with a .223, but you can also pound in a nail with a a rock, but a hammer would do better. Why not use the best tool for the job?

          Maybe I’m biased because my deer rifle is a .270 Winchester cartridge, and I think it’s dumb to use a lightweight .223 round for a deer.

          Oh, and deer are not people. They’re fast, have huge lungs, strong hearts, and big muscles. They are harder to kill than people.

          1. Mark Stewart

            Thank you for agreeing with the point that the specific purpose of modern military firearms is to kill people.

            Lots and lots and lots of things can kill people; but we tend to heavily regulate those things that are particularly effective or efficient at specifically killing people.

            I see no reason why we cannot ban 10+ round magazines from any kind of weapon. We as a society have paid a terrible price since the expiration of that regulation.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              “I see no reason why we cannot ban 10+ round magazines from any kind of weapon.”

              Do I surprise you by agreeing that such a ban would be Constitutional? However, I would oppose it on a policy basis.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                You ever see that Christian Slater action-comedy “Kuffs?”

                Kuffs, a feckless young man who knows NOTHING about firearms, walks into a gun store and says to the clerk, “I’m looking for a really big gun which holds a lot of bullets.”

                The clerk replies, “God bless you, young man.”

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  Ha. I don’t think I ever saw that one. He was pretty big in the late 90’s, though.

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  Why would I oppose a universal ban on magazines that could hold 10 or more rounds?

                  Tell me what your goal with this law is and why you believe this law will accomplish your stated goal.

                2. Bill

                  Still don’t see a policy based on anything here. All I’m seein is rhetoric, the same rhetoric that gets spouted about any and every proposal: “Nope, THAT won’t fix it, that ain’t a magic bullet.”

  3. Bryan Caskey

    “Still don’t see a policy based on anything here. All I’m seein is rhetoric, the same rhetoric that gets spouted about any and every proposal: “Nope, THAT won’t fix it, that ain’t a magic bullet.”

    I’m not proposing a policy. You are. What’s your policy goal? What is the objective you hope to accomplish with a ban on all magazines holding 10 rounds or more? Can you even articulate a policy goal?

    1. Mark Stewart

      I take the plate.

      The two key goals here have to be to address a problem that is 1) Constitutional and 2) political. The first is both defined and undefined. It’s about as much help to us as an 18th century survey map of the Colonies would be to a coastal sailor. It other words, it gives a pretty fair description of the overall terrain, but don’t expect to use it to reference anything that can be seen with the naked eye – or through a telescope. The Constitution is just like that, words of hazy meaning viewed up close. To view it as a sacred document that means all in its every word, spelling, punctuation or phrasing is to wreck upon the unknowable shoals of its construction.

      But stand back, and the intentions are clear. And the document foundational. It, in its fullness, is an excellent guide for our civic society.

      To this point, it is clear that the founders wanted people to have guns. As a hedge against the medieval truths of an unarmed peasantry. It is also clear that the expectation, based upon then recent history was that the citizens could be mobilized with these weapons into militias. But even in the Revolution, the militia – Kentucky rifles excepted – were far under-equipped than the army. And the Constitution grants the powers of an army to the state.

      So just as then when there was overlap between the weapons of the army and of the citizen, we have the same issues now. All weapons are weapons and can kill, then as now.

      It seems to me that the clear intent was that citizens be protected in the right to have weapons, though not those equal to the army. I think that is at the root of this issue with “assault weapons”. Just like with a paper map or the Constitution, when you start looking at the individual components, at the piecemeal level, it’s hard to tell one from the other. But the idea still, it seems to me, that the intent was never for the people to have the state’s weapons – it’s firepower.

      I think that idea was widely supported with the 1934 gun legislation, legislation that hasn’t been materially challenged since, it’s worth noting.

      So for me the clear policy goal is that any weapon that can equal the firepower of the current military equipment is, if not reserved to the state, then subject to the same regulation and restrictions as we have under the NFA.

      I’m not saying ban assault style weapons, but they should be categorized under the NFA due to the totality of their 1) human killing intent, 2) volume of fire, 3) accuracy of that volume of fire.

      That said, I think we should absolutly ban all firearms magazines of greater than 8 rounds. This would generally apply to line police officers as well, pistol, rifle or shotgun. This mission creep of turning the police into militarized/equipped forces is socially problematic on many levels.

      That’s my firearms policy statement.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Mark, thanks for the thoughtful reply. There’s a lot in your response to unpack and sort through. I’ll give you my response after business hours. Currently lawyering.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        You’ve raised a lot of different issues here, Mark. If anyone is not really interested in this topic, I suggest you move along, because this is going to be a long response. A long one.

        As an initial thought, I see you trying to take a middle path between “the 2A protects an individual right to bear arms” and “the 2A protects a right to bear arms if you’re in the government regulated militia” as was the divide in the parties’ argument in Heller. You seem to be taking the position that the 2A protects an individual’s right to bear arms as long as the arms are defined as something less effective/powerful/lethal than what the government run army/militia has. Let’s dive in.

        “To this point, it is clear that the founders wanted people to have guns. As a hedge against the medieval truths of an unarmed peasantry. It is also clear that the expectation, based upon then recent history was that the citizens could be mobilized with these weapons into militias.”

        I agree. The 2A is a hedge against a government that goes off the rails. You have to remember the context of the times. Back in Merry ol’ England, (or is it Jolly ol’ England) the Charles II and James II had done a good job in suppressing political opposition using their hand-selected militias and by disarming their political opponents. After the Glorious Revolution, William and Mary guaranteed that the protestants would never be disarmed. This was codified in the English Bill of Rights and is widely regarded as the forerunner to our 2A. This alone is evidence that it has nothing to do with being in a militia or any corporate body. But I think you’re with me on this.

        So about a hundred years later, the individual right to bear arms is already a given. So when George III tries to put Boston under military rule after Boston gets a little uppity about the tax thing, the Bostonians were clear that they didn’t want to give up their arms because of this long-standing right that they had come to internalize and take for granted. But again, I think you’re with me that the right (in its general sense) is an individual one, and not something connected to the militia.

        “But even in the Revolution, the militia – Kentucky rifles excepted – were far under-equipped than the army. And the Constitution grants the powers of an army to the state.”

        This is what I regard as your thesis. If you look at the reason why the 2A is put there, it’s undeniable that it’s put there as an individual right to keep arms as the ultimate check against a government (even this new Federal Government being installed in America). Sure, that’s not the only reason. Hunting and self-defense were certainly reasons, but the main reason has to be viewed as the ancient right of the ultimate check on a government.

        As to the weapons of the Revolutionary War, your argument seems to be that the arms owned by the private citizens were lesser arms than the ones used in the military. This is simply incorrect. The Brown Bess musket was the iconic British military long arm of the Redcoats. With a bayonet on the end, watching hundreds advance toward you was a blood-chilling spectacle. The Redcoats were famed for their discipline in using this arm.

        It was also mostly required that males of the American colonies own one of these muskets. Yep. Colonial Massachusetts had laws that specifically required arms (muskets) and penalized those who didn’t comply.

        Accordingly, I think that you’re a bit mistaken in your belief that the arms owned by the civilians were somehow inferior to the arms of the organized military. It wasn’t the arms themselves that were different, it was the training and discipline. Flintlock muskets were pretty much the order of the day back then.

        “I think that idea [less firepower for civilians] was widely supported with the 1934 gun legislation…”

        Again, I would disagree, and an understanding of the NFA of ’34 is needed. As it was originally enacted, it was an act that essentially required registration of certain firearms and taxes them. The tax is still minimal, and the registration still remains. Also, only specific types of arms are regulated under the NFA. It’s essentially machine guns (automatic weapons); anything that can isn’t an automatic weapon but could be easily converted to an automatic weapon; short barreled rifles/shotguns; and bombs. NOTE: If an AR-15 could be “easily converted” to automatic fire, it would be subject to the NFA. That’s why civilian versions are not easily converted.

        You have to understand it in conjunction with the 1986 law of FOPA, which essentially prohibited the manufacture of machine guns. FOPA made it illegal to possess any machine gun not already lawfully possessed before 1986. So guess what? The real limit on (legal) ownership of machine guns is the fact that you can only have one manufactured before 1986. Not a lot of those around. Accordingly, the real restriction on owning a machine gun isn’t the NFA.

        It’s the fact that buying such a gun from whomever owns it is outrageously expensive. It would be like saying you can’t legally possess any wine bottled after 1999. Guess what happens to the price of wine bottled before 1999? Taxes and registration are the least of your worries.

        Now, that’s with the caveat that you’re trying to get one legally. If you want to commit mass murder, legal ownership of your firearm probably isn’t too high on your list of priorities.

        So, if your’e saying we should put semi-automatic rifles under NFA type categorization, what you’re saying is we slap a $200 tax on them and have them registered with the ATF, and have owners go through a bit more paperwork than they already do. (You would be banning private sales, though.)

        But I don’t think you’re saying that we should make it illegal to own a semi-automatic rifle made after X year.

        “That said, I think we should absolutely ban all firearms magazines of greater than 8 rounds.”

        Whoa! Big change in topic there. A magazine is simply a piece of sheet metal, folded mostly into a rectangle, with a spring inside. Anyone with basic shop class skills could make one. They actually banned these in the 1994 AWB, and just like FOPA said that any magazine made before 1994 was okay to own or sell. The big difference there is that magazines are plentiful. They’re everywhere. I own dozens. Lots of people own dozens.

        The ban on machine guns in 1986 made the price of machine guns skyrocket. The ban on magazines did not affect the price of magazines at all because they were so plentiful. So what are you going to do? Are you going to say that all the old magazines are also illegal? You can’t go get them all. We’re talking about an item that’s about the size if not smaller than an iPhone. You can’t get them all. You can’t stop people from making them in their garage. You can’t stop people from taking a small capacity magazine and taking the big plastic block in it (that makes it small capacity) out and going back to normal.

        My Browning Hi-Power (designed in 1935) has 13 and 10 round mags. My .22 semi-auto rifle made by Sig Sauer has a (brace yourself) 25 round magazine. We’ve got to be talking about millions and millions of these things. You think deporting illegal aliens is impossible? That’s child’s play compared to rounding up all the magazines you are making illegal.

        The M-1 Garand (that I keep promising myself I’m going to buy) has an eight round interior magazine system, so I guess we can keep that. My 1911 pistol and Springfield XD/M are both safe, too. But a few of my other guns (lost tragically in a canoe accident) aren’t.

        The Henry Rifle that I’m going to buy next (as soon as I meet my physical fitness goal I’ve set for myself) has a 16 round magazine, but it’s lever-action, so I’m not sure where that stands with you. That’s going to be such a great gun to shoot. You should come shoot it with me when I finally get it.

        Also, the idea that you’re going to get the cops to go along with that for themselves is laughable. No way, no how is that going to happen. Someone ask Leon Lott about that.

        Finally, it takes almost no time to change magazines on a firearm if you’re halfway coordinated and practice a bit. How long does it take you to hit the ENTER button on your keyboard, pull a USB plug out and then put another one in? Practice a bit. How long now? It ain’t long. That’s what changing a mag is on a firearm. With everyone “sheltering in place” and staying put, what’s the point?

        Mark, I think your heart is in the right place. I really do. I think you’re just not looking at this matter with realistic eyes. Sure, it would be great if jihadists or gang members respected our laws and were restrained by them, but they’re not. They’re not troubled with paperwork.

        Everything you’ve proposed limits me (NOTE: I’m a good guy), and does nothing to stop the actual bad guys. Hear me on this. I’m begging you.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Today’s Boston Globe editorial looks like they cribbed from our posts yesterday.

          You won’t be surprised to read that they call for assault weapons to be classified under the NFA. And that large clips be outlawed. These really are common-sense positions for a civil society to enforce. There is a sensible middle ground; it will be found.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Wow! That’s so close to both our comments from yesterday we should sue the Globe! (Just kidding).

            I mean, they even talked about Brown Bess in detail and required ownership laws in colonial times!


            1. Brad Warthen Post author


              Maybe I should get the blog copyrighted. I’ve never gotten around to that. Also, I assume there’s a fee, which this blog cannot afford…

      3. Mprince

        Arguing with gun fanatics is a lot like arguing with Holocaust deniers – or with Neo-Confederates insisting that Southern secession had nothing to do with slavery. They love to plunge deep into some rather obscure facet – either historical or technical – which they offer as “proof” that they’re right, while patronizingly insisting that the rest of us are in simply in denial. A tremendous amount of time and a whole lot of words can be expended arguing with them – to no productive end. To all us sane people, it’s pretty clear who’s in denial.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Mark and I are having a civil discussion, MPrince. We’re both just talkin’ about history, laws, and trying to figure out how to make our country a safer/better place.

          Rather than insult me (and lots of other good-hearted Americans who agree with me) by lumping us in with Holocaust Deniers and Neo-Confederates maybe you could try to help out.

          We’re never going to solve this problem insulting each other like that. We’re going to have to figure out how to get everyone on board with a solution. Insulting the other side isn’t productive.

          1. Mprince

            Your own views on guns are an insult to intelligent people — like those of Holocaust deniers and Neo-Confederates. Anytime anyone comes up with an idea, you’re the first to shoot it down (literally) I offered gun control suggestions once and you responded with snide, dismissive insults. So if it’s insults you’re looking for, check the mirror.

            1. Doug Ross

              Could you please repeat your suggestions? I’d like to see them. I promise not to respond with snide remarks. Unless you suggest anything that takes away existing guns from citizens who obtained them legally.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Speaking of taking guns away from legal possessors…

                A lot of gun control advocates want to undo the harm caused (and I believe it DID cause harm) by the expiration of the assault weapons ban.

                Well, once again, that creates an impasse.

                Sure, you could reinstate the assault weapons ban, by which I mean outlaw sale of large-magazine rifles.

                But then, what are you going to do with all those thousands upon thousands (possibly millions; I don’t know the figures) of them that have been legally purchased since the ban went away?

                The damned things are selling like hotcakes at the moment. (I plan a separate post pondering what sort of person sees such a weapon used in a massacre of human beings and thinks, “I gotta HAVE me one a them!”)

                There are so many of them out there that even if sales stopped now, it shouldn’t be too hard for a terrorist wannabe to get his hands on one, even if he can’t get it at the counter of Dick’s sporting goods or whatever.

                So we’re faced with the problem we have with guns in general — there are so many out there, they are too easy to obtain. The only solution is for fewer of them to exist.

                And we’re just not going to round up guns and destroy them. That’s politically impossible — not to mention the violence it would certainly lead to.

                So we are, as I say, at an impasse…

                1. Mark Stewart

                  We can make the sale, display, transfer or “gifting” of such weapons illegal itself. Institute a bounty program and destroy them.

                  It isn’t that hard. It would certainly be worth it.

                  As Bryan pleaded, the solution to this is going to have to come from the changed minds of those who want to possess such weapons. Just as was necessary with repeal of Jim Crow, smoking, the Confederate flag, etc. people have to see that modifiying their views is the right thing to do – for themselves. It is our job to sell this as a desirable outcome. An inevitable but not unwelcomed stride forward.

                  That’s the way to solve this.

                2. Doug Ross


                  “It isn’t that hard” — compared to what?

                  As Bryan has stated, it would be an order of magnitude harder to enforce the laws you are proposing than it would be to deport all the illegal immigrants here.

                  First, are there enough law enforcement resources available to monitor the sale/gifting/exchange of weapons? Are there enough courts to prosecute the “offenders”? Ask you local pot dealer how worried he is about getting caught.

                  I honestly don’t care how many weapons a person owns until they use them. Criminals can and will get what they need. That’s why they’re criminals.

                  After seeing some of the Facebook posts from the Orlando killer referencing innocent women and children who were killed in Afghanistan, maybe we should consider alternatives in the “war” on terror that don’t exponentially create people who hate America. “It isn’t that hard”.

              2. Mark Stewart

                Doug, laws change and make things illegal all the time. It’s a regular occurrence. Some call it progress.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Yeah, look how well Prohibition worked. That would be similar to what you are proposing. It spawned even worse criminal activity.

                2. Barry

                  The folks taking advantage of a “bounty” program for such weapons will be law abiding citizens who want to use the money to buy other guns.

                  Criminals want the guns – and of course they don’t abide by laws anyway.

                  Won’t happen anyway.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            OK, I know M hates it when I say this (in fact, he once went away for a long time when I said it, and I prefer that that not happen again), but that’s enough. This has escalated, and M’s last comment definitely goes over the civility line.

            This is a difficult enough issue to discuss without saying each others’ views are “an insult to intelligent people.” That’s ad hominem, and we don’t do that here,

            I suspect some of the communication barrier here arises from the fact that where M lives (Germany), American attitudes toward guns ARE pretty much considered nuts. He doesn’t, in the course of a normal day, run into people like Bryan and Mike Cakora — sensible, responsible people who highly value and exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. (And whose attitudes on the subject, let me add, are not my own.)

            This is a nice segue to a post I’m thinking about writing. I’d better get busy on it…

            1. Mprince

              Just in passing, I’d point out that ad hominem attacks ARE done here. But if you’re one of Brad’s BFs, you get a free pass.

              In any event, you are wrong, Mr. Warthen. What I posted was in not an ad hominem attack, it was a criticism of the manner in which this argument is conducted by gun fanatics like Mr. Casky. They like to drag us down into minutiae about the characteristics of this or that firearm (while assuming that folks who favor gun restrictions are ignoramuses about firearms). They relish poking holes in any and every gun control proposal, not out of any good faith effort to make the country a “safer/better place,” but simply to obfuscate and derail any kind of forward momentum toward real and effective gun control – the kind that might restrict their access to and use of their favorite toy. That’s where the blame for the impasse you spoke of lies, not with reasonable people whose moral intelligence is insulted by the fanatics’ line of argument.

              You are also wrong to assume that my views on guns and gun control were shaped by living in Germany. On the contrary, they formed well beforehand and weren’t influenced by German attitudes toward guns or the gun culture in America, but rather by watching events in the US and listening to reasonable Americans who want to reign in the slaughtering power of guns.

                1. Mprince

                  Not in the least. In the same way that a group of fanatics abuse the Koran to commit acts of terror, gun fanatics abuse the Second Amendment to terrorize the rest of us with their extremist positions.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                And I assure you that if one of my “BFs” calls others here fanatics and says their views are “an insult to intelligent people,” they will get at the least a very stern talking-to.

                But I’d be loathe to ban their comments. I prefer to try to reason with people, and ASK them to observe the civility standards.

                As I’m doing with you. After all, I hate to lose anybody. There was a moment today when I glanced at my real-time analytics and to my dismay, at that moment there was just ONE reader on the blog — and that reader was in Munich…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  That WOULD be cool. 🙂

                  Google Analytics is interesting. But it seldom enables me to point to a particular person.

                  And if I’d seen a reader in Munich week before last, I would have assumed it was my daughter, who stopped there on her way to Israel and back…

  4. Scout

    I know this thread is way old now, but since this is where the most intense recent gun discussion was, I decided to put this here.

    There is a blog post link circulating on facebook that references an amicus brief written to the supreme court during a recent gun control case. The brief is written by a linguist whose position is that based on the grammar and usage of the language of the day, the second amendment does not read to guarantee the right to have guns to hunt or for self defense, but only to have a gun if you are part of an organized militia.

    Here is the blog post:
    Here is the brief:

    I find this very interesting from the perspective of understanding the language usage. I’ve heard the issue discussed before, obviously, but I don’t recall seeing it analyzed from the perspective of the language itself until now. (Probaby I just missed it).

    Supposedly, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in this case and discounted the views expressed in this brief. That is what the blog post says, anyway; I haven’t directly researched what actually happened in the case myself.

    I’m wondering what Bryan and Mark think of this information? Do you think the language analysis matters? Do you accept this interpretation?

    1. Mark Stewart

      It’s an interesting argument. I tend to agree with the linguistic construction, but question the authors’ presumption of definitiveness – and the arc that this line of thinking would necessarily take.

      There is also this: If their analysis is correct, then two outcomes would seem to follow.

      I) Weapons are not protected under the Constitution’s Second Amendment per se – that is for uses such as for hunting or personal protection governmental regulation and control would appear to be perfectly proper. So rifles, shotguns and pistols lacking “well regulated militia” value would fall outside of the Second Amendment.

      II) The right of the citizenry to bear arms (to promote a well-regulated militia) would be protected under the Second Amendment. Since bearing arms is a military concept, the weapons that would be Constitutionally protected for citizens to possess would be those weapons with militia value. At the time of the Constitution that would have meant Brown Bess’, bayonets, sabers and swords. Today it would mean the very types of weapons we are discussing – Assault Rifles.

      So I’m not sure this is a linguistic rabbit hole worth exploring, though I do agree with the basic premise of this amicus brief: The Founders wanted to make sure that the people did have the weapons with which they could arm themselves and join well-regulated (i.e., lead by able officers) militias to defend against tyranny. What could also be worth considering was whether the Founders had the Israeli and Swiss models in mind – where citizen militia members keep their military arms at home; and this is the Constitutional right, which is distinct from the right to use firearms for any other purpose.

      It’s also interesting that the authors implicitly would be supportive of the idea of a Confederacy organizing as a militia force. Which is sort of an odd way to illustrate their reasoning – but one which might have fleshed out why their interpretation was doomed.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      “Supposedly, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in this case and discounted the views expressed in this brief. That is what the blog post says, anyway; I haven’t directly researched what actually happened in the case myself.”

      Scout, the case is D.C. vs. Heller. It’s the seminal case from 2008 on the 2A being an individual right as opposed to protecting only the right to possess and carry a firearm in connection with militia service. It’s the seminal case. You have to read it to have any working understanding of the jurisprudence of the 2A, even if you don’t agree with it.

      Scalia, writing for the majority specifically cites the amicus brief you link at least four or five times. He addresses their arguments head on, and in my opinion, dispatches them handily.

      Stop what you’re doing and go read Heller.

      1. Mark Stewart

        My favorite part of Heller from Scalia’s opinion: “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

        Great, let’s get on with these efforts; especially the conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Whatever one may think of Scalia’s jurisprudence and legacy, the fact of the matter is the Supreme Court is empowered to make law. The NRA is not.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              -Self defense
              -Competitive and recreational shooting
              -Personal security
              -Disaster preparedness
              -To learn about safety and responsibility
              -Marksmanship builds self-confidence

              -BONUS! To annoy leftists.

              1. Mark Stewart

                -Compensation mechanism
                -Threaten neighbor(s)
                -Show off to friends while drinking
                -Burglar’s treat
                -Projection implement
                -Fear foil
                -Child’s plaything (accidental discharge to follow; actually to be expected in all above scenarios)

                -BONUS! Join the herd!

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                Not one of which comes anywhere near being a NEED.

                I just can’t imagine it.

                Part of it has nothing to do with guns. I have never in my life had the disposable income to go out and purchase something as expensive as that just because I WANTED one.

                Most of my newspaper career I was paid typical newspaper pay, which means very modestly. Then there were those years when I was paid quite well as editorial page editor, but it coincided with my kids all being in the expensive years — the teens, college and so forth. So we were pretty much paycheck to paycheck.

                When I got laid off, I only had one child left in college, and she’s been out for several years now.

                But my income now is such that coming up with the price of an AR-15 is just hard to imagine. And if I had the money, I’d spend it on deferred maintenance on my house or something like that.

                The whole thing about going out to buy myself an expensive toy to scratch some itch is just alien to me.

                I’ve always been a Dad and I’ve always had responsibilities, and just barely enough to meet them. Which is fine, but it makes it hard for me to identify with people who can afford to make statements with money.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  So when I ask about the NEED, I’m asking “What places this ahead of spending it on food, shelter, transportation and the power bill?”

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Well, I don’t think you would find many people who would place their firearms over food, shelter, transportation, and the power bill. Those four things are pretty elemental. Even living in the woods like Jeremiah Johnson you need the first three.

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      And of course, the dues for one’s club.

                      There’s food, shelter, transportation, the power bill and the dues for one’s club.

                      After those, I definitely can’t afford an arms buildup.

                      Of course, Jeremiah Johnson is a bit hard for me to identify with as well.

                      If there were a character in “Jeremiah Johnson” who said to the other mountain men, “You chaps can have all this and welcome to it; I’m headed back to the East Coast… if not England,” that character would be me.

      2. Scout

        Ok, I started reading Heller. Don’t hate me, but I kind of fell asleep. I am interested. Really! However, I was also tired. I will get back to it.

        But what I have read so far, I feel ambivalent about his points. They might be true, but they will require me to do my own research. He just sort of pronounces thing, presumably based on research, but since I don’t know the background myself, I need to investigate further.

        I’m sure you understand.

        1. Bryan Caskey


          I’ll certainly admit, reading a Supreme Court opinion (any opinion) isn’t easy. Way back in law school, when I was in Con Law, we would be assigned to read an opinion and had to be ready to discuss it for the upcoming class.

          At first, I would read it and think: I’m not smart enough to understand this nonsense! Eventually, I would get to the point where I would read the majority opinion and think, Okay that makes sense. I would then read the minority opinion (in the same case) and then be totally convinced of the opposite view! Now, I can sorta-kinda read an opinion and see the drawbacks. Not all the time, though.

          It’s a steep learning curve. It’s like working a muscle. You have to do it a lot to get proficient. Keep at it.

          All the Judges are sharp, and they’re all very persuasive writers. I know a lot of people like to say “Oh Justice so-and-so is a dummy.” They’re not. You may disagree with them, but they’re not dumb.

          1. Mark Stewart

            Smart and dumb are not mutually exclusive. Smart is the natural grey matter advantages one rigorously develops; dumb the inability to gain wisdom through experience.

            Intelligence and wisdom do their own thing in people; they are totally independent variables.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              “Smart is the natural grey matter advantages one rigorously develops; dumb the inability to gain wisdom through experience.”

              I can get on board with that definition.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            When I was in college I subscribed to magazines such as Esquire and Harpers. I’d read articles in them making political arguments and I always agreed with the position being advanced, because they were just so well written.

            I worried about that — my ability to be talked into anything by a good writer. But I was young and as impressionable as one expects the young to be. My opinions were not well-defined things; I was still figuring the world out and deciding what I thought of it.

            Of course, even today, as hidebound as you may think I am, good writing can make a big difference in how I react to a proposition…

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