Gun Laws in Wake of the Colorado Shooting

Monday, August 13, 2012

I didn't mean to hijack the previous post and turn it into a gun debate, so I thought I would start another discussion for just that purpose. I keep hearing how we, as in the US, can't have a discussion on this topic for whatever reason. I am skeptical of people making this claim. If I had to guess, most of them are saying this because they just don't want to hear from the "other side." Like any other political/social issue, this one can get heated. I figure that the readers we have are rational and reasonable people, so why don't we have a discussion? What changes do you think are needed?


Streak 11:19 AM  

I am one of those people saying that. And I say that because I don't think that the political world is a level one when it comes to gun laws. I don't see people seriously considering even moderate gun laws, because they are scared of the gun lobby.

steves 1:06 PM  

So, where would you start? What limits does the Constitution set? What standard of review should apply?

Historically, the NRA supported the NFA, the GCA of 1968, the GCA of 1986, and other major pieces of gun control, so they aren't absolutists.

Streak 2:37 PM  

For one thing, I would suggest the Constitution sets the limit of keeping an orderly militia. Not lone gunmen with their own armorys. Even Scalia noted that the second amendment is not absolute and that we can have reasonable restrictions.

Historically, the NRA may, in fact, be reasonable. I repeat what I have said to you many times. In the last year, I received robo calls from the very same NRA asking for money to stop Obama from turning over our guns to the UN. They know that is absolutely and completely false. That is not reasonable and should not be respected. Or, at least, don't ask me to respect them.

Bob 3:34 PM  

I'd like to point out that there have now been two mass shootings since Colorado, including one today.

You may now also speak of the Sikh Temple shooting. Right-wing rules require that we be one shooting beyond the previous before we can speak of it, otherwise we are seeking to use the shooting as part of a political agenda. /snark

Of course NOT speaking of it would also be part of a political agenda, so WTF.

More on this shit later.

Bob 4:11 PM  

The funny thing is, I am not a big gun-control advocate, but gun-rights groups have become so crazy and extreme, I cannot help but voice my disgust.

In response to your comment in the last post...

"I would have to say the reason that we can't talk about this has more to do with a lack of civility than some actual rule against talking about it."

It is about every right winger and the NRA coming unglued, claiming there is a left-wing political agenda taking advantage of a shooting. Many of the weapons used in these shootings would not even be covered under any reasonable regulation, yet when one asks why we cannot have a rational conversation about guns, and mental illness, the sound from gun rights advocates is essentially: “shut up, that’s why!”

”The AWB is not consistent with the 2nd Amendment. “

Not a fact. I and others would argue that reasonable regulation is consistent with an individual right to own a gun. The line is somewhere in between a rifle and a howitzer. It seems you have defined the line somewhere closer to the howitzer, and I closer to the semi auto hunting rifle.

“As for Obama…The problem lies in that his record prior to coming to the White House has been very solid anti-gun.”

Yet in office he has signed an expansion of gun rights in national parks, while Romney signed an AWB while Governor. Yet, it is Romney who is supported by the NRA. The NRA will always line up for the right wing.

” I still don't believe he is laying in wait for his second term to implement a bunch of new anti-gun laws, but if he starts calling for a bunch of new legislation, that can be concerning.”

"I have never said anything about any conspiracy theories. Do you believe all gun owners buy into this stuff?"

I seem to remember you not having a problem with this line of conspiracy theory nonsense when I pointed it out before:

Washington Post: “NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said the president's low-key approach to gun rights during his first term was a ‘conspiracy to ensure re-election by lulling gun owners to sleep.’”

Wayne LaPierre, the guy who went on national TV and claimed the Brady Bill had not kept a single gun out of the hands of a criminal, when in fact tens of thousands had (at that point) been prevented from being sold.

It seems the most important cause today for gun rights advocates and the NRA is to defend the rights of the mentally ill and criminals to have weapons.

Streak 4:49 PM  

I would say, Steve, that there have been several times where you have decided that certain gun laws are either clearly unconstitutional or completely ineffective. As Bob notes, in most of those cases, the evidence is not clear. You can certainly make your argument, but it isn't a slam dunk case that they aren't compatible with the second AM or that they are not effective. As I noted in our previous conversation, I am certainly not sure that all gun laws are effective, nor that they would stop these shootings, but these are debatable points.

And I can't stress how much I loathe the NRA in this context. Rather than being the voice of reason that decries gun violence while defending law abiding citizens, they have become one of the worst offenders at just blatant lies to raise money and retain power. Obama has done nothing to restrict guns. Hell, he had no problem with people showing up to Arizona (as I recall) town halls armed. Meanwhile, Bush's people had protestors arrested for wearing anti-bush t-shirts. As Bob again notes, there is a real cognitive dissonance going on here.

I know I would feel better if gun rights people would, as Scalia did in that interview I read, acknowledge that the Second amendment is not absolute and reasonable gun laws are something a civilized society can pursue without being accused of tyranny.

steves 6:38 PM  

For the purposes of this discussion, can we set aside the NRA. I agree that they overuse scare tactics to get votes. In terms of actual court cases, the SAF does more to help with litigation. They are made up of mostly attorneys and legal scholars.

As ofr mentally ill people not having guns, there really wasn't any major opposition. Heck, even the aforementioned NRA helped with some of the bills. I have mixed feeling about the current law because it is a lifetime ban with absolutely no way of getting it removed. Let's say you are a 14 year old kid being sexually abused. Understandably, you act out and are eventually involuntarily admitted for a 2 week psychiatric evaluation. After months (maybe years) of decent therapy, you become more well-adjusted and are able to become a productive member of society. Under the current laws, you can never own a firearm no matter how long ago the illness was. This isn't fair and there should be a mechanism to be removed from the ban.

IMO, the 2nd should be treated like any of the other fundamental freedoms listed in the BOR. The onus is on the gov't to show why the law is needed, it must be for a legitimate purpose, and it must be narrowly tailored and specific as possible.

While public safety is certainly a legitimate purpose, the AWB fails in other regards. IIRC, they are used in less than .5% of all criminal activity. In addition, the ban targets mostly cosmetic features, such as collapsible stocks and flash suppressors. People aren't protected by this ban. Most research is inconclusive on the effects of a ban, but again, the onus is on the state to show it has some effect.

As for what the 2nd covers, it is an individual right. The collective right was discarded completely by the Supreme Court and was never embraced by scholars anyway. IMO, that means it only covers weapons that are able to be used by individuals. Crew served weapons, like howitzers, would not be covered.

The 2nd has nothing to do with hunting. There is no right to hunt (though I do believe a few states have written this into their constitutions). The gov't could ban hunting tomorrow and there is nothing we could do in the courts to stop them.

I should be allowed to use a gun for any lawful purpose, not just for hunting. Gun owners hear this all the time. "Why do you need _______ for hunting?"

As for what actually lowers crime, there is some evidence that making it easier for law-abiding people to carry concealed does lower some forms of violent crime. The resounding cry from the lunatic fringe of the left was that there would be "blood in the streets" and "shootouts in playgrounds" ( I am not making this up). Despite the fact that this never happened, we still hear this.

Is anyone going to suggest some legislation or are we just going to hear BS about the NRA waning criminals to have guns.

Streak 6:46 PM  

So, somehow calling the left "lunatic" is your appeal to a rational discourse? Those of us who fear that putting more guns on the street won't make us safer are lunatics?

Pete,  8:35 PM  

I don't have anything really to add at the moment, but this discussion reminded me of a link I saw recently:

"While this pistol obviously wasn’t created from scratch using a 3D printer, the interesting thing is that the lower receiver — in a legal sense at least — is what actually constitutes a firearm. Without a lower receiver, the gun would not work; thus, the receiver is the actual legally-controlled part.

In short, this means that people without gun licenses — or people who have had their licenses revoked — could print their own lower receiver and build a complete, off-the-books gun. What a chilling thought."

An interesting notion of easily "printing your own gun", at least from a legal standpoint if it works that way...

Smitty 8:43 PM  

Oh look. Another shooting today.

Nothing says an assault weapon was used, just a "semi-automatic" weapon. That covers a lot of weapons.

So, normally, Scalia drives me batshit. But I'm a hack myself. It looks, though, like we all might agree (we all = ATK bloggers and Antonin Fucking Scalia) that a) the 2nd amendment is an individual right; and 2) that reasonable regulations on weaponry don't constitute gun-grabbing tyranny. Good.

"You can't shout 'fire' in a crowded movie theater," says the axiom. Somebody somewhere found that a BAN on certain language doesn't interfe with our 1st amendment rights, especially because certain phrases like FIRE when uttered in places where people are packed and prone to stampede like so many cattle can hurt or kill and create such unrest as to be generally harmful.

Couple the fact that we do BAN phrases and utterings (by way of making them illegal with a punishment attached) with the notion that there is no way to tell when someone might be truly fucked in the head no matter how you test them before they purchase. Look at the Aurora guy: sure, he looked a tad funny, but died hair isn't a test of someone's issues. He did everything by the book, sane as can be, until he strapped on armor, loaded some weapons and booby trapped his apartment. But until,that moment, by all tests and accounts, he was "normal." But holy hand grenade did he have an arsenal.

So let's see then. You can't ban the stuff he made his booby traps out of; I clean my house with that shit. And instituting tracking of things like bleach or white vinegar or whatever is an expensive, useless proposition.

But he had a slew of guns. A shotgun. An assault weapon with one of those extra ammo drums on it. And handgun or twelve. Probably a knife (I would...why not??) for gods sake.

So in light of all that, how do we ban in a prophylactic nature the 2nd amendment version of FIRE in a crowded room? All that tracking stuff they do for weapons now sure helps AFTER a shooting or crime, but what keeps my kid from getting shot ata theater? An all-out weapons ban would do the trick, but nah. I likes my own guns and plan to buy more.

Well, guns kill, but guns with reduced ammo kill less and empty guns don't kill at all. Let's start with his crazy 100-round extended magazine. I fucking hated to pieces how quickly I'd go through a magazine with my M-16; 28 rounds is a joke and at no time were we ever given an option to carry the 100 round magazine. I'd have done it in minute so I didn't have to carry so damn many magazines strapped all over me. But why does HE get one, that Aurora shooter? Screw that. No extended magazines. Reduce the mayhem, reduce the carnage, make those crazy bastards stop to reload.

And put GPS chips in assault weapons. Well, not really.

Jay 10:32 PM  

Smitty wrote: "An all-out weapons ban would do the trick, but nah. I likes my own guns and plan to buy more. "

See here is the part of this discussion where I lose the tread a bit. I know Smitty was being flippant so this is not meant to be an attack on him or his statement, but in all seriousness I don't think there is any one item I own just because I "like it" or "it's fun" that I would not give up to end (well, dramatically reduce the chance of occurrence of) these sorts of events. Give up my TV so mass murders are dramatically less likely? In a heartbeat! Smart phone? You bet. Video games? It would be hard, but I would do it. Why are guns so special that "because I like em" is enough reason for some people to accept that mass murder is part of the fabric of our society?

I totally get the constitutional rights debate and that placing limits on rights is a big deal. I get that laws should be made that would actually do some good and, if possible, are backed up by decent data. I get that people feel safer carrying a gun, and since they are legally allowed to do so and I will not criticize them for owning one even if I never would.

But I just don't get the "I like guns so much that nothing will convince me to give 'em up" part of this. People are dying. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, the number of deaths are not huge (compared to automobile deaths, for example). But the numbers and frequency of the deaths could be dramatically reduced if we as a country really wanted to. But no, guns are too much fun. So fuck 'em.

I just don't get it.

steves 7:03 AM  

My "lunatic fringe of the left" comment was meant as a slam on a specific subset, not the entire left. I should have been more clear.

I saw that article. Some guns, like AK's, can already be built with fairly primitive tools and equipment. I think most criminals aren't going to go through this much effort and will just steal them or buy them from some other source.

The reports that I read said the nutcase's 100 rd. magazine jammed after firing only a few rounds and he used his other guns.

I like my guns, but I agree that simply liking something isn't a justification for keeping something legal.

Fortunately, when dealing with certain rights, people don't have to provide justification to own certain things or engage in certain lawful activities.

The State has to prove that such legislation is necessary. The evidence just doesn't support a lowering of mass shootings if we have bans on magazines over 10 rounds, or similar aspects. Heck, countries with very strict gun laws (like Mexico, Russia, and South Africa) still have horrendous killings.

Bob 7:47 AM  

"You can't ban the stuff he made his booby traps out of; I clean my house with that shit."

Now I KNOW you are full of shit Smitty. We all know you have a cleaning lady.

"The evidence just doesn't support a lowering of mass shootings if we have bans on magazines over 10 rounds, or similar aspects."

The 11th dead guy might disagree.

steves 8:25 AM  

Unless he is carrying more than one magazine. Reloading doesn't take more than a few seconds.

Streak 8:37 AM  

Comparing us to Mexico, Russia or South Africa is rather specious, don't you think? That suggests that laws in one place exist in the same context as laws in the other. I don't know the situation in SA at all, but know that in both Russia and Mexico, you have huge massive criminal conspiracies that undermine the existing laws to the point that those laws are often a joke.

Here, for criminal conspiracies, we mostly just have the Republican party. (Only kind of joking). The real problem (which Liz pointed out on my blog) here is cultural, not legal. I would submit that if the gun rights people were really supportive of reasonable restrictions (including gun shows), we might be able to at least make it difficult for some of these criminals to get guns.

Oh, and have I noted that I really fucking hate this new captcha.

steves 12:52 PM  

Good point. Many gun control advocates frequently point to countries with lower crime rates and say it is due to stricter gun laws. Like you point out, it may not be a good comparison and the lower crime rate may be due to cultural differences.

Have you ever been to a gun show? In the US, they are required to follow the law. Dealers must fill out the same paperwork and do the same background checks they do in their stores. Most don't allow private sales. DOJ studies showed very few guns used in crimes come directly from gun shows.

Smitty 6:38 PM  

So as far as I can tell, Steve, the point of this post is for us to suggest some sort of control feature, and for you to dismiss it as lacking evidence; gun control is pointless, so let's all pretend to debate while I summarily dismiss all of everyone's petty ideas.

Awesome thread, man.

Sure, his 100 round magazine jammed. My 30 round magazines jammed a whole fucking lot, right when I didnt need them to. When I fired the SAW with 100- and 200-round belts, that POS jammed with frustrating, nearly predictable regularity. Just because his mag jammed doesn't excuse that fact that he can buy a bazillion-round magazine with which to kill an ass-load of people.

Where does the data come from about "high-capacity magazines don't contribute to mass killings?" the fact that so far, most people don't have the foresight to buy them and use them when they plan their killings? Or is there a real study where high-capacity magazines are scrutinized in a controlled setting?

Smitty 6:58 PM  

we all know you have a cleaning lady

No. A French maid.

Well, someone in a French maid uniform anyway.

Bob 11:16 PM  

I really likes lots o'comments. Next topic: abortion!

steves 2:53 AM  

No, my point is to show that some aspects of gun control/gun laws don't really do what they are supposed to do and that I am super duper smart. Seriously, many gun laws, such as waiting periods, safe storage laws, and limits on purchases don't really do anything in terms of overall safety. This allows politicians to pat themselves on the back and show the rest of us how much they care.

As for magazine limits, the studies from the last AWB seem to show that there wasn't any real measurable amount of lives saved or decrease in crime. I don't see the point in doing this again. I tend to be pragmatic when it comes to this kind of stuff. If legislation doesn't do what it is supposed to do, then what is the point?

Jay 7:21 AM  

(on topic this time)

Steve: Could you suggest any legislation that you think would actually matter? Or is the message here that there really is nothing useful that can be done?

Smitty 7:42 AM  

As for magazine limits, the studies from the last AWB seem to show that there wasn't any real measurable amount of lives saved or decrease in crime.

Just for my own edification, point me in the direction of that study, if you would.

Given some of the clients I represent, I am being asked for "opinions on decent gun legislation in light of recent shootings." So, as Jay asked, so I ask: what do you think, Steve? What works?

Streak 7:44 AM  

I am back to the cultural aspect. I know Steve doesn't want to talk about the NRA (though in this conversation, I am not sure how to work around that elephant), but part of our problem is the gun rights culture that elevates the second amendment above all others. I think they do see it as absolute--as much as they have thought about it.

So culturally, we have a right wing that flogs the idea of needing guns to fight off our government, as they remove funding for cops and firefighters, pass invasive laws on wiretapping, etc. Then the cycle starts over, always with that same right wing blaming the left for the threat. Have to buy more guns to fight off the government--never, ever, think that the government is led in part by the same right wingers telling you to buy more guns.

Public safety. We know that putting more cops on the street helps with crime. Good police work, and cops who spend more time in the neighborhoods, etc. But we would rather cut those funds, and tell everyone to carry a gun.

That is the logic here. And that is the culture here. And the problem culture is not the small group talking about outlawing hand guns--no one is listening to them. No, the loudest voice is the one telling us that Obama (black guy in the white house) wants to give our guns to some UN body. Better stock up now.

steves 7:54 AM  

It is hard to say what would work because I think that violence is a symptom of other problems, such as poverty, abuse, neglect, and other related things. Putting more funding into programs to alleviate these problems probably would help. It may also help to look at out system of punishment and see if we can improve how criminals are rehabilitated.

In terms of actual legislation related to guns, it is hard to say. Obviously, preventing people with violent, criminal histories and the severely mentally ill is reasonable, though I would argue that a person should be able to petition the court to have their rights restored if they can show that they are no longer a danger.

The NICS that gun dealers use to check the backgrounds of buyers have not resulted in a significant amount of arrests, but would still probably be reasonable.

This is a start. I could probably think of more.

steves 8:11 AM  

A link with some comprehensive studies can be found here: Studies on the Federal Weapons Assault Ban

Many conservatives have shitty records when it comes to public spending, but several areas that they will support are the military and police. Heck, even in Wisconsin, the governor didn't go after police unions in his war on public unions.

As for wiretapping, the current administration seems just as happy to use it as the previous administration (e.g. Federal Terrorist Surveillance Program, which Obama's Justice Department argued heavily to support in the Court of Appeals).

Streak 8:21 AM  

Sigh. I am aware that Obama has not pulled back. That doesn't change my broader point. Nor does the fact that from a political perspective, Wisconsin's attack was not on the police unions. And actually, that is a distraction, as is republican support for the military--which is really irrelevant to this particular point.

There is little doubt that across the country, there is less support for public services including those that make us more safe. The anti-tax bullshit has certainly permeated the entire right, so the idea, as we saw under Clinton of adding thousands of police officers to the street is never suggested.

This is the culture that I am talking about, and the one the NRA makes its money off. When Obama was elected, every gun show in Oklahoma advertised the show with the tag line, "buy now before the current administration changes the laws."

Fear drives the gun rights lobby, and the gun rights culture. This is a culture problem, and responsible gun owners need to start driving out the loud voices of the NRA. That means supporting, as you note, programs that alleviate poverty and suffering. Those are absolutely under attack under the current Republican and NRA leadership.

I don't think we will get anything approaching reasonable gun laws, nor will we actually address any of the underlying problems as long as the dominant voices on the right are as crazy, racist, and loud as they are.

steves 10:19 AM  

I remember the last AWB, where POS 30 rd. GI mags that would normally go for $8 were selling for $50+. I suppose there is some fear that this will happen again. I am sure gun dealers will play up the fear again when the election gets closer. They want to make money.

steves 9:14 AM  

I don't know if anyone is coming back to this post, but I do want to apologize if I came across as a smug, know it all, asshole. I value the opinions of the other posters and genuinely wanted to hear what other people think.

Streak 2:25 PM  

Steve, you are easily the most sane gun rights defender I have ever talked to, so no worries there. I think something needs to be done, but am not sure what to do. As I have said, until the grownup conservatives reassert themselves on that side, I fear we will not have anything approaching the public good.

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