Category Archives: Guns

An Invitation From Their Cold, Dead Hands

Matt Schneider at Mediaite:

On a smaller platform than some may have hoped, President Obama wrote an op-ed in today’s Arizona Daily Star launching his intention to tackle serious and “common sense” gun control. Two months after the Tucson, Arizona shooting tragedy, Obama seems to be searching for middle ground on the issue in an effort to protect “our children’s futures.”Obama first reaffirmed he has no intention of confiscating guns:

Now, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. . . . And, in fact, my administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners – it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.

And Obama discussed his awareness of how difficult it will be to approach an issue that both sides feel so passionately about:

I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country.

Then Obama outlined a few practical beginning steps, including “enforcing laws that are already on the books,” strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, rewarding states that provide the best data, and making the background check system “faster and nimbler” so that criminals can’t escape it.

Jacob Sullum at Reason:

In an Arizona Daily Star op-ed piece (which Jesse Walker noted this morning), President Obama urges “an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks” in response to the Tucson massacre. But since there is no reason to think such a system would have stopped Jared Lee Loughner from buying a gun, this recommendation seems like a non sequitur (as gun control proposals often do).

Obama regrets that “a man our Army rejected as unfit for service; a man one of our colleges deemed too unstable for studies; a man apparently bent on violence, was able to walk into a store and buy a gun.” But people who are rejected for military service or thrown out of community college are still allowed to own firearms, and Obama does not propose changing the factors that disqualify people from buying guns. As for his description of Loughner as “a man apparently bent on violence,” that is true mainly in retrospect; the school officials and police officers who encountered him prior to his crime seem to have viewed him more as a nuisance than a menace. In any case, Loughner was never “adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to a mental institution,” which would have made his gun purchase illegal.

In short, the president’s solution would not have stopped Loughner, and it would not stop similar assailants in the future. Yet Obama not only says the current system of background checks is “supposed to stop the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun”; he claims beefing up the system (primarily by incorporating more state data regarding disqualifying criteria) “will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place.” Which is worse: that Obama believes this (assuming he does) or that he expects us to believe it?

Jennifer Epstein at Politico:

The National Rifle Association is declining to meet with the Obama administration to discuss gun control, signaling that the nation’s largest gun lobby isn’t willing to come to the table on a Democratic president’s terms.

“Why should I or the NRA go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?” said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, in an interview with The New York Times on Monday. He cited Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — the latter of whom has little to do with gun policy — as examples.

Jim Hoft at The Gateway Pundit

Weasel Zippers:

Or as Obama would call them, “bitter folks clinging to their guns and religion.”

Ben Armbruster at Think Progress:

However, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre immediately rejected that offer. “Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?” he asked, adding, “It shouldn’t be a dialogue about guns; it really should be a dialogue about dangerous people.”

Putting aside LaPierre’s posturing on the Second Amendment, it’s telling the NRA is not willing to state a substantive disagreement with Obama. The Post reported:

LaPierre said he favored much of what Obama endorsed in his op-ed, but he charged that the president was targeting gun ownership for political reasons rather than addressing the “underlying issue” of “madmen in the streets.”

The NYT similarly reported:

Despite his opposition to joining the administration’s table, by his comments in an interview Mr. LaPierre sounded at times like the White House.

Echoing NRA arguments, an Obama administration official told the NYT they want to redefine the gun debate to “focus on the people, not the guns” and they want to “begin by enforcing laws that are already on the books.” Nevertheless, the NRA is unwilling to be appeased.

So why is Wayne LaPierre misrepresenting Obama’s views and rejecting his olive branch? Since everyone seems to agree on a path forward, the answer seems to be quite clear: money and self-preservation. Since President Obama took office, the NRA has benefitedsignificantly in increased membership, due primarily to baseless and unfounded fears actively promoted by NRA officials, supporters and sympathizers, that Obama wants to eliminate the Second Amendment and take away everyone’s guns.

The NRA tells its members not to believe Obama when he says he supports the Second Amendment. It’s no wonder then that rank-and-file NRA members think Obama wants to “get rid of all the guns,” “has no respect for the country,” is “an idiot,” and “anti-American.”

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Harry Reid Gathers His Guns

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

Multiple sources tell me the National Rifle Association is planning to endorse liberal Harry Reid against pro-gun champion Sharron Angle.

Two weeks ago, I told you about the carveout the NRA received in exchange for their support for the DISCLOSE ACT deal.

Then this week, RedState broke the story of the “gag order” the NRA issued to members of its Board on the Kagan nomination.

Now, I’m getting credible reports that the NRA is leaning toward endorsing Harry Reid, even though the NRA is finally saying it will score a vote on Kagan — something that was not a sure thing.

Why would they do this? Why would they go out of their way to protect a Senator who has demonstrated a repeated hostility to the Second Amendment in his votes and his leadership?

Well, I thought perhaps the NRA carveout in the DISCLOSE Act might be the answer. But, there is more. It turns out, Reid secured a $61 million earmark for a gun range in Clark County, Nevada.

NRA members were recently treated to a three-page spread in the American Rifleman about a visit to Nevada by Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox to “thank” Reid for the earmark. The article even includes a cliché picture of Reid cutting a ribbon with a gigantic pair of scissors. (Every good porker has his own giant pair of gold earmark scissors.) More here.

Here is a video of the event from Reid’s youtube site.

At 3:25, you can hear LaPierre touting Reid’s record on guns saying, “I also want to thank you, Senator, for your support every day for the Second Amendment and for the rights of American gun owners. “

The American Rifleman article also commends Reid’s Second Amendment record noting, “His dedication to this project is just one of the ways Sen. Reid has demonstrated his support for gun owners and the Second Amendment.”

Well, that’s all very nice. What politician representing a pro-gun red state wouldn’t want Wayne LaPierre to come out for a personal photo op at their earmark ribbon cutting.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

The NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD this evening that the pro-gun rights group has not decided on an endorsement in the Nevada Senate race.

“Any discussion on endorsements at this stage are premature, and simply a distraction,” said Cox. But he wouldn’t rule out an NRA endorsement for Harry Reid–even though Reid will almost certainly vote in favor of confirming Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The NRA released a letter today explaining why it opposes Kagan and would score how senators vote on her confirmation. But Cox said that “we look at the entirety of someone’s record” before making an endorsement.

The NRA is frightened by the possibility that Harry Reid would be replaced by an anti-gun Democrat as majority leader. “Truthfully, the two individuals vying for majority leader should Harry Reid lose are the two most rabidly anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment senators in Washington, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin,” Cox said. “Does that give concern to NRA members and gun owners all over America? Absolutely, it does.”

But wouldn’t the House be able to stop legislation the NRA opposes? “That’s all hypothetical,” Cox replied, adding that Durbin and Schumer have a “long history of supporting rabid anti-gun groups and their extreme gun control agendas. Anyone who discounts the role of a Senate majority leader … would do so at their own peril.”

Allah Pundit:

I’d add that it might be especially important to them to have Reid there right now in the wake of the Supreme Court’s latest decision on gun rights. I fully expect crime will drop as gun bans in major cities like Chicago are relaxed (a bit), but there are a lot of variables that go into that and the NRA surely knows that an aggressively anti-gun majority leader will look to capitalize if violence ticks upward anywhere initially. Reid, because he has to worry about votes in rural Nevada, is a better bet than Schumer or Durbin not to bring anything too dicey to the Senate floor. Then again, it’s a mortal lock that the GOP will have more seats next year than they do now. Given the terror felt by moderates like Olympia Snowe after Bob Bennett was ousted by tea partiers in Utah, how would any sort of anti-gun bill avoid a filibuster? Reid struggled for weeks to get to 60 on financial reform despite having 59 seats; how’s he going to get to 60 on a new assault-weapons ban when he has only 53 or 54?

What’s worrisome about this rumor, actually, is that it may show how little confidence the NRA has in an Angle victory. She’s up seven at last check, but the kookier elements of her resume have been trickling out from lefty media. Wait until late summer when Reid turns on the advertising hose full force. Maybe LaPierre and co. figure there’s no sense in antagonizing a guy whom they think is bound to win. It’ll be interesting to see if they end up simply avoiding this race altogether and endorsing no one.

Jonathan Adler at The Corner:

I can understand why the NRA sometimes endorses Democratic candidates despite the party’s general hostility to gun rights; having friends in both parties can be politically advantageous. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid? When his challenger fully supports gun rights? That one would be hard to believe, but it might happen.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

Believe me, I’ve had this sort of discussion many times. An argument put to me is that the Second Amendment would be better protected with a Senate that had, say, 52 Democrats led by pro-gun Harry Reid than 51 Democrats led by the most likely alternatives, Chuck Schumer or Dick Durbin. Since the chances ofSenate majority leader Mitch McConnell are not great, it is in the best interest of the NRA and its members to have the most pro-gun DemocraticSenate majority leader they can get.

That’s an argument. Ultimately, I don’t agree with it, because I’m not a single-issue voter. I cringe (or worse) when I see bad, ineffective liberal Democrats garnering the NRA endorsement (COUGHtedstricklandCOUGH), but the NRA has its policy and criteria, and they stick to them consistently, even if it means irritating some conservative Nevada gun owners.

Don Suber:

The NRA has joined Peggy Noonan and the AARP on the list of sellouts.

UPDATE: Alex Pareene at Salon

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Campaign Finance Reform Doesn’t Kill People, People Kill People

John Bresnahan at Politico:

House Democrats have offered to exempt the National Rifle Association from a sweeping campaign-finance bill, removing a major obstacle in the push to roll back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

The NRA had objected to some of the strict financial disclosure provisions that Democrats have proposed for corporations and politically active nonprofits and that had kept moderate, pro-gun Democrats from backing the legislation.

But if the NRA signs off on the deal, the bill could come to the House floor as early as this week. The NRA said it would not comment until specific legislative language is revealed.

An NRA official also noted that the group would not be supporting the bill but would not actively oppose it if the deal with the Democratic leadership holds up.

The legislation in question is designed to restore more campaign finance rules in the wake of last year’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which removed prohibitions on corporations and unions running TV ads opposing or backing candidates in the run-up to an election.

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

The new legislation, which could come to the floor as early as this week, had been hung up over NRA objections. The compromise would exempt organizations with more than one million members that are active in all 50 states and raise 15% of their funds or less from corporations. In other words, they’re going to regulate all the little guys, but not the NRA or the biggest players. Seems, er, effective.

Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones:

The deal falls short of what campaign finance watchdogs wanted, but would probably be a net gain for Democrats. According to Politico:

The new agreement would exempt organizations that have over one million members, have been in existence for more than 10 years, have members in all 50 states, and raise 15 percent or less of their funds from corporations, from the disclosure requirements.

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The deal with the NRA smoothes the road for the bill’s passage in the House, where pro-gun Democrats had feared pissing off the powerful group. But it would still face hurdles in the senate, where it could face major procedural roadblocks from Republicans.

Aaron Weiner at Washington Independent:

Two weeks ago, we ran a piece on lobbying efforts to derail the DISCLOSE Act, which would roll back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision by forcing companies that finance campaign ads to issue disclosure messages. One of the main opponents of the measure was the National Rifle Association, which naturally didn’t want to tack a “we’re the NRA, and we approve this message” onto every TV spot it funded.

Well, it seems the NRA has gotten its way

John Samples at Cato:

I wonder what principle of campaign finance regulation justifies this exemption? Earlier the authors of DISCLOSE said the American people deserve to know who is trying to influence elections. Now it would seem that voters only need information about relatively small, young, geographically-confined organizations that receive more than 15 percent of their money from corporations.

There is no principle at stake here. The NRA had enough support to stop the DISCLOSE Act. House leaders had to compromise by cutting the NRA a deal, a special exemption from the proposed law. The deal does show, if nothing else, that House Democrats are really worried about new money entering the fall campaign. They are willing to go a long way — even as far as helping the NRA — to make sure other speech funded by businesses and groups is not heard.

Finally, imagine you are a member of a group not exempted from DISCLOSE. You have been treated unequally by Congress.  The courts have said Congress can treat you unequally if they show that this exemption  for the NRA has a rational relationship to an important government purpose.  How does exempting older, bigger, more widespread groups with less than fifteen percent corporate funding help Americans cast an informed vote?  Put another way, if the NRA deserves an exemption, doesn’t everyone?

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

There are few organizations purportedly on the side of freedom that aggravate me more than the National Rifle Association.

In fact, these days I cringe when I see good conservatives with their lifetime member sticker from the NRA on the back of their cars. I support Gun Owners of America, which is a consistent and uncompromising defender of the second amendment, not a weak little girl of an organization protecting itself while throwing everyone else under the bus.

But that’s what the National Rifle Association is doing. You and I are willing to stand together because we know we either stand together or hang separately. The NRA legislative strategy in the past few years has been to hang everybody else so they can be the last man standing — more interested in maintaining the veneer of bipartisanship than actually standing up for the second amendment.

[…]

So if you are a small organization that just started up to defend freedom, you are screwed. But if you’ve been collecting a large file of members for decades off the image of Charlton Heston while repeated screwing conservatives, you’ll be safe.

This is just the NRA not wanting competition for itself. If they were really committed to freedom, let alone the second amendment, they should be encouraging more freedom loving, second amendment loving organizations to rise and fight. Instead, they are collaborating with the left to shut out competition.

Remember, the NRA had to be cajoled into opposing Sotomayor.

The NRA refused to oppose the most anti-gun Attorney General nomination in American history.

The NRA supported Dede Scozzafava and it attacked Marco Rubio.

Now the NRA is endorsing the Democrat in Ohio against John Kasich while collaborating with the Democrats on restricting the freedom of speech.

Remember, the NRA also opposed taking the Heller case to the Supreme Court because it was too scared of what might happen.

Gun Owners of America never compromises on the Second Amendment.

The one bit of good news here is that Mitch McConnell is a serious first amendment advocate and while I’ve been open with my criticisms of him, he and I typically stand shoulder to shoulder on this issue and I hope he’ll kill it off in the Senate.

Hans A. von Spakovsky at The Corner:

So, the NRA may end up providing the lobbying grease that allows this noxious and partisan piece of legislation to slide through the House, something that I seriously doubt most of the individual members of the NRA (who are strong believers in the First Amendment as well as the Second) would agree with.

UPDATE: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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They’re Getting Armed Against The Pitchforks

Alice Schroeder at Bloomberg:

“I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names.

[…]

Common sense tells you a handgun is probably not even all that useful. Suppose an intruder sneaks past the doorman or jumps the security fence at night. By the time you pull the pistol out of your wife’s jewelry safe, find the ammunition, and load your weapon, Fifi the Pomeranian has already been taken hostage and the gun won’t do you any good. As for carrying a loaded pistol when you venture outside, dream on. Concealed gun permits are almost impossible for ordinary citizens to obtain in New York or nearby states.

In other words, a little humility and contrition are probably the better route.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that was obvious to everyone but Goldman, a firm famous for both prescience and arrogance. In a display of both, Blankfein began to raise his personal- security threat level early in the financial crisis. He keeps a summer home near the Hamptons, where unrestricted public access would put him at risk if the angry mobs rose up and marched to the East End of Long Island.

Naked Capitalism:

This isn’t hard to understand at all. Goldman ran afoul of one of Machiavell’s big rules: “Men sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.” Or its 21st century variant: “You can take from all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot take from all the people all of the time. ” But the banksters, and Goldman in particular, have been determined to push the limits of those formulas, and are learning, much to their surprise, that they neglected to consider the intensity of the backlash that might result from their considerable success in extracting rents from the populace. Or did they?

Digby:

These guys really are something aren’t they? First they seem to actually believe that “populists” are coming to take over their bank and second that they could “defend” it with pistols. Good God, these people really do think they are John Galt, don’t they?

Matt Taibbi:

I’m reading this article on Goldman executives applying en masse for gun permits and I’m trying to decide exactly how funny it is on a scale of 1 to 10. Reader assistance here is definitely appreciated.

On the unfunny side: it’s never good when anyone buys guns, particularly not rich weenies with persecution complexes. Also, it might possibly be true that people have threatened Goldman bankers physically, which would really not be all that funny and would make me personally feel somewhat uncomfortable, although it would probably never be very high on the list of things I have to lose sleep over.

On the funny side, there are several things to consider. There’s the image of Goldman guys walking into Dean and DeLuca’s nervously grabbing at their holstered nines as they buy espresso and soy waffles. There’s the idea that some of these dorks might actually think that they’re going to forestall proletarian rebellion by keeping guns in their Hamptons beach houses. There’s even the impossible-to-resist image of a future accidental shooting of some innocent hot dog vendor on Park Avenue, followed by the inevitable p.r. response from Goldman in which the bank claims that the only thing its employees are guilty of is “being really good at shooting people.”

Certainly, there are things to ponder on both sides. Right now I’m leaning toward making this a seven on the funny scale, trending toward eight. Advice more than welcome.

John Cook at Gawker

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Old McDonald Had A Supreme Court Case, E-I-E-I-O

second amendmentSCOTUSBlog:

Taking on a major new constitutional dispute over gun rights, the Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to decide whether to apply the Second Amendment to state, county, and city government laws.  In another major case among ten new grants, the Court said it will rule on the constitutionality of one of the government’s most-used legal weapons in the “war on terrorism” — a law that outlaws “material support” to terrorist groups.

The Court had three cases from which to choose on the Second Amendment issue — two cases involving a Chicago gun ban, and one case on a New York ban on a martial-arts weapon.  It chose one of the Chicago cases — McDonald v. Chicago (08-1521) — a case brought to it by Alan Gura, the Alexandria, VA., lawyer who won the 2008 decision for the first time recognizing a constitutional right to have a gun for personal use, at least in self-defense in the home (District of Columbia v. Heller).  A second appeal on the Chicago dispute had been filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA v. Chicago, 08-1497).  Presumably, the Court will hold onto that case until it decides McDonald; the same is likely for the New York case, Maloney v. Rice (08-1592) — a case in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor had participated when she was a judge on the Second Circuit Court.

Megan McArdle:

It looks like we’ll soon find out; the Supreme Court has accepted cert on McDonald v. Chicago, a gun rights case brought by Alan Gura, the lawyer who won the Heller case.  The court has been dodging the twin questions of whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms, and whether it can be incorporated against the states, for decades.  It looks like the question will finally be settled–at least as much as Supreme Court decisions ever settle things–in the next year.

Brian Doherty in Reason

Roger Pilon in Cato:

Thus, the so-called incorporation doctrine will be at issue in this case – the question of whether the Fourteenth Amendment “incorporates” the guarantees of the Bill of Rights against the states. The Bill of Rights applied originally only against the federal government. But the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, left open the question of which rights states were bound to recognize. The modern Court has incorporated most of the rights found in the Bill of Rights, but the Second Amendment’s guarantees have yet to be incorporated.

Moreover, a question that will arise in this case is whether the Court, if it does decide that the states are bound by the Second Amendment, will reach that conclusion under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause or under its Privileges or Immunities Clause, which has been moribund since the infamous Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873. In its brief urging the Court to hear the McDonald petition, the Cato Institute urged the Court to revive the Privileges or Immunities Clause.

C.J. Ciaramella at TWS

UPDATE: Orin Kerr

Mark Thompson at The League

John Lott at Big Government

Jacob Sullum at Reason

UPDATE #2: George Will in WaPo

Stuart Taylor at National Journal

Damon Root in Reason

UPDATE #3: Instapundit

Ilya Shapiro at Cato

Jack Balkin

Ed Morrissey

Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money

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Guns N’ Felons: North Carolina Democracy

GunsNRoses

Eugene Volokh:

The North Carolina Supreme Court has just held, in Britt v. State, that some felons — whose crimes are long in the past — do have a constitutional right to bear arms, at least under the North Carolina Constitution

[…]

The vote was 5-2, with four of the five Justices joining the majority opinion and the fifth concurring in the judgment without written opinion. Note that since this is an interpretation of the North Carolina Constitution, the decision is final, with no basis for further review by the U.S. Supreme Court (though of course it can be overturned through the North Carolina constitutional amendment process, should there be enough support for that).

Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy:

Though this ruling is based only on state constitutional law, it raises a host of very interesting questions in the wake of Heller (especially given that the language of the NC constitution is parallel to the language of the Second Amendment).  Let me do just a little issue spotting:

1. Does this ruling automatically extend to all other NC felons who can show a “history of respect for the law [and] the absence of any evidence of violence” in their lives?  My guess is that a lot of drug and drunk driving felons might reasonably make such a claim; but do they need to go to court to get a formal ruling that they are like Britt?

2. Because Britt had his civil rights restored under state law, he is no longer prohibited under federal statutory law from possessing a firearm.  But can this ruling help NC felons who don’t have their civil rights restored if and when they get charged in federal court with felon-in-possession under federal law?

3. Will any lower federal courts be moved by the bold and clear assertion in Britt that the NC blanket ban on felon gun possession is “an unreasonable regulation, not fairly related to the preservation of public peace and safety”?

Mark Kleiman:

Putting aside for the moment the questions of (1) whether the analysis is right (though as a non-expert I find the reasoning in the dissent persuasive) and (2) whether the result is good public policy, I’d like to ask a straightforward legal question: even if North Carolina law permits the plaintiff in this case to have a gun, wouldn’t he be in violation of the Federal felon-in-possession statute if he got one? And wasn’t he in violation of that statute during the years when he had a gun, before the North Carolina law just struck down was passed in 2004? The court cites his “years of law-abiding conduct” as evidence of his fitness to have a weapon. Can a course of conduct that constitutes a felony under Federal law properly be called “law-abiding”?

Special footnote for gun-totin’ opponents of “judicial activism” I’m waiting to hear your screams of outrage about “legislating from the bench.”

Extra-special footnote for libertarians If it’s unconstitutional to make a felony conviction a lifetime bar to gun ownership, how about voting?

Grits For Breakfast:

So their standard reads much like the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, but the Tarheel Supreme Court was more fearless than Justice Scalia in noticing that there is no textual constitutional language limiting “shall not be infringed” to non-felons.

Given this ruling, I wonder if Texas might not prove fertile ground for pursuing ex-felons’ gun rights? We’ve got more than a few pro-Second Amendment lower court judges, plus our constitutional standard is much more strongly stated as an individual right than the federal version or North Carolina’s. Article 1, Sec. 23 declares, “RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS. Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”

So if North Carolina’s state constitution conveys a right to bear arms for ex-felons, the plain language in Texas’ Constitution seems even more favorable to such arguments. Our version more firmly grounds the right with the individual instead of the needs of a “well-regulated militia,” and it expressly incorporates self-defense as a justification for the affirmative right to bear arms.

Of course, in Texas the question often isn’t “what is the law?,” but “who is the judge?”. And over the last decade on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the winds have not blown favorably on behalf of arguments for extending rights to offenders – even those from long ago. That’s a strong argument for pessimism on the prosepects for extending gun rights to ex-felons, to be sure.

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Do/Don’t Take Your Guns To Town

nuns_with_guns_big

Megan McArdle:

I think carrying guns to protests is entirely counterproductive.  Indeed, I’m not sold on the general virtues of protesting, which worked for Gandhi and the civil rights marcher, but has a dismal track record on other concerns.  But I think people have a perfect right to do it, including with guns, though I also think the secret service is within its rights to ensure that they don’t have a sight line on the president.

But the hysteria about them has been even more ludicrous.  Numerous people claim to believe that this makes it likely, even certain, that someone will shoot at the president.  This is very silly, because the president is not anywhere most of the gun-toting protesters, who have showed up at all sorts of events.  It is, I suppose, more plausible to believe that they might take a shot at someone else.  But not very plausible:  the rate of crime associated with legal gun possession or carrying seems to be very low.  Guns, it turn out, do not turn ordinary people into murderers.  They make murderers more effective.

Jason Zengerle at TNR:

This is very silly. Look, just on a basic level, the Secret Service’s capacities aren’t infinite: protecting the president is hard enough in normal circumstances; throw in the job of making sure gun-toting protestors don’t have a sight line on the president, and the agents’ jobs become that much more difficult. Even if the gun-toting protestors whose rights McArdle is defending pose no harm to Obama, keeping a constant eye on them takes up resources–resources the Secret Service might need to thwart people who do mean to do harm to the president.

Then McArdle goes from silly to offensive, writing:

“So perhaps unsurprisingly, when offered the opportunity to put some money down on the proposition that one of these firearms is soon going to be discharged at someone, they all decline.”

Or maybe they just have enough basic decency not to wager on whether or not Obama–or anyone else, for that matter–is going to get shot.

McArdle responds:

Well, I’m betting on good behavior, which doesn’t seem that offensive to me.  Zengerle et. al. are the ones claiming that people openly carrying guns have a significant probability of hauling off and shooting someone for no good reason.

I find that rather offensive, given how little the people saying this sort of thing actually know about the protesters.  They may, to be sure, be gun-mad lunatics dying for a chance to shoot some random stranger. Me, I’d expect the gun-mad lunatics are probably carrying their gun concealed somewhere on their person, the better to use it without being stopped.   But I don’t know. The point is, neither does the other side.  All these confident predictions of impending violence do not, to me, seem to rest on much more than the belief that people who openly carry weapons near a rally must be gun-crazed lunatics who want to intimidate Democrats with threats of violence.  This is somewhat circular to say the least.

Zengerle also conflates this with presidential assassination, as have many other commentators.  As far as I know, only one chap has been near the president, and he was a publicity stunt.  The others seem to be at less august meetings.  If a gun nut wants to assassinate a minor Senator or Congressman, he doesn’t need to carry a rifle to a protest somewhere.  They’re not that well protected.  And also, not that frequently attacked.

Do I think guns should be near Obama?  I think that is for the Secret Service to say, and I would support whatever decision they rendered.  But we don’t know where this guy was, or if he ever even saw Obama.

Jamelle at The League:

Insofar that liberals are spooked by the presence of firearms at town halls or events attended by the president, it’s not because we believe that firearms possess some magical ability to turn Mild-Mannered Citizen into Bloodthirsty Domestic Terrorist.  Indeed, the suggestion (or implication, really) is more than a little dishonest; very few – if any – liberals have argued that the mere presence of a firearm is enough to spark political violence.

No, liberals are worried about the potential for violence because the ingredients seem to be there.  Last year’s election revealed the extent to which the conservative base is filled with angry, anxious and scared people desperate for some explanation as to why their lives are falling apart.  And since Obama’s inauguration, men like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have successfully convinced a large swath of those folks that the Democrats deserve the lions share of the blame, not only for making their lives miserable, but for electing a socialist, communist, Nazi, America-hating liberal who wants nothing more than to take what’s rightfully theirs (read: America) and redistribute it to minorities, gays and illegal immigrants.

Now, for the vast majority of these people, this is almost certainly a symbolic belief.  If push came to shove – would admit that Obama probably isn’t the second coming of Joseph Mengele, and isn’t trying to off grandma in a desperate attempt to save money.  For them, this really is just something pleasurable to tell themselves about their enemies, and not something to actually act on.  For a very small minority however, these fears are completely – and terrifyingly – real.  In a very real sense, they are cloistered and isolated from reality.  They sincerely believe that Barack Obama has usurped the presidency, and that the United States is well on the road to a totalitarian dictatorship.  What’s more, their fears are bolstered by a steady stream of misinformation and fear-mongering, some of it from fringe talk-radio hosts, and some of it from prominent Republican politicians.

Rufus at Grad Student Madness:

But, again, I’m not worried that the stupid asshat with the “blood of tyrants” poster is going to get a few shots off, or even try to. I’d be willing to bet money that none of the geeks showing off their guns at these rallies will try to use them. There have been a good number of assassinations in American history, but they were never done by people who came in telegraphing “Look at me! I’ve got a gun! Ask me about Ron Paul!”

More McArdle:

A lot of commenters seem sure that having a legal gun around substantially increases the likelihood that someone will, in a moment of rage, shoot someone–so sure that they are clearly convinced I am a lunatic for even suggesting otherwise.  I understand the intuition, and maybe it’s right.  But the evidence for the proposition is not all that strong.

First of all, as it shows in the articles I linked earlier, something like 90% of homicides are committed by people with criminal records, i.e. people who probably cannot legally own a gun. A lot of the rest are committed by juveniles, or mentally unstable people, who also cannot legally own a gun.

It is perfectly true that adding a gun to a dispute involving violent criminals increases the likelihood that someone will be shot.  But violent criminals are not like the rest of us.  They have very poor impulse control, and, well, a demonstrated willingness to use violence.  They also are not likely to apply for a permit before packing heat.

Murder is not something that usually just happens, even among family members.  The people who do it are usually abnormal in some way, and it shows.  For all the fears that allowing concealed carry would lead to murderous road rage and bar fights, these incidents have failed to materialize.  I have managed to find one murder in Florida that was even arguably the result of having a gun available in a heated moment–the few others were either clearly premeditated, or involved a weapon other than a handgun.  Given how small the number is, as far as I can determine, the good done by defensive uses of concealed weapons would virtually have to outweigh the harm, since several concealed carry holders have stopped violent crimes.

UPDATE: Jason Zengerle:

She thinks liberals should stop demonizing those people who do bring guns to Obama events (although, contra McArdle, people brought guns to two Obama events, not just one, last week); I’m willing to grant her the point that the people openly bearing arms at Obama events probably aren’t going to try to take a shot at him, but my main concern is that their presence at these events makes the job of the Secret Service that much harder–and therefore increases the risk that the Secret Service won’t be able to stop someone (presumably carrying a concealed weapon) who does want to try to assassinate the president. McArdle never really bothers to address my point, although she does propose the compromise that if liberals stop demonizing people who bring guns to presidential events, then those people will stop bringing guns to presidential events. Deal!

There’s one thing about McArdle’s post, though, that’s just too bizarre not to comment on–and that’s the strange weight she continues to give to betting. In her original post, McArdle argued that since no one who says these gun-toting protestors pose a threat is willing to wager $500 with her that one of them will try to shoot Obama, they don’t really believe what they’re saying. I said this was an offensive argument, to which McArdle replies:

“Well, I’m betting on good behavior, which doesn’t seem that offensive to me.  Zengerle et. al. are the ones claiming that people openly carrying guns have a significant probability of hauling off and shooting someone for no good reason.”

Is this really that hard to understand? People very seldom bet on something they don’t actually want to happen; if and when they do make that sort of bet, it’s usually as an emotional hedge about something that’s not that important (like the NCAA tournament bracket I fill out every year that has UNC losing in an early round so that, if that does come to pass, my correct bracket will cushion the blow of UNC’s loss). So the fact that no one is willing to enter into a contract with McArdle under which Obama being shot nets them $500 from McArdle is hardly proof of lack of conviction on their part. I think McArdle really needs to come up with a better test for determining what’s a real belief and what’s a symbolic belief.

UPDATE #2: McArdle responds to Zengerle:

On the other hand, lots of things make it harder for the Secret Service to do their job.  Protesting is much harder on the Secret Service–almost certainly harder than one guy openly carrying a gun, because the protesters are a crowd of people who have to be watched constantly for suspicious movements.  Should we ban protesting?  Or force the people who do it off the premises and into a park eight blocks away?

Of course not.  Expression in a free society is important–important enough even to let us risk the president’s life, as we are indisputably doing every time we allow a protest, or for that matter a crowd, near him.    You can say, well, free speech is really important, and carrying a gun isn’t, but that’s begging the question.  I’m going to stop discussing this after the post, because what it comes down to is liberals saying, “Conservatives with guns make me extraordinarily anxious and upset,” and clearly, they’re right.  Nonetheless.  Carrying a gun is clearly an attempt to make some sort of political statement, though we may not know what–rather like flag burning.  And the supreme court takes a very dim view of “Fighting words” type excuses to limit constitutional rights.

Rather like flag burning, it shouldn’t happen, even though you’ve a perfect right to do this.  The problem with taking a narrow position is that everyone wants to push you into the broader position.  It’s easier to argue with the opposite of your position than a halfhearted compromise.  And making narrow arguments in the face of towering rage and anxiety seems, well, kind of wussy.

UPDATE #3: Will Wilkinson weighs in

Zengerle answers Wilkinson and McArdle

Tbogg

Chris Bodenner at Sully’s place

UPDATE #4: Doug J.

UPDATE #5: E.D. Kain at The League

Via Patrick Appel, Thoreau

UPDATE #6: Via John Cole, Thomas Levenson

UPDATE #7: Michelle Goldberg and Megan McArdle at Bloggingheads

Moe Lane

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