How to Understand the Hatred of Firearm Freedom

By Bruce W. Krafft

Paul M. Barrett of Bloomberg Business Week has posted an interesting screed on Georgia’s (presumptive) new gun law, How to Understand Georgia’s ‘Guns Everywhere’ Law: Four Blunt Points[1]. As is customary, he starts out with a little hyperventilation: “Georgia appears poised to enact a so-called guns-everywhere law, making it easier for firearm permit holders to take their weapons into bars, churches, and even airports.OMG! You mean that GA is going to join 42 other states that allow carry in bars? And 44 that allow carry in (the non-secure area of) airports? Not to mention at least 31 states[2] that allow firearms in houses of worship[3]? It’s going to be all right, Paul, really . . .

Non-gun owners doubtless find all this baffling. Here are four blunt points to sort out what’s going on and how to respond:

1. The Newtown school massacre led to “guns everywhere.” Perverse as it may sound, the horrific mass shooting in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary produced a burst of state-level gun control bills around the country and then triggered a much stronger pro-gun backlash.

It doesn’t sound perverse at all that a horrific event like the Sandy Hook shootings would prompt an emotional, unthinking reaction. It’s entirely human to attempt to do something, anything which might prevent such a tragedy in the future; unfortunately such unthinking attempts are often not merely useless, but counterproductive. Tell me, how has the creation of tens or possibly even hundreds of thousands of new felons in the state of Connecticut made such a massacre one whit less likely?

As for the backlash that too is hardly perverse; when agenda-driven politicians cynically use a mass casualty event to push laws which they know (or should know) will have no effect on or even make more likely future horrors and which infringe on a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right, then again it is only human nature to push back against such laws.

The counter-reaction has now reached its apogee in Georgia. … Several states added piecemeal provisions allowing firearms on college campuses or in bars or churches. Georgia’s politicians, egged on by the National Rifle Association, have gone for broke.

Hmm, so what does the NRA have to say about the bill?

As previously reported, HB 60, as amended, had multiple transformations throughout this year’s session, and at one point was in real trouble of being watered down beyond repair. Thankfully, your activism through repeated phone calls, e-mails and visits to the Capitol carried the day. [emphasis added]

Oh, so it wasn’t a matter of a few high-paid lobbyists making backroom deals, it was a matter of a large grass roots effort that wound up saving and pushing through this bill. Sort of reminds me of the second time the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act (the law so nice we passed it twice) was enacted. A court threw out the first version (based on a legislative rule technicality) a couple of days after the deadline for filing new bills had passed. Fortunately for the legislature it was more of a guideline than a deadline because we (MN gunnies) lit up the capitol switchboard. The representatives got so many calls that they and their staffers literally couldn’t conduct their normal business. This wasn’t the “gun lobby” or the NRA, these were individuals, mobilized by nothing but their outrage, letting their reps know what needed to be done.

This, Paul, is the difference between grass roots and AstroTurf?.

2. Georgia illustrates the NRA’s structural advantage on gun control. As if we needed a fresh demonstration of this phenomenon, the gun-rights lobby currently enjoys a fundamental edge in the debate about regulating firearms.

Well, yes we have a “structural advantage”; see above about grass roots vs. AstroTurf?. And we also have the “fundamental edge in the debate” because actual facts and statistics on our side. We aren’t forced to cherry-pick our numbers or make-up definitions (like the VPC’s thoroughly debunked Texas CHL “studies” from the late 90s), nor do we need to resort to dubious methodology (like Dr. Kellerman) to get the results we want.

Instead we have people like Gary Kleck and Howard Nemerov, former gun control advocates who were intellectually honest enough to follow the data when it showed that (in Kleck’s case) guns were the safest means of self-defense available and (in Nemerov’s case) that “gun control” laws did nothing of the sort and were, in fact, counterproductive.

We also have Dr. John Lott, whose seminal More Guns, Less Crime was followed by 29 peer-reviewed national studies performed by economists and criminologists, 18 of which support his conclusions, 10 of which showed no effect on crime from increased carry and only one which showed a slight and temporary increase in one type of crime.

Yes, people get riled up, understandably, by mass shootings at schools or movie theaters. Over and over, we’ve seen those emotions fade quickly, giving way to a more sustained counter-reaction from the pro-gun side. The NRA has skillfully responded to calls for stricter gun control by portraying them as evidence that liberals’ real agenda is confiscating firearms—all firearms.

Well if you don’t want gun owners to believe that’s your agenda, then quit confiscating guns[4] and stop passing confiscatory gun laws. If you want me to believe that you don’t want to take my guns, then have CalDOJ stop trolling records just looking for people whose guns they can confiscate. Have Connecicut officials stop writing “Sorry, Charlie” letters to gun owners, informing them that they have four choices:

1) Render the weapon/magazine inoperable;
2) Sell the weapon/magazine to a licensed dealer;
3) Remove the assault weapon/magazine from the state; or
4) Make arrangements to relinquish the weapon/magazine to a police department.

You could also make the NYPD quit telling New York gun owners:

The New York City Police Department is taking aim at owners of certain shotguns and rifles, telling them all long guns with a five-round or more capacity must be turned in, altered or taken out of town.

An estimated 500 recipients of the notices, which were mailed on Nov. 18, were given the options to surrender their gun, permanently move the gun out of city jurisdiction or employ a licensed gunsmith to modify the weapon to get into compliance with the law. Rifles and shotguns with a capacity of five or more rounds are affected.

Don’t write amicus briefs in support of laws which prohibit operable firearms. Quit having your anti-gun spokespeople say that, effectively, they want all guns gone:

How many gunshot victims are too many victims? One. That’s all. To every family who has lost a loved one to a bullet(s), one is too many.

Be sure to let Governor Cuomo in on your non-confiscation policy, though, so he doesn’t spill the beans in a radio interview:

Well you could say, confiscation could be an option. Mandatory sale to the state could be an option. Permitting could be an option — keep your gun but permit it. So there are a number of options.

Let Illinois congresscritter Jan Schakowsky (member of Council Against Handguns … something[5]) in on the secret so she doesn’t tell video blogger Jason Mattera that a handgun ban is not on the table because “we’re not going to be able to win that. Not now.”[6] Or when Jason said he didn’t think we could get a handgun ban as long as we have the Second Amendment as stated and she replied “I don’t know that we can’t.”[7]

There may be an allowance, once again, for communities. I have communities in my district that prohibited handguns within their borders. … Do that as a sensible way to keeping people safe. I don’t think it is precluded.

M’kay?

Back to Paul:

A cadre of highly motivated, well organized pro-gun voters believe the NRA scare tactics and rally behind ever-more-aggressive measures to expand gun rights.

I would argue with his use of the term “cadre”, since my dictionary defines it as:

cad?re noun

  1. frame, framework
  2. a nucleus or core group especially of trained personnel able to assume control and to train others; broadly : a group of people having some unifying relationship
  3. a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party
  4. a member of a cadre

I think we can throw out #1 since he is talking about people, not a structure which leaves us with definitions 2, 3 and 4 which are, basically, definitions of AstroTurf? groups, not grass-roots groups.

Second, what “scare tactics” has the NRA employed and why do you think we are gullible for believing them? If you mean the NRA calling out the antis on their confiscatory plans, see above.

As for the “ever-more-aggressive measures to expand gun rights” don’t you really mean “ever-more-aggressive measures to repeal unconscionable restrictions on the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right to own and carry the weapon of your choice“?

Next Paul trots this one out:

Thus, we now have concealed-carry laws in all 50 states. We have traditional self-defense laws replaced by stand-your-ground.

OMG! What about the children?! Oops, sorry, wrong panty-soiling hysterical shriek. Concealed carry in all 50 states? So what? As I have mentioned before, the statistics from Florida show that over the course of 21 years an average of 7 permit-holders annually lost their permits for misconduct with a firearm. According to the Inquisitr website as of 2012 we now have some 8.2+ million permit holders in the U.S. and guess what? The murder rate is not climbing! Nor is the overall violent crime rate.

In fact, according to figures from the FBI, the murder rate is as low as it has been in 50 years:

And the violent crime rate is as low as it has been in 40 years:

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 8.16.19 AM

As for the idea that stand your ground is somehow not “traditional”, I would direct your attention to the syllabus[8] of Beard v. United States – 158 U.S. 550 (from 1895)

A man assailed on his own grounds, without provocation, by a person armed with a deadly weapon and apparently seeking his life is not obliged to retreat, but may stand his ground and defend himself with such means as are within his control

So much for the “traditional” duty to retreat argument.

Even those who deplore these developments at some point must acknowledge the pattern. At present (and maybe always), the intensity of pro-gun passion exceeds that of anti-gun passion.

Well thank you, Paul. I certainly hope that those whose cause is expanding individual liberty will always be more passionate than people who seek to restrict freedom, but it took many years of experience for us to learn that the antis are never satisfied with what they have and are always seeking to chip away at our freedoms.

3. Skeptics of expansive gun rights need to respond intelligently. The smart response is not scorn or exaggeration.

I actually agree with Paul here; unfortunately for him and his fellow antis’ facts and figures tend not to support their position unless they’re carefully cherry-picked and/or distorted. As a result antis must count on emotion to blind people to facts in order to accomplish their agenda. Indeed Paul himself falls into the “scorn” trap when he dismisses Georgia’s powerful pro-gun grassroots movement as a mere “cadre” who “believe the NRA scare tactics”. Like so many antis he has no concept of the strength of our numbers or the depth of our resolve.

For better or worse, gun ownership has come to symbolize a range of deeply felt ideas about culture and government authority. Making fun of people who view their firearms as emblems of liberty and traditional values (however they define those values) will neither change minds nor repeal legislation.

Again, I agree that gun ownership has deeper meaning than the mere possession of an item, but much the same could be said of books as well. These attitudes aren’t bound up in the items themselves, but rather the idea of freedom that their possession implies.

Unfortunately after his death my link to Joel Rosenberg’s website went dead, but he was a SciFi author, gunnie and Jew (figure the odds; Rosenberg). Anyway he had an essay that he wrote shortly after the first time we passed shall-issue in Minnesota. Like so many of these laws ours allows people to opt-out by posting a sign; his (fictional(?)) essay took place at the leadership meeting of a local synagogue. The verdict was pretty much a foregone conclusion, everyone knew that they were going to post a sign banning guns, and everyone knew that one of the older members would object. He had politely waited for all of them to make their arguments before speaking. When his turn came he said “I already have a sign made up for us” he said holding it up:

ATTENTION Nazis: Disarmed Jews Inside

It was then that the rest of the people in the room remembered that this particular old man was the lone survivor of what had been a very large Jewish family. Who had lived outside Munich in the 1930s.

Oh, but that is ancient history, Paul might say; no one could possibly need a gun in church nowadays. Just ask Cindy Winters, Jeanne Assam, Charl van Wyk or Taylor Bessette (whose foster father stepped in front of the shooter to shield some children); ask them whether or not permitting law-abiding people to carry guns in church are a good idea.

But then Paul does make a startling admission:

If someone else’s congregation feels safer knowing that people are armed, I say: Let them go with God. I doubt that enactment of Georgia’s law will lead to a rash of shoot-outs. If it does, Georgians can reassess.

To quote my grandfather “That’s mighty white of you pal.” In other words you are opposed to the “guns everywhere” bill, but not opposed to the provisions of the “guns everywhere” bill. Okay then.

4. The best response to gun-rights extremism is a focus on fighting crime. Rather than engage with the NRA on the cultural battlefield, where gun-rights advocates have the upper hand, liberals should focus on the most-pressing problem related to firearms

Yeah, too bad about that whole none of your damn-blasted laws work to cut crime! And whatever happened to eschewing scorn? How is calling the fight to restore our a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right freedom to own and carry the weapon of our choice “extremism” anything but scornful?

…the most-pressing problem related to firearms —that their prevalence in American society makes our violent crime more lethal.

Objection your honor! Counsel is making statements unsupported by the evidence! Unsupported by any evidence I might add. Read again that part above where violent crime is at its lowest in forty years! Then look back at the part where Dr. Lott points out:

Among peer-reviewed national studies by criminologists and economists, 18 find that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, 10 claim no effect, and just one claims one type of crime temporarily increases slightly.

No Paul, you don’t get to slip that guns cause crime (or even guns cause crime to be more serious) bullshit in and not get it challenged. It is not that violent crime in America is lethal, it is that homicide in America is lethal. In a previous essay I compared our non-firearm related homicide rate with that of other countries; if it is the mere existence of guns that causes murderous criminals to commit murder, then those rates should be similar. Not even close:

The UK was the closest, we have only 1.49[9] times their N-FHR[10]. Next was France at 1.58, Canada at 1.62 . . . aw heck, just look at the little table I put together here:

Country

UK

France

Canada

Australia

Spain

Germany

Italy

Difference in homicide rate

1.49

1.58

1.62

1.85

2.10

2.82

4.69

Paul then goes into a bit more detail:

Broadly speaking, this approach would have liberals emphasize more aggressive enforcement of existing laws against illegal gun possession, rather than obsess about situations that allow law-abiding citizens to own guns and carry them on their person.

No Paul, it is not okay to continue to enforce laws against the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right of people to own and carry the weapon of their choice, especially since almost every single one of these laws are mala prohibita statutes rather than mala in se[11]. In addition certain of those laws treat a crime as more heinous simply because a gun was used or was present. These “gun enhancement” statutes would have you believe that it is worse to shoot someone a half-dozen times than to hit them more than 20 times with a pickax “experienc[ing] intense multiple orgasms with each blow” as Karla Faye Tucker did.

But wait! Paul has an example of someplace that gun laws actually worked:

Still speaking broadly, the anti-crime approach would have liberals ask how the extraordinary successes in reducing violent crime in places like New York—where gun control laws have not changed for decades—can be replicated elsewhere.

Really Paul? We should use NYC as our exemplar? It’s true that the city’s crime rates have dropped significantly lately. So much so that a couple of DoJ BJS statisticians[12] wrote an essay titled The Remarkable Drop in Crime in New York City and presented it at an International Conference on Crime, held in Rome back in 2003.

As you said, gun laws in the city have been static for decades, but they pointed out that coincident to the drop in crime, the city hired more cops, and made what were (at the time) radical policy changes, implementing “broken-windows,” “zero-tolerance” and community-policing policies. In addition they did also start vigorously enforcing drug and gun laws. As you can see from the chart below, these changes seem to have had a beneficial effect:

Untitled

But since I also mapped the national violent crime rate you can see that NYC is most assuredly not an example for the rest of the country to follow.

Paul then returns to Georgia to tell us how to make that strategy work:

Turning back to Georgia, this mindset would inspire guns-everywhere skeptics (and if you can’t tell by now, I am one) to focus on those provisions of the law that appear to be soft on crime and criminals.

Wow! Soft on criminals, eh? Well that will never do; so tell us Paul, what horrific mala in se crimes does this new law encourage?

For example, the statute would provide more leeway for gun owners to escape punishment if they try to go through airport security while armed.

Wait, what?!? Paul are you stupid or do you think we are? Trying to carry a gun through security is a Federal crime[13], 49 U.S. Code ? 46505Carrying a weapon or explosive on an aircraft and is worth 5 years in federal stir, and has nothing to do with state laws! Furthermore HB 60 actually makes it a violation of state law to

[E]nter the restricted access area of a commercial service airport, in or beyond the airport security screening checkpoint, knowingly possessing or knowingly having under his or her control a weapon or long gun.

as long as the restricted area is clearly marked. I think I know what has Paul’s panties in a bunch, though; HB 60 says that if someone has not yet entered the secure area and are reminded that they have a gun, they can leave and not be in violation. Not be in violation of state law that is; whether or not you’ll avoid Club Fed is beyond the control of the GA Legislature.

A further troubling aspect of the Georgia law is that its ambiguous wording might provide wiggle room for a felon to invoke the state’s separate stand-your-ground law as part of a self-defense claim.

OMG, OMG, OMG! You mean felons are actually like, you know, real people who have the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right to defend themselves? Oh, the horror!

Now this would be truly preposterous. Felons, even in Georgia, aren’t supposed to have guns in the first place, so maybe this issue is more a function of poor legislative craftsmanship than malign intent.

Or maybe felons recognize that they are one of the highest risk groups when it comes to being a homicide victim and that a firearm is the safest and most effective self-defense tool in existence? I guess if a felon[14] is getting pistol-whipped to death Paul would want him to just take it and die; not try to grab the gun from his assailant or (great Ghu forbid) grab a gun of his own and save his life (and the life of notional future victims of his assailant).

But since pro-gun activists are simultaneously lobbying all over the place to make it easier for some felons to get their right to own guns reinstated, this facet of the law seems to merit quick repeal.

Well yes, see footnote 14 about just what constitutes a felony nowadays, then repeat after me: “the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.” Follow that up with David Codrea’s mantra, if a person cannot be trusted with a gun then they cannot be trusted without a custodian.

Paul finishes with a vibrant and passionate call or (dis)arms:

The upshot: Rather than argue that guns are evil or that gun enthusiasts are nuts, liberal skeptics should push back with concrete proposals for keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and children.

Fizzle, sputter. Okay, maybe not so passionate, but something which I believe we can all agree with at least two-thirds of: Criminals (i.e. people who are locked up in prison or jail) and the mentally ill (i.e. people who are locked up in a hospital) should not have access to firearms. As for children, well if you don’t teach your kids proper firearms handling, who will? And if guns are mysterious (except for what they see on TV and in the movies) and forbidden then heaven forbid they ever do find one, because that is how tragedies happen.

So to sum it up briefly for Paul; the sky is not falling, there will not be blood in the streets and it’s going to be okay. Really.


[1] The “guns everywhere” moniker seems to have been coined by Gabby Giffords’ group Americans for Responsible Solutions and like most such catch-phrases is horribly misleading

[2] As best I can determine 9 states have passed carry laws either explicitly allowing carry in church or not prohibiting it (à la Minnesota) since Lieberman’s 2000 statement

[3] Trying to be non-denominational here

[4] Specifically CA which used the Roberti-Roos registration to steal peoples’ SKS rifles when, by bureaucratic fiat they suddenly became banned. Or in the early 1990s after Mayor Dinkins signed Local Law 78 banning certain rifles and shotguns, and the cops went door-to-door using the 60s registration records looking to confiscate those guns. Or in New Orleans after Katrina.

[5] Perhaps she means the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence; at 1:42 on the video

[6] At 1:15 on the video

[7] At 1:52 on the video

[8] The slightly more long-winded version from the ruling states:

The defendant was where he had the right to be, when the deceased advanced upon him in a threatening manner and with a deadly weapon, and if the accused did not provoke the assault, and had at the time reasonable grounds to believe, and in good faith believed, that the deceased intended to take his life, or do him great bodily harm, he was not obliged to retreat nor to consider whether he could safely retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground and meet any attack made upon him with a deadly weapon in such way and with such force as, under all the circumstances, he at the moment, honestly believed, and had reasonable grounds to believe, were necessary to save his own life or to protect himself from great bodily injury.

[9] I broke it down to a simple multiplier: if our homicide rate was 150% that of another country the charted number would be 1.5 or in the case of us and the UK 149% and 1.49.

[10] Non Firearm-related Homicide Rate

[11] Mala prohibita literally means wrong (or evil) because proscribed (or prohibited) while mala in se means wrong or evil in and of itself. A good example of mala prohibita laws are those regarding so-called assault weapons; having a flash-hider, telescoping stock or bayonet lug isn’t something that’s wrong all by itself. Laws against shooting someone (outside of DGUs) are a good example of mala in se laws because harming someone else is obviously wrong in and of itself.

[12] Patrick A. Langan, Ph.D. and Matthew R. Durose

[13] Whether or not it should be is another question entirely

[14] And just who are these monstrous “felons” anyway? Did you know that if you have ever used a Su-Sat pill dispenser for your prescriptions, you are a felon? If you pick up a feather on a walk in the woods and it is from a protected bird, you are a felon? If you are going bowling with a friend and he asks you to swing by a buddy’s house so he can get some cash, and that cash is from a drug transaction, you are a felon? If you have ever dumped oil or solvents down a drain, or even just dumped them in a corner of your backyard, you are a felon?

    


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