Jun 202016
 
Police investigate reports of gunfire in the 2200 block of Prytania Street. (photo by Owen Courreges)

Police investigate reports of gunfire in the 2200 block of Prytania Street. (photo by Owen Courreges)

Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

POP-POP-POP-POP-POP-POP-POP!

I awoke as the shots rang outside my bedroom window in the wee hours on Saturday. By the time I emerged from my house, wearing a garish, plaid Sears robe with my trusty shotgun in hand, there was nobody to be seen save a lone security guard. He crept forward from Eiffel Society, a venue down the street, his pistol drawn and at the ready.

The police arrived, shutting off the 2000 block of Prytania, but aside from collecting a few random shell casings there was ostensibly little investigation to be performed.

Naturally, I was unnerved by the experience. However, my fear was not turned against a mere instrumentality. Alas, the same cannot be said of the reaction of many Americans to the mass shooting that took place a week ago in Orlando.

The media has been at the forefront. The Times-Picayune published an ill-worded staff editorial this past Wednesday advocating for a new assault weapons ban. It emphasized the need to “outlaw weapons and ammunition that are meant to inflict the most harm possible,” claiming that “[t]hese are not guns favored by hunters or needed for self-defense.”

This type of talk is, to put it mildly, useless dreck.

Perhaps the most insipid and ill-conceived legislation ever created was the 1994 assault weapons ban. You see, “assault weapon” basically just means a scary-looking gun. It isn’t defined by firepower or the danger actually imposed; rather, it is based on cosmetic features such as folding stocks, threaded barrels, flash-suppressors and the like.

Accordingly, an “assault weapon” is not measurably more dangerous than its many counterparts, as the bulk of mass shootings demonstrate. Selective, randomly-defined bans make no one safer.

Thankfully, even with the ranks of the Times-Picayune’s newsroom, there was at least one voice of sanity. Staff writer Robert McClendon opined in the comments that the real question we should be asking is whether an assault weapons ban would serve its intended purpose.

“If the purpose is to limit, in any meaningful way, the ability of a madman or religious fanatic to kill large numbers of people, then I think the answer is clearly no,” McClendon wrote. “If the purpose, on the other hand, is simply to say we did something or move the needle in some otherwise amorphous way, then sure, yeah, let’s go for it.”

That’s the essence of the problem. An assault weapons ban is more about winning a victory – any victory – for gun control than it is about having any impact whatsoever on violent crime.

And as with any victory, there are opportunity costs.

Instead of arguing measures that accomplish nothing, we could be discussing real criminal justice reforms that actually impact the violence on our streets, but instead we’re discussing laws with no more substance than a Tinder swipe.

There are other measures at the federal or state levels that may actually reduce the use of guns in violent crimes. For example, it is a felony to submit false information on a background check. In 2010 alone, 80,000 people lied about their criminal histories on background check forms. However, only 44 people were actually arrested for doing so.

As a consequence of this, many states have enacted so-called “lie and try” laws or policies, including Tennessee, Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, Illinois, Utah, Oregon, and Virginia.

The effort to prosecute felons who attempt to buy guns is uncontroversial, supported by both gun control advocates and the National Rifle Association. However, the effort hasn’t received a tenth of the attention that the assault weapons bans or universal background checks have received, even though neither of those proposals have a direct nexus with violent criminals.

It doesn’t make sense.

Hearing gun shots rattle off from outside my home was certainly frightening. What made me feel secure in the aftermath was the fact that I owned a firearm to defend myself.

There are those who would seek deprive me of that feeling of security, and they would not do so for the purpose of reducing violent crime. No, they would burden citizens’ constitutional rights “simply to say we did something or move the needle in some otherwise amorphous way.”

That’s just not good enough. If shills for gun control could articulate a reasoned basis for reform consistent with the constitution, I would be open to that. Their inability to do so speaks volumes.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

  • Mark

    Maybe a start would be holding “law abiding” gun owners responsible for properly securing their fire arms rather than leaving them overnight in un-locked cars, and the like. Background checks and assault weapons limits will not fix the lazy attitude of current gun owners that contributes to so many stolen weapons being out there on the streets.

    • Owen Courrèges

      Mark,

      I disagree. People shouldn’t be held responsible for preventing themselves from becoming victims of crime. That’s victim-blaming. I agree that we should encourage people to secure their firearms, just like we should encourage people to lock their doors, but the only person to blame for a theft is the thief.

    • Lindley

      More victim-blaming from the left. Such a predictable avenue. These are the same people that state, “she would not have been raped if she wasn’t wearing that short skirt.” Sick.

    • G in Uptown

      This is as trite an argument as “if girls wouldn’t go out at night in short skirts and drink, etc………”

      If someone breaks into a car, roots around, discovers, a firearm, takes it, is in the frame of mind to shoot it, and kills someone…………. Yeah. THAT person is the one to blame, not the gunowner.

  • JimLeemann

    One question for liberals who are pro-gun control/ban, how are you going to get the guns from the bad guys?

  • Kimberlee

    You emerged from your home with a shotgun and the security guard had a pistol. Exactly. Because that IS all you need to protect yourselves. Assault weapons should be banned.

    • Owen Courrèges

      Kimberlee,

      That’s not an argument for banning “assault weapons.” As I noted in my column, it’s basically a categorization based on cosmetic characteristics. Why do you think we should be banning guns based on how they look?

      • Kimberlee

        Well I don’t expect to convince you if you see guns as only being different in terms of “cosmetic characteristics.” I see them as having purposes for protection and for hunting animals. The ones that are designed for warfare and to hunt and kill as many humans and children in the shortest possible time are the guns with the “cosmetic characteristics” that I am arguing should be banned. Gun advocates have illogically and erroneously misconstrued that argument to mean that citizens who want SENSIBLE gun control somehow want to ban ALL guns. Even though NO president or congressperson has ever said that. Not once. It doesn’t stop gun advocates from repeating it ad nauseum. I wonder if using a gun makes people lose their sense of reason or mastery of the English language sometimes? It seems like that.

        Maybe if I quote Reagan it will make more sense?

        “This is a matter of vital importance to the public safety … While we recognize that assault-weapon legislation will not stop all assault-weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals.”
        –Ronald Reagan, in a May 3, 1994 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, which was also signed by Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.

        “I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.”
        –Ronald Reagan, in a speech at his 78th birthday celebration in Los Angeles on February 6, 1989.

        “Certain forms of ammunition have no legitimate sporting, recreational, or self-defense use and thus should be prohibited.”
        –Ronald Reagan, in an August 28, 1986 signing statement on a bill that banned the production and importation of armor-piercing bullets.

        “With the right to bear arms comes a great responsibility to use caution and common sense on handgun purchases.”
        –Ronald Reagan, speech at George Washington University in a on March 29, 1991.

        “Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics. This does not include suicides or the tens of thousands of robberies, rapes and assaults committed with handguns. This level of violence must be stopped.”
        –Ronald Reagan, in a March 29, 1991 New York Times op-ed in support of the Brady Bill.

        “I think maybe there could be some restrictions that there had to be a certain amount of training taken.”
        –Ronald Reagan, in a press conference in Toronto on June 21, 1988, suggesting that prospective gun owners should have to receive training before purchasing a firearm.

        “Well, I think there has to be some (gun) control.”
        –Ronald Reagan, during a question-and-answer session with high-school students on November 14, 1988.

        • Owen Courrèges

          Kimberlee,

          I am aware that Reagan supported some new forms of gun control, including the assault weapons ban. Obviously, I think that he was wrong on that.

          But my point remains that the assault weapons ban has absolutely nothing to do with a weapon’s firepower. It has nothing to do with how dangerous it is. It has everything to do with how a gun is “styled,” and a gun’s styling is frankly a stupid basis for legislation. That isn’t sensible, and it doesn’t inspire confidence amongst gun owners in the good faith of gun control advocates.

          • melllt

            So what do you think would be a “smart” basis for legislation? Can you see any legislation as being right? Or is any legislation”stupid”, cause it will start us on the slippery slope of eventual confiscation?

          • Owen Courrèges

            mellt,

            Legislation that’s reasonably calculated to having a measurable impact on crime would be justified. The assault weapons ban doesn’t fall into that category.

          • Kimberlee

            So, by your definition then people should be allowed to have surface to air missiles then. I mean, it’s just a bigger gun with a different style. That’s an insane argument and you should be able to recognize that.

          • Owen Courrèges

            Kimberlee,

            I never said anything resembling that. That wouldn’t even qualify as a personal arm; it would be more akin to ordinance and has definitely never been in widespread use. So no, it wouldn’t be covered under Heller.

          • Patricia Cullen

            There are too many definitions of “assault weapon” out there to start splitting hairs over this. I’m sure you realize that automatic, burst capable and semiautomatic weapons with capabilities to be modified are not needed to hunt or defend your home.
            In most of the recent mass murders, these guns were purchased within days of their use. Yet in Many states you must wait 3 days to get a perfectly legal abortion in a facility that is so overburdened with regulation that most have had to close.
            Do you really think that any regulations on gun control are a burden to the average joe ? How many people wake up in the morning and realize they need a gun in their hand NOW? And a 50 round magazine? And don’t feel they need training in how it operates or how to use it wisely?
            This is common sense. Even Scalia saw a need to regulate firearms.

          • Owen Courrèges

            Particia,

            Why should be ban semiautomatic weapons simply on the basis that they can be modified? A folding stock or a flash suppressor doesn’t make a gun more dangerous. They might not be necessary to defend one’s home, but that’s not the issue — the issue is why they should be banned. Obviously a rifle owner might want a folding stock or a pistol grip for personal comfort; unless those characteristics are somehow dangerous and enable criminals, why should they trigger a ban?

            Likewise, why should there be a three-day waiting period? Can’t we do an adequate instant check in this information age? Regardless, an FBI check can already be delayed if potentially disqualifying information is discovered. Putting in place a three day delay just strikes me as a needless burden on law-abiding gun owners that would in no way deter mass shootings. Why don’t we instead focus our efforts on passing laws that, I don’t know, target actual criminals?

          • Turlet

            We have no legal gap like with the RICO laws where leaders of criminal organizations couldn’t be targeted. Shooters break a multitude of laws every time they attack, if not long before. The federal government took down the mafia with a lot of hard work and surveillance, a lot of it being disproportionately focused on Italians. We could apply the same tactics to mosques and New Orleans Easts across the nation to reap dramatic improvements in safety. Or we could make criminals out of law abiding citizens and keep frisking grandmothers at airports.

          • Turlet

            Automatic weapons and “burst capable” weapons are literally never used in American crimes because they are already HEAVILY restricted by the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, and so on. We’d have better success reducing deaths with alligator control, lightning strike control, or something equally silly.

            All semiautomatic weapons are capable of being “modified,” usually with a few tools. The Ruger 10/22 rifle is probably the most heavily modified rifle out there. Are you going to ban target practice rifles too? Why is a defenseless non-hunter with incorrect information making judgements about what is needed to hunt or defend a home? Are you going to offer NASA some advice about rocket propulsion next? Are you going to advocate banning 3D printers once someone gets killed with a 3D printed gun?

          • disqus_ain7Kk28WZ

            See Australia-

          • Owen Courrèges

            disqus,

            Australia’s handgun ban had no discernible affect on crime. A University of Melbourne study showed this.

          • disqus_ain7Kk28WZ
          • Owen Courrèges

            disqus,

            There have been several mass killings in Australia since 1996 and at least one mass shooting. There were also multiple incidents that fell just below the threshold of being a mass shooting (i.e., with only three people killed). Trying to claim that gun laws prevented something as rare as mass shootings while somehow having no measurable effect whatsoever on violent crime or homicide in general is dubious at best.

            http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1736501,00.html

          • disqus_ain7Kk28WZ

            The article in TIME that you referenced stated that there had been no mass shootings since 1996. There were declines in gun violence before 1996 that have continued so there is difficulty in isolating the impact of the gun buy back and other restrictions.

          • Owen Courrèges

            disqus,

            There was a mass shooting in Australia in 2014. There have also been multiple other mass killings since 1996.

            As for the supposed “difficulty in isolating the impact of the gun buy back and other restrictions,” I would note that multiple studies have shown that there was, in fact, no impact.

          • disqus_ain7Kk28WZ

            there were 13 mass shootings in the 17 years prior to the 1996 firearms agreement. Since then there has been none. Coincidence?

          • Kimberlee

            Your statement implies that gun advocates have an interest in compromise, or safety, or common sense legislation (even if that means going back to a previous law or ban that worked)….which of course, we both know isn’t true.

          • Owen Courrèges

            Kimberlee,

            It’s gun control advocates that appear to have no interest in compromise. They just want to restrict gun ownership in any way possible, even if that means pushing ineffectual legislation.

          • Kimberlee

            See. That’s exactly what I’ve been saying. No one says we want to restrict ALL guns, but that what you hear. I give up. Bye!

        • JimLeemann

          Kimberlee, I’ll ask you specifically, how do you confiscate the guns from the bad guys? Seriously, I really would like to know your plan.

    • Lindley

      Kimberlee, exactly how much experience do you have with gunfighting? What type of weapon did the criminal have? Were you there? Who are you and what qualifications do you possess that makes you feel entitled to decide what one law-abiding citizen “needs” to defend their life from an armed criminal?

      Personally, I do not want a fair fight against a criminal with a weapon. In fact, for myself and my family, my intentions are to unequivocally neutralize the armed criminal with insurmountable firepower. Fight to win. Your life depends upon it.

      • Kimberlee

        All of these arguments are insane. My grandfather is rolling in his grave at the thought of someone needing anything other than a shotgun to defend themselves. I’ll spare you the names he would be calling you. So is it your position that people couldn’t defend themselves until we had assault weapons? That’s absurd.

    • G in Uptown

      Kimberlee – Define “Assault weapon”. Have you read the text of the assault weapon ban?

  • disqus_ain7Kk28WZ

    The gun deaths in the USA are off the charts compared with other developed countries with more restrictive gun laws. Must we be “exceptional” in that way? Can we not consider that we could learn from the experience of other countries?

    • Owen Courrèges

      disqus,

      There’s no example to follow. Other countries haven’t solved violent crime problems through gun control. Many nations with highly strict gun laws have high rates of violent victimization than we do. Likewise, some American states with the loosest gun laws also have some of the least crime.

      • disqus_ain7Kk28WZ

        Check the statistics.

        • Owen Courrèges

          disqus,

          I’ve done so.

    • G in Uptown

      Keep your argument here in the US. Can you explain what is happening in Chicago then? That city has THE most restrictive gun laws in the country.

  • UptownLady

    1993….We had just moved into the Irish Channel that year. Gunfire was no stranger to that neighborhood. We slept behind burglar bars with a loaded rifle propped against the wall for protection. I have no qualms with responsible citizens having guns. Though guns will and can always be acquire illegally, I do take issue with easy, legal, availability.

    Assault weapons were listed on a close to daily basis in the Times Picayune’s classified section then, under the Sports and Recreation heading, ironically enough. What set me over the top that one morning in 1993, while perusing the paper, was the ad to sale a rocket launcher. I called the paper, wanting to know if this was really acceptable, and if so, why. I was told it was perfectly legal. (But was it moral?) Getting nowhere fast with the paper, I called the ATF. The man who answered thought I’d made a prank phone call and let off a huge belly laugh. I asked if he had a morning paper in the office, and when he said he did, I told him which page and which column to look under. “Holy shit, lady! You’re telling the truth! We’ll get right on it!” Politely angry phone calls from the editor in chief, followed by a politely angry letter and a news crew and camera at my front door came later…but the ads were eliminated then. Back then an editorial advocating an assault weapons ban would never have been published.

    I don’t know the answers, but something needs to be done. Doing nothing hasn’t worked. We need to close loopholes in background checks. (Include social media in these checks?) Ban online sales. Track and limit ammo purchases, especially high capacity magazines. Tax the hell out of ammo and use the money for mental health care. (How many bullets does the average Joe use each year anyway?) ……..It’s a crazy world we live in……..we don’t use muzzle loaders these days.

    • Owen Courrèges

      UptownLady,

      I don’t approve of any of the reforms you suggest; like the assault weapons ban, they burden law-abiding gun owners and do little to nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms.

      Expanded background checks are unlikely to do much of anything because only a very small fraction of guns used in crime come from private sales. Banning online sales also wouldn’t be effective; online sales have never been shown to be a significant source of crime guns, and most major online markets for firearms require that all sales go through an FFL dealer and thus a background check is performed.

      Limiting ammunition purchases or severely taxing ammunition is just flatly ridiculous. You want responsible gun owners to be able to become proficient through training as opposed to avoiding the range because of the expense. Criminals don’t need many bullets; they’re not regularly training themselves. They only need a loaded magazine to threaten people with and shoot at if necessary. Again, you’re proposing something that’s a huge burden on ordinary gun owners and would have little impact on criminals. It’s exactly backwards.

      • Kimberlee

        Exactly how does any of this burden law abiding gun owners? What is this HUGE burden that you keep insisting on –while admitting that you own a shotgun, so clearly it hasn’t been a burden for you.

        • Owen Courrèges

          Kimberlee,

          Any measure that imposes a burden on gun owners — even one that isn’t “huge” — ought to be justified by a significant impact on crime. I don’t think expanded background checks or banning online sales are so justified.

          A massive tax on ammunition, however, would indeed be a huge burden and would actually be counterproductive to gun safety.

          • Patricia Cullen

            Owen, how has the average joe owning a gun have or has had any significant impact on preventing crime? I have never seen this statistic.

          • Owen Courrèges

            Patricia,

            The issue is debatable. John Lott has researched the issue and concluded that gun ownership and use reduces crime; others claim he is wrong. The number of defensive gun uses per year is also highly contested.

    • Lindley

      ” Track and limit ammo purchases, especially high capacity magazines. Tax the hell out of ammo and use the money for mental health care. (How many bullets does the average Joe use each year anyway?)”

      You, Lady, speak like enemy #1 to law abiding Constitution loving Americans. I can’t even begin to dissect your argument in a meaningful way that does not transcend into pure outrage over your myopic viewpoint and willingness to circumvent even our most basic rights as citizens.

      So I will comment on just one small aspect of your drivel. I am a competitive shooter and fire thousands of rounds per year. Why should my hard earned money disproportionately go towards funding mental health care because you support “taxing the hell out of ammunition”? Are you at all familiar with the Pittman Robertson Act passed 80 years ago and signed into law by Roosevelt? It states that all rifles and ammunition are taxed 11% and directly fund wildlife and conservation at the state level. In the 1970s, amendments created a 10% tax on handguns and their ammunition and accessories as well as an 11% tax on archery equipment. It was also mandated that half of the money from each of those new taxes must be used to educate and train hunters through the creation and maintenance of hunter safety classes and shooting/target ranges.

      At least there’s a connection there with the P-R Act. But having sportsman and law-abiding gun owners fund MENTAL HEALTH issues is, for lack of a better word, just pure crazy. I am a physician in an acute care setting and know all to well the issues with mental health. However, the onus of providing funding for treatment should not sit squarely on the shoulders of gun owners.

      You are obviously not much of a history buff. But Mao, Stalin, Hitler, and other malicious leaders would applaud your effort to track gun owners and the ammunition they buy. It makes confiscation so much easier when the government decides to do so after there has been enough submission of personal rights from people like you.

      Please educate yourself from sources other than the far left. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Your comments make you appear vulnerable to oppression. Seek the truth… It’s out there.

  • Kodaq G

    Owen, Why do you make sense on so many subjects that agree with my thoughts? We need to do something that protects citizens but limits gun abuse. So why do our politicians refuse to enforce or pass laws that do so? I for one have several weapons and will not hesitate to use them to protect my friends and property…I sat on my balcony during the flood with loaded weapons and watched the lack of respect for people, property and the law that occurred here on St Charles. And yes I live close enough to the Eiffel to remember all the shootings that have occurred there and nearby. If they enter my property they will not walk away.

  • NOLAFUT

    Will a ban on assault weapons effectively end all murder by firearm and mass killings? The answer is no. Will an assault weapons ban keep you from owning your trusty shotgun? No. Will an assault weapons ban keep people from buying assault weapons which are designed to kill other people in large numbers? Yes. No one is trying to take your shotgun away. I also don’t think the politicians supporting the assault weapons ban think it is a cure all, but it is a step in a direction that includes thinking harder about how guns are allowed to be sold and distributed to the general public. In a society where we are forced to put warning labels on cups of hot coffee I don’t think its a bad idea to limit what types of guns are available for the public to purchase and defend themselves with. I would also point out that you trading bullets with the bad guys isn’t making you or your neighbors safer. In my opinion that scenario puts everyone within range of your weapon in more danger than they were before. I am a gun owner so I am not saying you should be disarmed, but I do question the logic of a gun battle making any one safer.

    • Owen Courrèges

      NOLAFUT,

      The point I make in my column is that so-called assault weapons bans serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. They make nobody safer, not even slightly. As defined in these bans, an “assault weapon” is defined strictly by model or by cosmetic features. It basically translates to a ban on a certain style of firearm. It has nothing to do with firepower or the capability of a firearm to kill multiple people.

      This isn’t a “step in the right direction” because it will have no impact whatsoever on violent crime. This isn’t just my opinion, either. Multiple studies, including from the federal government itself, showed no discernible impact from the 1994 assault weapons ban.

      Finally, I think citizens defending themselves against crime does, in fact, make all of us safer. If ordinary citizens fight back, criminals become less brazen. Irrespectively, it’s my right and one that I will exercise.

      • NOLAFUT

        It is true that studies say the 94 ban had a small effect on total numbers of gun deaths, authors of some studies are also cited as saying more time was needed for conclusive results. It is untrue that the stipulations of the ban were all concerning cosmetic attributes of the firearms. It’s naive to say something labeled an assault weapon is not designed to assault others. It’s also naive to think you in your bathrobe with a shotgun is deterring to anyone. I think your stance on the issue, as an educated member of society with potential and a platform to spread common sense and healthy thought regarding the matter is to put it lightly, unfortunate. I hope that eventually as a nation we can all come together with the intent to end the senseless violence gripping our country through innovative measured initiatives instead of more violence. I have a hard time accepting violence as an answer to stopping violence.

        • Owen Courrèges

          NOLAFUT,

          It’s not just that the 94 ban had a “small effect” — I’ve never seen a study that says it had any measurable effect at all. It was completely ineffectual, or at least there’s no evidence to say that it was effective in any way.

          Also, I maintain that I am absolutely correct when I say that assault weapons bans are purely about cosmetic characteristics. The attributes that trigger the ban, at most, make the gun easier to handle. This is a ban on a certain type of styling that is given a label — “assault weapon” — and has nothing to do with firepower or the danger imposed by a particular weapon. Thus, this type of legislation is a useless distraction.

          I am trying to spread common sense here, which is why I’m recommending laws that actually focus on criminals, as opposed to law-abiding citizens. This resort to bad old policy sawhorses like the assault weapons ban is what I view as unreasonable.

        • Turlet

          A shotgun does not deter anyone? Have you ever heard of someone surviving a shotgun blast to the head? Search for shotgun slug wound. You’ve got a chance of surviving a pistol or rifle being fired at you. Your chances drastically decrease against a shotgun, even in the hands of a novice. No one is dodging the shot pellets from a shotgun, and no one is getting up from a twelve gauge slug. Why form an opinion without factual information?

          • NOLAFUT

            I own a shotgun, I am aware of its capability. If someone is desperate or crazy enough to be committing a violent crime I don’t think they are going to be rationally judging the consequences of taking on a person with a shotgun. If they were acting rationally they wouldn’t be committing the crime in the first place. My speculation is not about the potential damage to another human its about the other human’s mental state. Also why is it acceptable to all of us to be discussing shotgun blows to the head in day to day conversation about the place we live. Our indifference to such things is a good indicator that things are out of whack.

      • Kimberlee

        Well, except that when we had an assault weapons ban in place (for decades) it did make us safer. Your argument, Owen, doesn’t even stand up to U.S. history, let alone the success of assault weapons bans in other countries.

        • Owen Courrèges

          Kimberlee,

          How did the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (which was only in effect for a single decade, BTW) make us safer? I have literally never seen a study showing that it had any effect whatsoever on crime.

          • Kimberlee

            You’ve never seen a study because the NRA lobbied to block gun studies by the CDC. Hmmm. Why would they wanna do that?

          • Owen Courrèges

            Kimberlee,

            The CDC was blocked from performing research designed to advocate for gun control because its members said that they intended to do just that. To wit:

            “One of the lead researchers employed in the CDC’s effort was quoted, stating “We’re going to systematically build the case that owning firearms causes deaths.” Another researcher said he envisioned a long-term campaign “to convince Americans that guns are, first and foremost, a public health menace.”

            One of the effort’s lead researchers was a prominent attendee at a conference called the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan (HELP) Network, which was “intended to form a public health model to work toward changing society’s attitudes towards guns so that it becomes socially unacceptable for private citizens to have guns.”

            http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2015/12/why-we-cant-trust-the-cdc-with-gun-research-000340

          • Kimberlee

            Yes. Exactly. What’s the problem with that? Because owning a gun does mean that you are more likely to bring violence to your household. You may not like that fact but it doesn’t mean it’s not true, statistically. These are the facts. People should always have the facts when deciding whether to carry or not. If you know that owning a gun makes suicide in your home statistically more likely, or that accidental toddler shootings are statistically more likely, then maybe you won’t buy a gun. Or maybe that will lead to people keeping their guns more safely contained on their property, either way, what’s the downside for citizens? Of COURSE the NRA lobbied against that! They are paid to sell more guns!!!! They aren’t interested in citizens having facts and making educated decisions. Having facts about guns and gun violence is not the same as banning guns. This is actually be about personal responsibility and choice.

        • G in Uptown

          Kimberlee, you couldn’t be more incorrect here. The Washington Times (not some right wing news site) admitted this clearly.

          I’d be fascinated to see you prove your assertion.

          http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/aug/16/20040816-114754-1427r/#!

          Ban on assault weapons didn’t reduce violence
          By – The Washington Times
          Monday, August 16, 2004
          The federal assault-weapons ban, scheduled to expire in September, is not responsible for the nation’s steady decline in gun-related violence and its renewal likely will achieve little, according to an independent study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

        • Turlet

          Immediately after the 1994 ban, gun companies simply released slightly altered models of those “assault” weapons without the evil and scary banned features like bayonet lugs, pistol grips, barrel shrouds, etc. The functional capabilities of these weapons never changed and they continued to be sold during the entire 10 years of the ban (not decades as you claimed) along with 30 round magazines, 100 round drums, and so on. Why not just admit you know nothing about guns, and learn from the people that actually do know?

    • Tom Suhar

      I agree especially with your last point. Owen, please please don’t ever walk outside with your weapon again in any circumstance. You have it for defense. The minute you walk outside with it your are opening pandora’s box of risk and escalation and liability….and to what end?

      • Owen Courrèges

        Tom,

        I disagree. I stayed on my property; I didn’t run out into the street. The gun was purely for defense — I had heard shots and thought somebody might need assistance. If somebody had been bleeding in the street, I didn’t want to be cowering inside.

  • Turlet

    What is to stop a bad guy from walking into a gym with a duffel bag of revolvers (assuming all other guns were banned) and a batch of homemade explosives? What is to stop Charles Whitman from climbing to the top of a tower with any old hunting rifle and shooting 50 people? Democrats generally blame other things (objects, oppression, etc.) for crime instead of the criminals themselves, because they have no knowledge of weaponry, but they do know that criminals are usually Democrats. Therefore, Democrats are the last people on earth that should be making any decisions about guns or crime. A lack of firearms knowledge is a symptom of irresponsibility in American men.

    The assault weapons propaganda ruse would make Stalin proud. 800 rounds a minute! Fully automatic! Delivered from the internet right to your doorstep! Basically, we are supposed to give up our freedom on the basis of fear mongering lies and ignorance, while it is forbidden to even mention the race or religion of the criminals.

  • Scooter Black

    Owen, very well said! Thank you.

  • Roger Hackett

    Here is what one of the Founding Fathers has to say about the 2nd Amendment. Alexander Hamilton explained exactly what they meant. It is not about individual gun ownership.

    https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/The+Federalist+Papers#TheFederalistPapers-29

    • Owen Courrèges

      Roger,

      Did you actually read Federalist 29? Because that’s absolutely not what it says. Indeed, it confirms that the Second Amendment means exactly what it says.

      First of all, Hamilton lost this debate in two respects: 1) the Second Amendment clearly does not refer to a “select corps” of militia, but the militia in general; and, 2) Hamilton didn’t support having a Bill of Rights at all, which he expressed in Federalist 84.

      The gist of Federalist 29 is that Hamilton does not support disciplining the general citizenry, as others at the time (especially the anti-Federalists) did. Thus, he proposes instead disciplining the a “select corps” of militia. However, the word “militia” still clearly refers to the general body of citizenry; that’s why he has to specifically refer to a “select corps.” And “well-regulated” still refers to being in proper order, or in this case, being well disciplined and equipped.

      If there was any double as to whether a “well-regulated militia” refers to the people generally or to Hamilton’s proposed “select corps” of militia (which there isn’t), it was wholly resolved by the Militia Act of 1792, which defines the militia as consisting of all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 (i.e., all citizens who would then be considered fit for military service).

      And with respect to the right to keep and bear arms, even Federalist 29 endorses a broad-based individual right, saying: “Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped[.]” Thus, even those outside of the “select corps” are supposed to be armed.

      There is simply no intellectually honest way to interpret Federalist 29 to where it supposedly neutralizes the Second Amendment.

  • chopsley

    More “dreck” is that somehow, despite all of our American rights and liberties (some of them recently established by the likes of Antonin Scalia), the United States reliably earns a top ranking worldwide in gun homicide. Pity those poor Europeans with one one gun murder to show for our ten. And they consider themselves civilized!

    The United States has more gun suicides than any other other country. If Montenegro and Uruguay are discounted, we lead the rest of the world by a 100% margin. (I even know–or more precisely, knew–of few of those statistics personally). In many countries such a suicide rate might be labelled a “public health issue”, but not here. We are, after all, Number One.

    The guns are here. As everyone else in this thread has made clear, the guns are not going away. Still, Americans might do well on occasion to look beyond our soon-to-be-walled borders and wonder how the rest of the world does it. They’re getting away not with murder, but from it.

    • Owen Courrèges

      chopsley,

      Why are you segregating out “gun homicide” and “gun suicide?” Why does it matter what instrumentality is used, versus the crime actually being committed? I have no doubt the availability of guns in the US means that they are used more often than in many other countries, including (at least occasionally) for bad purposes, but it should be the underlying offenses that we look at, not the instrument.

      Even then, though, your statistics aren’t correct. We rank about 18th worldwide in terms of gun homicides per capita. As for gun suicides per capita, we do rank first. However, in terms of overall suicides, we rank 50th. That’s behind counties like Iceland, France, Belgium, Finland, South Korea, and Japan. Apparently people don’t need a gun to effectively end their own lives.

      I simply don’t see a strong correlation between violent crime rates and the strength of gun laws. Some of the safest states in the US have some of the loosest gun laws, and some of the cities and states with the most restrictive gun laws have the most problems. Studies differ on this subject, and given the absence of even a clear correlation (much less causation), we shouldn’t be creating laws that punish victimless crimes.

  • david
  • Owen Courrèges

    Roger,

    Even assuming the “importance” of the preamble, it doesn’t say anything remotely resembling what you’re claiming, and neither does Stevens’ dissent in Heller.

    The two clauses dovetail with one another. The so-called prefatory or “militia clause” essentially says that a properly equipped and disciplined citizenry is necessary for maintaining a free polity. Federalist 29 backs up this interpretation; the “militia” referred to the whole body of the people, and “well-regulated” referred to the characteristic of having military discipline (which in those days meant being able to march onto the field in rows of men, trade volleys without breaking ranks, etc) and also of being properly trained and equipped with arms.

    The operative or the “keep and bear arms clause” then guarantees the the right to the people to own and use firearms. This obviously ties into the prefatory clause; you can’t have citizens as a reserve fighting force unless they can keep and own firearms. Disarming the populace effectively destroys the militia in any sense. This is how the two clauses dovetail.

    The problem with Stevens’ dissent is that it tries to emphasize the prefatory clause and assumes — without any significant argument — that this would somehow neutralize the operative clause. He interprets the words “keep” and “bear” to only refer to some kind of active military context, when that was not the necessary meaning of either word, and further does not adequately explain how “the people” refers only to those in active militia service, as though the founders wanted to say “Congress shall not disarm well-regulated state militias,” but instead said something much longer that sounds completely different. If that’s what they meant, why wouldn’t they have said that?

    Indeed, it is Stevens that brings a strained reading to claim that “the people” can refer to some species of collective right and thus neutralize the Second Amendment. He even goes so far as to argue that an individual cannot exercise a right to petition the government or to assembly — as though I can’t petition the government by myself, or make my own decision who to associate with and invoke the right.

    I can go on and on about how Stevens’ dissent is a pathetic effort that isn’t the least bit persuasive, but I think the point is made. Federalist 29 doesn’t support your position in the slightest, and trying to incorporate Stevens’ weak arguments by reference doesn’t help matters either.

  • Owen Courrèges

    Kimberlee,

    I agree gun owners should keep their guns secure. I don’t believe in blaming them for becoming victims of crime.

    As for fingerprinted “smart” guns, the last thing a gun owner wants is a gun that might not fire when they need it. The problems with smart guns are outlined here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/josephsteinberg/2014/05/04/smartguns/#470019153900

  • Owen Courrèges

    Roger,

    The Supreme Court never actually adopted any clear, reasoned interpretation of the Second Amendment prior to Heller — they just avoided the issue entirely. The only earlier decision was Miller, which seemed to intentionally avoid voicing any particular view other than the notion that the Second Amendment didn’t cover weapons that wouldn’t be useful for militia service (which I consider consistent with Heller).

    You’re perfectly free to agree with Stevens in some general sense, but he didn’t even express a consistent view within his opinion of what the Second Amendment protects (if anything). I also don’t think Stevens’ position was either well-researched or even, frankly, intellectually honest.

    • Roger Hackett

      The Supreme Court addressed this as far back as 1876.

      In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, “The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence” and limited the applicability of the Second Amendment to the federal government.[9] In United States v. Miller (1939), the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government and the states could limit any weapon types not having a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

      From: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

      • Owen Courrèges

        Roger,

        You’re citing Cruikshank? Cruikshank is bad law. It’s been bad law for a long time, and it’s only authoritative if you believe that the Bill of Rights doesn’t constrain the states at all. Let’s take this line from Cruikshank’s syllabus:

        “The First Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting Congress from abridging the right to assemble and petition, was not intended to limit the action of the State governments in respect to their own citizens, but to operate upon the National Government alone.”

        Cruikshank basically dismissed the Fourteenth Amendment entirely, refusing to incorporate the Bill of Rights against the states at all. With respect to the First Amendment, it was overturned in Gitlow (1925). With respect to the Second Amendment, Cruikshank was finally overturned in McDonald (2010).

        As for Miller, I addressed that above.

        • Roger Hackett

          I’m not a lawyer and am not qualified to discuss the merits or demerits of Cruikshank. I brought this up because as a lay person it looks to me like the Supreme Court had a very long history of interpreting the 2nd Amendment in the light of a state militia rather than the right of any Tom, Dick, Harry or Sue.

          I would have no problem with changing the wording of the 2nd Amendment to make it clearly pertain to the States right to form a militia. I think individual gun ownership should be a hard earned privilege and not a basic right. I know you do not agree with that.