Time for a Talk on Gun Control

By Peter Galuszka

Once more time, we have mass death by firearms perpetrated apparently by a man with severe mental illness.

In this case, however, some 20 of the victims were schoolchildren roughly between the ages of five and 10. When the gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., they were utterly helpless.

The apparent guns used, a Glock pistol and a Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine rifle, have wielded carnage in other mass shootings. The former has been used in numerous such shootings. The latter was a type similar to that used by the D.C. snipers 10 years ago.

We’ve been reading a lot of hype about how gun sales in places like Virginia are supposedly linked to a declining murder rate. A couple problems here.

While murder rates in general are trending downward,. there is no question that instances of mass shootings have increased.

Secondly, the gun crowd says that everyone should pack a piece to product him or herself in just such as setting. Old Dominion lawmakers have even proposed having college students carry weapons in class to prevent the Virginia Tech type of tragedy.

What were we have supposed to have done in the Connecticut case? Give a six year old a Smith & Wesson with her  Sponge Bob Square  Pants lunchbox?

As President Barack Obama says, it is really time to revisit the issue of sensible gun control. With the GOP in disarray and the Tea Party madcappers fading, now is the time to hold just such a discussion.

26 Responses to Time for a Talk on Gun Control

  1. OK, let’s start having that discussion. According to this article, Connecticut already has among the toughest gun control laws in the country. How would you propose making them stricter?

  2. I was hoping that Bacon would write this but not surprised that Peter did.

    Bacon’s first comment is dead on.

    but I’ve heard the comment that if someone wants to commit murder that they have a wide variety of options beyond guns.

    but I’d be curious to see percentage of murder by gun vs other weapons – both here and in other countries.

    Second – for those who cite the fact that this guy did not buy the guns,

    are we prepared to see something like this happen every other week and month in the future to include more kids?

    is that a reality we are all prepared to accept and live with?

    that’s a serious question because that’s probably where we are headed given the politics and the reality that guns are so pervasive that anyone, including the mentally ill can get their hands on one, even if the were restricted from buying them.

  3. I’m with Jim. What additional restrictions should be considered? What can they be expected to achieve? Are they consistent with the Second Amendment rights as interpreted by the courts?
    I must point out that I don’t own a modern gun. I have a collectible that’s never been fired by me. I don’t really like guns. I don’t really want to own them. Outside a BB gun, which I had as a kid, you can count on two hands the times I’ve fired guns. I don’t hunt and never want to go.

  4. I can’t wait for the argument that we need to let six year olds have concealed carry — they could have protected themselves.

    I don’t understand why the Second Amendment applies to multi-shot semi automatics that exist only to kill human beings in large numbers. I would not be offended by banning them.

    I don’t understand how we can have this conversation without an equally important one about mental illness, the rights of these whack jobs to walk the streets among us. I would not be offended if immediately upon the state discovering somebody is that bat-crap crazy, every member of their immediate family has to also disarm, and the police get the right to enter property and make sure there are no guns. I can see the danger in this, but at some point these idiots need to be kept away from the stash of weapons.

    We also have to talk about violent video games, ultra violent television fight shows, gangsta’ rap, Quentin Tarrantino and his ilk. Nekkid women are not the only form of pornography rampant in our society. We have met the enemy and he is us.

    But even the most effective gun controls might have only limited the horror from yesterday, not prevented it entirely. Six kids killed by a non-automatic revolver would be just as awful. Three kids killed by a knife.

    I’ll bet the gun stores are mobbed today, though, after Obama’s tears and call for action. Here it comes.

  5. True as the sun rising in the east, Jim Bacon whips out an anti-regulaton argument.

    However, it hasn’t been released yet where these guns came from. Connecticut? New York? South Carolina? Virginia? If they did not come from Connecticut, despite its tough gun laws, then that argues for a FEDERAL law.

    One thing that can’t be dismissed by the Second Amendment types and the conservative anti-regulators is that 28 people were shot to death in an elementary school. Twenty of them were young school children.

    This is another in a series of mass killings. I don’t have the energy or patience to provide the list but you can easily see it on any reputable news site.

    And, frankly, I am getting really tired of seeing this kind of tragedy and then being told that regulation is not the answer. What is? Doing nothing? Let it happen, like laissez-faire economics?

    We really need to go beyond wonk dom now.

  6. I’m sort of like TMT but I also agree with Breckinridge. these large magazine weapons can kill far more people far quicker than a machete or cross-bow, etc.. and that seems to be the primary similarity in these killings.

    Of course if the forefathers could have foreseen where technology was going to go for “arms” would they really have supported citizens having weapons – on parity – with govt – to “protect” themselves from a govt gone draconian?

    For instance, does anyone here really believe that the 2nd amendment gives you the right to own stinger missiles that you can transport in your car to just outside an airport?

    Does anyone here think the 2nd amendment gives us the right to have an automatic weapon that can fire 600 rounds a minute?

    So, my question is – why is the current 2nd amendment “right” viewed in that continuum (that extends to far more potent weaponry) as sitting where it should be – where high capacity magazines for semi-auto weapons are a “right” but a 600 round automatic weapon is not?

    ..or do some believe that we SHOULD have the right to own stinger missiles but the 2nd amendment has already been neutered and we’re holding the line where we are right now?

  7. this is yet another one of those “Judicial Review” quandaries where some believe the Constitution should be interpreted literally and there should not be any “interpretation” of it by the POTUS, SCOTUS, or Congress. “Arms” are ARMS and the Constitution gives us the right to own ARMS without further “interpretation”.

    Agree?

  8. Years ago, people with serious mental disorders were kept off the streets. They were institutionalized. We’ve shut down our institutions. I think we probably locked up too many people earlier, but does that mean virtually no one should be institutionalized until they commit murder?
    We regulate and prohibit the use of automatic weapons. I believe we allow most semi-automatic, which are single-shot guns. You have to pull the trigger each time to shoot. Are we down to magazines/clips? How many rounds are too many? But it’s not hard to replace a clip.

  9. yes.. we are down to magazines… high-capacity magazines are almost automatic weapons for all intents and purposes when they are being used on people who are similarly armed – as you might have when opposing forces have equivalent complementary weaponry.

    the police first went from revolvers to semi-auto weapons and then finally to SWAT teams to be able to effectively counter those who would potentially have to be neutralized/taken out.

    but I still have my question which is why are high-capacity semi-auto weapons a 2nd amendment “right” and automatic weapons are not?

    what’s the criteria and why can’t that same criteria be used with respect to high capacity magazines?

  10. Breckinridge is making a good deal of sense here.

    I suggest our society is losing its perspective. Because it has lost sight of the pervasive evil in the world. Perhaps we need inoculation. So when that evil pops to the surface in so distilled and perverse a form as in this case, it does not shock us senseless like the true innocents we’ve become.

    Truth is as horrible as this event is, it’s rather minor on the world stage. There the examples are endless, quite as horrible and on a far vaster scale.

    Like in the winter of 1941, German soldiers sent to the gallows 17,000,000 old men, women, and children in Central Europe. Thus tens of thousands German soldiers killed millions of innocent children by throwing them out of their homes into the blizzards of Central Europe with nothing more than rags on their backs. As expected, these children (along with their mothers and grand parents) slowly and painfully froze and starved to death. So as to open up new frontiers for the growth of the Aryan Volk of the German State.

    And, of course, this was standard operating procedure for “progressive governments.” The acts of Stalin and his crew before the war dwarfed the German slaughter of innocents, as did Mao’s and his crew after the war.

    What happened then by the willful acts of thousands under the thrall of government policy, and yesterday in Connecticut by a single madman, come from from the very same place. Namely, the pervasive evil that lives and thrives in the real world and always will in the very nature of life, going about daily rounds, doing its evil deeds.

    But we must attack that evil at its source. Our weapons are many, as Breckinridge points out. But weapons of iron are our last defense against that evil. Whether it arises from an individual, mob, movement, a clique, or government, weapons of iron are our last rampart of defense. Its the central lesson of History. It corollary is also plainly established. Disarming will surely and inevitable invite evil into your house.

    Taking guns away from good people is foolish in the extreme.

  11. A discussion of federal and state (Connecticut) law on automatic weapons. http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/rpt/2009-R-0020.htm
    I found it to be quite informative.

  12. TMT,
    I fail to see the relevance of this article about automatic weapons. The firearms used in the Connecticut massacre were all semi-automatic and we still don’t know where they were acquired. Until we do, we’re blowing wind.

  13. well.. it’s a comprehensive discussion of the rules, regulations and restrictions on automatic weapons.

    but what I am asking is why it is Constitutional since it clearly violated the explicit Constitutional enumerated ‘right to bear “arms”

    what is the criteria that allowed the ban on automatics to be “Constitutional” and a prospective ban on high-capacity magazines being “un Constitutional”?

  14. I have been horrified by the comments of some gun advocates in the immediate aftermath of this massacre. It’s almost like these people can’t grasp that there are twenty dead little kids.

    I am a gun advocate and second amendment supporter. I am also a father with one son in the same age range as those 20 children killed in the tragedy. I cannot conceive what the parents of those murdered children must be feeling. Literally, it is beyond my ability to understand.

    Before any meaningful action can be taken, there needs to be a reasoned discussion of the facts. Here are some things that I think are true:

    1. America’s murder rate is higher than it would be if guns were banned. The argument that claims people who want to commit murder will use knives, bombs or baseball bats is a bit extreme. Yes, some people will find alternate weapons. However, evidence from a relatively recent imposition of gun control in Australia (1996) shows that the murder rate declined. In addition, America’s high murder rate among developed countries also seems to indicate that gun ownership plays some role in catalyzing the impulse to kill.

    2. Many guns easily and legally available in Virginia allow for a rate and duration of fire that is far beyond what could be necessary for either self-defense or hunting.

    3. People with serious mental illnesses are able to acquire weapons with near military grade firepower.

    And, most importantly ….

    Yesterday, in Connecticut, twenty little kids were murdered with high power firearms.

    This has gone too far. I can’t stand Obama but he’s right this time. We need to do something to reduce the frequency of these massacres. This will almost certainly require some reduction in the unfettered ability of Americans to obtain high powered firearms. Some guns which have been legally bought will become illegal. If that happens to me, I’ll take the weapon in question down to the police department and hand it over with no questions asked.

    Some things are more important than my unfettered right to bear arms.

  15. Years ago, a helluva lot more people with mental problems were locked up. And some people are pure evil. Neither of these statements are politically correct. Guess who passed the least restrictive course legislation. Perhaps, some people should not be on our streets.

    BTW, there are a couple of court cases (federal) that hold the restrictions on automatic weapons are valid because they are grounded in the requirement to pay a tax. Sounds just like Obamacare.

    Yesterday, Ezra Klein, no conservative, wrote that the Swiss and Isrealis have gun ownership rates comparable to those in the U.S., but much, much lower murder rates. Why the difference?

    Peter, I posted the Connecticut summary in response to Larry’s comments about just what is allowed with respect to automatic firearms.

    • Comparisons with Switzerland and Israel are suspect. In Switzerland, for example, virtually every man is conscripted into the military between the ages of 20 – 30. Not only are these men trained in the safe use of firearms they are also evaluated psychologically. After that, they can store military grade weapons in their homes. They also undergo regular summer training lasting (as I recall) at least two weeks. In order to purchase a gun in Switzerland you must have a valid gun acquisition permit which will not be issued to criminals or those with mental problems.

      The corollary in the United States would be to induct every man into the armed forces and require them to take weapons training. Then, every summer they would be re-trained and observed. Anybody showing signs of bizarre behavior would have the weapons and weapons acquisition permits taken away.

      If that were the case in the US then guns would be a non-issue.

      I don’t know the Israeli situation very well but I suspect it is similar to the Swiss situation.

  16. The best approach may be to impose a very high tax on any clips holding more than 10 rounds and prosecute non-compliance aggressively. The cases show the government has a lot more power on the tax side than on the prohibition side.

    • Yeah, you may be right. Although LarryG doesn’t know it – it’s perfectly legal to purchase a fully automatic weapon in Virginia. You have to pay $200 for a federal license and have your fingerprints, etc taken. The machine gun must have been made prior to 1986. There are about 120,000 such guns legally in the hands of private owners in the United States. A mint condition M16 will cost about $15,000.

      However, a “poor man’s automatic” can be made with a legal semi-automatic and a rubber band. While there is some debate, I personally believe this is illegal and a felony. I have never done this and never will. If I ever want a machine gun, I’ll register, pay the $200 and buy a legally transferable weapon.

      However, there are plenty of yo-yo’s who think that bump firing is easy, fun and legal.

      • ya’ll are missing the point here. The restrictions on autos are so much more stringent that they are effectively banned – at least to the point where I can ask you out of the last 50 mass murders in the US – how many were committed with automatic weapons?

        if you can put restrictions at this level on auto weaponry and it “works” then why not high capacity clip magazines also?

        bonus question: (still not answered)

        what justifies the much stricter restrictions on automatic weapons when we say that putting those kinds of restrictions on high capacity magazines would violate the 2nd amendment?

        answers please.

  17. re: automatic weapons are “taxed” like ObamaCare

    really?

    come on TMT…

    how long have automatic weapons been outlawed and do you REALLY think a tax is all that is keeping the crazies from owning them?

    here is some help:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban

  18. The National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Hughes Amendment in 1986 have all placed limits on how automatic guns can be bought and sold, but did not make it illegal to possess them entirely.

    Purchasing one requires submitting fingerprints and photographs to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, going through an FBI criminal background check, and paying a $200 tax, among other requirements. Only automatic weapons manufactured and registered with the federal government before 1986 can be bought, owned and sold.:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/16/news/la-pn-romney-illegal-automatic-weapons-20121016

    two questions:

    1. – how is that 1968 law not a restriction on the “right to bear arms”?

    2. – how is it Constitutional?

    3. – If you can Constitutionally restrict automatic weapons why not high capacity magazines and assault weaponry?

    I still ask – what was the intent of the forefathers when they specified “arms” to maintain a militia.

    Did they really mean for any individual to be able to buy any kind of weaponry that the military could possess?

    or did they mean the ability of each state to have a national guard of similar?

    The cost of the current insistence is 20 children – today… and even more tomorrow and into the future.

    make no mistake what we are saying we want to ‘defend’.

    we’re defending the right for a whacko to get a semi-auto weapon with high capacity magazines and to turn it on kids.

    defend it if you must but at least admit that you are defending that right.

    we have gotten to the point in our politics these days where we live in denial.. right up to the point where reality intrudes and shows us what we are really advocating… and when it comes to the 2nd amendment – we are essentially advocating the right for whackos to mow down innocent kids.

  19. about people with mental issues:

    there is a wide, wide range of people with mental issues and truth be know there are many among us who have never been officially categorized for one reason or another.

    but the idea that you’d want to find them all no matter their impairment and institutionalize them because some among their ranks are capable of gun violence – strikes me as using a hammer instead of a scalpel.

    the right approach is to put restrictions on the dangerous item.

    this is why even ordinary people find it next to impossible to get a permit for an automatic weapon – AND people with mental issues even more difficult.

    Could they still get their hands on one? Yes.

    How many do?

    how many folks who are mentally impaired have managed to get their hands on an automatic weapon and used it in a mass killing?

    My view is that, like many other things today:

    1. – we live in denial .. refuse to believe

    2 – we ignore obvious solutions… right in front of us

    If we can keep automatic weapons largely out of the hands of the mentally unfit – why can’t we also do that same thing with other kinds of weaponry?

  20. The 2011 District of Columbia Circuit case of Heller v District of Columbia (670 F.3d 1244 )provides an understandable discussion of the application of the Second Amendment.
    There is a two-step test. “We ask first whether a particular provision impinges upon a right protected by the Second Amendment; if it does, then we go on to determine whether the provision passes muster under the appropriate level of constitutional scrutiny.” The right to own and bear arms is subject to a historical test. A long-standing restriction that has generally been accepted by the public as reasonable is permitted by the Constitution. A newer restriction is not presumed to be valid. This is somewhat simplified, but I think it helps — I hope anyway.

  21. Well we have more news. The New York Times reported this morning that the guns used were a Bushmaster and a Glock. The former is like an AR015 is semi-automatic is is the same type of gun used in the DC sniper shootings. Glocks are in widespread use and were used in the Gabby Giffords shooting. Semi-automatic.
    The guns were legally owned by the mother of the shooter whom he shot.
    Larry’s point is on target. We outlaw the hell out of fully automatic weapons, but leave semi-automatics alone even if they are Bushmasters which aren’t exactly hunting rifles. Who needs a small caliber cartridge that travels at 3,000 feet per second and is designed to cause maximum human organ and flesh destruction.
    And while all the Libertarians are slicing and dicing their arguments so skillfully, it turns out that some of the children ages 5 to 10 or so were shot as many as ELEVEN times. ELEVEN times.
    Geez don’t want to regulate anything!

  22. yup. I still don’t understand how heavy restrictions on auto weapons is Constitutional but similar restrictions on high capacity magazines is not.

    how many mass gun murders in the US have involved automatic weaponry?

    Could we say that the restrictions on auto weaponry are effective enough to keep those weapons out of the hands of would-be mass murderers?

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