Best Gun Violence Idea Not Proposed in VA?

Grandstanding with guns on the House of Delegates floor. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)

by Steve Haner

The most effective gun violence prevention idea presented to the Virginia State Crime Commission Monday was one seldom discussed in the state:  Add violent misdemeanors to the list of convictions that prevent gun purchases from a licensed dealer.

Four states, including Maryland, have that provision and a Boston University study found it has lowered the firearms homicide rate better than 25 percent in those states. Right now, extending the ban from felons to violent misdemeanants is not among the scores of bills pending at Virginia’s special session on gun violence.

One of the least effective proposals, but one always at the top of many lists?  Prohibiting the sale of so-called assault or assault-style rifles.  The research on that is clear, Boston University research fellow Claire Boine said in one of the most useful evidence-based presentations from the long day. You can see her slides here and the full study here

As expected, the day produced data that both gun advocates and 2nd Amendment purists could cheer, and data both will greet with disdain.  Parts of the data got some media attention, but for the full list of the presentations go back to that main meetings page, here.  The meeting itself continues today with public comments and then patron presentations.

Diana Zuckerman

Then there was the presentation that nobody else in the media seemed to notice:  Diana Zuckerman of the National Center on Health Research speaking on “Does Media Coverage Inspire Copycat Mass Killings?”  Yes, she said, it very much does.  “It’s only a small part of the story but it is a part that will save lives.”  More on that later, since the mainstream media ignored her.

Virginia Mercury’s coverage  focused on the Boston University data, noting that it shows that several steps taken in combination have a significant multiplier effect.  The three steps are 1) disallow sales to those with violent misdemeanors, 2) give local authorities leeway to deny concealed carry permits, and 3) widen the net on pre-sale background checks.  Virginia has a highly effective system for dealer sales, but it does not extend to private sales.  Number two and three have been debated here often.

The research, based on long term homicide trends in the states with these laws, found several popular talking points are not effective policies: age limits, the assault weapon ban, broad prohibitions on the mentally ill, and the highly popular ban on large capacity magazines.

Claire Boine

It was only after she was pressed by members of the panel that presenter and co-author Boine departed from her text and indicated – for the limited question of mass shootings – a ban on large capacity magazines might be effective.  The fact that she was offering an opinion outside her own data didn’t make it into many news stories.

Another idea Virginia tried in the past, and which is being pressed again, would limit guy buyers to one handgun a month. (In my head I always now hear former Delegate Clint Miller adding, “that’s two per month for a loving couple.”)  Boine said their data doesn’t see that impacting gun violence in the states with that law.   Of course, it was passed because many Virginia-sold guns find their way elsewhere, and still do per another presentation Monday.

Boine stayed away from both red flag laws and the many “stand your ground” laws popular with self-defense advocates, saying they are relatively new and there was not sufficient data to evaluate them yet.  But the unescapable conclusion of her research, and the theme was picked up by others Monday, is that past violence is the best predictor of future violence, so try not to let violent offenders have guns.

Zuckerman’s charts on the increasing frequency of mass attacks since the University of Texas sniper attack in 1966 did get great attention.  Those are slides six and seven in her 41-page packet.  Equally chilling was her information on how these events, and the perpetrators, create a set of “fans and followers.”

It is well known that coverage of suicides creates copycats.  About half of the mass murderers seem to be committing suicide by cop at the end, and in the cases where it ends in suicide, the body count before that point has been higher.  A University of Alabama study has noted mass killers often get more news coverage than celebrities or sports stars.  The murders get on and stay on the front page.  Most of the research she cited dealt with traditional media, not on-line social media.  Now all this plays out on Twitter.

Some of the perpetrators, not all of them but some of them, are doing it for the fame and notoriety, the research indicates – perhaps 30%.  Her suggestion was that the media stop granting that in such massive proportions.  She talked about an approach the FBI calls “Don’t Name Them” that has worked with suicides and could work with mass murders.  Not publishing any manifesto is an obvious way to deny the murderer what they want.

With social media so pervasive, restraint by the mainstream media likely would have less impact than in the past.  But the question is often posed, why are things so different now than decades ago?  Why this obvious acceleration of these tragedies?  The copycat phenomena coupled with the explosion of mass and social media is probably part of the answer.

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31 responses to “Best Gun Violence Idea Not Proposed in VA?

  1. Steve,
    Thanks for all the info … Just one point about Claire Boine’s testimony and research. Her basic research was about total gun violence. Homicides account for only 1/3 of gun related deaths and ‘spree’ shootings comprise a small part of that total, so she was not contradicting her own research.
    The value of banning assault weapons lies in hopefully putting an end to the horror and the fear of public spree killings, not in addressing total gun violence.

  2. After listening to her and others, I remain persuaded its a panacea. A good question for Zuckerman (maybe I’ll try to ask it) would be if all the “showbiz/show off” qualities of those weapons adds to their appeal with the copycats. That would make sense. But you are focused on cosmetics – they are just another semi automatic. A routine hunting rifle with a small clip can kill plenty.

    This is outside my usual wheelhouse, as has been demonstrated before. But I think it’s fascinating that the one idea the BU research called most effective is one I cannot find on the bill list, or in any of the political propaganda. It is also something I think could pass.

  3. WHOA! I see nothing ‘cosmetic’ about a restriction that would take away the possibility of someone killing 9 people and injuring dozens in 30 seconds, as happened in Dayton.

    Restricting the size of the available magazines is what Ms. Boine suggested, and what I too think would do a lot to deal to allay both the possibility and the fears people have of mass shooting events. Mass shootings have tripled over the last few years since these guns became so available, and many places have responded with limits on magazines, the most restrictive of which is CA with 5.

    • Double whoa. I’m talking about the basic “assault weapon” shape of the gun, that is cosmetic. You want to ban large magazines, I think that’s just fine. That’s not what I referred to as cosmetic. Now, just what weapon was used in Dayton in not fully clear, it is? Was it a gun illegally modified to be automatic? That’s already against the law.

      • The problem comes with trying to ban “assault rifles” or “assault pistols” (which are really short rifles). The difference between an AR-15 and some very normal looking (i.e. non-military) hunting rifles is purely cosmetic. The key is the magazine size.

        There’s a range in Henrico County where you can fire all kinds of firearms – from pistols to semi-automatic assault rifles to fully automatic machine guns (which they rent). You should go there. Once you’ve fired an Ar-15 with a high capacity magazine you start to realize just how close it is to a machine gun – without the bump stock.

    • “Mass shootings have tripled over the last few years since these guns became so available … ”

      The AR-15 was first patented in 1956. 30 round magazines have been the standard high capacity rifle magazine for 30+ years. 30 rounds is a technical sweet spot with the maximum ammo and the fewest moving parts. That magazine also allows shooters to lie prone while firing.

      I’m not sure what made mass shootings triple in the last few years but it wasn’t the availability of assault style rifles or high capacity magazines. Both have been readily available for decades with a notable 10 year ban that expired.

      I have no problem with limiting the number of rounds in a high capacity magazine. I just don’t think it will stop the next mass shooting. Or the ten after that. Five to eight rounds should be more than enough. The GIs who went ashore on D-Day with M1 Garand assualt rifles typically had 8 round magazines.

      • I am glad to hear you are willing to restrict high capacity magazines. That’s were the ban should be … rounds. The bans in other states range from 5-10.

        From my earlier post … Here is a bit of assault weapon history … By 2013 manufacturers produced 2,000,000 annually, up from 100,000 9 yrs earlier.

        “When legislatures first restricted the guns, few civilians owned them. Americans only started buying assault weapons in large numbers after the federal assault weapon ban expired in 2004. That year, there were only about 100,000 made by American manufacturers. Production skyrocketed after Barack Obama won the 2008 election, when domestic gunmakers manufactured almost 500,000 such weapons, and then again following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In 2013, the gun industry pumped out nearly two million assault-style rifles.”

  4. Here are the particulars from Wiki … 9 dead, 17 injured in 32 seconds!
    Weapons AR-15 style pistol using .223 Remington with a 100-round drum magazine[1][2]
    Deaths 10 (including the perpetrator)
    Injuries 27 (17 from gunfire)[3][4]
    Perpetrator Connor Stephen Betts

    Ten people were killed (including the perpetrator) and 27 others were injured. Seventeen of the injured were shot by the gunman, who was killed by police within 32 seconds of the first shots.[3][5]

  5. Imagine a lethality list of weapons. The pea shooter is at the bottom and multi-warhead nuclear missiles are at the top. There’s a lot in-between. Gun regulations in the United States change as you go up the lethality list. No private citizen can own nuclear weapons. Private citizens can buy fully operational, fully automatic machine guns. However, it requires an extensive background check, substantial application fee, etc. To date, as far as I know, no legally owned fully automatic weapon has been used in a mass shooting. Below the machine guns are the assault rifles with high capacity magazines. Below that are rifles with med capacity magazines, semi-automatic shotguns, two barrel shotguns, knives, baseball bats, pea shooters.

    The problem is that the substantial regulation line is drawn too high – between assault rifles and fully automatic weapons. Move the line down a notch or two. people can still legally own assault rifles with high capacity magazines but they get regulated like automatic weapons. You pay a $200 “tax”, get a full background check, go through a waiting period then you get your AR-15 along with the 30 round magazine. A top end AR-15 costs a lot of money so I don’t buy that the $200 “tax” is exorbitant.

    Stop banning, start regulating. Works for M-16s why won’t it work for AFR-15s?

  6. I just don’t understand why anyone needs a gun with a high capacity magazine … fo4r hunting or personal safety.
    In hear some say they are ‘fun’ to shoot. Not as good reason considering what these weapons have done and are doing. It’s the public fear issue.

  7. DJ got it right. We won’t stop mass killings – but we can limit how many are killed by restricting the number of rounds in a magazine just like we restrict fully-automatic weaponry.

    And use some common sense as to what the “2nd amendment rights” really are and are not. As DJ said (and I earlier) – we make it dang hard for someone to own a fully-automatic weapon and it apparently “works” – none of these wackos got their hands on fully-auto weapons – BUT they COULD get their hands on 100-round magazines which are essentially equivalent to a full-auto weapon.

    Are we illegalling restricting 2nd admendment gun rights when we restrict full auto weapons? I bet the folks at the NRA have a different answer than most rational people.

    By the way – I AGREE with Steve on the “cosmetic” “assault” stuff – but make no mistake – those who intend to kill folks – they VERY MUCH KNOW the difference between “cosmetic” and uber deadly… and THAT’s the real issue. Focusing on assault weapons as “cosmetic” and won’t stop killings just distracts what ought to be the actual focus – uber deadly weapons capable of large mass killings.

  8. Jane, I don’t understand why anyone needs 100 percent renewable power. They just want it. It’s a choice. Of those who have the magazines, one in several thousand might do something evil with it. That said, I personally lose no sleep or fear for the 2nd Amendment if they are banned. Here we are again NOT talking about expanding the list of disqualifying crimes or the other ideas the research indicates actually do some good. What did I say a few weeks back? Boring and repetitive….

    • Repetitive … like the mass killings we keep seeing? There is nothing wrong with your idea of preventing gun sales to people with violent misdemeanors.

      Unfortunately, the news and recent commentary is about mass shootings / killings not long term homicide rates. You write, “The research, based on long term homicide trends in the states with these laws, found several popular talking points are not effective policies: age limits, the assault weapon ban, broad prohibitions on the mentally ill, and the highly popular ban on large capacity magazines.”

      The vast majority of gun related homicides are committed with pistols so I’m very sure that an assault rifle ban won’t stop handgun killings. However, a lot of mass shootings are done with assault weapons so that may be a different matter.

      Not quite apples and oranges but at least oranges and tangerines.

  9. The Mainstream Media ignored a presentation on the topic, “Does Media Coverage Inspire Copycat Mass Killings?”

    What a surprise!

  10. One tactic used by anti gun control types is to constantly question the definition of an “assault rifle” to kick the issue down the road once again. That’s why we have had no meaningful gun control in Virginia 12 years after the tragedy at Virginia Tech that involved 31 dead and an assault rifle.
    In my opinion, defining an “assault rifle” is not rocket science. To help out, I should relate my experience as a U.S. correspondent in the Soviet Union and then Russia. I have actually shot AK- type assault rifles there although I have never shot at M-16 or AR-15 type. Lest we get into personal stuff let me say that I have been a gun owner since around 1964 when I got a Savage 63 bolt action 22 caliber for my 11th birthday. At the time I was living in West Virginia where gun ownership was like driving a car.
    My most instructive way of explaining assault rifles came in 1994 when I was able to visit Izmash in the once off-limits city of Izhesk. That is the central point to the Kalashnikov where Michael Kalashnikov designed the AK-47 and where Izmash built it for decades. According to my hosts, Kalashnikov fought in the Red Army and was impressed with the German Sturmgewehr 44, the world’s first real assault rifle. It combined aspects of a rifle, machine gun and machine pistol. It had a pistol grip and a big magazine. It had a longer range and more hitting power than a machine pistol but was easier to tote around than a rifle.
    The Ak-47 was, of course, the most famous assault rifle ever. It looked a lot like the German weapon and millions were made at Izmash and in other countries. It got a reputation for being reliable if not always accurate. It did a lot better in Vietnam than the M-16, which jammed.
    Americans had nothing to match it until prototypes of the M-16 came along in the 1950s. U.S. arms makers wanted it to have a smaller round so troops riding in newfangled helicopters could carry more ammo. The Soviets responded with the AK-74, which is still in wide use today and the version many commentators mean when they talk about modern assault rifles. It has a lighter round than the 47. Since then, Russians have gone to newer types like the AK-12 and AK-15. They typically have maybe 30 round magazines but can go much larger.
    When I was in Russia, the most common AK type I saw was the AKSU 74, a kind of chopped down AK 74. Soldiers, cops and criminals had them. During the bloody White House invasion in 1993 and attempted takeover of a major television station in a coup attempt against Boris Yeltsin, I saw the AKSU 74 plus other types in action. In a two-day period of fighting, at least 150 (probably lots more) were killed and about 1,000 (probably a lot more) were wounded. Casualties included seven journalists killed mostly from gunfire. I had a few close calls those days.
    So, that’s what I can tell you. It seems pretty clear to me what an assault rifle is. They are not hunting rifles. Izmash did, in fact, make hunting rifles, such as the semi-automatic Saiga. It looks like an AK but has a much smaller magazine. Izmash officials tried to sell me one but I declined, noting that export documents would be a pain.

    • Peter:

      You write, “In my opinion, defining an “assault rifle” is not rocket science.” Then, you relate a number of interesting experiences and provide some useful information on a variety of weapons. What you never get around to doing is defining “assault rifle”. That’s because it’s very hard to define. To the layman an “assault rifle” is any long gun that looks like it is military in origin or use. If you dress up a BB gun with enough plastic you can make it look like an AR-15. But it’s still a BB gun. Conversely, there are beautiful wooden stock hunting rifles that are every bit as lethal as an AR-15 even if they look like something Andy of Mayberry might have owned back in the day.

      How about a reload? If defining “assault rifle” isn’t rocket science then let’s see a definition.

  11. Need has nothing to do with gun ownership. It’s a constitutional right, subject to reasonable regulations. Note there is no requirement to show need for an abortion before one is allowed. (Note: I’m not advocating for such as restriction on abortion nor am I arguing against any regulation of firearms.) I will listen carefully to any argument that rationalizes a constitutional prohibition against requiring a doctor’s order before a woman can get an abortion to a constitutional requirement that a person cannot own a gun unless he/she proves a need. And needless to say, no one in the MSM would even understand my question much less answer it.

    In concept, expanding background checks to all commercial sales and red flag laws make sense. But let’s also look at mental health, gratuitous violence in entertainment and the role of the media in glorifying mass shooters in the minds of some. How about the movie on shooting deplorables?

    Last night I watched a show on Discovery ID about a guy in California named Tyler Barriss and swatting. He was a self-isolated 20 something who dropped out of middle school and wanted to be a professional gamer, while playing violent shooting games most of the day and night. He got in a dispute with another online gamer, who retaliated by making a 911 call that brought LA Swat officers to his grandmother’s home that he shared. This is swatting.

    Armed with a VPN connection and an app that allowed him to use fictitious telephone numbers to swat people around the nation and placing 911 calls claiming he was going to engage in mass shootings or he had hidden bombs in public buildings, including schools and government buildings. As he got good at swatting, people began to pay him to swat their enemies. Finally, in a for-hire swatting, Barriss called out the Wichita PD who shot and killed a guy who came to the door. He wasn’t even a gamer. Barriss plead guilt to 51 federal charges and is serving 20 years in prison.

    Why no discussion about regulating violent entertainment? How about licensing and taxing sales of these games and movies?

  12. An assault rifle us a weapon designed for military use that is a mix of a machine pistol, rifle snd machine gun. It typically can fire full auto but some versions have a selector that let you fire full or semi. On version of the M 16 assault rifle was limited to three shot bursts because the Army decided troops werenblowing away too much ammo. Assault rifles typically magazines of 30 rounds or more. Hunting rifles can fire semi auto but usually do not have big magazines or pistol grips. They are designed for hunting. Assault rifles are designed for war. Sorry, but that’s best i can do.

    • You’ve hit on the problem.

      “It typically can fire full auto but some versions have a selector that let you fire full or semi.”

      The AR-15 cannot fire full auto or 3 round stitches.

      The pistol grip point may be accurate but that seems cosmetic to me.

      I think magazine size and the lethality of the ammo should be where regulations are focused. If people want to play “dress up Army man” with their faux military weapons then they can. Just not with 30 or 100 round magazines.

  13. An interesting review of gun policy review studies in the United States by the Rand Corporation. https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy.html

  14. TMT … Yes … choice can be the reason to buy an assault weapon. You might also choose to connect your sewage system into the stream that runs through the corner of your property, but the problem is your choice is limited by the negative toxic effect that choice of yours has on others … on your community and anyone downstream.

    So when I said what is the ‘need’ to own a weapon built for war, I was basically saying your choice for owning a weapons of war is not a necessity, like clean water and community safety, and therefore the community has the right to choose to restrict your choice.

    • If the standard was impact on others, we would not have Roe v Wade. The decision to abort affects many other people than just the woman. I don’t have pro-gun position and I’m generally pro-choice on abortion but want consistency in our legal decisions or we live a in world without a fair government.

      Given that the right to privacy is not set forth in the Constitution but was derived from interpreting multiple clauses but the right to bear arms is clearly set forth in the Constitution, how can we have a basically unfettered right to the first but condition the second on need? We can, of course, if we want to make judges our unelected dictators.

      • TMT .. I agree that the effects of your action on others is not the only reason for restriction on unrestrictive choices any person can make, but it certainly is a basic reason for restrictions on actions by individuals within a community. And I agree that there is no right to privacy described by the Constitution, but I don’t see privacy as an issue in my argument for restrictions on guns. Roe is a whole other complex issue.

        What I do believe is that rights, even speech, are not ‘basically unfettered’, the classic example being shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. Again, the effect and potential damage to the community is the reason for the restriction on the individual’s right to cause a panic with his speech. If I remember right … John Locke whose thinking was reflected by our Founders … said that although people have rights, those rights can be given over to the ‘social contract’; given over to a government of the people constructed to ensure the enjoyment of those right in a stable community.

        I am submitting that many guns remain available, but that high capacity guns and their high capacity magazines are the equivalent of shouting fire in the theater and can be restricted on the basis of the social contract and community stability.

        • Jane, my legal argument still stands. How can courts interpret one constitutional right (the right to privacy with respect to reproductive choice) to prohibit the consideration of other people’s interests while another one (the right to bear arms) can be conditioned? It’s arbitrary and inconsistent especially as we are not talking about the interests of closely related people but rather, the general public. We are stating that Joe or Jane Doe who never shoots except in a firing range cannot own or shoot a particular type of weapon because of the interests of the public halfway across the country.

          I’m not arguing against background checks or red flag laws. Nor am I arguing against stricter regulation of certain types of weapons, such as fully automatic weapons, silencers, or, as you suggested earlier, semi-automatic firearms with very fast firing power as measured by rounds per minute. What I am challenging is the idea that, because of the impact on others, the government can ban certain types of semi-automatic weapons or large magazines and even require them to be turned in to government agencies.

          In my mind, there is a huge difference between saying one needs a special license and wide personal investigation to own and use certain types of weapons based on their firepower and banning such weapons altogether. If I were a judge, I would not let counsel sit down until she/he could answer my questions with responses grounded in case law and logic.

  15. Good to hear you are not opposed to some regulatory restrictions. Like the Parkland kids’ new proposal, I would license all weapons. After all one must take driving and road rules tests to get a license to drive a vehicle, but that won‘t fly.

    Since you are not a judge and I am not a lawyer, we will have to leave case law out of this discussion … but from my chair I question your logic. First, these weapons distinguish themselves as particularly destructive. That is what sets them apart. Taking them away does not leave you unable to either go hunting or to defend yourself using another less destructive, but still adequate, weapon.

    Secondly, owning these particularly destructive weapons does not come with boundaries on where it will be used. Protecting citizens of the community includes everyone, whether the weapon owner decides to start shooting next door or across the country.

    Thirdly, I am saying that by living in a community of citizens our freedom to choose to do as we please can be limited by what the community decides it requires for its citizens to remain safe. That does not mean whether or not any particular rule affects someone else, but whether it harms someone else. Incidentally, I believe Roe was decided on the viability of the fetus, which is only considered a separate life before viability by some.

    This citizen of our community believes a ban on these excessively destructive weapons is best way to secure the safety of the whole community.

  16. Jane – I’m not trying to play lawyer vs lawyer with you. But case law is case law and it needs to understood. The Supreme Court in Miller v. U.S., 307 U.S. 174 (1939) upheld the 1934 National Firearms Act against a Second Amendment challenge. The Court upheld the validity of a ban on sawed-off shotguns. It held that weapons that bore a reasonable relationship to what is used by a militia are protected. The evidence in the record showed that saw-off shotguns were not ordinarily used by a militia and, as such, could be banned.

    The case gives support to those who argue weapons can be regulated constitutionally but also to those who claim the Amendment protects the right to own and bear “ordinary military equipment” that could “contribute to the common defense.”

    A number of cases have discussed Miller in the following years but only as dicta that does not affect the holding.

    • Well … As I remember, there is an interpretation of the Second Amendment saying the right to bear arms is not an individual right but one only given in order to maintain a militia. … “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” So I looked up the Court pronouncements and found something a bit different from your information.

      “For most of American history, the legal consensus was that the right to bear arms was not an individual right but a right connected to maintaining a militia.” In the case you cite said … “that the Second Amendment did not protect weapon types not having a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.” In other words, not an individual right.

      It wasn’t until 2008 in the Heller decision that “the Supreme Court affirmed for the first time that the right belongs to individuals, for self-defense in the home, while also including, as dicta, that the right is not unlimited and does not preclude the existence of certain long-standing prohibitions such as those forbidding “the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill” or restrictions on “the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.” State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing upon this right.”

      I think my position that guns with high capacity magazines could be called dangerous and therefore banned.

  17. There is an incorrect interpretation of the Second Amendment, not based on English constitutional and legal history or U.S. case law, that concludes the right to bear arms is not personal. But when one looks at history and early U.S. cases, one concludes the right is personal. Read Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller case. Here is a link. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/554/570/

    Whoever told you otherwise was either lying or simply did not know what he/she was talking about. Even Justice Stevens, who was renown for opining what he thought the law should be, rather than was it was, recognized the right to bear arms was personal, when, just before his recent death, urged the repeal of the Second Amendment.

    • TMT, I think that we agree … that the right to bear arms by an individual was the conclusion of the 2008 Heller case. The difference in what I said, and what was the commonly held opinion until 2008, was that prior to Heller the right was tied, as it is in the actual wording of the amendment, to the ability of citizens to raise a militia.
      In what you quote … Scalia said in his Heller opinion that he believes the commonly held opinion regarding the militia was wrong. He is an outlier there and I personally believe he was an outlier in many of his positions.
      My opinion still holds that we can ban “dangerous” weapons, as was iterated in Heller.

      • Jane – did you see the cases and references to history that were in Scalia’s opinion? I agree that a lot of people, ignorant of early cases and a strong historical precedent, did think that there was no personal right to bear arms. But when one looks at history, there is no way to conclude that there is no personal right to bear arms. The English Bill of Rights of 1689 made it clear there was a personal right to bear arms. And the Founders of this nation modeled the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on English precedent.

        I agree that the right is not unlimited. We make it very hard to get permission to own automatic weapons. But I bet that if you or I truly wanted to own one and was willing to jump through all of the hoops, each of us could get the permit to own one. (I have no desire to own a machine gun.) And one can lose one’s right to own firearms by being convicted of a felony. The government can stop people with certain mental and emotional problems from owning or possessing weapons. But there is a basic right to own and bear arms.

        Every weapon is dangerous. The first lesson in firearm safety tells us that. If dangerous was a criteria sufficient to ban weapons, we wouldn’t have any rights to own and bear arms. And gun control supporters claim they aren’t trying to eliminate gun ownership in America.

        Scalia’s opinion was grounded in case law and history. Liberal judges believe in penumbras and emanations. (I didn’t buy that when I was in law school and I don’t buy that now. Back then, I was a two-time campaign treasurer for a Democratic state senator in Minnesota.) That’s as solid as 19th Century physicians believing that miasma caused malaria.

        See some of the work of Professor Joyce Lee Malcom.
        https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018/04/16/the-nice-girl-who-saved-the-second-amendment/

        • “Every weapon is dangerous.”
          Here are Scalia’s words in the Heller decision … listing several exceptions, such as bans on “unusual and dangerous weapons”. There is still an argument to be had about the word “dangerous”, but I think I could win that with the number of people injured and killed in 1 minute at one of those recent mass shootings.

          I am cynical enough to believe that because the Court has referred to ‘usual’ weapons as being OK, the manufacturers represented by the NRA upped production so dramatically from 100,000 to 2Million annually to make assault weapons ‘usual‘.

          “I agree that a lot of people, ignorant of early cases and a strong historical precedent, did think that there was no personal right to bear arms. ”

          That is a judgment that does not align with what I read. Evidently some states have long had laws permitting individual gun rights but the federal law remained attached to Madison’s original purpose … to allow states to have militias that they could rely on to protect them from an overly powerful central government. A claim of ignorance for those not aligned with Scalia’s 2008 point of view isn’t substantiated. The decision was 5/4 after all.

          Earlier decisions didn’t see a ‘right’ … an individual gun right just was not addressed.

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