Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Gun Control Alchemy

We now have a view of the new gun control proposal that some have labeled Diane Feinstein’s Grand Plan. Grand? Feasible? Passible? That remains to be seen.  What is plain and predictable is that Feinstein’s proposal illustrates the structural inadequacy of supply control policies that attempt a purely public response to an intensely private crisis.

The impulse here is the horror in Connecticut.  A moment’s reflection shows that Feinstein’s plan is basically non-responsive.  The main worry from Connecticut is not that an incomprehensively mad, damaged (one searches for something more here) young man, killed with an AR-15.  At one level we all know that virtually any sort of firearm and a variety of other deadly weapons are easy substitutes against the helpless.

But that is a difficult thing to say in this climate and it does not satisfy people who are hurting.  And that hurt is very much a driver here.  The pain from Newtown is intense.  Many people desperately seek something to ease that pain and affirm that our society, our culture, are not irretrievably off the rails.  For those under the delusion that the state can stop imminent violent threats, Feinstein’s supply side gun control proposal will have appeal.

A friend said to me, “Well it couldn’t hurt”.  And this actually advances the point. First, it actually might hurt. But that hurt is remote from what we are feeling now.  It is a bundle of concerns about stormy days of public unrest; people on the margin who can operate a carbine, but not a shotgun or a handgun; civic militia values; and whether the legislation will just drive millions of the guns into the black market or provoke militant resistance.  For many people, those concerns do not fit on the same table with the pain of Sandy Hook.

More important for now is that Feinstein’s proposal marks point of profound disagreement.  Surely most gun owners, but perhaps many others will acknowledge that when seconds count, government is minutes away.  This means that in those critical moments when violence sparks, you are on your own.

Many people resist this fact and its implications. Supply controls appeal to those people (just get rid of the guns and these crimes would stop).  Supply controls they believe, can moot the need for armed self-defense.  But that is a pipe dream in a country that already has 320 million guns distributed across 40 percent of households.

The progressive political class operates under a kind of moral hazard here.  Their standard coin is the promise of public solutions, even for those private crises where our ancient law of self-defense emphasizes that the state is structurally incompetent.  For those who need a refresher, the state loses its monopoly on legitimate violence in that window of imminence where government cannot act and people must protect themselves.

Politicians of a particular stripe will find it nearly impossible to acknowledge this basic fact. They are aligned with a gun control movement that has continuously denied the need, utility and legitimacy of armed self-defense. This crowd has the floor now and will lead the legislative charge with proposals that are really a diversion from the core issue.

There is a real danger that we will undertake what is essentially a grand charade – a policy debate grounded on the premise that 10 versus 30 round magazines (and next time revolvers versus semiautomatics) make some crucial difference in these attacks.  The vitriol suggests that Feinstein’s supply control proposals are a clear and obvious fix against horrors like Sandy Hook.  Ultimately we all really know that is false.

A serious debate about the precise risk would involve detailed assessment of fictitious gun free zones.  This has been raised first by the NRA, so there is a good chance it will be maligned by much of the media and dismissed by self-righteous public officials.  But if we are diligent and press for substance rather than symbolism, there is some chance that this issue will rise up out of the rancor.

For example, as we go through the dubious enterprise of identifying “bad guns” to ban and “good guns” to approve, someone might actually move past how guns look and consider how they function. Someone might actually ask whether the AR-15 is more deadly against unarmed people than a pump shotgun (which fires multiple projectiles designed for moving targets and can be continuously reloaded without disabling the gun) or a lever action rifle (firing projectiles far heavier and more deadly than the .22 caliber bullet of the AR-15) or the stealthy, quickly reloadable handgun (whether a revolver with speed-loaders, or 10 or 15 round pistol) or frankly any other gun used against the helpless.

The implication that modern semiautomatics are a distinctly dangerous category is a pure canard. Consider this from an 1862 report assessing Winchester’s lever-action Henry rifle:

187 shots were fired in three minutes and thirty seconds and one full fifteen shot magazine was fired in only 10.8 seconds.  A total of 1,040 shots were fired and hits were made from as far away as 348 feet at an 18 inch square target with a .44 caliber 216 grain bullet [compare the .22 caliber 55 grain AR-15 round.

This was common nineteenth century technology when the Fourteenth Amendment trumped state laws denying citizens of United States the constitutional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.

One impediment here is that the conversation about the capabilities of the full range of firearms, the conversation that reveals Feinstein’s bill as a simple diversion, is painful.  It demands that we imagine and then talk about the damage a madman can inflict on the helpless with an AR-15, a pump shotgun, a handgun, a bolt action or a 150 year old lever action rifle.   You don’t really want those images in your head, and certainly not after Sandy Hook.

We will have to push through this.  Because beyond this barrier most will see clearly that the core issue here is the exposure of helpless people against a twisted man (or boy) with a gun… any gun.  Supply controls are no answer to this problem unless you eliminate virtually all guns.  Only when you fully acknowledge that it is impossible to get rid of guns in America (and that the failed attempt would make things worse by sending a hundred million guns fully into the black market) do you see the substantive emptiness and folly of Feinstein’s plan.

And this actually reveals a crucial sticking point.  Some of us genuinely appreciate that it is impossible to ban guns in America.  Others of us (and I believe Feinstein must be one of them)  still, deep down, imagine that we might someday fulfill the supply control dreams hatched in the 1970’s and actually get rid of guns.

Indeed, if you don’t deep down believe that this is possible, the Feinstein plan is just nonsense.  Because it cannot be true that the Senator is saying we want to stop mass shootings against innocents using certain semiautomatic rifles, but shootings using other semiautomatics, pumps, lever actions, revolvers, double barrels or bolt actions are ok. If your tool is supply controls, you must ban those guns too.   (Gun people know this. So they will fight this proposal like it is the last battle.)

If we get this far, and find consensus that the supply control formula is dubious and the bad gun formula incoherent, we might press forward to the actual tough question that deserves our full attention.   What about these episodes of pure insanity in shopping malls, college campuses and elementary schools?  For adults, the idea that people must protect themselves within the window of imminence is the longstanding reality, as the modern wave of shall issue concealed carry laws acknowledge.  But this approach fails for seven year-olds.  And it still hurts to think about that.  But that is the pain we must work through and the conversation we must have.

Senator Feinstein will get lots of opposition to her proposal:  that it is an unconstitutional taking of property; that it irrationally treats semi-automatics more harshly than true machine guns; that is an unconstitutional application of the taxing power that grounds the National Firearms Act; that it attempts to ban guns in common use in violation of D.C. v. Heller;  that it attempts to ban the quintessential militia weapon which seems protected even under a non-deceptive version of Justice Stevens’ dissent in Heller; that it will drive the targeted guns into the black market, and; that it will trigger militant resistance.

The worst thing though is that Feinstein’s Grand Plan obscures the core question of how to protect the 7 year old in the classroom, with tired oversold ideas that mainly serve to mask the structural state incompetence that the progressive political class cannot profitably acknowledge.

Nicholas J. Johnson

Nicholas J. Johnson is Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law is the author of Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms. He is the lead editor of Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Cases and Materials (Aspen Press, 2012).

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  1. ORGO says

    If you check Open Secrets, you will see that Dianne Feinstein took over $80,000 in campaign donations from BAE Systems and General Dynamics, both of who make assault weapons and ammunition for them. She is a hypocrite.

    The last AWB was studied by the DOJ and was found to have a negligible impact on public safety. Columbine occured during the last ban.

    Violent crime in the U.S. is currently at near historic low levels.

    The threat of a new ban has resulted in guns being sold at record rates, with some shops reporting that they have sold 3-4 years worth of gear in the last two months. If Feinstein and her buddies wanted to slow the rate of gun sales, they picked a poor way to do it.

    Overreaching new gun laws and bans will only cause hundreds of 2nd Amendment lawsuits to be filed, tying up the court systems for years.

    Bans have correlated with dramatic violent crime increases in both the UK and Australia.

    The elephant in the room on mass shootings is psychotropics, which have been linked to many shootings and other violence. See

  2. Natalie Baff says

    By Natalie Baff

    This dark where we live seems barbaric to me;
    Gun-shots that ring in the night;
    I see them; I hear them, and try to forget.
    But my heart is still shocked by the fright.

    How long will it linger, – this cancerous sport?
    How long will our congressmen let it?
    How long will my fellowmen hide from the sound?
    How long before conscience does beckon?

    We lock our car doors to keep young boys from theft,
    Yet we place a gun in their hand.
    The whistle of the wind whispers killing is near,
    And murder resounds through the land.

    Our senators sit there – talk, talk, talk, talk!
    Yet the shame does not only lie there.
    I walk in the sunlight and hear only shots
    Because of the burden I bear.

    When will we learn that a bullet does harm?
    When will we take them away?
    How can we face ourselves, face all our kin?
    The clouds laugh and taunt me;
    “Why don’t you begin?”

    Days move to weeks, on to months, then to years.
    Out of the silence, a deluge of tears;
    Families of those stricken down in their prime;
    How can their sorrow still fall on deaf ears?

    I wrote this poem soon after President Kennedy died in 1963. Gun control was necessary then and it is absolutely necessary now. As I mourn the deaths of these beautiful little children, I find my poem very timely. It surely expresses my feelings today. There will always be people who wish to kill, but without a gun, how many can they kill. We need to put an end to this carnage. We must not lose any more children. We owe it to our children to all push our congressmen, senators, and President Obama to pass a strong bill for gun control.
    It’s time for President Obama to stand up and commit himself and the administration to pushing through a bill to make gun control mandatory in the USA. Gun laws must be nationwide. No single location can protect itself as long as there is an outlet for guns in another location in the nation.
    There will always be mentally ill people, but without guns, they will not be able to commit the horrific slaughters we have seen in recent years. There must be national psychological testing mandatory for everyone before they are allowed to purchase a gun. No one with any psychological problem should be able to purchase a gun in any state in the USA.
    Congress must forget politics and think intelligently. Our beautiful little children must feel safe at school. The NRA must forgo their extreme views and compromise. The USA is basically the only country in the developed world that doesn’t license gun owners across the board and is almost alone in not registering guns across the board.
    There is no reason for people not engaged in law enforcement to have automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons or pistols. They must all be banned. It is time to ban guns. They don’t have a place in this nation today. It may take some years, perhaps decades, to remove the guns from the streets, but bit by bit, it can and should be done. People don’t find guns in other countries that ban guns. They find them here, because they are available. Think, and you will come to the only conclusion based upon both logic and reason – guns must be removed from our streets.
    All the schools that have been attacked and mass murders have made us all realize that we must have gun control NOW! This time, we all realize that now is the moment our leaders have to act. We all have children and grandchildren, who must be protected. This time, the public will not forget. We will keep the pressure on our leaders until we have gun control.
    I urge everyone to write President Obama and your senators and congressmen and pressure them to sponsor a gun control bill with teeth, requiring psychological testing, banning assault weapons, and closing the gun-show loophole. All gun owners must be licensed and registered, and these lists must be public. Congress can pass such a bill in the next three months, and they must do this speedily, efficiently, and intelligently. We owe it to our children.

    • Paul Luther says

      Natalie – if there were a national psychological testing process, would you pass?

      Your post shows the typical inability to formulate rational thoughts and conclusions. The typical hysteria and drama are your tools. A poem? Seriously? We are faced with an issue that requires rational thought and actions, and instead, you first try to stir up emotions with a poem?

      On a practical matter, how would you confiscate all of the evil guns? Remember, criminals do not abide by the law – that is why we call them criminals.

      Keep reading as other posters have made excellent points regarding other causes of death that greatly exceed gun murders. I just heard recently that over 3000 people in the US die from food poisoning each year. Oh no….. we should ban food immediately. Save the children!!

      There, I just gave you a new cause to irrationally pursue. Have fun.

      • r neville says

        “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
        ~ H. L. Mencken

      • Marie says

        “We all have children and grandchildren, who must be protected. This time, the public will not forget. ” I agree – our children and grandchildren must be protected. We will not forget, and so we will never stop fighting for the right to bear arms.
        Natalie, you are not thinking logically, but hysterically, irrationally and with a large dose of condescension. Who will remove guns from the Crips and Bloods, from the Mafia and the thug on the street? The authorities have tried for generations, and it is not possible. Will you also ban the violent video games, the movies by hypocrites like Sly Stallone? (his next movie is ‘Bullet to the Head’, yet he wants the 2nd Amendment repealed) Read history if you think ‘mentally ill’ people need guns to commit horrific acts. An absolute gun ban is foolish, unconstitutional, and impossible.

        Your tone is condescending -must, must, must. The government must, people must, the NRA must… Why, Natalie? Because you fe-e-e-l all this so deeply? Emotion clouds thought, and is no basis for rational decisions. Your emotional yet quite shallow poetry is evidence of that truth. There is NO way to create this paradise you desire. This is a flawed world, and you cannot wrap people in bubble wrap and make us all safe everywhere.

      • Pamela S says

        @Paul Luther, Clint and Fred, Thank you for the words you write! I couldn’t have said it better myself. If only these “people” could actually open their minds and see reality as it really is, then they would see that the Second Amendment is written to protect all citizens of the US even them. If it came down to it, would these women lay down and let themselves be raped and beaten to within inches of their life or would they wish they had a way to actually protect themselves? If their child was in harms way, would they let their child die because they didn’t believe a mother should protect their child at all costs?

      • Double Helical says

        Did you not even read the excellent article by Professor Johnson? In your magical, poetic world, like a disneyesque picnic in the forest, the lion will lie down with the lamb. You state that other countries have banned firearms, but you do not look at the violence that has resulted from disarming law-abiding citizens. You place the blame on the gun, but it is the lunatic you should blame. Two of the worst mass murders in this country did not involve any firearms at all, just a can of gasoline in one case and a load of fertilizer in the other. It wasn’t the gas or the truck bomb — it was the lunatics who perpetrated those horrible crimes. As much as we would like to live in a world where everyone was rational and civil, as nice as that would be, it is an impossible dream. In the real world there are bad actors. Psychopaths. They have zero empathy, and can never acquire any. They are born that way. No one is asking you to arm yourself. But, if I wish to arm myself, it is my right. Do you seriously think Newtown would have been avoided if Feinstein’s Gun Ban had been in place all these years since 1994? That vicious lunatic could have done just as much damage with a baseball bat. There were no guards at the school. Feinstein and her colleagues have armed protection all around them at all times. Yet, they say it’s our fault that Newtown happened, and they want to disarm us common citizens. When we propose armed security at schools, they scoff. But what would you do? Faced with the choice of trying to ban all firearms (an impossible task), or put armed security and other security measures in schools (an option which is actually feasible) — what is the logical choice? Finally, your poem did capture an essence of the fear that can overcome someone who finds him or herself in a potentially bad situation. But my response is not to cross my fingers and fervently hope that it will all be better somehow. I am armed, and I will defend myself, and my loved ones. One final note: regardless of the disingenuous statements and false statistics quoted by the gun-ban lobby, guns are used by private citizens 2-3 million times a year in this country to prevent crime. In the overwhelming number of cases, the gun was not even fired. The mere presence of the firearm in the hand of the intended victim was enough to hold a bad actor at bay or cause him to flee. Firearms save lives, every day. Oh, and one more final note: you state in your post that only the police should have firearms. Well, the definition of a country where only the police are armed is: “police state.”

    • Clint says

      Really Natalie? How can you possibly think guns are such an enormous issue in the US? Of all the ways I can think of that my life may be ended…being shot does not sit anywhere near the top.

      You want to save the world and protect the children? Then be a good parent, citizen and/or mentor. Fund cancer research! Stop drunk driving! End terrorism! All of these issues kill more children than any GUN ever will. You people can’t see the forest because you are focused on one tree!

      We as US citizens have the right to bear arms and WE will not be persecuted for doing so. We won’t let people who do not own or understand guns decide how they should be regulated! Snap out of it and stop allowing the media control your lives and decisions! Focus on REAL problems – like the fact that this country is in deep financial trouble

    • Fred Beloit says

      Natalie, there is no such thing in our country as “gun-control” by the government. A gun is controlled by the person who possesses it. What Feinstein is attempting to do is infringe the gun rights of Americans as expressed in our Constitution’s Second Amendment. Therefore, what you are supporting and Feinstein is proposing is a criminal activity, denying expressly legal rights to your fellow-Americans.

      Of course there is felon control. Our government is empowered to deny rights to convicted criminals, controls like imprisonment. That is why the majority of gun owners have no problem with reasonable background checks. Felons forfeit their right to legally own a gun…good. If you and Feinstein want to change the Constitution, fine, go right ahead and try. But don’t try to take away lawful rights of others just because…well, just because you FEEL like it.

    • c matt says

      The shots rang out, where were the cops?
      Stuffing their faces in donut shops.

      By the time they arrive, none are alive
      Seventeen little hearts had stopped.

    • paul says

      Check your facts – 3 of the top 5 mass shootings in world history happened in countries where guns are outlawed – in EVERY CASE in th US when gun laws were made more restrictive the rate of gun violence increased – it’s a touching poem, but that doesn’t make it reality. The fact is mass shootings always happen in gun free zones – because the perpetraters want unarmed victims – the press ignores cases of self defense shootings that stop mass shootings – that doesn’t fit their agenda.

      • Double Helical says

        Your observation that the press ignores instances of citizens preventing bad situations from becoming worse is only too accurate. If you dig deep enough, you can find dozens of instances of armed citizens preventing potential disasters. Instead of getting accolades and medals, they are ignored.

        • Sgt.K says

          Or, worse yet, are charged criminally for posession of the firearm they have a constitutional right to bear.

    • Chris says

      Natalie, there’s a few logical gaps in your argument.

      “No single location can protect itself as long as there is an outlet for guns in another location in the nation.”
      As long as we have a black market (which we’ve been trying to destroy longer than we’ve been a country) and criminals, there will be an outlet for guns.

      “There will always be mentally ill people, but without guns, they will not be able to commit the horrific slaughters we have seen in recent years. ”
      It would have been just as feasible to kill a bunch of kids in a school with a bunch of gasoline and a single match. Guns are not the cause of murders, just a tool. And there will always be tools (many that are much worse) for murder, unless we ban ourselves back to the stone age. Then it’s just whoever is strongest and smartest will be able to kill (assuming the criminal murderer respected gun laws, but not the law we have that says “don’t murder”)

      “They must all be banned. It is time to ban guns. They don’t have a place in this nation today. It may take some years, perhaps decades, to remove the guns from the streets, but bit by bit, it can and should be done”
      As in the essay, there is a minutes long gap between an imminent danger and a police response. Unless there are 3 cops in eyesight of each and everything all at once (impossible) citizens need a way to protect themselves. Otherwise, you are saying there is nothing wrong with the structure and response of the Sandy Hook Incident – that people can and should do nothing but hide, wait, and pray until cops show up. I don’t think I need to point out how this is a failure and leads to more death.

      “People don’t find guns in other countries that ban guns. They find them here, because they are available.”
      Here you are admitting that guns travel and are sold illegally across national borders. Given that this is true, the only way to remove 100% of guns from a country, would be to remove 100% of guns from the world. Rather than be called a pessimist for simply stating that this is impossible, I’ll elaborate a little. Say that we could start with a clean slate and only governments have weapons. Russia and it’s satellites are known for providing weapons to communist allies and central/south America paramilitary (forces the government pays to act like a military but basically does things the government can’t officially be associated with). With those leaks, and the corruption within those organizations, forces like the taliban, yakuza, and gangs get thousands of weapons (even in countries where they are banned, like Japan). Any non-gov’t (and most gov’t) will sell these weapons to pretty much anyone outside the country for a lot of money. So in short, while there are guns in the world, there will be guns available in any country.

      I do agree that we need better screening before selling guns to people, but that will not stop crazies from getting weapons. If you lock a person in a room, they will climb out the window. If you make guns impossible to buy legally, they will buy them illegally. And if in a magical world all guns are removed, people will simply make homemade exlposives out of household chemicals. the tool is not the problem here.

    • says

      I completely agree with natailie.

      Guns owners are disrespectful of authority. A failure to rely on authorities is an invariable sign of improper and overly independent attitudes. The mere fact that they gather together to talk about guns at gun shops, gun shows, shooting ranges, and on the internet means that they have some plot going against us normal people. A gun owner has no right to associate with another gun owner.

      Therefore, to help ensure our right to happiness and safety we must ban and seize all guns from private hands, and forbid NRA-based criticism towards people who are only trying to help. Searching the homes of all NRA members for any guns and pro-gun literature will go a long way towards reducing crime.

      Common sense requires only uniformed soldiers, police, and other agents of the state have access to firearms, and think of all the money we can save by just taking away the guns from private owners and giving them to the military and police. No person should be able to challenge this by writing to Congress or the President. If they do they should be forced in court to admit to it and then fined a hundred million dollars for each time. Subjecting them to torture will probably change their minds.

      Making it mandatory that church ministers preach against guns or else they can’t get licensed will certainly encourage the church folk to believe like we do.

      People who don’t like all this prove they are on the side of the killers with the guns and should be put in jail along side all the gangbangers and other gun nuts. Letting them sit in jail for a few years before they are charged will give the government plenty of time to find something wrong in their lives. Anything they say, write, or express should be held against them to prove their guilt. We should bring all of them here to Chicago to be tried by former Mayor Daly as judge, and we should allow only mothers who have lost children to gunfire to be on the juries. Any attorney who tries to defend them should be arrested also. If we don’t get the right verdict the first time we can just keep trying them until we do.

      No woman needs to protect herself from rape, assault or murder and should just leave crime prevention to the Police who are properly equipped to investigate following the crime’s completion. Women using a gun in self-defense interferes with and makes the attempted crime a “non-event,” which unnecessarily complicates the Police investigation. Any woman who does this should be put in jail for interfering with an investigation.

      If someone still really, really thinks they have a need for a gun in their home for protection then the Army should just force them to host and feed some armed soldiers.

      Those who claim that the 2nd amendment was given to us because we might someday need guns to use against an oppressive government forget that Constitution has strong internal safeguards to protect our freedoms. So there!

      Long live our Constitution!

        • Double Helical says

          Maybe we should hold a contest to see how long it took to realize that this was a parody. It took me two paragraphs, I admit — but I was suspicious at the end of the first one! The sad thing is that there are legions of people who actually belive most of this horse manure.

      • chris cramer says

        this comming from a guy whos screen name is based off a 1980’s b- movie and also said movie character killed people with guns in the movie.

      • Jennifer says

        Sir… I take great offense to you stating that as a gun owner I do not respect authority. I purchased my firearms legally and have taken fire arms safety courses to ensure I am properly handling and maintaining them. I was granted the right to protect myself by the constitution and I intend to exercise my 2nd amendment right. Daily I deal with violence and tragedy at my work. I can say with complete confidence that all most all of gun crimes are committed by individuals who obtained their guns illegally. Legislation only affects those who abide by the law.
        I find your comments completely ignorant and I feel safer knowing you are not armed.

      • Will defend myself and my family says

        That was hilarious. I too was totally going to rage on you, but the part about women shoudn’t be able to defend themselves because it would become a non-event and interfere with the investigation let me into your sarcasm. Very good sir.

      • Savvy Steve says

        Jack, I see you threw in your hand using the “nut” card, the “conspiracy” card & the “normal” card. I’d have to guess that is the liberal-progressive version of 4-of-a-kind. Read ’em & weep, SUCKAS!
        Well played sir.

    • Ranba Ral says

      Nice to know you consider my cousins, their neighbors, and I expendable. The three cousins around my age and I have all been saved multiple times by semi-automatic firearms and pistols. You see, they live out in the country, where city folks like to dump dogs they no longer want. Some get picked up by the locals, others die, some go feral and become dangerous. Once they start going after people, you see, they like to try to ambush. This means they’re usually close and coming from multiple directions by the time you notice them. Single shot and bolt-actions don’t cut it in that situation. For a while it was so bad you didn’t even go out to the car, a walk of about 20 feet, without at least a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. If not for my cousin’s 9mm Marlin carbine (that’s a semiautomatic rifle), grandpa’s semiautomatic shotgun, and my cousin’s friend’s civilian Galil (one of those evil “assault rifle” types) they’d have had us several times. Local government couldn’t do squat about it, and state and feds refused to until they killed a couple military guys. Even then, it didn’t really stop until the area had higher than usual floods about 8 years ago. This was out by Truman Lake. No use for semiautomatics my big toe.

      • Double Helical says

        Good story! If there is a link to an article about the feral dog problem, please provide….

    • says

      Anyone that thinks trying to remove all guns in America is delusional !! Try making parenting a priority, or Mental illness a priority. Guns will always be available to those who want them no matter what you think. The killing won’t stop because you want the citizens unarmed. Guns don’t kill people any more than cars, knives, and a multitude of other things. People do !! A firebomb through a school window would do more damage. An armed teacher might have been able to stop it.

    • Bill says

      “It surely expresses my feelings today. There will always be people who wish to kill, but without a gun, how many can they kill.”
      Using only Timothy McVeigh as an example, the answer would be; in one single incident; 168 people killed and over 800 injured.
      Using the Expanded Homicide Data Table at, the answer would be four thousand eighty one (4081) in 2011, actually down from four thousand seven hundred eighty seven (4787) in 2007, could be killed, in one year, without the use of a gun. Also the number of gun homicides between 2007 and 2011 decreased by two thousand two hundred fifty two (2252) as the population of the country grew from 301.3 million to 315,085,000. If you like to crunch numbers, you may enjoy using a formula that would show a percentage of population vs gun violence during these periods, and you might find that it reflects a very large number of people NOT being murdered during a period of time that guns were not banned.

    • Christopher says

      Natalie and others supporting a gun ban, if you would like proof of what would truly happen if you had your way, just check out the effectiveness of Prohibition. You may want to pay particular attention to the role it played acting as a catalyst regarding organized crime.

    • Will defend myself and my family says


      You need to do some actual research instead of writing poems. Did you know that almost 1 million people in the US defend themselves every year with firearms and that about 167,000 of those instances would’ve ended in the death of the victim if they had not had a firearm to defend themself? Did you know that the UK which has the strictest gun control has the 2nd highest rate of violent crime in Europe with an increase of 77% of violent crime? Wikipedia has lots of answers for you if you would take the time to look. Did you know that The US actually has a pretty low murder rate for an American country? You can’t compare us to Europe because our country is not a European culture; it’s an American culture. Take a look at the city of Chicago for instance. They have the strictest gun control in the country and the highest murder rate. Washingon DC had a huge increase in crime and murder when gun controls were implemented against the law abiding citizens and when the gun controls were lessened, the crime rate went back down. Little research on the subject goes a long way. One more thing, did you know that our government 122 yrs ago at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota killed 298 Sioux indians after having them turn in their guns for “their protection?” After most of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their weapons, the military opened fire on them killing 200 UNARMED women and children. History has this AWFUL tendancy to repeat itself if you don’t learn from it. The 2nd Ammendment exists because our forefathers came from TYRANICAL governments, not for hunting (every day occurence back then to put food on the table) or for target shooting (because musket balls were precious so target shooting didn’t really exist.) There’s a plethora of infomation out there if you just look.

    • Eric O says

      On July 27th 2010 a 32 year mother in Salt Lake City brutally beat and murdered her 5 year old daughter using a Spatula, You gonna advocate that we ban “Assault Spatulas”? The tools are not the issue, the minds wielding those tools are. Criminals rob, steal, rape, murder, etc. Those people get guns any way possible. Currently I work with criminals daily and attempt to provide guidance and counseling. As it stands today the city I live in you can’t buy a AR-15 or anything else, SINCE EVERYTHING IS BACK-ORDERED DUE TO BEING SOLD OUT. One of the “Ex-cons” I have the pleasure of working with said to me after hearing about the run on the gun store “It doesn’t matter to me, I can get a gun in about 5 minutes if I need one.” Because Criminal Do Not follow the rule of law, the laws restricting guns have little to no impact.

      The “Framers”/”Founding Fathers” (You know, those old white guys who BUILT this country you have the pleasure of living in) Made Our Constitution the way it is for a reason. The American Revolution sis not start over taxing tea and wasn’t because of “No taxation without Representation”. The event that exploded us into War was when British Soldiers came into Lexington and Concord to seize America’s firearms and Gun powder supplies. Our Framers knew first hand what evil people in power do when attempting to enslave the masses.

      Every single time our Supreme Court weighs a decision they ALWAYS review The Constitution and the Federalist Papers to see what “Our Framers” wished for us. Our Framers wanted us to keep and Bear arms and feared allowing the development of a federal army! This is what page 46 of the Federalists papers said:

      Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.

      The Federalist papers and The Articles of Confederation were what this country followed before The Constitution and All three documents have in them for us to keep and bear arms! We were meant to keep them so we could keep a balance between the people and those we elect to serve us. If a man or body of Government tried to impose their will and tried to become a dictator of Monarch, we were meant to rise up!

      Yes everyone had muskets back then but it was OK since the Federal army and the common man had the same weapon, now things have changed. While I get that FULLY auto is a extreme, having a Semi-auto with a decent capacity is fair and prudent. Our military have amazing advances in weaponry and having a 30 round magazine is bare minimum to keep the balance Our Framers intended. What good would a rifle with 5 rounds do if we were faced with unjustified Marshal Law? Neutering Our Rifle’s capabilities goes against The Constitution and is in fact Treason!
      “When Firearms go, all goes, we need them every hour.” George Washington! You know, the guy whose face is on our $1 Bill!!!

      “The BEAUTY about the 2nd Amendment is that it will NOT BE NEEDED until they try to take it!” Thomas Jefferson -The Jefferson Papers.

      “Those who would give up ESSENTIAL Liberties for Temporary Safety, Deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin

      Voting on this when being emotionally charged by images of small children being slaughtered is not sound (its gaining a sense of temporary safety but doing nothing long term except jeopardizing our Freedom!) . All of us were taught to never react on emotions and to use reason, discussion, compromise and facts! Fact is that we are a lot safer then other countries who have total bans on guns. Fact is we would risk all or our children’s lives by eliminating their rights! Rights they may need in an uncertain and potentially horrible future. Allowing The Media and our Politicians to manipulate us into giving away Rights away is not prudent or smart.

      Even small changes are HUGE but most people do not see what the Government is doing since they are being dishonest, case in point New York. They reduced the capacities of firearms down to 7! This was done for a reason. 7 means you can have a revolver and maybe a small compact handgun but it effectively and without much effort eliminated about 95% of available firearms and thus took thousands of choices away from us, The People! Wake up and see their agenda!!!
      Taking away bullets, tracking bullets, controlling limits of ammunition is TREASONOUS!
      Remember that our families were all in bondage before our fathers got the courage to stand and fight back. Now we are risky going back into Bondage!

    • Banjo says

      Natalie – you said “There will always be people who wish to kill, but without a gun, how many can they kill”. The answer is plenty! The two homicidal maniacs that shot-up Columbine used a carbine with 10-round magazines, because “high-capacity” magazines were banned at the time, that didn’t stop them. But the most disturbing part is that they had homemade bombs that they brought to use.
      Of the homemade bombs some were made out of propane canisters – you know, the kind you grill-out with. They were placed in the cafeteria but, luckily they did not detonate and had the bombs exploded with full power, they would have killed or severely wounded all 488 students in the cafeteria. So to say that gun control will eliminate mass killings like these is intellectually dishonest and irresponsible!

  3. says

    AMAZING article. Thank you for writing it Dr. Johnson. One of my favorite quotes points out that an armed society is a free society. Look at the Swiss people. Most Swiss people own a firearm, and they have the lowest crime rate in the world. IF the time comes that I need to protect my life, and the life of my loved ones, I want to be prepared and not be a usual statistic. You only have a few seconds to protect yourself, the police are never there that fast.

    • Will defend myself and my family says

      The Swiss also have a different culture from ours. No one seems to take cultures into account. I agree with what you are saying completely, but I’m sick of people comparing American to Europe. We actually have one of the lowest murder rates for an American country and I seriously believe that is because people are able to defend themselves with firearms. The strong always prey upon the weak.

  4. Aaron says

    In response to Natalie Baff:

    While I understand that not everyone shares my view, I feel as though I am obligated to point out some fallacies in your post. I personally have required the use of a firearm to save my life; therefore, your comment about not needing a semi-automatic weapon or pistol has already been invalidated since your view implied that no one needs a weapon. Also, more people die due even to negligent use of vehicles than improper or illegal firearm usage. While a school shooting surely is an atrocious act, it is also an anomaly. Millions of people responsibly own “assault weapons” with no malicious intents and/or incidents over a lifetime, including myself. Actually, if you do checks you will find that most mass shootings occur in places that are “gun free zones”. Studies have shown that during the AWB gun crimes were not deterred and that instances of felons in possession of assault weapons and high capacity magazines went unchanged (most likely due to the fact that criminals disregard laws anyway). Finally, violent crimes don’t necessarily require the use of a firearm as displayed by the events of Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, which took 168 lives without the use of a single bullet. While I understand that Sandy Hook was an atrocity, I feel as though guns are an important part of our culture historically as well as recreationally. So until we ban swimming pools(which account for a significantly larger loss of child lives than guns), sports cars (“assault vehicles” with no purpose other than going extremely fast causing risk to others on the road), and high capacity forks and spoons (causes people to ingest large volumes of calories and saturated fats resulting in obesity and heart disease), then I say we should leave others guns alone. After all, our nation was founded by men and women who opposed the British crown, owned weapons, refused to pay unfair taxes, brewed spirits and ale, and grew tobacco. You never know if you’ll depend on the same kind of people and their arsenal of firearms to defend against a similar tyrannical government.


  5. says

    There is an important distinction between passing laws that ban firearms and actually banning them. It is the common distinction between theory and practice. For a great many gun-control advocates, however, this distinction is irrelevant, because they have allowed their emotions to trample their common sense. The fear of firearms is emotional, and an emotional remedy is actually preferred to a practical one.

    I. Banning guns will not work.
    There are several reasons why gun bans cannot fill their emotionally-satisfying promise:
    1.) Manufacturing a gun is not rocket science. Guns are made in every reasonably advanced country on earth, and the technology to make a functional firearm is over a hundred and fifty years old. Gunsmithing is a community college program, not an advanced degree offering at Harvard. Gun bans will stimulate an underground industry in firearms manufacture, because…
    2.) Gun bans will lead to black markets. Guns are desirable, and contrary to the hysterical rantings of gun control harpies, guns have developed and progressed for seven hundred years because they are useful. No amount of preaching that begins with the words “the time has come…” and ends with “for the children” will change this.
    3.) Great Britain and Australia share a geographical characteristic with each other that they do not share with the United States. This characteristic affects the the ability of the government to control the flow of weapons, legal or not.
    4.) One of the practical reasons that gun control will not work is also one of the reasons it is very poor policy: government bans of anything breeds corruption, and the degree of corruption is proportional to the desirability of item that is banned. This is illustrated by alcohol prohibition, the war on drugs, and regulation of financial information.
    5.) There is a common fallacy that people like James Homes, Eric Harris, Adam Lanza, and Jared Loughner are bumbling, thought-addled losers. Holding this fallacy is dangerous. While there is no doubt that they were and are mentally ill, they are also quite possibly much smarter than Dianne Feinstein, Barack Obama, and Michael Bloomberg. No regulatory scheme is going to thwart a determined psychopath. If you doubt this, look at how many guards in high security prisons are killed my inmates.

    II. Banning Firearms is bad policy.

    1. The reality of American society is that its survival depends on the virtue of the greater portion of its members, not government use of force. A self governing people, by definition, look to their own character to enable themselves to live among each other. A country that can be fooled into thinking that murder and violence is a product of a particular tool is one that is at risk of losing that which holds it together and that ignoring that which will tear it apart. It is ominous when a people declare that they cannot handle a freedom they have held for 225 years.

    2. The key words in the first part of the Second Amendment have nothing to do with “militia.” The key words are “necessary to a free state,” the alternative of which is one in which an unarmed populace is so heavily policed in the name of security, that it is no longer free. A free state implies necessary restraints on the armed agencies of government that are vested with the authority to use force. This lessens the risk that such entities will become agents of tyranny, but also impedes their ability to defend the life and safety of individual citizens. Unless the people are willing to accommodate an oppressive police presence in the interest of public safety (airline security lines notwithstanding) the citizen of a free state (i.e. one in which government force is restrained in the interest of individual liberties) must be allowed the right and means to provide their own defense.

    3.) Bans of things that are desirable and useful breed not only corruption, but contempt for law and undermine the legitimacy of self-government. This is especially so where, as with drugs, the bans cannot be practically enforced. Making a potential criminal of one person in the unreasonable hope of preventing the crime of another is bad policy.

    4.) The gun-related homicide rate (per 100,000) in Wyoming is less than the overall homicide rate of Great Britain, Australia, or France, and less than the non-firearm homicide rates of Massachusetts, Vermont or Maryland. Does anyone care? Wyoming has the highest gun ownership rate of any state in the country. Any policy that does not accommodate this fact is not based in reason.

  6. S.M. Castillo says

    When Sen. Feinstein tries to pass the proposed bill she should be laughed out of building for thinking the government can change the constitution with such little effort. What this country needs is proper education of firearm ownership and physiological evaluation for anyone wanting to purchase a firearm, if the police and military have to pass one before seving (carrying a firearm) why not anybody else who wants to own one?

  7. Jesse says

    Gun Control only makes Gun Crimes harder to prosecute, as an unregistered firearm is made untraceable with a pair of gloves. I agree with registration, but I think every American with an SSN should be considered “registered”. Firearms should be registered to the distributor and then to the owner at point of sale (easy with modern technology and cheaper than the manhours wasted on bureaucracy). There should be psychological screening done in school and in high school. that will cost some money, but will flag potential threats and help to offer proper mental healthcare for those in need. A felony flags the SSN as permanently ineligible. no bans on any sort of weapon. gun ownership details are FOUO (for offical use only) unless personally requested for a specific individual by a concerned citizen, which the gun owner must be informed of. specific registration with little to no gun control (such as bans) and high legal availability with little intra-government anonymity would reduce gun crimes. you can have whatever gun you please. concealed carry, sweeping shall-issue permission. you use that gun for anything, the government knows which gun was used and that it belongs to you. by taking the hassle out of legal acquisition, you reduce the demand for illegal arms. and steep punishment for crimes instills fear in potential criminals. death penalty for possession of an illegal arm, sale of ammo to an uncleared buyer, illegal usage of a legal arm, or the classic murder. and for repeat offenders and life sentences. execute them all. these are the policies that prevent crimes. kill the black markey, kill the crime.

    • Double Helical says

      I must strongly disagree with your proposal. Registration simply makes it laughably easy for a new regime to identify those with guns and begin confiscation efforts. Those that resist can easily be eliminated. This happened many times in the past, when authoritarian regimes rose to power in many other countries. The firearms registry lists were a gold mine for the secret police!

  8. crackermike says

    Feinstein committed a firearms straw purchase, which is a VERY serious offense; for the little people that is. She was caught and admitted it. ABSOLUTELY no repercussions, she got off scott free and was in fact looked upon by the media as some type of innocent “victim”. It’s not gun control they are so rabid to have, it’s CITIZEN control. Megalomania has no bounds. These maniacs must be guarded against and our Civil Rights must be maintained as God bestowed them upon us.

  9. Arch says

    Go ahead. Make my day! Bring these bills to the floor in the House and Senate. Televise the debate and the vote.

    In the unlikely event that any ban or other infringement passes, good luck enforcing it.

    There are about 300,000,000 guns in America. I would be shocked if the government knows where 10% of them are. My neighbors have weapons in the double digits per household. Of course, I personally, no longer own any firearms. They were all tragically lost in a recent canoe accident.

    On April 19th, 1775, 700 British soldiers marched from Cambridge to Lexington and Concord. Their route took them past the playground of my old elementary school in Arlington. One of their objectives was to seize colonists’ privately owned firearms. If one reads the story of the shot heard round the world, the motivation behind the first four amendments to the US Constitution become crystal clear.

  10. Fen says

    Oh I know! [waves hands] I know! Just make the “Gun Freeze Zone” signs BIGGER.

    Hey, its not any dumber than the other nonsense floated by Natalie and her ilk.

  11. DH says

    “One impediment here is that the conversation about the capabilities of the full range of firearms, the conversation that reveals Feinstein’s bill as a simple diversion, is painful. It demands that we imagine and then talk about the damage a madman can inflict on the helpless with an AR-15, a pump shotgun, a handgun, a bolt action or a 150 year old lever action rifle.”

    I disagree with the premise of the above. Focusing discussion on the damage that a madman can do with an AR-15 or any other weapon has multiple problems. First, it raises disturbing imagery, as you said. Second, it indulges the fantasy that gun control could somehow keep such weapons out of the hands of madmen. Third, it puts the emphasis on preventing rare freak occurrences by criminal psychopaths rather than on enabling the law-abiding to defend themselves from criminals.

    A home defense scenario is thousands of times more likely than a mass shooting. So we should be discussing weapons capabilities in that context, and the negative effects that criminalizing ARs and high capacity magazines would have on the law-abiding. For someone defending home and family, semi-automatic weapons (whether pistols or rifles) and high capacity magazines have clear utility. See, e.g., the recent story of a mom who hit an intruder center-of-mass 5 times with a revolver, yet the man was still able to drive away. The six rounds in her revolver were not enough to stop him. Imagine if there had been two intruders. An AR with a 20-round mag or even a Glock with a 16-round mag would have kept her much more safe.

  12. theBuckWheat says

    To further bolster the problems of attempting to control the supply of firearms in a nation with several hundred million of them already securely in private hands, we must also mention the effectiveness of vainly attempting to control supply by circumscribing zones where there possession is prohibited, except of course by the agents of the deadly force monopoly:

    “Over the last fifty years, with only one single exception (Gabby Giffords), every single mass shooting event with more than four casualties has taken place in a place where guns were supposedly not allowed.”


    Not only is an attempt to drastically reduce supply a vain and expensive effort that itself will cost the lives of citizens who run afoul of the deadly force monopoly, but empirical evidence over more than two generations shows that signs are vain as well.

    Now, please consider the following:

    In an unpublished report, engineering statistician William Sturdevant found that concealed carry licensees had arrest rates far lower than the general population for every category of crime. For instance:

    Licensees were 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for violent offenses than the general public – 127 per 100,000 population versus 730 per 100,000.

    Licensees were 14 times less likely to be arrested for nonviolent offenses than the general public – 386 per 100,000 population versus 5,212 per 100,000.

    Further, the general public is 1.4 times more likely to be arrested for murder than licensees [ see Figure I ], and no licensee had been arrested for negligent manslaughter.


    Guns don’t cause violence any more than kitchen knives made Michael Moore fat. In fact, the above data, although not rigorous by any means, at least hints that private citizens who have gone through the concealed carry license process are among the least likely of any identifiable group of citizens to commit a violent act, let alone one with a firearm. Maybe even less likely than people in law enforcement, depending on what source you compare this with.

    In short, the problem is something that government is very ill equipped to deal with: public moral character, and this is made much more difficult given how ill-suited government schools are for teaching morality, other than a watered-down secular one. But we must find a way to improve public morality, or else we will have nothing but more violence, even if only from hammers and fists.

  13. KLo says

    ….Guns are not the issue, control is the issue…people without guns are powerless. Government cannot control an armed America

  14. steve walsh says

    The Senator’s position and proposal are pathetic. I’m not sure which reality is worse: does she really believe her proposed solution will work or is her proposal a cynical, political move intended to show sympathy and concern to make herself and those that agree with her feel better? Is this just the first step down the slippery slope toward the goal of eliminating all guns in America?

  15. Harry Flashman says


    Thanks for your comments and the mediocre verse. Your arguments have already been deconstructed in other posts, but let’s focus on your poetry. It shows child-like promise, but it’s certainly not ready for prime-time.

    We need not crush this little piece under a massive analysis; a few more or less obvious comments will suffice to show how artlessly the poem is put together. Form in poetry, as has been said, involves not only adherence to a central story or theme, but some kind of progress or development toward a final effect to which each particular part has made its particular contribution.

    Here, the poet exhibits the overused cri de coeur to appeal to the sensibilities of the reader, but her muse has abandoned her, leaving only a copy of Reader’s Digest, or perhaps TV Guide, as inspiration. In desperation, she gropes toward the musical phrase – that lyrical signet upon which her entire effort will galvanize — and arrives at last with: “congressmen.”

    Abandoning the soft and lyric tones of anguish, and forsaking the the deft pen in favor of hammer and tongs, she proceeds – ever the journeyman – into familiar territory where art is alien and the prosaic commonplace. Painstaking ain’t the word for it.

    The poet’s metric system – if you’ll forgive the phrase – is equally enchanting; a sort of flat-tire pentameter, that injects a rhyming couplet every now and then will all the subtlety of a botched botox procedure.

    But in the universe of bad poetry, even here, the poet falls short. For while her modest effort doesn’t nearly plumb the depths of truly bad poetry, it is doubtful if anyone would notice it at all, when restroom graffito seems so much more promising.

    In conclusion, some nineteenth century doggerel is particularly apropos :

    Whatever happens we have got
    the Maxim gun, and they have not.

  16. Slothmorse says

    In your article, you write: “Others of us (and I believe Feinstein must be one of them) still, deep down, imagine that we might someday fulfill the supply control dreams hatched in the 1970’s and actually get rid of guns.” I find the use of the word “us” disturbing in that, if you include yourself in that group, it undermines your very point. If you feel that the ultimate good is to rid the world of firearms, you are approaching the subject only half-heartedly.

    A firearm in an inert, inanimate object and has no potential for harm, pound for pound, than a hammer. (And, in fact, the FBI crime database shows that blunt objects are used far more often in murders than firearms). Not too many years ago — just before 1934, in fact — no distinctions whatsoever were made regading firearms. Anyone could own fully-automatic firearms (yes, “machine guns”), crew-served weapons and even cannon. A rose is a rose is a rose, and a gun is a gun is a gun.

    At its base, the argument is this: Should a government, founded on the admittedly revolutionary principle that the individual has supreme control over his actions — until such time as they interefere with the rights of others — and is responsible for those actions, forbid ownership of an inanimate object? Explosives, fissionable (“nuclear”) material and certain chemicals can be hazardous beyond the control of an invididual (note that ammunition, even when subjected to fire, is not particularly dangerous, despite what you may see in the movies) and can reasonably be controlled, but an AR-15 or even a .50 caliber M-2 fully-automatic machine gun is an inert object.

    The acid test, really, is when the phrase “do you need” is used. As citizens, we do not have to prove that we “need” any inanimate object, so long as it is not used for criminal activity. Do I “need” a computer that can potentially connect with child pornography web sites? Do I “need” a car that can potentially drive more than 100 miles per hour and crash into a school bus filled with innocent children? Do I “need” a Ruger No. 1 single-shot rifle with a stabilized barrel in .25-06 caliber, which can potentially be used as a sniper rifle?

    There is an old lesson taught to young officers in the military: Never give an order you know will be disobeyed. Members of Congress should consider this wisdom.

  17. mikeinid says

    Feinstein has been polishing this bill for over a year, by her own admission. The problem this bill seeks to address is not firearms violence. It is freedom. You have too much, and she is going to remove some of it. Don’t get wrapped up in the details. This is incrementalism, and it works slowly. Of course mag size doesn’t matter, but it is just another tool to make gun ownership harder. I do not credit Feinstein and her ilk with any other goal than limiting my freedom by any possible means. Certainly there are many unthinking dupes and fellow travellers that somehow think they are doing good (Natalie Baff — ” I wrote a poem!”), but don’t forget that there is a hard core of people dedicated to removing our liberty. The problem is, I don’t intend to be ruled.

  18. Tman says

    Thank you for a well-written article. But please, it’s imperative that writers such as you get a better grasp on the facts about firearms when writing about this issue. Twice you mentioned the AR firing a “.22 caliber” round. While it’s possible to either purchase or modify an AR for a .22 round — usually this is done for target practice in order to save money — this is not the most common caliber used in ARs. You are confusing it with a .223/5.56 round. Please do your homework. Or better yet, go to a range with someone who knows something about firearms.

    • Baron Von Ottomatic says

      What caliber bullet does a 5.56 x 45mm cartridge -the most common caliber used in ARs – fire?

      •! says

        The NATO 5.56 Ball round fired by the M16 (all variants) and the M4A1, as well at the civilian counterpart; the AR-15 is approximately equivalent to a .22 caliber. This refers only to the size of the actual bullet.

    • Art says

      Just how big in diameter is the .223? It is .22 inches. That is what caliber is, the diameter of a projectile in 1/100ths of an inch, so the .223 and the 5.56mm are both 22 caliber. You can shoot 22LR and 22MAG from an AR15 or M16 with a modified magazine. There is no change to the weapon required. The US military has used these for training for decades.

      • Slothmorse says

        This is getting down in to some technical stuff, but for the purposes of clarity I think it might be useful to go into it. “SILLY” — you’re right that “caliber” means “diameter” in most cases, but in terms of firearms it’s a little more complicated. A projectile (the actual bullet that is fired) is determined by its diameter, its length and its weight. The projectile used in an M-16, M-4 and civilian AR-15 is the .223 NATO round (“ball” just describes the copper jacket, the “NATO” part defines the case length ). A .22 LR (long rifle) is .22 inches in diameter, but the projectile is much, much smaller. It is possible to get conversion kits to fire a .22 LR round from an AR15, but it means replacing the barrel as well. (There are also .22 LR conversion kits for a number of other firearms, such as a .45 ACP. This is because .22 LR ammunition is much, much cheaper and has a much lighter recoil. For someone who just wants to go “plinking” at targets, it means for a longer time at the range at less expense.) A .223 NATO round is much, much more powerful than a .22 LR in every terms of measurement: bullet weight, muzzle velocity, foot-pounds of energy at impact at whatever range. Sure, it’s possible to kill a human being with a .22 LR, but it’s hard. A .223 NATO round is a much more powerful round. Hope all this helps.

        • Double Helical says

          Excuse me, but I must interject: A .22 Long Rifle conversion kit for an AR-15 does not require a different barrel. Also, the 22LR bullet is usually 40 grains in weight, and the 223 bullet is usually 55 grains in weight. However, the 223 goes much faster. None of this should interest anyone but firearms enthusiasts, however.

    • Nick Johnson says

      This from

      I think you think I am mistaking the .22 caliber .223 for the .22 rimfie.

      I am not.

      This from the box of .55 grain Sierra matchkings bullets on my reloading bench. “22 cal .224 DIA.” I have been to the range quite a lot. I am an NRA certified pistol instructor and have owned and shot guns for more than 40 years

  19. Socratease says

    Professor Johnson’s article gets to the core of the debate, but I wonder if we as a country are ready to do the same. When I see our government’s responses to the issues of the day, from energy to finances to national security, the safe money seems to be going in the direction of emotional appeal rather than reason and rationality.

  20. RonF says

    According to the FBI, about 350 people were killed with rifles last year. About 10,000 people were killed by drunk drivers. Shall we, then, stamp each whiskey bottle with a serial number and require all alcohol purchasers to get registered? Shall we ban the sale of alcohol containers that hold more than the equivalent of 5 drinks (the definition of a male binge drinker) and limit you to the purchase of only one such container every week?

    • Double Helical says

      The lesson here, due to the comparison with liquor, is what happened, nationwide, when liquor was banned…..

  21. Jerry C says

    Nicholas J. Johnson did an excellent article outlining Feinsteins Proposed gun control by limiting supply. I hope he is correct. It was rational, logical and well thought out. It used the rule of law, hisdtoryans past experience. All of which is currently being ignored by everybody!
    People are not rational and there seems to be a bad case of it right now with the media and the whitehouse.

  22. BHirsh says

    Cogent treatise.

    However, you omit an obvious ingredient – that we simply will not allow this to go forward. Since a First Principle of this republic is that sovereignty resides in the people, it is an innate understanding of the people that to surrender the means to guarantee that sovereignty is to acquiesce to literal slavery.

    And we won’t do it.

    This attempt at a usurpation is reckless, and forces one to question the true motive, i.e. that the statist elite wish to finally force an event that will lead to martial law and a suspension of the Constitution they so adamantly disagree with.

    Wilson may be dead, but he lives on in the progressive movement.

  23. Bob Ewell says

    I’m going to protect myself with my handgun when I’m away from the house. When I’m at my house, my AR-15 will be there.

  24. Inquisitor says

    I am getting very concerned about the direction and support I am seeing on the subject of “gun control”. The politicians and leaders of those groups supporting gun control are not stupid (no matter what we say, we actually know that).

    They know that over 20,000 gun laws have not been effective in reducing violent crimes. They know that making illegal acts even more illegal by adding increased penalties will not work. They know that criminals do not believe that they will be caught and convicted so the severity of the penalty is of limited consequence. They know that if the severity of the penalty were actually effective, more countries and states would have the death penalty and there would be no murders in the world. Yet they continue to use good sounding but meaningless terms like “tighter gun control” as if they have found law number 20,001 that will stop violent crime.

    They know that the US Constitution has a 2nd Amendment that states: “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.”[Ratified 12/15/1791] and they know what that Amendment actually means. They know that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban did not prevent Columbine or 14 other mass shooting while it was in effect. They know the Connecticut Assault Weapons Ban did not prevent Sandy Hook. Yet, they propose new bans with even broader definitions of cosmetic features to define as many weapons as possible so that they can ban, then confiscate those weapons. The few details they have provided about the new weapons bans they are proposing, are increasingly broad in their criteria such that they will eventually result in the registration then banning, and then confiscation of all firearms. They invent scary-sounding but meaningless terms like “assault weapons” to describe firearms with magazines. These groups refuse to provide any detail on their proposals for gun control, which prevents any meaningful analysis of the possible effectiveness and/or legality of those proposals until the very last moment. They know all this and yet they continue to propagate known lies and misleading statements to garner purely emotional support from voters for their “reasonable” restrictions on firearms and ammunition without any real rational justification or understanding.

    • Inquisitor says

      About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh , had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.”. He described the following phases of a democracy:

      1. Bondage to Spiritual Faith
      2. Spiritual Faith to Courage
      3. Courage to Liberty [or Freedom]
      4. Liberty [or Freedom] to Abundance
      5. Abundance to Selfishness
      6. Selfishness to Apathy [sometimes broken into]:
      (a) Selfishness to Complacency
      (b) Complacency to Apathy
      7. Apathy to Dependency [sometimes broken into]:
      (a) Apathy to Fear
      (b) Fear to Dependency
      8. Dependency to Bondage.

      I believe the United States is in phase 6. I also believe that the “gun control” groups are trying to push the United States into phase 7(a), and given the obvious known fallacies of the “gun control” groups’ stated objectives, I also believe their ultimate goal is PHASE 8!

  25. Kurt says

    I appreciate this article, the most insightful commentary I have come across since the gun control debate has moved to the forefront recently.

    As a side note, I can still remember the years I carried a portable scanner when performing computer systems field service in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, so that I could avoid being where the gunfire was erupting in one of the most ‘gun controlled’ places in the U.S.

  26. Todd says

    The comments on this forum are fascinating, and I have to say I’m astounded by the intelligent and cogent arguments being made in favor of keeping the Constitution in tact and guarding the Second Amendment. However, I’m not quite sure this discussion is addressing the real issue. I respectfully request that the learned contributors of this forum take 5 minutes out of their day and pen a succinct letter to their Senators and Congressmen pointing out the many virtues and imperative nature of doing their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. I would also implore you to vote them out of office should they fail to do that which they are charged with.

  27. C. Rodney James says

    Prof Johnson is dead on with his commentary. I expect most of his predictions will come to pass in the seemingly never-ending fight over gun control.

    As a firearms writer, scholar and forensic firearms examiner with over 30 years in the business, I like to think I know something about it. As Johnson makes painfully obvious, gun control is a fine sounding idea with two problems 1: it doesn’t work, 2: it’s counter productive. When an item is perceived as a national problem it’s way past too late to solve it by prohibition. The disaster of the 18th Amendment — a total failure to stop alcohol consumption plus serving as a powerful catalyst to the establishment of organized crime in every major urban area, should stand as a monument to that kind of thinking.

    Feinstein and the rest of the “gun grabbers” fail to grasp this fact. It is interesting to watch the media take on the crusade against “gun violence.” This is a term I wish to see in the trash can ASAP. What about other types of violence? the issue of violence in general — human violence? The next time the issue of “gun violence” comes up I hope someone will bring up Oklahoma City and 9/11 as great triumphs over “gun violence.” NOT A SHOT FIRED!

    Since the Newtown shooting is the only (U.S.) school shooting involving an “assault weapon,” why should these be singled out as the focal point for a ban on semi-automatics? If we look at the Canadian experience we find handguns –the most common type used in crime here — have been banned for a very long time. Canadian criminals soon found viable substitutes in cut-down rifles and shotguns that are far more lethal than most handguns. Canada tried a nationwide gun registration scheme that cost multiple millions of taxpayer dollars. This eventually foundered when citizen pressure from the prairie provinces sent a message to the Ottawa government that if it wanted registration, send out the Mounties to do it since the provincial governments refused. A lack -of -confidence vote swept out the current Prime Minister bringing in a new one whose first act was to shut down the gun registration effort.

    How many times will we have to suffer under those in government who cannot recall the words of Edmund Burke: ” Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  28. John says

    Submitted by John Blair (could not say it better) from, Forbes: Lawrence Hunter, Contributor
    Gun Control Tramples On The Certain Virtues Of A Heavily Armed Citizenry
    It is time the critics of the Second Amendment put up and repeal it, or shut up about violating it. Their efforts to disarm and short-arm Americans violate the U.S. Constitution in Merriam Webster’s first sense of the term—to “disregard” it.
    Hard cases make bad law, which is why they are reserved for the Constitution, not left to the caprice of legislatures, the sophistry and casuistry of judges or the despotic rule making of the chief executive and his bureaucracy. And make no mistake, guns pose one of the hardest cases a free people confronts in the 21st century, a test of whether that people cherishes liberty above tyranny, values individual sovereignty above dependency on the state, and whether they dare any longer to live free.
    A people cannot simultaneously live free and be bound to any human master or man-made institution, especially to politicians, judges, bureaucrats and faceless government agencies. The Second Amendment along with the other nine amendments of the Bill of Rights was designed to prevent individuals’ enslavement to government, not just to guarantee people the right to hunt squirrels or sport shoot at targets, nor was it included in the Bill of Rights just to guarantee individuals the right to defend themselves against robbers, rapers and lunatics, or to make sure the states could raise a militia quick, on the cheap to defend against a foreign invader or domestic unrest.
    The Second Amendment was designed to ensure that individuals retained the right and means to defend themselves against any illegitimate attempt to do them harm, be it an attempt by a private outlaw or government agents violating their trust under the color of law. The Second Amendment was meant to guarantee individuals the right to protect themselves against government as much as against private bad guys and gangs.
    That is why the gun grabbers’ assault on firearms is not only, not even primarily an attack merely on the means of self-defense but more fundamentally, the gun grabbers are engaged in a blatant attack on the very legitimacy of self-defense itself. It’s not really about the guns; it is about the government’s ability to demand submission of the people. Gun control is part and parcel of the ongoing collectivist effort to eviscerate individual sovereignty and replace it with dependence upon and allegiance to the state.
    Americans provisionally delegated a limited amount of power over themselves to government, retaining their individual sovereignty in every respect and reserving to themselves the power not delegated to government, most importantly the right and power to abolish or replace any government that becomes destructive of the ends for which it was created. The Bill of Rights, especially the Second and Ninth Amendments, can only be properly understood and rightly interpreted in this context.
    Politicians who insist on despoiling the Constitution just a little bit for some greater good (gun control for “collective security”) are like a blackguard who lies to an innocent that she can yield to his advances, retain her virtue and risk getting only just a little bit pregnant—a seducer’s lie. The people either have the right to own and bear arms, or they don’t, and to the extent legislators, judges and bureaucrats disparage that right, they are violating the U.S. Constitution as it was originally conceived, and as it is currently amended. To those who would pretend the Second Amendment doesn’t exist or insist it doesn’t mean what it says, there is only one legitimate response: “If you don’t like the Second Amendment, you may try to repeal it but short of that you may not disparage and usurp it, even a little bit, as long as it remains a part of the Constitution, no exceptions, no conniving revisions, no fabricated judicial balancing acts.”
    Gun control advocates attempt to avoid the real issue of gun rights—why the Founders felt so strongly about gun rights that they singled them out for special protection in the Bill of Rights—by demanding that individual rights be balanced against a counterfeit collective right to “security” from things that go bump in the night. But, the Bill of Rights was not a Bill of Entitlements that people had a right to demand from government; it was a Bill of Protections against the government itself. The Founders understood that the right to own and bear laws is as fundamental and as essential to maintaining liberty as are the rights of free speech, a free press, freedom of religion and the other protections against government encroachments on liberty delineated in the Bill of Rights.
    That is why the most egregious of the fallacious arguments used to justify gun control are designed to short-arm the citizenry (e.g., banning so-called “assault rifles”) by restricting the application of the Second Amendment to apply only to arms that do not pose a threat to the government’s self-proclaimed monopoly on the use of force. To that end, the gun grabbers first must bamboozle people into believing the Second Amendment does not really protect an individual’s right to own and bear firearms.
    They do that by insisting on a tortured construction of the Second Amendment that converts individual rights into states rights. The short-arm artists assert that the Second Amendment’s reference to the necessity of a “well-regulated militia” proves the amendment is all about state’s rights, not individuals rights; it was written into the Bill of Rights simply to guarantee that state governments could assemble a fighting force quick, on the cheap to defend against foreign invasion and domestic disturbance. Consequently, Second-Amendment revisionists would have us believe the Second Amendment does little more than guarantee the right of states to maintain militias; and, since the state militias were replaced by the National Guard in the early twentieth century, the Second Amendment has virtually no contemporary significance. Gun controllers would, in effect, do to the Second Amendment what earlier collectivizers and centralizers did to the Tenth Amendment, namely render it a dead letter.
    The truth is, the Founders understood a “well regulated” militia to mean a militia “functioning/operating properly,” not a militia “controlled or managed by the government.” This is clearly evidenced by Alexander Hamilton’s discussion of militias in Federalist #29 and by one of the Oxford Dictionary’s archaic definitions of “regulate;” “(b) Of troops: Properly disciplined.”
    The Founders intended that a well-regulated militia was to be the first, not the last line of defense against a foreign invader or social unrest. But, they also intended militias to be the last, not the first line of defense against tyrannical government. In other words, the Second Amendment was meant to be the constitutional protection for a person’s musket behind the door, later the shotgun behind the door and today the M4 behind the door—a constitutional guarantee of the right of individuals to defend themselves against any and all miscreants, private or government, seeking to do them harm.
    The unfettered right to own and bear arms consecrates individual sovereignty and ordains the right of self-defense. The Second Amendment symbolizes and proclaims individuals’ right to defend themselves personally against any and all threatened deprivations of life, liberty or property, including attempted deprivations by the government. The symbolism of a heavily armed citizenry says loudly and unequivocally to the government, “Don’t Tread On Me.”
    Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence said, “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”
    Both Jefferson and James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, also knew that their government would never fear a people without guns, and they understood as well that the greatest threat to liberty was not foreign invasion or domestic unrest but rather a standing army and a militarized police force without fear of the people and capable of inflicting tyranny upon the people.
    That is what prompted Madison to contrast the new national government he had helped create to the kingdoms of Europe, which he characterized as “afraid to trust the people with arms.” Madison assured his fellow Americans that under the new Constitution as amended by the Bill of Rights, they need never fear their government because of “the advantage of being armed.”
    But, Noah Webster said it most succinctly and most eloquently:
    “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”
    That is why the Founders looked to local militias as much to provide a check—in modern parlance, a “deterrent”—against government tyranny as against an invading foreign power. Guns are individuals’ own personal nuclear deterrent against their own government gone rogue. Therefore, a heavily armed citizenry is the ultimate deterrent against tyranny.
    A heavily armed citizenry is not about armed revolt; it is about defending oneself against armed government oppression. A heavily armed citizenry is not about overthrowing the government; it is about preventing the government from overthrowing liberty. A people stripped of their right of self defense is defenseless against their own government.

  29. David Winchell says

    Nicholas J. Johnson is Professor of Law has made real since of this issue to me. Pointing out the core valuse in his article he has achived the focus for problem solving all the politations have missed. The Vigernia tech shooting were done with a 22. pistol and a 9 mm pistol with low capacity magizines.

    “We will have to push through this. Because beyond this barrier most will see clearly that the core issue here is the exposure of helpless people against a twisted man (or boy) with a gun… any gun. Supply controls are no answer to this problem unless you eliminate virtually all guns. Only when you fully acknowledge that it is impossible to get rid of guns in America (and that the failed attempt would make things worse by sending a hundred million guns fully into the black market) do you see the substantive emptiness and folly of Feinstein’s plan.”

  30. David Winchell says

    Nicholas J. Johnson is Professor of Law has made real since of this issue to me. Pointing out the core values in his article, he has achieved the focus for problem solving most politicians have missed.

    “We will have to push through this. Because beyond this barrier most will see clearly that the core issue here is the exposure of helpless people against a twisted man (or boy) with a gun… any gun. Supply controls are no answer to this problem unless you eliminate virtually all guns. Only when you fully acknowledge that it is impossible to get rid of guns in America (and that the failed attempt would make things worse by sending a hundred million guns fully into the black market) do you see the substantive emptiness and folly of Feinstein’s plan.”

    The Virginia tech shootings the worst in American History were done using a .22 and a 9 mm pistol with low capacity magazines. Not covered in the current Feinstein ban. Maybe they will be in the next Feinstein plan.

    How to stop madmen from killing unarmed people is the real question. Schools and homes equipped with ballistic shields ? Gun violence seems to be much lower in Florida where concealed carry is easer to get. Not sure of the answer but here is the focus. Thank You Professor Johnson. I live in California and if you run against Dianne Feinstein I will vote for you. I am tired of the political system of voting for the “lesser of two evil’s.” If John Kennedy had run against Obama it would have been no contest. We need real leaders not hidden agendas and distractions.

  31. C. Rodney James says

    Professor Johnson,
    Your article is absolutely DEAD ON! It is the most lucid, carefully considered piece on this subject I have yet read. It is such a pity that it is not available to a wider audience. It forever pains me to see those in politics and the media — people equipped with a university education espousing the sort of crapola that is gun control. Aside from a few, whom the old forklift philosopher ,Eric Hoffer, would identify as”true believers” most would appear to be “sellouts.” Those who take money from George Soros and his front organizations, e.g. the Joyce Foundation, are at the forefront. The PBS News Hour pundits are perhaps the worst. Come pledge time they declare their honesty, even-handedness and careful research ad nauseam .But when gun control is the issue, it is with expressions of sincere, hand-wringing concern that they conclude that SOMETHING has to be done about all those guns out there. The media folk, like so many politicians (accused of lying all the time) lie selectively when they feel it is to their advantage. Sadly, we have a president doing the same thing. How long will political correctness be permitted to substitute for the real thing?

  32. Libertarian1973 says

    For the record, the CT shooter never used an AR-15. Those were found in the trunk of his car – unfired. He used standard rifles and pistols.

  33. says

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  34. says

    And here they keep telling me no one wants to ban my guns. That I’m paranoid for thinking that. Actually, I hear statements like this a lot. I have no doubt that you, in good faith, are just looking for a better society. But we had a society without guns once, and it was called the middle ages, and in that society, the strong ruled the weak. As a peasant, you didn’t have much chance against a knight, let alone several of them. The Firearm changed that. It rendered the feudal system untenable because it put the peasant and the King’s men on a more level playing field.

    But we can’t un-invent the technology. Guns are with us. A society without guns is a fantasy, and you can’t make that happen in a society with 320 million guns in 40% of households, most of which will not comply with the laws you advocate, and some will resist, violently if necessary. What you propose is not a recipe for peace, I’m afraid to say, it’s a recipe for either jailing and killing millions of your fellow citizens who happen to consider their Second Amendment birthright supremely important.

  35. Double Helical says

    Very good lesson. It seems like we have to convince people one at a time. I couldn’t convince my co-worker that the phrase “reasonable gun laws” was the left’s code for “a complete ban.” He thought I was being misled by right-wing propaganda. UNTIL….he ran into a gun-ban advocate at a party. He said that the man ranted and raved that all guns must be eliminated; confiscated and destroyed. He recounted the story to me, with the phrase, “You were right! They ARE nuts!”


  1. […] Vice President Biden has indicated that he will present his proposals for gun control to President Obama on Tuesday, more than two weeks ahead of the deadline. Sen. Feinstein’s push for an “assault weapons” ban is expected to be among them, along with strengthened mental health and background checks for all firearm purchases. I understand that gun control advocates see proposed bans as about gun violence, and they aim to better the world. But the seeds of antagonism are sown, not in the heart of recalcitrant conservatives, but in the essence of the argument for the bans. Nicholas J. Johnson elucidates nicely: […]

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