Last week’s horrible tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Oregon put us back into a repetitive cycle in partisan discourse: A madman commits a massacre. Advocates for greater controls on firearm ownership use their outrage at the loss of life to point fingers at Americans’ right to own guns, and argue for more gun control. Gun-rights advocates mourn the loss of life, accuse their opponents of exploiting the deaths of the victims, and argue that greater restrictions short of outright bans would not prevent future tragedies and would endanger the basic rights of the vast majority of gun owners to protect themselves.
Some of the families who survived the horror of the Newtown shooting are suing Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle that was used by the deranged gunman who murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The complaint actually reads more like an attempt at healing than a serious legal claim. To that extent, I am sympathetic. But the strictly legal issues and theory of recovery to be gleaned from it deserve comment.
My last post ended by asking: where is the outrage at the disparagement of the struggle and sacrifice that the first generation of Black citizens made to vindicate their right to arms? The question was rhetorical, meant to emphasize how casually former Justice John Paul Stevens and Michael Waldman turn a blind eye to one of the foundational episodes in the story of Black Americans.
The tack taken by Stevens and Waldman is all too familiar. It takes for granted that some people more than others are allowed to play rough on the field of race.
This next Liberty Law Talk is with Nick Johnson on his new book Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms. Johnson writes that “The black tradition of arms has been submerged because it seems hard to reconcile with the dominant narrative of nonviolence in the modern civil rights movement.” Added to this, Johnson observes, was the rise of a “new black political class” that came to prominence “within a progressive political coalition that included the newly minted national gun control movement.” “The burgeoning black political class,” he writes, “embraced gun bans and lesser supply controls as one answer…
Twilight of the American Republic: The new Liberty Law Talk presents a different way of thinking about American Exceptionalism. This discussion with author Justin Litke considers how the twentieth century emergence of an expansive American Exceptionalism relates to the frayed constitutional consensus of the American founding. What did Michael Oakeshott think of the American founding? That's the question taken up by Elizabeth Corey in this week's feature review essay on Gene Callahan's book Oakeshott on Rome and America. Alberto Mingardi @ Econ Lib on Germany trading its political stability for economic stupidity. Then again, there's much of that going on these days. The…
I have been away from this page for several months, working on book that is now nearing completion. Thought I would say hello again and give a preview of the book. You may recall my posts responding to eruptions from Bob Costas, Jason Whitlock and Danny Glover. Those posts tried to retrieve the debate from the swirl of myths, absurdities and glib chatter that often afflict the intersection of race, gun rights and firearms regulation. I have spent a substantial part of my scholarly effort over the years within that intersection. The culmination of that work so far, is my…
I just dusted off an entertaining screed from 1973 written by former Washington Post reporter Robert Sherrill. Although you can gather it from his credential as a Posty, the prodigious title of the book better signals his views on the “so-called” right to keep and bear arms. To wit: The Saturday Night Special: And Other Guns With Which Americans Won The West, Protected Bootleg Franchises, Slew Wildlife, Robbed Countless Banks, Shot Husbands Purposely And By Mistake And Killed Presidents – Together With The Debate Over Continuing Same. Absent from Sherrill’s list is any suggestion of the utility of firearms for legitimate self-defense.
The book is a vivid reflection of the times, urging confidently the states’ rights view of the Second Amendment that today not a single member of the United States Supreme Court attempts to prop up. But enough nostalgia.
The President was on television recently stumping again for his gun control agenda. He spoke in his favored repetitive mode except for one sort of new flourish, which was the acknowledgment that there are good people on both sides, and we all need to walk a bit in each other’s shoes. This advice actually might illuminate our way through the coming teeth gnashing-debate about the Senate’s vote on expanded background checks, among other things.
The President has held two news conferences in three days commenting on the coming wave of gun control initiatives. His presentation has been emotional and properly reflects the anguish that we all feel for the victims of gun crime. It also has been a dazzling display of sophistry. I say that because the President is smart. And if he were not smart, I would say that, so far as his gun ban proposals, his comments were a profound display of ignorance.
Responding to the run on guns precipitated by the preliminary proposals floated by his team, the President said that the motivation must be mainly financial. Callous capitalism, that other great evil, had prompted unnamed villains to gin up fear of gun bans in order to make profit. The truth is far more basic.
Everyone here is seeking the best route to personal security. Gun people calculate that within the window of imminent threats government is incompetent and they must protect themselves. From the rhetoric, you would think that gun owners or at least NRA members do not have families and children that they love and want to protect. That of course is absurd.
These people realize the limits of government and have prepared to protect themselves. Private firearms are central to their approach, and that drives the recent run on guns (and those following Obama’s two elections). If you believe you will lose something essential to one of your core needs, you will scour the market and buy up what you can. It does not require blandishments from profiteers.
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.