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Saturday, 15 December 2012


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The problem isn't there are criminals. The problem isn't the gun laws are not being enforced. The problem isn't that it's easier to buy a gun than have mental health.

The problem is there are too many guns. Children are dying, moms are crying on the street.

There are 53,000+ gun stores, compared to 20,000 of Starbucks worldwide. Yes, it's an apple to orange comparison, but just the fact there are so many gun stores should be a punch in the gut.

Sorry Mike, don't get it.

I entirely agree with the confuse meaning and bad writing of the second amendment. Fine: do a poll and change it if you will.

Yet it has no relationship at all with the topic of gun control:

Today more than ever, I see all the reasons in the world to establish a very strict control in the access to guns in the USA.

If that's not clear, even today, I think it is doomed forever. And catastrophes like the last one will keep on happening, sadly, all in the name of "freedom".

What a sad kind of "freedom" to support.

I always thought it was quite clear, that people had the right to defend themselves from the tyranny of government...

On the other hand, I dont understand why those enjoying the sports involving firearms, enjoy their ownership should at some point come to terms with the fact the items of their affection kill. They were designed to kill, they are maintained to kill and their ability to kill is unquestionable... why leave them littered around society?

Aside from being vague (I suspect it was less so in the context of the times in which it was written) is the matter of context. The United States, just emerging from a failed experiment called the Articles of Confederation, which more nearly approximated the struggling European Union than our current federal system, was a very different place than the country we have today. They had a frontier beyond which there were what we perceived as 'savages' and we were a predominantly agrarian society. The industrial revolution hadn't happened and they were a collection primarily of self sufficient individuals. Today the majority live in cities and the average person can't keep their own milk cow and flock of chickens. As city dwellers people are required to be more interdependent and socially minded than in post colonial America. Rather than adhere dogmatically to what we think the founders intended, based on such vague sentences as the 2nd amendment, we need to address the situation we have today. Your suggestion is and excellent one although I think I'd drop the two extremes from it.

These shooting are rare.

Yes, they get a lot of press. But kids die much more often in other ways, some which we don't regulate.

Instead of disarming the citizens to try and prevent the occasional nutcase from killing a bunch of kids, the better solution is to arm the teachers (after they are trained, of course). That would have put a pretty quick end to this nut's killing spree.

"Make it one of those nifty "instant-runoff" votes . . . where every voter gets to signal his or her first and second choice"

We use ranked choice voting ("instant runoff") where I live. If you have five choices and only allow people to pick their first two, then potentially a large percentage of people will be left out of the final decision. The only way to make ranked choice fully democratic is to let everyone rank all of the choices--in this case ranking all five in order.

With only two choices from a list of five, if your two don't survive the first rounds of ranking, then you have no say in picking among the remaining three choices. Not fair.

Hi Mike
I want to comment, but don't know how to begin.
I was very much affected by the incident in Connecticut, as I suppose you were too, as it must have motivated your post.
I'd like to think we are a good and decent people; benevolent as you say, but if that's the case, why are we so unable to to come to grips with and admit we have a problem?
Like a drinker who's lost jobs, lost his or her family, knows drink is the problem, but can't manage to do anything about it.
I'm no expert on 'constitutional' law, but I don't see what you proposed happening. A vote as you suggest.
I do like the way you framed the issue, your very gentle in the way you try mightily to avoid offending others; and I've seen that before in other open mike posts. Thank for this, it was thoughtful and interesting, and if it makes others "think outside the box" from set positions, maybe that's a good thing.


Gad, you are smart (no tongue in cheek). I never thought of that. Hope it gets some traction. I think I'll send it along to my representatives.



As reasonable as your suggested approach may be, implementing it would require first a new amendment implementing the process. Not likely, in my opinion (and I suggest yours, but don't let me speak for you).

What frustrates me most about all this is that presumably, there is *some* point where the gun lobby will agree the problem should be addressed, but in the interim, there will be needless deaths of innocent victims. Mass killings aren't specifically a gun access issue, as any person insane enough can use many means to their insane ends. Can't we agree that the mentally unwell shouldn't have access to firearms? Can't we implement stop-gaps without removing the right of those who want their guns? Maybe, and I know this is a weird idea, can't we consider treating the vast numbers of the mentally ill, and treating them with care instead of disgust? Considering that the vast majority of elected officials (and the citizenry) claim strong religious beliefs, you'd think that
this would be an easy solution to agree upon.

I suspect you may not be publishing comments on this one, but it was helpful to write this down anyway.

I've come 180 degrees on guns in the past 40 years. I've had enough of this horror and I'm prepared to give up some "rights" to make even a tiny bit of progress towards ending it.

I think that, on many levels, the situation is hopeless because it's about culture more than hardware, but I do believe we could summon the will to ban new assault weapons of the kind used to pump FMJs into school children yesterday, then run truly aggressive buyback programs to get as many more out of circulation as possible. I once owned an assault rifle, but I no longer accept that military weapons have any business in civilian hands. I am trying to walk the walk on this; my AR-15 was not sold, it was destroyed.

There will never be the will to ban possession of currently legal guns in the US; the sun will burn out first. But we have to do something because if we don't, we're accepting our failure as a civilized nation. There is no moral universe in which an event like Sandy Hook can ever be considered an "acceptable loss."

One thing the founders were clear on is not having the countries major issues decided by national referendums. The "tyranny of the majority" and all that.
But the founders also never envisioned high powered automatic weapons. Heavy regulation(hey, like we have to obtain a driver's license) is clearly the answer.
By the way, this is coming from a farmer who couldn't do my job efficiently without the aide of fire arms. I think I could handle the minor inconvenience of gun control(as could most responsible gun owners).

Under your proposal, given the percentage of US adults who actually have guns in their homes

http://www.gallup.com/poll/150353/self-reported-gun-ownership-highest-1993.aspx ,

and assuming at least a small majority of the remainder are just as nuts, the NRA-drafted version in your hypothetical would likely win. Things would be worse than they are now. At least the current Second Amendment might, if a rational Supreme Court majority suddenly materialized, be interpreted to prohibit individual gun ownership. An NRA-written replacement would enshrine our gun culture explicitly.

We also need to tax ourselves more to pay for restoration of all the mental health services/facilities that have been eliminated over the last three decades.

"These shooting are rare."

Unfortunately they aren't rare by any stretch of the imagination. 100,000 Americans on average (give or take 20k) suffer gunshots every year, and 30,000 to 40,000 of them die of it. That includes 60% of all homicides, and thousands of children and teens. In fact, more children and teens die in America of gunshots EVERY YEAR than the number of American servicemen and support personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2002. The only thing remotely unusual about Sandy Hook is that it happened all at once. More children than were killed there will be killed by gunshot between now and February.


It seems that the Second Ammendment is only unclear to the folks who are anti-military and anti-gun searching for alternate meanings that are obviously not intended.

To me, it's perfectly clear: In a free country (State) a superbly trained military and the right of the people to bear and keep arms shall not be infringed.

To try to skew the Second Ammendment to mean what is clearly not intended is wishful thinking at best, or subversion disguised as progressivism/ liberalism at worst.

Just as a contract is not a living document, neither is the Constitution. The Constitution is a contract between God, the Founding Fathers, and the American people.

Mike, you are a true optimist. "Nobody gets to complain"??!? The one thing you can be sure of is that everyone who didn't vote for the winner WILL complain.
Actually, the wording was much clearer to the readers in 1787. Remember the context. The Revolution had officially ended a few years earlier. Everyone (almost) owned at least one firearm. For many it was a need to get food by shooting it. For many more it was a means of protection against crime. The concept of a police force, as developed by Ben Franklin didn't apply to most of the country.Each individual was expected to protect himself and his family with whatever force was needed. Further in 1773, the British governor of Mass. seized all the firearms the Redcoats could find in Boston to prevent any objection to his actions. Finally remember that the term 'militia' meant something different than today. No national guard or army reserve. If called, every ablebodied free man was expected to respond, bringing his own rifle/musket, with ball and powder. All this was common knowledge and of recent memory to the people in 1787. I expect they largely understood that the ammendment had a twofold purpose. It was to assure that one could protect family and home against threats, and it was intended to assure that no one could 'hijack' the government, and if a militia call was needed, that they could respond. Today, police or no, that first purpose is still relevant. Probably to most Americans, the second may seem outdated. But not all would agree, and that doesn't only mean the extremist militias (mostly illegal).
What bothers me is who would get to draw up the several versions of the replacement. If the process was changed so that the current ammendment wasn't removed first, but was one option of the referendum, my guess is that it would be retained.

Perhaps, but we have the right to change our Constitution. And what in the Constitution encourages you to fantasize that it's in any way a contract with god? There's nothing about god in it, except in a reference to a date.


Mike, thanks for the different, bold take on this Amendment. My only quibble is that we are manifestly not sentient and rational. Nor even close.

You have more faith in the great masses than I have. Most people can barely pick one of three.

I have a kindergarten aged daughter. My sense of apathy towards our legislative process has quickly turned to rage. Thanks for the sensible idea.

Before we consider repealing and replacing the Second Amendment by vote, we need to add a 28th Amendment that establishes compulsory suffrage. Participation by only 50% of eligible voters is nonsense.

Maybe we could also lose the electoral college while we're at it...

Why whenever such an attrocity happens, do some people feel the need to talk about gun control? I mean, let's just say for a moment, that the killer of those children in Newtown CT, had used a large pickup truck to drive over the kids, while they were awaiting to board the school buses on their way home. Would anyone consider banning trucks?

Let's not be hypocritical here, guns do not kill people, people kill people.

Populace would be better served by politicians who would try to understand why a youngster became so deranged that he decided to take those innocent lives, than by those who see every such massacre as a way to ban firearms.

Actually, the term "militia" is defined in the United States Code (11 USC § 311) and is a codification of the understanding and use of the word at the time of the enactment of the Bill of Rights. Quick research shows that this section has been around since at least 1916.

It reads:

The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and . . . under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

So basically militia means all males citizens or citizen-wannabees 17-45 and (added later, obviously) women in the national guard.

Once the term militia is understood that way, it's a lot easier to conclude that the Second Amendment speaks of an individual right, rather than a collective. Moreover, it's consistent with the rest of the Bill of Rights being about individual rights.

In any event the Heller v. DC case has already decided your particular question.

Interesting idea and one that has merit, Mike. You may find this editorial, which appeared two days before the tragedy interesting and you may get a similar opening of the comment floodgates: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/12-11-2012/Why-the-NRA-should-support-gun-control/

"As reasonable as your suggested approach may be, implementing it would require first a new amendment implementing the process. Not likely, in my opinion (and I suggest yours, but don't let me speak for you)."

So you're saying we'd have to stop at simply repealing the Amendment, hmm?


Bravo and well said! An innovative solution to a problem sadly lacking in any credible or creative debate.

After a school shooting in Springfield, Oregon, near Ken Kesey's home he wrote an opinion piece about an idea his grand daughter had. Ban bullets instead of guns. Nothing in the Constitution about that.

Half the problem seems to be that this is a constitutional issue in the first place and therefore attracts a lot of hysterical nationalism just to muddy the waters on this subject yet further. Move this amendment out of the constitution into more conventional legislation and at least that way there might be more flexibility in tweaking these laws without stirring 18th century ghosts.

I am quite sure the founding fathers would not have have bothered with this amendment had they had a huge police force, standing army and strategic nuclear weapons to fall back on.

Actually, the meaning of the Second Amendment is quite clear and concise. A well-regulated militia is defined elsewhere as all able bodied males 17 to 45 years old. Organized militia consists of National Guard and Naval Militia; unorganized militia consists of everyone that meets the requirements that are not in the organized militia. There was no organized, federally funded, militia (National Guard) until 1903. The State is the United States, all inclusive. "The people" has been defined through numerous court rulings over the past 200 years as individuals in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th and 10th amendments. There is no debate, only attempts at obfuscation by detractors. The right of the people (individuals) to keep (own) and bear (use) arms, shall not be infringed. Plain and simple language if ever there was. Rewriting the Constitution is fraught with peril in every case. A foundational clause, particularly one that protects all the others from being overridden by any government attempting to usurp these fundamental controls, should be understood completely and utilized in its unadultrated form, not be subjected to a vote by persons not willing to educate themselves on its true meaning.

"Why whenever such an attrocity happens, do some people feel the need to talk about gun control?"

Possibly because the crime was committed with an assault rifle and we had a ban in place on assault rifles for ten years. A ban we could have continued.


"If we as a people (populace) decide we want to arm ourselves to teeth even if somebody's little girl gets shot in the face for no reason every now and then, well, fine. If we decide that anyone who ever lets a gun into their home gets thrown in jail till they rot, well, the people have spoken. (We wouldn't decide either of those things, of course.)"


As always with your writing, this seems eminently clear--no editor needed here. But the first sentence does seem infelicitous in the moment. And the parallelism proposed in the two possibilities seems out of kilter to me. In the second instance, the person locked up would presumably have been aware of the law and its sanctions. In first instance, the person killed would have been (for example) taking a spelling test.

The bottom line is that we need to figure out how to keep this fearsome weaponry out of the hands of mentally disturbed people. There is a politically powerful portion of the population that resists any move in that direction. Passing a law about anything is difficult these days. Repealing a constitutional amendment? The chance seems vanishingly small. Maybe we look for a more attainable solution.

Bill Poole

I would be in favor of limiting the rights to own a firearm if I thought it would prevent tragedies like this latest school shooting from happening. Problem is decent folks are not carrying out these atrocities. Mental ill are. Criminally ill are shooting store clerks.

Background checks should be extensive. Folks with psychological challenges and criminal records of any kind should be forever banned from owning a firearm.

I would be very surprised if this young man who did the shooting wasn't suspected of being dangerous by those close to him.

I have to say, to a British ear (eye?) the gun control laws in the USA are completely insane. At least my British ear.

The idea that an individual citizen has the 'right' to own a gun is nearly as absurd as saying that that same citizen has the right to use it on a child. Gun ownership should be a privilege for specialist users and specific uses.

Mike, I occasionally get the feeling that you should rename your site "The Online Philosopher." This is just such an occasion.

Guns kill people. If his mother didn't have a gun, it's very unlikely he would have killed as many people with any other device. As China pointed out, they had a similar nut case in the last week or so, and he "only" killed two people, not 26. That's a huge difference. And as Mike already pointed out, many die by guns. This doesn't happen in other developed civilized countries because they have gun control laws.

People can argue that guns don't people, but the facts are otherwise. Without guns loose, many fewer die violent deaths.

I don't understand Mike's argument, but we need gun control, the second amendment is clear enough as others have pointed out.

I find myself thinking the same thing as John, that "guns don't kill people, people kill people". There is truth in this, although I'm not sure everyone wants to be reminded of it right now.

But, if the legal position being neither NRA nor `ban' extremes means black-swan events are possible, from my right-Pondian position I ask, how come the US seems to have so *many* such incidents?

And so I do suspect the US needs to take a long look at the movements of guns in society in general, in such a way that does not merely impose a new rule on already law-abiding sane citizens but actually addresses the problems encountered. Maybe even a better psychological approach would be to give people something related but positive to think about - don't just bash people with "don't do this!", but rather, what groups exist for assisting recovery from gun-crime and how do you raise awareness of them in the collective consciousness?

I wonder how many mass murders of this type would occur if these despicable cowards (the prospective perpetrators) knew that they would not achieve ANY notoriety, whether they survived or not, from the act that they are contemplating.

I just don't know which would be more difficult: amending the constitution, or reigning-in the, all to prevalent, sensationalist media people.


Well said, Mike. And I agree, we are a decent people by and large. But not necessarily a reasonable or well-informed populace.

Unfortunately, such a rational (and fair) proposal will never gain traction in the halls of our government. Way too much influence by those who support the status quo.

As always seems to be the case with controversial proposed change, those against progress seem to muster more visibly and vocally. To use a phrase from the Sixties, the silent majority still exists in America. And silence never gets results in politics.

Like most overseas observers of the USA, I find your gun laws to be bizarre and the notion that somehow this is a guarantee of freedom to be even more bizarre. If this really was the case, wouldn't the country be freer and safer if everyone by law was required to carry a light machine gun at all times?
Sadly, I think that it is tool late for rational debate and effective laws on the issue in the USA. You have so many guns in private hands that I find it impossible to imagine how any new laws might be effectively implemented.

Mike wrote, "100,000 Americans on average (give or take 20k) suffer gunshots every year, and 30,000 to 40,000 of them die of it."

The CDC reports that in 2011, there were 11,101 "Assault[s] (homicide) by discharge of firearms"

They also report 32,163 injuries by firearm, 606 deaths from accidental discharge of firearms, 19,392 suicides by discharge of firearms and 252 deaths from "Discharge of firearms, undetermined intent" (2010).


I'm all for gun control. These mass shootings are primarily a US problem. Yes, it happens in other countries (Norway) but those instances are rare compared to the frequency it happens in the USA.

Only repealing the 2nd amendment is not the solution. It doesn't address the guns in circulation right now. As of such, it would be a long term solution and pay of 20 or 30 years from now as the existing guns are starting to get old and spare parts are hard to find.

However, what can survive 20 to 30 years in American politics? It is unlikely to think that not a single presidency candidate who needs just those 1% or 2% extra of the votes will not talk about reintroducing the 2nd amendment, claiming it doesn't make a difference (as there will be 3-4 shootings each year anyway) so why bother?

As stated elsewhere, the real issue is mental healthcare. We cannot hand out guns with virtual no restrictions and consider "the street" a viable option for deranged personalities as it's considered too costly to treat them with taxpayers money.

Since we're not willing to address both issues, we'll have to suffer the consequences.

During the time that The Constitution was written, white men holding property were the only people allowed to vote. In the late 1700s, the US population was mostly made up of farmers. The population in 1776 was around 2.5 million--many were slaves.

During the Revolutionary War, the militia often had sparse access to cannons and ammo. Our ancestors used crude, inaccurate muskets.

The common folks of the early 1800s used guns to kill animals for food--Walmart hadn't been invented yet. And later, frontiersmen needed their guns to ward off the natives.

How did common sense become so uncommon that our society turns a blind eye, in the name of The Constitution, to the differences between 1776 and now? Do I need a musket to protect myself from the wanton Canadians, Mexicans, Chinese, and Redcoats who are now attempting to overthrow our government? Where are their troops?

The Constitutional right to bear arms, I daresay, may have been a result of the aftermath of the the bloody Revolutionary War. I am shocked that our forefathers who drafted the Constitution did not anticipate iPhones, AK-47s,Uzis, grenade launchers, atom bombs, Walmart, etc.

Do iPhone wielding suburban moms require lots of guns to feel safe? Do my neighbors need machine guns to protect their lawns from stray dogs peeing on their property?
I am in the process of constructing an array of underground silos in my swampy backyard. They will be armed with guided missile to keep the alligators at bay.

Despite the fact that as a Brooklyn store owner, I once had a gun held to my head during a violent robbery, and had nightmares for years afterward.
I have a much greater fear of myself or a loved one being killed in a car accident caused by some moron texting on their cell phone while driving.
I say, ban all cell phones!

The cross pollination between the NRA gun lobbies and the politicians they outright buy and own is one incestuous hornet's nest. There are way too many loopholes in our current gun laws- especially when it comes to gun shows where no background checks (or, needless to say, waiting periods) are required, and anyone is pretty much free to buy whatever they want and however much they want- not to mention those who'll hook ya up with the conversion kit to fully automatic for a few bucks under the table. Guns in bars, assault rifles, extended clips- the laws are becoming increasingly lax and ludicrous.

Unfortunately, not only do we have mentally unbalanced individuals with easy access to high power weaponry, we also have a growing and delusional populace who think that they will be the ones with the power, cunning and skill set to take them out. Facts clearly show however that the real world, and that portrayed in their fantasies are far, far apart:


" mean, let's just say for a moment, that the killer of those children in Newtown CT, had used a large pickup truck to drive over the kids, while they were awaiting to board the school buses on their way home. Would anyone consider banning trucks?"


Pickup trucks are not designed to kill people.

Mike, if you allow my 2 cents as an european lawyer:
Law is a hermeneutic science. According to the prevailing doctrines here in Europe, it's all about interpreting what the legislator had in mind when a particular rule or set of rules was passed. That, of course, also applies to constitutional law. (Bear in mind that Continental Europe lives under the Rule of Law, rather than the Rule of Precedent.)
I don't think the Founding Fathers of America meant to allow easy access to arms by psychopaths when the Second Amendment was written. On the other hand, rules aren't carved in stone; they must follow and adapt to the evolution of times. They don't conform or create reality; rather they adapt to it in order to allow people to live as peacefully as possible according to the social values commonly accepted at the time they are passed. As someone else implied above, constitutional commands are not dogmas.
Therefore the Second Amendment must be interpreted under the light of current days - and these are dangerous times which have no similarity to those in which the Second Amendment was (clumsily, as you rightly state) written. Tragedies like those that keep happening all the time in the USA could be avoided if there wasn't such broad availability of weapons as you have now.
I also believe this is a too serious matter to submit to a referendum; under your system of precedent, it's up to the courts, especially the Supreme Court, to interpret the Second Amendment in conformity with modern needs and rule out freedom of access to arms. This is an area in which the USA could learn something from Europe. (You did it with health care, right?) Here the right to own a firegun is severely restricted. It's not perfect, of course, but we seldom hear news of massacres.

Just one problem, Mike. That's now how the Constitution is amended.

As I understand it, the vague wording of the Second Amendment was deliberate, being one of the compromises that was deemed essential to getting the Constitution passed. Even back then, this argument was being waged passionately.

On a separate matter, there's no point in using these horrible events to finger "assault rifles" as such. However you want to define them, there are plenty of other designs that could do the same thing just as well. And most of these unspeakable crimes seem to have been committed with handguns, not rifles. Don't get misled by the pied piper of "assault rifles".

We're up to our eyebrows in guns with about 88 for every 100 citizens. They're not going away and gun control, I think, is a bit of a myth. We need to face the reality that another Sandy Hook is coming, followed by another and another unless we put security in place as best we can.In some places this means police on duty, and in others teachers and administrators properly trained in the use of weapons.There is no other real solution because police cannot respond quickly enough to avert this kind of tragedy. There must be real protection at the door. Of course there will be gaps,and many schools left with little or no protection as they are now. But something is better than nothing, and we must begin somewhere. And I am not advocating gun ownership without increasingly stringent background checks and recurring evaluation. Also, we need to ban assault rifles tomorrow and make it a mandatory life sentence to use one to commit a crime.

1) Every Swiss male is ( or used to be ) made to serve in the military for some time, and after his service keeps his weapon at home ... so every Swiss home has a real military weapon, not just some pop-gun. Maybe it's because the Swiss are more sane than merkins? On the other hand, hundreds of years of Swiss peace produced the kookoo clock, while constant war in Italy created the renaissance.

2) The 2nd amendment refers to state-of-the-art arms. So every citizen should be allowed to possess any weapons he can afford, include f-35 fighters and nuclear weapons.

3) ON the other hand, I think everyone should be allowed to install a couple of rocket-launchers under their front bumpers .... and I only have to deal with Toronto traffic!

@Paul Amyes and others. What people seem to be confused about is that the right to bear arms does not equal the right to murder people.

It never has. People see that atrocities are committed with guns, and they see another group that is passionate about the right to own guns, and get the idea that the group fighting to protect constitutional right actively supports these crimes.

Most gun owners that I've ever known are well aware of the perceptions, and do everything they can to promote safety and to reduce the incidence of gun violence.

Nut cases will use whatever means they can to get attention or for retribution.

Bringing the subject back to photography, I can't help wondering how many minds might be influenced by publishing photos of the scenes that the first-responders found at the school.


A few points -

First, if the amendment had said "since we're signing this on Thursday, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" would you still say it is unclear if citizens have the right to bear arms? While the stated reason for the right is a pain to plow through, the stated right is clear.

Second, it would be a nice change if the U.S. started amending the Constitution when needed rather than just violating it and trying to appoint judges to the Supreme Court that will go along with the violation. So, I like that you are looking at the real solution to the debate.

Third, if people can’t arm themselves then who is going to protect them? I know many police forces have things like “to protect and to serve” on the sides of their police cars, but it is well settled by the courts that the police have no obligation to protect you unless you are in police custody. That is why the police are not sued every time someone is a victim of crime. As free individuals we are responsible for protecting ourselves. As noted to the point of irritation, if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. The police are only charged with investigating crimes and arresting those that investigation deems to be bad guys or arresting those they observe committing a crime. Without the right to protect ourselves the system as a whole would work just fine if the police are good at arresting the bad guys before they do bad again. But, unlike most countries, we have an individual right to life. Without the right to bear arms the responsibility and the means of preserving an individual’s life is eliminated from the system since the system would then give no one the power or responsibility to protect the individual’s life.

Actually Mike, we don't need to specifically repeal the Second Amendment, the new Amendment would supersede the previous. We did it once before with prohibition, the 18th was repealed and superseded by the 21st. We COULD fundamentally change the nation's gun laws, clarify and contextualize them for the 21st Century. We won't. But we could.


I don't know the source of your assault rifle assertion, but the New York Times printed this retraction to one of their earlier reports:

Correction: December 15, 2012

An earlier version of this article suggested that the gunman in the Connecticut shooting used a rifle to carry out the shootings inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School. In fact, according to law enforcement, the guns used in the school shooting were both handguns.

ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/nyregion/shooting-reported-at-connecticut-elementary-school.html

The idea that background checks can keep the "criminally insane" from carrying out these types of massacres cannot be made to work in practice. Most of the people carrying out these killings were not criminals before the went on their deadly sprees. Nor were they in any way mentally deranged enough to come to public attention. To think that better oversight can identify these people in advance is woefully naive. I don't think it can be done.

Background checks are needed and should be used aggressively. But they are not, and cannot be made to be, totally sufficient to the task, no matter how thorough.

Guns are the great equalizer. They let older, smaller, less athletic, less able-bodied people stand a chance when young, fit, energetic, predators try to prey on them.

Citizens use guns hundreds of thousands of times (or millions; it's hard to define and hard to measure, but numbers I've seen from research papers range from maybe 250,000 to 7.5 million) each year to defend themselves from crimes.

There are, I think, three main problems leading to this sort of rapid mass murder scenario.

First, people are being pushed to the wall by social expectations of conformity and roll fulfillment, competition, and such, way too often.

Second, the culture of celebrity tells people that being "famous" is the greatest thing that can happen to a person. People who have seen every aspect of their life can still view themselves as a success if they become famous.

Third, mainstream culture fetishizes the gun as a magical implement that bends people to your will, protects you, and so forth, while keeping people terrifically ignorant about actual guns. This is NOT an attitude you find among actual "gun nuts"!

Er, sorry; FOURTH, getting assistance with mental health issues is stigmatized, and is not well supported in the health care system (which in turn doesn't cover nearly enough people well enough in the first place).

Occasionally, these things come together with appallingly tragic results.

And, immediately, people start demanding that we take action against...none of the above. Instead, they want to deny basic civil rights to everybody in society.

From where I sit, the words "right of the people" and "shall not be infringed" says it all.

That said, we do need a way to keep guns away from those who should not have them.

The reason for the 2nd Amendment was not, in part, because the founders feared a takeover of the government, as seems to be widely believed. It was because many of the founders did not believe in a standing army. Hence, the "security of a free state" verbiage. If you don't have a standing army, you need an armed populace to defend the nation. Switzerland has this arrangement today and has higher gun ownership than the U.S. The difference is, training and membership in the militia is mandatory.

Amending the Constitution to control guns is extremely unlikely -- I think there were 24 "red" (Romney) states in this last election, and I doubt that any of them would approve; and I think several states that voted for Obama would also resist. Since you'd need 3/4ths of the states to approve an amendment, that seems unlikely.

But there's more than one way to skin a cat. You can't infringe on the rights of people to bear *some* arms, but you can ban them from bearing some other arms, and in fact, we already do. Except in extremely rare cases, we don't allow private citizens to own machine guns, for example, or sawed-off shotguns, or bombs. If you wrote a law that explicitly allowed people to own weapons that would be useful for hunting and other sports (defined as, say, single-shot, double-barrelled, and three-shot bolt action, or three-shot pump rifles and shotguns) but barred all other guns, I think the Supreme Court would approve - this would just be "well-regulating" the militia.

What's to keep that from happening? Well, it's the power of the NRA and other pro-gun lobbyist organizations, largely bacxked by the gun manufacturers. How do we get around those? By going at the issue sideways. Tax exempt organizations are not supposed to engage in partisan politics, but that restriction is usually ignored, because, of course, they're providing money and support to our politicians. But if somebody with some guts, like a President (and unfortunately, all the evidence would suggest that we don't have a President with guts) should instruct the IRS to strictly enforce that law, then the NRA (and other organizations) would be stripped of their tax-exempt status, and would lose much of their campaign-funding power.

At that point, well-regulating" the militia, by, say, outlawing handguns, would become much more feasible.

Just sayin.'

Years back in Scotland a similar thing happened. People were so shocked and sickened over 100,000 hand guns were voluntarily handed in to police for destruction. In America the gun lobby says the answer is to arm even more people. It appears to the rest of the world that many Americans are addicted to their guns and as addicts can not see how twisted their logic is. Hiding behind the 2nd Amendment is just a crutch. It's meaning has been so twisted by the NRA it's a crime in itself. The NRA's propaganda is well funded and very effective it appears.

I believe there is something in the American constitution about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Drug cartels should invest in the same propaganda to lobby American policy makers and the public at large. It's a persons constitutional right to be able to buy and use heroin. It's part of their pursuit of happiness. Ridiculous I know. But not much different than what the NRA has been successful at doing.

Years ago I was a member of the NRA. A life time Master class marksman. I was on the Canadian National Rifle Team for many years. To say guns were a big part of my life for many years would not be an understatement. However growing up in Canada I had a totally different attitude towards them. To me they were recreational firearms. Not weapons. Sure I hunted but the killing turned me off so I gave it up. I do not look down on those that enjoy hunting, it's just not for me. I do however have a problem with the types that think they are some sort of para-military trooper out on a search and destroy mission. There is something very twisted going on there.

In my opinion assault rifles have no place outside the military. Period. With the exception of assault rifles, America needs an attitude adjustment more than they need more gun laws. In Britain and Canada we get along just fine without the firepower many Americans feel is the bare minimum. Our societies are also much more peaceful. It's our attitude towards our fellow man that is different not our lack of guns.

I have many American friends and I know not all Americans are gun nuts, however this tornado of violence and hyper aggressive reaction to any provocation has to stop before any real change will take place. When I say "gun nut" I don't mean the person who like me has (had) 16 rifles and several handguns for target shooting and hunting but the testosterone junkie cavemen that feel more manly when they are brandishing rifles or packing a Glock on their hip.

One more thing. Your idea makes sense, so the extremists on both sides of the issue will make sure it never happens...


I've seen on Twitter a comment that makes sense,at least for people outside US:

Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) tweeted at 1:24 AM on Sat, Dec 15, 2012:
Can anyone explain to me how one attempted shoe bomber equals removing our shoes at airports, but regular massacres don't equal gun control?

This will be something of a repeat of Rowan's comment - from outside of the U.S., your gun "control" laws are insane. As the Washington Post reported, the vast - and I mean VAST - majority of the guns used in this sort of crime were legally obtained. Meaning that anyone - loony, terrorist, just plain cranky - can get hold of enough fire power, legally, to kill dozens of people. Just because they're having a bad day.

I used to care about this sort of tragedy when it happened in America. Now? Really? In America? If someone insists on shooting themselves in the foot (or, in this case, probably better, heart) over and over and over again....well. It's pretty tough to maintain the outrage and surprise.

The following link is to a paper about the language in the second amendment by a former editor that is considered an expert in the use of the English language. His qualifications are listed in the paper.


Another point is the 10 year long Assault Rifle Ban did not eliminate the sale of the rifle used in the massacre. The ban limited the number of features the rifle could have such as flash suppressors or bayonet mounts. The law that was passed was a compromise that made it look like the politicians were doing something but the rifles were no less deadly.

Actual automatic weapons have been banned in the USA since sometime back in the 1930s. Someone can obtain the right to posses a automatic weapon from the ATF but it is difficult to obtain and takes three to six months to process the license and carries a very hefty transfer tax.

In Australia we made a large legislative dent in gun ownership by specific legislation after the Port Arthur, Tasmania massacre. There are still killings but nothing on the scale or the awful nature of those in the US these last years.

I'm in tears when I hear of these poor bloody children losing their lives, and find it hard to understand that a civilised country could allow the setting that contributes to such atrocities. Thanks, Mike for being a human when I needed some comfort.

The Washington Post has an objective well researched piece on facts about guns and mass shootings in US, worth a close read:


To qualify myself here: I don't presume to have any big answers regarding the best way to prevent these heinous occurrences and I am personally not a gun owner.

I do often wonder - It seems that many of those ardent supporters of the 2nd Amendment, and who own guns for "personal protection" make the argument that they have the right, in this free society, to defend themselves, their families and their property, usually by means of a handgun, rifle, or even assault rifle, or in some cases many multiples of these weapons, against...presumably criminals who also have guns. We know the criminals are certainly out there.

That if the right to keep and bear arms were repealed, so to speak, then the criminal element, the mentally unstable and others who live and operate outside of the law would continue unabated to illicitly obtain and use these weapons against a defenseless population.

My question is: Compared to the number of innocent people killed in just the last few years in these senseless school, theater and otherwise 'public' shootings, in part because our laws (or lack thereof) allow such easy access to these weapons, how many 'criminals with guns' have been killed in defensive actions by ordinary, armed individuals protecting themselves?

What would you suppose is the actual number of ordinary citizens last year, but for the grace of God and owning a gun, whose lives were saved because of the 2nd Amendment? In fact, while we're at it, how many armed robberies of liquor stores, convenience stores and otherwise, have been foiled and an innocent life saved just because there was a gun at hand for defense? I'm sure there must be at least a few. I wonder how that number compares to the number of Kindergartners slaughtered just this last week?

If we, as a society of generally good and law abiding citizens were somehow suddenly denied our rights to "keep and bear arms", would that mean that each of us, as individual citizens would suddenly be at so much higher risk of being victimized or killed by the gun bearing criminal element than we are now?

Me? I live right in the heart of a big city and on top of that, I constantly travel the highways and byways of this country in my work. I don't own a gun and I don't feel the need to have one to "protect myself". I do know to use some common sense and pay attention to my surroundings. I'm not so naive as to believe I could never be the victim of some random violence, but I think the odds are generally in my favor. I also know that the Police DO have guns, if necessary. I'm pretty sure that when I eventually go, it won't be because I didn't happen to have an assault rifle at hand to save myself.

Considering the number of guns here in the US probably exceeds the number of people, and many of those people will indeed ascribe to Charlton Heston's "cold dead hands" declaration, gun control is moot.
It is not just us. I recently stayed in a hotel in Beirut near the fiercest fighting during their civil war in a beautifully restored hotel with bullet marks in the walls, left to ensure everyone remembers what happened. I was told by a local that everyone still had their weapons - mostly AK-47s - stashed in the closet, just in case. Try to take guns from Americans and you get the same result.
No, I'm afraid we need to forget gun control, but it's certainly time to focus on identifying these disturbed people who do such things. Most have already been on treatments, so someone - hopefully from their family or the medical profession - needs to ensure they get treated properly before they cause mayhem.

I appreciate your libertarian and civilised approach to the issue. In my opinion, personal freedom is the cornerstone of a society worth living in. However, if you look around, and notice how easily people's hatred can get inflamed, on religious, racial, ethnic, sexual, or whatever other grounds ( I dislike men wearing sandals...), the conclusion must be, that firearms access should be severely restricted, on the globe currently populated with 7 billion humans. United States has been reticent on this count far too long. Period.

Gee! I read TOP pretty regularly because I'm interested in photography. For general news/ politics/constitutional law, I find other sources, and I wish TOP would stick w/ photography so I can continue to hide my head in the sand here when I feel like it!

[As I explain regularly, the off-topic editorials are labeled "Open Mike" so people who wish to avoid them can do so. You're not under any obligation to read any particular post. I suggest you simply choose to not read any "Open Mike" post from now on. --Mike]

I think it's a neat idea.

...But that everyone might be okay with the results of a straightforward election in America, and agree to accept and live in accordance with how the majority of people feel? NOW you're dreaming.

Still a neat idea, though.

I've never understood why all these people want to have so many guns. What is the purpose? What do they expect to be doing with them? It seems absurd that there are all these references to militias. Isn't that stuff from hundreds of years ago? The real reason seems obscured to me.

The Australian Prime Minister negotiated a buy back and subsequent abolition from private hands of all semi-automatic and automatic weapons following the 1996 massacre of 35 people in Tasmania. That has been effective, and might be more so in the US. In the previous ten years there had been at least two multiple shootings in Victoria alone with more than 5 dead, and in the subsequent 16 years there has been none. There is no reason for the existence of automatic weapons other than to kill many people very quickly. The mentally ill shooters of America and elsewhere seem to know this. Those who say that guns don't kill, people do, are apparently not mentally ill, but don't seem to know this.

BTW, Steve Boothe's reading of the constitution is perfectly correct, except it illustrates one of it's flaws. The constitution has moral generalities that deal with things like free speech, and voting rights, and no sanctioned national religion, and then specifics, like the right to bear arms, that was specific to the needs of its time. The founding fathers never imagined a time where the disgruntled could openly buy a weapon and kill innocent people at will. They also didn't imagine a time where people had professional police forces in each community that could get to your house in three minutes. In fact are whole system of amendments was part of the original creation so that he constitution could be a living and breathing document that changed with the times. It's amazing to me that at one time, we actually couldn't get a drink, but it was OK to buy guns.

I'm glad that T. Bannor brought up the example of Switzerland as it was the Swiss system that inspired the 2nd Amendment. It's also where I happen to live. Yes, every Swiss male between, I think, the ages of 17 and 40 must attend military training and keeps an assault rifle at home.

The difference between this and the US system is not only mandatory annual training, however. Up until 2007, a limited amount of ammunition in sealed boxes was given out with each weapon and the seals were inspected regularly to ensure they were not broken. Since 2007, no ammunition is allowed to be kept at home.

Quite honestly, what works for a country with a population of around 12 million with no standing army cannot really be justified in a land of many times that number of people and a level of military spending that is more than the rest of the top five spenders put together.

Somebody else made the point that perhaps the teachers themselves should have been armed. Just what sort of a sick society is it that would require primary school teachers to keep a loaded weapon with them as they go about the important business of educating youngsters?

I am not an American, but do spend a fair bit of time there. I have no personal interest in your debate on your "rights", I do have one startling statistic that seems to slip by most people when thinking rationally about this though.

Latest figures show close to 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11, close to 9,000 were killed by guns in the USA in 2011. That is three times the number! Just a thought.

Guns won't be banned or even restricted in the US; we're too addicted to gun ownership and steeped in our culture of violence. All talk of guns and restrictions on guns takes on a different meaning when a child or sister or brother or parent is killed by someone else using a gun. At that point the placement of a comma in a sentence doesn't matter anymore. Consider that in the time it took me to write this brief comment, another person was killed in the US by another person using a gun.

While you can debate about the meanings of the words in the middle of the Second, I think we've focused far too much on the last four words -- "shall not be infringed" -- and unfortunately almost not at all on a few of the first -- "well regulated." That's in there too, and experience clearly shows us it's not being implemented. The NRA and gun enthusiasts need to prove that they support the whole amendment.

US, Scotland,Norway,Russia and many more countries with incidents of mindless shooting.
Whatever the politics, perhaps if there had been one gun less maybe the children and their teachers would still be alive.

The idea that an armed citizenry can rise up against the government with their rifles and pistols is such an outdated and foolish concept in today's world, no less so than the idea that gun ownership is needed to provide food for the table. The right to bear arms should be abolished. In a progressive, modern and rational world, a child's right to be safe from guns in school should far outweigh the right to bear arms. We should not phrase the debate as control meaning government control of our rights. We should instead phrase the issue as self control, and we should concentrate our efforts to promote non-violence.

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