Streetwise Professor

October 6, 2017

Las Vegas, the Liberty-Gun Nexus, and Gun Control

Filed under: Guns,Politics — The Professor @ 11:21 pm

The horrific massacre in Las Vegas has, predictably, led to calls for greater gun control. Or “common sense gun control” as the no-doubt-focus-group-tested Democratic/liberal mantra puts it.

But here’s the thing. Gun control measures (even up to attempted confiscation) will have the least impact on mass shootings a la Las Vegas or Virginia Tech or Aurora or Sandy Hook. Restrictions on guns (like restrictions on drugs, or alcohol) don’t make these things disappear: they raise the cost of acquiring them. The higher cost indeed induces some people not to buy them: but these people are the marginal demanders, those who get relatively low value from them. In contrast, someone like Stephen Craig Paddock is way inside the margin. The likes of him are about as infra-marginal as you get.

Paddock acquired a large number of weapons and a large amount of ammunition. He rented an expensive condominium as his sniper’s nest. He made elaborate plans. He clearly spent lots of time, effort, and money to carry out his twisted plans. Raising the cost or difficulty of obtaining firearms substantially –and far more than the “common sense gun control measures” would– would not have deterred him from his evil plot. He obviously had a high willingness to pay, and an ability to pay.

But there is a perceived need to do something, and hence much time and breath is wasted obsessing on what are in reality trivial details. In the Las Vegas shooting, the focus is on “bump stocks” which allow a shooter to increase the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon to near automatic weapon levels: Paddock had such stocks on several of his weapons.

Well, particularly for the kind of shooting that Paddock was doing, it is doubtful that the bump stock (or even a fully automatic weapon) increased his lethality, and quite possibly reduced it. Automatic fire from a non-crew served weapon is notoriously inaccurate: it isn’t referred to as spray and pray for nothing. Although the first models of the M-16 had a fully automatic selection, later models eliminated it. This was in large part due to the fact that the military learned that aimed single-shot fire is more accurate and more deadly than rocking and rolling on full auto.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, it is easy to distinguish fire from American troops from that of jihadis: the Americans fire single rounds, the jihadis blaze away on automatic. Those fighting Americans often find this disconcerting, in part because it communicates discipline and control and training. This can be unnerving. In contrast, firing on automatic often mainly provides a psychological boost to a shaky amateur, or serves to keep an enemy’s head down while other elements of a fire team maneuver to close with the enemy.

Automatic fire–and bump stock quasi-automatic fire–also increases the risks of jamming. Apparently several of Paddock’s weapons were found jammed.

So ban bump stocks, but realize that it is a ritualistic act not one that will make would-be mass shooters less lethal.

Other proposals are even more asinine. Hillary–you’re shocked, I’m sure–was first to the post in asininity, tweeting that just think how much worse things would have been if Paddock’s weapons been equipped with “silencers” (currently heavily regulated, but which some Republicans have proposed making easier to obtain). After all, if his guns been “silenced,” the no one would have heard the shooting and Paddock would have had more stationary targets!

Nice of Hillary to attempt to score political points against Republicans while the bodies were still warm.

Where to begin? This is stupid beyond words. Many have pointed out that even a suppressor (a more accurate term than “silencer”) merely reduces the noise caused by the explosive release of gases from the muzzle of a weapon when it is fired. But that’s not even the most ludicrous thing. A high powered rifle firing a standard cartridge shoots bullets traveling faster than the speed of sound. So the bullet creates a sonic boom–heard as a cracking sound: a suppressor does nothing to reduce the intensity of this sound. A suppressed gun still makes a big noise. Further, downrange, the bullet is still moving through the air, and creates a ripping sound as it passes. Which means that if you are downrange you will hear the bullet passing by before you hear the report of the weapon.

Suppressors can reduce the sound of pistols noticeably–because they fire subsonic rounds. But you ain’t going to shoot people 1000+ feet away with a pistol.  Similarly, if you fire special subsonic ammunition from a suppressed rifle, the report can be substantially reduced. But again, because of the lower power of these rounds, you won’t hit anything beyond 70 yards or so (i.e., smoothbore musket range). (US special operators have sought subsonic rounds for use on raids to enhance stealth, but they would be using this ammunition at close quarters.)

Here are a few videos that illustrate these points. Note to Hillary: 30 seconds on YouTube are all that you’d need to find this information, and loads more. But why let facts get in the way of a good narrative to score some political points, right?

So every one of Paddock’s weapons could have had a suppressor, and it wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference. (I’d also note that because he was firing in an urban environment with lots of hard surfaces at various angles, the sound would have bounced around so much that pinpointing his location based on sound would have been nearly impossible.)

This all means that the “common sense” gun control proposals are totally senseless, if the goal is to reduce, let alone eliminate, mass shootings, or to reduce the lethality of people like Stephen Paddock.

Thus, more draconian measures–likely including mass confiscation–would be required. And this is something that a large majority of Americans have made it clear that they will not condone. In essence, for most Americans, periodic mass shooting is something that they are willing to accept in order to retain their ready access to guns of pretty much all types.

This the American left, and most of the rest of the world, finds utterly inexplicable, and downright horrifying. The defiant embrace of firearms by a large portion of the American populace, and the tolerance of this embrace by another large portion, is shocking to them.

The embrace, and the understanding even by many of those who do not embrace, reflects the strong connection in the American mind between ownership of guns and individual liberty. In Europe, long before the US was formed, bearing arms was emblematic of autonomy and status. That connection was even more pronounced in America. Free men can bear arms: slaves, serfs, and the otherwise subservient cannot.

An expression, of which there are several variants, expresses this: “God made men, Samuel Colt made them equal.” (The Colt website, perhaps respecting religious sensitivities, has it “Abraham Lincoln freed all men, but Samuel Colt made them equal.”) When armed, in other words, I am equal before all men. Since, as de Tocqueville noted, liberty and equality are paramount to Americans to a degree unparalleled in the rest of the world, restrictions on firearms are deemed a dangerous encroachment on fundamental freedom. It’s not just about guns qua guns. It’s about what guns mean for freedom.

In the American mind, the right to bear arms is fundamental precisely because it is viewed as the thing that makes Americans a uniquely free people: the very horror with which other nationalities view American gun culture in fact reinforces the American attachment. This demonstrates the uniquely robust nature of American freedoms, as opposed to those enjoyed by the citizens of other nations. Similarly, the fact that gun sales actually tend to increase in the aftermath of mass shootings is likely due to a belief that it is at precisely these times that this symbolically potent liberty will be restrained.

Law abiding gun owners are also deeply incensed, and take it quite personally, when their responsible possession of guns is threatened as a means of reducing murder or suicide or even mass shootings because this lumps them with street thugs, drug dealers, the emotionally troubled, and the psychopathic.

Thus, the left is actually acting against its own policy preferences when it ratchets up the rhetoric in the aftermath of a Las Vegas or a Sandy Hook. That rhetoric triggers (yes, pun intended) a passionate reaction against additional controls on guns because many perceive this to be a blow against personal freedom generally, and an attack on their characters.

It is fascinating to note that American support for gun control–any gun control, including measures far less draconian than in place in most of the rest of the world–has decreased in recent decades. I don’t think this is accidental. This has also been a period of increased government power, and increasing encroachments of the state on individual liberty. My argument about the liberty-gun connection predicts exactly such a relationship. Similarly, in the United States, those who are most supportive of an expansive government are most supportive of gun control: those most hostile to or suspicious of the government are most opposed.

To which a good German (or a good liberal) is likely to reply: but look at the carnage that such a sentimental attachment to liberty–and guns-causes! Well, when I look at the carnage that good German subservience to the state causes (world wars, mass murder), I know which is the much lesser of two evils.

By its nature, America always attracted the most independent, most rebellious, and most recalcitrant of the people of Europe. They were attracted by the greater personal liberty, and this in turn generated a kind of turbulence that was and is the source of great creativity and energy, but which had as one of its downsides a greater propensity for personal violence. Life is about trade-offs, and this is a fundamental trade off that has characterized America since even before its founding as a nation.

Thus, to many Americans, guns and liberty are a package deal: you can have both, or you can have neither. Yes, like all things, guns have their cost. But despite this cost, to many the package of both is still vastly preferable, given the value of liberty.

You may find this incomprehensible. You may find this stupid. You may even find this evil. I don’t, but I understand there are those who do. But I believe it is a reality, and in a democracy, you have to deal with the people as they are. And a lot of people–perhaps not a majority, but a strong minority at least–believe in the package deal. Those who do, believe in it passionately, intensely. So if progressives want to change fundamentally the laws on guns, they have to change fundamentally the people–or act in highly undemocratic ways.

The left is of course totally cool with trying to change the people: it is one of their abiding passions. They are also not averse to undemocratic means to achieve their objectives–that was understatement there, folks. But ironically, the harder they push, the greater the pushback. The Trump presidency is probably the most notable result of that pushback.

This is why even horrors like Las Vegas do not lead to major shifts in public opinion, and if anything, lead to a hardening of that opinion. In the United States, for deep historical and cultural reasons, there is a strong nexus between personal liberty and firearms. A threat to the latter is deemed a threat to the former. And since personal liberty is so fundamental to many Americans, a threat to the former is an existential one, or close to it. This is not conducive to compromise: to the contrary.  So the not-so-passionate-about-liberty left will push, and the passionate-about-liberty non-left will push back, leaving us in exactly the same place, but only more hostile and bitter in our division.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. I object to “his sniper’s nest”. He was the opposite of a sniper. Lee Harvey Oswald was a sniper. This galoot just sprayed a crowd with his machine guns.

    “They were attracted by the greater personal liberty”: not the members of my family who left a record of their motives. They were going for cheap land and less competition.

    Comment by dearieme — October 7, 2017 @ 4:34 am

  2. The rapid rate of un-aimed fire did save lives-no question not that rational arguments will hold any sway with Progressive anti gun nuts (nuts implying distant from reality). Let’s just say 60MM households in the US own guns and no matter how many mass shootings you reasonably estimate per year it is a vanishingly small percentage of mass shooters to gun owners. The US is about 95th in the world in murder rate but the majority of the immigrant population is the US comes from countries with MUCH higher murder rates.

    Subsonic rounds include .45 acp and .300 Blackout and the whisper series-none suitable for long distance shooting.

    Gun ownership does display a geographical bias and is an issue that could be the straw for serious discussion of a state seceding from the US.

    With a US population of more than 300MM unfortunately there will be sick individuals intent on mayhem-fact of life. Mass shootings although a very small cause of death in the US makes for good video and good opportunity for politicians to preen and pose. The human brain has not adjusted to bad news from global sources streaming into their consciousnesses 24 hours/day seven days/week. The catastrophe of the week is now available in 4K live with short commercial breaks so statistics and probabilities and rational arguments can be opposed by manipulating the emotions that all of us feel when something like this happens. Progressives lead the way with manipulating emotions associated with a tragedy to their own ends.

    Comment by pahoben — October 7, 2017 @ 5:40 am

  3. In my experience Saving Private Ryan comes the closest of any war movie to getting the sound right of incoming small arms fire. Many movies take considerable theatrical license with the sound.

    Comment by pahoben — October 7, 2017 @ 6:01 am

  4. I find the verbiage spewed forth over the Second Amendment to be so much twaddle.
    The language is about as plain as can be: “A well regulated Militia …”
    Don’t Americans understand what a militia looks like? Check out the Swiss who have been doing militias since fighting their way to freedom from Austrian rule. Or the Israelis with their annual stint in the reserves.
    Well regulated means military discipline so that drunks, crazies or the merely enraged don’t start shooting up their fellow citizens. And it also means close scrutiny of the arms-bearing for personality problems and disorders. Don’t fancy the scrutiny, you won’t be let anywhere near a gun. In Switzerland. Nor in Israel.

    And as for American individualism … hahaha. There is no ‘I’ in team, right? And who idolizes teamwork more than the American military, American corporations, American sports. Gimme a break. Americans talk individualism but it is so much hokum, smokum. What they truly worship is immersion in the team.

    Comment by Simple Simon — October 7, 2017 @ 7:45 am

  5. Yes, the language IS as plain as can be: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”

    Comment by Andrew Stanton — October 7, 2017 @ 7:55 am

  6. @Simple Simon. Your opinion is obsolete. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this one and the matter is closed. This discussion gets tiresome,

    Also, even when the 2ns Amendment was still fresh in everyone’s minds 200 years ago, people did not limit guns to militias only. Surely they had a more vivid understanding of what was intended in actual practice. As such, we have never practiced your interpretation EVER. Suddenly, clever people like you finally noticed that we have misunderstood the amendment all these years. It’s this strange level of ignorance and hubris that puzzles the average American.

    SWP, this was an excellent summary of the choices and consequences Americans have made for ourselves. Making tthese decisions are hard, but we still know that the alternatives are worse.

    Comment by Howard Roark — October 7, 2017 @ 9:47 am

  7. I take it that “militia” meant every white male old enough to bear arms. Beware Injuns!!

    Presumably the right of women to bear arms has somehow snuck through under the radar.
    Or would they have been classed as “militia” too?

    Comment by dearieme — October 7, 2017 @ 3:09 pm

  8. Yes the the Iriquois in particular should have been beware not to be seduced by British trifles and to take up arms against the American Continental Army and in so doing aligning with the losing side of history. A tragic mistake.

    Comment by pahoben — October 8, 2017 @ 2:57 am

  9. the other night, late at night, I heard a knock on the back door of my apartment. To get to that door, you have to go through a security door, and up three flights of stairs. I looked in the alley, and there were policemen with flashlights walking around. How did I know who was at my back door? Was it a policeman checking on me? Was it a bad guy, looking for a way to escape?

    It’s literally the first time I wished that I had a handgun. I have shotguns which work. Except in the tight confines of an apartment, a handgun would be much better. A .38 semi-auto would do the trick. Even with the police in my back alley, do I want to take the risk of having a bad guy on the other side of that door? What if he were able to bust the door down? By the time they got up the stairs, it could be ugly.

    It turns out someone in our building left the back door open. There had been a break-in at the school across the way. It was a policeman knocking at my door. The police officer never said anything, just knocked. Scared the bejeezus out of me.

    Comment by pointsnfigures — October 8, 2017 @ 6:16 am

  10. If he’d shouted “police” would you have been persuaded? Shouldn’t you have a Judas on your back door? Or a CCTV camera?

    Is it legal to saw off one of your shotguns?

    Comment by dearieme — October 8, 2017 @ 9:09 am

  11. In my experience Saving Private Ryan comes the closest of any war movie to getting the sound right of incoming small arms fire.

    An effect utterly ruined by the behaviour of a Captain and senior NCO operating behind enemy lines!

    Comment by Tim Newman — October 9, 2017 @ 2:46 am

  12. Kevin Williamson makes a similar argument at NR:

    Comment by LL — October 9, 2017 @ 4:59 am

  13. @ Tim Newman
    Not sure why you object-both died in combat and accomplished the mission so honorable behavior. It was just one big battle scene with a fictional plot based loosely on historical events. I know their landing craft were not factually depicted-is that the problem?

    Comment by pahoben — October 9, 2017 @ 7:24 am

  14. SWP as usual gets it mostly right. I have only a few small quibbles.

    1) For the bizillionth time – we are not a Democracy! Even in brain-dead CA which has initiative and referendum(proposition)(a close proxy to Democracy), those initiative or referendums must go before a judiciary panel and be found within the bounds of the state charter. Prop 13 is a perfect example. The people voted to restrict and reduce the property tax rates. The state fought back in the courts, it went all the way to the top(SCOTUS)and the proponents of 13 won. So, even in that most liberal of democracies, CA still uses a form of republicanism(nation of laws, laws mostly immutable, or very hard to change) much different than the mob-rule of democracy.

    2) I was in the armed forces long before the change over to single shot or 3 round burst. We had full auto rifles, and we would fire full auto a bit to practice. From my recollection, part of the change was related to accuracy, but also part of the change was to reduce the cost of bullets. Spraying and praying 30 rounds with one pull is of course three times what the 3 round represents. Such that a burst and a release and re-pull repeated 9 times to get the same effect. Yes, I know what Puff the magic Dragon is, and yes I’m aware that bullets only cost the feds a few cents each.

    3) Guns a liberty. For those who have read the federalist papers, or reviewed the way our founders thought, there over-riding goal was to prevent an imperial nation. They went to great pains with the BOR to present and facilitate the ultimate power being retained by the people. The granting of powers, is specific, and uniform, and finite. The prez has only such duties as are defined in the constitution, and when we swear our allegiance and defense, it is NOT to a person, but to the constitution. Even the prez oath says this in direct and clear terms. The 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th amendments were very powerful. The 4th has been completely gutted by Terry v OH, and other creeping intrusions. The 5th is also on its last legs, and the 6th is in jeopardy as well. Every chip from Terry forward has taken from the citizen, and given to the state. In 2014(don’t know the ruling), it was found that even when one is seized and searched by LEO and they are MISTAKEN in their seizure of a person, the fruit of that mistaken tree(shake-down, literally) is valid as evidence. The fact is, there is no privacy anymore. One, and only one amendment dealing with the rights of the citizens has survived the intrusion of the feds. The 2nd amendment, owing to its text and context; “shall not be infringed” has stood between the liberty of the people, and the expansion of the state. Imagine from what we see eviscerated from the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendment being applied to the 2nd? It will happen. By some disingenuous method, the legislature and SCOTUS will come up with a tortured understanding of ‘shall not be infringed’ to begin infringing on the natural right. It will happen.

    4) I always hear from the liberals that ‘common sense’ gun control can be implemented without attacking the rights of the citizen. The most common or the common sense is to begin an evaluation of anyone wanting to purchase a gun for mental health defects. This is the slipperiest of slopes. Imagine a panel of ‘psychiatrists’ who have the power to declare someone sane, or insane, or sane enough, or not sane enough, or could be sane, or could become insane, or any variation on that theme. Now – imagine that these head-shrinkers are employed by a state or fed govt(who else?). How can an individual stand against a fed supported panel of experts on sanity? Remember the no-fly list? It was demanded that the individual could challenge inclusion on the list(set up by the feds, of course). What happened? Well, legislators chucked that right(confront one’s accusers) and in the round-file it went, the law was passed, the prez signed it, the SCOTUS blessed it, and now anyone on the no-fly list has no recourse. Would that happen with no-gun list? Of course it would!!!

    50 Finally down to cases. The liberals point to the sky high gun crime rate as reasoning for their knee-jerk rant on gun control. But – they don’t really want gun control on everyone, they want YOUR gun! If there was an actual movement on controlling guns, we would have hundreds of armed officers going through the streets of Chicago 24/7/365 confiscating guns. Why? Because that’s where the violence is! Minority on minority shootings make up a massive, huge, and statistically ginormous % of the gun violence. So – get to work. All you feds with all your weapons and body armor(Why does the Vet Affairs dept need body armor and riot gear??), head for Chicago, and make a dent in the violent crime. Out here in the safety of TX hill country, we’re doing just fine.

    Comment by doc — October 9, 2017 @ 3:09 pm

  15. The right to bear arms means a lot less for liberty if there are a million equipped drones flying the skies and remote tanks patrolling the streets. No equality then, sorry Sam Colt, no matter how many pistols and rifles you may own. anachronistic.

    Comment by job — October 9, 2017 @ 5:53 pm

  16. @Tim Newman
    Omaha had the worst casualties but the landing on Utah Beach was unusual as is well known their landing was off course about a mile but also the landing was led by Teddy Roosevelt Jr who adjusted immediately. Teddy was the only General to land on D Day. Teddy was also the oldest person to land on D day and was the only person to have a son in the landing force. His son was in the first wave on Omaha and survived. A few days after landing Teddy died of a heart attack. Reportedly Teddy Jr was as unafraid of incoming small arms fire as any man that ever lived.

    Just sounds like a wet dream for hackers. At the end the Colt rule still applies.

    Good depressing post and glad to hear all is still well.

    Comment by pahoben — October 10, 2017 @ 6:14 am

  17. The whole controversy about the 2nd Amendment can be clarified by asking where the government itself gets its right to bear arms.

    The American answer is incontrovertible: from the people. By way of the Constitution.

    Nowhere in the Constitution do the people give up their right to bear arms (embedded in the primal right of self-defense).

    The “well-trained militia” is not the source of the right to bear arms, it is the result of the right to bear arms.

    “Simple Simon” makes an utterly irrelevant argument about the 2nd. He’s also wrong about American individualism. The US is the first and only society founded on the notion of individual rights over against the dictates of the collective.

    Doc’s list of the subversions of the Constitution are attacks by collectivists against individualism. Individual rights are the death-knell of collectivist social order. They know that. The struggle between collectivism (imposed morality) and individualism (freedom of conscience) is to the death.

    Comment by Pat Frank — October 10, 2017 @ 11:29 am

  18. @Pat-The Constitution, and even more explicitly the Declaration before it, were avowedly part a natural rights tradition in which rights preceded the formation of any government, and existed independently thereof. The purpose of government was to defend and preserve pre-existing rights, not create new ones. The root of the 2d Amendment was the right to life, which implied a right to self-defense, which implied a right to the means to defend oneself. It’s really pretty straightforward.

    Even the French Revolution, which differed from the American in so many ways, was based on the concept that there were Rights of Man that were not granted by government. Indeed, the revolution was rationalized as a way of protecting those rights from a predatory government.

    These natural rights theories contrasted with the feudal practice of a lord or prince granting rights to a group of subjects, such as a town, usually in exchange for agreeing to pay a tax. Even the Magna Carta, the wellhead of English rights, was in reality a bargain between contending feudal forces.

    In the US, the Anti-Federalists were deeply suspicious of a powerful government precisely because they feared it would strip them of their natural rights. Again–they believed the rights already existed and wanted to secure them from government encroachment. They insisted on the Bill of Rights as a way of protecting these rights.

    The position of those opposed to the Bill of Rights was also grounded in a belief in natural rights. In the Federalist view, the Constitution granted no power to the government to encroach on rights, so there was no need to enumerate them. They argued that a BOR would put a ceiling on rights, rather than a floor.

    Thus, there was no disagreement that rights existed independently of government and that government should be constrained so that it would not deprive anyone of these rights. The Anti-Federalists were more practical, and their cynicism and fear has been validated over the years, as Doc’s list indicates.

    The view that government is the source of rights is completely foreign–literally and figuratively–to the beliefs that underpin the Constitution and the Founding. The Founders would have found it inimical, and indeed evil.

    This is the intellectual/philosophical case for the 2d Amendment. I think that the American attachment to guns is much more visceral and less philosophical. The right to own guns not only relates to a natural right of self-defense, but is a highly emotive and symbolic affirmation of liberty and equality. Those without weapons are inevitably subordinate to those who have them. If all can be armed, all are equal, and none are subordinate to the state.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 10, 2017 @ 8:01 pm

  19. I should have added @Doc to the comment re natural rights. Apologies.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 10, 2017 @ 9:22 pm

  20. Teddy Jr. was not the only General to land with the first waves on D-Day. Norman Cota, the assistant commander of the 29th division was one of the major heroes on Omaha beach that day.

    Comment by Andrew Stanton — October 11, 2017 @ 7:14 am

  21. @Andrew, @pahoben, @Tim: “Gentlemen, we are being killed on the beaches. Let us go inland and be killed.”–Norman Cota.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 11, 2017 @ 8:07 am

  22. You are right and I thank you. Another Terry Allen officer and that fits with his opposition to landing during daylight.

    Comment by pahoben — October 11, 2017 @ 9:12 am

  23. @Pat: “The “well-trained militia” is not the source of the right to bear arms, it is the result of the right to bear arms.”

    I argue for an alternative read of the second amendment (which still upholds liberty and the same side of the debate) as follows:

    The state has a militia (ie. an army), people have rights.

    In particular, the first half of the amendment is an (perhaps reluctant) admission that a “free state” requires a “well regulated Militia”. Implicitly, the state can have its militia, but an amendment is needed to check the state (in the context of ‘checks and balances’).

    The second half of the amendment stipulates that the people shall provide that check, hence the imperative “the right of the people … shall not be infringed”.

    Comment by Jorge — October 11, 2017 @ 1:20 pm

  24. @Professor, interesting and incisive analysis. It does seem to me, though, that the Federalists and anti-Federalists were arguing a Scylla and Charybdis dichotomy. Government being what it is, erosion of rights would have likely occurred no matter whether a BOR was left out of or written into the Constitution.

    We are living with the ‘written into’ history, and so cannot really judge how a ‘left out’ history would have evolved.

    However, given the importance of the BOR over the two centuries of its existence, in blocking so many attempts at limiting the rights retained by the citizens, it seems to me the case has been made for the anti-Federalists. That is, had there been no BOR to explicate certain rights in writing, those rights would have been much more easily scrubbed.

    Even with the BOR, there is now a general inversion of the meaning of the Constitution, supposing it to enumerate the rights of the people as opposed to limiting the rights of government.

    Consider that even the Supreme Court now looks for a supposed “penumbra of rights” of citizens in the Constitution, when in fact we retain all rights implied by the primal rights of self-ownership, self-governance, self-expression, and self-defense.

    How many times have we heard some twit remark that there’s no right to blah-de-blah in the Constitution, when in fact nothing in the Constitution says blah-de-blah was ceded to the government.

    With respect to arms, even in the earliest days of the Republic, cannons were privately owned. Traders who outfitted their armed merchantmen owned the shipboard cannons. Cannons were the largest ordinance of the 18th century, and the Founders did nothing to restrict their possession to the government. This implies they recognized an unrestricted private ownership of weapons, though I’d agree that reason should set a voluntary limit.

    I’m not saying that it’s a good idea for people to have their own Stinger missiles or nuclear weapons. I’m only saying that the Constitution gives the government no power or right to restrict an armed citizenry.

    Comment by Pat Frank — October 11, 2017 @ 7:24 pm

  25. @Jorge, your argument is refuted by the notion of rights inherent in the person, as written in the Declaration of Independence (below) and as implied in the Constitution (i.e., We the People…).

    Both state and Federal government obtain their rights from the consent of the people. Neither state nor Federal government has any inherent rights.

    That being true, then the people retain their full primal right to bear arms, having not ceded any of that right to state or Federal governments. The militia is then the result of the rights of an armed citizenry, not the cause.

    States may organize that militia as they see fit, especially in light of the fact that the states are themselves democratic republics and thus the organization of the militia is subject to the vote.

    From the US DoI: “all men are created equal, … with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…) There doesn’t seem to be any ambiguity in meaning.

    Comment by Pat Frank — October 11, 2017 @ 7:35 pm

  26. But the DoI is a mendacious advertising flyer. How can any sane man think you can deduce anything worthwhile from it?

    “all men are created equal, … with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This was written by a slave-driver, for heaven’s sake, who promoted war and whose supporters pursued happiness by lynching loyalists.

    “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men”: an unabashed lie. History teaches nothing of the sort.

    Comment by dearieme — October 12, 2017 @ 6:13 am

  27. “If men were angels, there would be no need of government”

    Comment by elmer — October 12, 2017 @ 9:52 am

  28. @dearieme, ideas are judged by their content, not by reference to those who present them. So what if Jefferson owned slaves. His ideas as written in the DoI are exactly correct.

    The history of the US teaches exactly the lesson that governments are instituted to secure individual rights. Those governments that do not secure such rights are not instituted by a free citizenry. They are imposed by thugs.

    It matters not a whit that the US has been slow to fully honor the letter of the rights that govern its founding. Culture is an imperfect vehicle for principle. Evolution to a better cultural state takes time, thought, and the improvement of normative ethics.

    Comment by Pat Frank — October 13, 2017 @ 1:45 pm

  29. In the past German subservience to the state caused wars and mass murder, but Germany went through a profound psychological change – as profound as it would be for some Americans to stop treating guns with religious reverence – and since that change America has caused more wars and mass murder than Germany. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has been busy eroding American freedom with regulations and technology, and gun-obsessed Americans who value liberty as a slogan but aren’t sharp enough to understand that the threats which liberty faces in the 21st century have precious little to do with government use of military grade weaponry haven’t done anything material to stop it.

    By the way, I am not one of your stereotypes. I am an English conservative who used to admire America, but no longer does so, mainly because of the moral deformity of the so-called liberals, but also because of the almost equally absurd follies of the conservatives. (I don’t like England any more either. Nor do I like Germany. The whole of Western civilisation is failing.)

    Comment by Philip Arlington — October 26, 2017 @ 12:21 pm

  30. “The right to bear arms means a lot less for liberty if there are a million equipped drones flying the skies and remote tanks patrolling the streets. No equality then, sorry Sam Colt, no matter how many pistols and rifles you may own. anachronistic.”


    Drones hovering quietly around won’t attract much notice, but neither will they show up at your door and arrest you. A remote tank is noticeable and costly (both financially and politically). Similarly, extensive private ownership of firearms implies a much higher cost to the most common kind of tyranny (sending a low paid, minimally armed goon to your door to arrest you at midnight, sending you off to starve in a prison camp). In that way, tyranny was more affordable in Stalin’s Georgia. It would be very loud and expensive in Jimmy Carter’s Georgia.

    Comment by J.R. — October 31, 2017 @ 10:50 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress