February 5, 2009

Gun Control Debate Redux

The previous post regarding gun control stirred some interesting debate, and exposed some of the passions and fallacies from both sides of the issue. What I would like to see as the product of this exercise is some expansion of understanding of the roots inherent to both sides. In an effort to justify the support of 2nd amendment guaranteed rights, someone took a real story and twisted it. The attempt was to create fear. Both sides of this debate are guilty of the same error.

This is about the 5th or 6th time I’ve seen this little internet ditty, and each time it gets enhanced a little more. The 2A choirboys pass it around and around amongst themselves, so in effect, all it achieves is to reinforce currently held beliefs. When I received this from my friend, I replied with a link to the Guardian story from which the internet version originated. Reading it provides a little different perspective.

For one thing, Mr. Martin was not in legal possession of the shotgun. Under the laws of the land, he was a criminal. We can argue the righteousness of the law, but regardless… it was the law.

Mr. Martin formerly had a permit for the weapon, but that was rescinded because he shot at a car he thought contained criminals. Again we can argue the righteousness of a law that would prohibit a man shooting at home invaders, so at this point I’m still not entirely on the cop’s side. I can’t imagine a reasonable scenario which might foment laws requiring shotgun registration and I can certainly imagine myself shooting at someone I had just chased out of my house after finding the door kicked in. So far we have good 2nd amendment fodder.

But there were other aspects of the case that make the internet myth a problem. Probably the most telling is that the crowbar threat was forensically debunked. Mr. Martin apparently lied to justify his actions as both burglars were determined to be in the process of exiting through a window when they were shot. Furthermore, as it turns out, Mr. Martin was a bit of a local kook and was well known to local police for a variety of offenses over an extended period of time.

In other words, Mr. Martin may fall into a realm where I feel reasonable restrictions are in order… or he may not. Since I do not know the full story I am not able to make a reasonable judgment. If Mr. Martin was somewhat on the unbalanced side, perhaps he is one with whom we should not entrust the right to possess firearms. This is not gun control; it is criminal control.

On the other hand, it is conceivable that Mr. Martin was justified in his anger. Perhaps he was driven to this point by an ineffective police force. Perhaps the local Bobbies had indeed failed in their obligation to protect and serve. Perhaps Mr. Martin had been violated one time more than his mind could stand, and he was simply taking responsibility for himself as any good citizen should have the right.

Perhaps. But none of this justifies the fear mongering which was the intent of the internet missive. Those who have tweaked that story did so in an effort to justify their wingnut ends. This is the problem. Let me repeat; THIS IS THE PROBLEM. If we are to win battles that would preserve our natural rights, we MUST do so righteously, without lies or fairytales. Anything less makes us no better than our oppressors.



Old NFO said...

"Since I do not know the full story I am not able to make a reasonable judgment."

This is the key MB- NONE of us knows the truth of the whole story. A big issue is, in reality, the fringe elements on both sides... Sen Levin from Wisc standing up in the Senate and say we need a gun ban because 600 rpm guns are now roaming the city streets is just as bad as the far right, who can only mumble cold dead hands.

I wonder why the 2nd Amendment seems to be the only amendment that is constantly under fire. Is it fear? Possibly, as the LWL want ALL control to be in government hands, not in the hands of the public and they see legally gun owning Americans as a threat to "their" way of thinking. Their reasoning is if only the police have guns, that is fine (I really have a hard time believing people can actually think that is possible). Secondly, it is the whole criminals vs. guns issue. Excuse me, but criminals DON'T obey the law, police don't enforce the laws that are there, and the courts let the criminals out because the get sued by the ACLU or don't have a place to put them. THAT is not a valid reason to restrict guns from ALL Americans, they need to enforce the laws on the books.

The whole blood in the streets argument and OMG the ban lapsed and there will be gunfights- Well, it didn't happen; crime actually went down. Per FBI statistics, I believe the incidence of so called assault weapons being used in crimes was less that .25% (don't have the exact figure). Also the EBR/Standard magazine bans, we already have a ban on automatic weapons. Just because a weapon resembles an actual assault weapon is not, in my opinion, a valid reason to ban it. I have EBRs that I shoot in competition, should I be denied that right? I have Glocks that I shoot in competition with standard capacity (17 rd) magazines, should I be denied that right? I have a shotgun with a pistol grip stock and 9 rd tube that I shoot in competion, should I be denied that right?

What about my right to protect myself and my family? Yes, those guns shift from competition to self defense if necessary, and I will use any of them to stop the threat to me or mine.

I have a carry permit, and do so on a daily basis, and have since they were brought back. I don't go in and wave my gun around, nor do any of the legally permitted people I know. I have never had to use that weapon to defend myself, and I pray that I never do. I am also much more polite, as I don't want to get in an escalating situation (nor does any of the folks I know that carry). We all know the police cannot respond in a timely fashion. To me a gun is like a fire extinguisher, I have it, but hope to never use it. But I believe that is my RIGHT under 2A, not something that some politician should be deciding based on how many votes he thinks it will get him.

Mule Breath said...

Highly eloquent, and perhaps the reason I so enjoy reading your rhetoric. However, I might disagree that the 2nd is the root of the majority of the constitutional angst. There have been far more attempts at infringement and a far greater number of Supreme Court cases on 1st amendment grounds.

We can agree, however, that the 2nd recognizes the right, even the obligation for citizens to maintain firearms. I would further posit that such a right was supported even before our constitution was amended. It was John Locke, who wrote in Two Treatises of Government, that "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions."

Then George Mason, in writing the Virginia Declaration of Rights, states That “all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety”

Finally, Thomas Jefferson, in a passage that all should recognize from our Declaration of Independence, writes “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Therefore, one would think that self defense would be requisite to ensure these unalienable rights.

Old NFO said...

MB, I did not realize there were more attempts to overturn the 1st amendment! My reading never indicated that. Back to the books for me...

Agree with all the quotes, as long as in someone elses pursuit of happyness they are not trying to deprive me or mine from ours through threat or intimidation.

Mule Breath said...

The more frequent assaults on the 1st are understandable if one considers the breadth of both the 1st and the 2nd. While the 2nd only ensures arms possession, the 1st must consider communications, free expression, privacy, religious practice, etc. Cases ranging from the famous (Roe v Wade) to the arcane (Saia v New York) have been tried on 1st amendment grounds.

Peter said...

Actually, I'd respectfully disagree with both of you, and suggest the most frequently assaulted item in the Bill of Rights is the Fourth Amendment restriction against unreasonable searches and seizures. :) I tend to think fewer people pay attention to that issue, though, because a lot fewer people are subject to police searches or arrests than are affected by gun registration or freedom of speech restrictions.

Rogue Medic said...


Maybe they will combine the two (4A and 2A) - and then forbid people from mentioning (1A) these searches and seizures, as a national security issue.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.

TOTWTYTR said...

As the lawyers say, "Bad cases make bad law", which is what seems to have happened in Tony Martin's case. It's also why it took so long to find the perfect litigant for Heller.

Mule Breath said...

Peter, I think FindLaw would disagree with you. Modern 4A cases (due mainly to electronic eavesdropping & 3rd party searches) are becoming more common, but historically the 1A cases have been in the majority.

TOTWTYTR, the Martin case is a bad one to use as poster child. We can agree that the laws were unwise (maybe even counterintuitive), but the records I've found indicate Martin himself was perhaps not a sane man. The problem I have with the original email is that it represents a "win at all cost" segment of the pro-gun ideology. The facts were bent to make the case sound far worse than it in fact was.

Granted we do not have sufficient information about the case to judge Martin’s sanity, but neither is there sufficient information to use the case to bolster the intrusive legislation argument. Before you start chasing that one, I will assert here that I agree legislation is becoming increasingly more intrusive. My argument is that we must find legitimate and defendable examples to bolster our case, or else we are no better than the anti-gunners. Fear mongering is fear mongering, regardless of which side employs it.

Mule Breath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

U.S. Supreme Court cases might not be the best indicator, since they only grant certiorari to the cases they want to hear. A survey of the federal appellate circuits, on the other hand, where appeal is nondiscretionary, might give a better picture of what kinds of cases are actually being litigated.

Rogue Medic said...

Hasn't eminent domain been decided to be an unlimited power of government with Kelo vs New London?

Susette Kelo Tells Her Story

Mule Breath said...

Because I have no life and therefore nothing better to do, I did a brief scouring of recorded U.S. Supreme Court cases. It now appears we may all be incorrect, as I've found far more 5A cases than 1, 2 or 4A. Most involve Eminent Domain.

Mule Breath said...

Peter, of course you're correct that a more accurate estimation could be made from appellate court cases. Like I indicated, my poll was informal. I was just surprised to see such a volume of 5A cases at that level. Almost double the number of 1A, which is double the number of 2A. There seems to be only a single 3A case ever heard at that level. It would be interesting to do a more in depth study of this.

RM, I would have to say maybe... but maybe not. The people have been stirred up like a nest of hornets due to some pretty damn blatant special interest eminent domain cases. Not the least of which was the new Dallas Cowboy stadium in Arlington, Texas. Two good papers on the Kello case make pro and con arguments for reform of eminent domain.

Cohen, Charles E., Eminent Domain After Kelo v. City of New London: An Argument for Banning Economic Development Takings. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 29, p. 491, 2006.

Somin, Ilya, Is Post-Kelo Eminent Domain Reform Bad for the Poor?. Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 101, No. 4, pp. 1931-1943, Fall 2007; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 07-17; Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy, p. 195, 2007

Rogue Medic said...


Tongue in cheek. It is a 5-4 decision, so there are plenty of issues that they might decide differently, because of a slightly different set of circumstances.

I still do not see how anyone can look at the Constitution and conclude that your home may be taken, just to put in a business that will pay more taxes. A business that may be receiving a large tax break, just to move there. So these potential taxes would be deferred taxes, that may be renegotiated later. Yes, the payroll taxes would be higher than the property taxes, but this is an obscene taking. And, since I rent, this is also not something that affects me directly.

It is wrong, or to explain it to the Supreme Court, just a bit differently. Wrong! :-)

Farm.Dad said...


I just wanted to drop in on this post and express my thanks to you for hosting such a spirited and well mannered discussion on our rights, and specifically our right to own and bear firearms . I don't think that anyone has been " won over " by " the other side " in the least , but I need to comment on both the caliber so to speak and the tone of the comments here . If i in any way " Shit on the rug " as AD put it I apologize to the host , but like many I see the issue from one side . Again Sir Thanks for hosting such a fine discussion .

Mule Breath said...

You are most welcome, sir. I do hope you won't be a stranger, and that you feel free to comment in any way you wish on any topic that might come up.

A cyber Tip o' the Hat to you.

Farm.Dad said...

Mule i wont be a "stranger " to your blog , tho i will lurk and read far more than i comment . If something i read incites an uncontrollable urge well i will comment . If not sir well i will leave things to better wordsmiths than myself, just as i should . Your blog tho is unfailingly stimulating and i complement you on it even tho i agree with about a third of your posts. Its always good to read a well reasoned arguement to my perceptions .

Be well sir in all you do