Sorry we missed out on a good discussion

I, for one, am sorry and disappointed that Philip Baruth has withdrawn his gun control bill. I don't know if I would have supported every provision, but shouting him down because a small segment of society doesn't like what he has to say doesn't seem like a good way to do things. (Technically I don't know if it's even possible to “withdraw” a bill, but if the only sponsor withdraws his support and says he doesn't want the Senate to take it up that's pretty much the same thing.)

 Still, some substantive debate is called for right now, and I don't think it's going to happen. Knowing that it's not going anywhere in the Legislature doesn't stop me from throwing out a couple of ideas and questions that have been rolling around in my brain for the last month or so.

First off, I don't take it as a fixed, settled principle that the Second Amendment creates or was intended to create an individual right to own firearms. Nobody, almost literally nobody, thought that until the Supremes decided that it does a few years ago. That doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong, but you have to be suspicious when it's thugs like Scalia, Alito, and Thomas who decide they've discovered a new individual right in the Constitution. As far as I know, it's the only individual right they think the Constitution actually protects.

Like I say, suspicious.  After all, these are some of the same guys who decided Bush v. Gore on a one-time-only, never mention this again application of the Equal Protection Clause that applies only when necessary to keep a Democrat out of the White House. Suspicious.

Second, we have the fact that even the most extreme of gun rights people seem to accept the principle that some level of restriction on gun ownership is permissible under the Second Amendment, but I have never seen a single principled basis by which they think the Second Amendment would allow for any lines to be drawn.

Lawyers and courts like to look for limiting principles and you just can't find them in this debate. Once they say that “shall not be infringed” means what they think it says you can wait all day for them to say why the Constitution allows them to have an AR-15 with a thirty-round magazine but not a .50 caliber machine gun, a bazooka, a Stinger missile, or a rocket-propelled grenade launcer. Forget tanks and thermonuclear devices, how do they know that the Framers intended the line to be drawn precisely where they want it and nowhere else?

Isn't that worth discussing? 

 

 

And beyond that, if the Constitution does allow for lines to be drawn, isn't it legitimate to have a discussion not just about what is permissible but what makes good sense, and what is needed to protect the public?

Or how about this one: we hear over and over that there are only a few hundred murders committed each year with rifles and shotguns, and the thousands more are committed with handguns. Why does this lead to the conclusion, “Therefore, do nothing”? Doesn't that raise the obvious question that handguns are what we should really be looking at and regulating? If not, why not, especially since, except in few circumstances, the idea that your handgun is going to protect you from the scary stranger or the scarier jack-booted thug is mostly a pipe dream?

And if we have the discussion, could we get the people on both sides to focus on the substance? For instance, if you are in favor of gun rights, saying, “It's not a clip, it's a magazine” is not an actual response to a question about how many bullets a person should be allowed to load into a gun at one time. Mocking the term “assault weapon” as an aesthetic concept is not a substantive response to the question of whether there are some weapons that by their design, concealability, portability, or ability to be modified to be full-auto that are too dangerous to be out in public.

And if your response to magazine limits is that it means that your hobby of shooting at targets isn't as much fun if you have to change magazines more often, explain to me how having fun while you engage in your hobby is an important constitutional principle.

This is an area where I would like to see some more law enforcement. Isn't it obvious that every time someone who is prohibited by law from purchasing a firearm tries to do that he or she has committed the crime of attempted illegal possession of a firearm? Why aren't they prosecuted?

And can't we at least eliminate the gun show loophole? You know, the one that 92% of your fellow Americans support? Would it be okay to do that in Vermont even if Congress won't do it?

I think all of these questions and a whole lot more are legitimate questions for debate, but now we're not going to have that debate, at least not here. 

Maybe my title is all wrong. Maybe we were never going to have a good discussion, no matter what else happened. 

28 thoughts on “Sorry we missed out on a good discussion

  1. US Supreme Court earlier this month effectively considered as constitutional the State of Georgia’s ban on possession of guns within certain public and private buildings.  

    In this case, the 11th Circuit of Appeals, in its majority opinion, held that  “to destroy one cornerstone of liberty – the right to enjoy one’s private property – in order to expand another – the right to bear arms. This we will not do.” Private property, as defined by Georgia law, included eight specific locations:

    places of worship, government buildings, courthouses, prisons and jails, state mental health facilities, bars without the owner’s permission, nuclear power plants and polling places and their immediate surroundings.

    It’s important to note that places of worship and bars are non-governmental private buildings, which suggests that many other private building can legally prohibit people from carrying guns.

  2. Jack, this is one of the more sober and intelligent pieces I’ve read in this whole hoo-ha. You bring up a very good point that I’ve been banging my head against the wall about, as very few people seem to mention:

    “And beyond that, if the Constitution does allow for lines to be drawn, isn’t it legitimate to have a discussion not just about what is permissible but what makes good sense, and what is needed to protect the public?”

    Is it right, and is there some social good in an action is something that needs to be considered, not just “what is Constitutional?” which to me is also a way of saying, “What is the absolute minimum we can do?”

    I have mixed feelings on an assault rifle ban, as one could just as easily load a large magazine into their 30-30 and do the damage. The flip side of this, is that “assault” rifles play into, and are a huge part of the whole “Red Dawn” fantasy (a parallel with the “preventing tyranny from our own gov’t” horseshit, as though the Founding Fathers wanted to put a provision in the Constitution to enable people to fight this newly formed government they’d worked hard to establish).

    When I see ads like the Bushmaster ad telling me I need to “up my man quotient” or whatever nonsense, that’s where I see a problem, one that lies at the heart of the macho-bullshit-penis extender gun culture. These people have somehow convinced themselves they are Rambo or Randy Weaver. So, whatever ends up happening, there needs to be something that changes this societal norm – that says, “Hey, acting like this about your guns, with your ridiculous Rambo-Red Dawn-treason fantasies is not normal, sane behavior.” And needs to be ridiculed as such. Nobody’s taking their guns away, but sweet Jeezus, I can’t think of a group that is more deserving of having them confiscated.

  3. for the dose of common sense.

    JD’s comment raises an interesting point that is frequently omitted from these conversations.

    The notion that the Second Amendment is intended to protect the people’s right to rise up against tyranny is inherently problematic, because the counter-argument against the charge of tyranny is that resistance is “treason.”

    While “treason” may be a moving target these days, since the charge has been raised not infrequently in the political back and forth; it remains an undeniably criminal act.

    So the reading of the Second Amendment that has us free to judge for ourself what constitutes tyranny, is, in fact, a reading that justifies a crime; and this in effect would nullify the function of the Constitution as an act of law.

    Kind of a gordian knot of a legal problem, isn’t it?

  4. Well, if we go into INTERPRETATIONS of the Patriot Laws, we might find that they attempt to nullify the Second Amendment, thereby nullifying the entire Constitution.  We should protect the Second Amendment from those who have been committing real treason.  Someday, who knows?  Maybe will will have to take up arms to redress grievances.  Or maybe the little 6 year-olds will have to do that.

  5. “… the Second Amendment creates or was intended to create an individual right to own firearms.”

    The Bill of Rights did not create any Rights.  It recognized and enumerated Rights that were considered to be pre-existing, and specifically saying they were off-limits to being interfered with by Government.  It was specifically stated that the list was not all-encompassing.  (See 9th and 10th Amendments.)  

    We’ve gone on to specify additional Rights and modify others with later Amendments, and will probably do so again in the future.

    As for the conversation, we’re having that.  It was premature to propose legislation before the conversation was held or finished.  And that was made pointedly clear.  If the push-back had not been sufficient, the proposal would not have been withdrawn.  

    So, let the conversation continue.      

  6. Despite your continued denial of this reality, it wasn’t a fear of conversation that caused much of the vocal opposition to the Burlington City Council’s Ordinance, or Senator Philip Baruth proposed legislation. Much of the reaction was in response to the perception that there was no need for their knee-jerk reactions ahead of the conversation that many agree needs to take place. Without a doubt, it was the actions of the council and Senator Baruth that have created an environment where this conversation is less likely. If you think introducing legislation promoting a solution to the problem before the conversation has occurred is what’s necessary to deal with this issue, I urge you to run for office, again.

    Maybe this is the issue that gets you elected this time. Imagine, once you’re elected you could introduce all the (GASP!) legislation you want, because in your view that’s what legislator’s do, right? However, part of what elected leaders are sent to Montpelier to do is to represent the views of their constituents. When they’re actions are too out of line with the will of their constituents they risk being held accountable by not being re-elected, which is sort of a problem if one of your goals is to continue to be an elected representative. While you may find it “silly” that Vermonters (a majority of citizens as well as those we’ve elected to lead) are reluctant to talk about this issue now, one of the principles of our representative democracy is that you have an opportunity to make the case to your community that your desire to have a conversation to deal with gun violence is the reason that they ought to vote for you. Put it in your campaign literature. Go door to door and talk to your neighbors about your desire to talk about guns and gun violence and your hope that they send you to Montpelier to work on this issue.

    Good luck.

  7. Despite your continued denial of this reality, it wasn’t a fear of conversation that caused much of the vocal opposition

    I didn’t suggest that in terms of public reaction, but rather folks in Mount Peculiar don’t want to hear about it.  Otherwise, why not still have hearings?

    And now that the horrible scourge of a ban has been defeated, what forums should we used to continue the conversation started?  I mean, besides blogs?

    But thanks for the reality check.  It was very thoughtful.

  8. Since I’m not running for office, I mean.  I see what you said about campaigning, but I’m talking about in the Leg.

    And really, is Philip gonna lose 2 years from now because he introduced legislation that went nowhere?  Is that holding somebody accountable, or just being kneejerk, single-issue voters?

    Please tell me more about the reality of how it’s bad to introduce bills.

  9. given the leaning of his district, I’m sure that his willingness to do something is seen by his constituents in a good light, so why did he pull it?

    Perhaps for the good of the Dems state-wide, none of the people that vote for him now are going to vote for the nutter agenda, but nutters already vote GOP, so he probably doesn’t personally gain politically from the bill either, and by taking the bill off the table – and taking the thumping personally for pulling it – it doesn’t come back on the party…

    And, let’s face it – there are some angry crazy nutters out there, with guns, some marching on the statehouse for Gun Appreciation Day on the King holiday weekend, caterwauling and whining like Baruth’s bill was to legalize raping babies, making vague and silly threats and pounding their bleating chests…  well, intimidation – it’s what guns are all about, right?

  10. given the leaning of his district, I’m sure that his willingness to do something is seen by his constituents in a good light, so why did he pull it?

    Perhaps for the good of the Dems state-wide, none of the people that vote for him now are going to vote for the nutter agenda, but nutters already vote GOP, so he probably doesn’t personally gain politically from the bill either, and by taking the bill off the table – and taking the thumping personally for pulling it – it doesn’t come back on the party…

    And, let’s face it – there are some angry crazy nutters out there, with guns, some marching on the statehouse for Gun Appreciation Day on the King holiday weekend, caterwauling and whining like Baruth’s bill was to legalize raping babies, making vague and silly threats and pounding their bleating chests…  well, intimidation – it’s what guns are all about, right?

  11. On one side, you have sharp tongues and pens, ridicule, name-calling.  Boo effin’ hoo.

    The other side – rants, ravings, flag-and-bloody-shirt waving, questioning peoples’ patriotism.  Oh, and loaded-gun waving.  

    In a civilized society, the pen is supposed to be mightier than the sword.  But when it comes to guns and their role in our society, threats of physical violence (up to and including revolution and murder), both real and implied, are now a significant part of the background noise to this discussion.  

    The NRA started out as an organization of hunters and sportsmen, morphed into ‘personal protection’ advocacy, and, with the election of Obama (and look at all those women in the Senate and State Department!) into a terrorism-and-treason advocacy organization.  

    We can hope that the gun-waving and threats from the gundamnentalists are just for show, but, as they are so proud of reminding us – they have their beeeg beeeg guns that we are supposed to oooh and ahhh over.  

    But it seems that many decent, patriotic, freedom-loving Americans are tired of their obnoxious temper tantrums.  Sure, some of them might snap and actually kill some folks, but, heck, that’s happening anyway, in epidemic proportions.

    (Of course, we might awake some day to a “Red State Dawn”….)

  12. Are you kidding? Looking at the comments for all of ‘gun’ topics-there are ‘troll ratings’ for difference of opinion (this unfortunately has happened on other thread topics-usually with a stubborn-sounding explanation), namecalling also for mere difference of opinion, misinformation re stats, ‘false dichotomy syndrome’ (everything we disagree with is not a false dichotomy) & there are more I’m sure.

    Issue is far too polarized with both sides, as in all polarizations-diametrically opposed. Since this will not change I’m now seeing it as a waste of time.

    When this happens the side with the most support & no real chance of losing hunkers down, stops ‘discussing’ since insulting comments start flying like gunfire & waits for the smoke to clear then back to business as usual.

    Unfortunate since there are at least some who would be willing to make large compromises which could possibly make things safer.

  13. The extremes on both sides of a polarized debate might not move, but there are still people who aren’t necessarily in either camp and can be.  And look at somebody like Scarborough whose mind changed after Sandy Hook (it was the event itself, not the debate, but still)–ofteb the dissonance and confirmation bias is too great, but sometimes a fact or picture or something gets through and changes perspective.  Even if everybody stayed in the same place, it’s worth talking about on the chance that things move forward.

  14. I do not necessarily agree nor disagree w/your comment it was thoughtful, which is usually a good thing & non-inflammatory, always a good thing.

    I am not interested in necessarily influencing anyone but standing the ground already gained. I respect the majority of opinions even though I may not agree but many do not which is why I see it as pissing up a rope or shoveling shit against the tide, great cardio but a waste of time.

    The unintended consequence is that, as I said, when the status quo begins to lose ground-better of cashing in chips & getting out of the game before a loss. I this case, little to nothing is accomplished.

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