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Posted by on Dec 18, 2012 in Law, Politics, Society | 37 comments

No Guns This Christmas

At our home, the lights of the Christmas tree sparkle in the family room. Presents have begun to gather beneath its branches. The scent of holiday candles fills the room. Outside where the lights are strung from the eaves and wrapped around the railing of the front porch, it has chosen to snow today. A neighbor and her children, ages 5 and 6, or so, have built a snowman. I can see them from the window of my home office as I type this. Most Christmases are times of joy in our home. These last few days I can only think what it must be like to spend this season burying a child.

When I was ten there was another Christmas. The gifts that year included a bolt action .22 rifle. That wasn’t unusual for a boy in rural Wisconsin. You learn to shoot early in the country. With high school came five varsity letters. One was as a member of the state championship rifle team. Not the state “high school” championship, the state open championship. It was sponsored by the NRA. I was a proud member. Through the years came hunting trips, higher caliber rifles, two 12 gauge shotguns, one for hunting, the other for trap shooting, and a .357 handgun.

Hunting is no longer part of my life. I gave it up many years ago. Then, when I noticed that I hadn’t been trap shooting in years I sold the last of the long guns, the 12 gauge trap gun, at a yard sale. That’s right, private sale in the driveway to the first guy with 50 bucks. That was a perfectly legal transaction if anyone’s interested. But, it probably shouldn’t be perfectly legal if you’d like my honest opinion.

Following the Tucson shooting my lifelong pro-gun position began to crumble. What had once been reasons started to sound and feel more like rationalizing. The excuses were getting thinner and thinner. “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” No. That was wrong and deceptive. It should be “Guns don’t kill people; guns in the hands of people kill people.” It’s not easy to change a lifelong belief. And, it isn’t made any easier when doing it lands you in the company of some (not all) gun control proponents who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Living in Arizona for five years was a position changing experience. Not just the shooting in Tucson, but living with gun nuts on a daily basis. The first time I saw a guy in a grocery store with a gun in an open holster, the thought going through my head was “if anyone is emotionally unfit to carry a firearm, it’s probably the kind of guy who would do it in an upscale grocery store.” No one would stand in the same line with him. We all knew the odds were clearly on the side of him being less than fully stable. I’m sure he thought he was quite the stud.

That was a shock, but it went from bizarre to scary when I first saw multiple men carrying guns in open holsters at a bar. You kidding me? Guns and alcohol? Didn’t someone once say that with freedom comes responsibility? Damn, these guys must have small d**ks. Open carry my ass, Sally; that’s just plain stupid and dangerous. So, as uninformed as some of the gun control proponents may be, the gun rights crowd isn’t exactly bursting their hat bands with brain power either.

So what are we going to do about this? What are we going to do to keep our children and grandchildren from being buried, dead with gunshot wounds, the week before Christmas. What are we going to do to make it safe to meet constituents outside a grocery store or go shopping at a mall or go to a movie or walk down the street?

One thing we shouldn’t do is reintroduce or pass the mis-named “Assault Weapons Ban.” Oh, you can pass it if you want I suppose. If it makes you feel good, Ok. But, it won’t do much good. Studies from the 10 years it was in effect agree that there is no discernible good that came of it. Some studies try to be kind and say there wasn’t enough time to assess its effectiveness. The Brady coalition makes a weak argument that it did something. But, if you look at the timeline charts, it’s pretty clear that there was no significant difference before, during, and after.

Besides it’s borderline dishonest. It doesn’t ban assault rifles. Those are military weapons that are either capable of automatic fire or bursts of automatic fire. The “Assault Weapons Ban” bans guns that “look like” assault rifles but operate like sporting rifles, i.e. semi-automatic.

The “Assault Weapons Ban” also gave Americans the false impression that it was banning mega clips that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. But, as Diane Feinstein admitted in an interview just days ago, her new “Assault Weapons Ban”, like the old one in effect from 1994 to 2004, is [her words] “prospective only.” That means it only bans new mega clips; it doesn’t outlaw the old ones. Well, last I heard there were about 24,000,000 of the old ones in private hands.

If the goal is to make gun control proponents feel good, the “Assault Weapons Ban” may be capable of passage at this point. If, on the other hand, the goal is to really do something about gun violence, the “Assault Weapons Ban” as currently constituted is remarkably weak tea. My opinion.

So, what can be done that really addresses the problem? Keeping in mind that there are an estimated 270,000,000 (that’s 270 million) firearms in private hands in the United States and that the current U. S. Supreme Court strongly supports the Second Amendment as a personal right [as opposed to a militia related right], here are a few suggestions. These are not easy and they don’t have cute misleading names, but they just might make a difference over time.

1. Form a viable and credible organization to take on the NRA. That requires money, leadership, commitment and a willingness to play the power game. My suggestion would be an organization whose primary goal is repeal of the Second Amendment. This serves two purposes. Confronted with such opposition, it could be possible to derive certain concessions from the pro-gunners as they try to avoid giving impetus to a repeal movement (i.e. threaten them right at their core). The second purpose is that the Second Amendment might actually be repealed some day, giving rise to real gun control reform.

2. Pressure the White House and Senators to nominate and confirm judges who recognize that Second Amendment rights are not absolute and that reasonable restrictions apply to the Second Amendment just as they do to the First Amendment and the right of privacy. The current Supreme Court gives lip service to this concept in McDonald, but they have yet to prove they mean it.

3. Engage in tangential attacks, rather than direct attacks on guns. “Arms” are constitutionally protected. Body armor for example, reportedly used in both Portland and Newtown, is not. How about outlawing the civilian use of targets that depict a human form?

4. Make guns uncool. This won’t be easy or fast. It was done with cigarettes and it has been done with drinking and driving. It is possible with guns, though long term.

5. Make guns wildly expensive through the taxing power. At the same time that new guns are made wildly expensive, start a “buy-back” program to purchase some of the cache of existing firearms. Pay too much if you have to, but get as many out of circulation as possible. As folks sell existing guns, which are then destroyed, and new guns carry exorbitant price tags, the net number in circulation declines.

6. Require registration and liability insurance for legal ownership. The key to this one is the liability insurance requirement and the additional cost impediment that it adds.

7. Speaking of liability, manufacturer liability needs to be reinstated. Gun manufacturers are currently shielded from most liability if one of their products is used to kill or maim. This would have to be tightly written to be Constitutional. But, anything that will scare religion into them will do. Gun dealers need to fear liability as well.

8. Close the gun show loophole that exempts gun show sales from background checks. And, while you’re at it, close the private sale loophole too. The technology exists if the will does.

9. Outlaw clips that hold more than 10 rounds. Not “prospective only”. Outlaw ‘em all, and give folks a six month moratorium to turn in the ones they have. Yeah, I know, “They’re coming to take our guns/clips”, right? But, if you’re serious, you have to have the courage to own that concept instead of being intimidated by it.

Well, there are a few ideas. Have at it in the comments section. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • The_Ohioan

    Your suggestions sound perfectly reasonable and well thought out to me. It’s certainly a place to start.

    This would be a first amendment problem, also, but maybe restricting the entertainment industry from showing violence without showing the results of that violence would be a deterrent. Like the news industry, we are shielded from the gore that results in TV and movie violence. Maybe that would only exacerbate the problem, but at least we would move news and entertainment from glorifying violence to being more realistic. I can’t see how first amendment rights would be violated by more reality.

    We still haven’t heard Clint or Sylvester, or any movie or video producer make a statement about their part in promoting violence and a resolve to temper their product. Which leads us to the real problem; the movie, TV, and video people make huge amounts of money by catering to the egos of people who are addicted to their products. And they aren’t about to give it up any more than the NRA is about to give up their income from the arms industry. Oh, they’ll issue a statement (they already have) then they’ll slither back out of the light as soon as they can and it will be business a usual.

    I’d bet if you talked to thpse gun-toters in the Arizona bar (if you were so foolish as to do so) their hero would be Clint and their children are constant users of violent video game – which trying to outlaw has hit the fan for years.

    Just sayin’.

  • Ohioan,

    You’re probably right about the First Amendment problems with the entertainment industry. Going to the ratings system years ago was their response to concerns about sex and violence. I don’t see much else in the future, except some type of moral persuasion which would work on some, but likely not with others.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Great post and many interesting and good “hows.”

    I look forward to reading reactions here,but, more important, to seeing your many excellent suggestions discussed in earnest in the coming months by our lawmakers and various influential groups.

  • ordinarysparrow

    Thanks Elijah Tidbits… this is sharp with many good suggestions…

    In truth after reading this, i pasted, copied the text, and included the TMV link in a letter to my Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, my Senator Claire McCaskill, and even sent it in a letter to President Obama… I asked them to read it and add these suggestions to HOW we can keep our children safe.
    President said everything is on the table, now your suggestions are on the table too.
    I also copied the information about you that is found on TMV. Maybe someone will listen… I will continue to think who i can send this to, for i truly feel you have expressed some important HOW’s…

    Many thanks…

  • dduck

    Terrific suggestion, ES. I like scaring them with the big club while kicking them in their constitutional filberts.

    It will take a long time but the start with small bills, has to be now when this tragedy is fresh in our minds.

    Even if only a few kid’s lives are saved then it is worth the effort despite the claim that the 1994 law “had no positive effect”, which no one can prove except by those dammed statistics.

  • Repeal of the 2nd Amendment is wrong. The right answer is a rewrite to modernize it. “Militias” are wholly irrelevant, and just the bad grammar alone is enough to rewrite. Then we can have something that fits modern times and specifically defines what gun rights the populace should have that we (through our elected representatives) want.

    I maintain that, like just about everything else, there is a level of responsible ownership and a level where it’s just ridiculous. The fundamental need for a 2nd Amendment is valid, but there’s a logical limit, too.

  • Barky,

    My hard-ass lawyer strategy would be: organize to repeal, then you could negotiate to amending and modernizing from a position of strength.


    Thank you. I continue to watch the thread at your excellent post of yesterday.


    Wow! No one ever sent my work to a congressperson, senator or president before. I may need to get a fan to cool off my ego after that.


    Do you know that our house is in a development that used to be a filbert orchard? Honest to god.

  • dduck

    Ok, kick them in the macadamias instead.

  • sheknows

    Excellent suggestions Elijah. Thanks also to OS.! Gets me thinking….perhaps we can all send copies to our congressmen and senators. Just inundate them with REASONABLE solutions and maybe some of them will listen.
    I know I will here in Nebraska..especially since they announced tonight that 117 guns were sold in Omaha yesterday. ( only 7 permits declined) That’s 3x the usual amount on any given day they said.! Gun heads are stocking up in lieu of the new gun laws that may be coming down the road.

  • sheknows

    Ooops…correction. Meant to say thats 3x the amount sold in any given month.

  • sheknows,

    Thanks for the support on this thread.

    BTW, I really liked your question on the thread to Dorian’s article about the non-profit status of the NRA. That could be an interesting avenue of attack given that they have become not much less than a shadow political party. They do still publish a “shooters’ magazine” and sponsor gun safety classes and community events.

    But, mostly they are either a quasi-political party or a theological association with guns as their god. Of course, as a theological organization they would be tax exempt. Maybe that’s their angle. 🙂

  • sheknows

    Thanks Elijah, saw your response on Dorians asrticle.
    Yes, I was hoping to find some avenue of attack as you surmised, but it looks like because they train and “educate” , they are considered non-profit…even though they make money doing it. So does the IACP and they are also non-profit.
    But I read somewhere in my hectic research that “they never applied for a 501 with the federal govt… whatever that is. Don’t know if that means anything or not, but will continue to explore deeper.
    Pretty obvious I am trying to find some way to make their actions “shady” as an organization huh….

  • “Pretty obvious I am trying to find some way to make their actions “shady” as an organization huh….”

    Uh, yeah.

    They’re legit though. Fun as it might be to mount a challenge to their status, they’ve got a bank of lawyers that would scare most sovereign nations.

    My advice? Don’t play legal games with them. Punch them in the face straight up (pardon the Joe Scarborough channeling)…set up to challenge them no holds barred on their own terms. See recommendation 1 of my 9 points.

  • sheknows

    According to Wikipedia, there are about a bizzillion 501cs for tax exempt status you must file with the IRS. You being an attorney would be able to better understand the implications of that. However, I will try to get more information about what source discovered that bit of information.

  • sheknows,

    You wouldn’t know it from my annoying TMV persona, but I have helped set up many 501(c)(3)’s and (c)(4)’s. It ain’t that hard, and the forms are pretty simple and straight forward. As long as you understand the lingo and the process you need to use, you will succeed in getting the organization recognized.

    If you get more information that is pertinent, I’ll be happy to look at it.

  • sheknows

    Yes, I thought of your point #1 when I was searching for like organizations and existing anti gun ones when I found the IACP.

    The NRA is different from others because they have powerful backers with lots of money who already control our elected officials.

    My approach in an earlier post was to notify our officials who have received campaign contributions ( there are SO many) from the NRA and let them know if they continue, they can do without my vote. An organization to c oordinate a massive effort to threaten our NRA money taking legislators might hit them where it hurts.

  • Yes! Yes! Power respects (and fears) power. Threatening to withhold your vote, or mine, is like threatening to move a single drop of water in the ocean. But if you threaten to melt the polar ice caps and raise the sea level by six feet for the length of the continent…now you have someone’s attention.

    Think like a warrior with the moral objectives of a saint.

    Sorry to be so ends-justify-the-means, fire-with-fire & all that, but it’s really what needs to happen to succeed in the current battle.

  • ShannonLeee

    just want to say… great post ES.

  • SteveK

    just want to agree with the others, this IS a great post. Tidbits list of possibilities was well reasoned and thought through.

    The discussions in comments section regarding the probability / possibility issues were all both civil and well reasoned.

    In truth after reading this, i pasted, copied the text, and included the TMV link in a letter to my Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, my Senator Claire McCaskill, and even sent it in a letter to President Obama… I asked them to read it and add these suggestions to HOW we can keep our children safe.

    Good for you ordinarysparrow… following suit I have done the same. Great idea, thanks.

  • ordinarysparrow

    I also sent it to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and the Democratic Leadership committee… There is not much written about the HOW that is not the OLD and Failed so hopefully this will end up on someone’s table for consideration…

    Thanks again, Tidbits…

  • dduck

    OS, how about writing to the Rep leaders also

  • EEllis

    I tell you what tho I disagree about some things it’s nice to see gun control being approached in an open and honest way. Couple of comments:

    2 It seems to be since the right to bear arms shall not be abridged the fact that there are as many restrictions as there are shows that the courts recognize that the 2nd is not absolute.

    3 I guess I have a hard time justifying the restriction on body armor. Sure it might make bad guys harder to take down and I have zero problem with jacking up the sentence on anyone using armor in any illegal act but preventing people from protecting themselves? What of those that have been threatened or victimized? Press or medics? Private Security or process servers?

    4 Registration of firearms has already been ruled a violation of the 15th and insurance, well can you be made to buy insurance to be able to exercise a right?

    8 There is no gun show loophole. There are no exceptions to any rules just because a gun show is involved. What there are is private sales at gun shows where you could of taken your shotgun walked in and found someone there to buy it instead of selling it in your driveway. Call it a private sale loophole if you wish even tho it is inaccurate, but the whole gunshow thing is inaccurate and more about propaganda than anything else. Not necessarily from you but from those that used and pushed the phrase that has now created a incorrect meaning for so many.
    9 By doing so you will have created a whole new class of outlaw. Suddenly you would have whatever chunk of the 80 -100 million? people who have such and refuse to giver them up become crooks. If I’m already a crook because I have 12rd mags then why go along with any gun law? How many millions of people do you think will say “hell no” and is there even the slightest possibility of having any effective enforcement of such a ban?

    I will say that while I would be against many of the ideas at least it shows some real thought.

  • EEllis

    Sorry you had to wait. Between internet and phone issues and work it just took me a while 🙂

  • Nice to hear from you EEllis.

    Your critique is thoughtful and informed though, as you say, we now disagree. Two years ago we would likely have been in near complete agreement.

    I agree there are restrictions currently in place, but no restrictions have been upheld by the current Court, and it is hard to discern how far they would, or would not go.

    Body armor is something I have been asked to wear myself at one point. It was provided by a local sheriff under threatening circumstances. I have no problem accepting your critique on this subject and working to carve out an exception under certain circumstances, though perhaps not for the general public.

    Whether insurance can be required has not been decided, so we don’t know. Seems to me if we can be required to buy health insurance and car insurance, there is some possibility that gun liability insurance is at least open to consideration. This would be a public safety rationale. Those injured will need treatment and the cost should not fall on the taxpayer. You don’t have to agree, just explaining…and, btw, I still opppose the individual mandate of ACA.

    I referred to closing the private sale loophole as part of my discussion on gun shows, though it also would apply to online sales and yard sales. Admittedly, I haven’t been to a gun show and have no personal familiarity.

    My number 9 is probably beyond what would realistically pass the legislature, and it does contain some enforcement issues. I personally like to believe that most people are law abiding and would turn in their high capacity magazines if such a law passed. Not everyone would do so, just as not everyone stops hunting out of season, though most law abiders do.

    Again thanks for the informed response. The best debates, and those that move the discussion forward, are often the ones that involve reasoned disagreement.

  • dduck

    One, quick point, buying the mega-magazines should work. It might take many years of that and a ban to flush them out of the system, but hey it can’t hurt.

  • Duck,

    The idea of extending buy-back to “mega-magazines”, in coordination with a ban, seems a positive addition to the discussion from my POV.

  • EEllis

    Is it too crass to bring a cost benefit questions into the discussion? How far do we go to try and prevent tragedies like this when we have people who die from preventable causes all the time.

  • EEllis,

    We regularly attempt to address preventable death. The best examples are the campaigns against smoking and drunk driving. Both have been costly, and each has been effective, though not perfect.

    At this point, gun deaths roughly equal deaths related to automobiles. When I say gun deaths, I am cognizant that this includes suicides and accidental shootings as well as homicides.

    Vehicular death and injury, and gun related death and injury, top the list of non disease related sources of death and maiming. They seem logical places to devote our energy. My view only, of course.

  • EEllis

    Vehicular death and injury, and gun related death and injury, top the list of non disease related sources of death and maiming. They seem logical places to devote our energy. My view only, of course.

    I think that bolsters my point. The efforts to restrict weapons and magazines will effect only the smallest percentage of deaths. As horrific and traumatic as these spree killings are they are not even bump the stats when looking at preventable deaths. If we look at gun deaths suicides are well over 50% and magazine capacity is a non issue. If we look at criminal deaths and the difference it might make, if we could be successful in their elimination which I’m less than confident of, does it really make sense? Sure if it can save one child but what if for that same effort we could save several?

  • Gun homicides exceed 10,000 per year. It’s not a small number and is about one third of all gun related deaths. I’ve not seen numbers on gun related non-fatal injuries, but I assume they are substantial as well.

    This is likely a point where we disagree, but I’ll speak to it. I include suicides and accidental shootings in the preventable death category. Without doing an entire diatribe, there is a difference between suicides attempted with guns and other suicide attempts in terms of success rate.

    From my perspective, we should include all gun related deaths (and non-fatal injuries) not just those that qualify as homicide.

    I understand what you’re saying. I guess I’m just not really receptive to the argument that gun death isn’t that big a problem, so let’s do something else instead? Yes, I know that’s hyperbole, and it’s not meant to insult your position.

  • EEllis

    I understand what you’re saying. I guess I’m just not really receptive to the argument that gun death isn’t that big a problem, so let’s do something else instead? Yes, I know that’s hyperbole, and it’s not meant to insult your position.

    No my point was that the current cries for change seem limited to what might make a difference during a spree killing. While this is understandable the number of casualties is actually quite small compared to the other categories of gun related deaths and things like high cap mag bans will do nothing to change that.

  • On this point, we partially agree. These mass killings move the public and politicians, particularly where children are involved, but such mass killings are small in numbers compared to total gun deaths. I share the dismay, grief and anger at the loss of these young innocents, but the issue of gun violence far exceeds what happened in Newtown.

    Discussing this with you EEllis opens so many other doors that need to be part of the discourse. A general culture of violence, of which guns are only one visible element, comes to mind as does trying to take the public beyond the sensational events of the moment in time to look more deeply in a broad civic context at the moral “value” we give guns, including their historical significance in America and whether it is time to move beyond that history.

    But, for now, children have died at Christmas time. Their funerals are still being held. Their families will never see Christmas the same again. That too is worth remembering, and it is that which spurs us to a national debate that we need to have.

  • dduck

    If HCM eventually become rare and even one fewer person gets killed or maimed, would that be a bad thing. A ban on them will mean a loss of revenue for the manufacturers, but who else?
    True, game and competition participants will have a loss of pleasure, but I see no other downside, even if it has absolutely NO effect on the death and injury rate.

  • EEllis

    If HCM eventually become rare and even one fewer person gets killed or maimed, would that be a bad thing. A ban on them will mean a loss of revenue for the manufacturers, but who else?

    Why would manufactures lose money? They will keep selling mags regardless and will be receiving at least a temp windfall from any ban. Before the last ban they were running 24/7 to produce as many HCM as possible and there was never any real shortage due to the stockpile of pre ban mags available.

    True, game and competition participants will have a loss of pleasure, but I see no other downside, even if it has absolutely NO effect on the death and injury rate.

    Does there need to be a bigger negative if there is no positive?

  • dduck

    Does there need to be a bigger negative if there is no positive?
    The positive might mean a life saved, that trumps it all.

  • EEllis

    You just said it didn’t matter if it made any difference. Look you are taking something away from people. You may not like it or think anyone should care but you are deciding that people should be told they can’t do or have something and there should be a good reason. And if saving lives trumped all then we would all be driving 20mph in bumper cars so since we are not it’s bs.

  • dduck

    EE, bye.

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