Re: Gun control debate.
No gun control method you can think of would prevent homicides or mass shootings. Guns bought legally and used for evil would pass every measure you could dream up. Guns bought illegally would have never been stopped by said measures anyway. That isn’t just an argument. It’s a fact. Here’s the data from people who studied ALL gun control policies:
[M]y colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.
I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.
When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gunowner walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.
As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.
As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United Statesevery year are suicides. Almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them. I couldn’t even answer my most desperate question: If I had a friend who had guns in his home and a history of suicide attempts, was there anything I could do that would help?
You know what else doesn’t work? An assault weapons ban. We’ve already tried. The Department of Justice issued a report on it in 2004. The AWB accomplished minimal if anything. That massive drop in gun violence people post about in memes on Facebook and Twitter during the Assault Weapon Ban era? That coincided with an enormous reduction in the OVERALL crime and homicide rates. And no one knows why the drop occurred, and though there are theories, the assault weapons ban wasn’t a reason.
Targeting the “mentally ill” and stripping them of 2nd Amendment rights without any due process involved is unconstitutional. You can’t arbitrarily separate a person of their rights. That’s why disability advocacy groups AGREED with the NRA and conservatives about rolling back Obama era rules targeting Social Security Disability receivers and preventing them from owning a gun. Don’t believe me? Here it is on Vox.com, a liberal site, in a piece entitled: “Why disabilities rights activists like me sided with the NRA on an Obama gun control rule.”
During my time at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, I heard from a number of autistic adults who were concerned that their use of a representative payee would prevent them from taking part in hunting and other aspects of rural culture involving firearms. Still, despite that, the primary reason I and other disability advocates opposed the Rep Payee rule is less about guns than it is about the precedent the rule might set for other kinds of rights.
Disability advocates are concerned with setting the precedent that needing help with financial matters implies a lack of capacity to exercise other rights. These concerns are rooted in discrimination people with mental disabilities face in other areas of life, such as parenting and voting rights. On these issues, people with mental disabilities often face an assumption of incapacity, forcing disability and civil rights advocates and attorneys to fight to overturn assumptions that a diagnosis or determination of support need in one area should lead to a loss of rights in an unrelated area. Many of the same groups active in defending the voting and parenting rights of people with mental disabilities chose to weigh in against the Social Security rule for similar reasons; they feared that using the representative payee database for prohibiting gun purchases might constitute a “thin end of the wedge” for loss of more important rights down the road.
Advocates are also concerned that shifting names from the representative payee database into NICS might threaten the privacy rights of people with psychiatric disabilities. In a joint op-ed with a pro-gun-rights Cato Institute scholar, my old colleague at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network Samantha Crane noted:
Many security, construction, transportation, and other similar businesses often require clearance through the NICS database, even for jobs that do not directly require the individual to handle explosives or carry a gun. Even if the representative-payee is appointed temporarily, an individual may be permanently barred from returning to the work force.
While some of these harms may seem minor or speculative to some, they are very real concerns to a mental disability community that is heavily and inappropriately stigmatized by unfounded perceptions of violence. More importantly, they represent too high a cost for a rule for which no evidence suggests will contribute to public safety.
If said you were stripping any other right listed in the constitution from the mentally disabled without due process, every civil rights group in America would line up to burn that law to the ground (rightly so). Doing otherwise is dehumanizing and just wrong. No one should want a government agency arbitrarily deciding whether or not you get to exercise any right.
This legal-logic doesn’t just apply to the mentally ill; it applies to everyone. That is why the ACLU and NRA both agreed that the proposal to ban people on the “No Fly List” from buying guns was absurd and unconstitutional. To quote the ACLU:
Last night, in response to last week’s tragic attack in San Bernardino, California, President Obama urged Congress to ensure that people on the No Fly List be prohibited from purchasing guns. Last week, Republicans in Congress defeated a proposal that would have done just that. “I think it’s very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can’t have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
There is no constitutional bar to reasonable regulation of guns, and the No Fly List could serve as one tool for it, but only with major reform. As we will argue to a federal district court in Oregon this Wednesday, the standards for inclusion on the No Fly List are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error. Our lawsuit seeks a meaningful opportunity for our clients to challenge their placement on the No Fly List because it is so error-prone and the consequences for their lives have been devastating. …
We disagree with Speaker Ryan about many things. But he’s right that people in this country have due process rights. We want to see them respected.
You cannot summarily start stripping rights from Americans just because a tragedy occurred. That’s called mob rule. And it always, ALWAYS, harms minority and other vulnerable groups.
There’s a natural consequence from targeting the mentally disabled and their gun rights: you’re encouraging people never to seek help. Telling courts to focus these people almost guarantees they’ll be scared to ask for treatment and support, which would only exacerbate the mental health problem in this country, which is worse than most states.
You want to ban guns outright and repeal the second amendment? Good luck with that. Go convince 2/3 of the states to adopt that resolution. I don’t see anyone suggesting that right now.
Second, I hope you’re willing to live with the consequences of jailing and killing people with state power who oppose the gun ban. And know this: If you have a gun ban, it’ll harm minority communities first. Take a look at Prohibition or the Drug War and then explain why your gun ban would somehow be magically different (pro-tip: it wouldn’t). Just take a look at the numbers you’re likely looking towards under a complete ban:
While alcohol prohibition may have been one of the first blanket bans on a substance in the United States, it certainly was not the last. In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in the United States. As a result, state and local authorities, the federal government, and even the U.S. military expanded their efforts to combat illicit drugs. Today, the War on Drugs is sometimes viewed as benign. With some states legalizing medicinal marijuana, others decriminalizing possession, and four states legalizing recreational marijuana, it is easy to forget that the drug war continues to have serious consequences.
In 1980, for example, 580,900 people were arrested on drug-related charges in the United States. By 2014, that number had increased to 1,561,231. More than 700,000 of these arrests in 2014 were related to marijuana. In fact, nearly half of the 186,000 people serving time in federal prisons in the United States are incarcerated on drug-related charges.5
The penalties for violating U.S. drug law extend beyond prison, and the specter of past drug crimes can haunt individuals for years. Approximately 50,000-60,000 students are denied financial aid every year due to past drug convictions.6 In addition, those who violate drug laws are penalized throughout their working careers in terms of limited job opportunities. Many employers, both private and public, will not hire individuals with prior drug offenses. This has particularly strong implications for minorities and other historically disadvantaged groups, who are incarcerated more frequently on drug charges. Blacks and Hispanics, for example, are much more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for drug crimes and raided by police, even though the groups use and sell drugs at similar rates.7
Attacking “thoughts & prayers” while yelling “Enough! Do something!” is rhetorically vacuous and nothing more than social media posturing. If you think this is somehow edgy and fits a narrative you want to drive, great for you. Just know that you’re making a tragedy all about you.
We can’t have an intellectually rational debate on guns because one half of the entire conversation is illiterate on the topic. Every time I’m asked to debate the issue, I end up educating one side of basic facts. Every gun advocate I know does the same thing. People call for bans and restrictions of stuff they barely understand.
Final point, if you’re reading this and just frustrated because you think I’m arguing for the status quo (I’m not). I’m posting this to make a point every lawyer has to learn in law school:
There’s an old saying among lawyers that’s meant to teach an important lesson to students: hard cases make bad law. The harder the case, the more likely you’re dealing with fraught emotions, the more likely it is you’ll create a bad legal precedent for future generations. Saying we should “do something” in the aftermath of every tragedy runs into this legal realism: “common sense” gun laws are usually either useless or unconstitutional.
Watching kids die in a school is horrific. Viewing a school as it goes through active shooter drills is horrific. Nothing about this is good. I have friends that are teachers that live with this reality every day. That doesn’t mean passing random legislation would prevent any of this from happening.
You can march all you want, write chants, post on social media, and none of it will matter. There are ways we can make current gun control laws better, but pretending you can end gun violence is a utopian fantasy that will never happen. And if you did want to stop it, the number of people you’d have to kill and jail to enforce it doesn’t come close to describing “utopia.”
As long as there has been human history, there have been many incidents of children being senselessly murdered (take a look at female infanticide in China and India). It will continue to happen. And until you’re ready to grapple with the reality of why that is, you’re not prepared to debate the Second Amendment or gun control.