Guns And American Culture Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean.

The Addison Gallery at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA is currently running an exhibition, Gun Country, comprised of photos, paintings, drawings and other visual artifacts about guns. The museum refers to this collection as showing ‘America’s fascination with the gun,’ but a staff writer for the art blog Hyperallergic, Seph Rodney, has decided that what this exhibition really shows is that “guns are a principal symbol of our sense of masculinity and power for our culture.”

addison            Even though it has become a watchword of the gun-control movement that America’s love affair with guns is a function of the degree to which our society is still controlled by power-hungry, white men (read: Donald Trump), I think that what Rodney is saying happens to be a load of crap. And the reason I say that is because if America’s socio-economic-political structures reflect the dominance of white males who use guns to symbolize their masculinity and strength, how come the rest of Western civilization isn’t also awash in guns?

Oh, I forgot. We are the only Western country where white men settled a whole frontier armed with their trusty six-shooters and Winchester repeating rifles, so guns play a special role in our culture and historical consciousness that they don’t play anywhere else.  Another load of crap.

In 1934, then-Attorney General Homer Cummings proposed the first piece of federal legislation to regulate the ownership of small arms, a bill which became law and is known as the National Firearms Act, a.k.a. the NFA.  Given the existence of the 2nd Amendment, Cummings wanted a law that would make it legal for Americans to own guns, as long as these weapons were not too dangerous for civilian use. Hence, the appearance of the NFA list of ‘prohibited’ weapons (machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, silencers and a few other things) which still exists today.

What is not generally known about the NFA was that Cummings initially put handguns on the ‘prohibited’ list. These particular products were then removed from the NFA list before the bill became law. Now it is usually assumed that the decision to let Americans have free access to handguns (thus creating the contemporary problem known as ‘gun violence’) was because of successful lobbying by the NRA, as well as the genuine love and devotion that our culture promoted regarding the existence and use of guns.  More crap.

The reason why the U.S. government didn’t disarm the civilian population in 1934, whereas other Western governments disarmed their civilian populations shortly after World War II by copying the NFA but putting handguns and semi-automatic rifles on the ‘prohibited’ list, is because America was the only industrialized country whose political system hadn’t been threatened by armed, mobilized, mass protests from the Left.  We were the only advanced country whose labor movement wasn’t tied to revolutionary Socialist and Communist political parties; we were the only advanced country which never suffered from violent, countrywide work stoppages and strikes; we were the only advanced country in which personal ownership of weapons wasn’t ever considered to be a threat to the security of the state.

What I find so funny and ironic about the dopes walking around with an AR slung over their shoulder and tell us that it’s the gun that keeps them ‘free,’ is that these are the same jerks who tell you that they need a gun to protect themselves from the ‘tyranny’ of government, except that the current government adopts and promotes social and economic policies which happen to be based on what that same government believes will be supported by the more guns = more freedoms crowd.

The first and last time a President believed that protestors outside the White House represented a threat to law and order was when the President was named Nixon and remember what happened to him. Now maybe the idiot in the Oval Office also represents a threat to the Constitution,  and if so, he’s a much bigger threat to the country than all the noise and nonsense coming from the NRA.

 

 

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Is Kennedy’s Retirement A Win For The Gun-Rights Gang? I’m Not Sure.

Just when it looked like the storm that erupted after Parkland created the possibility of a shift towards more regulation of guns, the announcement was made today that Anthony Kennedy is retiring, which gives Draft-dodger Trump an opportunity to fill another SCOTUS seat. And since Trump has said again and again how much he wants everyone to be armed, or at least everyone who marches around with one of those ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags wrapped around their AR, he’ll probably nominate another pro-gun judge again.

kennedy              Not that Kennedy was such a staunch advocate for gun control. In fact, he was the 5th and necessary vote in the 2008 Heller decision which gave every God-fearing and law-abiding patriot the right to keep a loaded and unlocked handgun in their home. Note that when the city of Highland Park designated itself as being AR-rein, meaning that a town resident who owned an AR had to move somewhere else or sell the gun, Kennedy joined 6 other justices in refusing to hear an appeal of that case. So, the fact that Scalia was able to cobble together 4 other votes to dump the 1939 Miller precedent and detach handgun ownership from military service, doesn’t mean that a majority of the Court, even with a conservative replacement for Kennedy, would necessarily open the legal floodgates and let every cockamamie attempt to lessen gun regulations become a law.

On the other hand, Trump is such a jerk and a dope that for all we know, he’ll nominate Michael Cohen for the Court.  After all, I don’t think there’s anything in the Constitution which says that someone can’t be nominated who has been indicted, or convicted, or disbarred.  And when you stop and think about it, what better way could Trump demonstrate to his loyal, God-fearing base that he shares their complete hostility towards anything having to do with the practices and traditions of civil government or a government based on law?

Think I’m kidding?  I’m really not. And the reason I’m not kidding is that when you get right down to it, Gun-nut Nation’s increasing obsession with armed, self-defense, eliminating gun-free zones and teaching teachers how to use a gun resonates best with people who have decided that between gay marriage, LGBTQ rights, choice, and a few other loony, left-wing ideas like how vaccinations cause mental retardation, the best government is one that doesn’t exist at all.

And by the way, there are a lot of people out there who more or less share that point of view, or at least they take it seriously enough to believe that the only thing which stands between them and a complete breakdown of the social order is getting and keeping their hands on a gun.

Now I’m not saying that these folks represent a majority of Americans, nor do I believe that a New York Times reporter had his head anywhere other than up his you-know-what when he decided that the daily criticism of Trump was just making it easier for America’s Whiner in Chief to attend to the tasks at hand. In fact, without realizing it, Kennedy may have given the #resisttrump movement exactly the shot they need to show up in November and turn the Congress blue. After all, replacing Scalia with a like-minded jurist to keep the 5-4 conservative SCOTUS majority was a strong factor in bringing out the 2016 Republican vote. Why shouldn’t 2018 be a repeat in reverse?

Since the tragedy at Parkland, the gun violence prevention (GVP)  movement has certainly been out in front of the other side. Whether this energy could be sustained until November was a question in my mind, but the issue of replacing Kennedy could be exactly what the GVP needs. Because there is no issue which symbolizes the philosophical tilt of the Supreme Court more than the issue of gun ‘rights.’ Which puts our gun-control friends smack dab back in the center of the mid-term campaign. Which couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

Can We Use The 2nd Amendment To Regulate Guns? We Sure Can.

Today our friends at The Trace are marking the 10th anniversary of the Heller decision with an interview about the impact of the decision with Eric Segall who teaches Constitutional law at Georgia State. The gist of the interview is that while the NRA scored a major victory by getting the Miller decision reversed, gun-control advocates could also breathe a sign of relief because Scalia’s opinion still gave government broad authority to regulate guns.  And since Heller, the ability of the government to maintain its regulatory authority has been challenged again and again, but the basic ability of public authorities to decide whether guns are a risk to community safety has remained intact.

2A            Segall’s incisive and accurate comments notwithstanding, the post-Heller gun ‘rights’ discussion always seems to avoid what I consider to be the most important issue embodied in the text of the 2nd Amendment itself. The relevant text says: ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Scalia’s 20,000-word majority opinion spends 19,950 words on a textual, historical and legal analysis of the words ‘keep’ and ‘bear.’ But his concern about how to define the word ‘arms’ covers only 50 words and wasn’t even mentioned by the minority opinions filed by Stevens and Breyer in the case.

The reason that Scalia didn’t spend any time discussing the meaning of the word ‘arms’ was that he and his Supreme Court colleagues all agreed that the 2nd Amendment referred only to weapons that are in common use today, which means that what are referred to as ‘weapons of war,’ i.e., military guns, aren’t covered by anything having to do with the 2nd Amendment at all. This is all well and good except for one little problem entirely ignored by the Court, namely, that most of the civilian-owned guns which are currently used both for self-protection as well as for committing gun violence happen to have been designed for the military and are still used by military forces both here and abroad.

The most popular handgun sold in the United States is manufactured by Glock, which was designed for the Austrian Army, and is now carried by American troops in the field. The gun which replaced the U.S. Army’s historic sidearm, the Colt 45 pistol designed by John Browning in 1907, is the Beretta 92, which is also a favorite handgun sold to civilians throughout the United States. Last year the Army phased out the Beretta 92 and replaced it with the Sig P320; the manufacturer celebrated the award by immediately making and distributing to wholesalers and retailers 50,000 units of the exact, same gun.  And by the way, the Colt 1911 pistol, which was the Army’s official sidearm for more than 60 years, has also probably been the single, most popular handgun ever to get into the hands of all those gun nuts who now have Constitutional protection to keep any non-military handgun in their homes.

The bottom line is that there is nothing in the Heller decision preventing public authorities from banning just about every, popular handgun model based on what the Heller decision actually says and doesn’t say. The one time that a public authority actually banned the ownership of a military-style weapon because it was too lethal to be kept around, was when the town of Highland Park passed a ban on AR-15 rifles after Sandy Hook, a move now being considered in other Illinois communities as well. The Highland Park decision was appealed up the judicial ladder but was upheld at the Circuit level and the SCOTUS refused to intervene. Less-restrictive bans on AR rifles in CT and NY have also been upheld.

For all the talk about how the gun industry has been exempt from consumer product review and protected from torts, when the issue of regulation turns on the lethality of their products, the gun ‘rights’ gang hasn’t done very well. When our friends in the gun-control community sit down to plot their strategies, they should keep this in mind.

What The 2nd Amendment Means And Doesn’t Mean.

For all the talk about the ‘enshrinement’ of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ in the Heller decision, and the fact that America is truly exceptional because of free access to guns, our friends Eric Ruben and Joseph Blocher have just published a detailed article which shows that at both the Federal and state levels, precious little has changed since 2008. In fact, while there has been a plethora of litigation designed to test various local and state laws against what Ruben and Blocher refer to as the ‘sea-change’ of Heller, the success rate of these challenges has been less than 10%.

2A Most of the failures to use the 2nd Amendment’s gun ownership ‘right’ to cover all kinds of other gun ‘rights’ lies in the fact that Scalia’s decision made it absolutely clear that even though Americans now would be Constitutionally protected if they decided to keep a handgun in their home, this in no way constrains the government from regulating gun ownership, as long as the basic idea of personal ownership is not disturbed.

But even the fact that someone can own a gun doesn’t mean the government is unable to define the terms and conditions under which that gun will be owned.  Ruben and Blocher explore this issue in a deft and prescient way, the latter because their article clearly anticipates more 2nd Amendment litigation to come, this article thus becoming a convenient road map both for what has happened to Heller since 2008, as well as what may happen further down the road.

What I find interesting in all the post-Heller litigation and discussions is the extent to which the debate invariably turns on the meaning and application of the words ‘keep’ and ‘bear,’ while virtually no attention is paid at all to the word ‘arms.’ Somehow, a basic distinction made by Scalia in Heller between military arms on the one hand, and arms ‘in common use’ on the other, seems to have disappeared from view. And yet, understanding the role that these allegedly different types of weapons play in the gun violence which causes 125,000 deaths and injuries each year is, for me, the game that really counts.

Gun-nut Nation has spent God knows how much time, money and hot air defending the idea that all guns should be considered to be ‘in common use’ as long as they are not designed to fire in full-auto, which would make them military weapons obviously too lethal to be in civilian hands. They have even invented a new type of gun, the Modern Sporting Rifle, which may look like a weapon of war, but is allegedly no different from any other type of sporting gun that Grandpa carried into the woods. Now the fact that the M4 battle rifle can be set to fire in semi-auto mode; oh well, I guess when a trooper decides that the tactical situation requires that he shoot one round every time he pulls the trigger, obviously he’s now using a sporting gun. Yea, right.

Even though we are shocked and frightened by the mass shootings like Parkland and Las Vegas where the shooter used an AR-15, the reason we have gun violence is because of all those lovely handguns floating around. And believe it or not, most of those guns were first designed and manufactured for military use. Gaston Glock first got into gun manufacturing by making a pistol for the Austrian Army – the current Glock sold in every gun shop hasn’t changed one bit. Ditto the new Sig pistol that has just been adopted as the official U.S. military sidearm, the company celebrated this windfall by making and releasing 50,000 models for commercial sale.

We are the only country which makes no distinction between guns used by the military and guns kept in private homes, yet the difference is clearly acknowledged in the Heller decision, with the latter types considered worthy of Constitutional protection but the former not protected at all.

Want to end gun violence?  Take the 2nd Amendment and what Antonin Scalia said it really means.

 

Should I Join The Golden Eagles? You Decide.

Yesterday in the mail I received my 2018 Defender of Freedom Award from the National Rifle Association.  I am proud to place this plaque on my wall just below my 2017 NRA Freedom award.  The plaque comes with a very inspiring letter from Wayne-o LaPierre, which even appear to be personally signed by the NRA’ distinguished Executive Vice President. You know, Wayne-o is the guy who has actually sat right next to Draft Dodging Trump in the White House, so getting a letter from Wayne-o is like getting a letter from Draft Dodger himself.

freedom             I am so proud and humbled to receive this award that I want to quote directly from Wayne-o’s letter to me.

“Whenever powerful anti-gun politicians and their allies launch an all-out attack on the Second Amendment, you always stand firm and fight to defeat gun bans, ammo bans and gun owner registration.”

This Award is only bestowed on exceptional NRA members who have demonstrated outstanding leadership well above their peers – and whose inspiration to gun owners has contributed significantly to the defense of the Second Amendment.”

Now I’ve heard all about the push for a new assault weapons ban, but I didn’t know that the gun grabbers were also going after ammunition as well. On the other hand, we all know that extending background checks to personal gun transfers will certainly push us down the slippery slope to gun registration, then gun owner registration, then gun confiscation, then Fascism, then another Holocaust – no wonder I have just been recognized as a Defender of Freedom. It’s one and the same package after all.

But the letter from Wayne-o contains something else beyond congratulating me for my fervent defense of America’s most important civil right.  It also states that because I am a Defender of Freedom I can join the NRA Golden Eagles Club, which is certainly a rare honor and one I should not pass up.  The Golden Eagles, according to Wayne-o, “have stood on the front lines of the greatest gun rights battles of our generation. Golden Eagles recognize that there I no greater gift we can bestow on future generations than to win the battle for freedom today.”

I can’t believe it. Little ol’ Mike the Gun Guy gets to serve the cause of freedom alongside such patriots as Oliver North and Dana Loesch! That’s right. They’re also Golden Eagles and I can’t believe that I could be counted as being in the same company as two fine, upstanding Americans like them. In fact, my Defender of Freedom plaque is embossed not only with Wayne-o’s signature but with the signature of LtCol North – I can’t wait to show this to my kids and my grandkids.

Of course, in order to be a member of the Golden Eagles, I have to demonstrate that my commitment to America’s first freedom doesn’t run just skin deep. Wayne-o’s asking me to give him two hundred bucks to help keep freedom alive. This dough will also help the NRA fight the good fight in the upcoming elections because if the ‘tens of millions’ that Bloomberg and Soros are pouring into ‘gun-ban schemes’ bears fruit, the gun-grabbers could “wipe out everything you and I have worked so hard to achieve.”

I have until May 21st to make a decision, but this is too important a decision to make on my own. So, here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m asking you – my readers – to tell me whether I should support America’s freedoms by taking this poll. I’ll run it until May 15th or so and then announce the results. If you tell me to join the Golden Eagles I’ll whip out the ol’ checkbook and join away. I’ll be guided by what you say and thanks for helping me decide what I should do.

 

 

 

The ‘Gun Rights’ Movement Is Ready To Save America From The ‘Deep State.’

Once the MAGA movement started showing up at rallies with AR rifles in full view, I knew it was only a matter of time until the alt-right/white media blowhards would jump on the bandwagon and begin pushing a hyped-up version of not just using guns for self-defense, but using guns to protect America from a counter-coup led by the ‘deep state.’ And this message finally appeared full-flower last week on (what else?) the Youtube channel owned by Alex Jones, with an hour-long rant, complete with shooting guns at a Texas indoor range.

jones             What makes this video appealing to the loony set is that it also features none other than Roger Stone, who is introduced as the ‘former head of the Trump campaign,’ although Alex forgot to mention that Stone was not only never the head of Trump’s operation, but was pushed onto the sidelines after he began taking credit for his alleged connection to Julian Assange when Wikileaks started dumping the emails that upended Hillary’s campaign.  Stone got his start as a dirt-digger under Nixon and is probably more responsible for the intertwining of Republican political messaging and conspiracy theories than anyone else.  Which gave him impeccable credentials to serve as a handmaiden for the Trump campaign where racism and nationalism have come home to roost.

The video starts off with Stone delivering a monolog about the worst, largest criminal-conspiracy of all time, namely the Clinton-Hillary uranium deal, and how it’s being covered xup by the ‘deep state.’ At some point Stone then says that he has taken up shooting both to protect himself and the Constitution, Jones chimes in about how Stone has been going to the range frequently to practice his shooting skills, and of course everyone knows that Jones is a long-time and frequent user of guns, right?

Now the action shifts to the range itself with Jones first shooting a 10mm, short-barreled carbine, which he claims to own but doesn’t even know where the safety is located on the gun and tells a range instructor to ‘come on over and show me how this works real quick.’ Stone is even less-informed, picking up a semi-auto Uzi pistol with his finger clearly on the trigger even though the gun isn’t pointed downrange, and as the range officer politely tells him to remove his finer from the trigger, a voice which sounds suspiciously like Alex Jones tells Stone that he’s about to shoot a ‘full-auto’ gun.

Neither Jones nor Stone have any real experience shooting guns at all. But that hardly prevents them from using a shooting motif, particularly one in which the picture of a person is then shot full of holes with a live gun. And if memory serves me correctly, the first politician to stoop to the lowest possible level and run a political ad which pandered to the dumbest of the dumb was a Democrat named Rob Quist who unsuccessfully ran in Montana for the Congressional seat previously held by Ryan Zinke. So before my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community wring their hands in despair as Alex Jones and Roger Stone practice for the upcoming resurrection in an Austin shooting range, let’s just remember that when it comes to promoting themselves, those two jerks didn’t exactly invent the idea of building an identity by shooting off guns.

Talking about building an identity, the latest and even more stupid announcement about the politics of gun ownership comes from another egregious self-promoter, Steve Bannon, who says he’s creating a new movement which will be a ‘revolutionary force’ in American politics, growing out of a coalition of religious reactionaries, pro-life activists, union members (as if there are any union members left) and – who else? – the 2nd-Amendment gang.

What’s behind this overblown, delusional rhetoric is one, simple fact: two media companies known as Infowars and Breitbart, both vying for the same buck.  And now that gun nuts have stopped buying guns, all that spare cash which used to go to support gun ‘rights’ is up for grabs.

 

Mike The Gun Guy Opens A New Page.

gun demo  sales

 

If I have promoted one theme in the 946 columns I have published on this website, as well as the nearly 250 columns I have written for Huffington Post, it is the idea that each side in the gun debate needs to understand the other side’s point of view or a reasonable and sufficiently evidence-based discussion will never take place.  In fact, what drew me to this endeavor was the degree to which I personally have a foot in each camp, and find myself quite comfortable walking through a rhetorical landscape where most gun violence prevention activists or gun-rights activists fear to tread.

But the truth is that I’m beginning to get a bit bored by always looking at my computer screen and seeing my own words staring me back in the face. So I have decided to change the format of this website somewhat, and in addition to what I will continue to say, open its pages to what other folks on both sides of the gun debate want to say as well.

Going forward, I have created an additional page to list Contributing Editors, which contains the names, pics and bios of people who contribute columns to this site. These blogs may have appeared on their own websites, they may be written to be published just here, but they will not be previously-published work which I choose to re-blog; the authors will have made a conscious decision to share their work with me.

I make no editorial changes in text of any kind because I assume that anyone who wants to appear as an author on my website knows the basic requirements that define acceptable public text; each CE’s first submission must be accompanied by a brief bio, a pic and a contactable email address in case readers want to direct a comment directly to the author, in the same way that readers can send a comment directly to me. If the CE also writes a blog, I’m happy to provide a link.

The first two CE contributions have been posted, and I am extremely pleased with the quality of these works. I am also honored  to highlight the background, experience and commitment of these two individuals to what they write and what they believe. But the Contributing Editor section is open to anyone who wants to add a commentary to the public discussion about guns.  As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “In the public debate we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts.”  With all due respect to the late Senator from New York, on my website anyone who wishes to contribute a column will be entitled to both.

Since 2012 I have been calling on everyone who is concerned about guns to stop yelling at each other, stop calling names, sit down and have a serious chat. So now everyone has an opportunity to do exactly that. But it won’t happen if you – all of you – decide salesit’s easier to just send someone else an email or a tweet. You’ll need to spend a little more time and energy (and words) to get your points across on my website.

And here’s your opportunity to do exactly that!

In Florida, School Prayer And Stand Your Ground Is The Same Thing.

In 1956 I was a 7th-grade student at Public School 29 in New York City and we began every day with a prayer from the New Testament read by our teacher who happened to be a communicant at the Catholic parish across the street. When I refused to fold my hands and bow my head because my family read the Old Testament at home, the teacher made me stand out in the hallway until the prayer was done.

SYG             It’s now more than 50 years since the Supreme Court ruled that public-school officials could not organize prayer services, but many states and localities get around the religion issue by letting the students lead the prayers. Last week the Florida Senate approved a bill (SB 436) that requires all school districts to allow for ‘voluntary’ expressions of religious belief on school property, which basically protects public prayer in the classroom, but does not contain any protections for students who choose not to participate, such as the way I behaved back in 1956.

The bill got a big play last week because it was passed as part of an agreement to pass another bill, SB 128, which makes it easier for Florida residents to use a ‘stand your ground’ defense if they happen to shoot someone besides themselves. This bill basically puts the burden of proof on the prosecution from the moment a defendant appears in Court, which means that if the State isn’t ready to present all relevant evidence at an initial, pre-trial hearing, the guy who did the shooting walks free.

Every Republican in the Florida State Senate voted for the change in SYG, ditto for what is being called a ‘stand for liberty’ by the sponsor of the religious ‘freedom’ bill. This State Senator, Dennis Baxley, represents the 12th District, which covers Marion, Sumter and Lake Counties and delivered between 60% and 70% of their 2016 Presidential votes to our temporary 45th President, a.k.a. Donald Trump. Baxley’s website says he understands that “family, freedom and faith must all flourish to keep our state and nation strong.”  Is he endorsed by the NRA?  Is New York a city?  I mean, family, faith and freedom – give me a break.

              Regarding Senator Baxley’s commitment to freedom, he says “As the father of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Dennis Baxley believes that our Second Amendment rights are the bedrock of our nation’s freedom. He will fight against the erosion of this fundamental freedom.” In other words, Baxley has jumped on the latest lie being promoted by Gun-nut Nation, namely, the idea that the 2nd Amendment is the most important test in the Constitution, because armed citizens are the last defense against the tyranny of the state. And if you don’t believe this to be true, the proponents of this nonsense will also tell you that the Holocaust might not have resulted in the extermination of 6 million human beings if the Nazis had to go up against armed Jews.
              The moment that public officials like Dennis Baxley start waxing eloquent about their commitments to family, freedom and faith I find myself back in my 7th-grade classroom being marched out into the hall by a religiously-minded teacher who simply couldn’t comprehend my lack of religious belief. And I get the same, slightly sinking feeling whenever someone from Gun-nut Nation starts chanting about their God-given ‘rights’ to self-defense with a gun.
              I’m not sure why a fervent belief in gun violence is so often joined to a fervent belief in God, but they often seem to go hand in hand. And if anyone actually believes that SYG or concealed-carry laws help prevent gun violence, then I suggest you take a page from Senator Baxley’s playbook and join him in his support of the NRA. Because we shouldn’t have to justify or explain our belief in the power of the Almighty or the usefulness of a Glock 19.

When It Comes To Guns, It’s Not What You Say, It’s What You Mean.

In 1989 Steven Tyler and Aerosmith released a song, ‘Janie’s Got A Gun,’ which began with the following refrain:

Janie’s got a gun
Janie’s got a gun
Her whole world’s come undone
From lookin’ straight at the sun
What did her daddy do?
What did he put you through?
They say when Janie was arrested
They found him underneath a train
But man, he had it comin’
Now that Janie’s got a gun
She ain’t never gonna be the same.

                This song became one of the group’s biggest hits, and if you don’t have the album, you can watch the video on YouTube.  It’s been seen more than 38 million times. You can also listen to it on podcasts produced and distributed by various pro-gun advocates and organizations, in particular, digital broadcasting efforts of various Evangelical preachers and personalities, such as Albert Mohler, who happens to be the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and leads a religious denomination that is overwhelmingly pro-gun.

aerosmith             There’s only one little problem.  Tyler began writing the song’s lyric’s after reading an article about gun violence which then got him thinking about child abuse. He talked about what happened in a Rolling Stone interview: “I looked over at a Time magazine and saw this article on 48 hours, minute by minute, of handgun deaths in the United States.Then I got off on the child-abuse angle. I’d heard this woman speaking about how many children are attacked by their mothers and fathers. It was f—ing scary. I felt, man, I gotta sing about this. And that was it.”

So here we have an interesting situation which needs to be considered and discussed if we’re really going to understand what to do and what to say about gun violence. Because Tyler wasn’t trying to make a positive cultural statement about guns and he certainly wasn’t trying to cynically promote himself to a certain type of audience which feeds off of pro-gun and pro-violence expressions a la the sick rantings of Ted Nugent, et. al.  He was creating an artistic expression about an idea that meant one thing to him, but ended up being taken much differently by many of his fans. Or maybe they didn’t take it any particular way. They just like his music; the ‘message’ may not be what the song meant to them at all.

But either way, in a debate as emotionally-charged as the gun debate, I think we have to be careful when we use certain words, because those words may have very different meanings depending on who uses them and when. Take for example the word ‘defense,’ as in self-defense. In the pro-gun world, this is a very positive word because it represents the idea that a gun will protect you from harm. In the gun-control community (and folks, in the Age of Trump it’s time to stop pretending that we need to apologize for wanting to control guns) a weapon that can be used defensively usually ends up being used offensively.

Why do some people believe that a gun is a valuable, self-protective ‘tool’ when study after study indicates that access to a gun actually increases risk? And I’m not talking about pro-gun trolls who will say anything to get a rise out of the other side. I’m talking about, for example, religious leaders – among conservative Protestant clergy, of whom more than two-thirds hold to the idea that gun ‘rights’ should be taken more seriously than violence caused by guns.

If we have learned anything from the extent to which a Twitter account can be used to run the United States, what is believed to be a true by one person may not be perceived as a fact by someone else. And if we are looking for messaging that will resonate with gun owners to advance public policies like expanded background checks or smart guns, we better not assume that words like ’fact’ and ‘truth’ will carry the day.

Should 2nd Amendment ‘Rights’ Be Based on Facts Or Beliefs?

The Brennan Center for Justice, part of the Law School at NYU, is named after the late SCOTUS Associate Justice William Brennan, who came from a family of Irish immigrants in New Jersey and ended up serving on the Court for more than thirty years. During that time, he authored 461 majority opinions, of which perhaps the most important, Baker v. Carr, established the principle of ‘one man, one vote.’  Brennan viewed government as the ‘great equalizer,’ and the Center which bears his name is particularly busy these days insofar as our current Chief Executive seems obsessed with tilting the balance in one particular way. And if you don’t know which way I’m talking about, I’m sorry to have bothered you and please go back to sleep.

2A             In 2016 the Brennan Center held a colloquium on the 2nd Amendment which has become a more significant element in the world of scholarly jurisprudence since the landmark Heller decision handed down in 2008.  The papers presented at that meeting have just been published online, and while I intend to discuss the entire collection at some point, several of the individual contributions deserve attention, the first being the paper authored by Eric Ruben, who happens to be a Brennan Fellow specializing in 2nd-Amendment scholarship and law. I should add that I was invited but did not attend the Brennan Center event.

Ruben’s paper is extremely important because it strikes at what is perhaps the major issue confronting gun law right now, i.e., the perceptions that individuals and communities hold about the social utility of guns; i.e., do guns protect or threaten public safety?  Because even though Heller says that Americans have a ‘right’ to own a gun, on what basis can government limit that right, for example, the way that government limits free speech? After all, speech isn’t protected if you yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, so why should owning a gun be Constitutionally guaranteed if it is perceived that a community’s safety is threatened by a resident of that community whose house contains a gun?

This issue was addressed by Ruben with reference to Friedman v. Highland Park, where the Chicago suburb of Highland banned AR-15 rifles and large-capacity magazines because the law would “increase the public’s sense of safety,” even if the odds of a mass shooting occurring in the town were little to none. Although the case was appealed, notwithstanding a dissent from Thomas and Scalia, certiorari was denied because the town government had an interest in the public feeling safer, even if there was no evidentiary proof that the gun ban would actually make the community a safer place.

Ruben discusses examples of 1st Amendment cases where laws regulating speech were based not on actual damages caused by what someone said but the perceptions about how government viewed a certain kind of speech. But as for the 2nd Amendment, Ruben notes that other than allowing the ownership of a handgun in the home, 2nd-Amendment rulings based on perceptions is a wide-open field. Which means that the issue of gun ‘risk’ could possibly be used as a criteria for determining whether gun regulations are consonant with 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

If you are concerned about reducing gun violence, the importance should not be understated regarding what Ruben has to say. Gun-nut Nation rests its entire strategy for weakening gun regulations on the idea that the risk from guns is mitigated because guns keep us ‘safe.’ Now in fact, there is absolutely no evidence which even hints that such an argument can be shown to have the slightest relationship to the truth. But here is where the perception issue as a rationale for regulation becomes somewhat sticky, because in a gun-owning community the residents might want their perceptions that guns keep them safe (as opposed to representing a risk) to be protected under statute as well. But if the issue ended up in Court, we might get a more evidence-based discussion than what we currently hear from the NRA.