About that Gun “Debate”….


Just a gentle reminder that the gun control debate continues to move forward nation wide even if it has been relatively and temporarily silenced in Wisconsin. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that my position on the gun control debate is Repeal the 2nd Amendment. Regardless of one’s position on what the 2nd Amendment meant to the Founding Fathers or any “originalist” or rhetorical-historical-textual interpretation of its place in the Bill of Rights, ultimately there are a number fundamental questions we as a society must ask ourselves. We as a society of individuals must find pragmatic answers to gun control, gun violence, and gun rights. These are among the most pressing matters of our time because these are among the most pressing matters for our children. These are not only imperative matters for philosophical posterity, but matters of practicality in the here and now. I’ve posed similar questions in previous posts, and I’m posing them again:


Is individual gun ownership a reasonable or desirable condition in 21st century America?


My answer is no. Even if we accept the idea that the Founding Fathers did answer yes to this question we, as posterity, are not bound by their 18th century context. It is the 21st century context and the very proximal conditions of our own time that must determine the answer to this question. The Constitution was debated, drafted, revised, and ratified with generational flexibility at its core. Our governing document was designed to meet the needs of the people it serves even if those needs require our governing document to change.


Is the American citizenry fit to bear arms?


My answer is no. The utility of the Second Amendment isn’t about responsible individuals. The pivotal axis upon which the appropriateness of an armed citizenry spins is the fitness of the entire citizenry and American society as a whole. Our query as a society must be: what purpose does individual gun ownership serve in American society? The question we as a society of individuals must ask ourselves is not what purpose individual gun ownership serves for individuals, but:


How does individual gun ownership benefit We the People?


A number of interesting items surfaced in the last couple of weeks pertaining to the gun “debate,” first a little rationalism care of Chris Mooney:

Everybody knows that our political views can sometimes get in the way of thinking clearly. But perhaps we don’t realize how bad the problem actually is. According to a new psychology paper, our political passions can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills. More specifically, the study finds that people who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.

Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math



A little irrationalism care of Pro-Gun Advocacy:

Stand Your Ground and Bush Doctrine Indistinguishable?

An excerpt:

Florida Today reported on Wednesday that attorney’s for William T. Woodward had filed a motion asking for charges against him to be dismissed under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which says that gun owners do not have a duty to retreat in the face of an “imminent” threat.

One perspective on William T. Woodward and self-defense:

Just imagine where we’ll be 15 years from now if “standing your ground” continues to be the foundation of our self defense laws. We’ll have to stand our ground before the other guy does or risk being shot for giving someone a nasty look. Welcome back to the Wild Wild West.

Addicting Info was too generous in its description. This trajectory doesn’t lead to the Wild Wild West; it leads to the Stone Age.


And then there’s this gem: New Moms Leader Brings Out the Misogyny in Pro-Gun Movement

I won’t excerpt anything here. Too vile.

But I will excerpt the text of a graphic from Parents Against Gun Violence:

40,000 soldiers at Fort Hood didn’t deter one man with a handgun from shooting 42 people. How many armed guards does the NRA want to put in your kid’s school?

Parents Against Gun Violence posted this article in July: New Study Data on Youth Firearm Ownership. A number of items within it should give pause. Among them:

The youths’ most commonly cited reason for carrying a gun is a familiar one: more than a third (37%) said they had the gun for protection. “The perceived need to own and carry firearms for protection among respondents with assault injury suggests a need to address youth’s perceived and real feeling of safety through individual and community intervention,” the authors wrote. Other reasons included “holding it for someone” (reported by 10% of those with guns) or having one because their “friends carry guns” (reported by 9%).

My response to this article should come as no surprise. Repeal the Second Amendment.


A final thought from Parents Against Gun Violence:

There is a widespread belief among gun rights activists that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals or mentally ill people — if we can simply keep guns away from “those” individuals, there’s no need to regulate gun ownership for responsible, law-abiding citizens.

There is a flaw in this belief, though. The spectrum of responsibility among gun-owners isn’t the simple binary of “good guys” and “bad guys.” All humans are human. There are moments when they lose their temper, when they do something foolish, when they misjudge a situation, when they sink into depression, when they drink too much or when they simply act without appropriate caution. No person is entirely immune to this kind of behavior. This does not mean that guns should be completely banned. PAGV supports second amendment rights. PAGV also believes, however, that recognizing the inherent risks in gun ownership — and the graduated risks associated with various types of firearms and various habits, behaviors and attitudes toward firearms — are first steps toward reducing gun violence. It’s dangerous hubris to think that, because you are a “responsible, law-abiding citizen,” you could never do wrong.


While I think this sentiment is an important one for we as a society of individuals to bear in mind, I disagree with the conclusion. That discrepancy should come as no surprise:

Repeal the Second Amendment.

Whichever position one takes on the gun debate, one matter is clear from every angle: we as a society of individuals must face the idea of responsible gun ownership and decide how useful a distinction it is from gun ownership as a blanket concept.  If there is such a thing as responsible gun ownership, then we must take that concept from the sphere of individual and apply it to the larger sphere: the society of individuals. One of the most significant concepts of our time is individual gun ownership. I recommend we address it sooner rather than later.



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6 thoughts on “About that Gun “Debate”….

  1. Gun Control is a great way for Democrats to keep losing elections. I believe in a robust constitution and that includes guns.

  2. AJ,

    Thanks for your input, and you are free to believe in a robust constitution that includes guns. If your idea of robust is that the Constitution isn’t malleable or that rights and liberties are without era-specific boundaries then you may wish to revisit your choice of adjectives. My questions pertain to today’s society and its reciprocal relationship with the Constitution. The Constitution wasn’t designed with rigidity, it was designed with flexibility – with an amendment process and an alienable-inalienable fabric. My questions do not interrogate constitutionality or any liminal bounds or interpretations of what the 2nd Amendment means. The Constitution must meet the needs of the society it serves. So, I’m asking questions about how the Constitution serves our society, specifically I am asking if the 2nd Amendment satisfies our 21st century context.

    If you are willing answer to the questions posed, please do:

    Is individual gun ownership a reasonable or desirable condition in 21st century America?
    If so, why?
    If no, why not?

    Is the American citizenry fit to bear arms?
    If so, describe how.
    If no, describe how not.

    How does individual gun ownership benefit We the People?
    If individual gun ownership does benefit We the People, how is our collective self bettered?
    If individual gun ownership does not benefit We the People, how is our collective self not bettered?

    The questions are not asking anything about what the Constitution allows or disallows. Nor do the questions pertain to electoral politics.

    1. PJ,

      I would be concerned if the United States of America took the right of gun ownership away from the people. The United States record on prohibitions actually working is horrendous. If people feel their right to own a gun is going to be taken away, they are going to buy more guns.

      People own a lot of guns and I see no problem with it.

      1. AJ,

        You express a common opinion, one which I’m certain many citizens agree. Yet, with all due respect, the perspective you address doesn’t address the questions. My queries aren’t asking you to support a repeal of the 2nd Amendment. Repeal is my considered opinion given my study of American history and Constitutional scholarship. I expressed that opinion as a matter of disclosure so to speak – so there’s no confusion about where I’m coming from.

        Likewise, my questions don’t address what might ensue should the American people decide to repeal the 2nd Amendment, nor is repealing the 2nd Amendment a ban.

        So many of our gun debate questions revolve around the dichotomy between good guys and bad guys. My queries don’t address that particular binary division. My questions pertain to the fitness of society as a whole – for society as a whole is to what the Constitution pertains. The 2nd Amendment itself doesn’t pertain to a special class of citizens – gun owners. The 2nd Amendment applies to everyone. Given that frame of reference, can you speak to the question, Is the American citizenry as a whole fit to bear arms? Now, today. In 2013.

        My supposition is you have a considered opinion on why individual gun ownership is desirable in 21st century America given you support the position. Why? Is there something specific or nuanced that individual gun ownership does for We the People as a society of individuals? Or is your support solely due to the inclusion of the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights?

        As a supporter of individual gun ownership, you have a perspective that differs from mine. I don’t see the benefit to society. I’m assuming you do since you value individual gun ownership. What is the benefit that you can see but I cannot?

        Let me rephrase that – you’ve stated that people own a lot of guns and you see no problem with it. Am I correct in assuming this means your personal feeling on the matter is neutral? You see neither good nor harm arising from a lot of people owning guns? If so, I appreciate your position. On what do you base your neutral assessment? What you’re saying is there’s no necessity for either position – individual gun ownership or no individual gun ownership? Am I understanding you right when you say people own a lot of guns and you see no problem with it?

        As someone who is neutral on the subject you probably have a pretty clear-minded view of why individual gun ownership is neither beneficial nor harmful. If individual gun ownership isn’t beneficial – if it doesn’t advance our society, why not? If it isn’t harmful – if it isn’t hurting our society, why not? What is the relationship between these two dichotomies that brings you to a neutral position – how do they cancel each other out?

  3. Yes, a repeal would be tremendous. In the interim, I’d be OK with even small steps. It’ll be interesting to see if regular people sick of violence drive this or if it’s the plutocrats growing fearful of a hungry, poor, ill populace, or a coalition of some kind.

    1. Agreed, Emma. I’d be OK with small steps too. I do think we’re going to see a step-up for small steps very soon. Actually, not just soon, but now – from here on out. I really do think we’ll be moving more forward rather than backward on the gun issue. Yes, it will be interesting to see which of the two motivations takes hold – perhaps a convergence of both will occur.

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