The Lone Gunman Theory of Legislation

The perils of letting armed lunatics drive public policy

Jared Lee Loughner, the man accused of shooting 20 people outside a Tucson grocery store on Saturday, probably will never get a chance to create the "new money system" he discusses in one of his rambling YouTube videos. But he can still have an important effect on public policy—if we let him.

After the shocking attack—which killed six people, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Green, and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)—there was no shortage of knee-jerk proposals for preventing future outbursts of senseless violence. Most of them would sacrifice Americans' freedom in a vain attempt to protect us from armed lunatics.

At a press conference on Saturday, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik decried Arizona's permissive gun laws. "I have never been a proponent of letting everybody in this state carry weapons under any circumstances that they want," he said, "and that's almost where we are." Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, echoed Dupnik's concern, saying Arizona "has almost no gun laws."

The logic here may be even harder to follow than the reasoning that links the Tucson murders to Sarah Palin. A man bent on assassinating a member of Congress, a man who thinks nothing of gunning down a 9-year-old girl, is not likely to have compunctions about carrying a firearm without a permit.

In retrospect, it may seem obvious that someone like Loughner never should have been able to own a gun in the first place. "Why are crazy people allowed to buy weapons in this country?" wondered Time columnist Joe Klein. Helmke complained that "we make it too easy for dangerous and irresponsible people to get guns in this country." They noted that Loughner was suspended from college for disrupting classes with strange comments and that one of his fellow students called him "very disturbed."

But Loughner was never "adjudicated as a mental defective" or "committed to a mental institution," which would have disqualified him from buying a gun under federal law, and his behavior in school, though off-putting, was not violent. There is no reliable way of predicting which tiny percentage of the country's many oddballs and malcontents will convert weird ideas into homicidal actions. That reality may be scary, but it is not nearly as scary as a legal regime that strips citizens of their Second Amendment rights based on the opinions they express.  

Even worse is a legal regime that imprisons eccentrics on the off chance that they will commit murder someday. Klein regretted that "we no longer lock up the mentally ill," while University of Maryland political scientist William Galston said civil commitment rules should be changed to "shift the balance in favor of protecting the community." Such a shift inevitably would mean locking up more people who pose no real threat to others.

If we can't pre-emptively detain all potential Loughners, maybe we can avoid saying things that might set them off. That censorious impulse, which imposes a madman's veto on speech that might unintentionally provoke "unbalanced people," is manifest not just in ritual calls for rhetorical restraint but in proposed legislation that would punish people for failing to heed those calls.

CNN reports that Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) plans to "introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official." According to Brady, "the rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down." Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) wants to reinstate the "fairness doctrine," a policy of enforced balance on the airwaves that federal regulators abandoned because it had a chilling effect on speech.

The urge to do something in the wake of such a horrible crime is understandable but dangerous, as the grieving father of Christina Green suggested in a Today show interview. "In a free society," he said, "we're going to be subject to people like this. I prefer this to the alternative."

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2011 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • anarch||

    Here's someone who might have an ax to grind.

  • BakedPenguin||

    You know, just prior to this, I watched the Penn & Teller Bullshit! show where they interviewed a mother whose daughter had been abducted by a stranger and murdered. She stated that in spite of that, she believed that kids should be allowed the space and freedom to live, grow and become adults.

    These people amaze me. Despite their losses, they still see these horrible acts for the rare aberrations that they are. Their courage is inspiring. My deepest sympathies to that father and his wife.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    It really is pretty amazing. Out of all the people offering their "solution", the only one who gets it is the dad of one of victims.

  • Realist||

    Yes, one of the saddest stories of this crime

  • ||

    With parents like that, I am guessing Christina Greene was an interesting little character.

  • Realist||

    Yes, so very sad.

  • some guy||

    Perhaps these are the people who should be leading our country. After all, they truly know what it means to sacrifice for freedom...

  • derp||

    Yeah, sure, but people would rather vote for a clueless suit.

  • TheCheeseStandsAlone||

    Outlaw all lead bullets,
    replace them with plastic
    (or paint guns)...

    That way, we can all shoot
    at each other (cops, gangs,
    politicians, domestic
    disputes, etc.), without the
    baggage of murder charges!

    What a wonderful world it
    could be!

    Cheese

  • TheCheeseStandsAlone||

    Ever used a potato gun?

    Great fun...

    Try it with tomato...

    Tomato on your face...

  • fuck off||

    Someone get me a damn coffee

  • Rather||

    or some crack. I'm so tired of blowing my dealer to get it. Read about it on my blog!

  • Fuck off||

    besides, I'm still tweaking today's story

  • hurp da durp||

    I can't wait till 20% of the American population is behind bars. Maybe then they'll stop electing these bastards.

  • sarcasmic||

    By then it will be a crime to vote for anyone else.

  • hurp da durp||

    Exactly, and suddenly a motive appears to overthrow the government.

  • -||

    Saw a fellow named Alan Korwin on the Spitzer-What's-her-name show last night. He managed to debunk everything Spitzer threw at him, rendering Spitzer almost speechless at the end of it all. Very entertaining.

    http://www.gunlaws.com/consult.htm

  • Ted S.||

    The show is called Parker Client Nine.

  • Ashley D||

    I know that trick too-where the fuck is my coffee?

  • Hurp a DERP!!||

    hurrr durrrr hurrr hurrr

  • PIRS||

    "introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official."

    Could be perceived by whom? Could be percieved by people like those running China, Russia or Tunisia at the moment? Once upon a time I never thought I would have to fear this country restricting freedom of speech. I am not quite as naive now.

  • Raven Nation||

    In a sane world, a member of Congress who even proposed such a law would be removed from office for violating their oath to defend the constitution.

  • Ron||

    Even the phrase "we will remove you from office" could be taken as a threat because it doesn't declare how a person will be removed, by vote or actually physically removing the person from office. a very dangerous presidence.

  • ||

    I guess before the law gets passed, I should mention that Robert Brady deserves to be kicked in the nuts repeatedly. Hopefully the law won't be retroactive.

  • PhillyGal||

    Bob Brady deserves to be kicked in the nuts repeatedly anyway. This deserves a harsher punishment.
    Is Fuck You considered a threat?

  • ||

    Is Fuck You considered a threat?

    Depends if there is a subpoena later.

  • Rich||

    The perils of letting armed lunatics drive public policy

    I see what you did there.

  • Bruce Majors||

    "Somebody told me the other day that the Secret Service has orders that if George Bush is shot, they're to shoot Quayle. … There isn't any press here, is there?" Senator John Kerry (Associated Press, Nov. 16, 1988).

    http://www.slate.com/id/2089125/

  • Rather||

    goose and gander- a required tale for all politicians

  • a penny a day keep obama away||

    What is good for the goose is good for the gander?

  • Rather||

    Dems complaining about crosshair maps-they had one of their own! Good morning!

  • a penny a day keep obama away||

    No surprise there. But since liberals are against the Second Amendment, it must have been a target for spitballs.

  • hmm||

    The irony is that as annoying as Quayle is I think I might actually choose him over Kerry.

  • Anomalous||

    He would be the lesser of two evils.

  • Pip||

    Exactly how does Quayle annoy you? He's been out of the public eye for nearly two decades. You must be a cunt.

  • ||

    Not really they are interchangeable..

  • Bruce Majors||

    Glenn Greenwald is supposed to have observed (I didn't see it on Salon though) that we used to lock up many more "crazy" people before those evil Reagan budget cuts. And the result is that no one was ever assassinated in the 60s or 70s.

  • ||

    Gleenwald as usual lies. First, the deinstitutionalization movement was about more than budget cuts. It was driven by civil libertarians and liberal psychologists who made it well neigh impossible to involuntarily commit someone. In the 1960s and 70s this idea developed that few people were actually mentally ill and that mental hospitals were just tools to oppress those who are different and make them conform. One Flew Over the Coocoos' Nest is an early example of this kind of thinking.

    This thinking combined with budget cutters of all political strips. They basically just threw people out of mental hospitals back in the 1970s and left them on the street with no support.

  • Mr Whipple||

    They basically just threw people out of mental hospitals back in the 1970s and left them on the street with no support.

    IIRC, there was a court ruling, in NY, I think, that really opened the flood gates.

  • Bill||

    Yes. Well before Reagan. Maybe you can blame Nixon??

    Then after Reagan was elected, all of a sudden the media realized we had a "homeless" problem they blamed on Reagan cuts that never actually occurred. He talked about cuts but never enacted many. At best the rate of increase in spending was cut or a few things grew less slowly than inflation.

    In reality, many of the homeless are people who in the past would have been committed to mental institutions.

  • Mensan||

    Those are the same kind of budget cuts that the teachers unions are always whining about.

    They request a $2 billion budget increase, and get a $1.6 billion budget increase. Then they bitch and moan that education spending has been cut by $400 million.

  • hmm||

    I've seen this argument a few times and I think it's catching on. I tend to ask if mental health is so important, why are states forking out huge and increasing pension benefits over the last 20 years instead of helping the poor sick people.

    I usually get a complete logical breakdown or silence.

  • Realist||

    Pip is right!

  • a||

    I very seriously doubt that Greenwald says this. Give a citation or shut the fuck up. John's list of imaginary crimes committed by Greenwald is long enough already without another fabulist piling on.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I agree. While I don't agree with everything Greenwald says or does, he's usually very good on civil liberties, and that sounds like the last thing he'd say.

    It certainly wasn't on the first page. If anyone wants to check further, go ahead.

  • Amakudari||

    Oh please. Here's an actual Greenwald article on the subject:

    Galston seems to be unaware of this, but what motivated the reforms in this area were the decades of severe, horrifying abuses which those with mental illnesses -- and even those who had none -- suffered as a result of permissive involuntary commitment standards and prolonged forced incarceration. Those who suffered mental illnesses were locked away for years and sometimes decades despite having done nothing wrong and despite not being a threat to anyone, while countless people who simply exhibited strange or out-of-the-ordinary behavior were deemed mentally ill and similarly consigned. ...

    He harkens back to some sort of Golden Age of the 1960s when thousands of people were incarcerated against their will who did nothing wrong -- as though that era were relatively free of political assassinations because all the "crazies" were where locked up where they belonged. Of course, the opposite is true: there were far more violent attacks on political figures back then (MLK, JFK, RFK, George Wallace, Malcolm X, etc.) than there have been during the relatively peaceful time beginning in the 1980s when involuntary commitment became much more difficult.
  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Our elites need more protection, to further drive home that they're the elite. We all should be forced to strip literally naked before them, just to be sure they're all safe.

  • hurp da durp||

    As a nudist, I find this a great idea!

  • MNG||

    "We all should be forced to strip literally naked before them, just to be sure they're all safe."

    Even the ugly people?

  • Bee Tagger||

    Especially the ugly. They should be the angriest.

  • ||

    Yes MNG....even the ugly people. It's for safety...some sacrifices need to be made.

  • ||

    Even the ugly people?

    Being forced to look at ugly naked people is the worst form of violence...

  • ||

    I'd say *fat* naked people... nothing wrong with a naked butterface, you're not going to be looking up there anyway...

  • sarcasmic||

    Yes, even you.

  • ||

    I wanna be in charge of taking Katherine's clothes off.

  • Barney The Frank||

    Just the dangerous, muscular young males!

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    Better yet, mandatory skin-tight jumpsuits (I vote silver!) for everyone. Not only will they feel safe when thy're out among the riff-raff, but the forced conformity will ensure a properly unified - and deindividualized - society.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

  • ||

    "Klein regretted that "we no longer lock up the mentally ill," while University of Maryland political scientist William Galston said civil commitment rules should be changed to "shift the balance in favor of protecting the community." Such a shift inevitably would mean locking up more people who pose no real threat to others."
    Not to mention most of the more amusing Reason commenters - now, I would enjoy my sojourn in a mental hospital, provided I had high speed internet access, and all the spagettio's I could eat, and there was no prohibitions on downloading porn (I am a political prisoner, not a sex fiend!!!) Masterbation is exercise!!!

  • ||

    Throw in some lube then where do I sign up?

  • ||

    Oh, and they have to have the Cataclysm expansion to WOW.

  • ||

    schizoprhenic Dan:
    "I for one welcome my psychiatric overloads" graciously tipping his tinfoil hat to Nurse Rachett.

  • Mensan||

    I don't think I would enjoy being committed. Apparently, at some group homes for the mentally impaired in Florida, homosexual sex is mandatory.

  • ||

    Masterbation is exercise!!!

    Yes it is! But spelled differently.

  • ||

    i blame my exceptunally poor spelling on my mental illness...
    and California skools.
    And my second grade teacher, Miss Ritz, who had an ass that wouldn't guit...exposure to which started me on the long downward slope of mental delusions and poor spelling...

  • Almanian||

    For me it was Miss Fisk, 2nd Grade student teacher...I remember her red polka-dot dress, and you could see her tits when she leaned over to read us a book...

    *sigh*

    I love you, Miss Fisk...

  • ||

    I was dealt the worst hand in that regard... I never had a hot teacher in all my years at school. Like not even one that I never actually had as a teacher but saw around... my high school had almost 2,500 students and zero hot teachers, like not even drunkenly bangable. Grade school obviously smaller but still nothing. One of the great black marks on my life.

  • Almanian||

    That is truly sad!

    I was blessed with more after Miss Fisk. High school kind of sucked for hot teachers, but Middle School was target rich.

  • ||

    Grade school - NO hot teachers :(

    High school - one hot teacher (talk about an "ass that wouldn't quit" - yikes!)

    Now my problem is going to conferences with my kid's grade-school teachers, WITH MY WIFE SITTING NEXT TO ME, trying not to stare at one incredible rack after another....

  • Tomcat1066||

    This I can relate to. My son has the hottest teachers on Earth (or so it seems), and Parent/Teacher conferences suck with the wife right there.

  • Pip||

    "(talk about an "ass that wouldn't quit" - yikes!)"

    They have medicines for that.

  • Ted S.||

    My third grade teacher was born in Brazil. :-)

  • ||

    You magnificent bastard. If she was under 30, I salute you!!

  • ||

    I would simply have popped!

  • Almanian||

    mosquerbate

    FIFY

  • ||

    ...to terror porn?

  • Fuck off||

    cum or you die?

  • Mohammed||

    Me ruv you rong time...

  • ||

    ...little girl...

  • Fuck off||

    Terror porn would never work- the insurance would prohibitively expensive. Just look at all the damage cleavage has done, T & A would cause a meteorite strike

  • Barney The Frank||

    Cum or you go.

  • ||

    Pay as you cum?

  • Barney the Frank||

    Pay Cum.
    Easy cum....easy go!

  • ||

    Leaving aside the fact the nobody has any evidence that Loughner has even seen the infamous Palin "crosshairs" map, there is an additional problem with imposing a madman's veto on our rights: who really understands what goes on in their heads? Who knows what could set them off? People assume that "violent" rhetoric does it, but they don't actually know that--they're just projecting.

    I know this is hard for some people to accept, but we can't prevent everything, not even by using government power to create a world where one's rights are determined by the "lowest common denominator"--if a right can be abused by a criminal or a crazy or a 5 year-old, nobody can have it.

  • ||

    They could set up something like the Bureau of Pre-Crime, but instead of pre-cogs, have a couple hundred seriously mentally ill people monitored as they watch tv, read newspapers and surf the internet. Their reactions would shape all the double-good media we recieve.

    Slight jumps in heart rates and angery muttering would get a site a warning. Actual loud outbursts and pounding on desks would have tv shows and sites shutdown until the "proper authorities" could review the content.

    The Furious Little Cinnamon Bun illustrates this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBDbsG8C_qA

  • Janet Napolitano||

    CoyoteBlue, if I didn't know you better, I might think you're mocking my Department.

  • Mensan||

    Dammit! Now I want a cinnamon bun and a snowcone.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I had never seen the Palin target map before Saturday. Surely I'm not alone in that...

  • ||

    Well, neighbor, we'll just be watching you from now on then for any dee-diddley signs of imminent assasination behavior, okley-dokley??

  • ||

    never saw it before either

  • ||

    lone gunman? there's been mass killings in this country for decades.

  • Just give up||

    you fucking retard.

  • ||

    that's all u got?

  • you fucking retard||

    just give up.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Fuck off, Orrin" works better.

  • The Gobbler||

    Hello Shit Facktory! New here?

  • Barney the Frank||

    Gobble this!

  • ||

    its ANOTHER mass killing in a loong line of mass killings involving gun violence.

  • ||

    AND THEY WERE ALL RELATED!!!! BECAUSE THEY ALL USED GUNS!!! THERE WERE NO MASS KILLINGS BEFORE GUNS!!!

  • ||

    not the point. re-read the headline dufus. its only a lone gunman when one ignores all the previous lone-gunman mass killings. >a lone swordman aint gonna wound 20, killing 6 before being subdued or shot.

  • ||

    Who is this Jacob Sullum? This article demonstrates reason, thoughtfulness, sanity: a man with a firm grip on reality. He should be locked up immediately. Without coffee.

  • Almanian||

    "the rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down."

    And "Congress shall make no law"

    Fuck you in the ass with a hot poker Brady

    That hot enough for you, you statist cunt? Go douche yourself with a barbeque brush, Brady, you addle-brained prick.

    Morning, Reason! :) :) :) :)

  • Rep. Robert Brady||

    "Congress shall make no law"

    Very well, then. We'll deem it a tax.

  • ||

    Good morning Alm--#maniac*!(means charity insane you BHO)

    The "inflamed rhetoric" bullshit has to stop. The amount of willful historical ignorance needed to make such statements is staggering.

    that you could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a professed Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the Government of this Country.

    This quote isn't from Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, it's George Fucking Washington from 212 years ago commenting on the upcoming election of 1800. If any of these 'experts' of American history had read a single book on the first, oh say, 30 presidential elections then they couldn't in all honesty make these "ratcheting up the inflamed rhetoric" claims. Unless they know, and are just being intellectually dishonest. A possibility that I wouldn't rule out.

  • ||

    Funny, isn't it, that with the "highly inflamed rhetoric" of the 18th/19th century, along with "almost no gun laws" and much higher rates of gun ownership (not to mention people who had actually participated in the Boston Tea Party!!), this country managed not to devolve into an anarchic hellhole of unrelenting assassination and revenge killings? Dear God, how did we ever survive without the benevolent hand of our government overlords guiding us towards paradise????

  • Almanian||

    Jesus Christ - The Father of Our Country™ himself...a right-wing whacko terrorist.

    Who knew?

  • OhioOrrin||

    Plus, he owned slaves.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    For that reason I propose that we ban the reading of historical documents. We must protect everyone who is crazy, or may one day go crazy, from the vitriolic(the new favorite word of politicians and reporters) rhetoric they used back then.

  • sarcasmic||

    Didn't you get the memo?

    "Congress shall make no law" really means "Congress can do whatever the fuck it wants".

    Just as "shall not be infringed" really means "Congress can do whatever the fuck it wants".

    That's because the Constitution reads as follows: "Congress can create any law necessary and proper to promote the general welfare and to regulate commerce".

    No restrictions.

    None.

  • Pelosi||

    If you have ever left the state you were born in we can lock you up!

  • Der Fuhrer Rep Brad||

    I used KC masterpiece and it was enchanting

  • Almanian||

    Ewwwwwwww!!!

  • PhillyGal||

    Believe me, that fat tub of lard would never waste barbecue sauce.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Of course, you know what Ben Franklin supposedly said about those who would give up essential liberties for a small measure of temporary safety.

    He said, "fuck those assholes, yo."

  • Rich||

    Would someone kindly explain *exactly* what "safety" legislation such as Brady's is supposed to provide?

  • ||

    A prophylactic to prevent all social ills.

  • Rich||

    Well, yes; but I'm seriously looking for reasonable details. Does Brady really believe that pulling crosshairs out of the public discourse will somehow promote the General Welfare, or what?

  • ||

    Full-Body Condoms for all!!!

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    It's supposed to make everyone FEEL safer and not have to read or see anything icky.

  • Barney The Frank||

    That was my great-great grandfather Benny The Franklin. I shortened our surname.

  • ||

    Don't follow your logic wrt guns. If we required passing gun use safety tests, as we do for motor vehicle use, including psychological screening, such violence could be prevented. Allowing someone with symptoms of schizophrenia to own a glock is akin to allowing the blind or senile to drive.

  • Dept. of Motor Vehicles||

    zad, your driver's license is up for renewal. Kindly report for your pyschological screening.

  • adz||

    psychological including drive. gun akin gun someone required prevented. we symptoms to screening, we allowing a or follow use, senile to do with is If for akin psychological to including do could logic to to symptoms prevented. for including follow required senile your a we to could If glock

  • Almanian||

    Your ideas intrigue me, and I'm interested in subscribing to your newsletter.

  • ||

    Shakka, when the walls fell.

  • ||

    Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra

  • ||

    You usually write this to me.

  • Mr Whipple||

    In most states, driving is a privilege, not a right. Owning a gun is a right, not a privilege.

    See the difference?

  • mattgee||

    +1000! you got it right (pardon the pun)

  • Saro||

    Driving is a privilege. Owning a gun is a right.

    Unless you'd be comfortable with having to take regular, government-mandated "psychological screening" tests before voicing your opinions, the difference should be obvious.

  • ||

    We need to implement the precautionary principle - if anyone can identify a chance that something might be misused so as to cause someone to be killed, or hurt, or scared, or offended, or even make some small child cry, it needs to made illegal.

    We need to do it for the children!

  • Creepy Guy||

    Children can be misused...

  • Barney The Frank||

    if done properly.

  • steve||

    Children? Like those routinely hacked to death in China by nutjobs not unlike Loughler who A) don't have access to a gun and B) don't have the balls or skills to take on adults? I chose our situation, ...sry Giffords

  • ||

    "He's a schizophrenic? Which one do I shoot?

  • Sybil||

    Daddy??!!

  • Mr Whipple||

    Yo, fuck Joe Kline. I saw him on CNN saying how the Ron Paul movement to End the Fed, is based on a wacky conspiracy theory.

  • Almanian||

    Plus, Joe Klein is really, really fugly.

    So double fuck Joe Klein.

  • Logic-free Zone Logician||

    Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pennsylvania, said he will introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official.

    As for support for the bill, Brady said, "Why would you be against it?"

    Since the language of the bill could be perceived as inciting violence against a Member of Congress.

    Duh.

  • ||

    "shift the balance in favor of protecting the community."

    You know who else wanted to protect the community (by rounding people up and locking them away)?

  • Almanian||

    Franklin D. Roosevelt?

  • Mensan||

    WINNER!

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    The governor or mayor or whoever in Hang 'Em High?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Escape from New York?

  • Devil Inchoate||

    If laws like this pass, then the terrorist wins.

  • Pip||

    Dear Reason,

    Quit posting this shit fuckers mug on your website. It just encourages others to take a shot at getting into the spotlight. That, and he is one ugly fucker.

  • Almanian||

    HEY, HEY, HEY! PIP!!

    take a shot

    Let's watch the incendiary and violent language, huh? We don't need you provoking another "Tucson Tragedy" with your hate speech, now, do we?

  • Thom||

    One's lifelong dream of having their picture posted on reason.com?

  • steve||

    So Obama can retire now?

  • Pat Hingle||

    Pip, Pip hurray!

  • ||

    I'm sympathetic to those who feel an overwhelming urge to DO SOMETHING in light of this terrible massacre. But, I suspect, things will calm down and we'll go on much as we have before. Which is a good thing. Too bad we didn't calm down after 911...instead of deciding to invade Iraq in our frenzy to DO SOMETHING.

    The tragic fact is that in a nation of 307M we'll never be able to stop all of the nuts all of the time. We could outlaw guns and turn the US into a virtual police state and we would STILL have the occassional mass murder. To be honest, I'm surprised it hasn't happened more often...given the utter hatred of the far Left and far Right.

  • ||

    It's when you outlaw guns and turn into a police state that you get really big mass murders; e.g.:
    28 million Germans by Hitler,
    60 million Russians by Lenin & Stalin,
    60 million Chinese by Mao,
    etc.

  • cynical||

    A couple of points:
    1) Involuntary commitment can and will be abused, but it should probably be a little easier. Even if schizophrenics aren't dangerous, without social/family support, they can be at least a danger to themselves if their situation is severe. Involuntary commitment is still a form of depriving a person of their rights, so they should get due process.

    2) We should consider giving discretionary information in gun checks, if we don't already. That is, things that the State can't obligate you to consider or punish you for failing to consider, but for which they will immunize you against discrimination claims if you consider. I doubt most gun sellers want to sell guns to dangerous people or even people with a few warning flags as to maybe being dangerous; they should be empowered to make informed decisions.

  • The Ghost of Jack Benny||

    I'm thinking! I'm thinking!

  • ||

    And how will the gun dealers get this information?

  • cynical||

    I was imagining a list of relevant notes, (which I suppose could include positive notes like military service and so on), would be provided along with the Pass/Fail part of the background check, sort of like a credit report.

  • ||

    My question is, where would this data come from? Are you suggesting that the government keep dossiers of complaints and rumors on each one of us, and base our exercise of our rights on the contents of said dossiers?

  • ||

    Are you suggesting that the government keep dossiers of complaints and rumors on each one of us...

    Where did you hear that? We don't do that! I need the name, address, and phone number of whoever told you that we aready do that. Really, we don't do that. I'm serious.

  • ||

    But, but we have to do SOMETHING!!! ANYTHING!!! Great God almighty won't someone think of the children!!!

  • Priest||

    I am, I am.

  • Altar Boy||

    nice one.

  • ||

    Naturally the Patriot Act was a "reasoned" response to 9/11, that didn't infringe anyone's Constitutional rights. I'm sure the author agrees. Right Jake?

  • Jo Mamma||

    Our right to bear arms provides a check against the perils of an authoritarian government. That's the common argument anyway. Unfortunately, the gun nuts who believe this nonsense are completely delusional, if they think their handguns and rifles could ever be a defense against the strongest military the world has ever known. In the war between the NRA and the U.S. military, the smart money is on the military. Now I'm no expert, but I'd bet the military is pretty confident that its Apache gunships match up rather favorably against a bunch of hillbillies with shotguns.

  • ||

    You're assuming, as many people make the mistake of doing, that the "hillbillies with shotguns" would all gather together on a defined battlefield so that our glorious military could massacre them with those high tech weapons. It doesn't work that way; see what the "hillbillies" are doing in Afghanistan for instance.

    Mind you, Afghanistan is a foreign country. Do you really think that the U.S. military could go around flattening U.S. cities just to nail "hillbillies with shotguns"?

  • Jo Mamma||

    Last I checked, things weren't working out so well for the Taliban in Afghanistan. And the fact that it's a foreign country is the only advantage that they have. The U.S. soldiers don't speak the language, don't know the customs, don't look local, don't share the religion, and, most importantly, don't know the terrain - which is rural and extremely rugged. You're comparing apples and oranges. If the gun nuts want to start a revolution by hiding in caves and posting YouTube videos, the goverment won't be losing any sleep over it. Furthermore, if the war was in America, the military presence would be everywhere, not just in the capital, and they wouldn't have the option of leaving. The last time their was a widespread insurrection against the U.S. government, the Union army did exactly what you're saying they wouldn't do today - completely destroy American cities (think Richmond, Vicksburg, and Atlanta). And back then, their was little technological difference between the two sides; it was guys with rifles fighting other guys with rifles. Times have changed since the Revolution and Civil War. I repeat what I originally said, if you think your guns would ever be a threat to the U.S. government, you are delusional.

  • ||

    If you think the US government would win a fight with its citizens, you're delusional.

    First of all, while it's impossible to predict the set of circumstances that would predicate such a fight, it's a fair bet that institutions of self-rule would be suspended. In that case, a significant portion of the military - if not a majority - would be fighting for the other side. Your "strongest military the world has ever known" is such mostly BECAUSE of who you term the "guns nuts."

    You seem to believe that the superpower of the US has conjured its unequaled military, rather than the other way around. (For a counterpoint, look at Europe.) The military is payed for by and recruited by the citizens. Your civil war analogy is ludicrous; Lincoln would have had a hell of a time raising an army and paying for it in the South. Even in a fantasy world where the military is some banana republic army happy to kill for tyranny, the "best military in the world" is not equipped to protect its leaders and would not remain such for very long.

    Your contempt for "the gun nuts" starting a "revolution" - which you take to be a few rednecks overturning the will of 300 million or so fellow citizens - is incredibly revealing. You sound like an incredibly ignorant 18 year old. Not (just) of a world of which you clearly have no knowledge in your insulated enclave, but ignorant of what gun rights, the government, the army, how and why they function, what a revolution entails, and probably on for another page or so.

  • Jordan||

    And you're assuming that all members of the military would fight their own countrymen instead of defecting, aiding them, or just refusing orders. Another crucial difference between an American insurgency and the Afghan one is that Afghan insurgents don't have access to the vulnerable rearward based and civilian infrastructure required to support combat operations. The military needs fuel, ammo, food, water, electricity, spare parts, and crewmen who go home to unguarded houses every night.

  • Alex||

    Jo Mamma,

    Jo an idiot.

  • ||

    All the more reason to allow hillbillies to own Apache gunships.

    Want to exchange more stupid arguments?

  • ||

    "Hay, Eunice!! We got any a them thar Hellfire rockets out back!? Them revenooers is sniffin' round mah still agin!!"

    "Eustice, they's hiddin' in tha root cellar!! You want me to go fetch one fer ya!?"

    "Never you mind, honey. I found a Stinger in the parlor room!"

  • ||

    Our handguns and rifles become M16's and M1Abrams tanks, F22's and C5A's on the weekend.

    That military? Is us "hillbillies".

    All volunteer.

  • SSG Mensan||

    Roger that!

  • Jordan||

    Last I checked, things weren't working out so well for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    Then you haven't checked in quite a while.

  • ReConUSMC||

    Sobering especially when you here Jackson , Sharpton and a dozen blacks say it is Talk radio's that is causing the problem . Really ? Now the numbers you can google your self .
    Yes this is a tragic event that happened in Ariz. but what is not mentioned is far worse .
    Out of 17,271 Murders in America during 2009 in America .
    Blacks being 12.9 % of the population accounted for 68 % of All Murders with 92 % being Black on Black Murders .
    There is the long running real Tragity sadly . Hespanic being 14.7 % accounted for 18.2 % of all Murders in America . Whites and 7 other races accounted for the rest .
    Although whites are the majority at 56.2 % of the American population .
    Chicago , Philly and Detroit each had more Murders than we had in All deaths in Iraq in 2009 .
    Ad in LA , Balitmore.DC , Atlanta ,New Orleans , Houston and Maimi ..... Equal more Mudrers than deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan in total in 10 years .
    Rush and Palin made him do it ? Hardly !
    Facts matter .

  • ||

    You are suggesting then that perhaps God is culling the herd?

  • ReConUSMC||

    I wished ....... plus for every White person born in Europe there are 8.7 Moselms born per family ...
    Europe by 2025 is all radical Moselm ... Wahabbism .
    America ? Hespanic for 35 years then Moslem ......Wahabbisn sadly .

  • ||

    "CNN reports that Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) plans to "introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official."

    Which would be any criticism construed as threatening to their incumbency.

  • Smokey||

    correct.

  • Helpful helper||

    I have a solution to all of our problems. I call it the Federal Unit of Companions for the United States or FUC US for short. Each citizen will be assigned a full time, permanent, government companion. This immediately results in perpetual utopia. Wait. Let me explain. Uncle Sam will hire half of the population to keep a friendly eye on the other half. For starters, this fixes the current unemployment problem, but that is just an added bonus. The real issue is that it instantly solves our present overwhelming violence problem, rhetorical or otherwise. The companions will be government employees and as we all know, they are sweet, fuzzy, and puppy like and cannot possibly be a threat to anyone. The companions keep the other half in check and there you have it. They can make sure we all use the correct light bulbs, that our toilets use the correct volume of water with each flush, that we are not using too much salt with meals, that our carbon footprint is not too large, the possibilities are endless. And, as a plus we can run all thoughts by the companions before speaking to make sure we are not being incendiary. Airport scans and pat downs are no longer necessiary, the companion can pre-screen you. So many issues can be solved so easily. - Currently seeking a member to introduce legislation...

  • ReConUSMC||

    Stalin , Hitler and Mao did that long ago not for others but fore themselves .
    Since the Population wanted them all 3 very dead .
    Now we know why Obama hired 16,700 new IRS possible KGB personal guards .

  • Mensan||

    I like this idea. Of course such a large increase in government employees will necessitate several new large beureaucracies to manage them. Do government employees require companions?

    Come to think of it, the companions will require companions as well. We'll just put everyone on the government payroll, and raise all marginal tax rates to 100% to cover the expense. It's perfect!

  • Helpful helper||

    Ah. You must learn to accept that govt is infallible. It must be. How else could it presume to take on so many of that decisions of life that we mere mortal individuals used to be free to make for ourselves? Once hired by govt the companions fall under the umbrella of infallibility and as such do not require companions. In truth, I find your insinuation that that companions may have flaws of their own to be borderline inflamitory and potentially threatening. You should check with your companion before posting in the future.

  • ReConUSMC||

    A former Black ReCon Marine Buddy of mine lives in the Most Violent section of South Philly .
    All homes on his block have been broken into sevearl Times on both sides of the street as well as several mudrers there .
    My ReCon Marines Bud's house .... Never once in 31 years !
    He has a large lighted sign beside the front and back doors .
    Reading
    *Enter at your own Peril ** !
    Beware two totally trained 144 Lb. Rockweildes that love fresh black meat !
    I am a Viet Nam highly decorated ReCon Marine and a Expert in all Fire Arms ..fully loaded and a demonlitions expert at setting Booby Traps ,sump charges where you can least expect them and even where you are standing reading this .
    I 'll say Boom since you want ever hear it guaranteed !

  • erikjay||

    The TODAY SHOW took down the father's "price of freedom" interview. Figures. Can't have that kind of talk from a Newly Anointed Victim.

  • Reg||

    I will be interested to see why that was removed.

  • JPaul||

    The idea that lunatics will get guns anyway, and so therefore we don't need gun control, is sophistry at its finest.

    Law-abiding Joes and criminals alike have virtually unlimited access to guns because of the climate of deregulation. If guns were harder to obtain, lunatics (particularly those who truly are mentally ill, like Mr Loughner) wouldn't be able to wander into a sporting goods store and leave with a glock.

    Furthermore, we don't just have access to guns - we have access to absurdly advanced weapons that can shoot 30 rounds without reloading. This isn't about people with muskets.

    I'm not sure what's worse - your claim that gun control wouldn't help the situation, or your assertion that the logic of the anti-gun crowd is hard to follow.

  • ||

    Actually, when you consider the Founders saw the 2nd as a check on government not hunting or home invasion, and they allowed the populace the highest tech fire power available at the time; one could make a compelling case that the 2nd allows the citizenry to possess Stinger Missles AND full auto shoot around the conner shit.

  • Mensan||

    I make this case constantly. The Second guarentees each citizen the right to arms to protect freedom from an oppressive government. Arms does not mean single shot rifles and revolvers only. It means weapons of war. It means a derringer or a nuke, and everything in between.

    Of course, most of the more destructive weapons are prohibitively expensive, but they are Constitutionally protected.

  • ||

    Sounds good to me. I'd settle for a full auto AK47 or an Uzi, a nuke is probably going to be impractical in most circumstances.

  • ||

    "According the the National Opinion Research Center, as of 2006, 21.6% of Americans own guns.
    However, Targeting Guns by criminologist Gary Kleck, shows that the number may be closer to 50%. Kleck compiled a series of criminological and media surveys, and the reported household ownership rates across all surveys are consistently higher than the National Opinion Research Center.

    Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What.....z1Ar2Ysg4j

    So 60 million Americans own guns.

    Yet most of the murders are concentrated in ethnic groups and in the worst part of cities.

    So is that where your idea of gun control should begin?

  • ReConUSMC||

    3/5.s of the population should have no guns !

    Actually I say put 2-4 Million AK-47.s with unlimited ammo in The Black Community along with free drugs for 10 years .....
    Problem solved !

  • Helpful helper||

    Automobiles kill far more people and should be much more heavily regulated. In fact, the concept of freedom itself, and freedom in all forms is responsible for all deaths. Therefore all freedom must be regulated out of existance. No further comment is necessary. Thank you.

  • ReConUSMC||

    Poor misguided soul : Gun's kill on puropse unless it in self defense .
    Car's kill by accident , Drugs , Drinks or by mornincally Texing while driving 60-70 in traffic .......
    Your comparision is naive and lacking of any substance or for any new laws ..

  • Mensan||

    Of course, cars (no apostrophe, dumbass) only kill by accident. They're never used as a weapon on purpose.

  • Hot Lips||

    Frank: We have to do something, ANYTHING!
    Hawkeye: I agree with Frank. Let's do anything.

  • ||

    "is understandable but dangerous"? No, its just plain dangerous to free speech. Will "shooting from the hip" be outlawed? What next?

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    I'm beginning to think that we need a constitutional amendment prohibiting any legislation drafted by anyone named Brady.

  • ReConUSMC||

    Any man who commits Murder of Innocents based on other' thoughts words and Voices is not Political at all .
    He is indeed Crazed , Moronical, Sickly Religious as are one of 47,741 radical Moslem suicide deaths in the last 29 years .

  • ||

    Good article. There are always politicians and pundits wanting to grab more power for the state whenever tragedy strikes. This article shows why we shouldn't let them do so.

  • ||

    "...but it is not nearly as scary as a legal regime that strips citizens of their Second Amendment rights based on the opinions they express...."

    Just. Wow.
    As a Canadian, I used to find America's love of guns amusing.
    As a vacationer here at the time of this tragedy, I now find America's pathological fetish for owning a human-murdering device 1/2-part sad and 1/2-part scary.
    Arguments for being a gun-owning society don't add up. The other 231 nations of the world seem to get this. What the fuck is wrong with you people?

  • Gregory Goldmaker||

    It's built into the legal and political system in the US, and has to be treated as a reality to be adjusted to.

  • Helpful helper||

    It is lamentable that the people in the rest of the world are so comfortable being the ruled. Subjects of the State, so to speak. You don't mind being serfs. The concept of self government is foreign to you. We take our notion of a govt "Of the People" seriously. Part of that notion is the idea that we are each independent and sovereign. We see our individual lives as worth personally defending. We value the tools that make that possible, even if those tools are in a very small percentage (and sometimes high profile) used against the innocent. The alternative is worse.

  • ||

    Just as we should not let armed lunatics drive public policy, we should not let public servants drive public discourse. They have demonstrated themselves to be poor drivers. We are permitting our discourse to swerve into the relativism of subjective thought where in this over sized gray area of thought certain speech would be permissible based on the perceived political affiliation of the speaker. We have with this recent episode the resurrection of clearly incendiary remarks by certain public figures who never paid a minute of explanation while we see people on the opposite of the spectrum having to explain for they never said or provoked.

  • Headshaker||

    When I saw the headline to this article, I thought you were going to be talking about the NRA...

  • Alice Lillie||

    Mr. Sullum is absolutely right. Gun laws, laws that allow people who are different to be locked up or forceably drugged just for being different, and the censorship of speech and symbols are an abomination. They need to be repealed, not strengthened.

    These laws on the books and laws being proposed simply add up to one thing: The idea that government officials are *better* than the rest of us.

  • ||

    If there had been soldiers quartered in Jared Lee Loughner's home, he might not have had the privacy to prepare for this assassination. The insane are not a justification for repealing the First, Second, or Third Amendments. But I wonder why Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Peter King fail to attack the 3rd Amendment they way they do the rest of the Bill of Rights.

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