Gun Control

Eugene Volokh on Gun Rights, Free Expression, and the Nanny State


Following the shootings in Colorado, calls for tighter gun control laws have increased to predictable levels. But as UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh reminded us during a 2010 interview, when it comes to limiting gun rights "we should err on the side of liberty, including erring on the side of liberty of self defense."

Original text from the March 2, 2010 video is below:'s Ted Balaker sat down with Eugene Volokh, professor of law at the UCLA School of Law and founder of The Volokh Conspiracy, to discuss gun rights, free expression, and the Nanny State.

Find out what Volokh thinks the biggest threats to free expression are, and whether today's muzzlers come mostly from the left or right. Volokh also explains what the landmark Supreme Court case, DC vs. Heller, has done to gun control and whether he agrees with the "more guns, less crime" thesis.

Other topics include: media bias and gun rights, Alabama's prohibition on selling sex toys, and whether judges can be nannies.

Interview by Ted Balaker. Shot by Alex Manning and Hawk Jensen. Edited by Paul Detrick.

NEXT: Why Gay Marriage is Winning

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  1. The Constitution is a joke in your town.

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    2. 4th amendment. The professor in the video says that the 4th is more open to “interpretation” because it speaks of “unreasonable” search and seizure.

      What he is ignoring is that “reasonable” is defined RIGHT THERE:

      …probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, description of place to be searched and what is to be seized, if all these precursors are met, then a warrant may be issued, and THEN they can search and/or seize.

      That is the metric that must be met for search to be reasonable; and anything ELSE is unreasonable.

      If one were to (stupidly) argue otherwise, then the obvious question to pose to such a dimwit is: If that text is not there to delineate the difference between reasonable and unreasonable for the amendment, then WTF is it there for?

      The 4th is crystal clear. Unlike the minds of our legislators, our judges — and the professor in the video.

  2. God I wish we could go back to the old days where the only speech we tried to suppress was that of a sexual nature.

    1. Which “old days” were those?

    2. Read your history a little more carefully, please. Political speech that displeased the Moneyed Class was suppressed with some regularity from the end of the Civl War through the mid 1960’s. Then, in the 1970’s, the other side of that question started to actively suppress speech on campus that was insufficiently Liberal for their delicate sensibilities. The sex issue has always been almost a side-show, though certain busybodies used sex-censorship to suppress birth control pamphlets.

      1. Yep, Civil War was about the earliest that the government attempted to suppress free speech…

  3. Boehner is not going to do anything in the House, Obama is basically not pushing for anything, so you are wasting ink worrying about it.

    1. Wasting ink? What are you, printing this blog out?

      1. Josh isn’t the brightest bulb in the Reason Marquee.

        1. Intelligent people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.

          1. So take that, Randian!

            1. I am thoroughly abashed by Father Tulpa.

              Sorry, Dad. I’ll behave from now on.

          2. The smallest people speak in inane cliches.

          3. Was that Tulpa talking about me telling me how small I am for talking about other people?

            “first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

            1. “…the man to first compare a woman to a rose was a poet; Tulpa’s an asshole…”

    2. I would love to see someone get on one of these news shows with a gun control liberal and just call scoreboard.

      “Look (insert liberal here), we have settled this issue. We will never ban guns in this country. We have settled it in the courts and at the ballot box. You would do better to accept that and move on to other more productive issues”.

      1. NO! Why would we want liberals to move on to more “productive” issues?

        1. NO! Why would we want liberals to move on to more “productive” issues?

          They’re pretty destructive and criminal as it is! Don’t give them any ideas, for cryin’ out loud!

      2. Liberal answer: “But we’ve never advocated banning guns. We just want reasonable restrictions on the more dangerous guns, those only useful for killing people, to keep them out of the wrong hands. Just a few laws, like Chicago, California, New Jersey. Laws that won’t keep you from hunting or target shooting. Otherwise there will be blood in the streets, fenderbenders will turn into firefights, and bodies will be stacked like cordwood.”

        Host: Mr. Gun-Nut, when will you start caring about the children? That’s all the time we have, thank you for…”

        1. Reasonable, common sense restrictions, commonly agreed upon by TOP MEN and the Brady Bunch in a reasoned, sensible manner, that reasonably prevent senseless violence from happening to unreasonable common people.

          1. Restrictions which include banning extended clips (which would make virtually no difference in the body count of a mass shooting), banning semi-automatic rifles (which makes zero sense since prohibition doesn’t work and semi-autos are single fire like a pistol anyway), and adding gun ownership regulations that would only make it harder for law abiding people to get guns since people who snap and go on rampages usually don’t have any priors and criminals don’t follow the law to begin with.

      3. I like to see someone go on one of those shows and advocate mandatory gun training in hi school with serious incentives for every adult to own a gun.

        Watch the liberal’s head explode.

        1. serious incentives

          Like Kennesaw, GA?

          1. No, more likes the Obama-Roberts notta-tax tax.

            1. A penaltax.

              Tow the lion, VG.

          2. Kennesaw ought to enforce that law.

    3. Obama has shown that he needs no legislation to order the vast bureaucracy to do exactly what he wants.

      1. He’s like Frank Zappa’s Central Scrutinizer, in charge of enforcing all the laws that haven’t been passed yet.

  4. President Brutus will nominate EV to the SCOTUS. Vote for me!!!

      1. Well, when you see that it’s called “Global Public Square” hosted by CNN, it’s a pretty safe assumption that it’s a fact-free zone.

        1. For some reason I went ahead and read it anyway.

        2. Misleading statistic is misleading:

          The U.S has three gun homicides per 100,000 people. That’s four times as many as Switzerland, ten times as many as India, 20 times as many as Australia and England.

          Well, yes, when you have gun laws, people tend to use guns less in murders. That doesn’t mean they murder any less. The United States total murder rate is 4.7 per 100,000. India’s is 3.2. England and Australia’s is 1.4 or so.

          I suppose that “less than 25% more” and “a little under 4 times more” lacks the kind of punch that “four…ten…twenty times” carries.

          1. It’s like saying people in Kansas City are 50 times less likely to drown in the ocean than people in LA.

            1. Joe Delaney would beg to differ.

          2. The United States total murder rate is 4.7 per 100,000. India’s is 3.2. England and Australia’s is 1.4 or so.

            Yeah, but you have to watch how statistics from other countries compare. In Japan, if a man comes home, kills is wife and three kids, then himself, that’s counted as five suicides. If a bank is robbed in Britain, it often gets classified as terrorism.

            1. Yup. And Britain doesn’t classify crimes that haven’t been solved and someone has been convicted. Which means if your murder investigations have a 50% success rate, you’re not counting half the murders that actually happen. Pretty neat trick, that.

              1. *crimes that haven’t been solved and ended with someone being convicted*

              2. Really? That’s huge. Most murders aren’t solved and convicted.

    1. What a convoluted clusterfuck of circular logic. Violent crime is down to record lows, but guns are still bad because people use them, as opposed to knives, or something. As if the choice between getting shot in the stomach or being eviscerated made any difference. Then he just continues on from there with wild conclusions and outright falsehoods.

      1. Well that, and our drug policies alone fuel most of the violent gun crime in urban areas. Focusing on that would most definitely help address problems with gangs and inner city crime.

        I still don’t get why they insist on comparing a country with a large and diverse population like the US to countries like Switzerland or Sweden. Apples and cinder blocks.

        1. Also you’d need to add the stats for accidents with all other commonly used weapons in violent crimes and have a violent crime and accident comparison map for any of that shit be objective and not just a “guns are scary!” work of fiction.

          1. In Japan, an occasional nutcase cuts loose with a Samurai sword.

            1. Actually, a few years back some guy in Japan had a grudge against his doctor over what he thought was a misdiagnosis. He went out and bought a gun on the black market and shot the doctor. Handguns are not legal in Japan but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them.

        2. Ask why they do not compare the U.S. to Russia, Jamaica, or Mexico.

        3. True about the drug law issue. If you actually look at a state by state breakdown of homicides, the numbers are pretty interesting. States like NH (little gun control) and HI (lots of gun control) have very low homicide rates (1-1.5 per 100k). States like CA and TX have higher homicide rates (5 per 100k). What’s the common link? I’d say big urban populations and thus drugs.

          Interestingly, Louisiana is a huge outlier with a gigantic 11.5 per 100k homicide rate. Any thoughts on that one?

          1. Not just illegal drugs, but that drug market is often run by young men who have no fathers, and are ‘raised’ by less than ideal mothers. That tends to leave them pissed off. The other day a 19 year old and a 16 year old were robbed and shot here in Columbus. The thieves made off with $600. How in the hell did those two youts get their hands on $600? Not delivering newspapers.

    2. Guns are bad, mmmkay?

      1. Then amend the Constitution. If an amendment banning alcohol could be passed, one banning gus should be possible unless the American people are dead set against it.

        And there’s the rub; they are. Nothing infuriates the Western Intellectual Elite more than uppity commoners who refuse to do what they are told.

        1. Amend the constitution is no answer. The amendment could be another crushing blow to liberty.

        2. No one of importance is arguing for a gun ban.

          REASON commentors flogging another dead straw man.

          1. Well, yes, you do have a point as I see no evidence that you are arguing for a gun ban.

            1. I didn’t know Palin’s buttplug was someone of importance…

              Meanwhile, we have several senators trying to introduce various gun control laws. One is trying to ban magazines larger than 10 rounds (A BAN), and another is trying to bring back the Assault Weapon Ban (ANOTHER BAN). And Obama is talking shit about how AK47s belong in the hands of soldiers and not civilians.

              So I guess if you count those people as not being important, then Buttplug would be correct.

              Thankfully, ain’t none of them got the muscle to force it through the House, and maybe not even the Senate, so it’s likely not to go anywhere.

              1. I think Obama drew the contrast between soldiers and criminals. When I read it I was like “false dichotomy much?” Nobody wants any weapons in the hands of criminals, obviously.

              2. Banning magazines larger than 10 rounds, however inadvisable/unconstitutional, is not a gun ban.

                1. OK, it’s not an outright ban on all firearms sales, but they are banning part of a gun. By that logic, a ban on the sales of ammunition is technically not a gun ban.

          2. Hogwash, nobody is calling for a gun ban. The gun banners have been in retreat, but their obvious goal has not changed since I started paying attention to this in the 1970’s, when they were a great deal more honest about their objective.

            But since the Second Amendment says the right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed”, and I believe that the Constitution and Amendments should be interpreted in strict accordance to English grammar, ANYTHING that makes it harder to own firearms requires an amendment, and anybody pretending otherwise should not be trusted around any of our other rights.

          3. Palin’s Buttplug|7.29.12 @ 8:17PM|#
            “No one of importance is arguing for a gun ban.”

            Jeeze, idiot. Are you trying to beat shithead at sophistry?
            “No one of importance…”
            Agreed; congress-critters are of no importance.
            “arguing for a gun ban.”
            Naah, just, well, maybe registrations, limitations, etc.
            What an asshole.

    3. The funny thing is that the US has a murder rate lower than most of those nations with nice, low gun ownership rates, and it’s been dropping for years even as gun ownership is rising rapidly.

      This is about the superficial level of bullshit I’d expect from CNN and Fareed.

      1. To be honest, our murder rate is higher than most developed countries. however, our violent crime rate is much, much lower. You stand a slightly better chance of being murdered, but the trade-off is you get a significantly reduced chance of being violently beaten, robbed, or raped.

        1. It’s about quality not quantity. American exceptionalism.

        2. I’m not sure why there’s a “developed world” qualifier that needs to be applied. Do people kill each other over the lack of internet access, smokestack industries and paved roads?

          1. They’re just unevolved and it would skew the results.

          2. The ‘developed world’ qualifier excludes various third world basket cases where the government’s reach is about one day’s walk out of the capitol. I’m not too concerned about it. What always amuses me is the number of gun control advocates who reference Switzerland, where every adult male is a member of the armed forces or reserve, and most households therefore have a fully-automatic assault rifle.

            1. I know it exlcudes them, but why? Wouldn’t the fact that they’re poor mean they can’t afford high-capacity weapons that therefore have a low murder rate?

              1. 1) They don’t have reliable murder stats.

                2) Thanks to an overabundance of ‘revolutionaries’ who got AK47’s in their stockings from Santa Boris, the third world is awash with fully automatic weapons (none of which I would willingly fire without a thorough inspection by a gunsmith, but hey.)

            2. Carrying in public is very hard to do legally in Switz. (excluding when you’re bringing your rifle to military service and back)

              1. excluding when you’re bringing your rifle to military service and back

                However, that was done amusingly casually.

                Watching a 19 year old throw his rifle up on the train luggage rack wasnt awe inspiring.

          3. “developed world” qualifier

            Because otherwise you have to look at those less developed countries that have murder rates that put ours to shame (as in we aren’t in their league), and that would be racist. Places like Brazil, Mexico, South Africa – to name a few.

        3. “Developed countries”

          RACIST much?

          1. Nope. Stupid much?

    4. I can’t even see Switzerland on that map.

    5. Time to face the facts on Gun Control; the Second Amendment was written to protect the citizen’s right to own military grade firearms. We know this; it’s in the debates on the Constitution. To keep effective firearms out of the hands of the common folk, a Constitutional amendment is necessary. Anyone talking about banning certain kinds of guns because they are ‘so dangerous’ is weaseling around this, in which case he is a scoundrel.

      Letting the rank and file own guns may be a bad idea, but it is an idea enshrined in the Bill of Rights. If you try to duck this simple fact, you are taking the position that the Constitution is less important than your ideas – whether you realize it or not.

      I am tired of one-cause johnnies wiping their bums on the Constitution and its Amendments. If their causes are so all-fored important, then they should promulgate Constitutional amendments that would make them legal. If they aren’t willing to do that much heavy lifting, then we are entitled to tell them to go climb a tree.

      1. A constitutional amendment which would keep firearms out of the hands of the common folk would not be compatible with the Declaration of Independence, and would therefore be void.

        1. That’s not actually how the system works. Conflict with the DoI is a great point during the debate over an idea, but you don’t do yourself a lot of good when you overreach like that.

        2. The Declaration of Independence may be a statement of philosophy, but it does not carry the force of law.

    6. What’s the rate of gun ownership in Switzerland?

      1. According to Wikipedia, they have about 46 guns per 100 people or so, which puts them in fourth place. Only Yemen (3rd), Serbia (2nd), and the US (1st) own more.

        1. This is true, but carrying handguns in public in Switzerland is restricted to people in security occupations.

          The US is one of the few non-anarchic countries in the world where carrying handguns in public is commonly legal.

          1. Never cut off an American vehicle in traffic. They’ll pull out their gun and start shooting at you.

            1. Not sure about Switzerland, but in many countries I’ve visited you’re considered a bad driver if you’re not cutting other people off. So maybe there’s something to that.

        2. I wasn’t aware of that particular stat. I’ve rarely been more proud to be an American.

    7. Yes, just think how great it would be to have the gun ownership rate of Uganda, Afghanistan or North Korea.

      1. moar gunz make us safer derp

    8. Those statistics also include police shootings, of which America is the best in the world at.

    9. “Conclusion? Well, there are lots of factors involved, but there is at least a correlation between tighter laws and fewer gun-related deaths.”

      IOW, “I know that correlation and causation aren’t the same but my audience doesn’t.”

  5. OT: Has anyone clicked on the “4 dangers destroying men” ad? I like to, but I’m afraid.

    1. I keep getting the Texas election, Doubletree Inn, and Reason Summer Cruise set.

      1. I visit H ampersand R with only cached images set to display. I don’t get the ads.

    2. I keep getting ads for duct tape, JA Henckels, and Viagra.

    3. It’s a virility ad.

      1. Does the brunette come with your first order as a test subject?

    4. I like to, but I’m afraid.

      Then you’ll never the be the Alpha Male that I am.

      (Maybe doubling up on my dose of Testosterone Enhancer 5000 wasn’t such a hot idea…)

    5. Re: Libertarian,

      OT: Has anyone clicked on the “4 dangers destroying men” ad? I like to, but I’m afraid.

      You just want to see the girls in the devil outfit, don’t you?

      Well, they’re not there. So don’t bother.

  6. What’s the rate of gun ownership in Switzerland?

    What a silly question; the Swiss are a genteel, orderly, erudite people, fond of intricate mechanical clocks and warm chocolaty drinks. The “gun” is virtually unknown to them.

    1. The “gun” is virtually unknown to them.

      I thought they used their cheese for target practice. Isn’t that where all the holes come from?

    2. God, I hope this is satire. If it isn’t, you seriously need to read about Switzerland.

      1. Yes it’s satire.

      2. Calibrate your Sarcasometer.

        1. The thing is, I keep running into people who are actually that clueless.

    3. I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve been frantically emailing whipping boy -at- to no avail.

  7. Solutions- we haz those

    The new mission statement is intended to reflect Weingarten’s call for “solution-driven unionism.” It reads:

    “The American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.”

    “This new mission statement makes it crystal clear who we are, what we believe and what we will fight for,” Weingarten said in a release. “Economic opportunity, strengthening communities, fairness and democracy?these are the values and principles that AFT members hold dear. They are part of our DNA.”

    Union members also approved resolutions calling for raising revenue to protect public services and jobs “by advocating tax policies that force the wealthy and big corporations to contribute their fair share in taxes.”

    Crystal fucking clear.

  8. “by advocating tax policies that force the wealthy and big corporations to contribute their fair share in taxes.”

    They’re not even using euphemisms anymore.

    1. Well, at least they are being marginally more honest. The one thing our form of Fascism could use is more honesty.

  9. The union also calling for ensuring that “public services are high-quality and delivered as effectively as possible, and giving workers a voice through labor-management cooperation on how to provide services more efficiently; and investing the pension funds of educators in projects to rebuild America’s infrastructure and retrofit out-of-date buildings to make them more energy efficient and to create jobs.”

    It’s like a magic spell.

    1. I’m not going to bother linking the stories; you can find them here: .
      Both Oakland and SF have based maintaining their retirement funds on the investments returning at least 7.5%/annum. Both city governments seem surprised that the funds are now grossly under water.
      I presume the people in charge are exposed to at least a print version of a ‘newspaper’. Further, I presume they cannot read English.

      1. At greater than 7.5% I could almost fucking retire. Unfortunately I’m getting about -1.5% real annual negative returns.

        1. I figured you wouldn’t be able to pay your bills anyway.

      2. If it makes you feel better, dunphy’s pension also assumes a 7.5% rate of return, and so it is almost certainly underfunded as well.

  10. Volokh continues to be the MAN when it comes to strong legal arguments (vs. derp derp rhetoric) for libertarianism, especially in regards to 1st and 2nd amendment issues.

    and is THE place for legal analysis of same – 4th amendment too.

    i may sound like a broken record on this but in 20+ yrs of police work and firefighting, what i have seen (and yes, anecdotes count) is overwhelmingly – that people with CCW’s (iow people carrying guns who aren’t gangbangers and criminals in general) are incredibly responsible and incredibly restrained about actually firing them.

    i’ve responded to dozens of details where lawful firearms owners have detained suspects at gunpoint.

    and i’ve interrogated plenty of burglars etc. who made it very clear they are way more scared (justifiably so) of getting shot by a homeowner during a burglary, than getting shot by a cop, and they do everything possible to try to ensure nobody is home if they are going to do res. burgs.

    contrast with where i used to work – hawaii, where practically NOBODY had permits and guns (especially tourists) and occupied burgs of tourist units were quite common

    it’s not friggin’ rocket science.

    i’ve had a couple details where armed “citizens” have assisted officers in need, in one case shooting a robber in the head as he and the officer wrestled for control of her gun.

    1. every prediction of the anti-gunners about “blood in the street” if shall issue CCW passed has been wrong.

      setting aside the constitutional issues (which imo mandate right to carry nationwide), as a POLICY issue, it is clear that recognizing the right of lawful citizens to carry is a net benefit to society.

      as well as providing an ultimate defense against govt. tyranny

    2. while Volokh’s a great site, in case you’re wondering where he’s coming from, they don’t call dunphy out for being a craven cop apologist there. One of the very few problems with that site.

  11. speaking of japan and guns, we used to get a lot of japanese tourists in hawaii and probably the three biggest thrills for them were

    1) US hookers
    2) golf courses (pretty long waiting lists etc. in japan for the good courses and very expensive)
    3) firing ranges.

    for them, being able to go to a gun range, rent a gun, and shoot at some paper was a major thrill, all but the very rich and connected had difficulty doing in japan.

  12. “The United States total murder rate is 4.7 per 100,000. India’s is 3.2. England and Australia’s is 1.4 or so.”

    what’s also interesting is to note that at least in the US, the average “soccer mom” or accountant or just average joe has a very very very very small chance of being a victim of homicide, gun homicide or other.

    homicides are exceptionally skewed towards certain criminal classes (drug dealers, etc.), certain careers (taxi drivers in NYC used to be a big one… it’s gotten better), and certain demographics – race and gender matter a lot too.

    the point is that out of 100,000 NON drug dealer, non convenience store clerk in the hood, etc. etc. the homicide rate is actually much lower.

    we have a saying in law enforcement – today’s suspects are tomorrow’s victims. and god knows that is quite true with homicides.

    not saying there aren’t a lot of pure innocents getting murdered, but it’s very disproportionately skewed in general.

    1. I think it was about 20 years ago when a study was done on murder victims in New York City. They found that about 75% of the victims had at least 5 previous felony arrests. It seemed to me that because this doesn’t work well with their narrative to ban guns they didn’t make a big deal about the results.

  13. I don’t want to live in a world where Jordan Wieber gets eliminated.

  14. When you think about it, the Executive Branch is the only one not neutering itself by shortchanging its own role in the checks and balances. The Judicial shows undue deference to the Legislative at the expense of constitutional limits, and the Legislative regularly shirks its responsibilities to check the Executive and willingly gives power to unelected regulators.

    Maybe it’s a group thing. The members of the others don’t get any power they gain singularly, but the president is one man. He alone gets the glory of forcing policy for the people.

    1. TOP MEN thinking inevitable tends toward TOP MAN thinking. And that means executive power.

  15. A voice of reason from ULCA… shocking.

  16. Now its important to tight the gun laws in the country, otherwise there are more incidents are coming to the way like this.

  17. with the “more guns, less crime” thesis.
    Other topics include: media bias and gun rights, Alabama’s prohibition on selling sex toys, and whether judges can be nannies.

    Interview by Ted Balaker. Shot

  18. Find out what Volokh thinks the biggest threats to free expression are, and whether today’s muzzlers come mostly from the left or right. Volokh also explains what the landmark Supreme Court case, DC vs. Heller, has done to gun control and whether he agrees with the “more guns, less crime” thesis.

  19. While I believe it is our given right to own a firearm, I don’t think our founding fathers necessarily intended on us having semi-automatic rifles when they wrote the Declaration. I do think that stricter regulations are necessary, mainly in the online gun sale department.

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