MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Obama's Empty Gun Control Promise

Any attempt to stop would-be murderers from buying guns is bound to be overinclusive, underinclusive, or both.

White HouseWhite HousePresident Obama is tired of calling for more gun control after every mass shooting, and I am tired of explaining why that knee-jerk reaction is illogical. But he feels duty-bound to continue ("each time this happens, I'm going to bring this up," he says), and I guess I do too.

Last night Obama gave an impassioned 13-minute speech, ostensibly in response to yesterday's murder of nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, by a gunman who died after a shootout with police. The president insisted that "modest regulation," consistent with the Second Amendment rights of "law-abiding gun owners," could "prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America." But as Brian Doherty pointed out, Obama did not mention a single specific policy fitting that description.

That telling omission makes it pretty hard to buy Obama's argument that anyone who opposes "common-sense gun-safety laws" has blood on his hands. "This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America," he said. "We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction." If only we had done something, in other words, those people in Oregon would still be alive. But we are left to guess what that thing might be.

Obama did offer some clues. "It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun," he said. So presumably the "common-sense gun legislation" he supports has something to do with making it harder for would-be mass murderers to obtain firearms. The problem is that would-be mass murderers look a lot like "law-abiding gun owners" until they commit their crimes (because that is what they are), and any effort to distinguish between the two groups is bound to be underinclusive, missing seemingly harmless people with murder in their hearts, or overinclusive, depriving actually harmless people of their constitutional rights. Probably it will be both.

That is certainly true of existing restrictions on firearm ownership, which exclude millions of people—including pot smokers, illegal immigrants, nonviolent felons, and the targets of involuntary psychiatric treatment—who would never have used a gun to harm anyone. Meanwhile, these rules allow the vast majority of mass shooters to legally buy their weapons because at the time of the purchase none of the disqualifying criteria applies to them. Strengthening enforcement of these restrictions, whether by making databases more complete or by requiring background checks for private gun transfers as well as sales by federally licensed firearm dealers (as Oregon started doing in August), therefore will do little to prevent mass shootings, but it will deprive many people who pose no threat to others of a basic human right: the right to armed self-defense. 

We do not know yet where the Oregon shooter obtained his weapons (a rifle and three handguns), whether he had a disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record, or whether he underwent a background check. Maybe he will turn out to be an exception: a mass shooter who was legally disqualified from buying guns for a reason that would have been flagged by a properly performed background check. But even if that's true, it does not change the basic picture: Restrictions on gun ownership affect far more innocent people than criminals, who generally find a way around them, and mass shooters typically do not even need to avoid the background checks that Obama seems to think would stymie them.

There are similar problems with proposals to loosen the criteria for coercive psychiatric treatment. "It's fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds," Obama said, "regardless of what they think their motivations may be." But how does he propose to identify this sort of mind sickness before the fact? Only a small percentage of people who receive psychiatric diagnoses commit violent crimes, and psychiatrists are notoriously bad at predicting which ones will.

Anticipating the charge that he is using a tragedy for political purposes, Obama embraced that description. "This is something we should politicize," he said. "It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic." Obama is right that important political issues are at stake—in particular, the extent to which Americans should sacrifice their freedom for an empty promise of safety.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    When the law says you can't possess a gun, then "law-abiding gun owners" takes on a different meaning. That's the aim. Registration, confiscation. State agents will become the only law-abiding gun owners, and then utopia.

  • Will4Freedom||

    And when the bodies of the innocent STILL pile up what then? More police, of course.

  • dchang0||

    The bodies of the innocent will pile up DUE TO the police (not just violent criminals), as in current-day Mexico.

    But gun-banners don't seem to be able to draw the connection between Mexico's tight gun control and rampant police corruption and police killings of innocents.

  • BambiB||

    I notice Obozo isn't talking about the thousands of innocent people HE has murdered through drone strikes...

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    They were all bad people...

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Since this shooter appears to be an IRA nostalgiast, he would have been deemed legal under Obama and supplied by Putin in Obama's unicorn leftoid world.

  • Stephdumas||

    And some senators or others anti-gun lobbyists, like senator Leland Yee, benifit of the illegal gun sales in the black market. Looks like the anime Gunsmith Cats predicted this https://youtu.be/TO_JrkEOQ5E?t=1h20m58s (check before Youtube remove it).

  • EndTheGOP||

    Jimmy Carter has to be the happiest man in the USA. He will be able to die knowing he is no longer considered the worst president in our history.

    But surely we have the DUMBEST president in our history in the White House currently. It's no surprise he refuses to show us his grades while he attend university.

    IT'S ALL OVER FOLKS! And the socialists have won.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I don't think the grades would be the issue, but the course titles.

  • venerabilis||

    Actually I think it is the student status that is the problem.

    If you had the opportunity to attend Harvard but you knew that minority status may not be enough to get you in, perhaps you fudged the the application and claimed foriegn citizenship and your fathers legacy status.

    No I am not saying he is not a US citizen but if he commited fraud to attain a degree and receive grants then he does not have a degree and I am pretty sure this would also affect the Bar as well as any legal issues his hands were on. If he used minority status to avoid academic probation as well because of poor grades well I am sure you can see how this would create problems. It would be interesting if his grades made GW look like a MENSA candidate.

    I do find it odd that a constitutional professor was able to pretzel the constitution to the point that it was ok to execute a US citizen who had never taken up arms against the US Government and had only spoken words against the US Government if that is the standard than any American with an IQ over 100 has commited the exact same offense the fact that he executed his child for the crimes his father commited is even more troubling.

  • Stephdumas||

    They had won but let's give them a taste of phyrric victory as well.

  • BambiB||

    Jimmy Carter was never even in the running as "worst president".

    Actually, there are several presidents who were worse than Obozo.

    Abraham Lincoln - who never freed any slaves, who killed 750,000 Americans in a bid to bind the South to purchases from his industrialist northern backers, who suspended habeus corpus, imprisoned over 300 newspaper editors (until they agreed to print his point of view ONLY in their newspapers) and had war protesters shot down in the streets of New York City... was by far our worst president. His War of Northern Aggression had but one aim: To control the South ("preserve the union").

    FDR was worse. Much of the rampant socialism you see today was the result of his four terms. His threat of court-packing persuaded the Supreme Court to rule in his favor in Wickard v. Filburn - a case that is still cited for the overreaching unconstitutional authority of congress.

  • BambiB||

    Wilson was worse that Obozo. He presided over the creating of the personal income tax, the Federal Reserve, and the passage of the 19th Amendment - which is arguably the worst legislative mistake in the history of the known universe. With women voting, the majority votes to spend other people's money that the government does not have. The women's vote will eventually destroy America. But none of that could have happened but for Lincoln conquering the free and sovereign states of the South and FDR subduing the Supreme Court.

    LBJ was arguably worse. Besides getting most of the 52,000 casualties in Vietnam killed on his watch, LBJ was responsible for the "great society" welfare programs that set up the march towards the $18 trillion debt we have today.

    Obozo is probably the third or fourth worst president in our history - slightly ahead or behind LBJ - and just ahead of Bush.

    Carter? He doesn't even break the top five.

  • plusafdotcom||

    BambiB... I know this is going to sound "just like me" but when you or we use a word like "worst" applied to Presidents, it's too vague to even have a 'contest' over!

    If 'worst' means "lost the most US citizens in wars", Lincoln might beat any successors.
    Or the A-Bombing of Japan towards the end of WWII? All Citizens of All Countries?

    I consider 'worst' to include what I CONSIDER "did the most damage to the welfare of the most US citizens," and I award that prize to FDR and his immediate predecessors for creating stupid socialist welfare programs that still haunt us to this day and squander untold amounts of money on 'solutions' that don't 'solve' anything.

    Carter, imnsho, did lots of stupid things 'policy-wise' as, imnsho, has Obama.
    And for example, I can not fathom anything worse than a Commander-In-Chief publicly announcing a target date for withdrawing OUR combatants from a field of battle!!!

    Patton and Ike would be spinning in their graves at the incredible stupidity of such a "military decision" by a "leader." Nearly anything else pales in comparison.

    So, be a dear and offer the Definition or Measurement you use to determine "worst" before telling us your nominee is more worst than our nominees...

    Cheers!
    Yep, it does sound like 'me', doesn't it?
    :)

  • plusafdotcom||

    Oh, and I couldn't resist... when O started his speech, one of the first responses that crossed my mind was... "Ok, you've made this 'same speech' HOW MANY TIMES... and What Has Changed Or Improved as a result of the speech OR the repetition of same?... NOTHING... Isn't that one of the classic definitions or corollaries to the description of "Insanity"? "

    And so far, I haven't heard anyone call him on the bullshittiness of HIS comment!

    Cheers, again!

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    I remember that "centrist with an enlightened foreign policy" crap going around when Obama was initially running. I saw a ton of style with no specific substance, and his government mandated health care idea sure sounded a lot like socialism to me. I've never personally hated the guy, he seems like a decent father and a pleasant enough individual, but he's not a very good president from my ideological standpoint.

    I like a president who stands on his own, based upon strong personal principles (but who isn't ignorant enough to try to force those moral views upon the citizens... just that he knows where he stands) regardless of party affiliation. Obama's never had much of a back bone, and his knee jerk style of running things has always been unsettling to me.

    Worst president? No, but I don't care for many of his policies. I always get a laugh when some of my minority or liberal friends say that he "saved the country" but can't provide specifics other than just because.

  • Win Bear||

    his government mandated health care idea sure sounded a lot like socialism to me

    Government run health care is socialist.

    A health care mandate represents fascist economics: it allows for private property and private business but subjects them to strict government controls.

  • Cyto||

    Of all of the "politicians are awful" moments in that speech, the worst had to be when he called out other politicians for using the incident to advocate for gun rights - prospectively.

    He said words to the effect of: "I can just see them writing their press releases now.... how more guns would have helped..."

    The naked cynicism and just raw ballsiness of using a the tragic deaths of innocent victims as a prop for you pet cause before you have any information about the incident is impressive. But using the same opportunity to call out your opposition who haven't yet spoken on the incident for having press releases ready to go advocating for their pet cause without having the facts while you are doing much worse is really high-end political work. Very few have the cajones to pull that off. That is Clinton territory right there.

  • jester||

    Innocent victims don't die tragically.

  • Garth Bigelow - 1 of 6||

    ¿Que?
    How else could they die? Senselessly? Ironically?

  • Dariush||

    Most people don't understand the meaning of tragic. When people misuse this word it irks me too.
    A tragedy is self-inflicted. When some one dies tragically it is because of some character defect or error of their own making. The people killed in Oregon where innocent victims, no other clarification needed.

  • The Heresiarch||

    Meh, I'm a pretty harsh word Nazi but I've come to accept that when people use the word "tragic" or "tragedy" they're not thinking of Aristotle's Poetics but instead use it to mean "really bad," or "heartbreaking."

  • Dariush||

    Oh, I understand the ignorance of people well, but will correct it when I have an opportunity. Remember, Popular Usage is why knuckle dragging progressives believe, for instance, that where the 2nd amendment says "...,shall not be infringed.", means only the Top Men should decide who has guns. Fuck that.

  • Al Sharpton||

    So then only Mercer died tragically. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

    G.I JOOOOOOOO!!!!

  • toadboy65||

    Oxford English Dictionary-
    Tragedy-An event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe

  • Suicidy||

    Truthishly, who cares?

  • Pulseguy||

    Not in the dictionaries I happen to own. That is one of its meanings, especially when applied to drama. But, not its only one.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Kamerad Matt on The Today Show was already grilling the Sheriff about his 2A stance. A letter from the Sheriff to Biden made it to the news overnight, somehow.

  • Cyto||

    Also on the Today show: Chuck Todd talking about the politics of Washington.

    He chided the Republicans for being afraid to face the politics of gun control. He said many politicians are afraid of the NRA and chided the President for having been afraid of the NRA before Sandy Hook.

    He had the base assumption that more gun control is what is right and good and just. More gun control is a moral requirement. Any politician who doesn't march lockstep for more gun control is afraid of the NRA and afraid to courageously face up to the politics of the issue.

    There was no room for the possibility of a real argument in favor of the second amendment. This is the new talking point. You could see it in the President's speech - only calls for more gun control can possibly be honest. Only the position that there are more and more school shootings and we are all in danger can possibly be "reality based".

    Chuck Todd and host Matt Lauer were definitely on board with the new strategy. There was no discussion of what happened or why or if any particular gun control measure was on the table or if it had any bearing on the current situation. The only legitimate topic of discussion is "why are politicians afraid of the NRA?"

  • Cyto||

    Also in the Chuck Todd segment: the proactive dismissal of counter arguments. "Republicans will come out and say it is not a gun issue, it is a mental health issue. In fact, we've already heard from Ted Cruz...."

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    I don't think we'll hear Chuck Todd say that the Republicans are right about this one.

  • dchang0||

    Our elected officials are SUPPOSED to represent us, so if the majority of the voters in these Republican's districts say they want less gun control, it would be absolutely wrong for those Republicans to go against the wishes of their constituents and push gun control.

    Chuck Todd doesn't seem to get this, and thus he considers himself part of the ruling class, better than the little people. He fancies himself a little enlightened despot and wonders why Congress isn't filled with other enlightened despots.

  • Win Bear||

    Chuck Todd doesn't seem to get this,

    Oh, he gets it. He just thinks Republican voters and voters who disagree with him have been brainwashed, or are simply evil, and hence don't count.

  • BambiB||

    The libtards won't be happy until they attempt confiscation. Then, after many, many, many of them are killed by people who will NOT surrender their arms... will they be happier? Or less happy.

    I think the widespread civil disobedience in Connecticut and New York regarding the new "assault weapon" laws (with compliance running ~12% and ~4% respectively) is cause for celebration. The armed citizens have had enough of the cackling politicians class and they've just said, "No".

    A Second American war for independence?

    Molon labe.

  • EndTheGOP||

    Cyto -- It doesn't take "cojones" to do what Obama has done. It takes an evil desire to want to control the world.

    It is truly amazing no one has done him in yet. Surely Putin has considered it. I worry about this happening constantly.

  • dchang0||

    Why would Putin want to? Obama's the best thing for Russia. Putin only has to sit back as Obama weakens and destroys the USA from within, leaving a power vacuum out in the world that Putin is all too glad to fill...

    (This does not mean I advocate interventionist policy, just pointing out that Putin sees Obama's weakness as a plus.)

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    As do many.

    Instead of trying to be a problem-solver who worked with qualified individuals to get the economy really chugging along in the right direction, Obama is more worried about climate change and mending fences with people that are going to hate him (and us) regardless.

    Putin's licking his chops.

  • jester||

    The real problem is the number of citizens who don't turn their guns in and be subject to all sorts of capricious law 'enforcement'. How does a committed Progressive disarm a nation without that happening?
    Answer: committed Progressive could give a flying fuck.

  • Garth Bigelow - 1 of 6||

    No, the real problem already exists. They can declare anyone a criminal and take away his gun rights. This effectively nullifies the 2nd amendment on a case by case basis.

  • toadboy65||

    We know exactly how progressives treat people once they are disarmed. What follows is a typical page from a first-hand account of the Soviet revolution. Here is how you mold a worker's paradise:
    "For example, in a metal factory some Red
    Guards bound the arms and legs of a batch of fifty cadets so as to
    bend the victims' bodies double, and threw them, bound, into the
    flames of the blast furnaces. And later the victims' remains were
    found on the refuse heaps outside—fused with the slag. In addition,
    mass shootings and executions by other means took place in the
    factory compounds.On some of the corpses were not only wounds of the
    kind which rifle fire ordinarily causes, but also wholesale cuts and
    stab wounds, obviously inflicted before death. And sometimes the
    number of such wounds was so large as to show that the victim had
    literally been hacked to death, whilst in other cases the head lay
    shattered, and in others the head had been transformed into an
    almost shapeless mass in which the last trace of the facial contours
    lay lost. Lastly, there were corpses whence the limbs and ears had
    been cut off, and yet others which still had surgical dressings upon
    them—clear proof that it was from hospitals and infirmaries that the
    victims had been dragged to their deaths."

  • Win Bear||

    We know exactly how progressives treat people once they are disarmed. What follows is a typical page from a first-hand account of the Soviet revolution.

    The Soviet revolution was a communist revolution. Progressivism is a precursor of fascism, not of communism. Although they are both equally deadly in the end, the causes, mechanisms, and target groups of the two ideologies differ.

  • Pathogen||

    The answer is always.. More laws..

    The hang up on method over motive astounds me. The gun is an inanimate object that delivered the message from a determined messenger. Never mind the fact that murder, being one of humanity's oldest crimes, is illegal. Never mind the fact that punishments as a deterrent, were often quite severe, and ruthless enough to make modern capital punishment advocates a bit squeamish. Never mind the fact that murderers through out history tended to use whatever technology was available, from a rock, all the way up to the firearm, effectively. None of these things ever deterred a determined murderer, and more bluster from the windbag in chief probably won't tip the scales in favor of deterrence , any more than sensationalizing it will make it less attractive for those looking for inspiration from it. Shut up, and quietly ride out your term in office.. The world will be a better place for it.

  • jester||

    I think fairly that everyone that disdains gun ownership in the USA compares gun-related violence in the USA with other developed countries and the USA is ahead for the obvious reason that there are more guns per capita.
    I explain things to my worried friends in Europe and elsewhere that we need guns in the USA to protect ourselves from our police.

  • Pathogen||

    I think fairly that everyone that disdains gun ownership in the USA compares gun-related violence in the USA with other developed countries and the USA is ahead for the obvious reason that there are more guns per capita.

    And suicides, police shootings, and accidents all seem to find their way into those statistics as well.

    I explain things to my worried friends in Europe and elsewhere that we need guns in the USA to protect ourselves from our police.

    Explain those Europeans that they'll probably wish they had them, sometime around their next state sponsored genocide, which seems to plague them every ~20-30 years..

  • WTF||

    I think fairly that everyone that disdains gun ownership in the USA compares gun-related violence in the USA with other developed countries and the USA is ahead for the obvious reason that there are more guns per capita.

    Correlation is not causation. Demographics have more to do with it than anything else; the bulk of the gun violence is committed by poor inner-city minorities. The gun violence rate among middle class people is comparable to most European countries.

  • MetalBard||

    Thats a fact that would make any true Progressive squeamish. They love minorities (Even though they seem to go out of their way to make sure they don't live anywhere near them).

    The real question is why is there so much violence in our inner-cities? I imagine that drug prohibition is a contributing factor, it has put a lot of poor black men behind bars which then makes difficult for them to ever get a job again once they get out. It also results in a lot of young black kids being raised in single-parent households.

    We could end a lot of innercity violence if we just stopped the goddamned drug war.

  • WTF||

    We could end a lot of innercity violence if we just stopped the goddamned drug war.

    Too much money and government power at stake for that to happen.

  • NebulousFocus||

    Yup. And special interest groups. DEA/ATF agents, police, prisons, the courts, lawyers...
    They'll fight to keep it.

  • Cyto||

    And don't forget about scared suburban moms. They are a lynchpin in many of these fights. Nobody wants their kid addicted to drugs - particularly not waspy suburbanites. And old people, afraid of junkies breaking in to their homes to supply their drug habits.

    There are many more constituencies for the drug war than there are against it. Heck, it took 30+ years for the civil rights groups to begin to recant their position that not doing enough on the war on drugs was racist. Actually, I'm not sure that most of them have recanted their position on the war on drugs... just that they've added the position that it has been used by racists to attack black people. Kind of a cake and eat it too proposition.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Explain, then why drug prohibition hasn' t put a proportionate number of poor white men behind bars and spurred a proportionate amount of white gun violence.

  • kbolino||

    Because a "proportionate number" of white men don't live in the cities. Whatever other factors are at play, urban crime rates have always been higher than rural ones. Furthermore, when alcohol prohibition was in effect, crime rates were elevated, especially in urban areas. Why would anyone expect drug prohibition to be different?

    The question of demographic shift between the 1950s and today is perhaps a worthwhile topic of investigation, but is orthogonal to the question of drug prohibition. Why is it that the repeal of alcohol prohibition is widely accepted as having been the proper course of action, but the repeal of drug prohibition is highly controversial?

  • dchang0||

    That is a good question. I think at the base of it, the average person understands that getting addicted to alcohol is somewhat more difficult (but not impossible) than getting addicted to CERTAIN kinds of drugs.

    The people do seem to be perfectly fine decriminalizing marijuana in no small part due to the perception that it is non-addictive and non-harmful.

    But present something like meth or heroine, and the average person suddenly gets all prohibitionist.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    Yeah during college I smoked weed all the time. After that, I got married and started working full-time so I decided to stop. There were no physical withdrawal symptoms for me personally. Smoking, on the other hand, has been really difficult for me to quit.

    But ending this idiotic prohibition and war on drugs not only would save truckloads of money, but it would lessen police violence against citizens.

    It's no different than alcohol abuse. If you allow yourself to get addicted to things, then there will be consequences, but (more importantly) it should be an individual decision.

  • Win Bear||

    I think fairly that everyone that disdains gun ownership in the USA compares gun-related violence in the USA with other developed countries and the USA is ahead for the obvious reason that there are more guns per capita.

    Except that there really is no consistent relationship between gun ownership, gun control, and homicides. In fact, even in the US, the groups with the highest legal gun ownership rates are not the groups committing homicides.

    The only consistent relationship that there is is that if guns are easy to get, people tend to use them more for suicides. Given that they are effective for that purpose, I don't see that as a problem.

  • ||

    Obama has pointed to Australia's gun laws. And of course no bad guy ever has access to guns here:

    Shooting outside police headquarters in Parramatta

    Oh. Never mind.

  • jester||

    Obviously a boomerang effect from the USA's gun violence.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Oooh - good one!

    *applauds*

  • Pathogen||

    Yeah, and then there was this asshole...

  • straffinrun||

    And then there was this asshole...

  • WTF||

    They clearly got their guns from gun stores in the USA where there are no gun laws!!!

  • straffinrun||

    Sorry, WTF, but you clearly didn't click on the link. Disgusting, but not for the reason you may think.

  • ||

    I did. It was engrossing

  • WTF||

    Well, I just did, and What. The. Hell.

  • straffinrun||

    I had one crawl up my leg while eating lunch at the park. Did a youtube search and this came up.

  • dchang0||

    Whoa--is that the IRS crawling out of its anus? Why yes, yes it is!

  • ||

    Obama has pointed to Australia's gun laws.

    Every time someone brings up the Aussie stats, ask, "So how do you explain a similar drop in homicides in the US?"

  • Stephen54321||

    Mass shootings still happen in Australia but they are far less frequent than they used to be; and the stats prove it. In contrast, if you define a mass shooting as a single incident with 4 firearms deaths or woundings than the United States has a mass shooting AT LEAST once a week. In this year alone there have been close to 300 as I type this.

    http://shootingtracker.com/wik.....gs_in_2015

    No other country in the civilised world has that many. If these were terrorists killing Americans with IEDs there would be outrage from all sides of the political spectrum and Congress and US state legislatures would have a zillion laws on the statute books to deal with the plague, including ones to stop the terrorists owning the materials to blow up people. But guns, it seems, are different. So instead for the most part nothing is done; and the deaths have now become so common that most go unreported in the media.

  • WuzYoungOnceToo||

    ...and the deaths have now become so common...

    ...that the rate of their occurrence, along with rates of overall violent crime in general, is only about *half* of what they were just a couple of decades ago....even as restrictions on the ownership and carrying of firearms have significantly loosened across most of the U.S.

    Sorry, but the "gun violence epidemic" talking point is bullshit.

  • Stephen54321||

    the "gun violence epidemic" talking point is bullshit."

    from Wikipedia's article on Gun Violence in the United States:
    "There were 19,392 firearm-related suicides in the U.S. in 2010. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that approximately 60% of all adult firearm deaths are by suicide, 61% more than deaths by homicide.... According to the FBI, in 2012, there were 8,855 total firearm-related homicides in the US, with 6,371 of those attributed to handguns."

    If you check out the graph that article shows then, yeah, there was a spike in gun deaths "just a couple of decades ago" and the numbers have dropped since. But if you think more than 25,000 deaths per year is NOT an epidemic then you clearly have no idea what you're talking about. If 25,000 US citizens died through bombings do you think people like you wouldn't be talking about an "epidemic of terrorism"?

    What other country in the world not going through a war on their own soil has that many gun-related deaths per year every year?

  • Rockabilly||

    Barry, by his own admission, puffed the reefer in his youth when there was law in place that said you should not.

    So how does he expect other people to follow his gun control law when he didn't follow the reefer control law?

  • WTF||

    Laws are magic, okay? For other people, anyway.

  • Cyto||

    Like the law that says you cannot bring guns anywhere near a school...

  • WTF||

    Obviously the gun-free school zone sign was defective.

  • Jordan||

    "If you won't respond to a senseless act of violence against innocent people with an act of state-sponsored violence against innocent people, then you're a heartless child-hater."

    /Obama

  • ||

    "This is something we should politicize,"

    That's your money quote right there.

    In the context of the country, how are gun laws in Oregon? Strict, not strict, just right?

  • Libertymike||

    In the context of the plain meaning of the 2A, no state has it just right.

  • WTF||

    A couple come close. Vermont, for example.

  • juris imprudent||

    Oregon has common sense gun laws already. Apparently the Constitutional scholar in Chief isn't aware of that.

    What we really need in this country is nonsensical laws based on national pants-shitting.

  • straffinrun||

    Obama: "I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I think it's obvious I'm going to appeal to emotion".

  • WTF||

    Hey, if Obama can't use their deaths to promote his political agenda, then those people have died in vain.

  • ||

    I will steal that line.

  • gordo53||

    The right of individuals to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. It has been upheld by the SCOTUS. If there really is a groundswell of support for gun control, then the logical path would be to repeal or significantly alter the Second Amendment. This is not an easy process, but if the gun control lobby honestly thinks that their position is in the best interest of the country, then they should begin a drive toward such legislation. In my 60+ years, I don't ever remember seeing any significant attempts. I have never seen a petition. If it's that important, why not? Perhaps the form of political discourse outweighs the substance of a change in the law.

  • Pathogen||

    The right of individuals to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.

    Guaranteed =/= established. The second amendment didn't establish our right to keep and bear arms, and cannot be "repealed".. only ignored/disrespected.

  • WTF||

    Because they have learned that you don't need to bother amending the constitution when you can just keep 'interpreting' it in the desired direction. For example "shall not be infringed" now means "reasonable" restrictions are allowed. Much easier than amendments.

  • Cyto||

    This argument is so difficult for most everyone to grasp. Even experienced right-wing attorneys have a hard time with the literal reading of the text. I've had discussions about the "obscenity" exception with hard-core free speech types who could not grasp the simple language of "shall make no law". The argument that there is no line for "unless it is really important" doesn't reach them at all. They strangely become pragmatic when confronted with the reality of the law.

    The second amendment makes it perfectly clear that the actual letter of the law would be unacceptable to almost everyone in the US (except nutters on libertarian and anarchist websites). The unambiguous letter of the law is that the Federal government can issue no restrictions whatsoever on weapons possession, manufacture or transfer. That includes all weapons. Even nuclear weapons. The language is very plain and easy to read. "Shall not be infringed" is in no way ambiguous.

    The entire constitution is unworkable in our current society without a myriad of amendments. So we just ignore it and let the Supreme Court make it up as it goes along. This despite the fact that avoiding "rule of man" was one of the specific reasons for writing and ratifying the constitution in the first place.

  • dchang0||

    You're definitely right. The single biggest obstacle in discussing politics with the people I speak to in person (co-workers, friends, acquaintances) is that all of them, without exception, feel that there should be exceptions to the Bill of Rights.

    Freedom of speech? Oh, but you shouldn't be able to say this, or that, or that...
    Freedom of religion? Oh, but not in this case and that case and that case...

    It basically means that nearly all people are utter hypocrites who would carve out exceptions for themselves and people like them while using the law to batter and harm those not like them. Simple tribalism.

  • No Coincidences||

    So those people you speak to in person are demonrats, right?

  • Christophe||

    Must republicans ignore the plain meaning of words as well. It's a pretty universal problem.

  • Win Bear||

    Even experienced right-wing attorneys have a hard time with the literal reading of the text.

    You apparently also have problems with the literal meaning of the text. "Congress shall make no law" explicitly refers to Congress. The 10th Amendment makes this even clearer:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    So, states ought to have wide latitude in terms of regulating speech, guns, and other things. However, gradually, constitutional limits on the power of the federal government got extended to all levels of government. In some areas, that was a good idea, in other areas, it leads to contradictions. But those contradictions are not a problem with the original Constitution.

  • Silverleaf||

    Last I knew, "government" had a much more impressive body count total for mass murder than all the rest...combined. History suggests that we should be much more fearful of government than the occasional whacko.

  • Cloudbuster||

    This is completely incontrovertible. Thus it is rarely mentioned by our political class.

  • Cyto||

    I think it is pretty clear that the progressive machine had this one locked and loaded, ready to go. In less than 5 hours they had the top politicians and the main voices of the news media all singing from the same song book, calling for more gun control and preemptively dismissing all other narratives. All of them taking the lead from the President in saying that politicising this issue is perfectly fine (if you happen to agree with them).

    In this case the glaring central narrative is the targeting of christians for death. There really is no room for another narrative when something that shocking happens.

    Imagine this same incident, only with the group changed. You don't even have to hit the main tropes. Imagine a shooter on campus targeting asian women. What would the discussion be about? How about some guy walking around asking if people are Muslim and shooting them? Would that be the main topic 18 hours? How frustrated were they when they heard that the targeted group didn't fit neatly into a ready-made "racism" narrative. And the anti-Christian angle kinda kills off their "right-wing nutcase" canned argument too, but if history is any guide, they'll figure out a way.

    As a younger man I really would never have believed that reporters would ignore something as glaring as killing people for their religion in order to score political points. Yet here we are in an era where it isn't even surprising. More that it is expected. How sad.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    and if anyone asks why no one is talking about the shooters targeting of Christians, they'd be labeled 'whiners'.

  • straffinrun||

    I don't get it. Couldn't they find a picture of this guy wearing a graduation gown and cap, or at least one where he's 6 years younger? Isn't that the new standard?

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    Obama doesn't care about the victims and their families as much as he pretends. If he did, he would not bring this up so soon. Instead, he is signaling his base to encourage them to get out the vote for Democrats this coming election season. He's also using this tragedy

    This is shrewd, unapologetic politics, pure and simple.

  • Cyto||

    In fairness to the President, he pretty much said as much in his speech. He was not only unapologetic, he bragged that politicizing the issue was perfectly fine.

    It is hard to imagine a world where making a stump speech on an issue like this before the families have even been able to identify the bodies would be OK. But it looks like that's where we are with the modern news cycle. Gotta control the narrative....

  • WTF||

    That was my thought when I heard him making his statement yesterday. The bodies are barely even cold, families haven't even identified the bodies, and this scumbag is already trying to make political advantage from it. Disgusting.

  • Akira||

    Compare the anti-gunners' reactions to that of the NRA, who waited a week before making any statements after Sandy Hook, and it becomes pretty clear which side sees these events as political godsends to power their agenda.

  • Cloudbuster||

    He pretends? Wow, he's really bad at pretending.

  • ||

    "The president insisted that "modest regulation," consistent with the Second Amendment rights of "law-abiding gun owners,"

    Please explain how "modest regulation" can be consistent with "shall not be infringed".

    Or this: Fuck you, NO. You can't have my guns. If you try to take them I WILL shoot you.

  • EvilWayz||

    Can I use that? My standard response is Because FUCK YOU! MURICA!
    I'm not mocking you, I don't think there should be any restrictions on firearm ownership or carry anywhere, and convicted felons and those adjudicated mentally defective should have their cases examined individually before their rights are taken from them. Not every crazy person is dangerous, and neither is every felon.

  • ernieyeball||

    People kill people with guns in this country because they can.

  • ||

    Please give me your address.

  • Cyto||

    You can't really argue with the logic. It is a tautology after all.

  • F. Stand By Ion Control, Jr.||

    People kill people with guns in this country because they can.

    By that logic, we'd have 300 million shootings occurring daily.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Well, one day.

  • No Coincidences||

    And people kill people with machetes in this country, and around the world, because it is a side effect from lobbing the heads off of said people; because they can, too.

  • ||

    Obama is a perfect illustration of the need for common sense woodchipper legislation.

  • ||

    "It's fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds," Obama said, "regardless of what they think their motivations may be."

    Is he unaware many people feel this way about anyone who wants to be president?

  • See Double You||

    No. Kidding.

    Whenever I hear someone saying he or she wants to be president, all I can think is "you want to tell others what to do. Fuck off!"

  • ||

    Is he unaware many people feel this way about anyone who wants to be president?

    Willfully unaware, as are all seekers of power over others. I am appalled by the contortions some people I have encountered go through to stamp out any self awareness, simply so they can mentally justify abusing those around them.

  • FreeToFear||

    We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction

    Contemptible argument... Are we responsible for deaths in the Middle East because of our collective inaction against ISIL? People dying in Africa of AIDS because we haven't airdropped billions of condoms? Fuck that noise

  • See Double You||

    He wants to shame people for having the audacity to effectively defend themselves. He's lower than a urine-soaked paper towel.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    When he says we he really means you. Or more specifically, the congressional rethuglicans and their supporters who refuse to give him the unconstitutional gun control legislation that he covets.

  • ||

    -because of our inaction

    It seems appropriate that he, and those who support him, should then be collectively answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our actions as well. Well sir? Have you met with the family members of each and every person you've had killed globally? How about at least in this country, say maybe those killed due to police malfeasance in support of your policy? No?

  • smartin||

    If you don't think we are already being infringed on, just TRY and buy 22lr's! If you can even find them anywhere, the price has skyrocketed. 38 and 380 shells you can find but not afford. What worries me is that no one can afford to practice much due to the cost.

    By the way, guns don't kill people, bullets DO. (Mine only kill pop cans and paper targets.)

    Thank you, Liberals, for saving pop cans and paper targets.

  • Foo_dd||

    here is the only law they could pass, that could actually cut down on these events"

    no place can be deemed as a "gun free zone" unless there is screening and enforcement. i.e. if you don't have metal detectors, then you can't tell people they can't have guns.

    almost all of these things happen in gun free zones. gunmen seek a defenseless crowd when they want to do some mass killing. if there is a place where you think it is important enough to have no guns, it should be important enough to make sure.

  • DaveSs||

    That just moves the attack to the security line.

    Though having armed security near the line might have some deterrent effect, or it will make the armed security the first ones to be shot.

  • Foo_dd||

    possibly, but it does not seem to be a problem at the places that currently use metal detectors. they only seek places where they know everyone is unarmed, and they won't be checked.

  • kbolino||

    See my response to you in the other thread.

    Put simply, what you are proposing is just expensive whack-a-mole.

  • Foo_dd||

    ditto.

    put simply, I'm suggesting that only places that warrant the cost of a metal detector should be gun free, not that we magically have metal detectors everywhere.

  • kbolino||

    It's not just about the cost; there's a reason I said "whack-a-mole". Metal detector with an unarmed guard? Just shoot him. Arm the guard? Shoot him from a distance. Concrete or bulletproof glass? Ram it and/or blow it up. Barricades? Launch the bomb over the barricades, or just walk up to the checkpoint and plant it on a timer. Better yet, just sneak the guns in the back, or get someone to do it for you.

    Then after you turn every school into Fort Knox, people will just attack parks, malls, public transit stations, sidewalk cafes, whatever. Not banning guns on the other hand is free.

  • Foo_dd||

    while i agree, in principle, that there should be no banning of guns, such an absolutist approach will never gain popular support.... imagine people able to carry loaded guns on an airplane, and people will start to call you a nutter.... ignoring any other point you make.

    even if you did get that through on the federal level, there will always be more local governments clinging to the falsehood that a sign will stop bad guys from carrying a weapon. like it or not, "gun free" zones will always exist. (and, they are really not new. the "wild west" had some of the biggest gun restrictions in certain towns.) i simply think it is better to enforce some standard enforcement requirement before calling a place "gun free". that is the problem we have now... it takes no effort at all to hit these "soft" targets.

    of course no security system is perfect, but what we require now is nothing but a sign. by making the requirement more substantive (and making the local government pay for it), the "gun free" craze would be limited to those areas people really see as important. even if they are wrong, they will do it on a case by case basis, instead of broad declarations.

  • Brian||

    We're all "collectively responsible" for their deaths?

    Silly me. When I point to laws I don't like, statists tells me that I can love it or leave it. As if I'm granted some freedom to choose.

    The next minute, they're telling me we're all collectively responsible. Well, if they don't like it, why aren't they leaving? Does this imply that thy secretly love living in a country with a Second Amendment, but just have to be immature whiners and discontents about it?

    And then they say they want to empty the prisons. So, exactly how do you collect taxes after you simply abolish violent legal punishments?

    Whatevs. It's feelstown.

  • toolkien||

  • biljay||

    These mass shootings always happen in gun free zones. The war on guns will never be won, the same as the war on drugs, or the war on terrorism. The wars are just excuses to give the enforcers, and lawyers, more funding for their careers and promotions. Who will protect us from our protectors?

  • Akira||

    "These mass shootings always happen in gun free zones."

    Maybe they need bigger signs!

  • Aloysious||

    When I point to laws I don't like, statists tells me that I can love it or leave it

    Or they tell you "It's the Law of the Land!" over and over and over because it is a law they like.

    'Law of the Land' never seems to be a valid argument with laws leftists/statists don't like. Strange, that.

  • Akira||

    It's the same thing with the Constitution. When it happens to be in line with what they want, they'll shout that the Constitution is set in stone and that no politician has the right to disobey it. But when it's something they don't like, suddenly it's a "super old piece of paper that was written by white slave owners, like, 100 years ago or something".

  • Wesley Mouch||

    Ironically, we just passed a new law in Oregon increasing restrictions on gun ownership. It was supposed to solve problems like this.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    and of course we have the Gun Control Law of 1968.

  • kbolino||

    Don't forget the National Firearms Act of 1934.

  • Akira||

    And the Brady Bill of 1993.

  • ||

    "It was supposed to solve problems like this."

    No it wasn't.

  • EvilWayz||

    But but but, we banned firearms on campus in 2013! How did this happen? We had a sign and everything! And one unarmed security guard!

  • Akira||

    If background checks are racist, why would we put more of them in effect for people - possibly minorities who live in inner city war zones - who just want to protect themselves with a legally owned firearm? I thought the Democrats were the anti-racist party. Why would they do such a racist thing to minorities?

  • jack brown||

    So what IS your proposal/policy/prescription for dealing with this rather tiresome situation, Sullum? Something has to be done. I don't know what it is. I like to hunt and shoot, I own guns. And every time this happens I feel like throwing the damn things out. I feel like puking all over this sick society we live in. This column is so empty and contentless it makes me feel like giving up on Reason and libertarians altogether. Something has to be done.

  • Dai wie||

    Where do you live? I can bring my truck...

  • Roger Knights||

    Here's "something"s that might work and should be tried somewhere.

    1. Abolish gun-free zones, which tempt shooters.
    2. Hire armed school guards. (That was the NRA's suggestion.)
    3. Encourage teachers to carry.
    4. Encourage the most responsible 25% of students (as rated by their teachers) to carry.
    5. Maybe install metal detectors, provided they also can detect an over-riding RFID carried by carry-registered students and teachers.
    6. Encourage theater owners, etc. to carry, too.

  • Win Bear||

    Something has to be done.

    Why? Mass shootings in the US are no more common than elsewhere (relative to population size), and they are a negligible cause of death. Why do you obsess about this particular cause of death?

    And if this really is your primary concern (really phobia), why don't you make your own choices accordingly? Attend a college with open carry or a gun-free college according to your own preferences.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    And every time this happens I feel like throwing the damn things out. I feel like puking all over this sick society we live in.

    Maybe the problem isn't the fucking guns--maybe the problem is society. Maybe the problem is our increasingly complex, increasingly atomized culture that glorifies narcissism and denigrates community and face-to-face human relations.

    And all that aside the rate of violent crime is FAR lower today than it was 20 years ago. That's not hyperbole, it's an empirical fact. You're just as, if not more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than to be murdered by someone with a firearm, but I don't see you "puking your guts out" over the poor 6-year-old who got her life taken from her *in her friend's own driveway* by a drunken idiot that should never have gotten behind the wheel. "Something has to be done," right? You ready to have the state crawl up your ass every time you buy a tall boy or a glass of wine? You willing to risk, say, 10 years in prison for a first-time DUI offense "if it saves just one life"? Or do the people who are killed by drunk drivers (and excessive alcohol abuse in general, which kills more people than firearms by a 2.75-1 margin every year) not mean as much to you as those killed by guns because the fucking media's tugging at your heartstrings?

    What great fucking ideas do YOU have, chump? Because I'm not seeing much from you other than typical shitlib whining.

  • Long Woodchippers||

    because he thinks it has such a simple answer, if only we'd pass a law getting rid of guns then there'd be no more murder, but it's those stupid politicians beholden to the NRA that keep it from happening

  • Rockabilly||

    An empty promise from a empty head

  • EvilWayz||

    " If only we had done something, in other words, those people in Oregon would still be alive."

    Like, I dunno, forbidding schools to ban guns on campus? If Chris Mintz had had a gun, he'd be walking right now. He should sue the hell out of the school for not keeping him safe. This is minor heresy because I'm a Marine, but I believe if that "good guy with a gun" had been an Army Veteran, he could have made a difference.

  • Dai wie||

    If I'm there, it is no longer "gun free". Unless I see a metal detector, I'm carrying. Fuck the stupid signs.

  • Alan@.4||

    How about the fact that it most likely would not achieve it's advertised goals, aside from becoming a bureaucratic boondoggle, to end bureaucratic boondoggles..

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... www.buzznews99.com

  • msimmons||

    Guessing 15 years and the 2nd amendment is toast. The public schools are doing a bang up job imprinting in impressionable young minds that guns are bad, from pop tarts to this...

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_new.....d-him?lite

    When an opponent declares, "I will not come over to your side," I calmly say, "Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community."
    - A. Hitler

  • Alan@.4||

    Re Obama's "empty gun control promise", "empty" isn't quite correct as a description of/for his rhetoric. Actually, his anti gun, anti gun rights routines are full, as in "full of s**t".

  • Kratos||

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online