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All Reason.com articles with the "Guns" tag.



Published: Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:19:45 -0500

 



Real Common Sense on Gun Control

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 08:00:00 -0500

Here's how to judge the pragmatic case for gun control: if the pro-control lobby managed to have each of its favorite restrictions enacted, could we as individuals be more casual about our safety than we are today? The answer clearly is no. So what's the point of the restrictions beyond letting their advocates feel good about themselves? A false sense of security is worse than no sense of security at all. Mass shooters have obtained their guns legally, having had no disqualifiers in their records; used guns legally obtained by someone else; or obtained them despite existing laws. Therefore, the controls most commonly called for would not have prevented those massacres. In the latest massacre, the shooter had a disqualifier—a less-than-honorable discharge from the Air Force after a year in the brig for domestic abuse—but the Air Force failed to report that disqualifier to the FBI and so it never got into the database that was checked when the shooter bought guns from licensed dealers. New controls, such expanded background checks, would not have prevented the shooting because the Air Force was already required to report the shooter's conviction to the FBI. Even a ban on rifles with certain features, misleadingly called "assault weapons," would not have prevented the shooting because equally powerful rifles would have been available Thus the victims of the latest shooter, like the victims of the previous mass shootings, would have been no safer under the sought-after gun-control regime than they were at the time they were murdered. But this is not the end of the story. Even if those shooters had been unable to obtain their guns as they did, it does not follow that they would have been prevented from committing their monstrous offenses. How many times must it be pointed out that someone who is bent on murder is not likely to be deterred by legal restrictions on the purchase of guns? The gun-control advocates pretend that legal methods are the only way to obtain firearms, but we know that is not true. People have always been able to obtain guns through illegal channels. Gun-running—firearms smuggling and trafficking—is probably as old as the earliest gun restrictions. Guns can be stolen and sold. (There are 300 million of them.) Guns can be made in garages. Guns will eventually be made routinely on 3D printers. Supply responds to demand. Black markets thrive whenever products are prohibited. But the black market—by definition—is already illegal. So what are gun-controllers to do, make the black market doubly illegal? I don't think that's a solution. Even more drastic forms of control won't change this story. The Australian tax-financed eminent-domain approach, in which the government ordered people to sell their guns to the government, failed to remove all guns from society. "That policy … removed up to one million weapons from Australians' hands and homes," Varad Mehta writes. "This was, depending on the estimate, a fifth to a third of Australia's gun stock." How many bad people do you imagine surrendered their guns? How would an Australia program—which some Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, favor—do here? Not very well, I'd guess. Think what would happen if the government tried to confiscate people's guns with a heavier hand than that used by the Australian politicians. Individual rights aside, would that be an acceptable outcome for the sake of reducing gun violence? (Do be aware that most gun fatalities are suicides.) If people with bad intent would continue to obtain guns no matter what gun controls were on the books, it follows that people's responsibility for their own safety remains the same in all circumstances. Even beefing up police forces won't deliver greater safety: the cops are always too far away, and besides, they have no legal obligation to save you. The worst outcome would be for people to believe they were safe simply because Congress passed some piece of magic legislation favored by gun-controllers. That would be a cruel joke. This piece was originally published by [...]



How to Talk to Your Kids About Guns

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 06:00:00 -0500

Here are two true statements: 1. The number of privately held firearms in America has nearly doubled in the last two decades while the number of gun murders per capita was cut in half. 2. The number of kids abducted by strangers in 2011 was 105, out of approximately 73 million children in the United States. That's down slightly from 115 two decades ago. After Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more by firing into a crowd from the 32nd floor of his Las Vegas hotel in October, America dove headfirst into our now-traditional national shoutfest about gun laws. One side sees its argument as self-evident: The moment when dozens of people lie dying in the street of gunshot wounds is the right time to pass laws restricting private gun ownership. The other side, by and large, frames its argument in the language of rights and freedoms: You may not like what some people do with some guns, but the Second Amendment exists for a reason. Too often absent from both sides of the debate are well-parsed statistics. Restrictionists will cite the approximately 33,000 annual gun deaths in America, but that number reveals almost nothing about the question the public really wants answered after Vegas or the Orlando nightclub shooting before it: How likely am I to die in an incident of random violence? Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides, as statistician Leah Libresco explained in The Washington Post shortly after the Vegas shooting, and "almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them." Next are "young men aged 15 to 34, killed in homicides" that are often gang-related, and after that "the 1,700 women murdered per year, usually as the result of domestic violence." The number of people killed in mass shootings is far smaller—there were fewer than 90 incidents that fit the FBI's formal definition of "mass killing" with a gun in the last three decades, most of them with just four victims—yet the center of gravity in the gun control debate isn't suicide hotlines, drug legalization, or domestic violence shelters. Instead, politicians and pundits perseverate on reducing firing speeds, excluding mentally ill people from the right to buy a gun, and building lists of people with ties to terrorist groups: interventions aimed at minimizing the odds of already-rare deaths from mass shootings. A frenzy of attempts at preventive policy making follows each high-profile incident but actually creates the conditions for future failure. Gun prohibition produces the same problems as drug or alcohol prohibition; attempts to restrict harmless sale and possession in order to catch a minority of misusers yield all kinds of unintended consequences. Black markets make the purchase of prohibited items riskier and more expensive, and make the transactions untraceable. Bans are likely to be disproportionately enforced among black and Muslim gun owners, increasing racial disparities. Narrowly tailored restrictions will push product development teams at big firearms manufacturers and garage tinkerers alike to find workarounds that circumvent the letter of the law. And any mass confiscation of illegal weapons or accessories will lead to more violence, as die-hard gun rights believers inevitably fight back against law enforcement. Take a misunderstanding of the scope and nature of a problem, combine it with a desire to "do something" in the face of national anguish, and you get a recipe for both bad law and cultural conflict. A nearly identical problem plagues another heated national conversation: Are our children in danger? How likely is my kid to be grabbed by a kidnapper? Underlying much of the invective about helicopter parents, millennial snowflakes, and trophies for everyone is the question of what risks American kids realistically face. In a country where violent crime has been largely declining for decades, and where crimes against children have declined even faster, there is nonetheless an overwhelming conviction among parents and the press that the world is [...]



Sen. Feinstein's New Assault Weapons Ban Proposal Is the Perfect, Pointless Response for the 'Do Something' Crowd

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 14:35:00 -0500

After another tragic mass shooting—one that likely could have been prevented if existing laws had been enforced—there has been another round of completely predictable calls to "do something" about America's apparent problem with gun violence. For those who want to see something done, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) has done something. Along with more than 20 fellow Senate Democrats, Feinstein announced on Wednesday the re-introduction of a bill to ban so-called "assault weapons" and those bump stocks that took so much of the blame for last month's massacre in Las Vegas. Specifically, Feinstein's legislation would ban the sale and manufacture of 205 different weapons (a full list can be found in the bill). One is the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle used in several mass shootings, including the attack on the Texas church last weekend—and also used by Stephen Willeford, the former NRA instructor who engaged the church shooter and may have prevented further deaths. Feinstein's bill also targets specific gun accessories, including the bump stocks used by the Las Vegas concert shooter. Bump stocks allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at higher rates but with less accuracy. The bill exempts weapons used for hunting, and it would allow anyone who already owns one of the proscribed guns to keep them. In other words, it would be completely ineffective at removing these weapons from American society. But that's not really the goal at all. The goal is to do something about gun violence, and Feinstein's proposal certainly counts as something. Something ineffective and useless, but still a thing. A thing that could be done. Feinstein admits as much. "We're introducing an updated Assault Weapons Ban for one reason," she said in a statement announcing the bill: "so that after every mass shooting with a military-style assault weapon, the American people will know that a tool to reduce these massacres is sitting in the Senate, ready for debate and a vote." It's interesting that Feinstein sees that as the "one reason" why this bill has been introduced. Not because it will stop mass shootings, or because it will make it harder for bad people to get guns, or even because it's a small step toward a less violent society. Nope. This bill has been introduced for "one reason": so Democrats can score political points by holding it up and waving it every time there's a high-profile crime with a gun. Look! There's a bill right here, ready for debate and a vote! Will the bill do anything to stop these horrific attacks from happening? Well, no, but that's not the point. At least she's being honest about it. Feinstein has never been particularly good at masking the fact that her assault ban proposals are based more in emotion than reason; this is another entry in that long ledger. The simple fact of the matter is that no amount of new laws will stop mass shootings. And when we can't even accurately enforce the gun laws already on the books—the Texas church shooter would not have been able to buy his AR-15 if Air Force bureaucrats had properly reported his domestic abuse problems, as they were supposed to do—it's even harder to see Feinstein's proposal as anything other than what it is: a nakedly political maneuver meant to score points with the vapid "do something" crowd.[...]



How To Protect Americans Without Destroying the 2nd Amendment: Podcast

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 15:00:00 -0500

On Sunday, November 5, a man identified as 26-year-old Devin Kelley opened fire in a church outside of San Antonio, Texas, killing 26 people and wounding at least another 20. Reason's Nick Gillespie speaks with Robert VerBruggen, the deputy managing editor of National Review and a gun-policy analyst, about what can be done to reduce mass shootings without eviscerating the Second Amendment.

In this new podcast they discuss the changing nature of mass shootings, whether an armed society is actually a safer one, how Kelley was able to obtain guns despite being flagged for domestic abuse and a bad-conduct discharge from the military, and what policies can be put in place to limit mass shootings.

Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

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Mass Shooting at a Texas Church

Sun, 05 Nov 2017 15:28:00 -0500

More than 20 people have been reported dead and more have been reported wounded at a mass shooting inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Details are still unclear. The shooter has been reportedly killed as well.

From the San Antonio Express-News:

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told The Wilson County News that the shooter has been killed.

Another local official who wished to remain anonymous said there are at least 25 dead and 15 wounded. Eight of the wounded were transported to Brooke Army Medical Center and and seven others to area hospitals.

UPDATE: Here's the latest on the death count:

UPDATE II: The alleged shooter has been identified:

President Donald Trump responded with a tweet while he's in Japan:




Overcoming Confirmation Bias on Guns

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Confirmation bias is one of the great obstacles to making the practical case for liberty. People see in events what they want to see. I think of the joke about the person who planned to take his hyperactive dog on a train trip and asked his veterinarian for a tranquilizer. The vet mistakenly handed the person a stimulant. On the train he gave the dog the pill, prompting it to run madly up and down the aisle the entire trip. The embarrassed owner said to his seatmate, "Gosh, think what would have happened if I hadn't given the dog the tranquilizer!" We are all subject to this bias. The best we can do is be aware of it and fight to overcome it. When people look at statistics, confirmation bias always looms. It's just too easy to explain any statistical results in terms of what social scientists call one's "priors." But now and again we encounter an example of someone who refuses to let confirmation bias stand in the way of learning the truth. The latest example comes from Leah Libresco, a statistician who used to write at the political data-analysis site FiveThirtyEight. Libresco's example is particularly noteworthy because the issue she was considering was gun violence. If any issue is prone to confirmation bias, this is the one. It is also noteworthy that she published her article at The Washington Post. In "I Used to Think Gun Control Was the Answer. My Research Told Me Otherwise," Libresco begins: Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly. But then she did some analysis, and it changed her mind. For three months she and others at FiveThirtyEight examined the tens of thousands of annual victims of gun violence, prompting her to conclude that "the case for the policies I'd lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence…. As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference." For example, bans on "assault weapons": "It's an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos." As for a ban on silencers, which Hillary Clinton thinks would have saved lives in Las Vegas: "they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don't make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer." Limits on high-capacity magazines? They "were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless." She says nothing about the cause de jour, bump stocks, which even some gun-rights advocates seem willing to regulate ban. I hope she would realize that even if they were banned, a black market would thrive since the existing supply could not be confiscated and people could make them in their garages. (There's a reason no one's heard of them until now.) She also decided that "the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia … didn't prove much about what America's policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their [buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths." Part of what opened her eyes was a rea[...]



Vegas Mass Shooting—Where Gun Control Meets Reality: Podcast

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 13:45:00 -0400

"Every time there's a mass shooting," says Reason's Jacob Sullum, "people who had already been in favor of gun control talk about how we need more gun control. . . they don't feel a need to really explain how [their particular policy] would have prevented this particular attack." Nick Gillespie speaks with Sullum about the Las Vegas mass shooting, the country's narrative in the wake of tragedies, and why it's so difficult to have a fact-based discussion about guns, violence, and policy. In the course of their conversation they discuss: The pitfalls of fashioning laws based on unforeseen outliers. Why background checks sound good but fall short. Why the "gun show loophole" is a misnomer. Australia's experience with buybacks and confiscation. How "bump stocks" work and their role in the Vegas mass shooting. What constitutionally sound limits can be placed on gun ownership. What the NRA gets wrong. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/345349016%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-MpXpN&color=%23f37021&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: You're talking from Dallas, which is in Texas, a big state that likes a lot of guns. What is your personal experience with guns? Do you own guns, do you shoot? I mean, you've written so much about it, I'm just curious. Jacob Sullum: Not a whole lot of experience. When I was a kid, my oldest brother used to take me shooting. He had a .22 rifle and a shotgun, and I think at that point his handgun was, he had a revolver. So, that was sort of my introduction, that and in summer camp, actually, we had riflery. I'm not sure they do this anymore, but it was an NRA-sponsored competition at my Jewish day camp in northeastern Pennsylvania. So, riflery and archery sort of went together. And then in college, in order to easily satisfy one of my P.E. credits, I took a riflery course. Gillespie: Oh, that's right, you went to Cornell in upstate New York, and New York state mandates that everyone in colleges and undergrad take physical education, which in itself is kind of an odd artifact of, I don't know what, you know? You were in Israel. You lived in Israel recently for how many, what was it, like, two years? Sullum: Yeah, two years. We just moved back to Dallas. Gillespie: What was the gun culture like there, because Israel is obviously a famously armed society, but it also is kind of progressive and liberal in other ways, which I guess doesn't necessarily match up with the US. But what was the gun culture like in Israel? Sullum: Well, there are guns everywhere. There are 18-year-olds walking around with machine guns, which is a little bit unnerving at first. But even though everyone is issued a machine gun, you know, everybody who is drafted is issued one, and that's basically the whole Jewish population, except for those who get exemptions, so it's routine that people have experience with these guns. They still seem to think Americans are crazy, in the sense of their attachment to guns and the idea that this is an individual right, a human right to self-defense, and that therefore you have the right to arms that are appropriate for self-defense. For them, I'm speaking very broadly, but it seems to be mostly tied up with the idea of national defense, homeland security, preventing Paris attacks, that sort of thing, and there's less a sense of it being a basic right that's enshrined in the constitution, or that sort of thing. But there are people who routinely carry sidearms.[...]



Trump on Las Vegas Shooting: "An Act of Pure Evil"

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 11:28:00 -0400

President Donald Trump addressed the nation Monday morning about the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas that has left over 50 dead and over 400 wounded. "We are joined together today in sadness shock and grief," said the Ppesident from the diplomatic reception room in the White House. "For the families of the victims, we are praying for you, we are here for you, and we ask God to see you through these dark moment." The president had already issued a tweet early this morning expressing his sympathies for the victims and families of the shooting, something he called in his speech "an act of pure evil." My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2017 Reason's Eric Boehm has a roundup of things we know so far about the shooting, and the shooter, identified as 64-year-old Mesquite, Nevada, resident Stephen Paddock. The president said very little about any federal efforts being undertaken in regard to the shooting, adding only that the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security were working closely with local law enforcement. CNN is reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with FBI Director Christopher Wray about the shooting this morning, and issued a statement saying that he and the DOJ would "do everything in our power to get justice for you and your loved ones." Trump took time to thank the Las Vegas Metro police, saying their rapid response "shows what true professionalism looks like." The president will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday, where he plans to meet with local law enforcement. The rest of Trump's speech consisted of a call for Americans to come together in the wake of the shooting. "Our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be shattered by violence." Vice President Mike Pence weighed in over social media, calling the shooting a "cowardly act of terror" Our hearts and prayers are with the victims & the people of Edmonton & we condemn the cowardly terror attacks that occurred late last night. — Vice President Pence (@VP) October 1, 2017 Nevada's two senators likewise responded to the shooting over social media. Republican Dean Heller called the shooting a "Senseless, horrifying act of violence" and offered condolences to the victims and praise to first responders. Democrat Cortez Matso said much the same, tweeting she will "continue to monitor the situation." Senseless, horrifying act of violence in Las Vegas tonight. Praying for all the victims & those impacted by the tragedy. — Dean Heller (@SenDeanHeller) October 2, 2017 Praying for all those affected by this senseless tragedy. Thank you to all the first responders. I will continue to monitor the situation. — Senator Cortez Masto (@SenCortezMasto) October 2, 2017 Failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also issued remarks over Twitter, in which she said it was time to "put politics aside" and stand up to the National Rifle Association. Our grief isn't enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again. — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 2, 2017 More information will come out as the investigation proceeds. Reason's Nick Gillespie has some wise words on not jumping to conclusions or politcizing a tragedy while so much is still unknown.[...]



Reality Contradicts Study Linking Movie Guns to Fatal Firearm Accidents

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 14:45:00 -0400

A study reported this week in JAMA Pediatrics found that children who watched a movie excerpt in which characters used firearms were more interested in playing with a handgun than children who watched an expurgated version from which images of firearms had been excised. The researchers think their findings could be important in reducing fatal firearm accidents involving children. Jenny Anderson, who wrote a Quartz story about the study, thinks it tells us something about the roots of gun violence. Here is why they are wrong. In the experiment, Wittenberg University communication researcher Kelly Dillon and Ohio State psychologist Brad Bushman used 20-minute excerpts from two PG-rated movies, National Treasure and The Rocketeer. They randomly assigned 52 pairs of 8-to-12-year-olds to watch either the original scenes or the expurgated, gun-free version, then let the kids play for 20 minutes in a room that contained a disabled handgun in a drawer as well as various toys and games. The subjects were monitored by a video camera and an infrared sensor in the gun that recorded trigger pulls. On average, the subjects who watched movie excerpts featuring firearms held the handgun longer and pulled the trigger more than the subjects who watched the firearm-free versions. The difference in handling time was not statistically significant after Dillon and Bushman adjusted the data to take into account potential confounding variables such as sex, age, aggressiveness, and attitudes toward guns. But the difference in trigger pulls was robust and dramatic. Whether it has any practical significance is another matter. Dillon and Bushman worry that children who see guns in movies will be more likely to play with them in real life, with potentially fatal consequences. The implication is that more guns in the movies kids see will mean more fatal gun accidents. But there is no evidence of such a correlation. To the contrary, unintentional firearm fatalities involving children have been falling for decades even though, according to Dillon and Bushman, "gun violence in movies is increasing, especially in movies that target younger viewers." Dillon and Bushman cite a study that found the depiction of guns in popular PG-13 movies "has more than doubled since 1985" and a follow-up study that found "the amount of gun violence in PG-13 films continued to increase through 2015." During that period, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental gun deaths involving children 14 or younger fell by 83 percent, from 278 in 1985 to 48 in 2015. Reasonable people may disagree about the best way to make further progress in reducing the number of children accidentally killed by guns. But even if we assume that the behavior observed in the highly artificial conditions of Dillon and Bushman's experiment carries over into the real world, securing guns so that children cannot play with them seems like a much more practical approach than restricting their movie viewing or banning guns from PG-13 films. While Dillon and Bushman focus on accidental deaths, Jenny Anderson worries in her Quartz piece that seeing guns in movies will make kids "more violent." Again, there is no evidence that is happening. Even after increases in 2015 and 2016, the violent crime rate in the United States is much lower today than it was in the mid-1980s, notwithstanding the proliferation of cinematic gun play that worries Anderson. "This research suggests violent media merits our attention," Anderson concludes. "Exhausting as it may be for parents, being overbearing would seem to pay off." No one who disagrees with that sentiment will change his mind after reading this study.[...]



Should You Tell the Cops You Have a Gun?

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

(image) The fatal shooting of Philando Castile last year by a Minnesota police officer reinvigorated an old debate about how people who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon (CCW) should handle interactions with the cops. The officer, who was acquitted of manslaughter in June, panicked during a traffic stop after Castile, a CCW licensee, told him he was armed.

Some gun owners argue that disclosure is considerate and prudent, while others worry it will escalate a routine traffic stop into a tense, unpleasant, and possibly life-threatening encounter. But virtually everyone agrees it's important to know the relevant legal requirements, which vary from state to state.




In Major Win for 2nd Amendment Advocates, Federal Court Blocks D.C. from Enforcing Conceal-Carry Restriction

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 15:45:00 -0400

Second Amendment advocates scored a significant legal victory today when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit blocked Washington, D.C., from enforcing a law that effectively bars most D.C. residents from lawfully carrying handguns in public. "The Second Amendment," the court declared, "erects some absolute barriers that no gun law may breach." The case was Wrenn v. District of Columbia (consolidated with Grace v. District of Columbia). At issue was a District of Columbia regulation that limited conceal-carry licenses only to those individuals who can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the chief of police, that they have a "good reason" to carry a handgun in public. According to the District, applicants for a conceal-carry license must show a "special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant's life." Living or working "in a high crime area shall not by itself establish a good reason." The D.C. Circuit weighed those regulations against the text and history of the Second Amendment and found the regulations to be constitutionally deficient. "At the Second Amendment's core lies the right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home, subject to longstanding restrictions," the D.C. Circuit held. "These traditional limits include, for instance, licensing requirements, but not bans on carrying in urban areas like D.C. or bans on carrying absent a special need for self-defense." The court added: "The Amendment's core at a minimum shields the typically situated citizen's ability to carry common arms generally. The District's good-reason law is necessarily a total ban on exercises of that constitutional right for most D.C. residents. That's enough to sink this law under" District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 case that struck down D.C.'s total ban on handguns. Today's decision by the D.C. Circuit widens an already gaping split among the federal courts on this issue. According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, "the Second Amendment does not protect in any degree the right to carry concealed firearms in public." By contrast, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit says that "one doesn't need to be a historian to realize that a right to keep and bear arms in the eighteenth century could not rationally have been limited to the home." In Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court did not rule definitively on the scope of the Second Amendment outside the home. In the nine years since that landmark ruling was issued, the Court has declined several ripe opportunities to settle the matter once and for all. In fact, just last month, the Court refused to review the 9th Circuit's dismissal of the right to carry, prompting Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, to lambast the Court for its "distressing trend" of refusing to hear any such cases and thereby treating "the Second Amendment as a disfavored right." As Thomas put it, "even if other Members of the Court do not agree that the Second Amendment likely protects a right to public carry, the time has come for the Court to answer this important question definitively." That definitive answer apparently won't be coming anytime soon. For now, Second Amendment advocates will have to take heart in victories such as today's win at the D.C. Circuit.[...]



Judge: Campus Carry Doesn’t Hurt Free Speech

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:40:00 -0400

Three University of Texas at Austin professors filed a lawsuit claiming that letting people carry firearms on their campus would have a chilling effect on speech. Last week, District Judge Lee Yeakel dismissed the suit claiming the professors could present "no concrete evidence to substantiate their fears" and that their fears rest on "mere conjecture." Although it's certainly refreshing to see professors using First Amendment justifications with such vigor, it's even better that Yeakel dismissed their ludicrous arguments and protected campus carry. In 2015, the Texas legislature strengthened their commitment to gun rights at public universities. Senate Bill 11, which came into effect in August 2016, permitted campus concealed carry in campus buildings within reasonable guidelines. Those guidelines vary from school to school. At UT Austin, guns must stay out of sight, and individuals professors can choose to make "gun-free zones" in their offices, provided they post their rules clearly. Professors Jennifer Lynn Glass (sociology), Lisa Moore (English), and Mia Carter (English) banded together and filed a lawsuit that sought to overturn the new law. One professor argued that the "possibility of the presence of concealed weapons in a classroom impedes my and other professors' ability to create a daring, intellectually active, mutually supportive, and engaged community of thinkers." Their reasoning centered around the idea that students will be unable to speak freely––a First Amendment argument––in an environment where other students are armed. But this logic posits that students will pull guns on each other when they hear ideas they disagree with––an unlikely outcome. Even for controversial topics like abortion and, ironically, gun rights, it would be beyond the scope of reason to expect that a classroom conversation would become so heated that a student's life would be threatened. Judge Yeakel drew on the reasoning in the 1972 free speech case Laird v. Tatum, which said that "Allegations of a subjective 'chill' are not an adequate substitute for a claim of specific present objective harm or a threat of specific future harm." Yeakel then used the precedent of Laird, and lack of specific evidence, as grounds for dismissal: "Here, Plaintiffs ask the court to find standing based on their self-imposed censoring of classroom discussions caused by their fear of the possibility of illegal activity by persons not joined in this lawsuit. Plaintiffs present no concrete evidence to substantiate their fears…" He's right that there's no evidence that this law has caused harm in the way they claim. Unfortunately, Yeakel only addressed a small part of the professors' argument––the speech-related points. They also brought up issues with equal protection and the law's vagueness, so it's likely that this issue won't be fully laid to rest. On one hand, it's good that college professors are recognizing the value of creating environments for free speech to thrive in. On the other, this seems like a thinly veiled political move, and it's unlikely that opponents of campus carry laws will be quelled by this lawsuit's dismissal. Hopefully these professors remain committed to the First Amendment principles they hold so dear whenever they're threatened in a classroom environment. They're certainly right about one thing: exchanging ideas freely is the whole damn point of college.[...]



Blame the Shooter, Not the "Rhetoric"

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 11:25:00 -0400

When it comes to violence aimed at politicians, it turns out that Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is quick to blame "rhetoric" for gun attacks on politicians only when the perpetrator apparently disagrees with his ideology, isn't the only hypocrite and fool. In a house editorial that is stunning in its intellectual laziness and mendacity, The New York Times manages to tie the actions of sniper James Hodgkinson not simply to today's over-the-top #NeverTrump #resistance rhetoric but to...Sarah Palin's fictitious role in the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords and a dozen other people in a Tucson parking lot. Seriously: Was [Hodgkinson's] attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin's political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. Conservatives and right-wing media were quick on Wednesday to demand forceful condemnation of hate speech and crimes by anti-Trump liberals. They're right. Though there's no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right. Read the whole thing here. Since its original publication, the Times has graciously seen fit to correct itself thus: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. Where to begin? For starters, only rankly opportunistic insta-commentary by hardcore Democratic partisans—including Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, who wrote "Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin" within hours of the Giffords shooting—drew a connection between Sarah Palin's innocuous fund-raising graphic and the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. Indeed, it turned out that the madman was not a devotee of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sarah Palin, Fox News, or other right-wing media. Instead, he consumed a diet heavy on what Jesse Walker calls "New Age paranoia." While the Times sees a "direct" "incitement" between one image from Palin and Loughner, whose online videos and history with law enforcement clearly suggested a fully deranged, psychotic personality, the Paper of Record studiously avoids pointing to Hodgkinson's public allegiance to Bernie Sanders and his violent language toward Donald Trump and the Republican Party (he joined a group that wants to "terminate" the latter). The result is similar to blaming John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas to a virulent climate of "right-wing hate," despite Lee Harvey Oswald's commitments to Cuba, the Soviet Union, and communism. To be fair, right-wingers are pounding the table in the wake of yesterday's shooting, going so far to shout that "Rachel Maddow Has Blood on Her Hands" for calling Trump a Russian agent. Not to be outdone, Fox News' Eric Bolling called for liberals to censor themselves in the name of saving lives: How many innocent people have to die before we realize that words do matter? Crazy people act on the crazy things they hear from politicians and celebrities. Think before you utter those blind, hateful words next time, liberals. Because there are crazy people out there taking your metaphors literally. All of the above assumes that contemporary political speech is both somehow more virulent than ever and responsible for any actual physical violence that happens. In reality, there are no grounds for[...]



Why Did a Conservative Judge Uphold an Assault Weapons Ban?

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 06:00:00 -0400

In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit dealt gun rights advocates a bitter defeat. In Kolbe v. Hogan, it upheld a Maryland law that bans "assault weapons" and detachable large-capacity magazines, holding that the Second Amendment offers no impediment to such prohibitory legislation. Among the judges who joined the 10–4 decision was J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who during the George W. Bush administration was rumored to be on the president's shortlist of Supreme Court candidates.

What led a respected conservative judge to uphold a sweeping gun control law? In addition to joining the majority opinion, Wilkinson filed a separate concurrence in which he explained his thinking. The matter boiled down to the core principle of judicial deference, he wrote: "It is altogether fair to argue that the assault weapons here should be less regulated, but that is for the people of Maryland (and the Virginias and the Carolinas) to decide."

In Wilkinson's view, if the federal courts get in the business of invalidating democratically enacted gun control measures, the end result will be to "empower the judiciary and leave Congress, the Executive, state legislatures, and everyone else on the sidelines." As far as he is concerned, the federal courts "are not impaneled to add indefinitely to the growing list of subjects on which the states of our Union and the citizens of our country no longer have any meaningful say."

It was the classic case for judicial deference: If you don't like what your lawmakers have done, take your complaint to the ballot box, not to the courthouse. For decades, this was a dominant view among legal conservatives. As recently as 20 years ago, Wilkinson's deferential stance would have placed him squarely within the mainstream of conservative legal thought.

But the times are changing. Judicial deference is no longer quite as popular among legal conservatives as it once was, and this particular case helps to illustrate why. After all, doesn't the Second Amendment itself suggest that there are some subjects on which democratic majorities should not have any meaningful say? Doesn't the Constitution place certain rights beyond the reach of lawmakers, and isn't it sometimes the job of federal courts to enforce those constitutional limits and strike down overreaching legislation, even when doing so means acting in an anti-democratic fashion?

As a principled advocate of judicial deference, Wilkinson effectively answers no to such queries. The big question going forward is how many legal conservatives are still willing to take his side.




GOP Lawmakers Attacked in Shooting at Virginia Baseball Practice. Update: Shooter Identified

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 09:04:00 -0400

Update: Law enforcement has identified the shooter James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, according to The Washington Post and other media outlets. On Twitter, Post reporter Greg Miller notes that Hodgkinson is "an avid letter writer to the local paper in Belleville, many of them critical of GOP economic policy" and that the alleged shooter's social media "amounts to extended screed against Trump." Update: In a statement this morning, President Trump said that the shooter has died from injuries sustained during the firefight. "Authorities are continuing to investigate the crime. And the assailant has now died from his injuries," the president said. Trump's full statement is online here. A shooter opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia, this morning. Among those reportedly hit during the attack was House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and at least one congressional aide. A lengthy shootout with Capitol Police ensued, and Alexandria police say they have the shooter in custody, but have not released further details. All of the victims are reportedly in stable condition. Witnesses, including Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ken.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.), described a grisly scene to reporters this morning. "It was a killing field," Paul told CNN. Scalise reportedly dragged himself off the field after being shot in the hip. Republican lawmakers were practicing for the annual bipartisan congressional baseball game at a location they have been practicing at for several years. The attack happened during batting practice. Flake said the shooter "had a rifle of some kind. It was obviously a large gauge rifle" and described the attack as lasting for roughly 10 minutes. Flake estimated that more than 50 shots were fired. Flake also said he assumed that the GOP lawmakers were purposely targeted. "It looks like only one shooter. You gotta assume he knew what he was doing," Flake told CNN. No official statement as to the shooter's motivation has been released. Witnesses have said that at least one member of the security detail was wounded in the attack. "Nobody would have survived without the Capitol Hill Police," Paul said on CNN this morning. "It would have been a massacre without them." Reason's Meredith Bragg was nearby and took the following photos of the crime scene. This story is developing.[...]