Gun Laws Politics

Dead children and monied politicians.

What is left to say?

A sane man’s contempt for the United States Senate must now be certain and complete. Given the inertia on even the most modest legislative response to the mass murder of schoolchildren, those still credulous enough to believe that our governance is representative of popular will are either Barnum-sized suckers, or worse, tacit participants in tragedies soon to come. An entrenched collection of careerist incumbents, chosen and retained through their singular ability to gather cash from money troughs over six-year intervals — and the unrestrained ability of capital to keep those troughs constantly full — none of this is worthy of any intelligent citizen’s respect or allegiance.

Never mind that the higher house of our bicameral farce is one in which 40 percent of the American population choses 60 percent of the representation; that millions of New Yorkers or Texans, say, are represented and served to the same degree as thousands of Montanans. And never mind that the lower house has now been gerrymandered to a point where a majority of American votes are guaranteed to achieve a minority of the representation — ignore, for the sake of argument, the ridiculous and antiquated structural impediments to popular will ever achieving a popular outcome. Don’t worry that mess. Just focus on the fucking money.

Our elections — and therefore our governance — have been purchased. Instead of publicly funded elections, instead of level playing fields, instead of processes in which the power of actual ideas prevails over the size of the bankroll, we have given our democratic birthright over to capital itself. A gun manufacturer’s opinion can be thousands of times louder than the voice of any grieving Connecticut parent. And the damage that  might come to political careers from individual Americans who wish to have gun laws require as much responsibility of gun owners as, say, motor vehicle laws? It pales when compared  to the damage that can come to political careers from a lobbying group backed to hilt by those who will profit directly from the fear and violence in our culture.

Measured against profit and political security, dead children mean nothing. Common sense is easily dispatched. Truth itself is expendable in any circumstance. Only cash still has meaning to those who claim to represent us.  And the cash will always be there, more with every election cycle. Unsatisfied with the profits that can be achieved within the context of actual representative government, capital has instead succeeded in buying the remnants of democracy at wholesale prices, so that profit can always be maximized and any other societal need or priority can be ignored.

That corporations are people was not the great effrontery of the U.S. Supreme Court’s evisceration of democratic principle. No, for all of its ugly tenor, that statement has long been true under the law; corporations have long existed as a concept by which business interests could have the legal standing of individuals.  Corporations-are-people got the righteous ink, but the venal sin at the heart of Citizens United  lies in the appalling equivocation that declares money to be speech.

One man, one vote? And may the best ideas prevail in an open and discerning marketplace of ideas? Please. When career politicians are obliged to contemplate the cash available for dishonorable votes, or the cash that will be delivered to opponents in the wake of honorable ones, how can any actual idea matter? Every day, there is less of this republic to respect, but in the United States Senate, there is little to nothing that remains. True, popular sentiment can’t be as easily undone in a national contest  of wide scope in which both parties are equally monied and mobilized, but it isn’t the American presidency that’s broken. No, it’s the legislative branch; cash money has wrecked Congress, and in doing that much, it has paralyzed American governance beyond all practical hope.

Only fools play a rigged game forever, and governments that elevate money and firearms over human life, that treat its people and their will with such indifference — such governments eventually lose not only honor, but credibility. People lose the reason to believe.  Eventually, a deep and abiding apathy prevails. Either that, or someone picks up a brick.


  • Here’s what I would do – if I was feeling generous…I’m not, cos none of this nonsense could ever work.

    “Just make it insanely hard to get a fire-arm licence, so the insane don’t have firearms. Full psychometric testing, costly and lengthy full background checks where the onus is on the gun owner to prove he is safe, that he must belong to a registered gun club, and attend at least 12 times a month, cannot own more than one hand gun, cannot buy assault rifles – period. More restrictions on gun shops, so owners are vetted extremely stringently. Keep the 2nd amendment, but make it very very difficult to buy guns. Simple.”

    • Well, we agree on this much:

      While the Second Amendment prohibits a blanket restriction on private ownership of firearms, there is plenty of room for society to exercise the mechanisms of self-governance and attempt to rationalize gun ownership and restrict the ubiquity of all forms of weaponry — if the popular will were capable of being expressed through its representation, that is. Which pretty much leaves us with the very premise and contention of the original essay.

      So then, in finally being prescriptive, even hyperbolically so, you’ve landed on the same political battlefield as the essay. That you disagree with the efficacy of any effort to rationalize the gun culture in America is understood from the above. But at least you are not being libertarian absolutist, so hey, you’ve got that going for you, now.

      Please note, this post is published because it actually endeavors to argue some aspect of the issue. That’s how we play, dude.

      • I get the commentary….but what’s to be done? Or is your essay just stating the obvious? No answers from Simon. Easy to whinge about it, how about a few solutions? Don’t propose another sit in, or is this your thing, you wheeze out something everybody already knows, and sit back contentedly? Man, you’re regurgitating stuff which has been around for decades. Am I wrong?

        • Public financing of elections. A moratorium on direct financing of candidates by supporters. Limits on contributions to soft-money PACS and required transparency for all contributors.

          The early death or retirement of one or two certain members of the current U.S. Supreme Court and an intelligent reconsideration of Citizens United — a decision that I think could one day rival Dred Scott and Plessy in its anti-democratic influence — would also be something essential.

          Your timeline isn’t quite fair to the essay and its purposes, when you think about it for a moment. True, campaign finance has been a talking point of reformers for decades, but Citizens United is a disastrous decision only a few years old and its effects thus far on the political infrastructure are already notable. As more capital routes itself toward more power, the inability of the legislative branch to problem-solve or respond to popular will is going to become more and more profound. And sometimes, truly, things have to get worse before they get better. Money has always been the mother’s milk of American politics, but the reach of capital had some certain limitations placed on it; those limits have now collapsed completely. Even the transparency of the political bribery of campaign contributions has now been undone by the soft-money mechanisms.

          If you believe in representative government and in the idea of a republic, then increasingly — whether you are conservative or liberal or anywhere in between — you will soon have to make campaign finance reform a political priority. It may be, in the end, the only thing that can save us.

          Are powerful forces arrayed against such a reform? Of course. And the current level of apathy and partisan rancour guarantees that change isn’t coming soon. But history is a pendulum, and at a certain point greed — and the coupling of capital with governance — reaches a point at which the reaction against the corruption of democratic principles will spark some measure of reform. Things will get worse first, to be sure. And if enough people do nothing at critical moments, they might not get better. But that doesn’t make the issue less essential, or the diagnosis less true. Nor does it mean that people shouldn’t continue to write, and talk and argue about it. Hence, the essay, and many others, by many people, that have said and will continue to be saying the same things. Some stuff is going to bear a lot of repeating amid the ugliness that is going to envelope our political system for the foreseeable future. Only when a great mass of people are truly sick and tired of being so poorly governed and so disenfranchised by the greed of a few — when capital has overreached and sought more advantage than the great mass of citizens can tolerate — only then are we going to begin to decouple capital from power even to a degree that will allow any functional governance at all.

          Crying that this has all been said before does nothing to diminish its fundamental reality. Hey, we’re all going to be talking about it more and more as our legislative function becomes more and more calcified. But again, saying this is all old news isn’t quite true: The dysfunction we are witnessing today in Congress is far worse and far different from a generation ago. By the numbers — by any measure of legislative function, and by the permanent and routine gamesmanship of government-by-crisis and we-can’t-pass-a-budget or we-wom’t-pay-our-debts every other month that signals the collapse of all means of compromise — this current level of paralysis and partisan selfishness is actually a new and startling phenomenon for the republic. We’ve never been this bad. Not in modern history. And the money has seen to that.

          • I’ve read your response three or four times. Still struggling to find a solution there brother, other than “this shit is not working, this shit is not working”. We know the shit is not working! We also know there IS NO SOLUTION, and the current system seems to be working for a large number of Americans..and that things are progressing. There are positives, Obama is the first black president. Has your uber celebratory mood worn off somewhat since his reelection, and you’re fed up with something new? Are you now wondering if skin-colour makes any difference at all?

            • Get in the trenches, run for councillor, do something positive instead of bitching about the team from the comfort of the sidelines. I’m calling you out as a gutless liberal who wants the glory but can’t do the hard yards in the muck.

              • Really? Well, I suppose I’m calling you out as a fellow who thinks name-calling and provocation are a road to anywhere that actually matters. I don’t know what rocks you’ve been pushing, Sisyphus; I can only assume they’re boulders. Me, I’m a storyteller and I’ve been trying to use that skill to argue about the world and the choices we’ve made. It’s a living and it seems purposeful and honest enough, considering all the alternative choices in life.

                But let me ask you a question. Other than hovering in the comments section of internet sites, what worlds have you stooped to conquer? And what is your recipe for assured human progress? In specifics, please. Because whatever else you believe, campaign finance reform and a concentrated effort to decouple capital from governance is, if nothing else, a specific.

                • You don’t know what rocks I’ve been pushing? I don’t know what rocks you’ve been smoking. You know, me and you, are more alike than you probably care to imagine, but instead of whining on an internet blog, I’ve returned to med school to study nursing, aged 42, after turning my back on a decent paid office stooge gig, where I earned some decent mullah, but not much mana, That’s my thing, helping others and myself (more myself, if I’m honest) from within, rather than moaning about it.. So yeah, any fool can start a blog, god knows I’ve gone down that foolhardy path, and whinge about the “man”, but only a rare few get in the trenches. Get off your ass, start campaigning. Sign up as a cop, join the fricking army or the peace corp, run for governor, smoke a ton of weed and watch Simpsons reruns, but do not bitch and moan on the net about how unfair it all is (we fucking know – but we’ve grown up), otherwise you’re just one more internet warrior with an itch to scratch.

            • You might want to reread the response several more times, given your lack of intellectual progress. Contained there is a specific recipe — a required one, frankly — for reestablishing the essential framework for American democracy and republicanism. It’s there on the page.

              On the other hand, nothing in that paragraph you wrote is anything other than snide, self-righteous venting. Beyond a declaration, in capital letters no less, that there is no solution that you can see, you offer nothing. So why are you here, bothering with the comments section of a small website. Is that what you call “the trenches”? Or are you elsewhere in life that we don’t know about, clawing your way through the venality of the human condition toward some better shore, battling through the “hard yards in the muck” as you put it?

              From the pedestal that you are so quick to occupy, I’m guessing your life is steeped in societal engagement and personal sacrifice — and it’s only because you are such a giver, and such an iconoclastic one at that, that you have such little tolerance or use for those who would bother with trifling complications or nuance in discussing the problems of our world. Clearly, there is work to be done and you, sir, are doing it. Please enumerate the weighty stones that you have, by force of direct personal action, removed from humanity’s passway, so that our gratitude can be more fully expressed and your ventured opinions — limited though they are at this point to nihlistic disgust at the half-sincere and callow who lack your vigor and values — can be given their deserving perch on a branch of the tree of human knowledge.

              Here’s a clue, Mr. Seymour. All of that is an ad hominem, and unfair to you. Maybe you are a substantive reformer or righteous revolutionary; maybe you have even been heroic and committed and direct in your actions at points. Or maybe you are, in fact, a shitbird quick to categorize and label others rather than endure the more complicated task of addressing an opposing argument on the merits. I have no way of knowing. Just as you have no way of knowing what purposes I am or am not engaged in, or where my commitments and allegiances take me, or how I am engaged with humanity and its problems. I don’t know shit about you, and you clearly, don’t know shit about me.

              If you can’t engage in the marketplace of ideas without indulging in the pathetic, low-grade attacks on the person of your opponents, if you can’t address the ideas more than the man, then intellectually, you are fucking useless. At least on this, a website of political and social discourse.

              I might kick small dogs and children. I might be a rich, self-satisfied dilettante filmmaker who dabbles in political diatribe for no better reason than to irritate good, God-fearing Americans. I might be a communist, or a Marxist, or an anarchist making bombs in his basement. I might be one of those assholes who doesn’t lift the seat when I piss. And guess what, fella: None of that matters to the content of an honest discourse, to the world of ideas. Just as it doesn’t matter if you, Mr. Seymour, occasionally show up and spurt arrogantly and onanistically about how much more worthy and connected you are, and how your life in political or social trench-dom is so much more real-world and heroic than thou.

              See, all of that is just bullshit. Complete, jive-ass, shit-talking bullshit. The characterization of those who are venturing an opinion that you don’t value is irrelevant. By name-calling the opponent you reveal little about the opponent and even less about the merits or demerits of his ideas. But you reveal plenty about yourself. Namely, that you are engaging with ideas and arguments in the most incapable and juvenile way possible.

              Show some ambition, kiddo. Raise your game here or be gone.

              • I like ad hominem. What is it with liberals and their aversion to personal attacks? Attack away hombre, I’m made of tougher stuff than you can possibly imagine.

                • That you like the ad hominem is apparent. Some people like the smell of their own farts. But what does any of that say about the relative merits of a fart?

                  As to my effort to turn you from verbiage of little use and considered mediocrity toward the actual purpose of a blog that encourages and values discussion of content, I can only shrug shoulders and say that I tried. Some folks just don’t have it in them.

                  Clearly, you have stated that you don’t value this site, so there can’t be much to regret if you depart. I do value it, not overly so, but enough to police certain standards here. You speak passionately about your life choices and accomplishments in the previous post — perhaps taking my critique of your person literally, and not reading deeply enough or carefully enough to be aware that it was merely a demonstration, for your benefit, of the purposelessness of argumentum ad hominem.

                  No, you went in a rush right back to the personal, as if it matters to any part of the original essay or the discussion that ensued. Me? I’m not going to waste breath here about my own engagements, commitments or endeavors in life; they would not advance any argument, and in doing so, I’d be inflating myself in a way that matters not at all to the original discussion, as you have said nothing that matters to that discussion in your trumpeting of your heroism and accomplishments. You’re too interested in making it all about you, or about me. It is, in fact, about neither one of us. And good thing, too, because from what you’ve written thus far, I’m not sure you have an honest insight into either of our souls, frankly.

                  Suffice to say that this website is little more than a small hobby and that I labor in other arenas that have greater priority and demand more commitment than this one. If you believe this to be my chief venue for political expression and advocacy, you are mistaken. But it is here, yes, and it sometimes provides an interesting forum for discussion and argument. I can tell you that the stuff that happens here is good batting practice for a politically-engaged writer, knocking around 70-mph fastballs and getting the rhythm of a swing ready for game day. And to my delight, sometimes there are folks who show up with a good curveball and I am taught a thing or two about an issue, or about rhetoric, or even about the craft of prose. The blog serves that purpose, if nothing else. But regrettably, Mr. Seymour, you did not step to the mound with a curveball, or, for that matter, much of a heater.

                  Instead, you’ve expressed your admiration for the ad hominem and I have heard you. So then, welcome to the kill file. Webmistress, this one can’t be fixed. Cast him into your mysterious and unknowable void, from whose bourne no traveler returns.

                • Christalmighty, Seymour, what’s with the assholery? You’re like some newly-horned buck in the woods looking for a sparring partner. Go to the gym, punch something inanimate, scrape your horns on a tree. We all have our gifts and contributions to make; we all have roles to play. It’s your business to discern yours, not to tell others what to do. Your bravado is ridiculous and pointless.

                  • It’s a shame that many of our fellow citizens fall prey to childish personal attacks in discussions over the Internet. Indeed, the long-distance, impersonal nature of the medium lends itself all-to-easily to pettiness.

                    • Yup. It’s why the commentary sections of most mainstream sites yield little other than mouthfoam.

                      Trying to keep this one more on point. Good argument is good; bad argument, boring.

  • Mr. Simon,

    Thanks for this. A few months ago, you dressed me down for stressing mental health over gun control. After considerable thought and a bit of research, I have come around to your way of thinking. Thank you for that. But after this ridiculous non-vote/vote I have to say that I feel nothing but despair. If we can’t even pass something as mild as closing loopholes, I am left thinking that our system is permanently broken. Reading comments made by my fellow electorate on internet news sites in the wake of the Boston bombing only convinces me more that nothing will ever change. While having the moral high ground affords ego perks, I’d rather find solutions.

    Thank you again for this blog.


    • For real, the purpose of this website and my interactions aren’t to dress anyone down, or mock anyone — albeit sometimes I can go a little acid in the face of certain restated logical fallacies. I like argument. I think argument makes people on both sides of a debate hone their thinking. I think argument leads to innovation and creative reflection. I think everything gets better when we debate.

      So please take nothing personally. If the argument is engaged on content, then it is working well.

      • No, it’s all good. What I meant to say was that it was like a much-needed glass of water in the face followed by a “thanks, I needed that.” Your clarity is a gift, as is your willingness to engage.

  • I can’t believe that people are actually defending guns. We should be talking about the disarmament of police by now.

    • First, let’s disarm the general populace that we are asking them to police. It sure as hell is too much to ask another American to police Baltimore or its like for $45,000 a year and not give them a working pistol. We’ve made this world. Until we unmake it, I’m willing to allow sworn police officers to win the gun battles.

      • First things first, of course. I know that if there is a worse thing than police shooting people, it is people shooting people. But I don’t think the gun battles are between police and civilians. It is a matter of consciousness. And the conscious we need, knows that we can unmake this world by our own, not with police or other government forces. I mean, it doesn’t matter if police has working pistols or not, but it does matter how hardly and insistently people fight for the gun control. (By the way, I’m not an American. I’m writing and following from Turkey.)

        • An unwarranted police shooting of a civilian is as appalling as a civilian murder, to be sure. Indeed, given that the officer is an agent of the state, a death that results from the excessive and unnecessary application of lethal force is of greater concern to us as a society because the officer has acted with the authority of the society and in the name of the society.

          But I am a resident of an American city, subject to all of the societal forces and historical dynamics — a liberal gun-culture, included — that result in a society that has the highest rate of gun crime in the developed world. And in that current culture, I am obliged to accept the essential role of law enforcement in preserving lawful order. I cannot conceive of asking a Baltimore police officer to get out of his radio car and walk down an alley without being sufficiently armed to respond to a criminal culture that is already fully armed. Not for what we pay those people. And while the proper review of police-involved shootings needs to be sustained — there are in fact many instances in which the use of lethal force by a sworn officer is required for public safety.

          • I totally agree with you. Perhaps I misstate myself. I was trying to say that the gun control fight is a fight between people and government, that the police is not one of the sides of this battle. Indeed, if this is the system we have to live and struggle in for now, I, too, demand and ask for fully equipped police since we expect fully protection as it should be. (But I know that that protection doesn’t depend on equipment only when it comes to police, in all cultures I guess.) Anyway, like I say, I think police is another subject. The only reason I mentioned police in my first comment is because I believe that we’ll see some days that we’ll talk about fully disarmament, soon or later.

              • No, probably I couldn’t express myself well enough. By the way I’d like to say that there is a bunch of people who really keep track of your works in Turkey, too. I know that you heard this a lot but thanks for being an inspiration from there to here. It means a lot.

  • With Congress being bought, can we really expect to get legislation that will be sensible and deal with some of the concerns that we have with a particular issue (in this case, guns)? Or are we going to get laws that simply benefit the highest bidder?

    • I actually don’t think it’s so much about buying the legislation you want. I think it’s about destroying the legislation you don’t want. The legislature tends more toward inertia than any creative legislative act, so that lobbying dollars and targeted campaign contributions are designed by groups not so much seeking change, as by groups determined that substantive change which threatens their interest cannot occur. The pattern was evidenced as much in the health care fight as with gun control.

      Indeed, the real threat of the dollars is not so much the NRA or the health insurance industry advocating for change, as it is being used as a cudgel to render legislative efforts at change ineffective or incomplete. And it is not the affirming power of supporting those who agree with you that is as appalling and destructive as the direct threat of targeting the political careers of those who oppose you.

      The system is designed, in the end, to solve no problem, ever.

      • People still have a brain. Are you saying the propaganda from the lobby groups is so powerful that ordinary people are overcome with the fumes? If so, isn’t that a tiny bit disrespectful of the American people. Maybe, they actually like voting for the people in power – just a thought…

        • You’ve missed my point wholly.

          I trust the popular intent when it comes to gun control, and to abortion rights, and to a great many issues. And I don’t think that our elected representatives are fools in their unwillingness to reflect the popular will.

          I think they are bought, in the sense that their political careers are backed by monied interests indifferent or opposed to the popular will. Or they are cowards, fearing that a vote reflective of popular sentiment but opposed to monied interests will provoke a concentrated effort by those interests to end their political careers.

          Your simple supposition — that this is the governance that we want — ignores the national polling data on myriad issues including the right to chose and gun control. It also ignores the historical impediments to the popular will prevailing in our republic. When 40 percent of our population controls 60 percent of the vote of the upper legislative house, and 47 percent of the votes cast for the lower house produce 55 percent of the representation, then you sound pretty damn silly pontificating on whether people actually like voting for the people in power. For one thing, they did no such thing. Instead, to be accurate, the anti-democratic processes inherent in our founding document, coupled with gerrymandering to a degree that has become endemic and anti-democratic — this is what corrupts the election results and assures that the people do not get what a majority of Americans actually support and vote for, time and time again.

          • “Your simple supposition — that this is the governance that we want — ignores the national polling data on myriad issues including the right to chose and gun control.”

            Polling data simply shows what the majority of individuals believe about a particular issue. That’s not what a functional constitutional republic is supposed to turn on. It’s also supposed to take into account the intensity of voters’ beliefs about specific policy choices. Let’s say 65% of the public believes the government should do X but the great majority of them don’t care very much one way or the other. And suppose the overwhelming majority of the other 35% passionately believes that policymakers should move in the opposite direction. Elected officials are going to respond more to the 35%. And they should. They should also take into account their own beliefs from their own broader perspective about what is the right choice.

            The fact of the matter is that there is just much less intense interest in favor of gun control in the country than there is opposed to it,. Thinking “yes, I suppose tougher gun laws are a good idea” is not going to get significant attention of politicians. In the gun control debate, I don’t think there is any doubt that the politicians are responding to the people. I don’t believe money plays a great role in this. You probably are right that some tougher gun control laws are a good idea and that congress was wrong not to move in that direction. If so, a better criticism is that politicians were too afraid to use their own judgement that the people were wrong. And if the American people are wrong, you should complain about that. I disagree with Seymour that there is anything wrong about disrespecting the people as a whole when they are not making good decisions, even just caring more about certain things they already believe in. You also make a good point about rural areas being overrepresented in the Senate. All these things are what caused what probably is the less desirable outcome with the gun control vote, not anything about the system discouraging politicians from responding to popular sentiment. They did respond to popular sentiment.

              • Rules of the game have been distorted. 51 votes and it should pass the Senate. Not enough attention being paid to this part of the problem. Based on what the constitution actually says, this should have passed and be moving forward, but instead we’re in this fake reality where the will of the majority doesn’t have the ability to govern. When the monied interests had too much power at the start of the 20th century, the 17th amendment changed how the US senate worked. Time for the rules and/or make up to be changed again. There’s already a majority for stronger gun control legislation in the Senate. I’m much less outraged at the preposterous positions of people who opposed this legislation, than I am about the lack of understanding from Americans about how the democracy is supposed to work.

                • Agree that the filibuster and its overuse is now a fundamental part of the problem. But I am no longer tolerant of the anti-democratic construct of the upper legislative house beyond this. That forty percent of Americans could muster representation for sixty votes in that body is a corruption of the democratic ideal regardless of the filibuster. I have heard all the check-and-balance, little-states-rights apologia for the origin of the Senate’s composition. I value it not in the slightest. It suited the politics of union in the early days of the republic, before federalism and modernist necessity created a truly national entity. Now, this flaw in our governance is self-evident, to borrow a term. Because of it, all Americans are not created equal. If you were born in Montana, your vote matters more than if you were born in California. And I’m done drinking whatever kool-aid argues for the permanent infallibility of some fellows who were negotiating the political realities of a late-Eighteenth Century world.

                • (and not that the bigger problem, beyond just the rules of filibuster, don’t also need to be addressed. as Bill Maher put it the other day, “you know what else our founding father’s couldn’t have imagined, North & South Dakota.” Time to change the make up of the Senate to reflect the actual population, or time for New York to find out how much it will cost it to buy Rhode Island and Vermont so we can pick up some more damn representation in the senate)

              • You don’t think that if one citizen feels much more passionately than another about a particular issue than another that this person’s beliefs should be given greater weight than the second? It should just be equal, based on majority rule?

                Let’s look at a concrete example that probably in some parts of the country is an accurate reflection of the political landscape today. Let’s say that the majority of residents in that state support allowing employers to discriminate against gays in hiring and personnel decisions. Let’s say only about 30 to 35% of people are opposed to allowing this discrimination. .But there are far more among those 30 to 35% care passionately about the issue than there are in majority who care passionately about allowing employers to discriminate. You don’t think that politicians should act in favor of the passionate minority in that circumstance? Democracy can’t simply be about majority rule. It should be the weighing of various interests.That’s how good policy comes about.

                • I see what you are arguing, but there is an equivocation that you aren’t acknowledging, and it is an important one, I think, to understanding the counter-argument. Specifically, I do not think that passion has anything to do with it. Passion is irrelevant here. To flip your example, I don’t care how passionately some minority wishes to violate the civil rights of someone based on race, or operate a nuclear reactor in their basement, or drive a unlicensed, unregistered motor vehicle at 150 mph on a public thoroughfare. I am for allowing the majority to establish and maintain the legal criteria to prohibit such endeavor.

                  Now then, let’s turn to the Bill of Rights and by extension, the inalienable rights that we claim as Americans. No, in those causes, your argument certainly applies and I have already said so in these very comments. No tyranny of the majority can legislate away the right to free speech, or the franchise for all adult citizens, or the protection against being required to give testimony against oneself at the insistence of the government.

                  The equivocation is simply this: I do not believe that the Second Amendment is a blanket guarantee of a citizen’s right to ownership of any kind of weaponry, regardless of its capacity for human destruction. Nor do I see it as prohibiting a rationalization of the manner in which privately owned firearms can be carried or maintained in public settings, or being a blanket argument against the comprehensive registration of all firearms, or any number of other regulatory responses to balance the rights of gun owners with the needs of public safety.

                  Would I personally love to see the Second Amendment repealed? Yes, but I have little hope of such a prospect. In that sense, given the constitutional standard, your argument applies. But it does not apply, in my opinion, to the legislation that was recently considered by Congress. And absent a fundamental intrusion upon a constitutional right, I am very comfortable accepting majority rule as the essential, utilitarian expression of democracy.

                  I acknowledge that if you believe the Second Amendment to be a blanket protection of firearms ownership up to and including carrying bazookas onto airplanes, then yes, an argument can be made against allowing the tyranny of majority rule. But I think it a ridiculous argument.

                  As I already wrote elsewhere in response to another contributor here:

                  “Well, to be fair, the Bill of Rights is there to prevent any tyranny of the majority and to ensure that certain inalienable rights cannot be legislated away. The people’s will should certainly not prevail within the context of maintaining individual liberties. If the American people began to overwhelmingly favor, say, putting Muslims in internment camps as was done to Japanese-Americans in World War II, or to overwhelmingly support requiring legal defendants to testify under oath and answer whatever questions put to them, then I would hope our representatives would resist the impulse to agree. I don’t think they would, mind you. I think the same cowardice demonstrated on the gun-registration vote would have many of our legislators voting away constitutional rights if they saw advantage to doing so. But my point is that populism has its limits, and the popular will shouldn’t be able to legislate away the rights of a minority or individual.

                  With regard to the Second Amendment, I do believe that a blanket prohibition against the right to keep and bear arms, while demonstrably sensible given the outcome in other Western societies, is constitutionally prohibited and that for such a thing to occur, the constitution itself would require amendment — an unlikelihood given the anti-populist bias inherent in that process. I do not at all believe, however, that the Second Amendment allows all weaponry to be privately owned or available, regardless of its destructive power. Nor do I believe it allows all weaponry to be carried into any public forum or event, or to be carried by those individuals who do not fulfill all the requirements of responsible citizenship. And certainly it doesn’t prohibit society from monitoring carefully the ownership, sales and possession of firearms. Indeed, I believe that the language of the Second Amendment can be argued to imply that the right to bear arms publicly is, in fact, limited to the maintenance of localized militia, rather than a blanket carry permit that brings both concealed and openly carried weaponry into any and every public setting.

                  But if I believed otherwise, if the Second Amendment were to me a blanket liberty that could in no way be infringed, then I would hold the people’s will to be of little regard. If that were my premise, then the position you describe above would not be intellectually inconsistent.

                  All that said, I do not see the Second Amendment in the same light as gun-rights advocates at all.”

                  From that earlier answer, I think it’s clear that I accept that popular will loses the argument when it comes to the inalienable rights of individual citizens. But again, I do not view the Second Amendment as being in any way an obstacle to the rationalized and responsible ownership and maintenance of firearms.

                  • So what I am getting from your answer is that the only circumstances where you think majority rule shouldn’t apply is if there is a constitutional issue related to the bill of rights. Do you really believe that? How would you translate this into your views about the drug war? The last I heard I think the great majority of Americans still opposed the legalization of many drugs. Maybe not marijuana and other soft drugs, but certainly there is still overwhelming support for the criminalization of such drugs as heroin and crack. And I think most people, unfortunately, generally support the approach the government currently takes with this, instead of something more logical like focusing on drug treatment and prevention.

                    Suppose a politician heard from many of his or her constituents who have been caught up in the drug war (or who knew people who have) and passionately believed the policies needed to be changed to something closer to what you and I believe in. Suppose the people with these strong views are still a minority of the politician’s constituency but he or she believes they are beginning to have as much or more influence than those with the other point of view. Let’s say the politician both believes that decriminalization of the drug laws should occur and that those supporting this view have become a bigger threat towards his or her reelection than the other side even though considerably more people still believe in tough criminal drug penalties. That’s because far fewer of those with the “tough penalties for drug offenders” opinion care very much about the issue.

                    Under your logic, as far as I can tell, the politician should vote in favor of the current system simply because it has the majority opinion. Unless there is some constitutional issue here that I don’t see. It seems to me that it is much wiser for the elected leader to choose to listen to the passionate minority under those circumstances. There might be good reasons why this isn’t exactly comparable to issues of gun control. Nonetheless, I think it illustrates that majority rule shouldn’t be the only thing that politicians listen to when making decisions. The founding fathers had this in mind, not just with the bill of rights but also with the basic structure of government.

                    • To be more precise, my answer says that matters of guaranteed, constitutional liberties cannot be legislated away. But everything else is subject to our democracy.

                      Are votes of conscience likely to occur in which legislators ignore the will of their constituents? Surely. Though as the essay argues, such votes — whether you or I agree with them or not are less likely to occur in a political system that is as monied and fraught as ours is now. Certainly, the NRA — by announcing in advance of a legislative vote that they are raising a war chest to target specific legislators who would vote in opposition to the interests of gun-rights advocates — isn’t encouraging votes of conscience.

                      But in any event, a vote of conscience is just that. It is, in a small sense, an act of civil disobedience by a political representative. Now, sometimes civil disobedience is a just and ennobling act. And at other points it is clearly not. But regardless, when a citizen engages in civil disobedience he risks censure or arrest — consequences. Any legislator, should he be moved by conscience, is free to vote his or her conscience, explain that vote to constituents, and suffer, or not suffer at all, from possible consequences. The problem is that money has disconnected legislators from votes of conscience, or from consequences. The only consequence in American politics that matters at this point is money. Money not coming to you or, more problematic, money coming to your opponent, targeted against you. Eliminate that and we are down to the core which is people electing the folks they think best reflect their positions and values; and doing so, perhaps, despite a vote or three of conscience with which they might not agree.

                      In answer to your larger question about whether legislators should always follow the popular will. No, there is a reason we elect representatives rather than vote on all issues by referendum. But legislators should give great and considered attention to the popular will in any republic, and when choosing to vote in opposition to that will, they should be obliged to defend that vote on the merits to constituents whose votes ultimately matter more than the money arrayed to influence elections to a vile degree. Amid the NRA raising money — not just to lobby in front of a vote, but to target key legislators after the vote — there is no viable claim that can be made that the inability of the Senate to garner 60 votes (sixty, yep, another stake in the heart of viable democratic action) to close the loopholes in gun registration, a cause supported by the vast majority of Americans, is rooted in any conscience whatsoever.

                      No, that vote made a mockery of those dead children in Newton.

                      You are correct that there are times when some political leaders will be ahead of the popular will, though you will hard pressed to cite many instances of such currently. No, what is required is for the popular will to first transform itself on the great questions of the day. Does it happen instantly? No, but it happens. On Vietnam, on civil rights, on gay marriage, on Iraq — we have seen some remarkable transformations and eventually the political infrastructure responds. I believe, more than you apparently, that while the people can begin in the wrong and they can be slow to find the right, that by and large, we get there. I believe in the American people to the extent that I am more willing to trust in their collective, acquired wisdom than I am willing to trust in representation that has long been divorced from leadership and conscience by an unholy marriage to money.

                      The drug laws? The situation there is more supportive of my argument than your own. Democrat or Republican — there isn’t a soul capable of leading us out of the nightmare of unrestrained drug prohibition. It’s the American people who are doing that by degrees, and eventually when the tide turns even more, you will begin to see politicians turn with it. But the element to be trusted here is the people, in fact. And sentiment is changing rapidly. And not just about marijuana, but about the moral and financial costs of mass incarceration for all drug offenses. The people will get there and they will do so well in advance of their purchased and cowardly leadership. It was the people who in a brief span of time made discrimination against homosexuals a wedge issue against conservatives when it was first manufactured, not much earlier, as a wedge issue against liberals. It was the people who eventually soured on the misadventure in Iraq — the same voters who could be misled initially into thinking Saddam had anything to do with 9-11 were eventually telling their leadership to draw down on the military disaster. It wasn’t incumbent political leadership that called an end to Vietnam — even those who knew it to be a bloody morass kept their mouths shut under Johnson’s stare — Humphrey until late in his election run, McNamara for the whole damn duration. It was the people. What they could be sold in 1965 could no longer be sold after Tet. The people do get there, for the most part. And it’s the politicians, more often than not — who follow. Even more so that money has intruded on the people’s ability to be heard on a one-man-one-vote basis, and too, because of the unlikelihood that any brave legislator will be able to explain a vote of conscience past the blizzard of money aimed at him.

                      Mr. Lincoln has your number on this. You can’t fool all of them all of the time. In the end, there’s a reservoir of common sense in the American people that makes democratic action plausible and credible. But right now, that reservoir isn’t as deep as the money trough.

                      But eventually, as things get bad enough and problems go unsolved and people get tired of having their fears manipulated — as with gay rights — the people do find their way, despite all. And our monied leadership will remain inert for as long as they possibly can on any given issue that risks controversy or requires conscience. Meaning, your question about whether forward-thinking legislators should ignore the public will is, at this point in American history, a rather useless hypothetical.

                    • “You are correct that there are times when some political leaders will be ahead of the popular will, though you will hard pressed to cite many instances of such currently”

                      One example of this that immediately
                      comes to mind is immigration reform. As you can see from these polls, the overwhelming majority of likely voters do not favor very many of the immigration reforms being considered: Yet I think most people believe that the Republican party is going through a realization that it is in their interests to support an immigration reform
                      package. The overwhelming majority of Democrats already do so. And it seems likely that something will pass.

                      Even putting aside conscious, this seems clearly to be an example of politicians realizing that it is more in their interests to support the minority opinion of the issue than the majority. I think it became obvious in the last election that the minority of people who favor immigration reform are a bigger threat to people than the majority who want tougher policies against immigrants. Among other reasons, this is because those who want a more accommodating immigration policy are likely to feel stronger about it. That makes sense. Many of them have experienced some of the negative effects of the current policies on immigrants first hand.

                      In addition, dare I say, I do think that money has played an influential and positive role is causing politicians to eventually make the right decisions. Businesses strongly feel that a more relaxed immigration policy is beneficial to them. So “big money” is on the side that I imagine you are on here. The fact that it has taken so long to pass immigration reform despite more money being on its side I think shows that money isn’t quite the overwhelming force that you believe. There’s no doubt that money can sometimes be a negative influence on legislation outcomes. But I actually think far often it is beneficial. That’s because the popular will is often simplycomposed of knee-jerk reactions from people who haven’t thought things through very much. Money helps balance that out and allows a smaller amount of people with stonger interests to express their views. We see that with immigration reform. Another example, albeit on a much smaller scale, is the question of whether states and municipalities should provide incentives such as tax breaks for film and TV projects to locate there. I’m sure a poll would discover that the majority of people would call this “corporate welfare” or “tax breaks for rich corporations” and would oppose these measures. But you know, and you have supported them in Maryland, that they can bring a lot of jobs and do a lot of good to the particular state. Without the forces of money, would that have had much chance of passing in Maryland? So money causes more reasoned decision-makers to have more of an influence rather than just the knee-jerk reactions of the citizenry, most of whom haven’t studies very much the detailed costs and benefits to what is being proposed.

                    • Actually, I at a complete loss to accept your premise, based on everything I am reading:

                      From one article of many on the overwhelming support of Americans across the political spectrum for immigration reform, this one from Slate that cites the similarity in polling data regardless of the political bent of the news organization:

                      Shortly after 9 a.m., a group of pro-immigration reform/pro-Gang of 8 conservatives releases the results of a Winston Group poll about the Senate’s bill. This was how the pollster put the question.

                      A bipartisan group of senators recently introduced legislation to reform the immigration system. The plan establishes border security measures focused on high-risk areas of the Southern border, requires illegal immigrants to pass multiple criminal background checks, pay fines, learn English and pay taxes before getting in line for citizenship, makes E-Verify mandatory for all employers, and creates a new work visa program that regulates immigration according to unemployment. Would you say you support or oppose this plan to reform the immigration system? (SUPPORT/OPPOSE) Would you say you strongly (SUPPORT/OPPOSE) or only somewhat (SUPPORT/OPPOSE)? That’s possibly the best possible framing of the reform. Unsurprisingly, 78% of Republicans who heard this description supported the bill.

                      Shortly after this poll was sent out, a Republican Senate staffer passed along the (one day old) Fox News poll on immigration. The questions were less precise, with less hand-holding — and some worse results for the reformers. In two months, President Obama’s approval rating on immigration had fallen from 47% to 39%. Sixty-eight percent of people favored border security measures passing the test before legalization occured, which isn’t really how the bill works. But then there came this question and result — trend lines in parentheses: Do you favor or oppose allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, as long as they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check?

                      Favor – 78% (+6)
                      Oppose – 21% (-4)”

                      Indeed, the story of immigration reform dovetails with my argument, not yours. Paralysis in Washington, with pne political party fanning the flames of fear, thinking that immigration is a political wedge issue with traction for them — and of course because business interests enjoy a non-rationalized, cheap and easily exploited labor force. The other party showing little leadership for fear of mobilizing the opposition’s base and fanning anti-immigrant backlash in key swing states.

                      Meanwhile, the American people, by and large, are ready and willing to accept compromise and rationalization of the problem. They’re calm, sensible and attentive to the practicalities here. Because, hey, you can’t fool all of them all the time, forever.

                      The only notable thing here is that for once money isn’t the primary currency determining the issue in Congress at this point. But that’s only because with immigration, rather uniquely, the currency is even more direct than the usual legalized bribery that precedes every other issue from health care to gun control. Here, alone, the currency is the immediate acquisition of an emerging and essential voting block – Latinos. This rare compromise isn’t happening because the money aligned for it, and certainly not because American legislative leadership is out in front of the American people. That’s not true.

                      No, it happened in the immediate wake of the 2012 election in which the obvious and growing power of the Latino vote — and its complete alienation by the Republican Party — threatens the Republican Party’s democraphic future and therefore requires immediate political reaction.

                      That you tried to shape this square peg into your round hole — doing so on the false premise that Americans, by and large, weren’t already miles ahead of their representatives on immigration reform — is kind of a systems failure on the part of your argument. Sorry.

                    • Here are some of the results,of the polls on the link I cited earlier:
                      “72% of likely voters believe parents should be required to prove they are legal residents when registering their child for public school; only 21% oppose such a requirement. Only 32% believe that children of illegal aliens should be allowed to attend public school in the U.S., opposed to 53% who disagree”

                      “59% of likely U.S. voters favor cutting off federal funds to sanctuary cities, with just 28% opposed (Rasmussen, May 2011).”
                      “61% of likely American voters “believe that a child born in the United States to a woman who is here illegally should not automatically become a U.S. citizen” (Rasmussen, April 2011).”
                      “Americans oppose, 58% to 34%, granting automatic citizenship to a child born in the U.S. to an illegal immigrant (Rasmussen, August 2010).”

                      These majority opinions are all diametrically opposed to immigration reformefforts.There are others that also indicate strong popular sentiment towards tougher immigration policies. The poll question you cite with strong support for immigration reform is interesting because it gives the answerer information about the proposals (which are arguably biased even if they are accurate, since nobody knows how effective those measures will be). The mention of these specific details about the proposal are probably what accounts for the difference between those results and the result on the page I cited. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that most Americans are not aware of all these details and they never will be. And many will form opinions based on this lack of knowledge. So, in my opinion, to say that the poll you mentioned shows that Americans are ahead of the politicians basically amounts to pretending that all Americans are educated about the issue. They aren’t and we must treat their views with this reality in mind.

                    • Really, no.

                      The polls I cited achieved the same overwhelming support on the fundamental premise of immigration reform — and one of them was a Fox News poll. Americans will argue over the details, to be sure — and what illegal immigrants will be required to endure in the path toward citizenship are arguable details. But on the key question, an overwhelming majority of Americans want a path toward citizenship, rather than mass deportation, or self-deportation, or the continuing pretense that we have a policy that provides for rationalized and legal immigration when it does not.

                      You’re citing polls on the question of federal funds to sanctuary cities? Really? That shaping a disparate fact to fit your argument. To hell with the esoterica. What is the level of support for a compromise bill that provides a clear path to citizenship and rationalizes immigration. More than 70 percent, even when Fox measures it.

                      Sanctuary cities? School attendance? This is the narishkeit that you’re bringing to the table?

                      You’re lost in the sauce there. And more than that, your answer ignores the second, obvious incongruity in your example — the fact that the Latino vote is a unique prize here, prompting political action amid a universe of American political inaction. On everything else — gun-control, gay rights, decriminalization of marijuana, the war in Iraq — popular sentiment, once it congeals, drives the legislative leadership. Now and historically. Give the people some credit, and stop pretending that you are examining any profiles in courage among our senators or congressmen. They are purchased and frightened and careerist. And only when the popular opinion is fixed and certain — freed from the dishonesty and fear-mongering of monied interest, and finally aware of the real issues at stake — do these people on Capitol Hill even begin to move. Witness all the congressmen and senators having individual road-to-Damascus moments now, when equality for homosexuals has finally and definitely achieved great consensus among every poll of Americans. Now, their consciences are suddenly free.

                      You’re selling a non-existent concept of representative heroism here, brother. History and reality are running the other way on issue after issue. Sorry, no sale.

                    • “the Latino vote is a unique prize here, prompting political action amid a universe of American political inaction.”

                      Exactly. That’ basically proves my point. My entire argument has been that politicians paying attention to the public sentiment of a particular issue does not necessarily mean they simply do as the majority believes. Sometimes paying attention to the public sentiment involves listening to a much more intensely interested minority. My main point isn’t about conscious. I think I probably believe that politicians use their own judgement about what is the best course of action slightly more than you do. But only slightly. Certainly, I’m under no illusion that they will often do so when they feel their political future is at risk. And certainly, I don’t think I would ever say that any of them ever engage in “heroism”. For the sake of argument, we can take consciousness out of this discussion and assume that a politician will only make decisions that he or she feels are best for his career. In those circumstances, they still are often going to decide to support what the minority of their constituents believe on certain issues. With immigration reform, there is the importance of the Latino vote and the fact, for any number of reasons, the political calculation is going to suggest that the average who disagrees with an anti-immigration reform stance will be more likely to be a threat if displeased than the average constituent who disagrees with a pro immigration reform stance. These result from such things as differing intensity of preferences, ways of mobilizing each other, and how things are changing in the future. So It’s not simply about what a majority believes. And that’s true with guns too.

                    • Gotta end this as we are talking past each other.

                      You are equivocating on your own premise, which was that sometimes the pols get out in front of the majority opinion and lead, and that this was worthy of the republic and an argument against always following the majority. Yet here the majority is generall in favor of immigration reform — your cite of haggled details over school admissions and sanctuary cities notwithstanding. And that political security blanket COUPLED with the prize of future Latino voters is finally motivating them toward rationalization and action on the issue of immigration. And money here on this issue is less consequential than the votes as a prize.

                      But you have no proof that if the majority did not want to see any successful reform or rationalization — and the polls say they do as an overall goal — that legislators would act. It’s the fact that the majority is not adversarial to reform, coupled with the fallout from last year’s election, that make bipartisanship plausible here. But if the majority of constituents wanted to see mass deportations, and no possible roads to citizenship and a closing of the borders, the Gang of Eight would have no where to stand.

                      We’re just going to have to disagree.

              • dude, the moment you think the USA’s Zeitgeist can be boiled down by any poll, you need to step back, visit the tavern, have a few beers, and smoke a few. Polls are unrepresentative, at best; at worst they are propaganda tools employed by various factions, including yourself in this instance.

                I’m going medieval on your ass and bringing in the big hitters. Just got hold of Stuart Mill’s On Liberty… Shortly, I’ll be winding up my arm, and slinging some more truth zingers at your feeble ass mouldy old worn out catcher’s mitt – stay loose ya orioles degenerate. The old timers knew a thing or two…

                A snippet of wisdom…sit up and lissen boy. Mill’s writes, brilliantly, in his essay On Liberty :

                The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.

                So tell me Simon, where’s that leave your raggedy assed left wing wimperings? You remind me of people who want to ban smoking cos it causes them discomfort.

                • The truth curve ball : That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign….

                  Yeah, when you’ve recovered from the hit, I expect you to reject your marxist tendencies (as per Hitchens), close down this site, forthwith, and seek help for communist leanings.

                  The bums will always lose, Simon. The bums will always lose!

                • So why consider the popular will at all? Why even endeavor to pursue representative government? Or laws? Or a society? Just let everyone do what they want in a libertarian ideal. Regulate nothing. Let everyone follow their bliss and see where it comes out?

                  No speed limits. Drive drunk. Rig up a nuclear reactor in your basement. Carry a bazooka on a plane.

                  This is a society, and for any society to maintain the consent of the governed, the means of governance needs to reflect the utilitarian desires of the citizenry. Are there personal liberties in a constitutional republic that are necessarily protected from restriction or amendment by popular will — short of constitutional change? Of course. In wrapping yourself with Mill and pretending that you are wielding him coherently, you’ve chosen as your target a straw man, rather than the actual positions elucidated here. From my previous answer to another commentator:

                  “Well, to be fair, the Bill of Rights is there to prevent any tyranny of the majority and to ensure that certain inalienable rights cannot be legislated away. The people’s will should certainly prevail within the context of maintaining individual liberties. If the American people began to overwhelmingly favor, say, putting Muslims in internment camps as was done to Japanese-Americans in World War II, or to overwhelmingly support requiring legal defendants to testify under oath and answer whatever questions put to them, then I would hope our representatives would resist the impulse to agree. I don’t think they would, mind you. I think the same cowardice demonstrated on the gun-registration vote would have many of our legislators voting away constitutional rights if they saw advantage to doing so. But my point is that populism has its limits, and the popular will shouldn’t be able to legislate away the rights of a minority or individual.

                  With regard to the Second Amendment, I do believe that a blanket prohibition against the right to keep and bear arms, while demonstrably sensible given the outcome in other Western societies, is constitutionally prohibited and that for such a thing to occur, the constitution itself would require amendment — an unlikelihood given the anti-populist bias inherent in that process. I do not at all believe, however, that the Second Amendment allows all weaponry to be privately owned or available, regardless of its destructive power. Nor do I believe it allows all weaponry to be carried into any public forum or event, or to be carried by those individuals who do not fulfill all the requirements of responsible citizenship. And certainly it doesn’t prohibit society from monitoring carefully the ownership, sales and possession of firearms. Indeed, I believe that the language of the Second Amendment can be argued to imply that the right to bear arms publicly is, in fact, limited to the maintenance of localized militia, rather than a blanket carry permit that brings both concealed and openly carried weaponry into any and every public setting.

                  But if I believed otherwise, if the Second Amendment were to me a blanket liberty that could in no way be infringed, then I would hold the people’s will to be of little regard. If that were my premise, then the position you describe above would not be intellectually inconsistent.

                  All that said, I do not see the Second Amendment in the same light as gun-rights advocates at all.”

                  Again, Mr. Seymour, it’s easy to argue down and vanquish a straw man. But a first-rate society cannot be built on liberties alone. Nothing can be built on liberty alone. It is instead in the tension between liberty and responsibility — and how a representative government deals with that necessary and elemental tension — that a society achieves validity and greatness. The libertarians — our political luftmenschen — are incapable of living with that tension. They quote Mill as if liberty alone is the equation for how human beings must reconcile the hard work of building and maintaining a functioning society. And so, they are, in practical terms of actual governance and problem-solving, damned useless. Like a nine-year-old who only wants to eat dessert and go to bed when he damn well feels like it, a libertarian wields only the promise of personal liberty. They have nothing to say on the other fundamental of citizenship which is responsibility. American progress is marked by a sufficient devotion to both liberty and responsibility; when the necessary tension between the two is lessened by political rhetoric, or ideologues spouting Mill or Rand, or for that matter, Marx, bad shit happens.

                  Now, in whatever reply you wish, see if you can’t eschew the snide and the personal and the “go medieval on your ass” cliches. See if you can deliver an argument that flows and progresses to some real purpose, without the name-calling asides and sports color-commentary of “big hits” and other nonsense. Or at least come up with something better than “bums” and “left-wing whimperings.” That weak shit smells of Fox-website internet commentary and we try to bring a better game into this forum.

                  • Mr. Seymour,

                    I read your last three posts and elected to delete them. They offered some additional name-calling, blanket declarations that arguments opposing you were “bullshit” and “Marxist” and other assertions of your dominating intellectual capacity. That is an honest and precise summation. I am in no way neglecting any point of substance that you advanced in any of those three responses, which would have, of course, necessitated their posting.

                    So we are done, I take it. And your contributions to this thread are complete as well.

                    • Flippant and clever aren’t the same things; they are often opposites.

                      If you want to hang here and argue, you are welcome. But read, perhaps, the site’s introduction for some help at distinguishing what is an intellectually honest argument over substance, and what crosses the line into meaningless name-calling and playground provocation.

                      The moderation practiced here and required here is purposed to improving the level of argument. Judging only from your lapses in tone and your preference for a sneer when a substantive argument might be more effective, it seems you may be a frequent participant at the unmoderated commentary that accompanies other media outlets. I have no interest in maintaing any site so that ideologues of any stripe can practice their ad hominems and political stereotyping as they do on Fox or MSNBC or Huffington or anywhere else. Not because we want everyone in agreement, but because that weak-ass, foam-at-the-mouth stuff is just plain boring and useless.

                      Raise your game. That’s all that is being asked of you here.

  • There’s an interesting phenomenon in the way people see Obamacare that I think parallels the dead gun bill. Obamacare isn’t that popular and doesn’t poll terrifically well, but when you poll the individual provisions, most people tend to like them. Putting Obama’s name on the individual popular provisions without changing the content dramatically decreases their popularity!

    I hear 90% as the number of people in favor of background checks, but when you put Obama near it, I think many people assume the worst about what’s in the bill, or just let some reflexive contempt for him take over.

    • I think it was Hitchens who suspected that Americans don’t want health-care, they like living dangerously, and I tend to agree with his generalizations….if you cut off America’s balls to solve its problems, what are you left with? Canada, most probably.

    • Really? That’s the best you can do?

      Pressure cookers have killed 3 Americans in the last, say, fifty years of modern history. How many hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead from handguns in that span?

      Being flippant is not the same as being clever. It’s often quite the opposite. Raise your game, brother.

    • None of the provisions in the bill banned guns! Obama does not plan, nor has he ever planned, on taking anyone’s guns!

      Come on, people.

  • The Senate has always been an undemocratic institution, but it felt like for a long time we all knew the rules of the game: 51 votes and something passes, and a filibuster meant you stand up there and talk for as long as you can to try and draw your fellow senators over to your side of the argument in an attempt to change their vote. But now that the burden has shifted to the majority needing 60 votes to close debate rather than where it should be, on the minority having to come up with 40 votes to continue, we have entered a new phase of American politics. Realistically speaking, those elected by national majorities no longer have the power to govern. The last time we ran into this type of intractable gridlock in the US Senate, the American people chose to amend the constitution with the 17th Amendment (prior to that, US Senators were not directly elected by the people, rather they were voted for by each state legislature). Time to change the rules, and perhaps the make up of the US Senate again.

    • And another NRA talking-point heard from!

      And where does the 20,000 gun law figure come from? If not from the cluttered and fevered mind of a gun nut, manufacturing factoids for the sake of it, then certainly from the cumulative accounting of comparative gun statutes in every American jurisdiction. Meaning, rather than count the general prohibition against the use of a handgun in a felony once, as a singular effort by American citizens to legislate against the use of a handgun in a crime, let’s get all hyperbolic and count that sucker 2500 times for every possible jurisdiction’s legal code in which it appears. And then let’s trot that big-ass number out like it means something.

      Show me any jurisdiction that has even a hundred working statutes involving firearms and I’ll be amazed. My guess is there are, at most, a couple dozen operant in most moderate-to-liberal jurisdictions, and most of those involve handgun-use sanctions that are in fact prosecuted as a matter of routine. In gun-friendly jurisdictions, probably half the statutes involve extending the carry and ownership rights, and the remainder are, again, retroactive penalties for use of weapons in the commission of felonies.

      In truth, the gun laws on the books ARE being enforced to the extent that they can be. But of course the use of firearms in the commission of crimes can only be prosecuted after the fact, after the commission of the violent crime. Given that we have no effective national gun registration, given that we won’t legislate against automatic weapons or high-capacity semiauto magazines, given that we won’t close loopholes on gun shows, or require cohesive, national background checks to eliminate those incapable of safely owning firearms, felons, straw-purchase friends of felons, and people already under court order for violence or threats of violence — given how much gun-onanists such as yourself won’t allow, it’s no wonder that the retroactive laws against the use of weapons don’t prevent gun crime. They punish it. I don’t know of any shooting in Maryland for example in which prosecutors don’t automatically add a handgun charge to the murder or assault-with-intent count. Those laws are being enforced. But given that the vast majority of existing gun laws serve only a retroactive legal response, they have very, very little to do with keeping firearms in the hands of responsible gunowners and preventing violence before it is transacted.

      But you wouldn’t want to hurt your head thinking about any of that when you can run around dropping numbers like 20,000 as if they mean something. The hyperbole of the gun lobby — from the fraudulence of its gun-law claims, to its fantasies about overthrowing the tyranny of a usurping government and supplanting such with glorious liberty at the point of a gun — is just revolting. That a minority of Americans fall for this crap and nurture it never ceases to amaze.

      • I am not a member of the NRA. I don’t own a firearm at present. Please don’t lump me in with those morons.

        I may be wrong about the 120k gun laws. Hence the reason I put the words I believe in front of it.

        I disagree that gun laws are being enforced to the extent they can be. I don’t see it in my local jurisdiction, where the mayoral candidates stress they need to be enforced better. YMMV.

        There needs to be a revision of the laws, on that we agree. Thisincludes the need to keep firearms in the hands of responsible gunowners and prevent violence before it is transacted. But knee-jerk bills like the one voted down are not the answer. A step in the right direction, maybe (hence my comment, in the meantime). Instead of knee-jerk reactions, where we get laws, any laws, containing any number of riders, passed as soon as possible, let’s take a little more time and do it right.

        I would caution against national registration of gun owners.Throughout history, tyrranical governments have done that to control and subjugate its citizenry.

        • Wait. Because some mayoral candidates are claiming that they will enforce gun laws better — a a means of gaining higher office — you affirm that ergo, gun laws are not being utilized? This, to you, is empirical? We have reached a nadir on this website when people attempt to argue for the reality of anything by citing what an American candidate for political office tells the voters in the current political clime. Please. Just stop it with that bullshit.

          You can disagree that the existing gun laws are being effectively utilized, but you might want to cite a single, solitary specific. Please cite an actual statute and show me where state or federal prosecutors are not utilizing that statute in the course of their duties, or where prosecutors have chosen to ignore an actual weapons law that carries actual penalties. Please. We’re waiting. Cite the statute with specificity and explain the indifference of police and prosecutors to its actual viability as a prosecutorial tool.

          Again, the laws against the use of guns in the commission of a felony, or the possession of weapons by convicted felons — once they have been arrested and the weapon recovered following the requirements of probable cause for the arrest — are routinely used throughout law enforcement. Virtually all other efforts to rationalize the possession, sale and record-keeping involving firearms — these are the laws that can’t find their way through our legislative process. And when they do, they are carefully gutted by a lobbying process that is deeply monied. If I led you on the legislative tricks that actually prohibit ATF agents from having any oversight whatsoever of commercial sales records for firearms and how that prohibition came to pass quietly, even secretly in the U.S. Congress through the inclusion of a legislative rider by an NRA-paid legislator, you would cease to pretend that a wealth of legal weaponry by which firearms can be in any way rationalized in American society actually exists on the books, just waiting to be effectively used. This is an NRA trope. And it is a lie. And whether you are an NRA member or not, you have swallowed it, unthinking and without even the slightest genuflection toward any actual research. I was a police reporter for fifteen years; I know what prosecutors anywhere can do with weapon laws that are on the books and that carry actual penalty.

          But first, before we continue, do you want to apologize outright for that 20,000 figure? Or just brush it off as if it was a falsity that didn’t work before proceeding to your next hoped-for equivocation? Cite for me even one American jurisdiction in which there are even 100 related statutes and codes that actually set penalties for the misuse of firearms, and which are not already being utilized by professional prosecutors. Then take a look at the motor vehicle statutes in that jurisdiction; guaranteed there will ten times as many. And why do we require more legislative oversight of our motor vehicles than our firearms? Answer that intelligently while you’re at it. Explain why Americans in every state have to endure the complete and specific registration of every vehicle and driver if they want to operate a mechanism for transport — when an automobile is used for daily, modern life by a majority of citizens — but no such universal registration can exist for handguns, which have no other purpose other than to propel bullets through human bodies?

          Cite the law and the jurisdiction and show me where the gun laws are so comprehensive and underutilized. Or where they are anything but miniscule when compared to the vehicle codes in that same jurisdiction. Or failing that, reach down deep and gather yourself to say it: “I’m sorry for advancing the figure of 20,000 unused gun statutes. That was dishonest. I won’t bring that weak shit into your house again. I’ll try to argue actual substance and not gun-lobby hyperbole from now on.”

          • I said I BELIEVE, which SHOULD imply to someone of your intellect that it may be incorrect. I guess I need to spell it out, so in the future I will strive to do that.

            I did not say once that it was absolute. I wasn’t implying it as truth. If it was taken that way, I apologize if my statement was taken as truth that there are 20,000 definite, absolute unused gun laws not being enforced. That is dishonest. This isn’t a random figure I pulled out of the air. This comes from things I’ve read. You could argue that I read only gun-lobby propoganda, but I hope the assumption isn’t being made that I am making this up myself.

            In any event, I came across this:

            1) In 2007, Congress passed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act, which created incentives for states to improve the reporting of mental health information into background check system. Yet many states have made little or no progress reporting largely because Congress failed to follow through with funding, granting just 5.3% of the total authorized amount from FY 2009 through FY 2011 –

            2) The FBI reported 71,000 instances of people lying on their background checks to buy guns in 2009. But the Justice Department prosecuted a mere 77 cases, or a fraction of 1%.

            I would be interested in learning about the legislative tricks that actually prohibit ATF agents from overseeing sales records for firearms and how that came to pass in the U.S. Congress.

            I would caution against national registration of gun owners.Throughout history, tyrranical governments have done that to control and subjugate its citizenry.

            • Other than the Hollywood film, Red Dawn, which is as much a romantic view of right-wing self-validating propaganda as any fevered, paranoid mind can hope to conceive, can you name a single instance in history in which tyrannical government has used the registration of firearms to control and subjugate its citizenry? I know it sounds like it happened, because it is a repeated trope, but frankly, the great fascist enterprises in modern world history didn’t need to take anyone’s guns away. That wasn’t a precondition to Hitler’s rise to power. Or Mussolini’s. Or Hirohito’s, for that matter. It wasn’t a Stalinist imperative, or anything undertaken earlier than that by Lenin. No, all of the Western democracies other than the U.S. not only REGISTER weapons, they exist with FUNDAMENTAL PROHIBITIONS against handguns, their possession and use. And funny, but I haven’t read about the totalitarian regimes that have usurped the freedoms of the French, the Germans, the English, the Spanish, the Japanese. All I know is that these countries remain Western-style democracies with rates of violence miniscule to our own.

              Indeed, I can think of far more tyrannical regimes that BEGAN at the point of gun, through violent revolt, than those that sought to control firearms as a means to power. History actually goes the opposite way.

              I understand that you cited 20,000 unused or underused gun laws on the basis of personal belief. That is obvious from the fact that it is a ridiculous figure on its face, and had you researched the substance of such a stat, it would have been unsustainable as currency in an honest discussion. But, now, having invoked it in the argument, you have the choice of either defending it with fact or acknowledging its falsity. Choosing to say, hey, I read it somewhere is rather weak stuff, don’t you think?

              1) If you pass a law and provide no resources to enforce that law or create sufficient resources to utilize that law, what have you done, other than pretend to restrict firearms without actually doing so? My essay argues that the legislative branch is broken and has no desire to actually address the murderous state of modern America through the rationalization of gun laws adn their actual implementation. If you are the NRA, and the first line of defense — that of creating no restrictions on anyone having a weapon regardless — is politically untenable at any point. (i.e. sorry gun nuts, but too many Americans are really against mentally unstable people getting hold of a gun) then the next step is to aggressively lobby to have the teeth pulled from the law in other, more subtle ways. Citing a law that is moribund without budgetary teeth proves my point about Congress and its purchase, not yours. Sorry.

              In that same vein, the NRA, in its opposition to the 4473 forms and even the most basic standardized registration and background checks, has managed to lobby the enforcement of such checks to the point where ATF agents can’t demand to look at a gun store’s books to search for straw-purchases of weapons, or to see the degree to which background checks were observed. Only when a gun shop owner retires does he have to turn over his books, save for those instances in which an ongoing criminal investigation regquires the owner to answer questions about the sale of a particular weapon. Meaning, there is no fucking oversight of gun stores and how or whether they operate under statute. it’s not possible. The back-end enforcement of the background-check process and its efficacy is not allowed to exist. This happened quietly as a means of eviscerating the actual intent and purpose of the background checks. It has been well-reported. You can easily find journalism that addresses the matter if you so choose.

              2) In reality, the FBI reports 71,000 instances NOT OF PEOPLE LYING on their background checks in 2009, but of instances in which their attempt to buy a weapon conflicted with information that prohibited the purchase. This is not a subtle distinction and it goes to the heart of why, under the existing laws, prosecutions for failing a background check are problematic.

              Intent is an element in any viable criminal prosecution, especially one involving the right to trial by jury. It is not enough for a federal prosecutor, overworked as he or she is with any number of case files, to simply show a jury that someone attempted to purchase a firearm when they should, by statute, be prohibited. No, the prosecutor, to bring a successful case to court, needs to demonstrate that the buyer knew that they were prohibited and made a false statement with the intent to violate the law. Some categories — obvious felons still on parole, fugitives from justice — this may be possible, though even then, establishing state of mind and intent behind a given statement or omission on the form can be tricky. But what about the greater mass of would-be gun buyers who didn’t understand the delicate differences between misdemeanors and felonies, or that even if they were convicted of a misdemeanor drug charge, or even charged with such — the law doesn’t require a conviction — they are ineligible, even though they are not felons? A separate standard in the law prohibits gun ownership merely for any history of illegal drug use, including marijuana. And what about buyers who were convicted, but have since completed their sentences and probations and thought that in doing so, they were once again allowed to purchase a firearm? In practice, erring on a background check form 4473 isn’t de facto lying, and even if it is — even if the purchaser knew he was attempting to buy a handgun when he was prohibited — a federal prosecutor has to prove that the false statement was intentional and not merely an inaccuracy occurring through misunderstand and confusion. Suddenly, most of those 71,0000 “lies” become something much less than criminal violations — especially given that the purchaser showed some cooperative intent by even coming into the gun shop and filling out the form in the first place. Remember that a purchase at a gun show or from a private owner or on the street requires no background check. Given all of this, the current law makes most criminal prosecutions problematic — unless the gun is also used in commission of a felony, at which point, a prosecution for perjury on a form 4473 becomes plausible because the false statement is seen by the court and by a jury in light of the subsequent violation. This is why the few prosecutions that come to court on this law usually come in connection with overt misuse of the gun in question. In short, the law wasn’t designed to send thousands of people to jail for perjury, and the declination of prosecution in most cases reflects that reality. When gun-rights advocates point to these “non-prosecutions” under this statute, they are being purposely disingenous. The value of the background-check law is simply that 71,000 times someone came into a store to purchase a gun and they were in a class that, on paper at least (the background checks are only as good as the info in the law enforcement data base, and sometimes that is incomplete or inaccurate and therefore can be unfair to potential legitimate buyers) did not meet the criteria for gun ownership by stable, law-abiding citizens. But it is not a law designed to aggressively prosecute those who fill out the form incompletely or inaccurately, and the NRA certainly knew that when the law was crafted. And they know it, too, when they whine about the law being unenforced by mass prosecution, or when they get credulous folks like you to repeat that candard.

              Another amusing point: The penalty for lying on a 4473 — if intent to lie can even be proven to a jury’s satisfaction — is five years max. If you lie on a loan application for a federally insured bank or savings institution, you are exposed for six times that penalty. Telling isn’t it? The banking industry can subject Americans to 30-year, no-parole federal sentences for claiming more collateral than they actually had when they sought to borrow some money at interest. And given that the disonesty requires an overt act — writing down that you owned something when it can be easily proven you didn’t — such cases are actually plausible and easy prosecutions. A far cry from having to prove that a gun purchaser’s neglect of mentioning a drug misdemeanor, or a felony for which they served their sentence and completed their probation, or a period of mental instability from which a doctor has since pronounced them improved was, in fact, a perjury. Yet I don’t remember the last time anyone — let alone twenty-odd school children — were gunned down by a bad bank loan.

              Jason, if you keep taking the gun-lobby’s stats — 20,000 underused statutes! 71,000 lying criminals let free! Human history ripe with democratic governments devolving into tyranny through gun registration! — at face value, you will forever be a credulous dupe when it comes to actually assessing and addressing the problem here. I’ve done all I can with the dross that you keep sending. Please, please research a fact or a stat before you send it, barren and naked and uncontextualized, over the transom.

              • It is evident that facts and figures are going to be pointless. And I should’ve known that. I forgot momentarily that one can easily develop a long list of impressive numbers to support any argument on either side of an issue, creating virtually any impression they desire. Politicians and the media do it all the time.

                So allow me to try something my father implored me to use than many forget or lack – common sense.

                Point #1: Thugs ignore gun laws. To think that thugs who ignore laws against murder, robbery and rape will up and obey gun control laws is, well kind of ludicrous.

                Point #2: Thugs prefer unarmed victims and avoid potentially armed citizens. Who would you rather confront, an armed citizen or an unarmed one? And where is violent crime more prevalent? Washington D.C. where gun laws are strictest or Florida where gun laws are more relaxed?

                Common Sense Point #3: Crime is deviant behavior. A gun is an inanimate tool, not deviant behavior. Crime is deviant behavior not an inanimate tool.

                Even if you could legislate guns out of existence, deviants could, would and have used other things that gave them a power advantage over their victims—knives, clubs, rocks or even sharp sticks—all of which are very legal and very accessible.

                Finally, point #4: The Second Amendment. We argue about which ones are legal or necessary, but the fact remains Americans have the right to keep and bear arms.

                • #1 Thugs ignore the gun laws as they are currently constructed in this country. Thugs in other countries obey the gun laws and resort to other methodology than the handgun because the costs of getting caught with a handgun are prohibitive. London, England has a growing gang culture; they use knives instead. There have been numerous youth cuttings in Greater London over the last couple years, yet the efficacy of taking a human life with a knife is much less than with a firearm, so their murder rate remains much, much lower than ours.

                  And in fact the incidence of violent assault is fairly comparable in other Western countries. It isn’t that Americans are more violent as creatures, it’s that when we are prone to violence our methodology, when compared with the rest of the world, is far more lethal. Even more so given that semautomatic weapons with 15 to 19 rounds a clip is now standard in our culture.

                  The weakness of your argument is that it is rooted in the current dystopic American gun culture. If carrying a concealed handgun were a crime with a mandatory five-year sentence, no thug would carry a handgun. They would be reduced to weapons that while brutal, are far less likely to end human lives. Note the mass stabbings recently in both America and China. Dozens assaulted, not a single homicide.

                  Which brings us to Point #2

                  In answer to your argument, I would rather for purposes of safety live in England, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Japan — almost any civilized country where the great and vast majority of the people are not armed with firearms and that the rates of shooting and death by handgun are miniscule when compared with the grievous bloodletting of the United States. And why is this so? Because the carrying and ownership of handguns is restricted, and criminals, though they exist in all cultures, know that they are living in a society in which possession of a handgun is a crime that will result in significant penalty. Change the firearms culture and the criminal culture exhibits a corresponding change. Any criminologist knows this; only those who can’t imagine an America different from the pre-existing horror show think otherwise.

                  Common Sense Point #3 has no common sense.

                  A nuclear bomb in a briefcase is an inanimate tool, but we don’t allow citizens to walk around with them. Let me reiterate on the most traumatic example of lawless brutality — the random mass killing of innocent people. The incidence of such events has been rising dramatically over the last twenty years. This corresponds with the transformation in ballistic technology. Five- and six-shot revolvers have been replaced by semiauto pistols with 15 to 19 a clip. Lethal force can now be applied at a faster rate, without constant delays for reloads, and therefore, there are legitimate calls to restrict weapons which are not sportsman’s weapons but are designed to provide a rate of fire that results in much more human destruction. For you to stand back and pretend that one cannot differentiate between inanimate objects and their availability in society merely because they are inanimate is just fucking embarrassing.

                  Hand grenades are inanimate. So are bottles of anthrax. So is a bazooka. Must we philosophize about the deviance of criminals any further before you admit that perhaps some objects have greater destructive potential, that perhaps some are not made to be ubiquitous in any civilized society. I’m really sorry, but the talking points for those defending America’s gun love and culture, are unworkable with more than a fifth-grade mind.

                  Point #4

                  That’s your interpretation of the Second Amendment, and that of those who value the gun over the health of the society as a whole. Other legal and historical interpretations, more narrow in scope, can be intelligently argued. And beyond that, even if your interpretation were the correct one, it’s also true that our founding fathers also originally intended the upper house of the national legislator to be appointed and not elected; they intended that women be denied the vote; they counted enslaved Africans not as a standing affront to their claims of liberty, but as three-fifths of a human. Our founding documents are wise at points, and politically and morally compromised and antiquated at others. True, we may not be politically capable of amending those documents at this point — but that, again, is a function of our corrupted and calcified republic and the undue importance that the documents themselves give to under-populated and rural jurisdictions. In that sense, the flaws will remain because one of the fundamental flaws.

                  But none of that makes it good, or right, or just, or in the case of the American obsession with firearms, sane or civilized.

                • Who cares if “thugs” ignore gun laws? Are we going to count the individual that shot up the school in Connectitcut as a “thug?” I mean, who are you talking about? These mass shootings are not happening on drug corners. The Avon Barksdale’s of the world aren’t sending the Wee-bey’s, and Stinkums into schools to blow away toddlers. These shootings occur when disturbed individuals legally gain access to weapons purchased at gun shows, department stores, etc, either by themselves or a family member…I’m sorry, but this notion that “criminals don’t obey gun laws” is just stupid. There’s no “common sense” in the arguments you’re trying to make there.

                • “And where is violent crime more prevalent? Washington D.C. where gun laws are strictest or Florida where gun laws are more relaxed?”
                  I’m sorry this whole D.C. and Chicago have the strictest gun laws yet the most gun violence is the dumbest fucking argument in the gun debate. The majority of violence in those cities is drug related. The guns are bought illegally with dirty money from the unlimited pockets of drug lords. If you want to get rid of those guns get rid of the drug trade, end prohibition. And Florida, you bring up Florida? Florida has had major issues with gun violence both recently and in history. But those victims were mostly black so I guess who gives a fuck, only the white suburban kids matter.

                  • Indeed, the notion that a municipal jurisdiction has the capacity to upend America’s gun culture on their own — without national action or consensus — is one of the most intellectually dishonest offerings in the gun-lobby canon. When you can drive over a city line, or even a state line, and arm yourself to the teeth, then no individual jusrisdictions prohibitions can be decisive.

                    That is what it is, by necessity, a national debate.

                    And your point about the guns being utilized in those places in America where economic deprivation and gangsterism are the inevitable consequence of deindustrialization is right on point. First the poverty, then the attendant social problems, and then firearms introduced to such an environment — that is a mature way of looking at the whole. Suggesting that limited and geographically-restricted efforts to limit the effect of firearms are somehow a cause of the drug trade, the unemployment, the hyper-segregation, the poverty of America’s rust belt urban spaces is as dishonest and perverse a way of addressing the reality as a human could conceive.

      • “…to its fantasies about overthrowing the tyranny of a usurping government…

        To this I always say where were they during the coup d’etat of 2000, where were they in the fight for our right to count the vote??? No where I saw.

  • It is a very human thing to want to make those you disagree with absolute monsters who are wrong about everything, and it’s a flaw that we must overcome.

    That said, holy crap, the Republicans are actually wrong about everything! There are many, many problems with the Democratic Party, whether you want to critisize them from the right or left, but…argh…Republicans! They CHOOSE to be wrong about everything, because basic human decency is now CommuNazism if Obama advocates it. Someone tell me if that’s way off base, because after a representive tweeted about “Massachusetts liberals” wanting guns (He taunted the victims of a terrorist attack while violencè was still ongoing!!!), I’m don’t think it is.

    I remember Trayvon Martin. A couple Republicans said it was a tragedy. Then Obama agreed with them and they threw a fit about him dividing America! Now, when his name pops up I hear right-leaning talking heads actually celebrate the death of a kid. That’s where the right seems to be headed now, inflicting pain on non-Republicans as an end in itself. Here in Michigan, budget cuts or laws that affect poor people or teachers or unions ir people in Detroit are often justified as them “not hurting enough.”

    Sorry for the rambling word salad.

  • I tried to follow David Simon on twitter today after buying his and Ed Burns’ book ‘The Corner’ which I’m using to research my own novel and came across Monbiot’s link to this article. Having read it and the comment below about the UK’s history, being a teacher of US Politics and Political Philosophy in the UK and a long-time fan of the Wire I have to applaud Simon and say something in response.

    It barely makes sense to compare the US and the UK given one is a huge diverse federal coalition and the other is a small unitary state. Even so, we might not have the 2nd Amendment in our country but we have capitalism, democracy, and what Simon is saying about their lower-house applies as much to us as the US. We have an elected dictatorship that controls both legislature and executive for five year terms, and it wields the power of the monarch in areas like foreign policy. For the past thirty years those elected into this power have had to appeal to an electorate that believe only in their own self-interest and any rhetorical bullshit that persuades them of where it lies. You may have Super PACs, but at least half of the US is turned-off by Fox News. Your constitution and the very public interpretations of it make it pretty clear who is pulling the strings, at least to anyone who cares to know. The subtleties of power distribution in the UK have meant that for centuries the big structural decisions have never been transparent or accountable. Money rarely shouts over here, but its always whispering in the right ears. The idea of political equality might be starting to look like a joke over there, but I don’t think we’ve ever taken it seriously.

    I just wanted to say though that Simon’s work in the third season of The Wire rates up there with Plato’s Republic as an analysis of the failures of democracy. The public services that I work in face the same political pressures that the police are exposed to in this series, where targets and the appearance of success have become more vital than real progress. My dad was a social worker working with kids in care and complained endlessly about local politicians undermining and overturning everything they were trying to achieve. His defence mechanism was to supress caring and drink more, and I’m seeing my colleagues do the same. Its about resilience…

    “People lose the reason to believe. Eventually, a deep and abiding apathy prevails. Either that, or someone picks up a brick.”

    David Simon you’re an inspiration.


    Dom McArdle

  • This is – speaking from a British perspective – bamboozling.

    Here in the UK, a ‘gun culture’ is non existent, a non-entity, a non-issue. I’d actually go as far to say that the zenith of English progressivism is our society’s collective and mutual antipathy towards firearms and the odious culture that goes with it. This isn’t factual ambiguous rhetoric either, the facts are there to prove it:,66,69,194,86

    Now i’m fully aware – before everyone jumps to tear this to shreds – that the UK isn’t a model country. The rich still fuck the poor. Women in employment don’t have an equal chance. Those of caucasian origin are more likely to have a better job than their afro-Caribbean counterparts. But all of these points seem to be more acute in the US, and with regard to clear-headed and rational thinking, it seems to be going backwards. As the Rt. Hon author states above, how any prudent individual can advocate no gun control after 26 young children were murdered is beyond me. Fucking totally over the top of my head.

    America needs a history lesson. The British Empire was to the 19th and early 20th century what the US has been post World War II, a super power. It was also as erroneous and odious in its decision making. The phrase concentration camp rose to prominence during the second Boer War because the British operated them to detain Boers. It saw China as an economic threat, so got large swathes of it addicted to Opium, and made a lot of money out of it. It partook in paranoid and egotistical arms races, and this posturing eventually led to World War I. These examples barely touch the surface, and the irrational decision making showed no sign of slowing in the aftermath of the great war – draconian disciplinary action by the British and French at the Treaty of Versailles led to a crippled and spiteful defeated. In turn, this resulted in the rise of delirious right-wing paramilitary groups in Germany. Funnily enough, at Versailles, the bastion of hope and progressivism was Woodrow Wilson with his 14 points.

    The critical point here is that in World War II, the British had a scapegoat. It was the ‘free, democratic and liberal country’ against an abhorrent dictator who had ingrained racism, anti-semitism, fear and violence into the German psyche. We were, after years of being arguably the opposite, the good guys. We had something to soften our fall from global supremacy.

    Shoot towards the present. America in the early 21st Century parallels the British Empire in the early 20th Century. It is paranoid, militaristic, pompous and self-righteous. But the salient point I make is that it doesn’t have a scape goat, and continues to dig its grave – both domestically and internationally – in an extremely efficient manner. When a supposedly democratic President builds upon a legally dubious drones program, killing scores of innocent Pakistani women and children in the process, and then prosecutes whistleblowers, you know it’s game over. The non-western World’s patience is running out, and militaristic showboating doesn’t appease the situation.

    As the world aligns itself looking East, and America continues to isolate itself through a quite marvellous showing of ignorance (domestically best emphasised by the gun control debacle), it really is a cause for concern.

    The US government needs to wake up and smell the coffee before shit hits the fan. There again, the shit probably past through the fan a while back.

  • […] Here’s an essay from David Simon, creator of The Wire and former Baltimore Sun journalist. While I disagree with some of what he writes (ex. the gloss of corporate personhood, which was a cynical misappropriation of the 14 Amendment, legislation intended to guarantee the rights of freedmen) I bring it to your attention as a example of punchy political rhetoric. Note also, HUM415 students, the core contradiction of Simon’s article: capital vs. democracy. Dead children and monied politicians. […]

  • I agree with everything in the article. As an Australian, I obviously don’t understand the whole situation in the US in detail, but there is a lot of information available for us foreigners to digest which gives us a fairly accurate overview. I feel terribly, terribly sorry that you have got yourselves into this and can’t get out for reasons given in the article. The rest of the world looks on with disbelief at how so many people can be fooled, bought, pressured, hoodwinked. Mark Twain would have a field day. But we have similar situations here, perpetrated by similar power groups in our society, so we can’t be too smug. The slow-moving force of people power may change things eventually, I feel, but it will take a bit more time. Sadly, perhaps there must be a couple more horrible tragedies to catalyse that change. In the meantime, keep up the fight! Know that masses of foreign observers support you silently.

  • Well said, David. I had the pleasure of meeting you in Dublin several years back and here’s how it looks from the other side of the pond, for what it’s worth.

    The American political system that I studied at university four decades ago was taught on the basis of its structures and founding ideals rather than the then emerging compromised political reality. The Reagan years, fueled by Chicago School rhetoric, then seem to have embedded the process of legislative capture by commercial interests.

    To the outsider it looks as if you have government by the lobby for the lobby. The chambers – notional bedrock of the bi-cameral.system – seem reduced to stages for ritual performance, much of it hand-washing.

    Just as there is a gun lobby there are well-resourced lobbies for all those sectors of commercial enterprise that seek to diminish the effects of legislation which has been conceived for the common good.

    In subtle and not-so-subtle ways the federal government has been re-cast as the overbearing colonial power it replaced. In the popular mind it has been remoulded (by the lobby) as a restraint on liberty – economic and personal – and nowhere more so than in those areas of the country which, as you point out, have disproportionate voting power.

    But as it is is in the US so it has become in most of the European social democracies. The lobby is in the driving seat and the EU has been a ready-made vector for its assimilation of political and administrative influence. Without it we would not be in the finanancial turmoil we are in today and, even in the aftermath of the known effects of financial deregulation, there is compelling evidence that it is the citizenry rather than commercial interests that are bearing the true cost of ‘less’ government.

    We may not have your gun lobby in this part of the world but who can say what other human desparation, impoverishment or loss of life flows unrecorded from governance by unseen hands.

    If the essential weakness of democracy is its indirect, easily compromised representative nature then perhaps it’s time to offer some further constitutional protection to the authority of the popular franchise. That or the brick.

    • The point is that political parties are’t working. Over 90% of the U.S. population was for legislation to control guns, yet the representatives of our political parties voted for the lobby that pays them.

    • When has anyone ever truly changed the system from the inside? That is the sales line for each and every politician. Meanwhile in reality, every single vote in Congress just quietly went against repealing the Stock Act (, meaning each and every Congressperson was opposed to the idea they should be held accountable for profiteering from privileged information. No exceptions.

      In older times we were told to not shoot the messenger, translated into modern syntax as “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”. I think it’s all poison, or else there would be some exception somewhere. We keep assuring ourselves that Democracy is the greatest system of governing we have yet discovered, and we leave it at that. The solution then, I solemnly believe, is not to join in the game but to create an entirely new system altogether. At the other end of the spectrum, our apparent inability to be governed (with even the great and powerful concept of Democracy being a complete loser since day one), should not be a call to embrace total anarchy. There has got to be a better way of caring for ourselves and each other without greed ever entering the picture.

      • Once senators and reps get well ensconced, they grow more addicted to their perks than the worst drug addicts. That’s a constitutional amendment we need: That all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply to members of Congress. For fun, if they violate them, perhaps we can follow Lindsay Graham and charge them as enemy combatants for insider trading for attempting to sabotage the financial system.

      • Mr. Caldwell,

        Interesting that the repeal of the Stock Act both went underreported and happened during the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath.

        And it is important to note, we are not a democracy, we are a constitutional republic. Actually, it may be more apt to say were.

  • Democracy can only end in Capitalism. And Capitalism is ultimately the game of “In the end, there can be only one.”

    This article, while not nursing the wounds of today, was a breath of much needed sanity.

    Thank you.

  • I agree that the Senate should have passed some of the gun control measures that were being considered. But I don’t get the connection you are making between this and Citizens United or anything about money. Strong arguments can be made (though I generally disagree with them) that money has a corrupting overall influence on policy making and that rich special interests have too much influence in certain areas of policy. But I don’t see how guns are an example of this. I’ve always believed that this was one of the two major issues (abortion being the other) in which it was unbelievably clear that politicians are responding to the voices of a large number of strongly opinionated citizens rather than a few rich voices.

    The opposition to gun control comes from a very large number of individuals who are afraid that any movement in the direction of stricter laws is one step towards an infringement of their rights. You may disagree with their views. To a large extent, I do too and there is no doubt that some gun rights believers are rather crazy and hysterical. But there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that the opinions from these and other individuals are what is driving elected officials to oppose gun control measures. It’s not corporations. I certainly don’t think that the NRA gets a large portion of its contributions from the gun industry. My impression is it’s mostly from individuals. In the scheme of things, the gun industry is very small when compared to other industries. So I doubt that the lack of movement towards stricter gun policies has been largely their doing. And small steps like requiring tougher background checks doesn’t threaten them to any serious degree. Corporations and money have very little to do with the debate about gun control.

    • No indeed. You are misinformed. The NRA is heavily supported and backed by the gun industry. In fact, polls of NRA members taken after Newtown indicated much less opposition to some gun-control measures among average NRA members than was evident in the organization’s actual positions on such issues. Why? Because even individual gun owners are not in lockstep with the extremity of some NRA positions. However, the gun industry as a whole supports the NRA heavily and advocates for no compromise position whatsoever when it comes to the ubiquity of firearms in American life.

    • Josh Sugarmann, Founder and Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center, posted this piece following the Aurora shooting last July. It addresses NRA funding via unregulated internet sales of firearms and ammunition:

      The more extensive report from the VPC, “Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA.” can be found here:

  • The problem you, and most other gun control advocates have to face, is that the murder rate in America has steadily declined for the past two decades, even as gun control laws have been struck down or lapsed and the number of guns in America has increased relative to the population.

    As the murder rate decreases, there are fewer dead children available for you to use as props, which leaves you no choice but to milk every tragedy for as long as possible in your quest to prohibit whichever type of inanimate object you find most objectionable.

    • Actually, the disconnect in your argument is entirely evident at first glance.

      The murder rate has indeed declined overall, but the rate of mass shootings, and stranger-to-stranger homicides is increasing within that overall total. At this point, nearly three quarters of the mass murders in the world occur on American soil and virutally all of them involve semiautomatic or automatic firearms with high-capacity magazines. The efficacy of killing in these instances surpasses anything seen in human history outside of military operations.

      And here’s the rub, Mr. G. The overall murder is something that brings yawns of indifference from Americans. Why? Because we will accept entirely the vast majority of homicides that are rooted in drug slayings, bar room arguments, domestic violence and such. We don”t give a damn. By and large the victims are people of color and/or entrenched in the underclass. We don’t look like them, we don’t come from where they come from, and we aren’t going to wherever it is that they die. If a drug dealer falls in West Baltimore and there’s no one there to hear him, does he make a sound?

      But the increasing incidence of mass killings in our society — which are, for the most part, stranger-to-stranger killings often involving random, innocent victims — this is something that more and more Americans find disturbing and intolerable. And try as they might, gun-rights advocates can’t get around the salient ballistic reality behind these genocidal moments; It’s all about how many bullets are fired and how fast. And given that fundamental, it is fair to say that we have entered a brave new world here. When I began as a police reporter in Baltimore in the early 1980s, the average street weapon was a .32 or .38 revolver shooting six, or in some cases five. And city police officers were content with .38 revolvers, backed by speed loaders. Now the escalation in firepower has made semiautos with 18 to a clip standard. The net result is vastly more rounds fired in a given incident, a higher rate of fire, and yes — more bystanders hit. That has been the trend for two decades now, and police professionals will confirm it. And of course when an individual is intent on mass killing, he will destroy more human life faster with the current ballistic technology than at any time in our history.

      So citing the overall murder rate is not addressing in any way what concerns Americans about the new culture of violence in society. We aren’t worried about the average homicide in which assailant and victim are known to each, in which their history is a preamble to violence that engulfs only them. No, we want to send our children to school, or go the ballgame, or go the mall and live to fucking tell about it. And in that subcategory of homicide, the numbers are going up. Stranger-to-stranger violence is not going in the same direction as overall homicides.

      Can people kill multitudes without semiauto and automatic weaponry and high-capacity magazines? Sure. But it’s harder. Much harder. Which is why the methodology for mass killing — in terms of ballistics — is so consistent from one incident to the next.

      And therein lies the unspoken cheat within your argument.

      • Care to site a source for your assertions? I haven’t seen any compelling evidence that mass shootings have been consistently increasing – although there’s been a recent uptick, mass shootings are rare events, and therefore subject to noticeable fluctuations on a year-to-year basis.

        If anything, given the increase in the overall population, the rate of mass shooting victims seems to be decreasing along with the overall murder rate:

        • From the Washington Post in the wake of Newtown:

          “Brooks highlighted this discrepancy back in July. For much of the 20th century there were, on average, a handful of mass killings per decade. But that number spiked in 1980, and kept rising thereafter. In the United States, there have now been at least 62 mass shootings in the past three decades, with 24 in the last seven years alone, according to a recent Mother Jones survey. This has happened even as the nation’s overall violent crime and homicide rates have been dropping.”

          I read both the Mother Jones assessment and the supposed take-down of that piece that you cited, and to be clear, the take-down was anything but. Mother Jones was clearly trying to specifically address the phenomenon of random, stranger-to-stranger mass killing. Your man wants to include multiple (though not mass) murders that are not at all the issue. It was entirely possible to kill three or four people with a .38 S & W in 1974 and many people did so. But if all four were in a bar argument in East Baltimore, again, no one gives a damn enough to rethink ballistics and the law. Your man even goes so far as to complain that MJ didn’t include multiple murders that were domestic homicides. Husband kills kids, wife, self, etc.

          Again, it is a weak-ass attempt to obscure the actual reality that MJ was addressing. The phenomenon of mass killing in schools, malls, workplace environments by lone gunmen and the correlation between the increase in those incidents, the increase in deaths per incident, and the higher-magazine capacity and rate of fire of the weapons involved.

          Again, America doesn’t care if poor people murder each other, or if husbands kill wives, or if two guys arguing over the Yankee-Red Sox game pull out weapons and end their lives. We care about stranger-to-stranger crime because it is the crime that can reach out and touch the middle class and affluent regardless. We care about stranger-to-stranger robbery-murders, stranger-to-stranger rape-murders and mass killings. And mass killings are indeed on the rise in America. MJ got it right. They weren’t trying to count all multiple killings, regardless of motive. They were trying to count mass killing. Your cited critique purposely tries to obscure that, and speciously so.

          A later analysis of mass killing worldwide referenced in the NYT noted that in the last decade, the United States became, by far, the world leader in mass murder, with three quarters of all incidents occuring on U.S. soil even though we are only 6 percent of world population.

          • From the same article you just quoted:
            “Update: It’s also possible that mass shootings simply aren’t on the upswing at all. See this newer post for data suggesting that these shootings have remained constant since 1980, and haven’t increased at all.”

            The newer post in question:

            The Mother Jones data is flawed, and was thoroughly picked apart in the link I provided above. I haven’t found the NYT analysis you mentioned, so I can’t comment on it as such.

            In any case, even if you’re correct, and “stranger-to-stranger killings often involving random, innocent victims” are on the upswing, the fact remains that such killings still occur at an annual rate of less than 1/1,000,000 of the American population.

            I simply fail to see how it is reasonable to criminalize behavior practiced by millions of Americans with nothing more than the hope that such laws would reduce a specific type of tragic event that is exceptionally rare to begin with. Of course, if reason were on the side of gun control advocates, they wouldn’t wait for such tragedies to try to advance their cause.

            • Well, now that you’ve edited your previous comment, the first half of this one seems a bit out of place… Oh, well – at least the conclusion remains sound.

            • “criminalize behavior practiced by millions of Americans”
              What proposal would do that? Background checks? The magazine limit applies to new sales, right?
              Gun rights advocates say the Constitution is on fire, but no legislator is proposing anything that would prevent a law-abiding citizen from being able to bear arms. They talk about how any regulation is the first step down the slippery slope to tyranny, but use very undemocratic means to stop a bill that had 90 percent approval of the American people.
              And you accuse gun control advocates and the victims of mass shootings of shrewdly using tragedies to advance their cause. Wow. That takes brass.
              And how many preventable deaths does it take to justify a new regulation? What’s the standard?

    • Mr G,

      I live in Sydney, Australia and recall 2 mass shootings in Australia within about 5 years of each other, one in Strathfileld, Sydney in which about 7 people were killed and then one in Port Arthur, Tasmania in which about 20 people were killed. The last was the worse mass shooting in Australia’s history.
      Both incidents involved the use of semi-automatic weapons.
      In response national legislation was introduced to limit the possession of semi-automatic weapons.
      In the 13 or so years since there hasn’t been a single mass shooting in Australia.
      Check the facts on the internet if you like. I think they speak for themselves.

  • Those in our culture that espouse absolutely no restrictions on gun ownership appear to have a fantastical apocalypse in mind, one where they assume that there will be a day in the near future where they will band with their gun-loving brothers and sisters and…I guess fight the US government? But folks, the government’s military has more than assault rifles. It has drones, tanks, helicopters, jets…need I go on? If the government ever really wanted to oppress us and make the right-wing nuts nightmares come true, it wouldn’t even be a contest. The technology gap is huge. Seriously, how much of the gun worship is married to the religious right’s hard-on for the End Times? You’re trying to reason with people who are dreaming of civilization’s fall…and I think they, secretly and deep down, think it will be really cool. Because, you know, God’s on their side. There’s just no reasoning with those who believe history has already been written in some heavenly ledger.

      • Apologies to believers, but all religions fuck with your head. Back after 9/11, Jimmy Breslin made the very cogent point that in terms of how old a religion it is, Islam is rather young and is about the same age now as Christianity was when it was conducting The Crusades and The Spanish Inquisition. As for the other point about the religious right not believing about getting “7 virgins,” on 9/11 Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell were on TV blaming the attacks on American’s tolerance of homosexuals and the ACLU agenda, among other nonsense. The only thing that really separated what they spouted from what bin Laden did is that they wore suits, didn’t hold weapons while they talked and didn’t go around committing mass murder against their perceived “infidels.” The famous Marx phrase about religion being the opiate of the masses isn’t really true — at least opiates can relieve your pain at times and now most organized religions seem intent on inflicting it instead.

      • Disagree. I pay my taxes for the good of the commonweal and I don’t whine selfishly about it. I am a member of society that accords me fundamental infrastructure and civic support and I am obliged, as a responsible adult, to pay my share for the maintenance of that infrastructure and support.

        My taxes would have been far higher in 1958. Far higher. Is anyone other than a self-absorbed libertarian willing to argue that America wasn’t functional and viable as an economic power and as a society in 1958? Elsewhere with the poor citizenship of a tax whine in a time when rates are still at the lowest levels in modern American history. Please.

        • Mr. Simon,
          First let me state that I have no problems paying my taxes. I understand that a modern, functioning society cannot exist without the contributions of its citizens to the upkeep of the infrastructure they all depend on.
          I was merely mocking the absurd fantasies of some of the gun crowd who believe that their AR-15 will somehow protect them from “government oppression.” The government has demonstrated they have far more subtle ways of making life difficult for someone rather than any overt display of force.

  • I completely agree with everything you wrote. But don’t you think the president can do more to reduce gun violence. If President Obama stopped enforcing drug prohibition, wouldn’t that cause a drastic decline in gun violence in the U.S.? While that does not address our nation’s mental health problem or the sick fetishy culture of gun worship that exists here, there would be simply less death.

  • Mr. Simon,

    Elections by nature serve the elite. It’s a filtering process designed to remove candidates the power structure disapproves of. Getting the money out of the elections may mitigate against that, but it won’t change the basic nature.

    If we’re ever going to have a Congress that reflects the will of the people, then we’re going to have to move on from elections to a more direct form of representation: sortition, or legislature by lottery.

    • To paraphrase Winston Churchill, democracy is a terrible method of governance until compared with every alternative.

  • Note that this is in reply to David Simon’s reply posted at April 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm. I have started a fresh reply because the deeply nested series of replies squished up against the margin were getting impossible to read.

    Note the dollar figure given by the Guardian. This record sum raised in January and February was a mere $2.7 million. Again, in an era where campaigns for the House and Senate cost tens of millions of dollars this is hardly enough to sway a single election, much less leave half the Senate quaking in fear. Indeed, during this two month period Michael Bloomberg’s gun control PAC spent $2.2 million on a single congressional special election in Illinois.

    You persist in seeing the NRA as something like a single-issue version of Crossroads GPS, but the facts, and particular the dollar figures, just don’t bear that out. The NRA’s political power really does lie in it’s membership list, not it’s pocketbook.

    If you’re looking for a poster child for campaign finance reform, I think there are a lot of other organizations out there that fit the mold better than the NRA.

    • You are an unrelenting apologist for the reality here.

      If the money doesn’t matter, then why have a war chest at all? If the targeting of key legislators isn’t a tactic intended to induce fear and prevent votes of conscience or the genuine representation of popular will, then why declare — in advance — that you are raising money to do precisely that.

      The amount raised was $2.7 million for January and February — money raised more than a year and a half in front of any midterm primaries, and money raised without any actual congressional defeat on the books for gun-rights advocates. Imagine the tone of the letters that would go out from NRA headquarters in the event that Congress had actually taken a single, solitary — even minor — act to rationalize gun ownership in America. Imagine what might be raised in March or April or May. Or next March or April or May. Imagine the run-up to 2014. After all, we are still about as far from the midterms as we could get. But given a legislative defeat here and now, what might that war chest look like a year from now?

      And remember the tactic is not to defeat every bad-vote legislator who supported a gun control measure. Many are voting the overwhelming will of their constituents; no wave of cash will turn the tide against them. No, the game is more subtle than that. The money is targeted against key legislators in certain districts, for whom the concentration of capital will prove exhausting and insurmountable. Then, the NRA will hold up their political carcasses as a fresh warning to others about the wages of contemplating rational gun laws in any form.

      The Guardian noted that the money raised to this early point is the largest war chest in a decade. The Guardian also noted that the fundraising for the political war chest was 350 percent above last year. And yet here you stand, claiming that the money isn’t enough to worry about, and further, that the money is beside the point.

      Fine. Prove it. Renounce the money then. Renounce the effort to target legislators because of singular votes. Assert that the NRA is only interested in lobbying its viewpoint before the fact. Right, sure, when hell freezes over. I was a city reporter for fifteen years and one thing became evident in that run: When someone stands up and says ignore the money, it isn’t about the money? Yep. It’s about the fucking money.

      Sorry, Mr. Upchurch, I am not buying anything that you are selling here. It doesn’t make a lick of sense given the actual strategies and threats that have already come from directly from the NRA with regard to this situation. You are claiming an innocence that the NRA has itself already relinquished. They aren’t seeking to convey their ideas or have the issue debated on the merits; they’re threatening to kill the careers of those who cross them. Plain and simple. Is the threat substantive? Can they execute as well as they can threaten? Are legislators cowed by power that the NRA doesn’t actually possess. Maybe. But none of that mitigates against the reality of the game that the NRA is choosing to play here. And nothing you’ve argued thus far is mitigation against the reality of that game, either.

  • Even Ghandi’s bloodless revolution failed to bring about the result he wanted. India was divided leading to decades of tension with Pakistan — exactly what he hoped to avoid.

    Does this mean his efforts were in vain? Of course not! Attempts to change our ways and be better human beings may fail, and even when they succeed they will almost certainly bring imperfect results.

    Our American forefathers knew that, and accepted it. Should our patriot ancestors have just forgotten about the whole American Revolution because the government they put into place afterward was imperfect? They did something that had never been done before, and managed to keep it rolling for over two centuries. Not bad for a bunch of farmers, lawyers and merchants.

    Change is never easy and never comes cheap, and the results are never perfect. But the effort we make to do what is right simply because it is right is never wasted. It is how we honor those who came before us. It is how we grow. It is why we are here.

    We don’t need guns. We need people who still remember what our country stands for, and who still possess a sense of moral outrage. No tiny minority of oligarchs can rule by money alone if we stand together and simply refuse to allow it. It is through our apathy, our reluctance to “make a fuss”, our offering of “respect” to leaders who do not respect us, that we fail.

  • Gun rights supporters are numerous, and are mostly irrational (based on the “arguments” that they make, which consist of logical fallacies and poor data analysis). The majority of the people affected negatively by firearms are miniscule compared to the number of firearm owners in the US. It isn’t as if money is preventing the laws from being passed. You have people that are obsessed with firearms who write to their representatives.

    I can only hope that future generations have the education to understand why giving background checks on private sellers isn’t a violation of a persons rights.

    • I think people are overestimating influence of the gun lobby. Even if the NRA didnt give them a cent, Senate Republicans would have tanked the bill out of pure spite anyway.

      • Perhaps they are overestimated. But that goes to the cowardice of our political representation.

        And further, given that Republicans don’t have a majority in the Senate, it goes to 1) the antiquated and anti-Democratic construct of an upper house in a bicameral legislature that awards each sub-jurisdiction in the national entity two representatives regardless of population, assuring that 40 percent of Americans control 60 percent of the votes and 2) as if that anti-democratic constraint wasn’t enough to thwart the popular will, the Republican embrace of the routine filibuster requires 60 votes to pass anything.

        Do not waste my time asserting for the genius of the founding fathers in creating this nuanced check-and-balance nightmare, or whatever residual arguments someone wants to offer for small jurisdictions having their interests protected in the federal construct. I’m calling bullshit on both. The upper house of our national legislature is anti-Democratic and it is wracked with utter paralysis and incompetence at this point. That is the legacy of our outmoded constitutional logic. As to the safeguards for small states, this is no longer 1783 and the need to induce the Delawares and South Carolinas to share the American experiment is no longer what it was. We are Americans and the certitude of that can and should triumph over historical sops that were once required in order to achieve union. We also gave states of a certain region the ability to count enslaved Africans as three-fifths of a human, even though they had no franchise. We did that to placate the South and facilitate union. But union is now elemental to the United States, and continuing to undercut the more fundamental moral authority that comes with one-man, one-vote is grevious, useless and not a little bit dishonorable.

        The legislative branch is broken.

        • What must be reformed or stopped is the ridiculous filibuster. The word doesn’t even appear in the Constitution. Though it got silly at times, at least when Rand Paul did his showboating on drones to hold up Hagel, he at least did what the filibuster originally was: Someone actually having to hold the floor on an issue until he or she dropped. These idiotic make-believe filibusters where they can do them on multiple issues simultaneously without actually costing themselves any time are an insult. If they want to keep the filibuster, they should be limited to one at a time and the senator or senators should be forced to hold the floor and talk about why they oppose a bill, an amendment or an appointment. None of these invisible holds that the public never sees. Actually show the obstruction. I’d also like to know why Obama doesn’t use some of the tools at his disposal. When they stuck gifts for the NRA and Monsanto into the continuing resolution, why not veto it and send it back? When they keep leaving, keeping a schedule that would make Johnny Carson envious, why hasn’t he ever called the sons-a-bitches into special session until something is done instead of letting them have all their breaks. He isn’t running for office again. Slap the shitheads of both parties around a bit.

    • I am confused how the same people who scream at loss of liberty everyday cannot understand that ignoring the will of the people is the greatest loss of liberty we can have. When you look at these comments everyone is still focused on the gun argument and completely ignoring the real crisis, it becomes obvious this has nothing to do with freedom and liberty. You can be pro-gun and still think the Senate not listening to the American people is a bad thing.

      • Well, to be fair, the Bill of Rights is there to prevent any tyranny of the majority and to ensure that certain inalienable rights cannot be legislated away. The people’s will should certainly prevail within the context of maintaining individual liberties. If the American people began to overwhelmingly favor, say, putting Muslims in internment camps as was done to Japanese-Americans in World War II, or to overwhelmingly support requiring legal defendants to testify under oath and answer whatever questions put to them, then I would hope our representatives would resist the impulse to agree. I don’t think they would, mind you. I think the same cowardice demonstrated on the gun-registration vote would have many of our legislators voting away constitutional rights if they saw advantage to doing so. But my point is that populism has its limits, and the popular will shouldn’t be able to legislate away the rights of a minority or individual.

        With regard to the Second Amendment, I do believe that a blanket prohibition against the right to keep and bear arms, while demonstrably sensible given the outcome in other Western societies, is constitutionally prohibited and that for such a thing to occur, the constitution itself would require amendment — an unlikelihood given the anti-populist bias inherent in that process. I do not at all believe, however, that the Second Amendment allows all weaponry to be privately owned or available, regardless of its destructive power. Nor do I believe it allows all weaponry to be carried into any public forum or event, or to be carried by those individuals who do not fulfill all the requirements of responsible citizenship. And certainly it doesn’t prohibit society from monitoring carefully the ownership, sales and possession of firearms. Indeed, I believe that the language of the Second Amendment can be argued to imply that the right to bear arms publicly is, in fact, limited to the maintenance of localized militia, rather than a blanket carry permit that brings both concealed and openly carried weaponry into any and every public setting.

        But if I believed otherwise, if the Second Amendment were to me a blanket liberty that could in no way be infringed, then I would hold the people’s will to be of little regard. If that were my premise, then the position you describe above would not be intellectually inconsistent.

        All that said, I do not see the Second Amendment in the same light as gun-rights advocates at all.

      • Well, to be fair, the Bill of Rights is there to prevent any tyranny of the majority and to ensure that certain inalienable rights cannot be legislated away. The people’s will should certainly prevail within the context of maintaining individual liberties. If the American people began to overwhelmingly favor, say, putting Muslims in internment camps as was done to Japanese-Americans in World War II, or to overwhelmingly support requiring legal defendants to testify under oath and answer whatever questions put to them, then I would hope our representatives would resist the impulse to agree. I don’t think they would, mind you. I think the same cowardice demonstrated on the gun-registration vote would have many of our legislators voting away constitutional rights if they saw advantage to doing so. But my point is that populism has its limits, and the popular will shouldn’t be able to legislate away the rights of a minority or individual.

        With regard to the Second Amendment, I do believe that a blanket prohibition against the right to keep and bear arms, while demonstrably sensible given the outcome in other Western societies, is constitutionally prohibited and that for such a thing to occur, the constitution itself would require amendment — an unlikelihood given the anti-populist bias inherent in that process. I do not at all believe, however, that the Second Amendment allows all weaponry to be privately owned or available, regardless of its destructive power. Nor do I believe it allows all weaponry to be carried into any public forum or event, or to be carried by those individuals who do not fulfill all the requirements of responsible citizenship. And certainly it doesn’t prohibit society from monitoring carefully the ownership, sales and possession of firearms. Indeed, I believe that the language of the Second Amendment can be argued to imply that the right to bear arms publicly is, in fact, limited to the maintenance of localized militia, rather than a blanket carry permit that brings both concealed and openly carried weaponry into any and every public setting.

        But if I believed otherwise, if the Second Amendment were to me a blanket liberty that could in no way be infringed, then I would hold the people’s will to be of little regard. If that were my premise, then the position you describe above would not be intellectually inconsistent.

        All that said, I do not see the Second Amendment in the same light as gun-rights advocates at all.

  • thanks for your time and decent articulation of what appears to me, looking from the outside in, as a very important issue. My fellow Vancouverite Bruce has said pretty well said everything else I might want to add.

  • I’m curious as to your thoughts on what Lawrence Lessig proposes. Campaign finance through publicly-funded elections seems like the only solution that makes sense to me. I don’t want to sit on my hands, I want to do something.

    • It is, in a real sense, all that matters if the American experiment in representative government is going to survive.

      • I scanned thru these comments looking for a Lessig- Rootstrikers reference, glad to find this one. Rootstrikers is and must be a grassroots movement, but I beleive vocal support from you and others with standing in various communities is necessary. Thanks, Kyle

  • Send lawyers, guns and money.

    If the mass murder of small children (and again, the point that gun nuts don’t want to face up to, the initial murder of a gun nut using her own legally-purchased weapons) can’t get even the most comprised gun legislation passed in this country, I have no idea what will.

    Maybe next time the killer needs to shoot a couple dozen fetuses?

    If I believed in God, I’d tell Her to flush our species down the toilet and start over.

  • I’m confused here, David? You go after low hanging fruit (politicians, gun lobbies, gun owners & gun companies) with an intelligent thought out rant that cuts right to the heart of society & governments biggest problem, Cronyism/Corporatism. But you only seem to do so because the topic fits you and your ilks narrative of being compassionate and all knowing. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being vitally important in today’s world, most non-NYT readers would view gun control as a 1. Meanwhile the observers who don’t pay much attention to what our corporate run media jams down our throats, sees our civil liberties being eviscerated at an alarming pace, the war on terror causing now catastrophic blowback, our financial system being brought to the brink again by a group of pyschopath bankers who have no problem destroying our currency so they can benefit and a government who seems hellbent on lying to us and creating a world similar to that in George Orwell’s 1984.

    I continue to be flabbergasted at the liberals in our country. They seem to recognize the corruption, but as long as they’re in power it’s OK because they’re smarter than everyone and can fix all of our problems.

    Awhile back you posted a quote by Benjamin Franklin ” They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”…. how does that quote you used not apply to gun control? We would essentially be giving up more of our liberty for the so called safety our “leaders” are promising.

    • Jason,

      Is it possible that I can venture an opinion of my own, about a topic of my own choosing, without you arriving soon after to complain that I haven’t framed my concerns in a way that
      highlights your favored agenda? I wrote what I wrote. It says what it says. Argue with it, ignore it, agree with it, laugh at it. But please, please don’t again go off into the ether because you can’t readily shape
      it into your own preconceived notion of what matters and what doesn’t. That’s a useless exercise for both of us.

      But to your final point and Franklin’s quote, which is indeed germaine to the topic at hand:

      “THey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

      Ben Franklin’s thoughts are most agreeable to me. What gets no agreement — none whatsoever — is that the right to own military assault weapons, to carry semi-automatic clips of 15 to 20 rounds, the right to buy a weapon at a gun show without a background check, the right to own and operate firearms in society with less oversight than is required to operate a motor vehicle or boat are essential liberties. Not a one of them. Not even remotely essential. Gun owners could still avail themselves of a Second-Amendment right while allowing society some measure of response to the repeated murder of innocents. Mr. Franklin had his eyes on much larger, more meaningful liberties than a fetishistic devotion to the culture of weaponry.

      Another equivocation in your writing: Just what the fuck is cronyism/corporatism other than a phrase that libertarians use to excuse the elemental excesses of all capitalism from complicity in our problems of governance? Why not tell the truth and just write “capitalism.” It isn’t that some bad or lesser form of capitalism is being practiced in America and the problem is limited to such. Name any human epoch or society in which capital HAS NOT attempted to extend its reach from the marketplace into the corridors of government? Name one instance in which unregulated capitalism has not sought to extend advantage to monopoly, or to use government as a means to maximize profit at the expense of any other societal need? Libertarians want to embrace the market as the ultimate arbiter of how to build a just and viable society, to argue that government is the problem and that left to its true course, a true and cronyless form of capitalism will light the way. What bullshit. There has never in the history of mankind been a cronyless or corporateless capitalism. It doesn’t exist. It is as much a sociopolitical jerk-off fantasy as Marx’s withering away of the state. Money routes itself toward power, inevitably. If you don’t regulate against that tendency, you are overwhelmed by it. We are overwhelmed by it.

      And as prisoners of a purist fantasy about the innate worthiness of cronyless, corporateless markets, unhampered and unregulated and untrod upon by representative government — libertarians are less than useless to the problem at hand. The solution here is as obvious as it is improbable at this point: Public financing of elections. Do not let capital do what capital will always, inevitably do. Understand that while capitalism is a worthy and elemental tool for producing mass wealth, it is in no way anything more than that. It is not a metric for a just and honorable society. And profit is not the sole measure of a society’s health or viability. For that, you need representative government that is trained to value one man for one vote. Short of that, nothing works.

      • The repeated murder of innocents? Oh please David, spare me. Funny how Obama is up there yesterday in arms preaching about how the “innocents are being slaughtered”, meanwhile he has not a ounce of remorse or sorrow for the hundreds of innocent children he’s killed with drones in the middle east. The fucking hypocrisy is palpable. And now as we all gather together and pay respect to the deceased in the Boston Massacre and sing national anthem’s at sporting events, nobody seems to asking the obvious fucking question? Why are they killing us? Could it possibly be because we occupy their land, kill their people and steal their resources? Nah…. it’s because we’re free!

        You really have no idea what lassiez faire capitalism is… none! Capitalism and free markets depend upon trust, integrity, property rights and the rule of law. Without these, there are no advantages to free markets. Nor are there any incentives to create wealth. Instead, an economy becomes little more than a massive plunder scheme where the powerful exploit the weak. No economic recovery is possible under such circumstances. Capitalism worked for awhile in this country because men & women were honorable and felt it necessary to leave this country a better place. That went out the door when people figured out they could vote themselves money. You and all the other Keynesians have gladly allowed that to occur and because you think it makes everything more fair. It actually does the opposite. Your beloved system is dying right in front of your eyes and you don’t even see it.

        I tell you what man, you’re one helluva a fucking writer. But like Season 2 of the The Wire there is a lot of bullshit to your game. How do I know that, because the so called dying industries you talked about in Season 2 aren’t dying. Those dock workers, my neighbors, are doing pretty fucking good down there these days with their six figure overtime salaries and lifetime benefits. I don’t begrudge them for that, it is what it is. But it should be known that they expose the system as much as anyone else thru their paid off politicians.

        • Jason, brother, this is just embarrassing:

          Because somewhere else on the planet there are injustices, you claim offense that an injustice anywhere else is addressed? Is that really your rhetorical position here? So let me understand this: If in 1965 anyone wanted to stand up and fight for the Voting Rights Act and other civil rights legislation because human beings were being murdered and churches were being bombed throughout the American South, your response would be: “Oh spare me. Innocent civilians are being carpetbombed in Southeast Asia even as we speak.”

          Fitzgerald’s dictum that a first-rate mind can hold two seemingly opposing viewpoints at the same time certainly applies here. And your preamble here is, by that definition, simply second rate.

          As to my inability to conceive something as beautiful and lofty as lassiez-faire capitalism in which markets — absent the policing and regulation and considered attention of government — use reservoirs of “trust, integrity and property rights” to create a just, inclusive and verdant society, I can conceive such a fantastical mirage perfectly well. The problem for libertarian ideologues is this: Like a just or viable version of working Marxism, lassiez-faire capitalism has never been executed or achieved in actual human history. Anywhere. At any time. In any fashion. It doesn’t exist in any form historically or currently except in the minds of political luftmenschen. Why not? Because capital, left to its own devices (lassiez-faire) and unregulated by governance that balances profit against other societal need and other societal compact (socialism, to a practical point), will always — always — seek to route itself to the seat of power and influence governance so as to benefit capital. And because human beings, absent regulation and sanction by a viable governmental authority, will in a significant minority of cases attempt to maximize profit by selling shit for gold, achieving short-term profits at the long-term expense of economic and social health. There has never been a free-market system in the history of mankind that has not demonstrated these two certain inevitabilities. With all capitalism comes the corresponding influence of capital over governance, and with all capitalism comes the impulse toward short-term profit, fraudulence and market manipulation. It is nice that you imagine a better version of capitalism, but it would be nicer if you could actually point to its consistent practice in any society at any time in modern history. You can’t. Money and monied interests will always crave and seek power and monopoly and maximized profit. And the moment after someone produces a product of value and sells the same at a true price, someone else will figure out how to lay in the cut and profit dishonestly amid that market. Always and forever.

          The libertarian fantasy is to imagine a better world by letting the markets alone, which is absurdity. The reality is that government has the essential role here — to keep markets free enough to create wealth and grow an economy while at the same time restricting capital’s influence on governance itself and to prohibit and penalize frauds and manipulations that achieve profit only without growing the economy. That is called regulation and it mitigates the worst excesses of free-market capitalism.

          I am arguing against capitalism as it has manifested itself since the industrial revolution. You are arguing for capitalism as it has never fucking existed. Sorry.

          • David,

            C’mon man, the markets are most definitely regulated and rigged for the elites. Why does 1% of our population own 40% of all the nations wealth? I don’t care if you’re a capitalist or marxist, that is a very unhealthy number. If you think the current rise in the market is due to a healthy economy and strong corporate earnings, then I have some snake oil to sell you. Bernanke & these clowns at The Fed are doing this to enrich the 1%. I’m not sure if you saw the Frontline special recently on PBS – . It was very well done and If you don’t walk away livid from seeing that, then I don’t really know what to say?

            why do I bring this shit up in your post about guns? Because I see it as all tied together. We don’t have capitalism in this country, and really haven’t since the early 80’s. We have steadily progressed and morphed into a fascist system where the oligarchs are calling the shots. The system continues to teeter on the financial edge of the abyss and it will go over, I can promise you that. Whether it’s next week, next year, or 5 years, our fate is pretty much sealed.

            Gun control is a measure by the elites to fend off the eventual uprising that will take place when the system crashes. Without guns there is no way to fight back, we’re enslaved and indebted to the bankers for life.

            Re: Franklin- in a letter to the Governor of Pennsylvania in 1755. The statement was made in reference to colonists on the frontier who were in danger.

            As usual, the state was getting involved… at a high cost.

            But Franklin pointed out in his letter that “in the Midst of [the frontier colonists’] Distresses they themselves do not wish us to go farther…” and that “it is next to impossible to guard effectually an extended Frontier…”

            He was right. Ultra-committed separatist groups, extremists, and all-around bad guys can always find a soft target.

            Guard the airport and they’ll blow up the bus station. Guard the bus station and they’ll take out a public park.

            Constant security, paramilitarism, and steady erosion of freedom constitute an enormous price to pay for a false sense of safety against bad people.

            Franklin knew this. Let’s just hope that people have the same respect for liberty as the frontier colonists he wrote about.

            • Jason,

              Are you seriously suggesting that the concentration of American wealth in the top 1 percent of the country has to do with manipulation of the markets? Do you know how inconsequential the quotidian greed of Wall Street is when stacked up against the macroeconomic transformations in play over the last half century? Do you know how twisted your logic has to be to look past the basic fact that this level of stratification in wealth hasn’t occurred since the age of the Robber Barons and before the rise of organized labor? For most of the 20th Century, the healthy tension between capital and organized labor created a rough political and economic consensus. That consensus of tolerance and compromise transformed a mass laboring class with no disposable income into a huge, powerful economic engine called the American Middle Class that drove market demand to dizzying heights — we had money to buy all we needed, much of what we wanted and a good deal of what we didn’t need and shouldn’t want. The rise of collective bargaining, union-scale wages and benefits allowed the laboring class a significant reservoir of discretionary income — income that powered American demand and drove the economy. For the last thirty years we have been dismantling that middle class, destroying unions, and devaluing labor as if these aren’t the very people we need to buy up our GDP. And it all shows itself in the wage stagnation of middle-income American families. Meanwhile, unrestrained and unregulated markets, combined with globalization and the resulting decline in the value of human labor, have soared profits for the investing classes. The rich get richer; the middle class gets poor. It’s a macro-race to the bottom.

              That’s the big picture, fella.

              Are you, as a libertarian, seriously suggesting that the markets — unregulated and untethered to any greater social compact than profit — are ever going to self-correct? That if we just make capitalism pure, it will fix everything? Like it did in the Industrial Revolution? Or the Age of the Robber Barons? I can’t believe anyone to be so obtuse. You have a huge historical problem, as a libertarian: The American economic dynamo of the 20th Century, the one that made us a world power without compare, was created as a result of a capitalist market that was 1) tethered to socialistic, New Deal impulses that created more wealth distribution and discretionary income throughout the various classes than at any other time and place in human history. And 2) recognition of collective bargaining and an empowerment of organized labor as a necessary element to that extraordinary period. It isn’t that labor wins everything, or that capital wins every fight. It means that both sides get enough of what they need and in doing so, both production and demand are made viable and the economy grows. Meaning: 3) Government has a fundamental and necessary role in regulating the economy, ergo, the classical libertarian talking points are utterly untethered to any actual reality in play here.

              Ideology is a crutch, and it leads otherwise reasonable people to embarrassing disconnects and overstatements. If you are a doctrinaire capitalist, or libertarian, or Marxist — you are, on some level and at some critical crossroad of thoughts, a lost fool with a bad map. There are well-reasoned libertarian impulses, mostly having to do with the very human right to privacy and control of our own bodies and choices. There are some well-reasoned capitalist and even conservative arguments to be made about keeping excessive intervention in free-markets to a necessary minimum. And there are very strong socialist and liberal ideas that point out that left to its own devices, capital will always serve itself at the expense of any greater social goal or social compact.

              Smart people listen, consider, and chose the best of every argument or theory, and they discard the worst. And it is in the tension between the value of seemingly disparate ideologies that intelligent folks make a home for themselves.

              You wanna scream at Bernacke? Really? He was barely in long pants when Reagan was breaking PATCO, or when our captains of unrestrained profit were figuring out how much more money they could make by moving the manufacturing base to the cheapest overseas labor sources. It isn’t regulation of the markets, or a rigging of them by government that has us in this fix. It’s greed. It’s the INABILITY of American government to speak to the macro-realities in a forceful way, to properly regulate the shit-for-gold scams and Wall Street cannibalism such as mortgage-backed security bubbles, or to be a meaningful agent of reform when capital is exporting jobs so as to reduce labor costs to slave-wages, the lack of national will to perhaps link free-trade or favored-nation aggreements to those countries willing to tolerate collective bargaining and trade unions, thereby lifting all boats globally. Our current trauma calls for more government action, more leadership, more collective responsibility — not some idyllic belief that a purer form of capitalism will save us. There is no pure capitalism. There never will be. That’s libertarian cartoon-porn.

              As to armed revolution being the backstop to actually doing the hard, quotidian and necessary work of reforming representative government, you are just an ass. I’m sorry. I try to avoid the ad hominem, but you have moved me to absolute extremity with that vainglorious, self-aggrandizing nonsense.

              Apart from the throwing off of colonial, external tyrannies, any good and worthy revolution by a people against its own leadership succeeds because the majority of the people no longer consent to be so governed and demand a change in governance through non-violent resistance. An internal revolution at the point of a rifle is a revolution that doesn’t deserve to succeed, as it only offers the opportunity for fresh tyranny. The great revolutions of a people against its own leaders are bloodless, or near bloodless, and they are characterized by the numbers of citizens in the street, or the numbers of citizens no longer willing to accept authoritarian doctrine in their lives. The weapons are decidedly beside the point.

              If people like you are challenging any government, no matter how ineffectual or corrupt, with guns and force-of-arms, then I am obliged to accept that if you are successful, I will be answering to armed people like you. In which case, I am with the elected government, regardless of how monied and corrupted the electoral process is. Fuck you and fuck your guns. If you can’t win with ideas and with creative non-violence and resistance, then you have no right to lead any revolution anywhere. The vanity of your imagined recreation of Lexington and Concord is so juvenile as to astonish.

              • Aaaaand called it. See my other comment about the deluded folks who think some glorious revolution is coming, and that they have enough guns to stop a military takeover. Good luck with that. Agreed, David, with regard to armed fucks who would become shithead warlords in such a scenario…

                • Yeah, I had a feeling it was going there, too. Sometimes, I try to suspend all doubt and believe that someone is just truly, deeply uninformed and that they are not trolling or glassy-eyed with ideology. I think to myself, “If you just lay it all out simply, and show the fallacies and the assumptions for what they are…”

                  But that’s naive, I know. Sometimes, there is no cure for acute and chronic ideology.

                  • If it makes you feel better it was rather inspiring reading you lay it out for him. I attempt to do so all the time(nowhere near as well as you) but I have rested on a theory that RWNJ’s and libertarians normally wouldn’t involve themselves in politics because it’s rather bureaucratic and boring deep down, but just like their WWE, once you sensationalize it and turn it into a captivating fantasy story it becomes much more fun to play along. I consider truthers a side effect of the information age and find its much easier to give them links to tin foil hat building web sites rather than something that obliterates their logical fallacies.

  • Amen?

    For such a perceptive and intelligent person, it seems that it’s taken you an awful long time to come to the conclusion that the non-voting majority came to a long time ago.

    Place has been broken since I was a kid, and that’s been a good long while now. Maybe since longer than my parents were kids, and that’s even longer. It’s just that we know more about it now. I think it’s the knowing that breaks the faith.

    God was easy to believe in when DNA wasn’t even a dream and atoms didn’t exist. The illusion of the integrity of public institutions can’t hope to survive a free press, much less the internet and 24×7 TV coverage, and Jon Stewart.

    All that said, here’s an interesting link to voter turnout for presidential elections:

    link to turnout:

    If the stat is to be believed (and I have no standing to determine that), then, for presidential elections at least, 2008 was the highest turnout we’ve had since Nixon/Kennedy, and 2012 wasn’t embarrassingly below that.

    For off-year elections, though, which is probably a better index since it’s less of the personality contest that people like to get engaged in, the numbers show that we’ve been checked out for quite a while now.

    Granted, these use the VAP model instead of the VEP model, so I’d expect them (assuming the VEP model is reliable and extensible) to trend lower.

    But regardless of the model, right at the time of the Viet Nam war was the time when a big chunk of the population seemed to change their minds on the validity of our government, and that trust has never really recovered.

    CNN was founded in 1980 – off-year turnout increased in ’82, but decreased markedly thereafter. Did CNN have anything to do with that? Correllation != Causation, the plural of anecdote != data, yeah, I know. But still.

    It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that corporations and the wealthy have owned the government for just about as long as there’s been a government to own. When we didn’t have it rubbed in our faces every moment of every day, maybe we were more engaged as a population. When we were a nation of God-fearing people, maybe were more invested in the well-being of the nation. But Watson and Crick and Darwin and Manhattan Project, and here we are.

    It’s ironic – the more we know, it seems the better off we are as individuals, and the worse off we are as a collective…

    But what’s the answer? When I was a kid, I thought socialism might be it, but it’s not. The rich-eat-the-world model of capitalism ain’t it, either. But as long as there’s money there’re people who can accumulate it, and as long as they have it, they make the rules.

    Let’s face it. Whoever we vote in…whatever we vote for… the world has too many people for too few resources. We’re not smart enough as a species to figure a way out of the game, and we’re too stubborn to change the game in ways that would make a difference.

    Which most likely means that we’re just fucked.*

    Tell me why I had kids, again?**

    * Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t keep fighting like hell. Rage, rage against the dying of the light and all. But still. In the darker moments…

    ** Though the little buggers are dead awesome. I don’t have much hope for the world their grandchildren will inherit, but I think they have a decent chance of making it through life happy. I’m pulling for ’em.

    • You misunderstand me. I understand the apathy. Just as I would, at this point, understand the brick.

      But I am advocating neither. Given how monied our democracy has become, and given how capital has been allowed to purchase the very mechanisms from government, the odds are long for American progress. But a citizen does what he ought. Again, Camus: To commit to a just cause without hope of victory is absurd, but to not commit is equally absurd. But one choice offers the chance for human dignity. Or Izzy Stone: Sometimes, the only fights worth having are the ones you know you are going to lose.

      But clearly, the great battle that must eventually come to America’s moribund political dynamic is the uncoupling of capital from governance, in the form of radical campaign finance reform. And for that one can only hope for the early departure of a majority of those occupying seats on our highest court. Until then, representative democracy and republican governance are indeed problematic enterprises. But both things are worth fighting for, if for the simple fact that the failure to fight for such things is a shameful fucking thing.

      • > But clearly, the great battle that must eventually come to America’s moribund political dynamic is the uncoupling of capital from governance, in the form of radical campaign finance reform.

        What’s problematic — and what always pushes me toward apathy — is that the same money that’s near the root of the problem also works very effectively to prevent the uncoupling.

        You’re dead right – as citizens we have to fight for what we’re citizens of. It’s the fight and not the victory, and all that.

        The key would seem to be mobilizing the masses to demand election reform. If only there were someone with the money enough to do that…

  • “Either that, or someone picks up a brick.”

    Oh, irony, sweet and thick. David, I don’t know what experience you have in overthrowing governments, but history suggests projectile bricks may not be enough to get the job done. We’d need something a little more powerful, something with some oomph, some kind of weapon that, I don’t know, maybe was recognized centuries ago as necessary in a situation just like the one you anticipate, and was thus protected by law in the Bill of Rights, in some vague location residing between the 1st and 3rd amendment.

    • Irony in your own head, perhaps. Or simply iron.

      Citing the brick was not advocacy for the brick. When violence comes in the form of force enough to take a government down by the efficacy of the weaponry, then revolution itself is no longer populist or worthy. I want no revolution in which the weapon determines the outcome, because any revolution that relies on such is corrupt and useless.

      The brick at worst marks the failure of the plutocracy to respond to the needs of the majority. At its best, it calls to attention the desperation of the majority and the need for redress. But the brick itself never brings the change. Get it? The ’68 riots sent a scathing message to America about rightful black aspiration and economic neglect of our cities. They were necessary as far as they went. And the UDAG grants and jobs programs that followed were direct and relevant. But the brick itself wasn’t about seizing power. No sensate human being thinks that by throwing a brick at a police line or through a laudromat window they are any closer to toppling a government. At most, the brick states the severity of the grievance and the diminished belief in the levers of governance to actually serve the greater constituency or redress a wrong. It is a calling card only. And only a fool or a gun-nut would fantasize about a populist assault by firearm achieving anything better than bloodshed and fresh tyranny. What do you think this is, South America in the 1950s?

      No, the great and worthy revolutions in human history are never about the weaponry — never. And so the gun-rights advocates claim of being a bulwark against tyranny always lands on anyone paying attention to historical precedent as being self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed bullshit. Gandhi got rid of the British without firing a shot. And in the labor movement in this country, which was necessary to help created the consumerist American middle class and the great economic engine of the last century, the guns were on the sides of the Pinkertons, and the police riot squads. Collective bargaining wasn’t achieved by rifleshot; it endured rifleshot. And the civil rights movement? Again, the brick calls attention to the desperation. But when you start thinking that with better weapons, and tactics, and maybe some well-placed bombs or assassinations that you can assert for rightful change in governance, you are on a fool’s road. And the gun lobby has a lot of people — you included, apparently — traveling that road.

      • > Again, the brick calls attention to the desperation. But when you start thinking that with better weapons, and tactics, and maybe some well-placed bombs or assassinations that you can assert for rightful change in governance, you are on a fool’s road.

        I’m 100% in agreement on this, but.

        Tiananmen Square, as close to a nation-wide literalization of 1984 as you can get, and a symbol of what is possible.

        When the government (and the money’s) control is absolute enough to control the things that get presented to the media, they can make history disappear and incredibly brave statements disappear with them.

        Not that personal weapons–or even personal tanks–would help this. The government has more and bigger and deadlier, and always (and should always) will.

        (Side note: Of the (Northeast US, suburban Caucasian), gun owners I know, most of them don’t want the guns to resist the government. They want them because they’re fun to go shooting with, or to protect their families from (darker-skinned) marauders, or because they’re substitute penises, or to hunt with, or because they just look cool.)

        Not sure I’m making a particular point here, but for some reason this topic is spurring the urge to ramble…

  • Mr. Simon,

    You really ought to have fact checked this article before publishing it. If you had, you would have found that gun rights groups really don’t spend that much money compared to other groups. According to the database over on, over the last four years gun rights organizations have spent about $5 million per year on lobbying and about $10 million per year on ‘outside expenditures’. Compare this to the nearly half a billion dollars spent by the health care industry on lobbying alone, $400 million from finance and insurance, $350 million from energy companies, etc. Even the newspaper industry spent about as much money directly lobbying congress as the NRA did last year (about $3 million each).

    So, why do gun rights groups wield such influence in congress? It’s not because of how much they spend, it’s because there are millions of individuals who are willing to write letters, call their congressmen, and to show up on election day and cast their vote based on the issue that they care most about. You lament the apathy that afflicts the public. Well among gun owners, apathy does not prevail.

    The vote yesterday is not some subversion of democracy. It is the product of an engaged group of citizens making their views known to their elected officials.

    • And how much money would they have spent in targeted opposition funding of senators and congressmen who dared to vote for gun control? Tallying the lobbying money is off-point and oblivious to the actual dynamic in play here. The NRA and its allies don’t need to lobby their ideas to elected officials. Their stance, rapid and indifferent to any American reality, is apparent without the need for any lobbyist to open his mouth ahead of the vote. They are not bringing an argument that is sane or cohesive or rooted in much beyond gun-love and paranoia and libertarian self-righteousness. We know the argument and lobbying that argument much further than its stunted little legs can carry it would be wasteful and superfluous. Our elected representatives know the argument. We have all known it for years.

      No, the dynamic we just witnessed is the direct threat to mobilize against individual representatives AFTER the vote, to target those who would dare risk their careers and incumbency to vote the popular will. The power is not in money spent in advance of a vote. The NRA isn’t worried about convincing anyone as to the insightful cohesiveness of its positions. Its most extreme positions are suitable for lower primates and sociopaths only at this point. No, the power is in the money that the NRA promises to raise and target in the wake of a vote. And it is from that power that our representatives cringe and flee.

      We all know what we just saw. Don’t try to avert our eyes from it.

      • “And how much money would they have spent in targeted opposition funding of senators and congressmen who dared to vote for gun control?”

        Based on past performance? A total of about $10 million per year ($20 million per two-year election cycle) across all races. In other words, chump change in an era where House and Senate races cost tens of millions.

        As I said, the NRA’s influence does not come from the amount of money it spends. It comes from having a very politically active membership who are willing to call their senators and representatives and to turn out and vote based on their feelings on this issue.

        • Let’s do this bluntly, so that the obvious can’t be obscured with off-point stats, such as how much was spent in past election cycles in which the NRA WAS NOT IN ANY WAY CHALLENGED BY NATIONAL GUN CONTROL LEGISLATION. Let’s go to the heart of the matter and tell the truth here, Mr. Upchurch:

          If the NRA today pledged that they would spend all the money in the world in advance of a vote advocating for their position on legislation, but simultaneously promised not to spend any money to target those legislators who, in voting their conscience, voted against the NRA position, then America’s gun laws would turn around so fucking fast it would make your head spin.

          That’s it in a nutshull. And everyone knows it, regardless of how you shape your square numbers for a round hole. No one is afraid of any dollar that the NRA spends making its arguments on the merits. But legislators in any purple state understand that their conscience is not something that can be safely accessed and utilized if they are to be subject to the NRA’s efforts after the fact. That is the fear that drove this week’s vote. Whether that fear is overstated or overimagined by gutless senators is another argument. That it shapes the legislative inertia on this issue is beyond intelligent argument.

          • The that the voting public will judge an politician seeking reelection based on the actions they took during their previous term is a fundamental feature of democracy. That’s why we have regular elections rather than electing people to office for life.

            What gives gun rights organizations like the NRA their persuasive power is that the politicians know their members are motivated and politically engaged. Unlike the apathetic populace you decry, they will remember and vote accordingly. This is exactly how democracy is supposed to work: voters holding their elected officials accountable.

            • Again, a dishonest equivocation.

              Individual voters considering the performance of their representatives on a host of issues is nothing to induce fear in the political process. A monied interest group specifically utilizing mass capital to target specific bad-vote opponents is something entirely different and not at all in worthy harmony with the democratic ideals that you are using for wrapping.

              • In this day and age, $20 million per election cycle is hardly “mass capital”. Indeed, for the NRA it amounts to about $5 per member. Hardly the sort of thing that leaves politicians quaking in their boots.

                As I have said repeatedly the NRA has political power because it represents “Individual voters considering the performance of their representatives”. Many of whom will consider their representative’s performance not on a host of issues, but on one issue that is very important to them.

                • “Gun lobbyists raised record amounts of money for political campaign coffers in the months after the Newtown school shooting, as they attempt to tip the balance on a knife-edge vote on gun control this week.

                  Federal Election Commission disclosures show the National Rifle Association, which has led efforts to block gun control reform, raised $2.7m for its political action committee in January and February this year – a 350% increase on the same period after the last mid-term elections.

                  It spent some of the money on contributions to a clutch of Republicans in the House of Representatives, including speaker John Boehner, but has also amassed its largest campaign finance warchest for over a decade, according to analysis by the Guardian.”

                  From the 4-15 Guardian. Italics mine. I am sure the NRA wants to be characterized as just some constitutionally-minded lovers of liberty who want to alert their membership to important legislative issues that they might want to assert on, given their viewpoints. On the other hand, raising specific monies to target specific legislators in vulnerable districts for voting their conscience on a singular issue such as whether gun registration might be made uniform and complete, well, that’s a bit more direct as an intervention. Is it legal? Of course. And therein lies the point of my essay. This is not a system designed to achieve votes of conscience or even representative voting. Why should any fucking money come into any congressional legislative race from outside that district? Why have money matter at all? Why not publicly fund elections, let the candidates debate the merits of their votes and their performance and let the voters decide on their representation. Because that is too much like democracy, and money doesn’t have enough chance to talk.

                  Be honest about the process here. It is not designed to reflect popular will. Popular will is the only thing absent from the equation.

                • The NRA represents gun manufacturers. Very little of their funding comes from dues-paying members. They work for the industry who oppose all efforts to stop anything because they needed more income when gun sales began to drop. That’s why Wayne La Pierre makes $1 million+ a year for spreading his propaganda, lies and subverting facts. The senators aren’t even representing the majority of their constituents as poll after poll after poll in blue states and red, among gun owners and non-gun owners, Democrats, Republicans and independents, all back universal background checks at a rate of 80% or higher.

  • It is so true. The true majority party in Congress is neither Democrat nor Republican but Incumbent. Once, someone gets entrenched in their seat, their constituents cease to matter because they don’t fill the campaign coffers that allow them to keep their seats and their perks for as long as they want. My saying always has been that when a long-serving member of Congress of either party leaves office (by whatever means), an angel gets his wings. Voters must stop just complaining about these impediments to action and actually put real pressure on them, Keep calling, writing and emailing those who chose to protect the will of gun manufacturers over the will of 90% of the American people — an overwhelming majority that includes all parties, gun owners and even NRA members. Primary the jerks who did these things. That’s not just a tactic to be employed by Tea Party folks who feel their GOP reps aren’t “conservative enough.” Take them out. Hit them on unrelated issues as well. I believe in a scorched earth policy when it comes to the bought-off betrayers of the American people. They need to know we are watching their every move on every issue and they WILL be held accountable and the days of their wonderful perks and laws that apply to everyone except them soon will be coming to an end when we return them to the ranks of a private citizen.

  • Yessiree, sir, you have said it. Although personally, I think a deep and abiding apathy is too kind. I feel a deep and abiding contempt for these assholes who have forfeited their right to respect, honor, or mercy. These assholes who preen for the cameras, who talk about “the right to life” have been revealed as the cowards and traitors they are.

    They serve the money. That is all. And it’s not just the Senate, it’s the entire US government.

    We need a revolution.

    • When I was younger, I believed that.

      Now, older and more jaded, I’ve seen how revolutions work out. The fallout is rarely to the benefit of the masses…

  • The apathy is already here and has been for some time. I despair of it often. For without the will to create change, everything will stay the same. I don’t know if that will exists in great enough quantities though and most people have no idea where to begin. There are groups working to overturn Citizens United though, for whatever that’s worth.

    There may be many avenues to address this disaster of (non) governance, but I always gravitate towards the one of my chosen profession: journalism. My feeling has long been that the press needs to play a greater role in this. The public needs not bland, toothless stories, but clear explanations of what is happening, how exactly it affects them directly and what precisely they can do about it.

    The level of apathy is stunning. The election that saw Rahm Emanuel become mayor of Chicago was the first in over 20 years to be a competitive race with no Daley on the ballot and no Daley-anointed candidate. There were a number of candidates so this was a real choice for the people of Chicago, the first in a long time. The voter turnout was 40 percent. I don’t know what else to say.

    As for the brick, I don’t hope for such a resolution. But even while I dread armed revolution, I don’t think it’s much of a possibility, do you? We are too atomized, too distracted, too wrapped up in our own petty problems.

    • I don’t hope for such a resolution either. Good people end up on the wrong side of some bricks.

      And yes, things will have to get much worse and more problems will have to be ignored for a lot longer before civil disobedience becomes plausible in this country. But if you look at American
      history, precious little in the way of democratic progress has been achieved without some measure of civil disobedience. Sometimes, things have to get worse before the entrenched plutocracy begins to worry about making anything better.

  • I think this vote was more a case of the smaller states where the populace is prone to be against gun laws having the ability to prevent the supermajority rather than it being a case of money being able to buy a result that is opposed by the Senators constituents.

    This is a rather strange issue where those opposed to the gun laws in the Senate only offer up laughable empowerment fantasies as justification while the proponents of the laws reverse their stance when it comes to selling weapons into war zones. What do they really stand for?

    I guess it does seem like both sides are just playing a waiting game with the public, hoping to breed that apathy to the point where people believe hey are powerless to stop it.

  • I’ve posted before about the greatly reduced gun use in Canada. At a certain level I can only be grateful because I definitely know the true case. But I have a few ideas of some possibly comfort (and pain too) to Americans.

    1. Canada’s had two constitutions in my life. Under the first (known as BNA) Parliament was supreme. In other words, courts couldn’t rule laws unconstitutional. That changed in 1982 although it took awhile before the Supreme Court of Canada (which despite its name was not the true court of final authority until 1965)

    2. Canada’s Senate is appointed. What exactly they do is something of a mystery to most Canadians but in effect they do what the House of Commons wants (most of the time, except in 3 famous cases in more then 150 years). So If you want a new law, bring if before the House (or Senate) for First Reading, refer it to Committee for detailed examination, bring it to the floor for clause-by-clause-study and then an up and down vote. No complex rules. 50%+1 votes it passes. Otherwise it’s history. If the measure is a “supply measure” (money to fund the current government), then it’s a “confidence motion” and the government falls and there’s another election 60 days later.

    3. Registration of pistols has been law in Canada for 80 years. All carry permits for average citizens are extremely rare. Therefore a weapon lying around somewhere on someone’s wall is likely to be violating various thing like secure storage requirements for a (properly licensed) weapon.

    4. The law of self-defense is applied somewhat strictly here. In other words, violent acts, including firing a gun, are justified to prevent harm to yourself or your family, but only after a clear threat from another party, and a clear attempt on your part to avoid the confrontation.

    5. Elaborating on the previous point, you cannot extend the concept of self defense to harming of your commercial interests. So you can shoot an intruder to save yourself or your child but not to save commercial property on the shelves of your sole-proprietor store. That is what insurance is for.

    6. The rules got much stronger in 1977 as part of a larger deal to abolish the death penalty.
    In other words the “red republican” government of the day (using a description Americans would understand) figured that making guns scarcer was a good trade-off for abolishing the death penalty. In point of fact nobody had been executed in Canada for 10 years previous but the formal aboliition was still pending.

    As to whether it has been successful, there are still of course guns here, but it is not considered “normal” to have a pistol for protection. Hunting rifles (long guns) are not subject to licensing, or at least they weren’t until a sniper attack on a woman’s college on Montreal a few years ago — and laws were created and it’s become a political football here. It’s a football because the law requires t he creation of a bureaucracy to prevent a horrible of type crime — so far so good — but 10 years later the software is not quite ready 10x over budget — and no other instances of the crime have come to light. So should we really spend $1b (and counting) to prevent a rare occurrence?) and meanwhile make life difficult for people in rural and northern Canada who need rifles to defend against wild animals?
    And then there’s the refusal of assorted provinces to enforce it.

    As of this minute the ‘long gun registry” is dead (non-operational, although I think a new government could revive it easily)

    The main point is that gun restrictions over a long period of time (almost 100 years) have had their effect.

    Leakage from the USA is certainly a problem but only to a certain extent. Here in Vancouver, we’ve reached the 50/50 stage, meaning that 50% of killings are by strangers (career criminals). For those people, all bets are off — they can get stolen, untraceable guns.

    What about the other 50% — killing for the 1st time out of jealousy or greed one of other deadly sins?
    Those people usually have no access to the illicit gun market.

    You can see it here in Vancouver where there have been something less than 20 deaths in the Vancouver Region this year. In some American cities, the rate is much much higher.

    Of course guns aren’t the only way to kill people. Knives and poisons, fighting, etc are all up there.

    But it does seem to keep the body count down — 1 person at a time.

    The lesson is that whatever you do, it will take time and a cultural shift.

    If you have to pick just 1 item of culture — get this item passed through Congress:

    The Revolutionary War ended in 1783 and Britain has long since become a friendly country again.

    In particular,the 2nd amendment, created at a time of lingering hostility to Britain should be repealed.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Send this to a friend