Overreaction

Recent discussions on this blog and in the public media on subjects such as abortion, gun ownership, and opioids have something in common, and that’s a manifestation of overreactive absolutism that appeals to the politically active extremes who control each political party.

While I still believe a majority of Americans are at heart moderate, from what I see, that moderate majority is shrinking, for a number of reasons.

There’s a growing distrust of the other side, fueled by the extremists on both sides. The gun control/safety issue is one example. With almost 400 million firearms in the United States and the second amendment, there is NO WAY the “left” is ever going to take your guns.

So the question is really about how to increase gun safety and what restrictions are reasonable to reduce gun violence and the associated carnage. The only real use for an AR-15 with large magazines and anti-personnel rounds is to kill people. So equipped, it’s not a hunting weapon; it’s not a target or sport shooting weapon; it’s really not a self-defense weapon [how many people can or should sleep with something like that close at hand and use it accurately and effectively in the middle of the night?]. No homeowner needs hundreds of rounds for self-defense, and anyone who thinks that is either self-deluded or excessively paranoid, and might well be exactly the kind of individual not to be trusted with hundreds of rounds and a rapid-fire weapon.

When a teenager buys two AR-15 type weapons and hundreds of rounds in a few days, that ought to set off red-flags everywhere. The fact that local police in Uvalde didn’t want to confront a single teenager with that kind of weaponry should suggest just how dangerous it is.

Driving a car requires getting a license [and passing tests to assure minimum competency] and having a vehicle with features equipped for safe usage. It doesn’t stop millions and millions from not driving, and we still kill tens of thousands of people on the highways every year – but you don’t get to drive tanks and armed APCs on the highway.

Societies don’t work well without limits on excessive personal and corporate behavior, nor do they work well when everything is overcontrolled.

Yet on the question of firearms safety, somehow it’s all about the unfounded fear that the feds and the left are going to take away guns, rather than about what reasonable and practical standards and laws need be enacted for public safety.

23 thoughts on “Overreaction”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    The people need to retain the ability to forcibly replace the federal government if it severely threatens their liberty. That can’t be done with target rounds and a 5 round mag. It can be done if 100 million have AR-15s with a few large mags and a thousand or more rounds of M-855 (“green tips”) or better ammo. THAT is the foremost point of the 2nd Amendment, although not the only one. The “militia” originally envisaged (and an example, not a condition of the right) consists of ALL adult males between certain ages, whether or not they participated in organized, state-run activities.

    But the plain meaning of “shall not be infringed” certainly OUGHT to be that so long as it does not involve selection of illegal targets (people, property, etc), nobody should have to justify their choice of any sort of arms that one can realistically “keep and bear”, i.e. at least anything that your basic infantry soldier might have. The conduct or deeds, NOT the tools, are the problem. At an office store, I can get a one hole punch or a three hole punch. Even allowed an AR-15, I can only get a one hole remote punch. Why the heck not a three round burst remote punch? Maybe I’d randomly like to waste expensive ammo committing unspeakable acts on poor innocent paper targets. No explanation should be required!

    Although raising the age to 21, or checking for outstanding violent or felony convictions, restraining orders, or mental health related court orders, that might conceivably make sense, and NOT impact the plain meaning of the 2nd Amendment. (see, some LIMITED possibilities exist, as long as DUE PROCESS is involved; but the core problem remains people willing to murder, people probably never effectively taught not to)

    A moderate or compromise or centrist position is fine if you’re discussing for example how many bridges to fix, actually plan to spend the $$ on fixing bridges, agree that it’s a federal responsibility (at least for Interstates), and are contemplating what is an acceptable level of debt for that purpose (assuming you accept that ANY debt in non-wartime or other non-emergency time is acceptable). Not everything is subject to centrism.

    “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” — Barry Goldwater, not that Jefferson, Madison, Paine, and others didn’t have sentiments even more direct.

    1. What you’re suggesting is that armed anarchy and mass murder are an acceptable way to stop threats to what you perceive as “liberty.” My definition of liberty includes the right not to be massacred by unbalanced individuals with weapons of mass murder. If you — and those who believe as you do — can’t change government through peaceful means or accept changes that the majority believes in and achieves through the rule of law [as written], then you’re the biggest danger to liberty.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        That is I think somewhat more than I said – indeed, I think I was being somewhat careful NOT to say that. The OPTION MUST EXIST, should the government become truly tyrannical – which it has not and probably will not soon, even under those I utterly despise. Heck, I _worked_ for the government for many years, under administrations of both parties, and saw not widely noticed sense and veniality occasionally from both, and far more that was neither wise nor corrupt, merely adequate.

        But yes, in extremes that my parents have seen (WWII) but I have been fortunate never to experience myself, there HAVE BEEN AND WILL BE governments worth ANY BODY COUNT to overthrow. I think it is quite useful that politicians normally function not in fear, but in ongoing awareness that a last resort means of accountability exists – and SHOULD exist, both as a deterrent hopefully unused, and if ever needed.

        A semi-auto rifle is NOT remotely a weapon of mass murder, even if on can quickly change mags, although with a little skill it’s not impossible to abuse it that way. A typical bear-able firearm is not even inherently a weapon at all if it’s only used against non-living (paper etc, due care to avoid harm to persons or property) targets; it’s a TOOL, albeit one in which being a weapon is a prominent and perhaps concerning (although in self-defense, legitimate) part.

        From news and other (yes, where I worked) reports alone, I know generally (not specifically! I’d rather not know “how to”, although some awareness is IMO _defensive_, not at all implying intent to use! do I _really_ have to be careful to say the obvious?) that one can with few or no checks get at a hardware or farm supply or sometimes even grocery store all the prerequisites for improvised means of mass murder. You CANNOT prevent much by keeping otherwise useful tools or substances from people, not without both extremes of authoritarianism and of adverse practical impact where the legitimate uses are also affected. Airplanes, box cutters, and limited piloting skills (not needing to learn how to land? definitely an indicator!) were tools of mass murder, even though none of those are specifically weapons at all. Fertilizer and fuel? (Murrah Building), etc. Even ramming attacks with a mere automobile and no guns or explosives have killed at least six and wounded more than two dozen in a single attack (Melbourne 2017). If someone is determined, they WILL find a a way unless you ban even legitimate items with dual use potential to a level incompatible with sustaining the present population size. Singling out firearms in general or for example AR-15’s in particular (NO more dangerous than the seldom-demonized wood stock Ruger Mini-14 that grandpa might have to shoot four-legged varmints on the farm) is mere political posturing, frankly contrary to actually achieving greater safety.

        As I briefly mentioned before, I’m not averse to all solutions, but they’re mostly on the PEOPLE side. Here’s something, not to endorse all of it, but it’s at least reasonable sounding:

        https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/05/27/stopping-mass-shooters-q-a-00035762

        1. Chris says:

          Good quote in the article:

          I don’t think most people realize that these are suicides, in addition to homicides. Mass shooters design these to be their final acts. When you realize this, it completely flips the idea that someone with a gun on the scene is going to deter this. If anything, that’s an incentive for these individuals. They are going in to be killed.

  2. citizen says:

    You generally have well-reasoned arguments but this one is a direct contradiction. First you say the left won’t take your guns. Then you say AR-15s should be outlawed. Once they are outlawed, what happens to the millions of AR-15 owners?

    Further, your assertion that AR-15s are not used for sporting or target practice is incorrect. Everyone I know that has ever shot one has shot at a target.

    It seems to me that the background check process is not working. The kid got a background check and passed, and was legally sold guns. What can we do to make the background check process actually work? I feel like I had a more thorough review when I got a passport than when I got a pistol license.

    One nice thing about the USA is that we don’t have to somehow document or show “need” in order to own things. People don’t need McDonalds but it’s still out there, still making people sick or dead (just more slowly), and nobody is talking about outlawing McDonalds. People in this country don’t need water packaged in plastic bottles that destroy the environment. They don’t need to own a car or a bicycle, they could walk or take a bus instead.

    1. You didn’t read what I wrote. I said no one NEEDS an AR-15 equipped and used as a mass-murder weapon. And I suggested that you don’t NEED a super-high capacity magazine for target shooting. I also said that there was no way we’d get rid of 400 million guns.

      1. Damon says:

        You’re argument continues to miss the point of the tittle “overreaction”. No one needs box knives, or access to diesel/fertilizer (aka ANFO), and yet with those two things the largest mass killings in America occurred in the last thirty years. Not one had a gun, much less an AR weapon.
        The simple truth is, we like to think we’re a highly educated society, evolved beyond our animal human instincts, but the reality is bad people will do bad things.
        I’m not going into deterence, or self right of defense/protection, but an “overreaction” to say a piece of equipment, with a high capacity of ammunition, which is safely, and legally used by millions of gun owners, is a danger to liberty.
        I’m sure the educated people of nazi Germany felt similar when they allowed they’re government to take their guns in early part of 20th century

  3. Corwin says:

    Guns don’t kill people, but the ammunition they use does. Let them keep their guns, but take away their ammunition. It’s a win, win.

    1. Lourain says:

      Then smugglers can start bringing in ammunition, instead of drugs.

    2. R. Hamilton says:

      Except in a fire, ammunition does not fire itself any more than guns (except defective ones, when dropped) do.

      Fix people, stop posturing over objects. Worshipping a gun is idolatry, but in a way, so is demonizing it.

  4. Lourain says:

    Back in my college days, during the Cold War, I had two professors who were convinced that the USSR was going to invade the United States, that our military would fail to protect us, and that they (the professors) needed to be armed to the teeth, and so should everyone else. Neither had any military experience. My college was in the Midwest, about as far from the coasts as you can get. Most people said, “There, there,” and quietly walked away.

    There was no way you could have changed their minds.

    Today, there are people with a similar mindset, but their fear and anger is directed at our government. They don’t think that the checks and balances our Founding Fathers put in place will protect them, so they feel they have to be armed to the teeth. Rational discourse will not change their minds.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      The 2nd Amendment was one of those checks and balances.

      Use for that purpose is OBVIOUSLY A VERY LAST RESORT. All the most objectionable office holders of either side we’ve had to date haven’t YET done anything worthy of a last resort, and one might wish to be ready for the last resort while STILL SINCERELY HOPING IT IS NEVER NEEDED.

      Preparedness – for ANYTHING, up to and including various versions of the apocalypse (for some of which, physical preparation may be neither useful nor sufficient; I’ve told people before that while self-defense in even once-a-century crises may be useful, apocalyptic interpretations of Revelation CANNOT be resisted by any amount of firepower, and to stop wasting their money) is NOT inherently macho, glamor-seeking, unhealthy attraction to destructive means, or anything else that need be alarming, even IF it includes a slightly increased degree of potential for alarming acts; as long as it doesn’t consume time or resources one needs far more for other purposes, it’s arguably rather prudent. Maybe some of the folks now living in former, long abandoned missile silos converted into homes/shelters, will survive some NATURAL (or non-conspiratorial, at any rate) disaster that others don’t, although I wouldn’t go nearly that far myself; I don’t know how many comforts I’d be willing to survive a disaster without, and hope not to find out the hard way.

      OTOH, government should be respected as long as it, within the limits of normal human fallibility, behaves respectably; but it should NEVER be trusted, precisely to ensure that it remains more or less trustworthy. Remember what Lord Acton said, and also that those with constrained power are frequently frustrated by what they CANNOT accomplish; the temptation toward absolute power will be present, even assuming they start out decent and successfully remain more or less decent.

      To put it another way, I more or less support(ed) Trump (his policies, but his mouth/tweets were a big liability); but if he had overturned the election by force (I don’t think he actually tried! although creative procedure, he was exploring), I very much doubt I could have been convinced that the MEANS were legitimate regardless of possible legitimacy of grievance; and I might have even ended up side-by-side with some despicable Democrats to advocate and…encourage his departure.

      1. Lourain says:

        R. Hamilton…some of your points are worth considering and discussing, but the ultimate problem with any discussion with you is embodied in your last paragraph “…and I might have even ended up side-by-side with some despicable Democrats”.

        When you hold those you disagree with in such contempt, coming to any meaningful agreement is impossible, and discussion is a waste of time.

        1. R. Hamilton says:

          You missed the point, which is that there COULD be rare circumstances where cooperation might be possible with even those one holds in contempt. You also missed a touch of hyperbole and alliteration. 🙂

          FWIW, I know and like in a personal capacity, some people who by failure of wisdom, experience, or knowledge of history (conceivably by DIFFERENT experience, but that only justifies so much), are leftist.

          But I have contempt for left-ism and leftists in office or positions of trust, power, responsibility, or influence (although some residue of respect for the office itself even then). Contempt is not primarily against individuals; anyone else with the same contemptible (IMO) conduct and ideology is equivalent. (I don’t rule out the existence of contemptible non-leftist ideologies or ideologues, but I think that in any organized sense they’re a bogeyman here; David Duke or Lindon LaRouche are aberrations IMO, and the latter never got elected.)

          So long as they or anyone else do not attempt absolute power or violent disorder, I have NO inclination whatsoever to initiate the use of force except should lawful defense of self or persons nearby from imminent fear of death arise; nor do I condone anyone else doing so. However I think leftism is wrong and harmful, and in most cases (they MIGHT rarely be right about something) the more they get what they want, the more harm is done. I don’t PREDICT a breaking point, but will NOT renounce the means of response in the hopefully never occurring event of. I do NOT LIKE VIOLENCE, not even lawful violence or violence justifiable in the absence of just law – but there MAY be occasions where it is not worse than doing nothing.

          Wanting lots of AR-15’s and 30 round mags or equivalent out there (preferably in responsible and competent hands, to be sure) does NOT IMPLY WANTING a revolution, nor WANTING any harm to any law abiding persons.

          I may SOUND like a metaphorical bomb-thrower, but I’m NOT…and I’m getting tired of having to add disclaimers to make distinctions that SHOULD be obvious.

  5. KTL says:

    In reply to R. Hamilton

    Sir,
    You constantly claim that “the government” may need to be resisted under some unknown set of conditions that are abhorrent to you. In this particular thread you suggest it is the federal government. For the sake of all the readers of this thread, could you please be more specific about which US citizens that are currently employed in various roles of federal, state, and local government you wish to take up arms against?

    Keep in mind that in 2021 1.195 million active duty soldiers were in our forces and 778,000 in reserves across all 50 states (governing.com). Additionally, in 2020 the Federal government employed 2.93 million of your fellow citizens and state and local government employed 19.77 million (statista.com).

    I’m confused and not a little bit concerned about your rhetoric on this and many other issues. The positions seem decidedly anti-democratic (as well as LEM if I might also echo his sentiment on your thread).

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      “wish to take up arms against?” None. Most people I know are or have been federal employees: friends, or at least friendly acquaintances. Nor do I WISH to take up arms against any other citizen – although I would dirty my hands enough to push a button to get rid of assorted foreign dictators and their willing supporters and likeminded successors, so the pacifists out there should be pleased that I would never pursue power that would give me access to that button (it isn’t actually a button, that’s a metaphor), since I don’t really like the idea of ANYONE pursuing power except over their own lives – something I’m wary of even if they genuinely believe it’s for a good cause.

      “unknown set of conditions” – look at Russia, PRC, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, etc; or Napoleon after the (bloody and abusive – most revolutions do NOT turn out well) French Revolution. The conditions in question are very known, have happened in other countries many times, and it would be unreasonable to suppose we are immune unless a reasonable fraction of the citizenry remains vigilant. I am not saying that those conditions WILL happen here, perhaps we are not even going in that direction (although I certainly am concerned that we might be).

      Why am I more concerned about federal than state or local overreach? Read the 9th and 10th amendments, which SHOULD make it clear that the federal government should not be doing anything not enumerated in the Constitution as a federal power, nor implied to carry out an enumerated power. The commerce clause for example has been stretched out of all proportion in the expansion of federal power.

      I am and would be perfectly glad if all citizens were reasonable enough to also be pro-democratic (small “D”, although more literally, pro-constitutional-republic (small “R”, as far as that goes; literal democracy which can do anything by simple majority is a disaster, see also Athens). But neither rioters (whether protesting police or the 0.1% or less of the January 6 demonstration that did anything other than walk away when it got ugly) nor those behind them that seek to remake everything in the pursuit of power, seem to me to fall in the category of reasonable citizens.

      Most of the civic vigilance I mentioned above does not require arms; but ultimately it requires enough armed (and competent with arms) citizens (can be all parties and politics, it is NOT ABOUT THAT!) to hold any possible future authoritarian US government at risk of being forcibly replaced (not a revolution but a restoration!), not only to be ready in the event of a hopefully never happening circumstance, but by simply existing, to help deter such a circumstance.

      Please understand: one can be willing as a LAST RESORT to use force without in any way desiring that the last resort ever arise and without being the sort of dangerous fool that imagines glamor in the use of force. I (and probably most that value the existence of an armed citizenry) have gone out of my way on occasion to AVOID trouble, and certainly not go looking for it. I do NOT CONDEMN Rittenhouse (who if believed, went there simply to help friends keep their business safe, albeit prepared in a manner that some might have thought justified THEIR first use of force), but that’s NOT who most of us are.

      Please read the Federalist Papers and assorted writings of the time (Justice Story’s commentary includes mention of the 2nd Amendment, for example), if it’s not clear enough to you that the 2nd Amendment is foremost there to deter government, and especially federal government.

      (shortened for brevity, oddly enough)

  6. Darcherd says:

    Anyone who honestly believes a populace armed with small arms, even with high-capacity magazines, could seriously deter a government armed with machine guns, helicopter gunships, tanks, grenades, and artillery has left the path of reason.

    The only real defense of democracy is to preserve it at the ballot box.

    1. Tom says:

      One might consider the French Revolution over a decade to be such an example. Resulting in the predictable Reign of Terror, the whiff of grapeshot, and Napoleon.

      Or more recently, the almost successful January 6th endeavor in the USA by the independent militias.

      More questionable is the idea that the second amendment is somehow connected to our vaunted political systems “checks and balances”.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        Without endorsing any particular commentary, there are both historical grounds and current academic understanding for the notion that the 2nd Amendment relates to checks and balances, in particular, between the states (and their residents) and the federal government.

        https://academic.oup.com/ajlh/article-abstract/56/4/365/2721012
        https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/interpretation/amendment-ii/interps/99
        https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/amendment-2/second-amendment-doctrine-and-practice

        etc (just a few minutes of googling)

        1. Tom says:

          Each of your references gives arguments for States rights trumping Federal or National rights: specifically in regard to the US Constitution Second Amendment. Not one discusses any relationship to the US Political Theory of Checks and Balances.

    2. Mayhem says:

      Very much this. “patriots” with whatever automatic weapons they can get their hands on, even ex-military trained ones, will be utterly slaughtered when going up against a professional modern army.

      The modern equivalent of the second amendment militia is the various National Guards, who have their own matching mechanised equipment.

      Individual groups, even the various survivalist groups are simply irrelevant versus a tyrannical dictatorship, and that’s not even addressing the elephant in the room which is the most likely source of tyranny in the US comes from the same people the NRA endorses.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        IMO you’re so wrong on all three points that it’s not even possible to list why in a short space. But I’ll try:

        1. hopefully most of our professional modern army would NOT obey tyrannical orders anyway – although, Kent State…hmm. And see also assorted successful instances of guerrilla warfare, rather than supposing it to be impossible (NOT IMPLYING IT TO BE DESIRED!!!)

        2: 10 USC §311. Militia: composition and classes
        (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
        (b) The classes of the militia are—
        (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
        (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

        The “unorganized militia” clearly includes LOTS of people that are NOT National Guard members.

        3. Your last paragraph is TOTALLY unsubstantiated opinion. While one could argue (and libertarians have argued) that social conservatism tends toward the authoritarian, a close look at the left’s cancel culture, political correctness, etc (and how they try to use government to implement it on occasion) suggests that the left is at LEAST as prone to authoritarianism as the right.

        1. KTL says:

          R.H.

          Just to be clear, are the Oath Keepers one of your accepted militia groups? Would the Black Panthers of the 60s be one? They both accept, or accepted, violence as a means to their ends.

          How does one differentiate an armed group that does what it wants vs one that supports democratic principles (i.e., is supported by a majority of the US citizenry – and I’m going out on a limb here and presuming that the only groups fitting that requirement are US military, reservists, and National Guard)

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