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Some People Shouldn’t Procreate or Have Firearms

July 22, 2008 Downtown 42 Comments

We’ve all met someone that as we walk away think they shouldn’t procreate the human species nor should they have access to anything stronger than a water pistol. Yesterday one such unstable person shot & killed a Maplewood firefighter and injured two Maplewood police officers. The man is presumed dead in his burnt out & collapsed house.

Last week a divorced couple died in a murder-suicide outside a suburban St. Louis mall. Earlier this year a man went on a shooting rampage at the Kirkwood City Hall killing several and injuring several more, including the mayor.

In 2005 John Alexander of Frontenac shot and killed his wife Kelli Alexander and her friend April Wheeler on Bopp Rd. The Alexander’s young children were in their mom’s vehicle and witnessed the shootings. A few years earlier I met the Alexander family at their Frontenac home. They (he) had called my employer about remodeling their home. I had done the design on a major renovation to a neighbor’s home so I was one of three people that met with them. He wasn’t right and we all knew it. When he decided against remodeling the home I know I was relieved that I’d not have to spend another minute with him. His wife Kelli must have realized it to as she had filed for divorce. After he killed these two women he led police on a brief chase which ended when he lost control of his SUV, flipping and killing himself in the process.

Now I love our Constitution and Bill of Rights but some of these folks had no right to have access to guns. The young Maplewood firefighter would still be alive today if that nutcase didn’t have a gun.
I’ve never liked guns. They are designed to take life. Period. Yes I know ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ Well then we need to stop arming people with the tools they need to kill other people.

Advocates of the right to carry a concealed weapon claim that if criminals know someone may be packing heat that it deters crime and gives people an ability to defend themselves. But the unstable person doesn’t care if they die in the process. More guns just increases the risk of innocent persons getting caught in crossfire.

Yesterday’s event in Maplewood was certainly a tragedy. My condolences to the family & friends of the killed firefighter. Best wishes to the two injured officers on a speedy recovery.


Currently there are "42 comments" on this Article:

  1. Northside Neighbor says:

    As I approach my 50th birthday, I am saddened and amazed by the number of people I have personally been in contact who have been touched by death from tragic acts and murder.
    There was the young man in high school involved in drug dealing who was murdered and stuffed in the trunk of his car.
    There is the young man who murdered his parents and grandfather up the street.
    There was the contractor shot and killed in his driveway.
    There is the former coworker mom of one killer and one murder victim.
    There was the son of the former Maplewood mayor.
    There is the volunteer mom of a murder victim.
    That’s eight, and I’m sure I’ve omitted some. We are a violent society, and guns are probably not the reason.

  2. adam flath says:

    I think PISTOLS should be illegal. What is the point besides killing a human? Hunters: Well you can still carry your 4 foot shotgun that way we still fulfill the right to keep and bear arms.

  3. studs lonigan says:

    >>We are a violent society, and guns are probably not the reason.<<

    Only an innately violent society would be so awash in guns in the first place. Arguably they are a manifestation of national predilection for violence. They may not be the “reason” for a violent society, but they are unmatched as individual delivery systems of extreme violence. If there were not as many guns, it would still be a violent society, but not as many people would be senselessly killed every year.

  4. Kevin says:

    It has always amazed me that I need a license to fish, but pretty much anybody can have a gun.

  5. Jim Zavist says:

    We can only know if someone is truly going to “go off the deep end” with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight. For every marginally sane person who ends up committing some horrific crime, there are many, many more who go peacefully, including too many war-scarred veterans who die homeless and alone on the streets after too-short lives of substance abuse. I’m no fan of guns, but I have as great a fear of our government judging an individual’s fitness to own one as I have of being directly affected by gun crime. That drawing the line part is the hard part. Do you take guns away from people just because they act strangely? Because they’re angry? Because they’re young, poor, African-American & male? Because they’re “too old” or too frail?
    I don’t have the answer. But until there’s a way to take away all guns, criminals will continue to have them, and non-criminals should have the same access to them. And/or, to use the same logic, we should ban tobacco, alcohol, motor vehicles, knives and fertilizer, because they, too, have the ability to kill, either swiftly or slowly.

  6. Leigh says:

    I am happy to see the warm wishes expressed here. It is always a sad day when someone loses their life, whether it be victim or offender.

  7. studs lonigan says:

    The fact is, for a variety of reasons, all kinds of people “go off the deep end” all the time. One can acknowledge that reality and still advocate the unfettered availability of guns. As for the tragic results in the paper every day, those may be chalked up to the terrible price of freedom. If freedom is sacrosanct and governmental intervention is inimical to true freedom, why have any regulation at all? It’s pretty thoroughly acknowledged that prohibition of alcohol didn’t work. Does anyone think that arbitrarily making other drugs illegal (for the same paternalistic reasons) does? What about the medical-psychiatric establishment, which has the authority to detain and commit not only “patients” who attempt suicide but those who merely express “suicidal ideation”? Does that establishment rightfully have more authority over individual lives than do individuals themselves? It’s a classical idea: the stronger the state, the weaker the individual. I think all political discussions should begin by addressing the question: what do you think government is for? If the answers are diametrically opposed, there is probably little point in further discussion.

  8. high5apparatus says:

    This post is all over the place.

    I cannot determine if you want to ban all guns, some guns, some guns from some people, get rid of CCW, or put more gun laws on the books that make “unstable” (quantified how?) a right of denial.

    What I can see is that your post is an emotional response to a great tragedy. There should be no attempt to place blame anywhere other than with the person who made the decision to kill.

    There was just an episode of “30 Days” that dealt with this issue quite nicely. I would suggest that interested persons seek it out.

    [slp — I can’t determine what I want either.]

  9. JMedwick says:

    And neither can anyone else, which is why we continue to have the current system. If you can’t figure out how and where to draw the line on personal freedoms, then the options are no freedoms or freedoms for all.

  10. high5apparatus says:

    It’s okay to not know the solution to a very complicated issue. Just don’t start counting to 10 like an ACLU lawyer…


  11. John M. says:

    The ACLU does some very good work. None of us are perfect.
    I recall being posed a question as a very young boy by an older jewish women, a women I affectionately called my Jewish mother. She asked me, why I thought, God allowed violence in this world? While I was no more than eight or nine at the time, I took this question to heart. I thought about it then and hell I am still thinking about it many years later.
    I will not bore you with my theories, but my conclusion for myself is important to me. I don’t join in it. If somebody wants to rob my house, so be it. The fear of it will not convince me to own a gun. The world is messed up now, it was messed up before and it will remain so. That is life. None of us know when our time is to come and none of us “with certainty” knows what it all means and “why” we are here.
    All we have is what we believe we are here to do and on that note I want to thank you for providing such a great forum for thoughts and conversations and helping people to understand the world aroud them. Because in the end, it isn’t how we died, but what we did with our time that matters.

  12. Guns will always remain ubiquitous. If someone wants to commit a murder then they will buy one in the black market. When demand exists so too supply. What have we learned from the War on Drugs?
    I can’t speak for the mentally insane, but I do know that with increased economic opportunity comes less violence as fewer turn to the informal economy which uses violence to enforce or break agreements. Contracts don’t really work. Enforcement comes through physical coercion and the threat or use of violence.
    As the socioeconomic division between the rich and poor widen, more violence occurs amongst the poor as they fight for what limited resources exist within their community. There will also be offenses against the rich. Moreover, fearing this crime, the rich adopt defensible space in the form of gates, street barriers, etc. The solution should not be the disarmament of the people or the erection of physical barriers but the erosion of such classist and racist discrepancies. This should be the purpose of public policy: the removal of discriminatory patterns which lead to violence.
    When rational individuals have options besides a brutish life on the streets, they will solve problems with something other than a gun. When provided with economic opportunity, it will be seized. Insanity will always exist in this imperfect world. Gun control will not prevent such individuals from obtaining the means to enact violence, nor will such an over idealized policy redress our virulent planet. Gun control, like street barriers, addresses the effects of social inequality not the root causes.
    If we want to address inner city violence then we must look to the root causes.

  13. st. louisian says:

    Who’s to blame for this? Mark Knobbe. (thank you high5apparaturs)

    What can we do to prevent this from happening in the future? Nothing. I’m not pleased about it either but this is where we are now. Trust in your government has to be very high to come up with a fix and for folks whose cars were impounded in the city recently, they’re not feeling optimistic. Look at the brightside, IED’s aren’t an every day occurence here.

    Why did this happen? No one knows for sure. Drop it and move on.

    Mark Knobbe, Cookie Thorton, Seung-Hui Cho, Timothy McVeigh, John Allen Muhamma (DC sniper)… all terrorists. Let’s declare war on Terrorism! Oh, we’ve already done that. How’s that war going compared our previous/current wars against poverty and drugs? Sounds like an excuse for government to charge for services. Does any one get the feeling we’re already overally policed? Could that be a source of tention for some?

  14. me says:

    Kill them all. Less people less problems

  15. Eric Anderson says:

    There’s a reason why the Second Amendment is there. We cease to be free without it.

    If guns are outlawed, only criminals will have guns. Also, the police will always have guns, and they will also have chalk to draw an outline around a victim’s body when they get there after the fact. Some of us refuse to be helpless victims of either the government or criminals.

  16. Jane says:

    Actually the second amendment says we have the right to bear arms, which many politicians say they can not define, even though a line has already been drawn for us. Nuclear arms race anyone? There are certain “arms” I can not, nor should I, own. I see no reason why that line can not be applied to personal arms. I am not about to start an argument about hand guns, but I am not sure there is any good reason for a citizen to own an automatic weapon. I read a story about a new design for a weapon for war. The author then also addressed how this same weapon may soon be owned by private citizens since it was a type of gun. Is it necesaary to own the same weapon as our soldiers?

  17. Eric Anderson says:

    If the government (or Jane for that matter) decides what rights we have on an arbitrary basis, then we have no rights at all – only privileges that masquerade as rights and can be taken away at whim.

    The Revolutionary War started when the British attempted to seize the colonists’ guns. It’s good for the government to have a bit of healthy fear about citizens bearing arms; it can only serve to help keep the government in check.

    But that’s right, I forgot – the left has ensured that we are no longer following the constitution any more. We are now ruled by nine in black robes. Frankly, I don’t care how “they” define it. The language is plain enough.

  18. studs lonigan says:

    With regard to the “Jewish mother” question about God and violence, I would have directed the lady to the Bible. With all the smiting, slaughtering, pestilences and heart hardening, God himself comes off like the most petulant vendor of violence I have ever read about, from Genesis to the Book of Revelations.

  19. jeff says:

    “But that’s right, I forgot – the left has ensured that we are no longer following the constitution any more. We are now ruled by nine in black robes. Frankly, I don’t care how “they” define it. The language is plain enough.”


    Are you suggesting that the USSC is somehow left-leaning right now?

  20. john w. says:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. Eric, where in this passage do you find the language being plain enough? You yourself correctly refer to the historic period from which this and the other 9 limitations placed on the government as direct result of the circumstances of colonial life in times of revolution. The obvious intent of the 2nd Amendment was to ensure that, should there be a need, the formulation of militias (at any level necessary to repel possible tyranny of a governing power and its standing army) would be ably armed and with the intent of being well-regulated, and not guerrilla in nature. Setting aside for a moment the fairly obvious anachronism of such a need (unless your Randy Weaver or David Koresh), please understand that this limitation placed a governing body (which is, of course, the intent of the US Constitution, and not to grant individual rights to citizens) has nothing to do with outright [gun] ownership or hunting despite what Charlton Heston, Ted Nugent or Wayne LaPierre may have you believe. The right seems to have forgotten the simplest rules of the English language regarding comma splices, disjunct phrases and dependent clauses because there is no seperate ‘right’ granted to a citizen to bear arms, but only the right to bear arms in order to join a (hopefully) well-regulated militia. Are you planning on joining a well-regulated militia sometime soon, Greg?

  21. john w. says:

    …Eric, rather, not ‘Greg’. I am not opposed to gun ownership, but would prefer that the right actually R E A D the US Constitution before hurling it about like some sort of war banner.

  22. Andy says:

    Eric Anderson, you silly dittohead. First off, I think it’s interesting that people like you that argue so vehemently for the right to have guns do so from the point of view that, “hey, government, let me have a gun because I’m scared of you, and you should be scared of me.” This is not what our founding fathers had in mind when they created a system of checks and balances in our government. Sure, they expected people to rise up to change the government if they were ever so dissatisfied that they felt the need to, but I’d like to think that, in this day and age, we can do so without violence. (In any case, you’d have to admit that the average Joe and Jane American citizen lost the arms race with the U.S. Army a long time ago.)

    Secondly, Jane isn’t writing about not following the Constitution, she’s writing about interpreting it, and to avoid interpreting the U.S. Constitution is to ignore the fact that, with the passage of time, things change; new, challenging situations arise that bring into question previously held beliefs and we must preserve the ability to confront change. In the 21st Century, what challenges the second amendment, and I think this is what Jane was getting at too, is the definition of the word, “arms.” I think it’s a fair question to ask what the framers meant by “arms” when they said, “right to bear arms.” Surely, at the time of the Revolutionary War, the American forces relied heavily on an armed and able citizenry to help fight the British. And this worked out very well, obviously. Now, 242 years later, we don’t rely on state militias and minutemen for our independence. And, hopefully, we never will have to. In any case, it’s a fair question to ask, “what kind of arms should we be allowed to bear.” And, it’s perverse to think that this decision would be made by the government from the point of view of, “what arms don’t we want them to have because we don’t want them to revolt on us.” Rather, it should be made from the point-of-view that, really, what is the public interest here? Does it encourage the public good, the social welfare of the community for people to have arms? If so, at what level of “armament” does the public good cease to be served? Does it matter?

    Maybe the answer is different for large, populous cities than it is for rural counties. In any case, I can’t see how anyone being able to own an automatic weapon would serve the public good.

    Lastly, one of the protections the Constitution affords us is from “arbitrary” decisions by our government – see the 4th Amendment to the U.S Constitution. This usually works, and the 4th Amendment is usually interpreted, theres that word again, to require that government decisions are made for a proper public purpose, or, rather, that they are connected to a benefit for the public good.

    Of course, it doesn’t always work this way; see, for example, the result of the 2000 Presidential Election.
    just kidding.

    But, most of the time, it works pretty well.

    At least, it should.

    In any case, if you’re going to accuse the left of damaging the constitution, look your own party in the face, and ask them what they’ve done.

    The truth will set you free.

  23. Kevin says:

    The term “right to bear arms” does not specifically say guns. Which means if you take it literally the constitution guaruntees the right of all citizens to carry all arms. That would include guns, knifes, swords, grenades, missles, nuclear weapons, and every other weapon. Who thinks I should be able to own a missle launcher?
    Or I guess we could not take it literally and the second amendment needs interpretation. Which meands the language isn’t as plain as Eric thinks it is. The way I read it “to bear arms” means to take up military action. And the inclusion of “form a militia” in the amendment supports this idea. The way I read it, the 2nd gives us the right to form militias to defend out communities. But that doesn’t mean everybody gets to have an AK-47 in their living room for squirrel hunting.
    You might not agree with my idea of what it means, but obviously the amendment isn’t as clear as some people think.

  24. Puggg says:

    Steve, why are you bringing conceal-carry into this? This nut was inside his house.

    For those of you who are arguing that the 2nd applies only to militias, Scalia found in the Heller decision that that part of the 2nd is “perfatory,” in that it’s a preface that is no more germane to the meaning of the amendment than the Preface to the whole Constitution is to the Constitution itself.

    Also, the same libs that would agree with the latter part of the title of this blog post will be screaming about bent crosses and gas chambers if someone actually takes the former seriously.

  25. CWEGuy says:

    Folks, It IS legal to own and operate a fully automatic firearm. However, the permit process is rigorous and expensive. Consequently, there has never been a documented instance where a legally owned automatic weapon has ever been used to commit a crime.

    My gun ownership has nothing to do with public good. It has everything to do with my right to keep and bear arms if I choose to do so. I wouldn’t own an AK but I would love to own an AR-15 or an Uzi. And, yes, I believe you should be able to own a rocket launcher if you want one.

    Firearm bans do not stop violence. They have been banned in the UK and murders with knives have gone through the roof.

    I’m reminded of one of my all-time favorite snippets from NPR. During the run up to the first gulf war, a reporter was doing a man-on-the-street interview in the Middle East and asked how it was possible to feel safe in a city where everyone has a gun. The man’s answer was something to the effect of “When everyone has a gun, everyone treats each other with respect.”

    A gun didn’t kill Ryan Hummert, a criminal did. I just hope that it is his remains that were found in the basement. I’d hate to think that we would have to waste a lot of money trying, convicting, and executing him.

  26. john w. says:

    Wow, the silly right wing knuckleheads sure are coming out of the fabric this morning. Puggg, Justices Souter, Ginsberg, Breyer and Stevens have far sounder logic than Scalia at any moment in time, and you can refer to Bush v. Gore for any precedent you need on bench judgement, but of course speaking logically to cons is like expecting your dog to understand civil conversation beyond rote commands and sound identification. I’ll give cons some latitude considering the poison that’s been seeping into the marrow of their bones, most likely from exposure to AM radio and Fox ‘News’, and know that the same laughable crap will come flying out of their mouths as expected. CWEguy, making reference to a CURRENT spate of knife attacks in Brittain as if they were either commonplace or the result of those bent on committing violent acts chose knives because guns weren’t readily available is absolute garbage. Pulling recent headlines from McPaper won’t make your argument any stronger, and in a country where kidnapping, customary familial abuse, street violence, and arrests, beatings and torture from their own government were a daily occurrence, OF COURSE carrying a gun would afford the average a measure of security and where “everyone treats each other with respect”, as you’ve stated it. We’re not talking about another country, where violence and the daily threat of injury or death compelled many to arm themselves, we’re talking about THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! Pull your heads out of your backsides and get serious. “And, yes, I believe you should be able to own a rocket launcher if you want one.” WHAT??? Move to a country plagued by entrenched violent behavior if you’d like to live where owning such weaponry would be proportionate to the actual need, if that’s what you believe.

  27. Adam says:

    “… The language is plain enough.”
    Apparently, only to those of us who are literate.

  28. scott o says:

    The US has more murders per capita than every other country in the world of similar means.

    Who cares what the constitiution said 225 years ago? It also said that women couldn’t vote and black people weren’t people. The constitution can be wrong.

    I say its time for an amendment that protects me from being shot by a gun.

  29. Julia says:

    “… The language is plain enough.”

    Read the amicus briefs from some linguists themselves, http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/07-290_amicus_linguists1.pdf, and the court’s decision, then decide how clear it is.

  30. Carondelet Ninja says:

    “I say its time for an amendment that protects me from being shot by a gun.”

    There is no such beast. Unless the amendment is made from kevlar, and you wear it like one of those freaky latex fetish suits…

    There are already plenty of laws on the books that tell people not to shoot you indiscriminately. If they choose to ignore those laws, do you really think a constitutional amendment is going to give them pause to reconsider? Somehow I just don’t see it.

    “Who cares what the constitution said 225 years ago?”

    Veterans. That’s just an example, mind you.

    How about instead of knee jerk reactions to random acts of violence, we chalk this up to what it appears to be…a random act of violence by a disturbed individual. Unfortunate? Sure. Tragic? Absolutely. Preventable through legislation only followed by law abiding citizens? Doubtful.

  31. Adam says:

    julia, i should have clarified. i think “the language is plain enough” in granting the right to bear arms FOR THE PURPOSE OF MAINTAINING A WELL-REGULATED MALITIA. i don’t see how it can be read differently without some contrived argument, as was pointed out by the linguists that you cited. so i think we’re in agreement?

  32. Jesda says:

    Why are liberals so adamant about the supreme court when it comes to abortion, but not so much when it comes to guns? Because for them, ideology trumps freedom.
    …just like the neoconservatives when it comes to wiretapping/privacy, search/seizure, and being innocent until proven guilty.

    The supreme court made itself very clear on what the second amendment means.

  33. john w. says:

    For the same reason I suppose wingnuts are so adamant about states’ rights federalism, personal liberty and small government (especially when it comes to the matter of guns and the 2nd Amendment), and constitutional constructionism, but also want the government to decide for women how the uterus and ovaries are to be used, and whether or not those who don’t share the same sexual orientation as others should enjoy participating in the same cultural institutions as everyone else.

  34. Adam says:

    “Why are liberals so adamant about the supreme court when it comes to abortion, but not so much when it comes to guns? Because for them, ideology trumps freedom.”
    probably the same reason conservatives are so adamant that the supreme court rule against abortion (i.e. trump freedom) and allow them to carry guns despite no such allowance in the 2nd amendment.

  35. Adam says:

    “The supreme court made itself very clear on what the second amendment means.”
    OR, a group of conservative justices gave an ideology-inspired interpretation of what the second amendment means. as far as i know, none of them consulted directly with the writers of the 2nd amendment.

  36. john w. says:

    Antonin Scalia is clearly the worst of them, and Thomas a close second, but my hope is that a new administration more sympathetic toward what this country actually wants, will have the opportunity to appoint some succeeding justices that also better reflect what this country actually wants. Roberts and Alito haven’t had much chance to stand out in contrast to the rest (besides being known conservatives), but it’s quite clear what path Scalia and Thomas are following.

  37. Jesda says:

    I *love* how you all read the first line of my post and nothing else.

    I went on to say “…just like the neoconservatives when it comes to wiretapping/privacy, search/seizure, and being innocent until proven guilty.”

    Follow the constitution. Follow the law. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it invalid. Fight it if you want with ideas, but don’t piss and moan when the court you use to enforce your beliefs suddenly disagrees on one issue.

    For left and right wingers, its all about ideology. Freedom is just a word tossed around to make the public open up to more government.

  38. st. louisian says:

    Everyone is upset here for good reason. Now let’s get someone to blame! Ater we do that history still will not have changed.

  39. john w. says:

    Oh, I read your entire comment, so I don’t know what you think you’re referring to there, but if you’d read my comments from above, which I *love* because you apparently didn’t, I spelled out what the intent of the 2nd Amendment as IT IS ACTUALLY FREAKING WRITTEN IN THE CONSTITUTION, and if you’d read the amendment yourself, I think you’d have to question what Mr. Scalia seems to see. But yes, I disagree with the ruling of the court on Heller and I’ll piss and moan as much as I wish.

  40. Adam says:


    i see – your point being that ideology drives both sides. agreed. however, personal ideology also influences the decisions of the supreme court, which is supposed to interpret the constitution without bias. the 2nd amendment spells out its purpose quite clearly: right to bear arms FOR THE SAKE OF MAINTAINING A WELL-REGULATED MILITIA, which in the context of the time it was written does not lend itself to much interpretation. the supreme court’s ruling makes a HUGE, impudent leap in discarding this precise, intentional wording as decorative. moreover, pissing and moaning in dissent is my right – one actually granted in the constitution, i might add – and it is not reasonable to insist that i either agree with all supreme court decisions or none of them. that’s silly.

  41. Angry Mouse says:

    Ask anyone on the street. They’ll tell you the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a liberal organization.

    I know liberal couples who give each other pocket size copies of the Constitution for Christmas.

    Ask liberals to list their top five complaints about the Bush Administration, and they will invariably say the words “shredding” and “Constitution” in the same sentence. They might also add “Fourth Amendment” and “due process.” It’s possible they’ll talk about “free speech zones” and “habeus corpus.”

    There’s a good chance they will mention, probably in combination with several FCC-prohibited adjectives, the former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.


    Liberals love the Constitution. They especially love the Bill of Rights. They love all the Amendments.

    Except for one: the Second Amendment.

    When it comes to discussing the Second Amendment, liberals check at the door their ability to think rationally. In discussing the importance of any other portion of the Bill of Rights, liberals can quote legal precedent, news reports, and exhaustive studies. They can talk about the intentions of the Founding Fathers.

    And they will, almost without exception, conclude the necessity of respecting, and not restricting, civil liberties.

    So why do liberals have such a problem with the Second Amendment? Why do they lump all gun owners in the category of “gun nuts”? Why do they complain about the “radical extremist agenda of the NRA”? Why do they argue for greater restrictions?

    Why do they start performing mental gymnastics worthy of a position in Bush’s Department of Justice to rationalize what they consider “reasonable” infringement of one of our most basic, fundamental, and revolutionary — that’s right, revolutionary — civil liberties?

    Why do they pursue these policies at the risk of alienating voters who might otherwise vote Democrat? Why are they so dismissive of approximately 40% of American households that own one or more guns?

    And why is their approach to the Second Amendment so different from their approach to all the others?

    Well, if conversations on this blog about the issue of guns are in any way indicative of the way other liberals feel, maybe this stems from a basic misunderstanding.

    So, allow me to attempt to explain the Second Amendment in a way that liberals should be able to endorse.

    No. 1: The Bill of Rights protects individual rights.

    If you’ve read the Bill of Rights — and who among us hasn’t? — you will notice a phrase that appears in nearly all of them: “the people.”

    First Amendment:

    …the right of the people peaceably to assemble

    Fourth Amendment:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects…

    Ninth Amendment:

    …shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people

    Tenth Amendment:

    …are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

    Certainly, no good liberal would argue that any of these rights are collective rights, and not individual rights. We believe that the First Amendment is an individual right to criticize our government.

    We would not condone a state-regulated news organization. We certainly would not condone state regulation of religion. We talk about “separation of church and state,” although there is no mention of “separation of church and state” in the First Amendment.

    But we know what they meant. The anti-Federalists would not ratify the Constitution without a Bill of Rights; they intended for it to be interpreted expansively.

    We know the Founding Fathers intended for us to be able to say damn near anything we want, protest damn near anything we want, print damn near anything we want, and believe damn near anything we want. Individually, without the interference or regulation of government.

    So why, then, do liberals stumble at the idea of the Second Amendment as an individual right? Why do they talk about it as a collective right, as if the Founding Fathers intended an entirely different meaning by the phrase “the right of the people” in the Second Amendment, when we are so positively clear about what they meant by the exact same phrase in the First Amendment?

    If we can agree that the First Amendment protects not only powerful organizations such as the New York Times or MSNBC, but also the individual commenter on the internet, the individual at the anti-war rally, the individual driving the car with the “Fuck Bush” bumper sticker, can we not also agree that the Second Amendment’s use of “the people” has the same meaning?

    But it’s different! The Second Amendment is talking about the militia! If you want to “bear arms,” join the National Guard!


    The United States Militia Code:

    (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.

    Aside from the fact that the National Guard did not exist in the 1700s, the term “militia” does not mean “National Guard,” even today. The code clearly states that two classes comprise the militia: the National Guard and Naval Militia, and everyone else.

    Everyone else. Individuals. The People.

    No. 2: We oppose restrictions to our civil liberties.

    All of our rights, even the ones enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are restricted. You can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowd. You can’t threaten to kill the president. You can’t publish someone else’s words as your own. We have copyright laws and libel laws and slander laws. We have the FCC to regulate our radio and television content. We have plenty of restrictions on our First Amendment rights.

    But we don’t like them. We fight them. Any card-carrying member of the ACLU will tell you that while we might agree that some restrictions are reasonable, we keep a close eye whenever anyone in government gets an itch to pass a new law that restricts our First Amendment rights. Or our Fourth. Or our Fifth, Sixth, or Eighth.

    We complain about free speech zones. The whole country is supposed to be a free speech zone, after all. It says so right in the First Amendment.

    But when it comes to the Second Amendment…You could hear a pin drop for all the protest you’ll get from liberals when politicians talk about further restrictions on the manufacture, sale, or possession of firearms.

    Suddenly, overly broad restrictions are “reasonable.” The Washington D.C. ban on handguns — all handguns — is reasonable. (Later this year, the Supreme Court will quite likely issue an opinion to the contrary in the Heller case.)

    Would we tolerate such a sweeping regulation of, say, the Thirteenth Amendment?

    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    What if a politician — say, a Republican from a red state in the south — were to introduce a bill that permits enslaving black women? Would we consider that reasonable? It’s not like the law would enslave all people, or even all black people. Just the women. There’s no mention of enslaving women in the Thirteenth Amendment. Clearly, when Lincoln wanted to free the slaves, he didn’t intend to free all the slaves. And we restrict all the other Amendments, so obviously the Thirteenth Amendment is not supposed to be absolute. What’s the big deal?

    Ridiculous, right? We’d take to the streets, we’d send angry letters to our representatives in Washington, we’d call our progressive radio programs to quote, verbatim, the Thirteenth Amendment. Quite bluntly, although not literally, we’d be up in arms. (Yeah, pun intended.)

    And yet…A ban on all handguns seems reasonable to many liberals. Never mind that of 192 million firearms in America, 65 million — about one third — are handguns.

    This hardly seems consistent.

    No. 3: It’s not 1776 anymore.

    When the Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, drafted the Bill of Rights, they could not have imagined machine guns. Or armor-piercing bullets (which are not available to the public anyway, and are actually less lethal than conventional ammunition). Or handguns that hold 18 rounds. A drive-by shooting, back in 1776, would have been a guy on a horse with a musket.

    Of course, they couldn’t have imagined the internet, either. But do we question the right of our gracious host, Markos, to say whatever the hell he wants on his blog? (The wisdom, perhaps, but not the right.)

    Similarly, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined 24-hour cable news networks. When they drafted the First Amendment, did they really mean to protect the rights of Bill O’Reilly to make incredibly stupid, and frequently inaccurate, statements for an entire hour, five nights a week?

    Actually, yes. They did. Bill O’Reilly bilious ravings, and Keith Olbermann’s Special Comments, and Bill Moyer’s analysis of the corruption of the Bush Administration, and the insipid chatter of the entire cast of the Today show are, and were intended to be, protected by the First Amendment.

    We liberals are supposed to understand that just because we don’t agree with something doesn’t mean it is not protected. At least when it comes to the First Amendment.

    But as for the Second Amendment? When discussing the Second Amendment, liberals become obtuse in their literalism. The Second Amendment does not protect the right to own all guns. Or all ammunition. It doesn’t protect the right of the people as individuals.

    Liberals will defend the right of Cindy Sheehan to wear an anti-war T-shirt, even though the First Amendment says nothing about T-shirts.

    They will defend the right of citizens to attend a Bush rally wearing an anti-Bush button, even though the First Amendment says nothing about buttons.

    They will defend the rights of alleged terrorists to a public trial, even though, when writing the Sixth Amendment, the Founding Fathers certainly could not have imagined a world in which terrorists would plot to blow up building with airplanes. The notion of airplanes would have shocked most of them (with the possible exception of Thomas Jefferson. He was always inventing things.)

    No. 4: It’s not like you can use it anyway.

    Fine, you say. Have your big, scary guns. It’s not like you actually stand a chance in fighting against the United States government. The Army has bigger, badder weapons than any private citizen. Your most deadly gun is no match for their tanks, their helicopters, their atom bombs. Maybe two hundred years ago, citizens stood a chance in a fight against government, but not today. The Second Amendment is obsolete.

    Tell that to the USSR, held at bay for about six years by pissed off Afghanis with WWI rifles.

    Tell that to the Iraqi “insurgents” who are putting up a pretty good fight against our military might with fairly primitive weapons.

    The Second Amendment is obsolete?

    What other rights might be considered obsolete in today’s day and age?

    No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

    When was the last time a soldier showed up at your door and said, “I’ll be staying with you for the indefinite future”?

    I’m guessing it’s been a while. But of course, were it to happen, you’d dust off your Third Amendment and say, “I don’t think so, pal.”

    And you’d be right.

    And hasn’t our current administration made the Sixth Amendment obsolete?

    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

    Shall we ask all of those “unlawful combatants” whether the Sixth Amendment still applies?

    The President merely has to categorize you as an “unlawful combatant,” and whoosh! No more rights to a speedy and public trial, an impartial jury, or even knowledge of the charges and identification of the witnesses who will testify against you. With one fell swoop of the pen, the President can suspend your Sixth Amendment rights.

    Since it has no effect, whenever the President feels like it, why do we even need the Sixth Amendment anymore?

    What about the Twenty-Sixth Amendment? How much use does that get?

    The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

    We all know the youth vote is typically pretty abysmal. Those lazy kids can barely get out of bed before noon, let alone get themselves to the voting booth. If they’re not going to use their Twenty-Sixth Amendment rights, shouldn’t we just delete the damn thing altogether?

    Of course not! I voted when I was eighteen, and I was proud to do so. In fact, most liberals will argue for greater enfranchisement. They support the rights of convicted felons to vote. Liberals are all about getting out the vote and rocking the vote. They sit at tables at their local farmer’s market, trying to register new voters. They make calls to likely voters, even offering to give them a lift to the polling station.

    For liberals, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment (for teens), the Fifteenth Amendment (for blacks), and the Nineteenth Amendment (for women) barely scratch the surface.

    But the Second Amendment?

    Crickets. Or, worse, loud calls for greater restrictions. More laws. Less access. Regulate, regulate, regulate — until the Second Amendment is nearly regulated out of existence because no one needs to have a gun anyway.

    And that, sadly, is the biggest mistake of all.

    Because, to paraphrase a recent comment by mlandman:

    The Second Amendment is not about hunting or even guns anymore than the First Amendment is about quill pens and hand-set type.

    We do not quibble about the methods by which we practice our First Amendment rights because that is not the point. And red herring arguments about types of ammunition or handguns versus rifles (even scary looking ones) are just that — red herrings. They distract us from what is at the true meaning of the Second Amendment. And that brings me to my final point.

    No. 5: The Second Amendment is about revolution.

    In no other country, at no other time, has such a right existed. It is not the right to hunt. It is not the right to shoot at soda cans in an empty field. It is not even the right to shoot at a home invader in the middle of the night.

    It is the right of revolution.

    Let me say that again: It is the right of revolution.

    Consider the words of that most forward thinking of Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson:

    The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

    Tyranny in government. That was Mr. Jefferson’s concern. And he spoke from experience, of course. He knew the Revolutionary War was not won with hand-painted banners or people chanting slogans. It was a long and bloody war of attrition where the colonials took on the biggest military machine in the world.

    And we all know how that turned out.

    Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government.

    To alter or abolish the government. These are not mild words; they are powerful. They are revolutionary.

    Mr. Jefferson might never have imagined automatic weapons. But he probably also never imagined a total ban on handguns either.

    The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.

    We talk about the First Amendment as a unique and revolutionary concept — that we have the right to criticize our government. Does it matter whether we do so while standing on a soapbox on the corner of the street, or on a blog? No. Because the concept, not the methodology, is what matters.

    And the Second Amendment is no different. We liberals tend to get bogged down in the details at the expense of being able to understand, and appreciate, the larger idea.

    The Second Amendment is not about how much ammunition is “excessive.” Or what kinds of guns are and are not permissible. We should have learned by now that prohibition is ineffective. That’s why we repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” It didn’t work.

    That’s why our War on Drugs has been such an utter failure. Prohibition does not prevent people from smoking pot; it just turns pot smokers into criminals. (And what would our hemp-growing Founding Fathers think of that?)

    And so it is with gun laws. They certainly don’t prevent gun crimes. A total ban on handguns in DC has hardly eliminated violent crimes in DC. Although it may be correlation, rather than causation, crime tends to be lower in areas with more guns. After Florida and Texas passed concealed carry laws, crime rates went down.


    What is the point? Is this a rallying cry for liberals to rush right out and purchase a gun? Absolutely not. Guns are dangerous when used by people who are not trained to use them, just as cars are dangerous when driven by people who have not been taught how to drive.

    No, this is a rallying cry for the Constitution. For the Bill of Rights. For all of our rights.

    This is an appeal to every liberal who says, “I just don’t like guns.”

    This is an appeal to every liberal who says, “No one needs that much ammunition.”

    This is an appeal to every liberal who says, “That’s not what the Founding Fathers meant.”

    This is an appeal to every liberal who says, “Columbine and Virginia Tech prove we need more laws.”

    This is an appeal to every liberal who supports the ACLU.

    This is an appeal to every liberal who has complained about the Bush Administration’s trading of our civil liberties for the illusion of greater security. (I believe I’ve seen a T-shirt or two about Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on that.)

    This is an appeal to every liberal who believes in fighting against the abuses of government, against the infringement of our civil liberties, and for the greater expansion of our rights.

    This is an appeal to every liberal who thinks, despite some poor judgment on the issues of, say, slavery or women’s suffrage, the Founding Fathers actually had pretty good ideas about limiting government power and expanding individual rights.

    This is an appeal to every liberal who never wants to lose another election to Republicans because they have successfully persuaded the voters that Democrats will take their guns away.

    This is an appeal to you, my fellow liberals. Not merely to tolerate the Second Amendment, but to embrace it. To love it and defend it and guard it as carefully as you do all the others.

    Because we are liberals. And fighting for our rights — for all of our rights, for all people — is what we do.

    Because we are revolutionaries.

  42. john w. says:

    …perhaps you should get a literary agent, Mouse?


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