Yes, the Second Amendment really means what it says… and that means you too Chicago

This past Monday, Samuel Alito, writing for the majority (with separate concurring opinions from Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia) in the case McDonald vs. City of Chicago and Village of Morton Grove; handed down what in 30 years will I believe, be held as one of (or perhaps half of a pair of, or the second in a series of) the most significant rulings in the courts history, not just for the right to keep and bear arms, but for the rights of all people in this nation.

I had meant to get this post out yesterday, but I had to take the time to read the entire opinion… all 214 pages of it… and think about it for a bit.

This judgment is notable, both for what it does, and for what it does not do; and I want to go into that in some depth… and I want to go into some of the background and issues surrounding the decision that aren’t necessarily about the right to keep and bear arms

However, that is going to get long…. and if you aren’t interested in constitutional law and the nature and exercise of the rights and powers of the states, it’s going to be boring. There’s only so much you can do to make enumeration and separation of powers issues over more than two hundred years, all that interesting.


Note: Also, for those of you who DO closely follow con law, this is going to be a gross simplification in some ways. I don’t have time to write a book here, and a book is what it would take to cover this comprehensively (actually several… there are a few out there already, and Heller and its progeny are sure to generate more).

At any rate, I’m going to break it out into another posts, and I’ll update this post with a link when I finish the other one.

… I should warn you, I’m already 5,000 words in, and I’m probably less than half done…

McDonald vs. Chicago is the first major gun rights case brought before the supreme court under the clarified Heller doctrine, to wit:

The right to keep and bear arms for all lawful purposes is an individual right, possessed by all citizens and lawful residents of this country (provided this right has not been statutorily stripped from them, with due process of law); and the core of that right, is the fundamental right to defense of self, and others.

Actually, McDonald is a bit more than just “first”… In fact, the case was prepared in advance, and filed immediately on the handing down of the Heller ruling; by the lead counsel on the Heller case, Alan Gura.

The issue at hand in Heller was to affirm and clarify the basic right; something which those on the left in general, and in the gun control lobby in particular, had been trying to deny for something like the last 40 years

Note: The modern gun control movement as currently constituted really began in the late 60s; roughly coinciding with accelerating decay of civil order and rise in civil unrest, the rise of the drug and counterculture, and dramatically rising crime rates.

More than anything else, it was the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King that kick-started the gun control movement as it exists today.

The gun control movement in the U.S. as a whole has its roots in racial discrimination against immigrants in the pre-civil war northern cites, and blacks in the post civil war south.

Up until the late 1950s, the left as a whole actually advocated gun ownership, as a bulwark against the state… a position generally ascribed these days to the “far right”; but as the left post 1932 increasingly BECAME the state, their position on civilian non-police gun ownership changed.

The issue at hand in McDonald is substantially identical to Heller, with a crucial difference we’ll discuss in a moment; that of incorporation of the second amendment against state and local governments, as other rights enumerated in the bill of rights have been.

In Heller, the substance and nature of the right were affirmed. However, though the assertion of the right is very clear; it’s application is potentially limited.

Because the Heller case pertained to a federal enclave (Washington D.C. is not a part of any state. It is a federal enclave. Precedent in DC cases applies federally, but not necessarily to issues in the several states), the ruling only explicitly applied to the federal government.

In principle the right could be asserted against the states, or it could not be… depending on judicial interpretation. Either way a judge decided, it would almost be certain to be appealed… as indeed it was (in at least four cases so far, all of which were delayed pending the McDonald ruling).

Also, Heller left various questions open to interpretation, such as the standard of review for laws pertaining to the right to keep and bear arms, and whether interest balancing tests could be made.. or for that matter just what types of laws would be acceptable short of outright bans on firearms in the home (which were explicitly forbidden).

In Mondays decision on McDonald, it was affirmed (quite strongly), that the rights protected by the second amendment are equal in stature to the rights protected by the first amendment, and all the others.

In both the majority opinion, and the concurrences, the court made it explicit that the protections afforded by the second amendment applied against the state. Further, they made it clear that a strict standard of review was to be applied to any law regarding the right to keep and bear arms (though they do not by any means disallow all regulation. In both Heller and McDonald, it is acknowledged that some regulation of any right can be acceptable, but must be strictly scrutinized).

There is still one set of questions to be resolved, what exact restrictions against keeping and bearing arms will be acceptable under this standard of review. Just as there are many limitations against speech permitted by current jurisprudence, including many which probably should not be allowed under the constitution (such as most of what is called “campaign finance reform”); there will likely still be substantial restrictions allowed by the court. In any case, it will be years… likely decades… before the whole issue is settled law, and in the mean time, there will be a lot of contradiction and chaos.

The fight is certainly not over… in fact it’s really just getting started.

This is where we get into the theoretical discussion about the constitution, so I think I’m going to end here and pick it up in the next, much longer, post.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

  • Charles Carroll

    No, no, no that does not mean you Chicago.

    I’ve always assumed that well-regulated and militia actually modified and limited, but suppose I’m wrong. Suppose in fact that there’s a law that REQUIRES all able bodied adults to carry a loaded weapon at all times…

    If you carry your gun in my house, on my street, or in my city (even with this law in place) then for me you have turned the place I live from a democracy into a tyranny. Be warned.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    Charles, you seem confused as to how rights work. If you forbid firearms from your home, you are well within your rights. Anyone who wishes to come on your property can only do so with your permission or you can eject them for trespassing.

    Other than Breyer’s dissent, in which he exhumed several justifications for Jim Crow laws from the grave, nobody is arguing that the law requires you to permit armed people on your land – keep in mind that the police that previously could enter your property armed and shoot you with impunity and retain this power today.

    I’m not sure where you get from your neighbors being allowed tools with which to defend themselves to tyranny – in fact tyrannies universally prefer the populace to be disarmed to make them easier to control.

    The fact is you are unlikely to ever be in the presence of a gun fight. If you have the misfortune to be involved in one, you are far more likely to be shot by a police officer accidentally/on-purpose than by a nonLEO citizen (if we exclude, of course, the criminals who use guns as a tool to intimidate/dispatch their victims).

    An armed policeman poses a far greater risk to you than an armed citizen. Yet, I am pretty sure that if an armed policeman saunters into the room, you are not assuming that you are in danger of being gunned down. If so, then the fact that some citizenry are now able to carry firearms legally should be of lesser concern.

  • Charles Carroll

    If you have the misfortune to be involved in one, you are far more likely to be shot by a police officer accidentally/on-purpose than by a nonLEO citizen (if we exclude, of course, the criminals who use guns as a tool to intimidate/dispatch their victims).

    An armed policeman poses a far greater risk to you than an armed citizen.

    No, no, and no again, and this is why Heller is a form of tyranny. New York City, where I lived for many years, is perfectly safe without guns.

    You say I’m more likely to be shot by a police officer than a citizen carrying a weapon–where is the actual data for this?

    Guns (at least in cities) are dangerous. When ONE person has a gun they can terrorize the rest who don’t. As the number of guns increases so too does the tyranny. Keep your gun if you must, but keep it away from a place like New York. We don’t want your guns. And we have as much right to remove them as you do to keep them. If you force your guns upon us then YOU are a tyrant.

    And remind me to keep away from flyover country where I may well be shot by some angry, irrational gun-lover.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Wow, they passed a law and now there are no guns in New York City?

    Someone should tell the 350 people shot to death in 2007 and the 290 shot to death in 2008. Maybe since there are no guns in New York City, their deaths were faked like the moon landing, and they were actually relocated to the island from Lost.

  • Charles Carroll

    Brad’s comment makes no sense.

    Remember gun owners when you carry your gun in areas where I live, so far as I (and many others) are concerned YOU (and not a cop) are the public danger.

    You may think you can be trusted to decide who you can shoot and who you can’t, but you are wrong. Many of you gun owners are angry and trigger happy (otherwise you wouldn’t need a gun) and therefore are MORE LIKELY to behave irrationally and shoot innocent people.

    Keep your gun if you must, but keep away!

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    So you’re saying that you think the gun deaths mentioned were perpetrated mostly by legally-owned guns held by people who live outside NYC and were visiting? Or would it make more sense to believe that they were illegally-owned guns held by people who live within NYC?

    And gun owners are angry and trigger-happy? More likely to behave irrationally and shoot innocent people? What’s your basis for that belief? Do you have data on how many murders are perpetrated by CCW permit holders? I would say that my experience with gun owners is that it is typically those who you would MOST describe as a “gun nut” who obtain CCW permits, so if anything they should be the absolute embodiment of “angry and trigger-happy” as you describe. Yet at the very least my own personal acquaintances who hold CCW permits and regularly carry are some of the most restrained, rational people I know.

  • http://jedischool.org/ Red

    Okay, number one: I don’t permit firearms in my home. Not even the police may enter with a firearm unless there’s a reason for them to do so.

    On the other hand, I’m fully supportive of the right to bear arms. This right is what makes it so that even the police may not enter my home while carrying their weapons. My home is free from firearms BECAUSE there is a right to carry them.

    In protecting the rights of others, we ultimately protect our own rights. Freedom of choice is the foundation of democracy.

  • Akston

    I can see how living in an overcrowded metropolitan area can breed the kind of fear you seem to feel. You doubtless also recognize that criminals seem to acquire weapons whether prohibited or not. How does disarming only the law-abiding citizens enhance your safety?

    If I use my fear of you (a law-abiding citizen) to demand that government abrogate your right to defend yourself, I’m the tyrant.

    Your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness should not be subordinate to my fears.

  • Charles Carroll

    I’m saying that as a non-gun owner I don’t feel safe around those who carry guns. That YOU may feel more safe, I grant. But I feel LESS safe because I’m not convinced that frankly you give a sh*t about MY safety.

    So really, if you insist on carrying a gun, then my only option is to stay away.

    I suggest that non-gun areas (e.g. Chicago, Washington, New York, etc. basically the Blue States) might now want to secede from gun states (roughly speaking Red States). Since we produce most of the GDP of the country we’d get along fine without you.

    You can keep your guns, your poverty and your tyranny, and we’ll be rich, happy and peaceful. (And a democracy to boot.)

  • Michael O. Powell

    The blue states are largely “gun free” because they’re urban. When you’re in the city, a gun is a completely different thing. Trust me.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Michael,

    I disagree completely. In urban areas there is generally a different public perception to guns, but it’s just that — perception.

    Humans naturally feel safe in large crowds. They tend to feel that in such situations, “someone” will act to neutralize a threat. That “someone” can be another citizen or a cop — it’s the outsourcing of responsibility that is the key mental point. Because they outsource that responsibility, they often feel no need to ever handle, learn about, or become proficient with firearms. Once they start outsourcing that responsibility to the police, they think it only natural that others should outsource the responsibility as well, and they make the *critical* error that they believe — since the police are the agents of a nameless faceless authority (gov’t) — that the cops will be present and able to help them should the situation need it.

    Rural folks, on the other hand, are used to being out alone in a lot more environments, and know that there may not be anyone to call on if a predator — human or animal — should threaten them. Thus, they more often than not grow up in a world where guns are accessible and necessary tools, and where they learn from adolescence how to handle and be familiar with.

    In the urban areas, the gun is a mystical object that “others” carry, and the cops being the “authority” to which you go for help, are naturally the people to whom one delegates responsibility for such a strange and dangerous tool. In rural areas, the gun is an impersonal tool that one best be familiar with, as there is no authority to be called on in a reasonable amount of time to save you from whatever the gun would prevent.

    Thus you see folks like Charles making ridiculous statements about gun owners. He’s used to outsourcing his safety, and he thinks that people in cities who don’t trust the cops to look out for them to be a bit nutty. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Charles has probably never gone to a shooting range and fired a gun. He sees them as mystical objects and doesn’t trust mere mortals (as opposed to trained authorities — i.e. cops) to handle them.

    ———-

    Note — full disclosure: I have never fired a gun. I’m woefully unfamiliar with them in general, as I am a product of a safe [sub]urban upbringing. However, as I am pretty well inoculated against most levels of mysticism, whether they be anthropomorphism wrt inanimate objects like guns, and not a practitioner of authority worship (whether of a deity or a government), I tend to figure that if a cop can figure out how to properly handle a firearm, so can a civilian. And given that a civilian has no “thin blue line” to protect them if they shoot someone, there’s a natural incentive there to avoid it.

  • Michael Powell

    Brad, we’re actually in agreement. Guns aren’t physically a different thing in the city than in the sticks. The perception is just vastly different for the reasons you just illustrated.

    Full disclosure – I have fired a gun at a shooting range, an assault rifle no less. I’ve fired BB guns and done marksmanship with an arrow, which I’m fairly good at. Nevertheless, all of the above are deadly weapons of war and shouldn’t be viewed as anything less.

  • Quincy

    You may think you can be trusted to decide who you can shoot and who you can’t, but you are wrong. Many of you gun owners are angry and trigger happy (otherwise you wouldn’t need a gun) and therefore are MORE LIKELY to behave irrationally and shoot innocent people.

    The trend is clear here. As states liberalize their gun laws away from the failed models of Chicago, Washington D.C., Detroit, and San Francisco, they have consistently become safer places to live and work for law abiding citizens.

    You may have your own opinion, but the facts are the facts.

  • Michael O. Powell

    “You may think you can be trusted to decide who you can shoot and who you can’t, but you are wrong. Many of you gun owners are angry and trigger happy (otherwise you wouldn’t need a gun) and therefore are MORE LIKELY to behave irrationally and shoot innocent people.”

    Gun owners are a diverse lot. They’re not as completely safe as they think, which was illustrated by the Columbine style-shootings that occurred in gun-heavy, unregulated areas, but from personal experience, the average rural gun owner is pretty damn safety conscious and knows what they’re doing.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    Many of you gun owners are angry and trigger happy (otherwise you wouldn’t need a gun) and therefore are MORE LIKELY to behave irrationally and shoot innocent people.

    Oh BS!

    A person buys a firearm for many reasons.

    1. Because they wish to commit a crime.
    2. Because they fear for their life.
    3. Because they feel a responsibility to defend their family from potential attack
    4. Because they wish to protect their property from theft or destruction
    5. They enjoy the sport of shooting
    6. Like stamp collectors they like collecting guns.

    The fact is that the number of people who wish to commit crimes are dwarfed by the number of people who wish to protect themselves. Contrary to your hyperventilating, they don’t want to shoot you!

    You are a victim of sampling bias – odds are that you interacted with tens even possibly hundreds of peaceble, armed individuals where you are oblivious to the fact they are armed. And, because they are peacable, you assume that they are unarmed and deny that this category of person even exists.

    Again, if ever you should be caught in the periphery between criminals and non criminals engaged in a gunfight, if the non criminals are police officers, you have a much higher chance of being accidentally shot than if the non criminals are not police officers. People who are not police officers who merely defend themselves and their property using firearms are far more prudent and judicious in their use and have a greater bias toward not using their weapons than police do.

  • Charles Carroll

    Tarran’s exclaimed dismissal of my comment proves my point about anger. Maybe if he and I were in the same room he would lose it and start shooting.

    But beyond all this, the point is the discussion has now shifted from facts to emotion. In other words, those who insisted on carrying guns did so because they had fear–they were afraid for their safety. They now feel safe. Good for them.

    But now, with McDonald, I feel afraid. Just as rational arguments by the anti-gun forces did nothing to convince them to change their minds, so rational arguments will do nothing to convince me. The point is not whether guns make anybody safe, the point is how I (and many, many others) FEEL.

    And we now FEEL less safe, however much you gun owners may assure us otherwise. Sampling bias, the diversity of gun owners, whatever–none of that matters. What does matter is that YOU have a gun and I don’t.

    This is why I wish you would stay away. Because I FEEL safer knowing that if you lose it (need I mention Columbine, Virgina Tech?) you will kill your people instead of mine.

  • Charles Carroll

    Note to Brad: I wouldn’t go out on a limb and suggest that I haven’t shot a gun. I spent some of my youth in Texas. I was a good shot with a .22. I might just shoot you off that branch.

    Guns are not mystical tools to me. But I know damn well that the greatest threat to public safety in a place like Union Square is some trigger happy nut who thinks that shooting ordinary people going about their business is good target practice.

    I advocate secession. What do you red-staters think? Isn’t it time for a divorce?

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    Tarran’s exclaimed dismissal of my comment proves my point about anger.

    In your dreams, Charles, you ignorant slut! ;)

    Joking aside, I’m not angry, I just think you are very sadly deluded.

    The main thrust of your argument seems to be that one’s personal feeling should trump one’s respect for the rights of others. Your attitude is precisely the one that fueled the original “gun control” legislation that banned firearm ownership to blacks.

    I’m sure that this is a poorly thought position on your part. For example, would you outlaw listening to Gangster Rap if it made you feel unsafe?

    What if I wrote a post advocating that a law be passed prohibiting the speaking of any language but English, because the presence of people talking in a language I couldn’t understand made me feel insecure? Would you oppose that law on statistical grounds – Spanish speaker’s aren’t really plotting against you – while ignoring the right to freedom of speech such a law would violate? Would you support such a law?

    On seccession, my 2 cents from an old post,
    No Secession, No Legitimacy!:

    So having established that the legal case is contradictory and that the moral case is pro-secession, we are left with the question of the wisdom of secession Is secession a good idea?

    Today, the U.S. Federal Government is wrecking the U.S. economy and plundering the wealth of the people. If faced with secession, it would either end its depredations or watch helplessly as it was reduced to controlling a few enclaves, paying its employees with increasingly worthless paper money as described in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

    People can pound the table and say “Union now… union tomorrow … union forever…” as much as they like – it won’t alter the fact that the United States Government is not a permanent institution. It has become an organization that is destroying vast quantities of wealth with no comprehension that is should limit its activities. Inevitably it will fail to deliver that which it has promised and take too much from the people it is disappointing.. At that point people will turn against it, and the cry of rebellion will be in the air. I pray then that the rebellion will be the peaceful partitioning as occurred when Czechoslovakia broke apart, rather than the destruction of the War Between the States. An amicable divorce is far preferable to one where the man burns the house down and crashes the car rather than allowing his wife to get it.

  • Charles Carroll

    “one’s personal feeling should trump one’s respect for the rights of others.”

    But this is EXACTLY why the pro-gun side fought for McDonald in the first place. The point is that I have to respect the feelings of gun owners but they don’t have to respect mine.

    Sorry, but please explain how when you have a gun and I don’t MY feelings are being respected? Isn’t YOUR gun about YOUR feelings and not mine?

    When you have a gun and I don’t the possibility of rational discussion has disappeared. This is now a condition of your tyranny over me.

    You have won, but only at a cost that in my view sacrifices democracy. Secession now!

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    I’m sorry, I didn’t make myself clear;

    I don’t have a right to violate your rights because I fear that you will exercise them in a way that I don’t like.

    You may feel unsafe if people are permitted tools to defend themselves, but your rights are not violated.

    Just as a person I knew felt unsafe when he finds himself in a room full of people speaking Tagalog, but his rights are not being violated by the use of the language.

    And incidentally your feelings are irrational; the vast majority of people who wish to acquire firearms are not interested in shooting people aggressively and are not emotionally disturbed. Statistical surveys of hospital records have shown that per bullet fired, police are far more likely to shoot an innocent person than a non-policeman defending his life or property – an armed policeman is a much greater threat to you than an armed non-policeman.

    It’s obvious that you are very afraid of your neighbors and feel that only them not having the means to kill you restrains them from harming you. Now it’s possible that New York has become particularly savage and barbaric in the years since I last visited. If so, certainly moving someplace more peaceful like Montana is not a bad idea.

    I think it’s far more likely that you are merely vastly overestimating the bloodthirstiness of your neighbors.

    Oh and incidentally, you might want to use an argument other than a support for Democracy on this here website – most of us here are well aware that democracy brought us Jim Crow, the black codes, the Palmer raids & the War on (some) Drugs – and thus hold it in the contempt it deserves. It will not sway us to see things in your way anymore than citing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion will sway a Jewish or non-insane crowd.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Note to Brad: I wouldn’t go out on a limb and suggest that I haven’t shot a gun. I spent some of my youth in Texas. I was a good shot with a .22. I might just shoot you off that branch.

    Fair enough. I’ll assume that your offer to “shoot me off that branch” was mere hyperbole and shouldn’t be taken literally (unless the only reason you’re not a gun owner is that you believe you’d be trigger-happy and go on a shooting spree).

    Guns are not mystical tools to me. But I know damn well that the greatest threat to public safety in a place like Union Square is some trigger happy nut who thinks that shooting ordinary people going about their business is good target practice.

    And I’d point out that:

    1) Gun laws don’t stop this from happening. You can make guns illegal but that doesn’t make them not exist.
    2) One of your best protections if you happen to be in union square when this happens would be another armed individual. Cops aren’t always around, so that leaves individuals. Consider it a similar to the “herd immunity” of vaccinations — when criminals don’t know who might be armed, they become ever more scared that *anyone* might be armed.

    I advocate secession. What do you red-staters think? Isn’t it time for a divorce?

    I agree. (I would point out that I am a blue-stater by birth — Illinois — and by current residence — California). Like tarran, I view secession as a legitimate way to settle differences. Here in California, we are a net tax slave to the federal gov’t (the largest tax slave in the union). I’d rather we leave. Shortly thereafter, I’ll probably be advocating to split the state in two, because it’s too large to be governed properly at its current size.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    tarran,

    You were clear. You clearly used the term “rights”, he simply interpreted that term as “feelings”.

    I fear that we and Charles are not working off the same first principles.

    Charles,

    There is a common saying, “your right to swing your fists ends at the tip of my nose.” Would you agree, or would you prefer to ban fists? I’m a big guy with big fists and training in how to use them — I could certainly cause tyranny (by your definition) simply by threatening the use of fists.

  • Charles Carroll

    To Tarran,

    But feelings are what lead to rights. Justice is often about what we feel. Maybe my feelings are irrational, but I’m not alone in this (although I may be alone on this website). The examples about Tagalog are misleading. Languages and guns are both tools, yes, but language does not pose an immediate threat to your safety.

    Both you and Brad assume that I’m alone in my feelings about guns and you keep on quoting statistics and facts in the presumption that somehow these facts will be persuasive. But I suspect there are millions who feel as I do. We may be too few or too unlucky to change the law, but we don’t feel McDonald is fair. You may not care, but I’ll be making sure the people I vote for are prepared to disarm you if you come to my urban area.

    My point is that when Alito wrote the majority opinion for McDonald he talked about costs. But his focus was really only on financial costs. He (and you gun owners) weren’t interested in compromise, or meeting non gun-owners half way. You needed the whole pie. Alito should have talked about the costs to democracy.

    Note to Tarran: You express contempt for democracy, but democracy brought you this decision. So you support tyranny? Your tyranny over me?

  • Charles Carroll

    There is a common saying, “your right to swing your fists ends at the tip of my nose.” Would you agree, or would you prefer to ban fists? I’m a big guy with big fists and training in how to use them — I could certainly cause tyranny (by your definition) simply by threatening the use of fists.

    Brad, indeed you could. And of course you have a right to. But that is no longer a democracy. If you don’t want a democracy, that’s fine. But then you should be honest and say that you support tyranny–specifically your tyranny over others.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Actually, if you’ve read anything we’ve ever written on this site, you would say in response to my statement: “could certainly cause tyranny (by your definition) simply by threatening the use of fists” that I most assuredly DO NOT have a right to do so. I may be capable of doing so, but I do not have a *right* to do so.

    If I were to threaten you in such a way, you would have a *right* to protect yourself against my threats.

    Libertarians view the *right* to firearm ownership as a legitimate means of protection of your other inherent rights.

    The traditional view of libertarians (note that both tarran and I tend more towards anarchism than most small-government libertarians), as well as the government described in the Declaration of Independence and created by the Constitution, is that government is created to protect the rights of individuals. Democracy, in our government, is a means to this end — the method by which we choose who will administer that limited government.

    Unrestrained democracy, however, is well known for devolving into tyranny. Democracy, as tarran points out, propped up slavery, Jim Crow, and today props up the restrictions on same-sex marriage — even in blue states like California. Unrestrained democracy is a poor system for protecting the rights of individuals.

    But based on your arguments to date, you seem unwilling to use the terminology of rights, referring instead to feelings, and you seem to be making the argument that rights are completely subject to democratic whims. And yet you accuse *US* of supporting tyranny?

  • Steve S.

    @Charles:

    “one’s personal feeling should trump one’s respect for the rights of others.”

    But this is EXACTLY why the pro-gun side fought for McDonald in the first place. The point is that I have to respect the feelings of gun owners but they don’t have to respect mine.

    No, McDonald has nothing to do with “respect” or “feelings” — It is about the freedom to “do something” (possess a firearm).

    That being said, I can respect your feelings even though I disagree with them. And just as I don’t think you should be required to possess a firearm even though I (and many others) think it’s a great idea, I would hope you would respect my desire to possess a firearm even if you (and many others) think it’s a bad idea.

    The general principle here is that one person’s (non-harmful) actions should NOT constrained by another person’s feelings (respected or not).

    In other words, if I feel safer with a firearm, that feeling should not in any way dictate or constrain your actions: You should not be required by law to possess a firearm. Conversely, even if you feel unsafe in the presence of guns, that feeling does NOT mean there should be a law that precludes me from possessing a firearm.

    The point is not whether guns make anybody safe, the point is how I (and many, many others) FEEL.

    I wonder if you would extend this point to a general principle, or if you think this only applies to firearms. Because (extending Tarran’s example) that kind of principle could easily be used to justify a law against non-English public speech (because some people “feel” threatened by Arabic, for example).

    Of course, I would oppose such a law, on general principle, for exactly the same reasons I opposed the Chicago gun-ban. To (badly) paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes:

    Your right to swing your feelings ends where the other man’s freedom of action begins.

  • Steve S.

    Hmmm, looks like I screwed up the block-quotes in the first post. The second post is better.

    @Moderators: Perhaps delete the 09:51 post?

    Thanks,

    s.s.

    ed: Done as requested

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    Charles – Rights are a human invention – intended to reduce violent conflict within society. While some argue that rights are given to us by God, or are the product of a democratic process, Hans Herman-Hoppe has advanced an interesting argument to the fact that Rights flow out of our ability to reason – google “Argumentation Ethics” if you’re interested.

    In democracy, the people (or a majority of them) get to set the rules, and if those rules mean sending a minority to the gas chambers, or to work in the fields for no pay, the minority is legally SOL.

    Rights protect individuals from other individuals or even from fairly large groups. Democracy is the mechanism b which a minority is dominated by a majority.

    While stories of tyrannical dictators are legion, democracy is all too often associated with tyranny as well, and is often structurally worse.

    There is no question, for example, that the existence of popularly eletced governments prolonged World War I & made it especially destructive.

    From Reflections on State and War

    The foundation and cornerstone of liberty is the institution of private property; and private — exclusive — property is logically incompatible with democracy — majority rule. Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else. Incidentally, before the outbreak of the democratic age, i.e., until the beginning of the 20th century, government (state) tax-expenditures (combining all levels of government) in Western European countries constituted somewhere between 7–15% of national product, and in the still young United States even less. Less than a hundred years of full-blown majority rule have increased this percentage to about 50% in Europe and 40% in the United States.

    So what’s the alternative? I personally think that a regime where is no systematic violation of people’s rights – anarchy – is the ideal – and any tangible steps in that direction are an improvement. If we must have a government, let it be strictly limited in what it is permitted to do, the more limited, the better. That means the more rights, such as the right to weapons, it respects, the better off we are.

  • Charles Carroll

    @Steve,

    “The general principle here is that one person’s (non-harmful) actions should NOT constrained by another person’s feelings (respected or not).”

    Sure, as I’ve said above, you can keep your firearm. But all of you make a mistake when you assume that carrying your firearm in a crowded urban area is non-harmful. YOU feel it’s not harmful. But lots of people don’t.

    The right to carry a firearm is different form of “doing something” from say gay marriage. I agree (as do many conventional liberals) with libertarians that gay marriage is a private non-harmful decision. But firearms, at least when carried in a crowded urban area, cross the line from private to public from non-harmful to harmful.

    Feeling and reason need of course to be balanced in the making of any decision. I don’t support denying rights, but I’m not willing to go as far as allowing your gun on my street.

  • Charles Carroll

    “And yet you accuse *US* of supporting tyranny?”

    “anarchy – is the ideal – and any tangible steps in that direction are an improvement. If we must have a government, let it be strictly limited in what it is permitted to do, the more limited, the better. That means the more rights, such as the right to weapons, it respects, the better off we are.”

    And libertarians, e.g. you guys with the guns, get to make the rules. Sounds like tyranny to me.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    And libertarians, e.g. you guys with the guns, get to make the rules. Sounds like tyranny to me.

    This is one of the most impressive reading-comprehension-fails I have seen in some time.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Sure, as I’ve said above, you can keep your firearm. But all of you make a mistake when you assume that carrying your firearm in a crowded urban area is non-harmful. YOU feel it’s not harmful. But lots of people don’t.

    What makes carrying a firearm in a crowded urban area harmful? That it makes you feel uncomfortable? You’ve indicated that someone who would do so is angry and trigger-happy, but you’ve shown no data to prove your point.

    I’ll go one step further — what makes carrying a firearm *concealed* harmful? At that point you are no longer aware of the firearm, so your feelings won’t be hurt.

    Finally, if simple possession of a firearm in a crowded urban area is harmful, wouldn’t possession of my fists in a crowded urban area be harmful? After all, they have the capability to be used as dangerous weapons, and probably to cause grievous harm to multiple people before anyone could stop me. Should I be banned from crowded urban areas? Do my 7 years of martial arts training make you think that I’m angry and punch-happy?

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    I should point out that Seccession is anti-democratic. Essentially one group is refusing to abide by the rules set forth by the majority and withdrawing their consent. The whole point of democracy is that everyone is compelled to abide by the rules established by a majority.

    Thus Charles, in advocating secession, is really rejecting democracy. That’s a good thing; while he may be acting like a Confederate slave holder who advocated secession to preserve that “peculiar institution”, he at lest accepts the principle that people dissatisfied with the state should be free to exit its jurisdiction.

    We don’t have to change his mind about respecting people’s rights. I suspect that that’s a lost cause. Rather, we merely need to get him to be willing to accept divorce. He then can live on his gun-free property on peace & allow us to go about our way unmolested and everyone wins! :)

  • Steve S.

    @Charles:

    But firearms, at least when carried in a crowded urban area, cross the line from private to public from non-harmful to harmful.

    I don’t believe your assertion can be supported by objective evidence, in which case it is simply your feeling, or your opinion. If otherwise, please provide some facts or statistics that demonstrate how the simple act of carrying a firearm becomes a harmful act.

    Of course, discharging a firearm in a crowded urban area is a completely different story: This is where the “potential” becomes an “actual”. Then people really are harmed — physically — not just their feelings.

    But you seem to think that the potential to do something wrong should be prohibited in the same way as actually doing something wrong. Naturally, I don’t agree, although I suppose I am in the minority these days — that is why I can’t buy “real” Sudafed anymore — I might use it to make methamphetamine!

    And libertarians, e.g. you guys with the guns, get to make the rules. Sounds like tyranny to me.

    No, we are not making up the rules, we are trying to eliminate the rules! Don’t like drugs? Fine don’t use them, and don’t allow them on your private property — just don’t tell me that I can’t use them. Don’t like guns? Fine, don’t use them and don’t allow them on your private property — just don’t tell me that I can’t use them.

    Eliminating rules is the opposite of tyranny, fer gosssakes! Was the “North” being tyrannical when it eliminated slavery?

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Charles,

    First, I want to thank you for coming here and being a civil and entertaining debate partner. I know you’re probably feeling like you’re in the “lions’ den” here, so I want to make sure you know that we appreciate debate, and we hope you stick around from time to time.

    Second, your final comment about libertarians trying to be the tyrants reflects an unfamiliarity with libertarianism. While there are many variants within libertarianism, one of the common starting points is the non-aggression principle. I would suggest you take a look at the wikipedia article and let us know how it squares with your definition of libertarians as tyrants.

  • procopius

    “I should point out that Seccession is anti-democratic. Essentially one group is refusing to abide by the rules set forth by the majority and withdrawing their consent. The whole point of democracy is that everyone is compelled to abide by the rules established by a majority.”

    …And that is *precisely* a symptom of democracies suffering from tyranny of the majority from time to time.

  • Quincy

    The right to carry a firearm is different form of “doing something” from say gay marriage. I agree (as do many conventional liberals) with libertarians that gay marriage is a private non-harmful decision. But firearms, at least when carried in a crowded urban area, cross the line from private to public from non-harmful to harmful.

    Charles, I’m interested in your definition of harm in this case. What exactly is the harm in having a weapon that is carried concealed, never discharged, and never known to exist to anyone but the carrier?

    Also, how does this harm equate with the harm caused by a law that ensures that the only classes of people who will be carrying guns are cops and criminals? Oakland and Richmond, California are two prime examples of this end-game of gun control. The continual murders and maiming of innocent people in these cities where the criminals with guns out number the non-criminals with guns is a truly staggering human tragedy.

    The fact is that the most violent places in the United States have the strictest gun control. If we’re going to argue harm, it’s pretty hard to outweigh the fact that gun bans, literally, kill. If you feel differently, I can respect your feeling. I can’t accept a push to make laws that would enable more violence against innocent people based on that feeling.