Over at Popehat, Ken White makes the point that gun control advocates should have the balls to say that all firearms should be banned instead of using purposely vague or misleading language (as people on the Left tend to do). Using vague, sometimes Orwellian terms tend to creep into other areas of our private lives
I want [gun control] advocates to learn the difference [between ‘automatic’ and ‘semi-automatic’ firearms for example] so I can have some level of confidence that I know what kind of proposed government power we’re debating […]
Gun control advocates may argue that it’s pointless to define terms because gun control opponents will oppose gun control laws no matter how they are crafted. […] But it’s not a logical or moral excuse for not trying. Urging vague and unconstrained government power is not how responsible citizens of a free society ought to act. It’s a bad habit and it’s dangerous and irresponsible to promote it.
We live in a country where the government uses the power we’ve already given it as a rationale for giving it more: “how can we not ban x when we’ve already banned y?”
Katie Couric is taking heat for a misleadingly edited scene in her new gun control documentary called Under the Gun, which is currently airing on the cable channel EPIX. In the scene, Couric asks a group of gun rights supporters how we can prevent “felons or terrorists” from purchasing guns if we fail to perform background checks.
In response, her interviewees are seemingly stumped by the question, relegated to awkward silence. For nine seconds, they twitch and shift and flutter their eyes. One looks off into the distance, searching for an answer.
It is laughable to anyone who has not reduced gun rights supporters to caricatures.
To be sure, the question is a confusingly worded one. What is the set of circumstances in which someone walking around free, buying guns, would be revealed by background check as a “felon” or “terrorist?” If Couric meant convicted felons and terrorists, then presumably they are in prison, not out buying guns. If she meant convicted felons and terrorists who have served their time and been permitted back into society, then there is a legitimate question as to whether their Constitutional rights should be restored. In any event, we already have laws precluding convicted felons from owning guns and requiring background checks to ensure they do not.
However the question is meant to be interpreted, it is not exactly groundbreaking. This is not new terrain. This is not something gun rights advocates have never considered. The vast majority of gun rights supporters have already extensively considered this issue and come to a reasoned opinion.
Thus, to anyone in the gun rights community, Couric’s footage is an easily identifiable fraud. Unsurprisingly, audio footage obtained by the Washington Free Beacon has confirmed it to be precisely that. What actually occurred, as would be expected, was that the interviewees gave immediate, polite responses to the question.
In fact, with varying degrees of clarity and eloquence, they tried to articulate the points I raised above. Their responses may not have been the best way to cover those points in the film. If the director had wanted to play Couric asking the question and then explore responsive concepts in some other manner, I doubt anyone would have faulted the creative decision. But manufacturing nine seconds of awkward, twitchy silence suggests the director had another goal in mind.
Called out on the manipulative editing, director Stephanie Soechtig explained that her intention was to “provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question” and that she “never intended to make anyone look bad.” Shortly thereafter, Couric said she supported Soechtig’s statement and was “very proud of the film.”
There are a couple different ways to interpret all of this.
One is that Soechtig and/or Couric are being dishonest about their motivation for altering the footage. The real reason was to perpetuate a narrative in which gun rights supporters are portrayed as reckless and ignorant, red state dullards without the most basic concerns for public safety. Showing the interviewees answering the question—or cutting away without playing the nine manufactured seconds of silence—would detract from that narrative and leave an unfortunate impression that gun rights supporters actually have reasons for their positions.
Alternatively, Soechtig/Couric are telling the truth. It is not gun supporters they perceive as simple, but rather their own audience. The viewers needed those nine extra seconds of silence to confront such a groundbreaking question, to wrap their neophyte minds around its unprecedented implications.
Or perhaps there is simply a strange sort of narcissism at play. In this interpretation, it is Soechtig/Couric who are the simpletons. In their minds, no one had ever confronted this mind-blowing question until Katie Couric so amazingly thought of it. Playing the actual footage would have interfered with viewers’ appreciation of Couric’s prowess in asking this life-altering question. So instead the filmmakers faked some footage to leave a more suitable impression.
It is certainly possible to be both a journalist and an activist. While I do not always agree with his positions, I acknowledge that Glenn Greenwald does both so well that each component is made more powerful by the other. It works because he is honest and transparent about the activism, while approaching the journalism part ethically and with humility.
In contrast, altering footage to show something that flat out did not happen is neither journalism nor a particularly competent form of activism. It is storytelling for naïve audiences. It is fundamentally dishonest and narcissistic. And it will not promote dialogue about gun safety.
So… hardcore drug warriors out there… I have a very simple question for you…
You can’t stop people from getting high. It’s NOT POSSIBLE.
It literally does not matter how far you go, you cannot stop it.
We can’t stop heroin from getting into supermax prisons, where there are no visitors allowed, and everyone is body searched in and out.
I just had a dedicated drug warrior fully sincerely advocate that we completely seal the border, and that every vehicle, container, and person should be fully cavity searched.
When I pointed out that cavity searches didn’t stop heroin from getting in to supermax prisons, he said that we need to have full walls on all the borders, and boats to patrol the coastlines to stop smugglers.
You can’t stop people from getting high. This is not an issue of sealing the borders.
Even if you actually sealed the borders successfully, then they would just grow it here.
How exactly would you stop that?
It would require constantly patrolling millions of acres of property, both public and private; searching all greenhouses, and all forests, and all fields of any kind, at least once every 90 days… in the entire country.
Doing so… aside from the massive violations of peoples rights, would require millions of law enforcement officers dedicated to it.
That would cost more than the entire budget of the United State by the way.
Even if you manage to completely eradicate all opium poppies, and all coca plants on the planet, they will just synthesize it in labs… and by labs, I mean, any quiet room with an electrical outlet, or anywhere you can run a generator, or a blow torch.
If you completely ban all substances that people could get high with, you ban thousands of legal products with legitimate and critical uses, including a huge number of critical medications.
You also have to ban all lab equipment, or closely license and track its sale. And all chemicals of all kind… and many kinds of foods. And most kinds of flowers.
And all machine tools, and glass blowing equipment… and blow torches, and pipes and tubes and sand…
And you’ll have to dig out and burn out millions and millions of acres of plants.
We have 7,500 miles of border. We have 13,000 miles of coastline.
You can make it a death penalty offense to posses, sell, or use drugs, or get high. Many countries do in fact… and people still get high.
This dedicated drug warrior said that it didn’t matter what it took, it didn’t matter what it cost… It didn’t matter if it wouldn’t work at all… That we had to do it anyway.
When I asked why, he said:
“Because to do otherwise would be to surrender”
Then I asked “Surrender what? To who?”
He said “Surrender to the junkies and the dealers”
I asked “Surrender what?”
He refused to answer.
And again I asked “Why”
He refused to answer.
I said “You’re advocating a police state, in order to stop people from getting high. Why?”
He refused to answer.
So… I have a very simple question for you…
You cannot possibly stop people who want to get high, from getting high.
You can’t make it illegal enough. You can’t ban or control enough. It’s not possible… you have to know that it isn’t possible..
Prohibition PROVED beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.
The last 45 years of the “War on Drugs” have proved beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.
Maximum security prisons prove beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.
But you still think we have to do it… No matter what it takes… No matter the harm it causes… No matter what rights get violated…No matter how much power it gives the state. No matter how much it costs…
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
Yesterday, President Obama used executive orders to further burden the fundamental right of self-defense. On the same day, in an effort to defend his Senate absenteeism, GOP candidate Marco Rubio gave his implicit endorsement to the concept of the imperial presidency.
[The President] recited a litany of horrific, headline-grabbing mass shootings while proposing policies that would have done nothing to prevent them. Anticipating that his non sequitur would draw criticism, he boldly proclaimed that good intentions matter more than actual results…
The Obama faction of the cult-of-the-president does not care. They conceive of rights as things we get from parent-like leaders. Like well-behaved children, we ought to be grateful for the privileges we are permitted—not whining over the prerogatives of adults.
But if they are upheld (by the very courts GOP candidates like Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee insist should defer to the political branches) Obama’s orders will have at least one meaningful impact, even if it is not on the homicide rate. The impact will be on the structure and scope of government power—and its increasing centralization in a single individual: an imperial president with the power and mandate to act where the people’s elected representatives have refrained from doing so.
As Bonnie Kristian, a communications consultant for Young Americans for Liberty, writes at Rare:
Congress is supposed to be the decider—even (or sometimes especially) when it doesn’t do what the president wants.
Even this misses the target.
We are the deciders.
Rights are not things we are given, not privileges handed out to children by benevolent parent-kings. Rights are ours for the having unless and until we yield them. The only way to do that is via elected representatives. Even then our ability to give away rights is limited by the Constitutional framework our founders had the foresight to put in place.
It is not meant to be easy to give rights away.
Jarett and Obama are therefore wrong to lay blame on Congress’s “failure to act.” It is not that Congress has failed to act. It is that we, the people, have not in sufficient numbers directed our elected representatives to infringe further upon our fundamental rights of self-defense.
Use of executive orders to circumvent the collective will of the people’s representatives fundamentally alters our constitutional structure. The left might embrace this trend now, while their man is at the helm, and his target is guns. But how will they feel when it is a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump circumventing Congress? When the executive power is used again to send troops to fight undeclared wars?
Well, you know, the difference between Marco Rubio and I is, I show up for work. And we had the biggest vote of the whole year, voting on a trillion dollars worth of spending, and he didn’t show up. So, yes, I think he ought to resign or give his pay back to the taxpayer.
When asked yet another question on the issue, Rubio’s attempt to defend himself was a big, depressing fail implicitly endorsing the growing cult of the imperial presidency.
I have missed votes this year. You know why? Because … only a president can set the agenda. We’re not going to fix America with senators and congressmen.
Perhaps Rubio could point us to where in the Constitution the power to “set the agenda” is granted exclusively to the President.
I checked Article II and didn’t see it.
You know how everyone has that thing? The thing drives them crazy? Like the sound of nails on a chalkboard? Maybe it is baristas misspelling names. Or your when it should be you’re. People who use literally to mean figuratively.
That song from Frozen.
For me, it is people talking about “our leaders.”
U.S. citizens don’t have leaders. We have representatives. They don’t tell us what to do—we tell them how to vote. See Article I, The Constitution.
We also have a chief executive. His job is to execute the laws passed by Congress, deal with foreign countries, and provide information to Congress. He also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the military.
But not of us.
To the contrary, we pay him for his “Services.” See Article II, The Constitution.
No one commands us. No one leads us. And no one rules us. That is what it means to be free.
The number of people who react with hostility and defensiveness to this notion is bizarre to me. It is as if they want to be led, like when I first left home and missed having my parents tell me what I should do. Being leaderless means being responsible.
So maybe deep down, those who would rather not shoulder such burdens harbor an unconscious longing for the days of monarchs. When the best-born among us led the way atop magnificent horses, swords and armor flashing in the sunlight, obliterating responsibility by demanding complete allegiance—leaving we lesser souls to imagine ourselves as scullery-maid-turned-princess from the safe distance of our own servitude.
Easier to daydream of being transported to the prince’s ball in an enchanted pumpkin wearing a gown made of magic than to actually climb up on a horse of one’s own.
But the willing subjects are as dangerous as the would-be kings.
In the aftermath of the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris, a commenter calling herself Mrs. Lemuel Struthers on Reason’s Hit and Run threw down the gauntlet:
What I’d really like to hear is a libertarian/classical liberal approach to approaching this problem of a minority of anti-liberals within a society engaging in war-like behavior (murder) while using the values of the society they live in to promote their ideology. The enemy within – if you will. While at the same time demographic and immigration trends tend to support the likely enlargement of populations who will tolerate and even encourage that ideology.
And, just to be clear, I was really asking how France should address its issues from a an-cap perspective, not the USA.
I take up her challenge with this post. The post actually contains two mini essays. One about France like she asked. But first, I will start with an essay about Ancapistan… the one she said she wasn’t interested in (because the essay about France would be incomprehensible without it)! ;) » Read more