It has been a few days now since the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas, and I’ve already been asked The Question. If you are the “gun guy” or “gun gal” in your social circles, you’ve probably heard The Question, too. It goes a little something like this:

“What do you think about the shooting at …”

My first impulse is usually to take The Question literally and respond, “What the heck kind of question is that?! What do you think I think about mass murder?!” But the important thing to remember is that is not the real question, and that there is a reason why they are asking you.

 

Police respond to the Las Vegas shooting. Photo: John Locher/AP

 

They are asking you because you own guns, use guns, and support gun rights. Let’s face it, if they know you well enough to know that you have any empathy for your fellow man at all, then they already know that you find mass murder to be abhorrent. So The Question is really this:

Now have enough people been killed to get you to admit that guns are bad, and to support more gun control?”

This also comes laden with the implication that if you don’t, there is something wrong with you. I really can’t recall a mass shooting in recent years when someone hasn’t approached me and, dripping with passive aggression, asked me what I thought about it. Las Vegas has been no exception. So in the spirit of openness and unity, I will answer both questions:

  • I think the mass murder of 58 innocent people is horrific, and it saddens me to my very core.
  • I do not think that guns are bad, and I do not think there should be more gun control.

I realize the second answer might require a bit more elaboration, so let’s dig in.

The first point I’ll make is that although the investigation is still ongoing, at this point it appears that the murderer either complied with the gun control laws we already have, or he broke them. Either way…whether he complied with them or violated them…existing gun control laws failed to prevent mass murder. They always do. In fact, a very similar mass murder occurred less than two years ago, in a country with much, much stricter gun control laws. Even though France has gun laws which are much more restrictive than in the United States, terrorists still managed to obtain and use firearms to murder 130 people, including 89 attending a concert at Bataclan Theater in Paris. French gun control failed…miserably…to prevent the massacre.

This answer then typically leads to a progression of “what ifs” of increasingly strict degrees of gun control measures, all of which can be shown to have either already failed somewhere in the world, or can be logically demonstrated to have little to no likelihood of success in preventing mass murder by psychopaths, criminals, or terrorists. Once all of this incrementalism has been pared away, we are finally left with the real objective of gun control, which is the total disarmament of all law-abiding citizens.

On this one, I won’t even try to make the case on the basis of civil rights guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution. All the questioner will hear at this point is the sound that the adults make in the Charlie Brown cartoons. They think they have you cornered now. They think that you have basically made their case for them, and proven what they already know…that none of the incremental gun control they propose will be effective in preventing mass murder, and that the only argument you have left is that dusty, outdated piece of parchment…which Smart People™ believe to be worthless.

 

Hidden camera footage of anti-gunners listening to someone talk about the Constitution.

 

Now that they have you, they spring the real question at hand: Since none of the incremental gun controls are effective, why not just get rid of all the guns? Ban everything. No guns for anyone but cops and the military…oh, and for private bodyguards for celebrities, the rich, and the powerful (not you). Again, this one is actually much easier to handle if you stay away from the constitutional argument…they won’t even hear it. Instead, now it is time to ask a question of your own:

“How…exactly…do you propose to accomplish this?”

They’re going to have a tough time with this one, but the progression is quite predictable. First, they’re going to suggest that we simply pass a law outlawing every single rifle, pistol, and shotgun in private ownership. They might even roll out Dianne Feinstein to croak the words, “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in.” But ask them how they plan to enforce it when a certain percentage of the gun owning population says “no,” and that’s when things get interesting. You’ll hear everything from Australia-style mandatory buybacks, to door-to-door confiscation by SWAT teams. This is where reality leaves the building, though with less flair than Elvis.

 

 

I’ll usually take this opportunity to tell them that the reality is that with over 300 million guns already in circulation in the United States, 100% compliance will never be achieved. This will eventually lead to the question, “what are you going to do, fight the entire government, with their airplanes and tanks when they come to disarm you?” Then it’s a simple matter to point out that the Taliban has been doing exactly that in Afghanistan for 14 years, and it’s a much smaller group in a much smaller country than the 150 million or so gun owners in the United States. (And all signs indicate that the Taliban will be alive and well in Afghanistan long after we’re gone.) So it’s highly doubtful that…even if the government were willing to launch the force of the US military against its own citizens…complete disarmament would ever be achieved. And then there’s the issue of the black market that a total ban would enable, and the fact that we can’t control our own borders…

It’s usually at this point (if not sooner) that I’ll be dismissed as a cold-hearted, or paranoid, or radical, and the Q&A session comes to end…often with a very upset questioner. So anti-gun folks…feel free to ask The Question. But don’t be upset when you don’t get the answer you’re looking for.

 

PS – Here’s a pro-tip for the antis (because I’m a giver): Focusing on the existence of murderous criminals is not a compelling argument for me to disarm myself. You might want to drop that tactic. Just sayin’…

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11 thoughts on “The Question”

  1. I’m familiar with guns and own guns, for what it’s worth.

    I do not think that guns are bad, and I do not think there should be more gun control.

    From this line in your response I have a few questions. Are you saying that absolutely no more gun control measures should be passed? I have heard many staunch 2nd Amendment supporters make objections to a variety of measures that, to me at least, would seem non-controversial, and they object as if these measures are tantamount to gun control. For example, I think if you’re going to own a gun it’s reasonable for the state to make an effort to ensure some level of competency and gun security; yet I’ve heard many objections to having all states requires something like handgun qualification course that Maryland requires. Sure, you can take the MD class and pass and it doesn’t imbue you with some kind of protective shield, but it seems a big step from a state that has no requirement. True competency with a firearm will only be achieved by regular practice using a variety of drills and, as a practical matter, we can never guarantee that for every gun owner; but if such a requirement is considered “gun control” then I’m all for it. I’ve also heard objections to laws that mandate owning a gun safe or similar device, the objection being that its adding cost to gun ownership (this cost objection is also raised in response to any mandated course). Yes, it adds costs but guns cost! And if your friend or uncle wants to gift you a gun that’s no reason for you to think that safe storage and training costs shouldn’t apply to you. Anyway, I use just these two examples to illustrate the types of things that I place under the umbrella of gun control … so when you say that you’re against any more measures I’m just trying to understand where you draw your line.

    This answer then typically leads to a progression of “what ifs” of increasingly strict degrees of gun control measures, all of which can be shown to have either already failed somewhere in the world, or can be logically demonstrated to have little to no likelihood of success in preventing mass murder by psychopaths, criminals, or terrorists. Once all of this incrementalism has been pared away, we are finally left with the real objective of gun control, which is the total disarmament of all law-abiding citizens.

    I don’t agree with the blanket statement that strict gun control measures are a practical failure worldwide and a logical failure. You can certainly look at Australia and Japan and other countries and logically conclude that their strict gun control policies contribute to their gun death rates. What it seems that you’re arguing is that because a terrorist (which is what the guy in Las Vegas was) or criminal or psychopath is able to access guns and do great harm then all of our gun control efforts are pointless. A more credible way of looking at this is acknowledging that, hypothetically, a gun-free society (no guns within the borders or can be brought into the borders) will have zero or very low gun deaths (I didn’t say such a place exists, of course!). So, rather than starting with the position that gun crimes are committed when even gun control exists, I believe that fewer gun crimes exist because there is gun control. The past few days many have said that we shouldn’t have truck control just because some guy in France or the UK mowed down pedestrians using a truck. This is a catchy but deeply unsophisticated statement that is simply a nice sound bite for anti-gun control absolutists. You can ignore the different purposes of a truck and a gun. A truck’s principal purpose is that of transportation of people and/or things. A gun’s principal purpose is to kill people or animals. Sure, we can say that a gun’s purpose is to defend or protect or to guard liberty or whatever, but those are values that we attach to the gun’s fundamental skill set. But arguably, we do have truck control and it comes in the form of a driver’s license and registration inspection and whatever else is required for the safe operation of the vehicle. I don’t know your position on the death penalty and I wouldn’t presume to speculate, I’ve encountered people who are very much for the death penalty and very much against gun control but when they argue that gun control is an absolute failure they seem to miss that so is the death penalty, i.e. can we really say how many murders have been prevented because the perpetrator was wary of getting the death penalty? No, we can’t. Small number or larger? Who knows. Similarly, can we say how many gun deaths and/or crimes have been prevented by gun control? No, we can’t. Small number or larger? Who knows. But one’s argument against gun control based on its ineffectiveness and one’s argument in support of capital punishment based on its ineffectiveness can’t be logically consistent. Yet it is indisputable that the more people who do something (think of driving) the more opportunities for human error or devilment. Sure, if we limited the driving age to be 21-52 we’d have a lot fewer deaths and accidents — but not because we’d identified all the uber-responsible drivers but because we have so many fewer drivers (and got rid of the more accident prone teens and elderly). Similarly, gun control has unquestionably kept guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. I would hardly call it failure, either in America and worldwide, because of events Las Vegas. Las Vegas shows that there’s more work to done, a lot more; but it doesn’t mean that no meaningful gains have been made.

    I’ll usually take this opportunity to tell them that the reality is that with over 300 million guns already in circulation in the United States, 100% compliance will never be achieved.

    Perfection might be the goal of humans, but it’s rarely our measure of success. We don’t give up on all measures of protection simply because we can’t account for the allegedly 300 million guns in America … and why so many staunch gun advocates who claim to want maximum autonomy for the states also want to impose their gun positions on other states? Specifically, the constitutional carry crowd. If CT or NY or MD have their own criteria for getting a concealed carry why should a state that has a more liberal policy with regard to handing out CC licenses force its licensees on CT et al? The idea that the 2nd Amendment mandates unfettered gun rights has never been upheld by any Supreme Court. Speech is not an unfettered right. Religion is not an unfettered right. And there’s no reason to pretend that gun ownership is the secret 11th commandment that “liberals” don’t want you to know about.

    Anyway, that’s it!

    1. You do realize that the AU gun confiscation made no impact on the mass murder rate, since the effective rate before the ban was essentially zero, right? Please stop holding up the AU gun grab as being a success story, because it clearly was not.

  2. Wow. That’s a heck of a comment, and I’m not going to fisk it point by point. I don’t even need to read it all to know that you and will have to agree to disagree. I believe the 2nd Amendment says what it says, and I don’t need the Supreme Court to tell me what “shall not be infringed” means. Not only do I not believe that there should not be any MORE gun control, I do not believe there should be ANY gun control. No licenses. No training requirements. No background checks. Nothing.

  3. So carl says only some of us should be disarmed. He said we can’t trust our neighbors, but we can trust politicians. I don’t.

    Tell me how that isn’t an infringement.

  4. Ok. I’m neither anti nor pro gun. Just as I’m not pro or anti station wagon. Each is just a tool. In the hands of psychopaths, they are respectively weapons. In the hands of some, they are merely toys.

    That said, there is much to be said for limiting access to any tools, weapon or toy based on its killing power. A knife as a weapon has limited killing power. A psychopath with a knife in a crowd of people probably couldn’t kill more than 5 people before being apprehended or evaded. A psychopath with a razor sharp machete, could say 15 people in a crowd before being apprehended. We regulate knives and swords based on length as a proxy for killing capacity.

    Explosives as a tool (e.g. construction),toy (firecrackers)or weapon ( OK City) are similarly regulated according to danger posed which is equated to killing capacity.

    Why is it difficult to accept regulation based on the danger that a particular gun holds for the average citizen? Not bans. Simply regulation addressing questions like:

    -who can own what kind of gun?
    -can psychopaths legally own a gun?
    -what conditions should be put on gun ownership?

  5. PS: Any African American who justifies any view/ opinion (including views on the right to own guns) based on a so-called “originalist” view of the US Constitution is essentially telling the world to discount or discrgard that view by 2/5.

    According to an original interpretation of the US Constitution, African Americans were considered 3/5 of a human being.

    According to that point of view, your opinions on any topic including this should be afforded 3/5 of the weight given to a white person expressng the same view.

    Under this originslist view, you—as a black man—might not even be entitled to own a gun as you would be considered 3/5 of a citizen and the Constitution did not address gun rights of fractional citizens.

    Maybe it’s time to put down the guns and pick up a book on Constitutional jurisprudence?

    Why do I inject “race” into this conversation about the Constitution? Because you did. See title of web site.

    1. That’s a typically dishonest response from the gun control crowd.

      The racist problems of the original Constitution were changed legally, through the Constitutionally-established amendment process. The legal provisions of the Constitution were not simply ignored or subverted, as the gun control crowd wishes to do with the 2nd Amendment.

  6. Dishonest? Please explain what I said that is not true.

    David C states an “originalist” view of the USConstitution. This view attempts to interpret the US Constitution according to the views, opinions philosophies of the founders as men.

    As these men owned slaves, we can fairly assume that their rhetoric about “freedom, liberty and equality” were reserved for white men only.

    Much of the “originalist” thinking today is code for returning to this past where African Americans have fewer rights.

    It is interesting when I see African American “patriots” who parrot the views of whites who promote an originalist view of the Constitution without understanding that this original view of the Constitution considers African Americans to be 3/5 of a human being.

    My arguments are based on the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson.

    I would strongly suggest that any African American “originalist” to read this important case (and if you don’t have formal legal training work with a licensed attorney) before promoting an “originalist” view of the Constitution to justify unfettered access to all guns by every American.

    1. “This view attempts to interpret the US Constitution according to the views, opinions philosophies of the founders as men.

      Which includes the amendment process, and a strong opposition to the lawlessness embraced by teh gun control crowd, as they simply ignored the written law of the land and attempt to change the Constitution by fiat.

  7. OK. Let’s start from the beginning. There are 3 branches of government. Executive, legislative and judicial. Those 9 people in robes in the Supreme Court are there to interpret the Constitution. The Congress is there to make laws that are consistent with the Constitution.

    The founders of the Constitution wisely understood that the world is evolving and their understanding was limited. They built the amendment process into the Constitution.

    This enables us to amend the constitution when we realize that there is something horribly wrong with the way we have been looking at things.

    You correctly state that the Constitution has the capability to be amended to correct fallacious assumptions or reasoning.

    Not only is the Constitution a malleable instrument; it can reverse itself if an amendment proves to be misguided (see Prohibition)

    So we agree that the constitution is a flexible document.

    Therefore, the second amendment is not written in stone. Congress has made plenty of laws that have been deemed constitutional regulating firearms. Try to purchase a fully automatic 50 cal tripod mounted machine gun if you doubt my words.

    I think it is strange when African Americans argue for strict construction of the “original” Constitution without even a passing family familiarity with what that means for the rights of African Americans.

    BTW, I’m neither a gun freak nor anti-gun.

  8. Great article. Was thinking a lot along the same lines. Imagine if the gun-grabbers get their way and the government goes door to door to confiscate guns and we don’t just lay down and give them up. The government will be forced to kill so many law-abiding citizens. Now, imagine the fear that will be instilled in the gun grabbers knowing what their government was willing to do and now they have no means to protect themselves against a tyrant government…

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