The Little Children Suffer

I didn’t write anything about gun violence during the weeks leading up to what the president called a “shameful day.” I may have not written anything about gun violence ever, period, full stop. Lately, it’s because I can’t even think of the word Newtown without feeling a pang or tremor of rage and misery course through my body. Overall, it’s because I think combatting gun violence is important — and there are laws I wish we’d implement to do it — but that it ultimately requires a broader cultural shift.

Spurred on by Newtown, I think that shift has begun. It’s a long process and it won’t be total; Americans will always have more affinity to firearms than most developed nations. But I believe enough people have been shaken by the horrific massacres, and enough people refuse to experience this carnage as the price we pay for freedom, that further gun violence legislation is inevitable.

None of this, however, makes Wednesdays events any less dispiriting. Or, indeed, shameful. I’m reminded of a famous Camus quote, my personal favorite:

Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?

In late 2012, a psychopath tortured 20 children. In response, American government has done nothing. We’ve decided not to help.

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156 thoughts on “The Little Children Suffer

  1. I love children too, but I think it behooves us to enact logical and well-thought-out legislation rather than the hasty and emotionally-driven bills we usually do. The idea that we haven’t done anything is not right either: the best weapon we have against heinous acts is a functional and impartial court.

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    • Do you have any examples of recent “hasty and emotionally-driven” gun violence legislation that passed? It’s been 125 days since the massacre and the bill being proposed was quite unambitious and symbolic. I don’t think that’s “hasty and emotionally-driven” and think you’d have to struggle to argue otherwise.

      To your second point, I’m not sure whether you mean Lanza is going to be in the court (he’s not) or whether you mean “we” more expansively, as in “we as a society.” If the latter is the case, that’s not what I’m talking about — I’m talking about a response to Newtown.

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      • As for examples of hasty legislation in response to violence, I’ll point to everything we did in response to 9-11. I’d have some examples specific to gun violence except all we’ve seen is tough talk designed to get street cred with voters: i.e. reinstating the death penalty, arming small-town police forces, etc. And the symbolic reform you reference is emotionally-driven in this sense.

        To clarify my second point, yes, I believe the response to most widely-publicized tragedies is to recourse to the same system of criminal justice we’ve had for a thousand years, despite the fact that those tragedies are widely-publicized.

        Gun control legislation should be evaluated on its own merits – not because something bad happened.

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        • The fact is that we’ve had almost ten years of debate about gun legislation since it was significantly pared back via sunset at the federal level in 2004, another ten if you consider the reaction to the Violent Crime Act 0f 1994, and more before that in what led up to passage of that law. There’s been a clearly dominant side of the debate recently, but this is not an issue to arise out of the blue. I do agree that legislation shouldn’t be undertaken hastily only out of reaction to extreme events. I believe much of the 9/11 response fits that description. Here, though, there is alsways ongoing debate about the question. I don’t believe it is the case that it is legislatures’ job do quarantine lawmaking on issues where there is ongoing debate from the public opinion effects of events. Events are part of what legitimately forms opinions, and if opinions are shifted on a question of ongoing debate in the polity by an event or series of events in a way that results in a change in law, it’s not contrary to the model of how legislation in a representative democracy should be formed.

          Here, that didn’t happen, and it’s also not contrary to the purposes of our institutional set-up that the impulse created by these events was prevented from causing a change. But there is also ongoing discussion about whether those muting processes have gotten (or always were) too unresponsive, whether the institutions have developed sclerosis preventing reasonable action on pressing issues of a kind that was never intended by the designers or shouldn’t have been, and whether the efforts of highly-interested players representing minorities of minorities have be come so powerful that a degree of responsiveness in lawmaking that is reasonable to expect is being denied to the people. This episode provides legitimate fodder to consider in those debates as well.

          There has been long and ample consideration of the merits of gun control over the course of years. It would have been perfectly appropriate even on the terms of our present system for this series bad things that have happened over the last year or more to shift the status of that debate in such a way to have caused a change in law. That it did not happen is also not inappropriate given the purposes of the system we have, but we can still consider whether that purpose – the tile of the game table against action – is calibrated at the angle we want it to be, and whether there might not be other problems in the system’s processes that disrupt its operation in ways never intended.

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      • I think the question becomes, if we are responding specifically to Newtown… What could have prevented it? Unfortunatey, none of the answers to that are particularly acceptable. If we want to talk more broadly about preventing gun violence against children, I think there are some meaningful steps we can take, but then we’re not responding specifically to Newtown. And, as tragic as Newtown was, it is troubling that folks want to respond to that but not all the dead kids in Chicago or DC.

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          • I’m referring specifically to your words, Elias. You said to Chris that you are talking about a “response to Newtown”.

            There have been several responses to Newtown, just none in the form of federal gun legislation. At my school, we reviewed safety procedures and the local police department performed drills on campus to familiarize themselves with the area in the event their presence is necessary.

            For at least a little while, there was meaningful conversation about mental health and special needs, with Aspbergers becoming a more well- known disorder.

            My friend helped organize a symposium on gun violence as part of his doctoral program.

            People are responding, just perhaps not in the precise way you are looking for or with the preferred nomenclature attached. An effort doesn’t need a photo op with students from Sandy Hoom in the background to qualify as a “response to Newtown”.

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            • I don’t consider symposiums a sufficient response to gun violence, no. That has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel about the gun symposium here at the League, which was great.

              I think your point about my not mentioning Chicago or DC borders on pedantry. Newtown is frequently used as a synecdoche for gun violence, generally.

              Finally, there’s absolutely nothing in what I wrote to indicate I consider a photo-op (an extremely uncharitable description, btw, of victims and their families choosing to be part of a political process that has already failed them, personally) to be the desired response.

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              • Elias,

                You said you want to see a “response to Newtown” amd that “[w]e’ve decided not to help.” I’ve pointed out efforts made in direct response to Newtown, which you are dismissing. Why don’t you articulate the specific type(s) of response(s) you’d like to see? That should help us have a more meaningful discussion. Beause right now, you position seems so abstract and amorphous you haven’t really left us ground to respond.

                If you simply wanted to express your disappointment with yesterday or the changes (or lack thereof) since that fateful day in December, that is all well and good. But don’t tell those of us who feeling differently that we have done nothing to help.

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                  • “we, the people,” i.e., the Senate”

                    Blame the senators, then, not “we.” Not even, “we, the people.” Because some of “we, the people” are doing other things, as Kazzy demonstrated. All the various things that “we, the people” do are not encapsulated in the actions of the Senate, and the Senate (or Congress, generally, or our government) is not the only source of expression of “our, the people’s” responses. To see “we, the people,” only in terms of the government representation of them is to see only a slice of what we are. I encourage you to look beyond government, to see what a wide variety of real people actually do in response to all kinds of issues, and to see that “we, the people,” cannot be boiled down to our government.

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                    • I’m afraid not, Qub.

                      Whenever I make the standard libertarian point that the people and the government are two different things, the liberals around here — Elias definitely included — will insist, piously, that we are the government.

                      So if you, or he, want to blame anyone, don’t blame the senators. Blame yourselves. You did it.

                      That, or just reject the (to my mind silly) idea that the people and the government are one and the same.

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                    • We built that!

                      But seriously. As a liberal, I think there’s a lot of overlap between “the people” and “the government/state” and the individual. (And for me at least, piety doesn’t really enter the picture. I start from different assumptions about society and government, but I really try to refrain from the moralizing that liberals, sometimes justly but also sometimes unjustly, often get accused of.)

                      But I don’t think they’re completely congruous. In fact, I think the latter needs to be protected from the former two, and that the latter has basic liberties that the former two ought not, and cannot rightfully, intrude upon.

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                    • or just reject the (to my mind silly) idea that the people and the government are one and the same.

                      Well, yes. That’s where I stand, right? I can understand a libertarian taking that position, but I don’t think it in any way requires being a libertarian because it’s just a logical point–whereas the “they” are “we” argument is a romantic position. It’s awfully Rousseauian, in that it seems to smack of the idea of a “general will” that we all share, whether we realize it or not, so that really we’re all one.

                      Logically, we delegate people to do certain tasks for us but there’s always an agency problem, because our agents aren’t precisely us. There’s also, at least in the U.S., the problem of malapportioned districts (Senate) and partisanly gerrymandered districts (House) that mean “We, the people,” aren’t actually represented in anything like our true proportions. Given that both of those factors currently favor Republicans and conservatives, it seems Democrats and liberals particularly ought to be denying that “they” are actually “we” (and I’m sure many do). Since any liberal who objects to the Republicans’ malapportionment and gerrymander advantages is implicitly admitting that “they” are not really” we, I wonder where those liberals of which you speak–“Elias definitely included”–stand on that issue.

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                    • In this case, the people — to wit, the gun industry — and the government — to wit, the US Senate — are different things. One has co-opted the other.

                      Who those other 90-odd percent of the people are, the people who see no problem with background checks, they are of no significance. If they got a majority, they didn’t get sixty votes and that’s all she wrote. Blaming ourselves? This is a joke in very bad taste. We got a majority.

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                    • I think a background check is a reasonable measure, and I would have supported it, had I been in the Senate.

                      Was that the question? I’m not a believer in Hell, if that was the question.

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                    • But the devil is in the details, is it not? Attempting to paper over them with loaded terms doesn’t bode well for the discussion.

                      How would Senator Kuznicki actually vote in an actual Senate? I might surmise, however uncharitably, that he would do the will of his constituents and vote according to their wishes as the estimable Just Me has pointed out below, his own opinions put in his back pocket.

                      Or would he do the bidding of his party whip? There’s that angle to consider, too. Good soldiers do as they are ordered and disobedient soldiers inevitably find themselves with their boots on a little yellow painted line on the floor in front of their commanding officers. Free will and all, strictly speaking, nobody can be forced to obey an order if they’re willing to pay the price for such disobedience.

                      Or might Senator K be persuaded by dint of quiet statements about future outcomes from important donor constituencies such as the gun industry? Not threats precisely: as in the two previous scenarios, his vote is still his own, constituencies and party allegiances notwithstanding.

                      I’m sure Senator K would do the Right Thing as he saw it. Weighing all in the balances, his constituency, his party, his donors, Senator K would do the right thing for Senator K. It is true, the government is one thing and the people another. But even a Senator is obliged to put his pants on one leg at a time.

                      But I have a vote, too. And I will blame him if he doesn’t vote as I wish. To be sure, my vote is not as massive an object as party allegiance, nor is party allegiance as important as donor support — but as surely as government is not the people, the government will not do the will of the people. Just the important people. And that’s not you and me.

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                    • Whenever I make the standard libertarian point that the people and the government are two different things, the liberals around here — Elias definitely included — will insist, piously, that we are the government.

                      There’s definitely a difference between the two. I don’t think liberals deny that, or at a minimum they shouldn’t deny it. It seems to me that the difference in povs on it derives from one side being in reaction to the other at the extremes. That is, liberals tend to think government is an extension of social life and libertarians, upon hearing that, will talk about specific laws or practices which refute that idea. Conversely, libertarians will talk about government as if it were a causally and conceptually distinct entity from social and more importantly political life – as if it simply emerged from the ether without justification despite any practical necessity.

                      But I also think the two sides actually do view government differently, and as evidence I’d site all the conversations I’ve had with libertarians in which they concede that government has a necessary and clearly justified role to play in society – which is the liberal argument! – and yet insist that liberals are wrong about their conception of government. Which is that government has a necessary and justified role to play in society.

                      So I get lost as to what the important distinction between some types of libertarians and liberals is actually supposed to be. {{Unless we’re talking about various types of first principle, axiomatic, philosophically-based libertarianism, which I think actually is quite different than contemporary liberalism. And that distinction includes the BHLibertarianism of Matt Zwolinski, even tho his formal treatment of libertarianism gets closer to a strain of liberalism in practice.}}

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                    • I don’t want to get involved in any libertarian vs. liberal arguments here, but that’s some pretty clever, or if not actually clever, at least convenient, framing by Stillwater to put the other side on the defensive. I wonder if the other side will bite, or if they’ll see through the rhetorical trick?

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                    • It’s like when you ask about whether we really should have informants and the liberals respond “surely you don’t think we should get rid of government entirely!!!” and then they write my name in their little book and I know, shit, I’m not getting my sucrose ration this week.

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                    • And as further evidence Jason, I’d site Matt’s paper on the defeasibility of the NAP, and what that means for libertarianism as a functioning theory and in practice. I read your response to his argument and have to say that even tho you made some compelling points, I thought they were tangential to his main argument. {{Now’s probably not the time to get into it.}}

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              • A sufficient response to gun violence is: trained medical professionals treat victims, trained police investigate and make arrests, and trained prosecutors try perpetrators according to procedures which underpin our society. Legislation should be slow and generalized and never in response to specific events unless those events are at the scale to disrupt the workings of the nation – i.e. the Depression, WWII.

                I understand your outrage. I’m outraged too. But for the lay public I would consider a symposium an appropriate response to gun violence. We can’t all be Batman. Some of us can be emergency physicians, police officers, prosecutors, or legislators.

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              • I don’t think I see Newtown as a synecdoche for gun violence in general, although I suppose whether it is depends on the person who invokes Newtown. For me, the tragedy at Newtown was a single, dramatic event. It was almost unspeakable violence that happened in a very visible way. Within hours of it happening, all the networks were there, speculating on then number of victims, relaying scenes of the crime, and hosting analysts to discuss the situation.

                The city-level violence is less visible to those of us who do not have to endure it. Even though I live in Chicago, the violence in some neighborhoods might get a mention on one or two news cycles when yet another innocent person is murdered–and occasionally, as in the recent high schooler who was killed shortly after the inauguration–it gets national news. And the police chief and Rahm make occasional statements of how this is all unacceptable and announce another new plan about how they’re going to stop it. But at the end of the day, people not involved in it don’t care, even if they live only a few miles from it.

                I suspect you don’t necessarily disagree with this, Elias. And I also see your point that people can seize on dramatic examples like Newtown in order to draw attention to these other problems that I’m sure you acknowledge. And maybe they should. But the specific type of Newtown like incident is, in my view something with very different dynamics.

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                • “And I also see your point that people can seize on dramatic examples like Newtown in order to draw attention to these other problems that I’m sure you acknowledge. And maybe they should. But the specific type of Newtown like incident is, in my view something with very different dynamics.”

                  The problem is that what is likely to be an appropriate response to Newtown in terms of actually preventing future Newtowns is unlikely to be an appropriate tool for preventing gun deaths in Chicago and DC.

                  The question is, Elias, are you using Newtown as a synecdoche?

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                  • I agree with your statement of the problem. But things like background checks, for example, provided they work as they’re supposed to, might be a positive good in terms of outcome. Of course, “provided they work as they’re supposed to” does a lot of work, so much so that it assumes the conclusion in order to prove itself.

                    I don’t have any informed opinion of what can be done about the violence in Chicago. I have speculation, part of it based on gun safety regulation, part of it based on encouraging investment in those neighborhoods, and part of it based on, for example, ratcheting down the drug war. To all of those plans, all I can do is add “I hope it will work.”

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                    • Background checks might stop some persons’ access to guns. They probably would not have stopped the Newtown murderer. (I haven’t followed up the news on this. Does Connecticut have background checks? Even if it does, that’s not by itself an indictment against background checks, “if done right” and made national in scope.)

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                    • Sorry, nothing personal to Chris, but when I hear a politician talk about the need for “thoughtful and considered” legislation in response to any policy they generally oppose, especially if this isn’t a Patriot Act situation, my internal translation meter changes the above phrase to “let’s run out the clock on this and move on.”

                      This is thoughtful and considered legislation. It’s so thoughtful and considered that many people believe it’s thoughtfully and considerably worn down to nothing.

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              • Newtown is frequently used as a synecdoche for gun violence, generally.

                This seems very unlikely to make for good policy. Newton is a bizarre tail case of gun violence in general, not a good example of what the US gun violence problem really looks like. It’s like using a space shuttle crash as a protoypical example of transportation safety issues in need of immediate response when we’re losing 30,000 people per year in car crashes.

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  2. Since this is something I imagine will come up in this comment thread, I wanna lay it out up-front: I don’t recommend that anyone in this thread (whether pro- or anti- gun safety) resort to claiming their interlocutors are simply arguing from “emotion.” For one, 20 children were murdered; emotion is a natural response. For another, it’s just going to start a shit-show of dueling accusations of condescension. If the thread goes down this route, I’ll close it.

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    • Your own prose seems full enough of piquant adjectives. As we have seen reasonable legislation run up onto a reef of manifest lies yesterday, in like measure, Elias, we should not expect much reasonable debate on this subject today. I, for one, am past being appalled by Congress’ response.

      You quote Camus: here is another little bit of him: Le goût de la vérité n’empêche pas la prise de parti. The taste of truth never hinders the taking of sides.

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        • Is it not rather loaded to suggest that opponents of a given measure are anti-gun safety?

          As a gun owner, I am very much in favor of gun safety. But the devil is in the details, is it not? Attempting to paper over them with loaded terms doesn’t bode well for the discussion.

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            • I would suggest some formulation like pro-gun-rights and anti-gun-rights might be more appropriate. That’s just a crib from the AP style regarding abortion, which eventually settled on pro-abortion-rights and anti-abortion-rights as being as neutral, accurate, and descriptive as possible.

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          • The given measure is background checks. The answer is Yes. I am suggesting exactly that.

            We often hear that old cliché about the Devil in the Details. The Devil seldom lurks in the details, He prefers the generalities. In fact, he’d prefer for us to believe Evil doesn’t exist at all. If 20 children are murdered, he’ll tell us that’s not really very many in the larger scheme and this was a terribly specific set of instances — regrettable to be sure, but nothing worth acting upon. These instances are very rare, he’ll tell us, gently admonishing us about how we’re sacrificing freedom and of the tyranny of the police state. That’s Old Scratch’s general line of rhetoric. He’s never about details.

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            • Except I didn’t see anything in that bill that would have changed how & when background checks are done – maybe I missed something?

              I did see stuff in that bill that was not good, which I know made a lot of people make a lot of last minute phone calls to their senators (phone calls they made after they had decided the bill was OK).

              Maybe the shameful bit wasn’t the failure to pass the bill, it was the desire to give it a last minute poison pill.

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    • Please don’t try and frame this issue as pro- or anti- gun safety. It’s disingenuous. It’s like saying pro-choice or anti-choice or trying to relabel the estate tax the death tax. It’s manipulative and insulting to your audience. And anyone who can drop a Camus quote into a public policy argument doesn’t need to resort to this sort of squalid trick.

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  3. All the conventions conspire
    To make this fort assume
    The furniture of home;
    Lest we should see where we are,
    Lost in a haunted wood,
    Children afraid of the night
    Who have never been happy or good.

    There really is no telling these bastards anything. Further debate seems pointless: all it seems to do is kick the hornets’ nest, egging the Usual Suspects on to yet another loud, paranoid and schizophrenic fugue. The gods have answered the prayers of the stupid.

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  4. In late 2012, a psychopath tortured 20 children. In response, American government has done nothing. We’ve decided not to help.

    Criticizing our policies is fair, but implying that the only way we can help is through he government is shallow. It infantilizez the public, suggesting that we are nothing, and government is all, that there are no solutions except those handed down by a superior power. This view encourages learned helplessness, teaching us that we can do nothing, only the government can. And it denigrates us by telling us that if we look for solutions outside of government, it means we don’t care.

    There is a disdain for the demos here that ultimately undermines democracy.

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    • To be fair, I do think Elias’s wording here (quoted) is a bit strong and provocative.

      But he also says specifically; “combatting gun violence is important — and there are laws I wish we’d implement to do it — but that it ultimately requires a broader cultural shift.” I’m afraid your claim that he wants to recourse to legislation only is unfounded.

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      • I respectfully disagree. He wants the cultural shift specifically as a mechanism to legislation–it is treated neither as an end in itself nor as a means to any other types of responses.

        But to be clear on my main point, I have no problem with him urging legislation, only with his implied claim that legislation is the only way to demonstrate caring.

        When people assume that government action is the only solution, I’m reminded of the time my neighbor complained about the city not clearing the street drain when it got clogged with leaves during a heavy rainstorm, so that our street got flooded. I looked at the giant pool of water, put on my boots, grabbed a rake, and cleared the drain. Of course that’s a much simpler thing than preventing gun violence, but it illustrates that instead of standing around wringing our hands while we wait for a non-responsive government, that private action can have effects, and that we can show our concern for an issue in other ways than calling our city councilmember/congressperson/senator, etc.

        The blog’s author isn’t dumb, but he isn’t making full use of his intelligence here.

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        • He wants the cultural shift specifically as a mechanism to legislation–it is treated neither as an end in itself nor as a means to any other types of responses.

          The relationship between law and culture is way too complicated for me to understand fully, much less parse here. But I see the state and society working symbiotically. So I’m definitely not in the same place as you are, but the above quote is not quite my position, either.

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          • Oh, I don’t think you wouldn’t appreciate the cultural shift on its own merits. It’s just the claim that caring requires legislation that galls. Really my objection is the same as Kazzy’s above: “don’t tell those of us who feeling differently that we have done nothing to help.”

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  5. While I agree the legislation was was ‘quite unambitious’ and probably made it through a vote, the timing is still a problem. Elias is right that it has been over 100 days since the shooting but it’s still part of that wave of debate and the opposition was able to spin that. IMO the only way to ever get any kind of legislation through is for a sizeable group of conservatives to propose something when there is enough distance between these mass shootings. Sadly that is the only hope we have. I’m pretty digusted with the NRA over this, but I’ve been disgusted with them for a long time.

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  6. A group of mostly Republican and Right-Leaning Dem Senators voted to kowtow to Americans who love the ability to buy guns measily more than they love the safety and lives of children and other innocent people.

    If you vote for those dems in a primary or their even more right-leaning Republican opponents in a general election, and you signalled through donations or membership to such and such organizations that you did it because of gun rights, and you didn’t write a letter or make a phone call to tell your Congressman you want them to vote for this bill, you’re a bad person.

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        • I’m not actually defending any particular policy position, but what if someone wrote essentially the same thing you wrote?

          “A group of mostly Democratic and Liberal-leaning Republican Senators voted to kowtow to Americans who love security more than they love freedom and constitutional rights…”

          Setting aside any quibbles about security, freedom and whether there’s any such mythical beast anymore as a liberal-leaning Republican Senator, how would you feel about that word “kowtow” in that context?

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          • If you belong to a pro-drone group (the PDA, pro-drone association) have supported drones, or have donated money on the basis of Obama’s pro drone support, and haven’t left that group and/or wrote letters or made phone calls trying to stop the drone program to your local D rep and Obama, you are also a bad person.

            I am not saying voting for an R makes you a bad person. Being pro-gun, belonging to pro gun advocacy groups, pushing against gun regulations, and then not being outraged and leaving those organizations and/or not expressing your disgust makes you a bad person.

            That isn’t all R’s. It is all R’s (and all D’s, but the group will contain far more R’s) who belong to the NRA who didn’t try to pressure the NRA to allow for this kind of sensible, minimal registration, or who donated money and attended pro-gun rights rallies, and who haven’t resigned from the NRA in disgust and/or written a letter or made a phone call indicating their disgust to Congress.

            In short, “pro-gun people” who don’t push to fix the problem in Congress that they pushed to create are bad people with blood on their hands.

            There are probably a few pro-drone Democrats (and lots of Republicans), too, bnut it is a small group, comparatively. But yes, they are bad people.

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            • That’s a harsh indictment. Because I have a different calculus of risk vs rights than you I’m somehow evil? Damn, man. I hope you don’t live in my neighborhood. But in case you do, at least I’ve got a ton of guns to protect myself in case your intolerance gets too out of hand.

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        • That would depend if you are using kowtow in the traditional Chinese usage or in the modern Western usage. I read kowtow using the modern Western usage myself. Where kowtow means abject submission or groveling, normally used in a negative connotation. I would suggest in that case yes what I said is different than what you said. I am suggesting that they did their job in a positive light, you seem to be suggesting that doing their job was a negative. If on the other hand you were using the traditional Chinese usage and meant that a group of mostly Republican and Right-Leaning Dem senator voted to show respect to the wishes of their constituents then you are correct we said the same thing.

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          • My side (whatever it is) is democratically responsive to its constituency, the other side (whatever it is) kowtows submissively to special interests.

            It’s an interesting conundrum, this representation business. On the one one hand we have the delegate model, in which we expect our agents to do what we would do ourselves, and on the other hand we have the trustee model, in which we expect our agents to do what is right, regardless of what we at that present moment would do ourselves.

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            • That is what is supposed to happen though. If enough people from each state decided that they agree with X it can be passed as a federal bill. If no, then if enough people in state A agree with X they can pass it as a state law. Isn’t that why we have states?

              I think you are talking more about the difference between the House and the Senate, yes? The House was supposed to be the immediate response to issues of the day, the young hotheads. The Senate was supposed to have people who viewed things in longer terms and in a more measured way. I’m trying to dust of the cobwebs in my mind as I search back to what I learned in my poly sci classes.

              I thought though that our more local governments, State, county, city were there to address the concerns that the governments farther away from us didn’t address adequately or couldn’t address due to them being local concerns.

              Personally I think both sides are responding to their constituencies, they just have different constituencies to respond to.

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              • The House and Senate somewhat mirror that difference, although imperfectly. But what I was really talking about was how people tend to shift their interpretations of proper representation back and forth, depending on whether or not they like what a particular agent is doing. Hence my question to the other commenter about whether he’d object to the “kowtow” phrasing if the comment was turned around.

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                • Federalist 63 lays out why we needed a Senate. The Senate was supposed to be respectable, in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can be followed.

                  Well worth reading the whole thing.

                  Fact is, since the Seventeenth Amendment and the direct election of Senators, the Senate’s mandate has changed. It takes big money to get a Senator elected. It’s essentially a venture capital proposition, backing a Senator these days. And as with VC capital, the guy who takes the money loses control of his own corporation. Often as not, no sooner than he’s made a success of the thing at a small level, he’ll be booted out of his own firm.

                  And that’s where we’re at with the Senate. The ROI on getting a senator elected is amazing. They really are powerful animals, senators. They will do as you ask. The word kowtow comes from two characters, Five and Bow. It was the ultimate bow: the bow given to the Emperor. Nobody else deserved it or got it. Kowtow means getting down all the way flat, with your face on the ground. Priests do this at ordination, they lie prostrate before the altar.

                  It’s an entirely appropriate metaphor, kowtow, in this situation. Even the majority of gun owners, who are as a species even more law-abiding than the population at large, believe background checks are a good idea. But money matters more. You don’t get elected on the strength of your character, not to the US Senate. You get elected with money, serious money from serious venture capitalists who have their own agenda. And you will do their bidding.

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                    • Fixed your HTML. Gotta get that http:// part of the URL in there.

                      So I looked this over and it doesn’t make sense to me. Stock prices are a red herring: even competitive corporations will collude and lobby jointly on behalf of their own industry sector.

                      The primary rationales for political donations are changes to tax policy, tariffs and subsidies. In all three instances, we can point to preposterous rates of return on such things as reductions in capital gains taxes, government subcontracting, access to government lands, reductions in government oversight and deregulation. That sort of thing.

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                    • Qub,
                      I’m just stating facts as I’ve heard ’em. I don’t claim to be two shakes and a hot skinny model to boot.

                      But I do know people, folks who have worked for high finance, for governmental officials, and for nastier people than you’d hope to ever meet.

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                    • Look, capitalism has two forces at work: competition and efficiency. It’s more efficient to cooperate where you can and compete where you must. This isn’t a matter of some random guy on a blog looking down his nose at someone else’s paper. It’s common sense.

                      The health insurance industry is represented by Karen Ignagni. Contrary to his promise not to have closed-door meetings with lobbyists, President Obama did bring Karen Ignagni up to the Oval Office. She told him to his face — if you propose single payer, I will run a billion dollars worth of attack ads.

                      And Obama blinked. AHIP only ran 15 million dollars worth of attack ads, which is a concession to political realities. Obama’s ACA turned into an enormous windfall for the health insurance industry.

                      Let’s not allow our noses to get twisted out of joint here. There are more measures of ROI than the stock price, which would only vary if one corporation was lobbying on its own. And why would a corporation lobby on its own? The Senate can’t pass a law exempting one corporation from regulation or taxes.

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                  • Is it time to say that the concept of direct election of Senators by the people is broken? That one of the main reasons for changing from the system of having state legislatures appoint Senators is no longer valid. I know it is a constitutional thang, but what about just letting the states appoint their own Senators again?

                    That or really do some meaningful reform on campaign finance laws.

                    Whichever.

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                    • The 17th Amendment is one of those damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t issues. Before the 17th Amendment the Senate was hugely corrupt, an issue which had afflicted Britain’s Parliament: you could simply buy an appointment to the Senate.

                      And it was an awkward process at a state level. What if a state legislature couldn’t agree on a Senate candidate? The Constitution had established two Senators per state. The nation might have done better to go with one senator per state so the legislature voting would be a simpler fight. One Senator per state would have pushed significant votes down to the state legislatures, who would then vote on a given bill before the US Senate. At least that’s the way I’ve always thought about it.

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                    • I’m not at all sure that having senators appointed by corrupt state legislatures will be an improvement. I am sure that, given the number of state legislatures currently controlled by Republicas through both fair means and foul, it will allow Republican gerrymandering to give them control of both houses of Congress.

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                    • While we continue to hoot and holler about the political parties, the movers and shakers are well content that we should buy the Blue and Red swag from the stadium vendors.

                      Perhaps we could make a few changes to campaign finance laws, following the NASCAR model. We’d have jumpsuits for Congresscritters and they’d have to wear their PAC logos. This is a bit dated, but here’s how we’d apportion the industry logos from 2010

                      These industries don’t take sides, politically. They work with who’s in power. If one lobbying firm has stronger GOP connections while the GOP is in power, that’s who they’ll use. If the Democrats gain power, they’ll use another lobbying firm.

                      That’s the real problem with the 17th Amendment. I said it to Jason, I’ll say it to you. Insofar as there’s a difference between Government and the People, that difference is defined by a lack of congruency between the Government and the People. The Senate is supposed to represent that difference. It just doesn’t any more.

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            • “On the one one hand we have the delegate model, in which we expect our agents to do what we would do ourselves, and on the other hand we have the trustee model, in which we expect our agents to do what is right, regardless of what we at that present moment would do ourselves.”

              I’ve never framed it as such, but I’ve asked all my friends in politics exactly which of these is what is supposed to be, at least based on founding documents an ideals. None of them could answer.

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              • Kazzy,
                Most of the founding fathers were patrician sods. They would have gone with the trustee model, most particularly because lines of communication were poor and very very slow (so actually, you have less distinction between the two models).

                Now Franklin and some of the Quakers might have thought differently, but they were the odd men out.

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          • 1. Popular opinion was mostly on the side of passing this minimal law, even in many of the districts that voted against it. However, a vocal minority wanted the law stopped. And our broken system encourages representatives to go against the majority in these cases.

            2. In some cases a representative who votes against the majority is actually doing the right thing.

            Obama should close Guantanamo, even if most people don’t want him to. TARP needed to be passed, even if it wasn’t popular in the short run. The War in Iraq was popular. Bush shouldn’t have done it. And popular opinion was eventually for immediate withdrawal, which would’ve been a bad idea, too.

            We have representative and not direct democracy for good reasons. If representatives go too far from the will of the majority, they lose, but they have a moral and civic duty to do what is best even in cases where a majority disagrees.

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  7. A few random comments:

    I’m willing to discuss changes in the various firearm regulations that actually could be effective, none in the recent offering, in my opinion were, certainly not if your intention was “to prevent another Sandy Hook”. That was clearly the underlying meme with all the various victim’s parents on the Hill over the last few days and in the Rose Garden.

    I find it curious that many folks will talk about how the drug war needs to end but fail to see the parallels in firearm legislation. Is it not clear to you that banning firearms-and yes there have been calls for this-and like legislation, will result in similar outcomes as that of making various drugs illegal?

    I take exception to the words “tortured 20 children”. Unless you’re telling me he water boarded them or put a gun in their face and said he was going to kill them, I don’t call that torture. Massacred, murdered yes, torture, no. If you’re going to use torture, then agree that what we’ve done in Afghanistan and Iraq is torture too and demand prosecution of the various admin officials.

    Lastly, while the “knowledge base” here at the LOOG is rather high about the various mechanics and aspects of firearms, as it is with many subjects, that’s not the same with our elected officials. When I can watch a video of a legislator stating that 30 round magazines will eventually be ‘consumed’, clearly indicating ZERO understanding of the subject matter at hand, it gives me pause to think that any legislation introduced would not be effective. Those bozos don’t even know what they are talking about.

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    • This legislation is more like a drug regulation like this: you can sell crack, but you have do a background chek to make sure the person isn’t a con or a seriously mentally ill person. Of course, we already regulate the sale of a lot of dangerous drugs.

      Regulated drug sales are probably better than a totally unregulated market. It’s just that the regulations should look different for the different products being regulated.: guns and drugs.

      Also, one could draw the analogy with car registration or car regulations for safety.

      No one is discussing a ban, or near-ban on guns, but I would point out other first world countries make those bans work very well, unlike drug bans, which tend to be counterproductive everywhere.

      So the drug anology proves nothing.

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      • Of course the analogy proves something. It demonstrates that, regardless of the law and the amount of restrictions, those who want a particular product WILL obtain it.

        We also can deduce, based upon illegal drugs, the following:
        1) That the potency (firepower) will increase. If you want to buy a hand gun, you’re likely not going for a pissy 38 cal, you’ll go for the 45 acp. Hell, maybe you’ll even go for the fully automatic pistols.
        2) There will be more folks setting up shop to convert / manuf fully automatic weapons-probably mostly pistols becuase they penalities will converge.
        3) Violence will increase.

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  8. Just a question. Isn’t felon voting rights determined by the states? Don’t some states allow felons the right to vote? Currently don’t some states regulate that if you buy firearms online you still have to have a background check and the firearm has to be delivered to a licensed dealer before you can pick it up? I think the more correct tweet would have been. Felon rights are regulated by the state not the federal government in the same way that buying weapons online is regulated by the states.

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  9. At this point, I’d settle for our wonderful liberally biased media calling a filibuster a filibuster, instead of reporting that the bill failed to garner the 60 required votes.

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  10. If people are concerned about felons buying guns over the internet why no
    A) Increase the penalty for felons who attempt to buy guns
    B) Have federal agents do sting operations where they sell guns over the internet and arrest in felons who attempt to buy guns from them.

    I don’t think the NRA would oppose these measures.

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    • We’re fixing to have one heck of a National Conversation about What Is To Be Done in the days that follow the release of information about the Violent Ideology behind the attacks in Boston.

      I’m pretty sure that we agree that there will be a lot of laws that could be passed that wouldn’t have done anything to prevent the attacks in Boston, let alone prevent any theoretical ones in the future (atheist god forbid).

      There are a lot of laws that we passed in haste in the days that followed tragedy in the past… laws that did little more than make the people who passed them feel like something important had been done. I’d like just a little more reassurance that we’re actually doing something, instead of trying to make ourselves feel something.

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  11. I think I’ll that the part of this bill people were objecting to wasn’t the background checks It’s the record keeping, if there was a bill the required background checks with no record keeping it would have passed easily.

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    • yeah because if you have a background check now the dealer you get it from is Already Required to keep the paperwork, and turn it in to the ATF when the store closes. expecting future law to work the same a previous law is just silly i guess.

      and if there is no record keeping how do you know the check has been done? magic gun fairy dust on the carpet?

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      • If what’s really important is background checks then introduce background check bill without record keeping requirements. The fact that they wouldn’t submit a background check bill with the record keeping shows what their hidden agenda is. You can make sure the background checks are conducted by having federal agents attempt the buy guns in sting operations.

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  12. Elias,

    I’m a bit frustrated by this post because I feel like you haven’t articulated much of anything about what you’d actually like to see done, but rather have simply offered some blanket criticism because your unstated expectations have not been met.

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    • I understand that. There are different kinds of posts; some are meant to persuade and some are meant to emote. This was the latter, and while they’re not as common at the League as the former, I believe they still have value. It’s just not universal.

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  13. Ok, real serious question here. How do you read these proposed bills that have a bunch of snippets that are to be added or removed from various sections, subsections of an already existing bill. Do I have to have a copy of the current bill, find the section and then compare what is and what will be? Is there a website or program that does this? Is there a bill versioning and revision control system? And if not aren’t there enough programmers on this sight that one could be created? I know sometimes the bill title sound great and I am all for it until I read the details. It is really frustrating to try and read the details and understand them in the context of the current bill.

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    • Most real people don’t. It doesn’t get codified that way until after the law gets passed, anyhow. (yup, they write the laws in legalese after they pass them).

      The substance of the bill is distributed beforehand…

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      • Ok, if I have this right. They voted on sections of S.AMDT.711. That made amendments to S.649, which amended something else, not sure on that though. All I have learned from this exercise in futility is: no wonder Congress doesn’t know what is in the bills, and no wonder I am so ill-informed. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t be certain what this bill actually did and whether I would be supportive of it. Yes I support background checks, but am I sure I support background checks as outlined in this bill? I don’t know.

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        • Calling your Congressman and asking “can you give me the same bullet points as you gave him”? Should get you exactly what you want. And you CAN ask about details. We employ congressional staffers so that you can know about things in as much detail as you like. They’re knowledge experts that we employ.

          … it’s not like you’re asking for them to do more than send you an e-mail of a preexisting doc, or point you towards the guy who knows this off the top of his head.

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        • It’s a mess. Eugene Volokh found some pretty bad legal provisions in the Manchin/Toomey amendments that would have had the opposite effect of what they claimed, due to their particular wording.

          I don’t think the bill failed because of the right, I think it failed because of early, massive overreaching by the left, along with actions taken in Connecticut and New York. Next time lock Diane Feinstein in a closet along with the other usual suspects. Under an amendment pushed prior to the Manchin/Toomey “compromise” I calculated that I’d face about 6,000 years in jail for things gun owners do every day. A person could get five years in federal prison for flipping their boat, having their rifle fall overboard, and spending two days walking back to civilization. Half of Congress would’ve gone to jail for five years for not bringing their guns to DC (where they’re banned) and leaving them with their spouse or house-sitter back in their home district.

          The final one was still vague, requiring a fee or charge (to be set later by the Attorney General) for a private transfer. So is the charge going to be $10 or $1,000? The wording requiring a background check on selling as the result of something seen online or in an ad was also vague, so a seller couldn’t be sure if he had to run a background check or not. What if the neighbor buying your gun heard about it through word of mouth from someone else who’d seen it online? Jail or no jail?

          Under the mental health provisions, it was undetermined whether taking Paxil 10 years ago to help you sleep would result in losing all your guns and landing in the federal pen, or if they just meant to focus on paranoid schizophrenics.

          Normally you’d think legislators would get the benefit of the doubt on such provisions, but simultaneous with the push for this bill, New York state police seized the guns from an old man who’d taken anti-anxiety medications so he wouldn’t be nervous about going to the hospital (he was terrified of the sight of blood), threatening him with the full weight of the New York gun laws just pushed through by Cuomo. New York is already trying to walk-back other elements of their super-emergency panic law, like magazine restrictions, so they can salvage something of it before federal courts strike the whole thing down as violating Heller.

          When you have legislators running around in a mad rush to do something reckless and crazy, trust is going to be in short supply.

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        • The back ground checks are def in full effect. Last week I purchased a break-over 12 ga. as we have been dispatching rattle snakes at an increasing rate this season.

          The wife wasn’t happy about a face to face with a bobcat a few months ago. I often thought this area would be prime for mountain lions, but a damn large bobcat has filled that niche. The first one I thought was a fluke, and that maybe wife had to much of an adrenaline rush. After the third local sighting I had to accept that we have a thriving population of bobcats that are near scale to a Rottweiler.

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  14. I can understand and sympathize with the cultural desire for a society less prone to violence, less well armed. I would not block such a shift.

    Problem is, I’m being told that such would be — must be — led by an entity defined by its claim of “right” to use violence for its own interests, which continues to get more innocent blood on its hands every day.

    Again, culturally I understand. Politically? “you first”.

    Super destroyer up thread mentioned New York initially making a gaffe by subjecting the police to the same law as the public. That such is seen as a gaffe at all says a lot.

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    • Exactly, it’s telling that police walking around with only seven bullets is considered unthinkable.

      What’s especially depressing is that demilitarizing the police is as much a political non-starter as (some kind of) gun control.

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  15. Referring to the Tweet screen shot up above, I would love to know how a felon is supposed to be able to buy a firearm on the internet without a background check?

    Seriously, does no one understand when a background check must be done, & when it doesn’t have to be, and what laws surround transactions when it’s not required?

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    • I would love to know how a felon is supposed to be able to buy a firearm on the internet without a background check?

      By buying from a private party in the same state. Armslist.com filters its classified ads by state for just that reason.

      Any other questions?

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      • So said felon is, at most, using Armslist (or a similar site) to find a relatively local private seller.

        Here I thought he was implying I could go Cabela’s website & just order up a rifle with no background check.

        Of course, using the internet to find a seller is something that could still be done had the bill passed, and the biggest impediment to the sale would be that the seller could not mail the rifle directly to the felon, he’d have to arrange to meet him somewhere to do the exchange. Which would be pretty easy (& save on shipping costs), and the lack of background check on this sale would be enforced… how?

        I’ve said before that I have no problem with background checks, but this obsession with private transfers/sales is so much wasted energy. It won’t stop the black market in weapons, and the number of possible crimes there is any evidence it could have stopped is very small.

        As I’ve said before, if you want to increase the number of checks for private sales, open the system to everyone, so people don’t have to pay an FFL to do the check. It still won’t stop the black market, and not every private sale will use it, but I bet you’ll get a lot more such checks happening.

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        • So no big deal that there’s a website specifically designed to facilitate unchecked gun sales, because without it a felon could just go door to door saying “Hi, would you sell me a semti-automatic weapon with no questions asked?” until someone says “Yes”.

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        • Well nothing ever completely ends a black market. What the aim would be is to make the black market difficult to find and hard to use.

          I don’t know the particulars of the bill since i was sure it wouldn’t pass i didn’t pay that much attention. Would a possible solution to make internet sales safer is that the gun has to be delivered to a licensed gun shop who has to do the background check when the buyer shows up. Gun shops certainly wouldn’t mind the extra business. The fee for the check could be set at a nominal 5 or 10 bucks so it wouldn’t be an impediment but would pay for the gun shops time.

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        • Well, the snag is that most of the guns will never see any kind of background check because they don’t have any current paperwork. For example, I used to own about a dozen guns that would at best trace to Democrats I’ve never even met, who probably bought them from someone else equally anonymous, probably going back decades. Why would I care about updating non-existent paperwork?

          Under system A I can sell the gun to a friend for cash in about 5 minutes, with no repercussions because the gun never was traceable back to me. Why would I chose to opt for system B where I have to drag my friend down to a gun store and involve a third party, the federal government, and Lord only knows what amount of red tape and fees, fully aware that no jury in my state is every going to convict someone for anything short of supplying rocket launchers to Al Qaeda.

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