Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our founding fathers and the second amendment...

While on my recent trip to the Philadelphia area, I took a horse and buggy tour of historic Philadelphia. I saw the site of the home where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. I saw Independence Hall where the Declaration and Constitution were signed. I saw statues and graves of unknown Revolutionary War soldiers. I saw the Liberty Bell. I saw many of the places where our country began. One of my readers sent me a comment that revealed to me a unique interpretation of the second amendment and our country's founding not shared by the majority.You can  see it in its' entirety as a comment on this blog post. So here are some of the words of this reader for your perusal:
"We were founded as a Republic and central to that idea was that people have inherent rights that pre-date all government, all laws and that those rights cannot be given away, nor taken away by anyone. For that reason, the founders spent a lot of time detailing not what a person MAY do, liberal freedom was assumed, but what the government may NOT do. Since your side doesn't believe that everyone "needs" a gun" you feel justified in having the government pass laws based on "need", the laws you support tend to codify that into restrictions that require the proof of some sort of need, to allow ownership, sell, transfer, carry concealed or whatever.   
If the anti-gun side had been able to pass ALL of the laws they have ever advocated. MY life and the life of millions of citizens would be one of great restrictions, denials and I would have to jump through all sorts of legal hoops to own a hand gun, if it was allowed at all.
The argument for restrictive law is the argument that people cannot be trusted to make the "correct" choice so the legal behavior must be limited to the range of "correct" choices. The permissive argument is that "the people" are fully capable of deciding for THEMSELVES what they need or don't need and acting on that knowledge freely. (and paying the price for being wrong,evil or stupid) 
I can't remember who said. "It is the job of the citizen to keep the government in check, not the job of the government to keep the citizen in check." That is actually what my side believes for almost all aspects of government so supporting permissive gun laws is just being consistent with that philosophy and not likely to change."
The founding fathers argued some of these points for sure. But if we are to believe in this view of the world, we would just let people do whatever they please with few or no restrictions and let things take care of themselves. No proof necessary. You shouldn't have to prove that you are or are not a felon, a domestic abuser, adjudicated mentally ill, drug abuser or a minor when buying a gun. So we let the felon decide for himself when and if he needs a gun? Let's take that idea further.  I think anyone should be able to practice medicine, license or not. Just as anyone should be able to walk into a classroom and teach our kids. No training required. And as to driving a car, why not let just let 13 year old daugher drive, no permit, no license? She can decide for herself if she's ready to drive. That should work out pretty well. Drunk drivers? Who cares? Sight problems- hey, why not? Certainly anyone could come in and wire your house and if it burns down as a result-who needs a fire fighter? Just call your neighbor and tell them to bring over the garden hose. I think everyone should be able to drive as fast or as slowly as they want. Surely we don't need to have seat belts or air bags. So what if a few thousand people die from car accident injuries. Just let people decide for themselves what they need or don't need. Immunizations? Eh! So what if a few kids die or lose their hearing from measles or get polio and suffer from the disease for the rest of their lives. You can take care of all of the needs of your child yourself. Accountants to do your taxes or audit businesses- anyone could do that job. You can represent yourself in court just fine without a lawyer. Some people hate lawyers anyway so who needs them? Want someone to build your house? Just hire your friends. They could design it and then order all the materials and rent the trucks and other equipment. Whatever. I think this is the way to go, for sure.

I would bet that the founding fathers would not agree that people should live and let live with no interference from government. They would have come down on the side of " Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness" which leads to some restrictions in order to keep citizens safe. I am betting that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison did not envision this set of statistics showing how often firearms of all sorts are used to kill Americans. And notice, readers, that most of the firearm homicides and deaths in general are committed by people who know the victim. Again, the NRA gun rights extremists would have us believe that everyone needs a gun to protect themselves from an amorphous, unknown attacker somewhere waiting to get them. They are wrong. And because of their hyped up fear about the unknown, more people own guns who shouldn't have them and use them in crimes against people they know and/or love. Also notice that other methods of homicide don't even come close to firearms as a cause of death. No matter. According to NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre, "our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules." And that's the world of the gun rights extremists.

Do those same folks think this Florida incident reflects the founding fathers' view of the second amendment?
Gauntlett said when officers arrived, 18-year-old David Alyn Penney, wearing camouflage clothing and armed with two AK-47 assault rifles fired multiple rounds at their patrol car.
The two officers then got out of their car and returned fire. Both officers were injured: Officer Clinton Wise: Shot in the foot, taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Officer Spencer Endsley: Hit with shattered glass in the eyes, face and arm, taken to St. Cloud Hospital.
After shooting at the officers, Penney then shot himself in the head. He was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center's intensive care unit, though Gauntlett said he expects him to survive.
(...)    “Another crazy day in St. Cloud man,” Murray said. "This town is turning corrupt man. Everyone is losing their marbles man cause of the economy. I don't know. Everyone is just turning against each other. That's just how it goes around here." 
Was this a justified incident of self defense? No. It was just plain senseless and crazy. It's lucky for the guy that he didn't kill those officers. What was the young man doing wearing camouflage clothing walking around outside with an assault rifle? "That's just how it goes around here"? Is this, then, acceptable behavior? Have we come to thinking that it's just normal for guys with camouflage clothing to be walking around on our streets with assault rifles? What kind of country is that? Is this what our founding fathers envisioned when they wrote the second amendment. The answer is a resounding NO.

And while we're at it, let's take a look at a new report which has been released about trends in homicides in our country. Is this the America our founding fathers envisioned? This article adds to the one above and provides evidence that firearms are responsible for more homicides than any other kind of weapon or method- as if we didn't already know this. There is so much here to comment about that I will let readers read it for themselves. But one thing that interested me was the relationship between victims and their killers. In cases where the relationship is known, most homicides are committed by an acquaintance or family member and firearms are most often used in these cases.
Across the 28-year period, the percentage of homicides committed by intimate partners that involved a gun declined from 69% of all intimate homicides in 1980 to 51% in 2008, a26% decline. 
Compared to homicides committed by intimates, friends/acquaintances, or strangers, homicides committed by a non-intimate family member were more likely to involve weapons other than guns (such as knives, blunt objects, or personal weapons).
Among homicides for which the victim/offender relationships were unknown, the percentage of homicides involving a gun increased 33%, from 59% in 1980 to 78% in 2008
I will end with this article about the intersection of guns with domestic homicides and domestic abuse. 
The US’ founding fathers explicitly chose to include an amendment in our constitution allowing citizens to own firearms.  Over the last century this has become a contentious part of a national debate around gun laws.  Pro-NRA folks will always maintain a right to possess weapons, to “defend ourselves” and argue that “it’s the person, not the gun, who kills.”  Indeed it is the person, yet it is also the availability and access to guns that significantly increases the likelihood of being killed.  We in the US have easy access whether legitimate (going through the background check) or illegitimate (purchasing from the black market) to guns.  They are around and accessible to anyone with the intent to get one.
Guns do not make us safer.  Guns frequently do not defend us.  Due to the nature of domestic violence, a person’s sense-of-self shrinks, as she is repeatedly hammered with insults, threats and abuse all tactics that induce fear, therefore, even if a survivor had access to a gun, I’m not sure she would choose to use it in self-defense.  Those who do are often unjustly placed in prison. Nearly 80% of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence. 
(...)   Former President and humanitarian Jimmy Carter stated an axiom in 1976 still pertinent today, “We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.”  We certainly cannot expect guns to stop playing a role in domestic violence either here in the US or abroad as long as they remain so very available.  We can expect a slow shift in the culture as it pertains to violence, more progressive ways to safety plan and an increased awareness about the numerous intersections of small arms and domestic violence but how many women will have to die during this shift?  That we do not know.   My hope is none.  But that may be wishful thinking. 
One of the tidbits I learned from the driver of the horse drawn carriage in Philadelphia is that the leading cause of death for women in the days of the founding fathers was childbirth followed by burns due to fires. In those days, the kitchens were separate from the homes with only one door to the outside. Women wore their petticoats and other long dresses and bulky clothing while cooking. Often their clothing caught on fire and they had only way out of the small kitchen. Dying due to bullet wounds from guns of spouses was not a major cause of death. It didn't happen in those days though guns were available. They were, of course, very different guns and not the small, sometimes semi-automatic,  easily held guns of today. Guns were then used mostly for hunting or for being ready to serve the state militia before the National Guard was established for such purpose. It was a different culture and a different time.

Did the founding fathers anticipate that their writing of the second amendment and the now individual right to own guns for self defense, as determined by the Supreme Court in the Heller case, would lead to women being killed by their domestic partners with those very same guns? Did they anticipate that the big money made by the gun industry selling arms to citizens all over the world would lead to the murders of so many innocent people ( many of them women and children) world-wide? The second amendment and the adherence to it by the gun rights extremists who are  uncompromising about passing sensible laws that don't violate their rights, is adding to the perpetuation of violence all over the world. That is not, I am sure, what the founding fathers meant when they included the second amendment in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. Common sense would have told them that Americans in future years would be reasonable about what it meant in their own time. Common sense tells us that over time, the country and the world has changed and gun laws need to be passed to deal with the current culture, not the past.


  1. "The second amendment and the adherence to it by the gun rights extremists who are uncompromising about passing sensible laws that don't violate their rights, is adding to the perpetuation of violence all over the world. That is not, I am sure, what the founding fathers meant when they included the second amendment in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. Common sense would have told them that Americans in future years would be reasonable about what it meant in their own time. Common sense tells us that over time, the country and the world has changed and gun laws need to be passed to deal with the current culture, not the past."

    Well I think we finally got to the core of your argument as an anti gun extremist (if we are gun rights extremists) I would suggest that you push to have the second amendment repealed as you seem to see it as a hindrance to your ability to pass the laws you need to pass to keep the world safe from the gun owners of the US

  2. Japete: “I am betting that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison did not envision this set of statistics showing how often firearms of all sorts are used to kill Americans.”

    Considering that they lived in a time when the homicide rate was quadruple today’s rate- yeah, I think they could envision a society where Americans are killed. Check out this graph:


  3. Good idea, Anthony. I'll get right on it.

  4. Thanks, TS. As you read, I was talking about violence caused by guns in our country. No mention of the cause of the violence in the early days but, (Sigh) it looks like America has always led the way- " The overall story is that homicide rates declined substantially (as did rates of interpersonal violence of all sorts). The drop in violent crime in the U.S. after about 1850 was not as fast or as consistent as it was in Western Europe. That is when the striking violence gap between the U.S. and Europe opened up. The graph also shows that progress was hardly uniform, as there were many upswings of violence. Spurts often coincide with wars and the aftermaths of war – notably having many demobilized soldiers, trained and armed fighters, roaming the land. (See this paper for one analysis of the war effect.) Another short-term influence is bloody competition among armed criminals – for example, over alcohol distribution during Prohibition and over crack cocaine during the 1980s."

  5. It seems like you took that as a joke. If your agenda included that you would not have to worry about "violating our rights" and you would be more honest about what you were trying to do.

  6. Sometimes you guys say such ridiculous things that the only response is humor because trying to reason does not work. You don't believe anything I say anyway.

  7. "our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules"

    japete, you quote that often but you usually omit an important part of LaPierre's quote:

    "They understood that if the only guys with the guns are the bad guys, we're screwed. Our founding fathers knew that, and it's no different today."

    If you omit that part, the "guys with the guns make the rules" quote can be misinterpreted. We wouldn't want that, right?

  8. For sure, Jay. We wouldn't want to misconstrue the message coming from the NRA and that is that unless we do things their way, they will make sure to let electeds know how they feel and threaten them in several ways which is done routinely. So the first part of that quote is really the one that counts. But given that you quote the second part, it's simply not true. Most homicides are committed by people who know the victim in some way and many are by previously law abiding citizens until they pulled the trigger. And then there are the suicides and the accidents, not committed by the bad guys. So the argument falls flat and is not true. Nice try though.

  9. "Most homicides are committed by people who know the victim in some way and many are by previously law abiding citizens until they pulled the trigger."

    But don't you claim that you won't try to prevent gun ownership by law abiding citizens?

    (LaPierre: "if the only guys with the guns are the bad guys, we're screwed")

    "So the argument falls flat and is not true"

    So if the only guys with the guns are the bad guys, then no problem?

    I get it that you also think that good guys with guns are just as much a problem -- perhaps more so. But when you keep saying that, don't you see why gunowners are skeptical when you claim that you won't try to prevent gun ownership by law abiding citizens?

  10. Just pointing out the truth and not trying to do anything with it. Guns are dangerous. You guys seem to forget that when you say that we should just let all of you law abiding citizens do anything you want with your guns.

  11. Did anyone see the video where one of the "occupy" protesters said that in America the "Golden Rule" has become: "Those with the gold make the rules."That might just sum up the "occupy" protesters' main point. Are they just as wrong as LaPierre?

    Actually LaPierre is not really correct. I believe that there are indeed democracies with low gun ownership by the voters. However, those countries that are the opposite of democracies seem to be rather consistent in denying gun ownership to ordinary citizens. Can you imagine how horrified the North Korean rulers would be at the thought of gun ownership by their ordinary citizens?

  12. "we should just let all of you law abiding citizens do anything you want with your guns"

    What we think you should not allow us to do with our guns:

    1. Shoot other people, other than for self-defense.

    2. Shoot other people's property, other than with permission.

    3. Shoot at all, in a situation that would put other people or other people's property at risk.

    You don't see us gun nuts arguing against the laws against assault, vandalism, or reckless endangerment.

    But then, the argument has never been about what we should be allowed to do with our guns.

    The argument has been about where we should be allowed to possess them. Which is something very different.

  13. Jay and jdege- isn't it time to do something else with your evening? Good night.

  14. "...So we let the felon decide for himself when and if he needs a gun? "
    I missed the part where I advocated any such thing. If you hadn't noticed the "right" is pretty big on law and order since a lot of us are cops and soldiers.

    The law that says that felons can't have guns is deemed Constitutional based on the "except for participation in rebellion, or other crimes" clause in the Constitution. It's what is used to deny felons the vote and is accepted to allow other, otherwise protected RIGHTS, to be removed from felons.

    I'm not a felon, therefore none of that should apply to me. I don't care what people "might" do. I only care what they actually do and then I punish THEM.

    Either I missed your point totally, or you are confused about what is a State responsibility vs Federal and what is "not a good idea" but not illegal.

    Your examples are almost all STATE regulated actions, not Federal laws.

    "Let's take that idea further. I think anyone should be able to practice medicine, license or not. "

    Let me take a couple.

    There is no Federal requirement for a doctor to be licensed. Licenses are required by the individual states and the qualifications vary from state to state. Before 1847 there was no "MD".

    A federal DEA number is required to be able to prescribe controlled substances, but otherwise it is totally controlled by the states.

    Minors,Drunks, Blind... Driving Cars:
    License requirements are established by the State only.

    It is legal right now for a 13 year old blind girl to go buy a sports car or a big rig semi, not title , register, or license it and drive it all she wants.

    She just has to stay on her own property. The STATE restriction is that she can't take it on public roads.

    "Driving fast or slow.." Speed limits are set by the state. Nevada can set it to 100 and Ohio 65.
    The Federal government has no legal right to set the speed limit of a state road.

    What are you talking about here? There is NO FEDERAL or STATE requirement for immunization of children. There are guidelines.

    from the CDC "No federal vaccination laws exist, but all 50 states require certain vaccinations for children entering public schools. "

    There is a STATE requirement but ONLY if that child wants to attend public school. The religious and home schoolers often refuse and there is nothing to be done about it. They can even get waivers to go to school if they push it.

    Totally legal. You don't have to be a CPA to do someone's taxes or the books of a business.

    Self Representation at legal proceedings:
    Totally legal. People represent themselves all the time. Everything from a local traffic court to homicide.

    There are NO zoning codes across a lot of the country. Where my farm is located I can hire ANYONE to build my house. Hiring the Amish is a very popular thing to do, and they have NO licenses. (they do great work though..)

    Actual Freedom can be scary. It's hard to accept that people might not want to choose what is "obviously" the right thing from your point of view.

    It's even harder when they pay the price for that decision. To accept that "stupid is supposed to hurt" but that is the 'right' way if not the easy way.

    C.S. Lewis said it best

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

  15. 18 Echo- all I can say is - ARE YOU SERIOUS??

  16. I'm pretty sure I didn't get any facts wrong about state vs federal vs 'legal but not smart'

    States vs federal authority matters to me. That's why I sided with you on H.R. 822 even though I'd love to see it, and my fellow gunny friends disagree with me.

    When you wrote this, did you think your examples were currently illegal behavior at either the state or federal level, or should be or just bad ideas?

    The gun laws you advocate would be federal laws but the examples you gave are all either simply legal or state responsibilities.

    Like the Medical license. DId you think it was a federal license?

    I assumed that you knew that people represent themselves in court all the time and that immunization of children is not legally required unless the child wants to attend public schools etc..

    You pointed out some things that might be dumb to do on your own, but being dumb is a long, long way from being illegal. People are free to be dumb.

    That's why I wondered if I missed your point.

  17. You know, 18 Echo, all I am trying to say is that both the state and local governments play an important role in making sure that people are safe and that the right people are doing the important things in our lives. I don't really care who decides it, but doctors need to have licenses, teachers need to be trained and have licenses, children should be immunized so they don't get sick, die and pass diseases along to others as epidemics, CPAs need to be licensed or certified because they are auditing big financial firms and governmental agencies for our protection from fraud and abuse- something currently in the news cycles; lawyers should be licensed and have taken the bar exam so they can do the right thing for their clients. As an educator, I know how important my training, my license, my continuing education was for the benefit of the children and the school district. Two family members are in the medical profession and needed to pass major exams to be licensed to practice and need to do continuing ed for the safety and benefit of their patients. One family member is a CPA. He needed to pass a rigorous exam to become one and then went on to audit major companies all over the U.S. In fact, he worked for Arthur Andersen when it imploded in the Enron scandal though had nothing to do with any of it and ended up at another major accounting firm. These are important. Showing proof that you are a citizen, not a felon, not adjudicated mentally ill, not a domestic abuser, not a minor- all are very important for public safety if you are buying a gun from an FFL. All I said was that proof of competence, etc. is extremely important for our society and our safety. What I got from you and others is that you don't need to provide that. We should just trust you. We should just trust your 13 year old daughter to drive without proof that she can pass the test and know what's she doing. What you came back with was ridiculous in my opinion because it appears you are saying that none of this is necessary in modern society. I disagree with that viewpoint whole heartedly.

  18. Heck, you want us to trust YOU with your competence to protect our rights and freedoms and our safety. So...please....tell me....where is YOUR competency to determine whether someone NEEDS a firearm?

  19. What I say about "need" is my opinion. I am not determining your "need" for a firearm. I am just saying I don't agree with you about what you think you need. That's different than my deciding what you need. I am one person here.

  20. Good grief, 18 Echo. You have a lot to say. I agree with some of it and not with some of it. I don't have time to respond to it now- perhaps later. I am not going to publish it until I have time to respond.