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A Serious Argument out of the Brady Campaign

In contrast to a conversation that goes nowhere, last week, Doug Pennington of the Brady Campaign threw down on Megan McArdle.  Obviously they took Megan’s comments seriously enough to respond to them.  But Doug, in his response, ditches much of the usual Brady nonsense and actually talks about some real issues:

Contrary to McArdle’s framework, the issue here isn’t whether firearms have a magical, mesmerizing power to make good people do bad things.  The issue is whether fallible human beings carrying the best tool for killing people to a heated protest increases the possibility of a lethally violent outcome – something of particular concern at a Presidential venue.  Other issues include whether adding guns to Presidential events – outside of trained law enforcement – makes the Secret Service’s job unnecessarily harder, and whether being confronted with a gun-carrying protester can be intimidating and stifle debate.

I’m with Megan that I’ll defer to the Secret Service on how best to protect the President, but I actually share Doug’s concern that the open display of guns could be seen by others as threatening, and may discourage people from speaking out, but I’m also concerned that people are assaulting those who disagree with them, even going so far as biting fingers off their opponents.  Yes, it is emotionally charged.  Which is why ordinary, well adjusted individuals might not be unreasonable in wanting tools to protect themselves in such situations.

I’ve always gotten the impression that Brady folks believe that violent criminals are just ordinary people who just snap.  But murders, particularly assassins, tend to be more than just your average “fallible human beings”.  Most scientific research into the minds of violent criminals shows them to be quite different from ordinary people.  But Doug continues:

The problem with McArdle’s view, and the gun libertarian position generally, is the assumption of a damaged analogy between unregulated speech and unregulated gun carrying.  The assumption is that since prior restraint against speech is bad by definition, prior restraint against unrestricted gun carrying must be equally bad, or at least deeply suspect.  Except that it’s not, because they are radically different things when put into practice in the world real human beings live in.

Whoa!  Real philosophical arguments coming out of the Brady Campaign rather than emotionally charged nonsense and drivel?   Let’s hope this isn’t a trend.  We might actually have to start making arguments back instead of just mockery.  I don’t think our argument has ever been that the right to keep and bear arms has to be absolutely identical to the right to free speech, or freedom of religion.  Whether or not prior restraint when it comes to guns should be treated the same way as for free speech is a matter of debate.  But what we do demand is that the right to keep and bear arms be taken seriously, as we do with other constitutional rights.  And that means you don’t get to pass laws and enact policy based on the justification that some behavior makes you uncomfortable.

We can also take steps to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns as a general matter – for example, criminal background checks for all gun sales (a policy McArdle agrees with), limiting bulk purchases of firearms to cut the illegal gun market; and restricting access to military-style assault weapons.

OK, now we’re back to ten Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers.  The Brady penitence for our wicked ways.  I’ve said before, I’m willing to sit down and talk about background checks on private transfers, but certain things have to be taken off the table first, like being forced to go through an FFL, and you have to be willing to talk about how NICS works too, and address some of our concerns with it.

At the end of the day, reducing gun violence isn’t about any one law, but is about a collection of policies that work together as a safety net to prevent as many needless gun deaths and injuries as we can in this country.  We can do these things while respecting the Second Amendment, and the First.

I don’t think anyone ever believed it was just about one law, and now that the Supreme Court has taken prohibition largely off the table, it can’t be about one law.  But what’s the Brady Campaign’s philosophy about respecting the Second Amendment?  It can’t just be anything short of prohibition is lawful.  That’s not a treating the right seriously.  A collection of laws who’s intention is to frustrate and discourage gun ownership, much like DC’s new almost prohibition, or even New Jersey’s laws, is absolutely off the table.  If that’s respecting the Second Amendment, we have nothing much to discuss.  Any law that proposes to limit gun ownership on the part of criminals by limiting gun ownership on the part of everyone is an automatic non-starter with us.  I wish there was some way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, without interfering with ordinary people’s right to keep and bear them, but there isn’t.  At least not without bringing about this kind of world.  If the Bradys want to start having a serious philosophical discussion about the Second Amendment, I’d be game for it.  It would certainly be better than the usual BS rhetoric, but I’d suspect they’d have to admit they really don’t respect the Second Amendment, and would have to admit their goal is to limit the impact of Heller to the greatest extent possible.  Perhaps the reason there’s little or no common ground between the two sides is because we each understand the other’s true end goal.

7 Responses to “A Serious Argument out of the Brady Campaign”

  1. Thirdpower says:

    “background checks on private transfers, but certain things have to be taken off the table first, like being forced to go through an FFL”

    The Brady’s have already proven that this is not their goal. Illinois already has universal checks in the form of licensing and they still demand all sales go through FFL dealers.

    http://daysofourtrailers.blogspot.com/2008/05/inaccurate-brady-letter-color-me.html

    As you have shown, no matter how good an argument they initially make, it will always devolve into gun bans and other restrictions on legal firearm owners.

  2. John A says:

    Well said, thank you (again).

    Some regulation is necessary, but even what we already have is far too mich. E.g. it used to make sense that people convicted of a felony should forfeit some rights such as weapon ownership – but that was before things like not paying parking tickets could be construed as felonies rather than misdemeanors, back when a felony was definable as a crime sufficiently serious to warrant seizure of all property/income.

    The goal of organisations such as Brady may be stated as “if no-one has firearms criminals will not have firearms, so we will all be safer.” So stated, it looks almost sensible. But plug in something else for `firearms`? “If no-one has water no-one will drown, and we will all be safer.”

    Now, I have never owned a firearm (well, exempting a Japanese-made collectible replica of the MP-40 machine pistol) and probably never will (because I am too lazy to even properly maintain one, let be practice its use). This does not mean that I object to a neighbor having a pistol or rifle. Heck, other than noise and damage to roads, let ’em have tanks! OK, maybe not a working M65 Atomic Cannon, parking it would wreak havoc for at least a block…

  3. MicroBalrog says:

    The problem is we “gunnies” don’t understand our own ‘true end goal’ s well as the antis understand theirs.

  4. mostlygenius says:

    The crux of Pennington’s argument seems to be that if we criminalize this behavior then the formerly law abiding will then be criminals that can be arrested, tried, and imprisoned.

    The more things we make illegal the more criminals we create. I don’t see a point to criminalizing a behavior that is not a threat to society. Regardless of all of the crime statistics my gun is not the problem, and never will be the problem. It might very well be the solution depending upon the circumstances.

  5. Brad says:

    2008 provided one of those wonderfully clarifying moments with the controversy over the D.C. v Heller case.

    For years the Brady Bunch has accused the NRA and the gun rights movement as extremists for opposing what the Brady Bunch called “reasonable gun control”. But the Brady Bunch and the usual gaggle of fellow travelers proved that they were the real extremists by defending the D.C. handgun ban, and claiming there was no constitutional right to self defense with a gun.

    So why should anyone believe any new lies from the Brady Bunch? Their current claims of wanting only “moderate reasonable regulation” is no more true today then it was in the past. Only if they admit and renounce their previous lies should the Brady Bunch be given another chance.

    But not bloody likely. So screw ’em.

  6. HerbM says:

    Once again, good folks falling into the Brady mindset:

    Once you can say that guns should not go where “people will feel threatened” by their MERE PRESENCE you justify every public ban ever created.

    None of these folks carrying firearms were actually AT the Presidential venues — they were nearby, always outside the Secret Service security cordon yet practically everyone (gun banner or supposed pro-RKBA) writes as if they were in the front row at the President’s event.

    No gun control laws are constitutional — not one.

    Why? None, can be shown to work, and that is a requirement (just one of several others that they fail also) if you intend to infringe a constitutional right.

    None of the CDC, DoJ, or National Institute of Science to find evidence to show ANY gun control reduced ANY of murders, violent crime, suicides, nor accidents.

    The Brady checks themselves are provably worthless — since less than 100 criminals are prosecuted each year to trying to violate them.

    Practically all such prosecutions are used to make conspiracy or RICO cases in order to get “known criminals” more easily rather than for the actual sin of violating Brady.

    Don’t fall into the trap of repeating tire, worn out, false gun control myths about “some gun control” being reasonable and sensible — none of it is.

  7. BC says:

    I do not regard Pennington’s as a serious argument. A serious argument wouldn’t rely on pathetic straw men like this:

    The problem with McArdle’s view, and the gun libertarian position generally, is the assumption of a damaged analogy between unregulated speech and unregulated gun carrying. The assumption is that since prior restraint against speech is bad by definition, prior restraint against unrestricted gun carrying must be equally bad, or at least deeply suspect. Except that it’s not, because they are radically different things when put into practice in the world real human beings live in.

    There is no “assumption of a damaged analogy”. There is acknowledgement of the simple reality that the constitutional right to free expression and the constitutional right to arms are peers, and entitled to the same degree of respect, even if prior restraint against unrestricted gun carrying turns out to be “radically different things when put into practice in the world real human beings live in” (an assertion that, it should be noted, Pennington supplies absolutely no evidence in support of).

    Pennington’s drivel is sophomoric, not serious.

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