Dialog with Brady Board Members

Brady Board member and gun control activist Joan Peterson deserves credit for trying to engage in dialog, rather than dodge. I am not prepared to declare Reasoned DiscourseTM at this point. Her latest post is clearly an attempt to try to understand our point of view. She asks a series of questions, so I will do my best to answer them. Note that I speak for me, not for the entire gun community, but there are certainly those out there who share these views. Twenty questions is a lot, so this is going to go long. Bear with me.

1. Do you believe that criminals and domestic abusers should be able to buy guns without background checks?

I believe it’s perfectly constitutional for the state to strip the rights of citizens who have been convicted or adjudicated through due process of law, of violent crimes, and this can include their right to bear arms.

2. What is your proposal for keeping guns away from criminals, domestic abusers, terrorists and dangerously mentally ill people?

3. Do you believe that a background check infringes on your constitutional right to “keep and bear arms”?

I’m going to answer these together, because they are kind of the same. I think the government can take reasonable means to keep firearms out of criminal hands, but my definition of reasonable is vastly different than the Brady definition of reasonable. I don’t believe background checks are facially unconstitutional, but they could be, depending on how the system is being administered. What if the system that does the checks is down for two weeks? The key to reasonable is whether it’s imposing a substantial burden on the right, and whether there’s a less burdensome way of accomplishing the goal. Making it difficult to frustrate the exercise of the right should not be constitutional.

I could also envision a system where licensing could actually be less burdensome than all these background checks, and commercial restrictions on sales and transfer. But the Brady folks would never accept such a system, because the licenses would have to be freely available, for nearly no charge to anyone who was eligible to possess a firearm. Think fishing licenses that you can get at Wal-Mart, except good for life, and for all future purchases.

4. Do you believe that I and people with whom I work intend to ban your guns?

Absolutely. If they could find a way. The people you work with tried to argue DC’s gun ban was constitutional. Anyone who says no is either kidding themselves, or trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. If Brady weren’t in favor of banning guns they never would have filed an amicus supporting DC’s position. Maybe you don’t want to ban guns, but then you’d need to explain why DC’s position is tenable, and why the organization who’s board you are on shares their position.

5. If yes to #4, how do you think that could happen ( I mean the physical action)?

How did it happen in DC and Chicago? How did it they confiscate a bunch of long guns after they made semi-autos illegal in New York City? How did they manage it after Katrina?

6. What do you think are the “second amendment remedies” that the tea party GOP candidate for Senate in Nevada( Sharron Angle) has proposed?
7. Do you believe in the notion that if you don’t like what someone is doing or saying, second amendment remedies should be applied?

Most anyone who has been following this blog for any period of time knows that I think “second amendment remedies” are a very last resort, against a criminally illegitimate government. I don’t think they have any place in our current political climate. We are still free to advocate for and vote our government out of power and elect a new one, as you’re going to see come November.

8. Do you believe it is O.K. to call people with whom you disagree liars and demeaning names?
9. If yes to #8, would you do it in a public place to the person’s face?

Welcome to the Internet. If you think being on my side makes you immune, you haven’t been interacting with folks on Al’s Internet very long. Remember this rule. This one is also very useful for Internet debate. This is more true than any of us care to admit. Thick skin helps.

10. Do you believe that any gun law will take away your constitutional rights?

I’m not an absolutist on the issue. Some gun control is constitutional, but obviously much of it is questionable, especially in states that have laws which are outliers. Many of California’s laws, for instance, are probably going to be unconstitutional. New Jersey and Massachusetts will have a lot of explaining to do too.

11. Do you believe in current gun laws? Do you think they are being enforced? If not, explain.

I do not believe that any gun law is effective at keeping guns laws out of criminal hands, or at least not effective enough to warrant the restrictions it means for the law abiding. Criminals are resourceful, and guns are a part of their line of business, which often involves trading in other contraband products. They will get guns. Are they enforced? That depends on whether you have something that will cause the police to plea bargain away the gun charge. If you don’t, because you’re otherwise law abiding, I would expect enforcement. If you mean do gun laws get enforced against criminals? Then no, they don’t. We keep saying this is an actual problem, and you guys keep suggesting more laws, or more enforcement on legal channels, rather than criminal traffickers.

12. Do you believe that all law-abiding citizens are careful with their guns and would never shoot anybody?

The vast majority, yes, and the vast majority would never shoot someone except in self-defense. This is, I suspect, the key difference between you and me. I believe that most people will do the right thing most of the time, and can be trusted with dangerous objects. Obviously, there are people out there who are too irresponsible to have guns but who are nonetheless eligible to own them. I think that number is a) small, and b) there’s no good way of identifying those people without making a default assumption that everyone is irresponsible.

13. Do you believe that people who commit suicide with a gun should be included in the gun statistics?

No. Many societies who restrict guns heavily have much much higher suicide rates than the US. Suicide can tear families apart, but the only thing gun control accomplishes is reducing the number of suicides by gun. In Japan, jumping in front of trains is common enough that there are often rail delays caused by it. To me, suicide is a private matter. It’s not something we ought to be make public policy for, other than to facilitate suicidal people finding help. Any public policy aimed at reducing suicide through control of dangerous objects will infantalize the population. That path doesn’t have a happy ending for a free society.

14. Do you believe that accidental gun deaths should “count” in the total numbers?

Counting accidents is fine, but you should make sure when you say “children” they are actually children. It’s also a serious omission to not mention that gun accidents have been declining for years, largely through education efforts.

15. Do you believe that sometimes guns, in careless use or an accident, can shoot a bullet without the owner or holder of the gun pulling the trigger?

No modern firearm will do this. There are some older, less well made firearms that can go off if dropped, but that number is pretty small. Note that this is not a reason to ban them. Many of them are collectors items. Many of them are the only means of defense poor people can afford. There’s no gun that’s inherently dangerous, that if handled with care, will just go off. Some guns just have to be handled with a bit more care.

16. Do you believe that 30,000 gun deaths a year is too many?

Only about 16,000 of those are homicide, and some of those are justifiable. See previous point about suicides. As for the homicides, legalizing drugs would do more to bring down that number than gun control ever would.

17. How will you help to prevent more shootings in this country?

I’ll continue to advocate that cities like Philadelphia lock up violent criminals and impose harsh sentences. That currently doesn’t happen, as I’ve demonstrated repeatedly on this blog. You can’t bring violent crime doing without getting violent criminals off the street. The left’s solution is to leave them out there, and turn the whole country into a low level prison.

18. Do you believe the articles that I have posted about actual shootings or do you think I am making them up or that human interest stories about events that have happened should not count when I blog about gun injuries and deaths?

I think the stories you post are completely legitimate, but your solution to the problem will accomplish nothing. You can’t make all the guns already out there disappear, and even if you could, they aren’t hard to make. Your basic semi-automatic pistol is a 100 year old design at this point. A gun can be made in a garage with the right machine tools, and that’s exactly what criminals are doing in countries where guns are very restricted, and there isn’t an existing stock of illegal guns to keep drawing from.

19. There has been some discussion of the role of the ATF here. Do you believe the ATF wants your guns and wants to harass you personally? If so, provide examples ( some have written a few that need to be further examined).

Getting into the problems with how ATF administers the gun laws is too big a topic for this discussion here. I am not as knee jerk anti-ATF as many gun people. A lot of the issue is that our gun laws are an absolute mess, often completely nonsensical, and difficult to make work when they meet reality. This is Congress’ fault. That said, ATF does a remarkably poor job of interpreting and administering them, and has chosen to use policy, often varying that policy from case to case, rather than using federal regulations, which are much ore stringent. The famous example is the Akins Accelerator, which ATF said was not a machine gun, so Akins started selling them. Then they changed their minds and said it was a machine gun, making everyone who bought one criminals. It’s not always easy to say what’s a machine gun legally, but there ought to be unchanging policy on how to evaluate such things, and it ought to be handled through administrative procedure rather than policy that can change at a whim, depending on who’s looking it it. But as I said, this is a big topic.

20. Will you continue a reasonable discussion towards an end that might lead somewhere or is this an exercise in futility?

It’s probably an exercise in futility. We’re starting from vastly different assumptions about our fellow citizens, and about our constitutional structure. You’ve also had a loved one murdered with a firearm, whereas I have not. My tragedy in life was losing my mother to cancer when I was twenty and she was forty three. I currently work in the Pharmaceutical business in the hopes that maybe I’ll contribute to something that will prevent other people from going through what my mother went through. I understand the grief driven desire to do something good, and trying to make a loss something other than senseless and tragic. But it’s difficult for me to understand trying to do that by trying to take choices away from people. I wouldn’t try to ban or restrict fatty foods, ban alcohol and tobacco use, and mandate people eat less and exercise, all of which would certainly reduce people’s risk of cancer. You’re trying to restrict people choices, choices their constitution tells them are a fundamental human right, and I’m not even sure in the end it’s going to accomplish what you think. You can’t eliminate all tragedy. I’m not even sure if you could, it could be done without fundamentally altering what it is to be human. The only thing dialog helps is understanding where the other is coming from. At the end of the day, even if you understand each other, you just have to agree to disagree.

40 thoughts on “Dialog with Brady Board Members”

  1. Well said, Sebastian. Isn’t it remarkable how desireous of “reasonable debate” the Brady’s have become, now that the bottom rail is on top?

    And I am absolutely certain that if the situation were reversed, they would be the height of intellectual honesty and could be counted on to magnanomously limit restrictions on our rights and only as judged necessary (at their sole discretion).

    I fear you give the disingenuous Ms. Peterson far too much credit. Leopards do not change their spots. If one day we lose the fifth vote on SCOTUS, see how willing to engage they will be – NOT! This enchange, in my opinion, only provides an opportunity for crafting counterarguments.

  2. I have list of suggested questions for Ms. Peterson:

    1. Do you believe a fundamental Constitutional right should be arbitrarily rationed by government fiat?

    2. What is your proposal for protecting the citizenry when it is unreasonable to expect law enforcment to be everywhere all the time?

    3. Do you believe that a literacy test infringes on the right to vote?

    4. Do you believe that I and the people I associate with promote gun possession by criminals and the metally deranged?

    5. If yes to #4, how do you think this could happen (I mean the physical action)?

    6. Do you believe that history has ever proven that a disarmed populace led to tryanny?

    7. Do you believe in the notion that if you don’t like what someone is saying or doing, they should be rounded up and placed into “re-education” camps?

    8. Do you believe it is OK to call people with whom you disagree liars and demeaning names?

    9. If yes to #8, would you do it to their face in public? (talk about a passive aggressive complex)

    10. Do you believe that any gun is appropriate and should be legal for law abiding citizens?

    11. Do you believe in current criminal codes and do you believe they are being fully enforced? Provide examples.

    12 Do you believe that ALL gun control activitists hate guns and if it were within their power, would ban and confiscate them?

    13 Do you believe that if the opposible thumb had never evolved (or made by God, take your choice), that man’s inhumanity to man would never exist?

    14. Do you believe that felony shootings and deaths between 25 year old drug gang members should be classified as both an “aquaintence” and “child” shooting?

    15. Do you believe in the tooth fairy or Santa Clause?

    16. Do you believe that 60 million deaths in World War II which could have been prevented by stopping Hitler in Poland but for Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” statement, was 60 million deaths too many? (I may have that figure wrong but you get my point don’t you?)

    17. How will you prevent more criminal assaults, murders, beheadings, hangings, tortures and rapes in this country?

    18. Do you believe the stories I post about legitimate uses of firearms to protect life and proprty or do I just make this shit up?

    19. There has been some discussion of the NRA here. Do you believe they are really controlled by firearms manufacturers who secretly pull the strings behind the scenes to unscrupulously peddle fireams to children and criminals, particularly along the US-Mexico border?

    20. Do you think I really believe you are interested in a reasonable discourse on firearm spolicy in the country or do I believe this is a desparate effort to remain relevent when the majority of people in this country disagree with your position?

  3. Nice job, Sebastian. The dialogue is a good sign. I suspect that she cringed when she read “it’s probably an exercise in futility” in response to a question about “reasonable discussion leading somewhere.” I can’t help but think your response will be taken as brutally uncompromising rather than just brutally realistic. And I have to assume that “leading somewhere” implies “compromising with us.”

    I too suggest that you ask her to answer some questions, such as the ones posted above by Mr. Carmel.

  4. Kudos for a reasoned reply. On one point she says “….careful with their guns and would never shoot anybody?” She’s implying of course that no careful person would ever shoot anybody. She might actually believe that or it might be an attempt to frame the debate. Either way it’s wrong. People are carefully and correctly shot each year. If someone was an immediate threat of death or grave bodily harm to my family I hope that I would take great care in stopping that threat. But you knew that :)

  5. Well done Sebastian! I would like to see her answer 20 questions from our side as honestly as you have answered hers.

  6. “8. Do you believe it is O.K. to call people with whom you disagree liars and demeaning names?”

    Umm… there is a difference between calling a person a liar and calling them demeaning names. This sounds like an attempt to cut off disagreement.

  7. RE: #3 My state has a “firearms purchase” card. They run what is essentially a NICS check and mail you a card that’s good for 3 years. It allows you to buy any firearm with no further background check. At no point does anyone know whether or not you’ve actually purchased a firearm or how many you may have acquired. I would only change it to make it last longer.


  8. Steve:

    I don’t know to which state you refer, but no one in any state is exempt from federal 4473 forms for retail purchases. While in some states the NICS check is waived because another mechanism has ensured the BG check (eg. carry licensees, etc.), for retail purchases there is always someone who knows the details of your purchase(s) because that information is stored on the 4473.

  9. Sebastian,

    This was about as reasoned a reply that I could have imagined that still held true to our sides’ convictions.

    But your answer to #20 hits the nail on the head about why our two sides will likely never build a bridge – we believe in freedom, and they don’t.

  10. 1. Do you believe that criminals and domestic abusers should be able to buy guns without background checks?

    “No. I think they should be in jail. Apparently you think it’s peachy that they walk among free men at some point, at liberty to commit their mayhem with knives, matches and/or gasoline. Since you never say anything about keeping them locked up, that’s really the only conclusion I can draw. Oh, and how about that dude in Houston who, in spite of the fact that he was probably a prohibited person per the Lautenberg Amendment, <a href="http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7208253.html"managed to get him a gun and shoot his three kids? How’s that gun control working again?”

  11. I think you’re giving her way too much credit.

    I attempted to engage her in thoughtful discussion several weeks ago. She did nothing but ignore most of the points I raised and the ones she didn’t ignore, she dismissed any information to which I pointed her as “innuendo”…even when the information came from her own side.

    Now, several weeks later, she repeats her plea for “thoughtful discussion” and phrases many of her questions in exactly the same terms that she did before, completely ignoring the fact that many of those questions have already been answered.

    She’s employing the same disingenuousness and misdirection that is the foundation of the Brady playbook.

    She doesn’t want “thoughtful discussion”, she wants to be agreed with…right or wrong.

  12. Sebastien,

    Outstanding and well-reasoned responses.

    I for one have given up debating with anti-gunners. I can’t take any more arguments equivalent to the earth being flat or 2+2=1. Facts are facts. Gun ownership is a right (in the U.S.). Guns are tools that have been used to save lives and fight against tyranny.

    I have drawn my line in the sand. In the final analysis they will never take my guns from me. You can repeal the 2nd amendment and pass a new law banning ALL guns upon pain of death and I wouldn’t even flinch because such a law would be unenforceable. I am confident that 80-100 million other Americans feel the same way. With those overwhelming numbers the discussion about banning guns is nothing more than intellectual masturbation. The antis need to get a grip on reality. This debate is over.

  13. 8. Do you believe it is O.K. to call people with whom you disagree liars and demeaning names?
    9. If yes to #8, would you do it in a public place to the person’s face?


    If I catch someone saying something that’s not true, and I know they know better, I’ll call them a liar, regardless of the venue. Be it the internet, or in person, I’m not afraid to call a lying piece of sh^t a lying piece of sh^t.

  14. This is the best thing I’ve ever read on gun control. Your answers to 11, 12 and 20 were especially good. Thanks for taking the time to patiently respond to Ms. Peterson and for posting this.
    Perhaps the dialog will continue?

  15. It’s nice that you responded, but I think you’re wasting your time. The people who run Brady and other gun control groups know what they are doing is wrong. They cannot back up their positions with facts. You cannot have a rational discussion with them because they just don’t care about such things.

  16. I fear you give the disingenuous Ms. Peterson far too much credit.

    I would agree. There’s a massive amount of “reasoned discourse” occurring at Ms. Peterson’s blog. Comments I have posted containing nothing but facts disproving something she said in a post / comments have gone down the memory hole on numerous occasions.

    It doesn’t appear to me that she’s actually interested in “thoughtful discussion.” She may say so on her blog, but her actions say otherwise.

  17. If I catch someone saying something that’s not true, and I know they know better, I’ll call them a liar, regardless of the venue.

    This. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing this provided you can back it up. If she posts something you know to be a lie and you can easily back up your counterclaim with factual evidence I say go for it.

  18. @CarlfromChicago: Nebraska. Yes, there’s a 4473 which is filed in a locked fireproof file cabinet in the dealer’s secured building out in the country. No NICS check, no other reports required, and no paper trail to speak of.


  19. The first question “Do you believe that criminals and domestic abusers should be able to buy guns without background checks?” is revealing. Only an American socialist would think that a domestic abuser might not be a criminal. Subconsciously excusing abuse is the same mindset that makes excuses for violent criminals using guns to commit crimes.

  20. DustyDog,

    I think the mentality runs the other way.

    I think in the eyes of the antis, a domestic abuser is anyone someone accuses of abuse — regardless of the truth of the situation.

    Therefore, we shouldn’t wait for Due Process but restrict a person’s rights on mere accusation.

  21. I think that talking to the antis is largely a waste of time and effort. They are on the opposite side of the argument and they cannot be convinced.

    But the American people can be, which is why we are prevailing.

  22. Comrade Misfit,

    I agree with the idea trying to change Antis is largely a waste of time but feel it is very important to challenge their misstatements, lies and distortions on their own sites.

    When people looking to get both sides of the issue find the website of an anti; there needs to be clear, factual evidence rebutting the claims on the same site.

  23. Generally good response. I think the numbers are lower on gun homicides. Correct me if my math is wrong but I believe the 16,000+ number is all homicides per the FBI statistics. Only 66% of those homicides are by firearms, so I think by firearms it is 10,000+.

  24. Exercise in futility? I don’t think so… you may not change Ms. Peterson’s mind. However, reasoned and factually supported responses to her questions certainly helps to persuade those closer to the middle.

    Remember: it isn’t necessary to change every mind, just enough of them to keep moving society (and public policy) in the right direction.

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  26. Sebastian, I’m an old timer and used to electronic debate and dicourse.

    First rule was their ground is controlled, they have censorship. Take it to public space they can’t censor or your home turf.

    Second rule, understand clearly the activity overriding the stated goal. Stated goal was to understand, a ruse. The activity was to gain an audience and improving a working counter plan.

    Third rule, recognize early that the other side is not acting according to stated goal. In this case we have someone with a notable cognitive dissonance and though that distortion cannot process process anything that violates her worldview.

    Finally do cleanup. Post the results, what was done what didn’t happen. In this case a “Open mind..” was never open.



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