The danger of oops.

News comes that Ted Nugent’s wife was busted for carrying a concealed weapon in the airport. And why was the gun there?


But when it comes to guns, the question is more than a little oops.

The entire premise of concealed weapons is something of a  promise made to general society. That promise is one of responsibility. The advocates of CCW assert that they will be mindful — and most are — but then when one violates that mindfulness? That’s a problem. Society can tolerate mindful gun owners, but careless ones? They’re a danger.

It’s the oops that kills, as accidental gun deaths so sadly show.

HT: Eclectablog

Second Amendment Despair?

That certainly seemed to be on Dave Diephouse’s mind when he read Burton Newman’s The NRA’s Fraud: Fabrication of Second Amendment Rights

How many times does it have to be said?

But should we despair?

Interpretation of Second Amendment is nonetheless social in nature. There is no reason one needs to (or should) accept the understanding of the Second from the gun lobby. There is no reason to think that such extremist interpretations are anything other than social constructions, a product of their time, and if so, then as social constructions they are liable to change. For activists the question is of keeping heart, of hope.

On that score, a couple of items come to mind.

First, there is the matter of demographics. by most surveys, gun owners generally represent a decreasing portion of the American public: white, male, and often financially stable.  This is the same shrinking political base that drives other maximalist positions, such as the Tea Party. The signs of this sectarian turn are all around, not least in the current environment where the gun advocate reject positions he once held.  That’s not principle at work, but politics. And politics can be changed.

Second, there is the electoral problem for the gun crowd, as Ronald Brownstein  pointed out: no matter how fervently held, their positions are a losing hand in when it comes to national elections. Again the turn to a variety of rearguard political actions from the likes of ALEC (most notorioulsy, the Stand Your Ground legislation, but there are others) ought to be seen as the sign of political weakness that it is.

The difficulty with all extremist positions is how they routinely differ from lived reality. That difference from the common life coupled with the desire to win elections, creates its own gravitational pull to the center, and better policies. That said, since this is also the process of a decade or longer, and certainly not the stuff of one or two election cycles.

Personal firearms and resistance

A great many gun owners express their ownership through the grid of resistance to tyranny. Apart, from the fact that little in the way to suggest incipient tyranny, the vocalized meme is too strong to ignore. This suggests that its holders do so, not for policy or political reasons, but for those resting in a more private drama. Much of that inner life if in a somewhat more extreme form is captured in Arthur Farnsley’s “Flea Market Capitalism” in the current issue of The Christian CenturyPrivate ownership  borrows the language of armed resistance, but it is of a more emotional sort, turning on the question of autonomy.

A gun represents the ultimate ability to say no to coercion. Guns are about freedom—again, not the freedom to do whatever you want, but the freedom from being forced to do what you do not want.

Here, the gun ends up as the symbol of freedom while also being the sign of a lack of freedom, that one’s freedom to act, one’s freedom from authority is itself limited. Closely tied to the self is that of the implicit community, and why  narratives of oppression by elites reinforces the desire to resist, all symbolized in the gun. Any discussion of Second Amendment and especially of the restriction on guns can sound like an attempt to further erode this psychic resistance. And so a political non-starter.

Why the Second folows the First

At MLive there has been a raging war over the propriety of openly carrying firearms to civic meetings. this leads to a number of talking points, perhaps the central role of guns and rights. Does force undergird the establishment of free speech. As one commentator put it:

Guns protect your free speech. In fact guns gave you your free speech.

Free speech and free minds are the necessary foundation to gun rights. Freedom begins when we move away from the Hobbesian war against all, when we covenant together. Freedom takes place precisely when we limit our turn to private force.

Moreover, the notion of guns as protection means first that there must be a notion of justice. That is, to be legitimate force must first be used to a just end, otherwise it is simply the expression of the subjective self, of whim. So how then do we determine justice? Force cannot provide the answer, rational discussion must. Thus, free speech necessarily precedes the weapon, because only be such speech (or philosophy) can we determine when force is just and proper.

Literally, without free speech and free minds you would not know what to do with your gun.

Why not just charge them?

Lot’s of discussion at MLive on what to be done post-Newtown, and especially in the wake of Wayne LaPierre’s suggestion if stationing armed guards in all our schools. Here’s an alternative: why not simply have all gun owners pony up for insurance. Liability in the event of mass-death. Say we assign $10 mill for each life lost. Pennies on the dollar for gun ownership. This is admittedly, a tongue-in cheek suggestion.  But it was offensive, all the same:

So you are okay with the slaughter of 5 year olds as long as parents get a check for each one killed?

Of course, that’s the logic of our policy right now. Presently we don’t compensate the parents or victims at all. Instead the social cost of massive gun ownership is shifted over to the community at large. In economic terms this is what they call an “negative externality.” With social costs distributed to some one else, we do not have an effective means of allocating the costs for the open ownership gun policy at present. The search for other alternatives to protection (LaPierre’s infamous guns in schools, or the calls for better tracking of the mentally ill) each involve more significant intervention in society, the very opposite of the putative freedom agenda. And given the reluctance to effect a political ban on such weapons, we may as well create economic incentives.

Insurance does that (taxes would, too). This also addresses the social cost gun ownership philosophy. Not only does their possession increase gun deaths, but the advocacy of gun ownership generally naturally leads to a culture where armed violence is considered a means of solving problems, be it of the criminal sort or that generated by mental disturbance. After all, given that numerous studies show that gun deaths vary directly with per capita gun ownership, we might better think of such deaths more as other random and disastrous but quantifiable events — and that is the problem that insurance solves.

So if we cannot ban the guns, at the very least we ought to make gun owners pay for the consequences of this freedom.

Open Carry’s philosophy

The other day Phillip Hofmeister showed up at City Hall bearing his side arm. Not surprising, Hofmeister after all is the president of Michigan Open Carry. In his words, he claimed to be asserting state law. “This is not a matter of feelings,” he said. And it is not. It is actually a philosophical statement.

Bringing the gun to chambers is an assertion that rights are not secured except by force. Sounds good. But think carefully. If rights are secured by force, then they are also granted by superior force. The alternative is that rights are recognized by discourse.

Ironically, then, as the bearing of weapons necessarily denies the priority of discourse it renders even its “right” as something limited. Indeed the bearing of weapons and their denial of discourse means that all rights are rendered limited, made alienable by superior force of the State (or the local warlord, gun bearer or whatever).

The bearing of a weapon in chamber is — philosophically — a stated preference for autocracy over against free self-governance.