Well-regulating the militia

I enjoyed this take on the 2nd Amendment from NC’s favorite Libertarian, Duke Political Science professor, Mike Munger:

My own view is that the Supreme Court got the Second Amendment right, finally, in the 2008 Heller case, overturning some remarkably dumb aspects of the 1939 Millerdecision. Heller recognizes (it was always there!) a presumptive individual private right to own — and “bear,” meaning actually carry — arms. But Heller preserves substantial latitude for legislative assemblies to impose restrictions, rules, and conditions.

So the only actual question is which restrictions, rules and conditions? …

To me, “well regulated” sounds like a driver’s license. No one can be banned from driving, without cause. But behave irresponsibly, or fail to get enough training and skills to drive well, and you don’t get to drive. I think guns ownership is analogous. We can’t impose universal, and foolishly vague, restrictions on the ownership of modern guns. But we can require registration, background checks, classes and tests to show proficiency, and threaten forfeiture if the right is used irresponsibly or to endanger others, even through negligence…

We can’t prevent individual events after they have happened. We should be developing a comprehensive vision of what the right to keep and bear arms, and regulating it well, would look like. We should go back to the Second Amendment, both parts.

Actually, we disagree on that “both parts,” but damn would it be awesome if we actually regulated guns as thoroughly as driving.  Heck, if we actually had that, I’d be mostly just fine with the “not be infringed” part.

And speaking of that well-regulation, here’s an interesting idea– find ways to keep guns away from angry people.  Seriously.  No, this will never be perfect, but there’s plenty of stuff we can do.  Alex Yablon in the Atlantic:

But as that debate plays out, policymakers might also focus on a far more common precursor to gun violence, one that applies nearly universally to shooters of all types: anger…

A 2012 analysis by psychiatrists at Oxford University and Maastricht University compared studies of angry, impulsive personalities and found that such people have “substantially increased risk of violent outcomes” compared to the general population.

People with personalities inclined to violence are usually obvious to their peers and coworkers and have a documented history of antisocial conduct, said Jeffrey Swanson, a Duke University psychiatry professor who studies behaviors associated with violence. They often progress to deadly violence after committing smaller acts like making threats, smashing objects, and assaulting others, he says.

“Most people who commit serious crimes, that’s not where they began,” he says. “They didn’t just start committing gun homicides.”

The roster of America’s most notorious mass shooters is populated by young, angry men who regularly displayed antisocial behavior before they carried out attacks…

Keeping firearms away from angry, violent people is a formidable challenge, made immeasurably harder by loopholes that allow gun purchasers to arrange weapon sales online, at gun shows, and from private sellers without screening. But understanding how rage can boil over into violence, and searching out ways to calm the anger and remove guns from people most likely to use them in acts of violence, should be a public policy imperative, researchers say.

Well, then, that seems pretty clear.  Let’s start by eliminating these loopholes and actually “well-regulating” who can possess a gun.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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