About that “well regulated militia”

Nice piece from Adam Gopnik:

Like it or not, according to this argument, the Constitution limits our ability to control the number and kinds of guns in private hands. Even the great Jim Jeffries, in his memorable standup on American madness, says, “Why can’t you change the Second Amendment? It’s an amendment!”—as though further amending it were necessary to escape it.

In point of historical and constitutional fact, nothing could be further from the truth: the only amendment necessary for gun legislation, on the local or national level, is the Second Amendment itself, properly understood, as it was for two hundred years in its plain original sense. This sense can be summed up in a sentence: if the Founders hadn’t wanted guns to be regulated, and thoroughly, they would not have put the phrase “well regulated” in the amendment. (A quick thought experiment: What if those words were not in the preamble to the amendment and a gun-sanity group wanted to insert them? Would the National Rifle Association be for or against this change? It’s obvious, isn’t it?) [emphasis mine]

Now, you can go on and on about how the “militia” is really the people and all that.  Which of course is why we see “militia” all over the rest of the Constitution– right? :-).

Gopnik continues with a nice summary of John Paul Stevens dissent in the 2008 Heller case which gave us the modern “right” to own a gun a scant 7 years ago:

Stevens, a Republican judge appointed by a Republican President, brilliantly analyzes the history of the amendment, making it plain that for Scalia, et al., to arrive at their view, they have to reference not the deliberations that produced the amendment but, rather, bring in British common law and lean on interpretations that arose long after the amendment was passed. Both “keep arms” and “bear arms,” he demonstrates, were, in the writers’ day, military terms used in military contexts. (Gary Wills has usefully illuminated this truth in the New York Review of Books.) The intent of the Second Amendment, Stevens explains, was obviously to secure “to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia.” The one seemingly sound argument in the Scalia decision—that “the people” in the Second Amendment ought to be the same “people” referenced in the other amendments, that is, everybody—is exactly the interpretation that the preamble was meant to guard against.
Stevens’s dissent should be read in full, but his conclusion in particular is clear and ringing:

The right the Court announces [in Heller] was not “enshrined” in the Second Amendment by the Framers; it is the product of today’s law-changing decision. . . . Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia. The Court’s announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes upsets that settled understanding . . .

Justice Stevens and his colleagues were not saying, a mere seven years ago, that the gun-control legislation in dispute in Heller alone was constitutional within the confines of the Second Amendment. They were asserting that essentially every kind of legislation concerning guns in the hands of individuals was compatible with the Second Amendment—indeed, that regulating guns in individual hands was one of the purposes for which the amendment was offered.

And say what you will about this so-beloved “right” of individual, unfettered gun ownership.  It’s basically a 7-year old right hanging by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.  That can change:

So there is no need to amend the Constitution, or to alter the historical understanding of what the Second Amendment meant. No new reasoning or tortured rereading is needed to reconcile the Constitution with common sense. All that is necessary for sanity to rule again, on the question of guns, is to restore the amendment to its commonly understood meaning as it was articulated by this wise Republican judge a scant few years ago. And all you need for that is one saner and, in the true sense, conservative Supreme Court vote. One Presidential election could make that happen.

Of course, even with the current 2nd amendment interpretation we could do a lot to ameliorate the worst effects of guns.  We should.

Women do it better

Legislate, that is.  I’ve recently been covering women in legislatures in my Gender & Politics class and it’s pretty hard not to conclude that our government would simply work better if we had more women legislators at the state and federal level.  Here’s the nice summary infographic from a Bloomberg piece on the matter:

And words:

The current, 114th Congress has a record 104 women—but that’s 104 of 535 lawmakers in all. (And somehow we’re supposed to cheer.) But what if these things are connected—that men are less likely to introduce legislation and cut deals than women? It turns out that women have been considerably more likely than their male counterparts to get bills through, and to achieve that near-unicorn of modern Washington: bipartisan agreement.

The numbers, as published Thursday by a new startup called Quorum, founded not a month ago by two Harvard seniors, seem to bear this out. Over the last seven years, in the Senate, the ‘average’ female senator has introduced 96.31 bills, while the ‘average’ male introduced 70.72. In the House, compare 29.65 for women, and 27.2 for men. And women were more likely to gain cosponsorship: In the Senate, women had an average of 9.10 cosponsors,  and men 5.94. In the House, the difference was smaller—but women still proved better, or more interested, in sponsoring together: Female Representatives averaged 16.84 cosponsors, and men 14.64…

Women are also more likely to cosponsor with other women than men are with other men. From the 111th Congress to the present one, the typical female senator cosponsored 6.29 bills with another female senator, as opposed to 4.07 bills cosponsored by male senators with a male peer…

There’s also good evidence that women legislators do a better job communicating with their constituents.  And they do a better job (not surprisingly) getting issues that affect women and families onto the political agenda.

So, just vote for women– right?  Not that simple.  The biggest problem is not that women lose, but not enough women run.  That’s not easy to change.  It’s not only society’s attitudes about women and politics, but how women have internalized those attitudes.  So, time to start telling your daughters they should grow up to be politicians.  We’ll all benefit from better government.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Richard Hasen on how the balance of the Supreme Court may well be the most important outcome of the next presidential election.

2) Drum on what Ben Carson really means when he says “political correctness.”

3) If we listen to Huckabee (and lots of Republicans on guns), e.g., we might also not try to do anything about Iran either.

4) Oh damn did I love this Vox interview with Brookigs scholar Jeremy Shapiro on Putin and Syria:

It’s a little bit depressing that on both sides we’ve gotten into this kind of machismo foreign policy, where we think that whoever appears strongest and most macho is winning. As if that has any meaning in international relations. This is not a pissing contest. Boldness rarely has benefits in international relations, particularly for status quo states like the United States. Caution is a good thing, and boldness is rarely rewarded…

The truth is that everybody’s critical of the Obama policy in Syria, and nobody has a better alternative. I’ve never fucking heard one. And if you heard something that even resembles a good idea on Syria in the Republican debate I would eat my head.

There is a lot of pressure in US politics, particularly under a presidential campaign, to “do something,” to look tough. And one of the advantages of being a powerful country is that you can do stupid things for a long time and it won’t affect you that dramatically.

So we have a history in this country of doing things that aren’t good for us, but we don’t suffer on the scale that some countries experience. So the Vietnam War, we survived it pretty well — the Iraq War, ditto. We have the possibility of doing that again [in Syria]. It won’t be the fall of the American empire if we do, but how many times can you make these kinds of mistakes?

5) Not surprisingly common beliefs held by anti-immigration folks have little connection to reality.

6) The latest study does not link breast feeding with a child’s IQ (quite importantly, this controls for mother’s socio-economic status).

7) Big Steve on the lameness of all the pro-gun arguments.

8) Great Onion headline: “Man Can’t Believe Obama Would Use Tragedy To Push Anti-Tragedy Agenda.”

9) On a related note, another sad retread (from a 2014 mass shooting) that’s really good, “There is no catastrophe so ghastly that America will reform its gun laws.”

10) David Brooks with some hard truths on our mass incarceration problem (i.e., it’s not just letting out non-violent drug offenders, etc.).

11) Seattle schools have responded to the racially-biased use of school suspensions by dramatically cutting school suspension.  Good for them.

12) John Cassidy on the Republican response to the shooting:

The Republican Party has long exercised a veto on any meaningful addition to the gun laws. And among its current crop of Presidential candidates, there is no sign of anybody breaking ranks. Reaction to the shooting ranged from nonexistent to predictably depressing. As far as I could see, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina, the third- and fourth-place candidates in the polls, didn’t say anything on Thursday about what had happened in Oregon. In a message on Twitter, Jeb Bush called the massacre a “senseless tragedy.” Donald Trump, in an interview with the Washington Post, referred to it as a “terrible tragedy.” He also said, “It sounds like another mental-health problem. So many of these people, they’re coming out of the woodwork.” Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon, took a similar line. “Obviously, there are those who are going to be calling for gun control,” he said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” “Obviously, that’s not the issue. The issue is the mentality of these people.”

As if only America has people with violent mental illness.  No, only America has them routinely shoot up strangers.

13) North Carolina’s Republicans again taking the position that local government is better.  Unless local government wants to pass liberal laws, of

14) I so love how smart crows are.  Here’s a fascinating new study that shows that have (wisely) learned to fear death in their fellow crows.

15) Very nice piece from Seth Masket arguing that it is far too early to suggest that party elites no longer control nominations as The Party Decides crowd has been arguing.

Basically, it’s still really early. At this point in the 2012 election cycle, Rick Perry was the poll leader. It was Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani at this point in the ’08 cycle. Wesley Clark was heading to an easy Democratic nomination at this point in ’04. Oh, and Teddy Kennedy was beating Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination at this point in the 1980 cycle. It’s actually pretty rare for the poll-leader a year out from the election to get the nomination. So just by that metric alone, a Donald Trump nomination would be highly unusual.

16) You might have seen mention of the New Yorker article back in July about the massive earthquake and tsunami overdue to strike the Pacific Northwest.  Finally got around to reading it.  Fascinating!  And scary.  And a really well-written article.  Somebody needs to turn this into a post-apocalyptic (as it will be for that region) novel.

It’s the guns!!

Over at Slate, Chris Kirk had a post erroneously headlined, “The U.S. Is Far More Violent Than Other Rich Countries.”  It then shows a graph of “assault death” rate compared to other OECD countries.  Of course, the US is a huge outlier.   Kirk asks (rhetorically, presumably) at the end of his post:

What, then, explains the U.S.’s violence? Is it that we are crazier than Japan? Is it that we just like killing each other more than Australians? Could it possibly be that we have more guns per person than any of these countries?

But, the thing is the US is not far more violent!  We’re simply far more lethal.   And that is easy.  Guns.

Of course, this reminded me of one of my own favorite posts from a few years ago, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. With guns.”  That post shows that the US is entirely ordinary in “violent crime” rate, but a huge outlier in the homicide rate.  What frustrates me though, it the data is from 2000 and I’ve never been able to find more up-to-date comparative violent crime statistics.  Then it hit me, the problem was likely searching for “violent crime” rate.  Indeed it was.

I found this nice Civitas (UK) report with 2011 data that has rates of assault, rape, burglary, etc.  And the point from these charts is really clear.  First homicide rate:


Mexico blowing up the scale, makes the US not look so bad, but our rate is 2-4x that of most other advanced democracies.  Take Mexico out of this graph, and the US is a clear outlier.

But here’s the thing, in other violent crimes, we’re nothing special.

assault  rape

We’re in fact utterly ordinary in assault (just below the mean, in fact!) and towards the higher end in rape, but not at all an outlier as we are in homicide.

So, to be clear, the United States is not a particularly violent society.  We are a particularly lethal society.  And there is one breathtakingly obvious explanation (and really no good alternatives) for why the US is a much more lethal society– the ready availability of guns.

Supply Side Jesus

Actually caught this on HBO last night.  Bill Maher on the Republican Jesus.  So good.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Nice Amy Davidson piece on Carly Fiorina.

2) Chait points out that the US Republican party is about the only major political party within advanced Democracies that denies climate change.  They are really out on a limb by themselves.

3) I knew that the placebo week of birth control pills is what gives women on the pill their period, but as one of my correspondents was blown away by this fact, thought I’d share this interesting Atlantic piece on the psychology of forgoing periods (as is the case with many LARC’s).

4) I don’t know why I’ve put off for so long this great Australian comic takes on the insanity of Americans and guns video, but I finally watched.  Overdue.  This is great.

5) Actually something from this week before the latest massacre: a family who tried to sue the suppliers of the Aurora, Colorado shooter (no name here) and got stuck with the gun and ammo manufacturers legal bills to show for it:

The judge dismissed our case because, he said, these online sellers had special immunity from the general duty to use reasonable care under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and a Colorado immunity law. If you couple the PLCAA law with Colorado’s law HB 000-208, (which says in essence: If you bring a civil case against a gun or ammunition seller and the case is dismissed then the plaintiff must pay all the defendant’s costs), you have an impenetrable barrier to using the judicial system to effect change in gun legislation in Colorado.

Everyone else in society has a duty to use reasonable care to not injure others — except gun and ammunition sellers. [emphasis mine]

6) This is really cool.  Research at NCSU suggests we may be able to use fingerprints to know a person’s ethnicity.

7) Really looking forward to using Anne-Marie Slaughter’s book on women, men, and the workplace next time I teach Gender & Politics (if I had known it was coming out, I would’ve assigned it this semester).  Great interview on the Freakonomics podcast.

8) Loved this Nicholas Davidoff piece on the carefully orchestrated illusion that is football on TV.

9) I’ve been meaning to do a post working off of a Seth Masket piece on authenticity and presidential elections.  But Julia Azari has already done a better one that I would.

10) When I first heard about the Pope and Kim Davis, I was thinking I bet some conservative American bishop made this happen.  Looks like that’s the case.  Drum:

As usual with the Catholic Church, previous popes continue to have long arms even after they die or retire. It turns out that the papal nuncio, a culturally conservative guy who’s loyal to the former Benedict XVI, decided to invite Davis. The current pope apparently had no idea this would happen and may not have even known who she was. Basically, Davis was ushered in for her 60 seconds with the pope, who blessed her, gave her a rosary, and then moved along to the next person in line. It would be wise not to read too much into this.

11) Jeb Bush said something stupid yesterday (“stuff happens” to refer to mass murder).  When he said something was “retarded” he used the word perfectly correctly.  Is there really no place to use this word at all according to it’s original meaning?  If so, that’s stupid.

12) I almost never listen to “On the Media” (just too many good podcasts out there), but I was driving with NPR on the other day and really enjoyed the feisty exchange described here over whether AP is doing a disservice by moving from “climate skeptic” to “climate doubter.”

13) Loved this Richard Skinner piece for Brookings on Trump supporters.  It’s titled “do hate and racism drive Donald Trump supporters?”  You’ll just have to read it to find out :-).

14) Seth Masket on governing by sacrifice (in this case, Boehner).

15) I so love “The Princess Bride.”  I literally know more of the dialog of that movie than any other movie.  Thus, I loved this Buzzfeed list on why it is such an “important” movie.

16) Will Saletan on the incoherence of Republicans’ arguments against Planned Parenthood.

Throughout the hearing, Republicans complained that Planned Parenthood gets too much of its revenue from the federal government. Several members of the committee—Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, and John Mica of Florida—protested that taxpayers were supplying more than 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s income. Duncan fumed that the Boys and Girls Club gets only a fraction of what Planned Parenthood receives. Mica explained the GOP’s underlying beef: Many Americans, including some who are pro-choice, don’t want their tax money used for abortions.

As an argument for defunding Planned Parenthood, this complaint makes no sense. Richards explained to the committee that under U.S. law, federal funds can’t be used for abortions unless the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or was caused by rape or incest. So if Planned Parenthood is getting a high percentage of its income from the government, that means much of the work it’s being paid for isn’t abortion.

17) Really nice piece in Slate on wrongfully convicted exonerees and restorative justice.


Yes, it is happening more

From a Harvard research study in 2014

These are hugely newsworthy events and we cannot expect them not to be covered, but it seems a reasonable conclusion that the idea of mass shootings has “gone viral” among the violently mentally unstable.  It might not help, to keep the shooter’s identity hidden, but it sure wouldn’t hurt.  And it really might help.  A lot of these people clearly seek infamy.  And, currently, they get it.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 651 other followers

%d bloggers like this: