A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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Stand Your Ground Laws

I’m reading a lot about Michael Dunn and how Stand Your Ground law are terrible. I agree. But I feel a bit like you might feel if somebody said Han Solo were his favorite Star Trek character. Right page, wrong book. The Stand Your Ground discussion conflates threedistinct problems in an unhelpful way.1 For my own peace of mind, I’d like to address what 1) Stand Your Ground laws do and do not affect, 2) why a mistrial or a “not guilty” is not the same thing as “innocent,” and 3) why the actual problem is a lot bigger and a lot harder than whether Stand Your Ground laws have affected the results of jury trials.

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On Gun Control

If I squint hard enough to ignore the obvious flaws in the argument, I understand why people might think that armed guards in schools could increase security.

And if I tie my brain in a knot, I imagine how somebody might think a heavily armed populace is necessary to secure liberty in case things get a little Third Reichy around here.

But no matter how brutally I torture logic, I can’t figure out how so many people can believe both of these things at the same time.

"Our guns are all that stand between us and a police state! Also, let’s get some more storm troopers in the schools!"

Beyond the Second Amendment

I’m not a gun guy. I don’t hunt. I don’t go to shooting ranges. I don’t really get either of them. In other words, I’m not the guy we want entrusted with crafting a balanced gun policy. The only thing I’ve got to contribute to the conversation is to ask you all to stop getting distracted by the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment, like the rest of the Constitution, was written by a remarkable group of people at a remarkable time who got a lot of things very right and a lot of things very wrong. If we’re looking for inherited wisdom on gun control, we’re no better off turning to the founders than we would be turning to, say, Bill Nye the Science Guy.

The Second Amendment puts some limits on what laws we can have and how they need to be implemented. It has no effect on what a sound gun policy for today is. Put simply, a sound (or unsound) gun policy would be just as sound (or unsound) with or without the Second Amendment. And unless we turn to the guys who brought us the three-fifths compromise as some kind of absolute moral authority, the Second Amendment is a legal—but not a moral—limit. The Second Amendment might help or hinder a specific policy proposal—but it won’t make it better or worse.

Follow up thoughts on gun control

I’ll be honest. I don’t really get guns. It’s one of those issues I can fully engage—because I don’t understand why it’s so important to many people. I get the gun control side. But the other side is a bit trickier for me to weigh. The first day of hunting season is an unofficial holiday season in Michigan, so it’s clearly a big deal. So my general approach would be to let people have whatever they need to hunt with and do a pretty solid job of locking the rest of it down. Our freely-available guns are supplying a de facto civil war in Mexico, and we really ought to do something about that.

Deadly Almonds writes:

I think the main reason people feel the need for guns is to to defend themselves from people who may have guns

I think that’s largely true—and I also think that as soon as we open a cross-fire, we increase the chances of somebody getting hurt.

RoseAnn writes:

It would be great if we can crack down on overall manufacturing of small arms and ammunition. There is an overwhelming quantity available which only breeds violence.

ZigZiggityZoo writes:

Automatic weapons are largely impossible to acquire anyway. The only legal ones for civilians must’ve been registered by 1986, and cost multiple thousands of dollars.

Oh. So … I don’t really know about guns. I should have skipped this topic. But, whatever.

Jennifer Getting There writes:

Holy crap, you were not joking about #alienating readers. :)


Then Diggberals wrote this thing about how we need to engage in a violent insurrection against the government. That’s actually one of the reasons I’d be happy to take guns off the street. I have some issues with our government. I have some changes I would make. But … I’m not inclined to shoot at police officers. And I’d really rather you avoided shooting at police officers, no matter how good an idea it seems at the time. The suckiness of everything policy I’ve ever complained about is pretty minimal compared to the suckiness of a literal civil war.

It’s not worth it.


I don’t mind hunting. If you need a rifle to do that, fine. But the number of people killed by American guns is just too high. Let’s crack down on the supply. Forget hunting rifles. But you don’t need a handgun or an automatic. If that takes a constitutional amendment, so be it.