« Why Dictatorial Regimes Are Brittle—Posner | Main | What Kind of Gun Control? Becker »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Carrie Prather

i dont personally always agree with Posner but here i think i am gonna support him..thanks for sharing it here..
http://www.onlinecheck.com/business_cash_advance.html Fast Cash Service

richard lewis

@Curt Doolittle: this post is fascinating and beautifully written but utterly wrong headed. In fact I find it positively scary that someone obviously as intelligent and well read should write something as silly. Only in America perhaps.
Have you heard of the 'Enclosures'? You imply that private property was a bottom up social movement in which individuals took control of land backed up with arms. Perhaps there are isolated historical cases in which this was true but surely the institution of private property was mainly the work of states - the new strong states and bureacracies of western Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries, not to mention the force of the US state versus native Americans. If English peasants, the users of communal lands, had been armed in the 16th century perhaps the capitalist private property system would never have got going at all.
I'd love to hear how your ideological argument maps on to real history.


Richard: Dolittle's post is curious. He does touch upon the fact that in most other nations property rights and surveys are much less defined than what we're used to in the States. There are some NGO's working at developing better ownership definitions. In the agrarian past it seems a "dog bark" (distance one can be heard) might have sufficed for a home or a line of rocks for a farm was adequate, but not for changing uses and higher density.

I think of my ownership as a social contract with our society; ie that I OWN my small parcel as long as the law is supported and respected by us all. It seems a peace making arrangement as I know not to have my fence encroach on my neighbor, nor tolerate his encroaching on mine, with the seemingly peaceable means of resolving disputes in the court. I suppose, post court, it is the "force" of the state (us) enforcing the decision.

Ha! though looking back, there's some evidence that Russia did not intend to permanently transfer Alaska to the US, and of course, that the "right" they had to sell it to us was gained by armed power over those living here at the time so perhaps, as with much of our nation, my "ownership" was gained by force.

Still, it seems Curt is, as gun advocates sometimes do, trying to stretch the "need" for guns to a 19th century Dodge City existence.


Responding to Jack's fourth post, it is an improvement over his previous posts.

YES. Jack is right. I should have used the term "assault weapon" instead of "assault rifle."

YES, education, mental health, and drug policy are issues that a lot of people are concerned with. They are not issues that outrank civil liberties. Anyone who feels deeply about them can exercise their First Amendment rights by joining and contributing to the myriad of organizations working on these causes. The suggestion that the NRA drop its particular special interest to become active in other issues is a transparent attempt to split the organization.

Congratulations, Jack, on fleshing out your arguments with an extensive listing of the Clinton era ban.

However, the listing serves to explain why terms like "assault weapon ban" are so odious to people concerned with firearms civil liberties. We look at it and think, "The difference between prohibited and non-prohibited guns is based upon arbitrary, cosmetic features. If legislation can do this, changing a few words could make it vastly more restrictive. Given that we have mortal enemies who are not going to be satisfied with anything less than total prohibition of guns, this is a slippery slope we don't want to start upon."

Gun owners may seem to be myopic about their civil liberties, because gun owners are a persecuted minority, a situation comparable to Jews in 1930s Germany -- subject to a lot of discrimination and harassment with sinister groups in the background looking forward to doing them in (not kill them, but eliminate them as gun owners).


Regarding my earlier post about the California pitchfork murders, they actually occurred in Merced in 2000, not last year.

sam vinson

It is a great relief to see the relatively strong support for Second Amendment rights, originalist interpretation of the Constitution, and gun ownership as a fundament of a free society in a blog such as this. While both Judge Posner and Professor Becker have contributed substantially to conservative thought, it is not surprising to find men comfortable in Academia placing full credence in thought as a solution to all problems. For better or worse, it simply is not.

When Congress can believe that Enumerated Powers include the regulation of non-conduct--as in Obamacare--it is hard to understand why otherwise intelligent conservatives fail to apprehend the fear of what might come next.

More perplexing is how anyone believing in a regime of freedom might think that a free people would entrust interpretation of a Constitution to a non-removable class not bound by originalist interpretation of the fundamental governing document. It is conceivable, probably even prudent, to rely on fiduciaties. But after recognizing the everpresent truth of original sin, one probably should have an original document that must be interpreted according to its original meaning to control the fiduciary.


JBS: Thanks for responding. The area of dealing with guns in our nation is not simple.

In my suggestions for equitable education, mental H/C access and a more logical approach to the failed "drug war" policies, I wasn't so much thinking of the NRA set giving up their "cold dead hands - don't give an inch" mantra, but, that, for some reason?? (perhaps you'll explain?) there seems considerable resistance to the social changes that very likely would lower the gun death rate in our nation.

At four or five times the rate of the nations that do limit packing handguns around their streets, you can understand that it will always provoke political activism, and especially so in our "left behind" areas where the kill rate is MUCH higher. Were gun advocates to do more to, perhaps? get our kill rate down to, only? double that of other developed nations, the need for the NRA to fill the coffers of, typically, right wing legislators (who almost always oppose the rational suggestions I've made here) would be much less.

Couldn't the NRA image use a bit of burnishing? As above? or even taking a few kids of the block out to the range or on a hunting trip?

Kind of a win-win wouldn't you say in a nation falling well behind in education and being low on the totem pole of mental care access, and having one of the worst drug problems in the world?

As for the items listed in the assault weapon ban they seem hardly frivolous. At some number, above five shells, doesn't a semi-automatic shotgun become a "streetsweeper" and a lot more firepower than we'd want to accord a whackjob or group of terrorists?

As for "slippery slopes" in regard to making some compromises likely to lower our horrendous gun death rate it may be the opposite. The last theme here was that of brittleness in government often resulting in dramatic change, thus a hard line defense of a deadly status quo leaves gun advocates vulnerable to political pressure, and perhaps big change spurred by the next Brady, Columbine, AZ or other event and the inevitable political follow-up.

As in any political situation IF progress is being made against the killing, crippling, maiming, costs to H/C and heart-break of the survivors, my guess is your "mortal enemies" are likely to be reduced to an ineffective, fringe minority.

I guess that as we speak a new "assault" weapon ban bill is making its way through Congress? And that in those hallowed halls of debate, it may well be difficult to make a rational defense of 30 round clips? and semi-auto shotguns of more than five shells?

Richard W. Murphy

Both Becker and Posner make cogent points. There is another aspect of gun possession that needs to be addressed. That is safety. If a law abiding citizen wishes to purchase a gun for hunting or self-defense, he should be treated the same as one who buys a car: he should be required to register the gun and to have a license to use it. To obtain the license, he should demonstrate that he knows how to use the gun safely. I know that the NRA will unalterably oppose this as will others on the paranoid right. After all, a car is a lethal instrument and a gun is a lethal weapon. Those who own them should receive the same treatment: licensing and registration.


Richard: Therein lies the dilemma. If, as seems the trend these days, the 2nd conveys and individual RIGHT to own a gun, then most limitations pose problems. I suppose the 2nd doesn't preclude terms placed on ownership, so perhaps registration laws would not violate the underlying right. I'd imagine strict 2nd supporters would argue against a RIGHT being subject to, to many restrictions even were they to be worthwhile in terms of social safety. You'll note the howl often heard about trigger locks that might make quite a dent in our rate of gun accidents.

In the case of cars, we have an inalienable right to travel, and an inalienable right to own a car, bike or other conveyance. But there is no such right to operate vehicles on our roads and highways, instead it's a privilege granted under a host of terms. These days, most states require carrying insurance or proof of financial ability to cover damages that might arise from negligent operation and accidents. I'm not sure of the Constitutionality of requiring gun owners to provide similar liability insurance, (given the right) but ha! I know it wouldn't be an easy sale!


Richard says

If a law abiding citizen wishes to purchase a gun for hunting or self-defense, he should be treated the same as one who buys a car:

I fully agree.

A person buying a car is not required to do anything other than pay for it. You can buy a car from a private individual with no paperwork at all. If you pay cash, you can buy a car from a dealership without having to prove anything other than that you have the cash.

The only time paperwork enters into the equation is when you want to operate that car on public roads. At that point you have to have liability insurance and register the car with the state.

I propose that gun ownership should be treated the same. The only time you should have to get a license for a gun is when you want to carry the gun in public. If you only use it in your home or on private land, you shouldn't need to do anything.


Al, it does seem that in terms of protection guns perform more of a defensive role at home, perhaps especially in rural areas where neither police or neighbors are nearby, while on the murderous street of our cities they play more of an offensive role.

Difficult to differentiate though, in terms of registration, with guns being so easily hidden and portable. Also, in your auto metaphor there is a paper trail on most cars, and it appears we need registration to, for one, keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental problems.

Well, we're all victims of the NRA "debate" that operates only in the tug of war of regulate or not. Perhaps better to implement some of my suggestions above which I'd predict would lower our horrendous rate of gun death w/o further restrictions.


This comment starts by stating that the commenter has read all the comments, a statement made in the belief that this will increase the likelihood that the commenter will be seen as Serious and Thorough instead of just someone with nothing better to do for an hour. This sentence will use the phrase “the marketplace of ideas.” This sentence will pompously chastise the OP for being incendiary and for criticizing other commenters for not seeing the OP’s entire thesis. This sentence will have no relevance to the the OP because the commenter can read but cannot think.


Regarding Jack's suggestion that the NRA needs to burnish its reputation, the NRA has a number of educational activities -- see NRA.ORG/PROGRAMS.ASPX.

Regarding the discussion between Jack and Richard W. Murphy over the logic (not the constitutionality) of licensing guns, one should start by recognizing that mere possession of anything is non-threatening. Its the negligent or criminal misuse that merits attention. Owning a car is harmless. Driving it on a public road merits licensing. Kids raised on a farm are usually driving tractors and pickups on their parents' property by the age of 12. Having a gun in your dresser drawer merits no licensing. Carrying it concealed off one's own property may merit licensing.

Danny DeMichele Entrepreneur

These regulations were adopted before the Heller and McDonald decisions recognized "to keep and bear arms" as a fundamental right.Thanks for the information on blog.

Coach Luggage Bags

It's the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy
It's the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy

Trent Jordan Vancouver

The phrase gun control refers to efforts to restrict or limit the possession ...Gun control laws restrict the purchase or ownership of guns, even though guns are typically acquired for defensive or sporting purposes. ...I agree that though gun ownership cannot be forbidden any longer, it can be regulated, as Becker emphasizes.

Stuart Mitchell

Violence is good? Does anyone really believe that armed force is the answer to political discourse? Guns are for the fearful and the ignorant. Even hunting has become nothing more than avocation for the bored idiots who can't read or write. The US has become the laughing stock of the civilized world because of our gun laws/culture (a word used in the loosest sense), our health care, and social safety network. The Tea Party/right wing nuts will be cheering this country right into the 14th century if we are not careful. Citizens should be happy and privileged to pay taxes to pay for a great society, not crying like small children who have had their suckers snatched from them in the stroller. Many of these ills can be traced to extreme religiosity and distrust of those who have the brain power to work for a more progressive and liberal world.


Those who oppose an American gun culture might consider the ethical choice of avoiding any trips to California and consider safe and intellectually stimulating Puerto Vallarta instead for without the contribution of Colt's revolver, a new weapon then, and it's purchase by the U.S. Army at the request of the Texas militia known as the Rangers it wouldn't be in the U.S. The Texas Rangers were essential scouts and shock troops allowing the defense of the Rio Grande from the Mexican Army and an advance to Monterrey by General Taylor's troops. That and the rest of the story is well told in The Glory Guys, chapter 3, by Mona Sizer.

nintendo wii accessory bundles

Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Very useful information specifically the last part :) I care for such information much. I was looking for this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.


The only time you should have to get a license for a gun is when you want to carry the gun in public.

Gaston Cantens

Good post. I agree with you, Dan, Posner's usual hyper-rational reasoning has failed him here.

Michael Barkley

Too many guns? Not a problem. The government has always been able to tax as a solution (now urgent since Heller & McDonald have rendered all gun control invalid despite Justice Scalia's unsupported dicta to the contrary):
- - -
Phase 1 - The Resolution, Format is from H.J.RES. 438, 102nd Congress::


Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States repealing the right to keep and bear arms.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid for all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States at any time after the date of its submission for ratification:

1. Any right to keep and bear arms, whether under the Second Amendment to this Constitution, or under some pre-existing doctrine of natural law or common law or otherwise, or under Constitution or laws of any State, is repealed.

2. The privilege to keep and bear arms throughout the United States shall be under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.'

Phase 2 - A Tax; Following adoption of the constitutional amendment, a bill to tax:

1. There is imposed an annual tax on each and every firearm in any household as follows:

a. first firearm, $10
b. second firearm, $20
c. third firearm, $30
d. fourth through ninth firearms, $100 each
e. firearms in excess of the ninth, $1,000 each.

2. This tax is assessed and payable on each April 15 for firearms held by a household at the end of the preceding year, to be paid with a schedule listing firearm type, manufacturer and serial number, the schedule submitted along with the tax return of such member of the household as the members of the household may choose, with other members attaching a copy of that schedule to their tax returns as well indicating by which member the tax will be paid. Where firearms are owned by a partnership, if there is only one general partner the arms shall be included with the schedule of that general partner; where there is more than one general partner, the partners shall choose which partner will report the firearms. Where firearms are owned by a corporation, the corporation shall report and pay tax as if it were a household. Where fiscal years do not coincide with calendar years, reporting shall be as of the end of the previous fiscal year. Where firearms are owned by a legitimate museum, the museum shall report the ownership annually as if it were a household, but shall be exempt from the tax except for the penalties in section 4 below.

3. This tax may be avoided by selling the firearm to a licensed gun dealer or by turning the firearm over to an official firearm collection location before December 31 of the prior year. Once a month such collection locations shall turn collected firearms over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for destruction, except that the Bureau may withhold from destruction such firearms as are of historical interest for later donation to an appropriate museum.

4. Any firearm lost or stolen will incur a $1,000 penalty in the reporting year it was lost or stolen. For any such lost or stolen firearm that is subsequently recovered by the owner that $1,000 penalty shall be rescinded and refunded, except if the firearm has been used in the commission of a crime chargeable as a felony an additional $1,000 penalty will be imposed.

5. For each firearm sold by a licensed firearm dealer that is subsequently used in the commission of a crime chargeable as a felony a $1,000 penalty will be imposed against that dealer for each such year in which that firearm was used in such a crime.

6. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Internal Revenue Service shall jointly promulgate regulations for administering this Act.
- - -
Best wishes, --Mike , Candidate for Congress , http://www.mjbarkl.com/run.htm .



I was going to applaud you for your amazing satire until I realized you are serious.

I would be worried except for the fact that you would never receive the necessary votes from 3/4ths of the states to repeal the 2nd Amendment. I seriously doubt you would ever receive the votes from 2/3rds of both chambers to actually send it to the states.

digital asset management

What a nice discussion about Gun Control—Posner’s Comment!

kayak fishing

Everyone like this marvelous site.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Become a Fan

May 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31