a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

The Monday after: “Stop the NRA” rally on Capitol Hill

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 20th December 2012

Stop the NRA Emergency March
(click for Facebook event page)

I’ve rarely been as upset by an event as by the Newtown killings; the only similar thing I can think of right now is 9/11.  On learning of the massacre on Friday, I’d thrown my papers at my computer screen, walked out of the office about for a minute, came back, angrily typed “FUCK THE GOD DAMNED NRA” on my Facebook page, hesitated for a moment, and posted it.

Deciding to go
Amid a variety of responses (mostly positive), one friend supplied some more coherent words to go with the sentiment:

“It’s like with the weather and global warming: We can’t say for certain that the NRA’s tooth-and-nail opposition to any sort of reasonable gun regulation anytime anywhere led directly to this particular incident. But we CAN say for certain that the NRA’s tooth-and-nail opposition to any sort of reasonable gun regulation anytime anywhere makes incidents like this one much more likely to happen. So, yes: FUCK THE GOD DAMNED NRA.” 

That’s it. This country has half the world’s firearms and 80% of the gun deaths among the 23 richest countries. Either we’re genetically crazier and meaner than anywhere else, or something else is going on.  I think it’s the militancy of the NRA, a combination lobbyist/chamber of gun commerce organization that helps make owning even the most absurdly overpowered gun seem virtuous to zealots, and that helps oppose even the most minimal of regulations.

So when I saw there was a plan to march to a DC office of the NRA, I felt like I had to join it or feel like I’d let myself down, even if it was during work hours.  I did so despite some misgivings: would this event become Exhibit X in gun advocates’ case that they’re the ones being persecuted?  Might it be better to just ignore the NRA and take our signs and demands elsewhere?  I decided I was overthinking it — especially once I saw the online gun nut hordes descend on the Facebook event page, sneering, jeering, and (I think) strongly suggesting to anyone else “wow, Adam Lanza probably thought all of this crazy stuff too.”

The event
I ducked out of work at 11:30*, and arrived at the gathering place at New Jersey and D Street, SE around noon — a few blocks from the Capitol Building, with its “in session” light on.

Three short videos: (1) demonstration, (2) interview with demonstrator
Deb Morris, (3) interview with demonstrator Mary Ester; all 3 play
automatically in sequence.  Or click a link for a single video.

I found a crowd of maybe a couple hundred people and what seemed like a couple of dozen newspeople and professional cameramen and -women.  (As ever, everybody had a camera or smart phone and was busily snapping pictures or recording the scene.)

An organizer reminded the crowd, perhaps unnecessarily, that “this is a solemn occasion,” and urged us not to get into confrontations with any counterprotesters.We then took the short, two block walk to the NRA Federal Affairs Division at 410 1st St SE — apparently in the same building as the popular “Bullfeathers” pub.  Either the  “Shame on the NRA!” chant felt a little too confrontational at first, or I’m not the only one who just doesn’t like chanting in unison in the first place.  But then a guy who turned out to be a Republican media consultant leaned out of his office window above a neighboring Subway store, and yelled “Arm the teachers!”  After that most of us were just fine with “Shame on the NRA.”

The rally itself was a little awkwardly staged, but served the purpose of learning just what the NRA’s many absurd legislative priorities and views are.  Organizers read each item in the 2012 NRA House Candidate Survey to the crowd — each paired with the name and age of one of the little victims in Newtown — and then we all answered together “NO we disagree about [lengthy NRA candidate survey position]!  Shame on the NRA!”  Since some of the items ran to forty words, this made for a slightly tedious demonstration experience, but whatever.  Here are the crowd responses prompted by the organizers, numbered to correspond to the NRA survey:

  1. I disagree with the NRA and would support legislation to ban the manufacture, sale or transfer of semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.
  2. I disagree with the NRA and oppose national Right-to-Carry reciprocity legislation.
  3. I believe that all firearms transactions — including private transfers between non-licensees, such as family members and friends — should be federally regulated, and I support additional legislation to require the federal government to approve all private firearms transfers.
  4. (NRA item skipped in rally list: Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco firearms sales reporting requirements in Southwestern states)
  5. I disagree with the NRA and believe imported firearms should be treated differently than identical American manufactured firearms.
  6. No, I disagree with the NRA [that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms and that it applies to all Americans regardless of where they live in the United States.] **
  7. I disagree with the NRA and oppose protection from disclosure of firearms trace data.
  8. I disagree with the NRA. All firearms should be banned.**

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The photograph that ought to defeat the NRA

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 15th December 2012

Children led from Sandy Hook ES in Newtown, CT after shooter rampage, told to keep their eyes shut on their
way out to keep from seeing blood and dead victims, and still following those instructions in the parking lot.
Because, I think, they’re (1) very, very good kids, and (2) they’re scared and in shock because (3) their country
and you and I have screwed up so very badly that we let this happen to them.
There have been so very, very many of these mass killings. Each time, practiced, sneering gun advocates emerge from the woodworks, explaining how it was the shooter, not the gun; any idea you have wouldn’t have prevented this particular crime; any idea you have would have just caused the crime to happen with a different weapon; shame on you for politicizing the tragedy; now is not the time to politicize the tragedy; the Second Amendment is all and only about what they say it’s about; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

So fondly do I hope, fervently do I pray that this photograph shuts them the fuck up, even just for a merciful hour or two.

It cuts through the bullshit like nothing else I’ve seen since Napalm Girl.  People are good natured and generally retreat from vociferous advocates who are very sure of themselves.  But when you see this, you don’t want to retreat any more.  At least that’s how I feel when I see this.  We are such a failure of a country that these kids had to be led out howling and blind from a scene of horror.

People hate guns when they see this photograph, they hate the NRA when they see this photograph, and they hate people making excuses for guns and the NRA when they see this photograph.  They remember, sure, anyone who would do this is crazy somehow, but he’d have had a tougher time without a Glock, a Sig Sauer, and an M4 carbine.  And while they always kind of knew that, that howling girl and that blind leading the blind chain of good, scared little kids kind of makes you want to NEVER EVER LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN and cheerfully deck the next person who comes along with sneering, pat argument number 19.  At least it does me.

Maybe this is all a long winded way of saying that photograph has me crying tonight, again, for the fourth or fifth time.

VARIOUS RELATED: Fuck You, Guns (Baker, via Gizmodo); “The NRA is the enabler of mass murderers” (Seitz-Wald,; Five Lies The Gun Lobby Tells You (Beauchamp, ThinkProgress); Now’s the time to talk guns (Walsh,; NRA Twitter goes silent (Daley,; Fuck Everything, Nation Reports. Just Fuck It All To Hell (Onion)

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Let’s make sure we learn nothing from Blacksburg

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th April 2007

The odds are that absolutely nothing will result from the Virginia Tech tragedy, except maybe some backbiting about when to sound the alarms on a college campus when a shooting happens. Yet if Cho Seung Hui had known Virginia Tech could successfully “lock down” its campus at the first sign of trouble, he’d have just attacked Norris Hall first — or picked some other place off campus to launch his sick bid for glory.

I’m guessing the gun culture and lobby is too entrenched to allow even mildly stricter standards for gun buyers and owners. Do the mentally ill have a right to own guns? Do the rest of us have a right to know they can’t? The sane answers are no, and yes – even within the strict parameters of the Constitution, since Cho was not part of a “well regulated militia” by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, we can count on that being ignored in whatever limp debate about gun control our curiously incompetent culture conducts in the weeks and months to come. Yet we’ll go on being shocked into numbness every few years as some new massacre eclipses the old one: University of Texas, Columbine, West Nickel Mines, Blacksburg.

So be it, then. These massacres are therefore inevitable tragedies, and “second half of the Second Amendment” zealots effectively want it that way — as Glenn Reynolds‘ bizarre prescription of more guns on campus vividly demonstrates. But a word to Reynolds, the NRA, and their allies: please, please, please spare me your “this is awful” comments next time. You own the political landscape on this; now own the results.

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“A well regulated militia” slips away

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th November 2002

A good while back I mentioned I was reading an article well-regarded by gun rights supporters, “All the way down the slippery slope,” by David Kopel and Joseph Olson. Instead of sticking to my resolve to “jot down a thought or two” now and then as I read through the piece, I made my usual mistake of reading the whole thing, then reading five other things, getting the pages all jumbled up, and feeling like it would be a waste of time to inflict my thoughts about it on anyone.

But that wouldn’t be fair (to Kopel and Olson, I mean). In truth, their article, subtitled “Gun prohibition in England and some lessons for civil liberties in America,” does a good job of what the title promises to do. That is, it delivers a cautionary tale of rights gradually abridged too much in England by a variety of means. It also succeeds in alerting the concern of American readers like myself who have generally given little thought to what gun rights and other freedoms have in common, and have generally given little thought to English gun rights in particular.

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Breaking Slippery Slope Review News

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 25th October 2002

In an earlier (10/18/2002) post, I promised a report on the Kopel and Olson article on gun control (“All the way down the slippery slope“) that Glenn Reynolds recommended. I’ve printed it, and have begun reading it on the Metro on the way back from work. I’m going to use this blog to jot down a thought or two now and then as I read through the piece.

As the title makes clear, the primary theme of the Kopel and Olson essay is that any government control of guns implies the potential for full government control and even elimination of private gun ownership. An early passage (in IV.A: Early 20th Century: The First Step), describes the “first step” towards the elimination of gun ownership rights in England as the Pistols Act of 1903, which required persons to purchase a license before they could buy a gun with a short (9 inches or less) barrel. Kopel and Olson write:

While the Act was, in the short run, harmless to gun owners, the Act was of considerable long-term importance. By allowing the Act to pass, British gun owners had accepted the proposition that the government could set the terms and conditions for gun ownership by law-abiding subjects. As Frederick Schauer points out, for a government body to decide “X and not Y” means that the government body has implicitly asserted a jurisdiction to decide between X and Y. Hence, to decide “X not Y” is to assert, indirectly, an authority in the future to choose “Y not X.” Thus, for Parliament to choose very mild gun controls versus strict controls was to assert Parliament’s authority to decide the nature of gun control. As this Essay shall discuss in regards to the granting of police authority over gun licensing, establishing the proposition that a government entity has any authority over a subject is an essential, but not sufficient, element for a trip down the slippery slope.*

But labeling the Pistols Act of 1903 as the first such step contradicts evidence the authors have marshaled — but perhaps not recognized — in earlier pages. Following the overthrow of the Stuarts in 1689, the authors show there was a concerted effort to restore the right to bear arms to Englishmen. They fail to note, or perhaps even notice, that not just any Englishmen were included in the warm sunshine of gun ownership:

After much discussion and numerous revisions, the right to arms evolved into a statement that “the Subjects which are protestants may have Arms for their Defense suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by law.” (emphasis added)

The Stuarts and their supporters, needless to say, were Catholic. Thus, even the earliest instance of the right to bear arms was not an unalloyed right, but rather one tempered by if not indeed determined by, shall we say, practical considerations about the safety of the state and the stability of society.

Put even more baldly, the original strong gun ownership right discovered by Kopel and Olson is one enacted by the winning side in a revolution to secure its hold on power and disarm its opponents. Thus, the seeds of gun control were present in the earliest instance of gun rights legislation. As a practical matter, this is unobjectionable, I would say; the first order of business after you’ve won a civil war is to end the shooting and set up rules that keep your side on top.

But at least one rebuttal to Kopel and Olson’s analysis is therefore that a slope that begins in 1689 and ends in 1967** is considerably less slippery than one that begins in 1903 and ends in 1967. The more important point is that Kopel and Olson demonstrate — one imagines almost against their own will — that English common law has always featured both gun control (sometimes in an unfamiliar religion-based form) and gun ownership rights, with both waxing and waning over time. Even a strong reaffirmation and strengthening of gun ownership rights like that in 1689, apparently one of the most notable such instances in English history, was part of a system of state control over its adversaries and their arms. This, of course, speaks to and derives from the imperative need (or even right?) of the community to determine the distribution and nature of lethal power within its confines — that imperative so nobly yet circumspectly addressed in the Second Amendment.

More as this story develops!

*The article is extensively footnoted, and this quote alone featured three of them; here and elsewhere, I’m removing these numbers for clarity in this post. Please see the original text to see these footnotes and the supporting documentation they refer to.
**Or whenever, sometime in the late 20th century; I haven’t gotten that far yet. Reading ahead, as far as I can tell, Kopel and Olson see the Criminal Justice Act of 1967 as the final important nail in the coffin of English gun ownership rights.

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Renewed shot in original direction: periodic ballistic registration

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th October 2002

It turns out that fellow DC area blogger Doug Turnbull (“Beauty of Gray”) has been addressing some of the same gun-related issues I have, and originally adopted many of the positions I independently developed over the last week or so. But in a post titled “Final shot, in the other direction,” he drops support for ballistic fingerprinting, having been convinced of some practical difficulties:

Gun barrel dimensions are accurate to at best 0.001 inches and most are far less precise. The markings are caused by flaws that are 20-100x smaller.

So, one could easily remove 2-5x as much material as would be required to change the markings without even taking a very good gun out of “as good as new” condition.

This is true, and appears to clinch the case against “ballistic fingerprinting.” Indeed, I’ll concede that “fingerprinting” has always been too strong a word for the idea; let’s rechristen it “ballistic registration.” Still, I think Mr. Turnbull gave up a little too soon on the concept. Here’s why:

  • The problem of defaced guns would be reduced, or at least substantively reframed, by requiring periodic (say quarterly or semiannual) re-registration of gun ballistics. (I mentioned this in my first post on the subject.) Missing guns or ones with substantially different ballistics would be red flags for law enforcement, at least providing additional probable cause for further investigation. Thus even cold-blooded killers like the sniper stalking the DC area would be confronted with the certainty of coming to the attention of authorities, regardless of the defacement or disposal of their weapons. Less cold-blooded killers would face an important threshold in carrying out a murder: the provable decision to conceal their deed.
  • Many (my guess is most) crimes committed with guns will continue to be unpremeditated, “heat of the moment” crimes; the guns will not be defaced, and the proposed system will help.
  • The ballistics registration program can improve technologically, e.g., with required manufacturer-side measures (i.e., distinctive “dare you to remove this” measures) or with improved methods of overcoming defacement.
  • For the remaining gun-related crimes committed with successfully defaced and/or discarded guns, we’d simply be no worse off than we are now in terms of solving the crime.

And with this, I’ll likely move on to other topics for a while myself.

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Gun control, back doors, and a powdered wig

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th October 2002

Keeping up with UO and Instapundit (Jim Henley and Glenn Reynolds) on gun control and ballistic fingerprinting is like playing a kind of “Go” where the other guy puts down five markers a turn, and you just get one. Some points are valid (Maryland’s failure to conduct full criminal background checks for gun buyers since March), some are patently diversionary (gun ownership as international human right; suddenly my favorite hard-nosed realists are for empty gestures?). But one thing at a time. I’ll just bring up a couple of posts, one each by Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Henley. Yesterday, Reynolds wrote:

In fact, gun registration has consistently led to confiscation; car registration has not. It’s not “paranoid” to fear real dangers.

I don’t think that the Second Amendment bars registration. But only an idiot would fail to notice this pattern, and I think that “ballistic fingerprinting” is, in fact, being pushed as a backdoor way of getting gun registration, by people who would favor confiscation if they thought they had the votes.

First, observe those last two sentences. Reynolds concedes that registration is permissible under the Second Amendment, but then considers ballistic fingerprinting a “back door” to — registration. It’s not the registration itself that bothers him, apparently, it’s the supporters of the measure, who he divines will confiscate Americans’ guns if given half a chance.

Now either registration is permissible under the Second Amendment or it is not. I’m relieved that Mr. Reynolds says it is, because that saves me a major argument with a lawyer about the law and the Constitution. If it is permissible, what bearing do the (presumably impermissible) goals of gun-confiscators have on the question, whether they support registration or not? That’s right: none. What some supporters of gun registration may secretly or even not so secretly wish for has no bearing whatsoever on the merits of ballistic fingerprinting and gun registration. I feel like I’ve wasted time even pointing this out, but the argument seems to come up over and over again.

As for those patterns Reynolds mentions, they appear to be based on observations by his colleague Mr. Kopel.* I’ll dutifully plow through them and report back to you, my loyal readers, but the title itself indicates they’re based on the experience of merry olde no-Second-Amendment England, and are thus fairly irrelevant to a discussion of gun registration in the United States. So yes, it is a bit paranoid to fear dangers to our constitutional rights based on the experience of a country without our constitution.

It’s as if we can’t make progress towards a constitutionally permitted state of affairs — gun ballistic fingerprinting and registration — unless we all have adopted doubleplusrightthink about the basic right to own a gun. This brings me to some comments (“Spree Graphs”) Jim Henley made last week. Scroll past the (well done) sniper news and commentary, and you reach the following gun-control section of the post, where Henley takes issue with “Talking Dog”s claim (and Reynolds’ later claim) that the Second Amendment permits registration:

First, in the absence of a formal acknowledgement that the Second Amendment enshrines an individual right, the NRA is only sensible in opposing anything that smacks of universal registration

Moreover, the purpose of the arms-bearing right is to enable the people to defend themselves against an overweening government. (viz Federalist 46.) Any registration scheme the government runs seems to fall foul of a conflict of interest. (This kind of talk upsets a lot of liberals, but it says what it says.)

First, the Federalist Papers are interesting historical documents, but they are to the Constitution as our real estate agent’s praise of our house was to the mortgage agreement we signed to buy it: it’s interesting, it helps explain our state of mind … but it’s nowhere near as important as the contract itself.

Be that as it may. I’m no constitutional scholar, so I thought I’d better have a look, lest James Madison had prescient comments on ballistic fingerprinting 214 years ago. Follow the link yourself: you’ll find that the bulk of the article is about how the States need not fear the federal entity, because citizens will have deeper loyalties to the local than to the federal government. Finally comes the apparent Ur-source for gun ownership rights. Madison discusses the resistance federal usurpers would face from the sturdy armed citizens of the States:

To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.

Now the fairest way to read this is as an elaborate backgrounder for the full Second Amendment, “well regulated militia” and all:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed

What it is not is some kind of brief against regulating guns; the passage above takes pains to ground the hypothetical resistance in the institutions of the given State and its militia; this in turn implies — one might argue it even requires — that guns whose true purpose is the defense of the State should be inventoried by that State and prevented from becoming the tools of criminal or hostile misuse against that State or its citizens.

For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t mind a national ballistic fingerprinting program statute that had an article 2 stating “This statute does not imply the right to confiscate guns,” or words to that effect. If that’s formal enough acknowledgment for Jim and Glenn, great. If not … they’ll need to spell out what kind of formal acknowledgment they have in mind.


* Kopel, Olson 1999: “All the way down the slippery slope: gun prohibition in England and some lessons for civil liberties in America”

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Kicking the can down the road

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th October 2002

From William Burton’s much-linked post* on gun policy:

Once we’ve affirmed that the 2nd Amendment does confer the individual right to keep and bear arms, we will have taken a gun ban off the table. Once this is done, the majority of gun owners, knowing that their rights are safe, won’t object to reasonable gun control measures. A few will, but they’ll be much easier to overcome when their hysterical ravings are ignored by the majority of gun owners.

I’m not against seeking middle ground in the gun control debate. But this just kicks the can down the road. How exactly do you affirm the 2d Amendment does anything other than what it already says it does? Anything less than a constitutional amendment — a campaign pledge, an act of Congress — is ephemeral. But say you pass an “2.b Amendment” with the “Well regulated militia” part removed, like the NRA misstatement on their home page dreams of? Do you really believe a expanded guarantee to the right to bear arms would result in gun-lobby concessions to the state to effectively regulate ownership of those arms? Life doesn’t work that way.

Burton is wrong. We already have the Constitutional tool to both guarantee the individual right to keep and bear arms, and to effectively regulate gun ownership. We just don’t have the political will or talent to do it on the one side, or the will to civilly seek meaningful middle ground on the other.

*via Glenn Reynolds, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Jim Henley.
UPDATE, 10/10: “effectively regulate” link to article below.

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Sure wish we could trace those bullets to the rifle that fired them

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 8th October 2002

Instead of focusing on what to call a sniper murderer besides “sniper murderer” (“Terrorist“? “Chickenshit“? “Very bad man?” — links via various Henley posts), I’ll go ahead and open a discussion of a simple preventive measure.

That would be a ballistics registration system that allows any given bullet to not merely be matched with another bullet from the same weapon, but with filed documentation about that weapon. But as the New York Times’ Fox Butterfield reports (“Law Bars a National System for Tracing Bullets and Shells“):

The technology exists to create a national ballistic fingerprint system that would enable law enforcement officials to trace bullets recovered from shootings, like those fired by the Washington-area sniper, to a suspect.

Such a system would have been of great use in the Washington case, in which six people were shot to death, because so far bullet fragments are virtually the only evidence.

But because of opposition by the gun industry and the National Rifle Association, only two states have moved to set up a ballistic fingerprint system, and Congress has prohibited a national program, experts say.

It’s true that one of those states is Maryland. But the other is New York, and the law only applies to new weapons, meaning our local sniper had plenty of alternatives to a Maryland-store-bought rifle to put in his cold, hateful fingers.

To me, that argues for expanding the reach of such a program to the federal level, and subjecting all weapons to ballistics fingerprinting. Opponents like James Tartaro make some good counterarguments (“Ballistic ‘Fingerprint’ Scheme Far from a Magic Wand“): criminals could circumvent the program by defacing the barrels or other key parts of their weapons, or they could substitute other firearms less easily “fingerprinted,” like shotguns.*

But neither concern would apply to more than a fraction of the arms fired in the commission of crimes, and for these, we’d simply be no worse off than we are now. Moreover, the simple measure of a re-registration program — owners bring their guns in periodically for re-registration of their ballistics patterns — would help minimize the “defacement” concern and the “what about old weapons” concern yet further. Evidence of significant ballistics changes or failure to appear would be a red flag for law enforcement.

And sure enough, a national system may be Tartaro’s real concern, emerging late in his article:

The NRA has been dubious of this technology-based handgun DNA scheme because it would involve a sort of national registration system. The make, model and serial numbers would have to be linked to the samples on the digital files, and it wouldn’t take long to link any serial number through other trace techniques. Pataki and Glendening would say that shouldn’t bother anyone who is law-abiding; they have nothing to worry about.

I wonder if Tartaro’s concern about national registration systems extends to car license plates or not. But at any rate, such a registry is not a Second Amendment concern — quite the opposite: it would be faithful to the letter of that amendment, which invokes “a well-regulated militia” as the expected benefit of and requirement for the right to bear arms. As its defenders well know, the Second Amendment states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

…and not simply: The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed (as the NRA home page would have it). Just as any army maintains control over and detailed accounts of the guns in its weapons lockers, so would this kind of registry establish the kind of national census of firearms needed to “well regulate” those arms and the militias — real or virtual — that use them. Hunters could continue to hunt; families could continue to have their last line of defense against criminals. God-damned snipers shooting 13-year olds lose, the public wins.

Of course, I’m not counting on this measure to become federal law any time soon, because any conceivable gun control measure will appear to be the proverbial “slippery slope,” “beginning of the end,” or “salami tactics,” (so that “reasonable” positions like Glenn Reynolds’ evaporate on close reading) to gun fanatics, because gun owners take ever more expansive views of their “rights” (no registration, no ban on assault weapons, no waiting periods, nothing) and because no one looks forward to bitter political debates with armed opponents.

*Needless to say, the NRA doesn’t like the Maryland law either. But its reasons are either disingenuous (no crimes solved, manpower allocated: it’s a new program limited to new weapons in a single state. I’d be shocked if it had solved a crime yet), or solved by a national program featuring repeat inspections. I suspect a well-drafted law, a good solicitor general and an honest Supreme Court — I can always dream — could overturn or limit the Haynes v. U.S. case the NRA cites to support the contention that such ballistics evidence would constitute self-incrimination.

UPDATE, 10/25: Welcome Weblog readers! You have gone back in time to October 8. Your comments and discussion are welcome. For followup articles to this one, see a 10/9 post above (middle ground in the gun debate?), two 10/18 posts (discussing James Madison and the Beauty of Gray) and/or a 10/25 one (discussing the Glorious Revolution of 1689 and Dave Kopel, noted gun rights writer). Also, consider visiting an exchange on the topic of ballistic fingerprinting between Mark Kleimann and Juan “Non-Volokh” here.

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