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The Second Amendment: Wrong Centerpiece for the Gun Debate

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Amid the debate and calls for action in the wake of the Newtown massacre, it’s instructive to take a historical perspective on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to possess guns in their homes for self-defense, and in 2010 clarified that this right must be recognized in every jurisdiction in the nation. Both were 5-4 decisions, reflecting a lack of consensus among legal minds about the meaning of the Second Amendment, which reads in full: “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.”

Such disagreement is nothing new and by no means restricted to gun policy. It dates to the earliest days of the nation, when Federalists, informally led by figures like Alexander Hamilton and (despite his protestations of impartiality) President Washington, favored a powerful executive, while the Republicans of the time, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, believed more idealistically in the will of the people, admired the French Revolution, and favored more Congressional power. These two proto-parties disagreed vehemently about whether the Constitution leaned one way or the other.

The Bill of Rights, which includes the Second Amendment, had come about in the first place because of a disagreement about the Constitution’s meaning and character. Some said individual rights didn’t need to be spelled out because the body of the Constitution itself adequately asserted that government possessed only the powers enumerated therein. Others, afraid government would grab additional powers if unchecked, advocated the positive declaration of specific rights. The latter argument won out, resulting in the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights). So it was not an infallible judgment from the gods, but a conflict about the meaning of the Constitution, that produced that enumeration of what we treasure today as some of our most basic rights. And amendements can be superceded or rescinded, as was the case with Prohibition.

American society has continued to hash out interpretations of the Constitution. The Supreme Court interprets and re-interprets the Commerce Clause, for example, to determine the constitutionality of federal laws that couldn’t have been dreamed of by the framers. And advocates of gun rights and gun control will continue to argue over the Second Amendment in spite of the Supreme Court’s recent rulings.

However, the outdated nature of the Second Amendment is plain in its text, and thus the Supreme Court is wrong to use it to decide questions of gun rights. The subordinate clause to the “right to bear arms” explains that that right comes about because of the need for a “well regulated militia.” That’s because it was written at a time when there was no standing army. After the Revolution, the Continental Army more or less dissolved, and the new country’s military forces reverted to state militias comprised not of professional soldiers but of citizens who undertook to take up arms on a part-time basis as needed. Strongly distrusting the idea of standing armed forces because they feared monarchical power, the Republicans of the time favored this state of affairs and resisted efforts by Washington and the Federalists to create a standing army.

When Madison formulated the Bill of Rights, he wanted to assure the many Americans aligned with Republican sentiments that the federal government wouldn’t disarm their militias and assert federal military power, a real fear at the time. Today, of course, we no longer have militias, and all but the country’s farthest-right fringe elements agree that even if the federal government deserves no other portfolio, it should be responsible for national defense. In any case, we no longer depend on militias for that purpose.

The fact that the Second Amendment is outdated doesn’t necessarily mean a right to bear arms no longer exists. What if the Bill of Rights had never included that right, or if a Bill of Rights had ultimately been deemed superfluous and never written down in the first place? It’s hard to imagine, in that event, 18th century federal marshals going about confiscating everyone’s guns. A right to own guns could have been discerned then, and could be now, in other ways.

It’s important to remember, then, that the Constitution is a fallible document, in part because it is a product of its time. More pertinent to today’s gun debate than the 18th century military situation are the advances in weapons technology since the time of the framers, who didn’t imagine automatic and semi-automatic weapons or 30-bullet cartridges. The difference between military weaponry on the one hand, and guns intended for personal defense or hunting on the other, is now so vast that “arms” (as in a “right to bear arms”) can no longer be considered an integral concept. We need to decide the legality and terms of possession of weapons on the basis of their sheer destructive power.

Making it harder for unstable or irresponsible people to get their hands on military weapons won’t stop gun violence, most of which comes from handguns anyway. But it might prevent some horrific massacres – and it will say much about who we are as a people.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • Baronius

    Military weapons aren’t available to civilians. Military-looking weapons are. There’s no reason to believe that banning them would affect the number of mass killings. If it says anything about us as a people, it would say that we’re willing to settle for cheap gimmicks to make ourselves feel better.

  • Dan

    Our system of law does not, and should not, allow us to simply ignore preexisting laws simply because some of us feel those laws are outdated.

    I’m going to quote Judge Kleinfeld of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, because he has already put it in much more elegant terms than I could:

    “Some people think that the Second Amendment is an out-dated relic of an earlier time. Doubtless some also think that constitutional protections of other rights are outdated relics of earlier times. We The People own those rights regardless, unless and until We The People repeal them. For those who believe it to be outdated, the Second Amendment provides a good test of whether their allegiance is really to the Constitution of the United States, or only to their preferences in public policies and audiences. The Constitution is law, not vague aspirations, and we are obligated to protect, defend, and apply it. If the Second Amendment were truly an outdated relic, the Constitution provides a method for repeal. The Constitution does not furnish the federal courts with an eraser.

    Judge Kleinfeld nails it. This is truly a test of a person’s belief and allegiance to democracy: are you willing to live by the democratically established law, or are you going to push to have the law ignored because you disagree with its policy?

    I for one will continue to uphold democracy. Repeal the Second Amendment if necessary. But as long as it is the law, I will defend my neighbors’ rights, whether I personally agree with that right or not.

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    That’s all very well, Judge Kleinfeld, but it’s not just that the 2nd Amendment is outdated – it’s that it’s outdated in a way that makes it not make sense anymore. It’s like the Three-Fifths Compromise, which said that a slave counted as three-fifths of a person. We don’t have slaves anymore, so that part of the Constitution is moot.

  • troll

    Baronius – dunno about your distinction in #1…the .223 round fired by the Bushmaster is essentially the same as a NATO round

    and what?! no selector switch? note that auto is for suppressive fire and that assuming your shit is together you get your serious kill on with an assault rifle in semi-auto (militarily speaking that is)

  • troll

    Jon – you and the Stevens led minority can argue your dissent but what good will this do in the law-making arena without a political realignment of the Court

  • Cole Gentles

    Being a libertarian anarchist, I am no defender of the Constitution as a guideline to understand what rights are let alone what their limits are. As Lysander Spooner once said “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”

    That said, on the matter of the Bill of Rights, you missed out on one aspect, John. That is, Hamilton (whom, mind you, I’m not exactly a fan of in most cases) argued against the Bill of Rights, at least in part, on the grounds that he feared over time, the people, and the government, would come to believe that if a right isn’t specifically listed in this bill of rights, then it was fair game for government oversight and regulation.

    It’s hard to argue that his fears were unfounded, as over time, that’s basically become reality.

  • JFP

    Troll is correct

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Hamilton certainly had a good point, as was usually the case. (I am much more an admirer of AH than you are, Cole!) There is also the reality that not every “right” is equal in kind. Some are closer to absolute than others, some no doubt “fair game for government oversight and regulation” more than others.

    And yes – obviously troll is correct that a realignment of the Supreme Court would be needed to change some of these things.

  • Igor

    The Second Amendment makes clear that the Militia should be well armed, and since The Militia is our first line of defense against foreign invasion we should conscript all gun owners when we feel threatened and send them off as necessary to fight our enemies, no matter how far away they are.

    Thus, if we must (as some think) mount pre-emptive war against Iran because they are so threatening, we should send the gun owners off to that fight. I’m sure that gun owners would welcome the chance to prove their patriotism and the efficacy of their weapons.

    Just think how much better the Iraq war would have gone if it had been fought by our dedicated gun owners and upholders of Freedom!

  • zingzing

    gun owners don’t really give a shit about the second amendment or the constitution, igor. corner a gun nut and get him to tell you what the xth (x equalling anything greater than 2) amendment says. such bullshit.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Hamilton … argued against the Bill of Rights, at least in part, on the grounds that he feared over time, the people, and the government, would come to believe that if a right isn’t specifically listed in this bill of rights, then it was fair game for government oversight and regulation.

    Hence the Ninth Amendment, which was enacted to pre-empt some future wise-assed government from justifying its oppression of somebody on the grounds that the particular form of oppression wasn’t specifically proscribed in the Bill of Rights.

  • Igor

    DD is right. And I would remind people that Bork, who just died, said that the ninth was just an ink blot on the constitution. A real friend of the American people, that guy.

  • pablo

    Cole 6
    That was the purpose of the ninth amendment, which reads:

    “The enumeration in the constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    The court is very afraid of this amendment because of its obvious implications, that the government is limited and the people are free.

  • troll

    side track:

    given that the governments in the USA have set up standing armies and ‘elite militias’ to protect themselves from their enemies (foreign and domestic) rendering meaningful insurrection just about impossible what is the status of the ‘people’s militia’ as described by the Scalia majority in DC vrs Heller and what is ‘the people’s’ final defense against tyranny?

  • Cole Gentles

    Dr Dreadful, Igor, and Pablo: I’m well aware of the 9th amendment. But can you honestly look at the incredible expansion of federal power and the massive maze of regulations and laws and tell me that it’s been successful as a check on the violation of individual rights? Pablo, you assert that the court is ‘afraid’ of that amendment? Oh how I truly wish that were even remotely true. We’d probably have a tiny fraction of the prison population we have now, as well as a far more prosperous and peaceful society.

    Jon: Setting aside Hamilton’s staunch mercentalist (the precursor to corporatism) approach to economics and support of a central bank (unfortunately given new life by Henry Clay and brought to fruition by Lincoln)… all things I am vehemently opposed to both on economic and moral grounds…. I strongly disagree with you that ‘not every right is equal in kind’.

    In fact, consistently defined, all rights (which are, in fact, simply derivatives of one right) are necessarily equal.

    Perhaps we can debate this in more depth sometime. I don’t want to muddle up your comments section too much. :)

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Igor (9): Hot damn, what a great idea!

  • STM

    Baronius: I have to tell you that since “military-looking” weapons were banned in Australia in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre (35 dead, dozens wounded) by Martin Bryant (who was using two rapid-fire semi-automatic rifles) in 1996, there have been no mass shootings in this country. Prior to that, there were plenty.

    Sorry to burst your bubble mate, but our experience is that banning ordinary citizens from certain types of guns DOES reduce the incidence of mass shootings.

    The thing is, if you have to reload manually, someone’s going to be able to grab you. Yes, there have been single shootings and double gun murders, but not so-called spree killings like we used to see here and which are sadly all too common in the US.

    We don’t have a gun ban here, BTW … just sensible controls, orchestrated by the federal government in the wake of Port Arthur and backed by all the states and territories.

    The rules are: it depends what you want it for. Farmers, for instance, can have guns that are high powered and fast loading. Handguns are restricted, although not banned.

    And you have to have a separate licence for each firearm you own. You also have to go through a cooling-off period when you buy one. So you purchase, cool-off, pick up.

    There are also very stringent background checks.

    Got a criminal record, history of domestic violence or threatening behaviour or certain types of psychiatric illness, you don’t get a gun.

    I don’t see that my long-established right to own a firearm has been infringed, because there is no ban. I don’t care to have one, but I could if I wanted.

    But governments here have instituted sensible – yes, sensible – controls.

    Oh, and the crime rate hasn’t gone up, either. We still have a very low rate of gun homicide.

    Crims are still shooting at each other, though, but that’s another story altogether.

    If a former rough and tumble penal colony proud of its history of “fair-go for everyone” democracy can bring in sensible lawful gun controls, why can’t the US?

    Definitely has to do with that sliuppery old 2nd Amendment and the ambiguous nature of the wording, the bizarre gun culture rampant in the US, and the (correct) claim by the gun lobby that the courts have ruled that it REALLY is an individual right.

    But John’s right … it WAS written for a different time, and the framers of the US constitution didn’t have a crystal ball, sadly, nor were they possessed of particularly good grammar.

    It might even be the most hotly debated piece of crap grammar in the history of the English language.

    But whatever it is, it has certainly left the gun lobby (and many otherwise normal Americans) with a tenuous grasp on
    reality in regard to the current circumstances of the US when it comes to gun ownership and the number of firearms drifting around the community, and the ease with which they are available – legally or illegally.

    Certainly time to close that old gun-show loophole.

    But for those hoping for meaningful change to gun laws in the US, I wouldn’t be holding your breath.

    My prediction from the outside looking in (and yes, these things reported from the US are huge stories in other countries and leave most of us scratching our heads because we don’t really believe it has anything to do with liberty and freedom) is this: there will be another long period of navel gazing and hand-wringing, then everyone will decide once again to do nothing … because no American politician with the power to do something has the balls to do it.

    Sad but true.

    One day you’ll all wake up to yourselves, but that time is probably a very long way off.

    As for rights … how about the right to send your precious child off to school without them coming home in a box.

    Or the right to walk down the street, go shopping, go to a movie, or drive your car without some lunatic taking potshots at you.

    How about that for a right??

  • troll

    back on track –

    as the recent majority decisions make it clear that gun controls short of outright bans are not necessarily a constitutional problem Jon’s eye is on the ball in looking for an acceptable and sensible criterion on which to base them

    I don’t see the point in re-voicing the dissent though – clearly there are different takes on the history behind the amendment and its text…why get into this distraction at this point which likely will only broaden ideological divide

    I suggest that if you want to revisit the amendment itself wait until Obama gets a chance to work his magic on the Court

  • troll

    Surfer Dude – was the Australian populace close to unanimous in its support for the buy back program and tight controls or were you all facing a divide similar to the one here?

  • Igor

    @4-Troll: no kidding, they shoot a .223 bullet?! What an odd choice. When I was a lad, the .223 was known as a varmint gun, small bullet, large powder load in a necked cartridge, designed to have a flat trajectory to reach out over many yards of prairie to hit a gopher.

    Almost useless in close-quarter human encounters, where you’d like a heavy slug with lots of stopping power, like a .45 pistol, or a deer slug.

    Instead of rapid-fire .223 I’d prefer a 16g pump gun loaded with 00 buckshot because every BB makes a hole as big as a .22: more mayhem per trigger pull.

    A Varmint gun seems contra-indicated, except for snipers.

  • troll

    5.56x45mm chosen for its reduced kill power over the earlier 7.62 round

  • Cole Gentles

    STM- Statistics, while I use them as a means to counter the statistics of others, are a terrible way to make what is fundamentally a rights argument. It doesn’t take a whole lot of google searching to find plenty of credible research and arguments that draw conclusions from the Australian experience that are very different, and in many cases completely counter to what you have presented here.

    Here is but one example, which is actually from a very liberal leaning magazine, Time.

    So perhaps argue from a solid foundation of what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and not from numbers that can be cherry picked and read and/or misread in many ways from many people with many preconceived biases.

  • STM

    From Cole’s Time article: “Firearm homicides in Australia were declining before 1996 and the decline has simply continued at the same rate since”.

    Gee, that was pertty handy, wasn’t it, in terms of an argument about new gun laws not making any difference. I’d say the decline is due in no small part to the fact that lunatics haven’t been able to pull the trigger quickly on dozens of people at once.

    The other interesting thing in the article, and in a country that is very similar to the US: “(In 2002-3, Australia’s rate of 0.27 gun-related homicides per 100,000 people was one-fifteenth that of the U.S. rate.)”

    Yes, folks, that’s one-fifteenth the number of gun homicides compared to the US. And remember, many of those that occur in Australia are the result of criminal-to-criminal shootings.

    Cole, all I can tell you is that we haven’t had a mass shooting since the gun controls were put in place.

    That is irrefutable.

    The laws work.

  • troll

    perhaps you overstate the similarity

  • Stan the man

    This is ridiculous. Stop blocking my comments. (STM and Stan the Man).

    I’m not banned, and I’m a blogcritics writer. It’s really starting to piss me off. You’re just wasting my time.

    The end result will be that you lose a contributor.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Stan, you’ve not been around lately so you’ve missed the, um, excitement. The site has been having some serious technical issues and a number of regulars, including many writers, have found their IP addresses blocked.

    We’re told that the Technorati IT gurus are working on a fix, and in the meantime folks encountering this problem (and that apparently would include you!) are being asked to email Chris Rose with the IP address that’s being blocked.

    I know it’s frustrating (I’ve had a few bounced myself), but rest assured it’s nothing personal and it will be resolved one of these decades…

    Hope Christmas was a jolly old time down there in upside-down land. And how’ve you been in general, mate?

  • Stan the man

    Good on yer Doc,

    Yeah, have had a great Christmas so far but never good being at work on Christmas night (which is now). Merry Chrissy to all and sundry.

    Cheers

  • troll

    …I find the fact that Stan knows Alan Sundry remarkable as we went to different schools together

    small world

  • Igor

    That jolly fellow Wayne La Pierre from the NRA has the answer: put an armed guard at every elementary school!

    Ingenious. Let’s see: with 90,000 schools if we pay each guard $60k that’s only $5.4billion per year A bargain at twice the price! Maybe Jolly Wayne will even volunteer a tax on gun sales to pay for it.

  • troll

    …localities could recruit their local Hells Angels chapters

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    While knowing little of New Mexico state law, I surmise from troll’s #28 that cracking bad puns is not a capital offense there.

    Merry Christmas!

  • troll

    y tu madre tabien

    leave my homeland out of it

    merry christmeas back atcha

  • Igor

    @30-troll:…no doubt citing the success at the Altamount concert.

  • Igor

    Following Wayne La Pierres recommendation, we should also supply firemen with paramilitaries when they go to a blaze.

    And even teenagers going to the convenience store to get a soda should get a protective NRA-recommended bodyguard in case an over-enthusiastic Zimmerman disciple intercepts him.

  • Clavos

    A recent article by Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal makes this very cogent point about gun control:

    A real-world look at where killers and other career criminals get guns emerged in October when the New York Police Department put on display 154 guns, most of them bizarre-looking handguns, that it obtained in a high-risk sting operation in Brooklyn. Incidentally, these police antigun efforts are about the only program that research has identified as effective.

    Buying or possessing a gun legally in New York City is so difficult that it is a non-subject for most New Yorkers. So where did the NYPD get these guns? A Mr. Kerwin “Trini” Gobin allegedly sold undercover cops 87 of the weapons, including a Sten machine gun able to fire 550 rounds per minute. Machine guns have been illegal since the 1930s. But not in Trini Gobin’s world. The illicit firearms market is global. Canada, Australia and New Zealand are all wrestling with how to control black-market gun traffic after recent outbreaks of firearm violence, much of it gang-related. (Emphasis added)

    From this and other writins on te subject, it would seem to be clear to all but the most rabid partisan that confiscation nd prohibition of certain types of guns only will have little or no effecrt on the incidence of gun-related crime in the US. Likewise, it’s obvious that even if the US were to ban all guns, weapons from other countries would likely re-flood the domestic market in short order.

    The tactic most likely to succeed in reducing, if not eliminating, the acts of the Lanzas of the world is immediate revitalization of mental health care, and the necessary testing, evaluation and consequent treatment of all who suffer from mental health issues. Such a program will have a much greater likelihood of success in reducing the kind of carnage recently wrought in Connecticut, even if not a single gun is removed from the population unless found in the possession of a mentally disturbed individual.

  • STM

    We’re not wrestling with illegal firearms any more than we were prior to 1996.

  • Igor

    Good mental health facilities will require Universal Health Care, and that’s a good thing.

    As a society we must make the welfare of every citizen a priority over the enrichment of a few.

  • Zingzing

    How did lanza get ahold of the guns? Were those guns legally in his mother’s possession? Obviously, the circumstances that lead to lanza getting his hands on those guns are circumstances we should try to avoid. It’s not like mentally unstable people getting their hands on legal guns and causing mayhem is something new.

  • troll

    side track –

    thesis : our society will produce ‘insane’ people in proportion to the number of trained care givers in need of making a living

    why do we turn to our already overburdened state to regulate what ‘should’ be common sense?

    secure your weapons…it’s not that difficult

  • http://jetsgayheadlinenews-jet.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Obviously what’s needed is more guns in police stations to discourage this kind of thing…

    A suspect under arrest was shot and killed inside a police station in New Jersey early Friday after he obtained a weapon and opened fire on three officers, injuring one seriously, according to police officials.

    The gunfire erupted at the Gloucester Township police headquarters around 5:30 a.m. ET, according to Deputy Chief David Harkins, the (Cherry Hill, N.J.) Courier-Post reported.

    Harkins said the unidentified suspect got his hands on a firearm and shot at the three officers.

    “The officers returned fire and the suspect is deceased at this time inside the police station,” he said.

    One officer was hit and is in stable condition. CBSPhilly reported that the officer was shot just below his bulletproof vest and underwent surgery.

    WPVI-TV reported that two other officers were treated for bullet-graze wounds

  • Igor

    We need to Station some of Wayne LaPierres guards in every police station.

  • Igor

    @39-troll: we already have an oversupply of crazy people so of course we’ll get more care givers as more of the crazies become evident.

    The trick is to reduce the number of crazies in the first place, and of course, restrict their access to dangerous weapons.

    “thesis : our society will produce ‘insane’ people in proportion to the number of trained care givers in need of making a living”

  • troll

    The trick is to reduce the number of crazies in the first place

    agreed – if we could just reduce the world population to – say – 500 million we would virtually (if not actually) eliminate the problem :>

  • Cindy

    @42

    Gonna be pretty difficult to get rid of crazy people within a culture that is an asylum. I would have to modify troll’s figure. Maybe get that down to under a million and make them all hunter gatherers.

    Welcome to the looney bin.

  • Igor

    Insanity is hereditary: you get it from your kids.

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Clavos, re your #35: Last time you posted a very similar remark, I pointed out that almost nobody is suggesting that the prohibition of certain guns ONLY will resolve the problem.

    Why do you keep posting objections to a solution that nobody is suggesting in the first place?

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose
  • clavos

    Clavos, re your #35: Last time you posted a very similar remark, I pointed out that almost nobody is suggesting that the prohibition of certain guns ONLY will resolve the problem.

    Why do you keep posting objections to a solution that nobody is suggesting in the first place?

    Oh, I dunno…because you’re wrong? Most are?

  • Igor

    @47-Chris: you are right, sir! It was Governor Reagan who closed most of the Agnews State Hospital here and turned demented people out on the streets, where they collected on the streets of Mountain View and Palo Alto (both formerly vagrant-free) and created a “homeless” problem. Reagan sold their homes out from under them (his southern CA friends bought the land cheap and turned it into the First Street corridor of Silicon Valley). Agnews HAD been a self-sustaining state operation because it had a huge dairy employing the inmates and paying it’s own way. Reagan sold off a state asset cheap so his cronies could make billions.

    Time and time again we find examples of the mad “privatization” policies of Reagan destroying state assets to benefit private people.

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Clavos, apart from your typically glib assertions, where are you getting that impression from? I haven’t seen anybody state that if we ban military grade weaponry, that will completely solve the issue.

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    As I said, Igor, Reagan was one of the worst US Presidents ever.

  • Igor

    “…Reagan was one of the worst US Presidents ever.”

    And one of the worst governors. I voted for him in 1966 because he promised to reduce taxes, but within 2 years my state taxes had doubled!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris and Igor –

    Reagan was one of the five best presidents ever. As soon as your heads finish exploding, consider this: he won the cold war. There is no other man-made threat to all life on earth greater than that of a general nuclear exchange. Reagan did not do it by himself, granted – but then, no leader accomplishes anything by himself…but it’s the leader who is in the most critical position and thus gets the credit.

    And because of that alone – regardless of all the other harm he caused – he is one of the five best presidents we’ve had.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Saying Reagan won the Cold War is like saying you don’t know much about the Cold War

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    I can get on board with Reagan being, on balance, a good president, but saying that he’s one of the five best solely on the grounds of the Cold War coming to an end on his watch is a real stretch.

    By that measure you could say Woodrow Wilson won a pretty damn hot war, but you won’t find many people arguing that he was one of the best presidents the US has ever had.

    Reagan does deserve some credit, but Gorbachev deserves at least as much. The USSR had to change from within, something over which Reagan had little to no influence. And Ronnie was only building on what Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter had done before him, which was to help keep the world safe(ish) – and wear the Soviets slowly down – despite what seemed like terrible odds.

  • Clavos

    I haven’t seen anybody state that if we ban military grade weaponry, that will completely solve the issue.

    Nor have I. But, I never said I had. However, I did say that banning only military style weapons (Autos and semiautos) will have little or no effect on the type of incident that occurred in Newtown. And LOTS of people, on these threads and in the MSM are stridently calling for their banning in the belief that it will do some good in preventing future incidents.

    I say, not until we take the crazies off the streets. Banning the guns only won’t even slow them down; not with the quantity of those things floating around the world these days.

    Hell, we can’t even keep the drugs out.

  • Igor

    Instead of taking crazies off the street, could we give some attention to not putting so many crazies on the streets in the first place?

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    So your opinion is that reducing the availability of a thing and therefore reducing the opportunity of access to that thing doesn’t have any effect. That’s a curious perversion of supply and demand.

    We agree that Reagan’s demolition of state provision of care for the mentally unwell was a disaster for the USA, just as “care in the community” was when Thatcher – our Reagan – introduced it in the UK.

    I think the chances of a mentally unhealthy young guy in a sleepy well to do town like Newtown having access to a weapons dealer is far lower than the chances of having access to drugs.

    If we then went on to change the drug laws as well, then the chances would be even further reduced.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    I can get on board with Reagan being, on balance, a good president, but saying that he’s one of the five best solely on the grounds of the Cold War coming to an end on his watch is a real stretch.

    By that measure you could say Woodrow Wilson won a pretty damn hot war, but you won’t find many people arguing that he was one of the best presidents the US has ever had.

    WWI was terrible and no mistake – 10M dead (or about one-fifth of how many died in the Great Influenza of 1918/19). But human civilization was not threatened by either WWI or the much worse Great Influenza…and that’s why the comparison doesn’t work.

    That’s a good point about Gorbachev, but the leader at the time of the victory is the one who’s given credit. For instance, I’ve seen the argument made that the credit for Wellington’s victory at Waterloo belongs to Nelson for what he did at Trafalgar, and to a host of other events and generals that brought Napoleon to that particular juncture…

    …but Wellington still gets the credit. He was the one in the most critical position (the leader) at the time of the victory, and so deserves the credit. So it goes with Reagan and the Cold War.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    El B –

    Saying Reagan won the Cold War is like saying you don’t know much about the Cold War

    Try me.