Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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67 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    The man would be in Guantanamo.

    Is the implication “AS WELL HE SHOULD BE!!!” or is the implication “hey, he’s got a 2nd Amendment right”?Report

  2. Ken says:

    The problem is that SCOTUS has only recently recognized the 2nd Amendment as conferring an individual right, and there is very little law (and no SCOTUS law) interpreting what restrictions can or can’t be put on the right. Heller explicitly suggested that all sorts of restrictions are on the table.

    That’s not entirely unreasonable as a matter of constitutional interpretation. The First Amendment, after all, has numerous well-established exceptions founded in the common law. (One could argue that these exceptions are improvidently “discovered” by the courts, but that would require confronting the notion that the courts have been entirely wrong in their constitutional analysis for a century). For instance, it is not in serious dispute that (at least under a century’s worth of jurisprudence) that the First Amendment permits reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on speech. The state may legally prevent you from shouting in a library or hospital, for example.

    So it seems that it would be odd to argue that the Second Amendment permits no time, place, or manner restrictions — unless one is to argue that (1) 100 years of constitutional analysis is wrong (possible) or (2) the Second Amendment, for historical reasons or reasons of intent, permits fewer exceptions than the First (less plausible, I think).

    But it’s all undriven snow right now. We just don’t know. My prediction: SCOTUS and the lower courts will interpret the Second Amendment to permit substantially broader regulation than the First.Report

  3. To my knowledge no one has tried to bring a gun into one of these townhalls. So what the real debate should be over is whether or not it is threatening / intimidating / impeding the democratic process to have a gun in the vicinity of a townhall, whether the President is there or not.Report

    • Herb in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

      Mike, I’m not sure proximity to the “main event” should be that much of a factor. There are other cues that should come into play. I would hope that the responsible gun owner would be aware that there’s a time and a place for brandishing a weapon, and a townhall meeting where emotions are hot but most of the people are unarmed, is not the time or the place. Regardless of whether they’re sitting in the front row or standing across the street with their “tree of liberty” sign.Report

      • It looks like this must be repeated again and again…no one had a gun inside the townhall meeting.Report

        • Liberal Avenger in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

          Repeat it all you want (and how do you really know, it’s not like metal detectors are fool proof) – the guns don’t have to be brought into the town hall event for the media to pick up the story because until recently citizens in 21st century america didn’t bring guns to public events designed to discuss health care. inside / outside / sorta-side, it so, what’s your point? whatever it is, it really doesn’t matter. the purpose of bring a gun and toting it in public outside a town hall meeting is to intimidate and infringe everyone else’s right to free speech.

          Oh, but, no gun will ever be brought into the town hall. Whatever.Report

          • I have no intention of getting into the larger debate on this at the moment, but this is simply an impossibility: “infringe everyone else’s right to free speech.” Only the government can infringe the right to free speech. If you don’t believe me, try bringing a First Amendment action against a private entity and see how long it takes the court to grant the motion to dismiss.Report

            • Ken in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              You’re infringing his right to free speech there, Mark.Report

            • B-Rob in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              Mark, hate to break it to you, but if a private corporation is doing a governmental function (such as policing, jailing people, or running security at a courthouse, for example) they are an arm of the government and can be sued just like the government.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              As a justiciable matter of law, yes, but as a matter of civil debate in the polity the presence of firearms grotesquely distorts free and unrestrained discourse and clearly infringes the unarmed’s freedom to freely express views. I’m surprised anyone here is pretending this could be in doubt. Every invocation of the right to free speech doesn’t comprise a claim that the First Amendment right thereto is being infringed. The right extends beyond that portion Constitutionally protected, and can be infringed in those places just as surely as it can be where it is protected legally, whether in ways that infringe the right in Constitutionally proscribed ways, or otherwise.Report

              • Michael:
                As I said, I have no intention to get involved in the larger debate on this at the moment, but I interpreted the above as a legal justification for prohibiting firearms at protests. It isn’t, and that’s the narrow legal point I was commenting on. There are, however, plenty of valid legal justifications for such prohibitions, if they were to be put in place (and I’d have no serious objection to them, to be perfectly frank).Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                I think if you look again, you’ll see that you read into the comment to which you responded a call for a prohibition of some sort, when the statement merely asserts a view about the purpose of the decision to attend these type of occasions armed.Report

          • A protest can happen anywhere. If an Obama healthcare proponent feels intimidated by gun-toting counter protestors, they can move down the street.In the same way if i was protesting and being shouted down by counter-protestors with a bullhorn, I am not being infringed upon. I have no right to say, “I want to protest in this exact spot in the conditions that are most desirable to me.”

            The only way someone’s rights are being infringed is if they are being forced to stop through some illegal means. As it is a law-abiding citizen carrying a weapon legally in their proximity doesn’t even begin to qualify as an infringement. They have a right to speak…not a right to speak in complete personal comfort.Report

            • kadzimiel in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

              But all you are doing is simply moving the problem. If people feel intimidated and move the meeting, and the gun-toting intimidaters then pursue them, what happens next? And why should protesters effectively be barred from specific locations just because of the ambiguous 2nd amendment? Furthermore, you are opening up the slippery slope to all sorts of “legal” intimidatory tactics – and that’s not good for civil discourse, or for democracy in the long run.Report

              • So what if I am a pro-war voice and I feel ‘intimidated’ by very loud anti-war protestors burning an American flag on my street? If I move and they follow, is there some sort of violation taking place? People are scared of all sorts of things and guns are just one example. That’s why we rely on the law because if we base things on the perception of intimidation, someone will always claim offense.Report

  4. The claim that bringing a gun is an assertion of protection is bogus. The real intent is indeed intimidation – “I am showing you that I cant be pushed around.” Its not about assassination either but a primal teeth-baring by people who genuinely think that Obama is a tyrant of the sort who will cut down the Tree of Liberty (whatever the hell that even means anymore). These people reckon (they dont think, they reckon) that by displaying their weaponry they are asserting their power according to our American founding mythology.

    There is no principle at stake here, or genuine debate about Second Amendment rights. It’s a puerile attempt at intimidation, but also an empty one. These people aren’t really going to do anything if indeed Obama’s health care plan passes and the uppermost tax bracket returns three percentage points higher to where it was during the Reagan era. They are enthralled with the romantic idea that they – and they alone – are defending America. The problem is that among their number, a very small percentage, are those who might begin to really ingest this a little too literally. Whether or not the rhetoric from the GOP elites is fueling their paranoia or not is impossible to determine with certainty. But it certainly can’t help. The bottom line is that the homebrew militia, rightwing movement that flourished under Clinton went to sleep during the Bush years, perceiving no threat. With Obama, all their worst fears have re-materialized, and worse: he’s black, on top of it all. The continued traction of the Birther/cryptomuslim memes shows just how deep a vein of paranoia exists among mainstream conservatives, a vein that is enthusiastically being mined.

    I, for one, have always thought that citizens should carry guns. But its the citizens who wear them for these reasons, who I want to wear the guns to protect myself against.Report

  5. greginak says:

    Yes a massive double standard given that people were arrested for bumper stickers and t-shirts outside of shrub rallies.

    Okay many people who are supporting the people who are bringing guns will at least admit it is meant as a veiled threat or message. The Secret Service is there and watching like a hawk. But maybe the message is at more then just at the Prez. Maybe the guns are there to intimidate…ummm….. lets see…..people who are for health care reform.

    Using the threat of violence to intimidate political opponents just does seem like all that noble an action. If that happened in other countries we would usually say it is sort of naughty. But of course their defense “WHAT ABOUT MY RIGHTS!!!!”, which obviously trumps any civic values or just being decent to each other.

    Every amendment has exceptions, the 2nd is no different.

    “An armed society is a polite society” oh crimany. Let me know how polite Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are. Oh ghost of Heilein, was it worth Stranger in a strange land to have to listen to that quote.Report

  6. Ken says:

    By the way, the fact that wearing a gun at a rally is intended as intimidation or a threat is not dispositive. Not all threats can be criminalized — only “true threats,” a relatively narrow category.Report

    • greginak in reply to Ken says:

      So what? I would suggest openly bringing a gun to townhall type event is meant as a lightly veiled threat and intimidation at either the gov you don’t like or people on the other side of a protest. The defenders of this are bending over backwards to explain why this is just peachy or at least reasonable. It seems to me it is more like a continued crazyfication of our political discourse, self righteous narcissism and glorification of violence. But the law says they have a right to do that, so be it.Report

      • Not all of us who defend the right to bear arms in public also think it’s fine and dandy to arrest someone for wearing a T-shirt. E.D. Kain and the others here will back me up when I say that I’d been a critic of Bush’s civil liberties abuses too.Report

        • Totally. But what I’m arguing here is that it is not necessarily an infringement into one’s rights to say that there are occasions where bringing a firearm should be limited. You can still own the firearm – you can still carry it with you in public – but in this town hall meeting you have to leave it behind, and so forth.Report

          • As I said, I’m open to considering such arguments. They just aren’t the no-brainers that some liberals may take them to be.Report

            • These are certainly not no-brainers. I just don’t buy the absolutist argument because I think it’s impractical from a security standpoint. And we do have legitimate responsibilities to keep our heads-of-state safe.Report

              • greginak in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                @ Jason-Okay you were a critic of shrubs abuses. I’m not saying you weren’t. It is interesting to note that the under horrible, socialist-fascist, evil Obama regime these gun totters are doing things that weren’t allowed under the freedom loving bush regime.

                However you are still not addressing the point that this is intimidating to others who may disagree with the gun totters. It may be legal but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a**holes.Report

              • @ Jason-Okay you were a critic of shrubs abuses. I’m not saying you weren’t. It is interesting to note that the under horrible, socialist-fascist, evil Obama regime these gun totters are doing things that weren’t allowed under the freedom loving bush regime.

                In my opinion the Bush administration did more to destroy the liberties of ordinary Americans than any other in my lifetime. I am dismayed that Obama has done so little to undo these steps, but at least he hasn’t made things much worse. Yet. Of course, he still has plenty of time.

                However you are still not addressing the point that this is intimidating to others who may disagree with the gun totters. It may be legal but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a**holes.

                Perhaps they are. Shall we make that illegal while we’re at it?Report

              • greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Who is proposing new laws? I called them a**holes and that they are part of the American history of worshiping violence and the current insanity on the right. They are also trying, IMHO, trying to intimidate political opponents through a threat of force which I don’t think is a good thing.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to greginak says:

                Why are these people incapable of hearing a condemnation as not ipso facto aproposal to outlaw the behavior?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                Yeah. Why do they have the kneejerk reaction of expecting to hear “this is awful!” followed by “something ought to be done!”?Report

    • Bob in reply to Ken says:

      SCOTUS has upheld laws limiting the freedom of speech, “clear and present danger,” clearly if political speech can be checked Second Amendment rights are not absolute.Report

      • Bob in reply to Bob says:

        A portion of the Wiki article on Heller, 2008.

        “However, ‘[l]ike most rights, the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.’ The Court’s opinion, although refraining from an exhaustive analysis of the full scope of the right, ‘should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.'”

  7. Bob says:

    Awhile back, when discussing the Prof. Gates incident, more than a few comments were made regarding the intimidation factor of police because they were the police, they had the power.

    A dude, hell a dudette, with a gun attached to his leg or slung over her shoulder is every bit as intimidating. Especially at some political rally where tempers are on full display.

    Because I value my life and body parts, not foreskin, but mostly because I’m a coward, I would never confront a weapon wielding nut, and yes, there is something intrinsically nutty in taking guns to political events in 21st century America. I would no more get into the face of one of those folk as get into the face of a police officer.

    Such actions, bringing guns to town-hall meetings or other political events, is meant to intimidate. IMOReport

  8. zic says:

    In every King Arthur legend I’ve ever read, knights left their weapons at the door when before they entered the room with the King.

    Doing otherwise seems a flagrant display of a lack of common sense. Do these same folk openly wear a gun to the grocery store? Do they wear them when they drop their children off at school? When they go to their bank? Open gun-toting may have been acceptable in the Wild West, on Gunsmoke, but even in these situations, fact and fiction, there were places where social convention suggested leaving the gun behind is the right thing to do.

    I can think, long term, their idiocy does more to provoke new 2nd amendment limitations then Obama will ever do.Report

  9. Bob Cheeks says:

    Oh, I dunno, maybe these evil, ‘inarticulate,’ protesters are wearing iron because they feel ‘intimidated’ by the phalanx of Core and union thugs present at the same ‘town hall meeting?’Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      That seems a little much to me, Bob. I’m not denying that unions haven’t used intimidation practices before or that they won’t now, but is carrying a gun going to help? Really?Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        E.D. dude, didn’t you see the film of the ‘black’ conservative being trounced by some union thugs in the St. Louis area?
        I did….better twelve jurors than six pallbearers!Report

        • Drew in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

          You mean the video that shows an old union guy who’s a minister on the ground possibly pushed down by Gladney and then Gladney getting pushed down once by a union guy. The union guy gets up holding his shoulder and Gladney gets up looking just fine. How did he end up in a wheelchair the next day from getting pushed down once? It looks very fishy.Report

          • Bob Cheeks in reply to Drew says:

            Looks like union thuggery to me! And, besides the two main thugs were bad dudes! Did you see them smoking cigarettes? Hey, maybe they were GOP plants?
            Man, where’d you get all the names? You’re like an expert on this stuff!Report

        • kadzimiel in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

          You must be confusing the actual incident with some sort of made for TV drama. Mr Gladney was perfectly capable of walking around after the incident, as well as leaving his wheelchair to go on a talkshow. Call me heartless, but somehow I don’t think he suffered any sort of beating.Report

  10. Bruce Smith says:

    Hey What’s with the Big Man hero worship stuff?

    “I’m not saying people shouldn’t have a right to bear arms. I believe they should. But I believe that public and private security should also have a right to make their jobs easier and keep their charges as safe as possible by temporarily restricting where gun owners can bring their firearms.”

    Isn’t this a double standard as far as the “Little Person” in the ghetto is concerned? A kind of class based contradiction!Report

  11. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

    I think that all evidence of actual town hall gun-toters to date would indicate that bringing heat to these events is a bit of trolling by the more paranoid, but largely harmless, fringe of the conservative movement . My worry is that, while it’s just been the “look at me” crowd that’s pulling this crap so far, the next Tim McVeigh might be drawing some inspiration from these stunts.Report

  12. Bruce Smith says:

    But not on the ghetto streets?Report

  13. Bruce Smith says:

    So why the double standard, or the elitist hypocrisy, that criminal, or no criminal, the state exerts its powers to clear the guns off the street in the vicinity of the President but not in the ghetto where the dangers of gun murder are also high? Does this not make a mockery of that line in the Declaration of Independence about holding these truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal? Of course, I understand the argument that you cannot entirely eliminate guns but you could also privilege those who have to live in the ghetto with some non-Secret Service improved means of power to get the guns off the street just like the President! The fact that you can’t because you are reluctant to stop guns being carried through the street reveals the unequal high price some are forced to pay for gun carrying privilege by others.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Bruce Smith says:

      Yeah. I’m sure that more laws would totally turn the ghetto around.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Bruce Smith says:

      I’m really not sure what you’re arguing here. We have police who are ostensibly supposed to enforce the law in the “ghetto.” Taking guns away from people in the ghetto would be logistically impossible, and would do very, very little for the people there – to “protect” them, as it were. Cordoning off one specific area for a specific purpose and time is much, much different than whatever sort of bold effort one would need to rid an inner city of its guns. There is no double standard. It’s just two entirely different things.Report

  14. Bruce Smith says:

    Hey. They make you stay on the right side of the road!Report

  15. Sully Fick says:

    Conservo-tarians and guns go together like White and Republican. Or, like Christian-Theocracy and America. Or, like the Nashua County Fair and Racism. Yep, that St. Ronnie sure was popular!

    God, guns and (no) gays! Wolverines!!!1!!1!

    The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.

    – Mark Twain

    But, a serious question: it seems to me that conservatives spend most of their time being afraid (of Blacks, of Liberals, of the Government, of non-existent WMDs, of Islam, etc.). These episodes of The Intimidators (those carrying weapons to these events) are just a continuation of that fear.

    Why are conservatives and libertarians so afraid all the time?Report

  16. Bruce Smith says:

    So if taking guns away from people on the ghetto streets would do little to protect the people living in the ghetto including the stray bullets injuries and killings why do the secret service bother doing their sweeps? If gun free zones are considered worth the precaution for the President why aren’t they worth the cost and the effort for the ghetto people?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Bruce Smith says:

      We should totally hire enough Secret Service people to clean up the ghetto.

      That’s a platform that just might get you elected to National Office, Bruce.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Bruce Smith says:

      You’re still not really making sense. It’s largely a logistical problem (not to mention constitutional). It’s a good deal easier to remove guns temporarily from on specific location (i.e. a gymnasium where the president is speaking) than from “the streets.” This is just numbingly obvious to me. Trying to remove them from the streets would be impossible, and when that does take place, what happens? Criminals still have their guns, no matter how hard the state tried to take them away.Report

  17. Bruce Smith says:

    Of course it’s a logistical and constitutional problem; that’s exactly my point! Nobody has the money to set up gun free zones and police them because of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment sets up the totalitarianism of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” where some animals are considered more worthy than others in terms of their rights.Report

  18. EngineerScotty says:

    There are lots of places you can’t legally take guns, even in those states which are extremely protective of the RKBA: Courthouses, airports, many schools, many other Government buildings, etc. Many private property owners also insist that guns be left at home–my employer has a strict no-guns policy at work, including in the parking lot. (No, they don’t go searching cars; but were something to happen…) Go to any pro sporting event or rock concert, and chances are you’ll be searched for weapons (and contraband booze, and numerous other things) before being allowed inside.

    I don’t know what point political events should be gun-free zones; but given the stakes involved with the POTUS, a security permiter around him (or her) doesn’t bother me one bit–no matter who is in office. I loathed W, but would not want to see him killed–and that would be true even if Cheney weren’t next in line.Report

  19. hallo says:

    Bringing a loaded bong to a health care townhall would be more relevant to the topics at hand than a gun, but this is prohibited by more than just common sense.Report

  20. Bruce Smith says:

    Final Thought. That the president uses financial and legal power to create a gun free zone is no different than the rich also using these powers to create a gated community, or a baron a castle in medieval Europe for a danger free zone. The critical thing is to have these powers. That the poor in the ghettos have to suffer the negative consequences of a weapons bearing right through financial inability to create gated and policed communities would suggest that Libertarians are yet again on the wrong side of a moral argument in failing to see the social and class implications of a right. It is not unlike Alan Greenspan’s Libertarian reluctance to regulate Wall Street prior to the Sub-Prime Crash. The outcome yet again was a great deal of human misery caused by criminal abuse of rights by a greedy elite, liar loans and junk ratings to name but a few.

    At root of all of this is the failure to understand the impracticality and paradoxical coercive nature of insisting individual rights should only be limited by individual consent. In a populous society human beings can only practically implement their morality and wishes by lawful majority consent and consensual consent is usually not an option. This after all is why political parties and government came into existence.Report

  21. pain perdu says:

    Even Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt and he was by and large one of the most popular commander-in-chiefs of all time.

    Not getting into the substance of the post, but as a factual matter this is simply wrong. Reagan was not one of the most popular presidents, if you go by the Gallup presidential approval poll. He wasn’t even the most popular President of the 1980’s. Here are the Presidents who had a higher average approval rating than Reagan (measured over entire time in office): Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Bush 41, Clinton. That puts Reagan in the bottom half of the distribution for all Presidents covered by the Gallup poll. Indeed, Reagan’s approval rating through most of 1981-83 hovered in the low 40’s (though, to be fair, his Gallup rating was around 60 on the day he was shot–it was still in the post-inaugural honeymoon period).

    St. Ronnie’s hagiographers will continue to paint a portrait of a President loved by all and sundry, and youngsters like E.D. may believe it, but that doesn’t make it true.Report