The Trouble with Registries

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227 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’m beginning to wonder if “the slippery slope fallacy” is really a fallacy.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      To say that something is a logical fallacy doesn’t mean that’s its false in any particular case, but rather that it is logically possible for it to be false. The fact that not all slopes are slippery doesn’t mean that no slopes are slippery, that itself is a fallacy.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      It didn’t start out that way, but look at it now.Report

  2. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    A question.

    Assuming that there was a review and restore process, would this bother you as much?

    Let’s start by saying that I agree fundamentally that the government should not be able to impound anything without cause, and that depriving any citizen of their private property should be – at the very least – something that requires an escrow payment, with receipt of full value should the items be destroyed.

    Of course, I don’t think they should be able to tow away your car without a receipt, either.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      I have less of a problem with such things if there is a legal process by which the property can be returned or compensated for.

      I’d still want a strong set of protections in place so that someone on a power trip can not just start making life difficult for gun owners who come across their path (we have far too much of that already in our law enforcement, etc bodies).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I think the creation of an escrow account or something similar would be a huge deterrent to those types of abuses.

        Imagine I was in charge of whatever agency was tasked with gun confiscation but I had to put $500* or real money into an account to be held for 12 months for every gun confiscated in the event that the confiscation is illegitimate or unjust. If the confiscation held up, the money is returned to my department; if not, it goes to the gun owner. You can bet your ass I’d be very judicious with my confiscation orders. Even if I could ultimately justify a confiscation, knowing that my budget/department would be out that money for 12 months, I’d make sure it was a case where such an action was really warranted.

        * I have no idea if this is the correct amount and whether the escrowed amount should be tied to the actual value of the gun or simply a flat sum, but I’d argue that the number should be high enough to make the person making the call think twice but not so high that no guns are ever confiscated, even when such actions are absolutely necessary.Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

          “You can bet your ass I’d be very judicious with my confiscation orders. ”

          Or maybe you’d say “five hundred dollars per gun, and I can take all of ’em? Awesome!” and confiscate everything in the registry.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Well, sure… but when my budget request goes from $500,000 for my agency to $50,000,000 because of all the guns I’m grabbing… well…

            Even the staunchest gun-control advocate likely wouldn’t argue in favor of such funds going towards their elimination.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            Oh, you can bet they would. They’ll just “bill the rich”, just like huge public pensions and everything else that we can’t pay for. Is there any public official who wouldn’t try to raise his department’s budget from $500,000 to $50,000,000? No, there’s not.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              I anticipate it would turn out differently.

              If I start out fiscal year 2014 with a $500K budget, that means I can confiscate at most 1000 guns and doing so would deplete the entirety of my budget; after that, no one gets paid, pens don’t get order, my department grinds to a halt. Now, let’s say 75% of those confiscations hold up… I get $375K back but $125K is gone. I’m now operating in the red. Somehow, I don’t think folks are going to be clamoring to throw more money into this department.

              But, I’m not wired like a politician, so what do I know? As I said, *I* would respond by being highly judicious… but politicians are sociopaths so who knows…Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog says:

          Even better, any warrant of any type in which police are empowered to (and inevitably will) smash down a door or two, should come with an escrow of funds to cover the repairs arising from the execution of the warrant.

          I’m not sure on what basis those funds should be paid out
          – If the police go to the wrong address?
          – If no charges are laid?
          – If the specific crimes alleged in the warrant turn out to be untrue but some other charges are laid (it wasn’t a meth lab, but it was a puppy mill)?
          – If charges are laid but dismissed on preliminary hearing, or withdrawn by the prosecution, as the evidence is too flimsy?
          – If there is a trial that leads to acquittal?
          – On appeal?

  3. Avatar zic says:

    I’m not convinced that this is a problem of gun registries so much as a problem of our mental health system.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Perhaps, but you can still see why it would make gun owners leery of having their guns registered.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        It reminds me of the concern that having men examine their behavior when it comes to rape might lead to false accusations.

        Mistakes happen. When you find them, you rectify. In this case, returning weapons is the remedy. That does not mean that having to register a lethal weapon is a bad thing; it means that there will be errors, and we should work to find them and improve the registration system.

        I am far more concerned about the violation of patient/doctor confidentiality here; particularly after the NY law. It’s horrid. But the horror isn’t that it might restrict someone’s gun rights; it’s that it might deter mentally ill people from seeking help in confidence of having their privacy respected.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Mistakes happen. When you find them, you rectify. In this case, returning weapons is the remedy. That does not mean that having to register a lethal weapon is a bad thing; it means that there will be errors, and we should work to find them and improve the registration system.


          What is perhaps distressing is when these errors are revealed, and no changes are made to the system.Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


            I know people don’t like gun rights being cast in the light of civil rights, but they really are. These people have had their civil rights violated because they own guns, and too many people are just fine with that.Report

        • Avatar NoPublic says:

          “I am far more concerned about the violation of patient/doctor confidentiality here; particularly after the NY law. It’s horrid. But the horror isn’t that it might restrict someone’s gun rights; it’s that it might deter mentally ill people from seeking help in confidence of having their privacy respected.”

          Much like mandatory reporting on contagion and the like, dangerous mental health issues have special “outs” in the legal framework of privacy and confidentiality.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          It’s a 2 part problem with the same end – the loss & infringement of rights. First the right to privacy regarding a sensitive medical issue, and second the right to bear arms, the right to due process, and the right to not have a team of armed men with badges show up at your door & ask to come in (not too many people are comfortable telling a single police officer to come back with a warrant, a whole team is scary intimidating).Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

          “Mistakes happen. ”

          Hear that, black people? When you get pulled over and frisked for Driving While Black, that’s just a mistake. It just happens. It’s just an error, and really we should be happy about it because it gives us all a chance to work to improve the system.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Procedures were followed.Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            You know, that’s a fucking weak argument.

            Frisking blacks is an institutional problem, one we know about, one we have not mustered the will to deal with — we’ve failed to work to improve the system.Report

            • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

              Why is it a problem? Due process was followed.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              Not as weak as you may believe. People who are legally carrying firearms get hassled every day by police. These people did nothing wrong, the police in question just didn’t like that they were carrying. Sometimes such people are unwisely belligerent to the police (although being belligerent to police shouldn’t be a bad thing) , but oftentimes, they aren’t.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                MRS, the weak argument is that one set of problems precludes dealing with another; or the lack of dealing with a problem in one place means we shouldn’t or won’t deal with it in another.

                I’ll be the first to stand up and say we’re growing into too much a police state; particularly with homeland security turning our police forces into military forces. The racial injustices of justice are well understood.

                But that does not mean we don’t have the obligation of policing ourselves.Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                I’ll be the first to stand up and say we’re growing into too much a police state;

                But I still want the cops to be able to confiscate guns with neither a warrant nor reasonable cause.

                Nah, I’m not buying it. Like nearly all “I believe in X, but…” statements, the “but” wholly overwhelms the force of “I believe.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Eh, that was me, not her. Odds are she’d be far far more in agreement with you than I.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                James, I did not say without warrant or reasonable cause.

                If you’d bothered to ask what I believe, but no, I’m just going to go around putting words in people’s mouths who I think disagree with me?

                You’re smarter then that.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “reasonable cause”

                Isn’t that the justification for the stopping/frisking argument that got us here in the first place?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Has any policeman who stopped someone for DWB not claimed reasonable cause?

                I’m sorry, zic, but I don’t think turning either gun owners or the mentally ill into the new blacks solves any problems, but the California registry does both. And your comment indicated concern about only one of those groups.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                There is no ‘justification.”

                I’m stupid today, there’s a massive storm about to drop another foot of snow on us, and it’s scrambling my neurology.

                I don’t want to play wits, JB. I think the stop-and-frisk horrid. I think it horrid they took those nice people’s guns. But worse was the fact that this woman had made it into some government database for seeking mental health treatment.

                I don’t have a problem with a gun registry; I think gun-owners should also have to purchase insurance on their guns. I realize the bulk of the problem are illegally-owned guns. I know that my varying thoughts may be at odds with one another; these things are difficult to reconcile.

                But most of all, I think we have a mental-health system in the dark ages, that government is impinging on it and invading people’s privacy, and that before someone’s second-amendment rights are restricted because of mental health, there should be some high barriers for the government to cross. I also know that the biggest thing this invasion of privacy is supposed to prevent is suicide, and I’m not sure we have a right to keep people from ending their lives.

                But no games, this is complicated stuff, and one problem does not cancel another problem, and they are not switchable, they are each their own.Report

              • Has any policeman who stopped someone for DWB not claimed reasonable cause?

                I’m sorry, zic, but I don’t think turning either gun owners or the mentally ill into the new blacks solves any problems, but the California registry does both. And your comment indicated concern about only one of those groups.

                When a gun is taken away wrongly and on some trumped up notion of “reasonable cause,” but if there is a proper mechanism for disputing the taking, then I have less problem. (And if the firearm is found to have been taken for a lawful reason, I believe the owner should be compensated for it, provided they owned the gun legally (i.e., not stolen).)

                With the stop and frisk for DWB, I imagine it’s very hard to get one’s dignity back or feel safe from arbitrary searches after one of those incidents. I suppose that even suing for damages might be difficult because such a suit is harder to prove.

                Now, you might say that the two instances are comparable–someone whose firearm is taken away probably feels a loss of dignity in addition to the loss of the firearm. And contesting the taking is probably not very easy (although I imagine that under the right kind of system, contesting the taking ought to be relatively easy compared to suing for damages).

                All this is to say that I’m pretty much with Zic here. (Also with her point about disclosure of medical records being the bigger scandal here.)Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                “When a gun is taken away wrongly and on some trumped up notion of “reasonable cause,” but if there is a proper mechanism for disputing the taking, then I have less problem. ”

                Which gets us to where we were before. There are “proper mechanisms” for disputing stop-and-frisk or driving-while-black. Nobody pretends that this means these things are acceptable errors, or statistical outliers that can be safely ignored.Report

              • Jim,

                True enough. But the wrong in the case of wrongful seizure of guns seems to me more remediable than the wrong in the case for stop and frisk for DWB. And moreover, I think “society” (i.e., myself and other people) have a non-trivial interest in making sure that guns aren’t in the wrong hands. I don’t think “society” has a similar interest in haranguing persons of color.

                Therefore, when it comes to the inevitable abuses that will occur in a gun-registry regime, I’m more willing to run the risk, provided there are sufficient safeguards and ability to dispute wrongful action.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Returning the weapons isn’t apparently a remedy in this case, given:

          Two people, who did nothing wrong, have had their property confiscated and destroyed by the state, and they have (as far as I know) no recourse to get the property back, or to be compensated for it’s loss.

          One of the big issues I have with this is that not all guns are equal, nor are the interchangeable. It’s quite possible that one or more of the guns in question has been in their family for generations, since many guns are a century or two old and have been handed down. Those can’t be replaced by the state. It’s a bit like seizing and destroying family photo albums because they might contain pictures of ancestors holding guns, except the actual guns in the old photos are the items being destroyed – without so much as a cursory review.

          Second, even if the woman had serious mental health issues, it shouldn’t mean the government can seize and destroy her guns, since those may be family heirlooms that a dozen of her relatives would gladly hold for her and her children, and her children’s children, and so on. This is not a case of a firearm that was owned or used illegally (such as a felon with a stolen pistol), and the couple was not charged with a crime. It’s like having the government tell you that you can no longer keep your savings in a 401K, but instead of letting you roll it into a savings account or mutual funds they cash out your money, put it in a pile, and set it on fire.

          But California has been doing this kind of thing to houses, to. Recently LA has eyed an area for new solar development and to avoid property complications they’ve had their code enforcement crews come up with excuses to force people to tear down their own houses and cabins. It’s a state where property rights are tenuous, at best.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            George, to some extent I’m willing to have sympathy for the “it’s special” position, but it only takes you so far.

            If we had a gun registry, and a gun impound process that compensated gun owners to the full market value of their firearms if they were impounded and destroyed improperly, I’m willing to take the occasional misappropriation of a family heirloom with its destruction, as long as they get repayment. I’m even willing to pay a reasonable vig to the victim in that case. A well-designed system would require the impounding agency to pay a significant amount for its mistakes; having an established process that costs the government money for its screwups is infinitely preferable to the lack of an established process where the government just says, “Megh, we screwed up, too bad for you”.

            I’m not convinced that such a system would represent a major imposition on someone’s property rights or their liberty. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d like it better than the status quo.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              IANAL, but I think that would require major changes to police immunity, etc.Report

              • How so? IANAL either, but my understanding of immunity is that they can admit they did wrong, but not face personal civil liability. In the case that Pat proposes, it’s not so much the officers escaping liability, but it’s the state compensating for property taken and/or improperly destroyed. The officers would still be immune.Report

              • Avatar Sky says:

                No, the immunity extends to the state as well. As long as the state’s agent wasn’t going against well-settled law, the State can throw up its hands and say, “Whoops!”Report

              • Maybe, as I said, I’m not a lawyer. But would it be that hard to put in place a compensation plan? I don’t think it would necessarily require *major* revisions of the way things work. But to be honest, I don’t know.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              But the problem is that many of the guns handed down within a family have their value only because they’re family heirlooms whose worth to anyone else (their fair market value) is in no way reflective of their value to the family that owns them.

              Suppose the police were allowed to seize and destroy all your family photographs as long as they paid you fair market value (which is zero)? Suppose they were allowed to seize your great-grandmother’s wedding dress (which has a value of zero), along with baby shoes, personal diaries, WW-II love letters, and everything else that has no market value?Report

              • The idea isn’t that Pat wants police to be able to seize all family photographs wholesale and dropping off checks for the price of film and development. It’s that if the police say, seize the photos (as evidence in a crime?… impression isn’t that there’s a big squad of police officers dedicated to tracking down our family photos) and accidentally destroy them, then the police ought to compensate.

                If/when that would happen, it would indeed be bad. And I would hope there’d be a way for the family to have some redress, although that hope is very optimistic.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                But how do you compensate? If the police stop by your house & kill your beloved family dog, they can only (maybe) be required to compensate you for the reasonable cost of a replacement animal. Emotional attachment is not compensated for.Report

              • In which case, I say darn the police to heck.

                But if we’re going to foray into the proper remedies for caninicide, then I might just say that a dog is irreplaceable. Whereas a gun can be returned or given money for.

                Now, when it comes to the family heirloom that’s taken and inadvertently and wrongfully destroyed, then that can’t be replaced. It’s bad and it’s an injustice. And maybe some procedures ought to be put in place to make it less likely. But yes, those mistakes will still happen, although less by less, it is to be hoped.

                So now I have to say, what do I value more….the fact that sometimes the police and the system will make mistakes and a family heirloom will be lost and will only be compensated by its current market value and not its full emotional value? ….or the fact that the same regulation might make things safer on the margin? I incline toward the latter, although I confess the “might make things safer” is contentious and I have my doubts, so I’m not going to go whole hog in defending the regulation. I’ll just say the occasional family heirloom being destroyed is worth the cost of a regulation, assuming the regulation really does make us safer.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                “darn the police to heck.”

                It’s a little-known fact that NWA’s first album, “Straight Outta Fargo”, was not a commercial or critical success.Report

              • Glyph,

                Yeah, I do indulge in Nedflandersianspeak, and I suppose it’s mostly because of my prudery. (And I suggest there’s nothing all that wrong with prudery as long as I don’t try to force others to do it 🙂 )

                But I also want to avoid my comments getting trapped in spam filters.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Pierre, I hope it was clear I was only teasing and I could tell you were doing it in part for comedy value (and, it’s not prude to generally try to keep language polite, and I personally appreciate the effort; from personal experience I know it is not always easy.)

                The other day I had a comment get stuck in the filter but it had nothing to do with those sorts of words. I used a more common/stronger form of “dislike” and the Second Amendment sense of “weapon” in two different sentences, and I guess the spam filter read it as a threat?Report

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille says:


                Oh yeah, I knew you were teasing. A darn fishing good joke, I’d say!Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          “Mistakes happen. When you find them, you rectify. ”

          Except, well that doesn’t ever seem to happen. Society pushes the Government to “do something” the government passes laws, and then the poor/minority/otherwise marginal are most adversely affected, and then it’s whocoodanode? and the remedy/rectify of course rarely happens because we’re *exactly* talking about marginal populations. Mental health (in the 50’s), urban renewal (in the 60’s), war on drugs, (in the 70’s-80’s-today), drones (00’s to present), just to name a few all the efforts always start out with the best of intentions. Remedy has taken a lot longer, much less rectify, if it ever got there at all.

          (and sometimes, we get to the point where rectify? remedy? bah. we use tools as weapons to further marginalize sex offenders by building pocket parks and leveraging the zoning code)Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          I’m not saying gun registers are inherently unworkable or odious, but there are definitely some implementation issues. There are two major ones as far as I can see:

          The first is credibility. It would appear gun owners are suspicious that gun registry will facilitate the illegitimate seizure of their guns, and not without reason. Addressing this issue by working closely with gun owners is crucial to the success of a gun register.

          The other issue is much broader – that a significant fraction of US law enforcement feels entitled to act as if they were above the law. This seems to be because, for all intents and purposes, they are above the law. This is a serious problem that I’m not entirely sure how to fix.Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            I was reading this article, and I think a register would be very useful, especially for research purposes.

            Provided we can prevent bad actors from using to abuse rights.Report

    • Zic,

      I probably support gun rights more than you do–or at least I am more wary of proposed efforts to regulate them–but for the most part, I agree with you and Pat about what a workable system might look like.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I’ve seen many stories about people losing their homes due to situation which begin as clerical errors. Do we need to do away with banks, clerks, or homes?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Make sure that the (former) homeowners don’t have guns, you don’t have to change anything.Report

    • Avatar NoPublic says:


      Also, if this woman had been dangerously mentally unstable and had killed her husband and/or a half-dozen strangers what would have been your reaction then? If the requisite authorities had not filed the paperwork and had not instituted proceedings to remove her access to the firearms, what then? Would you have said “She was law-abiding, and we have a system in place already, and that system didn’t work so this is a non-datum in the firearms rights discussion?” Because I can certainly predict that many gun-rights folks would say exactly that.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        If she had been dangerously mentally unstable, why was she allowed to leave treatment? Why didn’t authorities move to have her committed.

        If you can not trust a person with access to a gun, or knife, or can of gasoline, or etc., should they be trusted out unsupervised in public?Report

        • Avatar Scott Fields says:

          If you can not trust a person with access to a gun, or knife, or can of gasoline, or etc., should they be trusted out unsupervised in public?

          I’d say they shouldn’t, but that sort of makes zic’s point above that this isn’t a problem of gun registries so much as a problem of our mental health system. Adam Lanza of Newtown and James Holmes of Aurora had both received some psychiatric evaluation and were thought to have mental disorders, yet they were still roaming the streets.

          If you favor a more unforgiving definition of “danger to themselves or others” that would ensure that anyone who could possibly do harm with a gun, knife or can of gasoline is institutionalized, how do you not trample on the rights of the borderline cases there? Are you prepared for the magnitude of public investment that would be needed to make that system robust?Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            I’m right there with Zic, that this is a big part of the problem with our Mental Health system.

            Clayton Cramer makes a good point that we pay for mental health care whether we like it or not, we just have to decide which side of the criminal justice system we want to do it on.Report

            • Avatar Scott Fields says:

              Though I agree with his premise, Cramer’s solution represents a societal paradigm shift from spending money trying to clean up disasters (through law enforcement and the courts in this case) to spending on preventive measures that would avert disasters. That sounds great. As a bonus, pay now/save later will reap dividends in Foreign Policy (more diplomacy, less war), Health Care (more office visits, less hospitalization), global warming (more alternative energy, fewer new sea walls), etc.

              Assuming Congress gets right on changing the way the US approaches everything this afternoon (sorry for the snark), we might want to consider some restrictions on guns in the interim.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Except we still theoretically operate under the ideal of innocent until proven guilty. Confiscating legally owned property because maybe someone will be bad with it is punishing people absent a conviction.

                Isn’t it up to us to tell Congress to do a cranial rectal extraction and make it happen?

                As for restrictions, there are hundreds out there, depending on where you live. Not sure how more will help, unless you have specific ideas?Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                I’m with you on demanding Congress pursue Cramer’s paradigm. My politics are all about forward looking solutions, I’d like to think.

                To my mind, we are arguing over two sides of the same coin. I agree that confiscating legally owned property because MAYBE someone will be bad with it is punishing people absent a conviction. I’d hope you agree that institutionalizing someone because MAYBE they’ll do something bad is punishing an innocent person as well. I’m not talking about clear diagnosis, but the multitudes who would fall in the diagnostic margins. If the mental health system is charged with preventing all mass killings because guns of limitless lethality are what it means to be free, you better believe the mental health system will err on the side of locking up the MAYBEs.

                To my mind, while we wait for society to get wise on the value of an investment in prevention in society and we divert money from prisons to improved, thorough mental health services, I’d prefer the occasional Lynette & David Phillips losing their guns over the occasional Lynette & David Philson being locked away because they might hurt someone.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Agreed, it’s a sticky wicket, especially since the line between uncomfortably unhinged & dangerously unhinged is still an awfully fuzzy thing.

                But I wouldn’t charge the mental health system with preventing mass killings, merely with helping people get better. We need to stop looking for ways to prevent specific human tragedies, and focus more holistically. Help people, take care of them, and the number of human tragedies will decrease on it’s own.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                Help people, take care of them, and the number of human tragedies will decrease on it’s own.

                No argument there.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

          If you can’t trust a homeless person to hold a million bucks while you go shopping, you can’t trust a homeless person to do anything responsible. If an epileptic can’t be trusted to drive, then they can’t be trusted to do anything and should locked yp.

          This is absurd, childish reasoning. Some people may be mentally competent to hold a job, have friends, pay their bills, etc., and be able to live a full and good life, while being prone to fits of violence that should bar them from being able to own a gun.

          Heck, I’d put myself in that category. Doesn’t mean that I should be “institutionalized” for life, just because I shouldn’t own a gun.

          Don’t mean to be rude, but you’re getting awfully close to saying something really horribly discriminatory about people with mental illness.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      No, but there should be a process to make sure said homes are not lost casually due to such errors.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


        • Avatar Johanna says:

          So why is it only an outrage for you when the private sector does it?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Eh, that was me. Of course.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            There you go again, always putting the worst construction on everything I say.

            The operative phrase in my original comment was “do away with”. I don’t think the answer to the abuse by a registry is to abolish all of them, any more than I think the answer to abuses by a bank is to abolish banks. And I’m agreeing the MRS that banks (and by analogy, registries) need processes to prevent (or reverse) abuses.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              But we do have a government that can regulate those banks, etc, right? Who regulates the government? As long as “who will guard the guardians” remains a legitimate question, I think your comparison is deeply flawed. As well, I think it’s striking that your immediate response to government is something along the lines of, “but businesses do it, too.” It almost sounds as though you were trying to redirect the criticism away from your more-favored institution to your less-favored one.

              Perhaps that’s still uncharitable, but it is my impression. You are, of course, free to think I’m being an a**.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                If we eliminate every part of government that can be abused, we eliminate every part of government. (I’d consider that a successful reductio if I didn’t think your response was “Amen!”)

                As for who regulates the government, we do. It’s possible to pass laws or pursue lawsuits to ensure registries observe due process, and there are, in fact, lots of pro-2nd Amendment politicians and judges eager to help with that. Try finding any eager to do that with big financial institutions. Elizabeth Warren’s organization gets filibustered into uselessness, Carl Levin goes near it only when he doesn’t have to worry about reelection, and the majority of the Supreme Court goes out of their way to give them “rights” they’ve never had before.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                As for who regulates the government, we do

                Rather less successfully than government regulates business, I’d say.

                And while obviously I don’t argue for eliminating all of government, I do think it’s rather unwise to pile one readily abusable policy on top of another on top of another. And to justify any individual one with the argument that “we can’t get rid of all of them,” hardly bears serious consideration. I can’t eliminate all the dangers in my life, so I shouldn’t try to eliminate any of them?Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Currently, “we” absolutely suck at regulating the government.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                We are great at regulating the parts of government that try to restrict corporate power. Not so great at regulating the parts that affect individuals.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Not sure how to take that? Should we be regulating individuals more? Less?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                And who is MRS talking about here, except individuals? That;s pretty much why we’re so concerned, and hoping to persuade you to be so concerned also.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I thought it was clear (obviously I was wrong). The part of government that directly affects individuals needs regulating, because much of it is out of control.

                I agrees that registries should be keeping track of guns, in particular to trace the ones used in crimes, or found in possession of people not authorized to have them (e.g. felons.) They shouldn’t be used to confiscate them based on crap like this. That said, they have a real value, and I don’t want to see them abolished. (Another reason this action was idiotic is that it straightener the case that registration is the first stop to confiscation.)Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Thanks for the clarification.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            only an outrage for you when the private sector does it

            I don’t see where this reading has any basis in the actual comment – either the “only” part, or even the “outrage” (in whichever setting) part. As Mike says, his point went to to possibly more-extreme-than-necessary remedies to abuse of (or dysfunction that adversely affects) individual stakeholders by large, impersonal institutions. Anywhere there are large institutions that affect individuals’ well-being, this problem will always be an unavoidable one. Mike was saying (the way I read it) that it makes sense to look for reasonable ways to address such problems with programs whose aims are worthwhile (whether those are instituting a system that tries to hold gun owners accountable for the safe keeping of their arms, or seizing the collateral on loans in significant default) before concluding that the programs if not the institutions themselves ought to be junked.Report

            • Avatar Citizen says:

              “impersonal institutions”
              Most coherent two words I’ve read in awhile, many thanks.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                “impersonal institutions”

                Fortunately we can regulate them through bureaucracies without running into further “impersonal institutions” problems.Report

              • Avatar Citizen says:

                Regulate through bureaucracies? That has about as much weight as “time and tide”. Turn the lights out on the BOR and see what individual institutions remain. Idiocy of the masses, its why “modern” societies aren’t built last.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                It’s just a phrase I’ve heard to describe large institutions that essentially can’t treat individual situations with any degree of individual attention, but instead have to create typologies & other systems for dealing with cases in categorized groups. If the phrase is problematic for some reason, by all means ignore it and understand that was my meaning.Report

  5. Avatar Fnord says:

    Two people, who did nothing wrong, have had their property confiscated and destroyed by the state, and they have (as far as I know) no recourse to get the property back, or to be compensated for it’s loss.


    As for the Phillips family being reinstated with their firearms, she said they have to wait 30 days while an investigation is underway before she can appear in front of a judge who will determine her competency.

    So it sounds like there’s a process for investigating and reviewing these decisions, and that they can (eventually) have their guns returned. Though the other article says that “usually” the guns are destroyed, neither articles says that’s the case with the Phillips’ guns specifically.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Hrmm, that last bit wasn’t there when I first read the article.Report

    • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

      Wow. A 2nd amendment frenzy based on false information? I’m shocked!Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        It’s not false information. These people still had their privacy violated, had their property confiscated, and had armed men at their door asking to come in, all based upon a comment made by an intake nurse. And now these people have to jump through legal hoops because they did the right & responsible thing of seeking medical help for a mental health issue.

        So set aside the issue of guns & focus on the mental health aspect. This should still give you pause. Imagine if every person who entered treatment for substance abuse had their cars impounded.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:


      “usually” the guns are destroyed, neither articles says that’s the case with the Phillips’ guns specifically.

      It means the state has 30 days to destroy the guns, if it hasn’t already. I have little doubt that if the couple hadn’t figured out the procedure for challenging the decision and getting some wheels turning, the guns would’ve been destroyed long before they figured out that they had any recourse at all.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      ” it sounds like there’s a process for investigating and reviewing these decisions, and that they can (eventually) have their guns returned.”

      That there is a process does not mean they will get their guns back.

      Let’s look at this from the judge’s point of view. If he keeps their guns, they’re real sad, and that night he has a glass of warm milk and curls up in bed with a good book. If he gives her guns back and she kills someone, then he’s the guy who gave a nut her guns back.Report

  6. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    If I had a time machine I’d use it to convince the Founders that the 2nd Amendment is a REALLY BAD idea. So many stupid things get said under the cover of the 2nd, probably more than any other clause or amendment. (Actually, I’d have them replace it with an amendment that said “Corporations are not people. What are you, stupid?”)

    Cite this as a violation of 4th and 5th amendments and I’m right there with you. Cite this as a violation of the 2nd, and you’re on your own.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I’d go back and explain to King George that he should let the Americas have two seats in the house of commons.Report

      • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

        And that is the story of how North America became Greater Canada. Long live the Queen!Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        That would work — and would have led to the abolition of slavery in America at the same time.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        I would so be down.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Hmmm fun a-historical speculation. If America had been given representation and the revolution hadn’t happened what would North America have ended up looking like?

        My own knee jerk reaction, some kind of Dominion of America that would emcompass much of the US and Canada. Probably Alaska might still be in Russian hands and the US Southwest might well be Mexican (I don’t know if a British North America would have commmitted to the Mexican/American war). Louisiana was there of course but I think it’s safe to assume that Louisiana would have been invaded and annexed into British North America during the Napoleonic Wars are the very latest.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Suppose you’re George III taking the throne in 1760. The population of the British Isles is maybe 7.5 million; the American colonies (excluding what would become Canada) about 1.6 million and growing very rapidly (would more than triple over the next 40 years). The House of Commons has 650 or so members. There don’t seem to be any good choices. Far too late to try the dominion thing they would do with Canada in 1767 (the Dominion of New England was a flop a hundred years earlier). Too many ties across the colonies to try to split them up. A couple of MPs is a token and everyone knows it. A grand gesture of 50-100 MPs, making the colonies real members of the United Kingdom, acknowledges that soon enough the UK will be dominated by its American parts.

          So you can let them go. Or you can use the army and navy to try to impose your will on them. We know how that last one turned out. Letting the colonies go is probably little different than what we got. Now a UK with the seat of government in North America would be interesting.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          Like we discussed recently, the two main factors are:

          1) How would slave economy ‘synergies’ have worked between British (South) North America and the Caribbean (which in 1776, was where the money was, anyway), and would that have encouraged the British Empire to tolerate (or even encourage) African slavery in the Western Hemisphere for longer than it did?

          2) Can Louis XVI hang on for longer and if so can any reforms come to pass, deferring the (French) Revolution indefinitely, if France doesn’t bankrupt itself from fighting in North America and the Inception of revolution is avoided (postponed?).Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            1) I don’t think it’s likely that the synergies would have worked particularly well. Cotton remained largely an afterthought until around the mid 1810s, and by then Abolition was becoming a cause celeb. The West Indies were a substantially larger portion of trade revenue and they were willing to tolerate some substantial tariffs to keep their sugar slave-free.

            Moreover, there’d have been substantial synergies between the dissenters in England and the continental dissenters (e.g. Quakers) that would have made it easier to maintain an anti-slavery alliance. That is to say the North American abolitionist movement would have been substantially strengthened by having Wilberforce, Clarkson, etc. be “one of them” rather than the vestiges of a colonial overlord. In fact I’d bet you’d see some of them immigrate to say Pennsylvania and become “MPs” from those regions to represent abolitionist interests.

            2) Given that we saw the monarchy collapse again within 30 years of being reinstated, I don’t think the Bourbons had much more than a decade or two left before a bad harvest or a continental conflict over say Northern Italy or a colonial war wound up bankrupting them all over again. The North American conflict hastened the revolution, but by the 1790s French society was sufficiently radicalized without the American example.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              concede the point on the Bourbons. Yet, I still think there had to be some path for France to hold onto Louisiana for longer. (and I think an adverse possession by their arch enemy creates a different map in the long term than selling it off to a ‘neutral’ power)

              “they were willing to tolerate some substantial tariffs to keep their sugar slave-free.”

              Oh, ok. I was not aware of that, and thought that slavery in the West Indies and the sugar plantation system lasted right up until the official abolition in 1833. (there was also the Slave Trade act in 1807, but that happened around the same time as the importation into the US was also halted, and the latter didn’t do anything to actually abolish slavery in the US)(directly).

              All things considered, a unified British Western hemisphere may have seen a secessionist war (over slavery) in the 1820’s-30’s by both the Caribbean and South of Mason-Dixon line slave owning elites. And in that scenario the battle over Texas between Ango-Americans and Spanish/Mexican Americans doesn’t really change all that much. (and may possibly serve to kick the whole thing off)Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The bigger problem actually came for the British in 1846 with the Sugar Duty Acts which abolished the tariffs on slave-produced sugar from places like Brazil and Cuba. This led to the effective death of West Indies sugar cane plantations and actually sparked one of the first schisms between the Holy Rollers and the free trade advocates.

                And by the end of outright abolition in 1833, sugar prices in Britain had risen to about twice the world average, not counting the economic cost of compensating the planters. Their share of sugar production went from something like 55% in 1805 to 15% in 1835 due to the economic gap that existed between the slave and non-slave states.

                I think the more interesting hypothetical on the western hemisphere is how the imperial policies viz. south america would have worked out. In particular would a limping France have made the independence movements in the Spanish colonies different? Without the Revolution and the glory attached to a Bonaparte you’re unlikely to inspire the Bolivars, O’Higgins, San Martins. On the other hand, if there was no need to prop Spain up as an ally, the British might have gotten involved in undermining the Spanish hold on South America far more substantially, particularly if the Portuguese remained a British ally.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      “I’d have them replace it with an amendment that said “Corporations are not people. What are you, stupid?”

      When you take into account the relative distributions of wealth and influence, you’ll find that the people who wrote the Constitution had power beyond a modern corporation’s wildest dreams.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        They were slave owners, after all.Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        Yes, but corporations were of limited duration and had to justify their existence periodicly.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        How about just passing an amendment saying that people aren’t allowed to work cooperatively for their common interests or pool their resources, which is all a corporation is – a group of people who are pooling their assets or labor to get something done, an enterprise, etc. Of course if we ruled that corporations aren’t people, then at least corporations couldn’t be sued anymore.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Limited liability. When the corporation fishes up, the stockholders may be out their investment, but the rest of their assets aren’t affected. For example, as has been pointed out many times, the Wall Street investment firms changed their behavior drastically when they reorganized as limited-liability corporations instead of being partnerships.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        The “corporations are not people” argument seems to ignore that corporations are composed of people. My widowed 82 year old mother is a stockholder–not a Wall St. player, but a very middle class person who through her years of employment always took some of her earnings in the form of stock. Without corporate personhood, can a person actually sue the firm, or does my elderly mom become liable, as an owner of the company?

        If the government took a corporation’s property arbitrarily and capriciously, or passed a regulation that specifically targeted that company to its detriment, it is not just the firm, but the actual people who work for it who are harmed. Without corporate personhood, what legal remedy do they have against the government?

        I opposed the bailout of GM, but I know that tens of thousand of line workers’ and clerical jobs–basic middle class folks–we’re at stake. Should their employer be denied the voice that saves their jobs?

        We should be careful about dehumanizing corporations, because to do so implicitly dehumanizes all those who work for them.Report

        • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

          A baseball team is made up of people, but we don’t treat like a person in any legal sense.

          “We should be careful about dehumanizing corporations”. No, we shouldn’t because they’re not fishing human.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Eh, a baseball team is a legal corporation, so we do treat it like a person in a legal sense. I have no idea where you thought that example was going.

            But overall your response chose to ignore my real point, about all those people, most of them working/middle class who make up a corporation. Your choice to totally ignore them and their interests is what I’m criticizing, and you respond by…totally ignoring them and their interests.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              Category error, James.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                True. A team is made up of players while the corporation is made up of the team owners. For the majority of the history of major league baseball, corporate personhood was used to prevent the players from having any equitable share in the profits.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Therefore: we can prevent them from showing movies on PPV.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I seriously don’t like the whole “but they said that corporations were people!” argument when the argument doesn’t acknowledge such things as censorship of political speech.

                Because, at the end of the day, Citizens United was about censored political speech.

                And the SCotUS said “nope, corporations are people… you can’t censor their political speech” and everybody goes nuts about “corporations are people” without making note of the whole “censorship” thing.

                So let’s say that corporations are *NOT* people. Let’s agree with that forever.

                Do you still think that you should be able to censor their speech?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Should corporations be able to give money directly to candidates for office and legislators? Let’s assume for a moment that money is considered speech.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                And the SCotUS said “nope, corporations are people…

                As far as I can tell, they didn’t actually say this in Citizens United. They said that corporations are entitled to First Amendment protections, citing First Nat’l Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, which says this:

                The First Amendment, in particular, serves significant societal interests. The proper question therefore is not whether corporations “have” First Amendment rights and, if so, whether they are coextensive with those of natural persons. Instead, the question must be whether § 8 abridges expression that the First Amendment was meant to protect. We hold that it does.

                And quite a bit more, explaining that holding.

                It’s worth noting, also, that the portion of the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech and of the press doesn’t say one word about “people.” It only says that Congress may not restrict them.

                When someone starts yapping about Citizens United and “The Supreme Court said corporations are people!” it’s a dead giveaway that he has no idea what he’s talking about.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                If the purpose of a corporation is to do political speech, sure, they should be able to do it. That’s why people invested their money in it. Well, if they created a corporate person so they could slander the fish out of their enemies while taking advantage of limited liability, maybe not. “Yes, you can sue CU for calling you a child molester, but after the film was finished we have $10.34 left. I wouldn’t call up any contingency lawyers.” But let’s leave that aside for now.

                If the purpose of a corporation is to make money drilling for oil, should it be able to make campaign contributions to get laws passed reducing its liability when it fishes up an offshore well? It will be incented to, because pursuing profit at all costs is what corporations do. Does that represent its stockholders? My guess is no, because even people who invest in oil companies mostly think that would be evil. Does that represent its employees? Same answer. (I used to work for an oil company, and I still own some of its stock. Hell no, wearing both hats.)

                So, do I feel OK about censoring corporate speech by saying “No damned campaign contributions; you get limited liability and lots of favorable tax treatment, but you don’t get to try to buy elections, because I know what kind of shenanigans you’ll pull”? I sure do. And what do I tell it when it cries about censorship? “Take whatever contributions the corporation would have made and return them to the stockholders as dividends Feel free to suggest how you’d like to see that money used. If the stockholders agree, no harm done. If not, we’ve increased the free speech of actual human beings.”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                It’s worth noting, also, that the portion of the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech and of the press doesn’t say one word about “people.” It only says that Congress may not restrict them.

                Better not put the cover on your parrot’s cage to make it shut up at night. It has rights.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Mike’s point about a “political speech motivated corporation” that’s made explicitly to throw out damaging and factually dubious information under an aegis of limited liability and anonymity for the people funding the speech, seems to me, to be fundamentally an abuse of incorporation and should probably be grounds for basically saying “No, you can’t do that. You can decide to release the movie under your own name, but you take responsibility for what it does to 1) your reputation and 2) the consequences of a libel lawsuit.”Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                So a corporation should only be able to speak about political issues if the purpose of the corporation is to address political issues? Isn’t that frightfully elitist, like saying that only members of the well bred political class should be able to speak about political issues and everyone else has to shut up and get back to smashing rocks?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Let’s not throw dust in the air here. Corporate speech is regulated within an inch of its life within the corporation itself. Left completely unanswered by CU is the issue of who gets to speak on behalf of the corporation and on what terms and who decides. Does the board give every corporate officer the right to utter such speech? No, they won’t. It’s no different than any other business decision — except it’s not.

                Does such CU-permitted speech speak on behalf of the stockholders? How much money will be spent on such speech? Moneys spent on political speech — how do you book such an expense? It’s not a regular old business decision such as buying a goddamn forklift or an ad buy. Even those decisions appear in P&L and Cap Expenditures under some division head’s budget, someone approved the PO and signed the invoice and put the inventory bar code on it. Who signs the invoice for some CU-approved advertisement? What if the ad creates a tort? Does CU-allowed corporate speech have to be identified as such? Other ads do. Corporate lobbying money has to be exposed. Does CU money?

                CU has answered none of these questions.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                First they’d demand the local government build them a cable system. (Seriously, I have no clue what you’re getting at. But it is true that most baseball teams think having to build their own infrastructure is Communism.)Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

          “The “corporations are not people” argument seems to ignore that corporations are composed of people. ”

          You are Mitt Romney posting under a false name. Admit it.Report

        • James,

          I usually don’t like the complaints about “how dare the courts say corporations are people!” but I think the argument that they are people is that they are by definition artificial persons (empowered by the state to act as persons for some purposes, say to enter into agreements under its own authority), not that actual people invest in them, comprise them, and work for them.

          This suggests to me that the “how dare the courts say corporations are people!” crowd might do better to frame their debates around what legal attributes a corporation ought to have and not whether they are “people.” (Limited liability, for example, hasn’t always been an undisputed attribute of corporations. I think limited liability is better than the alternatives–for example, treble liability or the unlimited liability of the old joint-stock companies–because limited liability promotes investment.)

          I think I’m mostly agreeing with you. But I also think it would be quite interesting to have a debate over what exactly the attributes of a corporation are or ought to be and whether or how the state can or should modify those attributesReport

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Well said. I agree. My point is that taking away all aspects of corporate personhood under law would actually hurt a lot of those real live fleshenblood human beans.

            But that doesn’t mean I think a discussion about what legal attributes ought to be allowed particular legally defined entities is off base or in any way out of bounds. After all, if a particular form of incorporation provides certain benefits that are otherwise unavailable (like limited liability for investors), I can’t see that it’s wrong to say certain certain constraints shouldn’t be the price of receiving those benefits (like non-profits not being allowed to engage in direct political advocacy (not that it turns out to be as much of a constraint as intended)).

            But in its essence, corporate personhood means a corporation can have certain rights and duties, like being able to enter contracts, and to sue for their enforcement and in turn be sued to force them to fulfill them. As a legal principle, it doesn’t grant them all the rights of a real live person, but the principle is on fact based on the recognition that corporations are groups of people, and that they do not lose certain rights just because they have taken on the legal character of incorporation. I think those who broadly criticize corporate personhood ignore that crucial point, and in doing so they ignore the real live fleshenblood humans in that group of persons.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              So what should we do about tax avoidance and bribes paid via shell corporations?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                What should we do about those things with fleshenblood human beans?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh you mean the stockholders? And the reptiles in the corporate suite. Those people?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                As I suspected, you’re angling for another one of those arguments. Given how utterly useless they are, I’ll decline. Feel free to strut your pseduo-victory dance, if you think it will impress anyone but yourself.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                As I suspected, you’re not quite sure of how a corporate charter operates.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                So, a decision not to engage enables you to draw conclusions about what I do and do not know?


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Fleshenblood types who bribe are arrested and charged with bribing a public official and go to jail. But when a corporation bribes, as is the case with Siemens, a publicly listed US firm with a market cap of 91.38B they get to pay a fine and nobody goes to jail.

                Daimler AG pays bribes all over the world. At last count, DOJ found they’d been paying bribes in 22 countries. How many people went to jail? None.

                Tyson Chicken bribes food inspectors and obstructs justice when USDA gets suspicious. Nobody goes to jail.

                BP spills oil and ruins the fishing hereabouts, nobody goes to jail.

                And not one officer of one securities firm has gone to jail over clearly fraudulent misrepresentation in the Wall Street Implosion of 2008.

                I sure wish there was something to dance about. You clearly don’t understand the form and function of corporations. If you did, none of this would surprise you.Report

            • James, here’s where I see it a little differently from the way you do:

              As a legal principle, it doesn’t grant them all the rights of a real live person, but the principle is on fact based on the recognition that corporations are groups of people, and that they do not lose certain rights just because they have taken on the legal character of incorporation.

              I don’t believe the people who form the corporations ought to lose any of their rights as human beings (or human “beans,” if you prefer 🙂 ). But I wouldn’t say that corporate form automatically takes on those rights of its members. I’m actually not sure you were necessarily saying anything to the contrary, but the passage above I quoted suggested that you might be.

              The donkey in the room here is Citizens United, the result of which I support because I don’t like the idea of the the government doing the type of line drawing of what is and isn’t “speech.” But I wouldn’t support the argument that the corporation, as a corporate person, has the right to political speech in the same way that a flesh and blood person does. Rather, I would say it’s the speech that needs to be protected. Not the corporation’s “rights.” (I hope that’s clear….I’m confused myself.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I don’t think the corporate form automatically takes on all the rights of its members, either. But I also don’t think they automatically lose rights just because they joined together as a legally recognized group.

                I’m in agreement with your concluding statement. I would only add that it’s not that easy, imo, to distinguish between the corporation’s speech and the speech of the individuals that constitute it, so it’s not really the corporation’s rights I’m focusing on, but the rights of the individuals that make up the corporation.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Who speaks for a corporation?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Remember when you said you weren’t going to respond to any more of my posts? What happened to that? Was that just an idle threat? If so, it says a lot about how tough and fearsome you really aren’t despite your pretenses.

                Let me make my position clear. I’m sick of you. You’ve successfully managed to destroy almost any shred of respect I could have had for you, other than your interest in poetry. I’ll no longer argue positions with you, because you are constitutionally incapable of actual discussion, but can only turn everything into a fight.

                Just stick to your own vow, and don’t respond o my posts. At a certain point you begin to resemble a stalker with some weird fixation on me. I’m not that important or significant, so just leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Aw, James. I was just funnin’ you. You don’t stay off my threads anyway. Now who speaks for corporations?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m not funning you. I’m just tired and bored with you.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                If a corporation publicly endorsed a given candidate but one of its VPs publicly endorsed a rival, would the employer have grounds to terminate the VP? Remember, this guy is not a mere employee. He’s an officer of the company. If he deviated from the corporate message on other topics, the CEO would get rid of him.

                What if the board backed one candidate and the CEO backed another one? What if the board was divided?

                Now here’s the way it works in the real world. Corporations don’t care about who gets elected. They care about what those candidates will actually do once elected. Sometimes these corporations will switch lobbying firms if they need a bunch of new friends who have important friends.

                Politicians know all this. What CU has done, perversely, is open the door for the candidates to direct solicit ad buys from corporations. The only thing still prohibited is corporations donating money to candidates. But since advertising is campaigning and cost so much money, it’s more effective and actually cheaper for the candidates to shove this off onto corporations and their PR departments.

                Another perverse effect of CU is the inadvertent endorser campaign. What would happen if Sudso White Power Detergent put a candidate’s smilin’ phiz upon its boxes? And what if some humorous rogue cut that box up so as to reduce it to the candidate’s face and the “White Power” logo? And put some skinhead music behind it? And the resulting video racked up a few zillion hits on YouTube? What could the candidate do?

                CU is an ugly mess. To say it’s not easy to distinguish between corporate and candidate speech is the understatement of the century.Report

              • I don’t really have an answer to what would or should happen to the renegade VP you mention.

                As for your critique of CU, you may be right. But the cure that CU offered (but didn’t offer because of 527’s which certainly thrived under the pre-CU regime) is, in my opinion, worse than the disease.

                I do believe, however, that the disease is a real one. I just think it’s dangerous to cure it by speech restrictions.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The CU cure is far worse than the disease. We’ve always had lobbying in some form since the founding of the republic. We’ve tried to separate the regulators and the regulated, with varying degrees of success.

                The answer is straightforward and obvious: corporations are creations of the state. As such, they should have no more right to political speech than a military officer in uniform or a regulator would have.Report

              • Oops, I mispoke. I meant the law that CU overturned was worse than the disease. But CU is a disease too.


                Dr. Pierre Corneille, MD.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                “what if some humorous rogue cut that box up so as to reduce it to the candidate’s face and the “White Power” logo? And put some skinhead music behind it? And the resulting video racked up a few zillion hits on YouTube? What could the candidate do?”

                A fundraising stop at Whites Only Laundry, of course.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                “But I also don’t think they automatically lose rights just because they joined together as a legally recognized group.”

                I’ve never really understood how this works (at least for a publicly traded corporation). It seems like shareholders agree amongst themselves to limit their rights to speak for the corporation (or with the corps money). They appoint officers as agents to make business decisions that advance their interests. It just doesn’t seem like the officers of the corp have a First Amendment right to use the money of the shareholders to engage in political speech.

                I’ll readily admit that once appointed, the officers have incredibly wide latitude to act in the companies interest as they see it. I just don’t see this wide latitude as an individual right, as it feels more like delegated authority. Delegated authority that, like the ability to fund philanthropy with corporate money, could be limited by law.

                And it seems, to me at least, imminently reasonable to limit the ways in which the agents can pursue the interests of the shareholders, either as an acknowledgement that shareholders have little or no control over the agent, or as a trade-off ( or recognition of) the limited liability granted by the state. So guess I see it as possibly a curtailment of freedom, but not of rights (if that makes any sense).Report

              • James,

                I don’t think the corporate form automatically takes on all the rights of its members, either. But I also don’t think they automatically lose rights just because they joined together as a legally recognized group.

                I know my response is late in coming, and this is more pinhole poking than anything else, but I’ll say a couple things in response:

                1. You’re right to suggest that it’s not always easy to tease out where the rights of a member of a corporation end and the powers/privileges of the corporation itself begins, and that we had best err on the side of recognizing more rights than fewer.

                2. As much as I agree with the result in Citizens United and generally dislike most of the attempts at campaign finance reform, I do think that limiting a corporation’s ability to engage in speech does not in itself limit the rights of shareholders to engage in speech. The shareholders are free to engage in speech as individuals, just not through their corporation. Now, I put it more simplistically than perhaps it is in practice (see my point no. 1). But I think that in principle, one can restrict the powers of shareholders’ organization while preserving each shareholder’s rights.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The question is whether limiting effectiveness of speech = a limitation on speech. Several of us may not individually be able to have effective voice, but together, pooling our resources, we do. That’s the whole purpose of organized interest groups. So if the rule is “you can exercise voice individually, but not, through a pooling of resources, collectively,” is that a violation of speech rights? I’m sure folks can differ, but it seems so to me.

                Obviously that’s drawn with broad strokes, and perhaps there’s an constitutionally important difference between organizations created primarily for the purpose of pooling resources for voice and those whose real purpose is different and voice is only incidental to their purpose. But I think the burden of proof lies on those who argue that there is a difference that justifies denying constitutional rights to the latter.

                And of course the law struck down in CItizens United did not apply only to for-profit mega corporations, but also banned direct issue advocacy by non-profit corporations in the 60 days preceding an election, a point that often gets lost in the clamor about SCOTUS letting Megacorp buy politicians.

                I don’t think we’re in much disagreement here, so this is a further extrapolation from your response, not an argument against anything you said.Report

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille says:

                “But I think the burden of proof lies on those who argue that there is a difference that justifies denying constitutional rights to the latter.”

                Agreed. (and with the rest of your comment, too).Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              I think the most problematic aspect of how corporate personhood is defined re: political speech is that the interests of the corporation’s shareholders (its brain so to speak) can diverge rather substantially from that of the people who actually make up the corporation’s body. I suppose in a way if we’re assuming a corporation can enter contracts and sue for enforcement, etc. it does mean that we have to humanize it viz the people that are working there. That is to say, the people who work for a corporation are no longer a part of that corporation, but simply independent actors who are fulfilling contracts with the corporation.

              I think part of the restrictions we place on “corporate personhood” should probably include political speech in some sense unless it’s employee owned. Otherwise the possibility that you begin creating perverse incentives vis-a-vis the contract structure and environment the corporation gets relative to the people who make it up start looking a bit shady.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              Man, I love how the comment discussions here tangent off into wholly unrelated areas.

              “Hew, I’m talking about Mental Health privacy & 2nd, 4th, & 5th amendment violations here!”

              “Fish you, we want to talk about Citizens United, etc. ad nauseum, so STFU!”

              Love it!

              Oh, wait, Hanley & BlaiseP are gonna get into it again! Frak! I need a comfy chair & a bowl of Lucky Charms!Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            I think limited liability externalises risk while internalising profits. I think that the conditions under which liability can be limited should itself be limited if not done away with completely.Report

            • In what way? Would you recommend that, for example, if I buy 10 shares of a company, and have no direct say in that company’s management, then I would be liable to be sued in case that company’s management does something wrong?

              Of course, I framed it in an almost question-begging way, and that’s not necessarily your position. But I am curious to how you would limit limited liability.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Limited liability turns out to limit a few people’s liability a lot more than the many peoples’ liability.

                Because really, if you’re looking to buy 10 shares and you were worried about liability? You’d invest in something that had a very long, very stable, very, very boring track record.

                Companies that do things that people consider risky? The common bloke isn’t going to buy 10 shares in that company, because they don’t want the actual liability when the underwater well goes blooie and pollutes almost the entire Gulf of Mexico.Report

              • Pat,

                I guess I can see that result. But is that dynamic in principle any different from, say, trebling the liability, or making the liability unlimited?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Usually it’s not the in principle bits that matter. It’s the in practice ones that do.Report

              • Pat,

                I’m not quite sure I follow your point here.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                As the risk that investors would be worried about is liability greater than the companies ability to pay, it seems like one result of limiting LL could be a lessening in investment for small businesses and other such companies.

                Increasing the breadth of ‘piercing the corporate veil,’and enterprise liability seem like a good way to ensure that victims get compensated, while both discouraging corporate shenanigans and maintaining the benefits of LL.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Funny, I would expect the opposite. Smaller businesses have less possibilities available for massive screwups with huge externalities.

                Overall, if you change the liability laws you’d see a huge change in capital behavior, sure. But there’s plenty of sole proprietorships out there and they’re almost all small businesses, and they do fine with lots of bonding/insurance.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                You may be right, I was thinking about it in terms of a moderate screwup wiping out a small and (semi) under-capitalized business, while large corporations are almost always able to cover such losses. But that could be a small problem which is easily remedied.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                At least one small business declared bankruptcy because they lost their money. They found it a few days later.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                I was thinking more in terms of debt liability than civil liability. But I’m thinking tht if all shareholders including those who have controlling shares were fully liable for all the debts of their company, then the executives they hire would be a lot different.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            “Corporations are people” and to an extent “corporations aren’t people,” trade on the ambiguity of what “people” means in this context. It’s better to say that “a corporation is not a person” or “corporations are made up of people.”Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              A far simpler approach is to state a corporation created by the state. It is owned by people unless it’s owned by another corporation. Insofar as it is not directly liable for its actions, its officers can and must be held accountable for their actions on behalf of the corporation.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Except “a corporation is created by the state” and “a corporation is composed of people” are both true, and both license different inferences, so yours isn’t simpler at expressing what the other one expresses, it just expresses something different.Report

              • “Insofar as it is not directly liable for its actions, its officers can and must be held accountable for their actions on behalf of the corporation.”

                Speaking at least in theory, it seems that corporations are directly liable for their actions (they can be sued) and their officers can be held accountable for their actions on behalf of the corporation.

                Of course, practice might be a different matter. But I always (well, not “always,” but for a long time) thought that the big disadvantage to being a corporation officer is that you’re on the hook for a lot of things done in the name of the corporation.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Since a corporation is created by the state, why not hold the state accountable?Report

              • George,

                There’s a potential for infinite regression here. If we’re going to hold the state accountable, why not empower it to regulate its creation? If we’re going to empower it regulate the state’s creation, why not hold it more accountable? If we’re going to hold the state more accountable, why not empower it even more to regulate its creation?

                For what it’s worth, I don’t the claim that corporations are creations of the state is either completely true or completely dispositive to justify any regulation.

                As for it not being completely true: I suppose one can advance the argument that a firm, even a sole proprietorship or a partnership, acts in practice as a thing unto itself, or as something that (again, in practice) is a “person” for some purposes, and do so to a degree that’s not provided for by the state.

                As for it not being wholly dispositive: I don’t believe in arbitrary government (and neither do you, at least I so gather from your comments in this thread and elsewhere, even if I disagree with you on what defines arbitrariness). But I do believe the state has greater authority to regulate its creation than it does to regulate, say, a human being.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Mine is simpler because it’s true. Corporations are not people. Beyond one trivial consideration, their ability to bring suit or be sued, they aren’t even remotely like people.

                George asks an interesting question, not as stupid as it might first seem. Governments create these shelters from liability: to what extent are they liable where their corporate creations are not? Many state agents work behind corporate charters, creating shell corporations and cutouts, a sort of modern-day quasi-fascism: the Chinese are particularly fond of this modus operandi. The Bahamas and the Cayman Islands tolerate obviously fraudulent corporate charters whose only purpose is tax avoidance. The Dutch and Irish sit in the middle, wilfully blind to certain aspects of income creation, creating accounting lacunae in such a way as to lower total corporate tax payments: thus does Apple shelter its mountain of cash. There are other such shell games going on: the Swiss also run their own variants of this scam. That’s just the tax portion of the argument: liability against negligence suits is rather beyond my poor power to comment. Needless to say, competent corporate lawyers do not come cheap.

                Two important classifications of corporate malfeasance: financial and negligence. The first encompasses securities fraud, filing false reports, defrauding investors, money laundering, bribing and the like. The second encompasses torts against consumers.

                Corporations exist as defences against liability, else there would be no reason for their existence. Corporate firewalls are pierced by courts, exposing corporate officers to lawsuits but the process is extremely difficult. Corporations are not people, nor are they composed of people. Nor are their officers directly liable, except in isolated instances.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          We should be careful about dehumanizing corporations, because to do so implicitly dehumanizes all those who work for them.

          Is there a reason why your position ends up being this rather than, “Corporations SHOULD be treated as people (or even persons?) under the law.” It seems like you gave good reasons for that position, so what is it that makes your position come out to being only, “We should be careful…”?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            I don’t know. Perhaps because a much stronger statement seemed more likely to promote stronger pushback, rather than effectively encouraging anyone to actively ponder my argument.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              Does this mean we need to start treating M&A folks like cannibals?Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              So your actual position is the former?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Why are you repeatedly so all-fired determined to pin down my exact position on things? Sometimes I want to raise ideas without necessarily taking an absolute and final stance, but it seems like every goddam time you push and push to get me to make an absolute and definitive statement of my position. I don’t see you giving an absolute and definitive statement of your position in every case–in fact you’re often raising objections and ideas just to work things through, while expressly saying you don’t know the final answer. It’s a bit much, then, to demand more of others.

                Why not just deal with the fucking issue instead of worrying so much about where I stand precisely? It’s really fucking irritating. I don’t want to be rude in response to you, but, jesus, you pester and pester, and you seem to either think I have a complete and fully worked out position on everything or that I ought to, either of which is ridiculous.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                Because if he doesn’t get an absolute and definitive statement from you then he can’t figure out how to triumphantly prove you wrong.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Cite this as a violation of 4th and 5th amendments and I’m right there with you. Cite this as a violation of the 2nd, and you’re on your own.

      And therein lies the problem. It’s an all or nothing game, Jeff. As I’ve explained before, the same arguments that allow people to violate the 2nd can, with very little work, be used to (and have been used to)violate any of the other amendments that specifically protect a right.

      You don’t have to like the 2nd, but failing to defend it puts the rest in jeopardy as well.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      Interesting how the 4th and 5th amendments get a lot more *flexible* when it comes to violating the 2nd.Report

      • I’m not so sure. They seemed to be pretty flexible already (drugs, Kelo-style takings). Perhaps the argument could be made that the 4th and 5th are less flexible, in part because the 2nd and those who rally to it generally enjoy more political power than the type of people who are otherwise victimized by laxity in observing the 4th and 5th.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          A true & telling statement. Let it not be said that I am OK with any 4th or 5th amendment violations, I don’t care who is on the short end of it.Report

          • Fair enough. The fact (if it is a fact) that violations of the 4th/5th are held more in check when it comes to the rights of gun owners does not by itself make violations of the 4th/5th rights of gun owners right.Report

  7. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    It is interesting to me how readily law enforcement is to act on scant or partial information. A comment by a nurse gets you 9 officers at your door. A bad tip from an informant & you have a SWAT team in your home.

    When did we become so afraid of our fellow citizens that we allow the police such latitude?

    And why do we so willingly trust them to not abuse it? And give them a pass when they do?Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      I’m not sure if the solution is to make it easier for mentally ill people to have guns and get rid of registries.

      Reining in police power is something that needs to be done on a fundamental level, but most Pro-2nd amendment pieces seem to be under the impression you can still trample on the 4th and 5th so long as the 2nd is okay.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        The way to reign in the police is to make it expensive for them when they screw up. In money.

        Because that officer that’s been put on leave a couple of times but winds up out on the street even though he’s got a long history of beating up people on camera? He’s going to be sitting behind a desk for the rest of his career if each one of those events cost the city $100,000.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          That and make sure they’re constantly on tape. And you know what? Make that tape fucking available to the public absent some serious privacy concerns. Let’s crowdsource some accountability. I bet you’d have huge numbers of attorneys hiring folks to look through them for abusive police practices if you started paring down qualified immunity.Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            But… But… Officer Privacy Rights! And the tapes will be edited for YouTube & not show the whole thing!

            Etc. Etc. etc.

            Sigh… LEOs, pull on your big boy/girl panties & deal with it. No one made you become a cop. Don’t screw up, & you’ll have nothing to worry about.

            I mean, why do you care? Unless you have something to hide…?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              I look at it more like this way:

              You get to legally carry a fucking loaded gun and a badge that gets you a huge amount of authority with the general populace *and* a lot of default credibility with the court system.

              If the presence of a *camera* or a recorder makes your life substantively more difficult, we can ban the cameras.

              Just give me your gun, first.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Not me. Not a lot of the people I associate with. But I do know who you are talking about.

        People who seem to fluctuate between loving the police, and hating them, depending on whose face the boot is on.Report

  8. Avatar Recovered Republican says:

    I stopped bothering paying much attention when your second link went to Glenn Beck’s sanitarium for the deranged. And even in that article they admit there IS a process in place.

    “As for the Phillips family being reinstated with their firearms, she said they have to wait 30 days while an investigation is underway before she can appear in front of a judge who will determine her competency.”

    Your whole rant is moot.Report

    • Avatar Recovered Republican says:

      “Two people, who did nothing wrong, have had their property confiscated and destroyed by the state, and they have (as far as I know) no recourse to get the property back, or to be compensated for it’s loss.” — and I have just shown you the proof otherwise from your own articles, which I must now conclude you didn’t even bother to read fully.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        And if you bothered to read my comments above, this issue has already been addressed. But I see you can’t be bothered…

        Sorry to have wasted your time forcing you to read something.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      A woman who was never in any way thought to be mentally unhinged now has to go before a judge for a competency hearing, simply because she’d stupidly allowed her guns to be registered, undoubtedly running up thousands of dollars in legal fees, expert testimony, etc. That alone is reason enough for someone to never register a gun.Report

  9. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    When men commit suicide, they shoot themselves, mostly. When women commit suicide, mostly they poison themselves, 40 percent. But 30 percent of women shoot themselves, too.

    Teenage boys commit suicide five to one compared to their female counterparts.
    Six times more men than women in their early 20s commit suicide.

    I don’t see the problem of denying people with mental illness the right to own a firearm. I’d keep an eye on the poisons, too, in such cases.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      I don’t either, once they’ve been found to be mentally unfit in such a way as to pose a danger to themselves or others, and have had due process & the opportunity to be heard by a judge. I’d also like them to have the ability to get better, & get the right back.

      I’d also rather such people, once found unfit, be permitted to dispose of their property in a manner they see fit, rather than just have the cops show up at the door & haul it all off.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        The very best strategy, when the statistics don’t support your position, is to tell an anecdatally compelling story, one poor oppressed person with jackbooted thugs knockin’ in the door and shooting the pooch. Etcetera.

        David Foster Wallace, a very fine writer, wrestled with mental health issues for most of his life. He changed medications and got in trouble. Happens to people. It’s happened to me. He should have been checked into a hospital until he got stable. Well, he hanged himself after tidying up his last pile of manuscript and Pale King is sitting on my coffee table this very instant. I wept horribly when I finished it for I’ll likely never read another new word from him. He was a young man and a wonderful writer. His psychiatrist dropped the ball and David Wallace dropped to the end of his rope.

        Nobody in the modern world needs a handgun. When I left the military, I sold my weapons. David Foster Wallace wouldn’t have been allowed to buy a firearm. He found a way out anyway. But sixty-two percent of all firearms-related deaths in the USA are suicides. Fifty-three such suicides a day. You stipulate to some sort of mental health standard — you just don’t like its implications when someone passes a law to enforce that standard.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          You show me evidence that getting rid of handguns significantly cuts down on suicide, and I’ll turn mine in. But I doubt you’ll find it, because someone who is willing to suck start a .45 is not someone who is making a cry for help. They are beyond that. They have decided to punch their ticket and they will find a way to do it absent serious intervention. So unless there is evidence that not having a gun gives people enough time to intervene in a significant amount of cases, then you are just blowing your typically “I’m old & cranky & & tragic & right.” smoke because you have some story.

          Well you know what, I have stories too. In my life, I’ve known a good half dozen people who committed suicide, all of them close to me, and only one ate a bullet. The common theme for all of them, which is a common theme I hear A LOT, is that people knew they were sad, or troubled, or struggling, but they never imagined they would take their own lives. They missed the signs, the cues, the tells. They didn’t want to believe it would go that far, so they did nothing. Or they didn’t care to look or act. It’s sad, it’s tragic. Welcome to humanity.

          Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the modern world. They kill themselves at about twice the rate we do. They rarely use a gun.Report

  10. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    I’m sort of confused about this issue.

    I’ll say this. The idea that you can determine who are the “dangerously mentally ill” people and who are the regularly mentally ill people before they’ve committed a crime is not practically possible. Insome cases you know, but in almost all, you just don’t know,

    The onus for preventing gun crime just can’t be on the mental health community. They just can’t do it, short of locking everyone with any moderately serious mental illness up forever, in a draconian way, And even that might not do much as you’d drive mental illness underground.

    I’m all for a registration system that makes violent offenders not being able to get a firearms license. And I’m for a system that could allow psychiatrists, in certain situations, to contact the police when they believe a patient is a danger to others, that would also allow the police to know if that person had a weapon.

    But a general ban on people with illness X owning guns just won’t work, especially in a country awash in guns to borrow or steal.

    No, a registration might do good, but we need to do more, maybe requiring people to show that they need and can use and store a gun safely.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Need need need.

      Can you not see the problem with determining need? How such a thing will be captured by those with a desire to game the system? If you have to show need to exercise one right, then you have to show need to exercise any right.

      Do you really need an abortion, or a blog, or a Corvette, or a 5000 sq ft house, or to travel freely, or privacy, etc ad nauseum.

      The proper response to anyone ever asking you why you need something you have a right to is “Fish you!”Report

  11. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    It’s pretty telling that when asked about this, the NRA said “no comment” and the Gun Owners of California praised the program.

    This is exactly what follows from the “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people” argument. In the Post Aurora, Post Newton world, the pro-gun side was arguing that the problem wasn’t responsible gun owners. That it was criminals and nutjobs, and we should focus on them.

    So now we’re following that route, focusing on the criminals and nutjobs and taking the guns away from them. All that’s happened here is that a woman found out she’s on the nutjob list and protested. Maybe she should be on that list, maybe she shouldn’t. But that’s not really the point. Because if you’re going to draw the line, you’ll need to draw it somewhere, and there will always be corner cases.

    So lets accept her side of the story. Her mental health problems were exaggerated, and she posed absolutely no threat to anyone. At that point, nobody who supports gun ownership thinks her gun deserves to be taken away. But what about a someone who really is as depressed as this woman was made out to be? Someone who likely poses no threat, but there’s a very small chance she might kill herself, and an even smaller chance she might hurt others. Do we take that woman’s guns away or no? What about a couple who let their son move back in with them after getting out of prison for a non-violent drug offense? That’s a convicted felon in a house with a gun. What do we do then?

    See, this has never been a debate about gun rights. It’s been a debate about gun privileges. Because if we were actually discussing gun rights, we’d be talking about how taking guns away from criminals is a violation of their rights just as surely as warrantless searches. We rightly recognize that the freedom of speech isn’t really a freedom unless we grant it to those who would speak out against us. It’s time to recognize that the right to bear arms isn’t a right unless we grant it to those who would shoot us. We need to stop pretending there’s actually a nice simple category like “responsible gun owner” that we can frame the debate around. We need to accept that sometimes, when we draw a line, we’ll find ourselves on the side of it we didn’t expect.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Criminals have been given due process & have been found guilty. Their rights are lost or reduced, some for a while, some forever.

      The dividing line is, they were given due process. They had legal counsel, they had the opportunity to speak before a judge & jury, & they have access to an appeal process.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        The woman in question has the opportunity to go before a judge and appeal the call made by the mental health staff. I don’t see how that’s much different. After all, someone accused of a crime won’t be allowed access to their guns if they’re in jail awaiting trial–unless they fork over lots of money for bail.

        Sorry, but just because someone is convicted of a crime, even following due process, doesn’t mean that there’s a constitutional basis for taking away their rights. We don’t take away a convict’s right to freedom of speech and assembly, or right to not self incriminate. If we strip convicted criminals of the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, that would defeat the entire purpose of the eighth amendment.

        The only other constitutional right we deny to convicted criminals is that of the franchise. That’s explicitly allowed by section two of the fourteenth amendment, and I think you’ll find most posters here on the league would call even that abrogation of rights a mistake.

        “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. It doesn’t say “The right of the people we like” or “The right of the people who maintain good behavior”. Someone who commits a felony doesn’t suddenly stop being a person. If you really accept the second amendment, and really believe in the right to bear arms, then there’s no question that seizing a gun from a criminal is just as much a violation of rights as seizing a gun from someone in good standing with the law.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          Depends on whether the righ extends that far in the first place. It may be that whatever reason we have for supposing that people ordinarily have a right to bear arms also implies that the right doesn’t extend to criminals.* i.e. the same interest that is protected by a right to bear arms is in turn endangered by a criminal’s right to do so. It might be that there are other even more fundamental liberties and interests that are threatened when criminals are able to legally bear arms. Without going into an outright ban, it may very well be the case that the second amendment is wrong. Maybe, there is only a privelege which most people have a weak to moderate claim on and which can be over-ridden in lots of cases. Guns like voting are means by which some people may hold coercive power over others. Its not implausible that we would all get along better if everyone had a lot less coercive power of everyone else.

          *Of course the distinction may not be so neat, but we will bracket that questionReport

          • Avatar Alan Scott says:

            In fact, I’d argue that the reason we have for supposing people have the right to bear arms applies most strongly to criminals. The justifications put forth by the pro-gun side are A) guns as personal self defense, and B) guns as protection from government tyranny.

            As to A, criminals are something like three times more likely than non-criminals to be murdered or assaulted in the US. As to B, not only to criminals make relatively “safe” targets for petty abuse by government officials, in the case of an actual, tyrannical regime, armed dissenters would surely be guilty of some felony. After all, if the Boston revolutionaries were stockpiling arms today instead of in 1775, they’d still be guilty of Providing Material Support to Terrorists and similar charges.

            That aside, I do agree with your view of guns as a coercive force, and the notion that the second amendment is wrong. I think in an ideal world we should treat guns like any other valuable but potentially dangerous property, creating policies that balance gun-owner’s property rights against the rights of all people to remain free of the threat of violence. But until the nation actually chooses to jettison the second amendment, I believe we should actually abide by it.Report

            • Avatar Murali says:

              The big problem that I see with criminals and their lack of gun rights is that non-violent criminals are not really a threat to others and so shouldn’t have their guns taken away from them. For the sake of argument, let’s just focus on violent criminals. It seems to me that even if violent criminals are more likely to be the target of violence, they are also more likely to be the perpetrators of violence. A regime which can successfully keep guns out of their hands would reduce the violence they can threaten and be threatened by.

              Also, I’m not particularly convinced by the protection against government tyranny argument for gun rights.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Honestly, I am of the opinion that if you can not trust a person to legally posses a gun, you can not trust them to be out in society unsupervised.

          Prior to 1934, being a felon was not something that lost you your 2nd Amendment rights (funny how many rights were damaged during the War on Alcohol, and the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror… We gotta stop declaring War on anything, it’s bad for our freedoms (even though the rhetoric is often that we are at War to protect our freedoms)).

          Still, the law, flawed as it is, at least requires that before you lose your right, you are convicted of a felony. This case removed the guns prior to due process. Even a person subject to a TRO/PO application has the opportunity to be seen before a judge before the order is issued (I think, at least in WA state they are).Report

  12. Avatar Citizen says:

    Free of the threat of violence, thats comical. It was an impersonal institution that sent 9 guns to a citizens home. That on the basis of diagnosis from another impersonal institution that was supposed to keep certain information private as policy.

    Idiocy of the masses is supporting impersonal institutions blindly. The only personal institution is the BOR. I really could care less if the rest of the constitution was trashed. The whole balance of powers, checks and balances thing has worked so well against the reverse entrophy of greed. If you chart individual rights and the rise and fall of nations, personal rights are on the increase. Every hard fought bloody correction takes the form of more rights that shall not be infringed. The next BOR will have s stipulation that shall not be infringed by punishment of immediate death. Some have accused my anarchist views of a free state as treason, of this I see things nearly opposite. Those not willing to support a free state are performing treason.

    What is completely lost in this is that two more citizens have been shown the value of impersonal institutions. I have said in the past that those ones continue to add up. Well there are two more today.Report

  13. Avatar Citizen says:

    Bill of RightsReport