Saturday, December 12, 2015

History Of Gun Control

I think the topic fascinates me because I have no dog in the fight, and if anything, have a cultural antipathy to guns in general.  My children were among those who were not allowed to have any toy guns, and even finger-guns were discouraged in horror at Bedford Montessori School. It was one of the last bricks in the wall to fall for me in abandoning liberalism.  At some gut level, I just believed that if there were fewer guns around and we were stricter about who had them, and if guys didn't get so excited and admiring about gun stuff and gun stories, we would all be safer. I still have no interest in learning about them and being near them makes me nervous. (Of course, with my hand-eye coordination, that's reasonable.  I would be extremely likely to take out the refrigerator and a couple of windows if we had a gun around.)

It was the numbers that convinced me, and that was slow.

I saw a quote from Chief Justice Warren Burger that the Second Amendment interpretation that guaranteed individual gun rights as opposed to militia rights was a huge fraud. I have no idea if the quote is authentic,  but I thought it would be interesting to see what a 1960's conservative justice's influences were.  This led me to reading up on the history of gun control in general.

I had read before that early gun control occurred in the Reconstruction era to keep guns out of the hands of newly-freed slaves. That seemed a mild left-right irony compared to the present, but I didn't think it particularly germane now. The next two major dates on the timeline caught my eye, however. Gun control became a big deal again in the 1920's and 30's, both at the state and federal levels.

Well gosh and gee whillikers, that's exactly the same time period that America felt it had just about enough of immigrants and instituted Prohibition in order to keep those Slavs and Dagos and hot-blooded Latins from getting dangerous, isn't it?  If fact, I think that was a major theme for Ken Burn's film "Prohibition." 1927 was the year that we hugely restricted immigration, until it ramped up again in 1964. Waves of Jews and whatnot from Europe, plus (gulp) colored people from the south were all moving to the Northern cities. And union organisers and all those Bolsheviks, all in the cities, too.  What about them?  These were not regular rural white people who hunted, these were people who weren't...reliable. The law schools of the era were suddenly much more in agreement that this only for the militia idea must be the original intent.  Because, frankly, who signs up for the National Guard?  (Wink, wink.) I'm willing to be corrected on that point, because I already had my theory by then, and I know how easy it is to find exactly what you are looking for in doing research. Especially brief, slapdash research.

Fast forward to the new gun control of the late 60's, when those law students were now judges and legislators. People had moved off the farm into the cities and suburbs, and hunting for food became less common in favor of hunting for Bambi.  Plus there was a war, and y'know, that was all about guns. That layer of cultural protection was vanishing, as socially aspirational people increasing found guns to be, well, owned by either rubes or criminals. Besides, the cities were still known to be very dangerous. There was a magical hope that fewer guns in the cities - somehow, we don't know how - would make them safer.  As an added bonus, all those rich guys who hunted for (ugh) sport, plus the rural people, those rubes we were trying to put in our own rear-view mirrors, could be kicked, made fun of, and accused of multiple pathologies. Hey Bungalow Bill...

I don't know if unacknowledged fear of black and hispanic people underlies modern gun control.  I suspect not, actually.  People get very good at disguising associations from themselves, and in a few generations we have a disgust taboo that runs entirely on modern political competition.


Boxty said...

Progressives always lie.

There is a racial component to gun control. Blacks, hispanics, and Asians support it by a wide margin. Don't like the second amendment? Support open borders.

Sam L. said...

Supporting open borders will be an impetus to buy more guns.

dmoelling said...

The tight NYC gun regulations that essentially banned handguns were an anti-irish law from the Tammany Era if I recall. Murders of all kinds were low in the 1930s-early 60's. Gangs used knives and zip guns to avoid being charged with crimes involving firearms (West Side Story was not that far off). The mob kept public violence low to avoid spoiling their relations with crooked cops.

Yet you could legally purchase almost any type of gun easily in that era. Pistols sat in desk drawers and rifles over the mantel. The much more interesting question is why killings were lower then. Murders are the best statistic because they are difficult to conceal in official records. One would think that any sociologist worth their salt would jump on the question. But just like "climate change" it is more in the interest of the governing class to provide reasons for social control than to look at fundamental risks.

SJ said...

I will say, the gun control movement has a strong undercurrent of emotion against The Wrong People owning guns.

Which doesn't look much like racism as it is currently expressed. But looks like racism in the historical context of post-Reformation South, or early-20th-Century urban centers.

Donna B. said...

I'm wondering why you don't think you have a "dog in this fight"?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I'm not buying a gun anyway. The laws make my neighborhood neither safer nor more dangerous. John Lott says safer, but even if true, the effect is very small.

I have an attraction to government being simple. I know that sometimes it isn't, but I tend that way. Yet that's not a huge consideration.

Donna B. said...

Oh, I see.

I have no interest in attending church or other large gatherings, especially those of a political nature. I don't care to blog anymore nor do I own a newspaper. I do like being able to comment on blogs, so I guess I have a tiny dog in 1st Amendment fights. A teacup dog, perhaps.

I'm not buying a gun either.

A few soldiers quartered here would liven things up considerably!

I've got nothing to hide, so the cops can search my house. Why should they need a warrant? Maybe they're just curious.

I'm a law-abiding citizen, so I have no need for the provisions in the 5th or 6th or 8th Amendments.

I might get sued someday, so I guess I'll keep a somewhat larger than teacup dog in the fight for the 7th Amendment.

Considering all the above issues I don't think affect me personally, it certainly follows that the 9th and 10th Amendments are "not a huge consideration" either.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It's not always clear where the line between "interpreting an amendment wrongly" and "violating or destroying an amendment" might lie. Some would claim the 9th and 10th are already moribund, and hope to revive them to good use again. Repealing an amendment would be a clear sign something big was up. There are certainly those who would repeal the 2nd amendment, and many more who would clutter up the 1st and 2nd amendments so thoroughly as to make them unrecognisable. But most usually, most people are claiming that their interpretation is the true one.

When I say I don't have a dog in the fight, it doesn't mean I am unconcerned about the principle or the resolution. Perhaps I would have been clearer if I had written "I have no personal agenda here. I have no extra attachment to a family culture of hunting or collecting that would sway me emotionally. Most changes to gun laws in any direction would have no direct effect on me. I think I am objective about this." However, I am concerned with indirect effects, such as general safety, and I am concerned with legal and cultural effects of messing with other people's habits for no good reason, using the law to make people be like someone else wants them to be, and abandoning principles and traditions invisibly.

Donna B. said...

Saying you have no personal agenda is quite different to my ears than saying you have no dog in this fight. The latter carries the notion of not caring at all about the outcome because it doesn't affect you. I'm relieved to find out that you do care.

I'm not making any claims here about correct or incorrect interpretations of the Constitution or any of its amendments, nor did I think you were.

BTW, there are only 11 other states that have more registered "firearms" per capita than does New Hampshire. Contrary to 'conventional wisdom', Texas is not one of them. If DC is counted as a state, then 12 have more than NH.

Considering what types of firearms must be registered, New Hampshire is definitely on the scary side of the scale. I wasn't planning on visiting anyway... ;-)