Wednesday, June 13, 2012

David Kopel Describes the Gun Control Debate

via The Volokh Conspiracy.  This is David Kopel writing.

This is the subject of my article in a forthcoming symposium issue of the Fordham Urban Law Journal. The article details the political, cultural, social, and legal battles over gun control from the 1920s to the early 21st century. Here’s the abstract:

A movement to ban handguns began in the 1920s in the Northeast, led by the conservative business establishment. In response, the National Rifle Association began to get involved in politics, and was able to defeat handgun prohibition. Gun control and gun rights became the subjects of intense political, social, and cultural battles for much of the rest of the 20th century, and into the 21st.

Often, the battles were a clash of absolutes: One side contended that there was absolutely no right to arms, that defensive gun ownership must be prohibited, and that gun ownership for sporting purposes could be, at most, allowed as a very limited privilege. Another side asserted that the right to arms was absolute, and that any gun control laws were infringements of that right.
Mr. Kopel is one of the classic spin-doctors of the gun debate. He bases his entire work on the presumption that gun control folks want to ban guns.

"A movement to ban handguns began in the 1920s," he says, followed by the very inaccurate description of the gun control side of the argument as, "One side contended that there was absolutely no right to arms, that defensive gun ownership must be prohibited."

This is a false premise.

The truth is, the gun control side of the argument generally seeks common-sense regulations that would keep guns out of the hands of unfit and dangerous people.  There is nothing "absolute" or "extreme" about that.  So, why would an intelligent man who is a gifted writer say such a thing?  It couldn't be an accident?

By exaggerating the position of the gun control folks and making them sound fanatical, he balances the equation very nicely.  The gun-rights people actually do feel any restrictions are an undue infringement and in violation of their rights.

In other words, the average gun-control argument is fairly reasonable while the average gun-rights argument is not.

What's your opinion?  Please leave a comment.


  1. Yep. I hear it all the time. Even when I point out that I have never, not one time, suggesting banning all guns for all people, and pointed out that no other credible "gun control" person is suggesting it, they nonetheless suddenly become would-be mind readers and say that gun banning is what we are thinking. It's a classic attempt to demonize the opponent and exaggerate claims. It's a sign of desperation on their part, when real debate fails them.

  2. The ink just dried on DC vs Heller and your trying to tell me that gun control groops have never wanted an all out ban on handguns. The brady campain started out as handgun contol inc.

    1. The brady campain sent a freind of the cort brife To the Suprem Cort in the DC vs Heller case, saying (that thir is no idividual right to own a firearm. that makes the ban legal.) If thats not suporting an all out ban what is?!

    2. You refer to an amicus brief, and there IS no mention of individual rights to own firearms in the 2nd Amendment. That means that jurisdictions such as municipalities can regulate them as they see fit. DC seems particularly unique as so far as I can find, I don't believe they ever did have any kind of militia.

      It is appropriate for municipalities to make laws and ordinances for safety, for the general welfare of their communities. I would point out to you that the findings in Heller only permit a firearm in the home, not in public.

      You are incorrect about an absolute ban; Heller was over grandfathering in handguns from prior to 1975, and allowing firearms to active and retired law enforcement, beyond handgun limitations, it required rifles and shotguns to be either unloaded and unassembled, or secured with a trigger lock -- both of which I think are good safety requirements.

      That is NOT an all out ban on firearms. It is highly restrictive of handguns, which unlike long barrel weapons are primarily intended to shoot people instead of prey animals or other shooting sports.

      People shooting other people was something of a problem at the time; it was not in that context an unreasonable limitation, and as that became less of a problem it could be rescinded. Nothing in the laws at that time made them permanent. So in that sense it was also not unreasonable.

      Given your poor spelling (heaven knows I make the occasional typo, but I generally spell reasonably well), do you not read? Do you rely on right wing lunatics and gun nuts for your information?

      Please next time before you comment, inform yourself better.

    3. If the right of the PEOPLE is not refering to the individual then i cant understand why the word people would be in the 2nd amendmet. As for geting all my info from right wing gun nuts why would i be wasting my time trying to read blogs of left wing nuts?

    4. Here is the wording of the actual 2nd amendment. I presume you know how to diagram a sentence civilian 76?

      Do you acknowledge that Heller was not about an absolute gun ban, and that your understanding of that case was therefore badly flawed as expressed in your previous comment? That flaw is one that is consistent with the factual inaccuracy expressed by gun nuts who do not know the basis of Heller.

      Why don't you know the basis of Heller? Can you show me anything about the amicus curiae brief from the Brady campaign that bans all firearms?

      Have you READ that amicus brief? If not, what erroneous source did you rely on for your misinformation?

      There are several versions of the text of the Second Amendment, each with slight capitalization and punctuation differences, found in the official documents surrounding the adoption of the Bill of Rights.[5] One version was passed by the Congress,[6] while another is found in the copies distributed to the States[7] and then ratified by them.

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

      As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
      A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.[8]

      DO you know your history, at all, civilian76? Were you aware of the controversy in the Continental Congress over the desirability of a standing army versus a militia -- a sort of on again off again military that was more a part time arrangement which subsequently morphed into our National Guard?

      Were you aware of the discussions that debated a state by state militia IN PLACE of a single national army?

      This was a compromise, relating to the what would work for state and national defense (and in a newly forming nation about how to pay for that going forward), given the expenses incurred forming the continental army on June 14, 1775 during the first session of the Continental Congress.

      From wikipedia:

      During the 1760s pre-revolutionary period, the established colonial militia was composed of colonists, which included a number who were loyal to British imperial rule. As defiance and opposition to the British rule developed, a distrust of these Loyalists in the militia became widespread among the colonists, known as Patriots, who favored independence from British rule. As a result, these Patriots established independent colonial legislatures to create their own militias that excluded the Loyalists and then sought out to stock up independent armories for their militias. In response to this arms build up, the British Parliament established an embargo on firearms, parts and ammunition on the American colonies.[35]

      The 2nd Amendment is about the right of militias to have arms; it envisions something along the lines of the Swiss pattern of military based gun possession.

      All parts of the 2nd Amendment are dependent on the clause at the beginning "a well regulated militia being necessary to a free state"; not about individual gun ownership other than that militia. Historically, many people did not own guns; they were largely the expensive toys of the rich, or tools for survival on the frontier where hunting was necessary because of a lack of animal husbandry and for protection from predators.

      The latter - frontier pioneers - were NOT the majority of people in the colonies.

    5. How about the right is qualified to a certain purpose:

      in the case of the Second Amendment, the first clause limits the right to the purpose of a well-regulated militia

  3. "In response, the National Rifle Association began to get involved in politics, and was able to defeat handgun prohibition."

    Actually, the NRA used to be a big proponent of gun control. It wasn't until the 1970's when new NRA leadership discovered there was money to be made fleecing the rubes.

    Look, Dave Kopel is probably the most dishonest person in the US. He is funded by the NRA and has been for decades.

  4. Didn't Kopel state that there was a movement to ban guns in the 1920's and you all get your panties bunched up and call him a liar and that he is "spinning" some attack on you?

    I found this in .78 seconds, I am sure there is more:

    H.L. Mencken on a gun control proposal to ban handguns, from a 1925 piece in the Baltimore Sun:
    The eminent Nation announces with relish "the organization of a national committee of 100 to induce Congress to prohibit the inter-State traffic in revolvers," and offers the pious judgment that it is "a step forward." "Crime statistics," it appears, "show that 90% of the murders that take place are committed by the use of the pistol, and every year there are hundreds of cases of accidental homicide because somebody did not know that his revolver was loaded." The new law — or is it to be a constitutional amendment? — will do away with all that. "It will not be easy," of course, "to draw a law that will permit exceptions for public officers and bank guards" — to say nothing of Prohibition agents and other such legalized murderers. "But soon even these officials may get on without revolvers."

  5. FWM: Let's see, prohibiting "inter-state commerce" in revolvers is the same as banning all handguns? That's a stretch.

    BTW, in the 1920's--at the same time Kopel claims the NRA was fighting to prevent handguns from being banned--the NRA drafted the Uniform Firearms Act which was designed to curtail carrying firearms in public. Here's what the NRA said at the time: "I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons... I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses."

    The Act also favored waiting periods for gun purchases and required suitable reasons for gun ownership.

    In the 1930's, the NRA also favored eliminating machine guns and the NRA also said that guns rights were nowhere to be found in the Constitution.

    It's also important to understand Mencken was both a racist and anti-semite which certainly would stand him in good stead in today's NRA.

  6. I'm pretty sure you people do want to ban handguns. Hence the title of the book published by Josh Sugarmann:

    Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns

    So, if you people aren't trying to ban handguns, why did the director of the Violence Policy Center publish an entire book on why he wants to ban handguns?

    1. I guess you should ask him that. Around here, and as Baldr said, everyone I know in the gun control movement, does not want to ban all handguns for civilians. yet, that's what you guys keep arguing against.

  7. Anon: Change the subject much?

    Ever notice that when the gunloons get caught lying, they oh-so-easily slide over to another topic?

    Kopel claimed there was a massive effort to ban handguns in the 1920s and the NRA stopped it. Yet, the facts show a.)there was no effort to ban handguns; and b.)the NRA was a pretty strong advocate of gun control coming out against carrying in public and for things like waiting periods and licensing. The NRA also asserted there was no 2A right to gun ownership.

    1. I was contradicting Baldr's claim that no credible person is advocating banning guns. Josh sugarmann is the head of a major gun control organization and wrote a whole book arguing for a handgun ban. Does Baldr's claim withstand this indisputable fact? I don't think so.

    2. APU, dated information.

      According to Heller-McDonald, a gun ban is off the books.

      "But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

  8. Immediately, the control freaks come here to declare Kopel a liar, and yet, none of them offer any specific sources to contradict the claims. Jadegold makes vague references, but where's he getting his information? The truth here is that control freaks don't want to admit what they really want, since they know that Americans won't tolerate that.

  9. Greggy: Kopel is a liar. And there's a mountain of evidence to back that up. Where would you like to begin?

    Shall we begin with his fraudulent relationship with Theodore Fiddleman?

    1. "Mr. Kopel is one of the classic spin-doctors of the gun debate"

      Kopel is one of the prominent Second Amendment pseudoscholars, the folks who have been responsible for the vast amount of revisionist history of the Second Amendment.

      Of course, Volokh would mention him, that's part of the incestuous relationship the pseudoscholars have to raise their SEO scores.

  10. Lott is one of the most stupid and not factually honest pseudoscholars I've seen so far.

    Like promoting that silly lime story.