Five Theses About Gun Violence and the Government

Five Theses

  • There is no political or legal momentum in the United States to confiscate anyone’s firearms. Claims to the contrary are nothing more than opportunistic and/or paranoid fantasy.
  • In a democratic society, we can build a compromise between unfettered access to all weapons and confiscation of private weapons.
  • The government can restrict our access to the most dangerous of weapons without inevitably leading to a fascist dictatorship or without intending to lay the groundwork for one.
  • No rights enshrined in the Constitution are absolute or without limit.
  • We must have a national dialogue about the crisis of gun violence in this country.

The simple truth is that no rights in the Bill of Rights are meant to be read as existing without limitation. Take the First Amendment, which, even unencumbered with a limiting phrase like the Second Amendment, is nonetheless constrained in a number of ways. A few of the limitations on free speech passed by Congress, approved by the Supreme Court, and accepted by the vast majority of people in the United States include:

  • restrictions on the free speech rights of students in schools.
  • limitations on speech that is deemed obscene.
  • libel and slander
  • speech that presents a clear and present danger 

But for too many of the gun zealot crowd, the Second Amendment, a document written with the understanding that local and state militias using single shot weapons might be needed to protect their communities, is a statement bears no analysis or limit.

It’s time for gun advocates to tone down the extremist rhetoric about the threat of a tyrannical government and the need to be prepared for insurrection. It’s time for them to engage in productive dialogue about ways we can work together to prevent gun violence in the United States.

No one is going to take away your guns.

What we’d really like is some reasoned dialogue about what is becoming a national tragedy far larger than the horrifying moments etched in our memories.

Over 1.3 million Americans have died as a result of gun violence in the past fifty years, a total greater than all the combat deaths in the United States since the Civil War. Isn’t it time to do something?

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • I think you are totally delusional. Obummer (remember that illegal communist in our White House ?) and all the other NeoCons MUST remove our guns to pursue their agenda of a New World DisOrder (in other words, world domination by the few)…a focus that goes all the way back to Alexander the Great. Wake up, my friend, you seem like a nice guy with a communist mind….
    Folks who are Sheepdogs, are not zealots, but rather level-headed folks who have seen history repeat itself over and over. My God, man, connect the damn the dots !!!

    Look around, look at our insane laws and regulations – the next step -disarmament. ..without which will stymie their march to the fascist beat !!!! They are intending to create a one world government, destroy U.S. and state sovereignty, ad infinitum.

    I’m done with this stupidity…you are so far behind, your liberal, communist mind is giving me a headache. I will leave you to yourself…and your own doon.

  • You deserve credit for knowing how to cast for the lunkers, Don: all contaminated with lead by the looks of it. Governors are crafting measures within the powers of the executive branch to turn butt lights on most of the largest players in the survival industry: stay tuned.

  • Doc Art-
    I really read your post as sarcasm, the first time. I honestly didn’t realize that you would post the exact antithesis of what Don is calling for: a discussion about guns and violence in our society. Even so, he’s being so reasonable, not really all that liberal (there are way more liberal people), even if you think he’s a crazy communist, liberal, (insert other name-calling word), why on earth would he even conceive to let people keep their guns? I’m with Don on this. NO ONE IS GOING TO TAKE YOUR GUNS.

    I’m waiting with bated breath for the NRA’s announcement this Friday.

  • Speaking only for myself, and without prima facie granting any of your claims, I am interested in your proposal for “productive dialogue about ways we can work together ” and to ” tone down the extremist rhetoric.” I would happily engage in “some reasoned dialogue .”

    Before such a “reasoned dialogue” can begin, you should ask yourself whether referring to other people’s offerings on the subject of gun rights as “bat crap crazy” is conducive to reasoned dialogue. You should ask whether responding to a those who disagree with you as “a special kind of ‘human being'” is conducive to “toning down the extremist rhetoric.” Is “Zealot” a term of respectful discourse?

    I have had reason to be shocked today by the levels of rhetoric reached by both sides. For that reason and more, I do appreciate the idea of a rational conversation as part of second amendment politics, but it can only begin when each of us — me included — acknowledge that we hide behind a computer screen and say things to one another we would never say in person. I gave in to temptation today and was quite sarcastic with someone on twitter — I think we all do it. But if a civil discourse is ever to happen, it’s a habit I want to break.

    I don’t want to give you false premises; I have not heard a policy proposal from the liberal side of the aisle that I would ever accept on this issue. You should not expect that I will suddenly start agreeing with ideas that I oppose for rational, well-thought-out reasons.

    But agreement is not necessary for rational dialogue. Only respect is. If you’re serious about wanting to try it, let me know.

    • If you look at that other thread, Bowen, and don’t see some commentary that’s well past the limits of reason and decency, I don’t think we’ll ever find common ground.If, however, conservatives who support gun rights are willing to discuss the issue without resorting to discussion of fascism and mind control, maybe we can get somewhere.

      • Dear Don,
        I posted respectful question to you today because I was interested in your comments on the subject. Given I got no reply, I repost it hear in the hope of learning your views:

        Dear sir,

        Did you know it’s already illegal to bring a firearm to a school? And it’s already illegal for a mentally ill person to obtain a firearm. And it’s already illegal to shoot people. Yet Sandy Hook happened. How would another layer of illeglity made any difference in this case?

        I followed it up with:

        Dear Mr. Progrema,

        I understand you’re busy today, and I understand your world view is what it is, so I don’t expect ti be able to persuade of anything. But I’m still interested in your views on how additional layers of illegality might have changed the results at Sandy Hook.

        Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • How tawdry. Bowen; you are lying. Respect is not required for “rational dialogue”. Reason is, nothing more and nothing less. Wasn’t it you who signed off on the ‘discussion’ which painted our Governor-elect as an enabler of child rapists? Where was the respect in that discussion? So much for your valuing “civil discourse”. Here’s a few hints for you, Mr. Greenwood:
      1) Cars and knives are not the same as firearms, but they are actually better regulated. Your respectful followers ignore that.
      2) No one has ever snuck a car into a movie theater to mow down 70 people, killing 12.
      3) No armed civilian has ever stopped a mass murder. Off duty policeman have. Arming the populace won’t solve the problem.
      4) What you accept as an argument is of no consequence. Montanans will never ‘accept’ any firearm regulation. Hell, I don’t accept them, any more than you do. Only one problem, we are a state in a nation of states and most folks in that nation do ‘accept’ firearm regulation. We didn’t ‘accept’ a specific speed limit, did we? That is, until we did. Your personal acceptance of an issue doesn’t matter one bit, not even a little. Demand all the “respect” you want if it makes you feel better. But reason is what drives argument, not concern for your feelings.
      5) Pogie’s list is accurate and complete. That you don’t like it, or the way he characterizes those who don’t like it, matters not one bit to anyone but you. NO ONE is coming to take your guns, ever. If you think they are, then you are bat-crap crazy. That is reasonable, if not respectful.

      Here’s a suggestion for the Montana GOP. When ‘the libs’ push through legislation (that most of the nation favors) banning certain firearms, seek exemptions for rural areas that favor our status as unique. Rural areas in the west don’t tend to give rise to mass-murderers; the suburbs do. So seek what is rationally a solution without disrespecting “liberals” enough to coerce a blanket that we don’t like. In short, pull your head out of your butt, and seek solutions that favor us without disrespecting the people who have more fricking power and momentum than you do. Be reasonable … or keep demanding that others “respect” the awesomeness that is Bowen Greenwood, and lose. Your choice, of course.

  • Don,

    It is intersting that you come out with a very pointed and personal attack on Gary Marbut, who has has popular success in advocating for RKBA issues a the Montana Legislature, and follow it up immediately, after getting more attention than you have ever enjoyed, with a post that postures itself as your careful appeal to measured reason. You couple the latter with a sanctimonious critique of folks who took the bait and returned your hotly worded commentary in kind. Now you sit back an congratulate yourself on what a reasonble guy you are, and wax eloquent in your criticism of the “extremist rhetoric” of what call “the gun zealot crowd.” Cute. At least your blog post finally got some readership.

    Turning now to you proposition that “no one is going to take away your guns.” This is true. And it’s the best reason anyone can give for opposing gun control. Neither you, nor your fellow travelers in the White House and Congress could effectively confiscate guns. The law-abiding, of course, would dutifully turn theirs in if the Government asked them to, just as they do not hurt anyone with their guns except in dire self defense. Meantime, thugs, lawbreakers, and “ganstas” of every kind and description would simply hold theirs back. Which would leave us with what, exactly? A fully disarmed law-abiding citizrey, people you had no resaon to fear in any event, and an thugocracy armed to the teeth. How could this circumstance ever result in less murder, mayhem and “gun related death”? The burden is on you to show how. You’ve failed so far.

    Finally, to address you parting shot, as of January 2012, there have been 54,559,615 Americans killed in abortions since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. That’s 23 million more than the population of the U.S. at the time of the Civil War. By your logic that “we’ve got to do something!” perhaps we can also begin a “reasoned dialogue” about the prenatal Holocaust that has ravaged this country’s children mercilessly for the last 40 years?

    Merry Christmas.

  • Don, I’ve been laying out analysis, evidence, logic, reason and facts, with a few little jabs of much less venom than those you leveled at Marbut, as leaven. Your sole response is an unsuccessful stab at a wry one-liner. Weak, my friend. May I suggest you take another break and recharge?

    Any way, since you don’t seem to be into the Jesus thing, Seasons Greetings back at you.

    • Take a deep breath. Now read everything I have written on this issue the past two days. Have I occasionally been snarky? Yes. Have I been critical? Yes.

      Now compare those remarks with claims that I am a Marxist, neocon, fascist idiot. Compare those with the claims that President Obama is an “illegal” who plans to take away our guns.

      If you truly can’t see the difference between those two rhetorical positions, there’s no hope for a discussion. Only one side has been extremist in this debate.

      As for your continued references to abortion, it’s a separate discussion that is red herring in this debate. If you want to debate abortion rights somewhere, go do it. It doesn’t have anything to do with gun control.

  • Abortion, for better or worse, has a as much to do with this debate as guns do. The question turns on the fundamental value and respect for life — or lack thereof — with which we are raising of our next generation of mass shooters. Recall for example that a couple generations ago, when we used to be allowed to bring our hunting firearms to school, mass shootings were unheard of.

    And if you can’t make a distinction between my remarks and those of some others, you should try to. Your side has guys like Rob shooting off his mouth, but my discourse toward you does not reflect his approach.

    The main problem with your Marbut post is not the substance, although I think your policy analysis, at least as you’ve so far expanded upon it, is unsupported by the evidence. It’s the baseless personal attack you made on Marbut as “exploiting” Sandy Hook. It’s just false. Meanwhile, the antigunners are gleefully rubbing their collective hands together at the prospect of political points being made off this tragedy.

    Telling people to shut the hell up was not too helpful, if your looking for principled debate, either.

    Still, we all make rhetorical mistakes on the web (don’t I know it), and I try not to take it personal when someone does besides me. But this debate would be a lot more intersting if you put away the one-liners like “did you run that through your gibberish translator,” just ignore people with whom you don’t want to discuss the issue, and focus on marshalling facts and expanding on your analysis.

    At least I think so.

    • No one is marshaling any facts. It’s certainly challenging to debate people who parrot absurd exaggeration as evidence.

      The evidence linking gun ownership and violence in the developed world is clear: the more guns, the more gun deaths.

      Tell me what claim I’ve made that’s incorrect. I’m happy to debate any factual claim you’ve got, but you seem terribly fixated on my admitted tendency to mock the worst of the other side’s arguments. If you expect me to take people who call President Obama Obummer seriously, though, it just isn’t going to happen.

      So, what am I wrong about?

    • “Abortion, for better or worse, has a as much to do with this debate as guns do. The question turns on the fundamental value and respect for life — or lack thereof — with which we are raising of our next generation of mass shooters. ”

      Again, a compelling theoretical argument that does not conform to facts (so often the case!)

      Where abortion is legal, like (surprise!) East Asia or Northern Europe, crime rates are often very low. On the other hand, most Latin American countries have very strong restrictions on abortion. Those countries also blow the US out of the water when it comes to murder rates. If anything, the available data suggests that more lenient abortion laws reduce violent crime, but that would be a rather blatant confusing of correlation and causation.

      However, the US does have very high rates of abortion, even compared to Western European countries with equivalent laws on the the topic. Is that related to our high murder rate? Probably not; I’m guessing they both spring partially from the same source: our higher income disparity and social immobility.

      • I’m not talking about whether abortion is “legal.” Western Europe has dropping crime rates and, according to the Guttmacher folks, falling abortion rates. I think there’s a connection. Also, in Latin America, there may be laws against abortion, but abortion rates are high and rising, as is crime. Again, I think its more than a corelation.

        In addition, you raise a good point about Latin America and murder rates. Guns are illegal across Latin America. And their murder rates (how did you put it?), blow us out of the water.

        Another point about abortion is our level of outrage. It’s hard to imagine how the deaths of nearly 800,000 Americans in abortions every year is perfectly OK, but 11,000 gun homicides is a crisis. In perspective, the latter is certainly bad, but when compared to the former, as a practical matter, it’s like spitting in the ocean. I will admit the TV images are different. But from the point of view of raising the next generation of Americans, I find it very confusing.

        • Quentin –

          Compare the abortion rates of the US, El Salvador, and China. Then compare the crime rates. Then try to tell me there’s a connection, and it goes the way you say it does.

          Moreover, your main point is perception: that we in the US don’t see abortion as a big enough issue, and thus we don’t respect human life. But abortion is also not perceived as a serious issue in most of Western Europe, either (minus Ireland, of late), and yet they seem to respect life a great deal more. On the other hand, in Latin America, abortion is a hot-button issue which people care deeply about, and yet they have a far higher murder rate.

  • I don’t understand your point about China. It’s bascially a totalitarian state. I know, there are free sectors, but the free people, if you wish to call them that, are a tiny minority. You can’t really compare anything about one-child China with the U.S. El Savador is not very free and it is not very rich, so its hard to compare with the U.S. too. (For the record, guns there are illegal, murder is high, abortion rates are rising.)

    Comparison with Western Europe is probably fair. Abortion rates there are falling, but probaly is something not many people care about there. Their crime rates are low, and their gun rights nonexistent. So if we had more tolerance for abortion, we’d be more likely to give up our gun rights (except for hunting, this is Montana), and we’d have a lower crime rate. Maybe.

    Now compare two U.S. States, say, Montana with New York. Probably a lot better comparison than across international boundaries. Comparatively speaking, Montana has lots of guns, low abortion rates (less than half of New York), and low crime rates (283 to 385). Just a correlation? I don’t think so.

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