Is this statement about the gun debate true?


What Buddy Holly once said: Last night, Rachel Maddow did two segments about gun reform, a response to this week’s most recent mass shooting.

In her second segment, she interviewed Mark Kelly, who with his wife, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, has started a group which favors gun reforms.

Whether you agree with his views or not, Kelly is a thoroughly sensible person. We were struck by Maddow’s account of the way the debate about guns gets cast by various parties:
MADDOW (9/17/13): The debate in our country over gun policy most often gets cast as “people who hate guns” versus “people who love guns.” That’s the way the Beltway media casts the debate most often.

That’s the way that the side [that] is opposed to any reforms likes to cast the debate. But that’s not how the debate is cast by the people who are on the side of the debate that wants gun reform.
Wow! As Buddy Holly once said, “it’s so easy.” It’s so easy to maybe get conned a wee bit by people on your own side!

Does “the Beltway media” most often cast this debate as “people who hate guns versus people who love guns?” We wouldn’t necessarily say so. As is so often the case at such moments, Maddow gave no examples.

More significantly, we were struck by Maddow’s portrait of the two warring sides. According to Maddow, the other tribe casts the debate that way.

Our own tribe does not.

We certainly agree with what Maddow said about leading groups on the other side. The NRA does tend to encourage the view that gun grabbers want to take everyone’s guns.

That said, is it really true that our side doesn’t cast the debate in cartoonish ways involving “people who love guns?”

It’s certainly true that Kelly and Giffords are working to erase clownish portrayals of the nation’s gun owners as a bunch of “gun nuts.”

But is it true that people on our side haven’t advanced that portrait down through the years? As we watched Maddow criticize Everyone Except Us, we thought of what Buddy Holly noted long ago.

In our view, Maddow’s account is hard to defend. We’d also say this:

Such statements tend to make blue voters feel good. They also tend to make red voters stop listening.

To watch these segments: To watch Maddow’s first segment, click this.

To watch her interview with Kelly, click here.


  1. You can'y frame gun rights issues as exclusively red vs blue. If you don't believe me then head on over to DailyKos and read some of the diaries posted by gun opponents and RKBA diaries posted by gun supporters. And don't miss the flame wars in the comments. There is a group of lefties there who are every bit as virulent as the Tea Party on the right.

    1. Is anyone in the Tea Party, or any lefty gun supporter, anything other than "virulent?"

    2. No! And the worst thing about those people is that they see everything in simplistic terms! They're pure evil!

    3. I'm not "virulent," I suppose, but I'm DailyKos UserID number 32459, a self-described "movement liberal," and I am dedicated in my support of the Bill of Rights --all of it.

      This is the opposite of strict construction theory. Essentially, the method of interpretation that makes liberals correct to point to the 4th Amendment as an implicit guarantee of the right to privacy (and the bodily autonomy required for the right to terminate pregnancy) is identical to that which construes a right to individual self-defense from the 2nd.

      I'm not a "gun supporter," I'm a "right to self-defense supporter." Of course, in the same way that I'm a "free speech supporter," and would treat a printing-press prohibition agenda as fairly suspect, I'm generally (not absolutely, of course) opposed to personal (key word, there, not including ICBMs, obviously) firearms prohibition.

      If anyone's actually interested in this line of reasoning, you can find further exposition at the Virtually Speaking website

      , so I'll just excerpt here:

      "Movement liberals --those of us who view the expansive interpretation of the Bill of Rights as an important demonstration of progress-- should consider the importance of the Second Amendment in light of all of the people's hard-won, yet steadily eroding rights. We should remember that the right to resist aggression is a human right.

      Social conservatives are the hypocrites who pick and choose their culturally-favored "rights" a la carte, as their ever-shifting orthodoxies demand. Theocrats are the dangerous perverts who would undermine the Bill of Rights in service of their twisted versions of "the public good"...

      We are none of these...

      How did the left ever acquire the notion that the human right to resist aggression, codified in the Second Amendment, is somehow a right-wing idea?

      We movement liberals don't use "public safety" as a rationale for profiling, or torture, or suspension of rights of the accused, or prohibition of speech -- even if it were the case that the state could prove that these rights-violations "worked"-- because the principles to which we adhere demand that people's rights be the highest value, whatever the promises of security made by the state.

      So, that's essentially the left's argument against firearms prohibition, identical in principle to our arguments against, say, the NSA's domestic spying agenda --an argument that I would similarly find inaccurate to describe as "virulent."

  2. Blah, blah, blah, both sides do it. This is a false equivalency. I have never met an alleged supporter of gun rights who can quote the entire second amendment. How are we supposed to come up with solutions to our problems with guns when one side can't even quote the entire second amendment?

    1. "I have never met an alleged supporter of gun rights who can quote the entire second amendment. "

      Assuming you actually get out of the house now and then, I don't believe you for a second.

    2. Ask them to cite the section in Article II that spells out what that "well-regulated militia" was supposed to do.

      It was to suppress insurrections, like the Shay's Rebellion, instead of fomenting them.

      And you know, just when you think things might be settling down and the adults are in charge, you got the people of Colorado -- the very scene of two of the most horrific mass murders -- running two state senators out of office because they dared to champion very reasonable restrictions on weapons of mass murder.

    3. "It was to suppress insurrections, like the Shay's Rebellion, instead of fomenting them."

      Opinion. Concerning militia the amendment simply states that it is necessary to the security of a free state.

    4. Anon. @11:53

      Let's not miss the "well regulated" part.

    5. "Let's not miss the "well regulated" part."

      Not missed, and not germane to the point.

    6. "Not missed, and not germane to the point."

      Opinion. The amendment does not say any old militia will do the job to keep a free state secure. Only a well regulated one. Which of course means somebody, presumably the free state, will be supplying the restrictions, er- regulations. Which is something of a conflict of interest, don't you think?

    7. "Opinion. "

      No, fact since I am the one who made the point @ AnonymousSeptember 18, 2013 at 11:53 AM'. The point being that the amandment simply stated that the well regulated militia was a necessity.

      Also, smart people like us should understand that persuant to a discussion about the second amenment "well regulated" is understood when the term militia is used, as it is right there in the amandment after all.

      "Which of course means somebody, presumably the free state, will be supplying the restrictions, er- regulations. Which is something of a conflict of interest, don't you think?"

      Sure. But the amandment still only mentions it as being a necessity and does not say all that much else. The interpretation is a matter for justices and people who like to argue about such things.

    8. Once again, I am referring to Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution which enumerates the powers of the Congress, one of them being, and I quote directly:

      "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;"

      "To execute the Laws of the Union" and to "suppress Insurrections."

      That is the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw for the "well-regulated militia" mentioned in the Second Amendment.

      Unfortunately, the armchair patriots who think the Second Amendment is some sort of hedge against democratically elected tyranny, giving citizens the right to take up arms when they don't like the election results, not only don't read the entire Second Amendment, they don't read the entire Constitution either, nor are they aware of the history of why the Constitutional Convention was called in the first place.

    9. When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.

      When government is shut down who will regulate the milita well?

    10. The "well-regulated militia" is necessary.

      But the "people" have the right to bear arms.

      That's "gun debate" 101.

    11. "That is the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw for the "well-regulated militia" mentioned in the Second Amendment."

      And the second amendment obviously does not simply restate that purpose, it says other different things.

      "Unfortunately, the armchair patriots who think the Second Amendment is some sort of hedge against democratically elected tyranny, giving citizens the right to take up arms when they don't like the election results,"

      Like who?

    12. Yes, JoshSN, for the purpose of raising a militia on (for the 18th century) short notice without the government having to arm them for the purpose of executing the laws of the union, suppressing insurrections, and repelling invasions.

      You see, the Founding Fathers were also distrustful of a large, professional army, preferring instead "citizen-soldiers." And they were also very careful for very good reason to make the president "commander in chief" while vesting all warmaking powers -- from declaring war to paying for it -- with the Congress.

    13. "for the purpose of raising a militia on (for the 18th century) short notice without the government having to arm them for the purpose of executing the laws of the union, suppressing insurrections, and repelling invasions."

      And how do we know that it was for this reason alone, if at all?

    14. NOT "opinion." Grammar is grammar, and while there is plenty of room for differences of opinion among grammarians, you'll find no disagreement in this matter.

      "A well-regulated militia being necessary..." is an absolute construction, which means that it is to be construed as a subordinate clause along the lines of "Since/because [causal] a well-regulated militia is necessary," or "When [temporal]" or "Although [concessive]." The only option that makes any sense here is the first, causal. Along with Article II Section 8), the Second Amendment is clearly concerning itself solely with militias, not individuals.

      If you want to argue that state militias in the early Republic relied heavily upon individuals who owned their own guns, then you might have some kind of a case, I suppose, but not much of one. Why did the armory ever come into existence? (Have you ever heard of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, btw? The embattled farmers stood their ground to protect a collective storage facility for weapons and military equipment originally created by the crown in the colonies, since Native Americans, in some areas French forces/settlers, in other areas slaves -- people like that --needed "tending." Of course, the rebels wanted that armory for themselves.)

      In any case, last I heard, the fifty states' national guards, the formal and legal descendants of the militias referred to in the Second Amendment, all supply the weaponry to be used by their members and expect individually-owned weapons to be left at home.

      I should have thought that conservatives would be happy enough with the "states' rights" flavor of the Second Amendment....

      Interpreting the Second Amendment as I do, btw, does not mean the constitution automatically restricts individual gun ownership. But it does mean that the constitution does not protect individual gun ownership, either, at least not via the Second Amendment.

    15. @irishguy, it does not seem to me you've read the mid-1770s debates on the 2nd amendment. The link always seems to elude me.

      The distrust of the standing army was part and parcel of, it seems to me, all the debates on gun rights back then, and, yes, it was to defend us against a military tyranny.

      Read who destroyed Rome's liberties in Madison's Federalist #39.

      For the long story, read Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

    16. "Grammar is grammar, and while there is plenty of room for differences of opinion among grammarians, you'll find no disagreement in this matter."

      Total BS, in fact it is at the heart of today's disagreements as well as rulings that have been made by courts that interpret both interpretations.

      The second amendment is poorly written. Goggle the preceding sentence and see lots and lots of agreement.

      "The embattled farmers stood their ground to protect a collective storage facility for weapons and military equipment"

      Using their own weapons, and btw throughout the war rifle units were mainly mountain men using their own weapons.


  3. I don't have a gun and have no wish to have one but after the Colorado recall election last week I read that there are places in Colorado with one law enforcement person to cover an area half the size of New Jersey. They don't rely on police and they need guns. If people in rural areas need guns, there are always going to be a lot of guns in the USA.

    1. When you consider how many black people there could be in a place half the size of New Jersey, clearly a sizeable cache of unlimited hollow point clips for an AR-15 is needed both for coyotes and coloreds, right Lionel?


    2. Lionel's comment has nothing to do with race and implies nothing about race. nevertheless, you feel free to impute an implicit racial animus to it.

      Therefore, Rick, you are a douchebag.

    3. You have not been on the Lionel train very long, my Anonymous friend. That means you are a quite irregular reader drawn only perhaps, to posts with GUNS in them. This is the only comment Lionel made in a while that doesn't have race in it.


  4. One way to make a statement sound ridiculous and extreme is to make it absolute, by including a word like "all" or "every". Bob, who is usually so careful, did this when he wrote, "The NRA does tend to encourage the view that gun grabbers want to take everyone’s guns."

    A better statement would be, "The NRA does tend to encourage the view that gun grabbers want to minimize the availability and use of guns." IMHO this version is accurate. The "gun grabbers" do support law after law that would make it more and more difficult for private individuals to own or to use guns.

    1. Let's apply the Somerby test to your observation, David in Cal. Give an example of
      "law after law" supported by gun grabbers that would make it "more and more" difficult for private individuals to "use" guns.


    2. tick...tock...tick...tock: DinC, you're on the clock.

    3. Don, you could answer your own question as easily as I could via a google search. Off the top of my head, "gun grabbers" have supported laws
      -- making bullets more expensive and/or less available
      -- making it impossible for ordinary people to get gun licenses
      -- making it difficult and/or expensive to get a gun license.
      -- prohibiting the sale of many classes of guns
      -- adding red tape to the sale of guns, making the purchase of a gun more expensive and more inconvenient
      -- making gun manufacturers absolutely liable for any harm done with a gun they manufactured. (Such a law might put them out of business. They would certainly make guns much more expensive.)

      -- requiring guns to be locked up in a way that would reduce their usefulness in defending against intruders.
      -- requiring certain safety features on all guns, when such safety features don't even exist.
      -- supporting widespread use of "gun-free" zones (BTW gun-free zones have cost many innocent lives, when there was no armed person available to deter a mass murderer.)
      -- opposed concealed carry

    4. BTW, in support of my point about gun-free zones costing lives, here's a lists of 9 Potential Mass Shootings That Were Stopped By Someone With A Personally Owned Firearm

    5. And here's DinC with 2 gigantic non-sequiturs re: "law after law." Instead, it's "off the top of my head" and "look it up yourself."

    6. David in Cal, are you really such an idiot that you didn't think at least one of the readers here would follow your link about the 9 potential mass shootings stopped by someone with a personally owned firearm to see what utter bullshit it is?

      First, I won't link anyone to Talking Points Memo, but readers familiar with that blog know they have run stories on a regular basis which document easily more than 9 incidents a month in which little children are killed or injured playing with guns in the homes of their parents, gradparents or other close relatives.

      So lets get to the "9 Mass Shootings Stopped"
      story. The nine incidents are inconsistently documented, but to the extent they are documented, the stoppage which occured in these incidents did not occur before at least 15 people were killed and another 20 at a minimum were wounded.

      In only two instances were ordinary citizens with permitted weapons on their person involved. In one of those cases the mass killing was stopped because the shooters gun jammed. He fled and later committed suicide. The private gun owner did not fire a shot. It is unclear if the shooter even saw him. The other case appears to be a convenience store robbery in which nobody other than the store clerk was shot before the gun permit holder began firing at the robber. This story is told by a link to a blog called

      In the other seven instances the murderer with a gun was stopped by people who either were off duty law enforcement officers, armed security personnel at the facility, or people acting in an official capacity at the location. While the heroism of the indivuals who stopped the shooters should be applauded, to do so without recoginizing the insanity of systematically allowing the people who began the shootouts to have such weapons in the first place is beyond my comprehension.


    7. Rick, the number of defensive uses of guns dwarfs all accidental or intentional harm done by guns. The studies are all over the place. According to Wikipedia, various studies place the annual number of Defensive Use of Guns somewhere in the very wide range of 250,000 to 4,700,000.

    8. Gee David in Cal, having perpetrated false facts once and gotten caught, you would think a lesson would be learned.

      From your source:

      "Higher end estimates by Kleck and Gertz show between 1 to 2.5 million DGUs in the United States each year.[1]:64-65[2][3] Low end estimates cited by Hemenway show approximately 55,000-80,000 such uses each year."

      Now, there was indeed one outlier study which upped the number to 4.7 million included in your source. I notice you included the high number, but left out the much lower estimates in the lead paragraph.

      Now, why are these numbers "all over the place"? as you yourself describe them. Because people are lying? In one study, which reported high defensive use of guns, "about one fourth of the defenders stated that there was no gun in their household at the time of the interview."
      In another study reporting high defensive use of guns, 20.5% of defenders stated they had an arrest record for something other than a traffic offense, compared to 7.8% of gun owners who reported not using their guns
      and 4.9% of non-gun owners.

      In short, the studies are "all over the place" because they are flawed due to dishonest responses, but what's worse, people like yourself cite them dishonestly.
      And that is my bottom line for you. You are dishonest.

      Every time you comment here again I hope to follow it with a reply about your outright dishonesty in this instance.


    9. reggie van gleason IIISeptember 19, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      How many studies favorable to gun deregulation can an organization like the NRA pay for and disseminate, and how likely is that organization to do so?

      DinC can give two farts about guns: he/she/it simply hates regulation of any kind for anything. Check his posts to confirm.

    10. reggie, I didn't check the connections of the NRA to all the studies, but the highest end results came from a study that was not NRA related in any way. I am less concerned with the lack of integrity of the studies, the variation in results should tell any sane person something is in error. I am more concerned with someone who deliberately leaves off low end numbers in a study while strectching deeper into a source to find and report the highest.


    11. Many APOLOGIES to DAVID in CALl. The statistics on DGU (Defensive Gun Use) MAY BE UNDERSTATED.

      Obviously neither of these gentlemen with first hand experience is likely to be syrveyed.


  5. Why is there no discussion about mental illness and mental health care each time another person hearing voices decides to kill a bunch of people?

  6. OMB (Rave On)

    Your side, whatever that might be, would be easy to defend, BOB, if you gave an example of "clownish protrayals of the nation's gun owners as a buch of gun nuts."

    As is the case so often in criticism of Maddow or anyone else he writes his own often cartoonish posts about, BOB asks for examples and, instead of giving any himself he simply asks "is it really true?"


    1. Here is Richard Cohen using the phase "gun nuts" in the Washington Post print edition...

      Took me about 7 seconds to find.

      Amazing display of research skills, anonymous coward.

    2. Richard Cohen? Really?

      If that's the best you can do, please give up.

    3. And of course, if it only took you 7 seconds to find Richard Cohen, that leading spokesperson of all that is liberal and progressive, then why couldn't Somerby?

    4. Anon's point here is true, Bob basically does the same thing he was calling Maddow out on. IMHO, in recent times lefties have more often tired the (futile) method of trying to reason and find common ground with the pro gun types. Of late Peirs Morgan has done the best work on this, he is both passionate and respectful with those he disagrees with. But, since Morgan often acts like a clown on other issues The Daily Howler gives him no credit. Most anti gun types have come to concede that the situation is in many ways hopeless, there are just too many guns out there now. The issue sensible people try to raise is the need to keep weapons that can do great amounts of lethal damage out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Could this be done? Obviously. But you are dealing with the slippery slope fears of threatened, racially fearful while guys with big slippery slopping foreheads. Engage them a bit and you get a strong whiff of christen fatalism and the clopping of six horses too. If we were truthful we would call these killings, then, what they are: offerings made to the The Great American White Guy God.

    5. Some Anonymous Coward wants more links. Web searching for "gun nuts" yields 663,000 results.

      I'm sure you'll find at least a few voices that you consider sufficiently liberal and progressive in among them.

    6. JoshSN, since you called someone a coward, for absolutely no reason other than he challenged you, allow me to point out that there are, in fact, gun nuts, just as there are anti-gun nuts. Calling someone a coward is a specific statement.

      Calling all the gun owners in the nation is a general charge. Calling the leadership of the NRA gun nuts is not. I wouldn't say it is accurate, however. I would say they are paid whores of the gun manufacturing industry who prey upon fears of the gun nuts, who are a relatively small but highly vocal and motivated group.

      If you have an example of a general charge against the nation's gun owners, feel free to let me know, even though my critique asked for no examples from you, but rather from the author since that was something he premised his post upon.


      You are not a coward for simply displaying a lack of reading comprehension.

    7. "Web searching for "gun nuts" yields 663,000 results."

      Perspective, Josh. Do you realize how many billions of things have been posted on the Web over the years about the gun issue? And you can only find 663K results for "gun nuts"?

      You may not realize it, but you have just proven exactly the opposite of what you think you have proven. It appears that the phrase "gun nuts" is used extremely rarely.

    8. Oh, and please also realize that a Web search for "gun nuts" would also produce the following sentence as a positive hit"

      "Anybody who thinks they are taking my guns away is nuts."

  7. "...Kelly is a thoroughly sensible person..."

    My favorite single moment in Tom Hanks's series "From the Earth to the Moon" took place in the episode about the development of the Lunar Module.

    Brilliant engineers were busting their b****s to get the LM designed on budget and on schedule. At one difficult point an engineer offered a detailed caveat about the the challenges being imposed upon the future occupants of the craft by certain design exigencies.

    The head of the project eyed the engineer throughout his peroration. Finally, he answered, "Astronauts are smart. They'll work it out."

    Hey, forget minorities and women. When are we finally going to have our first astronaut president?

    1. Wouldn't the lady astronaut who drove from Houston to Florida in her astronaut diaper be a two fer?

    2. Until there is an alter-abled, trans-gendered Filipina on the Supreme Court, who can call us a society that is just?

  8. Now we'll have to wade through all the gun nut trolls here.

  9. "Although Mr. Alexis had been involved in firearms incidents, had a record of misbehavior in the Navy and had shown indications of mental illness, those potential warnings did not affect his employment with a defense contractor or his security clearance.

    “Obviously, there were a lot of red flags,” Mr. Hagel said. The question of “why they didn’t get picked up” will be part of the review."


    This man had a great deal of trouble receiving appropriate mental health care via the Veterans Administration and other health care facilities and his employers did not follow up on indications he was having such difficulties. That placed all of his coworkers at risk. At the same time, Republicans in Congress are trying to defund Obamacare, which by itself does not include the kind of mental health care that would have prevented this and similar incidents. And we are walking down the path of another discussion on limiting access to guns instead of talking about how to help people with mental illnesses that seriously disrupt both their own lives and those of innocent bystanders.

    Mental health care is inadequate and necessary in a society in which we are interconnected and rub shoulders with people under severe stress daily, some of whom are unable to cope with their lives. When will we connect the dots and insist that mental health treatment receive parity with physical health and be taken seriously as a health problem? How many people must be shot before suffering is addressed?

    Gun nuts -- go home. This is not a problem of too many or too few guns. It is a problem of a man who was hearing voices and couldn't think properly trying to solve his problems in the best way he knew how -- and it didn't help him or anyone else when he was left utterly on his own to do so.

  10. I'm familiar with guns and have lived with and around people who own guns, and I have to say the current gun culture is different.
    We have a kid or kids injured or killed by careless gun owners once or twice a year here, and there are only 30,000 people in this county. I don't recall it being like this before. To be clear, my definition of "injured or killed by careless gun owner" includes any accidental discharge of a gun. It really is their responsibility to control the thing, at all times. They take that on when they purchase it, which I never thought needed to be said, let alone debated.
    I don't know if there are more guns, or people are more reckless or perhaps casual with them, or what it is, but this "gun culture" ain't your father's gun culture, and people should be willing to tell the truth about that. Not the same.

  11. Fu** all this.

    The NRA talks a good game about using their 2nd Amendment rights to protect the basic freedoms of American citizens. I want to see their actions come within a million miles of their rhetoric.

    Let's see what the NRA (and it's members) will do about Americans being denied their right to vote, now that the Supreme Court is giving them a second chance by striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act.
    I don't think I need to remind anyone how badly they whiffed the first time around.

    BTW, most gun-loving Americans I have spoken with want gun ownership regulated (denying gun ownership to violent felons and the mentally ill, for just two examples), while denying they do so.