(Another) Uncomfortable gun conversation


After any type of shooting, it has become inevitable that the topic of guns and the law comes up. I have purposefully waiting to try and say anything in the hopes that the standard accusations died down a little bit before saying anything else. I have written before about guns here and here.

Let me be clear about a few things upfront. If you believe that there should be no guns in the hands of private citizens, then you will not like this. If you believe that the second amendment says something different that the SCOTUS has ruled, there will not be much here for you, but there is a little for you. If you believe that the NRA is evil, then this is not really for you either. If you think that it is perfectly fine for fully automatic weapons to be sold to individuals, this is not for you. If you think that there should be no gun laws whatsoever, this is not for you either. If you want to be a part of the actual conversation about what can be reasonably done, this might be for you to at least consider.

What we have seen is a lot of conversation about guns and violence without a whole lot of substance. The government has seemingly taken the lead in this. A lot of phrases such as the all to popular “mass shooting” have been tossed about. The problem is that many of these sound bites don’t actually have a set definition, so they are of limited usefulness and just confuse the issue more. (I give you this as an example) I encourage anyone reading this to look at the actual gun statistics provided by the FBI as a basis for opinions. It is vital that we actually understand what we are talking about and what the actual data is. If you do not know a lot about guns, I encourage you to do some research or to actually talk to people you know who do. It is equally vital that we understand what we are talking about. Part of our problem right now is that there are far to many people trying to craft legislation around firearms that don’t know much about firearms and seem to be unwilling to find out much about them. None of the recently proposed legislation would have actually prevented the crime that inspired it. We have seen this before when other shootings have occurred. With the most recent shooting, even the Clinton era ban on, so called, assault weapons would not have prevented the shooting.

So, some general thoughts. I do oppose using either the no fly list or the terrorist watch list as a basis for refusing the purchase of a firearm. The reason is that said lists are secret, there is no definition of what actually can get you put on it, there is no effective way of challenging the list, etc. I do like a proposal that has come forward where a person on the watch list would be refused a firearm temporarily and then a hearing would be held within a set time frame to determine if denial of firearm purchase was to be permanent. This seems to be consistent with our ideas and notions of due process. The burden of proof is on the accusation, as it should be. It is a bit of an annoyance if it were to happen to you, but in a world where someone can report you for a Facebook post and have you put on a terror watch list (yes, this really can happen) it seems reasonable to have due process built into the legislation. There is also the reality that gun ownership is a right. It can be limited within certain boundaries, but a right none the less. It was brought up, correctly, that it is not an inalienable right however, and that our constitution is set up top be amended. While I admit that it would take a lot of convincing for me to support an amendment that repealed or substantially altered the second, I do think it is a reasonable part of the conversation. If that is the direction the nation chooses to go, so be it.

Some states have chosen to go the route of limiting the capacity of the magazine for weapons. I am not categorically opposed to this, but I also do not find it terribly effective. The amount of time that it takes to reload a magazine in a semiautomatic rifle is very small. We are talking a few seconds. This is of course when done by a moderately skilled user, but if we look at the large scale shootings we have experienced, the users are all, at the very least, moderately skilled. I do not know how much difference a few seconds makes in a situation like we are speaking of, but perhaps it would. It seems to me that this is an example of those not understanding firearms crafting a law that seems good, but has little practical effect. That said, I have no issue with it. An interesting idea was brought up about making the rifles more difficult to reload. I am not sure how that would be accomplished (though I am confident it could be), and I am unsure what would then be done about the rifles in circulation, but it is an interesting idea that could, when combined with a smaller clip size, say 10 rounds, limit the ability of a shooter to inflict large numbers of casualties while retaining the ability for self defense. It is an idea worth discussing.

I support increased funding for our background check system. Currently, the system can not process the requests that it receives. Because of this, I do not support expanding background checks as it would not do anything to help anyway. Let’s get what we have working properly before we burden it even further. I do support all firearms transactions to go through a licensed dealer however, even personal sales. This could be accomplished easily enough by dealers charging a small fee for brokering the sale. I also support ending firearms as “gifts”. Again, give the “gift” to the person that you chose, then make it legal by going to the dealer and selling it to who you wish for a penny, brokered by the dealer. It is an inconvenience and burden on legal gun owners. It also seems reasonable. This closes the gun show loophole that some are worried about, and also eliminates the straw purchases that some are worried about. (Straw purchasing is already federally illegal, but that is another story.) This uses the mechanisms already in place and can be handled with the increased funding mentioned earlier. This is a bit different than something I had suggested earlier, but accomplishes the same thing while using the system already in place.

I have written earlier about believing that a mandatory training session be completed within a short time of handgun purchases at the very least, and probably all gun purchases. This can be offered privately, have some basic requirements (care and cleaning, safety, basic qualification with the weapon, and a primer on the laws of your state), and seems again a reasonable accommodation. People with guns do not concern me. People with guns who do not know how to use them do.

I still support reinstituting the assault weapons ban with some modification. Eliminate specific weapons from the list. It is ineffective. We should also really eliminate things like grenade launcher or bayonet mounts. I am ok with eliminating folding/telescoping stocks. Yes, I find them handy. Yes, I realize it makes a weapon more concealable. This seems a reasonable compromise as there is no real purpose to a folding stock that can not be easily overcome.

All of this addresses the hype of the moment. According to those FBI statistics I mentioned earlier, shotguns actually killed more people than rifles. No one is rushing to pass new laws there. We basically ignore violence in the inner city where the vast majority of gun deaths occur. There is a lot that we are ignoring when we get caught up in the hype of a thing. I do hope someday that we can actually try to address what the major cause of gun violence is, but until then, I guess the hype will have to do.

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24 Replies to “(Another) Uncomfortable gun conversation”

    1. Since tomatoes are a fruit, what if we looked at ketchup as a smoothie instead of a condiment? Since the second amendment is not going to change in the near future, we have to deal with things as they are. If you are advocating to change the second amendment, cool, please share how with the group.

    2. Read the article starting on page 18, “American Rifleman” magazine, April 2016. Subject: Why shouldn’t guns be licensed like cars?

  1. Long comment. Sorry about that. Just commenting to spur discussion.
    So summary point:
    Why can’t each conference be independent on gay marriage, and assault rifles? No need for schism.

    Considering that Res 16-11 seems to be less forceful. It “urges” non-participation in discipline actions by conference members, much like conscientious objectors. But Res 16-7 is more forceful, urging actual change to Federal law.

    Since the post by Joel magically disappeared on Cal-Pac Res 16-11, regarding “Unity almost Dead”, I think this post offers a good opportunity to compare two resolutions, and ask, “why does one cause schism talk”, and one does not. “Ok, that is what the wild and crazy west coast does, but that’s ok, we’ll just ignore it in the Midwest, Texas, you name it. No reason to cause schism.”

    Is one on marriage “schism worthy”? And the other on guns ignored, suggesting that other conferences are OK with each conference doing their own thing on the gun subject.

    An analogy: neither subject is addressed in the bible, since the bible does not mention gay marriage, nor assault rifles. Neither existed at the time of its writing.
    However, sex without marriage is condemned (gay or otherwise), just that gay sex did not include marriage, since gay marriage didn’t exist in the Jewish society.

    No assault rifles in ancient Judea. Violence that included death was condemned (mostly), if committed against fellow Jews. But violence including death was ok, even if directed by God, against non-Jews. Either for worshipping idols, or to take land already occupied by non-Jews. Ref example Num 31:17 “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18 But all the women-children, that have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

    So, in the biblical analogy, taking assault rifles away from Christians is equivalent to taking rocks away from stoning participants. Stoning is ok in the bible, so why not have schism-talk on Resolution 16-7?

    Res 16-11


    “California-Pacific Annual Conference urges the Bishop and Cabinet to state publicly they will not deny appointments…”
    “urges the Board of Ordained Ministry to declare…”
    “urges trial boards not to convict for chargeable offenses…”
    “and its members are urged to not participate in or conduct judicial procedures…”


    Res 16-7


    “calls for the following steps to be taken by our local, state and federal lawmakers:
    1. Require and enforce universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods on all gun sales;
2. Except for the use of military and law enforcement agencies, institute a clear ban on all future sales, transfer, importation and manufacture of military-style semi-automatic weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines and high-impact ammunition;
    3. Ban the importation and manufacture of full-auto conversion kits that convert automatic weapons;
4. Make gun trafficking a Federal crime, and increase penalties for those who engage in “straw purchases” of firearms for ineligible persons;
5. Prohibit persons from purchasing guns without evidence of gun safety training.”

      1. Let me repeat the point.
        Why can’t each conference be independent on gay marriage, and assault rifles? No need for schism.

        Should make people in Texas happy about the gun issue. I would think they don’t like Cal-Pac Res 16-7 almost as much as Cal-Pac 16-11.

    1. Gary, your attempted analogy between SSM and gun violence is ridiculous, faulty and just plan illogically hilarious.
      You can find the statement of the UMC here: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/gun-violence and also here: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/church-is-a-weapon-free-zone
      No, owning a gun is not a chargeable offense for clergy, not is it a disqualifier for ministry. Nor is there any justification that they should be. Should said clergy member use a gun in commission of a crime, it would be chargeable however. You single issue bias is showing…and your ability to fashion reasonable arguments is not.
      Should you actually want to talk about gun control, that would be welcome however.

      1. “your attempted analogy between SSM and gun violence is ridiculous”…
        Seems like you missed the point. Gun advocates love state’s rights, but do not like the top level beuracracy, the Fed, to dictate. But seems like they want the top level “UMC Connection”, even if it is dominated by, say, African culture, to call the shots. OT violence is just as valid as anti-gay sentiment in the bible. No difference. Comes from CULTURE, not theology or doctrine. Gun laws come from our culture, good or bad, not theology or doctrine. If violating vows bothers you, I would suggest each conference amend their own vows.

        1. And, I’ll beat you to the punch. I am sure you will say the BoD must be universal. Just make it into two sections, one addressing doctrine, theology, religion, that is universal, to all conferences. Then a subsection addressing cultural issues, unique to each conference.

          I am for stricter regulations on gun laws, but I personally do not think the 16-7 request for laws banning assault weapons, or the UMC position on guns, has a place in religion (except when it come to banning weapons within a church location). Their facility, their rules. But gun laws are politics, not religion.

          1. Gary sin is not a cultural issue. Other than that, the rest is again trying make an analogy that is not there. I did not suggest that the church do or say anything about gun laws. You brought that up. I have said that since this is a relevant issue that people in the church should discuss it as social holiness is indeed a part of our tradition and people being killed does not count as holy…so really. Contribute to what I have actually said or don’t. Just don’t make things up to support a narrative that you are trying to push that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual topic.

          2. All are culture.
            Topic is guns.
            Guns are legal.
            Marriage is legal, (gay or straight), whether you like it or not.
            Religion and politics don’t mix. (Or shouldn’t). Inborn schism.

  2. Scott, sticking to the gun issue, thank you for a thoughtful response to the issues of the day. What irks me this time is all the energy expended by the Administration to speak as little as possible about the ideological motivation of the shooter. It seems to me that the frame of mind of the shooter is far more significant than any other issue. One might have some form of mental illness or depression, be part of a gang, be willing to use violence to get what you want, or advance some religious or political agenda. Further, unless I am mistaken, Europe has strong gun control legislation, and it has not stopped terrorism. I am all for any reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, as I think the NRA would be as well. We will differ on what we think is reasonable. Thus, Democrats voted down amendments that would keep guns out of the hands of terrorists in order to serve the political agenda. They want the issue more than resolution. Of course, you may have more information than I on that matter, and I am open to disagreement. In any case, just re-iterate, your approach seems reasonable to me. [In response to one comment in this thread, gun ownership is not just a privilege. It is a right guaranteed by the second amendment.

    1. I am a gun guy by and large. I also am smart enough to realize that there are reasonable restrictions for the sake of public safety that need be considered. Again, reasonable is the rub lol. I too am frustrated by the seeming unwillingness to address the root causes of the violence that we see. That of course includes violent ideologies, the relationship between poverty and violence we see in both rural communities and inner cities (the violent crime per capita numbers are startlingly similar), the feelings of desperation that all to often lead to desperate action, etc. I want to treat the causes more than the symptoms. Until the powers that be show a willingness to do that however, all we have is the ability to treat it like a common cold…the symptoms can be lessened, but the suffering remains.

  3. So again Gary you are mixing them, not I. What is legal has, or should have, nothing to do with what the church does or does not endorse. But again, and let me stress this….you brought religion into this. Not me, you. Now you are complaining about it. Let me say this as delicately as I can. If you don’t want religion and politics to mix, then shut up and don’t bring religion into politics when they are not mixing.

    1. Wow , touchy, touchy. No problem. However, I don’t take advice about shutting up. Not unless you actually own the blog. 🙂

      Your house, your rules. But no.

    2. Just read an interesting quote in “Making Sense of the Bible”, Adam Hamilton, that explains clearly why politics and the bible are intimately entwined.
      “Our own convictions sometimes get intermingled with what we believe God is saying to us. None of us knows everything. We’re all shaped by our environment and limited in our understanding. We do our best to hear from God, but we hear God through our individual filters, our preconceived ideas and convictions. This is in part why the God of preachers who are staunch Republicans inevitably sounds like a Republican and why the God of preachers who are staunch Democrats sounds like a Democrat.”
      As Joel would say, “Preach”.

      1. Please, leave Hamilton out of any discussion.
        He believes that Jesus exaggerates. To exxagerate means to magnify beyond the limits of truth. So effectively, Hamilton thinks Jesus lies.
        Hamilton is a heretic.

        1. Last time I checked, a Methodist minister. Jesus didn’t lie, since he did not write anything himself. I think that is the point.

          1. Hamilton and his apparent beliefs are not in agreement with aspects of United Methodis…you know, little things, like the articles of religion say. Yes, he is a UMC ordained pastor. No, he does not seem to align himself with UMC doctrine. There are UMC pastors who deny, and actively teach against, numerous of our stated beliefs. Him being a UMC pastor means little since the UMC refuses to actually do anything to police it’s doctrine.

  4. There are a number of complex and interrelated issues involved here. Using the Orlando shootings as a base point:
    1. It’s clear that the threat from radical jihadis is from our own citizens, or non-citizens already in the country. No ban on Muslim immigration, or stronger vetting of refugees, is going to change that.
    2. The assault weapons ban needs to be reinstated. Scott is right that a specific list of rifles is not workable. We need a description that meets the general characteristics of an assault rifle, and the ability for BATF to approve any new weapon design for civilian use.
    3. In general, I would say that there is no need for semi-automatic rifles in the hands of civilians. As a personal defense weapon it’s nowhere near as safe and effective as a shotgun. As a hunting rifle, it’s just plain dangerous.
    4. No civilian firearm of any type should have a capacity larger than ten rounds. Yeah, we might have 10 dead people, but that’s better than 50. It only takes a few seconds to change magazines, but that’s a few seconds where some brave people can tackle the shooter or hit him with a fire extinguisher.
    5. If the second amendment has any use at all, then it needs to be fixed to make the connection to the National Guard explicit. We’ve been held hostage by a poorly-written sentence for way, way too long.

    Finally, let me say that this is not a Republican / Democrat thing. 90% of the people in the United States agree that we need stronger gun controls. There is probably not a single issue on the political landscape right now where there is such universal approval by the public. Senators of either party are subject to being kicked out of office, starting with my own hometown senator, Rob Portman.

    1. Your parting quip is marginally true at best. 0 out of 10 do favor expanding background checks. It is an incredible number to be sure. It is also very specific to that one thing. Odd how you claim that it is not a democrat/republican thing then use the same type of misrepresentation that the political parties do.
      5. If you want to call for modifying the second amendment that is cool. That is how our constitution was put together after all. Understand it is a difficult road and will take a great deal of time is all. Also, don’t imply that it was not intended this way from the beginning as that is not accurate at worst and highly debatable at best. Numerous founding fathers supported civilian ownership. Yes, there have always been restrictions of course. The amendment evolved however from the English common law understanding of the natural right of self defense. There were conditions applied to this of course that I would even agree with for the most part. I support castle laws, but not stand your ground type laws for example. That is very much in line with the origins of the second amendment. We also have to deal with what is. The SCOTUS has ruled that the second amendment is not tied to a militia and that self defense is a purpose of it.
      3.Unless you are aware of data that I am not, there is nothing indicating that a semi automatic rifle is any more or less dangerous as a hunting tool, or a defense weapon. The FBI numbers show that more deaths (by far) are caused by handguns, and even by shotguns (though that number is significantly closer). If we are actually dealing with available data, we should be far more concerned about handguns and the underlying issues that actually are causing the most violence instead of the over sensationalized hype, but as I said above, we are apparently not ready to do that as a society at the moment. Like it or not, the second amendment is a right. Like all rights it can be and has been reasonably restricted. I am not certain that an outright ban on semi automatic rifles would pass a constitutional muster. I would also note that in the vast majority of (the only exception I can think of is Virginia Tech) cases, the carnage done by a long rifle could be duplicated with a pistol. The value of the long rifle is the increased capacity which I support limiting. A right does not exist to necessarily protect you ability to get something that you need, but rather protects your ability to acquire something that you want. IF we start basing rights on necessity alone we are in a lot of trouble and no longer a republic by any stretch of the imagination. As for hunting, when I hunted whitetail deer for example, I used a more powerful round than most of the “assault weapons” used. I did this because it was more effective for that particular game. I also used shotguns for the same reason. When dealing with the coyote in Texas, I used a different gun firing a different round as it was more effective for that. Like anything else, proper use matters, but a gun being semiautomatic makes it no more or less dangerous as a hunting tool. As I mentioned before, the number of people killed with even shotguns exceeds the number killed with long rifles. Added to all that, assuming that one does ban semiautomatic rifles, there is the mess of what to do with what is in circulation.
      2. The ATF approving designs for civilian use is just an added layer of bureaucracy that inevitably raises the prices and limits the market. Pass the laws. If a gun maker violates them, then go after them. The ATF is an enforcement agency, not a regulatory one. We have enough of those already. I will again mention that the term assault weapon is about useless as it means only what the person using it wants it to. I am ok with the ban as it was passed before, save for a specific list of weapons as that is silly and pointless.
      1. I did not realize we were talking about any sort of terrorism, but ok. Yes, it is one of the contributing factors to shootings that we have seen. I am not really sure what that has to do with anything. I would not suggest that we limit sales based on religion. Did you have an idea how to deal with this?

      1. Scott –
        In no particular order…
        Bolt-action rifles are safer than semi-automatics for a few reasons. First, since there is a longer time between shots, the hunter will take more time to sight his target and check the background. (I once saw a guy take 5 shots at a running deer with an autoloader. You can guess how many times he checked his background). Bolt actions are more reliable, not prone to jamming or unintentional firing due to primer strikes, etc. Yes, these are rare, but they do happen. I have read, but not experienced, situations where a autoloader froxe (literally due to moisture) with a cartridge locked in the chamber and the safety frozen in the fire position. That simply won’t happen with a bolt action.
        In terms of hunting accidents, there’s not a lot of dettailed ddata available. But, the majority of accidents (by far) are with shotguns, while the majority of fatalities are with rifles. In overall gun deaths, you’re right. Handguns are the problem. And semi-auto handguns are the biggest part of the problem.

        Second – Yes the ATF does have regulatory responsibility for a number of things. They do not currently have a new firearms regulation department, but they do in fact classify ammunition and the firearms that load that ammunition for acceptable civilian use. (See armor-piercing.) They also do a lot of regulatory work in the non-firearms areas of ATF.

        Re: The second amendment. Yes, very difficult to get it changed. But that’s the only long-term solution to the slaughter. The NRA does everything in their power to get people to forget that ‘well-organized militia’ thing, but it’s there and it’s there for a reason. We just need to clarify the wording.

        I’m not quite sure what your first comment was about. I said it’s not a Republican / Democrat thing, but maybe I should have clarified that that’s among the people. In congress, it’s certainly a Republican – Democrat thing. Eventually the people will get fed up with being disenfranchised by lobbyists and exercise their right to throw the bums out.

        1. Good to know that you know what a hunter will and will not do Tom. HAving been a hunter, I will say that your description does not reflect what I did or was taught in my mandatory safety class. How about we stick to what can be shown through data and not make assumptions about what individual people may or may not do.
          Th situations you describe with semiautomatic rifles are less common by far than auto recalls for example. We have not outlawed cars. I use them because they are a popular talking point. There is no indication that this happens often enough to be of any large scale concern. Anything with moving parts is prone to a certain amount of failure. So, yes, a bolt action rifle is safer technically, but the point is lost because semiautomatic rifles are not unsafe in their functioning.
          Yes, the ATF classifies what ammo may be used and not used. No, they do not go to factories and say this bullet is good and this one is not. The armor piercing ammunition that you mention was not outlawed by the ATF. The ATF enforces law, it does not make it. Should a federal agency come to your job to approve all that is done to make sure you are in compliance or rather should there be laws governing the way a business operates and should that business violate them, then there is an investigation, charges and all the rest. Why should we assume that the manufacturers are going to violate the law.
          Your thinking on the amendment is a distinctly modern thing Tom. There was no doubt at the time of writing that second amendment applied to personal ownership and included self defense as a provision. You can go back to writing of the founders, many of whom wrote state constitutions as well. It was a result of….never mind I already gave a brief history here. I get it. You don’t like the NRA, but you can not blame the NRA for what has been law since the founding of the nation Tom. You think that changing the constitution is the long term answer. I disagree but can accept that and it is worth discussing. You again say that among the people it is not a democrat or republican thing, then use, in your arguments, democratic talking points vilifying the NRA. If you are going to claim it is non-partisan, then don’t be a partisan. The NRA had nothing to do with the Constitution, has nothing to do with the SCOTUS who has ruled that there is no militia requirement and has said that self defense is included in the amendment.

  5. I don’t own a firearm, haven’t fired one in thirty years, and gun laws changes won’t affect me…unless it’s done the wrong way. How we do things matters. There is no right way to get there without a Constitutional Amendment.
    Suppose it were the 1st Amendment instead of the second. A lot of talk now about dangerous speech and the harm it causes. Background checks for bloggers? Don’t want pornot rappers, Klansmen, or Jihadists. Mandatory training? Unskilled and reckless bloggers are unleashing allot of trigger words and micro-aggressions that hurt people and can stir up communities. Perhaps a blog site should only be allowed ten hits before it empties and has to be reloaded. Cooling of time or time for an intervention.

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