McClaughry: Futile gun control schemes back again

By John McClaughry

In the wake of horrendous mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, leading political figures are once again demanding sweeping measures of gun control.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front runner in the Democratic presidential pack of twenty, said on CNN that he favored a ban on “military style rifles.” He acknowledged that there’s no legal way of confiscating such rifles from private owners, but “we can, in fact, make a major effort to take them off the street and out of the possession of people,” suggesting a voluntary buyback program.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Beto O’Rourke called for mandatory buyback and national gun licensing. Sen. Corey Booker proposed to “crack down on firearms manufacturers and gun dealers.”  Other candidates called for the usual examples of “bold steps to stop gun violence,” such as universal background checks, lengthy purchase waiting periods, and magazine bans.

President Donald Trump recognizes that guns don’t pull their own triggers, manufacturers and dealers can’t be held responsible for making legal sales to qualified buyers, and universal background checks do not stop a determined lawbreaker from acquiring a gun in a country whose citizens have a constitutional right to possess three hundred million of them.  (The El Paso and Dayton shooters passed their background checks.)

Instead, the president and Republicans are focusing on identifying, dissuading and disarming disturbed and hate-filled individuals before they can commit their murders. That approach has its difficulties. Who exactly are those individuals? How far along do they have to be in their plotting? What evidence is necessary to allow a prospective infringement of a constitutional right?

Last year the Vermont Supreme Court held that planning for a mass murder, acquiring the means to do it, and casing the target, absent some concrete step to initiate the act, does not add up to a criminal offense. This was the Jack Sawyer case in Fair Haven.

The 2018 Legislature responded by passing — unanimously in both chambers — Act 97. This “extreme risk protection order” or “red flag” law allows law enforcement to dispossess a person of firearms or explosives for up to six months, if a judge finds that the person poses an imminent and extreme risk of causing harm to himself or others.

To the Legislature’s credit, it paid careful attention to the due process rights of the person involved. A “red flag” order can issue only after notice to the respondent and a hearing. The petitioner has the burden of proof. The evidence must be clear and convincing. The accused can appeal, and whoever makes false statements to harass the weapon owner is subject to fine and imprisonment. These provisions won at least the tacit acceptance of the firearms defenders who furiously opposed the actual gun control measures contained in the companion bill that became Act 94.

The president and his allies plan to give grants to 33 states to, in effect, bribe them to enact a “red flag” law. Bribing and threatening states is definitely not good federal practice. Trump is resorting to it only because the federal government lacks the constitutional authority to enact a law taking firearms away from persons who have committed no crime.

The big challenge here is to locate and get inside the head of a prospective mass murderer, to influence him to decide against committing the act. That’s a task for psychiatrists, but it’s well known that mass shooters often crave publicity, whether they live or die in the act.

Here’s a suggestion that I offered four years ago after the Charleston church murders. Suppose the prospective shooter knew that after he died at the scene of the crime, or after his capture, trial, conviction, and death by hanging, his lifeless body would be subjected to the Berkeley Rule.

This is attributed to Sir William Berkeley, governor of Jamestown Colony during Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. According to historian James D. Rice, one rebel “was suspended in chains on the gallows, left to die of thirst, starvation and exposure, then to decay in public view, his rotting corpse and bleaching bones a monument to the fruits of treason.”

In this age, the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment rightly prevents mistreating a live person, no matter how wicked. Thus only the corpse of the shooter would be suspended at some crossroads, for a year of decay in an iron cage. After that, the rotting remains would be thrown down an old mine shaft, where a catwalk across the opening would afford citizens the opportunity to relieve themselves upon his memory.

That will strike some people as disgustingly medieval. But as I conceded then, some notoriety-seeking mass shooters might not care what became of their corpses, but at least some would think twice about having their remains suffer the Berkeley Rule.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR and John McClaughry

13 thoughts on “McClaughry: Futile gun control schemes back again

  1. ” Full-auto! It’ll be”

    Full auto are banned as assault weapons, unless you have a special permit on top of severe background check. You’ll have to use Semi-Auto as that’s all that’s allowed (along with single-shot) unless your a criminal who don’t follow the law.

  2. Bisket, In case you missed it we already have background checks of which the latest two murderers passed. Now think of every town, city, county, village, court, military court, family court, police station, sheriff’s office, psychiatric hospital and asylum in the USA that would have to update every adjudication, arrest, sentencing, mental evaluation et al, every day to be current. It is a magnitude of data too large to up-date and there are no resources to do it. No one can buy a gun and have it delivered to their door. All internet sales require firearms to be sent to licensed dealers who conduct background checks through the national system. All gun show sales require the same background check and now Vermont and 16 other states require BC’s for private sales. Criminals by-pass all of this and either buy guns through black market illegal dealers, steel them or trade drugs for them. So you give the criminal a pass and go after people who don’t break the laws. There is nothing common sense about that at all. However, I don’t expect you to comprehend any of this because you wish only to disarm good people for criminals to prey on unarmed victims . By the way, what is your real name?

  3. The number 2 reason for mass killing beside metal deranged is Gun Free Zones.. brought forth by the most incompetent brain drained dufus Sleepy Joe the perv.. 97% of deaths are in GFZ’s and this should be repealed before anymore infringements are put on Gun Ownership.
    That’s REAL Common sense Gun control…

  4. It’s the same with all the liberals when it comes to guns. Blame the gun and not the person holding that gun. It’s always the guns fault. Just for some of you that need to get their facts straight, there are federal background checks that a person has to pass before they can legally purchase a firearm.
    It’s the law.
    Most deranged people and criminals obtain their guns through illegal avenues.

    How has gun laws worked in the cities like Chicago who has the highest gun murder rates in the nation and the strictest gun laws?
    They don’t work. That’s all they do is restrict the rights of law abiding citizens but that’s what the socialist liberals want to obtain complete control over it’s citizens.

    • Try confronting liberal leftist atheists with the science of race and IQ.

      They go completely medieval on you, because liberal leftist atheists are mostly useful idiots for communism.

  5. You are gobbling up fake news at an alarming rate. There is no such thing as an assault weapon available for public purchase. It’s just an emotional name given to a gun that looks a certain way, but fires no more or less rounds, and holds no more or less rounds than other semi-automatics. Please do your research before you regurgitate fake news.

    I have no doubt you are someone who would advocate for all citizens to be disarmed, although it is unlikely you would admit that. Whenever folks like you have as stupid idea, you tend to preface it with the words “common sense.” But your harebrained ideas are anything but common sense.

    If you were using common sense, you would realize that when bad or crazy people do bad or crazy things, racing to steal the Constitutional rights of the people who did not do it is stupid, not common sense at all.

    The big lie here, that no one has the courage to discuss is that in a free society, or any society we will never be able to guarantee that people will not kill one another. it is absolutely impossible. When some deranged individual uses a gun to do so, you gun grabbers don’t waste a minute trying to blame the gun. Just plain stupid.

    All that is accomplished by stealing the gun rights of the law abiding is making the government stronger and the citizen weaker.

  6. Identifying would be mass murders before he or she acts is nearly impossible. The FBI has massive investigative abilities and is continuously vigilant, yet these murderers still fall through the cracks. The best advise so far is if you see something say something. In one instance a grandmother saw some odd behavior in a grandchild and reported it to the authorities. Unfortunately, with all the social media out there does not help. There is no one easy solution.

    • The red flag legislation **might** be useful but only if it contains language that will protect property rights, demand verification of insinuations of instability, PUNISH severely those who make false accusations, and provide for treatment of psychological disorders. I also believe that any anonymous “flagging” must not be allowed.

      Those conditions would inhibit a troublesome jerk down the street from making groundless charges just to make life difficult for someone disliked.

  7. John,

    Please stop calling murderers “shooters”, as in this sentence “(The El Paso and Dayton shooters passed their background checks.)”

    Most “shooters” are law-abiding responsible citizens, at least the many I know are.

    Murders sometimes use shoot their victims with a gun, sometimes stab them with a knife, sometimes drive over them with an automobile, etc.

    Would we even consider calling a person who murders by driving a car into people a “driver”?

    I know it is very easy to use a term incorrectly when we hear it used over and over and over incorrectly. The left has won battle after battle by misusing words until we could not longer communicate effectively. They did that with marriage, they are doing that with gender, they do it with education (pretending that is the point of public schools), etc. Without stability in the meaning of words our society breaks down, and of course that is the objective of the left … so they can come in a save the day with more and more government.


  8. If the object is to stop mass shootings, responsible, intelligent people would look at the characters doing the shooting. Most of them are under 25, all were trouble in high school and suspended for it. — Now a rational person would think about how do you stop them? And its quite simple. Write a law saying that if your suspended you go on the list that the background check will keep you from buying a firearm. We could even write a provision saying that if your clean with no record, your name comes off when you hit 30.

    But no, we don’t want to offend the snowflakes — which really means the politicians don’t want to stop the shootings.

  9. Would you castrate an entire city of men because one male was convicted of raping several women? Yes, these proposed gun control laws proposed by weak-kneed politicians are quite similar. They won’t solve “the gun problem” any more than the former example would. Dr. Ignatius Piazza, a nationally famous spokesperson for legal gun ownership and learning how to use a firearm correctly and safely, pointed out just this week that the one city of Chicago has TWICE as many people killed by guns each year than there are mass shooting deaths in all of the United States in a year. And Chicago is a strict gun control city. Why are politicians restricting the Second Amendment rights of 180,000,000 plus people for gun crimes committed by 90 people? Are our rights as law-abiding citizens now being defined by the criminals and mentally unstable members of society among us? I say it isn’t a gun problem anyway so much as it is a MORAL problem and a mental health problem. Politicians are ducking and running for cover, and trying to DO SOMETHING (ANYTHING!) because defending the Constitution these days is HARD and requires a backbone. Innocent gun owners as an entire group are being judged guilty for the actions of a small number of criminals. In America, you are innocent until proven guilty. That is not what is happening in our nation. The course we are on (destroying parts of the Bill of Rights piecemeal) is dangerous to our Republic and to the Constitution.

    • Kay, You hit it on the head with Castrate all the men….Perhaps in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore…

      Further points. I suspect that most of the gun deaths are from criminals, gangs, yeah, but are done with stolen guns, handed from one gang member to another, Nothing in these proposals would find or confiscate those guns.

      Further. When a gun murderer is brought to court, first he is presumed innocent. Then he is checked for “insanity” as though killing is an “insane act.” Then the prosecutor decides whether to go to court – view the three killers in Burlington. Court might even find the accused guilty by some accident.. if convicted there are endless appeals. All funded by us victims. Then a while in prison, and more appeals.

      The “answer” is to disarm all citizens who have not committed any gun crimes or any crimes at all. We get no trial, no jury, no appeals, we lose perhaps $thousands, and if we get the guns back – perhaps there should be a storage fee, maybe $10 a day for each gun – to reimburse the gov’t for their good faith efforts to protect the public.

      The popular option is when the gun owners revolt, and refuse, make a bloody example of a couple of them, bankrupting them (they get no free lawyers) and jailing them for their Constitutional outrages.

      Modern justice, the guilty are innocent and the innocent must then be responsible, and guilty

  10. Here we go again, Liberals fanning the fire on the back of these two tragedies,
    anything for there agenda, if they ” really cared ” then why aren’t they up in arms
    over the ” daily deaths” in Chicago and other major cities…….Hypocrites !!

    So these liberal fools believe if you take all ” Firearms ” all gun deaths will Stop, that’s
    not going to happen unless you can stop ” Black Market ” Guns and Criminals like that’s
    going to happen !! Anyway, Law-abiding gun owners will never let that happen.

    Until you update the NICS database, to have access to mental health issue data to flag
    someone trying to purchase a firearm, then these tragedies will continue.

    You can pass all the foolish legislation you want, court-ordered “restraining orders “, now
    ” red flag ” boondoggles, all just bandaids to a problem.

    What Liberals don’t understand is the meaning of Law-Abiding Citizens….. but that could change

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