A fascinating computer analysis of the linguistic context around the 2nd Amendment

The Second Amendment is perhaps the most controversial part of the U.S. Bill of Rights. But that's not just because of our grander cultural debate around gun rights and gun violence — it's 'cause the damn thing is such a grammatical clusterfuck.

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

27 words in 4 dependent clauses with no clear anything to link them. It's not clear if the thing that shall not be infringed is the well-regulated militia, or the right of the people to keep and bear arms, or if it's all dependent upon what is or is not necessary to the security of a free State. And anyone can make any one of those arguments, and have evidence to back it up that can't be definitively refuted, either.

Over at The Atlantic, James C. Phillips, a Fellow with the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University, and Josh Blackman, a Constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, discuss a novel approach to figuring out what, exactly, the Founding Fathers were actually trying to say: by creating and scanning through a massive database full of more than a billion words culled from formal American and British texts from 1475 to 1800. They specifically searched for instances where phrases such as "bear arms" and "keep arms" were used, and noted the context, the context, and adjacent language that accompanied the phrases to better understand how these terms were actually being used in their historical context. Read the rest

Gun Violence Isn't a Problem — it's actually 5 Problems, with Different Solutions

I’ve written extensively on gun violence, spoken on international TV and radio on the subject, and even pursued a gun license in the strictest city of one of the strictest states in the country. Despite my first-hand experience, the most ardent defenders of the Second Amendment — like those who marched on Richmond, Virginia this weekend to protest "Jim Crow" gun laws — will still tell me things like, “We don’t need more laws! We need to enforce the laws on the books!” or “We can’t stop every shooting because that’s just the price of freedom.” Those same #2A Avengers will of course acknowledge that yeah, okay, maybe NICS has some problems, or maybe those Parkland cops should have done something earlier, and then swiftly retreat back into the same tribalistic mindsets that always prevent human progress.

So I wrote this essay, hoping to have a rational conversation. It was originally published on Medium in 2018, but it remains frustratingly relevant, so I'm posting it here.

Naming something gives you power over it.

That’s the basic idea behind all the magic in every folktale dating back for centuries, from “Rumpelstiltskin” to the Rolling Stones’ “Hope you guessed my name.” Ancient shamans didn’t practice “magic”; they just had knowledge, and names for things like “eye of newt” that no one else could understand. To name something is to know it, and knowledge is power.Think about the relationship between “spelling” and “spells” and you won’t be so surprised that Harry Potter has been all over the gun violence conversations lately, on both the Left and the Right—which makes sense, considering that they have a word you memorize and practice reciting in order to kill people. Read the rest

Mexican government seeks justice in wake of El Paso terrorist attack

Thoughts and prayers. Video games are fucking folks up. He's white so let's call it mental illness. Apologists for the far right talking shit. It's always the same song and dance anytime some asshole with a credit card buys an assault rifle to do what they feel entitled to do to innocent souls. As an outsider who watches terrorist acts like the one that unfold unfolded in El Paso this past weekend, one after another, it's a tune that I'm tired of hearing. I can't imagine how the citizens of your nation must feel. I mourn for your dead the way that I mourned for our own when a similar tragedy struck a few years back. Mourning and rising up in protest are all that we as citizens have available to us to give voice to our outrage.

That's not the case, however, where a grieving nation is concerned. During the El Paso terrorist attack, seven Mexican nationals were killed. Six were wounded.  Their nation's government, in their grief, has decided that it's had enough.

From Buzzfeed News:

Mexico's foreign minister on Monday called the mass shooting at a Texas Walmart that claimed the lives of eight Mexican nationals an act of terrorism against its citizens on US soil and vowed to take legal action.

Marcelo Ebrard, who had threatened to take action after the shooting, said the Mexican government will "definitely" launch legal action against the selling and distribution of assault rifles in the US, like the one used by the shooter in Saturday's attack.

Read the rest

Washington State county sheriff refuses to enforce new gun laws

On January 1st, 2019, Washington State will be rolling out some of the toughest gun laws in the United States. If you want to buy a semi automatic rifle in Washington next year, you'll have to be 21 years of age, instead of 18. You'll have to store that puppy safely, too: According to the Seattle Times, in some circumstances, gun owners will be criminally liable if an unauthorized individual uses their boom-stick to commit a crime. It's a move that should make everyone in the state feel just a little bit safer, what with all of the gun violence of late.

Provided the cops are willing to enforce the new laws.

From The Root:

Republic, Washington, Police Chief Loren Culp, whose name makes him sound like a placeholder villain in a crime procedural, has announced that his police force, comprising all of him and his deputy, will not enforce the law when it goes into effect in January 2019.

Culp has proposed an ordinance to his city council—supposedly based on the Second Amendment—essentially saying that gun regulation laws like Initiative 1639, the one in question, infringe on citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms and through the ordinance would be “hereby declared to be invalid in the City of Republic,” per the Times.

In an interview with the Seattle Times, Culp made it clear that he thinks that having to be accountable for your firearm by reporting it stolen within five days of the theft is unreasonable bullshit. Making sure that folks under 21 years of age aren't allowed to bop around with a semi-automatic weapon? Read the rest

A high school teacher accidentally fired his gun in class, injures 3 students

Highly trained with firearms, Police reservist Dennis Alexander was teaching his high school class about gun safety when the handgun accidentally went off. Splintered fragments of the bullet ricocheted off of the ceiling and hit three students.

Guns do not belong on campus.

Via SF Gate:

A teacher who also serves as a reserve police officer accidentally fired a gun inside a Seaside High School classroom Tuesday, police said, and three students were injured.

Dennis Alexander was teaching a course about gun safety for his Administration of Justice class when his gun went off at 1:20 p.m.

Teachers are not legally allowed to have firearms in California classrooms, even if they have a concealed carry permit.

Alexander, who is a reserve officer for the Sand City Police Department, was pointing his gun at the ceiling when it fired. Pieces of the ceiling fell to the ground.

A press release from the Seaside Police Department said no one suffered "serious injuries." One 17-year-old boy suffered moderate injuries when fragments from the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and lodged into his neck, the student's father, Fermin Gonzales, told KSBW.

The teacher had just told the class that he wanted to make sure his gun wasn't loaded, when the gun fired, according to Gonzales.

Read the rest

U of Texas students protest open carry gun law with open carry dildos

Students at the University of Texas at Austin will protest a new law that will allow more guns on campus.

Instead of signs, the students are protesting by "strapping gigantic swinging dildos to our backpacks," which is in violation of the campus' obscenity policy.

Jessica Jin, who set up the Campus (DILDO) Carry event on Facebook, invokes the argument that allowing more guns on campus will make students safe is a fallacy. She's urging students to send campus leaders that message by strapping on the plastic phalluses.

"You're carrying a gun to class? Yeah well I'm carrying a HUGE DILDO," Jin says in the group's description. "Just about as effective at protecting us from sociopathic shooters, but much safer for recreational play."

Read the rest

What science says about gun control and violent crime

Does gun control mean fewer guns on the street and less violence? Does encouraging gun ownership mean better protected people and less violence?

I don't think it's too early to be asking questions like this. When you're faced with a tragedy like what happened today at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it's reasonable to start asking questions about violence prevention. It's part of the bargaining stage of grief — wondering if there's something we could have done that would have prevented all those needless deaths. And let's get one thing straight: Everybody wants to prevent what happened today.

So what can be done about it? And what does the science say?

I've been trying to get a handle on that for the last hour or so and here are three things it seems we can definitively say:

• It would be completely accurate for someone to tell you that studies in places like Australia and Austria found that implementing more stringent gun control laws reduced deaths from gun-related suicides and violent crime.

• It would also be accurate to say that a study of the effects of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in the United States showed no big reductions in gun-related deaths, except for suicides among people older than 55.

• And it's also true that a 2003 study of conceal-carry laws in Florida found that they seemed to make no difference one way or the other — neither increasing nor reducing rates of violent crime. Read the rest