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Does Barack Obama Have Even More Ambitious Plans for Gun Control?

So I checked out Barack Obama's campaign site to see what he says about guns there. There's no formal position paper that I could find, but there is a speech that says this:

I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers' lobby -- but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart -- a hole that the government alone cannot fix.

Any thoughts on what exactly "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities" might mean?

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Does Barack Obama Have Even More Ambitious Plans for Gun Control?
  2. Obama's Support for a Ban on Sales and Transfers of All Semi-Automatic Weapons:
billtb (mail):
I would say there isn't much air in that empty suit.
5.9.2007 10:09pm
Lurker:
Guns that magically engage the trigger lock when they're close to the downtown of a major city? Add a GPS circuit and an embedded Linux chip, and you're there.
5.9.2007 10:13pm
Viscus (mail) (www):
Maybe that guns should be kept out of the hands of "gang-bangers?"
5.9.2007 10:18pm
Alex 2005 (mail):
This is intended for Prof. Volokh: (posted twice - sorry)

A personal question, if there was no "individualistc" 2nd Amendment (indeed - no 2nd Amendment at all), would you still oppose gun control laws because it's poor public policy?

The reason I ask is that I am never quite sure if you are against gun control laws because it infringes upon a constitutional right (which, of course, is reason enough) or because it's bad policy.
5.9.2007 10:21pm
CEB:
Well, in politics-speak, "inner-city" is a euphemism for "black." (along with "at-risk") Obama seems to be saying that only white people should be allowed to own guns?
5.9.2007 10:23pm
Brian K (mail):

Any thoughts on what exactly "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities" might mean?


No. But given the recent string of threads I'm sure you and other posters are going to interpret it in the worst possible way imaginable.
5.9.2007 10:26pm
Dave N (mail):
I was more concerned about the hole in the gunman's heart that the government can't fix.

The government might not be able to fix the hole, but we have prisons to protect us from such people.
5.9.2007 10:27pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Alex 2005: I think total gun bans would violate the Second Amendment, and I also think they are bad policy. I think some lesser gun controls would likely pass muster under the Second Amendment (and some others might, though I'm not sure), even though I think they are likely to be bad policy as well.

Viscus: Can you tell me why, if Obama meant kept "out of the hands of gang-bangers," he said kept "out of the inner city"? After all, I take it that it's a mistake to equate "the inner city" with criminals, no?
5.9.2007 10:28pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I'm actually not sure there are a lot of different ways to interpret that...
5.9.2007 10:29pm
Tomm:
His statement

There's a hole in that young man's heart -- a hole that the government alone cannot fix.

gives me some hope that he realizes banning weapons isn't the way to stop violence. Then again, I might just be too hopeful.
5.9.2007 10:30pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Brian K: Well, tell us what you think Obama meant -- perhaps you might persuade us. Otherwise, I take it Daniel Chapman's view would prevail, and would counsel in favor of a literal interpretation, no?
5.9.2007 10:32pm
pete (mail) (www):
Previously Obama has been in favor of making the sale or transfer of all semi-automatic firearms illegal and he also supports the "assault weapons" ban.
5.9.2007 10:32pm
Viscus (mail) (www):
I think we all know that the inner city is plagued with gang violence, most of it committed using firearms. To mention this undisputable fact does not imply that everyone in the inner city is a criminal; only that gang violence is a problem that disproportionately affects the inner city.

There are some gang-bangers in the suburbs too, but for the most part, we have bigger problems with them in inner cities.
5.9.2007 10:32pm
pete (mail) (www):
Sorry, I had not read the previous post before I posted that.
5.9.2007 10:34pm
Viscus (mail) (www):

[I]f Obama meant kept "out of the hands of gang-bangers," he said kept "out of the inner city"?


Here is the simplest explanation (consistent with my previous response). Obama was simply being imprecise. We are all imprecise, to different degrees.

That said, I would love to hear a more detailed explanation concerning his gun policy from that Obama camp.
5.9.2007 10:37pm
Alex 2005 (mail):
Prof. Volokh, a quick follow-up: Why is enacting gun control laws a bad policy choice?

And if it's not possible to provide a full answer, perhaps you can direct me to some suggested readings.

Thanks!
5.9.2007 10:37pm
Alex 2005 (mail):
Prof. Volokh, a quick follow-up: Why is enacting gun control laws a bad policy choice?

And if it's not possible to provide a full answer, perhaps you can direct me to some suggested readings.

Thanks!
5.9.2007 10:37pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Sure, try Gary Kleck's Targeting Guns, a thorough and highly substantive book by one of the top criminologists studying the subject.
5.9.2007 10:42pm
luagha:
Alex 2005, if you take a look at the many writing of David Kopel on this very website, you'll see links to a large number of schlarly and well-researched opinions on the subject with which you may choose to agree, disagree, or dispute.
5.9.2007 10:46pm
Alex 2005 (mail):
Thanks to both of you for the recommendations.
5.9.2007 10:51pm
Brian K (mail):
Eugene,


Well, tell us what you think Obama meant -- perhaps you might persuade us. Otherwise, I take it Daniel Chapman's view would prevail, and would counsel in favor of a literal interpretation, no?


Like I said earlier I don't know what exactly he meant by this.

I don't see how a literal interpretation of "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities" requires that he means a total gun ban. He may have meant it has a call for greater enforcement of existing laws. Or maybe he will advocate providing more resources for tracking down how these people get illegal guns. Afterall they have to get them from somewhere. Were they stolen? If so, from whom? What additional security precautions can be taken to prevent this type of theft? Were they bought legitimately by the criminal? Was he eligible to buy legitimate guns? If he was, what precautions can be taken to prevent people like him from buying guns? If he wasn't, why did the system fail? What can be done better? Another possible interpretation is that he has some plan for something similar to a "gun for toys" program that will actually work this time. Maybe he wants to increase the penalties for using a gun in a crime. There are legitimate ways to interpret that statement short of a call for a ban on guns. And I think you are jumping to conclusions especially given the lack of a formal position paper.
5.9.2007 10:53pm
don jackson:
Hmm. Switzerland, a well-governed country, has specifically banned weapons possessions by members of groups who are well known for criminality, prehistoric tribal violence and documented abuse of civility, i.e., Serbs, Bosnians, and so forth.

Given than blacks and Latinos, although comprising roughly twenty-five percent of the American population, are responsible for roughly seventy percent of all violent crimes, should they not be restricted from firearms possession?

I'm sure that Carl Rowan, like Barack Obama, is a refined gentleman.

Still, the line must be drawn somewhere.
5.9.2007 10:58pm
MichaelB (mail):
I think it's a pretty similar stance to Giuliani. You have a constitutional right to bear arms if you live outside the city. Restricting that right is OK if it's done by the city or state, not the federal government. At least, that's what they'll run on.
5.9.2007 10:59pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I don't see how a literal interpretation of "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities" requires that he means a total gun ban. He may have meant it has a call for greater enforcement of existing laws. Or maybe he will advocate providing more resources for tracking down how these people get illegal guns.
Gee, you don't think he means what he says? He didn't say, "We should keep guns out of the hands of criminals" or "We should find out how criminals are getting guns." He said he believes "in keeping guns out of our inner cities." What's unclear about that?

The fact is that many parts of America have far higher rates of gun ownership than the inner cities, and have far lower murder rates. This suggests that whatever the big problem of the inner cities might be that causes high murder rates, it is almost certainly far more important than gun ownership. Gun ownership, even if contributes to the problem (which is at least highly arguable), has to be a pretty minor contributing factor if it has so little impact on murder rates elsewhere.
5.9.2007 11:00pm
Commenterlein (mail):
Shorter Clayton Cramer: My world is additive. Don't confuse me with interactions.
5.9.2007 11:07pm
Octave Mirbeau:
I'll just state the obvious here: one could favor gun control, but I see no indication at all, in the above statement, that Obama believes it would be his duty (if elected as the next president) to enforce gun control policies through federal laws. I disagree with Daniel Chapman, there are many ways to interpret the statement. I see a plurality of scenarios here.

As for the "inner city" issue, Viscus got it right, imho. That EV and other commentors oversaw the obvious reality is puzzling...
5.9.2007 11:11pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Sorry, the following snark is utterly irresistable.

...that will actually work this time.

Brian K just encapsulatd the left/liberal viewpoint.
5.9.2007 11:19pm
Mark Field (mail):

Any thoughts on what exactly "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities" might mean?


I view it as the Wyatt Earp theory of law and order: "Check your guns with the Sheriff, boys. You can get 'em back when you leave town."
5.9.2007 11:20pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Shorter Clayton Cramer: My world is additive. Don't confuse me with interactions.
So you are suggesting that there's something about the inner city that means that guns will be used for murder there, but not in Idaho. But what's really interesting is that even for non-guns--those inner cities have horrendous murder rates. Does this suggest to you that maybe gun availability is only a small part of the problem?

Obama is right about one part of the problem: there's a lot of people in inner cities who think that murder is the appropriate solution to whatever problem they have. There's a cultural problem that needs addressing. Gun control is a way for liberals to avoid confronting that cultural problem.
5.9.2007 11:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Given than blacks and Latinos, although comprising roughly twenty-five percent of the American population, are responsible for roughly seventy percent of all violent crimes …"

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the lifetime chances of a person going to prison are 18.6% for blacks, 10% for Hispanics, and 3.4% for whites. However based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32% of black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime, compared to 17% of Hispanic males and 5.9% of white males.

If one believes these numbers and that incarceration rates reflect criminality, then the inner city really is a truly dangerous place. I don't see any other interpretation other than B.O. wants to keep guns away from blacks and Hispanics.
5.9.2007 11:49pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
Apparently "gang-banger" doesn't mean what I thought it meant...
5.10.2007 12:49am
Tomm:
Here's another shot at it:
Obama supports guns for hunting and sporting, but not self-defense. Since it is not possible to hunt in urban areas, guns have no place in cities, especially their inner most areas.
5.10.2007 1:03am
anonymous balkan guy:
Nope, Don. The Swiss laws are about country of origin. As an American national with a grandparent from one of the countries whose citizens are prohibited from owning guns in Switzerland, if I were a legal resident of Switzerland, I would not be prohibited from owning guns because of my ethnic background. The laws are not intended to prevent "those people" from owning guns, but are instead intended to prevent/minimize gun-running to countries that are in conflict.

I'd give Obama the benefit of the doubt: what he meant was something like "I'd like to tell black people that I would like to keep their children from getting hold of guns and committing crimes." Which is pretty much why black people that vote tend to be in favor of gun control.
5.10.2007 1:14am
Bee:
I think it's mostly empty campaign pablum, and that while Obama may "believe", like many city residents, that guns are a symbol of urbane blight and crime, belief does not translate into any definitive legistlative action. For a specific example however, Obama might simply support gun buyback programs, rather than the many doomsday scenarios being trotted out.

And to repeat myself once again from another thread, EV and others might find it instructive to compare Obama with Gulliani. I think it is quite likely that their records and rhetoric have a substantial overlap in gun control. It would be a shame to not apply same standard as above to fellow Republican, no? :')
5.10.2007 1:16am
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Which might be one of the myriad reasons we're not fans of McGulliani.
5.10.2007 1:21am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
For those who wish to spin Obama's statement, let's get the "inner city" euphamism out of the way. It means "black and hispanic" neighborhoods. It has zero to do with geography. Otherwise Brooklyn Heights and Park Avenue (NYC) would be inner city neighborhoods. They are both about 10 miles closer to the core of Manhattan than East New York, Brooklyn.

I'm sure Obama would bridle at the suggestion, but like all nanny-staters, they view minorities (except for the rich and politically connected ones) as children who are unable to fend for themselves against forces beyond their control. "Fairness" and egalitarianism dictate that we also disarm the white folks (except for the rich and politically connected ones) to keep everything even-steven.

Look at how Bloomberg's and Giuliani's city handles the issue and tell me I'm wrong. You can get a license to buy a handgun--and even carry a concealed weapon--in New York City, but only if you are the right sort. Po' folks need not apply.
5.10.2007 1:48am
Sebastian (mail) (www):
Bee:

Why are so many people like yourself always quick to trot out party affiliations rather than accept that maybe people hold certain deeply held beliefs, and maybe become unhappy when anyone, Republican or Democrat, disparages them.
5.10.2007 1:48am
Viscus (mail) (www):
Mr. Cramer,


But what's really interesting is that even for non-guns--those inner cities have horrendous murder rates. Does this suggest to you that maybe gun availability is only a small part of the problem?


Well, since even one murder is horrendous, I have to agree. But, most murders in the inner city are committed with guns. Countermelian is right on about interactions and his criticism of you on that score is right on.

There is a cultural problem in the inner-city. One that is exacerbated by interaction with easy access to firearms.

Does that mean that gun control is the answer? Not necessarily.
5.10.2007 2:08am
Bee:
Sebastian:

It's part of human nature for people to be more quick to disparage those in their "out" groups and forgive/overlook similiar qualities in their "in" groups. And since Giuliani is the current GOP frontrunner in polls, it certainly seems odd for him to escape scrutiny on this blog, but not Obama. Odd at least, if one is completely disregarding party affiliations, as stated. I don't know if this Giuliani issue will eventually be brought out here or not, but so far we have a firm negative. What you say may be true, but it is not reflected in the chosen blog topics or the poll numbers.
5.10.2007 3:11am
K Parker (mail):
Tomm, I think you're way too hopeful. Who is more dangerous to our freedom? (a) the pollyanna who thinks that a bit more gun control will actually solve the crime problem, or (b) someone who knows that's not the cure but wants all the gun control anyway?
5.10.2007 3:12am
Tomm:
I'm trying so hard to like any of the candidates, but it just doesn't feel like they are doing their part.
5.10.2007 3:25am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> I think we all know that the inner city is plagued with gang violence, most of it committed using firearms.

Most gun control advocates used to say that they didn't expect gun control to disarm gangs. They claimed that it would work because it would disarm other folks who (they say) are committing a majority of the murders (aka the "just got mad" theory).

If they were wrong about who commits violence (and they were - it isn't majority gang, but it is vast majority habitual violent offender) but correct that gun control won't disarm gangs and habitual criminals, the possible benefits are rather meager. Can gun control disarm crooks?
5.10.2007 3:55am
Joe B (mail):
The Republican frontrunners records on gun control don't differ much from Obama's record.

McCain: http://www.gunowners.org/mccaintb.htm
Romney: http://gunowners.org/pres08/romney.htm
Guliani: http://gunowners.org/pres08/giuliani.htm
5.10.2007 5:29am
Hewart:
It seems a little pathological that, when faced with such an ambiguous statement from a politician, some folks are quick to aver exactly what it must mean based on their preconceptions, rather than simply admitting their ignorance.
5.10.2007 6:21am
TDPerkins (mail):

Any thoughts on what exactly "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities" might mean?



That he will not be President.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
5.10.2007 7:36am
markm (mail):

The Republican frontrunners records on gun control don't differ much from Obama's record.

McCain: http://www.gunowners.org/mccaintb.htm
Romney: http://gunowners.org/pres08/romney.htm
Guliani: http://gunowners.org/pres08/giuliani.htm

Are these Democrats in Republican clothing really the Republican frontrunners, or just the media's favorite Republicans?
5.10.2007 9:12am
markm (mail):
It's interesting that all of Obama's supporters on this thread are explaining that he didn't mean what he said...

Suppose we had some sort of magical gun remover that could make all the guns disappear from the inner city, what would be the effect? The gangs would arm themselves with clubs and knives. Law-abiding people would be defenseless...
5.10.2007 9:17am
blcjr (mail):
My guess would be along the same lines as MichaelB's -- that "keep guns out of the inner city" means that Obama supports total or near total gun bans ala Chicago, New York, and DC (just as Guiliani has defended the New York city gun ban). But with everything that is coming out about Obama's stance on guns, it seems clear that he would ban them all, everywhere, if he could, and that specific policies are just incremental steps that he thinks he can take, and defend, for now.
5.10.2007 9:26am
AppSocRes (mail):
"There's a hole in that young man's heart" reminds me of a quote by a female punk rocker, who's name I can't recall: "Guns don't kill people. Holes kill people." A far more effective piece of rhetoric would have been something like "There's an empty place in that young man's soul." But any religious reference would, of course, alienate many of Obama's base.

If a Republican politician as lame as Obama were to appear on the scene who would either be ignored or crucified by the media. When I try and pin down liberal friends on why they swoon over Obama none can come up with a rational response. A dozen years of high profile, real political activities may establish Obama's reputation but right now he resembles nothing so much as the original "man on a white horse" and we all know what happened to him.
5.10.2007 10:06am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I have never understood the "keeping guns out of our inner cities" concept except maybe that the Democrats both control the inner cities and oppose gun ownership. And, thus, that is how different standards for different areas are justified.

Part of my problem comes from the status here in Colorado. Denver has long had draconian gun laws in place. Before the current concealed carry law, the city would typically allow a dozen or so permits to well connected people, as compared to conservative C. Springs which granted tens of thousands for a similar population. And then the police would interpret the remaining laws that if they could see the gun, it was brandishing, and if they couldn't, it needed a permit, that the city wouldn't grant.

So, the legislature passed a couple of bills that were signed into law providing mandatory issue for concealed carry permits AND that local jurisdictions couldn't override state gun laws. So, the first thing that Denver does is to sue to overturn that for them, and they won, based on the basis that somehow Denver is unique because of its inner city. The legal basis was that it was a home rule city. Nevertheless, I was struck by the CO Supreme Ct. signing on to the liberal mantra that Obama seems to also believe, that inner cities are somehow different from the rest of the country, and need special restrictive gun laws because of it.

The insanity is that the concealed carry law is still in effect, so you can carry a concealed gun in Denver if you have a permit (which you can now get), but mostly not openly. This is a far cry and just the opposite from the Denver I remember growing up in the 1950s, when you would occasionally see men downtown on 16th St. in boots and hats, openly carrying their pistols in holsters, as men had for the previous 100 years. Then, if you were carrying a gun, it was considered cowardly to hide it. Now you have to.
5.10.2007 10:27am
Clarity Quest:
Obama is inexperienced. How much thought has he given to the wide range of topics he must address as a candidate? One thing about experience - one tends to develop appreciation of how often the implementation of an idea varies greatly from the original conceptualization.

When I hear "inner city" I think of gangs, thugs and concentrations of poor people.

Keeping guns out of the hands of bad people:
As a fan of what I call the "Christmas-tree" style of national ID card for U.S. citizens I would require proof of citizenship for purchase of a gun and a background check for conviction of violent crimes and/or certified mental illness. Gun owners and users should have a certain level of competency in the use of guns. Any owner should have some sort of lockable storage for their guns.
5.10.2007 10:32am
Waldensian (mail):

Any owner should have some sort of lockable storage for their guns.

But you're not going to make me keep it in my locked storage device at night, right?
5.10.2007 10:45am
Sebastian (mail) (www):
Bee:

And since Giuliani is the current GOP frontrunner in polls, it certainly seems odd for him to escape scrutiny on this blog, but not Obama.

Obama was just an example in this instance. I don't think Prof. Volokh was meaning to apply "scrutiny" to him as a candidate. Giuliani could just have easily been used, but wasn't. Over in the gun blogosphere, we've applied plenty of scrutiny to Obama, Giuliani, McCain and Romney. No one gets a free pass.
5.10.2007 10:48am
Houston Lawyer:
What Obama seems to fail to appreciate is that not every person in the inner city is a gang banger. There are lots of hard working people trapped in those neighborhoods. The last thing I'm going to tell such a person, regardless of his race or creed, is that he can't buy a gun to protect himself from the criminal elements that surround him. The correlation seems to run that crime creates poverty, not the other way around.
5.10.2007 11:16am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Well, since even one murder is horrendous, I have to agree. But, most murders in the inner city are committed with guns. Countermelian is right on about interactions and his criticism of you on that score is right on.

There is a cultural problem in the inner-city. One that is exacerbated by interaction with easy access to firearms.

Does that mean that gun control is the answer? Not necessarily.
It means that the cultural problem needs to be fixed—or you need to disarm the "inner city" (euphemism for black and Hispanic people). But the only way that you can do the latter involves disarming the majority of Americans for whom guns aren't a problem. And Obama complains about racism?

Gun availability is not a problem for most Americans--even for most black and Hispanic Americans. It is a problem for a small, easily identified fraction of our population, regardless of race, but liberals are unwilling to admit that their policies on violent crime and mental illness were a big mistake.
5.10.2007 11:48am
loki13 (mail):
Regarding the criticism by AppSocRes and others of Obama's inexperience, compare these *Political* resumes:

1. Elected Governor of State with, perhaps, the weakest Executive position in the nation. Held for 6 years.

2. Elected Illinois State Senate 1996, 1998, 2002 (unsuccessful run for House in 2000). Will have been a Senator for 4 years if elected President.

#1 is our current President, #2 is Obama. *shrug* Toss in his legal knowledge (UChicago lecturer, community activist, Harvard Law Review President, Miner Barnhill &Galland) and I certainly think he has suitable qualifications.

To borrow a phrase, the reason why Obama is appealing is that he is auniter, not a divider. There are Democrats who respect Hillary (and many who don't care for her), but she isn't seen as a great hope for the future. Obama (like RFK) allows people to project their hopes upon him.

As for his statement...c'mon. Context. It's fairly well-known (and I'm sure I'll be corrected on this) that gun manufacturers 'allow' their guns to get redirected into the inner city, where they 'happen' to fall into the hands of gang members.
Statement 1: Keep guns out of inner city's (despite the gun manufacturers)
Statement 2: Gang members

This is about a an innocuous a statement as you can make- is anyone for giving gang member increased access to guns? It's the silly season of politics- until he comes out with a more comprehensive statement on gun rights, maybe we should stop projecting our hopes and fears on to these statements.
5.10.2007 11:59am
Sebastian (mail) (www):
As for his statement...c'mon. Context. It's fairly well-known (and I'm sure I'll be corrected on this) that gun manufacturers 'allow' their guns to get redirected into the inner city, where they 'happen' to fall into the hands of gang members.

Manufacturers are required to have a license from the ATF to do business. They may only sell their product to other federal firearms license holders, which would typically be a distributor, who sell them to other federal firearms license holders, who would be dealers, who sell them to the general public after background checks, etc. The entire process from manufacturing/importing to sale is entirely regulated and monitored by the federal government. Can you explain how they 'allow' guns to get "redirected" to the inner city under this kind of scrutiny?
5.10.2007 12:41pm
Clarity Quest:
Waldensian: no. While I think you should lock up your guns except for the one you might be carrying I would not make it a requirement.

There are guns all over America. They are easier to hide than illegal immigrants. They are not going away. However, people are not born-with-a-gun-in-hand. The locked case just seeks to inhibit ready access by theft.



loki13: Being only-a-Senator does not mean you are dumb, or would be a poor president.

Senators take all sorts positions during the process of fashioning legislation so you can frequently find votes that appear to contradict each other etc. Even a final vote on a losing issue may be traded off for someone else's support on another issue. This makes it tough to guess how they will do in an executive position.

If a Senator has only ever been a legislator then the largest annual plan, staff and budget ever managed may just be that of their office staff.
5.10.2007 12:55pm
loki13 (mail):
Sebastian,

The theory behind the gun suits (and perhaps what Obama, as a lawyer, was referring to) is that a gun is a dangerous instrumentality. If a manufacturer ships vast quatities of their product to a store in a market just across the border from, say, Chicago or NYC, that doesn't have a population base to support the sale of that product, they should reasonably know that the sales are going to evade the gun control laws of the municipality. This is the theory that won in DCt in NY, only to be reversed on appeal.

Most guns (I believe 65%+) used in ineer city crimes were obtained legally, often through this mechanism. It is postulated that some manufacturers target their advertising to this demographic (aka the Joe Camel of guns).
5.10.2007 1:16pm
Sebastian (mail) (www):
How do they reasonably know this? If their distributor has an FFL, and the dealer that the distributor sells to has an FFL, how is that the manufacturers responsibility? If firearms are making their way from the legal market to the black market, which does happen, and is already criminal, it would seem that it's a problem for law enforcement, as the manufacturers and distributors are complying with federal regulations regarding the sale and distribution of their products. Why should they be responsible for the crime of straw purchasing? What is their responsibility here other than complying with federal law?
5.10.2007 2:08pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The theory behind the gun suits (and perhaps what Obama, as a lawyer, was referring to) is that a gun is a dangerous instrumentality. If a manufacturer ships vast quatities of their product to a store in a market just across the border from, say, Chicago or NYC, that doesn't have a population base to support the sale of that product, they should reasonably know that the sales are going to evade the gun control laws of the municipality. This is the theory that won in DCt in NY, only to be reversed on appeal.
Do you think the manufacturers ship guns to gun stores that don't order them up? You know, in the hopes that maybe the gun store will eventually find a buyer for them? It doesn't work that way. Gun manufacturers sell to wholesalers, who then sell to retailers, who order up guns based on either demand or expectations of demand. Or do you think guns are different from every other consumer good out there now? Once again, the liberals want to see criminal gang members as "victims" of the gun makers, not as criminals who go out of their way to obtain guns with which to commit robbery and murder.

Most guns (I believe 65%+) used in ineer city crimes were obtained legally, often through this mechanism.
Source? Remember that you can't legally buy a handgun from a dealer except in your state of residence. There are people who buy handguns in one state and sell them in another, and there is a federal law that bans this. To suggest that gun dealers intentionally oversupply gun stores in some places requires some pretty powerful evidence. Gun stores order guns; they aren't force fed them.

It is postulated that some manufacturers target their advertising to this demographic (aka the Joe Camel of guns).
Examples? I've seen two ads that have been cited for this claim:

1. The Auto-Ordnance ad with everyone in 1920s gangster suits. Not in hip-hop uniform. The Auto-Ordnance product, the Thompson semiauto, is rarely used criminally because it is big and bulky. (And in my experience, close to a safety gun--I had one that just didn't feed reliably.)

2. An ad from one of the assault pistol makers that mentioned that the finish resisted fingerprints. The gun control crazies wanted to believe that this was to make it better suited to criminal activity. Actually, gun owners tend to be concerned about fingerprints damaging the finish. If you ever go into a gun store, and ask to handle a gun, you will notice that the clerk usually wipes it down afterwards. Especially on the polished blued finishes, fingerprints can damage the finish.

I see dozens of gun ads a month. I have never seen an ad that was targeting "inner city" residents. Have you?
5.10.2007 2:12pm
loki13 (mail):
Sebastian,

Same theory that is used to target, say, a pharmacist (or, on a larger scale, the recent prosecution and settlement of the maker of Oxycontin):

Imagine a druggist is prescribing vasst amounts of painkillers. Imagine there is no possible legal need for that amount in his locality. He could be held liable under a negligence theory. The makers of Oxycontin were likewise believed liable (although their complicty- marketing it as 'less addictive than current pain killers' did not help).

So, say you have a gun manufacturer. They are complying with the law as written. *But* they are selling to a small distributor just over the river from NYC. They are marketing handguns with 'urban appeal' and targeting ads to an urban audience. They are selling vast quantities of handguns, far larger than the locality would support. Are they knowlingly, or negligently, supplying the city market?

That is the legal theory. Whether you believe it to be a sound legal theory or not is a different matter, and I suggest you do a quick check on the web for both proponents and (vociferous) opponents of the theory. Torts are, after all, a means of social regulation and deterrence... which is why novel tort theories are often embraced by liberals and decried by conservatives (see also strict liability).
5.10.2007 2:24pm
RJR (mail):
"There's a hole in that young man's heart -- a hole that the government alone cannot fix."

Ahh....but it is the wrong kind of hole....it needs to be a .45cal JHP type hole. And that would stop him from shooting "indiscriminately into a crowd"
5.10.2007 2:28pm
loki13 (mail):
Clayton,

Having not sat on the jury in these cases, nor read the briefs, I cannot properly adjucate the merits off the arguments of either side. I can only tell you that a jury in a District Court in NY believed the claims, and it was reversed on appeal, but the reasoning for the reversal was that the pool of plaintiffs was too large, and the connection between the criminals who commited the violence, the plaintiffs, and the defendants (gun manufacturers) too remote (proxmiate causation issue).

*shrug* Such is the evolution of tort law, however.

(as for the figure, I heard it.... I quick search found:
This link Don't know if you find that authoritative.
5.10.2007 2:35pm
whit:
i agree. the "inner city" thing is a euphemism for blacks, and minorities in general. he is, in effect saying, keep them out of the hands of minorities.

it's the same kind of classism and bigotry we see in potential 'saturday night special' regulations. a SNS is simply an inexpensive gun. who is more likely to need a gun - a poor person or a rich one? the answer is the former. also, blacks are FAR more likely to be the victims of homicides than whites, and more likely to be lower income.

basically, he's saying he doesn't trust poor people with guns. gotta keep them out of the inner cities after all.

incredible
5.10.2007 2:46pm
Sebastian (mail) (www):
Except a) they aren't marketing guns to the inner cities. I've never even seen a gun ad outside of a gun magazine. And b), all the manufacturer knows is that he has a distributor, that has a valid FFL, that's ordering X amount of firearms. If the distributor is using their FFL to traffic in arms illegally, that's for the ATF to deal with, and then you might have a civil case as well. But why would the manufacturer be held liable for the actions of criminals? Their legal obligation is the federal firearms license. Are they supposed to send undercover agents to their distributors to try to conduct an illegal buy to find out whether they are trafficking in arms illegally? It seem to me that this is a job for law enforcement, not manufacturers.
5.10.2007 2:47pm
Brian K (mail):

Manufacturers are required to have a license from the ATF to do business. They may only sell their product to other federal firearms license holders, which would typically be a distributor, who sell them to other federal firearms license holders, who would be dealers, who sell them to the general public after background checks, etc. The entire process from manufacturing/importing to sale is entirely regulated and monitored by the federal government. Can you explain how they 'allow' guns to get "redirected" to the inner city under this kind of scrutiny?


How do you explain the fact that 40% of all guns are stolen before they ever make it to the first seller? (statistics provided by clayton in another post)
5.10.2007 4:26pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

How do you explain the fact that 40% of all guns are stolen before they ever make it to the first seller? (statistics provided by clayton in another post)
Careful, I made the point that this was a BATF study of crime guns seized in New York City. That may not be typical of the rest of the U.S.

Do you know how guns are shipped? By UPS, generally. By federal law (from 1927, I think), handguns can't be mailed, and have to be shipped by private carrier. A few years back, an investigation discovered that UPS in San Jose had a big theft ring.

Secondly, there is theft from within the factory. In most cases, these are small scale--a gun here, and a gun there, usually because some at the factory wants a gun he can't afford. There was at least one case a couple of years ago in California where one of the manufacturers had "lost" THOUSANDS of handguns to internal theft--a level so high that it was hard to believe that this wasn't tolerated by upper management. Along with the civil suit, I think BATF stepped and pursued criminal charges. (And if they didn't, I can't imagine why not.)
5.10.2007 4:38pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
loki13 asks how the negligent marketing lawsuit was won in NYC a few years ago. Read Walter Olson's description here.


I can only tell you that a jury in a District Court in NY believed the claims, and it was reversed on appeal, but the reasoning for the reversal was that the pool of plaintiffs was too large, and the connection between the criminals who commited the violence, the plaintiffs, and the defendants (gun manufacturers) too remote (proxmiate causation issue).


You should read the decision, here. What the Court of Appeals decided is quite a bit more complex than your oversimplified description:

As we noted earlier, a duty and the corresponding liability it imposes do not rise from mere foreseeability of the harm (see, Pulka, supra, 40 NY2d, at 786). Moreover, none of plaintiffs' proof demonstrated that a change in marketing techniques would likely have prevented their injuries. Indeed, plaintiffs did not present any evidence tending to show to what degree their risk of injury was enhanced by the presence of negligently marketed and distributed guns, as opposed to the risk presented by all guns in society (see generally, Twerski &Sebok, Liability Without Cause? Further Ruminations on Cause-in-Fact as Applied to Handgun Liability, 32 Conn L Rev 1379).

The cases involving the distribution or handling of hazardous materials, relied upon by plaintiffs, do not support the imposition of a duty of care in marketing handguns. The manufacturer's duty in each case was based either on a products liability theory -- that is, the product was defective because of the failure to include a safety feature _- or on a failure to warn (see, e.g., Hunnings v Texaco, Inc., 29 F3d 1480 [11th Cir 1994] [defectively packaged hazardous substance accompanied by lack of adequate warnings]; Blueflame Gas, Inc. v Van Hoose, 679 P2d 579 [Colo 1984] [insufficiently odorized propane gas]; Flint Explosive Co. v Edwards, 66 SE2d 368 [Ga App 1951] [defective dynamite]). Certainly too, a manufacturer may be held liable for complicity in dangerous or illegal activity (see, e.g., Suchomajcz v Hummel Chem. Co., 524 F2d 19 [3d Cir 1975] [manufacturer sold chemicals to retailer with knowledge that retailer intended to use them in making and selling illegal firecracker assembly kits]). Here, defendants' products are concededly not defective _- if anything, the problem is that they work too well. Nor have plaintiffs asserted a defective warnings claim or presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that defendants could have taken reasonable steps that would have prevented their injuries.
5.10.2007 4:47pm
juris imprudent (mail):
They are marketing handguns with 'urban appeal' and targeting ads to an urban audience.

What exactly does this mean loki? I don't think I've ever seen a Glock ad featuring a gang-banger poppin' someone. Can you enlighten me?

Or are you too embarrassed by such a naked display of ignorance and bigotry?
5.10.2007 4:54pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Or are you too embarrassed by such a naked display of ignorance and bigotry?
At this point, I don't think you can say that with much certainty. Loki13 sounds like someone who thinks Time and Newsweek are news magazines, and PBS and NPR are high quality broadcast sources of facts. It's an easy mistake to make, especially if your peers are all professors.
5.10.2007 5:01pm
Sebastian (mail) (www):
I suppose this would be an example of negligent marketing, if it weren't a joke.
5.10.2007 5:10pm
rarango (mail):
Cynicism alert: Perhaps the correct interpretation is that the statement was a bunch of fluff developed by staffer who used focus groups to vet it; that Obama really doesnt have a position until he gets pressed and checks the polls.
5.10.2007 5:15pm
juris imprudent (mail):
Sebastian,

Otherwise rational people ran amok when they saw this gag flyer!

I think I have to dispute the characterization of them as "otherwise rational".

Sheesh!
5.10.2007 5:19pm
loki13 (mail):
Clayton-
Agreed that I simplified the holding of the court, still I believe my quick summary (large class of plaintiffs, proximate cause issues) is a correct view of the central holding of the court. The lack of redressability (as you point out) was also brought up in the opinon.

Juris-
Selective quoting... from a hypotheticals used to illustrate a legal theory... I trust you'll find better straws to clutch at next time.
5.10.2007 9:33pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
loki: "a legal theory"

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Then again it makes sense that you put in the context of OxyContin, where the "fraud" was perpetrated against the Drug Warriors big concern and not an iota of damage to consumers of the drug resulted.

You must be pleased with the persecution of Dr. Hurwitz too.
5.10.2007 9:45pm
loki13 (mail):
Jurist,

In two days, you've confused the supremacy clause with incorporation and legal theories (you know, the underpinning of an adversarial brief) with normative beliefs. The plaintiffs in the gun case were either arguing for an application of the law (that the appelate court found was not supported) or a non-frivolous extension of the law. While you might find it ridiculous, it is certianly much less so than, say, a California producer of DES that was held liable in New York under a national market share theory despite never having sold their product in that state.

I take it you were never a big fan of Traynor in Torts, and perhaps hope that Hawaii's embrace of the valuation of pets for NIED never catches on, but I'm glad I won't be getting legal advice from you. :)
5.11.2007 1:00am
K Parker (mail):
rarango,
Perhaps the correct interpretation is... that Obama really doesnt have a position until he gets pressed and checks the polls.
Are we just supposed to pretend that Obama doesn't have a prior record as a state legislator?
5.11.2007 3:19am
Brooks Lyman (mail):
I read Obama's statement (which has bothered me since I first saw it in his book) as saying that he is going to ban all guns in the inner cities, which, whether it is his intention or not, means that he is going to disasrm the very people who most need a gun to defend themselves - the honest people living in our inner cities who are the victims of the criminals (who seem to get guns no matter what the laws say).

That's a typical liberal approach - patronizing and unrealistic (and disastrous).
5.11.2007 5:25am
KSM (mail):
I believe that if a gunman shoots into a crowd of innocent people because of a "hole in his heart" then it would be great if several bystanders could use their own guns to create several more holes in the gunman's heart, as well as his brain and other places. Thereby ending the shooting.
5.11.2007 9:06am
Xrlq (mail) (www):
Any thoughts on what exactly "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities" might mean?


That he favors a total ban on guns, but he isn't dumb enough to think it has a chance of happening at the national or level. Any more charitable reading would be inconsistent with his voting record in the IL Senate, where he voted against the law that bars criminal prosecution of homeowners who use {legal at the state level, but locally prohibited} handguns in otherwise lawful self-defense.
5.11.2007 9:42am
Cover Me, Porkins (mail):
There's a hole in that young man's argument -- a hole that hagiographical press alone can't fix.
5.11.2007 10:14am
David Rogers (mail) (www):
Any thoughts on what exactly "I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities" might mean?

It means that Con Law at Harvard isn't intellectually rigorous.

Or he wasn't paying attention.

Or he believes that "living Constitution" means whatever policy preferences/whims appear in his mind at any given moment are A-OK.

Or he thinks that "rights" for "individuals" are really just "privilieges" granted to the masses by the vanguard of the proletariat.

Anyway you slice it, it's not pretty.
5.11.2007 11:54am
bigdaddynickg:
He makes it sound as if a gang-banger with a hole in his heart is a bad thing. Maybe if more responsible people were allowed to carry, indiscriminate shooting into crowds would be followed by more precise shooting from the crowd.
5.11.2007 5:09pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
The plaintiffs in the gun case were either arguing for an application of the law (that the appelate court found was not supported) or a non-frivolous extension of the law.

It was not an application of the existing law. It was an attempt at a frivolous extension of the law. IIRC the judge himself (who was quite sympathetic to plaintiffs) called it a "novel theory". As I understand the law (layman that I am), that usually isn't a good thing.
5.11.2007 9:33pm