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Pipe Bombs Unprotected by the Second Amendment:

So holds the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in United States v. Tagg: "Unlike the handguns in Heller, pipe bombs are not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes." (There's more, so if you're interested, check out pp. 10-14 of the opinion.)

The general analysis strikes me as right, for reasons I discussed in my article (at least as to the right to bear arms in self-defense, which is all I focused on). But I do think the reasoning in this sentence (from a case quoted in footnote 5) is not quite right:

[W]e cannot conceive of any non-violent or lawful uses for a pipe bomb.

Of course there are non-violent uses for a pipe bomb, uses that would be lawful except for the illegality of pipe bombs. One can have fun blowing them up, quite possibly fun that is relatively safe, much like people have fun with fireworks or with potato guns, or much like people have fun firing guns at pieces of paper, even without any desire to train or to compete. ("[W]e cannot conceive of any ... lawful uses for a pipe bomb" must refer to something more than just the fact that pipe bombs are illegal, or else one could equally well have said it about a total ban on all guns or on handguns, given that possessing them would then no longer be lawful.)

Now it may well be that such entertainment uses of pipe bombs are not socially valuable enough to justify allowing their private possession; that's a plausible argument, and it might even be what the court was driving at. But the court made its argument not by discounting entertainment value, but by pretending that it doesn't exist.

For my criticism of a similar factual error in the First Amendment context (as to the murder manual case, Rice v. Paladin Enterprises), see PDF p. 26 & n.124 of my Crime-Facilitating Speech article. Again, this doesn't necessarily tell us how highly we should value such entertainment. Perhaps it's proper to ban books, weapons, drugs, or whatever else that pose sufficient risk of sufficiently serious harm, if their value seems to consist almost entirely of entertainment. As I said, I do think that pipe bombs are not protected by the Second Amendment or state constitutional right to bear arms provisions (at least by their right to bear arms in self-defense components).

But I don't think that we should find it so hard to "conceive of" people enjoying things that go "Boom!" If some nonviolent use is too frivolous to outweigh the harm that the bad uses cause, say so, but don't assume that such nonviolent uses don't exist.

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