The BLOG: Politics

Shootings and law: Three brief observations after San Bernardino

1)      The shootings that have recently occurred in Colorado, California, and elsewhere are tragic. But they are not tragedies in the way that a natural disaster is a tragedy. They are crimes. They involved inherently culpable, criminal acts. Unless the shooters were insane and not possessed of the ability to know what they were doing, the shooters in these cases chose to perform an action that was inherently evil and contrary to law. And they chose to perform an action that has been illegal as long as there has been law, i.e. since Adam and Eve. Our laws and policies do not cause murder. Human choice and action causes murder.

2)      Nearly everyone who will have something to say about the Second Amendment this week do not know what it means. I read legal history and constitutional theory for a living, and I am not sure which interpretation is correct. But legal historians seem to agree that its meaning is tied up in the ancient tradition, shared by England and colonial America, of militia service and local defense of the homeland. Every householder owned a gun because every householder was ready and willing to defend his corner of the homeland from invasion, and he was willing to do that so that the king would not establish a standing army, which when established was sure to rape and pillage its way across the land. Many reasonable people think we would do well to disband our standing army and re-establish universal male militia service. Others think our superpower status in the world requires us to train and maintain professional soldiers. Other think it doesn’t matter what form our national security takes because gun ownership checks the potential tyranny of the executive power today just as it checked the potential tyranny of the king in England and colonial America. I don’t know who has the best argument, and neither do most of the people who will have something to say about the Second Amendment this week.

3)      Strict gun laws do not correlate with reduced violence. It is a cliché because it is true: Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States and consistently is highest in per capita murders. What does correlate with reduced violence? Ensuring that boys grow up in an intact family with their biological father is most likely to reduce violence. Fatherlessness breeds violence. If we want to solve this problem then we need to rebuild our broken marriage culture and get fathers back in their children’s lives.

Adam J. MacLeod

Adam J. MacLeod

Adam J. MacLeod is a member of the Maine and Massachusetts (inactive) bars and an Associate Professor at Faulkner University, Jones School of Law. He is the author of “Property and Practical Reason” (Cambridge University Press) and dozens of articles in journals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, many of which can be accessed at his website.

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