Guns: Failing Mormon

The two top Republican candidates for an open Senate seat in Utah so far show every sign of failing to live up to a nearly 1700 year old exhortation by the prophet Mormon.

Mike Kennedy vs. Mitt Romney — May 29, 2018 (Photo: Scott G Winterton, KSL)

In a debate yesterday between Utah state representative Mike Kennedy and Mitt Romney, who are competing to take the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Orrin Hatch, both rejected consideration of common-sense gun regulations to save our children.

As reported by KSL:

“Romney said he opposes new federal legislation on guns and would protect the Second Amendment but favors a ban on the sale of bump stocks — a device that makes semi-automatic weapons fire faster — to the public.

“Kennedy said banning bump stocks doesn’t work and that wouldn’t be a useful step in making schools safer. He said as a state lawmaker he has voted against any bill that would infringe on Second Amendment rights, but Romney signed an assault weapon ban in Massachusetts.

“‘It’s just hard for me to know as our U.S. senator what you’ll do regarding this and other issues,’ Kennedy said.

“Romney said the pro-gun lobby and the anti-gun lobby came together on Massachusetts legislation that banned certain weapons and expanded the rights of gun owners. He said he was happy to see them find a solution that worked for that state and that he supported it.”

Gun Porn on a Magazine Stand at a Utah Walmart — Is this the porn that Utah’s legislature, including Kennedy, declared a “public health crisis” a few years ago? (Photo: Matsby)

Mike Kennedy is a medical doctor who went to law school so he could fight plaintiffs suing negligent doctors who’ve horrendously injured them, ruining their lives. This sole, idiosyncratic legal focus probably explains why his notion of the Second Amendment is not well grounded in legal doctrine but rather in the libertine red-state cultural mythos of guns and gun porn — a belief in an unbridled, unmitigated, unregulated, immoderate right to own whatever weapons you happen to lust after in a given moment.

As I pointed out recently after the high-school massacre in Parkland, Florida, the types of common-sense gun regulations most concerned citizens support and are promoting do not infringe on any realistic, historically grounded interpretation of the Second Amendment. These regulations include the following:

14-day waiting periods
No sales by private owners
No sales at gun shows
10 rounds magazine limit
No bump stocks
No cranks
Licenses for all arms
Child lock requirements
Minimum age of purchase at 21
Assault rifle ban
Universal background checks
Domestic violence ban


This list is short enough to tweet, and I encourage all to do so. Self-described cultural “conservatives”, like Mike Kennedy and Mitt Romney, reverence late Justice Antonin Scalia as a “conservative” God.[1] Writing precisely from his own self-ascribed “conservatism”, Justice Scalia explained in the most recent Supreme Court decision to directly address the Second Amendment — District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570 (2008) — that the Second Amendment does not preclude common-sense gun regulations:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

“We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’” (District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570 (2008), (bold added for emphasis).)

Note that Mike Kennedy rejects Justice Scalia’s explanation of the legal doctrine behind the Second Amendment outright and Scalia’s statement that “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” Kennedy stated “as a state lawmaker he has voted against any bill that would infringe on Second Amendment rights” and he criticized Romney for supporting an assault weapons ban as Governor of Massachusetts. But Justice Scalia acknowledged in 2008, a year after Dr. Kennedy graduated from law school, that gun regulations, especially of the type being proposed in the wake of continued school massacres, don’t necessarily infringe the Second Amendment. Nevertheless, Dr. Kennedy expressed his opposition to an assault weapons ban signed into law by Governor Romney in Massachusetts, a bipartisan law overwhelmingly supported by the people of Massachusetts and therefore enacted by the democratically elected representatives of the people in that state, according to the processes and institutions of that state’s republican form of government.

Romney, for his part, also evidenced ignorance of Justice Scalia’s acknowledgment that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms does not prohibit any form of common-sense gun regulations. Romney said even in the wake of our sons and daughters being slaughtered by the thousands in schools and other public places, “he opposes new federal legislation on guns” even though he “favors a ban on the sale of bump stocks” — the barest minimum anyone claiming to be “pro-life” should do to protect our children.

In their position on guns, these two culture warriors reveal themselves to be decadent libertines to the same extent as those they derisively accuse of inappropriately prioritizing “liberty” relating to other constitutionally protected rights — a well worn tactic of culture warriors in the last 40 to 50 years.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (source:

But for these two culture warriors in particular, a greater concern than rejecting Justice Scalia’s position on regulating gun rights is their failure to walk up to an emphatic exhortation by the ancient prophet Mormon, applicable to them because of their religion as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Near the end of The Book of Mormon, after Mormon witnessed the collapse of his entire civilization as a consequence of unrighteousness including libertine decadence, crushing income inequality and abuse of the poor and suffering, and continual war mongering, he recorded a number of items of prophetic counsel and a few specific exhortations specifically addressed to those who would eventually obtain the religious history now known as The Book of Mormon, a reference specifically to our society in “the latter days.”

In one such specific prophetic exhortation, Mormon writes

“Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you.” (Mormon 7:4)

If God commands us to take up weapons, it will be through his Prophet at the time. Not through a vague cultural political malaise feeding white grievance politics in the twenty-first century.

Mormon politicians who oppose common-sense gun regulations, which Justice Scalia acknowledged aren’t prohibited by the Second Amendment, are failing the ancient prophet Mormon’s exhortation aimed at us in the latter days.

Every peer developed country in the world has the same cultural mixture of mental health issues, aggrieved entitled young white males who believe life has denied them the power, wealth, or influence they believe they’re entitled to (i.e., the profile of almost every single mass shooter in American history, especially in the hundreds of mass shootings in recent decades), violent video games, drugs, pornography, lost jobs, divorces, bullying, and everything else. But this isn’t a problem in a single one of our peer developed countries, where shooting deaths over the last several decades can be counted on one hand compared to our thousands of shooting deaths in a single year. Why are non-Mormon, “secular” citizens of Europe’s free market social democracies fulfilling Mormon’s exhortation better than “conservative”, religious Mormon politicians in Utah, the beating heart of Mormonism? It doesn’t have to be this way. What if politically conservative Mormon politicians were leading the effort to enact common-sense gun regulations consistent with the Second Amendment, such as those listed above, to save our children? Regulating guns appropriately is the answer to these mass shootings — this is beyond any doubt, as conclusively shown in our peer developed countries. How wonderful it would be if Mormon politicians, taking Mormon’s injunction seriously, were leading this charge in the Culture Wars against the dominant, decadent gun libertines of red-state gun-porn culture! We are failing the prophet Mormon’s expectations and counsel in failing to do so.


[1] In this reverent awe for Scalia, they never quite address how Scalia gutted religious freedom in the United States — an issue such cultural “conservatives” claim to prioritize above virtually all else — in the majority opinion he drafted in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990). In Smith, because the case dealt with use of Peyote, a drug, Scalia found it necessary to break with decades of legal doctrine protecting free exercise and create a new standard offering far weaker protections of our first freedom — such a severe reduction that Congress felt compelled to act by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which passed a unanimous House and only had three senators opposing, and which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. (This must be remembered when cultural “conservative” pundits on Fox News, in state legislatures, or on “conservative” talk radio repeat the lie that Democrats are against religious freedom. To the contrary, Democrats supported the Religous Freedom Restoration Act after Justice Scalia, the “conservative” god, gutted it in Smith.)


  1. I don’t think anything is going to happen until we can get past the fear-mongering now common in common discourse, media, and politics. Any concession is depicted as a slippery slope straight toward repeal and confiscation, traitorous to even think. It doesn’t matter what the subject, healthcare, abortion, environmental protections, schools, etc., etc., any movement means that “they” win, and the country may as well dissolve. Comparing to other Countries doesn’t work as “we are different, so what they did won’t work for us.” We’re stagnating in our exceptionalism. I can only hope we bounce back to more sense as we did after W Bush, Nixon, and Hoover.

  2. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    The gun libertines’ obsession with the right to bear arms as the genesis of all other rights is an eerie echo of the argument put forth by secessionists on the eve of the Civil War that the ownership of black slaves was the principal guarantor of liberty for white men. It also happens to be perhaps the most famous of Mao Zedong’s many aphorisms: “Power flows from the barrel of a gun.” Not from divine sanction, nor the will of the people, but from pure military might.

    And while there’s a strong element of racial paranoia among the gun libertines (every gun obsessive I’ve known has been astonishingly racist and convinced that race war is imminent, but then again I also grew up on the exurban fringe of one of the nation’s most segregated metropolitan areas), I am convinced that the basis of gun culture in the US at present is best summed up by the chorus of “Killing in the Name”: f*** you, I won’t do what you tell me to. (There’s a whole lot of Albion’s Seed history behind this that I won’t go into at length, but it suffices to say that there’s a very real Redneck culture in this country that has Problems Playing Nicely with Others™, and it has attracted a lot of converts in places that never received mass Scots-Irish settlement.) The modern Ted Cruz/Sarah Palin/Sharon Angle conception of the Second Amendment authorizing the overthrow of legitimate democratically elected governments that happen to have different policy preferences is the ultimate expression of this sentiment. Needless to say, I don’t think Latter-Day Saints ought to live their lives by this principle.

  3. Mel Johnson says:

    Very well written. Have you considered Mormon’s thoughts on delighting in bloodshed, for example Alma 55:19 description of Moroni?

  4. it's a series of tubes says:

    Hepta, the extra “to” you added at the end of the refrain is killing the meter. Scream it loudly 15x, followed by a MF, to confirm. Please fix thx

  5. Oppressed people deserve the right to defend themselves. Our pioneer ancestors were willing to use guns and force and some died defending their families against angry mobs. It is still amazing at their heroic courage. Post civil war blacks, on the other hand, were denied their 2A rights and mobs lynched and murdered them. Ida B Wells documented and published accounts of lynchings which lead to her famous quote:

    “Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves in Jacksonville, Fla., and Paducah, Ky, and prevented it. The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense.

    The lesson this teaches and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.

    When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.” –1892

  6. Jack Hughes says:

    This is why there needs to be a Church policy requiring all LDS political candidates to have their temple recommends revoked preemptively upon filing for candidacy, and if elected, they should be forced to earn it back gradually during their time in office (like a long, slow repentance process) contingent upon their adherence to their campaign promises, general conduct in office, and accountability to their constituents.

  7. Mel, I think Mormon’s view of Capt Moroni changed as he (Mormon) got older and lived more through the horrors of war. After Capt Moroni (paragon of manhood) we go through very little description of war, favoring more the more important spiritual heroes. I see the book of Alma being written by General Mormon, changing into Helamen and 3-4 Nephi by Prophet Mormon, ending with Small Plates, Ether, Mormon by General-without-hope Mormon.

  8. Mark L – “Post civil war blacks, on the other hand, were denied their 2A rights and mobs lynched and murdered them.” You really have not dug very deep if you believe this. At the least, read up on the many slave uprisings. On top of that, add the many times free blacks legally had guns but were lynched anyway. The idea that “post civil war blacks were denied their 2a rights” then lynched should be tossed out with the idea that Jews were denied their rights to weapons then rounded up by the Nazis.

  9. Mark, I don’t read John’s call for more regulation of the sale of guns as a call for taking away the right of any oppressed people to own weapons and use them in self-defense.

  10. The Tooth Fairy says:

    Wow, your arguments are so weak that you need to make an appeal to a tortured interpretation of writings by the “ancient prophet Mormon”. Really?

  11. nobody, really says:

    Hep, nice to see that you are still here and advocating only the types of violence of which you approve.

    I have a cousin, who at 20, was engaged to a guy who turned into a complete and utter psycho. He’s go sit in her nursing classes with her, terrified that she’s talk to another guy when he wasn’t around. She broke off the engagement, he got violent, she got a restraining order, he stepped it up and tried to abduct her while she was walking into Sacrament meeting. He picked that location because he knew few, if any people, would bring weapons to church.

    How would she have been served by a 14 day waiting period? Or the $1.00 sale of a pistol for self-defense from her brother, an active law enforcement officer? Or a law saying that it would be another seven months before she would be allowed to defend herself?

  12. There is nothing that is NOT decadent and libertine about gun culture in America in 2018.

  13. Paul Ritchey says:

    Props (and thanks) to JKC for charitably avoiding a condemnation that could so easily have been made. It’s like the avoidance canon for trolls (I don’t think you’re a troll, Mark, but some here might choose to see you that way).

    The minute we get the majority of people on both sides to respond that way, rather than dismissively, is the minute that real progress on this issue becomes possible. I hope to God that we reach that minute before my children enter kindergarten.

  14. nobody, really – you didn’t finish going down the list. “Domestic violence ban” would have helped.

  15. nobody, really says:

    The guy hadn’t been convicted and wasn’t using a gun himself. For a 20 year old petite nursing student up against a truck mechanic, a pistol was the only way to level the playing field.

    14-day waiting periods – let’s make her wait two weeks before she can venture out in public.
    No sales by private owners – LEO brother can’t provide her with a pistol.
    No sales at gun shows – Gun show vendors have to comply with all federal regulations already.
    10 rounds magazine limit – anything to reduce the chance of a terrified nursing student from hitting a charging target.
    No bump stocks – No disagreement here, but belt loops and rubber bands can be used as “bump stocks”.
    No cranks – Machine guns have been mostly illegal for decades. Prohibitively expensive.
    Licenses for all arms – sounds like a cost barrier that my cousin may not have been able to afford, and the waiting period to get it could be another barrier to ownership.
    Child lock requirements – Good idea, but let’s ask the former boyfriend to wait while she gets her keys out of her purse, okay?
    Minimum age of purchase at 21 – Because a 20 year old will never be in danger, ever.
    Assault rifle ban – If we define “assault rifle” as fully automatic firearms, no disagreement. But, who gets to define what is an assault rifle? Just anything black and shooty looking?
    Universal background checks – No disagreement here, if it can be performed quickly and at no or very low cost. We might want to enforce current laws about all agencies reporting violations into the database.
    Domestic violence ban – Hear, hear. You get convicted in a court of law, you lose your 2A rights. But, I see issues with somebody making an unfounded accusation just to get their victim disarmed.

    Did I miss anything?

  16. This well written John and I am entirely sympathetic but there are some elements of hyperbole / lack of specificity that open your argument to being picked apart by the gun enthusiast culture warriors who live for these kinds of arguments. You will be more credible in your statements if:

    1. You find the right term for what you mean when you say “assault rifles”
    This is a very non-specific term that demonstrates an acute misunderstanding of the guns in question. You likely mean any long rifle that is semiautomatic with features and functionality similar to an AR-15. But the gun industry would define Assault Rifle as this:

    An assault rifle is a rifle that:
    has selectable firing modes
    can fire in fully automatic mode

    This is a military grade weapon that is not available for sale to the general public. Yes there are grandfathered weapons available from before the ban was put in place in 1986 but they are HIGHLY regulated and exorbitantly expensive as a result of their rarity.

    But, the guns you are talking about, especially if you’re thinking about weapons like those used by the assailants at Newtown or Orlando or Parkland or Las Vegas, are semiautomatic “Sport Rifles.” The problem is that if you lump together all semiautomatic rifles you move beyond the AR-15 platform and into a variety of rifles that do not look anything like an M4 which the AR-15 is built around and what most people think about. You move into rifles that are often used for hunting and target shooting. These are not all weapons initially designed for use in warfare but they are semiautomatic which is critical for conversation around what you’re trying to achieve when you want to reduce mass shootings. But if you’re going to tackle rifles then you probably want to talk about semiautomatic pistols as well. Because more people have died from those than from rifles.

    This may not be what you want to target but this is the question that has to be addressed as you think about the impact of Bill Clinton’s Assault Weapon ban and what you mean when you say ban assault weapons.

    2. You do not conflate mass shootings to deaths by guns.

    According to Mother Jones the total deaths from “mass shootings” between 1982 and the latest in 2018 (Santa Fe) were 833. This does not equate to “thousands” being slaughtered. Total victims (wounded and killed) over that time period was 2,125. Yes there are thousands more who die each year from guns whether though accidental shootings, suicides, and deliberate murders. But it’s not clear to me that this is what you’re trying to address in this particular essay.

    Now, that said, improving the quality of your argument certainly makes you more credible. But as others have explained, and as the conversation already starting in this thread will demonstrate, we have to get past the fear mongering. There are extremists on both sides and goal is to bring a common understanding that can make reasonable and meaningful changes that will fit what the mindful 80% of the population can live with.

  17. jaxjensen says:

    There are some valid reasons to question the “Mormonism” of these two political candidates… their positions on guns isn’t one of them. Owning/shooting/enjoying guns doesn’t make one un-Christian or Un-Mormon.

  18. Nice, John.

    Alain, can I just say it puzzles me when someone argues against gun regulation by saying, “You used the words ‘assault rifle’ wrong”? I mean, yeah, it’s not a term of art. It would probably need to be defined more tightly in legislation. But John’s not providing potential legislation; he’s talking underlying policy and moral imperative. And in that discussion, “assault rifle” makes more sense than “high-capacity rifle that allows for quick successive shots.” Using shorthand that literally everybody understands is a perfect way to discuss issues like this. And once John is drafting legislation, I’m entirely sure he’ll put in a defined term that will encompass precisely the firearms he’s talking about.

  19. jaxjensen, very predictable response from you but, as usual, it ignores both Justice Scalia and Mormon.

  20. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Alain’s right about the blurry distinctions between hunting rifles and “modern sporting rifles.” (The only sport for which the latter are useful, mind you, is hunting man; pistol grips and the relatively short barrels of modern military rifles and their semi-only derivatives trade accuracy for ease of handling.) Perhaps limiting the size of detachable magazines for all firearms to 10 rounds–or maybe fewer!–would be better than trying to ban a class of weapons that’s notoriously difficult to define.

    The US’ gun violence problem is much more one of abundantly available handguns than one of long guns, but the reasons people disproportionately focus on semi-automatic long guns/black rifles/”assault rifles” are: 1) the mass killing incidents that they’ve enabled; and 2) one can argue that handguns serve a legitimate self-defense purpose (I think it’s outweighed by the fact that they enable the rapid escalation of violence to life-and-death levels, but that comes down to empirics), but the sole argument in favor of civilian ownership of “black rifles” is, well, “f*** you, I won’t do what you tell me.” (BTW, apologies for the above transcription error, tubes; I shall now go and rally ’round my family with a pocket full of shells.)

    It happens that, as in my youth, I live in the conservative (at least among the white population) outer suburbs of a very liberal metropolitan area; I can testify that gun culture is just as decadent and libertine as the OP surmises. Guns, and especially black rifles, have become fetishes in the original sense of the word: objects imbued by their possessors with divine power. When I see an NRA logo or the silhouette of an AR-15 above the icthys or the Calvary Chapel dove (irony!) on the back of a pickup heading back inland every evening, I know what god its driver worships, and it ain’t YHWH.

  21. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    jaxjensen, there’s a difference between owning/shooting/enjoying guns and fetishizing/worshiping them. To pretend that the latter doesn’t characterize gun culture in the US is to deny objective reality.

    One of the more popular motifs I’ve seen lately replaces the stripes of the American flag with various rifles, as if to imply that it is firearms themselves that are the bedrock of the republic, and not the states and their citizens. This often is done in the increasingly popular black-and-white motif with a blue line in the center, marrying the barely-concealed white supremacism of “Blue Lives Matter” with the firearms obsession that has–irony!–resulted in police’s overblown but nonetheless realistically rooted fears of being shot by armed suspects.

  22. jaxjensen says:

    Sam, as inconvenient as using correct terms might be, it would be useful to use correct terms regardless of your mocking. If we’re to understand what John means precisely, then we’d need to use terms we all understand. Unfortunately we all understand “assault rifle” differently. This is probably because they don’t really exist. I’ve never seen one. There isn’t a product called “assault rifle” for sale. I got really weird looks when I went into a gun store and asked to buy an assault rifle; even the professionals don’t know what it is. Because the term is imaginary (the term doesn’t refer to actual items, but instead to what people THINK some items are) it is impossible for anyone to talk about common sense laws regarding them. You can’t say it is common sense to ban an item that doesn’t exist. That’s nonsensical on it’s face. If you want to use common sense at all, then don’t use made up terms, but rather use the correct terms for the actual things we are talking about.

    It occurred to me that the anti-gun lobby has done what the marketing professionals would consider the ideal scenario. Marketers would LOVE to create demand for a non-existent product and then be able to produce anything and slap the now in-demand label onto it. That is what has happened with “assault rifle”, but in reverse. “Assault rifles” aren’t real things, but the marketing has been strong against them. They are an imaginary, “evil” thing that has public opinion growing against it. At some point in the future the marketers (anti-gun lobby/legislators) will decide which actual product(s) to slap the fictional “assault rifle” label on, and those items will be destroyed because of the built up flood of negative emotions/marketing against them.

    “But John’s not providing potential legislation; he’s talking underlying policy and moral imperative.” Using the terms he is using, his policy is “we should ban items that don’t exist.”

  23. Jack Hughes says:

    In the early 1980s, the Reagan administration was considering building a massive MX missile complex in Utah, which many patriotic Utahns supported. That is, until the First Presidency (under SWK) released an open letter expressing direct opposition to the project, and further condemned the cold war arms race in no uncertain terms. Almost overnight, public sentiment shifted hard to the other side and the project was scrapped.

    Why can’t our current First Presidency do something like that now, but this time addressing gun violence and the need for sensible gun control measures? I would much rather they get involved with an issue like this (which is more of a public health/safety issue than a political one, anyway) instead of meddling in political issues that are irrelevant, or of little to no importance to anyone outside of Utah, as they occasionally do now (i.e. medical marijuana, alcoholic beverage policy, “religious freedom”, porn as a public health crisis, etc.). The leaders of the LDS Church are still very influential among the conservatives, and if Pres. Nelson publicly exhorted the membership of the Church to get rid of their ARs and stop hoarding weapons and ammunition for the end times, I’m certain more than a few would comply.

  24. jax, that’s not what we do in informal discussions. We use shorthand to describe things in a way that people understand; often we simplify. Precise definitions come later, precisely because in the initial parts of the discussion, we’re still feeling out the boundaries. “Assault rifle” is a great example: it invokes a general idea of high-powered semi-automatic rifles. And maybe you and I are thinking of different things when we hear “assault rifle,” but we’re thinking about similar things. Ultimately, of course, we want precision, but that is almost always a final step, whether negotiating a contract or drafting legislation or regulations.

  25. jaxjensen says:

    Sam, “AR-15” is a short hand term that refers to an actual product. That would be fine. Semi-automatics refers to an actual capability, and would similarly be understood. “Assault rifle” doesn’t describe anything real. Use terms that refer to real things at least.

  26. The common-sense gun regulations listed in the OP don’t infringe your Second Amendment right to own weapons, if you need to do so to satisfy your various fetishes. You know this. So you’re not arguing in good faith.

    As for Mormonism, Mormon distinctly admonishes to set the weapons down and not to take them up again unless commanded by God to do so. If you think the GOP politics of white male malcontent is God’s voice for you to arm yourself, then I suppose there’s nothing more to say.

  27. jaxjensen says:

    John… Does “lay down” in your mind equate to not owning them at all? In mine it simply means don’t use them for “bloodshed.” Keeping mine in my safe 360 days a year seems like I’m following his command, and those few times they come out have never led to bloodshed. “lay down” doesn’t equal “don’t own/use my estimation. You disagree?

  28. The common-sense gun regulations listed in the OP don’t interfere in any way with your right to own a gun kept in a safe 360 days a year. How wonderful it would be if Mormon politicians became the culture warriors standing up to the decadent and libertine culture of gun fetishization and gun-porn that reigns throughout America, but in particular in red states!

  29. is it lunch time yet? says:

    john f.,

    I am open to any of the gun control measures you list above. But I think your case is significantly weakened by the inclusion of Mormon’s teaching. The context and meaning of that verse have nothing whatsoever to do with the gun control debate. It is a stretch to say that it applies to many, if not most, law abiding gun owners who neither use their guns as weapons of war, nor delight in shedding blood.

  30. The focus of that verse is literally on the weapons themselves and the command is to set them down and not to take them again unless specifically commanded by God.

    It is only relevant because both Mike Kennedy and Mitt Romney are Mormons who try to out-Mormon each other in vying for Mormons’ votes in Utah. For the rest of “conservative” Republican politicians who prioritize gun fetishization and gun-porn over our children’s lives, they merely controvert their own “conservative” god Justice Scalia when they argue that common-sense gun regulations would infringe on Second Amendment rights. Justice Scalia said that’s not the case.

  31. John Mansfield says:

    Utah’s gun culture may be decadent and libertine, but it isn’t particularly homicidal. Utah’s rate of homicides is similar to that found in Belgium, France, and Finland.

  32. is it lunch time yet? says:

    The focus of the verse, and the whole chapter, seems to be the hearts of the lamanites and repenting and coming unto God. The Lamanites loved war and killing. To come to God they needed to repent and lay down their weapons just as the Anti-Nephi Lehies did hundreds of years before.

    Granted, some gun owners love their guns and need to repent. But, at least in my experience, most who legally own guns don’t want to kill or wage violence upon others.

  33. Every mass shooter so far was a “good guy with a gun” until the moment he wasn’t.

  34. Ar 15 style rifles are commonly used for hunting big game here in TX. They come in all kinds of calibers now and are really common in the field. I was on a hog hunt recently with a bunch of LDS guys in East Texas and all of us were carrying ar 15s in various calibers.

    This is simply a fact on the ground. When John F says ban on “assault rifles” I hear ban on my families hunting rifles.

    So its a non starter from the beginning.

  35. You’re whole argument rests on begging the question that owning a gun is per session the same thing as “taking up weapons of war and delighting in the shedding of blood.”

  36. My opinion: 2A/gun control issues are so politicized that of course any Republican candidate (anywhere in the country, not just Utah, not just Mormon) rejects “common sense gun control” (scare quotes because this is a politicized phrase, as is and analogous to “pro-choice”).That’s what voters expect.

    Much as I love your work, John F., and much as I am aligned politically, I’m not sure there’s any news here. I’m sorry to say that Mormon politicians being politicians first is not news.

    Also, to the argument about the phrase “assault rifle ban,” my view is that the definitional question is not a subtlety to be ironed out in legislational but rather a major impediment to rational discussion. The problem is that the easily recognized meanings range from military grade full automatic (rare in private hands) to semi-automatic (thought to be more than 40% of all rifles in private hands). I think that’s a big enough spread that everybody in the conversation is entitled to ask “what do you mean?”

  37. The status quo is not acceptable.

  38. bbell, what I hear you saying is that you are not willing to hunt hogs with a hunting rifle or any weapon other than an AR-15 for the sake of protecting the lives of our children. Alternatives abound, including rifles actually meant for hunting that kind of game.

    But that’s not a trade-off you’re willing to make as a cost of living in a decent and safe society. If there is a better definition of fetishization and gun-porn, I don’t know what it could possibly be.

  39. John. Liberals do want to rake guns from law abiding citizens. Thanks for the clarity

  40. Take

  41. I think that’s false, Bbell. And what’s worse is I think you know it and yet you say it anyway.

  42. John Mansfield says:

    I would like to hear a little more explanation how a state with a gun murder rate about a third of the national average has a special culture that delights in killing people.

  43. John Mansfield says:

    “But this isn’t a problem in a single one of our peer developed countries, where shooting deaths over the last several decades can be counted on one hand compared to our thousands of shooting deaths in a single year.”

    That can’t mean what it seems to mean, as that would be plainly false, so what was intended with this sentence?

  44. John Mansfield says:

    OK, so the ~10:1 ratio was exaggerated to ~10,000:1. Any thoughts on the ~1:1 ratio between Utah and France or Finland?

  45. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Because of their very low population density and deeply established hunting traditions, Sweden and Finland have high rates of long gun ownership (albeit with severe limits on magazine capacity), yet radically lower murder rates than virtually any US state. Outside of failed and failing states, the problem of gun murders is almost entirely one of handgun ownership, not long guns. I am curious as to what percentage of Utah households own a handgun; if I had to guess I’d say it’s quite a bit lower than in most states, whereas long gun ownership is almost certainly higher than the national average.

    Regarding hunting wild hogs with ARs and similar rifles: this is a case where the user is trading high rate of fire (wild and feral hogs are astonishingly fast, yet they can’t be taken down with a single shot of most small-caliber rifle rounds) for accuracy. The problem here is that this happens to be the ideal solution for an infantry longarm as well. I would much rather that hog hunting be the sport of people who could conceivably obtain a security clearance than make it accessible to the general public by making semi-auto variants of military rifles available to any schmuck off the street.

  46. jaxjensen says:

    Hep… My “hunting rifle” fires at the exact same speed as my AR-15. My AR’s are just as accurate. The smaller caliber of the AR makes it less likely to kill. The platform does reduce the stress on the body by drastically reducing recoil. IMO, and from talking with others, it is this reduced recoil that has made the AR the most popular rifle around today, even among hunters. Other than recoil, it functions in exactly the same way as any other hunting rifle. There is no sense (common or other) that it shouldn’t be just as widely available as shotguns, pistols, or large caliber hunting rifles.

  47. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    In response to John Mansfield: the US cities with alarmingly high gun murder rates have large populations of unemployed young men from cultures with poor dispute resolution practices and/or criminal gangs…but so do most European countries. The difference is that these countries aren’t swimming in cheap handguns, and so gang violence tends to be committed with knives or acid, both of which are much harder to use to kill someone than is a handgun.

  48. Any thoughts on the ~1:1 ratio between Utah and France or Finland?

    It ought to allay the fears of people like nobody, really who are worried that stricter gun control will result in criminals declaring open season on law abiding citizens.

    My “hunting rifle” fires at the exact same speed as my AR-15. […] Other than recoil, it functions in exactly the same way as any other hunting rifle.

    There no way that a turn-bolt action—present in what most people would consider a “hunting rifle”—can be cycled as quickly as a gas-operated semiautomatic action, nor do they function in exactly the same way.

  49. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    jax, do your other, larger-caliber hunting rifles have detachable magazines with capacities of 20+ rounds? Perhaps this is why it’s more important to focus on the magazine than the weapon itself. (Same thing applies to handguns, of course.)

    It’s interesting that so many hunters have decided to trade off accuracy for ease of use, but I suppose Western militaries did so 50+ years ago when they switched from big rifles to what are basically beefed-up submachine guns. I grew up in a state where deer hunting was limited to .22LR, rifled slugs, and bows (crossbows were illegal and seen as lazy, whereas bow hunting was seen as super-macho, a la Ted Nugent), and folks did just fine, although they preferred to go across the border into Wisconsin so they could use their .30-06 and .308 rifles–which also happen to be much more likely to kill a deer instantaneously than smaller rounds (let alone an arrow) and thus are more humane. To be sure, 20-30 years ago there were a lot more men around who’d done military training with M1 Garand or M14 rifles (and possibly carried them in combat in WWII and/or Korea), and thus were perhaps a bit more accustomed to the recoil of a larger-caliber weapon without a pistol grip.

  50. Hept. No way did your state permit deer hunting with 22lr. No way.

  51. Nonrandom Set says:

    It seems to me worth pointing out that not being in favor of specific legislation does not indicate a rejection of Scalia’s constitutional argument that 2nd amendment rights are not unlimited. One can agree that limits are constitutional and still not be in favor of particular limits (or may even oppose all).

    Also, this is absurd scriptural analysis, which is too bad because it really obscures a decent point. I don’t own guns, and while generally conservative politically, am reasonably open to some restrictions on gun ownership. Reading this post makes me less inclined to consider, not more. Hopefully your primary intent was not to convince those on the fence…

  52. Ar 15s are really good hunting rifles. For example I own ar pattern rifles in both 7.62×39 and 308. I also own bolt action rifles as well. The ar style rifles are what I pick when I go both deer and hog hunting. Mine are as accurate as a bolt gun and easy to handle. My freezers are full of wild game shot with ar pattern rifles.

    This reality of ar pattern rifles being so popular for hunting makes a ban on them unthinkable to most gun owners. They are simply unbelievably widely owned and used.

  53. jaxjensen says:

    “There no way that a turn-bolt action—present in what most people would consider a “hunting rifle”—can be cycled as quickly as a gas-operated semiautomatic action, nor do they function in exactly the same way.”

    My hunting rifle is a .270 with detachable magazine. It fires just as fast as I can pull the trigger, which is identical to my AR’s. We do have a couple of bolt-action 30-06’s that we don’t hunt with (keepsakes from grandfather), which happen to function identically to the “weapon of war” my family members have used in battle.

    I’ve personally brought down deer with my AR’s with a single shot. Dropped them dead as where they stood. It was no less humane than a larger caliber.

    “It seems to me worth pointing out that not being in favor of specific legislation does not indicate a rejection of Scalia’s constitutional argument that 2nd amendment rights are not unlimited.” True, and in my mind the limits that are currently in place are reasonable and “common sense.” With the exception of bump stocks, the list is not common sense. They would have done little/nothing to stop past mass shootings and would have little to no impact on future ones.

  54. Nonrandom Set, why does the scripture citation make you less likely to support common-sense gun regulations that absolutely would vastly reduce or eliminate entirely mass school shootings?

  55. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Bbell: pretty sure this was the case, and now I recall that it may actually have been limited to fire from handguns, so the range and velocity (and killing power) were even lower. IIRC most gun hunters working in Illinois just used rifled slugs; for obvious reasons they almost always went to Wisconsin to shoot proper rifle rounds (which, again, are more humane). Obviously I wasn’t in a hunting household–my personal firearm experience is limited to target shooting and I wasn’t even allowed to use the family shotgun–but I grew up around loads of ’em. Illinois had a number of stray bullet deaths over the years that led to the restrictions (there’s a lot of privately owned woodland that’s adjacent to low-density suburbia and exurbia), as well as the state’s understandable but poorly directed hostility to firearms. (Not too many gangland homicides being committed in Englewood or North Lawndale with bolt-actions firing .30-06.)

    I stand corrected on the utility of ARs for hunting, although I think most hunters would be just fine with bolt-actions or M1 variants like their dads and granddads. The magazine capacity issue is a vastly more important one. You’re gonna be hard pressed to provide a plausible real-world scenario for a civilian to need more than ten shots without reloading, and certainly to outweigh the many, many instances of large magazines turning one or two victims into five or more.

  56. Like jax I also own a 308 bolt action that has the ability to accept 30 round ar 10 308 magazines. I can fire 1 shot a second with it.

    I also grew up in Illinois. Illinois like the rest of all states prohibits the use of .22lr for deer hunting. Not enough power.

  57. There is no real difference between a modern M1 in 308 and an ar 10 in 308.

    The ar 10 just looks scarier. But its lighter. M1s are heavy. Nobody wants to carry an m1 hunting. To heavy and awkward

  58. Nonrandom Set says:

    “Nonrandom Set, why does the scripture citation make you less likely to support common-sense gun regulations that absolutely would vastly reduce or eliminate entirely mass school shootings?”

    Just to be clear, scripture citation does not make me less likely to support regulations. However, I do find it offensive when scriptures are used to make political points. Doubly so when done poorly. It takes the focus off where it should be. All I could think about after reading your analysis of Mormon’s exhortation was how wrong it was.

    What I did say was that reading your post made me less likely to consider. Your question illustrates it again: you state that your common-sense gun regulations would *absolutely* vastly reduce mass school shootings or eliminate entirely. It’s hard to take anything seriously written from such a viewpoint, and as such obscures arguments that might actually be persuasive. Like I said, I don’t have much personally at stake in the gun control debate, but it is not at all clear to me that these regulations would even make a dent, let alone significantly reduce mass school shootings. That’s where the arguments should be focused.

  59. Let’s be a bit realistic here regarding, as Bbell puts it, AR pattern rifles. WWI and Korean era military weapons lke the M1 and M14 fired a bigger bullet at moderate muzzle velocities with a high degree of accuracy. The M16/M4 military rifles used a smaller 5.56mm bullet attached to a higher capacity cartridge, which along with materials and design tweaks, made the M16/M4 a much lighter weapon to carry, but fired the smaller bullet at a much higher muzzle velocity. That translated into a flatter trajectory, maintaining at least some similarity in accuracy.

    Trigger warning, this describes gunshot wounds. The 5.56mm cartridge is similar to some of what were called “varmint rifle” ammunition when I first learned to shoot back in the 1960s. A varmint rifle was meant to kill something you weren’t interested in trying to eat, and used the large capacity shell with a smaller bullet to achieve the high muzzle velocity. That muzzle velocity and lighter weight results in two kinds of damage. If the high speed bullet strikes anything solid, like a bone, it splinters and tumbles, making a much larger wound than would happen with a larger caliber bullet. Also, the high speed of the small caliber bullet makes a small entry wound in flesh, but then creates a large cavity wound internally. These higher speed variants kill by creating much more damaging wounds than the old M1/M14 weapons. A more serious wound makes it less likely that a wounded opponent can continue to fight back. That was the design philosophy behind these weapons.

    I know that there are hunting loads available for the AR 15 rifles that don’t produce as high a muzzle velocity as the original military style. However, they are still capable of firing the higher velocity rounds, making any AR-15 style weapon potentially an “assault rifle” merely by choosing a different ammunition.

    You don’t need an AR -15 to hunt big game. There are lots of other options out there. These were designed as people killers, plain and simple, and in some cases, the gun fetish folks like them for just that reason. Full disclosure, I used to hunt lots of different kinds of game, but about 1990, got rid of my hunting rifles and bought a guitar. I no longer wanted guns in the house with six kids.

  60. Why do you view the citation of the scripture so wrong here?

    On what basis do you doubt the proposed gun regulations wouldn’t reduce mass school shootings?

  61. Kevin. You are simply wrong with your assertions about 556/223 ammo vs 308 or 3006 ammo. Like factually wrong.

    If given a choice between being shot with a 308 or a 223 I would pick the 223. The military is attempting to move away from 556/223 because its not lethal enough in combat

    Muzzle velocity does not make a rifle a assault rifle. Jeepers…..

  62. Observer says:


    If you want to know why the citation is wrong here, why don’t you let my comment from yesterday through moderation? I discussed a good bit of the context and doctrine there.

    As one example for why the proposed regulations wouldn’t reduce mass school shootings, the Parkland shooter used only 10-round magazines and carried a bag full of them. The time it takes to change out magazines can be reduced to under a second with minimal practice.

    Similarly, restricting purchases to 21 and older doesn’t stop shooters from stealing guns from their parents (see also Sandy Hook and the recent Santa Fe, Texas shooting). Unless you are going to prohibit firearms for any household where anyone is under 21, the benefits from the change would be marginal at best, but would serve to deny an entire class of people (those age 18-21) their full constitutional rights.

  63. Kristine says:

    “but would serve to deny an entire class of people (those age 18-21) their full constitutional rights”

    I’ve got three children in that age range. I think denying them their full constitutional rights [sic] is a GREAT idea.

  64. Nonrandom Set says:

    “Why do you view the citation of the scripture so wrong here?”

    There are many problems with the use of the scripture here, but the main one would be conflating weapons of war and delight in the shedding of innocent blood with any opposition to gun regulations. You said, “Mormon politicians who oppose common-sense gun regulations… are failing the ancient prophet Mormon’s exhortation aimed at us in the latter days.” What does Mormon’s injunction have to do with gun regulations? Seems to me we fail Mormon’s exhortation when we take up arms and delight in the shedding of innocent blood. If you’re arguing that’s what these politician’s are doing then your post is even more offensive than I first understood it. If not, why even reference this scripture?

    And later, “How wonderful it would be if Mormon politicians, taking Mormon’s injunction seriously, were leading this charge in the Culture Wars against the dominant, decadent gun libertines of red-state gun-porn culture! ” How does Mormon’s injunction relate to red-state gun-porn culture? Who are these gun libertines – anyone who owns a gun, has used a gun, is opposed to gun regulations, or some other subset? Again, if you’re arguing that disagreements on the effectiveness of gun control regulations is somehow delighting in the shedding of innocent blood, good luck convincing anyone who is not already convinced.

    “On what basis do you doubt the proposed gun regulations wouldn’t reduce mass school shootings?”

    There is no reason to believe that anyone intent on committing mass murder wouldn’t be able to obtain weapons with the regulations you propose. I don’t pretend to know the details of all such shootings, but I am not aware of any instance where the gun(s) was illegally obtained. So while the regulations might make it marginally more difficult to obtain a gun, it is not at all clear how they would significantly reduce such shootings. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I can think of multiple ways that someone could skirt such regulations.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that some of these regulations might not be worthwhile on their own or for other reasons, but the argument that they will significantly reduce or even eliminate mass shootings is not persuasive, and in fact, at least for me, pushes me in the other direction.

  65. Observer, I’m not seeing any comments by you in moderation. Sorry if something you’ve written has gotten lost — but it’s not in moderation.

  66. Bbell, a quote from Eugene Stoner, original designer of the M16 for the military, in hearings before congress:

    “There is the advantage that a small or light bullet has over a heavy one when it comes to wound ballistics. … What it amounts to is the fact that bullets are stabilized to fly through the air, and not through water, or a body, which is approximately the same density as the water. And they are stable as long as they are in the air. When they hit something, they immediately go unstable. … If you are talking about .30-caliber [like a bullet used in the M-14], this might remain stable through a human body. … While a little bullet, being it has a low mass, it senses an instability situation faster and reacts much faster. … this is what makes a little bullet pay off so much in wound ballistics.”

    This is from an old Atlantic article about the original M16 and its deployment in Vietnam, where it performed with mixed results:

    Any bullet, regardless of weight, will drop from its trajectory at the same rate over time. A higher muzzle velocity just means that the bullet will maintain a flatter trajectory for a greater distance, making it more accurate.

  67. Why does the argument push you in the other direction?

  68. Stoner is being misintepreted. 556 ammo is much less lethal than 308.

    Some states ban 556/223 for deer hunting for this very reason.

    Having shot multiple animals with both 223 and 308 this is also my exp in the field.

  69. Bbell, I left out the more graphic details of the question that Stoner was asked in the congressional hearing. Read the article for more information, or also see this book on gunshot wounds by a medical doctor, written for forensics use: Vincent J. M DiMaio, MD, Gunshot Wounds – Practical Aspects of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques, second edition, 1999, CRC Press (Boca Raton, New York).

  70. Bbell, from DiMaio’s book:

    A moving projectile, by virtue of its movement, possesses kinetic energy.
    For a bullet, this energy is determined by its weight and velocity:
    K.E. = WV2/2 g
    where g is gravitational acceleration,W is the weight of the bullet, and V is
    the velocity.1
    From this formula, it can be seen that velocity plays a greater role in
    determining the amount of kinetic energy possessed by a bullet than does
    weight. Doubling the weight doubles the kinetic energy, but doubling the
    velocity quadruples the kinetic energy.

    Higher muzzle velocity is the easiest way to increase the potential damage from a bullet. Your hunting loads may produce less velocity with a .308 cartridge, but buying a higher speed load, or or loading your own cartridges can produce higher velocities with the same caliber weapon. I stand by my assertion that the AR-15 pattern rifles are by definition “assault rifles.”

  71. Observer says:


    To summarize my comment that must have gotten eaten, you are taking Mormon 7:4 out of context, and not even attempting to reconcile it with other scriptural references, particularly from the Book of Mormon. In Mormon 7:4, Mormon is speaking to the descendants of the people who just committed a brutal genocide against his civilization. He is speaking out against the genocidal bloodlust of the Lamanites. He is not giving a general commandment that all people should lay down their arms.

    Earlier in the Book of Mormon, Alma taught “And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.” (Alma 43:47) It’s relatively difficult to do this if you have laid down your arms completely. Yes, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis made a covenant of peace and laid down their arms, but that was clearly not a general commandment to everyone, as they later sent their own sons into battle to fight and kill in their defense.

    Doctrinally, there is a balance that your post doesn’t recognize in its attempt to stereotype all those who disagree with your policy preferences. The Gospel allows (and even commands, in some cases) self-defense, but condemns bloodlust. It calls those who suffer from the latter to repentance, but does not paint all those who have or use arms as being in that category.

  72. Nonrandom Set says:

    It casts doubt on the judgment and rationality, as well as sometimes the motivations and intentions, of those making the argument. Am I failing Mormon’s injunction because I am not convinced we should implement all of these restrictions? I obviously don’t think so. But if I think that’s what you’re implying, then I’m going to give your other arguments less credence, and am probably going to be less willing to even consider them in the future. At least as relates to this issue.

    I would add that this also goes for the inverse arguments from the other side that are similar in scope and/or tone. Overreaching and/or absolutist arguments are generally not convincing, and may in fact be a turn off.

    Feel free to ignore – just a little advice. You don’t need to convince those who already agree, you won’t convince those who will never agree, so you should focus on those who might, given persuasive arguments, agree with you. I would think it goes without saying, but implying blood lust or general moral depravity of those who disagree is not generally persuasive. Arguments taking for granted that the solution is both universally obvious and indisputably effective are also not generally persuasive.

  73. jaxjensen says:

    KevinF seems to be adding/changing terms on us again. Now apparently “assault rifle” is determined by muzzle velocity, rather than magazine capacity (as some think), appearance (not sure why this is a thing, but it is), rate of fire (at this one is a reasonable place to start), or use in military (another good starting point). Everyone has a different definition though. If we’re going to have any kind of productivity from a discussion we need to use actual terms for actual items. For the love of heaven, why do some insist on using a term that refers to NO ACTUAL PRODUCT? And how on earth can something be an assault rifle “by definition” when there is no definition?

    Again, the term “assault rifle” is building a case against the imaginary. Only at some time later will something real and concrete be slapped with the negative label. It’s like trying to build a consensus that “the Boogie Man” is bad and should be banned, and when enough people agree and have a negative prejudice against “the Boogie Man” (to be defined later of course), then the label pushers will choose some person/people they don’t like and tell everyone that those people are “the Boogie Man”. In this way they can avoid talking about actual people(guns) until after a consensus has been reached that “they/it” is bad. Then they can look back and say, “well, we’ve all agreed that “the Boogie Man” is bad, and now that we’ve defined “Boogie Man” as John Doe/Donald Trump/Gun Owners/Who-or-Whatever, we can all agree that the Boogie Man needs to be punished/banned/etc.

  74. Are you arguing that the exhortations in Mormon 7 are specifically for descendants of Lamanites, and not for all those who receive The Book of Mormon in the latter days? Does this argument relying on assiduously narrowing the audience of scriptural text work in other places for you, such as the verses in Leviticus that seem to relate to homosexuality? Do you take a consistent position with most of the rest of The Book of Mormon, technically also aimed (by Mormon as editor) at descendants of the Lamanites? That narrower view was expanded on the anciently written title page to all Jews and Gentiles — meaning, in the lingo of 400 AD, everyone in the world.

  75. jaxjensen says:

    “Does this argument relying on assiduously narrowing the audience of scriptural text work in other places for you,” Yes… I don’t feel commanded to build an Ark, march around Jericho, preach in Nineveh, or any other countless commands. Audience matters. There are plenty of scriptural commands that are universally applicable. This wasn’t one of them, as pointed out and explained.

  76. Observer says:


    Context matters. The context of Mormon 7:4 makes it clear exactly to whom he was speaking. Just look in Mormon 7:1, where he explicitly says to whom he was writing.

    If we are to read Mormon 7:4 the way you want, as a general commandment to everyone, then how are we to read Alma 43:47? How do you determine which one takes precedence? If you are going chronologically, then why not rely on D&C 101:76-80, which says that the Constitution (without exempting the Second Amendment) was ordained of God?

    Your reading does not allow for consistency with the rest of the scriptures, and is arguably countermanded by modern prophets (remember, Joseph Smith used a gun to defend against the mob at Carthage; was he violating Mormon’s counsel?).

    When my now-ex-wife started making threats against me during our divorce, I did a lot of earnest studying and praying about whether the Lord approves of self-defense, and I’ve worked hard to be able to reconcile the teachings on it found throughout the scriptures. I’ve unfortunately had to use a gun for self-defense (though luckily, I’ve never had to fire one in self-defense), and I hope and pray that I will never have to do so again. But I am confident, both from my studies and from the Spirit, that my ownership of, and even carrying of, guns for self-defense is acceptable to the Lord.

    It is a tool that He has made available to me to help keep me and my family safe, allowing me to follow Alma’s commandment given from the Lord. Following that commandment requires not just that I have access to the tools I need, but that I have the skills to safely use those tools. And it is not your place, as one without any stewardship over me or those you criticized in the post, to claim that I am disobeying or misinterpreting the Lord’s commandments in this.

  77. I don’t think it’s correct that the exhortations in Mormon 7 apply to such a narrow audience. In fact, the transition between the end of Mormon 6 and the beginning of Mormon 7 actually makes it seem Mormon is specifically addressing the very small numbers of survivers of the Nephite army (who Moroni then writes in Mormon 8 were all killed) or possibly the *Nephite people* more generally, despite what it says on the chapter heading. With such a tiny audience (survivors of Nephites) it isn’t reasonable to read this as not applicable to all readers.

    I didn’t anticipate some people’s objection to use of this scripture would be “Mormon 7:4 doesn’t apply to me because I’m neither one of the Lamanites who slaughtered the Nephites nor do I believe (without any actual geneaological or DNA evidence) I am a distant literal descendant of those particular Lamanites.”

  78. I find it interesting you refer to D&C 101 for this purpose and not D&C 98.

  79. jaxjensen says:

    I’m not sure DNA has anything to do with it John. I think this would apply to anyone using weapons of war to delight in the shedding of innocent blood. Anyone for whom bloodlust is a problem.

    The Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s had to put down their arms, not because that is the only way a good Christian should be, but because those arms were a source of terrible sin in their past. Mormon is talking to the Lamanites who’ve just slaughtered his people and telling them that they need to put them down for the same reason. For people which don’t have murder as a past sin, being armed is not an un-Christain or Un-Mormon state of being.

  80. Observer says:


    I think you are being intentionally obtuse here. Reread the chapter to see who Mormon is talking to and WHY he is talking to them.

    Mormon 7:1 “I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared”.
    Mormon 5:12 “Now these things are written unto the remnant of the house of Jacob”
    Mormon 7:10 “And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob”

    He’s writing to the remnant of the House of Jacob (which covers both the Lamanites and any surviving Nephites), but then his specific exhortations also provide the context.

    Mormon 7:4 “Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you.”

    Both the Nephites and the Lamanites of Mormon’s time had become so bloodthirsty and wicked that the were outright genocidal. They delighted in the shedding of blood. That is a far cry from people who delight in owning (or even shooting) guns, or carrying a gun for the purpose of self-defense.

    Consider this. There are upwards of 100 million gun owners in the US. In any given year, there are bout 10000 homicides involving guns (I am excluding suicides, as that’s a separate issue). Even assuming that each homicide is committed by a different gun owner, that still means that in any given year only about 0.01% of gun owners kill someone else. Even if you look at gun injuries (about 100000 per year), that’s only 0.1% of gun owners. That means that 99.9+% of all gun owners are not shedding blood in any given year. By that measure, US gun owners and gun culture by no means “delight[s] … in the shedding of blood”. That is a significant difference from the genocidal tendencies that Mormon had just faced.

    Also, I used D&C 101 for two reasons: 1) It’s the more recent section, given about 8 months after section 98, and 2) It specifically says that the Constitution was established by the Lord.

  81. DNA is relevant because if one says they’re not a descendant of these Lamanites, so Mormon 7:4 doesn’t apply to them, then their assumption about not being a descendant could be completely wrong.

  82. jaxjensen says:

    John, I’m saying it could apply to DNA descendents or not. It isn’t the DNA/ancestry that matters, but the person history of the individual and there personal level of bloodlust. Applying that scripture to gun-owning Mormons is inappropriate. It applies to people in our day, just not the ones you are targeting.

  83. “It applies to people in our day, just not the ones you are targeting.”

    Who, then, does it apply to in our day?

  84. Some days, I really hate us.

    Did y’all even notice that until Kristine commented (in support of regulation) not a single woman was even part of this conversation? This is a violence problem, and women and children bear the brunt of it. Until men can see that and take responsibility for it, we’re all screwed.

  85. Maybe part of the problem with these discussions is focus. Pick one, one regulation, working out how it would help, what it would deter, and what costs are involved. Granted, there will still be the “let a camel put it’s toe into your tent” crowd, but it’d be a better discussion than “here’s a list and you won’t agree to any of them”.

  86. Observer says:


    That is not actually accurate.

    According to CDC data for 2016 (the most recent year available), there were 2224 females killed with guns, as compared to 12701 males (across all ages). For the same year (and included in those numbers) there were a total of 240 children ages 0-14 killed with guns (141 male and 99 female). (Numbers are pulled from the “Homicide and Legal intervention” category, which excludes suicides.) There were an additional 1636 homicide victims aged 15-19 (1423 male and 213 female). According to the statistics, women and children do not directly bear the brunt of gun violence, regardless of public perception of the issue. Men make up 85.1% of the victims of gun violence, and children 14 and under make up only 1.6% of victims. Even if you expand the definition of a child to 19, they only make up 12.6% of gun homicides (and the vast majority of the older teenager homicides are drug and gang related).

    Data from

  87. I apologize for the slight threadjack, but I don’t think nonrandom is alone when he says arguments presented in this way actually push him in the other direction.

    Frankly, I think it’s something liberals should consider and internalize. If the next Democrat presidential candidate’s platform is that Trump supporters are deplorable people who are responsible for every ill in society, whether it be mass shootings, poor people, or floods, I think Trump will win again. Just thinking about it almost makes me want to vote for Trump.

  88. On average, 50 women in this country are shot and killed by intimate partners each month, and one in four deaths in a mass shooting is a child.

    In fact, every year, guns kill almost 30,000 people and injure another 60,000. Between 2009 and 2016, there were 156 mass shootings3 in this country – more than half (54 percent) were related to domestic or family violence.

    The United States is the most dangerous country in the developed world for gun violence against women. Women here are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries.

    Intimate partner violence coupled with guns pose significant risks to the health and well- being of women.
    -Women are five times more likely to be killed during an intimate violence situation when a gun is present.
    -Roughly 4.5 million women report that an intimate partner has threatened them with a gun.

    Firearms are the third leading cause of death for children in the United States. Every year, 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds and another 6,000 children are treated for gun-related injuries. Children often are killed as bystanders in mass shootings or domestic assaults or homicides.

    Click to access gun-violence-a-threat-to-women-and-families.pdf

  89. Why does thinking about that make you want to vote for Trump?

  90. Observer says:


    I actually tried to start a discussion on my Facebook feed along those lines. Part of the problem with these discussions is that they are always one-sided, with no one actually willing to compromise. It’s always “Shall not be infringed” or “If you don’t support banning (assault weapons/large magazines/etc) then you don’t care about the children”. Compromise requires that each side offer something that the other side values to find a middle ground.

    Take bump stocks for example. They only exist because in 1986 the Hughes Amendment was passed closing the NFA registry to new full-automatic guns (making it so that civilians cannot register, and therefore own, a machine gun built after 1986). Legally registered full-automatic guns have only been used in two crimes since the 1934 NFA was passed (and one of those was a cop killing an informant). Bump stocks were developed to allow people to get the experience of full-automatic fire while avoiding the high cost of an older machine gun and not running afoul of the Hughes Amendment.

    I would have no problem accepting a compromise where bump stocks are legally defined as machine guns (subject to all of the provisions of the NFA, including a $200 transfer tax and background checks) if the Hughes Amendment were repealed. Both sides would get something out of the deal, which would give both sides a reason to support it.

    But lists like what was given in this post, where it’s just a laundry list of things that you need to support or else you must be a “bad” person who “delight[s] … in the shedding of blood” are the opposite of any attempt to compromise. It’s an attempt to bludgeon the opposing side into giving up what they want without having to surrender anything in the process.

    So, I would ask John this: Rather than judging gun owners and finding them wanting because they refuse to support a laundry list of gun control wants, what would you be willing to offer gun owners to get something off of your list accomplished? Rather than seeking to impose your interpretation of scripture on others outside your stewardship, what are you willing to offer to encourage others to accept some of what you want?

  91. Observer says:


    Don’t talk to me about intimate partner violence. I’m a survivor of an abusive spouse who went on to make violent threats against me during and after our divorce. She’s a large part of why I have 3 different carry permits today, and started carrying a firearm on a regular basis. And yet, had I had to defend myself against her with my gun, she would gladly be rolled into all of your “violence against women” stats there, so forgive me if I don’t accept your inflated advocacy stats at face value.

    Your statistics are inflated and crafted to distort impressions. About 2/3 of gun deaths in the US are suicides (22938 gun suicides in 2016, versus 14925 gun homicides and 300 of unknown intent), which is a very different issue than homicides using guns. Your 30000 number starts off inflated to make the problem seem far larger than it is.

    As for children, the vast majority of the “1,300 children [who] die from gunshot wounds” each year are in the 15-19 year old range, and the vast majority of those are crime related, specifically drug and gang activities. It’s disingenuous to lump those deaths (and their causes) in as “children” when they are actually young adults. (The term children usually conjures up mental images of pre-adolescents, which make up only about 2% of gun homicides each year.)

    In fact, for 2016 (using the CDC’s system I linked to earlier) of the 1876 gun homicide victims who were 19 and under, 1007 of them were 18 or 19. Those are not children by any legal definition. That leaves only 869 gun homicides by even the most generous definition of “children”. Your “children” number is inflated by at least 50%. That’s dishonest to say the least.

  92. Kristine says:

    Among the many problems made worse by the NRA, the impossibility of having decent statistics from which to draw conclusions may be the worst.

    Observer, ALL the statistics in this debate are distorted, so you can dial back the hostility and condescension toward “Tracy’s” statistics (which are, as she has clearly shown with her link, not actually hers. There’s no need to make this personal, and doing so makes you seem creepy and much less credible).

  93. Observer, I provided a link, and all of those statistics are footnoted. Your hostility is off-putting, frankly. You and I clearly have different points of view regarding firearms, and that’s fine. I do take issue with the callous way in which you dismiss deaths, regardless of which category they might fall into depending on the parameters of the research. I believe in John F’s list of common sense gun reform, and I fully support it.

  94. D Christian Harrison says:

    Observer, you’re coming across as really hostile, here. Maybe dial it back a bit?

  95. From what I can see, Tracy’s numbers aren’t inflated at all. And it’s a very dangerous and dubious road to throw shade at domestic violence statistics — an issue in which women are exponentially more victimized than men — and say they aren’t reliable because a handful of men killing or harming a spouse or partner in self-defense rather than as abusers might have filtered into the mix.


  96. Observer says:

    Sorry if I come across as a bit hostile, but this is a topic that I came to because of the personal impact on me. It really hits a raw nerve, and Tracy’s post came across to me as only concerned about how gun violence affects women and children, where her statistics would have lumped me in as an abuser, rather than recognizing how I survived abuse from my ex-wife.

    “Intimate partner abuse” isn’t a one-way street, and it’s not a simple matter of “women are the victims”. I have routinely had my experiences dismissed because of the outright sexist assumption than only women are victims of spousal abuse. My ex-wife threatened to come after me with knives. Had she actually done so, and I was in a position where I had to shoot her as a result, she would have been lumped into those stats that Tracy gave, even though she was the abuser, not the victim. The assumptions underlying her statistics are personally insulting for that very reason.

    Her source is a blatantly partisan source, the “National Partnership for Women and Families”. They have a vested interest in inflating the statistics to support their preferred policy positions. The source I gave was to the raw data, direct from the CDC, where you can go check my math and analysis for yourself. Biased sources should be called out when they distort the facts for a partisan purpose.

    I am not callously dismissing deaths, and that accusation is offensive as well. But you can’t just lump them all together and say “guns are the problem”, because you start by assuming guns are the problem. Different categories of gun deaths have different causes, and it is not callous to point that out. Suicides have radically different causes than homicides do, and so you need to treat them as a different problem. Upper teens who die as a result of drug and gang activities need to be addressed differently than young children who are killed as a result of a domestic dispute. Mass shootings are a separate cause from domestic violence, which is a separate cause from home invasions, robberies, and other street crimes. Each type of “gun death” has different underlying causes, and lumping them together makes it harder to address any one of those causes.

  97. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    I’m kinda late on this, but I’d just like to point out that the M14 has a muzzle velocity roughly 90% that of the M16 while firing a round (7.62mm NATO) more than twice as heavy as the M16’s (5.56mm NATO/.223 Remington). The damage such a projectile does to a human or animal body is catastrophic and the likelihood of survival is limited even in the absence of a direct hit on a major blood vessel or vital organ. (There are all sorts of theories on hydrostatic shock, but for ethical reasons it’s really hard to design anything near an optimal test for them.) The reason that the Western countries moved away from large rounds like this for basic infantry weapons is that they are very difficult to control in full automatic or even burst fire mode, which made 1950s Western rifles like the M14 and FN FAL effectively semiautomatics for most of the men carrying them. (The Soviets beat the West to this insight by 15 years, and essentially skipped straight from bolt-action rifles to the AK-47.)

    BTW, this stuff can be really fun and interesting, but you have to remember at all times that you’re talking about tools designed to kill living things, and in the case of AR-pattern rifles specifically to kill human beings (even if they’re useful for killing other things). I get the impression that a lot of firearms enthusiasts don’t quite understand the gravity of their hobby; collecting guns is something very different from, say, collecting guitars or model trains or Marie Osmond dolls.

  98. The thing is, Observer, because we haven’t been legally allowed to study gun violence due to NRA lobbying, any statistics cited are going to be somewhat dubious. Of course I know domestic partnership violence is a two-way street, and men are effected too– men I love have been seriously harmed. But the numbers are so small in proportion, you have to forgive me for not centering them. It’s kind of like wanting to chime in with “Not all white people” or “Not all men” or “All lives matter” when all that does is take away from the very real, ongoing and pervasive violence that one group of people experiences completely out of proportion to the other group(s). It also is a way that the majority group tries to re-center themselves, rather than listen to the group trying to be heard. You’re doing that a little bit here.

    Guns ARE a problem in the US. We experience gun violence unlike any other industrialized nation on earth. Our children were killed at school in greater numbers than members of the armed service this last year. You and I (and many others) might disagree on how to go about solving that catastrophe, but we surely agree that we must do something.

    John F’s original arguments that even Justice Scalia didn’t believe the 2A precluded common sense gun regulation. John’s list is common sense. It’s reasonable, and anyone who wishes to hunt (my own family, thank you very much) will still be able to easily manage those checks.

  99. Nonrandom Set says:

    Frank, I like your approach. Rather than both sides continuing to talk past each other, it would be more helpful to discuss specific regulations: “how it would help, what it would deter, and what costs are involved.” Basically a cost/benefit analysis.

  100. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Observer: while all of those deaths have different underlying causes, the ubiquity of handguns makes them far more likely to occur than it would in a regime where handguns were unavailable to the general public. It’s a lot easier for a testosterone-raging teenager to shoot a romantic or gang rival with a handgun than it is to stab him; it’s a lot easier for a possessive boyfriend/husband to shoot his wife than to strangle her; it’s a lot easier for an impulsively suicidal person to shoot himself than to take pills or drive into an overpass support column at 120 mph; and it’s a lot easier for a child to die from an accidental handgun discharge than from an accidental long gun discharge.

    Focusing on the differences obscures the common factors, and in >90% of deaths by firearm the common factor is a handgun.

  101. Is it lunchtime yet? says:

    Observer said the vast majority of annual gun deaths are men.
    Tracy M responded by saying domestic gun violence impacts women and children more.

    These statements can both be true and in fact neither really addresses the other.

  102. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Nonrandom set: the problem is that one side is much more likely to knock over the table and yell “SHALL NOT INFRINGE!” while walking out of the room.

  103. Heptaparaparshinokh, thank you for that comment. My brother-in-law is an ER doctor in St. Louis, and he’s held gunshot bodies together with his bare hands in the ER. The damage inflicted by a high-caliber large round is catastrophic compared to that inflicted by a handgun. One of them he can sometimes save, one of them he can almost never save. That has to be part of the equation in these discussions. These are weapons of war, designed to inflict the most damage on an enemy of war. They may be used to deer hunt, but that’s the very definition of overkill. (and I say that as the child of a responsible hunter who taught me to field dress a deer before my 16th birthday)

  104. Just a point of clarification: The list of common-sense gun regulations in the post isn’t mine in the sense that I dreamed them up. This is one of several similar lists that constitute a package of proposals that make their way through the media and presented to legislators every time there’s yet another mass shooting in the USA (while such mass shootings remain virtually nonexistent in all of our peer developed countries).

  105. Hept @ 2:15pm, very well said. Thank you.

  106. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Tracy M: I’d rather folks “overkill” a whitetail and kill it essentially instantly than have it die agonizingly from bleeding to death, which is what happens with bowhunting.

  107. Heptaparaparshinokh, that’s a whole different conversation. Responsible hunters don’t torture their animals.

  108. jaxjensen says:

    Tim: “Who, then, does it apply to in our day?” My previous post said this: “I think this would apply to anyone using weapons of war to delight in the shedding of innocent blood. Anyone for whom bloodlust is a problem. ”

    “The damage inflicted by a high-caliber large round is catastrophic compared to that inflicted by a handgun.” Except for my .22 pistol, every handgun I own uses a larger bullet than any of my long guns. Handguns use larger rounds/higher calibers than rifles. Saying that a higher caliber is more dangerous than a handgun is a nonsensical since that is what handguns shoot. Rifles generally use smaller bullets (the actual projectile that leaves the barrel).

  109. Observer says:


    It’s actually false that we haven’t been allowed to study gun violence because of the NRA. In fact, the CDC never stopped studying gun violence. For example, in 2015 the CDC released a report on gun violence in Wilmington Delaware (see What they were prohibited from doing was funding advocacy, which is a different matter entirely. That ban came about because in the 1990s, whistleblowers revealed to Congress that the CDC was funding newsletters that advocated for gun control, as well as burying research that undermined gun control arguments. Congress moved to put an end to that behavior in 1996, under the reasoning that it is inappropriate for a branch of the government to fund advocacy against a constitutional right. The entirety of the prohibition stated “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control”. That’s not exactly a ban on research, is it? (In fact, this past February, it was clarified in the Omnibus bill to specify that the CDC can conduct research, just not advocacy.)

    In fact, recently it was revealed that the CDC intentionally did not report pro-gun data from their comprehensive surveys in 1996-1998. (See for some details). If nothing else, my original source for my statistics I gave you should prove that the CDC has been doing gun violence research. They have annual data reaching back to 1981. In addition to the CDC’s research, the DoJ has done extensive research on gun violence.

    And no, the list of gun control proposals in the original post are not “common sense”. Most of them are directed at edge cases (for example, bump stocks have only been used in one crime ever, the Las Vegas shooting), or have already been tried and shown to be ineffective. For example, from 1994 to 2004, there was an “assault weapons ban” in place that also limited magazine size to 10 rounds. During the ban, the DoJ was tasked to study the effectiveness of the ban, and found that it had a statistically negligible effect on crime. Today, there are millions of “assault rifles” as defined by that law in private hands, and yet all rifles combined (including both “hunting rifles” and “assault rifles”) account for a fraction of a percent of all gun deaths each year. How effective is it to ban millions of guns that have numerous legitimate and legal uses because a few hundred are used to commit crimes each year?

    Waiting periods have generally proven ineffective at stopping homicides (and it’s logically absurd to force someone who already owns guns to go through a waiting period before buying another one, under the justification of letting them “cool off”). The original justification for the 5-day waiting period in the Brady law was to perform a background check on the buyer, until the current National Instance Check System could come online. Now, background checks can be performed in 5 minutes rather than 5 days, and the only major issue with NICS has been the failure to get all applicable records into the system (see the Charleston shooting, or Sutherland Springs shooting as examples of that).

    Yes, we should do “something” about gun violence, but the actions we take should be narrowly tailored to what is known to be effective and targeted at the underlying issues of the problem. Better than 99.9% of all gun owners don’t commit crimes with their guns. Solutions should target the less than 0.1% that do without unduly affecting those other 99.9%. Otherwise, you are essentially advocating for collective punishment, which is hardly “common sense”.

  110. jaxjensen, the higher caliber of a handgun is also tied to a much lighter powder load. As I said earlier, muzzle velocity is the cheapest and easiest way to increase the lethal impact of a bullet. Try shooting a .45 ACP or 9mm handgun accurately at 100 yards, and you begin to see the difference. Or compare the size of the brass cartridge on a handgun round versus a long rifle round. And you are much more likely to survive a handgun wound than a rifle wound, given the same access to medical care.

    Everybody gets to do their own definitions, until there is some sort of agreed upon definition by all parties. As you point out, that doesn’t exist, so I am defining it based on what it was originally designed to do. To me, an AR-15 is a military style rifle with all the lethality that implies, minus the full automatic fire of the M16/M4. To you, it’s a great hunting rifle. For the purposes of what constitutes a weapon of war, as stated in the OP, these weapons fit my understanding, I don’t doubt that they make a great hunting rifle, but the line between the two might be much finer than you are admitting.

  111. Nonrandom Set says:

    I would like to respectfully challenge the idea (in the nicest possible way!) that, “we surely agree that we must do something,” at least if that means we must pass a law. I realize that it is probably based a fundamental difference in political orientation in general, but I am firmly of the belief that better than nothing is a high standard. Of course, I understand the impulse (and share the desire) to prevent such tragedies, but I think the idea that we must DO something leads to bad policy, and frequently to many unintended consequences, and may not even address the problem.

    I do agree that we should try to find effective means to prevent these senseless deaths – just not convinced the best way to do that is with these “common-sense” gun regulations, or even that government action is what we need.

  112. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    jax, now you’re just making tortuous distinctions in response to minor linguistic sloppiness. Yes, a 5.56mm NATO round has a smaller bullet than does a 9mm x19 round. It also has dramatically higher impact velocity and consequently much greater momentum.

    The likelihood of surviving a hit at a given distance from a weapon firing 9×19 is much greater than a hit from a weapon firing 5.56mm NATO or 7.62×39. Trauma surgeons have a fighting chance of saving someone’s life who’s been hit in the torso by a 9mm pistol round; they have very little hope of doing so for someone who’s been hit by a round from an AR-pattern rifle firing 5.56mm NATO.

  113. Observer,
    “During the ban, the DoJ was tasked to study the effectiveness of the ban, and found that it had a statistically negligible effect on crime.”
    Since most of the discussion centers on mass shootings and what to do to prevent them and, while they are splashy, they are a statistically negligible portion of overall crime, it is sloppy or dishonest to argue that the assault weapons ban had little effect on overall crime when we are actually trying to find out if it had an effect on mass shootings. See, for instance, this analysis:

    Regarding the Dickey Amendment, I suppose that whether or not you thought it was or is necessary is a matter of what sources you trust, but the Dickey behind it did change his mind before he passed away last year.

  114. Most of [the “common sense” proposals] are directed at edge cases […] Waiting periods have generally proven ineffective at stopping homicides […] the DoJ was tasked to study the effectiveness of the ban, and found that it had a statistically negligible effect on crime

    How about your 3 different carry permits—do they target the heart of the matter? How effective are they at stopping intimate partner violence? Do they have a statistically significant effect on crime? Let’s see the unbiased numbers!

  115. I suspect that this discussion is bound to remain intractable so long as one side considers the gruesome effects of gunfire on human bodies as little more than a pleasantly nerdy debate about ballistics.

    I say this as a pacifist, which means that I would actually rather die than exercise my so-called right to bear arms. Those who live by the gun die by the gun—and those who don’t live by it may also very well end up dying by it. The cross of Jesus speaks as an eternal witness that such things ought not to be.

    Long experience assures me that the pleasantly nerdy debate about ballistics will go on without any regard for my comment. Have at each other, gentlemen, if you wish to call that living.

  116. Observer, cool it. It is absolutely not cool to attack Tracy (or any other commenter) here. That’s fine that you feel strongly about guns. FWIW, though, stricter and more effective gun regulation and legislation isn’t about punishing anybody—it’s about preventing bad things from happening. Sure, most gun owners aren’t going to go out and shoot people up. But several of the recent mass shootings involved somebody taking legally-owned guns from their presumably law-abiding parents. Lots of gun violence is perpetrated with stolen guns. In short, the guns owned by law-abiding individuals nonetheless can end up in the stream of violence, imposing costs on society that aren’t fully borne by the owners of guns. Gun regulation can, and should, try to reduce the violence caused by guns of law-abiding citizens as much as it tries to reduce the violence perpetrated by criminals.

  117. I stopped reading at the “gun owners are racist” thought. It’s exactly comments that like that, that turn off well-meaning people in the middle. Now, I think I’m going to sign up to chaperone the Scouts at the rifle range at Scout Camp (even though I myself haven’t shot a gun in a couple of decades).

  118. Nonrandom Set says:

    “But several of the recent mass shootings involved somebody taking legally-owned guns from their presumably law-abiding parents. Lots of gun violence is perpetrated with stolen guns.”

    This is what I find so puzzling about this debate. The vast majority of these mass shootings were perpetrated by people who either legally obtained the guns, or obtained them from someone who had legally obtained them (whether from the same household, stealing, etc.). How do the proposed regulations have any impact on that? Genuinely asking…

  119. John Mansfield says:

    Yesterday morning a colleague asked me to derive the antiderivative of log( (A*sin(x)-cos(x)+1)/(A*sin(x)+cos(x)-1) ). It was quite an involved procedure with a couple nice surprises. For instance, there was an intermediate factor i/(A-i) – sqrt( (A+i)/(A-i) – 1/(A-i)^2 ). I dragged that around for the whole day before discovering the next morning that it simplified to -1. In the hours of working out formulas like this the question always comes up: Wouldn’t numerical quadrature take care of the issue without all the math analysis?

    That combined with perusing this blog brought alive like never before the old joke about the businessman who consulted a mathematician, an engineer, and a lawyer, and asked each in turn “What is two plus two?”

  120. queno: or don’t. Scouts plinking at targets with .22s is harmless enough, but mightn’t the hour be better spent talking with them about how they can be peacemakers in their communities?

  121. wreddyornot says:

    I was thinking similar thoughts, Jason K., but you said it so well. Ditto.

  122. wreddyornot says:

    Ditto on both entries.

  123. Observer says:


    First of all, I have not attacked anyone here. I attacked Tracy’s arguments and sources, but not Tracy herself. If anything, Tracy’s comment about the “callous way in which [I] dismiss deaths” was closer to a personal attack than anything I said.

    It might help to consider the actual scale of the problem. Mass shootings make up a very small percentage of gun homicides (let alone all gun deaths) each year. We are talking about a number order of 100 out of a pool of almost 15000 deaths each year (source: They are flashy, they are horrifying, but they are also statistically rare. (In fact, school shootings per capita are lower today than they were in the 1990s – see

    The only way to significantly reduce the number of guns in the US (currently approximately 400 million spread across about 100 million owners) would be to repeal the Second Amendment and initiate mandatory buybacks. But what would that entail? Because of the Fifth Amendment, the buybacks would have to provide just compensation. If we assume an average value of $500 per gun, you are still talking about over $200 billion, not counting administrative costs (and $500 is low for the cost of a handgun or rifle). Financially, it would never be feasible without ignoring the Fifth Amendment.

    And there would be those who don’t comply. To enforce such a confiscation/buyback, police would have to literally go door-to-door to search for guns. It would be similar to the manhunt for the Boston bombers, only on a nationwide scale. And all of it would essentially require ignoring the Fourth Amendment to perform the searches.

    There are a total of about 1.1 million law enforcement personnel in the US. If only 1% of gun owners were to resist confiscation, they would be numerically matched with the police. Even if we add in the military (1.2 million people) and the National Guard/Reserves (another 0.8 million), we’re still talking about a pool of 3 million people to perform the searches and confiscations. And that’s assuming that the police/military all agree to help with the confiscation. From what I know of passionate gun owners, 1% is a very low number. It’s more likely to be in the 5-10% range.

    Moreover, those police/military that do participate will be on heightened alert the whole time, which will only lead to someone unarmed getting shot because a cop thought they were pulling out a gun. Think of how jumpy California police were in the Christopher Dorner situation, and magnify that. (At one point, they shot up a pickup truck with two women in it because they thought it might have been Dorner’s. In total, police shot at and injured 3 people because their trucks looked like Dorner’s.) How many incidents like that would it take before resistance to confiscation would increase and passions would be inflamed? How many people, police, military, or civilians, would die under such circumstances? Do you think it would be more or less than the number of victims of mass shootings last year in the US?

    Significantly reducing the number of guns in the US would require shredding a significant portion of the Bill of Rights, and would cost hundreds of lives in the effort. And you still wouldn’t get them all. Anything less than that will ultimately be ineffective (see, for example, how California has virtually all of the desired gun control policies and yet the San Bernadino shootings still happened with guns that were legally purchased in California).

    All of those gun control proposals would effectively restrict the rights of over 100 million gun owners, in an effort to stop on the order of 100 deaths each year. Last I checked, one of the Articles of Faith said (more generally) that we believe a man will be punished for his own sins, and not for someone else’s choices. Why, then, do you seek to restrict the rights of millions because of the actions of a handful of people?

  124. Observer: alternatively, “passionate gun owners” could decide that their hobby is not worth risking the life of even one child and voluntarily relinquish their arms. No apocalyptic police state scenario or infringement of rights required.

    Not holding my breath on this, of course.

  125. Nonrandom Set says:

    And right after that, passionate car owners could decide that their convenience is not worth risking the life of even one child and voluntarily relinquish their cars.

  126. Given that other industrialized countries do not suffer under the bloody burden of gun violence to any similar degree – which implies that we don’t have to suffer that way either – it seems that folks who are against gun regulation must believe one of the following:

    1. It’s hopeless to do anything because there are too many guns in the country already to have a prayer of regulating them.
    2. I need my guns to defend against a) others like me with guns; b) others not like me with guns (invading hordes of brown and/or poor people, probably); c) some future time when it becomes paradoxically patriotic to take down the US government and military.
    3. My guns are fun. I don’t care about the deaths, my pleasure shooting my gun matters more than a dead kid.
    4. Gun deaths are the acceptable price of gun freedom. Regrettable maybe, but Jefferson’s tree of liberty and so forth.

    I find that I can’t write this without being filled with a sick, hopeless outrage. I have known people killed by gun violence at their own hand or the hand of another. I can hardly comprehend a greater evil than complacency at the deaths of children or adults by suicide, accident, or intentional murder. Arguing about caliber, velocity, minutia of definitions? What. the. hell.

  127. John Roberts says:


  128. Cars have a social utility that guns frankly don’t. Such social utility as guns possess arises mostly from the fact that other people have guns. Even the deer population issue is partially a case in point. It’s ouroborotic, a self-consuming cycle of death about which you and so many others are shockingly complacent. “My hobby creates the social conditions for kindergarteners doing active-shooting drills, to their terror.” Look yourself in the mirror and say those words three times.

    We should all drive less (and drive slower), for a whole host of reasons, but that’s another conversation.

  129. Observer,
    You continue to avoid the specific issue being discussed. Whether or not it is a good idea to reduce gun ownership generally, it does not specifically have anything to do with mass shootings or proposals regarding mass shootings. Focus, please.

    As I have already acknowledged that mass shootings are statistically rare, I feel a need to note that death or injury in a terrorist act is also statistically rare (in fact, it appears to be rarer than death or injury in a mass shooting) and yet we’ve allowed all sorts of checks and limits, both legal and cultural, to alter our constitutional rights in the name of avoiding future terrorist assault. So going on a long rant about the costs and benefits of lowering overall gun ownership rings a bit hollow.

  130. Also, if anyone compares guns to cars then they are stupid and their arguments can safely be ignored.

  131. Nonrandom Set says:

    Calling people stupid who you don’t agree with and ignoring their arguments is not a great way to convince people. I’m beginning to wonder if the point isn’t actually to try to change anything but more as a display of moral superiority. I am not a gun owner, and frankly don’t ever plan on being one, but I’m also generally inclined against additional regulation in most areas, at least without some analysis of the effectiveness, costs, and consequences of proposed regulation. I am a prime candidate to be convinced and yet, I’m told that I’m shockingly complacent, need to look in the mirror, stupid, and can safely be ignored.

    The reason I brought up cars is not because they are the same as guns, but because it illustrates that we do this kind of analysis all the time without even thinking about it. Car accidents are the cause of an enormous amount of deaths. And we’ve implemented laws that try to reduce that, but we also take the tradeoff – no one is trying to reduce car accidents to zero because it would have a host of other negative impacts.

  132. We make that tradeoff, though, because we’ve structured our society to make cars more or less necessary. Arguably, we’ve done the same with guns, now that some people want my kids’ elementary school teachers to pack heat. I’m not especially ok with either of these developments, but I’m way less ok with the latter. A society that treats a kindergarten classroom as a tactical space hardly deserves the name “civilized.” Gun owners, however, seem willing to accept that as the price of their hobby.

  133. Nonrandom Set says:

    I’m not sure it’s helpful to cast a wide swath of people as uniformly holding the same viewpoint. Some surely do; others undoubtedly don’t. But it wouldn’t surprise me if either group was unwilling to engage with people who hold them in contempt. Perhaps it’s time we all take a look in the mirror…

  134. I freely acknowledge that I become irrational and intemperate when I think about my children using school time to prepare for the live possibility that someone will come into their school and use an implement of lethal force—that his (they’re usually male) parent obtained legally and handled responsibly—to inflict slaughter and terror. On the other hand, maybe that’s what civics instruction requires these days.

  135. Nonrandom Set says:

    It’s interesting that there’s not even a single comment on this thread that’s tried to make the case for one of the proposed regulations in terms of effectiveness.

  136. nobody, really says:

    Nonrandom Set: I addressed each proposed regulation in terms of a real-world situation.

  137. Nonrandom Set says:

    nobody, really – sorry, meant making the case for, not against.

  138. How times have changed. For vast numbers of Americans, gun ownership today is as much an intentional middle finger to “liberals” as it is about anything else. This is despite the fact that many, many liberals are also gun hobbyists. And many conservatives and liberals, on a bipartisan basis, want to see many or even all of the common-sense gun regulations listed in the post as an effort to save our children.

    My grandfather was a major hunting enthusiast — the kind who constantly went hunting and made his own bullets in the basement. He would never have dreamed of hunting with an AR-pattern rifle. He would have viewed this as a shameful mockery of the sacred ritual of obtaining meat for the family through hunting. He was of that old-school gun owner who treated his many guns (hunting rifles) with a kind of awesome reverence — always locked in a gun cabinet in a part of the house kids weren’t allowed to go. If he had any interest in the NRA, it was because the NRA used to focus on gun safety and common-sense gun regulations, before being hijacked by culture warriors and intentionally, cynically used as a permanent wedge issue to drive hostility by gun owners against the rest of the nation.

    In the Spencer W. Kimball era, many very orthodox Mormons followed President Kimball’s counsel and laid down their weapons, including their hunting weapons permanently. I am blessed to have such Latter-day Saints in my family. This doesn’t mean it was easy for them to give up the gun fetish, but they persevered, the same way many are able to overcome pornography addictions. I am very grateful for their good examples.

    I agree that gun regulations are a less ideal solution than our people voluntarily laying down their weapons and rejecting gun idolatry, gun porn, and gun culture entirely. Sadly, I’m not seeing very many self-described politically “conservative” opinion leaders or politicians leading a Culture War against that libertine, decadent dominant culture.

    How wonderful it would be if Mormon politicians who boast of their “conservative” political agendas not only supported the common-sense gun regulations listed in the original post in the interest of protecting our children from further mass school shootings but also made speeches encouraging all to oppose the dominant gun culture and to get rid of their weapons voluntarily. It would be a major step toward the establishment of Zion.

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