The Annapolis Shooting and the Gun Debate

Jarrod Ramos should have been in jail, let alone allowed to have any weapon more dangerous than a butter knife.


I initially had this at the end of my post “When the Press Becomes the Story” but wanted to separate the back-and-forth on guns from that particular story angle.

I’m loath to give the perpetrator of this atrocity publicity but, since it will inevitably be fodder for the gun control debate, it’s worth shedding light on the particulars.

Baltimore Sun (“Sources identify suspect in Annapolis Capital shooting as Jarrod Ramos, who had long-running feud with paper“):

A Laurel man with a long-standing grudge against The Capital is being held as the suspect in the deadly shooting Thursday at the Annapolis newspaper, according to law enforcement sources.

Police and federal agents gathered late Thursday outside the address of 38-year-old Jarrod W. Ramos. Rich McLaughlin, chief of the Laurel police department, said his officers were there as part of the investigation into the shooting at the newspaper, and other sources identified Ramos as the suspect.

In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper and a columnist over a July 2011 article that covered a criminal harassment charge against him.

He brought the suit against then-columnist Eric Hartley, naming Capital Gazette Communications and Thomas Marquardt, the paper’s former editor and publisher, as defendants.

A Twitter page in Ramos’ name on Thursday featured Hartley’s picture as its avatar, and a banner image included photographs of Marquardt and The Capital’s former owner, Philip Merrill.

The page’s bio read: “Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the s— out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”

The account regularly commented on Anne Arundel County news and referred to a deadly shooting at the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

The account had been dormant since January 2016. Then at 2:37 p.m. Thursday — moments before the Capital shooting — the account posted a message that read: “F— you, leave me alone.”

The kicker:

Marquardt said he wasn’t surprised to hear Ramos identified as the alleged gunman, saying he started harassing the paper and its staff shortly after the 2011 article. The harassment escalated for years with online threats, Marquardt said.

“I was seriously concerned he would threaten us with physical violence,” Marquardt said from his retirement home in Florida. “I even told my wife, ‘We have to be concerned. This guy could really hurt us.’ ”

Marquardt said he called the Anne Arundel County police about Ramos in 2013, but nothing came of it. He consulted the paper’s lawyers about filing a restraining order, but decided against it.

“I remember telling our attorneys, ‘This is a guy who is going to come in and shoot us,’ ” he said.

The New York Times story  (“Who Is Jarrod Ramos, the Suspect in the Annapolis Newsroom Shooting?“) contains this bit:

Jarrod W. Ramos, who law enforcement sources say used a shotgun to blast his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom on Thursday, killing five people and wounding two others, had a long-running dispute with the news organization.

He had previously made “general threats” against the community newspaper company over social media, including some as recent Thursday, said William Krampf, Anne Arundel County’s acting police chief. The threats “indicated violence,” Chief Krampf said.

So, we have a man who has made repeated threats of violence against the employees of a newspaper. Over years. And again on the day of the shooting. Police were repeatedly notified. And nothing was done about it?

We have a problem with gun violence in this country of a magnitude unlike any other civilized society. The Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of the Second Amendment aside, I’m persuadable that we need more restrictions of what types of firearms are in private hands and, certainly, of which individuals are allowed to own them. But we’re never going to ban shotguns, the quintessential hunting and sporting firearm. But, one would think even the most zealous NRA member would agree that Jarrod Ramos ought not been allowed to have any weapon more dangerous than a butter knife.

Indeed, the notion that someone who makes repeated threats of violence should be walking free—and that the only legal remedy is a civil restraining order—is ludicrous. Especially since, as it turns out, Ramos’ violent tendencies were not directed solely at the newspaper. From the NYT report:

His feud with The Capital, the chain’s daily newspaper, apparently began with a column in 2011 that detailed his alleged harassment of a high school classmate.

After Mr. Ramos reconnected with the classmate in 2009, his emails to her soon turned venomous.

“He seems to think there’s some sort of relationship here that does not exist,” the woman told a judge, according to court documents in a harassment case she brought against Mr. Ramos. “I tried to back away from it, and he just started getting angry and vulgar to the point I had to tell him to stop.”

After she told him not to contact her again, Mr. Ramos wrote in a 2010 email that the woman should “go hang yourself.”

Weeks later, the woman was put on probation at the bank where she worked. A supervisor told her it was because Mr. Ramos had sent an email — and had also called the bank — telling managers that the bank should fire her.

A judge gave Mr. Ramos a 90-day sentence, but suspended the jail time. Instead, Mr. Ramos was granted probation before judgment. He was ordered not to contact the woman and to continue getting therapy.

Not long afterward, The Capital published the column that apparently fueled his anger.

We have far more people per capita in jail than any other modern nation. Why did it take a murder spree for Ramos to join them?

UPDATE: In the discussion below, regular commenter HarvardLaw92 provides a useful corrective:

The matter before the initial court dealt with someone with – as far as I can tell anyway – no prior criminal history who plead guilty to a misdemeanor crime which is not characterized as a crime of violence. Probation – as distasteful as I agree that it being applied here was – was the appropriate outcome.

The law is woefully weak with respect to proactively neutralizing someone like this looney tune with respect to their ability to possess firearms. Current policy effectively addresses the problem – the blatantly obvious potential for violence – after the fact. After the nutjob has acted violently.

How we deal with that – how we improve it – is a matter for some discussion, but it is unavoidably going to involve a compromise that weakens civil liberties. That’s the price America is going to have to decide it’s willing to pay. I don’t think it will be.

So, it appears that our frustration in this matter should be with our legal framework, not law enforcement or the judge.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Not only was Ramos allowed to walk free to threaten and finally kill five people, but the woman he harassed was punished for what he did to her. An obviously violent loon calls and emails a bank to trash an employee–and the bank responds by putting the employee on probation? Like she’s responsible?

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: I don’t know the full story there but am guessing it was just path of least resistance—her presence is causing disruption in a business that’s incredibly intolerant of disruption. But, yeah, awful all around.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My old union business rep’s wife was stalked for years by a mentally unstable individual who lived about a mile from their rural home. In addition to getting a restraining order against him, the man also had several warrants out for his arrest. He continued stalking her and threatening my rep. If they saw he was at home when they drove past his place they would call 911. Did no good as the county sheriffs department always had other more pressing matters to deal with and their house was soooo far away. Eventually it became obvious that not only were they alone out there, they were on their own. So they took what steps they could, securing their property and also buying his and hers handguns and becoming proficient with them.

    The inevitable finally happened one night when the a-hole broke into their house while they were sleeping in bed. Long story short, his wife was shot twice (arm and abdomen?) while wrestling with the a-hole for his gun, my rep was shot once in the neck, and the a-hole was killed. The amount of luck involved in that result can not be overstated, but the fact remains it was a completely avoidable tragedy that was the result of repeated failures in policing.

  4. CSK says:

    It seems that everything that was done was done to accommodate Ramos: probation before judgment, suspended sentence, no police action in the face of repeated violent threats…

    The victims? Tough luck. Them’s the breaks.

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  5. CSK says:

    @James Joyner:

    According to the story in the Daily Beast, the bank ultimately fired her. So Ramos cost her her job–with no repercussions for him.

  6. teve tory says:

    erratum:

    I’m loathe to give the perpetrator of this atrocity but, since it will inevitably be fodder for the gun control debate, it’s worth shedding light on the particulars.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    But, one would think even the most zealous NRA member would agree that Jarrod Ramos ought not been allowed to have any weapon more dangerous than a butter knife.

    Today, maybe, since it fits their “mental illness” dodge. Last week? No.
    Do they even agree men with domestic violence restraining orders should be disarmed?

  8. teve tory says:

    @gVOR08: The NRA has argued in an amicus curiae brief that if someone hasn’t been convicted of domestic violence, taking their guns would be a “sweeping and arbitrary infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.”

    https://www.nraila.org/articles/20000215/nra-s-friend-of-the-court-brief-in-us-2

  9. KM says:

    @CSK:

    but the woman he harassed was punished for what he did to her.

    That’s actually incredibly, depressingly common. Most businesses really don’t care about what they’d term “drama” and the affected individual would call “stalking.” Abusers know this and deliberately cause trouble at the victim’s job to get them censored, demoted or even fired. It’s designed to intentionally cause long-term harm and businesses are generally willing to comply because they don’t want to get involved.

  10. KM says:

    @teve tory :
    *sigh* Why are you making me defend the NRA before my coffee? Technically they are correct – one should never permanently lose a right because of an unsubstantiated accusation. Imagine, all it would take is one little lie by a stalker and suddenly their victim is disarmed forever.

    However, it should be included in all background checks for at least ten years with a note. When researching someone’s newest purchase and they have “Five (5) DV Accusation – Unsubstantiated” in less then a decade, someone might go “hmmm this might not be the best idea”. This is the problem I have with purging records – it erases a trail we kinda need to track people like this. We keep complaining about red flags missed but it’s always because the system is designed to burn the flag after it gets waved once.

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  11. Kathy says:

    Police have more important things to worry about, like raising revenue through unfair asset seizures, prosecuting the losing war on drugs, keeping out illegal immigrants who may contribute to the US economy by working. In view of these prior and more important commitments, they can’t possibly find the time to protect the people they’ve swore to protect.

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  12. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Somebody has to state the unpopular, so I guess it might as well be me.

    The matter before the initial court dealt with someone with – as far as I can tell anyway – no prior criminal history who plead guilty to a misdemeanor crime which is not characterized as a crime of violence. Probation – as distasteful as I agree that it being applied here was – was the appropriate outcome.

    These cases – where someone uses communications to disparage & harass, but doesn’t physically assault, etc. – are difficult for the law in its present form to handle. The law is woefully weak with respect to proactively neutralizing someone like this looney tune with respect to their ability to possess firearms. Current policy effectively addresses the problem – the blatantly obvious potential for violence – after the fact. After the nutjob has acted violently.

    How we deal with that – how we improve it – is a matter for some discussion, but it is unavoidably going to involve a compromise that weakens civil liberties. That’s the price America is going to have to decide it’s willing to pay. I don’t think it will be.

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  13. teve tory says:

    A woman on twitter posted this:

    Raise your hand if you know (or are) a journalist who has received a death threat in the last year.

    read the replies.

  14. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    I think about this more often than I used to, because I live in a building with a mentally ill woman who routinely stalks and harasses other residents. The head of the condo board believes that if we humor her, she’ll “calm down,” to use his phrase. I don’t think so.

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    Mental illness generally never improves on its own, IMO. It gets worse and it escalates. We have a friend in Manhattan who dealt with a similar problem – an unstable person with an imagined gripe against the co-op board – who steadily escalated from threats to property damage to the suspected eventual killing of pets.

    Unfortunately, the sole determining criterion for involuntary commitment in NY State is danger – is the person a danger to him/herself or to others? – and that bar was just too steep for everyone concerned to be able to meet. The individual involved skirted the grey area between “this guy seems crazy” and “this guy is demonstrably crazy sayeth the doctors” successfully enough that he was able to avoid being committed. Believe me, they tried.

    The guy eventually took a swan dive onto Central Park West and solved the larger problem – the effect his illness had on everybody else – for them, but the basic problem causing the entire mess – the guy needed help, wouldn’t seek it on his own and wasn’t crazy enough for doctors to be willing to risk a lawsuit by signing off on an invol order – went unresolved. It was a lose / lose for everybody concerned, with the possible exception that he at least didn’t take anybody else with him when he went.

    I would seriously explore whatever options are available in your state. These people do not spontaneously improve. They get worse.

  16. Kathy says:

    Do you know the parable of the frog that gets boiled because the temperature increases so slowly it gets used to it?

    When you look back at history, you begin to find things people have gotten used to in such fashion. Like firearms.

    The first guns were cannons, mostly used to knock down walls around cities. Cannons have kept evolving, both in design and purpose, to this day. An early offshoot was the “hand cannon,” which is regarded as the first type of firearm carried by one person.

    There’s a progression thence to matchlock arms (which used a lit fuse to fire a powder charge), to flintlock arms, to percussion cap arms, to self-contained cartridges; and from muzzle-loading, to breech-loading, to magazine weapons.

    For instance, as late as the US Civil War, a well-drilled soldier carrying a percussion cap, muzzle-loading rifle might have been able to fire two aimed shots in one minute. Though even then there were single action revolvers, which could fire 6 to 8 rounds in a minute or less before needing to be reloaded (though they were short range), and the Winchester repeating rifle, which used cartridges little different from modern ones, had an internal magazine, and was quick to reload. Notwithstanding the latter two, it was the single-shot, muzzle-loader that made the bulk of the weapons carried by both sides in that war.

    Today you can buy a semiautomatic AR-15 which can fire twenty rounds in one minute, or a semiautomatic pistol capable of firing 10-15 rounds in a similar span of time. Both take mere seconds to reload.

    The changes were gradual enough, and limited enough, that we kind of got used to them. To the point that history books often don’t even mention rates of fire, ease of loading, or other factors that contributed to how battles were shaped. Guns are guns, after all.

    But different kinds of guns make a big difference in lethality. Today you can buy a weapon that outmatches almost all military guns in existence in the past. And that’s without even taking into account things like reliability, or the kind of propellants used to fire bullets.

    Back in the 1880s, when the US Constitution was drafted, the pre-eminent military weapon was the Brown Bess, smooth-bore, flintlock, muzzle-loading musket. The best ammo for it was the buck-and-ball, wherein you charged it with buckshot and ball instead of the usual lone ball, as the weapon was quite inaccurate. It strains credulity to think the people at the time would have viewed an AR-15 or a MAC-10 as they saw a Brown Bess.

  17. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Thanks. Ironically, the head of the condo board, who seems determined to protect this woman at all costs, is himself a lawyer. (She’s no relation to him, as far as I know.) She’s driven at least two people from the building. She herself is an owner, which makes the situation more complicated.

  18. JKB says:

    @HarvardLaw92: These cases – where someone uses communications to disparage & harass, but doesn’t physically assault, etc. – are difficult for the law in its present form to handle. …

    How we deal with that – how we improve it – is a matter for some discussion, but it is unavoidably going to involve a compromise that weakens civil liberties. That’s the price America is going to have to decide it’s willing to pay. I don’t think it will be.

    Well, yes they are hard to handle. In the world your comment envisions, Rep. Maxine Waters would be under arrest, assuming equal treatment under the law. Certainly, many of those who have used communications to disparage and harass Administration officials and then showed up to where they are dining, their homes, on the street.

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  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    I suspect for him that it’s more about avoiding litigation at all costs. I get why, but sometimes you have to do what needs to be done regardless of the unpleasant effects doing so invokes. The basic problem in dealing with these people tends to be that nobody wants to get involved. They’re going to have to, methinks.

    It won’t be pretty, but I’d consider doing it. First step is to start documenting everything, every instance of questionable behavior in excruciating detail – ideally in sworn affidavits. It’ll make it easier to act when the time comes.

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JKB:

    Who said anything about arresting people? The comment was directed at preemptively disarming those with a demonstrated, legitimate potential for violence – which even someone as dumb as yourself should have been able to grasp. If you want to try to preemptively disarm Maxine Waters, have at it. Knock yourself out 🙂

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  21. Kathy says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    but the basic problem causing the entire mess – the guy needed help, wouldn’t seek it on his own and wasn’t crazy enough for doctors to be willing to risk a lawsuit by signing off on an invol order – went unresolved.

    I think it’s obvious the all-or-nothing approach to social problems, and to mental illness in particular, is not just flawed, but a resounding failure. I mean, if the choices are 1) do nothing and 2) commit a person for an indefinite period of time to a psychiatric facility (and risk being sued doing so), the first option is by far the most appealing. Afer all, even mentally ill people rarely really harm anyone else.

    I know it’s largely a dirty word by now, but what’s needed to deal with these issues is nuance.

    Mental illness is a complex issue, with a great deal of variability, and it doesn’t always require multi-year intensive treatment at a psychiatric hospital. You could try having a psychiatrist or psychologist simply talk with the affected person, before resorting to more extreme means

  22. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy:

    Back in the 1880s, when the US Constitution was drafted, the pre-eminent military weapon was the Brown Bess, smooth-bore, flintlock, muzzle-loading musket. The best ammo for it was the buck-and-ball, wherein you charged it with buckshot and ball instead of the usual lone ball, as the weapon was quite inaccurate. It strains credulity to think the people at the time would have viewed an AR-15 or a MAC-10 as they saw a Brown Bess.

    Sure. But, of the schools of Constitutional interpretation, “What would the Framers want?” is the least useful. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for judges to take into account what the words meant at the time but also to apply reasonable judgment about technological change. So, for example, freedom of the press clearly applies to the Internet, which the Framers could never have conceived, but there is likely all manner of regulation of the Internet that wouldn’t be permissible vis-a-vis a newspaper.

    Regardless, though, it would be hard to come up with a conception of the 2nd Amendment that didn’t allow law-abiding citizens to own pump-action shotguns, the weapon in question here. Legislatively, almost no one wants to ban legitimate hunting and sporting weapons. So, here at least, the question isn’t the weapon itself but under what circumstances individuals forfeit their right to own one.

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Kathy:

    I don’t think that involuntary institutionalization is a panacea, and didn’t mean to suggest that if it’s how the comment came across. I was just asserting that the danger of imminent harm isn’t the best criterion to be utilizing when determining whether society should intervene to address the problem by neutralizing, to the extent possible, their ability to inflict harm. Waiting until someone is actuated to shoot / stab / blow something up before we intervene is, IMO, sheer stupidity. We don’t necessarily have to confine someone in order to address their problem, agreed, but the current binary situation is broken.

    For starters, a demonstrated pattern of ongoing harassment like that demonstrated by this crazy – whether it involves physical assault or not – should be a legitimate basis for disarming someone unless and until that person’s mental health has been signed off by a doctor.

    I’ve even entertained the idea, in discussions with peers, about making a certification of sufficient mental health – with periodic re-certification of the same – a prerequisite for being permitted to possess a firearm. Try selling that one in Grover’s Corners, Idaho though …

  24. MarkedMan says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    It won’t be pretty, but I’d consider doing it. First step is to start documenting everything, every instance of questionable behavior in excruciating detail – ideally in sworn affidavits. It’ll make it easier to act when the time comes.

    I just want to second this and add that it extends to many other situations. You often hear that “everyone knew” about someone’s egregious behavior but that management failed to act. Speaking for management, I can tell you that it is a world of difference when there are specific and documented issues that take place over a span of time and when there are some vague hints or a “heads up” but not willing to go on record. At one point I had an employee who became increasingly unproductive and started behaving aggressively towards me and a few others. I truly became worried for my family and myself because of his language and actions. Because of the way it was documented we had a number of different options on how to deal with it. As important, I got a neutral professional involved early. I can think of at least one situation where one employee was behaving unprofessionally towards another to the extent it was affecting the work of a dozen highly paid people. Unfortunately my colleague, the main target, tried to handle it himself for several months. And by that time he had gotten into public shouting matches with the other person, disparaged her to other colleagues, etc and although the instigator was eventually terminated it left a big blot on his record and reputation.

  25. MarkedMan says:

    As for the issue James started with on this post, I mostly agree with him. The NRA has successfully set the legal standard so that there is no legitimate reason to disarm someone short of conviction of a violent felony. That is bad.

    But. (There’s always a but.) I’m not clear how much this applies in this case. There is a limit to what a government can do. I guess you could make the legitimate argument that if people knew there was a mechanism to disarm people who harassed them, they might have pursued it and with enough blots on his record he could have been denied a shotgun. But that wouldn’t help in cases where people just snap.

    Handguns and especially assault rifles are, to me, in and of themselves a warning flag. People that own them aren’t often homocidal nutballs, but homocidal nutballs often own them (and talk endlessly about them, and tote them around in public, and threaten they will use a second amendment solution, etc etc).

  26. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92: @MarkedMan:

    In my case, I’ve saved most of the truly deranged emails this woman has sent to all of us, including the members of the condo board. When one of the residents responded to her–and cc’ed all of us–that she cease sending him this junk, he (and all of us) were informed by the board head that this had caused “hurt feelings.” The law in my state is pretty clear that she has to cause physical harm to herself or someone else before she can be restrained in some way.

    To my eternal regret, I trashed the email she sent me in which she wrote: “I know when you’re here and when you’re not here.” I did notify the building manager, whose response was: “I suggest you talk to her.” No, thanks.

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    1) You need to elect a new board head.

    2) If all she is doing is emailing, it’ll be difficult to build anything actionable (since you can just block her emails). If she’s doing more than that, and they eventually always do IMO, it’s just a question of involving a motivated attorney.

  28. JKB says:

    @HarvardLaw92: The comment was directed at preemptively disarming those with a demonstrated, legitimate potential for violence

    And what, pray tell, if they choose not to be disarmed?

    When we’re saying “the government should intervene,” we’re saying “an organization with guns should threaten to lock people in cages if they don’t comply with its dictates.”
    –Art Carden, Econlog

    And how will you know they are disarmed until you physically search them and theirs?

    Waters called for officials to be forced from places they have a legal right to be? What if they won’t go? What if they “stand their ground”?

    From the post:

    “I was seriously concerned he would threaten us with physical violence,” Marquardt said

    “Concerned he would threaten”? That’s a feeling, not evidence of violence. And one that the individual didn’t feel strong enough to even get a restraining order, which would have at least demonstrated reasonable fear. And also, permitted police to interdict the individual if they entered the exclusion zone.

    Where would your “legitimate potential for violence” have been demonstrated in this case as opposed to Rep. Waters or one of the “protestors” harassing officials?

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JKB:

    And what, pray tell, if they choose not to be disarmed?

    Disarm them by force if that’s what’s required to protect society. I’m not a civil libertarian. If your goal is to somehow make that point, allow me to save you the effort. The greater good with respect to protecting society from the legitimate risk of harm is always superior to the rights of the individual. Pursuing that preemptively doesn’t bother me in the least.

    And how will you know they are disarmed until you physically search them and theirs?

    Hence the beauty of a court order – you’re allowed to. Helpful hint – in a discussion between “disarm the nutjob before he kills somebody” (my side) and “the nutjob has an absolute right to own firearms until after he’s killed someone” (your side), you’re going to lose anybody who isn’t a gun fetishist or a civil liberties absolutist.

    Where would your “legitimate potential for violence” have been demonstrated in this case as opposed to Rep. Waters or one of the “protestors” harassing officials?

    You mean besides a demonstrated and ongoing pattern characterized by a desire to, indeed by explicit threats to, do harm? This person did not harass her once – he did so repeatedly, over an extended period of time, and his behavior became more threatening and more overt as it progressed. We call that escalation.

    Waters made a stupid statement, but trying to compare the pattern evinced by this disturbed individual to suggesting that protestors heckle administration officials in public places – or, indeed, actually heckling administration officials in public places – is at best, asinine.

    Or, in other words, par for the course for you.

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  30. wr says:

    @JKB: “Rep. Maxine Waters would be under arrest, assuming equal treatment under the law. ”

    Cool. Are you the one who’s been sending her death threats, or are you just cheering them on?

  31. tm01 says:

    @Kathy:

    keeping out illegal immigrants who may contribute to the US economy by working

    I thought they weren’t taking jobs from Americans? Thanks for using the phrase Illegal Immigrants tho. I appreciate that.

  32. TM01 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The greater good with respect to protecting society from the legitimate risk of harm is always superior to the rights of the individual

    Now THAT’S dangerous thinking right there.

    That’s the kind of thinking dictators use to justify all kinds of atrocities.

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @TM01:

    Because disarming a nutjob is akin to implementing a dictatorship. Reductio ad absurdum. Gotcha …

    You’re an example of the “civil liberties absolutist” I referred to above, and you walked right into the actual argument I wanted. Strategic thinking has never been your strong suit.

    Are you asserting that mentally ill people should be allowed to retain possession of firearms? Please expand on this belief. Explain to us why it is desirable to allow mentally ill individuals to be armed.

  34. Tyrell says:

    Suspended sentence – another soft slap on the wrist judicial action. This man should have been locked up – throw the key away long ago.

  35. Kathy says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I don’t think that involuntary institutionalization is a panacea, and didn’t mean to suggest that if it’s how the comment came across.

    I was criticizing the system, not your comment.

  36. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Kathy:

    No worries. It was a fair point that needed to be made.

  37. KM says:

    @JKB :

    And what, pray tell, if they choose not to be disarmed?

    And this right here is why gun nuts have become increasingly unhinged over the last half century. They’ve been fed lie after lie about giant conspiracies trying to steal everybody’s guns that when a fairly reasonable suggestion – take guns away from violent individuals who show imminent disaster without intervention – is suggested, ya’ll go all Molon Labe and start fantasizing about Wolverines and a glorious Red Dawn.

    Fun fact: back in the day, this would not have been a controversial notion. Owners understood that nutcases existed and that keeping firearms away from them was a not a bad idea. It’s only since the NRA realized that dripping poison in their members ears of they’re coming for you boosted sales did owners cease to recognize what used to be common sense. When did the fear become so enmeshed that “guy who beats on his girlfriend, leaves threatening messages that he’s coming to kill you all and is visibly homicidal so they want to take his guns” become “dude who looks like me, leave him be”?

    The 2A has *never* been un-infringed – there’s *always* been conditions owners have accepted, even if it was property rights and whether you can carry on private grounds against the landlord’s wishes. Its only when that slogan became a weaponized meme that people forget rationality and started turning into Private Pyle.

  38. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Sure. But, of the schools of Constitutional interpretation, “What would the Framers want?” is the least useful.

    It’s not what the Framers would want, but what the context of the times was.

    So, for example, freedom of the press clearly applies to the Internet, which the Framers could never have conceived, but there is likely all manner of regulation of the Internet that wouldn’t be permissible vis-a-vis a newspaper.

    This is a good example. The First amendment speaks, in the part relevant to this discussion, of a prohibition to enact laws “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;”

    That principle doesn’t change regardless of the means of expressing or publishing speech, even if the means have changed a great deal.

    In the context of the 1780s, with small standing armies which needed militias to augment fighting strength in the event of war, it makes perfect sense to allow free ownership of firearms (though the second amendment mentions arms without specifying a type). This held for a very long time, too.

    But it’s no longer relevant. Not with a large standing military, plus reserves and the National Guard. Also, guns these days are tremendously more lethal than they were back then (context). So it’s not about what the Framers wanted, as much as why, and what do we in the present want and and need now.

  39. teve tory says:

    I’m not sure how to look this up but I recall reading that in some 18th/19th century locales you could own a gun and be in the militia but the gun had to be stored in the armory, you weren’t allowed to keep it at home. If the Founders considered this constitutional it opens up some possibilities…

    …except that now the SCOTUS will be Republican for another several decades and this is all irrelevant.

  40. TM01 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    The only absurdum here is you.

    The greater good with respect to protecting society from the legitimate risk of harm is always superior to the rights of the individual

    Always? Really?

    And who decides what is legitimate? Or what the risk is?

    You?

    Please.

    We have a Constitution to protect the individual from the dangers inherent in majority always rules.

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  41. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @TM01:

    You didn’t answer the question (which isn’t surprising). Let’s try again …

    Are you asserting that mentally ill individuals should be allowed to possess firearms?

  42. Gustopher says:

    I think the time has come for me to get my non-profit Handguns For The Homeless off the ground with a pilot program in, say, Arizona.

    Homeless people are frequently victimized, and would benefit from the ability to defend themselves. Even if a given homeless person chooses not to have a gun, the simple fact that many homeless people have guns would serve as a deterrent— they wouldn’t be seen as an easy target.

    Obviously, this would have to happen in a concealed carry state, as openly carrying a gun while asking for change might be construed as armed robbery.

    Many homeless people are good, honest, hardworking people who are just own on their luck. And many other homeless people have only misdemeanor convictions, and have not had their legal, constitutional rights to own a firearm stripped from them in a court of law, even if they happen to be completely insane.

    It’s an idea that would seem to pass muster with the TM01 crowd. It’s the exact opposite of government gun grabbing.

    Why, the next time there’s a mass shooting, just think, if we had armed the guy panhandling on the corner, he might have been the good guy with a gun that would have stopped this travesty. Can we really afford to not arm the homeless, to the maximum extent allowed by law?

  43. gVOR08 says:

    OK, this thread is old, so maybe this won’t collect as much pushback as I expect, and I may ignore what I do get. First, the current Federalist Society/NRA interpretation of the Second is ahistorical nonsense. “A well regulated militia” was not throat clearing, to be ignored by Scalia et al. The amendment was, more than anything else, intended to buy ratification by assuring Virginians the new Federal Government wouldn’t disarm the slave patrols. Although it was hardly questioned, for most of the last century the courts held it to be a collective, not individual right, and were comfortable with state and local restrictions. In how many old Wyatt Earp movies did he prohibit guns in town? Did you see anyone say, “But Wyatt, the Second Amendment!”
    The First Amendment is necessary, because otherwise I could be jailed for some of the things I’ve said about Trumpsky. The Third prohibits an abuse experienced under the Crown. The Fourth is necessary to prevent the cops from breaking down any door they feel like, looking for evidence to go after whoever they feel like. And so on. But the Second, as currently interpreted, protects a rather symbolic right. Were we to err on the side of caution and take guns away from accused domestic abusers or the mentally incompetent, what real harm is done? You’re not the boss of me? We’re among the safest people who have ever lived. Is it that big a deal to deprive someone of his defense against a largely imaginary threat? Depriving someone of his “Second Amendment Rights” to defense is roughly akin to depriving him of his right to fly to Mars. Except that it reduces overall risk to himself and his family. And exemptions could be allowed for the few cases where someone can actually show need.

  44. teve tory says:

    I think the time has come for me to get my non-profit Handguns For The Homeless off the ground with a pilot program in, say, Arizona.

    I’ve said before, if a liberal billionaire wanted serious gun control he or she could offer a free AR-15 to any black person of legal age and appropriate background check status. We’d have gun control by next Friday at the latest.

  45. gVOR08 says:

    @teve tory: I expect you’re aware of this, but our younger readers may not be. As Governor of CA St. Ronald of Bel Air went all in on gun control when the Black Panthers started open carrying.