Sunday, September 25, 2011

Joan Peterson's Positions

I have been reading Joan Peterson's blog Common Gunsense for a few months, and like many pro-rights people I have wondered where she stands on particular issues.  Others have tried to explain what Joan believes, as well. This is sometimes hard to discern from her rather preachy articles, but her replies to comments are often very illuminating.  I have to mention that she is quite articulate in her beliefs, and despite the comments of people on her blog, has been consistent and uncompromising. In the following paragraphs I paraphrase her positions as I have come to understand them from reading her blog, and then include my comments. Let us begin:
  1. Joan Peterson supports a ban on standard capacity magazines, and wants to limit magazine capacity.
  2. Joan Peterson supports restriction of firearms ownership rights of felons and mentally ill.
  3. Joan Peterson supports a ban on certain types of assault weapon, particularly the AK-47, the weapon in question in this URL.
  4. She seems to support a ban on new purchases, with non-transferable ownership right for owners of newly banned weapons upon a new law going into effect.
These positions are supported by this post:
"More importantly here is that we should be restricing high capacity magazines and we should also restrict access to guns for people like this in any and all ways we can. We should also reconsider a ban on certain types of assault weapons. It would take a while to get them off the streets, but eventually, we may be able to have some sanity in our country regarding guns."
I fully support point number 2, and it is the law today that felons and mentally ill individuals cannot buy firearms.  But with so many firearms in circulation, and private party sales not requiring background checks, prohibited people can still legitimately purchase firearms. 
  1. Joan Peterson believes that more guns necessarily result in more guns deaths.
  2. Joan Peterson believes that guns should be properly and safely secured against theft and accidental use.
  3. Joan Peterson does not believe that a gun ban is legally possible.
  4. Joan Peterson believes that gun confiscation was never an option.
These positions are supported by this post, emphasis added:
"I believe that more guns = more gun deaths. That is my personal belief and that of a lot of folks who work to prevent gun violence. We want guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. We want those of you who have them to make sure they are safe and strored so they are not stolen which is where most of the crime guns come from. Our belief does not translate into what is a possible or probable action. Banning guns is off the table after the 2 Supreme Court rulings. Confiscating guns was never on the table. Life is what it is. There are a lot of guns out there- too many in my estimation. I know I can't do much about that except to raise awareness and get you guys to admit that there a few simple and common sense things we can do together to stem the tide of gun violence. You guys know perfectly well what I propose and you keep asking as if I have never answered the question. I call that harassment. It won't work. Ask me something you don't know the answer to and maybe you will get an answer. But please do not keep asking what I propose and please do not keep saying I want your guns. That is folly on your part. It is a useless line of argument and discussion."
And by this post, emphasis added:
"Keep observing as I know you will. You will not see me suggesting a national plan to disarm citizens. Again- take it easy out there. Your life will be a lot less stressful. "
I do not believe that point 1 is true, but I would be hard pressed to find definitive statistics to prove it.  No responsible gun owner could possible disagree with point 2, in my opinion, if for no other reason than guns are valuable property.  Point 3 assures us that Joan Peterson understands the legal reality in the post-Heller United States, no matter what her personal feelings on the matter are, but I'd bet she thinks that a renewed Assault Weapon Ban would be constitutional.  I think there is a solid argument to the contrary, but that issue will only be taken up if such a law is passed. On point 4, however, that might have been true for the people Joan Peterson knows in the anti-rights community, but it is not true of all:
Feinstein said on CBS-TV's 60 Minutes, February 5, 1995, "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren't here."[22]
So Joan Peterson is incorrect claiming that gun confiscation was never an objective of the anti-gun political community.  They simply lost that argument years ago.
  1. Joan Peterson wants to limit guns that allowed to be used in self defense,  and believes that she and her allied organizations are best suited to determine those limits.
  2. Joan Peterson does not understand "gun culture", and is frightened by people who live within the gun culture.
These points are supported by this post, emphasis added:
"I was, and still am, in favor of banning certain types of assault weapons similar to those banned in the previous AWB. When you guys talk about banning guns, you appear to be saying that we would ban ALL guns. I'm sure you know that is not true. My desire to have zero gun deaths is an aspirational goal. One must have goals. My goal is not to ban all of your guns. Some guns, to me and those with whom I work, are guns that should not be available to the average citizen. They were not meant to be used for hunting or self defense. Those are the ones we think should not be in the market place. But given that that is unlikely to happen, if you MUST have those guns because you perceive them to be necessary for whatever reason that would be, having fewer rounds to shoot from them is only sensible. You just plain do not need to shoot off a lot of rounds for self defense. On the face of it, it makes no sense to most people. Many who are gun owners are hunters who only own hunting guns and they are not interested in the least in the type of military style weapons some of you collect or claim to need. These folks would never consider large capacity magazines. It is a minority of you who feel this way. Gun owners are a diverse group. Many of them happen to agree with me and that has been shown in most polling over many years so it is not a one time response. So, I do want to ban magazines of greater than 10 or 11 rounds. That is true. I support the McCarthy bill. You knew that, though. I have never said I would try to ban guns other than those that I have mentioned above. It will never happen plain and simply. Even if I did believe that, it would just never happen, so why try? I don't like all of the guns out there and don't find them to be necessary personally except for hunting and some for self defense. I'm just not into guns like you guys are. We live in 2 distinct cultures. We are trying to understand this but it sure is difficult, right? I see the enthusiasm at gun shows. I see all the people who like to look at and buy guns there. That is just a culture so foreign to me that it makes me uncomfortable. Truly, I do not know anyone who feels as you guys do and I know a lot of people from many walks of life. I know a lot of gun owners, by the way, and I have written their views. They represent the views of the majority of gun owners."
 I  think Joan Peterson's desire to limit the defensive capabilities of firearms allowed to citizens stems from her fear of the "gun guys".  It is natural to fear what one does not understand, as it is to mistrust those whom you fear.  But excuse me, I will not acquiesce to limits on my self defense weapon choices based on Joan Peterson's fears, and the actions of felons who can't be trusted outside of prison, let alone in possession of firearms.

I will agree that in society that some kind of compromise must be made.  Here is my suggestion: Non-law enforcement citizens should be allowed to possess and carry in public any weapon a law enforcement officer is allowed to carry, and law enforcement officers should be limited to weapons that citizens are allowed to possess.

Police are not the military, and I am disturbed by the apparent militarization of police agencies and the increasing use of tactical squads to serve no-knock warrants in circumstances that do not seem to justify such force.  Police are not a special class of individuals in society: they are citizens with special duties and responsibilities, but the citizen is, or should be, sovereign.
  1. Joan Peterson thinks that public schools should have no role in teaching about firearm safety.
This  point is supported by this post, emphasis added:
"You guys have talked about this before. It's just not going to happen. As you know, our schools are having lots of budget cuts and teachers have a heck of time getting in the required subject matter as it is. To think a teacher would now teach gun safety is a non starter. I think you all should abandon that idea since it just isn't going to happen. Not to mention that people like me would show up at School Board meetings and lobby heavily against it. And I would get a lot of people to that meeting. Since I used to be on the School Board, I know how those things work."
But schools are used to teach about safety all the time, especially driving safety, but I guess automobiles are non-threatening enough to not scare folks.  Granted, her point about teacher work loads and budget cuts are spot-on, but I think it is telling that she could muster a LOT of opposition from parents opposing firearms safety training because most parents are ignorant, and therefore fearful, about guns.

However, this is an issue that is being discussed in some school districts in the U.S.  Virginia has passed legislation that requires the state board of education to design course materials to teach firearm safety in elementary schools.  Arizona has designed a high school course that actually requires students to fire one shot safely at a target.  This law was signed by then-Governor Janet Napolitano, currently the the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration.  Ironic.
  1. Joan Peterson is most definitely against carrying guns in public for self defense. 
  2. Joan Peterson opposes shall-issue carry permit laws.
This post supports the previous point, emphasis added:
This is the problem with many of our state's permit to carry laws. There was a reason that permits used to be "may issue". Sheriffs and local Police Chiefs understood that there were some people in their communities who would put themselves or others at risks if they were allowed to get a permit to carry or purchase. They screened applicants more carefully and had the good judgement to deny some folks permits. Now most states have "shall issue" permit laws making it more difficult to deny permits.
And this post:
"Yes, indeed, to err is human. We try as a society to make sure those errors don't result in death. We can't stop them all but we sure should try. But when more deadly weapons are owned and carried by gun owners, making an error can result in tragedy. That is why there shouldn't be so many guns in so many public places where errors can happen. "
This is practically the theme of Joan's blog, every article, and every comment she writes.  She knows that she cannot do anything about guns in private homes, but she does not believe that guns in public have any social utility.

I will grant  her one point, however.  She posts many examples of people acting stupidly with firearms, with deadly results.  To me, this is a good argument for training, perhaps government mandated training, but that is a thorny constitutional issue still to be worked out. And I can cite just as many cases of firearms used successfully in self defense as Joan can cite of firearms stupidly mishandled.

But that is not really her argument.  She is adamant that her goal is to reduce gun deaths, and obviously eliminating guns from some aspect of society, guns deaths would be eliminated.  No guns, no gun deaths.  So any citation of the many studies that have been published enumerating the social utility of firearms falls of deaf ears.

And she overlooks, or agrees with, the abuse “may-issue” permit laws perpetrated by law enforcement agencies that deny all people carry permits, except those that are somehow “special”, like well connected celebrities, businessmen, and “friends of the sheriff” who have recently made large campaign contributions. These practices, rampant in urban California, make a mockery of “screened applicants” and “good judgement”. Hence the nationwide wave of shall-issue carry permit laws, taking the power of discretion away from the authorities who abused the trust or the citizens.
  1. Joan Peterson makes no distinction between acts of violence and the object used to commit the act.
  2. Joan Peterson is not really interested in thoughtful discussion of 2nd Amendment rights.
This point is supported this post, emphasis added:
"Good for you, Paul. Knives and guns do actually kill people- the wounds from a knife and the injuries from the bullets coming from the gun kill. I know because 3 bullets killed my sister. It's a matter of semantics but it makes absolutely no difference to the outcome whether or not a gun or the person with the gun killed someone. To me it didn't matter. I just knew that a gun took my sister's life."
This is Joan's ultimate motivation. All of her positions stem from the murder of her sister, and this also explains her absolutely uncompromising stand on her beliefs. It should be no surprise that she ultimately wrote this:

After careful thought and reflection about the direction my blog has taken since I asked questions and got answers from the "gun guys", I have changed the purpose of my blog. As stated in my last post, I have found that most of the comments were just not getting the two sides of this volatile issue to a place where a thoughtful discussion could take place. Though the title of my blog indicates that I would like to have a discussion, I am not sure that is possible “

which displays her fundamental ignorance and intolerance. Joan Peterson is not really interested in “thoughtful discussion” when that discussion does not agree with her views. She cannot get over her sisters death, will not compromise her view that the availability of guns in public should be curtailed, and can be no more swayed by the counter arguments of those who post on her blog then we can be by her articles. The disagreement is one of fundamental world views, and cannot be bridged.
  1. Joan Peterson sometimes writes really stupid stuff.
This point is supported by this post, emphasis added:
"The "bust" pictures? Hand grenades and RPGs are sold at gun shows all over the country. They could be sold by private sellers who may or may not require background checks. "
which sounds as if she is claiming that military grade weapons are routinely sold a gun shows, but then she adds this:
"It looks like some hand grenades are for sale on-line:"
Her readers jump all over that, of course, causing her to backpedal a bit:
"Thanks for all of your comments about grenades, most of which are not published here. I am aware that the grenades sold on-line or sometimes at gun shows, which they have been, are the casings without the explosives needed to make them a dangerous weapon. "he grenade casings or shells when they are configured into an inert format are not illegal to possess or to be sold. They become an illegal dangerous weapon when they are reconfigured to make them active or when a suspect purports as a form of intimidation that the device will explode or purports for sell that the device can explode or fragment." from: So the problem with having these type of "grenades" available is that they could be made into devices that can explode and cause serious damage. One wonders why the casings are even for sale anywhere. "
So, they are not real grenades after all, but that really does not matter. Joan does not like them, they make her scared, so they should be banned.  Gosh, maybe she will go after lengths of pipe next?

While I continue to read Common Gunsense, I do so less often, and I have stopped posting comments to her articles. I feel that I thoroughly understand her positions and I believe that she is not really interested in what the pro-rights community has to say. She is only interested in preaching to us, while those that still post comments are trying to convince her that she is utterly wrong. A pointless exercise for the reasons I list above. The “debate” on Common Gunsense is at an impasse, and has been for a long time, so reading the site has become quite tiresome.


Updated: 9/26/2011

Comment from this post:
"I believe there is a difference between someone carrying a loaded gun on their hip in a public place and a group of unarmed people rallying."
In other words Joan Peterson does not believe that the 2nd Amendment protects a civil right to be armed in public.  As a strict matter of constitutional law, she is right at this time, but I am optimistic that the Supreme Court will find in favor or carry some time on the next couple of years.


Updates: 9/27/2011

Comment from this post:
"You guys don't care about anything except your selfish desire to carry your toys with you wherever you go. It's the law. The public doesn't even know what's in that law and would find it disconcerting to see you walking around with your holstered gun as you love to do. Just like the public at the zoo in Indiana. And when the legislators who voted in favor of the bill realized what it meant, they started to change their minds. But keep carrying your guns, Bryan. I'm sure everyone will think it's just wonderful to see a guy with a loaded holstered gun strutting around in their communities. It's a great sight- so friendly and peaceful."

This post says it all: the desire to be armed for self defense is "selfish", and we are demeaned as childish for wanting our "toys" where ever we go.  And of course the public must have been somehow hoodwinked into voting in favor of permissive carry laws because there is just no common sense in the idea of carrying firearms in public.  And what Joan is really objecting to about the Indiana incident is the new state law preempting local gun ordinances.  The individual in question was not breaking any law, but just making zoo patrons, and Joan, uncomfortable. To Joan, we are not citizens exercising rights, we are "strutting" around, purposely creating a disturbance.

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