Everybody’s Lying About the Link Between Gun Ownership and Homicide

Source: Everybody’s Lying About the Link Between Gun Ownership and Homicide

There is no clear correlation whatsoever between gun ownership rate and gun homicide rate. Not within the USA. Not regionally. Not internationally. Not among peaceful societies. Not among violent ones. Gun ownership doesn’t make us safer. It doesn’t make us less safe. The correlation simply isn’t there. It is blatantly not-there. It is so tremendously not-there that the “not-there-ness” of it alone should be a huge news story.

And anyone with access to the internet and a basic knowledge of Microsoft Excel can check for themselves. Here’s how you do it.

First, go to the Wikipedia page on firearm death rates in the United States. If you don’t like referencing Wikipedia, then instead go to this study from the journal Injury Prevention, which was widely sourced by media on both the left and right after it came out, based on a survey of 4000 respondents. Then go to this table published by the FBI, detailing overall homicide rates, as well as gun homicide rates, by state. Copy and paste the data into Excel, and plot one versus the other on a scatter diagram. Alternately, do the whole thing on the back of a napkin. It’s not hard. Here’s what you get:

This looks less like data and more like someone shot a piece of graph paper with #8 birdshot.

If the data were correlated, we should be able to develop a best fit relationship to some mathematical trend function, and calculate an “R^2 Value,” which is a mathematical way of describing how well a trendline predicts a set of data. R^2 Values vary between 0 and 1, with 1 being a perfect fit to the data, and 0 being no fit. The R^2 Value for the linear trendline on this plot is 0.0031. Total garbage. No other function fits it either.

I embellished a little with the plot, coloring the data points to correspond with whether a state is “red,” “blue,” or “swing,” according to the Romney-Obama era in which political demarcations were a little more even and a little more sensical. That should give the reader a vague sense of what the gun laws in each state are like. As you can see, there is not only no correlation whatsoever with gun ownership rate, there’s also no correlation whatsoever with state level politics.

But hey, we are a relatively unique situation on the planet, given our high ownership rates and high number of guns owned per capita, so surely there’s some supporting data linking gun ownership with gun homicide elsewhere, right?

So off we go to Wikipedia again, to their page listing countries by firearm related death rates. If Wikipedia gives you the willies, you’re going to have a harder time compiling this table on your own, because every line in it is linked to a different source. Many of them, however, come from http://www.gunpolicy.org. Their research is supported by UNSCAR, the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation, so it is probably pretty reasonable data. They unfortunately do not have gun ownership rates, but do have “guns owned per 100 inhabitants,” which is a similar set we can compare against. And we drop that into Excel, or use the back of our napkin again, and now we are surely going to see how gun ownership drives gun homicide.

Well that’s disappointing.

Remember we are looking for an R^2 value close to 1, or hopefully at least up around 0.7. The value on this one is 0.0107. Garbage.


So let’s briefly recap. Gun Murder Rate is not correlated with firearm ownership rate in the United States, on a state by state basis. Firearm Homicide Rate is not correlated with guns per capita globally. It’s not correlated with guns per capita among peaceful countries, nor among violent countries, nor among European countries. So what in the heck is going on in the media, where we are constantly berated with signaling indicating that “more guns = more murder?”

One: They’re sneaking suicide in with the data, and then obfuscating that inclusion with rhetoric.
This is the biggest trick I see in the media, and very few people seem to pick up on it. Suicide, numerically speaking, is around twice the problem homicide is, both in overall rate and in rate by gun. Two thirds of gun deaths are suicides in the USA. And suicide rates are correlated with gun ownership rates in the USA, because suicide is much easier, and much more final, when done with a gun. If you’re going to kill yourself anyway, and you happen to have a gun in the house, then you choose that method out of convenience. Beyond that, there’s some correlation between overall suicide and gun ownership, owing to the fact that a failed suicide doesn’t show up as a suicide in the numbers, and suicides with guns rarely fail.


Two: They’re cooking the homicide data.
The most comprehensive example of this is probably this study from the American Journal of Public Health. It’s widely cited, and was very comprehensive in its analytical approach, and was built by people I admire and whom I admit are smarter than me. But to understand how they ended up with their conclusions, and whether those conclusions actually mean what the pundits say they mean, we have to look at what they actually did and what they actually concluded.

First off, they didn’t use actual gun ownership rates. They used fractional suicide-by-gun rates as a proxy for gun ownership. This is apparently a very common technique by gun policy researchers, but the results of that analysis ended up being very different from the ownership data in the Injury Prevention journal in my first graph of the article. The AJPH study had Hawaii at 25.8% gun ownership rate, compared to 45% in IP, and had Mississippi at 76.8% gun ownership rate, compared to 42.8% in IP. Could it be that suicidal people in Hawaii prefer different suicide methods than in Mississippi, and that might impact their proxy? I don’t know, but it would seem to me that the very use of a proxy at all puts the study on a very sketchy foundation. If we can’t know the ownership rate directly, then how can we check that the ratio of gun suicides properly maps over to the ownership rate? Further, the fact that the rates are so different in the two studies makes me curious about the sample size and sampling methods of the IP study. We can be absolutely certain that at least one of these studies, if not both of them, are wrong on the ownership rate data set. We know this purely because the data sets differ. They can’t both be right. They might both be wrong.


Series roundup:

In the second article, we unpack “gun death” statistics and look carefully at suicide.

In the third article, we debunk the “gun homicide epidemic” myth.

In the fourth article, we expand upon why there is no link between gun ownership and gun homicide rate, and why gun buybacks and other gun ownership reduction strategies cannot work.

In the fifth article, we discuss why everyone should basically just ignore school shootings.

The sixth article presents a solution free of culture wars, and the finale isn’t about guns at all.

“Commonsense” Gun Control Laws

“Commonsense” Gun Control Laws

(Lifted from Clayton Cramer)

Supporters of restrictive gun control and “assault weapon” bans insist they only want “commonsense” gun control laws.  But many of these proposals have been tried and found wanting.

1.      1. Mandatory background checks for every gun transfer.  But 13 states have adopted such laws since 1960 when FBI murder statistics became sufficiently reliable to test the effects of these laws on murder rates: California,[1]Hawaii,[2]Illinois,[3]Massachusetts,[4]New Jersey,[5]and Rhode Island.[6]  A few more states have for a few years required such a check for private party transfers of handguns (with a few exceptions such as intrafamily transfers): Maryland,[7]Iowa,[8]Michigan,[9]Nebraska,[10] New York,[11]North Carolina,[12] and Pennsylvania.[13]  Hawaii, North Carolina, and Michigan, passed these laws so recently that we do not have enough data to measure results yet.

first full year
murder rate avg. (T-5)
murder rate avg. (T+5)
long guns

Yes, of eight states, three had declines in murder rates, but only two were statistically significant.  Five had increases.  If these laws are really effective, why are the results all over the map?  You would expect at least some consistent direction, unless they really make no difference.  Why?  The federal government has studied how criminally misused guns end up in criminal hands.
As you can see, a strong majority of these guns were obtained by committing felonies: strawman purchases, burglaries, unlicensed gun making,[14]  So why will creating another felony make any difference?
2.      2.  “Requiring a license to own a gun, like a driver’s license.  No one objects to that.”  With a driver’s license issued by any state, I can drive a car in any other state, and the car does not matter.  I can drive a car capable of exceeding the speed limit by a hundred miles per hour (a dangerous criminal offense) or a car with a high capacity gas tank (imagine the hazard of a car with a 80 gallon gas tank in a car crash spilling an explosive fluid around the accident).  I can also fly to any state, buy a car there, and drive it home.  Imagine doing that with a gun license!

3.       3. “Require gun owners to carry insurance to pay for damages caused by their guns.”  Home owners insurance usually covers non-criminal liability and even negligent acts now.[15]  If criminals buy firearms insurance, it won’t cover their criminal actions.

44. “But we require driver’s to have car insurance now.”  And are there uninsured drivers out there?  That’s why police officers ask to see your proof of insurance when they pull you over, and most driver’s carry uninsured motorist coverage.

5.     5.  “Gun owners should be liable for misuse of stolen guns.”  Why?  Are other victims of crimes liable for subsequent criminal use of their property?  If someone steals your chainsaw and re-enacts “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” should the burglary victim be held liable?

6.       6. “Weapons of war are too dangerous because of mass murders.”  USA Today gathered data on mass murders 2006-2010.  Only about 3/4 involved guns (the rest were “stabbing,”, “blunt force,” “Smoke inhalation/burns.” But even in gun mass murders: 72.9% handguns, 18.5% rifles (8.6% semiautomatic rifles); 8.6% shotguns.  And these were the guns carried, not necessarily used by the killer. )   It would make far more sense to ban handguns than semiautomatic rifles, and more sense to ban knives “blunt objects,” and flammable liquids, if the goal is to reduce mass murders.

7.       7. “You say the Second Amendment protects your ‘right’ to own these guns because they might be needed against a tyrannical government.  Do you really think you can defeat the might of the U.S. government?”  You call them “weapons of war” and say that they would therefore not be useful for that?  Which is it.?

8.       8. “Assault weapons are easily converted to full auto.”  But federal law has this covered.

The term ‘machinegun’ means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person. [16]

The courts have ruled that readily convertible means “about an 8-hour working day in a properly equipped machine shop.”[17]

9.      9.  “Think of the children killed each year by guns in accidents.”  How many?  In the years 1999-2016, there were 1,163 accidental firearms deaths of children 0-14 or 68 per year.[18]  Each is a tragedy, but 7,181 were killed in vehicle accidents: 422 per year.[19]  Drowning in bathtubs: 1,461, or 85 per year.[20]  Your focus is wrong.

110.   “Why are you leaving out older children?”  The Centers for Disease Control has age categories to 14, and 15-19.  That includes adults and some gang members.  Those are not children in the usual sense of the word.

111.   “Why not ban ‘assault weapons’ and high capacity magazines?  Who needs them?”  Why ban them?  They are seldom criminally misused.  When Congress passed the 1994 ban on new manufacture, the Clinton Administration directed the National Institute of Justice to examine the effects of the new law.  They found a 6.7% reduction in murder rates in the 15 states where the federal ban could have made a difference.  But Roth and Koper also admitted that this reduction was not statistically significant.  Because assault weapons had been used in a tiny percentage of murders before the ban, “it is highly improbable that the assault weapons ban produced an effect this large….”[21]  What about the effects of rapid fire and large capacity magazines?  “The ban did not produce declines in the average number of victims per incident of gun murder or gun murder victims with multiple wounds.”  What about “protecting police officers,” the excuse offered repeatedly for the ban?  There was a decline in assault weapons used to murder police officers, but Roth and Koper also admitted that “such incidents are sufficiently rare” that it impossible to determine whether the law reduced total gun murders of police officers.[22]

[1]Cal. Penal Code §Penal Code §§ 12070 described in SB 950 p. 8, ftp://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/01-02/bill/sen/sb_0901-0950/sb_950_cfa_20010709_110602_asm_comm.html, last accessed February 15, 2016.
[2]Hawaii Rev. Stats. § 134-2 (2012).
[3]430 Ill. Comp. Stats. 65/1 (2013).
[4]Mass. Acts ch. 737 (1968).
[5]N.J. Code Crim. Jus. § 58-3 (2012).
[6]R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-35, 11-47-35.2 (2009).
[7]Md. An. Code § 5-124 (2003); see Md. An. Code § 5-101(p) (2003) for the definition of “regulated firearms”; it includes handguns and a list of so-called “assault weapons.”
[8]Iowa Code § 724.16 (2012).
[9]Mich. Comp. Laws § 28.422 (2011).
[10]Neb. Rev. Stats. § 69-2403 (2010).
[11]N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.00, 265.20, 270.00, 400.00, 401.00, 405.00 (2012).
[12]N.C. Gen. Stats., Art. 52A, § 14-402 (2011).
[13] Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111 (2009).
[14] Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Following the Gun, Enforcing Federal laws Against Firearms Traffickers, June 2000, p. 11, http://www.nfaoa.org/documents/ATF-%20Following%20the%20Gun,%20Enforcing%20Federal%20Laws%20Against%20Firearms%20Traffickers.pdf,
[15] Mocsary, George A., Insuring Against Guns? (May 2014). 46 Connecticut Law Review 1209. 1223 (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2511291.
[16]28 USC 5845(b).
[17] U.S. v. Smith, 477 F.2d 399, 400 (8th Cir. 1973).
[18]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December 2017. Data are from the Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 Series 20 No. 2V, 2017, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html on Mar 27, 2018 11:38:51 AM
[19]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December 2017. Data are from the Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 Series 20 No. 2V, 2017, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html on Mar 27, 2018 11:51:29 AM
[20]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December 2017. Data are from the Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 Series 20 No. 2V, 2017, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html on Mar 27, 2018 11:57:28 AM
[21]Jeffrey A. Roth and Christopher S. Koper, “Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994-96,” NCJ 173405, (Washington: National Institute of Justice, 1999), 1.  You can find this report at http://www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/173405.pdf. 8-9.
[22]Roth and Koper, 9.


Bookworm: A history professor wrongly claims the Founding Fathers loved gun control


….According to Saul Cornell, the Founders:

  • Required weapons registration
  • Prohibited public carry
  • Limited stand-your-ground laws to the home
  • Mandated safe storage
  • Required loyalty oaths to protect weapons

As Cornell sums up his own conclusions, heavy-duty gun regulation was the name of the game for the Founders ….



This sounded wrong to me, since I’ve read verified quotations from the Founders that see individual arms’ possession as an important bulwark against tyranny. If you give the nascent tyrant preemptive control over arms, you’ve vitiated that principle — and encouraged the road to tyranny.

Still, I haven’t done any in-depths studies about the Revolutionary Period so I could be wrong. I therefore turned to my friend and fellow blogger, who knows more about the Revolutionary Period than any person I’ve ever met. For Professor Cornell, as for most academics, Revolutionary history is a job. For Wolf Howling, it’s an overriding passion. I’d trust him on the subject before I’d trust anyone else. Here’s what he wrote me when I put Cornell’s article before him:

“Gun control” is a euphemism for more power and control | Questions and Observations

Source: “Gun control” is a euphemism for more power and control | Questions and Observations

You’ve heard all the arguments and how they’re structured when it comes to gun banning. The left would like to convince you that if you just let them get rid of guns (knowing full well the only people that would be deprived of guns are the law abiding) that this “gun violence problem” would go away. That apparently we’ll all live in peace and harmony because, well, guns will be gone. It is guns, you see, which spark all of this violence. Without them, why we wouldn’t harm a fly.

It reminds me of the same reasoning that the Brits went though to justify their incredibly strict gun laws. And that further reminded me of an article I tucked away that is from 2005 when knives suddenly were the problem. Again, you’ll recognize the argument (think “assault” knives). This is now a movement in the UK – banning knives, because … well, that gun ban thing just didn’t change much, did it?


The point, of course, is the gun ban isn’t really about guns. It’s about power and control as the people in the UK are now finding out as the state tries to take their knives away. It’s all about reducing citizens to docile little proles after they take way any means of protection and defense. When the only means of “protection” belongs to the state.

And this BBC article is cited…

Doctors’ kitchen knives ban call

A&E doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing.

A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase – and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all.

They consulted 10 top chefs from around the UK, and found such knives have little practical value in the kitchen.

None of the chefs felt such knives were essential, since the point of a short blade was just as useful when a sharp end was needed.

The researchers said a short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault – but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs.

In contrast, a pointed long blade pierces the body like “cutting into a ripe melon”.

The use of knives is particularly worrying amongst adolescents, say the researchers, reporting that 24% of 16-year-olds have been shown to carry weapons, primarily knives.

The study found links between easy access to domestic knives and violent assault are long established.

French laws in the 17th century decreed that the tips of table and street knives be ground smooth.

A century later, forks and blunt-ended table knives were introduced in the UK in an effort to reduce injuries during arguments in public eating houses.

The researchers say legislation to ban the sale of long pointed knives would be a key step in the fight against violent crime.

“The Home Office is looking for ways to reduce knife crime.

“We suggest that banning the sale of long pointed knives is a sensible and practical measure that would have this effect.”

Government response

Home Office spokesperson said there were already extensive restrictions in place to control the sale and possession of knives.

“The law already prohibits the possession of offensive weapons in a public place, and the possession of knives in public without good reason or lawful authority, with the exception of a folding pocket knife with a blade not exceeding three inches.

“Offensive weapons are defined as any weapon designed or adapted to cause injury, or intended by the person possessing them to do so.

“An individual has to demonstrate that he had good reason to possess a knife, for example for fishing, other sporting purposes or as part of his profession (e.g. a chef) in a public place.

“The manufacture, sale and importation of 17 bladed, pointed and other offensive weapons have been banned, in addition to flick knives and gravity knives.”

A spokesperson for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “ACPO supports any move to reduce the number of knife related incidents, however, it is important to consider the practicalities of enforcing such changes.”

How to lie with gun statistics

Failure to disaggregate appropriately…

Justifiable Homicides are Counted as Murder under the Felony Murder Rule

The Felony Murder Rule is a law where a person who is involved in a felony can be charged with murder if someone dies as a result of the felony.


The felony murder rule is often applied when an armed victim kills one of the criminal suspects attempting to victimize them. If there is a surviving accomplice, the accomplice may be charged under the felony murder rule.


If someone is charged with murder under the felony murder rule, the homicide will be coded as a murder in the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, not as a justified homicide. Examples of this practice are easily found online.


The effect of this is to aggregate homicides committed in self-defense with murders. This under-estimates the number of justifiable homicides recorded to about a fifth of its real value, which dilutes the number of cases where a lawful gun owner stopped a crime.

Second Amendment: Timeless Natural Right, Protected | National Review

Source: Second Amendment: Timeless Natural Right, Protected | National Review

What part of ‘unalienable’ do you not understand? A progressive correspondent asks: “If you were drafting the Constitution in 2017, would you include the Second Amendment?” It’s an ignorant question, but one that was asked in good faith, and the answer may be illuminating to some of our friends who are mystified by conservative thinking on the question.

The short answer is: Yes, of course a 21st-century Bill of Rights should codify the right to keep and bear arms. The document does not create the right; the right precedes the document, which merely recognizes it and ensures that the government is constrained when, inevitably, its all-too-human members are tempted to violate that right.

Progressives take a tabula rasa view of the human condition, the human animal, the human experience, and human society. In this view human beings, individually and corporately, can be shaped into . . . whatever we desire to shape them into. Rights, in this understanding, come from the state: We decide together, through democratic and other political means, what rights and obligations people are to have, and the state acts (in theory) as our instrument in that matter. If you take that view, then the progressive attitude toward the right to keep and bear arms — that it is more trouble than it is worth and that it therefore should be reduced or eliminated altogether — is entirely understandable.

Conservatives take a different view, one that is rooted in the nation’s foundational philosophy. The American premise is a theological premise: that all men are endowed by their Creator — not the state — with certain unalienable rights. For our Founding Fathers, who were steeped in the Anglo-Protestant liberal tradition, this was not only the truth but the “self-evident” truth. The right to keep and bear arms, like the right to speak one’s mind, worship as one sees fit, and petition the state for redress of grievances, is not the king’s gift to give or to withhold — the matter was settled by no less an authority than God Himself. For those who are not of a religious cast of mind, the same conclusion can be arrived at through the tradition of natural law and natural rights, which the Christian liberals of the 18th century understood as complementary to their discernment of Divine intent. Whether one believes that man was created by God or by evolutionary processes, the conclusion ends up being the same: Man has reason, individual and corporate dignity, individual and corporate value, and these are not subject to revision by any prince, power, or potentate.

Put another way: The right to keep and bear arms would still be there without the Second Amendment. Like the right not to suffer political or religious repression, it exists with or without the law. It is an aspect of the human being, not an aspect of the governments that human beings institute among themselves. The state does not grant the right — the state exists because the right exists and needs protecting from time to time. The state protects our rights from criminals and marauders, and the Constitution protects our rights from their protectors.

No doubt that sounds like a lot of crazy talk to many of our progressive friends. “Rights from God! Imagine!” That is a critical failure of our most progressive institution, the schools, which consistently neglect — or decline — to provide our students with even a rudimentary education in American civics and the history of the American idea. It isn’t that the modern left-winger is obliged to accept the intellectual and philosophical basis of the American order, but he ought to understand that things are the way they are for a reason. The idea that the Second Amendment could simply be repealed — that’s that! — isn’t only an attack on the right to keep and bear arms: It is an attack on the American constitutional order per se. That our progressive friends often are so pristinely ignorant of the moral order underpinning the American Founding is one of their great intellectual failures. They do not understand the American idea, and, as a result, they do not really understand their own ideas, either.

Why did the Founders care so deeply about the right to keep and bear arms, to such an extent that they put it on equal footing with freedom of speech and freedom from arbitrary government violence? That’s a complicated question. There were concerns unique to the Founding era, among them the libertarian dread of standing armies. Without a permanent military, the ability of the people to organize quickly and effectively against threats foreign and domestic was essential. One possible threat was that of tyrannical domestic government, something that weighed heavily on the minds of the Founders, who knew Roman history. (To say nothing of English history!) Our modern progressive friends scoff at the notion that the Second Amendment could really allow ordinary Americans to frustrate the tyrannical ambitions of a modern federal government with the modern U.S. military — gunships, nukes, and all — at its command. That’s probably true, though one need not be a sophisticated military tactician to appreciate the fact that the mighty America military has been bogged down for 15 years in Afghanistan, unable to tame a raggedy gang of modestly armed rustics — there is more to warfare than armaments.

But there is much, much more to that question than revolutionary fantasies. The government’s ability to maintain order does break down from time to time, if only locally and temporarily. The Second Amendment is not only for imaginary revolts against overbearing authorities in Washington. It is for events such as the Los Angeles riots of 1992, during which the local police authorities comprehensively failed in their duty to protect the lives and property of citizens. This is an example of something that often eludes our progressive friends: Government is an instrument, a tool. Anything that is permissible for government to do is permissible for the free people who form that government to do. We deputize the police to protect our lives and property because we desire that this crucial and dangerous work be done in a fashion that is orderly, predictable, and in accordance with the rule of law. We want to avoid feuds and vendettas and the like. But we do not forfeit our right of self-defense when we delegate self-defense to the state. That is universally acknowledged: That is why shooting a burglar in your house isn’t murder or impersonating a police officer. When the water was high in Houston and people needed help, those in a position to give that help did not say: “Well, I’m sure somebody from the county will be along in a bit. Good luck!” They rendered aid, even in cases in which doing so probably involved breaking a law or two.

The right to bear arms is intrinsically linked to citizenship, another fact well understood by the Founders but lost to many of our contemporaries. From the ancient world through feudal Europe to the American colonies themselves, some people enjoyed the right to bear arms and some did not. In the latter category were serfs and slaves. Slaves and free blacks were of course widely and generally prohibited from owning weapons in the antebellum United States: Under Louisiana law, a black man carrying a cane in public was subject to summary execution; Maryland law forbade free blacks from owning dogs, which were considered a potential weapon. If you desire to know who is really considered a full citizen, look at who is permitted to bear arms. For the Founders, a society in which only government officials enjoyed the right to bear arms could not be a proper democratic republic at all, because the vast majority of the people would have been excluded from full citizenship.

Again, there is nothing requiring the modern American progressive to share this philosophy. But we ought to ask ourselves what the alternative is. The short answer is totalitarianism, in principle if not in practice. If rights come from the state, and if we enjoy our liberty and our property only at the sufferance of the state, then nothing is outside the state, and there are no limits on it other than passing democratic whimsy. (If you think “whimsy” is too loose, consider this progression: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump . . . ) If everything is negotiable, then there are no rights at all, properly understood.

So, a Second Amendment even in the 21st century? Yes. There are permanent things and non-negotiable truths. The Second Amendment did not create the right to keep and bear arms; it was created by it. Much has changed since 1776, including, of course, the efficacy of small arms. But some things have not changed, including the nature of human beings and the nature of their relations with one another. Neither technological progress nor political regress obviates any of that. That’s what “unalienable” means.