Gun Control and the Dangers of Radical Libertarianism


The words "Kindergarten" and "dead" should never be near one another. All school shootings are tragedies, but there is something particularly soul-crushing about gun violence that victimizes the beautiful, helpless, and idealistic innocence of the youngest members of the next generation. They should be learning to craft sentences and expanding their imaginations with Jake and the Neverland pirates. They should not be the victims of a senseless lunatic who used this country's lax gun enforcement laws to execute his insane agenda.

ShootingI know no one in Newtown, Connecticut, but some of today's victims were the same age as my eldest nephew. I can't imagine what their moms and dads are going through.

Unfortunately, I can imagine what's going through the minds of the strategists at the National Rifle Association (NRA). For decades, the NRA has raised and spent millions executing a policy that Charlton Heston explained best: "You can have my gun, when you pry it from my cold, dead hands." The organization says it supports sensible gun control, but really it doesn't. It has opposed every gun control measure at the state and federal level. It has challenged several of them in court, winning a few spectacular cases at the conservative Supreme Court. It has overturned several of them on election day, and threatened elected lawmakers with harsh payback if they vote against them.

In some ways, the NRA is like any other powerful lobby, winning cases here, passing laws there, and raising money for friendly politicians. But, there's a difference between the NRA and, say, the Chamber of Commerce. The NRA deals with guns. It deals in death.

The organization's strategists have done a remarkable job turning the "let's not politicize a tragedy" canard into an iron barrier against regulation by going beyond platitudes and taking a rich political tradition of civil libertarianism and radicalizing it. They don't like the government telling them what to do, what to eat, and what to kill. They take pride in the nostalgia and go-it-alone mentality of gun ownership and the American frontier, and because this tradition is so deeply engrained in certain segments of the population, the NRA can tap into an almost endless cache of civic indignation whenever the state or federal government does something.

The truth of the matter is that radical libertarianism has acted as a shield against any real national discussion about sensible gun control. The moment the topic is raised, the notions of propriety and silence in mourning spring up as a pretext. It allows conservatives to ignore statistics, sociology, and reality. We know that the majority of mass killers in the United States use weapons that they acquired legally. So, we should toss the theory that gun control only burdens hunters and not the lunatics who are intent on getting a gun anyway. We also have evidence that gun availability is linked to high murder rates and that gun control is linked to low gun deaths. To the NRA, none of this really matters because a bloated, ahistorical notion of radical individual freedom has taken over the thinking centers of the American brain.

It cannot be that the moments after 20 children are killed is too soon to discuss what to do about it; if anything, it is too late. What's really going on is the siren spell of radical libertarianism, a hex cast to confuse a population sympathetic to freedom yet unaware that the NRA wants this "machine of war" on the streets.



Ari Ezra Waldman teaches at Brooklyn Law School and is concurrently getting his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. His research focuses on technology, privacy, speech, and gay rights. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues. 

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.


  1. EchtKultig says

    Except it’s really incorrect to associate the NRA with libertarianism. As misguided as libertarianism is, in theory, at least, those people would support gay marriage. You’d have to turn over a LOT of rocks before you’d find someone in the gun rights lobby who’s on record as pro gay rights. They might have hired a few token people with those positions these days. Nor do these people even believe in some of the other tenets of libertarianism. Most of them, I’m sure, support increased military spending. So I don’t know what name you could come up with it. Radical gun deregulators? Radical arms anarchists?

    In any case you have to give them credit for having been a very successful lobby by focusing on that one issue, and, as noted, trying to prevent every little slippery slope toward gun control.

  2. Bill says

    The reason that the gun man killed is like most of the school shootings, he was either seeing a psychotherapist or taking psychotropic drugs. Decades ago when there were not all of these psychotropic drugs and psychotherapist we never had young people shooting up schools at work, etc.. Guns have nothing to do with it if the person is being treated or is on drugs by a psychotherapist they do this kind of thing. If you get all the information you find this to be true. Stop these psychotherapist from giving drugs to people and you will see this kind of killing go down. Not to mention psychotherapist give these drugs to LGBT people in Ex Gay Therapy than also is linked to the gay person then killing them selves because even the people who make these drugs know and have to label that the drugs can cause deaths. Stop them a and you will stop the killings like this.

  3. Kyle M. Sullivan says

    The NRA is America’s newest religion, and its followers are just as fanatical as fundamentalists and jihadists. Gun control is no longer possible. The time for serious controls was 30 years ago; now the NRA has made it so political, you’ll have a civil war on your hands if you try to push through new controls. It’s just plain too late.

  4. Geoff says

    It’s really, really odd, but every time there’s some unspeakable horror I instantly think of Anne Coulter…and what fresh obscenity will utter forth. I’m so surprised she didn’t immediately issue a statement condemning the “godless, liberal children who brought it on themselves”…or how “they all should have been armed also”. It’s early, though. I give her mere moments.

  5. bluedogj says

    Markus, I would humbly put forth that now is exactly the time to discuss this. In several days the news cycle will have grabbed onto some other story. The time to act is when the outrage is fresh. Otherwise, nothing changes, ever. Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy we hear leaders speak how their hearts and minds go out to the victims, and nothing is done.

  6. Yupp says

    Mel Smith. How do we know it was “easy” to get four guns? Maybe it took him years of manipulation, tons of money, dealing with smugglers, etc. I’m not trying to argue with you, I’m just saying….we gotta stop assuming so much.

  7. Yupp says

    Mel Smith : I don’t think my demeanor is inappropriate. ( Isn’t it a little hard to be inappropriate on THIS blog, anyway? With the evil junk people say about each other and always wishing death on others. No standards here. ). Anyway, okay….I hadn’t heard about the weapons being his mothers’. (That still doesn’t mean it’s easy to get guns, though. maybe the little brat stole them from her….) I won’t argue with you though because I’m not trying to fight with you, seriously, my dude.

  8. Dan Cobb says

    If the second amendment really allows for severely mentally ill people (as yet undiagnosed) to purchase assault rifles and machine guns, then the second amendment MUST BE repealed. In it’s place we could pass laws that make possession of firearms punishable by life imprisonment. If we’re not willing to go that far, then the amendment should prescribe some very very onerous regulations for the purchase of firearms and serious limitations on the types of firearms that can be sold. ANything less is just placing gun rights over the lives of our children.

  9. says

    Wow! Guess what “radical libertarianism” has acted as shield against any national discussion on censorship, or outlawing rights for gay people. Sorry, but never before have I thought someone writing for this site was just being an ass. But to scapegoat libertarians here is just indulging in his personal prejudices. A whole lot of respect for this page, which I read daily, has just gone down the tubes.

  10. Mark Read Pickens says

    The unintended consequence of gun control is more crime:

    “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws,” by Professor John Lott.

  11. simon says

    There are a lot of studies supported by NRA.
    As least his conclusion is wrong in Europe except may be some isolated incidence like in Norway that happens once every million years.
    You can say the same thing with drugs and smoking.
    The unintended consequence of drugs control is more drugs. The unintended consequence of smoking restriction is more people smoking. Since we can’t control it by law, just don’t bother. Only in the case of guns, it has more deadly consequence.

  12. Tanoka says

    Please, remove the post from SNOWFUN. Not only is it filled with disgusting lies and bigotry, it has nothing to do with the article.

    And nobody engage in a discussion with that troll, please. There’s really no point and will only give SNOWFUN an excuse to repeat the vile nonsense.

  13. markankhamen says

    Violent crime rates nearly inversely match declining education rates. Mental welfare programs continue to have their budgets reduced, they are a mere 15% of what they were a decade ago. These things continue to happen because we want to believe an inanimate object is at fault, rather than human frailty. Because were it the latter we would have to admit our own failings and weaknesses. Only when we elevate the human condition will we see a decline in violence. Otherwise weak men will continue to do evil things even if they have to resort to swinging a rock to do it.

  14. brett says

    I am disturbed by a post from Bill and I need to make some corrections from his post. First a psychotherapist does not prescribe drugs, a Psychiatrist who is a doctor (M.D.) does. A Psychotherapist is just that, a therapist and doesn’t deal with the prescribing of meds. The only other professional that can prescribe medications is a nurse practitioner. Second psychotropic medications can change the lives of people dramatically who suffer from a mental illness. I am a professional counselor and I worked for a mental health center in Denver dealing with very ill individuals that society just wants to throw away. I have seen schizophrenics go from homeless to living independently and working because of these medications and living with dignity. Denver County has a very good mental health center that helps clients stay on meds and out of trouble, off the streets and out of hospitals. I worked there for 6 years and saw how lives could be changed with intensive case management and medications. Unfortunately not all mental health centers are this well funded and don’t have the success like the center in Denver.

    People are so ignorant when It comes to mental illness and people like Bill whom I’m sure has no training in the mental health field, telling people that meds are the problem is ignorant and dangerous. Two of the biggest issue with treatment is medication compliance and society prejudice. Would you tell someone on heart medication to stop taking their meds,of course not but when it comes to mental health it’s alright. Mental Illness is an illness where the chemistry of the brain is affected and causes marked impairment cognitively and distress to daily living and that’s just a quick definition. No person in their right mind would go into a theater or school and kill innocent people if their wasn’t something wrong with their thinking and logic. These horrible acts can be a manifestation of trauma in their lives, personality disorders (which are created in a person through life traumas and horrible environments) and/or a mental illness.
    Educating society about mental illness could help prevent tragedies like this because people would become more aware of warning signs and intervention could become possible. Also we need to revamp our mental health system with funding so people can get the help that is needed. Its so easy to label these gunman as evil but that is just lazy. Understanding what makes a person tick and trying to understand their motivation and why they felt that killing kindergartners or movie theater patrons was a solution can be a key component in intercepting these distressed individuals and hopefully can prevent future people from committing these horrible acts. Unfortunately its too late for these children and teachers, the victims at the Oregon mall, the victims in the Wisconsin Temple, the victims in Aurora theater, the victims in the mall in Canada, the child victims of the Amish school, the victims at Columbine, the victims killed at Virginia Tech…

  15. Craig LaRue says

    The NRA is one of the only political organizations we have that has made an effective stand against “The Homeland Security Act” The NRA is vigilant angainst a governement that is always encroaching on allowing the police to use illegal search and seziure. Someone at that school should have been trained how to use a gun and should have had a key to the gun locker. Every gay man and woman in the United States, and every gay man and woman in Uganda should own a gun.

  16. grego says

    we live in a nation that regulates fireworks and cigarettes because they can be dangerous, but we lack the moral backbone to sensibly regulate weapons that are designed and produced to kill. It’s sick.

  17. simon says

    Nancy Lanza was an avid gun collector, according to Reuter. She is the mother of the gunman. she would often go target shooting with her kids. With all the guns she collected, she can’t protect herself and her son used them to kill her and many small children.

  18. Corey says

    FYI. That is not a machine gun. An assault rifle for sure but not a machine gun. More kids died last year from car crashes so let’s talk about car control and banning cars. Hell just burn the constitution and bill of rights and let the government rule us all as they see fit. They have done a pretty good job of supporting gay rights…. Oh, wait, now they have not.

    This is a tragic event for sure but banning one type of gun will only lead to the use of other types of guns, then we ban those, then another till we are England with no guns. Then the mentally ill people like this will start building homemade bombs to kill lots of people.

  19. Corey says

    Mel. I own 30+ guns. Several of which are assault rifles. I walk in to a gun store. Sign a few papers, they call and do a federal background check and 20 mi uses later I walk out with whatever gun I want.

    I carry a gun with me everywhere. I have a conceal carry permit. I feel that my safety is more important than anything. After you survive a knife attack like I did you take on a whole new perspective on personal protection.

  20. ratbastard says

    OMG, where to begin:

    I’m not a huge gun affecionardo. But, the ignorance routinely displayed by the media and many in our society [and more-so outside the U.S.] regarding firearms is breath-taking. Of course, some of it is deliberate obfuscation based in ideological talking points and narratives. That said, a scary sounding ‘semi-auto’ gun [pistol or rifle] simply means a single shot. AN auto [or full auto as it’s sometimes referred to as] means it fires multiple rounds [bullets] rapidly, in succession. Full auto firearms are illegal outright in many states, and require a special license beyond the standard firearms license. ALL the recent mass shootings [in fact pretty much all mass shooting over the past say 40 years or so in the U.S.] have involved simple semi-auto [single shot] hunting rifles or pistols. When the media refers to them as scary sounding ‘assault’ rifles, they are incorrect. They’re simply common and popular hunting rifles, like the bushmaster Adam Lanza used. Some may be made to superficially look like a military grade full auto ‘assault’ rifle, but they aren’t. In fact, phrase ‘assault’ rifle is basically made up by I assume the media and maybe some firearms manufacturer marketers.

    I attended grade and HS school not that long ago, roughly 20 odd years ago. We had no such thing as ‘lockdowns’, no armed guards, no security cameras, doors were left unlocked…NOTHING HAPPENED. And I lived in a big urban area. I know for a fact high schools in NYC up to at least the 1950s-early 60s had GUN CLUBS and kids would travel on the subway with their .22 rifles NO PROBLEMS. WHY so many problems now?

    American who were born and raised in urban/suburban areas have to understand that rural people use firearms all the time for everything from hunting, to pest control and yes protection from animals including the most dangerous kind, the ones that walk upright on two legs. Most rural areas proportionately have very low violent crime rates, far lower than the suburbs and urban areas most people live in. Northern New England [Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and Maine] has the lowest crime rates in America. Violent crime, especially murders, are rare. Many communities go for decades with no murders. EVERYONE has firearms [including the progressive paradise, Vermont], everyone knows how to use them, and like I said violent crime, shootings, murders, are rare. Why?

    We have a lot of mental illness in our society and our mental heathcare infrastructure can’t handle it, it’s broken. We also have the gross over-use of powerful and dangerous psychoactive drugs [sorry, medications] especially in young adults, and an epidemic of broken homes/broken families. There are also many angry, marginalized and isolated people of all ages. These things must be addressed. There’s way too much exclusive talk about ‘guns’. And yes, I understand it’s ‘talking point’ and important part of a a whole narrative for many shills.

  21. ratbastard says


    James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, etc., etc., had all what incommon, other than the obvious? They all came from well off upper middle class, WELL EDUCATED, families.

  22. Lars says

    So let me get this straight: Nancy Lanza bought numerous guns for her own protection. However, those guns were entirely ineffective in saving her life. On the contrary, they became the instruments of her own violent death. And the deaths of 20 little kids and 6 educators.

    Just want to make sure I’m understanding this whole self-defense argument for why we need permissive gun laws and less regulation.

  23. ratbastard says

    The Lanza’s previously lived in New Hampshire, and Newtown,CT is a rural area. I’m guessing Nancy Lanza grew up in rural New England and was used to firearms and using them. If she allowed her disturbed son access to firearms, then she was very negligent, to say the least.

  24. ratbastard says


    Some people simply like target practicing and collecting firearms. Many also do this thing called hunting. We don’t know if Nancy Lanza had her firearms solely because she needed them for protection. She in fact lived in a VERY low crime area, statistically one of the safest places in the U.S. If she is guilty of anything, it was allowing her disturbed son access to firearms, which normally should be secured/locked up. And we don’t know if even this is the case.

  25. Youthinasia says

    I’ll just have to say it here.

    ~10,000 homicides involving a firearm every year. – FBI Uniform Crime Report.

    U.S. Citizens use private firearms to stop violent crime, directed at themselves and others, at least 989,883 times a year.
    – Journal of Quantitative Criminology
    – National Crime Victimization Survey: Criminal Victimization, 2008

    No form of Gun control besides complete and total firearm abolition would have prevented this particular crime from happening.

    Because a couple of kids get shot, you are going to prevent nearly a million people from stopping violent crimes every year.

    Use your brain.

  26. simon says

    Journal of Quantitative Criminology?
    Is is equivalent to “Journal of Family Research Council” which says their quantitative research showed children of gay parents are worse off?

  27. says

    Don’t know what drugs/medications he was on. But he left some writings behind, so we find out his motivation for killing five year olds.

    Many of the posts refer to the “Right to bear arms”……what about those who do not bear arms…..don’t they have a right to be protected from those who do ?…..particularly by introducing strict licensing regulations.

  28. anon says

    Whenever something tragic happens to children we tend to punish ourselves as a society in the vain hope it won’t happen again, but statistically rare events like mass shootings are very hard to prevent through force of will. “Anti-Social Disorder” is actually not a psychiatric condition like schizophrenia, and not treatable. The Columbine shooters were not mentally ill, as it turns out. Each case is going to be different, and that’s one of the main reasons that prevention is so difficult. Gun control would help in a broad sense to prevent these tragedies, but more effort needs to go into more statistically likely events first, otherwise, we are expending a lot of effort on the wrong priorities.

  29. ratbastard says

    Regarding the above post:

    Yes indeed. Schizophrenia, even depression, are organic based brain disorders. Than there’s things like brain tumors.

    So-called Antisocial Personality Disorders [psychopathy, sociopathy, maliganant narcissism, etc.,] are not organic based. Their cause isn’t really known. And there’s really no effective treatment.

    I don’t understand why so many otherwise intelligent people don’t grasp the pretty simple above points.

  30. Dan says

    99 year Anniversary
    HEADS UP EVERYONE . “At this time back in 1913 when most of congress was home for Christmas is when they got together to pass the Federal Reserve act” So if they want to pass either gun laws or some debt limit increase without Congress this is when they will do it.

  31. says

    to all who are, uh, *proud* to carry guns…. you’re sad.

    you’re not free. you’re not empowered. you’re not brave.

    by carrying you’re simply living each day in a state of fear.

    so, while you may hold your gun up high, know that for people like you America is clearly no “land of the free and home of the brave”

    freedom and bravery are incompatible with living each day, armed, out of fear of violence.

    it’s no freedom at all.

  32. Youthinasia says


    No. The Journal of Quantitative Criminology is an academic journal. And the statistics I quoted are backed by another academic journal: The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, the FBI’s Unified Crime Report and the National Crime Victimization Survey.


    My apologies, I certainly handled my post in an inappropriate manner.

    I’m not anti-gun control, I’m just against measures that would hinder the ~1,000,000 people who use a gun to defend themselves or others from violent crime (all violent crime, not just gun violence) every year just to put a dent in the ~10,000 firearm related homicides, that only a fraction of a percent are mass shootings.

  33. ratbastard says

    This now dead Lanza woman was IMO extremely negligent in having firearms around her obviously severely disturbed teenage son that he could access [which he did], and to make matters worse, take him target shooting! It also appears she took him out of school and started homeschooling him. Worse possible thing she could have done. The kid needed to be around other humans and kids his age, even if it made him uncomfortable. He should not have been isolated at home with his mom, who sounds more and more like she had issues, too. He was probably seriously mentally ill, isolated, lonely, depressed, frustrated with his mom, the whole nine yards. Where the F was his dad during all this? Busy with his high powered job in Stanford and with his new wife and family? And his only brother, who lives right down the road in NJ/NYC hasn’t spoken to him since 2010? There’s something wrong here.

  34. snowfun says

    IMO Harvey Bernard Milk committing homosexual statutory rape on a 16 year old boy in 1964 for which the California legal system didn’t prosecute him for was worse. With Mayor George Moscone-that man used to be a public defender. Yes, people accused of crimes innocent or guilty have a right to a defense lawyer, but Mayor George Moscone defended child molesters.

    DJ White when he was a cop arrested and helped send to prison those who committed serious crimes while Mayor Moscone was trying to help them get free. Ordinary people can commit murder if given the circumstances and since we’re talking felons, Harvey B. Milk in 1978 should’ve been a felon who lost his voting rights in 1964. I have no sympathy for Harvey B. Milk because the law didn’t punish him for what he did.

    Something more to add-both Harvey Bernard Milk and Methew Wayne Shepard have become 2 icons for gay groups but both mistreated others. With Harvey B. Milk gay/lesbian groups such as Laramie Project, Shepard Foundation’s Executive President Jason Marsden (Fartsden) and Journalist Tiffany Edwards Hunt of Big Island Chronicle see nothing wrong with Harvey B. Milk committing homosexual statutory rape on a 16 year old boy and there’s a holiday after him in California.

    No, not pleading the case of the 2 who killed Shepard in October 1998 but before his death as 1 of the killers A.J. McKinney was a drug dealer, robber who got into a fight with 2 men not long after killing Shepard and the 2nd man R.A. Henderson was a drunk driver and drug dealer. But Methew Wayne Shepard a drug junky who mixed Ecstasy with antidepressants. Methew Wayne Shepard was regarded by many including friends as moody, obnoxious and selfish. Metthew Wayne Shepard even rudely cut in line in front of retirees while shopping. Methew Wayne Shepard chose Univeristy of Wyoming out of all colleges but then insulted the college and Laramie. In August 1998, 2 months before his killing Methew Wayne Shepard falsely accused a man of a crime. Excuses made by Shepard’s friends and family is his depression, PTSD, etc. Truth is before Metthew Wayne Shepard was killed he was viewed as obnoxious, moody and selfish but after he has killed by 2 men, people fell in love with him though Methew Wayne Shepard was a drug junky who mistreated others including falsely accusing some1 and in the end he got killed by 2. See…ing-diversity/ Journalist Tiffany Edwards Hunt of Big Island Chronicle is a drug junky who has smoked drugs & admits that she passes farts front of her kids to entertain them. On her blog Journalist Tiffany Edwards Hunt who covered the Shepard case didn’t dispute ugly truths about Methew Wayne Shepard, she got mad because it was said.

  35. Aaron says

    .I love you people who like to selectively pick which civil liberties should be upheld.

    Don’t bother mentioning all the mass shootings that would have been that were prevented by use of force:

    A 1997 high school shooting in Pearl, Miss., was halted by the school’s vice principal after he retrieved the Colt .45 he kept in his truck.

    A 1998 middle school shooting ended when a man living next door heard gunfire and apprehended the shooter with his shotgun.

    A 2002 terrorist attack at an Israeli school was quickly stopped by an armed teacher and a school guard.

    A 2002 law school shooting in Grundy, Va., came to an abrupt conclusion when students carrying firearms confronted the shooter.

    A 2007 mall shooting in Ogden, Utah, ended when an armed off-duty police officer intervened.

    A 2009 workplace shooting in Houston, Texas, was halted by two coworkers who carried concealed handguns.

    A 2012 church shooting in Aurora, Colo., was stopped by a member of the congregation carrying a gun.

    At the recent mall shooting in Portland, Ore., the gunman took his own life minutes after being confronted by a shopper carrying a concealed weapon.

  36. joe says

    LOL, what a joke. “Machine of war”? Just because it looks scary, it must be evil, right? As the facts come out we’re finding that no proposed gun control laws would have stopped this from happening. The kid was disturbed, obviously. He got his hands on the guns of another person who negligently made them available to a person who shouldn’t have had access to them.

    In searching around the net for some parts for y rifle, I’m encountering “sold out” graphics everywhere. All this is doing is encouraging people to buy more guns and stockpile them.

    With 300,000,000 guns in America, it’s not possible to ban them.

    Oh, and Switzerland required everyone to own a fully-automatic machine gun in their home… that doesn’t seem to be working out so badly. Fully-automatic firearms are already illegal in the US.

  37. Bill Michael says

    I am sorry for the victims and their families; however, you aren’t taking my weapons. Maybe the school should have had better security measures in place instead of making it easy for anyone to just walk through. What if a group of terrorists took over a school and started shooting students one at a time? Grow up, this is the world we live in.

  38. James Savik says

    as an unpopular minority, you would be a serious dumb ass not to protect yourself and take advantage of your 2nd amendment rights.

    Gun control NEVER works. Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

  39. Monster says

    I’m a libertarian, I support the right to bear arms, and I support gay marriage.

    This control discussion is fun and all, but it’s part of the constitution: In the US people have a right to own a gun.

    To say that evidence is linked to gun death reduction is linked to stricter gun control laws I tell you to take a look at the city of Chicago: #1 in Gun Control, #1 in gun related murders.

    I don’t own a gun, probably never will, but it’s our right to be able to. It’s a sovereign right, and one recognized by the consitution of the United States.

    If all these advocates want to make new laws and reduce freedoms why won’t they ammend the constitution? It’s crazy to see how many more federal laws we have in place yet there hasn’t been an ammendment to the constitution in what…60 years??

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