Guns Are The Enemy Of Liberty

I’m going to be posting a number of shorter (for me) posts on this over the next day or so; I take on board the injunction that general expressions of sorrow and disgust have their place — but are no substitute for specifics.

I’ll have some thoughts about actual measures to be advanced (more invitations to the community to continue to think together).  But here I’d like to start off making an obvious point:

An armed society may be a polite one.  But it’s not one that is free. It is not one in which a civic life in any meaningful sense of the term can take place.

Guns kill liberty.

Édouard_Manet_-_Pertuiset,_le_chasseur_de_lions

That’s what philosopher Firman Debrander argued in this morning’s New York Times, and he is in my ever-humble opinion spot on.  It’s worth the time to read the whole thing, but here’s the core of his case:

…guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

As our Constitution provides, however, liberty entails precisely the freedom to be reckless, within limits, also the freedom to insult and offend as the case may be. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld our right to experiment in offensive language and ideas, and in some cases, offensive action and speech. Such experimentation is inherent to our freedom as such. But guns by their nature do not mix with this experiment — they don’t mix with taking offense. They are combustible ingredients in assembly and speech.

Exactly so.

Obviously so.

“Smile when you say that, mister,” is great fun from the back row of the movie theater; much less so at arms length, bellied up to the bar.

Gun nuts, the NRA’s official core and all their acolytes and enablers are the enemies of American freedom, of the liberty you and I and everyone should take as our right.  That would be the liberty to walk where we choose, wearing what we want (an “I Reserve The Right To Arm Bears” t-shirt included), to assemble peaceably in protest or at the doors of our kids’ schools every weekday morning.  As Debrander discusses, the openly armed asshole at one of the town meetings during the summer of Obamacare, did not shoot anyone — but no one challenged him; his views echoed in the silence; actual debate was suffocated because no one wanted to piss off a guy who could kill you.  If you can’t have such civil debate, if you can’t even comfortably, free of fear, assemble for politics, or shopping, or a night at the movies, or in kindergarten, you don’t have a democracy in any real sense of the term.  And in that context, tyranny wins.  Debrander again:

After all, a population of privately armed citizens is one that is increasingly fragmented, and vulnerable as a result. Private gun ownership invites retreat into extreme individualism — I heard numerous calls for homeschooling in the wake of the Newtown shootings — and nourishes the illusion that I can be my own police, or military, as the case may be….

As Michel Foucault pointed out in his detailed study of the mechanisms of power, nothing suits power so well as extreme individualism. In fact, he explains, political and corporate interests aim at nothing less than “individualization,” since it is far easier to manipulate a collection of discrete and increasingly independent individuals than a community. Guns undermine just that — community. Their pervasive, open presence would sow apprehension, suspicion, mistrust and fear, all emotions that are corrosive of community and civic cooperation. To that extent, then, guns give license to autocratic government.

Our gun culture promotes a fatal slide into extreme individualism. It fosters a society of atomistic individuals, isolated before power — and one another — and in the aftermath of shootings such as at Newtown, paralyzed with fear. That is not freedom, but quite its opposite. And as the Occupy movement makes clear, also the demonstrators that precipitated regime change in Egypt and Myanmar last year, assembled masses don’t require guns to exercise and secure their freedom, and wield world-changing political force. Arendt and Foucault reveal that power does not lie in armed individuals, but in assembly — and everything conducive to that.

One last thought:  What does such philosophical high mindedness (Foucalt, forsooth!)  have to do with actual change in the way America understands and regulated guns?

Obviously, words don’t stop bullets.  We do need a new, powerful legal framework in which the nitty-gritty of guns and American life are reshaped.  There’s all the stuff we have and will talk about, from regulating the registration of firearms and the licensing of their owners, to restrictions on types of weapons, to insurance and its role in internalizing the social costs of civilian gun ownership and so on.  Others here have already started those lines of thought, and I promise I’ll do so as well.

But one of the biggest challenges we face is that over the last two decades or so, the NRA and its gun nut allies have captured much of the language of liberty as it applies to guns.  Framing regulation of guns as an infringement of gun rights has seen a drop in support for gun regulation from close to 80% to below 45% in Gallup’s polling of the question.  The ability to assert the “guns everywhere” position as a test of freedom has given the NRA and its running dogs* a huge rhetorical advantage.  We need to take it back.  Arguments like the one Debrander makes can help us do so.  We can amplify that one voice with our own…as in this small way, I hope to do here.

*you can take the China hand out of the business, but you can’t take the China out of the hand.

Image: Édouard Manet, Mister Pertuiset, The Lion Hunter, 1881

123 replies
  1. 1
    Egypt Steve says:

    Voting is a fundamental right, but the Great White Wing thinks it’s OK to demand registration of voters, proof of citizenship and residence, photo ID, the works. And if any of that paperwork is out of order, the right to vote can be denied.

    So: don’t just register guns, register gun owners. Make them prove citizenship every two years, with a birth certificate — original, long-form. Make them show photo ID before they buy a gun, and make them prove that they’re living in the same place they were the last time they registered. If they don’t, deny them the right to buy the gun and make them re-register under their current address. If they try to skirt these requirements, convict them of fraud, and, as felons, confiscate their guns and deny them the right to buy any more guns in the future. Also, be sure to infiltrate the NRA and sting them with secret videos that show them advising gun nuts on how to commit gun fraud.

  2. 2
    General Stuck says:

    Guns are the tools of power and control, or a reaction to such.

    Dog chasing tail

  3. 3
    amk says:

    Thanks Tom. Tweeted it.

  4. 4
    Mark S. says:

    As Michel Foucault pointed out in his detailed study of the mechanisms of power, nothing suits power so well as extreme individualism. In fact, he explains, political and corporate interests aim at nothing less than “individualization,” since it is far easier to manipulate a collection of discrete and increasingly independent individuals than a community. Guns undermine just that — community.

    That’s interesting. I’m not sure I entirely agree, since I think crowds are easier to manipulate than individuals, which is one reason I don’t really like being in crowds. There’s a mass psychology that goes on that I find very frightening at times.

    But on the other hand, isolating people in gated communities and exposing them to Fox News makes them extremely easy to manipulate. It also makes them extremely paranoid.

  5. 5
    karen marie says:

    I’d like to interrupt the talk of guns and death with some light entertainment to bring a smile to this sour Monday.

  6. 6
    Raven says:

    WHY IS THERE A LINK TO PAT LANG”S BLOG HERE?????

  7. 7
    Derelict says:

    “Freedom” does not mean what gun worshippers think it means. But it is, indeed, a tragic reflection on how warped our society’s thinking has become that mass murder after mass murder only brings on more and louder calls for making sure the tools to commit such acts become even easier to obtain.

  8. 8
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Their pervasive, open presence would sow apprehension, suspicion, mistrust and fear, all emotions that are corrosive of community and civic cooperation.

    Cowed, contingent, and above all, alone.

    Then you’re deferential. And conformist. The way you’re supposed to be. You have to be. You’ve given too many hostages to fortune. This is why getting everyone tooled up is all of a piece with blowing up the social safety net. As usual, I recommend John Holbo’s essay-review of David Frum’s Dead Right, on Donner-party conservatism.

  9. 9
    gussie says:

    @Mark S.: It is interesting that you read ‘community’ and think ‘crowd.’ They are not the same.

  10. 10

    OT but just wanted to let you know

    NBC’s Richard Engel & Turkish reporter Aziz Akyavas reported missing in Syria.

  11. 11
    karen marie says:

    To drive a car in a public street, one must pass a test and be licensed. It’s illegal to drive an unregistered, uninsured car. Why should it be legal to be an unlicensed owner of an unregistered, uninsured gun?

  12. 12
    Lee says:

    N.R.A

    Now means: Not Real Americans.

  13. 13
    General Stuck says:

    @Raven:

    Just guessing, but maybe cause Lang was largely anti Iraq war, and anti Bushism, and was on teevee a lot during that period.

    Otherwise, you will have to enter the mind of John Cole in the national security swamp of war and peace. So take a good flashlight and leave a bread crumb trail.

  14. 14
    Matt McIrvin says:

    I heard numerous calls for homeschooling in the wake of the Newtown shootings

    Aaaaand there it is. Guns don’t kill kindergarteners, schools kill kindergarteners! Let’s burn down the observatory so that nothing like this will ever happen again!

  15. 15
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Raven: I hear you. My view: know your enemy. I’d be very happy indeed to get him into the mock and monitor list, or even if the blogmaster assents into an “asylum” category (read that how you will.) But I don’t find it offensive that we link to folks we excoriate.

    I’ll have a quick post up on Lang’s latest (the quote you’ve been highlighting) later today, I think.

    Just a short bit of snark, but I feel it important to give you another forum in which to rage and rage.

  16. 16
    👽 Martin says:

    We need a 2 1/2th Amendment.

    A secure citizenry being necessary to the functioning of a free state, the right of the people to not be threatened by arms shall not be infringed.

  17. 17
    debg says:

    @karen marie: Bless you for this. It was nice to cry from laughter rather than sadness.

  18. 18
    Raven says:

    @Tom Levenson: I see he just put up a post calling for a presidential commission on violence committed with firearms with the NRA participating.

  19. 19
    Mark S. says:

    @gussie:

    No, they’re not, but they can certainly overlap. The Salem Witch trials took place in a “community.”

  20. 20
    mapaghimagsik says:

    @Raven:
    Every thread? I don’t agree with Lang either, but there are bigger issues, aren’t there?

  21. 21
    Ohio Mom says:

    @Mark S.: It’s definitely an interesting contrast, individuals v. crowds. I can remember being in some anti-Vietnam War protests as a teenager and feeling uncomfortable with some of how a few of them were going and feeling like I couldn’t extricate myself. It was on the scary side.

    On the other hand, one of the best arguments I read somewhere in blogtopia against voting for a third party candidate is that voting is not an act of self-expression, it is rather something we actually do as a group, that the purpose of voting is to join in one voice with others who believe and value as we do. That the power of the vote comes from banding together. So that would support Foucalt.

  22. 22
    Raven says:

    @Tom Levenson: Nah, I just want to keep calling it to John’s attention. If Pat gets $ from people clicking through I think it needs to go. If not, why not link directly to the bad asses that attacked him yesterday?

  23. 23
    MattF says:

    I propose we allow a right to bear arms that is consistent with the Founders’ original intention: anyone is free to bear a weapon that is handmade, breech-loaded, using black powder and handmade ammunition.

  24. 24
    Mandalay says:

    @ Tom Levenson

    But one of the biggest challenges we face is that over the last two decades or so, the NRA and its gun nut allies have captured much of the language of liberty as it applies to guns. Framing regulation of guns as an infringement of gun rights has seen a drop in support for gun regulation from close to 80% to below 45% in Gallup’s polling of the question.

    You could make a small start on “retaking the language of liberty” yourself by writing about gun safety instead of gun regulation.

    See the excellent column on this from James Fallows titled ‘Gun Safety,’ Not ‘Gun Control’.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/nat.....ol/266318/

    In the discussion for possible legislation I think that subtle shift could be very powerful and very persuasive. Imagine if you never heard any Democrat talking about “gun control”, and instead only heard them talking about “gun safety”.

  25. 25
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Mandalay: You could be right. I’ve switched to regulation from control for that reason; gun safety is more nebulous to me as a phrase, as it doesn’t imply the need for state action necessarily, but I can see what Fallows (and you) are after.

  26. 26
    gogol's wife says:

    I just called Senator Blumenthal, Senator-elect Murphy, and my representative to let them know that I want them to get actively involved in proposing legislation to fight the crazy status quo. I also called the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and was connected with the Executive Director, Josh Horwitz. He said that if I was interested in volunteering to work in the community, I should e-mail him at jhorwitz-at-csgv.org, and they will be sending out kits in a few days. He said they are getting lots of calls. Get up, stand up.

  27. 27
    Culture of Truth says:

    The Caucus: Senator Manchin, Defender of Gun Rights, Shifts His View

    Dec. 17 (New York Times) – Joe Manchin III, the pro-gun-rights West Virginia senator who drew attention in 2010 after running a commercial that showed him firing a rifle at an environmental bill, said on Monday that “everything should be on the table” as gun control is debated in the coming weeks and months.

    Mr. Manchin, a Democrat and an avid hunter with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, indicated that he supported re-evaluating laws that permit people to have clips that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition and to own assault rifles.

    “I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle,” Mr. Manchin said, speaking on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe.” “I don’t know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about”

  28. 28
    Gex says:

    It makes sense to me, why these predominantly straight white Christian men think they need to be armed to the hilt to protect themselves. They know how they’ve treated everyone else throughout America’s history. They know that they are losing control. And they assume that we’ll treat them like they treated us.

    ETA: Their Second Amendment absolutism and the white male domestic terrorism are their attempts to continue to remain in power.

  29. 29
    The Moar You Know says:

    WHY IS THERE A LINK TO PAT LANG”S BLOG HERE?????

    @Raven: Probably because I was one of the people who recommended it.

    Funny, because before all this shit went down last week, I got in a bit of a pissing match with him. I took offense to some Muslim-bashing gore pron he’d let some random nutjob post on his site. For some reason I still don’t understand, he got quite bent out of shape at my objections and told me I was no longer welcome.

    Fine. I found him pretty informative on the Middle East, but not so much so that he needs to be on my “must visit” list. And his postings on the Trayvon Martin incident stopped just short of being offensive to the point of outright racism. I no longer frequent his site but the next month over there is going to be appalling, I am sure, as he circles the wagons.

    Pat’s a smart guy, a guy who under other circumstances I might like, but he’s mentally stuck in an America that no longer exists. I used to feel bad for such people, but they’re now truly getting in the way of our freedom to be secure in our homes, lives and possessions and they need to be stopped. Discussion time is over.

  30. 30
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Davis X. Machina: That essay is one of the best ever when it comes to describing what conservatives really want for society.

    “An armed society is a polite society” takes for granted that we all want a polite society. I don’t.

  31. 31
    Culture of Truth says:

    Well we’re armed. Are we polite? Fuck no!

  32. 32
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Mandalay:

    You could make a small start on “retaking the language of liberty” yourself by writing about gun safety instead of gun regulation.

    I’m trying out the phrase “sensible regulations that promote safe and sane gun ownership”. Don’t know if is having any effect yet.

  33. 33
    David Hunt says:

    @Mark S.:

    That’s interesting. I’m not sure I entirely agree, since I think crowds are easier to manipulate than individuals, which is one reason I don’t really like being in crowds

    Crowds are not the same things as organizations or communities. They are an entirely different animal. They are easier to manipulate because they are a bunch of individuals with no to very little leadership. Organizations are…well, organized.

  34. 34
    the Conster says:

    The right to not be shot is compelling, and has gotten some traction among some of my FB friends.

  35. 35
    cmorenc says:

    The NRA/gun lobby likely won’t try to take the current sudden sea wave of political change on assault weapons head-on. Instead, they’ll make elliptical positive comments about the strong need for responsible legislation regarding firearms, without initially describing much in the way of meaningful substance about what additions or adjustments that requires.

    Rather than attempting their usual frontal assault against new proposed legislative restrictions against semi-automatic and high-power military-grade weapons, they’ll work instead to drag the process out and progressively apply strong pressure to water down legislation until it’s full of enough loopholes to be almost meaninglessly weak, and then they’ll stamp their seal of approval on it so they can say: see? we DID support responsible gun restriction legislation in response to Newton, Ct.

  36. 36
    Boots Day says:

    Hey, you know who was really heavily armed, and well trained in gun use, and should have been able to fully protect herself? Ryan Lanza’s mother. Ryan Lanza’s dead mother.

  37. 37
    askew says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    Oh no! Hope both are found ok.

  38. 38
    some guy says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    have we checked in with our Al Qaeda allies to see if they know where they are?

  39. 39
    Zam says:

    Well I’ve got to say that many do treat their weapons, or violence in general, as part of freedom of speech. That is that they use it as a form of argument, if they don’t like you they want you to “suck on this” (as Ted Nugent once said). They lose an election we get “second amendment remedies”. The tyranny a lot of people seem to be the tyranny of not getting their way.

  40. 40
    greennotGreen says:

    I just had to write a sympathy card to the parents of a six year old. No one should have to do that. I googled her obit looking for memorial service info, and I just broke down. I wish that all these gun nuts could feel this pain which isn’t a tenth of what her parents must feel, but I don’t think they can; I think that’s the problem. The gun nuts are emotionally stunted. They don’t know how to be part of a civilized community.

    If it were me, I’d melt all the privately held weapons down. All that metal might build a lot of nice memorials to the untold numbers who have died at the idol of a fragment of the second amendment. Instead, I’ll work for regulation.

  41. 41
    Roger Moore says:

    An armed society may be a polite one.

    Which is a lie. An armed society is a terrified society. People in such a society may avoid giving offense out of fear, but that’s not at all the same thing as genuine politeness. A polite society is one where people behave decently out of genuine regard for their fellows, not because they’re terrified of being murdered.

  42. 42
    PurpleGirl says:

    @karen marie: Way cute.

    The dark-haired kid kept smiling. Both kids probably wanted to laugh.

  43. 43
    Lizzy L says:

    Gun safety instead of gun control seems like a good way to frame the discussion. (No, I haven’t read Fallows yet. Will go there shortly.) And sure, let’s invite the NRA to talk about gun safety! After all, no responsible gun owner has any objections to to the safe use of firearms, right?

  44. 44
    Yutsano says:

    @karen marie: KITTEH OPERA!! :)

  45. 45
    redshirt says:

    Ted Nugent, NRA Board member. Noted sober voice for proper gun use.

    Also, Tom Selleck. WTF Magnum?

  46. 46
    Valdivia says:

    I am noticing that the conservatives who are being ‘sane’ about gun control spend most of their time talking about Hollywood and violence in it as if they are just as guilty as the NRA. Something to keep an eye on I think. I am sure the next thing we will hear from that side is that Obama is guilty because all those Hollywood people gave him money.

  47. 47
    Valdivia says:

    Also, too. This is quite an image of what passes for manliness in 21st century America. From the dept of paging that idiot Mansfield.

  48. 48
    Mandalay says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    I’m trying out the phrase “sensible regulations that promote safe and sane gun ownership”.

    You and Tom made me think about this a bit more.

    In language terms I think the word to avoid at all costs is “control”. That really seems to get some people mad. I am not keen on “regulation” either, but once you go beyond a sound bite I guess you have to use it. Maybe “legislation” in place of “regulation” is a bit less offensive to sensitive ears?

  49. 49
    Kristin says:

    On the issue of “freedoms” as provided by the Bill of Rights, Chuck Schumer made a good point on Face the Nation over the weekend. The first amendment does not allow for unfettered free speech. There are limits (obscenity/pornography, incitement, libel, etc), and we accept them because they are necessary. Why is the 2nd amendment not subject to any limits? It’s far more vague than than the 1st.

    Side note: Face the Nation (which was excellent) tried to get a pro-NRA Republican Senator on, and couldn’t get one to agree to an interview. Despicable cowards, every one of them.

  50. 50
    Mnemosyne says:

    As Michel Foucault pointed out in his detailed study of the mechanisms of power, nothing suits power so well as extreme individualism. In fact, he explains, political and corporate interests aim at nothing less than “individualization,” since it is far easier to manipulate a collection of discrete and increasingly independent individuals than a community.

    I find this part fascinating, because TCM is airing a Christmas film that hasn’t been re-aired since 1964 this week called Carol for Another Christmas. We just discovered it yesterday about half an hour from the end and immediately Tivoed the only other airing it’s going to get this year. It’s very talky (it was, after all written by Rod Serling and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, two very talky artists) but seriously thought-provoking.

    What made me think of it is that there’s a scene towards the end where a group of survivors of an apocalypse are swept up into a chant of, “Me! Me! Me! Me!” by their demagogue (Peter Sellers), who is telling them that they don’t need other people, they need to all be themselves. It’s a pretty astonishing scene and seems to be saying, well, exactly what Foucault is saying — it’s easier to manipulate people who all think of themselves as discrete individuals with no responsibility to one another than it is people who feel connected to each other.

    Anyway, it’s a fascinating film and I would definitely recommend people try to catch it when it re-airs on 12/22 at 4:15 pm Eastern/1:15 pm Pacific.

  51. 51
    scav says:

    “political correctenss gone mad” is politeness they don’t want to enforce with their guns. Politeness, like bipartisan and compromise in their world still gets everything their way.

    hip hop lyrics promote violence but target symbols in political ads and Red Dawn movies don’t. same difference.

  52. 52
    PurpleGirl says:

    Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY4) web site, gun safety page:

    http://carolynmccarthy.house.gov/gun-safety3/

    I expect that in the new Congress she’ll be re-introducing a lot of her past bills. I’ll be watching her web site. When writing your Representative, you can ask them to work with Rep. McCarthy on gun safety. (In 1993, her husband was killed and her son severely injured by a shooter on the LIRR.)

  53. 53
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Guns are NOT the enemy of liberty, at least from a fuckhead libertarian perspective, which dictates that there are only three persons of any significance or importance in the universe: Me, myself, and I.

    Once you understand this, you see why these twits act as they do. They are islands.

  54. 54
    quannlace says:

    “An armed society is a polite society”

    This quote always makes me think of a Mafia guy bragging that he commands so much ‘respect.’

  55. 55
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    I might add, because they are islands, denial of climate change (which will drown them, as they’re low lying islands) is also part of their makeup.

    “An armed society is a polite society”

    This explains why Somalia is so polite and peaceful.

  56. 56
    PurpleGirl says:

    I was just reading at Suburban Guerilla. In 2005, Preznit Bush signed a law exempting gun manufacturers from tort liability. Okay, that’s a place we can start bugging the new Congress to take action — make gun manufacturers liable to civil suits again.

  57. 57
    Yutsano says:

    @Valdivia: That tears it. Wanna move to Germany? I’d feel safer there than here.

  58. 58
    👽 Martin says:

    As our Constitution provides, however, liberty entails precisely the freedom to be reckless, within limits, also the freedom to insult and offend as the case may be.

    An old acquaintance of my family was a banker. Not the wall street type, but the guy who ran your regional bank. Think Mr. Potter – but nice.

    He once remarked that America was exceptional because it was the only place on earth where you could afford to fail. Punishment for failure here was still punishment, but you could recover and try again. He believed it was key to the nation as an incubator of ideas – that the public was not so risk-adverse that it was unwilling to try new things – from businesses to art. We didn’t lock away people for life for trivial things (that changed starting in the 80s with mandatory minimums) and we didn’t destroy people financially if their business blew up. They could declare bankruptcy, be restricted in their actions for a little while, and be given a 2nd chance. Balance was the key – too much punishment, and people won’t try. Not enough punishment, and people will be too reckless and cause serious harm.

    It’s a powerful idea, and it’s nice to see it articulated once again. Dems would do well to embrace that idea quite vocally. It would sell extremely well to a lot of the independents out there.

  59. 59
    BethanyAnne says:

    Re: An armed society is a polite society.

    A group that requires arms to maintain manners isn’t a society, and keeping your voice down to not get shot ain’t politeness.

  60. 60
    nemesis says:

    In the wake of the shooting, expect the for profit school complex to go there. Yup, they will tell us that our kids will be protected in lockdown high secrity facilities where some real teachin gonna happen.

  61. 61
    Citizen_X says:

    @Valdivia: Holy crap! That cannot be allowed to disappear down the memory hole.

  62. 62
    👽 Martin says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    Okay, that’s a place we can start bugging the new Congress to take action — make gun manufacturers liable to civil suits again.

    That’s fine, but they shouldn’t be held to any other standard than any other company. Nobody sues GM when their kid gets hit by a car, unless the car was faulty in some way.

    So, in the current context, I’m not sure what that would solve.

  63. 63
    Barry says:

    @Mark S.: “That’s interesting. I’m not sure I entirely agree, since I think crowds are easier to manipulate than individuals, which is one reason I don’t really like being in crowds. There’s a mass psychology that goes on that I find very frightening at times.”

    A crowd of individuals vs. a crowd of people who know each other, and each of whom has ties to many in the crowd, might be very different things.

  64. 64
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mandalay:

    I think “regulation” may be the right word because we can point and say, “It says ‘well-regulated’ right in the amendment itself, so when we say we want better regulation, we’re just following the constitution.” That’s just IMO, of course.

  65. 65
    PurpleGirl says:

    @👽 Martin: I’m not completely sure myself but I think it’s important the manufacturers do have a measure of accountability for their product. It’s symbolic.

  66. 66
    CW in LA says:

    Anyway, if an armed society is a polite society, shouldn’t we be the most polite society the world has ever known?

  67. 67
    nemesis says:

    @cmorenc: absolutely correct.

  68. 68
    Valdivia says:

    @Yutsano:

    hey at this point shanghai ain’t looking that bad!

    @Citizen_X:
    I know, it is extraordinary. Also: somewhere else in that site there are pages with men taking the man card away from others. Just astonishing.

  69. 69
    Mandalay says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    “An armed society is a polite society”

    I lived in Queensland, Australia, in the 1980s. The police motto was “Firmness With Courtesy”, but was later changed to “With Honour We Serve”. I think that was because the police had trouble being courteous when they were beating the shit out of people.

  70. 70
    Jennifer says:

    @Kristin:

    Why is the 2nd amendment not subject to any limits?

    Well, that’s the thing: it is. We already recognize that private citizens have no business possessing a wide variety of armaments, including but not limited to: hand grenades, shoulder rocket-launchers, tanks, nuclear and conventional missiles, nuclear warheads, etc. That’s the response that should be given to any of the 2nd Amendment absolutists who insist that it guarantees them the right to own the weapon of their choice; it doesn’t, and they aren’t agitating for these other weapons whose purpose is clearly military.

    This then moves us on to the discussion about how a weapon capable of firing 30, 40, 100 rounds per minute can be construed as having any purpose other than a military one. They can’t. No one needs a weapon of this type for hunting; these types of weapons are designed for combat operations, period; ergo there’s no reason, nor “right” for any private citizen to own one, since it’s illegal for private citizens to go out and mow people down.

    Then we get into handguns, which again, are designed for no purpose other than shooting people, which again, is an illegal activity for private citizens in almost all circumstances.

    At the time the 2nd Amendment was written, the most deadly weapon available was the muzzle loader, capable of firing one shot every couple of minutes, perhaps one per minute if the guy handling it was particularly adept at re-loading. I’d be perfectly happy with interpreting the amendment in such a way that allows people to own muzzle loaders or single-action rifles or shotguns, all of which have hunting applications, and just saying everything else is off-limits. Because I seriously doubt that the founders had in mind that we all had the right to hand grenades, or weapons that can fire 100 rounds per minute, when they drafted the amendment. There certainly is no stipulation that the amendment guarantees private citizens parity of firepower with organized militaries.

  71. 71
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Foucault’s thinking has some basis in Althusser, and the idea that there’s a motivation for capitalist states to declare you a special snowflake. Hence the mentality “my boss can treat me like shit, therefore I must resent unions.”

    Anyway, one question that can be asked here: “Responsible gun owners: admit it, you know people who you really don’t think should be owning guns, whether you see them dicking about at the range or hear them blowing shit up in their yards.”

  72. 72
    we can be heroes says:

    http://www.nybooks.com/article.....tion=false

    An older but still useful article: Garry Wills argues compellingly that the 2nd Amendment is entirely military in context. He doesn’t deny that Americans have a right to possess guns, just that that right is not protected under the Constitution.

  73. 73
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, though I’m not sure she’s around right now, yesterday Violet was posting that some neighbor kids were running around the neighborhood with pellet guns and shooting them off close to where smaller children were playing. She thought about calling the police, but then she remembered that the mother of one of the kids was somewhat unstable, hot-tempered, and brags about owning a gun. So she didn’t call, because she was nervous that the neighbor would be angry and confront her about it.

    That’s what the gun nuts really mean by a “polite society” — it’s one where you don’t complain about their kids shooting off pellet guns in a local park because you’re afraid their parents might kill you for it.

  74. 74
    Mandalay says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Your argument is persuasive.

  75. 75
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Did the rest of you see those NRA ads during the election? They used the word “freedom” in a truly strange way, stringing together a vignette of a soldier returning home, kids in a tent, and a young woman walking down a desolate street looking back warily at a shadowy tough-looking guy behind her. For people fully steeped in gun paranoia, the “freedom” they think guns protect has nothing to do with the government cracking down — it’s the government being soft to the point of failure in stopping thugs and criminals. The tyranny they worry about is the government taking their weapons _and leaving them at the mercy of the moochers and looters_. The whole vocabulary of liberty and freedom is torqued and perverted on that basis.

  76. 76
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @CW in LA: only if the unarmed people arm themselves, which will make them (us) sufficiently polite at last.

  77. 77
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Valdivia:

    I am noticing that the conservatives who are being ‘sane’ about gun control spend most of their time talking about Hollywood and violence in it as if they are just as guilty as the NRA. Something to keep an eye on I think.

    Oh yeah. They’re going to try to move the focus from properly applying the “well regulated militia” clause of the 2nd Amendment to gutting the 1st Amendment.

  78. 78
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    When the Black Panthers paraded in Sacramento with weapons, suddenly the right to keep and bear arms became something that even the sainted Ronaldus Magnus believed had limitations.

  79. 79
    horse dave says:

    An overly simplistic quote I often see from the right is “If guns kill people, then a spoon made Rosie O’Donell fat”. I point out that Rosie’s spoon could only be used to make herself fat whereas a gun can kill others as easily as oneself.

    These short simplistic phrases/concepts are how the Republicans and NRA are so adept at convincing people to vote against their common interest. Before Bush, I was a low-information voter and they worked on me.

  80. 80
    jp7505a says:

    oH GOD MAKE IT STOP. They are actually taking about how the students at Sandy Hook were sitting ducks because they weren’t armed. We really have gone off the edge when we can seriously talk about arming 6 year olds. I’m not sure even the Onion would go there

  81. 81
    Mnemosyne says:

    @jp7505a:

    What, we just add body armor to the school uniforms. Problem solved.
    /wingnut

  82. 82

    Yeah, I’m supposed to send my oldest off to school next year, and now I’ve got it in the back of my head that I might do so one day and never see him again.

    That shouldn’t have to be a reasonable fear.

    So yeah, a part of me wants to home-school him now.

  83. 83
    Lojasmo says:

    @👽 Martin:

    That’s fine, but they shouldn’t be held to any other standard than any other company. Nobody sues GM when their kid gets hit by a car, unless the car was faulty in some way.

    Are cars made with the express purpose to kill? If so, your analogy stands. If not, you are spouting crap.

  84. 84
    jp7505a says:

    @Mnemosyne: very wise. we could color co-ordinate it, pictures of Jesus at christmas so God doesn’t forget them. Yep good idea

  85. 85
    YellowJournalism says:

    @horse dave: Yeah, it’s not like Rosie can walk into a crowded room and successfully force-feed people lard with her spoon until they die from diabetes or heart failure.

  86. 86
    Violet says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    NBC’s Richard Engel & Turkish reporter Aziz Akyavas reported missing in Syria.

    Fuck. I think Engel is a really great reporter. I have worried that something like this might happen. I hope they are both okay.

  87. 87
    LanceThruster says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    My friend made the comment about homeschooling as a safety measure, and then I pointed out that his grandchild would also have to stay away from malls, movie theaters, McDonalds, etc., etc., etc.

  88. 88
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    The irony being that apparently the murderer was pulled out of school by his mother and homeschooled for his last few years of high school because of his social issues (or possibly her apocalyptic paranoia, no one’s quite sure).

    But homeschooling solves everything!

  89. 89
    👽 Martin says:

    @Lojasmo:

    Are cars made with the express purpose to kill?

    What does that have to do with anything? The 2nd amendment invalidates the argument you’re going after which is that guns are by their nature invalid instruments in the US deserving to be sued out of existence.

    Manufacturers are therefore independent of the moral argument here. So long as the guns do what they claim and are not dangerous in unpredictable ways, then they shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other manufacturer.

    There’s an argument to extend liability to gun dealers, as they at least have the potential to attest to the intent of the gun purchase, but the manufacturers do not. And it’s not the manufacturers fault that assault rifles are legal. That’s Congress’s fault.

  90. 90
    YellowJournalism says:

    @jp7505a: Louie Gohmert was on Fox News Sunday yesterday spewing some nonsense about how horrible it was that the principal had to try and stop the intruder unarmed, that it was a shame she couldn’t just go back to her office and unlock a rifle from a cabinet to use. I watched it late last night after seeing a repeat of Obama’s speech and a detailed account of how the attack went down. I was so angry, I balled my hands up in fists and started shaking. After the initial thoughts about how Gohmert needs to fuck off for ever, I also wondered if people like him even hear themselves when they speak. So he expects her to have not only been armed, but to have perfect training for something that really should not be part of her job? He expects her to either grab the gun at the first sound of a problem situation or else run back to the fictional office gun safe without gettin shot, unlock and load a high-powered rifle, and then try to shoot an intruder without hittig kids or staff?!

    Not to mention the fact that the intruder would have been less successful at getting into the already secured building if it hasn’t been for the damn assault rifle!

  91. 91
    Phoenix_rising says:

    @Mnemosyne: If we could agree that this child being home schooled may have a common cause with his deviant acts of evil–he had issues that were beyond the scope of his local high school–that would lower the prospects of stereotyping about the problem and its solution set.

    Just a suggestion.

  92. 92
    LanceThruster says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I remember that well. All are equal to brandish firearms…but some are more equal than others.

  93. 93
    Woodrowfan says:

    ab armed society is a polite society? that’s why Somalia and Pakistan are noted for their politeness and why Japan and Britain are such hellholes…

  94. 94
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Phoenix_rising:

    Honestly, with the “homeschooling” news coming out along with the information about the guy’s mom being a survivalist, I’m starting to sense that there was a pretty serious problem in that family (to say the least) and possibly the reason the mom didn’t see the warning signs to keep guns away from her son was that she had some mental issues of her own that prevented her from parenting him appropriately.

    I do think homeschooling needs stricter regulation, though — some states are fine and require homeschooled kids to hit appropriate marks through testing just like kids at regular schools, but others are seriously lax and allow people who never graduated high school to say they’re “homeschooling” their kids.

  95. 95
    PurpleGirl says:

    @👽 Martin: But the gun manufacturers are being treated differently — they are exempt from law suits since 2005.

  96. 96
    LanceThruster says:

    @CW in LA:

    Smile when you say that, varmint!

  97. 97
    Phoenix_rising says:

    I thought this esaay was going another direction, from the title.

    Two kinds of solutions are being proposed to the problem of continued mass shootings at the rate of 600 Americans a year: Solutions that address the ‘gun’ part and those that address the ‘nut’ part. And there are a couple of kinds of liberty there, in opposition.

    What I mean is, I think we’re facing a choice between two types of government engagement with citizens’ daily lives. We could probably stop the madness by creating a government power to hold back weapons from certain people, which requires a state powerful enough to inquire into the mental and emotional stability of anyone who wants to own or use certain weapons. This would only work if these rules applied to people who had no criminal past but made someone in authority nervous, as few of the shooters have any record that would have gotten them into the background-check database.

    Another way to stop the madness is to make access to high-count magazines and bullets tightly regulated and more expensive than a weekend in Hawai’i.

    But we will be faced with a choice between what types of regulation we like better. I strongly prefer a government that tightly regulates access to the tools of quick death dealt at a distance, to a government that attempts to assess my mental state before I exercise my rights.

    Of the two forms of increased state power, I’m just nervous about the one that seems to target ‘bad thoughts’ rather than ‘bad tools’.

  98. 98
    Phoenix_rising says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Let me be more direct.

    I do think homeschooling needs stricter regulation, though — some states are fine and require homeschooled kids to hit appropriate marks through testing just like kids at regular schools, but others are seriously lax and allow people who never graduated high school to say they’re “homeschooling” their kids.

    You’re talking out of your…hat…on an unrelated topic. Was that more clear?

  99. 99

    @PurpleGirl:

    In 2005, Preznit Bush signed a law exempting gun manufacturers from tort liability.

    I remember this, and never understood how this could be constitutional. Same with how the Gingrich’ Congress made it illegal to sue your HMO.

    IANAL but I seem to recall so many legal arguments being based on how it’s unconstitutional to discriminate based solely on some arbitrary category. How is it legal to conversely call out HMO’s and gun manufacturers as a special class, above the law?

    Defining an entire industry as above civil redress? Why don’t we just start handing out landed titles, and have done with it?

    I mean, it might be legal (ie consistent with the law as written). But I don’t see how it’s moral, or principled.

  100. 100
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    “The father of Newtown Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza is Peter Lanza who is a VP and Tax Director at GE Financial. The father of Aurora Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes is Robert Holmes, the lead scientist for the credit score company FICO. Both men were to testify before the US Sentate in the ongoing LIBOR scandal. The London Interbank Offered Rate, known as Libor, is the average interest rate at which banks can borrow from each other. 16 international banks have been implicated in this ongoing scandal, accused of rigging contracts worth trillions of dollars. HSBC has already been fined $1.9 billion and three of their low level traders arrested.”

    http://beforeitsnews.com/econo.....47738.html

  101. 101
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Phoenix_rising:

    But we will be faced with a choice between what types of regulation we like better. I strongly prefer a government that tightly regulates access to the tools of quick death dealt at a distance, to a government that attempts to assess my mental state before I exercise my rights.

    I agree. We should be extremely hesitant to give government the power to examine our thoughts, lest we step on a very slippery slope.

  102. 102
    Ken J. says:

    I haven’t seen a discussion of the realization that I had some time back regarding the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment, I think, is rooted in the idea of collective action.

    In the time of the Founders, I believe we’re talking about single-shot guns, with extensive reload times. The only meaningful large-scale violence with those weapons is going to happen as a community endeavor — that’s the bit about the militia. If Farmer Jack, circa 1800, goes a bit funny in the head and starts shooting, he’s not going to get more than a handful of shots off before he can be brought down with clubs and pitchforks.

    It’s only with modern weaponry, for some value of “modern”, that you get the ability of one guy with a gun, or even several guns, to kill a lot of people. The collective-action bit, which was the safety control on the original Second Amendment, has been eliminated by technology.

    —–

    The other issue, about mental health: Mental Health services were mostly destroyed in the first wave of the Great Defunding, under St. Reagan. America divided the unemployable mentally ill into those who could be jailed, and those who could be homeless people. Aren’t low taxes great?

  103. 103
    trollhattan says:

    @Citizen_X:
    TBogg’s handled it.

    http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2...../#comments

    Be sure to click through to Edroso’s VV column, linked in the post. Nobody gets off the boat quite like Edroso.

  104. 104
    MaximusNYC says:

    @Mandalay:

    I am not keen on “regulation” either, but once you go beyond a sound bite I guess you have to use it. Maybe “legislation” in place of “regulation” is a bit less offensive to sensitive ears?

    The sacred Second Amendment itself says that the rationale for the right to bear arms is to provide for a “well-regulated militia”. Gun regulation is thus mentioned — I would say, explicitly required — by the Constitution.

    Note also that said militia is “necessary for the security of a free state.” This is not about stockpiling weapons to fight the government. Just the opposite — it’s about being part of an organized force for the defense of the state. We have gotten very, very far from this idea.

  105. 105
    trollhattan says:

    @Citizen_X:
    Moderation. What the…? FYWP

    TBogg’s handled it.

    http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2…../#comments

    Be sure to click through to Edroso’s Village Voice column, linked in the post. Nobody gets off the boat quite like Edroso.

  106. 106
    trollhattan says:

    @trollhattan:
    Sweet rompin’ Ronnie Reagan on a Roomba, the Bogg used a bad, not nice, WP-disapproved word in his post title that rhymes with Venus, so my link is borked.

  107. 107
    Ken J. says:

    @MaximusNYC:

    Note also that said militia is “necessary for the security of a free state.” This is not about stockpiling weapons to fight the government. Just the opposite — it’s about being part of an organized force for the defense of the state.

    I wouldn’t go in that direction. The authors of the Constitution and Bill of Rights had recently fought against what was portrayed as an oppressive government, the King and his governors. I’d have trouble with an argument that the Founders did not explicitly consider community protection against an overreaching government. See my previous response on how 1800 firearms technology required collective action to produce large-scale violence.

  108. 108
    MaximusNYC says:

    @Ken J.:

    I haven’t seen a discussion of the realization that I had some time back regarding the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment, I think, is rooted in the idea of collective action.

    Exactly. “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state”: that is completely collectivist language.

  109. 109

    […] the problem remains-American politics are anything but rational. And as Tom Levenson pointed out, "An armed society may be a polite one. But it’s not one that is free. It is not one in […]

  110. 110
    Mandalay says:

    @MaximusNYC:

    Gun regulation is thus mentioned — I would say, explicitly required — by the Constitution.

    You are correct, and I was wrong.

    Mnemosyne made the same point as you (post #74), and I have already changed my thinking on this.

  111. 111
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MaximusNYC: well… I think the idea is that the people and their guns can spontaneously form a people’s militia that keeps the state free, whether the immediate foe is internal (like a government gone tyrannical) or external (an invading army, Indians, pirates).

  112. 112
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Phoenix_rising:

    About homeschooling or about mental illness? You need to be more clear. If it’s homeschooling, please read this article and respond.

  113. 113
    PanurgeATL says:

    SOCIALIZE THE ARMS INDUSTRY!

  114. 114
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Thanks so much for linking to the Hollbo essay. A graybeard leftie like myself need only keep a passage like this close to hand–

    But if it is good for the poor and middle-class to suffer and toil, surely it would do the well-to-do some good as well. We could stiffen upper-classes spines quick by raising the top tax bracket to, say, 95%, while firing all the cops, letting all the criminals out of jail, giving them guns, and busing them to the richest neighborhoods before letting them go. Not a good idea, obviously, but a lot of rich people would learn a lot of important, genuinely meaningful life lessons.

    –& he can shitcan his Viagra & Cialis prescriptions for good…

    ETA: Ahhhh, crap–shoulda node better than to mention those dang drugs. FY(WARCS)WP!

  115. 115
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @👽 Martin:

    He once remarked that America was exceptional because it was the only place on earth where you could afford to fail. Punishment for failure here was still punishment, but you could recover and try again. He believed it was key to the nation as an incubator of ideas – that the public was not so risk-adverse that it was unwilling to try new things – from businesses to art. We didn’t lock away people for life for trivial things (that changed starting in the 80s with mandatory minimums) and we didn’t destroy people financially if their business blew up.

    A friend of mine who emigrated from Germany told me this a generation ago. She explained that Europeans were very risk-averse in starting and/or bankrolling new enterprises, because if they happened to fail–even when clearly due to events outside their control–they’d be branded failures & no one would ever lend them money to try again. Meanwhile in the US we had many people who were overnight success stories after trying & failing at various other things for 10 or 20 years.

    I have no idea if that’s still true. I tend to doubt it.

  116. 116
    MariedeGournay says:

    @Mark S.: You should take a look at his book “Discipline and Punishment,” especially the chapter “Panopticism”. Foucault argues that the great innovation for ‘modern’ society was the change in how ‘social’ power functioned. Yes it is easier in some ways to control a crowd, but there’s a particular method for doing so: spectacle, bread in circus, communal worship. For modernity, power aims for individualization: learning as much about and categorizing individual people with the goal of getting everyone to ‘want’ to behave, to be useful. Think about how much information there is about you filed away. It’s not that you’re always being watched, assessed, judged, but you believe that to be so. The modern person is an always visible person with a name tag.

    Now, for Foucault, this wasn’t a bad thing so much as it is what it is.

  117. 117
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Mandalay:

    I lived in Queensland, Australia, in the 1980s. The police motto was “Firmness With Courtesy”

    I always thought their motto was “no small bills”.

  118. 118
    nicteis says:

    @👽 Martin: As I recall it, the suits being brought against gun manufacturers were not designed to “sue them out of existence”. They were designed to make them liable for selling large consignments to shady dealers whom they had sound reason to suspect were fronting them to criminal gangs.

    Bush and the NRA wanted to make sure that the gangs were well-armed. ‘Cause if people know the blahs are running around with major arsenals, it’s good for gun sales. Plus, the kids being gunned down in the streets were mostly the wrong color, and likely to grow up to vote for the wrong party. Just a win-win, ya know?

    I’ve never been anti-gun. I’m looking to retire to the country and raise chickens and goats in an area well supplied with bear and coyote, so I’m looking on them more favorably than ever. But yes, gun manufacturers are often in a position to know when their clients are serving clients up to no good, and citizens have a right to expect from them a modicum of circumspection and responsibility.

  119. 119
    PhoenixRising says:

    @Mnemosyne: The idea was to end the derailing, not to assign one another further reading. On the not-topic.

  120. 120
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    @👽 Martin:

    He once remarked that America was exceptional because it was the only place on earth where you could afford to fail.

    Did you ever break it to him that, like democracy, good roads and TV, America wasn’t actually exceptional in that? I swear, sometimes self-absorbed Americans seem to believe they’re the only country in the world to have risen above the Stone Age.

  121. 121
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    @Jennifer:

    At the time the 2nd Amendment was written, the most deadly weapon available was the muzzle loader, capable of firing one shot every couple of minutes, perhaps one per minute if the guy handling it was particularly adept at re-loading.

    And, more to the point, only militarily effective if used en masse as, well, part of an organized militia. Such as, for example, if the local darkies got it into their head to rebel and protest their involuntary holiday camps and enforced physical exercise (which, as I understand it, was a large motivation for regional militias).

    However, if they come up with that “everyone is a member of the militia” talking point, you may want to recall this:

    “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”

    If everyone carrying arms is a member of the militia, and if Congress has the explicit right to provide for the disciplining of the militia…

  122. 122
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    @Phoenix_rising:

    We could probably stop the madness by creating a government power to hold back weapons from certain people, which requires a state powerful enough to inquire into the mental and emotional stability of anyone who wants to own or use certain weapons.

    Which is, to anyone from outside the US, precisely WHEN a state needs power. NZ has a good many long-arms floating around for hunting; my family had some, I’ve shot geese and rabbits as a kid, I’ve had friends that had three or so.

    None of these were semi-automatic, and everyone who had them was subject to licensing. They had to demonstrate a need, have good character and, beyond not having a police record, actually have an interview with the local police who could easily veto them.

    The state SHOULD have the power to inquire into the mental and emotional stability of anyone who wants to own or use certain weapons. Indeed, this SHOULD be one of the main functions of the state – to closely maintain the monopoly on armed force so as to keep the citizenry safe (at least from non-official violence). It’s not perfect by any means (Aramoana) – but it’s a damned sight better than the US.

  123. 123
    RaflW says:

    One of the reasons I left Texas in 1995 was that, as a gay man, I was worried about the then-new concealed-carry law. I could all too easily imagine being gunned down on my way into or out of my favorite gay bar by some liquored up homophobe who could now pack a gun pretty near anywhere he wanted.

    Maybe I was irrational, but the fear felt very real, especially late on a Friday or Saturday night walking out of the bar.

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