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Credit: Tom Toles, via

An old friend of mine posted the Tom Toles comic above deriding the Second Amendment on Facebook, apparently in reference to the Umpqua Community College attack. I wrote a response to him that became a bit TL,DR for Facebook, but I thought I’d submit it for consideration by the TTAG readership. Here goes:

A similar scoreboard could be totaled up for almost all of our bill of rights. (Let’s forget, for the moment, the fact that the cartoonist is apparently ignorant of, among others, the Battle of Athens, Tennessee apparently doesn’t consider slaveholders to be tyrants or the fact that even passionate gun control advocate David Hemenway endorsed the suggestion that there are around 100,000 defensive gun uses in the country each year . . .

How many people have caused deaths and injuries because of encouragement received from others with ill intent (mob violence, lynchings, or even mass shootings like this one?

How many murderers have gone free because we insisted on maintaining the rights to a trial by jury, because we insist that the police have probable cause before a search or arrest, because we insist that the accused has a right against self-incrimination, or because we insist that police and proescutors follow the right procedures in their investigations?

It’s easy to post facile cartoons–even easier than drawing them. It’s almost as easy to reach for a utilitarian argument for restricting any of our civil rights, since by their very nature, they do enable some of the worst elements in our society. It’s amazingly easy to stand athwart history at a moment of tragedy shouting: “There ought to be a law!” It’s easy because, emotionally, we want to do *something*, and we like to think that doing *something* is better than nothing. That is, after all, how we ended up saddled with the USA PATRIOT Act and numerous other intrusions on our civil liberties over the past fourteen years. That is how we ended up expended countless lives and treasure in a string of inconclusive and destructive wars from Libya to Afghanistan; from Iraq to Syria.

It’s much harder to argue against the danger to our society from eviscerating the constitutional protections we enjoy for our civil rights. It’s hard to argue that police ought to have to respect the civil rights of a suspected murderer. It’s hard to argue for civil rights when the evidence is clear that a lot of people out there are stupid, sociopathic, irresponsible, and criminal.

And yet, however inconvenient it is to do so, it is IMPORTANT that we stand up for those rights, even when it is unpopular, even when it enables elements of the worst in our society, because at the same time, those rights far more powerfully protect and enable the best in our society. They are a bulwark that the weak, the unpopular, the poor, and other marginalized elements in our society can rely on. Indeed, to remove them would be to fundamentally change the kind of country and people that we are.

Perhaps there are times and places when we do need to change the fundamental nature of our government, perhaps even the fundamental assumptions of our society. It would not have been the first time. Still, this is something deserving of serious examination and discussion, hardly something to jump into lightly, and not something to dismiss with a sneering cartoon that is, intellectually, on the same footing as the typical YouTube cat video.

Since you’re a teacher, treat this as an assignment. Give us an essay on what legal changes you’d make. Tell me why you think these changes will be effective. Explain how any restrictions you propose on civil liberties that are currently guaranteed in the Constitution will impact society. If you’re offering a utilitarian calculus, tell us how many people you’re willing to see die because they cannot engage in defensive gun uses to ensure that the number of mass shootings of the kind we saw this week won’t take place anymore.

This way, we have the basis for a dialogue and aren’t just engaging in cat video one-upmanship,  or engaging in the sort of vitriolic debate which assumes the worst of anyone who disagrees with us about policy (and which is what is tearing our country apart at this moment in history far more than all the violent criminals in the world.)

It’s okay, this assignment won’t be timed.

Use both sides of the paper if necessary.


DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.

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    • This is a case of “know your audience.” The response is TL;DR for anyone not prepared to digest blocks of text and engage in critical thinking. That’s more a comment on Facebook / timing of the response than on any recipients.

      A better response would have been to photoshop the cartoon and send it back with the captions changed to:

      Violent Criminals Stopped by Laws (0); Violent Criminals Stopped by Guns (lots)

      • +1
        An audience attuned to instant emotional gratification isn’t going to react, much less respond, to a thoughtful discussion. The “realistic” scorecard might have a chance to impact a few neurons.

    • I would point out that, technically, pretty much everyone who fought in that war were British and that it was the King that was the tyrant; the soldiers were just soldiering.

  1. Why are you wasting your time with folks like this? The number of folks that will actually read/listen to you are slim to none. I no longer waste my time, unless I know they’re a fence sitter and that there’s a chance of them engaging me in a discussion that they’ll at least listen to. Other than that, I point, laugh, and call them stupid.

    • I disagree. While the ardent anti-gunner won’t be swayed, those who value logic and reason may in fact value the argument. Some people see the comic for what it is already. We could respond in kind with simple overly simplified comics. But they are no more intellectually honest. Though I would add:

      TL:DR How about giving us something that actually WILL stop this kind of stuff instead of demonizing the good guys.

      • Nothing will stop it. Broken people do bad sh*t, period…

        When one of my children steps out of line and does something she shouldn’t do, I don’t punish the other because she’s ALSO a child. That is the asinine method of thinking the antis use, though. “Because this person misused a gun, we need to punish the others who own firearms because they could potentially misuse them.”

        Some days I wonder whether whackjob murderers really are more jacked up than those who would strip of us our inherent rights.

    • Why? Well, you never know who your argument might actually connect with. The person you’re talking to isn’t the only one who’s listening.

  2. It is pointless to argue with people who fail to realize the very reason we haven’t overthrown any tyrants is precisely because we have an armed society. Somehow they never notice this goes on pretty regularly everywhere else.

  3. I’m actually starting some blog posts on my own blog to articulate my own opinion beyond what facebook is really able to convey.

  4. Post the name and addy of your ‘friend’ maybe someone might want to practice on someone who’s big on selling stupidity, (obliquely) defending tyrants, and a friend to gun-grabbing.

    • Here’s the Charge (True Bill) if we need to get rid of civilian guns (need to infringe upon the right of citizens to keep and bear them) THEN YOU HAVE CHUCKED THE CONSTITUTION AND WE NO LONGER HAVE AN AMERICA. Gather up your firearms quickly and I will work harder and devote more of my personal attention and resources to see that you need and appreciate them.

  5. The scorecard is so incorrect. One tally that is missing from the left side of the scorecard is for the outcome of “Bundy vs the BLM” … it wasn’t that long ago that 2nd Amendment supporters flew out to the Bundy ranch with their modern sporting rifles and successfully defended against the jack-booted thugs of a tyrannical Government!

    • Foolishness – No tyrants overthrown.

      The first thing I thought of was it should tally (an impossibility) the number of would-be tyrants who never got to that status due to the fear of an armed resistance. You cannot quantify a negative.

      Second thing, our history is full of stories of petty tyrants in both state and local governments and in the business world who attempted and often succeeded in tyranizing portions of the population and who were eventually defeated by force of arms, either by police intervention or the actions of the citizenry. While I cannot off the top of my head cite historical examples we can all remember the fictional representations since it was and is the theme for the majority of western stories, movies and TV programs.

      Art imitates life.

  6. P.S. the only thing that’s kept Toles from having his a_ _ converted to a pencil sharpener, is GUNS. He enjoys a small back water eddy in which to ply his sh_t, and a small shift of wind (a/k/a, once done with gun-grabbing, the gov’t is free to go after Amendment #1, and the sword shifts back around to being mightier than the pen) will place Toles in cell.

  7. I guess I looked at that wrong. I thought we were asking the question ” how far ahead do we let the tyrants get before we start to even it out. ”
    On a positive note at least they recognize they are ruled by tyrants.

  8. Didn’t most people on Tom’s chart die in gun-free zones? I guess he forgot to include that in his drawing.

    And yet the best answer the liberals can come up with is ‘we need more gun-free zones.’ How’s that for dogma?

  9. Can we talk about how if it weren’t for the natural right to “Keep and bear arms” we probably would’ve lost the Rev. war? No guns = no militias. No militias = no victory at Yorktown…

    • I would expect a reply along the lines of “That’s ancient history, we’re urbane and cool now….blah blah blah you’re a RACIST!” Because that is how ALL ‘conversations’ with this type end.

  10. A cartoon with tyrannies avoided vs. assaults stopped would skew somewhat differently.

    Apparently, the people who *don’t* get hurt because they can protect themselves *don’t* count. Also the tyrants who never get a foothold, and particularly individual little tyrannies that don’t happen.

    • In all fairness, that’s precisely the sort of thing that can’t be assessed because you can’t hang a number on it. It’s not just that they don’t want to; even people who want to, really can’t. How many crimes have not happened to you, and don’t even start because the thug took one look at you, saw you didn’t look like easy prey, and decided to go elsewhere before you even noticed him?

      Unfortunately, they demand numbers, and we really don’t have numbers to give them. Even actual DGUs that don’t involve firing a round (thug saw gun, thug remembered he had an urgent root canal appointment to make) are impossible to count.

  11. Did you ever watch Jon Stewart operate? I always felt sorry for those who attempted to take him on straightaway. He ate them alive…with humor. It didn’t matter who was right or wrong or how effectively his opponents debated. Stewart won, unless you could come back with something equally funny that made the point in the other direction.

    The cartoon that begins this article is funny. It’s also effective, although wrong. The cartoon is also fast. It’s lightning fast. I got its point instantly. Not so much for the counterargument. You want to win or draw the encounter? Laugh because it’s funny and retort with something funny. But don’t explain why it’s easy to post a facile cartoon. The cartoon is effective because it is facile. Cartoon 1 Indignant writer 0

  12. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish, and the tyranny of evil men.”

    No doubt most here will remember Samuel L. Jackson quoting this Biblical verse. But who said the “tyranny” we fight will only emanate from the government? It’s “because guns” to defend against the tyranny of evil men,…. whether they are from the government or criminal perps. Tyranny is not exclusive to governments, as the ISIS and Boko Haram factions have clearly shown. Tyranny is tyranny. Be it by a government, or a homicidal spree-killer.

    • And there’s a great response. No overwrought drivel about “cold dead hands,” no semi-literate, profanity-laced tirade, no petty comments about what a moron the cartoonist is (he isn’t). Just a pithy comeback, with a good reference to something everyone knows (or should), and a sharp point: tyranny isn’t limited to governments. Well said.

  13. I see that cartoon differently than intended. Stalin was never overthrown because of a disarmed populace. As a result, if you lived in the USSR in 1949, you could have had the same scoreboard, but you’d need millions more tally marks on the right.

  14. The cartoon score card;Tyrants over thrown should have in that category, people murdered by them, 100 of thousands which is more than ALL of the deaths of car, tobacco and guns combined over the last 50 years. The author of that cartoon IS a moron.
    Some of the disarmed people murdered by the governments of the world, Christians Rome, Jews Nazi Germany, Aztecs Spanish, Maori of NZ and Aboriginals Australia, Scottish William Wallace, the Irish, Welsh by English and the Native America by the US government. THIS is why we need guns to protect ourselves from those who would subject us to their whim and if this is not enough just google dictators.
    There are over 400 gun laws on the books and they have done nothing to stop the violence. Because of the winey few we are chastised for wanting to protect ourselves. We NEED guns to protect ourselves from criminals in and out of the government. I deserve the right to protect myself and if you don’t like it tough $hit.
    The 2nd Amendment was put into the Constitution so the people could protect themselves from a corrupt government. That is why it says “shall not infringe” so we can have what the government has to prevent a Holocaust. I believe the people should have what the government has including machine guns. The only gun control law there should be is that criminals can’t have any firearms. No double standards put DC politicians on Obamacare and SS.Thanks for your support and vote.Pass the word.


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