Political Animal


December 17, 2012 12:43 PM Lunch Links

By Ryan Cooper

Pardon me while I break for some sustenance. Here are some readings in the meantime:

1. Matt Steinglass on the Newtown shooting.

2. Josh Marshall brings the history on the absurd notion that guns “protect our freedom.”

3. Erik Voeten argues that the recent Second Amendment rulings may make an assault weapons ban more likely.

4. A great New York Times piece on how focus at the state level has paid off for the GOP.

5. It’s official, 2012 was the hottest year ever for the Lower 48.

6. Rogue geoengineering experiment seems to have worked, though knock-on effects have yet to be measured.

Back in a flash.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper


  • Shane Taylor on December 17, 2012 1:25 PM:

    More should be said against the self-defense defense, as we hear calls by various libertarians for still more armed vigilantes.

    The practical meaning of self-defense is not universally self-evident to everyone in every situation. This problem is what Thomas Hobbes actually meant by a "state of nature" (regardless of whether we agree to call it "nature"), where "there will be a large number of cases where everyone must be their own judge of how and when to defend themselves." In such a state of affairs, every person must be the private judge of "the necessity of the means, and the greatness of the danger" to their own lives.

    As the scholar Richard Tuck explained in Hobbes: A Very Short Introduction: "By the terms of Hobbes's account of the state of nature, conflict arises because people judge differently about what is a danger to them, and the fact that they judge differently is enough to show that there is an inherent dubiousness about the cases in question." In these doubtful cases, there is no plain fact of the matter.

    Nor is this problem reducible to mental illness alone. There needn't be a epidemic of untreated mental disorders to create a threat of being surrounded by George Zimmermans who suspect they, too, are living in someone else's gun sight.

    Before any given shooting, there may be no obvious distinction between who will become a hero and who will become a villain. Those who commence the killing--at the time and place of their choosing--may only seem like plausible culprits after the fact. What's more, every vigilante is an action hero in their own mind. And most would-be avengers are inclined to see anyone who resists them as a villain.