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The Supreme Court Ruling on the 2nd Amendment Did NOT Grant an Unlimited Right to Own Guns
Have you read the 2008 Supreme Court decision that gives all Americans the right to own guns? Probably not. I hadn’t, until the other day, when I was stunned to find that the decision is hardly the blanket protection for gun ownership that the National Rifle Association and adamant gun rights people claim. Nor is it the sweeping defeat that those who want gun control lament. Reading it, in fact, offers some real hope that a reasonable middle ground may be possible as America gropes in these polarized times for a solution to gun violence that protects the rights of gun owners and public safety.
There is no question that District of Columbia v. Heller was precisely the sort of judicial activism the conservative justices of the Supreme Court promised not to do. In a 5 to 4 decision those justices ruled that the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to own guns for personal self-defense, despite the amendment’s opening language - “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, ” - which pretty clearly says that gun ownership was specifically preserved by the founding fathers in the interest of the common defense against a tyrannical government (remember, this was the issue on their minds back then). Gun rights advocates cheered. Gun control advocates cried foul.
But even though the 5-4 majority ruling makes an intellectual end run around the language of the Second Amendment to get to their ruling, they very clearly state that society (government, convened to collectively protect us from what we can’t protect ourselves from as individuals) has the right to, and legitimate interest in controlling gun ownership, in several specific ways.
On pp. 54 and 55, the majority opinion, written by conservative bastion Justice Antonin Scalia, states: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…”. It is “…not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
“We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller (an earlier case) said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time”. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ ”
The court even recognizes a long-standing judicial precedent “…to consider… prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons.”
That language refers to many of the gun control ideas being discussed now. Prohibitions on carrying ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’ certainly might apply to assault rifles. Ammunition clips that hold 100 bullets…30…even 10, are hardly ‘usual’, certainly not for self-defense, or hunting.
“..conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” might include requiring that everybody who wants to own a gun has to get a permit, and have a background check, conditions and qualifications that already pertain to purchases through gun stores, but not through private gun shows.
“…laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.” That certainly seems to challenge the NRA’s idea that more guns in schools is a good idea.
And perhaps most striking, the majority ruling in Heller specifically leaves open the question of whether the public has a right to carry “concealed weapons”, a bedrock claim of gun rights advocates.
Despite these critical qualifications, gun rights advocates say they are protected by the 2008 Supreme Court ruling, yet selectively ignore the many ways the court allows for some forms of gun control. And despite the way the court enshrines gun ownership as a personal right, gun control advocates criticize the ruling, yet selectively fail to acknowledge or try to take political advantage of the ways it gives them the legal ammunition to accomplish much of what they want. Why is that?
First, of course, because few of us have read the ruling. We take our news in bits and bites from the media, and rarely dig any further. (I hadn’t read the ruling until just the other day.) In fact, many of us don’t really read or watch or listen to the news at all. We get our information from advocates, or friends, or social connections, sources who generally share and thus only reinforce our ideologies and basic values.
Those values are what the fight over gun control is really about, of course. It’s not about weapons or self defense or even the specific right to own a firearm. It is a surrogate for the battle being waged in the United States over the basic way society should be organized and operate. The most adamant most closed-minded gun rights advocates want guns less to protect themselves against physical danger and more to fight back against the threat of a society they feel is taking away their ability to control their own lives. You can hear that message laced through the recent Alex Jones interview by Piers Morgan.
As I wrote just after the Newtown shooting,
“People with these concerns have been identified by research into the Theory of Cultural Cognition as Individualists, people who prefer a society that grants the individual more freedom and independence and leaves them more personally in control of their individual choices and values. Contrast that with the sort of society preferred by Communitarians, who feel most comfortable, and safest, in a ‘We’re all in it together’ world of shared control and communal power, a society that that sacrifices some individual freedoms in the name of the greater common good. These deeply conflicting worldviews drive the central conflict in the fight over gun control.”
Those deep underlying tribal affiliations are important to us social animals, since we depend on our tribes for our health and safety. Being a member of the tribe in good standing feels safe. Disagreeing with the tribe risks social rejection, which feels scary. So when a Supreme Court ruling supports an Individualist sort of society, Individualists celebrate, and selectively reject or ignore how the ruling also supports Communitarian goals. Communitarian gun control people do the same sort of selective perception, criticizing the ruling because it threatens their sort of society, and failing to acknowledging the parts that support them, because doing so would weaken their attack on the ruling's support of Individualist goals.
There is actually a ray of hope in all this. There’s legal support in the Heller ruling for both sides. More than that, the ruling protects some of the underlying tribal imperatives of both Individualists and Communitarians. That allows each tribe to give some ground but maintain the vital self-identities that truly motivate this conflict. If more people were aware of the details of Heller, the ruling may provide grounds for some compromise in this battle, and undermine the credibility and impact of the people at the extremes (mostly the virulently closed-minded ‘take no prisoners’ gun rights folks, I have to say) who think their values matter more than playing by America’s basic rules.
So may I humbly ask that you do society a small favor? No matter what side you’re on, if you care about the gun violence issue, please send this blog around to anyone else you know who cares. Send it to your government representatives. By doing so, perhaps we can all see if this ray of hope for some compromise on gun violence, which more and more Americans want in the wake of the slaughter of those kids in Newtown, is more than just one person’s naïve optimism that we can still find ways, on even the most contentious issues, to work together.
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
Metal-like materials have been discovered in a very strange place.
- Bristle worms are odd-looking, spiky, segmented worms with super-strong jaws.
- Researchers have discovered that the jaws contain metal.
- It appears that biological processes could one day be used to manufacture metals.
The bristle worm, also known as polychaetes, has been around for an estimated 500 million years. Scientists believe that the super-resilient species has survived five mass extinctions, and there are some 10,000 species of them.
Be glad if you haven't encountered a bristle worm. Getting stung by one is an extremely itchy affair, as people who own saltwater aquariums can tell you after they've accidentally touched a bristle worm that hitchhiked into a tank aboard a live rock.
Bristle worms are typically one to six inches long when found in a tank, but capable of growing up to 24 inches long. All polychaetes have a segmented body, with each segment possessing a pair of legs, or parapodia, with tiny bristles. ("Polychaeate" is Greek for "much hair.") The parapodia and its bristles can shoot outward to snag prey, which is then transferred to a bristle worm's eversible mouth.
The jaws of one bristle worm — Platynereis dumerilii — are super-tough, virtually unbreakable. It turns out, according to a new study from researchers at the Technical University of Vienna, this strength is due to metal atoms.
Metals, not minerals
Fireworm, a type of bristle wormCredit: prilfish / Flickr
This is pretty unusual. The study's senior author Christian Hellmich explains: "The materials that vertebrates are made of are well researched. Bones, for example, are very hierarchically structured: There are organic and mineral parts, tiny structures are combined to form larger structures, which in turn form even larger structures."
The bristle worm jaw, by contrast, replaces the minerals from which other creatures' bones are built with atoms of magnesium and zinc arranged in a super-strong structure. It's this structure that is key. "On its own," he says, "the fact that there are metal atoms in the bristle worm jaw does not explain its excellent material properties."
Just deformable enough
Credit: by-studio / Adobe Stock
What makes conventional metal so strong is not just its atoms but the interactions between the atoms and the ways in which they slide against each other. The sliding allows for a small amount of elastoplastic deformation when pressure is applied, endowing metals with just enough malleability not to break, crack, or shatter.
Co-author Florian Raible of Max Perutz Labs surmises, "The construction principle that has made bristle worm jaws so successful apparently originated about 500 million years ago."
Raible explains, "The metal ions are incorporated directly into the protein chains and then ensure that different protein chains are held together." This leads to the creation of three-dimensional shapes the bristle worm can pack together into a structure that's just malleable enough to withstand a significant amount of force.
"It is precisely this combination," says the study's lead author Luis Zelaya-Lainez, "of high strength and deformability that is normally characteristic of metals.
So the bristle worm jaw is both metal-like and yet not. As Zelaya-Lainez puts it, "Here we are dealing with a completely different material, but interestingly, the metal atoms still provide strength and deformability there, just like in a piece of metal."
Observing the creation of a metal-like material from biological processes is a bit of a surprise and may suggest new approaches to materials development. "Biology could serve as inspiration here," says Hellmich, "for completely new kinds of materials. Perhaps it is even possible to produce high-performance materials in a biological way — much more efficiently and environmentally friendly than we manage today."
Dealing with rudeness can nudge you toward cognitive errors.
- Anchoring is a common bias that makes people fixate on one piece of data.
- A study showed that those who experienced rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to bad data.
- In some simulations with medical students, this effect led to higher mortality rates.
Cognitive biases are funny little things. Everyone has them, nobody likes to admit it, and they can range from minor to severe depending on the situation. Biases can be influenced by factors as subtle as our mood or various personality traits.
A new study soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that experiencing rudeness can be added to the list. More disturbingly, the study's findings suggest that it is a strong enough effect to impact how medical professionals diagnose patients.
Life hack: don't be rude to your doctor
The team of researchers behind the project tested to see if participants could be influenced by the common anchoring bias, defined by the researchers as "the tendency to rely too heavily or fixate on one piece of information when making judgments and decisions." Most people have experienced it. One of its more common forms involves being given a particular value, say in negotiations on price, which then becomes the center of reasoning even when reason would suggest that number should be ignored.
It can also pop up in medicine. As co-author Dr. Trevor Foulk explains, "If you go into the doctor and say 'I think I'm having a heart attack,' that can become an anchor and the doctor may get fixated on that diagnosis, even if you're just having indigestion. If doctors don't move off anchors enough, they'll start treating the wrong thing."
Lots of things can make somebody more or less likely to anchor themselves to an idea. The authors of the study, who have several papers on the effects of rudeness, decided to see if that could also cause people to stumble into cognitive errors. Past research suggested that exposure to rudeness can limit people's perspective — perhaps anchoring them.
In the first version of the study, medical students were given a hypothetical patient to treat and access to information on their condition alongside an (incorrect) suggestion on what the condition was. This served as the anchor. In some versions of the tests, the students overheard two doctors arguing rudely before diagnosing the patient. Later variations switched the diagnosis test for business negotiations or workplace tasks while maintaining the exposure to rudeness.
Across all iterations of the test, those exposed to rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to the initial, incorrect suggestion despite the availability of evidence against it. This was less significant for study participants who scored higher on a test of how wide of a perspective they tended to have. The disposition of these participants, who answered in the affirmative to questions like, "Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his/her place," was able to effectively negate the narrowing effects of rudeness.
What this means for you and your healthcare
The effects of anchoring when a medical diagnosis is on the line can be substantial. Dr. Foulk explains that, in some simulations, exposure to rudeness can raise the mortality rate as doctors fixate on the wrong problems.
The authors of the study suggest that managers take a keener interest in ensuring civility in workplaces and giving employees the tools they need to avoid judgment errors after dealing with rudeness. These steps could help prevent anchoring.
Also, you might consider being nicer to people.