It is not called a “museum of ideas.”

Donald Sterling gets banned for life by the NBA, and the usual suspects start hollerin’ about the First Amendment. This despite the fact that it’s a private membership organization making decisions about who they want to have as members.

When Brendan Eich was forced to voluntarily step down as CEO of Mozilla because of his political donations, John Scalzi observed:

I mean, isn’t this supposed to be how things work? Decisions made, a frank exchange of viewpoints by legitimately interested parties, choices selected with an eye toward the bottom line good of the company, and actions voluntarily taken by the person and people affected? With no governmental interference in any way? Is this not the very soul of laissez-faire capitalism?

I remember people were confused about freedom of speech way back when Vanilla Ice was a thing, and I am sure they were confused about it long before then. So I don’t think I’m going to set anyone straight on this. But I do have three observations.

First, it may be sad that Eich had to give up his position with Mozilla. But he was not clapped in irons and thrown in San Quentin. He can still work, he can still speak at conferences, and he can still donate money to anti-gay organizations if he likes. What he did was not illegal, it was just … frowned upon.

Second, many people far less well off than Eich or Sterling have lost their jobs because of things they’ve said. A while back some folks got booted from their jobs because they made a joke that offended an eavesdropper, and then the eavesdropper got fired for raising a stink about it. I can think of at least two bloggers who lost their jobs because of things they said on their weblogs. It really happens all the time. We just don’t often see the rich and/or powerful paying a price.

Third, I still remember the Dixie Chicks.

In general, I think people ought to be more tolerant of other people’s viewpoints. People do need an opportunity to change their minds and evolve, and I don’t like it when people are intimidated into silence by twitter-mobs. But that doesn’t mean we need to tolerate assholes, or that we shouldn’t speak up when we find one.

Use Me

I keep forgetting how great this Bill Withers song is, so here’s a video of him performing it live.

Bill Withers is a West Virginia native from Slab Fork — near Beckley. Here’s an interview with him:

Other common arguments against gun control

I promised earlier to take on some common anti-gun-control arguments that I had seen over and over in Facebook. A vacation, several illnesses in the family, and playing catch-up after the holidays have delayed that effort, but here — briefly! — are five common Facebookish arguments against the very idea of gun control, and what goes through my mind every time I read one.

1. You can’t ban guns because the Second Amendment says so.

The First Amendment is pretty clear that no law will be made that regulates speech. Nevertheless, we have laws against slander, libel, and incitement. The Constitution’s language is very idealistic, but the Supreme Court leans more towards pragmatism.

Even Antonin Scalia has acknowledged that the Second Amendment might have to give way, just a little bit, to public safety.

2. First they came for the assault rifles…

Some people oppose any form of gun control because they fear that the final result will be a total ban on all guns. It’s a slippery slope.

“This is a type of reasoning that carries weight only if there are demonstrable logical connections and causations for good legislation to go bad,” says Gil Shapiro in the Arizona Daily Star. it’s ludicrous to avoid constructive, even life-saving, policies just because you fear what will happen with it in the future.

3. Determined people will still get guns on the black market

This is a “perfection is the enemy of good” argument.

Banning certain types of gun will doubtless move trade underground. It will also, however, move storing and transporting guns underground as well. That will provide more opportunity for discovery and interdiction. Right now, and in most cases, we have to wait until someone shoots someone else with an assault rifle before we can assume that person is up to no good.

It is difficult for me to imagine that banning some guns and heavily regulating others would not significantly cut into gun violence and gun fatalities — and just because we don’t keep every bad guy from using a gun doesn’t mean we won’t prevent many bad guys from using a gun.

4. People will just find another way to kill people

Guns have a lot of advantages. The are relatively cheap, easy to conceal, mostly safe to store, and extremely fast and efficient at killing at either close range or from a distance.

No other weapon fits this profile; no other weapon really comes close. This is why guns are an overwhelming weapon of choice in places where they can be easily obtained.

5. Are we going to ban cars, too?

A total ban on cars is unlikely, but then so is a total ban on guns. The irony in this argument is that cars are already heavily regulated during their construction, sale, transfer, and use — in many of the same ways we ought to regulate guns. For more on how car-like regulation of guns would work, see Dr. Gunter’s excellent post: We Should Compare Guns to Cars.