20 gauge Guns, guns, guns

People up with which Blawgletter grew adored guns. They loved to look at them, handle them, clean them, buy them, hunt with them, display them, target-shoot with them, sight them, sell them, talk about them, load them, unload them, compare them, oil them, swap them, put scopes on them, make ammo for them, and nickname them.

They also treated firearms with respect. They tended to anyway. People looked down on the few who didn't hold in awe the power to kill and maim of rifles, shotguns, and pistols. You called those folks trashy — or, in our love-the-sinner but hate-the-sin world view — called those folks' disdain for the safety of others trashy.

(We've had a love-jones with guns ourselves, by the way. Just above here you can see our first firearm — a 20-gauge Harrington & Richardson single-shot, with which we bagged a Fair Number of fowl, including dove, duck, and quail, and dusted many more skeet. Boy Scouts gave us safety training, in part courtesy of the National Rifle Association. And one of our all-time favorite books, Shooter's Bible, provided many hours of browsing enjoyment.)

Dodge Ram DuallyCars, cars, cars

The people we grew up with felt something close to the same way about cars and truck — from big ones to little ones, fast ones to grandmaws, rag-tops to pickups, and on and on. But the great majority, while seeing nothing wrong with car- and truck-love, had the same dislike for reckless conduct on the road. Trashy conduct.

Threat to safety?

Vendors know how to appeal to the impulses that cause the mouth to water and send the pulse racing at the sight of a Bushmaster ACR as well as a Class 5 Ram 550 Crew Cab with dually tires. A great many of the buyers have no need for such extreme products. Yet, in a country that has become 80.7 percent urban, Ford and Chevy pickups sell more than any other vehicles, with Rams not far behind.

(You can see a mild example of a faux-farmer truck in the photo above.)

But does coveting the military style of a high-caliber, semi-automatic rifle or drooling over the sleek, low-to-the-ground profile of a Corvette pose a threat to the safety of anyone other than the coveters and droolers?

No. Because those things in themselves do not amount to misuse. A bit trashy, perhaps. Unseemly, maybe. Gauche, sure. But not the kind of thing that by its nature tends to hurt others.

Gun Debate

The NYT today (Sunday) features an op-ed item and a Q&A about gun laws. The former says people think we already have more gun control than we really do. It cites a new survey and argues:

The notion that all we need is better enforcement of our current federal laws has been a core argument of the gun lobby for years in its fight against sensible restrictions on guns in our communities. But that argument is a straw man. It masks the fact that many Americans don’t really know what gun laws are on the books and falsely construes that to mean they don’t want common-sense gun laws passed — when they clearly do. What Americans strongly believe, and what is at the core of the president’s reform agenda, is that with rights come responsibilities.

The second piece, the Q&A, has a business column-writer, Joe Nocera, talking with Dan Baum, the author of a new (but pre-Sandy Hook) book, Gun Guys: A Road Trip. Baum regards gun guys as key to making people safer in a populace that already bristles with 300 million firearms. And he says we need to enlist their help, partly by calling on them to — and perhaps by passing laws that will make them — take responsibility for gun misuse:

You need gun owners — the “gun guys” as I call them. They are the custodians of the guns. I also think, though, that gun guys need to take their responsibility as gun owners seriously. A lot of gun owners are perfectly fine, for instance, with universal background checks. I know I am. They are fine with it so long as it doesn’t lead to a database and de facto registration.

Gun guys need to lock ’em up; gun guys need to take our responsibility to us much more seriously.

For his part, Nocera seems to think most people shouldn't have guns at all. And his newspaper has little good to say about the NRA and other strong advocates of what they call second-amendment rights.

MADDness

The public's confusion about existing gun laws and the common sense of gun guys seem to present an opportunity for progress in enhancing gun safety. And we think the chance turns on the question of when does trashy (unsafe) conduct with guns become misuse of guns (and abuse of gun rights)?

Recent history furnishes an analogue. In 1980, a California mother who lost her daughter to a drunk driver started what has become Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD now has a budget north of $45 million. And it has done a teriffic job of getting states and Congress to enact tougher laws against one of the worst misuses you can think of for motor vehicles — operating them while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In our home, the great State of Texas, where MADD now has its headquarters, drivers could tool around while swigging a longneck all the way until Sept. 2001. The Lone Star State only two years before had switched from .10 as the legal limit for blood alcohol content to .08. We changed the rules because in 1998 Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act, which included what it called "Alcohol Programs". The feds made us do it, with the money stick.

It worked. Between 1998 and 2008, fatal car accidents that involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more fell (to 1,146 from 1,223) in Texas despite a 15+ percent growth in population. The rate has held steady, hovering at 1,200 per year, while we continue to grow. That is a sad statistic, but at least it marks progress.

MAGMA?

The focus on misuse has, more than anything else, made MADD a success. What normal person would support misuse? Would the NRA?

Which raises the question of whether a like organization that centers on misuse of guns would do as well.

We suspect so. Call it MAGMA — Mothers Against Gun Misuse, in America.

The key, we think, consists in how we answer the question of what counts as misuse, versus the low-brow trashiness that repels many city and other non-gun people. The approach has to stress misuse — not ownership, not shooting in gun ranges, and not normal features of the gun itself. Misuse. MIS. USE.

Possibilities include:

  • handling a gun while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • letting someone else handle a gun while under such influence;
  • allowing a mentally ill person handle, or have access to, a gun;
  • failing to keep a gun in a secure place;
  • selling a gun to a stranger;
  • having inadequate training to use a particular kind of gun or to use it in a particular way;
  • owning way more guns than you could possibly need; 
  • failing to register your purchase or sale of a gun; and
  • buying a bunch of guns in a short period of time.

Polls suggest that many people, nation-wide, support passage of laws that would discourage these sorts of gun uses/misuses. See here, here, and here.

Enacting new laws will not of course do the whole job. MAGMA would have to keep the pressure up to give the laws teeth and to enforce them with vigor.

What do you think?

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Photo of Barry Barnett Barry Barnett

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck…

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck Redden).

Barnett is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and Lawdragon has named him one of the top 500 lawyers in the United States three years in a row. Best Lawyers in America has honored him as “Lawyer of the Year” for Bet-the-Company Litigation (2019 and 2017) and Patent Litigation (2020) in Houston. Based in Texas and New York, Barnett has tried complex business disputes across the United States.

TRIAL COUNSEL
Barnett’s background, training, and experience make him indispensable to his clients. The small-town son of a Texas roughneck and grandson of a Texas sharecropper, Barnett “developed an unusual common sense about people, their motivations, and their dilemmas,” according to former client Michael Lewis.

Barnett has been historically recognized for his effectiveness and judgment. His peers chose him, for example, to the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Law Institute. His decades of trial and appellate work representing both plaintiffs and defendants have made him a master strategist and nimble tactician in complex disputes.

Barnett focuses on enforcement of antitrust laws, the “Magna Carta of free enterprise,” in Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s memorable phrase. “Barry is one of the nation’s outstanding antitrust lawyers,” according to Joseph Goldberg, a member of the Private Antitrust Enforcement Hall of Fame. Named among Texas’s top ten antitrust lawyers of 2023, Business Today calls Barnett a “trailblazer” among the “distinguished legal minds” who “dedicate their skill and expertise to the maintenance of healthy competition in various sectors” of the Lone Star State’s booming economy. Barnett is also adept in energy and intellectual property matters and has battled for clients against a Who’s Who list of corporate behemoths, including Abbott Labs, Alcoa, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Broadcom, Comcast, Dow, JPMorgan Chase, Samsung, and Visa.

Barnett commands a courtroom with calm and credibility and “is the perfect lawyer for bet the company litigation,” said Scott Regan, General Counsel of former client Whiting Petroleum. His performance before the Supreme Court in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend prompted the Court to withdraw the question on which it had granted review. The judge in a trial involving mobile phone technology called Barnett “one of the best” and that his opening statement the finest he had ever seen. Another trial judge told Barnett minutes after a jury returned a favorable verdict against the county’s biggest employer that he was one of the two best trial lawyers he’d ever come across—adding that the other one was dead.

COMPLETE PACKAGE
A versatile trial lawyer, Barnett knows how to handle a case all the way from strategic pre-suit planning to affirmance on appeal. He’s tried cases to verdict and then briefed and argued them when they went before appellate courts, including the Second, Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and (in the case of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend) the Supreme Court of the United States.

Barnett is a sought-after public speaker, often serving on panels and talking about topics like the trials of antitrust class actions and techniques for streamlining complex litigation. He also comments on trends in commercial litigation and the implications of major rulings for outlets such as NPR, Reuters, Law360, Corporate Counsel, and The Dallas Morning News. He’s even appeared in a Frontline program about underfunding of state pensions, authored chapters on “Fee Arrangements” and “Techniques for Expediting and Streamlining Litigation” (the latter with Steve Susman) in the ABA’s definitive treatise on Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts, 5th, and commented on How Antitrust Enforcers Might Think Like Plaintiffs’ Lawyers.

HARD GRADERS
Clients and other hard graders have praised Barnett for his courtroom skills and legal acumen.

A client in a $100 million oil and gas case, which Barnett’s team won at trial and held on appeal, said Barnett and his team “presented a rare combination of strong legal intellect, common sense about right and wrong, and credibility in the courtroom.” David McCombs at Haynes and Boone said Barnett “has a natural presence that goes over well with juries and judges.”

Even former adversaries give Barnett high marks. Lead opposing counsel in a decade-long antitrust slugfest said “Barry is a highly skilled advocate. He understands what really matters in telling a narrative and does so in a very compelling manner.”

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
Barnett relishes opportunities to collaborate with all kinds of people. At the Center for American and International Law (CAIL), founded by a former prosecutor at Nuremberg in 1947 and headquartered in the Dallas area, he has served on the Executive Committee, co-chaired the committee that produced CAIL’s first-ever strategic plan, supported CAIL’s Institute for Law Enforcement Administration and other development efforts, and proposed formation of a new Institute for Social Justice Law. CAIL’s former President David Beck said “Barry is extremely bright” and is “very well prepared in every lawsuit or professional task he undertakes.”

Barnett is also a Trustee of the New-York Historical Society, a Sterling Fellow at Yale, a member of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Governing Board, a winner of the Class Award for his work on behalf of his college class, and a proud contributor to the Yellow Ribbon Program at Harvard Law. Barnett’s pro bono work includes leading the trial team representing people who are at greatest risk of severe illness and death as a result of being exposed to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 while being detained in the Dallas County jail—work for which he received the NGAN Legal Advocacy Fund RBG Award.

At Susman Godfrey, Barnett has served on the firm’s Executive Committee, Employment Committee, and ad hoc committees on partner compensation, succession of leadership, and revision of the firm’s partnership agreement. He also twice chaired the Practice Development Committee.

KEEPING PERSPECTIVE
Barnett understands that clients face many pressures. Managing the stress is important, especially in matters that take years to resolve. He encourages clients to call him whenever they have a question or concern and to keep the inevitable ups and downs in perspective. He wants them to know that he will do his level best to help them achieve their goals. He also strives to foster trust and to make working with him a pleasure.

Cyrus “Skip” Marter, the General Counsel of Bonanza Creek in Denver and a former Susman Godfrey partner and client, said Barnett is “excellent about communicating with clients in a full and honest manner” and can “negotiate for his clients from a position of strength, because he is not afraid to take a case through a full trial on the merits.” Stacey Doré, the President of Hunt Utility Services and a former client, said that Barnett is “an excellent trial lawyer and the person you want to hire for your bet-the-company cases. He is client focused, responsive, and uniquely savvy about trial and settlement strategy.” A New York colleague said, “Barry is a joy to work with as co-counsel. He tackles complex procedural and factual hurdles capably, efficiently, and without drama.”

PERSONAL
Barnett’s wide-ranging experience and calm, down-to-earth approach enable him to connect with clients, judges, jurors, witnesses, and even opposing counsel. He grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas. He co-captained his high school varsity football team as an All-East Texas middle linebacker while also serving as the Editor of Key Club’s Texas-Oklahoma District, won the Best Typist award, took the History Team to glory, and sang in the East Texas All Region Choir. As Dan Kelly of client Vistra Corp. put it, Barnett is “a great person to be around.”

Barnett is steady and loyal. He has practiced at Susman Godfrey his entire career. He and his wife Nancy live in Dallas and enjoy spending time in Houston and New York. Their daughter works for H-E-B in Houston, and their son is a Haynes and Boone transactions lawyer in Dallas.

As a member of Ivy League championship football teams in his junior and senior years at Yale and a parent of two Yalies, Barnett has no trouble choosing sides for “The Game” in November. And he knows how important fighting all the way to the end is. On his last play from scrimmage, in the waning minutes of The Game on Nov. 22, 1980, he recovered a Crimson fumble.

Yale won, 14-0.