Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thoughts on Gun Control, Part 2: The Line

In our last exciting episode, we dealt with the idea that the Second Amendment might need rethinking, based on the change in weapons and circumstances. In this sense, we agreed with probably the most insightful of the Founding Fathers, Jefferson, who thought that, "with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times." Therefore, we are not slinging poo at the revered and sacred big cheeses of the Revolution for thinking their buildings might need a little renovation...

My readers might disagree with that notion, and, of course, they are free to. But we all might consider one thing: that we certainly all agree that there are certain weapons we would not want in the hands of any particular private citizen...a nuclear bomb, for instance.

Somewhere between this...
Right? Should my neighbor be able to rig his house with a nuclear explosive that would go off if someone were to trip a wire near the front door? Of course not, right? Too many people could die.

What about a setup that would protect his loved ones and property in the form of a series of pipes in the front lawn that would pump VX nerve gas into the air in the event of an intruder? Of course not -- too many could die.

What about those who have to travel city streets alone at night? Should it be legal to carry a flame thrower for self-defense? Ridiculous, right? The whole city could burn down.

This only all goes to prove that we all agree that there should be limits on the ways in which we can protect ourselves. Anyone who thinks that we should be allowed to defend ourselves in the ways listed above is an idiot. I say this with confidence, because I believe that any idiot who would disagree with me here is someone I would rather stop reading my blog.

So, carrying things further, in modern times, we have a vast variety of guns and rifles and other assorted personal weapons that range vastly in their ability to inflict damage on the enemy. I am not a gun expert, so I am not going to propose the specific "line" at which we should cut off John Q. Public from his self-defense. I just want it to be clear that any rational being would agree that we do need to draw some line when it comes to what sort of weapons we should allow the average person to own, at least when we expand to weapons of mass destruction or to ones that could cause the death of too many, especially the innocent.

Is it ridiculous to draw a line? -- to say how much firepower is too much firepower, even in the hands of a law-abiding citizen?  I don't think so.

I do believe that average citizen should have access to guns, but I think the kind of guns does need to be limited. I'm not sure at what level I think this should be done, to be honest with you -- probably somewhere between a shotgun and short of a Gatling gun in a second floor bedroom window seems right to me -- but it is as worthy of consideration as it would be with any weapon. The absurd examples above serve only to prove the point that, at some level, the ways in which we defend ourselves needs to be limited.

It is ludicrous and dangerous to suggest that guns be outlawed altogether. The last thing we need is a country in which the government has all the guns and the people have none; bad idea, and the Founding Fathers agreed.

It could be argued that if we don't have the best firepower, we could never mount a revolution, at need. I disagree with that -- the Patriots in the 1770s were outgunned, but they found a way. It seems illogical to me to prepare for something as unlikely (but, admittedly, possible) as a revolution by arming ourselves to an extent that, in the process of waiting for this possible new revolution, we make it easier for lunatic after lunatic to mount widescale attacks on random groups and killing hundreds if not thousands. Since 1966, alone, 869 people have been killed in mass shootings, and there has not been one revolution. Mass shootings are a pressing problem. (I know, I know -- the weapons in these killings have ranged from handguns to rifles to machine guns...that's why we need to think it over -- which ones does it make the most sense to keep off of the streets? Not all of them, for sure. I want to remain clear about that.)

But for heaven's sake, people, please stop arguing that "making things illegal won't stop them from happening." I can point to about two-hundred memes to this effect that have made me drastically angry. Making rape illegal has not stopped it from happening, but no one is proposing that we should just lift the laws off of the books because making laws has not solved the problem...

So, the question becomes whether limiting the kinds of gun we can own is a violation of the amendment's idea that the right to have guns "shall not be infringed." (In my previous piece, you can see, I hope, that when it comes to variety of weapons, the writers of the amendment could not have had "limitation" in mind, so it becomes a non-issue).

When the law limits the kinds of weapons we are allowed to have, it is not precluding the ownership of guns, in general. In this way, I don't see regulation of what is legal and what is not legal to own as a conflict with the amendment.

That said, I will be so bold as to submit a revision of the Second Amendment and to present it cloudward to Mr. Jefferson, for his consideration:

Protection of self and family being a fundamental right of every human, the right the people to keep and bear arms within a reasonable scope with respect to the safety of the citizenry at large, shall not be infringed. 

Sure, that leaves a big question mark in the air: What does "within a reasonable scope" mean? That's what judges and government representatives are for: to argue about and to decide these things. It won't be an easy road, but I think we should keep up the tug-of-war of the legal and governmental processes.

....and this?
It also shifts from the keeping of a free state to personal safety, eliminating the Militia piece, But I think most people are more focused on personal safety these days and if everryone is allowed to have a weapon, a militia could still be formed at need, so it works out in the end.

In the end, I just want us all to agree that limitations on the weapons the average citizen can own is a good idea when it comes to nukes and nerve agents; that limiting works from the top down. I just want us to discuss the line. Why would it stop at the most powerful and destructive hand-held weapon ever made? If it shouldn't (and it shouldn't) then the debate is over what is safe enough, but still lethal enough to offer personal defense. And let's argue about that and keep adjusting and adjusting and adjusting, as time goes on, as Thomas Jefferson knew we would need to do.

1 comment:

  1. I think we are having this conversation all the time. This isn't new. Automatic weapons are banned, but for a finite, cost-prohibitive number of grandfathered, mostly range-owned guns. If you want to ban those, I'm totally open to that, but they don't account for mass shootings. We've tried national "assault weapons" bans, state level "assault weapons" bans...every time, the line is shifty and arbitrary and the language is full of holes, and every time, we've learned that use in an assault is the only thing that can define an "assault weapon". From a practical standpoint, they don't even stop you from legally getting what you want, because all they can do is ban trademarks and small, non-essential features. All they are functionally is a symbolic concession of rights.

    The concept of degrees of lethality amongst semiautomatic weapons is a fallacy perpetuated by those who don't understand guns. Every gun has an ideal arena of use and they're all deadly. Statistics will tell you to ban 9mm handguns. The consistent position would be to ban semiautomatic weapons, but that would rule out most home defense weapons.

    Other libertarians would string me up for this, but what if we talked more about who? I'm not an advocate of the murder park-style scenario of abolishing firearms free zones. Even if I would never have shot someone, I've drank enough on occasion to have had a gun stolen from me. I'm not advocating armed anarchy. But I don't like my chances unarmed in a crowded place any more or less whether the guy has an AR or a Glock, and even in strict states with AR bans you can buy a Sig MCX.

    The next step to me is simple: regulate who. Streamline the background check process with a fully-transparent federal system which has access to state and local municipal records. Generate a file on the applicant and pay an office of state employees to look at each one. I'm not saying that is a unilateral solution, but if we're not doing that, we're not doing everything we can to stop mass murderers. That's much more efficient than bans written by politicians without a lick of gun knowledge.

    Sorry for the persistent, long, uninvited comments.