At first I had no plans to address the topic of guns and gun control. It’s an extremely volatile and polarizing topic, but also because most of the people I know here have a pretty good idea how I feel anyway.
Then the Aurora movie theater shooting happened, and more recently the Clackamas mall shooting and of course the murder of twenty first graders and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut. I knew there would be a public outcry regarding guns and gun ownership, as if the guns themselves did the killing.
I felt compelled to address a few points, and people can make what they want of it.
The debate is nothing new, after all. People have been talking about gun control probably ever since there have been guns. For crying out loud, you used to have to leave your sidearm with the saloonkeeper while you were drinking and playing cards. Of course, they’d give it back to you when you left…
To my knowledge, it has also always been legal for United States citizens to own firearms. The second amendment to the constitution was adopted in 1791, along with the rest of the bill of rights. The second amendment has long been the rallying cry for gun enthusiasts as it grants them the right to “keep and bear arms.”
Gun control enthusiasts, on the other hand, have often pointed to this section with a little more detail:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed
They make the point that there is no longer much call for a “well regulated militia” as our all volunteer armed forces and various law enforcement agencies take care of armed protection. Consequently, people also no longer need firearms to protect themselves at a local level.
I understand their point, and I get that the makers of the constitution were just coming off a war where the “well regulated militia” is what made the difference. These were men with little military experience and often not much training who were willing to put down their plows and pitchforks and take up the musket to ensure their basic human freedoms.
In 2008, the Supreme Court held that the individual had the right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes in federal enclaves, such as one’s home. This decision took the militia argument out of the equation.
It’s easy to understand the concerns of people regarding firearms, given the terrible acts of violence visited upon our country and others. The Norway massacre comes to mind, as well as shootings in Scotland and Israel over the past 10-15 years.
I get it, I really do. I will even admit that some sort of measures need to be taken to ensure massacres like what happened last week do not become commonplace, though I fear that is where we are headed. Yet I do not believe taking away people’s right to protect their homes and families is the way to make that happen.
It would seem, though, some sort of restrictions as to which weapons and how many of them are available to people might be in order. It’s difficult to understand why a citizen looking to protect themselves would need something like an assault weapon with a potential capacity for more than 100 rounds, semi-auto or otherwise.
Actually, it’s hard to understand why anyone would need an assault weapon at all, excepting military service or zombie apocalypse. Yet, I know people who are avid collectors and have several of them. These men and women are not the people we generally need to worry about.
Legislation only works if people allow themselves to be subject to it. Therefore even if some sort of…all encompassing ban of firearms was to take place, it would only be as effective as the people who obeyed it. And the truth is, if someone is willing to swap their lives for a killing, even if they do not have a firearm they can do a great deal of harm (such as the OKC Federal building a while back).
Of course, there’s also the fact you can’t really enforce legislation directed toward gun-wielding criminals, as well as psycho or sociopaths who might use their weapons for an other than lawful purpose. Also, I don’t think anyone could argue the individuals perpetrating these horrible crimes likely have some moderate to serious issues with mental illness.
The other thing to consider is that while it is people and not guns that kill, it is also hard to argue we’ve created a culture where violence is commonplace and life has so little meaning it has become almost almost arbitrary. Lives are legally ended before they even begin, and the entertainment industry sells violence to our children in shiny and appealing packages so that nothing is shocking anymore.
The dialog may begin with gun control, but it certainly does not end there. It is much more complicated than that. Consider this: People have also been saying gun owners who have firearms to protect their homes are more likely to hurt themselves than any intruder. This is patently false. Of course, it is much less sensational and interesting for the media to report when this sort of thing actually happens, so they often do not report it at all. Take the Clackamas shooting, for instance. A young man legally carrying concealed drew his weapon and faced the shooter, ultimately forcing him into a stairwell where he took his own life.
I believe the truth is that the only thing that stops a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun. Also that the bad people will always be armed, and do not live by the same rules as the rest of us.
I am a gun owner, and both weapons I have are small caliber. I got them to shoot at targets, not burglars. But I do have them, and I would rather have them than not. If the choice was between using them and harm to my family or anyone, really, I would use them without regret. I would put a hundred bullets into a person intending harm to a child before I would allow them to carry out their intentions.
My weapons are kept safe, and away from my kids. In any case, I know I haven’t answered any questions with this big pile of letters, but I felt the need to address a certain demographic of folks who understand neither guns, nor gun owners.
I have the legal right to possess a firearm, without being a member of a well regulated militia. Those people do, too. Whether or not they choose to exercise it is their affair. Yet I would submit that trying to enforce any sort of blanket restriction is stupid, and very similar to what the country had fought against when the constitution was drafted in the first place.
I will also acknowledge that certain points within the “gun control debate” do need to be addressed. I don’t know what the answers are, but I believe a healthy discourse between all parties is a start.
Some potential topics?
1. Assault weapons, both automatic and semi-auto.
a. Who can have them?
b. Are they needed in the private sector?
c. What for?
2. Round capacity for magazines.
a. What is needed?
b. What is enough?
c. Is anyone going to shoot a deer more than once or twice?
3. What is the criteria for whether or not a person can purchase a gun of any sort? Should there be criteria?
4. What are the repercussions if a gun is used to defend a home? Are “stand your ground” laws the answer?
So many questions, and not many real attempts to find answers as yet.
It needs to start somewhere, and we need to set aside partisan rhetoric in the interest of getting to the heart of the matter and making real and desperately needed changes in the interest of saving lives and preserving freedoms.
So let’s talk, people.