The Right to Bear Arms
Yes, that’s an assault rifle. What’s going on here? Where was this picture taken? How would you react if you came across this fellow a local convenience store? (As always, image is explained at end of post.)
In America guns are in the news today. In an historic ruling yesterday the Supreme Court revisited the Constitution’s Second Amendment: “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.” The court ruled that this amendment does indeed mean that citizens have the right to have a weapon in their home, and that local governments cannot prohibit people from exercising that right. Every other pundit on the planet is going to be writing about this, not to mention every gun control advocate and every NRA supporter. As a former NRA member yet a staunch advocate of the right to bear arms, I thought I’d toss my two cents in. (I’m also a former Boy Scout, hell, I’m a former lots of things.)
First off, I find the extreme positions on both sides of this issue ridiculous and counter productive. The NRA fights even the most reasonable efforts to control gun violence and often distorts the facts and endorses positions that are indefensible. I left them when their magazine ran an ad for a Barrett Light Fifty sniper rifle that included words to the effect of “This is the perfect gun to use when BATF armoured vehicles are coming up your driveway.” I’m sorry, but advertising a purely military weapon to civilians by touting its potential use against law enforcement is just as disgusting as cop killing rap songs. On the other side, gun prohibitionists, like almost all prohibitionists, are blind to the fact that prohibition creates as many or more problems than it solves. In the case of gun prohibition, there’s no evidence it solves a damn thing. Gun prohibition punishes the innocent, wastes police resources, and means nothing to criminals except more profit.
I’m very happy about this ruling for a number of reasons. The main one being that it clearly and finally establishes the ownership of a weapon in one’s home as a individual right. This clause was put into the Constitution because the British were confiscating colonist’s weapons, and the colonists wanted to make damn sure no government they set up could ever do the same. People are not cattle owned by the government, people are the government, and ultimately they have the right to disarm the government, not vice versa. And note that the Supreme Court also made clear yesterday, while the government can’t prohibit the possession of weapons in one’s home, it can most certainly regulate their use and sale. The second amendment does state a “well regulated militia,” the Constitution’s authors did intend for communities to be able to have reasonable restrictions on gun use. I mean, guns are dangerous for God’s sake!
I’m also happy about this because if we are lucky, this will give impetus to reasonable and workable methods of reducing gun violence in America. Because as even the gun right’s supporters must admit, there is way too much senseless gun violence in the USA. And now that banning guns is off the table, maybe we can all work together on this problem? And in that light here is what I think can be done to become a civilized gun toting nation:
- Local Background Checks. It should be a no brainer that local authorities should vet gun purchases. None of us wants criminals, the mentally unstable, and people with restraining orders sworn out against them getting guns. And a recent study showed that local background checks reduced homicide and suicide rates by some 25%. I could live with that. Some may object that they don’t trust their local authorities. No problem, they should move to a county where they do trust the local authorities or work to get new authorities in their county. Most of us do respect the local authorities, that’s why we have them.
- Time limits and gun limits. I’m sorry, but if someone drives up to a rural gun store and wants to buy a trunk full of 9mm handguns…they’re up to no good. A person can only use one gun at a time, so there’s no good reason why someone would want to buy more than one at a time. I’m not sure what the limit should be, but the aforementioned scenario does occur and it needs to be stopped.
- Gun buyback programs. Anyone anywhere should be encouraged to turn in a gun and get money/food/sports tickets/whatever. The reason these programs are so effective is they tend to mostly collect old, cheap, unsafe guns in the hands of people who don’t want them and know nothing about them. IE the old rusty revolver in Aunt Millie’s top drawer that her husband left her when he died, a gun she neither knows how to use or store safely. Why is it so important to get these guns? Because these are precisely the guns that get stolen and used by criminals…or found by children with tragic result.
- The media. Sigh. I know it’s complicated, but gun violence is a social and cultural thing. Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world, in almost every master bedroom there is an assault rifle. And yet Switzerland has an extremely low gun violence rate. The mere availability of guns is only part of the problem, it’s the attitude toward them that has to change. And that’s where the media comes in. There’s not any question that the media plays a great role in the justification and even glorification of gun violence in America. I’m not advocating censorship, I’m advocating people do everything in their power to pressure advertisers and the media not to support/produce shows that glorify gun violence.
Have a great weekend everyone! Practise safe, sane, and responsible gun use!
(The above image is more or less public domain and I think I’m using it legally: This work is free software; you can redistribute it or modify it under the terms of the CeCILL. Credit: Rama. This is a picture taken in a civilized gun toting nation, Switzerland. It’s a guy on his way home from his annual gun qualification test stopping for some smokes and Pepsi. He does have to have a permit to do this, the millions of assault rifles in Swiss homes are owned by people who have received military training with them and qualify for their use every year. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I bet home invasion is a rare crime indeed in Switzerland.)