Saturday, November 20, 2004

Issue: Gun Control

Do Americans have the right "to keep and bear arms?" Or was that right intended to be restricted to "a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State?" The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says both. But what does it really mean? No one knows, although advocates claim that one phrase or another supports their cause. The reason there has been so little litigation directly challenging the Second Amendment and so few court decisions is that both sides are afraid to definitively test its meaning. What's more important is that both law and judicial precedent establish that restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms are constitutional. That means gun control is a matter of public policy and law.

Handguns are primarily used to kill people, and the most common justification for private handgun ownership is home and personal protection. However, privately-owned handguns are far more likely to cause deaths by accident or felonious intent. They're used in legitimate home and personal defense only rarely and often ineffectively.

The biggest problem with private ownership of handguns is that our society is now awash in them. For every handgun owned by a trained, safety-conscious, responsible citizen, there are hundreds in the hands of people who don't know much about gun safety and couldn't hit the side of a barn at 10 paces. And there are even more handguns in the possession of bad guys who use them to threaten and intentionally kill people.

Long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, are different. They're used for hunting, serious target shooting, and home protection. And, of course, they're sometimes used to kill people.

Currently we have a hodge-podge of federal, state, and local laws regarding guns. While there may be very restrictive gun control laws in one state or city, all a person has to do is drive to a more permissive jurisdiction, buy his weapons of choice, and drive home. Clearly, federal law is the only effective means of gun control.

It's troubling to think of Harvey the plumber walking around the supermarket with a Beretta strapped to his side, but that's happening in some U.S. states these days. Soldiers and police officers who are well-trained sometimes have accidents with weapons; how can anyone think plumbers and account executives won't have many more? And what if I accidentally drop a can of peas on Harvey's foot and piss him off? With the Beretta, he could kill me in an instant of rage (assuming he can hit anything with it). Without the Beretta, he'd have to attack me with his hands or a stick or whatever, assuming he could catch me. After running about 15 yards, he would most likely be so exhausted he would have to stop, and that would at least give him a chance to think about what he was doing.

And the bad guy? Well, take away the handgun, and he's not such a big man. (Come to think of it, maybe that applies to Harvey as well.) I guess he could try robbing a store or swaggering around the neighborhood with a shotgun or a baseball bat, but that would cramp his style and make him a lot more obvious.

I think all handguns should be outlawed, except for law enforcement officers and a very small number of trained, vetted, and licensed people who have a legitimate need. Anyone else caught possessing or illegally buying, selling, or distributing handguns would be guilty of a felony and subject to mandatory jail time. If this prevents some men from strapping an ersatz phallus on their belts or inconveniences a few legitimate target shooters, so be it.

I think reasonable long guns should be permitted for private citizens, with licensing and restrictions. "Reasonable" at the very least means no automatic weapons (more than one round per trigger pull), minimum barrel lengths, etc.

Maybe this would mean that for a while only the bad guys would have guns. That wouldn't be much different from today, and with serious enforcement of the laws, bad guys could soon be disarmed. Then maybe we could emerge from the wild west and join the rest of the world.

Note: For the record, I have nothing against guys named Harvey, plumbers, or account executives.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your position on this.

But what is your response to the argument that the purpose of the Second Amendment is actually to allow the people to retain the means to overthrow the government if it came to that? (Admittedly, it's hard to reconcile this with the "well-regulated militia", but I believe that some gun-control opponents have this in mind.)

8:12 PM, January 24, 2005  
Blogger afidhsgf said...

I think this was an excellent post and fully agree with you. While a gun owner myself, including a pistol, I believe that if it came down do banning handguns, I'd be first in line to vote for it. Handguns are proven time and time again to do more harm than good and although I personally have shot since I was young and enjoy it, I have to say that the safety of everyone is more important than my going out to the woods or to the range and shooting a Glock.

In Europe, long guns are legal though more restricted than in the US but handguns are illegal. I think this is a very fair model.

If you claim self defense as your reason for buying a pistol, buy a 12 guage. I promise it'll do a lot more damage than even a .45

If you claim only the bad guys will have guns, then you're overlooking who has the most guns now anyway.

If you want to overthrow the government one day just in case then give me a break, the local cops could outgun most anyone but the most advanced military in the world, i.e. ours? You think you have a chance?

If you just say it's in the constitution then so be it then I point you to other things that were at one time in there such as that black people only count as 3/5s of a person.

9:00 AM, February 13, 2005  
Blogger B said...

You doubtless know my position on the matter. Knowing a few people who killed themselves or were killed by handguns leads one to appreciate that they are far more dangerous than their proponents admit. There is no reasonable argument that crime would increase if they were banned, but accidental and intentional deaths at the hands of loved ones (or oneself) would surely drop dramatically. Even if we can't get them out of the hands of criminals, taking them out of the hands of the criminally reckless would be a step in the right direction.

9:43 PM, February 24, 2005  
Anonymous Lt. Gen Funabashi said...

I am sorry, but you, your position, and most of the comments to it are essentially flawed. We do know, the 2nd. refers to the People as individuals. The reason there is so little litigation is because that is plain and obvious.

Handguns: please show some data to substantiate these claims. Our nation is not suddenly "awash" with sidearms; while there has been an increase in their ownership, it is no sudden wave. Prior to 1936, there was no record of ownership of any kind, so there is no way of telling who owned what. Prior to 1968, any firearm could be bought by mail-order; somehow that didn't seem to pose such a problem, as crime rates were much lower then. Try providing another explanation, like urbanization, the drug war, or, if you really want to explain it in a way that makes sense, try economics.

Long guns: your argument about Europe is irrelevant.

Laws: 20,000 federal, state, and local laws is not a hodge-podge, it is a monster of a legal swamp. It is far easier to buy chemicals to make crystal meth or poisons than to buy firearms. Try going to a pool supply store or plumbing store and see if they ask you to fill out a form in triplicate, show 2 forms of ID, and wait 10 days to pick up a 5gal can of acid?

Harvey: I feel much safer knowing that Harv has a 92 on his side. The Beretta 92 has a number of built-in safety devices to prevent an AD (accidental discharge) and that is why it is used by many police departments and the military. Are you implying that because Harv is a plumber that he cannot shoot? or that his profession makes him inherently any more dangerous than, say, Noam Chomsky, with a Beretta?

Reality check: I live in Japan. No legal handguns. People still get killed. Most common instruments in "murders of passion?" Bare hands and kitchen knives. Second Reality Check: England and Australia. Took away the sidearms, and now violent crime is way up. Go ahead, do the research, try and prove me wrong.

Ban? How about banning cars first? They kill far more people than guns do, and guns are not destroying the global environment.

P.S.: Full-auto weapons (commonly known as "machine guns") have been heavily controlled by the NFA (National Firearms Act) and require an FBI background check + $200 tax to own, so most people don't own them.

5:45 AM, February 27, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Lt. Gen Funabashi: Thank you for your comment, sir. I understand that people have different points of view. However, I'm a little taken aback by your statement that ", your position, and most of the comments to it are essentially flawed." Do you mean to say that I am essentially flawed because I take a position different from yours? Interesting concept.

10:11 AM, February 27, 2005  
Blogger FunaBashing said...

Mr. Carter:

I recall seeing on your blog that you once held the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Armed Forces, is that correct?

I believe that you swore an oath to uphold the Constitution at some point near the time of being comissioned as an officer.

Can you explain either of the following:

1. When that oath ended? I checked several dictionaries, and the consenus is that an oath has no temporal limitation. If you can find an accepted dictionary definition with a limiting clause, please post it.

2. What part of the Constitution changed? As far as I know, the U.S. Constitution has not changed in recent years, and still has 27 Ammendments. If you can find a newer version, please post it.

I believe that if you reflect upon these points, you will find the essential flaw.

Regarding the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, I would direct you to read the following:

This section of the USC defines the Militia Clause, and the current interpretation in Washington supports the "Individual Right" view of the 2nd. Ammendment.

11:15 AM, March 19, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Funabashing: Aside from what appears to be your second ad hominem attack on me, I can't figure out what you're trying to say. I'd suggest you take a creative writing course, or maybe go a little easier on the meds.

1:00 AM, March 24, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My take on the second ammendment
is as follows: the availability of both citizens and guns are necessary for a well regulated militia to exist.

A well regulated militia can defend
the citizenry from the threat of tyrany of it's own government, or
from any external or internal threat it's government fails to address.

The right to bear arms incurs some part of the inherent danger of maintaining a free state; and at times, the cost of freedom is high.

12:20 AM, June 12, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Denise, thanks for your comment. I have to disagree with you on the meaning of the Second Amendment, for reasons stated in the post. And there is no "militia" in the U.S. capable of the things you talk about it doing. There hasn't been any such thing certainly since before the Civil War, which made the point fairly dramatically.

5:40 AM, June 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Militia can be defined as a citizen army or armed citizenry.
While we haven't had a true standing citizen army since the Civil War, as an unarmed citizenry we would not be able to form one should the occasion necessitate.

Having moved from New York, where gun possession is
limited to a few licensed people, law enforcement and the bad guys,to Texas.
I have learned to withhold an "up yours" or "in your face" after hearing my friend fret over his mother in law and her friends all possessing handguns and all on vallium.

Here is where we look to "well regulated", and certainly can find
acceptable interpretations that would cover a reasonable degree of gun control, whether you find the definition of a standing citizen army or armed citizenry as fitting to "militia".

As concerns our leaving the wild west and joining the rest of the world, still much of the world
aside from Europe is pretty wild.
And with the vast open spaces and
thousands of miles of borders our country possesses, it would take
quite some time to "Europize" it-
develop all the available space ,fill it with people , and drasticly reduce our federal government so it does not compete with the interests of or take resources from more efficient state governments. Denise

10:53 AM, June 12, 2005  
Anonymous WAYNE said...

The people of the State of Michigan enacted legislation that allows citizens to carry concealed weapons, there was much government resistance, but the electorate decided that folks had Second Amendment rights, guess what it is 2007 and all is well111

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