1:58 p.m., April 8, 2013

Opinion:

Guns: Fresh look at firearm laws needed


We as a country must realize we’ve evolved past the point of needing civilians to be ready and armed in case of a sudden attack by redcoats. We are not living in a country where our native neighbors are at war with us over the land we are taking, and pioneers must be armed to the teeth to defend their families and homes.

However, I believe gun ownership is an important right. I believe it is protected by the Bill of Rights, and I think this was placed in the Constitution for more than one good reason. But I promise I will not waste your time speculating on the specific thoughts or reasoning of a handful of good men more than 200 years ago.

Instead let’s cut the lofty self-righteousness from both sides of the Second Amendment argument and talk about this like rational people of the 21st century:

1. Gun ownership is a protected right, and no matter how we try, guns will still exist and circulate.

2. Guns are dangerous; their sole purpose from conception to manufacture is the extinguishing of life and, therefore, must be treated differently from our X-Boxes and water skis and other personal properties. There must be regulation.

But a gun is, in fact, a tool. It can be used for sport and recreation as well as earnest and practical defense. Yet a gun is a tool just as a car is a tool; cars are also dangerous. They are two-ton objects capable of great speed acting at the will of their human operators, and while being practical forms of conveyance and convenience, they are also capable of great destruction and damage to property and human life.

Understanding this, and in the interest of promoting the general welfare and safety of the people of the country, we as a society regulate the use of automobiles.

We must register our vehicles and be licensed to operate different classes, sizes and powers of these vehicles. In order to become licensed, we must train and pass tests, both written and practical, proving we understand the laws and principles involved with, as well as the actual operation and ownership of, these machines.

Yet I don’t see picket lines denouncing speed limits, and I don’t see a national uproar about the need for driver’s licenses and vehicle registration. But I have a clue why that might be, which if you bear with me, I’ll get to.

I don’t believe anyone will dispute, other than with semantics or cyclical propagandist rhetoric, that guns are dangerous. Not just as much, but very much more than cars are dangerous. Because cars are made to transport people from one point to another, and all of their design and manufacturing is engineered to be as efficient in this task as possible.

Firearms, on the other hand, are created to kill, plain and simple, and all their design and manufacturing is engineered to be as efficient in this task as possible. So if firearms are more dangerous (especially in the wrong hands) than cars, I ask again, why all the uproar about putting the “well-regulated” into the civilian “militia” of normal gun owners, as prescribed by the Second Amendment?

The answer is the same for why gun owners fill the streets and the blogs and the Legislatures as for why gun control advocates do the same:

Fear.

Fear has long been the great unifier of hysterical reaction. No matter how diametrically opposed two sides may be, if one or both are in an uproar and demanding action so severe and hasty that it just causes more fear on the other side, it ends in laws we just repeal a few years later when we realize they make no sense. After we’ve wasted years or decades being so riled up by our own fear that we never thought to shut up, sit down and say: What is true? What is reasonable? What is practical? And what level of middle ground can be effectively accomplished?

Instead of a veritable Mexican standoff of legislation and fundamentalist rabble-rousing on both sides, why don’t we find a group of legislators who are not fundamentally supportive of either side and see what they have to say about it? If you put two people in a room who hate each other and expect to get things done, I have some beachfront property in Iraq to sell you. But if you take the rational friends of these two enemies with less extreme differences, you’ll be surprised to see what kind of compromise can be achieved. But as long as gun owners believe if we let the smallest bit of regulation exist, then the “slippery slope principle” will all have us slaves to a dictatorship state, and the gun control advocates think if we don’t regulate gun ownership, it will be a “slippery slope” until all our children have been murdered by the evil gun owners, then we’re just chasing our tails until our legs fall off.

The slippery slope works for everything. If we let the government make a law telling us when we buy a new car and have it registered, and we give up our freedom by letting government tell us how fast we’re allowed to drive, then the next thing you know, the state is planting microchips in our ears to tell us what to do? Guess what, ladies and gents: All laws, all government and all society involve a social contract in which in order to live together in groups, we must give up certain freedoms in order to keep one another safe. It’s an unfortunate side effect of our inherent nature.

As author Stephen King once said about people in general: “As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill each other.”

So the slippery slope can be applied to law in general: If we give up one bit of freedom by submitting to a single law, what’s to stop the government from taking all of them? The answer: the people. That’s the way government works.

Now I’d like to take the time to make sure it’s understood I’m a fan of guns. Prior to the Army, I had never shot a round in my life. But I found I liked it, and as time went by, I found I had a talent for it. I shot a perfect 40/40 score for every qualification for the last two and a half years in the Army. I was good enough that I was even sent to sniper training. I love the smell of gunpowder, and I love the feel of the rifle and the satisfaction of improving in the art of marksmanship. The thrill of using that dexterity and control to hit a target nearly a mile away is exhilarating.

My uncle recently fulfilled a promise from years back that he’d give me my first hunting rifle when I was out of the military, and I cannot wait to get started. But I think in order to be licensed to own it, and shoot it, and use it, I should be required to go through safety training, tests, marksmanship qualifications, etc. I mean I wouldn’t mind if I could show my DD-214 (proof of training and military service) and get a waiver, but if I were asked to, I’d gladly prove my ability to be a competent and responsible firearms owner.

That being said, I want to address what I dislike about the gun control legislation that has been going through our government for the last year, and especially the last few months.

Legislatures need to look at both sides of issue

One of the big reasons gun owners and gun rights advocates get all riled up about gun control legislation is it has the unfortunate problem of being full of pointless changes that don’t affect the fundamental problem. The 10-round clip is OK, but the 12-round clip is dangerous; the 22-inch barrel is fine, but the 16-inch barrel kills people. (Don’t bother checking these numbers. They are just as arbitrarily made up as those in the real legislation.)

If we could get some gun rights advocates who love and respect guns to help write some of this legislation, we might actually get some gun-control that not only allows law-abiding citizens to own and enjoy their firearms but also satisfies the need for practical laws regulating these tools, which also happen to be dangerous weapons.

The last point I’ll leave you with is this: The Second Amendment, as it is written, is a mess. It reads as if the first half of the sentence was from one sentence, and the second half was from a completely different sentence, and in order to compromise, the founding fathers just took half of each and made it the Second Amendment. No wonder we’ve never had a solid idea of which side is right.

Second Amendment needs to be catapulted into present

For your edification, here is the Second Amendment in black and white, instead of just my interpretation, as it reads from the copy of the Constitution of the United States of America that I keep in my desk at all times:

“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 anti-gun side of the fence often argues the “well regulated militia” is the National Guard, which is maintained by each state. The other point of view is the writers of the Constitution had never envisioned a National Guard, and that by “militia” the founders were speaking of a nation of armed citizenry; that Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence speaks of the rights of the people to defend themselves not only from foreign invasion but also to maintain the ability to forcibly change a government that no longer serves the people. This last part may seem outlandish to some, but many Americans believe it is the citizen’s duty to be prepared to overthrow a government if it should turn dictatorial, and being armed for this event keeps the government honest(-ish).

I would offer to you that the amendment incontrovertibly says that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” There is no getting around that the second highest on the list of rights in our Constitution is the right to personal defense for the purpose of securing the freedom of the nation. But no matter who what one’s personal opinion on what wasmeant by militia, we cannot ignore that the words “well regulated” were so important they was placed in the amendment before the words “right of the people.”

Understanding the context of the time, a well-regulated militia would be a body of citizens who were trained and disciplined in the use of the arms that they bore. So let us have learners’ permits for citizens of a certain age. Let them be trained on any firearms they may wish to carry when they have passed the licensing and training (and maybe a little psychological evaluation) and practical qualifications. Let them have an AR-15 with a 50 round clip if they have reason for it.

Then let us all sleep safe at night knowing only the people who are responsible and qualified legally have them, and if the Redcoats ever do come back, they’ll find a 350-million person militia armed and waiting.


March 2013: Deployment opens eyes to injustice
at home