Posted by: coloradokiwi | November 21, 2007

Under the gun

“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.”

One almost gets the sense that those rascally founders were purposefully obfuscating things, the way that crazy sentence is worded. That is of course what is in dispute once again, and for the first time in 68 years, the Supreme Court will rule as to whether a 1976 D.C. gun law, which bars the possession of handguns and requires that shotgun and rifle owners keep their guns disassembled, is unconstitutional. This is kind of a big deal, because the ruling here will set an important precedent that will tip the scales one direction or the other: either gun possession is an individual right for all U.S. citizens not tied to any martial authority, or it is subject to curtailment by the individual states being for the regulation of a militia.Of course, there are a few particulars here that make the case really wacky, and may have precedent on other areas:

The justices chose their own wording for what they want to decide in the new case, District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290. The question they posed is whether the provisions of the statute ‘violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes.’ The court’s choice of words is almost never inadvertent, and its use of the phrase ‘state-regulated militia’ was somewhat curious. The District of Columbia, of course, is not a state, and one of the arguments its lawyers are making in their appeal is that the Second Amendment simply does not apply to ‘legislation enacted exclusively for the District of Columbia’ [because it is not a state].

Hehe, well. I’ll leave it to more agile and informed legal minds to parse that one. What I really want to do is use this case as the launching pad for talking about guns and some ways I think we can get out of this whole mess.

First off: I like guns. I own several. I enjoy hunting and target shooting. However I don’t see the point of owning a gun “for protection” other than breaking and entering, because (1) in an actual “situation” on the street, I am unlikely to be in a position to do anything other than incite my attacker to kill me if I pull out a gun; (2) I don’t want the cops to shoot me because they’re afraid of what I’ll do if they see a gun on me, or mistake me for a violent offender (this is why I oppose people carrying guns on college campuses to prevent massive shootings, incidentally, which I guess should be the subject of another post); (3) in the event of a break-in, why the hell would I want to try defending myself with a handgun, which is inaccurate and in most cases does not have sufficient stopping power or “scary” power? That is to say: as soon as anyone hears the “cha-chunk” of a shotgun, bodily excretions are imminent. Similarly, a bayonet on the end of a rifle says more than a mere barrel can, which is: that crazy motherfucker has a bayonet! That crazy motherfucker can stab me to death and never fire a shot! And of course both rifles and shotguns are much better for bludgeoning weapons, or just holding someone at bay. I’m not gonna fucking pistol whip some burgler in my home — what am I, a pimp?

Anyway, point is this: I support most gun rights, but I can see the sense in either banning or curtailing access to certain weapons, including certain handguns. However, we shouldn’t get carried away, because (1) the causes of violent crime go far beyond whether there is ready access to guns; (2) the simple reality of America is that there is simply no way to get rid of guns. There are WAY too many of them around. However, the opposite extreme on the argument is absurd, as well: I think it’s probably a bad idea to allow your average Fudd to wander around with conceal and carry weapons, and some have even pushed to allow people to carry guns into bloody football stadiums, for crying out loud. Just as the folks who advocate getting rid of all guns is about as realistic a notion as me convincing Falcor to take me to a Sonic burger tomorrow, pushing for schlubs to be able to carry guns just anywhere in order to prevent robberies or terrorist attacks is about as realistic a notion as John McClane using cars to blow up helicopters: they are the realm of pure fantasy. So, is there a consensus view that concedes that guns are a problem and in some instances more harm than good, yet respects the rights of individuals to self-protection and acknowledges that practically speaking guns will be with us for the forseeable future?

Here’s my totally unworkable, expensive plan for how we should revise things: First of all, we need to move beyond mere backgroung checks and the closure of gun show loopholes. Basic competence and safety training is really what we need, since unfortunately quite a few people who own weapons are not really adept at using, caring for, or avoiding accidents with them. We should insitute a mandatory safety training course (according to general weapon type) which licenses you to own and use a gun. It can be a basic test, just like you do for a driver’s license. My guess is that we’ll see accident rates go down. Secondly, let’s perhaps think of treating that whole “well regulated militia” thing seriously. In order to qualify for the really cool weapons, currently you have to jump through many hoops. I think that perhaps we should up the ante here a bit, by encouraging or requiring membership in a militia in order to own certain weapons. And here what I mean by “militia” is basically akin to the National Guard, but in practice more like being a volunteer fireman: militias will be called into action for search and rescue, for disaster relief, for firefighting…whatever it is that requires the quick mobilization of obliged citizens, who also have a bit of training. Yes, I said training: in order to keep your weapons, you must keep your training current. It doesn’t have to be anything difficult or time consuming, just enough to ensure that our militias are filled with competent people at those sorts of tasks, and have ready-made contingency plans at the local level for this stuff. This also makes things easier for the Feds, who don’t have good local contacts in many areas, and who don’t have plans in place. Plus, do you really want everything in the hands of FEMA? Local militias will greatly increase the efficiency of dealing with civil emergencies.

And oh yeah, for the true blue paranoids: should we ever get invaded, there is a ready-made band of wolverines ready to come to the national defense and help organize la resistance. There, now everyone’s happy, right? 😉


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