I don’t have a problem with guns. I went to the gun range with my dad, and shot a .22 a lot better than anyone expected of a geeky little girl with giant glasses and thick bangs. I watched him shoot skeet, and later, practice with handguns. I ate dove for dinner that had been flying that morning. Pretty tasty with dumplings. Guns, in and of themselves, do not bother me.
You know what does bother me? Bad logic. And a lot of the nonsense that is being spewed by otherwise sensible individuals about guns is downright illogical.
Let’s start with the Second Amendment, which says:
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.
Some of the founding fathers worried that, in giving the federal government the ability to maintain a sizable standing army, they exposed the states and their people to the risk of federal tyranny. The Second Amendment was meant to assuage those fears by ensuring that the federal government could not force state militias to disarm.
I’ll get into the modern applications of the Amendment in a minute. But first, can we agree that the state vs. federal situation is no longer an issue that is at all likely to be addressed militarily? The states are far more tightly bound to the federal government than they were just after the Revolution. It has been established that states do not have the right to secede, and diplomacy is far more useful these days than guns when it comes to the balance of power between the different levels of government. So, state militias are not the issue when we discuss defending this right.
Nor are “arms” as we interpret them likely to be much help in a stand-off against the Feds. Weapons available at a federal level have evolved to a level that private citizens can’t even begin to match, and we have an expectation that some advanced classes of weaponry shouldn’t be available to the general public. I don’t have 4.026 million dollars to purchase my own drone, for instance, or the capability to use one if I did, and I’m quite sure the FBI would have questions if I tried. An attempt to procure uranium would also raise a few eyebrows. We have an understanding that “arms” means guns, and no matter how fancy the gun, it isn’t going to provide adequate defense if an individual feels the need to protect their rights from the federal government. So, again, protection against government tyranny is not a valid modern application of the Amendment.
More recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment is not limited to militias, but also protects the right of citizens to keep guns for personal use. These rulings argue that there are protected uses- self-defense is mentioned repeatedly. The Court also explicitly states that the right to bear arms can be limited-
“…nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” – DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER
So we can see that the Court acknowledges that the right to bear arms does not extend so far as to trump public safety concerns. It explicitly states that laws governing the sale of fire arms, and limits on possession, are legal, as long as they don’t unduly interfere with protected uses such as self-defense.
Knowing that precedent, what legal objection could there possibly be to improving the databases accessed when determining eligibility for gun purchase based on prior convictions and mental illness? Why object to enforced vetting of all potential customers? Yes, it may make gun sales slightly more inconvenient for law abiding citizens, but it should make them much more inconvenient for people who are already prohibited from owning them. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?
And why on Earth would we object to banning types of guns and magazines whose primary purpose is to kill large numbers of people quickly? What protected use is there for an assault weapon? It isn’t necessary for self defense, or for hunting. “Because they’re neat” is not a protected use- I think Siberian tigers are neat, but I’m not allowed to have one, for very good reasons. It seems well within the legal bounds to say that public safety is best served by removing as many of these weapons from the public as possible.
Finally, a word on the argument that bad guys will get guns regardless- and that word is “duh”. Someone intent on killing will kill regardless of the law, but that doesn’t keep us from enacting laws against killing in order to set societal expectations, allow authorities to minimize risks, and remove from society those who can’t abide by the law. The same applies to theft- all the laws in the world won’t stop a determined thief, but they will allow precautions to be taken, making it harder to steal, and allow theft to be prosecuted and offenders prevented from having the opportunity to steal again. So yes, the bad guys will get guns, if sufficiently motivated. But laws could make it significantly harder to attain them, so that maybe less of them succeed. Laws banning assault weapons are not likely to eradicate them from the country completely, but could limit the number of assault weapons in circulation, so that it is harder for the bad guys to procure one. And they allow society to prosecute those who obtain illegal weapons, or those who obtain weapons illegally, hopefully before they do serious harm.
So to my friends who are concerned about their right to bear arms- that right is not at stake here. That right is protected, and recently affirmed and upheld by the highest court in the land. The changes proposed by the President do not touch your right to protect yourself, or hunt, or go to the range. They only aim at making it harder for dangerous people to have access to particularly dangerous guns- a public safety concern that is also protected by the Supreme Court. Let’s work together to refine these proposals so that they are as effective as possible without unduly burdening law abiding citizens. We need all voices to weigh in, particularly those of gun owners, because you will have important input on the practical applications of these laws. We can’t do it without you.