Friday, January 04, 2013

Militia America

After recent (endless) tragedies, the issue of gun control went front-and-center in the American political dialogue... before being buried in an avalanche of fiscal cliff puff pieces and general holiday rest. But advocates should not wait until the next mass murder to reawaken the debate. The dialogue must continue now.

A good friend of mine recently posted online his anger at the notion that the government might come and "disarm" him, and steal his property. I focus on this because this general type of statement is the predominant sentiment you hear from gun rights people. This blog post was my rebuttal.

Firstly, regarding the notion that hypothetical gun control laws could be equated with a neighbor stealing another's property, it must be stated that the relationship between the citizens and their government versus the one between citizens and their neighbors isn't really comparable. I don't expect my neighbor to repair roads, fight wars, and send my Nana her Social Security checks, but I do expect the government to.

More importantly, the government is constitutionally allowed to regulate commerce. We accept-- and even want-- this all the time because we are a first-world society (requiring food/drinks to be tested and free of poisons, pollution laws, automobile safety standards, workplace safety, consumer & banking protections, etc)... but we think of guns as different because of the culture around them. What type of guns/ammo can be sold, and how, is well within the regulatory authority of legislatures. Even constitutional literalist Supreme Court Justice Scalia, while upholding gun rights overall, defended this concept, even noting that the Founders themselves imposed limitations as was seen fit.

It is no more unconstitutional to regulate guns than it is for the government to tell a car company they can't sell cars with faulty brakes. And if gun control laws were passed-- which, really, there is little chance of, given the cowards in the Capitol-- no one is coming for anyone's guns. Let's use my car example. If you bought/own a car that is later made illegal and it's in your garage, is someone "coming" for it? No. If you are seen using that illegal item out in public, then yes, you are subject to legal action.

Of course, all gun control proposals on the table are about banning assault weapons, automatics/semis, high-capacity magazines, etc... weapons whose only design is mass murder. No one is talking about banning self-defense handguns or hunting rifles. This is the huge misnomer here.

(For instance, here is what we know about the guns the Newtown killer had in his possession. I can't see any justification for why someone needs this weapon for self-defense or hunting or any rational reason. What scenario do people fear where they need such an arsenal? Zombie apocalypse?)

We also already have have gun regulations in place-- background check rules, things like that-- that even most gun owners in polls agree with. So there is zero disagreement on whether legislatures have constitutional authority to regulate guns... just a general and fair debate on what regulations we as a society want.

That's my substantive retort.

As an aside, though, I reject this culture around people feeling they need to have major arsenals (like the Lanzas had) in their home to protect their family. Why is it that the supposed tough guys are more afraid of the world around us than us supposed cowards? The heroic tale where someone kills a madman or home invader is exceedingly rare. Not as rare? Situations where someone kills themself, a loved one, or bystander by accident.

Just doing a quick search right now for stories in the past several weeks, I found the following: a man who killed his 7-year-old when his gun accidentally went off in his hands; a woman who killed her brother while posing with a gun for photos; a dad accidentally killed his 8yo son while cleaning his gun; two young kids injured when a gun was brandished about during a domestic dispute between two adults; a 16yo girl shot by her grandpa who mistook her for an intruder; a 3yo who found his dad's gun and shot himself to death; an elderly man who shot himself in the chest at a shooting range; a man who shot himself & a friend while trying to load a gun at a gun show; a man in VT who accidentally killed himself with his gun; a man who shot/killed his brother when he mistook him for an intruder; a man accidently kills a 15yo while showing him a gun, and a woman killed by her brother who was playing with his gun while drunk. That was a quick search of stories from the past month!

Not as many stories about heroes using their guns to save the day.

Now, let me just say that I support peoples rights to own guns, while also supporting the government's right to regulate (the word "regulated", of course being in the 2nd Amendment) that area of our commerce no different from any other.

And I really get frightened when the main pro-gun arguments I come across on Twitter or blogs are from people who seem to want American homes to become a series of self-made militias preparing for some fantasy revolution.... and then think the only reason their fellow citizens might object is because we are freedom-hating Nazis. Maybe we're just more afraid of the unstable people who think they are protecting everyone than we are of the phantom boogeymen hiding behind every corner.

In the end, that is the problem: this boils down to a difference in how people see the world. And the people who see it that way are in control of the debate.

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