What Is It About Guns?
[The following was posted to a friend with whom I have been discussing gun issues for years. He recently sent me some informative material from NRA and this is my response. I’d like to hear from others reading this blog, especially those who oppose gun control.)
Thanks for sending this. I’ve read a few items on it and it is the sort of substantial documentation that helps me judge an issue.
I think I’ve been clear that I do not oppose gun ownership by private citizens. What I oppose is the lack of regulation that protects the public interest.
I’ll give you a small example. When I was in Santa Fe there was an incident involving a man firing an AR-15 at our synagogue. His story was that he did not know what the building was and that he as returning fire from people who had been chasing him (he was no choir boy) who had ambushed him from the darkened parking lot (the synagogue invested in parking lot lights after this). His bullets tore through every wall of the synagogue to the arroyo behind it. First of all I do not believe that private citizens should possess that kind of fire power. I’ve read that the AR-15 is fun to use for target shooting, but this was being used against human beings). I do believe that anyone who owns a firearm ought to be required to carry liability insurance for damage and harm to persons or property caused by use of said firearm. I also believe that anyone possessing such a firearm should have formal training in its use and be able to pass a written test on relevant laws and to show the ability to use the weapon properly. This wold be in addition to prohibiting a variety of categories of people from owning or using such weapons including those with violent crime records, mentally ill persons, minors, and persons who might reasonably be suspected of abuse of these firearms (political extremists – and, yes, I know this is a dodgy category). I think I am being reasonable and I’ll bet the vast majority of gun owners, even NRA members, would agree with much of this.
I’d like to know how a reasonable person could disagree with anything in the last paragraph. I’d like to know how anyone could justify putting battlefield weapons into private hands and how they can justify the sale of large-capacity magazines, armor-piercing shells (teflon, but I’ll bet there are others), fingerprint-proof guns, dum-dums, and guns without trigger-locks. Most of all I do not understand the passio of gun advocates. I’m passionate about a lot of issues, especially human rights and peace, so I do understand political passion. I do not understand the passion about guns. It strikes me that people who stockpile weapons live in fear. This was true of Nancy Lanza who believed that our economy would collapse and therefore she needed to be seriously armed. That is the root of the Newtown outrage. Add to that adolescent power fantasies and radical politics. Even in Dodge City people had to check their firearms before going into a bar. The reality is that most victims of homicides knew their killers. To me it looks strange and frightening that so many people deny reality and believe that more guns equals more security rather than the opposite, which I believe is the reality.
Please explain it to me or maybe you know someone who can. I’m quite willing to listen.
Elizabeth and I have talked quite a bit about this issue and one thing that she has brought up is that there should be some sort of parallel between gun ownership/licensing and automobile ownership/licensing. Some of what you say here definitely seems to fall into a similar vein and I think that it makes total sense.
However, there is one HUGE difference; we have a constitutional right to bear arms but not one to drive cars. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of gun control, I’m just acknowledging the other side of this argument.
Driving a car is a privilege, not a right. Further, in 2009 (the latest year for which the CDC has published fatality statistics) there were 10% more automotive-related deaths than firearm deaths. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm .
The other side of this argument is that some forms of speech are prohibited, such as those that are “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action.” In the same way that the 1st Amendment has been shown to have reasonable limits so should the 2nd.
I think that the “sweet spot” between unrestricted gun ownership and the driver’s license model is allowing arms to be owned and controlled by “a well regulated militia.” What this would look like I don’t know, but it seems like the best solution to me.
Oh, and paragraphs!
A well-regulated militia might, for example, require that all guns be registered with the government that has the authority to call up that militia to assign members for activities that militias would do. The gov’t would have reason to have a registry of which militia members (which citizens) owned what kinds of guns as it would help in deciding on who is assigned where for what actions in the case of the government deploying the militia.
The one summer I spent in the south as a kid was at a summer camp run by our rabbi. He taught each of us personally to shoot guns, believing it to be a skill every Jewish child should be taught. This was, of course, not long after the Holocaust in Europe, so there was a widespread very fresh memory of needing better protection for family and self. I enjoyed shooting that summer, as a kid off at camp, but never held or desired to shoot a gun after.