While I believe in the second amendment right to bear arms, even I am amazed that we can’t seem to have a reasonable conversation in this country about guns. Isn’t there anything we can do to reduce the insane amount of gun violence we have in this country, without infringing on people’s right to own guns? After all, we also have the right to free speech, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to slander or libel people, or yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Why is even talking about guns off limits?
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Here’s the thing: In a well-regulated militia, or army, the members are never permitted to carry loaded weapons unless they’re going into combat. Upon returning to base they unload, eject any round left in the firing chamber, point the weapon into a barrel of sand, and pull the trigger. Sometimes they fuck up and a round left in the chamber shoots into the barrel.
In the poorly-regulated militias that comprise the USA population, something more is needed: Each firearm should be safed by a bright orange safing cable run through the barrel and locked in place.
There oughta be a law in each state requiring the use of safing cables in public. Failure to use a safing cable, or removal of the safing cable in a non-self-defense situation, would be prima-facie reckless endangerment. And since it takes a few seconds to remove a safing cable, impulsive shootings would be minimized.
I’m actually surprised that no one has commented that with an open carry law there would be several people that could have fired back.
The founders were suspicious of a standing army, that’s why we have that right. Any country would be insane to invade and try to hold territory in the U.S. They would have to kill everyone.
What most people believe the 2nd amendment to be: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
The actual 2nd amendment:
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.
If we made requirements that in order to own a gun, you must take part in safety classes or had some commitment to law enforcement – the well regulated militia – then it would hold closer to the actual law and do away with a lot of gun violence.
Dan – some have said exactly that although given the shooter was wearing body armor it’s not clear if it would have been effective.
Adam – the Supreme Court has ruled that the “well regulated militia” argument is void. The right to bear arms has nothing to do with being part of a militia.
All that said, and speaking as someone that used to be a competitive shooter and is still a life member of the NRA, there are certainly things we can do to improve public safety. First, 40% of gun sales don’t have to follow the EXISTING laws about background checks – and they should. Second, every gun owner should be required to pass a competence test, just like we have for driving cars. The test would have to be free, but the cost could be low especially since the NRA ALREADY offers free gun safety courses. And third, we should control the amount of gratuitous violence we show to children – people that grow up believing that guns aren’t dangerous and never have to take a course have no idea what they are doing.
Having a gun is not like buying a TV. It is like adopting an abused Rottweiler. It is a responsibility that has consequences and if improperly managed can result in injury or death of the owner and people around them. And gun owners should understand that.
I really hate that first comma (which, by the way, does not appear in the version sent to the states for ratification). It suggests “being necessary to the security of a free state” is a subordinate clause that is separate from “A well regulated militia.” Removing the clause (which you are supposed to be able to do) gives us, “A well regulated militia, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” which is not a proper sentence. Grr… Anal grammar guy will step down off his soapbox now…
I don’t normally agree with Scalia, but I think his opinion in Heller was correct, and I think gun control advocates who emphasize the militia clause are demonstrating poor logic skills by misunderstanding sufficient vs. necessary conditions and implications. Specifically, I see the militia clause as sufficient and the right clause as necessary. The sentence logically holds in three cases: people have the right and there is a militia, people have the right and there is no militia, and people have the right and there is no militia. The last case (people don’t have the right and there is a militia) goes against the spirit of the sentence, which suggests (very clearly, in my view) that the right to arms is necessary for having a well regulated militia. Thus, I think the attempt to say that militia membership is required is inconsistent with the text itself.
I think the more important thing (and this is what the NRA and gun rights advocates get wrong) is the interpretation of “infringed.” Every right has reasonable limits, and those limits are subject to change with the culture. Just look at how obscenity laws have changed, for example. Almost no one believes that preventing citizens from owning nuclear or chemical weapons infringes the right, as these are reasonable restrictions. Similarly, I do not see that bans on assault weapons, background checks, restrictions on gun show purchases, etc., are infringements. Instead, I see them as reasonable restrictions aimed at striking a balance between the right to arms and the security needs of individuals.
I’m with you, IK. I think we need more reasonable conversations about guns in this country.
Well said, Arthanyel.
First: Lets start with the belief that it is normal for people to be running around with guns. Just because a “Well-Regulated” Militia was mentioned in the constitution, does not mean an individual right.
Second: Even if it did, it needs re-thinking. We have grown up and decided other things the founding fathers thought turned out not to be a good idea, like slavery.
Third: Gun violence is MUCH less in countries that don’t allow guns in the general population. We know the cure, take away the guns.
Fourth: Before the gun manufactures and super rich / religious right wing started to fund the NRA they were all for gun regulation, banning machine guns etc.
Well-Regulated. Make every fire arm dependent on a licence, on registration, on traceability, and on an annual gun tax of $1,000 per gun, to help pay for the lives ruined by gun miss use and ‘accidents’. Got an un-licenced gun, to to jail for 3 years automatically. Which bit of ‘Well-Regulated’ don’t people understand ?
Having lived in countries without guns, where kids walk and ride their bikes to school, where people jog at night without much fear, the difference in society when it is gun free is obvious and enjoyable at all levels.
This country is in the business of making billions of arms for world wide consumption, so there is an industry angling for selling as many guns to as many people as possible. If this was not so the political attitudes would be better and the NRA might go back to being more reasonable.
You need a gun if you kill alligators in the swamp, or if you are in Alaska with bears, otherwise you don’t need to go out to kill the wild life. We ‘need’ a lot less guns. We NEED to get most of the guns off the street and out of the homes.
People are shocked at the number of people shot in a cinema in Denver. They ask “How could this happen?” What they don’t seem to comprehend is EVERY DAM DAY the same number of people are accidentally shot and killed or injured in the USA. People don’t understand that having a gun in the home makes it MORE likely you will get shot, not less.
Honestly, the US needs to grow-up and put some adults in charge.
Perhaps you saw on the AP news about the 59 year old retired policeman on a motorcycle ride with his son staying in a motel for the night. An intruder entered the room. The retired policeman grabbed his gun, killing his son returning from his late night revels.
I have no gun. My children aren’t here anymore. I would only be protecting myself. I am no more important than an intruder. Dead is dead. I won’t know I’m dead.
Now this retired policeman who murdered his son because he thought he was more important than the next person on this earth has to live in hell every minute of the rest of his life, sleeping or waking. And we could have protected him from murdering his son with laws.
I used to sit for the children of one of the duPonts. When Nicky was 21, he was helping someone move in San Francisco. The Zodiac killer got him.
One of baby Bush’s vets from his war games gets behind me and shoots for 4-6 hours. All the bear, deer, etc are scared off. This vet is more important than anyone on this earth.
So very, very sad.
JamesM – PLease check your facts before making inaccurate statements.
Yes, of course we could amend the Constitution to change our individual right to bear arms – but it will never happen. You couldn’t find a majority of people, or states, lets a lone a super majority, that would agree to it.
Your third point is flatly wrong. There is no causal relationship between gun ownership and gun violence. While it is true that countries with low gun ownership have low gun violence, countries with HIGH ownership (Sweden, Switzerland, even Israel!) have low gun violence per capita.
Also note that many of the “low ownership” countries usually cited have no real wild land and no game management issues that include private hunting – the US does, and without private hunting we would have an ecological disaster. If you allow hunting, you can’t take away the guns.
The solution isn’t to “take away the guns”. And in the US, given the culture and huge number of proivate owners, “taking guns away” could not be done without eliminating all democracy and moving to a police state – in which case I submit the cure is worse than the disease.
Your fourth point is a mix. Yes, the NRA historically has been more inclined to appropriate gun regulation, and they have gotten less coherent as more right wing money has flowed in. Even with that influence, however, the NRA doesn’t suggest everyone can, or should, own a machine gun.
Your fifth point is half right and half silly. Your “gun tax” is silly. Why make law abidiing citizens exercising their rights pay for lawless criminals breaking the law? Or are you unaware that actually shooting someone who isn’t trying to kill you is already illegal?
I am a gun owner and I agree there are too many people with too many guns that should not have them – either because they are criminals, they are mentally unstsable, or they are incompetent. Gun owners and even the NRA are all happy to address the first two with any laws you care to try and implement. Most gun owners are OK with some attention on the third as well – incompetent people should not own lethal devices. Of course they can also own chain saws, gasoline, nitrated fertilizer, and similar things which are equally (or more) lethal.
So before you try and blame guns for violence, you should consider that we should blame violence for violence, and that guns are only one way to express that violence. And until we address our culture of violence, tampering with the tools is of minimal value – even if you could get it passed, which you can’t.
Arthanyel, while I agree with just about everything you said, I don’t think anyone is blaming guns for violence, but for gun violence. Yes, without guns people would still get killed. People are murdered through bludgeoning and stabbings too, but firearms are different in that their sole purpose is killing things (okay, there is target shooting, but then you’re just practicing to kill something) and they are extremely efficient in doing so.
I’m not for getting rid of firearms. I live in New Hampshire where without hunting, the deer population would get even more out of control, but it is still way too easy to own and carry a weapon. I also enjoy heading to the shooting range every now and again because it can be pretty fun. The problem arises when it is easier to own a gun than to get a driver’s license (also too easy if you ask me).
Like the things you list that have dangerous uses, cars can also be used to kill people, but it isn’t their primary purpose. Unlike the things you listed, when guns ARE used to carry out their intended purpose on an innocent person or group of people, we actually ask whether people should be able to buy fertilizer by the tonne if they aren’t farmers or if the elderly should perhaps need to be tested more frequently for their driving abilities. But when something like Aurora happens, the right immediately claims that gun violence should not lead to a discussion about guns out of respect for the families. I don’t remember anyone claiming that we should avoid discussing terrorism after 9/11 out of respect for those victims. Why? Because it wouldn’t have made sense.
Your culture comment is also interesting. I don’t know that we are more or less violent than other cultures based on any metric other than crime involving firearms, but we do seem to legislate toward being violent. The stand your ground laws and other bills that allow for concealed carrying of firearms in places like universities (another NH gem) seem to simply be moving in the wrong direction. I’d also suggest that, culture being what it is, gun crime wouldn’t be a problem if firearms were harder to get.
Actually, there is quite a bit of corroborating material from the time of the writing of the Bill of Rights that indicates that the framers did want to protect the right of individuals to own guns. In fact, there was at least one state (colony) that had a law requiring individuals to own guns.
Let me be clear — I’m not a gun nut. I have never owned nor fired a gun in my life and have no plans to do so. I have trouble imagining killing someone, even if they were threatening my life.
But the constitution is clear. People have a right to own guns. I even think they have a right to own assault rifles and other things like that. Yes, the constitution did get some things wrong (like slavery), but if you want to change that, you amend the constitution. You don’t do an end run around it.
On the other hand, I agree that gun ownership should be “well regulated”. Background checks are fine. Requiring gun safety courses is fine. Even registration is fine. As long as those requirements aren’t used just to make it harder to own guns, but instead are there to make sure that people who own guns know how to use them properly and safely (like driving tests).
Thatguy: You might be surprised how many guns are owned (and fired) purely for non-lethal sports. I suppose you can say that every shotgun used fro trap or skeet is praticing for hunting, but millions of people own some or all of their guns purely for recreational shooting, not hunting or self defense.
I agree with you that more testing and “licensing” of competence would be a good idea.
The argument that a gun’s “primary purpose” is killing things may be a bit much (see above), but your point about the DEBATE is spot on. If not now, when are we supposed to talk about it?
I don’t have the metrics in front of me, but the US has (as I recall) the highest rate of violence per capita in First World. You have to screen out places like Somalia to get an accurate comparison. It seems to me only natural that if you live in a violent society, you take steps to defend yourself -0 including passing laws that make it easier to defend yourself.
Finally, to your point that if guns were harder to get we would have less gun crime, I don’t think that’s logically valid. If drugs were harder to get we would have less drug crime? It’s already too late. Any laws we pass that make it harder to acuire guns will, by definition, only restrict law abiding gun owners, and will do nothing at all to stem the tides for criminals and the criminally insane. Yes, we could reduce sporadic “crimes of passion” gun violence, but that’s not most of it – or even a statistically significant amount. And thousands more people die in bathtubs than from gun violence – should we outlaw bathing? I think your core point is that fewer guns would result in less gun crime, but like the police state comment I made previously, some cures are worse than the disease.
We have good laws to prevent bad people from getting guns. We need to enforce them and expand them to cover all gun sales. I personally believe we need to add competency testing and require proof of competence to buy guns or ammunition, because it will reduce accidental violence. And we should continue to make USING guns in a crime result in larger penalties. That works and minimizes the unlawful use of guns, which is all we’re really concerned about.
Whether we like it or not, the Constitution does protect the right to keep and bear arms without infringement–without restrictions. Talk of whether our founding fathers foresaw the type of firearms we have now or of safing devices or of classes are fine to discuss, but they would be an infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.
A Constitutional Amendment to restrict the owning and bearing of arms would be required. Some day, the people of this country will pass such an Amendment. I don’t know that such an Amendment will have much of a positive impact. The real reason for the handgun violence seems (to me) to be due to our ideas of American exceptionalism, the “I have the right” to get what *I* want attitude. I have the right to be disruptive, I have the right to cause others problems, I have the right to abuse others who do not agree with me, I have the right to bomb other countries and assassinate anyone in any country anytime I want to, I have the right to use atomic bombs on another country for expediency, I have the right to firebomb the cities filled with civilians because I can. “I have the right…” A country such as ours with a history of extreme violence, and with the false self-perceptions of rectitude that we have can’t expect anything but violence.
PT Goodmand, I agree with you completely. Its called “Hubris”
Good points Arthanyel, like I said I enjoy using firearms for non-lethal purposes and there are plenty of people who don’t kill anything with their weapons (and you’re absolutely right that there are guns designed for recreational purposes), but my point is that most are extremely efficient killing tools, especially when compared with knives or bats or other non-firearm murder weapons short of military hardware.
I actually had a gun control discussion earlier today. I’m studying in Serbia for a few weeks and some interns at a security NGO were very interested in why our gun laws are so permissive. My only answer was that the right pushes hard for them and the left doesn’t push back very hard. This turned into an exchange with a professor of mine who took the same line that new regulations would only punish lawful gun owners, and sure, they would feel a pinch. But you can also increase the mandatory sentences for unlawful gun ownership and gun use, start buy-back programs and keep thorough registries of who owns guns and how many. This way it’s easy to track stolen or illegally fenced weapons. In these cases it may be too late to save a victim of gun crime, but it would be a good start to culling illegal weapons from the country.
The argument that some of the founding fathers thought personal gun ownership was a good idea is not born out by their words, when compromising, and coming up with “Well-Regulated” Militia. As a poster above points out, at best they were talking about one shot muzzle loaders which (a) probably would not kill you on the first shot and (b) took so long to reload you could run away.
Some of them also thought personal slaves were a good idea. Just because someone 200 years ago thought something was a good idea, does not mean it still is. You could have made the same argument in favor of the practicality of slavery and the need for slaves to keep the land under control.
You don’t need guns to go deer hunting, you could be real sportsman and use arrows. More skill and more sport. Just like you don’t NEED to have slaves to dig your ditches. You don’t need to raw through the woods on a quad motorbike, you could peddle through the woods on a mountain bike.
We can change the way we accomplish things. There is not a god given right to kill people and animals you don’t like. We have to start to use more rational and safer methods for wild life control, or do it an a well regulated way.
I think we can learn from other countries. We are not getting it right and the constitution was not anointed by god.
Lets start looking at the way other nations handle guns and stop putting our heads in the sand, and declaring well that can’t work here because we are ‘special’.
We could START by looking at the way Canada regulates guns, and work from there.
JamesM: The writings of the contributors to the Bill of Rights and to the Constitution preceding make it very clear their intention was for the individual right to bear arms. In order to raise a Militia, you need to have a population with guns – that was the point, not that the population with guns existed only because you might need a militia.
Agree with your point about slaves, and yes we could revisit the second amendmnet. Just understand that it has NO CHANCE AT ALL of being modified or repealed in our lifetimes, there are too many gun owenerrs and too many states that would never agree to it.
Disagree completely with your point about hunting. I am not a hunter, but I know many and bow hunting causes the aniumals dramatically more pain and suffering, increases the risk of injury to the hunter for larger game, and would drastically reduce the number of tags filled – and right now filling those tags is how we keep the deer from overrunning our agriculture and destroying our parks.
Agree we can change things, and agree that there is no “god given right” to kill things. That said, other countries have other issues and their models don’t work as well for us. For example, in Sweden, Switzerland and Israel, a high percentage of adult men (and many women) have automatic weapons. I don’t think you want to copy them. Japan has very tight control of guns but a wildly higher suicide rate – I dont think you want to copy them, either.
Gun ownership by law abiding citizens, in and of itself, is not the problem. Miuse of guns is the problem. Addressing the real problem by targeting the one group that ISN’T the problem is hardly a good approach.
The Framers were pretty bright guys; I’ve always thought that since the 2nd amendment is so odd and ambiguous, it’s probably because they intended it to be. There were people on both sides of the issue even then (i.e. is it truly an individual right, or just a group / nation right?), and I think they knew they were kicking the can a bit down the road to us…
Wait, wait, in Sweden, “a high percentage of adult men (and many women) have automatic weapons”? Citation desperately needed. What information I can find suggests that it’s at most a few thousand people (not a high percentage of the population by any measure), and it’s not a general thing at all. See for instance “http://www.thelocal.se/35156/20110725/” on this very subject really…
David – my information was accurate but slightly out of date. Sweden had, until 2010, compulsory military service and for many decades required every man of fighting age to have a full military kit at home including an assault rifle. More than 85% of Swedish men were in this category in the 1980’s.
They have recently changed that, but the point is still valid. With 85% of their households containing automatic weapons, Sweden had virtually no gun violence. And that means the guns themselves aren’t the issue.
It seems to me nobody willing to embrace the primary motivation of our founding fathers in these discussions about the 2nd Ammendment; which was a fear of standing armies, and to equip the PEOPLE with the ability to defend themselves against a corrupt and tyrannical government.
Yes, that’s right. To be able to defend ourselves against our own Government.
Based on that logic, why would we forbid ourselves the same firepower that we allow to our Government? Put another way, why would we grant our Police and Military an excess of firepower (i.e. assault weapons) that we don’t allow ourselves?
The right of the people to hunt? The right of the people to own specific kinds of weapon? When did our Bill of Rights become a “Bill of Needs?” All of these are petty arguments.
Wake up folk. We are participating in the great experiment of Self Government. We ARE the governing voice. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, We need to be ready, able and willing to DEFEND it. That’s the main reason for our right to arms.
Think about it. If we are truly self-governing, how can we allow a standing army to be more powerfully armed than the people themselves?
Hence the 2nd Ammendment.
Wake up folks.
In the words of George Washington, arms are the people’s “liberty teeth.”
Isn’t it ironic that an amendment put into place to protect us from unjust government is trying to be controlled by government?