View Single Post
Old 2012-12-17, 12:41   #10
NBtarheel_33's Avatar
Jul 2008
Maryland, USA

5·223 Posts
Post The PRIVILEGE to bear arms

As I see it, there are three camps that are concerned about their "right" (whatever that has/does/ought to mean) to own guns.

First, you have the sportsmen/women. Generally, they are responsible with their firearms, take pride in them, maintain them properly, etc. They are presumably engaged in ye olde noble pursuit of foraging, hunting, and gathering as we humans have done for thousands of years (we won't get into the meat-consumption debate here). The average hunter has no need for anything that shoots beyond one bullet at a time. Maybe it is nice to be able to clip on 10-12 rounds, but still, if the shooter has any business in the sport, they should be able to get by with one bullet exiting the chamber per go. Obviously, firearms can be tragically misused in sport, too, but it is much less likely. The hunting issue is the one upon which the NRA would like to hang its hat, but at the end of the day, the fact is that hunters do not generally need or want semiautomatic or automatic, assault-type, military-grade weapons. I have no trouble with a trained, licensed sportsperson wanting to own and use firearms (perhaps subject to the constraints below) in line with safety, property, ethical, and legal considerations.

The second group would be those that argue that firearms are necessary for home defense. This is the camp that seemed to contain the CT shooter's mother. I had some first-hand experience this summer that went some distance in at least making me understand the position of the "home defendant". My family was at our second home on the coast of Maine, an extremely rural area, roughly 20 miles from the county seat, in a county that is 2,351 square miles with a population of just over 50,000. The road system in this area is rather meandering and antiquated, so that even the aforementioned 20-mile journey might take 45 minutes to an hour at times. This is an area that is generally considered "safe" and relatively crime-free, but in recent years, they have seen the introduction of a meth/"bath salts" problem that has led to some petty break-ins and burglaries. Long story short, our home's burglar alarm malfunctioned and sounded off at 3am one night, when my mother and I were home alone. The alarm company contacted the police...the only problem was that the SINGLE on-duty county sheriff was about 45 minutes on the other side of the county seat...which pegged him at least 60-75 minutes from our house. We sat in a bedroom closet, afraid to move (not knowing if the alarm was a real problem or not, and thinking it wise to not take a chance on guessing), with the 911 dispatcher making small talk on the phone and the burglar siren wailing in the background. It was almost 5am when the police finally arrived and determined that it had been a false alarm. Had there been a real burglar, perhaps armed and willing to injure or kill, we wouldn't have stood a chance. As a result of this experience, as well as learning from others that typical response times in rural Maine for the police can be in the range of multiple hours, my mother purchased a 12-gauge pump action shotgun and a small quantity of buckshot. Most Mainers have similar weapons at their disposal (indeed, most are avid hunters, so the hunting gun can also serve as the defense gun). We don't really want to own weapons, and we hope to God never to have to load it, let alone shoot it, and you had better believe that it is locked away securely when we are away from the house. But I will admit that it feels a lot better knowing that the pump-action sound alone might be enough to scare away an intruder before they have a chance to become a threat or instigate a hostage situation for the 1-2+ hours that it might take to get law enforcement on the scene. So I can understand someone in a rural area (that perhaps hunts already, anyway) maintaining a firearm for home protection. Again, however, I don't see the need of anything capable of shooting more than one bullet at a time. You won't defend a home with an assault weapon, you'll blast your home apart and probably kill several close neighbors.

The third group of gun ownership proponents would be those who feel that owning guns protects them from some sort of government take-over or confiscation of what they own in some way. There are some people that own guns for eschatological reasons (the Tribulation, Armageddon, Mayan Apocalypse, what have you). This group can be a little more disconcerting, and statistically are more likely to misuse their weapons or potentially allow them to fall into the wrong hands. I also would argue that there is a greater likelihood for potential mental illness/instability (or perhaps, call it "irrationality") among this group. A beautiful, quaint Southern town - Abbeville, South Carolina - fell victim to a family of this sort in 2003. In the linked article, note the excessive quantities and dangerous types of firearms owned and used by that family. Definite warning signs would be those that fancy themselves as members of a "militia", "uprising", or similar group; those that frequently have Dale Gribble-esque worldviews; and those that believe deeply in proximate eschatologically-induced battles. These are the people that are not interested in firing one bullet at a time. They are interested in firing all over the map, without regard for who or what they hit, and at the end of the day, they often truly believe that their survival is a "kill or be killed" proposition. Extremely frightening scenario in which multiple high-powered assault weapons are maintained and ready to use at the drop of a hat. This is the group with regards to which the NRA would like us all to look away and whistle, and think that every gun owner in the world is a responsible member of the first two groups above.

So, with these three groups in mind, how might we proceed with respect to reducing the chances of tragedies like those in Aurora or Sandy Hook? First, we must better track the numbers of firearms that are owned by a single individual. There is a place for collectible pieces (many of which can no longer be shot), but when one individual amasses an arsenal of 20-30 modern, working firearms, it seems as though some authority figure, somewhere, should be asking questions, or at least singling the owner out for more stringent background, criminal, and psychological/psychiatric investigation. There probably ought to be certain criminal behaviors (and indeed, there are now) and medical issues (e.g. severe mental illness history, paranoia...right on down to not being fit enough to withstand the kick of the thing when shooting it!) that preclude gun ownership, just as similar criteria exist that can preclude possessing a driver's license or the right to vote.

If we look back at the three groups of gun owners discussed above, we note that only the "fringe, troubled" (in the South, they'd say "bless their heart") types generally are concerned with automatics, assault weapons, machine guns, etc. Assault weapons were banned under the Clinton administration, and we seemed to get by fine. They ought to be banned again. Hunting and home defense are both quite possible with simple shotguns that shoot one bullet at a time and hold 10-12 rounds max. There is absolutely no need in any civilized society to be able to mow down more than twenty human beings (or even animals, for that matter) in three minutes (perhaps during wartime, but then that is the military's bailiwick). Ban these weapons from civilian sale at once.

From here, we need to change the RIGHT to bear arms to the PRIVILEGE to bear arms (just as driving a car is a privilege, and never a right) that carries grave responsibilities. Set a maximum lifetime ownership limit on firearms (five, ten, twenty?) and require full criminal and medical history investigations with every purchase. Just as we register cars and renew driver's licenses at regular intervals, require gun owners to submit to yearly gun registrations and re-checks of criminal and medical history. Require a full explanation of why the firearm is being purchased, e.g. home defense, hunting bears, Satan crawling in my attic window, etc. If the reason seems like it is irrational, anarchic, or "doomsday"-related, this should be noted in the applicant's file, and there should be provisions for denying further purchases if so warranted. Confiscation provisions should exist for those gun owners whose circumstances change so that they can no longer lawfully or safely own firearms. If Gramps is 95, blind, and can't steady his rifle, he shouldn't own it. If mild-mannered Mr. Smith owns a gun, and one day loses his temper and rings up a domestic violence charge, he shouldn't own it. And so on. Since it is quite possible to live a long, happy, successful life without owning a firearm, it is quite all right to err on the side of public safety, even if the new rules are heavy-handed on a few folks.


Last fiddled with by NBtarheel_33 on 2012-12-17 at 12:54 Reason: fix spacing and links
NBtarheel_33 is offline   Reply With Quote