Lock and Load Some Common Sense
by omnipotentpoobah, Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 02:48:53 PM EDT
The US Constitution is a wonderfully malleable masterpiece. It's simultaneously steeped in tradition, yet remarkably fresh. That quality usually stands us in good stead, but requires lots of judicial interpretation - much of it extending "meanings" to cover issues the framers could never have imagined. Some call these decisions judicial activism. Others hail them as a forward-thinking, rational decisions. But with charges and counter-charges thick in the air, there's no reason to suspect the bickering over some amendments will end anytime soon.
The Second Amendment is one example of the Constitution getting it - if not wrong - at least too vague. There have been decades of debate about the definition of a militia. Lawmakers and the courts disagree on whether basic gun control laws are allowed. In fact, there's even controversy over what constitutes "arms" - pistols, high-powered automatic weapons, or bazookas. Even though the Second Amendment isn't a hot button issue for me, I find it interesting to hear the debate.
If you'd asked me 30 or 40 years ago, I would have said gun control wasn't practical nor needed. I figured there were already enough guns in the country to equip several million-man, well-ordered militias. I believed it was too late to shove the cat back into the bag. Over time, the nexus - fueled by powerful lobbies and politicians on both sides - moved from a focus on sportsmen to crime, self-protection, and true militias that are not only well-ordered, but sometimes led by dangerous crackpots in the truest sense of the word.
A Domestic Arms Race
Due to the escalating domestic arms race since then, there are even more guns on the street now. Unfortunately, that tabby that was so hard to stuff back into the bag 40 years ago is now a snarling tiger much in need of some whip and chair action. I don't believe I've seen a convincing argument for or against gun control, but what I have seen is a huge lack of common sense and a propensity to rage at each other rather than rationally discuss the issue.
The gun lobby is fond of bumper sticker debate and one of the most popular is, "This (insert name of personal property here) is protected by Smith and Wesson". The words suggest a certain macho swagger, but they don't mention that 55% of gun deaths are suicides and that gun owners are markedly more likely to lose their gun or be shot in a burglary than to use it against the bad guys. Add some drunk asshats who shouldn't be given a guns on the basis of Darwinism and a few truly mentally ill owners and guns don't look so attractive as self-defense tools.
There's also the debate over what kinds of guns should be allowed. There isn't a big disagreement over leaving hunters or other shooting sportsmen alone, but people are understandably nervous about the cheap, disposable handguns that criminals routinely use and fully automatic weapons that the dangerous and bizarre shoulder. There's some statistical evidence that gun control laws can partially curtail the violence, but the formula for a successful law isn't clear and they're damnably hard to enforce.
Common Sense is Uncommon
Rather than interminable arguments over the issue, it's time for both sides to cool their jets and shoot for common sense solutions. We should considering limiting background checks to felony and mental illness screening. It's not foolproof, but it'll screen out the most likely bad guys while not making the requirements for gun ownership too onerous. Maybe we should invest in public education highlighting how poor guns are as self-defense tools. Perhaps we should engage the NRA to give required competency tests not unlike driver's tests. Finally, state laws shouldn't encourage (nor discourage) people to use guns. Shoot first and ask questions later laws are recipes for jacking up gun-related crime. Buy back programs might make a good addition to the mix too.
There are a hundred other good ideas for protecting the right to keep and bear arms without unduly restricting gun ownership. It shouldn't be so difficult for reasonable laws to emerge. I usually counsel common sense on these matters, but I'm none too hopeful it will carry the day. I'm sure many heat-packers will continue to be paranoid muttonheads while anti-second amendment gun-haters will pile one unenforceable law upon another until they reach the height of a clay pigeon at high arch. One thing is for sure, given our culture , the number of guns already in circulation, and the hubbub about them, guns will be a hot button issue for years.
Lock and load.