The Commentary
The Gun Control debate.

Saturday, July 19, 2003  

OK, What Sort of Laws Would I Propose?

Licensing and registration: NO. The right to keep and bear arms is enumerated in the Bill of Rights. If it requires a license, it's not a right. There exists simply too much of a risk of future confiscation, and I honestly don't see any real benefit to be gained. Especially given our 227 year history of acquiring firearms. Trying to register (per the U.N. Small Arms Survey) 238,000,000 to 276,000,000 firearms would be a horribly expensive exercise in futility, and given the fact that felons don't have to register theirs (violates their 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination) it's just plain stupid.

I do agree, however, with background checks. The execution of these is, however, problematic as I am not in favor of national ID's. I believe every person in the U.S. should have SOME sort of difficult-to-forge identification, ideally state-based. I think the driver's license fulfills that requirement for most people (those who drive) and for those who do not, there should be a similar type of photo-id. If one is convicted of a disqualifying crime (and IMHO "disqualifying crimes" should be limited to crimes of violence and some very limited others, since the statistics show that people who commit homicide overwhelmingly have a long train of increasingly violent incidents in their history) then they should be required to turn in their ID's and receive a new one marked to indicate that the person identified is prohibited from possessing a firearm. The same can also be done for people who have been adjudicated mentally incompetent. Restoration of rights should be possible through adjudication.

By doing this you create two groups (Horrors! Discrimination!): People prohibited by their age, actions, or through mental disability, and people who are not prohibited. When someone purchases a firearm, all the seller has to do is check the ID to ensure that the person doing the purchasing is not prohibited. There should be available to the seller a way to ensure that the ID being checked is valid. That's all he has to know. This does not, of course, eliminate "straw-man" purchases. I don't think anything could. However, I think that straw-purchases now are EXCEEDINGLY underprosecuted. Conviction of being a straw-purchaser would also make one a prohibited person (aiding and abetting a violent criminal). It would also be a pretty serious crime of itself.

Concealed carry: I don't have a problem with licensing concealed-carry, so long as the licensing procedure is "shall-issue" and the licensing requirements are not onerous. (I have to trust my government to some extent, after all.) I think there is sufficient historical judicial precedent to justify this. I also don't have a problem with "Vermont carry" (no permit required), but I don't think the states have to follow that. I think that, as they do with Driver's licenses, a CCW license from one state should be acceptable in any state. If you have a Vermont ID and it isn't stamped "Prohibited" - that's your CCW, too. I think that the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause should require all states to allow at least "shall issue" CCW. It's been proven effective and safe in over 2/3 of the states now. There is no reason that citizens in the remainder should not be able to exercise the same ability. As to where you can carry, if you're licensed you should be trusted to carry anywhere the general public is allowed. Criminals certainly don't bother to read the "no weapons" signs. Misuse your weapon, (say, drunk & disorderly or DUI while armed) lose your CCW ability. You just proved yourself not responsible enough.

"Safe Storage": As far as I'm concerned, "safe storage" laws are useless. If your kid gets your gun and shoots himself or someone else, you are already liable under child-endangerment laws. Making it really, really illegal just seems stupid to me. If someone breaks into your home or vehicle and steals your gun(s), the thief is at fault, not the gun owner. If a teenager gets your gun(s) and commits a crime with it, the PERPETRATOR is at fault, not the gun owner - they're old enough to know better. Blaming the gun owner for the acts of others is like blaming a homeowner for burglary because he didn't have deadbolt locks, bars on the windows, and an alarm system. The gun owner didn't commit a crime, the CRIMINAL DID. Responsible gun owners will protect their property and their kids. Irresponsible ones won't - regardless of the laws. Laws like this simply invite overzealous prosecutors to persecute gun owners (and we've seen this.)

Types of weapons: Any handgun or shoulder-fired long gun should be legal to purchase. The limitations against "short barreled" weapons and suppressors are stupid and unconstitutional. I think that semi-auto weapons should be unrestricted, and magazine capacity limits are unconstitutional. While I'm not happy about it, I don't think the restriction against all full-auto weapons is necessarily unconstitutional - so long as it is not a prohibition. I think the $200 "transfer tax" is not now exhorbitant, but it certainly was in 1934. I dislike it because the imposition of such a tax makes it possible that that the tax could again be raised to an exhorbitant level. It should be eliminated. If you want a full-auto weapon (of interest should a call for the unorganized militia be required - say in times of disaster or riot) then these weapons could be registered with state law enforcement but the law should be explicit that the state may call you AND your weapon up, but may NOT confiscate your weapon, and you must be reasonably compensated by the state when so called. This would be true for crew-served full-auto weapons such as heavy machine-guns. Weapons such as submachine-guns and "assault rifles" should be treated as standard long-arms and handguns. Light weapons such as mortars, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, and cannon could be restricted (but not prohibited) as they are not the traditional "arms" of the foot soldier.

Scary, huh? That's what happens when you believe that you should trust your neighbors until they prove themselves unworthy of that trust.

posted by Kevin | 19:56

Wednesday, July 16, 2003  

Ah Yes, the "I'm OK, But I'm Not So Sure About YOU, Bub!" meme.

Here, as I have pointed out, in each and every state where "shall-issue" concealed-carry laws are proposed, the anti-gun forces predict "Blood in the streets!" Shootouts over K-Mart blue-light specials (it's an American thing.) Fender-benders resulting in homicides.

In short, they agree with you fully - they believe that the people who cannot be trusted with a gun are far more numerous than those who can.

But their dire predictions never come true. Ever.

That doesn't stop them, of course. When state #35 goes for CCW, I'm positive that the "Blood in the Streets!" argument will be dragged out again.

I suggest you read "The Myth of Man The Killer" and give it some thought. Here's a teaser:

The man who fears Hobbes's "warre", who sees every one of his neighbors as a potential murderer, will surrender nearly anything to be protected from them. He will call for a strong hand from above; he will become a willing instrument in the oppression of his fellows. He may even allow himself to be turned into a killer in fact. Society will be atomized into millions of fearful fragments, each reacting to the fear of fantasied individual violence by sponsoring the political conditions for real violence on a large scale.
Consider this, too: Throughout Tytler's cycle, the people are the same, just the attudes are different. It isn't a genetic difference, merely one of philosophy. And while the drift he describes takes something on the order of 200 years or so to progress, it doesn't mean that the philsophy cannot change within a single generation. You're correct - simply stopping the cycle where it is (which I think is desireable when compared to not stopping it) is not the optimum outcome. I think that educating the public so that they can make the right decision(s) will work towards reversing the cycle. Education overcomes ignorance, eliminates apathy, and connects people. It doesn't, however, make them responsible.

(I've become convinced that the destruction of our school systems which started in the 1950's has been the major contributor to our descent into apathy and dependence, and that the destruction of our school systems was a result of our complacency.)

As to what sort of laws I would propose - sorry, I don't have time to respond to that right now, but I will get back to it.

posted by Kevin | 22:49