Monday, November 29, 2010

Man with a gun

Sebastian made light of a Man With A Gun, and longtime commentor Mikeb302000 went off on a rant because Sebastian (and Carl from Chicago) made light banter that not every gun owner is a crazed lunatic. Mikeb responded with the tired old lines of “We’re always talking about the smaller percentage who are not, about whom something should be done” and “The “good ones” are in the majority. And being good citizens they wouldn’t mind being inconvenienced for the Greater Good.” Finally, we have the most offensive (to me) line: “The message is not that ALL of you can go rogue at any moment.” This seems to be his rationale for restricting access to firearms on the law-abiding, that a certain small subgroup of the law-abiding may “go rogue at any moment” and this justifies restrictions on all the law-abiding “for the Greater Good”.

Here’s the thing – that’s not an argument for making each individual firearms purchase legally difficult, it’s an argument for preventing access to firearms at all. The “reasonable restrictions” Mikeb is for (background checks for any sale, waiting periods, &c) won’t stop a “rogue” firearms owner; and I believe he is in favor of rather strict restrictions on obtaining carry permits as well – constitutional carry a la VT, AK, or AZ is right out. Once the gun is out in the world, the owner can do anything with it. The law-abiding one will, of course, limit himself to the lawful activities. But not one of New Jersey’s many strict and serious firearms laws could stop me from loading up my legally-purchased and legally-owned limited-capacity magazines and my legally-purchased and legally-owned handgun, and going out to cause mischief. It’s worth noting, by the way, that, given my lifestyle and normal mode of dress, I could be carrying my handgun and a hundred rounds of ready ammo at any time I carry a pocketknife (which is most of the time) and had I been doing so there is essentially no chance I would have been discovered doing so.

Of course, I don’t do any such thing. For one thing, that much ammo is HEAVY. I could get by with probably 2 extra magazines. But, more seriously, I don’t carry because it is against the law, and I don’t have a pressing need to. If that second changed, how is any law going to stop me, assuming that the pressing need does not make me a prohibited person? If a “rogue” gun owner determine that one or more people, alone or in couples and groups, need an unjustified killing, what law will stop him beforehand? He’s already decided to break the law of man and God were he choose to kill. Regardless if he were in New Jersey, where possession of firearms outside of strictly defined exceptions and it can take upwards of 6 months to get permission to purchase each handgun, or in Vermont, where a gun in the pocket requires no permission from any man, and the waiting period is no longer than the NICS check, the “rogue” gun owner is going rogue, and already having the gun means no restriction on purchase will stop him.

The Supreme Court has determined that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution recognizes a pre-existing right to own a functional handgun and to possess it in the home. There is no argument you can make any more that will justify banning firearms in the US; that’s simply barred by the US Constitution. Once that happened, restrictions on purchase and possession in the general case no longer make sense. There are specific people who should not possess firearms (I will even go so far as to admit that not all of them should be locked away from other people – others whom I respect will disagree). There are specific places that the general member of the public should not carry any weapon at all (though these places should provide, free of charge, safe and secure storage at the perimeter for the use of patrons who do not wish to be defenseless on their travels outside of that perimeter). To ban or infringe upon the right of the average citizen to carry a firearm while not actually intoxicated for any legal purpose in the vain expectation that doing so will prevent them from enacting a crime upon society or its members makes about as much sense as barring an average citizen not intoxicated from carrying keys to a car or any other object in the vain expectation that doing so will prevent them from enacting a crime upon society or its members with the car or with any other object. It makes as much sense as banning or infringing upon the average citizen’s right of free speech in the vain hope that doing so will prevent them from uttering a threat or slander. No law can prevent a person who desires breaking it from acting on that desire. The most it can do is punish them afterwards; and we already have laws against misusing a firearm, even unto the level of threatening someone with one or even displaying it inappropriately. Laws restricting or infringing upon the ability to purchase firearms serve no separate purpose on their own.

1 comment:

  1. This idea, that a complete ban on firearms possession is the minimum burden that could have any chance of reducing violence, is one I think the gun rights community is going to have to push in the near future if we want to keep making progress.

    That strategy scares a lot of people ("NRA ENDORSES GUN BAN!"), but it's a clear case that can be communicated easily and "rings true" to most Americans if presented right.


Please keep it civil