Second Amendment Stupidity

Since the Newtown shooting, it is predictable that there a surge of support for new gun legislation. Most of the country, including most members of the NRA, support more strict requirements in background checks and mental health screenings. So let’s do that. Beyond that there is a push to ban the further sale of assault rifles and large military magazines. This is up for debate in legislatures and in the public sphere, but that debate should exclude the fear mongering conspiracy theorists that have been spazzing out at the prospect of attempts to prevent further violence in the future.

Violence and homicide are higher in the United States than anywhere in the world. The causes of this might be the U.S. having a higher rate of mental illness and pharmaceutical use than the rest of the world, as well as a greater volume of guns–about 1 per person, or hundreds of millions of guns– and at greater accessibility to these weapons as a result of their numbers. The closest country to the U.S. in arms per capita possession is Yemen, with about 1 gun per 2 people, half of the U.S. Mental illness is one pillar that is already in the works of being addressed on a much larger scale.

But let’s talk about the right to bear arms. The Second Amendment is the only part of the constitution defended by an interest group that represents both the manufactures and users of firearms–the NRA. This group and its supporters cry tyranny at Obama for even thinking of acting on new regulation. After all, the founding fathers guaranteed our right to high-powered rifles so we could overthrow a tyrannical government!

But alas, this is fantasy. “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.” We have a well-regulated militia. It’s called the National Guard. Founders of the constitution did not draft the second amendment to impose what the NRA and friends see as vigilante justice across America. The United States in 2012 is not in the anarchic state of the wild west. We have police and social services to resolve disputes. The Second Amendment was created particularly so that the states could put down insurrections and rebellion as well as defend from foreign invasion with well-regulated militias. In 1792, one of George Washington’s first orders of business was to legislate exactly what that well-regulated militia should be in the Militia Acts. These acts specifically detailed what each citizen needed as gear to fight and train in the local militia which they were required to report to train in twice per year in the light of threats from Indian tribes in the west, as well as events like the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 where citizens in pennsylvania rebelled for taxes on whiskey(America!). The acts specifically detailed how these militias were to be organized. These militias were converted into the National Guard with the militia act of 1903. So there is compelling evidence to suggest that outside of this, citizens were not expected to be packing heat to defend society. The Second Amendment was a response to the acquisition of firearms by the British during the Revolution, not a call to personally arm everyone in the nation. It was not a safeguard against an overbearing government, aka treason, because no thoughtful person would put a self destruct clause in the constitution saying “if you think the popular government sucks, just overthrow it!”.

The survival nuts clinging to their arsenals hoping to square off in a standoff with the U.S. military are mentally insane. First, seeing as we spend more on defense than every nation combined, the government has enough weaponry, tanks, jets, etc. to wipe out the continent in war without blinking too much. An automatic rifle or machine gun isn’t going to change that. Second, anyone who thinks the United States is remotely like a 1984 dictatorship is off their rocker. I mean get real. Go visit China.

But just because I think the Second Amendment is wildly misinterpreted doesn’t mean I hate guns or think no one should own them. But the NRA’s calls for armed guards at schools and encouraging the country to personally arm each individual is stupid. Not only would our population be a tense western at all times, but assuring everyone that having more guns creates peace is lacking critical thought.

The weaponry of the day in the 18th century was a flint-lock rifle, a single shot that required 2 minutes to reload. These were simple instruments for military function or hunting. Today someone with a gun can mow down ranks of people. I have never heard a strong argument that the founding generation would have defended the personal use of high-powered guns today, or claim “liberty” is to jam 30 bullets into a clip or drum.

But that doesn’t mean suddenly someone can come sweeping in and ban all of these weapons. The Assault weapons ban in 1994 grandfathered all guns already sold, and simply placed a ban on expanding that market further. President Obama today urged for a reintroduction of the ban, which would serve mostly the same function. It would be totally implausible and inefficient to somehow go around seizing guns, let alone the absolute ridiculous notion that somehow the government would go door to door because it deemed the simple existence of the weapons as a threat. Anyone who talks like that is going to happen is not in touch with reality.

The goal of the regulations proposed today by Obama, being 23 executive includes orders to better enforce existing gun laws and to force federal agencies to cooperate more on mental illness, Finally appoint an ATF director after 6 years, and strengthen background checks, is a good start. I doubt an assault weapons ban would pass the House, but I do believe the House could vote on legitimizing legal gun ownership by strengthening background check requirements from all gun sales including gun shows, as well as creating a national registry of guns because we need to be accountable for our weapons. But that assumes that the NRA won’t flip shit over the prospect of a database for guns that might be used in a door to door seizure of weapons.

No guns will be taken away from legal gun owners and only a handful of guns that very few people purchase would be banned from further sale. Most of the proposals and orders are commonsense in the beltway and have vast support across America. Look at whats being proposed for yourself–

Like the president said, these ambitious new regulations won’t prevent all violence and it’s not going to stop the mass shootings. But inaction is unacceptable, if only to spare a single fatality. It is not okay to block aims of gun safety in favor of recreation or collection. With our emasculated gun culture it is unlikely there is anything to prevent the large numbers of gun deaths each year. But to pretend that attempts to chip away at those fatalities is somehow a conspiracy to do away with gun ownership is not only perversely dishonest and unrealistic, but downright harmful to the intelligent dialogue that needs to take place with such an important issue in the wake of so much tragedy.

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