What’s the price of gun freedom?

Ted Nugent believes those proposing measures to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Newtown shootings are coming to take his guns in violation of the second amendment.

Wayne LaPierre believes any modification of current gun laws that sensibly regulate access to or transfer of guns equates to taking away his guns in violation of the second amendment.

The second amendment reads quite simply: “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.”

The key words in the amendment may be militia and infringed.  Because we no longer rely on a militia for national defense, unless one includes the National Guard in the militia category, it’s been postulated that the second amendment no longer applies to the American people, that there is no right to bear arms.  This belief was set to rest in District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008.)  Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, stated clearly there is an individual right to possess a firearm, and use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes including self-defense in the home.

The Oxford dictionary states infringe means to limit or encroach upon.  Strictly speaking the second amendment suggests the right to bear arms may not be limited.  However, in Heller, Justice Scalia asserts the right of governments to limit the kind of guns and the places guns may be carried, and suggests it is reasonable to regulate the commercial sale of arms.

The anti-gun control crowd posits the efforts to reduce gun violence as an either/or argument.  Either the advocates of gun control can do nothing, or they must be coming to take legal gun owners’ weapons and the right to defend themselves.  It is a false dichotomy that has somehow paralyzed the will of Congress to act, even in the emotionally wrenching wake of Newtown.

Let me be clear.  Heller established the right for private gun owners to keep guns to defend themselves.  But it left plenty of room for governments-local, state or national to regulate the type of weapons and the nature of their sale.  Nobody is suggesting law-abiding gun-owners give up their firearms.  Nobody is suggesting a national registry of firearms.  Nobody is suggesting an inspection of gun-owners’ homes to determine weather their weapons are legal or not.  Anyone who is suggesting these are goals of gun control advocates is engaged in the worst kind of demagoguery, merely tossing red meat to the ignorant, uninformed or fanatic.  Those politicians foolish enough to buy into such arguments are either cowardly or in thrall to the gun industry.

Today the debate around gun control or limiting gun violence is limited to three important questions:

  1. Should there be a federal assault weapons ban that limits the new purchases of military-style weapons? Current owners of such weapons will be grandfathered in under the law.
  2. Should there be a limitation on high capacity weapons magazines?  The number is not yet decided, the one that seems to appear in most discussion is ten.
  3. Should all arms purchasers undergo a background check?  Presently, about 60 percent of arms purchasers go through a federal background check.  All gun purchases through a liscensed arms dealer are checked.  Those through private purchases or many sellers at gun shows do not participate in background checks.  This is the so called “gun-show loophole.”

There are plenty of questions about how effective any or all of these measures would be in eliminating or ending gun violence.  From my point of view if any or all of them are passed, it will save some lives. Critics suggest they will make little difference.  How many lives will they save?  One life? Two? Five? Twenty? One Hundred?  Five Hundred?  What’s the magic number?  How many lives saved is enough to pay the cost of inaction?

At what cost?  Whose freedom will be infringed?  Whose rights will be abrogated?  Will a single legal gun owner lose a single gun?  Will a single gun owner lose the right to defend themself or their property?  I ask you; be honest.  Don’t go to  “this inconveniences me.”  Twenty murdered children and six slaughtered staff members trump whatever your loss of a day or two may cost you.  Critics have complained about the hassle from the reporting requirement.  In my state if I sell my car I have to report it to WSDOT, transfer the title, and pay sales tax.  Yes, it’s a pain, but I do it. I register my car.  My car shoots nothing, threatens nobody, and has never participated in a home invasion.  Can we really not ask similar responsibility from gunowners in a nation that registered more than 11,000 gun homicides in 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control.

For those who would say, but my right to bear arms is a constitutional one, and your rights as a car owner are not,  I can only answer this.  This nation is awash in guns.     Doesn’t it feel just a little  uncomfortable that those who claim their rights are a virtually unfettered access to firearms that rests on the corpses of 11,000 victims annually slaughtered by those same guns?  What were their rights? Should we all just shrug our shoulders and suggest it’s not my problem dude?  Who are we? Congress?

To suggest  the choice between doing nothing or making these small changes is the difference between doing nothing or confiscating guns is at best intellectually dishonest and at worst demagogically malign.   These sensible regulations ask nothing from law-abiding current gun owners.  To do nothing is suggest that gun owners’ convenience, not rights, convenience, is more important than the rights of victims and their families.  Isn’t that what we’re deciding here-the right not to be bothered versus the right to life?  Really?


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