In a brief diversion from our current series on preparing for the 2014 midterms, I want to make a point regarding the ongoing debate over gun laws. As those who follow me on Twitter have noticed, this has become a focus on many of my recent tweets. I have touched on this subject over the past year in this Blog. I have had many gun rights advocates attack me on Twitter for my views. As I have mentioned, I am a gun owner, I work law enforcement, I see guns as tools, but I am not a gun worshipper and I do not believe that the founders intended unlimited full access to guns as a constitutional right.
On this last point many (both pro and anti gun rights) will argue with me. Hell, even President Obama has made it clear recently that he sees the 2nd Amendment as a right to “bear arms.” I still can’t get past those first few words in the amendment “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a Free State…” History is clear that Thomas Jefferson did not believe in standing armies and supported State militias (well regulated State militias mind you) as the best means of security for this new nation. He feared that a standing army could pose a threat of a coupe over the civilian government.
Recently I posted on Twitter a link to a Harvard School of Public Health meta-analysis of gun safety studies that have been peered reviewed and debunk many of the talking points of the NRA. It shows clearly that the benefits of gun ownership are outweighed by the risks it imposes on the individual, especially if they bring that gun home. It shows that many of the “truths” those who strongly advocate to support gun ownership to protect themselves are simply unsupported by the facts. However, in posting that link, I was met with one response that I found representative of the thinking on the right-wing fringe “I have a peer review study that the 2nd amendment is a constitutional right.” Rather than dispute the public safety aspects of gun ownership, they go straight to their belief that the founders have ordained they have an absolute right to gun ownership that shall not be infringed by any regulation at all.
Here is the link to the Harvard meta-analysis for your review. It covers many areas but is easy to navigate through.
So just for the sake of argument (though I’m still not convinced this is true) let us say that there is an absolute constitutional right for gun ownership in this nation. Hey, who am I to argue with Constitutional Law Professor Barack Obama who has stated publicly that he agrees with this interpretation. So we all have a right to own a gun, does this also mean that we have a responsibility and legal requirement to own a gun?
There have been cases where small jurisdiction towns have tried to impose a legal requirement to be armed based on the 2nd Amendment. In 1982 Kennesaw, Georgia made it a law that with few exceptions, all homes had to have at least one gun. They claimed that because of this law, the crime rate plummeted, so it stands as proof that gun ownership reduced crime. They failed to mention that the crime rates plummeted by the same amount in the same areas in surrounding towns of equal size that didn’t impose that law. Using this same logic, I found this lucky charm a few years back and have never been attacked by a Bengal Tiger so this little charm is obviously responsible for that. The above study debunks the myth that gun ownership reduces crime.
So you have a right to bear arms. Don’t we as mature adults in a civilized society also have a right to conduct ourselves in a manner that promotes the well-being of our family and neighbors? You know, aren’t we expected to be responsible adults?
Further, even though it may be guaranteed in the Constitution, many rights are also guaranteed.
You have the right of freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and many others. However, laws exists that regulate each and every one of these “freedoms” and they have been upheld in the Supreme Court as Constitutional.
You may assemble in great numbers but you cannot then riot and cause public discourse.
You have a right to practice your religious beliefs, but if those beliefs include “honor killings” you can’t do it.
You have a right of freedom of speech, but you cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theatre.
Your Constitutional freedoms end where they imperil the rights and public safety of others. The law permits regulations to keep this from happening. As with everything else in the Constitution, the right to exactly how we bear arms can and should be regulated. Hell, even staunch center-fold conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is on record saying that gun ownership can be regulated.
As the study above shows, not only is the perceived benefits of gun ownership far outweighed by their risks, it shows that such ownership endangers the community as a whole. It sounds crazy but it would appear that more guns actually do translate to more gun violence in our society. When you add in high-capacity magazines to military style assault weapons, you only make the problem exponentially worse.
The nice thing I’m finding is that as a country, we appear to be learning from the years of NRA misinformation to the gullible among us to perk up gun sales in order to increase the profit margins of their clientele (not gun owners) the gun and ammunition manufacturers.
During the LA gun buy-back program, someone actually brought in a rocket launcher. A pawn shop owner in Florida has declared he will no longer sell weapons. The days of the tyranny of the gun manufacturers may finally be coming to an end, though I tend to doubt it. It will always be a problem, but maybe we can make it less of a problem.
If you want to own a gun, fine. Just please be responsible about it and don’t come crying to us when you discovered it did absolutely nothing in keeping you or your family and friends safe. If it results in an innocent person’s death, well hope you really think long and hard about that one. You’ve been warned.