To Ban or not to Ban Firearms?

To Ban or Not to Ban Firearms?

 

Until recently, I have never given much thought to guns.  As a matter of fact, if someone had asked me to play a word association game using the word “gun,” I would probably have mentioned the refrain from A Christmas Story, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”  Or, perhaps, the line about a sawed-off shotgun from a Cyprus Hill song that was popular more than 15 years ago. 

 

But as I mentioned in my previous post, I was deeply disturbed by the mass shootings that occurred in Germany and Alabama on March 11th.  I used to refuse to watch the news, especially before bed; it gave me nightmares.  With age I have learned to palate and poke holes in the headlines.  Yet, for all the media’s faults, its coverage of the series of mass shootings that have occurred since March 11th hardly constitutes sensationalism.  Reporting is not always synonymous with exaggerating or capitalizing or spin doctoring; some events are just inherently dramatic.  It is disturbing enough to read of one murderous rampage, but 6 (5 in the U.S.) in less than a month, resulting in 59 deaths!  Excuse me for feeling troubled by this.  Oddly enough, I am actually grateful to have been so affected by these events because they have prompted me to work towards a better understanding of the 2nd amendment controversy and current gun laws in my own state of FL with the goal of arriving at an informed position.

 

Allow me to establish a few facts, disclaimers if you please, about myself.  And guns. And gun policy.

 

I never played with toy guns as a child.

 

I do, however, have a few scattered adolescent beach boardwalk memories of playing the game where you try to shoot as many moving ducks as you can before your gun runs out of water.  I was lousy at that game, never won any of the shabby stuffed animals, and I’m not bitter about it at all, really.

 

I am not a radical leftist or staunch advocate of ‘more government.’ 

 

I am also not so naïve or unrealistic as to believe that banning guns altogether is going to eliminate evil from the universe.  I’ve done the research.  I get it.  The example of England alone is enough to drive home this point; in the late 90’s, the nation placed a complete ban on handguns and many types of long guns and confiscated guns from citizens then willing to relinquish them.  In turn, over the next decade, the violent crime rate there soared, far surpassing the rate in the U.S., which had, in fact, begun to decline in spite of the continually increasing rate of American gun ownership.  In case the English example didn’t satisfy, consider the gun-less former Soviet-Union.  Between 1998 and 2004 the Russian murder rate was four times that of the U.S.; in the absence of guns the murderous will find alternative weapons, if not black market guns.

 

Okay, so substantial research has shown that there is not a correlation between gun ownership and murder rates.  Proponents of the right to bear arms get a bit overjoyed by these studies, all but sticking their tongues out and saying ‘I told you so’ as they head off to the shooting range.   But what studies also show is that looser gun restrictions are not the only reason for the decline in U.S. violent crime rates in the past two decades.  The prison population has tripled and the execution rate has quintupled (from approximately 5 per year in the early 80’s to 27+ per year in the 90’s).  Hence, more criminal offenders are behind bars or R.I.P. 

 

I have consulted the 2nd amendment, in all its variously punctuated glory, with some sources printing it with 1 comma, some with 2 commas, and still others with 3.  As an English teacher, I eat this up, though truth be told, punctuation in the 18th century was far from standardized and often appears arbitrary, even haphazard.  If only Oscar Wilde, who famously remarked that he took out a comma in the morning and put it back in the afternoon, had been born a century earlier to weigh in on the situation.

 

Here are two of the three different versions:

 

 “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 2nd Amendment Foundation uses this version.)

“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.”

 (Many argue this is the official version; the copy of the Constitution on hand at the National Archives has 3.  This is also the version used by            the NRA and The Cornell University Law School.)


Gun advocates have argued that what comes before the comma in the one-comma version is merely preamble and that the emphasis lies in the individual’s right to keep and bear arms.  Gun opponents have argued that the crux of the amendment lies in the first two clauses of the three-comma version, adding also that “militia” and “state” are capitalized, while people is not.

I have more to say on this subject, particularly on that of girls and guns, so stay tuned for that post.

In the meantime, I will end with this.  While I am by no means an advocate of complete gun bans as I have tried to make clear, I do believe the government can and should do more to ensure safe and responsible gun ownership, particularly with regard to sounder background checks prior to issuance of permits.  A May 2008 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the 12 states that require local, and not just federal (NICS) background checks, had the lowest firearm suicide and homicide rates. The local checks provided crucial information regarding history of mental institutionalization, domestic violence, restraining orders, etc. that the federal checks did not. The government should heed these findings and either mandate both types of queries or do something to facilitate the transmission of such pivotal information from the local to the federal level.

 

Please share your comments here, not on FB 😉

Advertisements
Comments
3 Responses to “To Ban or not to Ban Firearms?”
  1. Jay Arnold says:

    I think the right to bear arms has to be looked at in the context and overall spirit of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was specifically created to protect the rights of individuals from government intrusion.

    In that sense, the right to bear arms appears unequivocal and an outright ban would appear to fly in the face of a constitutionally protected right.

    However, and this is a big one, there is no reservation of gun control laws falling strictly under the purview of states rights. And to the extent that states have attempted to regulate gun use and ownership, I would suggest that they have failed miserably.

    It is still possible to go to a gun show in Virginia and purchase a semi-automatic weapon without so much as having to show your driver’s license.

    This is more alarming to me than anything else. Rather than any outright ban, I would rather see uniform federal regulations imposed with huge civil and criminal penalties for failure to require regular and thorough background checks.

    To that end, I would also argue that while guns are protected, the sale and distribution of Ammo is not.

    There is no reason that all Ammo could not be sold through the government with a chip and a serial number linked to a specific owner.

    While the above may seem like a call for “big government”, I would argue that it is actually consistent with a view held strongly on both sides of the aisle….a function of the government is to protect our citizens from the tyrany of men, foreign or domestic within the bounds of the constitution. Vigorous and uniform federal regulation seems to me, the most plausible way to achieve this goal.

  2. Burke says:

    As you pointed out, gun ownership does NOT correlate with homicides, in fact, just the opposite. There is already a major deterrent against using guns for crime… increased sentences for gun-related crimes is very well advertised (have you heard the 10-20-life ads?). Trying to avoid gun-related crime and gun related suicide by government control of the guns or ammo is like trying to avoid lynchings and suicides by hanging by having the government ban rope.

    By the same measure, making ammo so expensive that it can’t be purchased is effectively the same as banning the guns. Background checks are needed ONLY for those people you already know are dangerous…so they would just acquire guns elsewhere… again, added expense that law-abiding citizens pay for.

    “vigorous federal regulation” is 1. a loss of freedom and generally ineffective and 2. flies in the face of the SPIRIT of the 2nd amendment.

    The 2nd amendment is not about the rights of people to just have guns to hunt or protect their home. It is for the last line of defense of our entire country. The “Militia” is not the National Gaurd or any paid military personnel. It is you and me and your neighbor, responsible to protect our Country against the rise of a tyrannical government or an invasion of a foreign enemy.

    If you REALLY want to cut down accidental deaths and homicides, then force all cars to go no faster than 30 mph. (check vehicular homicide statistics… the #1 cause of death among teens is car crashes)…. But that would be awful slow, wouldn’t it?

  3. Stephen Tillman says:

    Just as prohibition exacerbated the problems caused by alchohol during the early 1920s, so would the complete banning of guns nowadays. The restriction of anything creates demands which allow opportunists to profit via monopolies. Increasingly rigorous constraints on gun laws would only promote their spread, and encourage the siezure of weapons through traffickers.

    While there is a need to, as Jay argued, monitor gun ownership in such a way that limits rights which are prone to infringe on another’s, this censorship cannot be so extreme as to frustrate activists, for then they would seek corrupt ways to gain the rights they feel they’ve been deprived of. Why would I jump through hoops and occupy myself with painful regulations when I know I can see Little Jacob in that gray house at the end of the block?

    I like to believe that gun-activists have good intentions, you know, like the protection of our country, our rights, etc., but in the same light, I can’t help but see hot lead as an article of crime. We more than often hear about firearms in the context of suicide, robbery, and oh, most importantly war.

    Last week, in an introductory government class, we watched a video called “Why We Fight,” and from what I understood, their argument was that we fight wars for economic and political agendas, although legislators and the media suggest otherwise. The manufacture of hulking missles, scary tanks, masterful jets and nasty explosives create many jobs, and have always been attributed to American power and security. Through duress we, as a country, have attempted to extend our political goals into other countries, and establish large corporations there as well. But this is slightly aside from my point.

    Considering that elaborate weaponry and power have brought America this far (they police the world, for heaven’s sake), I think that guns and the right to bear arms have become icons of American freedom and protection. At least in my book.

    Apart from the fact that banning guns would give rise to corruption, as burke explains, it would also defeat the purpose of the 2nd amendment; to defend, protect and fight in the name of freedom, nationalism, love, luck, and lollipops.

    -Tillman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • The Drama Book Shop

%d bloggers like this: