I shot a gun for the first time in my life this year. It was loud and it hurt. It was also kinda cool when I figured out how to actually hit the targets.
On the long car ride from upstate to NYC, I got into a debate about politics with people I didn’t know that well … which is so the kind of thing I’d do. Obviously, the topic of gun control came up.
My biggest beef with the topic? Everyone says “It’s a constitutional right! End of Story.” This pisses me off for various reasons.
Firstly, the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for the last 80 or so years that the right of an individual to own a gun is NOT constitutionally protected. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t have a debate about it; what is means is that there are really two debates: The first is whether you believe the Supreme Court wrongly interpreted the sentence “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to a free state, the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.” The second is, if the constitution doesn’t protect an individual’s right to own a weapon (which, currently, it doesn’t), how much, if at all, should we limit an individual owning weapons.
Let’s tackle the first “debate” first. Since I’m not a constitutional lawyer, I, truthfully, don’t entirely understand the nuances of the Supreme Courts decision but the gist is this: When the constitution was penned, the term “to bear arms” commonly referred to military service. Taking into consideration the beginning of the amendment (“A well-regulated militia …”), the Supreme Court has interpreted the amendment to protect the right of individuals to form militias. Well-regulated militias … which are necessary for a free state. Arguably, the Illinois National Guard would fall under this definition. Note that Crazy Joe with his machine gun in Alabama does not constitute a well-regulated militia.
Now during this dashboard politik as I’m calling it (which now that I’m looking it up on Wikipedia doesn’t really make sense but it’s catchy so I’m keeping it), someone brought up an argument that I’d never heard before and couldn’t immediately refute. The argument I have come to learn is termed the “Insurrectionist Theory.” It goes as follows: The founder fathers ensured the right to bear arms so that individuals could have comparable weapons to the government which they then could use to overthrow the government. It’s an interesting idea. I do believe that the founder fathers crafted our government to ensure that citizens could freely oppose the government. However, for me, it seems somewhat of an illogical argument. If you were plotting to overthrow the government, why would you respect its laws? Doesn’t respecting its laws, forbidding you, for instance, from obtaining an assault weapon, inherently give those laws validity?
Let’s say, however, you think it is logical. It did, definitely, give me pause. So I did a little research. Apparently, The Insurrection Theory of the Second Amendment, is actually a relatively new theory and is hotly debated by legal scholars. Something to note is that it’s primarily supported by selective quotes from the founding fathers … most of whom were Anti-Federalists. In case you missed it in history class, the Federalists won (twice, actually, if you count the Civil War.)
So let’s move on, with the assumption that the Supreme Court has, for the last 80 years, correctly interpreted the constitution and an individual’s right to own a weapon is not constitutionally protected. Now defining something as not constitutionally protected really tells us nothing – it tells us that we, as citizens of a democracy, have a right to make laws that prohibit, limit, require gun ownership or don’t say anything at all. Obviously, every state, has some sort of Gun Control laws.
One of the questions I often ask is why does any individual need a hand gun? What purpose does it serve other than to kill people? It’s not good for hunting so why do you need it? Here are some arguments and my opinionated refutation:
- Protection: You need a hand gun to protect yourself. Statistically speaking, if you have a hand gun in the house, it is more likely to be used against you than you are to use it against an intruder. The argument was made that that was a skewed statistic because people with unregistered hand guns wouldn’t take them out for fear of punishment for having an unregistered hand gun. But if that’s the case then you aren’t using that hand gun to defend yourself. Furthermore, I think this argument perpetuates the atmosphere of fear we have in this country – don’t move, you might get killed! Aaah!
- Sport/Recreation: Going to a shooting range is fun and recreational; shooting is a sport. Firstly, there is no sport in which people shoot hand guns. Secondly, is the fact that someone considers something “fun” or recreational really a good litmus test for its legality? I’ve read that Southerns considered lynching blacks quite the recreational activity. Does that make it OK? What about drugs or drive-by shootings or gang rape?
- Everything is Dangerous: Driving in a car is dangerous too. That’s true. I could get hit by a bus walking across the street looking both ways. However, a car’s main purpose is transportation. A gun’s main purpose – the reason it was created (regardless of how fun it is to shoot at targets) – is to kill stuff. Danger is the point not the unhappy side effect.
Here’s a shocker: I don’t actually think all guns should be outlawed. Mostly, because I think by making something illegal, you take it out of your control. Also, because I think it’s great that Joe-Shmoe gets his meat from hunting (as opposed to the evil factory farms our government supports). I do think you should need a permit and a background check to own a gun – any gun – and I think that, for guns that aren’t intended for hunting, you should have a decent reason. Most importantly, I do not think it should be legal to carrying a concealed weapon. Period. Ever. Cops don’t, why should you?
My real point, though, is this: Let’s all wake up and read a history book. An individual’s right to own a gun is not constitutionally protected so let’s have a real discussion about gun control. I don’t care if you agree with me but can we please talk about it without the conversation being cut off immediately by “It’s in the constitution!” because it’s not. Please?