I’ve been thinking about writing this for quite a while. This wasn’t inspired by recent news, but I can’t pretend that its tone hasn’t been affected by world events.
I grew up with guns in the house. My father was federally licensed for concealed carry* and owned several. For my tenth birthday I got an air rifle. For my thirteenth I got a .22. As soon as I was old enough to handle the recoil of each weapon, I was taught to fire it. Before I could fire them, I was taught how to handle them. How to break them down for cleaning and how to carry them. The first thing I learned with each weapon was how to unload it. Every one of the weapons in the house was kept loaded, because “an unloaded gun is a useless gun.”
It’s been years since I’ve lived with one, and I’ve fired fewer than a handful of rounds in the past decade. Living in a more urban environment, I haven’t felt any need to own one. I have felt a desire to own one, but not enough to justify the purchase considering the cost and not having a convenient place to shoot. I feel very little need to have a firearm for protection, but I enjoyed shooting.
I used a lot of words to say that I’m all for gun ownership. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in legislation and regulation. Regulation at the federal level, however, is a difficult thing that doesn’t make much sense. The left-hand rhetoric surrounding the subject, comes mostly (please note that I said mostly) from people with little-to-no hands-on experience with firearms. What they know comes from the media and fiction, and they’re largely from urban and suburban backgrounds. It most often seems to come down to a desire to ban weapons based upon their appearance and features they think sound scary. “No one needs high-caliber rifles that fire more than one shot!” is a cry that comes from someone who has never lived in proximity to large predators. Bears and boars will often take more than one shot to drop. Unlike in the movies, humans usually will, too.
Living in rural areas, guns are a part of life. They’re used for hunting and for defense. When police response can optimistically take longer than 30 minutes, a gun borders on a necessity, right behind a well-equipped first aid kit. Regulation in one place doesn’t necessarily make sense when applied to another. This is a problem with federal regulations and the reason that, for the most part, firearm laws have been left to the individual states. The idea is that, given the size of this country and varying populations, each state best knows how to legislate weapons.
They’re doing a shitty job.
Most legislation and mandated waiting periods have applied to handguns. The logic behind this has been that, though less lethal than a rifle or shotgun, their ability to be concealed made them a greater threat. Even 20 years ago, purchasing a revolver in upstate NY would require a waiting period, a certificate from a safety class, and a permit. A rifle or shotgun could be purchased over the counter with a driver’s license. Because they could be used as tools, and someone being able to sneak a long gun into a crowded area and open fire seemed the smaller threat. This is why sawed-off shotguns are illegal. Emphasis on regulation has always tended to be heavier the more easily a weapon could be hidden.
Events over the past few years may have changed some opinions on the matter.
I’ve probably lost a few of the more liberal-leaning readers by now simply by saying that I support gun ownership. Here’s where I’ll lose the conservatives.
The cry of the right wing in response to nearly any call for regulation of arms in civilian hands has been that to do so would violate the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. I’ll make no claims of the types of weapons available increasing in power. I don’t think that matters. In my reading of the document’s writ, my belief in the framers’ intent, and by my understanding of the law, it most certainly is not. “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.”
My interpretation of that sentence looks to the first half of that sentence as a qualifier. It is clear, to me, that the intention was for the populace to be armed, but to be members of a militia. And not just a militia, but one that is well organized. At the time of the Constitution’s writing the United States were governed by the Articles of Confederation. The articles stated that each state would keep a “well-regulated and disciplined militia”. In the terms of the day, a militia was a volunteer army beholden to its home state, as opposed to the regular army, which was beholden to the nation.
The idea that the Second Amendment was written so that any individual could defend themselves from governmental tyranny is laughable. It was written so that the individual states could call upon an armed fighting force that they kept trained and accoutred. The Constitution itself held provisions for the raising of militias. It was a power of Congress, with the Legislative being in charge to offset the power of the president as Commander in Chief of the military. The provision has been amended, and as of today the United States has two militias. The reserve militia “unorganized militia” is made up of every male aged 17-45 who isn’t in the military or National Guard. The organized militia is the National Guard.
I believe that National Guardsmen are our well-regulated militia, and as such the Second Amendment applies to them specifically. Feel free to read up on it yourself. The Congressional Annals are online and you can review the Secretary’s notes yourself. It’s actually a pretty fascinating thing to read. So, yeah. Unless you’re a member of a state’s National Guard, the Second Amendment provides you with no right to bear arms.
BUT! Even if you disagree with me, or you agree and just think people should be able to own guns, I don’t think the government should take everybody’s guns away. We do need some common sense laws in place, though. I, of course, have some thoughts on the matter.
- Anyone convicted of a felony forfeits their right to purchase a gun. If you think that’s unfair, first consider the fact that they’ve lost their right to vote. Until I see you campaign to get that right returned to them, I don’t want to hear shit about how you think they should be armed.
- Any individual currently charged with a violent crime must forfeit their weapons pending the trial’s outcome and may not purchase a gun until they are proven innocent or the case is dropped.
- Purchasing a gun will require an individual be proficient in its use. That means they would have to be trained by a certified instructor with at least 40 hours of experience in handling, maintaining, and firing the weapon safely.
- Purchasing a gun requires that it be insured. Damages beyond the owner’s ability to pay will be paid for via an insurance policy maintained by a private company.
- The federal government will keep a database of firearms by state. Sellers who are found to have sold multiple weapons involved in crimes will lose their license and may be charged as criminal accessories, as determined on a case-by-case basis. (this should put a dent in so-called “straw sales”) States are already keeping track of weapons. Email the pertinents to the feds.
- All other licensing and restrictions will be left up to the state and/or municipality.
I want y’all to notice something. I didn’t say people’s guns should be taken away. I didn’t say that guns are bad. But, we have to recognize that the world isn’t what it was when the Constitution was written. Most Americans aren’t raised around guns. Duels with pistols aren’t considered an acceptable and legal way of settling a dispute. We live closer together. If people are going to own guns they need to be trained how to respect them and how to use them. They need to be able to make restitution for damages. And firearms sellers need to be held responsible for their business practices.
The vast majority of gun owners in this country own guns because they’re fun to shoot. It’s a hobby. It’s why there are Hello Kitty rifles. The AR-15 is so popular because it looks cool. It’s far from the deadliest weapon available at your average sporting goods store. But, particularly among the novice gun enthusiasts and crazy people, it’s incredibly popular. Because it looks cool and kinda’ scary. Like a Harley.
If you truly believe that owning a gun is a right, you should most definitely be willing to live up to the responsibility that comes along with it. The knee-jerk reaction of “you’ll never take my guns” whenever any sort of legislation is even mentioned is, frankly, stupid, and spurred on by industry organizations who know that it’ll eat into their profits. If Bob would have to spend an extra $100 a year in insurance to add another .30-06 to his collection, he might decide he can do without another. It’s not communism. Recognizing that maybe owning a shotgun should require some training doesn’t mean you’re helping to start a domino effect. Really.
Can we please be reasonable?
*my brother was kind enough to point out that what my father had was not a concealed carry permit. There’s no such thing. What he had was an FFL, which, I HAVE NO IDEA WHY, I somehow thought meant he was allowed to carry concealed in any state. I could edit, but let’s preserve my stupidity for posterity.