Someone once said that violence is as American as apple pie. In trying to decipher the many pieces of the gun control issues in the United States, a person runs across so much contradictory information it becomes impossible to figure out where propaganda ends and truth begins.
The Second Amendment
The most logical place to start would be the foundation of firearm rights in the United States, the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It reads:
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.
Much has been argued about the language used in this Amendment and it has often been twisted by special interest groups in an attempt to find a way around what the Amendment means. A plain reading of the Amendment, however, is pretty clear: The individual person is guaranteed the right to possess and carry weapons because they are expected to serve to defend the free state.
Armchair legal scholars may debate a plain reading, but the United States Supreme Court has upheld that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms separate from military service in two separate instances. The most recent example was in 2010
The interesting thing about the rulings is that they seem to indicate that not only do Americans have the right to possess or “keep” firearms, they also have the Constitutional right to carry or “bear” them. However, the Constitution is not a suicide pact and within the right as outlined by the court there exists room for regulation.
Banning firearms outright
Obviously, with the above fresh in memory, this would be an unconstitutional act. More importantly, research shows that it simply does not work. To the contrary, a Harvard University study
found no correlation between strict gun laws and gun crime. If anything, the study indicated
From a theoretical standpoint, a gun ban does not achieve its goal, nor does it stand up to the practical aspects of enforcing it. In 2013, there were over 21 million firearms purchases
in the United States that were reported to the federal government. This number does not include a likely matching number in private sales. This leads to the simple observation that there is a market for firearms in the United States. Otherwise law-abiding Americans will not comply with firearms bans or registrations, as evidenced by Connecticut residents registering only 40,000
of an estimated
1.5 million high-capacity magazines.
Even if the United States was able to completely lock down the borders and there were no weapons smuggled into the country; a hindsight view of the failed War on Drugs shows the futility of government attempts at this sort of interdiction, it would still have to face the fact that firearms production is simple, and clandestine facilities would inevitably spring up to feed the market for firearms.
There are hundreds of sites already online that provide schematics and templates to produce firearms from scratch using basic metalworking skills, such as this website
from a country where gun ownership is banned. This does not include those that would use new technology such as 3D printers
to fashion such weapons.
The term “assault weapon” is often thrown out on the nightly news, and it brings up images of action stars laying waste to entire clusters of bad guys with a high tech machine gun. This is simple propaganda in its purest form. An assault weapon is classified as such due to mostly cosmetic features attached to the base firearm. A weapon described as an assault weapon is not a machine gun. There is no functional difference between an assault weapon and any other semi-automatic rifle. They are not more powerful, nor do they shoot at a faster rate.
Senator Diane Feinstein is a major proponent of an assault weapons ban. Her website states
The legislation bans the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of:
All semiautomatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military feature: pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel.
The inclusion of “grenade launcher or rocket launcher” is nothing more than camouflage. Title II of the National Firearms Act
of 1968 outlawed most of these devices and all of the ammunition for such devices without special licensing from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). The licensing would still be in effect under Feinstein’s proposed legislation.
A barrel shroud is a safety device to stop the operator from burning his or her hand on the barrel. It is probably included simply because a firearm with a barrel shroud looks menacing. A threaded barrel is a barrel that is capable of accepting accessories which are screwed on to the end. The most common accessories today are flash disbursers, which spreads out the flame that comes from the end of the barrel when a weapon is fired, and recoil compensators, which are typically used by sportsmen in competitions to better recover the weapon after firing a shot. Of course, in the propaganda clips someone will explain how a “silencer” could be attached to the firearm using a threaded barrel. All sound suppressors are already banned without a special license from the BATF, and have been since 1968. Every other item that would classify a firearm as an assault weapon simply deals with the comfort of the shooter or ease of storage.
In short, the classification of “assault weapon” really only deals with how a weapon looks, rather than its suitability or likelihood to be used in a crime. In fact, according to the FBI
only about 2.5% of all murders are committed with rifles. So-called “assault weapons” make up only a fraction of the rifle category. More than twice as many people were killed by a murderer using their bare hands than were killed with all types of rifles, to include the dreaded “assault weapon.”
High capacity magazines
A magazine is a small detachable box that contains bullets which is inserted into the firearm, giving the firearm access to the ammunition. Many laws, such as Connecticut’s failed law discussed above, target magazines that hold more than a specified amount. The theory behind limiting the magazine capacity is that with smaller magazines an attacker might be overcome during the time it takes to reload. Rather than simply stating that the average reload time is less than two seconds, Sheriff Ken Campbell prepared a video demonstration showing clearly that this is almost impossible, as well as demonstrating clearly that there is no effective difference in the amount of time it takes a shooter to fire the same amount of ammunition when using smaller magazines.
As with firearms, magazines are easy to manufacture without complex machinery.
Defense against tyranny
The very concept of the 2nd Amendment came from the idea that the people might have to overthrow an oppressive government one day and that it was desirable to enumerate a right to grant people the needed means to do it. Lawmakers in favor of gun control often state that the new laws will have no impact on legitimate sportsmen, which is a wonderfully irrelevant sentiment.
Senator Feinstein uses this idea as a selling point when her website states
The bill excludes 2,258 legitimate hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns by specific make and model.
The framers of the Second Amendment, however, did not care about duck or deer hunting. They cared about the security of a free state and they knew the dangers of maintaining a standing military. As the United States further militarizes its standing police forces and federal agencies, blurring the lines between military and police, the Second Amendment has never been more vital to protecting the security of the nation.
Thomas Jefferson once said
Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not.
Perhaps it is time for the American people to realize that the answer to gun violence is not gun control, but rather self control. Violence is as American as apple pie, and until the society recognizes that the actions of the government and the actions of the population are reflected in the children, it can expect more senseless shootings on its playgrounds, in its schools, and on its streets.
Pandora’s Box is open; the firearm is as much a part of American DNA as baseball. The country has long passed the point where it can stuff the firearm back inside the box and pretend it never existed. The chore now is to find a way to live in the presence of the evil that leapt from the box when the nation was born on fields of blood in Lexington, without allowing that evil to consume the nation and the next generation.
The next time temptation arises to use the television as a babysitter, think about what they are learning when they see every day that violence is the answer. This doesn’t simply apply to violent cartoons or TV shows, this applies to the nightly news. The next time the media begins to pound the drums of war and draw the US into another conflict, perhaps it would be best to break the constant example that is set by a 235-year-old nation that has been at war
during 214 of them.
When the nation’s leaders are willing to use force at every opportunity, the nation’s children will, too.