Wednesday May 22, 2013
Much Ado About GunsJerry West Salem-News.com
Canada has too many regulation, the US has too few...
(GOLD RIVER, BC) - Ever since the school shooting in Connecticut last December the US media and web sites have been engaged in an endless stream of rhetoric about gun control. Most of the loudest of it lacking any foundation in common sense with factoids tossed hither and yon with little relevance either for or against the issue except in the minds of those cherry picking them often out of context.
The real block to achieving rational and constitutional control of firearms in the US is the extreme positions taken both for and against controls which leave little room for working out a set of laws that will both enhance protection of the population against firearm violence, while preserving the protections of the Second Amendment.
The worst enemies of those wishing to bring the regulation of firearms into line with the realities of modern society are those anti-gun people who have little appreciation or understanding of the Second Amendment, and what is possible, and choose to pursue a pie-in-the-sky dream of a world without guns, or at least with only guns locked up somewhere under rigid controls.
The worst enemies of those wishing to preserve their rights under the Second Amendment and keep firearms are those in the pro-gun crowd acting like yahoos. People who apparently have a poor understanding of the Constitution and what limits can be legally set on firearms.
The Constitution of the United States certainly grants the right to the people to bear arms. Those that would like to see that right extinguished should get a grip and move on to something more productive. They will never in the foreseeable future manage to get thirty-eight states to agree to repeal that amendment.
Those who seem to worship that amendment, however, also need to come to grips with the fact that the rights in the Constitution are not absolute, and are legitimately subject to interpretation by the courts. Courts, as we know, may change that interpretation from time to time to meet current realities. A prime example of this would be the First Amendment and how interpretation of it has changed over time regarding what one can say or publish, and how one can assemble.
How many supporting an absolutist view of the Second Amendment would also support the same for the First? If the people have an absolute right to possess and carry any firearm that they want, then publishers and broadcasters have the absolute right to publish and broadcast anything which pretty much strikes down laws on pornography, hate speech and inciting criminal acts. It also strikes down any laws regulating the assembly of people, rendering permits for marches, demonstrations, rallies and etc. null and void.
The first part of the Second Amendment states that it exists to preserve a well-regulated militia. Some people like to argue that militia means the people. This is debatable given the context of the time that it was written. The argument can be made that the intent was to empower the states to keep their own militia under arms, particularly important in the slave states, and important to a country that did not want a large standing federal army. The people, then, would refer to members of the state militias who had a right to bear arms.
The second part of the amendment clearly states that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. This of course leaves open the issue of what is meant by both arms and infringed. Issues which are up to the courts to interpret.
At the time that the amendment was written the common arm of the people was the muzzle loading flintlock. There can be no doubt that the framers were referring to that. There are no words in the Second Amendment that allow for any arms that have been developed since it was adopted. That leaves the issue up to the courts to decide on the constitutionality of any regulation on the type of arms that the people have a right to bear.
What also is flexible and up to the courts to decide, is what limits are permissible on the right, just like there are permissible limits on the First Amendment. It is certainly within the purview of the government with the assent of the courts to decide not only which arms may be beared, but how they can be beared and what one has to do qualify to bear them.
Some would argue that one must have arms to be ready to resist a tyrannical state. What a pipe dream probably fueled by too much testosterone and too little common sense. Violence by a bunch of untrained and inexperienced people against the military and law enforcement resources of the United States would be both treason and stupid. Ask Chris Dorner or David Koresh, just to name two examples.
Then there is the argument that one should have the right to have a firearm for self-protection. It is a valid argument, but in the best interest of society that right must be qualified. The possession of a firearm presents a hazard to society if the person with it is not qualified to use it safely, or a risk to use it criminally. There is good reason to require those possessing firearms to prove their ability to use competently whichever kind they are allowed to possess, to know when it is permissible to use them, and to be determined neither mentally nor criminally a risk to society with a firearm.
I get a laugh out of the silly argument that if everyone had a firearm with them all the time we would be safer. Just think, it has been said, if a lot of the people at any given mass shooting were armed there would not have been as many killed. Really? Can you imagine what a theater full of testosterone driven, poorly trained yahoos would accomplish? Bullets would fly in all directions and the body count would be worse.
I do not get a laugh, however, about people who have to prove how macho they are by running around carrying a firearm in the open without a valid need to do so. Exposed firearms in environments where they should not be normal are needless intimidation to others, and mark one as a target for the so-called bad guys who will certainly be less likely to be thwarted by someone they see carrying openly than someone who may be carrying concealed.
Unlike Canada, which has too much firearm regulation, the US has too little, and what is does have is a hodge-podge of federal and state regulation. It is really time that the federal politicians sit down and draft clear and reasonable laws regulating the possession and use of firearms that both enhance public safety while protecting the right of the people to have firearms responsibly. Federal laws that will pass the courts who are the final arbiters of what is or is not constitutional.
Jerry West grew up on a farm in Fresno County, California, and served with the US Marine Corps from 1965 to 1970 including 19 months in Vietnam with the Third Marine Division, and three years at MCAS Iwakuni where he became an anti-war organizer in 1970. He earned an Honors Degree in History at the University of California, Berkeley, and did two years of graduate study there. While in university he worked seasonally in fire and law enforcement with the US Forest Service.
After university he worked for a number of years in the international tour industry in operations and management before moving to a remote village on the west coast of Vancouver Island where he is currently the editor and publisher of The Record newspaper serving the Nootka Sound region. He is a Past President of the Northern California Land Trust, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
You can email Jerry West, Salem-News.com Writer, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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