AUTHOR’S NOTE: Originally published in late 2007 / early 2008 and now reposting again in light of the latest SCOTUS ruling that essentially makes the entire country a “shall issue” nation. Seems applicable for discussion about gun control… again.
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Just recently I posted a blog about the 2nd Amendment and the importance of a case out of D.C. that the Supreme Court recently heard arguments about: Heller v. D.C. It was obvious from the comments that we all have differing beliefs and values where all of the rights we have that are recognized in the Bill of Rights are concerned. The definition of the word “reasonable” comes into play and tempers can flare. In this week’s article I’m going to attempt to address my personal beliefs about the 2nd Amendment, but I’m going to do so from a particularly odd angle: I’m going to pretend that the 2nd Amendment never existed.
Now I know this will be a difficult undertaking, but please bear with me. What I’m going to discuss is common sense gun legislation as I view it without the impact of the 2nd Amendment. I know this is an impossible reality because the 2nd Amendment does exist. I’m more than okay with that. I LIKE the 2nd Amendment. I’m very pro-gun. What I have a problem with is the inundation of wasted laws that do nothing but allow politicians to say, “See? I tried to make a difference.”
If there were no 2nd Amendment I do truly believe that gun ownership in the United States would have long ago gone the way of England, Australia, Canada, etc. That is to say that private gun ownership would be severely restricted. I believe that without the 2nd Amendment we would find ourselves under laws that would forbid gun ownership to most and allow private ownership of specified rifles or shotguns only after applying for the privilege and receiving the state’s blessing. Obviously, the military and our law enforcement community would have firearms. The rest of us (largely) would be defending ourselves and our homes against whatever criminal element may exist and doing so with knives or impact weapons.
Keeping that tucked away in the back of your mind, and understanding that I firmly believe we need guns available to private citizens for “evening the playing field”, I’d like to discuss some of the laws that exist today and whether they make any sense… plain and simple: do they make sense?
Current age to purchase a weapon (in Maryland because that’s what I’m most familiar with) is 18 for long guns and 21 for handguns. While I recognize the argument that handguns are easier to conceal, I don’t see how that makes them any deadlier or “evil”. If I can buy a rifle or shotgun at 18, both of which are effective at either greater ranges or in delivering disabling energy, I don’t understand why I can’t buy a handgun. Additionally, if I can enlist in the service at 18 and risk my life in the service of my country carrying a gun, I fully believe that I should be able to purchase a gun as a private citizen. (I’ll leave the drinking age laws alone for now) If states feel that a person should be 21 to purchase a handgun, then perhaps we should raise the age of enlistment and voting to 21? After all, it’s all about judgment, isn’t it?
Background checks and waiting periods: I link these two together because they are different in MD and seem like there’s no need for them to be. At that 18 year mark I can go purchase a rifle. After I complete the paperwork, the dealer makes a phone call and within a minute or two I’ve been told, “Yes,” or “stand by.” If I get the YES, then I take my rifle and I go on my way. If I get the STAND BY it’s because they’ve found something in that quick computer-driven background check that sets off a caution alarm. In my case this has happened because some guy named Frank Borelli in California was previously charged with a gun-related crime. If I don’t provide my social security number, the alarm bells go off. If I DO provide my SSN, then I get approval that fast.
But for a handgun? I can’t buy one until I’m 21 and when I do all the paperwork I get to wait ten days to get a YES or NO. Oh, and I forgot: I have to prove either a history of military service (which I’m okay with), or law enforcement service (which isn’t as common) or I have to sit and watch the state-approved training video to make sure I understand storage and transport laws in Maryland. Of course, such a training video doesn’t properly instruct me on the methods of loading, unloading, field stripping or maintaining my own weapon. It doesn’t train me in basic marksmanship or safe handling skills. Now, in Maryland, the thing I find funny is that at the end of the ten days I don’t come back APPROVED. I come back NOT DISAPPROVED. I find it humorous that the state uses that wording specifically to imply that they don’t approve of ANY handgun purchase; they simply cannot legally disapprove it. That’s a strong hint about the outlook of the state’s leadership.
One gun per month: this is one I’m pretty sure I don’t understand at all. To me this equals weapons rationing. That is a very careful filtering of the sales of a commercially produced and sold product. To my way of thinking, this equates to the state restricting a business – which exists to make money by the way. I mean, how would Ford feel if Tennessee created a law that said you could only buy one car each year? And you had to apply for that privilege? Don’t you think Ford would file a reasonable complaint with the appropriate oversight organization? (read, “sue the state”) I mean, let’s be practical about this: if I already own five guns and I’m trying to purchase another one – no matter what my reason is – is there any gain realized by making me wait another 30 days? Since this is only a restriction on handguns, I guess it’s okay for me to buy 200 rifles in a given week. And I have news for those in power: if I’m going to start a revolt it would be with a group of fighters armed with rifles – not handguns. Think about it.
What other laws make no sense to me: gun free zones. Look at Virginia Tech. It was a gun fee zone. That didn’t matter much to Cho. However, to the citizens of Virginia who are legally able to carry concealed weapons – all over the state EXCEPT at Virginia Tech – perhaps it mattered to them on April 16, 2007. Do you think?
So, in the Frank Borelli perfect world, “gun control” would best be described as follows:
There would be no restrictions on semi-automatic weapons.
The “waiting period” for all weapons would be how long it takes for the guy at the other end of the phone to run my name through the computer and get back a “cleared” or “flagged”.
There would be a mandatory training program of at least eight hours (the more the better, but the time and money can get prohibitive – want to avoid that) to include instruction on function, maintenance, carry laws, use of force, basic marksmanship, storage and transport. The new gun owner would be required to prove proficiency. The certificate which proves completion of the course and qualification would be the citizen’s concealed carry permit.
Caliber restrictions wouldn’t exist. Why California thinks that a .50 caliber weapon is somehow more deadly than a .308 or .460 is beyond me. I’m sure it matters in the hands of an expert precision shooter, but for most of us, we can’t hit the target far enough away to take advantage of the weapons abilities.
“Smart guns” with integrated locks and such are great… but they should be consumer driven not state mandated. To me, a lock integrated into my handgun (or long gun for that matter) is the equivalent of having a secondary lock on my car. Not only do I now have to have the ignition key, but I have to have the special code / combination or key to get to the ignition key. If I have to go somewhere in a hurry, I’m screwed.
I don’t see much need for laws beyond whatever would exist to control that list. Remember, we’re talking about without a 2nd Amendment protection. Release that thought from your mind for a minute and try to imagine what would change in America. Guns are a reality that are never going away… ever. As long as the police and military anywhere in the world have them, so will criminals. Guns are stolen all the time and not just from private citizens. If guns exist in any form anywhere, criminals will have them. Therefore, unless the governments (federal and state) want to completely empower the criminals and completely victimize the law-abiding citizens, legal gun ownership and the ability to carry weapons for defense is mandatory. The citizens should be properly educated on the best, safest most efficient way to do that.
Let me leave you with a couple of questions though, even if you can liberate your mind enough to imagine such a scenario:
What about laws requiring concealed carry permit holders to identify themselves to police on traffic stops and such?
What about laws restricting carry in / around schools, etc?
There is always so much more that we need to think about…
There are no easy answers.
Thankfully we DO have the 2nd Amendment. Our country is on the brink of a step in our growth and development. How we make that step… the direction we grow in… will at least partly depend on what decisions the Supreme Court makes and how we, the educated and responsible gun-owning community react to them.
I’m waiting… holding my breath (figuratively)…