Recently, I saw an episode of the program titled "30 days" in which a staunch gun control advocate, Pia, who had suffered a personal loss due to gun violence voluntarily shared a home with a gun enthusiast, Ken, and his son, Zach, for 30 days. In the time she spent, she was required to learn how to handle a gun, experience the firearms related activities that he and his son enjoyed (skeet shooting, pistol matches, range time, and just socializing with members from the local gun club) and she would also be working in a gun shop. Naturally, she would be sharing her oppinions with her host even arranging on one day for him to meet with two ladies from Cease Fire each of which had also lost someone to gun violence.
During this episode and particularly during the aforementioned meeting, several things transpired which made me think about my own views. The timing of this episode airing was very close to the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down the Washington D. C. ban on handguns. Subsequently, I determined that it was well time for me to formalize and document my own position on this issue. For me, the best method of doing so is to write these views down since I am much better at presenting points of view in written form than I am orally. (I'm just not a good debator.)
Before I proceed, it is important that it is understood that this document is not intended to try to persuade anyone of anything. It is not an argument for or against gun control, it is merely a statement of my own personal beliefs and oppinions. It is nothing more and nothing less than that.
During the discussion with the representatives from Cease Fire, one lady stated to the host, who carried a gun pretty much wherever he was permitted to do so, "you are only going to lobby when it affects you and that is the biggest difference that you are going to see between your mindset, which is filled with fear, and our mindset which is filled with grief", implying that the only reason he carried a gun was because he was afraid of everyone and everything around him. As a gun owner and holder of a concealed carry permit, I was frankly surprised at just how deeply this insinuation offended me. I have sympathy for those who have suffered a loss from violent crime, don't get me wrong, but to make such a broad assumption is just insulting. I found this to be an extremely arrogant statement. This sort of "pamphlet" argument is commonly repeated by gun control advocates and the fact that it would be used in what was effectively a one-on-one discussion demonstrates a complete and utter ignorance of the other side of the issue. Had I been at that table, I would have stopped the discussion then and there and explained to her just how much of an insult I thought that was. I also thought that overall this episode was poorly edited and did not do a fair job of presenting the other side of the issue and seemed to suggest that guns took away any ambition for Zach to want to get ahead in life, as though owning guns and enjoying shooting or collecting them placed you on a lower rung of society. This too, offended me and was yet another demonstration of the stereotypes perpetuated by many gun control advocates.
At other times in the episode, Pia stated that she thought that everyone who owned a gun was paranoid and that they had no concept of what it actually meant to fire a gun, that they considered them merely toys, that they were completely ignorant of the danger associated with firearms. Such assumptions are just not true. Every time I pull that trigger, I am fully aware of what it means and what could happen. This is why I am very careful at the range even to the point of being overly zealous about safety at times (if such a thing is possible) and as careful as I am at the range, I'm even more so at home.
Towards the end of the episode, she came around somewhat and was ultimately genuinely greatful for the opportunity to have those experiences. I think she considered herself a much better person as a result, but she still seemed to carry many views that were formed in ignorance of the facts. This, ironically, at the start of this program, is the very thing she stated she was afraid of finding in her host, that she would spend all her time arguing with someone who did not have their facts straight. Isn't it funny that she exhibited this trait far more strongly than Ken did?
My employer maintains a policy forbidding guns from being carried at the office but even if they didn't, I don't believe it to be a good idea to have one there anyway. As a result, I do not often carry except on weekends or when I'm traveling, but most especially especially when I'm out camping since at that point not only are you far from police assistance but the various animals represent a far more immediate threat. (In my region, I have black and brown bears, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, javelina, and several other creatures similar to these, all of which have a direct history of from time to time attacking people, often from ambush and sometimes in groups.) Still, when I do carry my gun, I too take it pretty well everywhere I'm permitted to do so and make it a habit to glance at the signs and notices on store entrances to build a memory of which ones do and do not permit this.
I do not do this because I am afraid. I do not fear my surroundings or the people I meet. I am not afraid that if I walk outside my door that I am likely to be mugged or beaten. I do not fear that if I do not have my gun that I will be shot. I do not walk around thinking that everyone I see is out to kill me. I carry a gun simply because I wish to be prepared for any eventuality.
Time was no one locked their car doors, no one locked their homes even when they were out, and there were no bars on the windows. Now that this has changed, does that mean everyone is afraid that they will be robbed at any given time? No, they do these things because it's just a good idea. Since society has seemingly bred more criminals and criminals have become more brazen, such things have become necessary for self protection and protection of one's property.
Time was that no one had anything to fear from street gangs unless they too were in a street gang (apart from the odd shop owner, and rare random incidents elsewhere.) This has now changed. In every city you enter, there are violent street gangs operating. They have gone from merely being interested in keeping their 'hoods free of unwanted visitors to trying to eliminate all "undesirables", deeling drugs, robbing people, shaking down shop owners, whatever they can do to get money, trying to expand their street empires through any means necessary, and all manner of other criminal activities. In my own neighborhood, I have noticed that certain changes have occured in recent years such a rise in incidents of graffiti (there is one section of freeway near downtown Phoenix that looks more like what you would find in Los Angeles) and an increase in the number of reports of breakins.
Time was that you could even safely pick up a hitchiker and count on it just being someone who wanted a lift somewhere. Now, if you see someone trying to thumb a ride on the side of the road, you don't even think of slowing down. (Lets not forget that the hitchhikers are victims of the drivers who pick them up just as often as it is they themselves who are the criminals. It goes both ways.)
Time was that a woman could walk down the street alone after dark generally without fear of being assaulted as long as she didn't stray from the beaten path. Now, unless they're absolutely sure of their surroundings, if they have a choice, in many cities often they don't dare.
Time was that a home invasion was almost unthinkable. Now it happens several times a year, frequently with the crooks posing as utility personell, perporting to be conducting a survey or some such, or even immitating law enforcement. During these home invasions, unspeakable acts are often perpetrated against the victims, not merely simple theft.
These are not the visions of a paranoid delusional, these are simply signs of the times. Talk to any police agency and they'll say the same. It's just the way things are.
So I carry a gun. I don't do so because I'm afraid of all these things, I merely accept that they exist and that it is wise to be prepared. I have no desire to ever have to draw my gun, much less point it at someone and pull the trigger. But by the same token, I have no desire to be a victim of violent crime either. So I carry a gun and I practice with it often. This does not make me a criminal, does not make me a threat to anyone, does not mean that I cannot be trusted or need to be watched more carefully, does not mean I am now prone to violence or that there has been a change in any aspect of my personality, it just means I carry a gun.
Does that mean that I think society, generally, today is worse than it was 30 years ago? Hard to say. Perhaps. There are good things and bad things happening. All in all, maybe we've gone downhill a bit. Nevertheless, there are those in leadership positions whom I highly respect and whose judgement has time and again proven far better than mine who are optomistic for the future, that good things are happening and there are many more to come. I only hope their insight proves as good now as it has in the past.
But a little history on me before I go any further. I was not born into a family of gun nuts nor did I participate in any gun related activities during my youth (apart from shooting .22 rifles in scout camp one summer as part of an attempt to earn the Rifle and Shotgun merit badge.) I do not hunt and have never accompanied anyone on a hunting trip though recently I have been interested in joining one of my coworkers in taking a few doves or quail one season, just to have that experience. No, I did not even fire a handgun until I was 30 years old. However, before then I had always maintained the oppinion that while I had no desire to own one, I felt that everyone should learn how to handle one safely. I just never got around to it. Nevertheless, I did not think guns were something to be afraid of.
Then one day my cousin bought a gun from one of his friends. I do not remember why. I think he became interested in them after joining some of his friends a couple of times for some recreational shooting. In any case, he bought one, then later bought another, and still later he obtained a concealed carry permit. Somewhere along the line, he invited me to join him down at the local shooting range. I do not recall this first experience, only that eventually, I asked to join him again. We made several trips over the course of a year or so. I even arranged to borrow one of his pistols from time to time to spend some time down there on my own and I made him teach me how to clean it up afterwards. Well, I was hooked.
So I bought myself a little .22 rifle since I had always wanted to learn how to shoot well at distance. I maintained my position on handguns but still enjoyed shooting and must have put 2,000 rounds through that rifle the first summer I had it. I had always had an interest in historical arms so eventually also bought myself a replica of a cap and ball revolver from the civil war. This did not change my position as it was not a cartridge weapon and would not make a defensive weapon. It was merely something to connect me with history.
In time, I decided that I wanted to learn to shoot better so I signed up for one of the classes at the range. Of course, this meant that I needed a gun to use. I elected to borrow my cousin's gun for this class. A few pointers from the instructor and my aim improved markedly but more than that, this class was not about marksmanship so much as it was how to use a handgun for defensive purposes and to help people learn how to practice with their guns so they would be properly prepared. That was all it took to get me to buy my own. I started out with a pistol modeled after a WWI/WWII side arm, the colt 1911. I used this pistol to obtain my own concealed carry permit, mainly to make future purchases somewhat easier. It wasn't until I carried this pistol with me camping one weekend and was continually annoyed by the bulk of it that I decided that I wanted something lighter and that if I was going to get something that was easier to carry, I might as well start carrying it whenever I could in order to get used to it and let the novelty wear off so I could make sure I could carry it safely.
And here we are today. I own not one, but several handguns, revolvers, and a variety of rifles and am looking to acquire more. I am still purchasing more from the standpoint of a collector of historic arms than anything else however but still go down to the various shops often to check the new offerings so I can keep abreast of whats out there. (I'm also looking for gems in the used gun display cases to add to my collection.)
Naturally, this means that my oppinion on gun control legislation has evolved over time. I live in Arizona, a state which has only moderately restrictive gun laws to begin with so I think I am fortunate to see how a relatively open state operates compared with some of the laws on the books in other areas.
One other important note about me. When I first sat down to draf thhis document, I was not an N. R. A. member and still frequently find myself at odds with some of their politics. That group has a history of using scare tactics and alarmist rhetoric to pursuade their members and others that all regulation is wrong. The attitude of "this far, no farther" with respect to gun regulation accomplishes nothing except to further divide the two sides of the issue. That does not say that they have not done some amount of good. Like any such organization, their existance helps to bring attention to one point of view. I simply disagree with some of their core beliefs. As a result, you can be certain that the oppinions I share herein were not formed by association with that group and are not influenced by their political actions.
Oh, and lest you feel that this position is naive and formed out of ignorance of the harm that can come from guns, I too have suffered a loss due to gun violence. A member of my extended family, a cousin, was killed by her estranged husband in a murder-suicide (she was already separated from him and had only agreed to meet with him in order to formalize divorce proceedings.) So I have seen what guns can do. Her 4 children, the youngest I believe was 2 at the time, are now being raised by her parents. I was not especially close to her but she was not a stranger either. Since that incident, I think about her and her kids often. But I have not ever said to myself, "If he didn't have that gun, she'd still be here," because I know better. I do not know if he owned that weapon before then or purchased it for this single purpose, only that it would not have made a difference. The police determined that it was premedidated, which means that one way or another, it was going to happen. If it had not been a gun, it would have been something else. As cliche as it sounds, it really is true what people say, "guns don't kill people, people kill people."
So then what level of restriction is reasonable? Not an easy question to answer. However, before we can evaluate where we are, it's necessary to know how we got here. As noted, my state is far less restrictive than others around here, so generally I'm satisfied. But once you cross the boundry into another state, there are things that bother me or that I find to be outright wrong.
Gun control began fairly early on. It became commonplace for saloon owners to request that their patrons turn their guns over to the bar keep when they entered. Other rules were in place at various times requiring people to either leave their arms at home or check them with the sheriff when they entered town. Other towns allowed you to carry a pistol but made firing it randomly a misdemeanor that could earn you a few days in jail. So gun control legislation is not new.
Early in the 20th century, you could order guns by mail, even fully automatic weapons such as the "Tommy Gun" and even the BAR, generally classed as a military weapon. In fact, part of this was a delibrate campaign by Thomson to market their sub-machine gun to the public because the military had no interest in it. As for higher powered weapons, you remember Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde Barrow loved his BARs and carried them in his car frequently. His ownership of that gun was not a crime (save for the ones he stole.) The way he chose to use it most certainly was.
One of the first pieces of legislation put into place that people generally cite as the start of meaningful gun control legislation was the National Firearms Act of 1934. In summary, this bill classified various types of firearms and restricted the alteration of various arms by such things as shortening the stocks and sawing off the barrels to make them more concealable, altering a single shot weapon into a multiple fire weapon, etc. It also banned the sale of grenades, mortars, and other explosive weapons. Part of this act prohibited civilian arms from having a bore diameter of greater than 0.50 inches defined as the groove to groove diameter, the maximum diameter of the barrel, with exceptions made for such things as shotguns or historic arms such as muzzle loaders. More importantly, it regulated the transfer of weapons across state lines, placing such strictly under the regulation of federal authorities. This act placed heavy regulation on the transfer of fully automatic weapons both directly from the manufacturer and between individuals. This was done in response to such things as the St Valentine's Day Massacre and criminals like "Baby Face" Nelson and Bonnie and Clyde.
The next notable piece of legislation was the Gun Control Act of 1968. In summary, this act forbade purchase of rifles and shotguns by those under 18 without permission of parents or gaurdians and individuals under 21 years of age were forbidden to purchase handguns. It forbid those who were convicted of certain crimes or spent a certain time in state or federal prison from owning a gun, made posession of arms by a drug addict a crime, forbid illegal aliens from purchasing guns, forbid ownership by those who had been dishonerably discharged from the military, purchase by anyone who had renounced U. S. Citizenship, forbid ownership by those charged or convicted with domestic violence or who were under a related restraining order, and also required that all gun dealers hold a Federal Firearms License, or FFL. It also banned individuals from purchasing guns outside their state of residence and required that all shipments of guns across state lines must occur between federally licensed dealers. Through this, it effectively prohibited buyers from being able to purchase firearms via the mail. In the short term, this had a devistating effect on the gun makers but ultimately led to what we now know today as the modern gun shop.
This does not say that you can't buy a weapon being sold in another state but places restrictions on what must occur. If you walk into a shop out of state and see something you want to buy or a buddy of yours two states over has a gun they agree to sell you, the transfer across state lines has to happen between two federally licensed gun dealers. (Long guns follow a slightly different set of rules, somewhat less stringent, but following this practice for those as well will certainly not be looked down on.) That is, your buddy sells the gun to his local shop with the understanding that it will be sold to your local shop who will then sell it to you. There is usually a handling fee associated with this transaction. The important thing here is that the ownership of the gun transfers to the licensed shop before it is sent across state lines. The final sale of the gun from your shop to you is then subject to all state and federal laws governing the sale of that weapon. An obvious exception to this is when a weapon is being sent back to the factory for repair or to a gunsmith for customization. In this case, the person doing the work must be licensed but the weapon may be returned via a courier service such as FedEx or UPS directly to the owner. (Firearms sent via US Mail are confiscated and will not be returned to the owner. Ever.)
It should be noted that one effect of this act and the various other events that occured during this general period was formally organizing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, generally known as just the ATF from the various pieces that existed by other names. In the legislation and Presidential orders following 2001 it was renamed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and placed under the umbrella of the Justice Department as part of the Homeland Security Act. It is this agency that issues FFLs to dealers and is responsible for inspections of these dealers to ensure that they are in compliance with federal laws governing their trade.
In 1986, the manufacture of new automatic weapons (machine guns) for civilian use was essentially banned by the Firearm Owner's Protection Act (note that there is nothing about this act that seeks to protect firearm owners) which forbid the registration of new automatic weapons. (If it's not already in the database, you can't sell it.) This means that it is no longer possible to purchase a miltary type weapon that falls under this category and that surplus military weapons will no longer be transferable to civilian hands as they have been in the past. To dispose of these arms, they must either be sold to another military organization recognized and approved by congress, modified to semi-automatic before sale (along with other alterations to make them legal for civilian ownership), or they must simply be destroyed. Certain exceptions are made for museums and other similar organizations but individual ownership will likely not happen. Because of this, this provision is most commonly refered to as the Machine Gun Ban of 1986. This act also requires that permission from federal authorities must be obtained and a fee paid before a machine gun may be sold. Further, your average dealer can't handle these transactions. These are restricted to Class 3 dealers. As a result of these prohibitions, the value of such weapons has sky rocketed among collectors. I met a fellow one day who had purchased a miltary configuration M16 complete with flash supressor. This package cost him well over $10,000. The equivilant single shot AR15, the civilian version of the M16, at that time sold for about $1,700 with all the bells and whistles already installed with "basic" rifles selling for about $1,000.
In 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (more commonly refered to as The Brady Handgun Act, or simply The Brady Act) required criminal background checks for all individuals wishing to purchase firearms from a licensed dealer. It also instituted the concept of a waiting period before purchase of a weapon, directed to prevent people buying a gun because they decided they wanted to kill someone on the spur of the moment or commit suicide.) This waiting period expired with the introduction of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) managed by the FBI but several states maintain their own laws requiring this. There was an issue with the requirement for background checks because it was a federal regulation requiring local shops to conduct these. This was deemed a violation federal law because it placed direct requirement on individual shop owners over which the states had jurisdiction but the system still exists for those states that have since passed laws requiring it's use (and these are not a few.) Of course, another way around the waiting period was proof of a previous background check. (See the CCW notes below.)
In addition to the federal laws just covered, there have been a myriad of state and local laws to come and go which are far too numerous for me to cover here or even to be fully apprised of. In fact, that's one of the biggest problems with gun laws. There is so much variance from one place to another with one state having radically different laws from the one next door that it makes it very hard to know your rights and the restrictions you must operate under while traveling or when moving to a new home. Since the majority of regulations dictating circumstances where you can and cannot carry, how to transport, what you're allowed to buy, and how you're allowed to use it are under the juridiction of individual states who sometimes allow individual cities to institute further regulations, they are very difficult for an individual to reconcile and change frequently. If you're curious about your own local laws, I encourage you to do some research online or even walk into your local gun shop and see if they have or can recommend literature summarizing local restrictions. (Even if you have no interest in guns, don't be afraid to talk to the operators of these businesses to find out information.)
Okay, now comes the question of, "What do I consider reasonable regulation?" That's not an easy question for me to answer. There are a lot of areas of grey in there. There are some laws that I completely support, there are others that I completely disagree with, there are still others that I neither support nor object to, and there are some that while I find annoying, I understand. The very deffinitions of "reasonable and prudent" have been something that the courts in this country have struggled with for over 200 years and are highly situation dependent. It's completely subjective, depending greatly on the mind of the individual and the particular emotional state at any given time. In fact, that's another aspect to this whole mess, whats reasonable in one circumstance may not be reasonable in another or at another time. So to ask me what I think is "reasonable" may result in a different answer at different times and, being unable to give a deffinitive answer, I can merely establish a base of beliefs by stating some of the things I agree with and some of what I do not.
Among those regulations I think I generally agree with are the requirements that dealers hold a FFL, the ban on explosive weapons, the requirement for a criminal background check and the previously stated limitations on who can own a weapon designed, the limitations on transporting firearms across state lines for sale, most of the limitations on when you can and cannot present your weapon and fire, the requirement that weapons that are not carried directly on your person while you are driving in your car must be unloaded and usually stored in the trunk or in a locked case (certain exceptions for CCW holders), the prohibition of carrying a gun into a federal building such as a post office or court house, the prohibition of carrying a gun into a bar or on an airplane, and the protection of the rights of individual business owners to restrict whether they are willing to allow someone to carry a gun onto their property.
I further agree with permitting individuals who have met reasonable requirements to carry their arms concealed.
I completely agree with the restrictions aimed to prevent firearms trafficing. Living so near the Mexican border, this has been somewhat of a problem for my state. No one knows how many guns are passing through Arizona on their way to Mexico or whether it's even a lot but it has happened. In one recent incident, one local gun shop was even shut down due to charges of firearms trafficing. These guns are being used to wage drug wars in Mexico and further south. They are being used in assinations and they are being used against our own border control agents. Trafficking in guns should carry the harshest sentences available. Indeed, if it can be proven that the guns they supplied were used by foreign nationals against U. S. law enforcement agents, I would not be opposed to life in prison without parole. If their guns were used by foreign nationals to kill U. S. law officers, this is actually a good case for capital punishment as this could be construed to be a treasonous act. I'm not sure I would support this but it's a pretty strong argument.
I would consider it completely reasonable to require first time gun buyers to attend an introductory class of at least 6 hours on basic firearms laws and the responsibilities of gun owners to protect their weapons from theft and misuse and the penalties arising for misuse especially emphasizing when a shooting is and is not considered justified under the law. I think I would want to see this course also include a summary of the differences in gun laws of the adjoining states and what the person needs to think about when transporting their arms both within the city and across state lines. Under such a scheme, I would probably want to see proof of attendance of this class be presented to the dealer before the transaction would be allowed. Afterall, the arguments are about the misuse of guns and problems created by irresponsible gun owners. A little education up front might really help to curb that.
I very much support the idea of the Castle Doctrine, that is, that your place of dwelling, beit a house, appartment, motor home, or tent, is a place of security and you have a right to defend it with lethal force if necessary. No, you can't shoot someone for merely breaking in but you can use necessary force to remove them from the premisis, and after having been duely warned, if they refuse to leave, in some states you may have the right to consider that you're under threat of harm from that person. Those states that do not recognize this doctrine often have a "duty to retreat" built into their case law. This says effectively that you have a duty to flee to the furthest point in your home before using lethal force, that is, even though it is your home, you must attempt to remove yourself from a situation where you would otherwise have to employ lethal force and surrender your home and your property to the invaders. I find this to be completely rediculous. I'm not going to cower under my bed while my place of sanctuary is being violated, I'm going to try to do something about it. Nor do I think it's right that in a lot of cases these same states will permit a criminal who trips over a coffee table in a darkend room or who threatens someone and forces that person to shoot to then be able to sue the homeowner for that injury. If they hadn't been there in the first place, they would not have gotten shot. They violated the law, violated that person's sanctuary. There should be no recourse for that person to afterwards try to paint themselves as the victim. A problem with the Castle Doctrine is that the deffinitions vary state to state, sometimes significantly with several states not recognizing this doctrine at all, as noted. Arizona law places certain restrictions on this that I don't quite like so I would be open to reforming this version to come to closer agreement with what I have described here.
I agree with keeping firearms out of the hands of kids and teenagers. These age groups still have a lot to learn about life in general, despite an often over developed sense of self. As a consequence, judgement in the larger portion of teenagers may not be what it should be. There are very strong forces at work within a teenage mind helping to structure and shape their thought processes and decision making processes for adulthood. Add to this that teens can simply lack the life experiences necessary to see the full consequences of what they are doing and may therefore not be able to make proper decisions, and it makese sense to place these items, whose use can have such profound and lasting consequences, out of their reach. This is not a statement that says all teenagers are irresponsible, merely that virtually all teenagers have at least some times that they need someone looking over their shoulder to help them make the right choice, some more than others. Until such time as they have the capacity necessary to make sure they can make the correct choices regarding responsible use and care of firearms and can comprehend the responsibilty of being a gun owner, I do not object to restricting their purchase. Since that transition cannot be easily determined from one individual to another, it is logical to establish a boundry. This has been set at 18 and 21 years of age as described above. I agree with this choice as a delimiter.
Among those restrictions I am uncertain of is the idea of a waiting period when buying a gun, state or federal registration of firearms, or requiring permitting merely to purchase a gun. These are a big inconvenience but don't actually prevent you from making your purchase. If it becomes excessive (such as a waiting period of greater than 5-7 days, or allowing permits to be on a "may issue" basis instead "shall issue" resulting in arbitrary denials), I think I would take exception to that. If permitting is required, it must be easy for a person to obtain and very difficult for authorities to rescind.
I also am uncertain of the proposed requirement that every new gun be test fired for the purposes of obtaining fired brass and bullet and that the ballistic signature of these be recorded since any trip to the gunsmith could potentially change that signature enough to make it uncertain whether or not there is a match, and esp since with modern manufacturing equipment guns of the same model will likely have very similar signatures and may not be distinguishable with any degree of certainty one from another and there are some models out there that are very popular. If you have five suspects carrying the same model and calibur handgun—and it happens—all of whom fired their weapons, if their ballistic signatures are very similar, how do you tell which one fired which bullets? What about the sixth person who didn't like what was going on and deliberately shot wide or who did not fire at all? How do you prove they didn't hurt anyone?
I am uncertain as to whether I support the Machine Gun Ban. Weapons such as the 9mm Uzi became favorites for street gangs. Since this ban went into effect, reports of automatic weapons fire during such crimes have fallen dramatically. (They still happen, of course, from illegally imported or modified arms and those that remain, but they are rare.) A machine gun is not necessarily useful for home defense and certainly not appropriate for hunting. Still, to be able to own one and use it merely for recreational purposes, just for the excitement of being able to spray a group of watermelons with a Tommy Gun, M16, AK-47, etc is something I find attractive. So I think I support this but also lament it at the same time.
I do not agree with but am willing to accept a prohibition for open carry in public places such as within the developed areas of a city or at a public gathering provided that certain protections are built in for CCW holders. For example, if you bend down to pick something up, causing your shirt to come up enough for someone to see the gun on your hip, it is quite possible you will receive a visit from the police because in that instant, your gun is no longer concealed and you are technically in violation of the law, freeing people to consider that you have threatened them by inadvertantly revealing your weapon. Provisions have to be made to protect people against such harrassment. (Yes, I very much consider that harrassment.) Similar problems occur where an open carry becomes a concealed carry such as when you sit down in your car and your gun disappears behind you. If you get pulled over because you forgot to signal when you made that lane change and the officer learns of your weapon, the fact that it's concealed may mean you and that officer have much more to discuss than driving protocol.
I do not agree with requirements to register all new arms and arms transfers. This should not be read to suggest that I don't think dealers should keep records of sales, merely that this should not be part of the public record. To know how someone obtained a weapon that has been misused can be a good thing and can lead to discovery of less than honest folks doing less than honest things but such information can just as easily be abused. The problem with registration databases becomes one of privacy. Such records can be used inappropriately or given to people who have no business seeing them. They can be used to harrass owners or even as a shopping list for thieves, placing firearms owners at risk of harm by making them targets for those willing to use violence.
I do not agree with permitting merely for gun ownership. Such schemes are just ripe for abuse. There are several stories showing such abuse. These are things such as individuals, for no justifiable reason, having their permits revoked and their arms siezed and when such is done, seemingly more often than not, the individual never receives a receipt from law enforcement and often ends up with their weapons summarily destroyed without ever receiving a penny for their value. (Read: unlawful search and siezure.) Besides, there is also a real question in my mind as to whether this is constitutionally valid. The Right to Bear Arms is not qualified with a "if we think you have a good reason to" clause. If I'm leagaly allowed to own and purchase a weapon under existing federal statutes, my state should not be allowed to tell me I can't.
I do not like the policy that seems to be in place in many police agencies that permits any firearms or other weapons to be siezed during any search. If they're not part of the investigation that generated the warrant, they should not be on the warrant. Too often we hear stories of people under investigation for something or other who have their weapons siezed. They are ultimately acquitted of the charges against them but can't get their weapons back either because the police place rivers of red tape in front of them or they have already had them destroyed by the whim of a judge. Innocent until proven guilty does not always seem to apply to gun owners. If the police pay you a visit and remove a weapon from your home, it seems more often than not that you are assumed to be of a nefarious character.
I do not agree with limiting or licensing the sale of ammunition. The presumption of such restrictions is that if you're buying ammunition for a hand gun or if you are purchasing large quantities, your motives are suspect. I shoot a lot of rounds each year but do not have room for reloading equipment (and my landlord probably wouldn't like it anyway) so I go through a lot of brass, sometimes buying 300-500 rounds at a pop. Competition shooters go through phenomonal amounts of bullets, far, far more than I. Does that mean we're all criminals? That we bear watching is the underlying premis of such actions. On July 1st, 2008, Wal-Mart began restricting sales of handgun ammunition to those over 21 years of age. I can support this because it is only a minor annoyance to have to show ID and you have to be over 21 to buy a handgun anyway so technically you shouldn't be purchasing any handgun ammunition to begin with but it is still troubling to see.
I do not agree with the prohibition for carrying into a national park. I just don't understand that one. If I go hiking in the Grand Canyon or the Grand Tetons, that means I am not allowed to protect myself, even from wildlife. It just doesn't make sense.
I do not agree with prohibiting faculty and staff from carrying weapons on school grounds. I should like to see this permitted in at least high schools probably with a clause that their weapons be kept on their person (ie. that they maintain direct control of their weapon at all times), not merely in a purse, desk drawer, or cabinet and that they must be concealed, with the possible exception made for those institutions willing to employ armed security. I should further like to see all college faculty, staff, and administrators if not students as well who are otherwise eligible to own a gun and have obtained a recognized CCW permit to be allowed to carry on campus. Such is the case in Utah and yet you don't hear of students shooting their instructors because they got bad grades. This sort of occurance is just so rare that it hardly bears mention in the debate. Nevertheless, such is the fear of those who argue against such privileges.
I also do not agree with the now defunct assault weapons ban. All you need to do is look at the riots in Los Angeles after the Rodney King incident or New Orleans after hurricane Katrina to see where these can be necessary. There are times when society can just simply fall apart (and it doesn't take much.) In those instances, it may not be one person you face, it may be 20 and they will likely have no hesitation about beating or even killing you. When you are cut off from the reach of law enforcement, you must have the means of protecting yourself and your family. It is even arguable whether the 10 year ban had much if any effect at reducing gun crime and yet members of congress continue to try to get it reinstated. Add to that the fact that the deffinition of such weapons is highly arbitrary and based on physical appearance, not function and the whole thing just seems silly. With the ascencion of the democrats, it is highly likely that this will be reinstituted. This will be a sad day for American law.
In addition to these, there is one section of Arizona law that I find
somewhat at odds with itself. You are allowed to use — not
threaten, but use — lethal force to prevent certain crimes.
In the case of sexual conduct with a minor and child molestation, these are indeed dispicable crimes but unless the nature of these acts can also be classed as sexual assault, a response with lethal force seems to be excessive and out of proportion with the crime. My impression of sexual assault is that it is often a violent act resulting in significant physical harm to the victim along with psychological trauma. Sexual conduct with a minor and child molestion often are not violent acts even though there is direct physical contact with the victim. There is strong argument in the case of sexual conduct with a minor (and note that there is a distinction between this and child rape, viewing this as largely consensual) that the minor is not able to judge the actions appropriately and therefore it could be considered that they were manipulated into doing something that would be otherwise contrary to their free will and therefore they are being assaulted but even then, their ability to judge increases directly with their age and in most instances, I would hold that it doesn't seem that lethal force is an appropriate response to this so I do not consider it reasonable to include these two items in this list. (I wish to make it very clear that this is not a moral statement about the crime itself. This is a statement only about the level of force appropriate to preventing or halting that crime.)
The sort of ban that D. C. had in place, requiring that handguns not only be locked up but disassembled and cannot be transported without a permit I find to be totally wrong. The second ammendment 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.
Before one can try to examine the meaning of this, it is necessary that the conditions surrounding the revolution are understood. Recall that people had been forbidden by the King to keep weapons (not just muskets but weapons of any sort.) Those on the frontier faced hostile natives and threats from animal attack. They also needed their arms to hunt and supply food for themselves and their families. These things would be very difficult to deal with without the ability to posess arms of some kind.
They were forced to quarter troops at their own expense. This to reduce the cost to the King and Parlaiment of keeping troops over here. The expense of doing this was often quite burdonsome to these people. Remember, it wasn't merely for a week or two, it was for months at a time. This practice was also intended to make it next to impossible for these individuals to engage in activities contrary to the will of the King. (It's hard to hold secret meetings with one of the King's soldiers effectively guarding you in your own home, able to riffle through your personal belongs looking for whatever might be suspicious with merely the order of his officer.)
They were forbidden from organizing militias even for defense against other nations or even against indian attacks. Recall that Britain did not have undisputed control of the Americas. There were conflicts between other nations as well on this very continent. Remember the French and Indian war in which no less than George Washington participated on the side of Britain.
Naturally, this caused resentment among the people. So once the constitution was drafted, they immediately set about making sure such conditions could not exist again. We have long valued the restriction against unlawful search and siezure. We hear constantly in the news of people proclaiming that they are exercising their first ammendment right to organize and protest. We have valued the right to not be required to quarter troops except in times of war as authorized by law and with due compensation. And we value our right to keep and bear arms for the defense of our homes and families against all foes.
I personally interpret this to say that the right of the people to assemble and maintain militia groups as allowed by law and in cooperation with local governments (which is what the term "well regulated" is intended to mean, that the malitia is properly trained and that they only assemble for training and service as authorized by the local civil authorities or in times of obvious crisis such as civil unrest or the community coming under direct assault by hostile forces) shall be preserved. Since a militia, when needed, is organized from volunteers among the people, these individuals largely equip themselves. In order that such an organization may be called, it is a necessity that these individuals are permitted to keep and bear arms. When this ammendment was drafted, if someone had argued "for the defense of our homes and families and our communities," I have little doubt in my mind that such language would have stirred active discussion and that it would had a very good chance of making it into the final draft. However, the debate at the time was political, not social. Consequently, there were some things that may not have been thoroughly considered from a social perspective, hence the wording we have today.
The debate about the Second Ammendment today by gun control advocates seems to largely center around the use of the term "malitia" in that test so that's what I'll look at. Now it may be debatable whether a militia is needed in today's world (remember that there was originally no standing army and the local and state malitias were the first line of defense) but as recently as WWII, such organizations as well as individuals arming themselves could well have been completely necessary as the larger part of the miltary and military aged persons were deployed in foreign lands, leaving home defense largely to those who were fit only for non-combat duties. It could also be argued that the National Guard is exactly that, a militia only on a national scale. Some state and local governments may decide that for such things as disaster relief and protection of citizen's security that local state, county, or city organizations may be more appropriate for immediate response since it guarantees that those people will not have to travel great distances and therefore can be called to duty far more readily, within just a few hours if necessary. It seems to me that such things would be allowable under the second ammendment and even appropriate in some instances. Now I'm not saying that these groups should be formed, merely that one interpretation of this text suggests that they could be.
In any case, the ability of a person to defend themselves and their homes most certainly is necessary and I don't think it is at all a stretch to interpret the second ammendment to allow for individual protection and defense through the use of arms if necessary. Obviously, the guarentee of the ability to bear arms does not protect someone who seeks deliberately to harm another or to otherwise destroy property. (eg., making the use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery a felony; considering pointing a gun at someone to be threatening mortal harm and answerable with necessary force; the prohibition against firing a weapon within developed areas except as authorized, making this either its own crime or classifying it under reckless endangerment, or at the very least considering it to be disturbing the peace; and so forth.)
The second ammendment preserves the right of the people to "keep and bear arms." This implies that they are allowed to carry them, not merely keep them disassembled and locked in a safe somewhere as the now defunct DC law required.
The Supreme Court, in their oppinion on The District of Columbia vs. Heller largely agreed with this interpretation. Justice Scalia, while overly rhetorical (but afterall, this was a rhetorical question), gives some pretty interesting points that largely fall in agreement with what I present here. A most notable point is made in regards to what comprises a "select malitia" of the sort that was feared by the people. He further argues that since nine of the original thirteen states's constitutions expressly contained second ammendment equivilants with several of them containing language which could not be interpreted as anything other than an individual right and some of those explicitly addressing the right of self defense, that the second ammendment, being written and codified by those who also participated in authoring state constitutions should be understood to have been presented from that same mind set and therefore must also be read to protect the individual right as well as the collective right.
Personally, I would like to see an ammendment to the constitution to clarify this language which would read something along these lines.
The text of the second ammendment is clarified to read:
The right of the People to assemble a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, shall not be infringed.
The right of the People to keep and bear Arms, being necessary to service in such a Militia, as well as for the lawful defense of liberty and safety for themselves, their families, and their neighbors against all foes, shall not be infringed.
Such language would solidify the interpretation of the second ammendment and forever put to rest the question of whether the people are allowed to carry a gun, being suitable for defense. Oh, and remember, the word "arms" doesn't mean "guns", it means all weapons whether a gun, rifle, sword, knife, axe, club, taser, steel pipe, pointed stick, or whatever. It is critical that this consitutitional right be preserved or we, the people, will be totally at the mercy of any who seek to harm us (and they are many.)
As a post-script, I will note that the majority of my writings here on the second ammendment were written before I attempted to analyze the full text of the Court's decision and hence can be presumed to have been largely uninfluenced by what the individual Justices said.
So what about concealed weapons? Well, I recall back in the late '90s when my state first approved legislation to allow people to obtain concealed carry permits. At the time, I thought it was a bad idea and that no good could come from it. Indeed, one summer during my high school years, I saw someone carrying a large revolver – at least it looked large at the time – in an open holster on a traditional gun belt (open carry is perfectly legal in this state and as far as I know it always has been.) This was the first time that I had ever seen someone carrying a gun and it made me nervous as hell. I couldn't believe that anyone would be crazy enough to do that but I also realized that just because he was carrying one did not mean he intended to use it so I merely looked on as he crossed the parking lot, got in his truck, and left, making sure that he did intend to leave because I was still nervous as hell. As I thought about the legislation, I began to understand what the intention really was. It was when I was reflecting on the aforementioned incident that I got it. The whole reason for a concealed carry is because people are paranoid, specifically, those who are afraid of guns. Seeing a gun in an open holster makes people afraid, it makes them wary of that person and fear what that person's intentions are just as it did for me. If you take the weapon out of sight, you take away that fear. "Out of sight, out of mind," as the saying goes. The whole purpose of a concealed carry is to provide peace of mind to those who do not want to see guns being carried down the street or into stores or restaurants. The benefits of not drawing attention to yourself for someone wanting to steal that gun or of an assailant not knowing that you're armed is merely a side effect.
Was Arizona's concealed weapons law a reasonable piece of legislation? Absolutely! Knowing what the reaction would likely be, when this law was introduced, a specific set of requirements for eligibility and qualification were set down that must be satisfied before someone can receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon (CCW) to further ease the minds of those who worried about the impacts of this. These are:
You must also have your permit in your posession at all times when you are carrying your gun and be able to produce it immediately on request from a recognized law enforcement officer. For men, this means that it should usually be in their wallet. For women, this means their purse. Note that it is the Department of Public Safety (DPS), roughly the local equivilant of the state police, who you must submit the application to and they who must decide if you are eligible, not merely the place you took the class from, therefore every person who has received a CCW has been recorded in the records of the DPS.
I am a CCW holder, that means I went through all of this. I paid my class fee, spent the 8 hours in the class room learning where, when, how, what not to do, and how much trouble I'd be in if I did. I got my 8 rounds on target, passed my written exam, paid my permit fee, sent in my finger prints, and passed the DPS background check. I am as ready as I can be to bear the responsibility of carrying a gun.
In case you're wondering how many people in Arizona carry such permits, the agency where I obtained my CCW offers these classes twice a month (and also offers a 14 hour version monthly for those who want more detailed instruction, really geared towards new owners.) Because of the demand for these courses, in order to get a seat, you must sign up weeks in advance. It has been this way ever since these permits became available. I understand that full classes are a common occurance state wide. (Since the 2008 election, this has changed to twice weekly with two simultaneous sessions and they are still booked weeks in advance.)
One problem... These rights are not a done deal. My state's Governer at the time of the 2008 election, Janet Napolitano, has vetoed several gun control bills in the last few years that were basically intended to, in her words, "eviscerate the concealed carry law without any benefits to public safety." (Cheers to the Governer.)
There is one other reason why I elected to obtain a CCW. My state in recent years has been a hotbed of pro and anti-immigration protests. Since the federal authorities have generally done next to nothing outside of the direct actions by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement at or near the border thereby effectively abdicating their responsibilities for immigration enforement, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has taken it upon himself to start ferreting out illegal immigrants from his jurisdiction by targeting those who have committed crimes other than violating immigration laws and taking care of two problems with one arrest and by targeting buisnesses who reportedly have knowingly hired illegals. The Sheriff has drawn strong criticism for this, largely because of his confrontational speech but also from open border advocates. There are also almost weekly reports of groups of illegals being held at drop houses against their will, some being threatened with mortal harm if they try to escape. This state has also enacted legislation intended to punish businesses who hire illegals, even put them out of business if they don't straighten up. This means there is a lot of tension around here about this issue and if you spend any time in this region, you can feel it. While protests around these events (both for and against) have generally been peaceful, apart from the shouting, that does not say things will remain that way and since no one knows where these roundups are going to take place beforehand, I do not want to suddenly find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time and be unprepared. Further, for 2007, the City of Phoenix reported 359 extortion related kidnappings in their jurisdiction, many occuring during broad daylight with some of the victims being taken into Mexico. Police have reported that in every instance (and they stated that they meant litterally, without exception, every instance), the victims are suffering physical harm or being sexually abused and even raped at the hands of their abductors after the fact. These stats are just for Phoenix. Other cities are experiencing similar trends. This number has grown rapidly in recent years and while not entirely resulting from, is directly affected by illegal immigration with many of the victims being illegals and families of illegals. (The abductors, also often illegals sometimes having ties to Mexican organized crime, target them since many families are under the misconception that they have little to no recourse under the law since they are not in this country legally.) The ability to potentially stop such an act in progess is yet one more reason to be prepared. No one should have to endure such an event, whether as a captive or a friend or relative thereof.
As I have illustrated, my oppinion of gun control laws has changed over the years. It will likely continue to do so for the remainder of my life. This is the case with every individual. But presently, there are still some questions to be answered. Do I think that the majority of the laws on the books regarding gun control are reasonable? No, I do not. Many are, but the majority are not and need to be changed or at least clarified. It is propper to ensure that a gun owner does not have a notable criminal history or does not have impaired judgement from a mental affliction. I find it entirely appropriate to forbid citizens to own explosives. (You don't need grenades or land mines and mortars to defend your home.) It is propper to place limits on transportation of weapons for sale in order to make the practice of gun running that much harder. I also find it entirely appropriate to require permitting for concealed carry and to require that applicants attend a course designed to reinforce their knowledge of not only their rights but their obligations as a gun owner and especially as a CCW holder so long as the records of who has obtained such a permit are kept sealed, out of public view. All of these things are completely reasonable to my mind.
Restrictions such as those in California, Chicago, Washington D. C., New York, and other similarly restrictive regions have done little to curb gun violence or even cut the number of homicides. The long and short of it is that criminals will always have guns. They don't care about doing the right thing or abiding by laws restricting their right to purchase, carry, or transport. Gun control laws are a lot like picket fences. The law abiding citizen will respect the fence and walk around it. Those who are less concerned about it will simply step over it. Like picket fences, most gun control laws have no influence on those who aren't willing to pay attention to the law to begin with. Overly restrictive laws don't keep guns out of the hands of those with criminal intent, they simply turn honest people into criminals in the eyes of the law and even open them to harrassment. (See the earlier comments about concealed weapons as an example.) Remember also that only in very rare circumstances that it is the responsible, law abiding gun owner that is at fault for deaths from stray bullets since the law abiding citizen did not fire their gun except to defend themselves or another from harm. ("Accidental discharge" while someone is cleaning a gun is not something to associate with a responsible gun owner since the responsible gun owner will make sure that the gun is unloaded before ever reaching for the cleaners.) These stray bullets come from the guns of criminals robbing stores, gangs battling it out in the street, or irresponsible dolts firing their guns into the air not considering that what goes up must come down and will probably come down inside the city limits. It is these acts that stray bullets come from, not from the actions of people such as myself.
That we have gotten to the point in some areas where an honest citizen can't legally defend their homes and families (even with a baseball bat) or even carry their gun or rifle out to the range to practice with it without risking arrest or fines because this time they forgot to put their bullets in a separate case or some such thing, I find to be truely astonishing. That there is continuing, relentless pressure to simply ban handguns outright is absurd. It won't help. Such bans have tried in other countries and failed miserably. If you're afraid of guns, don't buy one, but don't try to take away my right to buy one simply because of your fear.
At the very end of her stay with Ken and Zach, Pia made the statement that she believes now that we do need to allow law abiding citizens to be able to purchase and carry guns but that it is necessary to find some way to keep the wrong person from being able to get a gun. This is the same way I feel and these views were formed by someone who very much likes his guns and has seen both sides of the issue. Ken stated as Pia was leaving that he had a lot of respect for her willingness to come into that world and see things from his perspective, that there are responsible gun owners out there and that guns do not have to be something to be afraid of. I will say that I too respect that even though I think she still maintains some ill formed oppinions. One thing that she and I could most deffinitely agree on is that there is certainly room for compromise on this whole issue. The reason it will never happen is that too many people have grabbed onto one extreme or the other and refuse to budge even an inch. It is they who have prevented gun control regulation in this country from finding that acceptable middle ground.
We need serious reform of gun laws in this country. Premption laws forbidding cities from having different laws than the rest of the state need to be put into place nation wide. Federal law needs to remove the ability for states to place certain restrictions on owning, in carrying, and use of arms such as making the Castle Doctrine a federaly recognized statute and forbidding suits against gun owners by those engaged in criminal activities at the time of the given incident. There need to be laws in place limiting what can be on a search warrant. State laws need to come into close agreement, state to state. Such uniformity will greatly improve public safety more than perhaps any other reform because there will be fewer questions about what is or is not legal as a person travels from place to place.
In fine, I support the second ammendment but also support some restrictions. I think many restrictions go too far but don't disagree that there might be some new limits that would be useful. What constitutes reasonable gun control is not an easy matter to weigh out and something that has to be carefully considered. It is also worth saying that merely putting this document together has caused me to reflect hard on the points I attempted to make and even change my oppinion on some matters. Such introspectives have proven useful in making sense in my own mind of my points of views and in aiding me in recognizing the rights and privileges of others as well as my own. As noted within, my vewpoints will probably tend to change somewhat over time, even without any earth shattering incident but for now, this is where I stand and proudly so.
Originally drafted August, 2008
Last Revised June, 2009