Friday, January 18, 2013

Nothing Brings Out the Crazies Like Gun Control

For those among you that need reminding there are still crazy people within our borders, nothing works better than discussion of the Second Amendment. Listening to the yahoos, survivalists, and phony "original intent" devotees that surface, you would think we were living in some kind of imperial or dictatorial system where our leader, by mere whim, can eviscerate the rights established by our Founders, relished by the public, supported by our legislators, and confirmed by our courts.

President Obama's recent legislative proposals and executive orders were little more than a rehash of past policies, calls for greater research, and demands for greater enforcement of existing laws. Yet listening to the voices of unreason on Fox and among the guests on CNN and CNBC, you would think that we are a step away from federal marshals showing up on your doorstep to take away your guns.

First of all, the NRA has done such a great job of influencing legislation that the ATF has less staff than it had 20 years ago, in spite of the proliferation in gun ownership and the outlets for legal and illegal transfer of guns and ammunition.

Second, even those in the general public- including NRA members - that support increased registration and better oversight of gun sales and possession, and support limits on the purchase of some forms of weaponry, believe in the inviolable right of citizens to own and keep firearms.

Third, the text of the Second Amendment says "a well regulated militia," so even if you believe that the Amendment refers to individual ownership rather than things like the National Guard, there exists textual support for regulation.

Similarly, there is little written by our Founders with regard to the Second Amendment, and very few of the ratifying states maintained a written record of debate over this and other amendments, so gleaning "original intent" is problematic. And even if the Founders declared an individual's right to own weapons, they also made it clear that, as a scientific document, the Constitution was subject to further interpretation and change as "knowledge" expanded and man's understanding of and ability to affect the physical world also changed. They readily acknowledged there was much they did not know.

Fourth, those among the crazies that are true conservatives must concede that local communities, if not the federal government, have the right to establish the rules and customs of their territory. As a conservative on this issue, I believe that change to our culture and custom should be relatively gradual and done more by popular will than legislative dictate. Is there really something wrong with our society trying to tone done the glorification of violence and weaponry often expressed through the media and the marketplace.

And finally, do our Second Amendment zealots remember that we have a conservative Supreme Court interpreting any gun related legislation, and you can be sure that challenges to any enacted laws will begin almost immediately. In the Heller and McDonald cases our Supreme Court clearly established an individual's right to own a firearm, and while granting states and the federal government the power to regulate, strongly indicated that those regulations would be subject to strong scrutiny.

It is just incredible to hear people talk about nullification of laws and secession from the Union as if we were reliving the 1840's and 50's. I've heard people on You Tube talking about blood in the streets and taking up arms against our government as if we were living in some future dystopia. My gawd :)

Personally, I have little argument with the President's initial proposals. If I had a say I would have placed more emphasis on the use of moral suasion and gun buybacks, and included a provision requiring gun owners to take out liability insurance for their guns. Still, nowhere in the proposals did I see anything to alarm anyone that our government was looking to take away anyone's right to own a firearm and defend their "castle."

I have heard more than one person refer to the "post Sandy Hook" period as a "tipping point" in the debate over gun control. I don't dispute that characterization, and can only hope that our nation can begin a serious discussion about the character of our nation and its obsessive infatuation with violence and gunplay.

The moment is at hand to quell the voices of irrationality and confront the NRA for its obstructionism and truculence. That in and of itself would be a victory, though I hope that we can do more. We'll never get rid of the crazies, but it is time to take away their platform. Let them find some windmills to fight and give the rest of us a breather. They aren't too bright, but they are terribly exhausting.

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