Thursday, July 6, 2017

21st Century Gun Ownership & the Myth of a Right

Let us do some more thinking about gun control. Some people think the debate started with firearms and the 2nd Amendment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The issue of armed citizens go back at least to ancient Rome. Back in the Caesar's time people couldn't walk around Rome with a sword strapped to their hip. Not even a dagger was allowed. In fact, there were debates in the Roman Senate on the topic of what is a dagger, and what is a knife. Sound familiar?

Ides of March

People have a mistaken idea. They think that when the founders mentioned the right to bear arms they meant firearms. Arms are simply weapons and ammunition; armaments. That can include any weapon, including daggers, swords, knifes etc. In the days of our nation's founding, most people carried at least a blade weapon, like a knife. Knives/blades were indispensable, as they still are, in everyday life. That is something that goes back further than Rome. Blades go back to humanity's paleolithic era. The only difference is the material used to make the blade. First it was stone, then metal.

Stone & Metal Blades

Before the stone was chipped to make a blade, humans used the stone as a thrown projectile. Even after the stone was chipped, the stone remained in use as a projectile. With the advent of the firearm (fire+arm) the stone remained in use as a projectile. The stone was the first kind of projectile thrown by force of fire from an arm (gun). Then later, and just like the blade, humans started making the projectile out of metal, a bullet. So really, a gun is nothing more than a fancy way to throw a rock.

Governments have always placed limits on the kind of arms a citizen may possess. Just like in the example of ancient Rome, some weapons were allowed, and others were not. The founders struggled with the issue of gun rights. They were confronted with the issues of individual rights and liberties versus civic duties and regulated liberties. During the time of the Founders, a blade or a club would be much more effective for the purposes of self defense than a firearm. Firearms were primitive, inaccurate and with their single shot nature were reduced to being a club after the round was discharged. In those days of old, a person was more likely to be murdered or assaulted with a blade than a firearm. If one were assaulted with a firearm it was more likely than not a single shot pistol at very close range, and in the back. Most firearms of the day were prized possessions, and other than the use by standing armies or "well regulated militias", used almost exclusively for hunting game.

Smooth Bore Flintlock

Indeed, most people looked at a gun as a tool. Then with the advent of industrialization, standardization and the opening up of the west, guns were cast in a different light. Gun manufacturers were able to produce many more guns because of newly introduced machines and methods of production. People were using guns to protect themselves from the native inhabitants they encroached upon in the westward push. About that time repeater rifles and revolvers made the scene. Many people proclaim that it was the gun that helped open up the west. Other people might look at the situation differently. They might argue that guns facilitated the genocide of their people and the stealing of their ancestral lands. The fact remains that guns were not totally unrestricted in the old west. For example, in Tombstone Arizona the carrying of firearms within city limits was prohibited. Upon entering town people had to surrender their guns at the sheriff's office, where they could be retrieved upon leaving.

Gun manufacturers, with their new ability to mass produce their wares, looked for new markets. They popularized gun ownership through media. Even young people were indoctrinated into the new gun culture with look alike products like the Red Rider BB gun, cap guns, water pistols and other toy guns. Guns became not only tools, but also status symbols. The myth of the absolute right to own a gun was born.

Colt Armory
This threw the argument over to the side of individual liberties, rather than a civic duty to the well regulated militia. People could own any firearm they desired. They could own a working cannon, or a gatling gun. They could own a "tommy gun" if they choosed. Much to our citizens, and the police's horror, people like gangsters during the prohibition chose to own tommy guns, and they used them too! So along came the National Firearms Act of 1934, the first federal gun-control law, which levies a restrictive $200 tax on the manufacture or sale of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. Even though you could still own a cannon, Cannon shells are classed as destructive devices in the U.S. under the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA). They must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and, though legal under federal law, are prohibited from being owned by civilians in certain states. Since the enactment of the National Firearms Act, the SCOTUS has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of laws controlling the types of firearm and ammunition one may possess, and the places in which they may be barred.

In our nation today a private citizen may not own a fully functional tank, a fully armed F-15 fighter plane, a nuclear cannon or nuclear armaments. Also we may not bring any type of firearm into a courthouse, the US Capitol, a school or into most bars even with a concealed carry permit. All of these things are upheld by the Supreme Court, and regardless of the political makeup of that court.

M1A1 Tank
It seems that something has gone awry though. There are still types of military firearms which are allowed to be owned by civilians. They kind of sneaked up on us. I'm referring to weapons like the AR-15. Gun and ammunition manufacturers I believe are fond of this type of semi-auto rifle making the scene. The gun is loved by many enthusiasts. People see them as fun to shoot. Still, they have little proper utility outside of a gun range. Inside a gun range they eat ammunition like crazy. A person can go through a lot of money's worth of ammo in short order with an AR-15. That's the reason the ammo manufacturers and gun makers lobby congress to keep these dangerous devices legal. Look at what happens when something like a Sandy Hook happens. People get scared the "government" is going to come along and take away their gun. So ammunition sales go through the roof. Ammunition gets scarce too because of hoarders. Remember the last time that happened? It was hard to buy a box of 22 cal. ammunition from any store because the shelves were cleaned out by hoarders the minute they were stocked. Don't you know anyone who owns stock in an ammunition manufacturer might have been happy about that, even though it was brought about by a tragedy.

Sandy Hook Elementary 
In light of the current state of things in our 21st Century world, I think guns and the myth of an unrestricted right to own them should be re-examined. I think it is a fallacy to fall back on the notion that persons should have such an unrestricted right to ward off government tyranny or to maintain a private militia. The best way for the citizen to ward off government tyranny is to participate in that government. Vote for people you believe would work to keep tyranny at bay. As for militias, we have them in every state, and they are well stocked. The militias are the National Guard. If you want to play weekend warrior, go to the place you can really shine. Go to the place where you can shoot all kinds of really powerful guns like tanks and cannons. Go to your local National Guard recruiting office and join up. Otherwise you're nothing but rabble who could quickly turn from patriotism to insurrection. Insurrection was one of the things the "well regulated militia" was meant to put down.

I wouldn't lose any sleep if all AR-15's and guns like them were gathered up and melted down. In fact, I would sleep better. I hope that one day people will come to reason and outlaw their manufacture and possession. No grandfathering either. If we are going to keep these types of weapons out of the hands of criminals, all of them must be destroyed. Our nation would have to convince all other nations to stop the gun profiteering and out law them as well. We need the banning to be worldwide because it is a worldwide problem.

Bubba Smith might not be to happy with the melting down of his prized AR-15, but they will live through it and get over it. The young badass may not feel so much like a badass any more without their security blanket of a gun. Not to worry. They will find something else to make them feel like a badass soon enough. Lets just hope it is something that instills pride in self and accomplishment instead of a fantasy delusion born of ownership of a machine that can kill many in short time. Maybe people will come to gain respect not through making others fearful with the brandishment of a gun, but rather through good works in community.