Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Guns II

Late last week I saw a clip from part of the Congressional hearing on new gun control legislation. In the clip, the president of the NRA made it clear that he believed assault weapons are necessary in the event that something (like a natural disaster) caused the breakdown of the social order. They could be used so a person could protect their food supply, home or shop against armed mobs. 

A Republican senator ingratiatingly agreed with him adding that the Second Amendment gave citizens the right to protect themselves in such circumstances and that he felt comfortable knowing that in such a circumstance there would be people prepared to band together to keep the bad guys in check.

You know, like the National Guard is supposed to. Is a United States Senator really saying that the National Guard canNOT protect the citizens of this country? Or is he saying they won't?

The Second Amendment gives provision for a "well-regulated militia." Which militia do you think is more well-regulated? The National Guard? Or the type of counter-mob being advocated by the NRA? You know, there are places in America where sides have chosen up who is good and bad and they just shoot it out in the street. Now THAT is a great idea. The kind of social breakdown spoken about by the NRA is not just something that happens after a natural disaster. It is something that happens when people take law and justice into their own hands, subverting the system of checks and balances that is the true inspiration in our system, and put loyalty to a select group above the good of the whole group. 

The NRA's position is a road to anarchy.

I just finished reading a book about the people of Appalachia in the early 1900's. Though fictionalized, the book is fascinating in the picture it paints of the Mountain Man. His proud Scottish ancestry gave him a profound love of freedom and an equally profound distrust of the government. Though in reasoned moderation, this love and distrust form the basis of free civilizations everywhere, taken to extremes, these same feelings replace civilization with ignorant and clannish grudge matches. 

The social contract means that we give up a certain amount of freedom in exchange for communities lived in greater harmony. I know, I know, every dictator ever insisted that people give him greater power so that the people have fewer choices that might distress them. I know this. The difference in a democratic country is that the people agree on which freedoms we are willing to forgo. When the vast majority of Americans (even gun owners) support stronger regulation, more thorough background checks and, yes, even BANS on certain types of weapons, then what right have congressmen to prevent reasonable legislation because of the crazy fear-mongering of a single group?

For example, I recently heard of a man who had some weapons and tools stolen from his garage. He had a hunch about the responsible parties and went  ARMED to the house to retrieve his property. The NRA's current position argues that this situation is preferable to notifying the police. They are advancing a position of "rights" and "freedom" that can only lead to terror for the vast number of Americans unwilling to believe that buying more guns will actually control gun violence. Escalation is not the same as prevention. 

After the head-exploding comments by the esteemed Senator, I heard two news stories the following morning.

The first was out of the Washington State Office. Two employees have been pulled in to work full-time on back ground checks with the proliferation of requests to buy guns that has flooded the office. Other employees are working on these requests part-time. Two hundred requests are coming in every day. No proof of training in weapons use is required. So many have been pulled in to deal with the back log because if no answer is received within 7 days (the waiting period) of the time of submission, then they have to authorize the gun sale anyway. Really. Everyone likes to complain about how their tax dollars are being spent. Here is my complaint today: my tax dollars are being spent to hire people to perpetuate MORE gun ownership in society. 

The second story, also out of Washington, was that a woman in a McDonalds accidentally shot her husband in the stomach when her Derringer fell out of her pocket. She is for sure the one I would elect for leading the well-regulated militia.

1 comment:

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

On the one hand I understand many Americans' desire to own weapons for their own security. On the other hand, I know enough about human nature to shudder at the idea of thousands of untrained people owning assault weapons, especially in destabilized, high-stress situations like a natural disaster.

As you note, the 2nd Amendment protects "the right to bear arms" to the end of maintaining "a well regulated militia." The news tends to report people fighting either for the guns or for the regulations, but it's hard to find people who fight for both. Maybe they just aren't as vocal. I guess it's easier to get worked up about an extreme view than a moderate one.

Your post actually prompted me to do some online research about how (and whether) gun control impacts crime. I found a New York Times article ("Gun Laws and Crime: A Complicated Relationship") that says it's hard to say whether gun laws do any good because there are so many other factors to consider. One scholar noted that state-level background checks do seem to reduce crime, but gun bans don't appear to help much. In that light, Washington State's understaffed background check office worries me more than the gun-happy NRA.