Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is that a gun in your Constitution, or are you just happy to see me?

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.
---2nd Amendment

So let's talk about this for a moment. I would like to specifically address those I know that like to load up on guns and bring their friends.

First, let's take a look at the Third Amendment:

No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

What does this mean? What is the practical application of this amendment? The founding dead white guys obviously thought the issue to be important- it's the third one for crying out loud!

In 1765 the British parliament enacted the first of what was known as the Quartering Acts. These acts meant that the American colonies were required to pay the costs of British soldiers living in the colonies, and if the local barracks were insufficient, they had to put the troops up in inns and livery stables. The 1774 Quartering Act authorized British troops to be quartered wherever necessary, including private homes.

Patrick Henry, at the 1788 Virginia Ratifying convention, stated that "One of our first complaints, under the former government, was the quartering of troops among us. This was one of the principal reasons for dissolving the connection with Great Britain. Here we may have troops in time of peace. They may be belleted in any manner- to tyrannize, oppress, and crush us."

There have been no major Supreme Court cases concerning violations of the Third Amendment. The quartering it forbids has not been attempted since the American Revolution.

I said all that to say this. The Third Amendment, part of our cherished constitution, has no direct application to contemporary life. It doesn't have the same meaning now that it did then. Is it possible that the Second Amendment could be looked at with the same interpretive principles that we use on the Third? Would the Founding Fathers look at our views of the Second Amendment and see in them the same meaning that they intended in the 1780's when they ratified the thing? Does the Second Amendment give us the right to acquire as many kinds of as many guns as we can possibly stuff into our pickup truck's gun rack? With no regulation or prohibitions concerning their purchase and use?

I would argue that a major stumbling block, if you hold to the latter view, is the meaning of the word "militia." Does "a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state..." equate to the perceived right of a private homeowner to possess a military-caliber weapon in order to tear would-be intruders a new one?

And if you believe that the colonial meaning of the word "militia" is equivalent to the right of modern citizenry to organize and protect themselves against an unjust government, how do you deal with the words "well regulated"? What I am hearing from people who invoke their "Second Amendment rights" is the refusal to accept any government policies regarding the restriction of gun sales and ownership. They usually appeal to a pithy Heston quote regarding cold dead fingers. And yet the beloved Second Amendment, which is held in some quarters to be part of the lost Third Testament, implies that the right of the people to keep andd bear arms is necessary for the maintenance of a "well regulated" militia.

To govern or direct according to rule
To bring under the control of law or constituted authority
To control or direct according to rule, principle or law

There you go. The militia, which is given the right to keep and bear arms, is to be "well regulated". To be governed, to be directed, to be brought under the CONTROL of law.

"Let me be clear, I will fight any efforts to take our guns. Not on my watch."
---Rep. Dan Benishek, Michigan

What Representative Benishek fails to realize, however, is that President Obama is not taking away "our guns". Nowhere in any of his proposals is he suggesting that no one should be allowed to own a pistol, a rifle, or any one of a number of gun types that exist. He is proposing a ban on assault weapons. Weapons that I would suggest non-military personnal do not need to own anyway. He is also proposing criminal background checks on all gun sales. A background check does not mean that guns are being taken away. It means that one of the root causes of massacres such as Sandy Hook, the ability of mentally ill people or those judged to be dangers to society, is being addressed.

"But the only thing gun regulations will accomplish is to keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. Criminals will be able to get the guns anyway, regardless of regulations."

"They'll do it anyway." Umm, has that argument EVER worked on anyone? The fact that someone is going to do someting anyway is not an invitation for a nation to embrace anarchy. You are right, if a criminal wants to shoot you he will find a way to do it. A rapist will still rape. A thief will still rob. But a civilized society still needs laws prohibiting such acts.

And a guns-rights advocate who believes in small government and does not believe in gun control still believes in regulations. If you get prescription medication, the pharmacist has to be licensed, and there are procedures that have to be followed. No one can just put up a sign in the front yard and call themselves a bank. The grocery store doesn't slaughter a cow in the back of the warehouse, saw off a hunk with a chainsaw and throw some plastic on it. There are rules. There are regulations. And they are there for your safety.

There are even gun regulations in place that see little disagreement or protest. Title II weaponry are firearms, explosive munitions and other devices which are legally regulated by the National Firearms Act. According to the Gun Control Act of 1968 :

Title II... is a revision of the National Firearms Act of 1934, and pertains to machine guns, short or "sawed-off" shotguns and rifles, and so-called "destructive devices" (including grenades, mortars, rocket launchers, large projectiles, and other heavy ordnance). Acquisition of these weapons is subject to prior approval of the Attorney General, and federal registration is required for possession. Generally, a $200 tax is imposed upon each transfer or making of any Title II weapon.

Control. Of guns. If you read further into the Gun Control Act of 1968 you will see that not all of these weapons are even banned, but they are regulated for the purpose of scientific research, if imported as a curio or museum piece, and other regulations. It's been 45 years, but The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives still enforces this law.

I really don't care if you hunt, collect guns, go out into the woods and fire at Hillary Clinton scarecrows, or just pull out a Revolutionary War musket that you've had in your collection for 40 years just to scare the grandkids. Do what you want. But don't say you don't believe in government regulations. That dog don't hunt. Pardon the expression.

Just a thought. Your mileage may vary.