The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Why Do Gun Owners Feel Under Assualt? -Part 1

Posted by Bill Nance on April 6, 2009

I wrote last week about the far-right’s dominance over the gun community and despaired that everyone else in the political spectra had left millions of us out in the cold.  This means practically that the far-right has had pretty much free reign over this issue and I don’t think that’s helped anyone. Gun owners have been manipulated by people with political agendas that have little to do with firearms because they are the only people taking a stand in our defense.

I got a terrific comment from a reader on that post which I’d like to address here as it’s own topic.  He asked what to many people who don’t shoot, own firearms or know much about the issue would seem to be obvious questions, questions which deserve an answer in full.

Because the topic is huge, I’m going to do this in several parts. I don’t have time to write a 5,000-word essay on the topic and my readers probably don’t have time to read one either.

The comment:

I am sure it feels to gun owners as if they are being harassed, marginalized and made to feel like criminals, but I’m not sure why. Congress isn’t considering any meaningful anti-gun-rights action, is it? What gun-bashing is going on? I just haven’t heard of anything like that.

The only noise I hear from the gun-control side is those instances where individual cities such as Washington and Chicago have instituted fairly strict gun bans. I don’t know the specific history of those bans, but surely they are motivated by a sincere desire to address crime problems. I cannot imagine some city council woke up one day and said, “Hmmm, let’s go after the Second Amendment; this urban crime problem will be the perfect cover!” And when these bans go too far, the courts throw them out as unconstitutional, as in the case of Washington DC in 2007.

Just as your advice to Pelosi et al. makes sense, it seems that gun-rights advocates would do well for THEIR cause if they could offer constructive, Second-Amendment-friendly policy ideas to address the very real crime and violence problems that plague cities.

I am sure it feels to gun owners as if they are being harassed, marginalized and made to feel like criminals, but I’m not sure why. Congress isn’t considering any meaningful anti-gun-rights action, is it? What gun-bashing is going on? I just haven’t heard of anything like that.”

Before any gun owners get all bashy on this, let me say that many who are generally uninterested in guns might feel this way.  They just don’t pay attention to the anti-gun stuff in the press or the incendiary comments from anti-gun politicians on the subject.  In fairness I pay little attention to many issues in which I don’t have a particular interest either.

To answer the question though:

First off, the right to keep and bear arms, besides being explicit in the constitution, is a human right. It’s the same as the right to free speech or freedom to worship (or not worship) as one pleases.  They are what are called “natural rights.” That they are also enumerated in the Bill of Rights is nice, but it’s not a right because it’s in the constitution. It’s an innate right of all humans.

There are no limits to natural rights. You can, infamous quotes aside, yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre. You are however, responsible for what follows. Similarly my right to keep and bear arms is absolute. I am responsible for what I do with them. I may not, in a free society, be prevented from merely possessing them.

The obvious rejoinder to this is: “Well, you’re saying you should be able to have a nuclear weapon?”

Not at all. It all comes down to defining “arms.” I would count as arms, any firearm or other weapon which I could reasonably use to defend myself or my family against criminals or to resist the acts of a totalitarian regime.  One cannot “bear” a nuclear weapon.  Nor for instance, do I think that the possession of say hand grenades is necessary to resist the tyranny of a regime.  I would however, assert a right to possess a fully automatic weapon. Such a firearm can both be “borne,” and as the Afghans showed the Russians and the Iraqis are showing us, simple automatic rifles can be very effective even against heavily armed and well trained troops.

I would draw the line at heavy ordnance because they are not requirements for the above mentioned purposes AND (in a sop to the control-freaks) I freely admit that they have the potential to cause mass casualties very quickly with little training or effort.  In other words, my human right of self defense is not dependent upon hand grenades or tanks or howitzers. Indeed such would do little to aid me in asserting that right.

Taking this position, which is not uncommon and indeed seems eminently sensible to me and millions of others puts me immediately at odds with many powerful interest groups and politicians who assert that I have no such rights at all, or who will “grant” me permission to own a bolt-action rifle and a revolver, as though this is somehow doing me a favor.  I agree I have that right, but I disagree that these are the only arms I have the right to own and bear. This is especially true given that many of the same people who would restrict me to the firearms just described have freely admitted in the past that they would like to see a ban on ALL firearms, handguns especially. They may claim in public recently that they don’t want to do so, but when speaking before supposedly “friendly” groups, they’ve made no such protestations.

How many ant-gun politicians are there? Just looking at voting records and public statements is one good way to make such an assessment.  In congress alone there are too many to list, but a rating of them based on past voting records on the issue can be found here. Note that the list gives it’s lowest possible two ratings to 163 United States Congress members and 47 Senators, which it defines as: “F Anti-Gun Voter: a philosophically committed anti-gunner”  or “F- Anti-Gun Leader: outspoken anti-gun advocate who carries anti-gun legislation.” This doesn’t count the many others who are rated as: “D & D- Leans Anti-Gun: usually against us.”

So politically speaking on a national basis, gun owners have a large base of fairly committed opponents, kept at bay only by people like the “Blue Dog” Democrats and the GOP who stand to make political hay out of more federal anti-gun legislation The tides of the ballot box are fickle and none of us appreciate having fundamental rights subject to the whim of the current political climate.

Recent events like the mass shootings we’ve recently had ALWAYS provoke an outcry to ban guns in the press, even though legally obtaining a firearm is already either next to impossible in places like Chicago and Washington D.C. (even after the Heller decision), arduous and expensive in places like California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois  and many other places,  and requiring a background check and U.S. citizenship (with exceptions for a small selection of long arms to legally documented resident aliens) everywhere in the country.  These outcries are parroted by anti-gun politicians and often acted upon, as in the case of the infamous “Assault-Weapons” ban passed  in 1993.

In example let me quote from the Brady Campaign’s front page this morning:

Saturday’s murder of three police officers by a killer wielding an assault rifle in Pittsburgh, following Friday’s tragic shooting in Binghamton, New York that left 13 dead and four others injured are the latest in an epidemic of mass shootings in America.

We have witnessed major shootings in senior centers, churches, high schools, colleges, and workplaces. Over and over Congress opts to do nothing while the body count continues to rise.

What horrendous shooting will it take for our leaders to act or does Congress know no bounds to the bloodletting because it has been paralyzed by the gun lobby?

The Congress and the White House must act to protect our families and communities from gun violence. Our weak, nearly non-existent, gun laws at the national level contribute to this loss of innocent life. Enforcing those laws alone will not solve the problem.” (emphasis added)

This is frankly a ludicrous statement. first of all, the U.S.already has literally hundreds of laws on gun control. Guns are not legally obtainable nor are they allowed to be possessed by:

  • Felons
  • Persons under 21 (applicable to handguns, over 18 for rifles and shotguns)
  • Persons who have been committed to a mental institution for any length of time
  • Illegal aliens
  • Persons who have ever been convicted on any domestic violence charge including misdemeanors
  • Persons currently under indictment
  • Persons with a Dishonorable Discharge from the Armed Services
  • Persons who have been convicted of ANY crime punishable by a potential sentence of more than two years
  • Persons who are alcoholics or dependent upon illegal substances

Fully Automatic weapons are banned in most states and under federal law a special permit, including a $200 tax and certification of suitability from one’s local police chief is required for ownership. Virtually none of these have EVER been used in the commission of a crime.

Mass shootings happen even in countries with virtual bans on privately owned guns. While these events are a tragedy, to answer tragedy with an all-out assault on fundamental rights is even more tragic.

Imagine for instance if the above restrictions were in force for writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper or making a blog post.  Imagine if in most states you had to have a special permit from the government to write a blog.

Our fundamental right as humans to self defense and the means of that self-defense is no less basic than one’s right to free speech. So I hope you’ll pardon us for feeling persecuted. The last time I looked there weren’t countless organizations, lobbyists and a very large number of politicians dedicated to stamping out a free press.  Those conditions are exactly what gun owners face and have faced for decades.

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