I Believe Progress Can Be Made
I believe progress can actually be made on the gun control issue, we simply must engage in rational, reasonable debate.
Let me paint a picture of the last 30 some-odd discussions I’ve had on this issue. One side wants to frame the other side as heartless monsters if they don’t support an “assault rifles ban” (or an outright gun ban in many cases) and the other side just laughs at the first side, covers its ears, and says “You’re too stupid to talk to, you don’t know anything about guns.” 80-90% of the people hunker down into their respective camp and hurl verbal bombs across the chasm at each other.
I find neither approach helpful, so here’s my solution. Let’s put both of these tactics on hold for a bit. I’m going to try to fairly represent BOTH sides, so if you read something you don’t like, please KEEP READING until the end. If you still don’t like it after you’ve read to the end, then absolutely feel free to tell me about it.
The Message I Want Leftists to Hear
Since I’m largely on the “other side” in the scenario above, let me start by trying to clearly and calmly explain why I believe knowing something about guns, and having some experience with guns, is actually a necessary part of the conversation.
I used to be moderately afraid of guns that shot anything bigger than a BB. My grandfather taught me how to shoot a pellet gun when I was young, and I didn’t really touch a gun between the ages of 8 and 20. I never thought I’d own one… but I now own three.
What changed? I got a hands-on education. A friend took me to the range and I started learning how guns work and what they are for.
Here’s a fact that anyone who owns a gun knows: actually using a gun, seeing how it works in a safe and controlled environment, instantly assuages the majority of fears people have toward guns. They don’t accidentally go off or run the risk of exploding. Guns are simple machines with tons of safety built into the design. There are dozens of steps one must take before a gun will actually fire.
And so, when I learned this and started using a gun, one fact about guns became absolutely clear after a mere two minutes on the range: a gun is a tool that needs to be handled with skill.
In exactly the same way that an evil person can cause a lot of damage if they use a dodge charger incorrectly and illegally at an event in Charlottesville, an evil person can cause a lot of damage if they use a gun incorrectly and illegally. It was mentioned to me that “Then why is there a somewhat difficult process to get a dodge charger and not to get an AR-15.” Answer: You have to have a government issued ID to get an AR-15 PLUS go through a background check. It is literally equally as hard to obtain either object, PLUS an extra impediment on the gun.
Why is it so necessary to have experience with guns in order to take part in the debate? I don’t think it’s necessary to have experience… but if not experience, then well-researched knowledge. The reason I say “experience” is good with guns is that you gain the knowledge much more quickly as you use the tool. What I do insist on is that someone has to know a good bit about the object they want to ban, or restrict, or affect with law, prior to discussing the restrictions. Here’s a simple example. When shown a picture of an AK-47 and a 30-06, and asked which one is more dangerous and should be banned, the vast majority of leftists I talk to pick the AK every time. The reason? The AK “looks more dangerous.” But I want to lovingly inform them of this fact: It’s not more dangerous. A 30-06 round is almost twice as large as an AK round. Quite often, the ones that look “scary” really aren’t as scary as the ones that look “normal.” Knowledge about guns (beyond “they kill things”) is absolutely essential to enter into a debate about guns.
So to sum up, the message I wish that leftists would hear is this: It really is true, not just a slogan, that the gun is not responsible, it’s the person using the gun.
(This is an aside, but I figured I’d include some basic instruction on guns so that those who don’t know, and are willing to learn, will do so. First of all, “fully-automatic” or “automatic” means that a single trigger-pull fires multiple bullets and “semi-automatic” means that a single trigger-pull fires a single bullet and readies the next bullet for the next trigger-pull. Effectively ANY modern handgun [even a revolver] is “semi-automatic,” and so is the AR-15. Other types of mechanisms that load bullets into the chamber to be fired are things like “lever action,” “pump action,” or “bolt action” meaning you have to perform some action [usually this action takes about 0.5 seconds to complete] in between trigger pulls to fire a new bullet. In the name “AR-15”, “AR” stands for “Armalite Rifle,” NOT “Assault Rifle.” Armalite is the name of the company that designed the gun, and “15” refers to the model number, NOT the magazine capacity or the bullets fired per second [as I heard one uninformed person spout].The AR-15 was the fifteenth gun design that Armalite released. Here’s a good article on it if you’d like to learn more about the AR-15: https://www.pewpewtactical.com/what-does-ar-stand-for/ “Assault Rifle” is a clearly defined term by the US military. “Assault Rifles” have or can do the following: switch between semi and fully automatic modes; have a medium-sized power cartridge [more than a handgun, less than a hunting rifle. This usually changes the velocity of the bullet… meaning it fires bullets faster than handguns but not hunting rifles], feed ammunition from a detachable magazine, and have an effective range of at least 330 yards. All assault rifles are already banned for civilians, because all assault rifles have fully-automatic capabilities, and civilians currently are not allowed to own fully-automatic weapons. Okay, that’s enough for now.)
The Message I Want Right-Wingers to Hear
Here’s the message I wish my side would hear: people definitely die at the hands of bad guys with guns, and that must be addressed in how we handle guns in our society/laws. As I just said, a gun is just a tool to be used by a person. However, unlike cars, knives, wrenches, pencils, or any other thing that can kill in the wrong hands, guns are specifically designed to kill. Just as a wrench is designed with a purpose in mind (to turn bolts) a gun is designed with a purpose in mind (to kill living things).
Killing is not always bad. Killing an active shooter is, I believe, a moral good. Killing by an impartial, emotionless due process of law is justified.
That being the case, a careful evaluation of and plan to keep guns out of the hands of evil or unstable people is perfectly reasonable and RIGHT. I do believe that the most effective way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun (be it a private citizen or an officer in uniform), but I also think there are other measures that can be taken to limit the number of bad guys who get guns. (And yes, I’m putting aside the theologian in me who wants to get into a discussion of the nature of man and point out that there are no “good men.” I’m using the terms good, bad, and evil more generically to talk about people’s actions, not people’s natures.)
Right-wingers can’t keep on pretending as if free and open access to guns, without any enforced responsibility or accountability, is reasonable. The founding fathers were very, very, pro-gun, but they were also pro-responsibility. You can’t have one without the other.
Three Remaining Sections
Okay, have I pissed off each side sufficiently by pointing out the obvious facts that they don’t want to recognize? Good. Take a deep breath and accept true facts. Now we can start talking reasonably.
The rest of this post will be divided into three sections: (1) Why guns are necessary in a free society. (2) Why reforming gun laws isn’t an inherently bad thing. (3) The kind of “common-sense” gun reform I suggest.
Why Guns are Necessary in a Free Society
The founding fathers were smart guys. They understood that in all government overthrows the process of the overthrow went like this– Step one: change the speech so that you change the ideas. Step two: remove self-defense. Step three: enforce the idea changes… brutally.
This is the progression you see in the first few amendments to the constitution, and to protect against that the founding fathers protected first your speech (and so your ideas, Amendment 1) and then your self-defense (Amendment 2). These are the freedoms that, according to those men, were bestowed by God and protected by government.
That is an important point. According to the founding fathers, “rights” are given to humans by a power HIGHER than the government. Government doesn’t give you the right to speak, it’s just supposed to protect your right to speak. If they didn’t protect it, that would be “wrong” (that’s why they’re called “rights!”)
SO, the second amendment was put in place to help assuage a possible tyrannical government. The amendment says “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.” Now I think that arguments about the definition of a “militia” and where the comma should go in this sentence are completely valid, but the REASON behind the amendment is undeniable regardless: According to the founders a “right of the people to keep and bear arms” (note the word “people”) is necessary to “the security of a free state.”
The point of the second amendment is to fight against a possible tyrannical government. It is a defense of liberty.
This is one of two reasons, by the way, why the argument, “All the other developed countries don’t have this problem… why can’t we fix it like they did?” doesn’t bite for a lot of conservatives. First of all, define the problem. If you mean gun violence, you may have a small argument, but if you look at overall violent crime, then there really isn’t an argument. Evil people still find ways to hurt other people. And for every example where a gun ban “helped” in some way, there is an example where an increase of guns also helped. But the MAIN reason that’s an ineffective argument is that no other country has a second amendment! No other country took on the greatest super-power in the world to become the next greatest super-power in the world, and it was all thanks to the people owning guns. There’s a good reason America is different than other countries on this issue. The values and philosophy of its founding are radically different.
It was pointed out to me that quotes from the founders that support this conclusion (about the meaning and purpose of the second amendment) would be helpful to my case, so here are just a few:
“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined…”
– George Washington, First Annual Address, to both House of Congress, January 8, 1790
“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787
“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787
“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria), 1774-1776
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
“… to disarm the people— That was the most effectual way to enslave them!”
– George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates at 380, June 14, 1788
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.”
– James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434, June 8, 1789
“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined…. The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.”
– Patrick Henry, Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778
Do I think that my government wants to hunt me down and kill or enslave me? Not right now. But things change.
The cause of liberty is what’s at stake in the gun control debate.
History is replete with examples of people who trade in liberty for the promise of safety, and as a result, end up with neither. Just look at the citizens under Pol Pot, Chavez, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Ze Dong, Charlemagne, or Pope Gregory the VII. In all of these scenarios, the means of self-defense was traded away for the promise of ultimate safety, along with other societal advancements. Those promises were never fulfilled. The fact is, you can’t guarantee safety in this life. Everyone dies. That’s the whole point of the bible and Christianity: solving the problem of death. But the point here is this: the main way a leader enslaves his people is to take away their means of defending themselves.
This is the main point I stand on. Guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are necessary to prevent (or at least fight against) a tyrannical government, they are necessary to “the security of a free state.” That’s the central idea of why I am pro-gun: the cause of liberty. Or as Mel Gibson put it, “FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOOM!!!!!”
When making this point in the past, it’s been said back to me, “Bro the government has drones, tanks, F18s, stealth bombers, Apache helicopters and 3 branches of military. What exactly do you think you and your [gun] are going to do?” There are a number of responses to this. The one I went with at the time was, “And no one could’ve ever beaten the British military, especially not a bunch of farmers.” The point being that it’s eminently American to believe that liberty can be fought for, and won, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
(This is more of an aside, so skip it if you like, It’s not essential to the argument. I just want to further respond to the objection “But what are you going to do against the American Military?” In the case of an actual tyrannical government, it has never occurred in the form of an instantaneous, twenty-tanks-are-outside-your-door, the-nukes-are-primed, come-out-or-we-shoot, scenario. The vast majority of tyrannical government overthrows happen gradually. They begin with an agent or two knocking on the door and calmly and diplomatically removing your means of self-defense. If we’re talking about the actual pragmatic reality of resisting a tyrannical government overthrow, actually, me and my gun stand a pretty decent chance of at least resisting phase one, and preserving me long enough to form a coalition with my like-minded gun owners and mount a successful resistance. How long did it take us to track down Bin Laden? How long has ISIS continued their resistance against our clearly superior weaponry? Need we really pretend as if “The government has drones” is a valid argument against the cause of freedom? I think not.)
Why Reforming Gun Laws Isn’t An Inherently Bad Thing
Okay, now that the leftists have gotten through the section they didn’t really want to read, right-wingers, you’ve gotta get through this section.
Reforming gun laws isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I’m not talking about repealing the second amendment, I’m not talking about banning AR 15s (and yes, I’m with you… I wish people knew what AR stands for and I do use it as a test to see if that person really has done their homework on this issue). I AM talking about increasing the scope and effectiveness of background checks and making some changes in the process of purchasing a gun, and most importantly increasing the punishments for not properly keeping a gun.
I’ll discuss some of the changes I suggest in the next section, but I feel I must first prove that some restrictions on gun owners are necessary and reasonable.
As stated above, the main reason this is the case is the designed intended purpose of guns.
Just as a wrench is designed with a purpose in mind (to turn bolts) a gun is designed with a purpose in mind (killing things). That being the case, there are far more instances where killing something is illegal than there are turning bolts. So, a careful evaluation of and plan to keep guns out of the hands of evil people is perfectly reasonable and RIGHT.
There are some restrictions that can be reasonably applied to most of the rights guaranteed in the bill of rights. The freedom of speech, for example, does not protect calls to action. If you instruct someone to kill your boss, and the person does it, that instruction is not protected “free speech.” You are not allowed to lie under oath in a criminal trial, and if you are caught doing it you are charged with a crime. This is technically a “limit” or “regulation” on the freedom of speech, but it is not wrong.
Similarly, the “right to bear arms” is not “the right to bear tanks.” It’s not the right to bear tanks, because you can’t “bear” (carry) a tank in your “arms.” Since it has been shown that amendments guaranteeing rights in the constitution CAN legitimately have reasonable restrictions placed on them, it is justifiable to argue for reasonable restrictions placed on the other amendments. Those restrictions should be such that they encourage RESPONSIBLE firearm ownership, and punish IRRESPONSIBLE firearm ownership. This I think is the key factor. Responsibility. I believe there are reasonable restrictions on civilian gun ownership to encourage responsibility with guns. It is those restrictions to which I now turn.
The Kind of “Common-sense” Gun Reform I Suggest
To start with, I do not use the term “common-sense” gun reform in the way that liberal talk-show hosts use it. I use it as what the words actually mean: gun reform that can be deduced and defended via common sense. It’s necessary to clarify, because the definition of “common-sense gun laws” as it exists as a buzz word in leftist circles usually means “gun bans.” That’s not what I’m talking about.
Before I start listing suggestions, I must point out that these ideas are not fully developed. They would require some debate and argumentation to get them from the “idea stage” to the “implementation stage.” I’m aware that there are some holes in these ideas, and things would need to be fleshed out. So please, do not evaluate these as if they are fully-formed. Evaluate them as incipient ideas and use them as a spring-board for your own discussions on this issue. That said, here are a few common-sense reforms that I believe both sides could possibly get behind. I am listing these in order of importance, from my perspective, the most important being first:
Harsh Punishment for Improper Ownership
I think the punishment for not properly keeping a gun locked or safe from those who should not have them (unsupervised children, criminals, the mentally ill) should be extremely severe. I think that if your gun is used in a crime or a child discovers and harms himself accidentally with your gun, then YOU should face serious penalties, including jail time. Obviously, this is a punitive, not a pre-emptive enforcement. This would act as a deterrent and motivation to properly lock your gun and practice gun safety. I.E. it encourages responsible gun ownership. Since I view government’s role as primarily punitive, I believe this to be the most sensible and “common-sense” of any gun laws possible. As a possible addendum, I would say you should have a 48 hour window in which to report firearms as stolen, to have the severity of these punishments reduced if your gun is stolen then used in a crime.
End Gun-Free Zones
Gun free zones have been shown time and time again to be targets for bad guys with guns. I think teachers should be allowed to have concealed-carry guns if they want to and are licensed. I am NOT suggesting that the government mandate teachers to be armed, or in any way pay for teachers to be armed, or force teachers to be armed. I’m simply suggesting removing the barrier that blocks teachers who want their gun at school but currently aren’t allowed to have it. Those who are licensed to carry a handgun should be allowed to carry that handgun wherever they go. I think it’s indisputable that if even one teacher had had a concealed handgun, and been able to use that handgun, we would likely not have as many deaths as we do in the last 10 school shootings.
Gun Violence Restraining Order
There is a piece at National Review making the rounds (https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/02/gun-control-republicans-consider-grvo/) essentially suggesting that a person should have the ability to prove in a court of law that a third party is temporarily unfit to own a gun. I think this is a reasonable proposal, and you can read the original article for more information.
One Day Wait Time
As I said, I own three guns. When I got my first gun, an HK VP40, I walked into the store, picked out my gun, answered some basic questions like “Are you a criminal,” waited 25 minutes for them to run my ID, paid for my gun and ammunition, and walked out. I would’ve been more than happy to come back the next dayto pick up my gun. I don’t think there are many, if any, legitimate reasons you would need to buy and use a gun in a single day. I think that a one-day wait would at least stop the people who make an emotional heat-of-the-moment decision to buy a gun and kill themselves or others. This would be purely to stop the person who just “snaps” from making a heat-of-the-moment decision. This is a minuscule measure, but an easy one to enact as a kind of fail-safe against sudden mental derangement.
I think civilians should be allowed to purchase fully-automatic weapons if they pass the same type of background check an FBI employee undergoes to receive top-level security clearance. This is actually a step toward loosening gun laws, in a sense, because it would allow good guys to get their hands on more powerful guns. Nevertheless, I think that someone who undergoes that practically-year-long process and passes all of its tests, to the point that they can be trusted with our nation’s most sensitive secrets, should be trusted with a fully-auto rifle.
I think part of the background check for those purchasing guns should be a basic psych evaluation that determines the more severe mental disorders. There are many tests that can quickly determine if a person is prone to Alzheimer’s, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and others that would otherwise make someone mentally unfit to own and operate a firearm responsibly. I realize the danger this poses to liberty. You’re giving the government control of who is “sane,” which is why I named those particular mental disorders as examples. I think that the government should not be allowed to classify “conservatism” or “progressivism” as a mental disorder. This is one that would require MUCH debate and clarification, which is why it’s at the bottom of the list.
These are at least a few suggestions of “common-sense” gun reform that I think reasonable people who want to solve the obvious problem of mass shootings can and should get behind.
The real question to both sides is this: Do you want solutions, or not? Do you want to fix problems, or do you just want the other side to crawl in a hole somewhere and die? If it’s the latter, God have mercy on your soul. If it’s the former, then discuss the ideas reasonably, without emotionalism, and be willing to think together.
Do you have any other suggestions? Do you have ideas that could help to focus and make these ideas more efficient? Let me know in the comments!