Remember way back when the leading candidate for the GOTP (read Grand Old/Tea Party, they are inseparable) nomination for President was Gov. (Rev.) Rick Perry of Texas. Among many other things, the preacher (1) is also a "carrier." In Tex-lingo (actually in southern/southwestern lingo generally) "carrier" means that the person is carrying, or might be carrying, a concealed weapon (usually loaded). The governor has stated (boasted) that he "carries" a .380 Ruger pistol (2) decorated with the etching of a coyote to commemorate the little member of that species that the governor shot last year while out on a morning jog. The gun is described on its website as "one of the best concealed carry firearms for anyone needing a small-frame semi-automatic pistol that can easily fit in a pocket, purse, briefcase, etc." The governor's has a laser sight (you know, the one you see in the movies that puts a dot of red light on its targets) and is loaded with hollow-point bullets (designed to do maximum damage to human flesh, if it encounters some).
The governor is a strong supporter of "Second Amendment rights," the version that distorts the literal meaning of the Amendment to mean the unlimited individual "right to bear arms" without any controls whatsoever. (This could in theory lead to the private ownership of tanks (3), but no one ever seems to want to engage the NRA on that one.) That's an interesting argument when one examines the plain language of the Amendment (3): "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." Along with Justice Scalia, you might be surprised to know, I happen to be a big fan of strict constructionism when interpreting the Constitution. (Of course Scalia honors that commitment only in the breach, but that's another story.) The Amendment is somewhat ambiguous to be sure. But in reading its plain language, it is quite obvious that it can mean only one of two things. One, it provides a right to the people, in the protection of the free state, to form well-regulated militias. Or two, it provides to individuals the right to bear arms, in a well-regulated system for the protection of the free state.
At any rate, and Scalia's court goes along with this, Governor Perry is a big "2nd Amendment guy," meaning in his terms you can "carry" just about any firearm you want to, any way you want to. It is interesting and most informative to examine what this actually means. One way to do so is to look at the current list of "gun rights legal actions" being supported by an organization called the "Second Amendment Foundation."
According to Wikipedia, "The Second Amendment Foundation or SAF is an educational- and legal-defense organization which describes its mission as "promoting a better understanding about our constitutional heritage to privately own and possess firearms. To that end, SAF carries on many educational- and legal-action programs designed to better inform the public about the gun-control debate.' " To understand what the SAF is actually about, one can take a look at the legal actions that SAF is currently supporting (according to a list of them sent by mail in September, 2011).
- It wants there to be broad license to carry assault rifles (California).
- It wants very strict limits on what can be limited in states and localities that have gun permit laws (e.g., New York City, New Jersey, San Diego).
- It wants there to be no limitation on sales of guns in any one state to out-of-state residents (Virginia).
- It wants there to be no limitations on the ownership of guns by legal alien residents (Massachusetts).
- It wants no limits on gun ownership for persons convicted of non-domestic violence (Georgia).
- It wants no limits of any kind on gun shows being held at county fairgrounds (Alameda Count, CA).
- It wants gun ranges open to the public to be allowed just about anywhere (Illinois).
- In gun permit states it wants there to be no "good cause" standard to be applied to the review of applicants for such permits (New York).
- In gun permit states, it wants there to be no limitations on the types of handguns an applicant may be permitted to carry (California).
- And so on, and so forth. Just "no limits," folks, know what I mean?
If you think things are bad now (about 35,000 handgun-related deaths per year on the US), just think how bad they might be under a President who "carries." (Funnily enough, if he were to become President, now unlikely in the upcoming election for obvious reasons, the Secret Service probably would not permit him to carry. Much too unsafe for the President of the United States to be walking around with a loaded handgun, don't you think?)
There is very little "outcome of gun ownership and use" research going on in the US now, especially federally-funded research. The latter has been virtually shut down by the NRA, through its Republican and Democratic allies in Congress. As to where the NRA derives its support, they aren't telling. Polls show that about half of the NRA membership thinks that there should be some regulation of gun ownership, especially handguns. However, neither of the other major NRA funders, the gun industry and the gun dealers, agrees. One must wonder, then, if the NRA's primary interest is not the right to bear arms, but the right to sell them, of any type, to anyone and everyone.
Postscript: After I wrote an earlier version of this Commentary, the cover headline on the Long Island, NY newspaper, Newsday, for Sept. 23, 2011, read: "Cop Warned 5 Months Before the Killings: Take His Guns Away." The article referred to a man who had walked into a pharmacy, murdered a pharmacist and three customers who just happened to be there, and swept the shelves of prescription drugs he was addicted to. He did have a gun permit. The police officer referenced had warned the Nassau County's Pistol Bureau that the man's permit should be revoked, for cause. As of Sept. 29, 2011, it was unclear whether the Bureau had made an investigation or if so, what its conclusion(s) were. However, one can only guess as to what the position of the Second Amendment Foundation would have been had they indeed done an investigation and indeed suspended the permit "for cause."
1. "Ask Governor Perry," Published on OEN, Nov. 22, 2011, click here
3. Dr. J.'s BuzzFlash Commentary No. 145: NRA: Tanks for the Memories. Published on BuzzFlash on Tue, 06/15/2010 - 6:29pm; http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/195