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Keep still and bear with me for a few minutes

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The National Rifle Association and its apologists and allies have long embraced a very particular interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a reminder, I quote:

" 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."

With the wide exception of some serious nut-cases--like Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who told me in an interview that he believes we should have a right to own intercontinental ballistic missiles tipped with nuclear weapons if we can afford them (!)(Yes, he said that)--most of the NRA folks seem to limit the assertion of that right to objects with triggers. Hence we endure their current defense of the sale of semi-automatic weapons. But there is no rational basis for their line of demarcation .

Starting with Gary's missiles, I'd guess very few NRA members would take a serious stance supporting his view. ("If we criminalize ownership of nukes only criminals will have them!") Well then, what about anti-aircraft rocket launchers? Any hands? Hmm, no. Grenade launchers? Howitzers? Mortars? Gatling guns? Bazookas? Grenades? Okay a hand or two from those guys in the back, wearing the frog tee shirts, but mostly, no. In point of fact, there seem to be vanishingly few people who want their neighbors to own grenades.

That is to say, there seems to be pretty wide acceptance that weapons of war don't belong in private hands. There's even pretty strong concurrence about fully automatic weapons, though more hands go up in favor when those get mentioned. And, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court has both upheld the right to own weapons and upheld the power of government to impose restrictions on ownership. So "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" isn't sacrosanct at all. It has been long and broadly conceded that military weapons ought to be under the strict control of well-regulated armies subject to civilian oversight. (Which is the difference between what are deemed to be legitimate armed forces and terrorist groups.)

But for whatever reason many NRA-types get all twitchy about hand-held weapons with triggers. They are unable to imagine that the line between properly military weapons and personal guns might be drawn anywhere other than that between machine guns and AR-15s. Yet, of course, many have swallowed hard and agreed that perhaps one ought to be 21 to purchase a hand gun, and the hunting lobby has found it in their hearts to limit the type of guns and ammunition used to slaughter migratory waterfowl (albeit to ensure there will be more waterfowl for future target practice.)

Thus, it appears to me that the defenders of sale of weapons created to take down as many people as possible in as short a time as mechanically feasible ought to be able to swallow hard again and concede that such weapons pose a public threat--the same sort of threat that would be posed if neighbors were settling disagreements about barking dogs with flame-throwers or grenades. Furthermore, if they need to fall back on the strange claim that semi-automatic weapons are necessary for self defense, perhaps they ought to consider that self-defense against such weapons is fraught.

And this footnote: To those who suggest that arming teachers is anything like a solution for our schools--most police officers who are shot in their line of work are shot with their own weapons. Training of teachers is not likely to improve that statistic.

(Article changed on February 26, 2018 at 16:10)

(Article changed on February 26, 2018 at 16:12)

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