Last week I published a column on OEN entitled "What the Gunners Want: What's In Rick Perry's Pocket (1). I simply sought to present to the readership of this webmagazine what one of the leading "pro-gun rights" organizations, the Second Amendment Foundation (2), to which I happen to belong, is putting forward as its program, at least as seen through the lens of the court cases that it is pursuing around the country. 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.' "
Now, among other things I did point out that a literal reading of the Second Amendment means either that it provides a right to the people, in the protection of the free state, to form well-regulated militias, or it provides to individuals the right to bear arms, in a well-regulated system for the protection of the free state. However, the present Supreme Court, "strict constructionist" as it is, doesn't agree with that interpretation, so gun-ownership is wide open. Of course, even when one disagrees with Supreme Court rulings, one must go along with the present law of the land (except of course when it comes to such things as religious belief and abortion rights where according to some murder is excusable, but that is another matter). I also pointed out that the NRA position on firearms ownership means that one has a right to own any of them, up to an including a tank, or at least the gun part of a tank. But the principal focus of the column was on the SAF and what it is fighting for in court cases around the land.
Well, somehow I hit a sensitive nerve on the part of a couple of our readers. One said in part (3): " The 2nd Amendment does not mean one can own tanks and hand grenades. That is just inflammatory propaganda." Gee, Mr. Erickson, if the 2nd Amendment means what the NRA says it means, why not? If it does not mean that, and that tank ownership can be limited, regulated, or even banned, why would not that rule apply to any other type of firearm? One answer could be that "Tanks (or bazookas or rocket-propelled grenade launchers) did not exist at the time the 2nd Amendment, and thus they would not be covered by it. " Well neither did assault rifles or pistols that can carry cartridges holding 15 hollow-point bullets exist at that time. Further according to that reasoning the President would not be Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, for it is not mentioned in the Constitution.
So if you can't regulate one kind of weapon that didn't exist way back then, you cannot regulate another either. The NRA is very clear on this question. Its position is that there is a "fundamental, individual, right to own guns" (4). And a gun is a gun, is it not? Of course there is the problem of the tank part of the tank. The question of a driver's license requirement might come up as well the matter of liability for potential damage to the public roads. But I'm sure that the NRA could come up with an answer for that dilemma.
Another reader wrote (5): " It is obvious that Mr. Jonas is neither a student of history, or a criminologist. . . . There are many thousands of restrictive gun laws on the books. Of those, not even one can be shown to have reduced violent crime or homicide. . . . . But if you want to live in a world free of crime and violence, you will want law abiding citizens to be able to buy, keep, and carry firearms." Ah yes, let's start off with the old reliable ad hominem attack. Then let's follow it up with a misrepresentation of facts. There are not "thousands of restrictive gun laws on the books." The NRA has seen to that very well. And anyway, if there were, how could the US possibly be as awash in guns as it presently is.
As to the effectiveness of gun limitations on a state-by-state basis, as I pointed out in the column, how can we know what is really going on since the NRA has been able to squash virtually all gun-violence-related research, at least that which might be Federally-funded in any way. However, the comparisons of both gun violence and crime rates with those of other countries that have strict gun-control laws are instructive (6). On the other hand, let's say all that data is wrong or mis-interpreted, as some do (7), and that the more gun ownership the less crime. Would that not be an argument for mandatory gun ownership by everyone (well, with certain groups like criminals, terrorists, potential criminals and potential terrorists excluded)? And then there could be an argument for mandatory training in the use of firearms, let's say starting in grade school. But we would have to think about that carefully, because that might lead to mandatory owner licensing and weapon registration (something I have advocated for donkey's years) and we couldn't have that now, could we?
As to how to regard the NRA on all this, I will leave that to another commentator on my column, an NRA member himself, using language I did not (8): " I can quite agree that the "leadership' of the organization are primarily shills for the firearms industry, fundraisers for fascist causes, and Wayne LaPierre is, in my opinion, a mentally unbalanced propagandist. His recent statement that the Obama administration not having done anything to restrict firearm ownership is proof that they are going to take away our guns is demonstration enough of that assertion."
But really, folks, the primary focus of my previous column on the subject of guns was to simply put out there what the Second Amendment Foundation is fighting for, in the courts, all around the country. And that makes me "anti-gun?" My-oh-my. If that makes me "anti-gun," doesn't that tell us something about the 2nd Amendment Foundation, its supporters, and the positions that they take?
2. Wikipedia: click here
3. Comment on my previous column by Steven G. Erickson.
4. Fund-raising letter from the NRA, January 23, 2012.
5. Comment on my previous column by Peter Allen.