A Brief Study of Guns.

January 12, 2016

(This went on a little longer than I intended.)

First off, let me start by proposing we change the national anthem.  I humbly submit “Happiness is a Warm Gun” by The Beatles.  True it was written by the four Liverpool Lads, but it perfectly sums up the American love affair with firearms.  I joke a bit, but on such a matter a little levity is necessary.  We live in a country that has had a shooting of some significance for nearly everyday of the year.  In likely every state.  And yet, we still have gun advocates and the NRA working tireless to block anything resembling reform. Their shield is usually the Second Amendment.  Some use the example of the Australian Gun Control framework as a potential idea for the United States.  Most just have an irrational fear of their guns being taken away.  It is no simple issue with the heart of it being at the center of the American psyche.

As I said, we just completed a year where we had shooting nearly everyday in almost every state.  I’m not going to quote a statistic here, if only because I’m not sure I would be able to find one with a consistent definition of what classifies a shooting or gun violence or whatever term people are throwing around.  The point is, there were an alarming number of incidents involving guns around this country last year.

You might ask why.  Islamic terrorism?  That’s the popular answer.  And a lot of them have been individuals we strong ties to ISIS or other Islamic terrorist groups.  But was Sandy Hook an Islamic terrorist?  No.  Was Aurora, Colorado?  No.  Was the Lafayette Theatre shooting?  No.  Was Columbine?  No.  Planned Parenthood?  No.  A lot of the shooters in many shootings have had ties to Islamic terrorists.  But a lot of them?  Nothing to do with Islam.

Another defense has been mental illness and gun advocates have pointed to a failed system that does not help troubled individuals.  I agree that not nearly enough being done to help with mental health issues.  However, it does not address the issue that these people apparently have access to automatic weapons and are more than capable of planning/carrying out these shootings.  These individuals are well prepared for what they are trying to accomplish.  And they had access to the high powered weapons they used.

Reform on gun laws has become a popular topic of late.  In the wake of more shootings, our politicians are pushing on both sides of the issue.  The NRA is fighting for the Second Amendment as the left continues to push for more measures to reduce the availability and the number of guns.  The laws themselves are somewhat convoluted and complicated, and this would become a novel length thing if I tried to properly explain them.

And some of them probably should change.  In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, it was revealed that the assault rifles that were bought and modified were legal under a loophole in state law.  They were modified to be more powerful and therefore illegal as result, but they were still able to acquire the weapons and practice with them legally.

But what changes could be made?  Reform modeled after Australia’s gun laws have been a popular suggestion.  The central accomplishment of this was to develop a registry system where ownership of a firearm was restricted to certain classes.  “Category A”, for example, consists of handguns and rimfire rifles.  “Category B” includes centrifire rifles and muzzleloaders, as well as “Category A” weapons.  Category  C and above are limited to professional use, although such a permit could be applied for.  Under Australian laws, you have undergo a waiting period of 28 days, register the weapon and prove to have a legitimate/genuine reason for ownership.  They also did a mandatory “buyback program” where most of the previously legal weapons were bought by the government.  It was paid for with a slight increase in taxes, but for the most part was willingly executed.  This is a fairly basic overview, but check out the link or the wikipedia page on Australian gun laws for more detail.

The obvious question is, has it worked?  Most studies indicate a decline in gun violence and death, but like any study those results are open to interpretation.  So it appears to be having the desired effect without a decay of society.  Could it or something similar work in the United States?

Good question.  Which brings us the NRA’s first line of defense.  The Second Amendment.  The Second Amendment reads, “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.”  A bit vague.  Is it referring to bearing arms as part of a militia or as an individual citizen?  This argument even came to the Supreme Court a couple of times and they have ruled either way.  In 1938 they ruled that a shotgun was not necessarily related to the efficiency of well regulated militia and could not be sold interstate, while in 2008 they argued that a handgun ban violated the Second Amendment’s protection of an individual’s right to own firearms.  So… depends on how the Supreme Court is feeling that day?  It is very open to interpretation.

Now, that is the challenge.  Creating legislation that with that type of guideline is next to impossible.  Any attempt to restrict gun sales or ownership could be considered a violation of the rights provided by the Second Amendment.  That is why it is impossible for any type of meaningful gun legislation to be passed.  Why there won’t be a reform to a system similar to Australia or any other country.  Here’s a bit of an opinion piece written after Charleston that explains it pretty well.

I think the first thing that needs to happen is a repeal of the Second Amendment.  Or at the very least take out a lot of the interpretation.  I believe this for two reasons.  1.  It is entirely too vague; 2.  At this point do we really need a well-regulated militia?  It is outdated and justifies too much nonsense–thinking about Oregon when I say that.  On an issue like this, we need more than a sentence written almost two hundred and fifty years ago that doesn’t really say anything written by a group of men waging war for the right to form a country.  Does it work in the modern world?

The big thing now is to just write laws that make sense.  Allow people their handguns or hunting rifles.  But makes sure they know what they’re doing and are capable of respecting the weapon they are holding.  One thing I would suggest is that we consider a requirement that all citizen do certain length of time in the military, like Switzerland or Israel.  That alone might solve a lot of problems.

But the national attitude needs to change to one more in touch with common sense.  If you want to goof off with an Uzi or an AK-47, go to shooting range and use them in a supervised environment.  If you for some reason feel that automatic weapons are necessary for self-defense, that’s something we all need to work on.

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