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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sensible Gun Control Legislation?

Columnist Dick Simpson recently wrote this editorial in the Chicago Sun Times. In it he described the chances of progressives locally, in Chicago, and nationally. Here is the part that was most interesting to me...

In the 26th state Legislative District on Chicago's South Side, Will Burns, former aide to Barack Obama and Emil Jones, is carrying the progressive banner to unseat undistinguished Rep. Elga Jefferies. He is endorsed by the Illinois Federation of Labor, IVI-IPO, the Chicago Teachers Union and reform black aldermen. Burns' platform includes commonsense gun control legislation, comprehensive education funding reform, property tax relief and school accountability.

What was interesting was the phrase "common sense" gun control legislation. Being in mortgages I know all too well the corrosive effect of legislation that uses nice sounding but vague terms like "common sense". In mortgages, the new government buzz word is "reasonable ability to pay". The problems I found in H.R. 1955 also had to do with vague and undefined language.
The problem with vague and undefined language in legislation is that almost always it is as a result of legislators legislating without having any understanding of the issue. Gun control, like other issues, is open to exploitation, and legislators all too often are looking to find a cause rather than a solution.

Now, first, let's look at the second amendment again...

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.

The second amendment is sacrosanct and everyone should be weary of anyone that is looking to infringe on it especially when their infringement comes down to vague terminology like common sense. That said, the first amendment is sacrosanct and that doesn't give us the right to yell fire in a crowded theater (unless there is a fire of course) or make up lies about others. Those are common sense restrictions on our freedom of speech.

Now, I think it is time for a philosophical lesson on the purpose of the 2nd Amendment. (I personally didn't have any understanding of the philosophy of the second amendment until I read this please check it out) The second amendment gives every American the most basic of rights...the right to protect themselves. Now, we all know that every American has the right to protect themselves from intruders in their homes when the government isn't there to protect them. (We saw how important that right is when chaos struck New Orleans) What most people don't know is that the founding fathers mostly offered the second amendment as a protection against the government itself. That's right your right to bear arms keeps the government in check. By keeping citizens armed, the government knows that they cannot carry out anything too extreme or face an armed revolution.

In fact, nearly every single totalitartian takeover, all over the world, happened when the citizens were unarmed. If anyone thinks such a thing can't happen here, it can and it has. The slaves were kept in control in part because they weren't given the constitutional right to bear arms. Even after slavery was made illegal, the new South kept the newly freed black in line, so to speak, with archane gun control laws that infringed on their right to bear arms. This method was so effective that it was exported north and used upon new immigrants from all over Europe.

Thus, I get really nervous when a politician tries to infringe on this vital right with vague language like "common sense". Fortunately, Will Burns is more specific on his site than merely "common sense"...

Banning large capacity ammunition magazines;

Requiring background checks on private handgun transfers;

Requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms;

Requiring safe storage of firearms in homes with children under 18;

Licensing handgun dealers;

Banning assault weapons and 50 caliber sniper rifles;

Restricting bulk handgun sales to deter illegal trafficking.

While there are specific restrictions here, the bulk of them continue to follow the sort of vague language that makes me nervous. There are words like bulk, large capacity, safe storage. These words can mean almost anything, and I don't understand how anyone could enforce a requirement of safe storage in a person's home. I have no problem with any licensing, however banning weapons of any sort is a violation of the second amendment. Not only do most of these infringe on a sacrosanct right, but they aren't likely to accomplish their stated purpose. As the saying goes...

if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have them

Bulk bans on a class of hand gun maybe feel good and it may win votes of worried parents, however it almost never accomplishes its intent.

In fact, the phrase "common sense gun control legislation" is quite popular. It is difficult to analzye most "sensible gun control legislation" because there are so many ideas that one person or another deems "sensible". The term sensible begins to encompass an awful lot, and soon sensible becomes an unnecessary infringement on the second amendment.

There are all sorts of folks that are looking to infringe on your sacrosanct right to bear arms with nice sounding, but vague and undefined, terms like common sense. It is the way most rights get infringed, with nice, non threatening, sounding words like "sensible".

I think it is common sense to require all guns to be registered, all gun dealers to be registered, and all gun owners to have a background check before owning a gun. Beyond that all common sense gun legislation is nothing more than a nice way of taking your fundamental right away.


Anonymous said...

Any right that requires a government issued license ceases to be a right. It's become a privilege that can be revoked at any time.

mike volpe said...

Interesting word games, however I will take the words of the second amendment and say they trump your twisted logic...