A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Right To Keep More Arms Than You Can Bear

Since today is the sunset of the assault weapons ban, it might be a good idea to open up the whole issue of the 2nd Amendment for a good airing out. After all, the people who make the most noise about it are likely to be at the gun store today stocking up on formerly forbidden fruit and the rest of us can hear ourselves think.

With those cheery folks out of earshot for the moment, I'll come clean with an admission. I think that the 2nd Amendment was intended to protect the right of private ownership of arms and is not about the right to form "militias". The only reason any ambiguity exists in the language, making the latter interpretation possible, is that the writers of the Amendment could no more conceive of an America without firearms, than an America without draft animals. It's time we stopped hiding behind this legal equivocation. For the regulation based upon it is going to be subject to a lobbying guerilla war from now to 'till doomsday. And, as with all guerilla wars, the insurgents have the ultimate advantage.

We need to ask the question this way: Does the 2nd Amendment protect the right to own hand-held anti-aircraft missiles? For the answer may well be yes. Can we stand to admit that it does and run our country accordingly? For we just might have to. Arms are arms, after all.

Trying to grasp how safe we will all feel when our neighbor Chet can add a Stinger missile to his gun case, along with the Kalashikov and the re-imported Uzi, is a difficult task. Particularly if our neighborhood just happens to be at the leading edge of the airport runway and we frequently fly the red-eye to Chicago.

Chet has been saying for years that we all need to be better armed to protect the neighborhood against terrorists, so its probably best that we ask about the SAMs before he sees this gaping hole in our neighborhood's defense. And before his friendly local gun store is visited by some engaging strangers in town, with squeaky new id's, wanting to pick up some hand-helds in quantity.

Can we make reasonable and responsible gun laws that serve the both the country's best interests and the will of the majority (which clearly supports the right to private arms)? I don't know. But I'm certain we can't unless we can prevent both the "Militant 2nd Amendment Militia" and the Center for Violence Policy from shouting the attempt down.

All that both of them together have led us to is a crazy quilt of regulation that satisfies no one: to concealed carry laws like the one we have in Ohio, where you can carry only your license and not your firearm anywhere that people really want to go; and to weapons bans like the one which just expired--whose only serious provision was the restriction on large capacity magazines to prevent spray-and-pray by either the criminal or the citizen (which might, by the way, just be a good idea to think about again).

Somebody has to make the first move and the first move must be to acknowledge the right to keep and bear arms but explore the overriding interest in public order and safety which must be accommodated to that right.

UPDATE: The comments have been exactly what I hope for when I publish a blog entry and I want to say thank you to all who have taken the trouble.

I used the little rhetorical device of the "Militant 2nd Amendment Militia" (in quotation marks to make sure that all would know it was fictive) because I didn't, and still don't, want to criticize any particular pro-gun organization. The issue I want to raise is not about demonizing the NRA or the NSSF as lobbying organizations. The Violence Policy Center is, however, real (though I should apologize for reversing the words in it's name above), because it openly stands for what many pro-gun advocates like to believe someone like me stands for covertly: the total abolition of all private firearms.

This is simply not true. And I want people to see the difference.

I also want to frame the issue where it belongs--with the problem of terrorism. For it IS part and parcel of the larger issue of how much freedom do we give up and where to fight our War On Terror. Some? Any? All? The answers to these questions are NOT obvious, and though I am more interested, honestly, in the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments than the 2nd Amendment, it's time we recognized that this public question is about ALL our freedoms and that we all get on the same page in the discussion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: Joseph Marshall
RE: The Perfect Tool

Is there such a thing? A tool that does everything we need to have done? If we look at that SciFi classic, Forbidden Planet, there could be. But look what it got them.

In the real world, we use different tools for different purposes. The same applies to weapons. They are tools as well. We use them for different purposes. But they are devices we have contrived and use to do things that our mere senses and appendages cannot accomplish by mere flesh and bone.

RE: Questions

"Does the 2nd Amendment protect the right to own hand-held anti-aircraft missiles?" -- Joseph Marshall

As I pointed out over at OHC, if I were Frank Rich, a cinema critic who stated. for all intents and purposes, in the NYT Arts section last week, "Fighter jocks are sissies." Or words to that affect.

Fighter pilots may take exception to that and start buzzing his house on afterburner. Just to prove a point. They like proving points. I know. I've been under an F111B as the cretins buzzed the brigade's assembled officers who were doing an After Action Review. Just to prove their point.

So Frank could use a SAM.

Then there is the sad case of the poor people at Waco. Eighty-four men, women and children turned into so many chunks of overcooked meat.

Compare and contrast their little 'rebellion' with that of the Freeman of Montana shortly thereafter. They are dead. The Freeman are alive. In prison, perhaps, but alive.

What was the critical difference? Based on my understanding, after hearing one of the people who negotiated the settlement, the Freeman had some anti-tank capabilities. The sort of things that would look like that scene of the armored car getting the c--- knocked out of it from Die Hard. Wouldn't show very well for the previous administration on the evening news.

If only the Davidians put more of their investment for weapons in such, they'd probably be alive today too.

RE: What Is the Question?

"Trying to grasp how safe we will all feel when our neighbor Chet can add a Stinger missile to his gun case, along with the Kalashikov and the re-imported Uzi, is a difficult task." -- Joseph Marshall

That's the situation here, isn't it. At least from my perspective.

You ask, how safe do you feel. On the other hand, I wonder how much is enough.

Do you feel UNsafe if your neighbor has a SAM in their closet? Do you realize how little damage a SAM would do to your house? I'd be more concerned if someone was parking a 5000-gal tanker full of gasoline next door. And gasoline is 'legal'.

RE: Threat Analysis

"Chet has been saying for years that we all need to be better armed to protect the neighborhood against terrorists," -- Joseph Marshall

I don't know Chet. However, I'll wager that if some band of terrorists shot up a neighborhood near you like the Islamists do neighborhoods in Kashmir, you'll be looking for the best deals on AK-47s yourself.

RE: Who ARE These Guys?

"...the "Militant 2nd Amendment Militia" -- Joseph Marshall

I can't find any outfit by that name. Or are you taking after CBS here?

RE: Good Order and Discipline

"Somebody has to make the first move and the first move must be to acknowledge the right to keep and bear arms but explore the overriding interest in public order and safety which must be accommodated to that right." -- Joseph Marshall

Public order and safety are not a function of who has or has not got guns. It is a function of people respecting each other.

If you doubt this, look at Rwanda. How many millions killed? What was the "weapon of choice"? It wasn't a uzi or a kalishakov.

You don't need guns to kill people. Even when the numbers run into the hundreds of thousands. And that was less than 10 years ago. All you need is hate. And you don't get hate by buying a gun. You get it when your self-esteem overrides your respect for others.

Hey...aren't they teaching self-esteem in school these days?



9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We need to ask the question this way: Does the 2nd Amendment protect the right to own hand-held anti-aircraft missiles?"

Wow! You do understand that if your straw man fires a missile like that the back blast will set him on fire?

Hey! That means there is no problem: Let any strawman have any weapon they want. Works for me.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stingers are easy to find and "import" (smuggle) into this country. It may not be as easy as going to your local gun shop but most small gun shops I know of wouldn't sell any weapon to someone they don't feel "right" about. However I can understand what you are talking about. Is there a reason for a citizen to own a nuclear explosive device? I can think of several reasons to have one and before you ask, no, none of these reasons have anything to do with defense of the home ;-) I think with power you need to have responsibility. Now what you point out as scary is not that your neighbor has a SAM but that someone you don't know can also get one and that person can shoot down an airline with little or no consequences. Swoosh- boom- vroom he's gone before the wreckage hits the ground. That is the real fear. I trust Americans to act like responsible adults but some arn't. So how much power do we let individuals have? Right now we let them drive cars that have very high distructive energies but also have high cost of responsibility (hit and runs are rare) So what is the answer? I don't know. But I don't think that any law that we impose on people will solve the problem. It seems to me that it is better to change our way of life so that such things can't happen without someone knowing who did it and possibly stopping them from acting before they do. sorry about the rambling but... well i'm just making this up as i go. I hope i brought forth some truth that others can talk about.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in a gun store Monday night, me and about 90 other dangerous gun totin' folk. This was the first night of the Fall pistol league. Next week we'll pick up another 90 people (Monday wss a Green Bay Packer game.) This is target shooting for those who don't know anything about guns. The league runs for fifteen weeks and then there is a break for the holidays and a Spring league.

These are indeed cheery folk. They are fully engaged with their families, work, and communities. They are accountants, lawyers, real estate appraisers, computer geeks, a book store owner, emergency medical technicians, carpenters, and OH MY GOD! THOSE ARE BIKERS! Uh, sort of. Two of them are Harley Davidson engineers, one is retired. Four are the staff of a Harley dealership. Among the new shooters (this is a growing sport) we had three women who came into this together as their first experience with shooting. There is an instructor with them to guide them through safety, marksmanship, and the operational details like how to score a target. They had a great time.

I think the world of these people. They are the salt of the Earth.

I don't think much of you.

BTW, I got here by way of a religious site run by a Methodist minister who seems quite knowledgeable about shotguns. He seems a cheery sort, too.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem profoundly unaware of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist, the text of the Constitution itself, and the history of this country.

Or you are trying to deceive.

The purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to ensure that the citizenry is armed, and trains, so that they might be called up by a State governor to repel invasion or tyranny (a threat which has not waned in this old world), or by the President of these united States, in a levy upon the several States. Note that a good percentage of our troops overseas these days are National Guard and Reserve troops. While the State militias were unConstitutionally (albeit in a righteous cause) federalized by President Johnson, the purpose of deterrance against tyranny remains, and was the chief concern of the Founding Fathers. Can a fairly untrained militia resist an opposing professional force? Ask the Russians, Vietnam war veterans, and our troops in Iraq.

There was a day when the DAR could send a cannon for the courthouse square - and it did -not- have its firing pin removed. That is what the Constitution means to allow, indeed encourage.

You worry greatly about your neighbors. Why is that? What happened to American society in the past 50 years to the effect that you are afraid of your neighbors keeping and bearing arms (not hunting weapons; arms)? THAT is the problem that you need to be thinking about and considering how to address.

I remember a movie narrated by General Eisenhower about a western farmboy who fed his family at the age of 12, by shooting small game. He was held up as an example to American children. The History Channel just distorted the Battle of North Point, claiming that the British commander was killed by an anonymous militia sniper. He was actually shot by two boys, *who were then shot down by the British Regulars) whose grave and statue still stand in Baltimore. Arguably they saved the Republic by that singular deed. But children with firearms! That frightens people with no internal compass, for they imagine that their neighbors likwise have no internal moral compass.

1:34 AM  
Blogger John G Galt said...

You need more imagination.

I'll give you a simple example: what would cause more terror, agony, and death:

1: Shooting a Stinger at a landing airplane?

2: Hijacking a fuel truck, sabotaging it so that gas will leak out once you flip a switch, then driving it into a crowded downtown during lunch hour?

Then there's all the fun you can have renting a private plane. What do you think would make a better "missile"? A Stinger? Or a private plane the pilot is trying to crash into another plane?

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: Anonymous
RE: Good Point

"You [Joseph Marshall] worry greatly about your neighbors. Why is that? What happened to American society in the past 50 years to the effect that you are afraid of your neighbors keeping and bearing arms (not hunting weapons; arms)?" -- Anonymous

Hadn't realized that, but I was thinking about it this morning, in a different context.

On a different blog, I recall others expressing an unnatural fear of their neighbors and especially if their neighbors had guns. Apparently the people expressing these concerns (1) did not know their neighbors and (2) less likely knew if they had guns.

These people are just plain paranoid. Why is that? Furthermore, is such behavior more likely to occur amongst the Left of the Right? And what actions do each groups take in order to alleviate their fear?



1:44 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

"Chet", of course, is a type rather than a real person. And I'm not really scared of my neighbors having guns. But the type really does exist, as a little surfing of the gun chats will show.

I do fear unsafe shooting in my state. We have a lot of simply very careless & inexperienced hunters, and our rural counties in Ohio are fairly heavily populated with dense undergrowth in woodlands--so much so that it's illegal to take deer with rifles here, only shotgun slugs are allowed. Hunting "accidents" are common in deer season.

We also have plenty of dimwits in the cities who like to pop off their 9 mils in the air on July 4 and January 1--with routine property damage and occasional wounding or death.

And of course there is the general danger of school children getting hold of a relative's gun.

But all of these are beside the point I was trying to make, and I would be willing to chalk them up as inevitible and unavoidable social costs of necessary 2nd Amendment freedom, if everybody else would admit that there ARE real social costs of it.

2:25 PM  

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