Saturday, July 23, 2005

Guns and Government

Penn & Teller’s Bullshit recently tackled the issue of gun control. As really hard-core libertarians (betting they’re virtual anarcho-capitalists), the episode’s staunchly against infringing on the right at all.

As a minarchist, I’m on the fence. Gun control is horrible in some cases but in the case of SMGs and other heavy firearms, I gotta side with the law. While small arms and light weapons are great for defending yourself, large ones are really only useful for offense.

P&T end the program by advocating the right to overthrow the government, a very important and valuable right. I’d venture that they’d want the public to own, say, a rocket launcher because what’s a pistol going to do against a tank or a helicopter? It would be like arming our citizens with sharp sticks just in case the guy with nukes gets too bossy.

There are two things wrong with this. First, we don’t want to make it likely that a relatively small number of people can overthrow our government lest we get something even worse. Limiting the arms to small ones ensure the army is large and thus the threat of freedom is well established.

Second, in the early stages of the rebellion, the army would probably be underground to start. Since large weapons are, well, large, they aren’t very portable, concealable, autonomous and any of the other things that make a good insurgency firearm. They’re necessary in the long run, of course, but by that time the revolution would gain control of some base or factory at which that law becomes a non-issue.

One last thing. Halfway through the show we take a close look at what the Second Amendment actually says.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, should not be infringed.
I read that about fifty times before I finally figured out what it was trying to say; it’s no wonder there’s been so much debate about this topic (which is probably why the awkward wording is as such; so we would talk about it).

Here’s what I think they mean: “A well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state; thus the right of the people to keep and bear arms, should not be infringed.” In other words, we’re going to have guns, so you should have some, too. Of course, that was before SMGs.


Anonymous said...

Judging from your interpertation of the 2nd ammendment, wouldn't gun control or at least gun registration fit into libertanism? In colonial times, a militia was every able-bodied man under command of the state governor. Just as a company needs to know where its assets are, a governor needs to know who has what when/if the militia is called upon. The national guard has taken over many of the militia duties. So the question is, if the militia isn't really necessary what about its ammendment?

Anonymous said...

Two things...

I honestly believe the second amendment, as with all of the constitution, dealt with the federal government's jurisdiction over the lives of citizen's of individual states which saw themselves as essentially sovereign entities. You speak to that in the end, but I think that is really at the heart of the issue. The founders' loyalties were reserved (with the exception of the federalist factions at the time) for their respective states; and though the necessity was seen for the existance of a more consolidated and expanded government from that of the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights exists to punctuate the inherant constitutional limitations on the federal government with respect to private citizens of sovereign states. Essentially, I beleive that the founders were leaving it up to the states to decide how to deal with firearms. More, if you look at the the underpinning principle of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: essentially life, liberty, and property, it is inherantly wrong to disallow ownership by private citizens of anything that 'might' be harmful to others until it IS harmful to others. If my AR-15 sits on my shelf in my parlor because I like the way it accetuates my rug, isn't it LESS harmful than the butcher knife that is being used by my neighbor to murder his state representative? As it stands, we penalize me for the POTENTIAL use of force and take away my machine gun, but put the murderer back on the street in 20 years with butcher knives on every city block. How can we draw a line? And 'intended design' has no place in law. My AR-15 is an assault rifle, as you say, an essentially offensive weapon. But how does that make a baseball bat, or hell, a 2x4 more of a defensive weapon. If I never use my sherman tank as an offensive weapon, then it is not an offensive weapon. Again, how can you draw a line?

Second- History proves me right on this account- when people wish to do murder, gun control has NEVER been a deterrent. Whether it is gangland wars, your local psychopath, or a group of revolutionaries fighting desperately for their freedom from oppression, those who wish to use force FIND the tools of force.

Not trying to get too long winded (too late) but, isn't one of the most beautiful notions of this nation the simple fact that we shouldn't have to rely on a single, all encompassing governmental body to decide the fate of guns or a whole litany of other things for us??? The structure and spirit of The US is that every individual has inherant rights, and subsequent responsibilty for the consequences of those rights. For instance, Bob lives in Nevada, Nevada has an open carry policy for handguns. Bob has kids and decides it isn't safe for his children to be raised in that environment... Instead of throwing the weight of federal law upon individual citizens of Nevada who rightly DO want to carry handguns, Bob moves. And bob doesn't even have to move outta state- The citizens of Las Vegas have decided that handguns are not safe in the open, Bob likes this, so he moves to North Las Vegas. In an extreme, Bob can gather other people from around the US that don't like Hnadguns and create his own little community with completely legal restrictions on handguns, all without having to even write one letter to the nice men in Washington. Anyhow, I will shut up, hope I am not gumming up your blog.

John Gauthier

David said...

Gumming up my blog? HA! Considering how few comments I get, you could write a book in this section and I'd be happy to read it all.

First, Jason. Registration and background checks only make sense. I was focusing on the idea of banning weapons outright.

Now John; couple of things.
1. Of course you could kill people with all kinds of things, but it doesn't follow that they should be regulated in the same way as a weapon. A 2x4, while a potentially deadly, is primarily used for building things. Similarily, a baseball bat is used to play a boring sport. But a gun is made to kill things. That's how we draw the line (it's not perfect, as I'll get to in a moment).

Take swords. While originally designed to kill people, as an obselete weapon their main purpose is art and their function is decoration. More importantly, a sword or a pistol is great for defense, but an SMG is more appropriate for offense, something we want to prevent.

2. As an amateur interior designer and a lover a freedom, I completely relate to the asethetics example. Hell, some people even collect guns; should they be allowed to complete their collection?

At the same time, it's not totally unreasonable to put limits on collections in the name of safety. Of course, these limits should be few, far between and as a last resort, but there are similar examples. Should people be allowed to collect deadly diseases? What about functioning tanks? On that note, maybe a compromise we could explore is an automatic rifle that looks working, but misses some vital components as to render it inoperable.

3. Your point that the bad guys can get weapons whether they are legal or illegal is a fair one (and similar to people who wants drugs). But at the same time, people still kill people, whether murder's legel or illegal, too.

Yes, I'd rather punish bad acts after they're committed so we can ensure freedom, but I have to acknowledge that it would be nice if we could get the bad guys and prevent bad stuff from happening. Freedom should trump that desire but there are those activities where we have to consider, maybe that impairment on freedom is worth it.

Anonymous said...

Last time I checked, people don't get killed when the sword they were cleaning slices them in the face. Little kids don't kill their playmates when they show them Daddy's 50lb compound bow. Knives aren't used in drive by stabbings. Guns are designed to make it easy for anyone to kill lots of people. That's the problem. If you use guns as decoration, what is wrong with removing the firing pins or otherwise disabling them? You draw the line depending on how easy it is to kill an innocent person when used properly. Butcher knives are meant for immoble targets. Guns are for moving targets.

Yes if you want to kill someone, there are other ways to do it. But they tend to be messier and leave more evidence. Blades have distinctive notches and cut patterns. Bullets do have scratches specific to the gun barrel, but they often get damaged during the crime.

Actually history proves you wrong. The murder rates in countries with high gun control (Britan, Japan) are much lower than countries with low gun control (USA, South Africa). Part of the reason why gun control laws aren't as effective as they should be is because they are so different between close areas. You can buy a gun legally in one state, drive for an hour, use it in another state where the same gun would be illegal. There's a lack of consistancy from state to state that makes enforcement difficult. It's the same case with fireworks. I remember picking David up at Beloit and seeing a huge fireworks store just past the Illinois border.

Honestly I'd rather protect myself with my boken and knives than a rifle. They are much better for close quarters fighting and I'm less likely to accidently injure myself with them.

In the end, gun control has never been given a fair chance to BE a deterent.

I'll back of on my position of banning guns as soon as I hear an adequate explination to how a sniper rifle with scope makes hunting a sport.

Anonymous said...

People who favor increased gun control really should jump to the natural conclusion that what they really want is for the people of their society to be without guns. That is what it will take to even get close to what is expected from gun control laws. It is far from an ideal solution. Instead of focusing on the tools of destruction, we should be identifying causes of violence and seeking to deter and prevent those causes from occurring. We should feel sorry for those countries with harsh gun control. It should be noted that those countries still have problems with violence, crime, and murder (which may be a lower reported figure than countries with less restrictive gun laws) but are essentially crippled in their ability to defend themselves and their loved ones from would be attackers. Their "protection", however minor, from an overly oppressive government is also taken away from them. It is true that countries other than the United States that have relatively (worldwide) less restrictive gun control laws (such as South Africa) have high levels of violence and gun crime. One glaring reason for that is the amazing level of poverty. When people have no other options to support their family and/or themselves, you can be sure that they will turn to whatever means are necessary. US crime and gun violence is probably more complicated than other countries as to why they exist. However, the basic and fundamental causes are likely to be consistent with other countries with similar laws. I hope I didn't wander too much and that at least one person gets something positive out of this comment.