19 December 2012

Uncommon Commentary #313: The Knee-Jerks' Reactions

Unlike most other opinions on the issue of "gun control" (which is a misleading term, since all that a government can really do is try to control guns), this u.c. presumes neither that those responsible for the US Constitution (specifically, the Second Amendment thereto) were endowed with superhuman wisdom nor that restricting the ownership and use of firearms would have prevented the murders committed by the likes of Javon [sic] Belcher and Adam Lanza. Its purpose, moreover, is not to argue either for or against "gun control"; it is (in this first paragraph) to argue against the hypocrisy of anti-gun hotheads who pretend to have deep respect for our country's constitution yet demonstrate willingness to violate the spirit of the document, and (in the next paragraph) to explain something that seemingly almost nobody understands, i.e., the primary motivation for the creation of the Second Amendment. The laws of Connecticut (where Lanza carried out his massacre) technically comply with the Second Amendment, but going through the obligatory background check merely gives a prospective gun-buyer the privilege of possessing a gun rather than of carrying the same. Anyone who wants to have the opportunity to actually use his weapon when necessary must pay for another permit, which will entitle him to have the gun on his person but only within the borders of his own town; the purchase of yet another permit is required for crossing from, let's say, Bridgeport to Fairfield in possession of said gun, even if one lives 20 feet from the city line. Doubtless, the purpose of this web of red tape (only part of which I have described here) is to make it as difficult as is legally possible for someone to exercise his constitutional right to bear arms.
"Gun-control" advocates (even well-meaning ones) often argue that the Founding Fathers would have approved of measures to ban only certain types of arms such as assault rifles, but, in truth, they almost certainly would not have done so. The leading reason for the Second Amendment's inclusion in the Constitution is that firearms had made it possible for ordinary folk to fight authority. When the armored knight and the longbow ruled the battlefield, years of training were required for one to become an effective warrior, but the introduction of the gun changed that; henceforth, anyone who knew which end of a "hand cannon" to point at the enemy could challenge the powers that be. The backers of the Second Amendment knew that the colonists' possession of guns had made the Revolutionary War feasible, and they regarded such possession as necessary for the sake of resisting the rule of the new government, should it ever become as overweening as the British Crown allegedly had; they would have deemed it necessary for a citizen to be permitted to own not just a handgun but also true assault rifles (as opposed to the semi-automatic that Lanza used) or even machine guns, which would have availed him the maximum firepower for countering the firepower of an oppressive regime. (Indeed, there is significance in the fact that the Second Amendment does not use the word "guns"; what it gives us the right to keep and to bear are not "firearms" but simply "arms", meaning weapons in general, without limits on the potency thereof!)
The way that we wage war has changed considerably since 1789, and so, in our era of nuclear warheads and chemical weaponry, it may be that the Second Amendment to the Constitution has outlived what usefulness it had; don't think, though, that it is possible to have it both ways, viz., to restrict firearm sales or usage in any way without infringing—note the choice of this particular word, with its fine shade of meaning, for the text of the amendment—on what the Founders regarded as vital for the defense of political liberty. One cannot honestly favor any degree of "gun control" without opposing the Second Amendment.