Why are we debating guns again?

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Political Commentary

Studies consistently show that violence and gun-related crimes in America are at their lowest point in decades. Furthermore, there is no reliable evidence that stricter gun laws do anything to reduce murder rates. Many argue that relaxed gun laws make us safer. Yet, here we are having a tense national debate about gun regulations, as if Congress had nothing else to do. This is the part of politics that makes me want to throw my hands up and walk away. But whether I do or not, the conversation will continue. I may as well give my perspective.

The rage against guns is primarily driven by emotions and naive assumptions. This is how we tie ourselves down with absurd laws: a tragedy occurs, people demand solutions, and it doesn’t matter whether they make sense or whether they are constitutional. Let me take on the second point first.

The full text of the Second Amendment is thus: “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.”

People have been debating the meaning of that for many decades. Anti-gun groups point to the “well-regulated militia” part to suggest that this refers only to military soldiers. But if you understand the social and historical context of the American revolution and founding, you know that interpretation doesn’t fit. The American revolution depended entirely on non-uniformed British civilians having weapons. Where do militias come from in the first place? Certainly not just the government. If that were so, an explicit limit upon government powers would not be necessary.

As with nearly everything in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment was intended to protect “the people” from their government. Peirs Morgan may have a hard time understanding it, but tyranny and civil wars will continue to happen among advanced nations in the modern world—probably not in our lifetime, but its an eventual certainty. Gun control is a slippery slope that has historically led to devastating outcomes in the long-term.

The right interpretation of the amendment is something like this: To remain free, the people must have the right to maintain sufficient defense as to constitute a threat to a potentially tyrannical government.

Some say this interpretation would imply that people could own nuclear weapons. That’s a theoretical supposition that has no bearing on reality, as no one could afford one, and no one would dare put themselves in such a standoff with the federal government—not to mention their neighbors.

Aside from constitutionality, there is the argument that more guns in a society leads to more deaths. It just doesn’t hold up to the data.

But in the name of safety and the false perception that guns are becoming a major problem, many people are just unwilling to let this one go. The debate has turned into an argument over how many bullets should be legal, how much damage they should be able to cause, and how fast someone should be able to shoot them.

Conservatives who want to protect constitutional freedoms, genuine self defense, and common sense policy are being made out as heartless jingoes.

Obama and those who share his views are suggesting that limiting guns to very basic needs for hunting and self defense is a reasonable and moderate position. But “reasonable” depends on the situation. Is ten bullets enough if I’m attacked by several people? Do I want more than a small handgun if I’m in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, or in LA during the Rodney King riots? Is it enough if my government decides I am an enemy? I have no desire to ever shoot anyone, but if my family is ever threatened, I want to have the upper hand.

The right to own the means of defense is a basic right. It is listed in the Bill of Rights immediately after the freedom of religion, speech and assembly. Even if we ignored that and simply based policy on what makes sense, we would still be better off letting responsible citizens carry weapons.

Greater oversight on background checks for criminal records or mental instability are fine with me. I think there’s common ground there, but this president has never been about common ground. He will, as usual, make this a divisive topic and demonize those who disagree with him.

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