Monday, December 17, 2012

Love Your Gun More Than The Children

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.
--Second Amendment, United States Constitution

One of my neighbors asked me to go out on a walk through the salt marshes on the border between Hampton and Hampton Falls, where the Seabrook Nuclear plant sits. He had planned an early morning excursion, just after sunrise, and he planned to bring his dog and his rifle. 

"You can shoot a gun there?" I asked amazed. "There're houses along the salt marshes and there's a road.
"Yeah, it's fine," he told me. "It's legal."
I declined the offer.

Now an article in today's New York Times comes the report that the Newtown police commission tried to get an ordinance passed to limit shooting of guns to 500 feet from occupied buildings. It was defeated. People in Newtown had disturbed their neighbors by firing weapons which sounded like machine guns from morning into the night. There was no ordinance to prevent it.  Mary Ann Jacob, the librarian at Sand Hook Elementary who saved many lives, had been part of the petition to enhance the ordinance. "Right now," she had testified, "If you're standing on your property and my house is 20 feet away, you can shoot." 
One of the incidents which prompted calls for the ordinance was gun fire in a wooded area on Cold Spring Road, right across from an elementary school,  A police commission member testified, "I've hunted for many years, but the police were getting complaints of shooting in the morning, in the evening and of people shooting at propane gas tanks just to see them explode."

The meetings to consider the new ordinances occurred last August and the representative of the National Shooting Sports Federation said there was greater danger of swimming accidents than shooting accidents. "This is a freedom that should never be taken away. Teach kids to hunt, you will never have to hunt your kids."

Say what? Hunt your kids? Catchy, though.

Another Newtown resident, owner of a shooting range, Scott Ostrosky, said, "Guns are why we're free in this country." 

Funny, I would have thought the Constitution is why we are free, but then again the Constitution as interpreted by Justice Antonin Scalia and his fellow "orginalists"  the "strict constructionists" may give me pause.

I have read the arguments about the history of the 2nd amendment, from its creation in the 18th century, and the origins of the concerns which led to its inclusion in the Bill of Rights. Academics  date the idea of a free society requiring an armed citizenry back to the 1600's in England, when a Catholic king tried to disarm Protestants, but all that sounds like academic masturbation to me. 

The fact is, as I read the Constitution, correct me if I'm wrong, but the 2nd amendment is the only place in the entire document where the founding fathers actually tell you the reason they grant a right--the right to keep and bear arms is there because we want to be sure militias function to preserve a free state.  They did not have a standing army, just militias and there was no defense budget then, so if you wanted a militia you had to have private citizens buy their own guns for that purpose. 

But as Antonin Scalia has it: 
Nowhere else in the Constitution does a "right" attributed to "the people" refer to anything other than an individual right. What is more, in all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention "the people," the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset.

Well, that's very nifty, Mr. Scalia, but completely irrelevant and immaterial. We are talking about a unique set of sentences, one in which the authors tell you why they are providing a right and saying, quite clearly, it's for one purpose and one purpose only, and they define the right as belonging to a specific category of person--that person who would be part of a militia to protect a free state, not to protect himself personally.

Next to "obfuscation" in the dictionary, place a photograph of Mr. Scalia. Either the man is being willfully blind, or he simply has not read the relevant amendment, or if he has read it, he has not understood plain speech.

What you really have to wonder about is how many of our neighbors and citizens so adore blowing up propane tanks and firing weapons they are willing to endure a quarterly blood letting of six year olds so they can thrill to the excitement of shooting their guns.

They are correct, that simply passing a law against AR-15 guns, the attack rifle favorite of both mass killers and gun enthusiasts who simply love blowing things away, will not prevent the next maniac from getting his hands on one, on his mother's or his brother's or his friend's gun.  To clamp down on this exceptional sort of disease event you'd need to do more than just make an antibiotic available; you'd need public health measures to identify the likely perpetrators, institutions to confine them,  security cameras to watch for them approaching schools and day care centers. And even then, there will be "events." 

I do not believe, at least not yet, that passing a single law would prevent rampages by maniacs. But just looking at who is on the gun side of this debate, I'm prepared to vote with Maud--screw the bastards. Make 'em all illegal.


  1. Mad Dog,
    Check out an article on Slate (just google Slate Australia 1996 gun control)about Australia's move to tighten gun control in 1996 after a decade of mass murders and then one very deadly incident in '96 at which point they were moved to action. They had a buy back program for assault weapons that did have some success (600,000 which sounds like a lot until I thought of the number of assault weapons we probably have out there but it's still better than having the 600,000 still floating around). They were also able to see a reduction in murder and suicide rates. I think you'll find it interesting...

  2. Maud,

    Just read it on Huff Post. Your'e right. It's encouraging.
    Australia, of course, is not America, but it's hopeful.
    Today, I talked to a woman, who is due with her second child in April. Her boyfriend, the father, owns many guns and his reaction to Newtown was "I've got to get an AR-15. Obama's going to try to shut us down." Why does he feel he needs an AR-15? Because they will stop him from getting one. As Gary Hart said in his piece on the Huff Post, when you get into this type of questioning with gun enthusiasts, you eventually get to black helicopters and world government and these guys (and women) will be there to fight them on beaches and in the fields, after the US armed forces are defeated. It's sort of video game fantasy, but there must be millions out there who engage in this. They are not the ones likely to go out and mow down children, but they are the ones standing in the way of taking the guns out of the hands of the nuts.
    Is this a weird country, or what?
    Not Australia. Not Norway (which had a problem child of its own, remember.) Not England. Not Ireland. Not Palestine (thank God.) But very weird.
    Present company (you, me and Anonymous excepted.)

    Mad Dog

  3. Mad Dog,
    I missed your point about Norway initially, sorry. I remembered that especially deadly mass murder occurred at a camp on an island but forgot it was Norway-guess I'm not doing a good job keeping all the mass killings straight.

    It is scary that the boyfriend of the woman you spoke with would take away from the CT tragedy that it was time to get a new gun. You're right though, he is the perfect example of the opposition to change and better gun control. On the other hand, a couple of my friends, male and Republican, have strongly stated that they support tighter restrictions-so a glimmer of hope. Maybe there are more of them out there than boyfriends who want new AR-15's. The FiveThirtyEight blog has some interesting stats on gun ownership today-did you see it? Lastly, I'm encouraged that you don't think me, you and Anonymous are weird...

  4. Maud,

    You have Republican friends?

    Mad Dog

  5. Mad Dog,
    Yes, an over abundance of them actually-if politics comes up it's usually me against the rest of the table...