The two most divisive issues in America are guns and abortion, opinions that are largely immutable. I generally try to avoid discussing either one because it doesn’t accomplish much if anything except to alienate people with opposing viewpoints. I would like to offer some observations, though, about guns in light of the Newtown, CT and other mass murder shootings over the past couple of years. Let me say outright that I am not for outlawing the possession of firearms for self-defense. But a logical question that follows is what kind of firearm should a citizen be allowed to own for his own protection and sport. The Supreme Court has upheld the right to own a gun, but the two recent opinions also acknowledged that the state had an interest in regulating guns. How far regulating can go has not yet been defined by the courts, but over time you can be sure that the law in this area will evolve.
The law today requires background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a firearm from a dealer. The big loophole is that there is no background check required for individual sales from one person to another, or if you buy a gun at one of the many gun shows around the country. Then there are the firearms that are stolen from people who legitimately possess them. Let some determined criminals find out that you have a stash of weapons and there is a good chance your home will be burglarized. I’ve heard arguments that if there had been armed teachers, administrators and janitors at Sandy Hook, maybe the killer would have been gunned down before he could have killed anyone, or at least not killed as many. I have to wonder if a teacher carrying a gun into school could always ensure that the gun was in a safe place at all times so that a curious student wouldn’t find it. It has astounded me that people who have permits to carry guns have been arrested at airports, and invariably they say the same thing, that they forgot that it was in their briefcase or handbag. My background and training with guns includes knowing at all times where your weapon is. No exceptions.
A killer hell bent on committing mass murder doesn’t have to go inside a school or other building to do it if he knows that people might be armed. He can wait for the school busses to arrive, and from a reasonable distance with an assault weapon on automatic he can take out quite a few people before anyone that had a gun would get a drop on him. Even then the guy with the automatic rifle is better situated to take out the guy who responds with a handgun. How often do we hear that we need more cops in the schools? I won’t argue that it might help, but in light of diminishing school budgets and the unwillingness of taxpayers to pony up more money, who is going to pay for it? Another thing to consider is that several hundred cops are killed a year with guns. And cops are trained not only in a variety of firearms, but also in self-defense tactics against an armed gunmen. I learned during extensive weapons training that action is faster than reaction, and the gunman who gets the drop on a cop, who ambushes him is the one who will probably complete his mission. Then there is the “suicide by cop.” How often are mass murderers either killed by police or commit suicide themselves once their damage is done? I don’t have the stats, but I feel confident that the number is high.
Another question that demands an intelligent response is why the Congress failed to ban Teflon bullets when it had a chance? These bullets pierce the protective vests that police officers wear. They have no legitimate purpose that I can think of such as for hunting or target practice. Pure and simple, these bullets are cop killers. After the Oklahoma City bombing a bill was introduced that would require microscopic identification numbers in the manufacture of all explosives. This too was defeated by Congress. How would such a requirement infringe on one’s second amendment rights or privacy? We register a myriad of things in our daily lives with no real concerns, but something as dangerous as dynamite causes concern with certain segments if a law were to require the ability to trace the manufacturer and purchaser.
Federal law imposes a lifetime ban on all convicted felons from possessing a firearm. How about the white collar criminal that never once manifested a propensity for violence? Shouldn’t this category of person be allowed to protect themselves? Another concern should be that there are so many untrained owners of guns who carry them in public. Do they know the capability of the weapon they carry? If they intervene in a robbery would they know if the bullet in that gun might easily pass through a perpetrator and kill or maim a bystander? Are they aware of the civil liability if they shoot and miss the bad guy and hit an innocent? Lots of questions.
Lastly, have the privacy issues been considered? Every time we have a shooting incident there is a call for more metal detectors, more cops, more screening, tighter security, more cameras (which requires someone(s) to monitor), changed traffic patterns, no parking zones, and on and on. Some of the more serious Second Amendment defenders seem willing to trade their privacy in order to keep their weapons. Perhaps we should have that debate. But for sure we have given up a lot. Those of us who have been around for a while remember the days or walking right up to an airplane with ticket in hand. Everyone knows that today’s airport experience doesn’t even resemble those simpler times, how demeaning it has become for those who have physical limitations among others. Try to gently explain something to a TSA employee and you could land you in jail. That part of your First Amendment is history. And once we give up a piece of our privacy, we can be certain that it will never return.
These issues are complicated, and taking an all or nothing position on either side will accomplish nothing. All of us need to review and reexamine the different issues that are part of a fabric with a lot of threads overlapping and running in different directions.