I favor a strict constructionist view of the Second Amendment. What the Founding Fathers clearly had in mind was this: Anyone should be allowed to carry a single-shot, muzzle-loading flintlock at any time.
It’s hard to commit mass mayhem with a single-shot, muzzle-loading flintlock. After you fire one shot (two if you’re carrying a pair of pistols) you have to pause to reload. Bystanders will have plenty of time to wrestle you to the ground.
I’m sure Antonin Scalia would agree with me on this interpretation. Scalia recently went on record as asserting that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t apply to women. That’s what he said: Discrimination against women is legal, because at the time when the Fourteenth Amendment was written, the men who wrote it didn’t intend it to apply to women. The Amendment says “persons,” not “men,” so Scalia is baldly asserting that women are not persons. (Corporations, however, are persons, as determined by the Court on which Scalia sits. But that’s a topic for another time.)
His real agenda is, he’s laying the groundwork for a legal argument to deny equal protection to homosexuals. If women aren’t covered by the Fourteenth Amendment, then obviously gay people aren’t.
What he’s doing here is rampant judicial activism masquerading as its opposite, as strict constructionism. He’s attempting to mind-read the intent of the men who drafted the Fourteenth Amendment in order to construct a flimsy justification for his personal views. Obviously the same technique can be applied, with equal justice, to the Second Amendment. We mustn’t look at what it says; we must look at what the framers meant. What they meant were single-shot, muzzle-loading flintlocks.
The Second Amendment is very fuzzy. It requires interpretation. It specifies “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” but the word “arms” is not defined. Today, the category of “arms” includes tanks, land mines, shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles, and nerve gas. Does anybody seriously think ordinary people should be allowed to wander down the street carrying shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles or nerve gas grenades?
Of course not. Anybody who thinks that’s a reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment is an idiot. We don’t even need to argue with them, we can just ignore them and walk away. Quickly.
This summer, here in Livermore, we had a little kerfuffle with a few “right to carry” gun nuts, who showed up at the Peet’s coffee shop carrying handguns. Leaving aside any speculation about the mental health of these individuals — compassion and pity would be an appropriate response, it seems to me — the question naturally arises, how can we be sure that their handguns were not loaded? Answer: We can’t.
A modern handgun can be loaded by slamming a clip into it in about one second. So if some schizophrenic wacko comes into Peet’s with an unloaded handgun, he can load and fire it before you can stand up. And because it’s likely to be semi-automatic, he can fire off a dozen rounds in a few seconds, slam in another clip, and go on firing.
If I see anybody other than a police officer carrying a handgun in Livermore, I am not going to assume it’s unloaded. That’s for the police to determine. I will whip out my cell phone, call 911, and say, “Man with a gun!” Let the police pat him down and make sure he doesn’t have a clip in his pocket, and that his friends don’t have clips in their pockets that they can pass to him. If the gun-toter feels this is an unconstitutional infringement on his freedom, he can take his case to court. In the meantime, he’ll be off the streets.
Fortunately, I haven’t had to call 911 yet. Handguns are not often seen in Livermore. And that’s a good thing. We all hope to live in a society that is free of violence. We all hope to be able to walk down the street without being terrified. I’m terrified by men with guns, and any sane person will agree with me. The argument that visible guns deter violence, though beloved of conservatives, is dangerous bullshit.
Interestingly, in the 19th century many local municipalities, particularly in the West, prohibited the carrying of guns within the city limits. At the time, nobody saw a Constitutional problem. The reality was, there were a lot of guns floating around, and it was in everybody’s best interest that the guns not be used in town, where the likelihood of hitting a bystander was high. The banning of handguns only became an issue when the National Rifle Association ramped up its lobbying efforts.
The trouble with the “open carry” movement is that these sick fucks aren’t thinking it through. If they’re free to carry guns, then so are drug dealers. So are schizophrenics and the suicidally depressed. My question for my conservative friends is, do you really want to live in a town where everybody, including the mentally ill and the chronically sociopathic, is actively carrying a gun? I don’t think you do. I think if your town turned into that sort of armed camp, you’d move somewhere safer!
If you’re going to advocate a black-and-white political principle, you have to be prepared to live with the consequences. If you’re not prepared to live with the consequences, then just take a deep breath and admit that you’re wrong.
Another shaky argument in favor of individual gun ownership is that it’s a bulwark against government tyranny. This may have been true in a small, rural nation in 1800, but it isn’t true today. Today the government has overwhelming firepower at its disposal. If they want to tyrannize you, boyo, they’re going to do it. Your gun cabinet will offer you no protection whatever. (Don’t believe me? Look how well that theory worked for David Koresh and the Branch Davidians.)
The way to avoid government tyranny is to engage in the political process and make sure that the people we elect to office are kind, decent, fair, tolerant, and committed to peaceful solutions. Any politician who glorifies guns should be actively shunned and repudiated by conservatives and liberals alike.
The trouble is, that message won’t get through to the conservatives. As I’ve noted before, conservatives tend, as a group, to love violence, hatred, and fear. It wasn’t a liberal President who got us into an endless, unwinnable war in the Middle East. It was a man who got a huge charge out of spreading violence, hatred, and fear. Connect the dots.