Thursday, September 06, 2007

Reasoned Approach?

Over at War on Guns, I was pointed to this little bit of blather. David wrote a nice, succinct response, pointing out that there is a right way to interpret the Second Amendment. I cannot seem to be as concise.
Likewise, in one of the few thundering blunders made by the Founding Dads, we have the Second Amendment, in my humble opinion, a veritable smorgasbord of words that can be construed to arrive at any conclusion one wants. What the hell does it mean?

Arrive at any conclusion you want, huh? Well, I guess that's true. If you told me you would like a glass of water, I could arrive at the conclusion that you really wanted to be kicked in the groin, if I wanted to. Problem with coming to any conclusion you want is that you have to overlook the idea of a correct conclusion.

"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." Let's see if I can muddle through this "veritable smorgasbord" and find some meaning. Well-regulated, much to the chagrin of those who claim state control is necessary, means that the militia should remain in practice with their weapons. And even current code recognizes that the militia is comprised of all able-bodied males. The "security of a free State," of course, reminds us that we must remain ready to defend our freedom. The writings of the founding fathers should clarify that for you if you need a reminder. They were worried about home-grown tyranny more than they were about outside threats. The people, of course, refers to the populus as individuals. And, well, "shall not be infringed" means just that--the government is not to restrict the God-given right to self-defense.
If one focuses on the first two phrases, it's clear that gun ownership applies to the state's militia, probably as protection against feared federal hegemony, although it didn't work all that well in the Civil War. If one focuses on the last phrase, it's clear that the people's right to own veritable arsenals can never be withdrawn. Put the two together, and you have... mush.

First, it is never "clear" that gun ownership is to be left to the "state's militia." No, the first statements emphasize the why, not the who. The people are promised the right to keep and bear arms, not the states. There's no mush, unless you're referring to the area between your ears.

A case in D.C. may wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The District passed a law banning all hand guns except for current and former police while allowing rifles and shotguns as long as they're either "unloaded and disassembled or bound by trigger locks." An appeals court killed the law, and the city has asked the Supreme Court to hear it. Surprise, surprise, the Bush Administration opposes the law.

The gun ban in DC is ridiculous, illegal, and immoral. It was struck down legitimately, and the Supreme Court should hear the case and establish good precedent. It really doesn't matter whose administration dislikes which cities' laws, and I really think that throwing any administration into this is meant only to adjust certain perceptions by readers who may not like certain people.

Let us begin by acknowledging that the other side (whichever side you're on) has deep, powerful, often unconscious emotional reasons for their positions. And, while you're at it, admit you're in the same quandary. We pretend to argue logic and reason, but what's driving those arguments are perceived threats to important personal values. If we could talk about those values and those emotions, we'd at least make a start at having a discussion rather than a televised political debate among Presidential wannabes. We may even find that we have some of those values (self-preservation, family protection, security) in common but that the triggers for those values are different.

Not everyone "pretends" logic. In fact, many people have come to their opinions via reason and logic. Also, going to the root values and finding the differing triggers only shows whether someone uses logic. An irrational fear of an inanimate object isn't a rational response to a stimulus.
Next, how about we throw the 2nd Amendment into the trash heap of well-meant but stupid historical statements. There is no right way to interpret it, and we're just being intellectually dishonest if we pretend there is.

Again, I'll point you to the discussion above. There's a correct interpretation, and you are being intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise.
Then, given common values and no Constitutional guidelines, we seek compromise. The pro-gunners fear that banning handguns is but the first step in taking away all their guns. How are the anti-gunners going to assure them that isn't the case? (There are anti-gunners who do take that position; you probably don't want them in the room when you're negotiating.) The moderate anti-gunners focus on handguns because they're most easily misused by children, adults engaged in a free-for-all, or a simple, stupid, tragic accident. Plus, it's a lot harder to carry around a concealed shotgun than pistol.

It's always fun to get rid of pesky little things like the Bill of Rights, huh? Also, whether it's a step toward banning all guns or not, I'm not willing to give up my handguns. You see, it's exactly the ease of carry you dislike about them that makes them great for personal protection. Their misuse is a problem of education. You see, with the way people are told to hide their guns from children, kids aren't exposed to them and taught about gun safety. Don't trust the parents? Get gun safety into schools. I'll tell you what compromise I can live with here: if you don't want a handgun, don't buy one.
Except for vegetablearians, the blather about hunting is just so much, well, blather. Eat a steak you got from your local supermarket or kill a deer and eat the deer. There's no difference. I admit to being nauseated by those who trophy hunt, who simply kill for the sport of it. If that's a sport, so is smoking and drinking. But I wouldn't let my personal distaste for those chickens (like there's real danger in going after deer) interfere with my desire to strike a compromise with the pro-gunners that guarantees their right to rifles and shotguns.

And we've again pretended that guns are only used in hunting. Also, go to any college campus: drinking is a sport, and a competitive one at that (couldn't resist).
Of course, we have to address the automatic vs. semi-automatic issue as well as
the increasing number of guns that resemble Rambo's favorite wartime toys, but
once we're engaged in good faith efforts, one can hope that we can isolate the
extremists on both sides. I can't believe that every pro-gunner wants an Uzi...
or at least I hope not.

Actually, there's a large group that would get rid of semi-auto, too. And there's the fact that an automatic weapon is a better tool for tyranny prevention, bringing it more in line with the intent of the founders. Guns resembling those used by John Rambo are no more or less dangerous than wood-stocked guns with the same general mechanisms. And, no, I don't want an Uzi. I'd prefer a quality select-fire rifle to an SMG. And the Uzi is far from my first SMG choice.
See, not so hard. Sure. Actually, what's hardest is the first step, the discussions where people listen to each other with an open mind, seek areas of agreement, begin to develop a bit of trust in the good faith of their opponents.

Y'know, saying a bunch of things without any sort of debate doesn't prove that it would be easy to reach your "compromise." What's hardest for you is to admit that there may be a right side and a wrong side sometimes.

And y'know, I'll stick with the right side.


Hammer said...

These hoplophobes just don't get it.

It's not about "need" Since when have Americans been denied thing s just because they didn't need them?

Problem is, pro gunners and gun banners aren't even from the same planet.

Rob said...

Firstly, I'm never in worry of the 2nd Amendment going away. To use a phrase commonly used to joke literally, "It would take an act of Congress." There are too many people who are in support of guns to allow this to happen -- amending the Constitution is a long, drawn out process and is a pain.

Something interesting I saw on the Penn and Teller's Bullsh*t episode on guns is how they phrased the 2nd Amendment:

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.

Anti's have argued that the second comma is in there more as a 'breath pause' than for actual literary use. However, they cannot find anywhere else they would have done this in the Constitution!

However, I do think the 2nd Amendment should be changed to this:

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.

There, problem solved. It's now a more clearly separated enumeration of protected rights.

Drew said...

I'm right there with you on the idea of "need," Hammer.
As for a rewording of the Second Amendment, I'd prefer the first bit be removed entirely, if only because we've so thoroughly warped the definitions of "militia" and "free State."