Monday, February 26, 2018

Gun control, the 2nd Amendment and how to prevent the next mass shooting

by Rod Williams - After a former student went on a shooting rampage at a Parkland Florida high school leaving 17 dead, there has been a lot of attention brought to bear on how this could have happened and what to do to prevent it happening in the future. Students, politicians, pundits, celebrities and many everyday people are demanding the government “do something.” There have been renewed calls for gun control and attention given to the problem of mental illness. Unfortunately, “do something” leaves unanswered the question, “do what?” What should be done? There are things that may make people feel better, but will they really make any difference?

I would like to know what readers of this blog think about gun control and the second amendment and what if anything should be done to prevent the next mass shooting. I would welcome thoughtful comments, not just sloganeering. Please be respectful of opposing points of view.  Please leave your comment. If one would like to submit their comments for consideration as a stand alone essay, please email me the essay at along with a two-sentence bio and a head shot. I would especially welcome comments or essays that address the points I raise below.  Opposing view points are welcome.

Below are some questions I have and some thoughts.
(1) Almost everyone wants to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness. I do. A crazy person should not be allowed to have a gun but there are degrees of mentally ill. What is the standard now for being banned from getting a weapon due to being mentally ill? Does anyone know? I don’t. I am concerned about due process and stigmatizing people. If one once had a prescription for valium or xanax, should he be on the list of those prohibited from purchasing guns? Should one have to be informed he is on the do-not-sell list? Should one have the right to appeal being placed on the list? Should the list be subject to open-records? If once on the list and you get well, should you be able to get your name taken off the list. Should every ex-serviceman diagnosed with PTSD be prohibited from purchasing a weapon? Should the mentally ill be allowed to vote? Should the mentally ill be allowed to drive a car? What should be the level of being mentally ill before you lose the right to vote or the right to own a weapon?

(2) Some second amendment rights advocates take an absolutist position about any effort to control access to guns or where guns may be carried and point out the right to bear arms shall “not be infringed.” However, all rights must be interpreted and have common sense application. The first amendment is not absolute: prohibition against crying fire in a crowded theater, revealing classified information, slander laws, and copy write laws all are restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

We already have restrictions on the right to bear arms. You cannot buy a sawed off shotgun or possess a machine gun. Technically these weapons are not banned; they are taxed to the point that they are prohibitively expensive and the ownership of them must be registered. To me that appears to be a distinction without a difference. Armor piercing bullets are banned and one cannot own nuclear arms or conventional bombs or hand grenades. Since the purpose of the second amendment is to make it possible for people to stand up to a tyrannical government, should not the people have the same weapons as the government? I don’t think anyone makes that argument. I don’t see anyone trying to overturn the ban on armor piercing bullets or machine guns and I don’t see anyone advocating for the right to own nuclear weapons. If you have accepted the right of the government to effectively ban sawed off shot guns and machine guns, have you not already accepted “infringement?” Is banning bump stocks or high-capacity magazines any different from the types of bans already in place?

(3) Should you have to be age 21 to buy a weapon? Some are proposing this. You have to be age 21 to buy alcoholic beverages or cigarettes. However you can enter into a contract, such as that to take on debt and buy a car, at age 18. A college does not share an 18-year-old’s school records with the parent who is paying the bill. An 18-year-old can have an abortion or get married without their parents consent. At age 18 one can join the military. A 16-year-old can get a license to drive a car. The government allows some private sector age discrimination up until age 25. I would favor raising the voting age to 21, but the age at which one can have all of the privileges and responsibilities seems to be to be an open question open to debate. I do not see any principle involved, only a preference which society may decide.

(4) Why ban the AR-15? The AR-15 is the preferred weapon of choice of mass shooters. I am not an
expert on firearms, but as I understand it, there are other weapons even more lethal than or as lethal as the AR-15. Some use the same caliber bullet and they are also semi-automatic. Instead of the same bullet, some use a more powerful bullet. Instead of black and plastic, however. they are wood and metal-tone. Instead of looking like a military weapon, they look like hunting rifles. Does anyone really believe that banning one nomenclature of weapon will accomplish anything? If the AR-15 is banned, the AK-47 may become the mass killers weapon of choice, or the SIG 556R. Does anyone really think banning the AR-15 will accomplish anything?

(5) Many people want to not just ban the AR-15 but ban all "assault weapons."  What is an assault weapon? There is nothing that officially makes a weapon an “assault weapon.” “Assault weapon” generally defines some types of firearms that is a black plastic semi-automatic firearm with a detachable magazine and a pistol grip. It is only appearance that makes an assault weapon an assault weapon. If we made the AK-47 plastic Barbie Pink instead of black would it still be an assault weapon? If we remove the pistol grip is it still an assault weapon? What problem would banning “assault weapons” solve?

(6) Should we close the “gun-show-loop-hole?” The gun show loop hole means someone who is not a licensed gun dealers sells a gun to someone without doing a background check. To require every gun sell be accompanied by a background check would mean you could not sale a gun to your brother without doing so. Should all gun sales require a background check?

(7) Would even banning the manufacture and commercial sale of weapons make a difference? Probably some difference overtime, but I doubt it would make a lot. Three out of ten Americans own guns, but some people own a lot of guns. They have an arsenal or a gun collection depending on how
you look at it. There are more than 300 million guns in private hands in America. After each mass shooting, probably motivated by fear the government will ban guns, there has been a spike in gun sales. If new gun manufacture is banned, the guns in one’s collection will increase in value. Private gun sales will soar. Instead of walking into a gun store to buy a gun, guns will be purchased in parking lots out of a trunk. The only way that I believe a significant impact could be made on the availability of guns is to ban private ownership and confiscate weapons of those who will not voluntarily surrender them.

(8) Why not repeal the second amendment? While tweaking some of the rules about who may own a weapon and defining what weapons may be banned may withstand a constitutional challenge, to make any real impact on the deadly nature of American society would require a weapons ban. To be effective a weapons ban would not only require banning the manufacture and sale of future weapons but the confiscation of weapons currently in circulation. That can only be accomplished by amending the constitution. If you support a ban on weapons, why not work to amend the constitution?

I saw a meme posted on Facebook recently that was apparently meant to be a response to those who point out the right to bear arms is a constitutional right. The meme said, the right to own other people was once a constitutional right. First of all, that meme is incorrect. The constitution never made owning slaves a right but it did indirectly acknowledge the existence of slavery. Slavery was abolished however by the 13th amendment to the Constituting. The point is, the Constitution can be changed. Amending the Constitution is difficult but it can be done. If what you really want to do is confiscate and ban guns, then why not start the process of amending the constitution?

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