Wednesday, September 14, 2011
A Letter to a Friend about Gun Control
"I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kind of lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and could blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?" –Dirty Harry Callahan
I worked as a reserve police officer, usually late at night to early morning, drank a lot of steaming black coffee, and taught high school students during the day a long time ago. I have always believed in non-profitable and stressful public service. Furthermore, I have always believed in the theories of deterrence and retributive justice. I am for self-defense (I used to prefer Tae Kwon-do in my younger years, but I’m getting too old; besides, someone with a gun has a distinct advantage).
The 2nd amendment – established in 1791 – has been debated and re-interpreted quite often. The question disputed about gun control is whether it is a collective or individual right to own a weapon.
According to Silveira v. Lockyer (2002), a federal appeals court in California ruled that the 2nd Amendment does not protect individuals' right to possess firearms but does protect states' rights to protect themselves. (This case was essentially a ban on assault weapons). In a subsequent court case, District of Columbia v. Heller (2007), the federal appeals court ruled that the District of Columbia law prohibiting handguns violated the individual’s right to possess firearms under the 2nd amendment. The Supreme Court granted certiorari (a writ issued by a higher court to obtain records on a case from a lower court so that the case can be reviewed), nevertheless.
So what rights does the 2nd amendment protect? According to Supreme Court Justice Joseph Scalia, the 2nd amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm “unconnected with service in a militia” and to use that weapon for traditionally “lawful purposes,” such as self-defense within the home.
I can imagine that many people believe that their right to "keep and bear arms" is a sure-fire method for impeding immediate bodily harm and robbery. However, the problem is that Weapons of "Individual" Destruction (WID) and their facile availability are also in the hands of felons and the mentally impaired (the borderline deficient, morons, imbeciles, and idiots); the substance-induced (alcoholics and drug addicts); the schizophrenic, psychotic, paranoid, delusional, depressive, anti-social, and other disturbed personalities. There's nothing you or I can do to change the depraved genetic pre-dispositions, or the unfortunate environmental influences of mentally-ill people, especially those who are armed with WIDs.
Thus, I am going to view the 2nd amendment's declaration that “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” as a guaranteed right of the State as well as an assured right of an individual. Moreover, although I agree with “gun control legislation [that mandates] prohibitions on concealed weapons and possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, [and] laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, and laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms… [and laws] prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons [such as assault weapons (their ban expired in 2004)]” (District of Columbia v. Heller – Case Brief Summary), gun control legislation will not deter the everyday robber or the potentially-deranged terrorist from obtaining illegal weapons, despite the government's feeble attempt to require states to automate a list of past felons and the mentally ill in the federal database (after the carnage at Virginia Tech). Why? It is impossible to predict who will become the next assassin.