...I find myself unable to think about anything else. Hence, this post.
I enjoy shooting guns. I have owned handguns, shotguns, and rifles. I know that most gun owners are good, responsible people. I believe that hunting wild animals for food is moral, so long as it is done safely and the animal population is not endangered. I believe that target shooting in its many fascinating variations is an honorable sport.
Furthermore, I’m certain I would enjoy firing a .50 caliber machine gun, a bazooka, an RPG, or a MAC-10. I would also enjoy driving a Bugatti Veyron 250 miles per hour down Interstate 94, and it would be a rare thrill to drive an M1 Abrams tank through, say, the wall of a K-Mart store. But these activities are illegal in our country, and nearly everyone thinks that’s a good thing.
Back in my Ayn Rand-tainted youth, I believed that individual freedom trumped all other concerns. I no longer believe this. I believe that the greater good can sometimes be achieved by curtailing the rights of individuals, and that our “rights” are not immutable. I do not trust individuals to wield great power wisely. This is why we thrive as a democracy, and why our politicians are subject to term limits. It is why monopolies are not tolerated, and why it is illegal for me to possess a nuclear weapon.
Fully automatic guns (“machine guns”) were outlawed in the U.S. back in 1934. An automatic weapon in the hands of an individual was deemed an unacceptable risk to the safety and well-being of our citizens and law enforcement personnel.
The relatively bulky and inaccurate Thompson submachine gun that triggered that 1934 legislation is, by today’s standards, no more dangerous than the smaller, lighter, faster, and more accurate semi-automatic weapons available over the counter—legally—at any gun shop today.
You and I cannot legally own or operate a functional machine gun. However, we can buy and fire semi-automatic rifles and handguns with large capacity magazines. The Glock and Sig Sauer handguns used by the Sandy Hook shooter are capable of firing 10 rounds per second, and will hold 17 and 15 rounds respectively. The .223 Bushmaster assault rifle will accept a sixty round clip. And all three of those weapons can be reloaded in seconds.
The NRA and its supporters want to keep such high-capacity semi-auto weapons legal. Their argument, based on the Second Amendment, is that Americans have the “right to bear arms.” But despite the Second Amendment, the NRA does not advocate for individual ownership of RPGs or tactical nukes, so I have to believe there is room for discussion.
In the U.S. there are hundreds of millions of guns in private hands. That will change slowly—but in what direction? But isn’t there a point at which the number of guns becomes excessive? And do we really need or want guns that have firepower far beyond what is required for hunting or personal defense? I don’t think so. We didn’t need them in 1791, and I don’t think need them now.
The shootings in Connecticut are the most recent in a long list of similar massacres. It seems clear that the shooter was deranged, and even if more restrictive gun laws had been in place, he might still have killed a number of innocent people.
But I bet it wouldn’t have been quite so many.