Friday, December 14, 2012

After the Events at Sandy Hook Elementary...

...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.


David Lubar said...

Well said, Pete.

Brett Hartman said...

I agree. We need to have sensible legislation and enforcement here. But I also think we need to look beyond the gun debate and consider other causes for the increase in mass murder. For example, once a person kills others in such a savage way, his medical records should be made public. Then perhaps we will see that the upsurge may be, in part, the result of our increased use of psychotropic meds. Such meds often come with "black box" warnings about suicide. What about homicide?

Anonymous said...

1. We do not live in a democracy, we live in a federal republic.
2. You say, “…our politicians are subject to term limits.” At the federal level, only one politician is subject to term limits: the President. I support term limits for the rest of them, but evidently it’s pretty hard to get Congressmen and Senators to agree to limit their own power.
3. You seem to indicate that the only reasons for personal ownership of firearms are for hunting and personal defense. Is this truly your stand? Because the wording of the second amendment to the United States constitution does not say we have the right to own firearms for those reasons. The only reason given in the second amendment is to maintain “a well-regulated militia.” The only reason for the right to bear arms that the founding fathers wrote about in the constitution is the right to bear arms in order to form an informal army of citizens (i.e. “militia”).
4. I believe you are correct when you say private citizens should not have the right to own nuclear weapons. I agree with you that there is room for discussion. In other words, the question is: where do we draw the line?
5. This leads me to my main question: if the entire country agreed that Pete Hautman has the final say as to what guns are legal and which guns are illegal, what would you say? Where would you draw the line? This is a serious question, and I hope you answer it because I'd really like to know? Would you go by rate of fire? Would you limit magazine size? How exactly would you differentiate between legal and illegal firearms?
6. What is your plan for keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of criminals? You state at the end of your post, "...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." Are you stating that there is no way he could have obtained an illegal firearm to do this heinous deed?

Pete Hautman said...

skpicky, You make some good points, and pose some important questions. Thank you. As for your #5 question, I do not know exactly where I would draw the line, but since we live in a *sort of* democracy, I would hope it is somewhere to the "left" of the NRA, and to the "right" of the most fervent anti-gun activists. At the moment, the two sides seem to be shouting at each other across a widening chasm.

Tasseltoes said...

The real question is, why do we make it easy for psychos to get firearms? If people must own guns (and this seems to be imperative in the U.S.), then can't we at least set up some hoops to jump through (background checks, psychological evals, etc)? But no, I guess not. Nothing can possibly impinge upon the sacred right to bear arms. I am SO tired of hearing that crap.

Anonymous said...

ct. tough gun laws prove thatcriminals wiil still get guns , or psycho kids will have access to guns by stupid parents,dumb dumb dumb, raise your kids right and this crap won't be happenning.Ihave guns in my home and my boys know where they are and know not to play with them and they don't. they are now 16 & 18 and very fluente as shooters they believe in god they respect their elders and love their country,and if threatened by a stranger in our home they will end his/her existence because they were taught to do so. raise your kids rigth and pay attention to them and those around them and quite reliying on govmt and society to fix it. oh and by the way if the gov has the right to auto weapons then so should the civilian militia,thats what our forefathers were wanting with the 2nd amendment.for gods sake its that frickin easy,sheesh

joseph burlbaw said...

oh yes im sorry anonymous real name is joe burlbaw jeff city mo. wish i was as good with computers as i am at shooting. maybe someday