The National Review’s first wade into the deep waters of gun control post-Newtown is worth reading mostly for the comments. The most extreme point the anti-gun control commenters make is also the most important, that the 2nd Amendment exists to allow an armed citizenry to oppose a tyrannical government.
Clearly, semi-automatic weapons serve no valid purpose as hunting guns, and if they’re being purchased for use in target practice, it begs the question ‘Practice for what?’ As weapons of self defense against anything short of a determined tactical kidnap squad, they’re – no pun intended – overkill. Semi-automatic weapons have one, and one valid purpose only; for use if you believe you have to be prepared to move against a government grown out of control. Setting aside the practical reality that government has more guns than you do, and is better at fire fights than you are, this is your reason for owning an assault rifle – to stop the government.
And that’s the issue which will have to be addressed directly, I suspect, if meaningful gun control is to take place. First, as I understand it, the question of intent in the drafting of the 2nd Amendment is cloudy: you can make an argument that it is designed to protect against the overreach of the state, but you can also argue it’s there to protect the state. Assuming that the country concludes the 2nd Amendment is there to give peple some protection against government, a second, even harder debate will have to happen – are we willing to swap out some of this theoretical ‘protection’ to reduce the amount of gun violence?
As much as Americans, especially conservative ones, don’t like to look to other countries as examples, this may be one of the times when we need to consider the path of places like Australia, where significant limits on gun ownership were imposed in the 90s, yet democracy continues to function just fine, thank you.
What scares me is that this conversation may not be possible; reading through the National Review commentary mentioned at the top, I worry about what would happen if some – not all, but some – anti-gun law partisans were told they have to surrender some of their rights. There is no middle ground for many of these folks.
There’s also some potential irony at work: CNN reported last night (I haven’t seen the reporting replicated anywhere else) that the shooter’s mother had the weaponry she had because she wanted to be well armed in case of economic collapse, in case someone tried to attack her home.
(Update 1.27.13 – I learned a little more about guns since this post. When I wrote “Clearly, semi-automatic weapons serve no valid purpose as hunting guns…” I was thinking of the AR15, but what I didn’t understand then – and do now – is that the the AR15 is more a platform than it is a specific gun and that people do, in fact, hunt with them. As a non-shooter I still don’t get it, and am still not convinced they are legitimate hunting weapons – but the facts are what they are.)