28 June, 2006

The Right To Keep Arms

With the United Nations taking up , again, the issue of small arms, I find my civil-libertarian-absolutist instincts kicking in again. (Don't blame me for that way of describing it. Blame Jeff Goldstein. He's the one that put it that way.) And, just as with my views on immigration, this one will probably alarm my more progressive readers (All three of them.) and shock my more conservative readers (All three of them.) But what is life without a little apoplexy?

Personally, I don't like guns. I find them far too noisy for my tastes. (And yes, folks. Silencers for firearms are highly regulated.) For personal defense, I much prefer a pistol bow similar to the one found here. No muss, no fuss, and no inconvenient brass laying around for the cats to play with afterwards. And there are few people that will dare to move quickly when they find themselves with a 2-foot long piece of live cold steel held to their necks. (I keep this exact one sheathed under my bed.) Yet just because I don't personally like firearms does not mean that I do not specifically endorse the right to bear arms in this country. Indeed, I would suggest that the right to bear arms has been reduced too far. But first, a history lesson.

The right to bear arms came from the heavy reliance on citizen militias during the Revolutionary War. (Or, if you are British, the Great War Of Insurrection.) That was precisely why they phrased the Second Amendment that way: 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. These days, with a standing army and both active and inactive reserve troops available, the concept of an independent militia has been degraded in the public eye to being mostly a bunch of conspiracy theory secessionist whack-jobs running around the woods of Montana and Idaho. (Albeit there actually are a number of those folks, which helps maintain the public viewpoint.) Yet militias are still active in every state and county in the country, with a good number of cities and townships also containing an, at minimum, semi-organized militia. (One of my former roommates was a member of the First City Rifle Corps in Redlands, CA, for an example. And could still be, for all I've heard from him.)

Now, it is argued that the creation of the National Guard has entirely consumed the concept of the state militias, at least in the realm of jurisprudence. (Scroll down to Sec. 3.22) Yet, for the local example, the Colorado State Constitution's Article XVII is in regards to the purportment of the state militia, not the National Guard. One major difference: In the National Guard, all officers are promoted to their positions, just as in the regular army; in the State Militia, company-level officers are elected into their positions. Note of full disclosure: There is, yet again, a ballot measure to strike Art. XVII from the Colorado Constitution. This makes the fifth effort to do so, by my count.

Yet that says nothing about the county-, city-, and township-level militias out there. And as they obviously exist, there should be some provision in gun regulations for them. So my proposals are:
  1. All members, current or former, of any branch of the United States Military, including the Coast Guard of the Department of Homeland Security, of good standing and/or honorable discharge from said service(s) shall be held exempt from laws limiting the possession of semi- and full-automatic weapons upon request.
  2. All members of organized militias, of sound moral character and current good standing as determined via the bylaws of said militias, shall be held exempt from laws limiting the possession of semi- and full-automatic weapons upon request.
  3. All citizens, regardless of military standing, of sound moral character, shall be granted, upon request and after the completion of a rigorous training and safety program, carry and/or carry-concealed weapons permits.
  4. Use of the above approved weapons upon another human being, except in cases of a)defense of self, b)defense of others, c) defense of personal property, or d) with the authorization from duly constituted authority, shall result in the permanent removal of said weapons from the person of the offender.
For the first part, anyone that goes through military training has been instructed as to the use of these forms of weapons. And if you can't trust them to be able to use it, why in God's name are we training them to do so in the first place? And should those members of the military choose to maintain their personal weapons after they complete their terms of service to the military, I see nothing wrong with it.

For the second part, this holds true with the entirety of the Second Amendment. If people wish to ban military-grade weapons from the hands of those not in the military, they should first strike down the Well-Regulated Militia Clause. Also, please note the inclusion of the term "sound moral character" above. That means, essentially, that people who have not committed a felony or violent misdemeanor. (I believe that felony tax evasion would be part of the grey area here. Jaywalking and parking tickets are well into the realm of the white area.)

For the third part, things get complicated. On the one hand, the National Rifle Association has pressed for the weakening of carry permits around the country. And, for the most part, they have gotten what they ask for. On the other hand, the Brady Campaign has a point when they talk about the statutory lack of training involved with carry permits. But for this issue, falling back on one of the bedrock principles of American justice, that of "presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law" as they say on Cops, should be the base principle for determining whether or not a person should be allowed to possess a weapon. (Again, the prionciple of sound moral character comes into play.) So should the person pass an NCIC background check, that would be considered sufficent to prove a sound moral character.

And for the fourth part... Well, this should be self-evident. Society at large has determined that hurting folks for little to zero legitimate reason is not appropriate. Period. Ad nauseum. And contrary to the time-honored traditions of shotgun weddings and the code duello, simple matters of honor are not considered legitimate reasons.

To actively defend yourself from harm? Yes.

To actively defend your family from harm? Certainly.

To defend your personal property from theft or destruction? Absolutely. (The bastage that stole my wallet in February would have found out how hard it is to run with a 12" steel shaft through one leg, for example.)

And when people who are technically civilians finds themselves under the orders of due authority (National Guard duty, for example. Indeed, if I were in the Guard command structure, I would look into using the irregular militias in cases of natural disaster as a force multiplier.) then they should be treated as they would under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Any other use of a weapon against a human being, however, would be ruled as a violation of the other person's rights. And, as such, would result in the removal of all weapons, permits, and ammunition from the offender for the remainder of their lives. (Note that hunting is exempt. Unless you're hunting humans in order to try out the new recipe you found in To Serve Man. Then you're FUBAR anyways.)

This should be the principle behind our gun control regulations. Instead, what we have is "guilty until proven innocent". And that is not how this country works.