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.


Mike E said...

ok -- I'll bite.

I live in Vermont -- a state with no firearm/concealed prohibitions. I'm cool with it. I favor it. I'd pity the fool who proposed to change it.

If they tried to outlaw guns in Vermont, I'd be first in line to buy one. Shit yes.

But machine guns, my friend -- precisely the fuck why?

I'm not saying I disagree. One good reason for: I get nervous, with our whole Army overseas. Those're good folk, the soldiers. If the shit-puddle dropped tomorrow, in country, we'd be sorry they weren't around.

Just us & the predator drones? The thought gets my poor brains tizzy-wound.

Your thought on localized militia piques my interest mightily. I want one in Vermont; both to watch our own asses, and to do good things elsewhere in the World Community.

Every 18-year-old in the state will Join! And of they dont -- Draft the bastages.

But carry a machine gun? Hell no. Why in the name of a chimp's butt-cheek Would I?

Them shit's is dangerous. And seeming nothing but trouble.

We may never require someone to do that. I trust you agree?

That said, we'd be mightily obligated to protect those whom we've compelled to serve -- by means of machine gun if neccessary.

And that's one humdinger argument for it.

Case against: The world would be a better place without machine guns. What good have they ever done?

Thinks I'll go not be able to sleep 'cause I'm thinking about it for a week.

Off Colfax said...

Mike, note the words "upon request" up there. No one's saying that every single soldier out there has to come back with their guns after seperation. Just those that choose to ask for it.

Mike E said...

Dig, man. Note the words "trust you agree" in there...which, in plain English, means I Trust You Agree.

Odd response, to my overall agreeable comment on your good post.

It happens that I've a heartfelt belief in your concept of Localized Militia. I was impressed by your proposal that Localized Militia fill in gaps left by otherwise deployed National Guard units, in the event of domestic catastrophy.

Diggit, I Do.

My own vision is to train, equip & dispatch America's youth worldwide, to make shit better for our planet's fellow inhabitants. For the happy fuck of it. Kind of a World Work Party...In the Party Spirit, why not let the Good Times Roll with Boot Camp in New Orleans?

I hope you see, now, how I genuinely wish to play a little brain-badmitton on this, potentailly pivitol possibility.

That said, your return volley was about as smart as a puddle of Wal-Mart spooge. You've sold yourself short, my gonzo compadre!

One good question: to what conduct-code standards should Localized Militias adhere? I propose an international treatise...what do you think?

BTW: machine guns may legally be used to protect one's person & (worse) property? FYI: Machine Gunners aren't chicken of a metal tooth-pick in their shin.

Diggit, Archer-Boy?

Publicola said...


The website you linked to concerning militias - it's from the anti-defamation league. I'll just leave it at saying those folks see two kids with a bb gun & start yelling about Hitler Youth II programs cropping up. I wouldn't trust them.

The currently applicable federal statute concerning miltias is USC 10 311. Just saying.

The issues I'd have with your proposal are thus:

congress has no legitimate authority, nor does any state, county or city, in proscribing access to semi automatic or fully automatic weapons. so in effect you're creating an exemption for things that shouldn't need an exemption.

ditto for proscribing open or concealed carry of said arms.

If we neglect those first two points, then who exactly determines who is fit to be exempt from proscriptions on full auto or semi auto firearms? The militia ideally would oppose any tyranical move by a federal government, & in some instances state or local. Any one of those entities could deny or revoke such permission for exemptions prior to engaging in an oppresive act & negate the ability of the militia to do it's thing. So I'd have issue with finding a body I'd trust enough to make such determinations.

felonies or violent misdemeanors? so if I plead to simple assault because of my involvement in a barroom fight then I'm to be permanetly disarmed? Likewise if I commit the felony of importing a proscribed orchid I'm to be defenseless all my days? I did a rather lengthy post on why the prohibited persons idea is morally lacking. I'll sum it up by saying if we trust someone enough to let them loose in society then we have no business denying them arms. Conversely if they can't be trusted with arms then why are we letting them loose in cars & hardware stores (where all sorts of deadly tools & chemicals can be found)?

In your explanations you speak of a person being 'allowed" to have a weapon. I view that in the same light as someone saying a person is 'allowed" to go to church. It's not by the governments leave, it's a Right which in theory at leats is beyond the reach of government. Legitimate reach at least.

Finally training. as much bluster as the anti-gunners make you'd think that cops & soldiers are the onyl ones who have skill in arms. The truth is look at any firearms competition. the top competitors will be civilians, many with no military or police experience. Civilians generally are abetter trained than the cops & to a slightly lesser extent the soldiers. A lot of cops & soldiers shoot only because they have to (qualifications for example). Us civilians shoot because w elike to. More time on the range, more familiar with our weapons, etc. so I'd view the training argument as the anti-gunners disguised pleas for elitism to come into play.

Besides, a training program can be used to have a chilling effect. Look at the armed pilots program for a stellar example. I'll pass ont he training requirements because A: they tend to be pricey B: they can be used as a back door method of denying arms to the populace, especially us poor folks & C: it's not really necessary.

Oh & Mike E - ask the jews in the Warsaw ghetto uprising what good ever came of a machine gun. or the shopkeeps who foiled robberies (prior to 1934 when they weren;t taxed to an unaffordable level) or the ranchers who used them (again prior to 1934) or the countless resitance fighters trying to drive away the germans or the Japanese in the 40's. used correctly a submachine gun, a fully automatic rifle or even a belt fed machine gun can be of use to us mere civilians. The most common use would be a little old lady who uses a .380 subgun instead of a rifle or shotgun to defend her home. the .380 by itself is arguably inadequate as a fight stopper, but three of them spaced within a few inches over a few miliseconds is a different story. That's not geting into the unlikely but not implausible event that we ever need to serve as militia. I mean things on the border seem quiet now, but who knows what those damned Canadians are really up to? :P At the very least having access to a machine gun now to learn its operation (it's not quite as simple as you'd think)& manual of arms would be beneficial to anyone who ends up serving in the regular armed forces.

besides, since when is it necessary to justify the need of a particular type of firearm? what you're doing is falling into the anti-gunners hands by saying some types of arms are unsuitable or undesirable for the civilians. Then it simply becomes a game of you having to convince them of your need for that rapid fire late 19th century assault weapon (i.e. your lever gun). It's better to remain above that & simply realize that as long as I have no harmful intent then it doesn't matter if I want to carry a 20 lb 1918 BAR or a 5 lb .22LR. the ball should be in the court of anyone who wishes to proscribe an inanimate object.