Thursday, December 20, 2012

Drawing the Line on Gun Control

It’s pretty clear we’re at a watershed in our national debate about gun ownership. 

The majority of the people in the United States are fed up with seeing their children murdered in public places by deranged individuals using militarized firearms. Arms manufacturers, gun lobbyists and their Congressional lobbyees have discovered an unsuspected capability for silence.

Fundamentalist interpreters of the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution are forced to consider the possibility that Constitutionally guaranteed “right to bear arms” may not include the right to own semi-automatic weapons with large capacity magazines. The Constitution doesn’t specify what is meant by “arms,” just as it doesn’t define “a well organized militia.”

In the absence of Constitutional direction, Congress decided long ago that the right to bear arms does not mean the right to bear any sort of weapon manufactured by the global arms industry. Citizens of the United States already may not possess fully automatic weapons, explosives, bazookas, cannons, tanks, battleships, F-16s, nuclear weapons or B-1 bombers to deliver them. 

So the question or whether or not to have gun control is moot. Gun control is already on the books. The only thing left to discuss is the degree of gun control desired by the people. Where do we draw the line? 

As long as there are guns of any sort, deranged people will use guns to kill other people. Where do we find the risk balance in public ownership of guns between guns with legitimate civilian purpose and those that result primarily in public mayhem?

It must be noted that the children of Sandy Hook were murdered by guns that were legally and legitimately purchased on the open market. Would the outcome have been different if the only guns available to the murderer were single action, six shot revolvers and bolt action rifles? Perhaps not. Perhaps to a lesser degree. 

The possibilities must be weighed against the legitimacy of militarized weapons in the hands of the general public. Is there any overarching justification for the general public to possess semi-automatic firearms and extended capacity magazines? Can the desire for personal protection be equally served by less than semi-automatic weapons? 

Is there any reason why we cannot extend already existing gun control legislation to include all militarized weapons?