Uncommon Sense

August 16, 2019

A New Slant on the Second Amendment Debate

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.
(Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

Quite a few people are unaware that until quite recently most people and most Supreme Court Justices viewed the Second Amendment as addressing other than an individual right. Since its ratification, Americans have been arguing over the amendment’s meaning and interpretation. One side interprets the amendment to mean it provides for collective rights (of militia members), while the opposing view is that it provides individual rights.

Until quite recently, this was considered mostly a collective right, not an individual one, with few Supreme Court cases addressing that matter (in effect, they were hiding from an definitive decision). That all changed with District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. (Yes, 2008, eleven years ago, peeps! Pay attention!) The case centered on Dick Heller, a licensed special police office in Washington, D.C., who challenged the nation’s capital’s handgun ban. For the first time, the Supreme Court ruled that despite state laws, individuals who were not part of a state militia did have the right to bear arms. As part of its ruling, the court wrote, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” (Empahsis mine. SR).

So now the Second Amendment addresses the government’s ability (inability, actually) to control an individual right. And that will be the case until a reversal of this opinion is had, so basically forever.

But, consider this. If you strip out all of the militia verbiage (which creates the collective vs. individual brouhaha) and just look at the rest of it, it says:

“. . . the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Keep and bear. “Keep” refers to people who already have an “arm” and that they are to be allowed to keep (store, house, etc.) those arms and “bear” means to carry and, in this case, use the arms involved. But it says nothing about the government infringing upon the right to acquire firearms. (None other than Antonin Scalia stated in that 2008 decision the opinion that for him, “to bear” was simple enough, meaning “to carry.” And “arms” were just weapons. He conceded that there was an idiom, “to bear arms,” which meant to belong to an organized military force. But this was only a possible import of the phrase, not its core meaning. So, while establishing this new individual right, he also established with the terms “keep” and “bear” were in this amendment.)

So, while the government cannot infringe the right to keep and bear arms, it is free to legislate who can acquire arms and for what purposes. We can limit what arms can be acquired, how many, how much ammunition, etc. and the conditions that need to be met to be able to acquire them, which includes having a license, passing a training program, being sane, providing insurance against criminal use, etc.

Well, what do you think?

November 6, 2017

More NRA Bullshit

The latest mass shooting (in a Texas church), we are told by an NRA representative, is not about “the guns” but about mental health.

Certainly, imagine how much more destruction he could have spread had he been armed with a rolling pin, or even a steak knife. We should bless our lucky stars he only had guns.

Oh, the NRA spokesman? That would be Donald J. Trump, sitting POTUS. Just how many strikes do you get before you are out in this game?

April 25, 2014

Amend the Second Amendment?

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has come up with a new book, containing six ideas of how to amend the U.S. Constitution. The one that drew my attention most was he wanted to change the Second Amendment (I guess you can you amend an amendment) to read thus (the new words in italics):

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed.

And as the Justice points out, up until very recently the Second Amendment of the Constitution was interpreted by the Supreme Court as a collective right and not an individual right. When the Court changed its tune is when we got into our current “gun nuts in charge” phase.

I have no doubt that the learned Justice knows more about the law than do I but I find this puzzling. First it would throw gun control basically back onto the states or it would allow the federal government to regulate the heck out of the use of firearms by individuals.

Having the states more in charge of gun control would result in a huge variety of regulations from state to state. We have some of that now; for example, consider Georgia’s new law that makes it okay to take concealed guns into bars, and airports, and churches, and public buildings so you can defend yourself and your property. Step across the state line, though, and you may just get arrested for the same behavior. So, it might be better to have consistent laws by having the federal government create the laws, the federal government being an arm of the people of all of the states.

I see only one problem with Justice Stevens’ idea. He offers no definition of “militia.” As soon as this amendment were enacted, the number of militias would skyrocket as gun nuts from all over would be seeking immunity from federal gun control laws by joining one. I am sure that the NRA would become the sponsor of a militia in each of the fifty states in a hot minute.

I think the end result is better served through a political process. Currently the radical NRA policies carry political clout not because of the many rabid members of the NRA who vote, but because of the amount of money the NRA gathers from the shooting sports industry to shill (aka lobby) for them. In this manner, only the NRA has “dirty hands” and not the gun and ammunition manufacturers. Ex-NY Governor Bloomberg is forming an organization to counter the NRA’s political money. If enough people donate, Mr. Bloomberg is donating $50 million as seed money, it may offset much of the power the NRA currently wields.

In addition, if the radical conservative majority on the Supreme Court can be broken, we may get the court to reverse its radical shifts in judgments back to what they were before they went collectively insane (corporations are people, campaign finance limitations restrict free speech, the second amendment is an individual right, etc.)

So, politics may be a better way out than trying to amend the Constitution in a way that will be ineffectual and hence convince people that the status quo can’t be changed.

February 26, 2014

NRA: “Mission Accomplished!”

This is the title and first paragraph of a recent NRA press release:
U.S. Firearm Production Sets Record in 2012: AR-15 Production Up Over 100%
“The number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. for sale to American customers hit an all-time high in 2012, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (BATFE) new Firearms Manufacturers and Export Report. American firearm manufacturers produced roughly 8.3 million firearms for sale in the U.S., a new record, up 33 percent from the 6.2 million produced for American customers in 2011.”

Wikipedia says this about the AR-15:
“The AR-15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm/.223-caliber, magazine-fed, air cooled rifle with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation or long/short stroke piston operation. It has been produced in many different versions, including numerous semi-automatic and selective fire variants. It is manufactured with extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials.
“The AR-15 was first built by ArmaLite as a small arms rifle for the United States armed forces. Because of financial problems, ArmaLite sold the AR-15 design to Colt. After modifications (most notably the relocation of the charging handle from under the carrying handle like the AR-10 to the rear of the receiver), the new redesigned rifle was subsequently adopted as the M16 rifle. Colt then started selling the semi-automatic version of the M16 rifle as the Colt AR-15 for civilian sales in 1963 and the term has been used to refer to semiautomatic-only versions of the rifle since then. Although the name “AR-15” remains a Colt registered trademark, variants of the firearm are independently made, modified and sold under various names by multiple manufacturers.”

The phrase “adopted as the M16 rifle” means adopted by the U.S. Military. In other words, this is not a hunting weapon or a self-defense weapon, this is a weapon designed to kill a great many people as fast as possible, a military weapon. The rate of fire of the fully-automatic AR-15 was 800 rounds/min. The rate of fire of the semi-automatic version, the only version legal in the U.S., is indeterminant because it depends on how fast you can pull the trigger. Some say it is as low as 12-15 rounds per minute and that if you go faster, the barrel will overheat and the gun will jam. This seems a preposterous claim for a weapon designed to shoot 800 rounds/min. Also, a technique called “bump firing,” was devised that, while inaccurate, allows the trigger to be pulled at a very fast rate.

To make matters worse, while the interior parts of the commercial AR-15 have been redesigned so that the fully automatic parts from a military AR-15 cannot be just dropped in, consider this comment from January 2013 (Source: This Simple, Legal Add-On Lets an AR-15 Rifle Fire 900 Rounds Per Minute, Slate.com, 1-7-13):
“. . . a company called Slide Fire Solutions introduced a replacement rifle stock called the SSAR-15 that, for $369, allows you to bump fire your AR-15-style rifle from your shoulder while still retaining accuracy and control. The stock, in the simplest terms, is the part of the rifle you hold and brace against your shoulder. According to the Slide Fire website, “unlike traditional bump firing, the Slidestock allows the shooter to properly hold the firearm and maintain complete control at all times. As a result of the forward movement required to discharge each round, the shooter naturally corrects their point-of-aim for each shot and prevents recoil from pushing the firearm’s muzzle upward in an unsafe direction.” Or, as the subhed more concisely puts it, the SSAR-15 lets a shooter “unleash 100 rounds, in 7 seconds.” A product review at a site called Guns America notes that the SSAR-15 “installs in one minute with no special skills.”

Ah, that’s more like it. The NRA is crowing about record sales of a rifle that for a fraction of its original purchase price can be converted in just a few minutes to a fully automatic weapon capable of killing hundreds of people in just seconds.

Why would anyone think this was a good idea?

Ah, according to the Christian Science Monitor, “The estimated economic impact of the US firearms industry in 2012 was $31.8 billion, according to data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. That’s up from $27.8 billion in 2009.” You can always determine the “whys” of American politics by following the money.

The NRA is a shill for the U.S. firearm manufacturers. When they make money, the NRA makes money. The next time you hear of a mass murder, remember it was not a crime of passion, but of greed.

Postscript Many people claim being able to fire automatic rifles is great fun. I agree. I have done so myself. This can be enjoyed by one and all at licensed establishments designed for such pleasures. There is no need for individuals to own such weapons.

April 22, 2013

An Experiment in Truth Telling

The drafters of the Constitution had a soft spot for “the press,” the printing press that is. The publication of the debates surrounding revolution and the formation of our federal government were important, sure, but the founders felt that if the people were to truly rule, it was critical that they be informed and that meant a press free from government control.

Fast forward to today with our corporate news media, held in the hands of extremely few people and we have grave concerns over the independence of such news agencies. We do not have government controlled media, but we have corporate controlled media which is hand in glove with corporate controlled government.

I have an experiment that may somewhat redeem these news conduits. In the 60’s and 70’s it was considered a national disgrace that 50,000+ people died every year in auto accidents. Measures were taken so that in recent years, that number has dipped to the low 30,000s even though the population has doubled since the 1960’s.

There was a debate over whether we should require seat belts to be installed in all cars! This was without a requirement that people actually wear them! It was later, much later, that states passed mandatory seatbelt laws requiring people to wear them. I remember one hearing in Congress in which the top U.S. automakers said it was economically impossible if not physically impossible to create a 5 mph bumper on a car. This testimony was followed by a lone inventor who made such a thing for $50. The Congress passed a law requiring bumpers that would sustain a 5 mph collision and voila it happened. (This requirement was eased, of course, under the Bush administration.)

We can and do act.

So, now we have 30,000+ gun deaths per year and our response is “Meh.”

So, let’s do an experiment in public policy. Let’s report each gun death in our communities. Each and every damned homicide, suicide, massacre, accident, etc. On the front page of newspapers and, maybe, like the PBS News Hour has done with war deaths, a weekly or daily scroll on their prime news venues.

Let’s report the truth about gun deaths and see if that informs the people.

If you think this can’t have any effect, compare the news coverage of the Viet Nam War with that of the Gulf Wars. During the Viet Nam War, reporters went around willy-nilly reporting the news. When people realized what was going on from those news reports, the anti-war movement exploded in size. During the Gulf Wars, the media were managed like a Broadway show. Reporters had to be “embedded” with a unit, that is placed where the military wanted them. The military had almost daily dog and pony shows. The media were packaged, managed, and controlled.

Let’s free up the media and have them do their job—report the news. When somebody gets killed with a gun, that is news that affects public policy, not just some stale statistic.

January 20, 2013

More on Gun Control Idiocy

A local newspaper columnist commented today that “We learned from the 1994 assault weapons ban that modest gun control measures don’t work.”

Say what? This guy seems to think that a piece of legislation with more wholes in it than a dozen wheels of Swiss cheese not having a desired effect proves something.

He must believe that the word “ban” really meant what it said. I also presume, from this demonstration of his thinking, that he assumes that people stopped drinking during Prohibition.

What ever happened to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?” The 1994 assault weapons ban had little effect on murders and suicides, that is true, but why did it have little effect? Could it be that all of the hundreds of millions of weapons already owned were grandfathered in? Did the “ban” really reduce the numbers of such or similar weapons in circulation or did they actually expand? I remember that in California it was hard getting such weapons because people bought them by the pallet load because “the ban was coming, the ban was coming!” Delays in the implementation of the law allowed people to buy up all kinds of weapons so they could be grandfathered in with all of the other “previously purchased” guns.

If the “ban” effectively caused an increase in the numbers of such weapons being available, they why would we have expected any positive effect whatsoever?

We must instead go farther and ask questions like why are detachable magazines needed at all? A hunter can load several to many rounds into a tubular magazine of a gun and have plenty of bullets to fire off, certainly as many as are needed to hunt. In California, fowl hunters were only allowed three shells in their shotguns at a time; that didn’t stop any of the bird hunters that I could tell. Banning high capacity magazines makes excellent sense, but what about banning all magazines?

If one of these gun psychos had to stop and slide cartridges into his gun one at a time to reload just like in the days of the wild, wild West, would that not give a chance for people to get away or someone to tackle the asshole, as was the shooter of Gabby Gifford? Even the NRA assholes should like that because it gives people a chance to return fire.

Could we not have authorized gun ranges where people could rent semi-auto and automatic guns to fire off . . . continuously, should they want to? (There is one of these in Nevada I know of.) Why is it necessary to own such things and keep them around the house?

I think the line between somebody’s recreation or confiscation fantasies and our dead babies needs a much closer look.

Afterward And for those of you who think I am anti-gun, I have gone to indoor ranges numerous times and rented pistols to the end of banging away contentedly. Not only is it great fun, but I get to shoot different guns each time I go and it costs way less that if I were to buy my own guns . . . and gun safe . . . and gun tools . . . and trigger locks . . . and pistol cases . . . and cleaning kits . . . and ammunition . . . way less.

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