Over the years, and especially recently, I have by default become somewhat of an apologist for the right to keep and bear arms. This is probably due to the fact that I exercise that right myself, and I'm very much aware of how difficult it is to do so legally these days. I've found that there are a lot of people out there with all sorts of misconceptions about guns themselves, the rights enshrined in the second amendment, and especially about existing gun laws (there are currently over 20,000 on the books). In attempting to combat some of these misconceptions, I've been a participant in no small number of internet debates wherein I am often asked and presented with a very similar set of questions and objections. Therefore, in order to consolidate some of the information I have gathered and tried to disseminate, I have elected to begin work on this page of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Frequently Raised Objections (FRO) regarding guns and our rights related to them.
FAQ and FRO
FAQ - Frequently Asked Question (marked with a Q)
FRO - Frequently Raised Objection (marked with an O)
"Gun Rights" vs. "Self-Defense Rights"
I'm not going to use the term "gun rights" on this page. If you see it, it will most likely be in the context of a quotation of some source other than myself. "Gun Rights" is a term coined by people who wish to take them away, and it makes it sound like guns themselves have the rights. My belief is that we're talking about the basic human and natural right of self-defense - the right of a victim to respond to an attacker with deadly force to defend life or prevent great bodily harm or significant property loss.
Another term coined by the same people who wish to eliminate self-defense rights. Unfortunately, this term has made it into law, so its use will be necessary at some point. However, I will endeavor to make a distinction between an ACTUAL assault weapon versus a SO-CALLED "assault weapon." Here's what each of those means:
An ACTUAL assault weapon is a rifle or pistol that has the capability to fire more than a single round with one trigger pull. Most of these have a switch on them that allows the user to select between the following:
- Safe - will not fire at all
- Semi-automatic - one round per trigger pull, must release the trigger and pull it again for the next shot
- Fully automatic - the gun will continue firing as long as the user keeps the trigger pulled
- Burst mode - the gun will fire up to three shots per trigger pull, must release the trigger after three. Five it shall not shoot, nor shall it shoot two, except it then proceedeth unto three. Five is right out! [oh, come on, that's funny and you know it!]
A SO-CALLED "assault weapon" as defined in most jurisdictions is a rifle or pistol that can be modeled to look like certain military-issued models (but doesn't have to be), but its switch is only capable of selecting between safe and semi-automatic. The differences between so-called "assault weapons" and ordinary semi-automatic rifles are very often cosmetic in nature and make no real difference in the functionality of the weapon. The term is used by the gun-ban crowd to make them sound scary and generate fear in the minds of the ignorant.
Prior Restraint is a legal term. It basically means that a person is, by default, prohibited from something unless government permission is granted. For example, courts have ruled that the government cannot require a license to exercise free speech, to publish a newspaper or blog, practice one's religion, etc.. In general, the rights granted in the Bill of Rights have been interpreted as not subject to prior restraint - except the rights enshrined in the Second Amendment, that is.
Work In Progress
This page is a work in progress. I will probably be updating it frequently as I think of more Qs and Os to address. If you have any, please feel free to submit them as comments, and I shall do my best to address them and explain my position. The only thing I ask is that if you're going to argue, do it civilly .. don't be a jerk or resort to name-calling.
And Now, The Content
|Homage to xkcd.com (where I blatantly stole the images) and |
Serenity (where I blatantly stole the dialog).
"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."For a better expression of where I'm coming from on the Second Amendment (2A hereafter), please check out this article. The TL;DR version is that the 2A was intended to allow the civilian population the same arms as their government, including actual assault weapons, even things like RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) launchers, cannons, etc.
This is a HUMAN RIGHTS Issue
Inextricably tied to this right of self-defense, therefore, is the right to own and have at one's disposal the means of effective self-defense. In our day and age, that means firearms. A couple hundred years ago, that meant swords. Perhaps in the future we'll be talking about hand-held particle accelerators, phasers or disruptors. Whatever the means, the right of self-defense and self-preservation should remain un-tarnished.
Therefore, I believe self-defense, and consequently the right to keep and bear arms, are essential human rights that are among those self-evidently endowed to every human by his Creator. If you don't believe in a creator, then substitute something else in there that has the same effect for you.
"A free people claim their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as a gift from their chief magistrate."FAQs and FROs
-- Thomas Jefferson
How many guns do you have? What kinds?
Several. A few rifles, some shotguns, some pistols. My collection is actually pretty small compared to a lot of people's. I'm being deliberately vague here because I honestly don't want to publish exactly how many I have in case someone comes looking for them. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I prefer to think of it as being cautious. However, if you read on, you might be able to glean a little more information, but not all. Sorry .. if I didn't feel like my own government was so overtly hostile to civilian gun ownership in the first place, I would be a little more forthcoming.Q:
Isn't it too easy to get a gun these days? Can't you just walk up to the counter and buy one?A:
Actually, no, it's not that easy. The process varies depending on where you live. In some states and jurisdictions, it's all but impossible (DC, CA, IL, NY, NJ, etc.). In many states there are waiting periods, and minimally you have to pass a federal background check for every single transfer. If you believe it's "too easy" to get a gun these days, then I challenge you to try to get one yourself and find out. Once you do, now try getting a license to carry it outside your home, because that's even harder to do legally.Q:
"I respect the 2nd amendment, I just don't think you need an AK-47 to hunt."A:
-- former US Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards (D-North Carolina)
The 2A is not even remotely about hunting. It's about denying the government a monopoly on the use of deadly force, and keeping that option available to law abiding free people. Therefore, as long as the government and criminals have fully automatic M16s and more, We, The People should also have the right to those same weapons.Q:
So, by your logic, civilians should be allowed to own nuclear weapons, too. After all, those are "arms," too, right? No one in their right mind would let you buy a nuke at wal-mart, so why is it so unreasonable to ban so-called "assault weapons?"A:
Actually, the word "arms" was chosen specifically as a military term. It does not necessarily include "crew-serviced" weapons that take more than one person to operate. It does not include things like "ordnance" or "artillery," either. So no, I don't believe 2A guarantees the right to nuclear weapons. I do believe it guarantees the right to whatever a typical soldier would carry on his person (actual assault rifle, pistols, 30 round or higher capacity magazines, hand grenades, etc.).Q:
What part of "well-regulated militia" do you not understand?A:
We ARE the militia, as defined by congress shortly after 2A and the rest of the Bill of Rights were ratified. A militia is a civilian (not government) armed force, and they were our main source of national defense before we had a standing army. In the parlance of the times, "well-regulated" meant well-armed and well-trained, not constrained to ineffectiveness by law.
Since we're picking apart phrases in 2A, let's examine another key one: "of the people." Are we really to understand that everywhere else in the Constitution and Bill of Rights where this phase is used, it refers to the general population and expresses an individual right, but in 2A it doesn't?Q:
Do you require a gun to defend your life?A:
I sincerely hope I never do. But if that unfortunate event does come to pass, I will want, and should have as much firepower as possible. If I'm fighting for my life, I want to have a very large bag of tricks - and 30 rounds are certainly going to better ensure my survival than 7 or 10.Q:
Come on, do you really need an AR-15 or AK-47 for self-defense?A:
"I don't 'need' an AR-15 or AK-47 any more than Rosa Parks 'needed' to sit at the front of that bus."
The (tactical) answer depends on the threat. If I'm caught in downtown Detroit in the middle of a riot, I want my AR, yes please. If I'm cornered by some guy with a knife (and he's too close already), then I'll leave my gun in my pocket and rely on my martial arts skills.
More fundamentally, though, no one else should arbitrarily decide what kind of arms I need or don't need any more than I should decide where Rosa can sit on the bus.Q:
Wait a minute, did you just compare Rosa Parks to the NRA??A:
I sure did. The right to defend ones own life is just as fundamental as the right to not be enslaved. There are some folks on both sides of the debate who would find this offensive. Frankly, I would say that's part of the problem. Self-defense rights should, in the minds of free people, stand on equal footing with freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc.. In fact, the right to effective self-defense weapons is the ultimate guarantee of all the rest of those freedoms. If someone wants to make you a slave, they have to take away your gun first. This is a human rights issue, remember?O:
That's racist and tasteless considering the beliefs of the leaders of the civil rights movement.A:
No, it really isn't. MLK was a gun owner and was denied a carry permit in Alabama prior to his assassination. There's even a photo of Malcolm X holding an M1 Carbine (a so-called "assault rifle") with two 30 round magazines fastened together as he peeks out his window, ready to defend his life and family by any means necessary. Even Jesus Christ Himself told his followers there would come a time they should sell their clothes and buy swords (the "assault weapons" of His time), and the same passage shows that they already had some! (Luke 22:35-38) Oh, and don't even get me started about how gun control laws have their roots in government-sanctioned racism with the goal of disarming African Americans and other minorities.
See also this article in the Huffington Post.Q:
Would a majority of people on the planet agree? Heck, would a majority of people in THIS country agree?A:
The answer is that it doesn't matter what the majority thinks. At one point in our not-too-distant past, a majority of people thought it was OK to make Rosa Parks sit at the back of the bus. They were wrong, majority or not. Democracy is majority (mob) rule and does not constitute a free society, especially if you're in the minority. In a free country like the US is supposed to be, the rights of the minority are protected by law (including the 2A).
But, that argument aside, I've been seeing articles that show approximately 63% of Americans believe that the 2A was written to guard against government tyranny - roughly the same percentage that oppose a ban on so-called assault weapons. So, the answer to the 2nd question seems like a pretty resounding YES.Q:
If you're worried about tyrannical governments, did the founders consider what a militia is supposed to do against a tank, a bomber, or an armed drone?A:
For the first one, take a look at Iraq and Afghanistan It seems like those guys with their AKs are still keeping our guys on their toes well enough. Further, consider the Warsaw Uprising or the French Resistance - by the same argument, those people should be seen as foolish criminals for rising up against the Nazis even though pretty much everyone knew they were hopelessly outgunned and doomed to failure and death. Yet we revere them as heroes Sometimes it doesn't matter, you just have to fight for freedom.Q:
I agree that self preservation is a human right, I don't agree that ownership of an assault weapon is necessary for that purpose.A:
I contend that as long as the government and criminals will have ACTUAL assault weapons (and no ban will ever stop either group from having them), then you and I should, at the very least, be allowed to have SO-CALLED "assault weapons."O:
But then the police will be "out-gunned!"A:
My first response to this is "exactly - they should be, at least by law-abiding people." On the other hand, police have access to fully automatic ACTUAL assault rifles, armored personnel carriers, advanced body armor, even tanks! So no, my semi-automatic AR-15 with a 30 round magazine doesn't "out-gun" the police.Q:
Our 2nd amendment gives us an amazing power to better protect our lives, but it should not be seen as absolute because if nothing else it was a product of a different era, and societal norms and needs evolve over time, shouldn't our laws?A:
Sure, but our laws should evolve to BETTER protect our lives and freedom - i/e: towards liberty, not away from it. See also how the 1st, 4th, and 5th amendments have been interpreted in the modern era.Q:
But the founders couldn't possibly have imagined the power of an AK-47.A:
For the answer to that, lets refer to the 4th amendment. It's been ruled time and again that we have the right to use strong, military-grade encryption (without restriction) to protect our privacy - something the authors would have never been able to imagine, either. So how is it consistant to allow that based on 4A, and not allow military-grade firepower based on 2A? And make no mistake, plenty of people use strong encryption for criminal activity of one sort or another, some even to plot terror attacks and kill people, etc.. But you don't hear calls to ban 4096 bit public keys.
Further, consider the first amendment's text regarding a free press. This has been interpreted to cover new media including TV, internet, etc.. So if the 1A applies to the internet and TV stations, why should 2A be restricted to muskets? Hint: it shouldn't.
See also this article.Q:
But [so-called] assault weapons are really only ever used to commit crimes, and to kill as many people as possible. They are a frightful menace and have no place in a civilized society, therefore they should be eliminated altogether or at least strictly controlled.A:
See, that argument just doesn't jive with the facts, though. For one thing, governments are singling out hundreds, if not millions of commonly owned firearms. Further, the number of murders committed with SO-CALLED "assault rifles" is orders of magnitude lower than the number committed with hammers, knives, other blunt objects, and even hands and feet .. to say nothing of the contrast with the number of people killed each year by drunk drivers (yet you don't have to get a background check to buy a bottle of Bacardi 151, or even 30 bottles of it, do you?).O:
But Columbine, Newton, Aurora! The worst shootings in the US have been committed by civilians with these weapons!A:
False. The worst shooting in US history happened at a place called Wounded Knee. There, the US Government slaughtered over over 200 Native Americans, most of them unarmed women and children. Oh, and the massacre started when the government tried to disarm the civilians.O:
I don't think it is too unfair to say that for the hundreds of firearms available for purchase, the government can single out a few that we feel the primary purpose isn't for protection, but merely destruction. As a fellow gun owner, you know as well as I do that some guns are made simply to take as many lives as possible.A:
If guns like the AR-15 and AK-47 and M1 Carbine are "made simply to take as many lives as possible," then all mine are broken, because they have never been used to take a life, and I hope they never have to be. In fact, the only gun I have that *might* have been used to take a life is a 1908 double-barrel shotgun. My grandfather took it from a Nazi soldier who was guarding a concentration camp full of people who had been disarmed by their government in the name of safety several years before.
Also, I was pretty glad to have my M1 Carbine with a 30 round mag handy when I heard strange noises in my garage one night while I was home by myself with the baby - I picked it that night for protection because I figured it was the best for the situation (long hallway leading into an open area, unknown threat, if any, and possible need for better-than-pistol accuracy since I didn't want stray rounds flying all over the place). How is this not a legitimate self-protection use, and why should I be denied this choice?Q:
So what was the funny noise, anyway?A:
A raccoon sneaked into my garage while I was taking the trash out. He chased me around a little, then left. No shots fired. Scared the crap right out of me, though. The wife and I shared a good laugh about it afterwards.O:
Ok, so you want an assault rifle [actual or so-called]. I don't think you should have one because how do I know you're not going to go crazy and kill a bunch of people with it?A:
The short, snarky answer is that you don't. My rights are not subject to your fears. No one is supposed to be deprived of life, liberty, nor property except by due process of law. That means no one can say that you're not allowed to have a gun until you're convicted in a court of law of some crime that disqualifies you from having one. This is part of what it means to be innocent until proven guilty. Yet, when it comes to self-defense rights, this provision of US law is ignored and flagrantly violated all the time.Q:
Why do you oppose gun registration?A:
- Registration only affects the law-abiding, and therefore it does no good in terms of reducing crime. Criminals don't bother registering their guns - they're criminals, after all. Canada tried a national firearms registry and scrapped it after just a few years as a gigantic waste of time and money that did nothing to reduce crime.
- Registration of firearms almost universally leads to confiscation later on. This has already been demonstrated in very recent history in places like the UK, Australia, Germany, etc..
Why not some sort of national licensing requirement?A:
Honestly, I would be reasonably OK with some sort of licensing scheme provided the following were true:
- Licenses were granted on a shall-issue basis, meaning that the law would require the license to be issued unless the applicant was legally disqualified from having a gun.
- Licenses were available and recognized in all 50 states, Washington DC, and all US territories on that shall-issue basis.
- Licenses were relatively as easy and cheap to obtain as a driver's license.
- Getting a license did not also require you to register your guns.
Personally, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that. While most states do issue concealed carry licenses, not all states recognize each other's license. For example, my MI carry license is no good in NY. If I were to bring my pistol within the borders of NY state, I would face up to 3 years in prison just for possessing a handgun in NY without a NY license. They also don't issue NY licenses to anyone who doesn't live in NY, so there is no legal way for me to be in possession of a handgun within the Empire State whatsoever. The same is true for many of the other jurisdictions I've already mentioned, too. So, if my driver's license is good in those states, why do my rights to self-defense end at their borders?Q:
Don't more guns in civilian hands lead to more crime?A:
No. In fact, the opposite is true. During the last 20 years, and especially during the last 5 years, gun ownership has reached record levels. Many states have become less restrictive about concealed carry, and sales of so-called assault rifles have skyrocketed. Yet violent crime remains at a 40 year low and continues to fall. This dramatic decrease is only offset by jurisdictions like Washington DC, Chicago, NY City, etc., who still have some of the toughest gun-control laws in the nation (and in Australia, the UK, etc. internationally). Crime, and especially violent crime, is on the rise in those places.Q:
What's so bad about a "waiting period," anyway?A:
Again, waiting periods only affect the law-abiding, and often adversely. Several people have been killed by estranged spouses or what have you while waiting for legal permission to defend themselves. Meanwhile, a criminal can easily obtain a gun illegally. Also, waiting periods (and licensing / registration requirements, for that matter) seem to run afoul of the "prior restraint" doctrine.Q:
You carry your gun around your kids? Isn't that dangerous?? What if it randomly "goes off"?A:
I hear this one a lot, and the reality is that it's founded not on facts, but on fear and ignorance. The truth is, people who make this argument either don't know about guns, and / or they are using it to generate fear in others who are ignorant about them. The reality is that a gun will not simply "go off" on its own. In fact, modern firearms are designed with several redundant safety features designed to ensure that they do not fire unless the trigger is pulled. Some won't even allow the trigger to be pulled unless they're gripped properly (google "grip safety" to see what I mean). They are also safeguarded against accidental discharge by mechanisms that keep the firing pin from moving at all unless the trigger is pulled, so it's not going to go off if you drop it on the floor or something.
So, yes, I do carry my pistol around my kids, and I do so responsibly for their protection and safety.Q:
Aren't guns super-dangerous anyway? I hear stories all the time about how someone gets killed because they or someone else in the house was cleaning a gun and it went off.A:
Stories like that are basically BS. If you know anything about guns at all, you know they have to be taken apart before they can be thoroughly cleaned. Any responsible gun owner will tell you that the FIRST thing you do before you start cleaning or disassembling your gun is to check it to make sure it's unloaded. Even then, you still treat it like it's loaded throughout the whole process by always keeping the barrel pointed in a safe direction. Therefore, anyone making this claim is probably trying to cover up a murder, or criminal negligence at the very least.O:
There are certain places where people just shouldn't have guns. In places like churches, hospitals, schools, bars, post offices, movie theaters, the workplace, etc., no one should be allowed to carry a gun even if they have a license.A:
Again, so-called "gun free zones" like those mentioned only affect the law-abiding. A killer bent on committing murder is not going to pay one bit of attention to the "no guns allowed" sign on the front door. In fact, he/she is probably going to single that place out as an ideal target since he/she will very likely be carrying the only gun on the premises. This has been demonstrated over and over again, especially recently. In fact, I can't think of a recent spree-killing that didn't occur in one of these "gun free zones!" As a counter-example, consider the number of spree-killings (or the number of any incidences of violent crime) that have occurred at gun shows, NRA conventions, gun shops, and other places where guns (and good people carrying them) are plentiful. This is why I prefer the term "helpless victim zone" when talking about areas that are off-limits to legal concealed carry.Q:
I have a question / objection I'd like you to address.A:
Send it to email@example.com and I shall do my best. Wheaton's Rule will apply.