Just a Few Thoughts


As we talk about the rights and wrongs of mass gun ownership, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.TPM Reader MH, below, says yes these guns aren’t for hunting and they look scary but I use them safely. I don’t have fantasies about going Koresh and using them against the government. And they’re fun — just like others finding fishing or motorcycles or whatever other hobby fun.

Guns aren’t my thing but I think I get that. I can see how they’d be fun. The question in my mind is how that fun gets weighed against the social costs of mass gun ownership. After all, there aren’t a lot of social costs tied to fishing or skiing. The founding documents speak of a right to the “pursuit of happiness” but not fun. MH seems to get this is a real issue and says we should have more restrictive laws and regs.

I also get that many people want and some need weapons for self-defense. The idea that mass gun ownership and C&C laws will make us safer seems unsupported and somewhat ridiculous to me. But guard your home? Sure.

The real thing is the stop government tyranny argument. This strikes me as both risible in practical terms and outrageous in civic terms. I’m sorry but that crap you bought at the gun show is not going to defend you against the United States government — either in the much more likely case that you pull a Koresh and take a few federal agents with you into the afterlife or in the rather more remote chance that the government goes bad and sends FEMA to put you in concentration camps. The USG has all your machine guns and body armor plus heavy weapons, helicopter gunships, an Air Force, artillery, etc. Of course, quite unlikely that you’re going to see the US military. It’s a few cops you’ll kill before they take you out or arrest you. As I said, just in practical terms, this is laughable. This is just part of the survivalist mentality hiding in constitutional clothes.

I would say in practical terms the desire to empower yourself to commit treason is equally problematic. And the whole thing amounts to giving you the right to prepare for some infantile fantasy and possibly go Koresh at a place and time of your choosing and kill a few federal agents.

The entire regulatory terrain is changed quite significantly by the Court’s recent decision to construe the 2nd amendment as actually protecting an individual right to own firearms, something that is quite new. But since we’re already on that ground, let’s look at the amendment on its own terms. The militia, particularly a well-regulated one, isn’t you and your buddies from the gun show. It’s a civic entity in itself. And the amendment speaks explicitly about regulation. So perhaps even within a generalized individual right to own firearms, state regulation still seems possible. Indeed, despite Justice Scalia’s efforts to read away half the amendment, the plain text of the constitution seems to call for it.

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