Terry Pratchett
Missing A Week: The Nature Of A Personal Column

Gun Control Reaction


I expected reaction. I got it. This from Jim Forbes, a serious gun owner and long-time friend and colleague:

I found your discussion on gun ownership thought provoking. I have ambivalent feelings about the 2nd Amendment. But, ultimately, progunners raise a couple of points that are extremely interesting.

1. Why punish millions of law-abiding citizens who own firearms because criminals use them? Let's enforce existing laws before enact more legislation.

2. The average gun owner doesn't have an arsenal of measured in "tens" or more.

3. One of the odd arguments for firearms familiarity comes from Viet Nam, after McNamara's 100,000 levy (which resulted in a disproportionate numbe of inner city youths being drafted). Despite the best efforts of the DOD, many of the 100,000 conscripts who ended up in line units (infantry, tanks and artillery) did poorly in firefights. The reason for this: They had no prior exposure to firearms. As a result of this, in 1968, the DOD ran Army and Marines through a program developed by Daisy (of B.B. gun fame) called to improve their firearms skills and improve their survivability in combat.

4. Another element in the firearms discussion that gets overlooked, is the rural versus metropolitan make up of the anti and pro-gun discussion.

5. Virtually every firearm sold today (except single and double barrel shotguns and autoloading shotguns) has its roots in the military. This includes bolt action hunting rifles, which are descended from the German Mauser patent. Assault is a tactic, not a description of a rifle. And, I have yet to hear of a robbery, home invasion or other criminal act, committed recently by someone with a bayonet on the end of a surplus rifle.

6. The US populace seems obsessed by fear. The gun argument plays into this at its most elemental level. Don't believe me? Then why does "antigun" DiFi own a gun and have a carry permit?

I was a little surprised to hear Jim has ambivalent feelings about the second amendment, but I shouldn't have been. He is thoughtful about most issues, as is Jerry Pournelle, a gun owner who didn't weigh in with a response to my Sept. 6 comments, probably because he was in Tokyo at the time.

From the other side of the political spectrum, two notes from Ross Snyder:

My attorney once told me the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that the Second Amendment confers the right to bear arms to any citizens except "a well-regulated militia," whatever that is. Laws restricting gun ownership have never been overturned on the basis of that Amendment, he says.

Ross also checked in with this:

The new Grolier Encyclopedia, no model of high scholarship, but up-to-date and useful delivers this about:

The 2d Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares: "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." The intent of this amendment is a matter of intense debate. Some argue that by relating the right to the maintenance of a state militia, the 2d Amendment was intended to protect the right to bear arms as a collective principle for each state. On the other side are those who interpret "the people" to mean individual citizens, thus guaranteeing the right to private ownership of firearms.

Supreme Court rulings in this area have done little to clarify the issue. In Presser v. Illinois (1886), the Court held that "all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserve militia of the United States," which some would see as upholding a prohibition of state interference with private gun ownership. In United States v. Miller (1939), however, the Court upheld a law prohibiting private ownership of a sawed-off shotgun, although the grounds for the decision were narrow. Interpretation of this question is central to the continuing debate over gun control.


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