Friday, September 20, 2013

More Gun Control? No Way!

I have a real problem with the disrespect for our constitution evident in the guest column written by Rosa Brooks (1),  that appeared Friday 9-20-13 in the Waco “Trib”.  On the other hand,  the guest column by Charles Krauthammer (2) that appeared the same day,  is something I very much agree with,  which is actually unusual for me,  as we have very different approaches to politics. 

Krauthammer’s article makes very good sense:  the mass shootings of late mostly seem to have been committed by deranged folks who “dropped through the cracks”,  either in the medical care system,  or in the gun background check process.  The scandal is not the violence they commit,  or that they use guns to commit it,  the scandal is that they drop through the cracks,  which tells us what really needs to be fixed. 

The Second Amendment

As for understanding the intent of the second amendment that Brooks so derides along with the entire constitution in her article,  I don’t need some court to tell me what it means. 

All I need is junior high grammar skills,  and a little junior high-level history for its context.  Here is the text,  as downloaded from Wikipedia (3).  It is a very short and straightforward item:

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.

There are only two phrases separated by a comma,  which version is what the states ratified when they ratified the constitution.  This was verified by its author,  Thomas Jefferson.  Other versions with extra commas and capitalizations are not what was ratified,  which means ascribing intent to the extra commas and capitalizations is bogus.  Period.  (Congress did that when they put it in the records.  Surprise,  surprise!)

The first phrase is a justification,  not a modifier.  Interpreting it any other way violates the basic rules of English grammar,  which have not really changed since the amendment was written.  The second phrase is a statement of what is to be done,  plain and simple.  The only “modifier” is not in the amendment,  it is in the context of the times (more about that below).

That first phrase calls forth the concept of a militia (as opposed to the “mob” that carried out the French revolution).  A militia was then,  and still is,  “citizen soldiers” that grab their weapons and come forth from home to fight on the battlefield in an emergency.  This was then,  and still is,  a different concept from the standing regular army (by extension today’s armed services).  

Historical Context

Back then,  the militia was the “Minute Men”.  Today’s real militia is the national guard,  and the inactive reserves that could be called back to duty.  In a really serious “nightmare-scenario” emergency,  the old “Minute Men” precedent still stands:  armed civilians could “spontaneously” join the ranks of the militia,  bringing their personal weapons with them.   Simple enough.

Also back then,  there was the concept of the armed population making the threat of armed revolution credible.  That was intended to make government behave itself,  instead of turning to dictatorship,  as so many others did before.  That risk,  and that need,  are still with us,  and in my opinion not enough “revolutionary threat” has been made in recent times:  government has been misbehaving!  (I think most might agree with that last assessment.) 

Also in historical context,  there was never any question that cannons and their ammunition would be kept in any other place than an arsenal.  That’s still true today,  and extends to missiles and a lot of other heavy-weapon stuff. 

Applying the Concepts

My point here is that both the regular army and the militia have to have the same kinds of weapons,  which back then were also exactly the same as civilian hunting weapons.  Our national guard uses pretty much the same weapons as the regular army,  although maybe not the “latest-and-greatest” versions. 

The only thing that has really changed is firearm technology:  there are repeating rifles,  machine guns,  and repeating handguns available today that were undreamed-of in Jefferson’s time.  The battlefield demands full-automatic weapons (machine guns) that in some cases (real assault rifles) can be operated as semi-automatic (one shot at a time without manual reload). 

If the “Minute Men” concept must ever be employed (and none of us wants that,  but prudence demands that we be prepared),  then the weapons brought from home need to be at least marginally useful on a battlefield with today’s machine guns.  That’s semi-automatic rifles and handguns that could (in an emergency) be quickly modified to operate as full-automatic weapons. 

There’s no way around that technical requirement.  You cannot ban semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 (which is not a real assault rifle,  because it cannot operate as a machine gun),  and still have civilian citizen-soldiers credible for that last-ditch,  maximum-emergency battlefield scenario. 

What you do instead is ban that full-auto modification,  and then de-facto suspend it for that nightmare scenario.  We already did that,  with the 1934 firearms law that outlawed civilian possession of fully-automatic weapons.  It made sense then,  with the organized crime violence,  and still does today. 

What About Magazine Size?

As for the politically-popular idea of limiting magazine size,  it is easy to show by elementary calculation that switching-out large versus small magazines does not really affect firing rates very much,  averaged over multiple magazines.  So,  there’s not much to gained in mass-shooting scenarios by doing this. 

But,  if the citizen soldier’s magazines are interchangeable with the military’s,  then he is more effective in that last-ditch nightmare scenario because of vastly-improved logistics.  So,  limiting magazine size is a bad idea:  it doesn’t solve the civil violence problem,  but it does degrade our maximum militia capability.  Simple,  clear,  and compelling.

So,  What Do We Do?

If you want to reduce gun violence in America,  then do something about all the untreated mental illness all around us.  First on the list.

The main “leak” in the gun background check process is:  nothing may be done to prevent sales to the mentally ill until they have been judged mentally ill by a court. 

We have had a lot of mentally-ill mass shooters recently,  and none of them were so-judged by any court.  Fix THAT.  Make it a staged process,  instead of an either-or choice that only lawyers and judges control. 

Do those two things,  and you won’t need any of the other “gun control” ideas. 
Then you won’t have to degrade that maximum-defense capability that the civilian volunteer provides for that nightmare scenario,  or the citizen revolution capability that makes government behave itself.    

It ain’t rocket science,  as Brooks said in her article (the one thing I did agree with).  Nor do any of you have to be one,  in order to understand this issue,  or what to do about it. 
(1) Rosa Brooks, "Over and Over and Over Again",  opinion-page article in Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper,  appearing Friday 9-20-13.
(2) Charles Krauthammer,  "Our Society Abandons Mentally Ill,  At Huge Price",  opinion-page article in Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper,  appearing Friday 9-20-13.
(3) results of google search for "second amendment,  being the article on Wikipedia,  as it appeared Friday,  9-20-13.  (This wording of the amendment matches that in my history books.)

Related Articles

I have written about this topic before,  with pretty much the same message,  just different details being addressed.  The other articles are listed here by date and title,  all on this site.  I added the search keyword "guns" to all 6 articles. 

2-5-13:  Real Problems with the Proposed Gun Control Legislation Items
12-20-12:  On the Tragedy in Connecticut
12-14-12:  School Shooting in Connecticut
8-9-12:  Mass Murder Shooters and Gun Control
1-13-11:  On the Shooting Rampage in Tucson

Update 9-22-13:

Since posting this article (or any of the older ones),  I have seen nothing in the news (or anywhere else) to induce me to revise these opinions.  Not even Wayne LaPierre's recent inflammatory remarks alter my views.  He was actually fundamentally correct,  in that there surely seemed to be a dearth of armed guards defending the otherwise gun-free zone that was a navy base facility. 

Update 12-15-13:

I have seen nothing to change any of my conclusions or recommendations in this,  or any of the referenced articles,  not even with the latest shooting incident at Arapahoe High School in Colorado.  In point of fact,  the Arapahoe HS incident confirms what I have been saying. 

The news reports indicate that the Arapahoe HS shooter killed himself only 80 seconds into the incident,  because he knew the on-site deputy was “on the way”.   This quite apparently stopped him from shooting more kids and/or teachers. 

My contention is that we should be defending our gun-free zones on a 60-second time scale,  just as what worked very well in the old west.  At Arapahoe HS,  unlike Newtown elementary in CT,  there was a deputy on site.  That so very obviously made a huge difference to the outcome. 

What is unclear about Arapahoe HS in CO is whether getting down from 80 sec to 60 sec might have saved the 17 year old Ms. Davis from her shotgun head wound.  But,  what is clear,  is that more did not die,  as was the shooter’s intent. 

Properly-defending declared gun-free zones really does work,  just like it did a century (and more) ago. 

We already know this works.  So,  just get on with it!

Update 5-28-14:

The latest incident with Elliot Rodger in California is simply another crazy never institutionalized,  and so still able to legally buy guns without any impediments at all.  That gets right back to the text highlighted in yellow in the main article above,  under "So What Do We Do?"

This is "lawyer/judge nonsense" at its very worst!  Until that loophole is closed with a policy that makes good common sense,  these horrific incidents will continue,  mark my words!  Nothing else is going to fix that very fundamental lack.

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