In the continuing dialog regarding stronger gun control in America — along with recent dustups about taking guns to local family events — the NRA playbook makes the argument that having a gun can often prevent a serious crime. That oft-repeated theme is “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Buying into that argument, some locales even encourage all citizens to be armed. Indeed, the end game of the NRA’s suggested plan would be a dramatic proliferation of firearms to have as many “good guys” prepared to shoot as needed, for self-protection and as stated: “protecting one’s homes and families.”
Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, frequently offers several examples of where such an event ostensibly prevented a crime. Assuming that is accurate, LaPierre always omits commenting on a multitude of incidents where shootouts have gone awry. There are numerous cases where the gun owner mistook a family member, and shot him/her by accident. Or, where gun owners left their weapons unattended, and one of their children shot a sibling. Also, cases where the shooter killed someone who was not an intruder, and is now a candidate for murder. And where the gun owner was not well trained enough to out-duel the intruder, and turned a simple burglary into an unintended death. Because, sometimes the bad guys win!
Additionally, the NRA continues to propagate the false assumption that prospective gun-control legislation would eliminate the “good guys” from owning firearms. Indeed nothing currently proposed would do that at all. Most legislation now on the table is very simple in its present form, and would not “take our guns away” as the NRA continues to proclaim.
The two most notable proposals are: stronger background checks and restrictions on assault weapons (and/or limits on magazine size to generally 9 bullets). The fact is that stronger background checks would do nothing to keep legitimate citizens from buying and owning guns – and would assist in preventing LaPierre’s “bad guys” from getting them. At least getting them too easily.
Downside is zero
Would this eliminate “bad guys” from getting illegal weapons? Probably not, but the downside to this proposal is zero, and the upside has potential to reduce crimes with guns, and would put added teeth into prosecuting those who should not have guns.
The assault-weapon ban has such powerful logic, it is amazing it has developed such strong resistance. Most again comes from the NRA, which is loath to agree to any restrictions no matter how sensible they may be. They are wedded totally and incontrovertibly to their interpretation of the Second Amendment – an apparently admirable goal, but one in itself without a factual basis. Our Founding Fathers would almost certainly not object to modification or even repeal of the Second. Indeed, they made provisions for just such a possibility. Since 1791, when the amendment was adopted, there have been a total of 27 amendments to that great constitutional document – including one repeal.
Why revisit the Second Amendment?
There are two good reasons to revisit the Second. First, the fact that the amendment is subject to vague interpretation (the NRA notwithstanding). Indeed, since it was adopted in 1791, it has been the subject of over 31 federal court cases of various kinds. Six in U.S. District Courts; 19 in U.S. Courts of Appeals; and 6 that ended up in the Supreme Court. So modification/amendment is not without precedent.
Second, the enormous change in our nation since the “right to bear arms” was first adopted. America in 1789 (when the Second Amendment was first drafted) had a population of about 2.5 million. It was a rural country; the largest city was Philadelphia with 40,000 inhabitants. The rural inhabitants, mostly farmers, used their arms to put food on the table. The densely packed cities like the south side of Chicago of course did not exist … even in our Founders’ imaginations. The weapon of choice was a single-shot musket – not an automatic weapon capable of killing dozens of people in seconds. Nor were there cheap “Saturday Night Special” handguns that are killing dozens of people nightly in our cities throughout the country.
Given these facts, we should end forever the argument that virtually anyone can own any weapon of any devastation — anywhere, and for any reason — because of some vaguely defined right granted two centuries ago. And while I am sure both LaPierre and I have reverence for our great nation’s historical past, I cannot agree that the one we should return to is that of the Wild Wild West!
Myles Spicer, formerly of Minnetonka, lives in Palm Desert, Calif. He has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.
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