Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rights, responsibilities and guns

Advocates of still more gun laws are now saying "everything should be on the table"  in a great national dialog on guns and violence. I wonder if they really mean that, or simply mean that they want all kinds of new restrictions on gun ownership. Below I talk about the things I would particularly like to see on the table.

Safe storage requirements

We probably don't need new laws about this; the matter is covered in most states' law codes. We do need a talking-up campaign to emphasize the importance of keeping your guns secured from improper use. Though the laws are on the books they are frequently overlooked or ignored. We see that in stories where a little kid brings mommy's gun to school. That should be impossible. 

I have from time to time advised people who have particular challenges storing a gun safely at home--kids from the neighborhood in and out of the house, or a visiting batty relative or whatever--to look into off site storage. A rental storage locker will do. Another option: Some gun clubs and target ranges will store your guns for you, for a modest fee.

Though the details are likely unknowable, both eyewitnesses being now deceased, it may be that the Newtown massacre involved, to some extent, improper gun storage. It appears that the lawful owner and user of the guns was not the only one who could put her hands on them. All we know for certain is that her disturbed son got her guns, killed her and then undertook the massacre.

Nut control

As the federal law is now written, you are barred from buying or owning a gun if you have been adjudicated mentally incompetent or committed to a mental institution. That was a good and robust safeguard to society when it was written into the law, years ago. The trouble is that today, mental health professionals are hesitant to expose their patients to the indignity of being declared insane. Adjudications of incompetence and involuntary commitments are often not undertaken when they are due, or even overdue. In trying to practice a kinder and gentler psychiatry, the profession is letting down society as a whole, for society needs protection from violent lunatics. In the Tucson shooting in 2011, the shooter, Jared Lee Lochner, was well known by those around him to be way off. His shrink, a faculty member of the college he attended, had alerted campus security that Lochner could be dangerous, but no further steps were taken, toward commitment or adjudication or even to alert area law enforcement about Lochner's condition. 

It emerges after the fact, in many of these horrific shootings, that everyone knew the shooter was crazy but no one did what was necessary to get him put away. Kinder and gentler? To whom?

The problem of parity

The Second Amendment has deducible purposes behind it. Those purposes should inform our discussion of in what ways it is proper to limit the rights involved. Rule making and restrictions must preserve the people's ability to protect their lives and their liberty. States must retain the ability to call up an armed defense force of the people. These purposes require effective arms. The flintlock rifle was good at the time these rights were reviewed and protected in law; it is useless, for Second Amendment purposes, today. We need up-to-date guns.

We know that after any ban, criminals continue to get whatever guns they want. They are criminals; circumventing laws is what they do for a living and they are quite good at it. Crazies will be able to get whatever guns they want, as well--from the criminals. Never underestimate the determination and resourcefulness of those following their inner demons.  So while criminals and crazies will be as well armed as ever, 'we the people,' the rest of us, will be less well equipped to deal with them.

Then there is the potential use of the people's privately owned weapons to deal with a tyrannical government, should one arise. That possibility was very much in the minds of the Constitution's framers. You can be sure that if we face a tyranny in the future, whether its origins are foreign or domestic, that tyranny will not limit itself in what rifles its henchmen may carry or how many bullets each magazine holds.

In short, the good guys need something close to parity in personal weapons with the bad guys. Has the government forgotten that we the people are the good guys, and that the armed citizen is the final guarantor of our liberty and safety? The sane and law abiding citizen needs to be well enough armed to stand up to the threats he may face in this unsafe world--criminals, lunatics, societal disorder and even the specter of tyranny.

If all of the nasty and scary guns are taken away from the law abiding, they will not serve their deterrent purpose, which is to scare the people they are supposed to scare. The local drug thugs have thirty round magazines; no one can do anything about that. Why is it a problem if their honest neighbor has one?

The return of moral teaching

I've written elsewhere on this blog about the breakdown of Western society's ideas of true and false, right and wrong, good and evil. It is now okay for everyone to do what seems right in his own eyes. A thing may be "true for you but not for me." We are urged not to "impose your morality on other people."

What has that gotten us? We ought not be surprised when a certain number of children grow up morally depraved or thoroughly amoral. After all,they have heard since birth that there are no absolutes, right and wrong are arbitrary categories that vary with the individual, and the like. They are told that only unsophisticated rubes take seriously the absolute requirements of moral standards that stand higher in importance than the individual.

This pseudo-philosophical stance is not helping us. People, unless they have been taught otherwise by a parent, pastor or maybe some good reading materials, will not know how to say "I won't; that's just wrong." They no longer have an intuitive sense of "just wrong." And that is just wrong. 

Loss of moral standards may lie somewhere close to the center of our violence problem. When you say there are no absolutes, "Thou shalt not kill" gets thrown out with the rest.

But are these things really up for discussion?

Obama says, at least, that he isn't all about new gun laws. He wants to look at every angle of a complex issue. I hope he means it. My fear, of course, is that he is so thoroughly the leftist ideologue that when he says all angles, he means something else--all angles that accord with his own slant on things. He says, at least, the right thing:

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.
Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

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