Mike Kueber's Blog

July 23, 2012

A primer on the Right to Bear Arms and gun control

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:15 pm
Tags: , , ,

It all started with strange wording of the Second Amendment:

  • 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.”

Despite the supposed literacy of our Founding Fathers, the construction of that passage is shabby and its meaning is almost incoherent.  Fortunately, because the Amendment did not have much practical effect for hundreds of years, the Supreme Court was not called upon to explain what it meant.

That all changed after the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981, after which there was an unprecedented push for gun control.  The Brady Law, named for Reagan’s press secretary who was injured in the assassination attempt, was enacted by Congress in 1993 and provided for background checks on purchasers of guns.  In 1994, Congress followed up by enacting a 10-year Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), which prohibited the manufacture of semi-automatic weapons – i.e., capable of firing more than ten shots.  Many local governments, including Washington, D.C., NYC and Chicago, went further than Congress by banning all handguns.

Gradually, however, the tide of public opinion shifted.  According to a Gallup poll in 1990, 78% of Americans wanted stricter gun control, but by 2009 that percentage had dropped to 44%.  By contrast 55% of Americans were satisfied with the current laws (43%) or wanted less strict laws (12%).   A different Gallup poll reveals that 60% of Americans in 1959 wanted to ban handguns, but by 2011 that percentage had dropped to a record-low 26%.    When the 10-year AWB came up for renewal in 2004, Congress declined and it went out of effect.     

In 2008, the Supreme Court considered the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and decided that it was unconstitutional.  In dicta, however, the Court (Scalia) noted, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” 

The massacre in Colorado has revived talk of a federal law banning assault weapons.  Based on the dicta in Scalia’s opinion, it is unclear whether the Constitution would allow such a ban.  A federal appellate court panel in D.C. considered this issue in 2011 (District of Columbia v. Heller), and ruled 2-1 that the District of Columbia’s Assault Weapon ban did not violate the Constitution.    

Even if an Assault Weapon ban is constitutional, the question is whether it is a good idea.  As David Frum recently pointed out in his blog – “At the same time as Americans have become more enthusiastic about gun rights, fewer and fewer Americans actually want to own a gun themselves.”  But that really doesn’t answer the question of whether the availability of assault weapons is a good thing. 

From a cost-benefits perspective, I don’t see any benefit that is achieved by having assault weapons (more than ten shots) available to the public.  When I googled the question, Google gave me nothing responsive.  If you can think of a good reason for having an assault weapon, please let me know.

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3 Comments »

  1. 1. becuase i want one and i haven’t harmed or threatened to harm anyone
    2. becuase bad guys are not supposed to have any guns yet they have military level weapons – thus i need lots o bullets too
    3. becuase it is fun as shit to shoot lots o bullets

    note – while these may sound frivolous they are seriously good reasons to me
    note – what are good reasons for raising attack dogs and having pet wild cats (pumas, lions, tigers, etc.)
    note – what are good reasons for having alcohol and legal cannibus
    note – the police were nearby and did not protect the people, they protected the killer and the evidence – we must defend ourselves

    q

    Comment by Q — July 25, 2012 @ 1:16 am | Reply

  2. oh yeah, had i been in the theater, i would have shot him. i would have at least shot at him…

    q

    Comment by Q — July 25, 2012 @ 1:16 am | Reply

  3. […] blogged about gun control and assault rifles several months ago.  In that post, I mentioned that […]

    Pingback by Gun control « Mike Kueber's Blog — December 17, 2012 @ 10:29 pm | Reply


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