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Gun Morality

Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is an individual right, and as such the District of Columbia ban on handguns is unconstitutional. I agree strongly with this ruling, but the debate on that specific topic has been going on for a long time, but the best moral argument I have ever seen on the issue was printed in 2007 by Marko at the Munchkin Wrangler.

Marko put it plainly; "Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force." Guns really are the great equalizer, allowing a 98-year-old widow protection from a 25-year-old burglar, for example, or a woman living alone at night to enjoy her rights as a citizen through her own ability to protect herself. I have never seen an effective argument which refutes that position.

The problem, however, comes down to individual cases. I can agree that individuals have a right to defend themselves, and firearms are the simplest, most effective and constitutionally-protected way for someone to do that. The problem comes down to where we draw the moral lines in specific. For example, the court was clear that some restraint is appropriate. Just as my right to Free Speech does not give me the right to file false reports with the police in order to disrupt their work, so too my right to keep and bear arms does not mean that I can have any sort of weapon I should like, nor does it bar me from responsibility for security of my weapons. I have a daughter, whose safety is paramount to me. Obviously, while it would be unconstitutional for the government to require things like keeping my guns in a locked vault at all times, or unloaded, or so on, it would be morally contemptible for me to leave a weapon anywhere my daughter could possibly get her hands on it. It would be wrong as well, for me to fail in any of the reasonable precautions in having a gun, such as keeping it clean and safely away from places where it could be stolen, where it could fall and discharge, or similar risky conditions.

Now that the United States Supreme Court has recognized the constitutional right of citizens to own guns, maybe it's time for a mature debate on the boundaries of responsibiity for owners and governments alike.


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Comments (22)

How timely, just when an Il... (Below threshold)
Piso Mojado:

How timely, just when an Illinois RINO introduces H.R. 6257 to reinstate the Assault Weapons ban, which BTW would ban ALL semi automatics, even the little Ruger 10/22 plinker.

What is is with Illinois politicians and their desire to disarm the public while doing NOTHING about criminals like themselves.

I'm always deeply disturbed... (Below threshold)

I'm always deeply disturbed that there is seldom as much passion in support of the First Amendment as there is for the Second Amendment. The chances that a person will need a gun to protect themselves from some sort of crime is relatively rare, and the possibiity of a person needing a gun to repel a foreign invader, such as in the days of George Washington, is even more remote. But the First Amendment daily impacts what Americans can read or write or what entertainment they may choose. George Carlin was just one of the soldiers in this ongoing battle.

Certainly the D.C. handgun ban was unconstitutional, but so also are the numerous assaults on free speech launched by the FCC, censors, religious oriented prosecutors who impose their own standards on entertainment, and those who jail reporters who refuse to disclose protected sources, that the Supreme Court allows. And the Bush Administration is working through the courts to revive COPA and remove the federal injunction on it to assert editorial control over the Internet. a disturbing poll from Rasmussen this week found a shocking 49% plurarity of Americans supporting government regulation of the Internet just like the travesty they've done to TV and radio.

Gun morality indeed. I couldn't have said it any better.

The first responsibility in... (Below threshold)

The first responsibility in owning a gun is knowing how to use one safely. I used to hunt a lot when I lived in Montana and the first day of deer season was like Iwo Jima.

I am a strong gun rights advocate but I think a person should have to demonstrate some proficiency with one in order to get a liscence.


no passion in support of th... (Below threshold)

no passion in support of the 1st amendment? paul, what rock have you been living under? there are whole groups of people out there fighting for what they think the 1st amendment means.

...the right of th... (Below threshold)
...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Pretty clear, after all, isn't it?

And Chuck, as "reasonable" as your requirement sounds for someone to demonstrate proficiency...

it. just. isn't. there.

No licenses, no CC permits, no waiting period.

The only person who has reached his or her majority who may be excluded from the ability to buy, keep, and bear arms is one from whom that right has been revoked through due process.

DJ, you bring up an interesting point, and certainly I have no problems seeing someone brought up on charges of criminal negligence if they don't honor the responsibility to be safe with firearms. The aforementioned rights, however, must not be reduced in attempts to mandate safety.

ALL gun owners SHOULD be re... (Below threshold)

ALL gun owners SHOULD be responsible and have knowledge of what they possess.
But are MANDATES the answer?

I own a large number of weapons of a wide variety, they are kept clean and stored safe, yet accessible if needed. I have taken training courses, on laws and shooting techniques. I think GOOD gun ownership is a natural occurrence, but it's what to do with those (exceptions) that provides discomfort.

So the BIG picture seems to me, that with RIGHTS comes RESPONSIBILITIES.. but how do we impress these responsibilities.

Responsibility is not somet... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III:

Responsibility is not something taught in school (ref: Gloucester, MA), but this is not about responsiblity, it is about rights. The second amendment is not about personal self defense, as indicated by the first section of the amendment. It is about maintaining freedom. Citizens of the United States of America have the right to maintain the power to throw off tyrants or have the means to change the government. It was important enought to the framers to cause them to add words to the right specified that the right shall not be infringed. If this was about abortion rights, those last four words would be nearly sacred. Any limit on gun ownership or what type is infringement.

Growing up on an Indiana fa... (Below threshold)

Growing up on an Indiana farm, I cannot remember a time when guns didn't play at least a minor role in rural life. My view of firearms is very much like any tool that serves a purpose, but must be handled with respect and great care. I struggle with understanding the perspective of individuals who do not share my familiarity with firearms - how could anyone be uncomfortable around a gun? Although I haven't lived on the farm for over 30 years, I have made certain that all of my children were educated in the handling of firearms. My daughters are more comfortable with guns than most men I know, and are more accurate, too. The safety practices and practical knowledge that accompanies responsible gun ownership were instilled in me as necessary components of self-reliance, and that training commenced long before I even held my first gun. Education is the key to gun safety and proficiency. But, that is an individual's responsibility and I would resist any legislation that removed it from that realm.

It's a constant amazement... (Below threshold)

It's a constant amazement to me how a document (the Constitution) written in black and white can be read in so many shades of grey.

Even more so that it should take SCOTUS to interpret the 2nd, which stands alone in it's unambiguity.

And the Bush Administ... (Below threshold)

And the Bush Administration is working through the courts to revive COPA and remove the federal injunction on it to assert editorial control over the Internet.

Editorial control over what,Paul? Tax policy? Spending? Entitlements? No....COPA is a debate over inappropriate internet content available to minors. Let the debate continue in the courts..,in the meantime, off topic (again with you), the First Ammendment has more protectors in the mainstream media than gun rights advocates could ever dream of having. While the NYT sells out our most important intelligence assets liberals are worrying over handgun rights in the US. Of course you don't see the irony here.
And when I ask for the example of religious oriented prosecutors who impose their own standards on entertainment I'll no doubt get the exception rather than the rule, but please, serve it up, along with an example of non religious prosecutors who do the same thing. And while you are at it, please explain the liberal's call for restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. Surely you are just as offended by that attempt at censorship,right?

In your discussion about yo... (Below threshold)

In your discussion about your daughter, replace "gun" or "weapon" with "credit card".

Human beings only ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force.

So is "buy me a drink and maybe I'll go to bed with you" reason or force? Maybe there's a third category that could be termed "incentive" be it for sexual favors or money. I know some will claim that incentive is just a part of reason, but there is nothing within any reading of "reason" that explains Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, thus "incentive" is a third category. What about a forth category called "hate". People do stupid things to make life hard for someone they hate. It might be something like not serving a person of a particular race at a business. Who's going to argue that such an act is a part of "reason". Some may consider it violence, but it's not violence by force.

I only bring this up because you call for "a mature debate on the boundaries of responsibiity [sick] for owners and governments alike." With such a debate you don't want to start out with Marko's fundamentally flawed foundational statement.

Paul, I realize your pantie... (Below threshold)

Paul, I realize your panties are in a knot over the rights of people to keep and bear arms. But I have one question for you: How many people that have a permit to carry a concealed weapon has ever been charged with murder?

Real simple Paul, the answer is none. Because most legal gun owners know when and how to use them. You friggin liberals think any person with a gun is unbalanced. NEWS FOR YOU. Most, if not all crimes committed by people using guns have prior records of some type of violence, not the average person who has firearms.

So please get a clue, responsible gun owners are not the problem, it's the bleeding hearts who are causing the problem. Just enforce the laws on the books, and the problem will be solved!

"Now that the United States... (Below threshold)

"Now that the United States Supreme Court has recognized the constitutional right of citizens to own guns, maybe it's time for a mature debate on the boundaries of responsibility for owners and governments alike."

Let's start with this.

Since gun ownership is a right, do we force stores to carry guns for sale the way some liberals want to force pharmacists to dispense certain drugs? Progressives want to force doctors to perform abortions, do we now force PETA members to sell ammo?

35 years ago, the Supreme C... (Below threshold)

35 years ago, the Supreme Court found a right to an abortion, residing somewhere in the penumbras and emanations in the Bill of Rights. Since then, that right has become absolute; there can be no controls whatever that might chill a woman's exercise of her "abortion rights." Now, a bare 5-4 majority have found that "...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" means there is a right to own guns. And even the majority went out of its way to say that this "right" can be restricted (infringed?) by reasonable regulation. WOW, what a victory!

Allen, you simply don't lis... (Below threshold)

Allen, you simply don't listen or understand very well, but the fact of the matter is that I fully support the Supreme Court decision regarding the Second Amendment for many reasons. The D.C. local law banning handguns was an unconstitutional attempt by a local city to illegally amend the U.S. Consitution and strike down one part of the Bill Of Rights without the benefit of a national constitutional convention or approval by two thirds of states. The narrow 5 to 4 majority did leave the door open to some sensible regulations preventing criminals or the mentally ill from aquiring guns or perhaps those that would seek to own dangerous military type weapons. The Second Amendment allows for the ownership of guns by law abiding citizens, but probably there is room to ban those in the public who would argue that they should have the right to own bombs, handgrenades, flamethrowers, etc.

What I'm very concerned about is the Supreme Court decision hardly represents some new orthodox commitment by the court to fully honor the Bill Of Rights at face value, or only allow abrigdements of portions of the Bill Of Rights once a constitutional convention or two thirds of states have approved some constitutional amendment. The best example of this is the wide number of unconstitutional local, state and federal laws that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to abridge the First Amendment when it allowed "local communities" to determine what sort of free expression would be tolerated. The founding fathers would have never ever allowed such a standard to abridge free expression. If the founding fathers ever even approved of any limitations on freedom of speech or religion, then it would have been reflected by an established single national standard and not some dangerous patchwork of local communities taking it on themself to ban any speech that some local prosecutor has his own moral objections to.

Even though I recognize that the Bill Of Rights protects the right of law abiding citizens to own guns, you still must understand that guns do cause problems in society. My grandmother's own 16 year old brother was killed by his gun when he fell during a hunting accident, and my sister's own husband has lifelong disabilities and collects disaability checks because he has serious scars and injuries from an accidental rifle accident as a child. For his entire, the taxpayer will pay benefits to him because of this childhood gun accident. And many other families will have suicides or domestic disputes complicated by guns. Guns will be stolen during home burglaries and used in armed robberies or other incidents.

Society will certainly suffer more than benefit because of guns, however there is still a constitutional right to own them that I support. But I'm also concerned that some of the biggest supporters of gun rights sometimes have some serious mental health or anger management issues. Most of the men who purchased gun magazines or books in a business I owned deeply disturbed me because you could tell that they had some real issues. Unfortunately some very dangerous persons are sometimes attracted to guns. I know of a case where a mentally ill person twice lied on gun applications and acquired guns and opened fire on traffic for no good reason and was found not guilty due to mental defect twice by a jury. How society can address these issues are more complicated. "Gun morality" is a complicated issue for American society to keep the screwballs or children from hurting themselves or others, while allowing the real adults in society the right to own a gun for legal and legitimate reasons.

Like most conservatives, ar... (Below threshold)

Like most conservatives, arguments you make are based upon reason and common sense. The "boundaries of responsibility" you suggest for gun owners are all well and good. But leftists will twist such things to suit their own purpose--that of doing away with the 2nd ammendment. The 4 Marxists on the court voted to do just that, completely ignoring the case at hand, or rather, using it as a means to the end of obliterating a constitutional right. They should be removed from the court, but good luck finding even one republican senator with the guts to demand such a thing. The point is, your boundaries of responsibility would become the next best method of denying gun ownership rights. Responsibility would be defined as the requirement that guns be kept locked in steel boxes, disassembled, with ammunition stored at least 100 feet away also in a locked compartment. Naturally, gun safety courses would be the next "reasonable" necessity. They would be government sponsored attempts to dissuade ownership, priced at, say, 1500 dollars for a fifteen hour lecture on the dangers of having a weapon in the home and the terrible things Big Brother will do to anyone who dares break one of the "boundaries of responsibility." Any suggestion made by the left on a gun ownership issue must be met with vehement opposition. These people have one agenda only..that of overturning the 2nd ammendment. We must never forget that. And we must never forget that reason and common sense are utter strangers to the leftist mentality.

I would like to pass a law ... (Below threshold)

I would like to pass a law that at birth, human babies have an electrical device implanted somewhere in their body that emits a painful but harmless zap every time they a) compare someone to Hitler; and/or b) use the word Marxist to mean anyone to the left of Dick Cheney. It would cure a whole lot of stoooopidzittty that we're forced to cope with in our daily lives.

Mac Lorry:So is "... (Below threshold)

Mac Lorry:
So is "buy me a drink and maybe I'll go to bed with you" reason or force?

Seriously ? If you can't answer that, I think you might qualify as being criminally insane.

The two choices force or reason are more aptly described as physical coercion or mutual agreement.

Paul, is there some part of... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III:

Paul, is there some part of "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" that escapes you? Do you need to get out your Webster's to look up what each word means? That passage is clear as glass to anyone with an 8th grade education. Why does it confuse you? Better yet, why did the majority take 100 pages to write an opinion on the topic. It was because they have to justify an infringement on the right guaranteed by our Constitution. The Supreme court is not suppose to intrpret the constitution they are to judge laws as to their constitutionality. Our founding document was written to be quite clear. It says what it says and that is all it says. There is no constitutional right to abortion or privacy. Wasn't intended and wasn't included.

There is no constitution... (Below threshold)

There is no constitutional right to abortion or privacy.

How can you be *free* without having *privacy*?

"Obviously, while it would ... (Below threshold)

"Obviously, while it would be unconstitutional for the government to require things like keeping my guns in a locked vault at all times, or unloaded, or so on, it would be morally contemptible for me to leave a weapon anywhere my daughter could possibly get her hands on it. It would be wrong as well, for me to fail in any of the reasonable precautions in having a gun, such as keeping it clean and safely away from places where it could be stolen, where it could fall and discharge, or similar risky conditions."

DJ, we agree far more often than not, so please read what follows in the spirit in which it's offered: constructive critical dissent.

It is vitally important to maintain the conceptual separation between rights and responsibilities. It's equally important to bear in mind the conditions upon which a claim of right is validated or invalidated.

If you were "to leave a weapon anywhere my daughter could possibly get her hands on it," it would be an abrogation of your parental responsibilities; it would have nothing to do with your pre-existent right to acquire that firearm. Similarly, if you were to store a weapon in a fashion that creates a risk that it would harm others simply because of its nature and the way it's stored, you would have violated the "adequate control" proviso that applies to all material possessions, and would have forfeited your proprietary right to that weapon. If, in either of these cases, you were adjudged guilty of a felony, you could legitimately be stripped of your firearms rights.

A guiding concept that far too many persons don't bother to consider is the legally critical notion of "a clear and present danger." This can be tentatively asserted by an executive branch decree (e.g., a policeman's on-the-spot judgment), but it must be validated by a jury verdict. More, they who make such tentative assertions must be reciprocally liable for making them falsely or frivolously. Otherwise, there are no rights we can possibly maintain in the face of disapproval by the State, or by a majority of our neighbors.






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