If you ask the typical hyper-political gun owner (and I have…at Thanksgiving dinner), why it’s important to own a gun, they’ll bark about the Constitution. Yes, the Second Amendment: “The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed!”
This of course is the slogan the National Rifle Association adopted in the 1970’s. It was then that owning a gun became an absolute right endowed by God and the Constitution. A blessing passed down by our forefathers to obliterate game and protect our property. The NRA was founded in 1870 and for its first hundred years it was for gun control and didn’t mention the Second Amendment as their cause.
Adam Winkler points out in his delicious book, “Gun Fight,” what we call the “wild west” had some of the strictest gun control laws we’ve seen as a nation. The shoot out at the OK Corral took place, after all, because Wyatt Earp was trying to disarm the outlaw Cowboys in accordance with a Tombstone ordinance. The KKK was among other things, a gun control organization. They were trying to keep guns out of the hands of newly freed slaves…but still gun control.
The part of the Second Amendment omitted from the NRA’s slogan is: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” Yes, well regulated—it’s in the Constitution!
Now, to some, guns are as sacred as scripture. If you ask, again, this typical hyper-political gun owner why they need to stockpile assault rifles, you will get an answer much like Pat Flynn’s, a recent candidate for a Senate seat in Nebraska. “Really, we have our guns to protect ourselves against the government, number one,” Flynn said in a debate right before the primary. “Hunting’s number two. But protecting us against our government is number one.” Remember Flynn was trying to land a job in the government (he didn’t win his party’s nomination, by the way).
The idea is that we have to be just as armed as our government in order to be safer or have more liberty (or something). The U.S. government has unmanned drones armed with supersonic laser-guided anti-armor Hellfire missiles, “bunker busters,” and nuclear weapons. Are far-right politicians saying we need civilians to have shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles “for protection?” Of course they’re not. They actually do want limits on ownership.
And if you ask the most vehement gun rights advocate why Everyman Gun Owner shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, I’d bet you’d get the same answer as to why we don’t want every country to have the capability: “Because they could get into the wrong hands.”
So weapons-grade plutonium should be limited. But the ever-handy semi-auto Glock pistol with a 30-round high-capacity magazine is an absolute right?
A recent gun buyback drive in Los Angeles resulted in someone turning in a rocket launcher. Comforting.
So we’re not actually talking about limited vs. unlimited. We are talking about degrees of weapon ownership.
Guns fall into the wrong hands all the time. More guns and fewer requirements for ownership doesn’t curb this. George Zimmerman was the wrong hands. Zimmerman, a Florida man now infamous for shooting an unarmed black teenager at close range after a 911 operator told him not to engage the alleged suspect and wait for police to arrive, is now being defended by said hyper-political gun owners.
There’s no reason a Neighborhood Watch captain should be patrolling his block with a criminal record and a pistol. Zimmerman was a catastrophe realized. Even in the wake of new evidence about this case, the fact remains if Zimmerman didn’t have a gun, 16-year-old Trayvon Martin would be alive.
The United States is number one in the world in civilian gun ownership. And since we’re not last in gun violence (we’re the 14th highest in deaths—way higher in just injuries) it’s safe to assume that increasing the number of guns doesn’t decrease the number of gun deaths. Just like cutting taxes doesn’t increase revenue—making gun ownership unlimited doesn’t make us safer. It’s a lie. A fairy tale of the gun lobby. Completely unsupported by data or logic. A falsehood.
So unless you think all Americans should get Daisy Cutters this Christmas—you believe in regulations as to who gets a weapon, what kind and where they can have it.
Gun control laws are not tyranny—as the family of Trayvon Martin can testify to—a de-regulated militia is.
This column was originally published on May 22, 2012.
Tina Dupuy is the Editor-in-Chief, The Contributor.