Let me begin by acknowledging that I own and use a gun. I have an NRA badge awarded for completing its hunter safety course some 40-odd years ago in Great Falls. I am an Army veteran. I support the right of law-abiding citizens to possess and use some weapons. These bona fides out of the way, let me explain why I also support efforts to remove assault rifles from the general population.
First, I believe the assault weapons ban is consistent with the Constitution. At the time it was written, “arms” consisted of muskets, pistols and cannon, none of which were rapid-loading, high capacity or particularly accurate from a distance. No 18th century individual could use those weapons to wreak the harm we have experienced with appalling regularity over the past decade or so. In short, the Constitution did not envision the assault rifle technology and that alone allows us to rethink things.
Second, each of our constitutional rights is limited. Back in the days when civics was taught, we were reminded that the Constitution didn’t give you the right to yell “fire!” in a crowded room that wasn’t in fact burning. The First Amendment does not protect you from slander or libel, nor does it give anyone the right to place graffiti on someone else’s property.
Similarly, our right to bear arms is already limited. If it were not, the illogical extension of the Second Amendment would result in us each having our very own nuclear weapon. Has the NRA ever come out to defend the various students who have “cracked” the nuclear recipe? Or those who have arranged to possess nuclear material? No. We recognize that there are limits here, and they are not just limits that protect us from former criminals or those mentally incapacitated. We appreciate that no one as an individual needs or has a right to that kind of lethal device. Further, we have the “well regulated militias” of the Second Amendment in our reserve units, which are located throughout our country.
Limiting assault rifles to those particular well regulated militia would protect us from rioters and invaders without providing them to the unsupervised or untrained or other dangerous people.
What about those who read the Second Amendment as being about protecting us from tyranny? Since World War II our government has had more weaponry at its disposal than any person or small group can stand up to. Waco and Ruby Ridge were horrid overreaches by our federal government, but they demonstrated that individuals and groups could not defeat U.S. power with guns alone. When we want change, we need to join together and act via reason, the vote, strikes and massive protests to alter our government.
In exchange for allowing people the fantasy that they can defend themselves with guns from an intrusive, illegitimate government, some want us to place armed guards everywhere. Let me ask you: If you do not want to live in a police state, why do you want armed guards everywhere? If you want your children to be free citizens, how do you think they’ll learn to stand up to authority when the state surrounds them with armed guards all day from kindergarten to graduation?
And last, if we cannot rely on background checks to ensure that dangerous people do not get access to these weapons now, how do we rely on background checks to ensure that the guards themselves are not a danger?