Friday, February 18, 2005

Freedom & Gun Control... how do they balance?

I was recently reading an article documenting again that the UK has the highest violent crime rates for a first world country, in the world. I couldn't help to wonder if stronger gun ownership rights couldn't help their problem. No matter how you feel about guns, there is a pile of evidence on both sides of the argument, leaning in favor or against gun ownership.

For me, however, I look at the issue from a different, possibly deeper angle. I grew up in a home, where my dad was a career officer in the Detroit Police Department. Furthermore, my dad was and still is a prolific author in the firearms and law enforcement press. The end result was regular exposure to firearms during my childhood and adolescent years.

Throughout his career my father arrested a lot of people who had no business possessing or using guns. Also, he dealt with a lot of people who legitimately needed and used firearms for home and self defense. Ultimately, over his career as a cop, he came to the conclusion that people should have the right to own firearms, but if they want to own them they had a responsibility to get trained on gun safety. If they wanted to take it a step further to carry a concealed firearm, they needed to get formal tactical training, including training on appropriate response levels for differing situations. This position makes sense to me. If you want to drive in the U.S., you have to get a license to drive. If you want to carry a firearm in the U.S., the same should be true. Both a vehicle and a gun can be used as deadly weapons.

However, just as I have the right to obtain my drivers license and drive where and when I want, until such time that I prove myself undeserving of this activity (e.g. I drive drunk, or become physically impaired to the point that I cannot drive), I too should have the right to own and bare arms, as I feel necessary or wish. No one can or should question, without warrant, my right to drive a vehicle, and no one can or should question, without warrant, my right to own and carry a firearm. And, just as a severe traffic violation can strip you of your divers license, I believe a felony should strip you of your right to buy, own, and/or carry firearms. That makes perfect sense to me.

OK... now let me interject something before people reading this start to think I'm some militant nut from northern Idaho. I own three firearms. Two hunting rifles, and one pistol. Unless I am using them, they are always in my gun safe. I have never had a concealed carry permit, and hence have never carried a firearm on my person. I view this whole issue as much more of a matter of principle, than daily survival, for myself. Though I readily recognize that for some people in this country, carrying a firearm on a daily basis is an essential part of their survival. If you don't agree with this statement I would suggest that you have lived a sheltered life, and are naive in the extreme. A great many places in America look, smell, and react nothing like po-dunk Nebraska/Oregon/Utah/take your pick.

Where I get really irked is when liberals attempt to dictate, without any reason to believe that I would be incapable of safely handling firearms, or that I would possibly commit a crime with a firearm, my right to own and lawfully use firearms. And, for me, this is not just an issue of not wanting to be treated as a juvenile.

More importantly, to me, it is a matter of preserving freedom of choice/agency in all reasonable areas of life. The problem is that liberals attempt to equate gun ownership to many of the true evils in this world, that should be regulated, such as prostitution, murder, child abuse, etc. Those are all things I do not have the right to take part in. They clearly have an impact on others rights, freedoms, and safety.

I believe that in a society where we hold so dearly the concept of innocent until proven guilty, we should all be given the benefit of the doubt, until we prove ourselves unworthy. In 20 years as a Detroit Police Officer, my father arrested countless people. Only once did my dad arrest a person for committing a crime with a firearm which that person legally owned. That is out of the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of legally owned firearms in the city of Detroit. If this is not a testament to the general responsible nature and competency of law abiding citizens who own firearms, I don't know what is.

People think you can just ban firearms nationwide and make the problem of gun violence disappear. Those same people should do their homework, and figure out why the bobbies had to start packing heat in the UK, where guns have been tightly regulated for many, many years.

Years ago I read a study about a relatively rural Florida county that was experiencing extremely high crime rates, including violent crimes, relative to similar counties. Ultimately, the county sheriffs department took the drastic step of inviting law abiding citizens, with clean records, to become volunteer deputy sheriffs. In a desire to restore normalcy to their community, many local citizens accepted the call and were deputized. This provided these citizens with the training and authority to both enforce the law and carry firearms. Within months the crime rate fell by something around 87%.

One more quick example... over the past decade or so, gun laws have started swing back in favor of the law abiding citizen. States have made it easier to obtain CCW's, and to purchase firearms, while simultaneously closing loopholes that used to make it easier for criminals to purchase guns. Michigan was late to get on board with this trend. During John Engler's last term as govenor, he and the republican legislature of Michigan finally passed a law to ease the process of obtaining a CCW. Prior to this change, if you wanted to carry a weapon as a private citizen, you had to go before a board and state your case for why you needed to carry a firearm on a daily basis (e.g. your occupation took you into harms way). Michigan's current govenor, a democrat by the name of Jennifer Granholm, was the state attorney general at the time that this new CCW law was going through the state legislature. She fought, with many others, against this new legislation. She claimed it would result in higher crime rates, more gun deaths, and overall would make Michigan a more dangerous place. She and the other opponents were DEAD WRONG. She was forced, during the gubenatorial debates, to do a 180 on this issue. She literally apologized during the debates, and said she was wrong on this new CCW law. In fact, the change in the CCW law had resulted in a reduction of crime in the state of Michigan, and more importantly, had enabled more law abiding citizens to defend themselves in ways that were not likely options under the previous law.

Sufficed to say, Michigan's experience is not unique.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are exactly right. I am a gun owner and a firm believer that guns in the right hands results in less crime. An excellently articulated point of view.


2/21/2005 4:17 PM  
Blogger Izdatyel said...

The analogy you made between cars/driver's licenses and guns/legal ownership is a good one. I completely agree that if driving a car requires a license, certainly gun use should require one as well. Just as it is illegal to operate an automobile *until* you have demonstrated satisfactory ability, it should so be so required with a gun. As a responsible and capable citizen must register an automobile in order to legally possess and operate it - another safeguard for society, so should we consider requiring registration of firearms for legal possession/use as a safeguard.

I'm not sure what you're talking about as far as the generic and unspecific complaint against liberals' gun policy positions. In Utah and other states (and federally), for instance, they are pushing the legislature to require gun shows to conduct background checks. If you support closing loopholes - well, that's kind a major one. A criminal knows that he/she can go to the gun show and buy a firearm, completely circumventing a background check. If that is not the most common-sense approach - I don't know what is. But you wouldn't know it listening to the NRA and other right-wing interest groups the vehemently oppose such laws. To oppose such a no-brainer is stupidity, in my mind. Believe it or not, the liberals are not conspiring to take away all your guns.

"Liberals" in states like Utah have been battling attempts by the right-wing to allow concealed-weapon permit holders to carry at churches and public schools. How dare they ?!? I think one of the most enjoyable moments in Utah politics was to see Republicans backpeddling so fast they were tripping over themselves (the respectable ones, that is) when the Church came out (in two seperate, but related instances) and strongly supported those (the "left" position) who were fighting to keep concealed weapons out of schools and churches. When the Republican establishment went after the U of U's policy that concealed permit holders could not carry on campus, none other than BYU released an official statement (signed by Merril Bateman - a GA) explicitly supporting the U and it's position in the dispute. The Repubs either froze in utter bewilderment ("but, we're the anointed party!?!") or simply ignored BYU and their church - some even stating carefully that the Church had "disappointed them." That's right - the buck stops there buddy - they love the church and all, but, nobody touches their precious gun - nobody.

I guess my point is that complaints against "liberal" gun policy are generally rhetorical - especially when no particular policy has been specifically challenged.

While I don't doubt that responsible and reasonable gun ownership by citizens may deter crime, the Britain and Florida examples you give are not proof of anything - at least not as you've presented them. The coexistence of conditions is not the same as correlation. Further, the correlation of conditions is not the same as causation of one by another. There may be variables in both cases that had much more impact on decreased/increased crime rates than gun ownership. I mean really, that same logic can be turned on it's head when you look at countries like Canada (and European nations) that have drastically lower incidences of violent gun crimes than the U.S. And yet many of them have - that's right - stricter gun control and lower citizen ownership. Is there necessarily a causation element there? - No. Neither is there with the Florida/Britain examples. These are the very things that are passionately argued, well argued, by both sides. Such statistics are so complex and so full of variables - there is no easy answer. But, for me, as regards background checks, keeping schools/churches gun free, making it harder for criminals to get a gun, and limiting ownership of assault/automatic weapons - there is an easy answer. Common sense.

2/25/2005 4:12 AM  
Blogger BrentGardner said...

Cossack, what constitutional authority does Congress have to control gun ownership?

3/03/2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger Izdatyel said...

There is plenty of constitutional authority provided to Congress in this regard. I think that even the most conservative rightist will eventually have to confess this reality when pressed with the consequences of absolutism. There is no specific Article I enumeration regarding the passage of laws to regulate arms ownership, use, and distribution. Does that mean that Congress cannot pass a law against the ownership and use of nuclear weapons by domestic citizenry? Congress cannot pass a law against carrying arms onto aircraft? Of course not.
Here is your constitutional authority source:

The "necessary and proper clause" - "Congress shall have the power...To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." Article I, sec. 8, cl. 18.

Read that in conjunction with the established constitutional purpose "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

So there you go - Congress has the power to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the insurance of domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare, etc. etc.

Hence, they can, indeed, pass laws against the domestic ownership of nuclear weapons. So can they pass laws (regulatory) in relation to the ownership, use, and distribution of firearms - so long as they do not violate the second amendment on its face.

I won't even get into the "commerce clause" authority here (I'm sure, BG at least, can understand why not- i.e. I don't have time to write a 200 page treatise) - but an argument, albeit a more tenuous one, for congressional authority can be made on that basis as well. But really, that argument is unecessary thanks to the "necessary and proper" clause.

3/12/2005 1:40 AM  
Blogger ptg said...

"Freedom & Gun Control... how do they balance?" Linked to:

3/20/2005 9:14 PM  
Blogger BrentGardner said...

cossack, the general welfare clause may only be invoked when Congress is spending money. Therefore, it doesn't apply to gun control. Additionally, the "necessary and proper" clause only applies to the enumerated powers granted Congress in Article 1 Section 8. The "necessary and proper" clause do not apply to other parts of the Constitution, and especially not the preamble.

The only conceivable way Congress could do it is the commerce clause, and you admitted that would be a stretch. I guess another way would be to amend the Constituiton.


3/29/2005 12:06 PM  

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