This is the post where I take on the NRA. The National Rifle Association. I’ve been searching without success to find the polar opposite organization. Got any ideas? And don’t be a smartass and say the ARN. Hardy har har.
This may ring hollow in light of what I’m about to say, but I want to be clear. I do support the Second Amendment. I do not, however, think that right should be subject to absolutely no controls of any kind. Some limits should be acceptable. This is the subtle point I hope to make.
This is a sensitive and highly inflammatory topic so I’m going to try to keep things simple and brief. I am aware, however, by taking any position contrary to the NRA I’m going piss a lot of people off. I apologize for that in advance. Hopefully my points will stand on their own.
I hope you’ll pull the trigger and make the jump to read more.
“If you outlaw guns then only outlaws will have guns.”
This is 100 percent patently and provably false. This argument ignores the fact that law enforcement would still have guns. Hell, some police departments are busy getting drone aircraft mounted with rocket launchers. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say people besides outlaws will remain armed.
This famous argument also attempts to force the issue into a binary box. It’s not that simple. It would probably be more correct to say, “If you outlaw guns then there will be less guns.”
One last point: No reasonable person that I know of has ever advocated the outlawing of all guns.
Supporters of gun rights say it’s a Constitutional issue. That’s a fair point. Yet answer this simple question: Which other amendments to the Constitution are written in stone?
There are some limits on free speech. There’s gray area in most if not all of the Constitutional Amendments. For example: The Fourth Amendment speaks about unreasonable search and seizure. Yet the Supreme Court weakened the amendment by allowing things like full-time traffic checkpoints (San Onofre, California) and sobriety checkpoints. The Supreme Court admitted things like these violated the Constitution yet allowed them anyway, citing the “greater good.”
It has been shown again and again that some limits are acceptable. There can be flexibility. There is some wiggle room. What makes the Second Amendment so special that this is the only place where it must remain absolute? That is not reasonable. It’s part of the Constitution just like all the rest and subject to the same interpretations.
Oh Comma Where Are Thou?
Did you know there were two versions of the Second Amendment? One ratified by the Congress and one by the states. The punctuation between the two was slightly different. (Source: Wikipedia.)
Some people think the comma (or lack thereof) makes all the difference in the world when interpreting the Second Amendment. They talk about how commas were used back then and stuff.
My question: If this was about individual rights, why bother to include the word “militia” at all?
For more on this:
The New York Times – Clause and Effect
Commas and the Second Amendment
Separation of Powers
Our system of government is based on separation of powers. This was designed on purpose so that no single element would gain too much power. I would argue that the NRA, as an organization, has gained too much power. There is no organization that I know of that exists to promote the concept of “equal time” by offering opposite points of view. There is no counteracting force to the NRA. As such, although the NRA complains bitterly about gun laws, the only real laws enacted are the ones they want. Laws that allow handgun magazines to carry 30 bullets (plus one in the chamber) rather than 5. Or “stand your ground” laws now found in a lot of our states.
When Florida’s “stand your ground” law was signed by Governor Jeb Bush, an NRA lobbyist stood just behind his right shoulder, beaming proudly. That’s brazen.
Some Limits Are Acceptable
The NRA argues that any limits would eventually lead to a ban on guns. This is false. Do we not have drivers in our country, even though cars have to be registered? Drivers have to take tests? Drivers have to be license? And yet, somehow, there are still a few cars on the road. Just a few.
Some limits are reasonable. Especially in light of the Supreme Court’s “greater good” standard.
Arguing against background checks is, in essence, saying that anyone should be allowed to own guns, no matter what. This is not reasonable. If you believe in state’s rights then one of those should be to establish local standards regarding these kind of limits.
Killing Is Too Easy
I believe the right to defend your live and that of your family is absolute. If threatened, deadly force is our right. Where this standard truly lies is a suitable subject for sincere debate. It lies somewhere between “unarmed” and “fully-automatic machine guns.” We don’t allow people to carry pipe bombs for self defense, so even our society recognizes there are some limits. That is the discussion we should be having, not this “all or nothing” scorched earth argument that allows no flexibility.
Imagine a neighbor is unhappy with the noise from a loud party next door. Things escalate out of hand. If the neighbor is unarmed or carrying only a knife, he can still make a decision to kill, but it will be difficult. It’s hard to face down multiple people armed only with a knife. Yes, he can still make the decision to kill, but he is less likely to make that decision, and if he does try, he’s less likely to be successful. On the other hand, if he has a handgun, all of those probabilities are radically changed. Suddenly killing has become too easy.
I believe we need an organization to counter the influence and might and single-mindedness of the NRA. That’s just my opinion. Anyone know a suitable organization where I can send my donation? I want to make a difference.
Very well argued points.
I still think you should get like minded folks to join the NRA and change it from within.
There’s also http://www.bradycampaign.org/ , set up for James Brady (who was shot during the Reagan assassination attempt) that might be a good starting point.
Thanks for the reply. You got guts. As a commenter here you’re in a class by yourself. 🙂
Change from within sounds neat, but I wonder if that could ever truly be effective. I think a group with an opposing point of view would be a better balance to the efforts of the NRA.
I’ve heard of the Brady Campaign, of course. I’ll check them out to see if they are the oppositional force I’ve been looking for. Thanks!
Fantastic post — and I agree with you on all points.
In many ways, the NRA for decades has blazed the trail for uncompromising ideological rigidity that now infects our political system as a whole. They will not accept any curbing of gun-ownership use and have huge $$ to back up their extremist stands. And as with other special interests, money gets people elected and politicians remember who to thank for their votes.
For me, I don’t like guns. As you say, I think they’re too easy to kill with. I get that people like to hunt and want to have a gun for home defense. You don’t need an AK-47 to hunt with and don’t need hollow-tipped armor-piercing bullets to defend your home against a break in.
Writing this post almost made me feel dirty, as if I was cussing in church or something. It can be hard to face down a sacred cow. But it’s something that has been building in me for some time. I agree with you about “uncompromising ideological rigidity.” I wish I knew how to use words like you. 🙂
ATF requires reporting of “bulk” handgun sales. No such rule exists for rifles. Even semi-automatic ones. Imagine if there was an organization out there that made it legal for banks to fail to report large cash deposits. We’d lose a valuable tool against crime.
A lot of gun rules, laws, and lack of laws make absolutely no sense.
Thanks for linking this post on Twitter!
I don’t follow you regularly, Abyss, but Steve tweeted a note recommending this read, and I am glad I came to read. This post is thoughtful and well expressed. You’ve raised excellent points. I am not completely against guns or the NRA, but I think the NRA needs balance. I think many of the lobby organizations need balance.
I particularly liked your bit about the Second Amendment, which I support. True – what other amendments are written in stone? “Limits” should not be a dirty word.
Great post! Well done!
Hey, thanks! The fact that you are not a regular reader makes you A #1 in my book. There’s still hope for you even though you decided to stop by. Don’t let it happen again. My aura is actually a cloud and it could rub off on you.
I’m not saying the NRA doesn’t have some validity. Like you said, there needs to be some balance.
What does a lack of balance look like? The fast food industry spends every seven hours the same amount of money it takes nutrition groups to raise in an entire year to fight for food laws. Take a look around our country. Who do you think won?
Then there is the Catholic church vs. the federal government on the issue of contraception in health plans. They claim it is their right to opt-out based on religious beliefs. Meanwhile, some colleges in this country are being forced to allow weapons on their campuses by people with concealed weapon permits. In the ongoing debate about rights, who’s right should prevail? The individual’s right to carry a weapon anywhere he wants? Or a college to determine it’s own weapons policy?
The battle rages on…
The Founding Fathers understood that certain rights should be solidly held by all men and that government should have very little say about those rights. They also understood that fewer laws was better. So many of our rights are under attack by the government these days, all in the name of “Security”. I feel less secure today knowing that the government is taking my rights away. Just check Youtube for videos of cops overstepping their bounds in asking people for identification. Police State is closer than people realize.
On the issue of the NRA, if they outlawed guns, people would be using crossbows, slingshots, or designing laser pistols, or even high velocity linear accelerators to shoot rocks at each other. People will find a way to protect/kill themselves outside of the law. The NRA understands that money makes laws come into being, they followed the corporate model and are getting laws enacted to help them and theirs. Suddenly everyone wants to cry foul. The system doesn’t need fixing, it needs to be replaced entirely.
Hi, Kzinti! Thanks for the comment. I see little to disagree with in your first paragraph. Nicely said. I’m toying with the idea of a post on that subject. Like always, I have some thoughts.
I also agree with your second paragraph point. I merely point out that most of the things you mentioned would make killing more difficult and dangerous to the shooter. I just think that a gun in the hand makes the act of killing far too easy and safe.
Yes, the NRA has perfected the art of getting laws written the way they want. All I’m saying is that if there was an equal and opposing force, perhaps the laws we end up with would be more in the middle and make more sense. I’m not saying the whole system still wouldn’t be screwed up.
The only ways to make government the way it should be is to remove the financial aspect of it or have a lottery system to appoint people to terms, much like calling people for Jury Duty. We all know how eager most people are to get out of that. I understand that the system is beyond broken and I seriously believe that the only solution is a new system. Which won’t happen without tremendous upheaval and strife in the short term. Where is it all going? Who knows. I’m just hanging on for the ride.
[…] Wax and Why We Love It”. And more thoughtfully, ShoutAbyss put up an excellent post about the NRA that doesn’t have the usual vitriol a topic like that […]
Thanks, Guapola. I’m sure glad I named my cat after you. 🙂
These are excellent points. However, while you are correct in noting that their are limits on our other rights (such as Freedom of Speech) those limitations are exceptional (e.g., ‘fire in a crowded theater,’ some limits on FOS in schools or public institutions).
I don’t know how exceptional those limits really are. They usually seem to have some aspect of causing harm to others or the higher ideal of the “greater good” at heart. Sometimes these limits can be more ominous and take the form of expedience or convenience, like so-called “free speech zones.”
It’s true that you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. That’s basically akin to attempted murder in my book.
On the other hand, as far as I know, it’s still legal to “movie” in a crowded firehouse.
hi shoutabyss… you may thank Guapola, for guiding me to your excellent and intelligent presentation, with which I pretty much agree. I have never done such a thing, but if you ever DO initiate such a group as you espouse, to balance the extreme views of the NRA, I’m your gal. Somehow it brings to mind Oprah and Dr Phil taking on the beef industry, but, hey, I’m not afraid of a little intimidation. Anywho, I commend your rational take on a very polarizing issue.
Now, RE militia, just look at the reputation of a group of such name back in the Bill of Rights day, when militiamen were the mainstay against the “crown” and its totalitarianism; now think of it in today’s environment, and troublemaker, terrorist, and many other similar images come to mind. I think they included it back then, because it made sense, sort of added weight to arming the individual, so he could join said militia in the fight for our freedoms.
thanks for an inspiring read!!!
Any friend of Guapola is welcome here. Thanks for so many kind words. I’m glad you liked this risky piece I decided to share. Overall I think it went pretty well. 🙂
Two facts about the Second Amendment that are hard to get around:
1. Why is the word “militia” included at all?
2. Why is the word “individual” omitted?
The entire NRA position completely ignores those two basic facts. They hang their hat on the exact opposite.
I did look at The Brady Campaign and, unless there is some other organization out there that I don’t yet know about, looks like it is the place where I’ll be sending my money. I want to do my part to help make a difference.
Good for you, dude – putting your $$$ where your mouth be at!!!
I’m sure my $60 a year will make a serious dent in the NRA. They’re probably having staff meetings right now to figure out how to deal with me.
I’m not familiar with the comma argument, but I am one of those who would believe a case could be made. Punctuation used to matter.
“Guns don’t kill people. It’s the bullets that do.” Ellis Paul, Autobiography of a Pistol
Nice quote. 🙂
The comma thing is an excellent example of how far an issue can be dissected when there are passionate feelings on both sides.
“Ha! The comma (or lack thereof) proves that our position is correct.”
“Are you nuts? The comma (or lack thereof) obviously supports our point of view and not yours. Any idiot can see that!”
Come to think of it, perhaps we do need more limits on free speech. That comma shit is crazy.
Just actually re-read the second ammendment. I wonder why no one has attacked it on the grounds that the proliferation of guns is nowhere in any way in support of a well regulated militia.
Know any constitutional scholars who might shed some light on whether that’s a valid argument??
Trust me on this one. That puppy has been dissected more than all the frogs in the universe combined.