In 2008, the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller that the District of Columbia cannot ban the ownership of handguns. At a demonstration outside the Court, a placard read, “If you think guns kill people, then you must think that pens misspell words.” That ruling applied only to federal enclaves, but in 2010, the Court expanded it in McDonald v. Chicago to include all the states. Citizens have a right to defend themselves, said Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinions for the Court.
Let’s think about guns and pens. A gun cannot kill unless somebody pulls the trigger. A pen cannot misspell a word unless somebody exhibits their ignorance by writing with it. Nobody can argue with either of those statements. If I misspell a word or commit some other grammar or logic error in this essay, I have given those who disagree with me a reason to question my intelligence. No other harm is done. But if I point a gun at somebody and pull the trigger, the damage is not so trivial.
I will not attempt to argue the Constitutional issues. Clearly, it is not a simple black-and-white choice. The Court decided the issue by a 5-4 majority. They were as close to evenly divided as they could be. Supposedly, these are the wisest jurists that we have in our nation. I don’t think much of the late Tony Scalia and his right-wing “Gang of Four.” But I recognize that they are not stupid, nor are they ignorant. Neither are the other members of the Court. This is a debatable issue, and there are valid arguments on both sides. Those who gloated over their victory should think about that. Even Scalia, in writing the majority opinions cautioned that the decisions were drawn on very narrow grounds, and that gun ownership restriction and other limitations were valid.
Let’s consider some of other arguments that gun owners trot out whenever this issue is discussed.
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. This oft-quoted tautology doesn’t address the principle of gun control, but rather the practicality of the enforcement of a ban. It’s equivalent to saying, “We can’t stop people who get drunk and then drive their cars, killing people, so we might as well make it legal to drive drunk.” Before you dismiss my analogy think about this: Neither drunk driving nor gun ownership will necessarily cause harm, but both raise the probability that bad things will happen. Most drivers who exceed the legal blood-alcohol level reach their destination safely. If that were not the case many of us, in our younger years, would have spent a lot of time in jail, including yours truly. (See Note) Likewise, most gun owners will not cause death or injury to others through their own actions or negligence. But both significantly raise the chances that somebody will be hurt or killed.
Yes, you might argue, but drunk driving is illegal and gun ownership is not. Thank you for making my point. If the law is consistent, either both should be legal or both should be illegal. And I am absolutely opposed to legalizing drunk driving.
While it is certainly true that a ban on handguns will not immediately eliminate all the guns owned by gangbangers, burglars or other perps, we cannot begin the elimination of these personal death machines until we actually do something more than standing around wringing our hands! We cannot complete a journey until we take the first step…and then the next, and the next.
Note: Now that we are older and wiser, we use Uber or a similar service when we attend a party or other event where we expect to imbibe
Butcher knives and baseball bats can also be used to kill someone. So should we ban those too? Another simplistic little gem. Can you imagine killing someone with a butcher knife or a baseball bat? You have to get VERY close to your target, and use a lot of strength and skill to wield the bat or the knife…and there is a good chance that your target may not go quietly. You might get hurt, or get splattered with blood and guts in the process. But with a gun, it is so easy, so…sanitary. You simply stand back and pull that little trigger thingy and BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD. Even a four-year-old can do it…and they kill their siblings and their parents frequently. I will not repeat all the statistics that show more people killed accidentally by handguns than those killed or deterred from committing a crime by some righteous guardian of the public. The cost/benefit ratio does not make the case for the NRA.
So, now let’s get down to the REAL bottom line. Guns represent power. If you don’t think so, imagine for a moment that a burglar breaks into your house and points a gun at you. He has the power of life and death over you. There is no greater power than that. Gun ownership is all about power. Some wannabe militia members view it as the ultimate defense against oppression by the government, but that is a fantasy. = Do they really think that their little popgun would stand a chance against the power of the US military, or even against a police SWAT team? Get real, folks. But having that gun in a drawer by the bed gives some homeowners a sense of power…to neutralize the power of that bad guy who might come in and threaten his family.
It is possible that a gun owner, upon hearing a burglar break into his house, could actually find and use his weapon to deter, or in the last resort, kill the intruder. There is a much greater chance that, if his weapon is stored securely in a locked cabinet, unloaded, with the cartridges in a different place, he will not be able to access and load it in time. If it is loaded and readily available, there is a much greater chance that a family member or friend will be injured or killed in an accident or act of passion using that “self-defense” weapon.
Here’s another problem: That burglar who broke into your house…the one you just killed: If he didn’t have a weapon, or wasn’t directly threatening you with it, you may end up going to jail for your brave defense of your domicile. You better know the law very well before you pull that trigger.
So, do a cost/benefit analysis. How do the positives and negatives stack up? If you still don’t get it, I feel sorry for you. It’s not your fault that the Almighty screwed up when he designed your brain by not including sufficient intelligence to enable you to develop critical thinking skills.
For me, the answer is obvious. Even though I have owned various firearms in the past, I no longer own any, and never will for the rest of my life.