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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Is there no end to the irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?

In this season of peace, with lots of unpeace going down, I haven't been quite able to keep my mind off the gun thing.  So here are some more musings that aren't fully-developed, but might lead somewhere. 

To begin with, if Congress exercises its plenary power to tax and/or regulate interstate commerce, can it possibly be said to infringe on a right if you essentially still can exercise it within reasonable bounds?

F'rinstance, we can't ban contraceptives outright, but can't Congress empower the FDA to ban dangerous hormonal birth control?  Seems fairly certain it can.  But now, can Congress aggressively tax OTC Plan-B to help fund universal health insurance for women?  I think it becomes at that point a political question, figuring out where the lines are drawn.

Similarly, while some extreme lefties might want to ban all firearms, that seems clearly repugnant to the Constitution.  However, given the 2nd's vagueness about what exactly constitutes arms that can be kept and borne by militias and people, and Congress' explicit powers to regulate militias and interstate commerce, as well as to tax, there still is a great deal of constitutional room to severely limit certain types of deadly weapons, provided there's a political will to do it.

There don't appear to be exact numbers available, but there are about 70-80M gun owners in America.  And perhaps about 20% of Americans own 65% of the guns.  While we never want to have the majority trample minority rights (Jim Crow, meet Mr DOMA and Mrs Prop 8), is it possible that so few Americans can hold the rest of the nation hostage while we try to figure out reasonable limits that can help reduce the impact of guns on our children and communities?

I've seen recently the comparison to the failed War on Drugs.  Roughly 22M Americans use illegal drugs (pot accounting for 77% or so of that figure).  I would never argue that drugs cannot cause great personal harm, wreck families and impact communities.  But I wonder, which has greater potential for mass damage, drugs or assault weapons?  Dunno, but it's quite debatable and even with medical costs thrown in, I'm inclined to believe guns are worse.

Anyway, the WoD is brought up to demonstrate that banning shit couldn't possibly work.  Indeed, outright bans probably can't, but we do selectively ban and heavily regulate a great deal to protect the common good, whether it be requiring safer automobiles or prohibiting pollution, so not all bans are created equal.

What's more, a great many people advocate that drugs like MJ (ala tobacco and alcohol) probably are less socially destructive/costly, and can be legalized, regulated and taxed (which would have added social and economic benefit in terms of government revenue, reducing the number of people in jail for minor offenses, etc).  Even if the heroins and cocaines of the world remain banned, and interdiction combined with treatment (have we really tried that as opposed to incarceration by the burgeoning private prison industry?) don't eliminate the problem, is that really the goal as opposed to mitigation?  Is everything from traffic laws to medical advances for treating and preventing heart disease and cancer not worth doing if they aren't 100% effective in all cases?

The specter of a black market in semi-automatic weapons was brought up in the same discussion.  I am totally fine with that.  Unlike illegal drugs, which is a blanket ban on many, many chemicals, and involves addiction, we're talking about banning the manufacture, import, purchase and maybe possession (probably grandfathered, perhaps with buybacks) of a particular subset of firearms.

Bans of assault weapons will make gun businesses reluctant to engage in illegal activities when they have legit interests to protect.  The price will be driven up and fewer people will possess such guns, reducing the number (currently about 5-10M) that can fall into the wrong hands through theft, loopholes, whatnot.  Will other weapons be bought and stolen and used?  Of course, but the problem becomes more manageable.

Consider automatic weapons.  I've not tracked down all the stuff here, but I'm willing to accept it at face value for the moment:

No new legal full-autos have been manufactured for the civilian population since 1986. Fully automatic weapons and destructive devices (grenades, bazookas, etc.) have been taxed and regulated since 1934. The National Firearms Act of 1934 requires that before a private citizen may take possession of a fully-automatic firearm he must pay a $200 tax to the Internal Revenue Service and be approved by the Treasury Department to own the firearm, which is registered to the owner with the federal government. @ 150,000 fully automatic weapons are owned by private citizens. Since 1934, I can only remember reading of three LEGALLY OWNED AND REGISTERED fully atuomatic weapons being used in a crime. One of those was committed by a Police Officer.

If this is true (I promise to look more closely when I have time post-holidays, or an NRA person provides data), I think it proves gun safety regulations work.  A tax makes purchase of specific weapons more costly, registration makes the smaller pool of owners more likely to be responsible since they could be fingered for crimes with their weapons, and there are fewer opportunities to acquire these things through theft or the black market.

Most Americans support specific, reasonable gun safety regulations.  It's time not only for our politicians but also the vast majority of people, including gun owners, to stand up to the Gun Industry Lobby that has for decades successfully framed any regulation of firearms as infringement of the 2nd Amendment.  We have an individual right to bear arms.  We don't have a right to enable an epidemic.  We need real solutions, not cartoonish proposals from gun fetishists.

ntodd

December 25, 2012 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink

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Comments

Emily requests equal standing for her pink rider bb gun.

Posted by: rugo | Dec 25, 2012 10:54:25 PM

first, nice post.

second, TYPO FIRST SENTENCE.

third, have you seen the latest from the RW regarding sidwell friends campus having armed guards?

Posted by: ericka | Dec 26, 2012 9:07:22 AM

rugo - Request granted.

erg - Thanks. Shut up (fixed). No, but OMG, who woulda thunk that maybe where the First Daughters go to school might be a higher value target for bad guys and thus might require additional protection?

Posted by: NTodd Pritsky | Dec 26, 2012 10:04:19 AM

WELL...according to, you know, THAT IS THE POINT. if they're allowed extra protection, then why not all kids? i'm just reporting what i read.

Posted by: ericka | Dec 26, 2012 12:24:02 PM

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