Saturday, July 21, 2012

Turn In Your Guns. Please.

My previous post was written with a sense of personal courage just a few days before the movie shooting in Colorado. I had thought most Americans weren't in favor of gun control, but I have since found charts from studies concluding that gun ownership is decreasing, and for that I'm grateful. If only James Holmes, the midnight movie-theater killer in Colorado, had not owned firearms.

According to the Gun Violence Policy Center ( in Washington, D.C., the percentage of households owning guns has fallen from around 50% to 30% since 1973, a period of almost forty years. The number of individuals owning guns in America has likewise fallen from around 30% to 20% since 1980. The states with the highest household gun ownership such as Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, and Nevada have the highest "gun death rate per 100,000" each year. The reverse is true as well: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York have the lowest rates.

This news is different from the noisy propaganda marketed by the National Rifle Association (NRA)

Why has this happened? Reasons given in my research include the following ideas:
  • military conscription has ended, 
  • hunting has decreased in popularity, 
  • hunters have been hampered by land-use issues and limited permissions, 
  • fewer shooting ranges exist, 
  • older white male gun owners have lost interest or died. 
  • Oddly enough, the increase in single family homes headed by women has decreased interest in the ownership of guns.

I like the final words quoted below from an especially civilized American organization called The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:

  • The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has criticized the NRA for its "warped conception of popular sovereignty...that citizens need to arm themselves to safeguard political liberties against threats by the government."[48] It went on to add that "if [the NRA members] believe in the right to take up arms to resist government policies they consider oppressive, even when these policies have been adopted by elected officials and subjected to review by an independent judiciary, then they are opposed to constitutional democracy."

Yes, they're "opposed to constitutional democracy". I agree with them and my research indicates that the Founding Fathers probably did too, despite the bogus arguments promoted by the NRA.

 Constitutional democracy works by consensus, because "the pen is mightier than the sword". 

It's injudicious to assume the founding fathers of America had united views on the proper use of guns three centuries ago. Their constitution was a set of laws that worked for them at that point in time. It did not work for all people in all circumstances for all time. The "right to bear arms" clause enabled the minority white male voters to organize colonial law enforcement for the purpose of self-defense.

The NRA is twisting that earlier quaint need for police forces as well as a national military in America as a modern excuse to promote personal private gun ownership, and to reel in fee-paying supporting members of the NRA.

Sadly, the Supreme Court is divided on the issue, with some saying that the Framers of the Constitution could have extended, but didn't extend, the right to bear arms beyond the militia by adding phrases such as "for the defense of themselves". That's petty. It's splitting hairs.

Gun ownership in England, when guns were invented, was originally supposed "to preserve the hunting rights of the landed aristocracy" (W). The British at that time were more concerned with preventing the emergence of military might in America than the use of firearms for hunting.

What was the original understanding of the right to bear arms in provisions of the Second Amendment? According to the Maryland Law Review, an article by Saul Cornell gives evidence that the Framers of the Constitution did indeed differentiate between personal right to bear arms for self-defense and hunting, and the bearing of arms within "the militia". The Framers would have been aware that popular provisions indicated constitutionally distinct use of firearms whether for civilian or military purposes in the Pennsylvanian Constitution of 1776. 

Amazingly, the supposed rock solid tenets of the NRA and modern gun rights supporters,  that "any body of armed citizens is a militia with a constitutional right to take up arms against its government" originated in a highly unpopular so-called Anti-Federalist movement that opposed the Constitution of 1787, whose members were voted out.

The elite Framers of the Constitution did not view an armed mob as a well-regulated militia. Modern gun rights supporters have twisted this obscure branch of Anti-Federalist rhetoric for their own purposes to construct a bogus historical  basis for modern gun ownership. 

Leading constitutional scholars have not found any evidence to support individual rights to bear arms, according to Cornell.

Even historian supporters of the individual-rights thesis have never been able to produce more than a (feeble) handful of texts to support their claims, and have mostly just recycled the hugely-unpopular Anti-Federalist Dissent paper. 

Cornell's paper says that the preponderant majority of historical documents allowing the bearing arms in the founding era was "indisputably the orthodox military one"...and accuses naysayers of intellectual fraud and sophistry (ie trickery)!

We all know, it's common sense, those who own guns need beneficial occupations to distract them from hunting or committing violent acts. It is known through studies (NPR)  that social programs and jobs that keep youths occupied distract them from violent activities and promote lower crime statistics. The idea "that guns don't kill people (?) -- people kill people" is simple-minded foolishness. Guns are tools to kill people, just as nuclear bombs are.

The majority of Americans view (and should view) NRA supporters and gun owners as the modern-day radical equivalent of the disloyal, unpopular and unhelpful IRA, Basques, separatist Quebeckers and anti-Federalists of old.

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