Monday, September 23, 2002

Guns and Rights

While The Nitpicker will usually be seen as agreeing with liberals on most issues, I tend to disagree with the common leftish (leftesque?) take on guns. It's time again to look at this issue, as it's become important again in many mid-term elections, including Maryland's.

Maybe it's the country boy upbringing or having served in the Navy and Army (don't ask), but I don't think so. My problem with the argument against the Second Amendment is that, in this area, liberals seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too.

Look at the liberal take on the First Amendment. They tend to want it to be interpreted to the widest extent possible. I agree. It should exclude most limitations on free speech and the right of assembly. It should keep prayer out of school (I won't argue this now, but check here if you doubt the founding fathers' intentions). So how can the left then want to play word games with the Second Amendment? It seems to me that you can either view the bill of rights as a document to be read broadly or restrictively and I'm not willing to give up the right to free speech in order to keep a handgun away from a person who, statistically, is not going to do anyone any harm.

That having been said, I think there is a happy medium here that, if gun rights advocates would only open their minds a bit, would be amenable to all. I'm talking about the "ballistic fingerprinting" and tracking of guns.

Here's how it works. Every time a gun is readied for the market, it would be fired and a ballistic fingerprint kept on file with, say, the FBI. Each time that gun is sold, a document would then have to be sent to the FBI, much like a car title. This would allow police to more easily track down the owners of guns used illegally (and, by law, they would only be allowed to track down those weapons used illegally) and, more importantly, to track down the "straw men" who are selling guns to criminals who can't get them any other way. If you can find out who's selling guns illegally, they could be held criminally liable for the crimes committed with those guns. As anyone who watches Law and Order can tell you, second degree murder charges can be filed (in many states) if someone shows a "depraved indifference to human life." Therefore, you should assume that the gun you are selling illegally is not being purchased for shooting at tin cans,but, by the illicit nature of the sale, is intended for nefarious purposes.

Gun advocates are pulling their hair out right now, seeing this as a restriction of ownership. I disagree. This change in the law ought to allow less restriction on gun ownership, as it would set up a method to track down those who give guns a bad name. Also, it's completely in line with restrictions on the rights of free speech, search and seizure, et. al., that our nation sees fit to uphold on a daily basis.

There will be those who argue that such a database would be used when "jackbooted thugs" came to take their weapons away. First, these people are clearly so paranoid that they probably shouldn't be allowed loaded weapons. Second, the logistics involved in a house-to-house clean-up of weapons would be staggering and render any such action impossible. And third, any soldier worth the mud in his boot tread knows that such an action would be a violation of the Second Amendment and, therefore, would be in opposition of his or her oath to "support and defend the constitution." I don't know one soldier who wouldn't refuse to perform such an action.

There is much room to maneuver on the matter of guns. But it's going to require more intellectual honesty than is usually seen from politicians on both the right and the left.


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