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The NRA crowd and the pro gun lobby are always talking about MY rights and how the Big Bad Government would like nothing more than to take those rights away. The fact of the matter is that every time that we have passed sensible legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or the mentally ill, the NRA and their allies have fought us every step of the way. And now, the NRA and their allies would turn around and insist that we enforce existing laws -- the same laws that they worked so hard against when they were first brought up. They would claim that the Second Amendment is an absolute right to bear arms.

But the fact of the matter is that the same logic that they use to defend the Second Amendment can be used to defend the right of the people to keep and bear nuclear bombs. Now, for the record, I think that people have a Constitutional right to defend themselves in their homes. I even support the Castle Doctrine, which holds that a man's house is their castle. But the question I have is, where does it all end?

There are four legitimate uses that a person can have for a gun:

--Protection of one's self and one's home against danger;
--Hunting;
--Collecting;
--Sport shooting.

I would suggest that if a gun falls under one of the four criteria listed, then it should be allowed. If not, then it shouldn't.

But the problem is that if there were ever a way to mass produce nuclear bombs, then I guarantee you that the NRA would be on the front lines defending the right of the people to keep and bear nuclear bombs. And since when does one need a machine gun to hunt or to defend one's house? There have to be limits on what kinds of guns people can legitimately use. If there are not, then what is to prevent someone from pulling a sawed-off machine gun on a cop and unloading 50 bullets into that cop and then speed off before people have time to react? Where the NRA and their allies cross the line is when they defend the rights of criminals to shoot cops with impunity or of some killer to enter our schools and see how many kids they can shoot.

The NRA and their allies can complain about the Second Amendment all they want. But the problem with that argument is that no part of the Constitution is absolute. A newspaper can't print stuff that is slanderous or libelous. You can't yell fire in a crowded theater or take a dump on someone's floor and call it free speech. You can't sue your employer for firing you for not showing up to work under the slavery amendment.

At the same time, gun prohibition does not work any more than prohibition on pot, alcohol, or our broken immigration laws. If we were to pass a law repealing the Second Amendment, then all we would do is create a black market that would create organized crime rings. Right-wing militias would be much more powerful than they are now because they would make a lot more money selling illegal weapons, just like organized crime rings were very powerful in the 1920's from selling illegal alcohol. People may argue at this point that we regulate doctors; however, there is no Constitutional prohibitions against regulating doctors. However, in the case of guns, we have the Second Amendment to consider. And the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment applies to individuals.

Therefore, at some point, we have to be able to protect the right of average people to protect their homes and families while keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people. The NRA and their allies have a point about the enforcement of laws against guns -- the fact of the matter is that many of the recent mass shootings could have been prevented by enforcement of the laws that we have. And a lot of these laws should depend on common sense -- who would we feel comfortable with owning a gun? Would we want someone who is a convicted felon owning one? How about someone who is involved in a nasty divorce or domestic dispute? How about someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness?

The second question is, how far can or should one go to protect themselves? On the one hand, one might feel safer defending themselves with a submachine gun. But what if such a person doesn't have the guts to shoot an intruder and that intruder goes for the gun and gets it away from them? Or what if our police, in response to the widespread proliferation of submachine guns, decide to shoot first and ask questions afterwards if a situation were to get out of control?

The third question involves people who are law-abiding citizens. What about people who have been law-abiding citizens for 45 years and then just snap all of a sudden? I submit that in this case, the system will have failed because of failure to diagnose people for mental illness. After all, the person who shot John Lennon was mentally ill. I submit that if we are to get a handle on gun control in this country, we have to be able to find ways of identifying and diagnosing people who are mentally ill and who are in need of treatment. The best way that we can prevent the sort of mass shootings that have been in the news lately is prevention -- when someone goes postal, then it is too late. Part of the goal should be to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness -- many people don't get the help they need because of the stigma associated with mental illness. In other words, when someone becomes mentally ill, then it becomes a compelling public interest to prevent that person from hurting either themselves or others.

Originally posted to Stop the Police State! on Sun Apr 26, 2009 at 07:59 AM PDT.

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