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First, let me say I am in favor of the 2nd Amendment. I am not, however in favor of paranoia on the part of weapon owners. This diary is inspired by the reaction to comments I made on another thread about registration of firearms. It is more than that, however, because I think I have a rather unique position to comment upon the issue.

I am an Englishman living in MN. I have owned firearms in the past, on both sides of the pond. Although I do not own one at present, as a former teacher of martial arts involving edged and pointed weapons it would be quite incorrect to describe my household as "unarmed"

Follow me beyond the orange swirl of gunsmoke for my thoughts on the matter...

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Seems simple, doesn't it? You are allowed to arm yourself and your loved ones for many purposes, including the protection of your other rights. That's the fundamental essence of the second amendment boiled down in to a nutshell. It is your right to choose to be armed for whatever reason or to choose not to be.

Let's take that as a given. Let's look objectively at the situation and accept, whether one is for or against this fact, that a constitutional amendment doing away with the 2nd is just not going to happen. Ever. Uniquely among all the nations of the world, the population of the USA has a fundamental right, explicitly stated in the highest law of the land rather than simply the absence of restriction, to be armed. (deliberately discounting the few nations where mandatory membership in a reserve force requires possession of a properly issued service weapon - the circumstances there are very different.) This is not going to change and nor would I advocate that it should.

The only grey areas here are how it is appropriate for the general population to be armed, if they so wish, and what duties and responsibilities an individual must take on in order to exercise that right.

"Duties and responsibilities?"  I hear you ask? Yes. Rights carry such things as inescapable baggage. IF you choose to exercise your right to be armed, you have a DUTY to act responsibly with regard to to your weapons. Wave your legally-owned gun around in the high street and see how fast the cops are drawing a bead on you and encouraging you to "Put the weapon down, Sir..." Hell, they'd do that to me if I unsheathed my katana in the high street too, and with just as much reason.

I absolutely agree with those that have advocated enforcing existing laws and potentially closing the loopholes that currently exist in them. (The irony that a "loophole" is an opening in a defensive barrier for the purpose of firing through is not lost on me.) However, there is one additional legislative step that seems to me to make sense and to not infringe any rights.

Let us assume, dear reader, that you are one of the responsible and law-abiding gun owners that makes up the vast majority of the firearm-owning population. It doesn't matter what type of weapon you own or for what purpose, simply that you legally own it. You, with that weapon in your possession, are not a danger to the general public. So what danger, if any, does the weapon inherently present?

"Bad Stuff" can happen with guns and all too often does. Accidents involving inadvertant discharge of the weapon or theft of the weapon by or for an individual who does present a danger in how they will use it are two big categories. I explicitly include within "inadvertant discharge" the firing of any shot that you, as the weapons owner, did not intend to occur - whether it's your finger on the trigger or not.

How would we address this in law without placing any additional limit on who may legally own what kind of weapon beyond those that already exist?

First, let's say that when not under the supervision of a "responsible person" a firearm must be securely stored. This means that when that "responsible person" is not present on the premises that firearm must be locked in a gun cabinet that meets certain minimum standards of security. The "responsible person" is a person who could legally own the weapon themselves, either you as the weapons actual owner or somebody you lent it to. If you live in a rough neighborhood and keep a revolver and a speedloader in your nightstand, that's fine but you either lock it away or take it with you if you leave the house. This would not be something that a cop could legitimately enter your place to enforce, but if they are in there for any other reason and see a firearm outside a locked gun cabinet they could ask "Who is responsible for this weapon?" and if the person holding that responsibility is not there to say "I am" then they get a ticket for "negligent storage of a firearm." and that ticket gets a lot nastier if any of the "Bad Stuff" happens as a result. The weapon will be removed and returned when the ticket is paid. Just like getting too many traffic tickets can get your drivers license suspended for a while, too many of these and if you have a carry permit that can be suspended for a while too. Obviously this has to be rational - if somebody takes a cutting torch to your gun cabinet or steals the keys from you and gets away with the contents that way that's not your fault. On the other hand leaving the keys on a hook in the kitchen plainly labelled "gun safe" is. I can hear the complaint already about folks that cannot afford or for other reasons cannot install a gun cabinet in their home, but lets face it this is the USA and if a market exists somebody will sell into it. I can see gun dealers and shooting ranges offering secure storage for a moderate price.

That takes care of when you're not around, but what about when you are? Well, if any of the "Bad Stuff" happens while you are the "responsible person" for supervising a given firearm, or you knowingly lend it to somebody who would not legally be allowed to own it that's a different kind of ticket - "negligent supervision of a firearm." Obviously this would be more of a grey area than negligent storage, because reasonable efforts to keep your weapon safe when under your supervision (ie following proper firearms safety practices, teaching the same rules to your kid before teaching them to shoot with your .22 rifle, keeping the rounds for your nightstand revolver in a speedloader not in the cylinder etc etc...) would be quite valid defenses even if the "Bad Stuff" happened anyway.

And all you need to do in order to never ever get any of either kind of ticket is to continue to be the responsible and law-abiding gun owner that you already are. This would only impact the idiots that are already giving the rest a bad name.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well said (5+ / 0-)

    I especially liked this phrase, with which I wholeheartedly concur:

    IF you choose to exercise your right to be armed, you have a DUTY to act responsibly with regard to to your weapons.
    •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

      The principle that rights come with duties and/or responsibilities permanently attached is one I've always felt strongly about. To have the right to vote carries the duty to turn out on election day and the responsibility to educate yourself sufficiently to be an informed voter rather than a ditto-head. To have the right to freedom of religion carries the duty to respect the exercise of that right by everyone else.... yadda yadda yadda but you get the point.

  •  I can see no problem with any of this (0+ / 0-)

     Holding people accountable for their weapons is not only reasonable,  I'm pretty its not much different than laws that are currently in place.  Leave a loaded revolver in the sock drawer and your idiot son shoots the neighbor,  I'm pretty sure the law is going to come down on you no matter which of the fifty states you live in.  I think that this perfectly reasonable and moderate solution will cut down on gun related homicides in just the same way parking tickets and speeding tickets cut down on improperly used and stowed cars: Some.  
        There must be a limit to how much fire power a person can wield to assure that they can exercise their second amendment rights.  If we believe that in order for a citizen to reasonably exercise their rights that person can reasonably maintain an arsenal of very deadly weapons and ammunitions in anonymity,  we will have to live with the consequences of our politics.  Or, may I say, we live with the consequences of such politics.  
        If the second amendment is interpreted differently perhaps our politics will have different consequences.  Maybe one in which six and seven-year-olds don't pay the price for our liberties.

    "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you"

    by TheFern on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 03:27:51 PM PST

    •  You are correct. (0+ / 0-)

      One thing that the approach I outlined above explicitly does not address is the vast majority of GSW deaths in the USA every year that are the gun owner committing suicide with their own gun. Closing the loopholes like private sales without a background check will address a tiny fraction of these, as more folks with mental health issues that may make them suicidal will be blocked from acquiring a gun, but considered against the whole that number is probably insignificant.

      Neither would this approach have directly prevented the horrific events that have lit the fire under this "debate" recently. Indirectly, however, as a long term trend it might. Consider that legally held weapons owned by the shooters mother were employed. If the guns had to be locked away whenever mom was out of the house and even taking an individual that you knew to have certain issues to the range and putting a firearm in their hands would be ticketable - even if they are your own kin and you are right there, you dont get to claim you were effectively supervising your weapon if you put it in the hands of an individual you knew not to be safe with one. You dont get to teach such an individual to shoot.

      I specifically make it a matter of nasty high-priced tickets for being an idiot with your weapon or its security because thats a threat folks can relate to on an immediate level. Short term it wont make a difference but longer term it will. Without doing ANYTHING that the folks that even responsible firearm owners refer to as "nuts" can object to.

  •  Today A Fifteen Year Old Male Killed His Father... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vetwife

    & four members of his family w/ an assault rifle in New Mexico.  The father was a pastor & this kid was one of 10 siblings.

    Guns were in the home, & now an unwelcome consequence has occurred.  The father might be alive
    today if that 15 year old didn't have access.

    He was clearly mad about something, now he's sitting in a jail cell & part of his family is dead.

    How did that particular gun keep everyone safe?  

    •  My argument wasnt that... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      43north, happy camper

      How did anything I posted argue that it would have kept them safe simply by its presence?

      There are genuine risks in having weapons in your home. Thats true of firearms, its true of my assorted bladed weapons. This is the case whatever the type of weapon and whatever the reason for it being there.

      One of the tags on this diary is "practicality" which is all about what we can actually achieve and being honest and not setting up straw men on either side of the argument. I will no more accept equating my argument with "guns keep you safe" than I will accept the contrarian "nobody needs a weapon like that"

      What I am saying is that we WILL have firearms in the hands of the public, all sincere moral advocacy to the contrary notwithstanding. Similarly we WILL have folks that possess weapons that aint as sensible in securing and handling them as we would wish.

      Wouldnt a practical approach to that situation involve measures to make "being an idiot with your weapons" into "something that you dont like the consequences of" a good idea? That's what I'm reaching for here, not safety. I'm a swordsman, I KNOW weapons by definition do not make you "safe", but at the same time I know they can be kept and handled safely.

  •  Your Point Is Well Taken..... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    43north, LimeyExpatDave

    sadly, not everyone has such a sensible viewpoint & such a practical approach.  A certain segment of the country is so whipped up by FOX News & talk radio that they think a democratically elected President is a tyrant who is out to eradicate their 2nd Amendment rights & their weaponry.

    Waco & Ruby Ridge happened.....but Virginia Tech, Ft Hood, Aurora & Columbine have conveniently faded from their memory banks.  Some think Sandy Hook was a conspiracy.  

    Talking about the consequences of guns may not penetrate the fire wall that has been erected....but we could certainly try.  

    •  And THAT, my friend, is the entire point. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happy camper

      As a weapon owner, who was previously a firearm owner.. We need to do what we can and what will work. "Ban them" doesn't work. Neither does "Arm everybody"

      Let's instead enact simple practical means that will result in less access to legally owned weapons by those not competent to handle them (children, those who are dealing with mental health issues, etc) and fewer incidents of legally owned weapons being stolen and adding to the pool of weapons on the street.

      I do believe that the vast majority of weapon owners are sensible and responsible about their weapon ownership. Certainly all those that I am acquainted with are. The vast majority of non-suicide gunshot deaths are when this principle is violated.  So lets make violating it a "bad idea" for the weapon owner in exactly the same way that driving after you've had a few too many is a "bad idea" for a car owner.

  •  Well while I agree (0+ / 0-)

    you mate are very guilty of that thing called Quote Mining as are most other 2nd ers.

    "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." is NOT the essence of the clause.

    It has that pesky bit at the front about the "security of the state" and a "Well Regulated Militia" that is necessary to guarantee that security.

    In legal terms, including the terms that are applied to any reading or use of the BOR, the two can not be separated. Separation of the first and second parts, and arguments over the first part, are why the US is in chaos with respect to gun control.

    Naughty naughty!

    I do agree with the rest of the diary though.

    •  touche, monsiour.... (0+ / 0-)

      If I was guilty of quote mining and I am perfectly open to the possibility that I may have been.. In my defense I was deliberately expressing myself from what I see as the prevailing point of view of my neighbors, friends and colleagues. As you accurately state, the current jurisprudence and attitude within American society has, in my view as well as yours, improperly separated those two parts.

      However, we don't make progress in this area with "I do not think it means what you think it means." In practical and reality-based terms we must accept that correct or not those two parts have indeed been separated. Given that reality it is from that standpoint that we must propose rational approaches.

    •  The leading clause is not a limiting factor.... (0+ / 0-)

      on the Right, by any rules of grammar.

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