This is my first attempt at a diary post making it an introduction as well as a discussion of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, otherwise referred to as the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
I would like to begin with a brief introduction, at least as it relates to gun rights. I was raised in home that was against guns. An environment that can best be summed up by quoting my mother, “I hate guns.” Interestingly enough, my parents had a gun. A .410 shotgun / .22 over under rifle that originally belonged to my mother's uncle. My father took me out to shoot it once and for the first 40 years of my life, this was pretty much my experience with guns.
This changed about two years ago. My wife's family was coming for a visit and her uncle called and asked if it would be alright if he brought his handgun with him. While neither of us were gun owners, not having a strong opinion either way, we agreed. While he was here, he and I went to a local indoor gun range, where I got to try shooting his .45 automatic. The first time I fired it and felt the recoil in my hands, my initial reaction was a bit of shock, followed by “wow, that was pretty cool”. At the end of the session, the range owner offered a package deal where instead of paying for the range time, I could sign up for a class to allow me to obtain a concealed carry permit and it included a six month membership of unlimited range time. I chose this option. The following weekend, I took my wife to the range. To be honest, I all but had to drag her there, but we went. I put a gun in her hands, and she had pretty much the same reaction that I did and she too chose to sign up for a concealed carry class. We took the class in July, made an appointment at the sheriff's office, filled out the paper work for our permits, and finally received them in November. A few months later, we both purchased our first handguns, 9mm semiautomatic Glock 26's.
As I said above, this diary is about the 2nd amendment from the perspective of someone who leans to the political left, a Liberal. As this is also an introduction, I will discuss briefly what this means to me. In a nutshell, I don't view the government as an inherently evil entity that is to be minimized and eliminated at all costs. I believe that regulation is necessary and plays a part in preventing abusive practices of business and in protecting the environment as well as the consumer. I believe that the country was founded on the principles of freedom from religion and that people don't need Christian values, nor do these need to be taught in school, though evolution should. I think that a lot of problems the country is currently facing have to do with the great disparity of wealth and I believe in programs like social security and I am a proponent of socialized medicine. In my view, the govt can provide certain functions better than a private company, especially when it comes to capital heavy infrastructure like roads, utilities such as water, sewer, and electricity. I also trust the govt to provide a competent police force and a fire department. For all of these things, I recognize the need to pay taxes and I am willing to do so.
I also believe in individual rights and responsibility and this is a matter of trust. You see, I trust others to do the right thing. I trust people to raise their children properly. I trust in their judgment to make medical and reproductive decisions for themselves and I trust them to be able to use substances like marijuana and alcohol responsibly. And this is where the Right to Keep and Bear Arms comes into play, as I trust people to do that responsibly too.
There is a common saying in the gun community that goes,”gun control is not about the gun.” In other words, gun control is really about people control. And with this, comes a lot of controversy.
I frequently, see gun control mentioned in response to events like the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and as a solution to urban gang violence. Even with the recognition that these are social problems that will require a social solution, there is still the call for control or regulation of the gun. The calls range from a ban on so called, “assault weapons”, magazine capacity limits, registration, and elimination of the “gun show loop hole”. To someone who is not “in to” guns, these sounds like reasonable measures to help ensure safety. They also make the pro gun rights individual bristle as to them these forms of gun control amount to slapping them for the actions of a deranged few or the common criminal, neither of whom is not going to abide by law and on whom these restrictions would have little to no effect. Upon this stage, the argument ensues and the choice appears to be between totalitarianism and anarchy, with both sides sensing that their valid feelings, fears, and concerns are going unrecognized.
Why do people own guns? People own guns for a number of legitimate purposes, including hunting, competition sports, and self defense. It is the last of these that seems to draw the most controversy. Typically, for self defense means that a person is carrying a concealed handgun in public, but it can also mean possessing a shotgun in ones home or vehicle, as well as owning a modern semiautomatic sporting rifle, commonly known as an AR-15. A non gun person might say that nobody needs to carry a semiautomatic handgun, let alone possess an AR15. Some gun owners will agree with this, others will not. In actuality the point is pretty well moot as these items are lawful under the 2nd amendment and this has been upheld by several Supreme Court rulings. At the same time, one has to recognize the fears of the non gun perspective. So how do we reconcile these differences? How do we develop proper gun control that does not interfere with peoples 2nd amendment rights?
To a person with Liberal views, this is where the govt has role. The biggest part is in providing a framework to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them and this takes the form of a background check. The most basic form is the FBI's NICS system. Per federal law, anyone who purchases a firearm from a licensed dealer must be cleared by the NICS system. The second form would be in terms of a concealed carry permit, which certifies that the proper background check process has been done. While the laws vary according to state, in general a person who holds a carry permit: is not a felon, has not committed a violent misdemeanor such as assault, does not have a history of domestic violence, has not had a DUI conviction, is not addicted to drugs or alcohol, nor do they have any history of mental illness. In most states the permit process is updated and the check is reviewed every four to seven years. It goes without saying that there is a world of difference between the average carry permit holder and the common street criminal with a mile long rap sheet. This fact is also demonstrated by the statistics.
Here is a link to the statistics from the Texas Dept of Public Safety regarding percentage of crimes committed by persons with handgun permits. The most recent data set from 2011, shows that there 63,679 convictions with 120 (0.1884%) of those convicted having handgun permits. As of the last count, there were 524,000 active permits in the state of Texas and approximately 25,674,681 residents (According to a Google for 'Texas population') which means roughly 2% of the population has a permit. Consequently, 2% of the population is responsible for .2% of the crimes committed. If those with permits were average with regards to criminal activity, one would expect the percentage to be closer to two. From the Liberal perspective, this makes a case for a tiered permit system whereby people who desire a certain level of privilege, such as owning a higher capacity rifle, carrying guns in sensitive places like schools, possessing more potent ammunition, etc can voluntarily take training to certify that they can handle these items safely and are cognizant of their responsibilities. The laws should spell out the requirements as well as the penalties for transgression.
At the same time it is important to recognize the fears of the non gun person, including the fear that even someone with a gun permit could snap and commit mass murder. While this is true, it remains unlikely. Unfortunately, no amount of statistical data or reason is going to assuage this fear. Nor can any law prevent it. In the end, it remains a matter of trust.
Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a DKos group of second amendment supporters who have progressive and liberal values. We don't think that being a liberal means one has to be anti-gun. Some of us are extreme in our second amendment views (no licensing, no restrictions on small arms) and some of us are more moderate (licensing, restrictions on small arms.) Moderate or extreme or somewhere in between, we hold one common belief: more gun control equals lost elections. We don't want a repeat of 1994. We are an inclusive group: if you see the Second Amendment as safeguarding our right to keep and bear arms individually, then come join us in our conversation. If you are against the right to keep and bear arms, come join our conversation. We look forward to seeing you, as long as you engage in a civil discussion.As always, if you're interested in joining RKBA, message KVoimakas.