Once again we’re back at each other’s throats about gun control. If you think this is an anti-gun or pro-gun RobZerrvation, think again. Blissfully in the middle of the political spectrum, I see all sides of the argument but adhere to none singularly.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a gun owner. I own the gun they were actually referencing in the Constitution. Yes, a good ol’ flintlock. I guess you could say that I am a strict Constitutionalist when it comes to gun ownership. Give me three minutes and I’ll be able to protect the ol’ homestead, unless the flint fowls again because I really don’t like cleaning my guns.
And so lies my biggest reason for not having more than the two flintlocks. I would rather run a hot poker through my corneas than clean another damned gun.
But I digress.
So let me get to the point. We love to say that we can’t do something because it will run afoul of the Constitution. We wave that piece of paper all over the place when it suits our self-serving beliefs no matter how crazy they may be, and truth be told, in some parts of our wonderful country, someone is still looking for a loophole in that piece of paper that would allow us all to have slaves again.
That is the beauty and curse of the Constitution. It is wonderfully vague so that as time wore on and the country changed, the Constitution could change right along with it. Bully for our forefathers.
The current argument, of course, is about assault weapons and it’s most reviled poster child, the AR-15. Let’s be honest here. These things are killing machines. They were made to kill people. Their cousin, the M-16, was made for soldiers to kill the enemy, whoever they were at the moment. With a few changes, the M-16 got a makeover and voila!, we have the consumer version, the AR-15.
The funny thing about all this is that we’ve had this argument before. Long before there was an AR-15, the bad guys in our country had Thompson Machine Guns. Named after its inventor, good old John T. Thompson, these machine guns with the optional cylindrical drums could spray a room with 600 to 720 rounds a minute!!! Ever hear of the Valentine’s Day Massacre? Tommy gun heaven.
We’ve all seen tommy guns in gangster movies. There’s George Raff threatenin’ the coppers, then spraying the squad car with his trusty tommy gun. The tommy gun personified the era of the mobsters, Prohibition, Elliot Ness, Baby Face Nelson and Bonny and Clyde.
Eventually, the public got tired of all the killing and turned against tommy guns. Hearing the footsteps of change, Congressmen in different states started to ask why these things were still being sold. Texas went so far as to ban all fully automatic weapons in 1933. Yes, Texas. Don’t believe me? Read a history book. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Then Franklin Delano Roosevelt came along. He and ol’ J. Edgar Hoover expanded Washington’s law enforcement powers and in 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed.
And here’s the secret of that act’s effectiveness. It didn’t outlaw machine guns or sawed-off shotguns. No, instead it required them to be registered. They were also taxed, to the tune of $200 per machine gun or sawed-off shotgun, which is about $3,400 in today’s money.
To register, the owner had to show up, be photographed and fingerprinted. Now, what criminal would want to do that? Paying the tax was a cinch. But getting photographed and fingerprinted?
And here’s the simplicity of taxing the guns. If you were caught with an unregistered gun, say in the back of your car, you could be arrested. The FBI cleaned up the streets by arresting thugs with untaxed guns. Not illegal ones. But untaxed ones.
The courts upheld the law because it didn’t ban a single gun. The law only taxed these guns and required them to be registered.
Oh, I can hear the howls right now. Again, I’m not suggesting we tax all guns, or even tax assault rifles, if they are the ill that is threatening our safety. I really don’t care what we as a society decide collectively.
What I am saying, is that there are ways to get rid of the killing machines without banning them. There are ways to require them to be registered correctly. There are even technologies out there that will allow only the owner to use them in self-defense of their home or when they are out target practicing. We have smartphones. Why not smart guns?
And let’s live in the real world for just a moment here. Even if we were to ban sales of all assault rifles tomorrow and it was illegal to make any more, there are still tens and tens of thousands of assault rifles already in this country legally. They aren’t going to go away magically. And no one outside of a liberal nut job would think that any government agency is going to march in and take any gun away from someone who legally purchased it.
There are solutions available to us. We aren’t hopeless or helpless, especially if we let history be our guide. We have made substantive changes to our world and lived through it many times before.
At one time we got rid of all the alcohol, and then found out that was a stupid idea and brought it back a couple years later. But if you’re caught driving drunk today, the penalties can be steep.
We used to be able to drive without seatbelts or a helmet too. We used to be able to sell carved ivory we owned. Times change, we adapt. Somewhere in the center of all this hyperbole and puffery is sanity. We can find a good middle ground if we just stop long enough to take a deep breath, empty the chamber of our own self-righteousness and loathing of the other side, and figure out a plan that protects every American, keeps guns away from the bad people and punishes those that commit heinous crimes regardless of the weapon used.
The Declaration of Independence says that we all have certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness. No individual right in this country supersedes another’s. And I think we all can agree that we should all have the right to reasonably believe we won’t be killed at school, in a mall, at the theater or just walking down the street.
The lobbyists and special interests in this country don’t give a damn if we all kill one another. It’s up to each of us, our friends, our neighbors, our family, to make the tough choices that will keep our children and ourselves safe. To fail now is to fail our future generations and we’ve already done enough damage to this world already to fail again.