Saturday, May 24, 2008

Right to Bear Arms and Shoot Our Friends

Another spirited debate among the leaders of CFI Naples, which Jane calls my "Philosophy Club." Here I weigh in on the Second Amendment:

The Bill of Rights was written, it seems, with the intention of obscurity, perhaps to keep it a living document rather than a set of dictates that we genuflect to without thought. Still, the Second Amendment is particularly confounding to all of us.

There is "the right to bear arms" part, which seems clear enough until you consider which arms: all arms, including automatic weapons? Grenade launchers? Rocket launchers? Surface-to-air missiles?

Then there is the "in a well-regulated militia" phrase. Do we just ignore that part? If I buy a gun, can I declare myself a militia of one? Is a local gun club a militia? Or did the Founders perhaps mean something very well-regulated, like the National Guard? It seems that we have 50 very well-regulated militias.

Perhaps the ACLU considers the NRA to be doing a fine job of protecting our right to bear arms. As the second largest and best-funded lobby after AARP, I think that's the case.

I've got to weigh in as a moderate here, which is never very exciting. If I were the victim of a violent crime, I would want to carry a gun for my own sense of security. For that reason, I'm glad to have that right. On the other hand, if we regulated our gun position even a little bit better in this country, perhaps we'd be a lot safer. How many kids die fooling around with Dad's bed-side pistol each year? One is too many, but I think it's more than one. How many drunks kill friends with a .38-special every Saturday night at pool halls across the country?

I don't think guns are inherently dangerous. If you look at Switzerland, every single male aged 18 to about 60 is required to have a working military rifle in his home. The magazines are shrink-wrapped, though, and regular inspections ensure that anyone who opens their magazine's protective wrapping is sent to jail. Perhaps this is a closer definition of "well-regulated" than what we see in the US.

Have you seen Bowling for Columbine? The interview of Charlton Heston is... well, I'll never watch Planet of the Apes and The Ten Commandments in the same way again. It's hard to support the NRA after that scene, even if you aren't a big Michael Moore fan.