I have a gun and it’s from the future. It fires smart bullets which are programmed to hit a specified target miles away. The bullets have built-in navigation and can maneuver around the terrain better than a cruise missile. It can fire an insane number of bullets per minute. And to fire the gun, I don’t even have to hold it or pull the trigger. I just think about my target, the gun locates the target, and fires. It’s deadly accurate.
Should anyone have such a gun?
No one would be safe. If someone had it in for you, they can just think about shooting you and you’re done. Think about the implications for mass shootings. A person could just think about each victim and a massacre ensues. Is it a crime to think about shooting someone without physically pulling the trigger? Laws would have to change to make this the case. New gun controls and regulations would need to be enacted.
Back To the Past
Now imagine you are living in 1835. It’s been 44 years since the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1791. You can now buy a new Colt revolver. Did the creators of the 2nd Amendment consider such a gun for personal ownership (regardless of your definition of “Militia” or “Arms” is) ? Back in 1791, guns were pretty much one-shot and reload. It would be hard to single-handedly carry out a mass shooting prior to the Colt revolver. By the time you made a single shot and reloaded, someone could probably disarm you or shoot back. After the Colt revolver was introduced, the “wild west” ensued.
Should anyone have such a gun?
Should anyone have such guns?
Well, it seems about the time of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and many mob killings, people were getting fed up with the mass shootings. In 1934 the National Firearms Act (NFA) was passed. This essentially attempted to “deter” owning machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and silencers. But the $200 tax, which was quite severe in 1934, has not changed since then. It’s still $200! You also have to register the firearm with the Secretary of the Treasury. They basically made it onerous to own one of these guns. But, you could legally still own such guns up to 1986 if you went through the red tape.
In 1968, Title II of the Gun Control Act (GCA) was passed to further refine the NFA. It defined destructive devices and refined the definition of “machine gun”.
In 1986, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act _ finally_ prohibited the transfer or possession of machine guns. I believe this was the first real prohibition on a gun that you can own. This “Owner’s Protection Act” was kind of a mixed bag, though. It also allowed interstate sales of guns, repealed certain record keeping restrictions on the sale of ammunition, but kept those restrictions for armor piercing rounds. [N.B. Who decides where the line is drawn? What makes a bullet that can kill you OK, but one that can pierce armor not OK?]
Did you know bump stocks are currently prohibited as of 2019? Strangely, someone running for MN State Representative stopped by my door the other day. I asked him if we should make bump stocks illegal (they’re not guns). He said “No, I would keep them legal”. Some things do change (gun laws), but some things don’t (politicians).
Times change. Our gun laws have been adapted to changes in the past.
Where Do You Draw the Line?
I grew up with guns around. My father loved to hunt. I took gun safety classes when I was young and was taught how to shoot a rifle and shotgun. However, for me, it wasn’t my thing. I’m okay with other people hunting and shooting targets. I’m not okay with people shooting other people.
Right now, we obviously are not locked into a 2nd Amendment view that you can possess and use any kind of “Arm” you want. You can’t have machine guns. You can’t have an RPG.
But I don’t think it’s enough. There’s absolutely no reason someone needs to own an AR-15 (or any kind of high-capacity semi-automatic), high-capacity magazines, or hundreds of rounds of ammunition. If you really want to use them in sport, perhaps you need to go to a licensed gun range where they own the weapons and the ammo. You can use them and leave them there when you’re done.
Restricting which arms you can own does not infringe your 2nd Amendment rights. You can still own other “Arms” to fulfill the promise of those rights. Do you own a muzzleloader or 12 gauge pump-action shotgun? Congrats - you’re enjoying your 2nd Amendment rights.
I actually think the 2nd Amendment is vague enough that it can be further interpreted and refined over time. In fact, if you go back and read my links, you’ll see that there are plenty of court interpretations that define what it means in today’s terms.
We need to do many things to fix our problem with gun violence. We don’t need sweeping bills to be passed. We can pick a single topic and pass it. Pass a single bill for mandatory federal background checks with a significant waiting period. Pass another bill to restrict the amount of ammunition that can be purchased over a certain period of time, and also report it when it is purchased. Require that all arms are sold through a licensed dealer that must register the transaction and perform a background check. This would eliminate private sales which would circumvent the background check.
There are many more things. But if we don’t have guns to pull off mass shootings, the mentally ill individual won’t be able to do it with their mind alone.
Things need to change. Things have to change.