Guns, School, Hysteria and the NRA

  

In my view, it is truly truly unfortunate that we seem to be utterly unable to have any kind of rational discussion about America and guns. Granted, there are some who seem willing to entertain serious discussion. However, it is frequently hard to hear their voices over the shrieking of the fringes on both sides.

First, a disclaimer: I cannot claim to be a lifetime gun owner because I did not get my first one until I was 11 years old. I started shooting in competition shortly thereafter. I have been a gun owner and shooter since that time. As a kid, I was a junior member of the NRA. It was a shooters' and hunters' organization at that time, not a lobby for gun manufacturers, which, unfortunately, it seems to have become. When I belonged, members could get inexpensive ammunition and could purchase, inexpensively, army surplus 30 – 06 caliber rifles for big game hunting. I shot in lots of competitions sponsored by the NRA. Somewhere in my garage I have a whole box full of trophies and medals my mom hung onto for me.

We really do need to have a serious discussion about firearms, their ownership, and their use. There is, approximately, one civilian-owned firearm in circulation in this country for every man woman and child in the United States. Every year, about 75,000 people in this country are killed or injured from gunshot wounds, some accidental, some self-inflicted, and some very, very intentional.

"GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE" is a perfect slogan for the anti-gun-control folks. It is absolutely correct, and it completely misses the point. The same thing could be said about knives, axes, hangman's nooses, and on and on. A gun, lying on a shelf, won't hurt anyone. Someone has to pick it up, load it and aim it (or drop it) to cause it to shoot. Similarly, knives don't jab themselves at people nor do they jump up and cut people's throats. It requires a human hand on the knife to do any of those things.

The problem is that guns make terrible injuries to yourself or others so easy. If you use a knife on somebody, you have to be willing to get right up next to them, and stab them so that you get their blood all over you. You can shoot them from 10 feet away without any close contact. You don't have to touch them, smell them or feel their blood with a gun.

Last summer, people were killed in Siskiyou County under circumstances where it only happened because a gun was available. A number of families had gotten together on a pretty summer afternoon to have a birthday party for one of the dads at a mutual friend's house. A male relative of someone in the group showed up drunk. He continued to drink, and finally sucker punched another participant because he misheard or misunderstood something that guy had said. Several of the other men at the party grabbed him, subdued him and kept him restrained. Part of the problem is that he arrived on a motorcycle and was going to have to cross roughly 20 miles of steep, winding mountainous road to get home. He was obviously in no condition to operate a motorcycle, especially over that kind of road. After a couple of hours, he got to the hidden key for the motorcycle, started it up, and got away. Unfortunately for everyone (including himself), he did not crash.

He went back to his home in Yreka, got a gun, got into his car, and headed back over the mountain. He walked into the party and shot and killed two of the participants, including the birthday boy. Two women went to a birthday party with their families and went home widows. A bunch of kids went to a birthday party with their families and went home without a dad. A third family will have a dad but he'll be in prison. All because he was drunk, wildly angry, and had access to a gun.

The idea of placing some restraints on rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is nothing new. The First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech; yet it was held long ago that the First Amendment did not give someone the right to start screaming "fire" in a crowded theater that is not, in fact, on fire. Our discussion needs to be about how we protect the rights conferred by the Second Amendment to the Constitution without allowing someone to do the equivalent of starting a panic for no reason. In my view, these efforts have been thwarted by unreasonable positions on both sides

The pro-gun folks claim that any effort to control guns is but a first step to disarming the population. That, of course, is ludicrous because the "disarm the population" bus left town a long long time ago. There are more than 300 million civilian owned firearms in this country. Any effort by any government which tried to seize those is simply doomed to failure. First, it would create the biggest black market ever seen in this country, resulting in no controls at all. Further, the population would not put up with it. I don't see an army of citizen soldiers marching other citizens off because they own firearms. And even if they managed to get half, that still leaves over 150 million guns in the population.

The anti-gun folks claim that the framers of the Second Amendment never anticipated technology and its changes. They were protecting the right of people to keep single shot smoothbore inaccurate muskets. That also is foolishness. Rifling was invented about 200 years before the second amendment was signed. But the anti-gun people claim, "they didn't have guns to kill a bunch of people at once like we have now".  These people should go look up grapeshot. Grapeshot was used before and during the Revolutionary War with devastating effects on massed infantry. Mortars that rained projectiles down on defensive positions had been known for a long time before the Revolution to the point where 50 years or so before the second amendment was signed they start replacing simple projectiles with explosive devices in the mortars, essentially raining the other side with hand grenades.

And then there is the modern NRA. I don't know if Charlton Heston sold them out to the gun lobby or simply was the spokesperson who announced the sale. The notion that we solve the issue of kids being shot in our schools by bringing more guns into the schools is insane. Even trained police officers miss their target 75-85% of the time in fire-fight situations. Do you want your kid in that room? Or in the room behind the officer or the criminal? Sheetrock does not even slow bullets down much. Trained police officers armed in our schools carry a real potential for disaster. Vigilantes, such as suggested by the NRA would be far, far worse.

And don't forget, the bad guy shooting back will certainly have had even less training than the police officer, and will probably really be spraying shots around. If we are going to do anything, doesn't it make more sense to concentrate on keeping guns out of schools than to be talking about bringing more in?

The attempt to ban so-called "assault rifles" is silly. They are simply semi-automatic rifles put into cases so that the owner can think of himself as Rambo. High volume magazines are a different kettle of fish. Why does someone need 13, 17, 20 or 50 rounds in a magazine? Unless, of course, he wants to kill as many people as possible.

The notion that people need these high volume magazines for self defense is laughable. The first thing the Sandy Hook killer did with the gun with the high capacity magazine he stole from his mother was blow her face off with it as she lay in bed. The last time a woman successfully defended her home against invaders using a gun, it was a good old-fashioned shot gun; probably the best defensive weapon a homeowner can have. You are way less likely to miss the intruder and if you do, the projectiles are not likely to go through a wall into your kid's adjoining bedroom.

Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. The offices of Barr and Mudford, LLP, are at 1824 Court St. in Redding and can be reached at 243-8008.

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20 Responses »

  1. Rational, informed, well thought out, even-handed commentary.

    It should assure that you are harangued equally from both sides.

    Thanks for making the effort.

    • "Rational, informed, well thought out..." indeed. Those on one side of the argument will want to lynch you. Those on the other side will want to shoot you. Either way... well... you know.

      I would like to read a take on the wording of the Second Amendment from someone with a trained "legal-eye". It seems fairly straightforward to me, but I'm good at missing the bleeding obvious, so I might benefit from an interpretation from someone who didn't spend Civics class in the hallway for his, admittedly in retrospect quite inappropriate, behavior.

      Doesn't the Second Amendment simply say, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

      Is a "well regulated Militia" central to the right to bear arms? If so, who belongs to this Militia? Just those of us with an arm to bear? Where do we meet? We're required by our Constitution to be well regulated, right? What are the regulations? Who regulates us? And, if the Constitution is meant to be a living, breathing document (my Civics teacher said it was, I heard him, just before he sent me to the principal's office) is having a well regulated Militia still necessary to a free state? I mean, things were a little different in the 18th century, right? I mean women and black people were chattel in those days weren't they? Anyway, we can amend amendments can't we?

      Somehow, knowing that most of the people I'm in line with at WalMart own a firearm and are, presumably, part of this Well Regulated Militia that stands between me and a tyrannical government doesn't do much for my general feeling of well-being and security. In fact, I'm afraid it's having the opposite effect on my warm fuzzies.

      Help me understand!

      • That well regulated militia language is perplexing to me. There were small groups called for by the States and by the central government. But really nothing like a standing army except at Fort Knox and some Western Border forts. Considering that the was forces were raised often amounted to a wealthy person getting himself a comission by buying it and raising his own troops, who knows? It is clear that the colonies were leary of a standing Federal force both in therms of expense and in terms of maintaining their own power. I wonder if the "well regulated militia" language was not as much of a bone to those folks as anything.

  2. Great read, however, I don't see where this really answers the questions about what we are going to do to control our gun usage/misuse in this country. Darn-it!

  3. Guns are good. Buy more. Buy for your family members. There should be no permit process for concealed weapons. Regulating does not stop gun crimes. Anyone can buy guns on the streets so registration and permitting serves no purpose.

    • Yo, Russell, baby... Drugs are good. Buy more. Buy for your family members. There should be no permit process for drugs. Regulating does not stop drugs or drug crimes. Anyone can buy drugs on the streets so registration and permitting serves no purpose. Heck, give everybody guns and drugs! It'll be like living in a Warren Zevon song! OK, maybe more like a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, but what the heck, it's gotta be more fun than being oppressed by rational thought or some such liberal claptrap.

      Your logic and concern for the common good is inspiring, I think you have a bright future in Redding politics.

  4. I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but something needs to be done since way too many innocent people are being gunned down. Certainly, start with background checks, which I have had done on me; then, perhaps a license; if we need to have a license to operate a car (which can and does kill people), we should have a license to operate a gun.

  5. I try not to be a defeatist, but on gun control, I am one. Unfortunately, the cat is waaaay out of the bag. We should have thought of this a long time ago. Any time a noise is made about restricting assault weapons, or high capacity magazines, or instituting universal background checks -- gun sales spike to record levels. Gun manufacturers love it.

    I think it is logical to support law enforcement on this one. Every law enforcement agency in America supports background checks, and banning assault weapons. I would like to see these laws passed and enforced. It might save a few lives, and human lives are precious. But I think trying to get weapons of war off the streets is a lost cause.

    What I would like to see happen, however, is a short exploration of the "argument" that the US constitution guarantees citizens the right to own weapons of war, in case they need to fight back against a tyrannical government. I always wonder, when Ted Nugent, or someone of his ilk, fires his first shot in this "struggle for freedom," who will the bullet hit? Some poor kid from Idaho who joined the Army to get his college education paid for? It is beyond silly.

  6. Gun control never seemed like a good idea to me until the people who are against it started speaking. Now I would get right behind a mandatory psychological evaluation for anyone wanting to purchase a gun. The NRA and all the other gun advocates who have spoken up on this issue have made it quite clear that we allow far too many mentally unbalanced people to own firearms. The most outspoken opponents of gun control seem to unintentionally be the greatest argument for gun control.

  7. Watching the president's speech on gun control right now. Very powerful for its common sense and compassion. The next congressman I vote for, will vote for common sense laws like what Obama is proposing.

  8. I like Philbert! You guys need to get a "like" button on here. This is a real life Redding discussion on an important topic for Redding citizens. That is a very cool thing. The News Cafe is an important site for many of us, for our local news and views.

  9. Thank you, Dugan. Well reasoned, well put.

  10. I don't know which I like more, the original article by Dugan or the various comments. How nice to have a discussion where each voice can be heard.

  11. Dugan, I'm glad I'm not the only disenchanted NRA member. Used to be a great organization, before it got taken over by the warmongers.

    Nevertheless, there IS a serious, well-funded movement to get rid of all guns, and hunting, as well. It is not a trivial threat, and actually undermines serious discussion about what limits to the 2nd amendment are reasonable.

    In the current movement, three subjects are up for discussion; background checks, multi-round clips, and assault weapons. Backgrounds checks seem pretty reasonable, and Californians have lived with 10-round clips for awhile, just fine.

    It is when we come to the subject of assault weapons that the irrationality of the gun-banners becomes obvious. What do they mean? Rifles with carry-handles? Short, ugly little rifles? All semi-automatics? They refuse to define the term, making lists of guns they don't like, instead. This is simply ignorance, fed by the mass media.

    I personally cannot dismiss the seriousness of the threat to gun-ownership in this country. I admit this makes it more difficult to discuss the subject; an awful lot of liberals are just plain anti-gun.

  12. On target (heh). Yep, both pro and anti gun folks tend to ignore rationality on the issue. Thanks.

  13. Regardless of their arguments, the NRA is really nothing more than a shill for the firearms industry. It's original purpose has been lost in the money.

  14. Background checks are a must. I attended Front Sight and they require a background check also. I think that is a great idea. I want only the "good guys" to have quality weapons' training. The assault weapon ban sounds good but when you single out a weapon for its looks, it seems pointless. It reminds me of the outcry against semi-automatic weapons years ago. I think mandatory training should be required to have a gun. Why would anyone be against that? Also, any sensible gun owner has a way to secure their gun(s). Why wouldn't you? But, I do not believe the limitations on magazines should 10 ten rounds. If we miss 75% - 85% of the time, I would like enough rounds to ensure I have stopped the assailant. Not killed them, stop them from attacking me and my family. I think since many mag pistols have a 12-15 round capacity, I think that should be acceptable. Just my 2 cents.

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