My Two Cents on Gun Control Law in AmericaPosted: December 21, 2012
Finally today, I wanted to thank Barry for bringing up the issue of gun control law in America on ACL. He’s right that it’s a very serious and timely issue, unfortunately due to the terrible recent events in Connecticut. And it does of course fit well within the scope of consideration of this blog. I thought I would add a few of my thoughts to those Barry has already expressed in his posts.
The horrific shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut have caused me to do a good deal of thinking and soul searching about this issue, as they have for so many people in America.
I am a gun owner myself, and have been around guns all my life. My family is from the American South, and some of my fondest memories from my childhood and adolescence are going out target shooting with my dad, or going hunting with my dad and granddad and uncles at Thanksgiving. I go target shooting fairly regularly, and enjoy it as a hobby. I’ve just started to teach my twelve year old daughter how to shoot as well. I see it as a life skill that she should have. So I’m someone who has seen what responsible gun ownership and use look like, and how guns and shooting sports can be a part of family traditions. And I know that by far the majority of people who own guns in the American South are like me in these regards.
Years ago, when I was in law school, I was a member of the NRA and was a pretty serious proponent of the rights of gun ownership under the second amendment to the U.S. constitution. I still think that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision – the decision in which the Supreme Court interpreted the second amendment to protect an individual right to possess firearms – was decided correctly as a matter of law and history. However, my own views about what reasonable legal limits can and should be placed on gun ownership in America have evolved significantly over the last ten years or so.
Again, I know that guns can be possessed and used safely and responsibly. And if everyone who wanted to possess and use guns would do so in a safe and responsible manner, as I’ve seen countless people do, then we wouldn’t need to be talking about laws restricting possession and use. But clearly that is not the case in this country, and guns clearly do enable those who commit crimes to kill far more people than they would if they didn’t have guns, or at least certain types of guns. And so I do therefore think that we need to make significant changes to our laws in this country, restricting the types of guns that are lawful to possess.
I won’t go through all the law and policy considerations, because I want to get this done. So I’ll jump right to the chase. In my opinion, bolt action rifles and pump shotguns holding the standard 5 shells should be lawful, as they are now. These guns have clear uses for hunting, home defense, and sport shooting. These are the legitimate purposes for which reasonable gun owners want to possess guns, and I think that a reasonable cost/benefit analysis of these types of guns favors their legality.
But after long thought, I have come to the personal conclusion that all handguns, and all semi-automatic rifles, fail the reasonable cost/benefit calculus, and that reasonable gun owners should support these guns being made illegal.
Now I know that this is revolutionary stuff to hear from a gun owner like me. And I know well that there is a mountain of opposition in this country, and particularly in the area of the country in which I live, to ANY restrictions on firearms types, let alone the kind of quite significant restrictions I’m proposing here. And my prescription here would mean that I personally would have to give up several of my guns – some of my favorites. But on the whole, I have become convinced that the reality of the harm that the easy availability of handguns and semi-automatic rifles causes in this country, requires these reasonable restrictions on the types of guns lawful to possess.
We gun owners need to set ideologies and absolute principles aside, and be practical and reasonable, and above all compassionate to the present and future victims of gun violence. We should agree on reasonable restrictions that, while not a panacea to violent crime, will save countless lives, while still allowing those of us who possess and use guns responsibly to continue to do so for generations to come.