Gun Control

Contents

Issue

Should the laws governing the use, possession, and ownership of weapons in general and guns in particular be stricter?

Existing Gun Laws

  • Gun registration of NFA weapons (like auto registration)
    • If you want to own a submachine gun (like an Uzi or a Tommy Gun), you have to buy one that’s NFA registered “after approval by ATF of a registered weapon from its lawful owner residing in the same State as the transferee.”  Requirements:
      • Gun is NFA registered (no new machine gun registrations since 1986)
      • Seller legally owns the gun
      • ATF approves the sale
      • Form, fingerprints, photo, fee
        • I have a reasonable necessity to possess the machine gun, short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, or destructive device described on this application for the following reason(s)….
  • Licensing of gun users (like a driver’s license)
    • To open-carry or carry a concealed handgun in TX you need a Concealed Handgun License.
  • Other gun laws
    • You can’t have an undetectable firearm per the Undetectable Firearms Act (Wiki)
    • You can’t have a gun if you’re a convicted felon, depending on the state.
    • You can’t fire a gun into the air in Dallas
    • You can’t carry your concealed handgun in TX in a school, bar, or place with a 30.06 sign
    • You can’t open-carry your handgun in TX in a school, bar, or place with a 30.07 sign

Big Picture

Arguments for Stricter Gun Laws

Primary Argument
  • Guns are Dangerous
    • Guns are dangerous and therefore, like other dangerous things (automobiles, drugs, toxins, poisons, nuclear waste, hazardous materials, explosives), they need to be regulated to minimize the risk of death and harm.
  • US Injury deaths 2017 (cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/LeadingCauses.html)
    • Poison: 64,795
    • Motor vehicle: 38,659
    • Unintentional Falls: 36,338
    • Firearm Suicide: 23, 854
    • Firearm Homicide: 14,542  
  • Analogy with Automobiles.
    • Driver licenses, driver training classes, and mandatory driving tests are effective in reducing automobile injuries and deaths.  Likewise, licensing of gun owners, contingent upon passing a safety course, would be effective in reducing gun injuries and deaths.
  • Counter-protestors openly carrying assault rifles and handguns at protests dramatically increases the risk of gun violence.
    • WaPo 17-year-old charged with homicide after shooting during Kenosha protests, authorities say (WaPo)
Proposed Gun Control Laws
  • Require a license for owning a gun, contingent upon passing a safety course
    • As is currently done with concealed handgun licenses in many states
  • Require registration of guns and recording of gun sales
    • As is currently done with NFA weapons
  • Ban or strictly regulate the possession of weapons with high killing capacity, e.g. assault rifles
    • Ban high capacity magazines
  • Extend background checks for purchasing a firearm to purchases from individuals and unlicensed dealers at gun shows and online.
  • Require that guns be safely stored, e.g. with child safety trigger locks.
    • Like seatbelts in cars
  • Require tracing mechanisms on guns
  • Restore funding to the CDC for research on gun violence
Gun Licensing
  • German Lopez at Vox
    • “Some of the recent research on universal background checks has been mixed, and studies on the last assault weapons ban found it ineffective for reducing overall levels of gun violence, in part because the great majority of gun deaths involves handguns, not assault weapons. But studies on licensing have been very consistent in significantly reducing gun deaths — in urban counties, Connecticut, and Missouri, including for suicides.
    • While a background check is more often than not quick and hassle-free, gun licensing in, for example, Massachusetts is a weeks- or months-long process that requires submitting a photograph and fingerprints, passing a training course, and going through one or more interviews, all involving law enforcement. That adds significant barriers for even a would-be gun owner who has no ill intent or bad history.
    • “The end impact is you decrease gun ownership overall,” Cassandra Crifasi, a researcher (and gun owner) at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, previously told me, discussing Massachusetts’s laws. “Lots of folks think, ‘Well, it’s probably not worth going through all these hoops to buy firearms, so I’m not going to buy one.’ And then you have fewer firearms around, and less exposure.”

Arguments against Stricter Gun Laws

Second Amendment / Self Defense
  • In DC v Heller the Supreme Court ruled that the right of self-defense is the “central component” of the Second Amendment.  Therefore, any law that bans or impedes the use of firearms for self-defense is unconstitutional.
  • Response
    • In DC v Heller the Court also said:
      • “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
      •  “Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
Liberty and Inefficacy
  • The state may restrict a person’s liberty only if it has established that the restriction is justified. Therefore any ineffective gun law is an unjustified restriction of liberty.
    • Principle of Presumption of Liberty: The state may restrict individual liberty only if it has established that the restriction is justified.
    • Inefficacy:  Gun control laws are generally ineffective, failing to reduce gun-related crimes.
  • Response
Right of Revolution
  • Citizens have the right to rebel against unjust governments, which derives from right to liberty.  Citizens therefore have a right to arm themselves so they can overthrow an unjust government.
    • britannica.com/topic/Second-Amendment
      • [In DC v Heller] the Supreme Court also affirmed previous rulings that the Second Amendment ensured the right of individuals to take part in the defending of their liberties by taking up arms in an organized militia.”
  • Response
    • As noted earlier, DC v Heller also said
      • “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
      •  “… nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions …”
Slippery Slope
  • Gun-control laws, no matter how modest, will eventually lead to a ban on all guns.
  • Response
    • The claim is an unsupported conjecture.
    • A ban on all guns would violate the Second Amendment.
    • Regulations on all sorts of things, automobiles for example, have not led to bans.

District of Columbia v Heller (SCOTUS)

  • Majority Opinion by Antonin Scalia, 2008
  • Second Amendment
    • 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.
  • The Supreme Court held that
    • Individual Right
      • The right to keep and bear arms is an “individual-right” independent of service in a state militia rather than a collective right of states to maintain militias or an qualified individual right to keep and bear arms in connection with service in a militia.
    • Right of Self-Defense
      • The right of self-defense is the “central component” of the Second Amendment and therefore the amendment implicitly protects the right “to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”
        • District of Columbia’s “prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense” to be unconstitutional
  • The Supreme Court also said
    • “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
    • “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
    • “We therefore read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.
  • Scalia’s Argument
    • The founding generation believed the Second Amendment included an individual right to use firearms in self-defense
    • Therefore, the Second Amendment includes an individual right to use firearms in self-defense
    • Therefore, the Second Amendment protects the right “to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”
    • Therefore, the District of Columbia’s “prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense” is ruled unconstitutional
  • Breyer in McDonald v Chicago 2010
    • “The Court based its conclusions almost exclusively upon its reading of history. But the relevant history in Heller was far from clear: Four dissenting Justices disagreed with the majority’s historical analysis. And subsequent scholarly writing reveals why disputed history provides treacherous ground on which to build decisions written by judges who are not expert at history.”

Addenda