A Reasonable Right to Self Defense With the 'Appropriate' Weapon


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Winchester 73
April 30, 2008, 11:10 PM
This journalist has almost gotten it.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2004381535_rams30.html

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bruce Ramsey / Times editorial columnist

A right to reasonable self-defense with an appropriate weapon

Some time before the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to declare that Americans have an individual right to own guns. When the story comes out, the thing to look for is how strongly the court says it.

Oral arguments on the case, District of Columbia v. Heller, were heard March 18. The tone of questioning indicated that the court is leaning toward protecting the gun owner. It's the first real gun-rights case since 1939, when a suspected moonshiner challenged the federal law against sawed-off shotguns.

The moonshiner had argued that he was protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says: "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."

In 1939, the court said the moonshiner wasn't protected because his sawed-off shotgun wasn't a militia weapon. It was a dumb answer that has been the last word in American jurisprudence for 69 years dumb because if militia (National Guard) weapons are protected, then Americans are free to own machine guns.

Some of the anti-gun people would say Americans don't have a right to any private weapons. There are places in the world with that policy, and some that have far less gun violence than the United States.

But that isn't the issue here. We have the Second Amendment; it is part of our Constitution and is not about to be repealed. The issue is: What does it mean?

And it won't do to argue that it is only about serving in the militia. That is what the District of Columbia argued in defense of its ban on handguns, and the court wasn't buying it. It's an argument that does violence to the plain meaning of words and erases an entire amendment to the Constitution.

The right to keep and bear arms has to mean something. But which arms? Machine guns? No, said the gun-owner's attorney, Alan Gura.

On March 18, Gura had argued at the Supreme Court for a right to have "arms that are appropriate for civilian use." Speaking in Seattle last week at a meeting of the Federalist Society, Gura drew the line between semiautomatic and automatic weapons that is, guns that shoot one round per trigger squeeze and those that spray bullets. Shooting one round at a time, you can decide whom you're shooting at, one person at a time. You can make a moral judgment. A machine gun, he said, is an "area weapon."

Our state law bans machine guns. The question then arises: If the Supreme Court breathes life into the Second Amendment, will these and other such restrictions (no plastic guns, etc.) stand?

An individual right to keep and bear arms cannot cover everything from pocket knives to H-bombs. Practically and politically it cannot. There have to be limits but also there have to be limits on the limits, or else it is no right at all.

Perhaps it could be what Jonathan Rauch suggested in the National Journal: a right to "reasonable self-defense by competent, law-abiding adults."

State laws also recognize gun rights. The state of Washington is one of more than 40 states with a gun guarantee in its constitution. Here is ours, written in 1889:

"The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men."

That is stronger than the Second Amendment, but still subject to limits. No private armies. Defensive use only. Some weapons are presumptively defensive and some not.

Guns are not like speech, in which one can declare that the more speech the better, because "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

That is not always true of words, and is more often untrue of personal artillery.

Bruce Ramsey's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is seattletimes.com">bramsey@seattletimes.com; for a podcast Q&A with the author, go to Opinion at seattletimes.com

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divemedic
May 1, 2008, 05:22 AM
A machine gun, he said, is an "area weapon."

1 Then why do police need an "area weapon?" Is every SWAT team in the nation finding it necessary to conduct recon by fire?

2 The fact is, a submachine gun fired in short bursts (instead of spray and pray) gives the shooter more control over where the bullets go than does a shotgun

3 The real reason why multiple projectiles (auto fire and shotguns) are effective is the combination of "sensory overload" and the massive damage that is associated with getting hit by 3, 4, or more bullets nearly simultaneously.

Standing Wolf
May 1, 2008, 05:34 AM
There have to be limits but also there have to be limits on the limits, or else it is no right at all.

The Bill of Rights is a set of limits on the power and authority of government. The history of the Bill of Rights is a long, sordid tale of government violations of those limits.

Now we're supposed to trust government to limit the limits?

yokel
May 1, 2008, 07:41 AM
When mobs run wild, gangs invade, tyranny strikes and an entire PD abandons it's post during disaster, all law-abiding citizens have the right to the finest tools available to protect and defend themselves and their country.

mbt2001
May 1, 2008, 08:53 AM
When mobs run wild, gangs invade, tyranny strikes and an entire PD abandons it's post during disaster, all law-abiding citizens have the right to the finest tools available to protect and defend themselves and their country.

+1

To all of the posts

Deavis
May 1, 2008, 09:03 AM
A machine gun, he said, is an "area weapon."

Like all guns, that area is determined by the skill of the operator and the supply of ammo.

Carl N. Brown
May 1, 2008, 09:34 AM
I have followed the gun control debates since the late 1950s.
During the 1960s I went to the public library, Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, subject Firearms Legislation, and dug out every article on the subject. Dropped out of the issue for a while. Late 1970s and early 1980s I was again involved; read Kates 1979 and read Wright and Rossi manuscript and page proofs 1982; went fallow again. Got involved in the mid 1990s over TN/TX RTC. Then got involved again over the Bellesiles and Lott controversies 2002 to present.

Over all, the Big Media have been anti-gun. Employment at the New York Times requires an oath to support and defend the Sullivan Act against all criticism; at lunch, they roll down the telescreen in the mess hall for a two-minute hate directed at whoever is the current director of the NRA.

But gradually, some balance and sanity on the gun issue has crept slowly into the mainstream media.

ConstitutionCowboy
May 1, 2008, 09:41 AM
Now we're supposed to trust government to limit the limits?

EXCELLENT point, SW. The government won't abide the limits in the Constitution, so how are we to trust them to abide any limit in law that's inferior to the Constitution?

Woody

Our government was designed by our Founding Fathers to fit within the framework of our rights and not vise versa. Any other "interpretation" of the Constitution is either through ignorance or is deliberately subversive. B.E. Wood

CZ-100
May 1, 2008, 05:55 PM
When mobs run wild, gangs invade, tyranny strikes and an entire PD abandons it's post during disaster, all law-abiding citizens have the right to the finest tools available to protect and defend themselves and their country.

I like it...

Very well put..

Wetawd
May 1, 2008, 06:12 PM
When mobs run wild, gangs invade, tyranny strikes and an entire PD abandons it's post during disaster, all law-abiding citizens have the right to the finest tools available to protect and defend themselves and their country.

+1

Very well put.:)

Government wants more power because power corrupts so by it's very nature people in government want more power not less, and citizens owning guns limits their power.:neener:

ServiceSoon
May 1, 2008, 10:27 PM
EXCELLENT point, SW. The government won't abide the limits in the Constitution, so how are we to trust them to abide any limit in law that's inferior to the Constitution?

WoodyIsn't that why we have legislators who are reviewed by judges?

that is, guns that shoot one round per trigger squeeze and those that spray bullets. I don't like the wording here. Didn't use the same terminology to describe how different guns function. It leans towards demonizing automatic firearms.
Some of the anti-gun people would say Americans don't have a right to any private weapons. There are places in the world with that policy, and some that have far less gun violence than the United States.I don't like this either. It implys less guns equals less crime, which hasn't been proven as fact.
It was a dumb answer that has been the last word in American jurisprudence for 69 years — dumb because if militia (National Guard) weapons are protected, then Americans are free to own machine gunsDoes this mean we will only follow precedent if it is in the interest of the decision maker?

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