Gun Control: It's not just for Colored People Anymore
A recurring theme in modern politics is the issue of whether the common citizen is entitled to the right to own and carry arms. Typically, this argument is considered âGun Control versus Gun Rights.â
Gun rights are, concisely defined, the right to keep and bear arms. They are often called âSecond Amendment rightsâ, as the Second Amendment reads, âA 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.â (US Constitution, Article 2)
One point of dispute in this statement is the definition of what constitutes âthe militiaâ. For a more clarity, we turn to 10 U.S.C. Â§ 311, which reads as follows:
Militia: composition and classes
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied
males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section
313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a
declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States
and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the
(b) The classes of the militia are -
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard
and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of
the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
In short, the federal standard is all healthy men age 17 â 45 that are, or say they wish to become US citizens, and any women that are signed with the National Guard. Gun control, by and large, could then be said to severely limit the readiness of the unorganized militia. If the militia is considered a valid form of national defense, why then, would anyone want to restrict the militia to the access of weapons?
Going back in history reveals the origins of the regulation of firearms. In his 1993 paper, "The Racist Roots of Gun Control", Clayton E. Cramer details many racist laws enacted in the 18th and 19th centuries. He draws upon Thomas Ingersoll's Free Blacks in a Slave Society: New Orleans to show the exclusionary nature of North America's first gun laws.
âRacist arms laws predate the establishment of the United States. Starting in 1751, the French Black Code required Louisiana colonists to stop any blacks, and if necessary, beat "any black carrying any potential weapon, such as a cane." If a black refused to stop on demand, and was on horseback, the colonist was authorized to "shoot to kill." Slave possession of firearms was a necessity at times in a frontier society, yet laws continued to be passed in an attempt to prohibit slaves or free blacks from possessing firearms, except under very restrictively controlled conditions.â (MS Black Codes)
After the Louisiana Purchase, things did not change with regards to weapon ownership for âAfrican Americanes and mulattoesâ, as they are often referred to in these laws. Mississippi's Black Code of 1865, under the Penal Code section, is one of the early examples of the regulation of the carry and ownership of weapons in the United States.
"Be it enacted by the legislature of the state of Mississippi, that no freedman, free African American, or mulatto not in the military service of the United States government, and not licensed so to do by the board of police of his or her county, shall keep or carry firearms of any kind, or any ammunition, dirk, or Bowie knife; and, on conviction thereof in the county court... all such arms or ammunition shall be forfeited to the informer; and it shall be the duty of every civil and military officer to arrest any freedman, free African American, or mulatto found with any such arms or ammunition, and cause him or her to be committed for trial in default of bail." (Mississippi Black Codes, Section 1)
Indeed, Mississippi's laws were so severe, they created a period of indentured servitude if the violator could not or would not pay the fine or fines for any offenses listed within this code. Essentially, this was state-sponsored slavery.
âIf any freedman, free African American, or mulatto, convicted of any of the misdemeanors provided against in this act, shall fail or refuse for the space of five days, after conviction, to pay the fine and costs imposed, such person shall be hired out by the sheriff or other officer, at public outcry, to any white person who will pay said fine and all costs, and take said convict for the shortest time.â (Mississippi Black Codes, Section 5)
It should be noted that this section of code automatically denies bail to any âAfrican American or mulattoâ jailed for violation of this law, as well as makes the reporter of such a crime the new owner of the weapon in question. Here we have one of the first examples of a mandatory sentence for gun crimes, something lauded greatly in this day and age. A minor question then comes up as to whether or not such laws are in the same spirit of those in the past.
In December of 1997, a student in what was once a little-known high school in Jefferson County, CO submitted a paper entitled âGuns in Schoolsâ which detailed, presumably some from his own experiences on campus, that âIt is just as easy to bring a loaded handgun to school as it is to bring a calculator.â (Harris 1)
The author of the paper was Eric Harris, one of two young men who brought the issue of gun control to the forefront of national concerns following the infamous Columbine shootings. Mr. Harris, with the aid of his accomplice Dylan Klebold, showed just how dangerous uncontested gunmen can be on a campus. The pair were able to wreak havoc on the unarmed students without challenge. The slaughter only ended on their own terms, when the gunmen took their own lives, while police and hastily assembled SWAT teams stood in the distance.
The actions of Mr. Harris demonstrated that 24 minutes is far too long to wait for police response. By that same token, waiting over an hour for a SWAT team while the local police department was forced to hide demonstrates vividly that the police can not be everywhere to protect everyone. (AColumbineSite.com)
Indeed, it has become established case law that local police have no duty to protect individuals, only the public at large. The originating case for this is often cited is South versus Maryland. The case in question involves Sheriff South, who refused to arrest men at the behest of Johnathan Pottle. Pottle demanded police protection from an armed mob that had cornered Pottle and a group of his men in a house. The judge for the case found that allowing for lawsuits against law enforcement for failures to protect individuals, intentional or accidental, would expose them to excessive liability.
With no liability from the police for protection, the Second Amendment is truly the enforcement amendment - with just that one removed, the rest of the document is easily crumbled. Some that would argue the right of one to self defense is a bit outdated, and should be repealed due to obsolescence.
To that end, one could argue for voiding the Third Amendment, and, in keeping with the growing trend of Imminent Domain, allowing for members of the military and national guard the use of people's homes for an indeterminate period. This would have the secondary benefit of keeping citizens safe from crime, as armed soldiers would be living in the homes of the American people.
The Fourth Amendment is another troublesome problem that could be done away with as we continue our modernization of the Bill of Rights. Allowing for unreasonable search and seizure by government officials, including local, state, and federal police agencies would ensure that persons harboring now-illegal weapons would be unable to hide them. The benefits of public safety would reach until new levels.
The Fifth Amendment can be disposed of as well, for similar reasons to the Fourth. Allowing people to get away with not admitting to having dangerous items in the midst of an official investigation, and subsequent trial allows an unverified number of potentially dangerous people the ability to escape prosecution at the hands of what can only be considered a just and fair trial.
With the danger of guns gone, the only crime that will be committed will be gun crimes, and if a an officer of the law says you have a dangerous firearm of any type, it should be prima facia evidence of your guilt, thus negating the need for a trial, your rights as an accused person, or the need for a trial by a jury of your peers. Indeed, with these reasons pointing out the glaringly superannuated nature of the Sixth and Seventh Amendments, excessive bail would not be an issue, as most, if not all crime will have stopped at this point. With this in mind, one can safely write off the Eighth Amendment as no longer needed.
Unfortunately, at this point, there may become a problem wherein people may insist they have the right to other kinds of dangerous ideas or items, possibly even weapons. For these reasons, the Ninth Amendment will most likely have to be stricken from the books, to ensure continued safety of the populace. With the Tenth Amendment being so closely tied to the Ninth, it only makes logical sense to remove any record of state or individual rights as well, lest there be any dangerous forms of dissent among citizen-subjects.
The First Amendment provides certain problems as well, but, being that it was written into the Bill of Rights prior to any other, it should only be subject to review, and possible revision, for public safety. Hate speech, conspiracy to commit a crime, or instruction in the commission of a crime can be very dangerous. The exact limits of the freedom of speech should be clearly defined to ensure a proper level of freedom that does not go too far.
The above is a potentially disturbing trend of the erosion of our rights and freedoms. It shows the slippery slope that one begins to traverse as freedoms are limited, with increasing infringements that seem reasonable at the time, but when taken in all at once, are quite unnerving.
In a rush such as this to âprotectâ government-dependent citizens, some members of the government do not even realize what it is they are protecting the citizens from. In a live television interview, Congressional Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York stated a need to implement a new and expanded version of the expired 1994 Resolution House Resolution (H.R.) 4296, mundanely referred to as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
During the short interview, Tucker Carlson, the interviewer, noted that the proposed bill would ban weapons that âhave pistol grips, a forward grip and something called a barrel shroud.â For the benefit of the members of the audience that would not know what a barrel shroud is, Carlson then asks Representative McCarthy âWhat is a barrel shroud and why should we regulate it?â
Representative McCarthy instead begins to remind Carlson that HR 1022 would ban âlarge capacity clipsâ, as she puts it. Carlson then asks her again to clarify the definition of barrel shroud to her audience. Representative McCarthy then goes on to state that the arms in the original ban âwere basically the gun that most gangs and criminal were using to kill our police officers.â Still in need of clarification for the less gun-savvy members of the audience, and appearing a bit agitated, Carlson then initiates the following exchange:
Carlson: Do you know what a barrel shroud is?
McCarthy: I actually donât know what a barrel shroud is.
Carlson: Oh, OK. Because it is in your legislation.
McCarthy: I believe it is a shoulder thing that goes up.
Carlson: No, itâs not. (Tucker)
Truly, this is a Representative so busy working to keep people safe that she can not be slowed down with pesky details such as what the target of a proposed ban does. If a few people are stepped on in the quest for safety, that is of no concern in her mind, it appears.
HR1022, for clarification, states in Section 3, Subsection D, that a severe restriction is to be placed on any rifle that has â`(i) a folding or telescoping stock; `(ii) a threaded barrel; `(iii) a pistol grip; `(iv) a forward grip; or`(v) a barrel shroud.â.
The bill essentially ensures that only special, custom-designed rifles are used for hunting, as by their centuries old designs, most hunting rifles include both forward grips and barrel shrouds, to ensure proper accuracy and prevent injury to the user. This bill would ban virtually all long arms, including hunting rifles, and if it were applicable to them, even muzzle loaders. Truly a way to keep people safe.
The overall effect is a further reduction in the trade of arms in the country by ensuring that only the rich and powerful have access to them. Isolating arms to only the upper class, at the expense of the rights of the middle and lower class is an excellent way to cut down on crime, particularly with the common notion is that a majority of crime is committed by people living lower-class or âpoorerâ lifestyles.
It is also worth noting that Section 3 also bans pipes, tubes, and handles of any kind, as well as C&C machines, computerized machines used in almost all aspects of modern manufacturing, and a vast number of as yet indeterminable articles. Items called âconversion kitsâ are listed as being banned, and HR 1022 defines them as âany combination of parts from which a semiautomatic assault weapon can be assembled if the parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.â
Being that a person could produce one of the banned âduplicates thereofâ from the extensive list of specifically regulated models in 1022's Section 3, Subsection A, sales of pipe would have to be regulated, requiring that only licensed plumbers be allowed to purchase steel and PVC pipe, to prevent the manufacture of weapons by people in their own homes. Full federal regulation on the sale of metal stock, as well as hand and power tools would also fall under this regulation. Truly, this bill has the foresight to prevent any and all crime.
HR 1022 has not been before Congress since March 19, 2007, when it was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. No further actions have been taken on it at the time of this writing.
It could be argued that, in keeping in line with the intentions of this bill, some consideration should be given to the possibility of amending HR 1022 to include a law requiring all people conducting illegal gun sales to submit a background check with the National Instant Criminal System (NCIS). One does not know who is buying guns, particularly during illegal gun sales. With this in mind, this regulation makes perfect sense towards curtailing gun violence, particularly when put next to other measures intended to reducing violence in the streets and shopping malls of America.
In closing, gun control has already been well commented on by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, when he stated before the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, 97th Congress,
"If gun laws in fact worked, the sponsors of this type of legislation should have no difficulty drawing upon long lists of examples of crime rates reduced by such legislation. That they cannot do so after a century and a half of trying--that they must sweep under the rug the southern attempts at gun control in the 1870-1910 period, the northeastern attempts in the 1920-1939 period, the attempts at both Federal and State levels in 1965-1976--establishes the repeated, complete and inevitable failure of gun laws to control serious crime."
AColumbineSite.com. "The SWAT Team and other Officials" 2 Dec 07 http://acolumbinesite.com/swat.html
Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, "Mississippi Black Code"
2 Dec 07 http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/122/recon/code.html
McCarthy, Carolyn. Interview Tucker. MSNBC 18 Apr 07
Senator Orrin Hatch, Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, 97th Congress, 2d Session., The Right to Keep and Bear Arms Committee 1 January 1982
South v. State of Maryland for use of Pottle, 59 U.S. 396 (1855) 2 Dec 07 http://supreme.justia.com/us/59/396/case.html
US House of Representatives, H.R. 1022 2 Dec 07 http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill...bill=h110-1022