I want to express my sincere appreciation to Mr. Rodney J. Harp for his contribution to the dialogue I asked for concerning firearms safety in this country. In his letter of 4/26/18, Mr. Harp addressed the issue of the Second Amendment and succinctly explained his understanding of its intent. He then went on to ask a key question to his readers: Do you trust your government?
In this, he has, in my opinion, struck at the heart of one of the chief arguments posed by many anti-regulation gun owners.
Mr. Harp quoted the Second Amendment and asked, “What exactly needs clarified?” He then cited the socio-political conditions existent at the time this law was written. Americans were citizen soldiers armed with a limited technology, which he underscored by calling a musket “the assault rifle of that time period.” In this, he was correct (although, in fairness, the musket would have had to be equipped with a bayonet to render any assault with it effective), which makes the question of context all the more critical to any discussion of firearm ownership and use.
Over the next 200-plus years, both the meaning of “well-regulated militia” and “arms” have advanced far beyond the scope of our founders’ comprehension. We have a standing army and state militias in the form of National Guard units. They are well-regulated under specific laws, not the least of which is the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The security of a free state is not possible if small portions of its citizens can decide to group themselves together, call themselves a militia, then challenge the military might of a freely elected government because they have come to the conclusion that those elected officials have “gone rogue.”
I have raised the question before, and I am still waiting for someone to explain to me what are reasonable limits on the type of weapons private ownership should entail. Machine guns? Tanks? RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades)? And the list goes on. In the fantasy world of TV and the movies, the defense of a “free” America hardly addresses the reality of the overwhelming disparity of weaponry of a professional, standing army and a group of citizen soldiers which makes moot the argument for the ownership of certain types of firearms and high-capacity magazines. And, in point of fact, there already are legal restrictions on what citizens can own when it comes to military-grade weaponry, which makes the discussion of what a person can own under the Second Amendment not only open to discussion, but somewhat imperative given the frequency of mass shootings we have come to accept as “business as usual.”
Mr. Harp said that his hobby was competitive shooting, but he implies that effective regulation on rifles and guns would impede that activity. I do not believe that would have to be the case any more than hunting is curtailed by setting limits on capacity of rounds or numbers and types of animals that may be taken. For example, a duck hunter is limited to firing three rounds at a time before reloading. And I have no problem with someone engaged in a well-regulated competitive sport that involves bullets — but the ubiquitous ease for anyone at almost any time to legally obtain certain weapons should impact greatly as to how such sports are limited to proper venues.
I know Mr. Harp was speaking tongue-in-cheek about equating the limitations of free speech to firearms controls. He is right in assuming writing is one of my hobbies, but letters to the editor are just a small part of that for me. I would point out the main difference between the impact on society between his hobby and mine by stating that there are laws curtailing what I say or write. They are libel and slander statutes. But, if I or anyone else engages in either, the victims can sue. If someone else violates a gun law, the victims often are too dead to have that option.
Again, I thank Mr. Harp for advancing this conversation, and in the spirit of his candor in speaking to the point, I will disclose that my other hobby is a love of gardening. Fortunately, it’s not a particularly controversial activity, so I won’t be writing about it anytime soon — unless someone tries to limit the number of tomatoes I grow.
Well, we all know the old saying: If you outlaw tomatoes, only outlaws will have…